May 28, 2013

From Greasy to Sparkling in 2 Easy Steps


My mom has always had a gas stove so it was obvious to me that when I had my own my house I would also have a gas stove.  My husband, Brad, on the other hand assumed we’d have an electric stove, as that’s what he grew up with.  It might seem like an odd conversation to have but when you’re getting married and moving in together for the first time, you have all sorts of strange conversations, “but I don’t know how to use an electric stove” I would tell him (in my whiniest voice.)  In the end it didn’t really matter what either of us wanted because for the first year of our marriage we lived in an apartment furnished with, you guessed it, an electric stove; I was forced to “learn to use it.”

What I learned was

  1. When you turn off the burner on an electric stove it isn’t immediately cool.  You have to remove the pan and then remember not to touch that area on the stovetop for fear of burning yourself.
  2. Cleaning an electric stove is as easy as wiping down a countertop since the surface is flat.

The electric stove had won me over.  This lazy girl would burn her hand a hundred times on a hot stovetop and still pick the easier cleanup.

After a year of apartment living, we’d had enough, enough loud music, stomping on the ceiling at 3:00 a.m., trash in the hallway, and the list goes on.  We were on the hunt for our very first house.  After numerous realtors and even more houses, we found it:  a two story white house with green shutters and a brick face, 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, full basement, living room, dining room and a kitchen complete with refrigerator and of course, a gas stove. 

I actually do love the gas stove but after 3 years of boil overs, oil splashing, and food spills the burner grates are pretty disgusting.  They have curves and crevices that are hard to get to and no matter what I try I just can’t seem to get them clean. I’ve soaked them and scrubbed them with every cleaner imaginable over the last 3 years but the grates still have black, burnt on debris that I can’t seem to get rid of.



“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is(n't)” 


When I found a two step method to making gas stove burners sparkling clean, that’s what I thought, “it’s too good to be true.”  However sometimes there comes a point when you’re willing to try almost anything even though you know in your heart “this will never work.” So off to the store I went, to pick up a bottle of ammonia.  Of course after I bought the ammonia I began to have second thoughts about what a waste of time this little experiment would be and left the unopened bottle sitting in my cupboard for about a month.  This past weekend I finally decided to give it a go, I mean it couldn't possibly make the problem any worse. 


I poured some ammonia into a gallon sized Ziplock bag, and put the most used, therefore most disgusting, stove burner into the bag with it.  I zipped the bag closed and placed it outside and then repeated with the second most disgusting burner.





I waited 24 hours, removed the burner from the ammonia filled bag (immediately zipped the bag closed again) and wiped it off with a warm wet washcloth.  I guess the old saying “if it sounds too good to be true…” doesn't apply here because the built up dirt and grime wiped away effortlessly, just as promised.



“But Jessica, if you already bought the ammonia why did you wait a month to try this, I  mean it’s two steps?” – I know this was SUPER easy and I honestly have no good reason to have put off this experiment for so long.

DIRECTIONS / OTHER INFORMATION

  • You only need about two tablespoons of ammonia.  It’s not the ammonia itself that cleans the burners but the fumes.
  • I put the Ziplock bags outside just incase the bag decided to spring a leak.  The ammonia smell is pretty strong even in small amounts.
  • The instructions I got said to let the burners sit for 24 hours.  I feel like I could have started this in the morning and cleaned the burners before bed though (more like 12 hours.)

Of course now I have this giant bottle of ammonia that I have no other uses for (yet).  

Do you know of any other awesome uses for ammonia?


Before and After


May 21, 2013

DIY Pore Cleansing "Strip"


Do you know what I love?  

...Biore Deep Cleansing Pore Strips.  

