Vanilla Mint Body Lotion

Let’s face it. No matter what kind of woman, girly-girl or tomboy, we all want to feel pampered from time to time. And there’s nothing better than pampering yourself with a wonderful lotion you’ve made with your own two hands. You’ll love this vanilla mint body lotion, created by my two oldest granddaughters with some help from their mom!

My former daughter-in-law is still a very close friend of mine. In fact, she and my son get along splendidly now that they’re not married. She’s a great lady and she’s a really fantastic mom. She tries to give my granddaughters a wide variety of experiences and this lotion is just one example. She took the girl children to buy essential oils for the project and let them choose scents for their own lotion/body butter.  They were really into choosing exactly the right scents, which meant they needed to sniff every bottle of essential oils in the store.  It was a tedious adventure, but it all turned out pretty well.

The 13 year old decided she wanted to clone the scent of her favorite lip balm, which is vanilla mint.  Here’s how they created it.

The Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup aloe vera gel
  • 1/4 cup grated beeswax
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil

First they grated up the beeswax (because the only kind they could find was in a block).  They put it into a glass bowl and added the coconut oil.

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Next they filled a large pan with water, set the glass bowl in it and heated it on medium, stirring until it was all melted.  (Note: the beeswax takes longer to melt than the coconut oil, so it will look like this before it all gets clear).

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My daughter-in-law used the big pan thinking it would be easier to retrieve the bowl. Apparently it was not. This is her quote on that part of the project; “I ended up having to lift the bowl out ninja-style with a bendy spatula.  It was awesome to behold, and yet sad at the same time.  Next time I’ll just go with the smaller pan size like a double-boiler.”

Once you do your ninja moves on the bowl of melted coconut oil and beeswax, add in the aloe vera gel, vanilla, and peppermint.

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You can adjust the amounts of each so that the scent is most pleasing to you. Mix until the aloe is well incorporated.

Unfortunately, the camera gave up the ghost at this point so I don’t have pictures of the rest of the process. I swear, it came out just great!

If you want more of a body butter consistency, let the mixture set up for a bit and then whip it until it’s fluffy and luxurious

I’d love to hear from you if you try this yourself!

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I buy a chuck tender roast for this recipe and use my 48 pin meat tenderizer before cutting it into bite size pieces. My husband and I both love this version of Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff and it makes enough for the two of us for several dinners. I just freeze the leftovers in 2 person portions and reheat it when I’m short on time or just too sore to fuss over dinner. I simply make fewer noodles the first night and cook fresh noodles for leftover dinners.  

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Cleaning Series Part 3 – Cleaning Experiments

In the last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of articles on ways to clean. Some of the methods and materials are things I use and some of them are definitely not. Some materials and methods are touted as being the most economical, easiest, most plant-friendly things you can use to achieve housekeeping nirvana. Honestly, I have my doubts about a number of them. As I’m working on the cleaning series I’ve decided I’m going to try some of these cleaning experiments. These are the things I’ve tried so far.

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  • Cleaning your sink with baking soda and a toothbrush – I just had to try this but I wanted the experiment to be realistic. It wasn’t a real test if the sink were pretty much perfect when I began. So I let my fantastically hard water go to work on my stainless steel kitchen sinks. I ignored the gunk building up in the drains. It got to the point that I felt that doing the dishes in the sink couldn’t be much better than washing them in a puddle of rusty water and rinsing them with mud. I was ready.  Armed only with baking soda, an old toothbrush, and dogged determination I began scrubbing. The theory is that baking soda is a mild abrasive and won’t hurt the finish. The toothbrush is (apparently) for getting into the rounded corners more easily. I put my heart into it, sprinkling baking soda and going at it with the damp toothbrush as though my life depended on it. After about 10 minutes of scrubbing I rinsed the sink to see if I could discern a difference between the brushed and the un-brushed sides. Nope. Not a bit of difference. I tried one more time, using a different toothbrush but got the same results. I’d wasted about 30 minutes of my life trying to clean my sinks this way. Now, had I brushed my teeth in this manner I’m sure I’d have been happy. In the end, I used some mild cleaner and the “scrubby” side of a kitchen sponge. My sinks are back to being clean and I’m saving the baking soda and toothbrush for clean teeth. This tip gets an “F” from me.

