Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Recipe: Heart Shaped Banana Bread

We had bananas going brown and I wasn't just going to throw them away. As I was whipping up a batch of bread, I remembered I had a fun heart shaped pan I got not too long ago and hadn't had a chance to use it yet. I wondered if this was even going to work, but the only way to find out is to try it. I sprayed each heart shape with a non stick cooking spray and filled each heart half way with banana bread mix. It turned out perfect and so adorable. Just in time for Valentine ’s Day!

Banana Bread
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 bananas (mashed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in a mixer.

Using small loaf pans:
Mix ingredients together using a mixer.
Spray each loaf pan with a non cooking spray.
Fill each pan up ½ to ¾ way full.
Bake at 350  degrees for 30 minutes.

Using the heart shape pan:
Mix ingredients together using a mixer.
Spray each heart shape with non stick cooking spray.
Fill each heart shape half way with batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Recipe source unknown

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Friday, January 25, 2013

Organizing: The Kitchen Pantry

For many years now, it has been my goal to reorganize every room in the house. Now that hubby and I just bought our first house during the Summer of 2012, and I know we won’t be moving anywhere anytime soon, I have finally put my goal in action. It is a slow process, but someday I will get the whole house organized.

We certainly aren't hoarders in our household. Clutter? Maybe a tad. Messes? Definitely a few, but who doesn't have a few of those? In fact, I’m a neat freak. I like order. I like a clean house. I like simplicity. I like practical. I like things picked up and in there place before bed. All dishes need to be in the dishwasher. The kids’ rooms need to be picked up before they go off to bed. Anyway I can make the household run more efficiently, all the better for us.

Since our kitchen is a very central place in our house, and I do a lot of cooking, lunch making, cleaning, meal planning, homework, and projects, the kitchen area needs to be systematic. Our evenings are short and the quicker I am able to get dinner on the table, the better. But in order for me to get dinner on the table, I need to have a kitchen that runs smoothly and items in its proper place. Thus, I started with our pantry.

Our pantry was getting out of sorts. We tried to keep categories like pasta, rice, breads, and cereal together in an area on a shelf, but eventually things were ending up on different shelves. I knew we had mayo, and found it located on three different shelves. My stack of canned soups was becoming just a pile of metal with labels, I didn't know what I had anymore.

So, here are the BEFORE pictures of our pantry:

Game on!

I preferred clear plastic bins and with handles.  In case of food spillage it is easier to clean. I kept my options open while looking in different stores for storage bins and what could work, yet still trying to keep the cost down as much as possible. I loved these plastic weaved bins at Target but the price was way more than I wanted to spend, especially when I needed about 20 bins!

Finally, my last store, I found them at Walmart. Each bin was under $5. They were clear plastic, a good variety of sizes, and even had green handles, just the color I was hoping for. I bought what I needed and couldn't wait to get home and start filling up each bin.

I created my own labels for each bin. I printed them on white card stock, and cut each label to size.

Then put the sheet through the laminator.

Instead of using a gooey glue, or sticky tape, or some other icky adhesive to adhere the labels to the bins, I used sticky Velcro tabs. Genius right? (I love it when my brain works!). As food habits change, I’m sure at some point these food labels will change too. Using the Velcro tabs makes for such a clean and easy switch. You can even reuse the sticky Velcro tabs too, just rip them off the back of the old label and stick them on the new one.

Now here are the AFTER pictures of our pantry:

Together, the BEFORE and AFTER pictures.

Happy organizing!!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Random Post: Dryer Sheet Uses Around the House

Now that I have made the wool dryer balls (which work amazing!), and will never be buying dryer sheets again, I now have a Costco supply of dryer sheets leftover and wonder what to do with them all?!?!

I put together a simple list of dryer sheet uses for around the house.

Clean Pots and Pans. If last night’s dinner is still stuck on a pot or pan, simply place a dryer sheet in the pan and then cover it with hot water. Let the pan soak overnight, and then use the dryer sheet to wipe away the loosened food in the morning. Then clean as usual.

Loosen Pet Hair. Before you attempt to vacuum pet hair off of your couch, chair or even your rug, rub the surface down with a dryer sheet. The dryer sheet will loosen the hair from the upholstery and make it easier to vacuum up.

Dust Computer Screens. Or a television screen, or iPad surface. 
   To remove dust without damaging 
   your electronics, rub a dryer sheet 
   over the surface. It will reduce 
   static and pick up the dust.

Keep Deer Away. If you live in an 
    area where deer are prevalent and nibbling on your garden, cut dryer sheets into one-inch strips and 
    then tie them onto the tips of   greenery or in trees. The smell will keep deer away.

Remove Soap Scum. If you have mineral deposits or hard to clean soap scum in your shower, wipe it away with a dryer sheet. Lightly wet a dryer sheet, and then scrub the soap scum away. To learn more about soap scum, read: Be A Soap Scum Ninja.

Clean Scissor Blades. To clean your scissors without dulling the blades, rub them down with a dryer sheet. The sheet will remove any built-up stickiness, dust and dirt.

Repel Bees Outside. At your next backyard barbeque, put a dryer sheet in your back pocket. The smell will repel bees. If you don’t have a pocket to hide the dryer sheet, simply tuck a few sheets under your lawn furniture or blanket.

Cure clingy clothes. With the swipe of a dryer sheet you can do away with clingy, static-ridden clothes in seconds. Carrying a dryer sheet in your purse to avoid those situations. It will make your bag smell nice, too.

