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Executive Pot Scrubber

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If your significant other spends hours per week watching ‘The Next Food Network Star” and other inspiring food channel shows and then acts out their inspiration of cooking grandeur, like mine, then this is the article for you. For you are deemed “The Executive Pot Scrubber”, the behind the scene support for your aspiring chef. It may not be glamorous, but someone’s got to do it.

To show your support and appreciation for the culinary delights you are being served, you probably take on the roles of food prep, souse chef, maître d’ and bus boy too. But there is no more daunting task than cleaning up after your self-proclaimed “Master Chef”. Beyond wiping the splatter off counters, walls and the stovetop, you are probably faced with greasy, stuck-on food on your best pots and pans.

Here are a few good tips to get your cookware and bakeware sparkling clean for the next time your Foodie decides to flex their spatula arm:

Cookware – cooking vessels like saucepans, frying pans and soup pots intended for use on the stovetop or range.

Non-stick – This is the easiest to clean of all cookware. Simply fill the sink with hot, soapy water and wash with a soft sponge. Most non-stick cookware is also dishwasher safe, whoot, whoot!!

Aluminum – Heat stains are a big problem with anodized aluminum cookware. But do not fret! Remove scorch stains by bringing a mixture of 1 qt. water and 2 tbsp of cream of tarter to a boil, turn the heat off and let it set for 15 minutes. Over the sink, use a nylon sponge to scrub off the discoloration both inside and out.

Stainless Steel – Although you can put your stainless steel in the dishwasher, it is not recommended because it will dull the finish, causing it to appear splotchy. It is recommended to wash in hot soapy water, then rinse in cool water to avoid spots. To brighten up a dull pot, use a vinegar-moistened cloth to polish it out.

Copper – Copper cookware is beautiful, but a pain in the arse to clean! You must wash in hot soapy water and avoid tarnish by thoroughly drying the pan after each wash. If tarnish does develop, you can mix a paste of lemon and table salt to buff out the discoloration.

Cast Iron – If you own cast iron, then you should already know that you must always take care to make sure it is well ‘seasoned’ or it will rust. A scrub with coarse salt and vegetable oil can take off any stuck-on food, make sure you do a good rinse, dry and re-season by wiping down the inside with vegetable oil.

Bakeware – Comprised of cooking vessels like cake or muffin pans, baking sheets and casserole dishes intended for use inside the oven.

Metal – My best tip for metal bakeware is to use tin foil or parchment paper – clean-up is a breeze, just toss it! If you insist on making things hard for yourself, then you can place these babies in the dishwasher, but make sure you do a full wipe-down to remove any moisture and prevent rust stains before you put it away.

Glass – Good news, all glass and glass-ceramic bakeware is dishwasher safe! My recommendation is to run it through the dishwasher first, then if you still have stuck on ick, let it soak in the sink overnight with hot, soapy water. In the morning, scrub it down with a nylon sponge, rinse and let air dry.

Silicone – Although the beauty of owning silicone bakeware is the non-stick properties, some of you may have sprayed your silicone for an extra measure. Bad idea! Cooking spray will bake-on leaving a yellow, sticky film. To clean: apply a baking soda/water paste in a heavy layer and let dry. Then wash in warm soapy water and repeat, as necessary.

Griddle – Sunday morning pancakes are what dreams are made of…cleaning up your electric non-stick griddle can be a nightmare. After the griddle has cooled, use paper towels to remove as much food stuffs as possible. Then use a nonabrasive sponge to clean the surface and any side spills. Completely dry the griddle before putting it away.

My best advice for those who live with someone with ‘Next Food Network Star’ dreams is to embrace and encourage it, enjoy your gourmet meal and then step into your role as Executive Pot Scrubber. Bon Appétit!

