My Go-To Way to Clean the Microwave

Cleaning the microwave is one of my least favorite tasks. Everything that splattered is stuck onto the sides of the microwave and is a pain to scrub clean. I needed an easier way, one that didn’t require a ton of elbow grease.

Then I came across this method. It’s super simple and allows for all the dried food to be effortlessly wiped cleaned.

All you need is the following:

  • A microwave safe bowl
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Lemon juice

In the bowl, add one-part vinegar, one-part water and a tablespoon or two of lemon juice. Place the bowl in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes. (I typically use a cup each of vinegar and water, but you can decide what works best for your microwave.) When the timer goes off, carefully remove the bowl as it may be hot and wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth.

If you have a microwave with a rotating glass dish, be careful when removing, as it may also be hot,  and wipe down.

If anything is still remaining, place the bowl back in the microwave for another minute or so.  The steam can help break up the grease and dried on food.

Clean Your Oven, Too!

What used to be an exhausting appliance to clean, now is a quick clean up no matter how long you go in between cleanings.

5 Tips to Help You Clean Your Fridge

November 15th is National Clean Out Your Fridge Day. The thought behind this day is to clear the way for all those incoming leftovers that will fill your fridge after Thanksgiving. However, just as a rule I try to clean my fridge at least once a quarter. It is amazing how we don’t notice the little spills or reside from fruits and veggies (especially if you forgot about them in the drawer) until it gets bad.  If you maintain regularly though, cleaning your fridge can be a less bothersome task. Here are some tips to help make the process efficient and get you through!

Tip 1: Remove all your contents – don’t just work around them

You can do this a few ways. You can take everything out all at once, or shelf by shelf. As you remove the contents, take note to see what is expired and what is still good. I like to create two piles on the floor that way I know what I am tossing and what I am not.

Tip 2: Use an unscented, natural cleaner

To clean the surfaces of your fridge, you’ll want to use something natural and doesn’t have a strong scent. You can use a scentless natural cleaner you buy in a store, make your own, or even just wipe down the inside with some warm water and add a little dish soap for stuck on messes. Having a strong scent can linger in your fridge and cause your food to absorb the smell or using chemicals could be potentially harmful.

Tip 3: Get organized…again

When putting back all the unexpired foods, make sure to reorganize. It is so easy for things to get put back in different places. Having an organized fridge will allow you  find what you need quickly. It will save you time and money.

Tip 4: Don’t just focus on cleaning the inside

It isn’t just the areas where your food sits that gets dirty. It is the door, back of the fridge, top, and under the fridge too. Make sure to wipe down the inside of the door where it seals. Unplug your fridge and gently wipe down the coils with a dry cloth or brush and move the fridge out to clean underneath. You’ll want to make sure your remove all dust so it doesn’t harm the functionality of your fridge. Once done cleaning, remember to plug your fridge back in.

Tip 5: Keep it smelling fresh

Keeping either baking soda or freshly ground coffee in your fridge will help to absorb food odors. You can also crumple a brown paper bag and place it in your produce drawer to help absorb odors.

Freshen Your Fridge/Kitchen!

While cleaning the fridge is no one’s favorite task, hopefully these tips will help to improve your process to keep your fridge clean and smelling great.

How to Make Homemade Caramel Apples

Nothing says fall quite like pumpkins and apples. There are so many wonderful recipes that create great Autumn smells in your kitchen! One of my favorite things is caramel apples. Usually people will find them at fairs or if you are lucky, a good one in the grocery store.   You might not realize this is an easy thing to make right in your own home!

First, make sure you set all your ingredients and tools.

What you need:

  • Caramel
  • Apples
  • Sticks
  • Double Boiler/sauce pan/microwaveable bowl
  • Big Spoon
  • Cookie Tray
  • Parchment paper/Tin foil
  • Cooking spray/Butter
  • Crushed nuts or other toppings (optional)
  1. Prepare the apples:

Before you start anything, you will want to make sure your apples are ready to go.

Wash your apples thoroughly to make sure all the wax and dirt is removed. Once done, fully dry the apples. Any moisture will prevent the caramel from sticking properly.

The next thing you’ll want to do is destem the apples and add sticks to them. You can use which ever kind of sticks you like. Pointed sticks do make it easier to add the stick to the apple rather than a duller stick.

After your caramel is ready, you won’t want to worry about it hardening or burning depending on how you are warming your caramel.

