Home Maid Simple: March 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Peanut Free No-Bake Cookies {Foodie Friday}

Head over to Simple Living and Eating with Diane for another Foodie Friday Recipe - then browse and visit all the other recipes linked up.

We absolutely love No-Bakes over here. Mark especially will request them more often than anyone else. I love that they are quick and easy to make, and have a semi-healthy twist with the oats.
Recently we've been trying to put weight on Prince L. We were worried he wasn't gaining as much as he should. Since he isn't one yet, my sister in law suggested we try Sunflower butter. It packs proteins like peanut butter, but is safe for babies and anyone with a peanut allergy. Prince L didn't much care for it, but Mark thought it was pretty good. So what did I do?  I turned our regular No-Bake recipe into a Peanut Free, with an extra boost of healthy, Cookie.

Peanut Free No-Bakes

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar, separated
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Rodelle Dutch Processed)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/2 cup Sunflower Butter
3 1/4 cups Oats
2 TBS Sunflower nuts
Begin by chopping the sunflower nuts. If you have a food processor use that. I used the side of a large knife to press them down, and then spent a little time chopping them up finely.  Set aside.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Turn the heat down to medium, and add the milk.
Mix 1 cup sugar and the cocoa powder together.
Add the cocoa, sugar mixture to the saucepan, and add the second cup of sugar.  Stir well. Bring to a full boil, and then time for 1 minute. REMOVE the pan from heat.
Stir in the vanilla and Sunflower Butter.  Mix well.
Add the oats and nuts.
Spread some wax/parchment paper on your counter or table. Using a spoon, or cookie scoop, scoop balls of the mixture onto the wax paper. Let cool until hardened. Since we used Sunflower butter, they seem to be a little more sticky on the bottom.
The Result
This was my first time trying out the Sunflower butter in a baking recipe. We all enjoyed them. There is a definite sunflowery taste to these cookies, but I also feel a little more satisfied with these. Instead of eating a handful in one sitting, just one of these really hit the spot and let me walk away feeling good. 
And of course the obvious plus here, is that I can serve these to anyone without worrying about Peanut Allergies!




Citrus French Lentil Salad
The addition of grapefruit juice sounds absolutely delicious to me.
Salad of asparagus, soft-boiled egg and chorizo sausage
Asparagus, Chorizo, and a Soft Boiled Egg
You just can't go wrong with asparagus or a soft yolk. Yummy!
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites
Reese's Peanut Butter Brownie Bites
It takes peanut butter cups to a whole new level.


Making Time for Yourself {Think About it}


Earlier this week I was so excited to show off the dress I made for my little niece. I haven't taken the time to sew for a long time, and it was so fun and relaxing to do something I loved again.  We had a great discussion on Facebook about hobbies that moms give up when they begin having kids, and how hard it is to get back into them. 

Today I want to continue that discussion a bit more in depth. I want to know - before you had kids,
What did you enjoy doing?
What were your hobbies?
How did you relax and de-stress?
Did you stop doing those things when kids came?
Have you picked any back up?
While you are all thinking about the answers to those let's Think About It!
Why do we have hobbies?  A hobby is something we do for enjoyment, not because we have to. Something that if given a little free time, we could be found engaged in our hobby.  I personally have many hobbies. The longest standing hobby for me, though, is reading. As a child my mom read me The Little House on The Prairie Series, while my dad read us the Prydain Chronicles. When I began reading chapter books on my own I started with the Chronicles of Narnia. There is only one time I remember not having the time for this hobby - after I had kids.
With our first, I could be found nursing with a book in hand. But as she grew, and I got busy with work, and the becoming pregnant with a 2nd 9months later, I even lost the time to read. It wasn't until my mother in law bought me the Twilight series (yes I read them and enjoyed them), that I even noticed I hadn't picked up a book for almost a year and actually finished it.
Where did my time go?  Of course most of it went to raising two very small children, and then some went into being wife, followed by all of the duties of a homemaker (cleaning, making meals, budgeting, and staying organized).
It was about this time that Facebook really became popular, and I also joined a site just for moms - Cafemom. I traded most of my hobbies for making connections with real people through the internet.
Think About It!
At the time, this was important to me. I had no job, I didn't go to school, I was just home 24/7 with 2 babies who couldn't say much more than momma, dadda, and no. I craved some human interaction.  Let's face it, we all need each other to survive. I personally believe we all need some kind of human contact to stay sane, and not lose our minds. It just makes us happy knowing others know we exist.
It was worth it at the time, but I find I have wasted away many hours now on facebook, not really interacting with others, as I read through meme after meme, funny photo after funny photo. So although I originally traded my hobbies for this human interaction, I do not need it as much anymore. I get out, I have friends, I actually see the people I talk to.  It is time to trade the mindless time I spend on the internet for more meaningful time for me - enjoying my hobbies again.
Think About It!
What do you find wasting away your time?  Maybe you sleep excessively (although I know no mom who gets too much sleep), or perhaps you spend all your free time watching all those shows you've dvr'ed, or perhaps you're like me and spend too much time "catching up with the internet".
Take back your time!  If you were to cut out 30 minutes a day just for you, how would you choose to spend it?  What would it do for your personal self? How would that effect your family?  Now what if you can carve out 1-2 hours per week just for you. What would that do?
I know for me - just when I get to take longer then 10 minutes in a shower, with no interruptions, I feel so much better physically, and my happiness level rises.  As a mom I don't get a lot of time to myself, and I allow myself to feel guilty if I take any time.  Morning, noon and night, I'm on call to my kids. I love them. I want to be there for them if they need anything. Sometimes the stress of it all makes it so I can adequately, or appropriately respond to their needs.
I need to be emotionally and physically there for my kids. To do that though, I need to care for myself as well. I love Craftsy for this reason too!  I started taking a Gardening Class to get me ready to plant my garden - a new hobby for me, that will also benefit my family. Eventually, I want to take some of the other classes they offer as well like -
Clean and Simple Cake Design
Dressmaking Basics
or Hand Quilting
Think About It!

