Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How to Stay Clutter-Free Forever

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Clutter is a huge problem in homes all over the country! No matter how much square footage you have, do you find yourself filling it up with things you don't need or will never use? Use these tips to get and stay clutter-free forever.

Start with a Clean Sweep
You can't maintain a clutter-free home without starting off with a tidy home. Spend a week or weekend going through every room in your home. Get rid of anything that hasn't been used, that has no value to you, or that has no place in your home. When you start off with a clutter-free home, everything else is much easier.

Avoid Shopping for Things You Don't Need
If you know that you stock up on useless knick-knacks every time you go to the thrift shop, don't go to the thrift shop! Just avoiding temptation can keep you from accumulating clutter all over your home. Before you go shopping, come up with a specific list of items that you need and have space for. Don't buy anything that's not on your list.

When You Buy Something New, Get Rid of Something You Already Have
Many families find it helpful to implement a one-in-one-out rule. If you buy a new shirt, you must get rid of a shirt that you no longer wear. This will also make you think more carefully about your purchases and if they are worth getting rid of something you already own.

Only Buy Items That Have a Home
When you find an item that you are tempted to buy, think carefully about where it will go in your home. If you cannot think of a specific place—for example, on your bedside table rather than just in your bedroom—then don't buy it. It will just get shifted around your home until it eventually gets thrown out or donated.

Use Multiple-Purpose Items
This tip is very useful when it comes to keeping a clutter-free kitchen. Single-use items are rarely used and they take up valuable space in your home. Do you really need an egg poacher, a strawberry huller, and a banana slicer? Unless you have a huge kitchen, probably not! Unless you know that you'll use an appliance or tool multiple times per week, try to find another way of carrying out a task with something you already have.

Declutter Every Night
Clutter tends to accumulate throughout the day. If you don't start the day with a fresh, uncluttered house, your home will only get more cluttered throughout the day. Before going to bed at night, do a quick sweep of your main living areas. Throw away mail, stick permission slips in your kids' backpacks, and bring dirty dishes to the kitchen. When you wake up, it'll be that much easier to start your day!

Staying clutter-free is a constant process. It pays off—you'll be able to find things easier, feel more at peace in your own home, and spend less money on things you don't need.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Freeze Your Fresh Produce

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There's nothing as wonderful as fresh produce from your garden or the farmer's market. But what do you do in the cold months of fall and winter, when fresh produce is astronomically expensive or difficult to find? Put in a little bit of extra work and freeze your fresh produce for healthy eating all year long.

Wash and Prep Your Fruits and Vegetables
Before you can freeze anything, you have to thoroughly clean your produce. Hard produce, like carrots and bell peppers, may need to be scrubbed. Berries and soft fruits can often just be rinsed. Dry your produce off.

Now it's time to prep the produce. Some fruits and vegetables can be frozen whole—if you choose to freeze items whole, you don't have to do any more prep work. Produce that you can freeze whole includes blackberries, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, and bananas.

Produce that needs to be prepped before being frozen includes mango, bell peppers, peaches, apples, squash, and peas. Bell peppers can be thinly sliced, while mangoes, peaches, apples, and squash can be diced. Remove peas from their pods before freezing.

Blanching is a fast cooking method that preserves the taste, crisp-tender texture, and color of beautiful fresh vegetables. The vast majority of vegetables do need to be blanched before they can be frozen. Besides tomatoes, onions, corn, potatoes, and squash, almost everything else must be blanched.

To blanche your veggies, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Keep a large bowl of ice water nearby. Drop the veggies into the boiling water. After 3 to 4 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon and immediately transfer them to the bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process and keeps vegetables looking fresh. Once the vegetables are cold, you can dry them off and get them ready to freeze.

Freezing Produce Flat
It's easiest to eat and cook with frozen produce when you can pull individual pieces out, rather than a lump of icy produce. That's why it's important to freeze things flat. Lay a piece of parchment paper down on a metal baking tray and spread out your vegetables in a single layer. Pop the tray in the freezer and don't disturb it by checking it every hour.

Check your produce after 24 hours—if it's frozen, you can pop it into a freezer bag. If not, give it another day. Immediately put the freezer bags into the freezer to avoid thawing and mushiness. Be sure to label each bag with what's inside and when it was frozen. Vegetables can last up to 1 1/2 years (or even longer) and fruit typically lasts about one year.

