Call it Project Simplify. Call it nesting. What I really call it is getting rid of the junk. This week’s Project Simplify focus is on “piles.” Pretty vague, but I know we all have them. Some of those piles had been there for just too long, so this week I tackled, sorted, purged and organized them. The hot spots getting organized were my gift wrap stash, the nursery desk, and the closet under the stairs.

Organizing the Gift Wrap

This turned into a fun project for me. While not all of our gift wrap is green, I do try to reuse a lot of the gift wrap that comes through our house. The biggest collection of gift wrap are the gift bags, both large and small. I found the perfect 3-Drawer organizer that could organize the gift wrap and tissue paper.

Organize Your Gift WrapI cleared out our gift wrap stash a few months ago, but after the holidays and the kids birthdays I needed to sort through it all again. I was left with good quality tissue paper, small and large gift bags, ribbons and bows. Going forward, I like the eco-friendly gift wrap line from Jillson Roberts.

Organized Gift wrap RandomRecycling.com

The Closet Under the Stairs

Feels very Harry Potter doesn’t it? This little room under the stairs is in our basement. We had it build in when we redid the basement a few years ago. It became a bit of a catch all: gift wrap, baby stuff when not in use, extra bedding for guests, and my wedding dress. (Still don’t know where to keep that huge box!) Everything got cleaned out and I have a new plan for the space. Look for the big reveal next week!

Under the Stairs Closet Project

For Part 2 of Project Simplify this week, check out the post where I create a Quiet Kids Activity Desk.

For more organizing ideas, head over to the collection of posts on Simple Mom’s week three round up of “pile” projects.  You can see all of my other Project Simplify posts here. Up next week~ the put off project! You know you have one…

Disclosure: Some affiliate links are included in this post. I’m sharing this over at TidyMom and at OrgJunkie too!

April Meal Plan RandomRecycling.com

Happy April 1st! Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays last week. We had a wonderful Easter weekend filled with egg hunts and family parties. My daughter enjoyed her Easter lunchbox, it was like a mini bento box lunch. Now it’s time for a new meal plan, including two new recipes.

Easter Egg Bento Box Lunch @RandomRecycling

On the menu this week…

Monday~ Spanish style garlic shrimp, brown rice (pressure cooker) and corn

Tuesday~ Grilled cheese and pear sandwiches, tomato soup

Wednesday~ Baked honey mustard chicken (new!), roasted red potatoes, steamed broccoli

Thursday~ San Francisco pork chops in the slow cooker (new!), leftover rice, peas

Friday~ Pepperoni pizza and salad

Saturday~ Date night

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

Meal plan march 25

 

Happy Monday! Is it really the end of March? I’m so ready for April and a little spring weather. Hopefully the sun starts to shine and the Easter bunny can make his arrival with no issues next weekend.

I just returned from a fun-filled Blissdom weekend. It was so wonderful to meet new people, listen to some amazing speakers and get some new writing inspiration from my sessions. I was ready to come home today and give my husband and kids a big squeeze.

This week is a bit busier for us with some events and Easter preparations to plan for. Lots of family favorite meals ahead as I try to keep things simple.

On the menu this week…

Sunday~ Oatmeal Pancakes for dinner

Monday~ Apricot Pork Chops, Roasted Asparagus, Annie’s Bunny Pasta

Tuesday~ Homemade Chicken Nuggets, Sweet Potato Fries (didn’t happen last week so it’s coming back.)

Wednesday~ Black Bean Chili (slow cooker)

Thursday~ CORN

Friday~ Pizza Night!  Make double batch of granola for weekend Easter parties.

Saturday~ Light dinner, make dessert for Easter gathering.

Sunday~ Easter dinner with family.

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope those of you who celebrate had a wonderful day. We enjoyed a little family reunion away from home and had a great meal of corned beef, cabbage and roasted potatoes. I made mint chocolate chip cookies which came out awesome. The traditional Irish soda bread I made was also delicious, once we found it still at home after our trip!  Time for this week’s meal plan, which will feature another Irish dinner.

Monday March 18 Meal Plan

On the menu this week…

Sunday~ Family St. Patrick’s Day Dinner

Monday~ Adobo Chicken (last Wildtree freezer meal), green salad and rice

Tuesday~ Corned Beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes and onions. And more bread.

Wednesday~ I’ll be packing for Blissdom! Easy dinner of homemade chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries.

Thursday ~ CORN (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)  I really do get a kick out of how many people first think we eat that much corn!

Friday~ Pizza night!

Saturday~ Dinner out for dad and the kids with friends.

 

For more inspiration, see my past menus here, or the Pinterest board here, or OrgJunkie for a link-up of meal plans.

