Thursday, August 28, 2014

Plan a Labor Day Bike Picnic

"Ross Eurosport and a Batavus" by Jason McDowell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Labor Day may be the unofficial end of summer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make the most of the day off! Your apartment is located close to a lot of fantastic trails and outdoor areas, so why not plan your traditional Labor Day picnic in a scenic spot, and enjoy the exercise and weather on the way there? The Kitchn offers these useful tips for an enjoyable afternoon bike picnic:

Picnic Food Tips
1. Pick sturdy foods. The key to a good bike picnic is bringing packable foods that can survive a bumpy journey. For example, fragile lemon tarts aren't quite as bike-friendly as a dense chocolate cake.

2. Go with variety. As with any outdoor eating menu, I think smaller is better, and having an assortment of small dishes makes the food easier to pack as well as more entertaining to eat.

3. Think versatility. An assortment of good cheese and a loaf of bread will always go far. Throw in some fresh basil and an avocado and you've got yourself the fixings for a lovely picnic sandwich. I also love bring along easy-to-pack things like olive tapenade, as it works well as a spread or as a dip for vegetables.

4. Protect fragile purchases. For picnics that are based off of market foods - think a bunch of fresh fruit and vegetables - just be sure to take a few reusable containers with you to the market. That way, your purchases are easily transportable and won't get crushed and bruised during your journey.

Don't Forget Drinks
You can't have a good picnic without something fun to drink now can you? Beer and wine are easy, just make sure you have an opener with you. If you're in the mood for cocktails, the easiest is to prepare a mixer at home, which you can bring along in a bottle and finish making your drinks on site.

For colder weather rides and meals, invest in a good thermos. That way, you can fill it with whatever you like: coffee, hot chocolate, or maybe even apple cider with a little bourbon?

Essential Bike Picnic Tools
The first essential thing to remember about a picnic à vélo is that you want to be packing things that are unbreakable. That means investing in good utensils and dishes that are lightweight and reusable but won't get crushed when you pack them.

My personal cycle picnic pack includes:
  • Swiss Army knife
  • reusable cups
  • reusable silverware
  • something to eat out of
  • tea towel for use as a small tablecloth
  • lightweight wooden cheeseboard, perfect for serving and cutting on
  • if room allows, a blanket or sheet is always a worthwhile item to bring along
Bicycle picnics are the perfect blend of exercise, fresh air, relaxation, and simple but good food. These tips will make planning and packing for your next picnic ride a snap!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Setting Up a User-Friendly Kitchen

Photo courtesy Erika Tracy
When you first move into a new apartment, one of the first things that makes you feel at home is to preparing a meal. In order to do this, you need to set up your kitchen first. How can you do so in a way that is conducive to cooking? Apartment Therapy offers these tips for putting together a ready-to-use kitchen.

1. Organize. Arrange the pantry, tools, dishware in a way that works for you. Use containers for pantry staples that are appealing to you even if your kitchen isn't.

2. Deep clean. Before loading the cabinets with your belongings, give their interiors a good scrubbing. Cabinet exteriors are often wiped down but the inside might be overlooked. Clean the floors (even under appliances) and the appliances themselves. By deep-cleaning the kitchen when you're setting up home, you'll make it a truly fresh start.

3. Accessorize. See those nice woven baskets in the photo above? They aren't expensive or hard to come by, but they contribute to making that kitchen something special. Same with the vintage rug and curtains. Pick out storage and decor accessories that will help make your kitchen lovely even if the bones aren't what you would choose given a blank slate.

4. Use it. Eating out every night and leaving your kitchen unused isn't going to make it feel like a loved space. Instead, put it to use! Choose quality ingredients and cook meals with care at home and you'll see that even just doing that can make a kitchen feel better.

5. Go freestanding. If lack of storage or counter space is what's holding your kitchen back, make it lovely by repurposing a freestanding piece of furniture. Both kitchens pictured above are fine examples of this move. Even the tiniest of kitchens probably has someplace you can work this in, even if it's just a small wall-mounted shelf.

What’s something you must to have in your kitchen before you’re ready to cook in it?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Let It Go and Get Organized

"Organized" by Uwe Hermann is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
It’s no one’s goal to live in a dirty, cluttered apartment. In a smaller space, belongings tend to pile up faster and take up room more quickly. So what is it that keeps us from just keeping things organized in the first place? Apartment Therapy outlines these common obstacles to staying organized.

1. You don't immediately toss unimportant stuff
Put a recycling bin next to your mail box and a shredder next to your door. The moment you get your mail, toss what you don't need, shred personal info-marked things you don't need and then immediately file what you need to file. Don't put things in a basket to look at later. If you want to look at it later — just put it where it's supposed to be anyway, and go look at it later there.

2. You emotionally hold on to stuff you know you don't need
This is always a tough one, since objects can have memories attached to them. But we're not talking about that stuff. We're talking about the hiking boots you've never worn once that you keep hanging on to because you might climb Everest one day. We're talking about the "perfectly good" things you bought for a good reason but have never used once.When it comes to keeping organized, having more stuff than you need to organize is just silly. Less stuff, less things that will need organizing.

3. You've convinced yourself you don't have enough room, and so have given up hope
Hey we get it. Having a tiny home is tough on staying organized, especially when you lack obvious storage. But don't give up and give in. Kick that defeatist attitude to the curb! Pay attention to the first two tips in this post for sure. But then also make sure you're maximizing the storage you do have. Got three inches under your bed? Use them! Have only one hanging rod in your closet? Come on — fit more in there! Don't have any shelves above your doors or up high? You've got to be kidding me. If you don't have room for the things you legitimately need, make room. But don't make extra storage for future stuff, as you'll definitely find something to fill it up with.

