Still Crossing Off My List

2016-out-and-2017-inBy this time each year I can hyperventilate a bit, worrying about all the things still on my current year’s list. And hubby’s no help. He just came in half-telling me about a tech sale he thinks I might want to check out, but he can’t remember exactly which store or what’s on sale except, “It’s supposed to be good.” I couldn’t help but laugh.

Instead, for the last couple of days I’ve gone through the house gathering up the last of the “giveaways” that hadn’t yet made it to the library or the local domestic shelter donation center. Those all go, no more delays. And what money is left in our bank account will go to pay our property taxes tomorrow too. Yes, I’ll be one of the many in line to pay my taxes the last day, which doesn’t sound very organized but it’s a great way to see a bunch of my neighbors and friends once a year. I could mail in my tax payment, but then I’d have to wait for a receipt, and I wouldn’t get to talk to everyone in the hall standing outside the overflow to the county treasurer’s office. There was a time when that would have driven me crazy, but now I see it as a benefit of being acquainted with a lot of people–and having the prospect of meeting even more.

Finally, I need to stock up on groceries tomorrow.

Since Christmas I’ve tried hard to stay out of stores, but the grocery store and I willblackeyed-peas-cornbread become best buds again. My dad always made us eat black-eyed peas at New Year’s, and though he’s gone now, I’ll keep up the tradition (but truthfully, I’m not a fan and would prefer to eat black beans). Just one more thing to help mentally close off one year and usher in the next.

The dog and I might be up for New Year’s–well, I’ll likely be awake and writing or editing, because I have a Jan. 10th deadline–and Honey will be closeby and snoozing on her rug because I’ve been working near the fireplace.

Long story short, I have to finish my assorted lists tomorrow, then plan for a homey means of ringing in 2017. A quiet one since hubby will be sound asleep. 🙂

And that tech sale he mentioned? I’m waiting to see if he learns any more details and how far I’d have to drive. So far, the “maybe-sale” is staying off my list.

Happy New Year Everyone! What plans do you have for the weekend?






For a Little Christmas Fun

Because we’re all so rushed right now, I’m reprising an interview Kate McKenzie did a few years ago about the McKenzie Family Christmases and some of the things she does to stay sane during a very busy time of the year. Remember, until Christmas you can find a full Organized Mysteries Christmas story on the Short Stories page of this website–just look for Short Stories on the black bar under the banner above.

Interview on Christmas Tips & Organizing with Kate McKenzie

Interviewer: Hello, I’m here today with organization expert Kate McKenzie. Welcome, Kate.

Kate: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

Interviewer: The holiday season is coming up. I always get excited about spending the time with family and curling up with a few good books. What is your favorite thing about the holidays?

Kate: Being able to share the time with family and friends. Before Keith and I married I was always the one who took the holiday shifts wherever I worked. My parents passed away when I was at college, and I’ve never really been close to anyone else, so working through the holidays was my gift to my coworkers. But as soon as I spent my first Christmas in Vermont, I knew this was where I wanted to be. And now that we live here, I get to decorate my own home with Mother Nature adding all the Currier & Ives touches outside.

Interviewer: The holidays are a great time to get cooking and eating lots of great food. Do you have a favorite holiday food you enjoy cooking or maybe one that someone else makes that you look forward to?

Kate: I love to have crockpot soup going all winter, and at Christmastime it’s especially helpful because I can just leave small bowls and cups nearby and people can serve themselves as they like. My pre-motherhood career was as an event planner, so I always recommend having some kind of “filling station” where everyone can serve themselves since appetites occur for different people at different times. But I’m not a chef, so I look to the masters for recipes–websites like Oprah and Martha Stewart Living. They’ve worked all the bugs out for me, and I just make minor modifications to suit the tastes and dietary needs of my family and friends. Right now, one of my particular favorites is at–Hearty-Soups/1 There’s more than a dozen soup ideas there, including a squash soup I hope to try with pumpkin, and one of my favorite standbys, chicken tortilla soup. But this site also has a number of recipes using seafood and salmon, and with our northeastern location I really want to try a few of those this year.

Interviewer: Where will you be spending the holidays this year? In the snow around a warm fire, or somewhere warm?

Kate: Keith’s mom and dad are coming to stay with us, so they can see the girls discover their Santa gifts Christmas morning. In years’ past, of course, we stayed with his parents when we just visited for the season. Now that they live nearby, though, they suggested this alternative and I quickly agreed. It just made things much easier for everyone. And on Christmas Eve, we’re joining all the neighbors in our little cul de sac who are home for the holidays in a kind of traveling block party, with everyone spending a little time at each others’ houses all day. We’re pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas, so this gives us a way to move and visit a bit and celebrate without feeling trapped in our own houses all day.

