Sunday, December 21, 2008

All those Dirty Dishes...

Before Christmas is upon us, with the never ending food feasting resulting in stacks of dirty plates, greasy trays and well used drink glasses I thought I should do a post about washing dishes. Yes, I realise most people know how to do this, but at Christmas time it can all seem really daunting. This post is more of a reminder about how to do it properly to save time, effort, water and our nerves.

Now I suppose there is going to be a divide between those with a dishwasher, and those without. But I will be addressing both of these, because even a dishwasher has a right and wrong way to be used. Plus, everyone knows that at Christmas time, it's impossible to fit everything into your dishwasher, and some items are too fragile or valuable to be put into a dishwasher.

Let's get started with hand washing dishes...

  1. Start off by arranging all the items that are to be hand washed on one side of the sink. Scrape off any food, check that all glasses and mugs have been emptied and rinse any greasy pots and pans with hot water, then fill with hot soapy water and set aside to soak. Utensils can be left inside these pots for soaking too. And finally rinse any particularly dirty items under the tap. There should be no items left in the sink.
  2. Make sure the sink is clean and free of food and grease. Fill the sink with hot water, but not so hot as to scold your hands. The temperature for water to kill germs at are higher than possible for hand washing dishes, but the warmer the water, the easier it will be to get rid of grease. Add dishwashing soap, remember that you don't need much soap. Clear the space on the other side of the sink for draining, or use a draining board.
  3. This is where we might have a differing opinion, but if you have a second sink, fill it with clear hot water for rinsing. Alternatively use a large plastic washing up bowl (like the ones you use for camping). I prefer to rinse my dishes and glassware because I don't like soap suds staying behind, but I also realise that doing this under a running tap wastes allot of water.If you don't believe in rinsing dishes for water conservation purposes, just make sure you dry the dishes well with a dishcloth to get rid of the soapy deposits.
  4. Start off with washing the fragile and cleanest items first with a soft cloth. These will normally be glasses, and so they will need to be dried with a cloth to prevent soap and water spots from forming.
  5. Next up is the silverware. Place all items into the sink and wash each piece as you pick it out of the water, then dipping into the rinsing sink and putting aside for drying.
  6. For the plates, start off again with the cleaner ones such as plates that were used for bread of butter, stacking them all in the sink and working your way through the stack with a sponge to make sure you get rid of the grimier bits. Don't forget to wash the back of the plates since they have most likely been stacked on top of the other dirty plates. Keep going until all the plates have been done.
  7. The next lot to go in the sink are the mixing bowls and not-so-greasy bowls and serving dishes and utensils. You might find that the water has now become too filthy and needs changing, but give any bowls and serving dishes left a swish in the water anyway before you empty the sink. Once the sink is empty remember to pour out any water that you left in the pots and pans to soak.
  8. Now tackle the pots, pans and roasting trays starting with the cleanest. Never use a scourer on non-stick surfaces, I find a washing up brush is brilliant for quickly and easily removing stubborn food and grease from pots and pans without damaging them- I get mine from IKEA. For extremely greasy pans and trays, you might want to drain the water and scrub them on their own, rinsing when all the bits have been scrubbed off.
  9. After all the clean dishes have been packed away (well done!), drain, wash and rinse the sink. Wipe down the counters, stove top, and even cupboards where spills have occurred with a sponge or damp dishcloth. Then dry everything with a clean and dry cloth (including the sink and taps!). Collect all the dishtowels for washing.

Aah, a lovely clean kitchen ready for the next meal, and of course next set
of dirty dishes :)

Our dishwasher broke last week. Very frustrating just before Christmas, and even worse when we found out it would cost £100 to get someone to come and look at it! In the end, Mr Laundrybasketcase started taking it apart and realised that although we were occasionally cleaning the filter, the spray mechanism had become packed up with bits of food (raisins from my breakfast muesli in particular - I didn't even realise that I left any raisin behind in the bowl). So lesson learnt... unless your dishwasher states that it is amazing and you don't need to clear off any bits of food before it goes in, always scrape off any bits of food before you pack the dishwasher! So this weekend I am buying us one of these:

it's a silicone bowl scraper, how convenient!

Anyway, onto how to properly use and load a dishwasher.

