How to Have a Beautiful Kitchen on a Budget

First of all everyone has their own budget and everyone also has their own idea of what beautiful is. So with this in mind…I am going to share what I did on a budget (which is a work in process) and what I feel makes it a beautiful kitchen.

For any budget I feel there are three things that one can do for no cost or very low cost. 1) Keep the space clean and decluttered. 2) Use dual purpose storage/organization tools. Pick decor pieces that double as storage. Only have pieces that have a function as this helps keep the space feeling more spacious and stylish. 3) Add some fresh flowers to the space. It gives the feeling of elegance and adds to the fragrance of the space if your budget allows.

Now here is what I did for this space. This isn’t the whole kitchen but it gives you a visual of my improvements. We moved in to this home years ago. There was nothing wrong with the kitchen space as it functioned for our needs. It just wasn’t the style we liked. We lived in the space and made small improvements while saving money for some of the bigger improvements.

The first thing I did was replace all light switches, outlets, and their covers. The previous owners either painted them or dripped paint on them trying to hide the 1980’s yellow ivory color. This was a small improvement which nobody would notice but me but it drove me crazy to keep them. It is really inexpensive to do and I did know how to rewire them. What an impactful change it made to the kitchen.

Next I replaced the huge oak fluorescent light fixture that was in the middle of the kitchen ceiling. Again, nothing wrong with it as it functioned, but it hung down about 8 inches from the ceiling in an already low ceiling space. So we put in canlights that were the same as the rest of the space.

A few years later we replaced the appliances.  The microwave died and all of the appliances were original to the home so it was time to update.

The appliances didn’t fit the space like the older ones did so we had to move some cabinets to fit the fridge and therefore the flooring needed to be updated. So…we replaced the hardwood and tile flooring and updated to one flooring throughout the whole kitchen and dining rooms.

Then came the cabinets a few years later. These are the original cabinets, again nothing was wrong with them they just were the 1980’s oak,and outdated hardware. We used a couple of Rustoleum kits in Espresso and refinished the cabinets which was way cheaper that buying new cabinetry. We opted to replace the hardware but one could cut costs by spray painting the existing hardware to give it an updated look.

We then bought a new faucet to match the coloring of the new cabinet hardware. We still need to update the sink, countertops, and maybe add a backsplash, but for now we just updated the paint on the wall and that made a huge difference.

Other  little things that I do to make my kitchen beautiful is I don’t have rugs in my kitchen. I did for years but I find they collect debris and dog hair and takes away from the beautiful clean kitchen vibe I prefer. I also don’t hang towels from the stove, fridge, or dishwasher handles. I think it makes the space look dirty and cluttered. I prefer to hang a clean cloth and towel by the sink and when it is dirty I replace with a clean one at the end of the day.

The last thing I have done is to keep the inside of my cabinets and fridge organized. Everything has a place and therefore no clutter piles up at the snack bar.

Some people have a bigger budget and can do the work or have someone do all the work at once. I didn’t have a large budget so I did a little at a time. I was fortunate to have a functional kitchen so I could DIY the kitchen as I had the money and the time.

I will share my organization with you all on a later post.

Chemical Free Cleaning: White Kitchen Sink

Do you have a white sink in your kitchen? One that stains easy and gets scuff marks from pots and pans? Well I do and perhaps you can relate. I was looking for something to use to clean my sink without the harsh chemicals. I have used bleach spray and soft scrub and other cleaning products in the past. I now use baking soda and lemon to remove stains and scuff marks and it works beautifully. No more chemical products as everything I need I always have in stock at my home.

All you do is: sprinkle baking soda into an empty sink. Cut a lemon in half…use one half on each side of the sink. You hold on to the lemon as a scrubber and the juice from the lemon reacts to the baking soda and the marks and stains just disappear. I usually spend about 5 minutes cleaning the sink. Just rinse out the sink and it will be shiny white. The sink not only comes out white, the house smells amazing, and you can rinse the sink and throw the lemon down the garbage disposal and it cleans your garbage disposal too. It is a win-win.

I thought I would share how I have been cleaning my white sink. The best part is it is inexpensive, chemical free, and stuff I always have on hand. Happy cleaning!

Drink More with a Life Factory Water bottle

life factory

001

002
I am trying to drink more water and I thought maybe I just needed a better water bottle. I do not use plastic so I was on the hunt for a new glass water bottle. I ran across this 22-ounce reusable glass beverage bottle from Life Factory. It comes with a protective silicone sleeve and work-out friendly straw drinking cap. I love the shape of the bottle in my hand. I love the bright colors of the sleeve which should make it easier for me not to misplace.

