Living Room Or Family Room: A Home-Ec 101 Guide

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The living room, or family room, often becomes a catch all place. At my house it’s where we love to crash, watch a movie, have a snack, play with toys/games, and more. I’ll confess that we let the dog on the couch in there too. A lot of use of the room means a lot of wear and tear, dirt and dog hair, crumbs and chaos. Following are some articles about taking care of your living room. Click the title of the one you want to read more about!

how to take care of your living room

Do You Dust or Vacuum First?

Settle this for me, please. My mother says you dust after you vacuum, my mother-in-law says you dust then vacuum. I’d rather knit sweaters for my cat from the dust bunnies, but could you settle the debate?

How to Clean Baby Toys

When cleaning toys that are going to go into a baby’s mouth (which is everything baby gets her hands on), you want to go with cleaning products that are both natural and safe.  I have two recommendations.

How to Clean Ceiling Fans

How do you clean ceiling fans? I’m especially wanting to know how you manage to clean them without dust bunnies falling down onto the furniture.

How To Clean Throw Pillows

Can you tell me how to clean throw pillows? A friend made me a pillow cover for a throw pillow on my couch, but she sewed it shut over the pillow, so there is no way to remove the pillow to wash it.   Are there any options as far as cleaning the cover?

iRobot Roomba 530 Review

It is the first appliance I’ve had that has reduced the net amount of work in my life. For the record, I’m counting appliances invented in my lifetime, washing machines and dishwashers have been around a lot longer than me.

Spring Cleaning the Living Room / Great Room / Family Room

My living room or family room or great room or whatever you want to call it is also my office, sewing room, dining room, etc, etc, etc. So the way I spring clean my living room wouldn’t necessarily be the same as yours. Anyway, I hope this suits most people’s needs for living room spring cleaning.

Couch Cleaning Questions

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?

There is another guide on How to Take Care of Your Furniture!

Send your domestic questions to

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pH and Its Role in Getting Your Clothes Clean Without Damage

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

So I found your article looking for some ideas for dealing with our hard water issues here in Florida. I’m in school for biomed engineering so I appreciated the explanations you gave. I have a question and thought with your background you might know the answer, or know which direction to point me in.

My question is, what would the ideal profile of the water be pH, hardiness, total alkalinity or buffering, etc…? I would assume a pretty neutral pH and low as I could get hardness concentrations, but in my experiments with a full tub and mixed water, soap and softening agent’s, I seem to always be trading one ideal at the expense of another. Borax and washing soda soften the water great, but I do notice the pH rises pretty high. Vinegar brings the pH down, but at that point laundry has turned into a chem lab. I’d welcome any advise or insight on the chemistry that would or wouldn’t be beneficial.

Al Kaline

Heather says

Laundry doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

It happens in a washing machine.


In all seriousness though, the law of diminishing returns definitely comes into play when you’re trying to get optimal laundry conditions. The amount of effort you’re putting in will exceed the improvement in performance at some point.

Optimal conditions for laundering, for many commercial detergents is:

In water that has a pH of  around 10.5 and about 122°F ( 50°C).

It is absolutely okay that your efforts to reduce the hardness of your water increased the alkalinity of the water (raised the pH). Most soaps are alkaline in nature – we perceive alkaline things as feeling slippery or smooth. Part of your detergent’s job is to raise the pH of the water so that greasy saponify – break down.

However there is an important next step.

Leaving a layer of alkaline detergent on clothing is likely to irritate skin, especially of people with sensitive skin. You don’t have to be “allergic” to be irritated. Now some chemicals are allergens, but a chemical doesn’t have to be an allergen to be an irritant. Make sense?

If I squirt lemon juice in your eye, your eye will be irritated by the acidity even if you are not allergic to citrus fruits.

So how do we get rid of the alkaline detergent clinging to to clothing in the wash water.

  1. We use enough water to ensure the clothing can agitate freely so the detergent can be rinsed away.
  2. We lower the pH (make it more acidic) so the detergent is more likely to be in solution rather than clinging to the clothing itself.

As a bonus, we human types, tend to think acids feel soft. This is why vinegar can be used in the rinse cycle and seem like it acts as a fabric softener. It’s certainly not as effective as commercially produced softeners that contain other ingredients that coat the fibers of your clothing, but it does have an effect.

While leaving an alkaline substance on your clothing is bad for your skin, lowering the pH too much can weaken the fibers of your clothing and reduce its usable lifespan.

So, if you want to break out the litmus strips and test the pH of your washing machine, by all means go ahead. Just don’t forget when you’re doing your calculations that the clothing will take up some of the volume of the washtub and that the residue of detergent on your clothing will act as a slight buffer as you attempt to lower the pH.

Yeah science!



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Tomato Pie

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Heather says:

Two years ago I stumbled upon the deliciousness that is tomato pie. The framework for this recipe can be credited to Paula Deen, but it has been played with enough, to call it my own.

Before giving this pie a shot, make sure you have fully ripe tomatoes. I know, I know it’s tempting, what with the bacon and basil, but just sit tight and wait. Don’t ruin this with a tomato that has seen the inside of a refrigerator. Fine, you won’t ruin it, but. . . it’ll be worth it.

