Friday, August 29, 2008

Drying Clothes

I have to apologise for taking so long to post this week. Phew, this topic involved much more research than I expected, but I hope you find it as useful as I did researching this. Laundry seems to be never ending, so I think it's a worthwhile task to get right. I remember when I was off to University my mum showed me how to peg laundry to avoid peg marks. At the time I thought it was pointless, but now I am so grateful. Hanging laundry always seems so romantic, and reminds me of childhood dream with big clean white sheets and the sun shining through them (I watch way too many movies). The reality of course isn't quite as nice, but fresh clean laundry is such a comfort, and shows we care. So here are all the tips, bits and bobs involving drying laundry...

Outdoor Laundry Drying
Drying clothes outdoor is my favourite thing! Especially on a nice warm day with a bit of a breeze. However, sunlight can bleach certain colours. So drying washing in direct sunlight is great for whites, not so great for delicate colours. In an ideal world, it's worth having a clothesline outdoors where part of it is in a shady spot. It's more important to have a good breeze than direct sunlight.
For any clothesline, it's worth remembering to choose plastic coated wire or polyethylene rope over natural rope since rope will eventually get mildew and stain your clothes. And remember to wipe down your clotheslines every so often, especially before hanging out a white load of washing.

There are two main types of outdoor drying set-ups:

1 - Rotary Clothes dryer (also known as Umbrella Clothesline)

These clotheslines are particularly popular for people with small or narrow gardens. They range from cheap ones you can pick up at your supermarket to the more expensive ranges such as the Brabantia ranges. They give you lots of hanging space, especially the lower smaller lines that are useful for small garments such as underwear and socks. However, spreading out large items such as sheets and tablecloths can be a bit of a problem, leaving those items creased as a result. These clotheslines also make it too easy to hang too many items too close together resulting in your laundry taking extra long to dry - so although they provide plenty of space to hang items from, it's not always the best to use all that give space. Most rotary dryers can be stored away when not is use.

2- Long/Parallel Clotheslines

The big advantage of a long clothesline outdoors is having the space to hang sheets, quilt covers and tablecloths flat. Larger properties often have a dedicated outdoor laundry space with at least 5 long lines parallel between two T-posts . But most properties in the UK do not have that advantage, and instead a retractable clothesline can be used to span across the garden, and can be put out of sight when not in use. A wall mounted laundry rack that folds out, and stores away is also a good choice if you have the wall space.

Clothes Pegs
Hanging clothes outdoors also requires clothes pegs to stop items ending up in your flower beds, or worse, you neighbours garden. Clothes pegs can leave visible 'dents' in fabric, which is why it's important to know how to hang and peg laundry correctly for outdoor drying.

There are all sorts of pegs on the market - wooden pegs are studier than plastic pegs, but they do start to discolour after being left out in the rain and can eventually stain clothes. Most clothes pegs will need replacing every so often, although there are some innovative designs out there such as these:

Here's how to hang laundry to avoid creases:
(I'll try and take pictures of how I hang my laundry to post soon)
Shirts - Hang upside down and inside out pegging at the side seams (this counts for t-shirts and formal shirts). Formal shirts can also be hung on plastic coated hangers with the top button done up and collar turned.

Trousers - Some people hang them from the waist, others hang them upside down from the cuffs. Hanging them from the cuffs with the inside leg seams together will create less creases because of the weight of the waist.
Jeans - jeans can be hung from the waist at the back edges allowing the front edge to droop away from the back, but hang them inside out with the pockets exposed to speed up drying and to avoid fading in the sun.

Socks - hang socks however you like. I hang mine from the cuff, pegging only one edge. Using one of these portable peg hangers will help when you need to rush and take the laundry down when it starts raining.

Underwear - Because there's not much bulk to them, you can use double up on peg usage by hanging underwear side by side using a single peg to hold the edge of two pairs of underwear.

Sheets & tablecloths - Dry them as flat as possible or you'll be left with a fold line. Peg at two corners and then use one peg in the middle (only on the seam) to stop the item sagging and creasing. It helps to hang these on a taught line.

