Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Deep Clean: The Laundry Room

Someday I will have a laundry room as awesome as the one above. But until then, I'll be grateful for the closet with a stackable washer-dryer I have.

Weekly and even monthly cleaning plans don't usually include the laundry room. If you're lucky enough to have a laundry room, even a small one, or a closet with a stackable, take good care of it!

The Washer:
Run white vinegar through the washer. This will sanitize the inside and clear away soap scum.

The Dryer:
Empty the lint trap. Wipe off fuzz with a used fabric-softener sheet.
Vacuum the inside of your lint trap area. 
Wipe the interior walls of the dryer. Use a cloth dampened with dishwashing liquid and warm water. Scrub any linty residue around the trap opening with an old toothbrush, if necessary.

All Appliances: Wipe down the outside of each appliance. Clean the fronts, sides, and tops using Homemade Natural Cleaning Products.

The Floor:
Run a dust mop underneath the washer and the dryer, if it fits. Airborne lint can get kicked underneath the appliances. Then wipe with cleaning solution.

The Dryer Hose:
Run an extendable duster around the inside of the dryer hose, if you have access to it. Or vacuum it with a crevice attachment. Either method will clear away the lint that accumulates on the walls of the hose.

The Backs of the Washer and Dryer:
Clean behind the appliances. If you have a stackable, I would not attempt to move it. On a low setting, with a brush attachment, vacuum the backs of the washing machine and the dryer and the flooring underneath. To reach behind the units, move the machines using appliance wheels or casters (available at hardware stores). Be careful not to stretch the dryer hose. If the hose looks too short, disconnect it first.

The Vents:
Using a brush attachment, vacuum the vents on a high setting. Wipe the vents’ grates with a damp cloth.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pattern-less Favorite PJ Pants

In real life, these pants do not look like they walked out of the 60s. Something about the camera flash makes them look psychedelic purple.

If you're like me, you have a pair of PJ pants that fits just right. You love these PJs, but alas, they are wearing a little thin. You wish you had another pair. Good news! With very basic sewing skills, you can make a pair just like them.

A) First, purchase 1.25 yards of comfy, comfy fabric and one yard of 1-inch elastic. Micro-fleece is wonderful, cozy and very forgiving for the novice seamstress.  Other fabrics work great too. Try not to get something too stretchy if you're just learning, as that can be difficult to maneuver as you're learning the ropes.

B) Get that favorite pair of PJ pants. Turn one leg inside out, and tuck the other leg inside it so it looks like this:
C)  The fabric you bought is probably folded. Fold it into half again, creating 4 layers of fabric.
D) Place your existing pants on the large folded edge of your fabric. Be sure not to place it on the side with raw edges.
E) Cut out two shapes that look just like your pant leg, but leave about 3/4 inch extra down the side, 2.5 inches extra at the top, and 1.5 inches extra at the bottom. This way your new pants won't be too small after you sew the seams. The pieces will look like this:
 Now you are ready to sew! Start your machine engine.

1)  First, roll a nice 3/4 inch hem at the bottom of each pant leg. Sew it. If you are using fleece, use a wide zig-zag or honeycomb stitch so the fabric is still stretchy at the hems.
2) Sew the inseam of each pant leg up to the crotch, again with zig-zag or honeycomb stitch. Make sure to start sewing from the ankle end, so it looks nice and crisp like this:
3) Place the two pant legs together. Using zigzag or honeycomb stitch, sew them together from the top front through the crotch to the top back. Make sure you are sewing them so the inseam can't be seen when finished! If using fleece, overlap one edge over the other and use a zigzag stitch over top of one raw edge.

Trim off other raw edge if using fleece.
4) Create an elastic casing by making a seem that is 1.5 inches wide. Leave an open hole of at least 2 inches to insert elastic.
5) Wrap the elastic you bought around your belt line so it is snug but comfortable. Add 3/4 of an inch to that measurement and cut.
6) Pin one end of the elastic to the center front. Attach a large safety pin to the other end. Use the closed safety pin to feed elastic through hole and around waist of pants.

7) When elastic has been fed all the way around, overlap edges of elastic and stitch together, reinforcing at least once. Make sure the elastic isn't twisted inside the casing.

