Thursday, September 20, 2012

homemade laundry detergent

This past weekend I needed to stock up on laundry detergent, and since I've had such impressive feedback from my friends and family with this recipe, I decided to share it.

There are lots of different versions floating around the Internet of how to make your own laundry detergent, and I've taken the standard "requirements" and added to them to make something that works perfectly for my stinky family.

I will be the first to admit that I am far too lazy to have any desire to make liquid laundry detergent. That requires some sort of cooking, which I do enough of, so I passed on that version pretty quickly.

This recipe is for the powdered detergent I have used for the past 6 months. I made a batch the first week in April, and I just ran out in the middle of September. I do 3 medium sized loads of laundry twice a week, and it has lasted me about 6 months, though I have given away SEVERAL mason jars full to friends who wanted to try it out. If I hadn't shared, it would have lasted me 7 months or more.

I am so totally satisfied with the way this cleans our clothes. I love the fact that you only need 2 Tablespoons of detergent per load. Because this detergent has no fillers or strange ingredients, you don't need nearly as much to get your clothes clean. This works well on my son's sensitive skin, and is strong enough to get out whatever gross gets on my husband's uniforms.

Here's what you need:

  • 1 FULL box of Borax washing powder ($3.38)
  • 1 FULL box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda ($3.24)
  • 1 HALF box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda... Look at the picture above, it's NOT the small size in the baking aisle ($2.12)
  • 2 small containers of Oxi-Clean... You can also use one large container, but I had a coupon if I bought 2 Oxi-Clean products ($3.86 each)
  • 2 Fels-Naptha Bars ($0.97 each)
All of these ingredients I found in Wal Mart's detergent aisle. Since I've had so many questions on how much this costs, I saved my receipt and included the exact price I paid next to each ingredient above... $18.40 total.

Because this detergent doesn't leave a strong "laundry" smell to your clothes after they are washed, I included fabric softener crystals to my ingredients, though you don't have to. It isn't part of the "required" ingredients, though I really like the results (and it doesn't cost my NEARLY as much when I add it directly into the detergent, as opposed to each load individually).

I add an entire large bottle of Purex softener crystals. I didn't include this in my ingredients picture above because it isn't necessary if you prefer some other type of fabric softener. I highly recommend these though; the smell is great and there isn't any residue left on clothes. I spent $8.96 on the large bottle, by far the most expensive piece of this laundry puzzle, but totally worth it. $18.40 for the above ingredients, plus $8.96 is $27.36. Not bad for nearly 7 months of laundry detergent.

I used to buy these bottles individually, and add the required capful to each load along with my detergent. In the six months I used my previous batch, I bought 4 of these containers. When I added this one jar to my new batch, I noticed NO negative difference in scent or softness in my clothes, even though the ratio of crystals to detergent is definitely lower. WIN!

Here's how to do it:

1) In a LARGE container or trash can, slowly combine the powders and crystals. It is best to do this step a little at a time, then stir, add a little more, then stir, and so on. This gets heavy and hard to stir. Make sure you're tipping the container to get the powders on the bottom to fully mix.

2) Before you're totally done adding the powders (and I say that only because it's easier to mix that way), grate your two Fels Napths bars. You can use a fancy food processor, or just a plain cheese grater. Or, if you're unlucky like me, uses a zester. Because that's all I have. Though I will say that I like how much smaller the "grates" turn out when using a zester. I timed myself, and each bar took 10 minutes to grate. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Totally.

3) Mix Mix Mix. You can even put a lid on (if you have one) and take it outside to shake around.

 This makes about 2.5 gallons of detergent. You're only using 2 TBS per load. You can do the math :)

I add my detergent to a cute jar I found at Wal Mart (it was less than $10). I added scrapbook stickers to label (make it beautiful!) as well as indicate how much to use (because my fabulous husband does laundry way more than you'd think he does). I attached a TBS with a ribbon to the lid so we never have to search for one.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, September 14, 2012

seasonal pillow

I've always liked how fesitve throw pillows can make your living room.

They're an easy way to add seasonal impact during the year.

They also cost a million dollars.

I've seen throw pillows cost anywhere from $15 to $100, and if you're only using them for a few months (or for Christmas, ONE month!) then that extravagent amount of money seems foolish.

If you're a regular follower you probably have picked up two characteristics of mine: The first being that I like pretty things. Everything deserves to be beautiful. The second being that I'm not a fan of paying full price for anything. If I can find a cheaper version, or make something myself, I certainly will.

