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Happy 8th Birthday Home-Ec 101

Heather says:

Thank you all for being a part of Home-Ec 101 these past eight years.

I was just looking over my calendar, this afternoon, when I realized it was March 1, 2007 when Ivy and I officially launched this site. The past eight years have been one hell of a ride. Thank you for being there when my youngest was born, when my sister passed away and all those events in between.

In that time, almost 9 million people have visited this site, that’s like having had the entire population of NYC pass through the door.

I have learned and experienced so many things thanks to you, the Home-Ec 101 community.

Thank you for your comments, your companionship, your wisdom, and your patience.

Thank you for letting me run a site where we’re allowed to be human. Where we can screw up, we don’t have to be perfect, and we know that time is sometimes the best remedy.

Thank you for inviting me into your homes and trusting me in your kitchens (and bathrooms and and and)

amazoncardIt’s only the slightest token, but on March 15, 2015 I’m going to give away a $100 Amazon Gift Card, you just need to be a current newsletter subscriber to be eligible. (If you’re reading this via email, you’re already entered). The winner will be contacted via email.

This giveaway is sponsored by and is in no way affiliated, sponsored by, or approved by

How to Enter:

Subscribe to via email.


You must be over 18 years of age to enter. This giveaway is open to US Residents except where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary.

Thank you, here’s to the next eight years.

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Well That Wasn’t Fun

Heather says

Hi, it’s been a couple weeks, hasn’t it?

Things started off with the best of intentions, but then my youngest decided to play Typhoid Mary (only she was sick, too) with a fun thing called Rotavirus.

Parents of very young children probably know this term and are cringing. I took the kids to a water park and she thanked us by giving us the gift of a highly transmissible stomach virus. And one by one we fell.

While I’m doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and disinfecting all of the hard surfaces, why don’t you tell me how you have been?


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Menu Monday 26

Heather says

Well, last week didn’t work out as planned. There were a lot more let’s make do with what we have that’s quick dinners, but I was able to reshoot one of the most popular recipes on this site.

Quick beef and cabbage skillet, it’s a handful of ingredients and thirty minutes until you’ve got a warm, filling (and believe it or not paleo if you’re into that) meal.


Quick Beef and Cabbage Skillet HE101

If I keep this up and manage to re-shoot one recipe a week, I may manage to catch up by 2018.

I kid.


I also started to make an interesting chicken fajita soup but I left the wheat-free flour somewhere else and ended up making a tortilla soup that the family loved, but it was too thrown together to write up. It’s still movement in the right direction and I’ll take that.

So what’s up for next week? Well, I’ll be sharpening my knives if the sharpening stone and ceramic rod arrive (they should).  Lent starts this week and I’m going to buckle down on the whole let’s not eat out thing, unless I’m on the road for work. I have to have the practical caveat in there, sorry.

And on the menu:

  • Monday – Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots
  • Tuesday – We’re headed out with some friends for Fat Tuesday, otherwise it’d be the perfect excuse for Shrimp Etouffee
  • Wednesday – Lentil casserole, baked sweet potatoes, kale (Ash Wednesday)
  • Thursday – Taco soup, tortilla chips (or maybe I’ll remake last week’s soup with a lot more attention to detail)
  • Friday – Fish and tomato stew, with bread and / or potatoes
  • Saturday – Sloppy joes / tacos, broccoli with cheese sauce (experimenting with a gf version) and what the heck chips
  • Sunday – Let’s shoot for the Chicken, mushrooms, and peppers dish, rice and peas, acorn squash

What will you be cooking this week?

Are you trying anything new?


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How Long Will it Take to Clean My House?

Dear Home Ec 101,
How long will it take to clean my house?
Curious in Corpus Christi

time to clean

Heather says:

Well Curious, what is your favorite color?


Ok. I’ve plugged that variable into the top secret Home-Ec 101 House Cleaning Algorithm and I’ve determined it will take you exactly 18.36 hours to thoroughly clean your house. Oh. Wait. That doesn’t make much sense does it? A question like “How long will it take to clean my house?” has an incredible number of variables.

What kind of home do you have?

Someone who lives in a McMansion is going to have a lot more surface area to clean than someone who lives in an efficiency. In that case, just doing surface cleaning? Just mopping? The person who lives in the tiny apartment will be done in no time. Even if the floors are equally grubby, it simply takes longer to mop more square footage.