Interviewer: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or a favorite Christmas song?

Kate: I absolutely love old movies, and my all-time favorite Christmas movie is Holiday Inn where Bing Crosby first introduced the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas.” The movie has that touch of romance, the “oh, no, what did you do?” moment when the girl leaves with the wrong guy, and then everything works out just right at the end. I love happy endings.

Interviewer: It’s a great time to curl up and read. Will you be taking any mysteries along for holiday reading this year?

Kate: Oh, always. I love short stories by Eleanor Cawood Jones, so I’mdeath-is-coming-to-town saving Death is Coming to Town–Four Murderous Holiday Tales to read over the Christmas holidays. I always like novellas and short stories during busy times when I don’t have big blocks of reading time. And this book is on sale for only 99¢. What a holiday treat! (Note: this last is newly updated info because of sale price)

Interviewer: Sounds like a lovely holiday season coming your way, Kate. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us today and for sharing your holiday tips.

Kate: It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.

What’s New & Free Wednesday–Holiday Edition

WN&FWWhile we’re all madly dashing through the snow or rain or 70-degree temps (depending on where everyone lives, of course) to get all errands done for this holiday season, I thought I’d offer some seasonal freebies that might help make the holidays merry–and possibly a bit easier and less expensive.

First up, if you haven’t already sent out Christmas cards, or your budget could use a freebie option, here are a couple of sites that offer a nice selection of holiday cards that can be emailed free of charge, or can be printed out and mailed if you prefer:

And while a lot of radio stations are playing all the standard holiday songs this month, AccuRadio is offering free holiday music on the web right now. Pick whatever kind of seasonal tunes fit your mood, from Elvis sings Christmas, to Upbeat Holiday Party Mix, to Country Christmas, to Celtic Christmas, and even Holiday Radio featuring a multi-genre mix of holiday music.

And if there’s still a little time left for holiday crafts, check out the  page to find the perfect project (or two). There are also contests on this page to win crafting supplies and products.

And remember, if you have kidlings around for the holidays, or bored & stressed adults who like to color, you can find free downloadable/printable coloring pages here on my site. Just click on either of the Coloring Pages links in the black link line under my banner above, or click the link below–

Finally, if you haven’t already heard, I’ve put several of my short stories up on my Short Stories page to read for free until Christmas–my gift to readers 🙂 You can click the Short Stories link on the black bar above or click the link below–




Happy Holidays!







Staying Ahead Sunday–Winter Hacks Edition

The weather has changed around my house the last week or so, and we’re now donning SAS memesweatshirts and sweaters. Which means I’ve started incorporating some of my favorite cold weather hacks into daily life. Despite the meme I used at the left, these aren’t Organizing tips per se, but rather ways to minimize your frustration with cold weather. Still, done regularly, they can save you time and money.


First up, is one I have to credit to my lovely daughter since she’s the one who first started using this hack in our house. On cold nights we all love the feeling of crawling into a warm bed with sheets right out of the dryer, right? One night, right after my daughter said she was taking a quick shower before bed, I walked by her room and heard the sound of a humming motor. When I stepped in to take a look, I found the hairdryer running on High in the middle of her bed, next to her folded up pajamas, and with all her covers pulled over the top. Needless to say, I pulled the hairdryer out of this cocoon before the device could overheat, but the idea was brilliant to me.misc

So the hairdryer wouldn’t die of heat stroke, I set the nozzle just under the top of the sheets and blankets, and moved her pjs and a stuffed bear under the covers to kind of tent things a few inches past the fiercely blowing nozzle of the dryer. When she came out, her bed and pajamas were all warm and welcoming, just like she’d envisioned, if placed a little differently than she’d originally planned. Now, on cold nights we run the hair dryer over the sheets and blankets right before we jump under the covers–tenting now required. Makes the bed feel perfect.

foam-pipe-insulationIf you have drafts under any doors, a quick and easy way to beat them is a trip to Home Depot or Walmart to pick up a piece of foam pipe insulation. Use the precut foam (a little of the cut shows up at the edge of the image to the left) to run along the bottom of your drafty door(s), so the foam wraps around and hugs both sides, then cut it off just before the edge so it won’t make closing the door difficult. These foam jobbies are only a couple of dollars apiece and about six feet long, so one can usually cover two doors.

