Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Masochistic Post About Setting Up A Gift Wrapping Station

While I'm away, traveling for the holidays, I'll be posting a series of guest posts. I've selected these posts for their content, and have edited them as I see fit -- my edits will be made noted inline with the original content, and all photos are my own. Full disclosure: these posts are being sponsored by Extra Space Storage, whom I met at BlogHer earlier this year. 

This post is a little masochistic for me...I would LOVE to have space in my house for a Gift Wrapping Station. Maybe someday I will, but for now, I just dream on Pinterest, and set up a temporary station on the dining room table. Good thing my gift wrap is all organized and easy to access in its plastic bins and such. Also, since we fly away for the holidays, and the TSA often unwraps wrapped presents (even in checked luggage), we tend to wrap at our parents' houses once we arrive. Someday, though. Someday...for now, enjoy this post that will torture you a bit. Unless you're one of those lucky folks who has a craft room, and you can set up a gift wrapping station, and I don't want to talk to you. Just kidding. I'm just jealous.

Create Your Own Gift Wrapping Station

Jessica Johnson is a Marketing Director at Extra Space Storage.  She is an avid goal setter, reads three books each month, and blogs about organization at Storage Blog.

In recent years my family started doing a round-robin for Christmas gifts, which means I only have to buy—and wrap—one present each season. Now that my holiday prep is so streamlined, I marvel at how I ever kept sane in the face of a whole pile of gifts demanding to be wrapped. Who has time? And where did I put the scissors anyway?

While I can’t buy more time for you, or convince your family to cut back like mine did, I can tell you how to find the scissors. It’s all about making a concerted effort to keep your wrapping supplies in good order.

The best way to do so is to set up a dedicated gift-wrapping station. Even if you don’t need such a thing year-round (ed note: I wrap presents throughout the year! Justification!), creating one at the beginning of the holiday season might just save your sanity when Christmas and Chanukkah arrive with their inevitable last minute wrapping binges (ed note: Chanukkah starts the day before Thanksgiving in 2013. Get ready, folks).

Here’s how to make your own wrapping command central.

Pick a place: Choose a table or other flat surface that you will keep clear of debris, preferably one large enough hold a spool of wrapping paper.

Stow your paper: Rolls of wrapping paper might be some of the most annoying objects in the world. (ed note: I agree) To marshal them to order, make sure you always secure the end of the roll with a small piece of tape or a rubber band. Then decide how you’ll store them. The options vary depending on whether your station will be permanent or temporary.

The most effective permanent option is a wall-mounted rack. Try building one yourself, and if you have a bookshelf to sacrifice, incorporate that into the plan. Alternately, think about keeping your paper in a large, flat drawer.

If you’re going for a temporary solution, try a vertical bin such as a plastic kitchen trashcan or mesh wastepaper basket. For easy stowing, keep your rolls in a special box designed for wrapping paper, which can be stored for next year without any fuss.

Wrangle your ribbon: If you’re not going to string your ribbon spools on dowels and hang them from your wall-mounted wrapping board, there are other effective solutions. One of the best is using a vertical counter-top paper-towel holder—just stack your spools and get ready to wrap. (ed note: This is a great idea!!) But, as always, make sure the ends of the rolls stay secured with tape; organized ribbon tangles just as easily. ed note: And what about when the end disappears into the roll? So frustrating.

Control your supplies: The odds and ends of wrapping are what gets me in trouble. Scissors, rolls of tape, little cards, and other decorations always end up spewed everywhere. Of course then I can’t find any of it, no matter how close at hand it all is. One great suggestion for keeping all this in order is a hanging toiletry bag. Include anything that might be helpful—a hole punch, a glue stick, pens, double-sided tape, bows, tags, and of course, scissors.

If you want a more stylish solution, consider attractive bins, baskets, and buckets of all sizes to keep things in sight and organized. You can reuse containers and other items from around the house. Here’s a gift-wrap station that employs a crib rail to hang gift bags and miniature buckets to organize markers and tags.

The solutions can be creative, but the priority for your wrapping station should be organization so you can release the best of your creativity on your gifts.

What’s your favorite wrapping organization solution?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Organization: Product Guide

While I'm away, traveling for the holidays, I'll be posting a series of guest posts. I've selected these posts for their content, and have edited them as I see fit -- my edits will be made noted inline with the original content, and all photos are my own. Full disclosure: these posts are being sponsored by Extra Space Storage, whom I met at BlogHer earlier this year. 

Y'all know I'm a little organization-obsessed. So when Extra Space offered up a post on holiday organization, I was all ears. I'm currently at a point where I need to re-think my holiday-specific storage (new Halloween decorations, leftovers from our Election Party that would work for 4th of July, and Christmas+Chanukkah too, mean lots of stuff to store! Not to mention the gift wrap and such...). Enjoy! 

