Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!


For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Isaiah 9:6

May you have a very blessed Christmas Season.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Watching and Waiting

 
I will take my stand at my watchpost
   and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
   and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

Habakkuk 2:1

Have a Blessed Advent, Bootcampers.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Bootcamp Day!

The long-awaited day has finally come.
No more wondering what I'm talking about...you can read it for yourself.

Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers is now available for purchase in paper or digital forms!







Hop on over to Lulu and get your copy today!

And as a special Christmas gift to you, Bootcampers, enter the code HUMBUG when you check out at Lulu.com and receive 10% off your entire order when you buy my book! The offer is good through Dec. 30, so stock your stocking and get your act together for the New Year!









Buy the book! Read the book! Then get to work!!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

The Right to Dry

Here in Kansas, we're enjoying the last few days of a glorious "Indian Summer" after a very chilly, rainy October, and I'm so very glad to have the opportunity to use my laundry line a few more times before my laundry days become captive to the electric dryer.
Now don't get me wrong -- I know I'm extremely blessed to HAVE a dryer and the choice to use it on rainy days, snowy days, night time...really any time I want.
That is a choice that the majority of laundresses the world over don't have.
But just because I OWN a dryer doesn't mean I have to use it exclusively. I love hanging out the laundry - Free light! Free heat! Free air! And a lovely smell and sunlight stain removal to boot.
You might find it interesting then, that the "Right to Dry" is becoming an increasingly public struggle in many communities, even as the awareness of energy usage and environmental stewardship issues also increase. (Soapbox alert!!) Dryers use 10-15% of our nation's domestic energy...and while no one should be FORCED to hang laundry on a line, I don't think anyone should be prohibited from it either, just because a laundry line hung with towels or t-shirts doesn't maintain the upperclass facade many suburban subdivisions desire. Those same celebrities who ask us, "How do you "green your routine"" on prime time TV live in neighborhoods that explicitly prohibit the airing of public laundry. That's not just incongruent...it's wrong.
What about your neighborhood? Are you allowed to peg your pants? If not, you might consider visiting Project Laundry List, a non-profit organization dedicated to "making air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy."
Tell your story, donate your money or time, send in photos of your laundry on the line, and be inspired!
Now, get to work! It's Laundry Day!


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

hums and purrs

We have been adjusting to a more rigorous pace of life this last month - - more children being schooled, lots of gardening and preserving, getting back into the swing of participating in (and teaching) homeschool co-op - and so I have been a somewhat removed from this blog as of late. Mea Culpa!
In my absence, read this excellent bloglet from Large Family Mothering about getting your home - the people and priorities side as well as the material side - in order. I know you'll be inspired!

Enjoy...and then get to work!

The Cart Before the Horse


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Monday, September 21, 2009

Rule of Ten Challenge, Day 5

Today we are continuing with Rule of Ten Challenge! Can you find ten things in your home that you no longer need, use, want...or simply can't find a "home" for?

Here are my ten for Monday:
1 broken heating lamp (we have tree frogs!)
3 unused "Kandoo" wipes boxes
4 empty, somewhat scrunched Kleenex boxes (I admit that once I find a Kleenex box I like, I tend to keep it and refill from those ugly brown-marble designed ones. Three of mine were Christmas designs...I can always buy more at Christmas!)
2 lovely drinking glasses which are eternally, unchangeably stuck, one in the other. They've been sitting on my counter for weeks and weeks, mocking me. Do I really think that TODAY is the day they will come unstuck?

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rule of Ten Challenge, Day 4

Today was a bit of an opposite day: Instead of focusing on what was going out, I had to focus on what was coming in! A new piano - well, new to me. It belonged to my Grandmother, given to her by my Grandfather in 1954. It's beautiful and it even smells like Mammy! (She resides in assisted living now, and doesn't play anymore, though she still loves old music.)

My mother also brought me a beautiful mountain dulcimer, larger than the one I already had. Both instruments were built by my Grandfather, and I'm really enjoying learning to play them.
So, following the 1-for-1 rule, at least TWO things needed to leave my home today!

