Posted in Day in the life of a mom, DIY, Quick Project

DIY: Homemade (Cloth Diaper-safe!) Laundry Goods

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After using the following homemade detergent powder for about two years, I am confident in saying that this recipe works very well for us.  You will often see DIY recipes online that include soaps such as fels-naptha or ivory grated up into it, but those really aren’t necessary. In fact, in my research for cost-effective cloth-diaper-safe detergents, I found that soaps like these can actually cause build-up, so I left soap out altogether.  Your clothes still get clean, trust me!  It may not suds up while in your washer (which is a good thing for an HE washer like mine) but it’s doing the trick. 

Soaps are nice for their scents if you like that, but if you have a baby like mine or family member with sensitive skin, you want an unscented option anyway. I may like figuring out how to do things, but I won’t lie; I’m lazy sometimes too and don’t mind skipping the bar-soap grating step!  See those two boxes pictured on my washer?  That’s all that’s in it! (Did you know both Borax and Washing Soda are ingredients in Bum Genius’s official cloth diaper detergent?  That’s how I knew they were cloth-diaper safe before I tested them myself.)  Just measure out a 50/50 ratio of Borax and Washing Soda (NOT baking soda!!!).  I store mine in an ice cream tub with a TBSP scoop.  For my HE washer dirty diaper laundry I use 2 TBSP in the detergent dispenser (hot wash, presoak, heavy duty, extra rinse).  They’ve always come out clean and odorless.  I use this detergent on my regular laundry too, works great with hot or cold, but a normal load only requires 1 TBSP of the powder mix; the bigger the load, the more heaping the scoopful.  Easy peasy.  

Some have questioned the safety of borax but I did research beforehand and have no qualms about using it.  Borax is only harmful when ingested into your body in large quantities or inhaled in large quantities (so don’t go huffing it in while you mix the stuff together; if you’re worried wear a cleaning mask).  You will not be ingesting this, and it will be washed out of your clothes in your washer.  But to each his own; if it’s not your thing, there are other natural options like soap nuts.

So the cost breakdown since I don’t use a bar of soap is less than 5 cents per scoop. I like the sound of that, don’t you?!  You can use this to make a paste to spot-treat, but I still have some spray ‘n wash from my couponing spree 3 years ago…refill lasts forever.  Follow the box instructions for either the washing soda or borax to get an idea of how versatile this stuff is!

ON TO THE DRYER!
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Another side-effect of cloth-diaper research before we had our baby was that I found out dryer sheets can cause buildup not only on clothing (especially harmful for diapers you want to be absorbent) but on your dryer itself.  So if I was going to cloth-diaper, I decided I’d better give up drier sheets altogether.  (BTW, I never knew before nor paid attention to the labels on sports-wear that you’re not supposed to use dryer sheets/fabric softeners on those either.)  Oh yeah, and dryer sheets are expensive, even if you have a coupon.  (I’d read about and tried the frugal DIY “drier sheets” using sponges dipped in Downy fabric softener, etc, but again…the cost was no longer the only issue here).

Then I read about dryer balls made out of wool.  Try to buy them and you could be out up to $8 or more per dryer ball.  *cough* Whaaa?!!!  Yeah.  I was not gonna pay that, so I found out how to make them myself.  Some people buy skeins of wool yarn but that’s expensive, too, or you could just go sheer a sheep if you have one, or maybe you have wool lying around in a pile at your house.  I happened to have a Norwegian 100% sheepswool sweater that I paid $1 for intending to swipe the fasteners from it.  It really was a pretty thing overall, but waaaay too shapeless and bulky for me.  So I sacrificed it and made about 10 drier balls out of it.  You only need 3 or so soft-ball sized drier balls to make a difference, but I find 6 is about right for fluffing up and reducing drying time (thus energy cost) when I do a heavy load of diapers.  My former drying time before using drier balls was about 1 hr. and now it’s only 40 min. or so.  We really don’t get static even in the winter (mind you, I hang things like sporty yoga pants so they last longer and fleecy stuff to dry, and those are usually static culprits if you do dry them).  If you like fluffy-bunny-soft towels, you may not like drier balls rather than drier sheets and softeners, but remember those are only soft because they are putting chemicals on the towels and your body.

So the how-to…

1.  Grab your 100% wool sweater or blanket to upcycle into drier balls, and cut it (assuming it’s at least a size medium) into at least 6 even pieces about that you could wrap around a softball with extra overlapping.    Or simply chop the arms likewise like you’re stuffing a sausage, and use the remaining parts  of the sweater (which you can put drops of essential oils like lavender in if you want) to stuff into the pieces in softball sized and shaped wads that you then sew closed by hand, with the raw edges tucked inside.  Don’t worry too much about tight stitches or beauty…the next steps will ensure the dryer balls will not unravel.  

