Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Favorites

10 Organizing Mantras to Help You Cut Clutter and Get More Done -   good list to help motivate and get more done
Folding a Napkin like a Bunny from Martha Stewart - just so cute I couldn't resist adding to Friday Favorites
50 New Uses for Old Things from Real Simple - some really good ideas such as using an old tape cassette for keeping your earphones or ipod wires neat  or using a tooth brush (clean of course) as a vegetable brush
Smart Gardner - I haven't had time to check this website out fully but just the little bit that I have looked at - looks interesting and helpful.   It can help plan your garden from start to finish. You tell it where you live it tells you what to plant and when, designs your garden for you and gives you daily reminders of what to do to your garden.
Raspberry Breakfast Bars - from Smitten Kitchen that look delish
Choosing an Eco-Friendly Pillow - a good article on finding an eco-friendly pillow  from Whole Living

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Spring Cleaning

It is Spring Cleaning time and I am sick as in actually not feeling good. I mean sicker then I have been in 10 or more years. It is driving me crazy as I really was all ready to tackle my Spring Cleaning lists. We have a very special someone coming to visit us in April so I wanted all my Spring Cleaning to be done and things to be organized and refreshed in the house.  I have been sick a lot this year already, so has put me behind schedule in my normal cleaning routines. I haven't been able to clean like I usually do on a daily basis so things add up.  I mean simple things that are just part of my routine like filing are stacked so they are falling over into a bigger mess. I usually shred things 2 to 4 times a year and I haven't at all since last Spring. So I am behind and it is driving me crazy (luckily this last year didn't have that much shredding so the pile isn't completely out of control).  I am hoping today that I can get some filing done because at least it doesn't require a lot of moving around which has been creating coughing attacks.

But in the mean time while I heal and get healthy,  I am sharing with you some Spring cleaning lists, how-to guides, and just some general tips and tricks to maybe help you in your Spring Cleaning.

Spring Cleaning lists...
Living Areas
Dining Room
Closets and Laundry Room
Basement, Attic and Garage

Cleaning the Toaster
Cleaning the Microwave
Cleaning Your Computer
Washing Pillows
Cleaning your Dishwasher
Folding Towels
Folding Fitted Sheets Video and Folding Sheets photos (plus to ways to fold to store them neatly)

Overhaulin  - some spring cleaning tips
Spring Cleaning Tips - links to more spring cleaning lists too
100 Reasons to Get Rid of It - a great source for if you are recycling and need places to donate or dispose of items
A Quicker Clean House
5 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Clean
Tackling the Endless To-Do List

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cleaning Your Computer

We are upon that season called "Spring Cleaning" and this would be a good time to clean your computer. Always start with your instruction manuals for cleaning to see if they have specific cleaning directions.

Microfiber clothes
Cotton Swabs and/or Foam Swabs (like clean eye shadow applicators)
Canned Air
Water or Water/Vinegar Solution

* Turn off computer and unplug electrical cords. Take out the battery if it is a laptop.
*  Never spray anything directly on to the computer instead spray the cloth or swab with water or a water/vinegar solution
* Wipe down computer case, speakers, knobs, vents with a slightly damp cloth or use swab over small knobs/buttons or inputs - follow with a dry microfiber cloth.  For stubborn spots, mix a bit of dish soap in with your vinegar/water solution and wipe down again.
* Wipe down the screen with a barely damp microfiber cloth (just water is best for screen). Don't push hard on stubborn spots as it can harm the computer monitor.  Just dampen your cloth again with water and go over it again and again until it is gone.   Do not use any papertowels or tissues on the screen as it can scratch some screens. Do not spray directly on the screen - spray on the cloth and use the dampened cloth on your screen.  Don't use any commercial brand cleaner like Windex or alcohol on your screen as it might react adversely. Just use water or if having a tough spot use water/vinegar solution.
* Turn your keyboard upside down over a wastebasket.  Give a few gentle shakes or taps to the bottom to dislodge debris under the keys. Holding the keyboard upside down over the wastebasket, spray some canned air to shoot between each row of keys.  
* Take a swab dipped in water/vinegar solution and go over the keys, cleaning them. The tops and the outside of them.  You can also just use a slightly damp cloth to go over the tops. 
* Wipe your mouse down with a damp microfiber cloth.  If you have a optical mouse, take a cotton swab with the tip damp with water or vinegar/water solution and run it over the the bottom lens (where it shows red light when turned on).  If you have a trackball, take a damp microfiber cloth and wipe over the balls several times so it has spun all the way around. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

2 Week Menu Plan

Week 1

1) Lasagna; asparagus (Update: The sauce on that asparagus link is AWFUL. Thankfully, I tried it with only one bite and didn't ruin the entire bunch of spears. My fall back will always be some butter and kosher salt. I don't know why I try and get creative. Creative tastes like POOP, lol.)