(insert before and after pictures of sinks)

  • Cleaning the sink with baking soda, white vinegar, dish detergent, citrus fruit, and ice – Since I’d already cleaned my sinks with a cleanser I couldn’t give this one a real hardcore test. I will say that it made more sense. First you sprinkle the baking soda into the sink and make it into a paste. Making it into a paste just means adding some water. Now the instructions didn’t say to rub it with anything but it did read work it into a paste so I assume that meant rub it in. Unfortunately, that could mean work it into a paste with your fingers which probably wouldn’t do much for cleaning. Then you rinse the baking soda thoroughly. Next (and this made much more sense to me) you line the sink with paper towels soaked in white vinegar and leave them on for 20 minutes. Experience has taught me that white vinegar does a great job of removing hard water stains/buildup and rust. You may have to leave it on longer if the buildup is significant. Finally, you rinse the sink with warm soapy water. I guess that’s to get rid of the vinegar smell. Next you’re supposed to wipe the faucets and handles with a mild soapy solution and the author does suggest using white vinegar for hard to remove spots and using a toothbrush for the hard-to-reach places. Kudos for that advice! I honestly feel that separating the baking soda step and the white vinegar step is smart. Mixing them produces a rather dramatic foaming action but chemically leaves you with just some “exploding” water. It’s because baking soda is a “basic” and the vinegar is acidic and together they’re all flash and no work. I’m a big believer in white vinegar for tough hard water stains and rust and an old toothbrush is great for getting tough to reach areas you need to clean. I give this a “B+” because I still don’t know why you’d bother with the baking soda.
  • Cleaning the garbage disposal with baking soda, white vinegar, boiling water, ice, salt (coarse), and lemon – We don’t currently have a garbage disposal *sigh* but I have had them in the past so I feel I can grade this one. This method uses the old standby of baking soda and white vinegar and, as I’ve mentioned, this combo makes a dramatic show but is chemically little more than water. The next step is pouring boiling water into the garbage disposal. Smart move because it will melt and wash away any built up grease from the grinding element but not smart because the grease may just go through the pipes a way and then re-congeal leaving you with clogged plumbing. *Note: if you do accidentally pour grease into your garbage disposal run the water as cold as you can get it and then turn the disposal on. The cold water makes the grease solidify so the disposal can chop it up into tiny pieces. Back to the instructions; next you pour coarse salt (the author recommends rock salt if you have it) over ice and dump the ice into the disposal, turning it on. The ice/salt will bang around in there loosening grit and grime from the grinding element. The final step is to cut a lemon or lime in half and, with the water, running, add the halves to the disposal. Citrus fruits do help clean the disposal and they’ll leave a nice scent but I don’t think that lemon and lime are the only choices. Toss orange halves in there if that’s what you have on hand. Overall I give this tip a “B-“ because you’re basically wasting a step combining the baking soda and white vinegar.
  • Cleaning the garbage disposal with lemon and white vinegar ice cubes – This one takes a little pre-planning. You slice up a lemon, dropping a little piece into each section of your ice cube mold. Fill the mold with white vinegar and freeze it. Then, when it’s frozen you toss a few of the lemon/vinegar cubes into the disposal and run it until the ice is gone. I’d suggest cold water for the process so you don’t just melt the vinegar and lose the whole point of making the ice cubes. The author even suggests using a few drops of vanilla, orange, or lemon extract if you don’t have lemons on hand. Since this tip is basically for freshening the disposal rather than a deep cleaning method, and the author mentions immediately running hot water into the disposal if grease gets down there, I give it an “A.”
  • Cleaning the microwave with lemon and water – I’m a huge believer in cleaning any spills and splatters in the microwave as soon as they happen. It’s so easy to let it go but, do this a few times and you’ve got a cleaning job that can require you to bend backwards into a tiny box while trying to scrub stuck on messes on the “ceiling” of the microwave. But if you do need to loosen stuck on stuff then this tip is fine. The instructions tell you to fill a cup with water, drop some lemon into it and heat it up. One caveat I’d like to add is that you shouldn’t let the water heat up so much that it bubbles out of the cup. Too much liquid all over the bottom and vent of the microwave can cause it to die an early death. This tip gets an “A-“ from me because the steam will loosen stuck on gunk and the lemon will help freshen the microwave but it doesn’t remind you not to let the cup overflow. Another author suggests vinegar, a bit of water, and a few drops of lemon essential oil so this one also earns an “A-.”
  • Cleaning the toaster with cream of tartar and water – There are a lot of instructions on cleaning stainless steel appliances with cream of tartar and a few drops of water. I found one on cleaning the toaster with this mixture and, thankfully, the author did an update. I don’t own any stainless steel appliances so testing this was going to be difficult and I was a little nonplussed that people were using cream of tartar rather than just a mild cleanser. Cream of tartar, while not a “harsh chemical” is expensive to use as a cleaner, especially if people are cleaning their stainless refrigerator or stove with it! The author who did the update came to the same conclusion and used Bar Keeper’s Friend cleanser. Based on the expense of using cream of tartar, this method gets an “F” and the updated post gets an “A+.”

