Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Way Off Target

Target made it to my list of "Top 2 Places to Never Buy Clothes From Again." Again, for those of you who haven't seen my list:

1. Walmart
2. Target

Here's my story:

I bought four pair of Target's nice $12, no-stain, extra sturdy khakis for my 6 year old. The pants were worn only a few times (since he mostly wore shorts this summer).

One little pair had a clasp fall off.
One little pair had a rip in the bum.
One little pair had holes in the knees.
One little pair had holes by the pockets.

Now, I know my son is active, but this hasn't happened to his other pants that he wears.

Tell me this, ladies: Does it make more sense to buy four pair of crappy Target pants, or two good pair of Land's End or Gap pants.

What are your thoughts on the quality of Target's clothing? Have you had good experiences or bad? Do you buy mostly for quality or price?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

72 Hour Kits for Kids

Earthquake. Urban unrest. Flooding. Chemical leak. A big ol' bomb.

Who knows if any of those disasters will happen where you live. But if they do, you can go to one of those sites like www.end-of-days-emergency-kit-rip-off-supply.com and stock up on $89 waterproof 10,000 calorie energy bars. And be sure to buy a black flag so your neighbors won't loot your stuff.

After you've done that, it's time to get real. You'll probably be fine with a backpack full of pork 'n' beans, bottled water and a deck of playing cards (Hint: They can double as TP). Survival, my friends, is not pretty.

Mommy and Daddy have the official 72 hour pack. It's got food for the fam, water, matches and all the other things our family will need if we have to evacuate. But the kids each have their own 72 hour kit, so they can have a little more control in a situation where we may not know what's going to happen next. Good idea? It's my mom's.

Each kids' 72 hour pack contains:
  1. Change of clothes. They're in a gallon ziplock bag. Be sure to update each year. Kids grow fast! We packed long sleeve shirts, pants, socks, undies, and six diapers (for age 5 and under).
  2. Snacks. Mommy and Daddy have the real food, but the kids will have control over their snacks. We packed Powerbars, fruit snacks, beef jerky, and Emergen-Cs for them.
  3. Water. With a sport cap, just in case the bottle tips over.
  4. Emergency phone numbers. We put our home, cell, work, and both grandparents. If you have any relative living out of state, put their number on the list, too. Seal it in a ziplock bag or laminate it.
  5. Family picture. If your children are separated from you, a family picture may help calm them or help authorities locate you if you're separated. Be sure to put your address and phone number on the back of the picture.
  6. Book. My friend Michelle, who just survived the hurricane in Texas, said that it was very boring while the power was out. No email. No internet. No games. But lots of time to read.
  7. Wind-up flashlight. Kids will love winding it, and it won't matter if they sleep with it on all night. They cost between $8-10.
  8. Small toy. A soft doll, a toy car, colored pencils and notepad...anything imaginative.
  9. Purell or baby wipes. Good for lots of things.
  10. Money. Each pack has $5. I have no idea what they'll do with the money, but it's another layer of security.
  11. Fleece blanket. Fleece blankets are the closest thing to a mother's love.
  12. Mother's love. Write a little love note and seal it in an envelope. Cute!!
  13. FM radio. These are at the dollar store all the time, in lots of cool colors, too. They even come with batteries.
These packs aren't meant to save your child's life--they're just meant to make a hard time a little bit easier.

You've heard the saying "If Mamma ain't happy..."? Let me put it in perspective, "If your power is out, the toilets won't flush, your neighborhood is forced to evacuate, it smells like a gas line broke, and your kids aren't happy..."

Ain't nobody gonna be happy.

Good luck with your preparedness!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunflower Farmer's Market

Tired of paying (insert insanely high prices here) for red peppers, avocados, celery, apples, onions, spinach, chicken, lamb, pork, etc?

Homemakers of the Rockies, rejoice! There's a new natural foods store on the scene called Sunflower Farmer's Market. And I love it.

Their motto is "Serious Food...Silly Prices." Por ejemplo:
  1. Grapefruit 10/$1
  2. Asparagus $.99/lb.
  3. Avocados 3/$1
  4. Gala apples $.39/lb
  5. Red bell pepper 2/$1
  6. Lamb $3.99/lb
  7. Boneless skinless chicken $1.59/lb
  8. And it goes on and on...
The unique thing about this grocery store is that they overlap ads. So last week's ad ends tomorrow, but the new ad starts today. I get to buy cheap asparagus and avocados. And I've never spent more than $50 for a week's worth of meat and produce. (That's even including a bottle of Odwalla for the ride home).

