Kitchen Tidy-Up Project

Disclaimer: I almost never do sponsored posts, but I was given a gift card from BlogHer and HomeGoods, and hey, if you’re going to give me money to go shopping, then heck yeah I’ll blog about it. And bonus: if you read this, you get to see pictures of my kitchen. Oooh, special, right?

Since the cleaning lady came to tidy up our house last week, Dave and I have been having ongoing arguments about what I call Chronic Kitchen Counter Crap. This is the stuff that seems to live on the kitchen counter all the time, no matter what. I tend to believe that all food-related items should be put away in a pantry or a cabinet. Dave disagrees and thinks that it’s fine for frequently-used items to stay out, as this keeps them easily accessible. And it drives. me. NUTS.

Also? I am WAY more cranky about things like Chronic Kitchen Counter Crap when I am (a) pregnant and therefore grumpier in general, and (b) expecting many houseguests and visitors over the next few weeks. But it doesn’t matter how many times I put these things away, within a few hours, Dave has left them on the counter again.

So, I decided to take advantage of this HomeGoods/BlogHer gift card offer to do a little de-cluttering in my kitchen, before the holidays are in full swing.

Here are the before pictures, so you can see what I was unhappy about.

Exhibit A:
Before: bread pile
The bread pile. The knife rack and the toaster are fine, I don’t mind that they live on the counter. But we obviously eat a lot of different types of bread products (there’s wheat, white, mini-bagels, and hamburger buns in that pile), and I hate seeing that stuff all piled messily in the corner.

Here’s what it looks like after my shopping excursion.
After: basket for the bread makes it feel tidier
Ideally, I would’ve liked an old-timey breadbox that I could close and shut everything away, but those are pretty hard to find these days. I like the basket as an alternative, because it makes it feel like it’s tidy and organized since it’s all in one place. And it’ll be much easier to clean around it, since I can just pick up the basket (rather than 6 different bread bags!) when I wipe down the counters.

Exhibit B:
Before: sugar, tea & coffee always on the counter
Sugar, coffee, and tea are always out on the counter. Again, I don’t mind the electric kettle or the blender being out, since they’re both appliances that get used daily, but the food items themselves drive me crazy. I don’t even drink coffee or tea! My Diet Cokes are all neatly concealed inside the fridge. But Dave, being an Englishman, drinks a steady amount of coffee and tea pretty much all day long.

Here’s the “after” picture for that one (this is by far my favorite part of this whole kitchen tidy-up project):
After: containers for sugar, coffee & tea
I got airtight containers for the sugar, coffee, and tea. And I love them. It makes the whole counter look cleaner.

I’m very pleased with the results. And I’m no longer anxious about people judging the chronic messiness of my kitchen when they visit my house for the holidays, so I’d definitely call that a win.

PR Done Right

**This post is not sponsored in any way, shape, or form. I just think this was a particularly awesome experience that warrants a shout-out.**

One of the major things people talk about at BlogHer is the swag. Last year, I brought home way too much stuff, and a lot of it eventually wound up in the trash. This year, I was way more cautious about only bringing home stuff that I genuinely wanted. The rest of it, either I didn’t pick it up in the first place, or I gave it to one of my hotel roommates.

Something I actually did want to keep, was a Play-Doh duffel bag. Sure, it’s nothing huge, but I knew Catie would like it, so it was one of the things I shoved in my suitcase to bring home with me.

Flash-forward to Sunday, at LaGuardia airport. My suitcase was 3 pounds overweight. The (not-very nice or helpful) airline attendant told me that I’d either have to take some stuff out or she was going to charge me $75. (Which, BTW, would be on top of the $25 I was already paying to check my one damn suitcase in the first place, and good GRIEF, don’t get me started on that sucky new airline policy.) I didn’t want to pay $75 for 3 pounds worth of stuff, so I quickly opened my suitcase and grabbed a few things to shove into my carry-on.

Without thinking about it, I put the Play-Doh duffel bag in my carry-on bag. It never occurred to me that Play-Doh would be considered a “liquid” (WTF?), and so, a few minutes later at security, my Play-Doh was confiscated by the TSA.

To be fair: I know this was my fault. I should’ve packed more carefully ahead of time. I was annoyed with myself, and I was irritated with the TSA (because come ON, you can see that the package is sealed and has never been opened or tampered with, and I also heard from other people who got their Play-Doh past the TSA without a problem, which just made me even more irritated). I mentioned something on Twitter about how the TSA took my Play-Doh, and somebody made a joke about how they actually took it so they could play with it themselves in their break room, and I really thought that was the end of that.

