Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Granny's Peach Cake

This weekend, I mentioned making Granny's Peach Cake on facebook.  Maybe it's everyone's abundance of peaches or just a fondness for a rather hard-to-come-by delicacy, but I had several requests for the recipe.

Last year, I posted about a very special cookbook / memory book  that my mom gave to them women in our family.  This collection of my great-grandmother's recipes is quite a keepsake with it's pictures and memories, but it's a valuable resource, too.  The front cover boasts a picture of one of Granny's best loved recipes - her peach cake - and just the other day, I had such a craving for it that I decided to make it myself.  This was the first time I had made it, and it turned out wonderfully (I called Mom first to find out if she had any pointers since she has made it quite a few times).  I've added her tips to the recipe below.

Granny's Peach Cake
the recipe is actually for her Basic Sweet Dough and can be adapted for several types of fruit, but Granny almost always made it with peaches...

2/3 cup milk, scalded
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
6 TBSP shortening
    For those of you who aren't used to such (ahem) old-fashioned recipes, scalded milk just means that you heat it in a sauce pan until it is about to boil but then you don't let it boil.  And, yes, you need to do this part.  Once the milk is scalded, remove from heat and add the sugar, salt, and shortening to the sauce pan and allow those ingredients to dissolve and melt.  Set aside.

2/3 cup lukewarm water (hot from tap, will be lukewarm once you add other ingredients to it)
2 TBSP sugar
2 pkgs dry yeast
    Add the sugar and yeast to the lukewarm water and allow it to dissolve.  Mix and set aside, waiting for the mixture to "bubble," showing that the yeast and sugar are interacting.

Place the milk mixture in mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid and it works just fine.  Granny, of course, did it all by hand...).  Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture.  Make sure your milk mixture has cooled a bit as you don't want it to kill your yeast concoction.  In all reality, by the time you've reached this point, it should be just fine.

3 beaten eggs
6 cups flour
      Add the beaten eggs slowly until mixed along with one cup of flour.  Gradually add more flour (about one cup at a time) until the dough is the right consistency to knead (elastic but not too sticky).  At this point, I've switched to my dough hook.  Depending on you mixer, you can allow the mixer to do the kneading.  I still prefer to knead for about 5 minutes with my hands - helps me to "feel" that the dough is right.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a towel.  Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled (about one hour).

Once the dough has risen, divide it in thirds (approximately.  see below) and roll out thin.  Place rolled out dough on 1" pans (jelly roll, cookie sheet size) forming an "edge" with the dough along the outside.  Place sliced peaches on top (can also used sliced apples or plums).  Sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Cover with towel and allow to rise again, for one hour.

Bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Makes approximately 2 - 1"x11" pans and 1 - 9" pan.

I baked mine for a little more than 15 minutes.  You don't want to over bake this!  Just let the edges get golden brown.  Serve warm (or cold!) sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Some other tips...
- for me, 3 peaches was enough to make one cake
- I only wanted to make one cake, so I rolled out the extra two portions of dough, placed them on the proper pans, covered them with wax paper, and then put them in the freezer.  They will be ready the next time I have a few peaches on hand.  Just allow to thaw and rise once fruit is on top.

Try it!  Don't be scared off by the scalded milk,  yeast, and rising parts... it is actually very easy and not nearly as time consuming as it sounds.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I am an organizer.  (I know, I know, you're shocked...).  I like order and am a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in it's place."  Noting that my house is usually in some semblance of order, people often comment that I'm "lucky" that my kids are also neat.

First, let me say that "luck" has nothing to do with it.  Just like with eating, sleeping, reading, and (insert desired action here), my response is, "They did not come out that way."  The truth is, kids are kids, and they need to be taught.  They need to be taught how to eat, how to sleep, how to read,... and how to be neat.  (This could be a whole other post, but I will refrain for now).

Second, my kids are not all neat.  Each of my four children have very distinct personalities - a blend of Chuck and me with a smattering of where-in-the-world-did-that-come-from.  They have their "neat" moments but they are kids - and they would much rather adopt the "leave it where it lands" mentality of organization.

What works for me does not necessarily work for everyone, but we have incorporated a few rules in our house that helps keep us all sane.

1)  Put it away.  It's pretty simple, I know, but a lot of people never get their kids to this place (it also applies to adults!)  If you got it out, put it away.  If you are finished with it, put it away.

