Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Ailin Does Lately

I keep meaning to write about this because she has been so darn funny lately, and I don't want to forget. Also, it's sometimes useful for scrapbook pages.

Favorite Stories
Sleeping Beauty
Goldilocks & the Three Bears
The Monster at the End of the Book

Favorite TV Shows/DVDs
Hannah Montana
Backyardigans (She calls it Hippo Penguin-san)
Prince of Egypt (She calls it Luka Basket Dancing because of the baby Moses in the basket.)

Her Hobbies
She likes to hold books up in the way that teachers do and she reads them to me. She sometimes reads in English, but mostly she makes up the story in Japanese. It is a loose translation of the story along with an explanation of what's going on the pictures. At night, she has me read one story to her, and then she reads one story to me.

Gluing & cutting things has become one of her recent hobbies. She sometimes "helps" me with my scrapbook pages.

Wearing skirts is very important to her. She immediately changes into a skirt when she arrives home. Skirts are better for dancing in, I guess.

She tells me about her dreams every morning. At least, I THINK these are her dreams. They always involve an array of princesses and Disney characters playing on swing sets or slides with her. Sometimes, Mama, Papa, Baba or Jiji are there too.

Favorite Foods
Sweet potatoes
White Juice (sports drink)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Oops, almost forgot about February!

I have been so crazy-busy preparing for daycare, getting my house in order, and starting to work again that I nearly forgot to put up my lay outs for February! They were done a long time ago.

This was done for Cathy Z's class and is one of my last completely digital lay outs.

Another digital lay out for Cathy Z's class. The challenge was to create the look of "inking" on the individual papers. I used an overlay frame on each paper and stretched it to the exact size of each stripe. The title on the left says, "Carry me on your back!" I made a Japanese version for Yusuke's mom as a Mother's Day gift.

"Growing Girl" is a double lay out to show her development over the past year. This is another Cathy Z lay out.

Now, by this time, I had started a new class called Adventures in Hybrid. May Flaum, the instructor, taught many methods for combining digital and real world elements on our papers. Can you tell which is digital and which is real? 

This was one of the first lay outs I made for May's hybrid class, and I love it. Problem is that I cannot frame it as it is too thick now. 

Another hybrid lay out...albeit a bit crooked! The lay out design was from Cathy Z's class and I used May's hybrid class to complete it using her hybrid techniques.

As you can see, I don't have a lot of time to explain these lay outs and how they were made. If you want to know more about anything specific, please contact me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Final Push: The Scrapbooking (Craft) Area

Now keep in mind that my scrapbooking area is simply a CORNER of the multi-purpose room that I claimed for myself when we first moved in.

I'll show you "pretty" first. This is probably the first thing many people see when they look over in the corner. Colorful plastic jars of ribbon help to make things look pretty and organized all at the same time. On the other side of the desk, there is another jar of (purple) ribbon and then a jar of all sorts of paper & material flowers.

The middle shelf of the desk is a nice place to actually display things. Here, I have displayed some memorabilia. Not shown here, but I often display my latest lay outs too by standing them up behind the glass jar. The scarf, the frog & the ceramic poppouri pot were all gifts from friends, and the jar is filled with various trinkets & charms we've collected over the years. (Where else do you put that crap anyway? This is a nice way to display it because it is, at the very least, colorful.)


When I bought my desk, I purposely chose this type because I thought it would provide a nice organizing system for projects and books. There are 4 slots on each side of the desk. I have it categorized like this:
Resources (x3)
Current Projects
Current Supplies
Ongoing Project Supplies


Embellishments for pages (and for any project, actually) are kept in this basket. I never had many embellishments until last year when I finally starting buying some here and there. This basket was the first size for my growing collection, but recently it has started to overflow a bit. Behind the basket, I keep my Cricut (a die-cut machine) and I just pull it towards the front of the cabinet, plug it in and use it, when I have more than a few things to cut at one time.

I mentioned the incubator above when I showed the desk shelves. Each month, I collect non-photo memorabilia in a ziploc bag and keep it for a few months. Sometimes, it gets used on a page. If it doesn't, I need to eventually decide what to do with it. Incubating helps this process because it gives me some time and distance to decide if that "thing" is important enough to keep around forever.

If it is that important, I will file it away in one of the memorabilia boxes. If not, I will chuck it. I can only fit about 3 incubator bags on the desk shelf at one time, so theoretically, everything gets a 3-month incubation period.

I recently added this magnetic strip to my desk where I can house some extra embellishments. It's cute, but not quite as useful as I imagined it would be. I think I need to change what is stored in there.