Pillowcases - hang them with the top up and taut along the line, but pinned not quite to the edges of the case. This allows the front to droop open so as to separate the layers and catch the breeze. This method also works for things like T-shirts

Delicate tops or shirts - Hang indoors or in shade on a plastic clothes hanger
Tea towels - Hang with the short side at the top and use 3 pegs to avoid sagging

Towels - If you have the space hang them lengthwise and use 5 pegs so that they keep their shape - they dry quicker that way. Do not fold the towel halfway over the line, this is sure to make it a funny shape, and prolong drying time.

Indoor laundry drying

Air drying indoor
This is the bit I really struggle with - mainly because we have the typical x-frame clothes horse which is bulky, takes up space and makes the laundry take ages to dry. We also don't have double glazing, so in winter our windows steam up with condensation. This really was a topic I needed to research for myself too.

If you are lucky enough to have a workable attic or basement space, or even a laundry room, a foldaway wall mounted laundry rack is ideal. If condensation is a problem, a dehumidifier could help, but can be pricey. I'm thinking of getting one of these small dehumidifiers for the room where I dry laundry (in the spare room), this dry-egg dehumidifier can be refreshed in the microwave and only costs £12.
If , like in our house, space is an issue, a retractable line over a bath could help, but doesn't provide much space. However this is really useful for items that need to drip dry.
The best solutions still seems to be an indoor clothes racks that can fold away after use. As I've mentioned, we have the x-frame clothes rack, and they don't actually allow for that much hanging space, and because clothes overlap the take longer to dry and even end up with mildew - yuk!

Drying racks with parallel lines or wings (both shown below) are the better solution because clothes hang side by side. There is also this nifty peg free drying rack that I spotted here, but it doesn't seem to be available for purchase yet... boo, I want one!

If you have the ceiling height, a great space saving way to dry laundry is a ceiling drying rack with a pulley system such as the one shown below. They offer a stylish permanent place for laundry without sacrificing floor space. They can be hung in large kitchens (with high ceilings) or I've even seen them above a staircase. But in homes with a low ceiling, it can make the room feel cluttered.

Tumble Dryer
Yup, these are a luxury, and with energy prices going up, tumble dryers aren't a help regarding the bills nor the environment. But they are a big help, particularly if you have school uniforms and towels that need drying quickly. If you have a tumble dryer I highly recommend that you invest in some Dryer-balls, they cut down on the time it takes for items to dry as well as elliminating the need for fabric softener (I'll be honest here and say that I truly don't like softener anyway because I don't like the smell of synthetic fragrances). If you'd still like nice smelling laundry without the softener, try putting a few drops of you favourite essential oil on a small absorbent cloth and put it into the dryer with the rest of your laundry load.

These Dryer balls are from Lakeland here in the UK, but you should be able to find similar from online eco-stores.

Another tip I've read about is that having an old towel near the dryer that you can throw in with heavy and very wet items can cut down on the drying time. I've not tried this myself - so I can't say for sure if this works.

The most important thing with using a tumble dryer though, is to take items out as soon as they are dry since overdrying clothes can be damaging to the fabrics and will cause static. Creasing can also be greatly reduced if you take the laundry out as soon as they are dry. Putting up a rail by the dryer is a great solution so that you can hang items on hangers as soon as they come out of the dryer. Try and have the top of the dryer empty and clean so that most other items can be folded up as soon as you the come out.

If you're thinking of getting at tumble dryer or replacing yours, it's important to know the differences between the models to get one that suits your needs. Here's a list of what you can expect from dryers:

Condenser tumble dryers work by condensing the steam into water and funnelling it down to a water reservoir, which can be removed and emptied.
Vented tumble dryers work by expelling the hot, damp air from the drum through a hose that can be fixed to a vent in an outside wall or simply hung out of a window during use.
Basic Tumble dryer- These are entry-level dryers, which spin the drum around in one direction only. This means clothes can become tangled and more creased than with a reverse action dryer.
Reverse action dryer - Produce dry clothes with fewer creases, as the drum spins around in both directions to help untangle clothes.
Sensor dryer - this type of dryer will cut down your drying time and running costs by because the dryer detects the dryness of your clothes and stops when they are as dry as you want them.
Multi-programmable tumble dryers - have features like crease guard and woollens, if you dry a lot of woolly clothes, this type of machine will give you more flexibility and reduced creasing.
Information taken from ITLhomesearch</FONT>

