How To Host A Perfect Potluck

Gatherings do not have to be complicated or stressful.  With a little planning ahead of time potlucks can be one of the most stress-free and economical ways to host a get together.

 

THE OCCASION

 Any occasion is a great for a potluck! Whether it be a work luncheon, pool party, or something more formal, wherever there is a gathering of  people that need to eat a potluck can be incorporated.  Some of the best times are shared over a meal.

THE PLANNING

Unless you want a very eclectic spread, you may want to set a theme such as “Italian” or “Comfort Foods” to narrow down what type of cuisine you will be having. However, it is definitely not a requirement.

Once this is decided, it is time to figure out how not to end up with 40 appetizers and no main dishes. One common method is to have a sign up sheet broken down by the following categories: appetizer, salad, main dish, dessert, and drinks. Then have your guest let you know  what dish they would like to bring. Be sure to let them know how many people are attending so they know how much to prepare.

As host, in addition to the dish you are making, it is customary for you to provide the location, utensils, plates, cups, and bowls.

THE SPREAD

 When setting foods out for display you will want to organize them according to what type of dish they are.  Start with the appetizers, then move on to soups and salads,  main dishes, and finally your desserts.

It may be a good idea to have labels and markers on hand to label guests dishes.

After Party

Once all is said and done, you will usually have plenty of volunteers that will help you clean up, which makes clean up a breeze.

Make sure guests remember to take home their serving dishes and offer them some send  some leftovers home with them.

It doesn’t get much easier than that! Good time, good food, and good friends!

What are your favorite dishes to take to a potluck? Please comment below! 

 

 

 

15 Simple Laundry Tips Everyone Should Know

 

 

Laundry, we all have it! Some people hate it, some people don’t mind.  I have compiled a list of 15 tips everyone should know. After all, laundry doesn’t have to be that bad!

 

 

For Removing Stains

 

Dingy Whites  Brighten your whites by hanging in the sun. After the wash cycle, spray with vinegar and hang in direct sun.

 Ink Stains  Rub with hand sanitizer and let sit for for 30 minutes. The alcohol works to break down the stain. After 30 minutes wash in cold cycle.

Grass and Blood Stains Rub with a mixture of 1 TBS of dish liquid and 2 TBS of Hydrogen Peroxide. Let sit 20 minutes before washing.

Underarm Stain On White Shirts Mix 1/4 cup of the following: baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and water. Rub into stain and let sit 30 minutes before washing

Grease Stains Rub with baby powder and allow to sit overnight to soak up oil before washing.

For the Washer

 

Brighten Whites With Baking Soda  Add 1 cup of baking soda to your load to keep whites looking bright

Use Vinegar In Place of Fabric Softener Add one cup of white vinegar at the beginning of cycle to replace fabric softer. Not only does it contain antibacterial agent but it softens clothes by removing residues. Don’t worry, it does not leave your clothes smelling like vinegar.

Clean Your Washer  Easily clean your washer by adding 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of baking soda and running an empty cycle on hot.

For the Dryer

 

Tennis Balls to Dry Bedding  Add 2 to 3 tennis balls to dryer when drying bedding. Not only will it fluff the bedding, but it will also speed up the dry time.

Ice Cubes to Release Wrinkles Add a handful of ice cubes to the dryer with the load.  The steam from the melting cubes will help to remove wrinkles.

Add a Dry Towel to the Load Add a dry towel into the dryer with your  clothes to reduce moisture. This will help to shorten dry time. Remove after 15 minutes.

Aluminum Foil For Softener Use a ball of aluminum foil to your clothes in place of softener to remove static electricity. Replace every  4 to 6 months.

Afterwards

 

Unshrink Your Clothes Add 1 TBS of hair conditioner to a tub of lukewarm water. Soak garment for 30 minutes and gently reshape. Allow to air dry.

Clean Your Iron With A Dryer Sheet Easily clean your iron by heating it on low setting and running back and forth over a clean dryer sheet. This will help to remove any built up residue.

Remove Tennis Shoe Odor Add baking soda to your shoes and allow to sit overnight. Empty in the morning. 

There you go 15 Tips everyone should know!

 Have any great tips that I didn’t share?  Please leave a comment.  I would love to try them out!

