Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Big Pantry Organization for Less Than $100

I finally fully tackled a project that I've put off for quite some time. I was fired up, completely determined to get it to a level where I can say, "Now THAT's pretty!"

I organized my pantry...on the cheap!

For months, I have been watching a lot of YouTube and shopping at the Dollar Tree to get ideas and explore my options and now, all that effort has paid off. I was certain I wanted to save as much money as possible doing this project and of course that meant finding affordable containers that looked good, are durable and most of all, would make sense for our space. Let me put it this way—Pinterest was the standard I was aspiring for, but I also knew I didn't only want it to look great on photos. Most importantly, I needed it to be functional for our family.

I had to consider how we function and what available spaces we have. For instance, keeping our medicine in our pantry always made sense to us. We have multivitamins and other medications taken daily that need to be accessed easily by adults, and yet stored high enough to make it more difficult for children. I had to make sure I could accommodate that need while reorganizing. 

We also snack a lot and I had to assign an area for snacks that my son would be able to access by himself, at least for the healthier snacks. Not so much for the junk food which is why I placed those somewhere higher. 

Anyway, after spending approximately 6 hours, I think I could stop now and smile at what I've accomplished.

Here are my BEFORE photos, which admittedly don't look too messy to begin with. I have always had things sorted, contained and labeled, but somehow something was still not working for me.

I've stared at this space for a long time and just couldn't be happy with it. There was something that annoyed me but for the longest time, couldn't figure it out...until this past weekend.

My Previous Organizing Mistakes: 

1. A lot of the containers were overflowing. It didn't matter that everything had their own spaces and labels. It still looked messy to me because there was too much in most of my bins. 

2. I Initially thought that having see-through containers was the way to go but to me, it made it look messier than it really is. 

The Not-So-New, But Definitely Improved...

I sorted through all of the boxes, especially those that overflowed, like our 'Snacks' and 'Asian' (which also contained some Asian food snacks) bins. After going through expiration dates and figuring out what snacks had no hope of getting consumed because none of us liked the flavor (which makes you wonder why it got bought in the first place), I actually ended up with sub-categories of 'snacks': Crackers, Cookies, Nuts & Candy, and Applesauce and Fruit Juice Packs (school snacks). I couldn't believe that what was initially housed in one container now got split up into four. But it made more sense and gave the bins more breathing space.

Light blue totes (lower level) for my four snack sub-categories...The containers are also somewhat pliable so you can squeeze them against each other to save space. What a bonus!

Luckily, the multiple trips I've made to the Dollar Tree these past few months saved my day. I had already bought a lot of containers for different areas of the house and I still had a few extras on hand. I had to switch up some of the containers so that I can come up with several of the same type with the same color. 

The large, dark-blue bins toward the bottom of the shelves were bought from Aldi (3 for $12.99). They come with 4 casters too!

My Organizing Tips:

1. Take out contents from bulky boxes if you can. You can always cut out their product labels and nutrition information and transfer them to Ziploc or snack bags which occupy so much less space inside bins.

2. Make sure all your bins are properly labeled. You can only successfully do this if you take the time to sort and categorize correctly.

3. Purge ruthlessly. Be honest. If something no longer has a purpose, will never get consumed, get rid of it. Yes, you may feel a bit wasteful but take that lesson to heart for next time. Maybe it will make you shop wiser instead of just randomly spending on 'stuff'.

4. In organizing any space, uniformity is key. And as is true for designing any space, things don't necessarily have to be all the same. But if you have varying elements, there has to be some sort of repetition so that it looks intentional instead of just an eye-sore.

5. Use what you already have. Don't be afraid to repurpose containers just as I did for the Ikea Skubb boxes (which are wardrobe organizers, but now used as containers for our medication), and the free shipping boxes/crates that came from Costco. What matters is that they fit your space and the items fit perfectly in them. You can always make them pretty by covering them with paper, fabric, paint, or cute duct tape, which is what I did for my boxes. 

See that cylindrical container above with the red cap, wrapped in the zebra duct tape? That originally contained cotton candy which my husband bought for my son several months ago. Now it's the perfect container for our straws (100ct.)!

For about 50 containers to organize our entire pantry, I spent less than $100. Here's a BEFORE and AFTER side-by-side photo...

Now every time I open our pantry door, I take a deep breath and smile! 

Does organizing make you happy too? What organizing ideas have worked for you?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Welcoming Spring

Last week was a busy, yet happy, time. My son was on his spring break and so we took advantage and visited family in the Midwest. Later during the week, we found ourselves back home but not for long. The very next day upon returning home, we decided to do a quick trip to Atlanta, GA to maximize our vacation time. 

We visited Stone Mountain, "the world's largest granite monolith", and the park is said to be Georgia's most popular attraction. We've visited the park last year but at that time, the park was so busy that we never got the chance to see the top of the mountain via the cable car. This time around though, we had a mission in mind and went as early as we could. I'm happy to report we made it to the top, although there wasn't much scenery to enjoy given the thick fog that day.