I’ll be conducting more cleaning experiments and will post the results as soon as they’re in!

As always, your comments and questions are more than welcomed!

Edible Landscaping

When we still owned our farm we not only had an amazing garden and livestock but an abundance of wild edible plants growing on the land. Since my spinal cord injury the idea of wrestling a 130 lb. lamb makes me cringe but I still want to use the land we have to expand the sources of food I grow. And edible landscaping can be very attractive. While the chickens and rabbits are great for eggs and food and my garden provides so many vegetables I want to turn the rest of the property into productive space. So I’m working on creating edible landscaping everywhere I can.

According to Oregon State University, Edible landscaping is the use of food-producing plants in the residential landscape. It combines fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, vegetables, herbs, edible flowers, and other ornamental plants into aesthetically pleasing designs. The simple definition is using plants you can eat along with or instead of traditional landscaping.

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In addition to providing a variety of foods for my family and friends, our local food pantry accepts donations of fruits, berries, and vegetables. The extras I produce can help out a large number of people I will probably never even meet.

Additionally, edible landscaping attracts bees which are critical to successful gardening everywhere on the property. And the butterflies are a welcome sight. I know I’ll end up sharing with our deer, rabbits, foxes, and birds for some of the produce but I plan to grow enough that a midnight snack for some hungry critter won’t be a problem.

I’m starting over when it comes to edible landscaping. I kind of shot myself in the foot when we first moved here.  There were wild blackberries growing in several places on the property. These thorny vines can quickly take over so our sons worked diligently on getting rid of them. Now I’m going to re-introduce them in a specific area and work, not on eradicating them completely, but keeping them where I want them. We also had several patches of wild asparagus but one grew next to our septic field and I located our pet cemetery on the edge of another so we can’t use them.

Creating my edible landscape is going to take patience which is good for me. I tend to pray, “God, please give me patience….now.”  I have to plan which trees and plants I will actually use and then find the ideal location for sun and soil for each one.

So far I have decided on:

  1. Blueberry bushes
  2. Apple trees
  3. Pear trees
  4. Strawberries (I currently have some growing but I can definitely use more & have a spot they’ll thrive)
  5. Herbs (I grow many herbs in my vegetable garden to deter certain pests but there are a couple that should be on their own)
  6. Garlic (I want to devote a large area to garlic but don’t want to use the space in my vegetable garden)
  7. Edible & medicinal flowers like coneflower (Echinacea), lavender, and nasturtiums will help make the landscape more beautiful
  8. Clovers (Which many consider to be a weed but are actually edible and the bees they attract are great for pollinating all my plants and for making clover honey)

Our youngest son, who does tree work, is going to cut down a large area of “junk trees” to make room for some of my edible landscape. The trees there currently are ugly and prone to disease. Instead that entire area will, eventually, be full of fruit trees, blueberry bushes, herbs, and other edibles.

