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Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

There are many ways to make guests feel welcome, and one is to have easy access to your wi-fi password as soon as they arrive. You can make this lovely, shimmery memo board in less than an hour and keep the wi-fi password or other information easily accessible for guests or yourself, and still have it be part of your decor.

Mirrored Memo board for wifi code

Gather your supplies:

  • frame with glass
  • Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan
  • fabric remnant
  • FrogTape Shape Tape (I used the chevron shape.)
  • Rust-Olem Mirror Finish Spray
  • Dry erase marker

start your mirrored memo board with a thrift store frame

This project starts with a $1 thrift store frame. This frame is really pathetic, with that tacky plastic metal strip on the inside and corner that don’t quite match up, but I was surprised by how awesome it looks with two coats of Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan. No primer, just two coats, and it looks really nice and crisp.

Then tape up the glass in your choice of patterns. I thunk about this for a long time, but I ultimately made it easy and pain free by going with the Frogtape chevron pattern Shape tape. Just remember to think backwards. Whatever you tape will show the fabric we’re using in the next steps. Whatever you don’t tape will show the shimmer from the mirror finish.

Rust-Oleum Mirror finish and Frogtape Shape tape for mirrored memo board

When you have the glass taped, apply very, super thin coats of the Rust-Oleum Mirror Finish. I can not stress this enough! You do not want heavy coats. You’ll be doing at least 5 thin coats. After spraying each one, lightly dab with a wet paper towel. If you do this on each layer, you’ll end up with a mercury glass effect, which is a huge design trend right now, but it’s very classic, so it’s not going to look dated in a year or so. This is the back of the glass.

Rust-Oleum mirror finish on glass

After the Mirror Finish coat dry, remove the shape tape, and cut a fabric remnant to size. This is a nice place to make a statement and go for a bold fabric choice. I wanted to highlight the mirror effect, so I kept my fabric subtle.

Before reassembling your frame, print out your code in your choice of fonts. You don’t have to set the lines up accurately against your pattern, since you can move the printed page down line by line. I was able to lay my printed page behind the Mirror Effect spray and still see enough of it to trace over in dry erase marker. Or, to make this whole project easier, you could make the clear part of your chevron pattern larger by laying multiple pieces of tape side by side, keep your fabric solid, and just write memos on the clear glass. Yeah, that would be easier. Do that.

print wifi code for mirrored memo board

Then reassemble your whole frame, with the fabric in the middle where a photo would usually be. Then completely fill in the outline of your letters with a dry erase marker.

mirrored memo board shows wifi code

I actually did have this board sitting on my mantle when I hosted a class recently and wanted everyone to be able to hop onto my network. Put yours in the guest room so guests can easily connect. You could use this to post phone numbers or other relevant information. In fact, I think I’ll use it for the next few weeks to help the little ones memorize our phone numbers.

Mirrored Memo board for wifi code

 

 

Posted on: November 18th, 2014 by Darla | 1 Comment

I am bumping a previously scheduled post to bring you this chai-riffic recipe on this cold and blustery day. If you haven’t had chai, which is what we Americans call spiced tea, you are in for a treat. This beverage has none of the bitterness of coffee, and more flavor than bagged teas. You can find powdered and prepared chai on some grocery shelves, and you can pay $5 per cup at your favorite coffee shop, but after trying this, you won’t want either of those.

chai latte recipe

Making one batch of this can save you time and money compared to stopping at your coffee shop.

I’ve spent the last several weeks adjusting this recipe to make a whole batch at a time. There’s just no getting around the fact that it has to be cooked, but by making a good sized batch, I have a cup ready to go each morning for a week.

Chai Latte
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Make a batch of this spiced tea and serve it hot or cold without added sugar.
Author:
Recipe type: Beverage
Cuisine: Indian American
Serves: about 6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 oz can of evaporated milk
  • ⅓ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ tsp anise seed
  • 2 whole anise stars
  • 1 Tbsp fresh diced ginger*
  • ¼ tsp whole black peppercorns*
  • ¼ tsp whole cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ¼ tsp real vanilla extract
  • 2 tea bags
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine water, evaporated milk, condensed milk, and all spices.
  2. Bring to boil on medium heat.
  3. Reduce heat to simmer, add tea bags, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Before straining, squeeze tea bags a couple of times in the liquid.
  5. Strain the liquid through a fine wire strainer into a jug or jars with lids.
  6. Store for up to a week in the refrigerator.
  7. Garnish with whipped cream if desired.
Notes
* Use fresh ginger and whole peppercorn. I have been known to reach for my spice jars more often than I should, but in this recipe you don't want to cut corners with jar spices or you will definitely taste the difference.

This recipe replaces sweet with spicy. I don't add any sugar or sweetener, and I prefer it to coffee and tea that I tend to load up with cream and sugar. You just don't need it here.

 

Just a few helpful hints as you are preparing this. I’ve already noted in the recipe that you should absolutely use fresh ginger and whole peppercorns, neither of which are part of my normal shopping list. Fresh ginger is in the produce aisle of most regular grocery stores, and you don’t need to peel it since it gets strained out; just finely dice it. Whole peppercorns are in a jar in the spice aisle. I’ve only used black pepper so far, so I’d love to hear if you have a specialty peppercorn that would make this even better.