And I'll share that with you.

Hold on to your socks, folks.

 Here is my new fall pillow!

And I'll share the fabulous secret to its creation.

It is a placemat from Hobby Lobby.

For this project, you need to make sure that you buy a lined placemat. That is, a placemat that has a front piece of fabric as well as a back piece of fabric. This one cost $3.50 at Hobby Lobby, but I've seen cute ones at Walmart and Target for even less... those will probably be coming into my home soon, too :)

Grab a seam ripper and pull out the seam in a bottom corner, just big enough to get your hand through. Stuff your pillow with batting, making sure to get into the corners. It is best to overstuff a bit since the batting will shift.

Another secret? Walmart sells cheap pillows for $2.50... they may not be best for sleeping on, but for stuffing decorative pillows? PERFECT! You can spend a small fortune on batting, therefore making this project a bit pointless and way more expensive than it needs to be. Depending on the size of your placemat, you can get 2 projects out of one cheap pillow.

After you get your pillow stuffed how you'd like it, hand stitch the couple inches you ripped open, keeping the seam allowance already there folded in.

This took less than 10 minutes, and cost less than $5 (especially since I already had the pillow, unused in the closet!)

well loved already :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

recipe: taco handpies

Nothing is better during the cooler months of Fall than being outside. We like to go to the park, on the bike paths, and budget permitting, to the zoo!

Every time we venture from our house for more than an hour, the Type A preparation master in me emerges. I like to be PREPARED! I have a fabulous little cooler from 31 gifts that we (ahem, I) got as a housewarming present and I always make sure we've got supplies to ward off crabbiness and hunger.

But sandwiches can be boring. There is only so much you can do to a sandwich when you have to pack it in a cooler and take it somewhere. Oh, and bologna makes me gag.

A while ago, a good friend of mine brought breakfast hand pies to Bible study, and that got me thinking.

What else can you fit in a biscuit??

Taco mix, that's what.

Don't go away yet, because these turned out great!

Here's what you need:
1/2 lb ground beef
1 bell pepper, any color (though I prefer yellow or orange for this!)
taco mix seasoning
shredded lettuce
shredded cheese
about 1/2 cup of salsa or taco sauce
1 pkg of big biscuits

Here's how to do it:

1. begin by cutting up your pepper and lettuce VERY tiny. I added these chunks
 to a food processor after I took this picture.

2. Brown your ground beef and prepare it with the taco seasoning as per package directions. Add your chopped pepper to the skillet. 

3. SLOWLY add your salsa or taco sauce to your ground beef/pepper mix. You DON'T want it runny, just enough to make it slightly saucy. You probably won't use the whole 1/2 cup.

 4. Open your can of biscuits and stretch one at a time until the biscuit is about the size of your hand. It is best to do this slowly and gently, as the dough pulls back in. Do one biscuit at a time.

5. Fill the biscuit with about a tablespoon of the ground beef mixture, 
top with lettuce and cheese. DON'T over fill!

6. Pinch the ends of the biscuit together. It works best if you treat it like a square, and pinch opposite corners together before pinching any other openings.

7. Flip your handpie over so the seam is facing down on the cookie sheet. Repeat this process with the rest of the biscuits.

8. Bake your sheet of handpies according to the biscuit package's directions, 
but check on them half way through.

9. Let them cool completely before you package them in ziplock bags! 

You could put any number of things in these. 
You could put scrambled eggs, cheese and sausage in for breakfast.
Or cubed ham and cheese for lunch (really good, by the way!)
I make an Irish version of these as well, which are favorites too.
I use ground beef (or lamb), Worcestershire sauce, diced red potatoes,
 and shredded cabbage. Add a few seasonings, and those are a big hit!

This is a perfect "car food" for kids. Not very messy and very easy to handle. 
Great for road trips!

Have fun with these. and good luck!

Monday, September 10, 2012

recipe: black bean soup

I told you I wouldn't wait long for soup!

I left for Bible study at 9 this morning (ok, fine, 9:15. We were a little late!). It was chilly enough that I wore jeans and a cardigan, which got me super excited that fall is definitely knocking on our door.

This is one of my family's favorite recipe... and by family, I mean my husband and son, but as this originated in my mother's kitchen, it's a favorite there, too. Loved by all.