Behind the Bathroom Door, part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub

This article is part II of a series:

Part I: The Porcelain Throne

Part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub

Continuing the discussion about what goes on behind the bathroom door brings more facts and tips in the second part of the two part publication. Behind the Bathroom Door, part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub – where I will reveal to you my most shocking cleaning tip yet…

 Behind the Bathroom Door, part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub

Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub – Okay, time for my most shocking revelation to date…I scrub the shower in the nude! Now, before you judge me, let it be known that a shocking 18% of us actually clean our showers in the buff. It just makes sense; while you’re already in there, with the water running. If you aren’t one of the eighteen percent, then maybe its time for you to get in your birthday suit and give it a whirl – whose gonna know? Here are a few more tips, for when you are fully clothed:

Choosing a shower curtain – when you go shopping for a shower curtain, I highly suggest setting your sights on an anti-mildew shower curtain liner. This prevents the growth of disgusting and hazardous mildew. These shower curtains are economical and when needed, can be thrown in the washer for an easy cleaning.

Shower door – glass shower doors can be a real pain in the arse (PIA) to clean. You can take one of two paths to a sparkly clean shower door every day. There is a nifty Automatic Shower Cleaner from Scrubbing Bubbles that works automatically with the touch of a button. You can also wipe down the glass with a towel or even a squeegee after every shower.

Let the cleaner do the work – before a big scrub down, open a window and apply the cleaner and let it set for a few minutes. We live in a day and age where there are miraculous cleaners that take care of mineral build-up & hard water stains, bathroom scum and even mildew or mold. Find the right cleaner to do the job, because advice like “apply a little monkey grease” just isn’t in my vocabulary.

Shower puff lifespan – oh, I do adore my shower puff! This soft, nylon mesh sponge is perfect for lathering up with your favorite body wash. But, there comes a time when you must say goodbye, like when it has lost its shape or the hanging string breaks. Give the little guy one more task before you toss it; instead of a washcloth use your expired shower puff to wipe down in a big clean. Then, its off to choose a new one.

Basin &countertop – while the toilet seat has only 100 germs per square inch, the bathroom sink has 100,000 germs per square inch. Oh, my! Time to call in the big guns. Use a bleach-based cleaning product here. Probably the same disinfecting spray that you use for the kitchen sink. Simply spray it down and obliterate those germs with a washcloth then do a final rinse with water. Be sure you are wearing grubby clothes or a white tee, because it is inevitable that you will get bleach splatter.

Mirrors, faucets & fixturesWindex Wipes are the easiest way to do a quick ‘one over’ for all mirrors and fixtures in the bathroom. But, if you want to de-fog the mirror try shaving cream the next time you do a quick shave on your legs at the sink. Just rub the shaving cream all over the mirror – but just enough to make it stick. Let it set for about 5 minutes then wipe it off with paper towels. Et voila! You have a clean, sparkly mirror that will stay fog-free for up to 3 weeks!

Welcoming guests – nothing says, “come on in and have a seat” like a clean bathroom. Make sure you have a fresh hand towel near the sink at all times. I also recommend an automatic air freshener, like Air Wick Freshmatic automatic sprayer set to the max to prevent olfactory assaults. One more thing before your guests arrive: Put away anything that you don’t want to be seen, because a naughty 70% of house guests have admitted to ‘snooping’ through their hosts medicine cabinet or drawers!

Public restrooms – the first toilet stall in the row is the least used and therefore the cleanest. When using a public bathroom, women spend 2 minutes per visit, while men spend 4 minutes per visit. Some can’t go in public at all, 17 million people suffer from paruresis, better known as ‘pee shyness’. To stay safe from germs use seat covers, flush the handle with TP (they can have up to 40,000 germs per square inch) and wash your hands well!

Be sure to catch the first part in the series – Behind the Bathroom Door, Part I: The Porcelain Throne

Behind the Bathroom Door, part I: The Porcelain Throne

This article is part I of a series:
part I: The Porcelain Throne
part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub

It is not often that people talk about what goes on behind the bathroom door. From answering Nature’s Call, to taking showers or baths, brushing your teeth and blow drying your hair; the bathroom is the most widely used ‘room’ in the world. So, ready or not, I’m calling the hand and laying out the Royal Flush facts and helpful tips to bring home the pot in a riveting two-part publication.