8) Sew the hole in the waistband closed.
9) You're done!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Almond Chai Snowball Cookies

Yummy, easy, and gluten-free! You might have to search a little to find cardamom, but it is worth it. It is fragrant and delicious. Recipe originally found here.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (gluten free baking mix worked wonderfully)
  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Chop your almonds with a good knife or Cuisinart.
3) Combine butter, 1/3 cup powdered sugar, extracts, spices and salt. Blend with mixer for 5 minutes.
4) Add flour and almonds and mix until well incorporated.
5) Grease a cookie sheet and place tablespoon-sized rounded dough balls.
6) Bake for 20 minutes. Check. If cookies are golden and firm, they are done.
7) Let cookies cool for five minutes before rolling in remaining powdered sugar. Roll one time to cut down on the sugar and twice if you want to indulge.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Blueberry-Balsamic and Sweet Mustard Salmon

I'm not big on seafood, but I do love me some salmon. Salmon also has many nutritional benefits:

"Salmon is low in calories and saturated fat, yet high in protein, and a unique type of health-promoting fat, the omega-3 essential fatty acids. As their name implies, essential fatty acids are essential for human health but because they cannot be made by the body, they must be obtained from foods."

Here's one way to prepare this amazing food:

three medium salmon fillets
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
4 T brown sugar, divided - or you can omit 2 T brown sugar and use honey instead
1 T olive oil
3 T mustard

1) Make sure your fillets are thawed.
2) Combine the vinegar, blueberries, 2 T brown sugar and olive oil in a very small saucepan. Stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Allow sauce to cool.

3) Place fillets in a plastic bag. Pour in blueberry sauce.
4) Allow to marinate at least 4 hours and up to 4 days.
5) Cook in an oiled skillet over medium heat. Times vary depending on size of fillet.
6) While salmon is cooking, combine remaining brown sugar with mustard in a small prep bowl or cup.
7) When fillets are cooked, spread mustard glaze over top of fillet and serve immediately.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rainbow Cake

This is not an original idea. I've seen at least 4 rainbow cakes out in the blogosphere, and even some rainbow cupcakes. But what I discovered in my attempt was that it's actually quite easy to have this cake come out beautifully and exactly like you wanted. Other cakes? Not always.

The cake recipe you use is not really important. I used this one. I wish there had been a little more batter, actually, then I might have had enough to do the purple layer.

2 sticks butter, room temp
2 1/3 c sugar
5 egg whites, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 c cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/2 c milk or almond milk
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue (and purple) food coloring*
buttercream frosting
1 cup coconut

* I suggest using gel food coloring for all colors but the yellow and green; regular grocery store food coloring works fine for yellow and green. Gel food coloring is much more dramatic and vibrant, and the red, orange, blue (and purple) need to be vibrant.

1) Oil and line how ever many 9” cake pans you have. (Guess how many I had? None. I had one 10" springform cheesecake pan. Guess how many hours it took to make this cake? Six. In hindsight, it would have been more efficient to drive to the store and buy cake pans.)

2) Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3) Cream the sugar and butter, then add the egg whites. Add the vanilla and mix until fully incorporated. Then, alternating between wet and dry, add the milk and flour mixture.

4) Preheat oven to 350. Divide the batter amongst 5 or 6 bowls.

5) Mixing each bowl individually, add small amounts of food coloring until the desired shade is reached. The bowl you dye red will need a lot of dye; orange, yellow, and green, not very much. I was surprised by how little blue was needed to create that dramatic sky blue. A little gel dye goes a long way!

6) Pour into the pans and bake for 15 minutes each. Now is a good time to start preparing your buttercream frosting.

7) Now the fun begins! After each cake has cooled for a few minutes, turn out onto parchment paper.
 8) Layer and frost your cake in rainbow order.

