Monday, September 1, 2014

How to Fake an Always Clean House

We’ve all been there (well not me, but the rest of you)… dinner guests arrive at 6pm, so we spend the morning frantically shoving toys, books, and shoes in closets, stacking the magazines neatly, clearing off the dining room table (which usually serves as more of a work space), and finally, we vacuum 2 minutes before our guests arrive and sit the kids on the couch so they don’t get footprints in your fluffy, freshly vacuum-streaked carpet.

I’m here to tell you, there’s a better way! A far more convincing way! Let me share with you a few things you can do to convince everyone in your life that your house is always in a state of perfection!

The first step is the easiest one and requires no exertion on your part. Find a casual way to bring up in conversation that your house is “so messy” [by ridiculous standards]. Say something like, “I haven’t mopped the kitchen since Thursday! And I ran out of Windex last weekend so the water spots on my bathroom mirror are driving me nuts.” Mopping floors and cleaning glass are those detailed cleaning items that only the most anal retentive people do regularly – and that is exactly the type of person you want to come off as.

This next step is an easy one to overlook, but it is possibly the most important! Don’t ever, EVER, let a picture of your messy house show up on social media. I don’t care how adorable your kid is being in the foreground. It’s! So your baby boy is taking his first steps? Well you’d better gather those used, rolled up diapers from the floor and put those toys away, before you make a video of Junior walking for your family and friends on Facebook, or you can kiss your “always clean” reputation good-bye!

But seriously... Invest in some decorative storage ottomans. They make extra seating, and can hold a lot of junk out of sight. I have a chic padded storage bench in my son’s room at the foot of his bed where we stow his bigger toys out of sight. In our living room, we have a small ottoman that holds all of our movies and board games. We keep all of our DVDs in a binder (throw away the cases, they take up way too much space and you don’t need them). There’s no way to make a big book shelf with a library of DVDs pleasing to the eye. It looks too busy and cluttered, and when you have 200 DVDs on display, it makes it look like you do way too much sitting on your butt and watching movies. Someone who polishes their bathroom fixtures daily doesn’t have time for such pleasantries!

A true clean freak has sparkling floors, mirrors, and bathroom hardware. So if you really want to commit to appearing clean all the time, make sure those details are attended to before you welcome guests into your home.

Are there magazines in your bathroom? An amateur will stack them neatly before their guests arrive. But that will raise a major red flag and reveal just how non meticulous you are. Instead, throw away the magazines. They are gross, just sitting there warping from the moisture in your bathroom. And it creates a visual you don’t want your guests to have of you. (Truly classy people don’t poop.) Ask yourself “what would Martha’s bathroom look like?” – surely it does not have a stack of magazines in it, and yours shouldn’t either if you want to be a convincing clean freak. As far as the rest of the house goes, a magazine here or there is ok. But keeping old issues makes it look like you are a packrat who doesn’t know how to throw stuff away. This goes for old mail piles too.

Speaking of clutter – how does your refrigerator door look? For every one square inch of actual fridge door you can see, you get a point. Your goal is 1700 points. Meticulous people have maybe a calendar on their fridge and a magnet business card for the fridge repair guy.

Vacuum the floors very thoroughly the day BEFORE your guests arrive. If there are fresh “zen garden” vacuum streaks in your carpet when they walk through the door, it will be totally obvious you vacuumed just for them. By vacuuming the day before, it will look your house is just naturally clean because you keep it that way all the time!

Lastly, right before your guests arrive, leave one or two children’s books in the middle of the living room floor. As you greet your visitors, apologize for the “mess” and put them away. This small but important step should really drive the point home. This is a trick you can throw into social media as well. Take a picture of your darling child with the caption “Sorry about the messy house, but isn’t he cute?” People will see two books lying on your sparkling wood floor and instantly feel worse about themselves and the messy state of their abode. Your work here is done!

I leave you with this quick list of things that are dead giveaways of a rarely clean house!

Things hanging on the walls via tacks
Pictures of cats
Oak-framed paintings of floral arrangements
Animal hair
Ambiguous hairs on bathroom floor/sink
Carpet rug touching or near the toilet
Food or animal odors
An excess of figurines or knick knacks

Sheets as curtains

Any other tips for keeping up the pretense that your house is always in an immaculate condition? Sound off below!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Unexpected beauty hacks

I love scouring Pinterest for little beauty/makeup tricks. I am always amazed when someone discovers a way to use a product for something other than what it was intended for (like Monistat anti-chaffing gel as a foundation primer. Whhaat?!) Along those same lines, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite products that does more than meets the eye. I'm talking about Suave dry shampoo!

