Windows: A Home-Ec 101 Guide

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We might wish we could say, “I don’t do windows,” but we don’t have that privilege if we want to keep our house looking nice and our view unobstructed. It can be a rewarding job to shine the glass, wash the blinds, and let the sunshine in. Following are some articles full of tips about cleaning windows, blinds, window sills, and more. Click the title you want to learn more about to see the complete article.

clean windows

How to Clean Blinds

I have several faux wood white blinds that I have stored in the garage. I want to use these now and they have needless to say their share of spider webs, dust and other weird things on them. What is the best way to clean them?

How to Clean Mini-Blinds

I live in an apartment and my mini-blinds are covered with the funk of thousands of tenants. Can you please tell me the best way to clean these?

How to Clean Window Sills

I bought a lovely old home with large windows, but I am at a loss over my window sills.  How on earth do you keep window sills clean? Liquid sprays seem to make the problem worse.  I’m hoping to avoid stripping all of the paint and starting over, and there are so many layers already that adding another coat would only be a temporary fix.

How to Clean REALLY Dirty Windows

We just moved into an older house and I don’t think anyone has cleaned the windows in years. We had it pressure washed and used Windex but the windows still look covered in grime. Are there any other solutions I can use that will get off the tough dirt.

Now Is The Time To Wash Your Windows

My mom always said there’s something very spiritual about washing your windows. Her theory on this is that the windows are they eyes of your home and by washing the windows, you’re opening up those eyes to let the sun shine in.

Tips For Buying Window Shades

I have a very large window that bears the brunt of the western sun in summer. Do you have any suggestions for easy, inexpensive window coverings that will block or reflect a lot of heat?

What Are These Bugs On My Window Sill?

This summer I have been noticing these itsy bitsy little grey bugs on my window sills in the kitchen and bathroom. Last week I diluted some bleach on a cloth and wiped down the sills. That seems to have helped. I’d still like to know what are they? How can I stop them?

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Guide to Household Odors

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how to take care of your walls

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Get Ready to Grill

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I think I’m going to bite the bullet and fire up the grill this weekend. I’m tired of waiting for my spouse to cook something. Do you have any tips for a beginner?

Signed,

Grilling in Groten

Learn How to Grill

Heather says:

Hands down, the most important tip I have for a noobie grill chef is learn the hand test. What’s the hand test? It’s simply the most useful judge of a grill’s heat known to mankind. Even if you have a snazzy grill with propane and knobs that indicate the level of the flame I’m willing to bet your grill sits outside exposed to destructive elements and possibly more destructive children. I don’t trust the knobs on my grill one bit. Sure it says I’ve turned it to low, but that flame looks more like a medium or on another burner the opposite is true. Aside from that, every grill whether charcoal or propane will have areas that are hotter than others.  Use the hand test to become familiar with the zones or settings of your grill. (With a charcoal grill the zones will vary depending on how you spread the coals, a propane grill is fairly consistent).

The Hand Test

With a clean, dry hand hold your palm an inch over the grate. The length of time you can comfortably keep your hand in this position is a good indication of the grill’s temperature.

1 – 2 secondsHot (duh)
3 – 4 secondsMedium
5 – 7 secondsMedium Low
8+ secondsturn up the burner or add more charcoal

OK, now remember this isn’t the time to play hero or prove your man / womanhood. Seriously. We will point and laugh if you hurt yourself by trying to not wimp out holding your hand over a flame. That’s asking to be mocked. Move your hand as soon as it becomes uncomfortably hot.

My other suggestions for successful grilling:

Learn how to easily get your charcoal grill started.

Keep a spray bottle of water handy.

Use this to control flare ups. Remember to squirt the flare ups, not the food.

Know the difference between direct and indirect grilling.

Not every recipe you come across was intended for a grilling novice. Many times the recipes assume the cook has some basic knowledge of how to grill.

Direct grilling is straightforward, you grill over the heat source and is appropriate for many items that benefit from fast cooking: burgers, fish, boneless poultry, vegetables, and of course steaks. Keep the lid down, except when turning.