You know you use them (or something similar.)  You wash your face, stick the strip to your forehead/nose/chin and wait, you wait for the strip to harden and you pull it off.  You pull the strip from your face taking all the dirty built up black heads with it.  Then what do you do?  Oh come on be honest!  You do what I do, you flip the strip over and look at all the disgusting stuff you just pulled from deep within your pores.  It’s pretty gross, but when I see all those blackheads on the pore cleansing strip I feel like my face is cleaner, clearer, just all around better.  Now if only I could afford to do this more often, or even better if the pore cleansing strips could reach more of my face. 

Then I found it. I found a solution. I found a cheap, DIY solution.  A cheap, DIY solution that actually works!  And I’m so glad to be sharing it with you.

What you’ll need

  • 1 Tablespoon UNFLAVORED gelatin (seriously, get the unflavored stuff; you don’t want to end up looking like a ninja turtle do you?)
  • 1 ½-2 Tablespoons milk (whatever kind you have on hand)
  • A disposable container and disposable spoon/stick for mixing the ingredients

 Here we go

            Step 1 – Wash and dry your face
            Step 2 – Quickly mix your gelatin and milk together until you get a chunky consistency


Step 3 – Microwave your gelatin for about 10-15 seconds – this will make the mixture creamier
Step 4 – Stir the mixture and apply to your face – anywhere and everywhere (I used it all over)
            Step 5 – Let the mixture harden on your face (about 15 minutes)


            Step 6 – Start peeling


Step 7 – Look at the all the gross stuff you just peeled off you face.  Okay so this isn’t really a step but you know you’re going to do it anyway.

CAUTION!!!
  • This mixture smells TERRIBLE; this is something I should have been prepared for as the mixture consists for 50% heated milk, but I wasn’t L.
  • The original post (linked below) says to “start applying IMMEDIATELY” because the mixture hardens fast, however this is a LIE.  I mean, don’t wait around forever before applying, as it does harden quickly but I totally burned my face when I applied this “immediately” so let it cool a little before scalding yourself like I did.
  • Do yourself a favor and steer clear of your eyebrows.  There is a very good chance that it may pull out some hairs that you’d probably rather keep
  • This can be very painful to peel off of sensitive skin such as your cheeks and the area directly beneath your eyes.
  • Don’t glob it on, places where there was too much mixture didn’t dry properly and therefore didn’t actually adhere to my face.  Try to layer it thin and evenly.

You are now left with a clean smooth face.  This stuff is awesome.  It pulls out not only blackheads, but dry skin and those fuzzy little hairs you hate too. 

Thank you to petit elefant for sharing this.

May 14, 2013

The Color Run


This past weekend was AMAZING.

It all started about a year ago when I saw this pin on Pinterest.

I didn’t know what it was but it looked AWESEOME.  That girl, whoever she is, is full of color and so happy.  I had to know more.  That’s when I discover The Color Run “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.”  Before this, I never had any interest in running, certainly not running a 5K, but she just looked so HAPPY. 

I told Brad about The Color Run and that I kind of wanted to do it, I thought he would be completely uninterested, but like the amazing husband he is, he told me that if I wanted to run it he would do it with me.

In December we signed up for a gym membership at Fitness 19 so we could start running on the treadmill.  In January we officially signed up for The Color Run on May 11, 2013 in Ypsilanti, MI.  It was sometime between January when we signed up and this past Saturday when we actually ran The Color Run that I realized, I HATE RUNNING.  Kudos to those of you running marathons and half marathons because running is terrible.  While “training” I would be running along and just start walking, not because my legs were tired, not because I was out of breath, simply because I did not want to be running any longer.  Once the weather got warmer I started running at the park, which was a little better than on a treadmill but still did not offer much relief.  It was about a week before The Color Run when I stopped looking forward to the run itself and started looking forward to it being over instead.

The Color Run suggests you pick up your check-in packets early to avoid long lines on the day of the race so Brad and I decided to make the 50 minute drive from Toledo to Ypsilanti on Friday afternoon, the day before the race.  It’s kind of a long drive to just stop by pick up some paperwork and turn around to drive 50 minutes back to Toledo so I did some online research for a local restaurant in Ypsilanti we could check out for lunch.  We ended up at Sidetrack Bar and Grill.  It’s housed in an old downtown building with character that newer construction simply cannot emulate. We sat on the patio, which was lined with bricks, vines, and old cast-iron railings to give the restaurant a top-notch ambience that really makes your meal an experience.

