Five Favorite Kitchen Appliances

Someone recently asked me what my favorite kitchen appliance was and for some reason, I drew a blank. I have a lot of favorites, but my kitchen is small, so I keep my appliances to the essential, multitasking ones. Which one do I like the best? hmmm…

I narrowed my choice down to five. I understand that different appliances would be chosen by different folks, but these are certainly ones that I use heavily, if not daily.

1.Top of my list: An emulsifying blender. I use this daily. I usually make a foamy Oolong and Macha tea blend for breakfast. If I choose an occasional cup of coffee instead, I can easily turn a cup into bulletproof coffee with the stick blender. This little machine also makes mayonnaise, lemon butter, hollandaise easily. It is great to cream a pot of soup on the stovetop too. If gravy gets lumps…walla…the blender will smooth it out! Dishwasher safe and easy to clean compared to the stand up blender and food processor. Yes-love it.

2. I choose my Keurig coffee maker second because it is an item I use several times a day. It can heat a cup of water in less than a minute for my morning tea, and makes a cup of coffee just as quick. If I am having a larger group over, I do use my teapot on the stove for water, but for small gatherings is is nice to have an easy way for guest to have tea of coffee. No one feels they are putting me to any trouble when I just push a button. I like that the Keurig is simple enough for my three year-old to make me a cup of coffee too!

3. My soda stream is another favorite kitchen appliance. My husband bought it for me one year with our income tax return. I am a huge fan of carbonation and find just a jug of carbonated H2O is far easier to enjoy than plain water. Just writing about it, makes me need to go get a tall glass of bubbly water! Be right back…. 

 a minute later and hydrated…. Yes, love the soda stream. I go through a canister a month which is about $15 a can once my empty can is returned. I think that is a lot cheaper and environmentally friendly than buying a steady stream of bottles and cans of pre-flavored and carbonated water. I tons make healthy drinks for myself and the children with this machine I mix natural extracts, stevia, and even natural food colorings to make incredible healthy drinks. My favorite is to make sparkling lemon/lime with fresh squeezed lemons and limes and stevia. Yes, I am a Soda Stream enthusiast. 

4.  I will go with my food processor for fourth. I lived without one of these until rather recently when my husband gave me one for Christmas a few years back. I now wonder why I didn’t have one much earlier than then.

Since I am careful with our grocery budget, that means everything I buy comes unprepared…blocks of cheese…whole veggies…unwashed…un-chopped…unprepped food is what I bring home from the grocery store. I can shred all my cheese in five minutes with the cheese shredder on this gadget. I can make zucchini noodles and freeze them. I can slice carrots, cucumber, and dice onions in seconds. For my sauerkraut marathon, a food processor is indispensable as I shred head after head of cabbage. I also use the food processor to make my own hand lotions and creams. Recently I have made batch after batch of salsa! Dump all the ingredients in and run and done!

5. This Kitchen Aid stand mixer was my Christmas gift from my husband our first year of marriage. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting. Once I learned to make my own whole wheat bread…well…let’s just say, I don’t mix anything by hand and I don’t knead bread by hand. Judge me if you will, but this machine does an incredible job with all those things. In fact, I am convinced that it is key in making the best chocolate chip cookies. And the time is saves me kneading bread….I just wouldn’t have time to make bread without it. I calculated that from start to finish of mixing and kneading three loaves…twelve minutes with my Kitchen Aid doing all the work. 

My five favorite appliances! I was amused to see how many my husband had given me. I don’t be-grudge getting appliances as gifts ever, considering the amount of time they have given me to be with my family and do other things. And well, I am a home-making nerd tools for the kitchen home are very much my niche.

The Ministry of Touch in the Home

Photo by Linnea Herner on

Touch connects us to our surroundings. Touch is what makes everything real. Thomas, a disciple of Jesus refused to believe that Jesus was truly alive until he saw and touched his Master. “So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe'” John 20:25. So many things we hear about are far less real to us until we see and touch them. Touch is how we experience reality. We humans are strongly connected to the physical world through our sense of touch.

Have you ever sat on your foot and realized you have cut off the circulation to it? Although you can see it, it is very difficult to orient where your foot is in the world. Yes, it is still attached to your leg, but it feels unfamiliar and awkward. It nearly impossible to even to take a step until the nerves in the foot have recovered. It is times like those that we realize how important our sense of touch is! Without feeling, we cannot even connect to the floor.

Some people struggle more than others with where they are in relation to the world. And some people struggle more at different times in their lives.

People who struggle with connection to the world are many and it is good for us who minister with our homes to be aware of people who might be in extra need of tenderness as they are in our home.

Older folk are weaker in body and have slower reflexes, balance, and a nervous system that is often concentrated on bodily pain. For many older folks, connecting to surroundings is crucial to keep from stumbling. They also live in a sense of feeling misunderstood, and disconnected with others as their mental and physical states slows down. It is needful for us to have things for older folks to grab onto..handrails on steps, a bar by the toilet and in the shower (especially if we have long term or frequent elderly folks staying in our home). For short term older visitors, such accommodations may not be necessary, but we should be conscious of placement during seating. I have found a chair with two arms is often easier for an older person to get out of, rather than a plush sofa. So, we could kindly direct our frail guests to the safer furniture in the room if they should prefer it. When my aging parents come to visit, my Daddy often prefers sitting on the floor to a sofa, it is less painful on his back and easier to get up from. Sometimes, elderly folk need a firm mattress because they cannot get out of a bed where they sink in too far. It is good just to be mindful of the things our weaker friends and family may find helpful to grab or rest.

Other people who may struggle with bodily awareness in this world is anyone who struggles with a physical or mental condition. Nerves can simply be wired inside the body in a way that causes weakness, numbness, discomfort, dizziness, uncoordinated, and mental strain. Various nerve re-wires can occur in multitudes of ways, sometimes before birth, from an injury, disease, hormonal imbalances, medications, or even high amounts of stress. We should be sensitive toward those in our home who might need a little extra physical connection, or a little less physical connection. This isn’t always easy to know with new friends, but it is something we should learn about others quickly so we can adequately minister to their souls in our home as best as we are able.

All children struggle exponentially more than most adults with their connection to the world because a child is not only continually growing, but still developing bodily awareness. No wonder a child will stumble and fall countless times a day. As a keeper of the home, showing grace over accidents is invaluable. Milk spills, bowls break, and ankles twist when a person’s height increases an inch over a month’s time. It is also crucial that I reach out to these little souls who are still developing a spiritual awareness and wrap my arms around them. They need snuggles, kisses, and hugs to thrive in their lives and to feel not only my love poured out on them, but learn to connect better to God as they experience the unconditional, sacrificial love of another real human being holding them tight.

As a wife, making a point to reach out to my husband in touch is crucial. As a married couple, we are sharing the most amazing connection a human can have with another. We are one person. It is hard for either of us to feel like one beating heart, if our hands never hold each others hand. We married folk need to be physically close…we pass each other in the hall and connect with a kiss.  I have incredible power to minister and bless the soul of my husband by simply stroking his hair. He can calm my troubles soul with a long, understanding hug. Physical touch has a powerful way of binding souls together, and love language or not, touch is absolutely essential in marriage.

The sense of touch is essential to all humans. I believe people who did not grow up in a nurturing home, truly struggle all their lives with relationships. Relationships and people are not real because through childhood a person had little to no hands on connection with a person who loves them…no snuggles, no hugs and kisses, no pats on the back or brushing away of tears. No wonder relationships seem unreal… disconnected. Those who live alone may go for weeks, even months without ever connecting with another human through touch. I was told by a dear friend who ministers in nursing homes, that the elderly are particularly left untouched, and a hug means more to them than life itself. Those of us mothers who are surrounded by young children in constant need of affection can easily take for granted the connection we have to other people.

As part of developing a nurturing environment in the home for soul to find rest and joy in God, I find touch is crucial. Contact with other humans is not the only aspect of touch that should be considered. I noted a few ways I like to consider the affects the sense of touch might have in our home as I continually seek to use the home as a tool to minister to the soul and bring souls into a place of worship and deeper understanding of their loving Father.

