Home-Made Oven Cleaner

Cleaning an Oven

I love a clean home, and generally most cleaning tasks are not that arduous to me.  But there’s one task I hate, and that is oven cleaning.

I did some interesting attempts on making my very own oven cleaner with the use of baking soda and white vinegar.  At first I had my doubts about how effective it would be, but surprisingly it did what I hoped it should do.

Homemade Oven Cleaner 


Baking Soda

White Vinegar


  • After the oven has already cooled down, start removing all remaining food that has burned inside the oven.
  • Start removing the racks then start sprinkling the baking soda on the bottom part of the oven. Try sprinkling with an empty container of Parmesan cheese, as it makes it easier to apply. After which, pour (or spray with a spray bottle) a small amount of the white vinegar on the baking soda. Try the measurement ration of 1/8 cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of baking soda.
  • Now put the rack back into the oven. Fill up the baking dish with some hot water and then put back again the rack. Close the door of the oven. Put it to about 250 degrees for about 5 minutes. After that, let it cool down for 15 minutes.
  • Get the pan of water inside as well as the rack. Start scrubbing your oven. Try with crumpled up aluminum foil as an effective scrubber, or any other heavy duty type scrubber will do. In scrubbing the oven walls, make a  paste from mixing 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1/8 cup of baking soda.
  • Continue scrubbing until clean, then rinse it all with warm water.  Use clean rags this time.


Depending on how you use your oven, cleaning its inside may be no more than a once-in-a-while chore. The best measure is a preventive one: Wipe up overflows and spills when they’re fresh to prevent the crusty, baked-on spills that will later season foods with the distinctive taste of burned toast. But if, alas, grease and grime build up gets the best of you, choosing a chemical-free, nontoxic oven cleaner is the healthy way to go.

While conventional oven cleaners provide elbow-grease-free action, they are loaded with toxic and caustic chemicals. The chemicals do the work so you don’t have to. Heavy-duty solvents are popular because they do work, but they are dangerous to touch or breathe.

Some oven-cleaning formulas include glycol ethers, which are severe irritants of the eyes, skin, and lungs, extremely dangerous to inhale, and prone to causing reproductive problems. There’s also 2-butoxyethanol, which is also a severe irritant of the eyes, skin, and lungs; dangerous to inhale, and easily absorbed through the skin, and it may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lymph- and blood-forming organs and nervous system.

For caustic action strong enough to cut through tough oven gunk, many conventional cleaners contain severe corrosives like sodium hydroxide, which can be dangerous to inhale or touch; can burn the eyes, skin and lungs, and can cause chronic damage to tissues.

You can also find in them such nefarious propellants as propane, butane and isobutene, which are harmful to inhale. Considering the chemicals that are in these aerosols, it would be wise to wear a respirator when using them and heavy duty gloves, as well as having great ventilation going.

Perhaps you don’t realize how much money you spend on your oven cleaners now. We throw them into the shopping cart and you’re off to the register. If you added up the cost of all your cleaners, you might be surprised how only a handful of them can add up to $20 or $30 in just a single shopping trip. It’s particularly expensive if you indulge in the more toxic cleaning products like oven cleaners. Over many years, the use of safe and friendly cleaners may result in significant savings too.

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Get your Chrome Bathroom Fixtures Shining

Chrome Bathroom Fixture

Chrome is a strong material, yet it does take some upkeep to keep it clean and sparkly. Rust can form on chrome on little openings that are undetectable to the bare eye. This exposes the material underneath to oxygen, and surface rust may show up from the oxidation process. Different conditions that can keep chrome from looking its best may be cleanser buildup, dirt, grime, water stains on the fixtures.  Fortunately, much of the time chrome can be kept clean, restored to its past condition, and protected from further harm.

Get into a habit of cleaning and keeping up chrome surfaces. Use a glass cleaner and rub the chrome with a soft cloth frequently. Just a quick wipe down like this will far in keeping your fixtures looking great.  Another tip is to wipe them down with previously used dryer sheets, works wonderfully.

Try wiping the fixtures with vinegar and allowing it to set an hour or two, then go back and polish with a soft, clean cloth.

You can also try a commercial cleanser for removing hard water stains and such, specifically designed for use on chrome.  Lime Away is a good product to try for this purpose.

Blend salt and lemon in equivalent amounts of to clean chrome and remove light rust stains.  Rub the lemon and salt on the fixture, allow to set a few minutes, rub gently with a soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly.   You can also try plain rubbing alcohol on your facets as well.

Do not use anything coarse that could scratch your fixtures like steel wool or the like.

A good way once you’ve got them cleaned and dry to help them stay nice longer in between, is spray a bit of WD40 on a clean cloth and wipe gently.  It will help repel hard water stains and such.

If you are battling rust, getting a good rust cleaner may be just what is needed.   If they are beyond getting help, consider replacing them.  New fixtures aren’t terribly expensive and they really help to improve the appearance of the whole sink and shower areas.

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Super Fun Educational Opportunity Program for Kids and Teens in Science, Technology & Robotics

Teen Robotics Competition

Science, technology & robotics can be fun for children and teens to learn.

