Monday, September 30, 2013

Chalkboard Picture Project

So now that I've revamped my page and added some new aspects to the blog, I decided to feature a quick re-do project that I did a few weeks ago. This probably isn't really even blog-worthy...but I don't really care. I took pictures for myself and didn't think I'd ever put it on my blog, but I figured why not?

This is extremely simple and really isn't a tutorial, it's just an example of how even as your tastes change throughout the years, you can save some money by re-finishing the things you have. It's also verification that yes, you can paint anything with chalkboard paint.

I was married over five years ago, and boy have my decorating preferences changed! We bought this after we got married from our registry list at Linen's-N-Things...remember that store? 
It was perfect for us and our bedroom decorations at that time.

Now, there are two things wrong with this. One, it's totally cliche. Everyone has "Always Kiss Me Goodnight" in their bedroom. Two, it's not completely accurate....we don't usually go to bed at the same time these days so sometimes the goodnight kiss gets forgotten. 

What to do, what to do....

Chalkboard Paint! 
I had some chalkboard paint left over from painting my pantry door and it was just begging to be used.

I had no clue what I wanted to write yet, but I knew I wanted to paint over it with chalkboard paint. So paint I did.

First I taped the frame with painters tape.

Then I sanded down the picture. It had a bit of texture to it, so I wanted to lessen that. Word to the wise, read the directions before using chalkboard paint. It IS different than regular paint.

Time to paint! I put on a total of three coats of paint and let it dry. 

The directions say you should let it sit for 2-3 days before writing on it. Which was fine with me because I still had no clue what I wanted it to say. I wanted something that had meaning, but was unique, and I couldn't make up my mind, so I hung it on the wall blank.....for four weeks.

It happens.

Finally I came across a Bible verse that I knew would be perfect.

 This verse fits perfect because it's a reminder that God's love will never fail us, and these days we need that reminder. It's also is a good reminder for my husband and I that no matter if we forget to give each other goodnight kisses, our love for each other will also never fail. (I know, I know, too mushy.)

Okay. Honesty time. I cannot tell a lie.

I did not write the arsty lettering. Everyone teases me about there being nothing I can't do. Well here ya go people! I have no confidence what-so-ever in freely handwriting something and it actually looking nice. None. Can't do it. 

Soooooo I recruited my dear mother to do it for me. She's fantastic at all that artsy stuff. I gave her some guidelines for what I wanted it to look like and she put it on the chalkboard. Love you Mom!

I think it looks much better than before, and it didn't cost me a penny.

A little paint can go a long way!

I have more pictures of how paint can change a whole room, but unfortunately they are stuck on the hard drive from our old computer. So I will have to post those at a later date.

Until then, go buy some chalkboard paint and start painting!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Italian Chicken and Red Potatoes

Let me start out by saying this is one of my FAVORITE recipes. It is super easy to make and it tastes amazing.
I got this recipe a long time ago from a dear friend of mine. It's the type of recipe that you really don't even need a recipe card for once you make it a couple of times. And it's a convenient one since you cook your meat and potatoes together. It was a go-to when I was a working mom.
One thing about this recipe, I don't have specific amounts of ingredients for you. It's a drizzle-and-sprinkle recipe. I used to get intimidated by recipes like this because I didn't know exactly how much to use, but now that I've been cooking for a few years I've gotten more comfortable with "a dash of this and a smidge of that" type cooking. It's very freeing!
This recipe isn't necessarily "clean", but it is a healthier dinner option. The only issue being clean is with the oil and vinegar dressing. I looked up online whether that was considered clean or not and I was unable to find a definitive answer. It's not really bad for you, but it is processed and the bottle kind may add extra ingredients that may not be needed, hence not being clean. 
But another friend of mine that is a clean eater said that she uses Newman's Own dressings . If you look at the ingredients they are all whole ingredients. So for my family, I'm completely ok with using it. Like I've said before, I believe that any certain way of eating (clean, paleo, vegan... Hostess Cupcakes diet...) is ultimately up to the person eating it. Everyone has their own reasons for eating a certain way and you have to do what's right for you and your family, and not be judged for it.
So there you have it. Consider it clean or not, either way this chicken dish a great one to add to the dinner rotation.
Other than the chicken and red potatoes, here is what you need:

Italian seasoning, garlic powder, parmesan (or any other cheese you prefer), and olive oil & vinegar dressing.