2) Help in the clean-up process.  Every now and again, Chuck and I will announce a "whole house clean-up."  It takes less than 10 minutes.  The kids have to stop what they are doing and go through the main areas of the house (kitchen, dining room, living room, family room) and look for things that are out of place.  Might be Dad's shoes, Mom's book, Tucker's cars, Patrick's sketch pad, etc - you get the idea.  But regardless of whose it is, they put it away.  I think this is important because it builds accountability and community.  Plus, I've often made the point that I put away a lot of things that aren't mine.

3)  Make common areas common.  Because we live in a rancher, our kids rooms are not far from the living areas of the house.  For that reason, we don't have a play room.  We also don't allow them to keep toys in the common areas.  They can bring toys, games, etc into the living areas, but when they are finished playing, the toys go back in their bedrooms.  This is important to me, because it means that our house does not look like it has been overrun with children.  Our house looks like we all live in it, but it does not look like the kids have taken over and pushed us out.

4)  Limit the amount of "stuff" kids have.  This is a hard one - one that causes some of us to get a bit defensive.  But, the truth is, we all have way more stuff than we need (if you are on a computer reading this, then - yes, you fall into that category).  I'm not saying it's wrong to have stuff, but I do think we need to teach kids, from a very young age, how to manage their stuff rather than be controlled by it.  Here is the method we use:  Our kids have a certain amount of space in their bedrooms - closets, bins, shelves, baskets, etc.  When that allotted space is full, no more stuff.  That means, when a birthday is coming, I might remind that particular child that they need to make room for new things.  In fact, before Christmas, I usually facilitate a mass purging.  The kids have learned to decide what is important to them, what they really play with, and what has value.  They also decide if something should be thrown away (the itty bitty pieces of happy meal toys) or donated.  Sometimes they designate a younger cousin or friend to "inherit" the toys.  Other times, we donate to a local charity.  But, through this process, they have also learned to give to others.  They've even begun to comprehend the spiritual principle that you can not receive (physically and spiritually) unless you have first given.

5) Limit the amount of "stuff" adults have.  Ok, this one might be even harder.  I think we can all agree that kids will best learn what their parents model.  The same things I ask of my kids, I maintain in my parts of the house.  No new kitchen gadgets unless there is a place and a need for them.  Nothing new in a full closet or drawer, unless something has been taken out to make room for it.  It's not easy, but it is simple.  And I enjoy not feeling like I'm being overtaken by my house.

These methods really can be effective.  For some kids, it will mold the way they naturally keep their own space clean.  For others, it may only "contain" their mess for as long as they live in your house.  But, you would be surprise how well it works.  Just the other day, Chloe came to me and asked for a laundry basket.  I handed her one but asked why.  "Oh, Lucy and I really need to get rid of some stuff.  Our room is getting too crowded."  

Be still, my heart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I assume that not a lot of men read these posts (except for my husband who humors me when I need an audience...), but, in any case, this is a post that won't apply to the male persuasion.

Ladies, today's tip is simple.  Do yourself a favor and get a good bra... that fits.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but, at the risk of sounding a bit too Oprah-esque, I believe there are quite a few women out there who are wearing the wrong bra in the wrong size.  A few years ago, I was one of those women.  (Truth is, 4 kids later, I didn't always recognize my chest let alone know what size bra it needed.)  One day, a friend I had not seen in some time came for a visit, and I couldn't help but ask if something was different.
"Did you lose weight?  Are you working out?"
Her answer was funny... but got my attention.  "Nope," she answered, "Just found the right bra."

I thought about it, and later that summer while shopping at the Leggs, Hanes, Bali... outlet, I took advantage of the free bra sizing service they offer.  They told me the proper size I should be wearing and then suggested bras with the features I most needed.  I walked out of that store amazed at what a difference the right bra made.  My shirt fit differently.  My entire outfit looked different.  My posture had changed.  It was the quickest and easiest diet I had ever been on.

Here are a few pointers I'd offer...
1) Get over the awkwardness of being sized.  You don't have to strip down to nothing.  It's easy and fast.

2) Don't get hung up on a particular size.  Quite often women are amazed at what size they actually are (whether it be how small or how large).  The truth is, you will look best in the proper size - not the size that you want to believe you wear.  Also, wearing the right size can often help to "diminish" a larger chest or "enlarge" a smaller one.  They don't call it WonderBra for nothing...