How many people live in the house?

More people means more messes. Humans are rather nasty creatures and in this case I’m not even counting what the young ones do -one of my minions has a cold and she’s at the age where I have to remind her to blow her nose, good times. People shed skin cells and hair, they track in dirt, even if they wipe their feet. The oils from our skin lingers on keyboards, remote controls, wall plates, and door jams.

Did you know there is actually a guideline for how often you should vacuum? Don’t feel badly if you didn’t know I was recently involved in a focus group discussing a vacuum cleaner and it surprised the hosts. Each week you’re supposed to thoroughly vacuum a carpeted room AND add a quick vacuum of high traffic areas for each additional family member, including large dogs. So, if you have a family of four, that’s one deep vacuum and three quick. . . do you see how this adds up? For what it’s worth, babies don’t count, but you’ll probably vacuum even more often once they can crawl.

Are there pets?

We love our animal friends, but anything other than beta fish tend to bring their own measure of mess into a home. From tracked in dirt to litter boxes, shed hair and damage to furniture. They all have a cost when it comes to extra work. -How long until someone tells me about the hairless cat they trained to use the toilet? That’s the exception that proves the rule, people-

Are there children under the age of reason?

Do I really even have to explain this one? It’s chaos in a 3 feet tall package -unless you’re my kid and then you bump it up to under 5 feet-. Sure children can be taught to help with damage control, but for years even the most perfectly behaved, helpful, and polite children create more mess than they can possibly undo.

How many people actually clean in the home?

How well chores are divided will help reduce the amount of time any individual has to spend cleaning a home. For even the most well adjusted adults, this often requires a lot of effective communication of wants and needs on both parts.

Do you cook in your home?

Cooking food adds moisture and often sends aerosolized grease particles -yes, even vegetarians, just less so- into the air. The particles float around and cling to surfaces. Once they are on a surface a dust magnet has been created. The longer the dust magnet sits on the surface, the harder it will be to remove.

Let’s consider clutter.

Imagine two book cases. One has neat rows of books and the other has glass figurines, odds and ends, a pile of papers, etc. The first only requires the soft bristle attachment of the vacuum or a feather duster. The other? You’re going to have to unload each shelf, wipe the item carefully and replace gently. Multiply this around every horizontal surface in a home and it quickly becomes obvious that the amount of STUFF in a home drastically affects the time it takes to clean.

How often has the home been cleaned?

If you’ve lived in a home for five years and never cleaned the tub, it is going to take a long time to undo the damage. Some of it may not even be fixable. Regularly attending to chores keeps grime from building up. Without a lot of grime to remove, cleaning takes less time.

I wish I had a simple answer for you, Curious. The truth is I can’t give you a good answer, just trying to figure out how long it should take a person to clean their home without any other variable is a very overwhelming task. Here is what I do know.

house cleaning help

Click the picture for more cleaning help!

How to reduce the time it takes to clean:

  1. Communicate
  2. Delegate.
  3. Don’t procrastinate.

Good luck.

Send your questions to

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The Home-Ec 101 Guide To Taking Care Of Furniture

furniture care guide

Since I have 3 young children, a dog, and 3 parrots it’s just not the right season of life for me to buy brand new furniture. I buy secondhand and then try to take care of it – or cover it – until I get my money’s worth out of it. Here are some articles that will help you take care of your furniture whether it is wood, leather, microsuede, stained, stinky, and more! Just click on the title of the article to read the complete answer.

How to Care for Acacia Wood

We are young and with a house full of Ikea furniture it did not even dawn on us that we would have to take special care with our new lovely table in this dry, desert climate. We did some googling and found that it is recommended to use a wax on acacia wood. However, my husband’s parents said NOT to use a wax but an oil instead. Help!

How to Care for Leather Furniture

What is the best way to care for a leather couch? I have had my leather couch and loveseat for four years, and they have held up well, but a few scratches are starting to show up.  What can I do to keep them looking good in the long run?

How to Clean a Couch

I have tile floors and a couch, this sounds normal enough, but the couch slips and slides all over the tile and drives me crazy. How do I stop the couch from sliding? And the cushions, don’t get me started on the cushions, why won’t they stay on my couch? While we’re talking about couches, is there a specific way I should be cleaning mine?

