Mud Room Mayhem #3: The Shoe-lution!

Having no closet and dreading the thought of using some sort of messy shoe rack, I had my heart set on hidden shoe storage. I had planned this out long before the mud room make-over was ever really in the works. I had seen this idea years ago on Pinterest and knew that someday my mudroom was going to have drawers in the stair risers to hide the vast array of shoes that constantly littered our mud room floor.

Tim had already removed the old stairs from the kitchen down to the mud room. He custom built the stringers and stairs to fit the space between the kitchen door frame and the door leading to the back yard that sits at the base of the stairs. We decided to opt for simple 2″ X 12″ construction for the stairs and then sanded and stained the stairs to match the oak floors. We were super pleased with how the stairs turned out despite the fact that they were made very economically without spending on high end wood.

For the drawers, Tim re-used planks from our old wooded futon frame for the sides of the drawer boxes and then old 1/4″ fir for the base and drawer fronts. The fir was removed from the walls of an old walk-in closet/storage room in the basement when we reconfigured some of the basement several years ago. We had kept the wood for future projects and it came in handy for these drawers. Although the fir has much more grain and an orangey/red hue, the dark stain took beautifully and I actually love the fact that the drawer fronts stand-out from the stairs and aren’t so “matchy”!

Best of all, the drawers provide ample storage for our shoes, and short boots will even fit when placed on their sides. So thrilled!! Using stair risers for hidden shoe storage might be my favourite Life Hack yet!! Thank you Tim!

 

Shell Busey’s Homemade Weed Killer

DIY weed killerSeveral years ago, I came across this recipe for a homemade weed killer. It was shared by Shell Busey. I love the fact that it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals, so I don’t have to worry about it being harmful for small children or the neighbourhood pets that like to frequent our yard. The only caution with this mixture is that it will kill your grass and flowers if you spray it on them by accident. He suggests only using this to kill the weeds that may crop up on your driveway, sidewalk or through ground cover.

Shell Busey’s Homemade Weed Killer Recipe:

Mix the following ingredients together:

  • 4 cups of white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of table salt
  • 2 tsp of liquid dish soap

Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spray it on your weeds when it is sunny and hot out.

 

 

Life Hacks I Love #12: Is your skirt too short?

I have a few summer dresses that I wear out and about all summer and feel perfectly comfortable in them, but feel that they are slightly short for work or serving with the 2 year olds at church. I wanted to wear this dress to work yesterday, but when I put it on, I felt it too was not quite long enough.short dress

I was a bit miffed about the situation and not sure why, but I decided to try to “lengthen” the dress. I found my plain black cotton skirt and pulled it up over my waist and wore it below the dress as you would a slip. The end result was a layered look. I was a bit unsure about this combination at first because my skirt was tapered and longer at the back, but the dress was cut to one even length. (I think tapered over tapered and straight cut over straight cut might be better.) This was not meant to be a blogging topic, but rather just a strategy for getting away with wearing a short skirt to work. I was still feeling a bit self-conscious about my little concoction, but ended up getting a few compliments on the dress throughout the course of the day. Go figure? I’m not suggesting this is the be all end all in the fashion industry, but it did seem to work at least to some extent. See what you think and consider it an option next time you’re faced with a similar situation.

plain black skirt layered dress

 

 

Refresh Your Towels

towelsWe have primarily white towels in our house. When we got married, I decided that white would be the best option because they can fit with any colour scheme and can always be bleached to get out tough stains. This proved to be a great strategy and now 17 years later, we still have “whitish” towels. Of course, some have been replaced over the years, but generally speaking, they’ve really held up well. Having said that, they certainly aren’t the vibrant white they once were.

I was intrigued by this “pin” on how to recharge your towels and knew I would have nothing to lose. I actually don’t have before/after pictures for this post as I didn’t think of it at the time. I chose to do one load of older towels that were definitely looking more of an off white/greyish colour than the pure vibrant white they once were. I followed the instructions and was pleased with the results. I think this would work awesome on towels that weren’t quite so old, as I can’t say I noticed much of a difference in the colour after the treatment, but I found that the towels seemed very clean and fresh and I will absolutely do this a few times per year to freshen up older towels and help keep the nice bright colour of newer ones.

Instructions:

The original instructions on Two Little Frills suggested washing the towels twice without any detergent.

  • Using hot water, add 1 cup of vinegar to the load and wash.
  • When the cycle completes add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the second cycle and wash again.

*This can also be done with a front load washer by adding the vinegar and soda directly in the drum (not in the dispenser). Remember to do it in two separate cycles. The poster says this works well on clothes and coloured towels as well.