Next up is a tip my father’s heart doctor gave us years ago. elf_sweeping_2If the snow isn’t more than an inch or so, don’t shovel it, sweep it. Not only is sweeping faster in this instance, but it’s easier on your back and heart than lifting a shovel each time with even a small amount of snow.

And for my last easy winter hack, when you must shovel try this tip my husband I always use. Spray both sides of the shovel with a cooking spray like Pam. Then reapply as needed during the job. Doing that makes the snow slide right off the shovel, instead of hanging on with an icy grip so that you have to keep banging the shovel to clear off the blade again. Makes for much easier snow shoveling which, less face it, is not something anyone wants to make any more difficult.

My only other tip is one I gave to a writer friend this week when she posted about how cold her daily walks had become. Two words–Carhardt Coveralls. They may not be stylish, but they’re danged warm and easy to walk and work in. Keep warm, everyone.

If you have any stay warm tips or hacks, feel free to comment below 🙂



Thrifty Thursday!

Happy December, everyone! And with the new month comes a new blogging idea. With all the rushing we do this time of year to find time and gifts for all of our friends and family events, I thought posting about some Christmas hacks I use to save my sanity might help others out there. Let’s call this the Food Edition, since that seems to be the theme today. I’ll have more seasonal (non-food) hacks coming on future Thursdays, so check back.

  • This first thing is super easy, but it’s something christmas-snacking-treeI do all the time because practically every get-together over the holidays requires those grab and go type of snacking items we always put onto relish trays. I do something like this. I’ve also used small snack crackers at the bottom stacked to look like gifts, too. The best thing about this kind of design is that it’s always easy to just refill a line as one or two starts looking thin, so you can keep the healthy snacks in easy reach at all times, but there’s no need to continually take the platter back to the kitchen to refill.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   .
  • I love making decorated sugar cookies. One quick icing-in-condiment-bottlesdecorating hack I use is to mix up icing ahead of time (there’s always a butter cream recipe on packages of powdered/confectioner’s sugar) then once I add the coloring I put them into different colored condiment bottles I’ve picked up as a group at the dollar store. They make dispensing the icing really easy–whether I spread the icing with a knife after I squeeze it onto the cooled cookie or use the bottle’s tip to paint a sweet picture.
  • chocolate-spoonsFor quick and inexpensive make-it-ahead gifts you can’t beat hot chocolate mix and chocolate spoons. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve tossed M&M’s into hot chocolate for decades (my child was aghast when she was at a elementary school friend’s house and learned not everyone did added candy to their hot cocoa!), but hot chocolate spoons like those pictured here are a great gift–whether you also give hot chocolate mix or not. (confession: I often eat these like chocolate lollypops and they never make it to a cup). The recipe for the spoons is pretty simple. I use a double boiler to melt my chocolate, but small pieces can also be melted in a microwave. Either way, check on the mixture every thirty seconds or so, giving it all another stir each time, then put it back to heat until all the chocolate is melted and smooth. Then dip the spoons (I find plastic works a little better than wooden ones, but that might just be me). You’ll need to stir the spoon around in the melted chocolate and turn it over several times to make sure the sides are all evenly covered–then set each chocolate covered spoon on wax paper to cool. And they’re ready to decorate. Try using mini-marshmallows to decorate your spoon as a snowman, or drizzle lines of caramel or white chocolate to give an added taste.
  • For Hot Chocolate Mix to give by the jar, here’s a recipe I’ve been using for as long as I can remember–I get my biggest bowl and sift in 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, followed by 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (the sifting helps eliminate lumps). Next, I add in 2 cups of powdered milk and use a whisk to get it all stirred and combined evenly. And voila, put it into a jar with a pretty lid and give as a gift (or keep for yourself). You can also add mini-marshmallows to the container of powder if you like. To make it, just add equal parts of hot cocoa mix and water into a cup and stir. This mixture is good in a cabinet or pantry for 6 months.
  • For another quick-and-inexpensive gift, I use cookie cutterscookie-cutter-fudge to make and decorate individual fudge presents/treats. The cookie cutters are part of the gift and the combination adds an even more festive air to the presentation. For my fudge recipe, I always use the one from Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. It is fool-proof in my opinion, and is not only rich and delicious, but doesn’t require me to go nuts with a candy thermometer making sure the temperature is absolutely perfect. You can find that recipe by clicking Here. And trust me, no one will know you only spent a total 15 minutes making this fudge–prep to cook. They’ll just say “yum.”

That’s it for this edition of Thrifty Thursday. Have any tips you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment 🙂