Monday, September 24, 2012

E-cloth giveaway winner

The *new* winner of the e-cloth kitchen pack is Erin! (Two Erins commented back-to-back, but this is Erin C, whom I know in real life.)

I was so interested to read the many tools and products you use to clean your kitchens. E-cloth is having some great specials right now if you'd like to try them--click on this link for 2-for-1 deals on the cloths I ordered this summer!

I'll be taking a break from blogging for the next week or so. Hope you're having beautiful fall weather like we are!

Friday, September 21, 2012

E-cloth review and giveaway

A few months ago I was invited to a home party that featured eco-friendly cleaning products. I decided to attend, but had some "sticker shock" when paging through the catalog. I was interested in trying the microfiber cloths and reducing the use of toxic cleaners in my home, but I could not justify the price of the products.

Shortly after my decision to not place an order, I read a blog post comment that mentioned a company called e-cloth: "I don’t use Norwex, but I do use e-cloths ( These things are amazing! They clean windows, mirrors, granite, stove tops, etc. with only water. It truly works. And they are reusable hundreds of times over! Check and you should be able to get free shipping and a discount code."

Following this tip, I promptly went to the e-cloth site. They were having a 2-for-1 sale on both the general purpose and glass polishing cloths, so I bought a pair of each. With the sale, along with a free shipping and discount code I'd found on-line, I paid half the price for FOUR cloths that I would have paid for ONE of the home party ones. My order arrived very quickly, and I was anxious to try them out.

The company claims that the cloths supply "perfect cleaning with just water." I had previously been using Comet to clean our bathroom sinks and tub, but was won over when I saw that e-cloths remove 99% of bacteria from hard surfaces--using only water!

I have been very pleased with the general purpose cloths. I use one color in the bathroom, and the other in general areas. I also really like the glass polishing cloths. I've been using Shaklee's Basic H2 to clean mirrors and windows for years, so I've continued to use that with the cloths, and they have been very effective.

I was also sold by the fact that e-cloth can be laundered normally, and is guaranteed for 300 washings. If I wash my cloths once a week, that means almost 6 years of performance! (The home party company's cloths had more particular laundry instructions, which was a big turn-off for me.)

I liked my e-cloths so much that I ordered some for my mom for her July birthday. Then I contacted e-cloth to let them know I was going to write a review on my blog, and I asked if they'd be willing to sponsor a giveaway. Guess what? They are going to send one of you an e-cloth kitchen pack, which contains a special cleaning cloth with a built-in scrubbing pocket, along with a glass and polishing cloth. Perfect for kitchen cleaning! They sent me a kitchen pack to try out, and I love the addition of the scrubbing pocket to the general purpose microfiber cloth.

If you're interested in learning more about e-cloth, and being informed of current specials they're offering, you can like them on Facebook and sign up for their mailing list via their homepage.

To enter to win the kitchen cleaning pack (valued at $14.99), please leave a comment on this post, indicating what kind of supplies you generally use to clean your kitchen. (Sponge? Lysol wipes? Etc.) A winner will be chosen on Monday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Under construction

There's been an unusual underlying theme in my life this past year. Three places where I spend (or have spent) significant amounts of time have been under construction.

It started last November when our church received the shocking news that our sanctuary had been condemned. After some initial concern over the aging building, a team of specialists came to evaluate the structure, and they declared the roof unfit! Since that time, we have been temporarily meeting in a new location. The old sanctuary is being torn down, and a new building is being constructed.

Secondly, the unit where I was a patient at Mayo last February was also under construction. Many mornings, Eric and I were awakened around 6:00 to the sound of hammers, drills, and other noisy equipment. The noise was just one of the inconveniences. On a floor filled with pregnant women on bed rest, the closest shower was down the opposite hallway. Not to mention the heavy numbers of (male!) construction workers walking the halls at all hours, and the mess created by the many projects they were working on. The whole construction scene definitely added to the surreal factor of our hospital stay.