This is about an educational opportunity program called FIRST, that teaches children (as young as 6 or 7 years old) up to 18 years old, about robotics, technology and science. These educational programs are available in many parts of the United States, and if one doesn’t exist in your area, has beginning tips on how to form one. At the younger end of the spectrum are Lego leagues, that prepare children for the more advanced robotics for middle and high school ages.

Learning can be a very fun process, children and teens learn better in an environment that is safe, fun and energetic with practical application. We describe the robot battle competition events, the games, and contains video links. Great for parents to help guide children to this amazing program that shows the benefits for children and teens yet is little known about.

The FIRST Educational Opportunity Program

The FIRST program’s acronym means, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”. It was founded in 1992 in New Hampshire originally, and is a non-profit organization. It is supported by over 3,500 corporations and businesses and more than 90,000 volunteers.

Their vision statement reads, “To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

The mission statement is, “Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

They have many educational programs available which we’ll outline later (including a robotics event competition), but a child as young as 6 years old, up to high school graduation can participate. FIRST is available in much of the United States and Canada, but in areas that they don’t exist, new chapters can be started up.

Different Options Offered by FIRST Education Program

Lego Leagues for Younger Children
· FIRST Junior Lego league are for kids ages 6-9 to design and build homemade robots out of Lego parts. They begin to develop math and science problem solving and life skills, and participate in robot events and other team activities.

· FIRST Lego League for ages 9-14 in the United States and Canada. At this program level students design, build, strategize and test a robot using Lego MINDSTORMS technology. They continue to build upon the knowledge they learned in the junior Lego league and expand more with time management skills, cooperation, working as a team member, math and science concepts. At this level, they may choose to participate in robotic tournaments and some may qualify for an invitation to the world festival.

· FIRST Tech Challenge is for High School aged students. Teams of up to 10 students compete using a build your own robot sports model. As a team, they design, build and program a homemade robot to compete with an alliance of two other teams against another alliance of 3 teams. Teens learn advanced skills in real-world type situations, and have the chance to win awards, scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship competition.

· FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is also for high school students. This program is commonly nicknamed a “varsity sport for the mind.” With a set of strict criteria, students work in teams of 25 or more to raise funds, develop a ‘brand’, build and design a robot to compete against other robots on a field game. This level is known to be as close to real life engineering that the educational program offers. Professional mentors and other volunteers help students. The high school students learn advanced and sophisticated hardware and software skills in technology, science, robotics, and other critical skills for future careers. Students of this educational opportunity program can also earn scholarships and a place in the world robotics championship.


Logomotion Game

The robot competition game is called Logomotion. It’s played on an indoor 27X54 foot indoor field. 3 teams of students form an alliance, and one alliance plays against another alliance. There are 4 scoring pegs inside the middle of the field.
Inflated tubes called ‘uber tubes’ come in triangle, square and circle shapes in red, white and blue. Each alliance enters 3 robots on to the field, and the students control the robots through remote control, to get the uber tubes onto scoring racks to create the FIRST logo.

Smaller bots are used on the field as well to release mini-bots which climbs to the top of a scoring peg inside the field. The first team to get their mini-bot to the top gets 30 bonus points. The second team gets 20 bonus points, 3rd team gets 15, and the 4th team gets 10 points.

 How Can I Start A FIRST Program in My Area?

Some areas do not have a FIRST program going. Go to the national FIRST website to see if you can find an existing educational program in your area. Some 4-H clubs are incorporating with FIRST programs as well. If none exist, and you either want to get your child involved, or want to be a volunteer to help teens and kids in this capacity, you may need to start a chapter in your area.

Do a search in your state for the FRC website. Contact them and let them know you would like to start a chapter. Let them serve as a guide to get you connected with others in your state, and walk you through the start up process.
There are scholarships available as

well to help FIRST students. See the national website for details.
Brandeis University recently did a study of the impact that the FIRST program had on students’ lives that participated in the robot event competition levels. It compared to students who did not participate in this educational program, yet had similar academic experiences and backgrounds. These were the results:

· More than 3 times as likely to major in engineering as a career.
· About 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
· Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
· More than twice as likely to pursue a career in science or technology fields.
· More than twice as likely to volunteer in their communities.

Watch this video clip of younger elementary aged students participating in a Lego league. Contact your local chapter if you would like to volunteer or get your kids involved. What a fun, and inspiring way to learn about science, technology and robotics!

Lego League in Action

This is a lego league in action, part of the younger program on FIRST.

As you can see, there is alot to offer student in the realm of teaching in a fun, engaging way, science, technology and robotics.

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Coping with Rosacea and It’s Devastating Effects

rosacea skin

What are the symptoms of rosacea?  If you experience any of the following signs, you should consult a dermatologist right away. 

1)         Red or inflamed areas on the cheeks, forehead, nose, or chin

2)         Visible blood vessels in the facial area or “spider veins”

3)         Acne or bumpy areas on the face (that are not really acne)

4)         Severe flushing that doesn’t return to normal like it should

5)         Watery eyes or irritated eyes sometimes

6)         Facial burning sensation, sometimes very intense

7)         Swelling of facial areas

8)         Over time, the nose may appear extremely red and bulbous, especially in older men, also known as rhinophyma

9)         Sometimes rosacea appears on the chest, scalp, ears, or neck

Rosacea is a skin disorder that is often mistaken for severe acne or a sign of alcoholism.  For those who suffer from this disorder, it is very difficult.  It is a chronic medical condition with no cure.   Many times there’s a tendency for others to believe it’s a cosmetic only issue and discount how truly physically painful it can be.  However, the symptoms of rosacea can be managed and controlled. 

