Sunday, September 22, 2013

The first of MANY projects!

So, the roof project has grown....

The one thing we always thought the front of the house needed was a porch.  Right now we have a deck with a silly little overhang over the door.  I always imagined a gorgeous covered porch that we can sit on.  It would be so wonderful to curl up in an afghan and read out here.  Since we are doing the roof anyways, why not?!

The overhang and railing came off.

The posts and header went in.

The rafters came next.

Then the decking.  I even got on a ladder to help lay the decking!  It's starting to come together now.

I feel for our neighbors though since this took about a week for us to do ourselves.  They probably got tired of looking at this mess!  Especially since the next week it seemed that we were not working on it at all.

What were we up to?

I guess you have to wait and see....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fiddling On The Roof

What have I been up to?  Well..... besides no good, not much except getting ready to rip apart the house and start over again.  It started off innocently enough.  We needed a new roof.  The old one was shot!  Last winter we started to get shingles blowing off in the storms.  Not good.  So my husband had a few weeks off and we decided to spend it putting on a new roof.

We had to strip off the old shingles because, A-nothing is ever easy and B-we had 3 layers on the roof already.  We did find, what we thought at the time, was a nice surprise though.

The original roof which is cedar shake.  It would be really cool if we could find a product to coat the shake with to make it weather tight.

Rustoleum has introduced a new product called Deck Restore.  It's a thick paint made for decks and concrete.  It was great for filling in the gaps and nail holes in the shake.  Just what we were looking for.  Bad news is it made the shake look like flat pieces of plywood on the roof.  We would have had to put shadows and highlights to get the look of the cedar shake back, so we ended up scrapping that idea.

We took off the black shingles and the green shingles and the even uglier green shingles under them and replaced with a dark brown.  It made such a huge change on the house too.

It also sparked the project bug in my hubby and led to another project that needed to be done BADLY!

Any guesses what that could be?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Crockpot Basics

I love my slow cookers!  I have 3 that I use on a regular basis.  One is a large one for big items, like a whole chicken or turkey.  One is a all-in-one that also is a deep fryer.  The only downfall about it is that the liner is not removable.  The one above is the that gets used the most.  It has been a real lifesaver on those days when I have 3 things going on at the same time.

There are a few things to consider before purchasing a slow cooker.

  • Size.  Make sure you buy a slow cooker that will be large enough to cook the meals you want to in it.  It is recommended to not fill your cooker more than 2/3 full.
  • Shape.  Something that is overlooked and should be considered.  Shape of the slow cooker is important.  Round ones are great for soups and such.  If you are planning on cooking roasts and such in one, consider an oval.  You will get more length in your cooking surface.
  • Liner.  I didn't realize until I bought my first crockpot, the all-in-one, how handy the removable liner is.  If you are going to be putting together your ingredients the night before, a removable liner is the way to go.  I find it handy to prepare things as much as possible the night before in the liner and keep it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, I pull it out and let it get to room temp before setting the liner in the heating unit to cook.
  • Temperature.  According to how you want to cook in your slow cooker, you will want to look at temperature settings.  My all-in-one cooks by degrees, where my everyday one is a low or high setting.  My low setting is about 170 degrees and high is 210 degrees approximately.  I also have a "warm" setting which is great for keeping food warm in case dinner is delayed or the food cooks faster than I planned.
  • Lids.  Check out your lid before cooking.  Most slow cookers come with a see through lid which helps in keeping an eye on the cooking process.  My larger slow cooker does not and it is really hard sometimes to resist the urge to lift the lid to take a peek.  They say, removing the lid during cooking adds about 20 minutes each time to the cooking time.
Cooking with a slow cooker is really easy and a great time saver.  Most slow cooker recipes will explain when to add items that do not take as long, like some vegetables and pasta, to the cooker.  You will want to keep an eye on the amount of liquid.  Do not let the liquid escape from the slow cooker.

Slow cookers are great for less expensive and tougher cuts of meat.  Cooking at the lower temps can make them more tender and appealing. 

Now, for a recipe!  This one is my own invention.  I thought of it one day when wanting something different for dinner and out of ideas.

Shredded Beef Stew over Mashed Potatoes

1-3lb roast
2 cups + 3 Tablespoons water
1 cup sliced carrots
Bay leaf
1 Tablespoon corn starch
Salt and pepper to taste
Mashed potatoes

In a slow cooker, add the beef, 2 cups of water and bay leaf.  Cook on low about 6 hours or high about 3-1/2 hours.  Remove meat from cooker after cooking and shred with two forks.  Once shredded, add back to slow cooker with carrots.  If water looks a bit low, add more.  In a small glass mix cornstarch and 3 Tablespoons of cold water.  Mix until cornstarch is dissolved.  Add to slow cooker and stir.  Cook on low for another 1/2 hour.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

Can't get any easier than that!  It is one of my kids favorites and usually requested atleast once a month.  You can also add more vegetables as desired.  My kids prefer just carrots with this.