I also want to line the walk from our parking area to the porch with pots filled with edibles. The space that is now just grass and stone will become a lovely, fruitful path.

Do you have an edible landscape? What kinds of plants do you grow? Tell me in the comments!

Traditional Shepherd's Pie

I’m Irish with a little Greek thrown in. Mama was Irish all the way back and Daddy was Greek and Irish. So St. Patrick’s Day is important to me so I don’t want to make the American traditional St. Paddy’s dinner of corned beef and cabbage. You won’t find that on a St. Patrick’s Day table in Ireland. Instead, I’m going to make Shepherd’s Pie which I hope you’ll make part of your holiday tradition.

Nowadays people make Shepherd’s Pie with just a mashed potato topping but originally the mashed potatoes made a pie crust for the dish. That’s the way I make it. If you prefer, mash fewer potatoes and just top the pie with it.

As promised, I will share both success and failures with you whether it’s a cleaning issue or a cooking home run or disaster. While this recipe is actually quite good today was not the day for me to make it. I am disabled and my condition is very painful. On a bad day, which this was, I can barely stand or walk. Even sitting becomes too painful. I often need to take breaks in which I need to stretch out in bed.

And yet, knowing I was having a not great day, I decided to make Shepherd’s Pie. The level of stupidity for this decision was, on a scale of 1 – 10, a 12. Even Remy, the Sometimes Wonder Dog, rolled his eyes when he heard what I was making for dinner.

In the process of making this recipe I measured out only 2 teaspoons of tomato paste and had to hurriedly add another while cooking. I used a cup and a half of red wine instead of my usual half cup. I forgot the peas altogether and had to kind of tuck them in after I’d served out the portions. I normally pipe the mashed potato topping so the dish doesn’t seem like a bunch of mashed potatoes with some meat in the middle. Today I pulled out my piping bag and fought with the star tip for several minutes before gently returning it to its bag. Okay. I threw the darned thing and smeared mashed potatoes all over the top of the pie.

By this time I was so frustrated and in so much pain I (yes, I admit it) used my fingers to kind of pinch little potato peaks on the top of the pie. I then shoved it in the oven and retreated to my bed vowing to let the pie and the house burn to a crisp. I relented and pulled the somewhat traditional Shepherd’s Pie from the oven after the tips of the peaks had browned.

I’m sure, if you follow the recipe, your Shepherd’s Pie will turn out much better than mine.

Oh. I forgot the cheese for the potatoes, too.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients: 

The meat filling: 

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or ½ tsp. dried)
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (or ½  tsp. dried)
  • ½  cup red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup peas

The mashed potatoes:

  • 3 lbs. *floury potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons Irish butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350°F

The Meat Filling: 

  1. Dice the onion, carrot, and garlic finely. Set aside.
    carrots,-onions,-garlic-01
  2. Heat a pan until hot and add the olive oil, heating until shimmering.
  3. While oil is heating season the lamb with salt and pepper.
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  4. Cook the lamb over a medium heat for about 4 minutes.
  5. Stir in the onion, carrot, and garlic.
    vegetables-and-wine-in-01
  6. Add the Worcestershire sauce, the herbs, and the tomato paste.
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  7. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly.
  8. Add the red wine and reduce until most of the liquid has cooked out.
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  9. Add the chicken stock and increase heat to high.
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  10. Bring mixture to a boil and cook until the lamb mixture has thickened.
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  11. Taste, adjusting salt and pepper if necessary.

The Mashed Potatoes: 

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, cut potatoes into chunks
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  3. Add potatoes to boiling water and cook until tender.
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  4. Drain potatoes then push through a sieve using the back of a wooden spoon or put potatoes through potato ricer.
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  5. Add the egg yolks, butter, and milk and mix until smooth.
  6. Add parmesan cheese and mix until well-incorporated.

Assembling the Shepherd’s Pie: 

  1. Pat most of the mashed potatoes into the bottom and up the sides of an oven-proof casserole dish, reserving some for top of pie.
  2. Evenly distribute the lamb mixture over the mashed potatoes.
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  3. Using a piping bag with a star tip, pipe the remaining mashed potatoes over the potatoes.
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  4. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until the mashed potato stars are golden brown.

