Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesdays 411 on Cleaning:Bathroom Cleaning Part II

Getting Rid of Stains and Hard Water Build-Up

Yesterday, I gave you a glimpse of what my bathroom shower stall looked like when I moved in, and what it looks like now since I finally found something that worked, without hours of effort.

The day we looked at the house we are now renting, everything was clean and somewhat orderly, even in the midst of boxes and moving preparations. Even though half of the house looked stuck in the early 90's, as far as wall paper and fixtures, it was newer construction and not as big as the yellow house. Both of these things were very important to us because the big yellow house was hard to clean and keep clean.  

The day we moved into the house was a different story.  Apparently, in 2 weeks time, a house can go from immaculate to filthy. Especially during a move.  I knew that. But, another reason we rented this house was the appeal of using a rental agency.  Having rented directly from homeowners before, we learned that during move-ins and maintenance, renters can often be left on their own. With a higher rent, came higher expectations for the house to be ready to move in. That wasn't the case.

I am not sure what happened, but there was no time for clean-up or any of the standard move-in procedures to be done on the day we picked up the keys for the house.  We picked up the keys at 12 noon.  The owner of the home had moved out right at midnight a few hours before. I think the move was much more overwhelming than she realized and there was simply not enough time to get it all done. Carpets weren't cleaned, no touch up paint, no exterior cleaning....no interior cleaning. To make things worse, for some reason on the day we looked at the house, the only place I didn't stick my head was the master bath shower stall. Had I done that, I would have been prepared.

In the bathrooms, this is what we walked into 

Main Bathroom Tub

Master Bathroom Shower Stall
I wanted to cry.

It takes a lot to get me mad enough to actually say something, unless you are in my immediate family. No problem there.  But, other than that, I hate confrontation.  But I got really, really angry when I saw the shower stall.  I called the rental agency.  They sent a cleaning crew, a painter, a carpet cleaner, and a maintenance man over within an hour.  Maybe I should speak up more often.

By that afternoon, everything was clean and to our satisfaction...except the shower stall.  The gal that cleaned it even agreed, this was not a typical dirty shower stall.  She made arrangements with me to come back the next day and work on it some more.  Early the next morning, I wanted to take a shower.  I was cruddy feeling from all the moving, but I didn't necessarily want to take a shower in that stall.  I knew it was surface clean because the gal had spent a couple of hours scrubbing it.  But it didn't look clean and that grossed me out.  So, I decided to clean it myself. I tried:

Comet Bathroom Cleaner
A Magic Eraser (Bath)
Bar Keeper's Friend

NOTHING touched it!  I took a quick shower anyway.  When she came back to clean it further, I gave her a list of everything I tried so that she wouldn't waste her time.  She assured me that she would get it clean.  My suggestion was she let me call the agency back and demand a new door and tile.  She was so sweet, she just smiled and told me not to worry.  

She got it a lot cleaner. After 8 hours.  Of SCRUBBING. With her fingernails and a green scrubber.  One. tile. at. a. time. She was a better woman than me.  I wouldn't have had the patience or strength...or temperament   Worse part is that it didn't all come off.  It was simply "livable". The glass doors still looked frosted, hard water stains where thick on the chrome, and there was still a brown tint on the tiles.

Livable, but not as white as I'd like
So, I've spent the last year and a half scrubbing and spraying and trying everything I can get my hands on just to keep the stall from getting back to where it was....and hoping to get it looking better.  There are lots of suggestions on Pinterest. I think I tried them all. Little by little, the glass has started to look better, but the brown on the tile and the white on the chrome has not. Not even the famous Dawn and vinegar solution did the trick.

A friend recently showed me some before and after photos of her bathtub. She had removed the shower doors and was in the process of a bathroom makeover.  She asked for suggestions in cleaning the tub.  I gave her my Magic Eraser with Comet Bathroom Cleanser (Spray) idea because that is the only thing that gets our main bathtub clean (porcelain), my Tuesday house bathtub clean (Porcelain), and my Wednesday house bathtub clean (fiberglass).  Note, not the tiles, just the bottom of the bathtubs, on the slip resistant areas and on bathtub "rings".

But what she used was....


