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Welcome to SimpleSolutionsDiva.com, the site for simple solutions for around the home, kitchen, garden and more! Join us each week on Simple Solutions Saturdays, where we feature a new how-to video that is sure to help make life easier, whether it is a great recipe, a DIY project, or just a great idea for organizing. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter (@SimpleSolutionD), Pinterest, and Google+.
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We LOVE tacos at our house, and this recipe is so easy, you’ll never want to buy those prepackaged versions (full of salt and additives) again!

Zesty No Salt Taco Seasoning 

(Adapted from Rachel Ray recipe)

  • 1 Part Chili Powder
  • 1 Part Ground Cumin
  • 1 Part Garlic Powder
  • 1 Part Onion Powder
  • 1/3 Part Tumeric
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Part Crushed Red Pepper (I used ground red pepper)

Combine all the parts into a good container with a secure, air-tight lid and shake until combined. Enjoy! Feel free to play with the amounts – maybe you like more red pepper, or you want more cumin!

Consider using fresh spices in this mixture for a more potent flavor. One of my favorites is to order through The St. Augustine Spice and Tea Exchange. You can check out their website and wonderful spices by clicking here. (Though nothing beats going into one of their stores and just inhaling the aroma!)

 

 

Continue reading Simple Recipe: Zesty, No Salt Taco Seasoning

Six Unique Easter Egg Decorations!

I was so excited when First Coast Living gave me a challenge – find some unique ways to decorate Easter Eggs! Well, after searching high and low, I found some favorites and tested them just for you!

Volcano Eggs

Volcano Eggs

Volcano Eggs

This is a cool technique and great fun to do with the kids! And it yields a beautiful egg coloring.  The best part about this technique?  It looks like a volcano bubbling a rainbow! I found this technique on the website ToddlerApproved.com. Check out the website for great ideas!

What You Need:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Food coloring
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Wide-lipped plate or bowl
  • Paint Brushes
  • Color-safe cups for mixing “paint”

Technique:

Make the “Paint” – Combine in a color- safe cup, one tablespoon baking soda, a teaspoon or two of water and food coloring of choice. Mix until it is a consistency of mustard – kind of grainy but with some heft to it.

Repeat that process with the other colors you choose to use.

Take a paintbrush and start to paint your eggs with the different “paint” colors – there is no perfect way to do this, just have fun and be creative. Make sure to leave a “blob” or two of the paint on the egg.

Pouring Vinegar on Volcano Eggs.

Pouring Vinegar on Volcano Eggs.

Place the painted eggs into the wide-lipped plate or bowl.  Take your food coloring and drip a drop or two on your eggs.

Now comes the volcano part: Drizzle vinegar over your eggs and watch the colors start to bubble! Let the mixture sit on the eggs for awhile, then wipe off with paper towel!

 

Leaf Print Eggs

Leaf Print Easter Eggs

Leaf Print Easter Eggs

I love incorporating natural elements into projects if I can.  I found this beautiful idea, Leaf Print Eggs, on Spoonful.com and thought I’d give it a try! Since I AM the Simple Solutions Diva, I wanted to simplify the process, so I just used the PAAS Egg Decorating Kit to dye the eggs, rather than mix up my own dyes as listed on Spoonful (click on the link above to see their full instructions!).

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • PAAS Egg Decorating Kit
  • Various leaves with interesting shapes – I used Cilantro, a fern and a small squash leaf. (Don’t recommend “woody” types like rosemary)
  • Cups to mix up the dyes
  • Rubber bands
  • Sheer knee high hosiery (nylons), cut into 3 inch strips
  • Color-safe place to dry the eggs

Instructions:

Mix up your dyes according to the PAAS package, using the instructions for more vivid colors (using vinegar).

1.) Take the egg and position your leaf on your egg. 2.) Using the piece of knee high, wrap your egg so the leaf is secure and tight against the egg. 3.) Pull the excess nylon tight on the opposite side of the egg, securing with a rubber band.

4.) Place the egg in the dye and allow to sit until the egg has reached the color intensity you want.

5.) Remove the egg from the dye and place on color safe surface. 6.) Remove rubber band and nylon and gently remove the leaf from the egg. Allow to dry.

