March 22, 2011

Checklist for A Thorough Spring Cleaning


Originally, spring cleaning was a grueling ritual made necessary by long winters of heating with wood, kerosene and candles that left a layer or soot and grime throughout the home.  Today, spring cleaning is much less an onerous chore and more an opportunity to throw open the windows, let some fresh air in, and make our homes clean, happy and efficient spaces.

I *LOVE* spring cleaning.  And this year, I'm cleaning for all it's worth, partly because I'm a crazy hormonal pregnant woman and partly because I anticipate that once these twins are born I won't have time to clean for approximately 18 years!

I couldn't find any spring cleaning checklists that embodied my enthusiasm for the ritual, so I've created my own and I'm sharing it with all of you.

Click Here for my very thorough spring cleaning checklist.  ( Even if you aren't an insanely hormonal pregnant woman with an insatiable desire to scrub everything!)

Before you begin, Here are some extra spring cleaning tips:
  1. Set aside at least a week for a thorough spring cleaning. Work from one end of your house to the other.
  2. Plan some easy meals for the days you will spend cleaning.  Consider using your slow cooker.  A crockpot full of stew at the end of a day of intense cleaning is a beautiful thing!
  3. As you clean, keep a list of any jobs you notice that need to be done around the house: little paint touch-ups or a pillow that needs to be mended.  Don't get distracted by these chores during your cleaning, save them for when you are done.  (Or else you may never be done!)
  4. Keep another list of things you notice you need.  Especially when you clean out your fridge and pantry, you will probably become aware of some supplies you are out of or running low on.
  5. Take an empty laundry basket and pile in it anything you need your hubby to sort through (miscellaneous receipts you're not sure you need to keep, random bolts and screws you've found in his pocket a year ago but you're afraid to get rid of because if you do he's sure to come to you tomorrow asking if you've seen that little bolt that is vital for something or other, that singing Christmas tie you're really hoping he'll finally part with... you get the point!)  Ask him to sort through the basket when he has a chance. 

I'd love to know if you do use my check list, and  also if you think of something I've forgotten!

Happy Cleaning!

    March 17, 2011

    Cleaning Mini Blinds


    I remember when I was a child being fascinated by a funny little dusting tool my mother had for her mini blinds.  It had little fluffy fingers and you would run the fingers along the slats of the mini blinds to dust them.  I also remember wondering what exactly the point was, weren't we just tossing the dust back up into the air? 

    Every once in a while I will take a damp cloth and wipe down my mini blinds to catch some of the dust, and then remember oh yeah...that doesn't work.  The cloth just pushes the dust around so that it clumps and looks even worse than it did before!

    Here is how to clean you mini blinds so that they are actually clean!

    1.  Take them down and place them in your bathtub.
    2.  Run warm water and add a couple big squeezes of dish soap and about a cup of vinegar.
    3.  Fill just until the water level comes up over the mini blinds.
    4. Give blinds a swish around the sudsy tub and then let soak for one hour.
    5. Come back, swish some more, and drain tub.  Rinse with clean water to remove soap residue.
    6. Give the blinds a gentle shake to remove some water, hang them back up and let them dry.
    7. Wasn't that easy?

    Happy Cleaning!

    March 12, 2011

    A Simple Entryway Project


    I've had this bench, sans cushion, in my entryway for years. The whole time I've been meaning to make a cushion for it.  Do you ever find that when you finally take on a project that is long overdue you wonder why you put it off for so long?


    Burlap pillows have been trendy for a while, thanks in part to some pricey versions in fancy-schmancy catalogs.   I've seen tutorials on how to make such pillows, and they tend to include things such as fabric paint and stencils.  I didn't do any of that.

    I used this:


    In retrospect, a stencil (or at least drawing my script on with a pencil first!) may have been a good idea.  My lettering turned out a little funny.  You live, you learn.

    I'll spare you the instructions on pillow making, because I'm confident that you all know how to sew a rectangle and stuff it, but I will show you how I added the ruffle.


    I gathered the ruffle by hand, but it can be done on a sewing machine with a large zig-zag stitch over a piece of thick thread or dental floss.  The zig-zags create a trough for the floss to sit in and the ruffle can be gathered by scrunching the fabric along the floss.

    I pinned the ruffle, facing in, to the right side of one pillow piece. Sew it in place before placing the other pillow piece on top and sewing.  It seems tempting to just sandwich the ruffle between the pillow pieces to begin with and sew away, but in my experience that causes the ruffle to look a little bit wonky.  Nobody wants a wonky ruffle...


    I like it, although I'm noticing that bench could really use a new coat of paint.  Maybe I'll get around to it in a year or two...

    March 8, 2011

    Finding Time


    I often get asked how I find the time to do all the things I do with three little ones running around the house.  Sometimes I get asked this by moms who work outside of the home, which always really baffles me because I tend to wonder the same things about them! 
    I'm not the most efficient homemaker, and I still have a lot to learn, but I do manage to squeeze a lot of productivity into most of my days.  Here are some things that help me to do that!

