Five Ways to Make Your Home Smell Like Fall

A new season has arrived, bringing cooler temperatures and busy new schedules. Fall ushers in the holiday season, and many of us want our homes to smell appropriately festive. Here are five ways to celebrate the season and make your home smell like fall, from top Houston maid service, Maid in the Shade.

Fresh Fruit Display
Tasteful arrangements of fresh fruit throughout your home is a wonderful, natural way to make your home smell enchanting. Display oranges, apples and pears in a rustic wooden bowl and place it on your dining room table or your living room coffee table to help spread a light, citrusy scent throughout your home. Allergy-safe and pretty to look at, this is a perfect way to enhance the feeling of fall in your home.

Create an Herb Bouquet
Farmers and country-living experts have been extolling the virtues of herb garlands and bouquets for decades. Beautiful and rustic-looking, herb garlands can be designed with any herbs that your local market has on sale. A particularly beautiful combination is a blend of rosemary and eucalyptus branches, set out to dry and then tied together with a pumpkin or burgundy- colored ribbon. The light, fresh aroma will welcome visitors to your home in style.

Bake up Fall Flavor
An hour spent in the kitchen whipping up some pumpkin muffins or banana bread is not only a way to provide a delicious treat for your family, but will also scent your home for hours. All of the best parts of the season are perfectly encapsulated in a fresh-baked dessert.

Make a Simmer Pot
A simmer pot is a classic do it yourself technique that only takes a few minutes, and will scent your home for as long as you keep it on the stove. To build a simmer pot, simply place a saucepan of water on the stove, and place a blend of cloves, cinnamon sticks, and apple slices in it. Set the pot to warm, and wait as the aromatic blend wafts through your home. You can keep it on the stove for as long as you like (remembering to turn off the stove when you will be away), for whenever you want a burst of fall scent.

Light Candles
Of course, candles are a classic favorite. This time of the year, lovely pumpkin or apple scented candles are available at many stores, in a wide variety of styles and finishes. Rustic-themed candles are a beautiful way to celebrate fall, and easy to light whenever you want a relaxing moment.

For more lifestyle tips and articles, or to schedule your cleaning and to learn more about Maid in the Shade, visit our website at www.maidhouston.com or call 713-665-6243.

5 Back to School Tips

School will be back in session in just a few weeks, and while the summer heat is still underway, preparing for the back to school season will ensure that those first few weeks back go smoothly. Here are five back to school tips from top Houston maid service, Maid in the Shade!

Wash Hands Before Snacks
Snack time is a regular ritual in households with small children, and every parent knows that skipping it can result in “hangry” youngsters and emotional distress. However, many afternoon snacks can lead to messy houses, with crumbs and sticky handprints leaving a trail behind the satisfied children.

Regular Laundry
No one loves doing laundry, but allowing it to pile up throughout the week can just lead to more stress on the weekend. Avoid the stress and do laundry throughout the week, in bits and pieces as needed. For instance, start the washer on a Tuesday and dry the clothes on Wednesday after school – then fold and put away on Thursday.

Taking off Shoes
As a basic best-practice, have everyone in the family remove their shoes before entering the home. Removing shoes before walking throughout the house helps to minimize dirt and debris, reducing the amount of mid-week cleaning. It also is an instant relaxer, signifying that the workday is over and it’s time to relax at home.

De-clutter to De-stress
Removing excess clutter around the home can help on a multitude of levels. Organizing and structuring things like clothes, shoes, books, and old school supplies or binders can do wonders for the way your home looks, and opens up all kinds of new, positive space. If the items are things that your family no longer needs, consider donating to a local charity or even having a yard sale.

Creating a Meal Plan
Planning the family meals (or at the very least, dinner) for the duration of the week is a wonderful way to stay on track with nutritional goals, and to minimize stress. Even planning a night to order pizza is the perfect way to keep everyone on track, eliminate countless questions about “what’s for dinner,” and provide even more time to relax and reconnect with family. Write out meals on a blackboard or whiteboard in the kitchen at the beginning of the week, and start over fresh every Sunday!

You can follow this basic idea for the entirety of the school year. Maid in the Shade is a top Houston cleaning service that offers a variety of cleaning packages that can take care of all your household cleaning needs in an efficient, professional manner.

