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 Naturally Clean Your Oven

Plenty of ovens have a self-cleaning option and if that fits you, it fits you. However, if you’re worried about your oven getting that hot (usually 500 degrees or higher) and have stuck on layers that could cause smoke – you may want to consider cleaning your oven manually. It uses less energy and keeps your home from getting hot.

There are options when it comes to cleaning your oven.

I’ll be walking through a natural option that may involve a little more time, but can be done with items you probably already have at the house. It will give you a similar clean to using a heavy-duty product.

Woman cleaning oven

When to choose to clean your oven is up to how your oven is performing and how often you use it. If there’s something stuck on that smokes each time you use it – it’s time. If you use it most evenings, you might consider cleaning it every month to two months. Like with most things in life, tasks like this can get away from you, but just do it when you think of it. If it gets done sometimes, I think that’s better than never, right?

You can clean your oven with baking soda and vinegar. Here’s a great breakdown from a cooking site on how to do this option well!

You can also clean with lemons, which is what I chose to do. I always have lemons and the smell is unmatched – except maybe for limes.

It’s so easy!

  • Preheat your oven to 250 – 300 degrees (whatever you’re feeling!)
  • Grab an oven-safe container and fill it with boiling water.
  • Cut some lemons and put them in the container. You can use at least two, more if you have extra, but you don’t need to.
  • Place the container into the oven.
  • Leave for at least an hour. Then after turning the oven off, leave the door ajar so the oven can cool.
  • After time has passed and you can carefully test to see that it is warm to the touch but doesn’t burn you – you’re ready to begin. Remove the lemon water container and grab some gloves. Take some cloths you don’t mind to get dirty, or an you can use an old t-shirt and cut it in to rags to wipe down the oven. A strong scrubber will work too!  Wipe the inside of the oven with caution to avoid the bottom heating unit (if you have one). Wait a bit more time to clean underneath the unit.
  • Once you’re done, and the oven has cooled, you can go back to beneath the heating unit. If there are still some tough areas, wet the area and add some baking soda. Then use some elbow grease to scrub out the issue area.

More Kitchen Cleaning Ideas!

Now your oven is ready for your next delicious meal!

We love these affordable, natural options for cleaning. You don’t have to worry about harsh chemicals around your kids or animals – or even yourself! With a little extra time, you have a healthy clean and you can feel fine putting food back into that oven without harm.

Understanding How Your Credit Can Be Good News for Your Interest Rate

So you’re taking on a mortgage, or considering it – congratulations! Also, good job. Educating yourself in financial matters is super smart (though seriously daunting and intimidating sometimes). When it comes to interest rates, it can be easy to dismiss the steps you can take to try and get better rates. However, there are many things you can do before even applying for a mortgage to improve your ability to get a lower interest rate.

It begins with keeping the following in good standing: credit, debt, savings, income, and other assets.

Having a low interest rate is likely going to be important to you in the long run. While a high interest rate may be easy to overlook when purchasing a home, you may feel the financial impact of a higher rate down the road. A higher interest rate will result in you paying more over the lifetime of your mortgage2.

Good credit can result in lower interest rates when you go to purchase a mobile home2. Many people don’t realize how important it is to keep your credit score up or to work on getting into a good credit score range.

When applying for a mortgage or preapproval, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report and to promptly correct errors1. You should avoid doing anything that may negatively impact your credit throughout the process of purchasing a mobile home; this includes applying for new, additional lines of credit1.

While your credit score isn’t the only key to a low interest rate, it is one of the key factors2. Your credit report is the main record lenders have of how you spend money. It tells them whether you pay on time, if you pay what is owed, and how consistent you are. It’s riskier for them to lend when your credit score is low in terms of your perceived ability to make payments. It’s similar to a school giving a better scholarship based on grades. While it’s not always fair to those who really have to work for a high grade versus those who are naturally good test takers – both got the same grade. The same is true with credit. If your credit has seen better days, you can improve it with hard work.

Another key factor is your debt1.  A lot of debt may deter a lender from lending to you, or may negatively impact the terms of the loan. Lenders calculate your debt to income ratio, so you definitely want to pay off as much debt as you can before applying for a home loan. Many people only see their home as an investment and not as debt, which it is. A mortgage is probably the biggest loan you will have in your life. Owning a home can be rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility. The best thing to do is either consolidate or pay off debts that you can, or at least have proof that you can consistently pay towards your debt while also making your mortgage payments.