Sunflower Farmer's Market is a natural foods store, so you'll find tons of great deals on other natural products like organic dairy, bulk grains/nuts, and breads. The store has a relatively small footprint so I can get my shopping done way faster (and cheaper) than El Big Box Store.

Currently they have locations in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. If you have one near you, go check it out.

If you'd like to have a location near you, give Sunflower Farmer's Market a call: (866) 890-8949

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Door-to-Door Salesfolk (A True Story)


Guy on Front Porch: Hi! I'm selling house alarm systems.
Me: Goodbye.

(Next day) (Ding-dong)

New Guy on Front Porch: Hi! I'm selling magic cleaner spray.
Me: Goodbye.

(Next day) (Ding-dong)

Kid on Front Porch: Hi! I'm selling overpriced wrapping paper so the PTA can continue to promote it's agenda all under the guise of "education for kids!"
Me: Goodbye.

(Next day) (Ding-dong)

Woman with son: (in broken English) You like buy tamale? Twelve for ten dollar? They hot. Six chicken. Six pork.
Me: Mmmmm....tamales. Let me grab some money.

(Later that evening)

Me: I love tamales.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Contents of Purse

The internet is a jolly good place to dump out the contents of one's purse.

My purse is usually a pretty tidy place. I like being able to find my lipstick in the same place where I left it. I like having only the essentials on hand. Simplicity is my motto.

Take a look-see:
  1. Day-planner: It has my calendar, ward directory, postage stamps, cash and blank paper. It's also where I keep my favorite mechanical pencil and hide the only Sharpie in the house.
  2. Keys: House key, car key, minivan key. All on a key ring with a Leatherwoman and my engagement ring. Nice fobs.
  3. Cards: Debit card (I don't believe in credit cards), library card, Sam's Club card (just for the butter, chicken base, cheese and free samples on toothpicks), and Utah Driver's License.
  4. Lotion: Aveda Hand Relief is what's on tap. It works and smells herbal and natural. It's wicked expensive unless you have a sister who works at an Aveda salon.
  5. Gum: I used to always chew Extra Peppermint, but when they changed the color and flavor of the gum that I had chewed for twenty years, I decided it was time to switch to Trident. I only chew a half piece, which officially makes me the weirdest person on the planet. (Hi, friend!)
  6. Lipstick/balm: I usually have both. MAC and Burt's Bees peppermint.
  7. MP3 Player: It's a Sansa Fuze 8gb with heaps of old time radio podcasts. I heart Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Green Hornet, and My Friend Irma.
  8. Cellular Telephone: I use it to check what time it is, and to call my mom or husband while I'm on errands.
  9. Digital Voice Recorder: I use it for recording compositions, funny things the kids say, and songs I am learning/performing.
  10. Camera (not pictured): It's usually in my purse. I keep it there in case we're out and about and something beautiful happens.
  11. What I Left Out: gum wrappers, extra diaper (if I'm lucky), wipes, loose change (for parking downtown), hair clip.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quick and Dirty Bathroom Remodel

Here's a quick remodel job that you can do in an afternoon, ladies. It costs $12, plus a roll of masking tape, newspaper and an old sheet.

If your shower area is tile (and ugly tile at that) then follow these simple instructions to have a sparkling new shower area:
  1. Scrub tile with steel wool and cleaner. I used a homemade cleaner of baking soda mixed with Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap. I scrubbed every square inch so that the paint would stick to the tile--not the soap scum.
  2. Rinse off tile with water and dry with an old towel. Make sure area is completely dry.
  3. Mask off EVERYTHING. (Sorry for yelling!) You'll be using spray paint, so when the paint sprays it will will get into the air and settle like dust--permanent dust! Listen to me! Wear a bandana! Cover the floor! Protect your sink and tub!
  4. Spray with glossy enamel spray paint--any color--about 3 or 4 cans will do. For this part, you have to pick your own method. Do you want to spray broad strokes or small square-by-square sprays? I did a little of both and thought it was most effective to spray a square completely then move to the next square.
  5. Take breaks. Running the fan, wearing a mask, opening the windows and holding yor breath while spraying also work well. Send your kids outside.
  6. Let it dry/cure for a day or so.
If your shower area is nasty-'ol ugly, then you have nothing to lose. It may end up being the best $12 you ever spent on your bathroom.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cooked Salad

I just invented something!