Rosacea can be a debilitating skin disorder.  Sometimes women can be vulnerable to isolating themselves due to their appearance.  However, if it is managed properly, it doesn’t have to rob you of a fulfilled and wonderful life. 

Many times the acne like appearance is not true acne in the classic sense, but actually are immune cells (look like red bumps and sometimes called papules and pustules) that have rushed to the face thinking there was an infection to be fought because of the flushing fever that came. 

Not all rosacea sufferers have the acne, papules and pustules but it’s a common misconception that all do.  The red, flushed facial mask is the true mark of rosacea, and it’s a blood vessel issue.

The cause of rosacea is not known, but many doctors feel the root is a vascular or inflammation problem.  It seems to show up in both women and men sometime between 20 and 40 years of age.  Sometimes menopause in women seem to be a trigger for it’s onset, due to “hot flashes” associated with menopause.  

How can you cope with rosacea?  First and foremost, see a dermatologist who has helped others with this skin disorder.  If he prescribes a medication, give it a try and see if your symptoms improve.  Rosacea can go into remission if you are careful to adhere to the plan recommended by your doctor. 

Along with medication, there are several lifestyle changes that can be made to ensure that the breakouts of rosacea won’t occur as often.  Limit your exposure to sun and wind, be vigilant about using a good quality sunscreen.  Try to keep stress levels at a minimum by adopting a healthy lifestyle and spending quiet time each day.  Alcohol should be avoided as it tends to trigger a flush.  If you enjoy a bath, use warm water instead of really hot water.  Exercise is not off limits, but try low-impact forms of exercise in place of high impact ones, or swimming would be great.  Try to exercise in cooler weather.  Hot weather will worsen rosacea symptoms. Some people who suffer from rosacea react to hot beverages or spicy food. 

There are home treatments that seem to have helped some rosacea sufferers.  Creams containing green tea, Chrysanthellum Indicum, Niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3), or Azelaic Acid have been reported to help reduce the appearance of blood vessels and red capillaries when applied topically. 

Typically anti aging creams tend to worsen symptoms.  Try to use very gentle products that are not abrasive, and not scented.

For cosmetics I like natural mineral makeup such as Bare Escentuals bareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation.  There are many good brands out there.  Try to get a green color corrector type product as a base under foundation, green counteracts the red of the skin and helps camouflage it so it looks more natural.

Men should use an electric razor rather than a blade to shave each morning.  Follow up with a fragrance-free moisturizer. 

This book Vascular, Ocular & Acne Forms  I found to be very helpful and information.  Written by a doctor who also suffers from severe rosacea he gives a well balanced approach to coping with rosacea as well as a an in-depth look at the various medical treatments available now, various laser and light therapies and much more.  I highly recommend it.

By Valerie Garner

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Accessorize Your Gifts in a Jar


Presentation is everything!  Making gifts in a jar are a wonderful, personal yet inexpensive way to show someone you care.  There really is no end to the ideas a person can come up with, let your creativity flow and think also about who the gift is for to really make it especially for them.  Jar gifts are a wonderful, creative yet inexpensive ways to give gifts to family, friends and teachers and other loved ones.

Are you helping a child to make the gift?  If the gift is from a child for a grandparent, parent or teacher, decoupage the child’s photo on the outside of the jar, then trim the edges of the photo with lace or some other finishing type of ribbon.  The child could even paint a little something on the opposite side of the jar or his or her little handprint with paint.

One common way to decorate a jar is take some fabric and cut a circle, square or heart shape out of the fabric that is 6 – 8 inches across.  You can use pinking shears or other decorative type scissors to edge the fabric.  Lace can also be sewn as a trim to the fabric.  Place the inner round section of the jar’s lid on the jars and center the fabric on that. Screw the other section of the lid in place to hold the fabric. Fluff out the fabric where it comes out from under the lid.

You can use already decorated type jars, or standard canning jars.  The most common sizes are the pint and quart sized jars, but baby jars are also great for smaller portion drink or spice type mix gifts.

Hang tags can be made either by hand, computer graphics or a label glued to the jar itself, but these can be customized to a central theme if desired.  However you choose to do this, they will need the recipe’s final instructions.  Try your hand at calligraphy!

 There are many wonderful recipes that can be made specifically designed for jars.  These include soup mixes, spice mixes, cookie and other baked goods recipes, coffee and creamer recipes and so many more.  These can be quite easy to make ahead of time, so you always have a gift you can grab whenever you need one, especially great for those last minute gift needs, or for the person who seems to have everything and is difficult to buy for.

You can paint the jar before filling it.  Buy paint that is specially designed for glass and follow the specific directions.  Can’t paint?  Try finding a card or picture or something you’d like to put on the jar, and get it on paper.  Place the paper inside the jar, and then simply let your painting basically be tracing the design and adding your own personal touches to it.  Again, this can really be used for a theme and the jar itself will remain a keepsake long after the recipe has been used.

