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Sophisticated Utility - Exploring purposeful living with appreciation and intention.

Kitchen Refresh - New Range and Vent Hood!

As the Kitchen Refresh continues it's march forward, it was a VERY exciting day when the new range and vent hood were scheduled to be installed.  We are delighted with our choice as it makes this corner of the kitchen so fresh and cohesive with the rest of the room.

We had an older almond colored range and hood vent that needed updating.  The oven was heating up slower and slower and the vent hood fan did not seem to be as strong as it once may have been despite scrubbing the screens.

As we began removing the older units, I knew I would have to remedy a strange "patch" job on the right side wall corner between the range and vent hood.  We had become accustomed  to a strange piece of molding that we figured was used to hide a paneling seam.  With the painting and priming underway, this small trim piece had to be taken down and properly fixed.

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I removed the trim piece and discovered a 1/4" gap that was far to big for just joint compound.  To solve this issue, 2" pre-scored drywall corner seam strips which worked perfectly.  I spread a light layer of joint compound on either side of the gap and carefully pressed the drywall tape into the corner.  Once it was smoothed out, I spread a top layer of joint compound over that to seal and hide the paper edges.

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When the joint compound dried, I sanded, primed, and painted the corner which resulted in a smooth finish.  With the stove removed, I was able to clean the area and fully prepare the walls for the new appliances.

The following day we received the call that the new range and vent were going to be installed!

We chose to purchase our range and vent from a local dealer and arranged all of the install details through them.  Mike and I both appreciate the customer service of our local appliance dealer and we feel good supporting small business in our community.

They began the install with the stainless hood vent and tested the fan.  The completely enclosed LED lights made the whole area sparkle.  I picked out this model especially for the completely enclosed vent which has two large screens that can simply be removed and popped into the dishwasher as needed.  What a difference from the former model! 

Next up, the range was brought in and slid in place.  Everything fit beautifully and as the packaging and tape wraps came off, I found myself absolutely delighted!! 

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The Maytag model we chose has four burner areas that include a "power element" for rapid high heat and a 5th burner that acts as a warmer.  I have to also add that the oven handle makes me smile....looks so commercial cool to me!  I call the stove top "Mike's real estate" as that is where he cooks.  My real estate is the huge three rack oven with both Bake and Convection features!!

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I love the look of both black and stainless together which works perfectly with the other black appliances.  I also appreciate the huge oven window which is amazing.  The oven has a smooth bottom (no coil heating element) which is new to me and so appreciated.  I may be years behind with these "new to me" features but they excite me nonetheless.  Baking is going to be incredible and Mike is going to love his stove top options!

I am now at the point in the Kitchen Refresh where the final coat of paint is going on the windows, beams, and soffit areas.  There is also a small area under the hood vent that needs touch up from where the old model was removed.  We also purchased new translucent light panels for the ceiling and Mike is going to replace the outlets from off-white to white before the new white switch plate covers are re-installed.  All of these small updates will make for a grand improvement!  

We are seeing the end of this project with the hard work of cleaning, organizing and painting coming to a close.  Now it's time for the fun and unexpected decor elements that will make this kitchen truly "ours" in look and feel.

Stay tuned for what's next!

Joan

Kitchen Refresh - Organizing, Demo, and Primer-Primer-Primer!!

ORGANIZATION

With the Kitchen Refresh fully underway, two of my main goals are the elimination of clutter and clear clean countertops.  As mentioned in my previous post, Mike and I combined households about 5 years ago and as middle-aged adults, we both had years of kitchen accumulation.

The first step was to completely empty each cupboard, drawer, and counter area.  Scrub them clean, top to bottom.  Items were then sorted, duplicates removed, and only those we needed (and USED) were kept.  Once the inventory was fully accounted for and deemed keep worthy, the process of finding a proper home for each collection began.

I wanted to restock the kitchen into "zones".  My zones would contain all things baking and his zones, all things cooking.  Knowing the cupboards and areas in the kitchen that he and I visit regularly for our respective kitchen tasks, I discovered more cabinet and drawer space than I thought existed with this reorganizing process!

His spice cupboard in a previous life was a mass quantity of various sized jars and little containers.  We originally put these containers on two small lazy susan holders and this did not end up working very well.  Spices were lost in the back, tipped over in the middle, and just a headache.

It was during the cupboard cleaning that I found these metal adjustable risers built for this specific purpose.  I removed the lazy susans, sorted and purged the spices, and adjusted the risers for the full width of the cupboard.

