Experiments Brought to you by the Interwebs. Part I.

This week I’m visiting my parents in the Grand Valley, so I’m writing a different sort of post.

I tried a couple of things this week, one of which is a life hack, the other a recipe. The recipe is for a homemade stain remover. I’ve been using it for more than a week now, actually, more like two months or so. I have to say, I’m super impressed. I found this recipe on Mommypotamus‘ blog.

This stain remover takes out baby poop, ya’ll. Just spray and wash, no scrubbing necessary. If you have a set stain (a onesie that has been previously washed but still has that orange-yellow spot on it) just keep spraying and washing and eventually the set stain will fade – about 3 or 4 more washes. We had a paper diaper breach the other day and I happened to be doing laundry anyway, so I just sprayed the poop spot and tossed the onesie into the machine. It came completely out!

20160811_213942Unfortunately I don’t have a before and after picture for you, but I do have a picture of my skirt. You can see the lighter spots on it. Those are where I sprayed the stain remover. My skirt was so dirty that I’ve been having to spray a little more each time I wash it to get all the residual dirt off of it. I would never have noticed except I got oil on the skirt so I sprayed the oil spots. This stain remover took out the oil spots and the residual dirt. At first I thought that the color of the skirt had been slightly bleached, but I compared the lighter section to the yoke of the skirt and they were the same color; my skirt was just that dirty.

I have been putting this stain remover all over our clothes and I have not had any problems with colorfastness, but do always test. Just in case.

The second thing I tried this week was ripening avocados in the oven. I had read that if you need to ripen avocados quickly you can do so by wrapping them in tin foil and popping them in a 200° oven for about 10 minutes.

This does not work.

The avocados stayed in the oven for at least 20 minutes and they are still rock hard. Three days later. I’m a bit bummed with this one; I was really hoping it would work. I guess I’ll have to stick with the old paper bag and bananas trick…

Party Prep When Preggo.

IMG_0277I have a limited amount of energy to draw from on a daily basis and being pregnant just exacerbates that. When I want to host something, I try to give myself plenty of time to work so that I won’t be running around like an angry chicken the day of the event. My goal is to make the hour or two before the first guest arrives as stress-free as possible.

We also had guests stay from Saturday to Sunday, which added extra prep so I was more diligent about my cleaning schedule and it really paid off: we thoroughly enjoyed their visit because I didn’t have to stress about party food prep.

It helped that my parents came to town for the wee one’s birthday and my mom cleaned the kitchen/breakfast bar for me, but with this schedule I think I could have pulled it off. I would have been a little more stressed, but I think getting the kitchen done would have been possible.

Here’s what I did for the little one’s birthday:

Monday. Clean the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. This includes toilets, sinks and sweeping. The upstairs bath tub was clean from the week before, and if it hadn’t been clean, that’s what the shower curtain is for.

Tuesday. Laundry. This meant sheets in the guest room and clothes. Also tidying the bedrooms in general. I also added the T.V. room to the day because there were toys scattered all over.

Wednesday. Living room and errands. We have a giant fur factory of a dog, so cleaning the living room means spraying down the rug under our piano with vinegar water and actually brushing the fur out of it with one of those plastic bristle brushes because vacuuming doesn’t touch the hair. I started sprouting chickpeas for hummus in the morning, we also swept, tidied the toys and other surfaces like the piano and roll-top desk. I picked up all the party foodstuffs and general grocery needs. Then we went to dinner with an old friend of hubby’s, which was a nice break.

Thursday. Kitchen time! This is the day I did all of the food prep I could do ahead of time: I made the deviled eggs without filling them, mixed up 4 pounds of bacon meatball goodness and made 6 cups of coconut milk for tapioca pudding. I also cleaned the kitchen a little, but you really couldn’t tell by the end of the day. Part of the reason the kitchen didn’t get cleaned that day was that I discovered our wonderful cat had revenge peed on the wall in our craft room, so we spent a good portion of Thursday cleaning out the craft room.