4. You haven't given yourself the right tools
The trick here is really giving yourself the right organizing tools that work for you. Spend a week or more really looking at your home and where the clutter collects. Are you someone who tosses clothes around your room when trying on outfits and never re-hangs them up? Either switch to drawers or plan your outfits ahead of time and place an over-the-door hanger in the room just for that purpose. Are you a chronic junk drawer creator? Fill it with dividers so you're forced to stick to a system. You don't have to get fancy and drop a ton of money at the Container Store, but do invest in the tools you'll need if they'll help you.

5. Your filing system is too complicated and so you never stick with it for long
That's really awesome that you spent that weekend alphabetizing and labeling and whatever else-ing until your home was the absolute pinnacle of organization — for like a day. But if something is too complicated — or too hard to get to — you won't stick with it. And sometimes being too specific with labels can work against you — when you come across something that doesn't perfectly fit into a label you end up not putting it away and a pile gets started.And piles multiply faster than tribbles.

6. You're not asking for help when you need it or setting boundaries
There's no shame in asking for organizing help from a friend if you need it. But you also need to learn to ask for help with the people you live with — work with them on showing them the organizational methods you've put into place and tell them it's important they follow them, too.

What are some tips you have on keeping your apartment organized? Share them with us!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Spare Bedroom Solutions

Terms of use: These works are licensed under a Creative Commons 2.0 Generic
License. They are attributed to Maegan Tintari (L) and kori monster (R).
If you find yourself with a spare room, maybe your roommate just moved out or you’ve upgraded to a 2 BR apartment, it can be tricky to figure out just what you should do with that space. Depending on your interests, you can customize that space to be completely you! Do yoga a lot? Make it a meditation room! Here are some ideas from Apartment Guide to inspire you!

1. Get Crafty
If you love to spend your down time getting creative, an extra bedroom is the perfect place to put your hobby to good use. A sewing machine table, a drafting table for drawing or scrapbooking, or a canvas for your latest painting could be the centerpiece of your spare room. And with all that space, you’ll have plenty of room for art supply storage.

If you’re just looking for something new and crafty to try, check out our Pinterest board: DIY Inspiration for Your Apartment!

2. Create a Workspace
If you work from home, it’s nice to have a dedicated workspace that you can leave at the end of each day. A spare bedroom is the perfect place for a home office or, if you’re a student, a studying nook. Even if you’re hunting for a job, having a special space that’s organized just the way you like it, with all your necessities within easy reach, will make the process go a lot more smoothly.

3. Give Your Pets Their Own Playroom
If you’ve got a dog that loves his toys, or a cat that just wants to be left alone, your spare bedroom is a good place to create a pet paradise. If you’re the type to buy your pet a lot of toys to chew on or pillows to lie on, this is a good way to get that stuff out of your living space and tucked away for when guests come over.

"yoga" by Natalie Lucier is licensed under CC BY 2.0

4. Get Fit
If you like to work out in the privacy of your own home, it can be hard to do it in your living room – maybe your coffee table always needs to be moved out of the way, or you’re always dodging furniture. Using a spare bedroom as your workout room will give you all the space you need to get in shape, without having to worry about knocking into stuff.

5. Turn It Into a Guest Room
A spare bedroom that’s used as a bedroom … crazy, right? A nice bed, some curtains and some creative wall decorations can make your extra room a cozy space for your guests. Heck, you might even curl up in there yourself sometimes.

How have you transformed the spare bedroom in your apartment? Share your pictures and ideas with us!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Farmer’s Market Survival Guide

Photo courtesy Rhett Maxwell
If you have never been to a farmer’s market before, prepare yourself for a lot of amazing fresh produce and baked goods to choose from. While it’s a benefit to have possibilities, it can also be a little overwhelming. With some help from Apartment Therapy, you’ll be ready to grab your roommate and re-usable bags and hit the market in no time!

1. Come prepared. Bring bags, small bills, sunscreen, comfortable shoes and a list. I have a bad habit of not writing out what I need to get and leaving with popcorn, pastries, candied nuts and oh-so-conveniently leaving out the veggies. Preparing a plan helps keep you on track.

2. Be flexible. Farmers markets carry only what is locally in season and, depending on harvest, this can change from week to week. Being flexible and willing to make substitutions ensures that you will always have produce at its prime.

3. Walk a lap. Before you start shopping walk the length of the market to asses who has the freshest produce and the best prices, then work your way backwards through the vendors. This insures that you get the most bang for your buck.

4. Ask about deals. Some vendors offer discounts if you buy certain quantities of things or discount overripe fruit and unsold items at the end of the day.

5. Realize it's not a one-stop shop. While you can often find a range of products (eggs, cheese, olives ,etc.), assessing what you'll need to pick up elsewhere to supplement your market finds can help you fit your fresh produce into some delicious recipes, instead of letting it languish in the fridge.

6. Research new ingredients. Websites like our own Kitchn and apps like Epicurious are great for figuring out how to utilize new-to-you ingredients like dandelion greens and squash blossoms. You might just discover a new favorite dish.

What is your favorite farmer’s market? What are some herbs, fruits or veggies you must buy when you’re there?
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