It's called Cooked Salad. I promise it's not wilted lettuce or boiled potatoes in mayonnaise. When I was trying to come up with a catchy name for my new invention, my husband offered "Stir Fry." It's so much more than stir fry. Just hear me out.

Cooked salad is:
Nutritionally dense
Visually stunning
Looks festive and delicious
Creates it's own dressing
Easy to make

Cooked Salad
1/2 lb broccoli (bagged, frozen is easy)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 zucchini, sliced
soy sauce (maybe a couple Tbs.?)
sugar (about a Tbs.)
handful pecans
asiago cheese

Steam the broccoli and add to serving bowl. Then, saute the red bell pepper, mushrooms, and zucchini. Add the soy sauce and sugar to the sauteed veggies to create a "salad dressing." Layer the sauteed veggies on top of broccoli. Next, toast the pecans in the saute pan for a couple minutes. Layer the nuts on top of the sauteed veggies. Grate asiago on top and serve.

The important thing is to NOT disturb the layers. That way it looks more like a salad. Oh, and don't serve it with rice. It's not stir fry.

Too Poor for Butter, Too Smart for Margarine

Most of my blog stalkers, groupies and followers fall into the "Too Poor for Butter, Too Smart for Margarine" category. When they see butter on a 2/$5 sale, they buy as many as they think they'll need until the next sale comes around again. Their freezers make room, at the expense of ice cubes, boo-boo bunnies, and freezer-burnt frozen peas, for boxes and boxes of butter-on-sale.

These same people who savor the flavor of cubed and quartered cow's gold, also rightly turn up their noses at the Gold 'n' Soft, $.59/lb. fool's gold. Yes'm, margarine looks like the real thing, but it ain't no substitute fer real butter. I couldn't agree more.

I'm about to say something shocking.

Please don't click away.

You can make your own "margarine." Really, I mean, a "buttery, reduced-fat spread." (At this point I've already lost the respect of true disciples of butter...)

Chillax, and let's make homemade, healthy margarine! It's a great way to economize when butter's expensive. This Buttery, Reduced-Fat Spread spreads well, takes advantage of butter's super powers, and it's a wee bit healthier than straight butter.

Buttery, Reduced-Fat Spread (a.k.a. Margarine!)

1 cup butter/2 sticks (that's a good start...)
1/2 cup olive oil (not extra virgin, that's too strong!)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (I just like being kosher sometimes)

Put the butter in a food processor. Process it until it's creamy and smooth. Then, with the processor on, drizzle the olive oil. Then drizzle the water. Then add the salt. Turn off the processor, scoop the buttery, reduced-fat spread into a bowl, and chillax. Oh, and stick this spread in the fridge, covered.

You can spread it on toast, waffles, and baby bottoms. (I've even used it as a wrinkle cream!)

(Just kidding!)

(Actually, I'm not!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Proposition 8

If you live in California, are over 18, and want to do something that will protect the sanctity of marriage, please vote yes on Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 protects marriage between a man and a woman.

If you don't know what Prop 8 is, just wiki it. If you're wondering why this even matters then read the whole wiki article (all the way to the bottom), or go to the lds.org newsroom and watch the video on Prop 8.

Marriage is great. The girl/boy way of doing marriage is fantastic for so many reasons...too many to list.

Vote yes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Current Economic Crisis

A box of Nabisco Honey Maid honey graham crackers is an astonishing $4.29. And for Pete's sake it's not even a full pound!

The humble graham is a boon to teething infants, can easily be transformed into a sturdy base for pie crusts and has endured as a comfort food with a tall glass of 2%. Graham crackers, with their pious roots, were once a staple in every homemaker's pantry.

But paying $4.29 per box during this economic crisis is disturbing and irresponsible. When you have to choose between paying the mortgage and buying a 14.4 ounce box of graham crackers, well, the choice becomes pretty clear.

What's a home economist to do?