In America, most potatoes are floury. This means they’re best suited for baking and mashing. If you’re unsure if your potatoes are floury you can mix one part salt to eleven parts water and add one of your potatoes. A floury potato will almost always sink while a waxy one will float.

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Using Essential Oils as Insect Repellents

The last few days here have been unseasonably warm. I’ve seen bugs flying and crawling around that we usually wouldn’t see for at least another month. I don’t want to be bugged by bugs but harsh chemicals aren’t my first choice for battling them. If you don’t like using chemical weaponry try using essential oils as insect repellents instead.

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  1. Lavender: Tuck lavender pillows and sachets into linen cupboards and chests of drawers to keep away moths and other insects while leaving that lovely, soothing scent. Lavender oil can be sprayed from an atomizer or left in a saucer to help keep away ants and insects while making the air smell sweet.
  2. Basil: I live near a river that has an extensive number of tributaries. In heavy rain or snow melt the high water table prevents the water from soaking deep into the ground so the surface stays wet longer. And wet land means mosquitoes. If you live near a body of water you’ll love basil oil. Combine a few drops of basil oil with water in a spray bottle and use as a natural mosquito repellent outdoors. Basil oil also helps control mosquito larvae growth. If you suffer from indoor allergies dust mites can be controlled with basil oil. Other than spreading diseases and causing misery when trying to enjoy the great outdoors I can’t think of a reason for their existence so offing the little wretches is fine with me, even in their larval state.
  3. Thyme:  Houseflies are filthy little creatures. Did you know that flies don’t have teeth so they vomit on their food to cover it in a substance that liquefies it. If that weren’t disgusting enough when they do that they’re also up-chucking a little of their last meal be it steak or dog droppings. Although they serve a purpose in nature they spread dirt and disease. Thyme is highly effective against houseflies and it works to repel mosquitoes as well.
  4. Pine:  This oil is a natural mosquito repellent.
  5. Vetiver: This essential oil also acts as a natural mosquito deterrent in the house.
  6. Bergamot: The fruity scent of bergamot is delightful but the oil shouldn’t be used as a topical insect repellent because of its phototoxicity (a toxic response that is elicited after the initial exposure of skin to certain chemicals and subsequent exposure to light).Instead, use it as an insect repellent spray. The oil can be used topically for insect bites and stings. Just don’t go out in the sun with the oil on your skin!
  7. Peppermint:  I hate spiders. I know they serve a purpose in nature but I’m convinced they’re all in violent gangs. They carry knives and fully automatic weapons. They try to eat you while you’re sleeping. I don’t want them in my house. Spiders don’t like peppermint oil. Dab some oil where you find spider webs and spiders run for the hills. Peppermint is a natural insecticide that doesn’t just repel mosquitoes, it kills them. Mosquito larvae exposed to peppermint oil in water are killed within 24 hours. Use it in standing water to prevent larvae from hatching into blood suckers. For insect bites and stings try this recipe: 10 drops tea tree Australia Oil + 10 drops peppermint oil. Apply to stings and bites undiluted.
  1. Tea Tree Australia: This wonderful oil is an anti-parasitic. It destroys or suppresses the growth of fleas, leeches, lice, and ticks.  Applied topically it’s also good for insect stings and bites.
  2. Eucalyptus:  This oil is more effective against blood-sucking sandflies than other natural products.
  3. Lemon eucalyptus: If you love a citrus scent this is a natural insecticide with a pleasant lemon scent. Distilled it is very effective against many insects and is not as volatile as the essential oil making it great for kids and pets. Essential Oil Insect Repellent Spray:
  • 15 drops of Lavender oil
  • 10 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus oil
  • 10 drops of Tea Tree Australia oil
  • 6 drops of Lime Citrus oil
  • 6 drops of Bergamot oil
  • 2 ounces of distilled water
  • 2 ounces of white vinegar

Blend ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Note: Both bergamot and lime are photosensitive oils. The spray should be diffused into the air but is not meant for topical or internal use. This is an aromatic blend meant to be diffused into the air around you and is not intended for topical or internal use.

