How to Clean Your Outdoor Garbage Cans

After a long hot summer, outdoor garbage cans have spent a lot of time roasting and the smell can knock you out (but not in a good way). We’ve got a great project to clean and refresh those bins while the weather is still pleasant. Try it out and thank yourself every time you breathe freely around your cans.

  • Reserve time on or immediately after garbage collection day, so that you start with an empty can.
  • Technically, one person can perform the job, but it’s much easier with a partner.
  • You’ll need rubber gloves, a non-toxic disinfectant (we recommend Simple Green), a long handled broom, a flashlight, a garden hose with a jet attachment, and a sunny, safe spot like a patch of grass or a driveway to perform the task.
  • A power washer is not necessary, but extremely effective. If you use one, remember to wear safety goggles and be careful to avoid spraying any skin or paint.
  • Turn the can on its side with the lid open.
  • Use the flashlight to inspect the inside of the can and identify any areas that have stuck-on debris. Depending on the size, depth and color of your can, it can be hard to miss problem areas.
  • While wearing your rubber gloves, use the broom to shake loose any debris.
  • Use the jet hose attachment or power washer to spray into the can for an initial rinse. Hold the water on any problem areas for 20 seconds to give them a soak and loosen debris.
  • After rinsing, tip the can upside down to drain.
  • Turn the can upright and pour a thin drizzle of disinfectant all along the edge of the can, allowing it to dribble down and coat all the sides. Use your flashlight to determine if you need more. Once the sides are coated, pour a thin layer over the bottom of the can. Allow the disinfectant to sit for 15 minutes.
  • Tip the can on its side and use the broom to scrub the inside and bottom of the can. This should get sudsy and break down any debris.
  • Use the hose again to give everything a thorough rinse. Tip the can upside down to drain as much moisture as possible.
  • Tip the can upright and shine the flashlight to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
  • Spray and scrub any debris off the outside of the can and lid.
  • If clean, allow to air out (preferably in the sunshine) for an hour or two. The sunshine will help disinfect.
  • Finally, use the hose to thoroughly rinse your broom. Use disinfectant if necessary.
  • Enjoy a fresh, clean garbage can for months to come!

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Recipe: Mexican Street Corn

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mexican Street Corn
At road side stands, farmers markets, and grocery stores, there is fresh corn everywhere right now and you’re going to want a nice supply to make this dish over and over again. Savory, spicy, creamy Mexican Street Corn is a delicious dish that will change the way you feel about corn on the cob. If you loved it before, prepare to be swept off your feet in a totally new way.

Mexican Street Corn

4 ears fresh corn on the cob
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
2/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese (or goat cheese)
2 limes, cut into wedges

Directions
Shuck and wash corn and set aside. Preheat grill to high heat. In a mixing bowl, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper and cilantro. Stir until well combined then add half of the crumbled cheese and stir again. Set mixture aside. Place corn on the hot grill and cook for 1-2 minutes per side, or until corn deepens in color and has nice char marks. Remove from heat and immediately smear a generous portion of the mixture all over each ear, then sprinkle with the remaining cheese and a dash of chili powder. Serve warm.

Personalized Back-to-School Gear

BTS pic

It’s not only fun to personalize your school supplies, it’s practical! If your supplies are easy to recognize, they are harder to lose. Use some simple craft supplies you might already have and a little inspiration to make your school supplies look great all year through.

1. Washi tape wrapped in a pattern around your pencils, pens, and glue bottles is a fun, easy way to make supplies easy to identify and hard to misplace.
2. A personalized tote for teacher or student makes a great gift, keepsake, and useful tool.
3. Vinyl lettering for binders and folders helps students stay organized and looking great.
4. Use Modge Podge on backpacks, binders, even pencils to coordinate a fabulous look including monogrammed backpacks and super stylish notebooks and pencils.

Happy back to school!

Yard Games for the Whole Family

Labor Day Weekend is the last hurrah of summer, so we’ve put together some great ideas to get your whole family outside for some friendly competition and lots of fun. Fire up the grill, invite some friends, and get everybody out on the lawn to get their game on.

Croquet. The best thing about playing croquet is that you can design your own course, making it as easy or difficult as you please, and perfect for players of a variety of ages and skill levels. Brush up on the rules by watching this helpful video.

Yard Yahtzee. Otherwise known as Lawn Dice Game, this outdoor game is absolutely ideal for a big group of people of all ages. You can play in teams or as individuals. Everyone will love taking a turn tossing the oversized dice and wishing for luck!

