Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Perfect Egg

One of my fondest memories of growing up are the weekend breakfasts that my mom would make, and she still does! I clean my parents house every other weekend and I purposefully wake up early each time and make that 40 minute trek to get there in time for breakfast. The usual spread consists of some type of combo of pancakes, eggs, scones, potatoes, waffles, etc. Since my mom is such a great home style cook, she somewhere along the way perfected the egg and passed along the secret to me. I never grew up with fried eggs, it just grosses me out getting one that's crunchy, and has probably been fried in bacon fat. I like my eggs light, fluffy and slightly runny so that I can sop up the yolk with a good piece of toast!

I have made eggs for a few people and they usually comment on how great they turn out. It was at that moment that I realized, oh, maybe not everyone makes eggs like this? Do people usually fry them? Which ever way you like it, since I've had friends taken a back at my method, I thought I'd share the secret to the perfect egg!

Basting an Egg

First off, use an organic, free range egg that the mama chicken has not been treated with hormones. Trader Joe's sells reasonably affordable organic eggs, or buy them from a local farmers market.

Start with a small pan, pre-heated just under medium on the burner. Once hot, but not too hot, (a drop of water should evaporate on it), spray it with a natural non-stick spray. Crack the egg into the pan and let it cook for about 30 seconds. Wait till the white starts to set, then slowly pour water into the pan so that it covers the egg about half way. Place a lid over the pan, and let it cook for about a minute. Keep checking the egg about every 45 seconds to a minute to monitor it's progress. Depending on how runny you like your yolks, you can generally gauge it's progress by tilting the pan a bit and shaking it slightly so that the yolk gives a little shimmey.

When it's reached it's level of "done" for you, be careful with picking it up with a spatula. It can be pretty slippery, and make sure to let the water drain well or your plate will turn into a pool. Good luck! Hope you like it! Yay for good, healthy weekend breakfast! (that is a veggie sausage, I assure you!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biz's Doing Their Part

In the last month or so I've really noticed a great amount of local businesses pitching in, in more ways than just providing a recycle bin. So I wanted to point them out and provide a huge THANK YOU to them and hopefully in the near future more businesses will be inspired by their actions .

Ballard Bros.- 15th Ave, Ballard, WA. http://www.ballardbrothers.com/
Not only is their food delicious, but almost every bit of "waste" that comes out of there is compostable. They use compostable corn plastics in their cups, straws, utensils, etc, so instead of a garbage bin in the restaurant, they have a compost bin. You can put dirty napkins and food wrappers in it as well. THANK YOU BALLARD BROS.!

Cupcake Royale- Ballard, West Seattle, Capitol Hill. http://www.cupcakeroyale.com/
They also provide compost bins that you can put your cupcake wrappers, napkins and latte cups in. Ceramic plates and bowls are provided if you are eating "in", so that cuts down on waste as well. THANK YOU CUPCAKE ROYALE!

Old School Frozen Yogurt- Capitol Hill. http://www.oldschoolfrozencustard.com/
I was recently there for my birthday "cake", and the cup they give you not only states that it is compostable, as well as bins provided in the store after you're done with it, but on it is a wonderful paragraph about the Eco-Products they use:

"In one year Eco-Products customers make a difference by saving: 150,000 gallons of gas- enough to five around the earth 181 times; 7,380 pounds of greenhouse gases; 504,326 kW hours of energy- enough to power the average American household for 10 years.

And the surprise eco-warrior of them all....

Mrs. Cooks- U Village. http://www.mrscooks.com/
I made a Christmas purchase there recently, and to my delight, on the bag in big letters it states that the "plastic" bag that my item was in is 100% BIODEGRADABLE. Holy crud! Way to go, Mrs. Cooks!

I'm so proud of many of these businesses taking a stand (Whole Foods also provides a compost bin inside). I believe that recycling and composting are one of the easiest and most effective steps we can take to help clean up the earth. Next time you go to throw away something, stop and wonder, is this recyclable? If not, is it compostable? Your latte cups, dirty napkins, paper take out containers, food scraps, and in many areas (Seattle!) even meat! If you have a yard waste bin then you can put all this in it (keep it in a compostable bag- like paper). You might be surprised at how much it will decrease your garbage!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday Tipping

I have had a few jobs that collect tips, and my cleaning job was definitely one of them. We didn't usually get tipped at every job, it was typically at the end of the year at Christmas. This was something that we all really depended on; for myself, it would help pay for my college books and tuition so it definitely was a bit of an income supplement. So just in case you have a house cleaner, a nice Christmas bonus is at least the amount of what you usually pay for the service. So if your bill is $50, give $50. The better you treat a cleaner, they better they will treat you! (As with most philosophy in life should be!). I had a lot of great clients that I would bust my butt for, but every now and then a gem would come along......

