Holiday Ideas for Small Spaces

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Get ready for holiday fun, food, and festivities!

Can you believe it? Summer is a thing of the past and fall is in full swing.

Next thing you know it’ll be Halloween, then Thanksgiving and then Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and there will be Halloween candy, Thanksgiving turkeys, parties, gifts, school concerts, and more.

Well, I moved from Minnesota to Arizona, last year. No snow and no 30-below temps were the incentives.

I’m lovin’ it!

I purged most everything I had in Minnesota before I move, so last Christmas was a minimalist’s dream.

I borrowed a small Christmas tree from a friend, placed it on a side table and decorated it with the ornaments I brought with me.

It was a really fun holiday with family and friends which is what it’s all about, after all, but my decorating was a bit sparse.

Holiday Decorating Tips for 2018

Well, this year I’m going to make a concerted effort to embrace the Holidays in style.

No matter which winter holiday you’re preparing for, if you live in a small house or apartment you are probably looking for ways to maximize your space to accommodate your collections of seasonal/holiday decorations.

There’s a slideshow on Houzz that’s relevant for Christmas but many of the suggestions would be simple to tweak for Hanukah or any other winter celebration so I want to share it with you.

I love a lot of the ideas but #2, #9, #14, and #20  are on my to-do list this holiday season. #20 I will use as a centerpiece.

I like my decor…it suits me and I have lots of family mementos here and there. So it’s kind of hard for me to replace any of them even for a few weeks! But I do. I remove some and replace them with holiday pieces. Okay, I’ll admit it’s a nice change and it’s festive.

A few ideas you might want to try:

Holiday Bows and Ribbons

Lamp with BowOne way to easily add holiday charm is to tie bows around lamps. If you already use candles, you can do the same thing…tie bows around the candle base or holder. I even tie bows around plants in pretty pots!

Using ribbon and bows is easy, cheap (cheap is good) and clearly creative, don’t you think?

If you don’t want to make your own bows, they’re pretty much available everywhere holiday decorations are sold.

Or order online…the bow on this lamp is from Etsy.com! There are dozens of bows and ribbons and you-name-it holiday decor on Etsy.

Mirrors and Mantles and Holiday Plants

Hang holiday towels in your bathrooms, especially your guest bath, and place a candle on the vanity.

Fancy up your mirrors and mantles with garlands, too.

Apartment Therapy has a post on 7 Holiday Houseplants for People Who Are Bored With Poinsettias.  Check the link for pictures.

  • Amaryllis
  • Paperwhites
  • Christmas Cactus
  • Holly
  • Norfolk Island Pine

Holiday Party Ideas:

So you’ve got the house all decked out. The next thing to think about is celebrating the season with a party. So much fun!

Holiday Buffet Table

A Beautfiul Holiday Buffet Table

Are you entertaining?  A buffet is an ideal way to serve party fare whether it’s a small gathering or a large party.

In a small space, a sit-down meal is not going to work for a larger gathering. But even if you have room, a buffet is easier to prepare and easier for cleaning up after the party.

Serving finger food is the best idea.

Just have enough small plates (and napkins) so guests can help themselves to a variety of offerings.

  • Trays of sandwiches
  • An assortment of cheeses and crackers
  • Fruit kabobs
  • A relish tray
  • Cookies or bars for dessert
  • A beverage bar

Tempting  Holiday Food and Beverages

Here’s a super scrumptious recipe for any time of the year but perfect for a holiday party.

It’s from Alyssa, the creative blogger at My Sequined Life.  It’s a keeper, for sure.

Crispy and Baked Toasted Ravioli

It takes about 30 minutes, total, to make.

Simple ingredients include refrigerated ravioli (one of my favorite go-tos for a quick meal) and marinara sauce. A few herbs, an egg and panko crumbs and you’re good to go.