....Bar Keeper's Friend! That's AMAZING! Funny, I tried that, but it didn't work for me.  I use it in my Wednesday house and it works great in her porcelain sink.  Three doors down, in my Tuesday house....it doesn't touch a single stain.  Darn Chemistry again. Still, with results like this, I HAD to try it one more time.
I went to Walmart, but they were out of the powder.  They did have the soft scrub. I picked it up hoping it would work just as well. It didn't really do much in my stall. No sense in wasting it,so I brought it with me to clean my Tuesday house.  This is the same house where the powder didn't work.  I had been trying to remove these rust stains from their porcelain tub for several months:

To my utter amazement and great delight, It worked!  The soft scrub Bar Keeper's Friend WORKED!
Nevermind that it didn't clean the bottom of the tub. It got the rust spots off, and look at that CHROME! Man. I wish it would have worked for me. Oh well, back to scrubbing and searching.

Two weeks ago, I bought a bottle of Citrasolve.

I used it for an image transfer project. ( A link to that project, here).  I found it at Publix, in the Greenwise section, not with the regular cleaners.  I had never heard of it before.  While working on the image trasfer, I read the label and thought....maybe THIS will get the stall clean.

I used it FULL STRENGTH.  It did OK on the door, got a lot of the white stuff off of the chrome, but didn't touch the tile. Not only did the white still have a brown tinge, but the blue now had a white tinge.

Back to scrubbing.  At least I had some success with toilets.  That made me feel better. And I didn't have to deal with yucky shower stalls in the other houses.  The reason for that is they wipe their stalls with a towel or  use a squeegee after they shower.  I've started doing that also.  Yes, it is a bother, but it makes so much of a difference.  Less water staining equals less scrubbing. Back to my toilet success post....

From that post, a friend asked how to clean fiberglass stalls.  That question made me remember the slob days...and the yucky tub. WHEN I cleaned that tub, to get the iron build up off, I used Whink Rust Remover. Last week, I googled it to get the name right to tell my friend.  While looking a Whink's product page, I came across something I had never seen before.

Whink Lime Buster.  

I had never seen it before, because (as far as I know )it is only sold in Winn Dixie stores here.  I never go to Winn Dixie, it is too far away. 
Last week, I made a special trip.  I came home and did a test area on the stall.

I see hope!

Yesterday, I got out my gloves, grabbed a sponge and went to town:

and I kept on going....

outside of stall lime build up (before)

outside of stall lime buildup (after)
And here are yesterday's sneak preview shots again:

Finally, I have a clean shower stall! 
And Tuesday's house? Lime Buster got their stall clean also.  Their's wasn't as bad as mine, but nothing else has removed the build up of lime off of the chrome or glass before now.

Side note:  I did let the Lime Buster stay on for a few moments on tough spots, I did squirt directly on caked-on lime, and I did use a scrub brush on those areas. Also, I reapplied in some areas.  Still, it wasn't eight hours; it was less than one.

For a view of how it did on fiberglass, check out my album on facebook. Like my page if you want to follow me on facebook.

I've shared this post on:

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Busted Those Stains!

Sneak Peak:

How did I go from this:

To this?

Even better...How did I do THIS?

I plan to show you how I did it tomorrow, on my regular Tuesdays 411 post.  But I was so excited, I HAD to share a glimpse today!  I've tried so many things for over a year.  I clean other houses with nice shower stalls, but my own has been a mess since the day we moved in.

FINALLY,  I found something!

Check back tomorrow and I'll tell you my secret. (I love cleaning secrets.)

Here's a link to the post:
Cleaning the Bathroom Part II

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Brownies PLUS: A Book Review and Recipe

Last week, I knew I would be traveling alone to go visit my mother and sisters.  Believe it or not, I think it is the first time I traveled ALONE more than an hour or two in over ten years!  I hoped to find a good audio book  to keep me both awake and entertained.  I wasn't familiar with many of the choices at the small branch library near me and I didn't have time to go to the main library downtown.  So, I chose 3 books, just in case.  Turns out, I didn't need all 3.  The first one kept me both entertained, but HUNGRY for the whole trip!

I will admit that it is nothing but FLUFF.  Not exactly challenging reading, but cute and light, which is what I needed.  I guess you could say it is even a little corny...but sort of funny, too.  What I didn't know is that she has a WHOLE SERIES of Hannah Swenson Mysteries.  This became evident after I started listening to the book.  Another thing I didn't know is in each chapter, a cookie or pastry is mentioned.  The main character in the book owns a cookie shop.  At the end of each chapter, she gives the recipe for the cookies mentioned.  And in the audio book, the recipe is also read OUT LOUD. I was alone, in the car, craving cookies.

