Saturday, September 28, 2013

My Favorite Homemade Cleaners

 Hi friends!  I hope you're having a nice weekend so far.

Since I have cleaning on my mind lately (trust me, most of the time more talk than action), I thought I'd share some of my favorite homemade cleaners with you.  I used to be the type that had a specific store-bought cleaner for each room, until the past couple years when I started realizing that I really only needed a few basic supplies for everything and I could make the majority of them too. 

I love using as natural products as I can in our home, but they do have to be effective.  I don't make every cleaning product in our house (I have yet to try making laundry detergent), but I enjoy putting together a few combinations that are effective and also very easy and quick. 

 Distilled white vinegar is like your best friend when it comes to homemade natural cleaners.  It is a great safe alternative to chemical cleaners, does an amazing job, plus it's affordable.  I buy a huge container of it at Costco to store and decant it into Ball jars (which sit on my open shelves in the laundry room) and bottles.  There are so many uses for vinegar it amazes me.  Here are some ways I use it:

Floor Cleaner 
 (I use this on our non-waxed wood floors, laminate wood floors and tile)
1 quart water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3 drops pure essential oil, such as lemon (optional)
Note: I use a mop with a washable microfiber pad and a refillable bottle that I can pour the solution into

Window Cleaner
equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle 

Fabric Softener
I add 1/4 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle in the washing machine

Mildew Remover + Stainless Steel Cleaner
Undiluted vinegar in a spray bottle

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Pour a few cups of vinegar into the toilet bowl and let it sit for an hour before scrubbing

 Mild dish soap can also be used for more that just washing dishes!  I always use Mrs. Meyers as I love the scents and effectiveness. 

Bathroom Cleaner
(I learned this from reading Martha Stewart and it works fabulous for scrubbing)
Pour a little baking soda and dish soap into a bowl and mix until a paste is formed

All Purpose Cleaner
1 quart water
1/4 cup dish soap

 A friend of mine got me hooked on having a couple pure essential oils in the house.  I have both lavender and lemon and I use them all the time.  I add them to my floor cleaner occasionally to mask the smell of vinegar, but probably my favorite way to use them is in the dryer.  I cut a lint-free towel into little squares and pour a few drops of lavender oil onto the towel square to add with wet clothes in the dryer.  Because I use a laundry detergent that is free of scents and the vinegar in the rinse cycle works as a fabric softener, this is a way I can add just a little natural scent to our clothing. 

I also want to tell you about an amazing natural homemade silver cleaner.  Recently my friend Ann over at On Sutton Place posted her recipe for removing tarnish from silver.  I decided to give it a try one day on our silverware and I could not believe how well it worked (and how easy it was!).  I immediately threw out my silver cleaner!  You can find the recipe here, but it consists of using only water, salt, baking soda and foil.

I'm sure many of you have some fabulous ways of using these ingredients for cleaners and probably know a lot more than I do about it.  I just love that there are so many ways to use natural, affordable ingredients that do just as good a job at cleaning...if you haven't had a chance to try homemade cleaners yet, I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fall (Outdoor) Cleaning

Don't you love this time of year?  When it's warm enough to wear summer clothes but cool enough to forgo air conditioning and open windows instead... it makes me want to spend every spare minute I have outside.  I also get the urge this time of year to do a lot of outdoor cleaning, which means I've been scrubbing siding, cleaning windows, and pulling up weeds in the garden to prepare for fall planting.  

We've really tried to spruce up the exterior of our house the past year... there's always much to do (especially landscaping), but it feels like we've finally made some progress. 

BEFORE (1st week moved in):


Since we bought our place, we needed to make a lot of changes outdoors that were out of necessity, things like moving the driveway, installing attic vents, regrading the yard, and (unfortunately) removing some trees.  This year we did a ton of cleaning, removed shutters and replaced the round aluminum columns with square (here), which definitely improved the look of the house more than anything else.  I tend to think of our home as being a little masculine... I always felt the round columns looked out of place and unproportional. The grass has finally grown in and we even did some planting this year and have plans for some side beds next year.   


