Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Peasy Homemade Laundry Detergent...and it works!!!

Last month I rolled up the ol' sleeves and set out to make a batch of my very own laundry soap. Boys get dirty, especially sliding-into-first kinds of boys. Girls get dirty, too. And dogs are gross. I mean, messy. Plus, I've been on a personal mission to simplify, be more self-sufficient, and be more aware and vigilant about the things that we put on our skin and in our bodies.

There are so many great resources online, and I pulled my ideas from lots of terrific blogs and other sites. The only real criterion I had was this: it had to be simple. As in, I wanted to dump the ingredients in and voila!, there would be the finished product. No cooking, boiling, finding pH balances, or any other overly laborious task.

{I figured I should include a picture of the ingredients, but obviously not until after I'd started in on that Fels-Naptha bar...oops!}

Almost every recipe I found called for 1 cup each of BORAX and WASHING SODA. Next, you choose the cleansing agent, or soap. With boys and a dirt-hungry gal, I knew I needed something with a little kick to actually clean our clothes, and since I had just swiped borrowed my Mom's Fels-Naptha bar, I decided to try that.

I had read about the challenges associated with grating Ivory soap by hand, so I had Big Bertha on hand just in case. 
 Big Bertha, say hello to everyone. Everyone, Big Bertha.

As it turned out, I didn't need her. Sorry, Bertha. The Fels-Naptha bar grated so smooth and powder-fine on the smallest grater "holes," it was perfect for use just as it was. I stopped at about 1/3 of the bar since it's a big one, figuring I'd used enough (translated, my arm was tired) and mixed everything together with a big spoon. I really liked the scent, but then got to thinking, and decided to add a dash of Ivory soap for good measure. 

And, well, yup...that didn't grate so smoothly.

 No big deal. It probably only totaled a tablespoon or two, but it did add such a nice fresh scent, so it was a win-win. (By the way, our clothes smell like heaven after they've hung out on the line all afternoon. Who doesn't want heaven-y smelling clothes?)

I didn't have a covered container to spare, but I think this looks even nicer, especially since it sits on the windowsill near my laundry closet. I was a bit worried that the powder might clump in the open air, but it has been over a month now, and it's still perfect. I use a heaping spoonful with this old camping spoon for each regular load, a tad extra for baseball uniforms and such.  =)
                      Here's another helpful hint for front loading machines: when using powder of any kind, start the wash with the warm or hot water setting and on the longest or heaviest load setting, so it begins to spin immediately. I find this helps to dissolve the powder better so, in turn, it works better to clean your clothes. If I'm doing a regular load, I adjust the settings back to cold water and regular wash after about 15-20 seconds. I almost always wash and rinse in cold water, and starting off each load this way really helps boost the powder's efficiency.

I have noticed two things about this homemade detergent. First, at times traces of deodorant smell linger, like it doesn't completely dissolve the scent. It gets our work-out clothes smelling good, so it does remove body odors well. Second, if the socks are really really soiled, this doesn't get them whiter-than-white by any stretch of the imagination. I think I may beef up the Fels-Naptha for the next batch, or experiment with Oxy-Clean, or even add more Borax to that specific load. If those are my only complaints, I'm still happy.

 While I didn't set out to make my own detergent primarily to save money, I think it really does save in the long run. What matters most to me is knowing exactly what is in the detergent, and ultimately what's spending hours and hours against my family's skin. Plus, it seems to be better for our environment too, and that makes me feel like a good steward of our earth.

To recap, here is the recipe I made:
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1/4 - 1/3 Fels-Naptha bar, finely grated
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons Ivory soap, finely grated

Happy laundering!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day 2012- Family, Fun & Fabulous Food!

Memorial Day 2012
Thank you to all who serve and have served! We are so very grateful for your sacrifices.

We enjoyed a beautiful day- the whole weekend, actually- with our families, and it was just one of those perfect, remember-for-the-rest-of-my-life kind of days. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fun & Easy Summertime Snacks

It has been really hot and humid here this week! Even though school won't be out for a few weeks, I just had to make some of our favorite summery snacks, and of course share them with the world the few awesome people who are reading this.

I've heard this cream cheese & fruit on crackers being referred to as a low-cal cheesecake. Yeah, I'm not buying that. Cheesecake it is not, but they're quick, healthy, and kids love them too. I devour them by the plateful. Not. Even. Kidding.

Use whatever crackers you like best- we love stone ground wheat crackers, Triscuits, and Wheat Thins, but my absolute favorite are Melba Rye crackers...yum! Spread a little whipped cream cheese, and top with fruit. That's it! You're done! They're delicious with any kind of berry.

