How To Host Thanksgiving In Your Apartment

how to host thanksgiving dinner in your apartment

How To Host Thanksgiving In Your Apartment

 

The season of turkey, pumpkin pie, football, friends, family, and food baby is just around the corner. If you have more than a couple folks to celebrate with, but not a lot of space to celebrate in, we’re here to help. Hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment will take a bit of ingenuity and careful planning, but it’s certainly doable. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, you can keep your event from becoming a stress fest or a hot mess with good advance planning. Preparing a strategy ahead of time will allow you to relax when the big day arrives. Our recent How To Host A Potluck focused mainly on the eats, this How-To host Thanksgiving in your apartment guide will help you optimize seating, refrigerator storage, and more.

Be creative about counter space and storage

In an apartment typically without an abundance of counter space, you’ll have to make every square foot of empty surface space count. One trick is to “recruit” some of your furniture for meal prep. Seriously! You can use your dining table and chairs, coffee table, and the like as surfaces for cooling pots, pies,  and other desserts.

In our Create More Kitchen Storage Space post, we explored many ways to add space-saving solutions for apartment kitchens, such as installing wall hooks to hang pans and cooking utensils. When it’s time to eat, you can set up the food buffet-style in the kitchen or on a piece of furniture away from where you’ll be dining to save space on the table. If that’s not possible, try  using cake stands to elevate some dishes on a crowded table, which will make room for other serve ware underneath.

Ready your fridge

Thoroughly clean your refrigerator before you begin cooking and storing. Throw out any expired food and anything you know you’ll never eat, drink, or use again. Here’s our guide on how to do just that. Ideally, your fridge will be almost empty as you begin to prep your food. This allows for plenty of room to store everything ahead of time. Plus, one of the perks of hosting is that you’ll have leftovers to keep. When it comes to packing your fridge and freezer, don’t forget that you can probably adjust the shelves to make them more efficient. Shift them around to free up space to stack storage containers. Another creative storage solution is to store items in plastic zipper bags. They’re malleable and easy to stack up in a fridge while taking up little space, making them a great way to store things like cranberry sauce, make-ahead gravy, dinner rolls, and pre-prepped veggies.

Prepare food in advance

Allowing yourself plenty of time to prepare is essential when storage and counter space are tight, not to mention when you’re working with only a few kitchen appliances. Start prepping your Thanksgiving menus a full week in advance. A practical solution for making a Thanksgiving meal is to make as much as you can ahead. Figure out what can be put together the day before, and what needs to be made the day of. You can make the pies, gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes ahead. Sauces and baked goods can be made the furthest in advance, with most pies and cakes having a shelf life of three to four days. Some sides can be made up to two days out, such as mashed potatoes and make-ahead stuffing.

Then, on Thanksgiving Day, all you need to do is roast the turkey and make the veggies. More prep work in advance means less work and less stress on Thanksgiving Day. This will also minimize bodies in the kitchen, which helps keep your kitchen from feeling cramped and hectic.

Expand your dining table 

Fitting all your guests at a table in your apartment can be tricky as most apartment dining rooms are sized for four people. And maybe this time you’ll decide to invite neighbors to your fete! Try putting several small tables together to create one long one. If possible, make sure they are all the same height and width. Then toss a tablecloth over all of them, and nobody will know the difference! If you don’t have smaller tables on hand, take this opportunity to invest in a few folding tables and chairs that can be easily stored once the holiday is over. If your space is so limited that it doesn’t allow for even a makeshift dining table, no worries. My sister-in-law rents a couple of bar-height tables and puts them in the middle of her living room. No one ever minds standing up to eat, and this dining format really encourages guests to mingle.  Or maybe some people can eat at the table, some on the sofa, maybe even some on the floor. Believe me, where your guests eat is much less important than what they eat and with whom they share the holiday.

Have guests their own (folding) chairs

When I got my first apartment, I moved in with just bedroom furniture. But that didn’t stop me from throwing a Cinco Di Mayo party. The invitation noted that guests should BYOC (bring your own chair.) My friends thought that was a hoot! They each brought a folding chair, lawn chair, or stadium chair, and everyone ate with their plates on their laps. Everyone has a great time despite (or because of?) the untraditional seating.

Rearrange furniture

The dining room isn’t the only space to consider. Even if everyone fits around the table, think about after-dinner relaxation, game-watching, and mingling. Try to balance space for your guests to move with seating to accommodate everyone. This can be accomplished by temporarily removing furniture that won’t be used and shifting couches and chairs to the perimeter of the room. If the day is mild, you can also utilize your patio, deck, or balcony.

 Create a place for coats and bags

Once you have finalized the guest list, decide where your guests’ coats, bags, and boots (if the weather is inclement) will go. Depending on where you live, most people will arrive in coats, and many will have bags. You don’t want these items to take up valuable space in the eating area, and if you’re lucky enough to have an entry closet, it’s probably already pretty full. Your bed can make the perfect place for everyone to lay their coats and bags. Or consider purchasing a coat tree to place by your front door. Spread out an old towel or some brown paper bags to collect any we footwear.

Buffet it

Set food up on one table, buffet style, and let everyone serve themselves. Your buffet can be on the kitchen counter, side table, dining table (if people will be sitting elsewhere), or on a rented folding table. This works especially well if you have a non-traditional seating situation.

Cold beverage storage

Since your fridge will probably be very full, fill your [very clean] bathtub with ice for cold wine, soft drinks, mixers, and beer. Consider adding a big bowl for clean ice service.

 Use disposables

I’m seldom one for recommending single-use anything, but Thanksgiving dinner is an exception – especially if the number of guests exceeds your plate and flatware counts. Using attractive seasonal paper dinnerware, nice paper napkins, and plastic silverware is a very smart option. There will be plenty, even if some guests toss the first plate before going back for seconds, and the cleanup will be significantly easier.  And we do want to make hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment as easy as possible.

Right after COVID, and SO READY to entertain again, I had an usually large crowd (for me) of eight for Thanksgiving. I decided to get some pretty paper and plastic products instead of using my “real” plates and cloth napkins. Everyone loved how coordinated and festive the table looked. I chose dinner, salad, and dessert plates, plus cocktail and dinner napkins. Other than the pots and pans, cleanup was a breeze.

If you prefer to use your own dishes, you can add fall- or Thanksgiving-themed appetizer, salad, and dessert plates with coordinating napkins. If that sounds like overkill, choose pretty Thanksgiving-themed dinner napkins.

Pre-clean

When you host Thanksgiving in your apartment, you will need to clean your place and clean it well. A clean apartment always feels more spacious and inviting than a dirty one. Clea out the fridge, wipe counters and floors, wipe down bathrooms, vacuum, and dust to prepare your home for your Thanksgiving Day guests. You should also guest-proof your home. This may sound paranoid, but even if you know everyone who’s coming well, advance preparations will make you more comfortable in the long run.

  • Help prevent breakage. There’s always the chance some of your things can get broken, especially if children are joining you for dinner. Remove anything valuable or personally important, or that’s low to the ground. Store these things somewhere out of the way to keep them safe.
  • Protect yourself from The Snoop. Some guests like to snoop. Anything you’d like to keep private like medications, mail, or personal items, consider hiding away.

Stock your bathrooms

Keep your bathrooms well-stocked with tissues, toilet paper, personal products, and soap, making sure that extra items are easy to find. Disposable hand towels will prevent one cloth towel from getting overly wet and gross. Be sure your bathroom trash can is in sight. On Thanksgiving Day, set a timer on your phone to remind you to do periodic bathroom checks. Then a quick wipe and swipe will keep your bathroom fresh (because people, as a general rule, are pigs). A thoughtful touch is placing a small bowl of mints on the bathroom counter so your guests can freshen their mouths.

Declutter

Not only is clutter unappealing to the eye, but it takes up precious real estate that could be used for a serving platter, or a few bottles of wine, or an extra chair. One of the simplest Thanksgiving solutions for small spaces is to clear your surfaces of unnecessary items. Leave out just enough décor to keep your apartment feeling cozy and festive and store the rest. You can bring it all back out the next day as you begin to decorate before Christmas. LOL.

 

The most important thing about hosting Thanksgiving is making your guests feel welcome, cared for, and satisfied with the food and the camaraderie.  Any successful party is as much about lively conversation and laughter as it is good food. People gather during the holidays to celebrate family and friends and to enjoy the company of people they love and enjoy.  No matter what size apartment you have, you can make this Thanksgiving one to remember. Just focus on what you do have to work with, and you’ll do an amazing job hosting Thanksgiving in your apartment.

Clean Clothes Closets Are A Beautiful Thing

 

I have a [rich] friend with an absolutely dreamy closet. It’s an entire room! The décor is all fresh, bright white and features a beautiful chandelier, make up table with a mirror featuring multiple light settings,  comfy side chair, elegant floor-length mirror, shoe shelves, purse cubbies, and even a dress form to display her wedding gown. Did I mention the wine fridge stocked with bubbly? Like I said, dreamy. Living in a significantly more modest home, mine is just a wall closet with less-than elegant bi-fold doors which sometime jump off track. So dreamy is a bit out of reach. However, that doesn’t mean my closet can’t be beautiful – as in beautifully organized.  Here’s how I turned my smallish, modest, messy closet into a clean clothes closet — beautiful, tidy, and well-organized storage for my clothes and shoes.

Remove Everything

I know what you’re thinking…..aaarrrggghhh!!! Same here. Took me a few weekends to work up the courage to turn a small messy closet into a huge messy pile of STUFF.

A good idea is to follow the advise of Sarah Giller Nelson, Professional Organizer and Owner of Less is More:

“Work in smaller blocks of time. Set a timer for 30 minutes to two hours, select a clothing type to go through and declutter until the time is up.”

Try it, it works (thank heavens).

Take out EVERYTHING, including hangers, and put it all on your bed. Now you can’t go to sleep until you finish the project, giving you no excuse to stop until you’re done. This will also give you a visual of the space available in your closet so you can see what will fit comfortably as you put back pieces you want to keep.

Vacuum and Dust

Tackle your now vacant closet with your vacuum and utilize its attachment to clean up dust webs and that black hole between the carpet and the wall where all manner of stuff collects. Then use your Swiffer duster to clean those top corners and the shelves. Leave the door open so the closet can air out.

If you want to kick it up a notch, consider some beautiful peel and stick wallpaper and/or some motion-sensor strip lights. Here are the 10 best peel and stick papers and below is an example of a wallpapered closet.

Sort The Pile Into Four Groups

Once you’ve put an item into a pile, don’t second guess yourself! Keep going so you don’t lose momentum.

  1. Items you love and wear all the time. Again quoting Sarah Giller Nelson, Professional Organizer and Owner of Less is More:

“Hold your wardrobe to a very high standard. When we look good, we feel good, and you deserve to always feel your best. When decluttering, be very picky and honest.”

Try to avoid the temptation keep everything and thoughts like, “but it’s still good”! Here are some ideas to help you figure out what should stay in your closet.

  • Layering pieces that are good for any season.
  • Things you want and have actually worn in the last year.
  • Clothing and accessories you can incorporate with any trend.
  • Staple and everyday pieces that you wear seasonally.