Which brings me to the real story of this post. It's the holiday season, and I thought I would share a little story of my cleaning past (I seriously could write a book).

We had a client that was quite wealthy and lived in a penthouse in one of the high rises in Belltown. It was the day after Christmas, and I was cleaning their home. The husband came towards me, walking from far down the hallway holding a dollar bill up in the air crinkling it. "Patty! Patty! Have you ever heard the story of King Midas?" "Yes", I replied. "Well, I'm going to be King Midas and give this to you." I couldn't quite tell what kind of a bill it was, for he was a distance away. I thought, hey I'm going to get my bonus for being a great cleaner for them, and for putting up with cleaning his pee trails, for he apparently had prostate problems and would dribble from his gym to the bathroom. Gross, huh? I've dealt with worse. Seriously.
Anyways.... He got to me, and handed me a crisp new $2 bill. That was my bonus- the moral of the story was that he wasn't just going to give me a free bonus- I had to go earn it on my own. It was a horrible slap in the face, for I couldn't even go downstairs to Tully's and buy a holiday latte with it. He just assumed that I was stuck cleaning toilets for I had no motivation to make life better for myself. What he didn't know was that I was also in school, working towards my Bachelors degree in Finance. I got up every morning at 3am, got off work at around 3 pm, then had about 2 hours to shower and to homework, then go to night school, where I would then get home around 9:30pm. I also wasn't poor- I come from a modest, middle class family, I lived on my own in a cute apartment in Green Lake and owned a new car. I took the bill, smiled and said "thank you". I then requested to my boss that I do not clean their place again unless absolutely necessary.

So don't always assume that just because someone has a shitty job that they don't work hard and/or aren't educated! Hope you enjoyed the story!

Friday, November 13, 2009

More for Less

Hello, my name is Patty, I am a girl, and I like to shop. I wasn't sure how much this post would fit in with the rest of the blog, but it has to do with getting more for less so I think it will work! I am by no means a super fashionista, but I do love fashion, I love creative outfits and seeing how people express themselves with their clothing. It can be pretty hard to do this though, for throwing on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt is easy and affordable. But what I've heard a lot of people (well, mostly girls) say is that they just don't know how to dress otherwise. This may sound weird, but something that I love doing in my down time is looking at style blogs and magazines and seeing how real people dress- it usually gives me little ideas on how I can alter some of my boring pieces. But this can be expensive- you either pay rent, or have an awesome wardrobe!

So here is an idea that I like to play with every now and then, so I hope you can take this process and enhance your closet on your own!

Find an outfit or look that you really like. I found this on the internet of a real girl in NYC- I think the style is super cute, easy, and a lot of different body types can wear it.

There are a ton of shops that replicate trends, provide easy go-to pieces, and similar "knock-offs" of expensive brands. I took a quick look around at different internet shops and I found some very similar pieces at affordable prices to complete this look.






For the motorcycle jacket, Forever 21 is selling a faux leather jacket for $32.80.

I found a similar boy-friend style sweater at Target for $27.99 in a dark blue. They also have super similar shoes for $29.99.










I didn't see a dress or tunic exactly like she's wearing but this one from Wet Seal ($24.50) is super cute and pretty darn close (plus I love stripes!).



Then to top it off throw in a skinny belt ($4.80 Forever 21), a cream colored scarf ($5.49 Ebay) and a cute little necklace ($5.80 Forever 21).


So there you go! This whole outfit can be bought for $131.37, and it is super interchangeable with other items. Hmm... this is really cute. I may have to buy it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Drying herbs

I love growing herbs, drying them and storing them up for the winter. Actually, I just like growing stuff! As I look around my living room, I currently have 7 plants, 1 pot full of mint, 2 pots with 10 lettuce plants growing, a little pot with lavender, another with chamomile, also one with parsley and 4 volunteer tomato plants that grew out of my compost that I'm trying to nurture for next summer.

True, fresh herbs are best, but if it is out of season or you don't grow them yourself to dry, buy them by bulk from a natural food store for 1) it is sooooooooooo much cheaper. 2) you can buy what you only need for it tends to lose potency. The general rule is ground or powered herbs/spices have a shelf life of about 6 months, and whole dried herbs at about a year. Keep it in a sealed glass container in a cool cupboard, away from light and heat. If it loses color, or smell, compost it.

A quick way to dry your herbs rather than hanging them upside down in a cool area is to arrange them on a cookie sheet and place it in the oven. If you have an oven light, that's all the heat you will need. If not, the lowest setting on your oven (usually "warm") will suffice, but maybe every now and then turn it off so it isn't too hot.

