Tips & Tricks Tuesday🏑

Yesterday after I posted my microwave confession I decided I should embrace my cleaning obsession and make it a weekly share. I’m nonstop searching for and trying out cleaning and household products to find the best of the best. I’m also always looking for things that make my life easier and more efficient. So why not share so others can benefit from my crazy! πŸ€ͺ

Ever since I was younger I remember loving to clean, dust and reorganize my bedroom. I would randomly decide I needed a change and try to move around my furniture and reorganize. I loved helping my mom clean!! One of my jobs would be cleaning the carpeted stairs and I would use a heavy duty cleaning brush to get all the junk stuck in the crease….it would be so satisfying to get those suckers spotless! Oh and cleaning the giant solarium windows were another favorite! See this isn’t new, I was definitely born this way! Lol! Once in college after a breakup I spent days scouring my dorm room and our suite kitchen, I wreaked of cleaning products for days!!

Ok let’s move on, so every Tuesday I’ll share something I’ve found that works either for cleaning or any random tip that I’ve found makes life easier.

Today I’m starting with my hardwood floors because they were trashed after the holidays! My house is predominantly hardwood and I love it because it’s so much easier to clean than carpet! But my floors take quite a beating. Shoes are worn in the house, my littlest one is known to drag chairs around so she can reach things and my son bounces & dribbles ALL the balls!! I’m constantly yelling at the kids to stop running, pick things up and don’t drag stuff across the floor. Don’t judge on the balls in the house, totally my husband’s fault because he thinks it’s great that the kids are ‘practicing.’ πŸ™„ Not so great when a soccer ball kicked across the kitchen beheaded a pricey Disney Tinker Belle cookie jar I loved 🀬 Ok back to my floors…

I always clean my floors with Pine-Sol multi-surface, the one that says safe for use on hardwood floors. And I always say “that’s the power of Pine-Sol baby” multiple times while I’m cleaning 😬, it has to be done. But seriously, it smells so amazing and gets all the greasy or stuck on stuff up quick and easy. The real secret is how to get the floors sparkling. Holloway House Quick Shine is the trick and I buy a big bottle from Walmart . Put some in a simple spray bottle and don’t dilute. After my floor has dried completely, I spray a small area at a time and spread with a wet mop. I use a bucket with a little bit of water and a separate mop. I recommend using a separate mop because the solution is a bit tacky, I just buy one from the dollar store so I don’t get it confused with my regular mop. After you do the entire floor you need to let it dry completely because it is a tiny bit sticky when wet and you will see footprints. And voila done!!! Amazing shine! If your floors are super dull you can repeat and polish again once it dries. My floors seriously shine like new when I’m done without having to do anything expensive or permanent.

Go ahead, try it and tell me what you think!

~Elena 🧼


What exactly is pigs in a blanket?πŸ–

Last week I asked my family if they had any dinner requests and my oldest immediately said ‘Pigs in a Blanket’. I wasn’t sure what she meant because people have different ideas of what pigs in a blanket actually is. My son then yells “yes, those hot dog things!!’ At which point she says no, what she was referring to was cabbage rolls and my husband immediately agrees with her request.

Where we are originally from in Pennsylvania many people make stuffed cabbage rolls referred to as Pigs in a Blanket. A quick Google search tells me that the origin is Jewish or Polish , which there were large populations of both where we lived. But I’m Italian and I can tell you I don’t recall my mom ever making them…stuffed peppers yes but cabbage was saved for St. Paddy’s day.☘️

I’ve made Stuffed Cabbage in the past but this time I thought I would search for an Instant Pot recipe. I found a pretty clear and detailed recipe online that seemed doable. First I must admit it was a tad tedious and took quite a bit of hands on time. I tried to do a few things at once to get it done quicker but it definitely is a recipe you need free time for, and not one to put on your easy weeknight meal rotation. Normally I’m trying to cook while helping with homework and projects, but this one needed my full attention until it was all assembled and closed up in the Instant Pot. But all in all it was delicious!! We had leftovers since it made about 13/14 rolls for me and they were all eaten in 2 days!

Here’s the recipe.