Hope these tips make your day a little easier!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Spring Cleaning

You may think that it is a little early to talk about spring cleaning.  It is still winter you may exclaim.  Nothing makes me feel better than having a squeaky clean house to start the New Year off right though!  This isn't about how to clean your house, rather than what to clean your house with.

It seems that every time you turn around they are coming out with some new and improved product to clean with.  I know I have spent a fortune trying to find products that I liked and actually worked.  Plus, it always seemed like a large cleaning project was always proceeded by a trip to the store for supplies.  What a pain!  With a little bit of investment and time, you can make your own cleaning products for a lot less.  IMO, they do a better job of cleaning also.

The internet is a great source for finding "recipes" for cleaning products, or anything else for that matter.  These I have found online and use them in my own home.

Laundry Detergent

LOVE this stuff!  My clothes come out clean without a whole lot of pretreating.  It takes a few minutes to make a bucket of, which last a long time.
*Tip - if you ask at your local bakery they are more than willing to give you a bucket and lid for free.  Just takes a bit of washing out before use.  They also are only 4 gallons, but it is okay.

4 cups + 5 gallons hot water
1 bar Fels Naptha soap
1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

In a pot, heat the water to almost boiling over medium heat.  Grate the Fels Naptha soap and slowly add to the water, stirring until melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with hot tap water.  Add washing soda and borax and stir til dissolved.  Add the melted Fels Naptha soap.

  Stir.  Place lid on bucket and let sit overnight to thicken up.

You will use this diluted with water.  It is easier to save a few milk cartons to fill.  Fill container half with warm water and half with soap.  Before using, always give the container a good shake!
Cost for 10 gallons of laundry detergent = $3.00 approximately

Now, don't stop there!  An inexpensive fabric softener that really works, maybe too well, is suprisingly white vinegar!  Plain, old white vinegar.  The problem with it is, it takes ALL smell out of your laundry.  The strangest thing is pulling out your laundry and there is NO smell at ALL!  A gallon jug of white distilled vinegar is just pennies compared to fabric softener.  You can dab some essential oils on a bit of cloth and throw in the dryer if you miss a smell.  Lavender smells wonderful.

Dishwasher Detergent

This stuff is awesome!  I won't ever go back to using store bought again.  My dishes come out looking and feeling clean, which is a challenge for white dishes.  I also do not have to buy all the other additives that I used with store bought products.

16 cups of hot water
1-1/2 cups Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
1/2 cup Dr Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap

Bring half of the water to a boil.  Add soda, borax and soap.  Stir til dissolved.  Add remaining water and let cool.  When cool, pour into a clean, 1 gallon milk jug.  Allow to set overnight to gel up.

When using, you only need 1 tablespoon of this soap.  You can, of course, alter this according to your needs.  Once again, white distilled vinegar makes a great rinse agent in your dishwasher.  I have tried a variety of powdered detergents for dishwashers and did not care for them.  I find, if you don't place them in an airtight container they tend to clump into a hard rock.  I also use white vinegar as a rinse agent in the dishwasher.  Works just as well as the store products at a bigger saving!
Cost for 1 gallon of dishwasher detergent = $3.50

Bleach Alternative

This one is super easy to make!  Works too without the gagging bleach smell.  I have used it on my kids clothes when they were babies.  My son also has eczema and this doesn't seem to bother him.  I also use this around the house for cleaning since I hate the smell of bleach.

12 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup Hydrogen Peroxide

Mix together.  Use 2 cups per load of wash.

Multi-Purpose Cleaner

Once you try this stuff, you will be hooked!  So easy to mix up also!

1/2 cup white distilled vinegar
1/2-2/3 cup rubbing alcohol (Use the larger amount for use on windows)
Essential Oils

In a spray bottle, add the vinegar and alcohol.  If you like a "nice" smell, add a few drops of essential oils.  You can add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil to make a great anti-bacterial cleaner.  Fill the bottle up with water and shake well.
Cost for sprayer bottle of cleaner = $.50

Furniture Polish

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and lemon juice in a bottle.  Pour a bit on a clean cloth and rub onto furniture.  Buff with another clean cloth.