Even my kids understand the need for time to themselves. There are sometimes that we can't share, because we just need to play by ourselves, without brother taking it away, or sister screaming because she wanted that princess. When they've had time to themselves, they almost always play better together.
Won't this hold true for us as well?  If we take care of us, won't we be a better parent?  I hope you notice my use of parent instead of mom this time. I feel it's important we allow our spouses, the father of our children the time to find their hobbies again as well. Maybe he enjoys a game of golf, or hunting, or jamming out some tunes.
Mark enjoys getting together with other local music teachers to just play music in a non-teaching environment. I love that he does this. I encourage him to do this. Yes, it means one night a week I have to put 4 kids to bed all by myself. It also means that he gets time to relax and throw off the stress from working and providing for his family 24/7. 
Think About It!
Your spouse is a person too. I know I've mentioned on here the stereotypes of a Stay at Home Mom. We really do quite a bit despite the little appreciation we are often given. But what about working Dads?  Do we truly show them the appreciation they deserve? 
But Adelina, you say, They get to be out of the house, and in contact with people, and they don't have to deal with the screaming toddler, hormonal teenager, non-sleeping baby all the time.
You're absolutely right they don't. They often have to deal with hormonal teenagers at school, rude customers, a hard boss.  Then they come home and they help out with the kids, or make us dinner, and sometimes they even help with the child who won't sleep. When do they get to be them? Do something just for them?  Mark is lucky, and is in a job he truly loves. That doesn't mean it's easy though. He still has stress, and has to work hard to make lesson plans, and work with each student to reach their best potential.
So I will continue to encourage him to jam out with his friends once a week. Even if I'm under the weather (which I was this week), I will still allow him to go out and take that time for him (but he didn't this week, the sweetheart).  Why? Because he needs that time to be himself, and do what he loves for him, just as much as I need to make time and do what I love for me. We work better as a parent team, and can show our kids more love and compassion as we take the time for us.
Has this inspired you to start up a hobby again?
I would love to hear what you're thoughts are.
*This post contains affiliate links. This is not a sponsored post. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Going Green with Conscious Box {Giveaway}

Have you seen this subscription box services?  I'm sure they've been around for awhile, but I seem to just be learning about them all. I love that you can have new products delivered to your door to try out before buying full size products.

This especially holds true with all natural earth friendly products. I grew up using chemicals for cleaning, and eating processed foods - as I feel most of my generation did. We also seem to be the generation pushing for more natural and earth friendly products. My mom always taught me to be a good steward of the earth, and we often went on trash picking duty around our block. We also canned a lot of our own fruits and veggies, despite the many processed foods we ate. My problem presents itself when I want to buy an all natural product - 

What if it doesn't clean as good?
What if the taste is bland?
What if it's too expensive, and then I find I don't like it?

It's hard breaking out of habits, and trying something new, especially when many families are struggling financially.  This is where Conscious Box can help!  Each month they put together a new Conscious Box full of products from Health and Beauty, to Food and Home. Try all natural cleaning products, healthy snacks, and natural energy boosters. A low monthly cost, and you get to try a myriad of products to see what does and doesn't work for you. On top of it all, they have Gluten Free and Vegan Boxes to choose from as well.

Save 25% OFF any Subscription
Right now my readers can receive 25% off any subscription to Conscious Box with Code: LOVELIFE

One lucky Home Maid Simple can win a 3 Month Subscription to Conscious Box. 
Enter on Rafflecopter below
Open to US residents only. All entries will be verified. Winner will have 48 hours to claim prize, or a new winner will be chosen. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This is a sponsored post. I have received a conscious box in exchange for posting this giveaway. All thoughts and opinions remain 100% my own and honest thoughts. I try to bring my readers products I believe in and would recommend to friends and family.

Spring Weddings

It's the first week of Spring! YAY!  The snow is gone finally.

Spring is a popular time for weddings.  Although we got married in the summer, I know many friends who chose spring. They also all wore white dresses - who doesn't?  Do you know where the history behind the white wedding dress?  This video is a fun little history lesson on wedding dresses - Enjoy!

Wasn't that interesting?  Are you getting married this spring, or know someone that is?  Share a little history with the bride to be, and then check out the Spring Wedding collections at One King's Lane


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick {Book Review}


Coyote Winds

By Helen Sedwick

About the Book: Andy is a 21st Century teen living with an overprotective mother, and disconnected family. His grandfather is the only one who seems to understand; with funny jokes, and stories from the Dust Bowl, he inspires Andy to dream and follow those dreams. But when his Grandfather passes away, without finishing his stories, it's up to Andy to discover his families past, and learn the lesson his Grandfather wanted to teach.