Next up, we eat lots and lots of these. A good friend of mine let me in on this secret years ago.
Okay, so maybe the sugar all over the chocolate graham crackers isn't ideal if I'm going to pass these off as somewhat healthy, but it sure tastes good!
This recipe is a tad more labor intensive. Are you ready for it?

It also requires a teensy bit of preparedness, as they'll need to be in the freezer for about an hour. 
Okay, roll up your sleeves, because this is gonna be hard. First, line up some graham cracker squares in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate (make sure you've got room in the freezer first!), then add a dollop of regular yogurt in the center of each cracker, not too close to the edges- we use Stonyfield, since it's from NH and all- and gently place the second graham cracker square on top. Don't push hard or you'll make a royal mess. Trust me on this. Wait an hour, and bring outside to enjoy wonderful "frozen yogurt" squares- they are so, so good on a hot afternoon! Pop any leftovers in the freezer, though I can't recall ever doing that before. They're good.  =)

Mix and match different kinds of yogurt and graham crackers for an easy, cool summertime treat. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

My First 5K & an Adorable Graduate...Among Other Things

It seems that no matter how hard I try to keep up with the pace of life right now, I'm always two steps behind. It isn't bad, it's just...BUSY! Last week was Isabelle's preschool graduation ceremony (goodbye preschool, sniff sniff), and while that's fun and wonderful and all that, there are always a million and a half things to do to prepare. And saying goodbye is just plain hard!

We decided ahead of time that this was the perfect excuse reason to yank the guys outta school for a couple of hours. They didn't complain- imagine that?  =)
They really didn't complain when we surprised them with lunch at our favorite Chinese Buffet!

The ceremony was adorable as usual, but I'm so mad at myself for not getting any pictures of Isabelle and me in her cap and gown! Or any of just her in general! I guess I had so much on my mind, and things just kept moving so least I can be thankful for the special ones I got.

I don't know if it's just me, but does this little girl look ecstatic or what? I think she is just beaming!
 She was SO excited!
And a little nervous. Check out the biting of the lip, ha!
Each graduate handed their Mommy a special paper flower as a thank you for all our hard work. I feel the sting in my eyes just thinking back on it. So sweet!

 Family must be my vanity speaking, but every single picture I am in lately just makes me cringe. I hate feeling like that, but everything just looks...blech. I never know I look that awful until I see the proof in the pictures. Terrible. I suppose everyone else's good looks make up for it.

Here is a picture of a very happy Isabelle Kate with her graduation gift: a new quilt set
I've had it in the closet for months and months, and while she didn't need new bedding, it was one of those things that I just loved so much, I knew I'd regret it if I passed it by. I waited so long for a little girl who would have beautiful little girl things! I smile every single time I see it.

Here's a shot of it in daylight- it is soooooo pretty!
Moving along.
Now Thursday, the next day, was the really Cuh-Razy day!
Emotions were at a fever-pitch because Isabelle would be saying goodbye to her beloved teacher, Miss Maria, and we were both feeling the angst. But we had a plan! Phew! Isabelle made Miss M a pretty card and we were going to stop by Dunkin Donuts for a gift card. And since it also happened to be a furry little someone's First birthday, there might have been munchkins involved.
Easy peasy, right?
The first glitch was when my car was stuck halfway out in the road and half in the parking lot because of the traffic...I mean, I literally could not move because of all the cars everywhere! There's a drive-thru that runs straight through the parking lot, but it also cuts off the entrance and exit to the lot, so, yeah, that woke me up a bit.
We finally got the second half of the van inside the lot, and you guessed it- not a single parking spot in sight. Oh wait, except one. The one by the blocked drainage ditch. The river monster-ish-looking one. Well, we were on a time limit, and my plan did not include any of this, so mud puddle or not, I flew into the spot. Sorry cute little pink shoes.  :(   They were troopers though. Of course this spot happened to be next to a truckload of contractors, who were very friendly, but the massive cloud of smoke that surrounded the area just hit me wrong and my throat closed up. I thought I was going to choke as I ran over to the other puddle-less side of the car to get Isabelle, who was very confused, since this was not "her side."
Clock's-a-tickin' and I'm trying to get her, and I completely forgot that the dog was up front. Well, at this point, he blindsided me and jumped out into the parking lot. Thankfully, he had on his leash (he chews it so I usually have to take it off in the car) and I was able to yank him back inside. His little nostrils were in overdrive, sniffing donuts, ha!
We dodged a few cars on our way inside, and the line...yikes! I have never seen a line like that in this little place! Isn't that always the way!?!? The line was pretty quick, but still, even a 5-minute wait when you're trying to hurry seems like an eternity. I ordered up the donut holes and the gift card, and instantly, the girl's eyes got wide as if I was asking for a million dollars or something. The manager was beside her in an instant, and there was a look of dread on his face, too. Apparently, buying gift cards was locking up the computer system, as in total freeze, and they wouldn't even try. I can't say I blamed them with the massive line behind me, but, C'mon people! Really? They apologized, and I knew that was all they could do.
Plan B involved driving across town, ordering our huge order of 4 donut holes and the gift card, singing Happy Birthday to Ryder in the car, devouring those little goodies, and getting to school a few minutes late. We took a deep breath and gave Miss Maria her things and a big hug, and I said goodbye- my Mom was picking Isabelle up that day, so I was officially FREE until 2:15!

