UPDATED: Home for summer!

My kids are on summer break, and while they'll spend ample time outside, the kitchen is still the central gathering spot in our home. 

I spent the weekend cleaning up our kitchen "workstation," which had become the dropping post for everything. Bills, notebooks, end-of-year school art. Everything. And it needed an overhaul in a big way.

I cleaned out cabinets, got rid of old/expired food in the pantry, and organized art supplies in the "kids" section.

And then my favorite part of prepping the kitchen for summer: I started mapping out summer meals and breaking out the summer cooking gear. If a meal needs to be cooked, I try to make it on the outdoor grill. It keeps our kitchen clean and our home cool. But most important, it helps our family stay to the season.

How do you prepare for summer?


 July 7, 2011

Do you have secret cleaning tips to make your kitchen sparkle? We recently hosted a contest to give a $100 Target gift card to the Shine user with the best kitchen cleaning or kitchen organization tip. And we have a winner!

Congratulations Sherri from Tampa, Fla!
Please send your full name and mailing address to Shine_Communitymanager@yahoo.com to collect your prize. Congratulations and enjoy your $100 Target gift card!

Sherri's secret weapon in the kitchen? Lemons! Says Sherri, "Go Green and get some lemons. They work great in the kitchen and keep it smelling fresh and clean as well with no chemicals." Check out her tips below:

  Mix together 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice and 2 cups of water in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for one to two minutes. Allow bowl to cool down, then use mixture to wipe down the inside walls of the microwave.

  Mixture together 2 Tbsp. of liquid dish soap and 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice with 1 quart of warm water. Apply the mixture to the inside of the oven. Return after one hour and scrub with a sponge. Rinse well.

  Mixture 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice with 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour into the bottom of empty dishwasher and allow for one cleaning cycle.

  Garbage Disposal
  Just put the peels down and grind them up and your sink and disposal will be deodorized

  In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice with 2-3 Tbsp. baking soda to form paste. Apply paste to stovetop and wipe away with warm, damp sponge or towel.

  I could go on and on, they are an amazing little yellow cleaning fruit."
May 30, 2012

We all have little tricks for keeping our kitchen clean and organized -- especially when we're in hurry. Some of us free our counters from clutter (even if it's hiding everything in the cabinets), or wipe down all the appliances with a homemade cleaning concoction to keep them shiny.

So are your kitchen cleaning and organization skills worth a $100 Target gift card?

Now's your chance to find out.

We're giving away one $100 Target gift card to the Shine user with the best kitchen cleaning or kitchen organization tip. To enter, leave a comment below to share your best kitchen cleaning or kitchen organization secret. Check back on Friday, June 7 after 3pm EST to see if you've won!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.) 18 years and older or the age of majority in their state of residence, whichever is greater at the time of entry. Ends 11:59 PM PST, 6/6/12. For Official Rules, including odds, and prize descriptions, click here. Void where prohibited.


April 1, 2012

  Is family dinner a part of your routine?Studies have repeatedly shown that family dinners have a positive impact on children, from eating healthier foods to decreasing the odds that they'll participate in dangerous activities as teens. Robin Fox, an anthropologist at Rutgers University told Time Magazine, "A meal is about civilizing children. It's about teaching them to be a member of their culture."

But with increasingly busy schedules for both parents and kids, are families able to sit down together for supper? According to a 2010 study, The Importance of Family Dinners VI, the answer is yes. Sixty percent of teenagers surveyed in the report said that they had dinner with their families at least five times a week. Pretty impressive, especially for teens.

So how to do parents do it? How do they manage to juggle work, taking the kids to their various activities at the end of the day, and pulling together a family dinner? It's a mix of advanced meal planning and quick thinking (because no how matter how good you are at meal planning, some days it just doesn't work out).

Does your family regularly eat dinner together? How do you make it happen?
April 1, 2012
undefinedWe're evaluating if we want to rebuild our home and as part of the process, my husband and I are taking a hard look at where we spend the most time.