My ten for Today:
- 3 children's books that were duplicates (kept the nicer copies)
- a huge pile of newspapers into the recycling bin
- a very old pair of running shoes, never worn
- a broken plastic pitcher
- 17 old children's toys, no longer played with. My kiddos helped me choose.
- my glass measuring cup - has NO lines on it anymore. I replaced it with one that DOES have lines. Very helpful to be able to see how much you're actually measuring. ;)

What are your Ten for Today?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Rule of Ten Challenge, Day 3

Today I sorted through my sheet music and found ten items which I no longer use. These went into the Goodwill bag in my car, for drop off!

What are your ten for today?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Rule of Ten Challenge, Day 2

Blessedly, the genetic disease Rattus Packicus seems to have skipped a generation (or two or three) in my family, and I don't suffer from it. I'm not one to hold on to a bunch of stuff just for kicks. My one exception? Greeting cards. For a while there, I thought I would put them in the scrapbook albums...only now that I've gone digital, it's definitely not happening. I won't throw them all away...the first ever card my hubby gave me, the first "Congratulations on being pregnant" for the first baby, some extra special cards from my children....Call me a sentimental schmuck, but I'm keeping them. And there's nothing wrong with that. They simply must stay organized, and in their own home.
However, lately my "schmuckiness" has gotten out of control. So today, I'm recycling nine greeting cards that have overstayed their welcome and are now collecting dust on the piano.
Item number ten? A canning jar with yellow tempera paint...painted shut, and taking up room in my craft cabinet.

What are your ten items for today?

Get to work!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Rule of Ten Challenge, Day 1

Day 1:
Not hard to find 10 things...found multiple "piles" with more than 10 like and unnecessary items together.
Today? 9 Tupperware containers with have no lids, and 12  lids which have no containers.

Total count: 21 items out of my cabinet, out of my kitchen, out of my home. Freedom!


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The Rule of Ten

Is clutter weighing you down? Creating disorder in your home? Then what's keeping you from decluttering the way you should? For so many of us, it feels like a monumental task.
What if, for the next week, you threw away (or recycled) 10 items in your house. Just 10. By the end of one week, 70 things that were in your way - in the way of your work, your goals, your life - are GONE. Forever. As my friend K commented, "Just think! Ten things every day that you won't have to deal with and make decisions about again in the next two, five, 10 or 20 years!!! You're saving so much time in the long run!"

I challenge you to challenge yourself this week: Find 10 things each day that you no longer need and throw them away, give them away, recycle them. Those 10 items MUST leave your home today!
Here's Jessica Gottlieb's original bloglet, for more motivation.
And here are other homemakers who are taking the challenge!

Day one at Paradoxology

Day one at Sodbusters
Day two at Paradoxology
Day three at Paradoxology
Day two and three at Sodbusters


Moreover, I challenge each of YOU to blog about your progress. Leave a comment and I'll post your link. And I'll be posting later about my ten items.  Let's cheer each other on!

Now get to work!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Down for the Count

The Flu: 6; Heidi's House: 1. Today is one of those days that I desperately wish that Walgreen’s sold a H1N1 stick test…pink means swine flu! It would ease the strain that is already on our home, most of us having been down for the count for almost a week now. Do we go to the doctor? Do we ride it out?
Either way, I’ve been unable to work in my home according to my everyday schedule…and that’s okay. Running an orderly home means having a contingency plan in place for sick days, injury days, bad weather days...perhaps an occasional mental health day?

We call this plan FEMA: Family Emergency Management Assessment. Carl-Henric Svanberg, CEO of the telecommunications company Ericsson, once said, “When you have a crisis, the crisis itself becomes one of your biggest assets if that crisis is bad enough. Everyone gets very modest and humble and listens. If you need to do rough things, you do rough things.” Our Family Emergency Management Assessment is the way we “do rough things” in the midst of our temporary trouble.

It’s really quite simple.

First, give thanks. Daily stressors and mini-crises are often the way our Heavenly Father sanctifies us! It is often much too easy to be grateful when everything’s going just so. I believe the Lord gives us difficult times so we will lean on Him and become like Him.

Pick a color. A Green Day means everything is fine and right on schedule. But if one or more of your children are sick, or the van is broken down, or other stressors are present, it may be a Yellow Day. What do you do? I suggest that in addition to the Daily Maintenance Blocks being completed, find the “heart” of each Daily Focus and do that, too. On Laundry Day, do laundry! You may not get to the ironing, the mending, the wiping down of laundry room shelves. No big deal. But get that laundry done (especially if the family sickness is of the gastro-intestinal variety. Eww.) Is it Kitchen Day? You don’t need to deep clean the kitchen, but your family must still eat. Do whatever it takes to get them fed, including planning (and even possibly pre-preparing) meals for the next few days.

