Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Soup casualty

I made the potato soup on my list of options for dinner which was a GREAT decision - it's delicious!  The not so great decision was deciding to heat it up in the microwave uncovered.  The microwave suffered casualties.

There was soup was already a dried on mess and was EVERYWHERE.

To the point I didn't want to heat anything else up in the microwave it was that bad.  So I combined some water with some lemon juice (the reason the water looks a little off), set the microwave to 4 minutes and let the steam do the work. You need a decent amount of water in the bowl so that all of the water doesn't evaporate and cause more problems, but not so much you are running your microwave forever to get it warmed up.

When the time is up, the microwave is a steamy lemony smelling mess, which is EXACTLY what you want!  I used a Magic Eraser while wearing gloves (because the lemon-water mixture is HOT) and dipped the Magic Eraser in the hot water prior to wiping down the side of the microwave.

I started with the door, then the ceiling, then the back of the microwave before the effects of the steam had worn off.  So I added some cool water to the bowl and restarted the microwave for another couple of minutes, then attacked the sides.  I washed the tray in the sink and finally cleaned up the floor of the microwave.

Total time? About ten minutes.

Outcome? I can use my microwave again!

What tricks do you use to clean your microwave?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Stompin' in my Air Force Ones

No, I never did have a pair of Nike Air Force Ones, but with the Presidential Inauguration playing on TV, I thought I would share my most recent "Presidential" experiences involving Air Force One (not the shoes, the plane).

Since I started interviewing in October, I had AMPLE opportunities to "run" into the Presidential Campaign of 2012.  In fact, on one interview trip, I ran into BOTH candidates in a total of three states. That made for a LONG travel experience, especially when they shut down the airports for HOURS.  It was almost entertaining to see how mad people were at O'hare at this point, with numerous flights delayed, connections missed, etc., but I digress.

I got to the airport a full two hours early because I knew Air Force One was supposed to be landing and I didn't want to be delayed getting TO the airport since my flight was scheduled to leave during his arrival.  If you have never had the pleasure of trying to get around a town with the President in town, I can vouch on my experiences that it is definitely not easy.  The highways are shut down. Pedestrian traffic is rerouted.  Snipers appear all over the place.  It's a little eery!

I made it to the airport this day with no problems and as I sat at my gate, the friendly security guard explained how the whole process worked to me and another passenger waiting for our flight.  Then he pointed to the sky:

And within seconds, Air Force One had landed, unfortunately without Harrison Ford.  (Airforce One was one of the first movies I saw at the drive-in. I remember it being awesome, but I was also in the single digits for age and don't think I've seen it since. #didIjustagemyself?)

Air Force One taxied across the airport to it's own separate hanger, so the President can disembark safely and in privacy to his awaiting motorcade! Then he and his motorcade can proceed to his event and then, only then, can the airport resume the boarding process and air travel (nobody can be outside the actual airport during all of this - something about snipers?). Whole process took about 45 minutes from seeing Air Force One until we could board.  We were delayed, but not too bad!

What I wish I would have gotten a picture of?  The minivan that was escorting Air Force One with the snipers hanging out of the top.  A MINIVAN.  Brings new meaning to Mommy Missles!  #watchoutforminivans

I actually learned from the same friendly security guard that prior to the President's arrival, one to three or more of these show up:

This photo does not do the size of this plane justice: it was impressively sized.  To give a little bit of perspective, the back of the airplane actually opens up and the motorcade spills out!  One of the cargo planes usually stays at whatever site the President is supposed to be at, while the others drop their cargo and move on, only to return in the next few days to pick up their cargo.

Since he was only scheduled to talk for an hour, there were several more cities with the same set-up that day.  And as odds would have it, I ran into his running mate in another city (delayed an hour and half or so), then the President himself at O'hare. He had been there a few hours before actually, but we ran into the aftermath of hundreds of flights delayed and diverted, now trying to catch up.  We actually got diverted because we were running low on fuel from circling the airport, then diverted again back to O'hare (confusing). Thankfully, my connecting flight home was also delayed because of the craziness that day, so no connections were missed for this girl!

If I could give any advice to people interviewing at cities necessitating flying during the Presidential Campaign?  Don't do it.  Wait the extra few weeks.  Or you can do what I did: TCBY fro-yo for dinner during your "Presidential Delay."

Happy Inauguration/Martin Luther King Day!  Celebrate with some frozen yogurt (if you need a reason to eat frozen yogurt), or better yet some hot chocolate because it is FREEZING outside!

