We had this corner sink just kind of – hanging there, on the wall. All the plumbing in plain view and no storage – cleaning supplies were sitting on top of magazines, which were balanced on top of the extra toilet paper. I mean this is a SMALL bathroom. Jan Wolyniec, (who also goes by the name of ”The Village Craftsman”), came up the idea above, which I thought was pretty clever – he built the shelving around the existing corner sink, making it look like the sink is sitting on the shelf, and installed another little storage area under the sink, using European hinges on the door, as the space is so tight. William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement designer, once said, ” Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Think Jan hit both nails on the head! (Jan’s information is on the Belle Home “Resource” page.)
Many of our clients have allergies – and Spring time seems to be full of allergy triggers. What should be a lovely time of year to enjoy ends up being a marathon of sneezing, coughing, sore throats and headaches. Detail-cleaning the house is, of course, a front line defense against allergies. By detail I mean all those places that dust likes to hide – baseboards, under area rugs, under furniture, on top of ceiling fans, window and door sills. Getting dust up and out of the house is important – when vacuuming, be sure to use a HEPA vacuum, which traps the dust in the vacuum and filter. Vacuums without a HEPA filter can suck the dust into the vacuum head and send some of it flying back into the air through the exhaust filter.
If you or a family member has allergies, being pet-free is the best option. If you have a pet already, as we all know, it’s a family member and you are probably not gonig to bundle it off because you want to spare yourself from sneezing. Try to limit the spaces your pet goes into, and keep the pet from sleeping in your bedroom (give yourself a good 8 hour sleep without breathing in dander.)
Other things you can do in your home to control allergies:
* Keep shoes at the front door, in a bin or on a mat to keep from tracking pollen and dust into the house.
* Put a doormat at each entrance to catch dust and dirt, and shake it out – outside! – regularly.
* Hard surface flooring is best for those with allergies. It is easy to maintain and doesn’t harbor dust or dirt. Carpeting and carpet padding can hold a lot of dust and dander. I pulled up an old shag carpet one time and there were piles of sand and silt and dust underneath it, even though it had been vacuumed regularly. It had degraded over the years and actually disintegrated in places – every time someone stepped on it, a little puff of who-knows-what wafted up into the air.
* In warm weather, use air-conditioning to keep the humidity in the air lowered, and so limit mildew and mold growth.
* Mites (actually, mite poop) are an allergy trigger for many people, and can cause ezema and sinus problems as well. Wash bedding weekly in hot water. Keep mattresses, pillows and boxsprings encased in mite-proof plastic covers.
* Dust using a dampened microfiber, which picks up the dust, and launder microfibers after using (launder separately, by hand, if possible, and hang to dry, or put in dryer on cool setting.)
* Dust blinds, and vacuum or launder curtains.
* Don’t use harsh chemicals when cleaning – I’ve personally had asthma attacks triggered by bleach or cleaners with ammonia in them.
* Don’t burn candles or use scented airsprays. I can’t tell you how many times clients have told us their allergies are horrible and when we come to clean, the air is thick with scented candles and perfumed sprays.
No time to clean the house? Call a professional housecleaning company to come regularly and get that dust and dirt up and out of the house (ahem – I can recommend an excellent housecleaning company if you are in the market!)
I used to love to sit in front of the TV with my mother and father when I was a kid, watching reruns of “I Love Lucy”. It was clean, wacky humor and Lucy was a joy to watch. Watching Lucy was watching someone who was a master of her craft, who had perfect comic timing and instinct, who was a bonafide talent. It was something more, too. It was watching someone who was passionate about giving it her all each and every performance, about getting it just right. While today’s shows are uber-edited and pumped full of canned laughter, “I Love Lucy” was filmed using the then-new technological innovation of multi-camera film production in front of a live audience. She – and the whole cast – had to get it right every time, in front of an audience. Doris Singleton, who played Caroline Appleby on the “I Love Lucy” show, said that everything was scripted and rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, and that working on the set was not like the party one might think– that Lucy was “tough”, and the show required a lot of hard work to pull off. Lucy once asked Red Skelton how to play a drunk and spent hours with him, watching and imitating him so that she could get it just right for a skit. She could be hard on cast members who showed up late, didn’t know their lines, couldn’t get their timing right. On the other hand, she often showed kindness to those around her who had talent and gave 100%. Marlo Thomas, whose show rented space from Lucy’s Desilu Productions, said that she once asked Lucy advice on being a producer. Lucy told her to “hire the very best that you can and don’t be concerned that they will take power away from you.”
Although Lucy played a naïve, accident-prone, starstruck housewife whose harebrained antics were always landing her in hot water, Lucille Ball had a reputation, in fact, for being a tough perfectionist. She was described, and not always in a good light – as “tenacious”, “serious”, “direct”, “determined” “extremely professional”. Lucille Ball was a dancer, an actress, a comedienne, a Broadway performer, a TV and movie star, a film studio producer and a wife and mother – quite a catalog of life experiences. She was also a forward thinker, a discliplined professional and a woman who accepted no excuses for anything less than perfection. She delivered to her customers – us, her audience – a flawlessly executed performance week after week, year after year. You knew what you tuned in for, and you got it in buckets. A few things we can learn from Lucille Ball:
- Practice your craft. Practice it some more. Perfect it. Master it.