 Screenshot 2014-04-13 18.32.32

Initial Eggs

Initial Easter Eggs

Initial Easter Eggs

These make for cute placeholders for the Easter table, or for limiting how many each child gets during the Easter Egg Hunt (They look for their name or initial!).  This cute idea is from Reader’s Digest!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs
  • PAAS Egg Decorating Kit with dyes
  • Cups for mixing dyes
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Small Paintbrush
  • Black Sharpie

Instructions:

Mix up your egg dyes according to package, using the vivid instructions (includes using vinegar).

Place an egg sideways in a cup and gently pour the dye of choice until you have an oval of white showing (don’t cover the entire egg with dye-See photo below). Let egg sit, without disturbing, in dye until it reaches the desired color.  Remove egg from dye and allow to dry.

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Once dry, take acrylic paint and, using paintbrush, draw dots around the edge of the oval. Allow to dry.

Once dry, draw an initial or a name in center of oval, using the black sharpie. Allow to completely dry.

 

Washi Tape Eggs

Washi Tape Eggs

Washi Tape Eggs

Washi tape is like a very pretty, decorative masking tape. And projects using it are all over Pinterest! It comes in a variety of colors and sizes. It works perfectly on dyed, hard boiled eggs or just plain, white hard boiled eggs! This is a simple way to get little kids involved with the egg decorating.

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs (they can be dyed or not)
  • Washi Tape (available at any craft stores), choose a variety of patterns and sizes.

Instructions:

Just “go to town” and start decorating!

For small children – Cut small pieces of washi tape and put them out for little hands to decorate with!

 

“Bling” Eggs

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Bling Eggs

Another simple way to decorate the eggs with little kids!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs (colored or plain white)
  • Crayola Washable Glitter Pens, variety of colors

 Instructions: 

Using the glitter pens, make dots of glitter all over the eggs. I did one side first, allowed to dry, then did the other side!

 

Happy Face Eggs

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Happy Face Eggs

This is my personal favorite because my mom and I love smiley faces, PLUS it is super simple to do!

What You Need:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs dyed yellow
  • Black Sharpie

Instructions:

Use the black sharpie to create whatever type of face YOU want! Tip –When drawing the eyes, make sure the eyes are on the narrow end of the egg, mouth near the lower half of egg.

Thanks WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for this fun challenge!

 

Continue reading Unique Easter Egg Decorations!

Simple Kitchen Tip For Easy-To-Peel Hard Boiled Eggs

Easter is almost here, and my mother-in-law challenged me to find a way to make hard boiled eggs easier to peel! (I think she wants to have nice looking deviled eggs!)

After some extensive research, I found this solution – Hope it works for you! Remember, use older eggs when hard boiling – fresh eggs will not peel as well.

Continue reading Simple Kitchen Tip: The Perfect, Easy-To-Peel Hard Boiled Egg!

Spring Craft Ideas From SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.
Spring Craft Ideas From SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

Spring Craft Ideas From SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

With Easter and Passover fast approaching, we will have lots of family time – what can you do that’s fun with the kids and adults to keep everyone busy? Try some springtime crafts!

“Beach Glass” Vases

"Beach Glass" Vases from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

“Beach Glass” Vases from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

I love the look of beach glass. Muted hues of blues, greens and whites. You can make any glass item look like a piece of beach glass by just using special glass paint. I used Martha Stewart Crafts Frost Translucent Glass Paint — The effect is translucent, frost-like with a slight pebbly texture that resembles sea glass.  Beautiful and easy!

What You Need:

  • Martha Stewart Crafts Frost Translucent Glass Paint (Available at most craft stores) I used colors of beach glass green, sea lavender and white. (Click Here To See Product And Color Selection Available)
  • Sponge applicators – I like to use sponge applicators because they leave a nice, pebbly texture behind in the paint.
  • Glass vase or other glass items – Check out the selection at dollar stores (love these stores!). You can find some great pieces that can be painted!
  • Rubbing Alcohol/cotton balls
  • Small paper plates or other item to squeeze paint on to

Directions:

Find a clean, flat work surface and cover with old newspapers. Wipe down the glass vase surface to be painted with rubbing alcohol and allow it to dry.