Human Touch is probably the most important form of touch in our home. Why does a child in distress run to his Mama? Yes, a verbal consolation may take place, but what is really needed is a spot on Mama’s lap and Mama’s arms wrapped around his sobbing body. He needs touch to help heal his sad heart feel better, and he knows it. We don’t really try hard to connect with our children with snuggles, hugs, and kisses. It has always come very naturally for both myself and my husband. Honestly, I can’t stop kissing those sweet chubby cheeks! But I do notice that if I am having a busy day, I am less prone to try to reach out to my children’s emotional needs through a cuddle. It is hard for any mother to jump into affection when her mind is busy checking lists. So, I am certainly working on being aware of my children’s needs even when stress is high in our home.

A hug, a pat on the shoulder does so much to bring comfort to souls. A touch says, “I acknowledge you are real and what you are going through is real.” A touch says, “I see you.” A touch says, “I am here, I am a human with you.” A touch says, “you are not alone.” The power of human contact has been studied extensively. It is incredible the affect it has on the development of a new-born. Touching people brings people together in a way that nothing else can do. People need to connect with each other through the physical world of touch. Touch allows us Christians to open gentle pathways with other humans from this real physical world of senses, to the real world of eternity that cannot even be imagined.

When we have guests over we make a point to connect with them, a handshake for the guys and a shoulder hug for us women is a typical greeting in our culture. It welcomes our friends and makes them felt “seen” as well as provides that connection to them in our home. Without it, they might feel a little lost. There have been times I have missed that moment in our greeting and felt a discomfort as our guests try to feel out where there place is in our home. When there are large groups or several families gathering, it is easy to let greetings slide as people come and go and I get caught up in the kitchen or another conversation. This is an area I am still working on, but certainly I am trying to purpose to greet each guest…even each child (Little Who’s Are People Too) as they come in the doors of our home.
Creature affections are probably the next best thing to human affection. We have a sweet outdoor cat. I know many folks find their spirits are greatly soothed by simply petting a cat. A puppy will probably be in our future. Part of the reason for a dog in our home would be for touch. A good dog will invite touch and acknowledges others by showing unbiased affection through the sense of touch. Animals are great at soothing our souls and providing companionship and someone to talk to for those who live alone. Yes, they can be maintenance, but very often, it is worth the time and expense for the way a creature can be a blessing in the home. I have couple friends who have had a serious head injury. As a result, their doctor prescribed a pet to help relieve stress and help them recover. The main reason a doctor prescribes a therapy animal is touch. By coming into contact with another living creature, stress is relived and nerves are soothed. Touch is very grounding.

Heat and Cold should be set comfortably. I find as I grow older, my body temperature changes. Babies and elderly folks tend to need the house a little warmer than the average individual. When we have guests with very young or of grey hair, I make sure to add extra blankets to the bed, or at least point our guests to where they can get one. Keeping the house comfortable, not too hot or cold is helpful as we converse with others, it is one less distraction we and those we converse with have as we fellowship.

Warmth can also be a very sweet feature in the cold of winter. The warmth of a fireplace or a soft robe or blanket. Helping our friends and family members snuggle and find rest in tje warmth of the home can bring some treasured chats over cups of warm cocoa.

Cold, of course is welcomed in the heat of summer. Iced lemonade, a soft breeze through an open window, or ice-cream in a cone…I find offsetting the season with colder treats somehow brings balance.

Earth and nature are very important to touch. I love to see my children run barefoot through the grass. It seems so natural…real. There are studies on the subject of connection to the earth with our bodies. One of my favorite author’s, Charlotte Mason, notes that it is important for children to run and play outdoors as much as possible. Besides blossoming their imagination and love for learning, being outdoors helps children to develop coordination, strong bones and muscles, and learn where they are in relation to the world, simply by placing their feet on the ground for hours a day. . . or up a tree… Grounding brings confidence, peace, and ease. We need to touch earth, plant something, walk in bare-feet, picnic on the grass… I find touch essential to my soul. I personally need to take the time to connect with the rest of the creation God made. I need to take time to feel the wind blow across my face, the warm sun hit my back, the wet morning grass lick my feet, and mud ooze between my toes. A homemaker can garden, plant things, play with children in bar feet, picnic, and make time for enjoying the feel of all God made and sharing that with others. We grownups need to rejoice in the earth God made, just as much as a child does. It makes my heart fill with awe as though God Himself is reaching out and touching me through His Creation. 

Touch is the gospel. Touch is humanity. Touch is God coming to us in a human form. Touch is God healing our souls.

The Ministry of Scents of the Home

I have always been rather sensitive about smells. When I was pregnant, those sensitivities would escalate to the point I wanted to crawl out of my skin to even take out the trash. Once when I was pregnant, we had dead possum under our porch. The horrible smell leached into our basement and then into the entire house. I found it unbearable to the point I packed up the children and left the house for the day. When my sweet husband came home and saw my distress, he removed the porch floorboards and shoveled out the rotting possum. Then he poured bleach over the entire area. Without the consuming horrid smell, my heart was again at peace.

Smell has a greater affect on our hearts than we realize. Potent, stifling smells can be very stressful and make us want to run as far away as we can. Warm, welcoming smells of stewing applesauce and fresh bread, vanilla and spices, or even a clean, crisp lemon scent can set a tone that makes our hearts be at peace and want to stay a while.

Within the home, creating inviting scents and working to keep unpleasant odors under control is therefore essential in preparing a platform for ministry to happen within our walls. The sense of smell, is therefore a wonderful tool I can use in my pursuit of creating a home environment the welcomes spiritual growth and joy in God.

Pay attention to the smells of the home. So often we become accustomed to smells within our walls, that other people might find foreign or uncomfortable. As much as I enjoy fish, I am careful to chose the nights I will cook it. If I am expecting company after dinner, fish will not be on the menu. Although it does not have an odor I find appalling, for many people, the smell of fish is extremely potent and unpleasant.

Animals that live in the home can also make a home smell. It is important to keep indoor dwelling creatures clean and the places they hang out washed and freshened regularly. We do not have an indoor cat, but have kept ours indoors during certain stages of his life so I know that if there is a cat in the house, the kitty littler should be in a room that is tucked away from the rest of the living space…a laundry room, sun-room, or closet where a door can be shut on the ever present odor.

There various are smells that are built into the walls of our home and therefore a constant that we must work to mask or continually re-eliminate. We lived in an old farmhouse for a few years and it always had a very musty smell. In the room above the wet basement, was a den with wood paneling on every wall. I found rubbing that wood paneling down with a mixture of cinnamon oil and coconut oil made the house smell fabulous for weeks.

Carpets and walls may hold in smell from ourselves or even previous dwellers. while fresh paint often takes care of the walls, carpets can be far more difficult to deodorize. Despite the wide market of products on the market, the smell will keep coming back. I recently invested in a carpet cleaner for our current home and it has made a big difference in freshening up the carpets on occasion. Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and left overnight can be helpful. But powdered products are awfully hard on the vacuum cleaner, so they shouldn’t be used except in extreme cases. For me, just keeping a regular carpet cleaning is the best move. I have sprinkled peppermint or lavender oil on the car carpets and car-seats from time to time. That doesn’t eliminate bad orders, but can cover them up in a natural and pleasant way.

If at all possible use natural scents in the home. This is an area that is still in progress for me. I love to burn candles, but finding candles that are safe to breath hasn’t always been a priority because of the cost and accessibility. But after having a guest with sensitivities to a candle I burned, I will at least do my best to burn a naturally scented candle when we have visitors.

I already clean with natural products as I discussed in the post, Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural. Cleaning products are certainly a vital area we homemakers need to watch. Many products we use daily and  weekly, are not only toxic to breathe, but can cause severe allergic reactions to some people. I want a home that has air as safe to breathe as I can am able to create.

Chemical scents are often loaded into laundry as well. Guests with allergies would be unable to stay with us if I wasn’t careful about the products I use in laundry. My husband is also one of those who is sensitive to laundry softeners. So, if I must include softener in my laundry, I am careful to get one that is natural and hypoallergenic…yes…and unscented. But laundry doesn’t have to be boring. A few drops of lavender oil on a rag can brighten up the smell of hot clean clothes tossing in the dryer. I also LOVE a laundry line. Read about that more in my Laundry on the Line post. Nothing has a more amazing scent than line dried sheets and clothing!

