October 31, 2009

TOS Holiday Supplement... A Must Have!

I just got my "copy" and started looking through it I just had to share! This digital magazine is put out by a homeschooling magazine but it is full of wonderful Christmas activities, recipes, and crafts that anyone can use. The recipes alone make it worth downloading!! You can preview it online or download it here.

October 29, 2009

Can We Build It?

Several months ago I came across these plans to make a rotating can storage rack out of cardboard. Since I tend to buy large quantities of items but have a bad habit of just putting the new items in front of the old... I always wanted some can rotators. But being the frugal person I am, I just couldn't spend the money on fancy, expensive ones. So, I thought I would take "Grandpa's" plans and make one to try out.

My prototype

Well, the first one was a challenge. I finished it but set aside the idea for awhile because I had so much trouble putting it together... it seemed that it was a project for someone with six hands! Plus Grandpa's plans were not exactly written out in a helpful, step by step fashion.

Then another blog I like to read posted the same instructions and in the comments I got several suggestions that helped me out. The most important tip was to use pins to hold everything in place instead of growing a few extra hands! Why didn't I think of that?! Now I was willing to give it a second try.

I made a few other "improvements" to the plans as long as I was at it. The second rotator went together much easier and by the fourth I was a pro. Now I think I could put them together with one hand tied behind my back. Okay, so not really... but this new improved method really helped! And my new and improved method is stronger because it adds shelf supports:

If you want to make more than one I highly recommend making a template of the pieces. I used shirt gift boxes. They're thin yet sturdy enough to use repeatedly if you mark lightly with a pencil. You also want to use a utility blade with a fresh blade. It just makes the edges so much nicer. Use a straight edge too! Crooked pieces don't go together as nicely. (Trust me on that one!)

Here's what you'll need:
utility knife, wood glue (or caulk), metal carpenter square (or ruler),
sturdy 2 ply cardboard, pins, and the plans*

Assembly Shelly's Way:

1. Measure and cut out all necessary pieces. This is probably the most time consuming step and why you'll want templates if you're making more than one.

2. Mark the sides (both left and right) where the shelves will go. This part is NOT in the plans... glue thin strips of cardboard (mine are about 1/2 inch wide and 5 inches or so long--no longer or they'll interfere with the can rolling) just below the lines you've marked (left photo). Squirt glue on marked lines (center photo). Place center shelves onto glue (right photo). Let it dry for a bit. If your shelves won't stand up support them with something.

3. Now squirt glue onto the opposite side and... this is the hardest part... line it up just right and put in place. If you placed those thin support strips in the right place it will help you line it up. When you are done it will look like this:

I like to pin it all in place to keep everything from shifting because at this point it's like a house of cards and prone to collapse.

I cheat a bit and don't wait for the glue to dry. I just keep on truckin', but I'm brave like that... or impatient. You can let the glue dry if you want. Just do yourself a favor and stand the whole thing up and make sure it's square and all the shelves look even.

4. Glue (and pin) the bottom front (left photo), top front (middle photo), and back (right photo) in place. These pieces kind of come around the corners which adds strength. Grandpa's original design did not have the back this way. That is a modification by Shelly (aka "Shellification"). You will also need to glue the "wood block" in place at the back of the bottom shelf. The wood block is not really wood, it's just a card board rectangle glued in on an angle that keeps the cans moving forward. It is hidden away in there and therefore not easy to photograph, but trust me... you need it!

5. At this point I like to turn the whole thing on it's side and set some heavy books (heavy in weight, not content... although I used books heavy in both respects for mine!) on top of the whole thing. Once the glue is dry, remove the books, then the pins. Cut a small notch where indicated to make it easier to remove the cans. Label, if you so desire, and then try it out!
Grandpa paints his to make them sturdier, but I am just using mine plain and taking my chances. Grandpa's plans include dimensions for all sizes of cans. I want to make a couple that are wide enough for peanut butter jars. Peanut butter is the thing I have the hardest time following the FIFO rule on (FIFO=first in first out).

Too lazy to make these?? I found, after I made mine, that you can buy something very similar made from cardboard for pretty cheap. I might have gone with this option had I known about it sooner, but there is some satisfaction in knowing you made them yourself.