After hearing so many good recipes, I was inspired to bake as soon as possible.That turned out to be on Thursday, when my husband was out of town.  He is not supposed to have a lot of sweets. (shhh...)
One of the recipes was haunting me.

Brownies Plus

Basically, it is two layers of brownie mix with chocolate bars in between the layers.

Need I say more?

I actually baked them from SCRATCH!  I NEVER bake from scratch.  I have horror stories about doing that.  Like the time when my sister and I, as little girls, decided to take orders for oatmeal cookies from all of the neighbors. We were going to sell the cookies to them and donate the money to the nearby Catholic church.  Little saints that we were.  After getting quite a few orders, because who could resist ordering cookies from two cute little girls who were raising money for the church, we set out to bake.  Or at least, I did.  I am not sure what my sister did.  All I remember is I made the mistake, and I got in trouble.

Apparently, Mom had a rather large bag of POWDERED MILK.  I assumed it was flour.  Yes, I was old enough to read, apparently I simply didn't. The mixture was way too watery. Unfortunately  I was preparing a double batch because we had so many orders. We weren't exactly rich, so by the time my Mom and sister realized what I had done, and that I had used 4 cups of powdered milk (instead of flour), Mom wasn't about to throw out ANY of it. She proceeded to add flour and other ingredients trying her hardest to salvage the big mess.  And a big mess it was. What we finally settled on were cookies that looked more like pancakes.  Flat, nasty, oatmeal pancakes.  COLD, flat, nasty, oatmeal pancakes.  What made it worse? We collected the money in advance!

Talk about humiliating! We had to face all of the neighbors and give them a choice: refund or cold, flat, nasty, oatmeal pancakes.  Most said keep the money, bless their hearts. We gave a whooping $13 to the church.  I've hated baking from scratch ever since.  Not that I haven't tried it over and over with many of the same types of results.

I must have been really inspired to attempt to bake these brownies from scratch, because in the book, she even gives an alternative quick method-using a box mix. And you know what?  They turned out pretty good.

If you want the full recipe, you'll have to buy or check out the book.
But, here's the shortcut she mentions:

Shortcut Recipe for Brownies Plus

Use two packages of brownie mix, (8x8 square).  Mix into two different bowls.  Layer one batch in the bottom of a 9x13  prepared, greased pan. Top with chocolate candy bars. You will need at least 5-7 small bars.  I used Hershey's Symphony Bars.  Cover the whole top.  Spoon the other bowl of brownie mix over that and bake at 350 decrees for 30 minutes.  When cool, cut and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I brought most of ours to our homeschool co-op on Friday...to destroy the evidence.

I shared this post! A link to this post is on:
White Lights on Wednesday
A Bouquet of Talent
Create and Inspire Party
There are lots of other great links there.  Check them out!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Homeschool Tallahassee

If you are looking for homeschool activities and resources in the Tallahassee area, check out

Tallahassee Homeschool Blog

They've been doing a great job putting together all sorts of links and information. Follow them with google friend connect or by email (at the bottom of their page) and you'll receive updates regularly.

Another great resource for inspiration and encouragement is

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

Even though I am coming to an end of our homeschool years, I still enjoy reading and sharing her blog!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Soups On!

I don't enjoy cooking as much as I used to.  I have a couple of picky eaters in my family combined with some dietary restrictions for my husband. Sometimes, when dinner time rolls around, I get depressed. Quick and easy is my style.

When I find a quick and easy recipe that is not expensive and everyone loves it, I am very, very happy.
This Mexican Soup recipe was given to me by a friend about 5 years ago.  We haven't tired of it yet.

All you need is:

1 can Rotel 
1 can Black Beans (I use seasoned)
1 can chicken broth (or one cup water with a bullion cube added)
1 can corn (or about a cup frozen)
1 can Refried Beans

Put it all in a pot and heat.  That's it!  We like to put crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, and cheese on top.

If I have trouble remembering what's in it, all I have to remember is the number 5. Five ingredients, serves 5 (I double the batch when we have company)

Dig In!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesdays 411 on Cleaning: Bathroom Cleaning Part 1


Remember last week's post on getting the "tinkle smell" out of a bathroom?  At the end of the post, I showed a stained toilet and asked for advice on how to remove two types of stains.  Thanks to two friends, I got the stains out!

