Simple things – new kitchen stuff & snack cake

It obviously does not take very much to make me happy.  Case in point – Saturday I came home from TK Maxx with 2 brand new Cuisinart dish towels and a cookie sheet.

In fact, it was Happily Mr. that saw the dish towels, which were on sale for only 3€!  He actually noticed that my dish towel supply was quite sad and diminishing.

The cookie sheet – well, it’s quite an amazing story.  I did not bring any kitchen things with me when I moved overseas and they just don’t sell or use cookie sheets here.  I have been looking for an “American Style” cookie sheet for six years!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to bake my White Chocolate Chip cookie recipe for you all tomorrow using this new cookie sheet.

I am really glad they put in a TK Maxx in our small town.  Oh, in case those of you who live in America are thinking I misspelled the store name, I didn’t.  For some reason TJ Maxx is called TK Maxx over here.  I wonder what it’s called in Canada?

My other simple pleasure this past week was enjoying a slice (okay… 2) of this delicious chocolately and easy snack cake.

It so quick to make and also does not require eggs, if you prefer eggless recipes.  I found the recipe years ago here at BettyCrocker.Com.  

I was really craving something chocolate and don’t keep much in the way of snack or junk food in the house.  It was the perfect addition to a little coffee break!

Sometimes the simplest of things are just so satisfying and make a day, perfect!

Merken

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Five easy cleaning tips for a happier home

 

I know, it’s a cheesy title but I am “Happily Mrs.” and those that know me, know that I like to clean.  For many, I know it is not something that you may enjoy at all and that’s okay.  Today, I want to share my top five tips that may be able to get you on your way if this is an area you really would like to “clean up”.

Funny that my number one tip has nothing to do with cleaning, but I feel it is the most important before starting the cleaning process.

  1.  Tidy (or straighten up) before cleaning.  Don’t confuse “tidying up” with cleaning.  They really aren’t the same thing.  I found personally that cleaning is actually enjoyable if we aren’t trying to dust around old newspapers lying around (or tablets and chargers tangled up), blankets crumpled on a couch or last nights snack remnants reminding me that I really should not have eaten that before bed.
  2. Assign one cleaning task a day.  I know that sometimes we just don’t have time in our busy lives for a designated “cleaning day” or that something of importance comes up on that cleaning day. Or, we are just overwhelmed with the idea of cleaning.  I have certain days assigned for dusting, vacuuming, bathrooms, floors, mirrors and glass, etc.  Honestly, it only takes 10 to 20 minutes a day. I only do them monday through friday.  I am just too busy on the weekends.  Another thing I do, if I will be gone most of the day or out-of-town, I will double up and do two tasks the day before, than I don’t feel behind or overwhelmed when I am back home.
  3. Clean by task, not by room.  Cleaning is so much quicker and easier when you pick up your dust cloth (and polish, if you choose) and start at one end of the house and only dust.  This is so much easier than toting a pail of products and tools around the house and cleaning everything room by room.  Same on the days I vacuum, it seems so much easier and quicker to do the whole house at once.  I always make the last room the one where I store the cleaning item or tool.  It really does save time, I find.
  4. Don’t overload on cleaning products.  You do not need as many as you think.  I used to buy every product and tool under the sun thinking I could clean better with designated products for designated areas.    These days with multi-purpose sprays and micro fiber cloths, it really is that simple. You may be surprised at the small amount of products I use for a person who enjoys cleaning.
  5. Clean-up and put things away right after you use something.  For example, it really only takes 15 to 30 seconds to hang up the towel and  wipe the bathroom mirror and sink after you are done getting ready in the morning.  Wash the dishes or put them in the dishwasher right after eating.  If you are consistent with doing these things, your home will always look clean.  Remember the words of Lucy Ricardo – “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

I realize I could go into so much detail about cleaning, routines and organizing.  I am by no means perfect at it I just love the outcome.  There are times my house is a bit messy and that’s okay, I just don’t let it pile up.

If we start small and dig deep to find the discipline to keep doing these formerly dreaded tasks, they will become a habit.  Set a timer for 10 minutes and see how much you can get done.  It may surprise you just as it surprised me.  I have actually found I have more time to do and enjoy hobbies I had forgotten about.

One last thing that could help, if you have children, make cleaning time fun.  Set a timer, hand them a cloth and let them follow you around the house dusting.   Or set the timer for a tidy-up time, they pick up their toys while you tidy up your things. They love doing this, it makes them feel grown up and a help to mom or dad!  Not only is it a huge help to you, it sets a good example and forms a good habit.

Do you have a cleaning tip or hack that works for you?  I would love to hear about it. Am I the only one who really does enjoy cleaning? Is that weird?