Layer the ingredients for a beautiful effect.  Put at the bottom layers the finest ingredients, like flour but be sure to mix in the baking sodas, salt, etc that’s called for in the recipes.  You can use a funnel to help keep things orderly.  If the flour dusts the rest of the jar, let it settle a while then gently wipe the jar with a paper towel before adding the rest of the layers.  Brown sugar can be packed down to save a bit of space.

You can accessorize your jar gifts by either gluing dried flowers, pinecones, beads, shells or whatever to the top of the jars as well.  Or tie small items with ribbon or raffia to the jars.  Common items that work well are measuring spoons, tiny whisks, cookie cutters, ornaments, cinnamon bark, vanilla beans or any other small whimsical item you may find.   

There are many beautiful ribbons out there and different styles and sizes of bows can be made and simply glued on to the lid.  Lace can also be hot glued around the rim of the jar.

For a holiday themed jar try a luscious hot cocoa mix or other goodie recipe, gluing some wrapping paper decor around various sides of the jar, or you can use some glitter paint for a snow type theme.   For a wild west theme, try perhaps a bean soup recipe, wrap your jar in a bandana, or use the bandana itself as tied around the lid.  Perhaps you can find a cowboy boot or hat graphic to decoupage on the jar itself, or paint one on.

Get creative in how you want to present your jar gift.  This might mean a gift basket filled with several jar gifts, or simply one with other components making up the whole gift basket

What about the tea lover you know?  Try some small baby jars filled with different flavored teas, cocoas and coffee mixes and put in a basket with a coffee mug and muffin or scone.  Paint the jar lids coordinating colors to match the mug.  Perhaps adding some gourmet tea bags and cinnamon sticks would be a nice touch as well.  Let your creativity guide your senses.

By Valerie Garner

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Care and Maintenance of Washer and Dryer Appliances

washer dryer

The washer and dryer are the household appliances that play a significant role in the running of a household, and also one of largest household appliance investments. As these are the among most used appliances at home, they should be well maintained. While buying a washer and dryer, we should consider several factors like energy ratings,  space availability, efficient, moisture senses, expresses dry, steam refreshes, load handled and convenience features. All these factors will help in the future maintenance of the appliance.  Cleaning washers and dryers to keep them in good condition will help prolong their life and protect your investment.

In order to increase the durability of the washer and dryer, we have to follow certain routine steps. WITH a few maintenance guidelines, we can keep you machines safe and making them run better, saving time and money. The following steps may help in increasing the life of these appliances.


  • The washer should be placed level so that they do not vibrate when they are working which may damage the appliance.
  • Check the hoses for cracks and brittleness which will reduce the disaster of flooding. All the hoses should be replaced every five years in the long run, of a washer and dryer.
  • Always dry the washer drum to avoid odor caused by bacteria.
  • Do not overload the washer and dryer as this will cause them to work inefficiently.
  • Do a routine maintenance wash with the help of some detergent and vinegar.
  • Wipe down the drum with a clean cloth.
  • Don’t allow washed, wet cloths to sit for hours in the washer.
  • The quality of the detergent powder used also affects the durability of the washer and dryer. Always use proper amount and detergent powder.


  • Clean the lint filter often. Removing all the lint is a safety measure to avoid fire from the intense heat of the dryer. Keeping the lint under control is essential for cleanliness as well as the safety of the house.
  • Wash and clean the lint filter to remove chemical residue from time to time.
  • Check for blockages and bends in the exhaust ducts every three months.
  • Always use aluminum exhaust ducts as it minimizes fire hazards.

By following these basic instructions for the well being of washer and dryer, we can reduce the energy consumed, save money and most importantly prolong the life of the appliances.

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Practical Ways Families Can Reduce Their Power Bills

Word Money in Flame Text

If you wish to save money on electric bills, you will need to combine common sense with a little bit of planning. But be warned that it take effort sticking to a plan. The trick is to plan the work, followed by working the plan.

Below are several ideas, tricks and tips that will have your creative juices flowing and which will make your energy savings go according to plan…

Summer Tips

If you have to have air conditioning, use a highly efficient air conditioner. If you agree to purchase a onetime slightly more expensive new unit, you will for years save up to 30 to 40 per cent of your electric costs.

You should clean the exterior of the air conditioner coils regularly. Coils that are clean upsurge efficiency and minimize power consumption, this act will also prolong the life of the unit.

Use a water hose to clean coils on the exterior. The coils on the inside should be cleaned during the start of the cooling season. Let a technician do the cleaning.

Did you know condenser units on the outside that are shaded by either trees or awnings minimize power usage by ten percent?  If your’s is in the sun, add something that will shade it.

To make the most use of your outside condenser unit make sure that it’s not obstructed by plants, flowers, shrubs or grass. The more clear the area around it is, the more air flow you get and the minimal power you use.

Check your condensers regularly and replace any filters that are dirty, the cleaner the filters are, the more air flow (clean) will come in and the more your system will run more efficiently and way much longer.