I recently dried a large bunch of rosemary from my Mom's garden and it made my apartment smell amazing, like it was suddenly Christmas in October!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grade B Maple Syrup

Who else here was raised to believe that Mrs. Buttersworth was maple syrup, and not just a goopy brown tinted mess of high fructose corn syrup? About 5 years ago or so I tried a little bottle of organic Grade B maple syrup from the bulk section of Central Market, and I haven't looked back since! Real maple syrup has different grades that range in color, taste and nutrition. My absolute favorite is Grade B. It tastes like liquid brown sugar- it's dark, super rich and everything that maple syrup should be! I'm not just in love with it because of how great it tastes, I'm also in love with it for it's nutritional content.

Grade B maple syrup is the same syrup that is used in the Master Cleanse diet. It contains calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, B2 (Riboflavin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B6 (Pyridoxine), PP (Niacin, B1), Biotin, Amino and Folic Acid. The syrup is great as a sugar substitute for unlike sugar, which does not digest into your body and spikes your bloodstream, maple syrup is digestable and doesn't turn into fat or cause a rollercoaster on your blood sugar levels. Maple syrup also does not go bad if stored properly in the refridgerator.

Grade B maple syrup is a little pricey, but places like Trader Joe's and bulk sections like at Central Market make it a bit more affordable for you can buy a big jug for $15 rather than the cute little maple leaf shaped bottle for $8 at your usual grocery store.

So the next time you feel a bit of an urge to pig out on junk sugar, pour yourself a tablespoon or 2 of pure organic maple syrup and feel good that you're satisfying your craving and taking your vitamins at the same time!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Breakfast Smoothies

About a year and a half ago I did my first detox. My digestive system was a mess, I felt like garbage and wanted a good clean out without fasting for I was a full time student and needed energy and a clear mind for my studies. I used the Detox Box for it gave you a step by step guide on how to do a safe detox. It consisted of drinking organic smoothies laced with supplements, taking different vitamins, eating rice and vegetables, drinking water, juices, bentonite, psyllium, and for the first time in 15 years I introduced fish into my diet. It was hard, after a week I wanted to puke at the thought of brown rice and veggies, but it set my system straight. A friend of mine did it as well, mostly just to detox from sugar, and she liked it as well.

Since then, I have kept drinking the smoothies for breakfast every morning. It's a great way to get a serving of fruit in and additional beneficial supplements and vitamins. The detox requires that you use organic berries, and I agree that organic is important if you are going to eat these certain berries, but let's be honest. For the amount of fruit that I go through, I cannot find an affordable option. So, I "subsidize" in a way. I tell myself that all the organic and health foods that I do eat off-sets the non-organics! ( I know, I know!) CostCo is great for huge bags of frozen berries, and Seattle Super Supplements is cheaper than other stores for the supplements and usually has a great deal on at least one thing you need. Also, I usually get my flax seeds from Trader Joe's. I grind about 1/2 cup whole seeds in my coffee grinder then stick both the ground and whole seeds in the freezer. They start to lose nutrients once ground but freezing locks it in, just don't grind a big batch, keep it as fresh as possible.

Breakfast Smoothie
3 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 fresh banana
1 Tbls. flax oil
1 Tbls. fresh ground flax seeds
1-2 Tbls. Rice Protein
1/2 scoop Perfect Food*
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon**
I prefer grinding it up in my mini-Cuisinart food processor. Before grinding, add about 8 oz. filtered water. The water amount will vary by how liquidy you like it.
*I love Perfect Food- it is super potent so you don't really need to use a full scoop, unless you want to! Plus, it's not terribly cheap, so a little goes a long way. Doing the detox isn't cheap- and neither is setting yourself up for the smoothies. But it's something that I feel good about putting in my body and feel that it's worth it. The berries last a long time if you get them bulk, and the other supplements last me a couple months.
**Cinnamon has several health benefits, one being that it helps control blood sugar levels. Here's one of many little articles explaining more about the spice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cleansing with Oil

So, I'm almost 30, and I still have acne. Maybe not as bad as I used to as a teen, but I still get breakouts and have clogged pores. I've tried it all but nothing really works, I just find a routine and see what keeps it at bay. In fact, I have two continents on my face right now so that brought me to write a post about what I have been using lately.

I have super oil skin, and I had heard that instead of washing your face with soap, the best way to wash the oil away is with oil. I know, weird huh? And since I wear make-up (I admit, I love me some eyeliner), I try to make it a point to wash it off at night. I've been using the Deep Cleansing Oil from DHC, and I really like it. It washes all the make up off and I don't feel gross like I used paint thinner on my face afterwards. There are a couple other companies that make a similar product, one is Shu Uemura, but who has $72 to spend on make up remover?

As much as I really like the DHC oil, I'm still looking for something a little more natural for it says in the directions to cleanse afterwards. I did a little research and came across the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). The idea is that oil dissolves oil. You can use this method for any skin type but I've read that it's a bit trial and error. After I run out of my face soap I'm going to try this method, then I'll report back the results after a few weeks!