Merken

Merken

Merken

When Less Finally Becomes More

I have a little secret to share.  😉  Something that I don’t think my family and closest friends even know as I have never shared it until now.  In fact,  I have kind of hidden it.  Honestly,  I don’t think these changes would have happened if not for moving here.  So grab a cup of coffee or tea and let me tell you a little story.

It began in 2007 actually.  An organic store was opened near where I worked.  I believe they are now called Whole Foods although this place was on a much smaller scale.  I was intrigued, to say the least.  I slowly learned about the importance of organic, learned what eco-friendly meant and for the first time realized that chemicals really aren’t a good thing.

At that time, many thought it was just more expensive and did not make a big difference.  I  introduced organic milk and a few other items to my children.  But … it was a new concept for me and controversial topic in the media and with family.  I felt it was better to spend a bit more for healthier options. I still wasn’t “on board” with it all.

Fast forward to 2010.  A life changing year for me.  Now I had to pack up all my belongings into 2 suitcases, a large hockey bag and two small boxes to be shipped overseas.  Really?!! How does one do that?  My whole life packed into that?  This was my first lesson in stuff.  What is more important, material things or living?  Okay,  I took the bait.  It was a good start.

The problem came that next year.  I was homesick and felt that I needed to replace all those items that I left behind.  My shopaholic tendencies came back.  Shopping always used to make me feel better.  Do you know what?  It did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse!  Our home is only 65 square meters and does not have closets (which is the norm in Europe).  I was suffocated and constantly cleaning and re organizing spaces.  I was losing the battle of where to put my stuff.

Now I turned to the internet, books and documentaries to see if I could find any type of education on the topic, in English as I was also learning  a new language at this time.  I was really feeling connected to the topics of minimalism and a zero waste lifestyle.  It seemed like how I have wanted to live for so many years but modern day society was telling me otherwise.

Thankfully I did find many great resources out there.  Inspiring men and woman who have gone through the process of minimizing.  Decluttering their lives. I read it all.  I watched documentaries on how waste affects not only us but our planet.  Then…. didn’t do all that much about it.  I was a bit overwhelmed.  I mean, I already don’t have a car.  I walk, bike, use public transport and travel by train.  Isn’t that being zero waste and minimal?  Haha.  It may be a start but…. no, I wanted more than that.

Still,all this knowledge I acquired and living in a country where consumerism is not all around you – something was happening inside of me.

I figured out last year finally, that I was letting stuff consume me.  Could I let go? I am happy to report yes.  I can and have, although slowly.

Here is an example, I wrote a post a while back about my goals.  Creating a capsule wardrobe was one of them.  At first I did not want to get eliminate many pieces.  All of the “what if’s”.  I did pair my closet down quite a bit,  still my whole wardrobe was too much to fit into my suitcase, which was my ultimate goal.  I was okay with that.

More recently, I realized I still was not wearing half of the items in my already paired down closet.  They just didn’t suit my lifestyle as I am always on foot or bike and in all kinds of weather.  My wardrobe has now taken on a whole new look, which I had better share in a separate blog post.

The nice thing about letting go of stuff, material items that really don’t serve a purpose is you find room to really breathe.  There is more time to do the things you really want and that truly matter.

You can save so much money as well.  Seriously,  the savings is incredible.  When one doesn’t spend money on bringing things into the home, you automatically find you have more money to do things you want or may need.  Pay off bills, travel etc.

I no longer need to make lists to remember what groceries to buy.  It becomes natural.

To wrap up todays post, I would like to share some of the items I have let go of so far which in turn have created a positive impact on my life.

  • Household cleaning products for every task.
  • Clothes that I do not wear
  • Tissue
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Most of my makeup (but not all, as I enjoy wearing some)
  • Dryer Sheets
  • Non-recyclable items
  • Hair products (this does not mean shampoo, just all the extras)
  • Many skin care products (they didn’t do anything different anyways)

I am still working on eliminating and replacing items with sustainable alternatives.  Although,  I am at a much happier place already with the changes I have made so far.

So there it is, my secret is out.  I am a minimalist or I would rather call myself a cozy minimalist,  I like furniture, books and a few select items of decor, just not so much of it anymore.

Sometimes moving or seeing another culture can truly be life changing.  I am aware now of the positive impact of living a zero waste lifestyle, eating healthier foods.  Not only is better for the environment but it can really de-stress ones life as well. This lifestyle change did not happen over-night for me, in fact it is still a process that I am just letting evolve.

What I do know, that now when I see an advertisement for some beautiful designer bag or new and improved bathroom cleaner, I no long find my self thinking, “Oh, I need to get that!”