- Be disciplined. Deliver consistently.
- Look for opportunities to learn from others in your field
- Don’t accept excuses for shabby work
- Make it happen for the customer and give them what they expect – and more
- Give credit where it’s due and be grateful for supporting talent (Lucy was a great one for publicly thanking her writers, whom she credited for the success of “I Love Lucy”.)
- Surround yourself with the best talent that you can find
- Try something new
- Take pride in your work
Thanks, Lucy, for the laughs – and the good advice.
Yay, it’s here! Spring! Finally!! Get out the salad greens (and the exercise bike)!
MaryJo and I were at Bar in New Haven a week or so back, and had a simple, but tasty salad – have had it before, have made it before – but had forgotten just how much I like it and how easy it is to make.
You can always buy glazed nuts, but, believe me, they are very easy to make and a heck of a lot less expensive. Buy nuts when they’re on sale, around holidays usually, and keep them in the freezer until you need them.
To make Glazed Pecans or Walnuts: Very easy!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put 1.5 cups of walnuts on cookie sheet and cook for 5 minutes. If not toasted, leave in for an additional 1-2 minutes but KEEP AN EYE ON THEM. They burn in the blink of an eye! Cool on cookie sheet for about 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile get another rimmed cookie sheet out and line with parchment paper. In medium heavy bottomed saucepan, pour 1/2 cup white sugar and heat over medium heat. When sugar starts melting, stir with wooden spoon. When sugar is melted and medium amber in color, turn off heat and pour nuts in and mix with sugar. Empty the nuts onto the prepared cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt. Quickly (they will fuse in about half a minute!) separate clumps, using two forks (they will be hot!) Let cool completely and put in sealed jar. (Can be used up to 1 week and they will stay nice and crispy. They’re good for snacks, too)
4 T cider vinegar
12 T vegetable oil
2t Dijon mustard
1T finely chopped shallots
1/2 t salt
1/4t black pepper
Optional: 3T real maple syrup
Put everything in a clean squirt bottle or clean jam jar, shake for 20 seconds to blend, and put aside.
Baby salad greens or spinach or any baby or butter lettuces
1 chopped Granny Smith Apple
about 1/2 cup gorgonzola (or Feta, if you’re not a blue cheese afficionado)
1/2-2/3 cup of glazed nuts
Give dressing another shake and lightly coat salad with dressing.
Substitute sliced strawberries for the apple, when it’s strawberry season (Baby spinach, strawberries, gorgonzola, glazed nuts and dressing).
Made this for Sunday dinner, as I just could not bring myself to stand at the stove all afternoon (was having one of those winter days when you leave your jammies on all day and watch bad tv.) We almost always have escarole on hand, as our bearded dragon eats this. That’s what they told me at the pet store, anyway. Usually he just gives me the evil lizard-eye and clamps his mouth shut when I present him with green leafy vegetables, much like my children do. The whole family seems to enjoy this however (minus the lizard):
6 Cups chicken broth
Dried parsley, powdered garlic, powdered onion, Italian seasoning
1 celery stalk
Campanelle pasta (or penne – or whatever you have on hand)
In a large saucepot, make up 6 cups broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base – 1 tsp to 8 oz boiling water, very good taste). Put in 3-4 shakes each of dried parsley, powdered garlic, powdered onion (not too heavy on the onion if you have picky kids, I’ve found), Italian seasoning.
Slice a carrot and/or celery very thinly, put in the broth and bring to a boil. If you don’t have carrot/celery, not to worry, they just add a little color/texture but you can do without them.
Toss in a cup of campanelle (or your favorite pasta – penne will do in a pinch). Cook till tender, following directions on pasta box.
In the meantime, wash, roughly chop (no need to dry), half a head of escarole. Put the escarole in with the pasta for about the last two minutes of cooking. If you have some meatballs – homemade or not – in the freezer – put them in for the last two minutes of cooking unless you want a vegetarian meal (At this point, unless you’re big on horsemeat, let’s hope those are homemade meatballs!) Turn off heat when noodles are done, and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, with parmesan cheese on the side and garlic bread if you like. Good leftover the next day for lunch, also.
One-pot meal that generally pleases everyone and is very good the next day for lunch, too.
Most of our customers have pets – and mostly furry pets. While we all love our cats and dogs, and they are such loving companions, they can wreak havoc with the overall cleanliness of a home. Having a furry friend means a little extra work to keep down on the dander and fur, and while we, as professional housecleaners, get those animal flakes and fur off of the baseboards, sills, corners of floors, under the furniture (we know where all that stuff hides!), there are a few things you can do as pet owners to keep your house a little cleaner, cut down on allergies, and not have that “Oh, you have a dog?” smell hit your guests when they enter your home.
