February 26, 2012

Organizing on the Cheap - The One Dollar Bin

A few weeks ago, I was in Target and came across some organizing products in the Dollar Spot. I was so excited to blog about my finds!

That day, many of the $1 organizing products I found were office products--file folders, to-do list pads, etc. But, as I was about to leave the Dollar Spot, I spotted this blue bin below.

It looked like a bin I was already utilizing in my pantry to hold my son's snacks. The $1 one was bigger than the one I already owned. My son is getting bigger and so are his snacks--I needed a larger receptacle for them. Just by looking at it, I knew it would fit.

I brought it home, filled it with pre-made snack bags (that concept is a blog post for another time...) and replaced the old bin with my new $1 find. Voila!

Now, I have so much more room to store the snack bags my son goes through every week. I can prepare them in advance which saves me time in the morning and reach my hand in and grab one when I need one. All for $1--Three cheers for inexpensive organizing products!

Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!
Hip hip hooray!

I think I made a good investment. What do you think?

February 15, 2012

Mise en Place - Cooking the Organized Way

Every year, my cousins host a Valentine's Day pizza party. They order in pizzas, set up a huge salad bar on their counter, and people bring wine and desserts to round out the celebration. Last year, I made heart shaped brownies and although they were good, I wanted to get a bit more creative.

For inspiration, I walked into a store near me called Sugar and Plumm--Purveyors of Yumm and found all types of cool looking confections including pretzel rods decorated with yummy-looking sugary stuff. I thought to myself, "I could make those!" I even had a feeling I owned a recipe for it and lo and behold, I did.

I had a ton of tasks to get done the morning I was making them so I turned to a basic organizing principle to help me accomplish my goal: to create chocolate-dipped and decorated pretzel rods in a short amount of time with a minimal mess in the kitchen. This basic organizing principle I utilized, well known to those in the world of cooking is:

Mise en Place

You may be asking, 'What does the phrase Mise en Place mean?" According to TheReluctantGourmet.com, the phrase is pronounced MEEZ ahn plahs and means 'to have all of your ingredients and cooking tools prepared before you start cooking'. Literally translated, it means,'to put in place.' I think it's French for 'Get your stuff organized before you cook!'

Mise en place takes the stress out of cooking and makes it a more pleasurable task. There's no searching for the garlic press when your oil is hot. There's no such thing as , "Uh, oh--I'm missing an ingredient." Mise en place (or 'meez' as the professionals say) allows you to be focused and prepared for cooking.

Here are the steps I took to Mise en Place--create an organized environment for my pretzel rod project:

1. I read the recipe and made notes as to what ingredients I needed. I added them to my shopping list, purchased them and kept them together in one bag so I they would be in one place when I was ready to make the recipe.

2. I cleared my small counter space and unpacked the pretzel rods, chocolate chips and sprinkles. I set up two bowls for melting the two flavors of chocolate chips, two spatulas (for stirring the chocolate chips and spreading them on the pretzels) and three paper plates for the three pretzel toppings.

3. Next to my counter space, I set up a baking tray covered in wax paper and placed a wire rack on top of it. This is where the pretzel rods would relax while the chocolate was setting.

4. I placed half a bag of each type of chocolate chip into a bowl and put a spatula in each bowl. I placed a half cup of sprinkles and mini chocolate chips into each paper plate.

Now, I was ready to begin! And here is the finished product...

Mise en Place - Cooking the Organized Way:
Chocolate dipped and decorated pretzel rods for Valentine's Day

Here's the recipe I used. Try it--and don't forget the mise en place. It will make creating these decorated pretzel rods so easy, you'll want to make them for every occasion. Green sprinkles for St. Patrick's Day? Pastel sprinkles for Easter? My cousin also hosts Mother's Day. If you have any sprinkle color ideas for that day, I'd love to hear them!

Recipe: Decorated Pretzel Rods

One bag of Rold Gold Pretzel Rods
Half a bag of Nestle Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip Morsels
Half a bag of Nestle White Chocolate Chip Morsels
Multi-colored sprinkles
Pink and white sprinkles (Tip: sprinkles purchased less expensively in the ice cream aisle rather than the baking aisle...)

Follow mise en place steps 2-4 from above.

1. Melt mini chocolate chips and white chocolate chips in separate microwave safe bowls. Microwave for 30 seconds and stir. Microwave another 30 seconds if necessary and stir until smooth.
2. Start with one flavor of chocolate. Dip pretzel rod in chocolate and spread with spatula. Let any excess chocolate drip off and hold pretzel over plate of sprinkles.
3. Using a spoon or your hands, drop sprinkles onto chocolate part of pretzel rod while turning the pretzel so all chocolate is covered.
4. Place on wire rack to cool and set.
5. Repeat with all toppings until chocolate is finished.
6. Repeat all steps with white chocolate.
7. Taste one to make sure they're OK...
8. Pack carefully to take to someone's home. Yum!

February 8, 2012

Organizing Myths Demystified

Every month I choose a new topic for my monthly Facebook Friday Tip-of-the-Week. February is Organize Your Home Office month. Every week I'll be offering tips on how to get your home office organized whether it's for a small business or a large family with Mom as CEO. If you haven't 'Liked' or added Organized Artistry, Professional Organizing Services to your Page's 'Favorites' yet, you can do it by clicking here. You'll get my organizing tips in your News Feed every Friday!

While doing research for this month's theme,I happened upon a great article by Lisa Kanarek of Working Naked. She is a nationally known home office expert, interior designer, and author who combines organizational and design skills to achieve functional home offices for her clients. The article is called,

5 Organizing Myths Keeping You from Getting Organized

Although the five myths discussed in the article are targeted to home office users, they can be applied to most organizing situations--kitchens, closets, paper, etc. If you're struggling with organization in your home office or home, I recommend reviewing Lisa's ideas and applying the knowledge to your particular situation. I think you'll feel better about your organizing challenges and feel confident to move forward in meeting your home or home office organizing goals.

February 2, 2012

Organizing on the Cheap: Target Dollar Spot

I love Target. I find it to be a very enjoyable place to shop. Stores are always brightly lit and clean. Staff in red shirts are ready to help and price scanners are plentiful.

Last week I stopped by my local Target for some random items--cleaning supplies, picture hangers, strawberries--a typical day of one-stop shopping. The first thing I did when I walked in the store was check out the weekly sale circular on the wall. Then, I headed straight to the Dollar Spot.

According to the Target website, The Dollar Spot was launched in 2004. If you haven't stumbled upon it, it's usually the first shopping area you see when you walk in the store. All of the items in the Dollar Spot cost $1 with a few costing $2.50. It's a great place to pick up items for holidays, kids, pets and organizing.

Really? Organizing products for $1?

Yes--you're not going to find elfa shelves here but you if you check the bins from time to time, you will find a few organizing products mixed in with the socks, books, and Hello Kitty paraphernalia.

Here's are some organizing products I found at the Target Dollar Spot last week:

Magazine Files - for storing papers, folders and of course, magazines.

Decorative File Folders - Although it's only a 2-pack, it's an inexpensive way to brighten up your desk or file cabinet.

Large coupon file - use for Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons, receipts, anything on large slips of paper.

Small coupon/receipts file - good too, for storing gift cards and photographs.

Weekly Menu/Shopping List To-Do Pads - useful for getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper.

I bought the above bin for my pantry--I'll show you how I'm using it to organize food and save time in a future blog post.

Next time you go to Target for hairspray, light bulbs, or a garden hose, be sure to wander over to the Dollar Spot. Be on the lookout for products to help you get and stay organized. You never know what you'll find!