    1. I don't do it all.   I figure my house is probably at least 70% clean about 70% of the time.  I don't cook fancy meals every night.  My kids get baths every second night. This is good enough for us . 
    2. It's my Job.  When my husband is working, I am working around the house. (Except for large amounts of time spent on this blog!)  I don't believe it is okay to be watching television while my husband is working hard to pay the bills, so I treat homemaking like it's my job....because it is!
    3. I use pockets of time.  Whenever I have a spare moment, I sort some laundry or put some dishes away. Or repaint a room...
    4. My kids do chores.  Not only does this mean they are doing things so that I don't have to, but it also means that they are happily occupied putting laundry away in their room long enough for me to put laundry away in mine! Click here to read more about some suitable chores for young children.
    5. I have a small house.  This obviously means less housework to keep up with, but it also means I can be training and nurturing my children while doing things around the house because I'm rarely more than 20 feet away from them. 
    6. I know that it isn't my job to entertain my kids.  Nurture, yes. Teach, yes.  Feed, cuddle, bathe, discipline, listen to, laugh with, pray with, read to: yes.  But not entertain.  I believe children need to know how to play quietly for short periods of time without mommy entertaining them.  If you don't have to spend your day answering the question "What can we do now?" you free up a lot of time.
    7. My kids nap.  My oldest has started to outgrow nap time, so some days she has quiet time instead.  she can color, or play with play dough, or look at a book.  I get one full hour of peace and quiet and calm in the middle of my day.  Priceless.
    8. I involve my kids in what I'm doing.  They help me make dinner, or bake bread, or they put the sprinkles on cupcakes.  They help me sort laundry, and we sing old hymns together while we do it.
    9. I have an incredible husband.  He barbecues in the snow.  He helps with the garden in the spring.  He takes a child or two with him when he goes to the hardware store on a Saturday morning.  He can even cook!
    10. I'm passionate about my role as a wife, mother and homemaker. What a privilege it is to spend my days serving my God by serving my family!
      What helps you to get things done?

      March 7, 2011

      Way-better-than-cake-mix CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES


      I have about a bazillion things to do this afternoon and wasn't going to blog at all, but then realized I could share with you this fabulous recipe for the cupcakes I'm making today (for six of the most incredible young women I know.)

      My favorite thing about this recipe, other than the fact that is is very delicious, is that it is pretty much as simple as a cake mix.  Dump dry ingredients in mixer, dump wet ingredients on top, mix and bake!

      Chocolate Cupcakes

      Combine in bowl of stand mixer:
      • 2 cups sugar
      • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
      • 1 cup cocoa
      • 2 tsp baking soda
      • 1 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp salt
      Add:
      • 2 large eggs
      • 1 cup buttermilk
      • 1 cup brewed black coffee
      • 1/2 cup safflower oil (canola oil can be substituted in a pinch)
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until batter is smooth and glossy.

      Scoop or pour into 24 muffin cups and bake @ 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

      Enjoy!

      If you do try this recipe, please come back and let me know what you thought!

      March 3, 2011

      5 Grocery Items that You Can Make Yourself

      Taco
      Photo by TheCulinaryGeek via Flickr CC

      I'm not somebody who makes things at home just for the sake of having it homemade.  For me, a homemade recipe has to offer at least one of these benefits:
      • It's cheaper than store bought.
      • It's yummier than store bought.
      • It's healthier than store bought.
      Often, they meet all three.  Here are 5 recipes to help cut your grocery bill, eat yummier and avoid icky additives.

      1.  Make your own Taco Seasoning.

      Combine:
      • 1 Tbsp Chili powder
      • 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and oregano
      • 1/2 tsp paprika
      • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
      • 1 1/2 tsp salt
      • 1/2 tsp pepper
      • 2 Tbsp of flour

       2. Make your own salad dressings.  

      There are hundreds of recipes for tasty salad dressings to experiment with, but my personal favorite is both simple and delicious.  This recipe sounds too simple to be good, but it is REALLY good.  Do try it!

      Combine approximately equal amounts of your favorite sweet chili sauce and some good balsamic vinegar. Add a splash of white vinegar.  Taste and adjust quantities until it has your preferred balance of zingy, sweet and delicious.

      3.  Make your own marinade.

      I use this marinade for steak, kabobs, veggies, and pretty much anything else I want to barbecue.

      Combine equal amounts of:
      • olive oil
      • balsamic vinegar
      • soy sauce
      • Worcestershire sauce
      Then add some:
      • minced garlic
      • and a squeeze of Dijon mustard

      4. Make your own vanilla icing.

      In stand mixer, beat:
      • 1 cup of butter
      • 3 1/2 cups icing sugar
      • 1 tsp milk
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • a pinch of salt
      Whip on high for 3-5 minutes until fluffy and awesome.


      5.  make your own croutons.

      Put a couple teaspoons each of oil and butter in a frying pan.  Fry some minced garlic in it.  Sprinkle with some rosemary and kosher salt.  Add slightly stale cubed bread.  Fry and stir  until bread is a little crispy on each side. Taste and add more salt if needed.


      What do you like to make at home?  Is it to save money, improve flavor or eat healthier?
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