Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Home Sweet Home: Disinfecting the House after the Flu

Well, no posts here in a while because we've been held hostage by a particularly virulent strain of stomach flu. Explosive, unpredictable, double-ended. Enough said.

I, not completely over it yet, am trying to begin sanitizing the house. Since I'm a novice in the cleaning-up-after-sickness business, I googled it, as you might have expected from me. eHow had a nice rundown on the basics of house disinfecting. A lot of that was obvious and I was doing it as a matter of course - WASH YOUR HANDS, keep the sick person in one area of the house, take out the trash, wash the soiled linens in hot water, clean the bathroom, use a bleach solution to disinfect all surfaces, wash dishes used by the sick person, etc, etc. I am not sure why I was the very last to get sick yet I was the one up all night with the sick little ones. I'm sure I washed my hands at least 100 times a day (not exaggerating!) and used hand sanitizer in between... my hands are red and chapped to prove it. But that doesn't negate the fact that I was vomitted near and occasionally on. Gross but unavoidable when you've got 3 under 4 and they're all losing their dinner at the same time.

So, after checking off the basics, I still had all of the kids' toys that have nooks and crannies in which lurk the seeds of contagion. So I had another search to do. had an article about sanitizing toys which was somewhat useful. Most results dealt with cleaning toys in a commercial daycare center setting, but were still informative about some methods of cleaning hard-to-sanitize items. Fisher-Price also had similar information, but was more geared to family home settings.

Summing up the collective wisdom, I have decided to top-rack dishwash the Duplos and other small plastic toys in a mesh bag (the kind you might use to keep your unmentionables from floating all over in the washing machine). Haven't done it yet since we're not 100% better, but it will happen. I'll post more if something unexpected happens there.

I will also be borrowing my mother-in-law's carpet cleaner to clean a particularly unlucky part of our living room rug (and hopefully other carpets that need it anyway). I am going to get some sort of surface/air sanitizer to spray the rest of the kids' toys that can't go in the dishwasher (Yay Lysol!). I'll be cleaning the bathrooms (again!), washing the bathroom rugs (again!) and changing everybody's sheets (again!). And, even though it's below freezing here right now, I'm insanely entertaining the idea of opening up the house for a half hour or so with the attic fan on just to move some fresh air through our house.

But right now, I'm going to go lie down because I'm tired just thinking about all of the cleaning I'll be doing when I feel better. Not particularly fun, but a real necessity if we ever hope to entertain at our house again. It'll be worth it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

TheJuneBride News: More Baby Booties!

Well, I have to take back mt previous statements about fleece and baby booties. It is possible to use fleece, as long as you don't use it for the sole. Or as long as I don't use it for the sole, since no one said you were having any trouble with it. Enough italics... onto the pictures.

As you can see, not only was I able to figure out a pattern, I was able to successfully size it up for different ages. They needed an internal elastic cuff to keep them on, but they have no exposed stiching on the outside. I think they're adorable and...

They're available in my Etsy shop! Check it out to see more of what I've been up to...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Home Sweet Home: Cleaning for Company

It's Thursday. That means I clean my house in the morning. I'm not generally a schedule freak, but Thursday is Grandma Day. My (absolutely wonderful) mother-in-law comes over from about 11 AM till around 5 PM so I get to be free to do as I please. I am the envy of my friends, to be sure.

I love my mother-in-law and we are certainly like family at this point. But I still like to have a clean house when she comes over. Not to say that we live in squalor when she's not around, but sometimes we do. *Cringe* Oh well, once a week cleaning is better than once a month cleaning.

My routine, if you could call it that, starts out with a big bag. I run around the downstairs of our colonial and put everything in it that's out of place (usually toys). Then I empty the bag of things into their respective rooms. With an honest attempt to involve the tots into the process, I sort the "stuff" into the many niches where they belong. I also start a pile at the bottom of the stairs of everything that needs to go up, and take an armload anytime I have to go up anyway.

Once the floors are clear of clutter, I move all easily moveable objects and vacuum. This is quite a satisfying part of the routine since I never feel like I didn't really need to vacuum. I get some sort of strange satisfaction from opening the dustbin and seeing what sort of shape the lint, hair and crambs have made. Sometimes it's a cone, sometimes a perfectly round ball and, on very rare and delightful occasions, it is two perfectly round balls of dust bunnies. With the 3 kids and all the snacks they eat (or crumble) all over the house, I try to vacuum everyday and I am always amazed by the amount of stuff my vacuum cleaner picks up.