Maybe I should break this up into 2 posts. Nah!
There really was nothing eventful at all about my day, and it was wonderful! I finished up some Etsy orders (yay!) and worked on some other projects, lingered outside in the sunshine, basically just puttered around in the quiet. It was heavenly! And then the frenzy returned.
We knew we needed to eat early in order to meet up at church for the Rock 'N Race cancer walk, but things always get in the way, so we just kept getting farther and father behind. I had made a Jell-o Poke Cake for Ryder's birthday, but we didn't have enough time to eat it, so everyone just got a bite (literally) and I promised that we'd finish after the walk. 
We met up with our friends, and when we headed down to the main event, my heart started pounding- there were SO many people! It was awesome, but...there were so many people! I was a little nervous about someone getting lost. I was also a little bummed because I'd been wanting to run this race, but my foot issues have been resurfacing, and I haven't been running since February. I figured it would be a leisurely, family 5K walk through town, and it would be great!
Well...Ethan saw some friends who were running and asked if he could run with them. The excitement in the air was palpable, and we just couldn't say no. Next up, Jonah asks if he can run. Hmmm. Right at this time, Bill's parents and sister showed up, my own adrenaline kicked in, and a new plan began evolving. Before I knew what had happened, Jonah, Bill, Ethan (and his pals) and I were lined up with the thousands of other runners, raring to go! Let me just tell you other ladies out there, it was exactly at this moment I realized that I was not exactly appropriately dressed for an activity such as running. I mean, I didn't want black eyes after all. And it wasn't until twenty minutes in that I realized a good puff or two on my inhaler would've done wonders for me. But even still, I did it. I made it! We think my time was around 43 minutes, which of course is horrendous, but I finished! Bill kept telling me he was proud of me, but that still made me feel like kind of a loser, I don't know why. Maybe because in my mind, I want to have done so much better. (He and Jonah finished ahead of me after I told them they didn't have to keep waiting for me, ha.) Yet I felt really good when Ethan told me that I impressed him. Go figure! Anyhoo, I was so proud of both Ethan and Jonah for running, and Caleb and Isabelle for walking that entire 5K with Bill's family! It felt so wonderful to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

All my pictures are on my phone. Well, the before pictures. As if I could even lift my arm afterwards!

And then we rushed home for Ryder's birthday cake, but it was so late and everyone had to take showers, we just couldn't enjoy his little party. So we'd do it the night night without having to rush.

I was relieved Ryder didn't try to eat the candles!
{Yummy Poke Cake}

I am happy to report that I could still walk the day after the race. The day after that...whoa! My quads are still sore! It takes me two years to make it up and down the stairs, and good grief, before I sit down somewhere I'd better be sure that's where I plan to stay for a while because getting up HURTS! I want to start running again as soon as I can- next year I'm going to clear 30 minutes!

 Here is a sneak peak of the projects I was working on:

I just love the little nightie on the left, and I'm planning a tutorial for the adorable dress soon.
Oh, I almost forgot...Caleb had a school concert last week, too- he did such a great job!

So serious, but he sings his little heart out! I love that!

And just so I can make this even longer, I'll throw in this adorable picture of Sneakers the cat. It was the first sunny morning we'd had in about a week, and he was taking full advantage. Well, of that, and of children who don't put their toys away, but I didn't mind just this once.

See that laundry detergent back there? I'd been saving the last little bit for the boy's baseball pants, in case my homemade stuff didn't do the trick. And it's just sat there- I haven't needed it at all! I'll have to share the recipe someday- it's great, very easy to make, and it smells wonderful!

