Friday Favorites – Household Items

This week I’m sharing 5 of my favorite household items. Tried and true, these always make the Target/Amazon list. Once we find something we like, we stick with it.

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Seventh Generation Liquid Laundry Detergent

I’m partial to the Blue Eucalyptus & Lavender scent for this. I feel like it does a better job on the smelly workout clothes than the Free & Clear. I haven’t tried the Fresh Citrus, I’m sure it’s great but our Target never has it.

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Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate

I love Mrs. Meyer’s products. This is only one that I consistently buy. I use it in a variety of ways which is why I like having it on hand. The two main things I use it for are mopping and refilling our counter spray bottle. I love the variety of scents that Mrs. Meyer’s come out with, especially the seasonal ones. Right now I have the Radish scent and it’s wonderful. The only scent I don’t like so far is the Basil.

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Seventh Generation Toilet Bowl Cleaner

This is effective, smells great, and lasts forever. Everything you want in a toilet bowl cleaner right?

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Caldrea Countertop Spray

Is it weird to love a countertop spray? I love Caldrea countertop sprays. They are pricey so I only buy them when they are on sale and in the Cartwheel app. So many wonderful sounding scents. My personal favorite is Hibiscus Yuzu which I believe was a Target exclusive that is no longer carried. Either way, this spray smells divine and works well which makes cleaning fun.

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Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

I finally relented and bought a bottle of this on our last Target trip and now I will never go without it. The main reason I hadn’t bought it is because of the price, at $17.99 it takes a big chunk out of our monthly household goods budget. It was always easier to buy something that’s $3.99. I’m so glad I finally bought it. This stuff is amazing, you can use it in so many different ways. I diluted it to use it as our hand soap and it’s also the main ingredient in the shaving cream that I make. I’ll share that eventually. Someday I’ll do a post just on castile soap recipes/uses. We currently have the almond scent, I like it but it’s strong so it’s not quite as versatile as I would like. If you have essential oils on hand that you like I would probably just get the unscented.

DIY Makeup Remover Pads

I just finished up a package of facial wipes and decided it was time to try making my own wipes. I had all of the ingredients on hand and the whole process took less than 5 minutes. I was anxious to see how they worked to I put some waterproof mascara on and tried one out. It removed all of the mascara and didn’t sting at all. I was able to pack about 25-30 cotton pads into a 4 ounce mason jar so this jar should last me about a month. I’m very happy that I can cross one more thing off of my monthly Target list and about 10 more ingredients out of my daily beauty routine!

Here’s the ingredient list of the wipes I just finished…

Water, cetearyl alcohol, cetearyl isononanoate, cetearath-20, glyceryl stearate, glycerin, cetyl palmitate, panthenol, tocopheryl acetate, ceteareth-12, phenoxyethanol, sodium citrate, citric acid, disodium edta, benzoic acid, dehydroacetic acid.

Here’s the ingredient list for the DIY remover pads…

Water, almond oil, witch hazel, Vitamin E oil.

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DIY Makeup Remover Pads

2 tablespoons distilled water

2 tablespoons sweet almond oil

2 tablespoons witch hazel

10 drops of Vitamin E oil

25-30 cotton pads

4 ounce glass jar

Combine all of the ingredients in glass measuring cup and stir. Place half of the cotton pads in glass jar and pour half of 3/4 of the mixture over the pads. Push the cotton pads down towards the bottom of the jar with your fingers so they are getting fully soaked in the mixture. Place the rest of the cotton pads in the jar and then pour the remaining mixture over the top. Push down again with your fingers to condense the pads into the mixture.

Use over the top of your eyelids and around your eyes to remove makeup.

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I got the original recipe from whole new mom. I wanted these to be wipes so I just used the same recipe and incorporated the cotton pads into it. I understand that I could just use soap and water at night but truth be told, I’m lazy and want something easier. Also, soap and water always seem to require too much scrubbing in order to get waterproof mascara off. These work perfectly for my needs!