About the Author: Helen grew up in New York City. After majoring in English at Cornell, she went on to attend Chicago Law School.  For thirty years she has practiced Business Law in the San Francisco Bay area. She has received honorable mentions for her short stories and recently was awarded second place from the Redwood Writers Flash Fiction Contest for a piece adapted from Coyote Winds.
Coyote Winds was inspired by her own Fathers stories of growing up during the Dust Bowl.

My Thoughts: If you've been following along this blog, you'll know I've mentioned this before - I love history!  My area of study in college was History Education. Although I never finished my degree, I still love learning about history anyway I can. Coyote Winds is a great piece of historical fiction. With almost a side by side comparison as we follow Andy living in the 21st century, and his grandfather adventures during the Dust Bowl. If you're looking for a quick book to read, I would suggest this one. It's a fun adventure, but makes you think about your dreams. Are you living them? Or are you to afraid of disappointment?

For more information about Helen and her writing, visit www.helensedwick.com

*I received a copy of Coyote Winds to facilitate this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I only recommend books that I enjoyed and think my readers will also enjoy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Not enough hours in the day

It's official - there are not enough hours in the day to do all I want to do.  When I became a mom I started throwing my whole self into that - motherhood. Slowly I began doing things I enjoyed again - like reading. As a homemaker, the kitchen became my domain. 3 home cooked meals a day (although that include cereal most mornings) has turned me into quite the little chef.  Having so much time to spend in the kitchen has helped me grow in my cooking and baking skills. I can adjust recipes as needed, substitute with what I have on hand, and sometimes make stuff completely up and have it all still taste pretty good.

With so much time devoted to feeding my family, and just staying on top of daily chores, my other hobbies got left behind. This last Christmas I decided to start sewing again. It's not something I was ever great at, but I did enjoy.  So I made some hooded capes for my nieces, and a hat for the littlest one. There was supposed to be a matching dress with the hat, but I ran out of time. I finally made the time to get the dress finished - 3 months later. I am really pleased with how it turned out.

Of course now I need to remember to get to the post office with it before she outgrows it.
I am actually really excited to have accomplished this. I plan on many more sewing adventures in the future, and perhaps more tutorials to share with you!  Now I just need to find the hours to craft, go running, scrapbook and garden. So many fun things, so little time in the day.
This week we should be finishing our bathroom remodel. It's also the end of the month - YAY - so our menu this week is real simple!  Enjoy
Tuesday - Biscuits and Gravy
Wednesday - Beef Stew (from my freezer meals)
Friday - Phyllo Chicken Rolls (another freezer meal)
Saturday - Leftovers

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 5 - Bathrooms

You made it to Day 5!  Congrats!
Today our focus is solely on the bathrooms. I put these last, because I dread cleaning bathrooms. Give me anything to clean, but please not the bathroom. Fact of the matter is, they need the most deep cleaning.
Print off your checklist, then read on for my deep cleaning routine.
Gather Cleaning Supplies
You don't want to be running back and forth to where ever you keep your cleaning supplies, so gather them up and take them to the bathroom with you. I love this carrier my mother in law bought me years ago. It keeps everything organized and is easy to carry around.
You'll want to grab 4-5 cleaning rags. I find the worst part about cleaning the bathroom is the lack of ventilation, mixed with the different chemicals. You don't want to mix your rags with different chemicals - it is dangerous! (I am truly hoping this isn't the first you've been told that though).
As I've mentioned throughout the week, when Spring Cleaning, I go deep. It's more than just a surface cleaner, so I do tend to use harsher chemicals this time of year. You don't have to, you can still keep it green and safe. This is just what I prefer.
I use Comet on the bath, toilet, and sink. Windex on the mirror. Ammonia and hot water on the ceiling, walls, and floor.
Wet Bath and sink. Spray with cleaners
Spray down the bathtub/shower and sink area.  I find it's easier to clean if the surface is slightly wet first. Once they are wet, I grab my Comet and sprinkle it over the sink, in the toilet bowl and in the shower. Let it sit for a couple minutes.
Scrub the bath/shower areas 
I like to start with the bath tub and shower since once they are done, they will stay clean. Jump in if you have to to get a good scrubbing.  An old toothbrush is also a handy tool for cleaning the grout. Don't forget to clean the faucets as well.
Clean the Toilet
After the shower I rinse my rag out in the sink. Do not clean the sink yet!  Move onto the toilet. I personally find toilet brushes disgusting. Having kids that used them as toys did not help either. So I have gone back to the old fashioned way of hand scrubbing the toilet. I find it more effective as well. This would be a great time to invest in some rubber gloves. 
When cleaning the toilet, start with the outside. Wipe down the tank, and down the sides, right to the floor. Last clean inside the toilet bowl. Now that the toilet is done, you'll want to switch rags.
Wipe down Ceiling and Walls 
Fill a bucket (or the sink) with steaming hot water. Add a capful of Ammonia. With a new rag, wipe down the ceiling and walls. Bathrooms are notorious for growing mold. Especially if there is a lack of ventilation. 
Clean Out Medicine Cabinet and wash Mirror
Pull everything out of the medicine cabinet. Using the ammonia water, wipe down the inside of the cabinet. As you put items back in, check expiration dates on medicine, and think about the last time you used it. A good rule of thumb - if you haven't used a medication in the last 2 years, you're probably safer to throw it out.
Once the cabinet is cleaned out, wash the Mirror. You can use a new rag for this, or grab some newspapers for a streak free cleaning. I use windex on the mirror, so once again - don't mix rags!
Wash Sink and Vanity
I like to save the sink and vanity for last since I use it to rinse out my rags and wash my hands between cleaning products.  Go ahead and give it another spray/sprinkle of cleaning products if you've rinsed the first layer off with all the rinsing of rags and hands.
Clean out the under sink cabinet. Treat it the same as the medicine cabinet. Wash down shelves and drawers, and then put everything away - tossing out anything not being used, or expired.
Sweep and Mop
Finally, sweep and mop. I again use a bucket of hot water and ammonia, and a new rag. If you didn't get it with the toilet, make sure you really get around the toilet edge. It can get pretty gross there.
You're done!  Add a candle for a nice smell after all the chemicals, and enjoy using a clean bathroom.
We've had a great week Spring Cleaning!  Thanks to all who joined me. Remember is you've already done your spring cleaning this year, joined us this week, or are going to Spring Clean next week  - you can grab extra entries into the Affresh Giveaway.  It has been extended for another week, so there is still time!!!