Now let's chat about what really matters today: The First Lady's attire and bangs.
J Crew to the Inauguration?  I like your style!  What are your thoughts on the Inauguration style?!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oak Be Gone

When Luke and I moved to our current rental, we suddenly had more space than we had furniture for (great problem!).  We had also officially graduated to grown ups: we had room for not one, but TWO nightstands in our bedroom!  Yes, this is the sign that you are grown up in case you didn't know.

So since we were all "grown up" but still had income that was pretty much loan money for educational purposes, I scoured Craigslist and found these beauts.  

Yes they were a pair.  

Yes they were the perfect size.

Yes they were in our very reasonable price range.

No they were not where we lived BUT they were where my parents lived!  I remember them calling from the person's house and my Dad bargaining with the seller.  He was proud he had brought the price down and I was ecstatic it was all working out!  My Mom - well I think she was a little freaked she was in some stranger's house, but hey, she was there for moral support for my Dad!

So I got to work priming, painting, and attaching new handles to get rid of the oak color and dated handles that didn't really jive with our decor.

Ready for the new nightstands?

The handles were purchased through ebay for less than $2/piece and have held up well over the past couple of years! (If you search "brushed nickel cup drawer pull" you can find similar options.) The paint is Painter's Touch (Rustoleum) in Heirloom White and I think Kona Brown (?) with a poly finish on top to protect it.  Had I redone the nightstands now, I would use the ORB - Oil Rubbed Bronze - paint instead of the Kona color (was not available when I originally did this).

We use the nightstands daily and the surface is just now starting to get a little scratched, but they easily wipe down for dusting and have been quite practical for storing books for night reading, sheets for the bed, and other odds and ends.  

 Before and After:

Total for the actual nightstands and refinishing was under $70 (maybe even lower) for the pair.  Not too shabby! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

What's for dinner?

I think this is one of the most common questions in every household: What's for dinner?!

Our house is no different.  Since we both have fairly unpredictable schedules, we never have a "set" menu for the week, as at our current stage in life this wouldn't be a practical solution.  Instead, last fall we started having a "What are the options for dinner" list on the refrigerator.  I write down different options for dinner that we have all of the ingredients for, and Luke knows what options are available if he's hungry or motivated to make dinner!

Typically we have options that are quick, as well as some options that may take a little longer to make/bake, but are generally pretty straightforward. We've also found that having this list makes it easier to say, "Hey, this and this sound good, which one of the two would you like tonight?"  By having a more limited option list, we don't spend half hour looking in the fridge, freezer, or pantry, then ultimately deciding on cereal because we are too famished to actually make something at this point.

Once we make something on the list, we cross it off.  Once we are down to a few options, I generally go back through the fridge, freezer, and pantry and see if there are any other options.  If we have no other options left - it's back to the store!

Sometimes I see that we have majority of the ingredients for a few meals and make a quick grocery store run for just those items that we need.  We end up saving money using what we already have and not going to the grocery store aimlessly.

Another perk?  We often have leftovers, which means a night off of cooking or an easy lunch option for the next day.  Living with Luke, leftovers typically don't last much past the next day ;)

Need some ideas for some easy meals? 
I love Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour's Easy Crockpot Potato Soup and her Hot Chicken Salad (to DIE for!).  I make minor modifications to both (i.e. fat free soups and light mayo, silvered almonds instead of potato chips, etc) but these two recipes routinely make their way into our dinner rotations!

Other websites I love for recipes? 
Has HUNDREDS of recipes that are all made more healthy and nutritious without sacrificing flavor!

Iowa Girl Eats
Down to earth Iowa girl with a wide variety of recipes that are easy to follow and offers variety without being difficult or too far out for the ingredient list!

All Recipes
The mecca of recipes.  Thousands of recipes with reviews and the option to save recipes to your digital recipe box.  Also has the option to search for recipes with certain ingredients.  A little overwhelming with the number of recipes, but I have found some FANTASTIC options on this site!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Need to get away?

Deal of the century!

Do you want to go to nowhere?  Sounds luxurious to me...but kinda expensive.  If I really wanted to go nowhere, I would just stay home personally, but hey, maybe I'm the weird one!

This was an actual cruise suggested in an email to Luke and I from the company (covered with a star).  Can't make this stuff up...hope you got a laugh out of it too!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Planner Schmanner.

I've been working on getting a post together about how I fill out my planner.  I even took lovely pictures of the color coding and how I keep myself organized.  #unofficiallydiagnosedOCDtrait

BUT, I think I'm going to be giving up on filling out a planner this year, as I'm pretty sure the planners are plotting against me.

