January – Kitchen and recipe overhaul

In January, I’m tackling another 31 day project. This month I am concentrating on everything in the kitchen. Our fridge, freezer, and cupboards have gotten out of control. My menu planning and grocery shopping has been in shambles, which means our grocery budget has spiraled out of control.

This first week of January has been crazy with the girls going back to school, starting up therapy sessions again, and a trip to the ER. So I haven’t been able to blog about my goals for January but I have been working on them!

The very first thing I tackled was our fridge. It was a mess! I forgot to take pictures as I went but imagine wilting vegetables, expired condiments, and stale bread. Spills on shelves. That’s all been cleaned up and it’s now much easier to tell at a glance what we have available to eat or cook with.

Secondly, I tackled our freezer. I’m not sure you can tell the difference in the photos, but I threw out several bags of disgusting frozen bananas. We also ate a couple bags of things that were getting low. Then I organized the rest.


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After

After cleaning out the fridge and freezer, we were able to buy some basic supplies I hadn’t even realized we needed. Our meal planning has really been that much of a mess lately that I didn’t even realize what we have or don’t have.

“Mama, what’s for dinner?”
“Ramen.”

Ramen has been a fall back once a week for the past few months. We’ve also been eating a lot of rice and tofu with various sauces. Meal planning has been so stressful that I can’t even remember what we used to like to eat. My girls have gotten more and more picky, causing more and more anxiety on my part, so meals have really been a mess. That’s what I’m trying to fix this month, one small step at a time.

This week I’ll be concentrating on my recipe book. I have a binder stuffed full of recipes and I have no idea which meals we liked or didn’t like. I can’t even tell what recipes we’ve actually tried. I just printed a bunch of recipes, bought ingredients for many of them, and then promptly forgot why I had purchased sun-ripened tomatoes in a jar. They are still sitting in my cupboard, months after buying them. An expensive ingredient, too!

I’m going to empty out the binder and go through each recipe one by one. Does it still sound good? Did we try it? Did we like it? I’ll slowly reassemble my recipe binder with recipes we actually like so that I can start working on a meal plan.

As I type all of this out, it sounds overwhelming. But I’m going to concentrate on just one step at a time and try to regain control of my kitchen.

Minimalism – Day 14

I told my husband today that I’m slightly… odd. I’ve been spending my alone time lately taking a bath while reading a book or playing Pokemon Shuffle. That’s semi-normal, right? But I got derailed from my Christmas movies, which is what I usually watch once I’m in my pajamas and curled up in bed. Instead, I’ve been watching a YouTube blogger share her progress from hoarder to minimalist. And that’s fun for me! It’s motivating in my own challenge and fun to watch someone else make progress in their attempts to create a more peaceful home.

Today I tackled a drawer in our bathroom. The drawer was a mess! Expired sunscreen, random hair bands, jewelry I never wear, and loose hair. Yuck! I dumped everything out of the drawer, scrubbed it down, and only put back what I want to keep. I moved a few things like lotions and face wash under the sink and tidied what was left. It’s not going to stay organized, since I don’t have any containers to keep it from sliding around every time I open the drawer. But at least there is less to rummage through while I’m looking for something.


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After

And my girls keep running off with my hair dryer so I bought them each one for Christmas! One blue and one pink. I think they’ll be pleased.

Items decluttered (to-date) – 40

December challenge

A few years ago, I read a blog written by two women who were close friends. They would plan out their year, month by month, by picking a challenge to complete each month. They would start a new running habit, pick a home improvement challenge, plant a garden, etc. These were mostly fun projects that involved a lot of hands on work plus the potential to learn something new.

After reading through a lot of the blog archives, I was inspired to take on a few challenges of my own. I don’t remember all of the challenges I attempted but I’ve been feeling inspired lately to take on a new challenge. I want to focus on minimalism and moving forward on making my bedroom a safe and comforting retreat. So for the month of December, I’m going to attempt to make at least one improvement in my room each and every day (except Sabbaths). This includes the actual bedroom, the master bathroom, and my closet.

At first, I thought this is too small of a challenge for an entire month. But it’s a holiday month and my two girls are off school for the last two weeks of December. So hopefully bite-sized pieces each day will make for a big difference at the end of the month.

