Christine Park

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Pantry Organization via The Dollar Tree

You know your pantry is in bad shape when it makes you ANGRY and IRRITATED every time you set foot in it. And when you shut the door anytime company comes over, because you're embarrassed anyone might see it.

            Behold, the "Before" (don't judge):

Everything was crammed in there. I couldn't stand the chaos.
As my readers know, I've been on an organizing kick, with my closet and my jewelry, and so my pantry was naturally the next project to tackle. Little did I know my good friend and colleague Margot Kim was attempting the same exact thing at her house. But this just goes to show great minds think alike. Today we compared pantry makeovers, like two dorks, oohing and aahing over the end results.

So I wanted to share how I went the Dollar Tree route. Who knew? The Dollar Tree carries these awesome plastic organizing bins, some that stack, some with handles, in all shapes and sizes. I went with red, since my Dollar Tree had the most options in this color, and I wanted everything color coordinated. But I saw blue, green, white/clear, even purple.
I wasn't sure exactly how many containers I would need. So this was my initial haul, about $20 worth. Obviously, when you see my "before" picture above, you can conclude that wasn't enough. So about halfway through my organization attempts, I went back to another Dollar Tree (since I had cleaned out the supply at the first one), and didn't find anything I needed. So 30 minutes later, I found myself at my third Dollar Tree of the day, where I bought another $25-$30 worth of red containers. So for about $50, I was set. Meantime, hubby is inviting me to RELAX on my Saturday and spend some time with the kids in the pool. Anyone knows, a woman in the middle of a project, is a woman on a mission that CANNOT be stopped!

As I sorted through the shelves of food, I couldn't believe the amount of expired goods that were sitting in there, hidden in corners, and under boxes. I found baby formula from 2007 (my kids are 5 and nearly 8 now), shave ice syrup from 2008, a gingerbread man from 2009, and Korean roasted seaweed from 2010. I discovered I had perfectly good barbecue sauce even though I had just bought some, and an entire Costco sized box of trail mix.

I especially love these stackable bins, which are perfect for canned foods and canned sodas.
These baskets have handles, which makes it really easy to access what's inside.
Everything is labeled so the kids can find snacks for themselves too!

The bigger baskets on the bottom hold things like chips and popcorn.
With every item in its proper place, I felt my stress melting away. Organization had become my therapy. The pantry, once the bane of my existence, had been transformed into my zen place. I had some girlfriends over the other day, and one of them literally went inside and shut the door so she could revel in it. She's now inspired to do her own makeover! Another laughed and said she really needs to this because she ended with 6 bottles of ketchup because she had no idea what she already had. Now, when I'm making the grocery list, I know exactly what we do and don't need. I honestly hope this cuts down on our family's food waste.
This morning, I was in a rush to get to my workout and instead of spending precious minutes searching for a power bar, I knew exactly where to go. I actually laughed out loud at the awesomeness of it. I know it sounds like no big deal, and a little OCD, but I think this could be a whole new organized way of life for us! Share your organization stories in the comments below!

 Behold, the "After": 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Starbucks Savings for Hopeless Caffeine Addicts

The other day, one of my colleagues came into work and I almost didn't recognize her without her customary Starbucks cup in her left hand. It made me do a double-take, because something was clearly missing. Maybe she was protesting Starbucks' price hikes this week? LOL The company says the drought in Brazil has severely limited the coffee bean supply and driven up prices, and now they're passing on the price increases to customers. Tall and venti lattes will see price increases of 15 to 20 cents (grande price won't change). After July 21st, bags of their packaged ground coffee will increase over $1 per bag as well.

Now I'm nowhere near my friend's level of addiction, but I do enjoy a tall nonfat chai latte every now and then. It can be an expensive habit that really adds up. The "latte factor," basically the premise that many small purchases add up to a significant expenditure over time, has been well-documented in the media. So what's a bargain hunting consumer reporter to do?

Turns out, there are tons of ways to save at Starbucks. In fact, many of you hardcore insiders might already know about these. Money-saving expert Andrea Woroch recently offered these tips:

1. Enjoy rewards.
The My Starbucks Rewards card provides loyal customers with such, well, perks as free drinks, free food, free refills and more. Cardholders also receive a free beverage of any kind or size on their birthday, as demonstrated by this gentleman who ordered a 60-shot espresso concoction worth $54.75! Stars are earned whenever the Starbucks Card or Starbucks mobile app is used at checkout.