Much much much BETTER!.....

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All of the spices are in plain sight, easy to grab, and have a nice organized home!

I plan to do something similar the cabinet next to this one for all of my baking supplies and will show you how that comes together in future post.

The next issue of countertop real estate hogging came from two knife blocks.  Both had sat side by side on the counter and it was really crazy how much room they both took up.  The solution was found on a recent trip to Target.....knife block for the drawers!!

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This is the main collection of knives that we both use most often, they are now easily accessible, and I love that they are hidden away.  Having the extra drawer space is being efficiently utilized!

Next up was the large white wicker basket on top of the fridge that held the massive volume of ziploc containers and lids.  Visit Here for the details on the start of this project and to see where we began and the infamous white fridge basket......

At first, this idea worked OK but then it became an eyesore as the quantity increased.  Lids fell to the bottom, the random "lidless" containers added to the mess, and it was becoming ridiculous.....

With my newly found empty base cabinet areas, I choose to sort these by size (with their respective lid) and placed them in white baskets that fit nicely in the pizza oven cabinet.  The baskets are a great size for this purpose and easily slide out to grab what we need.  They are also a terrific way to prevent him (ahem) from accumulating an over abundance of these containers.  If they don't fit, they are not allowed in....if they do not have a lid....they are not allowed in.

PERFECT!

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This is just a sampling of the many organizing ideas that happened in this kitchen and as move are discovered and developed, I will be sure to share them!

DEMO

I used the term "demo" loosely as there were only two areas that required a little muscle and creative thinking.  You may recall this end area of the kitchen and how that hutch cupboard and thick heavy spindle became the bane of my existence?  Here is a before shot in case you forgot.....

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The first order of business was to remove the hutch top.  This is relatively easy as it was just screwed on to the base cabinet.  Once it was taken down, the room already felt more open.  This shot was taken just a few minutes after it was removed (before the drawer knife blocks) and with the microwave was moved into the space to keep it out of the way.

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You might also notice that the spindle is gone!!  Halla-freakin-yullah!  I sawed it in half with a bow saw as I do not like power tools, gave each separated chunk a whack with the sledge hammer to loosen, and rocked them back forth until they came free.  Since the spindle was not supporting anything, it came out very easily and made a HUGE difference!

This area is where I intend to take a majority of my culinary and baking pictures.  The huge window to the right of this space allows a very unusual light that I am anxious to play with.  The base cabinet that held the hutch top will be my main photoshoot surface and I am quite excited to have this new set up in the kitchen as I bake!

PRIMER - PRIMER - PRIMER

I am not going to go into a ton of detail about the primer process suffice to say that the thirsty dark wood trim and soffits took three coats.  While I was at it, I gave the walls three coats.  The walls were a very unusual paneling that had a "feather duster" blue and mauve painted technique.  Below is a sampling of the primer result...

I love how the beams, trim, and soffit look so much more significant and important in this room now that the dark is gone.  It is hard to see in these images but the overall brightness gives the oak cabinets a new look and feel. 

From the start of this project, I knew WHITE was going to be the paint theme.  I wanted this room to feel brighter and more open not only for our cooking/baking needs and ease of cleaning, but also for kitchen photography. 

As I prepare to paint, I am going out on a limb and am choosing Benjamin Moore paint.  Having always been a Dutch Boy brand girl, I am excited to try something fresh and new.  At this time, I am leaning towards Benjamin Moore Super White in a pearl finish.....I will share more on that soon!

On a final note for this update, Mike and I took the plunge and ordered a new range and hood vent.  Below is the corner where the current almond colored model and hood vent are being removed, a weird trim piece was removed and patched, and the whole area ready for primer.  The last two pictures in this group give you an idea of the 80's blue and mauve paneling paint technique BEFORE being assaulted with my primer mission.  And all of this to prep the area for the new appliance arrivals and install!  

For the new range, we choose the larger oven capacity and five burner smooth top with both Bake and Convection options, the finish is black and stainless with an industrial feel, and combined with a stainless fully sealed hood vent this corner will be wonderful!

As you can see this project is moving along slowly but surely and the results will be worth the time and elbow grease.

Next Up.....Installing the new range and hood vent along with my decision on paint and a few sneak peeks of the final outcome.

Thank you for following along and see you soon!

Joan

A Kitchen Refresh - Introduction and Planning

I don't want to rush what is left of summer but I just can't help but think about Autumn and baking and new culinary photography ideas.  These thoughts of sun-filled cooler days, rustling colorful leaves, and warm spicy fragrances are swirling in my brain.