Getting the hard water drip stains and the green toilet cleaner stains out was quite easy with The Works toilet bowl cleaner. I squirted it on, used a toilet cleaner brush to scrub, and all of it came off.  There was only one problem...

Can you see it?

The problem is, there is still a hard water ring around the water line.  You will see it clearer in the next photo.  My first friend told me about The Works, the second friend simply suggested using a pumice stone. Although I had heard of them, I had never used one before, successfully that is.  Years ago, someone I cleaned for handed me one to use.  I thanked her, and when she wasn't looking, politely put it back with the rest of the cleaning products.  I had no idea how to use it. I figured by now, it was worth learning more, so I researched and found this article:  How to clean porcelain with a pumice stone.  Please note, we are talking about PORCELAIN.  Read the directions on the box before using it on any other surface.

I found a stone at Walmart, made sure it was really wet and proceeded to gently scrub away.  It didn't work.  I figured out that there was too much water.  It is the paste which forms with water that does the trick, so I had to lower the water level in the toilet.  Ever done that?  If not, get your gloves.  

Using a rag, push your hand quickly towards the drain in the bottom of the toilet. 3-4 quick motions with the rag in your hand should force water to go down the hole and it should look like this: (Do not flush, it will refill the tank)

See the stain now?

After the water was lower, I was able to gently scrub with the stone and IT WORKED TOO!

Now THAT'S a clean toilet bowl!
I wish I could say that The Works and a pumice stone are all you will ever need to clean a toilet, but I would be lying.  Yes, they did work in this house, but The Works didn't do much for my own toilet.  Comet or Ajax work best at my house.  Wondering why?

I think it has to do with Chemistry. I hate chemistry!  In fact, taking high school chemistry was pretty much the deciding factor in whether I would go to college.  After about 3 weeks, I knew I would never, never go to college if I had to pass that class. I dropped the class and opted for business school instead.  Haven't regretted it since. Until now.  I do wish I understood it more.

I am convinced that different water, different dirt and grime, different personal products (like shampoo and soap), and different surfaces all combine to cause different cleaning challenges.  What works in one house doesn't in others.  It really is true.  Sometimes, I find something that works in most, but rarely have I found a bathroom cleaner that is good for all.  

Because of that, all I can offer you are several tips combined with some products that often work, to clean many different types of bathrooms. I get bored with the same subjects for too long, so I will probably post bathroom cleaning tips off and on throughout the next few Tuesdays.  Right now, I am on a quest to find something to clean hard water stains in shower stalls with regular tile.  I'll explain more later.  For now, take a look at all the bathrooms I clean on a weekly basis and you will see what I mean about different issues:

Tuesday House

Wednesday house-A

Wednesday House - B

Thursday House - A

Thursday House - B

And just for fun, here is the master bath from the big, yellow house:

THAT was a big bathroom!
In all the above bathrooms, there are a variety of bathroom surfaces including, Travertine, fiberglass, tile, porcelain, and regular ol' Formica  Plus lots and lots of glass...and huge shower stalls.  UGH!  My favorite.  Of course, all of the photos were taken AFTER I cleaned, but how does all that glass stay so clean?  You may notice that I haven't shown my bathroom.  There's a reason.  I haven't found anything yet to get all the hard water stains out.  I'm getting close though....

UPDATE: I found something that cleaned my shower stall!  To find out what it is, click here

Monday, October 22, 2012

Candles and Soap...and More

This past weekend, while I enjoyed a way overdue visit with my Mom, I had the opportunity to check out the inventory of www.candlesnstitches.com

The owner is a close friend of the family.  In fact, over the years, her support, friendship, and love towards my mother has been immeasurable.

I had heard she had begun to make soap, candles and even embroidered items. I didn't realize just how wonderful the candles and soaps smell or how beautiful the embroidered items were until I saw them in person. (Especially if you love the Saints and LSU). She sells LSU and Saints hand towels and other linens.

I knew it wouldn't be a good idea to buy anything with LSU or Saints emblems on it living here in Tallahassee, Florida. Although she will do custom orders, I don't like FSU enough to start doing the tomahawk chop. So, I opted for soap and candles.  It took me awhile to find the scents I liked best, there were so many to choose from.  In the end, I chose, Beautiful and Chanel No 5 (types) and Cotton Fresh, along with an odor eliminator.

My bathrooms smell so GOOD!  And my musty smelling living room smells better, too.