2. Buy discount Starbucks gift cards.
At, you can buy discount gift cards to Starbucks for as much to 20-percent off. For instance, pick up a $100 Starbucks gift card for just $84.54 and save over $15! In addition to saving on coffee, buying discount Starbucks gift cards is a great way to save on gifts for birthdays, holidays and graduations.

3. Print or redeem coupons.
Even Starbucks issues coupons from time to time. Keep track of these coveted offers by searching sites like, where you can find both printable and online offers for savings. Also, check out Starbucks' website periodically as they advertise special offers like their current "summer surprises" texting campaign.

4. Keep eyes peeled for daily deals.
Ever notice how your Facebook feed explodes when Groupon or LivingSocial issues a daily deal to Starbucks? Once or twice per year, you can score a $10 digital gift card to Starbucks for just $5. You must have an account with daily deal providers to get the deal, but you can personalize your settings to only receive emails weekly. That way, you're not bombarded with daily offers but can be notified about the Starbucks deal.

5. Join the mailing list.
By joining the Starbucks Mailing List, you'll get a coupon for 10-percent off your next order. Plus, you'll find out about special promotions like seasonal offers, member-only benefits and discounts on speciality drinks. You can sign up here, or hold off until you have time to create a separate email account just for promotional offers!

6. Get social.
Follow Starbucks on Facebook or Twitter to get notified when they release special promotions, coupons or daily discounts. Last summer, followers could enjoy the "Starbucks treat receipt" which awarded customers to a $2 grande cold beverage after 2 p.m. simply by showing the morning receipt. Finding out about these saving promos early is easy when you follow the brand on social media.

7. Choose coffee over espresso.
To keep costs down while fulfilling my Starbucks addiction, I sometimes opt for brewed coffee over an espresso beverage to kick start my day. When I'm really in the mood for a latte or Americano, then I satisfy the craving for less by sticking to a tall or grande size over the venti.

8. Look for sale or clearance tags.
When it comes to shopping Starbucks goods, never buy at full price! That cute coffee mug or trendy eco-tumbler will inevitably go on sale, so make a note of what you like and hold off until sale time. Save even more when you buy your clearance good with those discount gift cards I mentioned!

9. Ask for "light" ice.
Iced coffees are just the ticket on warm summer days, but you often end up getting less latte than if you ordered the hot version. That's because ice takes up more than half the cup most of the time. Avoid this issue by requesting "light ice" when you order your chilled beverage.

10. Go halfsies with a friend.
If you and your friend like the same drink, order a venti and ask for an extra cup. Starbucks doesn't charge for the extra cup and you can often save an average of $1.50 by splitting up their biggest size. It's a cheapskate move, but you're probably doing both your systems a solid by not downing a venti of caffeine!

11. Bring your own cup.
As an eco-friendly company, Starbucks is all about promoting sustainable practices and limiting its impact on the environment. As such, it rewards its customers who bring in their own tumblers and cups with a 10-cent discount. Just bringing in your own mug will cancel out the price increase on grande and venti brewed coffee - score!

12. Earn stars with coffee bags.
True coffee aficionados drink the good stuff at home, too, which makes the $1 increase on ground coffee all the more painful. However, you can earn more Stars on your My Starbucks Reward card when you buy specially-marked bags of Starbucks coffee from grocery stores and other retailers. Earning Stars helps you score discounts and freebies!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jewelry Jumble No More

One of the hazards side effects of being on TV is a sore neck. Let me explain: my viewers only see me from the waist up. So I feel compelled to make my upper half visually interesting. Costume jewelry plays a big part in that. But costume jewelry, especially statement necklaces, are FREAKING HEAVY. So it's literally become a pain in the neck

You know what else is a pain in the neck? How messy and tangled my jewelry collection has become. I got this little jewelry armoire many years ago, when the necklace styles were much... smaller and tamer. In theory, it was a good solution. But my collection has since outgrown it, as you can see from these photos.

Your OCD super-organized spouse can only complain so many times about the pig sty in the corner before it becomes a fight trigger. So for the sake of my marriage, I started researching jewelry organizing solutions. There are plenty of cute DIY options on Pinterest... using everything from cheese graters to paper towel holders.
These are all gorgeous!  But I have hundreds of pieces of jewelry, so none of these crafty solutions would work for me. I then turned to Amazon, the seller of everything under the sun. Surely there would be a nifty doodad that solve my #firstworldproblem.