Below, I outline one simple way that you and your family can weather this economic crisis. Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

Graham Crackers

1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbs honey (or agave nectar)
2 Tbs molasses
1/4 cup water

Mix the dry ingredients in a food processor. Add the butter and process until it looks like cornmeal.

Add the honey, molasses, water, and vanilla. Mix until the dough becomes a big lump.

Place a layer of parchment on a large cookie sheet. Place the dough on the parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough and roll out to 1/8 inch thick. Remove the top layer of parchment paper.

Poke the top of the dough with a fork about a zillion times. Cut crackers with a bench scraper or pizza cutter.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until browned on the edges. Remove from oven and let it cool.

Now, enjoy your homemade grahams with a tall, cold glass of fresh squeezed cow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Carrot Juice

I know you're busy, so I'll make this amazingly simple.

Carrots are nutritional powerhouses. You should eat them often. If you're tired of eating them, you should drink them. Here's how.

Carrot Juice (sans the gag reflex)
2 carrots
4 cups water (fill the blender halfway)
a few scoops of orange juice concentrate
one lime, zested and juiced

Put the carrots, water, orange juice concentrate, and lime zest with lime juice into the blender. Don't worry if you have a cheap piece-of-junk blender. It doesn't matter.

Next, blend it all up. Push all the buttons. Next, pour the carrot sludge into a fine mesh strainer that is over a medium bowl. Stir the sludge with a spoon until 90% of the liquid is all squeezed out (takes about 3 minutes).

Now, you can either chill the juice or pour it into a cup with ice cubes.

It's refreshing, virtuous, and way-hey-hey cheaper than a bottle of Odwalla ($3.69).

Here's the cool part. What you have left is also usable. It's carrot meat. Use it like you would pumpkin puree. After I made the carrot juice, I had about a 1/2 cup of carrot meat. I whipped up a batch of carrot muffins with rye flour and walnuts. Honestly, I just used a banana nut muffin recipe and substituted carrot meat for the 'nanas.

Let me know how it turns out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Animal Planet @ My House

For mature audiences only...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Uncrustables "R" Us

"Frozen? Pre-made? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Pshaw!! What a stupid idea! Do you mean to tell me that there are people out there who don't have time to whip out a PB&J for their kid," said Heather, a young mother of four, who hadn't yet experienced the thrill of frozen, pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Ya'll, people change.

Let me 'splain it to you. Smucker's came out with a sealed, crimped, crustless PB&J called Uncrustables, that they sold in the freezer section of your local grocery store--a box of 4 for $2.99 last time I checked.

Well, I've been riding the train to Cheapville for a long time, and I'm not about to get off now. That's why I bought a Krustbuster (www.krustbuster.com). It cost ten bucks at the Utah State Fair and it makes ready to eat, cute little crustless crimped PB&J sammies (that I stuck in the freezer and will pull out each day, right after gasping, "Ahh! I forgot to pack your lunch!")

In a matter of seconds, I can have the kids' lunch packed with a pre-made sandwich that will thaw by lunch, a homemade granola bar (recipe to come!), a bag of baby carrots, and an empty cup to fill with drinking fountain water. Wow! That's a heck of a lot faster than trying to scrounge up the buck thirty-five for a USDA approved school lunch with ca-ca canned fruit and sloppy joes (not again!).

While my version of Smucker's Uncrustables PB&J sandwiches doesn't solve all my problems (why isn't there a buzzer on my washing machine so the clothes don't get forgotten??), it does take care of the lunch dilemma. Phew!

And maybe dinner, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cure for the Common Chicken

I got tired of chicken tonight. The thought of defrosting a slab of meat the size of my right hand left me fatigued.

So, we did shrimp instead.

Instead of going on about how wonderful shrimp is, I will leave you with a free FBTSOYP recipe.

"Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants" Shrimp Quesadillas

handful of cooked shrimp (diced, if you'd like)
red bell pepper
red onion
s & p
grated cheese (we used cheddar)
lime wedges

Thinly slice the red bell pepper and red onion. Saute in olive oil until peppers are soft and onions are slightly caramelized. Toss in shrimp. Shake in some cumin, salt and pepper.

Take a tortilla and sprinkle some cheese and pepper/onion/shrimp filling on top. Sprinkle on more cheese then top with second tortilla.

Cook quesadilla on skillet till cheese melts and tortilla is warm and crisp. Flip and repeat.