This is a small craft tool box where I keep everything I need for my current projects. It's portable, so I can take it with me to Craft n Chats, to the coffee table in the next room, to the floor of the multi-purpose room, etc. Yes, admittedly, my scrapbook desk is often too crowded to work at so I use the floor sometimes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Final Push: The Bathroom

Okay, I will admit that my actual bathroom/shower room is a mess because I let my daughter play in there during our nightly bathing ritual. It is not cool, and I am still looking for some safe organizing tools for storing the shampoo, razors, face soap, etc.

But, what I will show you today is the sink and dressing area of our bathroom. In Japan, toilet rooms are separate and I will not be showing that.

My make-up is kept in that little Le Sport Sac on the left. No, I lied. It's not my make-up, but it should be. 

My real make-up case is kept in the car so that I can apply make-up while my husband drives us somewhere on weekends. I can't/don't wear make-up during the week because I drive, and I obviously don't have time to apply while actually inside my house. What is inside this Le Sport Sac are some lotions that go on the face BEFORE applying make-up.

In the corner is a small jewelry box to hold what little jewelry I actually own. I don't wear much these days because of Luka's little octopus hands though.

Above that is a basket for my larger hair accessories. I hate my hair lately. It's going gray and it is getting wiry, so I often wear headbands and scarfy-type headbands to cover it up. This basket used to belong in the entrance way and was a place to hold keys, but I re-purposed it.

The two miso soup bowls are for my and Ailin's hair accessories. She has a lot of colorful bands and barrettes while I have clear colored bands and black barrettes. Can you tell?

In an international marriage, you'll find that there are some medicines of his which I would never ever take and vice versa. We have separate baskets for our medicine. 

The bottom photo shows the ONE towel rack in our bathroom and it goes across the shower/bath door. It used to be weighed down by everyone's towels and I was afraid the thin metal bar would snap in half. I finally thought of this simple solution. Labeled laundry clips. The third one is for "guests".

Across from that shower door, is our cabinet and I added these over-the-door hooks with the kids' names on them for their towels.

My latest solution - a Pajamas basket. Again with the pajamas!!!!

I found that every night before taking a shower and bath with the kids, I was going all around the house searching for PJs, underwear and undershirts. Where were they "thrown willy nilly" just that morning? I'd find them hanging over the unused crib bars, strewn across pillows, laid over the couch, on the living room floor, and if they were considered "dirty" in the dirty clothes basket (or at least, near it). Then I would walk around the house gathering up all the night clothes I needed (including MINE) and throw them towards the direction of the bathroom sink. Get the picture?

This basket not only serves to corral all items needed for dressing after the bath, but it is also a place I can store the PJs immediately after they are shed in the mornings. New, unworn PJs are still kept in the canvas boxes in the bedroom.

This room still needs work. I would like to figure out a way to separate laundry as we go so that wet towels are not kept in the same basket as say, my work clothes! I also would love a shelf above the laundry machine.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Final Push: The Kids' Room

The Kids' Room went through some major organizing changes as I was anticipating going back to work. I wanted to have a nice system in place so that I could prepare for daycare easily and quickly every day.

First up is the dresser. I added these drawers from Ikea. They are meant for a hanging drawer organizer for inside a closet, which you will see later, but I bought these canvas drawers just for this purpose. Each one is labeled as follows:
Ailin's Pajamas
Luka's Pajamas
Kids' CDs
Luka's Diapers
Ailin's Diapers

Why keep pj's separate? Because one time, my husband and I had a huge fight when I asked him to get Ailin's pajamas out of the dresser and help get her dressed for bed. He opened the dresser drawers and had NO IDEA which piece of clothing were supposed to be her PJs. To me, it would have been obvious. I could open any kid's drawer and find his/her pjs very quickly. Is this a MAN THING? Or a Yusuke thing? I am not sure, but a big fight ensued and from then on, I have always kept pjs separate.

Note: Notice the mess above these carefully organized drawers? Oops, forgot to crop that out.

Another set of canvas drawers from Ikea. This is Luka's dresser, and I actually have not found a good use for all of them yet.
The two on the right are for seasonal daycare items such as swimming gear, gym clothes, etc. They are labeled: Ailin's Daycare, Luka's Daycare

The top of the dresser was supposed to be a changing table, but we never got around to adding the Ikea changing table to it. Instead, I put these plastic bins here for clothes that are "too big" and "too small." You know how you get clothes for gifts that are a full year too big for your kids? Or someone hands down some of their child's clothes to you, but they are still too big for your kids? Or, your first kid outgrows some clothes that will someday be useful for your next kid? Well, the "too big" bin is a perfect place for this. The "too small" bin is for anything they outgrow. It is, in a word, OVERFLOWING right now. I just recently gave away several of Ailin's outfits to a neighbor who has a daughter exactly one year younger than Ailin. I have been doing that for the last couple years and it works well for me since the clothes are seasonally appropriate for her kid. However, I am waiting to see if Amy O. has a boy because he is due almost exactly on Luka's 1st birthday. If she has a boy, lucky me, because I can clear out this box. 