Sidetrack boasts
  “‘Our Famous Handcrafted Burger’ Rated one of the nation’s 20 BEST BURGERS by GQ Magazine.” 
After seeing such lofty praises, we naturally had to try the burgers. Before we got to the main course though we decided to get an appetizer and drinks. First up was the avocado dip, served with what seemed to be baked-in-house tortilla chips. I’m not sure what they added (or didn’t add) to make it different from your standard guacamole, but whatever it was, it worked. It was light, creamy, delicious, and gone within minutes. Feeling adventurous, we both ordered Kasteel Rouge (a cherry beer) to drink. We’ve had a few other cherry beers in the past (notably Sam Adams Cherry Wheat), but to compare Kasteel Rouge to them would be like comparing cherry-flavored Tylenol to 100% cherry juice – and no, that’s not an exaggeration. After some quick research, I found out why. The brew starts with a brown ale that is aged for six months; then that is aged in a separate barrel along with sour cherries for ANOTHER six months. The result is incredible; the cherries seamlessly blend with the ale for a quality I haven’t experienced in any other flavored beer. In short, if you are a fan of cherries, or just a fan of beer, don’t hesitate to pay a little extra for it.

When the burgers came out, they were predictably amazing. Had they served me a plain patty and called it Salisbury steak, it likely would have made for a delicious meal. You know you’ve got a great burger when the toppings become irrelevant and you just find yourself raving about how good the beef is. Served with hand-cut fries, it was the type of simple, yet extremely high-quality meal that you can eat time and time again…and yes, it would be worth the 50-minute car ride just for lunch.

6:45 a.m. and tired
Saturday morning we headed back up to Ypsilanti around 6:45 a.m.  Brad isn’t used to being up that early and we were exhausted! We arrived in Ypsilanti around 8 a.m., we hadn’t anticipated it being so cold when we signed up for the race, it was only about 45°, of course the entire 2 weeks before the race it’s been around 70°.  Freezing our butts off in shorts and t-shirts, we got in line to get to the start line.  Yes there were so many people running that there was line to get to the start line, they released runners/walker about every 5 minutes to start the race.  Standing in the large crowd our bodies began to warm up and I became excited about running again.  There is a DJ playing music and you are surrounded by tons of people who are excited to be there, it’s hard not to be excited. They counted us down…


10…9…8…7...6…5…4…3…2…1 

and Brad and I were off, running our very first 5K ever.  Turns out running isn’t so bad, when your running in a group, it was actually fun…it was a lot of fun. I felt like the girl from the picture I had pinned on Pinterest a year earlier.

Brad and I ran the race together, hitting every “color zone” at each kilometer together.   I was so proud that we (I) ran almost the entire 5 kilometers, there was a lot of congestion at the orange color zone so we had to stop and walk (I guess everyone really likes the color orange) and we started walking once more only to hear someone nearby say there was only about a half mile left, so we started running once more and we finished the race, covered in color, teeth blue, hand in hand.  

It really is “The Happiest 5k on the Planet.”



Before



After the run



After the run there is a color party with a DJ and stage, where they throw free stuff into the crowd and have a color throw every 5-10 minutes where everyone in the crowed opens up a packet of color and throws it in the air. By the time we reached the car we were covered from head to toe. We put sheets down in the car and took off our colored covered shirts for the ride home. 

I blew teal colored snot out of my nose, I had to wash teal stain from the bathtub after showering, and I’m still cleaning color out of my ears.  Even though prior to this race I never wanted to run again, I couldn’t wait for the run to be over…now…


I can’t wait to do it all over again next year! 