2.  Hopefully you were able to get them to look fairly uniform, but if not, no worries.  Stick them in the leg of an old pair of pantyhose (or you can get those 33cent “eggs” with knee-high stockings in them from Walmart) and tie a knot in between each ball. This will ensure a tight smooth exterior when you felt them next. (This simply means shrinking them so they will no longer unravel even if they were cut)

3. Throw the panty-hose “strand” in your washer on hot with some detergent, then send them through the dryer on the hottest setting to further shrink and dry them.  You can do this a few times until you feel they are firm enough and unlikely to unravel.  

4.  Cut off the stocking, then leave them in your dryer (or let your baby…or cat…play with them.  hmm, should’ve put a jingle bell inside some while I was making them!) You can disperse them evenly throughout your wet clothes when you dry each load, but I never have and they bounce about just fine.  They may be a little noisy bouncing inside the dryer but that’s normal and not a problem unless you think it is.  

Enjoy!

 

  

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, DIY, Quick Project

Turning those DIY Ideas into Action!

I often get online to quickly find a way to do something I think should be possible but don’t have the complete knowledge of how on my own.  That’s kind of the point, in my opinion, of blogging posts that include recipes or photos of a process and finished product…this isn’t a bragging forum for me. (Granted, we all feel good when we set our minds out to do something and it works out and we just want to share our excitement.)  If someone wants to find a variety of sources in researching ideas, they may be interested in hearing from an average Jane like me who tried something out before they take the effort to do something for themselves.  How many of you have tried a pinterest pin that didn’t work out and were irked that so many kept-repinning because it looked cool but hadn’t tried it out?  

So here’s my two cents on the following DIY recipe: Image  

Dry Shampoo Recipe for brunettes and redheads: 
Maybe you’ve heard of people using baby powder or cornstarch or baking soda sprinkled in their hair and brushed out as a form of dry shampoo.  I have used the baby powder option for a few years when I don’t feel like washing my oily hair which usually looks greasy every morning. Ok, let me rephrase that…when I don’t have the option of washing my hair because the kid is in melt-down mode, lightning-fast to get into trouble while in the bathroom with me if I tried to shower, or I just really really really needed more sleep that morning (and still probably didn’t get enough). However, I just don’t like the clumping of white on my scalp I have to rub out with a washcloth or baby-powder scent that results.  So the idea of a dry shampoo that doesn’t cost a fortune and is readily available to me per my cabinet was quite appealing.  I saw a recipe online of cornstarch/arrowroot powder (plus a smidge of baking powder if desired) for blondes, then was glad to also have the suggestion of one for brunettes, which added cocoa powder.  (For a costume party once I tried adding cocoa powder to mousse for darkening my strawberry blonde hair…total fail with brown dust flaking off my head…I washed it and went natural again.  Anyhow, the goal here this time wasn’t to darken my hair temporarily, but to match the color of my hair when I need an extension in the time in-between washes).  

I didn’t actually see the recipe I wanted for making it work for redheads (could have possibly been out there but I just didn’t find it as I have limited online-time with a toddler vying for my constant attention; I am taking a break typing this during naptime).  I found one recipe that used paprika…which I think smells funny, but some who commented on the arrow-root cocoa-powder recipe blog post wondered if cinnamon powder (very finely ground) would work.  The author (since this recipe and concept weren’t  original nor limited to the person, I don’t feel I need to name names but just know I didn’t think this one up) also suggested using a little spice jar with the sprinkle tops to store and apply.  My son plays with old spice containers since he loves to mimic me cooking, so luckily I had one of the pumpkin pie-spice little shakers to swipe from his stash….Unfortunately, haven’t found the cap to seal it, which I recommend doing: sealing so it doesn’t absorb moisture, especially if you store yours in your bathroom cabinet like I do.  Of course I wanted to test out the cinnamon coloring idea for myself. So here’s what I did.

Dry Shampoo for Strawberry Blondes 
I really don’t follow recipes exactly and everyone has different shades of hair, so why give measurements?  I just did it this way for my recipe; add more or less of anything as you like to achieve the color you need:

 
Fill small spice bottle almost 1/2 full of arrowroot powder, then the other 1/4ths with cocoa powder and cinnamon powder, topping off the container with some baking soda if you want.  Some find the last ingredient irritating so you can leave it out.  There is a recipe floating on the web that uses mainly baking soda, but I find that way too gritty.  

Again, you can use cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder, but I liked the idea of arrowroot having soothing, antibacterial properties.  A frugal way to purchase arrowroot powder, since if you’ve noticed in the spice aisle of your grocery store it’s pretty pricey in the little spice bottle, is to buy arrowroot flour in larger amounts instead–it’s the same thing!! (check the gluten-free baking area of the store, or order online in bulk like I did—I just got a lb. for $6 since I planned to use it in homemade diaper cream and other body products).