Well, that's it for this week, I hope you've found this post useful. As I mentioned, if the weather is nice enough, I will try and post some photos about hanging laundry correctly.
Once again, if you have any laundry drying techniques you would like to share with us, please leave a comment - it's always nice hearing from readers!
Have a lovely weekend!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Household Paperwork

Even with Internet banking, Blackberries, scanners and computer file storage systems, we all get plenty of paperwork coming into our homes. Before leaving my parents home, I honestly never realised just how much paperwork goes into keeping a home. I naively thought that you get a bill, you pay it and you throw it away- if only. With endless amount of mail coming in through our letterboxes it's hard to know what to keep, where to keep it and how to keep it.
Judy from Brocante and etc. left a comment on my previous post saying that she would love to know how organise her paperwork stack, so I thought I'd tackle this post first and share with you some of the things I've learnt.

Our homes are and should be different to a work environment, but organising our home paperwork is the one exception. A company cannot function effectively without some sort of paperwork organisation system. It's what keeps the finances in order. So it's worthwhile using a proper storage method for the paperwork you accumulate at home. And as with all things regarding home organisation, it takes a bit of trial and error to find a method that works for you. So although I am sharing my method that is working for our household with you - do adapt it to how you live, but most of all keep it simple or you'll never use the system at all.

There are three main ways you can store and file away papers in an organised way...
  1. Ring binders - offices use these all the time... BUT a word of warning, it's a whole extra step you have to take to punch and file away papers, so do not use this method unless you enjoy doing so. I know for a fact that neither me or my husband would punch and file away papers regularly so I only ever use ring binders for lots of paperwork that needs to be kept for future reference, not for paperwork used regularly. An example of this is all the paperwork for the purchase of our home. I only filed this once I had everything together, and I'm not likely to need it again anytime soon.
  2. Magazine file boxes - These are effective if you have a spare shelf somewhere an no space for a drawer filing system. Label them into rough categories, and then when you need something at least you don't have one whole heap of paperwork to look through.
  3. Hanging Files - If you have space, this is by far the easiest and most organised way once you have it all set up - but setting it up is quite time consuming. This is much easier than ring binders, because paperwork can easily be thrown into their correct slot, and retrieved just as quickly - no punching holes either. I organised our drawers by allocating one drawer to financial paperwork and the other to personal paperwork. Below I've made a detailed list of how I categorised our paperwork.
To set up our paperwork filing system, I tried to categorise our paperwork in the house. And I took EVERYTHING into account, even clippings from magazines, to take away menus, postcards, letters etc. and here's what I came up with.

- Banking (statements, spare cheque books, account information)
- Cars (insurance policies, licenses)
- Work (contracts, payslips)
- Guarantees and receipts (for home appliances)
- Travel (local, international, this includes brochures and information on bookings, flights and copies of important travel documents such as passports *)
- Cards and letters (these are ones that I would like to keep, and never get a chance to put in a box or album - one day!)
- Magazine clippings (divided into decor, craft and recipes as well as subscription information)
- Hobbies (brochures of courses, patterns)
- Volunteering (records of volunteer work I've done, as well as information regarding volunteering I'm interested in)

The rest of our paperwork is filed as such:
- We have a box in which I keep all the manuals for our household appliances along with any extra screws or discs that come with it. Tape the extra bits to the manual unless it's too big in which case just make sure it's labelled.
- All our take-away menus are stored in a folder with plastic sleeves so that they don't take up the kitchen drawer space.
- Important documents
such as passports, marriage and birth certificates should are kept in a safe. It's best to get a fireproof one that can be screwed to the floor. Unfortunately my Mum recently had a robbery in their house and the safe was taken too, so get the best you can afford and don't make it a take-away safe.
Within any of these categories, there will always be a mix of documents because you cannot possibly have a folder for every category in your life. But at least if you know you had a cut out of a great pie recipe from a magazine, you won't be searching for it between the pile of bank statements and that is what makes organised paperwork so great - it's so satisfying when your washing machine breaks and you are actually able to find the guarantee for it withing 5 minutes.