*Follow this link to get a pdf of the original plans.

October 27, 2009

Daily Lit

Here is a fun website I came across a couple weeks ago... DailyLit will send you a book in installments by email (or to your reader via RSS feed!) one at a time. You don't even have to sign up for an account to try it out and it's completely free. Just find a book you want to read, enter your email address, and click subscribe. You set the schedule of when you'd like to receive the emails. If you decide you don't want to continue that book then you can unsubscribe anytime.

They have over a 1000 books. Mostly classics but also some more recent books. Some free, some you have to pay for. Each email takes under five minutes or so to read and if you are dying to know what happens next you can request the next section right away. So now you can finally read War and Peace! Me? I'm reading Wuthering Heights...

October 26, 2009

Sweet Treat

Here's a cute, and super easy, fall treat for you! Take your favorite cut-out sugar cookie dough and add a little orange (or red/yellow mix) food coloring. Roll it out like you would normally, but instead of using cookie cutters... cut out triangles. Once the cookies are cooled dip one end in a glaze colored yellow and the other in regular white glaze to make them look like little candy corn. Using the "looser" glaze and dipping the cookies makes the decorating go a lot faster than spreading regular frosting on with a knife.

I brought these as a snack to a family event this weekend and they were a big hit! Both because they were yummy and because they were cute! A friend gave me a suggestion that will help save me a little time the next time I make them: use a pizza cutter to cut the dough. I used a dough scraper, it worked great, but the pizza cutter is an even better idea!

October 25, 2009

Recipe: Stuffed Crust Pizza

Tonight, I made the usual homemade pizza with a twist. First, I turned about 15 pounds of garden tomatoes into multi-purpose marinara sauce this morning. I used that as our pizza sauce. I plan on using some for future pizzas and the rest on pasta. It was a long process (picking, peeling, cooking, packaging) but worth it... it was very tasty!

Then when the crust rolled out a little bigger than my pan I got the bright idea to stretch it out a bit more and turn it into a stuffed crust pizza. Yum! I just laid some mozzarella there and rolled the crust edge right over it. To make it pretty (and extra tasty) I sprayed on a bit of cooking spray and sprinkled some garlic salt. It worked great!

I will definitely be making the pizza this way again. The toppings, in case you were wondering, are half pepperoni with fresh from the garden onion (for me) and half pepperoni, ground beef, and homemade pickled jalapenos (for my hubby). I would have put black olives on my side but we didn't have any. The kids didn't have the stuffed crust on their half cheese, half pepperoni pizza. They never eat the crust. Although they might have if I would have stuffed it!

October 24, 2009

Seasonal Cleaning: Master Bedroom

Your bedroom is supposed to be a relaxing place. A room you go to at the end of the day to rest. Don't let your "sanctuary" become a storage room. Part of the master bedroom cleaning is really decluttering and organizing.

There really is a difference. My house may not be perfectly clean all the time, but it is not cluttered. You may have a clean house, but if it is cluttered and unorganized that is all people will see. The goal, of course, is a clean and organized house, but if you have to choose one or the other... you'll get more bang for your buck out of an organized, clutter free home! Plus, it's easier to keep a organized house clean.

We all have a lot of stuff. No excuses (small house, lots of kids, no basement, etc.) Trust me, I know all about living in a smaller house and houses with no basements and lots of kids. Even if you have a small house or lack the blessed storage space of a basement or have 10 kids you still don't have to have a cluttered bedroom!

Fall Cleaning: Master Bedroom

Prep work: remove all dirty laundry and trash.

1. Take down all window treatments and wash them (if possible). At least shake them out if you can't launder them or take them to the cleaners.

2. Remove all bedding and wash. All of it... even the dust ruffle.

3. Wipe down ceiling fan, if you have one. Remove all the (removable) parts of the light fixture(s). Wash glass shades in hot soapy water and dry. Wipe down the remaining parts of the fixture that cannot be removed. Do the same to any closet light fixture.

4. Dust the ceiling first, then dust the walls. Use a rag or an extending duster. A regular (dry) Swiffer also works nicely. The area around the light switch (and any other dirty areas---like along the bed) should be washed with hot soapy water.