Your savings and income may also impact your interest rate and the terms of our loan.  Starting to save is obviously amazing when considering a mortgage. It also can look good when your interest rate is being decided. Savings can demonstrate to a lender that you can pay your mortgage payments. This can also be shown if you have consistent income. Having a steady job or creating a savings budget could help you when trying for a better interest rate. Assets such as land, cash settlements, etc. could also positively impact that way that you appear to a lender.

Understanding your credit is the key to reaching for a better interest rate. Don’t just accept a high rate. You’ll pay for it later. Do what you can to make your credit shine!

Start Improving Your Credit Today!

  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 16 August 2018. How does my credit score affect my ability to get a mortgage loan? https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-does-my-credit-score-affect-my-ability-to-get-a-mortgage-loan-en-319/

2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 16 August 2018. Seven factors that determine your mortgage interest ratehttps://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/7-factors-determine-your-mortgage-interest-rate/

Understanding What Makes Up Your Credit Score

Part of accurately building your credit is by understanding it. That begins with a breakdown of the factors that play into your score. The assumption by many is that credit is based solely on our ability to pay back money. While that is an aspect – it’s important to look at the collective.

Let’s elaborate on the 5 components of credit. Below we’ve got some examples to further help explain what each section means. These are made up examples and do not pertain to actual people or advice.

    1. Payment History: How well you’ve done with paying back your charges – based off consistency of repayment. Example: Debbie pays a little over her minimum payment before the due date. 
    2. Amounts Owed: How much you owe compaired your credit limit. Example: Debbie’s credit limit is $500 and she has a balance on her credit card of about $50 at a time. This is 10 percent of her limit, so her ratio of credit to amount owed is pretty low.
    3. History Length: How long you’ve had your credit. Example: Debbie has a credit card that she’s had for about 10 years. It shows over time how she’s used the card and done with making payments.
    4. New Credit: Based off opening new lines of credit. Example: Debbie opened a credit card, got a car loan, and opened a store credit card all in within two months. This could cause her score to drop.
    5. Credit Mix: Diversity and amount of credit lines. Example: Debbie has 5 lines of credit now: a department store credit card, a car loan, a secured credit card, a credit card through a bank, and a major credit card.

Check out This Credit Infographic

Source: https://www.equifax.com/personal/education/credit/score/how-is-credit-score-calculated

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!

Fall Mobile Home Maintenance Checklist

We’ve now arrived at fall and life just got a little more beautiful. With the change of the seasons, we want to check in with our homes and see how they fared the previous season as well as prepare them for the next. Fall is the time we want to make sure our homes are properly sealed for the coming colder air. We also want to ensure our home is ready to handle more heat inside.

Let’s unpack some easy maintenance items and get your mobile home ready for fall!

  • Clean gutters. This is the most common tip for fall! You may want to wait until the leaves start to drop, but you could start now! Make sure they are hooked up correctly, and if your gutter drain has any damage, be sure to repair it.
  • Add caulking. Checking to ensure your windows are sealed is a good place to start. Then you can move to the bathroom and check around faucets and shower heads. Then you can check other problem spots you may notice.
  • Check smoke alarms. Change those batteries! Be sure all your alarms are wired and working properly. You’re going to be lighting candles, using the oven more, and probably adding light and warmth to your home.
  • Put the garden hose away. If you leave it out, it may make a ring of dead grass for next year. Most importantly, you don’t want it to freeze and bust the pipe.
  • Clean your fireplace. It’s good to make sure your fireplace is ready to be used if you have electric or gas, but even more so if you have a log burning fireplace. If you have a damper, you want to properly remove it and check the structure of your fireplace as well as check for creosote. Creosote should be removed during a chimney cleaning.  Consider consulting a professional.
  • Repair/ replace skirting damage. Did you accidentally hit your skirting while weed eating? Are there some holes in your skirting? Repair that with skirting tape or get a new panel!
  • Gaps around/under doors. As heat is generated in your home, it may cause your doors to swell or your doors may just have never been level. Try placing a door snake underneath to fix the gap.

