Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting Organized

While waiting for a book on Feng Shui that I ordered from PaperBackSwap recently, I have been trying to get rid of some clutter. It is amazing how quickly it builds up, filling every horizontal surface, oozing scraps of paper and little things that don't really have a place to go…

The worst part is that as I work on cleaning one area, other areas get worse. I am not sure exactly how this happens, and as much as I would like to suspect that my 3 year old has something to do with it, in truth, often she is better about putting things away than I am! More than once I have told her that we need to get going, and she tells me, "Ok, but FIRST I have to put these things away!" At the same time, as I sit here and write this blog, I can almost feel the mess growing behind me.

Yesterday I decided on a whim to tackle the basket of papers that sits by the phone. I originally intended it to hold business cards, but over the months, it had accumulated all sorts of other things and was overflowing with scraps of paper, postcards, photos, and even several seed packets. Noticing that the rest of the shelves were dusty and disorganized, I set the basket aside and pulled everything else off the shelves, too. I ended up recycling about 5 or 6 old phone books, discovered 3 brand new notebooks and some other stuff that belonged elsewhere, got everything dusted off and the entire little phone nook clean and organized. I stepped back to admire my work, and then turned around to find that the dining table had disappeared under piles of papers and STUFF. Argh.

I sorted through the basket and got a good start on transferring all the phone numbers and addresses from the basket into an Excel file (one good thing I have learned in school!) It feels good to get things organized! So why is it so difficult to keep things that way? It couldn't be that I'm a single mom to two young children and two dogs, who is going to school and building a business all at the same time, could it? All the more reason to be organized, right? Yeah… I am working on it. And now, on to today's adventure; finding the dining room table!

What are some things you do to keep yourself organized?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Frigidaire "Spin & Win" Campaign!

Frigidaire is currently running a great promotion called Make Time For Change.  Frigidaire has teamed up with Jennifer Garner to help support Save The Children, a leading independent organization that creates lasting change in the lives of children in need.  Save The Children works with children all over the world, but what I like best about this campaign is that it is connected with their CHANGE program, which is committed to providing children in the most impoverished areas of the United States with nutritious snacks and promoting healthier lifestyles. 

The way it works is simple.  Visit the Make Time For Change website and play Frigidaire's new Spin & Win game.  Not only will Frigidaire donate $1 to Save The Children every time you play, but you could also win some great prizes that encourage spending quality time with your own children, whether it's curling up with some new books, snuggling in to watch some family movies, playing dress up or going camping.  They're giving away a prize every day, and you even get entered to win a brand new Frigidaire Affinity washer and dryer!

The promotion runs until 4/26/10, and you can spin once daily!

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I love wintertime because of the increased opportunities for baking and reliving childhood memories.  I grew up helping my mom make Snickerdoodles every winter, but in Estonia, the hot holiday cookies are piparkoogid, or gingerbread cookies. I made them last year and my daughter Kiira loved them so much that she begged me to make them all summer, too. (I told her she would have to wait for winter!) So a few weeks ago, I bought a set of snowflake shaped cookie cutters especially to pack along on our trip to Estonia, because I knew we would want to make up at least one batch of these spicy sweet treats. I'm pretty sure this will become a wintertime tradition for us!  I just do not understand why so many people in Estonia buy their piparkoogi dough from the store ready made; it is quite easy and fun to make a fabulous gingerbread dough from scratch. 

My recipe, adapted from Nami-Nami, follows:

V├╝rtsikad Piparkoogid (Spicy Gingerbread Cookies)

2 dl syrup  (0.85 c)
2 dl sugar (0.85 c)
1 tbs cardamon
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tsp fresh grated ginger (optional)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
250 g butter (1 c) cut into pieces
2 eggs
600 g flour (6 c)
2 tsp baking soda

Place the syrup, sugar, and spices in a saucepan and ring to a boil.  Remove from heat and add butter.  Stir until the butter is melted, and let cool slightly.  Pour syrup into a large bowl and beat eggs in one at a time.  Mix flour and baking soda together and mix into the syrup and butter mixture a little at a time. Mix or knead the dough well, and then wrap tightly and refrigerate at least overnight, or up to two weeks.
Roll the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to approximately 2mm (1/16in) and cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Bake the cookies at 200C (400F) for 6-9 minutes.

NOTES: For the syrup, I usually use a combination of whatever I have one hand, such as molasses, corn syrup, agave nectar, honey, etc.  You can also make a sugar syrup by melting 150g (approx 3/4 c) sugar in a saucepan, then adding about the same amount of hot water.

This recipe does make a good amount of dough, and although I have not tried it, it should freeze well.

To make the icing, mix powdered sugar with a small amount of water or fruit juice (depending on desired color; I used aroonia concentrate for the ones in the picture) to a sour cream like consistancy, about 1-2 tsp to a cup of sugar.

What are some of your favorite wintertime traditions?

Happy Winter!