Now I know you're thinking "but I've tried to categorise things, but then I just don't use the system anyway and still end up with a pile of paperwork that needs sorting out". I only know this because this is exactly what I felt about a month after implementing our drawer filing system. I just realised that I don't have time to file away the mail everyday (or even every week). So I devised one more system. On our desk we have three paper trays labelled and used as such:

Stuff to do
This is for opened mail that needs looking at - bills that need paying, sticky notes with people's numbers that need putting in the address, unopened mail and receipts that we need to make a note of for our budgeting.
This is where all the paperwork that needs to be kept goes. Bank statements, electricity bills that have been payed.
This is where we can dump stuff that we don't need to keep like old receipts, junk mail with our address on etc.

These trays have been a big help! It means paperwork can stay there for a while because at least I know that the middle shelf has no junk, and when I get time I can sit and file it away carefully. The top tray we can look through to see if we've done everything that needs to be done and when I have the time I'll shred the documents from the bottom tray (we shred rather than throw away to avoid identity theft). Here are some (not very professional) photos of our paperwork system - I've used a label maker because my handwriting is just so bad!

The ring binders are for masses of paperwork that needs storing together.

Our drawers- this is where our paperwork lives until we have time for it.
Below is our Drawer Filing system - the tabs in the middle are the main categories, whilst the tabs on the left are sub-categories. (I had to blank some of the labels out because of personal information :)

To devise my paperwork system, I used two books that you might find useful too...
The Organised life - a brilliant little jam-packed book full of organising tips. I love this book because it keeps things simple. My favourite organisation book so far!

Lighten Up - I found this book really great to help me devise a system to help with paperwork clutter, my only criticism is that it slightly over complicates things especially regarding sub-categorising paperwork which I found to be a pain. But worth a read.

If you have any paperwork tips to share with us please do. Do you also use trays?

Lovely Gifts

I hope you are all having a lovely Sunday - in the UK we are enjoying a long weekend with no work on Monday - bliss.

Anyway, I've had a bit of luck and kindness come my way recently and I wanted to share it with you. Firstly a couple of weeks ago I answered a trivia question about tea on the lovely peaceful blog called The Ivy Leaf. Lori who has created this lovely blog for the Ivy Leaf Tea Parlor in Florida has a weekly trivia question that where you can win a sample of tea from the tea parlour. Well I was lucky enough to win after answering a question and Lori sent me the French Creme' Brulee tea ... how I wish I could share the smell of it with you all - it smells absolutely delicious, and I can't wait to try it out. Please pop by The Ivy Leaf and join in the Trivia question every week, who knows, you could just be lucky enough to win one of these teas yourself.
And for those of you who are Jane Austen fans, Lori also has a Jane Austen Book club that you can join in on her jewellery blog Ellenay Designs .

If that wasn't lucky enough, I then received a parcel on Thursday from my blog friend Debbie over at Debbie's English Treasures. It's a gift from Debbie who wanted to thank me for doing a double post on chandeliers with her. Debbie is such a generous blogger who always makes time to leave comments on other's blog, and she would love it if you would pop by her blog.

Debbie sent me the most beautiful Sweetheart tin, a very pretty milk jug and bowl, pretty oven gloves and some handmade cards, plus a 'Fresh Linen' fragrance oil. Wow, I am so grateful... what a lovely surprise!

Since I'm still relatively new to blogging this has been such a great welcome to blogging.

Thanks Lori and Debbie!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Removing Stains

Picture from HousetoHome

It's so easy to ruin garments, carpets and sofas by approaching stains the wrong way (I know because I've often grabbed the nearest cloth, dunked it in water and vigorously rubbed a stain until it was there to stay). I partly blame advertisements for stain removal products that lead us to believe there is one solution to all stains. But realistically each stain needs to be carefully considered based not only on the spill, but also the material on which the spill is.

A stain is a chemical reaction between the staining agent and the fibers and finishes of a fabric. Because many different chemical reactions can be involved, depending on the staining agents and the fabric involved, no one method can remove all stains.
From the article Scientific Stain Removal
by Edward Willet

Not all of us are scientists armed with the knowledge about chemicals, colourants an acidity, so we don't necessarily know the chemistry behind stain removal. But that doesn't mean we need to buy the most powerful stain removal product from the supermarket, use and hope for the best. There are a few tips to follow for stain removal, and then it's best to follow a chart to help you use the correct products to successfully remove a stain. A brilliant stain removal chart that you can print off is available from the Martha Stewart website here. Print it off and keep it near your washing machine. But before you use this, here are the rules of stain removal - learn them well and stop yourself next time before you reach for that kitchen rag.
  • First off, check the care label on a garment. If it says Dry-clean only, then do just that.