 I put a small layer of lemon curd on top of the yellow layer for extra flavor. Yum!
 9) Crumb coat the cake.
10) Add coconut and any other decorations
 11) Chill until serving.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kitchen Sink Chicken Noodle Soup

JT had a cold and I was just getting over one. We had no chicken noodle soup and no desire to go to the store. We were also mid-No Shop Challenge. Here is what I came up with:

6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 T olive oil
2 leftover cooked chicken breasts
1 bag penne pasta (use rice for a gluten-free version and add 10 minutes to total time)
1 large potato
1/4 cup minced onion (more if you are more fond of onion than JT)
2 strips pre-cooked bacon
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 t garlic salt
small dash cumin (optional)
large dash Italian seasonings
pepper to taste (optional)
several springs of fresh parsley

Here are other things you can add if you have them:

sweet potato
pine nuts
rice (instead of or with noodles)

1) Bring chicken broth, water, olive oil, and penne to boil. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
2) Chop and add chicken, bacon, potato and onion first.
3) Reduce heat to medium when soup is bubbling exuberantly. Add remaining ingredients.
4) Cover and boil until timer goes off.
5) Serve with love.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Decadent Chocolate Cake (Baby Shower Edition)

My Cousin "Alice" is having a baby boy in a few months! We're very excited -- this is great-grandchild number two for my grandma, and also the second boy. I guess it will be my job to have the first girl. But I'm in no rush -- I'm going to wait until I'm a licensed therapist to have children. 

The composition of this cake was quite a journey. I started by making the gum paste flowers several weeks ahead (during nap time at work, actually). Gum paste flowers make a mediocre cake look great, and a great cake look amazing. If you want to do things the hard way, make them yourself (although I suggest taking a class or REALLY researching how to do them), or you can buy them for way less trouble at many cake supply stores.

Next came the actual cake part, which I made two days ahead. I used an Epicurious recipe. Please note I doubled the recipe from what is listed below because I was using an extra-large cake pan (so my cake is twice as large as the recipe that follows).
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • optional: 3 Heath Bars (toffee) broken and ground into small pieces
1) Mix the chocolate and water in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently.
2) Preheat oven to 350. Cut 2 circles out of parchment paper. Grease 2 cake pans (or one large one). Place parchment paper at bottom and grease again.
3) When chocolate is creamy, remove from heat. Stir occasionally.
4) Combine flour, baking soda and salt.
5) Beat butter until it is smooth and fluffy. Add sugar gradually. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla.
6) Add the flour mixture gradually, stirring well.
7) Add the milk and chocolate.

8) Pour into cake pans.
9) Bake at 350 until the sides of the cake begin to pull away from the pan, about 35 minutes. Test with knife.

I let the cakes sit (covered) overnight, but you don't have to. They only need to be cool before you ice them, about 2 hours.

10) Prepare your  buttercream frosting.

The food coloring is Wilton Sky Blue (just a dab, or it will be too dark). I made half a batch, but I would actually suggest a full batch.

11) Frost the top of the bottom layer of your cake.
12) Break and chop your heath bars, if using. Sprinkle on top of the frosting.
13) Frost the bottom of the top cake layer.
14) Place the top layer of the cake on the bottom. This will "sandwich" the heath bar crumbs in frosting.
 15) Crumb coat your cake. Even if you using fondant, cover the whole cake.
16) Decorate as desired. You're done!
Looks like a giant It's-It!
I partially crumb-coating my cake, knowing the fondant would be covering the top. I should have completely crumb-coated the cake, as the fondant would have been smoother. Lesson learned.

Disclaimer: I had never before made or worked with fondant, so it came out a little lumpy, and too sweet in my opinion. Next time I will use half the sugar and substitute fine cake flour for the other half of the sugar. I used cake flour instead of powdered sugar when I was rolling it, and it worked fantastically. I also used almond extract instead of vanilla, to give it a marzipan-like flavor. Here is my fondant recipe, although there are many others out there:

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract or clear vanilla extract
1 pound powdered sugar
3 cups cake flour plus a lot extra for rolling
food coloring as desired

1) Combine corn syrup and shortening in a mixer with the dough hook attachment. Blend together, scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula. This will be much harder to make without a mixer.
2) Add salt and almond extract.
3) Add sugar and cake flour gradually until a thick dough forms. Thicker than this:
4) If you want to make a little decoration using white fondant (such as the onesie on top of this cake), take a small amount of dough out now.
5) Coat your hands in a small amount of shortening. The shortening prevents the color from soaking into your hands. Nifty, eh? Remove dough from bowl. Add a tiny amount of food coloring and knead with hands. A little goes a long way. Mine was a little more ELECTRIC than I would have liked.

7) Place your fondant on a cake-floured or powdered-sugared surface.
8) Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick.
9) For best results, follow these instructions for applying your fondant.

