Transform Your Stairs!

Have I ever told you before that I hate carpet? I mean, I cannot stand the stuff. It is nasty, it holds dust and allergens, it takes like five years to off gas all of the chemicals used to make it (including formaldehyde!), and it stains and molds. It's nasty and our house is full of it.

So, along with my disgust of carpeting comes my lovely dog. We have three dogs, actually. One dog, however, is a nervous pee pot. He will get up in the morning, run down the stairs and have a small accident on each. and. every. step. I don't know about you, but after he did it the first time I realized that it is near impossible to clean carpeted stairs. They are almost impossible to vacuum, let alone "clean" stains off of. Since we finished our eat in area in the family room, I am on a remodel kick. I want to rip out all of our carpet and put in the hardwood that we selected for the eat in area. Since that isn't currently in the budget, I have to settle. We will eventually replace all 2400 square feet of carpet, until then I decided to work on this....

Dark, dingy, ugly, stained, and you would not believe the dust!! It was so disgusting, I wish I would have snapped more photos. Anyway, I told my dear, dear husband that we should rip up the carpet. He went straight to work, it took no bribing! I think maybe he hates carpet more than I do! We had a pretty good idea that our stairs were hardwood underneath because the bottom four steps had the edges exposed and stained. We took a leap of faith and started tearing it up. As we started working I started wondering why people carpet stairs, I soon gave up. 
We started by ripping up the carpet, we used a box cutter to cut it out in manageable sections. Then, we pulled up the padding. Then, I cursed the person who thought it a good idea to put carpet on the stairs. The amount of staples and tack strips on our stairway were absolutely astonishing. The tack strips weren't that bad to pull up, but the staples were a bit of a challenge. We used pliers to rip them out.
Finally, we hard bare, never touched (other than the edges of those few bottom steps) beautiful oak stairs. 
You can see the little bit of stain on the side of that one step. They were gorgeous, aside from the over spray where they painted the molding and got it on the stairs. So, the next fun step began. We decided to remove the banister and the spindles. Easier to sand, easier to stain, and easier to paint. I will say, I rarely agree with painting real wood. I think it is a horrible move, however, I love the look of the painted spindles and risers on stairs. It gives it so much dimension. So, we took it all out and ended up with this. We left the handrail. We have two small children, they need it. Two small kids, three dogs, I must be out of my mind....
Then, we went through and sanded everything down. It was messy. It was time consuming, It was well worth it. Then, we went through and stained every other step. We used Minwax Deep Red Mahogany. Then, after we stained we coated everything with polyurethane in a semi-gloss. We went every other step, finished those, then did the other set. And wound up with this....
After that, I taped everything off to primer and paint. It took almost an entire roll of tape, it took me almost two hours just to tape and it still leaked!! 

I primered, I painted with Valspar antique white (my new favorite shade of white) then, I took all that paint off to reveal this...
So much better, brighter and more distinctive!! I am so happy with this project and it cost me exactly $0. I already had everything on hand, so it required no extra money out of pocket! Now, that is a project. Next up, new wall paint colors. I will update photos when I get it painted! Doesn't it look like a different stairway?! Craziness. 
I love to hear from my readers! Please share if you have done a project like this or would like to! 

Living Without: Commercial Cleaning Products

I used to have a cleaning chemical (product) for everything. My under sink cabinet was stocked full of bad for you, burn your nose chemicals to make my home clean and germ free. I was cleaning out the cabinet one day and perusing through Pinterest and found some great homemade products to try.

I currently, happily, have five bottles of homemade cleaning products under my sink in the kitchen add in one bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap and Dawn  and I'm a happy gal. I still buy Murphy's. I've always bought it, it is 98% natural, they place it into post consumer recycled plastic and it is the only thing on the planet I trust my wood floors and furniture to. Is there something out there I could make? Probably, but for now I choose to purchase it.

Anyway, off of my soapbox and back to what today is all about! Commercially produced household chemicals. They are bad for you. The fumes they emit are awful. I can't say I personally find my house smelling "clean" after I've scoured my sinks tubs and toilets with all kinds of chemicals. I've said it before, and it bears repeating. There are things in your home that you keep around regularly for cooking and whatnot that clean wonderfully.