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your physician before making any changes to your health routine. 

Saving Money Series — Save MORE Money on Cleaning Supplies

I’ve given some tips on how to save money on cleaning supplies.  Here are some other ways to save more money on cleaning products.

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  • Buy reusable cloths and mops – I invested in a spaghetti mop and a good mop bucket with a wringer. When the mop head gets dirty I simply launder it with other cleaning cloths. I keep a spare on hand that’s been laundered in case I have an overwhelming urge (or need) to mop when one is dirty. For cloths I found that used surgical towels are wonderful, lint-free cleaning cloths. You can buy used (fully sterilized) surgical towels online.
  • Use store brands – Compare the ingredients or make up of store brands to nationally known brands. Many times these cleaning products are made by the same companies and only the labels are different. And, of course, the price. Don’t pay extra for the advertising big companies use to get us to buy their products.
  • Look for double duty products – If you check out the cleaning products aisle at any market you’ll see that there are many, many items for each job. You could spend a lot of money and take up a lot of space buying specific cleaners for each chore. Instead, opt for multi-purpose cleaners.
  • Make your own cleaners – There are recipes all over the internet for homemade cleaning products. Some I’ve tried and loved and some didn’t do the job at all. Research the recipes by reading reviews and then try the ones that get the most raves. But be careful not to mix ingredients without checking that it’s safe to do so.
  • Use “cleaners” you already have in your kitchen – Lemons can be used to bleach items like cutting boards. Baking soda is a mild abrasive that can be used in place of many harsher cleansers. Coffee grounds can take the place of baking soda to absorb odors. Just put a bowl of used coffee grounds where you want to soak up odors and replace every couple of months. Ketchup is wonderful for shining brass. Pour a little ketchup on a cloth and shine your brass as you would with a store-bought polish. Just remember to rinse the ketchup off with clear water and dry the brass. A great article for using stuff you have around for cleaning can be found at: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/19-uses-for-baking-soda-dryer-sheets-and-beer
  • Spray your cleaning cloths not the surface – Spraying cleaners on surfaces usually wastes the cleaner and leaves excess on the surface. You’ll spend more time just wiping away wasted cleaner than if you spray it directly on the cleaning cloth.
  • Foam is better than liquid – When it comes to bathroom surfaces foam is better. Foam clings to surfaces instead of just running quickly down and pooling at the bottom. You get more cleaning bang for your buck.
  • Adjust the amount of dishwasher detergent – It’s not always necessary to fill both dispensers of your dishwasher. Fill each cup about halfway and add a little bit more for extra dirty loads and if you have hard water. Too much detergent leaves a residue on your glasses and flatware and filling both dispensers all the way just means you have to buy detergent more often.
  • Always measure laundry detergent – Because laundry detergents are concentrated (2x and 3x) using a full cup for every load is just wasteful. Extra detergent doesn’t mean extra clean clothes. The agitation of your washing machine is doing most of the cleaning. And using too much detergent means that the items you’re washing will just have excess soap in them at the end of the wash cycle, making the rinse cycle less effective. And many front loading machines simply shut down if there are too many suds.
  • Buy cleaning products on sale and/or with coupons – Try to stock up on the cleaning supplies you do buy when they’re on sale or when you have a coupon. If you store allows you to use a coupon for a sale item it’s even better!
  • Store cleaning supplies properly – Most important is keeping cleaning supplies away from children and pets. And you’re also wasting money if you expose your cleaners to extremes in temperature or light. They’ll be less effective or not effective at all and have to be replaced.
  • Keep it clean – By maintaining a cleaning schedule and keeping your home clean you won’t need really tough cleaning products. You will be able to keep things clean with things like water and dish soap, vinegar, baking soda, and other inexpensive items. And you’ll use less of the cleaners you do buy.

 

 

 

Yard Sale Rules

Spring is around the corner and soon the yard sale signs will start blooming. You can find some great bargains but some things should be avoided. Follow a few simple yard sale rules and you’ll save money and find some wonderful items.