If you are preparing a cut of meat that is more than 2 inches thick, poultry (with the exception of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs), or roasts indirect grilling is more appropriate. The outside of these items would burn long before the center reached a safe temperature. To grill indirectly on a charcoal grill, mound the charcoal off to one side or in the center. Place the items away from the pile. For a propane grill with multiple burners, turn on one burner but cook over the other. For a small propane grill you may need to place a drip pan under the grate to deflect the heat. When grilling indirectly, it is vital to keep the lid closed as much as possible.  Think of it like baking, you wouldn’t open the oven every two minutes to check on a cake, don’t do it to your grill.

Prepare the side dishes in advance.

Just trust me on this one, it’s not fun to monitor the grill for flare ups, while dashing back in the house to stir something on the stove. It’s not my idea of a good time and I inevitably manage to let in flies while going in and out.

Keep the grill clean.

This means cleaning the grill the same days it is used. If it’s hard enough to want to grill, it’s going to be even worse if you have to clean the grill before you use it.

What grilling tips do you have?

Walls: A Home-Ec 101 Guide

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how to take care of your walls

They surround us, protect us, and shelter us. Walls also take a lot of abuse from dirty hands, shoes, feet, and the ends of brooms/mops that are taller than my children. Lately, I’ve heard myself saying, “Please take your feet off the wall – or – Please don’t put your dirty hands all over the wall.” Is that only at my house? Can’t be. I know that different ages of children make different marks on the wall. How do those toddlers always manage to find the non-erasable markers?

Just in case someone other than me has to deal with messy walls we wrote the following tips to help you take care of your walls. Click on the title of the article you want to read more of.

How to Clean Flat Paint

I have a quick question about washing my apartment walls. Normally, I’d just use some soapy water and dig right in, but my landlords used cheap, lousy, thin flat white paint. I’m afraid that my washing will ruin the surface.

How to Clean a Grungy Grille (Central Air Return)

Builders and contractors don’t always use common sense when planning the layout of a home’s heating and cooling duct work. Sometimes the grille, or vent cover, is right in the middle of a wall. Even though I frequently run the soft brush attachment over the grille and occasionally spray it off with the hose, our vent cover was gross.

How to Remove Candle Soot From Paint

A great way for me to relax is to curl up on the sofa once she is asleep, light some candles and put my Ipod on. About a week ago, while cleaning the house, I noticed that the candles left big black spots on the wall! I tried washing them with every product I have in the house and it’s not working.

How To Dust the Walls

How exactly does one dust the wall? Do you dust the entire wall with a dust cloth? Do you wash it?

How to Remove Marker from Painted Walls

My apartment walls are covered in crayon (washable and not), marker (washable and not), colored pencil, and various kinds of pen ink. I’ve tried soap and water, multi-purpose cleaner, Soft Scrub, and Magic Erasers to get my walls clean but nothing seems to do more than fade it out. My lease eliminates any repainting options. What can I do?

How To Touch Up Paint In Very Small Areas

This quick tip is Q-Tips make great, disposable “brushes” for touching up paint in small areas.

How to Wash Walls

My living room desperately needs to be painted….I really want to do this right, is it true that I have to wash the walls before I paint?

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

guide to clean floors

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Guide to Household Odors

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Cleaning Up After Pet Accidents on Hardwood and Tile

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Sensitive readers, if you don’t currently have to deal with messes of a bodily nature, just make a mental note or better yet, bookmark the page and mosey along.

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have four dogs, they are housebroken, but every once in a while they have an accident. What is the best way to clean up after their mess on hardwood and tile flooring? I think I’m doing enough, but I want to be sure.

Signed,
Seeking Assurance in Assumption

Cleaning_Up_After_Pet_Accidents

Heather says

Pets are wonderful companions.

What comes out of and off of your pet is far less pleasant, but it’s just part of life so we may as well know how to deal with it.

In the past we have learned:

How to clean pet urine off of linoleum

How to remove potty training or poop stains from carpet (Yes, toddlers are comparable to pets in their mess making abilities)

How to remove [dog] urine odor from a couch

How to remove [cat] urine from a mattress

How to deal with a cat marking its territory

Somehow in all of that we never got around to cleaning up pet messes on hardwood and tile.

Let’s assume your hardwood is sealed and that if you’re cleaning up tile that the grout is sealed.

If your pet pooped on the floor and it’s solid, life isn’t too hard. Just get a few paper towels*, dispose of the solid waste, grab your favorite cleaner for your hardwood (either what the manufacturer recommended, dilute vinegar, or a dilute cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap). I keep Wood for Good by Method around the house and it comes in a handy spray bottle. It’s up to you.

Spray your cleaner on the affected area, wipe it up, wipe with plain water if you choose and allow it to dry.

Bacteria in fecal matter is gross but does not possess super powers, if it has been wiped away, it is gone. No fuss, no muss, you’re done.

If the dog’s poop was runny or diarrhea, you’ve got a bigger job ahead of you as the mess can more easily seep into tiny crevices.

Grab more papertowels, a bucket, gloves,  a trash bag , warm soapy water, a soft scrub brush, a few more paper towels, and a strong stomach.

Put on the gloves, wipe up all of the solid-ish material you can with the paper towels. Over the years – 3 kids and several dogs add up- I’ve learned that it’s easiest if you sort of surround the pile and scoop the mess into a single blob and pick it up that way. Deposit this mess directly into the trash bag.

Gently scrub the area to loosen any fecal material that has worked its way into nicks in the grout or crevices in the wood. Use more rags or paper towels to wipe up the cleaning mess you just made and go over the area with a damp rag or paper towel to wipe up any soapy residue.

Make sure the area is well ventilated so it can dry quickly, running a fan over the area is a good idea.

If your flooring is no longer sealed, the mess must still be cleaned up, but please know that there is a chance that the mess caused staining.

For hardwood flooring you’ll need to contact a professional on the best way to proceed after the mess has been cleaned. If your grout was stained, it is possible to restain and seal your grout to prevent future headaches.

Pet urine can be a nightmare on hardwood, if it has seeped into the flooring. If it is fresh, wipe it up, then clean thoroughly with an enzymatic cleaner like Kids ‘N Pets to break down the odors that could cause pets to revisit the same area. Tile and grout just treat like the diarrhea clean up above, if the grout is not sealed.

If the urine has soaked into hardwood flooring. You can try applying hydrogen peroxide -test in an inconspicuous place- and placing papertowels to wick the urine out of the wood.  Please note that some finishes can be affected by hydrogen peroxide and are must be taken. If you are unsure, please consultyour manufacturer on the best way to handle a stain like this. Sometimes the area will need sanding and refinishing depending on the level of damage.

Now smile knowingly at your friends, look away and say, “But they’re worth it

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

*You can use rags if you are averse to using paper towels, but please wash them separately from your other laundry.

Quick Use Up The CSA, More Is Coming or Menu Monday 30

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Heather says

For years I’ve wanted to join Pinckney’s Produce, our local CSA. This year the stars aligned and there was a pick up point close enough to my weekly route that I could make it work. Oh happy day, right? Well, life is life and I’ve been out of town* pretty much since the CSA shares started happening. Pick up #3 happens tomorrow and there is almost half a box of produce in the fridge.

The good news? Food doesn’t really go to waste arond here with six people.

Menu Plan Monday

My gut says that this week’s produce will be similar, with maybe less lettuce and more bok choy. This menu is subject to change based on life.

CORN – Clean Out Refrigerator Night
**riffing on this with different spices, no Thai Peanut Sauce tonight

Next week, I head to Denver, but after that things will be back to *ahem* normal.

What are you planning this week? Here’s a free menu printable to help make that chore a little easier and if you have no clue where to start with menu planning, I have help for that, too.

Menu planning saves time, energy, and money. You don't have to wait until you are an accomplished cook to start. This is the couch 2 5k of feeding yourself healthy, budget conscious food.

*It was a wonderful trip, I got to go two work events / conferences, one in Salt Lake City and the other in Phoenix. Rather than fly home on a red eye and right back out, I rented a car and meandered down via Zion National Park and Flagstaff. I took some scenic driving tours, met relatives for the first time, had a glorious solo picnic in a hotel room and just generally enjoyed a little bit of down time.  If you like Instagram, here’s my stream.

Zion National Park This country really is beautiful and I am so glad I had a chance to explore a corner of it.