The Oil Cleaning Method
Oily Skin: Try a blend of 30% Castor Oil to 70% Sunflower Seed Oil.
Balanced Skin: Try a blend of 20% Castor Oil to 80% Sunflower Seed Oil.
Dry Skin: Try a blend of 10% Castor Oil to 90% Sunflower Seed Oil.
Directions:
1. Rub a quarter sized amount over your face for at least a minute- give it time to absorb and break up the oil in your pores.
2. Soak a wash cloth with hot water and place over your face. Wait till it cools off, wipe the oil off, and re-apply the hot wash cloth. Repeat this a few times till the oil is wiped off. This will remove make up, unclog pores, and exfoliate.
3. Once the oil is removed, pat dry your face. If your face is a little dry and tight, put just a little drop of the oil mix in your hands and rub it in evenly as a moisturizer.
This method should be done at night, and in the morning a water and washcloth routine should suffice. First start out doing this a few times a week for it can be a little overwhelming for your skin, then work your way up to every night. A recommendation is to also add a few drops of tea tree oil (it's my Windex!!) to the oil mixture for it is an antibacterial oil.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hardened Cookies

Not sure how to describe them otherwise, but you know when you make a batch of cookies and in a few days they are hard? You don't want to throw them out because they are still good, they just haven't a lick of moisture left?

This is an easy fix- throw a slice of bread in with them, whether they are in a sealed Ziploc bag or Tupperware. They will absorb all of the breads moisture leaving it dry and crusty, and your cookies moist again. Coz who wants to throw away cookies if they can be salvaged???

Friday, October 2, 2009

Home-made Dishwasher Detergent

As well as clothing detergent, I also just made some dishwasher detergent! I have been using a good biodegradable detergent from Central Market, but it was approx. $7-$8, so if I can make a natural detergent from home for cheaper, then you know I'm going to! The ingredients are similar, but slightly different.


Natural Dishwasher Detergent

2 cups Baking Soda (not the same Washing Soda for clothes!)
2 cups Borax
1/4 cup salt
4 tbls. citric acid,
or 4 packages of Lemonade Kool-Aid
White vinegar (for rinse cycle)


Mix all contents together (except vinegar), then store in a sealable container. Put about a tablespoon of the detergent in each open slot in your dishwasher (I have one open one, and one that closes) and fill your rinse-aid slot with the vinegar (instead of using Jet-Dry, it does just as good a job). I have done one load so far and everything came out clean and sparkly, and I felt good knowing that I didn't wash any harmful chemicals down the drain!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home-made Clothing Detergent

We are so lucky these days to have so many amazing natural cleaner options. With choices like Method, 360, Full Circle and Seventh Generation we really can't make any excuses not to live more "green", except that they do tend to be a bit more expensive. So in my quest to live more enviro-friendly, I found a few recipes on how to make your own home-made, natural, "green" dishwasher and clothing detergent. I haven't made the dishwashing detergent yet so I will leave that for another post to report how good it works.

Clothing Detergent

3/4 cup Borax
3/4 cup Washing Soda
1 bar natural soap (Fels Naptha, Ivory, Pure & Natural)

The Borax is easy to find in any grocery store in the detergent isle, but I found the Washing Soda to be a challenge. It is commonly made by Arm & Hammer, it is like Baking Soda, but the chemical compound is slightly different. You can't eat it like the Baking Soda, but it is equally effective for cleaning clothes and is biodegradable. I finally found it at Fred Meyers, right next to the Borax and the Fels Naptha soap.

Grate the bar of soap, then combine it with the Borax and Washing Soda. Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area or use a mask. Once combined, you can leave it like this, but my grated soap was so big that I decided to put it in my food processor and it made it more granular like normal detergent. The pic I have here below is before I put it in the processor. You only need about a tablespoon or so for each load- I did my first load today and the clothes came out super fresh and clean. The Fels Naptha has fragrance in it so it is pretty soapy smelling. I also made another batch using a bar of Ivory soap and it's much less soapy scented, so it just depends on how sensitive you are to scent.