5. Wash door (front and back), door knob, and frame. Don't forget the top of the door and the door frame.

6. Dust or wash blinds.

7. Wash window inside and out. Don't forget the sill and frame. Brush window screen with a dry, stiff brush.

8. Move each piece of furniture and vacuum under it using the vac tool to get along the wall. Dust any parts of the walls (including the baseboard) you may have missed before you moved the furniture. Dust the furniture (top, front, back, and sides) before returning it to it's place. Clean any decorative items and lamps on dresser tops or nightstands. [You can move all the furniture at once or do it one piece at a time.]

9. Dust any remaining items hanging on the wall. Wipe down frames, clean glass with glass cleaner. Remove any items from wall shelves, dust the items, and the shelf.

10. Clean any mirrors in the room with glass cleaner.

11. Wipe any heating/cooling vents. Wipe light switch plate.

12. Go around room and wipe baseboards with a damp rag.

13. Vacuum floor/rug. Use vac tool to get along the edge of the wall.

If you need to declutter: Don't put back any items you don't use or belong! Keep only a few items on top of dressers and side tables. This makes it much easy to clean on a regular basis. Group small items together in baskets so you can pick them all up at once when it's time to dust.

15. If you REALLY need to declutter: Empty each drawer and return only items you love and really use. Donate and toss appropriately. In these economic times especially, someone could be using the stuff that is cluttering up your space! Your drawers should not be so full that you cannot close them. Speaking of that... close them! Open drawers make rooms look messier. Close your closet door(s) too.

16. Closet time. Save the closet for last. Do it a different day if the above took too long or your worn out. Most importantly, don't get sidetracked. Stay focused. It's just a closet!

  • If you are really motivated--take everything out of your closet. Wipe down shelves, dust the ceiling and walls. [If you have moved in the last few years you probably don't have to do this, but if you have lived in you house more than 5 years and haven't done this since you moved in, it might not be a bad idea.] Have 3 boxes ready as you go through your closet: trash, give-away, and storage. Only keep the items you love and wear regularly. You know the old rule (aka Rule #1)... if you haven't worn it in a year get rid of it. Rule #2: Don't spend a lot of time trying on clothes... if you don't know if it fits or not then you probably haven't worn it in awhile which means you should refer to rule #1. As you return items to your closet group like items together. Organize your shoes.
  • If you aren't as motivated--at least get everything off the floor and vacuum. dust the closet corners, and look through your clothes to donate any unwanted items.
17. If you have a desk in your room or a craft table--clean off flat surfaces, organize your area, make sure everything has a place to go. Use containers to help keep things tidy. If you have space elsewhere, seriously consider moving your stuff to another part of the house.

18. Nothing should be stored loose on the floor (books, videos, clothes, etc.). Find a home for these items-use baskets, shelves, drawers, plastic storage containers, or even cardboard boxes.

19. You should have already vacuumed under your bed when you were moving furniture, but just in case you forgot... do it now. If you store stuff under your bed make sure it's stuff you really need and you have a way to get to it if you need it.

20. Flip or spin your mattress, if applicable. There is an old saying about mattresses: "Flip in the fall and spin in the spring." This really helps your mattress wear more evenly. Remake your bed.
Want to keep it looking this great? Here's how in about 5 minutes per day:
  • Make the bed. EVERY day.
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper, never leave them on the floor. Ever.
  • Put trash in the trash can.
  • Keep clean clothes hung or folded and put away. If you change your mind about wearing something put it back.
  • Put stuff away. If it doesn't have a home... make one!
  • Train your children in the above!
  • Keep a small basket or container for miscellaneous items--but deal with it on a regular basis.
  • Dust and vacuum once a week.

I made another printable checklist for you, it can be found here.

October 20, 2009

Drying Herbs

Just before our first really hard frost I went out and cut what was left of the herbs I had planted in the garden. I had cut some a few weeks ago and hung them to dry in the garage the old fashioned way. I thought I'd put my dehydrator to use for this batch.
Lined up and ready to go...

Sage ............................. Rosemary ................................ Oregano

I cleaned them off and then layered the herbs in the dehydrator trays. I thought I'd just plug the dehydrator in in the laundry room to have it out of the way. If we smell like rosemary at all in the next few weeks you'll know why. Holy moly, that stuff was strong! As it dried it got better, but at one point I turned on the exhaust fan in there just to try and ease the smell. It wasn't a bad smell really, just really strong!
Tons of fresh rosemary... now dry... fills only one container!