1) Use it on your hair! I have very thick/course hair. It takes me FOREVER to straighten it, so when I do, I want to make it last a few days (sorry if that grosses you out!). I have tried a few different brands of dry shampoo, and this one is my favorite. It also has the best smell in my opinion.

2) Use it to set your makeup! One day I got to thinking, "If this stuff works so good at taking away shine in my hair, how would it work on my face?" After some experimenting, I decided this stuff was my new go-to makeup setter. It does a great job keeping my face matte and my makeup in place. After you have applied your foundation, hold the spray about 10 inches from your face and give it a quick mist. You will want to do this before putting on mascara as it will turn your eyelashes white.

3) Use it to turn your nail polish matte! While your polish is still wet, give it a very quick mist of the dry shampoo to achieve a matte finish. I'm not sure if this would work on gel polish, but it might be worth a try!

While we're on the topic, here's a couple more little tricks...

Want to wear a skirt but afraid the ultra violet whiteness of your legs will blind oncoming traffic?
Story of my life! Just mix a VERY small amount of ebony colored foundation with regular lotion and spread it on your skin for an instant bronze. You can keep experimenting with the foundation/lotion ratios until you are happy with the level of darkness.

Going swimming but want to keep your makeup on? Mix your mineral powder foundation (such as Bare Minerals) with your waterproof sunscreen lotion. I apply the mixture with a foundation brush. Then my redness and the occasional breakout can remain camouflaged even in the ocean!

That's it for this entry. Hope you enjoyed!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

The 1 hour t-shirt dress

Aside from the pillow case dress, this might be the easiest baby dress tutorial you will come across! The neck hole is already there and the skirt is pre-hemmed, giving even the novice sewer (that's me!) the ability to look pro. You'll need an adult size t-shirt, measuring tape, scissors, thread, pins, and of course your sewing machine. Oh, and chalk would be helpful.

The measurements listed here will make about a size 6 month dress.
But because it is made from a t-shirt, if you use elastic thread for your gather,
it will stretch to fit several sizes, and eventually become a toddler sized shirt.
If you do not use elastic thread for gathering, these measurements will fit the 6 month baby.
With minor measurement tweaking, you can tailor this pattern to fit a newborn or a larger child.

I cut out a square of paper that was 9.5" wide and 6.5" tall as my dress top template.
Center your square of paper (I cut a neck hole in mine - not necessary) at the top of the shirt,
and use chalk to trace around it. Then cut!
Next, cut a 14" wide by 9.5" tall square out of the bottom of the t-shirt. This will be your skirt.

 Now you have your two pieces.
I ironed about 1/16" of the raw edges down on the dress top and then sewed them.
Now that the raw edges have been sewn inward, the dress top is about 9 inches wide.
Your next step will be gathering the skirt fabric. The skirt is cut to 14 inches wide, but you'll be gathering it so that it is the same width as the dress top (approx. 9").
Need to know how to gather the fabric? It's super easy. Click here.

Now that you have gathered your 2 pieces of skirt fabric to be the same width as the dress top,
it's time to sew the skirt pieces to the dress top.
As pictured below, lay the dress open, inside-out.
Pin the right sides of the top and skirt fabric together, then sew.

You're almost done!
Now it's time to pin and sew the sides of the dress together (inside-out, of course).
I started from the bottom of the skirt, and sewed all the way up until about 4 inches down from the shoulder, then stopped. Otherwise, this dress would not have arm holes :P
Hahaha I've made that mistake before!

Once you sew the sides up, you are done! Although, I did get kind of crazy and embellished my dress with a few buttons! I might get EVEN MORE crazy next time and use two different colored t-shirts for my top and skirt! The possibilities are endless!

I love this dress because it is comfortable enough to sleep in.
So my little girl can go from church to her crib without having to change into PJ's for her nap.

Thanks for stopping by!
Perhaps if I become more regular at blogging my sewing tutorials,
I'll re-name my blog "Cynthia Tutes" or "Tutes by Cynthia"
Wait, no.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My life for the next month, laid out in Microsoft.