Nothing can beat some baking soda, vinegar, and lemons. Lemons have natural antibacterial properties. They smell good. They are good for you. They are pretty :). I also use borax, washing soda, and a few other things. I have found a multitude of recipes online for cleaning products. The options are limitless. Look up recipe for homemade blah blah and you will find one.

I have a window cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, a surface cleaner, a bleach alternative cleanser, and a furniture polish under my kitchen sink. In the laundry area, I have homemade laundry detergent, stain remover, and vinegar. In my bathrooms, I keep a bottle of vinegar and a box of baking soda. I can put the mixture in to clean my toilets, and use baking soda paste as a "soft scrub". You can also use hydrogen peroxide to aid in the removal of mold and mildew.

I keep "extras" to make my homemade products in the garage. I have a shelf I put them up there and keep them out of my way until I need them. Also, when you make your own, you will find that generally you need to use much less product to achieve the results you need, resulting in quite a bit in the "extras" department! Less use equates less damage to the environment and your pocket book. So, not only is making your own household cleaners better for you and your family, it is better for the Earth and your budget! I can't see a reason not to try!

I am so much happier without all of those added cleansers under my sink. If I have a need for something specific, I google it or look on pinterest. I always find what I need and while it may take a recipe or two to find the right fit, it is well worth the effort. As for the future, I hope to ramp up my Essential Oil supplies and get some glass bottles and start using those to make household cleansers as well! I hope this post has encouraged you to ditch the commercial products and make your own!

I love to hear from my readers! How about you? Do you make your own household cleaners? Do you think it is worth the effort? Have a recipe or link to share? Please do! Thanks for reading!!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough

My kids live for playdough. If they could have it all day every day, they would go for it. I'm all for it, too, as it is a fantastic fine motor skill developer. However, I'm not all for whatever in the heck is in it. I don't really know, but the commercials bother me "fun to play with, not to eat!" Really?

So, off I went on a mission to find a playdough recipe that was safe for my kids. This recipe is made with all natural, edible, ingredients and smells good enough to eat!!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough
Pumpkin Pie Playdough1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Salt
1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil
2 teaspoons Cream of Tartar
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
Optional Food Coloring (see note)

Combine all ingredients in a 2 quart pot. Stir over medium heat until a big ball forms. Dough will be smooth and no longer sticky, takes 5 minutes tops. Allow it to cool a minute and viola!

Note: If you want to color your dough, add the color to the pot when you add the rest of the ingredients. I halved, and even quartered, the recipe to make several different colors. Remember, the color will be slightly darker when the dough is done "cooking".

*You can knead food coloring into the already cooked dough, but I had a disastrous outcome:

and the dough was "brown" after cooking so the color wasn't near what I wanted after I got done making a huge mess. I definitely recommend adding the color to the pot :). *

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DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor and the statements on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Glazed Pumpkin Coffee Cake

I was hunting around one day and found this gorgeous looking cake at Pretty Good Food last year. It wasn't pumpkin season, and I wanted to try it. I waited for a looong time and made it last fall. When I made it the first time, I bought the traditional box-o-whatever cake mix. I decided there had to be a way to make this but had not attempted to make a cake mix of my own yet. It is super simple to do, I'm just lazy and wasn't real into baking cakes, so I hadn't missed it. I have since then grown to love baking homemade baked goods from scratch and found my own cake mixes.

I adapted this cake to use my own from-scratch ingredients instead of the boxed stuff. It is 10 million times better with the homemade "cake mix." I wouldn't trade this new and improved version for the boxed version ever. Bonus... it really doesn't take any longer!!

I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we have, don't be afraid to try it. It is sweet and a little on the rich side, but it is so good. We made it several times last year and I've already baked it twice this year! Here goes!!

Glazed Pumpkin Coffee Cake

For The Cake:
2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/3 Cup Milk
15 oz Pumpkin Puree (NOT pie filling!)
2 Eggs
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 teaspoon Baking Soda

For The Topping:
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Flour
4 Tablespoons Butter (Melted)

For The Glaze:
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/4 Cup Whipping Cream

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9X13 pan.