Prepare your chicken and cut up the red potatoes into bite size pieces. Place the chicken breasts in a large baking dish and then place the potatoes all around the chicken.

I usually cook two dishes with this. I cut up extra potatoes and throw them in another baking dish just so we have some extra. They make really good leftovers.

Now for the toppings. Drizzle the oil & vinegar over the chicken and potatoes. Then sprinkle the cheese followed by the Italian seasoning and the garlic powder. Then do one more layer of O&V and another layer of cheese.

Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Take out of oven and remove foil. Bake for another 20 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked.

If you want after it has been cooked you can broil it for a few minutes just for it to get brown. I usually skip this step, but it was a part of the original recipe. 

This recipe always comes out delicious and the chicken is juicy and flavorful. My whole family loves it. I've honestly never seen my kids eat their potatoes so fast (at least non-mashed potatoes).

Add some veggies and you have an easy, tasty, well-balanced dinner! Score one for Mom!

Italian Chicken and Red Potatoes
  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 5-6 medium sized potatoes, cut to bite size chunks
  • olive oil & vinegar dressing
  • Italian seasoning
  • garlic powder
  • parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place chicken breasts and red potatoes in a 9x13 baking dish.

Drizzle O&V dressing, parmesan cheese, then sprinkle Italian seasoning and garlic powder over chicken and potatoes.

Drizzle O&V dressing and cheese one more time.

Cover with foil and cook in oven for 20 minutes.
Remove foil and cook for another 20 minutes or until chicken cook all the way through.

Optional: Broil for a few minutes until it gets brown.

Monday, September 23, 2013

DIY Laundry Detergent

Finally. Laundry Detergent!

This recipe is very similar to the Dishwasher Detergent I posted earlier this month. It has a couple more ingredients and takes a lot more elbow grease, but it, too, makes a large amount and lasts a long time.

I found this recipe in the same blog as the Dishwasher recipe, Being Creative to Keep My Sanity. Here is the link to the recipe: Laundry Detergent.

Here is all that you will need:

Borax, A&H Baking Soda AND Super Washing Soda, 3 bars Fels Naptha, and if you really want your stains to be gone, then you want to use Oxi Clean or something along those lines. 

First you want to grate your Fels Naptha bars.

This is where the elbow grease comes in. If you have an HE Washing machine, then you want to grate the soap as small as you can. I have this grater that I use for zesting, so I used that and it worked great. If you have a non-HE washing machine then you can use a larger cheese grater. You can also try using a food processor. Using the small grater definitely took a long time to grate 3 bars....and as always safety first...I may have gotten careless/bored and didn't pay attention....and ended up grating my fingers.


Once you have finished grating the bars of soap and applied any needed band-aids, you mix all of your ingredients together in a 5 gallon bucket lined with a garbage bag.

Mix thoroughly.

You will again need the elbow grease for this step.

Once you mix all of your ingredients together, store the mixture in an air-tight container. I used the larger version of the container I bought for the Dishwasher soap. The larger one has a spout and a handle on it and can be found at Walmart.

I also took the scoop that came with the Oxi Clean and use it for the detergent. Win!

I have been using this detergent for a couple weeks now along with the DIY Fabric Softener and our clothes come out clean and smelling nice.

Here's the recipe:
1 4lb box Borax
1 4lb box A&H Baking Soda
1 box A&H Super Washing Soda
3 bars Fels-Naptha
1 3lb container of Oxy Clean or 2 small containers (store brand works, too)

Grate Fels-Naptha in large bowl. Grate very small if using HE washing machine.
Mix all ingredients in 5 gallon bucket lined with garbage bag.
Store in air-tight container.
Use 2 Tbsp per load.