Serve with sour cream, salsa and a lime wedge.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hitchcock vs. Department of Child and Family Services

My parents kept their kids hooked up to an IV drip of classic Alfred Hitchcock flicks.

North by Northwest. I Confess. Rear Window. The Man Who Knew Too Much.

All of them classics. All of them leaving a lasting impression on me. All of them giving me a terrible fear of Unjustly Accused Innocent Man Syndrome, or UAIMS.

In a great number of the Hitchcock flicks I've seen, there is a common thread. Innocent, good-looking man is eating lunch/sitting in wheelchair/vacationing with family, when something terrible happens and all of a sudden he turns from hourly-paid extra (non-union) to critical main character (union, plus stunt double).

Been there. I'm the innocent man who has been accused--according to the Department of Child and Family Services--of neglect. Non-supervision, to be exact.

My husband and I were both home on a Friday afternoon when our three-year-old son rode his bike one block to the church while I was inside changing a diaper and my husband was tending to finances just 20 feet away from where our son was playing. The woman who found our son, called the police who then filed a report for non-supervision/neglect with the Department of Child and Family Services. The whole incident took about ten minutes.

Because the caseworker filed a supported (guilty) finding, we have chosen to contest it. Boldly! As it stands, we have a DCFS hearing at 10am on July 22. We have a strong case. We are vigilant, watchful, and careful parents. We ain't perfect, but we didn't need a government agency to tell us that.

We're not sure what will come of this, but we've prepared our case, collected journal entries, documented supporting evidence, and developed a backbone.

As I, innocent man, go through this trial, I take comfort in the words warbled by Doris Day in one of the most famous scenes in Hitchcock history:

"Que Sera, Sera...Whatever will be, will be."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How to Remove Stains From Anything!

I don't believe in "treating" stains. Ever. No exceptions. I know, it's harsh.

"But Heather," you say, "All you have to do is use a dab of 'Granny's Magical Elixir' As Seen On TV, and it'll take out everything from grape juice to crayons!"

Ah-ha. I don't drink grape juice or eat crayons.

But even if I did, I'm not going to slave over a shirt to get out a stain. Here's why:

1. Clothes are cheap. If the stain doesn't come out it the wash, I'll just buy Child #2 another used polo shirt at the local Ye Olde Thrifty Shoppe. If it's stained beyond recognition, into the ye olde trashe it goes.

2. Most stains come out in the wash without Granny's Magical Elixir. It's true. Even if it doesn't come out in the first wash, it lightens with subsequent washes.

3. The shirt will get stained again. So don't even bother. And by the way, where do these children come from who have never soiled an article of clothing? I know they're out there because they donate all their old stain-free clothes to Ye Olde Thrifty Shoppe where I buy them for my kids. Thank you!

4. You have more important things to do. I watched my sweet Nana iron underwear because "the iron's still hot--might as well!" Look at your priorities and look at what you're doing. Are your actions consistent with your priorities? (Can you tell that I don't iron either?)

5. Stained clothing activates the "retract claws" feature on Supermoms. If a Supermom sees my kids wearing a shirt with a salsa splotch, she's much more likely to leave me alone rather that spark a lively (yawn) debate on which salon does the best job on toddler manicures.

In closing, I leave you with on old Irish blessing: May your shirt be clean enough to work in, but dirty enough to live in.


Friday, June 13, 2008

It's a Laura Petrie Day

Today I put my hair in hot rollers, let 'em cook, and styled my hair into a perfect copy of Laura Petrie's classic flip. Wow.

For those of you who are old enough to remember the Nick-at-Night Dick van Dyke Show re-runs, Laura Petrie is the talented, funny, confident, size zero-and-a-half wife of comedy writer Rob Petrie. Laura Petrie outclassed contemporaries such as Donna Reed, June Cleaver, and your mom with the power of her 'do.

Yes, the secret to her success--and quite possibly ours as well--is in the hairdo. Bouncy and sassy. In place, but not stiff. This 'do can transform your average domesticus vulgaris into a domesticus fantastica.

So, ladies, no matter what day of the week it is, get out the hot rollers and let 'em cook. While we may not be a size zero-and-a-half wife of comedy writer, we can still go forth with confidence, beauty and humor.