And lastly, right across the street from our house, the college is currently constructing a new building. Crews begin between 6-6:30 each day, and the noise of banging and beeping trucks has unfortunately become quite commonplace for us. Just this morning, I woke up at 6:07 to the sound of a loud truck outside our window. The construction site is dusty, noisy, ugly, and thankfully temporary.

This whole theme of construction seems to fit where my heart is at right now, too. I'm wrestling with some dusty, noisy, ugly areas in my heart, and trying to figure out how to re-build. I'm reminded of the song that says, "You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me--this is what I pray. Change my heart, O God, make it ever new. Change my heart, O God, may I be like You."

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." Proverbs 14:1

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . .  a time to tear down and a time to build" Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 3b

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pumpkin patch

We recently visited our local pumpkin patch--it is just a few miles from us, and such a fun place for the kids. I was thrilled all 5 of us could go. Naomi's nap schedule, or ahem, lack thereof, makes it tricky to go many places all together!

We brought our fruit and veggie scraps along to feed to the goats and llamas.
Traipsing through the patch
The kids loved petting the cats and rabbits.
Even Naomi got in on the kitty action!
Wow--a really good family photo!

And a bonus shot: my favorite fall scene in our house

After record-breaking heat this summer, it's finally starting to feel like fall around here. Chilly nights and mornings, for sure!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Being resourceful in the kitchen

Feel free to laugh, but one of my biggest *thrills* in homemaking is being resourceful. One of the ways this plays out is that I try very hard to avoid "little" errands, such as running to the grocery store for just one or two items. I enjoy figuring out recipes using what I already have on hand. Usually the creative substitutions or strategies have excellent results!

Here are some examples:

*Recently, we decided last minute to have some people over to play games. We always try to have some snacks available, but on this occasion, our snack options were limited. I remembered I had a bag of unopened oyster crackers in the pantry that was nearing it's best-by date, and I did a quick on-line search to find some inspiration for jazzing them up a bit. I found just the right recipe, using ingredients I already had on hand. (I mixed basil and parsley.) These were incredibly delicious, and I'll definitely make them again, especially since I can get a bag of oyster crackers for 99 cents or less.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed a sweet oyster cracker recipe on the Hy-Vee bag:

1 12 oz. package oyster crackers
6 T. melted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Place oyster crackers in a greased 9x13 pan or large cookie sheet. Combine butter, sugar and cinnamon and pour over oyster crackers, stirring well. Makes about 6 cups. Also quite tasty, though I preferred the savory version.

*When we were at the lake this summer, we were preparing fajitas for supper when we realized we didn't have any fajita seasoning. I've been making my own for years, but it seemed to cumbersome to whip it up right then with supper prep already underway. My mother-in-law was getting ready to run out to the store to buy a couple packets when I remembered we had a large bottle of taco seasoning, which is of course quite similar. That's obviously not a big stretch to sub taco seasoning for fajita, but the point is it saved my MIL from a trip to the store. And that is what I find so satisfying.

*My kids wanted some popsicles during our long heat wave, but I didn't want to buy the sugary kind. I made several different versions, which were all cheap, quick and healthier than many store-bought kinds. For all of these, I used my hand-me-down plastic popsicle molds.
#1 Pureed strawberries with a little sugar
#2 Juice from canned fruit with a few chopped-up pieces of the fruit (pears, mandarin oranges)
#3 Juice/lemonade
I also froze yogurt in cookie cutters to make fun treats--my kids loved these!

While I certainly enjoy being resourceful, I definitely want to improve in this area. I've been trying to make one big grocery shopping trip every Saturday, but I still usually have to run to the store once or even twice during the rest of the week to pick up a couple things, usually dairy or produce--and that's with making frequent substitutions!  

I'm curious how many times you visit the grocery store in a typical week? Do you enjoy making substitutions on recipes, or do you tend to stick to what is called for?