The Beverage Bar

It’s a good idea to have a separate setting for the beverages you’re going to offer, especially if you’re setting up a full bar.  Have lots of disposible glasses and napkins.  Some suggestions:

  • Mulled Wine
  • Mimosas
  • Hot Buttered Rum
  • Irish Cream Liqueur (It’s so easy to make, too!)
  • Cocoa (on a cold snowy night)
  • Hot Apple Cider

You might just want to serve wine and beer or eggnog or punch. If you have a punch or eggnog station, offer non-alcoholic choices, too.

Try Martha Stewart’s recipe for Cranberry Orange Punch

Be sure to check out Good Housekeeping’s post featuring  35 Boozy Christmas Cocktails with creative names like:

  • Thinking Cap Cocktail
  • Ginger Bee Sting
  • Cranberry Mimosa
  • White Christmas Margarita
  • Cinnamon Rosemary Old Fashioned
  • Jingle Juice

How fun is that?

Well, other than getting out your guest list and gathering your thoughts, you should be good to go for a celebration everyone will remember.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to post pictures and stories about memorable holiday celebrations.

I’ll keep this post updated. Stay tuned.

Cheryl K Logo

 

Gettin’ Blitzened Stemless Glass

Give one-of-a-kind gifts to everyone on your list

 

Wabi-Sabi Decorating in 2018

What is Wabi-Sabi?

wabi sabi quoteWabi-sabi is a Japanese decorating trend that’s hugely popular, right now. It celebrates imperfection, authenticity, and a lived-in feeling.

It’s not to be confused with the Danish design philosophy of Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah) which is all about coziness…warm blankets, comfort food, things like that.

And it’s not to be confused with the Swedish philosophy of Lagom (pronounced Lar-gom) which is all about minimalism.

Those are decorating trends for a future post!

I think the best definition of Wabi-Sabi is this quote from Wabi-Sabi Your Life – Six Strategies Embracing Imperfection. It appears online in Whole Living – a Martha Stewart magazine.

The author, Gretchen Roberts writes:

To illustrate: Wabi-sabi is asymmetrical heirloom vegetables and handmade pottery, crow’s feet and the frayed sleeves of a favorite wool sweater, exposed brick and the first draft of a difficult letter. 

You won’t find wabi-sabi in Botox, glass-and-steel skyscrapers, smart phones, or the drive for relentless self-improvement.

It’s a beauty hidden right in front of our eyes, an aesthetic of simplicity that reveals itself only when animated through the daily work of living.

That’s exactly the definition I’m looking for.  It’s exactly what wabi-sabi is and what it isn’t.

The Wabi-Sabi Decorating Trend

Old books on bookcaseThere’s a bit of wabi-sabi in my own home. These books on a shelf in my living room are worn and faded. I love the feeling they give to the room.

Gretchen Roberts goes on to explain that “stained plastic dishes and a garden full of weeds” doesn’t meet the criteria. It’s not about being careless or sloppy. It’s about embracing what’s natural. Like the worn books in that photo.

NOTE: Clutter is NOT wabi-sabi so clear out clutter.

Family Style and Wabi-Sabi

Tiny boots on shelfFamily heirlooms probably won’t mean a thing if you’re not in the family. But they add character to your home. Friends and visitors will feel the love.

These old, tiny, once-silvery shoes that belonged to my mother.

That boot on the far right almost looks like pewter but it’s not. The silverplate has just worn off.

Personally, I’ve always loved decorating with pieces that have character. I love shopping at consignment stores, Craigslist and garage sales! A good thrift shop is golden in my book!

I’m big into reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Contemporary Wabi-Sabi Works, too!

Contemporary photo with an organic touchOn the other hand, there isn’t a decorating trend or style that I don’t love.  Contemporary and ultra-modern homes speak to my love of sleek, clean lines.

I see no reason that you can’t add a little wabi-sabi to ultra contemporary style. In fact, just because something doesn’t “match” your decor doesn’t mean you should get rid of it.

If it speaks to you and it makes you happy, by all means, keep it. Especially true if it’s handmade. A little bit of mismatched decor is a good thing!

