Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Clean Your Home + FREE Printable Checklist

I'm still spring's just taking me longer than a tends to get in the way and cleaning took a back seat.

Let's recap Spring Cleaning Week where we left off last week:

I'm now working on the rest of the house. Here is my to-do list, in addition to my normal cleaning tasks. I should really consider including some of these tasks in my normal weekly cleaning routine, it would make life so much easier every spring.
  • Wash inside and outside of windows.
  • Clean blinds. Wash curtains.
  • Clean light fixtures and ceiling fans.
  • Vacuum under furniture, ie: under sofas, chairs, TV stands, etc.
  • Replace fire alarm batteries.

It has been a month...or two...okay, maybe a year, since I vacuumed under the furniture. Yikes!

How is your spring cleaning going? Print a Spring Cleaning Checklist for Your Home.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Clean Your Bathroom + FREE Printable Checklist

Cleaning the bathroom is one of those jobs that is never-ending. It seems that 15 seconds after I clean the bathroom, it looks like I had never been there. Do you feel my pain?

We have one full bathroom for the four of us to share. There are moments when the room feels like the size of a postage stamp. Did I tell you that I have two daughters? I'm not looking forward to their teen years.

Our bathroom is very minimalistic and I don't even consider myself a minimalist, but we just don't have much space for a lot of extra stuff. Aside from the bath toys on the floor, I try to keep the bathroom sparse.

I gave the room a thorough spring cleaning recently. Here was my to-do list.
  • Mop floor.
  • Wipe down sink and tub.
  • Wash shower curtain.
  • Wash windows, inside and outside.
  • Wipe blinds.
  • Clean and disinfect trash can.
  • Wash rugs.
  • Sort, purge, and organize medicine cabinet, closet, the drawers, and cabinet under the sink.
  • Clean drains.

Have you spring cleaned your bathroom yet? Print a copy of the Bathroom Cleaning Checklist to help you get started.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How Are You Celebrating Spring?

The weather was so nice this past Sunday that there was only one thing to do...

break out the marshmallows!

S'mores ~ My favorite way to celebrate spring.

After a long winter, how are you celebrating spring?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan

Have you ever tried cleaning a ceiling fan only to have the dust fall onto the bed or floor below?  I learned the following trick years ago from a magazine and it ends that problem. All you need is an old pillow case.

Insert a fan blade into the pillow case. Wrap the ends tightly around the blade and start moving the pillow case down the blade.

Keep going...

Keep going...

...all the way to the end. Your fan is now clean and the dust is contained in the pillow case. Isn't that nifty?!

Do you have ceiling fans in your home? How do you keep them clean? Let us know in the comments.

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This post is linked to the Spring Cleaning Challenge at The Greenbacks Gal.

How to Clean a Glass Stove Top

Do you have a glass stove top? If you do, then you are probably familiar with the black marks.

I clean the stove top as soon as the heating element has cooled down after every use. For some reason the black marks still appear, like the one on the front right burner. They drive me crazy, because they can't be removed with just soap and water. But I have discovered a trick to remove those pesky black marks and you probably have the ingredients already in your kitchen--no need to buy a special cleaner.

To clean your glass top, make a paste with equal parts baking soda and white vinegar. Use a non-scratch scrubbing pads to scrub and the black marks will be gone in seconds.

For caked on food particles, I use a scraper especially made for glass top surfaces. I think we bought it at the same store when we bought our stove. 

It's that easy!

Do you have a glass stove top? How do you keep it clean?  Let us know in the comments.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Clean a Microwave

Microwave ovens can get pretty scary inside, but I do have the secret to keeping your microwave looking spic and span like the microwave pictured below...which happens to be mine, by the way.

This tip is so revolutionary that it will truly amaze you. Are you ready?

Clean your microwave after EVERY use!

See I told you...revolutionary. But I have one more tip to help you clean the inside of your microwave and it is just as simple.

  • Wipe down the microwave, removing any loose food particles. Combine 1/2 cup white vinegar with 1/2 cup water in a microwaveable glass bowl. Heat in the microwave until the liquid reaches a rolling boil. After heating, wait a few minutes before opening the door to allow the steam to loosen the food particles. The steam should loosen any food particles remaining inside. Carefully remove the bowl and wipe down the inside of the microwave.