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner! Here are a few eco-friendly ideas that caught my eye. Most of the projects can be done with items already in your house. The craft projects use a lot of scrap pieces of fabric and paper. Food is healthy and green. Products are “green” in nature. Try not to o.d. on green food coloring this weekend, but raise a green beer in the spirit of this fun Irish holiday.

St Paddys Day CraftsPainted Mason Jars | Confetti Shamrock | DIY Play Dough (opt for natural food coloring) | Pasta Shamrock | Green Fabric Wreath | Pepper Shamrock Stamp

St Paddys Day Eco Friendly Ideas, Crafts and FoodIrish Upcycled Banner | Reusable Shamrock Lunch bag | Milk Jug Irish Craft | Shamrock Sprouts | Shamrock Lunch | St. Patrick’s Day Bento Lunch

What are you doing to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Fruit Valentine Tags

In light of all the sweets and treats my daughter is going to bring home from school today for Valentine’s Day, I decided to take a different approach. Together we decided to give out healthy apples and oranges as a treat for her preschool friends.

I found the fruit tags on Pinterest and printed them out from Craftaholics on card stock. The tags were cut out using my paper-cutter for the sides and scissors for the top. The heart cellophane bags are from my local party store for $.39/each. Oranges and apples came from Trader Joe’s. I have a giant roll of red baker’s twine and I love any excuse to use it.

Making Fruit Valentines RandomRecycling

My little helper decorated the oranges with a face using a black marker. Then she wrote her name on the back of each tag. It was an exercise in patience for me as I watched her write her name and struggle when she made a mistake. Although I didn’t want to waste tags, I knew it was important for her to take the time to make them just right for her friends.

I know she will come from school today with a goodie bag filled with candy full of artificial ingredients. She will be happy and I will let her have her candy in small doses. (Read why we try to avoid artificial dyes.) At least if my daughter and her friends learn at a young age that there are other fun gifts to give besides candy at Valentine’s Day, there is hope for them to make their own healthy decisions down the road.

Happy Valentine’s Day, from my family to yours!

Kids Valentines RandomRecycling

 

 

Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

If you are stuck inside during a blizzard, you must make cookies. Not only is it a fun activity to keep the kids busy, but it makes the whole house smell delicious. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I made these red and white Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. They are easy to make, delicious, and a nice departure from your everyday chocolate chip cookie.

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies

CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE COOKIES

Course: Dessert
Keyword: Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick of butter softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together in a mix until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time until combined. Add vanilla and milk.
  • Slowly add the flour mixture on a low speed setting. Mix until just combined.
  • Fold in cranberries and white chocolate chips.
  • Drop large spoonfuls of cookie dough onto parchment or silpat lined cookie sheets.
  • Bake 13-15 minutes. Let rest two minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling racks.
  • (I bake two racks at a time and use my convection oven setting. Halfway through I switch the trays so they bake evenly.)
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

Adapted from Table for Two.

Shared with Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Prior to the arrival of Blizzard Nemo, our friend Susan hosted a wonderful Valentine’s Day party for some little preschoolers. It was a cute morning filled with craft projects, cupcakes, glitter glue and coloring.

Valentine's Day Cupcake

All he remembers from the party is this cupcake.

Valentine's Day Preschool Card Making Party

Card making craft time for the kids. Stamps, glitter glue and stickers for their special Valentine.

Gingerbread house for Valentine's Day

Who says gingerbread houses are just for Christmas time?

Valentine's Day craft party

Lunch time with heart-shaped peanut butter and jelly sammies.

Pom Pom Crafts

Who can resist using some fun pom poms.

Toddler Valentine's Day craft tableUse paper to cover the table for toddlers, they can decorate it themselves!

Valentine's Day Outfits

They are trying to make hearts with their hands.

Valentine's Day tights

How cute are all those tights!

Janie and Jack bow shirt

One very happy girl!

Heart Felt Valentine's Day BagsAdorable goodie bags!

Personalized coloring page

The perfect parting gift~ a personalized coloring page from Frecklebox.

Thank you Susan for hosting a wonderful party! It was great to watch the girls make some masterpieces, both with their Valentine’s day cards and their cupcakes. Hope everyone has a Happy Valentine’s Day this week! If you still need some inspiration, stop by and see what’s new on my Valentine’s Day Pinterest board.