After that I either vacuum ot sweep the tiled kitchen and wood dining room floor. Next it's the counters... empty and load the dishwasher, wipe the counters using Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Spray and hand wash anything that needs it. Then I use some Softscrum with Bleach to white my white enameled sink. If I still have time, I wipe down the bathroom surfaces with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes and maybe, just maybe, I clean the tile floor in the kitchen and bathroom using a Swiffer Wetjet. I find it does a pretty good job getting up the easy-to-remove grunge with minimal effort and time.

At that point my house is look just about as respectable as can be hoped for a house whose average occupant age is somewhere around 11.5. Then the businees of the day can proceed. I get to go run whatever errands I want, and Grandma can do whatever it is she does on Grandma Day. What happens on Grandma Day stays on Grandma Day...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

From the Kitchen: Super Bowl Appetizers

I feel bad posting about food on Ash Wednesday (a day of fasting and abstaining from all meat, for you non-Catholics out there), but I have been remisce in my posting and need to catch up. Both recipes can be meatless, so it could be worse...

The first is a recipe idea from the wife of my husband's first-cousin-once-removed (his is a family who insists on know exactly how they are related to each other, thusly i must be correct in my distinctions or who knows what might happen?). At any rate, she brought them to a family reunion and they were sooooo delicious, and insanely easy. Here's it is:

Laurie's Pizza Poppers

1 loaf frozen bread dough, thawed per package instructions (or a 1 lb loaf of freshly made bread dough, as I did)
Couple tbsps canola oil (any oil, really)
Pepperoni, if desired (I am not a fan, so I didn't use it this time)
Parmesan cheese

Cut dough into 1" blobs. Heat oil in non-stick skillet on medium-high. If you want, tuck a piece of pepperoni into each blob and seal. Drop blobs into skillet, flipping to brown both sides. Remove when golden and sprinkle with parmesan cheese while still hot. Serve hot!

The second recipe is named because you can use any kind of shredded cheese you have on hand, as long as it isn't all one kind. I studied in Australia in college, and when my boyfriend (who is not-so-coincidently now my husband) came to visit me, we went to a fabulous little Mexican place and ate the best chili con queso I have ever had. This is not quite as good, but still so so so good (and not at all good for you). When I can eat dairy again I will resume my experimentation to duplicate the original recipe. I have a feeling it involves creme fraiche and fire roasted peppers, and I'm not willing to play around with that unless I can eat it myself. Here's a good recipe in the meantime:

Grab-bag Chili con Queso

4 tbsp butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 tbsp canned pimientos (or some thin-sliced fire roasted red peppers, if you want to be fancy)
1/2 can diced tomatoes with green chilis, drained as well as possible
1/2 cup milk or cream (whole milk is best, but not terribly critical)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups (at least) of whatever cheese you have on hand (I used a combo of mozzarella, monterey jack, colby, and sharp cheddar... I wanted to get rid of some of the bags I had floating around my refrigerator)

Melt butter over medium heat. Sautee onion, adding tomatos an pimientos when translucent. Boil for about 5 minutes to reduce liquid. Add milk and sour cream, stirring well, until very hot. Remove from heat. Add all cheeses and mix well until completely melted. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Home Sweet Home: Family Room Renovation, Part II

Oh goody... completing this project was such a confidence boost. And now I get to brag about it.

After the new carpet was in, all that remained between me and complete domestic bliss (temporarily, at least) was to cover up the hideous brick fireplace surround and build a new mantle over the old one. Sounds easy, right? Actually, if I could do it, it couldn't have been too tough.

Here's the before picture, ignore the lack of carpet:

Once I drew up my ideal plan for the wall, I went to Lowe's and bought my materials - a 4'X8' piece of 3/4" MDF ("medium density fiberboard"; I had them cut it to my specs for convenience), another board, lots of trim and one length of decorative crown molding. We ripped off the existing trim on the front of the mantle, and left the rest to be covered up. I had my handy hubby cut out the actual hole for the fireplace, then I took over.

Before anything else, since the weather was obliging at the time, I masked and spray-painted the existing fireplace glass door frame, since it was ugly and we had to take it out anyway. I chose a hammered bronze finish, and it looked like a whole new thing when I was done. I used plastic wrap and masking tape to keep the paint off the glass parts, and it really worked well for that. Nothing leaked through the plastic.

