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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pecan Bars

Dessert doesn't get much more delicious than these bars that are loaded with pecans, a sweet brown sugar and cinnamon filling that bubbles when baking, and finished off with a to-die-for crumbly pie-type topping!

I'm kind of obsessed with pecans.  Most of my kids don't like nuts, so I don't often put them into the confections that I make, but today's delectable beauties just wouldn't be the same without them!

So, by making these, I pretty much just guaranteed that my husband and I would have them all to ourselves.  :)  Because I'm sly like that. :)

The crunchy texture is unmatched and the crust and crumb topping are unbeatable! Not to mention the gorgeous golden brown filling that distributes itself generously and perfectly among the other components when baked. The total effect is pure bliss!
I was trying to achieve a pecan pie-like bar, so I took some inspiration from the ever-popular Dutch Apple Pie Bars and Dutch Peach Pie Bars. You guys like your pie, apparently.  But I admire and commend you for your impeccable taste. :)

These sort of taste like a nut-loaded candy bar.  Yes, they're a wonderful way to splurge and unwind after a long week or just pat yourself on the back after a day well played.

I've been working on Halloween treats in the kitchen over the past week and about half have been flops, so I was just glad to finally have a BIG dessert success in the kitchen. I needed that boost to my self esteem after literally throwing out pans of this and that.
So thank you Pecan Bars for reinstating my faith in the fact that I can bake! :)

Cinnamon and pecans just scream "autumn" to me! These bars are a wonderful way to celebrate the start of a new season, my favorite season, actually. 

The sweet sauce, combined with the yummy nuts reminds me of a candied pecan, which in my book is the equivalent of heaven.

These would be perfect for fall potlucks and even an after Thanksgiving day pick-me-up.  Because we all know how depressing it is when feast day is over and we don't have the excuse to eat like there's no tomorrow and calories don't exist. :)  It's always a sad realization for me.

{PECAN BARS}

Crust:
1/2 c. pecans, chopped
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. oats
2/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Filling:
1 1/2 c. whole pecans
1/2 c. brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Prepare 9"x13" pan by greasing or spraying with nonstick baking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  For the crust, stir together pecans, flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Incorporate melted butter completely until all the mixture is moistened by it.  **Reserve 1 c. of the crust mixture for the topping.   Press remaining crust mixture into the bottom of a 9"x 13" pan and bake for about 9 minutes.

While crust is baking, prepare filling by stirring together all ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat on the stove top.  Allow mixture to come to a boil while stirring constantly, then remove from heat immediately.  

Once crust is done, pour and spread filling mixture over, sprinkle remaining 1 c. of crust crumble mixture over the top of the filling and return to the oven to bake for another 15 minutes, give or take a few minutes.  Let cool, then slice into squares.
I hate to be bossy, but seriously you need to bolt to the kitchen right now and make these.  You'll love yourself for doing so! Trust me.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Best Apple Pie

It's hard to beat a homemade spiced Apple Pie! This is one of my most favorite fall desserts!

I'm so excited to finally be getting around to posting this recipe! I actually photographed this amazing confection last year at Thanksgiving time.  We hosted my sister and her family at our home.  I called her ahead of time to see which pies they had their hearts and mouths set on and this was top of the list.

So I delivered.  I was a little nervous because I don't make pies very often and the crust stresses me out a little bit, but I've since learned not to worry about it, because somehow it always works out.  I made sure to tell them to save room as we were stuffing our mouths with turkey, potatoes and rolls, because this one needed to be enjoyed to finish off the perfect day together!
 Oh my! This luscious creation did not disappoint.  As I'm making pies, my thoughts usually go like this: "Why did I agree to do this? Why didn't I just buy the dang thing?! This is way too much work."

And then while we're enjoying a slice with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, I'm thanking myself profusely, all the while, for putting in the time and effort.  Everyone in attendance at Thanksgiving dinner thanked me too.

We ate it for breakfast the next day, because it's just too good to resist. 

Be sure to check out my perfect pie crust tutorial!

{PERFECT PIE CRUST}
Makes two 9" pie crusts

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/8 c. shortening

Filling for 9" pie:
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of salt
6 c. peeled, thinly-sliced tart apples
2 Tbsp. butter

 For the crust, stir flour and salt together. Add shortening on top.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces.  Add 3 Tbsp. ice water (ice water prevents the shortening from melting) and work into mixture with a fork, pushing aside the moistened portions.  

