April 23, 2012

Easiest Homemade Chicken Broth {in a crockpot!}


Homemade chicken broth is like pure gold in our house.  In fact, we never buy boneless chicken breasts anymore because we don't want to lose out on the nutritious, delicious homemade broth!

Bone broth is rich in minerals and amino acids and makes all the difference in a great chicken soup. I shudder to think of all the times we threw out chicken bones after dinner because I couldn't be bothered to make broth with it!

Making broth really is a simple process, made even simpler by use of a slow cooker.

Step 1: After dinner I bring out a bowl and have everyone throw any bones, bits of meat and skin in it.


Step 2: Add enough cold water to cover all the bones. Add a splash (about a tablespoon, but I don't measure) of apple cider vinegar, it helps draw the nutrients out from the bones. Don't worry, it won't make your broth taste like vinegar! Throw in a sprig of thyme or rosemary if you have it.

Why no vegetable scraps? Many people add veggie scraps to their broth and that's fine.  I leave mine out for three reasons: 1) I want to be able to control the flavour of the final dish.  If I want onions and celery in my soup, I'll add them when turning the broth into soup later.  2) My crockpot gets pretty hot and the long cooking time causes the onions to caramelize and the broth to turn a dark brown colour. and 3) I want to keep the whole process so super simple that I can throw it together quickly while tidying up after dinner. 
But go ahead and experiment with adding your veggie scraps if you want!

Step 3: Turn the crockpot to low and let cook overnight.   I normally start my broth at about 6:30 in the evening and let it go until 9 or 10am the next day. 

In the morning it will look something like this (and your house will smell heavenly).

 

Step 4: Strain it!  I place a wire mesh sieve in a large bowl with a small piece of cheesecloth.  I use the cheesecloth because it helps to strain out little bits of sediment better and also because it makes the sieve easier to clean.



Discard the bones and you have a rich, beautiful fragrant bone broth!


Step 5: Defat the broth. Place the broth in the fridge to cool completely. Once it is cool, you can easily skim off any fat that has gathered on the top.  You don't need to get every speck, but too much fat in the broth can give it a greasy feel in your mouth that isn't entirely appetizing. 
  
OR soak a piece of paper towel in clean water and lay it gently on the top of the bowl of cooled broth.  Because it's already wet, it won't soak up your broth, but the fat on the top will stick to it. Immediately lift out the paper towel, you'll be able to see all the bits of grease you've removed!

When you use your broth in soups, sauces, or just to drink warm from a favourite mug, you will definitely want to add salt, since we haven't done that yet!

So, to summarize: collect bones, cover with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar. Cook on low overnight.  Strain. Cool. Defat. Salt.  Delicious, easy, homemade bone broth ready in time for lunch!

Enjoy!

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April 19, 2012

How to Clean Cooked-On Gunk from a Stove Top

Lets get this out of the way first: Yes, you should just clean up the messes on your stove top before they dry and cook and turn into greasy mystery gunk of unknown vintage.  Of course you should do that.  But you don't.  Or at least I don't. Not every time.

I had tried virtually everything to remove the little cooked on spots around the edges of my stove burners, and everything seemed to help a little, but nothing really worked well.


Until I discovered hydrogen peroxide and baking soda!

Mix some baking soda in a small bowl with enough hydrogen peroxide to make a paste.  Use a scrubby sponge and the gunk comes off surprisingly easily!  I recommend wearing rubber gloves, especially if you have sensitive skin.


There were a few stubborn spots, but they are hidden by the edges of the burner drip pans.


Ah.  So much better.  I love simple and thrifty solutions like this!

Oh...and on a somewhat unrelated note...Did you know that the top of your stove probably lifts up for easy cleaning? 
I was cleaning my stove once after a giant oatmeal overflow and lifted the stove top to clean under it and blew my husband's mind.  Apparently, he had no idea that most stove tops lifts up like a car hood for easy cleaning. And just in case he isn't the only person who didn't already know that, I decided to snap a picture and share it with all of you! 


