Five Minute Fix: Cleaning the Microwave with Lemons

I ignored put off cleaning the microwave for far longer than I care to admit. It was disgusting. Finally when something reached out and grabbed my arm last night after using it I decided it was time to acknowledge the filth.

I remembered a trick I used to use back in the day for cleaning the microwave — something about lemons — but forgot the exact science. It could wait another day.

So this morning while I was wandering around aimlessly looking for something productive to do I remembered the disaster in the microwave. I quickly googled “lemon to clean microwave.”

Boom! It was easy as I remembered.

  1. Put some water in a microwave safe bowl
  2. Cut a lemon in half
  3. Squeeze juice into water
  4. Put lemon halves in water
  5. Nuke for 2 minutes
  6. Keep door closed for 5 minutes after it’s done running
  7. Wipe the microwave down with a sponge

Seriously — it doesn’t get easier or faster than that.

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What Would the World Be Without Friends or Hot Chocolate

My beautiful blogging friend Jahaira who writes at Figuring It Out Mommy recently commented about being a hot chocolate snob and I just had to share this delicious recipe with her and anyone else who might love a great cup of hot chocolate now or when the snow starts falling this winter.

I have two warnings for you though — first: this makes a large amount of hot chocolate, so unless you have a ton of people to drink it you may want to half it; second: this is really, really good but very, very filling; you’ll drink more than one cup but more than two will put you into a coma :)

This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Simple Slow Cooker Recipes book. I have made it a lot more than a few times over the years but I am always surprised with how good it is. Really. It’s a great recipe!

Three Way Cocoa

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
Marshmallows or whipped cream (optional)

In a 3&1/2 to 5 quart crock pot combine sugar and cocoa.
Stir in milk.
Cover and set to low for 3-4 hours or high for 1&1/2 to 2 hours.
Before serving stir in vanilla.

If desired:
– carefully beat cocoa with a beater (or wisk) until frothy
– top with marshmallows or whipped cream.

Variations:

Spicy Cocoa:
Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg with cocoa powder

Mocha Cocoa:
Stir 3/4 teaspoon instant coffee into mug before filling with cocoa

I always just make the plain cocoa but thought I’d include the variations for anyone who is a little more daring than I :)

A Gassy, Miserable, Uncomfortable Baby and A Solution

Real Henry had his two week check-up yesterday and he is doing great! He gained another half a pound since last weeks appointment and over all he has gained a pound and 2 ounces since birth, which they say is good for breast feeding babies. He has also grown an inch and 2 cm length wise! I’m not sure what his head measured at but he was the same with weight and height and he is in the 50th percentile straight across the board.

One thing I didn’t mention to the doctor was how gassy his multivitamins make him. They have iron in them because breast-feeding doesn’t pass through iron to the baby, so they are important but make for a miserable and uncomfortable baby. Poor guy.. Last night was the worst of it so far and the only thing he wanted to do was gnaw on my nipples to try to comfort himself. He was so cranky and Aidan and I felt terrible for him!

Then like magic I remembered that blog Henry used to get really gassy and fussy sometimes, too. We didn’t realize it was from the multivitamin at the time but we did research and ended up buying him gripe water which really, really helped. So Aidan went over to the CVS last night (it’s sold pretty much everywhere) and as soon as we gave real Henry a dose of it he calmed down. Within seconds, literally!

I let him suck on the pacifier after Aidan gave it to him and sure enough all of those gas bubbles broke apart and found their way out of his bottom. He finally fell asleep and we didn’t have any more trouble or a discomforted baby all night long.

The brand we bought is called Mommy’s Bliss and it really works wonders. Before giving this stuff to your baby ask your pediatrician because obviously I am not a doctor giving medical advice, just a mom who knows what works for her babies!

My motherly advice is that if you are breastfeeding and the doctors give you a prescription for the multivitamins with iron (and they will) ask about the gassy side effects and if it’s okay to give the baby gripe water. Formula fed babies get iron in their formula so they won’t get a prescription for extra vitamins but still could be gassy and uncomfortable so this could still apply! In any case, if you know ahead of time you won’t have to call and ask them when your baby (and you) are already suffering.

I just wanted to share this info because I think it helps to know ahead of time that gas might occur and turn your baby into a screaming, inconsolable little person but there isn’t anything serious wrong! It can be scary when you don’t know whats wrong and obviously they can’t tell you! Knowing a solution that works to alleviate their pain and discomfort is also always a good thing too!

Keeping Track of Life

Last August I thought it was time for me to try out using a daily planner to track all the appointments we had going on every week. I was sick of all the little cards the doctors hand out and having to search through my wallet for them when I thought There were appointments coming up. I missed a few appointments in the year and with school starting I knew I had to get better organized if I wanted our household to function better.

I had been given a few calendars through out my life but never really stuck with using them because a) I thought they weren’t very pretty b) I felt silly pulling it out of my bag and c) I didn’t have all that many appointments. Life changed though and we were racking up appointments left and right, on average I’d say we had 3 a week, and it was getting increasingly harder to keep up with everything. So one day when I was in Barnes and Noble I decided to make a big girl purchase and my life has since improved for the better.