It's amazing how much stuff "shrinks" in the dehydrator! I thought I was going to have lifetime supply of rosemary. Instead, I got one regular size spice container full. I can't wait to use it. For those of you who haven't tried rosemary on or in bread, I highly recommend it! It always reminds me of the delicious bread at Monti's La Casa Vieja in Arizona. Here is the recipe for Monti's bread and a video on how to make it.

October 17, 2009

Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie

We tried a great new recipe this week! This chicken pot pie is perfect dinner in chilly fall weather. We all really enjoyed it. I made it with a homemade pie crust, which was deliciously flaky and golden, if I may say so myself. If you aren't a homemade kind of pie crust person you could use store bought. I'm not including the crust portion of the recipe since I just used the basic pie crust recipe from my Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 small onion, chopped
2 T. butter
1 cup carrots, cut up
3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 chicken bouillon cubes

Saute the onion in butter. Add carrots, potatoes, and just enough water to nearly cover them. Simmer 15 minutes or until carrots & potatoes are nearly done. Drain all but a half cup or so of the water. Add remaining ingredients and heat thoroughly. Pour into large pie pan lined with crust and top with additional crust. Cut some slits in the top. Bake at 350 for about an hour or until the crust is golden. Let sit a few minutes before cutting to allow the sauce to thicken.

October 16, 2009

Seasonal Cleaning: Bathroom

Here is how I deep clean a bathroom. This is NOT how I clean every week; in fact, I don't clean every week. I only deep clean twice a year... sometimes only once (if I happen to be pregnant or have a newborn... which has been quite often!). If you start with a really clean bathroom, then maintenance is easier.

Depending on how many people use a bathroom, it either gets a quick wipe down daily or every few days. At the old house, when we only had one bathroom for all of us, I wiped the bathroom down every night. At this house, the master bath doesn't need a daily wipe but the boys bathroom does! Just a couple minutes each day spot cleaning helps me to stretch cleaning the bathrooms out longer. I only really clean the master bath once a month or so. The boys bathroom is done more often but still not weekly. Deep cleaning once or twice a year in exchange for cleaning less often the rest of the year works for me!

I like to get this whole process done at once but if you don't have time for that you can do a little bit each day over the course of a week. As far as this challenge goes, you have one week before I post the next room! If you have more than one bathroom, you can try and get them all done or move on to a new room and go back to any remaining rooms at the end. I made up a less detailed printable bathroom cleaning checklist you can take with you, if you are interested click here. Here we go...

Fall Cleaning: Bathroom

Prep work: remove all dirty laundry, items that don't belong in the bathroom, and trash.

1. Remove all towels, rugs, the shower curtain, and the window curtains and wash them. You can also wash the shower liner, even the cheap ones usually survive a wash or two (just don't dry them!).

2. Take everything off the walls. Clean or dust each item as you remove them. Set them aside for now, do not hang them back up.

3. Dust the ceiling first, then dust or wash the walls. Use a rag or an extending duster. A regular (dry) Swiffer also works nicely. Dusting is usually enough except where hairspray or spray gel lands and the area around the light switch, those areas should be washed with hot soapy water.

ceiling first.....then walls
(ignore ugly wallpaper border!)

4. Remove all the (removable) parts of the light fixture(s). Wash glass shades in hot soapy water and dry. Wipe down the remaining parts of the fixture that cannot be removed.

5. Wash door (front and back), door knob, and frame. Don't forget the top of the door and the door frame.

6. Dust or wash blinds.

7. Wash window inside and out. Don't forget the sill and frame. Brush window screen with a dry, stiff brush. (This is a tip my mom passed along from a professional. Getting screens wet stretches them out over time.)

8. One at a time (or all at once if you really need to reorganize) empty each cupboard and drawer. Wipe down shelves and insides of drawers. Empty and wipe out storage containers or baskets. Return only items in good condition that you use on a regular basis. If you don't use it often find somewhere else to store it. Donate any items in good condition that you don't use anymore. Toss any junk.

empty cabinet........cleaned and refilled........clean drawer........garbage & stuff to put elsewhere

9. Wipe down the outside of all cabinets and drawers including the handles.

10. Empty medicine cabinet. Wipe down shelves. Toss all expired products. Return remaining items to cabinet in an organized fashion. Use storage containers or small baskets to group like items. Group meds by person or type (example: pain relievers, allergy meds).