A lot of them were highly rated, but this $59.99 Longstem Organizer had five stars and looked the most promising, with 38 hooks to hold 300 pieces. It's pricey, and doesn't even qualify for free Prime shipping, but I was desperate. As soon as it arrived in the mail, my husband was so eager to get my bathroom counter de-cluttered, that he busted out the drill to help me mount it on the wall in our closet.
It's quite tall. 29 x 4 x 20 inches  and 7 pounds. We used the included brackets and anchors to mount it on the wall. It also includes over-the-door hangers, but our doors are too tall to use it that way. My only complaint, it covers the light switch.
 The steel frame is very sturdy, and it comes in a bronze coat or white. But the true test: would it hold everything and display it in a pleasing and accessible way?

 Sounds crazy, but it took me hours to sort through and hang, as well as purge unwanted pieces. But in doing so, I discovered:

1. A long-lost diamond earring stud
2.Many necklaces I had forgotten about
3. And that I need more jewelry. Just kidding honey!

But after painstakingly putting everything in its place, I was really happy to see that lo and behold, everything fit. Some of the back hooks aren't as easily accessible, you have to reach
between stuff hanging in the front. Some other cons: if your earrings are post earrings, it's a little tricky putting the backs on from behind. The plastic tray for rings/brooches is a little shallow, so it doesn't hold as much as I'd like.

But overall, I'm thrilled with this organizer. Every morning, I can clearly see my accessorizing options. This makes a big difference when I'm rushing to get out the door, and every minute counts.

Now on to my pantry. Anyone got any good organizing ideas for that space?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teaching Kids: Money May Not Grow on Trees, but Your Food Does!

I have dusty boogers every time I blow my nose. My kids have scratches on their arms from tree branches. But we aren't complaining. Here's why: 

When Two Sisters U-Pick Apricots offered a tree adoption option this year, I jumped at the chance. Not just for the fun and educational opportunity, but for the bargain. By gathering five other families, we each chipped in only $25 to cover the $150 "adoption" fee. It was fun, but A LOT of work. And that was just one tree. My kids and I have a newfound appreciation for the farmworkers who harvest our food. Each tree yields 200-400 pounds of apricots! Let's just say I now have more apricots than I know what to do with. So naturally I started baking.

 Apricot-blueberry crumble
Apricot-cranberry scones
Next up: apricot jam, and a half dozen other recipes I've been dying to try on my Pinterest board. While helping me in the kitchen tonight, my 7-year-old daughter remarked how "cool" it was that we were literally cooking with something that had been on the tree until we picked it this morning. Light bulb moment inside her little head! She never made that connection before with anything we bought at the store, or even farmer's markets. I think it's important for her to feel connected with and invested in the food she eats. Check out this site for a pick-your-own farm to visit near you! Summer is the best time, with stone fruits and strawberries in season.

My fascination obsession started around mid April. I decided this would be the season to educate my young ones on the concept of farm (or garden) to table. After all, we do live in one of the most amazing and fertile farming regions in the world! I was further inspired by a friend of mine who has an amazing green thumb, and even though mine's brown, I too wanted to give it a try. So I enlisted the kids' help in building a raised garden bed (this kit from Lowe's), filled it with garden soil, and we planted herbs like basil and oregano and thyme, as well as vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. To be honest, I did not have high hopes. Ask my husband: my plant survival rate in my yard is about 10%. The other 90% end up in the green waste recycling bin after weeks of neglect. I swore this time would be different!

April 27th, 2014: Here are the "before" and "after" pictures. Well lo and behold, a little bit of TLC and the garden flourished. The kids eagerly helped with the watering over the course of the month. But I don't know who got more of a kick out of watching everything grow, me or them! 
May 31st, 2014: Obviously I planted too much in one box and didn't give the zucchini and cucumber enough spacing, but I'm pretty happy with how my first attempt is turning out!
 Harvest Time!
The bell peppers were the first to bear fruit.
The saying "enjoy the fruits of your labor," has never rung truer. We felt a sense of giddiness as we plucked our first bell peppers. Marveled at the baby tomatoes. And I am now literally stalking the other plants, looking for the first signs of fruit. Mint for my mojitos, check! Basil to make pesto, let me just run outside. I can't believe it took me this long to do this! No more paying $$$ for herbs at the grocery store, only to have them wither in my fridge and go bad before I need them again. 

If planting a garden, or making a trip to a farm or orchard isn't a possibility, there are plenty of books that teach kids where their food comes from too. The Cow in Patrick O'Shanahan's Kitchen and Growing Seasons are a couple that are highly recommended.

All you country folk might be laughing at me right now, but for this city girl, I feel like a whole new world has been opened for me and my family!