How to Decide Which Clothes to Keep

If you’re still wondering, “what should I keep in my closet?” then answer the following questions:

  • Would I buy this, or wear this, today?
  • Does this fit my lifestyle?
  • When was the last time I wore this?
  • When will I wear this in the next few months?

Try the Marie Kondo Method. She asks:

“Does this item bring me joy?”

That’s the main question famous Japanese organizing consultant Kondo says to ask yourself when decluttering your closet. So, as you’re cleaning out your clothes, think about each item. Does a certain top make you feel less than your best? If it doesn’t make you feel good, you’re not going to wear it. There’s no point in letting it take up space in your closet.

Kondo also says to think about what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of. Shift your thoughts to focus on items you truly love instead of worrying about some old clothes you don’t want.

  1. Damaged items. If you’re like me, you have a few garments in your closet that you’re hesitant to discard because you once loved them. But now you can’t wear them because they’ve shrunk, are pilled, torn, or faded. The zipper no longer works. A button is missing. There’s a food stain that just won’t wash out. These items can’t be donated because of their condition. Be brave and toss. All is not lost for these old faves though! Think recycle/reuse! Turn soft t-shirts in to polishing cloths, turn fleecy items into dust cloths.

 

  1. Maybe items. Try these on. So they look great on you? Do they still fit? Have you worn them in the last year? Put these clothes aside for two weeks. As Kristen Ziegler, Organizing Expert from Minima suggests:

“Be bold. Most people wear the same few items over and over, so just let the rest go.”

  1. Donate / Sell pile. Clothes in this pile should be in good, clean condition. There are many place where you can donate clothes, like Goodwill or Vincent DePaul. If the garments are work clothes, consider Dress For Success. Some organizations will even pick up donations from your home like Volunteers of America, and here are eight more! If you’d like to cash in on some of these clothes, you can bring them to a local consignment shop or sell online at a number of different places. For a how-to along with the five best online shops, visit NerdWallet.

Uniform Hangers

Not only will uniform hangers make your closet look uber organized,  and become a clean clothes closet, they can also save space! And, new hangers don’t need to break the bank. I like flocked hangers as clothing doesn’t slip off. Think lightweight hangers for shirts, heavier for hang-able sweaters and blazers, skirt and pants hangers, and heavy duty hangers for jackets and coats. If space is at a premium, consider hangers that hold multiple pieces.

Sort by Category

Put all your shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, jackets together in groups. You can even sort by color so it becomes super-easy to locate particular garments. Store your clothes in a way that compliments your daily routine.

For example, if you work out every day, try putting athletic wear near the front of your closet with the items you regularly wear to work. Your more casual weekend clothes don’t need prime real estate because you won’t need to access them quickly as you’re rushing out the door during the week.

Five Fast Tips

Need more help creating a clean clothes closet? Still have questions about making decisions about the items you’re still unsure about?

  1. The One-Year Rule

Has it been more than a year since you’ve worn it? Then you probably won’t ever wear it. Don’t hold onto a T-shirt or a pair of shoes hoping you’ll use it again and don’t try to convince yourself you will someday. It’s time to let it go. Stop letting it take up valuable space.

  1. Force Yourself to Wear the Maybes

Wear clothes that you’re still on the fence about. How do you feel in them? Do they make you feel good? Will you ever wear it again? Can you find a way to style it?

  1. One Thing In, One Thing Out

From clean closet forward, get rid of something every time you bring something new home to help you prevent future clutter.

  1. The Hanger Trick

When you’re putting your clothes back in your closet, make sure all your hangers are facing the same way. After you wear an item, turn the hanger around when you put it back. Wait a month, then take note of which hangers are still facing the original way. Reevaluate your need for these clothes and consider donating them. This will help you keep your closet clutter in check.

  1. Slow and Steady

If the idea of spending several hours cleaning out your closet  to make a beautifully clean clothes closet is just too overwhelming, try making it part of your daily routine. Set up a donation box in or near your closet and aim to put five items in every day.

Hopefully, this leads you to a less cluttered and more organized closet. Hoping it leads me to getting rid of “good” suits I bought for work years ago that haven’t been out of the closet in ages. I am most certainly afflicted with the “but it’s still good!” mentality. Working on changing that to “it’s still good – for someone else.”

Now back to dreaming of a beautiful, clean clothes closet large enough to hold a wine cabinet full of bubbly…

Tools You Can (and will!) Use

When I was helping my daughter move into her first apartment, we quickly realized that not only was she going to need furniture, cookware, bedding, and towels (and so much more!), but she was also going to need some basic tools she could use. There were pictures to hang, a towel bar to install (unbelievably one was not provided in her bathroom), a shelf to add in her tiny kitchen, a curtain rod to install on the apartments lone, naked window, and hooks to install by her front door since her new home did not include a coat closet.

Yes, as a renter, her landlord would take care of any maintenance issue that arose in her apartment, but extras such as these would be up to us. So off we went to find everything she’s need for these and future DIY projects. I was determined to assemble a collection of tools she could use now that she could build on over time to carry her into future.

I don’t know about you, but I love going to the hardware store. Doesn’t matter if it’s a small, locally owned shop nearby such as my beloved Greive Hardware in Dayton, Ohio, a woman-owned store that employs retired men and teenagers, you could go there and buy two nails if that’s all you need. Or maybe a big box store where – unbelievably – all the employees seem to know the precise location of every item and will even walk you directly to it. So our expedition to find and create and apartment-sized tool kit was an exciting prospect.

In shopping around, we realized we had a few options:

  • Purchase pre-assembled tool kits from IKEA where we were going anyway for furniture. They have a 17-piece toolkit for $13, and a small drill for $28, both in easy-to-store cases, and both available on line. PROS: inexpensive, easy to store, not all-inclusive. CONS: no room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws.

 

  • Purchase Wirecutter’s “best” all-in one kit for $49. PROS: great selection of tools included, easy to store. CONS: no room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws.

  • Purchase everything separately along with a toolbox. PROS: completely customizable. CONS: more time consuming to select individual items, room for additional items, like nails, hangers, and screws, ease of storage will depend on toolbox selected.

If you decide to completely customize the Tools You Can (and will!) Use, below are suggested items to include:

Power Drill. This small, wireless drill is a workhorse around the house! It will help you with small projects like screwing in a cute switch plate cover to large project like assembling furniture.

Screw Driver. Get just one, but make it a screwdriver with multiple bits. Because screws tend to loosen over time, a set of screwdrivers will be very useful around your apartment so you can easily tighten screws into place. Whether it’s a loose screw on a door handle, kitchen cabinet handle or furniture you assembled a while ago, you can easily take care of these issues with screwdrivers.

Hammer.  One basic hammer will see you through.

Duct Tape. Duct tape has So. Many. Uses.

Tape Measure. Invest in a good one and it will last you forever.

Extension Cord. Or two. Helpful when trying to plug in a lamp when the outlet is behind the bed.

Utility Knife. A utility knife is a godsend when trying to open a cardboard box!

Pliers.  You won’t regret this 3-piece set. Pliers are the workhorses of the toolbox: Invest in at least two: 8-inch needle-nose and 10-inch groove-joint pliers. Add locking pliers that allow you to apply more force when needed.

Level. Whether you buy a level for your toolkit or download a level app on your phone, a level keeps everything straight even when the world is a crooked mess. A small one should do you nicely for most apartment needs.

Scissors. Lose your scissors once and you’ll realize how often you use/need them. Keep a pair in your toolbox and another pair in your kitchen junk drawer. C’mon, admit it. Everyone has a junk drawer.

Assortment of fasteners, hooks, nails, and screws. Honestly, just buy them for each specific project. If you buy them in advance, the ones you have will never be the ones you need.

Pencil.  For marking measurements.

Safety goggles. Because you never know when something will go wrong safety goggles are a smart addition to your tool kit.

Toolbox or caddy.  I’ve owned toolboxes and caddies, and prefer something that allows me to see all my stuff at a glance. This one fits that bill and is not too big!

Step Stool. Foldable. Two-step if your ceilings are 8’; three-step if you have tall ceilings.

Now you’ve got the tools you can (and will) use, so go hang that picture, tighten that loose handle on your dresser, and add a light-blocking curtain to your bedroom window. You’ve got the tools; you’ve got the power.

 

 

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Your Local Hero

Distilled White Vinegar. Your New Local Hero.

Trending: ecofriendly everything.

Are your social media feeds brimming with ads for new products designed to do a better job of cleaning all kinds of specific items with minimal packaging waste? I know mine are. We could all spend a fortune and clutter up our storage spaces with products galore. Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it?

How about an alternative? It’s nothing new, newfangled, expensive, or “only available on line”. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you have a bottle in your cupboard. Let me reintroduce you to your new local hero: distilled white vinegar.

My admittedly dusty bottle of white vinegar sat in the back of my cabinet unused for ages. Not quite sure why I bought it; it just seemed like one of those must-have pantry staples.  But then when I moved into an old (circa 1896) apartment in the historic district of Newport, KY and my bathtub drain ran super slow, Google taught me that white vinegar would keep my drain running clear. More on that later.  That Google search opened my eyes to the almost magic trickery of distilled white vinegar which, as it turns out, is a workhorse in the kitchen, bathroom, garden, and more! Bonus: it’s cheap.

Here are just a few of the tricks white vinegar has up its sleeves:

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution. In a spray bottle, combine 1 cup of distilled white vinegar with 3 cups of water and use on just about everything. Don’t love the smell of vinegar? Let vinegar sit in a jar with strips of lemon zest and a spring of fresh thyme for a week or two in a sunny spot, then strain. Mix with water as described above. This can be done with any herb or fragrant plant like lavender or eucalyptus, just avoid anything that colors the vinegar if you plan on using it on a white carpet.

IN THE KITCHEN

Stinky Sink Drain. To keep kitchen drains fresh, pour 1 cup of distilled white vinegar down the drain once a week. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then rinse with cold water. Ahhh, fresh!

Dishwasher. Pour a small amount of white vinegar into the rinse-aid dispenser of your dishwasher. This will help prevent a cloudy residue on your glasses and keep cutlery-free of smears and streaks. And, once a year or so, more often if you have hard water, pour a cup of vinegar into an empty dishwasher and run it on a short cycle to remove lime and soap build-up.

Stainless Steel Cookware. Scrub with a mixture of white vinegar and salt.

Cutting Boards. Undiluted white vinegar cleans and disinfects cutting boards, especially those made of wood.

Microwave. To remove smells or cooked on food, combine ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe container. A slice of lemon will add a fresh, clean scent. Microwave on high until the mixture comes to a boil and steam forms on the window. Let cool slightly, then wipe away any food residue.

IN THE LAUNDRY

Stain Treatment.  For removing stains like mustard, ketchup, tomato sauce, grass, and underarm deodorants, spray a little white vinegar onto the stain before laundering. Soaking whites in vinegar will help bring back their whiteness.

And just like in your dishwasher, vinegar helps to break down detergent when added to the rinse cycle, making clothes fresher, more colorful—and it gets rid of funky towel mildew. One cup should be plenty; add less when using a front-loading washing machine.

WARNING: Never add vinegar when using chlorine bleach; it will create noxious chlorine gas, a potentially deadly compound.