I used heavy duty liquid nails and my husband's brawn to adhere the MDF to the brick surround. Once that was set, I replaced the fireplace screen on top of it, then jumped into the trim work. I put a piece of MDF on top of the existing mantle to be a new surface for the mantle. Another thinner piece of MDF on the front, attached to the top piece with some small L brackets. Under that I attached the decorative crown molding, securing the bottom onto the additional board I had purchased. Lastly, I mitered the corners of some door trim to frame the fireplace screen and edge the flat part of the new surround.

Well, it wasn't really "lastly", because after that I had to patch the trim nail holes and caulk where the separate pieces met, then paint 2 coats. But I was on a roll and I knew I would be soooo happy with it. And I am. Can you tell? Here's why:

I could just cry with delight.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Home Sweet Home: Family Room Renovation, Part I

When we moved into this house, we knew we would be ripping up most of the carpeting in the house because there were hardwood floors hidden underneath. But the one room, other than the kitchen, that didn't have hardwood floors was the family room. Here's a picture from the end of 2004, when we were busy with new baby #1, finishing the kitchen and refinishing wood floors in some of the other rooms...

Yikes! Needless to say, this room was not a selling point when we moved in. At the bottom of the picture you can see the ceramic tile that was in one corner where the door to the garage opens into the room.

By February 2007, 2 years and another 1.5 kids later, I had had more than enough. About 6 months earlier I had made a pact with my husband that I would get into shape and get back into my ideal weight range, and then he would get me new carpet. Seemed fair, but I, just joking at the time, stipulated that if I got pregnant again before that happened, I would get new carpet anyway. So, this carpet was installed a bit sooner that I had originally hoped, but in hindsight I wouldn't have it any other way. Both the baby and the carpet are beautiful, but require regular cleaning to keep them looking nice.

Here are some pictures of the carpet removal:

Since we were planning to redo the hearth and mantle, I wanted to attach some wood to the brick facing where the carpet would go. I also had to put a new board in at the step into the kitchen. I ended up staying up quite late that night. Just the table saw, the electric planer, and me:

And the after picture:

This project, more than anything else about our work on the house, made me realize some things. When you get used to living around things that initially made you cringe, it can be hard to instigate change... but when you do get around to it, it feels soooo nice (especially on my toes).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Home Sweet Home: Family Room Renovation, Part III

This post is out of order, but since there was a special request, I'll get over it.

Since we moved into this house almost 4 years ago, the family room has been the winter of my discontent. Until last February. During that time, I (quite pregnant) ripped up the awful old brown carpet, the awful older red flowery outdoor carpet that was used instead of padding, scrapped up the even older linoleum tiles under that... and then we had new carpet and real padding installed. That was step 1... a post is in the works.

The next step was to build a new fireplace surround on the existing hearth, incorporating 2 new Ikea bookcases with glass doors. That happened in October, and boy oh boy am I happy with the results. There'll be a post about that too.

Then, sometime in November I finally got my family pictures up on the wall. I had them up before we started the renovation, but they were not up-to-date or well-placed, and every time the door slammed to the garage, they would all tilt this way or that. So...

What I did this time was to make a template using a really big piece of paper (it's actually a big roll of kid art paper, and it's already made its blog debut as the background for most of the pictures of small things I've posted so far). I laid it down on the floor and arranged the frames on top of it, mixing the wood and black frames as evenly as I could for visual balance. Don't judge me, but most of my frames were collected over a couple years from CVS, and they cost $3-4 each, on average. When I was happy with the arrangement, I put a sticky note on each frame with a number, then traced the frame on the paper and wrote the number in the middle. Then I taped the big paper on the wall with the frame outlines where I wanted them, using a level to keep things straight. Placing the hangers was the tricky part. I had to measure each frame to figure out where the nail should go, then make a corresponding dot on the paper. I put each hanger right through the paper and hung the picture on top to make sure it was in the right spot. I had to move a few nails because the pictures didn't end up where I wanted, but the errant holes were hidden so I didn't bother doing any patching. When all the pictures were hung, I took them down, pulled off the paper and put them back up. I also put a clear plastic "bumper", the kind you use for making cabinet doors close more gently, on each lower corner of each frame, hoping to keep them more level.

A key ingredient to keeping them level was to move them to a different wall than the one with the door that always knocked them off kilter. They unlevel themselves a bit over time, but it's easier to get them back in shape. For the trouble wall, since it was the biggest in the room and needed some pictures too, I used two large collage frames from Linens'N'Things (about $33 for both). They took up lots of space, were balanced, and each had two locations for hangers so they can't become crooked when the door slams.

Good luck if you are trying to make a wall collage too. If you find any secrets for keeping the photos from tilting, come back and leave a comment!