With this easy guide, you can enjoy healthy, delicious produce year-round. Whether you eat your veggies straight out of the freezer or toss them into a soup, you'll love the fresh quality you just don't get from canned vegetables.

What is your favorite produce to prepare, freeze then enjoy in the fall and winter?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Tips on Cleaning Your Home Like a Professional

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Have you ever watched a hotel housekeeper clean a room? They are incredibly fast, often spending less than 15 minutes on a room. When they're done, the room is sparkling! Now think about how long it takes to clean your house—you likely spend more than 15 minutes on a room. By learning how the pros clean a house from top to bottom in just a few hours, housekeeping can be something you look forward to.

Prepare Everything You Need
Housekeepers keep all of their supplies on a rolling cart so that they don't have to run back and forth while cleaning a room. You don't need a cart, but you should get a small caddy with a handle. Stock it up with bleach, window cleaner, and whatever other cleaners you use. Keep a few sponges and a stack of clean cloths in there. Having everything you need at hand can save you tons of time.

Go by Task, Not by Room
If you get caught up in every little task that needs to be done in one room, you can easily spend all of your cleaning time in one room. Instead, do one task at a time and do it in every room. This may require you to walk a bit more, but it can make the overall process faster. Try this order to make the most of your time:

•    Declutter
•    Dust
•    Wipe down hard surfaces (tables, cabinets, etc.)
•    Wipe down soft surfaces
•    Sweep and mop hard floors or vacuum carpets

You can change up the order to suit your house and your preferences.

Top to Bottom, Back to Front
Cleaning everything in a methodical order is possibly the most important pro cleaning tip. If you clean everything in the same order every time, you'll never catch yourself wondering if you have already cleaned something. When you begin cleaning, start in the back of the room and work your way up to the front. Clean from back to front, top to bottom, and left to right. For example, when you are dusting, start in the upper left corner in the back of the room. Dust your upper shelves, work your way down to the ground, and keep moving throughout the room. This prevents you from getting dirt or dust on already-clean shelves.

This also makes it easy to know when you are done with a room. When you vacuum from the back of the room to the front, you leave the room looking fresh and clean.

Use Microfiber Cloths Instead of Paper Towels
Think about how much money hotels and cleaning services would spend if they used paper towels as often as most American households do! Instead, many services use thin microfiber cloths. They are inexpensive, easy to wash, and perfect for almost every surface.

Use these tips next time you clean your house and see how much easier it is!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Kopykat Hot Dog on a Stick Lemonade

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Ah, Hot Dog on a Stick.. the funny hats, the workers jumping up and down on the lemons (do they still do that??), the memories!

Hot Dog on a Stick Lemonade was hands down my favorite lemonade as a kids and teen.  It just tasted better. I think it was all that jumping up and down.  Basically when you squish the whole lemon into lemonade the oils come out of the peels and tastes good.

Today I have a Kopykat Hot Dog on a Stick Lemonade for you, and no, we are not going to stomp our lemonade but we will work on the peels for a few minutes to get some of those yummy lemon oils to come on out.

I hope you enjoy, this really to the best lemonade ever!

Kopykat Hot Dog on a Stick Lemonade
  • 1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice (reserve half of the peels, I cut them in half again)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ice
  1. Pour 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar into a sauce pan to make a simple syrup
  2. Heat on medium until sugar is dissolve (there should be be no need to boil), stir as needed
  3. remove from heat and set aside until slightly cooled
  4. In a medium sized pitcher combine lemon juice, simple syurp and water
  5. Stir to combine
  6. Add in peels
  7. With a wooden spoon press on peels up and down for about 5 minutes
  8. Remove peels
  9. Serve lemonade over ice

Serves about 6 cups.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Remove Permanent Marker from Almost Anything

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No matter how many times you tell your kids that they can't use the permanent markers, they seem to be unable to  resist them! If you've ever found something of yours covered in permanent marker marks, you're not alone. However, you can use a little bit of elbow grease and some common household items to get rid of permanent marker on just about any surface.

Hard Plastic (Including Dry Erase Board)
If you have permanent marker stuck on a hard plastic surface, it is easy to make it disappear. Just color over the entire mark with a dry erase marker. You can then wipe the surface off with a dry rag and both types of markings will disappear.

