Category Archives: Organizing Attempts

Five Easter Brunch Planning Mistakes To Avoid

I made a few Easter brunch planning mistakes this year.  I knew better but some years I have it all together (usually when Easter is in April) and some years are just off years.  I have to give myself pep talks just to get through the planning and preparations of it all.

I hope and am fairly certain that despite the poor weather and my lack of planning and preparations, all our family had a good time and enjoyed most of the food.  I just know that it could have been better and this year’s Easter brunch did not meet my own personal standards.

I still can’t believe I forgot to take a single picture of my table set-up!  It could have been a bit better as well.  Last year’s table was much prettier, I thought.

Here are 5 mistakes I made this year that I’m hoping to avoid next year when Easter is back where it belongs in the month of April (Hooray!).  If you are planning a holiday or other event, I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

Five Easter Brunch Planning Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Procrastination!  I certainly struggle with this in more areas than Easter brunch planning.  I didn’t make very good use of my time the week before Easter.  I was busy, yes, but I could have managed my time much better and not been trying to do so much at the last-minute.

  2. Not having a menu plan!  I make a menu plan for our dinners almost every week even if I don’t follow them exactly.  For some reason this year, I decided to just sort of wing it for Easter brunch.  A lot of the items are the same each year but I still would have benefited from having a plan.  Perhaps it would have saved me the grief of getting up early on Easter morning and deciding I needed just one more kind of muffin on the table.  I’m pretty sure that messed up my whole time-table off just enough that I didn’t have the fruit tray ready as guests were arriving.

  3. Putting too many new recipe choices on the brunch table and forgoing standby favorites.  I got a little carried away with trying new recipes this year despite having no time to really experiment.  The Friday and Saturday before Easter brunch are not really the days when new recipes should be tested.  One batch of blueberry pie muffins went right into the trash in the judging style of Joe Bastianich when he was on Master Chef.  I ended up putting a less than great muffin recipe on the table as I was searching (see #1) for a few dairy free recipes to put out for one of my nieces.  I did have a few successes though with some almond cookies that turned out great (will be a repeat) and filling tart shells with lemon curd (Where has that stuff been all my life?).

  4. Ignoring the weather forecast.  We did not really expect snow but I knew there was a good chance of rain.  If I had been more on top of my game, I might have put some thought into the Easter brunch set-up so the brunch table traffic could have moved more freely as we have a smaller home.  Turns out people eat more when they can move about and go inside and outside.

  5. Not delegating specific chores to my husband and boys.  My husband and kids did help clean a bit before Easter brunch as I was busy but I definitely should have been more specific about what I needed them to clean (um, bathroom floors!) instead of leaving them on their own.  My youngest son’s room looked great but I’d have rather his room stayed a mess than gone into the bathroom mid-brunch and realize he didn’t bother to wipe up all the dirt from the cat hair corner (our weird cat insists on having her water in the bathroom and her corner gets rather nasty).

I’m sure I made other Easter brunch planning mistakes but those are the main five I’m hoping not to repeat next year.

Organizing Issues I Need To Solve

I have several organizing issues I need to solve. Some of them I have foggy ideas about what to do swirling in my brain (I guess it could count as one of those organizing issues as well then). Others, I have tried various solutions and they simply did not work for my real-life, we have to live here and use this stuff family.

Then, there are those organizing issues that I have absolutely no idea how to solve and I wait impatiently for the bolt of lightening to strike an idea in my brain (or I just browse Pinterest for a couple of minutes before becoming distracted by food or party ideas).

I thought I’d share some of my organizing issues with you so you could either not feel so alone if you share them or give me a great idea that has worked for you in these areas.

My Kitchen and Pantry Area Organizing Issues:

My cleaning supply area.  The supplies won’t stay organized, the area won’t stay clean (What is it with dirty cleaning supplies?  Why oh why does my broom gather dust??).

organizing issues

This area needs help.

It also has become a stashing point for things that do not belong.  And please, do not get me started on the shelves that are an odd size.

The odd sized shelves in the kitchen.  Does anyone else deal with odd sized shelves in your kitchen and pantry areas?  Please, please tell me how you cope?

organizing issues

It is in an odd place in our hallway so hard to photo but the long narrow space below holds our brooms and mops.

Bags of chips.  My boys like potato chips in their lunches.  We all like chips around here.  However, the bags of chips multiply!  I cannot figure out a good way to store these!  I think if I could figure out the chips, then the rest of our pantry would fall magically into place.

organizing issues

our chip storage

My Living Room Organizing Issues:

Video Game Central

While my teenager has most his video gaming stuff in his basement hang out, my husband and younger son also like to play video games.  Our television stand often becomes littered with games cases and controllers.  I can’t seem to find a functional (meaning they’d actually use it) yet attractive way to contain and organize all their video game supplies (cases, controllers, etc).

organizing issues

One of my current attempts

Shoes and Backpacks

Our couch is the emptying zone for after school accessories and shoes tend to get kicked off right by the door.  Unfortunately, the area by the door is too narrow to accommodate a shoe basket.  The backpacks can go on a hook farther from the door but they seldom make it there so I don’t consider the solution a working one.