Scent your stuff. Tuck a fresh sheet into your dresser drawers. It leaves a subtle fragrance they lend to everything stashed away with it. This is also a good trick for gym bags, suitcases or even smelly sneakers.
Tame frizzy hair. Don't you hate it when you've just blow-dried your hair, smoothed on some anti-frizz serum and yet your strands are still determined to go haywire? Static + hair is never a good combination. Simply run a dryer sheet over your hair. It may seem odd but it works like a charm.

De-squeak Your Feet. Are those new rubber-soled shoes squeaking all over the office? Quiet them down by rubbing the bottoms with a dryer sheet.

Freshen your ride. You know those scented pine trees on a string car fresheners that are really strong? Instead, slip a few dryer sheets under the seats in your car. It will keep your whole car smelling so fresh and so clean.

    Dust it up. Dryer sheets can be used on nearly any surface to do away    
         with dust. Rub a dryer sheet on your baseboards to keep the dust 
         from collecting on the edge.

Taken from: http://pinterest.com/creativesuz/home-cleaning/

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Organizing: Sneak Peek of our Pantry

I am incredibly giddy with excitement over this organization project with our pantry. Here is what our pantry looks like BEFORE.

Yes, kind of a mess, looks crammed. Even though we try to keep things together in categories (pasta, rice, peanut butter) it doesn't always work that way. As I was organizing I was finding the same type of item on different shelves.

Check back soon for the new totally organized pantry in our house! Eek, I can hardly contain myself. I am so excited.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Random Post: Wool Dryer Balls

How cool would it be if you never had to buy dryer sheets again!?! Any way I can save a few bucks for this household I am definitely down to doing it. I am all about saving money, which is why I tried out these wool dryer balls.

Here is what you need:
100% wool yarn (you can find this at any crafty store. Walmart has some. I purchased mine at Michael's).
nylons, or tights
embroidery thread
I got a two 3.5 ounce skein of 100% wool. I made a total of four wool dryer balls. I could easily get another 2-3 more balls out of each skein.  I paid $4 for each skein.

To get the ball started, wrap the yarn around your fingers 15-20 times. 

Slip it off your fingers and wrap around the yarn another 15-20 times. I almost looks like a bow.

Pinch the ends together and start wrapping the yarn around and around into a ball. Make sure you wrap it around nice and tight. 

Leave a little tail of yarn.

When the ball is about 5-6 inches around, cut the yarn leaving a couple inches and tuck under and around other stands of yarn to secure it.

Continue with the steps above for as many balls as you want to make.

To felt:
Take a pair of tights, or nylons. Take the first ball and place in the nylons at the foot area. Take a small piece of embroidery thread and tie it off (double knot) and continue this with each ball.  Do not use the wool thread to tie it off because it will felt in the process - you do not want this!

Embroidery thread
Take the balls of wool secured in the nylons and a load of clothes (I used towels) and use the hottest setting of water on your washing machine. Hotter the water, the better. Run the load in the washing machine. Then put them in the dryer on the hottest heat setting. The fibers of wool will come out tight.

Now you have complete dryer wool balls. 

How awesome is that! No more expensive dryer sheets.

adapted from: http://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2012/09/save-time-money-and-energy-make-your-own-wool-dryer-balls.html

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Random Post: Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I was incredibly curious and excited to see how this homemade liquid laundry detergent would turn out. The estimated cost is about $10.00 for 608 loads, depending on soap used, 1 box of Borax, and 1 box of washing soda. The savings is incredible!

Here is the recipe:
  • 1 bar grated soap (any kind you prefer). I used Fels Naptha for this batch, but you can also use Zote or Dove.
  • 1 cup Borax (found in the laundry detergent isle)
  • 1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (found in the laundry detergent isle)
  • 3 gallons of water

Supplies needed:
  • A BIG pot that holds 3-4 gallons
  • A grater
  • A funnel
  • A long handled spoon (or something long to mix with)
  • 3 empty one gallon containers

Grate bar of soap.

We have a grater with a container in the bottom to catch the shreds. There are still some that escape so I put a paper towel in a dry side of the sink. For any shreds that end up on the paper towel, just dump them in the pot. It makes for a really easy clean up.
Or you can grate the soap right into the pot you will be making the laundry detergent.

Turn the stove on medium-high. Add a gallon of water to grated soap in pot. Stir occasionally. Cook until soap dissolves.

Add the Borax and washing soda. Bring to a boil. The mixtures will turn a semisolid when it cools.

Turn off the heat. Add 2 gallons of cold water to the pot. Mix well.

Pour 1 gallon of detergent into each container. A funnel will really help for this. If the pot is too heavy, I used a measuring cup with a pour spout and transferred the detergent mix until the pan was easy enough to pour.

Now you have 3 gallons of homemade laundry detergent. I use ½ cup per load.

I get an estimated 608 loads per one box of Borax and washing Soda (about 12 batches of soap that make 3 gallons each = 36 loads per gallon = 72 loads per recipe using 1/2 cup of made detergent per load. So that's 608 loads for about 10 bucks!

My thinking was since I was making liquid detergent, instead of using gallon containers I found this 2.5 gallon container with a handle and pour spout at Walmart. This detergent ends up being really thick so, genius me, the spout tends to get clogged very easily and end up shaking the container and cleaning the spout every time I want to do a load of laundry. A bit more time consuming then I want to deal with. So I may end up switching over to some sturdy gallon containers and labeling them.

If you have a he (high efficiency) front loader or top loading washer, this detergent works just fine in it!    

If you find the detergent is still too thick, use a ½ bar of soap (instead of a whole bar) on the next batch.

As with all cleaning products, please keep out of reach of children, especially when using recycled containers.

Happy laundry!

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