 I’m here to say having tested it out several times the last few weeks to say I’m decently pleased with the result.  I would recommend applying over your sink BEFORE getting dressed for the day, brushing it through your hair, then flipping your head down, grabbing the ends of your hair, and shaking the excess out after it’s done its oil-absorbing wonders on your hair.
 
I have bangs so that part of my hair and the front sides get the greasiest, so that’s really only where I need to sprinkle the stuff, plus maybe at the nape of my neck.  Here’s the didn’t-wash my-hair-today, dry-shampoo result for my fine (and kinda thin) hair:
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No more stringy, greasy strands!

Aaand, here’s a pic showing my hair 3 days without a wash, just having used the dry shampoo. Pretty freeing stuff to a person who is used to showering every morning!
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Posted in Day in the life of a mom, Ponderings about life

A Mom’s Look at the Philosophy of Innate Goodness of Children

Oh, Pinterest.  How you distract us.  We, especially us moms,  have better things to do than be online coming up with more stuff we “need” to do or read. 😉  But how fun you can be.  And I wonder how greatly you may contribute to my ADD. 

Lately I’ve been finding “inspiring” pins about being a stay-at-home-mom or parenting in general and have been reading them in my spare time (hah…hah…*sigh.*  Feel free to read that as “time I should have spent sleeping”).  One particular pin led me to see an affiliate link that was about parenting education which enumerated the belief system of those who would fit well with the program.  The primary tenet said something to the effect of, “This system will work well for you if you believe children are inherently good.”  Then there was a paragraph written about how wonderful children are and that they simply require nurturing guidance to go on their own natural path to a positive future.  I agree kids are wonderful with great potential.  But I laughed out loud reading the words “children are inherently good.”  All I could think was, “Does this person actually have a kid?”  

Ok, maybe I was thinking, “This person should spend a day with my kid.”  Let me tell you about my kid.  I adore him and can’t imagine not being his mommy.  In the 1.5 years he’s been the star of our show (actually, he started monopolizing our attention even before he was born, making his presence known since taking over my body for 9 months…technically more if you count breastfeeding, etc…) we have not gone more than a few minutes without thinking of him even if we were out on a date (which is rare).  There are thousands of pictures and countless videos we’ve taken of him.  I have a journal describing his milestones, funny and memorable moments, new words he says, and on and on.  I told my husband before we got married that if we were to have kids, I would never work outside the home because I wanted to stay at home with them, and I do not regret that decision one bit no matter how worn out I feel sometimes.  I think I would cry all day long if I had to leave my son every workday for even a few hours!  I’m pretty sure friends and family get sick of hearing about the things I think are cute that he did today and think I am incapable of conversing about anything besides him anymore.

He’s just so great! He is an affectionate, cuddly sweetheart who loves to give his little buddies hugs.  He is empathetic and recently went up to his daddy when my hubby injured his wrist crawling around the floor chasing after the kiddo and Lil Bambino, with a very concerned look on his face, said “Owie?” and tried to fix it. He loves to laugh and makes so many people smile and comment on what a well-behaved toddler he is while we’re out shopping.

 But as much as we adore our little one, we KNOW he is not inherently good.  He wants HIS way, or ain’t nobody gonna be having a good day!!  He almost knocked one of my teeth out the other day, bashing a Corelle mug in my face while throwing a tantrum when I wouldn’t give him a refill of the “hot” drink he wanted since it was sugary and just a treat.  Impulse control in kids this age is really, really underdeveloped. You see their feelings translate into actions right away.  Selfish actions.  Ugly actions.  I told my son yesterday that he could not hit or bite people in anger and he turned around and proceeded to scrape the wall with an open mouth so his teeth left a mark in the wallpaper.  (We rent.  Hooray.  Hope it’s not noticeable!)  He also tends to throw things when he’s upset.  He becomes so angry at times that he balls his hands up in fists of rage and shakes, turning red and wailing at the tops of his lungs, usually because we have taken away something that might harm him.  We are mean, mean parents not to let him play with sharp objects!  We should let him eat the yummy diaper cream!  We should let him color anywhere he wants to even if it’s on the walls of property that we do not own! Often I am in tears at the end of the day because he was throwing fit after fit when all I wanted to do was feed him something healthy, change his dirty diapers, and love on him.

Is he wonderful?  I think so.  But I do not think he, nor any child, is inherently good.  And I know myself, that I am not inherently good, and that when I was a child–and a pretty nice kid, too!–I was not innately altruistic.  No, I wanted the biggest cookie with the most chocolate chips, and despised my brother for swiping it first! I even fibbed a time or two and as much as I loved animals, chased my cat with a vacuum once.  I got spanked a few times for good reason (and no, it didn’t squelch my personality or scar me for life.  I knew my parents loved me and disciplined me for my best interest.)