Squeeze out a dab of glass paint onto paper plate. Using the sponge applicator, dip the applicator in the glass paint and dab the paint onto the glass surface. Cover the entire surface. Allow to dry for one hour.

The paint is permanent after it has dried for 21 days.  You can speed the process along by curing the paint by baking it. Here are the instructions from Martha Stewart Crafts: Let project air dry 1 hour, place in cool oven. Set temperature to 350 degrees. Once oven reaches 350 degrees, bake for 30 minutes (glass must heat gradually). After 30 minutes, turn oven off. Let glass cool completely in oven. Wait 72 hours before using. **

**NOTE: If you use the white frosted paint, baking the project might slightly darken the paint. Mine turned from a pretty white to a creamy, slightly toasted color.

 

Spring “Impressionist” Glass Painted Votives

Spring "Impressionist" Votives from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

Spring “Impressionist” Votives from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

Spring brings beautiful colors and softness to our landscape.  I always think of Monet paintings when I think of Spring.   I love the slightly unfocused visual and blended soft colors. THis little project makes me think of Impressionist paintings.   And best of all, with this project, you don’t have to be perfect! Just keep it simple!

What You Need:

  • Glass votives – Again, the dollar stores are a great source for these types of items!
  • Glass Paint – I used Folk Art Brand Multi Surface Acrylic Paints, because I can use the paints for many other projects in the future. I would use no more than 3 complimentary colors. (I chose 2 colors, plus white.) Click Here to see product and color selection.
  • Paper plate to squeeze paint on
  • Cup of Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Rubbing Alcohol/cotton balls

Directions:

Clean the inside of glass votive with rubbing alcohol and cotton balls. Alow them to dry.

There is no one method for this – just listen your inner artist!! The first one I did I was not thrilled with, but once I limited my colors to 2 colors plus white, I found the ideal combination for me!

My technique for 3 colors: Take your paintbrush and dip in the cup of water. Swirl brush into your 1st paint of choice and apply dabs to inside of the votive.  Clean the brush and repeat the “swirl and dab” process above with second color. Using the same process, finish with the white, using it to blend and swirl the other colors inside the votive. You will be really surprised when you are done how nice it looks! Just don’t use too many colors or it will start to get “muddied”.

Allow to dry 21 days or cure the glass using the same instructions under the Beach Glass Vases above.

Edible Robin’s Egg Nest

Edible Bird Nests from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

Edible Bird Nests from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

I love making food related crafts with the kids! They love getting messy and they enjoy “cleaning” (read licking) their fingers when done. These little bird nests are adorable and pretty yummy.  They are a twist on an old favorite I remember eating as a kid.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 oz.)
  • 1 bag butterscotch chips (11 oz)
  • 10 oz.  Crunchy Chow Mein Noodles
  • 1 bag of bird egg shaped candies of your choice (I used Whoppers malted milk balls in the shape of bird eggs, but M&M’s or jelly beans would work, too.)
  • Parchment paper or wax paper

Directions:

Combine and melt both bags of chips in a microwave safe bowl, on 50% power for 60 seconds. Stir. Repeat the process until all chips are melted. Gently stir in the chow mein noodles until well coated.

On a flat work surface, spread out parchment paper/wax paper. Using clean hands, take a small handful of the chocolate/chow mein mixture and put it in a shape of a small nest on the parchment paper. Repeat the process until you have used all the mixture.  Take 3 “eggs” (egg-shaped candies) and arrange on each nest. Let harden or place in fridge to speed up the hardening process.

Ladybug Garden Décor

Lady Bug Garden Decor from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

Lady Bug Garden Decor from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

This is a cute little project kids of all ages will enjoy and it is very simple & inexpensive to do!!

What You Need:

  • Flat rocks of various sizes (I used river rocks I bought at the dollar store)
  • Assortment of acrylic paints, including black paint. I used Folk Art Multi Surface Acrylic paints.
  • “Wiggly” eyes for the ladybugs.
  • Glue
  • Clear Acrylic Sealing paint to seal the rocks once painted.
  • Paintbrush – I used a large one for the overall colors and a fine tipped one for the ladybug dots and wing line.