My Toy Organizing Issues

Honestly, the boys are older so this isn’t a huge deal anymore as they really don’t play with lots of toys anymore.  However, there are 2 items that I seem to have been searching for organizing solutions since before they were born (okay, maybe not that long):  Nerf guns and Cards (mainly Y-Gi-Oh!).

This Nerf gun rack is one of my most re-pinned Pinterest pins but I’ve yet to talk my husband into making one of these for us.  Right now the Nerf guns just kind of live in a heap on the floor of J’s closet.

The cards drive me to the brink of insanity.  Yes, I know about the trading card notebooks like collectors use to store baseball cards.  They make decks with their cards and spread them out and my children aren’t going to take the time to slide these cards in and out of sleeves.  Honestly, I don’t think I could handle that as an adult.

I’ve tried photo boxes.  G does have some cards in a big heap in the photo boxes.  I’ve tried hanging Ziploc bags.  It worked sort of.  My latest attempt which is not really working:  these little drawers I found at The Dollar Tree.

organizing issues

Seemed like a good idea to me but they didn’t really go for it.

Beyblades used to be another issue for us but the boys have mostly outgrown the need to constantly add to that collection.  I ended up simply storing all the Beyblades in their stadiums.  My husband did give the kids old fishing tackle boxes for Beyblades and parts which worked somewhat well when they were very into them.

My Bathroom Organizing Issue

It may sound silly to those of you with big, spacious bathrooms but perhaps my friends with smaller bathrooms will understand.

Extra toilet paper storage!  I can’t figure out a good and convenient way to do this.  My recycled container did not hold up well under the scrutiny of the husband and kids (they thought it too hard to get the rolls out of there).

My Paper Organizing Issue

Kids’ papers!  I don’t mean artwork.  I mean report cards and test results that I am completely torn between keeping (might need these some day) and throwing away (What if the kids want them some day?  Should I shred them for privacy reasons?)

Oddly enough, the bedrooms around here aren’t unorganized so much as just rather messy.  A good cleaning would be enough to put them in order.

Can you identify with any of these issues?  What is your biggest organizing issue?



My Calendar: Why I’ve Started to Go Digital

What kind of calendar keeps you organized? I used to be a paper person. Well, actually, the full truth is I used to be “I can remember it” person. And, I could.

Until, a husband. And then, kids. Add in a part-time job with varied hours.  Now, I can’t remember it all. I have to use a calendar.

When I started needing to seriously rely on a calendar, I went with paper.  I still use my pretty paper calendar hanging on the door to the basement.  I like it.  It’s easy for us all to glance at and know what is happening in a given week.  I keep track of family birthdays on it so I can get those birthday cards sent out on time.  At least, I’m trying.

When I started to need my calendar “on the go”, I started carrying a small planning calendar with me.  I was forever frustrated that I could not find one I liked that would fit in my purse.  I like to travel light.  This meant I would take the small planner with me when I thought I needed it like to a PTA meeting or slip it in my work bag but not carry it with me all the time.  The smart, organized people reading this blog (by mistake?) will realize this meant I would often forget it when I needed it the most and have to tell people I’d need to check and get back with them.


I started using the Google calendar on my phone.  We were slightly behind the curve in getting our smart phones and I still have to hand it over to the teenager on occasion so he can delete the 500+ apps I somehow opened, roll his eyes, and hand it back to me.  I know a lot of people love the Google calendar but I wasn’t a huge fan.  I thought it was kind of hard to use and I wanted a way to track everyone in my family easily.

I needed something else.  I needed some sort of planning app for my phone.

My calendar app criteria:

  • Free!  I don’t like to pay for things on my phone.  I’m just cheap that way.
  • Easy!  Something I could figure out on my own without needing to hire the teenager.
  • Color Coded Activities or another way to tell who belonged where at a glance.
  • Accessible to all of us with a reminder function!

Ultimately, I found the Cozi app.  While I could pay for the premium services, I really find the free version serves my purposes.  It was easy enough to figure out and download onto my phone.  I love that I can also use it on the desktop and often I will upload the dates from my desktop computer (old eyes, sigh).  Each activity has a color coded dot beside it so I can see at a glance who needs to be where and when.  calendar

I get a week at a glance type reminder e-mail every Monday.  I happen to love that particular feature!  I can also input a shopping list and a to-do list although I seldom use these features.  They also have articles to read and sometimes interesting looking recipes pop up on the sidebar.

If my husband and son would download the app, they could use the family password to access the calendar as well plus I could send them messages (a few before I would have to pay to upgrade).  I have not been successful in getting them to do that, however.  It would appear to be more fun to ask me what is going on for a given day 2 weeks and 3 days in the future than look at any calendar digital or paper.