  • Start off with mild natural products, and then only if they don't work should you move onto stronger products. For example, use vinegar (a mild bleach) before moving on to household bleach.

  • Dab the stain rather than rubbing.

  • Do not use a regular bar of soap to wash a stain, if you do not have detergent at hand use dish washing liquid... but try to ignore that bar of ordinary soap in the bathroom.
  • Never rinse or wash a stained garment in hot water as this often sets the stains. Instead rinse with cold water. Blood and mud stains for instance will respond much better in cold water.
  • For non oily stains, try rinsing out the stain with cold water from the back of the fabric under a tap to try and push the stain out of the fabric.

  • If possible place the fabric with the stain down onto an absorbent fabric or some kitchen towel, then apply the stain removal method from the back of the fabric, that way you will avoid rubbing the spill deeper into the fibres.

  • Prevent the stain from spreading by working from the outside of the stain inwards.

  • Often you will need to scrape some of the spill off the fabric before treating what's left. Use the end of a piece of cardboard gently, and try not to push down on the fabric

  • For mud on carpets (ugh, this one really gets me!), wait until it almost dries off and use the vacuum hose to pull the mud off the carpet - do not use a brush attachment or the mud will rub deeper into the fibres. Then treat the stains left behind accordingly.

  • Vinegar is great for treating lots of stains (but not all, so check first!), but keep a spray bottle filled with white one part vinegar to two parts water near your washing machine. You can use it to treat sweat stains, grass stains and tea and coffee spills before items go in the washing machine.

  • For those oil stains that have a habit of ruining our favourite sweaters in the kitchen, try blotting some cornflour on the spill. Hold an absorbent sheet of paper towel on the underside of the garment where the stain is then brush the cornflour off with a soft brush or cloth.

Here are some great articles to read about stain removal:

Eco friendly Stain Removal

Uses for Vinegar: Doing Laundry

All Natural Stain Removal Guide

I've got a few posts lined up for the next few weeks, Ill be writing about drying laundry correctly, cleaning stairs and sorting out household paperwork. If you have anything specific regarding house keeping that you would like me to write about please leave me a comment or email me at and I will do my best to post about it ASAP.

Hope to see you back again soon!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The best laundry rooms

So I've actually been working on a post about stain removal, and in my research I keep coming across the most gorgeous laundry rooms! So I thought i must just share these with you while I'm still finishing off the post about stain removal. If you click any of the pictures it will take you straight to the website I found them at. Unfortunately I can't share my laundry room with you - it's in the garage, and the garage desperately needs updating, but only once the house is done. Have you got a laundry room to be proud of? Please, please send me a picture at , and I will add it on with a link to your blog/website (even if you're reading this post a year down the line).

Which one do you like best?

I hope you are as inspired as I am!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Folding t-shirts

I use to always fold t-shirts by tucking the top end in under my chin then just folding it in half, and then in half again. It's a quick way, but not very satisfying because when you stack your t-shirts, they seem to be all over the place.

Recently I've found two ways of folding t-shirts that have worked for me that I wanted to share with you, but perhaps you already use these or you have a your own way that works well for you? Do let me know by leaving a comment!

The first method I'd like to share, is the Japanese pinching method. I saw this the first time on the Anthea Turner "How to be the Perfect Housewife" program (Lesley also knows this one, and even uses it as a party trick!). I think in the States people have seen Martha Stewart do this too. It looks very impressive, and best of all it takes very little effort and time. I use this method to fold t-shirts when I'm outside taking the the washing down the line. It means that some of the t-shirts don't need ironing at all which is such a bonus! Instead of explaining it to you, I've made some videos - I hope they help!

Watch this video on Youtube

The second method is one I use for t-shirts after I ironed them. I feel that when I put the effort in to iron a t-shirt, I don't want to risk it creasing and having to re-iron it again. Also, with this method all the t-shirts fold into EXACTLY the same size, so it makes a stack of t-shirts look extremely tidy. I call this one the 'magazine method', I'm sure some of you already know this one. It's not dissimilar to how many people fold t-shirts anyway, but the magazine just helps it along.