I hope this recipe works as well for you as it does for me! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Baking Soda: The Kitchen's Unsung Hero

Some of you are already saying "Duh". 

Well poo-poo on you.

Guess what? THIS girl just discovered that baking soda can clean anything. And clean it well! I've only ever used it in baking and deodorizing my fridge. Who knew that the advertising on the box was right? Yes, it DOES have countless uses. Thank you Arm&Hammer. So in the spirit of my blog, being that as I learn things I want to share them with others that are as clueless as myself, I'm blogging about baking soda!

 Today I had on my list to clean appliances. Yuck. 

Most children have what is called "selective hearing". Well, I have what is called "selective vision". Yes, that is the technical term and it is a serious condition. When there are messes that need to be cleaned up, my eyes block the image from my brain so that I no longer know the mess is there. It's not an easy condition to live with. Hence, the reason why my stove top rarely gets cleaned....and I've never actually cleaned my oven....or any oven for that matter. Don't judge, I have a condition! Now if only I could get the selective vision to block some other images I've had to endure in my lifetime....(insert Miley Cyrus joke here)

So I started on my cleaning list with a few small jobs. I got out my all purpose bleach cleaner and some paper towels (so wasteful, I know) and got to work. About 5 minutes into it I couldn't take the bleach fumes anymore. A few weeks ago my husband and I spent a WHOLE DAY cleaning all of the windows in our house inside and out. Plus wiping down door frames and window sills. After a whole day of inhaling Windex and bleach cleaner, I'm quite sure I knocked out a whole section of brain cells. Ever since that day, the bleach smell makes me sick. 

As I moved on to clean the stove top (dreading every second of it), a light bulb popped on in my head. Didn't I pin something on Pinterest about cleaning with baking soda? Well, for those of you that know me...I like to figure things out for myself. So I grabbed my bag of baking soda and just started pouring it on my stove. Um, what? 

So to Pinterest I went. I read a bunch of different blogs. I'd link them all, but they all said the same stuff. Basically let any stain soak with baking soda and water. Then scrub/wipe. 

So that's what I did! I poured baking soda all over my microwave and wiped most of that off. I soaked all the parts of my gas stove burners in baking soda and water and scrubbed. I cleaned my oven using baking soda and water. 

The hitch in my beautiful baking soda endeavor was my stove grates. These things are a pain in my rear. Instead of having four grates, one for each burner, I have two double grates. Which makes it pretty much impossible to submerge them to soak them. Unlucky me, I do not have a fancy farmhouse sink that is the size of my kitchen table. So I had to figure something out. I read a thing about pouring ammonia in a Ziplock bag and leaving the grate in there over night for the fumes to eat away at the grease. That's where is a Ziplock bag that will fit my grates....oh wait. So instead I decided to try something I saw someone use for cleaning their hood vent. 

Get a huge pot, fill it with water and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of baking soda then put the grate in the pot. Let it boil for a while. When you pull it out scrub off the yucky stuff, flip it and put back in pot, repeat. If I feel the burning desire to have perfect looking stove grates, then maybe some day I'll try the ammonia thing but with a garbage bag or something. 

Baking Soda soaking in the oven and on the door while a stove grate boils in a pot of baking soda water. Notice how WHITE my stove is!! :)
So the moral of my story?

All I needed was baking soda, water, and a sponge. Yes, I have officially converted to a sponge instead of papertowels. (Yay lessened carbon footprint!) And maybe some rubber gloves. No more bleach fumes, no more bleach spots on my clothes, no more spending money on that crap at the store. 

Did I get it all cleaned perfectly?
Does it look brand spanking new?
Is it way cleaner than it used to be? 
Am I okay with that? 

Hopefully now I'll have some time to have my selective vision checked out before another messy stove top appears. I'd sure hate to miss having to clean my stove again! I'm sorry...that's a lie. But at least next time I won't be gagging on bleach fumes and I'll save a little money, too. 

What else do you use baking soda for?

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Here is the second installment for my DIY cleaning venture. This was actually the very first thing I tried to make. I went through two different recipes because I didn't really like the first one. 