The health benefits of this soup are phenomenal, as it is a recipe from the Clean Eating Cookbook by Tosca Reno (page 71, by the way!). If you're familiar with the magazine Oxygen, then you know who I'm talking about :)

Packed with protein and vegetables, this soup is loaded with flavor and has just enough "comfort" qualities to make you forget you're eating healthy! Most fall and winter soups are loaded with heavy cream (I'll get to those too, DON'T YOU WORRY), but this one doesn't. It can even be vegetarian if you want it to be!

This takes very little time to put together (about 30 minutes from start to finish, depending on how fast you chop veggies), so you don't even have to make it ahead of time if you don't want to. It does freeze wonderfully though, which is great since I always double the batch and keep individual sized containers in my freezer :)

Ok, so it's fabulously healthy until you load it up with shredded cheese.

Here's what you need:

2 ribs celery
1 large carrot
1 small red onion
1 red pepper 
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 tsp chili powder
4 cups chicken OR vegetable stock
2 15 oz cans of black beans
1 15 oz canned diced tomatoes
1 cup of corn (fresh if you can get it!)
salt and pepper

Here's how to do it:
  • Chop your veggies. Don't worry about making it all perfectly tiny, since you're going to puree it later.
  • Heat a bit of oil in a large saute pan or stock pot. Add celery, carrot, onion, and peppers to the pan. Saute until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes).
  • Add garlic and spices. Saute a bit longer (about 2 minutes).
  • Add stock, beans, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree until your soup is smooth, or the texture you'd like.
  • Add corn. Cook for a couple more minutes, then serve with cheese or Greek yogurt :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

fall canvas

I'm continuing my Fall decorations, completing our home one step at a time! 
Maybe I'll be done by Thanksgiving?

I love canvas art. 

I love it even more when it covers up something ugly.
And I love it even more when it costs me $1 to make. Yep.

You see that?  A phone jack, circa 1994. That thing is ugly.

As in: U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi. You ugly. (In case you ever wondered about my age, there you go. I totally just dated myself)

I have already used canvas art to hide my thermostat in my dining room, but I didn't actually make it. This time around, I wasn't quite as willing to spend money on a seasonal canvas piece. Since I'm all about seasonal decorating right now, that's what I decided I wanted (then my brain started spinning: I can change it our for EVERY season! Oh, the possibilities!)

I decided that canvas was the way to go, since it worked so well the first time, 
so I headed to Hobby Lobby.

canvas, paint sticks, printable, and modge podge
I found a 2 pack of 8x10 canvases for $3.99, aaaaand I had a coupon (go figure, the canvas pack was probably the only thing in the store that wasn't on sale). Ok, so $2 for 2 canvases.

The problem was, the canvas I found wasn't deep enough to cover the heinous phone jack. think, think, think. Paint sticks! Of course! Oh, how I love crafting with paint sticks! I created a frame around my canvas with paint sticks, adding depth and a little character to an otherwise plain canvas side.  FREE!

I fell in love with this fall printable I found online, but there are so many great ones out there that I may print another one and find a home for it, too. Again, free!

Add a little homemade Mod Podge to your canvas and apply your cut-to-size subway art, then add a coat of sealer to the top. I was having a hard time with my ink running when I applied the Mod Podge to the top of the print, so I skipped this step in lieu of spray sealer.

I had some more help cutting my paint sticks (I am a cliche. I accept this). I measured along the top and bottom of my canvas, then along the sides. I stained them and hot glued them to the sides of my canvas. There are a couple gaps, but hey, it's home made!

That's it! Let everything dry, and hang!

I also made a Christmas one, but in my defense it is only because I have so many Christmas 
crafts planned that it seemed silly to put this one off and add it to my to-do pile since
 I was already doing the project anyway :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

wedding invitation ornament

One of my best friends got married this past weekend. This wedding was special to me, since I have known the couple for many years. In fact, I was one of the first people who got to see the (stunning) ring before the groom proposed :)

I am sharing with you the gift I made, and now that it's been given I can actually post it!

I found the idea on Pinterest, of course, and the link lead me here.

Inside this ornament is their wedding invitation.

Here are the things you need (without the puppy paws!):

I used a plastic ornament since it's baby proof, and no one is 
subtle about wanting babies around here :)

Start by cutting the invite into strips, so that the key details of the wedding can be seen.  
A paper slicer would be nice, but scissors work just fine.

Wrap the invite strips around a pencil or pen in order to make it curly. 
Stretch the curl out a bit so it looks nice.

 Next cut up small pieces of ribbon. I used the same color as my bow topper. 
Make sure you burn the edges so they don't fray!