Laundry Softener. If you’ve run out of fabric softener, simply add about three tablespoons (or a scant ¼ cup) to your washing machine dispenser. Your clothing will be softer, but won’t smell like vinegar because of the limited measurement.

IN THE BATHROOM

Window/Mirror/Shower Door Wash.  Spray the all-purpose solution on the glass surface and wipe it off with a clean, lint-free cloth or a balled-up piece of newspaper (does anyone still read the newspaper?).

Clean Faucets & Showerheads. White vinegar is effective in removing lime scale especially when mixed with hot water. Wrap your showerhead in a plastic bag of warm, white vinegar and secure it with a rubber band. Let it soak for an hour before rinsing it clean. Spray faucets, let sit for a bit, then wipe clean. If your toilet bowl, bathtub, or sink has lime deposits from hard water, soak or spray vinegar onto the grit. It should loosen the deposits enough to remove them easily.

Tile & Grout. Spray full strength white vinegar on mildewed or scummy grout and tile. Wait for about an hour, and scrub with a soft bathroom scrub brush.

Keep Drains Clear. To keep your sink or bathtub drain running clear, use a funnel to pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of white vinegar. The concoction will foam up like crazy, so this can be a fun “science experiment” with the kids. Let sit until the foaming action stops, then rinse with hot water (this step should be kid-free). Not only will it clear your slow running drain, but it will also destroy any odor-causing bacteria.

IN OTHER PLACES

Pet Potty Accidents. Clean and refresh the soiled area by spraying vinegar. This may also deter your pet from soiling the same area. Read more in our blog post about cleaning carpet stains here.

Remove Stickers. Who hates price tag stickers??  They are a pet peeve of mine. I especially hate it when a price sticker is placed on the glass of a picture frame or in a very conspicuous place on a pretty vase. Dab white vinegar on the spot and let it sit for a minute or two. Afterward, it will be easy for you to scrape away the excess paper and gunk. And much less expensive than Goo Gone.

Relieve Sunburn Pain. No one ever plans a sun burn, so aloe is usually not close at hand. Instead, soak a washcloth in a 50/50 solution of distilled white vinegar and water and dab on your sunburn. Reapply as the washcloth warms. Or, add 2 cups to your bathwater.

Fresh Flowers. Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to your flower water to make your flowers last longer. When the water gets cloudy, dump it out and repeat.

So there you have it. Well not all of it, because the uses for white vinegar go on and on!

In closing, I’ll mention that vinegar is an acidic liquid originally created from wine gone bad. Wine gone bad is a very, very sad thought until you think of all the easy, effective, and inexpensive things that can be done with it.

Now go buy a gallon. Who doesn’t need a hero right now?

Resources: https://facty.com, www.foodandwine.com, www.thespruce.com

 

 

Get Your Place Vacation Ready

How to prep your place for time away from home.

PREP YOUR PLACE FOR TIME AWAY

Your car is gassed up, your bags are packed, and you’re ready to head off for some R & R. But wait! Be sure your place is properly prepped for your time away, so you don’t return to anything unpleasant. For your peace of mind, here’s a handy checklist to follow so you won’t spoil even a moment by worrying about what you may have left undone at home. Getting your place vacation ready is the key.

SHARE your travel plans with the management of your apartment, condo, homeowners’ association, or a trusted neighbor in the event there’s an emergency. Better to be safe than sorry in this crazy world of ours. And if there’s an emergency, chances are you will want to be found. (Except for work. Don’t tell them a thing. LOL.

HOLD the mail. Visit your local post office or stop the mail online. This is such a great service for when you are on vacation, on a business trip, or will be spending time away for any reason. As an added bonus, you can schedule the day you want all your mail delivered to your home.

INSTALL a timer on one or more lights so it looks like someone is home. Programmable timers let you randomize the daily on/off times.

SET your A/C and heating system’s thermostat. When the weather is cold, set the heat to at least 50 degrees (to prevent pipes from freezing) and when it’s hot outside, set the air conditioning to 85 degrees.

SHUT OFF the water. Not really necessary for shorter trips, but if you will be away for an extended period, close the valves to your washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, and toilets to prevent potential leaks.

ADJUST your blinds, shades, and/or curtains. Don’t completely close your window coverings if you don’t normally. Instead, close them partially to block the view while giving an “at-home” appearance. Tilting mini blind slats up will let in light but prevent snooping eyes. And you don’t want to completely close all window coverings. Remember mold and mildew thrive in dark places.

LOCK all doors and windows, and your car if you’re leaving it behind. This is a critical step for getting your place vacation ready!

PAY your bills. Sewer, electric, gas, rent, car payment, phone, internet, etc. Be sure to make any upcoming payments to keep your credit in good standing. With online banking, you can set payments to occur when they are due even if you’re away. Gotta love technology, right?

WATER your plants. Consider a Plant Nanny to self-water while you are away, or check out this DIY plant watering system.

TOSS any fresh-cut flowers, which could start to smell if left in your home.

CLEAN your kitchen and bathroom. Wash dirty dishes, clean the sink trap, and pour vinegar down your garbage disposal so you don’t come home to yucky smells, bugs, or mildew.

CHECK to ensure the oven and stove are turned off. Don’t embarrass yourself by having to call a friend or neighbor to go check. Prep your place for time away!

EMPTY the trash. Take the trash to the dumpster so you don’t come home to a horrible stench or unwanted pests.

CLEAR the fridge and pantry. Eat or toss leftovers and perishables. Check those expiration dates! Rotting potatoes smell unbelievably gross. Onions, potatoes, and garlic may sprout, so toss them, too.

FREEZE a microwave meal for when you return home tired and hungry. Especially if you’ll be arriving late.

WASH, dry, fold, and stow everything in your laundry basket. Damp workout clothes can smell really nasty if left unwashed and spread the smell to everything else in your hamper. Don’t forget that last peek into the washing machine. Wet or even damp clothes sitting for a week or more will reek and only create more work for you once you return home with all your dirty vacation clothes.

UNPLUG small appliances, such as your toaster and coffeemaker, hair dryer, and curling wand.

MAKE your bed up with fresh sheets. This one is my favorite way to get my place vacation ready. You’ll love it too when you arrive home exhausted and get to sleep in a neat clean bed instead of a tangle of dusty sheets. It will be like being back in your hotel room! (If only).

Now that your place is perfectly prepared for your time away, pack your bags, leave your cares behind, and enjoy your vacation!

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchens

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Kitchen

We’ve sped through the backstretch and are rounding the corner to the finish line in this final edition of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza! We’re oh-so-close to a tidy, spotless, well-organized home that will allow us to embrace the spring season and be well-prepared for summer fun. Thus far our journey has made our windows and blinds sparkling and dust free, dust has been removed from every nook and cranny in our home, and our bedrooms have become beautiful, calm, clean, and relaxing havens, and our bathrooms are gleaming. Next, we’ll tackle what is arguably the most time consuming room in the house to clean – the kitchen – with our spring cleaning extravaganza – kitchen edition.

As always we’ll begin by assuming the usual suspects aka cleaning supplies.

SUPPLIES

THE CABINETS

  • Empty cabinets and drawers. Do one section at a time.
  • Vacuum accumulated dust, and dirt from the shelves and drawers.
  • Dab a microfiber cloth with a mild cleanser. Wipe down the shelves and the inside and outside of the door. Use a clean toothbrush to treat the corners and other small crevices. Let dry completely before restocking.
  • Wipe down cabinet hardware or remove knobs/handles and wash in hot, soapy water.
  • Wash any storage bins, silverware trays, and drawer dividers and thoroughly dry.
  • As you restock shelves and drawers, consider tossing any chipped or cracked items. Organize everything neatly. Toss any pantry goods, spices, and other foodstuffs that have expired or exceeded their shelf life.

THE BACKSPLASH

Some of us have some kind of tile between the counter and upper shelves; others have wall surface. Whatever you have, this space can get grimy and greasy from cooking and splattered during food preparations. Cooking is messy!

  • Remove outlet- and switch-plate covers and place in hot soapy water. Wash, rinse, set aside to dry. If the covers aren’t too dirty/greasy, use an all-purpose cleaner and paper towel.
  • Soften grease and grime with warm water, then clean with a sponge soaked in warm, soapy water, and finally dry with a dishtowel to avoid any leftover residue that would attract dirt and grime. For stubborn stains, use a baking soda spot treatment or a spritz of distilled white vinegar.

THE STOVE AND OVEN

Stovetop

  1. Remove control knobs and drip pans and soak in hot sudsy water.
  2. Use hot, soapy water to clean the stovetop and control panel. If your stove has a glass top, apply glass top cleaner with a soft cloth or sponge. Buff with a clean, dry, microfiber cloth.
  3. Shine all surfaces with Windex and a clean paper towel.
  4. Rinse and dry knobs and replace them on the control panel.

Oven

  1. Mix about 3 tablespoons of baking soda, a bit of water, and some white vinegar in an oven-safe dish until it forms a paste.
  2. Dab the dirtiest areas with the mixture.
  3. Place the remaining mixture in the center of your center oven rack.
  4. Turn the oven to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Leave the mix in for around 45 minutes.
  6. Turn the oven off and allow it to cool for a bit.
  7. Wipe down the oven with a wet sponge to easily remove build up. Rinse the sponge frequently.
  8. With a freshly rinsed sponge, use clean water to give the oven interior a final rinse.

Oven door glass

  1. Mix a paste of baking soda and water and apply a thick layer to the glass.
  2. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Use a scraper to remove the crud.
  4. Wipe the glass with white vinegar to neutralize any remaining baking soda.
  5. With a freshly rinsed sponge, use clean water to give the oven interior a final rinse.

Oven drawer

  1. Empty the drawer and vacuum away all loose dirt and crumbs.
  2. Wipe clean with all-purpose cleaner and a paper towel.

Vent hood

  1. Wipe it down with an all-purpose cleaner or hot soapy water.
  2. Remove vent filters and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Allow to air dry before reinstalling.

Microwave

  • Fill a microwave-safe bowl with two cups of water and two tablespoons of vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Tip: Add a small wooden spoon to the bowl or place a toothpick in the mixture. This will allow bubbles to form against the wood as the water heats up, preventing the water from becoming superheated and “exploding” into a boil.

  • Place the mixture in the microwave, close the door, and microwave on high for three minutes. Wait an additional 15 minutes without opening the door.
  • Using potholders carefully remove the bowl from the microwave and set it aside—don’t pour it out just yet.
  • Remove the turntable tray to wash it in hot soapy water in the sink.
  • Dampen a clean microfiber cloth with the vinegar mixture and wipe down the interior of your microwave. Use a non-scratch scrubbing pad for any stubborn spots or hard-to-reach crevices.
  • Spray an all-purpose cleaner onto a clean cloth and wipe down the control panel, sides, top, and bottom. (Never spray directly onto the control panel.)

THE FRIDGE

For a complete, in-depth how-to for cleaning your fridge, please visit to our blog post dedicated to that subject here.  In a nutshell:

  • Start at the top.
  • Remove everything from a shelf and see just how messy you (blame the kids! Blame your S.O. Blame the dog!) have been.
  • If there are spills, carefully remove the glass from the frame (or brackets, depending on your fridge) and clean both sides, as well as the edges, with the vinegar solution.
  • Dry with paper or microfiber towels.
  • Wash the frame that holds the glass before replacing the entire shelf. For that, I usually head to the sink and use dish soap and hot water.
  • If there aren’t any caked-on spills that require shelf removal, simply run a scrubby sponge under hot water. Give the shelf and fridge walls an initial scrub to loosen any gunk. Then, spray it all down with cleaner and give it another scrub, before wiping everything clean with a microfiber cloth.

