Sunday, January 24, 2021

2020 Favorite Buys


2020 Favorite Things

Before January slips into February it is time to look back on favorite purchases from 2020.  While I always liked shopping online and sometimes have "Primenesia" ( a package arrives from Amazon and I can't remember what I ordered!), this year was the biggest year for online shopping - due to Covid 19.  I like nothing better than going out and "dumming around" - as my mother called it - to look for bargains.  Not a good idea this past year.  So, here are the things I purchased this year that I am so glad I did...I love them  and would buy again! Note:  I did not receive any compensation for any of these items ( don't even know how to do that!) - these are just things I bought and love.

First up is "bottle bright" - Purchased from Amazon, these little tablets clean the gunk out of your water bottles or travel mugs.  Our Contigo travel mugs were yucky inside and no matter what I did I could not get them clean.  I actually used  a half of a tablet in each mug or water bottle and that did a great job.  Just fill with warm water, drop in the bottle bright, let it sit for a bit, and pour out all the gunk that was hiding in your containers!

We already had an Echo Dot in our bedroom and LOVE it for controlling the lights, alarms, and I even programed in emergency numbers so I can just tell Alexa to call them - but it did not have the time read out on the old one.  You can't see it here, but this one has a digital time read out, and counts down the time if you use it as a timer.  And..I can see that our nightstand that we have had for over 40 years needs some TLC...

Kasa Smart Plugs - also purchased on Amazon - and these are great.  Work so easily with Alexa.  I had one Amazon plug and 3 plugs from Tan Tan.  All of a sudden, after months of working great, 2 of the Tan Tan plugs were not operating.  Alexa kept saying she could not find them!  I tried EVERYTHING to correct the issue and then gave up and purchased these.  They were beyond easy to set up and have been working fine.  I have our living room lights on these and can just tell Alexa to turn them on or off.  Also have one on my bedroom nightstand light so I don't have to fumble for a switch in the middle of the night.  It was great to put our Christmas Tree in a plug and just tell Alexa to turn on the I am looking for other places I can use them!

OK...never thought I would buy or need a Dyson fan/air purifier  - but when we downsized and moved into this apartment the beautiful kitchen did not have a fan vented to the outside.  I bought this and have it here in the dining area, across from the kitchen - and it works great.  First, it is a nice cooling breeze when cooking or having the over on in the summer.  Second, it really does purify the air...takes all cooking smells away perfectly.  I like that it has a HEPA filter - and I downloaded the DYSON app and can monitor the air quality in our home.  I set it to VERY SENSITIVE and  AUTO MODE, so it automatically turns on when it senses something in the air.  I purchased it as a TSV on QVC at a good price and would recommend it highly.

Vacuum two previous homes we had central vac systems.  I like them...but for quick clean ups it was a pain to get that long hose out.  Last house we chose NOT to install central vac and got a great Simplicity Cannister Vacuum...which worked great, but was a pain to carry up and down the stairs...and to change heads from hardwood to carpet.  So, when we moved to our new place I purchased a Shark that could go from hardwood to carpet without changing anything.  The suctions was amazing...the upright unit was SO HEAVY!  I was considering buying another Simplicity since now we were all on one floor when I saw this Dyson V8 Animal on HSN.  I just LOVE it!  No cords, great pick up, goes from hardwood to carpet without me having to do anything.  It hangs on a charging station right inside the laundry room door and is perfect for a quick sweep of the kitchen after dinner - as well as deep, regular cleaning.  I am amazed by how much it picks up.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it !

A new hairdryer!  I don't need an expensive short, fine hair dries in less than two minutes.  But my old dryer did not have enough setting and was too hot...

Found this one for a low price at Ross and love that I can have cooler air with lots of works great and I love it.  It's by Remington and is an ionic it smooths your hair while you dry.

Had several of these "flickering" candles and they were expensive, and did not have remotes.  Everytime I wanted it on I had to pick the candle up - and we light it each night for dinner - and then I could never get the candle to sit straight the first time.  Bought this one for a little over 10 bucks on Amazon, with a remote, and it works great!

Replaced the standard faucet in the laundry room sink with this high, arched one that has a sprayer and a power spray.  Once again, found on Amazon for a ridiculous price of under 20 bucks, and it is great for cleaning out large items and filling buckets.

If you have visited Our New Vista before, you know I cannot throw out the carcass from a Costco chicken...I can hear my mother whispering in my ear that it would make good soup and be a sin to throw it out - You can read my chicken soup recipe here -
The problem was that I often had trouble sifting out the little bones from the broth.  Then I found these...I first found them in a kitchen shop near me but then found at a much better price on Amazon.  You can use for chicken soup, or seafood so you don't get bones or shells in the broth, or for veggie broth if you want the flavor and not the pieces of vegetables.  

