Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Plan of Attack for Holiday Shopping

Black Friday (11.26.10) and Cyber Monday (11.29.10) are surely sneaking up on me this year. I have never once been to a Black Friday event - in fact, I steer clear of the mass chaos whenever possible. This year, however, I will be losing my Cyber Monday virginity and participating in some of the online deals. I am really looking forward to this because I am doing all (or most) of my holiday shopping online this year and certainly love to save a few pennies when I can. In order to maintain some order, I have some thoughts for preparing for either shopping holiday.

Step one: Christmas music is a must. Fine if you insist on waiting until the day after Thanksgiving.

Step two: Detail a list for whom you are purchasing gifts this year or what you are looking to buy as a gift to yourself. This would also be a good time to consider a budget to avoid going overboard when you get googly eyed by the sale prices.

Step three: Make sure to get a newspaper on Thursday because it will have all of the best deals for you Black Friday patrons (and probably a few surprise coupons as well).

Step four: If I was to plan a Black Friday trip I think I would probably start at a department-ish store or somewhere that has the majority of the gifts I plan on buying so as to kill as many birds with one simple stone.

Step five: Determine a plan of attack - what time will you arrive to your first store? What items will you plan on purchasing at each store? What time does each store open? When do the best deals begin and end?

Step six: Go to bed. Early. And set the coffee to start brewing before you get up. Make extra. Set out all of the coupons and random shenanigans you need to take with you on your shopping extravaganza.

Or if you're like me and will be doing your holiday shopping from your fingertips, grab some hot cocoa and peppermint shnapps, crank up the holiday tunes and put your pajamas on and...

*Make sure that you're registered for e-mail specials from your favorite retailers so you can begin preparing your plan of attack come Monday morning. If you are not receiving these e-mails - go to their website and look around to figure out where to sign up to be on the e-mail list.

*Browse the web for specials - figure out when the various retailers will be having their online holiday specials. Many will be on Cyber Monday, but some will also take place on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, over the weekend, and even extending all next week. You need to know these in order to take advantage of the lowest prices.

*Instead of waiting until Monday to figure out what the deals are, create your Christmas shopping list and seek out to find what your retailer(s) of choice are offering and when. Be advised that like Black Friday Early Bird Specials, Cyber Monday shoppers need to pay attention to time frames on sales.

Happy holiday shopping!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Kitchen Counter Clutter

Next time you see a celebrity kitchen or a featured kitchen in a catalogue, take notice on how much “stuff” is sitting on their countertop. I bet you’ll find a very bare minimum. It doesn’t take much to create a cluttered kitchen – especially if yours isn’t as sizeable as most of the celeb kitchens you’re familiar with.



After we moved in and got settled and unpacked I looked back at the photos of our kitchen when it was professionally staged and noticed that there were very few items sitting on the countertop. Now, mind you, I hardly had anything on my countertop in comparison to my former kitchen and many kitchens in America. Taking note of this I decided to keep only the bare minimum essentials out on my countertop. Here is what I am keeping: coffee maker, coffee canister, butcher block, fruit bowl, stand mixer. Oh, and my little bowl with my sponge.


Here is what got removed: salt, pepper, butter dish, sugar bowl, olive oil, utensil holder and probably at least four other items. Where are they now? Well, my utensil holder is no longer a member of my household; instead, all of my utensils are nesting happily in their drawer – neatly organized of course! All of the other little guys are inside a cabinet somewhere easily accessible. These are all things I use daily, but there is no reason for my butter dish to be on display. The only thing that should be on display is my mixer and granite.


My kitchen is now free of clutter and it looks great and very sleek. I challenge you today to remove all but the bare essentials to your cabinets to create that sleek and professional look on your kitchen countertop.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Preparing for Turkey Day

We all know that Thanksgiving comes at the same time every year, but somehow it seems to always sneak up on me. I wanted to share with you my Thanksgiving checklist to yield some potential inspiration for how to host your perfect or maybe first Thanksgiving meal for a crowd.

Ali’s Thanksgiving Preparation Checklist:
• Create a menu and grocery list.

• Don’t forget about beverages and hors d’ oeuvres.

• Go to the grocery store – plan for several trips because chances are high, you will forget something!

• If you are planning on purchasing a fresh turkey (not a frozen one) you should call your grocer as early as possible to order one. If you’re using a frozen turkey – be sure to begin defrosting it the weekend before Turkey Day!