NOTE: When you’re not actively working in the fridge, close the door to keep everything as cool as you can.

  • Remove the drawers and wash them in the kitchen sink with soap and water. If they won’t fit in your sink, spray them down, wipe them clean, and dry them before putting them back. While the drawers are removed, wipe down the walls and “floor” of the fridge with the vinegar cleaner. Use the same method for the shelves inside the doors.
  • Wash down all items you removed from the fridge to clean it. Check all expiration dates and toss anything that’s expired.
  • Use a clean microfiber cloth and vinegar spray to wipe down the outside of the doors, including the edges and seals, and don’t forget the handles! The worst area will undoubtedly be to top of the fridge as it tends to collect greasy residue from cooking and dust. I like keeping a kitchen towel on top that can just be thrown in the wash.
  • Clean under the fridge.
  • Vacuum the coils on the back of the fridge.

 

THE DISHWASHER

Filters

  • If you have a removable filter, make a habit of regularly checking the cover at the bottom, underneath the twirling spray arm. Although the holes let food through, the filter is designed to block larger, harder debris. Cleaning is easy: just pick the pieces out by hand.
  • If you have a removable filter, there is generally a circular piece at the bottom that can be turned when you want to clean the fine-mesh basket strainer underneath. The circular piece often fits into a flat piece of metal mesh with coarser holes that lifts out for cleaning.
  • Clean each part by rinsing it out in the opposite direction from the way the water flows when the dishwasher is running. An old toothbrush or sponge can loosen debris, along with soaking in soapy water or vinegar. Once you’ve removed the mesh, clean the area underneath.

Air Gap

  • The air gap is next to the sink, higher than the dishwasher, and has a liftoff cover. Below that is a part that’s plumbed to both the drain line from the dishwasher and a drain line that connects to the sink.
  • Remove the cover and clean debris from the plastic part underneath.

Nozzles

  • Clean nozzles on the spray arms by removing each arm (most dishwashers have upper and lower ones). Use a narrow wire, a pick, or sturdy needle to clean out the holes while running water thought the central opening on the arm.

Exterior

  • A dishwasher usually cleans the interior on its own, but the exterior is up to you. You can never go wrong by simply wiping away food spatters with a soft, slightly damp cloth, then drying the surface with a second soft cloth.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL

The easiest job you’ll do all day!

  • Sprinkle a half-cup of baking soda into the opening of the garbage disposal.
  • Pour in a cup of white vinegar and allow it to sit for 10 minutes.
  • Turn on the garbage disposal and allow hot water to rinse away the baking soda mixture.
  • As an alternative to baking soda and vinegar, use chopped citrus peels.
  • Pour in two cups of ice and a cup of salt, and then run the disposal to clean the blades.
  • Using a soapy sponge, wash the disposal’s rubber splashguard (also known as a gasket or baffle).

THE SINK

I always do the sink last as you’ll need it for every other step of the kitchen spring cleaning.  There’s a clean sink and then there’s a sparkling clean sink. To me, the kitchen is not really clean unless the sink is gleaming. Follow these steps once a month to keep your sink looking like you have a maid. Before you get started, clean your dish drying rack. Place it in a sink full of hot, soapy water and give it a good scrub with your scrub brush.

  • Generously sprinkle Bar Keepers Friend across the bottom of the sink(s).
  • Use a sponge to scrub the walls and bottom of the sink, and the faucet. Get in the tiny space between the sink and the counter and in the openings to the drain and garbage disposal. Don’t forget to wash the sink drainer and disposal cover.
  • Rinse with clear water.
  • Use your sponge to blot up the water until the sink and faucet are just about dry.
  • Spray with stainless steel cleaner.
  • Polish with a dry paper towel or microfiber cloth.

process for cleaning a stainless steel sink

COUNTERS

  • Wash counters with hot soapy water or all-purpose cleaner. Then dry with a paper or cloth towel.

FLOORS

  • If you have a washable rug, now is the time to wash and dry according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Vacuum or sweep floors.
  • Clean baseboards and any quarter round trim. A used dryer sheet works great in removing dust. Use soapy water and a sponge to remove any built-up dirt.
  • Damp mop with Swiffer Wet or your mop and cleaning solution of choice.

 

And that, ladies and gents is that. We’ve crossed the finish line of our spring cleaning extravaganza with this kitchens edition. At least until the next person comes home with dirty shoes, leaves toothpaste residue in the bathroom sink, or is less than neat while making dinner. But that’s our wonderful, messy lives with the people we care about. At least deep down our home is clean – and with that – our minds clear of “must-clean clutter”.

Thanks for sharing this spring cleaning journey with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza – Bathrooms

 

In the wee hours last Monday morning, most folks in the USA grumbled as we lost an hour of sleep during the annual “spring forward” time change reminding me that we’re ever closer to the Spring Equinox on March 20. This Spring Cleaning Extravaganza’s intention was that we would welcome spring with a tidy, spotless, well-organized home and a light heart ready to embrace the season. Thus far our journey has made our windows and blinds sparkling and dust free, dust has been removed from every nook and cranny in our home, and our bedrooms have become beautiful, calm, clean, and relaxing havens. Next, we’ll tackle what is arguably the worst room in the house to clean – the bathroom. Our spring cleaning extravaganza continues with tips, tricks, and a checklist to help you make your bathroom sparkling clean.

Think happy thoughts trying to undermine the gag factor of bathroom cleaning, and assemble the usual suspects – aka cleaning supplies and products.

SUPPLIES 

Click the links to find the best product in each category. You’re welcome.

PROCESS

Clean The Slate

  • Remove everything from the bathroom counter, shelves, ledges, back of the toilet and place in a basket. Place the basket outside the bathroom.
  • Remove any bath mats and/or bath rugs, the shower curtain and its liner, and all towels. Launder as per manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Move the trashcan, scale, and anything else that sits on the floor.

Dust Top to Bottom

  • Dust vents with a dry rag, or vacuum cleaner detachment (a compressed air cleaner really gets in there).
  • Wipe off all ledges, windowsills, and shelves with a dry rag.
  • Dust light fixture covers and the shower curtain rod.

Wipe It Down

  • Wipe all bathroom surfaces with a wet, soapy sponge or spray multi-purpose cleaner on the below items, let sit for a minute, and then wipe residue with a clean, wet sponge or paper towel:
    • Vents (careful not to get vent interior wet)
    • Sink bowl and faucets
    • Walls
    • Light switches
    • Countertops (don’t forget the underside of ledges)
    • Showerhead, faucets (don’t forget the aerator – where the water comes out), and handles
    • Shelves
    • Toilet base, back, seat. handle (now is a good time to tighten base and seat bolts if loose)

Scrub The Gunk

  • Use a bleach/water combo (¾ cup bleach to a gallon of water), disinfectant spray, or DIY baking soda solution on your tile and grout shower walls and/or shower floor to scrub away any visible mildew, mold, or discoloration. TIP: remove water from the wall tile and tub with a squeegee after every shower and leave your shower curtain open until the tub area is dry. This will help to prevent the grown of mold and mildew. Move tips for cleaning your shower are here! Detailed tips for keeping grout and tile clean are here.
  • Wipe your porcelain tub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath. It works great on hard soap scum.
  • Use a wet soapy sponge to wipe down shower curtain rod and rings.
  • Using multi-purpose cleaner or DIY baking soda scrub, thoroughly scrub sink bowl, drain, and faucet.
  • Use your bristle brush with bathroom cleaner to scrub the shower head. Be sure to scrub the aerator where the water sprays out. See tips for descaling below in the Miscellaneous section.
  • Scrub toilet bowl, seat, and area around the bolts with bowl. TIP: to prevent an accumulation of liquid in your brush holder, let the brush hang over the bowl with the seat closed until dry.

Shine

  • Using glass cleaner and paper towels to clean and shine all windows, mirrors, glass surfaces, light fixture covers, cabinet handles, doorknobs, and hinges.
  • Spray inside and outside of shower doors with glass cleaner and wipe clean with a squeegee.

Floor & Baseboards

  • Use a Swiffer dry or a vacuum to collect all loose hair and dust from the floor.
  • Wipe down baseboards (a used dryer sheet works great on this job!)
  • Remove the floor vent and vacuum both sides of the vent along with the airway below.
  • Wipe the doorstop.
  • Wet mop the floor with a Swiffer Wet or mop, then let dry.

Sanitize

  • Spray disinfectant such as Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner on hard, non-porous surfaces like you countertop, shower stall, bathtub, toilet exterior, sink basin, faucets, handles, and doorknobs.

Miscellaneous

  • Unclog the drains, if necessary. A monthly treatment with white vinegar and baking soda keeps drains clear. Simply sprinkle about 1/2 cup of baking soda in your tub and/or sink drain, then pour a cup or two of white vinegar on the baking soda. This will cause a bubbling reaction (which your kids will love) and will clear a slow drain. Rinse with hot water.
  • Wash the toilet brush and its holder in hot, soapy water.
  • Empty the medicine cabinet (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and discard expired medications and cosmetics.
  • Restock the hand soap.
  • Throw your toothbrush caddy and soap dish in the dishwasher.
  • Clean makeup brushes.
  • Descale the showerhead
    • If your metal showerhead is clogged with scaly mineral deposits, place it in a pot with a solution of one part vinegar to eight parts water, bring it to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. If you don’t want to take the shower head down, or if the shower head is plastic, fill a zipper bag with a solution of equal parts vinegar and hot water, tie it around the showerhead and soak.
  • Clean and organize drawers and cabinet under the sink.
    • Toss out expired sunscreen and old cosmetics
    • Vacuum wipe it clean with a damp cloth
    • Treat yourself to inexpensive trays or bins to help keep these spaces tidy.
  • Clean the filter on your hair dryer
  • Apply Rain-X to shower doors
  • Clean your toothbrush holder
    • If dishwasher-safe, just pop it in with a load of your dishes, or hand-wash it with hot soapy water, rinse, and wipe it with a disinfecting wipe.

Whew! We did it!! Now comes the easy part. Put out fresh soap, towels, and rugs; rehang the shower curtain and its liner. Place all your personal grooming tools back in their designated spots, and redecorate the room with the pretty things you love on shelves and counters. Don your sunglasses because the glare of your sparkling clean bathroom will be blinding.  LOL.

 

Stink Bugs, Well, Stink

 

We interrupt our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza series to bring you an important announcement: Stink Bug Season has arrived and those pesky critters will be around to annoy us and gross us out through September. And stink bugs? Well, they stink.  In more ways than one. I don’t know about you, but I am seriously weirded out by the brown marmorated stink bugs. They look so…prehistoric, are so…ugly, and they can be so…stinky. Removal of these unwanted visitors is assigned to another person in my household who does not have the same aversion as me. But what to do if you live alone or everyone at your place is equally reluctant to deal with these creatures? We’ve done a bit of homework to help you sort it all out. You’re welcome.