It was like walking on the moon up there, hiking as much as our feet and my elderly joints allowed, enjoying our limited view 1,600 feet above mean sea level. 

It's amazing how these trees can still survive atop this rock.

The first signs of spring were clearly upon us, and no fog can cover this beauty up...

So what existential thoughts did I have while exploring the top of this giant rock? 

First, that life is persistent, resilient and that it always finds a way. 

And second, hiking and bad knees don't go well together. Make sure you have someone who cares enough about you to hold your hand and serve as your human cane. Just sayin'.....


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Life in Between

The first time I became intimate with the word 'limbo' was with with my ex-boyfriend. A couple of months after we had broken up, we found ourselves in contact again, reconciled but not completely back together as a couple. There was so much to heal that he didn't feel ready to get back on track just yet. But given our intense relationship and affection for each other, we agreed to both wait it out. For years I was neither here nor there, more than a friend, not quite the lover, and it was agonizing. It was then that I realized how limbo might as well had been hell.

Despite being fully acquainted with the reality of limbo, oddly I still continued to find myself in this space in various aspects of my life, though not always by choice. And this feeling that I don't quite belong, that I'm always somewhere in between, all the more solidified when I migrated here to the U.S.

Searching for new friends has always been a challenge. In certain groups that I've attempted joining, I was either 'too ethnic'/'not American enough' or even sadder, I've also found myself on the other end of the spectrum where I didn't feel 'Filipino/Asian enough'. At some point, I just stopped trying and told myself that if not for my desperation, these are people that I wouldn't really choose to hang out with anyway. I didn't feel like we had much in common and I felt too old to try too hard and play games. I knew I was fine in my in-between space even solitarily. 

I suppose it doesn't help that I'm an introvert and prefer smaller groups and deeper conversations. That's just not everyone's cup of tea. The strange thing is, some people I've met wouldn't even believe that I'm a shy introvert. They all say I seem friendly. Well, I am! But it's a lot of effort for me and it's only because I force myself to step it up when I know it's necessary in social situations. I guess you could say I'm an in-between shy introvert.

Physically, there's also a lot about me that seems to belong in the heart of 'in-betweenville'. I'm Asian and yet because of my mixed heritage, I don't look typically Asian. When it comes to my size and body frame, I'm again neither here nor fully there. I refuse to wear, (nor would I fit into) anything fitted and yet when I go to plus size stores, they tell me I'm too skinny. 

And my hair. Oh my hair! I'm afraid it has reached the worst limbo ever, closer to hell really. I love short hair but have been afraid to cut it really short because of my round face. So instead, I've opted for a longish version of short, a coward's pixie cut that doesn't really look like one. It's a hybrid. I'm in between. And I hate it.

It's with all this in-between baggage that I showed up for my first blogging conference this past weekend. I went to the Bloggers at Midlife (BAM) conference right here in Nashville, filled with anxiety and of course the sense of resignation that it probably won't turn out differently for me. I have accepted that I would feel lost, insignificant, and of course, in limbo, amidst the sea of confident women who probably won't care about me.

Why should they? We don't really know each other. I've only related to some of them virtually and so we only 'semi' know each other. We're in between.

And then my age. The group is for women 40 and above, the midlifers. Though I certainly qualify in terms of my age, I knew that I'd probably be one of the youngest and I anticipated that this would further alienate me. When I got to the conference, everyone kept doubting and joking that I was probably just 27, or 18, who knows, and I wondered if my youthful looks made it more difficult for people to take me seriously. I hoped not.

When I spoke and revealed to some of them my background, the attention went to my speech, my accent, but in a good way. I was told that they couldn't detect a foreign accent at all and found it surprising that I've only been here in the U.S. for close to 11 years. I still think I do have a slight accent, maybe at least with some words, I don't know. I'm in between, I guess.

But the worst fear I had showing up at the conference had to do with my blog's identity. Can I just say it's a personal blog?...that I blog about parenting but not just about parenting?...that I blog about social life from the perspective of a migrant?...and that I also blog about romance, marriage, social media, culture and everything in between? 

Apparently I can. And apparently none of my baggage mattered when I met the midlife bloggers! Everyone was so welcoming and the warmth of these new friends I met made it easy for me to want to swim out from the depths of my in-between and simply show up just as I am---tainted with my imperfections, insecurities and all the limbo that defines me. I could sense that everyone was authentic and that gave me a safe spot to plant my feet on and keep walking forward.

I survived my first blogging conference. More than that, I actually genuinely enjoyed getting to know these fellow bloggers / writers who were all full of wisdom and generosity. There was no sense of competition, only camaraderie. There was no judgment, only acceptance.