I made one change and used 2lb of the super lean ground beef omitting the ground pork. I also put way more than 2 tablespoons of filling in each because I like them super full. The recipe says it made 15 rolls, I’m pretty sure I had 13 or 14 because I was out of large leaves by that point but I still had a lot of filling leftover. Since it was already mixed I decided to cook it up in a pan and added a few spoons of diced tomatoes. My girls (and I🀫) ate it while we waited for the rolls to cook in the IP. I didn’t need or use toothpicks to hold them together because they hold on their own with the seam down. When I put them in the IP they filled it up to just about the Max Fill line which made me a bit nervous since I’ve never used it that full before and I’m still terrified it’s going to blow!! Lol! In the end they cooked perfectly in the suggested time and came out totally in tact.

My husband always says there are just some foods that no matter how good they taste, they just don’t make for pretty pictures. You know like when you see friends posting their meals on FB and you’re like ‘WTH is that and why are you sharing?’ πŸ˜‚πŸ€£This is definitely one of them. But I promise if you have the time to make them you will not be disappointed!

~Elena πŸ’–


How many books can you read in 2019? πŸ“š

I recently read a 2017 article about how much time we waste on social media and electronic devices, and how that translates in to how many books we can read in that amount of time each year. It’s really shocking if you think about it. Here’s the article.   

I’ve definitely done much better in the last 6-7 months. I’ve made sure to always try to remember to have a book with me wherever I go. This way if I’ve ever got time to waste it’s spent reading and not scrolling. I still get caught up from time to time….just a quick check of my email, see what’s happening on Facebook or Instagram and twenty minutes later I haven’t moved! I’ve made sure to log in to my library account weekly to add books I’m interested in to my queue and move others to my hold list. And when I finish a good one I’m itching to get in to another right away. But still after reading this article I’m up for a good challenge.

For 2019 I’m going to push myself and see how many books I can read. I didn’t keep track in 2018. And although I think I did pretty good some months reading 4/5 books especially in the summer, I can’t even give a good guesstimate because some months I definitely slacked off. This year I’m writing down every single book. I’ve already challenged Erin and my daughter Isabella, loser buys winner a book. As of today 1/8 I have started and completed one book, and just started my second yesterday.

Here’s a list of a few that are in my queue at the library so far:

  • Cottage By The Sea
  • Nine Perfect Strangers
  • Every Breath
  • Sleeping Beauties
  • The Rumor
  • Luckiest Girl Alive
  • The President’s Shadow
  • Our Souls at Night
  • An Anonymous Girl
  • Girls’ Night Out
  • The Third Wife
  • (and I always love recommendations)

Who’s in for a friendly competition? Write down every book that you start and complete for the year. Let’s see who can read the most!!! Winner gets a new book! it’s on…… πŸ“–πŸ†

~Elena πŸ’–


Instant Pot trials πŸ˜œ

I’m excited to say I’ve used the Instant Pot twice in the last 4 days with total success and plan on using it again tonight. Nothing has blown up and I haven’t been injured 🀣 #intimidatedbytheinstantpot

My youngest turned six last week and I always let the birthday boy or girl choose their birthday dinner if we plan to be home for the evening. Since it was a school night and the second day back after Christmas break, we figured we would stay home and do a ‘party day’ on the weekend. Her dinner of choice was homemade macaroni and cheese with pineapple upside down cupcakes for dessert. I had recently searched up some Instant Pot recipes and printed them out encouraging myself to use it more and one of the recipes was for macaroni and cheese. Even more perfect was that I happened to have all the ingredients on hand. Here’s the recipe. And I’m so disappointed I didn’t take a pic so you could see how creamy & cheesy, so you’ll just have to try it! I did change up the cheese and use Colby jack in place of Monterey but I think you could try all different types. Next time I want to throw in some lobster 😍 It was so good, the kids loved it and all three took the leftovers to school for lunch the following day in thermos’. My son who won’t eat boxed macaroni and cheese even loved it!