The stove top will be hinged at the back and have posts to keep it from falling.  Once you've removed your elements and drip pans just gently pull up on the front of the stove top and it should lift right up, allowing you to wipe up any spills or bits of food that have fallen down there.

If it doesn't open, don't force it...your stove may not have this feature!  And as always, use caution when cleaning any household appliances.

Thanks so much for visiting the Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

April 18, 2012

Links I Love: Spring Cleaning Edition!


Last year I shared my massive ambitious spring cleaning checklist and my unreasonable enthusiasm for the ritual.  I love throwing open the windows, clearing out the dust bunnies, and making the house shine! But I must admit that this year even I find that list a little daunting.   Here are some tips, links and products that I think will help a little as we celebrate spring by making our homes fresh and clean!

I've shared this before but it's worth sharing again: Visit Chris and Robin's Nest to find out How to clean a microfibre sofa!  

I love the idea of getting all gussied up for spring cleaning in a fancy apron like this Women's Frosted Cupcake Apron , don't you?

I can't wait to try these tips on how to clean windows like a pro.  I also can't wait to go squeegee shopping.  Wow, I may need to get out more!

Need some meals for the end of a busy day of cleaning house?  Here are 3 of my favorite crock pot recipes: Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan, Crockpot Beef Brocolli, and crockpot gyros, which I make using just ground turkey and could totally go for some right now!


And finally a little shameless self promotion....Don't forget to browse around imperfecthomemaking.com  for lots of cleaning tips too!  Like how to clean your dishwasher and 8 things to start using vinegar for!


Thanks for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.  If you've shared a helpful spring cleaning tip on your own blog recently, feel free to share the link in the comments below!

April 13, 2012

10 Tips for a Stress-Free Yard Sale


Last Saturday my family had a very successful yard sale.  We made about 200 dollars and, more importantly, unloaded a lot of junk!  Here are some tips I've gleaned, not only from hosting the occasional yard sale, but as an avid yard sale shopper!

1. Use plenty of signs, and keep them simple.  When looking for a yard sale, people don't read words, they follow arrows.  Keep your signs all the same colour and style too, they will be like a trail of breadcrumbs to your door.

2.Advertise for free.  You can list your yard sale for free on Kijiji, local barter/sell groups or community facebook pages dedicated to that sort of thing.   In your advertisement, consider listing the colour of your signs in your description.  "Follow the pink signs" is more helpful than detailed directions.

3. Think like a store. Put like items together, display popular items at eye level, hang clothing and arrange items so that they are clearly visible. Most people won't rummage through boxes to find a treasure.  Put things where people will see them.




4. Price to sell.  We've all been to yard sales where it was clear that the person was way too attached to their stuff.  If you price things too high people won't even try to haggle you down, they'll walk away. Which brings me to the next point...

5. Say goodbye to your stuff.  Not literally.  But if you aren't certain you want to sell something, don't put it out at a yard sale. A "I only want to sell this if I can get 50 bucks for it" mentality is better suited to craigslist or Ebay.
  
6. Plan ahead.  Be prepared to make change and have bags or boxes available for people to carry their items away in.  Also, plan to have something simple for dinner (we had take-out!) because you'll probably be tired after the yard sale is all packed up! 

7. Give Kids a Job.  My 4 year old was the official greeter, and my  5 year old retrieved boxes for people who needed them.  Having jobs kept the kids entertained (a.k.a not whining) and let them be a part of what mommy and daddy were doing! 

8.  Keep it outdoors. As a reasonably cautious young woman I never, ever, EVER go to a yard sale that is inside, even if it's just an enclosed porch.  I can't be the only one who feels this way, so if you aren't willing to move your stuff out to the front yard (or an open garage that is easily visible from the street) then you WILL lose customers.

9. Get rid of the left over stuff pronto.  If you don't have a plan to drop it off at the thrift store right away there is a really good chance the clutter will end up back in your basement or garage, taking up space in your home and mind for another year.  Get rid of it before it even has the chance to make it back inside!

