Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Change Is In The Air

I don't like it.  Not one bit.  Nope.  I'm just not crazy about the appearance of this here blog.  So, it's time to do a little sprucing up around here.  Move a few things around.  Dust a few things off.  Make it a little lighter, brighter, and make it a more welcoming place.

I think it must be going around.  I've read no less than two other blogs I follow who are going through the same process right now.  Maybe it's Spring cleaning time for bloggers? 

However, in the meantime - please bear with me.  Things may look a little different, a little cluttered, a little out of whack for a short time while I get things looking just the way I want.  But it will all be worth it in the end.

I hope!

Queen B's Busy Work is Tweeting!

You can now follow my etsy shop: Queen B's Busy Work on Twitter! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Clean and Green

I finally took the step to start making some of my own household cleaners.  After much consideration and plenty of googling to find recipes that seem simple enough and have ingredients I can actually find at my local stores. 

I have three pretty good reasons to start producing my own cleaners:
1) I have 2 cats and a dog that are into everything.  It would be nice not to get stressed out each time I clean the toilet that one of them is going to decide that they need to sneak in and try out that huge water bowl while some sort of highly toxic cleaner is still inside.
2) There is a grand baby who will be running about before we know it. 
3)  A gallon of vinegar and some baking soda is WAY less expensive than commercial household cleaners!

I'm sure there are so many more reasons for going with natural, home made cleaners, but those are the ones I had on the top of my head. 


To start I have compounded my own fabric softener, mildew remover, and tub/shower cleaner.

Mildew Remover: 

1/2 White Vinegar

1/2 Water

10 drops Tea Tree Oil

Mix ingredients in spray bottle.  Spray mildew and let sit.
(alternate use: soak a cloth or sponge in solution, wipe down any area with mildew growth)

I tried this in the kid's bathroom last weekend.  Verdict is still out.  The exhaust fan had not been working in there for a couple of weeks which led to some mildew/mold growth.  This seems to have help eliminate some of the mildew, but not all.


Tub and Shower Cleaner:

12 ounces White Vinegar

12 ounces Dawn Dish Detergent (original blue)

Heat vinegar in microwave until hot and pour into squirt bottle.  Add the Dawn soap. Put the lid on and shake to incorporate.  Spray onto shower/tub surfaces, scrub, and rinse. For tough soap scum: spray the mixture on and allow it to sit as long as overnight. Scrub and rinse.

This may be the best bathroom cleaner I have ever used!  Seriously!  Soap scum and grime just melted away!  There was no "scrubbing" for me!  If this can cut through what my almost 14 year old male offspring can do to a bathroom, I feel confident it can handle almost anything!  And despite the vinegar, it had a pleasant scent and left the bathroom smelling fresh and clean!


Fabric Softener:

2 cups Scented, Inexpensive Hair Conditioner (and there are lots of yummy scents in those super cheap brands!)

3 cups White Vinegar

3 cups HOT Water

Heat water.  Mix conditioner and water in large pitcher with lid until dissolved.  Add vinegar and mix well.
Use in Downy Ball or add 2 Tablespoons to rinse cycle

Works great!  I admit that in the bottle, the smell is a little funky with the blend of the hair conditioner scent and the vinegar.  But I don't notice it on any of the laundry.  And I've had not problems with static using this.



Sources:
http://frugalliving.about.com/od/householdsavings/qt/Mildew_Remover.htm

http://www.food.com/recipe/tub-and-shower-magic-434275

http://sweettea.typepad.com/sweet-tea-by-lori-frank/2012/04/homemade-cleaning-product-recipes.html

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Yarn of a Tale

I (finally) got around to organizing the yarn stash yesterday.  Oh my goodness!  I think it's time to avoid the craft store for a while and get busy!! 

The whole entire uncensored stash


I knew I had a lot of cotton yarn.  I've gotten some great deals on it recently between $1 skein sales and  coupons on top of that.  Did not quite realize it was this much though...
That container is two skeins deep!



This container holds all the partial skeins leftover from other projects.  I have every intention of using them to whip up some simple hats to donate somewhere once the weather turns colder.



And this is my collection of medium, worsted, and bulky weight yarns.
Stare at it long enough, I think my favorite colors become pretty evident.