Another 20 dollar life changing gadget!  Our shower is huge and walk in with no door...and I love the hand held adjustable shower that came with the shower, but thought it would be more spa like with another shower head ( we purchased this unit partially finished, if from scratch I would have added a rainshower head in the ceiling, but we loved the place so we grabbed it ( last one in the building) and are making improvements as we go along.  This was simple...just put the divider on the shower pipe and add another shower head.  Bliss! 

Well, that's it - some things I purchased this year that were well worth the money and I enjoy using almost daily.  What did you buy this year that you are so happy you did?  I would love to hear about your purchases and ideas.  Please leave a comment below - it would make my day to hear from you.  Until then, thanks for visiting Our New Vista.  Enjoy the remainder of January...and keep on shopping!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Organized Pantry

Organized Pantry 

January is a great time to reflect on the past year - and to get organized for the year ahead.  Since I am at home and still hiding from Covid, I have been enjoying organizing and purging my cupboards and closets.  It is a never ending process.  

Here is the BEFORE pantry....not bad.  I am so glad we chose the pull out shelves when we designed the kitchen, and I tried to keep "like things together" on the labeled shelves.  But things still go messy and I found myself buying items I already it was time for a clean up!

First thing I did was empty out each shelf - then vacuum up any crumbs and wipe down each shelf. And, while I am not one of those people who obey "best by dates" on food items, I did have a few very old things hiding in the back of the pantry that were discarded.

The upper shelves do not have pull 5 feet tall I can only reach the front of the top shelf.   So, using the step stool I put Items that are "extras" on the very top shelf.  I had some bins from Dollar Tree and grouped things together.  All the extra tea bags ( I vowed not to buy ANY more tea until we use what we have!) are in a bin, as well as the colored sugar and toppings for cakes and cookies.  I don't use them often, so that is a good place for them.

The nuts and sesame sticks we use for evening snacks, and my husband can easily reach them...

I also put extra baking supplies up here as well...

And cleaned up the turntable.  Behind the turntable is a stacked shelf that holds extra spices and other little things...

I put everything I could in clear containers...and then labeled them.  I just love my label maker!

Then I turned the shelf risers that I had and put them horizontally at the back of the pull out shelf, then stacked like items together so I no longer will come home from the grocery store with more chick peas than we can eat...

I had two little metal baskets ( again, from Dollar Tree) and they were perfect to hold dried beans.

Did the same on the next shelf and used another metal basket to hold tuna and seasoning packs...

The bottom shelf holds produce, my "good apron", and my mother's "grabber".  I think of her when I use it!

I put a hook on the door for my "everyday apron".   I love wearing an apron...this one I made out of denim over 30 years ago.  It is starting to show wear so I may need to make a new one...for the next 30 years!
Having the pantry organized has really been a big help...I can find things much more easily and see what we need items we need to add to our grocery list.  I still drool over homes with big, walk in pantry areas - but since we downsized this is working out great.  We do have a large laundry room just around the corner that acts as an "over flow" pantry for bigger items.  Watch for a post on that in the future!  
Thank you so much for stopping by Our New Vista today...please leave a comment in the area below and let me know about your pantry organizing ideas.  I would like to learn how you organize, and how you KEEP it organized.  I vow, like always, that I will keep this area neat and organized.  Now...onto my baking drawer....another day of organizing.  Thanks again for stopping by - wishing everyone good health and a vaccine very soon!

Monday, January 4, 2021

Snow Decor & New Year's Dinner


Snow Decor & New Year's Dinner

Goodbye 2020...and here's hoping 2021 is a better year for all of us!  Very happy to see the year end.  I was a bit more motivated to put away all the Christmas decorations so the New Year could begin.   I like to decorate in a winter/snow fashion for January - the Snowbuddies pictured above is usually on our Powder Room door, but since we are having no guests who would see it I decided to put it on the door to our patio where I can see it every day.
A simple piece for our coffee table....this was an old brass tray I sprayed with silver hammered spray paint.   The balls were purchased several years ago at K-Mart after Christmas for a bargain price.  I like the blue and silver sparkly balls, and the white balls have a snowflake design on them that I think says "winter"!