Sprinkle ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time on dry areas, and continue working moistened parts to the side until all the dough is moist.  Divide dough into two equal portions and form into balls.  You can use a scale for this or just eyeball it like we did.  Press dough ball with the palm of your hand to flatten a bit.  Roll out on floured surface until about 2" wider than your pie plate. Scrape dough underneath with a metal spatula for a clean release from the counter top.  

Fold dough in fourths to transfer easily to the pie plate.  Align dough so it overhangs by about 2", then unfold.  Trim dough so it hangs over the pie plate by about 1".  If some areas are scant, grab a piece of trimmed dough and use a few dabs of ice water to "glue" it to the area.  Fold dough under so a little of it sticks above the pie plate.  Prick crust with a fork all over for venting.

Make the filling by stirring together sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in apples, ensuring they're well coated.  Turn into pastry-lined pie plate.  Dot with butter. Cover with top crust (you can use the folding it in fourths method for easier transferring) and flute the edges together to seal.  Cut slits in the top for venting. Sprinkle the top with a little bit of sugar, if desired (I always like to do this).  Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until crust is brown and apples are bubbling, about 40-50 minutes. Enjoy with a big ol' scoop of vanilla ice cream or not! Either way it's fantastic!

This recipe comes from my mom.  Growing up, every time we saw the fresh apples on our tree turn a gorgeous red color, we'd beg her to make a pie that very instant. I truly believe she's wonder woman because to feed our very large family, she had to make two.  But, she didn't complain. Instead she always said that making pies was a work of art and that she enjoyed it.  This is where we differ.  I enjoy the eating part whole-heartedly, but not necessarily the crafting it part.  I'm chalking it up to my very impatient nature. But, boy, is the end result of all that effort oh-so worth it!  I'm telling you, this pie is amazing!

I beg you not to buy that Apple Pie this Thanksgiving. Make this one instead! You'll be SO happy you did! Heck, please don't wait until Thanksgiving to make this! Practice a few times before the special day! Your taste buds will thank you! :)
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Creative Sandwiches to Switch Up Your Child’s School Lunches

When it comes to making school lunches for your kids, you probably stick to the basics. Most kids bring peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwiches to school. Many schools around the country have banned peanut butter because of the severity of peanut allergies, so this leaves picky kids and their non-creative mothers with one less option to choose from. If you’ve found yourself in this sandwich rut, it’s time to break free and come up with some creative ideas for your children. No one wants to eat a turkey sandwich five days a week. Here are some great sandwich ideas that you can try.

OLIVE & TOMATO SANDWICH



There is no rule that says meat has to go on a sandwich with vegetables. There is nothing wrong with a purely vegetarian sandwich. You’d be surprised how many kids would enjoy eating them. An olive and tomato sandwich might sound weird, but they’re two ingredients that are often put on pizza, so why not a sandwich. All you need to make this sandwich is some mayonnaise, black olives, tomatoes, green leaf lettuce, and sliced cheddar cheese. You can add a little salt and pepper for taste and your child will probably love it.

ROAST BEEF ROLL-UPS

Doing something simple like replacing bread with a wrap can go a long way. Wraps will switch things up and give your children a little bit of a different taste in their lunch box. Roast beef and cheddar is a great place to start when switching to the wrap. It’s simple, yet it tastes completely different than other types of sandwiches you have probably made. Horseradish is something that is eaten often with roast beef. It’s served in packets with roast beef sandwiches at fast food joints and alongside prime rib at high-end restaurants. Horseradish might be a little too much for your little ones, but some horseradish mayonnaise might give the wrap the little kick that it needs. Hampton Creek makes a horseradish version of Just Mayo that you can have your kids try.

BLT SANDWICH

Bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches don’t seem to be as popular as they once were, which is quite a shame. BLTs have been around for decades, they’re easy to make, and they’re absolutely delicious. In the morning, fry some extra bacon when you make some bacon and eggs for breakfast. Put together a BLT sandwich for your kids and wrap it in aluminum foil. It might still be warm by the time your kids go to lunch at school. For an extra delicious taste, put butter on each slice of bread and fry it like a grilled cheese first. This helps keep the bread from getting soggy and it tastes amazing.

PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA SANDWICH


Peanut butter and jelly is good, but it starts getting old after a while. If your child can bring peanut butter to school, try peanut butter and banana. Bananas and peanut butter go together so nicely and your child will have a guaranteed serving of fruit for the day. Just thin slice a banana the long way and lay the slices across the bread after you put peanut butter on each slice. The banana will stick to the peanut butter and you won’t have to worry about it sliding out of your child’s sandwich. You can even drizzle some honey on it before you put the sandwich together for some extra flavor.

ANTI-PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICH

If your child can’t bring peanut butter to school, it doesn’t mean PB&J is completely off limits. Although you can’t use actual peanut butter, you can use other nut butters that are just as delicious. Sun butter, almond butter, and cashew butter are just a few of the choices that you have. Sun butter tends to be a favorite of most kids because it’s creamier and doesn’t have the strong nut taste of the others. Sun butter is a butter made from sunflower seeds, so that’s pretty much what it tastes like. It’s pleasant, delicious, and healthy. It’s great with jelly, honey, bananas, and anything else peanut butter works well with.

Your child doesn’t need to take the same old boring and plain sandwiches to school every day. There are so many options out there. You can do something simple like adding bacon to a turkey sandwich and making it a club or go out of the box and try one of these creative sandwich ideas.


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pumpkin Caramel Whoopie Pies

Bring a little bit of fall into your home with these soft pumpkin sandwich cookies with velvety-smooth caramel cream cheese frosting!
There's been a little bit of a bite in the morning air here, recently.  It gets me all giddy about the coming of autumn!  It's my favorite season.  Maybe because it's when Halloween happens, and we all know how I feel about that holiday (I'd insert a heart eyed emoji here if I could). :)  Or possibly because I love donning my pea coat and boots every day. It could be that I relish that crisp morning and evening air. Or the fact that I don't have to water my lawn or mow the grass anymore.  Hooray!

But, one of the main reasons I love the fall season is for its incredible flavors and desserts!  Give me all the pumpkin and apple treats! I simply can't get enough.

I never let these months pass me by without making my mom's famous Pumpkin Pie Cake, and I certainly would be remiss if I didn't whip up a batch of Dutch Apple Pie Bars (I'm sensing a pie trend here).
But I also can't resist a good pumpkin cookie or two! Especially when eaten together with caramel ice cream topping-infused frosting.  The combination is utterly amazing...completely unforgettable.

I could eat pumpkin year-round and never tire of it. In fact, I always stock up on canned pumpkin when it hits the store shelves with a vengeance this time of year because it seems to become more scarce in the warmer months.  And then I about have a panic attack, and we don't want that. :)
But you know what is an incredibly great cure for a panic attack?  One or ten of these delectable oozy things! I love that pumpkin makes desserts moist and soft! I tossed in some yummy pumpkin pie spice because who doesn't want to feel like they're eating a fall favorite pastry with every bite of cookie?

I also am a fan of the fact that these are super fancy looking, so they give the appearance that you've spent precious moments making a dessert for family and friends with love.  And yet, they come together so quickly that you can literally throw them together in less than an hour, we're talking with the frosting.  These are party platter cookies and they will wow those party peeps.

{PUMPKIN CARAMEL WHOOPIE PIES}
Makes 18 sandwich cookies

1 cup (2 sticks butter), softened
1 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. canned pure pumpkin puree
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. caramel ice cream topping
4 c. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare cookie sheets by greasing or lining them with baking mats.  For the whoopie pies, in the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir in flour by hand.  Drop onto cookie sheets by the heaping tablespoonful (or use a 1 1/2" ice cream/cookie scoop) in mounds that are at least 2" apart to allow them room to spread out.  Bake for 9 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool on sheets for a few minutes, then remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer, mix cream cheese, butter, vanilla, caramel ice cream topping, and powdered sugar together until smooth and creamy.  Grab a cookie, apply a generous amount of frosting to the flat side, then sandwich with another cookie, pressing it down slightly.  Store in an air tight container with wax paper separating the layers.
Don't fret about what to bring to that fall potluck, because these will totally steal the show wherever they make their delicious appearance!  What is your favorite season? I'm going to soak up every minute of this one until the snow starts falling!