2. Prepare your station:

After you prepare your apples to be dunked, you will want to make sure you have a place to put them once you are done covering them. Take a cookie sheet and line it with parchment paper or tin foil. Since caramel can be so sticky, you will also want to grease the surface. You can spray it with a cooking spray or use butter. You can grease your cookie sheet directly, but cleaning up will be easier if you use some kind of liner in case any caramel does get left behind.

3. Warm up your caramel:

You can always make your caramel from scratch or you can use store-bought candies. This time, I used the store-bought candies. If you use them, you will want to follow the directions to add about 2TBS of milk, heavy whipping cream, or water (whatever the candy recommends) to the caramel and stir. If you are warming this on the stove top, make sure to stand by it and keep the heat low to medium to prevent burning.

When your caramel is melted, it should still be thick and gooey. If it is too runny, your apples won’t cover well. You will want to make sure that the caramel is smooth when stirring. If your caramel is still too thick after adding the 2TBS, you can add 1TBS at a time to have it get to the right consistency.

4. Ready to dip!

Once your caramel is ready, start dipping your apples! Submerge your apple as much as possible to allow for the best coverage. I like to use a big cooking spoonto add caramel to the top and then spin the bottom of the apple on the spoon to remove the excess caramel while keeping it coated. When dipping the apple, turn the apple in the caramel, this will allow for even coating.

5. Add toppings:

I prefer to add crushed nuts to my apples, but you can add anything you like. You can even drizzle them with chocolate. Whichever topping you decide to use, make sure they are small.

Immediately after coating your caramel apple, twirl the apple around in your topping and then place on your tray for the caramel to set.

6. Repeat:

Keep repeating this process until all your caramel is gone or until you have made enough caramel apples. Work quickly, but don’t worry, you can always warm your caramel back up if it starts hardening before you are done dipping.

Keep the apples refrigerated if you don’t plan on eating them right away. If you do keep them at room temperature, don’t place them in direct sunlight so the caramel won’t start melting.

7. Enjoy and share!

Once you are done and the mess is cleaned up, enjoy your fresh caramel apple and share with your family and friends (or don’t because they are just that good)!

Keep Celebrating!

Kid Friendly Activities From Your Backyard

With springtime here, the weather is getting warmer and people are spending more time outside, especially kids. Here are a few activities that you can have your kids’ help with that will engage them in hands-on activities and encourage their curiosity.

Plant a Garden:

Teaching kids how to tend for a garden is a wonderful skill. It encourages responsibility, while also creates reward as a result from their hard work. You could choose a vegetable garden or flower garden. Either way, your kids will be proud to see what they grew from a small seed. These gardens can be low maintenance and you have a variety of options to choose from depending on your space. You could make a raised flowerbed or have a garden in buckets. You can even get creative with your containers with a little inspiration.

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Learning about gardening is super fun for kids – they are invited to get dirty!

Make a Bird feeder:

A fun outdoor activity is to make an up-cycled birdfeeder. There are the traditional bird feeders that you can build or buy, but you can also make one out of every day objects you would typically throw out. Create one by decorating an old milk carton, bottles, or cans. Once you have it made, learn what kind of birds are in your area and find out what kind of seed they like. When filled and hung, you can sit and listen to their songs and help your kids identify the different species right in your own backyard.

Make Wind Chimes:

Adding a little music to your yard is another simple craft for you and your kids. With this activity you can up-cycle a variety of objects from old toys, to cans, to silverware. Check out this article for some ideas ! Test out the sounds together to here how they clink together to find the right sounds. This fun activity will allow your kids to be creative and be proud every time they hear the wind blow.

Decorate your Pathway:

If you have a front pathway or maybe just want to add a little flair to your garden, you can collect rocks with your kids and then paint them. You can pick a theme you want to stick to for the ideas or just go crazy with it! Let creativity be your guide. Once completed, you can line your walkway or make a rock garden with your newly decorated rocks. You can also decorate clay pots and arrange them on your front stoop or porch.

Get Even MORE Ideas!

Whichever craft you choose, remember it will encourage creativity while letting their personalities shine through and create life long memories that you’ll kids will take with them as they grow.

How to Maximize Your Free Time

Cleaning is a tasking chore. There is no doubt about that. For me, it felt like I was stuck in the same routine every Saturday. I worked hard all week and yet when the weekend came, I was still working. It was exhausting and I just wanted to take a break! So what is the solution? Hire a maid? Nice idea, but it wasn’t for me.

Here are some tips to make life a little easier when it comes to cleaning.