I suppose the whole idea of innate goodness goes back to even before Aristotle, but he’s one of the earliest who wrote about the concept of the mind being a tabula rasa, or blank/clean slate.  Newborn Bambino Mio, I can tell you, was not a blank slate.  We did not impress upon him how to think or behave as an infant.  He still has the same cry of anger as he came with. It looks like this:Image 

 Except now he has more teeth than that, and they hurt when they go into my leg or arm.  He did not get aggressive behaviors from daycare because he doesn’t go to daycare, nor from older siblings because he’s an only child for a few more months.  I never taught him to bite when frustrated, to steal his friend’s toy, to hide while doing something he knows Mommy wouldn’t like, or to sneak as fast as he can onto the table now that he can climb to get Mommy’s cell-phone or whatnot he wants and she wouldn’t give him earlier.  That, my friends, is human nature.  Pre-existing selfishness.  What the Bible calls a sin nature.  And the beauty of it is that in my sinful, selfish little boy’s eyes, I see a reflection of my own tendencies and shortcomings, my own stubbornness and impatience, and I am amazed at how my Heavenly Father never stops loving me no matter how many tantrums I throw.  But I get it.  Because I will never stop loving my son.  He needs my love and unconditional acceptance, just like I need God’s to feel whole.  I’m so thankful for being able to experience the intensity of parental love for my child, and understanding more deeply the love of God for us through that.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stocked Up

Here’s the basic chicken stock recipe I was inspired to make by Ellen Brown’s $3 Meals , except I used what I had and put it all into a 5 quart crockpot overnight on low.  A lot of recipes I see and want to make call for chicken broth/stock or bouillon cubes.  In a pinch I have used and grew up using bouillon cubes, but looking at the store lately as I’ve gotten into the habit of reading the ingredients on the labels, I noticed almost every single brand uses MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which can cause headaches and illness in some people, etc.  Some products will have this ingredient and just label it as “other seasonings” or “other spices” or something vague like that.  If not every ingredient is openly named, I am wary of buying the product.  But in any case, I enjoy making my own stuff and saving money doing so.  I like being somewhat self-reliant.  I figure if a food is on the shelf at the supermarket, it’s there because once upon a time somebody had made it at home and enough people wanted it that it ended up on a production line and in the supermarket; so there’s a way to do it homemade again!  Chicken stock is one of the simpler DIY ingredients in a lot of things, and you can easily freeze it (I’m not brave enough for canning stuff yet).  Even though those boxes or cans of chicken broth are sooo tempting as shortcuts, they can be pricey and are not as healthy as fresh.

5ish lbs skin-on bone-in chicken thighs… and any other chicken bones I had saved in the freezer for making stock (only about from 5 thighs from last time making stock) as well as a ham bone that I’d already used once in a ham and bean slow-cooker soup.
1+ cup chopped celery (I love how fast chopping celery goes in my food processor!  I do carrots and onions at the same time, too)
1+ cup chopped carrots
1+ cup chopped onions
2 Tbsp minced garlic 
(one of the few things I buy pre-prepared in a jar since I can find it at the Dollar Tree store!)
2 Tbsp parsley, dried
3/4 tsp thyme 
(I used less than most recipes because my hubby doesn’t love this herb)
1 1/2 tsp crushed bay leaves or 2 whole
1 tsp black pepper
sea salt
aaaand next time I will add some sage, up to 1 tsp I think.  This needed a little more oomph.
top off with Water to about 1 or 1/2 inch from the crockpot lid
(makes about 4 qt of stock that I freeze, and I get about 2+ cups of cooked shredded chicken for enchiladas or whatever else).

I was happy with how thick this turned out, simply with the addition of a few more soup bones.  So each time I make stock, I let the crockpot cool in the fridge overnight (or longer since I never seem to get to things right away) and then scoop off the saturated layer of fat on top to discard, as well as the chicken skin and icky stuff, but saving the bones in a freezer baggie for next batch of chicken stock.

A good rule of thumb is to use this up from your refrigerator within a week and a half, or freezer within 3 months (I use it up way faster than that!!  It’s winter–i.e. soup season!)

My favorite quick go-to meal using chicken stock/broth is egg-drop “hot” ‘n sour soup with noodles in it (basically egg-drop soup with soy sauce, worcestershire sauce added to it), .  My little one even likes it if I thicken it enough for him to spoon up into his mouth easily, or if I help him drink it from a little mug.  

Today I used 3 cups of it for the above and 3 cups for 2 chicken pot pies.  “Instant” flavor as a base for whatever I want to make with it.
What would I do without my crockpots?  Best $5 (for 1 qt size) and $19 (Aldi sale–5 qt) I ever spent.  Crockpots and slowcookers only take up the amount of energy as a 60 watt light bulb I read once.  How cool!