To prepare for a Yellow Day, write down 10 essential tasks for that day, in addition to those in that day’s Daily Maintenance Blocks. Then add 10 more “unessentials” that you would love to see completed if time allows. Keep it simple. Fixing a meal for your family is one task. A schedule is a wonderful servant, but if it is guilt-inducing, then you, quite possibly, have become a servant of the schedule.


What about REALLY bad days? We call those Red Days. Those are days when Mom is generally unable to even care well for herself, much less her household. To be prepared for a Red Day, create a list of 10 things - only 10! you need to do each day for your family to function on “autopilot.” Now, create 10 more items beyond the first. This second group of 10 is for those little breaks that may come and allow you to complete more than you anticipated. It may be that you can’t do a single one of them yourself. That’s okay! With the list handy, you can easily delegate those 10 to 20 tasks to your loving husband, children, or outside help from a friend or neighbor.

If you are a family with long-term health issues, and frequently find yourself in “Red Day” status, you might find it very beneficial to have a separate schedule for such days, and maybe even a separate menu (meals that dad or a tween or teenager can prepare easily, for example.)

Remember, each day of the week will have its own Yellow Day and Red Day tasks. Writing down these tasks beforehand will prepare you for unexpected chaos on ANY day of the week.
It will be more work to set up in the beginning, but your family will be blessed by the consistent care and routine, even in times of hardship.

Keeping the FEMA method in mind also gives me a bit of perspective…hey, we moved from Red to Yellow today. Green can’t be far behind!



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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kiss the Son

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.


Psalm 2


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Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Will Not Forget

Psalm 119:9-16

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.


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Friday, August 21, 2009

Swiffer, Take Three

I know, I know. I promise I don't have stock in the Swiffer company! I simply acknowledge that they have created some great products that make keeping our homes orderly. Still, I am not alone in acknowledging the cost these convenient products incur.
Last week Barbara wrote in and said:

"Heidi, i would love a non-sewn Swiffer DUSTER cover! you know, the hand held ones? I LOVE my Swiffer, but yikes! I cannot spend $4 a week or so on a box of tops...any suggestions?"

Barbara, here is a great pattern:




It does require a little sewing, but they are straight stitches. I'm sure if you aren't able to sew it, you could easily recruit someone who could! Consider it a homeschool project for a child near you. :) The great thing about using microfiber cloths is that you can pop it out of the holder and into the washing machine. Whip up a few and you'll never have to buy Swiffer duster tops again! Score!

Have fun dusting!

Now get to work!

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Blood, Soap and Tears

As I mentioned in a previous bloglet, making your own laundry soap is easy, inexpensive, and ecologically-sound. There are approximately 74,300 recipes on the web, so finding one you love should not be a problem! But since you're already here (And THANKS FOR COMING!), I'll share a few tried and tested recipes with you now. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading, you'll know how to create your own homemade laundry soap, without any blood or tears.

The best known liquid recipe out there: (You will find many variations online)

4 Cups hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup Washing Soda
½ Cup Borax

Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (It will gel).

After it's cooled, you can make it smell pretty by adding 10 to 15 drops of an essential oil of your choice, such as tea tree, lavender, or citrus. I love to add peppermint oil at Christmas...who doesn't like smelling like a candy cane? :)

My friend Laura, of Laura's Lathers, suggests increasing your borax and washing soda to 3 cups each, in 4 quarts of water. If you find your clothes don't look, smell or "seem" clean with the basic recipe, give this a whirl. (By the way, Laura makes amazing soaps...you've just got to try them!)


Do I have to have a big ol' bucket of laundry soap sitting on my washer?

No. I pour the soap "concentrate" (before it's cooled and gelled) into the little "3x" detergent bottles I've saved up. I set them in a sink of ice and stir them with the wrong end of a long wooden spoon, until they gel. I let them cool WITH THE CAPS OFF. (The trapped heat can split the seams on the bottle. What a mess!) After they've cooled, I add water to the fill line, and a few drops of oil, if desired. (Thanks again to Laura, who taught me the nifty ice bath trick!)