Editor's note: Anonymous alerted me in the comments about the potential for the water to explode. This has never happened to me and I had never heard of it happening, but I did research it. Water can in fact be overheated in the microwave and appear to not be boiling until the cup or bowl is jostled and then it can explode sending boiling water everywhere. I found some tips to help prevent this from happening: insert a wooden stirrer in the cup before heating, use a glass container whose surface is a little scratched (ie, not a brand new container), and with a long object, like a plastic spatula, tap the bowl or cup to rattle it before removing from the microwave.

Now make a promise to yourself that you will wipe down your microwave after each use and you'll probably never have to use the vinegar tip again.

What does your microwave look like? Let us know in the comments.

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Spring Clean Your Kitchen (Printable Checklist Included)

Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week. Today's task--the kitchen.

Meet my kitchen:

On a typical day the counters are cluttered with breakfast dishes or after-school snack dishes, clean dishes waiting for someone to put away, the newspaper, the kids' school work, and so much more. In a perfect world, my counters would remain clutter-free at all times, but that's not the world I live in. I like to think that my kitchen always looks 'lived in'.

So the counters are usually a bit cluttered, but I sweep the floor daily and I mop it once a week (more if my youngest daughter drops a brand new 32 oz container of organic yogurt that she tried to get for herself). It's amazing how far that stuff can splatter. I also make sure the sink is clean before I go to bed...thank you Fly Lady!

I don't usually clean this thoroughly on a regular basis. I'm a clean as needed kind of gal. But on this particular day, I declared it spring cleaning day for the kitchen. Here was my to-do list:
  • Remove everything from counters and open shelves and wipe down. Put anything away that isn’t meant to be on the counter.
  • Clean knickknacks. Purge if possible.
  • Wipe all cabinet doors.
  • Wipe all baseboards and moldings.
  • Wipe down appliances.
  • Clean inside of microwave.
  • Clean inside and outside of refrigerator.
  • Wash windows, inside and outside. I used my window cleaner that costs pennies.
  • Organize the pantry.
  • Organize the spices and purge any that are outdated.
  • Shake and wash the rug.
  • Scrub inside and outside of trash can.

Doesn't it look much better? It feels much better.

I have decided that as long as my kids bring home artwork from school, my refrigerator door will always be their showcase. It makes me smile every time I open the door.

Have you spring cleaned your kitchen yet? Print a checklist for Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen.

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This post is linked to Thrifty Chick Decor: Show Us Your Kitchen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Are Your Favorite Spring Cleaning Tips?

Welcome to Spring Cleaning Week at Family Balance Sheet. I'll be sharing tips all week to help make your spring cleaning a breeze.

To kick it off I am answering a question posed to me by BlogHer's Life Well Lived campaign, "what are your favorite spring cleaning tips?"
  1. Enlist the family to help. 
  2. Make a master list of what you want to accomplish and then break it down over a couple of weeks. There is no rule saying that spring cleaning has to be done in a day.
  3. Open the windows, turn up the radio, and get to work!
What are your favorite spring cleaning tips? Let us know in the comments. 

Also, hop on over to Life Well Lived and find out how you can spring clean in 10 minutes a day. While you are there, enter the Life Well Lived Moments Sweepstakes for a chance to win a Kindle Fire and a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How to Find Free or Low Cost Gardening Seminars

Whether you are a novice gardener or a master gardener, there are many free or low cost gardening seminars, workshops, and events happening at this time of year. You'll walk away with great information about this year's gardening trends, gardening techniques, and maybe even a plant or two.

3 Tips to Find Free or Low Cost Gardening Seminars and Events

1. Garden Nurseries and Greenhouses
Garden nurseries are preparing for the upcoming season and are really trying to reel you in to their store to make your spring planting purchases. I try to take advantage of as many of their activities as possible. A local nursery is hosting a Spring Open House over the next two weekend where they are offering seminars on seed starting, growing perennials, landscaping, chickens, and container gardening. They are also offering free house plant re-potting, crafts for kids, and an Easter egg hunt.

I hit the jackpot a few years ago when I signed up for a free gardening seminar at this local nursery. I went home with a free heirloom tomato plant and a free 6 pack of vegetables of our choice. I chose broccoli. While I was attending the gardening seminar, my husband took the kids to the children's activities where they planted daffodil bulbs, bean plants, and a "potato hedgehog" to take home. Although if I remember correctly, the potato went into the compost; it got moldy before it sprouted. (See below picture for our goodies.)

 Check the websites and Facebook pages of your local favorite nurseries to see what they might be offering this spring.

