Friday, January 30, 2009

Frugal Friday

Today, for lack of having something better to post, I thought I'd post a tutorial and recipe for something that I've found to be very helpful around here lately:

Laundry Detergent :)

While I realize that this seems like it might be more trouble than it is worth, consider the fact that you can do 110 full size loads of laundry for $1.11 with the homemade stuff. We've bounced between store-bought and homemade since summer, and quite honestly, I really can't see the difference as far how clean the clothes get. So here goes:
First, use a grate about 1/2 of a bar of soap into a medium size saucepan (I'd recommend Ivory, I'm using some of the soap my parents and I made in the fall)

Add 3 pints of hot water to the soap shavings and simmer on low - medium heat until the soap is dissolved. Don't let the water boil, or you will have suds everywhere. I'm not going to elaborate on how I know that. Ha Ha!

Then, add 1/2 cup of washing soda to the liquid. Washing soda is available in the aisle with laundry detergent at most grocery stores and cost around $2.00 per box. This size box is good for many batches of detergent. (Please excuse the peeling paint on the back of my stove, it works well, but isn't going to win any beauty contests.)
Pour in 1/2 cup of borax powder too. This is also found in the laundry aisle and costs around $2.00 as well.

Stir the washing soda and borax into the soapy water until everything is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened.

Pour one quart hot water into a 2 gallon plastic bucket and pour the soap mixture in as well. Fill the bucket with more water and mix well. Allow the detergent to sit for around 24 hours until it has gelled. Use 1/2 cup per laundry load (I sometimes use a bit more if the load is extra large or really dirty).

Laundry Detergent Recipe:
Here is the recipe that I use:
3 Pints Water
1/3 Bar Fels Naptha Soap Grated (I substitute 1/2 bar of Ivory or something similar)
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax
2 Gallon Bucket
1 Quart Hot Water Water
Mix Fels Naptha soap in a saucepan with 3 pints of water, and heat on low until dissolved. Stir in Washing Soda and Borax. Stir until thickened, and remove from heat. Add 1 Quart Hot Water to 2 Gallon Bucket. Add soap mixture, and mix well. Fill bucket with hot water, and mix well. Set aside for 24 hours, or until mixture thickens. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Garden Revisited

Plans are in the works for a garden expansion this spring. Maybe its the cold weather prompting these dreams of warm weather, but in any case I thought I'd fondly remember last summer's garden.
The soil in our yard consists mostly of fill, and though we have found many bricks and the occassional cool bottle, it is just not very good for growing things. While researching inexpensive ways to grow vegetables in raised beds, I came across this idea from a professor at Messiah college.
The kiddie pools are inexpensive and can last for several years I'm told. We grew all sorts of things between these two swimming pools - Amish paste tomatoes, Hutterite beans, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
This was our bucket brigade. We picked up food grade 5 gallon buckets from the bakeries at Walmart and Giant, drilled holes in the bottom and planted them with tomatoes, green peppers and jalepenos.
Of all of my gardening experiments, the lawn waste bags were my favorite hands down. Turns out, these bags are just perfect for growing potatoes - and completely compostable when finished. I planted eggplants in the brown pots, they were moderately successful too, but unfortuately eggplant was not a big hit in our household.

This year, we are hoping to neaten things up and grow even more. I have to admit that looking out over our ice and snow encrusted yard, it is hard to remember how it looks when it is green and growing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am an impatient internet shopper

This week I discovered Etsy shops and fell in love. One shop in particular was carrying the fabric that I wanted to buy for my new pillows (and apparently a new skirt for my daughter). I found another shop that sold some really neat wall decor. Since it was my birthday, I decided to go ahead and order a few items - and then reality hit.
I'm an extremely impatient person.
I do realize these things take time, but it doesn't stop me from compulsively checking my e-mail to see if the items have shipped, watching the tracking numbers and calling my husband to ask him if my packages have made it yet. None of which makes the time go any quicker.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Decorating and Doggie 911

It all started so innocently.

We set out for Walmart after the basketball game to look for something to hang on either side of a picture in our newly painted dining room.

Sure enough, we found them. They were simple and perfect.

As soon as we got home, I hung them up. They looked just like I thought they would. (This space is still under construction, I have something special on order to put above the picture, too - much better than the weedy-looking things.)

Then, I thought, for added effect, I should light the candles and take a picture of that as well. Seemed like a good idea at the time, too. I lit one candle, and moved to light the second one. As I backed away from the wall, I tripped over the piano stool, which in turn fell on one of the dogs. She began to scream and yelp and ran away from us on three legs. Closer inspection revealed not one, but TWO cuts on two different paws. Fortunately, they were both shallow scrapes but they were definitely bleeding. Good for her that the first aid kit was well stocked.