3) Consider features you may not have used before.  To this day, I swear by the wonders of underwire and a molded cup.  Ladies, you all know it's true - after several years and a few kids, it can take origami strategies to put a bra on.  Do yourself a favor: choose a bra that holds it's shape when your body can no longer do the job.

4) Be ready (and willing) to make an investment.  I'm not talking hundreds of dollars.  But a good bra will cost more than the $7.99 special at Walmart.  If that one works for you, that's fine - but, usually, there's a difference - and it shows.  Shop at the Leggs outlet - and you'll find that the bras are significantly marked down (to about $20- $25) and they often are combined with other discounts and offers.  Consider that the right bra will make your shirts fit and take off about 5 - 10 lbs.  It's worth it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I got no tips...

I have tried to think up some witty Tuesday's Tips... but it's just not happening.  Truth is, I've been too busy living tips.  Like...
- lots of grilling and easy dinners for our fast-paced summer schedule
- lots of grilling and easy dinners for lazy, HOT summer days when I don't want to be in the kitchen
- crazy advertisement-scouring, deal-finding back to school shopping
- going through the kids' school folders
- organizing the kids rooms / purging / simplifying (some of this is still on my To-Do list)
- reading for fun, reading for work, reading for both

I am sure there are others, but I just can't think of them.  This fall marks my official return to the classroom (as I will actually have a classroom), although I am still part time.  I will barely be part time, in fact, I'll most likely be there all day, but it's part time.  The kids have spent a few days in my classroom while I work on organizing and planning.  Fortunately, much of this can also be done at home, but there is just soooo much to do.  I have to admit, I had no idea how much I missed teaching.  Working is, well, work, but - then again - so is being at home.  So, I've just moved my location and restructured my schedule a bit.  

Making my transition a bit easier this fall is the fact that all 4 kids will be in school (yikes!  how did that happen?).  Even more convenient is the fact that my kids' school, my school, and our home are all within 7 minutes of each other, so I have easy access to all three.  Tucker is ready for kindergarten and the older three are excited to have him there.  I can only imagine what this year will look like.

For now, I am doing lots of reading.  I just finished The Hobbit and have moved on to Johnny Tremain.  I'm still trying to squeeze in some fun, summer reading - especially since I bought myself a Nook color.  What a fun toy! (and, yes, I can admit that it is a toy - but it's a pretty handy one).  

In addition to planning to teach totally new material for 4 preps, it's been a summer of vacation, kids, gardening, library, and pool time.  We (mostly Chuck) have lots of VBS prep ahead, the two older kids will have a week of sleep-away camp, and Chuck and I will be traveling to Minnesota for a wedding.  And with all this, I am amazed at how often I hear one of my children randomly say, "I'm bored!"  Really?  How?  When?  Gosh, I remember those summers...

That said... time for another trip to the library.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

We love to eat salad around here.  Even the kids like it (well, most of them...).  In an attempt to keep things simple, however, I am in favor of making one big salad that we can serve throughout the week.  It beats incessant cleaning and chopping and slicing every night at dinner.

Here are a few tricks to keep that salad fresh all week long.  

1) Always store your salad in a ceramic bowl (not plastic!!).  I am sure there is a good reason for why this works, but I don't know it...   It keeps my salad fresh, so I do it.  

2) Place a slice of bread on top of the salad.  This one I understand!  The bread draws the moisture from the salad and keeps your lettuce and other veggies from getting soggy.  (Incidentally, this also works when storing cookies.  Storing them in an airtight container with a piece of bread will keep them soft).  No need to replace the bread - I can often use the same piece for up to two weeks.

3) Avoid adding high moisture veggies until you are ready to serve.  For example, I never keep chopped tomatoes in my salad.  Cucumbers also can create a big soggy mess.  If you cut the seeds out of them, they will last much longer in a week's worth of salad.

When you are ready to store your salad, cover it with plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge.

You will eat more salad if it is always ready and on-hand :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I enjoy cooking and baking, but I don't pretend to be professional or even an expert.  Basically, I cook to keep my family fed (ok, maybe a bit more than just that...), but I bake for fun.  I enjoy it.  And I especially enjoy learning techniques that make the baking / decorating experience fun rather than frustrating.  Because, seriously, no matter how good the end result is supposed to taste, an all-out-battle with a layer cake can seriously ruin my appetite.  

