Easy Easter Basket for a Little One

This Easter, I’ve been blessed with a little Nephew and Godchild, so of course I wanted to gift him an Easter basket. But not just an Easter basket that many throw away after the holiday. Instead, I wanted to find him something useful and fill it with practical gifts.

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To start, I didn’t buy a traditional Easter basket. I decided to use a storage bin. My advice is to find a simple wicker basket or canvas tote the child could use to put his or her toys in. It may sound too simple, but really it can be more useful. I also recommend shopping for the toys NOT the basket. Once you find the toys, then find the basket. Notice, too, I did not use any Easter grass, or filler. If you do decide to be crafty make sure it’s recycled or environmentally friendly, maybe even use it next year.

Next, you’ll want to make sure it is age appropriate AND beneficial to their learning. So a basket filled to the rim with candy is not such a great idea. Instead put just a few treats the child can enjoy for a few days after Easter, not months. Maybe even make treats from home. Since I’m gifting for a six-month old, instead of filling the Easter eggs with candy, I rolled up little socks that he can wear for the next couple of months.

Finally, add a little Easter to their basket. Not just Easter Bunny chocolates. I’m talking about an Easter book. Teach them about Easter, and discuss the true meaning. Arrange the gifts and you’re done! (I also added big bubbles, a small truck that counts, and a soft plush bunny, but of course, the Auntie in me gave him those gifts early!)

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One last thing, have a happy Easter and enjoy spending time with loved ones!

 

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Healthy, Stress-free Spring Cleaning

 

Let’s get serious. Not everyone enjoys cleaning. I’ll be the first to admit I love spring cleaning, but it doesn’t magically happen all in one day. To be honest, I’ve been working on my spring cleaning for a couple weeks now. One thing I’m consistently told by family and friends is how much of a clean freak I am. Every time guests are over, they always comment on how clean my home is and how organized it is, and commenting on the decor. Surely I do appreciate their kind words, yes I do work hard at keeping a tidy home. But to some, it just doesn’t come naturally, (and I try hard not to laugh) but for example my mother. She gets overwhelmed at the thought of cleaning an entire house, stresses at how much her to-do list continues to grow. And the thing is, I completely understand how overwhelming it could be if one doesn’t enjoy cleaning. This is why I’ve compiled my secrets and methods for keeping a tidy home.

Cleaning Supplies-Baking soda, Dawn Dish Soap, Lemons, Clorox Wipes, Distilled Vinegar, Vinegar Windex, Broom, Mop or Swiffer (not Swiffer wet jet, unless you pick up pets’ food and water dishes), cleaning brush for kitchen, toilet, and a small cleaning brush for everything else. Vacuum & Carpet Shampooer, cleaning rags, lemon Pledge, and any special cleaner you may need for your furniture. For laundry I love to use Tide Pods, Downy, and Oxi Clean-no bleach please! You can always find gentler cleaners that meet your standards.

The major misconception in spring cleaning, or rather any cleaning your home may need, is the idea that it all has to be done in one day. Even for the best of us, we cannot do it ALL in one day. Here are some tips I use on a daily basis to keep things in order. The main thing is to do one thing at a time, and to do SOMETHING every day.

  1. Always, always start in the kitchen (Brew the coffee!) 20 min
  2. Start the laundry 15 min
  3. Dust, clean glass, & pick up living-room 15 min
  4. Vacuum & mop 20 min
  5. Fold laundry & start dinner 30 min
  6. Write down any organizing project you have 
  7. Plan a day to shampoo carpets
  8. Freshen up your home (the fun part!)
  9. Clean the bathroom another day 45 min
  10. Breathe, relax, repeat

First things first, you must set out a small notebook on your counter so you can write down any groceries or supplies you need the next time you go shopping. This way, if you’re in the bathroom and notice you need supplies, write it down. Next, start up your favorite playlist! The secret is to dance and have fun while you clean, it makes the time fly and before you know it you have so much energy to clean everything!

The kitchen is rather simple, and my favorite (because food is in the kitchen). Clean out your fridge of leftovers and check the dates on all condiments. Throw those dishes in the dishwasher and wipe down the counters. Check your pantry for any supplies you may need. To help me remember, I usually write down what I used in preparing meals that way I know I’ll never run out. Don’t go overboard in the kitchen…yet, spend maybe twenty minutes max then move on.