Watch this video on Youtube

Well, there you have it, my t-shirt folding methods as promised.
I hope you're having a lovely weekend, and that you don't have as much ironing to do as I have!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pests in the home: Mice

You have to read this heading carefully or it looks a bit like 'pets'... but nope, I'm writing about those unwanted critters that enter the home. We all have to deal with some pests in the home at one or another time... and sure, there are lots of poisons and chemicals you can buy to deter pests, but if a bottle states 'keep away from children' or 'consult a doctor if consumed' you really should be worried about putting that on any of your home surfaces and exposing you and your family to it. It really isn't worth the health risk to use nasty chemicals in your home. Luckily there are natural ways to deter pests, and I'm going to be writing a post about it once a month. We'll start off with MICE!

Mice get into our homes via the smallest of spaces - it is true that if you can fit a pencil into a space, a mouse can get through it... I've even seen it with my own eyes.

How do you know if you have mice? For a start you might here them running about at night... eek! But check inside food cupboards, and especially under the sink - if you see small black rod shaped droppings, I'm afraid you have a mouse problem. Even if you're not frightened by them, there is a very good reason why you don't want mice in your house... Mice can damage your property gnawing away at wires, and by sharing the food you leave in cupboards they can spread contagious diseases to you, your family and your pets. They also carry fleas into your home (I'll be posting about fleas for the next post on pests), and contaminate surfaces with their droppings.

I once saw a mouse cheekily run straight past me, into the kitchen and proceeded to climb onto the work surface via a tea towel hanging on a hook, I couldn't believe my eyes.
But as you know, I'm not going to recommend you poison them, so what can you do?

1- Cleanliness
First off, sweeping up food spills off the floor and keeping the cupboards and surfaces clean is a good start. Store opened food items in seal-able containers, pet food is particularly appealing to mice and they will gnaw right through the bags, so solid containers really are the best (I store our dog's food in a fermentation bucket as used by home brewers - they are cheap and come with an airtight lid).

2- Mouse traps
Mouse traps can work, but most people, including myself, feel uncomfortable with the thought of killing a mouse, but of course that's up to you. You can get humane traps such as the one below. Peanut butter and bacon fat work well in a mouse trap - you need something with a strong smell. Don't forget that once you've caught the mouse you need to release it quite some distance away from your house, or the little critters will just come straight back.

Multi-catch humane trap available from the Natural Collection.

3- Close up holes
Try to determine where the mice might be entering your home or cupboards. Usually you can see which areas the mice are living in by where the most droppings are, so start there to see if there are any holes in the wall nearby or perhaps a gap in the wall where pipes enter your house. These gaps can be stuffed with bits of copper dish scrubbers or steelwool - mice can't chew through these but they still allow for ventilation!

4- Deter them with smell
Use peppermint oil! Mice don't like the smell of it, so putting a few drops of the peppermint oil on some cotton wool balls, and leaving them where you find the mouse droppings will keep them away. Remember to replace these when the smell starts fading.
Hopefully that should sort out your mice problems if you ever have the misfortune of having to deal with them.

Watch out for my next post about easy ways to neatly fold t-shirts.
See you soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shiny Chandeliers

Hello! I’m back from my Yorkshire break now- the Yorkshire moors are just beautiful! We stayed in a beautiful Edwardian house, and I felt very regal… so while I’m in a regal mood, I thought I’d write about a particularly regal type of lighting…

Photo from Debbie's English Treasures

Lighting is very important to the feel and look of a home. But our light fixtures often fall prey to cobwebs and the gathering of lots of dust, and unfortunately dusty lighting just makes a home look old and wary. With most light fixtures in the house, they simply need a quick dust with a feather duster once a week to keep them shiny. But chandeliers are a different story all together. Many people put off cleaning chandeliers because of their intricacy, but they also gather a lot more dust and grime because of their many parts. Luckily if done properly a chandelier will only need cleaning once every year to two years. So there’s a bit of an art to looking after a chandelier. My friend Debbie from Debbie’s English Treasures has very kindly sent me some information regarding cleaning these intricate light fittings so that they can once again do their job to sparkle, shine and impress! (This photo above is of one of Debbie's gorgeous chandeliers)
Oh, and remember to use lint-free cloths or you’ll have to double your efforts!