I realize there is a good chance that most of you have happened upon these techniques before.  You may already be using them.  Like I said, I don't claim to be any kind of cake decorator or pastry chef.  Still, I am grateful for the little things I have picked up along the way and thought someone else might be, too.  

So, for the past 5 years, I have made this cake every year.  For my Grandma.  Grandma loves lemon anything, so when I stumbled upon Paula Deen's recipe for Lemon Layer Cake, I knew I had to give it a go.  And, boy, was it worth it.  This cake is amazing... but it is labor intensive and uses a whopping dozen eggs from start to finish (yikes!).  The good news is that my neighbor keeps me stocked with fresh eggs and all the work with the double boiler combined with zesting and juicing lemons gives me a great upper body workout.  

I love the idea of displaying a great cake on a cake stand, but I hate it when the cake stand or plate is messy by the time the cake is decorated.

So, I use 4 pieces of wax paper like this...

You don't want to cover the plate with one big piece of wax paper, for two reasons.  First, you can't get it off the plate when you're done.  And serving your cake on a plate covered with wax paper is about as aesthetically pleasing as sitting in Marie Barone's living room.  Secondly, if the plate is covered in wax paper, you can't do this...

That little dot of filling helps to keep your cake from shimmying around the plate as you decorate it.   Now, here is the partially assembled cake.  This cake has filling in between each layer.  But, notice that each layer is not even.  It is important to consider that as you assemble - alternate your layers so that all the thinner parts are not on one side.  Then, be sure to place your final layer on upside down - it gives you a flatter surface to decorate.

The filling then covers the entire cake...

And then the cake is frosted.  This frosting is amazing.

See how the filling and frosting have left a mess on the plate?

Well, when you gently pull those pieces of wax paper out from under your cake, you are left with a very clean cake stand!  

And then you can focus on the perfect finished product, instead of the mess underneath.

This beast of a cake barely made it under the cake dome.  Whew!

It made it safely to our Mother's Day dinner at my sister's house.  And it was so good.  And so worth the 4 hours it carved out of my Saturday.  Grandma loved it, and I am enjoying the fact that some of it is still in my kitchen...

Friday, May 6, 2011

They make me a mom

These are the ones who make me a mom... not all of who I am, but a very big part.  

Patrick's arrival into my life 9 1/2 years ago changed everything.  But he made it so easy.  Low-maintenance, low-drama,... but this kid is anything but ordinary.  I love his passion for learning and for doing what is right.  Of all my children, he is the most like me, and I yearn to protect him from "our" weaknesses.  I'm realizing he will have to discover and overcome them for himself...

My Chloe Joy.  She is such a wonderful person to have around.  Although her people-pleasing nature is something she will have to learn to use in moderation (rather than let it control everything), she really does desire to keep the peace.  I love watching her so effortlessly strive for excellence in everything she does.  Never have we had to "encourage" her to do a better job.

Lucy is the least like me... but none of my children has taught me as much about myself as she has.  She is full of life and excitement over the simplest things.  She is passionate about everything she encounters, whether it be people, fun, food, or sleep.  Sometimes I get tired just watching her go.

And then there was four.  Tucker completed our little family like the period at the end of a sentence.  He  seemed to add everything that was missing - including a strong-willed personality.  I embrace his all-boyness, even as I am trying to teach him to how to control it.  He is turning into a man by leaps and bounds.

Ok, so obviously, he's not my kid.  But, let's face it, I wouldn't be a mom without him.  I love Chuck for the husband he is to me, the father he is to our children, and the man he is, regardless.  

Monday, April 18, 2011


I know I'm not... but my poor neglected blog would say otherwise.

Life has not lent itself to blogging, although I've spent my share of time around the house.  I am now 2 1/2 weeks post-surgery (3 weeks on Wed) and am feeling really good.  I have to admit, I expected the recovery to be much faster than it was.  I know, I know... I heard it from everyone:  "You just had surgery!  Give yourself time."  There is something about a laparoscopic outpatient procedure that makes me feel like I should have just bounced right back.  Apparently, that's not the case.  I was very grateful for everyone's input - the advice of those who have had the surgery as well as all my RN friends was amazingly helpful.

I am happy to be back to the land of the eating... without pain (!)... but even more excited to be back to a somewhat regular activity level.  I did not realize how different I would feel - after 6 months of that "normal."  The pursuit of a new "normal" is still in progress, but at least it's progress.