2. Cooperative Extension System
What is a Cooperative Extension System? Per the US Department of Agriculture,
"The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes."
In Pennsylvania, the Coop is through Penn State. Personally, I have benefited quite a bit over the years with the Coop programs and seminars. I have taken seminars on gardening, landscaping, and composting and all of them were either free or extremely inexpensive. In fact, I received a free compost bin (the round one below) at a free composting seminar. Although as states trim costs, the free programs are being replaced with very reasonably priced ones. Along with workshops, our Coop also offers soil-testing and native plant sales.

If you want to find out more information about your state's Cooperative Extension System, check out the US Dept of Agriculture's website. I keep informed of my Coop's schedule of events and activities by following them on Facebook.

3. Township, Borough, or County Programs
Check you local township and county events calendar to see if they offer any seminars, workshops, or events. My township and county have been very active on educating the public on ideas for greener living. Years ago, my county had a special offer of composting bins (the square one in the above picture) for $12. Those bins were about $50 in the stores at the time. My township hosts a plant swap and sale every May where everyone can bring their overages to swap. Every municipality is different, so check your local municipality's website to see what they might offer.

Are you planning on taking a gardening seminar this spring? Let us know all about it in the comments.

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This post is linked to Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage and Frugal Friday.

Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven

My family loves bacon. We don't eat too much of it, but there are times where a package just happens to fall into my cart at the store. My favorite way to eat bacon is on a BLT sandwich with the tomato fresh from my garden. Unfortunately it's March, so I have several months before I can feast on that delicacy.

Cooking bacon in the oven is a simple way to cook a whole package at once and you won't have grease splattered all over your kitchen.

How to Cook Bacon in the Oven

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place a baking rack on a rimmed baking sheet. In the past, I have also used the 2-piece broiling pan that came with my oven, but a whole package of bacon doesn't fit on 1 broiling pan, so I use the 2 baking sheets.

3. Place bacon on the baking rack. One regular sized package should fit on two pans. You don't have to bake it all at once, but it will save time and I'll discuss freezing the bacon below.

4. Bake in the oven for 22 minutes or until desired crispiness. If using 2 trays, switch the trays positions at about 10 minutes. Be very careful when removing trays from the oven, they are filled with bacon grease.

How to Dispose of Bacon Grease

My grandmother always used the bacon grease to fry eggs in the morning. However, I don't care to do that, so I must dispose of the grease; the only downfall of cooking bacon. While the oven method reduces the splattering all over the kitchen, it still produces a lot of bacon grease that is now in the tray.


Instead, pour the grease into an empty tin can. Allow the grease to harden and place the tin can in the garbage.

How to Freeze Cooked Bacon

Once the bacon has cooled, place the cooked bacon on a (clean) baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a freezer bag. Flash freezing should prevent the bacon from sticking together in the freezer and you can now remove pieces as you need it.

To reheat, simply place the slices in a microwave for 5-10 seconds.

How do you cook bacon? Let us know in the comments.

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This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Money in Your Forties

I was once told that a woman never reveals her age...phooey...I'm 42 and proud of it!

I'm writing about Money in Your 40's today over at Women's Money Week, a site about empowering women to reshape their finances and take control of their financial futures. Please stop by and check out my post and all of the other topics from the week: Budgeting, Investing, Saving Money, and Money and Relationships.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Marriage and Money: 5 Tips To Reduce the Money Arguments

I'm participating in Women’s Money Week which is about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of our finances, and reshape our financial future. Women’s Money Week will run from March 5th-11th, 2012 on — coinciding with International Women’s Day.  Today's topic is Money and Relationships.

My husband and I do not have a perfect marriage, but we are perfect for one another. After almost 12 years of marriage and 9 years of dating (long story), I still have the hots for him. We have an occasional squabble here and there, but I'll be very honest and upfront with you, we do not argue about money. Although, it wasn't always that way.

Money tension is one of the leading causes of divorce. It could be from the stress of unemployment, a large debt load, or the amount of shoes in someone's closet; money can be an evil force in a marriage. My husband and I have worked through our differences about money over the last 12 years. For this reason, I have put together a list of tips that contribute to my marriage's current lack of money tension. Whether you are in a marriage that is struggling over money issues or not, I hope you find them helpful.