Lawn Twister. No need to drag the flimsy Twister mat outside, use a simple cardboard stencil and spray paint to create a Twister board right on the grass. (Don’t worry, it won’t damage the lawn and will only last until the next mowing.) Allow paint at least an hour to dry before playing.

Tailgate Toss. Sometimes called Corn Hole, this game is both easy and fun. A few bean bags (or corn bags, as it were) and two teams for tossing, and a little bit of luck or skill turns this simple game into hours of fun.

Bocce Ball. Despite what you might think, you don’t need an official bocce ball court made with sand or gravel. A clear, flat rectangle of grass will do just fine. All you need is a bucket of balls and a quick review of the rules, and you’re ready to play with any group and all ages.

Ladder Golf. This popular game is gaining in popularity because it is fun, mobile, and easy to play. Read up on the rules, and even make your own set for a DIY project.

Lawn Jenga. If you’ve got leftover lumber, transform it into a an outdoor Jenga tower. Pull out individual “bricks” to build the tower higher until it collapses. (This game is not recommended for small children.)

Do you have a favorite yard game? Share your ideas in the comments!

Recipe: Stuffed Bread Sandwiches

Mrs. Fields Secrets Stuffed Bread Sandwiches

Getting back into the school routine doesn’t have to mean getting stuck in a boring dinner routine. Today’s recipe is a delicious, family-friendly meal that you’ll want to make again and again, but the best part is that it can be adapted and reinvented with your favorite meats, cheeses, and veggies. It may become routine, but it will never be boring!

Stuffed Bread Sandwiches

1 loaf french bread
2 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb. chicken breasts or tenders
1 medium onion, julienned
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
salt
pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice loaf in half lengthwise and place on a baking sheet. Use your fingers to dig out the bread in each half to create a large crater, leaving a bit of bread around the perimeter of each side. Place the removed bread pieces into a mixing bowl and set aside. Pound the chicken with a tenderizer, then chop it into thin slices and liberally sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan with olive oil to medium-high, then cook the chicken until it is no longer pink. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the worcestershire sauce and tomatoes and reduce heat to medium and stir for 3-5 minutes, or until liquid has somewhat reduced. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the cheese over each half of the bread. Transfer the chicken mixture and all liquid to the mixing bowl and toss it all together with the bread pieces before spooning it into the bread. Press the two halves together and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove and slice into 2-inch sections and serve warm.

Back to School Buying Tips

Getting the kids back to school doesn’t have to break the bank. A little bit of homework ahead of time can end up in big savings, which we think is worth an A+. Follow these tips and move to the head of the class:

  • Take inventory before shopping. Chances are, the backpack you put in the corner last June has plenty of items that can be re-used in September. And those jeans you put away in May probably still fit. Make a list of everything you need, then do an inventory of what you already have.
  • Never buy anything at full price. August is rich with summer clearance racks and back-to-school sales. Chances are, you’ll be able to find just about everything you need on sale.
  • Always sign up for rewards programs. Extra savings and coupons will come your way to remain loyal. You don’t have to be loyal, but why miss out on extra savings to entice you?
  • Use your smartphone for smart savings. Download apps like Favado to compare in-store prices. That’s less running around and more savings.
  • Ask for a student discount. Many retailers offer student discounts, especially during back-to-school time, but they rarely advertise it. Be sure to ask at checkout if there is a discount for students or educators.
  • Save receipts for price adjustments. If something you bought last week is discounted this week, many retailers will offer you a refund of the price difference, but only if you have a receipt.
  • Always consider used. Sites like Craigslist and ebay, as well as consignment stores, re-sale stores and thrift stores have incredible prices. You’ll often find better quality items than discount stores with lower prices too.

Do you have a favorite back-to-school shopping tip? Share your ideas in the comments!

{Image via Getty.}

Campfire Cones

If a campfire is in your weekend plans, then so should this delicious dessert. A simple sugar cone, loaded with flavors and textures that melt and mull together to make an ooey gooey treat to share in the glow of your cozy fire. What could be better on a summer of fall evening with friends? Easy to make at the campground, in the backyard, and even on the grill. Here’s what you need to get started:

Campfire Cones
inspired by Chef Jessica Bright

aluminum foil
sharpie marker
sugar cones
mini marshmallows
mini chocolate chips
salted pretzels
fresh berries
caramel
peanut butter
chopped candy bars
bananas
pineapple chunks
maraschino cherries
chopped cookies
ice cream (optional)

Directions
Let each person fill his or her cone with desired fillings. It’s a good idea to have at least 5 or 6 mini marshmallows in the mix to melt everything together. Once full, wrap the cone completely in foil and write the person’s name on the foil. Place wrapped cone in the outer perimeter of a campfire for about 3-5 minutes, or until marshmallows are completely melted. (These also work great on a hot grill. Cook for about 3 minutes!) Serve immediately as is or with a giant scoop of hard ice cream.