I always have good intentions of being clean, organized, and having it all together. But I am just the type that if I do not have a list, I feel either overwhelmed or apathetic, and I don't get anything done. I am a procrastinator at heart. People think that because I am so crazy about my lists, I must be a super organized person. So not true... it's because I am such a dis-organized person and such a procrastinator, that I must use a list if I am going to be at all successful. Here's the truth... time management is much like financial budgeting. A budget is simply telling your money where to go at the beginning of a paycheck, rather than wondering where it went when it's all gone. With our time, we need to tell it where to go as well. We need to budget our time.

I know this sounds crazy, but as the stay at home mom of a toddler, I have even made a daily schedule of activities with my son. Not to say that we can't deviate from the "list" if we want to, but the fact is, without methodically taking some time in the morning before he hits the ground running to create a schedule for the day, the temptation will be to put him in a high chair in front of the tv so he can watch Monster's Inc for the 50th time while I arbitrarily look around the house for which chore I should tackle, all just to say "Meh, the bathroom is way too messy, I don't have the energy" and winding up on Facebook for the rest of the day while my son whines for attention or some sort of mental stimuli. Taking some time in the morning to brain storm some creative but simple activities, with a few pre-determined chores thrown into the mix, dramatically cuts down on the amount of stress and work I feel weighing on my shoulders. And my little guy appreciates it too.

Here's an example of our daily schedule:
7:00am Assemble roast in the crockpot, set for 10 hrs on low
8:00am William wake, cereal and eggwhite
8:30am Dance and sing with The Wiggles
8:50am Read a story
9:00am Blow bubbles in the back yard, point out and label whatever we see
9:30am Free play in the house while I clean up breakfast in kitchen
9:45am Leave for playgroup on base
11:00am Come home, yogurt and granola for lunch
11:30-12:00 Free play
12:00pm-2:30pm Nap
12:00pm Wash, Dry, Fold, put away dark laundry
Clean both bathroom toilets
2:30pm-3pm William wake, free play
3:00pm make bread dough, let rise until 4:30pm. William in kitchen high chair watching me bake, talking to him about what I'm doing.
Make weird voices in front of the fan
Roll a ball back and forth to each other
4:30pm Put bread in the oven, wash/cut salad
5:00pm Josh home, play with William
6:00pm Dinner
6:30pm Josh and William read books, play while I clean up dinner
7:00pm William bath
8:00pm William bed

When it comes to cleaning, I rarely if ever write down "clean bathroom" or whathaveyou. The task of cleaning the bathroom is an extensive list all on its own. Instead, (just as an example) Monday's list says "clean toilets", Tuesday's list says, "Windex mirrors", Wednesday says, "Clean shower", Thursday says, "Mop bathroom floors" and Friday says, "wipe counters." Every room in the house gets attention in just 1 area every day, and accumulatively, I have a clean house. My personality gets very bored, very fast, focusing on one project for too long. So it works best for me to keep tasks short and move onto the next thing.

Here's my monthly calendar which has my schedule and a dinner menu for each night.
Please share your dinner ideas with me in the comments section!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Green Smoothies as part of a raw diet

I've been so excited seeing just how many of my peers have decided to adopt a truly healthy lifestyle when it comes to eating. I think it's a movement that picking up momentum, in our home and many others.

The issue we ran into when we moved here to Florida is the lack of healthy food choices. Organic is a foreign term here, so we've started a non-hybrid garden with seeds from However, our yard isn't large enough to accommodate an entire produce section, so I was still on the prowl for a place that offered the healthy food we've been looking for. Last weekend, I finally found a small natural foods store about 45 minutes away. I LOADED up my cart with Kale, Cilantro, Kiwi, Bananas, Carrots, and Apples. When I got home with my loot, I started washing and prepping everything. I have a silicone muffin "pan" that isn't great for baking, but it's great for freezing. I whipped out my blender (which is a crazy, awesome blender), and starting making purees of the fruits and veggies. I froze individual "pucks" of each ingredient, then sorted everything into individual smoothie bags. It's so easy to just grab a bag every afternoon and throw it into my blender with a little organic fruit juice.

Here's pictures of my purees. I used my silicone muffin bakeware, as well as ice cube trays.