Thin Mint Chocolate Fudgesicle {Foodie Friday}

Thank you for joining us at Foodie Friday! Make sure you check out my co-host Diane at Simple Living and Eating.
This week started out so beautiful. All the snow had finally melted, the kids were spending more time outside, and my Girl Scout Cookies arrived by mail (yes, I supported a friend and had them shipped across the states to me!)
Well, after eating box 1 of the Thin Mints and Caramel Delights, mostly by myself (I will not tell you how fast they went....that's between me and my stomach), I decided maybe I should get a little creative with the last box of Thin Mints. I've seen ideas and recipes all over pinterest for using "leftover" Girl Scout Cookies, that I thought maybe I should hang onto some. Mind you, these were not leftovers, I don't believe in leftover cookies.  They were just put to a better use.
I am at the moment wishing I had saved more of the thin mints. These were absolutely delicious!  I happened to try out a new ingredient with these fudgesicles as well - chocolate extract. Did you know they made chocolate extract? It's a very new discovery for me, and I've already got my head spinning around the things I can create with it!

Thin Mint Chocolate Fudgesicle

recipe adapted from Shop Cook Make
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 cup 2% Milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp corn starch
5 Thin Mint cookies
~In a medium saucepan mix together the Cream, Milk, sugar, eggs, salt and corn starch.  Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Whisk every few minutes.
~Remove from the heat and add the Cocoa Powder.  Mix well. Return the pan to medium heat. Cook for another 10 minutes, whisking every few minutes.  At this point if you stick a spoon in and let it drip off, it will look and feel like melted ice cream.
~Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate extract.
~Cool on the counter for 1-2 hours.
~Meanwhile, place your thin mints in a small ziploc bag. Using a potato masher (or bottom of a cup, or rolling pin), crush the cookies. You'll want to use approximately 10 popsicle molds.  Evenly distribute the crushed cookies into the molds.
~Once the chocolate mix has cooled, pour it on top of the crushed cookies. Using a chopstick (or skewer), slide into the molds to help the chocolate surround the cookies and reach the bottom of the mold. Add the popsicle handles, and freeze for 3-4 hours.
~Once the fudgesicles are frozen, run the mold under hot water for a few seconds to help loosen it. Remove from the mold and enjoy!

I kid you not, the Thin Mints permeated the whole fudgesicle so every bite was full of that girl scout cookie goodness. This easily tripled my cookies, and made sharing them with the kids not so hard. 
And would you know it, I woke up to it snowing this morning!  Thank goodness it didn't stick, but it sure is cold here again.


I just need to say this - It's getting too hard to pick features!! You all have so many wonderful looking recipes!  So since Diane and I can't feature you all, please please go check out the linky, and visit some of the other blogs. You are sure to find something yummy to add to your menu's!
Soup, Prudent Living
from On the Home Front
Mark loves playing around with Ramen noodles. This soup is on our to try asap menu!
Family Favorite Pork Chops
from Wyoming Girl *Turned* Coastie Wife
Pork is our families choice of meat, so I know these won't disappoint. Plus they are super simple!
from A Bright and Beautiful Life
We run out of Ranch too often in this house! Now I can always have some on hand, because yes it does go with everything.
*Just an FYI, I received Rodelle products in a giveaway a year ago. There was no compensation given to Home Maid Simple for this post. I just enjoy their products immensely, and use them in most of my baking adventures.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 4 - Toys and General Clutter