If you prefer liquid detergent, this can be made into a gel. Grate the soap and put it in a pot on the stove. Add 12 cups of water and turn the burner on to medium till the soap is completely dissolved. Add 1 1/2 cups of the Borax and 1 1/2 cups of Washing Soda to the pot and mix till it dissolves. Then take a large bucket and add 8 cups of hot water, then add your soap mixture to the bucket and stir. Again add 2 gallons of water plus 12 cups of water and stir. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours, and then mix it really good once it becomes a gel to make it smooth. Use about a cup for large loads and a half cup for smaller loads.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Natural Vegetable/Fruit Wash

I'm starting to think that I should change the name of this blog to "1001 uses for vinegar"! I by no means consider myself a germ-a-phobe, but after hearing stories from friends that have worked in grocery stores, I'm definitely more inclined to wash my food items before consuming them. It's a really good idea to wash your fruits, vegetables, cans and especially soda cans! I read an article a while ago (I can't find it, sorry) that in a study comparison between a water wash, commercial vegetable wash, and 1:1 vinegar to water wash, the vinegar and water wash killed much more bacteria than the other 2 techniques. Vinegar is a natural anti-bacterial that not only kills harmful bacteria, but it can also help in breaking down waxes used by the farming industry. Just keep a spray bottle with half white vinegar and half water handy along with a potato brush (get those from the grocery store). Spray, scrub and rinse the smooth skinned fruits and veggies and cans, or just spray the softer skinned ones, even lettuce, then quickly rinse the solution off (that is, unless you want your strawberries to taste like vinegar).
One note about scrub brushes: try to avoid multi-usage scrub brushes or sponges. One scrubbie for food items, one for dishes, one for cleaning the kitchen (Not the same one for dishes! Gross!), and one for your bathroom. It's kind of considered a cross contamination in the cleaning world- would you really want something that scrubbed a counter top to clean your fruits?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fabric-ing a Wall



I admit it, I love decor. Interior design. Architecture. It really makes me happy. I had the pleasure of seeing so many different houses and their amazing furnishings that it really inspired me over the years to look beyond the norm. One of my favorite magazines is Domino, but it's out of print. : (

A few months ago I decided to completely re-do my bedroom to try to lift my spirits. I bought a new headboard for my bed, new sheets, a new duvet cover, and painted the walls what I like to call, "plant green". I still need some wall decor, but I had a great idea to fabric one of the walls. This in a sense is simply wallpapering with fabric. I've never done this before and as anyone who has ever rented knows that it's difficult making your place really interesting without losing your deposit, so I hope it works and I hope it comes off easy! I found this amazing modern artsy fabric through Ikea- I think it will look great, I'll post some pictures when I'm done (if it turns out cute!). So this entry is more of an experimental tip than a tried and true trick! I did some research, and this is apparently how I'm going to do it:

1. Clean the wall to remove any dirt.

2. When cutting the fabric, add a couple extra inches, and make sure the design will match the next panel like when using wallpaper.

3. Spray the top part of the wall with Spray Starch, and smooth the fabric into place leaving about an inch to be trimmed later. Use push pins to hold the fabric temporarily in place.

4. Apply starch to the top of the fabric, smoothing the fabric in place to remove bubbles and wrinkles.

5. Work your way down the panel, continuing to spray starch onto the wall, smoothing the fabric, and applying more starch.

6. Repeat steps with second panel.

7. Cut the excess fabric when it's completely dry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vermicomposting

It’s my first video blog! Hope I don’t stumble too much. As I say in the video, I’ve been composting with the use of worms (vermicomposting) for the past couple of years and I completely love it. People ask me every now and then exactly what is vermicomposting, and recently a friend requested that I do a blog entry on it and set one up for her. A few things I forgot to mention in the video, (hey it’s hard remembering everything when it’s impromptu!):
· Worm bins can be kept inside and outside. When I had a garage I kept them in there, but when I moved I kept them in the kitchen closet. The general rule is if you are cold, so are they. I put them out on the deck early spring when it was getting warmer (don’t leave them in the direct sun), and will bring them back inside when it starts getting cold. It doesn’t smell, and you only get fruit flies during f.f. season if you aren’t careful.
· If it does start to smell, lay off on the food for a while and add “brown” (paper, leaves). That will help balance the bin's contents. Just remember that it needs balance- give them a variety of food, and keep it moist but not mushy and drippy (that’s what I call worm diarrhea!). If you overfeed them, it will bottleneck the process.
· If you want to use the castings for your garden or house plants, stop feeding them for a while so that they can go through the food that’s already in there thoroughly. It can take about 3 months sometimes to go through everything.
· Some items they love are fruit, veggies, stale rice/pasta/bread, coffee grounds, tea (take staples out of the bags!), used napkins, paper towels, and my favorite, used coffee cups! They will eat all of the paper and leave the wax lining, so you will have to pull that out when they are done. (I find it fascinating, but maybe I’m just weird!). Don’t give them fats, dairy, meat, or anything cooked. Throw all of that stuff in your yard waste bin.
· One more thing I forgot to add, it’s not the worms that actually eat the food. The food breaks down with the help of microbes, and it’s the microbes that the worms eat. Nice little cycle!



video





Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Coffee....Part II

Speaking of coffee…..I love it. I had my first cup in the 4th grade, and started drinking it steady from the 7th grade on (maybe that explains my height?). I love everything about it! The color, the smell, the pure taste (cream? NEVER!); it’s like a beautiful ritual every morning. But what I don’t love is poor treatment of it. Here are some tips that I have learned from years of working as a barista, and just pure passion for the drink. And yes, I freely admit, I am a coffee snob.