If you will be in the Gretna, Slidell, or Baton Rouge area over the next few weeks, check out the festivals she will be attending and stock up on some of her stuff.  Her items would make great Christmas gifts.  If you cannot make it, visit her web site and consider ordering from her.  Here's the link again: www.candlesnstitches.com

Just so you know, she has no idea I am writing about or promoting her products.  I simply wanted to do it as a way to say THANK YOU for all you have done....and send a little business her way. So stop by and give her a visit, in person or on-line.  Thanks!  Oh and share the fb link, if you don't mind!

Pictured are small and large bar soaps and the 8 oz candles
The soap on her website is a little different than shown here.  If you have any questions, contact her.  I'm sure she will help you find what you'd like.  And tell her Rox sent you!

Friday, October 19, 2012

No-Sew Sewing Machine Project

A few days ago, I hinted on facebook that I was working on a project that involved a sewing machine, but I would not be sewing.Well....I am all finished!  What is it?

A Sewing Machine Cover!
As I've mentioned before, I HATE SEWING! I know how to do it, when I MUST.  Plus, my daughter likes to sew.  Since we've moved out of the big, yellow house we no longer have a spare room (or place) to keep the sewing machine.  It pretty much stays in the original box until we need it.  That makes it less accessible and less likely to be used, even when we need it. Iron-on stitch tape has become my new best friend. But now, since my oldest daughter moved out, we have regained a spare room.

I wanted to keep the sewing machine out, so we will use it more often. Leaving it out of the box means it will get dusty.  So, I needed a sewing machine cover.  But, I didn't want to sew. ( I know, I keep mentioning that.) I opted for a box, some spray on adhesive, an image transfer (to keep with the theme), and a handle.

First thing you will need to do is drink A LOT of rum.  Just kidding! I wanted to use the words "Sewing Machine" in French, because I have a French theme in the room.  I used google translator to do this, and then I did a copy/paste into Word. I learned how to do an image transfer onto fabric from this You-Tube video.  I found the Citrasolve at Publix, in their Greenwise section.

To do an image flip, I found this tutorial: Image Flip.

I found the sewing machine graphic at The Graphics Fairy.

I loved the video on how to do it, but my first attempt did bleed.  Because my image was so large, this tutorial from Lil Blue Boo worked better for me.

First, I used tape to mark off the center of the box front.  I used a light coat of spray adhesive on a piece of un-corrugated cardboard (the cover of a scrapbook paper pad) to temporarily adhere the fabric. This kept it from slipping.  Then, I taped down the image, RIGHT SIDE DOWN. Using the paper towel method, I lightly rubbed the Citrasolve over the images.

I rubbed over the images with the back of a spoon, as the video suggested.  I had a little bit of bleeding, but overall, it came out nicely.  One thing: be sure to use a laser image (from a copier), not an ink jet image.

Once I had the image onto the fabric, all I had left to do was cover the box.  I wrapped it as if I were wrapping a present, being sure to center the image where I wanted it. I used glue to adhere it to the box. To cover the side seams, I added a pretty, lace ribbon and I topped it off with a handle. Last, I used an ink pad to add a little bit of a border on the box edges. I really like how it came out.  Now, it will match the room and my sewing machine may actually be used more often again. Like it or not.

After doing this, and setting it on the table I painted especially for the sewing machine, I came up with another idea.  I wanted to add a shutter or door behind the table, but I haven't found anything. This new idea may be even better.  I guess I will NEVER finish the room.  I will give you a sneak peek, just in case it takes me awhile to get it all done.....

The "office" section
More views of the room as soon as I finish the sewing corner.

I've shared a link to this post at:

White Lights on Wednesdays

I love that blog!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Squirrel Wars Part III: Invasion and Allies

If you haven't read Parts I and II, you may want to start there before reading this post.  You can find it here: Squirrel Wars or at the top of this page (tab).

Let me tell you, there is no revenge like a squirrel scorned. Dumbo may not have been very bright, but his cousins were geniuses, or so they thought. Maybe because they were angry, maybe because they had finally learned to fear me, or maybe because it was mating season and they needed a little privacy, they FINALLY moved off of the porch.  But, as in any move, you gotta pack your things and take them with you, right?  So, they took my doormat.  Not the whole thing, not all at once.  Just a little a time, as if I wouldn't notice.  Chew, chew, chew until pieces of my nice doormat were somewhere in the trees padding nests. 3 points squirrels.