Over the weekend I pulled up our summer annuals and planted yellow pansies for fall.


 The girls kept themselves entertained by swinging while I took pictures (smile). 

 It's definitely starting to look and feel a little like fall here. 

Around back, we've pulled up quite a bit of the garden but the marigolds are so lush and pretty.  I never thought of marigolds as smelling good, but right now they have the most wonderful fragrance and their scent carries in the breeze every time I'm out back. 

 The zinnias are still growing strong... almost hard to believe they were once seeds. 

Recently Justus and I also repainted our deck.  We actually had to paint it twice... we thought we were never going to get it done!  The first time I painted half of it, it started pouring (with a supposedly 0% chance of rain) and the paint ran.  When we finally got back to it a couple months later, Justus helped me and after we finished, I heard a noise, turned to Justus and said, "Please don't tell me that was thunder!"  We looked up to the sky and within five minutes, it was pouring!  Justus ran for the shed and pulled out all the tarps we had.  We draped them all over the deck while lamenting our bad luck, but fortunately it didn't do any damage.  Phew!

A pain it was, but we are so glad to have the deck looking nice again.  Now I just need to repaint the picnic table!

(If you're wondering why we are already repainting our deck after painting it just a year and a half ago (here), it's because we mistakenly didn't apply enough of the Deck Restore product... ah, the joys of having to redo a project!)

Recently we bought one of these seed storage cans at Tractor Supply for dog food and loved it so much we bought another for the deck to store odds and ends by the door. 

I love sitting out on the porch in the evening or early morning with Justus and coffee.  Sitting out there that particular evening prompted me to take some of these pictures and share them, despite my reservations of sharing the exterior of our place!

Hope you have a lovely weekend.  

Friday, September 13, 2013

Leaves Are Falling

Am I the only one wondering where the summer went?  I didn't think I had been hit by the fall fever yet... but then this week I heard, "Mommy!  Leaves are falling!  Fall MUST be here."

 Our two little girls have been running around outside (still in the heat) but throwing and playing in fallen leaves.

And while I've been trying to get some much-needed cleaning and organizing done, dishes and other items in fall colors seem to have been displayed around the house here and there...

Then I made gingerbread and soup, not once, but twice in one week.  Well, that clinches it... soup, gingerbread, pumpkins, leaf piles, crisp air, colorful foliage and cuddling... I'm ready to welcome fall!

Gingerbread Recipe

2 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1 c molasses
1 c hot water

In a bowl combine flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and salt.  In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add egg and molasses and beat until fluffy.  Add flour mixture and hot water.  Pour into a greased baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until done.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creatively Made Home - Jennifer Rizzo

Hi everyone!  I hope you have had a great week.

The weeks are getting closer to the launch of Creatively Made Home {Home for the Holidays} - the e-course eight amazing ladies and I will be teaching.  I wanted to share a little about each instructor in the weeks leading up to the course.  They are all extremely talented, but also gracious and warm and I know you will love them. 

I'm sure many of you know Jennifer Rizzo... she is so creative, has gorgeous style and is also a lovely person.  I loved Jen's kitchen when I first saw it featured in Country Living magazine and was thrilled when I discovered sometime later that she also had a blog and I could see even more of her beautiful home.  She also hosts an amazing virtual Holiday Housewalk every year and I always look forward to it!  Since then, I've gotten to know Jen a little better and I feel fortunate to have her as a friend.

Here is a peek into Jen’s incredible home and her style…







I can’t tell you what Jen’s projects will be, but I promise you that they will be gorgeous and inspiring.

You may also want to check out the outstanding job Jen and her husband just did on their rental property.

You can read more about the Creatively Made Home {Home for the Holidays} course here!



Thursday, September 5, 2013

Kitchen Cabinet and Countertop Update

 After three years of gradually working on our kitchen remodel, we are now so close to being done!  I know I gave you a glimpse and briefly mentioned our new cabinetry and countertop - the project is nearly complete and I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying the additional room in our kitchen! In some ways I'm glad our remodel has taken so long, because it literally took Justus and I about that long to figure out how to work with the original footprint in the kitchen and still create additional countertop space.