Giving a shout out to Whole Foods, I recently learned that they have bulk spices that you can buy in very small quantities, as small as just a teaspoon at a time. Some of the spices that I don’t normally have on hand, including anise and anise stars, cost next to nothing in small doses. This is a HUGE cost savings over buying whole jars, which would take me forever to use and would normally be very pricey, if you can even find them.

I’ll be the first to admit that the process of straining the cooked chai is a little bit of a pain, but it’s a worthwhile trade for me. Prep this recipe one day a week and have this yummy treat on hand to warm up in the microwave on cold mornings. (That’s the organizing tip for today.)

preparing chai latte recipe at homeUse either regular tea or decaffeinated tea bags. Your choice.

Did you know that you can use cinnamon sticks more than once? Fish out the cinnamon stick you just used, rinse it and dry it. Then store it to use for next week’s batch, and save even more money.

You can use milk instead of evaporated milk, but I don’t often have milk in the fridge. It’s great to know everything I need for this drink is in the pantry and ready to make a batch anytime.

This drink is also refreshing cooled and blended with ice. Yum!

I’ve made this recipe using as much as 6 cups of water to start (keeping all other ingredients at the same amounts) and it still tastes spiced and full-bodied. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your personal taste.

Chai Latte Recipe Flourish

One last nugget. True story, if I were ordering this at the coffee house, I wouldn’t pass up the whipped cream garnish, but I never add it at home. What would you do?

Posted on: November 16th, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

What would I do if I were to win the lottery? Maybe buy a home like the Design Home presented by Philadelphia Magazine. For a mere $2.9 million, this baby could be mine (or yours). 11/16 is the last day for public tours, so hightail it over to Chestnut Hill if you haven’t already seen this beautiful dream home.

DesignHome PHL 2014

I’d love to show you my favorite parts of this year’s home, which I toured as part of a special Comcast Xfinity blogger tour offered by Real Mom Media. I did receive special consideration for touring the home, but after you see these pictures, you won’t doubt that it is worth the price of admission (all of which goes to this year’s chosen charity of MANNA).

Let’s be honest. Everyone wants to see the master suite, so let’s just start there on this blog tour.

Design Home master bedroom

This gorgeous suite includes twin his and hers walk in closets, a coffee bar alcove, a sauna, and a shower bigger than my first apartment.

master suite shower

 

master suite bathroom

master suite sitting area

This is also one of the places that you can see this home is wired! Comcast Xfinity was kind enough to demonstrate the X1 platform and Xfinity Home automation features, that allow you to use alarms, video, texts, and energy saving features to make your home comfortable, safe, and efficient, all from your remote control or smartphone app.

Xfinity Home automation

My friends and I clustered in the master suite and tried to figure out how we could get the rights to live here. Just in this suite. We don’t really need the whole house, after all. This is heaven, haven, and basically perfect. Let me know if you can figure it out for us.

But on to some other lovely features of the home. The kitchen?

butler's pantry in the DesignHomePHLNope, that’s just the prep kitchen. Or butler’s kitchen. The actual kitchen is gorgeous, with two refrigerators, an over-sized island with Quartzite counters, and really beautiful classic design that can be seen from almost every other room on the main floor. You know how everyone always congregates in the kitchen? That was true on the day of my tour, too, so I don’t have a great shot for you.

DesignHome kitchenThe adjacent dining room has two modern wine cellars juxtaposed with classic coffered ceiling details.

 

design home dining room wine cellarsding room coffered ceilingThe main living room was classic modern with soaring ceilings.

living room fireplace

The sense of space in this room is assisted by the fact that I am taking this picture from OUTSIDE! The entire wall of windows opens up to the patio.

design home living room

Yes, this home is built for entertaining, with a complete outdoor kitchen just steps from the living room.

design home outdoor kitchen

The landscaping was mature, classic, and compact enough to not be overwhelming for a busy family.  So sorry I didn’t get a shot of the patio and outdoor fireplace.

design home pool

Back inside, you get a view of that beautiful pool from the home office outfitted as a family space. I won’t judge you if you claim this space all for your own once you move in.

design home office

The sitting room in this house had lovely details and furnishings, including a fresh teal palette and bookcases that were designed with  another contemporary twist, hung on the walls instead of standing on the floor as most bookcases do.

design home sitting room

The first floor was complete with garage with 2 bays plus a car lift, you know, for your classic car.

design home car liftThe breezeway is one of my favorite parts of this house…

design home breezewaywhich leads into another favorite spot, the mudroom, which contained all of this storage for pets and kids as well as the entrance to the elevator. Yes, the elevator.

design home mudroomThe second floor contained another three bedrooms and two baths, along with the master suite and a hallway laundry room.

design home laundry

The laundry room may not seem like anything too special, until you realize that it is only one of two laundry rooms in this house. As it should be.