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Chicken Fajita Casserole

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser, Mars, Incorporated. All opinions are mine alone. #BensBeginners #UncleBensPromo #CollectiveBias

Call the family to the table and watch them smile when they see this colorful, cheesy-good Chicken Fajita Casserole!  Layers of delicious Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Spanish Style with chicken, tortillas and bell peppers make this meal hard to beat!
I grew up helping my mom at meal time in the kitchen.  I owe my love for baking and cooking to her.  She was so patient as she taught me to make bread, desserts, pies, casseroles, you name it.  She was totally trusting and allowed me to make cookies all by myself when she knew I was ready at a young age.  This was when I truly gained confidence in my ability to create something yummy that could be enjoyed by all.

I always knew I wanted to do the same for my children. I want the kitchen to be a place where they feel free to experiment and taste, even make mistakes, and laugh about them.  

My daughter is very reserved, but when I get her stirring and spreading, tossing and sprinkling, she really opens up about her day at school and what's going on while she's away from home.  There's nothing that quite brings out quality conversation like a skillet and spatula.  :)
And it sure makes me beam from ear to ear every time I hear my kids say how much they enjoy working alongside me in the kitchen.  I cherish the time we spend together there.  I've learned from experience that when my kids participate in the preparation of a meal, they're much more likely to eat it, so before I start, I always offer to let them get involved in the process.  The extra cleanup afterwards is completely worth it!

I truly believe that culinary skills are one of the best life skills we can equip our kids with before sending them out into the world as adults.  Because good food has a way of bringing comfort and making one feel closer to home, even if thousands of miles away.  I know I was very grateful for what my mom had taught me while I was eating really well in my college apartment. :) 
And since casseroles to me are the number one make-you-feel-warm-and-fuzzy-inside food, and the cooler weather is just around the corner, my family and I came up with this Chicken Fajita version that is sure to please! It's super simple to put together, so the kiddos can jump in and help and make memories in the meantime. 

Who doesn't love a good Chicken Fajita? This is even better because it's got all of the wonderful flavors of this classic favorite dish, but is made to serve a crowd with leftovers to boot!  I don't know about you, but I'll take every chance I can get to avoid cooking every night of the week.  
And since, when the family is joining in, the recipe needs to be straightforward and quick, Uncle Ben's Ready Rice (Spanish Style) is the perfect component.  In fact, Ben's Beginners came about for just this purpose...to get kids cooking.  Because learning to cook can be both educational and fun!

Plus, 90 seconds to warm rice in a bag is all too convenient when there's homework that needs to be done and after-school activities galore cutting down on meal prep time.  
Be sure to get in on this Ibotta coupon offer that earns you $0.75 off Ready Rice products exclusively at Walmart.

Enter here for a chance to win a Walmart gift card!
#UncleBensPromo Sweepstakes

And because parents like me just love any opportunity to help our kids' school, I want to encourage you to check out the Ben's Beginners program and contest where you can enter for a chance to win! 5 families will win $15,000 for themselves + a $30,000 cafeteria makeover for their kid's school. How awesome is that?!  

And now let's get down to business with today's delectable recipe.

{CHICKEN FAJITA CASSEROLE}
Makes one 9"x13" pan

2 large chicken breasts
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into rounds and then sliced in half and broken apart
1 green, yellow, red, and orange pepper, seeds and stem removed and sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. fajita seasoning
2 bags (8.8 oz. each) Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Spanish Style
1 can (10.5 oz.) cream of chicken soup
2 medium flour tortillas
2 c. shredded Colby/Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion and peppers with garlic in olive oil until tender.  Prepare Uncle Ben's Ready Rice Spanish Style according to package directions and add to a large bowl.  Cook and shred chicken breasts.  Toss with 2 Tbsp. fajita seasoning.  Add chicken and cream of chicken soup to Uncle Ben's Rice and stir together.
Grease a 9"x13" casserole dish and spread chicken and rice mixture in the bottom.  Layer with two flour tortillas, allowing them to overlap in the center.  Spread pepper mixture over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until warmed through. Remove the foil for the last 5-7 minutes of cooking time so the cheese can melt nicely.  Enjoy!

This one will get rave reviews for sure! It's one of those meals that will warm you right through and leave everyone feeling content and happy.