At this point-I hated them.  At this point-I aimed, I swerved, I chased.  And I enjoyed it WAY too much. My daughters began to berate me.  I reminded them who's boss.  I also advised them to never drive the way I do when I'm after a squirrel. Some time after that, I got another one.  It was a perfect hit.  He ran, I swerved, he died.  I am ashamed to admit it now, but I was rather proud of myself.  But I was alone in the car, so I couldn't brag until I got home.  And brag I did. You'd think I'd won the lottery I was so excited. I posted it on facebook.  Some people "got it".  They understood.  Others sympathized with the squirrels and tried to make me feel better about hitting a squirrel.  Feel better?  Honey, I was on top of the world!  It don't get no better than this! Still, I didn't push the issue.  I wasn't convinced I hadn't done something illegal, so I let them think what they wanted.

Squirrel swerving became a pretty routine thing when I was driving, after awhile. The girls got used to it, I think.  Of course, their friends thought I was insane. I was only after squirrels.  I avoided and even swerved to miss anything else, from butterflies to snakes.  I would have loved to squash some snakes, but one of my daughters loves snakes.  Killing one brings way more trouble than it is worth.  I allow them to live.

With that in mind, one day as I was coming home from cleaning a house, I saw a rather large snake slithering down my street.  He was on the side of the road, heading in the same direction as me. Had he been crossing the road, I may have tried to hit him.  My daughter would never know. Still, I felt guilty for even considering it, so I passed him right on by.  He was less than half a block away from my house.  When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed my daughter was outside cutting grass.  I was very thankful I didn't kill the snake.  She may have seen me.  I knew better than tell her I had seen a large snake on the road.  She would have jumped off the mower and gone off to catch him.  She loves snakes just that much. (Don't know where she got that from.) I went into the house and went about my business.  My husband was home by now also.

A few minutes later, I heard both my husband and my daughter on the front porch talking rather loudly about something.  I didn't know what happened, but I knew something was up so I went out there to see what was going on. They were leaning over the porch railing looking down. She was very excited, pointing and pacing on the porch.  I finally figured out that as she was cutting grass, she saw a snake crawl into the drain-spout   They were looking at the gutter from top to bottom trying to see where it went.  She was just about ready to get down from the porch to the ground level to search when all of a sudden the most horrific sound began to occur.  It sounded like a train.  REALLY.  I thought maybe a very large truck or industrial vehicle was coming down the street.  We looked at each other.  We looked at the street.  We asked, "What IS that noise?"  Then, we realized.....the noise was coming from the gutter.  BBBRRRRROOOOOMMMM.  LOUD and LONG, at least 10-15 seconds.  We looked up and at the corner of the porch ceiling, where the gutter meets the porch eave, there was about a 5 inch gap.  Travelling through the gutter and visible in that gap, was a VERY, LARGE SNAKE! It just kept going, and going, and going.  I was convinced it was 15 feet long.  I freaked.  I turned around and ran back into the house.  They stayed on the porch.  They figured they were safe, he wasn't on the porch, he was headed back down. My daughter hoped to catch it, so the next thing I knew, she was on the ground at the drain-spout.

By this time, I had reached the safety of the smaller, side porch.  I could see everything, but I was out of snake range. I watched as my husband inspected the gutter and my daughter inspected the drain-spout.   Hubby was ready to kill, daughter was ready to catch.  She had somehow managed to grab a bag or something and was trying to figure out how to attach it to the drain-spout so the snake would crawl into it.  Her plan was to release it somewhere else. Hubby was trying to talk her out of it.  While their eyes were fixed on the ground, I looked up at the 5 inch gap.  "OH. MY. LORD!!!  THERE IS ANOTHER ONE!"  Another snake, just a little smaller, was literally sticking its head out looking around.  About 6-7 inches of snake head and body was hovering over them.  YIKES! That's it. I'm done....party is over, everyone INSIDE. NOW!

We came in and marveled at the thought of snakes in the gutter.  Then we realized that the "gap" was more than a gap.  It was a hole....in the eaves.  Going up to the attic, in the dormers. Where we found a very large snake skin.  Meet the new neighbors.  UGH! Totally freaked out, we called the landlord.  The snakes could not get into the house, only into the attic, so he was not concerned.  In fact, he suggested a shotgun. We weren't going to get any help there, so the plan was to hope they just went away.  Hubby was not fond of the thought of snake trapping. Later that evening, it dawned on me that my act of mercy towards that snake was a mistake.  I had passed up a chance to kill the new neighbor.  Yep....it was him. Oh, by the way, the snake skin we found was over 5 foot long, with a piece missing.