Directions:

Wash and dry the rocks to be used.

On a flat, protected work surface, lay your rocks out and paint them the overall colors you want. Allow to dry for about ½ hour.

Now for the details!  Taking the black color paint, paint the head of the ladybug. Draw a lie down the back of the lady bug using the black paint and the thin, small tipped brush. Add dots to the ladybug’s back. Allow to dry.  Apply Clear Acrylic Sealing paint to the ladybugs and allow to dry.

Add 2 small dots of glue to the ladybug head. Place a wiggly eye on each dot and allow to dry.

Place in the garden, indoor planters, display on desk or table. They also make adorable paperweights!

Easter Centerpiece

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Easter Centerpiece from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

This is a fun way to bring Easter to the table and let the kids get involved! I have seen it all over Pinterest and thought I needed to try making it – SUPER simple!

What You Need:

  • Two vases, one smaller that can fit into the larger vase, allowing for at least a ½ inch space between the two.
  • 1 bag of jellybeans
  • 1-2 packages of Peeps bunnies
  • Flowers of choice

Instructions:

Place smaller vase inside larger vase, making sure it is centered. Pour jelly beans into space between the two vases, making sure you make it as level as possible around the vase. Take Peep bunnies out of package and slide a row of them into the space between the two vases, letting them rest on the jellybeans.  Repeat the process until the bunnies go all the way around the vase.

Trim your flowers to fit the inside vase. Pour water into the inside vase and arrange flowers. Voila! You have a beautiful centerpiece the kids helped with!

 

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for inviting me on to talk about these fun craft projects!

Continue reading Spring Crafts Fun!

The Thriller, Filler & Spiller Strategy for Planting Containers, from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

There is nothing I love better that to see beautiful urns flanking a front door, filled with gorgeous and healthy flowers and plants. But how do people create these stunning containers and KEEP them looking beautiful? Here are a few tips to remember when planning your garden container:

Think Thriller, Filler and Spiller!

Screenshot 2014-03-31 17.46.51

These are code words for the types of plants you use in designing a planter/container. Think of the planter as a movie and the plants in it the cast of characters!

Thriller: Thriller is the star! It is the centerpiece of your planter. It should be the tallest of the plants – Think Big, Bold, Beautiful.

Filler: The Filler is the supporting cast – a usually a flowering plant that compliments the Thriller. It is usually shorter than the Thriller and will stay shorter as it grows.

Spiller: This plant is the comedic relief – provides a bit of mischief for the container, spilling over the sides of the container, softening its edges. It is usually a low-lying plant.

Here is an example of the Thriller, Filler & Spiller Strategy from my front porch:

The Thriller, Filler & Spiller Strategy for Planting Containers, from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

The Thriller, Filler & Spiller Strategy for Planting Containers, from SimpleSolutionsDiva.com.

If you follow this strategy, you are well on your way to creating a beautiful planter! Here are some other tips to consider when creating a garden container:

  • Choose plants that have similar watering and sunlight needs.
  • Choose plants that will not crowd and outgrow their pot – Choose plants of similar size expectations (height and width). If you can’t match the sizes, be prepared to have to transfer plants from the pots when they get too big.
  • Potting soil choice is important – use one with moisture control, or you will be watering it non-stop in the summer.
  • If you live in a hot climate, consider adding to the container a small sprinkler device that connects to your sprinkler system. You can find these at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot. (In photo above, you can see the tubing on left side of urn leading up to the mini sprinkler- this is how I keep my plants alive in the Florida heat!)
  • For Large, Heavy Containers – Keep your container light weight by using empty water bottles to take up space in the bottom of the pot, so you don’t have to fill it all with heavy potting soil. This will also allow for better drainage.

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for inviting me on to talk about this topic!

Continue reading The Secret To Simply Stunning Garden Containers

Who likes to do laundry?!

Before I became Simple Solutions Diva, I always wondered if there were secrets to doing things that would make life a little easier!  I found a few simple solutions to some very vexing laundry issues and thought I’d share them with you! (FYI – Laundry is my LEAST favorite thing to do!)

Fold a Shirt In Seconds!