First off, make sure your dog is overall healthy and clean – check obvious places like his ears – if there is waxy build up or odor coming from your dog’s ears, he may have an ear infection, which can get pretty stinky. Dogs and cats have glands in their rumps (anal glands) which may become blocked and need to be emptied (“expressed”), something that can evidently be done at home (there are actually Youtube videos on this very subject) but might well be best carried out by your vet. Check his paws (we’ve all had Rover step in something unsavory, then gun it for the best rug in the house when he comes in the door) and keep his fur clean by bathing him regularly. Don’t want to make your bathroom into a fur wonderland? Some local dog boarding and daycare facilities such as Bark Avenue in Milford, and The Crate Escape in North Haven, offer self-service dog washes for a modest fee.
Keeping dirt outside to begin with is always best. Buy a couple of colored towels (they don’t show stains as much as lighter-colored towels) and always have one by the door that your dog comes in and goes out of – wipe his fur and paws before he brings anything in with him. I once had a dog whose gums were so malformed that anything and everything would catch in the recesses of his gums – talk about halitosis! Brush your dog’s teeth (minimally a couple of times a week) with a (doggie) toothbrush, and always use toothpaste designed for dogs (do NOT use human toothpaste). Bring your dog to the vet for his regular checkups – there are some diseases that will make your dog malodorous, such as kidney disease, gum disease or a yeast infection, among others. Brush your dog’s fur regularly and make regular appointments at the groomer if your dog is in need and you just don’t have the time to give him a good scrubdown.
Vacuum your home regularly to remove dander and dirt from floors and damp mop hard surface flooring using a Ph-neutral, non-toxic floor cleaner like Bona Kemi. Dander and oils from your pet’s fur can really get into carpeting and be very difficult to remove unless you have your carpets professionally cleaned regularly. (If you do need a service provider to clean your carpets, please check our “Community” page for suggestions.)
Keep your dog’s bedding clean – wash it regularly using cold water and unscented detergent, then dry on low heat in the dryer (or air dry). If your dog has a crate, clean it regularly (spraying it off with the garden hose in the summer works well) or wash it using a sponge with warm water and just a little dish soap, then wipe dry.
Use washable covers on your fabric furniture or pet blankets on whatever furniture your dog is in contact with. If you don’t use covers and have fabric furniture, use a rubber electrostatic pet fur brush to brush fur off of sofas and chairs. These are easy to use – just brush across the surface of the fabric (works well on coats, too) and when you are done, pull the clump of fur off the brush. The brushes are about $8 or so, last forever, and work great. (Tip: Leave the pet fur brush close by the furniture it’s usually used on so you can take a quick swipe regularly, and wash the brush with warm water and dish detergent now and then.)
House still a bit doggified? Take a couple of your favorite scented fabric softener sheets and put them under cushions and couch pillows, where they’ll be out of sight and lend a bit more agreeable fragrance to the room.
Our furry friends make a little more work for us around the house – but what they give us back in loyalty, love and companionship is worth the little extra labor it takes to keep the house looking and smelling fresh.
I’m always looking for things to do with the kids – mine are just around or at their teen years, and although they loved, loved, loved Kids City right up to the time they were around 10 years old (What? You have little ones and haven’t been to Kids’ City? Go right now – awesome way to spend the day. http://www.kidcitymuseum.com/) – there just aren’t too many prepackaged options for kids their age that don’t cost an arm and a leg, don’t involve a mall, and don’t require me to bring my Kindle while I’m waiting for them to do their thing. My oldest is into cupcakes, so on Saturday, we hoofed it up to Sugar Bakery, the east Haven bakery that won Cupcake Wars a while back. It’s a little gem of a bakery that is decorated in Martha Stewart-esque colors, with a fun candy bar in front (complete with the world’s largest packaged – and for sale – gummy bear) and a line about a dozen folks long at 3 p.m. Good thing, too, as we needed the 5 minutes it took to get to the counter to figure out what we wanted. Everything is clean, orderly, and beautifully presented and we ended up buying 6 cupcakes instead of 2 – just because they are so beautiful lined up with their pink, white and chocolate bouffant frostings. We ended up with carrot cake, cannoli (one of the cupcakes that won Cupcake Wars – here is her recipe for those who have the time and inclination http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chocolate-chip-cannoli-cupcake-recipe/index.html), wedding cake, red velvet cake, sea salt caramel (my favorite) and a retro Hostess cupcake. All wonderful and with frosting that, unlike other area bakeries, was not so sugary-sweet that you can feel the enamel peeling off your teeth as you bite into them – just perfectly balanced flavors and texture. A great inspiration to a 14-year-old budding baker.
Belle Home Housecleaning is a residential housecleaning company with locations in New Haven and Milford, Connecticut. We call ourselves a residential housecleaning service – but the real business we’re in? Freeing up our clients’ time so that they can enjoy a clean, fresh, tidy homespace with their family and friends – without sacrificing their precious weeknights and weekends to get the house in order. In that spirit of making life easier, we’ll be posting tips, tricks and hints for everything from housecleaning and organizing to quick weeknight suppers to goings on (mostly budget-friendly!) in your neighborhood that might interest you and your family. We’re appreciative of any tips, tricks and hints that you might want to share, too.