I started making a list of things that need to be done and realized this is actually a pretty big project, if I try to do things in their entirety. For example, I have several books that need to be returned to their owners. This means I need to track down the owners’ addresses, package the books, and take them to the post office. While this isn’t a huge task by itself, I have quite a few projects that involve multiple steps. I need to return several orders to Nordstrom. I need to ship some clothes to a friend. I need to sell some books online. I need to declutter my hanging clothes and I’ll have to decide if any of it can be sold or if I’m going to post things on my local BuyNothing group. I have a huge pile of paperwork that needs to be sorted, scanned, and then recycled.

Hopefully this will force me to complete a couple of very small tasks that never seem to get done. There’s some damage to the front of our bathroom cabinet but it’s an easy fix involving some glue. Then we have several burnt out light bulbs that need to be replaced. Easy fix but never gets done!

So this project will keep me quite busy! And of course, I hope to blog about my progress. Hopefully my room will feel much less cluttered and more relaxing by the time I’m done. Once my room is complete, my to-do list will certainly be much shorter!

Homemaking milestone

The FlyLady system has been helping so much (six weeks in) that I sat down at the computer today and wondered what I should do next. Normally I have a long list of emergencies to tackle. Today I have nothing. All my fires are put out. I still have a few urgent projects *ahem*file taxes*ahem* but nothing that’s considered an emergency.

I have hope that someday I’ll no longer be drowning under homemaking tasks. Yay FlyLady system!

Tomorrow!!!!

Tomorrow. I can finally say “we leave tomorrow.” Yesterday I was super excited. Today I feel nervous and want to throw up. This is such an emotional ride!

I’m still working down my to-do list. Yesterday I finally transplanted my avocado tree into a bigger pot. I was surprised how big the root ball had gotten. I would have taken a picture of it but I only have two hands!

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old pot

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old and new pots

The side benefit to transplanting the tree is that I could finally adjust it so that it grows straight up!

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lovely!

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I have no idea what this bug is but it was hanging out on our patio door when I got ready to come back inside. Pretty markings.

This morning I am headed to the grocery store. Our fridge is almost empty and we don’t have enough food to make it through today and tomorrow. I also need to pick up some staples for when we get back, as well as protein bars and snacks for the plane.

Yesterday we sorted through a pile of toys and activities to decide what we should take with us to Taiwan. At least my dining room table is half clean. Once I can get the clothes packed, I can pack the rest of these activities and finish cleaning off my table. This afternoon, after I take a nap, I will clean both bathrooms and then see what else needs to be done.

My prescription sunglasses are still not available, though I ordered them on July 3. I have to call and talk to the manager today to find out how they are going to fix this. I called twice last week and they just keep saying, “sorry, but they have not been delivered yet.” Yes, but I ordered them three weeks ago and I am going to Taiwan tomorrow. I’m also waiting to hear from the bank that they have our Taiwanese dollars available for pick up.

Nope, no stress! HA!

Cooking adventures

I finally finished deep cleaning my kitchen. It took way too long because I kept getting distracted by plane tickets, hotel reservations, shopping for our trip, and Candy Crush. Whoops! But I’m thrilled with the results.

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before

The entire kitchen has now been KonMarie’d, scrubbed, and organized.

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after

My husband was hankering after baked macaroni and cheese so I found a new recipe online and baked up a pan.

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It was so good!! I used panko instead of bread crumbs and it baked perfectly.

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We’ll definitely make the recipe again.

Deep cleaning and other goals

This week I decided it was time to get organized and get some things done. There isn’t much I want to accomplish before we travel to Taiwan, but I would like to deep clean my house. I want to come home to a clean and organized home. So I’ve set some daily goals for myself:

30 minutes of exercise (trying to lose a couple of pounds)
60 minutes of Chinese (trying to become a tiny bit closer to fluent)
30 minutes of organizing/cleaning (beyond my normal chores)

So far so good! I’ve exercised both yesterday and today. I studied yesterday for 62 minutes and have 45 more to go today. And I’ve done 30 minutes of cleaning both yesterday and today. Here are a couple pictures of my progress.

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after

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I’m not sure the before and after photos look terribly different, but I did get rid of a few things. I am keeping the KonMarie principle in mind as I clean. “Does this bring me joy? If so, keep it. If not, get rid of it.” I discarded some really old and ratty kitchen towels, outdated spices, and a few instruction manuals that are available online. And now all three of these cupboards are scrubbed down and organized.