What are your favorite ways to cook with Uncle Ben's?
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

DIY Stamped Corkboard Placemat

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BetterBreakfast #CollectiveBias

Get your back-to-school craft fix with this Stamped Corkboard Placemat! This spread is sure to put a smile on the kids' faces before heading out the door to catch the bus!
I've talked here on the blog many times about my love/obsession for things that symbolize back to school, specifically school supplies.  They're just so bright and colorful and happy!  But I also remember years ago, in the good old days, when I attended elementary school and the joy that a stamped star on my paper brought me.  I'd burst through the door and show my mom the good work I'd been doing and how my teacher was proud enough to give me a golden yellow emblem on my sheet for it. :)

Every new year at school is like a clean slate, a fresh adventure just waiting to unfold...that's what I tell my kids.  There are new opportunities to learn and gain new friends, and of course lots of growing to do, both physically and mentally.
I have fond memories of my school days.  I had some really great teachers and loved most every subject I studied.  I remember particularly having a passion for spelling and creative writing. I enjoyed constructing art in the form of poetry and coming up with stories that really took the reader places.

I also can't forget learning the times tables in class and how I'd get so excited to play the around-the-world game to challenge the students' memorization skills in this area.  One student would stand behind another student's desk and the teacher would hold up a multiplication flash card and the first student to get it would get to keep moving from desk to desk until someone beat them to the answer.  It was so thrilling and the fact that I excelled at it made me look forward to it even more. :)

And, I always loved a good game of Heads Up, Seven Up or Four Corners when our collective good behavior earned some free time in the classroom.  Do you remember playing those?
 
I hope my kids are making memories now, like I did so many years ago, that they can recall later with fondness.  

One thing I'm always sure to do is to send the kids out with happy tummies, filled with a yummy, satisfying breakfast to fuel them.  We are big time milk drinkers in this house.  In fact, funny story, there's a friendly checker at Walmart whose line I always go to if she's working at the time, and she likes to crack the joke each week that I might as well invest in a cow.  We're actually considering it. :) 
If there's one section at Walmart that I frequent, it's the milk aisle!
I get the funny stares when I push my cart around with a cart full of milk gallons, but my family just can't help ourselves! It's a drink staple at our house.  We feel like we've really missed out if we're ever somewhere else besides home and don't get to round off our meal with it. 

I love that my kids love milk and we feel so blessed to have it in ample supply.  It's unfortunate that the story isn't the same for others around the world.  For many children who face hunger, even basic staples like milk – and the nutrients that help power childhood activities – are missing.  This makes me sad to even think about!

Milk is naturally nutrient rich and powers potential - if you have access to it. Milk's 9 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein per 8 ounce serving, can help to ensure that kids have the potential to play, learn and grow-and we know how important that is!

Did you know that more than 46 million Americans – including 12 million children – rely on Feeding America food banks each year? Milk is one of the most requested, but least donated items at food banks, meaning children in need are missing out on the essential nutrients, including high-quality protein, it supplies.
While food banks provide critically needed nourishment - including milk - to millions of Americans, it can be difficult to meet demand. On average, food banks are only able to provide the equivalent of less than one gallon of milk per person per year.

So this is where we come in!  You and I can help feed a childhood – by purchasing 1 or more of these products.  By doing so, we are helping Feeding America provide nutrient- rich milk to kids and families in need. 

Be sure to visit HERE to learn about the need for milk in America's food banks and how your small donation can make a big impact.
Because we're always short on time in the mornings, I like to keep the fridge and pantry stocked with convenient items to accompany our glass of Great Value milk, like Lender's Bagels and Del Monte Fruit & Veggie Fusions.  Convenience is key when I've got two kids to get ready and out the door before 8 AM.

The flavor combos between the Lender's and Del Monte products are huge! The kids basically can "customize" their breakfast each morning to their liking.  Which is a big deal, because we know how quickly moods and tastes can change when it comes to the younger ones. :)

And now that I've shared an easy breakfast idea with you, I can't wait to show you how easy this stamped placemat is to pull off! 