Inside the dresser, these canvas inserts from Ikea are so great. I now have both of their dressers organized and everyone in the family can find clothes easily, even Yusuke.

With much ado, I convinced Yusuke to let me buy this closet organizer from Ikea. The tubs are filled mainly with toys and can be switched out with the ones in the Multi-purpose room. I have some extras because I have plans for them in the near future.

On the top left, I have these canvas organizers which actually go with those black and white drawers you saw earlier. Rather than use the drawers, I am using the empty spaces to put everything they need for daycare from Monday thru Friday. If I set this up every Sunday night, it helps so I don't have to fight with laundry all week and so I don't have to waste time picking out clothes (and arguing with Ailin about what to wear) every morning.

For Ailin:
One set of clothes
One small towel
One large towel

For Luka:
One set of clothes
2 face cloths
2 gauze cloths

On the top shelf of the closet are three boxes which I put together long ago. Labeled as follows:
Fun Box
Busy Box
Arts & Crafts

I think the Busy Box is for when your kid complains of utter boredom. The Fun Box is for rainy or sick days. I got this idea from a book called The Busy Book for Toddlers.

These three boxes are currently located in the master bedroom, stored under the unused crib. The books are categorized into several groups and I switch them out every month or so. Some categories include: Animals, Rhymes, Family/People, Nature, Manners, Fairytales, etc. There is a bookshelf in the kid's room, but it only fits about 20 books, so a rotation system staves off MY boredom as well as exposes her to "new" books periodically.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Multi-purpose Room

Since this room is in the middle of our house and could or should be a 3rd bedroom, it is open out on to the living room and so serves as a catch-all room for the family. It is our computer / scrapbooking / reading / play room.

As some of you know, I had started re-organizing the scrapbooking portion of the room in early 2009, but have added a few more flourishes to this area recently, so I will do a post just about the scrapbooking area next time.

The computer desk, obviously. I wanted more color in this area, but my husband doesn't want me to hang anything on the walls. So, the inspiration board, a goals magnetic board, and a victory magnetic board are all "hanging" in this area. Both of the decoupaged frames add some color to the area.

I also have a really cool goals box that I decoupaged using my most favorite scrapbooking paper ever. Can you see the "Laugh Box" just under the desk? I have had that box since moving to Japan when I really needed some laughs, and I used to collect funny magazine article or pictures in there. Below the desk is my collection of colorful binders - one for each online class I have taken and others designated for projects I am working on.

I have shown this photo before. It used to be a junk drawer and is now organized nicely. That was the first little project I did for the simplify 101 class. Notice the photo - it's actually a little zippered case that Shannon had made for me as a bridesmaid gift. This photo must have been taken when we were 5 years old.

I recently put together this Ikea shelf for toys. We have a similar shelf in the kids' room closet so that the tubs can be switched out. This is to keep things exciting for the kids. The current toy categories in this shelf are as follows:
Food-related toys
Luka's toys
Leapfrog Leap pad books

Technically, we do not use that door anymore. My husband was a bit peeved about that, but there was no purpose for it anyway. The room is open out on the living room and we need that corner space for their toys or whatever. I think it will not be that way forever.

Also, let's take a quick moment to notice the reading corner. The chair if from IKEA. The bookshelf is chalk full of books that I don't have time to read. I added some reading baskets around the house for people's current reads as well as this hanging magazine holder on the door. All of the reading baskets and this hanging thing have labels on them to inspire reading: "Read and Be Merry!", "Read Anytime, Anywhere." are two of them.

And, behold. They are actually (kinda sorta) playing together. I believe that one of them started crying soon after this photo was taken because she couldn't open something by herself.

The brown dresser behind them was re-purposed some time last year. It used to hold tons of VHS tapes, all of which I gave or threw out. Now, the top drawer is a reference drawer for me - papers, catalogs, etc that I might want to look at in the near future. The bottom 3 drawers are categorized as follows:

I would like to get another IKEA shelf like the one in the above photo to replace this ugly brown thing. I want to be able to switch out tubs from the big shelf in the bedroom for here too. I also hope to label all the tubs in the coming weeks, but suddenly have found myself with a lot less time since returning to work. We'll see how that goes.

(Do you see the dog in the background? He is vacuuming up the remains from the floor around Luka's high chair. He appears in lots of photos doing this exact thing over and over.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Final Push: The Command Center

My Command Center is in a central location of our house. It serves as a place for information coming in and going out, and is basically consists of 3 parts.

The cabinet has a spot for a Household Quick Reference binder which holds information about each member of the family. For example, in Ailin's section, I keep a copy of the daycare lunch menu as well as the annual schedule of events. There is also a section for important phone numbers, home management, the budget and local delivery menus.