2) Enchiladas; refried beans; salsa rice

3) Tomato soup and grilled cheese

4) Pot roast, mushrooms, carrots, potatoes; dinner salad.

5) Chili; corn bread; Fritos (M can't eat chili without Fritos!)

6) Burgers and fries

7) Leftovers.

Week 2

1) Roast chicken; garlic mashed potatoes; roasted cauliflower

2) Chicken pot pie (using Meal 1′s leftover chicken, I hope); salad

3) Potato soup and turkey sandwiches on homemade rolls

4) "Hamburger Heaven"; cheddar-garlic biscuits

5)Tetrazzini (only with turkey); Caesar salad

6) Pulled pork on buns; raw vegetables with dip; cucumber-onion salad

7) Leftovers

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Favorites

Folding Towels - a video that shows 3 ways to fold towels so they stack and look nice
How to Clean a Dishwasher - with spring cleaning upon us - this might be a good idea to add to the list
Easy Lunch Ideas for Work - some healthy lunch ideas
100 Ways to Use Old Magazines - always good to recycle/repurpose
Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Aioli - Brussel Sprouts is a veggie I don't care for but will eat but this actually looks good to me

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

30 Minute Meals - March Question Month

Jan asked, "I would like to know what is your go to dishes that you can make in 30 minutes for dinner? I have a full-time job, kids, serving Master and I just need some quick go to dinners."

I think a big part of being able to make wonderful dinners in a short period of time is in the planning. Once per month I try and purchase items in bulk and do as much prep ahead as I can. I always try to keep cooked ground beef in the freezer so that I can add that quickly into sauces, soups, pastas, tacos, or whatever other areas I might use ground beef (or turkey or chicken). I also try to keep diced peppers & onions on hand (both in the refrigerator and freezer). This helps for less prep work during the week. I also clean and cut up all fruits that need prepping when I purchase them, so that they are on hand for whenever I want to add them to a dinner or provide a healthy snack for my kids.

I also am a big believer in utilizing my crockpot and rice cooker. Nothing more wonderful than popping something into the crock pot and then only having to add a salad or side dish to call it a complete meal at the end of the day.

My quick go to meals during the week (when I would need a 30 minute meal the most) are:

1. Chicken Ceasar salad. You can grill up extra chicken ahead of time when making it for another dinner and set it aside for one of those busy week night meals. Then just add it to the salad, toss dressing in, and go. Dinner is ready in about five minutes flat. For those who aren't calorie counters, it's nice to pair this with some fresh bread & honey butter.

2. Cheeseburger Pie. (my kids love this one, as does Himself).
1lb lean (at least 80%) ground beef ( I prefer to use either 93% lean beef, or turkey for this one). I also usually use one of the packets I have already browned and crumbled in the freezer. Just defrost and use.

1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (4 oz) (we like extra sharp cheddar but any will do)
1/2 cup Original Bisquick® mix ( I use the reduced fax bisquick)
1 cup milk (I use fat free milk)
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 400°F. Spray 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray.
2. In 10-inch skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until beef is brown; drain. Stir in salt. Spread in pie plate. Sprinkle with cheese.
3. In small bowl, stir remaining ingredients with fork or wire whisk until blended. Pour into pie plate.
4. Bake about 25 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

I serve this with a side of steamed vegetables (such as broccoli or cauliflower) and a side salad. You could also serve it with french fries or another potato type.

Also if you are using the precooked beef, then just sauté the onion in a pan, add beef at the last two minutes, and drain. then add to pie dish.

Pork Roast (crockpot cooking)
Cut up sweet potatoes into quarters (I use one potato per person who will be eating). Place these on the bottom of your crockpot. Place a pork roast on top of the potatoes. Next layer in a bag of mini carrots on top. Add one can of whole berry cranberry sauce on top. Cover and cook in crockpot for 8 to 10 hours on low heat. Before serving, you can either slice up the roast and serve in slices, or you can pull the pork and mix with BBQ sauce for pulled pork sandwiches.