*Always buy whole bean, never ground. Your coffee is at its peak flavor upon freshly grinding it. If you must buy ground, make sure it is in an airtight package.

*Buy organic (free-trade is a big plus!). Organic coffee doesn’t necessarily taste better or different, but it is usually grown outside of the American border and pesticide restrictions vary internationally. If you think it’s too expensive, go to CostCo, there they sell a great coffee bean by San Francisco Bay. It’s organic, a great roast, and you get 3 lbs. for about $14 compared to the typical 1 lb. for $9 at the store. My only complaint is that their bag is transparent, which the coffee beans should be packaged in a dark bag.

*In a dark bag, you say? It’s best to store your coffee in a dark, air tight canister at room temperature. DON’T put it in your freezer; it’s not a bag of peas. Freezing just strips it of its natural flavor and oils. It can get freezer burn too, so don’t stock up and think you’re good for winter.

So now you’ve got a clean coffee machine, and great whole beans - go make me some coffee!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cleaning Your Coffee Machine

Your drip coffee machine needs to be cleaned just like anything else does. It can gradually collect a build-up of calcium deposits and mold making your coffee taste...well...not so fresh. Rather than buying a fancy cleaning solution (eww..more chemicals?) from the store, buy a jug of white vinegar and brew 1 part vinegar, 2 parts water once. It will strip the calcium and kill any mold spores hanging out (vinegar naturally kills mold). Turn off the machine, and leave it in the pot for 15 minutes. Dump the solution out and do that again 2 more times but with straight water. Be sure to wash your grounds basket and the carafe often, and compost your grounds!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Stainless Steel Care

By far the most popular appliance surface is stainless steel. Sure, it's very attractive, but man it's a pain in the butt to keep clean. Finger prints, food smudges, and sticky condensation on stove hoods are magnets to destroy a nice surface appearance.

Along with residential cleaning, I also did tons of remodels and new construction cleans. Every contractor and owner would set out the little bottle the manufacturer would include to polish the appliances. Don't bother using it. It's overpriced and doesn't do a good job. Instead, first wipe all spots and smudges off the steel surface with a damp rag or scrubby sponge. If you have a stove hood, you'll probably need to hit it with some degreaser. The more serious chefs should be sure to deep clean it at least once a month. Also remember to wash the stove hood screen (most stoves have one). You can just toss it in your dishwasher and let it do the work.

Once it is clean and dry you can polish the stainless steel with either Pledge (or something like it- Endust), or mineral oil. You can also get some pretty good stainless steel spray polishers from stores like Home Depot, but Pledge does just as good a job, and it's more accessible. Spray it on, wipe it off. It is non-streaky, quick, easy, and leaves a nice shine (and lemon-like scent, oo!). Same thing with the mineral oil- I've never used it, but I've seen it used and it leaves a nice finish.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tea Tree Oil

Windex to the dad in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is as tea tree oil is to me. It's the miracle oil! To some, the smell is a little over-powering, but I love it. Put a few drops in a hot bath and the aroma stimulates your senses while relaxing your muscles. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic derived from the narrow-leaved tea tree. It has been used for ages traditionally to heal infections.

My best experience with it was to cure athlete's foot. The first year I was a cleaner I developed my first ever case of it due to actively working for 10 hours a day, constantly getting my feet wet in showers, tubs, mops spills, etc., and it was HORRIBLE! The ITCH, MY GOD! It would literally wake me up in the middle of the night it itched so badly! The "leading" over the counter products did nothing to kill the fungus. I did a "natural cure" Internet search and came up with the oil. I bought a bottle at the drugstore and I swear to you it was gone in 3 days. I don't get athlete's foot anymore, but whenever I get a little cut or rash, I reach for that little stinky bottle and it usually does the trick.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Deodorant Marks and Smoke-Be-Gone

Here is a quickie for you. Ever pull on a shirt or dress and find a lovely white deodorant mark on your clothing? Grab a pair of nylons, pull them kind of tight around your hand and brush it over the white marks. It's like a magic deodorant eraser!