The straw cap is spill-proof which is another added bonus. I love the fact that it fits in the cup holders on the treadmill and in my car. With warmer weather approaching, I am excited to have a water bottle that I can throw in some ice cubes or frozen lemon slices without any hassle. The straw cap is medical-grade silicone (non-plastic) straw.

I do own a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve from Starbucks, but the shape of the bottle and the wide mouth opening caused lots of spills.  On this one, the non-slip silicone sleeve offers secure grip and helps protect against breakage.

I love that this bottle is reusable and I will not be filling up the landfills with plastic bottles. It offers health aspects as well. Obviously it aids in healthy hydration. The bottle and cap are BPA/BPS-free with no phthalates, PVC, or polycarbonates. This was the most important factor for me when I was researching water bottles and anything for food storage for that matter. I love glass…glass is best.

If you chose to put this in the dishwasher instead of hand washing, rest assured that the bottle and the sleeve are dishwasher safe and don’t need to be separated when washing. The cap and straw are only top-rack safe.

I purchased mine on Amazon. I love Amazon they always have such great deals. So many choices in color….but I chose the hot pink color, raspberry. The color makes me happy and I choose to be happy.

It costs about $20-25 as they are available in different sizes. I went with the biggest one because I feel I will drink more this way and I won’t need to keep refilling a smaller one.

This is one of my new favorite things so I thought I should share the love.

 

Fruit Salad…The Pioneer Woman

fruit salad pioneer womanThis fruit salad is one of my ultimate favorite recipes from The Pioneer Woman. I have had nothing but rave reviews of this salad every time I make it.

It is easy to make and such a vibrant colored fruit salad. Do not substitute pure vanilla extract for the vanilla bean.  The vanilla bean makes this salad perfect and very pleasing accent to the citrus simple syrup.

This is a very good fruit salad and the mint garnish just adds a little more splash of color and fragrance.

If you want the step by step directions as well as the pictures, click on the link to The Pioneer Woman website. http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/03/pretty-fruit-salad/

The photo is courtesy of The Pioneer Woman.

Fruit Salad

Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Difficulty:
Easy
Servings:
12

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Water
  • Juice Of 1 Orange
  • Zest Of 1 Orange
  • 2 whole Vanilla Beans, Caviar Scraped Out (or 2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract)
  • 4 pints Strawberries, Hulled And Halved
  • 2 pints Blueberries
  • 2 cups Red Grapes, Halved
  • 2 cups Green Grapes, Havled
  • Mint Leaves

Preparation Instructions

Place the sugar, water, orange juice and orange zest into a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 to thicken slightly. Set aside to cool, then store in the fridge until cold.

Mix together all the fruit in a large bowl and pour the syrup over the top, tossing gently. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

The Pioneer Woman…One of My Favorites

002Cookbooks…I love cookbooks! I collect first editions first printings…and if I am lucky, I get autographed copies. Today, I am sharing one of my favorites…The Pioneer Woman…and I was fortunate enough to have them autographed.

I am not afraid of sugar or butter (unsalted butter) and I believe in moderation…but sometimes you just need to splurge and make a yummy less healthy treat. Do you have a favorite cookbook?

#Thepioneerwoman #organizedbaglady

The Secret Recipe is Revealed!

002Today…I am going to do something different, something I have never done before. I am going to share my secret recipe for Suzanne’s Sugar Cookies! Yep…you did not misread that. Because I love all of you for being a part of my journey and being so wonderful in your posts and emails to me, I am going to share my secret recipe. (Just a disclaimer there is sugar and butter in these cookies!)

My cookies are nothing fancy…but I ALWAYS receive such rave reviews for my sugar cookies. I like thick and soft cookies that are big in size. Just check out the size of these cookie cutters. If I am going to eat a sugar cookie…it is going to be a sugar cookie worth eating!

Here are the wonderfully delicious ingredients you will need:

1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 light Karo syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (or if it is really a special occasion I use a vanilla bean in place of half of the vanilla extract)
3 cups all purpose flour (Gold Medal or Pillsbury)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Now…I love baking and my ingredients are ALWAYS fresh. Vanilla Beans are expensive, but if you use them in sugar cookies you don’t frost they are way more delicious! I like to use the vanilla bean (cut the vanilla bean in half length-wise and scrape out the insides…this is where the magic comes from). The eggs and butter MUST be room temperature to create an amazingly creamy dough. I NEVER use imitation vanilla extract. I feel these cookies need that little extra shot of goodness. I DON’T substitute margarine or shortening for the butter. It MUST always be butter. Another piece of the magic is the Karo Syrup…it just does something magical! Don’t add sugar instead!

Now the process:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Must do in this order: Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed until blended well. Add eggs, Karo syrup, and vanilla. Beat until blended.

