I have a clean toilet!

You know all those fancy websites where the bloggers have pictures of their beautiful homes and all the neat DIY projects they do, and of the decorating for different seasons, and of the creative ideas they accomplish for dinner and crafts? Well, this isn’t one of those blogs! (Though I enjoy learning from those sites very much) I’m happy when my head is above water, my house isn’t a disaster, laundry isn’t rotting piling in the hallways, and my family is fed.

Oh, and when the toilets are clean – which is what this short post is all about!

Goodbye toilet stains, hello new-looking bowl.

Scouring sticks.  They’re made of pumice and are the perfect non-abrasive rough surface for scraping off all that gunk that can build up in a toilet. Unfortunately you have to don a pair of rubber gloves and roll up your sleeves to avoid splashing yourself when you plunge your hands in the bowl. But with a little elbow grease you can pretty easily remove all the stains and build-up that have collected.

Pumice stone for multiple household uses.

First I cleaned the toilet with comet and a scrub brush so I wasn’t working in super gross conditions. Then I put on gloves and scraped away all of the toilet gunk. I had to flush a few times in between scrubs and then use comet once more, but eventually the bowl looked brand new!  Funny how little things can make us feel good.  :)

If you have Amazon Prime you can have these little sticks in two days! If you have time, read some of the reviews for other uses. I’m trying them on my oven next.

I’d love your comments on how to get rid of that lingering smell from when boys “miss”. That’s my next problem to solve.


Salted Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Beware!  With over a pound of butter, salted caramel oatmeal bars are deadly to any diet.

Salted Caramel Oatmeal Bars

Salted Caramel Oatmeal Bars

These gems form a sugary, buttery crisp bottom that is topped with

oozy caramel and a layer of crumbly oatmeal goodness.  

Salted Caramel Oatmeal Bars
A crisp, sugar-butter bottom topped with ooey caramel and a layer of crumbly oatmeal.
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  1. 4.5 sticks of butter, melted
  2. 2 T vanilla extract
  3. 2-1/4 cups brown sugar
  4. 3 cups flour
  5. 3 cups oats
  6. 3 teaspoons baking soda
  7. 11 oz bag of Kraft caramel bits
  8. 1/2 cup heavy cream
  9. sea salt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 9x13 pan with greased parchment or foil.
  2. In a large bowl combine butter, vanilla, sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda.
  3. Spread 1/2 the batter on the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, melt the caramel bits and heavy cream in the microwave in 30 minute increments until a creamy caramel sauce is made.
  5. Spread all of the caramel sauce on the cooked crust, then crumble the remaining batter on top of the caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste.
  6. Bake 20 minutes.
  7. Bars must set before cutting or you'll have a gooey mess! (and remember that the caramel sauce will BURN you if you touch it too soon!). Setting can take up to 4 hours, or as little as one hour if you use the refrigerator.
  8. Cut into squares and enjoy.
The Excellent Wife http://theexcellentwife.com/









Wow, big hit here…




I made this version of goulash tonight that was pretty tasty. We even added it to our Thumbs Up List. My excellent husband would consider this combination of beef and pasta a comfort food .  I was quite comfortable eating it!  The meal could be made lower in carbs by serving it over spaghetti squash or some type of vegetable medley.

Fast & easy comfort food which uses beef and pasta.
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  1. 2.5 pounds ground meat (I used beef, but lamb or a combo would also work)
  2. 2 onions, chopped
  3. 6 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2-3 T Worcestershire sauce
  5. 3 T paprika of your choice
  6. 2 t crushed rosemary
  7. 1-14.5 oz can beef broth
  8. 4 T tomato paste
  9. 2 red peppers, roasted and chopped in large pieces (or 1 jar roasted peppers)
  10. 1/2 cup sour cream
  1. In a large pot, brown the meat and drain. Remove meat from pot and saute onions till soft. Add garlic and saute one minute longer. Return meat to pot. Add Worcestershire, paprika, and rosemary. Stir. Add tomato paste and broth. Bring to a simmer, then add roasted red peppers.
  2. You can simmer the meat for 10 minutes and up to a few hours if you keep it low and mostly covered. To serve, add the sour cream and stir. Serve over buttered extra-wide egg noodles (or spaghetti squash) sprinkled with fresh parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Pass extra sour cream on the side.
Adapted from Rachel Ray
Adapted from Rachel Ray
The Excellent Wife http://theexcellentwife.com/

Excellent Literature List by Grade

Excellent Literature by Grade Level

Reading good, quality literature is one sure way to help your child become a better student by boosting their exposure to well-written, masterfully-crafted sentences by classic authors.  These books can also help reinforce exceptional character traits.  Talk about what the characters in the story do to be kind, or how a certain character might have acted in a better way.  Discussion, not just reading, builds better comprehension and allows for excellent analysis of behavior skills.


Here’s just one of many lists out there, broken down by grade level:  Charlotte Mason book list.


Inexpensive Date Ideas

Get real!

10 {realistic} Date Nights @ theEXCELLENTwife.com

My husband and I love dates.  Now that our children are teenagers we are able to spend time alone a little more often.  Alone!  That’s a word we didn’t hear for years. Fresh ideas are always welcome. Here are a few that are not overly gooey, romantic or unrealistic – just some plain ol’ fun thoughts.  