Learn more about Maid in the Shade, and schedule your cleaning service today! Visit our website at www.maidhouston.com or call 713-665-6243.

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?

Clean Your Grill!How Often Should I Clean the Grill?

The grill should be cleaned after each use. The best time is to apply a wire scouring brush to the grates after the BBQ is off, but not completely cooled. Once the grill is fully cool take a paper towel with a little oil to polish up the grate and keep its shine nice.

De-clutter and Live Well

The beginning of the year is always a great time to evaluate the “stuff” that’s lying around in our homes.  We tend to acquire more items during the holidays and as we are heading into springtime our nesting urges kick in and we start feeling the need to downsize.  Here are some fantastic ideas to help get the “less is more” ball rolling!

  1. Birthday rule “get one, toss one” – This is great, especially if you have kids.  It’s super easy to accumulate items so with every birthday gift received (adults too), you must get rid of or donate something else.  A tit for tat if you will.
  2. Give away 1 item each day for 1 year – Sometimes jumping into a large project like de-cluttering your house, can be a bit overwhelming for some.  With this tip you simply pick 1 item a day and either donate it, give it to a friend or colleague or just toss it out.  That’s 365 things in 1 year that will be gone from your house for good.  That’s quite a lot!
  3. Mark the date – By marking a specific room on a specific date on your calendar, it mentally prepares your brain for the challenge ahead.  It is also a great way to systematically knock out the smaller pieces of a much larger puzzle.
  4. Put on a yard sale – This Spring put on a yard sale and make a spot in your garage or another room in your home to store donated items that you can sell at your garage sale.  Putting on a garage sale can be a lot of work but if you start on it weeks ahead of time with sorting and tagging, you will be that much farther ahead when the actual date rolls around.  Plus, you can put a little extra money in your checking account when the yard sale is over.
  5. Invest in a labeling machine – Putting labels on boxes and containers saves time and keep things organized.  This is especially helpful when kids go to put items away.  They will know right where to put an item and eliminate any stragglers.
  6. When de-cluttering a house, have 3 boxes with you in in each room.  1 for trash, 1 for saved items and 1 for donated items.  This helps prevent people from moving 1 stack to another and keeps the perspective on the task at hand.  Remember to keep track of the items you are donating.  This can be a pretty sizable tax write off for the following year’s taxes.

Clean, Simple, Organized!

I, like many others, am on the go and don’t have a whole lot of extra time devoted to cleaning and organizing.  Here are some great tips that take very little time but REWARD big!

  • As soon as you walk in the door, have a large wicker basket that is designated for just shoes.  This way you will know where all shoes are located and keep the floors a lot cleaner by not tracking in dirt!
  • Set your kitchen up in “Work Stations” and then put all the equipment you need for a particular station in those designated areas.  For example,   I have a coffee station in my kitchen.  I put all mugs, coffee pods, coffee devices all in one area for quick access and this way I’m not bumping into anyone during the morning rush.
  • De-clutter hair products in the bathroom by purchasing a plastic tub that is large enough for all your hair products and accessories but small enough to fit under the bathroom counter.  When doing your hair, you can simply pull out the tub and have all your hair styling tools at your fingertips! This means NO messy counter tops to battle with!
  • Living rooms are often the main focal point in homes.  Ours truly gets “lived” in.  As much as I like the space being utilized, I don’t like the piles of papers, books, toys and magazines that end up taking over the coffee table.  Invest in a functional coffee table with drawers and/or shelving to keep items organized and out of the way.  If a new table is not in the cards, purchase some inexpensive baskets (I have even found some great ones at a second hand store) to put under the coffee table top to act as a new home for the clutter.
  •  Rushed mornings?  Try prepping all lunches, book bags and clothes the night before.  This cuts out any confusion or clothing dilemmas that arise from not knowing where things are at.  It seriously saves time, energy and headache!

By implementing these easy steps, I guarantee life will run smoother and seem a lot more organized!

Cleaning Tough Spots

Cleaning Tough SpotsTidy Upholstery – To get the stubborn pet hair, lint and other tiny particles off of your upholstery use either duct tape, or a rubber glove to skim the surface and rub away debris easily.

Window Cleaner in a Pinch – Out of window cleaner? Fill a bucket full of water and add 1-2 drops of dishwashing liquid (Dawn works particularly well).