Next, combine 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Sift together. Add gradually to the creamy mixture at a low speed. Do not over mix.

Divide dough in half and place each half on a separate piece of cling wrap. Wrap the dough in the cling wrap. Slightly roll your rolling pin over the cling wrap to make dough into a round disc shape. Now place them in the refrigerator for 45 minutes and no later than and hour…the butter will make the dough to hard to roll if in the refrigerator too long. You don’t want the dough room temperature as the dough will be sticky and you will end up adding too much flour. Does this make sense? I wish at this point I would have taken pictures of each step of the process to help. Keep refrigerated until ready to roll. Sprinkle flour on surface to roll out cookie dough sprinkling a little flour on top. Flour cookie cutters to ensure the dough releases.

I bake my cookies on parchment paper lined cookie sheets. I bake the cookies for 5-9 minutes depending on the size of the cookies. Do NOT over bake. Place cookies on cookie racks to cool. I prefer my sugar cookies frosted. I really love these cookies with a cream cheese frosting. But that is my personal preference. Add sprinkles if you are so inclined.

Drawer Organizers from Target

Drawer organizers

Unfortunately, I don’t live remotely close to The Container Store. I decided I would go to my local Target, one of my favorite stores, to see if they had any drawer organizers comparable to those at The Container Store. To my surprise, I found these beauties. They fit the bill for my kitchen drawer project.

These drawer organizers are acrylic and fit very well in my kitchen drawers, which apparently are odd sized. I decided it was time for a facelift in the drawers. I wanted something light and easy to find my kitchen tools. Oh, my…there is a future blog in the near future about my crazy need for kitchen gadgets and tools. I think I own everything from the Williams Sonoma catalog, Sur La Table, Crate and Barrel, and Gourmet Chef.

Anyway, back to today’s project. I needed better organization and I needed to scale back my kitchen gadgets and tools. So I purchased these containers from Target and used quite a few of them, these are the extras. I wasn’t sure on the configuration I would use or what would be the best fit for my gadgets and drawers so I bought extra so I had options. I love to have options…it takes the anxiety out of the projects.

I should have taken before pictures, but I was a little bit embarrassed by my excess…so I decided if I am embarrassed about it…then I need to make a change and scale back. That is exactly what I did and donated the extras to goodwill.

I will have to post after pictures. Here are some of the after pictures. It is still a work in progress…

Wustof Knives

No more ugly knife block sitting on the counter top…I love this in drawer knife block for my Wustof Knives. I purchased the knives and knife drawer block at Gourmet Chef last year. www.gchef.com

 

 

 

 

Wisk drawerThese drawer organizers from Target fit perfectly in my drawer to house my various sized whisks. The red whisks were purchased from Target and the stainless steel whisks are from Williams Sonoma.

 

 

 

 

 

Spatulas

These drawer organizers worked perfectly for my scaled down collection of spatulas and wooden utensils. The spatulas were purchased through Pampered Chef, Williams Sonoma, and Target. The wooden utensils were purchased through Pampered Chef and TJ Maxx. I know people will think I still have way too many spatulas and wooden utensils, but I do use each and every one of them. I do a lot of baking mostly during the holidays and I used to host lots of social gatherings which I am hoping to revive in the new year.

 

secondary silverware

These organizers work perfectly for smaller drawers too. This was used to house my secondary silverware set and my hand held cheese grater. The silverware was purchased at Kohls and the cheese grater was purchased through Pampered Chef.

 

 

 

 

 

 

every day silverware
I did not use these organizers for my everyday silverware. For some reason this drawer isn’t squared off and the acrylic organizers just were not made to bend. So I had to stick with my old organizer which was purchased at Target about 11 years ago as was the silverware.

There are other drawers to organize in my kitchen and I will probably use these extra organizers. I will have to continue this project and keep you updated.

 

Rediscover the Beauty of Age

061

This is one of my favorite things! It is a pre-1970 American Fostoria Pedestal Cake Plate.

I am a big believer in reducing, reusing, and recycling. One of the ways that I participate in this is by collecting and repurposing vintage glass pieces. I find these heavy and beautifully crafted pieces and offer them an extended life as a part of my life.

I started an online bookstore on Earth Day 2008 called Earth Day Books via Amazon Marketplace. I collect and sell very clean books.  This is just another way that I contribute to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I started this business out of my love of children books, non-fiction, and cookbooks. After the flood of 2011, several schools and libraries lost their books. I donated the majority of the books I had left in my inventory to them. They needed them more than I did. A few were donated to goodwill as well.

I think if everyone can find a small way to contribute to the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling…the world would be a little bit better off than it is today. Just my opinion…