Despite being a bit more tired than usual, I'm back to work, back to housekeeping, back to running kids all over, back to yard work (slowly...) - and, hopefully, back to blogging.  But, let's not go crazy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

So, here it is - a new tip. Once you get over the shock that I'm actually posting one, read on!

These days, my menu options are few. And, though my low-fat diet has evolved into my non fat diet, I am now dealing with persistent pain that doesn't seem to care what I've eaten.  So, a nonfat liquid diet has become a friendlier way for me to "eat."

I really enjoy anything that tastes like something - so smoothies are a great option.
This makes me happy...

This, not so much...

Am I the only one out there who avoids using appliances like the blender because they are a pain to clean? (gosh, I hope not...)  I hate trying to precariously get all the gunk out from around those menacing blades... because, the truth is, I've almost maimed myself more than once cleaning a make-your-life-easier-until-you-try-to-scour-it kitchen gadget.  Don't even get me started on the mandolin...

So, here is how I clean my blender.  Maybe you already do the same thing!

I add a bit of dish soap...

Then fill it about 1/3 full with water...

Put the lid back on (seriously, don't forget that part) - and turn it on.  Start slow and then turn it up.  The blender itself does the cleaning.  A few pulses at top speed will also get the lid clean!

In less than a minute, my blender is clean and I can enjoy that smoothie... and I have all my fingers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Where have I been?

I haven't intentionally avoided blogging.  In fact, most days, I think about it... and then never quite seem to find the time to actually sit down and do it.  My lack of posts haven't been for lack of material.  I mean, with 4 kids, jobs, church, family, health, and various other activities there is always plenty to say.  But maybe that's just it - there's so much to say, and, really, who wants all the gory details?  Most often, a facebook status here or there seems to fit the bill.  Not to mention, blogger's insistence on being stupid when it comes to posting pictures had made my Tuesday's Tips next to impossible.  I think I've found a way around that, though, so... more to come!

I'm really appreciative to all of you who have been following and encouraging me as I've dealt with the whole gallbladder issue for the last several months.  Here's a quick summary of where I've been and where I'm going:

Nine years ago, within a week or so of delivering my first child, I noticed terrible pains in my stomach that would come and go.  My doctor told me I had GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and told me to avoid acidic foods and eating before bed.  He also prescribed mild acid blockers.  After a few months of following those rules, I gave up because they didn't make a bit of difference.  And, since then, I've endured occasional flare-ups (intensified with the birth of each child) and lived off of tums when necessary.

This past October, I had a flare-up that didn't go away.  I tried another 2 week course of acid blockers.  No relief.  I raised the head of my bed and stopped eating 4 hours before bed.  No relief.  After about 2 months, I decided to see my doctor (a different doctor than the one I was seeing 9 years ago) who told me, yes, it was reflux, BUT to make sure - ordered bloodwork and an ultrasound.  The bloodwork came back negative for H-pylori (a bacterial stomach infection) but the ultrasound revealed gallstones (or, as my GI doctor said, "a bag full of stones").  From there, I was referred to a surgeon who agreed with the diagnosis but still referred me to a gastroenterologist who would do an endoscopy to "make sure" there wasn't anything else going on (ie, "maybe you really do have reflux").  He also advised that I follow a low / non fat diet for the gallbladder as well as a low acid diet for the reflux, and he prescribed the strongest acid blockers known to man.... - just in case.  After a few days of taking the acid blockers, I was in more pain than I had been before, so I stopped those.  I also stopped the low-acid diet.  Both steps revealed what I had suspected - fat was the problem, thus pointing more to my gallbladder as the source of my pain.

Each time I was referred to a new doctor, I faced a 3-4 week wait for the next step, but I have to say that I really saw the favor of God at work.  There was always some one who would put me first on the list to be called in case of cancellations (and the multiple snow storms opened up all kinds of appointments for me).  So, almost 2 months sooner than expected, I had an endoscopy which revealed no reflux damage and no ulcers.  That is not to say I am not having any reflux (they really seem to like that diagnosis) or won't in the future, but the doctor did agree that the results did not show 9 years worth of reflux damage.  Meaning, all along, my gallbladder has been the source of my problems and not any other ailment.  After all that, it was agreed that the next step is laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder - but not until the first available opening on March 30th.

At first, I was a bit discouraged by that date - after all, it had been over four months of dealing with this pain, and consequently, an incredibly limited diet along with little to no appetite.  Upon second glance, I realized that the date actually is quite perfect - right at the end of the quarter (meaning no grading while I recover) and right before a week long spring break (meaning very few missed days of work).