One more quickie for good measure. I went out with a guy a couple times and he heavily smoked in his apartment Gross, right? Every time I left his apartment I'd want to puke. All my clothes and hair would stink horribly of the cigarettes, but there were items that I was wearing that were freshly washed, needed to be hand washed or dry cleaned so it was annoying having to constantly re-wash these items. As a quick and easy freshener for my hair, a couple spritz from a dry shampoo like Psssssst would clear up the stink and leave your hair with a nice scent and soaks up any oil build up. For my clothes, I would throw them in the dryer with a damp wash cloth and a dryer sheet. When it came out there would be no trace of the cigarette stink- now if only I could have done that to him? ; )

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Managing and Organizing Your Bills

I'm a huge fan of filing, I mean how can one NOT be? Right?? Who doesn't love a nicely organized file box with matching folders, and printed labels? Exactly! Ok, ok, I realize I "may" be in the minority here, but a pretty common problem is that we all tend to be pretty lazy and unorganized when it comes to our bills and personal documents. In every household there seems to be that same mail pile all disheveled on a counter top or table somewhere, and before you know it your electricity is off because you forgot to pay your power.

The most fool proof tactic to pay bills is setting up automatic payments. I have this set up through Comcast, Verizon, my financial aid, car insurance and a few other little pesks. The only thing I need to remember is to pay rent. This not only guarantees your accounts are not delinquent, but also saves on paper and postage (and late fees!).

If you prefer the old fashioned way, but still seem to miss your due dates, you'll need to set up a file system using the supplies listed above. First, you will need to label the first 4 folders by quarters of the month (7th, 14th, 21st, 31st). Second, take inventory of all the bills you receive, including statements, important documents (insurance- car, life, house), contracts, etc. Create a file for each of the documents titled by the company name (Comcast, Progressive, Bank of America Checking, Bank of America Savings), and put them in alphabetical order after the quarterly bills files.

When you get a bill, check the due date and place it in one of the quarterly files that is at least 1 week earlier than it is due. So if the due date is the 18th, put it in the 7th file, that will allow sufficient processing time and give you a grace period if you can't get to it by the 7th. You will need to get into the habit of checking your folders every week to pay the due bills. Most email systems have a "reminder" function, that will help you remember to check your bills. After you pay a bill, write a little note on the bill that is was paid and when, "PAID- 6/14/09", and file it back into it's own file.

Bills and important documents vary with length of time to keep filed. The following should be kept a year: bills, statements, paycheck stubs. Tax documents should be kept for 7 years. Every now and then to keep the clutter down, go through your files and take anything out that has expired this length of time. Just make sure you shred it for privacy protection and then, of course, recycle! (Keep it in a bag, though! Loose "confetti" is a no no!).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Baking Soda Exfoliator

Who else here suffered from painful, humiliating acne as a teen? Whole else here still gets painful, humiliating break-outs? It's a fact of life, we all get zits. You can have good skin days, and bad skin days, but all we can really do is find a happy medium with a system that works best for us. I've tried a million different products (high five anyone?) and one concoction that I am very pleased with I learned from an interview with Queen Latifah. She recommended mixing a teaspoon of baking soda with a dollop of your facial cleanser as an exfoliant. The baking soda granules are so small that they exfoliate without irritating the skin. Anything bigger can cause minuscule "cuts" in the skin which causes irritation and redness.

I do this twice a week- it makes your skin smooth without feeling like you just had microdermabrasion done in the shower. I keep a little tupperware container in the shower so it's handy and keeps dry. You can also use it as an exfoliating, oil absorbing mask if you have oily skin like I do. Make a paste with the soda and a little water, smear it on your face and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

More and more new products are being released on to the market that are natural, organic and biodegradable. Even places like Bartell's has an entire section devoted to natural products. Here's a list of natural facial products that I have used and like, or have heard great things about. (Scroll over to view links).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Real cleaning supplies

There are WAY too many cleaning products on the market. You only need a few simple things and you can clean anything you need (with a few exceptions of course). One of my goals was to share real effective ways to clean your house/apartment because there is too much effort being put into cleaning, and usually with too many harmful chemicals that are bad for you and the environment. At my cleaning job, we didn't use "green" products because, I will admit, they are not as effective. As much as i love bio-degradable and natural products, they just don't do as good of a job. but if you rotate your products, they work fine. the major problem lies in when you have serious caked on scum. I have done some research though and try to use green products in my own household as much as I can. This blog should help you decide on what kind of products you would rather use and what their substitutes are.

The Complete Cleaning Kit

To make life easier for you, get a bucket that can hold your supplies. This way when you need it, you can grab it and you're good. This is mine:




















A few supplies that are absolute staples are: feather duster, 2 scrubbie sponges, a large plastic cup, toilet brush, tooth brush, squeegie, and about 20 white rags (wash cloth size). These are the tools of the trade that you must have. Below I have listed the cleaning products with natural substitutes.
Chemical ----------------------Natural

Orange citrus cleaner ------Lemon juice, vinegar and water
---
Comet------------------ -----Baking soda

--------Windex-------------------- Vinegar and water
-------
Toilet bowel cleaner --------Baking soda and vinegar

---------------Pledge ---------------Mineral oil or Murphy's soap
------------
--------Bleach ------------Vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda
Wood/tile/linoleum/etc. floor cleaner------ Vinegar and water



















In my own apartment, I don't hardly ever use any of the chemical cleaners. One in a while I do use the Orange citrus cleaner (you can pick this up at Home Depot or Lowes) for it really cuts through soap scum, food, mold, etc. If I can give something, like my bathtub/shower, a really good cleaning, I can usually keep it up with natural products.
The basic point is you have to think about every product you use, from the dish soap that you wash your dishes with, to the lip balm you basically eat several times a day. What are in the products you use, and where does it go? In your body? Into our streams that run into the ocean? Imagine if just the population of Seattle all switched to natural products, think about how much pollution would be reduced?