11. Wipe exhaust fan and heating vents.

12. Wipe towel racks, toilet paper holder, shower rod, and light switch plates.

13. Wipe mirror, don't forget the top rim.

14. Remove and clean all items from the counter. Clean counter and sink(s). Clean around the faucet really well. Use a q-tip or old toothbrush if necessary. If you have a lot of scum built up around the faucet use a small flat head screwdriver to gently scrape it away. If the faucet handle is gross, pry off the handle cover and remove it to clean. Clean around drain really well, using old toothbrush as necessary. Return only a few items to the counter. Daily wipe down is easier if your counters are clear. If you must keep some items out at least put them in some type of storage container so you can move them all at once to wipe. If you drain runs slow you might want to take care of that now too (to help keep your sink clean).

15. Clean shower/tub. Walls, floor, faucet handles, shower head, around the drain, and any shelves. Remove any items not used on a daily basis. Clean the doors if you have those (and if you do I feel for you! I hate cleaning shower doors. In fact, if you have them I suggest hanging a shower liner inside the doors so you don't have to scrub them!) If you have mildew, bleach is your friend! Mix a 10:1 water/bleach solution and spray.

16. Clean toilet, inside and out. Don't forger to wipe the tank and the handle. Remove those little caps on the sides, clean them and under them. If necessary (if you have boys it's necessary), remove seat and clean underneath where seat attaches. Use an old toothbrush to get into crevices. For a link on how to clean a toilet click here. If you have little boys, prevention is helpful. The potty shield was the best $20 I ever spent!

16. Wash trash can inside and out.

17. Return all clean items to walls. Put light fixture back together. Rehang towels. Rehang clean liner and shower curtain. Rehang window treatment.

18. Sweep and scrub the floor. Sorry, no mop this time. Get on your hands and knees with a rag so you can wash the baseboards as you go. If there are black scuff marks or sticky hairspray residue use a magic eraser.

19. Once floor is dry, return rugs.

20. Stand back and admire your clean bathroom. In fact, take a picture and post it on your blog!

Want to keep it looking this great? Here's how in about 5 minutes per day:
  • Hang towels immediately, never put them on the floor. Ever.
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper, never leave them on the floor. Ever.
  • Put stuff away when you are done with it, don't just leave it on the counter. If you don't have a place to "put it away" make one!
  • Empty trash daily*.
  • Keep a simple cleaner in the bathroom with a few rags and do a quick wipe down of mirror spots and counter daily.*
  • Give the toilet a quick brush and wipe the rim/outside last with the rag you used on the sink before tossing it in the laundry.
If you have unexpected guests you can excuse yourself and go run through this routine real quick before they have to use your bathroom! :)

* Have your kids do these things as part of their chore routine. We have a three year old emptying trash and a five year old wipe the counter! Kids may not do a perfect job on wipe down, but the spots they miss today will not be the same spots they miss tomorrow and the overall effect is a fairly clean counter! I make my own "all purpose" cleaner that is safe for kids to use. Or make your own "disinfecting wipes" there are tons of "recipes" available online.

October 15, 2009

My (Already Invented) Invention

A few weeks ago I got fed up with our bathroom situation. The boys bathroom starts to stink about 5 minutes after I cleaned it. I am telling you those boys cannot hit the toilet bowl! I tried put a towel around the toilet and then changing it each day but the problem wasn't really on the floor.

[Quick side note, my mother-in-law has a sign in her bathroom that says something like...
My aim is to keep this bathroom clean, Your aim will help.
Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Guess it's the plague that affects all mothers of boys!]

We have TWICE taken the toilet apart to clean it. I am not kidding...we removed the tank, unbolted it from the floor, and then put it back after cleaning both toilet and floor with bleach. A day or two later it started to stink again. It was driving me crazy! Even the room freshening plug in things I've gotten for free weren't helping.