The most important thing about loading a dishwasher is to leave just enough
space between items so that the water and soap can get to all the surfaces, so there are some steps as to the correct way of loading the dishwasher.

  1. Don't waste water to rinse dishes, but rather scrape all dishes clean of food particles with a bowl scraper or use some old scrunched up paper or packaging that's bound for the bin anyway. Certain have been cooked or baked and dried onto items (and rice particles definitely need to be scraped off). These items will need pre-soaking or hand washing. foods don't always wash off in the dishwasher, in particular proteins that
  2. Fragile as well as plastic and Tupperware items need to go in the top part of the dishwasher, these include mugs, glasses, small, bowls and any awkward items that don't fit anywhere else.
  3. Cutlery can go into the basket, put like with like, so all the forks go in one compartment, the spoons in the next etc. To create more space so that the items come out clean, place utensils in the basket with the handles one up one down (so for every fork with a handle up, put a fork with the handle down in).
  4. Bigger utensils can be placed on their sides in the top rack, once again making sure they do not lie against each other preventing them from getting clean. Good knives, especially wooden handled ones should be hand washed because the can be dulled in the dishwasher. Wooden spoons and cutting boards should also not be placed in the dishwasher because they can split.
  5. Plastic chopping boards and thin roasting tins can go sideways on the sides of the bottom rack. Plates should all be stacked parallel in the slots. Once again, putting like with like will make unloading the dishwasher easier.
  6. Pots and pans go in the bottom rack facing downwards. Don't pile things over one another or they won't get clean.
  7. After adding detergent and rinse aid there are three things you should routinely check before switching on the dishwasher: 1- No breakables should be touching the sides of the dishwasher. 2- The rotating arm is not obstructed and can spin freely. 3- the detergent cup is nor obstructed and can open freely.

And there you have it! You should end up with a dishwasher full of lovely sparkling items by the end of the wash cycle.

I've just finished the cleaning and dishes in the kitchen after the mess I made with the mince-pie making (Lesley, I saved you one- but Banjo ate it! So sorry :) Aah, it's so nice to have a clean kitchen.

I'll be taking a Christmas break from now until the new year. Although I'll not be blogging, I will most certainly try to keep up the home keeping.

Thank you to everyone who reads my blog and leaves me comments!
To all my loveliest blogging friends including Ivy, Lesley, Lorilee, Judy,
Melmel, Kelley, Steph, Mary Poppins, Victoria, Debbie, Mary, lovely Vintage Kitten, Josie-Mary, Caroline, A Thrifty Mrs, Lori, Claire and Clare (and everyone else who reads) have a wonderful Christmas! And I will catch up with you all in the New Year!
Merry Christmas, and remember to love your homes over the Christmas period!
From Mrs Laundrybasketcase, Mr Laundrybasketcase, and of course Greyhound Banjo! xxx

References for this post

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've finished the wrapping!

Hurrah, I've managed to wrap all my presents. I thought you might like to see them.

I decided to keep them simple, and did stick to the brown paper, some pretty ribbons with a home-made tag and a felt Christmas tree decoration. I'm really pleased with how they turned out. The tags have been handwritten with a little clue to what each gift is.

Do you see the blanket in the background? It's a baby blanket I picked up for sale at John Lewis! We don't have any babies of our own yet, but I liked this so much that I bought it anyway and we're using it as a festive knee blanket. Maybe one day there will be a little someone else to use it too.

Here's our Christmas tree, we bought real one again, and yes, I'm already having to sweep the floor daily because the needles are dropping. But they look and smell so nice! I love traditional simple decorations, and gentle twinkly lights. (I'm s sorry about the blurry spot on the lens, just pretend it's that misty romantic look). The tree is a little bare, but we try and buy only a few decorations a year to add to our collection. Last year I made a popcorn garland, but this year we have been unable to put anything edible on because a certain Greyhound would just eat it all up!

This picture is of our Fireplace display. I made that little reindeer from pipe cleaners - I have seven of them and I just love them! The tin is from Debbie's English Treasures, I bought three vintage Christmas tins, and they are all beautiful, but the other two are being used as gifts. This one was too sweet to give away! I just couldn't.
And below is our stair banister berry decorations. They fit in so well with our woodland wallpaper.