It's going to be a great day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Writing a Book

I met with an LDS publisher this weekend at a writing conference. He's interested in my work and wants me to have a manuscript ready by the end of July 2008. Those are all the details I have...

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Secret Ingredient in Homemade Ravioli

When meal preparation requires more than a sharp can opener or awesome paper-ripping skills, then I always add my favorite secret ingredient. Love. Yeah, I know, it's odorless, tasteless and makes some teenagers sick, but trust me on this.

Love. The world's perfect secret ingredient. I add it to most of our family meals. And tonight I added lots of it. I made ravioli. From scratch.

I know about half of you are like, "Oh my heck, I could totally never do that!" And the other half of you are like, "Get me started, girlfriend!"

1. Buy a ravioli press that makes large ravioli (2" across or larger). If you buy a ravioli press that makes tiny ravioli you'll be scooping itsy-bitsy fillings with a Sea Monkey food scoop. I bought a 10 square ravioli press from www.surlatable.com. (For those of you who haven't been there, it's like heaven, but much more expensive...) This large press makes manly-man ravioli.

2. Buy a pasta machine. Don't let the word "machine" fool you. It's hand crank and makes a perfect sheet of pasta to lay on top of the ravioli press. I bought mine at a garage sale when I lived in Seattle. Don't fly to Seattle looking for garage sales. Scour your thrift stores or borrow one from your mom (assuming she's a classy lassie).

3. Make the filling. I mixed ricotta (splurge), an egg, a couple cloves of fresh minced garlic (if you use bottled garlic, the garlic fairy won't come!), a shakey-shake of dried basil, sauteed spinach and a grind of pepper. Oh, and a generous grating of asiago (which spell-check does not recognize).

4. Roll out pasta sheets. Your pasta can be made of white or whole wheat. Roll out the sheets to the next to thinnest setting. Lay the first pasta sheet on top of the ravioli press, fill it up with a tsp. of filling, brush water around edges of ravioli and lay top pasta sheet over the bottom filled pasta sheet. Roll a rolling pin over the press to seal and cut your little pasta pillows.

5. Pop those babies out. Either boil immediately or freeze on a cookie sheet then store in a freezer zippie bag.

6. Improve your method. This is my way of saying, "I left a bunch of really helpful instructions out, so try it on your own, and you'll learn the hard way to dust the pasta sheets with flour so they won't stick to the press."

So...where's the love? Well, you can add it to the filling. Or to the pasta dough. Or the boiling water. Or to the melted butter you drizzle over the top of the ravioli.

It makes all the difference.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Get Rich Quick Homemaker Schemes

I don't know many homemakers who have heaps of extra time to "stuff envelopes and make $$$" or "get paid for shopping!" There are offers all over the World Wide Web that are targeted toward the domesticus vulgaris. Pity de po' foo' who falls for those get-rich-quick schemes.

Honestly, I barely have time to shower and smear on some concealer and lip balm, let alone spend hours stuffing envelopes.

But what bothers me is the fact that smarmy, creepy business folk out there seem to think that homemakers are dripping with free time and are desperate for an extra $16.50 every month.

Homemakers' time is valuable. As our financial adviser, Dave Ramsey, likes to say, "We don't do get-rich-quick. We do get-rich-slow. And it's not a scheme." Part of your job as a home economist is to manage the money flow. And as you manage it wisely, you will see the value of being a homemaker.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sad, Sad Story With a Happy, Happy Ending

Once upon a time, about a year ago, I bought a steam cleaner at a local grocery/clothing/jewelry/electronics store. It was fine. Until it stopped working.

So, I called a local repair shop to see if I could get it repaired. The five minutes I spent on hold and the five minutes I spent talking to the repairwoman (I know, you thought I'd say repairman) were the best ten minutes of my life--as far as buying a steam cleaner is concerned.

Let me tell you what she told me:

1. Take the steam cleaner back to the place where you bought it and get your money back. Most places will take back a defective or broken product within a certain window of time. I had only had the steam cleaner for a few months and had used it maybe twice.

2. Never buy a Bissell. At least not a current model. They have this weird bladder system, they are constantly in for repairs, and end up collecting a lot of dirt, mildew and junk inside. Eww.

3. Spend at least $200. That will get you a high powered motor, a spinning brush, a hose, and a huge box for your kids to play in.