• Clean the house.

• Prepare the table linens – stain removal? Ironing?

• Decide what cutlery and serving dishes you will be using on the big day. I always like to set them out in advance to figure out the best place for each dish.

• Bring out the cookware that you will need to utilize to cook your meal – be sure that everything is clean and that you didn’t loan your only pie pan to your sister, leaving you without one.

• Set the table. This can be done days in advance and is often my favorite part of the process.

• Determine a timeline for food preparation. What can you prepare in advance? What is the order in which you need to prepare the food so that it all comes out of the oven at the same time as the turkey?

• If you only have one oven, as I do, be mindful of the fact that you will likely need to bake many more things at a time than will fit in your oven, not to mention that many things will be cooking at different temperatures. Plan this out in advance to avoid any last minute challenges in the oven.

• Hint: visit Cooks Illustrated to view their Thanksgiving Guide, which includes a schedule planner with some excellent suggestions on planning ahead and when to begin preparing certain foods.

• On Turkey Day – grab some vino, follow your schedule and have fun!

(Yep - that's me on my first Thanksgiving in our old house! Thanks to preparation and planning, my first Thanksgiving meal was a triumph - yours can be too.)

My favorite sites for Thanksgiving meal ideas:

www.allrecipes.com – a plethora of recipes created by home cooks across America that must hold up to reviewers like me in order to survive.

www.foodnetwork.com – recipes published by your favorite celebrity chefs and tested time and time again by the Food Network kitchens.

www.americastestkitchen.com – recipes tested over and over and over by Christopher Kimball and his team of chefs – there are only a limited number of recipes available without purchasing a subscription.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Unpacking and Organizing the Kitchen

Really, in all honesty, I don’t mind unpacking as much as I mind packing and physically moving. I can’t say I did much in the physical moving department because I was at work during that time (well played on my part, I might add!). My assistance was best utilized in the unboxing and putting away departments.

On move-day, my first priority was to make a great big dent in unpacking the kitchen. The kitchen is my domain and stomping grounds, so I wanted to take extra time to make sure that it was exactly how I wanted it to be. We have some pretty snazzy cabinetry that allows for ultimate space maximization.

If you have the capacity to make some changes in your kitchen cabinets, here are some recommendations:

Lazy Susan’s that pull out of the cabinet

Custom, adjustable shelves – be sure that you can fit your tall bottles of olive oil and other assorted cooking liquids

Deep, enormous pantry – mine goes at least 7 cans deep.

As you can see, I use my pantry door as a little note place – great for keeping the recycling schedule handy + our calendar of what’s going on. No better place than the pantry door!

Drawers for pots & pans – this is just a must

Cookie sheet cupboard (I don’t have this )

...but I do have a great refrigerator!

Built-in drawer organizers (for things like spoons, forks, etc.)
(Don't have this either - I just do it myself and keep it civilized.)

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Becoming a Homeowner

Yep. It’s official. We’re homeowners! Now, never did I ever think that becoming a homeowner would take so much time, energy and effort, not to mention, organization. Maybe that just comes with any house, whether you rent or own, but regardless – we have incurred major changes here in our little gray house with the red door. We’ve upgraded our 850 square foot downtown condo overlooking Elliott Bay on the Puget Sound to an adorable Pottery Barn-esque 2200 square foot craftsman house in a nice peaceful, quiet neighborhood in the east central area of Seattle proper.

As I change the tone and pace of this blog, I plan to discuss organizational challenges that I am facing as a homeowner, projects that we’re tackling to make our home functional, things I’m learning, some of my favorite finds (expect a lot of Pottery Barn!) and lots of random tid bits and some fun photos.

A few of our projects thus far + many more to come:

• Re-designing the master bedroom closet
• Creating a gear room closet
• Filing system for paperwork
• Making the storage room functional
• Kitchen cabinet storage maximization
• Cabinet shelf placement and customization
• …one other non-organization surprise that we’re dealing with

Stay tuned for great tips, especially with the holidays coming up, I have big plans for this site! 

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New Blog Posts Coming SOON!

I am busy planning and writing away for my updated blog posts from a new perspective as a homeowner with more space than I know what to do with! Please stay tuned...

For now, here are some pictures of our first project.... the closet!

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