I love the way this cozy reading nook turned out...the snowflake pillow was purchased last year at Hobby Lobby after Christmas...the snowman scattered throughout the house I have had for years.   I love rescuing my green plants from the windowsill in the guest room and returning them to their proper place.  
Found this little silver bird at Kohl's a few years ago....I move him around each year.
Dining room table gets the same basic design...and I just love the clean look of the blue and silver after the holidays.  Don't get me wrong...I love decorating for Christmas, but by New Year's Eve I am ready to see it go back into storage!
A few more decorations scattered around the apartment...

Picked the snowman plate up at the Yankee Candle store...and the winter dessert plates at a steal at Hobby Lobby.  So wishing for a time when we can have company and serve some goodies on those cute plates.
Snowman wreath is very old...when we lived in another home several years ago the neighbors would joke that it would always snow when I took down the Christmas wreath and put this snowman on the door.
Hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday celebration.  Do you have any traditions for New Year's Day ?  Living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania it seems everyone here has Pork and Sauerkraut to ensure good luck for the New Year.   When I was a child our entire family came to our home for New Year's dinner and my mom would always make Slovak Halupki...or stuffed cabbage rolls.   She used pork and beef and with cabbage as a substitute for the kraut (thought I think she layered some sauerkraut in the pan, too) it fits the bill for a New Year's Dinner. This dish is pretty easy to make...just takes some time.   I don't have my mom's recipe, so this is taken from several recipes I found online...
Halupki - Cabbage Rolls

1 large head of cabbage
1 lb. of ground beef ( I used very lean beef)
1 lb. of ground pork
1 cup rice...I used brown rice
3 cans of tomato soup
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbls. minced onions

Remove the core from a head of cabbage...
Drop into boiling water and peel off the leaves as they come loose..
Drain the leaves and let them cool ...

The packages of meat I found were more than one pound each, so I took some been and made patties to freeze for burgers...

I put everything in my big mixer...
Added the onion, rice, eggs, one can of the soup, and a squeeze of ketchup...
Cut the large vein out of the end of each piece of cabbage,
Then take a small amount of the meat mixture and place it on the end of the leaf of cabbage.  I apologize...I got so caught up in rolling them I forgot to take a photo of that process.  Place the meat mixture on the bottom end of the leaf, fold in the sides, and roll up...
Then lay the rolls seam side down in a large baking dish ( I used a blue enamel roaster that I got the first year we were it's vintage!) that has been sprayed with non stick cooking spray.
Chop up the smaller leaves and remaining cabbage into small pieces...
Place the cabbage pieces on top of the rolls - here is where I remember my mom putting sauerkraut, as well as layering some under the rolls.   I did not do that, but may try it next time.
Pour the remaining two cans of tomato soup over all, pour 2/3 a can of water over all, and drizzle with ketchup.  
Cover tightly with foil - or a lid to a roaster - and bake for 1 and 1/2 hours at 350 degrees until the temp of the rolls is at least 165 degrees.   You can also make these ahead of time and refrigerate until you want to put them in the oven, but then add more oven time.
And then enjoy !  These turned out SO good and reminded us of our childhood.  My mom always served them with mashed potatoes, peas, and applesauce.

While they were cooking I set the table for New Year's Dinner...
And then we sat down to a wonderful dinner.  We like to spoon some of the sauce over the mashed potatoes.   They turned out great...and as with all tomato kind of dishes, the leftovers tasted even better.
This recipe made about 24 rolls....WAY to much for us - we ate 2 .  So...
I placed 4 in freezer safe dishes for a later dinner, and I took a container to our neighbors who are of Eastern European heritage and always give us a ring of their homemade kielbassa...I knew they would enjoy them!
My mom would always make lemon meringue pie for was such a nice treat after all the Christmas cookies.  But, we are trying to eat healthy and if we had an entire pie, we would eat it.  So I made a lemon pudding cheese pie and was able to freeze that so we can enjoy it when we enjoy the leftover halpuki.   Now that I have made these again I think they will be a regular rotation on our menu.  So good !
Once the Christmas decorations were stored away we blessed our home for Epiphany. As a small child I remember the parish priest would come to bless our house for the New Year.  We keep the tradition by saying a prayer, sprinkling the rooms with holy water, and praying that everyone who comes into our home will find it a place of peace, love, and blessing.  Then we take chalk and mark the year, and the initials of the Three Kings ( Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior) over the front door to guard our coming and going.  Another old tradition that we love!
Do you eat any special foods to celebrate the New Year ?   How about your tree and holiday decorations - how long to you keep them out?  Please let me know what you think in the comments below, and thank you for stopping by Our New Vista today!  Wishing you peace, health, and happiness in 2021!!!

Trip !

  TRIP !!! And not the trip we were looking forward to...out for a walk and waiting for the crosswalk to say WALK.  A tractor trailer turned...