Not pictured is my papaya puree and cantaloupe puree - including the seeds!! The seeds in most fruits are incredibly good for you, but most household blenders can't break them up. There is as much protein ounce for ounce in cantaloupe seeds as there is in chicken! Crazy, right? Perhaps I'll post another blog with details about my blender soon. But I'm getting off topic!

In addition to the fruit/veggie purees, I add a couple tablespoons of whole flax seed, and I always add a tablespoon of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of ginger powder. They are very strong anti-inflammatories. I IMPLORE you to research the affects of inflammation on your body - it is linked to almost EVERY ailment, from allergies, acne, migraines, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, even cancer! Every food we put in our mouth either causes inflammation, or fights against it. Sugar, for instance, causes inflammation. Whereas Kale is an anti-inflammatory. Perhaps the best resource I can give you is this website:

You can input any ingredient into the search and it will not only bring up the nutritional content for that item, but will give that food item an inflammation score, and a "completeness score". The completeness score is very important, and it has helped me determine the optimal ingredients to put in my smoothie. The highest scoring food I have found so far is cilantro. Scoring 93 points (on a scale of 1-100), it contains almost every key nutrient the body needs. Kale is a close second at 85 points. Whereas sugar has a completeness score of zero. Basically, If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life and that one thing had to meet all your nutritional needs, you would look to the completeness score of a food to find out what would best sustain you. This is why cilantro weasels its way into every dish I make!

As far as inflammation goes, everything we're putting in our bodies is either scoring negatively or positively on the anti-inflammation scale. At the end of the day, shoot for a positive score of at least 50. Meaning, if you're going to have a 16 oz. Coke, your inflammation tally comes to about -48. So to bring your score to a positive 50, add a teaspoon of ginger powder to your hot tea, which has an anti-inflammation score of 482!! I'm telling ya... incorporating ginger and/or turmeric powder (turmeric being even more powerful) will do WONDERS for your body!

In closing, here is my complete recipe for my green smoothie! You can also see how it ranks nutritionally! 

PS, if you create a login on this nutrition website, you can create recipes and then get a tally for the nutritional contents of your creations! Find out how complete that dinner casserole is so you can fill in the nutritional "gaps" with complimentary sides for your family!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

DIY projects: Thrift store buffet-turned entertainment center

This DIY project we recently completed is the one I'm perhaps most excited about. And I'll be honest, I stole this idea from my sis-in-law Mandy. Except her husband let her paint their dresser Tiffany blue. Must be nice Mandy, must be nice! But for the rest of us who's husbands aren't as artistically adventurous, an aged charcoal black was an agreeable compromise.

The idea is simple. You take an old dresser or dining room buffet, and re-purpose it into an entertainment center furniture piece that hides all the wires, cables, gaming consoles, media players, etc. Our TV doubles as a ginormous computer monitor on which my husband plays flight simulator. So in addition to the dvd player and sound system, we also have a computer, mouse, keyboard, etc. Not to mention an Xbox, Kinect, and multiple controllers, plus a slew of DVDs, remotes, and whathaveyou. Suffice it to say, if all of this is exposed, it is an eyesore.

SO, I found this buffet at a thrift store for a mere $25. It was old and ugly, but it had great "bones". Unfortunately I got so excited about getting started on the project, I neglected to take a before picture. I combed through Google and this was the closest thing I could find. So let's pretend this is my before picture.


I let Josh hack the furniture to pieces before I started painting. He cut holes in the back for wires and cables to be fed through, as well as a vent for his computer. He then removed the bottom two drawers, keeping their faces, and placed hinges on them so they open down (and a cabinet magnet keeps them closed). He's a genius, right? And handsome right? Oh... anyway, the two "drawers" open easily to turn on the sound system or computer. The top 3 rows of drawers store the keyboard, mouse, remotes, and other odds and ends. The two cabinets on either side hold the X-box and our DVDs.

I really couldn't sand this piece of furniture down because it was a fake laminate finish (a sticker with wood grain printed on it, basically). So I used Glidden's grey gripper latex primer, and Behr premium latex paint in a dark brown espresso color. (Don't use oil based primer under latex paint or visa-versa. Oil and water don't mix - causes peeling!) Once again, I got out my nifty air compressor and spray gun, and went to town. Once I finished painting, I mixed a cheap $1 bottle of acrylic black craft paint with equal parts water and with a cheap paint brush, did a quick "wash" of thin black over the entire piece. This gave it a charcoal type-finish, and a deeper color. Also it left some faint brush strokes, which I thought added a nice touch. Gave it that sort of aged look.


