Another Use For Our Coffee Maker

Looks like I’m talking about our coffee maker again for my Tiny Tip on a Thursday.  We use it to make coffee,  of course.  Last week I shared about how I time the trashing of my coffee grounds.

This week I’m just sharing how I make use of the actual appliance in my oh too small kitchen.  I’d probably get lost in a bigger kitchen but the one we have in this house is small making it necessary at times to get creative when searching for extra work and holding surfaces while cooking.  We only have basically 2 small areas of actual counter/work space.

A complete aside before I get to my tiny tip, I have found the funniest and most confidence boosting show to watch on Netflix.  I’m sort of sad to see they only have one season but if you need to feel better about your cooking skills, I highly recommend watching, The Worst Cooks in America.

Those poor people can not cook.  Some of them can’t even identify basic fruits and vegetables.  It is so fun to watch the two professional chefs (Bobby Flay & Anne Burrell) attempt to teach these people skills.   I don’t consider myself a horrible cook but I admit to picking up a few tips while watching the show.

Now, it’s time to share how I use our coffee machine to make a bit of extra space while cooking.  Basically, I find I quickly run out of places to put hot dishes like cookie sheets while I’m preparing dinner in our small kitchen.  I want to reserve the table for eating.  The stove usually has pots on it.

I need a heat safe place to put a baking sheet.  The top of the coffee maker is heat safe.  It brings my cooking to a whole new level-ha!

Hot Taco Shells in Waiting

Hot Taco Shells in Waiting

Obviously, I wouldn’t suggest putting a heavy dish on here.  We don’t want to do any damage to the coffee maker, that would be bad.  On days when the kitchen is sparkly clean, I sometimes also put the cookie sheets across the sinks.

You can see a tiny glimpse of what our kitchen usually looks like at dinner time in the next photo though…

See the plate in the sink? Sometimes people sneak in our house and fill the sink with dirty dishes!

See the plate in the sink? Sometimes people sneak in our house and fill the sink with dirty dishes!

Do you have any tricks for making extra space in a small kitchen?

My Favorite Teacher Gifts That Are Not Gift Cards

My favorite teacher gifts to give are gift cards.  They are easy and the teachers can pick out whatever they would like to buy with them.  I usually give gift cards from Barnes and Noble (these can also be used in their café), Target, Wal-Mart, or Starbucks (which can not be used in the Barnes and Noble café).

However, when giving gift cards to multiple teachers, it can get expensive!  I’d love to give all the teachers $100 (or more) gift cards but my budget doesn’t look like that.

Now that I’ve spent some time working as a substitute preschool teacher and been lucky enough to work during that magical time known as Teacher Appreciation Week (Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!  It’s actually today.), I can share my favorite teacher gifts to receive.

As a regular substitute teacher, may I make one small request if your student is younger?  Please, label the gifts!  Young children tend to hand the gift to whatever teacher is standing closest to them.  It can get a little awkward trying to determine if an unlabeled gift especially if a child is giving out several of the same item is meant for me or another teacher.

My Favorite Teacher Gifts:

  • Small bottles of hand lotion.  Preschool teachers (and I imagine all others) wash our hands A LOT.  Working with a lot of papers also makes our hands dry out.  I loved the small bottle of Crab-tree and Evelyn lotion a parent gave out one year.
  • Drinks.  No, not the kind of drinks with tiny umbrellas in them although I’m sure there are days when those would be favorites especially near the end of the school year.   One of my favorite teacher gifts (brought in by a preschool parent who happens to teach at a local high school) was a variety of soda fountain drinks from a convenience store.  Teachers talk A LOT and having a cold drink at the end of the day (again, not that kind of drink) is incredibly refreshing.  Bringing a variety of choices means everyone can usually find something.  And since fountain drinks are generally fairly cheap, this one will be a favorite teacher gift that won’t break your budget!
  • Bakery treats that don’t need to be shared.  I love getting a single cookie or cupcake.  I know it is just for me so I feel no guilt about indulging and not sharing it with my family.   I do know there are probably mixed feelings on baked goods being favorite teacher gifts but I like them so I’m including them on my list.  One year a parent gave all the teachers a fruit bouquet that was also a big hit.  Just yesterday, a parent brought in a box of huge muffins.  Each one was wrapped with a sticker that said: “muffin” better than a great teacher.  (Everyone seemed to really like them.  I know I did since I happened to have not had the best breakfast yesterday.)
  • A regular card and a picture from the student.  One mom gave us all thank you cards with a very nice note and picture of her son.  I still have it in my boost file.