5 Free Things To Do With Young Children!

 

With summer coming, it’s a great time to stock up on ideas of things to do with your kids over summer break. If you have have multiple little ones and need to be cost effective be encouraged, there is a wealth of free things to do right in your own area. I have put together a list of some of our favorites from when my kids were little.

Visit Your Local Library

There is a multitude of things to do at your local public library, from story times for the little ones and clubs for your teens.  They will also be starting their summer reading program soon to encourage kids to continue reading over summer break.

Many library also lend more than just books and videos.  My local library also offers toys that can be checked out, as well as certain musical instruments. It is worth a visit to see what yours offers

Visit Your Local Park Or Playgrounds

This was a favorite when my kids were little! Who doesn’t love to go to the local playground! Meet up with a few friends, pack a lunch and make a play date out of it.

Start Your Own Playgroup

Coordinate with a few other moms and start your own playgroup.  Meet weekly, biweekly, or once a month with a different mom hosting each time. This is a great, cost effective to get out of the house and have something to look forward to on a regular basis.

Take A Hike

Hit your local hiking trail or walking path and go out for a stroll. If you don’t have one, perhaps you can take a walk around the neighborhood. Don’t underestimate the enjoyment of just getting outside for some fresh air and sunshine.

Read A Book

Sit down with your kids and read a book. It’s a great way to establish a love of reading in your kids. As they learn to read, let them read to you and show off their new reading skills.

Find some craft books that only require supplies you would find at home and incorporate a craft into story time.

Finding fun things to do does not have to be complicated, nor expensive. All it usually takes is a little bit of time and to plan these activities that your kids will enjoy!

What are some fun things you have planned for the kids this summer?

 

Steps To A Clutter Free Home

Have you ever looked around your home and wonder where  all the stuff come from?  I have! I’ve also thought about all the time and energy it takes to keep it cleaned and organized and the money I wasted on it!

They seemed like a good deal at the time but the contentment   is short lived. The cute shoes that we on sale aren’t as cute strewn by the door.  The legos you got for the kids lose appeal as you step on another one in your bare feet for the third time in one week.

 

 

Here is a process that will help you win the battle of clutter and keep it under control for good!

 

THE PROCESS

Take an Inventory

  You are literally going to have to go through your belongings and decide what you are going to keep and what you are getting rid of.  Be ruthless about it, the more stuff you keep, the more you have to maintain.

Get rid of those things that you are not using, they are cluttering your space. If you haven’t used something in the past year, chances are you are not going to need it.

Purge yourself of things that you have duplicates of.  Figure out what quantity you actually need and get rid of the rest. For example, how many jeans do you need? Or how many towels? We tend to accumulate large quantities of certain thing.  Be realistic and only keep what you need.

You may also run across some sentimental items, you will have to use your discretion for this. Be realistic about it, if you are going to regret getting rid of an item that is sentimental and cannot be replaced, its better to hold on to it a little longer.  Just remember its the memory that is bringing you joy, not the item.

Go  through this process until you have completed each room. Some people decide to complete this step in a day, some in a weekend or a month.   Personally, I find it easiest to go through the whole house in a day and repeat the process in a week or two if needed.

 

Decide What to Do With Items That Must Go

As you are going through this process and have identified the items you will be parting with and sort them into three piles: Donate, Sell, and Trash (for items that are no longer usable.

Donate – Consider donating your items to charity. Local animal shelters are usually always looking for towels and blankets. Call them to find out. Some charities have local drop off locations and some will even pick your items up curbside.

Another option for donating is to people you know personally that can benefit from your items. Let someone else enjoy it for awhile.

Sell –  Sell some of your items to recoup some of your hard earned cash.

  • Have a yard sale
  • Sell on Facebook
  • Ebay
  • Take your items to a consignment shop
  • Rent space at a flea market

 Organize Kept Items

Everything you keep should have its own place.  You should be down to only the items you use and love.  Further purge if you are finding this is not the case.  You are going to continue to have clutter if you continue to keep stuff you don’t have a place for.

 Clean Your New Found Space

Once you have finished the process of purging and organizing you should find you have much more open space than previously.  Clean thoroughly, it will be much easier without the clutter.

