Thursday, December 27, 2012

Free Lego CHIMA set with purchase at

Want to get started on Christmas 2013 shopping? Any birthdays coming up?

Here is a good deal from Lego!

Lego is begining the year 2013 by launching a new collection called The Legends of Chima.  These are from the  creators of NinjaGo, so if your child is a big fan of NinjaGo, this is a great opportunity. Also, but don't quote me on this, it looks like NinjaGo is going to be discontinued along with the TV series, so grab them while you can since they will quickly become collectibles! Here is a link to the NinjaGo Lego Collections: NINJAGO

The Legends of Chima series is about half animal - half human characters "battling over mysterious and powerful CHI". Lego will push most of its marketing strategy towards this line next year as NinjaGo will be replaced by CHIMA's own TV series on Cartoon Network. Expect your little ones to go crazy over them!

Here is the link for your free Chima Akro Fighter, this is starting JANUARY 1, 2013 while supplies last (this is a gift with purchase of $75):

Free LEGO® Ewar's Acro-Fighter with a $75 purchase. Offer valid January 1-31 2013 or while supplies last.

Happy Shopping!

Sophia, NJ

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas House Tour - 2012

At last, here they are, pictures from our 2012 Christmas Decorations (indoors only)!

But first, here is a little bit of history:

I have been working on this tree since 2002. Originally the theme was 1001 Nights...It worked wonderfully for years as I managed to gather all sorts of ornaments and small treasures including a vintage Christopher Radko Aladdin. I have a Genie,  Scheherazade on her magic carpet, an oil lamp, flocks of peacocks and many wild animals. That was until last year when a certain puppy chased another certain puppy we equally love and, you guessed it, the tree fell! GASP indeed! 
I can't even say that I was mad for half a second because I do love my dogs, however, I am pretty convinced I will never be able to replace the vintage Aladdin and some of the other glass blown ornaments that were shattered in this catastrophe!

Well, never mind! I am back in business and this is 2012!


Here is the living room:

The dresser is a street find - FREE - from the 1930's.

My 1001 Nights Christmas tree is decorated with feathers, wild animals, birds, and many blooming flowers, some made of silk, others covered in glitter...

On the top I added a spray of simple twigs I once found at Michael's and two hummingbirds from Pier 1 Import.

The peacocks are also from Pier 1. At the bottom of this picture you can spot a miniature Aladdin I found at the World Market Bazaar a long time ago.

This gorgeous bloom (one of 6) is a Michael's 70% sale. I think I paid $1.99 for each.
Here is the tree as seen from the top when you walk down to the first floor.

On the banister I attache  a simple garland from Michael's, last year sales event, and added a purple and pink beaded garland I found at Wal-Mart back in the days. Two of those fabulous mouth blown ornaments survived last year, they are now garnishing the banister.

When coming from the staircase, you can see the display I put together this year. Here I have a Father Christmas I bought at a garage sale last summer for $15, three miniature Christmas trees from the Home Depot, a large bird house found at a dollar store which I use for my French Nativity scene.

This is my childhood's Nativity set, they are called Santons de Provence and are hand sculpted and painted. I only have a few but have seen homes where dozens of these tiny little characters form entire villages telling the Nativity as seen from Southern France. Fewer people keep a Nativity these days and that is truly sad (in my opinion).  Folks are losing the meaning of Christmas...I don't want my children to forget the story behind Christmas.

Here is the mantel. I do keep it simple because it is the central point in the living room and  do not want it to compete with the tree. The mantel itself is also quite narrow.

This Father Christmas was a gift many years ago. I love him so much that he stays in the living room, year round.

 Frosted faux mercury glass from the bargain store...

I reserve the dining room for my special collection of Christopher Radko' Snowman ornaments. Since our first wedding anniversary, my husband offers me one ornament each Christmas. I never know which one will come my way but it is always a Radko and always a snowman. I love them all and count 15 thus far, though we have been married 12 years, I admit to having sneaked an additional 3 over the years :-). 

Also new this year is this small bookcase decoration in the dining room. The bookcase actually belongs to the living room but needed to be moved in order to make room for the tree...It landed here and provided me another opportunity for a few decorative tchotchkes.

The Mouse King found itself trapped this year!

So there you have it, my indoor Christmas Decor!

Over the past few weeks I gathered a few pictures submitted by MGC fans and am now taking this opportunity to showcase some of the many decorative talents of our readers. Enjoy!

This is from Bea in NJ.

From Nancy in GA.

From Julia in OH,

And from Marie-Jeanne in Belgium,

Thank you all who submitted pictures, if you want to be featured on this blog post, join our Facebook page and submit your pictures on our page, we will add it to this post.
Thank you for liking and sharing My Great Challenge.

Merry Christmas to all,

Sophia, NJ

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Linen Closet - Maximizing Space and staying organized

As previously mentioned at the very beginning of this blog journey, my home will never be featured in Better Homes and Garden!  But, if I ever had a shot at it, they would definitely NOT showcase my Linen Closet!

Let's face it, our Linen Closet is not that part of the house where we reserve undivided attention. At best we go fetch something there on a weekly basis and if you keep spare towels in your bathroom and sheets in your bedroom, it might be several weeks before you actually peek inside again.
Like everyone else, I don't necessarily spend too much time thinking about my Linen Closet. It is not an area of the house where I feel talent and creativity need to apply nor do I obsess over matching towel designs with sheets , etc. Whatever I have, I have, and I am pretty content with that.

I recognized that I was not maximizing the many advantages of having a Linen Closet and it became obvious I also needed to pay a bit more attention to how and how often I used it.