This was a great tip and I plan to do it again, unless perhaps my next test works better. I found another post that claims to eliminate the nasty dish rag/towel smell forever. I’m completely all over this. Don’t you hate washing your dish cloths and towels only to have them emerge from the dryer as stinky as before. I absolutely hate that and it burns me when I have to toss out what would otherwise be a perfectly good rag. I’m waiting for the perfect stinky load of rags to test this method against the other post I found. I’m actually looking forward to finding the swimming towels rolled up in a ball in the bottom of the swimming bag, just so I can test these two theories out. Three cheers to clean and fresh!

Oven Cleaning 101

I hope I’m not the only one who never knew this, but at this moment I’m feeling pretty dumb. I have scrubbed my fair share of stoves over the years and yet, I learned something new today. Did you know there is a way to clean the glass inside the oven door? I would often be annoyed when I finished cleaning my oven and still had a hard time seeing through the grime on the inside of the glass, despite all of my efforts to have a spotless stove. I honestly had never heard of anyone cleaning inside the door until I saw it on Pinterest this weekend. Sure enough a few screws and the whole thing opens up.

Cleaning Between the Glass on Your Oven Door:

I’m assuming there’s someone else out there who never knew about this and thus I’m sharing the steps for cleaning the glass. I found this tutorial on Mom 4 Real and she claimed it was quite easy to open the oven door up and clean inside. I decided to put my oven on “self clean” this morning and thought I’d finish off the job by attempting to clean the glass inside the door. To be honest, it was even easier than her post implied. Her oven door had special screws (torx screws) that required a special tool to loosen them, but my oven had regular screws that were loosened and removed with a square head screw driver. My screws also seemed to be in different places than her post suggested. I had to remove 3 screws along each side of the door and one in the top of each corner of the door that held the handle on. I literally unscrewed the 8 screws and the door popped open. I then proceeded to vacuum the inside and gave it a good scrub and shine. It was super easy and my glass is now clean. Too bad about the black exterior that never ever looks clean in my opinion. The black appliances came with our house and I would never go “black” again. It looks sleek, but always seems streaky and/or dusty to me!

Let me know if you knew about this and already clean the interior of your door as part of your oven cleaning regime. I’m curious to know if I missed this vital detail growing-up or if few people actually do this?

Dollar Store Hack: Spice Bottle Upcycle

As you know, I finally finished my spice rack project. If you were looking at the pictures from the post carefully, you probably noticed that my spice bottles don’t match. I had upcycled some old ones from an old spinning spice rack, but those that were still hidden in the spice drawer were left in their original bottles. I put the mismatched bottles on the new shelf, but picked up some clear spice bottles with white lids at the dollar store.

Spice Bottle Upcycle:

dollar store spice bottlesThese bottles were only 3 for a dollar. I decided to buy a dozen and then see how many more I needed. (Had I thought of it, I would have counted before I left, but I actually went to purchase baking soda and peroxide for my weekend cleaning frenzy.) I put the bottles through the dishwasher and hand washed the lids and plastic pieces (with the holes for sprinkling). Once they were thoroughly dried, I spray painted them with black paint and printed the spice names on the lids with white Crayola twistable crayon. Here is the original post with the tutorial.

I really love the crayon in lieu of chalk. It gives the same effect, but you don’t have to worry about smearing. If you remember, I have chalkboard labels on my glass pickle jar canisters and the chalk is always smearing. I think I might actually erase them all and convert the printing to crayon. Not my idea, but certainly a great one!!

Here are the completed bottles!

dollar store bottles

Life Hacks I Love # 11: You’ve Grout to Be Kidding!

Okay, I am definitely on a roll now. I was so impressed with the results from the tub tiles that I had to try those floor tiles just one more time. So, you’ve already seen how disgusting my tub was thanks to the oil my daughter used in the shower, but I honestly didn’t think the tub tiles and floor were that bad. They were “clean”, but the solvents I was using really weren’t that effective. Do you know how frustrating it is to expend the time and energy to do a job like cleaning tile/grout and it really look no better than before you started. I knew the bathroom was clean because I had done the work, but I was never left feeling good about it.

Now, some people have told me they feel bad about themselves when they read my blog because it makes them think about all the things they should be doing. So let’s just get something straight right off the hop. I love a clean, organized and tidy house, but mine rarely is any of the above and when it is, it seems to only be a momentary euphoria. Those of you with kids know exactly what I’m talking about. Spend two hours vacuuming and mopping the floor and as you pack up your cleaning supplies, you spot a kid caring a bowl of Rice Krispies to the living room, so they can watch TV while they have a snack. Are you kidding me?? Ahh!! So, if you are thinking I’m so great because I get all this stuff done, don’t kid yourself…ask anyone who pops by unannounced, my house is far far from perfect. In fact, think of it this way…how on earth did I ever let my bathroom get to that state in the first place! (Now in my defence, I had tried many times previously, but to no avail.)

