Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Cleaning

It's the most wonderful tiiiiiime.....of the yearrrrrrr!  Ok, it's not Christmas, but I get pretty excited about Spring.  After such a long, gray, rainy, cold winter in Seattle, the first signs of Spring make me SO happy!  A more recent reason for me to be excited about Spring (in the last two years) is our anniversary.  We became Mattanda on March 20th for a reason that has nothing to do with the fact it's the first day of Spring (the number 20 is a theme for us), but I love the coincidence!

I'm assuming the words Spring and Cleaning, when combined, either bring excitement or anxiety for most.  I get excited about organizing, thinning things out, rearranging, scrubbing and refreshing.  However, it can become overwhelming if I think about everything I want to do and, being a planner, I like to have a game plan.  So, with the help of the wonderful worldwide web, I created a checklist for seasonal cleaning.  Don't let it overwhelm you, just work on the list little by little perhaps tackling one room at a time.  Here are some pictures of what we've been up to...

Under kitchen sink BEFORE:

Under kitchen sink AFTER:
A couple of Elfa storage solutions (one on the right door and an attached sliding basket) organized the mess and makes it easier to get what's needed. 

Spice cabinet BEFORE:

Spice cabinet AFTER: 

I'm in LOVE with this Rubbermaid spice rack!  It frees up so much space and makes it so much easier to find what I need:

Here's the Seasonal Cleaning list I came up with, please send me suggestions of things I may have overlooked...and I'm sure I'll add more as I go.  Happy Spring, and Happy Cleaning!

□ Clean pillows (Google search the best way to clean the type of pillow you have)
□ Turn and flip mattresses
□ Vacuum mattresses, box springs and bed frames
□ Organize closets and dresser drawers, donate clothes no longer wearing
□ Dust shelves and storage bins in closets
□ Vacuum under and behind bed

□ Discard expired cosmetics, beauty products and medication (make sure to dispose of properly, do not flush medication down the toilet)
□ For a vinyl shower curtain: Throw the shower curtain in the washing machine with a few towels, a cup of white vinegar and your detergent, then air dry
□ Update first aid kit
□ Look for worn grout between tiles. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair later. If necessary, re-seal as soon as possible.
□ Clean exhaust fan

□ Clean oven inside and out
□ Clean drawer under oven
□ Clean or replace drip pans
□ Clean microwave inside and out
□ Clean toaster
□ Organize pantry, discarding expired food
□ Remove contents of cabinets and drawers and clean interiors
□ Clean outside of cupboards and drawers
□ Wipe kitchen ceiling
□ Clean/organize inside of refrigerator
□ Defrost/clean/organize inside of freezer
□ Vacuum refrigerator grill and coil
□ Clean inside and out of trash and recycling bins
□ Go through spices, making sure they still are fresh
□ Look for worn grout between tiles. A small crack in the grout or caulk can lead to an expensive repair later. If necessary, re-seal as soon as possible.

Living Room:
□ Gently beat couch/chair cushions outside to remove dust
□ Vacuum couch/chair cushions and under cushions
□ Steam clean upholstery
□ Flip cushions
□ Clean fireplace
□ Organized videos, CD, video games, etc and donate what you no longer need to keep

□ Organize files
□ Review insurance policies and contracts
□ Clean computer (Martha Stewart says to “Scrub casings with a solution of 1 drop mild dish washing liquid per 1 quart of water and a lint-free cloth; dust crevices in keyboards with cotton swabs; wipe screens with a soft cloth or a dry screen-cleaning sponge”)
□ Remove everything from bookcase and dust shelves and contents of shelves
□ Donate books you no longer need to keep

Throughout House:
□ Wipe baseboards and moldings
□ Clean shades and curtains
□ Wash window screens
□ Shampoo wall-to-wall carpet
□ Clean area rugs
□ Wash and wax floors (strip and re-wax vinyl and linoleum floors)
□ Take everything off of bookshelves, clean shelves and contents of shelves
□ Dust ceiling fans/light fixtures
□ Dust portable fans
□ Check batteries in smoke detectors, carbon-monoxide detectors, flashlights; inspect pressure gauges on fire extinguishers
□ Vacuum and clean grates, coils, condensers on furnaces, refrigerators, stoves, and air conditioners
□ Clean or replace filters in furnaces and air conditioners
□ Wipe walls and ceilings
□ Wax wooden furniture
□ Oil window and door hinges
□ Reseal stone surfaces
□ Reseal grout
□ Wipe interior and exterior doors and trim
□ Wipe switch plates
□ Vacuum/dust lampshades
□ Dust houseplants and repot if needed
□ Have the wood-burning fireplace and stove flues and chimneys professionally inspected and swept
□ Clean window and sliding door tracks

□ Clean porch ceiling and walls
□ Scrub/pressure wash decks, patios, driveways and walkways (Martha Stewart says “Treat mildew spots with a solution of 1 part oxygen bleach to 3 parts water using a deck brush.”)
□ Wash outdoor furniture
□ Wash light fixtures and check for anything damaged that needs to be replaced, including wires.
□ Clean gutters and downspouts
□ Check weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows. Repair or replace as needed.
□ Check the exterior paint. Touch up as needed.
□ Clean outdoor grill to get ready for all that barbecuing in the months to come!


