Posted in DIY, Quick Project, saving money, Uncategorized

Old Vanity = New Window Seat!

We are remodeling our master bathroom and while I enjoy doing things the frugal way, I didn’t have the energy to paint or refinish the old vanity.  But then I had a hard time just taking it to the Re-store or tossing it away.  So I told my dad what I was thinking of for our living room: a storage window bench.  Dad is a can-do guy and can build basically anything Mom and I envision.  He used a circular saw to cut off the base sides and kick-board as well as the top drawer area, making it bench height.  Then he sawed the back 5 inches off to make it a narrower length from front to back; then we reattached a back.  We had a sturdy scrap of plywood for the top, which we glued and screwed on, and to which I upholstered this heavyweight fabric over an old blanket and batting.  It’s a great stash for the kids’ books and toys in baskets I found at Aldi.  (But the kids just want to hide inside it.)IMG_2415IMG_2416

*Update: We have moved states since this project, and it held up well and is now used as a shoe storage location near our exit for a tidy solution to kids’ shoes.  I simply put a two-tier shoe shelf inside.  I also keep a little hand broom and dustpan inside in case they track sand inside for quick cleanup.

Posted in Day in the life of a mom, DIY, Mental Health, Ponderings about life, Quick Project

Postpartum resolution?

I’ve been thinking of writing this post for a while.  I’ve been hopeful but hesitant to say “I’m over it.”  The postpartum days of no energy.  No enthusiasm.  No respite from anxiety, frustration, irritation, random and intense anger at minor things, and feelings of isolation and panic.  But spring has sprung and with it, my excitement and zest for life.  As the freezing weather’s ice and snow melt into memory, I am feeling a renewed vitality.  Thank God that though suffering endures for a season, joy comes in the proverbial morning.

(BTW, Psalm 4 was a true comfort when things really stunk. Praying this scripture for myself was encouraging for many reasons.  It talks about God hearing our pleas and giving relief from our distress.  In verse 8 it says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  While dealing with insomnia and intense fear and worry over something possibly happening to the kids or hubby or myself, this prayer was awesome.  Verses 6-7 talk about God being the one who can show us good, and that he can fill hearts with great joy.  What hope that was for me!  My desire this year is to better understand and know that God-given joy.)

Does this mean I don’t have bad days?  Oh, those still come occasionally.  Usually after low sleep or an emotional bump in the road (like disagreeing with my hubby, discouraging attacks from “friends” emboldened by the distance social media provides, and others’ struggles I don’t know how to distance myself from).  But they are far less frequent and feel more survivable.  Sissy is 10 months old, has 6 teeth, has been crawling for a while and the other day even stood up wobbily.  (I think wobbily should be a word, even if spell check disagrees.)

One thing lately that I’ve found renewed interest in is exercise.  There’s a 90-day fitness challenge Youtube series I’m  doing (sort of…no pressure) that’s designed for moms (so that means kids might be around while you’re working out, and workouts are short and sweet though still challenging).  I decided my munching had gotten out of control when I had to go back up a pants size.  I am less fit now than 3 months postpartum (I had a wedding to be in that had motivated me then)!  Some of the extra muffin-topping might have to do with either using food as a comfort when I’m frustrated with the kids (rather than blowing up) or with the fact that I’m not worrying as much.  Anyhow, the other day I asked Hubby if he’d come home for lunch two days a week so I could do a quick jog around the block without the kids as Sissy napped and my little fireman either ate lunch or watched a show.  So thankful Hubs agreed!  But also…so very sore as a result.

Another thing that has gotten me all excited about life again are all the creative opportunities out there.  The spring displays in the stores, especially bulbs and plants and gardening stuff (even though I don’t really garden at this point in my life), spark a lot of daydreaming as I grocery shop. 🙂  The sprouting bulbs and other flower shoots in my yard got me itching to get dirt under my nails.  While the kids played nearby, either blowing bubbles or discovering sticks to gnaw on (ok, so I didn’t have an eye on Sissy every single second), I got my little shovel down in the soggy soil and scooped up stray plants. Here are the results of my recent spring-spiration (hmmm…not sure if that word works…what do you think?  Spring+inspiration?) :
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I’m not entirely sure I will keep the wreath that way, but after my winter leaves and berries dried up and I took them off, I didn’t want to pitch the wreath I had covered in moss from my yard.

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I don’t remember what kind of little bulb this was last year, but I didn’t want it to get mowed over this year so I rescued it from the random spots in the yard. (As an aside, isn’t the play set my dad built the kids from scratch and discarded playground pieces like the slide and see-saw-type swing, plus water-barrel-turned-tunnel AWESOME?! Big bro is enjoying what he calls his “fireman ladder” a lot lately.)

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This last one I did today with an assortment of yardage (or so I call it), but it’s kind of sad looking.  I’m hoping it perks up but until then, I have make-shift plant stakes (see the brown-twiggy things?  That’s the leftover stems and stake for artificial flowers.  Organic-looking yet keeps my wilty bulbs propped up. 🙂  I feel smaht for coming up with that one!)

I like moss, so it is usually featured in the outdoor projects I do. 🙂

Lots of rain lately.  I kind of like rainy days, but mostly when they are separated by lovely warmish days we get to go outside during.  Soon, I’d like to turn a mint green sink my friend passed on to me into an herb garden planter.  Rather keen on that idea.  Just need a good chunk of time.  Maybe this weekend?!

Friends have been having babies and I’ve been doing nap-time sewing projects for gifts.  That’s always fun.  My favorite gifts are the ones that don’t take very long but the babies love, which are the taggy jingle or rattle toys (probably would also make a good cat toy if stuffed with catnip. haha)  Another quick project are these binkie clips.  Sissy’s not a binkie baby but Big bro sure was, and I found these quite necessary for outings, or boy would we be in for it!
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A friend took me to a fabric store in town I’d never been to.  Sensory overload!  Everything was way over my price range (I don’t want to pay more than $4/yard if I must buy fabric new), but I was very inspired.  I have some fabric projects in my think tank now, including a dress for the little miss.

I made vanilla again recently, too. Also bought some soap-making supplies.  Soap-making has always sounded like too much work, but I would truly enjoy learning how to do it now that I’m building my essential oil collection after learning to make chap-stick last year.  Got back into cloth-diapering (it’s day 2.  No promises) after feeling like I’m not so overwhelmed with everything.

I’m optimistic about what the future holds.  Even if there are potholes in the road ahead, it’s good to be excited about traveling down it again.

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 Quick Project


A friend had a microwave cart that needed some lovin’.  I’ve always loved doing makeovers, and I couldn’t resist this time, even though I should have been packing.  (There might be theme going, here.  “Packing Procrastination” or something.)   The cart used to have some doors on it, but the magnetic latch parts were still there.  BabyHandyMan helped remove them so they were no longer distracting to the eye.  Then I took a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to the top and removed most all of the stains (except some barely noticeable marker (?) coloring) and tape and brightened the whole thing up.  Oooo.  Aaaaand then I noticed it also removed the wood-shine and made it look sunbleached.  Oops.  Magic Eraser worked a little too well.  So I wiped over it all with vinegar to remove any extra stuff and rubbed in some baby oil.  Tadah!!!  Lookin’ new again!

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