I did a large amount of holiday shopping this year online. It’s an easy way to get great prices, but also order from some unique shops on Etsy. As we sort through all the lovely gifts we received, we have a couple that need to be returned or exchanged.  January 3rd is National Returns Day. It’s kind of like a back-to-reality moment when you want to clean up your house and check those returns off your to-do list. On January 3rd, UPS will ship more than 520,000 from consumers back to retailers. As companies like Amazon report their biggest year yet, many people will line up to do their returns in the easiest way possible.

logo

Here are a couple ways to ship your packages in an eco-friendly way:

  • Skip the overnight shipping option. It increases the carbon footprint of that package’s return trip.
  • Repack in a used box. I save a few during the month in case I have any returns I need to do.
  • Use grocery paper shopping bags to wrap a return. The paper is strong and free!
  • Pack breakables in newspaper instead of bubble wrap or packaging peanuts. If you have a shredder, you can use the shredded paper.
  • UPS offers carbon offset options
  • Skip the drive to the store and have your local UPS driver pick up your returns.

While you are at UPS, see if your location will accept any packaging peanuts you received. Select locations will recycle them.

On January 3rd, I’ll be at our local Needham UPS location at 946 Great Plain Ave spreading the word about UPS’s Hassle Free Return options. They make it easy. I’ll be bringing my box to return to Amazon so I’ll give it a test run. You can follow me on Twitter @RandomRecycling and the #HassleFreeReturns. Our local sponsor is Wayfair, rsvp for the twitter party below to win a gift card for some personal shopping on their site.

There are also other events happening in Atlanta and Denver.

  • The UPS Store, 10800 Alpharetta Highway, Suite 208, Roswell, GA 30076 with Megan Cooper, @jamonkey
  • The UPS Store, 8200 S Quebec St Ste A3, Centennial, CO  80112 with Jen Goode, @jgoode

snap-2

JOIN THE PARTY FROM YOUR HOUSE!

DATE: Thursday, January 3rd

TIME: 3:00PM – 4:00PM EST

LOCATION: #HassleFreeReturns

HOSTS: @AudreyMcClellan @VeraSweeney

PANELISTS: @WhitneyMWS @JoLynneS @MyGOMOM @SavvyMommy

TWEETGRID: http://tinyurl.com/bl73oyw

PRIZES: (4) Giveaways throughout the hour!!
– $25 The UPS Store gift card
– (2) 1 $50 gift card from Sierra Trading Post
– $100 gift card from Wayfair

RSVP required to win, enter HERE.

RULES: You must be a US resident 18 and older to be eligible to win. Please see attached document for official rules.

Disclosure:

The UPS National Returns Day public relations team partnered with bloggers such as myself to help educate consumers about UPS National Returns Day. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to say or influence opinions in my blog posts. UPS believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. UPS’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations. 

You are going to learn how to make your own homemade vanilla extract in the steps ahead. I’m going to guess a few of you do a fair amount of baking. Did you have to buy vanilla extract at the store? It’s expensive and it’s not always that healthy for you. Many of the vanilla extracts sold are “imitation” and are really just filled with ethyl alcohol and chemicals. That doesn’t sound like a great way to make your desserts taste extra special now does it.  Here is an easy recipe to make your own vanilla extract. I give bottles of it away as hostess gifts, and have one more mason jar saved for myself. Time to make a few more batches.

vanilla extract label

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Course: Extract

Ingredients

  • Alcohol- either vodka rum or bourbon
  • 5 vanilla beans I ordered mine from amazon

Instructions

  • I cut the vanilla beans in half with scissors, then scraped the vanilla beans out into an sterile quart size glass mason jar. The vanilla beans are also added to the mason jar. Then cover the beans with your alcohol of choice.  I used all three alcohols (separately) so I could decide which one is better. The bourbon smelled the best by far, but it is a more expensive choice. The better the alcohol you use, the better the end result.  If you choose vodka, skip the plastic bottle bottom shelf vodka and get a mid-level priced option instead. It will create a better end result.
Tried this recipe?Mention @emilyroachwellness or tag #erwellness!

vanilla extract with rum

Next, store the jars in a cool, dark place. It has to be handy so it may be easier to just make some room in a kitchen cabinet. Over the next week, give the jars a gentle shake. After a week is up, transfer the jars to a storage area and let them sit for a minimum of six weeks.  The longer they sit, the better. For the Christmas gifts I made, I did this in August and let them sit for months. Some say you can do it right away, others agree that longer steeping time is better.

154750_464795590223725_72733396_n

Photo courtesy of Nikki from Days With Us

Once your vanilla is ready, I strained the mixture using a double layer of cheesecloth. I bought adorable swing top bottles from a local store. I used these labels and printed them on sticker paper. I had to create my own sheet of just the vanilla labels, cut and paste into a new document to print just vanilla labels. Once the jars were full, I added in some of the vanilla beans for decoration.

There are tons of different ways to make your own vanilla extract.  This article here has links to many other crafters which helped develop my own recipe.

Let me know if you have any questions. Enjoy your homemade vanilla extract!