I have one more post lined up before Christmas, I've been working hard on a post about washing dishes... not extraordinarily exciting, but I thought it was a worthy post to do before the mayhem of Christmas washing up starts! I'll be posting this weekend, so keep your eyes peeled if you dread the thought of all those dirty dishes and greasy roasting tins.

Tomorrow I am baking minced pies, making soup and cleaning up a bit.
Have a lovely Saturday! I hope you are feeling festive and happy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Gift Wrapping & keeping busy

So, have you all wrapped your Christmas gifts just yet?
I certainly haven't, we're still doing our final Christmas shopping this weekend after lots of busy weekends finishing the house in time for Christmas.

Anyway, I got thinking about what I'm planning to do this year for gift wrapping. There are so many nice ideas out there (not to mention the amount of talented people who share their ideas). The problem is choosing which one to do?
Well I thought you might like to see some of the inspiring ideas for gift wrapping your Christmas presents (that is if you are as behind as I am with my Christmas preparations and you haven't wrapped your gifts either). You can click on any of the pictures to take you to the website where I found these cute ideas.

I love this simple look of coloured brown paper with raffia.

Such a simple sweet look. A bit minimalist for my taste, but easy enough to do with a bit of coloured paper under the cut-out bit.

This is such a fab idea from the Martha Stewart website. These sweet/candy tins and boxes have been wrapped so that the wrapping doesn't need to be removed to access the sweets. Great idea!

How pretty is this!?This is on of my favourite ways to wrap a gift... I'm obsessed with tissue paper, and it's perfect to make pretty flowers with to top presents. But I might save this idea for birthday gifts.
These are also lovely. They have been done using tissue paper folded lots of time over coloured wrapping paper.

These are so fun. It's from the Chez Larson blog's flickr photostream. I really like the bright wrapping paper teamed with the shiny ribbons.
This gift is wrapped using all recycled materials, simple and pretty. You should be able to find an online tutorial on how to do the bow, I never remember, so I always have to look it up.
A very sweet idea to use buttons and string.

This is not strictly a 'gift wrapping' idea, but this has made me think that buying big brown paper bags would make brilliant gift wrapping bags if accessorised with some ribbon and a tag.

Seeing all the pretty brown paper wrapping ideas, I think I'm going to use brown paper, and add a pretty tag attached with two strips of shiny ribbon. I'll post pictures here once I'm done. I hope you enjoyed these ideas as much as I did.

Now for the keeping busy bit. I have been running around the house non-stop tonight (and yes, I realise it's a Friday evening). Do you sometimes feel like you are very busy, but you've not managed to do that much, well thank goodness tonight was the opposite and I managed to do quite allot. Since coming home from work I made a lovely Sweet Potato soup, took the dog for a walk, then made a pudding, cleaned the kitchen, re-organised two kitchen cupboards, hung up some washing, sweeped the floors and now I'm sitting down for a cup of tea and some blogging time... phew, keeping busy, but it feels good! The best bit is knowing that I don't have to fret about cleaning the kitchen tomorrow, nor do I have to worry about dinner tomorrow night (soup leftovers it is!), which means I can go Christmas shopping without worrying about what needs doing at home.

I hope you're having a lovely time this weekend, and that you manage to get all your Christmas shopping done in time.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Swap

For the Christmas swap organised by the two lovely bloggers Melmel and Lesley, I was teamed up with Claire from the Serendipity loves new York blog.

I had never done a swap before, so after a few days of trying to figure out what I was meant to do, I really got into the Christmas spirit to come up with a lovely 'night in' package for Claire. I almost forgot that I would be getting anything myself. So I was dead excited when a box arrived for me on Thursday evening!
Once I got past the sticky tape, our Greyhound was furiously wagging his tail and running around me (he loves a cardboard box to tear to bits when we're done with - so he thanks you for that Claire!). Claire wrote me a lovely card and apologised for not including anything handmade... and of course I don't mind! But you just wait and see, Claire spoilt me so much, that I couldn't have wished for anything more!

Inside the box were some beautifully wrapped gifts with an 'H' ornament for my name!
And slowly as I unwrapped each gift, I got more and more excited! Would you like to see some of my gifts? They are so lovely...