Best Products for Holiday Organization

Written by Jessica Johnson, a Marketing Director at Extra Space Storage. She is an avid goal setter, reads three books each month, and blogs about organization at Storage Blog.

The holidays have a lot of moving parts — gifts, cards, decorations, the list goes on — and it can be a challenge to keep it all straight. Every year I’m newly annoyed by the tangled tree lights, the unspooling gift wrap rolls, and the ornaments smashed due to my inadequate storage techniques.

This year I’ve decided it’s time to get serious about organizing for the holidays. After a little research, I’ve found some great products that I think will help. Check out these useful holiday organization and storage items.

For gift wrap

I was at first thinking of picking up a customized gift wrap center, a hanging gift wrap organizer, or at least a vertical storage bin for wrap rolls. But then I found the ultimate in wrapping organization: Container Store’s gift wrap work station.

The A-frame structure holds 12 rolls of paper, has a bunch of pockets and pouches for everything else you need, and features a special holder for rolling out paper at table height. It folds closed and hangs in a closet when you don’t need it. Check out the product video on the Container Store’s website. ed note: I totally freaked out about this a few months ago. Too bad it's so pricey! Want want want want want. For more Container Store Gift Wrap Awesome, check out this idea I pinned recently - this lady is smart and I want to copy her. Right now, I have an excellent little collection of plastic bins filled with bags, bows, ribbon, and such, and my falling-apart-at-the-seams, 3-year-old gift wrap organizer. It works. Ish.

For cards

The mantelpiece is a good place to put cards, but what if it’s full of other things or you don’t even have one? While you can hang cards on a string attached horizontally to the front edge of the mantle or to the wall, there are other ways to organize your holiday correspondence. For example, try out this special wall hanging or this tree-shaped table-top card holder to display your cards.

After the season’s over, some people just throw their holiday cards away, but if you’re someone who likes to hang onto such momentos, a greeting card storage box might be just the thing. ed note: I usually just throw them away. Am I a bad person?

For decorations

Christmas ornaments are some of the trickiest things to store safely, since they’re usually breakable and often oddly shaped. Luckily, there are a whole bunch of different products to help with this problem. I’m thinking of trying an ornament storage box, three-drawer ornament chest, or ornament storage tote with trays. ed note: I keep ornaments in various boxes and plastic bins, wrapped in tissue. I've been seriously considering something like these ornament boxes...which one to choose?

If boxes with dividers and drawers are too fussy for you — or you have decorations other than ornaments to store — maybe a big old holiday storage box would fit the bill. Other special items also have their own storage products, such as this artificial tree storage bag, this Christmas light reel, and this heavy-duty wreath and garland bag. ed note: I already have three plastic bins dedicated to Christmas and Chanukkah, but with this year's wreath creation, I'm going to have to get a wreath box/bag as well!

This baby needs protection!!

I’ve discovered that there are products for pretty much any holiday storage need you have. So do a little digging of your own to find just the right things for your own organizational priorities. Meanwhile I’ll be setting up my wrapping station and getting started.

Do you have tips for holiday organization? What products do you use to keep it all straight?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Party Time!

While I'm away, traveling for the holidays, I'll be posting a series of guest posts. I've selected these posts for their content, and have edited them as I see fit -- my edits will be made noted inline with the original content, and all photos are my own. Full disclosure: these posts are being sponsored by Extra Space Storage, whom I met at BlogHer earlier this year. 

This first post is about organizing a party...a subject near and dear to my heart. I LOVE throwing parties, and our not-so-new-anymore house is a perfect place to entertain (the architect, Leola Hall, designed it that way!), so we've been hosting groups both large and small for all sorts of gatherings lately. Hosting a party can be intimidating, so I thought it might be a nice idea to share some tips and tricks! Read on, my friends...

Found the booze!

Tips for Organizing A Party

Written by Jessica Johnson, a Marketing Director at Extra Space StorageShe is an avid goal setter, reads three books each month, and blogs about organization at Storage Blog.

While hanging at bars, clubs and restaurants is fun, having people over can be a more economical, and intimate, and frankly enjoyable way of getting together – especially during the holiday season. If you’re planning on having friends or family over for holidays, special occasions or just because you haven’t seen each other in a while, check out these tips for throwing a great party:

1. Think About Space

If you are planning to have a few friends over for cocktails, space considerations usually won’t be an issue. Larger gatherings, on the other hand, require some space planning. When deciding on how many people you can comfortably host, think beyond space and consider things like bathrooms and parking as well. ed note: Don't forget about seating! Unless you plan to have a seated dinner, move chairs away from the dining room/kitchen table, and out into the open! Create clusters of casual seating that guests can move around, and try to include a little bowl of munchies like nuts, popcorn, or chocolates that people can snack on without getting up to go to the main buffet/food area. If you're having a LOT of people, consider stashing chairs in the bedroom and making the party more of a Standing Room Only deal - you'll want a few places for folks to sit, but people will likely stand around anyway.

