Monthly Archives: April 2014

Tracy Helps You ~ Your Personal Assistant for Shopping & Running Errands

Would you like to have a wife?? No, this isn’t a marriage proposal. What I meant was, wouldn’t be nice to have a partner / someone to help out with some of your household duties?? How about someone to run those time-consuming, never ending errands??

I got a chuckle one day last week when I rang the doorbell at my client’s house. I was returning from running her weekly errands and grocery shopping. She opened the door with a smile and said, “Yay … my ‘wife’ is home”. It was too funny 🙂 Continue reading

My Top 10 Favorite Things About Spring Time in Chicagoland

I think May is my favorite month in the spring. You can pretty much rely on having mild temps and sunny days. Of course, I do live in the Chicagoland area, so weather wise, nothing is ever for certain 🙂 I love getting to see everything come back to life after a long, cold winter.

• Lilacs ~ so many varieties, colors and glorious scents

• Seeing the brave little Hyacinths, Tulips and Daffodils breaking through the ground

• Seeing and hearing all the robins everywhere

• Having more daylight hours

• The smell of fresh cut grass (sorry allergy sufferers)

• Starting my organic vegetable garden

• Getting to wear sandals

• Being able to have the windows open for fresh air

• Cooking and eating outside

• Going for long walks in the forest preserves or on the IL prairie paths

These are some of my favorite things in the spring. It is usually a short-lived season in the Chicagoland area. We tend to move into hot and humid summer weather fairly quickly … but I do love the few blissful weeks in May with its mild weather and promise of new life 🙂

Many thanks to http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday 🙂

Pinterest DIY Dry Mix Recipe Ingredients

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dry Mix Recipes and Tips

This seems to be my week for trying out Pinterest DIY recipes. I hope you follow me on Pinterest 🙂 Yesterday, I made up 3 different recipes for dry mixes … you know, those little individual packets they sell. I made taco seasoning, poultry seasoning, and ranch dressing mix. I think these recipes will be healthier than the packets because I can control the ingredients.

I’ve made the taco seasoning before and love it. I found the recipe for it a long time ago, but I’ve made some minor adjustments to it, customizing it to my personal preferences.

I ran out of poultry seasoning and was shocked at the price for a tiny little container. So I decided to try to find a recipe for it on Pinterest. There were many to choose from. I followed this recipe. Who knows, I may doctor it up for the next time like I did for the taco seasoning.

I also found one for the dry ranch dressing mix. I’ll use this recipe for dips as well as salad dressing. I also found a recipe for baked ranch fried chicken that I’d like to try.

Since I was buying so many different spices, I purchased the inexpensive Aldi brand. They have a non-clumping preservative added to them, but at least my recipes will be low sodium. As I run out of the individual spices, I plan to buy a better quality replacement. My budget couldn’t handle this larger initial purchase. I am also planting an herb garden this summer and plan to dry my own herbs in the fall. I’d like to be able to have sodium and preservative free dry mixes in the future.

🙂 Helpful Tips:

  • I used empty spice containers that I saved for such a time as this.
  • I quadrupled the recipes to have them on hand longer.  

Do you make any DIY type recipes to replace some of the packaged convenience foods that are filled with so many preservatives? I’d love to try your recipe 🙂

Pinterest Pin ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pinterest Pins ~ Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

I love browsing on Pinterest … don’t you? It is full of homemade and DIY ideas. I’m always finding great pins that I want to try. This week, I made this recipe for homemade dishwasher tablets. I hope they work well … I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Since I already make homemade laundry detergent, I already had many of the ingredients on hand. This recipe called for borax, washing soda (or baking soda), Epson salts (or kosher salt), vinegar and lemon essential oil. The only thing I had to buy was the essential oil and ice cube trays.

The recipe is really easy to follow:

  • First … I measured out the borax, washing soda and Epson salts and mixed them together.
  • Then … I added the vinegar, it bubbled and fizzed
  • Then … I added the drops of lemon essential oil. It was challenging to actually count the drops, so I eyeballed it. I love the scent of lemon – it smells clean to me!
  • Then … I mixed it all together, it started clumping together right away.
  • Finally … I spooned the mixture into the ice cube trays, pressed it down firmly and then set it aside to dry thoroughly.
Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Adding the vinegar made it fizz

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

It started clumping together right away

Homemade DIY Dishwasher Tabs

Pressing the mixture into the ice cube tray

The recipe says to let it dry at least 24 hours, then store in an airtight container. I plan to use up my store bought supply before using my homemade ones … I think I have about 5 left. They should be nice and dry by then. The recipe also says to put a drop or two of Dawn on the tablet when you’re putting it in the dishwasher for added grease cutting benefits and to use a splash of vinegar to aid in the rinse cycle. I actually already knew about and use the vinegar with my store bought detergent.

Since I already have all these ingredients out, I think I’ll make up a batch of homemade laundry detergent too. My supply is getting pretty low. Now that I have the lemon essential oil, I think I might add some to the laundry detergent … as I mentioned, I just love the fresh and clean scent of lemon. My batches last my family of 4 for quite awhile; I think I made the last batch in July. Do you make homemade cleaners? What is your favorite?

Are you on Pinterest, follow me 🙂

 

Graduation Party

Let Tracy Helps You Help With Your Next Party ~ Graduation, Birthday or Shower … it’s up to you !!

What do birthdays, graduations, weddings, and babies all have in common? They all are celebrated with a party !! Spring and Summer are filled with fun parties to celebrate a graduation, a baby shower, a wedding, a confirmation, a birthday, an anniversary, and family reunions ~ just to name a few (okay – more than a few). Our calendars fill up fast with party invitations.