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Rule 1 – Never buy anything at a yard sale you’re not entirely sure you need or will actually use. Yard sales are held because people are trying to get rid of things that they don’t want. Don’t fall into the trap of buying things simply because the price is so low you can’t resist.

Rule 2 – Never buy these items at a yard sale:

  • Mattresses are a bad buy because you may be getting more than you pay for when you bring a yard sale mattress home. Bed bugs have become a real problem recently and many people would rather just sell an infested mattress than go through the trouble of cleaning it.
  • Cribs are another item it’s best to avoid buying at a yard sale. The crib could be missing critical hardware that makes it unsafe. It may have been recalled and the owners didn’t take the necessary steps to ensure it is safe. If it’s an older crib the bars may be too far apart or the slats may not safely hold the mattress. With your baby’s safety at risk yard sale cribs aren’t a bargain.
  • Car seats are a bad buy for the same reason cribs shouldn’t be bought at a yard sale. There is too great a safety risk. Even a low speed accident could compromise the safety of a car seat and damage may not be visible. Both cribs and car seats should be purchased from a reputable store.
  • Painted toys are great for collectors but not for kids. Some old painted toys are painted with lead based paints. The same goes for foreign made painted toys. While old toys can be a bargain don’t purchase painted toys. And with the non-painted toys be sure they work, don’t have parts that can choke a child, and that there are no jagged edges or other safety hazards.
  • Electronics are expensive purchased retail but yard sale televisions, computers, and DVD or Blue Ray players aren’t always a bargain at yard sales. Even if you’re allowed to test them by turning them on there may be issues that only appear when the device has been on for several minutes.

Rule 3 – Consider buying these items but only if they meet the Rule 1 criteria.

  • Clothing can be a great buy. I’ve found brand name clothing, some with the tags still attached, for pennies on the dollar. Baby clothes and kids clothes are usually a steal. Just be aware that with these items you may have to deal with or simply accept some stains. Don’t buy clothing for anyone who is done growing in a size that can’t be worn right then. Spending money because you hope to gain or lose weight can turn out to be a waste.
  • Kitchen Items can be expensive at a retail store. Look for the things you want at yard sales. You can often pick up serving bowls and sets of glasses for a dollar or two. Small appliances are also a good buy if you can test them to ensure they are in working order. Sometimes people buy gadgets they never use and are more than happy to get rid of for a really low price just to make room in their drawers and cupboards.
  • Decorative things like vases, Christmas decorations, and paintings at yard sale prices make it possible to change your décor seasonally. I found a set of three marble top plant stands at a yard sale for $7.00.
  • Craft supplies, often unopened, are common yard sale items. I like to have craft supplies around for my grandkids’ visit each summer.
  • Furniture is something that I search for at yard sales. I’ve purchased chests of drawers and simply painted them to match the rest of the room’s furniture. Upholstered furniture is a little trickier. You want to ensure that the furniture looks clean and well-cared for and you may have to compromise on style. But with two dogs who think the sofa is just another dog bed I’m always on the lookout for good furniture at yard sales.

 

Extra Tips:

When you’re going to hit the yard sales be sure to carry cash mostly in $1 and $5 bills and have plenty of change, too. You may be able to combine purchases for a better price if you can offer the seller exact change. Many sellers find themselves running out of small bills and change so your offer may save them a run to the bank.

Dress comfortably. Going to yard sales means you’ll be in and out of the car frequently and doing plenty of walking at the sales. Restrictive clothing or shoes that make your feet hurt will ruin the fun.

Be ready to dicker. Most people having a yard sale are willing to negotiate on price if the item isn’t already at rock bottom. It’s not worth it to offer a dime for a .15¢ item but offering $10 for a $15 item may save you $5.00.

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Scrapple

Ingredients:

2 lbs. bulk breakfast sausage

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. sage (+ extra if you desire)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup additional water

1 tsp. ground pepper (or to taste)

¼ tsp. dried red pepper flakes (optional – if you like it spicy!)

 

Directions:

Pour 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water in large pot.

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Break up the sausage into small pieces and boil in the broth/water liquid for 10 – 15 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink inside.

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Drain reserving the stock.