Clothing and Most Soft Fabrics
All you need to clean permanent marker off of a fabric surface is hand sanitizer. Squeeze a little bit of hand sanitizer into your hands and press it onto the marking. Dab it on gently—do not rub, or you may rub the marker in more. After the hand sanitizer is patted onto the surface, use a clean cloth to dab the mark and lift the stain.

Painted Walls
What kid doesn't use a blank wall as their canvas? If you want to get permanent marker off of a wall without having to repaint it, get out some hairspray. You'll have to be careful with the hairspray—if you scrub too hard, you may start lifting some of the paint off. Spray hairspray all over the stain. Use a clean cloth to generally rub the stain, lift the marker, and leave the paint intact.

Hard Flooring Types (Including Hardwood and Laminate)
Baking soda and toothpaste are the perfect ingredients to wipe permanent marker off of most flooring types. Mix equal parts of toothpaste and baking soda—the amount you use will depend on how large the stain is. Dip a clean cloth in the toothpaste mixture and rub it on the stain in circular motions. It should come right off.

Carpeting can be tricky when it comes to permanent marker stains. As long as you have rubbing alcohol or hairspray, you can clean your carpet up in no time. If the stain is old, it may require a bit more work. Spray your hairspray or dump a bit of rubbing alcohol on the stain. Blot the area with a clean cloth or towel. Once the stain is gone, pour a bit of water on the area and rub it dry.

Non-Fabric Furniture
You don't even need any cleaner to get toothpaste off of most furniture! Just rub the furniture with a dry erase marker. You should notice the stain start to transfer to the dry erase marker. You can then wipe off the rest of the marker with a clean cloth.

For just about any other surface, you can try a magic eraser or rubbing alcohol. Remember, if a stain is old, it might take a little more work. Stick with it!

Let us know any tricks you might have for getting marker out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Growing Herbs in a Container Garden

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Whether you are a new or experienced gardener, growing herbs is one of the most satisfying ways to start your garden every year. They grow easily and quickly in a variety of conditions, so you can enjoy fast results and see the fruit of your labor. No matter how much or little space you have, you can start container gardening with herbs today.

Herbs that Grow Well in Container Gardens
You can grow just about any herb in your container garden, but some herbs definitely thrive more than others. Consider these hardy growers:

•    Chives: Chives are so much like grass that it's no surprise that they grow quickly! They do well in shade or sun.
•    Basil: Once established, basil doesn't have intense water needs like other herbs.
•    Tarragon: Tarragon does not need as much water as other herbs, making it ideal for new gardeners.
•    Marjoram: Marjoram is one of few herbs that grows well in cold weather.

Choosing a Container
It's important to choose a container that fits your intended space. You can start a container garden on your porch, hanging from pots in your yard, or even in your windowsill. There are a variety of containers you can use—you don't even have to spend money on containers! These are some possible options:

•    Ceramic planters are often large enough to hold multiple herbs
•    Yogurt or margarine containers that have holes cut into the bottom
•    Windowsill planters
•    Mason jars with holes drilled into the bottom
•    Old ice cream buckets with slits cut into the bottom

Seeds or Plants?
You can begin your container garden with already-growing herb plants or herb seeds. What you choose depends on your experience level and how much time you have. It can take a while to get herb seeds thriving and growing, so if you want usable herbs as fast as possible, consider starting with plants. However, seeds are often much less expensive than flourishing herbs.

Whether you start with seeds or plants, it's important to get them established in your soil system. You should fill your container with enriched soil mixture. If you have seeds, stick your finger down to the first knuckle in the soil. Deposit a couple seeds in this hole and cover them with soil. Repeat until the seeds are gone. If you are using plants, dig a hole deep enough to cover the plant's roots. The plants should stand up on their own if they are planted well.

Nurturing Your Garden
In general, herb gardens are hardier than flower or vegetable gardens. You will want to check their moisture levels daily and water them as needed, but they may need less watering than other types of plants.

Once your plants start growing, you can simply cut off leaves when they're fully grown. The rest of the plant will continue growing. As long as your herb garden has enough warmth and water, you'll have fresh herbs to enjoy!