Removing Smells from Towels – Have some towels that don’t seem to smell fresh even though you have just laundered them? Trying washing them again in water only. Smells often remain when an excess of soap was not fully rinsed.

Kitchen Floor Scuff Marks – Commercially purchased magic erasers are good for getting scuff marks off of floors, but if one of those is not available a regular pencil eraser works great.

Cleaning Awkward Bottles – Get those hard to reach nooks and crannies inside bottles by filling with denture cleaner and letting soak over night.

Clean Votive Candle Holders – Decorating with an abundance of votive candles can be so beautiful, but getting the stubborn wax out can be a real bear. For the easiest method freeze the candle holders for a couple of hours and the wax will shrink and pop out easily.

Zesty Mango Salsa

salsaSuper Simple Mango Salsa

Ingredients
2 mangos – peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 small onion, minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

1 lime juiced

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Stir all of the ingredients (minus the salt & pepper) together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate one hour before serving to allow all of the delicious juices to meld together.

Lemon Fresh Home – 5 Ways

Lemon Fresh HomeAs I was sipping my lemon infused water this morning it occurred to me that lemons are kind of a citrus rock star.  We cook with them, juice them, zest them and even (I know, this sounds terrible) but watch as our little ones try them for the first time and make that cute little “scrunchy” face. They really are handy in many different ways.  The next time you are at the store, grab a bag of lemons and continue reading on for 5 great ways to utilize theses little yellow beauties.

  • Freshen and clean those pesky microwaves – I’m not sure what happens to the inside of the microwave at my house but once a week I find that it needs a little freshening up. Directions:  Put a microwavable bowl with a ½ cup of water along with a lemon that’s been cut in half in the microwave.  Microwave on high for 3 minutes and then let the steamy, citrusy bowl sit for another 5 minutes longer. Fight the urge to peek inside! Once the 5 minutes is up you will be able to wipe out all of the stuck on, nasty food bits and splatters that have accumulated over the last week, quickly and easily.  It smells amazing and the microwave looks brand new!
  • Create your own multi-purpose citrus cleaner – If you have kids and pets like I do, then you probably are concerned about what cleaning items are people and pooch friendly.  I LOVE this homemade cleaner.  It works great, smells good and I don’t have to worry about little hands coming into contact with it.  Directions: Put a few lemon peels in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid.  You will want to fill it about half way up.  Then fill the jar the rest of the way with white vinegar.  Let the lemon/vinegar concoction sit for a few weeks.  After the third week, drain the mixture into a bowl with a mesh sieve.  What you are left with is a lovely, citrusy liquid that you can fill an old spray bottle up with and use like you would with any other all-purpose cleaner!
  • Get rid of that stinky garbage disposal smell – This seriously takes no more than 2 minutes and you are left with a fresh clean disposal.  Directions: Take a couple lemon peels, 3-4 ice cubes and a handful of kosher salt and add them to the inside of your disposal.  Turn on the disposal and voila!  No more smell!
  • Remove not-so-pretty underarm stains – The next time you go to throw out those t-shirts or blouses with tough to clean underarm stains, STOP!!!  I have a super easy and fast way instead!  Directions:  Take equal parts of lemon juice and water and scrub the stained area vigorously.  The lemon juice will lift the stain and you can avoid costly dry cleaning bills and marvel at your “pretty pits”!
  • Remove seafood smells from counters or fingertips – If you have ever been to a crab feed or crawfish boil, you know that smell often likes to stick around.  Directions: Simply bring along a bag of lemons and rub the cut up lemons on the countertops, hands or whatever else you are looking to substitute the seafood scent for a citrus one.

This list is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different uses for lemons.  Get creative and come up with your own ways to “citrify” your home!

Bed-Sheet-Ology How to Choose the Best Linens

Did you know that we spend an average of 26 years in our lifetime in bed?!  It would stand to reason then, that a good quality set of bed sheets is a must!  But how do you know what really is the best and does it make a difference?  The answer is YES and here are some tips to finally “put to bed” the argument on what is best for the bed.