    Favorite Teacher Gifts

    My boost file

  • Simple, free, and easy:  Kind words.  A simple “Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!” or “Thanks for all you do!”  Most teachers I know love those words of affirmation.  Kind words make a great gift any day of the year.

Also, my personal preference is to give end of the year gifts as opposed to gifts during this week.  Our PTA does quite a bit for the teachers and I do follow along with the parent handout somewhat.  J did take flowers in for his teacher yesterday and made her a nice card on the computer for today but I will reserve actual gift giving  (it will likely be a gift card) until sometime the last week of school.

Do you do teacher appreciation gifts or wait until the year-end?  Kudos to you if you do both, my brain can’t process enough in May to do that.

My Favorite Use For Used Coffee Grounds

My favorite use for coffee grounds is to simply throw them in the trash.  Wait, what?  That’s not a very useful or interesting tip.

It has been a rather long week (You may have noticed I missed Happy Homemaker Monday this week) as I ended up working a full schedule all week-long instead of my 3 planned days.  And the 3 planned days that started today are long ones.  Seriously, how do you full-time working people find the time and/or energy to blog?  Please forgive any glaring errors in this post as it is already past my bedtime.

coffee grounds Bonus Tip: A paper towel makes a great coffee filter in a pinch!


My tiny tip is actually about throwing coffee grounds in the trash.  It’s not about how I throw them in the trash so much as the when I throw them in the trash.  And of course, this tip is useless if you use a Keruig brewer.

You may remember we have a lovely little gray cat.  She would never dream of jumping on our kitchen table or counters….our old cat trained her not to do those things.  Ahem.  This is a different cat.  I’ve never caught her actually knocking over our kitchen trash to get things out of it but I prefer not to tempt her too much.

If I am cleaning out the fridge or throwing something that may become stinky and smell delightful to a curious cat, I will time my coffee grounds disposal so that I can spread them over the top of the tempting trash.

Used coffee grounds work sort of like baking soda and will cover and absorb odors.  Plus, I think cats find them rather unappealing.  So don’t throw those used coffee grounds out right away each day.  Wait and use them to cover anything stinky you may need to throw away.

Of course, we don’t have stinky stuff in our trash every day and I do throw them away each night so we can be ready for a fresh pot of coffee each morning.  It’s been much-needed this week with all the rain (more tonight supposedly!) and extra working hours.

What do you do with your used coffee grounds?

Keeping Distraction Away with Lights Turned Off

Keeping distraction away can seem like a full-time job on top of whatever else I’m already trying to accomplish.  If that task is boring to me or I don’t really want to do it for instance like cleaning the house, keeping distraction away is twice as hard.

We all know about using the timer to stay on task.  You do already know that trick, right?  Sometimes not even a timer seems to help over here.  I’ve recently discovered another trick that is helping me.  It seems silly and to the super organized and able to stay on focus until the job is done people, I’m sure it is a silly idea.

I know it is all in my mind.  I actually got this idea from our one car driveway.  We have a one car driveway and 2 vehicles.  If my husband parks behind my car, I immediately feel trapped.  It’s relatively easy to move vehicles but still the aggravation and “now, I’m stuck and it’s not worth it to go anywhere” thoughts start to creep into my mind.  Totally illogical?  Yes.   Do I stay home more if my husband is parked behind me?  A lot of times.

This idea also might not work if you are one of those super disciplined people who is always turning off the lights anyway (like my husband).  Basically, today’s tiny tip is if you aren’t in a particular room, keep the lights in there turned off!

When I see the lights turned off in a room while I’m busy doing something else in a well-lit room, my mind just thinks “off-limits” or I’ll be honest, I’m too lazy to go turn on the light and get to whatever distraction is beckoning me away from my first priority.


If I keep the light to the room where this computer sits turned off, I find I’m less likely to pop in here and just check the e-mail really fast (because that never leads to a 20 minute or more session of looking at Facebook, then Pinterest, then back to Facebook, and then, remembering you just came back here to check the e-mail).