Which brings me to a few questions:  What are some of your favorite knitting or crochet projects?  Do you have a favorite yarn to work with?  Do you pick a project first and then find a yarn to use, or do you find a yarn you like and then select a project to make with it? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

This Is What Happens...

This is what happens when you get too much red cabbage in your red to green cabbage ratio while making homemade coleslaw. 


Turns the entire mixture purple!! 

Lesson learned.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Oh Yeh? Well, My Dad Can Save More Than Your Dad!

In my never ending quest to save money and get our grocery bill down as low as possible; I will be trying a new grocery tonight.  And keeping my fingers crossed.

My father has been shopping at Aldi's for several years.  And tells me often how I should go try it out.  But for whatever reason, every time he brings it up, the 14 year old girl in me rises up.  "Uh... if my Dad shops there, I'm sure not going do.  Lame..."  (yeh, she's a rude little snot)   And in true 14 year old girl fashion - it took a friend mentioning the same store to me and telling me how good the prices were on produce (quality produce too) for me to take a deeper look.

When I saw the advertised price on some of the produce and other items - I was sold! 

Granted, a few things will take some getting used to.  You have to insert a quarter to get a shopping cart - but you get it back when you return the cart.  And you have to bring your own bags or pay for them.  But I have about a bazillion reusable bags I can use. 

So, this week the Man of the House and I are going to give it a chance.  And if my dad asks - it's because of his glowing reviews. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Black Bean and Quinoa Enchiladas

A delicious vegetarian meal, which is full of protein! 

Start by cooking quinoa:  Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add 1 cup quinoa.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

In a large skillet mix quinoa with 2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 cup shredded cheese (I like a mix of cheddar and colby) and 1 can enchilada sauce.  Heat over medium until cheese melts. 

I'm sure it would be better to make your own sauce and use that, but I'm just not there yet. 

Fill soft taco size tortillas with a heaping spoon of filling. 


Roll to close.  Place in a baking dish/pan, seam side down. 



Cover with 1 can enchilada sauce and 1 cup shredded cheese.


Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling.


Make approximately 12 enchiladas.
I serve with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sour cream for toppings.  



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Just Go With It

Some days just don't go as planned.

I promise I have been working very hard to get into some sort of a routine.  To get things back in order and get my home and family organized.  But you can't plan for the unexpected.  Sometimes something comes along that just throws a wrench in the works for the day; and you have to be ready to roll with it.  To go with the flow.  Roll with the punches.  Or else it will drive you crazy.  And sometimes it's exactly the kick in the pants you needed to get something important done that wasn't on that grand To-Do list of yours.

Case in point...

I've been needing to get the Little Man an eye appointment.  He has had his current eye glasses a couple of years and has been saying he thinks his sight had gotten worse.  But of course, in the process of trying to do everything else - somehow that one thing kept slipping my mind.  And never actually making it onto the To-Do list.  Until Monday...

Monday he got up in the morning, and his glasses were broken.  In a "there's no fixing that, time for a new pair" kind of way.  A call to vision center quickly revealed that the doctor was out of the office that day, and an appointment was scheduled for Tuesday morning.  I could have gotten frustrated by having to wait another day for the appointment when I had mentally prepared myself for this to take up much of my Monday.  Fortunately, Tuesday was a teacher workday; so he was not going to have to miss school for the appointment.  So, I looked at that bright side and just went with it.

Tuesday was pretty much dedicated to all things vision related.  Eye doctor appointment.  Visit to the one hour eye glasses place.  Where, I didn't expect finding a pair that a teen boy liked would take as much or more time than shopping with a female.  Spending time puttering around Barnes & Noble waiting for one hour eye glasses place to make glasses.  Finally getting male offspring into new glasses. 

Nothing on the Tuesday To-Do list got accomplished.  Not one darn thing.

Frustrating?  Yes.

Could I have allowed it to completely throw the rest of my week off and leave me feeling even more off schedule and out of sorts?  Yes.  I could have.  But I didn't!

Today, I didn't try to catch up.  I just jumped right back into my To-Do list where I should have been.  As if yesterday had gone exactly according to plan.  And I feel things went much smoother because of it.  Thank goodness for that!

So, the next time things don't go as planned and threaten to completely sent you spiralling - Remember:
Just go with it.  Roll with the punches.  Go with the flow. 