Turns out it's the kitchen.

I love to cook. My kids like to be in the kitchen when I'm making a meal, whether they're helping out or sitting at the central desk/workstation doing their homework. If we have company, we usually spend a chunk of time hanging out in the kitchen sipping wine while whipping up dinner. And our dog can usually be found asleep on the hardwood floor, waiting for the sound of food hitting the ground so she can steal it.

Big conversations happen in our kitchen. Bills get paid at the workstation. Stories get written. Schedules are coordinated. And music is always, always playing (or we're listening to sports talk radio, especially during baseball season).

The kitchen is definitely the heart of our home.

How about you?

March 1, 2012
Spring cleaning? Get the kids involved!Spring cleaning? Get the kids involved!While March 20th marks the official first day of spring, I'm not waiting around to kick-start the big clean. The whole family gets involved because, well, why not? We all enjoy our home, we should all be a part of keeping it clean and organized.

Here's the thing: since we tend to tidy up every day, spring cleaning is more of a speed clean. We take a weekend morning and wipe down baseboards, doors, windows and walls -- they tend to be slightly neglected when it comes to daily cleaning. But the rest of the house, especially the kitchen, stays in shape with daily clean-up moments before bedtime. We spend the most time cleaning out closets, book shelves and toy chests as we look for items to donate to charity.

What about you? Is your spring cleaning effort a speed clean or a deep dive?

February 1, 2012
Time to clean the refrigerator!Time to clean the refrigerator!

The image of someone dusting the inside of his or her refrigerator makes me laugh because who uses a dust feather in a refrigerator? Wipes, sponges, towels, yes. A dust feather is...highly questionable at best.

Putting that aside, I am a stickler about keeping the inside of our refrigerator clean. It gets the full clean out and wipe down every weekend, right before it gets loaded with new groceries. My reason is twofold. First, it's important to keep your refrigerator free from janky germs. Two, I once was a guest at a home and opened a refrigerator that look liked it hadn't been cleaned in years. It was gross, plain and simple. And I vowed that I would never allow any guests to have that experience in my home.

Now that we're at that time of year where we're having parties for the Super Bowl and the slew of awards shows, keeping a tidy kitchen -- and home, in general -- is top of mind. Besides keeping my refrigerator clean, I try to do little things every day to keep our kitchen area organized. It makes cleaning up for parties that much easier.

What about you? What are your tips on keeping the kitchen -- and house -- tidy as you prep for party season?

January 6, 2012
Organized Kitchen.Organized Kitchen.Back in November, I was on a cleaning frenzy as holiday season quickly approached. Now, I'm a few days into 2012 and ready to tackle some serious household organization projects. I have a hall closet that needs to be purged of things that fit in the category "I'll keep this and I'm not sure why, but I can't get rid of it...yet." My kids' closets are like bottomless pits of clothes and old toys that need to be donated to charity.

And then there's my kitchen: it's in good shape but in need of a refresher. I'm looking at everything...from the artwork (photography and kids' drawings) on the walls down to how I store our food and cookware in the kitchen cabinets.

My biggest challenge? How to keep the refrigerator tidy. I've added smaller storage containers to the shelves to hold small jars of jam and condiments. Larger storage bins hold items like yogurt and other regularly used products.

Your turn: Are you getting organized and cleaning house for the New Year? What are you doing? What are your favorite tips?

November 14, 2011
Shine Users: What are your favorite cleaning tips?

I'm in the midst of a fall cleaning frenzy, sparked by the fact that holiday planning and activities are in full motion. (Side note: How is it the middle of November already?!) I always start with the kitchen because when my kitchen counters are bare and sparkly, the whole house always feels 100 percent more organized.

When I clean the kitchen, I start by freeing up the counters from clutter. All dishes are put away, random bits of "stuff" are put pack in place throughout the house, and I always find things I can donate. And suddenly? My kitchen seems so much larger.

Your turn: What are your favorite cleaning tips?