Some people get very persnickety about the bottom crust. You have three options:

  1. Blind bake -pre-bake the bottom crust-  but know that you will absolutely have to protect the edge of your pie during the real baking and I hate putzing around with foil like that
  2. Instead of draining the seeded tomato slices in a colander you can do so on a clean flour sack towel -it doesn’t have to be that particular one, you just don’t want to end up with linty tomatoes. Bleh.
  3. Suck it up and deal with it because it’s delicious.


Double Crust Tomato, Onion, and Bacon Pie Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pie crust (9″ pie) – feel free to cheat and use refrigerated pie crust if you’re in a hurry and sometimes I am
  • 4 very ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 3 slices bacon crumbled
  • 3 TBSP cream cheese or mayonnaise*
  • 1 tsp dried basil, divided -If you have fresh, use a small handfull and cut into a chiffonade -fancy word meaning thin raggy strips
  • salt/pepper to taste

*It absolutely must be mayonnaise, not low-fat and for the love of all that is holy not miracle whip

Tomato Pie Recipe Instructions

Core each tomato. This is simply a matter of removing the hard area around the stem. Cut each tomato in half through the equator. Use your finger to scoop the seeds out and into the trash or sink. Then slice each tomato. Place the sliced tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl or the sink, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow this to sit while preparing the other ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice the onion very thinly. No, thinner. No, thinner still, we want the Calista Flockhart of onions.

In a bowl combine the cheese, bacon, and 3TBSP mayo. Mix thoroughly.

tomato layerCarefully lay the bottom pie crust in a 9″ pie plate. Arrange a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle with half the sliced onion and 1/2 tsp dried basil.

Repeat the first layer with the remaining tomatoes, onion, and basil.

Top with cheese mixture. Add the second crust, seal the edges, and cut slits in the top.

Use water to glue on any decorative touches.

Use water to glue on any decorative touches.

Tomato PieBake for 45 minutes, checking after 30. Use the foil trick from the pie crust recipe to protect the edges of the crust.

Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes (at least) on a wire rack. If you can wait longer to slice the pie, the cheese won’t be as runny.

We look at each other and say, but we LIKE the cheese to be runny.


***Submitted to: Mouthwatering Mondays***

Menu Monday #34 – Nary a Cute Title or Pun in Sight

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Last week I had a 50 : 50 success rate with following the menu plan. We did have bolognese, but it was over a half-hearted ratatouille that I nearly ruined because I was sneaking an episode of Orange is the New Black on my tablet.

Hot weather is here for the duration and we’ve got near triple digits and high humidity until further notice. I’m going to try to work more salads into the rotation, but I hate making salads. That’s a first world problem if you’ve ever heard one, right?

There’s a place around here called Verde, thankfully neither location is on my regular routine or I’d be in a lot of financial trouble. I think I’ll be working my way through their menu over the next few weeks. Their salads are amazing and they use this nifty tool that looks like a couple of conjoined pizza cutters to speed up the chopped salad process. I’ve heard the version they use is at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, so I’ll hold off on ordering the OXO version until I confirm this.

I also know it sounds crazy to put a soup on the menu when the temperature is high, but you have to try it. (I’ll get it posted later this week). We’ve been dealing with some sinus stuff around here and there’s nothing quite like hot peppers to clear your head, at least temporarily.

What are you making this week? Do you need a menu planning printable to get started?

Menu Plan Monday

  • Monday –  Tuna Patties – I’m still searching for exactly how to make this wheat-free. Everything is either paleo (read that as way too involved or on the opposite end of the spectrum just tear up a piece of white bread – also not an option) and BLT salads
  • Tuesday – Roasted Butternut and Squash with Soba noodles (buckwheat noodles work just fine, testing a recipe that caught my eye)
  • Wednesday – Jalapeno Corn Chowder
  • Thursday – Bulgogi, rice, whatever vegetables are suitable for stir frying from the CSA
  • Friday – Grilled Chicken over a Southwestern Chopped Salad
  • Saturday – Marinated and Grilled Flank Steak  over grilled vegetables or salad – this will depend on the CSA contents
  • Sunday – We’ll be taking full advantage of the neighborhood pool all. day. long. Hotdogs or brats with sweet potato fries or zucchini / squash fries.

I have a couple of reader questions in my inbox this weekend, so it won’t be all food all the time this week.


Menu Monday – Summer Break Style

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Heather says:

I didn’t get around to posting last week’s menu, but I assure you we ate, several times a day even.

We are definitely using the grill much more often and the foil wrapped vegetable packs are an incredibly handy way to use up the CSA’s bounty without putting in a ton of work. I just adjust the seasonings to match the protein we’re going to have. If you like blue cheese try a splash of balsamic vinegar and top with the cheese after the veg are done. If you are serving fish, a squeeze of lemon and some rosemary or basil would be fantastic. If you want shish ka bob flavor without the effort some teriyaki, soy sauce, and ginger. Don’t be scared to experiment, the worst thing that will happen is you’ll know better next time. (You can even just try your experimental seasoning on a mini packet before trying it on the whole batch)

This week promises more squash and if we get any more cabbage, I’ll have to try my hand at sauerkraut. Theoretically it’s not hard, finding the room to make a batch is an issue all in itself.

This week I do hope to finally take pictures and share how we do fish tacos.

I’m also glad that I finally nailed down a version of gluten-free zucchini bread that I’m proud to share.

What are you serving this week?

Menu Plan Monday