You'll be happy you did.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cinnamon Streusel Blueberry Muffins

It was our week to bring breakfast/snack for our small group at church, and after a Saturday full of service projects I thought it would be nice to bring a homemade treat to share.  Muffins seemed like the perfect answer.  And with all the fresh berries loading the grocer's produce department, I could feel the blueberries calling my name.  But, I wanted something with a little more pizazz than the standard blueberry muffin.  I was picturing something with a crispy, flavorful top.  It was time to hit the Google button; where I quickly found these little delights at www.allrecipes.com :  Streusel Topped Blueberry Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced
    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
    2. Combine 2 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. In a small bowl, sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons flour over blueberries, and set aside. (This simple trick will keep you from having "purple" batter)
    3. In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter with 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, and stir in vanilla and lemon zest. Fold in dry ingredients alternately with milk. Fold in blueberries. Remember, fold gently, don't stir. Spoon batter into prepared cups.
    4. Combine 2 tablespoons flour, 5 tablespoons sugar ,and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture resembles course crumbs. Sprinkle over batter in muffin cups.
    5. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack
    I doubled the recipe and made two batches, making enough to take for our group and keep some at home.  I also reduced the amount of blueberries slightly.  And added a pinch of cinnamon to the dry ingredients in the batter mix.

    They turned out big, moist, and delicious!  Which is why I felt obligated to share the recipe with all of you. :)

    The original recipe mentions that these freeze and reheat well.  There are a dozen packaged up in my freezer for future tasting, so we shall see. 

    Enjoy!


    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    It's Been A Pleasure to Serve You

    Today The Man of the House, The Little Man, and myself went with our small group from church to work on a service project.  Our church sponsers days like this a few times a year, (known as "Love Loud" projects) for members to go out into the community and be of service to others. 

    We each did various chores including weeding and weed eating, hauled garbage, assembled a grill, spread some mulch, power washing, and assorted repair work. 

    It was a great experience.  And exhausting.

    Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth ~ 1 John 3:18

    Friday, May 4, 2012

    In The Dog House

    I think we need a dog trainer.  A nice visit from Cesar Millan: aka The Dog Whisperer.  Or that Victoria whatshername from "It's Me or the Dog".  Or maybe just anyone with a basic knowledge of how to make our dog behave and listen!

    Don't get me wrong.  When he's inside he usually does a nice job of following directions. He can "sit" with the best of them.  And "lie down".  And on some occasions he will even "stay".  But once he escapes the confines of the home and gets some freedom outside - all bets are OFF.  He's a wild dog, free in the great outdoors, with no master to tell him what to do.  (Despite the fact that said Master is standing just yards away telling him to "come here") 

    I think it's his favorite hobby:  Wait for an opportunity to slip through a door carelessly left open (or at least not latched all the way), dash out door slipping just past the grasping fingers of the humans, race mindlessly and joyfully about the neighborhood stopping to pee on every stationary object available, all the while practicing selective deafness to the commands and cries of the humans.

    Once upon a time we had an invisible fence to keep stray pets inside the property lines, while giving them freedom to run and frolic.  But when one of those gets a kink or some other damage somewhere along the line, it sets off a catastrophic series of events that renders the fencing completely useless.  And expensive to repair or replace.  So, now he is only allowed out if he is on his lead. 

    Today it was my own fault.  I went out into the garage to check on what the Princess and her little Prince were doing out there.  And yes: I left the door from the laundry room to the garage open.  And yes: the dog saw the open door and took full advantage of it.  And - YES: I ended up in the car chasing him around the neighborhood trying to catch him. 

    Usually a good call of "Want to go for a ride?" will draw him into the open car door and back into captivity.  Not today.  Today he was in rare form.  Today he would walk toward the car, grin at me, and run off to mark the next available tree or shrub. 

    I did manage to get him into the car and back to the house.  Where he strutted around, grinning, looking all too pleased with himself for a while. 

    And I admit; I considered calling animal control on him myself.  Or at the very least looking into some dog training. 

    Thursday, May 3, 2012

    When I Grow Up

    What do I want to be when I grow up?

    It's a question I've been asking myself a LOT lately.  Especially as I worked through the process of deciding to leave the job I had for thirteen years and return home to look after my household and try to make a go of things selling some handcrafted items

    I'll admit it's a bit disturbing to be a number a little north of forty and still feel like you don't know what you want to be when you grow up.  It can be frustrating, exciting, discouraging, and fascinating all at once to try to figure out the answer to that question. 

