Top 5 Most Useful Organizational Kitchen Tools

Warm weather in a new house sure makes a person's to-do list long! I've got the itch to fill empty spaces, paint walls, and organize new rooms. While I don't really think of myself as an "organized person" per-say, I will admit that my kitchen is usually my one organized space--most every cabinet has a designated role and organizational system in place. With a new house, however, comes new systems. I've come up with my top five favorite useful kitchen items I've collected to help keep sanity in a kitchen with limited drawer space.

5. Black Organizers

SKUBB from Ikea

Black (to match my cabinetry), fabric for a softer touch, and multi-sized; I recently purchased this set for bedroom organization, and upon finding them too small for most of the things I wanted to use them for, I found they made perfect wranglers for little items in my pantry. My favorite things to store in them are water bottle lids, open sugar bags, and canning lids, but the possibilities are pretty endless. This set was $8 for a pack of 6, and they are collapsable for when you're in between uses.

4. Bamboo Drawer Organizer

Oceanstar Version from Bed Bath & Beyond
I still remember moving into our first place in Portland, looking at my rental drawers and thinking--there's no way my organizer is going to fit in here...and then my handy brother-in-law walked by with a box, saw my predicament, and happily assisted in "separating" the adjustable ends from my organizer to help it fit in my drawer. In short, we technically broke it. I've had this organizer going on 4 years now and I still love it. This one is by no means the end-all-be-all of organizers either, but a nice, adjustable drawer organizer will help things find their place immediately. This one was about $25 when we bought it and is now going for $30 on BBB's site.

3. Mesh Bins

Elfa's Mesh Bins from The Container Store

Hands down my favorite produce storage at the moment. For my softer fruits, I line the bottom of the bin with paper bags to keep them from imparting their mesh pattern. What I love most about these bins is that they come in many different sizes and they nest inside one another well when not in use. I have an assortment of sizes from the days when we had floor to ceiling, deep shelved closets in our first place. They've held everything from crafting supplies, to dish towels, to kitties (Bonsai was especially fond of hiding in the wrapping paper bin that the top of said closets). The bins range from $15-$30 a piece and come in white and metal coloring.

2. Spice Jars

DROPPAR from Ikea
I hate screw on spice lids. What I have come to abhor more are the spice containers I recently ditched from The Container Store, which, after years of heating and cooling, had stuck and warped. Moreover, they enjoyed exploding spices like turmeric all over my counter tops when I attempted to open for measurement purposes. These little pretties above from Ikea brought a tear of happiness to my eye. Beautiful and easy to open, these glass spice jars come in packs of two at little more than $1.50 per jar. Now I just need to decide how I will label them (for now I stick with good ol' masking tape and sharpie).

1. Sorting Bins

Large Tapered Basket from Target

Gorgeous and so useful! I keep two similar handled bins (also from Target) under my open shelving at the back of the house for quick sorting of glass and other recyclables. I had purchased one for paper goods, then was gifted the second from a dear friend for our glass bottles! I love these sorts of bins because they are great additions (whether they are graphic like this one or bright colors like mine) and you can easily hose or wipe them out if they get a touch dirty. The handles are especially nice when you take them out to the curb. The above basket is $15 from Target and comes in black in addition to this white and black pattern.

What systems have you incorporated in your kitchen or home to make things more interesting, useful or beautiful? I would love to hear about it!

Three Avocados: Coffee For A Cause {Sponsored}

Three Avocados is a nonprofit coffee company. I was sent free coffee from Three Avocados. Three Avocados has given me 2 free bags of coffee, and a free bag to giveaway to one of you (my readers) in exchange for talking about Three Avocados in this blog post.

It's always fun to play a part in something bigger. I recently received coffee from Three Avocados, a non-profit organization that sells coffee, donating 100% of the proceeds to projects to help give water to families in Africa. You might be thinking, "Avocados....equal coffee?" Let me explain...

Three Avocados: The Story

Three Avocados started with a group's trip to a small Ugandan village. They attended a church service in the village and watched as a poor widow gave up her food (in this case, three avocados) into the offering basket, which went to feed others in need. The group visiting was so taken aback by her selflessness and generosity that they decided to name their nonprofit organization in her honor. 100% of the net proceeds from sales through help purchase fresh water and education for those in need. Four bags of coffee give one person water for LIFE. Over 20,000 lives have been impacted by the organization since its inception in 2010. 

The Coffee

Three Avocados' coffee is 100% single origin Arabica and comes from Mt. Elgon in Uganda in addition to Nicaragua, grown high in the mountains above Matagalpa (see the maps below).

The beans are hand picked, sun dried, and wet processed. The Ugandan coffee is grown in is known for a bolder taste and bittersweet chocolate, a flavor that definitely has resonated in the cups I've had since its arrival into my kitchen. The Nicaraguan coffee is low in acidity with a fruity tones. You can get the coffee both whole bean and pre ground, and come in 12 oz packages for $12 plus $3 shipping.