What the heck is Fels Naptha?
It's soap. It cleans very well, and is a great stain-treating bar on its own. But it can sometimes be hard to find. After you've tried the recipe once and are happy with the results, you might consider asking your local grocer to sell you a case. Or, as with everything else under the sun, you can buy it online. Try Soaps Gone Buy.

How much do I use?

Top Load Machine- 1/2 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)

Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Doesn't this take a lot of time?

Absolutely not. A few hours, tops. Buy a BIG stockpot, and a LOT of supplies, and make 6 months worth at once, if you want! That's why I use the little bottles. I can store tons of them in my basement pantry, and bring them up as needed to my laundry room cabinet. (Another benefit of reusing old detergent bottles? With the lid secure, it's easy to shake the gel, and there's a built-in measuring cup!


Will this ruin my stock pot?

Ruin your pot? No. Add a distinctly soapy flavor to your next 5-7 soup or pasta meals? Yes. Take my advice: Go to your corner thrift store or garage sale and pick up a big, old pot that is dedicated to laundry soap making. It just makes it so much easier.


Ack! My detergent is all clumpy! My detergent is solid! My detergent is runny!

Your final product depends on how much water you used and how long it has had to cool and gel. Don't worry, no matter how it looks, it probably still works great!

My soap-making attempt didn't work. There are no suds.

That's because it's not a detergent. It's a soap. There aren't supposed to be suds. Actually, that makes it PERFECT for front loading HE washing machines! You just need to use about half the amount you'd use in a regular top-loading washer.

Will my clothes REALLY get clean?

Yes. For very soiled loads, you might want to add a little extra borax or washing soda straight from the box, but I've tried lots of recipes, and it really does work. Even on cloth diapers!

My detergent smells weird.

Your detergent smells like the soap you used! Don't like Fels Naptha? (Or can't find it?) Try another type of bar soap. Some others that have worked successfully are Ivory, Colgate Octagon, Pure and Natural, Zest, Zote, Kirk's Castile Soap, and Dr. Bonner's Castile Soap (the almond smells amazing!)

How much does this actually save me?

My recipe costs about 2 cents a load. That's a savings of almost $80 a year, assuming I purchased my detergent with coupons, on sale, at the commissary. Your savings may be even greater, depending on your regular brand of store-bought detergent!

Is it really better for the environment?

The short answer: Yes. The long answer: How much so depends on what kind of soap you use. For a really sound homemade laundry soap, use an organic bar soap, like Dr. Bronner's Castile Bar Soap. They're completely biodegradable, vegetable-based, and certified fair trade. They cost more, however. Still, no matter what bar soap you choose, if you're a liquid detergent user, creating your own homemade soaps creates a LOT less waste and uses less packaging than store-bought plastic bottles. Reusing previously-purchased store-bought bottles to hold your homemade supply helps even more!

Can I use this in a cold-water wash?
Yes. And that's one more reason I use the liquid recipe. I find that the powdered one needs very warm or hot water to dissolve well, while the liquid works fine in cold water.

But I WANT to use a powdered recipe!
It's not as cost-saving, AND it requires hot water to work well...but as you wish:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

1 Cup Grated Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax

For light load, use 1 tablespoon.
For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 tablespoons.


More questions? Leave a comment!
Now get to work!


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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Way of the Righteous

Psalm One

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.


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Friday, August 14, 2009

Tiny Bubbles...

The last few Cleaning Days we've talked about store-bought cleaning products that are easy to "convert to cheap" with inexpensive, homemade and safe solutions and projects.

This week we'll perform another frugal hijack: The Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner.

 I didn't buy into the hype of this product when it first came out - it seemed like a big waste of money to me, not to mention that we try to avoid chemicals in our home where we can. Besides, the reviews were mixed. And then there was that wicked pride: Puh-LEEZE. I don't need a little machine in my shower to keep it clean! I'm a BOOTCAMPER!  But then again, cleaning the shower is soooo...not fun. It's necessary. (Bootcampers, read that last line again!) But not fun.

Shannon at the hilarious blog Rocks in My Dryer  recently wrote about the Scrubbing Bubble Craze.

"'Really?' I thought.  'Have we as a nation gotten so lazy we can't even scrub our own showers?'
And then I stopped to try and remember the last time I gave my shower a good scrubbing.  And then I shut up."

Good point, Shannon. I do scrub my shower, but it is, as I said before, so...not fun.