Regulate the condenser to 78 degrees, or the highest you can tolerate it. Consumption of energy goes up by six to eight percent for every low degree on your thermostat.

Invest in good quality draperies on your windows and pull the drapes or blinds during the day especially on the southern exposure of your home.

Winter Tips

When it is not snowing and it’s not dark during the day, open your curtains and let the sun shine in. This is extra heat from nature and it will make you feel much more alive during those freezing temps!

Generally speaking, you can find savings of roughly 3% on your electric bill for every degree that you reduce your thermostat by.  Turn down the thermostat 10 or 20 degrees when working (if nobody is home) and when you turn in for the night.  The rest of the time, have it set at the lowest point you can comfortably live in.  Dress in layers, wear slippers or socks to help keep body heat up.

If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed when not in use.  Otherwise, heat simply escapes.

Run fans in the home minimally.  That means kitchen fans and shower fans.  As soon as they’ve cleared the necessary job, turn them off.

Reducing the hot water heater temps to 115 – 120 degrees will also help significantly, without much impact to the family.

Keep heating vents unobstructed by furniture, carpeting, clutter.  You want the heat to be able to freely circulate.

Close the drapes at night to prevent heat escaping quickly.

Fix and close any air leaks in your home.  A good way to find them is on a windy day take a lit incense stick and move it around known drafty areas to find them.  Common areas to check are recessed lighting, sill plates, chimney flashing, door and window frames, under sinks, electrical outlets and duct & flues.

Use door sweeps on all exterior doors to reduce air flow from under the doors.  Close all the air leaks you found above with either rope caulk, weather stripping or some other form of insulation.

Insulate pipes under the sink and water heaters.  Also add insulation to close up any gaps around the pipes going into the walls.

Homes that use ductwork for heating sources, can be losing close to 60% of the heated air if the connections are either leaking or not well insulated as heat travels through unheated areas of the house.   To fix this can either be hired done, or if you are a do it yourselfer, it can bring huge savings to your power bills.

Look in attics, basements & crawlspaces for any ducts that have been disconnected.  Reconnect these ducts, repair any place where they are pinched that blocks the flow of heated air.  Any gaps can be repaired with metal backed tape or aerosol sealant.  Where you can, wrap ducts with specific duct insulation.  You may want to hired a professional for this task when there are lighting fixtures and electrical wires close by.

This may also be the time to insulate further any attic, crawlspace or basement areas that may need reinforcement.

Invest in low-flow shower heads and low flow toilet tanks.  Try to encourage all family members to take showers as short as possible in duration.

These steps will all help to significantly reduce your power bills year round.

By Valerie Garner – copyright 2014



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How to Properly Care for Your Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Floors

Hardwood Floor Care Day To Day Cleaning

The thing that makes us fall in love with hardwood floors is the way they look. A nice well-polished hardwood floor makes your home look elegant and extremely durable, and regardless the kind of abuse you subject to this type of floor, it can take it!

Keeping hardwood floors clean and looking good is not only simple but an inexpensive endeavor if you utilize the right steps. Use tools such as a soft broom, dust mop, vacuums (without the beater bar so you don’t scratch your floor) or even one of the new robot vacuums,  to daily keep it from getting dusty and grimy.

That’s it for daily maintenance.

Deep Cleaning Hardwood Floors

There are plenty of ways for you to deep clean your hardwood floors. These techniques are however dependent on the installation as well as the finishing of your hardwood floors.

A terry cloth mop with a rotating head will thoroughly clean the corners, underneath the cabinets and the board bases will be left looking spectacular.  A gentle cleaner  designed for hardwood flooring can be used in water, but make sure your mop is just damp, not super wet.  Pre-finished floors have their own type of products that require maintenance regularly, but you have to consult with the flooring manufacturer to get the right cleaning product.

There are also steam cleaners available now, specifically designed for hardwood floors.  A great thing about these is that they actually sanitize your floors as they clean.

If ever in doubt to what is ok to use and what isn’t, always check with your manufacturers for instructions.

How To Resurface Hardwood Floors When Needed

As you will come to see, many hardwood refinishing professionals will ask you to go for a green hardwood floor cleaning. This type of resurfacing is not only safe for your home but great for the environment as well.

The products are dust free, cheaper, and safer and not forgetting a faster process that will help you convert your dull hardwood floors to a spanking brand new look!

The other option is also to sand and re-stain / gloss your hardwood floors for a new finish.  This is a big job however and you may want to hire a professional to do this, or take it on if you are ambitious.


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Amazing Gifts in Jar to Make

Homemade Gifts in a Jar

Below you will find many different recipes to use as jar gifts, there are cookies, soups, coffee mixes, desserts, spices and much more, take a look around! Get creative with the jars themselves. You can make fabric lids, glue buttons on the lids with trim around the edge. You can get creative with labels, using fun scrap booking scissors, stamping the labels, or calligraphy. All depends on the look you want to give. You can also look around antique stores to see what kinds of cool looking jars you can find.   These make amazing gifts for the holidays or any occasion!  The sky’s the limit.



Hot Cocoa

1 small box Nestles Quick mix
2 small jar coffeemate
1 small box powdered milk (8 qt size)
1 c. powdered sugar
Mix altogether in large bowl, then put in decorated jars. Mix 3 T. of mix per cup of boiling water so a cup of hot cocoa.

