Baby & Toddler · DIY · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

DIY Tile & Grout Cleaner

I have a 100-year-old house with REALLY annoying tile flooring in the bathroom.

I have to clean it daily simply because I have a toddler and a cat who track fur and dirt everywhere, but it’s when we host a party or holiday — like last weekend — that I really start dreading the deep clean. Nothing I buy at the store has ever made these floors look acceptable, and no matter what I use, I have to get down on my hands and knees with a brush to scrub — hard. So, I set my mind to figuring out a way to clean it using things I have in my pantry, things that could sit on the floor for a while and really do half the hard work for me, before wasting more time scrubbing or more money on something store-bought, stinky, expensive and ineffective. Thus I created a homemade cleaning solution with lemon, baking soda, vinegar & water, and let it do half the hard work. Can I just say? WOW, did it ever work.

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Here’s the solution: 7 cups water, 1/2 cup baking soda, juice of 1 lemon (approximately 1/3 cup) and 1/4 cup vinegar. Spray onto the tile/grout you are looking to clean, let sit, and scrub with a brush after 5-10 minutes. Voila!

Yes, I still had to get down there with a brush to get every nook and cranny sparkling, but it was nothing compared to how long and hard I used to have to work to see anything resembling white between these tiles. You can see how well it worked in this somewhat gross, yet also uplifting photo:

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Interested in more homemade cleaning solutions? Lemons are a great all-around cleaning tool, and make an excellent substitute for bleach. I do not personally use any bleach in my home, and I never feel like I need to. Why would I, when you can do all the following with lemons?!

  • Squeeze into your laundry for brightening
  • Cut in half and shine chrome faucets & fixtures
  • Throw a used-up lemon into your disposal to freshen it up and keep it in good working order (ice will do the same)
  • Make a glass-cleaning spray by mixing 3 TBSP lemon juice with 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • Squeeze into your toilet bowl with your cleaner of choice for a freshening and deodorizing; use a cut-up lemon along the rim and on the seat for deep cleaning, then flush.

Get the most out of your lemon by rolling it on the counter for about 30 seconds, to draw out more juice; if you’re going to use the cut lemon to clean, remove the seeds with the top of a knife first so they don’t scratch your surfaces.

You can also use a paste of baking soda and water to remove wetness stains from hardwood, like from a pet’s accident or a beach towel or damp shoe left on the floor. Try 1 TBSP baking soda to 1 tsp water; rub in a circular motion until the water stain disappears. The trick is not to use too much water. This trick works for rings on a coffee table if you forgot to use a coaster, too. And if you use petroleum products, you can also remove water marks in wood by leaving Vaseline on them overnight then wiping away in the morning. (Got scratches? My go-to fix is rubbing a walnut on it. Yup, it really works).

Baking soda is great for removing pet odors from upholstery, too. Just sprinkle some on your couch, let sit for a little while, and vacuum up. Better than spraying with fabric refreshers all the time (dog and cat owners, I know you’re with me on that one!) This worked for us when some rogue milk stains (ugh) managed to escape our notice for several days, too. Thanks Georgia!

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so cute…such grubby little hands!

I hope you found these tips useful. This is now my go-to tile cleaning method for our old fashioned bathroom! Do you have any similar tricks to share? Whenever I don’t have to use store-bought cleaners with nasty ingredients that make fumes in my house, I’m all in. It’s amazing what you can do with hot water, vinegar and some reusable microfiber cloths or scrubbing brushes!

Psst — on an unrelated note, today is the last day to sign up for Mama Natural’s first-ever online natural childbirth class, which starts up tomorrow! I couldn’t get by without her blog, and what I like about this course is that it includes comprehensive breastfeeding support, a.k.a the information you need even more than preparation for labor and delivery. You’ll also get to be part of a community of crunchy moms with due dates around the same time as yours, and who wouldn’t love that? Check it out! 

Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Mini Muffins

It is peak strawberry picking season in New England right now, so I thought it would be a great time to test some new dessert recipes. I could never get bored of my two favorites — strawberry shortcakestrawberry-rhubarb crumble — but it’s always good to experiment with new baking ideas! Inspired by how much Georgia loved some tiny cupcakes a friend made last weekend, I whipped up a simple recipe for Miniature Strawberry Muffins during nap time last Sunday. It was a huge hit with both of us, and we do consider ourselves strawberry (and muffin) experts 🙂IMG_0405

I bought a one-pound container of strawberries and probably used about half, give or take. Georgia and I just sliced up the rest for a refreshing snack!

