Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Coffee smoothie

Power up coffee smoothie - Restoring the Picket Fence

My mornings need to start with coffee, thanks to my hour-long commute. By adding a few ingredients, this coffee smoothie doubles as my breakfast.

Power up coffee smoothie
  • 1 cup of non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 banana 
  • 3/4 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp of ground coffee
  • 1 tsp of baking cocoa
  • 1 handful of almonds
I take this all and blend it in a Baby Bullet (classic mom move).

Some other fun ingredients to try: Peanut butter, oatmeal, Nutella ... other ideas?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

TV-free summer: Part Two

It's been a few weeks without the television in our house now. (OK, it's still in the house, but it's been banished to the basement so that we don't watch it.)

Life's been pretty good and very productive.

For example, last night I did the following, instead of watching television:

  • Folded three loads of laundry.
  • Washed Baby Z's diapers.
  • Replaced the elastic in a fitted diaper.
  • Fixed one of Baby Z's shirts.
  • Packaged up diapers I sold/traded.
  • Made lunches for the next day.
  • Read some of Jon Acuff's new book, Start.

I'm sure there's more, but that's to give you an idea. Tonight, I plan on sewing a few more things and seeing what happens!

When you turn the TV off, your mind starts working in a new, improved way.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Simple slow cooker baked potatoes

Simple easy slow cooker baked potatos - Restoring the Picket Fence

Grandpa always used to say, "You only have to pray before meals that have potatoes." So when you come from a Dutch family, that means you will be praying before eating 99% of your meals.

A couple times a month, J and I have soup and baked potato night. It's a simple dinner that we can have after a long day of working/commuting/parenting.

To make baked potatoes, I use this super simple slow cooker baked potato recipe:

Step one: Wrap clean potatoes in foil. No need to stab, slice or poke. You can rub them in olive oil, add some salt, whatever you fancy. Since I put the potatoes in the foil immediately after washing, the water seems to steam them well enough without the oil.

Simple easy slow cooker baked potatoes - Restoring the Picket Fence
I added sliced onion with the raw potatoes this time -- yum!

Step two: Put in slow cooker on high for four hours, or low for eight hours. Potatoes are pretty forgiving if you have to go longer.

Simple easy slow cooker baked potatoes - Restoring the Picket Fence
Hanging out in their sauna.

Step three: Eat!

Simple easy slow cooker baked potatoes - Restoring the Picket Fence
See how golden the onions got?

These are awesome to prepare on Saturday night. Just plug them in on Sunday morning and you have baked potatoes when you come home from church!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: KLUTCHclub box

I received an offer for a free Best-of Box from KLUTCHclub (with $8 shipping). They claimed that the box would be filled with at least $75 worth of health and wellness products. Since I'm a sucker for "mystery" boxes, I ordered one.

The shipping was speeding and I received my box within a week of ordering.

Arrival of KLUTCHclub box
KLUTCHclub box upon arrival.
KLUTCHcub box contents
The contents, minus a bag of SkinnyPop and a SoyJoy bar.
The contents of a KLUTCHclub box
The contents of a KLUTCHclub box.

 The roster of products:
  • SkinnyPop popcorn (not pictured)
  • SoyJoy bar in cranberry (not pictured)
  • berryplus laundry soap
  • Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy
  • allergease All Natural Herbal Supplement
  • Dream Water
  • fangu d'alga GUAM seaweed mud
  • Shakeology samples (3 pack)
  • 1 month gift card for
  • 3 Davidson's teas: Red, Grean & White; Sun, Moon & Stars; Tropical Green
  • Drink Chia! in honeysuckle pear
Presentation: Good and fun
Selection of products: Vast. Some are new to me, others are not.

There were a few products that I was really looking forward to trying.

allergease All Natural Herbal Supplement

allergease All Natural Herbal Supplement
My seasonal allergies are pretty mild in comparison with my family members, however this year has been a doozy on my system. I had a sinus infection from allergies that spread to my throat and ears, so this was a product I was happy to try!

allergease review: The taste is good. Similar to Halls Vitamin C drops. There's a bit of menthol, which is actually refreshing. I like them.

Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy Review
Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy

Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy
When we dine on sushi, I love adding fresh ginger to my maki, so I was looking forward to this candy. The box mentions that it makes a good travel candy, which makes sense since ginger is known to calm upset stomachs.