4. Hoover is a great brand. The repairwoman said that Hoover steam cleaners are built well, are easy to use, and easy to clean out. That's been our experience. We've used our Hoover steam cleaner on carpet, tile,
slate, mattresses, upholstery, and even our two vehicles. (Let me tell you, ain't no better feeling in the world than a steam cleaned van after a two-day road trip with four kids.)

We followed her advice and are happy, happy, happy with our Hoover steam cleaner.

The End

Friday, May 9, 2008

All-Purpose Cleaner

Here is a recipe for and easy and effective all-purpose spray cleaner. It's the only cleaner I use. It's tough, effective and can whoop a counter clean faster than yo' mama.

I use this all-purpose cleaner on windows, counters, walls, doorknobs, and children. I also use it as an air fresh'ner.

All-Purpose Cleaner
1 squirt of liquid soap (I use Dr. Bronner's liquid castille soap)
15-20 drops essential oil
2 cups water

Give a little squirt of liquid soap into a squirt bottle--maybe a couple Tablespoons. Add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil. I use eucalyptus, camphor, orange or lavender. Then add enough water to fill to the top. Shake gently to blend.

I challenge you to clear out your under-the-kitchen-counter area today and replace all those nasty old bottles of chem-i-clean with this fabulous, fresh spray cleaner.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Commercial Grade Vacuum

We have finally found the perfect vacuum. No Consumer Reports hype. No whirling cyclone of dust inside a transparent container. Nope. It's a commercial vacuum (I found her at a janitorial supply store) and it broke two of my vacuum rules.

Broken Rule #1
: Has to be a Kenmore
Why we broke the Rule: It turns out that Kenmore really is a great brand, but it's not the brand that the "industry" uses. I'm talking about maids, janitors and really smart housewives. We chose a
Sanitaire DuraLux by Electrolux SC9180A Commercial Upright. It beats the b'jeebers out of dirty carpet and is quieter, sturdier and lasts FOR-EV-ER! The two different vacuum gurus I talked to said that the Sanitaire vacuums tend to have a lifespan of 20 years. And that beats our Kenmore by fifteen. The price was only 30% more than the top model Kenmore.

I believe that housewives deserve commercial/professional grade when it comes to cleaning
tools and supplies. While it's true that I'm not cleaning a hundred hotel rooms a day, I still want high quality tools that will withstand heavy use.

I'm also a stickler for high end customer service (even at low end stores). The gal at the Sears store was under the impression that I enjoyed waiting for her while she complained to her boss about another employee. While it was fascinating, I chose to leave.

Broken Rule #2: Has to have a "dirt sucking meter"
Why we broke the Rule: Does one really need a light up sensor to tell if the carpet is clean? Our old vacuum (bless her heart) had a dirt sucking meter. It was cool, but did it really make our carpet any cleaner? Then only thing it really told me was that the sensor thought there was no more dirt.

Our new vacuum does not have a light telling me that our carpet is clean, but she does have a wicked metal and brush beater bar. And that scares me. There's no way our carpet can possibly be dirty after that good of a beating. (You don't sass this vacuum back.)

I'm happy. And the next time I buy another vacuum, I will be the same age as my mother is now.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Laundry Problems Solved (Phew!)

Have you ever stood over your washing machine (assuming you use top-loading) wondering if the detergent should go in first (and perhaps never make its way to to dirty clothes on top) or last (and perhaps never make its way to the dirty clothes on bottom)?

I've have pondered on this question...perhaps a little too much. Not to the point where I neglect other important ponderings (such as, Is 'coconut-based ionic surfactant' really 'sodium laurel sulfate'?).

Although dizzied and frenzied by the stench and sheer volume of our laundry, I have managed to come up with a satisfactory answer to my laundry question.

The answer is: laundry lasagna. A layer of laundry, a layer of detergent. A layer of laundry. A layer of detergent. A layer of laundry. A layer of detergent. Sprinkle wash with 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serves 6.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Vacuum Cleaner Heaven

Our Kenmore vacuum cleaner, who served us faithfully for over six years, was taken to the garage last night and put to sleep. She'll now serve as a shop vac (which is vacuum cleaner heaven) sucking up sawdust, plain dust and dirty air.

She's gone to a better place. (Can I get a hallelujah!)