Doesn't she look grateful?

Somehow, I don't think she fully appreciates my mad vet skills. Or my decorating attempts.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Laundry That Time Forgot

Last evening while attempting to conquer the mountain of laundry that seemed to have taken over every corner of my house, certain things were brought to my attention. My son's pile seemed unusually sparce and my daughter's pile was missing several rather important articles of clothing, prompting me to go on an expedition into their rooms to search out undiscovered heaps of wrinkled unwashed garments. There, in the depths of the bottom of my daughter's closet lay the mother load - several weeks worth of clean clothing that sadly, never made it to the safety of the dresser drawers or closet hangers. The situation was dire in my son's room as well. Socks, stranded from their mates, were strewn in little balls and hidden in the dark corners of his room and hanging out with his wrestling trophies. Soon, the veins started to pop out on my forehead and coherent speech was lost to me. Infuriated is not too strong a word to apply to this situation. Once I returned from adding the Laundry That Time Forgot to the many, many baskets vying for the attention of the washer and dryer in the basement, I regained most of my cool and returned upstairs to do what I could to remedy the situation.
While most of the laundering issues were completely avoidable, some of the problem seemed to be an accumulation of outgrown clothing taking up much needed space. Once the too-small clothing was removed, and there was a lot of it, there was plenty of room for the clothing that fit.
The last time (in the fall) we sifted through the clothes, I helped organize a clothing swap - which was fun and worked very well, however this time of year really doesn't lend itself to planning events as you never know what the weather might be like. So, Plan B is that I'll try to Freecycle the clothing first. Freecycle is a great way to give and get items within a local area. You simply post an e-mail on the main site, it is sent to all of the members and if anyone wants what you have or has what you want - you're in luck. We've been members for over a year now, and have had a lot of fun with it.
I still haven't found the solution to finishing the rest of the laundry, though.

Friday, January 16, 2009

National Ray Stevens Day

There should be one, shouldn't there. With that thought, how about a Mississippi Squirrel Revival?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I Wander While I Wonder

Being sick at the beginning of the week gave me a lot of time to think - not necessarily a good thing after not sleeping and popping tylenol and aleve in an effort to regain the ability to speak without crying.

There are so many things about the Bible that I'd love to know and among those things, there are some so riduculous I'd be embarrassed to ask. I can remember asking a Sunday school teacher some of them as a child, but alas, she had no answer for me. So, in the interest of disclosing just how disfunctional my thought process can be at times, here are my yet-unanswered theological questions:
  • Did people in the Bible have nick-names? Did Methuselah really spend all nine-hundred sixty nine years being called by his given name? Really? I have a hard time picturing his mother calling for him to come in for dinner, or his wife scolding him for driving the camel too fast while using his entire name. Those poor women must have been exhausted.
  • Along that same line, Isaiah had two sons. One was named Shear-jashub and the other Maher-shalal-hash-baz, translating to "Only a remnant will return" and "Pillage hastens, looting speeds" respectively. Mothers everywhere can testify that no matter how hard you try not to mix up the names of your kids, there is just no way to prevent it. So, picture if you will - Mrs. Isaiah enters the room to find that her precious angels have been making mud pies indoors, she screams, "Only! -Pillage! - Looting! - Remnant!" How long do you think it would take until she passed out from exhaustion?
  • Okay, last one. This is one that I've wondered a lot about for a very long time. It's a short one too. How many mothers in Nazareth asked their children, "Why can't you be more like Joseph and Mary's boy, Jesus?"

So there it is, years and years and years of Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, tent meetings, youth group and church services and those are the deep theological questions burning in my mind.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Husband is Awesome!

My throat has been very sore since late Sunday night and I finally broke down and called my doctor today - yep, it's strep. As he always does, my husband has completely stepped up to the plate and has driven the kids where they needed to go, cooked and tonight has completely gone above and beyond - he is attending a booster club meeting in my place.
I just wanted to write a quick tribute to his awesomeness!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How I Spent My Weekend

We began the process of redecorating the dining room this weekend. My HGTV privileges may be revoked if I continue to come up with ideas, but it looks a little better already. Just so everyone knows, I love color.
When we first moved into our house seven years ago, I was so tired of semi-gloss white walls that I went a little crazy with the painting. Here are a few shots of the dining room taken last week.

Very, very blue. I liked the color, but it never felt warm enough for a dining room. Also, please note Exhibit A a/k/a weedy, vaguely berry-ish things hanging on either side of the picture. I think these testify to the fact that Interior Design is not my calling. In the photo directly above, you can see the absolutely beautiful corner cupboard that my dad built for me as a Christmas present two years ago.

Now for some after shots:

The color looks a bit orange in the pictures, but it is actually caramel brown. I've also included my favorite picture of the kids, taken nine years ago. I can't believe how small they were then.

