Category Archives: At Home

My Favorite 3…Homemade Hostess Gifts

Summer is here and for me that means lots of opportunities to catch up with friends and family! Whether it’s gathering together for one summer birthday or holiday weekend, or simply a weekend BBQ, I find myself constantly thinking about good hostess gifts to bring.

The older I get, the more I appreciate homemade and edible gifts. While my friends and family have plenty of space for an extra item or two in their homes, I’ve come to appreciate not having ‘another thing’ to add to a shelf or cupboard (even if it’s too cute for words!). Homemade (and preferably edible) gifts are a great way to pass along a small token of appreciate to your host, but minimize the ‘stuff’ that gets added to their homes.

Not to mention, summer is a great time to get into your kitchen and enjoy some of the best flavors of the season. Below I’m sharing three simple ideas for homemade hostess gifts.

Seasonal Homemade Jam

I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who loved to make her own jam, so for my first 18 years of life I really didn’t have much awareness of Smuckers. Enter college…when I forced to fend for myself on the food front…and well, my standards dropped a bit. No really, for my entire 20s, I’d say. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve been reintroduced to the joy that is homemade jam and preserves. It truly is just a notch better than anything you can buy in the store, and it’s a great way to take advantage of seasonal fruit.

Fresh-Baked Homemade Bread

I know the first thing that everything thinks about when it comes to homemade bread is….yikes! yeast is scary and unchartered territory! I had the exact same thoughts, but then was introduced to No Knead Bread from Brown Eyed Baker and boy did that help breakdown my fear of how to make bread. This is an incredibly simple recipe that only takes a round or two to get the hang of it. It turns out delicious and can be wrapped up in parchment paper and seasonal ribbon for a festive touch.

Crunchy Homemade Peanut Butter

My dear friend Sarah and her husband came over to our home for dinner and in her bag of treats she gifted me an adorable jar of homemade peanut butter (I know, she has the best handwriting and presentation skills). I’ve always enjoyed natural peanut butters, and was super excited to try this one out. It was amazing, and since it went right into the refrigerator it did not separate, so no mixing was needed.

Even though the summer season can be incredibly busy, it’s a great time to pull out your pots and pans and experiment a bit in the kitchen. Plus, it’s a great way to put together a cost-effective and personalized gift for friends and family.

Happy cooking and baking!

Organizing Camisoles

For many people, camisoles are a wardrobe essential and it’s easy to accumulate a collection. I’ve tried a few different ways for organizing camisoles. My favorite, by far, is on a belt hook.

Before I tell you why – I’d like to show you a few other options you could consider for your wardrobe based on your organizing style and preferences.

On Hangers

  • One hanger for every camisole. If you like to hang clothing and have ample closet-rod space, this could be a nice option for you. It allows you to easily see each camisole and its details such as color, length and trim. For my closet, though, this method took up too much rod space.
  • Camisoles organized by color, per hanger. This method lasted a few months for my closet. I love that it was more compact than the previous method mentioned, but I found that I wasn’t a fan of having to remove some camisole straps to get to another that was a layer or two deep. You may want to give this a try!

  • Camisoles on shower rings, all on a single hanger. I’ve seen on Pinterest and some other blogs that people love this method. I can see why. It’s a space saver, for sure. However, having to unlock the closure of the ring every time I wanted a camisole wasn’t a fit for my organizing style, so this method lasted about a week before I scrapped it. Given how popular this seems to be, it may work for you, so don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Folded in Drawers

  • If you like to fold rather than hang, this could work for you. My only qualm is that this method makes it hard to discern the differentiators for each camisole such as the length of the top or if it has detailing such as lace trim. If I had more drawer space, I might consider this as my second favorite method, but the belt hook won out! Tip: consider separating the folded camisoles using a sock-drawer divider with labels for an even faster way to find the one you’re looking for.

On a Belt Hook

  • This is my winner (so far – never know what the future holds!). With this method, it’s so easy to see what I have and it’s super easy to take out each item and put it back. I keep this in my closet on the rod, but you could hang it somewhere else in your home, of course.

While you may think it’s trivial to spend so much thought and time organizing something as simple as a camisole, when you combine it with the other organization tools I’ve put into my wardrobe, getting dressed is a breeze, since a lot of the stress and guesswork has been taken out of the process.

What are some of your favorite things to organize for a more streamlined day?

Decluttering Dilemma: Does it Spark Joy?

In the popular book by Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she recommends that as you sort through your belongings, you hold each item to help you determine whether it sparks joy. If the item doesn’t spark joy, you should remove it from your home (e.g., donate it, recycle it, repurpose it or toss it, as appropriate).

If I hold an item and it’s not sparking joy, then what is it sparking? Oftentimes, for me, it’s guilt.

I’ve been known to hold a beautiful scarf in my hands and turn it over a few times, only to gently put it back into the same drawer it came from. And there it sits for another 6-12 months until I open the drawer, take it out, feel the fabric run through my hands, mumble to myself with regret about the amount of hard-earned money that was spent, and wistfully put it back into its designated storage space. I don’t wear it because it’s uncomfortable — scratchy. And while it’s nice to look at, I don’t love it enough to turn it into a piece of artwork for my wall.

What is the cost of keeping these items? After all, it’s just a few square inches of drawer or shelf space. No big deal, right?

No. These things – dare I say “junk” or “stuff”? – add up to piles of clutter that emanate bad vibes. So piece by piece, I’ve learned to let things go. And it feels amazing.

What I’ve come to realize is that it doesn’t feel good to put an unloved and unused item back into its storage space. If it doesn’t fit my style or is no longer functional, then there’s no great reason to continue to allow it to take up space that could be used for an item that I’d want to use and love.

You know what feels good? Passing it on to be a blessing to someone else who would find the item useful and give it the respect it deserves.

Once I turned over the leaf from hoarding items out of guilt to moving them out of the house to be a blessing to someone else, it became addicting. One bag of donation items grew into two and then three. As it turns out, that scarf made an excellent gift-wrap option for another small boxed gift item.

But… I might need it someday!

I realize this may not be the case for everyone, but I think it’s worth mentioning:

In my 5+ year journey of decluttering, the regret of letting something go has only come up twice! Both, incidentally, were cords for electronics. The first issue was remedied by a $6 purchase on Amazon and the second by a quick text exchange: “Dad, do you have an extra Ethernet cord?” “Yes.”

The lesson I learned: it’s important for me to put labels on cords. Previously, I would let random cords pile up (albeit in neatly organized piles with twist ties to keep them looking orderly); however, since I didn’t know what purpose each cord served, the cords became clutter that I moved to the donation bin.

Otherwise, I’ve been ever so thankful to have a less cluttered, more serene home.

Some of you may be cringing: she’s been decluttering for 5+ years? Why, yes, I have. The purge is never fully complete. Sure, you might have one large pile to move out in a single go. However, the skill of discernment is constantly put to the test. I’ve had to learn to say “no” to items entering my home on an ongoing basis and it’s not easy, but necessary.

After going through a large purge and maintaining a somewhat clutter-free home, I’m no minimalist. I have one neck, but still there are more than a dozen scarves in my dresser. (I use a sock divider to organize my scarves, by the way!)

I have two feet, but more than a dozen pairs of shoes in my closet. Two wrists, but more than a dozen bracelets in my jewelry collection.

However, the items that I’ve kept are items that I use and appreciate.

Does less stuff=less stress? I think so! Has the decluttering bug bit you? What kind of impact has it had on your life?