I serve this with a green vegetable and a side salad.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza
For a quick homemade pizza, this one is super easy. I use pizza crust that I usually have on hand in the freezer (but you can also use pillsbury pizza crust in a pinch). Use chicken that you have cooked earlier in the week for another meal such as a roast chicken (I always try to cook once to eat twice to save time). Take the precooked chicken and dice it up (or pull it into pieces). Mix with ranch dressing and hot sauce (Use however much hot sauce you like -- we like it spicy). Spread a thin layer of cream cheese onto pizza crust. Top with chicken mixture, cover with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until chicken is heated through and cheese is melted.

Serve with celery & carrot sticks (my kids love these) or a side salad.
Simple, easy, and filling.

You can make a lighter version of this by using reduced fat cheese, fat free cream cheese, and reduced fat or fat free ranch dressing.

I also love Rachel Ray's 30 minute meal cookbooks. I think I have 3 or 4 of them. She has some great meal ideas and its fun to try new things.

But for me the biggest time saver is always in cooking once and eating twice, or prepping in bulk.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March Question Month: To-do Lists

Anonymous asks: When you can't keep your focus or get overwhelmed by the endless to-do list, what helps on stay on track to get it all done?

For me, it helps to break those overwhelming lists into smaller lists. Instead of focusing on the big picture and ultimately throwing in the towel because it seems an impossible task, I rewrite the lists into manageable portions. You can divide daily tasks into morning and afternoon tasks. Do one weekly task a day. You can assign bigger projects to one afternoon a week, or one weekend day.

Prioritize things with the help of the ones who care. For instance, I might think that it's a huge deal that I don't dust every single day, when Master only thinks it's necessary to dust once a week. I can then scratch dusting off of the daily chore list, guilt-free. If you've really just got too much on your plate, sit down and figure out which things have to go. There really are only so many hours in the day, and so much energy to go around. Maybe that 3 acre garden needs seriously downsized. Maybe the artsy side business needs to be shelved for a few years. Maybe every night home-cooking organic and creative meals can wait until the mandatory overtime at work is cut out. Maybe hiring a once a week/once a month maid service is feasible and opens up time to rejuvenate.

Find out what makes things go a little more smoothly. If shopping day is Monday, then Sunday night means going to bed with morning chores completed; then Monday doesn't feel so rushed. If certain days of the week run later and making dinner is stressful on those days, choose another day that has more time and make a meal ahead of time, or make a double batch a few nights (which is barely any extra work at all) and pop them in the freezer.

Sometimes I use a timer to help. I can set the timer for 15 or 30 minute intervals and spend that much time tackling one huge task that I find overwhelming, like organizing a closet or storeroom. Looking at it in terms of minutes rather than completion helps me to find the gumption to go at it. I can do anything for 15 minutes. If I want to work at it longer, I do, but I don't allow myself to quit until the timer goes off. And if it takes me several days to complete it, that's okay. I AM completing it and that's the bottom line, plus I'm not crabby, tired, frustrated or irritable in the process. Nor am I doing it at the expense of ignoring other necessary chores.

Delegate, delegate, delegate. Got kids? Use them. My 2 yr old granddaughter loves to put the silverware away when I unload the dishwasher. She likes matching the spoons and forks and she loves to help. Win-win. My older kids do their own laundry, which cut down significantly on my loads. When my son walks to the bus stop, he takes the garbage out with him. When my daughter goes to take a shower, she scoops the litter box. Streamline it for them, too, and there is less balking.

Good luck!

Monday, March 12, 2012

March Question Month: 30 Minute Meals

Jan asked, "I would like to know what is your go to dishes that you can make in 30 minutes for dinner? I have a full-time job, kids, serving Master and I just need some quick go to dinners."

I don't have kids but it seems lately I have so much is on my plate that those quick meals are my mainstay. I would say half of my go-to quick dinners are  prepped-ahead and half is just pulling from the pantry right in he moment.

Prep and Make Ahead

I have been trying to do some more make ahead meals so that I can take them from the freezer the night before so they are thaw and ready to pop in the oven for dinner.  No prep often allows me the luxury of 30 to 40 mins baking.  I usually do cooking for 2 to 3 meals on one day for the make-ahead type meals.  Or try to make a double batch of something so we can eat one and freeze the other.