Over the last several years, I have found a newly discovered passion for baking.  Whether it is a recipe for homemade bread, cakes, muffins, scones, or pie, I am intrigued and want to try it.  At the same time, as I am teaching myself the science of baking and the proper techniques, I notice I miss many photo ops for awesome blog content and this is a problem.

You may recall that I set up a photography studio for stills in our lower level family room.  It works great for taking images of vintage culinary props, fruits, and vegetables but not so perfect for baking processes and the outcome.  Carting things up and down the stairs, keeping the ingredients fresh and "in the moment" are practically impossible and limits the food/baking photography blog post vision.

It quickly dawned on me that the ideal place to take these types of photos is the kitchen but there were some hurdles I needed to cross to make this space better suited for my needs.  In all honesty, these hurdles are the reasons I have avoided using our kitchen for baking photography. 

The list of hurdles was long and seemed impossible to scale.  But, at the same time, this was a new creative project and I just knew there was an answer.  The answer needed to be affordable, easily done by myself, and not take years and thousands of dollars to complete.

The first step was to get a complete scope of this new project and to make sure the effort was worth the time and energy.  I began with an evaluation of our current kitchen state and how we use this space.

First of all, we have a galley style kitchen with east facing windows - not ideal for natural light.  Entry to the kitchen is on either end - one from a short hallway in the main entry area of the house or from the dining room.  The length of the kitchen is nice and the appliance layout is very functional.  In our house, HE cooks and I bake so we are rarely in the kitchen working at the same time - the galley style works for our needs.

We have beautiful oak cabinets that I do not want to paint. 

Yes, I said it....NOT. Going. To. Paint. 

I have painted kitchen cabinets in the past and let's just say I will not do it again.  The oak cabinets need to stay just as they are.  Fortunately, the cabinets have a Shaker style simplicity and the hardware is workable.  This in itself is a HUGE cost and time savings!

On to the countertops......formica with oak trim.  They too are staying.

I also live with a man who has a thing for black appliances.  Very nice black appliances, but black nonetheless.  When we combined households about 5 years ago, I came from a white appliance world to his dark appliance world and adjusted my kitchen design sense accordingly.  Over the years, I have come to appreciate the sleekness of the black and am enjoying working with this color. 

Our microwave and refrigerator are quite new and we have both decided it is time to replace the range.  Currently an almond color, our range has served us well but I started to notice that the oven is heating very unevenly and although the smooth cooktop is working well, we would both like to have the 5 burner areas rather than the 4 we currently have.  Convection oven features are still up for debate and that will continue to be a topic for discussion.

This man is also one that does not like to throw anything away.  He is the "keeper" and I am the "tosser".  Together we make the perfect team of necessity!  We meet in the middle, discuss the actual usage, and it is usually me that has the courage to toss or donate.  When he and I combined households, we simply rearranged our belongings to all fit together.  This will also give you an idea of the over abundance of kitchen things we have crammed into poorly utilized kitchen spaces.

Speaking of poorly used kitchen spaces.....a MAJOR cabinet gutting, sorting, cleaning, and reorganizing was needed A-SAP!  I want to pull everything out of each cabinet and drawer, sort the items, and rearrange them into new neatly organized serviceable areas.  

Our kitchen has not been updated in a veeerrrrrryyyyy long time.  The wood trim on both windows is dark brown.  There is a heavy wood soffit around the cabinet area that is also dark brown.  To add to the dark brown trim, we have a suspended ceiling that is decorated with dark brown beams which are nice but again, they are dark brown.  Additionally, there is a half-wall at the main entry end of the kitchen with a large spindle support (not on a support wall - just decorative) that is .....you guessed it....dark brown and very thick.

Finally, there is a large hutch type, floor-to-ceiling cabinet on the end of the kitchen at the main entry area that although nice, is worthless for storage.  The shelves are too narrow and the upper cabinet section too small for anything other display pieces.  It was taking up valuable real estate and I was not afraid to take it down.

 So here I am....in the middle of a HUGE pre-refresh kitchen mess.  Starting this project from the inside out, I am beginning with cabinet purge, reorganizing, and cleaning process.  With that, what better time to take BEFORE pictures than when the kitchen looks like a thrift sale on a rainy day....

Here we go.....please remember, a properly done project needs to get worse before it gets better....

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This is our kitchen in the middle of my cabinet cleaning, looking in from the dining room:

Number 1 - notice the dark brown trim, beams, and soffit?