I was the kid that grew up with a dishwasher but we didn't use it. It left spots on the dishes. So my mom preferred that my brother and I wash all the dishes.... by hand....together...mind you, he is six years older than me, so you can imagine how well we worked together. 

I hated washing dishes. But little did I know that it was training me for the years ahead. After I left for college, I never had a dishwasher again....until 10 years later when we moved into our current house. I pretty much still hate doing dishes. Even with a dishwasher. It's one of those tedious jobs that has to be done every day or the mess gets out of control. And if anyone else attempts to do it, they don't load the dishwasher right, or they don't pre-rinse the nasty stuff so it doesn't get clean. Am I right? What's a mom's motto? If you want it done right, do it yourself? I'm just poking fun, in all reality, my husband helps with the dishes and I greatly appreciate it. Love you honey! ;)

So we usually bought those Cascade packs. When I was "Crazy Coupon Mom", I would get them for great prices, but only the small bags, so I felt like we ran through them rather quickly. 

First I found a recipe for dishwasher tablets.

You make up the mixture and then form it into a tablets that fit your dispenser. The recipe made up more than 30 tablets. However, it left a nasty film on the dishes. In researching other recipes, I realized that what was missing was a rinse aid. Duh. So maybe the film would go away with a rinse aid. But the other thing that I didn't like about these was that they dried out really easily and crumbled everywhere. I stored them in an airtight container, but they all stuck together and then crumbled over time. 

So I started looking for another recipe. 

This time I found a powder recipe. The blogger talked about using a rinse aid and light bulb went on as to why the tablets didn't work. I found the recipe at Being Creative to Keep My Sanity where I also found my laundry detergent recipe. This lady has it all figured out! 

This recipe makes a TON of detergent, doesn't cost much to make, and you can find everything at Walmart. Easy Peasy.

So here is the recipe:

1 box Borax (4 lbs)
1 box A&H Super Washing Soda
24 packets of powder lemonade (I bought Kool-Aid)
3 cups Epsom salt
Lemi-Shine Rinse Aid

It's pretty simple....Mix borax, A&H Washing Soda, lemonade packets, and epsom salt together in a LARGE bowl. Done!
Use about one Tablespoon per load. Before you run the load, sprinkle some Lemi-shine (about a Tbsp) in the bottom of your dishwasher. It works beautifully!

Store in an air tight container. We've had horrible humidity lately, so even in an plastic container, the powder has been clumping, but it crumbles again pretty easily. 

That's it!

Dishwasher and wallet perfection!

10/31/13 - I want to make an addition to this recipe - in the last few months of using this detergent recipe, I found that for older dishwashers it works better if you pour the detergent in the bottom of your washer and then pour the Lemi Shine in the soap dispenser. I have found that my dishes come out MUCH cleaner when I do it that way. I hope this helps! 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Clean Breakfast Pizza

Who doesn't love breakfast pizza? And if you are from the Midwest, then you probably love Casey's breakfast pizza. It really is the best. If only it wasn't 100,000 calories and a heart attack waiting to happen. Am I right?

Never fear! I have come to solve your breakfast pizza woes. The other weekend I woke up Saturday morning and thought "I want breakfast pizza." I had pinned a picture of one a few days before and it had me craving it. But in trying to get back into the swing of clean eating I wanted to come up with a clean version. A non-guilty version. 

Well, my bright idea for breakfast pizza turned into brunch pizza. Luckily, we all had chores to do that day and nowhere to go, so my family indulged me. 

I really wanted it to be "clean" so I made the pizza crust from scratch using the recipe I got from The Gracious Pantry. I never posted the actual recipe on here, but I shared my opinion here.

Ok. I know. As a blog reader, in most blogs when I get to the part where they say "I made it from scratch" I laugh and promptly close the window. But hang with me here. You don't have to make it from scratch. I just wanted to this time. You can buy pre-made crusts and it will be easy and ready to go or you could make the clean pizza crust and freeze it for another time. There are options, I promise! 