Homemade pepperoni and veggie pizza, toppings courtesy of my humble little garden box.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Apology to Friends Without Kids

I just finished watching this hilarious vlog post by What's Up Moms' Elle Walker, which has totally gone viral now. In it, she explains through her inner monologue, why it's so hard staying in touch and maintaining her friendships with people who don't have kids. Her toddler spills grated cheese in the time it takes Elle to text, sits on her baby brother when she isn't looking, and Elle nods off mid-conversation with her visiting girlfriend. Good Morning America featured the video and the ensuing controversy this morning. I guess some folks were offended, calling it a slap in the face. GMA also asked in a poll, "Can parents stay close friends with people who don't have kids?" 73% said yes, 27% said no. Their parenting expert, Dr. Robyn Silverman, said people took offense because the video made them feel their lives weren't as important or significant just because they didn't have children.

First off, LIGHTEN UP PEOPLE. It's a light-hearted, funny take on the challenges parents face. And part of the way parents cope with the insanity of seemingly simple tasks made impossible by a screaming toddler (like trying to force said toddler to wear clothes and shoes when leaving the house), is with humor. We like to laugh at ourselves and commiserate. But do we feel that our friends without kids can relate? Not at all. That's why this video helps. It gives them an insight into the fact that when I say, "I'm so sorry, it's been so crazy lately." It literally means, "As soon as I got the call from my kid's school that my daughter was sick, she has not stopped puking, and I have not had a moment to put the barf bucket down to text you back." Does it mean I don't value your time? No. Does it mean I don't value our friendship? No. Does it mean I want you to feel sorry for me? No. It just means, "I would love to catch up with you, and I am craving adult conversation about something other than the color and consistency of my daughter's stool, but can I take a rain check?"

Oh those crazy days that are now just a foggy memory, when I had a newborn and a toddler that wanted to act like a newborn. When sleep was just a cruel tease. And I was consumed with nursing the baby and potty training all at the same time.

I've always been the only one of my best friends that had kids. I remember feeling really bad (and sad) when they would invite me to happy hours, weekends in Vegas, or vacations to Mexico and I couldn't just pick up and leave. I REALLY wanted to, but I had new obligations and priorities. I didn't expect them to understand, since they didn't have children. And after awhile, they stopped asking. At first I was hurt, but then I was relieved that I didn't have to keep turning them down. Now I just live vicariously through their Facebook posts. We are still best friends. It's about making an effort, even if that effort isn't always successful. They have been great "aunties" to my kids. They've attended baby showers and the kids' birthdays, sent them gifts. Even inspired their requests for a puppy (thanks a lot Anj). I know I need to be a better friend when it comes to calling and catching up. After the kids are in bed, we've been known to squeeze in a conversation or two, when I'm really able to listen without constantly being interrupted. And I do try to get away and make an effort to have girls weekends every now and then. It just requires more advance planning and notice. 

As you can see... I made it to Mexico with the girls after all:

I love that part in Elle's vlog where she says: "In a few years, I'll make it all up to you with some bad advice from someone who will never judge..." Trust me: I am just counting down the days til my girls have kids of their own, and I can just knowingly smile and say, "Welcome to my world. What took you so long?" And they'll be glad they have a friend who's gone through the mommy madness, and will understand when they can't come out for a drink. (I'll bring the wine over to her house instead)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spring Cleaning Your Closet

I have a lot of clothes. (The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting you have a problem, right?)
Except, I wouldn't call having a lot of clothes a 
problem, per se. It's actually a necessity due to my career. My job requires that I have a lot of professional-looking outfits. And it would be an anchorwoman faux pas to repeat outfits too often. I try to console my husband, by explaining that nothing was bought at full price. So that I'm actually SAVING him money. Yeah, he doesn't buy that line either. He started to get fed up when the closet we shared, was more like a 90/10 split. "Can't you get rid of some of the stuff you don't wear anymore?" As if!!! But he was right. So this photo is a snapshot of how the dress section of my closet looked before my spring cleaning. A hodgepodge of hangers, clothes crammed together.

I didn't want to invest in an entire closet system. And I wasn't about to get my dream walk-in closet.Some people pin vacation spots on their Pinterest boards, but *this* is my happy place. Every now and then, I look at this photo to fantasize about what I'd really like to do with the space that is my guest room or hubby's office.

So I figured a really affordable way to organize and create more room in my existing closets would be to change out the hangers. Costco happened to have these no slip, space-saving hangers at $9.99 for a box of 35. I bought a few... hundred. Then I proceeded to swap out every single one of my hangers, color coordinating and purging the stuff I longer wear along the way. What do you know? The closet space is now more of a 70/30 split and I can actually find stuff now. Hubby was happy, happier. And I was pretty pleased with my $100 investment. Now I can turn my attention to my jewelry. But organizing that collection would require its own blog post!