I am very opinionated on the subject of plug-ins and sprays that are made to make a room smell good. They can be incredibly overpowering and in fact even though they might not stink like a dead possum, they make many folks…like me…gag. I find the artificial smells overpowering and believe many others do as well. Instead a diffuser with a favorite blend of essential oils, a few spices in a pot of simmering water (or mini crock pot), a naturally scented vanilla candle, fresh flowers, potted plants, or even a batch of freshly baked bread can make a home smell incredible without concern of causing anyone discomfort.

Cleanliness is vital to maintaining a home without bad odors. One of the most effective ways to keep a home smelling pleasant is simply to keep it clean. Some of the most notorious bad smells in the home are poopy diapers, kitty litter, and un-emptied trash cans.

My children collect trash throughout every room in the house on a daily basis. I empty those baskets in the kitchen trash, and take it out to the trash bins outside. Baby diapers get wrapped tightly in a special bag to lock in the smells, or they get put in a diaper bin. Kitty litter should be changed daily to prevent it from any odor. I already discussed carpets, but carpets and wood can absorb smells.

Wood is like skin, when it is warm and humid it opens up and releases all those lovely or less lovely smells. Wood floors and paneling can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water (I favor Murphy’s oil). Then the wood can be nourished with a simple blend of a cheap oil like sunflower oil and a few drops of an essential oil. I like to rub oil into the wood just after it has been cleaned with warm water.

Dust has a smell. Have you ever turned on a heater the first brisk day of fall and smelled the dust getting hot? Well, imagine a layer of dust on blinds, furniture, or framework. Being faithful at wiping off the dust can be very helpful in keeping a room smelling fresh.

Appliances can hold odors as well…dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, and washing machines need to be cleaned as well. Appliances should all work without producing any bad odors. For tips on how I clean, check out how I use baking soda and vinegar in my home in My Household Friend: Baking Soda and The Role of White Vinegar in My Home. And just a thought…if you have a vacuum cleaner that has a dusty smell even after it has been emptied, it is time to ditch it and get a new vacuum. A vacuum cleaner should function without any smell.

Fresh air is a wonderful way to keep a home smelling good. Open the windows in the spring and fall can really help air out the house and keep fresh air rotating. The smell of fresh air naturally soothes my mind and a the smells of flowers, soil, and trees give my heart thoughts of God’s goodness.

Prepare for bad smells. The bathroom is a place where bad smells occur. It is a great idea to keep a plan on hand to mask unpleasantries to noses. A bathroom spray or a match are very effective and should be kept available for guests as well as ourselves to use as needed. When we have guests, keeping a candle burning in the bathroom is an easy way to remove the potential of embarrassing smells. If possible one should also make sure there is a way for air to circulate within a bathroom by keeping a vent or window open a crack at all times.

Bad odors can also occur in the kitchen. Even kept clean, a fridge can breed odor. A box of baking soda is a helpful odor absorbing product to keep in freezers and refrigerators. I simply punch a few holes in the top of my baking soda box and put the whole box in the back of the refrigerator and freezer. The kitchen trash should be emptied daily. Our trash is emptied more like 2-3 times a day. Burnt foods should be disposed of outdoors as quickly as possible. If you are planning to do a project inside the house that will involve paints or chemicals, plan those projects on warmer days if possible so windows can be opened for ventilation.

The sense of smell enhances all of our other senses. Because of smell, food has taste, flowers have freshness, and a walk in the woods is so refreshing. Smell is like salt to our sense of sight, hearing, touch, and taste…perhaps it could be lived without, but life is far better with a sense of smell! As a homemaker, I certainly try to put smell to good use to enhance the overall flavor of my home into a place that nurtures our souls and opens pathways for our heart to rejoice in our Creator.

The Ministry of Sound in the Home

Sound is probably the most important human sense.

I took a special needs psychology course in college and was challenged to go out in public for several hours without the use of one of my senses. I choose to go without sight. I believed sight would be the most difficult sense to go without and wanted to experience what it would be like not to see.

So, I put band-aids and sunglasses over my eyes and had a friend drive me to the grocery store and then a restaurant for dinner. I thought not having sight would be far more challenging than it was. I was surprised that I could navigate my way through the store using my senses of sound and touch. I was able to pick out items I needed. I even dropped coins and pick them up. I managed to find my credit card in my purse to pay. I also enjoyed a splendid lunch with my friend.

After experiencing a sightless adventures, I became extra grateful for my other senses, especially my hearing.  I could engage in conversation with my friend, hear cars, conversation, enjoy music, and even sense the closeness of objects because of my reliance hearing. Had it not have been for my ears, I would have been at a terrible loss. I also would have felt completely alone and isolated. I learned that day that not being able to hear would be far more depressing than not being able to see.

Have you ever noticed while watching a movie how the music is truly what engages your emotions during the plot? Watching a movie in silence would not have near the affect as even listening to the soundtrack with closed eyes! The music gives away more of the plot in a movie than the visual affects. We can tell a scary event is occurring simply by the change in music. Romantic portions of a movie have certain notes, as well as the heart pounding rush of a man on the run. The music sets the tone for what we see and feel throughout a plot. Movies that are extremely successful are also known for their amazing soundtracks.

Stores also know the power of sound. The music played in Fresh Market sets a tone of elegance and leisure while a store like Best Buy monopolizes on the latest hits to emphasize the modern tone of their store. Restaurants often play music that will either speed people up on their eating experience, or cause them to relax and slow down a bit. What sounds we hear in various places are not put there haphazardly, but with careful thought to the impact those sound will have on our psychology. 

In the home, sound is also a crucial player in ministering to our souls. Just like the sights of our home must be thought out as discussed in The Ministry of Sight in the Home, so it is important for us homemakers to set the auditory atmosphere in our home. As a Christian, I strive to have sound in my home that allow the soul to be free and at ease to seek God, I also try to eliminate sounds that are disturbing. I find there is more chaos in obnoxious, incoherent, mixtures of sounds than in the chaos of what I see visually. Although sounds in the home, especially with lots of children, can be sometimes difficult to manage, my husband and I work on keeping excessive loudness down inside the home and maintaining peaceful and nurturing audio in conversation and entertainment.

There are a few basic steps I have taken to ensure control what is heard in our home. 

Maintain volume guidelines. This is crucial for every home, but extra difficult the more little people that live in a home. I do believe the volume does have to flex a bit according to the size of the home and the size of the family. We instruct our children to use quieter and keep their volume down while inside the house, but do allow a lot more vocal exuberance when they are outdoors. I have little tolerance for squabbling and whining and fits are simply not tolerated. I have often sent an incessantly fussy child to his or her room with instructions not to return until he or she is done fussing and pleasant to be around again. If that fails, the child in question has signed himself or herself up for an afternoon nap. Sometimes, extreme grumpiness is a result of a poor night sleep or overstimulates the day before, or even the first clue a child isn’t feeling well. A nap has altered many a bad emotional course in our home. Hey…it even works for me!

Build a quiet time into each day. I have built in an hour-two hour quiet time in every day. It is a moment of quiet for myself as well as for each of my children. Even little ones need a social break. Children under five spend the quiet time in their rooms, usually napping. If napping days are past, quiet play is permitted. Each child older than five plays alone and quietly for the one to two hours, usually after lunch I ask each child to pick a spot where he or she is going to be for quiet time. And they gather coloring, toys, or books, art supplies, and nestle in that spot for an hour or so, no TV or electronic devices are permitted. On occasion I will allow quiet group play, like play-doh at the kitchen table or even outdoor play, but the children are not allowed to bother me except for emergencies. They know this quiet time is important for them and to me as well. I can study Scripture, pray, write, take a nap if needed, make phone calls, or catch up on housework. This quiet moment in the day is gold to me. 