Behind the Bathroom Door, part I: The Porcelain Throne

The Porcelain Throne – I’m sure you didn’t know that the average person spends three whole years of their lives sitting on the loo and King George II actually died from falling off a toilet in 1760! Okay, with those need to know facts out of the way, it is time to get down to the Crap Shoot – how to keep this star attraction of the bathroom fresh and sanitary:

  • Spray before you go – this is a rule in my house. Before you go #2, spritz the inside of the toilet bowl with 2-3 sprays of non-aerosol room spray or body spray directly on the water. This creates a barrier that prevents odors from rising, before you flush.
  • Daily wipe-down – this is especially essential with boys in the house. Spray liberally with your favorite disinfectant spray, like Lysol, wipe down the seat, the underside of the seat and the bowl rim with TP then flush.
  • Heavy-duty clean – this chore should be performed weekly. You’ll need a good toilet bowl cleaner and a toilet brush. First apply a generous amount of cleaner to the bowl and let it set. Use the toilet brush to scrub the interior of the bowl, don’t forget the area beneath the rim. Flush to rinse and rinse the brush with the incoming water. Repeat as necessary.
  • Ring around the toilet – if the toilet has developed a mineral ring at the water line, don’t waste your time trying to scrub it off with a toilet brush. Pumice stone is the only thing that works here. If you can’t find a pumice stick in the cleaning isle, they also sell pumice stones to exfoliate your feet (same thing, different shape). Simply scrub around the ring until it is clean. Pumice is tough and effective but will not scratch porcelain.

Toilet seat ups & downs – have you ever fallen into the toilet at 2 am? Well, we won’t go into details here, but the boys in my home have been thoroughly schooled in the etiquette of putting the seat up before they whiz and putting it back down again, before flushing. It seems 46.5% of men claim that they put the seat back down, in my opinion there could be a large margin of error in that statistic.

How do you roll, over or under? – The over majority rules! From a study, costing over $100,000 US dollars, it has been determined that three out of four people prefer the toilet paper to roll over the top. Another interesting TP fact is that Americans use 433 million miles of toilet paper each year. That is enough TP to stretch to the sun and back!

Reading material – once it goes in, it should never come out. Because with every flush in the lavatory, an invisible 6 foot bacteria plume lands on exposed surfaces, including that magazine you were just flipping through. Thirty-nine percent of Americans use their Smartphones in the bathroom and reports that sixteen percent of cell phones or Smartphones were found to have poop on them! Eww wee!

Be sure to catch the second part in the series – Behind the Bathroom Door, Part II: Scrub-A-Dub-Dub, Shower & Tub

PS – please don’t forget to do a courtesy flush, to avoid Déjà-poo!

10 Tips for an Enjoyable Thanksgiving with Kids

My most beloved memory of Thanksgiving was watching the Macey’s Thanksgiving Parade on TV with the tantalizing aroma of roast turkey wafting through the house. The anticipation, second only to Christmas morning, built to an exciting and pleasurable crescendo. With everyone dear to me gathered together, a 4-day break from school and PUMPKIN PIE!

I took my cues from my Mother, who has always been in charge of Thanksgiving dinner in my family. Our matriarch remains a shining example of ‘Grace under Pressure’. With deft intuition, she takes everything in stride with confidence and seems to know everyone’s wants and needs even before they do.

In my later years I have realized that her focus on the needs of the kids is the secret to a successful family gathering. Her home is the welcoming place where everyone wants to gather. Here are a few instrumental tips that I have learned from my Mother to keep the kids happy during Thanksgiving dinner:

  1. Build the anticipation. Talk to your kids about who is going to be there, what you will be eating and show your excitement for the event.
  2. Remind them to be respectful and kind when you have a family get together. This preventative measure will go a long way in keeping the peace.
  3. Designate where the kids will be eating. Kids enjoy the company of other kids more than boring ‘old people’. Cousins, young and old, will usually follow a pecking order and lead by example. So, don’t forget to remind big kids of their role to help out with the little ones.
  4. Feed the kids first. Make sure all the little ones are sitting down with their plates and drinks before you serve yourself. This will give you a mostly uninterrupted meal.
  5. Let them choose what they want to eat. Today is a day for celebrating, not the time to be a ‘Dinner Dictator’. If they want to eat 5 olives, a pickle and the inside of a roll, let them! You can encourage them to try other things, but don’t turn it into a battle of wills.
  6. Take the time to talk about what Thanksgiving means to your family. Make sure to include the kids in your holiday traditions, even if they are very young. Traditions are the ties that bind. (Cliché, I know, but it’s true!)
  7. Praise your ‘Little Turkeys’. Let them know when they are doing well. You might be surprised by how much they want to please you. Make sure they know that you are thankful for them, too!
  8. Encourage them to help out. Ask them to clear their place when they are done. Older kids can help the younger ones out and clean-up takes about half the time with help.
  9. Put away the DS, GameBoy and Smartphone. Get everyone socializing with a board game or family discussion or even interested in the game the guys are watching. Valuable interpersonal skills come from interactions like this.
  10. Last, but not least, ENJOY YOURSELF! Your children look to you for guidance, if you are stressed, they will feel it. Show by example, not just instruction.

Guiding your kids through this special day with a little planning will keep everyone happy and help the day be more enjoyable for all. I encourage you to look to your upbringing for examples of how to make this a memorable occasion for your kids. Don’t worry too much about cleaning today. Just put away the food, shove the dishes in the dishwasher and go enjoy your family, make the most of the time you have together. Happy Thanksgiving!

Flu Season 101

‘Tis the season to be merry! No, wait its not that season, yet. ‘Tis, actually, the dreaded flu season! We are deep in the calendar months when the flu virus tends to spread. Beginning in October and ending in May, flu activity will peak in January or February. Although, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the timing, severity and length of the epidemic will depend on what viruses are spreading and whether they will match the viruses in this years vaccine. I’ve compiled facts, information and tips about the nasty little virus that we call Influenza:

Common flu symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches/headache
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea

Complications of the flu that can affect kids:

  • Convulsions caused by fever
  • Croup
  • Ear infections

How the flu spreads – Most experts think that flu viruses are mainly spread by droplets from those who have the flu through coughing, sneezing and even talking. The droplets land in the mouths or noses of others, or are inhaled from the air into the lungs. In fact, infected persons can spread it to others from up to SIX FEET AWAY! The germs can also be picked up from touching infected surfaces. After contamination, the flu lies in wait for 1 to 4 days and then unleashes its wrath; with coughing, runny/stuffy nose, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting on the unsuspecting host.

How to prevent the flu -There are many common sense ways to prevent the flu and a few things you can do to stay healthy this season that may surprise you:

  • My mantra, chanted over and over, is: “Wash your hands!” This preventative action should be performed often and with soap. Anti-bacterial hand sanitizer can work just as well, when a sink isn’t handy.
  • Get vaccinated! The CDC recommends everyone 6 month of age and older should get a flu vaccination. This is the single best way to protect yourself and your family from influenza.
  • Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people, if possible. (If you’re a Mommy, sometimes this is unavoidable)
  • Get your RDA for vitamin E and other antioxidants like A, C and B-complex which will enhance your immunity response.
  • Put out that cigarette! Smoke paralyzes the hair-like cells (cilia) that line the nose and airways whose job it is to sweep incoming viruses away before they can infect you.
  • Get your beauty sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep a night is recommended. Sleep deprivation can reduce your immune response.
  • Reduce your alcohol consumption to avoid compromising your immune response. Even moderate consumption can cause you to suffer more from cold and flu symptoms.

Flu vaccination facts – A report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases reveals some surprising results from an analysis of previous flu studies compiled by the University of Minnesota:

  • The most widely used flu vaccine in the US (TIV) is only 59% effective in healthy adults.
  • The H1N1 shot prevents infections in 69% of adults under 65 years.
  • Flu nasal sprays prevent infections in 83% of kids under 7 years.
  • Only 42% of Americans plan to get a flu vaccination this year.
  • Flu shots reduce hospitalization from influenza and its complications by 8%.
  • Scientists are working on a new Universal Flu Shot that will last for several years and could be available within the next 5 years.