SEARCH AND DESTROY

Indoors the creatures tend to congregate on upper floors and in tight spaces. That’s why they often tuck into drapery folds and walk along the tops of walls. Typically they will gather on warm, west-facing walls and enter buildings via cracks and crevices. Once they find an ideal spot, they release pheromones, chemical signals that beckon more stink bugs to join the party.

So what do you do when you’re just trying to have a nice evening binge-watching Netflix when you spot a stink bug (besides, if you’re like me, scream your fool head off??)? Sadly, chemical pesticides and insecticides are not the answer. Horrifyingly, few actually work to kill these bugs and they often raise from the dead a few days later. And if you do manage to kill them, their bodies may attract other insects to feed on them. So put down your phone, Virginia. Your landlord or local pest control company is not going to be the best solution. Especially since most apartment communities offer visits from pest control companies on a periodic basis, and scheduling pest control is seldom immediate, you’ll want to get rid of these pests now.

Instead, try one of these techniques for fast and easy results. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to insects, I’m all about fast removal.

Natural Pesticide

Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 concentration of white vinegar and water. Then, add a small squirt of dishwashing liquid and get to work! This mixture is highly effective and safe, though it takes more time to kill the bugs than typical insecticides (requiring 30-45 minutes.)

Essential Oils

Here’s a great method that allows you to kill two birds with one stone. Make your home smell great and banish stink bugs at the same time. If you are following along with our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza, you may already have essential oils on hand. Simply mix 10 drops of mint essential oil with 16 ounces of water and spray at interior entry zones like windows and doors.

Garlic Spray

How about another way to kill two birds with one stone? Get rid of vampires (LOL) and stink bugs in one swell foop! [Good grief, it’s fell swoop. My father used to say swell foop (along with a myriad of other malapropisms we referred to lovingly as “Scoopisms”.] Combine two cups water and four teaspoons of garlic powder or a handful of garlic cloves and spray on indoor windowsills where these creepy crawlies are likely to enter your home.

Paper Towel

Grab a paper towel along with your designated stink bug killer (DSBK). If you don’t have a DSBK, you’ll have to brave this on your own thus becoming my personal hero. Ever so gently pluck the bug (do not squish) from wherever it has landed and flush the bug down the toilet. Do not flush the paper towel or you will have a toilet back up to deal with as well as stink bugs and a human can only take so much. See below section on the importance of not squishing.

Vacuum

You can also use your vacuum if you have a wand attachment, but proceed with caution. This method only works for vacuum cleaners with bags. And you’ll need to throw the bag away immediately to prevent a stink bomb from developing. Maybe use this one only in a dire emergency. (But isn’t any visible insect a dire emergency?!?)

Soapy Water

A stink bug’s natural reaction to any perceived threat is to drop straight down. Clearly, they are not too bright. Fill a wide mouth jar with soapy water (add some vinegar for extra killing power), place it underneath the pest, and most often it will drop right into the suds and drown.

Lint Roller Sheet

Cover a dry sweep mop head with a lint remover sheet (which again you may already have if you’re following along with the Dusting Edition of our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza). Use it as a long-handled stink bug catcher. It’s perfect for grabbing any high-climbing bugs. But be careful not to squish. See below.

Should I Squish A Stink Bug?

Squishing them is not an ideal solution. In fact, it’s the worst. Whether threatened or not, stepping on or swatting a stink bug is likely to release their stinky spray, resulting in a pungent odor that will fill the area where they were killed. Eww.

What Happens if a Stink Bug Releases Its Scent?

While seemingly innocuous, killing a stink bug can have lingering effects. Not only does the chemical produced by stink bugs smell, but it also releases pheromones that attract other stink bugs. With numerous stink bugs roaming through your home, it’s only a matter of time until you’re stuck with a smelly infestation!

PREVENTION

Soapy Water

Combine equal parts hot water and dish soap in a spray bottle and spray on windowsill entry points. Not advisable, however if your windowsills and window frames are wood.

Dryer Sheets

Stink bugs dislike dryer sheet odor, so rub dryer sheets on window screens and windowsills as a preventative measure. If you see holes in your screens and you are a renter, alert your management office for assistance patching or replacing the screen.

Drown By Night

Before bed, fill a wide pan with soapy water and place it in the room with the most stink bugs. Place a small light so it hangs over the dish. Obviously, you do not want the light/lamp to touch the water. Overnight the stink bugs will flock to the light, fall into the suds and drown.

Block Points of Entry

If you see cracked seals around utility entry points, doors and windows, joints where two different materials meet, like wood and concrete block or wood siding and brick, caulk the cracks as needed. Check weather stripping and sweeps on doors and look for gaps. If you are a renter, alert your management office and request assistance. Homeowners, don your tool belts or call your local handyman.

Wishing you days and months of stink-free and bug-free enjoyment of your home – unless of course, you wish to train them so you can make a million dollars on American’s Got Talent, or keep them as pets (pet fees may apply LOL).

 

RESOURCES: The Pest Rangers, Terminix, Orkin

 

Leave No Surface Undusted. Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II

Spring Cleaning Extravaganza II. Leave No Surface Undusted.

 

In our Spring Cleaning Extravaganza I, the bold announcement was made that over the next couple of months, I will be sharing my spring-cleaning and tidying journey with you. I am ever hopeful that this commitment will keep me on track to achieve my goals before the days are too beautiful to spend inside fussing about with the Swiffer duster and the Vietnam Vets donation bags. I am also hopeful that you will share this journey with me so that you, too, can welcome spring with a tidy, spotless, well-organized home and a light heart ready to embrace the season. Whole house dusting is phase two of our spring cleaning extravaganza! Learn tips and tricks to leave no surface undusted.

Last time, we worked on letting the sunshine in by cleaning windows and blinds. I am  so glad those awful tasks have been marked as completed on my To Do List. And, admittedly, I am feeling quite proud of this accomplishment. #patontheback.

While dusting, buffing, and polishing the windows, I considered how the rest of this ordeal should proceed. Room by room or job by job? I think the way to go is job by job, then once everything is clean and organized, we can spend one day putting a spit shine on the whole place. So this time?

Dusting. It’s phase two of our spring cleaning extravaganza.

Can you really clean and organize anything in your home if there’s a thin (ok, maybe in some places thick, layer of dust. It’s so easy when doing routine dusting to just focus on the flat surfaces – coffee table, night stands, shelves – and overlook the more challenging spots like cold air returns, the leaves on plants (real and/or artificial), baseboards behind large pieces of furniture – you get the idea.

As I mentioned in my last post, I consider myself a fairly tidy person. But working my way through this spring cleaning proved that it’s so easy to overlook so many things! Here are my tips and tricks to leave no surface undusted.

First, let’s get organized.

SUPPLIES

PROCESS

First, and most importantly, do not allow yourself to become distracted by ADCD – Attention Deficit Cleaning Disorder.

I, for one, suffer significantly from this “disorder”, so have first-hand knowledge of this disruption. How many times have I started dusting in the living room, decided to go ahead and put a morning coffee mug left on the coffee table in the dishwasher, and the next thing I know I am mopping the kitchen floor. Geesh.

Okay, back to business. We will leave no surface undusted!

  1. Plan your route. Perhaps start in the bedroom/s, move to the bathroom/s, then hallway, dining room, living room, kitchen.
  2. In each room, start at the top.
    1. With a long handled duster, clean all the dust webs from the space where wall meets ceiling.
    2. Dust cold air returns.
    3. Remove any artwork from the walls and clean not only the art, but also the wall behind it.
    4. Remove all items from flat surfaces. Dust the surface. Polish with wood cleaner or glass cleaner as appropriate.
    5. Dust all items removed from flat surfaces. Polish any glass or shiny surfaces with glass cleaner and paper towels or microfiber cloths.
    6. Pay special attention to lamps. Dust the bulb, the base, and the cord. Use the lint roller to remove dust from the inside and outside of the shade.
    7. Clean live plants. Use warm water and a soft cloth to remove dust from live plants. Alternatively, place your plants in the shower and wash them down being careful not to wash soil down the drain. Dry leaves with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Use damp paper towels to wipe down plant pots.
    8. Clean artificial plants and floral arrangements. This is where those dryer sheets come in handy! Dryer sheets will do a great job removing dust even from those leaves in the back that haven’t been dusted for a while. It’s so quick and easy!

  1. Use glass cleaner on all mirrors and picture frame glass.
  2. Dust all light fixtures and use class cleaner to polish the globes. Don’t forget to dust the light bulbs.
  3. Run the duster over the front and back of all doors, the top of the door, and the door frame.
  4. Be sure to dust the back of any picture frames. The lint roller will come in handy if they have a velvety surface.
  5. If you have candles – real or battery operated – dust the indentation around the wick and the entire candleholder. If your candle is in a lantern, use glass cleaner and paper towels to clean the glass and all surfaces.
  6. Dust bed frames, and legs of all furniture. If your headboard is fabric, clean with the lint roller or hand held vacuum.
  7. Pull furniture away from the walls and using your long handled duster, clean the back of the furniture and the wall and baseboard behind the furniture.
  8. Dust curtain rods.
  9. Use the lint roller to remove dust from curtains. Don’t forget to clean the back of the curtain!
  10. In the bathroom, dust the top of the shower curtain rod, the towel rods, the toilet paper holder, the water lines to the toilet, the sides and front of the cabinets, and the light fixtures.
  11. Be sure to dust all books, CDs, and DVD cases.
  12. Dust the back of all electronics including the TV/s.
  13. Dust all light fixtures and use class cleaner to polish the globes. Don’t forget to dust the light bulbs.
  14. Run the duster over the front and back of all doors, the top of the door, and the door frame.
  15. Dust all baseboards.

Mission accomplished: we leave no surface undusted. End your dusting session by cleaning up and tossing any used paper towels, disposable dusters, lint roller sheets, dryer sheets, and wash any dusting and microfiber cloths.

Take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for a great day’s work! I did.

Next up: bathrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Toaster Toasted?

According to Kitchen Infinity, no matter how much you shelled out for your toaster, it will survive an average of six to eight years. You can extend the life of your toaster by cleaning it regularly to remove excess breadcrumbs and additional food particles.

The factors that affect the lifespan of a toaster include:

  • Frequency of use: How often you use your toaster affects how long it lasts. Frequent use of a toaster can wear out the lever or door hinges over time.
  • Maintenance and upkeep: If you maintain your toaster, it will last longer. This includes cleaning the toaster out between uses.
  • Initial quality: The initial quality of the toaster affects how long it lasts. Stainless steel toasters tend to last longer than plastic toasters.
  • Type of use: The type of foods you cook in your toaster can also affect its longevity. If you frequently use your toaster to defrost foods or make cookies, it may wear out faster.

Whether you’re using it to warm up a quick breakfast pastry or perfect a slice of wheat toast, you count on your toaster to deliver the goods. The cost of a toaster ranges from $20-$400. Smaller, two-slice toasters are on the lower end of the range, whereas larger toasters with more cooking functions may cost even more.

How do you know when it’s time to clean your toaster? Well, if you peer into the slots and see enough crumbs to bread a chicken cutlet, it’s long overdue. We recommend cleaning the crumb tray once a week or whenever you see a buildup of crumbs. Otherwise, you’re looking at a potential fire hazard, so it’s important to take a moment every now and then to clean them out.