 So when someone sent me a coupon for a huge discount on one of these "tools for lazy people", I confess, blushingly, that I bought one.

And it worked! You do have to start with a clean shower. (No problem, right? We REALLY scrub our tubs and showers on Cleaning Day, Week 1.) But for the in-between weeks, it does a good job of conquering soap scum and keeping mildew at bay.

Then the refill bottles ran out. And I knew, that as happy as I was with this little brilliant bit of battery-powered technology, I wasn't spending $12 a month on something I was able to do for a dollar and some elbow grease.

Then it occurred to me: We use natural homemade solutions everywhere else in the home...why not here as well?

Homemade Automatic Shower Cleaner Solution Recipes

For a solution much like the store-bought version:
3/4 c hydrogen peroxide
10 drops dish detergent
1/2 c. white vinegar
Fill to top with warm water.

Super cheap and easy, but a little stinky:
Pour in 1-2 cups plain white vinegar
Fill to top with warm water.

Still a little stinky, but more powerful:

Pour in 1-2 cups plain white vinegar
Add two squirts of dishwashing liquid
Fill to top with warm water.

Anti-fungal and smells "clean":
40 drops of Tea-Tree Oil
Fill to top with warm water.
(This does build up over time, but shouldn't be a problem in you are deep cleaning your shower monthly, as taught in Bootcamp for Lousy Housekeepers.)

Store bought, but better for your braincells and the planet:
Try a product like Method Daily Shower Spray. It comes in a big refill bottle, and works well, even diluted down with water to 50% strength.

"Okay, Heidi, I've got my refill soltuion created....but I can't get the dratted lid off the solution to refill it! Argh!"

I hear ya. Here are simple instructions: Grab some pliers. Grab the empty solution bottle. Grab your husband. Tell him you NEED that cap off. Look at him adoringly. Lefty loosey. Voila! It really does come off, but it just takes a lot of brute strength to break those little internal prongs. (They're trying to make us buy their refills, those tricksters!) Once you get the lid off the first time, it shouldn't be an issue for future refills.

Here's another great tip: When you go to put the refill back in the unit, put a piece of masking tape over the hole in the cap. This keeps it from leaking all over when you flip the bottle. The tape makes a new seal, which will be punctured when the refill is inserted.

Want to save even more money? Two words: Rechargeable batteries!

Have fun with Homemade!

Now get to work!

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Swiffer, Take Two

 Dear Heidi,

 Those knitted swiffer covers you blogged about last Cleaning Day are so cute...but will they work with my Swiffer Wet Jet?

Thanks!

-Wondering in Wisconsin

('Hey, Heidi...did you really get a note from "Wondering in Wisconsin?"' Ummmm....no. But you see how quickly I responded to this pretend comment? Just imagine how quickly I would answer a REAL comment, should a reader leave one... hint, hint.)

 Now back to my answer.

Dear Wondering, thanks for your question! Wet Jets are just another fabulous invention from the house of Swiffer, aren't they? For me, they don't replace a good ol' fashioned mop and bucket on Cleaning Day, but they are wonderful for keeping floors fresh in between real scrubbings, especially in high-traffic areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.
 However, I think you'll be quite disappointed if you try to replace your  Wet Jet pads with the knitted or crocheted versions I introduced last week. The cotton yarn becomes really stubborn when wettened, and doesn't absorb the wet yuckiness well, either. Though it provides a great strength routine for your arms, it won't do much for your floors.

But not to worry! You are not doomed to purchase high-cost replacement pads forever! Even though the yarn versions won't work well wet (try saying that five times fast!), there's an easy homemade creation that does work great.

Simple step by step instructions for this neat Wet Jet washable mop pad can be found HERE.

Want to make your Swiffer Wet Jet even more cost-effective and natural?

Don't spend lots of money on the replacement solution bottles...just refill them with your own homemade recipe! Getting the lid off can be a bit tricky, but it's not impossible. The how-to photo tutorial HERE is the one that worked for me! Some folks report that removing the lid caused their bottle to leak. If this is a problem for you, an alternative refill method is to simply drill a hole in the top of an empty bottle, refill it using a funnel, and use a cork to plug the hole.

What should you use to refill your cleaner bottle? Straight white vinegar or a vinegar/water solution works great and cuts though the oil of bare feet wonderfully. Need something stronger? Add a few tablespoons of  organic liquid soap concentrate or even dishwashing liquid to the vinegar and cut through the grime easily. You could also use oil soap diluted in water or vinegar.