Welcome back to Day 4 in the Spring Cleaning Challenge!
Today we are going to focus on toys, and the general clutter that every home seems to collect. I made another fun printable checklist. Print it off, and get to work!
Gather 2 Boxes (or trash bags)
Label, or designate one box for donations, and one for trash. Spring Cleaning is all about starting fresh. Let's stop stepping over broken toys, or staring at toys that never get played with.
The Floor
Now I know we did a general pick up and put away on Day 2 with the Living Spaces, but if you have kids, 2 days is plenty of time to mess it all up again with toys. Don't bother putting things away right now. Just start picking up and making decisions. Is it broken? Trash.  Do the kids play with it? Donate if they don't. Create a Keep pile if they do. Just designate an area for toys being kept.
The Toybox
Now that the floor is cleaned off, head to the toy box. One effective way is to dump the whole box out. Then as you sort through it, you can move your keep pile into the toy box. Do not put anything back in that is broken! Just don't!  Have your children help, if they are old enough to understand what you are doing. My 6 and 5 year old are pretty good (sometimes they want to donate every single toy they own), while my 3 year old can often just be in the way as she rearranges the piles.
One Drawer at a Time
Great, you've done a lot already!  I think it's safe to say, we don't just have 1 toy box. We have a couple different areas we keep toys. So after I go through the main toy box, we move onto all  the other toy storage places. Treat it like the toy box. Dump it out, and one item at a time decide - Trash, Donate, or Keep. Put them away, and move onto the next one.
Clean and Sanitize
Unless a toy has been puked on, they don't get cleaned all that often. Periodically I'll find the kids "bathing" their dolls, but even then it's not a good deep clean. Now that you have your piles sorted - put your donate in the car, and take the trash outside.
Grab a bucket of hot water, and your favorite cleaning agent. Since we're cleaning toys here, I like to keep it safe, and use something I know won't harm the kids if they stick it in their mouth - because you know it's going to go in a kids mouth at some point!  A small amount of ammonia mixed in a large bucket of hot water is my personal favorite cleaner, but switching the ammonia out for distilled white vinegar will be safer on the toys. Have a decent pile of rags on hand, and get to work scrubbing the toys down. At this point, you can involve all your kids! It will teach them responsibility for their stuff, as well as hard work. Plus, you get to spend a little extra time with them while getting housework done.
General Clutter
If you no longer have kids at home, or you didn't spend your whole day cleaning toys, this is a good time to take care of the general clutter. Clean off your dressers, office area, junk drawers. The places in your home that attract clutter and never let go of it.
Wahoo! You've finished Day 4! 
Go grab your extra entry into the Affresh Giveaway.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 3 - Clothing

Welcome to Day 3 in the Spring Cleaning Challenge
How are you doing?  We started out strong in the kitchen, so today I've got an easy and fun challenge for you. Don't be fooled though, you are still going to accomplish a lot today!
Today's challenge is going through every one's clothing. You'll have everything washed by the end of the day, a pile to donate, a pile to toss, and drawers full of clothing that fits!
Here is your checklist
Gather and Sort
Hallways are a great place to sort laundry, and remember to do it. Go through your house and find all the dirty clothes. Check bathrooms, closets, under the beds, in the car (yes, I find dirty clothes in our van...mostly socks). You don't want to miss anything!
Start a load right away.  You'll be going back throughout the day to get all the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away.
Fashion Show
This is where the fun begins! 
In the central gathering place, create space for 3 piles - one for donation, one for garbage, and one for storage. Clothes that no longer fit, and can't be passed onto another sibling, add to the donate pile. Stained and holey clothes - garbage. Clothes that will fit another child by next spring - storage pile.
After you have these 3 piles established - create a space for each persons Keep pile.
Have everyone put on an outfit, and gather in a central room. As mom, check to see if things fit right. Are the pants/shirt long enough? Check the shirt sleeves. How easy was it to get on? 
Next check for stains and holes.  Is it too far gone?  Make an executive decision, and send everyone back to put on another outfit.
With little kids, you'll want to help them to make sure the clothes they tried on get brought back to the central space and put in the appropriate pile.  Continue your fashion show until all clothes have been tried on.
Stored Clothes
As the mother of 3 girls, I have held onto every article of clothing from one child to the next. Most parents I know have done the same, as a just in case for future children. Now that you've gone through the dressers and closets, it's time to pull out the stored clothes, and have another Fashion Show!  Before jumping into it though, you might want to take a moment and put the Keep piles away. Start with a fresh keep pile from the stored clothing, and continue adding to your donate, garbage and stored piles.
Finish Laundry
Don't forget to keep an eye on the washer. Keep it moving as the fashion show is going. As the clothes come out of the wash, don't bother folding them yet. Put them on a clean couch (because hey, you did just clean your couch yesterday).  Once the last 2 fashion shows are done - start another one with all the clean laundry. You don't want to put clothes away that no longer fit.
Finally check underwear, socks and shoes after the fashion show is done.
Clean the Washer and Dryer
Once all the laundry is clean, and the Fashion Shows are over. Run your washer one more time to clean it. This is spring cleaning after all. Give your washer and dryer some love and clean them. Affresh has a Washer cleaner that is simple to use, and leaves your washer cleaned out.  We just bought a really nice, but used HE washer.  Who knows what kind of laundry had gone through this before we bought it. After I used Affresh, I felt better about sticking our clothing inside. Pretty though, right?
Don't forget your dryer as well. Along with behind the fridge, your dryer is a huge fire hazard if not cleaned out!  They sell brushes for the lint drawer, to remove any lint stuck inside. Also, take the lint trap and run it under hot soapy water. If the water is not running through the trap it is DIRTY, and very unsafe. Products like dryer sheets leave a build up on the trap that should be removed regularly for safety. Don't let your dryer be the cause of fire!
You did it! Day 3 is done.
Grab your entries into the Spring Cleaning Giveaway!

*I received product for my honest review. All thoughts and opinion are 100% my own.

Flirty Apron Flash Sale

I love how cute I can look in an apron. While cooking in the kitchen, or Spring Cleaning my home - my clothes stay clean, but I don't lose any style.
Flirty Aprons has a Flash Sale on their New Damask Aprons in Red or Black right now!
From now until tomorrow 3/21 you can get 35% Off and FREE shipping on the Damask Aprons.