 

After Decluttering

Implement A System to Prevent Future Clutter

You are going to have to implement a system to prevent this from happening aging. Your future self will thank you for it.  It could be something as simple as making a rule that prohibits bringing an item in without sending one out.  Really think about your purchases. Do you really need it? Can you do without it?

Lastly, find fun and creative ways to spend your free time other than shopping. These are the things that make memories!

 

 

Cherish each other, not things!

Please share any tips or methods you have tried by commenting below. I would love to hear from you!

How To Have Rhubarb Year Round


This is one of my favorite times of the year here in Maryland. The early crops are ready to harvest and we are getting closer to summer!

Agriculturally speaking, I live in a great area to stock up on fresh fruits and veggies to have on hand all year round.  This past weekend was the beginning of the neighborhood Farmers Market. This is a great place to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables. Although I did not make it this time, I usually go on a regular basis throughout the summer and into early fall.

Having missed the Farmer’s Market, I decided to head to the produce stand down the street for some rhubarb.  I wanted to get enough to make a rhubarb dish with dinner and to put some in the freezer for use throughout the year.

I was able to get 6 bunches of rhubarb which was plenty to get my freezer stash started and to make a rhubarb scone to go with dinner.

 

The process to freeze is very easy:

  1. Start by washing and removing the leaves.
  2. Dice rhubarb into 1  inch pieces
  3. Blanche for 90 seconds in boiling water
  4. Drain 20-30 minutes until almost dry
  5. Put in airtight container (I put 2 cups in each )
  6. Place in freezer

I will be picking up some more at the Farmer’s Market next weekend  to add to the freezer.  All you need to do when you are ready to use is pull it out and thaw if you are baking with it.

Usually, I would make strawberry rhubarb crisp for dessert. Today, I tried my hand at making Rhubarb Scones. They were a hit and the family really enjoyed them. Best of all, they were not hard to make.

 

Rhubarb Scones

Ingredients

5 1/2 oz rhubarb

1 tbsp sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

zest of 1 orange (I have used lemon as well)

1/3  cup cold butter

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbs milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Mix rhubarb with one tbsp of sugar, set aside
  3. Mix baking powder, sugar, salt and zest of orange. Add butter and mix until you have small crumbs.
  4. In separate bowl mix egg, vanilla, and heavy cream. Add to flour mixture and mix until blended. Add rhubarb and fold in. If sticky add additional flour.
  5. Place dough on floured baking sheet and shape into a 1 inch thick disk and cut into 8 triangles
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Let cool.
  7. Mix confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, and milk to make glaze. Drizzle over scones and let dry.

What are some of your favorite rhubarb recipes?

How to Make Your Own Natural Lotion

Reading the ingredients list on the back of most of your store bought lotions is like reading some kind of chemistry experiment gone wrong.   Glycerin,  parabens, isopropyl alcohol, just to name a few. It turns out lotion is super easy to make and best of all, it does not require a lot of ingredients.

Here is what you will need:

  • 1/3 cup Coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup Shea Butter (can be found on Amazon)
  • 20 drops lavender essential oil (or oil of your choice)
  • 1 TB spoon arrowroot powder * (optional if you wish to add texture)
  • 8 oz Mason Jar


The Process:

  • Place all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form.
  • Transfer to jar
  • Enjoy!

The recipe can easily be doubled and tripled.  Decorate your containers and and they would make great gift. With Mother’s day right around the corner add your Mom’s favorite essential oil, customize the jar and viola!

Ready to make your own?  What essential oils would you like to try?

6 Simple Steps To Starting Your Own Compost

 

There are many benefits to starting your own compost bin.  Not only does it establish a nice nutrient rich garden, but it helps to cut down on your everyday waste and puts it to good use. Best of all, it is easy (and inexpensive) to start your own.

 6 Simple Steps To Starting Your Own Compost

  1.  Using a large plastic tub or plastic trash can with a lid, drill holes in  the top and side of bin. This allows the oxygen in that is needed for the composting process to take place.
  2.   Add your green and brown layers.  Brown layers can be found in your own back yard; items such as dried leaves, pine needles, and small twigs. Green layers can be lawn trimmings and kitchen scraps such as egg shells,  vegetable scraps, coffee grounds etc. Do not add any meats, oils, or dairy to your compost bin.
  3. Add a scoop of potting soil or already established compost and water and mix until the mixture is wet.
  4. Water every few days to keep your compost moist.
  5. Mix your compost weekly to make sure oxygen is getting into mixture. This is necessary for the composting process.
  6. Continue to add to your compost. In about 6 weeks your compost should look like soil.  This is when you know it is ready.