  1. Thread count or not to thread count- Thread count is the number that’s used to indicate the number of threads contained in 1 square inch.  The answer is that thread count matters to a degree.  A 600 thread count is definitely better than a 200 thread count but once you reach anything over 800, there really isn’t much difference after that.  The next 3 qualities below should weigh heavier in the decision making process
  2. Material – There are about 4 kinds of materials to choose from when it comes to bedroom linens:
    • Egyptian cotton- This can be the most expensive but you really get what you pay for here.  It has great durability and extra-long fibers that create a luxurious feel.
    • Pima or Supima- Less expensive than Egyptian cotton, this material uses medium to long fibers and produces a soft, comfortable fabric.
    • Linen- These sheets are known for their longevity thus explaining why they are so expensive.  These sheets are great for warmer climates and they actually improve with age like a nice bottle of wine.
    • Polyblend- These sheets ae about ½ the cost of the other sheet materials and do not wrinkle very easily.  They are also pretty durable, especially the cotton-Polyester blend.
  3. The Weave- The weave of a sheet is really where people should pay the most attention when picking out bed linens.  It plays a significant role in the quality of the linen. The weave really represents the feel of a sheet.  There are 3 kinds to choose from:
    • Flannel- Twil weave, medium weight
    • Percale- Closely woven, light weight, one of the highest quality
    • Sateen-  This technique creates fabric with more yarn surface on the face, super soft, resembles satin
  4. Let’s finish with “The Finish”- Sheets are usually finished with chemical processing to keep from shrinking and prevent wrinkling.  It is recommended to try and buy “organic” cotton when at all possible because the material will be free from chemicals.

And there you have it! You are now “Linen extraordinaire”! The next time you are looking for bed linens you can feel armed and prepared to get the most for your buck or your back!

Cleaning Up After Fido

10 Tips For Keeping a Clean and Organized Home with a Dog

We are all familiar with the old saying “Dogs are a man’s best friend”. But they definitely are NOT my homes best friend at times. I swear I could knit a sweater with all the pet hair my miniature Australian Shepard distributes around my house and I almost need a separate room for all the poodles’ toys. I have compiled a list of 10 tips to help with the home/hound dilemma.

  1. 1. Use a shoe storage door organizer for all of your puppy’s toys and grooming materials. This handy organizer is out of sight and perfect for keeping items off the floor.
  2. Don’t buy expensive plastic poo bags. Hold onto those plastic veggie bags that you bring your produce home in. This tip not only saves money but uses the plastic twice.
  3. If you have hardwoods like I do, think about buying a robot vacuum. This handy time saver works on a schedule and picks up dirt and dog hair for you in between full house cleanings. It can be a bit spendy on the front end but it is a huge life saver.
  4. Put together an “uh, oh” kit. I like to keep all the cleaning materials together in one spot so when an accident of some sort happens (and they always do) I am not running around the house trying to find all the cleaning materials that I need.
  5. I don’t know about you, but when we first got our dogs, the kids were all onboard with cleaning up after the pets. Once the newness wore off however it seemed ALL pet care became my responsibility. Needless to say that didn’t last long! Create a rotating chore list so everyone in the house takes turns in taking care of the pets. This eliminates the feeling of pet burn out!
  6. This may seem like a no brainer but putting mats at all of the places the doggies exit and enter the house cuts down on dirt and grime that comes into the house. I make sure all of mine are washing machine safe. I also like to keep an old towel near the entry ways to wipe off little muddy paws.
  7. Invest in a cushy bed for Rover. I like to put my dogs bedding in the area of the house that he likes to be in the most. I purchased one that has a zip off outer shell that can be thrown in the wash when need be. I actually wash all pet bedding and mats together so I don’t happen to mix our clothing in with the pet items.
  8. Create a DIY dog food station. There are plenty of ideas to look at on Pinterest. My favorite are the units that hold the food bowls and food all in one unit. This cuts down on mess on your floors and it keeps everything in one useful place. This is really handy when you have a pet sitter.
  9. Create a first aid kit for your pet. You might ask your vet for recommendations as to what he would have in the kit for your particular pooch but I put tweezers, gauze, wound cleaner, a small towel, emergency numbers and a bottle of water in mine. I put all these items in a zippered pouch so I have them on hand or I can simply grab the pouch of items when we are on the go. This is great for puppy friendly trips.
  10. We all need boundaries. Everyone from time to time needs to keep the dogs out of a particular room. What I like to use are tension rods like the kind you find in your bathroom for the shower curtain to hang on or a curtain rod in your bedroom. These are super handy because it only takes about 3 or 4 depending on your dogs size and they go up without drilling or making marks on the wall.