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Recipe: One Pot Pasta

Mrs. Fields Secrets One Pot Pasta
Today’s recipe is one that makes you scratch your head. How could anything that simple and easy taste so good? How could a delicious, made-from-scratch dinner be ready so fast? How can a simple pasta recipe possibly pack that much flavor? Once you try this recipe, you’ll include it in your regular dinner rotation so that you can contemplate this mystery over and over again.

One Pot Pasta

12 ounces dry spaghetti noodles
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, julienned
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
2 cans (15 oz each) chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, finely chopped
fresh parmesan cheese

Directions
Place dry noodles into a large pot. Add tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper, and oregano on top. Pour the two cans of broth over it all, followed by the olive oil, then cover and place over high heat until liquid comes to a boil. Remove lid, then stir ingredients and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes over a low simmer, stirring every two minutes. Leave the lid off for the last four minutes to allow the sauce to reduce. Remove from heat and top with fresh basil and parmesan. Serve immediately. Makes 3-4 servings.

Food Safety for Outdoor Parties

Outdoor parties are one of the highlights of summer and fall. But did you know? Foodborne illnesses actually increase in warmer months when we dine much more outdoors. Here are some simple guidelines to keep you and your family safe:

  • The most important safety measure is to keep hands clean. Have a hand-washing station available with water, soap and clean towels if possible. If not, anti-bacterial towelettes or hand sanitizer will keep guests’ hands clean and free from spreading contamination to serving spoons, trays and food.
  • Marinate meats in the fridge instead of the countertop or outdoors. Food temperatures are almost impossible to regulate outside of the fridge, freezer, or a cooking device, and raw meats are especially susceptible to bacterial growth. Keep raw meats cool until cooking time.
  • Invest in a meat thermometer and use it while grilling. Hamburger and beef should be cooked to 160 degrees, chicken 165 degrees, and pork 145 degrees. Plus, you’ll avoid dry, overcooked meat! To keep hot foods safe for hours, they should maintain a temperature of 140 degrees. Wrapping them in foil and keeping them stored in an insulated container will give you the best results. (Yes, your insulated cooler will keep hot foods hot!)
  • Cold foods should be kept at about 40 degrees to prevent bacterial growth. Salads containing mayonnaise or raw egg should be kept on ice.
  • Food left out for more than two hours becomes increasingly dangerous to eat, since bacteria reproduces exponentially. If the temperature outside is above 90 degrees, that window is reduced to an hour. It can be difficult at a party to remember, but as soon as people are done eating, it’s best to cover the food and transfer it to a cooler or fridge.
  • Believe it or not, one of the best and easiest ways to prevent food borne illnesses at your outdoor party is to have plenty of plates, napkins, and utensils. A fresh plate and utensils for each course of food drastically reduces contamination and cross-contamination of food and bacteria.
  • A healthy immune system wards off most problems, but pay close attention to those who are susceptible: the very young, the very old, pregnant women and anybody whose system is compromised in any way. Be especially vigilant if you have such guests in attendance.

Do you have any food safety tips or suggestions? Share them in the comments!

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10 Smart New Uses for Balloons

Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 1 Mrs. Fields Secrets Balloons 2 Balloons were once relegated to birthday parties and prom backdrops, but these inexpensive and colorful items can be transformed into so much more. Check out these 10 genius ideas!

1. Create delicate, tissue paper lanterns from balloon forms.
2. Make a colorful modern vase for flowers.
3. Add dirt, water, seeds and even a tiny toy or two and create a fun, disposable terrarium.
4. Make homemade drums and rice shakers for an inexpensive band.
5. Instead of a piñata, hang a collection of filled water balloons for a fun party finale.
6. Make your own squish-able  stress balls.
7. Make your own bouncy balls from balloons.
8. Substitute a baseball for a water balloon to cool off on a hot summer day.
9. Turn a balloon into creative gift wrap for cash gifts.
10. Add bright colors to clear jars and glasses with balloons.

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