Use code: NEWAPRON35
Women's Apron Classic Damask BlackWomen's Apron Classic Damask Red

*This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 2 - Living Spaces and Windows

Welcome back for Day 2 in the Spring Cleaning Challenge!
Today we are headed to all the living spaces, and your windows. We're going to get a lot done today.  The list is smaller, but the work is bigger.
Go ahead, print off today's checklist. After you're done, make sure to come back and enter the Spring Cleaning Giveaway.
I always like to start with something that can finish itself. By starting with all the drapes in the wash, they can get clean while you work on the rest of the list.
Pick Up and Put Away
Don't just put stuff somewhere. Give it a place. If it doesn't have a place, make one, or throw it out. This is the time to get rid of the junk that we let overtake our lives.
Wash Walls and Dust
At this point, make sure you're getting up in the corners, and removing any cobwebs. I remember growing up, we had these really high vaulted ceilings. It was never until spring cleaning week that we'd even notice the cobwebs, but they were always there.
The best way to removed spiderwebs is with a broom. You can just use the broom as is, or attach a cloth to the bristles.
When dusting, don't forget the light fixtures, and ceiling fans. This would be a great time to replace any burnt out light bulbs as well.
Wash Windows & Blinds
Blinds are the bane of my existence. We always end up with the flimsy little things that collect dust and fingerprints like crazy. I think a great way to clean them is with an old unmatched sock (you know you have some!). Put the sock on like a glove. Soak your sock gloved hand in hot soapy water, and with the blinds closed start rubbing it across.  After you finish one side, turn the blinds and do the other side.  
I've posted before on how I like to wash windows, but here you go again. Newspapers. They don't leave streaks or little fuzzies behind.  I've also found brown packing paper to be effective. Don't forget to head outside and get the other side of the windows.
Lastly, we get to the window tracks. These collect dirt and bugs pretty well too. I would start with using the hose on your vacuum. Suck out as much dirt as possible. Then go in with a rag, or toothbrush. Make them shine!  This right here, will completely change to mood in your whole house. No kidding. Something about cleaning the dirt out of those window tracks, just changes the outlook on the rest of the house.
Now that you've finished all the above ground jobs, take to the floor. Vacuum everywhere you would on a normal vacuuming day. Then move the furniture, and vacuum behind and under where it normally sits.
Before moving the couches back though, go through the cushions. Have a garbage bag nearby to toss away garbage. Use the hose on your vacuum and really get under those cushions clean. Then move the furniture back.
Now that you've finished the living spaces, and windows, you can enjoy sitting on clean furniture, and looking out fresh windows. Doesn't it feel great?!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Cleaning Day 1 - Kitchen

Welcome to Day 1 of the Spring Cleaning Challenge!
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to Deep Clean the Kitchen.
Begin by printing off this checklist.

Before I can ever get to Deep Cleaning, I have to do the surface cleaning. Any towels and dishrags I toss in the washer, then I take all the dirty dishes (you know there are always some dirty dishes), and either hand wash, or stick them in the dishwasher.

Then clean off your table. You'll use it for storage while you deep clean the rest of the kitchen. Move any appliances you keep on the counters to the table. Next is the real deep cleaning.

Cabinets and Cupboards
I suggest a ladder, or tall step stool. Or if your kids are tall enough they can stand on the counters. Start with the very top of your cabinets. Of course if you're lucky enough, your cabinets reach to the ceiling and their is no space up there to clean. If you're like me though, you've got some cleaning to do!  From there, you want to move down the cabinets. Start with one cabinet, and move everything out to the table, or another side of the counters. Start with the top shelf and wipe down, moving any crumbs from the top to the bottom. Finish one cabinet, and move to the next.  Once the cabinets are finished, wipe down the counter tops and the walls behind them. Finally move to the cupboards. Do the same thing, pull everything out, wipe down top to bottom. Finish off the cabinets and cupboards by wiping down the doors.
Before putting items back in the cupboards and cabinets - check expiration dates.  Toss out any bad food. This is also a great time to go through your tupperware. Any lids without bottoms toss. Bottoms without lids can be tossed or re-purposed for organization in the pantry.

Along with the counter tops, clean off the top of the stove. If you have a glass top, a product like Affresh Stove Cleaner is amazing! It's made specifically for glass top stoves and cleans them beautifully!

The Oven
Now that the brunt of the work is done and the top of the stove is clean, go for the oven. If you have a self cleaning option I suggest using it. Open up all the windows and turn your heaters down as well. It's going to get hot!

In a disposable bowl, pour 1 cup of ammonia. Set it in the oven and let sit all day long (or overnight).  Then wipe the grime away. For hard burned on food, you can also try baking soda and vinegar. It's an easy, safe way to clean (and works on virtually everything).

Fridge and Freezer
Now the fun part! Again let's work top to bottom.  Start with the freezer. If you have a deep freeze, or second freezer somewhere, move everything from your kitchen freezer to that one. If you don't have that option - work fast.  Take everything out of the freezer, and set on the counter. Don't bother going through it at this point.  Once everything is out, use some hot-very hot- soapy water to wipe the inside down. 
Once it's wiped down begin putting the food back in.  As you do this, check for expiration dates, and freezer burn.  Toss anything out that is bad. 
Then move onto the fridge.  Once the food is out, wipe down the shelves.  Remove the cooler drawers and give them a good scrub. Don't forget to wipe out the bottom of the fridge before putting the drawers back in. 
Next get a strong person or two, and move the fridge and oven from the wall. Sweep and mop behind them. Behind these two large appliances are some of your biggest fire hazards!  Don't skip them!