  
The planner I picked out wasn’t anything fancy but it was pretty and it fit well in my bags. I wasn’t sure that I would get used to using it and didn’t want to waste a lot of money so it wasn’t expensive, maybe $12. At first I felt kind of funny using it, but I quickly got over that feeling and actually started feeling good when I’d have to say, “Let me check my book” or “I don’t need a card, thanks” when making upcoming appointments. I grew to love the feeling of being organized and in control of what was going on in our weeks!

Last week when I was trying to write a doctors appointment in for September I realized that I was at the end of my pages in the planner and started to think about what I would like to replace it with. I had seen a lot of different planners on the internet when I looked in the past and even though I loved my little Barnes and Noble planner I thought it might be time to upgrade to something more permanent. Something that I could just buy refills for each year. I knew I was in good habit of using the calendar and it wouldn’t be a waste of money! Also I thought it might be a sort of reward for being so organized with or many appointments through out a full year.

I told Aidan about my need for a new planner and showed him the one I was secretly hoping for on the Filofax website. I really like their planners as they are leather, have a few pockets to hold business cards in and various other sections that I could put to use. From that website we looked on Amazon and sure enough the exact one I was wanting was listed there for $15 less and had free shipping! He placed the order and I was super excited to get my upgraded daily planner!

  
When it came 2 days later I have to admit that it was larger than I expected it to be. Aidan noticed that too and asked if I knew it would be so big and if I liked it still. While the size through me through a bit of a loop I have to say yes! I still do like it very much! It fits in my bigger bags and if I am using a small bag it’s nice enough that I can carry it separately and not feel awkward about it. I already started using it to fill out the rest of the appointments for the month and through September which I had to randomly write in my old planner.

  
Aidan makes fun of me and calls me an old lady because I’d rather use a real planner than keep appointments in my phone. I’ve tried to use my phone for appointments before, but I just don’t like it. I prefer to be able to see everything and write it down instead of having to click on each date and set reminders, etc. It’s just easier for me.

Do any of you use planners? If not how do you keep track of all that you need to remember each week? I have found this really is the best way for me, even though it took a little getting used to at first!

Five Minute Fix: Wrapping Text Around Your Photos

I was recently asked how I wrap text around my pictures and because I also see this question pop up from time to time I decided to write a tutorial post about it.

IMG_2016Wrapping text around pictures is an easy way to make your page or post look a little different than the normal picture posts. While it is an easy process it can sometimes be a little tricky to get the words to line up correctly so it might require some patience while you finagle your photo.

There are a few ways that you can tackle this effect but for the purpose of this tutorial I am going to be writing most my text first and then adding the pictures in afterwards.  The picture(s) can also be added as you are writing, but I find it a little easier to add them in at the end.

Before I get into a step by step I just wanted to address a few things so you’ll have a good understanding of what I am talking about.

The first thing worth mentioning is that you’ll want to have enough words in your post to make the text look full enough.  When I say “full enough” I mean that you have enough words to actually wrap around the text instead of your words ending and then having the picture overhang. This usually isn’t a problem if you are only using one picture but can be trouble if you are using more than a couple of pictures and don’t really have a lot of written content.

The second thing I want to mention is the toolbar that we will be using to format your text and picture option. This toolbar is accessed by clicking on the photo once you’ve added into your editor. Immediately after selecting media to add you are given a few options of what you can do with your photo but there are more options that don’t show up on that screen. Once you have selected and added your picture to your post you can make even more changes to it by clicking the photo in your editor. When you click on the picture in your postIMG_2040 from the editor page, little symbols on a menu will pop up. These are the options that allow you to format your picture, including the way your text behaves around the photo.

This is the toolbar we will be using to nest your photos and it offers a variety of options:

  • The first symbol (left) will allow the photo nestle in the photo like the first paragraph.
  • The second symbol from the left will allow text at the top of the picture as well as the bottom, and is the most commonly used format.
  • The third symbol from the left will move your picture to the right of the text and allow your words to wrap around it like my first paragraphs example but reversed.

*Note: These left and right wrap photos are a little tricky to align and might need a little practice. Sometimes it is hard to get the photo exactly where you want it, I don’t know why.

If your photo doesn’t end up exactly where you’d like it once you insert it into the post you can “grab” the photo and move it back into your text. To do this click the picture but don’t let go. Using the mouse drag the picture further up (or down) the paragraph.

This is the part where you need patience but it can be done! Just keep trying :)

  • The fourth symbol that in the pop up allows you to add the photo anywhere you want it but it it won’t nestle in your text.  I admit that I have never used this option and don’t know how it could be used effectively, maybe someone else who is reading this does know and can offer information.
  • The last symbol you will see from clicking on the media you’ve added to your post is a really important one. The pencil symbol controls a few things about the photo and you really should get to know this button.  With this button you can:
    • change the size of your photos* — ranging from thumbnail to custom sizes
    • add a title to your photo which is great for SEO if you are trying to improve
    • the file name can be changed, great for SEO and organizing
    • borders can be added
    • the way the photo will appear when readers click on it, a separate page or just larger

Now that we have that out of the way, here is a step by step of what to do:

  1. write your post
  2. click the add media button and select your picture
  3. click on the picture the shows in the editor
  4. select one of the symbols for your alignment options
  5. drag your photo to where you would like it to be located
  6. preview your work
  7. repeat until all photos are entered and you are satisfied
*note: If your photo is too large or small and doesn’t look correct in your text once you’ve moved it into place it can be resized by using the last (pencil) symbol.