 

Quick chocolate chip muffins

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Tuesday evening, I was talking to a friend an invited her over the next morning for coffee, a good “natter” as she calls it.  Translated, that means coffee & chatting with friends, about anything or everything.  I didn’t give much thought to what little thing I would bake to go with the coffee till later that evening.  There was a honey muffin recipe I wanted to try that I found in an old vintage cookbook.  Yup… I tried it and it was a total flop!

While I was washing up the dishes I was trying to figure out what I could bake with the ingredients I had on had.  The stores were closed by now (yes everything closes by 8 pm during the week).  Even if they were open the temperature was -14 Celsius, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about bundling up and heading out on foot, in the cold in the dark to buy butter and more eggs.

My last-minute solution is always to run to the bakery on the corner first thing in the morning and pick up a delectable treat but of course I had to stay home to wait on a delivery.   Isn’t it always something?

The next morning came, and I still did not have an idea of what I could bake.  I really need to go shopping and replenish a few items in my pantry too.  My mess of recipes had failed me so I headed over to google and typed, muffins, easy, few ingredients and voila!  There it was!  The recipe that I would bake.   Allrecipes has saved my coffee chat!  I only had 2 hours now.  The only ingredients I altered was the last part.  The recipe says to sprinkle a mix of brown sugar and sugar to the top of the muffins.  Since the brown sugar available in Europe is a slightly different consistency than in America, I just stuck with the brown sugar.

The muffins were really moist and delicious.  I nice accompaniment to coffee.  Here is the link to the recipe.

I will definitely be adding this muffin recipe to my recipe box/binder/folder, which ever way I come up with to organize them.

So… we went on to enjoy a good “natter”,  as they say in England.

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Very simple fall decor & two easy diy’s

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature has been saving up all year for the grand finale” – Lauren De Stefano

I couldn’t have described my favorite season of the year any better than that perfect quote.  That being said I do like to make seasonal decor changes in my home using items I have on hand.  Here are the three areas I changed out for this season.  Even though they don’t scream, “It’s Fall” with the all the typical fall colors found outdoors, I like the subtle touches inside.

This year, I have a new small sideboard cabinet in my dining area so it is the first time for this tablescape.  Now, before I show you this picture I have to tell you this room is still in the process of being made-over.  I plan on removing the border and painting the walls within the next two weeks.  I think a table runner would look nice on this cupboard and I have one that would add some nice texture, but thanks to Khaleesi, my two-year old cat, she loves to pull them off along with everything on it.   In fact, the acorn has been glued once already.

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This brings us to the first DIY.  The candle holder.  As I was arranging the items, seeing what I liked best, I thought some height was needed and thought a pillar candle holder would be perfect.  I don’t have one, so I looked around my home and in my cupboard I have some of these glasses which I never use and decided they would be better put to use as a pillar candle holder.     Let’s go in for a closer look…

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All I did was hot glue them together after making sure the one on top was clean with no prints on the inside.  Then, I glued a tart tin on top of that.

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Next, I added some small stones I picked up on the beach along the nearby Danube River…

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Then the beeswax candle with a little bee pin.  The candles are made locally and last a long time.

Next, the coffee table in my living room.

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Everything I had on hand.  The book, I reversed the cover because I wanted a white book.  Three metal decor leaves, you can’t really tell but the one on top is gold color.  Again, one of those glasses like the candle holder with stones in the bottom, and I just love my pink rose so I did not change it out.  My squirrel figurine, which has a funny story which of course I am going to share right now.  The city I live in does not have squirrels.  Coming from Michigan, I got used to the furry tailed critters running around the neighborhood and I liked them.  My first time sitting outside in my new home, I noticed that there are no squirrels around.  Well, one day when we were out shopping, we found this cute squirrel.  I kinda like his little face in my home.

The crystal dish is a sentimental piece and I always keep it on display.  It was used in the baptism of both of my children, so it holds a special place in my heart.  When I see it, it fills me with joy and good memories of my babies which are now beautiful and amazing adults. I filled it with silver beads and white rose petals.  The rest, are just items I have and like.  Thankfully, Khaleesi is bored with this table.

On to my last bit of decor, if you can call it that, in my bathroom.

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No, you are not looking at in a mirror but now….

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you are.

This is also a work in progress area in my bathroom.  I plan on adding a small shelf on the left, eventually.  I noticed that our mirror faces straight across this to space on the wall in our bathroom/laundry room.  This leads me to the second DIY.  A dry erase board.  All I did was whitewash a frame I had.  I then cut out a piece of craft paper and glued it to the back part of the frame and with a dry erase pen…. well, you get the idea.

The only money I spent was on the craft paper and I needed that for other projects too.

That is it for my little touches of fall in my home for this year.  I believe it is important to incorporate items that bring you joy into your decor.  I do plan on sharing natural fall decor outdoors as well.  Just waiting for the final burst of nature to make its appearance here.

Happy Fall!

Merken