Gin Gins Chewy Ginger Candy review: I liked the texture (takes awhile to chew) and the flavor was good, but it was far too spicy for my tongue. If there were a mild version, I would love to try that!

berryplus Soap Berry
berryplus Soap Berry laundry soap

berryplus laundry soap
Baby Z wears cloth diapers, which require a particular selection of laundry soaps. Tide works just fine for us, but it's not "natural". We've tried soap nuts in the past, and I wasn't too impressed. These seem like they'd be awesome on cloth -- if it works.

berryplus laundry soap review: It didn't get out a nasty poop stain in one of Baby Z's diapers. But, neither did Tide. You know what did? Fresh lemon juice diluted with water and a couple hours of sunshine. Nothing against berryplus, I'll finish using up the packet and keep this in mind if anyone in the family develops a skin allergy (berryplus states that it's great for sensitive skin). I will say, that berryplus did better than soap nuts that we've tried in the past.

Drink Chia! in honeysuckle pear review: Well, I wanted to like this, but I didn't. As soon as I sipped some, I could taste the Stevia. Artificial sweeteners and these new natural, not-sugar sweeteners have such a strong taste to me, that they ruin any other flavors. It's like getting a black jelly bean in a handful of delicious pink ones. Thumbs down for me, but J liked it just fine.

SkinnyPop popcorn review: J and I both liked this. It was lightly salted (the perfect amount for me) and was perfect for some pre-dinner munchies!

SoyJoy bar in cranberry review: These are not new to me, so I knew that I loved it and immediately ate it when the box arrived. Oops.

Davidson's teas: Very good! I especially liked the red tea with some American Honey whiskey for a yummy hot toddy. 

Shakeology: This isn't a new product for me, but I do love them. Normally, Shakeology is above my price range, so I was happy to receive some in my KLUTCHclub box.

I don't plan on using the gift card and the mud probably won't get used for a few months (since it involves wrapping yourself up in cling wrap ... that might be better in cooler weather). The Dream Water hasn't been used yet since I'm way too tired to even think about drinking it before bed.

If KLUTCHclub was to offer another Best-of Box, I would happily purchase it again, as long as all of the items were different from this one.

This review is not sponsored by KLUTCHclub in any way.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Motivation: Change the situation

Stop complaining - Restoring the Picket Fence

It's easy to complain about something, but where does that do for you? It turns you into a grumbling mess that no one wants to hang out with.

The next time you find yourself complaining about a particular situation, stop, and think about what you can do to change the situation instead.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Simple fixes: Scratchy tag solution

You try on a pair of pants at the store and they fit great! You purchase the pants, take them home and put them on for their maiden voyage. However, when you're getting ready, the tag in the back of the pants starts to bother you -- it's scratchy and you have to leave the house in five minutes. This stupid scratchy tag is going to drive you insane if you wear these adorable pants all day.

Simple fix: Put a fabric bandage over the scratchy tag.

Put a fabric bandage over an itchy tag - Restoring the Picket Fence
Put a fabric bandage over a scratchy tag.

Problem solved! Just be sure you use a fabric bandage and not a plastic one. The plastic kind could end up irritating your skin even more.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

So long, Sallie Mae!

Goodbyes are often hard to do. In fact, saying goodbye to my best friend as she moved across the country was so difficult that I had to look at photos of Basset Hounds running on the beach to keep from tearing up at work. Seriously, I keep that page bookmarked at work so that I can laugh on those tough days.

But this is one goodbye that I love:

Paying off our student loans
We paid off a Sallie Mae loan!

Sallie Mae preys on the pockets of eager, fresh-faced college students. It's so good to have paid off our third loan with her (we had about eleven loans with Sallie Mae in total ... womp, womp).

One by one, we are paying off our loans. It's our goal to live a debt-free life. It's totally possible, and I could talk to you for hours about how great Dave Ramsey is and how much we love the teachings of Dave Ramsey, but I won't. Not yet.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reduce your energy usage

We've all seen the Sesame Street episodes about turning off the lights when you leave the room to save energy, but who knew that we would still be applying that same principle to reduce our monthly bills?