I hope that this was easy to understand and that you will be able to use this option when it comes to changing the way your posts look. Please let me know if you have any questions about this post and I will try to clarify better. Also, if you have any other questions on how to do something, as always I’d love to help, just let me know!

Five Minute Fix: How to Add a Tag Cloud to Your Blog

Scarlett asked a great question yesterday and requested a step by step on how to add a widget to her page that is similar to the “What I Write About” section I have here. Thanks for the question Scarlett! I figured I’d show everyone just in case someone else might be wondering, too.

Editing Widgets
It’s actually very quick and easy to add and edit widgets — provided the theme you use allows for them. In this case, Scarlett uses twentyfifteen as her theme and it does indeed use widgets! 

The particular widget that we are going to be focusing on today is called the Tag Cloud.

Step One:
Go to your WP Admin Page and scroll down on the left side to the Appearance Section. Then click on Customize, this will take you to the Customizer page:

Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.21.06

Step Two:
Click on the Widget Area and select the widget area you would like the Tag Cloud to appear (depending on your theme you will often have a few areas to choose from):

Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.12.42

Step Three:
Scroll to the bottom and select Add Widget

Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.13.41

Step Four:
Type “Tag Cloud” into the search function that pops up next to the menu and click on “Tag Cloud” from the options

Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.14.01

Step Five:
Edit the title section to what you would like the heading to say. In my case it says “What I Write About” but you can call it anything you like! It’s fun to try to match the title to the theme of your blog. For example, you could call it “Topics that Move Me” or “Frequently Thinking About” or “Hot Topics” depending on the style and topics of your writing, you catch my drift :)

From there you can change the number of topics you’d like the widget to pull. The higher the number you have the more the cloud will vary in size. The larger words will represent the tags you use most often and smaller will be tags you use least often.
Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.14.24

Step Six:
Click the close button. This will save your widget automatically.

Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.14.42

Step Seven:
Drag and drop your widget to where you’d like it to appear in your sidebar. This is done by clicking on the widget title and not letting go of the button. Move it to where you’d like it to be then let go. You can also use the Reorder button located next to the Add a Widget button, if you find that easier to do.Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.14.52

Step Eight:
Click Save and Activate at the top of the widget section. Then go check your page out and see if it looks awesome! If you’d like to change it just go back to the widget section and click the little arrow next to the “Tag Cloud” section and edit as you’d like. Don’t forget to save your work!Screenshot 2015-03-04 07.15.06

For this tutorial I switched to the twentyfifteen theme, just so Scarlett would know exactly what to do. Other themes will have the same directions (if widgets are one of your themes options.) Your blog appearance window will look different if you use something different than twentyfifteen, but don’t worry, the customizing section will look and function the same.

**Another quick thing to point out is that all the widgets titles can be customized to say what you would like them. This is done by editing the Title section of the widgets as shown in Step Five.

Have fun and I hope this helped Scarlett!

If anyone else has any questions on editing their theme or working in WordPress, feel free to ask. I don’t know everything of course but I do know quite a bit and love to help. If your question isn’t something I can answer I will be happy to give you a direction to look to find the answers you need :)

Five Minute Fix: Kitchen Window

This window has been driving me bananas for over a month now. Each time I looked at it throughout the day I got an itch to clean it, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t. After getting on Aidan for the umpteenth time to remove the last part of the Christmas village from our mantel, I realized that I was being a hypocrite about the Christmas stuff because there were still holiday decals on the kitchen window.

IMG_1637

Aside from the decals, the window was filthy with water stains from the sink below and grease from our stove that we don’t have a hood vent for. My much loved stained glass birds fell down who knows how long ago and the window sill became a dumping ground for odds and ends that I was avoiding putting away.

IMG_1639

It took all of 5 minutes to peel the decals off, declutter the sill and clean the window.  Why did it take me so long to do this? Clearing and cleaning the small area didn’t make a huge change to the way it technically looks but now that it only holds two items that I truly love, the kitchen just feels so much better! I’m trying to focus on the things I love around here and I think this was a great place to start.

I swear just taking a little time to focus on that tiny little space made my whole kitchen feel so much fresher. Now instead of seeing an area that stresses me out I see an area highlighting little bits that make me smile.

There are quite a few areas around my home that need 5 minutes of my time. Instead of feeling overwhelmed about everything as a whole I am going to try breaking them down into 5 minute fixes. I know I can get a lot done in a week if I focus on small changes in different areas!

Do you have areas in your home that could use quick refreshing? Maybe a corner in your living room or bedroom, a closet or cabinet that just make you cringe when you look at the space? It really only takes a few minutes to change things around. If you have a big disaster on your hands even working 5 minutes here and there can lead to big changes over a week.