We kept the original hardware. I appreciated how tarnished it was. Spots of brass show through here and there, but it's got a nice oil-rubbed bronze look to it. Plus, new hardware is expensive. And the point of doing these thrift store re-dos is to save money.


I love that the bottom two drawers are on hinges! And everything is hidden so well.


By the way, it was only after doing this project that I realized dining room buffets would make a great nursery changing table. They're the perfect height, and lots of storage.

My next show-and-tell blog will be about my spray-painted shoes! Thanks for stopping by!

DIY projects: Dining room table

Yesterday I posted about our updated light fixture in our rental. That was a quick fix, and my only actual involvement was picking out the lamp shade and acting as photographer/cheerleader for Josh, who was the "hands-on" guy. But this dining room table project was all me! And I'm pretty proud because it turned out pretty great :)

Perhaps the best part? We got the table and 6 chairs at a thrift store in Pennsylvania for $45, the day we moved out of our house. We drove the U-haul to the thrift store, and there was this table set, as well as a buffet (more on that in next post!). Even better? The Air Force paid us $0.60 per pound of what we moved, so we technically got paid for buying the dining room set and buffet. Not bad!

The table was solid, but unattractive. 70's upholster (which I pondered keeping, actually), and chipped, peeling finish over the oak colored wood. Our plan all along was to paint it white and put it in our eat-in kitchen. One of the reasons the dining set was priced so low is because the table is missing its extension leaf. We eventually plan to make one, but haven't done so yet. But, I digress.... Here's the before pictures of the table and chairs.


I used a spray-on paint stripper just on the table top, followed by a good sanding. I sanded the top of the chair backs since they were all peeling. For the table top, I used a high-density foam roller and used and oil-based primer and oil-based epoxy enamel. I chose oil base over latex even though clean-up is a real pain. You have to buy a separate paint thinner for oil base paints since soap and water will not clean your brushes.  However, I went with oil base because it is waaay more durable (there's a reason cars are painted with enamel rather than latex), and I know our table is going to get a lot of abuse and be exposed to moisture from spills, etc. I chose a high-gloss finish so the table can be wiped clean easily. Additionally, the paint I got is enamel-epoxy, meaning there's a glue binder in it. This particular paint is meant for high-heat appliances, like a stove top or a grill. It provides an ultra-hard finish that is just about scratch proof. Make sure though, that if you ever use any sort of oil-based paint, it's for a project you can work on outside. The fumes are almost overwhelming even when you are outdoors!


Once I had primered and painted the table, and used a brush to get into the grooves and details of the legs, I was starting to feel like I didn't want to move onto the 6 chairs! I knew I was going to have to use a brush, which takes forever. I told Josh, "Gaaaah, this would be so much easier if I had a paint sprayer!" And he was like, "Oh, yeah, I have one."

Um.... what? In the words of Robbie Heart in The Wedding Singer, "That sort of information would have been a lot more useful to me yesterday."

Anyway, we rolled Josh's 40 gallon air compressor out to the back yard and hooked up the paint sprayer. It seriously made priming and painting the chairs a SNAP. It is my new favorite tool!

So, after the chairs were painted, I headed to Joann's and picked out some upholstery for the seat cushions. I went with a yellow-goldish color with a damask imprint. I wrapped the new fabric over the old and used a staple gun to secure it (our staple gun was around $10 at Home Depot, and I think it's a tool everyone should own). I was so happy to see how it all came together, and it looks great in our dine-in kitchen. The finish turned out really smooth, even on the table where I didn't use the spray gun. High density foam rollers are the next-best thing to airbrushing, if you're careful go over your lap marks with light strokes.

In closing... in that middle picture of the table, do you see that window? Yes. Well, we had our pastor and his wife over for lunch after church a couple weeks ago (we barely know them), and the wind was blowing crazy outside, and that window came crashing down on the pastor's wife's head. Yes, you read that right. Completely embarrassing for all. Apparently, the window pane wasn't secured in the framework for whatever reason. It's secure now.

Well, that's the project. My next post will be on our thrift store buffet-turned entertainment center!