Cousin "Alice" with her cake. You can't see the baby bump, but it's definitely there! I guess that cake is just enormous.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The To-Do List: January

1 Happy New Year! Twenty-Something Home is challenging you to include good mental health in your New Year's Resolutions. Plan out a time for self-care at least once every week. This may be a regular Thursday-night bubble bath, a rotation of massages and mani-pedis, or anything else that helps you feel calm and collected. It doesn’t have to break the bank either – sometimes just setting aside a night to sit and read with a cup of tea is more relaxing than the fanciest spa. Here's to your health!

2 Reorganize your gift wrap/trinket storage area

3 Relax! Spend time with friends, pets, and loved ones.

4 Make a repair and cleaning walkthrough list, from floor to ceiling. Are you making the best use of space? Do the walls need to be washed or the lights dusted?

5 Return any objects or clothes left behind by your festive season visitors.

6 Pack away the last remnants of the holidays in an organized, labeled fashion. Imagine yourself next December, easily finding and unpacking the decorations and remarking at how clever you were to be so organized and methodical.

7 Make Valentine’s Day reservations if you’re going out somewhere nice.

8 Do an End-of-Year accounting tally of how much you spent this festive season. Use it to save and prepare for next year's holiday season.

9 Take some time to consider that your value does not come from stuff. Once we let go, we can stop hoarding and start de-cluttering. De-clutter one room including all its closets, cupboards and baskets. When you need something in this room, are you able to find it easily? Label the new homes of objects so that returning them to their designated home is easier, thus making finding them easier.

10 Go through your digital photos. Delete duplicates and organize. Share photos with appropriate people.

11 International Thank You Day. Write a thank you letter to a friend whom you are grateful to have in your life.

12 Are you up to date on your vaccinations? Any other appointments you need to make? (Allergist, optometrist, dentist, gyno…)

13 Organize your sewing supplies.

14 Is it raining today? If so, dust your houseplants by leaving them out in the rain for a few hours.

15 Place a good hand lotion or hand balm* next to your bathroom and kitchen sink.

16. Clean your iron. Make a paste of baking soda and water, apply it to a cloth, and wipe down the iron. Circle the holes on the soleplate with cotton swabs.

17 MLK Day (2011) – Give back to those who keep our community support system functioning.

18 Take a look at your bill paying area. Do you have enough stamps, envelopes and pre-labeled envelopes for the next few months? Add these to the shopping list.

19 Make sure your fire extinguisher is properly pressurized. Check the gauge; the needle should be in the green section. If it’s not, the extinguisher should be replaced or serviced. To find a company that will do the job, look under “fire extinguishers” in the yellow pages.

20 Give the car a good wash inside today. Remove all traces of dirt, grime and food crumbs.

21 Sweet potatoes’ vibrant orange hue is a clue to their good nutritional value. Try a new recipe with sweet potatoes this week.

22 “If you can't find something, clean up.” - Gretchen Rubin. You decide where this best applies.

23 Disinfect your bathroom plunger today. When last did you replace your toilet brushes, sponges, etc? If it’s been awhile, add them to your shopping list.

24 Wipe your skirting boards. This is an area is usually not cleaned sufficiently when using an ordinary mop or during the routine vacuum.

25 Make a One-Year Clutter Box. Pack away all the items you feel you can’t bear to part with but haven’t used for at least 6 months. Label the box with today’s date. In January of next year, if you haven’t opened or used an item from this box, consider donating it to charity.

26 Clean your outdoor lights. These are often full of small insects and dust. It’s a grimy task that we  leave until the bulb needs to be replaced. Of course this always happens at night. Avoid that by giving the outdoor lights a swift cleaning out today.

27 Are you making the most of your under-bed space? Bags and special bedding roll-away containers give you a little more room. While you’re under there, vacuum.

28 Deep-clean your bathroom. Wipe cobwebs from ceiling corners and dust doorframes, tile ledges, moldings, and shelves. Clean under the sink.

29 National Puzzle Day. Start a puzzle on the dining room table. It could make a great discussion point during dinner and is a wonderful couple’s activity.

30 Place a box of baking soda in your fridge to help eliminate odors.

31 Pack and sort all your shoes into a rack or their cubby boxes. Wet boots and galoshes should have their own special place – try a plastic tray in the entryway.