Number 2 - notice the hutch-type cabinet on the on the far wall?

Number 3 - notice the massive amount of clutter, refrigerator clippings, and the white basket that hold the countless ZipLoc containers we have?

Yep, me too.

Onward into the madness we go.....

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Ah yes....here it is.  The 1970's dark brown spindle.  The awful hutchy cabinet thing that drives me crazy all accented by dark brown window trim and dark brown beams.

Hmmmm....ok....let's continue......

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I love that we have a window looking out into the trees right at the kitchen sink.  I do not love the the brown trim on said window OR the color of the walls throughout the kitchen.

Next is a view of the nice counter area on the opposite side of the sink.  This is actually a nice size area for kneading bread dough, rolling pie crusts, or scooping cookie dough AND has perfectly placed outlets for my KitchenAid mixer.

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Yes, the Little Debbie collection is to keep my momentum charged so here we go.  List in hand.  Projects nicely planned for maximum results with limited time.  Visions of WHITE WHITE WHITE covering the dark brown.  Open, airy, bright, clean, and organized.....I can see it already!

Next Up...cabinet and drawer cleaning and reorganization.  White primer has taken over the dark brown and my version/process of removing an unwanted spindle and cupboard hutch - it is looking so much better already!

Joan 

 

The Gallery Exhibit - August 2018

I cannot believe that it has been about one year since I had received notice from our local art gallery, ArtZ, that my work was selected, along with two other creative artists, for a month long exhibit in August 2018. 

Over the last several months I have been putting the final touches on framing, print packaging, labeling, pricing, and locating the ideal show props for the wall that will display my photographic creations.

Having no idea a year ago just how much time would be involved in this complete process, I dove in head first and suddenly here we are!

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I wished and planned for a complete exhibit look that married happily with my theme of the "sophistication of utility".  I feel it came together perfectly...

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The photo above is a small section of the display and was right after the initial "set up" on August 1st.  There was so much activity and I was on cloud nine! 

I wanted a unique piece to hold my matted prints that I had for sale and when I discovered the wood laundry basket and stand, I just knew it would be perfect.  With my old blue and white quilt, it makes a wonderful display that fits with the theme.

Then "the hanging".....

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On Set Up day, I was delighted to have so much help from the gallery representatives and the "hanging" process went smoothly.  I snapped this photo of my amazing "helpers" during the process!  Small adjustments were made once the prints were hung and again, I could not stop smiling!

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It was a bit tricky to get a nice full wall shot with all of the set up taking place and using the camera on my phone, I hope you get the idea.

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Oh man...those wood floors....LOVE!!

My collection, although small in size, worked very well together.  All in all, I completed nine framed prints and 15 matted prints for the exhibit.  Below is a quick phone snapped gallery of the prints....

I am thrilled with how the vision of the muted print colors on cotton rag fine art paper, combined with the white heavy mats and champagne gold painted vintage wood frames all came together.  It truly speaks "me" and "my work". 

For the first time showing my work in a gallery, I learned a mountain of skills, worked through several challenges, internally smiled at various stages of the process, and now finally see my work on display.

It was truly a moment when it all came together....almost magically surreal for lack of a better explanation.  

I will be attending an Artists Reception at the gallery on Friday evening (8/10) and that will be the icing on the cake.  With my work being shown the entire month of August, I am hopeful to receive feedback (good or bad) from visitors and area creatives as that will continue my artistic growing adventure and one I will remember for the rest of my life.

I send so much love and thanks to my family and friends for all of the encouragement and patience over the past year while I prepared.  Many thanks to the wonderful gallery representatives at ArtZ (Amery WI), and to my small and wonderful group of blog readers.  Each and every one of you gave me the courage and fortitude to make this dream a reality.

I sincerely thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

Joan

xoxo

PS.....Can't wait to show you what's coming next!!

 

Getting Labeled Was The Best Thing To Happen To Me

Spoon With Cherries - Joan Marie Photography

It happened in an instant.  It happened with such force that I was completely blind-sided.  Words cannot convey the level of emotion that pummeled me.  I was LABELED and will be forever grateful.

I have been working on a HUGE project over the last year and if you like, you can read more about that HERE.  This project was an unrealized dream that in hindsight has moved me forward so creatively I often stop to pinch myself to make sure it is real.

About a year ago, I was selected to exhibit my photography at our local art gallery as part of a small group of featured artists for the entire month of August 2018.  Along with myself, there are two other artists chosen to exhibit who create in different mediums.  One works magic with wood and the other with calligraphy and illustrations. 