A few days after I got home from NYC, I got an email from a representative of Hasbro, apologizing for the trouble I had with the TSA, and asking for my mailing address so they could replace the Play-Doh that was taken. I was pretty surprised. None of this incident was Hasbro’s fault in the slightest. What am I going to say? “Damn you, Hasbro, you gave me a lovely gift for free and I lost it, and it’s all your fault!” That doesn’t even make any sense.

We got the new Play-Doh set in the mail yesterday. Catie is very pleased.

Catie loves Play-Doh

Catie loves Play-Doh

So, thank you, Hasbro. You made a little girl’s Saturday morning a lot more fun than usual.

**Honest to God. Not sponsored at all. I just thought they deserved a little praise there for handling the situation so well.**

changes, and a couple of questions

I’m going to be doing a little tweaking on the ol’ blog here over the next few weeks. Nothing major, just changing up some of my sidebar stuff. Ads will be different – Google ads are gone because they’re useless, and I might try out some different ads instead. Hopefully it won’t be anything too annoying or intrusive, but I trust that y’all will let me know if it is.

Oh, and I’ve dropped my blogroll from my sidebar because I have about 100 or so blogs in my RSS reader, and just highlighting about 1/4 of them over there seemed sort of pointless and unfair. Also, now trolls can no longer use my blog as the launching point to go attack on someone else’s site. Which has happened a few times. But no more. Suck it, trolls.

And while I’m talking about bloggy/techie stuff, I do have a couple of questions for you lovely people:

1) Do any of you know anything about RSS feeds? Because my feed went from partial, to full, and back to partial again and I never did anything to change any of it. I can’t figure it out. I’m using WordPress, I’ve upgraded to the latest version, and on the Settings > Reading screen, I have it selected to show full text. Why is it still showing up as partial? Any ideas? Help?

2) After seeing some of the gorgeous photos that were taken at Type-A Mom last weekend, and after suffering from camera-envy for a while, I’ve decided it’s time for an upgrade. My little point-and-shoot (it’s an Olympus Stylus 790 SW) is an ok camera, but I end up with an awful lot of blurry pictures, or pictures that are too washed out and grainy. Also, the delay on the shutter speed is so slow – and toddlers are so fast – that I miss an awful lot of really great shots.

So, as soon as I can figure out how to afford it, I want to upgrade to a DSLR. I’ve heard good things about the Canon Rebel, but I know Nikon makes some really great cameras too. Any of you photography pros have advice for a beginner who’s never used a DSLR before? I’ll take whatever tips I can get.

PooBou's Reviews

If there’s one thing I learned at BlogHer, it’s that there are a lot of bloggers out there who have got this whole selling-your-blog thing down to an art. There are also some whose marketing skills could use, um, a little polishing. (If any of you here are the ones who interrupted private conversations to throw your business cards at people, yes, I am looking at you.)

Honestly, the idea of doing product reviews or giveaways has never appealed to me because I didn’t think it would fit in with the narrative of my blog. All I do here is write about my daily life; I think of this blog as my journal, where I tell stories about my kid and oh-hey-this-random-funny-thing-happened. I think it would come off as awkward and contrived if I suddenly threw a product review in the middle of it. There’s a really great post at Suburban Turmoil about how reviews and personal posts shouldn’t mix, and I tend to agree with her. The last thing I want is to pull people in with a long sob story about my poor toddler’s asthma and then twist it with a, “But it was all magically healed with ACME Lung Fixin’ Balm!” at the end. (Note: I know of no such balm in real life. If you came to my site searching for it, I apologize.) You know what I mean? It’s disingenuous and phony, and I don’t want any part of that.

But, at the same time, I’ve gotten a couple of offers to do some reviews, and I don’t want to turn down a potential income source for my family. So to that end, I’ve created a new site:

PooBou’s Reviews

My first product review will be coming up soon, and seriously y’all, I’m SO excited about it. I’m working with CSN Stores, which is a perfect fit for me since they have all kinds of great home decor stuff, patio furniture, kids’ toys, and basically anything you might need for your house. Since we’re moving to a new house at some point in the next month, and we need stuff for said house, this little project is going to be very near & dear to my heart.

I’m also going to do some reviews for the lovely Room 704 ladies, which should be a lot of fun, since I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to cuss in those. And since I very rarely allow myself to cuss on my own blog, I’m really looking forward to that.

So, stay tuned. Should be some fun stuff coming up on that horizon.