The key to spring cleaning is to have a clean home to begin with, then you can move on to that deep cleaning. Note: having dirty dishes in the sink does not mean you have a dirty home, it means you know how to cook! 

Use the time between washing and drying clothes to make your bed, put things away in the living room, clean litter box, clean your coffee maker using vinegar, water plants, bake banana bread or cookies (don’t worry about making more dishes, it only takes 5 minutes to clean them up later). As soon as the laundry is dried, fold it immediately and put away. Tip: buy towels, linens, even under garments all WHITE. This makes laundry day very easy. White is easier to see if it’s dirty. White is also traditional and aesthetically pleasing to a clean freak, but certainly not what everyone must have in a tidy home. You’ll want to do as much as you can while waiting on laundry so you don’t get tired out. One method I use is a timer on my fridge. I time my laundry and that way it breaks down chunks of time you have in the day. There’s more time than you may think. If you are exhausted from work every day, take half a day (or less) on the weekend to do your cleaning and the other do your grocery shopping. If you have children, ask them to help out. Get them involved by playing music and having fun. Don’t bark orders, simply let everyone clean what they want. Start simple…do a quick fifteen minute clean up before starting an organizing project.

Projects. Mini or big. My father always has a project that he is doing. He’s a carpenter and loves to keep busy. I’ve learned to do the same. Whether my project is writing an article, organizing the pantry, learning a new recipe, or researching healthy cookware, one must always have a project they are working on. It keeps our mind busy and gives us something to do. Your project should not be something you write down on a to-do list. This is something you WANT to do, off the page. It could take all weekend, one day, or all week. My recent projects were shampooing the carpets, researching my family history on ancestry.com, organizing the bathroom cabinets, and working on my second novel. Your projects do not always have to be cleaning related, but rather anything that makes you happy and organizes your life is some way.

The bathroom takes a bit longer to clean. This is why I always do the bathroom when I’m good and ready, once a week. Tip: I leave Clorox wipes under the sink that way I can wipe down the sink or toilet every other day as needed. It’s simple and keeps your bathroom clean!

The easiest way to clean a bathroom is start in the tub. Sprinkle baking soda and Dawn Dish Soap all over and scrub clean with a small cleaning brush. Your tub will sparkle in less than fifteen minutes! Don’t fall for the commercial harsh cleaning supplies. Simple is better. I don’t know about you, but when I clean, I don’t want to be breathing in bleach or gross cleaning supplies that eat away the skin on my hands. With baking soda and Dawn Dish Soap, I don’t even wear gloves. Next, put some toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet, let it sit. Tip: If your tub drain needs to be unclogged, pour whatever you typically use first, let it sit with the door closed and fan on before you start any cleaning. I like to open windows when using any chemical, and walk away so I don’t breathe it in.

Use Clorox wipes on the rest of the toilet (kills 99% of germs with no bleach). You can use the baking soda and Dawn Dish Soap on the sink as well. I use the vinegar Windex, not blue on the glass mirrors (probably the only chemical cleaner I have, do spray it with the fan on and walk away for a minute). Sweep and mop or Swiffer.

One thing to keep in mind is to form habits. Good cleaning habits. For example. Every time you mop your floor, make it a habit to clean your pets’ food and water dishes. Sweep 2-3 times a week. Don’t clean everything all at once, but rather like I mentioned earlier, do something every day. It only takes a fifteen minute clean-up and one small project a day to keep your home tidy. The main thing is to love your home. When you love something, you take care of it like your own baby.

The bedrooms should be designated for their own days. Make the beds everyday if desired (I don’t make my bed everyday, only when guests are coming over) but always put fresh clothes away. If you start with an organized bedroom, you shouldn’t have much to worry about here on a daily basis. If your bedroom is crowded, or always looks messy, than maybe it’s time to get rid of all that crap. Simple is better. Now the closets are another story. We all want to go out and buy new spring and summer clothes, am I right? Well we need to make sure we have an organized closet first before we spend money on a ton of clothes we may not even need. I will typically go through and see if there are any pants that I’d love to turn into shorts. My grandma does an awesome job of “cut-offs.” It saves you money and you use what you have. Keep in mind, you don’t want to “get-rid” of all those sweaters and winter clothes, but rather, organize them so they are out of the way for summer.