Keep Your Home Energy Efficient!

Happy fall! We hope these tips help you prep your home for the season! Now that your home is ready, it’s time to decorate!

 

Oakbur Quill Co.

How to Make Your Kitchen More Eco-friendly and Affordable

Maintaining a kitchen can get pricey. Especially with a big family or if you cook and pack lunches frequently. We also can build up a lot of waste. Luckily for us, there are plenty of items we can replace with reusable options. While some of them can be purchased, most items can be made too!

Let’s explore some of the options! Here’s to less waste and less money in the long run!

    1. Napkins: Ditch paper napkins and get some reusable cloth napkins. Thrift stores are crawling with them!
    2. Paper towels: There are tons of how to’s on making reusable rolls out of towels and fabric.
    3. Baggies: Ditch them! Put your lunch items in glass containers, invest in some reusable wax wraps or reusable silicon wraps!
    4. Try your hand at compost: It’s pretty easy! Keep your scraps from veggies, egg shells, potato peelings, etc., (no meat), and add them to a small pile of soil outside near your garden. Mix it up every now and then and let it break down – then you can mix it in to your garden! There are many methods – try whatever fits your needs!
    5. Replace foil/ plastic wrap: Try making your own bowl covers with a stretchy band and fabric, or you can buy silicon lids!
    6. Mop pads: Make your own with a towel and some sewing to save on waste.
    7. Shopping: Purchase reusable bags or make your own. You also can use cardboard boxes or clean bins if you prefer!
       

Give Your Kitchen A Facelift!

There are tons of other options, too! If you don’t do any environment friendly things in your kitchen, start slow. Try incorporating one at a time and mastering it before moving on to another one. These ideas will cut back on trash, and after the first initial investment of purchasing or making your own items, you’ll save money with not having to buy disposable items often. That means less shopping, too!

Remember, you don’t have to conquer the world. Just one of these ways is helpful! Try one today and see the change!

Decorating Ideas for Fall

Happy Harvest! Well, almost! We’re only a few weeks away!  We are ready to welcome in the changing season with some great decorating ideas. After the heat of summer – fall offers a breath of fresh air. It’s a moment to reflect and soak up the colors around you. We’ve compiled ideas that we love, and we hope you love them too!

Put the tea kettle on, wrap up in some plaid, and get ready to celebrate the harvest! These ideas are easy, cheap, and look gorgeous!

Fall is ALL about 2 things:

  1. Being outside
  2. Bringing the outside, inside

When decorating use:

  1. Leaves
  2. Branches
  3. Acorns
  4. Corn husk
  5. Pumpkins
  6. Greenery
  7. Moss
  8. Wood

    shutterstock_215906020
    Making a beautiful harvest centerpiece is easy and doesn’t have to cost a lot!

Go on a walk with the kids or the dogs and gather some of the things above to decorate with.

CENTERPIECES: Put vases around the house and on your kitchen table. Fill them with what you gathered on your walk! You’ve added instant fall to your house – without the cost! You can also add bird seed or coffee beans to jars or vases for a beautiful look that warms the mood of your home! For a more rustic look, place wooden slabs on the table and arrange some moss on top of it.

Make kid-friendly centerpieces!

DOORS/ ENTRY-WAYS: Make a wreath or garland with any of the items above. You can purchase a Styrofoam/wire ring and add anything you like to it for an easy wreath! If you’re not the crafty type, simply tie some branches together with an orange or brown ribbon and put it over the door.

HOME ACCENTS: Have some old glass bottles or aluminum cans? Wash them and paint them orange, red, or brown. Place them around the house in clusters for a great pop of color. Tea lights add warmth to any corner – place them in the containers you’ve painted for a beautiful votive.

FIREPLACE/ MANTLE: Grab some string and close pins – put it across the mantle. Gather your family to write what they are thankful for on some fall colored paper. Hang them up! You can even cut them out into pumpkins or fun fall shapes. Cover the top of your mantle with acorns and place a couple candles in the middle.

That was easy, right?! We hope these ideas have got you thinking! Your home can have that touch of fall with little effort and cost involved. Here’s to nights of football, apple cider, and savoring every moment.

Happy Fall, Y’all!