So what do snakes in the attic have to do with squirrels?  Well, why do you think they moved in?  Apparently, when the squirrels moved off of the porch, the trees were not their only new abode.  They, too had found the attic.  How do I know? Because one managed to fall into the wall.

My youngest daughter's bedroom was connected to the dormers where the snake skins were found.  It was also in her wall that she began to hear scratching one night.  It went on for a long time.  She told us, and we figured it was an animal.  Maybe a snake?  Nah, must have been a squirrel.  They were trying to get in. Varmints!  We weren't sure what to do.  Our solution, we told her to sleep in the spare room.  A few days later, an awful smell began.  Dead squirrel no doubt. Stay in the spare room.  After awhile, the smell subsided, she moved back in and she put a couple of blankets under the door leading to the  attic.  If the snakes came back, she didn't want them to come in.  I'm not sure I could have slept there.  She got used to it.

Another dead squirrel, but I don't think I should get that point.  Maybe the snakes get that one. At any rate, we continued to find snake skins.  Squirrels stopped going into the attic. Or maybe they did but didn't get past the snake patrol.  Either way, I had a couple of unlikely allies living under my roof.

So where are we, 4-2 with the squirrels in the lead?  Actually, it is now tied, 4-4, but that will have to wait until I post Part IV: Retaliation and Repentance.

I wanted to post a picture of my daughter holding the snake skin, but I cannot find it anywhere.  What I do have is a sound clip from a little "adventure" the day after we saw the snakes in the gutter. On that day, I saw one of the snakes in the road next to our driveway.  In an irrational moment, I lost my senses and went after it.  Again and again.  And Again.  Forward...VROOM. Reverse...VROOM. Missed it, twice. Forward...VROOM. Reverse...VROOM.  I was getting dangerously close to the fence, but I couldn't stop myself.  I was determined to kill that snake before he got into my yard and back into my attic.  Somehow, in the midst of the screaming and chaos, my daughter thought to record part of the insanity with her phone.  Yeah, I know.  I'm nuts.  (And the snake got away) Here's a visual aid to go along with the sound:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesdays 411 on Cleaning: Anatomy of a (Dirty) Toilet

When Your Bathroom STINKS

It is hard for me to imagine living in a house with little boys. I grew up in a house full of girls. I do have one brother, but he is the baby of the family. When I moved away from home, he was only eight years old. I don't remember having a stinky bathroom, at least not from little boys tinkling everywhere.

Tinkling...that's a good word.  Sounds better than some of the alternative words for the subject at hand. This post will probably be a little gross, but there are just not that many polite ways to describe cleaning a dirty toilet that smells terrible. The least I can do is use words that are not ....offensive.

My first experience with a bathroom that smelled like someone had tinkled and forgot to flush, was in the big, yellow house.  Before we moved in, it was occupied by a large family with boys under the age of twelve. I don't know who lived there before that, but there must have been 20 boys and they all must have used the master bathroom. Maybe they were too lazy to go upstairs.  Maybe they liked sitting in a little water closet alone.  I don't know, all I know was IT STUNK.

I let my husband claim that throne.  I used the spare bathroom, downstairs.  It smelled nice there. The only time I went in the master bathroom "toilet room" was when I was desperate, or I had to clean it. It got the same weekly cleaning as the rest of the house, but no matter what I did, two days later, the toilet smell was back.

After a few months of trying toilet drop-ins, air fresheners, and just about every toilet bowl cleaner on the market, one day I went in with rubber gloves, a bucket of water and a bottle of Clorox Bleach Spray. I cleaned it top to bottom, inside and out, or so I thought.  I wiped down the walls, the floors, the trash can, even the plunger got a bath. I was sure I had the problem tackled.  But I didn't. I didn't until until I found the secret tinkle hiding place a few weeks later. Until I found that spot, the smell kept returning.

Before I show you where the tinkle hides, I think it best to show you how (and where) I clean a toilet area.  I don't clean this thoroughly every week, usually it is just the basics. Wipe down the seat, scrub the inside, wipe down the outside base. But, once a month, I tinkle tackle.
Here's how I do it:

First, I use bleach spray or bathroom cleaner on the walls, baseboards, floors, and around the seal at the bottom. (Sweep before you start cleaning). Then, I wipe down the outside of the toilet bottom including the curves.