Strawberry Mini Muffins

Makes 24 muffins in about 45 minutes of hands-on time.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 stick of butter (unsalted), softened to room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 C (plus 1 TBSP) TigerNut Flour*
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, acidified^^
  • 1/2 cup of strawberries, diced very small
  • a pinch of salt

^^ Acidified milk is produced by adding lemon juice to pasteurized milk at room temperature, then letting it sit for a few minutes so that it appears to curdle. The milk isn’t actually souring, you’re just altering its taste and texture to mimic that of buttermilk. The ratio to use is 1 cup of milk to one halved lemon, juiced. In this recipe you can use 1/2 the cup to start and then add in a bit more if the batter seems too thick as you’re mixing.

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DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375 and spray a miniature muffin tin with baking spray. Set the butter out to warm to room temperature.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer (or hand mixer) until combined, then add the egg.

Sift together one cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the milk to the mixer on low.

In a small bowl, toss the chopped strawberries with the TBSP of flour.* Fold the strawberries into the batter.

Drop tablespoons of the batter into each muffin tin, filling them about 2/3 high.

Bake for 14-16 minutes or until they are turning golden at the edges and are springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let them cool in the muffin tin for another 15 minutes.

If you used a non-stick pan in particular, your muffins should release very easily when you’re ready to eat them! Ours kept in the fridge for exactly one week.

*RECIPE NOTES

Why add lemon to milk in this recipe? Because I didn’t have buttermilk handy, and acidifying milk with lemon is the best way to achieve the same result. Buttermilk’s role in baking is to lighten your batter, as the acids in buttermilk “get fizzy” when they make contact with baking soda or powder. This reaction makes baked goods airy and tender, and cancels out the sour taste of buttermilk (or ‘soured’ whole milk). You can also add vinegar to milk to achieve the same effect if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you have none handy. Or, you can thin sour cream or plain yogurt with water. All these options will play the same role in your batter, and are only slightly less creamy in texture than buttermilk would be.

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You can use any type of flour, but I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to try TigerNut flour along with a host of other organic & paleo-friendly products from OrganicGemini in Brooklyn recently. They are best known for their TigerNut Horchata, which comes in more than half a dozen flavors such as strawberry, chai and banana. TigerNuts are actually tubers, or small root vegetables. Nut-free and gluten-free, they make an appealing baking substitute for kids and classrooms with allergies! Next time I have to bake for Georgia’s school, this will be my go-to flour.

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Last note: adding flour to the strawberries before putting them into your batter helps keep the chopped fruit from sinking to the bottom as your muffins bake. This is a good tip to follow for any similar recipe.

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I really hope you enjoy this one! It made for a great daycare snack for G, and a “pre-breakfast breakfast” for me. (I wake up hungry but don’t have time to eat an actual meal and get G to school and us to work, so I eat my ‘real’ breakfast at my desk every morning). We finished the last two after dinner yesterday, and I seriously wish there were more right about now!

dessert · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes

Strawberry Yogurt Cake

‘Tis the season for fresh strawberries! What better occasion than my mom’s birthday to try a new recipe? This moist cake is made with Greek yogurt, whole wheat flour and a delicious lemon frosting that comes together for a perfect warm-weather, light-eating dessert.

I found this recipe on the blog one perfect bite. It was easy, and gave me the perfect opportunity to use my new KitchenAid stand mixer.

To start, rinse and chop the strawberries. Set aside and preheat the oven to 325 F. Then, grease and flour a Bundt pan. Next, sift together 2 1/4 cups of the flour, all the baking soda and the salt, and set aside. With your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the lemon juice and vanilla extract. Next, in thirds, alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Then, toss the reserved strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Gently mix them into the batter.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the glaze, simply mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice until they form a paste-like consistency. Then, drizzle over the top of the cake and serve!

Since the recipe called for 8 oz. of Greek yogurt and 12 oz. of strawberries, I had extras of both because yogurt is sold in 7 oz. cups and strawberries in 16 oz. containers. So, I blended the extra into a smoothie.

Strawberry Yogurt Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat but you could use regular)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz. fresh strawberries, diced
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Sift together 2-1/4 cups of flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and vanilla extract.

In thirds, alternate beating in flour mixture and yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.

Toss strawberries with remaining 1/4 cup of flour. Gently mix them into batter.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Once cooled, combine confectioners’ sugar and reserved 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over top of cake. Enjoy!