I may not always be easy to figure out. Maybe my in-between-ness makes it far too complicated for some to want to get to know me. But this is who I am and if there's anything I learned from the wise and self-assured midlife women I met this past weekend, it's that we all have gifts within us. We can all make a difference with our distinct voices, whether we're speaking from the top of the mountain, a valley, or somewhere else in between.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Candy and the Cankersaur: A Book Review

*All opinions expressed in this post are my own. I was provided with a PDF and Amazon Kindle copy of the book for the purpose of this review, and was not financially compensated. This post also includes an affiliate link (Amazon Services LLC Associates Program) which means a commission may be credited to this site when a purchase is made through that link.*


Last week, I was pleasantly surprised to have received an email from Jason Sandberg, the author and illustrator, of this children's book "Candy and the Cankersaur". Though I never claimed to be an expert on reviewing children's books, I was intrigued by the author's approach and humility in asking for an honest review. To quote him, he wrote "If it's a dud you've only invested 10 minutes, if it's a gem you've got a fun review to post!Fair enough!

I admit that I also agreed because I was curious to learn more about publishing one's own children's book. I've fantasized about being able to do this and so any opportunity for me to learn would be truly welcome. 

"Candy and the Cankersaur" is the story of Candace Courtney Wellesley Wellington (or Candy) who receives a Cankersaurus Rex as a gift. Candy is the daughter of a wealthy man who is far too busy to spend time with her for play and therefore only showers her with the best toys (or pets) around. Candy also has a neighbor, a boy named Chucky, who likes getting Candy's attention by competing with her, always wanting bigger and better versions of the toys Candy owns.

When Candy first got Cank, she immediately started training him, emphasizing that the first rule is 'no biting'. Cank quickly became a good pet and it didn't take long for the neighbor Chucky to take notice and feel extremely jealous. Since he couldn't get a dinosaur for himself, he decided that Candy shouldn't have one either and so he ended up kidnapping Cank.

The adventure further continues from here and since all children deserve happy endings, this book certainly does not disappoint.

The first thing I noticed about this book is the colorful illustration that gave me a nostalgic feel. In this sense, Sandberg is successful in categorizing this book as an homage to cartoonist and author Syd Hoff.

Sandberg also describes the book as an appropriate bedtime picture book for children ages 3-6 , and as a read-alone picture book for those ages 6-9. As such, I decided to let my son, aged 7, read it. Suffice to say that he enjoyed it. I asked him what he thought about it in general terms and he said that he found it exciting, that there was enough adventure in it to keep him interested. He particularly noted how attractive the pictures were. 

I was also curious to know if he picked up any good lessons from the story and he said, "Yes! It's important to know how to share what you have and not be jealous and never take what's not yours."

I agree with my son. However, there is one point that I feel could have been further explored or explained in the story. In the beginning, it was said that Candy's father was a busy man who only knew how to shower her with material things and didn't spend enough time with her. I felt this point was emphasized in the beginning that I was expecting it to have a clear resolution for readers in the end. I'm not too sure this was addressed, at least certainly not explicitly for young minds to clearly pick up on, if it was indeed even implied. 

Other than this, I think the book was an enjoyable read and has solid elements of fun and adventure to sustain children's attention. I also appreciate the fact that it's relatable for both boys and girls. I think that it would especially appeal to dinosaur lovers, although that certainly isn't a prerequisite. 

Overall, my son and I both give this book 4 out of 5 stars! Check it out and you could purchase a Kindle edition of this book via Amazon.com below!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Am I Really Doing This?

I can't believe that Daylight Saving Time starts this Sunday, March 8. Of course this only means one thingthat Spring is almost here. Plus of course the fact that I will most likely be grouchy on Sunday as we let our clocks 'spring forward' forcing me to lose one precious hour of sleep. *sigh*

In honor of Spring and everything new and fresh, I'd like to share some exciting (or is it anxiety-inducing?) news! No, I'm not pregnant although the amount of nausea I'm feeling might make you think that. 

I'm attending my very first blogging conference this weekend! It's the Bloggers At Midlife (BAM) Conference 2015 and it'll be held right here in Nashville, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to be exact.


It's my first time attending a blogging conference, hence the nauseating anxiety. It's also the BAM's very first time hosting a conference so in a way it's great that I'm not the only 'virgin' when it comes to these things. 

I had promised myself since mid-2014 that I will dare myself to push some of my boundaries. It started with joining a few more bloggers'/writers' groups to challenge myself more in the area of writing. And then the biggest leap of all last year was my contacting Arianna Huffington directly to pitch a blog post which then opened the door for me as far as being a Huffington Post contributor (note: not 'employee'). At that point, it truly became clear to me that it pays to take risks and push oneself if you want growth. 

So, here I am daring myself once more to be in a big room full of 'strangers'. I've only met some of the other attendees virtually, none physically and I am terrified of looking stupid, feeling stupid, isolated and lost. These are my fears and though I know they will surely accompany me this weekend, I am hoping they will be balanced by my optimism that these women all seem friendly, down to earth and that some of them are just like meintroverted, slightly awkward and are over-thinkers. I've been told those are fairly common qualities among writers. 

So, wish me luck! Keep me in your prayers and kindly send me all the good vibes you can! Better yet, if you've attended blogging conferences before, how about sharing with me some survival tips! I surely need them.

I promise to give you the scoop on my next blog post, that is, if I survive the whole thing without blacking out.