Don’t mix too many various sounds. I have a one thing at a time policy for many things in our home. The children play with one toy at a time and pick it up before moving on to another. If I allow nature to take its course, toy after toy would be pulled out, every room would be a disaster by the end of the day. By keeping a “one-toy-out-at-a-time” policy, this does not happen. Sounds are the same way. We do not practice piano while the stereo is on, one will be turned off before engaging in the next sound. 

Allow noise in designated times and places. Yelling and shouting is for outdoors in our home. I do not give the children volume regulations when they play outside, unless they are going out before 9 a.m. of course. There are also certain toys that are specifically outdoor toys…horns and whistles to name two. If those toys are played in the house, I take them away for a while. I am strict about this rule because the volume of noise from a whistle or horn would overwhelm our home. Most battery powered toys today are not as obnoxious as I remember as a child, however musical instruments can border on obnoxious if played with inexperienced hands. I feel it is important for children to explore musical instruments, so do not disband them in the house. We have bells, a recorder and a piano, but all three are not engaged simultaneously. And very often a time limit is imposed for the exceptionally loud “concerts.”

Listen to music and podcasts that draw our hearts into worship and growth in our walk with God, not pull us away from Him or distract us from finding our complete satisfaction and joy in God. I have my favorite podcasting friends I love to listen to on a regular basis. But, I also find worship music and classical music to be my “go-to’s” for daily listening. Those genres minister to my soul more than any other type of music. I admit that Mozart plays in our home the most. I love the intelligent calm my soul receives from listening to Mozart. I find myself able to think better than any other genre. Not everyone is wired the same, so certainly there is plenty of room  for various tastes and needs. My husband can stomach news and weather broadcasts and keeps up on them without too much aggravation. I find the bias and irrelevance too frustrating for my heart and do not keep up with listening to news or political events. This does not mean I am apathetic, but that I simply am very choosy about what I put in my brain. I prefer to read news from selected sources rather than listen to it. I also do not want my children to listen to the news until they are old enough to discern truth from fiction and recognize methods of propaganda. So, we don’t watch or listen to news in our home. Regardless of what we choose to listen to in our home, it should be something we spend time considering and don’t thoughtlessly let our ears hear voices that could impact our souls.

Don’t underestimate the power of silence. Silence is a very wonderful indulgence for our ears. How easy it is to have noise constantly pouring into our souls from our ears, it can be very difficult to “be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10 if we don’t embrace quiet in our lives. As a camp counselor one summer, part of my training was to go out into the woods at night. Woods in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night truly limits ones sense of sight, and I was taught to embrace the sounds of the night. How rarely we actually listen to the world around us! Crickets, bugs crawling on dry leaves, sticks falling from a tree, and the slight rustle of leaves in the breeze… all of what our ears hear points to our amazing Creator and can draw our hearts to worship. Sometimes, only in silence can a soul actually hear what it was made to hear.

Fighting and arguing should be moved from quickly. Scripture commands us in Romans 12:8 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are a family of sinners, living in a sinful fallen world, so yes, there are times when the sounds in our home are not beautiful. My children do squabble. They do say hurtful things to each other. They can be very cranky and argumentative. My goal is to nip it quickly. It takes two to disagree, so I usually find the perpetrators and try to discern the reason for the quarrel. Very often, pointing them to Christ is all it takes to re-align their thoughts. “Does what you are doing and saying bring God glory?” Then a hug between the two offenders accompanied with an apology ensues. Giggles often follow as the two try to over-hug. But I do believe humor is a great mood adjuster…making my children partake in a tickle fight or game of making funny faces is very helpful in getting them to change mental directions. I do not want to ignore their squabbles no mater how trifle they seem to me. Disagreements are normal, but it is important to teach children how to handle those situations and how to move past that moment of pain and back into friendship. I do realize not every child is wired to adjust his or her attitude on a dime, but as parents who know our children, we can certainly find ways that work for each of our children, to help them respond in biblical ways to squabbles and hurts. This takes time…years in fact, but it is essential to cultivate in little hearts. Way too many adults have no idea how to handle conflict correctly, leading to broken relationships, divorce, and un-Christlike Christian testimonies. As the post His Grandma Shocked Me describes, it is essential for our grown-up hearts to learn and practice quick make-ups that finish with a dash of warmth. Bitterness, grudges, the silent treatment are immature and godless responses to disagreements and hurts in children just as much as in adults.

Yelling and shouting is for outdoor play and emergencies…that includes Mommy and Daddy. There are occasions for shouting and yelling like: “Stop running into the road!” But very often, I try to keep that sort of volume for emergencies. In our home, we have utilized technology to help keep yelling and shouting to a minimum. We have Amazon Echo in almost every room of our home and find that to be an excellent venue for announcements and intercom chats. I can call children to dinner from my kitchen, without raising my voice. My husband can drop in the children’s rooms and tell them to be quiet at bedtime. It has worked out quite well for us. If I must address a child, firmness is my mode of conversation over volume. I know there can be some very long frustrating days for parents, but to keep an atmosphere of peace and godliness, both my husband and I do our best use firm, serious voices instead of loud, angry voices in addressing those situations that must be dealt with sternly. I want my children to pay attention when I yell, and if I am always yelling, they will quickly learn that it doesn’t matter. so, if I do raise my voice, it is for a matter of upmost urgency and they all look right at me with wide eyes. 

Oh how crucial it is for a home-maker to have mastery over the sounds in her home! Chaos in the ears goes straight to the soul. We can cultivate such beautiful environments for spiritual growth, godly focus, and worship if we purpose what sounds echo throughout the walls of our home. 

The Ministry of Sight in the Home

Sight is a wonderful sense. There is so much we can behold with our eyes that points to our Creator.

Hearts that find joy and complete satisfaction in God will see everything through wide eyes of amazement in God. I try to cultivate sights in our home that will enrich our amazed hearts. What we see with our eyes, can draw us closer to God and bring us to worship. The sights around us can also aid our hearts to be at rest and allow us to focus on God without distraction. What we see around us has great power to point us to be in wonder of our Heavenly Father.

The contrary is also true that various sights can cause our soul to be troubled. Certain sights can be a distraction from our focus on God. Some things we see with our eyes can give us fear, stress, and anger. There are even sights can be utterly dangerous to our souls if we succumb to temptation through what we see and choose to sin. I try to think through everything in my home…books, wall decor, entertainment, and even order. I want to evaluate the visual affect each room will have on the soul. I want to purpose to use what is seen in our home to draw our souls to Christ and keep us from distraction that would fix our eyes on anything but Christ.

As discussed in: Ministering Through Physical Senses in the Home, The culture of the home does determine a lot about how each person’s home looks. Not everyone is naturally neat and clean. Not everyone has the same taste in decor and style. Not everyone has an eye for beauty in the home. In fact, even if we are good at something, there is always someone who is better at it than we are. Since we are all different, we all have areas in our lives that we need to cultivate and grow, in order to better serve the Lord. Not to be discouraging, but like all areas in our lives, the path of growth in homemaking is endless. It is essential however, that we are on the path of continual learning and changing, and improving our home environment. I have found that the Lord does show me ways I need to grow in my ministry of homemaking. But it is most certainly very important that as makers of homes, we seek ways to purposefully cultivate the inside view of our homes to a place that enhances the light in our soul.

Neat and Clean: I know some people struggle with order more than others, but I cannot impress enough how crucial it is to maintain the home in an orderly way. The standard and ease of order will look different for a woman in her sixties compared to a young mother with three toddlers. But we should all do our best to have patterns of cleanliness and order in the home. If not for our own sake, we must strive for neatness for God and for others.

Sometimes people, I would be one, who get stressed just looking around a home in disarray. I see work to be done and my heart does not feel at peace. My husband also breaths easier when he looks about the house and it is in order. Somehow messes breed a sense of chaos in us. I do not want that feeling in my home, so the solution is to pick it up and teach my children how to pick up after themselves…certainly a work in progress. There are those, who are at peace with mess. That is a good thing, but that does not mean the mess should be left because one is at peace with it.

Our home is not about us, but about God. The home is a tool God has entrusted to our care. If everything was just about us, we could do as we please, but the point is that our lives are about God, as is our home. We need to treat it with respect for the One who placed the home under our care. We can minister to souls with our home in good order.