Here is an after photo of the same space. Better, right?  Just so happens, the good folks at Consumer Reports did an article on low-cost closet fixes in their June 2014 issue. Here are some good ideas:

 Free or super-cheap:

  • Mason jars can be used to stash rolled-up belts, tights, and scarves.
  • Corkboards provide easy-access to jewelry particularly necklaces, earrings and bracelets; use decorative pushpins to dress it up.
  • Ice cube trays are sized just right for earrings and other small jewelry items, and they’re stackable.
  • Rubber bands can secure bulky items (such as a puffy down vest or jacket) that have to be rolled up tightly.
$25 or less:

  • Rubbermaid Flex Tote storage boxes, $8 ( can be filled with cotton items and is easier to squeeze into tight spaces than traditional storage boxes.
  • Hanger Hamper, $9 ( is a triangular bin that stores extra hangers neatly without tangling; the triangle shape nestles neatly into the corner of a closet.
  • 3M Command Hooks, $3 ( can be hung anywhere in a closet where there is a little space to hang robes, nighties, necklaces, and more.
  • Acrylic shelf dividers, $17 each ( keep T-shirts, jeans, and sweaters neatly stacked on a shelf; they can also prop handbags upright and don’t add visual clutter.

Best Closet Systems
Do-it-yourself closet kits can save shoppers hundreds of dollars over professionally installed systems.  ShopSmart  put  those  designed  for  a  six-foot  wide  closet  from  ClosetMaid,  Elfa,  Ikea, Martha Stewart, and Rubbermaid to the test.  Here’s a look at two of the winners:

Best Overall: Platinum Elfa Reach-In, $560 ( This system held all of the stuff without anything getting smooshed, plus it was the easiest and fastest unit to install (taking 35 minutes), with minimal drilling.  There is a lot of customer support – online and video directions are clear. 

Best for small closets: Rubbermaid Homefree Series, $90 ( This kit was the cheapest of the bunch and held all the stuff.  It was also fairly easy to put together, though installation time took more than an hour.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What do I do with all these photos on my phone?

I am so tired of getting this message on my phone -- reminding me that once again, I've clogged up my memory space. I can't launch my camera. I can't launch apps. Then I'm desperately trying to delete non-essential photos and videos so I can create even more memories I'll eventually have to delete. Repeat.

OK, so I have over a thousand photos and videos on my phone. Is that excessive? This, despite the fact that just last month, I transferred what I had onto my laptop. For most of us, our phones or tablets have become our go-to devices for documenting life. A small percentage of those digital memories actually get printed or shared. The other day, a friend of mine told me she lost thousands and thousands of her photos when her computer crashed. My heart sank. When was the last time I'd backed up my pics? I would be devastated if I lost my daughter's first piano recital, my son's first T-ball game, my anniversary in Napa.

To ease my mind, my hubby bought me an external hard drive years ago. I have always had an inherent dislike for the thing. It's inexplicable, really. But my two biggest beefs: It's not automatic (I have to be reminded to sit down and back up my stuff) and I can't access my content unless I'm hardwired to it.

For that, there's always a "cloud" service like Apple's iCloud which gives you 5GB of free storage (you can buy more storage). iCloud lets you access your photos, documents, and music from whatever device you're on. It's easy to set up and use. iCloud automatically backs up your phone daily over Wi-Fi when your device is connected to a power source. There are a ton of cool features, including the "find my iPhone" feature and the password keychain to help you remember everything. 

There are a lot of cloud storage options: Google Drive offers 15GB of free space. Dropbox only 2GB. Amazon Cloud Drive 5GB. All offer premium upgrade options, if you want to buy more space.

But with convenience also comes concern. I've always been uneasy about the idea of my personal photos and documents floating around on a server somewhere. There for the taking by hackers or even the government. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but privacy advocates warn cloud security is a challenge.

For me, the perfect solution is Western Digital's My Book Live Personal Cloud Storage: essentially, your own personal cloud. You can save everything in one place and access it from anywhere with your PC, Mac, smartphone or tablet. Protect your files with automatic file backup for all your computers. And with direct file uploads from your mobile devices, all your important photos are safely stored on your personal cloud. Their consumer version "My Cloud" costs $150 for 2TB to $180 for 3TB and $220 for  4TB. In my opinion, a small price to pay for a ton of space and the security and privacy and convenience of your own personal cloud.