Wirecutter’s Michael Sullivan has been testing toasters since 2016 (think of all the delicious buttery toast!).  In 2021, he partnered with Elvin Beach, associate professor of practice, and his students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Ohio State University to figure out why newer toasters seem to fail so quickly. Through their research and testing, he learned even more about how to clean toasters and help prolong their lifespan.

‌If you follow this blog and try our cleaning tips, chances are good that you already have everything you need on hand to get the job done (YAY!) and here’s how to do it.

SUPPLIES

  • A clean pastry brush: A soft-bristle pastry brush is best for gently removing the crumbs that cling to the sides of a toaster’s heating elements (don’t use a silicone pastry brush).
  • A long-handled, clean, paintbrush: Any thin brush with a long handle (like those used for watercolors) will help you sweep away crumbs in hard-to-reach crevices.
  • Paper towels or a clean cloth: For wiping down and polishing your toaster.
  • Dish soap: A drop is all you need to remove grease buildup or grime on the sides of your toaster and crumb tray. Try Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid or Dawn Liquid Dish Soap.
  • A sponge: Any sponge, such as our faves Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge or a Scotch-Brite Dobie pad (which is gentler and doesn’t scratch stainless steel), can be used to wipe down the sides of your toaster and crumb tray.
  • Bar Keepers Friend (for stainless steel toasters): A mixture of Bar Keepers Friend and a bit of water will polish the exterior and keep it looking like new.
  • Micro-fiber cloth: for a perfect polish and shiny finish.

TIME

You’ve got the time. Promise. It will only take a couple of minutes to clean your toaster. Brushing away crumbs inside the slots or wiping down the exterior of your toaster will take a few minutes more.

PROCESS

Unplug
Before you attempt to clean the toaster, always unplug it first. Inserting anything except food into a toaster while it is plugged in can cause an electrical shock or a fire. Once the toaster is unplugged, allow it to cool completely before beginning to clean.

Shake
Move the toaster to a trash can or hold over a sink with a garbage disposal. If the appliance has a removable tray in the bottom or a bottom that opens, open it and use a pastry brush to remove crumbs from the toaster and into the trash can. Don’t be tempted to flip your toaster upside down and bang on the sides to get crumbs out. According to research done by The Ohio State University, such treatment can easily break the delicate solder joints and cause an electronic component to give out.

Mix
In a sink or dishpan, mix a solution of warm water and dishwashing liquid. If the toaster has a removable crumb tray, submerge only the tray in the soapy water and wash it well with a sponge or dishcloth. Rinse the tray with clear water and dry with an absorbent cloth.

Degrease
Choose a dishwashing liquid that contains a degreaser for the best cleaning results. See our picks in the Supply List. The degreaser will cut through any build-up more quickly and with less elbow grease than regular dishwashing liquid.

Brush
With the crumb tray removed, use the pastry brush to reach any crumbs still clinging to the interior of the toaster. Do not put your fingers inside the slots or you risk damaging your fingers and the interior components. If possible, work from both the top and bottom of the appliance.

Exterior
Dip a sponge or dishcloth in the soapy water to wipe down the exterior of the toaster. Wring out most of the water so the sponge is just damp. Pay extra attention to dials or levers on the controls, as well as handles. Wash removable dials in the soapy solution.

When the exterior is clean, wipe down with a sponge dipped in clear water to remove any soapy residue. Dry the appliance well with a soft, microfiber cloth.

Shine
To make the exterior of a stainless steel toaster shine, use a commercial stainless steel cleaner or dampen a clean cloth with a bit of distilled white vinegar. Wipe down the exterior to remove smudges and leave a streak-free shine.

Reassemble
To finish the cleaning process, replace the crumb tray, reset the dials to your favorite setting, and plug-in the toaster.

FREQUENCY

If you use your pop-up toaster daily, weekly cleaning is best to remove crumbs and any food residue that could cause a burnt taste or a fire. Since toaster ovens are used for much more than making toast, they need cleaning more often. If you only use the oven to make toast, weekly cleaning is sufficient. However, if you heat foods or broil other foods, the oven—especially the food tray— should be cleaned after every use.

TIPS

Trim a reusable oven liner to fit a toaster oven’s crumb tray. This will make cleaning easier when spills happen.

  • Eliminate crumbs that can prevent bread from popping up. Clean toasters and toaster ovens regularly to prevent residue from interfering with internal mechanisms.
  • Do not place plastic bags of bread or bagels near the appliances. The heat from a toaster can quickly melt the plastic. If you forget and a plastic bag has accidentally melted onto the finish of a toaster, remove as much plastic as possible using a wooden or plastic scraper. Unplug the appliance and allow it to cool before removing the remaining plastic. Then sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub the area. Wipe away with a clean damp sponge and repeat until no more plastic is coming off. To remove the final discoloration, dip a cotton ball in acetone-based nail polish remover. Rub the area with the cotton ball and use a fresh ball as the plastic is transferred. Lastly, wipe down the area with a water-dampened soft cloth to rinse the area.

Toasters can be used for so many things from making breakfast toast or waffles, to lunchtime BLTs and a plethora of other toasty sammies, to toasted crostini for your happy hour smacks. Slightly stale bread gets new life when toasted. So be good to your toaster and it will be good to you. A clean appliance will produce tastier (and safer) toast. Now let’s get toasty! Or toasted.

RESOURCES: Wirecutter, ahs.com, The Spruce, KitchenInfinity

Energy Saving Tips For Winter

Winter Energy Savings Tips

Old Man Winter has come a’ knocking on our doors a bit early this year It’s a cold reminder to take steps to keep ourselves warm and cozy without breaking the bank paying for utilities. It’s especially important now, as inflation has driven up the cost of just about everything.

Start by taking a walk around your apartment. I know, I know, you know your apartment like the back of your hand. But this time, instead of admiring your decorating skills or making a checklist of cleaning chores to do, look closely at things that can affect your ability to keep your place comfortable even on the coldest days.

Furniture

Look at the placement of your furniture. Make sure all furnishings are away from heat registers and vents to allow for proper circulation. Check the areas behind your sofa, bed, dresser, and other large pieces to be sure they are not blocking precious warm airflow. A rule of thumb is to allow at least eight inches of space around your registers to ensure good air circulation.

Windows

Double check to make sure all windows are shut tightly. Locking your windows can provide an extra bit of snug fit. Even double paned windows can feel cold when it’s frigid outside. It is normal for windows and the area around them to feel cold to the touch since glass is not a good insulator.

A rolled towel on the windowsill can help the window feel less chilly especially if the window frame is metal.  Keep your blinds open on sunny days to let as much warmth in as possible, but do close them tightly once the sun goes down. Adding an extra layer such as a plastic barrier or a draft blocking curtain can really help. Insulated drapes and curtains are the best way to minimize the effect of this cold air on your apartment’s temperature. This can really help you save on energy expenses this winter.

If, after taking these steps, there are still noticeable drafts around your windows, please call your leasing office and request the maintenance crew come to check them out.

Doors

Check for drafts around any exit doors. If you feel a draft, you may need new weather stripping or a new door sweep. Your maintenance team can help you with that. Even with a good door sweep, you may still feel a bit of chilly air coming in.  A door snake can really make a difference in stopping this cold air from sneaking in.

Outlets

Cold air can also find it’s way into your home through the outlets and switch plates on exterior walls. Really! Fortunately, there’s a product for that (of course). You can also check with your utility company as some of them will provide these foam insulators at no charge.

Wall Air Conditioner Unit

If you have a wall AC unit, make sure the vent(s) are in the ‘closed’ position and that there is not air seeping in around the units.

Baseboard Registers

If you have baseboard registers, make sure the metal flap inside is lifted all the way up and that you can see inside the register. This flap acts as a vent; if it is resting down on the front panel, the heat cannot escape.

Thermostat

 If you have a forced air system, make sure your thermostat is set on ‘Heat’ and ‘Auto’. You can also be like my Dad and turn the heat down to 60 degrees at night. Sounds awful at first, but sleeping in a cool room in flannel jammies and under a warm comforter or cozy blanket can provide you with a surprisingly great night’s sleep while saving on your heating expense. Thanks, Dad, for this winter energy-saving tip!

Attire

You’ve heard the saying Dress For Success. In the winter, it becomes Dress For Warmth. Another winter energy-saving tips is to get cozy at home by wearing seasonal attire like wool sweaters, heavy shirts (flannel!), sweatshirts, warm pants, wooly socks, and fluffy slippers. Maybe a Snuggie?? Top this with a furry throw and you’ll be all set. Dress up/thermostat down/save money!

Fido & Fluffy

Let’s not forget our furry friends this winter! Make sure your pup or kitty has a cozy spot to snuggle in on chilly nights. Maybe that spot is your lap, or maybe it’s a cozy bed, a kitty cave, or a warm sweater.

Make my Dad proud, keep warm and cozy, save on your utility bills, and know that spring will come!

 

 

 

Eggs-actly Perfect

Eggs-actly Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Sure, sure hard boiling eggs seems like a fairly simple task. Boil, peel, and eat. Until, that is, you discover they are almost impossible to peel with the shell taking chunks of the white flesh with it. Or the yolk is unappetizingly undercooked or has an unsightly greenish edge.  All equate to big fails when trying to make deviled eggs where the white is a beautiful vessel for luscious filling.

There are hard-boiled eggs in my house at all times. Not only do they make an easy (and transportable) quick breakfast, but they are also a healthy, low-calorie snack full of protein, and tasty addition to salads. (We eat a lot of salad in the summer when I just can’t bear heating up the kitchen.) Plus, whipping up a batch of deviled eggs to bring to a spontaneous picnic or cocktail party is a breeze.

After boiling literally hundreds of eggs over the years, I’ve [finally] found a method that produces eggs with perfectly firm whites, creamy yolks that are a lovely consistent shade of pale yellow and, most importantly, easy to peel.

You’ll need:

  • six to 12 large eggs (older eggs ultimately peer better than fresh ones)
  • a pot – large enough to hold a steamer basket – with a lid
  • afore-mentioned steamer basket
  • a large bowl filled with ice and water
  • a timer

Pour and inch or two of water into the pot, insert the steamer, and add the eggs. Heat over high. When the water begins to boil, reduce to medium, cover, and cook for precisely 15 minutes.

While the eggs are steaming, fill your bowl with ice and add water. Your bowl should be large enough to hold all the eggs and allow them to be fully submerged in the ice water.

When the timer goes off, immediately transfer the eggs from the steamer basket to their ice water bath. Then walk away. Let the eggs soak for at least 15-20 minutes so they cool completely – right to their core. Once cool, drain and either refrigerate for later use or peel.

If you plan to use the eggs immediately, fill your now empty bowl with cool water. Peel the egg while it’s submerged. You can also peel under running water, but results are consistently better with the dunk. The shell should separate from the white of the egg in nice big pieces leaving the egg unblemished – perfect for your deviled eggs.

Deviled Eggs

Whether you choose a pretty platter (best for home use) or a  practical platter with lid (best for transport and storage), choose the number of eggs right to fill your plate. Mine has 12 indentations, so this recipe will be for a half dozen eggs yielding a dozen deviled eggs.