Make a schedule:

Who knew mom would have had genius ideas? As a child it seemed like the chore list was put in place to create torture. A rotating schedule that meant you had to do one of each thing as a child, yuck! And now as adults, it is all left up to us to complete.

Implementing a family chore list, or one even if you live alone can be a huge help. It’ll help you complete all the tasks throughout the week so when Saturday morning comes, you are free to relax without housework looming over your head.  Plus, if you have a family, you’ll have help around the house and won’t have to remind anyone what chore they have and on what day.

Feel free to take this with you to make your own chore list that works for you!

Chore List Template Sheet1

One Extra Thing…

If you have too many horror flashbacks from implementing a chore schedule or it just doesn’t work for your lifestyle, try to do just one extra thing a day. This could be doing a load of laundry after you get off work, or going grocery shopping during the week. Doing just one thing extra a day will help for your house to be fresh all through out the week and maximize your weekend time.

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Keeping up with clutter keeps it from happening!

Put it away, right away:

Yet again, mom was right. How many times did you hear, “pick up your toys if you’re done with them?” A thousand times at least, right? This holds true with clutter. For me, the clutter is always the worst, especially junk mail. It just seems to creep up on me. But, if I take care of it right away it won’t be there later; simple enough concept.  The same holds true with putting away laundry, folding blankets, etc. If you do it right when you are done with whatever it is, it won’t be waiting for you to do later. The extra 3 seconds it takes to toss the junk mail out or fold the blanket you are done with will save you more in the future. It’ll be a moment here or there rather than all the moment compiled at once. Plus, you’ll continue to have your house tidy even if you haven’t had the time to sweep or vacuum.

Check out the Interactive Chore List!

Remember, any change of routine can take a little bit to truly set in and the more people in the household, the longer it probably is going to take. Try to be patient with yourself (and your family) with getting there. But once you are, you won’t regret the extra time you have!

Staying Connected: Making Mother’s Day Special During a Pandemic

Your mom has been there for you in certain and uncertain times of your life. She fed you, changed your diapers, taught you how to walk, talk, the list goes on and on for how far a mother’s love extends. So how can you show your appreciation for your mom during a global pandemic? Maybe she lives in a different state than you or in the same town, but it is still discouraged to visit anyone where it isn’t essential. Here are some suggestions for making your mom feel special even if you can’t spend some quality time with her the old-fashioned way:

Call Her:

Zoom, Facebook, Google, Facetime, Skype, the possibilities for a video call are ENDLESS. Take the extra time to see your mom while keeping her safe.

Drive By to See Her:

A lot of people are planning parades. Get your siblings together and find a good time where you can all drive by your mom’s house and honk the horn. You can make signs and decorate your cars for when you make your appearance.

Send a Meal:

Maybe you want to treat your mom to a meal or a dessert of some sort. You can either make it yourself and drop it off at her doorstep or you can call a local restaurant and see if they offer delivery. If they don’t offer delivery, but offer curbside pickup, let your mom know about the surprise and plan a good time for her to go get her special dinner.

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Make mom something sweet!

Give a Gift:

A lot of pampering places are currently not opening and may not be opening for a little while yet until we know how this virus will shake out. Give her a gift card or gift certificate to her favorite nail salon, hair salon, or a massage. If she’d rather go to the movies, give her a gift card to the movie theater in her town that way when they open back up, she can enjoy it then.

Send Flowers:

If there are any local florists open near you, send her flowers if that is her thing to let her know you are thinking of her.

Make this Mother’s Day extra memorable by thinking outside of the box to show her how much you care. After all, she deserves a little extra sunshine and love.

Get More Ideas!

Home Update Series: Bathroom

Bathrooms can be a tricky area to update, especially since they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For example, if you have a small bathroom, you’ll want to choose the appropriate size vanity that won’t make it too crowded.

Let’s start simple by talking about updating your vanity. Much like the kitchen, you can change out the hardware and paint the cabinets. You can also paint your sink. Check out this article that takes you step by step on how to refinish your sink.

Depending on the condition and age of your bathtub, you have several options. If the tub looks aged or is an old color straight out of the 60s and 70s, you can always paint your bathtub. Another option is also repairing chips in the finish if you have them. This would be for minor repairs and will help prevent further chipping. Replacing the tub altogether can be expensive depending on what you are looking for, but it has the potential to be a do it yourself job. Make sure to educate yourself on any plumbing questions so you don’t end up without a usable bathroom.

On the simpler side, adding a frame around your mirror is a quick fix that can provide a more finished and updated look.