The first one I unwrapped was a gorgeous chunky mug with a picture of a star and the words 'star light' on it and inside Claire tucked a pot of Divine Fair Trade cocoa! Even better is that I love making hot chocolate with cocoa powder rather than 'hot chocolate' mixes, how did you know Claire? Next was the Divine strawberry and white chocolate.... Mmmmm! Then I opened the lovely smelling package containing a White Pear and Fig soap and some Cath Kidston
hand cream. I did not even know Cath Kidston did hand cream, and this smells lovely! After that I thought, that's got to be it right? But oh no, I also found the Christmas socks! Wow, they are so super soft, so I immediately pulled the tags off and put them on my feet. Please excuse the stray dog hairs you can see on the photo below, but our dog is ever so nosy, and came over for a sniff as soon as I put them on. I love them , and they are just the thing to make me feel even more festive (they also have non slip soles for walking around the house in, how clever).

But that wasn't all - Claire also included a Christmas magazine, it has some brilliant projects in, everything from cooking, to decorating! I LOVE magazines, and this one has me sorted for the holidays.
So here, for you all to see again, my complete Christmas swap parcel!
Thank you so much Claire! I feel utterly, and totally spoilt, even more so than our boy did after he had a good tear and chew of the cardboard box and claimed the sofa to himself (not to mention the footstool - he spreads himself out, you see.)
A note for those of you who think dogs shouldn't be on sofas: Please don't shake your head in disgust... have you ever tried to keep a 36 kg Greyhound off a sofa? They are the biggest (literally too) couch potatoes, and I was warned from the start not to even try and deny him the sofa, for it will be a losing battle. Greyhounds sleep on raised benches in their racing days, so when they are re-homed, they think sofas are those raised benches. *sigh* I gave up on day one after he looked at me with those eyes!

But back to the swap... I really enjoyed doing it. I'm sorry for taking so long to post about it all, but I hope you all enjoyed seeing my lovely new goods. And Claire, once again thanks for all your effort, I adore everything you included in the swap!

Claire will be blogging about her swap parcel soon too if you want to have a nosy at what I got her, I hope you enjoy it Claire!

Don't forget to also take a look at Claires lovely and tempting online home accessories shop called Patsi Bea. You can tell by Claire's lovely assortment of gifts that she has good taste, so you're bound to love her shop too!

Hope you're having a festive time too! Have you put your decorations up? We haven't just yet, but I'm dying to get the Christmas lights up!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Saving one minute, but wasting two"

I heard this phrase from one of my neighbours recently and I thought, that's exactly what happens in home keeping when there's no routine. But this really is a post about habits - good ones and bad ones. We really are creatures of habit, and we should use that to our advantage... let me explain.

By now you all know that I am not the prefect housewife, and struggling to set up a routine has always been the difficult part of home keeping for me. Some people seem naturally tidy and able to keep their homes clean, and I reckon it's because they have some sort of a routine that has become a habit. Some people are basically 'habitually' tidy. I've mentioned before that it takes 21 days for a routine to become a habit - so sticking to doing a little bit of cleaning everyday can become a habit if you do it for 21 days! I realised the power of the '21 day' thing when I finally got myself to habitually make the bed every morning, I now really do it without even thinking about it... as a matter of fact, I can't even remember doing it this morning but I know I have. The key is to do these things at the same time everyday. I wanted to share with you what I've learnt so far with my newly formed habits, what good habits have you got around the house? Do you think they save you time?

There are no REAL shortcuts to keeping a house clean, but by not doing it regularly because you don't have time, means you actually waste more time, because by the time you get to the cleaning you have to scrub extra hard.

I've recently been determined to get my daily routine of home keeping right and make it a habit, and guess what, I'm succeeding! Many of my routines I have adapted from the Flylady system (for those of you who don't know, Flylady shares her tips for taking small steps in setting up daily home keeping routines -and she does all of this on her website for free). But once I got my head around the system, it was easy to see why it works and how I coudl taylor it to my lifestyle.