Floor Tile Grout Cleaner:

baking soda and peroxide

Stock-up on baking soda and peroxide.

Back to the search engines. I came across this idea that seemed to work well for some and thought I’d give it a try, but I had already used up all of my baking soda on the shower tile. Off to Dollarama to pick-up a few supplies. This cleaning solution calls for peroxide and baking soda. I picked up 5 boxes of baking soda and 4 bottles of peroxide for a buck each. The floor took about 2 bottles of peroxide and 2 1/2 boxes of baking soda. Basically, you pour on some peroxide and work it into the tile with a scrub brush. You then sprinkle baking soda on top and scrub that into the peroxide, working your way into the grout. I then used a paper towel to sop up some of the extra goop and then wet mopped the floor (several times). The only down side to this is that the grit from the baking soda is a bit hard to get rid of. You can’t notice it, but you can feel the texture under your feet. I recommend giving it a few mops, letting it dry and then giving it a vigorous sweeping and/or vacuuming before a final mopping. I know this sounds like lots of work and it was. It took me about 2 hours to do this job, but I am amazed by the results. This doesn’t change the flaws in the grout, but I can’t believe the difference. I honestly thought that the grout colour just faded over time as I never really remember it looking so white.

Here are my before and after shots! These are so disgusting they should come with a warning. I know I am totally sabotaging my image by sharing these before and after pictures, but it’s all in the name of entertainment. I can’t believe that I could never get any of this dirt off before….how embarrassing! Revel in a snapshot of my imperfection!

You must be starting to

Life Hacks I Love #10: How ’bout that Grout?

My spring cleaning spree continued and a I spent most of Saturday scrubbing the bathroom. There is a bit of a story behind our bathroom and perhaps it needs to be explained at this point. In 2010, we hired an independent contractor to gut and renovate our bathroom. This was a huge job and quite pricey for such a little space, but it was literally crumbling down and had to be done. We signed a contract, gave a deposit and were excited that his timeline was 3 weeks. Unfortunately, 3 months later the job was less than half done with no toilet, sink or floor and none of the finishing work completed. He would show up sporadically at best and never answered our calls or emails. When we finally reached our limit and gave him an ultimatum….finish by Friday or don’t bother coming back, he chose the latter. This left us with a huge job to complete and uncertainty about where he was in the process of some of the jobs. It was a huge stress and at this point we just wanted it done. It was so hard to find trades people and at this point we weren’t feeling very trusting, so we decided that Tim would finish the job. This added a lot to his plate because he was working full time and had to do the bathroom around his schedule. In the end Tim did a great job, but there was one major problem.  The tile work. Although I know Tim is capable of doing pretty much anything around the house, he had never done tile before. We weren’t sure if the bathtub tiles needed any kind of sealer on them because “Darryl” had done this job before he walked off. We assumed it was complete and never did any kind of treatment over them. As for the floor tile, Tim took on this job himself, but under the time crunch of knowing our vanity was to be installed in just a few days. He pulled a couple of all-nighters in the midst of a family camping trip and got the job done, but there were issues with the grout. I can’t actually remember what went down, but the result was somewhat disappointing. I can be pretty fussy and especially when we’ve just spent an arm and a leg to get our bathroom done, but my husband had just spent every spare moment working his tail off to get this job done and believe me frustrations were high, so I had to tread lightly if you know what I mean. He knew there were some flaws in the grout, but it has always been a bit of a “touchy subject”.

Over the years, I have attacked the grout on that floor several times, but to no avail. It just doesn’t seem uniform in colour and I have never been very happy with it. Someday, perhaps we’ll get it redone, but for now it is what it is. In fact, some say it is natural looking and looks like it might have been the original floor with the normal wear and tear of a 100 year old house. So, having said all of this, the bathroom tile and I have a bit of a contentious relationship and it has never been “spot on”, even after its initial installation. I’ve had several fights with the tub and floor tiles, but always feel like I’ve lost the battle in the end. Well, for the first time ever, I actually felt pretty good with the results.

Tub Tiles:

I found a homemade mixture for the tub tiles and was quite pleased with results. I have tried several store-bought tile cleaners and feel like the discolouration never really goes away. This homemade concoction worked quite well.