1. Play a board game or video game together (a round of Wii tennis?  Boxing?).  My  husband usually enjoys beating me in Scrabble. Follow up with an appetizer-like dinner then popcorn and an at-home movie.

2. Go on a photo date where you find beautiful landscapes or interesting objects to photograph. You can frame a nice shot of the two of you as a memory of your date, or even create a photo book.  No need for fancy equipment – just bring your phone.

3. Coffee shop!  Ice cream shop works, too (especially for me!).  Grab a little something and enjoy the atmosphere chatting or reading a newspaper.  If you have one nearby, why not walk or bike?

4. Go to a park and take turns pushing each other in the swings.  Walk the fitness trail if they have one.  Feed the ducks. Play Frisbee. Play fetch with your dog.  Play fetch with someone else’s dog.

5. Bring good books and enjoy a sunset somewhere.  

6. Spend time at your local library and pick out a book (or two or three!) for each other.

7. Massage.  Need I say more?  Even soaking each other’s feet in a warm basin and rubbing on lotion works!

8. Go to a book store (so many of my ideal dates involve books!).  Grab a dessert while you’re there if it’s a fancy bookstore. (Wait!  So many of my ideal dates involve dessert!)

9. Write a song or poem together – even a goofy one.  If you’re musical, add a tune.

10. Reminisce over old photo albums or your wedding album. Have your children act as waiter and waitress and serve a nice dinner you prepared in advance, then tell them the story of how you fell in love.  Or send the kids off to a friend’s or grandparent’s, or wait for them to go to bed, and serve yourselves!


 Have any fun ideas to add?  I’d love to hear them!  What makes a date realistic for you?  


This Week’s Meals

This week we spent $149.47 at the grocery store and will be making these delicious dishes.  What’s on your menu?  

Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup Recipe

Taste of Home’s tortellini soup - I subbed beef broth and beef tortellini for the chicken & cheese called for in the recipe.  

Ina Garten’s perfect roasted chicken with roasted carrots & onions, garlicky collards, and Caesar salad.

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

Simply Recipe’s butternut squash soup, with the addition of some heavy cream. Served with kale chips

Elodia Rigante’s pasta e fagiole with sausage from this awesome cookbook.

chili nachos

Fridays during soccer season alternate with homemade pizzas and homemade chili nachos. 

homemade broth

I’m making a giant pot of chicken stock for a sick friend, for a meal for us, and to stock our freezer.

penne with sauce

And finally, I will simmer a pot of sauce (aka: gravy!) for an entire weekend day.  The house will smell like the Italian countryside and our family will look forward to our evening fall supper.









Register for the PSAT!

In two weeks the PSAT will be administered nation wide.  

Is your high schooler registered?  


2 Weeks to the PSAT




Summer Learning?

Summer reading lists, book reports, essays, supplemental math.  What do you have your children do, if anything over the summer?

We homeschool, and do so year round.   Learning doesn’t end for us during the summer months, but it does lighten up considerably.   We also like to get a head start on the upcoming school year so we have wiggle room for lots of unexpected days off and field trips.  

Whether public, private, home school, or other – what are your summer learning plans?

This Year’s St. Patrick’s Day Menu

My in-laws enjoy St. Patrick’s day because they’re partly Irish.  I enjoy it because I’m mostly hungry.  Here’s what’s gracing our menu this weekend, along with some boiled veggies:

Irish Beef Stew


Shepherd’s Pie with Scallion-Cheddar Crust

Shepherds Pie with Scallion-Cheese Crust Recipe : Michael Chiarello : Food Network


Corned Beef with Creamy Mustard-Wine Sauce


Chocolate Stout Cake

Recipe photo


Green Tea Cookies


Irish Cream Cheesecake

Festive Irish Cream Cheesecake recipe

Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce

Since the northeast’s winter has been so brutally cold, we were thrilled to welcome in a 55+ degree day with grilling.  The chicken satay turned out to be a winner, so I’m adding it to the 5 Petey Thumbs Up list.


Chicken Satay with Thai Peanut Dipping Sauce
This dish has a nice Thai flavor, but the chicken skewers are good enough to eat without the peanut sauce if you prefer.
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For the marinade
  1. 3-4 lbs of chicken breasts
  2. 5T soy sauce
  3. 4T lime juice (from approx. 1 lime)
  4. 3t turmeric
  5. 3t cumin
  6. 5t coriander
  7. 3T vegetable oil
For the peanut dipping sauce
  1. 1/4-1/2 c peanut butter (depending on your peanut-y preference)
  2. 3T brown sugar
  3. 3T soy sauce
  4. 1t coriander
  5. 1t cumin
  6. 1/2t turmeric
  7. 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  8. 1/4 c hot water (adjust amount to get desired consistency)
  9. 3T cilantro, chopped, for garnish
  10. Lime wedges for garnish
  11. Skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
  1. Chop chicken into even skewer-sized pieces and place in seal-able gallon bag. Mix all marinade ingredients in a bowl, whisking in oil at the end. Cover chicken pieces with marinade, seal bag, and put in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, but several hours is better.
  2. Put all dipping sauce ingredients in a food processor, except water. Add the hot water, more or less, to get the consistency you desire. Taste and adjust any of the seasonings you prefer.
  3. Remove chicken from bag and place 3-4 pieces on each skewer. Grill for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Sprinkle with cilantro and garnish with lime wedges. Pass the dipping sauce.
The Excellent Wife http://theexcellentwife.com/
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