And these are these are my new good habits (I'm terribly proud of them):
  • Checking for and putting on a load of laundry before I leave for work.
    I really struggled with laundry before. I use to think I would notice when the basket is full, but often I thought - oh I'm running late I'll do it later. Eventually I had to do huge loads at the weekends, and my entire Saturday would be taken up by running to and from the washing machine. Now I check for laundry every morning, if there is some, I put it on. When I get home from work, while my coat is still on (the washing machine is in the cold garage) I go collect the laundry and bring it in. Then I hang it up. The next day I take it down and put the ironing items in a basket, the rest gets packed away. Checking for and dealing with laundry is now a habit for me and it has meant that our sock and underwear drawers are now always full.

  • I love these Retro laundry machines! I found them here.

  • Drying the bathroom after every use
    I'll be honest with you - I LOATHE cleaning the bathroom. I use to think people who clean their bathroom everyday must have a lot of time (and are perhaps a bit obsessive compulsive). But you know what, cleaning the bathroom has never been easier than doing it everyday! This is a classic example that by trying to save time in the mornings by getting out of the bathroom as soon as I'm done, I wasted precious weekend time. It meant that at the weekend I would have to scrub the bathroom where the limescale has gathered. Now I simply grab a used towel, and wipe everything down after I'm done. Hey presto, except for the odd squirt of cleaner and a wipe down, I've not had to scrub the tub or use smelly limescale remover on the taps since! I'm even 'habitually' wiping down the bathroom sink after I've used it, and it's still pleasantly surprising me everytime I walk into the bathroom to see how shiny the taps are.
  • While we're on the subject of bathrooms, I thought you might like to see what our bathroom looked like when we first moved into our house, as to how it looks now. Mr Laundrybasketcase did all the tiling himself (with some help from his dad). We weren't planning on having a modern suite, but in the end it's what fitted best into the space, and I really like the tiles - they have a pearl like magical sheen to them that doesn't show in the photo.

    • Cleaning the kitchen sink daily
      Now this tip also comes from the Flylady system, because this is how the Flylady system starts, and it's a brilliant tip. Of course my mum taught me this too, I just didn't listen. By making sure the kitchen sink shines and sparkles before bedtime everyday means that there's never that sinking feeling of seeing dirty dishes piled up in the morning. So now ever night after dinner, I make sure there is nothing that needs washing up, because I need to shine the sink. Once it's been washed and cleaned, I wipe it down so that it's dry. I love or shiny big white IKEA sink.
    • Meal planning once a week
      Finally I have this one sorted too. I was always planning meals that were way too complicated, and as a result the shopping would take long with a long list of ingredients, it would be expensive and because my confidence when cooking meals weren't so great I'd give up and let Mr laundrybasketcase take over. He of course only gets home way after me from work, and it seemed unfair to let him do the cooking all the time. But alas, I have discovered a gem of a book! It has a fabulous title too. It's called "How To Feed Your Whole Family a Healthy, Balanced Diet with Very Little Money and Hardly Any Time, Even if You Have a Tiny Kitchen, Only Three Saucepans (One with an Ill-fitting Lid) and no Fancy Gadgets – Unless You Count the Garlic Crusher... " - great title! It's not for those of you who are already good at cooking, the recipes are quite basic, but for me, it's just what I needed to give me a kick up my backside to do some simple meal planning and cooking. Mainly it helps you to get started with weekly meal plans, and a budget aiming for about £30 a week. So far, so good. Now that I'm into this habit of planning and cooking I'll be trying out more of Ivy's recipes over at Little Ivy Cakes - I love her recipes because she always shows loads of 'real' pictures of how the food looks.

    I still have a habit 'wish list', but every time I learn something new and I feel proud of myself, I realise that it IS important to me to have a clean and comfortable home. And my blog has proved to be a big help, not to mention all the lovely people I've met via it! We mustn't take our homes for granted, and to love our homes we need to take care of it and the things within it. I'm still amazed that a little bit of work everyday means no mre scrubbing away before guests arrive, it's a great feeling!
    Have you got some habits you are proud of, or a habit wish list that you haven't yet got to grips with?

    I'm away this weekend, but my Christmas swap partner Claire from Serendipity loves New York has told me my swap parcel is on the way! I'll take some photos when it arrives and look forward to sharing it with you all.
    I've already sent off my Christmas parcel to Claire too, I hope she likes it!

    Have a great weekend!

    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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