    Today, it came roaring back as I read an email from BlogHer with the Editor's Picks of "5 Women We Want to Be When We Grow Up".   They made some excellent choices.  Women who are funny, intelligent, insightful.  All good qualities for any female to have as she grows up. 

    But a funny thing happened as I read through the selections.  I realized...  I want to be ME when I grow up!! 

    Me.  In all my stumbling, bumbling, well-read, well-meaning, lost and found, slightly OCD and less than organized, crafty, silly, stressed out, less than perfect glory! 

    Sure, I may not have some glowing, highly recognized or well paying career.  I have some things about myself that need some work.  Don't we all?  But what I do have is pretty fantastic.  I have a wonderful husband.  I have two great kids.  I have an adorable grandson.  I have a few good friends.  I have two sisters who I know will have my back through thick or thin.  I have a creative mind.  I have a sense of humor that makes some people laugh and some shake their heads.  I have plants to tend, chickens to feed, a house to clean, and books to read.  And that all sounds pretty good to me.

    So, go ahead and ask me what I want to be when I grow up.  I just want to be ME! 


    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Finding My Wings

    My house is a mess.  No, I don't mean a "it's been too long since I last dusted" sort of mess (although it has been).  I mean a full blown, how in the heck did this happen, kind of mess.  The sort of mess that stops you from opening the door to anyone knocking because one peek inside will give away your incompetence and may send them running for a phone to call CPS out of concern that your children may be buried under your negligence. 

    It happens gradually.  The days I was away from home at work, I couldn't clean during the day and by the time I got home the last thing I wanted to do was some house cleaning.  On the days I was at home, there was just so much to do that I would hit the obvious and absolutely necessary things.  Laundry, dishes, bathrooms, etc. 

    So, now here I sit at home; and I wonder where to start.  How do I get out from under the piles and piles?  How do I get organized again?  And I find the answer where I have found it so many times in the past.  That angel of decluttering.  The queen of the shiny sink.  The conqueror of CHAOS.  The FlyLady.

    It all starts with decluttering.  And man, oh man, do I have some decluttering to do!!  No, wait... it actually all starts with shining your sink.  Then comes routines.  THEN comes decluttering.  (I think that's right... it's been way too long since I first got acquainted with the BabySteps)

    There are all kinds of lists.  And you know how I adore my To-Do lists!  Which keeps me on track and organized.  Everything is divided into Zones.  And it's all done in 15 minutes at at time.  I can keep up with almost anything for 15 minutes. 

    I will share one little secret with you all here.  Shh... don't tell.  FlyLady is very big on getting dressed each morning, all the way down to shoes.  Lace up shoes.  I don't usually do shoes when I'm at home.  Especially not lace ups.  I may have on some flip flops, or some slip ons.  And now I have some fancy-schmancy turquoise gardening clogs for trips to the chicken coop or the clothes line.  But lace up shoes aren't my thing.  They make me feel clunky and weighed down.  I know... I'm a rebel. (HEY!  Stop laughing!)

    So, that's the plan.  So, pardon me while I fluff up my wings, set my timer, and dig through a drawer full of clutter in the dining room buffet table.

     

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    All Hail Broke Loose

    I gently planted the heirloom tomato plants, peppers, lettuce, herbs, and spinach in containers.  I brought them inside to protect them from a surprise freeze warning night.  I watched them closely for any signs of pests.  I was getting excited as I noticed some buds and even a few blossoms.  Dreaming of the lovely fresh veggies I would be stepping right out onto the back deck and picking for dinner this summer. 

    As the rain started I was pleased.  My leafy little lovelies would get some much needed moisture.

    The rain steadily grew heavier and the thunder started.  I eyed the containers with a bit of nervousness.  I hope it wasn't too much rain to fast which could upset the soil.

    Then... all hail broke loose.



    It was bad...




    And quickly got worse.


    I watched as seedlings were buried under ice balls.  Leafs and branches were broken off. 

    I know I could have made an attempt to rescue the tender plants.  But honestly - the sound of the hail pounding the roof, the sight of it bouncing off the porch, and witnessing the beating the plants were taking  managed to discourage me from that idea pretty quickly.


    My poor plants are looking pretty sad now.  I'm not sure how many, if any, will survive this. 


    
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