I do prefer modern design if there’s an element of warmth thrown in…a combination of wood and metal, for example.

Add an organic touch either through texture or with natural materials.

Check out this post from the design blog Decor8, Wabi-Sabi Style in Ten Steps. Every single photo in that post is contemporary and yet there’s an element of wabi-sabi, as well.  Really lovely photos!

Pinterest and Etsy Resources

Modern wabi-sabi roomPinterest is another source for finding examples of wabi-sabi. I’ve started a Pinterest board to save wabi-sabi pictures but I don’t have many there, yet.

Here’s a link to Pinterest wabi-sabi pictures like this one on the left. You can see that it doesn’t really matter what your decor style is. You can incorporate a little wabi-sabi. That’s a good thing.

For really unique examples of wabi-sabi that you can buy for your home, you’ll want to visit Etsy!

I found several wind chimes on Etsy that are just gorgeous that will add a touch of wabi-sabi nobody else will have because each one is unique and hand-made.

There are lots of books on this design style. Check out your public library or visit a bookstore or shop on Amazon.com.

My Wabi-Sabi Lessons

I learned how to decorate this way mostly from my mother who had a creative eye and not much money. To borrow an old axiom, she could turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.  She could cover an old worn-out piece of furniture and make it look new.

The artwork in our home was typically family photos or handmade items.

I’ve tried to give you an overview of this terrific way to personalize your home. Wabi-sabi has been around for generations…we just didn’t know it!

I would just love to share your wabi-sabi stories so leave a link and a picture if you’d like.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned!

Cheryl K Logo

Best Small Kitchen Appliances-Part I

Storage Space Saver #1 – Power Air Fryer

(This is the first in a series of space-saving appliances and gadgets that I’ll be trying from time to time.)

I have a new favorite small appliance. It’s my new Power Air Fryer!  (An affiliate link)

Here’s the scoop. I was visiting my daughter and her family this past July and they had one of these Power Air Fryers.

Mostly, they prepared frozen fast food items…French fries, Tater Tots, egg rolls…you get the idea.

It was fast and kept the kitchen cool. No oven required. The kids loved it. Even nine-year-old Kate mastered this appliance. They could have a hot snack at the drop of a hat. I was impressed!

Great for snacks but…

I thought it was very cool. But I was trying to eat healthier and, although the recipe book that came with it had delicious looking recipes, I was kinda skeptical.

What the heck is an air fryer?

A small, portable convection oven, actually.

Well, according to Cooking Light, it’s a “miracle kitchen gadget that every healthy cook should have.

Essentially a small convection oven, an air fryer works by circulating hot air up to 400 degrees around your food, transforming it into crispy perfection without all the oil or butter you’d normally need.”

So it’s NOT just for snacks!

Well, it was my birthday while I was there and guess what?

My daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids gave me my very own Power Air Fryer.

Mine is the smallest of three sizes but just perfect for me since I’m single. Plenty big enough to prepare enough for two or three, though.

I live in Arizona. It’s hot in Arizona this time of year. You do NOT want to cook anything in an oven. You don’t even want to grill outside when it’s 100+ degrees.

Passed the healthy cooking test with flying colors!

So this week I plugged in my Power Air Fryer.

First, I made spring rolls. Delicious! Crispy on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. Perfect. No deep frying needed. And the house stayed cool.

The next day I prepared lemon-pepper cod with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I served it with freshly sliced tomatoes from the farmers’ market and steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Soooo good!

Yesterday, I found a website online with recipes for Air Fryers.

I made a delicious Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin from Wine Lady Cooks

Not kidding…the tenderloin was perfection! It took a little over 30 minutes from start to finish. The bacon was crisp and the tenderloin was deliciously moist and juicy. I’d even say it was better than when I prepare pork tenderloin in the oven.

The bacon fat drained onto the bottom of the fryer so the pork tenderloin wasn’t at all greasy. That’s healthy cooking, I’d say.