Note the "curves". I wipe behind the toilet near the wall also.  And the bolt covers. I lift them off, it is necessary. Gross, I know. I keep rinsing my rag or get another. Then comes the really fun part....

 Yes, you have to clean the toilet seat attachment thingy.

You didn't believe me?

Well, now I should have a clean toilet and the smell should all be gone. That's what I did the first thorough cleaning, but the smell DID come back. I couldn't believe it. Where was the smell coming from? I am not sure how or why I thought about it, but one day, I found out.

Right under here. UNDER THE TANK!  How in the world......?

Here is a more specific photo.  It is clean in this picture, but the first time I wiped this spot in the master bathroom in the big yellow house, I ended up holding a big yellow rag.  Or maybe it was golden colored.  Actually...it was orange.  I was so totally grossed out!  How did all that tinkle get under there?  Never mind, I don't want to know.  All I know is that when I found and cleaned that spot, that bathroom never smelled like tinkle again.  Another thing, it never showed up at my own home again either.  The only time I find the yellow stuff under the tank, and behind it, is in a home with little boys.  Go figure. So, at least once a month, I wipe and I gag and I wonder again: How in the world.....?

So that was my secret tinkle hiding spot.  One other thing I thought I'd share:  Several months ago, I found this link on Pinterest: "Getting Rid of that Boy Bathroom Smell". She gives great tips on what to use to get rid  of the smell.  I tried her method, and it seemed to work fine as a cleaner, but as far as smell I don't know if it helps.  My bathroom doesn't stink anymore.  If you try getting all the spots clean and you still have the smell, you may want to try her method.  She doesn't tell you where to clean, or how, just what to use.

Now, I'd like some help from you.  See this toilet? (below) See the brown?  These are stains I've tried to get rid of.  See the green?  These are the stains from Lysol Cling Gel Toilet Cleaner.  The stains have been there for over a year.  Used it ONE TIME.  Poured it on, scrubbed immediately, it did not sit for more than a few seconds, and it stained the bowl.

I've tried so many things, including bleach, Barkeeper's Friend, Ajax, other Toilet bowl cleaners.  Any suggestions on how to remove the stains?  Leave a comment here or on facebook.  I'd love to have some feedback.  My only consolation in creating the (green) stains is that the owner of the home bought the cleaner.  I simply used what she bought. She isn't upset, I just wish I could get rid of it all.

Next Tuesday, the rest of the bathroom.

P.S. Other Lysol toilet cleaners seem to work great, it was the cling gel in the green bottle that stained that particular toilet. Maybe it won't stain another...who knows?

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Monday, October 15, 2012

A Box of Goodies

As part of the Between Friends Art Journal  project, we decided to have a gift exchange at our meet-up.  Each of us was to contribute a handmade gift with a value of $10-25.  I am not sure what my gift would have been worth, but I sure did enjoy making it!

I had a wooden box from a Davidson's Tea gift set.

I had a few ideas about how I wanted to paint it, and some possible embellishments, but I am a very visual person.  I was not going to be able to decide until I had the basic painting done.  So I painted it black and gathered up some supplies.

I loved the postal themed scrapbook paper I had picked up from Hobby Lobby. I knew I would use it on the box. I distressed the edges of the box, trimmed the paper to cover all of the sides, and then inked the edges of the paper. After covering the box (I used gel medium to adhere it) I had the hardest time deciding how to decorate it.  I knew what would be going inside of the box and hoped to link the contents with the outside.

Idea #1
I also loved that the postal themed paper reflected the Art Journal project since we mailed the journals to each other all summer long.  I tried to use embellishments that would also symbolize the project, but it didn't feel right.  So I tried this:

Idea # 2
I like this a lot, but it still wasn't "it." I put everything aside and chose some different items. Finally, it felt right.  This is how it turned out:

Re-purposed Tea Box

I kept the postal theme by using a cancelled stamp.  The metal tag connects the contents. "possibility begins with imagination". What did I put inside?  


I filled it with all sorts of paper embellishments, ephemera, left over items from my art journaling pages, and a lot of other items to use in mixed media collage or art journals!  I loved the finished box. 

Now that it is done, and was given away, I am glad I took a photo of my other ideas.  I am considering making more altered tea boxes or other types of boxes, maybe to sell or as gifts. Each box would be unique including the contents  What do you think?  Would you be interested in buying one? Leave a comment.  I'd love some feedback, thanks!

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