Deviled eggs usually call for a dash of Tabasco sauce, but I prefer the less spicy, but zestier horseradish sauce. The addition of softened butter – thank you Julia Child – adds a wonderful, rich silkiness to the yolky filling.

Traditional garnishes include a sprinkle of paprika, a slice of pimento-stuffed olive, chopped chives, or a sprig of dill, but you can kick your garnishes up to a whole new level by adding a small piece (about one inch or so) of crispy bacon, crisped prosciutto, or crisped chicken skin (pictured). These crispy bits add a lot of textural interest, flavor, and visual appeal to your eggs.

The Parts

The Procedure

Cut the eggs in half length-wise and gently scoop the yolks into a bowl or a mini food processor. Place the whites on your platter. Blend the yolks with the remaining ingredients either in a small food processor, or mash together with a fork.

For a fancy finish, use a piping bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut out to pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. For a homemade look, simply spoon the filling into the egg whites. Garnish.

Don’t you just love it when things turn out eggs-actly perfect? And you can enjoy your hard-boiled ot deviled eggs without egg on your face.

 

Streak-free Glass

Unlike the streaking fad of the 1970’s, streaky glass has never been in vogue. Rather, streaky windows, glass tabletops, and mirrors is a frustrating result when cleaning your home. So often, no matter how much cleaner you spray on the surface and how you wipe it away, it seems almost impossible to leave a streak-free, shining surface in place. But guess what? Streak-free glass is possible and using the proper method will even take you less time to achieve the results you desire. Cleaning glass without leaving streaks and doing so efficiently? Win, win!

The Cleaner

Most commercial glass cleaners will do the trick when it comes to cleaning glass mirrors. One of the most effective and popular options is Windex glass cleaner, but you can also use Method if you want a natural and non-toxic formula.

Another option is to make your own glass cleaner. All you need is distilled water, distilled white vinegar, and a spray bottle. Learn to make your own distilled water here. Use distilled rather than tap or filtered water as hard water could be the cause of the streaks and grime left behind. Hard water has an accumulation of dissolved minerals such as calcium and magnesium that are culprits when it comes to streaks. Mix the distilled water and distilled white vinegar in a 50/50 ratio for a non-toxic and antibacterial cleaner for a fraction of the price of store-bought cleaners.

The Wipe

When cleaning windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces, paper towels – while convenient – are not your friend. Most paper towels leave behind lint that becomes obvious on shiny surfaces like mirrors and glass top tables. Trying using a microfiber cloth or a squeegee instead. Neither leave behind lint, and you can toss the t-shirt in the wash when you’re done, and both are reusable making them more environmentally-friendly. Old newspapers, if you can find them, will also provide you with a lint-free experience. Newspaper doesn’t hold up well against the wet cleaner for very long, so have plenty on hand.

The Technique

Before you begin, make sure your surface is free of dirt, dust, crumbs, and goo. Vacuum or dust around window and mirror frames as you don’t want dirt mixing with your cleaner. Got sticky substances clinging to your glass? Don’t try and clean these up with glass cleaner, because they can smear and create even more of a mess. Instead, use plastic to scrape off any substances before you start cleaning. A plastic utensil, card, or a plastic paint scraper should do the trick and won’t scratch the glass. For especially stubborn areas, dab with a bit of liquid dish soap. Let it sit for bit, then wipe the dish soap and the goo away.

A good glass cleaning tip is to start at the top of the mirror or window and work your way down. This way, when the cleaner drips, you’ll be able to wipe it up efficiently as you work your way down.

Did you know that when you spray cleaner directly on the glass, you use more product than you actually need? And, if your cleaner produces too many suds while cleaning your glass, you’re more prone to leave behind streaks.  Spray the window cleaner directly on your microfiber cloth, newspaper, or t-shirt instead of the glass. This helps avoid drips that can leave streaks. Plus, you’ll find that you actually need less cleaner than you think you’ll need for a streak-free shine.

Be careful not to get cleaner on window and/or mirror wood frames, as it can damage or warp the wood over time.

When it comes to cleaning windows, mirrors, and glass tabletops effectively and achieving the ultimate streak-free glass , remember that it’s not always going to come out perfectly. (Nothing is ever perfect, right?) Even if you’ve used a microfiber cloth, distilled water, and a small amount of product, there could still be streaks left behind.

The good news is that these streaks can be removed by using a dry cloth and and buffing them out. Streaks disappear quickly when you use light, fast strokes over the span of the table, mirror, or window. Microfiber cloths work like magic! Best of all, this takes only a few seconds.

The Result

Clean, streak-free glass while fully clothed.

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

‘TIS THE SEASON: FRUIT FLIES

Summer is just around the corner bringing with it a bounty of fresh produce. Vine ripened tomatoes. Peaches. Melon. Berries galore. Makes one’s heart glad as we dream of fruit pies, caprese salads, or just a bit bite into a juicy nectarine. Buyer beware, however. Pesky fruit flies may be hitching a ride into your home via fruits and veggies purchased at the grocery or farmer’s market and what better (or worse?) way to ruin your pie ala mode than to have a teeny fruit fly buzzing around your head and your home?

And although they are tiny, they are mightily challenging to get rid of once they’ve crashed your kitchen. Worse yet, they reproduce at a rate that can only be described as astonishing: According to Orkin, a pest control company, female fruit flies lay hundreds of eggs in a very short time, commonly on moist foods like overripe fruit and vegetables. Then, within 24 to 30 hours, those eggs hatch into larvae, or maggots, that feed on the food source on which they were laid. Within about a week those larvae become sexually active and not more than two days later, start the cycle over again — leaving you with way too many fruit flies to stomach. Eww, gross!

So, Virginia, what is one to do? Blame the landlord? The neighbors? The market? While you can cast blame wherever it suits you, it won’t help get rid of these little pests. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to banish these freeloaders from your kingdom. All you need is some supplies you probably already have on hand (don’t you just love that?), persistence, and some patience.

FIRST: Why Are There Fruit Flies In My Home?

Our friends and pest experts at Orkin advise that  fruit flies are attracted to ripe, rotting or decayed fruit and produce, as well as fermented goods like beer, liquor and wine, but they can also inhabit trash cans and garbage disposals if sufficient food is present. Ahhh, that explains the struggle around the kitchen sink! To cut off fruit flies from their food source and prevent them from entering your home,take these preventive measures to avoid getting fruit flies in the first place.

  • Keep all kitchen surfaces spotlessly clean
  • Throw out overripe produce the moment it becomes overripe (those bananas!*)
  • Store fruits and veggies in the fridge
  • Wash produce as soon as you get home to remove any potential eggs or larvae
  • Take out the garbage regularly
  • Clean up spills ASAP, especially fruit juice or alcohol

If, despite your best efforts, these wee invaders declare war on your household, defend yourself with simple homemade remedies or traps available in stores and online.

SECOND: How Do I Make My Own Fruit Fly Trap

Prepare yourself to be astonished how little time, effort, or money this will involve. Below you’ll discover several DIY traps you can make right now.

Apple Cider Vinegar + Plastic Wrap

    1. Pour a bit of apple cider vinegar into a glass. It’s sweeter than white vinegar and will attract fruit flies faster.
    2. Cover the opening with a bit of plastic wrap and secure it in place with a rubber band
    3. Poke a few small holes in the plastic so the fruit flies can enter
    4. Dump the mixture every few days because seeing dead fruit flies floating is, well, unappealing

Paper Cone + Vinegar + Old Fruit

    1. Pour a generous glug of apple cider vinegar into a glass or jar and a chunk of very ripe fruit
    2. Roll a piece of paper into a cone and stick it into the jar with the narrow opening down. A piece of tape will help hold the cone’s shape.
    3. Discard the vinegar and fruit cocktail when there are dead flies and begin again

Vinegar + Dish Soap

    1. Pour a generous slug of apple cider vinegar into a small bowl or glass
    2. Add three drops of dish soap (it will make the flies sink and drown)
    3. Mix with a fork
    4. Leave uncovered
    5. Clean out and refresh as needed

Old Beer or Wine

(wait, is there such a thing?!?)

    1. Fruit flies are attracted (like so many of us), to the smell of wine
    2. Leave out a bottle of wine or beer with just a few unfinished sips left in the bottle
    3. The bottle’s skinny neck will trap the flies inside
    4. The Old Farmer’s Almanac recommends adding a couple of drops of dish soap to either the beer or wine dregs for surer success.

THIRD: I Hate DIY! Where Can I Buy A Trap?

You can spend a little ($6.00) or a lot ($60) on a fruit fly trap. Why not spend a little and take one of the top two recommended traps out for a spin?

 

 

 

 

FOURTH: Don’t Play The Blame Game

No matter how clean you keep your home, and how properly you store your summer bounty of fruits and vegetables, chances are that you may still see a fruit fly this summer (as I have already. UGH).  If you do, don’t beat yourself, your neighbor, or your landlord up. Simply clean like a maniac, keep your produce in the fridge, and keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar at the ready. Wishing you a pest free summer!

* Don’t toss those bananas that are a bit too ripe! Instead, toss them in the freezer. Read our next blog to learn how to turn overripe bananas into The Best banana bread.

Resources: Good Housekeeping, Old Farmers Almanac, Orkin, Bon Apetit, FDA

The Art Of The Hang II – Hanging Artwork

The Art of Hanging Art II – Methods

 

So. You’ve assembled all the beautiful things and are ready to get them up on the walls. What are the next steps? How can you ensure you hang art without damaging your walls and/or your pride? What tools will you need? We’ve got you covered.

If you are a renter, be sure to check your lease, your community rules, or with your landlord or management company to make sure it’s permissible for you to affix items to your walls.

    • Determine the material of your walls.
    • Most common, and easiest to work with, is drywall aka sheetrock.
    • Plaster walls can be a challenge as a regular nail hammered into plaster will crack it badly. Learned this lesson the hard way. There are nails especially designed for use on plaster walls.
    • Exposed brick walls are beautiful but tricky. If you’re a renter, don’t even think about pounding a hole into the brick or the mortar because 1) it’s hard to do and 2) it’s almost impossible to repair. Let’s not risk your security deposit! Instead, use a product you can use to hang items on brick without causing any damage – Aieve Brick Wall Clips.
    • Best to avoid trying to hang anything on tile walls unless you are using a product like Command Strips (which are also an excellent solution if your landlord says no to nail holes), and are readily available in big box, hardware, and grocery stores.

Gather supplies. Besides a hammer, measuring tape, level, and pencil, you’ll need the following supplies to hang art on plaster or drywall. Consider a tool kit which contains everything you need!

    • Weight-appropriate nails or picture hanging hooks
    • Wall anchors and screws for heavy pieces; these are super easy to use, but you’ll need need a small, lightweight drill and/or a screwdriver – ideally that has changeable flathead and Phillips tips
    • Good-quality, low-profile adhesive hooks for hanging on tile or glass
    • Brick clips for hang on brick

Decide on Placement. Most installers recommend arranging the art on the floor first, below the wall where you intend to install it, and creating a composition you find pleasing before transferring the arrangement to the wall. The ideal spacing between frames depends on the number of pieces of art and the size of the wall, but should generally be between one and a half and three inches. The vertical and horizontal spacing doesn’t necessarily have to be the same.