Because we were chosen about a year ago, we were given plenty of time to refine our collections, develop artists statements, and prepare mentally to "show our work" to the live public.  It just seems like yesterday when I received the email letting me know I was chosen after submitting examples of my photography for their jury review and artist selection.

This past year has flown by with a flurry of activity ranging from fresh photo shoot ideas, determining the best fine art paper for printing the images, to the framing design.  As I chose to do all of the planning, creating, and work myself, minutes turned into days, days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which has brought me to now...all in the blink of an eye.

Just last weekend I put the final touches on the framed prints, printed and signed the certificates of authenticity, and ordered the individual prints and show kits for the exhibit.  I had 90% of my creative work completed.

I wrote and rewrote my artist statement (which if you haven't tried writing one for yourself, it is much harder than it sounds), gave my exhibit a title for the theme, took a breath to look at the collection in it's entirety and was very happy with what I saw.

The exhibit collection was ready.....

Then came the email in which I was LABELED.

The email came early last week from the gallery representatives and they provided information for us to submit pictures of our exhibit pieces for a press release, photos for marketing collateral, and our artist statement and bio.  They also shared dates on when to bring in our art for set up/display AND the date of our artist reception.  My heart really started pounding at the reality of all and I quickly discovered I had a bit more work to do.

As I neared the bottom of the email, I noticed they had listed all three of the featured artist names and the type of work we would be showing...... and this is what I saw...

....my label....

 Joan Marie - Culinary Photography

There it was.....right in front of my eyes....a label for my creative work!!!!  A description of my niche!!!  My focus!  My Passion!....from a set of "outsider eyes".  From folks who viewed and curated art on a daily basis...

WHA?

Culinary?

Yes "CULINARY"....It was perfect

Let me explain....

If you have followed my blog for awhile, you will recall the many many types of creative projects I have undertaken.  From creating a "farmhouse kitchen" photo shoot set, to building a harvest table top, photographing homemade dinner rolls, and my vintage kitchen tool and bakeware collecting for props.

All this time I wished I could've stated my "niche".  I wanted to confidently share my title of photographic style.  My "specialty" if you will...and try as I might, nothing seemed to fit.

I didn't consider myself to be a "food photographer" as those folks love to cook and create recipes all the while shooting their delicious creations....I tried that and since I don't enjoy cooking that was a no-go.  I didn't want to focus on interiors and decorating as that was not my forte either.  I tried flower photography and that didn't work as I envisioned.....I kept experimenting and practicing and just couldn't answer the question...

"What type of photography do you do Joan?"

Additionally I knew what I absolutely DID NOT enjoy and that was landscape/nature photography and taking lifestyle or portrait images. 

So as I continually looked over my entire collection of still life images, I searched for a trend, a pattern, or even a suggestion as to where my focus was with photography....it eluded me.  Onward I forged constantly seeking the answer to my photography style type....

BUT...with one email "label"....it all changed.

When I saw my name and what the gallery determined as the focus of my body of work I would be exhibiting, I was floored as there was the answer....I ran to the thesaurus and dictionary....

culinary

[kyoo-luh-ner-ee, kuhl-uh-]

   of, relating to, or used in cooking or the kitchen.

 YES!!!  YES!!!  YES!!!  YES!!!  YES!!!

My love of photographing fruits, vegetables, muffins, cakes, crusty loaves of bread and vintage kitchen props.  My love of farmhouse kitchens, aprons, green wood handled kitchen utensils, old rusty scales, slabs of old wood for backdrops, linens, tin cookie cutters, old bread pans and cookie sheets, and farmer's market fare.  Old worn cutting boards, mason jars with zinc lids, and spools of kitchen twine.  These are the things I love to create images with.

 So with one email, containing one label of me and my work, my style found a name. 

Thank You ArtZ Gallery!!

Now when someone asks me "What type of photography do you do Joan?"....I can proudly and confidently reply...

I am a CULINARY PHOTOGRAPHER who LOVES photographing all things "of, relating to, or used in cooking or the kitchen.

.....and let me tell you....it feels good.

As I near the preparation finish line for this exhibit, I will be sharing images of the final framed pieces, the crazy wonderful awesome piece I found for displaying my show kit matted prints, how I designed the certificates of authenticity, a unique frame "backing" idea, and how I came up with a theme and title for my showing.

AHHHH....the life of a Culinary Photographer (wink)

Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for visiting!