Mix together milk, pumpkin, eggs, 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, baking soda, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl until combined. Add 2 Cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and the baking powder to the mix. Stir until combined. Pour into pan.

Now, mix together the topping by melting the butter in a small pan and stirring in 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup of flour. It will make a streusel like topping. Sprinkle this onto the top of the cake, lightly press it into the top, if you want. It isn't necessary, but I do....

Bake the cake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean when placed into the center. Don't over bake, it won't be near as moist.

Meanwhile, the last 5 minutes or so of bake time, go ahead and make your glaze. Place the cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar into a small sauce pan. Stirring continually, heat over low-medium heat until sugar is completely dissolved. It will look like a nice pretty glaze.

Pull your cake out of the oven and do the toothpick test. Go ahead and keep your toothpick and poke holes all over your cake. Go to town on it! Now, once you have bludgeoned your cake with your toothpick (make sure it still looks pretty, don't kill it ;)), pour that pretty glaze you just made all over the top of it.

This cake is best served warm, but it isn't bad cool. Store it tightly covered and away from the ants that have decided to take up residence on your kitchen counter because of cooler weather.... Not that it has happened to me or anything, I wouldn't know what that's like ;). Anyway, warm it up before you eat if you want, or don't. It is a nice dish in the morning with some coffee (hence the name) but it is also good as an after dinner treat. I hope you enjoy!!

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Preserving Your Harvest: Green Beans

It's that time of year again! The gardens are getting ready to harvest and it's time to get to work in order to preserve what you've grown. Most of our vegetables are still ripening, but one of our green bean crops was ready to go.

I don't have my own pressure canner, so I have to improvise with low acid foods. Please note: never ever can low acid foods in just a water bath. It cannot kill all of the bacteria! Low acid foods need to be canned in a pressure canner in order to safely and properly preserve them. Like I said, I don't have my own, my green bean crop was ready to go, so I picked the next best thing. I decided to freeze them.

Freezing beans (or any vegetable for that matter) is a super simple, economical way to preserve your harvest. We don't have a ton of freezer space (we are avid hunters), but I can squeeze in some bags of vegetables of fruit here and there. Until we have the funds to purchase a new pressure canner, I will continue to sneak my garden into the freezer ;).

We planted a top crop bush bean this year. We had a very small place to plant, no way to put up a trellis, and these are space savers. I also loved that they are exactly what they say, a top crop. All of the beans are right where you can find them and easy to pull. This crop only yielded me about 1 pound. It was only two plants. We staggered our planting since it is our first year planting this particular bean. I have a total of 8 plants. We planted two at a time and they are all thriving. While probably not near enough for my family to last us until the next harvest season, I can pick up more at the local farmers market to get us through.

Now, onto the goodies! How to preserve your green beans (without a pressure canner, but you need a freezer!!

  1.  Obviously, you need to remove your beans from the plant.
  2. Bring them inside and wash them off, get off all of the dirt and such.
  3. Fill a pot large enough to put a bunch in with water and place it on the stove to boil.
  4. Snap off the ends and either snap, or cut the beans into 1-2 inch pieces. Rinse for good measure.
  5. Once your pot of water is at a rapid boil, pour your rinsed cut beans into the pot.
  6. Boil them for 3 minutes at a constant, rapid boil.
  7. While they are boiling, prepare a bowl full of ice water.
  8. After they have boiled continuously for 3 minutes, drain them.
  9. Immediately place the hot beans in the icy water, leave them for 3 minutes.
  10. Drain the icy water off of the beans.
  11. Place them in a freezer safe bag, label (including date) and place them in the freezer immediately. Make sure you get as much air as possible out of the bag to help prevent freezer burn.
  12. When you are ready to prepare them, you will do so just like you would any frozen green bean. Or any green bean for that matter, just takes a little extra time since they are frozen. You CAN thaw these and use them like fresh beans if you don't want the extra water content in your dish.
That's it!! It is so easy. You can also reuse your blanching water about 4 times before it needs replaced, if you have a lot of bunches to do. Just make sure to add water as needed to keep the beans covered.

I love to hear from my readers! Do you have a different method you prefer to preserve your green beans? Have you ever preserved a harvest before, or are you completely new to the idea? Let me know!