• Always dust from the top of room down to the floor

• This is also a good time to update emergency phone numbers and make sure everyone knows where to find these

• Maintaining some of our expensive appliances is as simple as an occasional inspection. Inspect hoses and cords on your appliances. Vacuum the coils on your refrigerator. Cleaning the vent and exhaust areas of your dryer seasonally will prevent a fire. Clean lint and debris from around your dryer as well, and be sure to examine hoses for signs of damage.

• If there's lime buildup around a faucet, lay paper towels over the fixture and soak it with vinegar, letting it set for one hour. For shower heads that are not removable, position a plastic bag filled with vinegar over it and tape it shut. The deposits will soften and become easier to remove.

• To clean chrome, glass or stainless steel appliances, fill a spray bottle with a mixture of 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water.

• Don’t even try to do this in one day

• Open up windows and doors and let the freshness of spring in. Sunshine is known to have antibacterial properties; the warmth of sunshine and the fresh warm air help to clean away bacteria and fungi that cause diseases. This is especially good for people with chronic respiratory diseases (i.e. Asthma).

*I also just have to add that many of these I do more often than once a year (like cleaning the microwave and wiping switch plates)! :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick and Guinness Irish Stew

Today, someone asked me "Is St. Patrick's Day a Catholic thing?"  I just said "yes".  Here's a quick story about the patron Saint of Ireland... 

Based on two authentic letters written by St. Patrick we know that he was kidnapped from his family's British estate at the age of sixteen, and was forced to work as a shepherd in Ireland for six years.  As Patrick was lonely and afraid during this time, he turned to God for comfort and became a devout Christian.  St. Patrick later wrote:
"But after I reached Hibernia I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the Love of God, and my fear of Him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time".
One day, Patrick heard a voice he believed to be God that told him to leave Ireland.
"And it was there of course that one night in my sleep I heard a voice saying to me: "You do well to fast: soon you will depart for your home country." And again, a very short time later, there was a voice prophesying: "Behold, your ship is ready." And it was not close by, but, as it happened, two hundred miles away, where I had never been nor knew any person. And shortly thereafter I turned about and fled from the man with whom I had been for six years, and I came, by the power of God who directed my route to advantage (and I was afraid of nothing), until I reached that ship".
Patrick escaped by walking about 200 miles to the ship awaiting him on the Irish coast.  Later in Patrick's life he became an ordained bishop and later received another message from God urging him to return to Ireland as a missionary.

St. Patrick died on March 17th around 460 A.D., and his life is still honored on this day.  Traditionally, the Irish would celebrate this religious holiday by attending church and laws mandated pubs close on March 17th.  Modern day, it seems most people celebrate by, well, getting drunk at the pub.

We had a potluck at work today, I wore my green "Maverick is My Lucky Charm" t-shirt, and I even cleaned a Catholic Priest's teeth!  That's how I celebrated St. Patrick's Day this year.  Here's the recipe for the stew I took to the potluck...

Guinness Irish Stew

What You Need:
•2 pounds red potatoes, quartered
•4 carrots, thickly sliced
•2 celery stalks, thickly sliced
•2 bay leaves
•3 pounds cubed stew meat
•Flour, salt and pepper for dredging
•3 Tablespoons olive oil
•1 medium onion, diced
•4 cloves garlic, minced
•8 ounces mushrooms, halved
•16 ounces of tomato sauce
•1 can low sodium beef broth (15 3/4 ounce)
•1 envelope lipton onion soup mix
•1 teaspoon dried thyme
•1/2 teaspoon oregano
•1/2 teaspoon marjoram
•1 teaspoon basil
•1 teaspoon salt
•12 ounces Guinness Stout

What You Do:
1. Place potato, carrot and celery in the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with the bay leaves.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Season about 1/4 cup of flour with salt and pepper. Dredge beef in the flour. Brown in the skillet in batches, adding more oil if necessary.

3. Remove beef, set aside.

4. Add onion and garlic to the same pan and saute for a minute. Add some of the beef broth to deglaze the pan. Scraping bits from the bottom of the pan.

5. Add the onions, meat and mushroom to the slow cooker. Mix together remaining beef broth, tomato sauce, onion soup mix and seasonings. Pour on top of meat and mushrooms. Add Guinness.

6. Cook 8 hours on low.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
"...I bind to myself today God's Power to guide me, God's Might to uphold me, God's Wisdom to teach me, God's Eye to watch over me, God's Ear to hear me, God's Word to give me speech, God's Hand to guide me, God's Way to lie before me, God's Shield to shelter me, God's Host to secure me.."
(From St. Patrick's Breast-Plate, a prayer)