Why do I think a conspiracy is happening?  I bought Planner #1 at Target in November last year so I could use it to schedule interviews into January.  After I had finished majority of my interviews, I sat down to put other important information into my planner: Due dates for bills and projects, Work Commitments, Birthdays, etc.  I was ecstatic I was actually getting myself organized when I hit the month of May.  Generally May is a busy month for my family, but when I couldn't find May 25 (my mom's Birthday) I knew something just wasn't right. #naturallyblonde

As evidenced by my cell phone picture:

Do you see what I see? I see a blend of May and March.  When I turned the page, the month of May was non-existent and in it's place was the month of March Part Dos.

So off to Target I went.  I picked up the same exact planner (here should have been my first warning) and went to exchange my faulty planner with the identical appearing new one.  When the Customer Service woman asked me what one planner had that the other didn't, I politely replied, "The month of May."  No seriously.

Now this morning, I decide to take another hour to fill out EVERYTHING I can in my planner.  I'm still laughing about the last planner mishap, but buzzing along with the months of January and February as filled out as possible, and Birthdays/Anniversaries out through October!

I don't mess around when it comes to filling out planners. Then I come to November:

You have got to be *#$&!(%@ me.  The other half of November is missing, as is the first week. So I could go the route of "I'm sorry your Birthday/Anniversary does not exist to me since that part is missing from my planner" but I think I may get strange looks from that quote.

I hope the same lady is working at Target Customer Service because I really can't make this stuff up. Am I now high maintenance for wanting the month of May and November?  Oh boy.

I give up.  I think this is no longer the year of the hands-on planner and it's time to make a minor change in my OCD habits.  "Digital is [apparently] where it's at!" (to quote my sister's response to my text about *@*#(&*@ planners).  Planner schmanner.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Carpet Cleaner Rehab

When I talked about decluttering and mentioned my carpet cleaners, I thought I had two, at most maybe three bottles of carpet cleaning related containers.  Apparently I was in denial.

This picture was taken AFTER I finished 2 bottles of carpet cleaner (Spot Shot).


And yes I included the bottle of vinegar in my carpet cleaning arsenal.  Time for an intervention.

We bought a Bissel carpet cleaner shortly after we got Bentley.  It's similar to this one:

And after getting a second dog, I think our carpet cleaning arsenal exploded.

So rather than get rid of the carpet cleaners (many of the bottles are half empty), I went to town on the rug in our living room!

Disclaimer: This rug sits in our living room just inside the back door to the backyard and is the only piece of carpet in the main living space outside the bedrooms.  In the middle of winter = mud haven.  The rug gets used.  A lot.  And no I didn't take pictures of the before because I was mortified.  Bad blogger.

However, since I had the opportunity to use SO many of these lovely carpet cleaners, I can also provide a mini review!

Best at getting out stains: Spot Shot or Resolve
Spot Shot works best when you have a quick spot that you need to tackle and don't want to break out the whole steam cleaner.
Resolve works well if you have a carpet cleaner to suck up the cleaner because it does foam so much, but took care of stains that the Bissel Tough Stain didn't really touch!

Best smelling: Spot Shot or Woolite Pet Oxygen
Both are clean smelling, but the Woolite smell lingers a little bit longer.

Best for steam cleaner usage: Bissel Fiber Cleansing or Vinegar
I have used the Bissel Fiber Cleansing cleaner for YEARS.  I typically go over the carpet on "Heavy Duty" cleaning, then do a water rinse pass to get the rest of the cleaner out of the carpet.  When I didn't think I had enough of this cleaner left this time, I took a note from another blog (can't remember which) and used vinegar!  I think I should have diluted the vinegar more (maybe a 50/50 mixture?) but it DEFINITELY got the carpet the cleanest (visibly at least).  The vinegar smell lingered a little bit longer, but now (about 4 days after cleaning it) I can no longer smell the vinegar.
When comparing the two, Vinegar also definitely wins in the price department, as Bissell's cleaner is a little expensive.

And if you clean up a spot with any kind of carpet cleaner, ALWAYS vacuum after the spot has dried!

Now, after my carpet cleaning frenzy, I have one bottle of Woolite left! I will not be going out to buy more carpet cleaner until this bottle is gone, because in all actuality, they all work well enough that I don't need 6 bottles of carpet cleaner, and should I need to steam clean in a pinch, I've always got vinegar in my cleaning arsenal!