When I come home from shopping, I also like to try to prep a little so that helps me save time in the long run. Such as if I get big family size package of hamburger - 3 to 5 lbs then I brown some of it right away to use in a casserole or tacos (I often brown burger in the microwave), or bake meatballs, or make hamburger patties. Freeze them so I can pull it out and use without much prep.  Sometimes even defrosting in the microwave to use in minutes.  Boneless skinless chicken breasts are another thing I prep at times - I put what I would need for a meal in ziplock and cover it with a marinade and then freeze. I take them out the night before I plan on using and let them marinade while defrosting. I also bake or grill up a few, chop and add to a labeled ziplock so I can use for chicken tacos , on baked potatoes, in soup, or added to a pasta.

I am going to also share that I have a cheat that makes no matter what I make - look like a real meal.  I can serve a salad or soup from a can but because I often make homemade bread with it - it looks like a nicer meal even though it was quick and easy. I use Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  It is making up a big batch of dough and then using just some of the dough to make a loaf of bread.  It does usually take more then 5 minutes as it doesn't add in the rise time. But it still is fairly quick with little work.

I also use my crockpot a lot so that things can be added in the morning and done for dinner.  I know a lot of time crockpot produces a liquid but I always make sure I add some to begin with too - just so it won't be dry by the end of the day.

Quick and Easy Dinner on the spot

When I need a meal that is going to be quick and easy, I use the microwave and grill.

Such as I want roasted potatoes but normally that would take 40 minutes to an hour to roast in the oven. I chop the potatoes and place in a bowl with some water and microwave so that I am boiling them. I then drain the water, toss with some olive oil and seasonings to add to the oven.

Or I boil sliced potatoes in the microwave to use in a frittata. I do layers of potatoes, veggies and sometimes bacon or ham. I mix up some eggs and pour it over top and bake it.

I microwave baked potatoes too - to help speed up baking time.  I wash them, pierce several times with a fork, wrap in a paper towel and  microwave for 4 to 7 minutes - depending on size of potatoes. After I have microwaved then I bake them for just a bit. I coat them with some olive oil and sea salt, wrap in tinfoil and bake for 15 to 20 mins in the oven.

I steam most veggies in the microwave.  I use frozen veggies often - easy to keep in the freezer and use for meals.

My easiest meals:
* Grilled chicken breasts, baked potatoes, steamed veggies.  Frozen chicken breasts can be thawed in the microwave in minutes.  While thawing those, I prep my potatoes.  After they are thawed, I might marinade for 10 mins while my potatoes or in the microwave. I get the grill warming up.  Then after the potatoes are in the oven, I put the chicken breasts on the grill and add veggies to steam in the microwave.

* Really meat, potato and veggie is my go to easiest meal - I grill burgers, steak,  porkchops or chicken breasts and add a potato and veggies and we have a meal.

* Burritos, nachos or tacos - I either use some ground beef or turkey already browned and ready to go in the freezer or I brown some in a pan or in the microwave.  I drain the meat after browned and then add a can of tomatoes with chili (such as Rotel), heat a can of refried beans up, get cheese and sour cream out and any other fixings .

* Pasta -

  • Spaghetti and Meatballs - I usually bake up meatballs ahead of time so I can pull from the freezer to use.  But even making meatballs and baking them in the moment doesn't take too long.  Boil pasta, add meatballs and toss it all with sauce - heat through. If you want some veggies do a side of steamed veggies or add a side salad. 
  • Pasta, chicken and pesto - Chicken even if it is not cooked ahead - grill it, chop it up and mix with cooked pasta and then toss it all with pesto. Heat it all through in minutes on the stovetop.   Add in some steamed veggies in with it or as a side.  
  • Pasta, white beans, seasoned diced tomatoes - Cook the pasta, drain and then tossed with a can of white beans that are drained and rinsed, a can of seasoned diced tomatoes (such as the Italian or basil and garlic) - heat through and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. It has good flavor and is quick. Add in some steamed veggies in with it or as a side.  
  • Italian sausages, pasta and sauce  - I microwave Italian sausage to get them cooked through and then toss on the grill for a few minutes or pan fry so the outside browned,  keep whole or slice them and toss with some pasta and sauce or just a can of diced tomatoes. Add in some steamed veggies in with it or as a side.  

* Salads - making a big thing of salad up and using it for lunches and as a side dish for dinner but I also do them for dinner as the main entree. I add some grilled chicken to salad and serve with some bread - it is dinner.

* Variations of Grilled Cheese - I do grilled cheese with sloppy joe mixture, taco mixture, sliced turkey breast from the deli, apples or pears,  or sauteed veggies - adding in any cheese I have on hand - basically taking what I have available in my fridge and making it into a grilled cheese.  On the same note - sloppy joes or taco joes - ground meat on a burger with any topping you desire.