Gen Con 2015

Two weeks ago we drove to Indiana for Gen Con. Gen Con is a gaming convention. Basically all of the game developers (mostly board games) gather in one place to show you what they have to offer.

We drove out to Buffalo on Wednesday to stay with Colin’s grandmother. From there we drove the rest of the way to Indianapolis. After a quick search for nearby restaurants on Yelp we decided to check out a place called Spice Nation. It had good reviews and I thought it would be a good chance to try out Indian food since we can’t really get it anywhere in Plattsburgh. The food was outstanding. It was buffet style which is great because we were able to try a variety of dishes without having to commit. I don’t remember the names of any of the dishes we ate but I’m glad we were able to try some new flavors. We are definitely fans of Indian cuisine!

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Spice Nation, our 1st real experience with Indian food!

Friday was our 1st day at GenCon. There were tons of different event, demos, tournaments, etc. going on but the main attraction was the exhibit hall which is where we spent the majority of our time. Basically every major game company has a booth area where they set up the games they want to show off and let people play. Then they usually have a place where you can buy the games you just played. We had a list of games in hand that we wanted to try and just casually made our way around. We went home with 5 games from the 1st day!

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Mysterium, one of the most talked about games at Gen Con. It sold out within the first 5 minutes everyday.

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Our haul from the 1st day! Colt Express, Codenames, Warehouse 51, Telestrations After Dark, and Letter Tycoon.

After we finished up in the convention center we hit up the food trucks for dinner and then made our way downtown to the Shut Up & Sit Down party at The Circle City Market.

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Red Velvet cupcake from The Flying Cupcake food truck. This would probably make my top 5 list for cupcakes bought at bakeries.

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Circle City Market. It was closed while we were there, but I bet it would be a really fun place to check out when it’s open!

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Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument

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Day 2 was pretty much the same thing, we just made our way around to the rest of the games we wanted to try. We explored a little more of downtown Indianapolis on our way to lunch at Bazbeaux. I ordered the Zombie Dust beer from 3 Floyds Brewing Company. It’s currently ranked #10 on Beer Advocate. We found ourselves with 3 more games at the end of day 2. On our way out we got dinner at the food trucks again and I made sure to get another cupcake from The Flying Cupcake. We decided to end the day with an Indy Eleven soccer game. It was the perfect way to end an awesome trip.

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Had to get another cupcakes from The Flying Cupcake, this one is Butterbeer!

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Day 2 haul

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Indy Eleven game!

We will definitely go back to Gen Con the next chance we get. Not only was the convention great but Indianapolis itself was a great city. Everyone was extremely friendly and it was clean and easy to get around. It was such a great trip!

January Goals Recap

No Target – This goal was a huge success! I only went to Target once the entire month. No only did it save us money, but I ate healthier too.

Eat fruit everyday – 100% success! The key to success with this goal was keeping it simple. Typical Jennie would over think it and try to get lots of variety. Instead, I got simple fruits that stay fresh for awhile. I stuck with bananas, apples, and oranges. I tried a few different varieties of apples and discovered that I really like Braeburns. I used the bananas mostly for smoothies. I found that 2 weeks into this I was craving fruit by the end of the day. The downside to this goal is that I went through a lot of peanut butter! I had it with the apples and used it in a lot of smoothies.

Piano 3 times a week – I probably sat down about 6 times to play. I shouldn’t have put this down as a goal in the first place. I don’t think I should create put pressure on myself about a hobby. If I do it great, if I don’t oh well.

Run 8 times – HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Maybe next month….

Movie night – We watched a great variety of movies in January. Silence of the Lambs, Burt’s Buzz, Election, Selma, and Seven. Talk about covering the categories!

Game night – Lost track of how many games we played! Camel Up, Ticket To Ride, Sherlock Holmes, Legendary, King of Tokyo, King of New York, and Machi Koro.

So 4 out of 6 of my goals were a great success!! I can’t believe how fast February came. I guess I should figure out my February goals!

Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

“How do you get the cupcakes so moist and yet so fluffy?” That is what one of the girls at work asked me at work today. I am passionate about the texture of my cupcakes. Every batch I make I take one and test the texture. I don’t put any frosting on it and I pull it apart down the center to see how it holds up. You need to be able to take a bite of a cupcake without the rest of it falling on to the plate. I do not like crumbly cupcakes. So, when someone asks me how I get my cupcakes so moist and yet so fluffy, I do a little happy dance. This is the sweetest of victories for me.

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This was the first time I’ve ever made yellow cupcakes and it did not disappoint. The recipe is a little different because you separate the eggs and fold the eggs in at the very end. The cupcakes baked up perfectly and the flavor was amazing. Very distinct butter flavor that would pair well with a variety of frostings. I would love to try these again with a fancy butter. The frosting was divine. The perfect consistency and flavor to pair with the yellow cupcake.IMG_1087

Most Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Cupcakes

  • 2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk

Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with cupcake liners.

For the cupcakes: Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add two egg yolks and the vanilla. (Set the egg whites aside.) Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Whisk or beat the 2 egg whites until thick and foamy, about 3 minutes. Fold into cupcake batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the frosting: Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 2 full minutes. This creates a creamy base for the frosting. Turn speed to LOW and slowly add 3 cups of confectioners’ sugar, the cocoa powder, and salt. Beat until sugar/cocoa are absorbed into the butter, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer to medium speed and add the vanilla and cream. Once added, turn the mixer to high speed and beat for 1 minute. Add the last 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar if you’d like to increase the frosting’s thickness. Pipe or spread the frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 5. The baked cupcakes (without frosting) may be frozen up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

January Reading List

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Last month I happened to catch Tom Brokaw’s interview with Angelina Jolie on the Nightly News about her movie adaptation of the book Unbroken. I was immediately wrapped in by the story of Louis Zamperini. This was not a typical book for me, lately I’ve read a lot of YA fiction. This is a true story about track Olympian Louis Zamperini and his time spent in the Air Force during World War II. This story read like fiction, maybe that’s because Zamperini lived a life that to many of us is unbelievable. For me this was a definite page turner, and I gave it 4 out of 5 on goodreads.

Currently Reading

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Homemade Glass Cleaner

A few years ago my sister ended up in the ER because she was having a hard time breathing. It turns out she was cleaning a bathroom with very little ventilation that aggravated her existing breathing issues. It was right after that incident that Colin and I made the switch to all natural cleaning supplies. The idea that cleaning supplies could put land you in the ER was a little insane to me. We have made little switches over the years but the first thing we switched was our all-purpose cleaner. We lived in Vermont at the time and Seventh Generation was very easy to find and affordable. After that we started swapping one thing at a time. We’ve found a good variety of natural, effective, and affordable cleaning products that have become staples in our home. I’m constantly learning more about the chemicals/ingredients in household items and I make more switches as I do.

One thing I hadn’t found a good substitute for is glass cleaner. To be honest I’ve been using Seventh Generation’s all-purpose cleaner on the windows and mirrors. It definitely leaves things streaky, but not enough to warrant the use of ammonia!

I’ve been pinning natural cleaning ideas to my Pinterest board for awhile but haven’t made the time to actually do any of them…until now!

Tonight I finally made my own glass cleaner. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner, seriously! It took me about 5 minutes to make and it left our glass front door completely streak free! It’s cheap, non toxic, and actually easier than going to the store. I already had the vinegar and corn starch so all I had to buy was the alcohol and the bottle. 

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Here’s what you need: (recipe from whole new mom and Crunchy Betty)

2 cups warm water

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 Tbsp. corn starch

1 empty spray bottle (found mine in the mop and sponge aisle of Target)

I used a large glass measuring cup to combine all of the ingredients and then poured it into my spray bottle.

 

Now I need to figure out what else I can make at home!