Now, make tonight leftover night.  You want to start spring off with a fresh fridge full of fresh food.

Now that you've emptied a bunch of dishes, you may have a full dishwasher. Run it! Once your dishwasher is empty of clean dishes, run another cycle with a cleaner. Since it's deep cleaning time, I suggest using something like Affresh Dishwasher Cleaner.
Now that the counters and dirty dishes are all taken care of, move all the appliances back to the counter. Wipe them down as you go. My appliances tend to get pretty dirty on the outside, but don't always get a good cleaning.

Floor and Garbage
We're at the the end of the day. Take out the trash, wipe down the inside and outside of the garbage can. Put in a new bag.
Last thing, is to clean the floor. Move out chairs, table, microwave stand - anything that moves. Sweep and mop.  My favorite way to mop is on my hands and knees, with a bucket of hot soapy water.  I add 1 capful of ammonia to 2 gallons of hot water.  On my knees I can see every spot, reach every corner, and really get spotless.

You Did It!
Head back to THIS POST and gain your daily entry into the Spring Cleaning Giveaway. 
Come back tomorrow for Day 2's Challenge.

I'm also going to suggest at this point - use paper products the rest of the week. We've got a lot more Spring Cleaning to do, and keeping the kitchen looking nice will keep your motivation up through it all.

Spring Cleaning Challenge {Giveaway}

It's that time of year - birds singing, flowers blooming, snow melting (hopefully), and sun shining!

The time of year we dust out our homes and open up the windows for some fresh, non-freezing air.

I love this time of year. Spring is easily my favorite season (autumn is a close second).  You may call me odd for this next tidbit I'm going to tell you, but here goes - I love spring cleaning. I truly do. In fact I have some very fond memories of spring cleaning as a kid. My mom always made it fun. I hope I can do the same with my kids.

What are the benefits of Spring Cleaning?

Well first of all, after being cooped up in the house all winter, spring cleaning allows you to bring the sunshine and joy back inside. Spring cleaning gives you the opportunity to deep clean on a level you normally wouldn't, which really can be rewarding at the end.

If you're a normal family, you've probably been dealing with a lot of sicknesses that seem to accompany winter - colds and flu specifically. With the end of winter, you don't want to carry those germs into the rest of the year, so spring cleaning helps get them out!

For me, and maybe some others, the satisfaction of a good deep down cleaning, is enough of a mental boost to have something so seemingly daunting be accomplished. As mothers it seems most of our chores are never truly done. Spring cleaning can be! (perhaps this is why I enjoy shoveling snow).

I put together a fun little printable Checklist for you. Print it off, hang it up, and get to work! 

Each ladybug represent a new day of cleaning. I do not suggest trying to spring clean all in one day - there's just too much to do it efficiently.   The idea of spring cleaning, is to get down in the places you don't normally clean (think - behind the refrigerator), to de-clutter and get rid of un-needed items, and to deep clean areas that usually only receive a surface cleaning.

Every day this week I'll share a list specific to that day's cleaning. Before we jump into it though - pick a reward. Right now, decide, what are you working towards? Or perhaps, what are your kids going to work for?  That's how my mom always did it at least. We got to pick a special treat, if we really worked hard with her all week long. It was a great motivator.

Will you be joining us for Spring Cleaning?

A big thanks to our sponsor, Affresh. They are offering one lucky reader the entire line of Affresh Cleaners.
+ Dishwasher Cleaner
+ Washer Cleaner
+ Stainless Steel Cleaner
+ Stainless Steel Wipes
+ Kitchen and Appliance Cleaner
+ Cooktop Cleaner

Come back each day for a new Spring Cleaning checklist, and gain more entries into the giveaway!
*Giveaway open to US and Canada residents only. Enter using the Rafflecopter form. All entries will be verified. Winner must respond to email within 48 hours or forfeit prize.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A story of Sunglasses and Sandals

We have had a sunglasses problem over here recently. Mark wears them everywhere. He wouldn't be Mark if he didn't have a pair on him all the time. He recently lost every single pair (and he has like 3). We figured the kids must have taken off with them, since that's what usually happens. They all claimed innocence though. For Mark's birthday I let him pick out a new pair.  Guess what happened?  He found his favorite pair a short week after his new ones arrived. And it wasn't the kids - no he had left them inside one of his suit coats. It was like Christmas!

If you are a sunglasses lover like Mark, you'll probably love these from Cents of Style.  The best part is you can get them for Free, today only, with a $25 or more purchase!
Fashion Friday- 3/15/13- FREE Sunglasses with every order over $25.00

Now, for me, it's all about the flip flops. I use to wear them year round, even with feet of snow on the ground. I've gotten old though, and my feet aren't as tough as they used to be. I'm still a huge flip flop in warm months fan though.  It was really sad last summer when my favorite pair broke while at the zoo. We had to stop and purchase a hot pink zebra print sandal, that I normally wouldn't have even considered. 

Well, Cents of Style has got some cute new sandals in today as well, and they are all under $25. PLUS you can get another 10% off with coupon code BREAK.

*This post contains affiliate links. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pork and Egg Hash {Foodie Friday}

Thank you for visiting Foodie Friday! Don't forget to visit my co-host Diane at Simple Living and Eating.
Yesterday was pi day - did anyone eat some pie?  I thought it would be fun to make some mini pies with the girls, and then share the recipe here. Sadly, they didn't turn out so great, so I'll refrain from sharing it this week. A little tweaking though, and I think I'll have a new dessert to share with you.
So instead of mini pies, I have a new family favorite to share!  I've been going through my Taste of Home magazines, trying to pare them down a bit. It's not often I find a keeper, but this one I've already made at least once a week for a month. We love it!