There ya go!  Some simple cleaning products that are safe around kids without harmful chemicals.  There are lots more out there that can be found in a simple search.  You would be surprised at how many you can find.  It may take awhile to find the ones that you like, but it is well worth the effort.  I will be posting more in the future.  Some I am not so thrilled with and looking for better ones.  These are the ones that I have had lots of success with so far.

Here's to Spring Cleaning!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Out With The Old....

I love the New Year.  It means starting afresh to me.  Everyone is so busy making resolutions at this time.  I gave up on making those years ago.  Starting off the year feeling like a failure is not a good way to start.  I do try to make changes though.  Changes for the better.

The new year always puts me in the mood for spring cleaning.  Getting rid of the old and bringing in the new to the house is such a good feeling.  It is also good busy work for the cold winter months here in Michigan.  If you are going to be stuck in the house, why not freshen it up a bit?!

The first of the year is always a good time to schedule things.  By that, I mean it is a good time to replace those neglected items.  The ones that you take for granted and may forget to check.

  • Batteries - Don't forget to check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors!  They are an important part of your house and often forgotten.  Now is a good time to swap out the old batteries with new ones.  Double check after replacing the batteries to make sure they work also.  The detector itself may need to be replaced.  Check with your local fire department to see if they have an exchange program for them.  Some will exchange a broken detector for a new one.  This is also a good time to replace the batteries in alarm clocks (used during a power failure) and programmable entry doors, including garage doors.  Nothing like being late for work AND locked out when you least expect it.
  • Filters - I used to change out the furnace filter in the spring and fall.  I found that it was hard to remember to do this 3 minute task though.  My solution was to do it in January and June.  I found that this helped me to remember!  It is quite simple to do.  Simply pull out the old filter, which is usually located in an accessible spot and slip in the new filter.  Choosing a filter for your family needs is essential, ie allergies, pets, etc.  If you choose to go green, there are filters out there that you simply wash out and reinstall.  They are a little bit of an investment though and pricier than the throw away filters.  If you are on a well system for water, this is also a good time to replace your water filters also. Don't forget those vacuum cleaner filters either!  I find my indicator light goes on on mine about twice a year and it is more convenient for me to rinse it out when I have time instead of when I am in a rush getting ready for company.  Washers and dryers also need to have their filters cleaned and checked.  Even though you may clean the dryer vent with each use, make sure there is not another harder to get to spot that can collect a build up of lint.  A shop vac and/or a toothbrush is good for these spots.
  • Linens - Once a year, I replace all the pillows and sheets.  Washing takes a toll on sheets and they tend to get a bit dingy after all the weekly washings.  Once every 3 months, I do pack up all the pillows, blankets and comforters and head to the laundromat to wash them.  
  • Carpets - Businesses are usually slow after the bustle of Christmas.  Usually you can find good deals on whole house carpet cleaning.  If this wasn't done for guests during the Christmas season, now is a good time to get it done.  I have found that it is cheaper and, believe it or not, easier to roll up area rugs and take them to be cleaned.  Even with occasional home cleaning, a good thorough cleaning will make your house feel and smell fresher.
  • Curtains - Once a year it is good to take down curtains and drapes and have them cleaned.  Don't forget about blinds either.  Even if they get a weekly/monthly dusting, now is a good time to give them a thorough cleaning.  Since the curtains are down, now is perfect to also clean windows and sills.  You would be surprised at the dust that can collect on them.
  • Junk Drawers - The dreaded junk drawer.  I think everyone has one in there house.  It is where all the little trinkets, found screws, extra pens and whatnot goes for lack of a better place.  Purging this spot once a year is not really all that bad though.
  • Cupboards - Canned foods and medications have expiration dates on them. I know when I go to grab them, rarely do I check the expiration dates. Anything that has expired, pitch it and make a list of things that need to be replaced.  
  • Calendars and address books - This one is kind of a no-brainer.  Who doesn't change out their calendar at the 1st of the year?  Remember though, before you throw it out, to mark any important yearly dates, ie anniversaries, birthdays, etc...  Saving the envelopes from Christmas cards received is a great way to update your address book.  If you find alot of outdated entries, it might be time to replace your book with a new one.  The binder type of books are great as you can add and replace pages as needed.
It really feels good to get some tasks accomplished at the first of the year.  Who needs resolutions when you have a "To Do List"?

Have a great New Year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

The festivities are all done and hopefully, the kids are back in school.  Now is a great time to get a fresh start!

All this month will be about getting back to basics.  All the basic things that you may or may not know.  There will be recipes, tutorials and basic how to's to make your life a little simpler, like....

How to make your own cleaning products

How to use a sewing machine

Basics of a crockpot

Recipes to save yourself time and money

Plus, tips that will make your house and life run a little smoother!

So hang on!  It's going to be a great month!