Joan

 

Microfiber Cleaning

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There are few things that compare to the feeling of a job well done.  That feeling of hard work followed by the worn out contentment of blissful accomplishment.  To find yourself surrounded by the peace emitted from a house you have just cleaned.

Not just the quick ten minute tidy or the flash wipe of the counter tops but the slow and deliberate act of cleaning.  Cleaning with a purpose and strong intention.  Setting aside a full day to work through the housecleaning process wrapped in a slow and steady pace.  Real honest to goodness deep cleaning.  The kind of clean that makes you want to invite everyone over to enjoy the outcome with you.

In the past, my cleaning arsenal included various rags and towels, all types of spray cleaners, a few magic eraser sponges, and dusting spray.  This basic equipment along with the vacuum cleaner and broom/dust pan combo typically produced good results.  I have to admit that I would go through a pretty lengthy strip of paper towels as well due to the "ease of grab" and I knew deep down this was not really necessary but wasteful as well. 

The cleaning today began with a different tone in that I decided to see for myself the merits of cleaning with microfiber towels.  Supposedly one could scrub, dust, wipe, dry, and polish with this little woven wonder.  When done, rinse well and hang to dry for the next round.  If the towel was dirty beyond a rinse, then it was placed in a towel hamper (little basket by the washer) as they should be washed alone and without fabric softener.  Due to their lint and dust gathering characteristics, if washed with other items, you will be picking off little "pills" for days.  I have even read that a quick toss in the dryer helps build their static properties, thus "holding" on to the dust or dirt.

With a freshly laundered batch of microfiber towels in hand, I designated colors for various tasks.  The green towels would be for the bathroom and the yellow towels were for the kitchen.  I saved the blue towels for windows and dusting.

Let's start with the bathroom...

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Using my disinfectant cleaners I scrubbed the sink, shower, and faucets followed by the vanity counter tops.   The faucets shined, the counter tops glistened, and the shower sparkled.  Next up the toilet and floors.  Both were cleaned with ease and due to the drying properties, no evidence of product film was left anywhere.  As a final step, the large mirror was cleaned and polished without a streak to be seen and zero little lint remnants were left behind as previously achieved by my paper towels efforts!  I was actually enjoying this!!  The bathroom microfiber towels were rinsed and hung in the laundry room for their wash.

Next up, the kitchen.  In our kitchen there are two main areas that always give me grief:  1.  Our black appliances and 2. the smooth cooktop on the stove.  Our black appliances show every streak possible when wiping them down followed by a hand drying and try as I might with every specialty cleaner, the cooktop never shines the way I feel it should.

Using my yellow towels I started at the top and worked my way down to the floor.  Here again, the sink and faucets shined, the cupboard doors and handles glistened, and the appliances....the cooktop.....let's just say that I will NEVER clean our kitchen without my microfiber towels ever again.  Each task turned out better than expected and again, I found myself enjoying the tasks due to the results that were happening right before my eyes.

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Our patio door in the dining room was given the royal treatment and here too, not a streak or paper towel lint trail to be seen.  Dusting in the living room was incredibly easy as the dust was trapped in the towel and I didn't have to use much dusting spray if at all.  As I worked through the rooms, I took note of how many times I finished a job and then smiled.  I was invigorated!

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Lastly, I wanted to give the computer screens, iPads, and cell phones a nice clean and polish.  Using a fresh blue microfiber window towel, I lightly sprayed it with screen cleaner and began wiping.  Perfection.  Sparkly clean perfection.  I grabbed my glasses and gave them the test too - makeup and smudges...gone. 

I even took a couple of clean microfiber towels out to the garage and, wiped down the car interiors.  The control screens in both cars collect dust and finger prints and cleaning them with rags always left dust and lint behind. 

Not this time - beautifully shiny was the result.  I tucked a clean microfiber towel in each car to use for quick wipe downs inside and out after the car wash and for the quick weekly maintenance wipe down.

As I neared the end of the cleaning projects, I was delighted to see that not only had I saved time but the garbage wasn't filled up with used paper towels!

Saving time and making the best use of time, especially on the weekends, is a huge challenge for me.  Knowing how much time I saved today, I will be that much more motivated to tackle small jobs throughout the week to stay on top of everything and have even more free time on the weekends!

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I actually found enough extra time today to enjoy some creative planning, research new blog ideas, and start the editorial calendar I have been trying to do for months!  I can't recommend microfiber towels enough and am looking forward to even more cleaning discoveries with them.  Going forward, I plan to use the daylights out of these towels and will let you know how they wear as well as new ways to use them.   