Food. Make what you want, not what you think you should make. The worst thing to do, in my opinion, is to completely go on a certain diet and change your kitchen to reflect it. The key is to start small! So, you want to go all organic do ya? Well, start small. Next time you go shopping and you need supplies, make those supplies organic. Don’t go out and buy a ton of organic supplies just to say “I’m going organic!” because you really won’t have any clue how to use those supplies and you’ll end up wasting money, confused, and overwhelmed. Learn which healthy foods you love and how to incorporate them into meals. Don’t be afraid to fail! If you are one that likes to eat out a lot, try making a homemade dish once a week. You’ll end up loving it so much that the following week you make it again, plus an additional homemade meal. Next thing you know, you’re making all your meals homemade at home. Start small! Start small! Start small! And don’t feel bad for starting small! It took me a couple years to figure out how to cook meals my boyfriend and I both enjoy and that are healthy. It doesn’t happen overnight, the important thing is that you try. Tip: if you read a health article from lets say the amazing Kris Carr, don’t be overwhelmed to do everything the way she does it. If you see something you’d like, try it. Just get your foot in the door, and begin learning about your food and health.

Check out my article A Lesson on Cookware to see why I love Le Creuset cookware in my organized kitchen.

AND FINALLY…

The Spring Cleaning Checklist after a clean home…(remember one day at a time)

  • Shampoo carpets & all rugs
  • Wash comforters, throws, curtains, and purchase fresh colors if desired
  • Organize cleaning closets, cabinets, pantry
  • Check all food items best buy dates in entire kitchen
  • Go through closets, donate any unwanted spring & summer clothes (keep winter clothes) why? You may be sick of the winter clothes and get rid of pieces you may want next winter. It’s best to get rid of pieces you know you won’t wear in the current season.
  • Find bird feeders, plan garden, and order flowers if normally do
  • Clean wood decks, patios, etc.
  • Replace any flour, sugar, etc. in canisters if needed, best to refresh
  • Clean drains, garbage disposal, and dish washer
  • Try to think of spring as cleaning rather than buying new
  • Check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarm
  • Replace any light bulbs & filters for water purifiers, air purifiers, etc.
  • Clean/dust fans and ceiling fans/light fixtures
  • Make any doctor appointments, dentist, eye, etc.
  • Are your taxes done?
  • Clean out your vehicles, do any maintenance, oil changes, etc.
  • Replace any old make-up, purchase a new nail polish color for the season
  • Organize filing cabinet that contains bills, statements, etc. if not already done
  • Get a haircut
  • Take time for yourself, you’ve earned it!

 

For the love of Cats

Today I woke early. Small, hungry meows bellowed from my almost two-year old tortoiseshell cat. Her mouth filled with saliva, anticipating the high quality canned cat food that I buy her. She licked her lips then my arm in hopes I’d wake that instant to feed her. She purred loudly, but waited patiently. Me waking up was the only way she’d feed her hungry tummy.

I rubbed my eyes and pet her soft fur, then watched as she raced down the stairs. She had won.

It’s a privilege to feed your pet, not just a responsibility. But today was different feeding my sweet ball of fur named Katniss.

Once I set her Nature’s Variety Instinct, salmon-flavored wet food in a raised glass dish near her water and dry food dish, I noticed another beautiful creature outside. I’ve seen her before, but never have I seen her out and about this early in the morning. Usually she roams about at night.

She was a mirror image of my Katniss. A young “tortie,” wild and free lurking by the trees. She seemed so calm. When she was a kitten, I tried to catch this kitty and her orange tabby companion. I wish I would have tried harder back then to catch her because now she is much bigger, and perhaps more wild.

Before winter we found one of her brothers. A small gray kitten hidden inside a car. It meowed for his orange tabby cat mother, but we never saw her around for days. We knew there were kittens in the yard under a drain, but nobody could ever get to them. We’d all just leave food and water for them and their mother. How this little kitten got a few yards away, I’ll never know.

We cleaned that little gray kitten up. Got him some food, water, and toys. He loved catnip and began to trust human hands. He went to a loving home…success! We were able to save that kitten, but how do you capture a young, adult stray…I mean feral kitty? And does she even want to be captured? So, I thought. What can I do. What’s the one thing both stray, feral, and pet cats love, and that us humans can provide for them? Food. I raced outside like the crazy cat lady I am, carrying a can of food with me.