It seems silly but keeping distraction away is simply a matter of having the lights in the rooms with the most distractions shut off.

What little tricks help you stay focused and on task?


Happy Homemaker Monday and Menu Plan

I’m sitting here listening to it rain outside and thinking how glad I am not to live in Colorado.  Did you see their snow storm?  No, thank you.  I love the sound of spring rain especially when I don’t have anywhere I need to go.

That means I can sit here and plan my week without too many worries.  I’m so glad Sandra over at Diary of a Stay At Home Mom hosts her weekly link up as it really does inspire me to have a plan for my weeks.

And of course, I would be very lost without a menu plan especially as the end of the school year comes with all its extra activities.  I am always excited to go see what others are eating by checking out Menu Plan Monday hosted by  Laura from I’m An Organizing Junkie.

So, on with this week…

Breakfast time…on the breakfast plate

So far only coffee.  I decided I needed to do an a.m. yoga video and eating before yoga is not usually a great idea.  I’ve decided to be healthy this week so maybe eggs.  On a funny note, our little gray cat was not amused with the downward facing dog pose and decided that would be an ideal time to demand I pet her.  I’m rather thankful I didn’t fall on my face and injure either one of us.

Today’s To-Do List

  1. Pay bills
  2. Clean the house
  3. Clean out my purse (Oops, I was supposed to do that last Monday and never did it)
  4. Febreeze the teenagers basement hangout (Not that kids stink or anything…)
  5. Inventory top shelf of pantry

Currently Reading

I was just thinking yesterday how much I need a new book to read!  Still just focusing on my magazines.

On the TV today

I’ll probably watch an episode of two of The Americans while I fold laundry later.

The weather outside is…

Rainy!  It’s a warmer spring rain though and much-needed.  It’s supposed to be in the 70s all week and maybe the 80s this weekend.

On the Menu This Week

The chicken and rice did have a great color!

My chicken and rice while cooking.

Last week’s chicken and rice was fairly well-received but I found it tasted a bit like an old chicken and rice recipe I have that takes cream of chicken soup and is much easier to prepare!   I work two days this week (and I have to be there really early so I think I’m giving up my Bunco night…sigh) plus we have a party to attend so while the week is not super busy, I’m not planning to whip up any gourmet meals either.

MONDAY:  rosemary chicken and potatoes, banana pudding for dessert

TUESDAY:  Slow cooker beef tostadas

WEDNESDAY:  Spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic toast (work day for me so keeping it simple)

THURSDAY:  We’re attending friend’s retirement party to attend so we’ll probably throw some fast food at the boys…or do leftovers

FRIDAY:  Garlic Parmesan Chicken

If I have a few minutes to myself, I will…

work on a few blog post ideas.

New Recipe I want to try this week…

The slow cooker beef tostadas and garlic Parmesan chicken are both new recipes!

In the garden…

We have plants!  I used my gift certificate to my favorite garden store over the weekend to get our garden started plus we found two of our strawberry plants from last year returned.  I had forgotten strawberries were perennials.   Our garden is officially started with corn, okra, red peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers.

I also decided to try my hand at planting some herbs this year (it helped that the garden store was having a sale on them) and so also planted oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and cilantro.  The lettuce is still sprouting in containers.

Favorite photo from the camera…

I didn’t take many photos last week.  I did take a bunch of our cat after we gave her a bath (she stunk!) but she kept moving so none of those really are worth sharing.  I did take a picture of the dress I bought though…

My new dress!

My new dress!

Did I need a dress?  Not really.  Was I dress shopping?  No, I was shopping for the boys and wandering around thinking about maybe picking up some spring/summer work clothes for myself and I came across this dress.

I work with preschool children so this isn’t really work attire practical at all.  I loved it though and decided I needed a dress for any spring or summer occasions that may arise.  I could see lots of ways to wear it and decided I’d regret it if I didn’t buy it even after walking around the store again.   I decided to treat myself plus it gives me a bit of get in shape motivation!

Note:  I don’t typically take pictures of my clothes but I had planned to write a blog post about something else regarding my dress and then changed my mind.

Thought for the week…

Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it.  If we’re frantic, life will be frantic.  If we’re peaceful, life will be peaceful.  (Marianne Williamson).


How are you planning to treat yourself this week?

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