Total savings? Over $240 a year!

Happy Mopping!

Now get to work!


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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

FROZEN ASSETS, PART 2

Last week, we talked about how much stress you might save yourself by having meals in the freezer to pull out on those busy days, sick days, very-pregnant-or-just-had-baby days...or days when your brain is just tired to come up with anything new. Cooking from the freezer saves you money, too - buy bigger cuts of meat, buy staples in bulk, prepare and freeze it, and you simply grab a meal from the freezer. Score! Another wonderful reason to have meals in the freezer is that you will always have a quick, frozen dish to take to someone in need...someone who's having a bad, busy, sick, injured, or very-pregnant-or-just-had-baby day, too.

But once-a-month cooking sessions should not be entered into without preparation. Poor planning will waste you time and money, not save it. It's really not too complex:
You make a menu, gather recipes, make a shopping list, buy your food and do the the prep work on Town Day  Then, on Kitchen Day, you cook and freeze your meals!

Today we'll discuss the first planning step for your once-a-month cooking session: Deciding what you are going to cook.

 There are so many, many, many recipes online for this: Google "OAMC recipes" and you are sure to get plenty that your family will love. Of course, you probably have recipe cards in your own kitchen that will work, too.

Not sure about the recipes your found? Try one meal with your family first before you make 10 meals worth! If it is not a big hit, skip it. There are plenty others out there.

How do you choose your recipes? First, you must decide how many meals you are going to prepare. If you are new to bulk cooking, or don't have much freezer space, you might want to try cooking for two weeks instead of four, eight, or more. Make sure you size the meals for your family. No kids at home? You can probably get three meals out of every basic OAMC recipe, but you must be sure to portion and freeze them for two people, not six. It's also prudent to point out that you need not find 30 DISTINCT recipes. You can easily find 15 recipes and make each one twice. Or 10 recipes, and make each three times. You get the point.

Second, consider that preparing "like" foods is much cheaper and easier than preparing 30 totally unrelated meals. This means that if you choose 15 recipes that call for ground beef, you can ground all the beef at once, and create your dishes assembly-line style. Turkeys on sale after Thanksgiving? Find turkey recipes, or modify your chicken ones. The same applies to Easter ham. We get 12 chickens at a time, freshly slaughtered and plucked, from a local organic family farm about 3 times a year. Instead of sticking 12 chickens in my freezer, it is much more time-saving, in the long run, to prepare many, many chicken dishes for the freezer. I'm going to end up thawing out something....might as well be a prepared meal instead a raw chicken! (But Heidi, I don't want to eat chicken 30 days in a row!!) Me, neither. Once it's in the freezer, you can space your meals out however you'd like. I made 45 freezer post-partum freezer meals last spring, and those meals lasted us almost until summer. After the initial few weeks, we averaged probably two freezer meals a week. You don't HAVE to eat the meals immediately, but it's so reassuring to know that they're there! These mini-sessions also really help you buy food when it's cheapest, instead of sticking to someone's master OAMC plan that uses expensive, out-of-season food.

The good news is, lots of thrify foodies out there have already created entire OAMC plans based on food type. Google "OAMC food plans" for lots of options. Here are some, courtesy of menus4moms, to get you started:

Bulk Cooking: The Ham Plan
by Kim Tilley


Bulk Cooking: The Chicken Plan
by Kim Tilley



Bulk Cooking: The Hamburger Plan
by Kim Tilley

Fabulous Freezer Food: The Potato Plan
by Wanda A. Carter


Other great meal plans online:


Work Week Menus
by Tammy Paquin


Confessions of a Once A Month Cooking Drop-Out
by Peg Baron

Some Assembly Desired
by Jane Snow

Are you a paper-in-hand gal?
Here are some great reads to get you inspired!

Once A Month Cooking  
by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson

Frozen Assets 
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month: Frozen Assets Readers' Favorites 
by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Mega Cooking 
by Jill Bond

Make-A-Mix 
by Karine Eliason, Nevada Harward, Madeline Westover

Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer
by Susie Martinez, Vanda Howell, and Bonnie Garcia


The Everything Meals For A Month Cookbook: Smart Recipes To Help You Plan Ahead, Save Time, And Stay On Budget 
by Linda Larsen

Fix, Freeze, Feast 
by Kati Neville


To get you started with Recipes online:

Recipezaar's Bulk/OAMC/Freezer recipes

Robbyn's Friendly Freezer 
(She explains the different types of freezer-filling very simply!)