If I think of chaotic noise, for instance simultaneously a trumpet being practiced in one room, the stereo playing rock and roll playing loudly while children squeal and dance, and a blender on in the kitchen… the chaos of sound can be very disturbing to the soul and prevent the soul from being still and knowing God. Visual chaos has the same affect as visual sound on the soul. Just like we need audio quiet, we need visual quiet to aid in the stilling our souls. Order is primary, but so is simplicity. Too much going on visually can take place in a neat and clean room that simply is filled with too much stuff. Like five Mozart sonatas playing simultaneously. Only one is needed, too much of even a good thing is chaos. So, decreasing clutter is also vital in maintaining the visual peace in our homes. Note: Many books have been written on the subject, but I highly recommend Marie Kondo’s Book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Although I do not embrace all of the concepts in her book, many of the principles in the book are truly life changing.

Scripture on the walls of every room: I absolutely love Scripture verses everywhere in my home. My mother always had Scripture posted on the walls of our home as we grew up, and I have found it invaluable. My mother would write out verses on 3×5 cards and tape them around light switches. I will paint verses on canvas, buy prints with Scripture, or yes, I do stick verses around on 3×5 cards as needed. My goal is to have Scripture in every room of our house. I see Scripture as of primary importance as seek to keep it close by. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God commands the Israelite’s to value it and keep it before them:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Psalm 119 also emphasizes the importance of God’s Word over and over. As a home-maker who desires God above all, I like Scripture to be in every room. It is good to have it always in sight for pondering.

Reminders of God’s Goodness: Wedding pictures, family pictures, and sentimental keepsakes can be helpful to remind us of how blessed we are. I also have enjoyed keeping a chalkboard on the wall in our kitchen to write down various things we are thankful for. It is so much easier to complain than to see the world through eyes of gratitude. And to keep our heart fixed on God and His goodness, I like to see and point out the sentimental reminders of the goodness of God in our lives…yearly photo books with images of what God did in a year, a clay vase my late Grandpa made, beautiful paintings of nature, and family photos on the walls…all point my heart to remember how good and gracious God is to me in my undeserving state. He has given me these temporal earthly blessings of family, material goods, and creation so that I might glorify Him. Putting those things on display in my home is a good thing.

Visual Calm: Although I do not embrace the new age belief of the energy of Feng Shui, I do love the concepts I have learned from books on the subject. Creating open, free spaces is truly an art I can utilize effectively in my home to give visual ease to the eyes.  I am not naturally gifted in home decorating despite classes on the subject. I have to play around with a room for a while before settling on wall hangings, window treatments, and furniture arrangements. I do find having a flow of online and library resources is helpful in my quest to bring more visual harmony to each room of my home. It is very much an area I feel is important to press on in my learning.  Simple touches like candles, a crackling fire. fresh flowers, open windows, natural light, and empty spaces are helpful creating an atmosphere that welcomes growth, fellowship, worship, rest, and healing for the soul.

Wholesome entertainment and books: Having wholesome viewing and reading material easily accessible is also a valuable  asset in our home. My husband and I carefully consider the viewing material we allow our children and we are also careful to choose books that enhance, and do not degrade the work of God. Now this topic can be stretched into its own post. But in short synopses, we do our best to choose material that will draw our hearts closer to the Lord and do not cause our hearts to be tempted. Although sin is most certainly from the heart, I do believe that our eyes do play a first hand role in allowing our hearts to be tempted. It isn’t completely unavoidable, but, it is most certainly something I have more control to curb inside the walls of our home than anywhere else. I have notes to indulge in this topic further in the future. 

For now, those five little concepts are my primary goals for visually preparing a space for Spiritual rest and growth as well as setting up guideposts that point to the Lord in our home. By thoughtfully arranging the sights of the home, it is possible to create an atmosphere that welcomes our soul to worship, rest, and focus on the Lord. I am absolutely learning more about how to do that best in our home. And always adapting as I learn. I welcome any further thoughts on this subject.


My Mini Wardrobe: Two Years Later

I started creating my mini wardrobe nearly two years ago and thought it was time to give an update on my thoughts about it after seasons have passed. My first post on my minimal wardrobe was over a year ago. So it is time for an update.

I was inspired to pare down my mismatched, ill-fitting, poorly planned wardrobe after reading the book Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott.

I went through my entire wardrobe and donated or sold pretty much all of it. I had a lot of clothes that I had nothing to wear with, did not fit, or flatter me, were outdated, and simply items I did not like. I found it amazing how little of what hung in my closet that I actually wore.

I began cultivating a wardrobe consisting of about ten basic items, I leaned heavily on French fashion. Breton striped shirts, white jeans, and red, white, and blue as my core colors. I settled on ballet flats, espadrilles, a pair of oxford shoes, and healed boots for my feet. I wore scarves as a daily accessory.

As seasons changed, it did not take me long to realize the practicality of what I wore was also vital in my life.

Some beautiful French staples that didn’t work for me:

Scarves quickly proved to be annoying as I am constantly wiping floors due to people messes. The scarf would dribble and dabble in soapy water, and get in my way as I bent down so often throughout the day. A scarf out on the town is perfectly nice, but since my life is spent 95% at home…scarves ended up being constantly removed until I gave up on them.

I also invested in a really nice white blouse. I loved it, but found it impossible button to keep clean, and it would often wait a while on a hanger before I had time to iron it. The upkeep of a white blouse in my life was also out of the question.

Blazers and sports jackets have never suited me. I feel stiff and unnatural wearing them. But I did give them a shot. I love the look of a brown wool plaid blazer with a warm wool skirt, leather gloves, and tall boots in the autumn….jeans will work too. I also like a blazer with jeans. Mixing the casual and dressy create the perfect blend for all occasions. But on me? I found myself constantly shedding a blazer throughout the day, simply because I find it constricting as I work. Eventually, I never even tried to put on a blazer and just gravitated to my favorite black cashmere sweater…over and over.

Espadrilles were bad news for my feet and also very unpractical for my daily life. I bought two pair of beautiful and good quality espadrille shoes for the summer. A black pair by Andre Assus and a beige pair by Kanna from Spain. The hard soles of the espadrilles were very uncomfortable and hard on my back after a day of wear. I also find my life in the summer involves walks in the woods, pushing little folks on the swing, and time both in and out of doors. Making espadrilles wear out and become dirty very quickly. Espadrilles also are a heavy shoe and I found them too stiff for my daily work. So, I bought a nice pair of Clark sandals and wore them for the rest of the summer, shelving my espadrilles.

Leather jackets can look smashing and chic when paired with pretty much anything. So, I bought one. But friends, it just wasn’t me. I felt unnatural and not myself when wearing it, even though I got a business cut instead of a biker design. I found I never gravitated toward wearing it, and it hung lonely in my closet. So, I sold it last year and have not missed it at all.

Silk…I will try to wear silk again later in life. I love silk, even a touch of it gives any outfit instant luxury. I however, cannot keep up with its care. It spots easily, even with just water. It melts under a hot iron. Silk should not be cleaned by any other method than the dry cleaners, and that only on rare occasion. I have hand washed a silk blouse from time to time to save money, but know from my textile classes, that I am damaging the delicate fibers and slowly dissolving the strands of silk with each washing. Silk simply doesn’t work into my hands-on lifestyle right now.

My journey into chic French classics was not in vain. I discovered a few sticking traits in my wardrobe that I love to wear every day. And I certainly received an education concerning what doesn’t work.

What I held onto in my journey into the chic French classics?

A matching wardrobe! Everything in my wardrobe works with each other. I don’t go shopping without an idea what I need. And I don’t desire to buy clothes that won’t work with what I already own. I have a wardrobe pallet of black, grey, white, navy, and blush pink right now. I like the soft, muted tones.