Please Please Please don't save it for another yard sale, another year.  You are not a big box store, and your garage is not a warehouse, so clear out the inventory!

10.  Keep it simple.  Don't stress yourself out with hand drawn plan-o-grams of where to put everything or a last minute bake sale.  Just put together the best yard sale you can with the time you have and then enjoy visiting with your neighbours and making a few bucks. 



Are you planning a yard sale for this year?  What tips do you think make for a great yard sale?

April 12, 2012

{Home Staging 101} Part 4: Staging Bathrooms



{This is part 4 in a series called Home Staging 101.  The lovely and talented Kym Tarr of Shoestring Home Staging is teaching us all how to stage a home for sale. Join me as I learn how to put my home's best foot forward!}

We have seven people in our house and one bathroom.  (Granted, 2 of those people are infants who don't have much use for a bathroom just yet.)  Which means that this bathroom is a work horse.  I need to make it look like the restful retreat I know it can be even though there are 5 people spitting toothpaste in there several times a day.  Here are the changes Kym Recommended for my bathroom:

Make it sparkle.   I scrubbed the tiles and grout, washed the baseboard, dusted the light, shined the fixtures, washed the mini-blinds (I've shared before about my simple way to clean mini blinds), and scrubbed everything.  Cleaning is the cheapest way to make any room look better!

Remove Personal Products.  I placed our bath products in a shower caddy that can be tucked in the linen tower between uses.  I wish I'd done this years ago!  There's nothing pretty about a bottle of body wash...tuck it out of sight!



Add fluffy white towels. Is there anything more luxurious and indulgent than fluffy white towels? I added some white bath towels on the edge of my bath tub and a white hand towel by the sink.


Add greenery or flowers. My bathroom almost always has a flower or two because they make me happy and my bathroom is where I go to hide from the children, er, um....I mean have a bubble bath and relax....


Kym also suggested that I remove the garbage can for showings.  Which, of course, is great advice. But I'm trying to keep my list of things to do before showings small because, let's face it, just getting things tidy and five kids out the door is going to be an ordeal! So instead, I made room under my vanity for the garbage can to live there full time.  This meant tucking products we don't use every single day in the linen closet and keeping only the necessities in the vanity cabinet.  It is worth it to have one less thing to think about on our way out the door!



We also replaced some loose tiles and removed some decorative shelves.  All in all, staging our bathroom was nearly free.

Here's the before and after pics of our newly staged bathroom:




Kym's top 3 tips for staging YOUR bathroom:

1.Make it cleaner than clean! Scrub down tiles, wash or change the blinds, curtains & shower curtains. Don’t forget shower door frames, window sills, light fixtures, baseboards and behind the toilet.

2. Ditch Carpets, seat covers and bath mats. They hold onto moisture and odors. Mats that fit around the pedestal of toilets and sinks look old fashioned.

3. Get rid of your ‘stuff’ When selling, clear every surface of all your day to day care products. Personal items distracts buyers. Limit counter top decor to a hand towel and pretty soap dispenser.


To learn more abut Kym Tarr and her virtual home staging services visit her website ShoestringHomeStaging.com.   You can also "like" her on facebook or follow her on twitter and pinterest.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the Home Staging 101 series:


Thanks for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!

April 10, 2012

Baby Halter Dress {free pattern and tutorial}


For Easter I made pretty spring dresses for my daughters.  I used this free pattern by The Cottage Home for my two oldest girls, but I couldn't find any free pattern online that I wanted to use for my twin baby girls. And since I am a weird sort of thrifty that will allow me to spend 100 bucks on fabric in one shopping spree but not 7 bucks on a pattern, I decided to make my own.  




Size:  6 months, give or take.

My 9 month old twins are 13 and 15 pounds and this dress fits them perfectly. Make it for a baby smaller than that and it may fit her all summer!