Real Food 4 Real People's OAMC guide

Meals Made Ahead

Freezer Cooking 101


Using your own recipes, but not sure if it will freeze? The best advice I can give is: Try it once. Make one serving of your recipe, freeze it, thaw it, eat it. Pretty good? Keep it!
Want more specifics? Frozen Assets author Deborah Taylor-Hough lists these ingredients as "do nots" for the freezer:

Greasy foods (they just become greasier)
*Cake icings made with egg whites
*Cream fillings and soft frostings
*Pies made with custard or cream fillings
*Fried foods (they tend to lose their crispness and become soggy)
*Fruit jelly on sandwiches may soak into the bread
*Soft cheese, such as cream cheese (can become watery)
*Mayonnaise (it separates; use salad dressing instead)
*Sour cream (it becomes thin and watery)
*Potatoes cooked in soups and stews (they become mushy and may darken. If using potatoes, cook until barely soft and still firm; then freeze quickly.)

Foods that change during freezing:

*Gravies and other fat-based sauces may separate and need to be recombined by stirring or processing in the blender
*Thickened sauces may need thinning after freezing; thin with broth or milk
*Seasonings such as onions, herbs and flavorings used in recipes can change during freezing. These are best added during reheating to obtain accurate flavors
*Vegetables, pastas and grains used in cooked recipes usually are softer after freezing and reheating (undercook before freezing, or add when dish is reheated)
*Heavy cream can be frozen if used for cooking, but will not whip
*Some yogurts may suffer texture changes
*Raw vegetables lose their crispness, but can be used for cooking, stews, etc.
*Many cheeses change texture in the freezer. Most hard cheeses turn crumbly (which makes them okay for grating, but not for slicing)

(But take my advice: You can always try it once. Some of those items she lists freeze just fine, in my opinion!)


Next week, we'll discuss the basics of creating a mega-shopping list.


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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Memory Minder for Mommies

Here's another Town Day Tuesday Tasklet!

I honestly believe that every time I have a baby, I lose a certain portion of my braincells. I have long joked that with every nursing session, my babies seem to slurp out my intellect along with my milk. They're very chubby babies, and maybe THIS explains why I seem to be functioning in a fog half the time!

But no excuses - the more children we have, the more dedicated I have to be to staying organized. Unfortunately, it always seems that I come up with a great organizational strategy in response to forgetfulness, instead of taking the proactive approach.

Take, for instance, a few weeks ago, when I went once-a-month shopping. My husband was graciously willing to watch some of the children at his office (on a military base) so I could shop at the commissary with only the baby and the oldest (my cheerful second-cart pusher!) When you're buying food for every meal for a month for a family of seven, lots of littles can be distracting!

We piled in the van, drove 45-minutes to the installation, and met my husband, who had already signed out for the day so he could take them to play at a nearby park. What a sweetie. It was at this point that I realized I had forgotten my coupon box...which also carries my calculator, pen, and shopping list. Whoops. We had to turn right around and go home. Needless to say, the event made for a grumpy daddy and a very embarrassed mommy.

The next day, of course, I had a brilliant flash of organization, which is really quite simple.

On the top of a 3 x 5 card, write a common destination, such as "Grocery store". Then list everything you need to take with you when you go. (For me, that's a diaper bag (With diapers, wipes,wet bag, wallet, keys, cellphone, sunglasses, bottle of water, pacifier and baby sling, sippy cup for toddler), coupon box (with coupons, shopping list, scissors, calculator and pen), re-useable grocery bags, and cash for the tip.) Also listed are these reminders: Dog in crate, doors locked, shoes on.


(Yes, shoes on. I'm a barefoot girl (and my littles are barefoot children) and I don't care to relive those experiences of showing up at the grocery store and realizing I'm barefoot, they're barefoot, we're all barefoot. Sigh.)


As I'm collecting these cards, I punch the corner of each one, reinforce the hole and slide them through a ring. It hangs on a hook next to the door. When we need to go out, I read the list on the appropriate card and everyone makes sure we have what we need, before we step out the door.