Happy Monday! I've got to go tend to two sickies.  =(

FYI: Karen over at Sew Many Ways has just done a fantastic tutorial on adding a custom signature to your posts, and it's really easy...go check it out here! Thanks Karen!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garden Blooms, Great Gram & Fondue-ing with the Bachelorette

I can't believe our little Isabelle Kate graduates with her preschool class tomorrow morning!
She's very, very excited! And she still has nightmares about last year- oh, what a sad day that was!

All this rain has kicked our flower gardens into high gear already, and I've already filled more than half a dozen vases and jam jars with beautiful blooms. We made a quick stop by the "pink castle" to visit Great Gram this morning with a special bouquet.

I hope we made her day a little brighter. My grandmother is one of the kindest, most generous people I've ever known, just like my Dad.

Isabelle was concentrating so hard on keeping the water from spilling onto Gram, and my sweet grandmother oohed and ahh-ed over her special flowers. She was sniffing them here, so cute.

I just love cutting flowers from around our yard and giving them to people. I think it's one of my most favorite things in the whole world. This simple bouquet reminded me of the one the boys and I brought to my Auntie Brenda a few months before she died in 2006- she always told me how much she loved "real flowers" (as opposed to store-bought ones) and made a big fuss every time we brought her some. Boy do I miss her!

Last night I hosted a little get together with some good friends to... judge and/or pick on   watch the men vying for Bachelorette Emily's attention. Such an awkward phenomenon! I wouldn't do that for a million dollars! Of course, as any good wife should do, I was quick to point out that my man makes all those other dudes look more like duds. Yes I did. There were witnesses!

What's a party without food?

And more flowers, of course! Weird light, but they looked so pretty in person!

And...oops...I never got a picture of my friends! You know, for proof.  =)
I decided it was finally time to do something with my poor mantel. Nothing major, just some candles and simple flowers, but I really like it! Now if only I can keep the cats from jumping up there and nibbling the ferns...

See those wooden candle holders? Ethan made those for me for Mother's Day with my Dad- they are AWESOME! I was so touched by his thoughtfulness in working on those ahead of time for me.  Each of my children did something personal and special for me- I am so, so blessed!

 I am so in love with teeny tiny vases and pitchers! Aren't they so pretty?

We're off to a school concert, where Caleb has just informed us that he is singing a solo. Ah, boys. They make so much noise, yet they keep so much quiet at the same time. Go figure!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Celebrating Moms

I was spoiled by my family, as every mother should be!
Bill planned a special evening for us the night before, to start things off right. It worked.  =)
There may have been mood lighting, candles, sushi, a flick featuring a certain cool-skinned, pale-faced lad, and my favorite- peanut M&Ms, which were inhaled in 3.1 seconds flat. 
The next morning was filled with sunshine, French Toast and Blueberry Cobbler coffee. Perfect.

Of course, right at this very minute-literally- I am barking for everyone to just Get. Out. Of. My. House.
NOW. Today has been a long day. Letting out a long sigh. But the weekend was great!

I've been practicing on my favorite subjects a lot recently. Gotta love that Golden Hour!

We were all at a baseball game, and there was a carousel-thing in the playground area- I thought they'd been all but banned around here! What fun!

I had to look away because my stomach was in knots and my head getting too whirly.
And this is what I find.


Meanwhile, I was watching this guy hustle to first
It was...
 ...a CLOSE one!
 SAFE! Go Jonah!

Caleb's turn!

And these two are at it. Again!

 Nice sweat stains on the hat, huh? Ew. Boys are gross.
And they like to wrestle. A lot.

We enjoyed a backyard feast with my Mom and Dad.
Mom, I love you.
And I totally get it now.
Oh, and I'm so, so sorry!  =)
Being a good Mom is such hard work! I have a great Mom!

Won't be showing off this photo to the orthodontist!

We tried to get together with Bill's family, too, but nothing worked out right. Next weekend!
We did get to celebrate with Bill's sister Kristen, and her husband Rory, as they dedicated beautiful Naomi to the Lord at church.

We had some in-between time so we walked around our city's Main Street. Everything looked so pretty!
 My boys. Oh, they climb, too. Everything.

On the lookout for more knolls hiding in the big metal tree.
I did the same thing when I was little.

 You can watch the gears and the pendulum on this ginormous clock downtown- it's so neat!

I'm so thankful for the privilege of being called Mommy. And I'm so grateful for my mother, my mother-in-law, and my grandmothers!
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