Seating area around the fireplace and piano - piano bench
does double duty, and the dessert table is within easy reach!

2. Set a Budget

Great parties don’t require a lot of money, but you’ll save yourself some stress by setting, and sticking to, a party budget. A budget helps you set a heme and will be your guide when shopping for food, drink and other party needs. ed note: yessiroonie. save money by planning ahead of time, and shopping for decorations at the 99 cents store!

3. Establish Your Guest List

Once you know how many people you want to invite to your party, start writing out your guest list. As you write, make sure that you have contact information for each person: People often change cell phone numbers and email addresses and some guests, particularly if they are older, may not check email often. Take the time to track down the best contact method for each guest. ed note: I like to use Evite, because it's very easy to send email reminders to select groups of your guests (ie: all those who have not yet responded) - Facebook Events are handy, but since not everyone uses Facebook, and because they don't have a way to email everyone on your guest list (posting a message to the group won't notify those who haven't accepted, or email those who've turned off notifications), it can be hard to communicate! Also, always assume that a few people who didn't RSVP will show up, and vice versa. 

4. Plan a Menu

With budget and guest list in hand, start figuring out what you are going to feed all these people. While you don’t have to buy a huge amount of food, it’s a good idea to make sure that your guests won’t leave your place hungry, unless you are simply having people over for drinks and snacks before going

These days, it’s important to consider people’s dietary needs and preferences, so be sure to ask people when you call or send an invitation to let you know about their restrictions. If a person has very specific dietary needs due to an allergy or sensitivity, ask them for specific (think brand names) food items that they can eat. You may also want to clear recipes with them.
Dessert table, filled with sweets. And yes,
that is a chocolate fountain.
I like to create a pretty well-filled table before
guests arrive. You never know who's going
to bring booze and who will bring a platter
of food, so I like to be prepared. Also, I have
a thing for setting up a lovely spread.
I love it. So much. 

5. Think Like a Guest

While getting your home clean and neat is a given before a party, you need to do a walk-through with a guest’s mentality:

Is it easy to find the bathrooms? (If not, put up some signs.) Are they stocked with extra toilet paper, hand towels and feminine hygiene products? Are these items in plain view so that guests can help themselves?

Will there be rooms that are “off limits” to guests because they contain valuables or pets? Do they have signs on their doors asking guests not to enter?

Do you plan to serve drinks all evening or will guests be helping themselves? If they will be helping themselves to drinks, do you have an accessible bar, table or counter that they can use?

ed note: We decided to do drinks in the kitchen this year, so we directed guests thataway, and had a sign posted to tell people where to find what (cocoa and cider on the stove, beer and juice in the fridge, wine and liquor in front of your face).

Cookies and dreidels within reach on the TV
stand! Make sure to let friends with children
know if you have potentially dangerous things
like candles (or cookies) out at kid-height
when they arrive so they can keep
an eye on sticky little fingers :)

6. Get Help

Hiring professional caterers can certainly reduce your workload, but it can also be very expensive. Less costly alternatives include picking up prepared food from a restaurant or grocery store or hiring a college student to help you with party preparation and clean up. ed note: Thank you a million times over to Reed and David, who shopped, cleaned, decorated, and cooked with us on the day of the party and before. Without your help, I would have drowned in my own ambitions. 

Do you enjoy throwing parties? Share your best tips in the comments section!

Happy Holidays!

From our house to yours :)

Blogging will be even more sporadic than usual for the next few weeks as I enjoy the holidays with our families. I've scheduled a few guest posts, and I hope you enjoy them. Here's to a happy holiday and a wonderful new year!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jacob's Creek Wine

This post is long overdue, but I'm crossing things off my list as the year winds down, and I say it's better late than never!

Back in October, I was invited to a wine tasting dinner hosted by Jacob's Creek Winery (from Australia), held at Prospect, a delightful restaurant in San Francisco that I had never visited. The evening was a delightful culinary treat, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to taste such awesome food and wine.