Friday. On Friday I made the tapioca pudding, cooked the chickpeas and generally sat around after revisiting some places for cleaning. That evening we went out to dinner with my parents for the little one’s actual birthday. After dinner I started the cake batter (for soaking) and fed the sourdough starter for Sunday pancakes.

Saturday. I baked the cake (recipe next week!) while my mom cleaned the kitchen the rest of the way and I made hummus. Our company arrived around 5, so I spent the rest of the day visiting. In the evening I started the pancake batter.

Sunday. The day of the event! Pancake breakfast and then church. My mom got balloons and cleared off the breakfast bar while we were at mass, which was super helpful. When we got home we had an hour and a half to put everything together and we almost made it. The second round of meatballs were baking by the time the second round of guests arrived. My sister-in-law made frosting, so we frosted the cake when she arrived.

Overall everything went very smoothly. I had help which reduced the stress level by a lot, but the largest factor in stress reduction was definitely splitting up the chores throughout the week beforehand. I definitely recommend doing that for any event you’re planning!

Chemical Free Oven Cleaning!

I have a self-cleaning oven. If you have ever actually run a cleaning cycle with one you will know that you cannot do it during the winter. Unless, you know, you really like the smell of already burnt oil/food being charred to death all night long. There has to be some window action happening while the cycle is running to make it even slightly bearable, and even then it’s pretty bad (ok, really bad). As it’s the middle of the winter a cleaning cycle would pretty much be torture, but my oven was amazingly dirty. It was pretty much covered in blackness. Delicious, oily, blackness.

So you can imagine I was pretty excited to come across a chemical-free way to clean an oven! All it took was baking soda, water, and a little vinegar water for clean-up – supposedly. I was pretty skeptical, because baking soda and I aren’t exactly close friends when it comes to cleaning, but I thought I’d give it a go. The worst that could happen is it wouldn’t work and I’d have to either wait until warmer days to torture my family or go buy an oven cleaning solution somewhere. Here are my results:

oven

I wasn’t cool enough to take a before photo but you can pretty clearly see what it looked like before (particularly on the door). There was grime everywhere, and now there is less grime. Success!…kind of. I’m not exactly sure why it only cleaned the bottom half of the door because I definitely slathered the paste all over the door and the window. I’ll have to give it another shot. It took me a little less than 30 minutes to clean all of the baking soda off the oven and door so that wasn’t terrible. Overall I would recommend this cleaning method because it beats the pants off of the self-cleaning cycle and – to be honest – who wants to marinate in chemicals for the amount of time it takes to clean the oven up?

I also tried a trick for cleaning the oven racks. Cleaning oven racks (or toaster oven racks) is probably my least favorite kitchen task. I hate standing in the kitchen with an S.O.S pad trying to awkwardly lean the giant rack against something so I can have a go at the caked on crud that is, inevitably, all over the blasted thing. Just thinking about it is unpleasant. So when I read that you could simply soak the suckers overnight and then wipe them clean in the morning I was pretty psyched!

IMG_20150218_152735

I’m pretty rotten at taking pictures of the inside of ovens but, alas, I had no luck. Some of the heftier grime came off but the racks are not clean. I would not recommend soaking oven racks overnight. It’s too much trouble because you need to lay a towel or two down under them to protect your bath tub. Ringing out a sopping wet beach towel filled with ice cold, somewhat oily water is not my idea of making things easier. I will keep searching for a better way though. There must be a better way!

Without further ado here is the oven cleaning method:

1/2 cup baking soda
3 Tbs. water (or more)
Cleaning gloves
Spray bottle filled with vinegar water

Combine baking soda and water, mixing until a thick paste forms. Start with just 3 tablespoons of water and work up a little at a time if you need more. Don your gloves and slather that paste all over the places you need to clean being careful to avoid the heating element. Close the oven door and let that puppy sit overnight. When you can get to it the next morning/day, spray down the surface you’re ready to wipe off with vinegar water and wipe away the grime.

It really is that easy. Sometimes it takes a little elbow grease, but mostly everything just wipes away.
Happy cleaning!