You'll need some acrylic paint, some fine brushes (with thinner bristles so they won't be unwieldy when painting the intricate surfaces of the stamps), some stamps (I chose some with the back-to-school theme), and an 11"x17" piece of corkboard.
Begin by outlining the design in your chosen colors, then immediately stamping it on the corkboard. The paint will dry fast, so work as quickly as possible. You can practice on a sheet of paper first, if you're nervous about how it will look.  Then, use your paint brush to carefully fill in the design on the cork board, if necessary.  I set a plate in the center of my mat first so I could gauge the placement of the designs.  Repeat this process for all the stamps you're using.  For the pencil (my favorite part of this whole project), I painted the outlines in black, stamped it, then allowed it to dry before filling it in with the other paint colors.  That's it!
You can laminate it if you'd like, so it's easy to wipe clean. Now let the kids enjoy a delicious breakfast on their new adorable placemat before heading off to school!

I hope you'll join Feeding America in The Great American Milk Drive to help deliver highly desired and nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry children and families who need it most. More than 14 million servings of milk have been delivered to food banks through this first-of-its-kind initiative.  This is such a worthy cause!
#BuildABetterBreakfast Sweepstakes

May this school year be one for the books and filled with fun memories galore!

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to "Cheat" at Cleaning Your House Before Company Arrives: My Six Tips to Make it Look Like a Million Bucks!


This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FallIntoClean #CollectiveBias


Expecting guests with only minutes to prepare? I've got a few tips up my sleeve that'll make it look like you cleaned house all day!

I know the feeling well of panic after learning that unexpected visitors are coming and will be knocking at the door in about 15 minutes.  With four kiddos running amuck, our house is not typically guest worthy at any given moment. It seems like there's never enough time to prepare when a friend texts that she's on her way and is going to drop in and say "hello".

So, rather than tell her to turn around and come another day or hide my face in shame when she arrives, I've come up with a secret formula/method for tricking people into thinking I keep a spotless house.  Just don't tell my friends and please do not look in the closets! :)

Now, I'd like to think I'm an honest person, but cheating is totally ok when it comes to impressing those last-minute visitors, am I right?  I hope so, because I do it more often than I'd like to admit.

So, here's how it's done.

1. Focus your attention on main areas where guests will congregate, i.e. living room, kitchen, guest bathroom, and don't sweat the rest.
This is how I became fast friends with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day®.  She's a lifesaver, I tell you!
There are so many wonderful Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day® options available at Whole Foods Market! Something for every purpose!
When short on time, I always start with the kitchen, because there's just something about a tidy kitchen that screams, "I'm a good housekeeper!", even if there are certain doors that will remain closed. :)
Because I like my sink best when it's white, I pull out the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day® Multi-Surface Spray in Lemon Verbena scent and give it a quick scrub-down.  I love it because it's safe to use with my septic system and is a powerful, better way to make surfaces sparkle!
2. Make it smell like heaven!

Next, I like to hand wash a few dishes with Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day® Dish Soap in Lemon Verbena Scent to produce an aroma that will knock the guests off their feet when they step in the door. A sink full of lemon-y soap suds will always give off the "clean" vibe. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day® products are loaded with plant-derived ingredients and essential oils that will give the home that welcoming, fresh scent!

I loved Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day® even more when I learned that they are sponsoring the wonderful cause I'm going to tell you about.  Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day® will donate $1 to Whole Kids Foundation for each of the first 25,000 cleaning products purchased at Whole Foods Market to help kids enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about this foundation by visiting the WKF Website or watching this video.
3. Enlist the help of a big black garbage bag. Yes, desperate times call for desperate measures.  I've been reduced to throwing stuffed animals, coloring books, and other loose items on the living room floors in this wonderful thing on many occasions.  And then I make a mad rush to the closet or garage where I conceal the evidence. :)
4. Make a good initial impression. Declutter the entryway for obvious reasons...it will be the first place where guests set foot and lay eyes.
5. Use straight lines as a distraction.  They will work magic! You wouldn't believe what a quick vacuuming will do to the overall feel of the home, and it's a very visible sign that you've put in effort.
6.  Deceive them with colorful, fresh flowers! A vibrant vase of these beauties will draw the attention right here instead of to other areas of the house that were left untouched.

So now you know one area in life where it's completely acceptable to cheat, and your guests will never suspect! :)

What quick cleaning tips would you add to this list?

Be sure to follow Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day® on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram for more great ways to make your home look and smell amazing!
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