Then yesterday after spending the entire day out in the cold taking down Christmas decorations, I just wanted something super easy to make for dinner. So I opted for turkey hot dogs and searched for a quick potato recipe in the Instant Pot. Most of the recipes were either for mashed potatoes or required a steamer basket or some other accessory I don’t have yet. (I’m still scared of blowing the house up 😣so I haven’t invested in any accessories yet.) I found a bacon ranch potato recipe that seemed doable. https://www.busycooks.net/instant-pot-cheesy-bacon-ranch-potatoes/ I didn’t have red potatoes so brown it was , I also substituted turkey bacon and light ranch dressing. I’m still confused a bit by all the buttons and settings, but this recipe was easy to follow and didn’t require too much work. It was delicious, a keeper!

I’ve read a lot of posts about the Instant Pot and issues people have had, I’ve picked up a few tips here and there. First of all I store mine open which I think helps keep any odors at bay. I hand wash the entire thing, dry it thoroughly and store with the lid on top but upside down. I know parts are dishwasher safe and lots of people do it, but I think hand washing really keeps it like new. It also keeps the rubber seal from getting discolored or having any build up. After washing and drying I do notice my insert has some discoloration on the bottom. Somewhere I read about a product called Bar Keepers Friend and OMG it’s AMAZING! I put a few drops on a paper towel and wipe down the entire insert then rinse thoroughly & dry. It’s even shinier than when I first got it. No joke! Plus I’ve used that product for other pots and to polish my sink. I was in a crazy long line in Williams Sonoma before Christmas and saw it while standing there. I grabbed it for under $5 but you can probably get it anywhere, you won’t regret it!! Just look how shiny 😲

I’m thinking an Instant Pot dessert next, we’ll see!!

~ Elena πŸ’–


New Year=Fresh Bread πŸ₯–πŸ‘©β€πŸ³

Over the weekend we put all of our indoor Christmas decorations away…I know we didn’t waste any time. But our real tree stopped taking water a few days before Christmas so by the 26th there were needles everywhere! We decided to take that down ASAP and one thing led to another. I start to feel really cluttered and overwhelmed after the holiday. I seriously cannot wait to put it all out and decorate Thanksgiving weekend, then Christmas happens and there is just crazy stuff everywhere. I get so claustrophobic and feel totally swamped by it all at that point. So when the new year hits I want a clean, fresh start and that begins with my house being in order.

Then I wasted no time and decided to redo my kitchen cabinets. I found 5 extra pot lids πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ, candy I hid from my kids sometime in the past year and various pans I felt it was time to retire. In doing so I realized I have a little tiny obsession with small appliances. I mean I knew I was a tad obsessed with shoes and handbags, but this really brought my appliance obsession to light. πŸ˜‚ And I have this theory that if I can go a certain amount of time without using something and not missing it at all, I can get rid of it. Which means I need to make use of all my small appliances ASAP! No time like the present!

When I was in college I remember returning from Christmas break and everyone was sharing what they had gotten for Christmas, I returned with a bread maker and was beyond excited!! Dork, right?? Since that was forever ago that bread maker is long gone. But a couple of years ago I got a new one and it’s really awesome! I can make French bread if we’re having pasta and I have no desire to run to the store, and we love cinnamon raisin for breakfast …so when I’m not lazy this appliance gets put to good use.

In my immediate attempt to make my bread maker useful, today I made some Sweet Honey White bread 🍞 I’m going to force myself to use it and some of the other appliances more often and to keep myself in check I’ll share how it’s going. Below is the recipe I used. I’ve used it at least a dozen times in the last few years. It doesn’t require any crazy ingredients, so I always have everything on hand and it’s perfect without any tweaking. I have added oats in the past and my kids still love it! We had it fresh out of the bread machine with dinner tonight. My kids love fresh bread for breakfast, sandwiches and even afternoon snacks, they get it from their mama!!#CarbLife 😜


~Elena πŸ’–

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Tis’ the Season πŸŽ„πŸ’Œ

It’s Christmas card season and I couldn’t be more excited! There’s just something about sending cards to family & friends near and far that I truly love. I remember even when I was younger picking out cards and writing a list of who I wanted to send to. I would check each name off as I sealed the card. As I got older my cards got nicer and the list got longer. Since having a family we’ve switched to photo cards and they tend to change from year to year as well. First it was the simple photo paper cards and now we’ve upgraded to card-stock with metallic shimmer or fancy edges. It does get pricier and pricier, every year I gasp as I close my eyes and hit the order button πŸ™ˆ. But there’s something about actual, real mail that just warms my heart. We print or order return address labels to match and my kids pick out special Christmas stamps at the post office.