Le menu
Le wine expert!
The tasting was in honor of their new Moscato, which is a bit sweet but quite lovely. And look! Fun facts about Moscato!
  • There are 13 hip hop artists who have Moscato in their lyrics (Drake is such a fan, he had a Moscato wine sponsor his 25th birthday*)
  • Real Housewife of Atlanta Nene Leakes just launched her own Moscato brand
  • 30% of Moscato drinkers are Millenials (hey! That's my generation!)
  • It is said that Moscato was served at King Midas' funeral (Moscato is Italian for muscat, one of the world's oldest grapes)
  • The word Moscato was tweeted 510,034 times in 2011.
Random, but kinda fun, no?

*I could not name a Drake song, and I don't know when he turned 25, but I hear his a big deal or something? Thought y'all might appreciate the info.

It seems I was drinking a little too heartily to photograph the wine, so please accept this photo from the Jacob's Creek website, so at least you can see the label (and better recognize it in the store!). I tried the Pinot Noir, the Chardonnay and the Dry Riesling, and enjoyed them all. The Riesling in particular - typically I find Riesling too sweet, but this one was quite nice. As was the Chardonnay (again, not too sweet). We had some champagne too...oh, all of it was tasty! I am getting the feeling that I am not so much a wine expert and could perhaps benefit from a class in wine tasting. Perhaps.

The kind folks over at Jacob's Creek have put together a little food and wine pairing guide as well, for you to sample this holiday season. I haven't found it in my local stores yet, but I'm hoping I will soon!

 Food and wine pairings, courtesy of Jacob's Creek:

  • Appetizers·         
    • Chilli Prawns: Best served with Jacob's Creek Moscato Rosé  
  • Classic & Unique Holiday Side Dishes 
    • Baked Ham with Cranberry Curry Glaze: Best served with Jacob's Creek Reserve Pinot Noir·          
  • Dessert·          
    • Strawberry FlanBest served with Jacob's Creek Sparkling Moscato Rosé·  

Thank you so much to Jacob's Creek for hosting this event and allowing me to have such hearty "tastes" of your wine!

In the interest of full disclosure, I received wine to sample and review, and the meal at Prospect, but otherwise received no compensation for this post. I was not required to write a positive review, and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday Crafternoon

I'm torn between cleaning up from last night's awesome party and treating myself to a pedicure, so instead I'm catching up on some blogging while I catch up on Once Upon a Time (is anyone else sort of addicted to this show?).

I recently hosted a very special Holiday Crafternoon, and I do say it was one of our most productive yet!

Mandy turned a bicycle wheel into a wreath!
I made a wreath out of ornaments!
This baby is my pride and joy.
I made a village of ball jar snow globes!
Sprinkle ornament + double mirror ornament!
A junk food feast.
Not pictured: many, many more ornaments, fabric-covered letters (for a friend's nursery), a tshirt with iron on letters, and printed photos. So much success! Ladies, did I miss anything?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Giving Good

This holiday season, I've been approached by a lot of PR companies, hoping I'll include their clients' products in my holiday gift guide. Funny thing is, I've never actually put together a gift guide, and I feel sort of icky recommending products just because someone asked me to. I have a strict policy here at Kim's Kitchen Sink, to only recommend products I've tried and loved. If the brand is willing to provide product for a giveaway, all the better, but I never review something just because I'm getting it for free. Just so you know.

While I'm not putting together a gift guide this year, I do want to bring your attention to the World Vision Gift Catalog. When they emailed me, asking if I'd write about them, I wasn't just drawn in by their offer of product to review and give away. I was encouraged by their creative approach to giving, and the way they make it incredibly easy to give to those in need. How does it work? Watch this short video!

From World Vision:
The catalog has more than 250 items ranging in price from $16 to $39,000 that help children and families in need here in U.S. and around the world. Included in the catalog are several items that foodies on everyone’s gift list might enjoy such as Family Food Kitfarm animalsfruit treesdrought-resistant seeds and many more. 
In addition World Vision offers Maximum Impact Fund gifts that are used where resources are most desperately needed. With a financial contribution, the gift giver can select one of 36 items that can be given to a loved one and at the same time help a person in need. 

World Vision sent me this beautiful set of spoons (from the Maximum Impact Fund list), and is going to give one set away to one of you as well! To enter, visit the catalog and leave a comment on this post, telling me what you think of giving this way -- would you like to receive a gift that helps someone in need? My husband's uncle "gave" us all a cow (given to families in need) via Heifer International one year, and I thought it was really nice! If you were going to give someone a gift from World Vision, what would you give? 
You can check out World Vision on Pinterest and Facebook as well, if you're interested.

Please note that the contest ends on Friday December 7 Monday, December 10 at 11:59pm. Winner must be located in the U.S.  World Vision did not compensate me for this post, and though they did provide a free set of wooden serving spoons, my thoughts and opinions are my own.