Now for the Art of the Hang. You’ve already decided on the placement – hopefully with the help of our The Art Of Hanging Art I – Placement. To be exact, the center of a framed piece of artwork should be 57 inches above the ground (that being the average human eye level, and the height galleries and museums use to decide where to hang pieces). Mark that height using a pencil, then measure to find the middle of the wall (from side to side), and mark where the two points meet. That’s where the middle of your artwork should go! Now, measure the distance between the middle of the piece and where it will catch the nail (either where the wire hits when bent to bear weight, or where the saw tooth hanger is. Measure that difference from your mid-point mark on the wall—that’s where the nail (or picture hanger, or wall anchor, or brick clamp) goes. If you’re hanging a super-heavy piece, first use a stud-finder to locate a stud and see if it’s in a logical location for your nail to go. If it is, hammer a big nail in and be done. If the stud is in a weird location, use the anchor-and-screw method instead: Drill a pilot-hole, tap the plastic anchor into it, then screw a screw into that, leaving it to protrude just enough that you can loop the wire or saw tooth right over it the same way you would with a nail.

Hanging Alternatives

  1. If you’re not up for hammers and nails, just lean it. The laziest way to display art is also best for anyone who is afraid of putting nail holes in the wall: lean the frame against the back of a chair, or the wall, or on a shelf somewhere. (Even homes with lots of art hung up on the walls take well to a few casually leaned pieces—it actually looks very intentional!)
  2. If you’re always re-arranging, consider a picture shelf. If you’re into the whole leaning thing and want to formalize a place for such activity, consider adding a shallow picture shelf in one of your rooms. It’s a perfect solution for those with constantly changing styles (or the rearrangement bug).

And a gentle reminder – if you are a renter, be sure to review your lease, rules and regulations, or ask your landlord before you start hammering nails or drilling holes for anchors. Now go and make your home Instagramable!

 

Resources: ApartmentTherapy.com, StudioMcGee.com, ArchitecturalDigest.com, NYTimes.com, HomeStarStaging.co

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Dyeing Easter Eggs The Natural Way

It’s An Easter Eggstravaganza!

Easter is on April 17 this year – late enough that spring bulbs will be in full bloom, flowering trees will be in bud, grass will have turned a vibrant green, and perennials will be pushing their way through the soil. Days will be milder, and hopefully we’ll see much more of the sun. Spring is surely a time of year to appreciate nature and natural things. So why not invite the beauty of nature into your kitchen and make natural dyes for your Easter eggs? It can be a great science experiment for your kids (and the kid in you), and a wonderful afternoon project on those inevitable April showers days.

Eggs are colored with items you probably already have in your home, and you can adjust the brilliance of the color by lengthening the time of the soak. And the result will be a satisfying basket of richly hued eggs instead of a bowl of artificially colored ones. Are you game?

You’ll need perfectly hard boiled eggs, white vinegar, water, and materials from the below chart depending on the colors you seek.

Beet, Cabbage & Onion Dyes

Place prepared ingredient in bottom of large pot. Cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes, or until you’ve achieved the desired color.

Turmeric Dye

Add four cups of water and 4 tablespoons of ground turmeric to a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover; reduce to a simmer; and cook for 30 minutes. Not familiar with turmeric? Click here to discover the benefits.

Coffee Dye

Brew four cups of strong coffee.

Red Wine Dye

Use an inexpensive bottle of red. No vinegar needed. Soak until the eggs are the desired color, but do not use the oil to finish as per below.

Before You Use Your Natural Dyes

  • Strain out the solids. Add one tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid. Allow the dyes to cool before using.
  • For every dozen eggs, plan on using at least four cups of dye liquid.
  • Add the room-temperature eggs in single layer in a baking dish or bowl or coffee mug and carefully pour the cooled dye over them. Make sure the eggs are completely submerged.
  • Experiment with dying white and brown eggs. Soak for 30 minutes to three hours for lighter colors; overnight for brighter colors.
  • Transfer the eggs in the dye to the refrigerator and chill until the desired color is reached.
  • Carefully dry the eggs, and then massage in a little oil to each one. Polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide) them. NOTE: hard-boiled eggs outside of the refrigerator won’t last for more than two hours, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so plan accordingly,

Keep in mind that results will vary depending on the number of eggs, the color of the eggs, and the length of time the eggs soak. Typically, you’ll soak for a shorter time for lighter colors like pale pinks and blues and longer for darker, richer shades like royal blue and gold. Start with a soak of 30 minutes and leave as long as overnight. If you’re soaking overnight, soak in the refrigerator. For richer color, you can also give the eggs multiple soaks in the dye, being sure to dry them between soaks.

If the thought of doing all this makes your head feel like it is about to explode – like an overcooked cracked hardboiled egg – there are always the traditional egg dye kits like the grocery store PAAS kit (reminiscent of my youth) or the inexpensive Spritz kits from Target. For something greener and organic, Eco Kids has a kit that even grows grass. However you decide to dye your eggs, we here at Fath Properties wish you an Easter Eggstravaganza worth remembering.

 

RESOURCES: TheKitchn, Good Housekeeping, Martha Stewart, Rocking Point Wines, Wide Open Eats, Simply Recipes

 

Cleaning As DIY Preventative Maintenance

Cleaning as DIY Preventative Maintenance

It’s never any fun when stuff in your home doesn’t work the way it should. Of course, if you live in an apartment, there’s maintenance service to handle any issues. However, there’s still a certain degree of effort on your part – making the call, taking time to be a home (if you are uncomfortable having maintenance in your apartment when you’re not there), and securing pets. If you own your place, it’s finding a trustworthy contractor, scheduling service, taking time off to be at home, paying the bill, and the inevitable wait for service. But if doing some simple things around your home could prevent future hassles, why not incorporate cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance into your routine? Today we’ll review some simple, easy, and effective things you can do to save yourself from future maintenance headaches.

Freshen Dishwasher

Are hard water stains, greasy deposits, or drainage issues plaguing your dishwasher? Follow these easy three steps every three months to ensure your dishwasher smells nice and works effectively.

  1. To deep clean your dishwasher, remove any foreign material you find from the drain.
  2. Place a small, dishwasher-safe bowl full of white vinegar on the top rack and run a complete wash cycle on the hottest setting.
  3. Then sprinkle a handful of baking soda across the bottom of your dishwasher and run for a short hot water cycle.

Dust Fridge Coils

Condenser coils help cool refrigerant as it flows, maintaining the refrigerator’s temperature. If the coils get coated in dust and dirt, it becomes difficult for them to do their job, forcing the condenser to work harder to cool the refrigerant. When this happens, you may hear the refrigerator making noise as the condenser runs constantly. You may also notice these additional problems:

  • Extra energy usage and higher utility bills
  • Refrigerator doesn’t cool sufficiently
  • Condenser malfunctions

It’s recommended that you clean condenser coils every 6 months (more often if you have pets). Here’s how to clean refrigerator coils with the right methods and equipment.

  1. Unplug the fridge.
  2. Locate the coils. They are typically located on the back of the refrigerator or in the front behind a base grille or kick plate.
  3. If the coils are in the back, move fridge away from the wall. If there’s any resistance, don’t force the fridge to move as you may damage vinyl flooring.
  4. Use the hose attachment to vacuum in around the coils.
  5. Vacuum any loosened dust from the floor.
  6. Plug the fridge back in and push back into place.

Check HVAC Filter

Dirt and debris in your filter can obstruct airflow, increasing the workload of your system. By replacing the filter regularly, you can reduce wear and tear on your air conditioner while allowing the free movement of air for improved indoor comfort. To make sure your furnace and air conditioner run smoothly, check the filter periodically especially if you have shedding pets. Signs your filter might be ready for a change include:

  • Your AC is cold enough
  • Your electric bill has increased
  • There’s more dust near your air vents
  • Your HVAC closet is dusty

When vacuuming or dusting, don’t forget to dust your air vents and cold air returns.

Check For Leaks

When cleaning your apartment, be sure to watch for water around the toilet and under sinks which may indicate a leak. Do call your leasing/management office if you see any water where it doesn’t belong so the leak can be addressed before it becomes serious. If you own your place, now’s the time to find a reliable plumber or handyperson.

Fix Slow Drains

Don’t you hate it when you’re showering and the water starts backing up around your ankles? Then when the water finally drains, there’s a soap-scummy mess left to clean up. Most of the time, a slow bathroom sink drain or tub drain is a result of soap scum build up and/or hair clogs. Preventative maintenance is these areas is quick, easy, and inexpensive. Simply follow these steps:

  • Let the hot water run for a minute to warm up pipes
  • Pour about ½ cup of baking soda down the drain. If you have a pop up drain closure, use a funnel or a piece of paper to guide the baking soda into the drain.
  • Pour in one cup of white vinegar. It will fizz up like a science experiment; if you have kids (or are a kid a heart), they will love to watch this process.
  • Let sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Rinse with hot water.

Perform this preventative maintenance once every month or so to keep your drains flowing.

Clean Kitchen Filter

Whether you have a range hood or microwave above your stove, it’s important to clean the buildup of cooking grease on a periodic basis to keep the vent or microwave fan working properly. If you’ve never cleaned it, or haven’t cleaned it in a while, be forewarned: it won’t be pretty. Greasy buildup is, well, gross. Here’s how to get rid of the yuck:

  • Remove the filter
  • Fill your sink with boiling water
  • Add a generous squirt of de-greasing dish soap, like Dawn, and add ¼ cup baking soda. Swish with a wooden spoon or something with a handle so as to not burn your hand.
  • Submerge the greasy filter
  • Soak for about 10 minutes
  • Scrub with a non-abrasive scrub brush adding more dish soap if needed
  • Rinse thoroughly in hot water
  • Dry with paper towels or a clean cloth
  • Replace the filter

If you cook a lot, especially on the stove top, cleaning your vents once a month is a good maintenance strategy.

Garbage Disposal

When your disposal is working well, it’s such a great convenience. When it’s not, it’s a real pain. Using your disposal properly can prevent the headache of a backup.

DOs

  • Keep a steady flow of cold water during and after every use
  • Clean periodically by running a small amount of ice through the unit
  • Grind lemon peels to keep the disposal smelling fresh

DON’Ts

  • Don’t use hot water when actively using the disposal
  • Don’t fill the disposal before running. The unit will operate more efficiently if you add small amounts of food at a time.
  • Don’t use any harsh chemicals or cleaning products in the unit.
  • Don’t put anything in the disposal besides food

FOOD DON’Ts

It has been said that you shouldn’t put items in your disposal that you cannot eat. You know, like bones. Or paper towels. But there are some foods that will wreak havoc if you try to get rid of them in the disposal. Never put the following foods in your disposal:

  • Fruit pits
  • Fibrous veggies like asparagus, corn husks and celery
  • Coffee grounds (instead, sprinkle a thin layer of coffee grounds in the garden)
  • Starchy foods like potato peels and pasta
  • Grease and fat (a great way to get rid of grease and fat is to place in a bowl in the fridge. Once it hardens, you can pop it out of the bowl and into the trash.)

Now look at you, you are now on your way to becoming a DIYer with simple cleaning as DIY preventative maintenance. Feels empowering, right?