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Finally, another quick update to your bathroom is frosting any windows. If your bathroom window isn’t already, you can add a vinyl frost sticker to the window. This will allow your bathroom to have more light, and you could hang sheer curtains to finish the look.

Updating your bathroom can be as simple or as complicated as you would like. The best thing to do is to assess what is a functionality update and what is a cosmetic update, then choosing what will work best with your space. Research, budgeting, and a little elbow grease can make your do it yourself dreams come true!

Add a Few Final Touches to Your Bathroom!

Home Update Series: Kitchen

Having an updated kitchen can make your space feel better, and if you ever decide to sell it can add to your investment. So what can you do without having to hire a handyman? It turns out, quite a bit!

The components of a kitchen are simple: sink, counters, cabinets, appliances. Each one of these elements can have your space feeling like it is straight out of a different decade, and not necessarily in a retro way. Here are some do it yourself ideas for updating your kitchen!

Sinks:

Updating your sink can be as simple as a trip to the hardware store. Try to find one that will fit your means and is within your budget. You can have a double bucket sink or a farmhouse style. Sinks can be expensive, as are faucets, so if you can find a combo, typically those are the same price if not a little bit more expensive than just the sink or the faucet. Check out this video to see how to install the sink yourself!

Cabinets:

Updating your cabinets doesn’t have to take a long time. You can update your hardware such as the handles and the hinges. This alone will give new life to old cabinets. You can also update your cabinets by painting or staining them a different color. If your cabinets still have good bones, there is no need to go out and replace all your cabinets just to give your kitchen a new look!

Counters:

Counter tops can be tricky, but you can buy ready-made counters that you can install yourself. You can change the whole feel of your kitchen by changing the color of your counters. You can have dark counters to give a warmer feel, or light to keep it bright and open. Another option is to make your own counters out of concrete.

Back splash:

Adding a back splash to your kitchen walls can upgrade your look. If you aren’t sure about tiling yourself, you can take a class to learn. You can also buy tiles that you can stick directly on the wall. This will give the space a finished look.

Lighting:

Updating your lighting to your kitchen can modernize your look. Plus, having a better lit space will literally brighten the room.

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Paint:

Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint on the walls. It may seem simple, but it will freshen up your space. If you have a small, dark area, using bright colors helps to open the room. Adding a dark accent color is a great way to include a little drama in a well-lit kitchen.

Doing one, or a combination of these suggestions, will make a difference in your space to bring it up to date. If there is a project that you want to tackle, but aren’t quite sure how, you can always reach out to employees of local hardware stores when you buy or supplies or take to the internet to learn more about the specifics on upgrading. Remember to create a plan for how to tackle the area so you don’t feel overwhelmed!

More Kitchen Inspiration!

Home Updates Series: Preparation

Updating your home can be expensive. The worst part is that if you don’t, your home can look  outdated. The trends for rooms like the kitchen or bathroom are always changing and while they may still be functional, sometimes as an owner, you’ll want to freshen the  look of your home and bring the space up to date. So what can you do to stay inside your budget and get a great space?

The good news is you can do more repairs yourself than you think. With a little do it yourself education and some elbow grease, you can bring any room up to date.

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Simple and efficient spaces are in!

Before starting any project, it’s a good idea to plan out what it is you want to accomplish and how you will accomplish it. Create a budget! Have a number in mind for what you would be willing to spend on updates and then stick to it. Keep in mind, you can run into surprises along the way, so it’s a good idea to have a cushion.

Deciding what to spend can be arbitrary unless you know what the realistic price points are for the updates. Go window shopping to see what the reasonable prices would be. This remodeling calculator is also a useful tool! It gives you an estimate of major projects that you can quite possibly do yourself. It is good to factor in the type of style you like, but don’t limit yourself! Sinks, faucets, hardware, etc. can get pretty pricey if you aren’t careful.

Once you’ve decided what your budget is, make a realistic plan to save for it to make your goal. Maybe you’ll use your tax return or maybe you’ll put away an extra $50 a paycheck. Whatever the case is, it’s good to have a plan. It is exciting to update your home, but no one wants to go into debt over what should be a fun endeavor.

Another good tip is don’t tackle every room at once. Do it room by room. That way, instead of the whole house being a construction zone, it’s just one area at a time, which becomes more manageable. Remember, making updates, major or minor, can take more time than anticipated. It’s good to split the updates up over a few weekend projects depending on what you want to accomplish.

Remember, whatever room you decide to update next, have fun and make it your own!

Start Budgeting For Those Updates!