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Put 3 cups of stock back in pot.

Add the salt, sage, and pepper.

Bring to a boil.

Add 1 cup of cornmeal to 1 cup water and mix well.

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Add cornmeal gradually to the boiling stock, stirring constantly.

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Cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes.

Crumble the drained sausage and stir it into the cornmeal mixture adding pepper to taste, additional sage if desired, and red pepper flakes (optional).

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Pour into greased loaf pan and refrigerate overnight.

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To serve: Slice and fry in butter until crispy on both sides.

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Cleaning Part 2- Habits That Help The House Stay Cleaner

I love having a clean house and, over the years I’ve learned some habits that help the house stay cleaner. These simple habits also help when it comes to more serious cleaning chores.

  1. Keep the dirt out – The easiest way to help keep things clean is to not let dirt in as much as possible. Start a “shoes off” policy to keep dirt from tracking in on your wood floors or carpet. Don’t leave windows open if you live in a dry environment and dirt is always swirling around outside. Last summer the county was doing roadwork and the house would have been inches deep in dirt if the windows had been open.
  2. Clean as you go – When I’m cooking or baking I find I have little chunks of time I’m waiting for something to cook. I’ll wash the dishes I’ve used to cook to save myself time after the meal (or when the cookies are baked). It’s the same with the bathroom. After I use the sink to apply makeup and wash my hands I’ll give it a quick cleaning while it’s wet. Ditto for the shower.
  3. Know your tools – I used to vacuum my kitchen floor. There’s always a setting on vacuums for hard floors and I thought vacuuming would be better (and faster) than sweeping. Now I sweep. My vacuum couldn’t get into the tight areas, like next to the refrigerator and stove that a broom can reach. I’d end up vacuuming then sweeping those areas anyway. Think about the way you clean and decide the best tools for each job.
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  4. Carry your supplies – Get a caddy, bag, or other container for the cleaning supplies you need for each job. If you have to keep running to the kitchen or mudroom for supplies you’re wasting time and energy.
  5. Don’t wander off – Finish each job before starting the next. It’s easy to become distracted but you’ll end up with half-finished chores in some areas. Make a plan like starting at the back door and working to the front door. Then divide each room from back to front. You can even think of each room as a grid and clean one grid at a time.
  6. Only use rooms as they were meant to be used – Using the living room or bedroom to eat or allowing all the kids’ toys to be in the living room creates extra work. You’ve got to remember to take things back to the rooms they belong and then actually do it. It’s easier to keep things in their respective rooms. Eat in the kitchen or dining room. Have the kids return a toy to their bedroom before they bring out another.
  7. Keep it up – Don’t put off cleaning. Things only build up and the job becomes that much more difficult. Think of every single job that needs to be done on a daily, every other day, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and seasonal schedule. My Service Dog, Remy is a shedder so vacuuming is an every other day chore. The guest bathroom gets cleaned once a week. The walls in the house get washed seasonally, spring and fall. Allow yourself “cheats” if needed. Don’t fret about not cleaning the bathroom if your child needs to see the doctor.
  8. Enjoy yourself – I’m a big believer in playing music while cleaning. High energy tunes make the job more enjoyable and the music helps me keep moving.

A few other helpful tips I’ve picked up are:

  • I only use hairspray outside. It leaves a mess in the bathroom (even on the door and walls) and the dogs and I tend to slip on the floor after it dries.
  • I keep my slippers by the front door when I leave so I’m not tempted to wear my shoes in the house.
  • The mail is sorted as soon as it comes through the door. Junk mail is tossed immediately.
  • Stains on clothes are treated immediately. If they are allowed to set they’ll be much harder or impossible to get out.
  • If you have kids close in size do their laundry separately. It may seem like a time and water waster but you’ll save yourself from trying to sort through a bunch of clothes that are nearly the same size.
  • I always clean my cleaners. Dirty dusting cloths just spread dust around. A full vacuum bag or canister can’t pick up dirt. Even scrub brushes need to be cleaned.
  • And one final trick I’ve learned is that rubber gloves are great for getting dog hair off the furniture. I just need to learn how to keep the dogs off altogether!