Do you use microfiber towels around the house?  Are they a time saver for you?  Maybe you are considering their usage but find it hard to sway from your personal tried and true methods?  Do you have a special way you use them and would like to share?  If so, leave a comment below!  Let me know what you think because as always, I love hearing from you.''

Have a great start to the week!

Joan

The Power of Creativity

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I don't watch the news much anymore.  I have come to the realization that no matter how much I disagree or don't understand what is happening in a political environment or with the stock market, it makes little difference.  How much time and energy do I want to spend trying to decipher the information?  How can I watch people assemble and protest while knowing that their voices may most likely fall on deaf ears?

How many stories of murder statistics, high dollar athlete contracts, or sex scandals can one person absorb?

This is not say I am cold and calloused to the world changes or economic efforts, it simply means that with the precious time I have on this earth, I can easily agree to disagree and make my personal and family life as beautiful as possible. 

With this mentality and by concentrating on creating  art through images, words, heart, hands, and eyes, our creative efforts instill a domino effect of greater peace and living more slowly.   Those around us take pause to view and listen.  Like or dislike.  We find ourselves removed from sadness, confusion, and anger.  We collectively grow our strengths of love, compassion, and encouragement.

We Thrive. 

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The greatest joy of being creative is seeing the world differently.  For example, when driving to work, as creatives we may immediately notice the gorgeous shades of green beginning to develop after a long white winter.  What we don't see is ourselves behind the mower once or twice a week, the price of gas,  or how much laundry is waiting for us when we get home.

Creative types dream, we look deeper, we appreciate more fully, we love unconditionally. 

Just pretend for a minute that for one day the world held a huge art class.  You could show up at anytime, grab your supplies of choice, and just start creating.  You could sit anywhere you liked and create whatever you wanted.  There is no contest or prize, just people slowing down and making.  There would be encouragement, compliments, quiet moments, laughter, conversations without judgement, and wonderful treasures created all over the place in words, with paint, with pencils, through cameras, with sewing machines, with knitting needles, or clay.  

What a gallery we could create!

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At the very same time, we would find ourselves learning more about our neighbors whether in our backyard or across the ocean.  We would be enlightened by the thoughts, the visions, the feelings coming to life all around us.  Folks terminally ill, homeless, or alone and sad would all be given hope and some form of peace.  We would help each other, encourage each other, laugh and tell stories, love each other.  Matters of skin color, culture, political beliefs would become non-existent...we would simply be human beings living and creating.

Now you might be thinking this idea is complete bunk, unrealistic, or insane.  That's ok...it really is and here is my reasoning.  You read these words, perhaps envisioned the scene and I would bet that for a moment, you believed in it.  You saw it.  You heard it.  You felt it.  Maybe it was only for a tenth of a second.  If so, for a tenth of a second, you slowed down and felt encouraged or realized no matter your social or economic position you were a very small part of what collectively could be a huge kind and caring community.

You didn't scramble to your Facebook page or Instagram feed for fear of missing something.  You weren't glued to your phone or email.  You didn't despise your boss or co-workers.  You didn't fret about the charts, graphs, or numbers.  You didn't worry about bills or health issues. You didn't worry about feeding your children or when that new job would appear.  For a tenth of a second you felt the world all surrounding just you for who you are.  You were empowered to tackle your issues.  You felt the world "having your back" and ready to help you live and love more deeply. 

You were going to be better than OK because you, for a brief moment in your time on earth, simply believed.  You created.

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Write that poem that has been hidden in your thoughts.  Paint that picture you see in your mind.  Sew that fabric that sits in the corner of your stash room.  Take your camera for a walk without a plan.  Feel that cool and damp clay in your hands. Sketch that apple on the table. 

Let your heart and hands work together to create something that is the most perfectly unique, one of a kind, masterpiece in the whole wide world.  Think about it....the only creation of it's kind in the world.  It is yours forever and ever.

Make something today and help someone else make something.  Encourage someone's dream and thank them for being part of your life.  Compliment someone's smile and say "thank you" as many times as possible.  Be Creative.

I hope these words added a bit of joy to your day and if so, I am happy to have given that just to you, just as you needed.

Wishing you mountains of creativity,

Joan

The Start of Sophisticated Utility Lifestyle

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At it's core, Sophisticated Utility, is best described as classic, comfortable, and caring.  Sophisticated Utility can be applied to all areas of your lifestyle no matter the economic or physical condition of one's current state.  By tearing apart "rules" and sharing "suggestions", Sophisticated Utility is an easy, inspiring, and happy way of life.