A good quality purse! I love my patent, cherry red, Burberry purse. It might not be Chanel, but it is well made, and it’s size is adjustable, so suits my needs when I go out. Yes, I only own one purse. I bought it on Poshmark used for several hundred dollars. But it was in amazing condition and would have been an impossible purchase for me at it’s original price tag. I am hoping my Burberry purse will last me until my children are grown. Then I will look for something a little smaller and perhaps in a more finesse design. But that will all be when I am no longer packing items for my children on a regular basis, and have sippy cups, diapers, books, and crayons to tote on the go.

Breton striped shirts have always been a style I gravitated toward. I own two from Boden. One is navy and white stripe and the other is grey and navy stripe. I also bought them used on Poshmark, but am comfortable paying $20 for a great quality shirt and getting snot on it, than if I got the same shirt new for $75.

Cashmere is a recent discovery of softness. I love the cozy warmth a cashmere sweater brings. I seek out middle-of the road cashmere. So farm I have yet to buy a sweater from Naadam or Everlane, but they would be a brand I would gravitate toward. I found a really nice Elizabeth and James black cashmere cardigan on E-bay. I got it cheap because a button was broken. But it probably would have cost several hundered new. My other two cashmere sweaters are from L.L. Bean. One is a blush pink hoodie and the other is an oversize taupe with a turtleneck. Older J.Crew cashmere also has a good reputation, but the newer cashmere is not as fine. I would not buy cheap cashmere from Pure Collection, Gap, Charter Club, or Banana Republic. I would imagine any cashmere sold under a fast fashion label would be thin, would pill, and would itch a little.

Simplicity is something that I love about French fashion. I do believe over-accessorizing simply looks gaudy. I do not need a necklace and a scarf. I do not need sunglasses and a hat. I do not need a watch and a bracelet. One piece of jewelry is ample for any look. I need simplicity in my life, and the French have licensed me to do so.

Mixing casual and dressy pieces to complete the perfect look. Dresses with sneakers, blazers with jeans, silk with denim, skirts with a graphic T-shirt…are all examples of well thought out looks that ultimately provide balance. Not that every outfit must be contrasted in that way, but I find it helpful to keep in mind that dressy and casual can be mixed instead of living in their own quarters.

It is hard in our culture, but I am walking away from Polyester…ok… to be perfectly honest, I do have three polyester dresses in my closet at present, but they are moving out soon. I got a couple for my birthday and absolutely love the prints, but due to the fast fashion and cheapness of the garments, I do not expect them to a long life in my closet. Polyester, is essentially a fine plastic filament. It is like wearing a plastic bag for clothing. It does not allow the skin to breath and so can cause body orders to incur. It seems like an unhealthy fabric to be wearing. It is also extremely cheap. So, other than some experimental breathable Polyester that has just hit the market, (it won’t be in shops I can afford for some time), ALL clothing made with polyester is cheap, no matter how much it cost. I cannot tell you how many shops I have been saddened to see beautiful garments made with the plastic. It immediately puts the entire brand in the mode of fast, cheap, fashion…even if the price tags don’t read that. Someone is making a killing. As I am writing, I see a need to expound on fabrics more, but that is for another post.

Levi Jeans are truly the best. I find the fit and make of classic Levi’s to be the best jean. I don’t wear any other brand. Levi’s wear out into a beautiful distressed look too. Some jeans simply look worn out. But Levi’s tend to look like they were made that way. I have three pair of jeans. A dark skinny Levi, a light distressed skinny Levi, and a dark boot-cut Levi.

A little black dress is a favorite of mine, even though it is not a truly a French staple. Other than my two cheap polyester dresses, I currently own two other dresses…both black. One is made by Boden. It fits and flatters beautifully. I bought it on E bay for under thirty dollars. The other dress I have is a fancy Swiss Dot black dress made by Anthropologie…yes, cheap, poly fabric, but the cut flatters me and I typically wear it for the times I dress up. I am going to hang onto that dress until I can find a suitable quality replacement.

And that is my mini wardrobe going on over a year and a half now. I am so grateful for the time it has saved me and the lessons I have learned by owning a minimal item wardrobe. I have more fun being creative with my clothes than I used to. I also feel sharp in each outfit I own and don’t have to wonder if it looks good on me. Everything in my closet fits! And moving to better quality items had opened my eyes to the value of buying something beautiful that will last for generations. If I care for my sweaters, they are perhaps something my daughters can enjoy wearing someday. My Burberry purse will probably withstand ten more years of life and I can still sell it for a good bit to put toward another great handbag. My feet don’t hurt from poorly made shoes. My jeans fit and flatter, even if I gain ten pounds. I love mixing and matching my clothes! I never ask myself…”Does this shirt go with my sweater? Because everything does! I am very happy with my choice to own a mini wardrobe.

My Household Friend: Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, has far more uses than baking in my home. Baking soda has proved itself to be invaluable in my home for years. Sodium bicarbonate is more than safe. A study from the Journal of Toxicological Pathology demonstrates how baking soda is effective in treating radiation exposure. I find baking soda to be one of my favorite cleaning agents around the house because it is not only very cheap, but also effective and natural.

There are multiple ways to use baking soda. I primarily use Baking Soda in my home for cooking, cleaning, and deodorizing.

Bathroom cleaner: Baking soda is a gentle scrub and soap scum remover. I use it to clean the bathtubs, toilets, sinks, and counters. I also sprinkle baking soda on wet shower walls, and then spray with vinegar. The baking soda and vinigar combinatiin cleans the shower and bathtub very effectively. My article about The Role of White Vinegar in My Home, also discusses this method.

Personal Cleaning: I don’t regularly use baking soda in baths, but it can be used as a health soak, body wash, and hair wash. It takes about ½-1 cup disolved in baths. I like to put it in baths after known exposure to radiation like x-rays, CT scans, and sun. I have often used baking soda as a shampoo for my hair. I sprinkle about 4-5 tablespoons on my damp hair, scrub it in, and then wash it out. It seems to remove any buildup on my hair and leave it very soft. Baking soda can also be used as a dry shampoo in a pinch to absorb excess oil. It can be used as a body exfoliating agent by gently scrubbing a water and baking soda paste on the skin. I find it particularly effective on rough feet. Baking soda, although gentle, is still a fine scrub and can cause skin irritation for those with sensitive skin, so I don’t use it regularly in contact with skin, but use it on an “as needed” basis.

Kitchen Fire Extinguisher: There have been a couple occasions in my lifetime when something in the oven or stove-top caught fire. Every time, I grabbed my box of baking soda and poured it all on the fire. Not only does sodium bicarbonate quickly put out a small fire, but it aids in cleaning up the mess. It absorbs grease and residue and helps me scrub it all away. Baking soda is also safe on electric fires. Since I always have some in my kitchen cupboard, it is a fast grab and dump on small kitchen fires.

Oven Cleaner: I have not purchased oven cleaner since a dear mentoring friend of mine told me how to use baking soda and water to clean my oven. Using baking soda as my oven cleaner saves the electric and gas from using the self-cleaning feature, as well as my lungs and grocery budget from buying a harsh chemical. To clean a nasty, greasy, and baked on burnt oven I plan what day the oven will be cleaned. A week before I plan on cleaning it, I make a paste of baking soda and water and rub it on the walls, floor, and ceiling of the oven, being liberal in the worst spots. I use the oven as normal for a week or so, and then wipe out the oven. By then, the baking soda will have crusted with the water and nasty residue on the oven and it can be easily wiped out. It may even just crumble to the floor on it’s own. Honestly, I find keeping up with an oven and quickly wiping it down with a wet cloth after each use has virtually eliminated any need for me to ever spend time on severe oven cleaning. If I want to clean my oven thoroughly, it is never a serious task and I can easily use the baking soda paste to wipe off the baked on grease without giving it time to set.

Deodorizer: I store a perforated box of baking soda in my freezers, refrigerator, bottom of certain garbage containers, and in the family car.

On occasion I sprinkle baking soda on stinky rugs and carpets. I leave it for a couple hours and then vacuum. I also sprinkle baking soda on the van floors and car-seats the day before I am planning to clean the car, and vacuum it up later.

Hard Surface Whitener: To remover stains on counter-tops from tomato, food coloring, turmeric, or paint, a paste of baking soda and water can be made and left on for a few hours. The paste absorbs the stain and can be wiped away. It is how I whitened counters and ceramic surfaces before the availability of Magic Erasers.