The thing I like best about this company's online shop is the monthly subscription offering. You save a dollar each month and you can cancel the subscription any time, and after four bags purchased, you've officially given someone drinking water FOR LIFE. Now's your chance to try out the coffee for yourself! I'm giving away a bag for you to try!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to use my code to get 10% off all your orders: thespicybeeTA

Portland Bloggers Photography Recap

I'm not exactly sure where time goes--but I wanted to share my recap from the May event with Portland Bloggers! If you would like to learn more about the organization, check out the site or perhaps join us at the Blogger Picnic Saturday, July 26th at Westmoreland Park from 11am-2pm--just look for our colorful balloons!

Portland Bloggers does a photography workshop each year--this year was time for another go at it--so attendees were given the opportunity to break out into two smaller, specialized groups and learn about whatever facet they needed help in, in regards to portrait or product photography. The event space was provided by Favery and Elli and was beautifully prepared  by their staff featuring flowers from Swoon Floral Design and chairs from Classic Vintage Rentals. Stationary pictured is from Elli, a company that helps brides style a uniquely personal wedding by offering a full suite of customizable products.

The owner of Favery (a private-sale site that brings members jewelry at member-only prices) introducing her team and the sponsors in the space.
Image via Portland Bloggers -- From Left: Linnea, Margaret, Aubrie.

The outdoor group was led by an incredibly skilled portrait photographer, Margaret of Margaret Jacobson Photography. She worked on showing fellow photographers how to better coax their subjects out of the nervousness and capture shots that really feature the subject's personality. The indoor group was led by Linnea of Linnea Paulina Photography and Aubrie of Capturing Grace Photography--two photogs that have both a strong family/wedding portfolio as well as experience in the food world! Major discussions included light trouble shooting and set up with emphasis on food photography.

via TheSpicyBee Instagram. Linnea on left, Aubrie on right.
Favery set out a variety of jewelry pieces that bloggers were able to use as props while they learned about how to improve their people photography. Elli created small vignettes utilizing their printed products for bloggers to practice their close up photography. Florals are the work of Swoon Floral Design and chairs are from Classic Vintage Rentals.

At the end of the event, there were some pretty fun giveaways to be had. All in all, a really great event. Here were my biggest takeaways:

  • Don't get down on yourself if you don't have top of the line equipment--learn to utilize what you have. Do some research and get your hands on a good lens for your camera. Not sure where to start? Hit up a local camera shop and see if you can rent a lens for a weekend! It's a great excuse for an adventure out to test the lens and its capabilities. Talk to others that shoot the same things as you and see what their biggest go-to item is--don't be afraid to talk to others about what's working for them! Most are happy to oblige.
  • Remember light is your best friend, but it's still tricky. Play with different kinds of light and settings on your camera and find one that you like best. Consider getting light bouncers and other portable and/or affordable items to reflect light back on to your subject evenly. Even a white poster board or something foil-backed will help get you started.
  • When shooting food, note that it doesn't have to be perfect. Sometimes the most interesting subject is an apple with a bite taken out of it, or a messy cookie. Use the textures to your advantage and notice how it adds to your photos.
  • Get creative with your backdrops. Remember that sometimes, your floor could create an interesting background--or even the ground outside! Take mental notes of brick walls that catch your attention or large, well-maintained hedges. Sometimes the most unexpected neighborhood could reveal the perfect spot to do a series of shots. 
  • Be thoughtful with your camera when traveling. Remember that it has value and could be stolen. Avoid wearing the branded strap when traveling abroad. Bring a second memory stick, or be able to download your images to a secondary storage piece so that if your camera does get damaged or stolen, you still have your pictures! Consider putting some electrical tape across the side, something that shows wear, thus making it less attractive to a thief, and never ever leave it in your car!
What's the most helpful thing you've learned about photography so far?

How Opposites Attract

I'm not really sure when I started noticing it--It had to have been a couple years in to the relationship--possibly even after we had been married. No matter how similar we were, or how many times we felt like we knew what the other was thinking...something was different.

Then one morning at breakfast, it hit me. We're opposites.

I kind of want to frame this and put it in our that weird? I call it, Definition of 'Clean Plate'.
This photo was not staged. When I showed it to friends, many thought the spoon was mine and the fork his--"Why is that?" I wondered.

To whom do you think each bowl belongs? Take a guess and find out after the jump...

Make at Home: Gluten-Free Flour

Gluten-free always seems like it's missing...something, doesn't it? What I mean is, every time  I make a recipe with a gluten-free flour, the thing I make turns out a little off. It's either too runny or too dry, too quick to cook or falling flat. I had all-but-given-up on flour for the GF, until I tried a recipe found by my sister-in-law.

Before we embark on the magical journey that is GF flour--you need to know that the cheapest way of going about making this is to be able to buy your flours in bulk. I enjoy getting mine from Bob's Red Mill store in Milwaukie, OR. The other note is--do not look at the below picture and be like, "oh that's what it's supposed to look like!" and not mix the ingredients. It's meant to be well blended; I simply worked to make it like one of those silly sand-in-a-jar-thingys.

(1 batch of GF flour pictured).
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