Friday, September 7, 2012

What I don't do

Over the years, I've come across quite a few posts where other mom bloggers make a list of things they don't do. I always appreciate the lists, because it provides perspective that no one can "do it all," and I thought I'd post my own "don't do" list here, along with links to the posts that inspired me.

Here's my list of things I don't do:
I don't sew.
I don't iron.
I don't write as many letters as I used to.
I don't buy organic.
I don't do many of the crafts/projects I bookmark/pin/tear out of magazines.
I don't scrapbook.
I don't turn off the computer during the day.
I don't serve healthy snacks very often.
I don't sort laundry.
I don't do Twitter.
I don't cook gourmet meals.
I don't wear makeup or style my hair.

And I'm sure there are many more things I don't do, but that's a pretty comprehensive list.

If you want to peruse others' don't-do lists, here are some links:

Steady Mom
Simple Mom
Money Saving Mom
The Homespun Heart

I also found a fascinating (and lengthy!) list written by Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Complete Tightwad Gazette. (Which reminds me--I never followed up on posting things I'd tried from that book. Oops!) Amy's list is on page 654 if you have the book and want to check it out.

Are these lists interesting to you? Which of the items from my list do you not do, either? (Please tell me you don't do ALL those things. Ha!)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New flavors

I've mentioned that I go in spurts of being creative in the kitchen and trying new things. I've made several interesting recipes lately that I wanted to share:

* Salad pizza--I came across the idea in this interesting book.Basically, you make a cheese pizza, and after it bakes, you top it with a salad of lettuce, tomato and onion that's been tossed with vinaigrette. Of course I'm the only one in our family who ate it, but I thought it was delicious! Many of us eat salad as a side dish to pizza--now you can try it as a topping!

*Ice cream mixed with peanut butter--This was listed as a quick dessert idea in a recent Martha, and it couldn't be simpler. Soften small vanilla ice cream, and stir in a spoonful of peanut butter. Of course, I also had to toss in a small handful of M&M's, because aren't chocolate and peanut butter a divine combination? After savoring this fabulous dessert, I realized how silly it is to pay a premium for ice creams with "mix-ins." Just do it yourself. Yum.

*Watermelon tomato salad--Hang with me here. We've had an abundance of tomatoes in our garden, and we were given two large homegrown watermelons from a friend. I was curious to see if I could combine the two to use what I had, especially since we had two potlucks to attend in the same weekend. Lo and behold, I came across several versions of a salad that called for both tomatoes and watermelon. And you know what? It was very refreshing. I used about 4 cups of diced watermelon, 2 cups of tomatoes, one small diced onion, and several chopped basil leaves. I added an easy dressing of 1 part red wine vinegar to 2 parts olive oil, and mixed it all together. The salad was a hit at the potluck, and I was thrilled to use what I had on hand and try an adventurous new recipe.

*Venison burgers--I'm guessing that I'm one of the few with a supply of fresh venison, but these could easily be made with ground beef for a departure from a plain hamburger. I mixed one pound of ground venison with 2 T. bread crumbs, 1 T. minced onion and 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce. Then I used my vintage hamburger press (handed down from Eric's grandma) to shape the burgers before freezing to help them hold together. I also made a white bean burger since I don't eat red meat, but I didn't give them rave reviews like Eric did of the venison ones, so I won't share that recipe here.

*Bean blender brownies--I'd heard of mixing a can of black beans with a packaged brownie mix, but this was a new proposition.Chickpeas in brownies? Give them a try. They're healthy and yummy. I made them recently for an event I named Bean Night. We've been really into this game lately, so we invited a few friends over and played it while consuming a buffet of bean-based snacks that included these tasty treats.

And for the less adventurous, here are a couple less exotic recipes I've tried recently: a delicious chicken marinade and this fabulous ice cream dessert!

Let me know if you try any of these!