Laundry: I have use baking soda on occasion to remove orders from clothes. It is especially effective if the garment is soaked in tango with vinegar. I have successfully removed sweat, smoke, and sulfur orders with a good soaking of the offending clothing item in a baking soda, vinegar, and water solution.

Appliance Cleaner: I dump half a box of baking soda into the washing machine or dishwasher and run an empty load or cleaning cycle to help remove soap scum and orders. I clean my washing machine weekly; usually after my last load of laundry on Friday or Saturday.

I have read about dozens of other uses baking soda has. I have even tried other applications. But those are the tried and true methods I have found that work for me. Baking soda is truly a compound for which I am grateful!

Hydrogen Peroxide: My Gentle Disinfectant

I use Hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. It is a gentler disinfectant than bleach, so it takes time to do its work rather than having immediate bacteria killing powers. I do purchase Clorox wipes and bleach on occasion when I know I will need something powerful and quick to nip something. For instance, in the old-farmhouse where we lived, the bathroom had very poor ventilation. So, black mold continually appeared on the walls and ceilings. I purchased bleach to clean it. I found the bleach not only quickly killed the mold, but whitened it so the spores no longer showed. I also used bleach to clean my toilets because we had unfiltered well water which I think promoted growth of a fungus in the toilets. Only the bleach worked to whiten and kill those spores. I also buy Clorox wipes on occasion. For instance, when we moved, we had a lot of cleaning to do, both in the old home and in the new, so I bought Clorox wipes to hasten those wipe-down jobs. Although I prefer a safer, gentler approach to sanitize my home on a regular basis, I have been known to use chemical methods as needed. Chemicals are only used after my gentle, natural methods are proven ineffective.

I get the diluted form of hydrogen peroxide from the first-aid aisle in a pharmacy. It is a 3% H2O2 solution, which from my reading has been proven to be more than enough to destroy harmful microbes. It comes in an opaque bottle because hydrogen peroxide is light sensitive and easily dissipates. As this link states from the CDC hydrogen peroxide turns into water and oxygen– a good thing when it comes to the environment and health safety. There are those who would disagree with me, but I do not believe hydrogen peroxide is safe for internal consumption. It is poorly absorbed by skin and safe to inhale, so I am comfortable using it to clean my home. I usually leave hydrogen peroxide in its original container, and squirt it out as needed. However, it could be used in a dark, opaque, spray bottle as well.

Hydrogen Peroxide is effective at whitening, killing most unfriendly bacteria, and is odorless, which is great for sensitive airways.
How I use Hydrogen Peroxide:

Bathroom Cleaner: I squirt a dry thin rag with hydrogen peroxide until the rag is well soaked. Then I wipe down my counter-tops, sinks, and sometimes even the floors in my bathroom. I squirt a few drops around my toilet rims, and use toilet paper to wipe it around and away. I do not use it in the shower currently, but if one feels the shower is in need of disinfecting, it could be used there after the shower or bath as a daily shower cleaner, or it could be used as a rinse after the soap scum and minerals have been scrubbed away.

General Sanitizing: In the same way a Clorox or Lysol wipe could be used, I use a cloth squirted with hydrogen peroxide to wipe down computer keyboards, remote controls, cell phones, door-knobs, and light switches.

Kitchen Uses: Hydrogen Peroxide can be used to clean up after cutting raw poultry. A small squirt on a counter or cutting board will disinfect. It can also be used to disinfect sinks, floors, counters, cupboard handles, and appliance surfaces. I just use a cloth with a good amount of hydrogen peroxide poured on it.

Fruit and Veggie Wash: Soaking fruits and vegetables in a water and hydrogen solution will help kill harmful bacteria. I use this method to clean my produce, especially, if I am doing bulk, food prep for canning or freezing. It takes about 10-15 minutes to adequately kill bacteria, so I let my veggies and fruit soak in the solution for that time, and sometimes even a bit longer. After a hydrogen peroxide soak, I rinse off the produce and scrub with a brush before preparing the food.

I know there are many more ways to enlist Hydrogen Peroxide in the home, but I tend to stick to what works for me at present. I am happy with its results. I bounce between my used of H2O2 and white vinegar as needed. I do believe vinegar has similar properties and can be used to help sanitize. But I am uncertain that it is quite as effective as hydrogen peroxide. And vinegar does have a potent smell, for those like me who don’t want their house to smell like pickles after they clean.

For more study on the scientific research done with hydrogen peroxide, I have posted helpful article from various state cooperative extensions and the CDC below:

Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities (2008)

Cleaning & Sanitizing the Kitchen
Using inexpensive household food-safe products

Medical Management Guidelines for Hydrogen Peroxide

On-farm Food Safety:
Cleaning and Sanitizing Guide

The Role of White Vinegar in My Home


I know I do not use white vinegar to it’s full extent. To be perfectly honest, it isn’t my favorite cleaning agent because I do not like the smell. I know some folks add essential oils and water to their vinegar to change the smell, but oils don’t get rid of the acidic vinegar smell, they only change it slightly. However, I reason that I have used cleaning chemicals in the past that are so strong, I had to hold my breath while I scrubbed; then leave the room periodically to get a gasp of air. White vinegar might stink, but it isn’t doing my body harm, it isn’t going to cause birth defects or hormone disruption, and is so safe, I could drink it. So, I can get past the temporary smell in light of vinegar’s good traits. And since vinegar seems to clean, and deodorize effectively, it is my current choice to do certain jobs.
These are the ways white vinegar comes into play in my home:

Shower, Tubs, and Sinks: I use white vinegar in combination with baking soda to clean areas in my bathroom that get a buildup of soap and minerals. I have dealt with hard water stains, and other than getting a good water softener system, I do not know of a natural method to remove those stains.

  1. Start with a wet surface, either just after the shower has been used, or I spray/wipe down the walls with water to get them wet, this moisture allows the baking soda to adhere.
  2. Dust the shower walls and sinks with baking soda. The soda can be left for a time to absorb any hard stains.
  3. Spray the baking soda dusted shower and sink with vinegar. A slight fizzy action should occur. The reaction between the two agents softens soap scum and breaks down the hard water stains allowing me to gently wipe the walls down with my long handled shower scrubber or a cleaning rag.
  4. Rinse out the shower and sink with hot water.
  5. To disinfect, finish off with a spray of hydrogen peroxide.

Appliances: Most manufacturers recommend maintaining appliances such as a washer and dryer with regular cleaning cycles. Products can be purchased to do the job, or it can be done by adding two cups of white vinegar or bleach to an empty cleaning cycle (check manufacturing instructions to confirm). My washing machine and my dishwasher both recommend using vinegar, and they both have a self-clean setting which I also engage. I usually clean both my washer and dishwasher at least once a month by adding vinegar to an empty cycle.

Laundry: Vinegar breaks down long set orders in clothing. If a garment is harboring an unwanted odor, even after a regular wash, an overnight soak in white vinegar is the cure. Then I just throw it in a regular load of wash to get rid of the vinegar odor. It comes out fresh.

Wrinkle Removal: While working as a seamstress in a tailoring and alteration shop, I learned that a spray of white vinegar works magic on removing stuborn creases and fold lines left from lengthening garments. So, I spray a little on garments when needed to help remove tough wrinkles or unwanted folds.

Pet Oder Neutralization: This is a role that I recently discovered about vinegar. We have a cat. He spends the night inside a shed and the days outside in the sun. The shed took on a peculiar odor since he moved in there. Even after I cleaned the cat litter, the odor remained. I found by spraying the walls and floors with white vinegar, the odor disappears. I also soak anything with cat odor in vinegar, and find vinegar eliminates the animal smell. So, vinegar is effective at neutralizing pet odors.

I do not use vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner, window cleaner, or disinfectant. I do not find it does those jobs suitably on its own. In my post, “Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural,” I discuss the various products I use to keep my house clean. Vinegar does have its vital role in my home and I am grateful for it.