* Breakfast for dinner - eggs, sausage and toast, scrambled eggs with veggies and/or ham, or pancakes and sausage. I add some fruit and that is dinner. We like breakfast for dinner.

*  I do a variation of Martha Stewart's Cheesy Hash Brown Bake. Instead of making chili - I just take 2 cans of chili beans. Those are the kind of beans that have chili sauce in them so they are seasoned and ready to add to chili.  I add browned ground beef to it and mix up so incorporated well pour into a 9 x 13 pan. I don't do the individual pans. I sprinkle cheese on top of the chili mixture and then add the hash browns. I have used frozen hash browns before and they just don't brown up as well but still are cooked and taste good with the chili that is cheesy and bubbling underneath.

* Sloppy Joe Skillet -  Empty contents of one box of cornbread stuffing in a bowl and add 1 2/3 cups hot water. Mix until just moistened and set aside. Brown 1 lb. ground beef, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups veggies (such as chopped mixed bell peppers, sliced mushroom and chopped onions)  and when they are getting soft and the onions translucent.  Add a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce, a small can of tomato paste, 3/4 cup water, 1 can of  diced tomatoes (don't drain add the liquid in the skillet too) - simmer for about 5 mins until mixture is well incorporated and thick. Then add the stuffing on the top of the mixture and simmer for 3 more minutes covered.  Serve.  I serve with a side salad or steamed broccoli or cauliflower.  This a variation of Kraft's Sloppy Joe Skillet.

I am stopping there but those are on my list of go-to quick dinners. I need them when are so busy with work and I also a chronic illness that makes it at times impossible for me to think about what am I going to make for dinner so going to this list of things - is the best option for me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

30 Minute Meals - March Question Month

Jan asked, "I would like to know what is your go to dishes that you can make in 30 minutes for dinner? I have a full-time job, kids, serving Master and I just need some quick go to dinners."

I imagine some of the other writers will chip in here too, but here are my ideas and philosophies for quick meals.

First, I believe as a general rule we make food way more complicated than it needs to be most of the time.  I like a big production of a meal when time allows but for everyday: simple, healthy, and fast is the way I prefer.

If you have a crock pot / slow cooker.  Find some recipes your family loves and use that thing to death.  I make lots of soups and roasts in mine and love coming home to a house that smells like yummy food when I've done hardly any work.

With that being said here are our favorite meals:

Chicken Taco Salads: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Saute cubed chicken breasts sauteed with onions and green peppers.  Add some water and taco seasoning, letting the water evaporate and leaving you with seasoned chicken meat.  Cut corn tortillas into wedges and spread onto a baking sheet, spray the wedges with olive oil or cooking spray.  Cook in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until crisp and just starting to brown.  Divide the tortilla wedges among your plates, top with seasoned chicken meat, lettuce, salsa, cheese, sour cream, etc.  Alternatively you could just use store-bought tortilla chips instead of baking the corn tortillas. You could also add some reheated black or pinto beans to the salads to bulk it up more.

Pan Fried Meat & Roasted Asparagus: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Trim rough ends from asparagus and spread out onto a cookie sheet.  Drizzle the asparagus spears with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Using your hands coat the spears with the oil.  Bake in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until tender.  While the asparagus roasts cook up some pork chops, steaks, or chicken breasts in a pan over high heat.  Simple, healthy, and filling.

Bean & Cheese Quesadillas: Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a bowl mix together a can (or two depending on how many you're serving) of refried beans with some salsa - just enough to get it all moving together.  On a baking sheet place a few flour tortillas, spread each tortilla with a layer of the bean and salsa mixture, sprinkle some shredded cheese on top of that.  Top with another flour tortilla and bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until tortillas is browning and cheese is melted.  Serve with more salsa, sour cream, cheese, etc.  Add a salad and you have a quick and filling meal.

Hope that helps and gives you a few ideas!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Favorites

How to Install a Light Fixture - photos along with instructions
Lunch Box Gallery - it can help give you ideas for lunch.  It is photos of lunch box contents.
White Bean and Sage Patties -  these I think would be good if you do a meatless meal. They served it with roasted tomatoes - just sounds delicious!
Mess Free Painting Tips - from the Family Handy Man
Hanging a Curtain Rod - Made Simple - using just a piece of cardboard she was able to make hanging a curtain rod look easy.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

March Question Month

Ask any question related to Domestic Service and one or more of us will answer your question. Please feel free to ask multiple questions. No limit! If you prefer to ask your questions via email, please email Danae at 


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin