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HomeEc 101 Guide To Keeping The Exterior Of Your House Clean

clean the outside of your house

It’s said that we unconsciously form opinions about other people in the first 3 minutes that we see them. I don’t know if that hold true with houses, but I do know that curb appeal is very important in the real estate business. Here is some information to help you keep the outside of your house neat and tidy. Just click on the title to read the complete article.

How to Clean Lawn Furniture

I have family and friends coming over for a barbecue. The menu’s set, the food is bought, the house is clean (well, it’s getting there), I’m ready. Well, except for one thing. My lawn furniture is ewww and funk.

How to Clean an Outdoor Lighting Fixture

My husband bought two outside titanium lights that are brass finished from Patriot Lighting. The instructions say to clean the fixture once or twice a month using diluted bleach cleaner, then wait for one minute, then wipe off with cellulose sponge, then clean with wet cloth.  Can you simplify this for me?

Pet Friendly Weed Control

Is there such a thing as a weed killer that will not affect my dogs? In addition to the two greyhounds that live in the house, I have multiple neighbors who think the leash law does not apply to them, plus several feral cats that like to hang in my window boxes to torture said greyhounds. I can keep my dogs off the lawn for a couple days, but what about the other guys?

How To Get Rid Of Wasps

We’ve always had a problem with wasps (mud-daubers…are they the same?)….however, they seem to be much worse, and it seems they’ve arrived early…what can I do to get rid of them…or at least keep them to a minimum.

How To Clean Out Your Dumpster

Today, I was so embarrassed when I got this note from the trash disposal guys: “Could you please clean out your dumpster? The stuff sticking to the bottom makes all the trash fall out onto the ground.” How can I clean this with a minimum of actually touching this mess?

How To Clean Out Your Gutters And Why You Should

Gutters collect leaves and twigs. These leaves, twigs, and ahem, saplings prevent the the flow of water. When the water doesn’t flow down the spout, it can pool which will rot wooden gutters, rust metal ones, or eventually cause the gutters to pull from the roof.

How To Pressure Wash Your Siding

My husband has finally agreed to have our house and granny annex professionally pressure-washed. There’s quite a bit of pale green mildew on the vinyl siding. Is good ole’ bleach and water the best cleaning solution? Should soap be added? If so, what kind (dish? dishwasher? laundry? hand?) Any other tips with regard to pressure washing?

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Weekly Menu Plan #21

Heather says

This week will be short and sweet as I’m traveling for business. I’ll likely eat too much and regret it when reality comes crashing in on Monday. On a side note, the older two minions and I are planning on doing the i5k in April. I hate, loathe, and despise running, but I’ve got to start doing something and it’s what fits with my schedule. To get ready for this, the kids and I are using C25K, the older two jog and the younger one rides her bike. With 15 weeks to go we’ll repeat the first week this week, if anyone is interested in playing along I can start a Facebook group. Just leave a comment and I’ll put it together.

Hits from last week’s menu:

Buffalo chicken tacos – I thought the kids would maybe tolerate this, but I was blown away by how quickly they disappeared, I’ll need to make more for next time. I just used frozen chicken breasts brushed with wing sauce and baked until done. I diced the meat and served with tortillas and diced, peeled cucumber. The kids could add cheese and ranch if they wanted, I went for a just a little blue cheese dressing. Easy peasy, definitely getting added to the rotation.

BBQ chicken sandwiches – Before I took the kids to school in the morning I put frozen, split, chicken breasts into the slowcooker and added a little bit of bbq sauce. I set it to low and went about my business, dinner time rolled around and I toasted buns, shredded the chicken (removing bones and skin) and stirred in with a little more BBQ sauce.  There was a fair amount leftover, but this was on purpose. The chicken also really worked well in taco form.

BBQ Chicken Salad

BBQ chicken salad on Saturday took advantage of the leftovers. Pro-Tip when making a giant salad for several adults, a sheet tray makes a great serving dish.

This week:

Monday: Ground pork tacos and salad
Tuesday: Pork loin with sun dried tomatoes and Parmesan, sauteed kale, sweet potato, and onions
Wednesday: Red beans and rice – I froze the leftovers from last week.

As I said, I’ll be traveling this week, so it’s a short one from the planning side of things. What worked for your family last week —feel free to share a link to a recipe— and what didn’t?

What will you be making this week? Anything new to you?

 Photo Credit: Ray Bergman

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Tips For Cleaning Bedrooms & Closets

bedroom and closet cleaning

The designers and decorators often tell us that bedrooms are to be an oasis. A calm place where we can go to relax and sleep. I don’t know about yours, but mine tends to be where things get stashed during the dash that happens when someone is arriving in 10 minutes. I don’t mind that my bedroom doesn’t like show floor ready; I’m happy when it is clean and neat. Our hope is that these tips will help you conquer any mess in your bedrooms and closets.


Mattress Cleaning and Other Indoor Sports

What is the best way to clean a mattress? Dec 2008 I splurged and upgraded from a queen bed to a fabulously huge king size bedset. I’ve heard of putting it outside and letting it “air out” but that’s not feasible where I live. Just curious as to what other people do.

Where Can Mildew Hide in a Bedroom

There is a musty / mildew smell in my home, but I’m having issues locating the source of the smell. As far as I can tell, it’s restricted to one bedroom. I’ve examined all of my clothing, removed the air conditioner, checked all of the furniture, and even the air ducts. Any ideas?

How to Store Blankets Without Inviting Mildew

I have a serious problem with the old lady, musty laundry smell. I keep my sleeping bag, electric blanket and my baby blanket in a chest at the foot of my bed. Is there a secret to keeping this stuff smelling fresh?

How to Remove Cat Urine from a Mattress

I didn’t realize it until it was too late that he was not going downstairs to use one of the two litter boxes. One day I went upstairs to go to bed and realized that sometime in the past two days, he had relived his bladder all over the bed!

How to Clean a Down Comforter

I received a duck down comforter as a gift last Christmas. The tag says to have it taken to the dry cleaners, but not only would it be a pain, it wouldn’t be easy on the wallet. I’m so terrified to wash it on my own that it hasn’t been washed in a year and a half. I know. I am ashamed. And I need help.

How to Clean and Care for Pillows

I have two boys and a husband, and their pillows usually only last a year. I get the heebie-jeebies when I start noticing stains. When the pillows get nasty I just throw them out and buy new ones. It seems so wasteful! Is this what I’m supposed to do, or is there some secret method for washing pillows?

Spare Sheet Storage

I needed to clean my linen closet out so I could start storing towels in there. Previously I had been storing blankets, tablecloths, and sheet sets in there; but with the overabundance of towels I have unearthed since the Great Laundry Rescue of 2007, I need to make space for them in the linen closet.


Get Clothing Clutter Under Control

I find my bedroom becoming cluttered very quickly with clothes that are “too clean to wash” yet “not clean enough to put away”. I didn’t want to spend more time on laundry than I had to. What do other people do with their clothes? Do they wash every item, every time they wear it? Do they wear the same thing until it needs to be washed? Do they hang up or fold and put away slacks and jeans and tops that have been worn but aren’t dirty?

How to Eliminate Shoe Odor in Small Closets

I just did some awesome cleaning in my closet and swapped out my winter for summer stuff. I noticed my closet has a funky shoe odor. I googled it and saw a lot of ideas for getting rid of the shoe smell, but I trust Home-Ec 101 ideas more.

The Fastest And Easiest Way To Declutter Your Closet

Every once in awhile you come up with an idea that is so simple, you wonder why you didn’t think of it before.

How To Have A Linen Closet And Linens That Smell Great

I want to know how to get that “not great smell” out of my linens. I wash them and put them away and they smell great, when I get them out to use them there is no smell or an “old” smell to them. Should I wash down the walls & shelves of the linen closet?

Have a question not covered here? Submit it to

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The Great Washing Machine Debate

Dear Home-Ec 101,

What washing machine is better top or side load?

Wishy-Washy in Waseca

Heather says:

Isn’t it fun when someone answers your question with “It depends?”

The front-load vs top loading washing machine debate has been going on for years, about ten in the US. High-efficiency front loading washing machines hit the mainstream back in 2004 or so. Some of the lower end models of front-loading washing machines had major problems that frustrated their owners. The good news is that there have been improvements, but Once Bitten Twice Shy and people were reluctant to give these washers another chance.

So let’s take a look at where things are today.

Should you buy a top-load or front-load washer

Front-load clothes washers are still more efficient than standard top loading machines but not that much more efficient than high-efficiency top-loading washers.

Efficiency isn’t everything or we would all be driving hybrid cars, right?

Some front loading washing machines are stackable, so if you’re super tight on space, this may be an option for you.

High-efficiency top loading washers are generally easier to load and unload, unless you’re of small stature. The ease of loading and unloading can be improved for a front-load machine by placing the appliance on a pedestal.

Front-loading washers tend to remove more water during the spin cycle than their top loading counterparts which reduces the amount of energy used to dry the load of clothing. This factor won’t matter at all, if you prefer to hang your clothing to dry.

Front-loading washers are still slightly better at stain removal than the top loading variety, but it’s pretty marginal and I am willing to bet that pre-treating makes a big difference.

Top loading machines still use more energy to agitate the clothing, use more water, and require more detergent for loads of comparable size, but the gap has been shrinking over the last few years.

And of course, the final comparison is cost.

Standard top loading machines are the cheapest, but least efficient appliances. High efficiency top loading washers come in second in both terms of cost and efficiency. Finally front-loading machines are the most expensive, but most efficient machines.

When you’re making your appliance choice, factor in the long term cost of electricity and water use. If your water is heated by natural gas or propane, you’ll find your clothes washer likely has less of an impact on your overall energy costs than if you’re stuck with an electric water heater like me.

Which of these factors matter most to you?

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Weekly Menu Plan #20

Heather says:

The last menu plan I posted was back in 2011.

I’d like to say that I’ve just been doing them on the sly, but the truth is, I fell off the wagon and never could get back on until I got my life back in order. I know I‘m not the only one interested in getting back into or started with the habit. If you’re looking forward to making something new this week or want to share your menu feel free to do so in the comment. (Just do one link per comment or the SPAM filter will get you*).

So we’re here, it’s a brand new year, I have a pantry and even a blackout pantry once again. Now it’s time to get my budget back in line and stop doing the 5pm stare into the refrigerator or the 6pm dash through the grocery store. If you’ve wanted to menu plan but aren’t sure how to start, I wrote a helpful series on basic menu planning.

It’s January which means collard greens and root vegetables are in season and pork is generally cheaper, at least in the South. I’m hoping to begin posting recipes again, but we’ll see what happens. I’m trying to tone down my expectations. Reality has bitten me in the butt often enough. And looking at the menu yes,I know that’s a lot of chicken, it’s what is in the freezer.

I’ve linked the recipes that are on the site and those that I plan on referencing. Most of this week’s menu is being made from items in the freezer or pantry, but I’ll supplement with items from the sales flyer.

  • Monday – Red beans and rice, okra (frozen) – I’ll probably just stir that right into the red beans and rice
  • Tuesday –  Taco Tuesday – Buffalo chicken tacos with avocado (if available) side salads with chipotle ranch (the chicken will be cooked in the slow cooker and shredded, the buffalo sauce will be added shortly before serving
  • Wednesday –  Pulled Chicken Sandwiches (or tacos for the non-wheat tolerant), kale and brussels sprout slaw, and sweet potato fries
  • Thursday – Date Night – Shrimp Curry has been requested… it’s going to depend on what I find on sale at the grocery store and I might investigate the fish market nearby, if I feel adventurous.
  • Friday – Albondigas – made with ground pork, I’ve found this works really well
  • Saturday – CORN (That’s Clean Out Refrigerator Night)
  • Sunday –  Coconut milk chicken thighs, Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash and something green, probably broccoli

I’m starting a log of what we’re eating (for all of our meals) to help build a more substantial emergency pantry based on our eating habits.

Let’s do this.

*A note on comments, you only have to be approved the first time you comment. I had to turn this on after dealing with hundreds of spam comments a day. Once you’re in and proven to be a person and not some poor soul paid pennies a comment, your comments will show up in real time.