Another category done!  Now which one to move onto next?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My love affair with vinegar

I think I'm in love.  There really is nothing that vinegar cannot do!  After taking pictures for my last post I was ASHAMED by the white plaque of hard water that was all over the kitchen utensils.

Close-ups of the grossness:

Disgusting. So I did what every person does when faced with a dilemma - I asked my Mom what she suggests. She suggested soaking them in vinegar water, then washing them again in the dishwasher.  Duh! Why didn't I think of that?  Everyone knows my crush on vinegar with laundry - time to start in the kitchen!

About ten minutes after talking to my mom I already had the utensils in the sink, ready for their hot water vinegar bath!

While the utensils enjoyed their soak, I ran the dishwasher with CLR according to the directions on the back of the bottle to tackle the hard water buildup, then ran the dishwasher again through a full cleaning cycle to make sure to get rid of all of the CLR.  (This actually took about 3 hours total with me reminding to restart the dishwasher.)

After their soak, the whole lot looked like a new set of utensils!!! And did I mention it required ZERO scrubbing?!

I ultimately ran them through the dishwasher as a means to start fresh and new, then back to the utensil holder they go!  But not before a quick photo shoot on the counter.

Luke thought I had lost it: "What are you taking pictures of now?"

"Look at how clean the spoons are!" Sheer giddiness and excitement on my part.

How about a closer up?!

One more BEFORE:


I. Love. Vinegar.

AMAZING results from one conversation and about 5 minutes of effort - totally worth it!  Thanks Mom!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

THAT drawer

Not to be confused with THAT boy ;)

Everyone has one.  THAT drawer that you are scared to open.  Scared to put your hand into for fear it might get cut or find something that REALLY doesn't belong.  Am I being a little dramatic?  Maybe.  But it was thanks to my "THAT drawer" that I decided to make a little purchase at Home Goods during my recent visit to St. Louis.

Here's the situation that necessitated an intervention:

A too small utensil holder on the counter which held about five utensils comfortably.

The utensil holder was an IKEA purchase (~$7) for my FIRST apartment, which if you read between the lines means this bad boy has been gracing my counters for about 8 years, so about 75 cents/year. He had put his time in and I believe I had gotten my money's worth out of him.

Enter my new shiny utensil holder from Home Goods!  I purchased it for $11.99 and once I was back in town, it found its new home on my counter.

You know you are getting old when you seriously get excited about making purchases like this one.

I also liked the scale of the new one much more than the old one, but thought it looked a little cramped with the knives on the counter too, so those got moved to another area of the kitchen.  #unclutteredhappiness

So now that the new holder was ready to be filled, I decided to tackle THAT drawer.  Embarrassed to put this online, but hey, I'm sharing this one like it is.

This drawer houses our can openers, measuring cups, baking items, and other "overflow" utensils. Yes that is a knife also just hanging out in the drawer - SCARY. 

On a positive note, this is probably the most prominent area for primary colors in our home.  I don't fall far from the tree when it comes to beiges and related neutrals. 

I emptied out the entire drawer, putting utensils in their new home and everything else across the counter.  I wiped out the drawer and washed anything that looked like it needed it.

I was a little shocked by some of the items in the drawer.  Do we really need FOUR of one utensil?  I agree that there are some things that are nice to have multiples of, but we really don't need four pastry brushes, scratch that, five.  So I downsized unnecessary items and started reorganizing.  Can/bottle/wine openers grouped on the left, random items in the middle and I filled in that last section with the remaining pastry brushes and wooden spoons.

Lovely organization.

I think my helpers were just as excited as I was!  Or not.  Because it was 9:30pm and they wanted to go to bed.  #happeningFridaynight

In the end, I had a small pile of about 10 things that we no longer needed from ONE drawer.  #stillwaitingforLuke'sapprovaltogetridof #Idon'tactuallydomuchcooking #nobodyisshockedbythat

I'm also happy to report that we no longer have stray knives hanging out in the drawer. Nobody was cut in the making of this post either.  Small celebration!

Time for the side-by-side comparisons!



I LOVE the new utensil holder and how much more it can hold while still looking stylish. However, I don't LOVE where the knives found a new home, so it looks like they are leasing the space for now until they can find a new place.

Another thing I didn't LOVE?  The hardwater spots on my utensils.  My mom suggested a vinegar water soak to get rid of the white grossness.  I'm trying it now and will let you know how it goes!

Another "clutter" area tackled.  

Anybody else tackled THAT drawer lately? Or does anybody get just as giddy as I do with new purchases for the home?!  #TJMaxxandHomeGoodsAddictionAnonymous  

A Bowl Full of Lemons