On top of the cabinet are 4 baskets. For Yusuke and me, these baskets are a place to put cell phones, ipods, wallets, etc. when we are at home. The kids' basket holds all those hard-to-find-when-you-really-need-them-in-a-hurry items, such as thermometers, nail clippers, bug spray, sunscreen, vix, etc. The blue basket is my organizing tool kit and has a spray bottle of multi-purpose cleaner, a microfiber rag as well as a tape measure, pen and a notepad.

The second part of the Command Center is the white board, and I think I have written about this before. The white board has the shopping list, the week's menu plan, calendar, the cleaning & maintenance routine and 2 post it notes for keeping shopping lists of some of my less frequent shopping places - Costco & Ikea.

The third part of the Command Center is the tickler file. Each day of the month has a folder, and each month of the year has a folder. So, when I get paper in, I take care of it and file it for it's deadline day. If I get something that needs to be taken care of a few months from now, I would file it in that month's folder.

The tickler file needs to checked every day OR you need to have those important deadline dates written elsewhere - either on your to-do list, your daily planner, or your calendar. Otherwise, you will forget all about these papers ... to be honest, it has happened to me a few times since I made this tickler file and have learned this the hard way. I tend not to check my tickler file every day because I don't file many things in it. Some of these new practices take time to form into habits.

Okay, that's it on the Command Center.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Final Push: The Kitchen

I could have entitled this "The Mad Rush". Both descriptions are quite apt for telling how the last week has been.

I was set to go back to work on April 1, so March 15th was my organizing goal in the simplify 101 classes. I was envisioning a completely simple, colorful and beautifully organized home. By March 15th, I was close, but still had a few things to finish up. Plus, I had to prepare many things for Ailin's new class at daycare and for Luka's induction into the daycare system.

Well, it is now April 1 and I had a partial day at work today and then went to the daycare to attend the entrance ceremony and then spend some time in Luka's room with him and his teacher. After several shopping errands, we finally made it back home so I could eat my lunch. The little dude was exhausted and had fallen asleep seconds after getting into the car, so shopping was nice and quiet for me today. (I still hate shopping though. More on that later.)

I decided to devote this entry to showing off my organizing projects. A friend mentioned that she didn't think online classes like those from simplify 101 could possibly apply to our tiny Japanese homes, but I think everything is very adaptable. Plus, we are blessed to have an Ikea, along with several other cute interior furnishing stores, in the area. Maybe these photos will inspire others to take action on their homes - at least give you some ideas of what you can do.

I have nearly 50 photos, so this will be divided into several posts. Here goes!

The Kitchen
I'll tackle this room first. I am not going to show photos of the inside of my fridge. I wish I could say that my labeling system worked wonders to keep it organized, but it did not. Food gets thrown in there (by my lam-o dh), and it is hard to control.

Other stuff did work though, and I want to show it here.

Always looking for more counter space, but of course, we have to own this huge toaster oven for toasting things like shrimp tempura, and thus no room for an espresso machine or anything that I would actually want. And, for those of you in the USA, yes, this is basically our ONLY counter space.
On the right side of the counter, I recently added the two-tiered shelf for fruit and bread. We used to have a bowl that was always overflowing with rotting fruit and bread. On the extendable shelf, there are a few of my most-used cookbooks, a cookie jar filled with baby crackers, a recipe file for new recipes after using them. And, to answer your question: No, it does not always look this clean.

The above magnet was placed there by my mom and me. It was meant for our new knife set that we received for Xmas. Yusuke nixed that as soon as he saw it and we now have a traditional-type of knife holder.
Later, I made 2 magnets that say "Ailin's Art" and now I have one place to hang her wonderful art pieces. ONE at a time. Not tons all over the house. Just ONE, and it gets replaced when she brings home something new.
Below is the clipboard with my cleaning routine.

I recently switched out a very small drying rack for a 2-tiered rack, hoping that this would prevent against having piles of dishes drying all over the kitchen. I also hope that my husband and I will be better about putting dishes away every day, but that's another story. We do have a dishwasher, but it is about the size of a breadbox.

I don't have much pantry space, but I wanted to show how I have categorized some of the food.
Kids' Food
Sick People's Food
Curry Roux, etc.

It goes to show what is commonly eaten in our house. But, having kids' food and sick people's food easily accessible is quite important, I think.

This is my baking and breakfast cupboard. You see the array of coffee cups on the lower shelf. Isn't that a cool place for them?
The above containers are labeled as follows:
Extra Baking Ingredients (2)
Breakfast Ingredients
Dessert Ingredients

That is about it for the kitchen. There is more that I could do to improve it, but this is enough for now.