How to clean a chandelier:

  • The best way to clean a chandelier is to disassemble it. But before you start take a photo so that you can go back and see where all the pieces go.
  • Now turn off the light, and tape over the light switch so that no one turns it on whilst you are working on it. And place a lofty quilt underneath the chandelier to catch any pendants you may drop.
  • Carefully remove all the trimmings and light bulbs. Place the pendants only in a colander (preferably a plastic one) and use a mild washing up detergent to wash them. Rinse with hot water.
  • Wipe down the bulbs, and replace the ones that aren’t working.
  • To clean the body of the chandelier, start buy dusting it with a soft cloth. Then use a glass cleaner sprayed onto the cloth to wipe and polish all the pieces. To remove grime from an antique chandelier you can use Brasso.
  • Make sure every nook an cranny has been wiped including the bulbs and candle tubes, then return the hanging pieces where the belong working from the inside out. And wear cotton or latex gloves to avoid fingerprints.

Enjoy your shiny clean magical light. Here are some pretty chandelier’s for inspiration.

Left to right
Row1: A pretty and small chandelier with round crystals from the Pottery Barn; This is one of Debbie's chandeliers- Debbie is a real vintage treasure hunter!; A beautiful and very different chandelier available from Vivre , but you'll need deep pockets for this one.

Row 2: Maisons du Monde do this very shiny chandelier; this pretty chandelier with flowers is from An Enchanted Cottage ; a hassle free way and modern alternative to a real chandelier is this vinyl decal from ScribbleIt.

Row 3: Another vinyl decal chandelier- i just love these and this one is from Single Stone Studio; a chandelier with lots of sparkle from John Lewis ; some colourful chandeliers from Incidence.

Thanks for all your help and photos Debbie!!! You're a star!

PS: Lesley from the blog Notes from my day pointed out that she couldn't help thinking about the 'Only fools and horses' epsiode where they are meant to clean the chandelier. I've just found it on Youtube and thought I MUST post it here - I've not actually seen this episode before, but it's brilliant! Thanks Lesley!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Strawberry Cream Pie and a spot of cleaning

As a Friday treat, I'd like to share with you my Strawberry Cream Pie that I made last night. I don't often get the chance to make sweet treats, even thouh I consider it one of my hobbies. But as we are going away this weekend (we are off to Yorkshire for 4 days), I made this dreamy pie last night to take along.

The recipe for this is a bit of a mixture between two recipes I found, it takes a bit of time, but not too much effort... here it is:

You will need:
Pastry case (you can of course make your own or buy a ready made one)
85 g cream cheese
65 g confectioners sugar
3 ml vanilla extract
200 ml double cream
2 punnets of strawberries
One packet of strawberry jelly (gelatin)

And this is what you do...

  • Once you've got your pastry case ready (I used ready rolled frozen pastry, but next time I'll have a go at making my own), whisk the cream until soft peaks form and set aside.

  • Use about 4-5 ripe strawberries, and put them in a blender to make some strawberry juice.
    Beat the cream cheese, strawberry juice and confectioners sugar together. Stir in the vanilla extract then fold in the cream.

  • Pour your strawberry cream mixture into the pastry case, and refrigerate over night or until it has set.

  • Dissolve the jelly as instructed on the packet but using only 1/2 the amount of water. Allow the jelly to cool, and refrigerate for about 1/2 hour (okay so I cheated by sticking it in the freezer for 10 minutes).

  • Slice the rest of the strawberries in half, and arrange over the top of the filling.

  • Brush the strawberry jelly (I used a silicone brush) over the strawberries, filling in the gaps between the strawberries where the pie filling is showing... you wont be using all the jelly, so save the rest for later or eat it now.

  • Refrigerate and serve within a day.

If you're not so sure about the measurements, make use of my measurement conversion cards that you can print off here.

So that's the recipe done, but I hope you didn't think I was going to write a post without a bit of cleaning or home keeping? When a recipe requires some waiting for things to set or bake, make use of that time do a bit of cleaning...

While I was waiting for my pastry to bake, I decided to do a bit of odd-spot cleaning. For ages now it's been bothering me that dirt gathers in the sides of the dishwasher. I see it when I open the machine, but it's not visible when the machine is closed. It's those sealed bits that the dishwasher itself doesn't wash, nor does it get a clean when I wipe the outside of the machine. Similarly the rubber seals around the fridge... how do they get that dirty? So I grabbed a cloth, and a spray bottle filled with water and some dish washing liquid and set about cleaning all the little corners and edges of things that are hidden from view. It certainly did feel good afterwards, not because the kitchen looked clean (it didn't look any different in fact) but because I knew that there are a few less places where bacteria are lurking in my kitchen! Now that's worth a slice of strawberry pie!