Joanne from Wine Lady Cooks served it with sauteed apples and onion. I love sauteed apples especially with pork but I didn’t have any apples. That’ll be next time.

I’ve bookmarked her website and have every intention of trying most of her creations.

It’s easy to clean. That’s a bonus!

When I cooked the fish, I just rinsed the fry basket and the outer basket with water and put them in the dishwasher.

The pork tenderloin with bacon left some baked on bits but I just filled the baskets with soapy water and a couple of minutes later, rinsed them both out.

More Air Fryer Recipes

There are dozens of recipes for the Power Air Fryer.

Wine Lady Cooks has a whole section devoted to air fryer recipes including hand pies, doughnuts, pretzels, focaccia, appetizers, cupcakes, and a recipe for Fresh Fruit Galette that looks amazing. So many recipes it’ll be hard to know where to start!

An online article from Cooking Light lists  35+ recipes including doughnuts, empanadas, French fries, pizza, wings, and much, much more.

Meredith Laurence, the Blue Jeans Chef also has a section on her website devoted to air fryer recipes. She also uses her for toasting nuts and bread (for croutons), cooking bacon, and roasting peppers for recipes.

She also is the author of Air Fry Everything: Foolproof Recipes for Fried Favorites and Easy Fresh Ideas by Blue Jean Chef, Meredith Laurence (The Blue Jean Chef)

Just three suggestions, of course. Dozens and dozens of recipes are out there. Just Google Air Fryer Recipes and you’re good to go.

Thanks for visiting. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve got a Power Air Fryer or would like to get one.

Stay tuned!

Cheryl K Logo

Best Vacuum Cleaner for a Small Home

The Best Small Home Vacuum Cleaner (A Review)

I’ve had this Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum cleaner for about a year and this baby has never disappointed!

All of the following points (from the description on Amazon) are why I love this vacuum:

  • Lift-Away. Press a button to lift the canister away and easily clean hard-to-reach areas.
  • Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology + a HEPA filter. Traps 99.9% of dust and allergens inside the vacuum.
  • Powerful and lightweight. Portable and versatile at only 12.5 lbs
  • Brushroll Shutoff. Deep carpet and gentle bare floor cleaning.
  • Swivel Steering. Excellent control for maneuvering around furniture.
  • The product comes with Wide Pet Upholstery tool, does not have pet power brush

It proved it’s sweet disposition just this past few days when I got home a four-month trip.

I live in Arizona and from what I’m hearing, the annual monsoon season was apparently as good/bad as it gets. It not only brings massive rains, it brings dust storms called Haboobs that rival any rainstorm.

In fact, here’s a video of a haboob moving into Phoenix:

But I digress!

So I came home to a screened in porch that was so full of sand/dust that even though I had my furniture covered well, there were literally puddles of sand on all of the covers. Wish I’d have taken pictures. But I didn’t.

The floor and the outdoor area rug on the floor had a layer of sandy dust, as well, of course. The walls and screens were not spared, either.

It wasn’t pretty.

I was kind of sorry I hadn’t enclosed that room.

My Shark Navigator Lift-Away to the rescue!

First, I vacuumed the furniture covers using the detachable hose and the dusting brush attachment. Honestly, the suction was so strong it lifted the fabric!

After I removed the covers and stowed them in my storage room, I vacuumed the walls and the screens and then hit the floor and the area rug.

It was easy peasy and the room looks as good as new.

My Shark is small, lightweight and just right for my small home. But Shark makes a series of vacuum cleaners that range from a super lightweight model to heavyweight. Pet hair is no match for the True-Pet upright model.

You’ve heard of the iRobot Roomba? Well, Shark makes a robot vacuum, too, with one-hour cleaning time. It’s the Shark ION Robot Vacuum and you can either get it so it works with wifi and Alexa or without. How cool is that?

Yes, I’ll happily promote Shark products because I know they work.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear your experience with Shark products, too, whether you’ve had a good experience or a not-so-good experience. Leave a comment. And stay tuned!