Last fall, J and I really wanted to reduce our energy usage. Here are some steps that we have taken:

  1. Shut off lights when we leave the room (duh).
  2. Put the TV, bluRay player and Internet thingy on a power strip. Turn the strip off when we leave the house or go to bed. Those silly little lights that glow eat up energy. We do the same with small kitchen appliances.
  3. Line dry our clothes in the warmer months (even though our dryer uses gas).
  4. Put the ceiling fan on in our bedroom and adjust the air conditioning in warmer months at night. Ceiling fans take up significantly less energy than an air conditioner.
  5. Keep curtains drawn in the warmer months to keep the heat out. (Look into energy-saving curtains.) We do the opposite in winter when it's sunny.

Those are the majority of the small changes we've made, but look at the difference it's made:

Comparing energy usage with neighbors
In September of 2012, we got our energy usage even lower than our "efficient" neighbors!

Please keep in mind that we have three exterior lights on our house that stay on 24/7. We leave them all on throughout the night as a safety precaution since our neighborhood is older and has limited street lights. 

We plan on learning more ways to reduce our energy usage in our home throughout this year.

Looks like we need to our heads back in the game. May was cutting it close!

Energy bill for May
May 2012
Check your local energy provider's website to see your usage compared with your neighbors. Our energy company determines "neighbors" as people living in the same square footage withing 0.4 miles of us.

Do you have any good energy-saving tips?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Simple fixes: Removing scratches from a wood floor

Removing scratches from a wood floor
Removing scratches from wood floors.

 If you own a wood floor and have dogs, kids, cats or have ever moved furniture ... you probably have some scratches on your floor.

While moving a bookcase from one corner of our dining room, the floor got rather scratched. The new mid-century bar (keep an eye out for a blog post about that!) has exposed legs, so the scratches are pretty obvious now.

Removing scratches from a wood floor
Before: Scratches in wood floor

An easy solution (that I amended per our pantry contents) is to mix one part vinegar and three parts canola oil. I didn't have canola oil and just used vegetable oil. So if you're wondering if you can substitute vegetable oil for canola oil -- the answer is yes! It turned out great!

Removing scratches from a wood floor
After: Removed scratches from wood floor.

Just wipe the solution on and gently rub into the wood. No need to wipe off. I can't wait to try this on some dog-scratched window sills that we have!

Do you have any simple fixes?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Airing out the laundry

Going the "natural" route of doing your laundry is not just better for the environment, but it's cheaper and better for your clothes. Triple whammy.

Last year, we purchased a Whitney Design retractable clothesline for $25 and it's been an awesome investment.

Retractable Clothes Line
Photo courtesy of eBay.

J attached the device to the side of our house in the back yard. He put the corresponding hook on a fence post, since there wasn't much else in the yard to attach it to.

Retractable Clothesline Hook
Retractable clothesline hook.

When the line is not in use, it retracts back into the main device. We have no complaints about this product. The line extends to 40 feet and has been able to hold all of our laundry, including heavy towels.

Line drying is awesome for those who choose to cloth diaper. Your diapers will stay whiter (the sun acts as a natural stain remover), and they will stay in better shape than if you were to tumble dry.

Line drying cloth diapers
Line drying cloth diapers and wipes in the back yard.

Reasons for line drying:
  1. Saves on energy costs.
  2. Preserves the life of your clothing. Tumble drying adds much more wear and tear to clothes.
  3. The sun will naturally remove many stains. (To enhance this feature, from time to time I will squeeze fresh lemon juice on stains and let them sit in the sun for awhile. Be sure to re-wash after doing this.)
Tip: After line drying, put your clothes in the dryer for 5-10 minutes. This removes any stiffness and helps remove pollen/debris that may have blown onto your clothes outside.

Any suggestions on how to line dry in the winter or in an apartment?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A TV-free summer!

J and I don't have cable (gasp!) and we don't even have an antenna (double gasp!). We aren't cavemen, I promise, our cable bill was getting out of control and we've never had enough oomph to purchase an antenna. However, we are human and enjoy shows like Bones, Castle, How I Met Your Mother and The Mindy Project. During the "school year" we have HuluPlus that we stream through our bluRay player so that we can enjoy some grown-up time after Baby Z goes to sleep.

Now that shows are wrapping up for the season, we decided that we are going to have a TV-free summer! The TV is going to be sequestered to the basement so that we aren't tempted to flip it on and let our brains ooze out our ears.

Stay tuned (haha, get it?) to see how we tackle our TV-free summer.

What would you with an extra hour each day?
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