So much more than sending cards, I love receiving them! We’ve moved quite a bit in our married life and sadly people get busy often loosing touch. But come December I get to see pictures of families who’ve grown, shots from peoples vacations, new homes, pets and a little glimpse into the lives of people I don’t get to see regularly. Every year we hang our cards on display somewhere in the house. A few years ago we moved them to our front entryway. From day to day I catch my kids loitering around the front door reading cards and looking at pictures. Every so often they’ll ask how we know someone and I explain whether it was a neighbor, colleague or distant relative then sharing with them where that person lives or a special memory. It’s such a great, personal way to keep in touch in our digital world.

Recently on a trip to the dollar store my girls asked if they could buy cards to write out for their classmates. My 12 year old has been doing it since she was in preschool. I would let her pick out a box of cards and help her write names on them. Then she would seal them up and tape a candy cane on the outside. Now I find both my girls sitting and addressing cards to their classmates and friends. My littlest making sure she has Christmas stickers sealing up the back and handwriting ‘Love’ followed by her name on each and every one! (My son not so much πŸ˜‚ )

I sometimes worry this tradition will end. It’s cheaper and easier to send a Merry Christmas text, or a mass email. Our lives have gotten so busy. The holidays so hectic. Lists get longer and shopping is out of control. So many people just don’t write cards anymore for whatever reason. I only hope my girls continue as they get older and pass this same Christmas tradition down to their kids, we could certainly all use more happy mail in our lives! πŸ’Œ.

~Elena πŸ’–


Elf on The Shelf πŸŽ„

I’m sure many of you, like at my house, have embraced the idea of The Elf on The Shelf. We got our elf years ago when my two oldest were babies and he’s continued to visit us every year,  even finding us when we moved over a thousand miles! Now I have a twelve year old non-believer/helper, a 9 year old who possibly believes or just plays along for the presents, and a 5 year old who just eats it all up. The excitement on her face alone every morning when she finds that little rascal is priceless. And like us you probably dread the cold, late night struggle to get out of bed and tend to said elf. At our house it’s a daunting task since we also have about  701 lights and decorations that need to be turned off or unplugged. So we usually doze off, and after getting up to take care of all of it there is no chance of a quick slumber. Hence the reason I’ve been exhausted when the 6am alarm goes off …..but it is what it is!

So back to the elf. I was under the pretense that the little guy (or girl now) was supposed to come to my house, see if my kids are being naughty or nice and fly back to Santa to report. The whole overall goal being to promote good behavior. And just to clarify I did check the book that came with our elf Hermie (yep the kids named him so not very original, but can you guess what movie it’s from??) and also double checked the official Elf on The Shelf website….

I’m all about promoting good behavior! With a very vocal tween, an only boy with severe middle child syndrome, and the sweetest little angel face wild child….. the bickering is out of control. And some days I couldn’t pay them to listen to me or do a darn thing I ask seventy five times. So Hermie flies at night only to return to some unusual hiding spot sometimes bringing a note and/or little surprises to reward good behavior. Seems like the original intent and makes sense to me.

Some of ya’ll though…..I’m baffled. I see elves making crazy messes in kitchens, writing on mirrors, pooping chocolate chips, drinking alcohol, tying up other toys and all kinds of craziness. Did you get your elf at a pawn shop or straight out of a detention center? LOL! I mean it’s cute and all, I often find myself laughing at the thought & creativity so keep sharing. Seems like you’re really having fun with it. But I can’t imagine finding the elf pooping on the kitchen counter is going to promote good behavior, so I’m gonna refrain.  I’m all about being playful and having fun, to each his own. But if I wake up to find elf turds across my kitchen counter, Hermie will have a one way ticket on the Polar Express!! πŸš‚

~Elena πŸŽ„