What are your thoughts on composting? Is this a practice you have established or would like to try?

7 Steps To Start Saving Your Money

 

Who doesn’t want to save money? I would be surprised (and concerned) if you actually found someone who wants to remain in debt!

Imagine being free to devote your time and energy on the pursuits that are important to you with out having to worry about debt! We will always have some sort of financial responsibility but the more debt we eliminate the less likely we are to be stuck in a job we hate just to make ends meet.

To make this happen you need a plan.  It will take a little work and some patience, but so do most things that are worth your time and effort.  Below I have outlined some steps to start getting your finances under control and start eliminating  debt.  I am by no means a financial expert, but by applying these principals, we have been able to once again live on one income.

 

7 Steps to Saving Money

Total Your Debt

Take an inventory on how much you truly owe. While we may have a general idea how much we owe, it is important to have an accurate total. Make a list of all your financial responsibilities, along with their due date and percentage rate if applicable.

 

Track Your Spending

The next step can be rather eye opening, but it is imperative. This may be as easy as viewing your account online. We want to get a clear picture of where are money is going. I suggest doing at least 2 to 3 months to get an accurate picture of where your money is going.

Categorize Your Expenditures

 Once your list is compiled, go through and label each item as a need or a want.  As you label, really think these through. Are there things we are currently viewing as needs that we can temporarily do without while we paying down our debt. The more needs you have the less you will have to pay down debt.

Eliminate Wants

Temporarily eliminate wants. This does not need to be forever,  make it work for you. It all depends how quickly you want to get out of debt. If you want to plan in some “wants” to your budget that is also an option. This is not to be an exercise in deprivation, but a way to make our finances work for us, not vice versa.

Review Needs List

Examine your needs list and begin finding ways to save. For example, there are many ways to save on food, from buying the store brand to shopping sales. We will be looking further into this in future posts. Be creative, it’s your money, why spend more of it then you need to.

Formulate A Payment Schedule

 With your list of debts and needs, put together your payment schedule. Make sure you pay your accounts on time to avoid late fees. Write out what gets paid and when and stick to it.

Begin Paying Down Debt

With the money saved from temporarily eliminating “wants” and reducing the cost of “needs”, start paying down your debt with the highest interest rates. This will help you save in the long run. The other alternative is to pay down off your lowest debt first and when that debt is paid off apply it to the next higher debt. The option is up to you.

The more money you can save from eliminating your unnecessary expenditures, the quicker you can pay off your debt and truly pursue what makes you happy.

What are some ways you have found to save on some of those “needs” items? Please comment below. 

 

Please Don’t Call Me A Housewife!

 

 

Housewife and Homemaker…..

These terms are often used interchangeably when referring to someone whose main occupation is overseeing the care and maintenance of their household. The question is do they really have the same meaning?

I submit to you that while technically they refer to the same thing, they actually have different meaning. Let’s examine…

 

House is defined as as a building designed for human habitation.  That’s it, just a dwelling nothing more.  A rather sterile and institutional term.  However, the word home has a much more personal meaning. It is a place where one feels comfortable or identifies with.  It is a place that one claims as their own or is near and dear to their heart.  A home is what a house aspires to be.

We can get a further insight into this by how people express things. They don’t exclaim, “I’m going to my house”,  instead they say “I’m going home”.

Other expressions that further emphasize this are:

  1. Home is where the heart is.
  2. Home Sweet Home
  3. There is no place like home,
  4. I feel at home.
  5. Make yourself at home

I feel the term homemaker would be a better title for my occupation. I am not merely a married women who works at her house, I am one who devotes her time making her house a home.  I strive to making my house a place where my family is comfortable and desires to be. This term truly encompasses the roles and duties of my job.

So by all means please call me a Homemaker, as I feel that it more accurately defines the roles and responsibilities of my position!