After the Color Party

Disclaimer:  I did not write this blog on my own, Brad was very helpful with part. I do agree with everything written.  If you know me, you can probably guess where he helped :)

THANK YOU TO THE MOST AMAZING HUSBAND FOR BLINDLY SIGNING UP FOR THE COLOR RUN!!!


May 7, 2013

Chocolate Covered S'mores

"Pinstrosity" - Two brilliant women started a blog dedicated to those, less than successful, Pinterest finds.


Here lies my very first (as I'm sure there will be more) Pinstrosity.


I found this pin on Pinterest simply tagges as "dipped s'mores."  

Looks easy AND delicious, right?

I clicked the link which took me to tipjunkie, and read the post, directions and all.  It seemed really easy and we had chocolate chips, marshmallows and melting chocolate in the house (I've been trying to clear off my baking shelf in the pantry.)  I asked Brad to pick up some graham crackers after work.

Tipjunkie's directions say:  Break your graham crackers in to halves, and line them up on your baking sheet. Top half of your graham crackers with marshmallows and half with chocolate. Put your sheet of s’mores into the oven (in my toaster oven I had the temperature set at 400 degrees). The chocolate melts and the marshmallows puff up quickly (a matter of minutes), so keep a close eye on them. When the marshmallows reach your desired shade of brown, pull them out of the oven. After removing from the oven you can transfer to your countertop to allow you more room to work. Insert a lollipop stick into each marshmallow and add the chocolate covered graham cracker.She goes on to say that if you don't have lollipop sticks only dip half the s'more into the melting chocolate (as pictured above.)

This could not possibly be any easier....or could it?

I heated my oven to 400° and busted out a couple of baking sheets.  Brad and I broke the graham crackers in half, placed them on the baking sheet and put one marshmallow on one half of the grahams and 9 little chocolates on each of the rest of the grahams.

Then I put the baking sheet in the oven and turned the light on so I could watch them, instead of trying to time them.

While the s'mores where in the oven I dumped the melting chocolates into my smallest pan and turned the burner underneath it, to low. So far, so good.


PINSTROSITY ACTIVATE


Once I pulled the s'mores from the oven I put the two halves (one chocolate, one marshmallow) together.  Marshmallow spewed from the sides of the graham, it seemed like there was more excess mallow than there was graham.  Brad cut the marshmallows for the next batch in half.                                
While Brad started on the next batch I checked the melting chocolates to see if it was ready for me to try dipping the overflowing s'mores.  Much to my surprise the chocolate hadn't thinned, instead it had actually thickened into a brownie type texture.  The instructions on the bag had no pointers on how to thin the chocolate so I took to Google.  I found a couple different ways to thin the chocolate and decided on the "add milk" method.  It sort of worked at first, but then the chocolate and milk started to separate and I ended up with a thick chocolate mixture surrounded by liquid (sorry I didn't think to take a picture to show you.)    I poured some of the liquid out and ended with, well I'm not really sure how to describe what I ended up with, it wasn't exactly dipping chocolate but it was usable for the most part.

By this time the second batch of s'mores, with the half sized marshmallows, were done and ready to be put together.  I put a chocolate half on top of a marshmallow half and again, the mallow started gushing from the sides, not as badly as the ones with the whole marshmallows but equally as annoying.



I tried dipping one of the s'mores into the melting chocolate but the excess marshmallow (and defective melting chocolate) made for less than optimal results.  As a last ditch effort I tried cutting the marshmallow from the edges of the s'mores before dipping them but to no avail.  I tried dipping about 8 of them before giving up completely.

Here were the results


After reviewing the pictures Brad doesn't seem to think they turned out that bad, but agreed the process itself was horrendous.

POSITIVES FROM MAKING DIPPED S'MORES:

  • I wasn't making these to take for a family/friend get together.
  • They were tasty
  • Brad and I actually preferred them without the dipping chocolate, of course then you're left with just a regular old s'more.
  • Brad and I got to do this together, which made the failure fun and laughable instead of miserable; and it made for a pretty cheap date.