Spring / Easter Decorating

Spring is kind of a weird time. If you are into sports there is March Madness, the beginning of baseball season, and the end of hockey season. For anyone that’s Irish (or likes Irish people or green or likes to drink) we have St. Patrick’s Day. And sometimes in March and sometimes in April we have Passover and Easter.

I have a couple of friends that are Jewish. Some years we get together for these holidays and celebrate Passover and Easter together. While the decorations for Passover are quite sparse Easter decorations can be really fun.  Here are a few I recommend:

  1. Carrot-theme vases – Take a large hurricane and put a smaller bud vase in the center. Put carrots around the outside and add flowers to the bud vase. Adding water to the entire thing is recommended to keep it looking fresh.
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  2. Candy-theme vase – if you have children in your home this might be more fun for them. It’s the same concept only trade the carrots for colorful candy and add water ONLY to the bud vase. (full details at getcreativejuice.com)
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  3. Colored Deviled Easter Eggs –  Why do they call these “deviled” eggs when they are mostly served at Easter? Isn’t that weird? Anyway, once your eggs have been hard boiled dip them in food-safe colored dyes, then make them up as usual.  It will add some fun color to your dinner table.
    colorful-easter-deviled-eggs-1518559470
  4. Make a bunny Napkin – fold your napkins into cute little bunny shapes and place them on your dinner plates. Instructions are at drivenbydecor.com
    napkin-folded-into-rabbit-ears-so-cute-for-an-easter-table-setting
  5. Shell tea lights – For this one you’re going to want to harden these shells a bit. The easiest way will be to take your shells (just shells after you’ve cracked an egg) and some white glue with food coloring added. Brush the glue onto the egg and let dry. Add several coats so it’s strong enough for a tea light to sit inside without breaking the shell. Once reinforced with another pretty colored “shell” place them in a tea light holder.  This one looks like an egg crate but yours doesn’t have to to look great. Carefully put tea lights in the center either turned on or then light. Now isn’t that a beautiful way to light up your room?
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The “Instant Pot”

I saw one of these last year and put it on my Christmas list. Santa was kind and we got one. Not the name brand but this one from Best Buy that is their store brand but is the same type of thing.

Well, I can retire my old pressure cooker. Not that I use it but once in a blue moon. Nope not even that often. Still it is nice to have that feature if you need a ton of baked potatoes in a hurry or something.

The best feature I think is that I can get a slow cooker meal in less than slow cooker time. I LOVE slow cookers. We have – I think – 4 of them. A 4-quart, two 6-quarts, and an 8-quart. We mostly use the 6-quart but if we are doing a pot luck we may end up using 3 of the 4. They are great! We throw a bunch of stuff in them in the morning, close the lid and turn them on and by the end of the day a delicious meal is waiting for you. These were MADE for busy people with no time to make dinner.

But back to the quick-pot thing. Say I’m too busy in the morning or I forget to toss in my food and my crock-pot is empty that day. I come home and kids are expecting roast beef with vegetables for dinner. Are they getting mac and cheese instead? That depends – can they be a little bit patient? The instant pot can take my roast beef and veggies and have them ready to eat in about 30 minutes. Sweet! What if I remember and come home at lunch and toss in some chicken and the rest of my ingredients for cranberry chicken? (see below for recipe) Does my family have to wait until 7pm to eat my chicken safely? Nope. The instant pot can have it ready for you when you want it to – in 4 hours? 5? or 1.  I LOVE this thing.

It comes with a super-easy rice cooker that is so easy to make the best-tasting rice in and its dishwasher safe so clean-up is also a breeze. Hard-boiled eggs are done to perfection in about 5 minutes. I tell you – pick up one of these and you will love it!

There is a downside and for me it’s a biggie. I mentioned I have so many slow cookers and all the different sizes. When I cook I’m usually feeding either my own teenagers/ young adults + friends or I’m making a dish to share with my friends. In either case a 6-quart is just BARELY enough for a main dish. (Have you seen teenage boys eat? It’s like watching locusts!) I’d love to get an 8-quart version and they haven’t made one — or have they? Yes! Now I have a birthday present.

So now you know what I think about this gadget. If you have one let me know what you think. And here’s my recipe for cranberry chicken. Now, I’m giving you the EZ version that uses items found in your pantry and goes in one pot all together. It doesn’t look as pretty as others but still tastes great. If you want one that makes a true chutney then there is a great one here from the crockpot girls. It’s in a great cookbook they created along with over 500 other great crockpot recipes. Now that you know you can adapt these for a quick-pot you can also enjoy them in not-quite-an-instant!

Cranberry Chicken

Chicken Breasts – 40 oz bag
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 bottle western dressing
1 envelope onion soup mix

Rinse ice off chicken breasts and place in crock pot. Mix all other ingredients together and pour on top of chicken. Put lid on, turn crock pot on “low” or “auto” and in about 7 hours dinner is ready. (please make sure chicken is fully cooked according to your crock pot’s cooking schedule and instructions. I’d hate to have anyone get sick on yummy chicken.)

Using Neutral Colors Effectively

We’ve seen the 2018 colors and you want to re-paint but splashing Behr’s “Spirit Warrior” or “Life is Good” all over your walls is just not you. You’re more the … neutral type.

Neutral doesn’t have to mean boring. Neutral colors aren’t all “builder beige.” Today’s neutrals are soft greens, grays, and blues with black, navy and white used as well. They may not make the same dramatic impact as walking into a room with turquoise walls and coral furniture (thinking about being in the Bahamas here — those colors work there all the time) but there are some real benefits to having neutral backgrounds.