For the record, not all of the residents of our house were thrilled with the home improvement activities. Midnite's bed was moved and panic ensued. Here she is relaxing in her pajamas and clinging to her favorite ball for comfort. We haven't told her that the living room is next.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another Song

This song really touched me today. I actually woke up humming it, I had heard it a few times and liked it, but I didn't know the words. Funny how God supplies the right words when we can't.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Online Fabric Shopping

I love fabric shopping. I love planning projects, looking for colors that complement one another, looking at cute prints - I just enjoy the fabric store experience. (This drives my husband crazy by the way.) So far, I've made table runners, purses, blankets, skirts and dresses for my daughter, pajama pants for my son, some stuffed soccer balls for my nephews. Now, I want to make throw pillows - brave, bright, vibrant throw pillows for the couch and loveseat. I am drawn to bright colors, so be warned.

Anna Maria Horner (one of my favorite fabric designers) has a new line called "Good Folks" coming out on the 15th, so I've been trolling the internet trying to decide which print my pillows should be made from. Don't say I didn't warn you, I want these to be bright and eye-catching (but not retina-harming). Here are the prints that are in the final running:

I'm leaning towards the one on the bottom right at the moment.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doctor Who, say it ain't so

I admit to being a closet sci-fi nerd. I loved Star Trek the Next Generation and Star Trek Enterprise, the orginal Stargate (movie) and I've gone to see all of the most recent Star Wars movies on opening night. But, early last year, something happened that changed sci-fi for me forever. I discovered Doctor Who. Pure campy awesomeness imported from the UK. I searched out as many episodes on YouTube as possible and caught up with weekly showings on BBC America.

Admittedly, I do favor Christopher Eccleston's (on the left) Doctor Who to David Tennant (on the right), which seems to be opposite to popular opinion. Don't get me wrong, I really got to like David Tennant's character as time went on - especially in the last season.

Now, they have announced that there will be a NEW Doctor Who. A younger Doctor Who. Why? Don't they know that change is hard for me? Just kidding. I'm sure that I'll adjust - probably just in time for yet another replacement. Pardon me while I pout.

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Okay, all done.

Here is a pic of the New Improved Doctor Who Upgrade - Matt Smith

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Post-Christmas Decorating Crisis

The last of the indoor Christmas decorations are now safely stored in their respective boxes in the basement, leaving a wasteland of barren surfaces. Now, to be very honest here, I am most certainly lacking the interior decorator gene that so many women seem to have. My mother and two sisters in law seem to effortlessly create magazine quality tableaus throughout their immaculate houses. At the other end of the spectrum is my house, where I have good ideas and better intentions - just not the ability to pull it all together.
So, now that all of the Christmas glitz and glamor (ha ha ha) has been put away, I've had plenty of time to stare at my walls, which I last painted seven years ago when we bought our house - I think it is time to repaint. I'll post some before and after pictures some time next week when we get around to painting. Painting always seems like a good idea until I get stuck doing it by myself.
I think I'll try to do something to perk the curtains up too, I just don't know what. If only there was some way to get on one of those home shows where I get a vacation and get to come home to a newly decorated house. It doesn't hurt to dream, right?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Witness to Worst Date Ever

My hubby and I unexpectedly lucked into a date night at a nice restaurant this evening. We were seated next to the wall near another couple, who would unbeknownst to them, be our entertainment that evening. It certainly was not our intention to eavesdrop, but a deep booming voice combined with a quiet dining room is not a good combination for an intimate evening out. We were soon hearing enough snippets of their conversation (mostly one-sided by the way) to ascertain that this was a first date between two people who had not previously met, the gentleman of the pair has many, very deeply held political, environmental and spiritual beliefs (and brought books to illustrate that fact) and wanted to know if the lady thought that a relationship might develop.

It was probably one of those "you just had to be there" moments, but nearly fifteen years of marriage and the fifteen years of close friendship preceding marriage has granted us the ability to read one another's facial expressions with a small margin of error. So we spent a good deal of the beginning of our date avoiding eye contact so as not to burst into giggle fits like two 12 year olds.

I'm so very glad that I have a husband I can have so much fun with and that he loves me regardless of whether I'm feeling serious or seriously immature. Witnessing that first date just made me more thankful that I have the husband I have and that I didn't have to sit through any tense, awkward dates like the one we witnessed this evening.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Song Stuck in My Head - HELP!

And now, I'm sharing it with you. My husband innocently purchased the Wicked soundtrack for me as a Christmas gift, never imagining that I would listen to it obsessively and drive him and the kids to distraction with it. I dearly hope to get to see the musical sometime this year - if I do, it will be my first Broadway trip ever.