Russian Tea

1/2 cup instant tea powder

2 cups orange-flavored drink mix (e.g. Tang)

3 ounces lemonade-flavor drink powder

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix altogether in large bowl, then put in decorated jars. Mix 1-2 T. of mix per cup of boiling water so a cup of hot cocoa.


Crispy Cookies in a Jar

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1/2 cup crispy rice cereal

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup white sugar

In a 1 quart jar, layer the ingredients in the order listed. Pack down firmly after each addition.
Attach a tag with the following instructions: Cookie in a Jar 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 2. In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup margarine until light and fluffy. Mix in 1 egg and 2 tablespoons water. Add the entire contents of the jar, and stir until well blended. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. 3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from baking sheets to cool on wire racks.


Minestrone Soup in a Jar

1/4 cup red lentils
1/4 cup green split peas
1/4 cup barley
1/3 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tbsp. parsley flakes
3 tbsp. onion flakes
1/3 tsp. thyme
1/3 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil
approximately 1/4 cup alphabet macaroni

In a two-cup jar, layer from bottom in the order given, then seal the jar.

Include these instructions on your gift tag:

In a very large saucepan combine 8 to 10 cups of water, a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, and soup mix. Add 2 chopped carrots, and 2 to 4 chopped potatoes (optional: 2 cups chopped cabbage). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for one hour or until peas are tender. Enjoy!

In spiral and place in a sterilized pint jar with 4 to 5 sprigs of thyme. Heat 2 cups of white vinegar to just below the boiling point. Fill the jar with vinegar and cap tightly. Allow to stand 3 to 4 weeks. Strain the vinegar, discarding peel and thyme. Pour the vinegar into a clean, sterilized jar; if desired add a fresh sprig of thyme. Seal tightly. Use in tossed green salads or marinated vegetables.


Raspberry Vinegar

Lightly crush 1 cup fresh raspberries lightly and place in a sterilized pint jar. Heat 2 cups of white or wine vinegar to just below the boiling point. Fill the jar with vinegar and cap tightly.



Cappuccino in a Jar

2/3 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Have ready 2 (12 ounce) canning jars. Put the instant coffee into a food processor, and process to a fine powder. If you don’t have a food processor, put it into a large plastic bag, and crush with a rolling pin.
In a large bowl, combine creamer, chocolate mix, instant coffee, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir together until well mixed. Spoon into 2 – 12 ounce jars.
Attach a note to each jar that reads: Cappuccino: Mix 3 tablespoons of powder with 6 fluid ounces hot water.

Lemon Thyme Vinegar

Remove peel (colored portion only) from 1 lemon in a thi Allow to stand for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain the vinegar, discarding fruit. Pour the vinegar into a clean, sterilized jar. Seal tightly. Use in mixed green salads, fruit salads or marinades for chicken.


Brownies in a Jar

Dry ingredients for brownies are layered in a one quart jar.
2 1/4 cups white sugar

2/3 cup cocoa

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt.

Pour sugar into a clean and dry one quart jar. Press down firmly.

Add cocoa powder and press down firmly. Pour in chopped pecans, making sure pecans are evenly layered in the jar. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into jar and seal.

Attach the following directions to the jar: Empty mix into large bowl. Use your hands to mix thoroughly.

Add 3/4 cup of butter or margarine and 4 slightly beaten eggs. Mix until completely blended. Spread batter into a lightly greased or sprayed 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pan. Cut into 2 inch squares.


Gingerbread Cookie Mix in a Jar

8 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
1 Tbs. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ginger
1 Tbs. cinnamon
2 cups shortening

Sift dry ingredients and cut shortening into it with a pastry blender. Measure 3 cups into 4 jars. Decorate jars with raffia or ribbon.

Attach gingerbread cutter and the following recipe:

Gingerbread Boys

3 cups gingerbread mix
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup flour
1 slightly beaten egg

Combine gingerbread mix, molasses, egg and flour. Blend well. Roll to 1/4″ thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut into gingerbread shapes. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Cool. Can be decorated with cinnamon candies. Recipe should be used within 3 months.


M&M Cookies in A Jar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups mini baking M & Ms
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine the flour with baking soda and salt. In a clean 1 liter sized glass jar layer the ingredients in the order given starting with the brown sugar and ending with the flour mixture. Attach a card with the following directions:

M & M Cookies

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Line one baking sheet with parchment paper.
Empty the contents of the jar into a large bowl and mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Using your hands work in 3/4 cup softened butter or margarine until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Work this into the flour mixture until well combined. Dough will be a little crumbly. Shape dough into 1 inch sized balls and place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Slightly flatten the balls with the palm of your hand. Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 10 to 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies to a cooling rack. (Makes about 2 dozen cookies.)


Trail Mix in A Jar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup quick oats
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup packed flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup flour mixed with 1 tsp. baking powder

Layer ingredients in jar in order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient.

Recipe to attach to jar:

Empty cookie mix in large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg slightly beaten and 1 tsp. vanilla; mix until completely blended. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls. Place 2″ apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. (Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.)