 I believe this before picture was taken about two days after we moved in.  (I'm so thankful for before pictures so I can be reminded of how far we have come!)  The kitchen, although adequately sized, was so awkward with two high-traffic doorways and cabinetry had only been added on the far side (not pictured).  That left a good amount of space empty, although it couldn't be fully utilized without blocking the doorways.


 Building a cabinet for our refrigerator was a major improvement and when Justus built that, it was with the intention of using it to add new cabinetry and countertop space on that wall.  Now it seems so simple, but we puzzled over how to work with the refrigerator, doorways and window for a long time.  

 Justus started by framing in the new cabinetry. He used a kreg jig to join the wood and prevent nail holes from showing on the outside of the cabinet.

 To add a functional amount of countertop to this wall, we opted to cover the window with countertop, but leave underneath open so that we could still let all that wonderful light in. That meant framing in beside the right of the window next to the stove area too so that it created a well proportioned unit and provided support for the heavy wood countertop.


 Once the framing was complete, Justus added shelving and siding with pine planks. 


 Here is a picture of what the unit looks like underneath the window.  I love how Justus added the side supports and finished the look with the planking, which I painted white.  Eventually we'll add a stool or bench here.

 I really wanted the lower cabinet to be left open with shelving.  I loved the idea of having well used items handy and also bringing some additional color and interest into our very white kitchen.

 I had a really difficult time figuring out what to put in the shelves though!  More than anything, I wanted this area to be very functional, not just pretty.  I remember when we moved into our house, my mother-in-law came out and helped me unpack our kitchen and dining room.  Here we were with enough contents to fill cabinet space twice of what we had... I ended up getting rid of so many things and storing other items away that then ended up rarely getting used.  In the end, I moved my cookbooks to the bottom shelf and used the milk crate to store dish towels.  (The shelves are so deep I had enough room to store infrequently used items behind the crate.)  On the top shelf I put all our everyday Fiestaware serving pieces where they are easy to grab and use. Then I went through the entire kitchen, cleaning, organizing and ending up with so much extra space - too fun!

 After Justus finished this project, I hesitated in even asking him if there was a way to add an electrical outlet on this wall, but I think he must have known how badly I wanted a little baking area (smile).  He added an outlet on the wall of the refrigerator cabinet so that I can now leave my mixer out and do all my baking here.  Oh, it's wonderful not having to dig it out of the cabinet every time I want to use it!

 After moving the cookbooks and adding blue dishes underneath, I then focused on bringing in a little more blue accents on the upper reclaimed wood shelves.  It actually started to remind me a little of the kitchen in our previous home, where I decorated with so much blue!  I remember in my before-marriage days when I dreamed of having a blue kitchen (smile).

Instead of painting the interior shelf planking, I stained it.  The reason I didn't paint it is because I didn't want to have to worry about scratching the paint when I frequently removed items.  But I didn't want to use a dark stain - I ended up using the sunbleached wood stain that we used on our porch furniture.  I know it's kind of a different look, but I like the color and not having to worry about it.  We added a coat of poly to protect from water as well.

 A closer look at the sides of the cabinet... I'm in love with this pine planking.  This also happens to be Huck's favorite napping spot, as you can see.

I was definitely getting some looks from him by disturbing his nap time!

Thanks for listening to me ramble on... I hope you are having a great week!

Update: To see the finished kitchen, click here.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Celebrating Everyday Life Magazine

Celebrating Everyday Life with Jennifer Carroll September|October 2013 Cover Image 

The September/October issue of Celebrating Everyday Life with Jennifer Carroll is out and it is packed with beautiful fall inspiration from fun DIY projects to delicious recipes to beautiful homes and more.

I'm honored to be a contributor in this issue... Jennifer asked to feature our chicken coop and I was just blown away when I saw what a beautiful job she did putting it together. 

You can preview the issue below and purchase or find additional information here.  I know you'll love it! 

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