No longer will she be forced to choke down chunks of
dried up Little Caesars pizza crust. No longer will she suffocate on size three Thomas the Tank Engine training pants that languished in the dusty behind of the boys' dresser. She'll finally be spared breathing itsy-bitsy shreds of junk mail that went through our "shredders" (child #1, child #2, and child #3). And no more Christmas wrapping paper.

She had the heart of a fighter and the soul of a tornado. We will miss her.

So, this Thursday, May 1st, I will drive down to Sears, pick out a new model, and drive her home.

Here are my priorities:
1. Has to be upright (because canisters aren't powerful enough)
2. Has to be bagged (because bagless vacuums are dirty, dirty, dirty)
3. Has to be a Kenmore (because I trust the brand)
4. Has to have suction to the edge (otherwise the edge of the room doesn't get clean)
5. Has to be a normal color (sunflower yellow doesn't do it for me)
6. Has to have a couple attachments and a hose (because I like to vacuum out my car and van)
7. Has to have a dirt sucking meter (so I can watch the light to see if I sucked all the dirt out)

Friday, April 25, 2008

My Sister Knows Alfredo

I love calling my sister for dinner inspiration. She's always on a different page of the cookbook (so to speak), so she's a great one to turn to for some fresh ideas.

The other night I called her, begging for her Alfredo recipe that she frequently turns to on nights where she's too poor to eat out. Bless her soul, she gave it to me. Alfredo. Simple, yet oh so satisfying.

I know that this is not authentic. Who cares?

Here it is, ladies. (And for heaven's sake, don't use pre-minced bottled garlic.)

Alfredo Sauce
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour (white or wheat)
2 cloves garlic (pressed with a garlic press)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup shredded asiago or Romano cheese (shredded from a hunka, hunka cheese)

First, take that green cylinder of grated Parmesan sawdust that you were thinking of using in place of the asiago, and throw it in the trash.

Next make a roux from the butter and flour. Add the garlic. Add the milk and whisk. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the shredded cheese. Add more than the recipe calls for, if your heart so desires.

Eat it with pasta and maybe some chicken or broccoli. Serves 4 adults (probably).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Your Breakfast (A Sassy Little Blueberry Bran Muffin)

There she sits, with eleven of her sassy friends. The world's most perfect Blueberry Bran Muffin. Never mind that she's low-fat. It doesn't matter--you'd never dream of eating her without a healthy smear of salted butter on both halves. She's loaded with plump, steaming blueberries, and surrounded by sweet, ever-lovin' bran and wearing a darling little pleated skirt. You're tempted to reach for the most perfect muffin in the world, but instead reach for one of her friends nearby.

So, there she sits, now with ten sassy (but a wee nervous) friends.

I invite you to make a batch of these muffins today. They are sweet, light, moist, and everything a muffin should be. Better yet, double this recipe and give some Low-Fat Blueberry Bran Muffins to someone you love.

Low-Fat Blueberry Bran Muffins

1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together bran, milk, applesauce, egg and brown sugar. Mix the dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Scoop into muffin tin that has been lined with paper muffin liners. (For extra precaution, you may wish to spray muffin liners with non-stick spray--still, some goodness may stick to the liner.)

Bake for 20 minutes. While still warm, spread a healthy dose of butter on each half.

Makes 12.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Modern American Housewife

What ever happened to the Modern American Housewife?

Here I am...living the dream, sans the high heels, pressed frock and coiffed hair. Here I am, baking fresh cookies, doing laundry, scrubbing toilets, and keeping the peace. And not necessarily in that order.

I am a rare breed. Though somewhat isolated and a teeny bit crazy, I enjoy what I do and take the art of homemaking seriously. I believe that happiness is a warm bun, that cleanliness is next to impossible. I believe that by small
means the Lord can bring about great things. I believe that the hand that rocks the cradle needs a little rock 'n' roll once in a while.

Being a full-time homemaker brings opportunities to expand talents and abilities. As one of my friends asks, "What's your thing this week, Heather?" And I promise, every time she asks, I'm doing something new. The purpose of my blog is to chronicle those daily discoveries and share them with other homemakers.

So, what ever did happened to the Modern American Housewife? She doth not slumber, neither doth she sleep. She's is alive and kickin'! And up to her elbows in cookie dough, soggy diapers, laundry soap and toilet bowl cleaner. (Am I right, ladies?)

And not necessarily in that order.