Cappuccino Coffee Creamer

1 C hot cocoa mix
3/4 C dry non-dairy creamer
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg


Beef Barley Soup Mix

1 pint container

3/4 C pearl barley, divided
1/2 C dried lentils
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1/4 C dried minced onions
1/4 tsp. dried minced garlic
1/4 C instant beef bouillon powder
2 tsp. dried celery flakes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Layer soup kit ingredients in the pint container in order listed.


1 jar Beef Barley Soup Mix
2 lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into ½ to 3/4-inch pieces OR 2 lb. lean ground beef
1 T vegetable oil
10 cups water

Heat oil in large pan over medium heat and brown the meat. Pour off excess fat. Add the contents of the soup mix and water to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours or until beef is fork tender. Discard bay leaves before serving.


Southern Corn Bread

2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons baking powder

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, stir all the ingredients together.


Southern Corn Bread
Serves 4 to 6

1 package Southern Corn Bread Mix
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the corn bread mix in a large mixing bowl and add the eggs, milk and butter. Blend until the mixture is smooth. Poor into a greased 8 inch baking pan and bake for 30 minutes.


Viennese Flavored Coffee

1/4 cup powdered creamer
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Process in a blender until well blended.


Viennese Flavored Coffee

Use by tablespoonfuls according to taste. Spoon in cup and add hot water.



10 1/2 C. non-fat dry milk
4 C. confectioners’ sugar
2 (8 oz.) jars Amaretto flavored non-dairy powdered creamer
3 1/2 C. Nestle’s Quik
2 3/4 C. non-dairy powdered creamer
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients and divide among the jars. Yields approximately 8 pint size gift jars.


Combine 3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix into 1 cup hot water or milk.

Scottish Shortbread Mix in a Jar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients, blending well. Store in an airtight container.

Attach this to the Jar

Scottish Shortbread
Makes 16 pieces

1 cup butter, softened
1 package Scottish Shortbread Mix

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Knead the butter into the
shortbread mix and press the mixture firmly into an 8-inch pie plate, or shortbread mold. Bake for 1 hour. The shortbread should be pale in color, not browned. Cut into wedges while still warm


White Chocolate Cherry Cookie Mix in a Jar

1 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup Vanilla sugar
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts
1/2 of a 10 oz pkg. white chocolate chips
1/2 tsp dried lemon peel

Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Layer with remaining ingredients in a 1 quart jar, tapping gently after each layer to settle before adding the next. Don’t worry if the sugar sifts down over the cherries and nuts; it will add a lovely crystalline snowy look. Add additional white chocolate pieces and dried cherries if necessary to fill in any gaps, or to replace nuts in the case of allergies.


Beat 1/2 cup softened butter in a large mixing bowl for 30 seconds. Add in one egg and beat until well combined. Stir in jar contents. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool on a wire rack.


French Market Soup Mix in a Jar

1 lb Dried navy beans
1 lb Dried pinto beans
1 lb Dried great northern beans
1 lb Dried green split peas
1 lb Dried yellow split peas
1 lb Dried black-eyed peas
1 lb Dried lentils
1 lb Dried baby lima beans
1 lb Dried large lima beans
1 lb Dried black beans
1 lb Dried red beans
1 lb Dried soybeans
1 lb Barley pearls

Combine all beans. Dived into 14 (2-cup)gift packages; present with the following recipe for French Market Soup.

Soup mix 2 quarts water 1 ham hock 1 1/4 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 ( 16-oz.) can whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsley chopped 1 large onion, chopped 1 clove garlic, minced 1 chili pepper, coarsely chopped 1/4 c. lemon juice

Sort and wash 2 cups bean mix; place in a Dutch oven. Cover
with water 2 inches above beans, and soak overnight. Drain beans; add 2
quarts water, ham hock, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil’ reduce heat,
and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Add remaining
ingredients; simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hock from
soup. Remove meat from bone, chop meat and return to soup. Yield 2
1/2 quarts.

Texas Two-Step Soup Mix in a Jar

1 (1.61 ounce) package brown gravy mix (regular or no-fat)
2 tablespoons mild red chili powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
10 to 12 regular-size tortilla chips, coarsely crushed
1 to 1 1/4 cups uncooked small to medium-size pasta (such as wheels, shells, macaroni)

Pour gravy mix into wide-mouth pint jar. In small bowl, stir together chili powder, oregano, cumin, onion and garlic salt. Pour into jar to make second layer. Add layers of tortilla chips and pasta to fill jar. Seal with lid. Attach gift tag (below) and decorate jar as desired.

Attach a gift tag with the following instructions:

Texas Two-Step Soup

Brown 1/2 pound ground beef in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add contents of jar and 7 cups water; heat to boiling. Stir in 1 (15 ounce) can corn with red and green bell peppers and 1 (16 ounce) can chopped tomatoes. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.

Serve with crushed tortilla chips and shredded Monterey jack cheese, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.


Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix in a Jar

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups sugar

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients with a whisk. Store the mix in an airtight container.