Cheryl K Logo

The Best Gadgets for Small Kitchens

Space Savers for Small Kitchens

Photo of Kitchen Gadgets

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

There are all kinds of space saving utensils, gadgets, pots & pans, tools, etc. to save space in kitchens. These suggestions are my favorites.

If the gadgets or tools you use in your small kitchen are multipurpose, that’s a bonus.

For example, my cast iron skillets…I love them.  I actually have three different sizes. They’re perfect for the stovetop because the heat is conducted evenly throughout the skillet. Plus, they’re easily moved into the oven.

 

 

I’ve had my skillets (pictured) for years but you can pick them up at flea markets, resale shops, thrift stores, or you can buy new cast iron skillets lots of places.

Amazon offers a Universal Housewares Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Piece Skillet Set. (6.25 inch, 7.8 inch, 10 inch).

I like to sear either a beef or pork roast or brown pieces of chicken and then put the skillet in the oven with some root vegetables, and finish the dish in the oven. Yum!

Look for anything that “nests”…bowls, measuring cups, baskets.IMG_0167

My daughter has a set of nesting bowls like these and I liked them so much I bought my own! Got them at Cost Plus World Market (not an affiliate).

They’re big enough for a generous serving of soup or chili or cereal. I even zap oatmeal in these.

You can buy similar stacking mugs on Amazon. (affiliate)

I’m partial to these mixing bowls because there are four sizes, they’re see-thru, and they have lids so I can use them as storage bowls, too.

Anything that nests is a good choice.

Nesting serve-ware, nesting cookware, nesting glassware…well, you get the idea.

 

Stacking containers are probably my favorite space savers.

Look for stacking containers with lids for your pantry and refrigerator.

Seriously, have you ever tried to stack something in your fridge on top of a bowl with plastic wrap or foil?  I mean, that’s just asking for trouble!

I have this set and I love, love, love them!  Mine have different color lids. They snap shut and stay shut. No spilling or tipping over.

Waaay better than plastic wrap or foil!

These are sturdy PLUS:

  • microwave safe
  • oven safe (not the lids)
  • and freezer safe.

More Easy & Useful Ideas

HOOKS – I just can’t say enough good things about hooks in the kitchen.

Under the sink, inside cabinet doors, etc.  Even inside cabinets either on the back wall or side walls. Removable hooks are the best.

Kitchn Hooks Pic.The Kitchn recently posted an article 12 Ways to Use Command Hooks in the Kitchen and they’re all pretty darned good.

If you always prepare dishes in the same space or on a kitchen island, why not place hooks on the wall behind the countertop or on the side of the island for hanging measuring spoons and cups.

 

I have hooks just inside my pantry door for my aprons. Yes, I use aprons…I’m a good cook and a good baker but I’m messy!

POT RACKS are excellent space savers. They can be hung on a wall, the ceiling, over a kitchen island or above a cabinet.

OVER THE SINK CUTTING BOARDSGreat for a couple of reasons. You can prepare veggies or fruits and push the scraps right into the garbage disposal. Some of them fit on one side of the sink, beautifully, and offer an extra work surface!

You can buy collapsible colanders, collapsible graters, collapsible whisks…and probably a dozen more gadgets that are easy to store.

MAGNETIC STRIPS attached to the wall above your countertops can be used as a knife holder, for storing whisks and other magnetic tools.

You could use a strip to store magnetic spice jars. Some people put their magnetic spice containers right on their refrigerators. That wouldn’t work for me, though. Pretty sure I’d knock them off on a regular basis.
There are so many choices. Anything that isn’t multi-purpose or easily stored should probably be evaluated for its usefulness.

Multi-Purpose Storage Ideas for Small Spaces has additional ideas for kitchen storage. No gadgets in that post but great ideas to incorporate with the suggestions here.

Your thoughts?

So what other space-saving cooking tools do you think should be included, here. What works for you?  I’d love to include your ideas so leave them in the comments or send me an email.

As always, thanks for stopping by…stay tuned!