She saw me and I had her attention. Such a beautiful cat. I opened the can, the noise keeping her from running off. The noise that makes Katniss run from any room in the house to the kitchen. I set it on the ground and walked back inside. I watched from the window both my Katniss inside and her mirror image outside. Different places, yet both the same. Torties, but also cats. I then realized a bigger picture.

You don’t need to necessarily “capture” this beauty, but rather like everything and everyone you encounter, leave them in a better condition then when you first saw them. If I can feed this outdoor kitty, who may not have eaten anything in awhile, then that is pure joy in itself. You cannot change everything. You can’t fix everything. You just have to look at the bright side and be kind. Offer your kindness to everyone and every living thing. Don’t turn your cheek on stray cats, or even feral cats. I learned my lesson with feral cats the hard way, but at least I showed my kindness and can prove it with my three inch scar. But this outdoor kitty, I’d term a stray, a community kitty.

Neighbors I’ve talked to have tried also to capture these kitties before, to spay and neuter them, and find them homes, but none have had success, at least not on her. Last year it was the orange tabby, this one’s mother. And now with spring coming, it’s only a matter of time before this tortie has babies. You may be asking, how do I know this tortie is a female? Fun fact, most tortie cats ARE female, very rarely are there male torties. Genetics.

If only we could control this. Are we suppose to control this? I think yes. Some if not all of this is our human fault. People drop cats off all the time to different places. Barns are a different story, but a large apartment community? I suppose we are in the country, technically, with a barn and field surrounding our apartment lot.

This is a problem that i wish could be fixed overnight, but sadly it cannot. I cannot run out there and magically pick up that beautiful, plump tortie. Some realities we just have to face. But if that cat is in my viewing area, I will always go out and feed her. And now just as I was about to finish this story, there is the orange kitty companion, strutting down the sidewalk as if it’s another normal day. Oh, how to fix this. Until then, don’t turn the other way. You never know who or what may need your help, and you never know what kind of joy they may bring you. For the love of cats, show kindness to those in need, but accept what we cannot change. Never give up on trying. It’s called compassion, and it makes us human.

Spring into Inspiration

Dear readers,

It’s my favorite time of year. When the urge to spring clean consumes me, and early morning birds have come home to sing in the trees. It’s that time for refreshing, being grateful, and learning how to improve. Did I mention, it’s almost time for lilacs to bloom?!

It’s that familiar scent swirling around in the wind outside. Where cheerfully, I open the doors and welcome it in. Excitedly, gray-lilac I paint my toes, and rip off that heavy, extra blanket under the comforter. The sun, with its rise in appearance, unhurriedly, yet almost immediately melts away the leftover snow. Dripping of water droplets splash in puddles underneath cars and roofs and the stillness of gray clouds teases me in hopes for rain. Spring is coming!

My body springs into inspiration. It’s been two years since my blog has been created, but many years I’ve been writing. Two years ago, I was finishing up my senior year in college. I completed my major and was taking writing classes because it’s something I highly enjoy doing. It was then I created my blog and wrote my novel, The Fourth Charm, publishing it in April. And recently, republishing it again. Spring is that time of year that inspires me to write. I’m not sure if it’s the hope of warmer weather coming, or just knowing that something new is in the air. Maybe it’s that John Keats style of writing that I melt for. I live for that flowery description stuff. I could live forever in a moment, describing, writing, how it feels, what it looks like, really breathe in my surroundings.

Writing nourishes my soul. It allows me to breath. I’ve learned to constantly improve on my writing by never stopping. I wrote a book very young, and yes, it may never be read by millions, or even a couple thousand, but it gives myself hope. For me. It’s for me that I write. To inspire myself to improve and live happily. I no longer write for a professor, or grade. I no longer need to follow the rules. I begin my sentences with a preposition sometimes, and may not always use a comma. I write how I would speak at times, and that’s okay. That’s what makes us different, it gives us a voice. It gives me a voice.

With spring in the air, and my second novel 75% complete, I’m welcoming in a beautiful spring and all its inspiration floating at the wings. It’s time to write poems again, and capture the fresh blooms, and share my inspirational journey with you. A romance is swirling around my rose-colored world, and I’m excited, to new beginnings.