I'm away until for a few days for a break, but I'll be back with another post on Tuesday. Happy weekend!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Grocery shopping for meals

Photo by KitLKat.

If only my grocery store really looked like this picture I might enjoy grocery shopping more! Don't you think the packaging is just beautiful. As it is, I honestly don't enjoy going to the supermarket. I'm always cold in the refrigerator isles, and I really am terrible at putting meals together in my head. However I also realise that being organised and prepared before doing the shopping will not only save time, but money too.

In many countries around the World it seems people are tightening their budgets, here in the UK everybody is talking about the 'credit crunch', so we are all too familiar with trying to spend less. A good place to start is food buying, it's just too easy to get carried away in a supermarket. We all know that if you go to the supermarket without a shopping list, you'll probably end up buying more than you need, but not enough for a week's worth of proper meals.

I came across some great ideas to help with planning meals. One of the resources I found is on the website. They have a simple 4 week meal planner that you can print out. Now there's nothing special or unique about that, but I like some of their suggestions... here's what they say:

  • Each week includes only 5 planned meals, with weekends left free for going out for meals, or having a take away (I already like the sound of that!)

  • List 20 meals that you and your family enjoy.

  • Choose 5 meals per week from your list, balancing the week with variety (chicken one day, pasta another etc).

  • Add a matching side dish to each meal (potatoes, salad, greens)

  • Choose a desert or started for each meal - try and keep it healthy for the majority of meals

  • Then make your shopping list based on the ingredients of a week's worth of meals.

The other handy thing to use, is to have a 'master' shopping list. To have a master shopping list you need to do the following:

  • Look through your cupboards, fridge and freezer for things you buy regularly and write them down (including those things that you might have run out of already)

  • Categorise your list more or less as supermarkets have isles. So you would have a fruit section, condiments, cleaning products, laundry, pet supplies and so forth)

  • You can then divide your list into things you need weekly, and things you only need monthly.

  • Print off, or make copies of your list

  • Before you head off to the supermarket for your monthly or weekly shop, you can quickly skim the cupboards to see what's missing or running out, and highlight them on your list so that you know what to buy.

I like the idea of combining these two methods. Using the list of 20 meals to establish an ingredients list, and adding that to a master shopping list. I'm definitely going to give these methods a try.

Have you got a good way of planning your family's meals? Do share your tips with us!

While I'm on about shopping, I know every one's trying to be greener by using less plastic bags, so I thought I'd share some of these re-usable bag finds...

Left to right

Row 1: A bright and happy tote bag from Isew; The good old string bag - amazing what they can hold! This one is from the Guardian Eco Store; A candy stripe carry bag from Fair and Fabulous.

Row 2: A fold away lightweight shopper from reusablebags; Such a sweet toddler sized shopper, so go on let the kids help too, this one is made by Me a bee; a cleverly recycled shopper made from used sails by Branch.

Row 3: A stylish cotton canvas bag made by Mr.PS; These Cambodian Recycled Rice Bags come in these fabulous colours and are from; a market bag that's lightweight and comfortable to carry from Reusablebags.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Kitchen Conversions

Photo by food in my mouth

I've recently come across some brilliant recipes from all over the Internet, especially from some very talented people who share their recipes on their blogs. I have however also noticed that with some of the recipes, I'm not always familiar with the measurements provided. Many British recipes use imperial measurements, while American recipes make use of metric, then there's still the Fahrenheit and Celsius thing. So I did a bit of research and put together my own cooking measurement conversion and abbreviation cards. I plan on printing these off, cutting them out and getting them laminated. Then I'm going to punch a hole in one of the corners of each card, and hold them together with a ring.

But I also thought that maybe my blogging friends would also find them useful... so below I've added my kitchen conversion cards for you. Feel free to print them off and share them with your friends. Home keeping is after all making your home work for you, so having the right information in the right place will help save you time. I hope you find them useful.

I think I might print mine on some pretty brown paper, or shall I go for red? Hmmm....

Read this document on Scribd: Cooking conversions

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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