I meant for the pizza to be for breakfast, but as usual I read the directions on the pizza dough too fast and skipped some important parts about letting the dough rise.....whoops. Hence, brunch pizza.

Moving on.

After getting the dough rolled out and letting it rise for the eightieth time, I spread some cream cheese on the crust. It adds some flavor and creaminess.

Next, cook up your eggs in a skillet. Since this was a last minute recipe, all I had on hand was veggies. So I made Scrambled Eggs with Veggies. Next time, I want to try adding some turkey bacon or turkey sausage. 

Pour the eggs on top of the cream cheese and crust and then top with freshly grated cheese.

Here's where it gets tricky. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. Now, the crust recipe calls for it to be cooked 20-30 minutes, but for the pizza you only want to cook it through to heat it and melt the cheese. I cooked the pizza for 25 minutes and the crust was done but the eggs and cheese were slightly overdone. So my recommendation is that if you make the clean dough recipe, cook it in the oven for about 10 minutes before adding the toppings. Then another 10-15 after adding toppings. That way your crust will be done and your eggs will be warm and cheesy.

Even though we had to wait until 10:30....ok, 11:00am to eat was so very worth it! No, it wasn't the same as Casey's pizza...BUT it didn't come with the bloated stomach, gut ache, and clogged arteries. 

How did the family like it?

Does that answer your question?

Clean Breakfast Pizza
  • Pizza Dough (premade or homemade)
  • Scrambled eggs (6-8 eggs)
  • Any other toppings you would like: onion, green pepper, mushrooms, sausage, bacon, etc.
  • Cream Cheese
  • Shredded Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

First take care of your crust. If you are making it from scratch then follow those directions. If the cook time for your dough/crust is more than 15 minutes then bake the crust for the extra minutes BEFORE putting your toppings on.

While crust is baking, cook eggs. If you have meat toppings, you want to cook those separately as well. If you have veggies, cook them in some olive oil first and then add your eggs. 

Once crust is ready, spread cream cheese on as the first layer. Then spread eggs and other toppings on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top of the eggs.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is brown on the edges. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

DIY Fabric Softener

In my efforts to save money and live a cleaner life, I decided to give making my own cleaning supplies a whirl. Fabric Softener is the first thing I tried because it seemed easy enough...and guess what? It was!

This is the easiest DIY recipe I've come across so far and it works, too. Yay!

Of course I found the recipe via Pinterest. Honestly, that website is a dream come true for any mother/baker/cleaner/decorator/blogger/exerciser/fashionista/party thrower/foodie....well, you get the point.

The recipe was posted on My Kitchen Escapades, where she has many recipes for cleaning products. I set out to make quite a few of them and this is what my haul looked like....

Don't worry. The fabric softener only requires two of these ingredients.

So far I have tried the fabric softener, two different dishwasher soaps and laundry detergent. Next up I will try spot cleaner, carpet cleaner, and homemade bleach wipes. I'll post about the laundry and dishwasher soap at a later date. 

For now, on to fabric softener!

Here is what you need:

6 cups of warm water
3 cups of white vinegar
2 cups of hair conditioner 

That's it!

Mix the water and vinegar and then add in the conditioner. Gently whisk ingredients until it's all dissolved. Make sure to whisk gently to avoid getting bubbles. Pour into container to store.

 As you see in the picture, I saved an old Tide bottle and re-used it. Seriously, I don't need to spend the money on a fancy container with vinyl letters that look pretty. Now matter how you store your laundry supplies....let's face it, laundry sucks. As my 3rd grader likes to constantly remind me "Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!" Consider this my Reuse for the month.

For the conditioner, I use the small bottles of Suave on the bottom shelf that you can buy for 99 cents at Walmart. Yes, Walmart. I shop there and I don't care. ;)
You get to choose the scent of your softener and you only need one bottle for the recipe.

Here is the original recipe. I have used this for about two months now and I love it! It's not quite as smelly as store bought, but it works just as well and is a fraction of the cost. Win!

Let me know if you try this or if you have any other recipes to try. I'm always open to suggestions!