So with these items in mind, I plan to go through some steps on how to clean areas like your bathroom and kitchen with both chemical and natural products. But that will be for another day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Alum

I had braces growing up like most of us poor saps did, and constantly suffered from canker sores. The brackets would always cut my lip and sure enough a canker sore would appear the next day. I never found much relief from over the counter products, and to this day I still will get a sore if I even think about accidentally biting myself (and no smart asses, I don't have oral herpes).

I'm not sure when my mom learned this, but she taught me to put a little dab of alum right on the sore and it would magically disappear. Alum is a chemical compound like salt, and is most popularly known as a pickling agent. You can find it in any grocery store in the spice aisle. It stings like crazy but it literally pickles the sore. Hold out your cheek or lip, place a dab of the powder or granules (power is easier), and let it sit till your saliva dissolves it. Reapply about 3 times a day. That owie will be gone in no time, sparing your body of ingesting those extra chemicals in a medication.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I was going to post my first "tip" tomorrow but I'm too impatient!

Recycle Caps with Aveda

I LOVE this program. Plastic bottle caps typically cannot be recycled for they are small enough to jam recycling equipment, therefore it's easier for our city to toss the caps rather than find a solution to this problem. I recently read on Seattle's guidelines that any lid or cap larger than 3 inches is fine, anything smaller is a no go. Aveda, a great social and environmentally conscious company, has created the Recycle Caps program by teaming up with a recycler that can recycle the caps into new recycleable items. I said recycle 4 times in that last sentence. All you have to do is save your caps and bring them into a store. Keep a little bucket on your counter top or a baggie in a close by drawer and before you know it, you'll have a nice little collection of caps! I have so far made about 4 trips to different stores and the employees are very nice and appreciative of the donation, almost like they never get drop offs! Click the link above to learn more about the program and the guidelines for what they accept.
I was a cleaner for a high end cleaning service here in Seattle for 6 years through out my mid-20's. I have cleaned for several top Microsoft execs, a certain online bookstore CEO, a famous rockstar, a leading coffee CEO, a real estate mogul, and on and on......I have learned several tricks of the trade and continue to be surprised at how little people really know about cleaning!

One day I was helping my friend Aimee do a deep clean on her house and as we were going through her stuff somehow it came up that she had too much shit in her life. In response to that universal illness I told her that we need to "un-shit her life". After I left I got to thinking about how I have a weird collection of "how to's" and remedies floating around in my head. Why not get it out and down on paper? Why not write a book, direct it at young people like myself and my friends, and call it that oh so clever catch phrase, "un-shit your life"? I did some brainstorming, brought the idea to my friends and they all loved it. The book would include everything practical that a young independant wo/man would need and want to know, such as a "how to clean" by using commercial and natural cleaning products, natural remedies, recipes, organizing ideas, decor ideas, and budget coaching.

I jotted down some ideas and made an outline but it soon went the way of the buffalo as I was hot in the midst of finishing my BA in Finance at the UW.

On top of my cleaning experience, I am an avid recycler and have a great interest in environmentalism. I remember introducing my family to creating a recycle bin next to the garbage bin for misc. papers, plastics, etc., at a very young age and soon came the vegetarianism. About 2 years ago came my next venture, vermi-composting. I just couldn't handle throwing away so much wasted food when it could be put to other uses! I did some research with my mom and we both created a worm bin each. I recently gave a bunch of worms to my friend Alissa who had me over last night to help tend to them for they were sickly. After a little chatter she suggested I do a worm blog since I love those slimey little guys so much. After I went home I thought, why not? But instead of just worms, why not resurrect my "un-shit" idea?

Thus the creation of this blog. Hopefully it will be interesting, and if you have made it this far you just might continue on! My aim is a little Martha Stewart, mixed with some Sara Snow, sprinkled with Suze Orman and then baked to a golden Kathleen Hanna.

Wish me luck, and less rambling. If you have any ideas to contribute, please do!

Un- what?

"Un-shit your life"- to rid your life of useless shit. This blog is a collection of hints, tips, ideas and stories that I have gathered from my family, friends, articles, the internet, rumors and life experiences. Please share your own!
 

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