Ideally, it would have been great if this could have been diagnosed before I went back to work 5 months ago... especially since it's been an issue for almost the last decade.  For now, I'm sticking to a virtually fat-free diet and eating very little, and, for the most part, that manages the pain.  Still, I choose to see God's hand in all of this.  No, He didn't make me sick... nor does He want me sick.  But He is able to work through the limitations of my flawed humanity and our nation's health care system to get me timely appointments and a conveniently scheduled surgery.  And He is teaching me about myself - about self-control I didn't know I had and tolerance I didn't know I was capable of.  And, I'm grateful for that.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

and for your birthday...

Chloe is definitely my most sensitive and intuitive child.  She is always very aware of how people are feeling and, usually, acts accordingly.  So, I wasn't that surprised when a few days ago, she started asking me what I wanted for my birthday and, also, started asking if she could have access to her money.    As usual, when she asked me what I wanted I quipped, "World Peace..." which, of course, frustrated her and caused her to reply, "What do you want that I can buy you?"  And, that led to another conversation...

When she came home from school yesterday she had a few cards that she and her friends had made me - all very sweet and thoughtful.  But I couldn't help but laugh when "gift certificates" fell out of each one...

That girl knows how to make me laugh...
Happy Birthday to me :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Before and after pics... finally!

Well, it's been a while.  And, honestly, that hasn't been by choice.  Blogger, for whatever reason, has not been so friendly when it comes to uploading pictures - despite my daily efforts.  I have no idea why it is cooperating now, but I figure I'd better capitalize on the opportunity.  Here you go...

As promised (although it was so long ago, I'm sure no one remembers), here are before and after pics of our family room.  The room wasn't so bad "before" - it actually had come along way.  But there were several elements that didn't really "go", so our efforts were to make the room a bit more cohesive.  

Here is before...

and here is after... 

this is the area that is set away from the family room (across from the woodstove / entrance)

There are still a few things I want to add.  You'll notice the space above the couch with the mirror is a little lacking.  We're still looking for the right lighting options there...  But it's nice to have the room done and feel a bit more intentional.  And I really like the red wall!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

a Norwex testimony

Yesterday's tip was about natural, green cleaning.  I know there are a lot of varied opinions out there on the topic, so I thought I'd give a real life testimony of one of those cleaning options.

As I mentioned, I am new to Norwex products.  Their primary product is a series of antimicrobial microfiber cloths that can clean anything... including the human body.  Today, I was talking to a friend who is also a Norwex consultant because I had some questions about how to best use the products.  She was reminding me of the varied uses of the Enviro Cloth (their standard cleaning cloth), mentioning that it can even be used to remove old carpet stains.  The beauty of these cloths is that no cleaner is involved - just water.  I immediately thought of a stain on our living room carpet.  Grandma says it has been there forever (long before we moved in)... and it has driven her crazy, because, although she used every product she could find, nothing would take out the stubborn stain.  

I decided to give my Enviro Cloth a try.  And, because I knew some would be skeptical, I took before and after pictures of the stain.

This stain is very dark and large; Grandma says she often wonders why I don't put something over it to cover it up.  I wet my Enviro Cloth, wrung it out, and liberally applied my own elbow grease as I went to town on the stain.  

After a few minutes, the stain looked like this...

For real.  Can you believe that?  No chemicals.  No cleaners.  No steam cleaning carpet machine.  
When I was finished, I rinsed the cloth clean and hung it up to dry.  

As I've mentioned, I have nothing to gain.  I'm not selling anything.  But you may want to look into these products!

Right now, I'm actually looking for more stains...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

Most of my tips involve simple, efficient, cost-effective living.  So, you wouldn't be surprised to know that my house is usually quite clutter-free.  Beyond that, however, I work hard at keeping my house clean.  I am not a germ-a-phobe, and you can bet that my children have licked their share of grocery cart handles (why, oh why, do they do that?)  Still, a house is not clean just because things are put away.  Unfortunately, I've also learned that, quite often, using every-day cleaners and household products to "clean" our homes makes them just as dangerous as if they were germy and bacteria covered.  

For the record, I am not selling anything.  I am not associated with any organization or company.  But, I feel very strongly that we should be aware of what we expose ourselves and our children to.  As a society, we work hard at removing toxins and chemicals from our vegetation, water supply, foods, and air.  However, recent studies show that some of those same toxins are brought willingly into the home in the form of cleaners and beauty products.  