If we have a few dollars extra before we leave, I’d like to buy a spice rack. My spices are almost all bulk purchases from Whole Foods so I have a ton of little baggies on the bottom shelf of my cabinet. It is a mess! It’s hard to cook because I have to pull out handfuls of baggies and sort through them to find the spice I’m looking for. I’m doing to do some research to see if the bulk spices are actually fresh or if I should just buy jarred. If I go to the bulk route, I want to buy glass jars to store what I purchase. If I go the jarred route, I want to toss out everything I have and buy the staples I need. Either way, I’d like to organize the spices so that I can start teaching my daughter how to cook.

Half an hour still until the Women’s World Cup game between Japan and Netherlands so I’m going to sneak in some Chinese studies before the game.

Happy cooking!

May wrap-up / June goal

May’s 30 day challenge has not actually ended. Yes, May is over but I got a late start to my cheesemaking and it took longer than I expected. The cheese will be ready to taste-test on Wednesday. At that point, we’ll decide if it’s edible. If so, we’ll be making pizza with it.

I’ve been thinking about June’s challenge and I don’t think I can set one. We are still hoping to travel to Taiwan at the end of July, though if the judge doesn’t issue first ruling soon, we may not be traveling until August. I have an overambitious list of things I want to accomplish before travel. I don’t think it’s wise to concentrate on just one challenge this month. Instead, I’ll be working my way down my list.

Here’s what I am hoping to accomplish before travel.

Packing test run
Finish KonMarie’ing my house
Deep clean my house
Write up a menu for the first two weeks home
Grocery shopping for all non-perishables for the above menu
Summer clothes shopping for Jeff, Cin-Ru, and myself
Plan the actual trip
Finish blog design and launch my new blog

And, I want to make decent sized strides in my Chinese ability. I did join a June mini-challenge to read Chinese materials for at least half an hour each day. This means something written by native Chinese speakers for native Chinese speakers, not for those learning Chinese. There is a huge difference. This is in addition to my normal flashcards and my writing attempts.

Looking at my list, I’d better get busy!

Small projects make a big difference

Today I wrapped up several small projects. First, I finally retrieved my CD out of my husband’s retired laptop. His old laptop is the only CD drive left in the house and I accidentally left the CD in the computer when I played it a week ago.

Then I scanned the photo that my grandma mailed to me last week. I’m sending the hard copy to my mom but wanted a scanned version for my photo albums.

This is me at 13 months’ of age. I actually rather like this photo!

Finally, I decluttered and rearranged the bookshelf in our dining room.

before

after

I decluttered KonMarie style. (Which reminds me that I really need to write up a blog post about the book itself…) I pulled every item off the shelf and asked myself, “does this bring me joy?” If so, I put it back. If not, out it went. Sort of. I now have a growing pile downstairs of stuff that needs to be physically removed from my house.

I’m happy with the results! The top shelf holds my sponsorship notebooks where I keep all of the letters from the children we sponsor, my library books, and review books that I am in the middle of reading and reviewing. The second shelf now holds our Bibles and a row of children’s books. The first couple books are ones that we purchased for Cin-Ru. The rest are library books that I will be reading to better discern what we should actually buy.

The bottom shelf now holds some of Cin-Ru’s toys that require a table to be used. We intentionally chose not to purchase a desk or table for her bedroom. This way, she’ll be encouraged to spend time upstairs with the rest of the family instead of hiding out in her room. I thought it would be a good idea to move these types of toys upstairs so that she can pull something out and play at the dining room table with us instead of in her room without us. I still need to sort through the toys downstairs as I am sure there are more that I can bring upstairs. I’ll leave the dolls and some of the books downstairs.

I’m happy with my progress today! Now off to study Chinese so that I can actually talk to my daughter once we meet her in Taiwan.

Gimbap and oyster mushrooms

I’ve been having some motivation issues lately. A lack of motivation to blog, clean, study, etc. I’m not exactly sure what’s causing it but I’m pulling myself up by my bootstraps and forcing myself to move forward. My wonderful husband cleaned the bathrooms for me today, which was so very much appreciated!

I started overhauling my menu planning and recipe book. Both have gotten very sloppy. Last week we added a new recipe to our rotation: gimbap!

We did “veganify” the recipe, leaving out the meat and the egg but adding in tofu. The rest we kept the same. This was our first time trying pickled radish (also known in Korean as danmuji). It was really good!

My mother-in-law bought me a mushroom farm for Christmas so today I got it started. I’ll be taking pictures every day to record the progress. It’s supposed to be ready for harvest on day 10. This particular farm will grow oyster mushrooms so I need to start looking for a recipe that highlights oyster mushrooms. I can’t wait!

Here’s to a productive week!