If the background colors are neutral then you can use accessories like pillows, artwork, lampshades, towels and shower curtains to add your color and style. When you start seeing red over all the red you have in your house start swapping out some pieces for another color that suits your new mood. Towels and throw pillows are a lot less expensive then couches and so much less time-consuming than painting a room.

I already talked about using gray and brown so we’re going to skip those. (See “Gray is the New White” if you need to catch up.) Those are the most common neutral colors but they aren’t the only ones. Most of us don’t think of a soft blue as a neutral but look how beautifully it works in this living room.

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Again, here is a soft blue with crisp white cabinets in the kitchen. Very nice!

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One doesn’t often see neutrals in the bedroom unless the home is going on the market. We want to make the bedroom space very personal. Here a soft rose is being used. It feels fresh and feminine without being overbearing. A great neutral to use in a girl’s room. – but wouldn’t drive the boy that might be sharing it with her crazy.

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This living room is using a combination of ivory on the walls and white on the trim. It’s unusual but it works.

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Most modern rooms have very white walls. This modern living room is using a soft green instead. It highlights the modern furniture, the plants in the room and outside the windows, and the painting on the wall.

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This is a favorite of mine. Using soft blush in various shades is becoming a top neutral. It’s warm, clean and friendly without being too beige.

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I love this photo because you can see the neutrals used in three rooms: green, brown and yellow. Great job in all three!

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I hope this helps as you think about your painting project for this spring. Please let me know what you decide to do.

My Thanks to the folks at www.diyhomedesignidieas.com for the use use of their photos.

How to Clean in THIS Century

So most of you know I have fibromyalgia which means no energy, sensitivity to chemicals, scents, smells of any kind, loud noises, and temperatures. How exactly am I supposed to get anything clean around my home? Very creatively. Since my ways would work great for just about anyone I’m going to share them with you:

  1. Stop scrubbing things by hand. This was an absolute necessity for me. If I tried to scrub my bathtub or really yucky kitchen counters (think after making waffles) I was in bed after less than 10 minutes. So after a great deal of trial and error I found this scrubber that helps me clean things.
    CUH Cordless Power Scrubber
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    Here’s why:  The scrubbing pad is AMAZING on tub, tile, shower, counters, etc. The brushes work great in corners and on tougher surfaces. The handle is very comfortable.  No, it doesn’t have a super-extender but I don’t find that it’s a bad thing.  I like the control of the grip where it is.  This has been a lifesaver.
    If you do like a telescoping handle the most popular kind seems to be the Hurricane Spin Scrubber.
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    I did try this one. I loved the power it had and the way it got into crevices and corners where other devices never seem to reach, like the corners of your kitchen floor under your cabinets. The downside for me was that it didn’t have a scrubbing pad and I really wanted one.  You might prefer the telescoping handle over that. I personally think these two are the best ones out there.
  2. If it can go in the dishwasher, use the dishwasher.  I used to think dishwashers were only for well — dishes. Then I saw I spring cleaning show where this guy was  putting EVERYTHING in there he could. If it was dishwasher safe and it fit it went in. He put in the brushes from the facial cleansers in the bathroom, the soap and toothbrush holders (assuming it wasn’t liquid soap), any vases, platters, fruit bowls, the organizers for the flatware, the drawers in the refrigerator, ANYTHING that was washable went in. While it was washing he mentioned that these loads don’t have to be dedicated. You can — and should — put your kitchen sponge or scrubber in the dishwasher every day to sterilize it.  Facial scrubbers and shower puffs should be cleaned every week (unless you LIKE putting bacteria on your kitchen counters or body. Just saying.) Anything that goes in with the dishes will be cleaned as thoroughly as the dishes are. Since they all get cleaned and sterilized let’s use the space and water as efficiently as possible.
  3. Update your cleaning cloths/sponges. I’ve been using green scrubbers and regular microfiber cloths forever. But I found this sponge that is a scrubber on one side and next-gen microfiber on the other and it’s amazing
    nanosponge
    I can clean, scrub and polish just about anything with this and when I’m done I just toss it in the dishwasher and when it comes out it’s ready to go another round with me. It’s so great the manufacturer claims it can clean with only water. I haven’t tested that part out yet but it does make me feel better when I’m in a hurry and I don’t spray as evenly as I should.
  4. If it’s not here you don’t have to clean it. For the past couple of years I have been working on – and encouraging my family to – remove those things from the house they don’t need and don’t use. The hardest barrier to overcome by far I think is emotional attachment. I had a wonderful professional wardrobe but after I got sick (well, after like 2 years. This is HARD!) I realized that my previous full-time career was never going to be a part of my life again. So why hang on to clothes that someone else could be using? Boy, it was painful but my closet is now half the size it used to be and there is that much less to worry about storing, cleaning and taking care of. Most of us have WAY too much stuff and no time to enjoy it or take care of it. So take a few minutes each week to go through a drawer or box or corner and see what you don’t need or use anymore.
  5. Clean what you can, when you can. When I was growing up Saturday was cleaning day. We all had our chores but that was the day we made sure the house was clean for the week.  These days I don’t have a day to clean my house.  I don’t have a day to clean anything.  Schedules are so crazy we fit in what we can. I rely on my family to do the heavy stuff – vacuuming, mopping (you’d be amazed how much energy those take!) and I use my tricks to keep the germ goblins away as best I can.

Well, there you have it.  A snapshot of my dysfunctional life and how we try to survive anyway.  I know from talking to my family and friends that many of you are in the same boat.  You may not have my disease but you have your own problems and they bring their own challenges. I hope these tips help you a bit and if nothing else, help you feel that you’re not alone in your struggles to keep your home and life clean and organized.  We just do the best we can — and that’s good enough!

Please let me know if you have any cleaning tips or other comments. I’d love to hear from you!