Two years ago, I decided to make a healthier choice for my family.  I didn't change their eating habits.  I didn't institute a work-out regime.  I simply switched to chemical free house-hold products.  No, my house is not completely chemical free - but it's a lot better than it was!  As I mentioned, I am not affiliated with any particular manufacturer, but I have used the products of 3 main companies and have been very pleased. 

Shaklee introduced me to a safer way to clean.  Their basic cleaner (Basic H) is used as a concentrate to create 3 different types of cleaners - everyday cleaner, window/mirror cleaner, and degreaser.  The concentrate is so powerful that you use literally drops or teaspoonfuls in a 16 oz bottle of water.  I have had my concentrate for two years now and have barely put a dent in the bottle.  

Melaleuca is similar to Shaklee in that it offers a variety of concentrated cleaners.  It's key ingredient is melaleuca oil (more info can be found on the website) and is marked by a distinct smell.  Unlike Shaklee cleaners which are odorless, Melaleuca products leave a "clean" smell which some people prefer.  
I have, most recently, discovered Norwex.  Their main products are a variety of microfiber cloths that are  antibacterial because they are made with silver (a naturally antibacterial substance).  The cloths can be used dry or with water and actually disinfect surfaces.  

In addition to household cleaners, each of these companies also have Personal Care products (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) as well as typical household items (dishwashing detergent, hand soap, etc).  Shaklee and Melaleuca also carry a notable line of vitamins and supplements.  

The websites offer all kinds of information about how their products are different from typical cleaners... and how they meet safety standards and regulations (rather than just advertise it).  They also tell why household toxins are so dangerous - contributing to everyday ailments, such as asthma, that we assume we're just "born with."  If you are interested in learning more, check out the websites.  And if you want even more information, I can put you in contact with someone who can answer your questions or help you get the products for yourself.

I do not use these companies for all of my household cleaning and personal care needs.  But I do use them for quite a bit.  Concentrated cleaners with reusable bottles means I go through a lot less cleaner and, consequently, save money.  It also means I throw away a lot less waste and wash fewer chemical poisons down my drain to be released back into everyone else's soil and drinking water.  Regardless of your political or religious stance, we are called to care for this planet.  So, if I can use my money and resources in a way that keeps my family healthy and promotes overall environmental health, why wouldn't I do that?  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

Today's tip is compliments of my resourceful and ingenious husband.  And, although it may not be terribly exciting, it has saved me a little hassle in the kitchen.

We don't have a garbage disposal, so we don't let food go down the drain in our sink.  However, I hate (HATE) food residue in my sink.  (I like a clean sink...)  So, for me that mean, hoping the food all got caught in the little drain stopper thingy and then picking it up and running it to the trash can, hoping for no drips.  But then one day, I saw Chuck do this...

Instead of cleaning up the food afterward, he uses my small handled colander / strainer.  After scraping most of the food into the trash, he  empties and rinses the bowls and plates over the the colander.  Then, he dumps the entire contents in the garbage.  Such a great idea, I now do it, too.

The result: a clean sink and no yucky clogged drain!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year celebrations!  It's always nice to take a break from normal routine and spend some extra time with family and friends.

Post-holidays is a popular time for money-saving (due to the all-too-often over spending done at Christmas).  I've noticed others sharing their penny pinching techniques, so here's one from me:

Quite often, stores print additional information on your receipts - besides your purchase information.  It may be to inform you of future sales or to ask you to participate in a survey or drawing.  I have learned to look closely at these receipts, because some stores offer great coupon discounts on theirs.  Usually, the store asks you to call or visit a website where you will answer questions regarding your visit, but at the end of the survey, you will be given a code which turns that receipt into a coupon.

Payless, Bath & Body Works, and The Children's Place are a few of my favorite stores which offer these types of promotions.  The best part is that, usually, these coupons can be used in conjunction with other store offers (The Children's Place will often allow you to combine several offers for fantastic savings!).  Another favorite, Ikea, prints an actual amount at the bottom of your receipt to be used towards future purchases.  No survey is necessary - just purchase with a debit card, and you will receive back a small percentage.  It's not much, but it adds up and can be combined with others.

Saving money takes some effort, but quite often opportunities are very simple to find.  Just keep your eyes open!