The third floor was a huge playroom outfitted stylishly with IKEA. This picture only shows about a quarter of the space.

design home playroom

Somehow I lost steam on the basement level, and missed taking pictures of the large gym, au pair suite, pool changing room, and family room with bar. Comcast was kind enough to demonstrate the X1 platform here, and one of my favorite features was the fact that you can now customize the TV guide menu to include things like your favorite channels or create profiles for each family members. I mean, #XfinityMoms (and moms of all stripes) don’t want to scroll through thousands of channels when we only watch a few.

design home Xfinity features

Whew! What a wirlwind tour! If you make it out to the DesignHomePHL, be sure to wear your walking shoes! Or take the virtual tour after 11/16 on their site. And let me know what you love best about this year’s design home.

design home exterior

 

Posted on: November 13th, 2014 by Darla | 2 Comments

Most modern freezers have on big drawer at the bottom of the refrigerator, which is a pain in the keister to keep organized. It’s the same problem you have in the sock drawer, but bigger and colder. (And if you find socks in your freezer, that’s an entirely different problem!) Here’s how I finally organized my freezer drawer.

How to label and organize freezer

Organizing your freezer might be especially helpful as we head into the holidays and you want to save money or space for all those yummy holiday dinners.

Does this jumble in the freezer look familiar?

disorganizing freezer

I pretty much know what’s in my freezer, so I didn’t have to do the whole “sort-and-purge” thing that we always start with. But maybe your freezer is a bit more of a mystery. If it is, definitely take a minute to see if you can find a few categories in there.

On a whim, I purchased 2 plastic freezer bins from the Container Store, but they are an inch too large, and they’ll have to go back.

plastic freezer organizing bins

Not to be deterred, I scoured the house until I found these metal bins, originally purchased for the kid’s hideaway play space. Since they’ve been empty for the last year, they were fair game for repurposing.

That’s possibly the best organizing advice ever: don’t buy something new to organize until you’ve exhausted all possible options that you may already own.

bins to organize the freezer

I used these bins to sort and repack items back into the freezer, but they needed labels so everyone else can help me keep it organized. I mean, can you imagine what’s going to happen if I don’t label these bins? How would anyone else know what’s what? They won’t. So labels it is…

LARGE LABELS

Or, more accurately, large-print labels on these cute coasters from IKEA. Tied on with a bit of bakers twine and secured from the back with electrical tape, these should do the trick.

labels for freezer organizing

I got a kick out of my little one this morning when she was packing her lunch. She said, “Whoa, mom. It looks really decorated in here!” She can’t read the labels yet, but she already knew that at least one of the labels probably said “veggies”.

labeled organized vegetables in the freezer

Such a simple, no cost trick can help a mom out. Yes, it took a few minutes to make it happen. But I love that I can see what I’ve got now, and it makes meal planning so much easier. It turns out that I had two bags of fish filets on hand as well as hash browns and corn. Looks like I’ll be making fish corn chowder this week.

freezer drawer organized

What do you think of this organized freezer?

Too much? Too little? Who cares? I’d love to know.

how I organized the freezer drawer

 

Posted on: November 11th, 2014 by Darla | No Comments

There are many, many different ways to store medical records. There are some very good planner systems that you can buy. And there are options to keep your medical records in the cloud, which can be very handy. But sometimes it’s just best to keep it simple.

A friend of mine was concerned that her medical paperwork always seemed to be all over her counter. She is older and has a heart condition, so she sees a quite few doctors, and just wanted to have a neat place to store her papers. She already has a filing cabinet, and it already holds bills and things like the Medicare Reference book that she receives every year. This is really for holding her notes about her visits to her doctors, easy reference for doctor’s office addresses and phone numbers, and things she wants to discuss with her doctors at her next appointment.

How to organize medical recordsWe customized this very simple system for her in a small file storage box that she already owned, which is small enough that she can put the lid on and take it to her next appointment. It’s also something that she can tell her family to grab if she needs to head to the hospital in a hurry.

The first folder is where she keeps a list of her current medications and doses, along with any prescriptions that she hasn’t yet filled. It is in a red file so it’s easy to see. I can tell you from experience as an EMT that having a legible list of current meds and doses is super helpful in emergency situations.

The second folder is called “Discuss with Dr,” and it holds her own notes and questions she wants to ask at upcoming appointments, as well as articles that she wants to discuss with her doctor.

The next few folders all relate to specific doctors, and they are in alphabetical order:

  • Cardiac
  • Chiropractor
  • Dermatologist
  • Eye Dr
  • Neurologist
  • Nutritionist
  • Primary Care

The last folder is the health history that she keeps for herself. This includes notes she’s been keeping on her conditions as well as a few important test results and hospital records. She’s actually got several notebooks that’s she’s filled over the years, but only the most recent summary or notebooks stay in this little tote box.

That’s it. The point is to keep it simple and not overwhelming. By keeping the bills elsewhere (in her file cabinet drawer), this health file is really about her health. It’s easy to access, and she’ll be able to find and follow doctor’s orders more easily.

Do you think this is the kind of medical organizing system that you can build and maintain?