How to care for yourself or a member of your family with the flu – Each year millions of us get the flu. The most commonly infected influenza victims are kids. If you are a parent taking care of a kid with the flu, here are some tips to help you help them:

  • Visit the doctor because young ones under age 5, Baby Boomers over 65 and those with chronic medical conditions are the most likely to become seriously ill with the flu. The doctor will diagnose the type of flu and most likely prescribe a flu antiviral drug, like Tamiflu.
  • Drink, drink and drink some more. Keep ’em hydrated by pushing lots of fluids like juice, water and soup. For upset tummies try a little Coke or Sprite, but first take the carbonation out by shaking for 5 seconds in an airtight bottle, then release the cap and repeat 2-3 times. This helps prevent tummy bloating.
  • Take it easy and get a lot of sleep. Put on their favorite movie and wrap them up in their favorite Snuggie. Encourage naps whenever they feel tired, because this is their little body’s way of saying, “I need rest to heal!”
  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen will help relieve aches and will reduce a fever. Other over the counter cold or flu medications can also do the same trick along with relief of more symptoms like congestion and coughing. *Avoid giving your child aspirin. Aspirin can put teens at a greater risk of developing Reye Syndrome which is a serious illness that can follow an infection with influenza.
  • Designate a sick room. Try to keep contamination to a minimum by setting up one room and one bathroom to be used by the infirmed. Make the kitchen and other common areas off limits, if you can.
  • Disinfect as you go. Wash your hands after each contact with sickies. Use disinfectant spray, like Lysol on all hard surfaces. Strip & wash bedding in the hottest setting possible and wash stuffed animals that were snuggled to avoid re-contamination.

My best advice for flu season is to practice prevention. Make sure your home stays germ-free with daily sanitation and make sure your family practices good personal hygiene. Get the flu shot or mist for yourself and especially your kids, no matter how far into the season it gets. Experts agree that young kids are the most likely to spread the virus, yet are the ones who will have the best response to the vaccine. Last, but not least keep your kids home or take time off work if you suspect the flu. If you are currently infected with influenza, stop surfing the internet, spray the keyboard with Lysol and get your butt back to bed!

Cleaning with Fermenting Dilute Alcoholic Liquid

AKA Vinegar. What did you think I meant? No, I am not BWI, blogging while intoxicated. As if! Well, maybe another time. But not today. Today I’d like to tell you about my favorite daily kitchen cleaner, vinegar.

I’ll start by reassuring you that my platform is not  “go green”. Sure vinegar is all natural with no additives or preservatives. But, believe me, I whole-heartedly adore and endorse harsh cleansers with unnatural chemicals, as well. In this blog I will reveal to you what cleaning products and methods work best with the least amount of exertion on your part.

Effective in killing bacteria and most germs because of its acidity, I readily suggest a half and half distilled white vinegar / water solution in a spray bottle for the everyday wipe down in the kitchen. I advocate daily cleaning on kitchen faucets, counter tops and baby’s high chair tray. In fact, you can spray and wipe down any hard-surfaced baby paraphernalia safely without the use of harsh chemicals where baby or even your pet are concerned.

Vinegar Don’ts -I will not sanction the use of vinegar in the bathroom, ruthless chemical products work best here. Nor do I recommend using vinegar as an air freshener,  there are so many other fabulous smelling products out there. Also, if you have a sunburn, don’t add to your discomfort by making yourself smell like a jar of pickles, please just use aloe gel. Vinegar is also not recommended as a cleaner for marble, but I wouldn’t know.

Now for a rousing round of CleanFling Jeopardy: (du-na-na-na-du-na-na, du-na-na-na, Du! Na, na, na, na, na…)

Q.  Full strength, I cut through the weird dust/grime on top of the refrigerator like a charm.

A.  Who is Vinegar?

Q.  Made from distilled corn alcohol, 1/2 cup of this acidic solution brewed through your coffee maker can remove mineral deposits. *(follow up with another brew cycle of straight water)

A.  What is Vinegar?

Q.  Cooked in a glass bowl on high in your microwave for one minute, it can loosen cooked on food for easy wipe out.

A.  What is Vinegar?

Q.  Dishwasher repairmen recommend one small glass of this economical liquid set in the bottom rack of your dishwasher, filled to the brim before you start a cycle to help prevent mineral and food buildup.