Oh and did I ever tell you about my pan?  It was a Christmas present from Mark, and I just love it!  BEST PAN E.V.E.R.  It's huge, with nice tall sides, but not tall enough to make it a pot. Oh I just love this thing.  It's so pretty.

Pork and Egg Hash

adapted from Taste of Home's Chicken and Egg Hash
4 slices bacon or 3 TBS bacon bits (both are great)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb bulk pork sausage*
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen corn
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
In a large skillet, cook bacon until crispy. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towels. Saute the onion in the bacon drippings until tender.  Add the sausage, potatoes, and oil. Cover and cook on medium heat until sausage is cooked through, and potatoes are tender. Add the peas, corn, salt and pepper. Make 4 wells in the hash, and add an egg into each. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until eggs are firm (though I personally prefer a runny yolk, no one else here does).
While the hash is cooking, crumble the bacon.
Top the hash with crumbled bacon and serve.
*We've made this with chicken, beef, and the pork sausage. The Pork has been our absolute favorite though.
Italian Breakfast Strata - Love Bakes Good Cakes
from Love Bakes Good Cakes
I've been looking for new breakfast ideas, and this looks great!

Buffalo Chicken Qunia Salad-9
from Half Baked Harvest
I don't think I can say anything here. Just yummy looking at it.
lucky leprechaun cookie bark - Page 451
from Your Home Based Mom
St. Patty's Day is almost here. This would be a fun treat to make with kids.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Blogging Conferences: Are they important? {Think About It!}

A few months after I began blogging more for me, and less just about the kids, I heard that they had conferences for bloggers. All over the country bloggers gather together to learn, pick the minds of professionals, and network.

Think About It!

In just about every line of work, professionals gather together in some type of conference to learn and grow. So why wouldn't bloggers do the same?  For many of us, we use our blogs as a source of income for our families. Sometimes it's just for that little extra, and sometimes it's how a blogger supports their family.

I may have thought at one point that a conference for bloggers was kind of silly.  Then I started having companies and brands contact me to review their products. I had no idea that was even an option for bloggers at the time. I was pretty thrilled. Someone actually wanted to know what I thought about a product. 2 years have gone by since I began blogging as more of a job then just a hobby and I have learned so much, but a conference would teach me so much more!

Think About It!

If I could go to a blogging conference, oh the things I would learn!  I'd start by attending every single session on every topic humanly possible.  I'd equip myself with notebooks and a stash of pencils (because face it, I'm still old fashioned when it comes to taking notes).

But blogging is so easy Adelina!  All you do is write and take pictures.

True, that's all you see. There is just so much more than that though. I won't lie, my writing could use a bit of a boost.  I usually have to write up a rough draft (hello my notebooks), then rewrite it on the computer, and finally edit and re-edit. Sometimes a post sits in draft for a few days before I finish it. I really only want to share the best. Attending a conference would equip me to become even better.

Then there's the photography. At a blogging conference there is sure to be a photography class. Even if I can't afford tons of fancy equipment, I know I can learn how to make my pictures stand out. It takes time to get the right angle, right lighting, and then edit them to pop it even more! 

Once I learned all I could, I would then find myself networking. Let's face it, after learning from the speakers, the best part of a conference is meeting other bloggers.  I've already found so many online friendships like - Mallery from Horrible Housewife, Jillian from Mommy Testers, Amber from Jade Louise Designs, and Nicole from Wyoming Girl *turned* Coastie Wife.

Not only have these amazing bloggers become my blogging friends, and pushed me to improve, they have one other thing in common. They all have the #CBias tag in many of their posts. Was that just coincidence?  I don't think so!  .

Think About It!

I #LuvSoFab!  The Collective Bias Community, aka Social Fabric, must be doing something right if I ended up following all these blogs for their great content and pretty pictures. When I read their "reviews", I don't feel like I'm reading a users manual, but an actual persons opinion on a product. They suck you in with their writing, and make you want to pin every image (and yes I have a pinning problem....).

Did you know? This is the first year Collective Bias is putting together a conference?  I want to go!!!  I would get to meet my favorite bloggers, and become a better blogger myself. Here's the kicker for me - #SoFabCon is being held in Bentonville, AK.  Do you know what that means?  Home of Walmart!  And since you can buy just about anything at Walmart, it also means the home of many Brands!  Brands I would love to talk to, pick their CEO minds and create lasting relationships with.

Think About It!

If you could attend a conference where you can connect with people that would make your business better, wouldn't you do it?  That is what #SoFabCon would do for me. 

After attending a conference I would come back renewed, with excitement bursting from the seams of this page, picture you would all want to pin like crazy, and content truly worth reading. The most important thing I would learn and bring from conference though, is how to better manage my time around blogging, to maximize my time with family.

Mark actually made a comment the other day that had me say inside - Think About it
"Sometimes I think you take more pictures of food then you do our kids"
I honestly hope that's not true, but when I go through my pictures, it's not just food, but products, the house, random pictures of random things, and not so many of the kids. I want that back, and I know attending a conference would help me prioritize, get back the moments with my kids, and still create quality content for Home Maid Simple that people love.
#SoFabCon, #Cbias, I have one thing to say to you -

Have You Ever Attended a Conference?