  • 1 part bleach
  • 3 parts baking soda

Mix the bleach and baking soda together to form a paste and spread it over the grout. Leave for about 10 minutes and scrub. Now, I won’t lie…I did have to scrub the grout, but the whole thing didn’t take me longer than about 10 to 15 minutes. There really is no comparison between this method and other traditional cleaners I’ve used. Most of the discolouration came off and I was pleased with the results.

Life Hacks I Love # 9: Blue Dawn + Vinegar

Dawn and VinegarI saw this on Pinterest a long time ago and was so tired of commercial cleaners that didn’t work, I thought I’d give it a try. Our home was built in 1921 and still has the original cast iron tub in the main floor bathroom. We had it refinished when we redid our bathroom several years ago, but it just doesn’t clean easily. I was so excited when I tried this out and it worked!

How to Make Your Own Tub/Shower Cleaner:

The ratio for this mixture is one to one. I find that 1/3 to 1/2 cup of each is plenty for one tub.

  1. Measure 1/3 cup  (or 1/2) of vinegar in a glass measuring cup.
  2. Microwave the vinegar. You want it hot.
  3. Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle.
  4. Add an equal part of Blue Dawn dish soap to the spray bottle (either 1/3 or 1/2 depending how much vinegar you used).
  5. Add the spray bottle cap and give the bottle a gentle shake just to mix the two slightly. Do not shake vigorously or you’ll get lots of bubbles.
  6. Spray onto the tub and shower surface and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  7. Wipe clean.

You will notice that the grime wipes clean easily with little to no scrubbing at all. The vinegary smell is quite strong but dissipates quite quickly and the results are really worth it.

My daughter decided to make-up some kind of an oil mixture for her hair and body this week and our tub is disgusting. Normally, the natural consequence for this would be for her to clean the tub, but I wanted to post about it, so I decided to do it myself. Whatever concoction she used, attracted every bit of dirt and grime conceivable to our tub. Here is a picture of the an area I’ve wiped versus an area that hasn’t yet been cleaned. I went to use my Dawn + Vinegar cleaning solution and realized I was out of Dawn. I decided it would be a great time to try out the Sunlight dish detergent I have on hand. I simply substituted the Sunlight for the Dawn and it worked like a charm. We buy a huge container of Sunlight from Costco and I would just buy the Dawn separately for cleaning my bathroom. Not any more ~  from now on I’ll be using my Sunlight for my bathroom as well and saving the extra expense. I actually had Eden shoot a little video clip of me wiping down the tub, but I am having trouble with my YouTube account, so I decided to post without it. Here is our disgusting tub!

tub cleaner

This is one of those Life Hacks that really works. It is so much better than any of the commercial cleaners I’ve used. It’s much cheaper and takes so much less effort. I highly recommend this fabulous solution. Based on my little experiment today, I would venture to guess that it might work with any good quality dish soap you have on hand. I’d love to hear how it works for you, so leave your comments below. Happy cleaning!

Hard Boiled Eggs in the Oven?

If you frequent Pinterest, I’m sure you have seen the pins showing how to bake eggs in their shell instead of hard boiling them on the stove. If you read my Devilled Egg post back in the summer, you would understand why I jumped all over this idea. So, I decided to try this out for our Easter eggs.

Directions for Baking Eggs:

I basically did exactly what was suggested on the “pins”. I preheated my oven to 325 degrees. I placed my eggs in a muffin tin and baked them for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes I removed them from the oven and transferred them to an ice bath.

The Good News:

The eggs cooked perfectly.

The Bad News:

Like some of the other pinners, my eggs ended up with brown spots on the shells and even some spots that looked a bit scorched. Decorating wasn’t high on my kids interest list, so we ended up peeling and eating some of the dozen that I baked.  All of the eggs had little brown/scorch marks on them in a place or two. It had no impact on the taste, but if presentation was of concern, I would not recommend this technique. I’m not sure what causes this, but I have to admit I did not turn the eggs during the 30 minute bake time. Some suggested turning them half way through the baking time and others didn’t, so of course I opted for the easier of the two and didn’t bother turning them. I’m not sure if turning would have prevented this or not. Although my muffin tin was clean, it is well used and “seasoned”. I’m not sure if this was the problem or not.

The Verdict:

This works well if you are making egg salad sandwiches for your family, but I wouldn’t recommend this method for devilled eggs you plan on serving to company or for decorating Easter eggs. Having said that, it didn’t really impact the few eggs we decorated this year. We just made sure to “colour” over the spots and you really couldn’t see the brown marks, but it would totally depend on how you were decorating your eggs. Based on my one experience with this cooking method, I think I’ll probably stick to the traditional method and just boil them. Cool idea though!

FYI They didn’t peel any easier either!