Sounds crazy, but I saw this video by Dave Hax on YouTube and was intrigued. This guy folded a shirt in under 2 seconds! Well, I had to try it – I’m not going to attempt to recreate the video, because he did it so well, so I’m sharing his video below.  And yes, I can now fold a shirt in seconds. I love it!

 

 

Fold A Towel For Optimal “Stackability”

One of the best parts of staying in a luxury hotel for me?  I get to choose from a beautiful stack of fresh, clean bath towels! Why so wonderful for me? Because when I open my linen closet at home for a towel, this is what I see:

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Kind of a mess! So I looked up how to fold a towel so it would stack easily and look good!

1)  Start with your towel on a clean bed or table.

Lay Towel on Clean Flat surface.

Lay Towel on Clean Flat surface.

2) Fold towel in half.    3) Fold bottom 1/3 of towel.    4) Fold top 1/3 of towel.   5) Fold towel one more time to make a square.

Screenshot 2014-03-27 13.47.20

My Towels Before And After:

Screenshot 2014-03-26 11.55.40

Tame The Fitted Sheet!

This is a hard one, because fitted sheets are just difficult to fold! Try this simple tip to fold them:

1) Fold sheet in half, tucking the fitted corners of one side of the sheet into the other side, so four corners become two.

2) Fold sheet again, tucking the one fitted corner into the other corner, making two corners into one.

3) Fold 1/3 of the sheet side without the fitted corners.

4) Fold the rectangle in half.

5) Fold that rectangle into a small square.

How to fold a fitted sheet.

How to fold a fitted sheet.

Screenshot 2014-03-27 18.28.24

BONUS: My Top Three Favorite Laundry Tips

 

Tide To Go Stick – Always have a Tide To Go Stick with you to pre treat stains as soon as they occur.

Get The Grease Out! If you get a grease splatter on clothes while cooking, tackle it immediately with Dawn dish detergent! It actually releases the grease from the clothing so it when you wash it in the laundry, it will lift the grease out! Use a Q-Tip to liberally apply Dawn directly to the grease spot, then wash as usual.

Red Wine Wipe Out – Remove fresh red wine stains with this little trick! Placing the stained fabric on a safe surface, sprinkle baking soda on the fresh stain. Cover the entire stain with the baking soda – not too thick! Next, sprinkle vinegar on the baking soda. The baking soda will bubble and you should see the stain change color (kind of a dark green or dark blue).  Allow this to sit for a few minutes, then rinse with cold water, then wash as soon as possible.  If you pull it out of washer and stain is still there, soak in a solution of 1/3 cup vinegar to 2/3 cup water. Wash again.

Other Related Simple Solutions Diva Videos On Laundry:

 

Pillows  Simply Clean Your Pillows!

 

Screenshot 2014-03-27 18.50.29 Clean Your Top Loading Washer

Screen Shot 2013-06-20 at 8.53.18 PM   How To Remove Mildew From Towels

 Simple Tip To Store Linens 

 

Thank you to WTLV-TV’s First Coast Living for having me on to talk all about laundry!

Continue reading Simple Ways To Fold Shirts, Towels and Fitted Sheets!

Screenshot 2014-03-26 10.16.04

Today, Simple Solutions Diva is celebrating our top five Most Popular Videos on YouTube!  Enjoy!

Clean Grill Grates Without Lifting A Finger

This was a popular “Putting Pinterest To The Test” video! Does it work? Check out the video! Almost 14,000 views so far — our most popular video on YouTube!

 

Crockpot Freezer Meals – Part 1

Part of my series on easy crockpot cooking! To see the recipes, Click Here.

 

How To Clean Your Top Loading Washer

My washer was starting to smell a little funny – that mildew smell – and I thought, “This would be a good Simple Solutions Diva video!” Yes it was!

 

Get Rid Of Pesky Fruit Flies!

Who doesn’t get tired of dealing with fruit flies? Get rid of the pesky critters with this simple tip:

 

How To Make A Homemade Bleach Pen

Another “Putting Pinterest To The Test” video. I made a bunch and gave them away to family and friends.

Continue reading Celebrating Our Top Five Videos on YouTube!