Materials:
  • about 3/4 of a yard of cotton fabric. 
  • A spool of tulle
  • thread
  • 1 inch wide elastic

For one dress, cut:
  • Bodice front pieces.  Cut 2 on fold. Print the pattern here.  Make sure to set your printer to remove any margins and scaling from your page so that the document can print at 100%.
  • Bodice back pieces.  Cut 2 strips of fabric that are 2.25" x 10.5".
  • Straps.  Cut 2 strips of fabric that are 2.25" x 10"
  • Skirt.  Cut one piece that is 10" long and 44" wide.
  • Elastic.  Cut a 6" strip of elastic. 
Seam allowance: 5/8" unless otherwise stated.

Place a bodice back piece and a bodice front piece together, with the right-sides together. Stitch the short ends of the back piece to the sides of the front piece.  Repeat with the other front piece and back piece.  You now have two dress tops because one will be the lining.  



 Next, you will sew your elastic to one of the backs.  Stretch it over the length of the back piece, just inside your side stitches, and pin it in place.



Stretch it out as you sew it in place so that the back of the dress stretches nicely.


 Press your side seams in.

Press the bottoms of both dress tops up a half inch.


(Please ignore my totally nasty stained ironing board that I've had since college and should probably replace at some point. As I previously mentioned, I'm thrifty in all the wrong ways!)

Top stitch an 1/8 of an inch in from the edge of the fold you just made on the back of the dress top that has the elastic in it.


So far, your creation should look something like this:


Next you will turn these two parts into one lined dress top by sewing them together with the right-sides together and then turning it.  Start by pining the two parts together with right sides together.


Stitch around the arm holes and back, and around the neck.  Leave the shoulder straps and bottom open.  

 Cut notches in the seam allowance of the curves so that when you turn in right side out the neck and arm holes will lay flat.  Be careful not to cut any stitches when you notch the fabric.


 Turn the bodice right side out.  Press the edges nice and flat.


Top stitch an 1/8" from the top edge of the bodice back, stretching the elastic as you sew.



Next you will make your straps. Fold the straps in half lengthwise with right-sides together and sew along the edge. 1/8" seam allowance.


Turn the straps right-side-out.  I find the easiest way to do this is to attach a safety pin to one end and  push it through the tube of fabric and out the other end. You can also use a crochet hook by sticking it up the tube, hooking one end and pulling gently to turn the tube right-side-out.


Press flat. Fold the tops down into triangles and stitch closed.


Fold the tops of the shoulders on the bodice in a bit by poking it in with your finger.  Place the bottom end of one of the straps in and sew the shoulder opening closed with the strap secured inside. Do this for the other strap as well.


Congrats!  You now have a teensy-weensy, fully-lined, halter-style bodice!

To make the skirt we must first gather the tulle.  Fold the tulle in half lengthwise and, by hand, make large gathering stitches.  Keep gathering tulle until you have 44 inches of ruffled tulle.


Stitch the ruffle to the good side of the skirt bottom. 


Iron the seams up so that they cannot be seen through the tulle.


Top stitch 1/8" from the edge of the skirt fabric to keep the fabric from fraying and to give the skirt bottom a finished look.


Hang in there.  You're almost done!

Sew the sides of the skirt together with the right sides together. Press the seam open.   A tight zig-zag stitch along the fabric edges will keep them from fraying.


Sew another gathering stitch along the top of your skirt.


Pull your gathering thread until your skirt fits nicely into the bottom of the bodice.  The skirt will go between the bottom edges of the bodice and lining that you folded up earlier.  Pin it in place.


Top stitch 1/8" from the bottom of the bodice to hold the skirt in place.  Be careful not to get the straps stuck in your stitching.  I'm only saying this because I got my straps stuck in the stitching.  You're probably smart enough not to make that mistake....



You're done!  Congratulations! You made a fab little dress for your fab little girl!  Give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy.


The fabric I used is Kumari Garden Sacha Pink and the pink tulle is Tulle Spool Paris Pink.


Thanks for visiting The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking!
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