5 Tips to Help You Reduce the Money Arguments in Your Marriage

1. Designate a Family Office Manager
In my house, it's me. No surprise there; I write a blog about family finances. But I also want to be the Family Office Manager (FOM). It should be the spouse who has the most interest and drive to perform the tasks. The Family Office Manager might track spending, reconcile and manage the accounts, pay the bills on time, and update the Family Balance Sheet. The tasks will vary between households, so devise a to-do list of your family's financial tasks, so that the FOM knows what is expected of them.

The FOM might manage the money, but shouldn't be considered the controller of the money. That is a joint responsibility between the two spouses (at least in our home). My husband and I have equal footing when it comes to money decisions, even though my husband is currently the primary income earner. In some ways, I think the fact that I am the FOM and he is the primary income earner helps balance out any feelings of inequity. 

2. Complete a Family Balance Sheet on a Monthly Basis
It is not always easy to communicate your current financial snapshot with your spouse, so let the balance sheet do the talking for you. I developed this spreadsheet years ago, as a way to communicate our finances with my husband. It's all there in black and white; there's no denying it or running from it. The offer of a free spreadsheet is still available, just head over the the Family Balance Sheet page for more details.

3. Make Clear Financial Goals {Together}
Take some time to discuss your family and marriage's financial goals. I have found that there is less tension when we are both on the same page with our goals, but you need to take the time to discuss those goals together.  Do you want to eliminate your credit card debt? Or buy a home? Or save money for a trip to Walt Disney World?  Be realistic, but dream a little too. Write down your goals and make them visible. There is space at the bottom of the Family Balance Sheet for your financial goals.

4. Meet Regularly to Discuss Finances
Check in regularly with one another to discuss any upcoming expenses, cash flow, and goal updates. This will keep you on the same page and marching in the same direction. Meeting regularly could be every Sunday night or every pay day, whatever fits your schedule.

If possible, make it a  kid-free meeting. For us, it's not always possible to find some child free time on the weekends and when the kids finally get to bed at night, we're usually in a brain fog from a long day at work. Our kids sense that mommy and daddy are having a serious conversation and quite suddenly they want to sit on our laps, need a snack from a high shelf, or have a very important secret to whisper in our ears. Basically, they want our attention and don't like the fact that they aren't getting it. One solution we have found is to set them up with a movie and a special snack, like popcorn. That usually gives us enough time to meet. In other words, you might need to be creative to carve out the time to meet regularly.

  Four Rules for Your Money Meetings:
  • Make a promise to not raise voices.
  • Be honest with each other about the state of your financial affairs.
  • Own up to any financial indiscretions.
  • Work through disagreements civilly and move forward.
5. Consider an Adult Allowance
We started an adult allowance a few years ago when I noticed that I, as the FOM, was getting frustrated by our discretionary spending. We have a budget for items like clothes, hair cuts, and miscellany, but I felt like I was getting blind sided by some purchases and my husband felt like I was watching his spending like a hawk. I didn't like the feeling of being a mother hen and I knew he wanted a little breathing room.

The solution: we each opened up a debit account for our own personal spending. The accounts are to cover the personal categories that caused the most tension, such as clothes, hobbies, haircuts, and other miscellany. We came up with a figure that fit into our budget and on the first of every month that money is transferred into our individual accounts. Now if there is a personal purchase that we would like to make, it is up to us, individually, to save the money, manage the money, and budget the money. No questions are asked, it is our own personal stash. That alone has alleviated most of the tension in our money discussions.

I am not a therapist, but I am a wife who wants love to be the center of my marriage, not money and the incendiary arguments that it can cause. Money is necessary, but it doesn't have to be evil. It will only cause tension if you let it.

Does money cause tension in your marriage? How have you worked through money issues in your marriage? Please let us know in the comments.

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This post is part of Women's Money Week 2012. For more posts about Relationships and Money see Relationships and Money Roundup

Monday, March 5, 2012

Broccoli Cornbread Muffins

Soup and Salad night seems naked with just soup and salad. Bread rounds out (and dresses up) the meal. Many times, I make a loaf of artisan bread, but when we want some variety, I like to serve these muffins. They go well with any hearty soup recipe or just warmed up in the microwave and slathered with butter for a snack.

Broccoli Cornbread Muffins


  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ½ cup canola oil - I used olive oil, because I was out of canola. Olive oil works if you don't mind its strong flavor in baked goods.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 (10 oz box) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Mix together the sour cream, milk, oil, and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Fold in the broccoli.

4. Coat a 12-muffin pan with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the muffin pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes.


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