How to Clean Microsuede Furniture

I have tan microsuede dining room chairs and, with four children, you can imagine what they look like.  I’ve looked, but there isn’t a cleaning recommendation tag on them.  What is the best way to clean them?

How To Fix A Stained White Dresser

We have a lovely bedroom set of furniture from a big box baby store. In white. One sick child + one classic orange popsicle + one apparently cracked emesis basin + one day = one bright orange stain on the white dresser. I tried a diaper wipe thinking the mess was still wet. It wasn’t. Then I hit it with one clorox wipe. Haha. HELP!!!

How To Remove Cat Hair From Furniture

We are getting a sofa and two chairs from my brother-in-law today. I know they will be covered in cat hair. I’m allergic to cats. Do you have any good tips for getting as much cat hair as possible off of the furniture fabric??

How To Remove Cigarette Odor From A Couch

The set appeared to be in great shape, and I got the furniture for what appeared to be a bargain.  When I got them in place in my basement rec room, I noticed a horrible odor of cigarette smoke emanating from both pieces of furniture.  They are upholstered pieces with foam cushions.  Do you have any idea how I can get rid of the cigarette smell?

How to Remove Feces ( Poop ) from Upholstery and Fabric

Do you have any tips for cleaning poop off of the cover of a cloth bean bag chair? The tag reads “Do not open under any circumstance.” It’s a $20 bean bag chair from Target and I don’t just want to “get anodder one” as my toddler suggests. As you may have guessed, the toddler was the poop culprit.

How to Remove Urine from an Upholstered Couch

Help!! Our adorable, yet slightly dumb dog has decided to use back of our lovely microfiber couch as a toilet! We contacted the manufacturer, who suggested spot cleaning the urine stained area with diluted dish soap. This got the stains out. Unfortunately, the smell of pee still remains. I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried some pet cleaner and multiple soakings with Febreze, but it just won’t go away!

How to Keep Fur off of the Furniture

My cats seem to drop enough fur to make a few new cats on my furniture every day. It’s ridiculous. How can I both prevent this and keep my furniture fur-free?

How to Remove Musty / Mildew Odor from Furniture

I recently retrieved a table from my garage that was stored for about a year and it smells like there could be a mold or mildew issue. How do I clean the table to remove any traces and the odor of mold and mildew?

How to Remove Wax and Silicone Build Up

My mother has wax build up on an antique secretary. It is a dark wood with a shiny surface. Over many years of waxing the wax has built up and in places the shine has dulled. Can you help?

How to Remove Candle Wax from Fabric

I accidentally spilled some candle wax on my favorite pair of jeans. What should I do to get it out?

How to Remove Grease from Upholstery

My husband works in a kitchen, so he comes home sweaty and covered with kitchen grease and steam and all that good stuff (Ivy, you know what I’m talking about).  After a year and a half of him coming home exhausted and flopping into his beloved chair, we’ve got a nice dark mark right where his head rests.

How To Remove Heat Marks From Furniture

At Thanksgiving I was being so careful not to put anything down with out a trivet but then I did it- I knocked over one of my candles and spilled wax all over it. There’s now a huge white mark from the heat of the wax. Is the finish of my table completely ruined? Is there anything I can do?

How to Remove Ink from Upholstered Furniture

My three year old son decided it would be fun to draw on our car upholstery with black pen. In the past I have been able to use hairspray on crayon with wonderful success (couch and table cloth), but I have never attempted it on pen. Any tips or am I better of just leaving the unsightly mess? I’d hate to try something and have it look worse.

How to Remove A Musty Odor from Dresser Drawers

An old roommate of mine borrowed a dresser from me and used it while we lived together. After she gave it back the drawers had a musty smell that I couldn’t get rid of. If I put any clothes in the drawers they come out smelling funky and musty too. What should I do??

How To Remove Dried Milk From Wood

How does one remove dried milk from wood? Every low surface in my kitchen (chair legs, table legs, cabinets) is full of dried milk spots from spills that always go farther and cover more area than you can initially see. No matter how I try to clean them, I get the same result: it looks clean while it’s still wet and I think I’ve won, but as soon as it dries, the spots are still all there!

How To Handle A Nail Polish Remover Spill

My daughter spilled finger nail polish remover on her dresser.  What can I do to repair it?

how to clean appliances

Click the picture for more tips!

guide to clean floors

Click the picture for more tips!