I mainly use this calendar app as I can easily check on my work availability while I’m on the go and give a quick answer which is important in the substitute teaching.   It is nice to look and know at a glance if my boys are off school (the preschool dates don’t always line up directly with our local school district) or have an activity.

I’ll probably always have a paper calendar hanging in our kitchen (and Santa brought each of the boys calendars for Christmas) but I’m starting to really embrace the ease of accessing our family calendar from my phone.  My small paper planner has been gathering dust on my desk since I bought it.

Do you prefer paper or digital or a combination of the two?

**I am not receiving any type of commission from the Cozi app for this post.  I just really like it and wanted to share my thoughts about it.

Gift Card Organization

Did you get a gift card for Christmas or another gift giving occasion?  Me, too!  Gift cards are great aren’t they?

How do you spend your gift cards?  A big blowout use them all and every cent of their balance at once?

I usually don’t do that.  I mean if I drank $25 worth of Starbucks coffee all at once, well, I don’t think the results would be pretty.  Full of energy maybe but definitely, not a scenario I see ending pleasantly.

My problem with gift cards is once I’ve used them the first time, I never can remember the remaining balance.  I end up with a purse full of random cards that I give to the clerks going there might be something left on this but I’ m not sure.  Sometimes, it’s 50 cents and sometimes it’s $5.  Sometimes, the balance is zero and I’ve been carrying a worthless gift card around for no reason.

I end up not bothering with the gift card because it is so much easier to just pay the cash amount rather than fumbling around for a card that may have 50 cents or nothing at all on it.  I suppose it explains why when I went to clean out my purse today, I found 6 random (well, not the Starbucks cards…those were much-loved and appreciated birthday gifts!) gift cards floating around in there.

Since we need to save a bit (a bunch) of money in 2016 for a trip in 2017, I decided perhaps I should start putting these cards to use.  Step one of course, find out the balance of each gift card.

3 Steps to for Gift Card Organization:

gift card

No more mystery amount gift cards

*Have a Sharpie handy for this.

  1. Check balance on all gift cards.  Most cards have a number to call on the back or a website where you can check the balance.
  2. Throw away any cards with a balance of zero!  I don’t get the whole reload a gift card thing.
  3. As you check the balance of each gift card, use the Sharpie to write the balance on the front of the card.

I also plan to carry my Sharpie with me and update the balances as I use the gift cards.

Do you register your gift cards?  Some places will send you extra goodies for doing this.  I know Panera is good about it.  Of course, I’m not good about getting to the places to get my extras before they expire.

One last thought on checking gift card balances.  I did have an experience a few years ago with a gift where the gift card was not valid.  Whenever I buy gift cards, I like to ask them to scan it for a balance receipt.  It’s nice to put with the card and it also helps keep everyone honest.  If I forget, I make sure to check my receipt and include it with the card.

How do you keep track of your gift cards?



My Blue Vacation Bag

I have a small blue vacation bag.  It fits inside my suitcase and comes along on just about every trip we take.

My well-worn blue vacation bag

My well-worn blue vacation bag

I’ve had the bag longer since before the kids were born. The items it contains has changed as the boys have grown.  Would you like to peek inside my vacation bag?

A look inside my vacation bag.

A look inside my vacation bag.

Here let me take out the contents so you can see what is actually in there…

Current contents of my vacation bag.

Current contents of my vacation bag.

My vacation bag contains:

  • Small soaps and shampoos.  These are usually extras from our previous hotel stays.  I really had to convince J this time that it was ok for me to take the extra shampoos and soaps from our room.

  • Tums and Advil.  Cures for most minor ailments.

  • Wet ones wipes.

  • A Lipstick sample.  You know because you never want to be without lipstick in an emergency.  I have no idea why that is in there… Actually, I usually throw samples of things like make-up, deodorant, shampoos, and the like in the bag.  They come in handy if I forget any of those things.

  • A small sample of face cleaner.

It usually also contains a few small first aid odds and ends.  I was very happy to have some After Bite in there when we were on vacation this time.  I’ve restocked it with a few other first aid items since writing this post.  If you are wondering about hand sanitizer, I carry that in my purse along with another small first aid kit.  I may have a slight obsession with first aid kits and yet, I still never seem to have the right size band aid when I need one.

When the boys were smaller, I would always add a thermometer, liquid fever reducer medicine, baby bath products, and lotion as well as a small container of wipes.  Now that they are older, I don’t carry quite as much.  I do always make sure to pack some form of Claritin for J though.  I learned to pack that one the hard way.  Poor guy, it’s tough being the only one in the family that allergies really bother.

We are all blessed that none of us requires prescription medicines but if we did, the blue vacation bag would be the storage unit for us on our trips.  The bag usually gets packed inside my suitcase unless I think we might need access to it sooner and then, it travels solo in the trunk.

TIP:  Pack any liquid medicine in a Ziploc bag!  Seal it if you can.  As you can see from the photos of my blue vacation bag, I didn’t always follow this advice.  Things can and do leak.

Do you have a vacation bag for just in case items?  What do you carry in it?




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