Add all of your strips and ribbon to your ornament, and top with a charm and a bow!

 Something I didn't do, but thought I'd mention, is to cut up strips of plain colored cardstock to go with your theme colors instead of using ribbon. Curl those the same and add them into your ornament along with the invitation. It would give it a nice pop of color!

I love Christmas time, and I'm a sucker for sentimental ornaments.  I hope this means as much to them in years to come as it would to me!

Now, does anyone still have my wedding invitation?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

our daily reminder

I have a great cookbook stand in the corner of my kitchen. Usually, as the name implies, I have a cookbook of some sort set up, but I was starting to get bored with that idea.

I've been desiring a way to share uplifting and happy thoughts with my family (specifically with my husband, as Baby Wonder isn't at the reading stage of his 2 year life yet). No matter how good your relationship with your spouse is, there should never be a time when growth and support take the back burner to "real life". A strong relationship is real life.

Since we don't see each other as often as we'd like, I wanted something I could write on whenever I (or in theory, my husband as well) thought of something. Speaking words out loud has value in a marriage, but the written word creates a lasting picture. It is nice to see feelings expressed and visibly advertised.

I got an inexpensive frame on sale from Hobby Lobby and whipped out my fabulous chalkboard spray paint. In 5 minutes I had a great little chalkboard for my cookbook holder.

For our first thought, something to read and take with us throughout our day, is from 1 Peter. I think it sums up marriage nicely, and is a wonderful reminder that no matter what, love is binding and everlasting. It also reminds me that the love God has for us is intense and unfailing, covering the multitude of our transgressions in such a powerful and comforting way.

One of my favorite quotes, by far, and if you haven't heard it before I want to share it with you.

Oh, and I definitely need a chalkboard pen. Writing with teacher chalk makes my handwriting look even worse than it actually is :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

paint stick crate

Happy September!

I have been chomping at the hypothetical bit for fall, and even though it is still pretty warm, the second September rolled around, my mind warped into autumn mode.

Though if I'm being honest, I did have some stuff out at the end of August. I just couldn't wait. My husband came home one day, looked around, and asked, verbatim, "Why is there pumpkin shit all over the house? It's still August." Ahhh, marriage.

Though sweaters and soups may still be a ways away (though I may make my family eat soup soon, just because), decorating is not! I have continued plans for decorating this season, but I did want to quickly share a project that I am super proud of.

I'm sorry for the bad flash, it's night time and our apartment has horrible picture lighting!

Because it is so wonderful, and I love the way it turned out with all my fall stuff in it, I feel like everyone should know how to do this.

I'm loving the blinged sunflower!

I won't bother with a picture tutorial because the tutorial on Today's Fabulous Finds does a great job explaining everything, and her pictures are really detailed.    

I thought this project would be a quick afternoon craft, and I would impress my husband with my wood working skills. I was wrong. In theory, this is a VERY easy project, but as I don't have any sort of electric saw, I have no idea how to work a handsaw (let alone a dull and rusty one dug out from my in law's barn), and I have no upper body strength to speak of, that made even cutting the paint sticks a laughable endeavor. No lie, my husband and his best friend ended up cutting my paint sticks at midnight when my husband got home from his swing shift. Ahhh, marriage.

The next day he cut the rest of the wood for me and I took it from there, lessons well learned.

The putting together was the easy part, though time consuming because of the wood glue. Let it totally dry before you try to stencil. I made the stencil by printing my words from Microsoft Word onto cardstock. The font I used was "stencil". I cut out the letters with an exacto knife, and voila! Free stencil for those of us poor souls who don't have a Cricut.

I will tell you that the plank of wood I bought was a standard pine board for less than $2. That board allowed me to make 2 crates, with enough left over for a third. As I was not the one sawing said board with a rusty hand saw, I didn't want to venture a request for more cuts.

The slats on this crate are FREE 5 gallon paint sticks. Make sure you ask the people at the paint desk at Home Depot or Lowes before you jack a handful, though. They didn't make me pay for them, but it's still nice to double check.  I had the stain on hand from another one of my projects, as well as the jute rope. The stencil I made, and the spray paint for that I had. I also had the decorative nails (instead of the staples in the original). They were only $1.50 originally for the box, anyway. So add all that up, the total cost for each crate was less than $1. FABULOUS.

I made a second one that I put in my bathroom downstairs, but I'll show that one off when I show you the house all decorated!