Household Cleaning on the Cheap, Practical, and Natural

There are four reasons I choose to use natural cleaning products:

  1. Financially Prudent-Natural products are cheap. White vinegar is less than three dollars for a hundred and twenty-eight fluid ounces. A box of baking soda is less than fifty cents. And a bottle of hydrogen peroxide runs less than a dollar. I have spent hundreds of dollars on cleaning products in my lifetime, but in reality the same job can be done for a lot less expense.
  2. Simple-I don’t need a closet full of cleaning products to clean every surface in my house. I can have a spotless house by using only a few basic, and appropriate products. The cleaning aisle in a grocery store is potent with commercialism. To just clean a bathroom, I can find: shower cleaners, toilet cleaners, tile cleaners, multi-surface bathroom cleaners, and glass cleaners. That is five products just for one room! My entire cleaning product list for my home is about five items. And I don’t purchase any of those items in the cleaning product aisle.
  3. Versatile- I can use baking soda as a gentle cleaning scrub for my toilets and bathtub, as well as an oven cleaner and sink scrub. Baking soda is multi-tasks in my home as a de-greasing, whitening, and de-scumming agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a great disinfectant, not only for injuries, but for the bathroom and kitchen as well. White vinegar, is cheap and works effectively as a multi-surface cleaner and mild disinfectant. Combined with baking soda, vinegar has an extra power boost to remove scum and grease.
  4. Natural-I believe natural products are better for the environment, of which caring is part of the stewardship the Lord has given humanity. I also believe, or at least hope, that using natural products whenever I can is easier on my family’s hormones and overall health than chemical products.

My Regular Cleaning Products


White Vinegar: I used to purchase cleaning vinegar. Cleaning vinegar is more concentrated than standard white vinegar and therefore a better disinfectant and cleaner. However, I found it was not necessary. I did not notice a difference in the cleaning capability between the two vinegar products. And although I needed less concentrated vinegar for cleaning than standard white vinegar, I still found myself using the same amount. I also like multi-tasking products. White vinegar can be used in cooking, but not cleaning vinegar. For more details on how I use white vinegar see my blog-post, “The Role of White Vinegar in My Home.”


Hydrogen Peroxide: I use hydrogen peroxide in my bathroom and kitchen as a disinfectant. It kill harmful bacteria and helps me keep those places in my home adequately sanitized. For more details about how I use Hydrogen Peroxide, check out my blogpost: “Hydrogen Peroxide: My Gentle Disinfectant.


Baking Soda: My favorite cleaning product. Baking soda gets a workout in my home. Baking soda does a lot more than make chocolate chip cookies rise! It is my scrubber, whitener, deodorizer, and cuts grease. (TIP: I have found it cheapest at Aldi, but Wal-Mart is not far behind in price).


Cheap oil: I use coconut oil. I get coconut oil very inexpensively by buying it in bulk and storing it in the freezer, however, olive oil or another inexpensive oil can do the job. A little warm oil rubbed into wood and hard floors does wonders. I sometimes add a drop or two of an essential oil for bug deterrent and scent.


Hot Water: Boiling water is a great cleaning agent on its own. I use hot water for a variety of cleaning jobs, but often mix it with baking soda, vinegar, or oil, depending on what I am cleaning. I often boil a big pot of water for washing my kitchen and bathroom floors.

My Cleaning Tools


Microfiber cloths: I was gifted a set of microfiber cleaning cloths from my sister a few years ago and have found the uses of microfiber cloths to be many. I use a dry fine fiber cloth to clean windows…no spray cleaner is needed. I use a courser cloth for basic dusting. It gets the dust off my furniture without the use of any cleaning agent.


Rags: I like washable rags. I do not buy paper towels. I re-purpose cloth baby diapers, old hand towels, old dish-cloths, and old T-shirts as cleaning rags. I use rags for all sorts of things. Primarily, rags are used for cleaning my floors since I don’t use a wet mop. I can see the floor a lot better if I am close to it. I can also get every corner with a rag. I feel a mop misses a lot of cleaning potential. I know the day will come when scrubbing floors on my knees will be too physically taxing to do, but until then, I will boil water and scrub my floors by hand.


Bucket: any large mop bucket will do. I find them useful as “sick” buckets, or “laundry soaking” buckets as well. Honestly, there is no end to the use of a cheap plastic mop bucket. I have a couple.


Broom and Dustpan: A broom and dustpan is used several times a day in my house…generally in my kitchen and generally after each meal. I like a simple grass broom and plastic dustpan. Nothing says a house is clean as well as a clean floor.


Vacuum: I believe every household should have a really good vacuum, it is worth the investment. My husband bought me a Dyson years ago, and it cleans better than any vacuum I have ever owned. I would empty a regular vacuum bag every month, but the Dyson is full after one cleaning. So, I believe the Dyson gets a lot more dirt out of my floors than a cheaper vacuum. After switching from carpet to wood flooring, I find the Dyson works just as effectively on the wood floors as it did the carpet. A lot of vacuums are less effective or require adjustments between various surfaces.


Dust-mop: This is a recent purchase now that our house has wood floors. I like the quiet, cleaning power of a dust-mop on my wood floors. I choose to buy an inexpensive mop with a washable mop-head. I do not want to be out money on a regular basis for products like Swiffer cloths for my mop.


Scrub brush: Usually, I use the brush for carpets, but it has worked on some tough surface stains as well.


Rubber Gloves: I often protect my hands while cleaning. I get dry skin pretty easily, especially in winter months, or if I am pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, when I use hot water, it is usually at a temperature too hot to touch, but the gloves make it tolerable. I also find that I am willing to get into crevasses and nasty places if my hands are protected.


Long handled Shower Scrubber: This is a tool I would have never thought to purchase on my own. But my husband, who has done a lot of cleaning in his lifetime, found it to be a very useful tool. So he bought me the shower scrubber. Since I am petite, I have found the long handled scrubber to be a valuable addition to my cleaning tools. I am able to clean the bathtub walls and ceiling with ease. The scrubber is a triangle shape, so it gets corners and edges suitably as well.


Toilet brush-Nothing special. This is the tool I use for cleaning toilets. I clean with baking soda and white vinegar, and scrub with a regular old toilet brush.

Occasional Uses

Peppermint, cinnamon, and lavender oil: Both Peppermint and Cinnamon are insect and spider deterrents, so I often use them in warmer months on the floor baseboard to keep insects at bay. I use a mixture of lavender oil with a sprinkling of baking soda on my carpets to help deodorized them on occasion.

Murphy’s Oil: A natural classic-my grandmother has used it, my mother has used it, and I still do use it. Murphy’s Oil is a MOSTLY natural cleaning product. I use it to clean all my floors and wash down wood walls and surfaces as well. I reserve it for a periodic thorough cleaning. It is not a part of my regular routine. Murphy’s Oil brightens floors and surfaces better than the natural products I use, yet is a product I am comfortable using.

Natural Dish Soap: My favorite dish soap is a Canadian Brand called Attitude. I find Attitude dish soap to be affordable if bought in bulk online. And it works just as effectively as Dawn, which is unusual for a natural product. Attitude dish soap is also thick, unlike many watered down natural dish-washing soaps.

Magic Erasers: These are an essential item in my household. I do not know how my mother cleaned without them. They are great to remove finger smudges from the walls, brighten the chrome on faucets, clean stainless steel, and they have never failed to get paint and marker stains out of my counter tops. I keep Magic Erasers on hand for the times nothing else will work.

OxiClean powder: This is a product I have used for more than clothing stains. A mixture of OxiClean and hot water remove most carpet stains. I have used OxiClean to spot clean my carpets for several years.

Up to this point in life, I have used a large variety of store bought, commercially made cleaning products. There was even a time I made my own cleaning solutions by mixing various natural ingredients. And I also have spent extra money to purchase naturally based cleaners. Natural-store bought products are pricey and often a disappointment. The chemically based products often work great, but also cost money and are questionable in their safety for humans and environment. Home-made products can work, but take time. I also found a lot of ingredients aren’t necessary to clean effectively. So, I don’t create mixtures or buy specialized products anymore. I fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, poke a few holes in a box of baking soda, and that is about it. I will discuss in more detail through separate posts as to how I clean and use each product.