Throwing a party is a lot of work … picking the best date, making the guest list, getting the invitations sent out (digitally or by snail mail), planning the menu, house cleaning, shopping, cooking and preparation, decorating, and of course, the clean-up. Like I said, it’s a lot of work ~ fun work ~ but work none the less.

I love throwing parties … I love the planning … I love being the hostess, but I also love the moment, after all the clean-up is finished that I get to sit down and put my feet up 🙂 It is such a good feeling !

Tracy Helps You can get you to the “put your feet up and relax” stage of hosting a party sooner. Let us be your assistant hostess. We can help with any stage of your party. We can do the shopping for you, or help with the decorating. We can be the “kitchen help” during the party. We can keep the trays of food full, top off the bowls of chips and dip. We can stay ahead of all the dirty dishes that come with hosting a party. An extra pair of hands definitely makes the work easier 🙂

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you actually had time to enjoy visiting and catching up with your friends and family, knowing that everything was running smoothly “behind the scenes”? Plus, after you’ve said your good byes to your last guest, imagine the feeling of walking into a clean kitchen … as opposed to a pile of dirty dishes to do and bags of trash to take out.

Hire Tracy Helps You as your assistant hostess for your next party … you won’t be sorry 🙂 

Garden

7 Standbys You’ll Always Find in My Organic Garden

Spring weather is in the air this week, we’ve had quite a few days that have been sunny and in the sixties 🙂

I’ve started my vegetable garden seeds indoors over the weekend. Now I patiently wait to see signs of life. I get so excited when I see tiny bits of green coming out of the soil.

This year I got seeds from a company that specializes in Heirloom Non-GMO seeds. I want to try to save seeds from this years harvest to plant to next year … wish me luck 🙂

Here’s my list of the 7 vegetables I’ll always have in my garden … my standbys for having fresh produce for summer and fall.

  1. Tomatoes ~ I just love fresh tomatoes … there’s nothing like the first bite of a vine ripened tomato of the season … I’m planting Roma and Grape tomatoes
  2. Peppers ~ Green Bell Peppers and Jalapeño
  3. Broccoli ~ Lots of broccoli
  4. Green Beans ~ I like the kind that climb up a trellis
  5. Cucumbers ~ I like the burp-less variety
  6. Carrots ~ I’m actually planting these in large planters, they seem to grow straighter in the softer soil … no rocks means less resistance
  7. Potatoes ~ This year I’m trying these in a large container as well … hopefully, I’ll be able to just dump the container and pick up the taters

Spring is my favorite time in the garden … planting is fun ~ weeding and watering ~ not so much 🙂

Many thanks to  http://www.manylittleblessings.com & http://www.weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/ for co-hosting List It Tuesday 🙂

Little green signs of life means Spring has come.

Outdoor Spring Cleaning in the Yard and Garden

Spring has finally sprung … well not quite, but it is trying 🙂 I can at least say all the piles of snow have melted. We had one nice sunny, warmish day last week. My husband and I took advantage of it to start the process of getting the yard tidied up a little.

Chicago endured a long and harsh winter this year … the high winds and 5+ feet of snowfall really took its toll on our yard. When it finally warmed up enough to be outdoors for a couple of hours, we found that the wind had tried to blow down a section of our fence … it didn’t succeed entirely, but it is leaning at a precarious angle. Repairing that is at the top of our to-do list when the ground is more thawed. After walking around and sizing everything up, we realized that we were quite blessed by only having to repair the fence.

Living on a corner lot, we’ve come to understand that our house is kind of like a windbreak. During severe storms, you can almost feel the wind howling all around us. All that wind blows a lot of debris and litter into our yard. We filled a whole outdoor trashcan with what we picked up.

I went around picking up lots of branches that had been broken off during the cold, hard winter. Lets just say we have plenty of kindling for whenever we want enjoy a fire in our fire pit. We also were reminded that we didn’t have time to get all the leaves raked up last fall before the snow came. With 6 trees on our property, raking leaves is like a full time job in autumn. After the litter was cleaned up, we thought that if we were to take a picture of the front yard it would be actually hard to tell if it was autumn or spring. We got to work and filled several bags with leaves.

The best part of that afternoon (besides enjoying some fresh air and feeling a sense of accomplishment) was finding little signs of life peeking out of the ground. If my memory of their locations serves me, we have seen signs of life from the Crocus, the Daffodils, the Hyacinths and the Tulips. Soon we will be able to start turning over and preparing the soil in the garden area. I plan to start my vegetable seedlings indoors this weekend.  

Welcome Spring … we’ve been waiting for you 🙂

My Recipe for Stuffed Shells

Monday’s Menu ~ Recipe I Made Up for Stuffed Shells

A while ago, I decided I wanted to expand my recipe repertoire. For meal planning, I usually rotate my family’s favorite meals. I have about a dozen or so “go to” dishes that I make so often that the recipe is etched in my memory. We also have some seasonal favorites ~ soups and stews for cold weather months / salads and grilled meals for summer time. There is a fine line between “routine” and “being in a rut” … I was starting to feel like my dinner menus were in a rut. So, since Monday is usually the least busy day on my schedule, I came up with the Monday’s Menu idea. When my schedule allows, I try out a new recipe that I found on Pinterest, Facebook, in a magazine or an “old school” cookbook 🙂

Yesterday I made Stuffed Shells. I’m calling it my own recipe, because I sort of took bits and pieces from a few recipes (cookbook, Pinterest and pasta box) plus some shortcuts from the pantry and created my own version. Continue reading