Attach this to the Jar

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 package Snickerdoodle Mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until light; add the eggs & beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth. Add the Snickerdoodle Mix & continue to beat on low speed until the dough begins to form. Combine the sugar & cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls & roll in the cinnamon-sugar blend. Arrange on ungreased baking sheets 2 inches apart & bake for 16 to 19 minutes, or until light tan. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Cookie Jar Sugar Cookie Mix in a Jar

1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a clean 1 quart sized glass jar with a wide mouth layer the white sugar followed by the flour mixture. Press firmly in place and seal. Attach a card with the following instructions:

In a large bowl: beat 1 egg with 1 cup softened butter or margarine until light and fluffy. At low speed
of an electric mixer add 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla and contents of Jar. Mix until combined. Using hands if necessary. Cover dough and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove dough from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Roll chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thick. Cut dough into desired shapes. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 10 to 12 minutes.


Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookie Mix In a Jar

6 cups rolled oats
4 cups all purpose flour
3 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 lb. shortening
2 cups raisins
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

-In a large bowl, stir first 7 ingredients. With pastry blender, cut in shortening until crumbly.
-Stir in the raisins, chips, nuts
-mix can be stored in the fridge for up to 10 weeks
-makes about 20 cups, enough for about 5 batches of cookies.

Directions for use:
4 cups of the Oatmeal Cookie Mix
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. milk
2 tsp vanilla
granulated sugar

-In a bowl, combine all ingredients, except sugar, until dough forms a ball.
-shape into 1 1/2 inch balls
-place on parchment lined or greased cookie sheets and flatten with a fork dipped into granulated sugar.
-Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 18 minutes until golden.
-cool on wire racks.
-makes about 24 cookies.

You could give each neighbor enough mix for a batch or two with the directions written on holiday paper. Let them know the life of the mix as well.

Spiced Apple Cake Mix Gift in a Jar

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup golden raisins

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl, mixing thoroughly. Store in a jar or airtight container such as a Ziploc bag for giving.

Attach the following to the jar on a gift tag:

Spiced Apple Cake
Serves 8 to 10

Contents of Spice Apple Cake Mix container
1 1/2 cups oil
3 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
3 cups chopped apples (cored & peeled)
juice of 1/2 of a fresh lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F Spray a tube or Bundt pan with Baker’s Joy (baking oil spray). Toss apples with juice of 1/2 lemon to prevent darkening Place spiced apple cake mix in a large mixing bowl. Place eggs in a medium bowl. Beat well with a wire whisk. Make a well in the center of the mix; add the oil and eggs. Stir until mixture is smooth. Fold in the apples until well combined. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool; remove from the cake pan.


White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

5/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart in the order listed above.
Direction label: Mix 1/2 c. softened butter, 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla until well mixed. Add whole jar of ingredients and mix by hand. Drop onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8- 10 minutes.


Cowboy Cookies

1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Layer the ingredients in a 1 quart jar in the order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding the next layer.

Direction card to include: Mix 1/2 c. melted butter, 1 egg and 1 tsp of vanilla until well mixed. Add all jar ingredients, stir by hand, you might have to use your hands to finish. Shape into small round balls and bake at 350 degrees on a greased cookie sheet for 11-13 minutes. Enjoy!


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Cleaning Tips for Crystal Chandeliers

Closeup of Crystal Chandelier


A crystal chandelier is an elegant and beautiful fixture that plays an important role in interior decoration and adds a great look to a house or office. An investment in crystal chandelier for your home can be better served if these products are well maintained, the classiness and beauty of the crystals will last for years if properly cared.

Good quality crystal chandeliers have a coating applied to it that repels dust and dirt thereby needing less cleaning. The person owning these chandeliers should take utmost care while cleaning it which may otherwise damage the whole piece of art. However, if we are not confident in cleaning the fixture then it is always better to hire a professional to clean it. While cleaning a crystal chandelier, everything should be safe and take precautions to avoid accidents and damage to the fixture as well as the person handling it. As it is a lighting fixture, the person cleaning it should be careful enough as there is a possibility to get electrocuted.  It is a good idea to turn off the electricity to that area while cleaning. There are many methods for cleaning crystal chandelier and some of them are as follows:

  • The Drip Dry method: Now-a- days, we get chandelier sprays on the market and these sprays can be used to clean the chandelier. Care should be taken as there is an electric bulb socket.  Allow to dry and also clean the actual light bulbs as well.
  • The Glove method:  In this method a pair of cotton gloves and a solution of glass or chandelier cleaner is used to clean the fixture. With the help of fingertips carefully cleans each strand of crystal and change the solution as required.
  • Complete removal of the crystal: This method is a messy and time consuming task.  Before removing the droplets, it is better to take a picture of the chandelier which helps in putting them back in the same place after cleaning the fixture. It is always better to use gloves while cleaning the chandelier as it is a very delicate and fragile material. Each crystal should be cleansed using a bowl of warm water and detergent solution and rinse in cold water. Lastly pat dry all the droplets carefully and place crystals onto the light. Utmost care should be taken to avoid water from reaching the outlets and in the bulbs.

By following these simple steps to clean the crystal chandelier, we can increase the beauty of our homes, and make it as the center of attraction as light sparkles and shines off the clean crystals.

By Valerie Garner

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