I decided I wanted to convert our toilet to a urinal. Somehow. Some way. I really was going to do it. A home urinal. I'm telling you I thought I had a million dollar idea on my hands until I googled "toilet to urinal conversion". Some one else obviously had boys with an aiming problem. So for about $20 I ordered the Potty Shield. The day it arrived we took the toilet apart one last time, gave it a good cleaning, put it back and hoped for the best.

It has been AWESOME!! Help delivered in a box from UPS! Daily frustration gone! The problem area remained clean for DAYS! All the boys got instructions on removing it and replacing it. (Included with the thing is a little mat that sits on the floor to rest it on just for that purpose). Once one of the boys didn't put it back on and then went without it. After I saw the mess it made he got in BIG trouble and let's just say I'm pretty sure he won't forget again.

No, I am not a paid spokesperson. Although I would be if they'd hire me! The amazing thing about this (besides a clean toilet!) is that I was even able to find this product. Google to the rescue again!

Fall Cleaning

Fall cleaning is like "spring cleaning"... only in the fall! :) Why "fall clean"? There are several reasons. First, lots of chores are seasonal and should be done twice a year in both the spring and the fall. Second, you will be spending more time inside now that it's getting colder and who wants to hang out in a mess? In addition, the holidays are fast approaching, and wouldn't it be nice to have your house in order before the holidays arrive so you can spend more time doing fun things with your family instead of cleaning?! As an added bonus a cleaner house is a healthier house... keep your house clean and germs won't have any place to land!

So here is your challenge: deep clean one room a week. That sounds doable doesn't it? Since I've had several people ask me how I keep our house so clean I thought I'd share how I clean. For me the first step is getting each room really clean to start, after that it's more of a maintaining.

If you have a blog and want to follow along, take a few pictures (before, after, or during) and post them on your blog then leave a link in the comments so we can all check out your progress (I'm too lazy to put a Mr. Linky on each post). If you don't have a blog you're not off the hook, you can still clean. Just tell us what you're doing in the comments. If you have any tips to share that might help others leave that as a comment!

Since it's small I thought I'd start with the bathroom. Small doesn't mean easy though and, unfortunately (or fortunately!), there are usually at least two bathrooms in a house. Ready?

October 7, 2009

Modern Day Calendar

How do I keep track of when to flip my mattress? Or dentist appointments for 8 people? Or what to make for lunch on Thursday? With a color coded calendar, of course! It is a lot easier than you think thanks to the iCal program that came on our Mac. If you don't have this program you can use one of several similar, FREE online calendars like those offered by Yahoo or my favorite Google (through a gmail account).

I put everything on this calendar. The menus including rotating breakfast and lunches. Each person has their own color (well...not exactly...the twins still share since they don't have many activities just yet and all their appointments are usually the same time). There is also a color for "family" (in case we ALL have to go) and I added holidays including days to put out the flag.

I like that you can set events to repeat. So once I put in someone's birthday I don't have to keep putting that info in again each year. I also have a cleaning schedule. I don't clean the house all in one day anymore. Now I just do a room or a bit each day. I think the house stays cleaner this way. I don't have a block of 3 or 4 hours to just clean any more anyway! Laundry isn't on there though... that is a near daily chore. This is a great system for seasonal chores (like changing the battery in the smoke detectors) that I tend to forget.

I do put school stuff on the calendar as well but I "turned off" that part of the calendar when I took the screen shot above because it really fills it up!

I can view the calendar to monthly, weekly, or daily. Just like a fancy planner only I don't have to re-write the information on several pages.

I can set any "event" to remind me ahead of time. When I remember, I put when my library books are due and set an email reminder for the day or two before. It works great...when I remember to put the due date in. I do have it set to remind me a week ahead of time for out of state birthdays...so I remember to get cards! Now if I could just remember to mail them on time!!

Off on the side is a "to do" list...things that don't really have a date but I want to get done.

Some days I don't even have to open the calendar program since I have a calendar "widget" on my desktop. I can see what I have on the calendar for today and coming up. This is what that looks like:
Now since I live in the real world I don't always get these things done but it is nice to have a plan. If I skip something...it will come around again eventually! Or I just have a day where I play catch up and get more done. I try and keep it simple and if it doesn't work I change it!