As a couponer, I have a rather large stockpile of hygiene and paper products stashed in the basement. However, when we needed new toothpaste or toilet paper, it did not occur to me that walking three flights of stairs down and back up to retrieve a single tube of toothpaste was completely unproductive not to mention a colossal waste of time. I needed a relay station, an in-between the four floors space where some of our everyday items would be stored without having to move the entire stockpile...That Linen Closet became the answer.

This Linen Closet is located on our second floor, next to our first full bath and is adjacent to the guest bedroom, our boys bedroom and the office. My husband and I have settled in the finished attic (3rd floor) because it is set up as a Master Suite with a full bath. So for us, going all the way down to the basement for toilet paper made no sense, however, one flight of stairs down to the Linen Closet...Easy!

Here is our Linen Closet...I like where it is located since it provides easy access to towels and sheets. We do however need to paint the door.

Alas, it is rather sorry looking on the inside, hence the reason for my reorganizing it...

Here we have an obvious attempt at organizing, years ago I might add, where towels and sheets found their respective shelves, but quite frankly there is way too much unused space in this closet.  My goal was to reorganize by type as well as provide space for toiletries and paper products, but how?

Here is the closet in its after stage, it took about four hours to reorganize it:

And side by side so you can really appreciate the difference (I know it is not that obvious at first glance).

Let me take you on a tour and describe what was done and how it works for the entire family.
Starting with the top shelf:

On the top shelf I have blankets and enough space for additional pillows, I labeled the shelf using my trusty label maker. I also keep a plastic bin, from the dollar store, to contain the washcloths. Rarely used are those two sets of guest towels (I use towels with patterns for guests and plain colors or whites only for our daily use). Again, I labeled the shelf. 

The one thing I do not care for in this closet is the plumbing from our attic bathroom. It goes straight though and is rather unsightly to say the least. As a good practice, I  did wipe the entire closet with bleach and soapy water. It really was not dirty at all, but seriously, who needs plumbing there?

Below I keep all the family towels. 

White towels are for our own use, I keep colored towels strictly for our boys.

As you can see, there is not much to showcase here since we do not have designer towels nor do I care for color schemes in this area of the home. I personally believe that if it does the job and is still in good shape, I will keep using it. Towels are a good example; Our towels are functional and it stops here. Obviously we have a lot of unassorted colors and a mix of old and not so old, the result of several moves to various homes.

I have seen some folks roll their towels and tried to do that only to find it did not work for me. For starter it takes too much time to assemble as a pile. Further, when grabbing a towel, whatever is next to it will fall off and has to be re-rolled. 
Others keep their towels in pretty fancy baskets. Sure it looks great, but all I want is grab a towel and go. I don't have the time to search what basket I am looking for, grab the basket, grab the towel, put the basket back, etc. 

Sheets are kept on the shelf below and this is where a bit of ingenuity was needed, not to mention much purging!

Instead of stacking sheets by size, I keep the sets together and insert them inside one of the set's matching pillowcase. That way, when I need to change sheets, all I have to do is grab a "package" and go. I am no longer searching for sheets and, I am also guaranteed that my sheets will actually match (those of you who have slept in a bottom flannel and an all cotton top may appreciate this). Of course I have seen this system in other blogs and magazines and they looked perfectly squared and amazingly pressed but this is real life sheets and I only press guest sheets, not mine.

These sets also organized by room: on the left side I keep the Queen size sets for our master bedroom and on the right side, the twin size sets for the boys and the guest bedrooms.

On the next shelf, I brought in new plastic Sterilite containers for all our toiletries. This helped me to trim down some of the basement stockpile and allows us to find what we immediately need without having to walk three flights of stairs for it.

I love these containers because they have locking handles, keeping them very tight. Here I have a set of four and everything is organized by type and/or owner. 

Starting with the top left I have a "Scott Essentials" container where I keep his shower gels, deodorants and hair products. In my container I keep a spare set of shampoo/conditioner, deodorants, body washes and some facial products. On the bottom left I keep a container just for the boys with all their shampoos and body washes. The last container is strictly dental hygiene and shaving stuff. 

On the right side I have spare sheets and pillow cases belonging to our current bedding and awaiting laundry day to be reunited with their partners.

On the bottom shelf I keep household supplies such as paper toilet, paper towels, hand soaps,  etc. I did not want to place them directly on to the floor nor did I want them in containers or baskets. Instead, I found these open and stackable containers at Wal-Mart, I think they were under $5 each and placed them side by side. It works just fine and keeps everything off the floor.

Since I did purge a lot of unassorted items and in particular towels and wash cloths that were too old, I managed to create two bins to place under the bathroom sink. One contains old towels that are now reserved for dog grooming and another smaller bin with old washcloths and towels cut into smaller squares to be used as cleaning rags. 

In order to differentiate those towels from our own towels, I used a laundry/washable marker (similar to a sharpie only more permanent) and wrote a small X on the corner of each towel. 

And here it is again:

Not a fancy job, I realize that, but one that works for our family. I particularly like the fact that I now have a portion of the stockpile on the second floor and that alone has made a huge difference for us. 

Despite the lack of luster and ooh and aaahs, I am hoping this post inspired you to reconsider better uses for your Linen Closet. Go ahead and do not hesitate to purge or repurpose. I find that we tend to use the same two sets of towels anyway and the same goes for sheets. Why are we hanging on to so much stuff when we really do not need all that we own anyway?

Thank you for liking and sharing this post. You can also find us on FACEBOOK.

Sophia, NJ.

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