Let's start this journey with an Everyday Look of Sophisticated Utility.

Enter the tried and true white cotton shirt...

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White cotton is a staple with Sophisticated Utility.  It is the foundation of clean and comfortable.  A white cotton shirt, freshly ironed, is a treasure.  A white cotton shirt can be found ANYWHERE.  You may prefer a cotton TShirt or perhaps a short sleeve peter pan collared style...no matter....this is YOUR white cotton shirt decision.

Finding options for your white cotton shirt style is creative and fun.  Whether browsing the thrift store for inexpensive, gently used options to splurging on a high end designer model, the white cotton shirt is a suggested must-have.

Keeping your white cottons crisp and clean is actually an enjoyable adventure.  With so many options to properly launder and/or iron, your white cottons will remain sparkly bright and my personal techniques will be shared down the road for you to consider.

As the ideal accompaniment to the white cotton shirt, a comfortable pair of jeans fits the bill.  Whether you prefer a loose fit or "skinny" style, high waist or low-rise, the key factors are fit and condition. 

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Jeans, in the world of Sophisticated Utility, have the freedom to be faded and well-worn to the to the styles found in the heavier, dark rinsed family.  The only proposal is that they fit well and you love them!

At every price point, a well-fitting pair of jeans is priceless.  Thrift stores have mountains of jeans and the key is to try them on and ALWAYS check the zipper to be sure it works properly.  Different brands fit differently and numbered sizes vary significantly.  Trust me, take a few minutes and try them on - as they are intended to be a workhorse in your wardrobe, a good fit and feel is a recommended necessity.

Now that you have a basic outfit top and bottom foundation, the accessories in a wardrobe are truly a unique and personal decision.  While some prefer to add knotted scarves, statement necklaces, colorful heels, loafers, or bold earrings, the one key recommended element in the Sophisticated Utility fashion arsenal is a wristwatch... 

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A wristwatch is a classic piece that is simple AND useful.  From leather band tank watches to metal bracelet styles with stones, your wristwatch is a statement piece all by itself.  Finding the ideal wristwatch is an extremely personal choice.  At every, and I do mean EVERY price point, your wristwatch becomes an integral part of your "look".  

In today's world, carrying a variety of tech devices is important for many but keeping the classic look of a wristwatch should not be overlooked.  Whether you choose a dainty or dramatic style, or a combination in your collection, wear and "utilize" your wristwatch.  Apple and Android smart watches are great but nothing beats the look of a numbered face with tiny hands that are always on duty ready to salute the time.

These are just the beginning and basic suggestions for a lifestyle of Sophisticated Utility.  Sophisticated Utility is not a set of rules that you must adhere to but rather ideas for you to consider.  Sophisticated Utility can be applied to virtually every aspect of your life easily and affordably. 

By taking the demands and requirements of a tight lifestyle qualification guide out of the equation, you are not only free to express yourself as you choose, but also inspired to change it up as much or little as you see fit.  Grab bits and pieces of the suggestions or jump into a complete lifestyle change.  Either way, you win!

I have spent a lifetime trying to "find my style" and have become frustrated when my clothing, decorating, and housekeeping tasks did not seem to fit into a particular efficient area.  They were all disjointed, inefficient, and became increasingly unimportant.  I was weary... 

It wasn't until I looked at my life very closely, studied my habits, and searched for those things that made my heart sing, that sharing Sophisticated Utility made sense.  It made every minute of every day of my life feel like "me".  It was easy and fun, it was fresh and new, it was all Sophisticated Utility.

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As I move forward with this blog, I will be sharing suggestions on everything from cleaning and cooking, dressing and housekeeping, creative passions and appreciating life more deeply.

Sophisticated Utility doesn't care if you have a $2 budget or a $2,000 budget.  Sophisticated Utility is yours to incorporate any way you choose.  Little by litte or by leaps and bounds, Sophisticated Utility takes the stress and indecision out your personal daily life.  You are the most important person to yourself and Sophisticated Utility loves that about you!

This afternoon I am spending time with my cleaning tasks and trying a "new-to-me" cleaning tool.  As simple and inexpensive as it is, I am looking forward to discovering how it may or may not help with my housekeeping routine....I will keep you posted on the result of this experiment!

Thank you for sharing your time with me and please let me know your thoughts on these new ideas...I always love and appreciate hearing from you.

Joan