A.  Again, what is Vinegar?

Now, a round of applause for our contestants.

Vinegar cleaning isn’t for everyone. A small minority  of my household cannot stand the pungent smell and have to leave the kitchen when I’m using it. These pitiful souls must also find temporary shelter elsewhere when I scrub spots off the sofa. Dab full strength vinegar on a dry cloth, then scrub a dub, dub.

Vinegar is highly versatile for use in cleaning, cooking and experiment making (mixed with baking soda, you can replicate a volcanic eruption). It has been used for 10,000 years and holds a prominent place in this bloggers daily tidy routine.

Death, Taxes & Laundry

With over 20 years of research and development, Madam Tidy presents the highlights of an ongoing, intensive study on Laundry. “If there is one lesson I can take from my time on the panel, it is that there are three things in life you can always count on: death, taxes and laundry.

The quicker you realize this fact, the easier it will be to get a handle on it. I do not claim to be an expert in this area, but I do have a few tips to pass on to make this part of your life a little less miserable.

Recommended products:

  • Cheap Laundry Detergent, like Sun – no need to blow the budget here.
  • Downy Ball – makes life easier.
  • Fabric Softener (must smell good) – this is the area to splurge, buy what you want to smell like.
  • Splash-Less Clorox Bleach – prevent uh-ohs before they happen.
  • Dryer sheets – again, buy what you like.
  • Shout – because sometimes, shit happens, literally.

Do not resent laundry, in fact, it is detrimental  to begrudge or have negative feelings about household work altogether. It has to be done, so get up off your arse and do it!

Start by separating the clothes. This is the time to spray stains with Shout, as necessary. If you have a precious silk blouse, then follow care instructions on the label. For everything else, separate into 3 piles:

  1. WHITES – obviously everything that needs to be bleached. Include light pinks to keep them bright.
  2. DARKS – tee shirts, undies and other ‘like’ fabrics.
  3. HEAVIES – Jeans and towels.

Determine the size of your load, then start the cycle on your washing machine. Hot/Cold setting for whites and Cold/Cold for Darks and Heavies. Add laundry detergent, fill your Downy Ball with fabric softener and add 1 cup bleach directly into water or provided dispenser for whites only.

Now, add clothes, one piece at a time. Even loading will help prevent a runaway washer. (If you’re really lonely, then I guess you could do an uneven load. lol) Place your Downy Ball lovingly on top of the loaded clothes and let the machine do its thang.

When the cycle is done, don’t let the clothes sit. I have made this mistake before; you end up with funky, musty smelling clothes, even after drying. Nothing like saying “eewe, what’s that smell?“, only to find out its you. If you realize this is the case, simply rerun the full load with laundry soap and fabric softener. Transfer clothes to the dryer and add a dryer sheet.

Now if you are an awesome Laundry Rockstar, like my Mother, you immediately respond to the dryer buzzer to fold, hang and put away the clothes. ‘Et Voila!’ No wrinkles, fresh and clean and ready to wear. But if you’re more like me, you toss the load in the morning if you or a family member need to retrieve an item to wear for the day. Then, re-start it again when you have a few minutes later that day.  I shamefully admit that this process can be repeated all week long, until almost all the clothes have been tossed and pulled out. Then when you actually get around to folding the remaining articles it’s a quick task.

Enlist help. If you are a master manipulator, then you will shine at convincing someone to help out here. I’m not saying abandon this chore, for it is yours to have and to hold forever and ever. But, sometimes, if you can get someone to transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer, it lessens the burden. True help is in folding – designate socks to the seven year old, enlist the teens to gather hangers from the closets. Then, like a drill sergeant in the Army, call them in, one by one to retrieve and put away their own clothes.

Disclosure: I cannot in good conscience allow you to think that I do the bulk of laundry in my home. I must confess, I have been very fortunate in the laundry department of my marriage. My broad-shouldered manly man of a hubby actually likes doing laundry. Maybe, it is because there is much praise and reward that comes from his efforts. Hmm, I just can’t put my finger on it. But, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t done my fair share of loading, folding and putting away.

You can always count on a pile of laundry to be there for you, through thick or thin, sickness or health. Till death do us part.