Someday I'll probably laminate them, but for now we seem to still be adding items to the list.

I hope this easy trick works for you foggy mommies out there!




Now get to work!


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Monday, August 3, 2009

Brilliant Minds...

Here's another one for the "Why didn't I think of that?" file.



When I showed this handy invention to my husband, he was very interested in the mechanics of it. Then he saw the price. "It's $175, for a clothesline!" "Wait, honey, that's in Canadian Dollars." And I clicked the price conversion button... and it was still $163. So much for the power of the Almighty American Dollar, huh?
 Well, it's still a neat invention.

Here's another neat invention, from the mind of my 6-year-old son. He was helping me hang laundry, pushing the very full, heavy basket along the ground as we walked down the line. Breathing hard in the oppressive Kansas heat, he said, "Mom, they should make these things with wheels." Then I saw that "AHA!" light hit his eyes, and in a flash, he was sprinting across the backyard to the shed. He quickly returned with his trusty Red Flyer wagon. I helped him lift the basket in, and "AHA!" indeed! I don't have to bend over to pick laundry out of the basket anymore! (Boy, I wish he had thought of this while I was pregnant!) Bonus: The bottom of the basket doesn't get dirty from scooting it along the ground.) Even better? My two-year-old can now "help" me hang laundry. He just pulls the basket inch by inch as I move along the line, hanging or taking clothes down.

Who needs fancy, expensive laundry lines, anyway? My toddler, our Red Flyer and I are doing just fine.

Wishing you sunny skies and stiff breezes today!

Now get to work!

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Great is His Steadfast Love Toward Us

The LORD’s Faithfulness Endures Forever
Praise the LORD, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 117


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Friday, July 31, 2009

Swiff Your Troubles Away

Last Cleaning Day, I wrote about some safe and natural cleaning solutions, made with products you might already have at home. Now, while these materials still have to be purchased every once in a while, they're much more inexpensive than the fancy name-brand-one-job supplies the big chemical companies sell.

 Creating these homemade recipes was a big step in my "independence from convenience". Was I ready to take the next big step? (Here's a hint. 99% of my house is tile or hardwood floor.) You guessed it. I need a bumper sticker that reads I HEART MY SWIFFER.

 I really do love it. If only I had invented that clever little dust-mop replacement! No more dust in the air! No more dog hair under the couch! Even my two-year old can use it safely! What's not to love? The fact that I had to buy a box of replacement pads every week, that's what.

 But a year or so ago, one of my friends shared a most clever (not to mention cute) craftie with me: a homemade Swiffer cover. You can knit or crochet it using inexpensive cotton yarn. Or, if you don't know how, buy one from an amazing woman who does. (Just drop her a line and she'll custom-make your cover!) I am not personally coordinated enough to knit, but can crochet just well enough to produce a cute swiffer cover! http://crafterella.blogspot.com/2008/12/knitted-swiffer-cover.html

Knitted Swiffer cover:

http://erica.brembos.googlepages.com/KPZoom.pdf

http://greenmountainmama.blogspot.com/2007/09/swiffer-cozy-pattern.html

Crocheted Swiffer Cover:

http://gherkinsbucket.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/biffershrug.pdf

http://www.tiffcrochets.com/patterns/SwifferCardi.pdf


 No money in the budget for this project, but love the idea of NOT spending more money on Swiffer cloths? Use old flannel diapers, thin fleece, flannel remnants with finished edges (hubby's old flannel boxer shorts work great!), old t-shirts, towels or baby receiving blankets. Just cut them to size, making sure to leave room to tuck the edges in, and you're ready to swiff! (The store-bought version is about 11" x 9").
Even an old, mismatched or holey sock will work...just pull in on one end, and hook the ankle around the other. Store-bought microfiber cloths work very well, too, but are, of course, more expensive.

Helpful hint: When washing homemade covers, rinse off residual yuck, then launder. This is especially important if you line dry. The dryer will pull any leftover hair or dust bunnies, but the breeze in your backyard won't!)

I know what you're all thinking:  "Come one, Heidi, is this really worth the effort?" Well, I'm big on not producing waste if I don't have to. And besides, I'm sure I can find SOMEWHERE to spend an extra $300 a year. :)

Have fun being clean and crafty!
Now get to work!!



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Thursday, July 30, 2009

F.A.Q.


"Heidi, I clicked on the "Buy the Book" link, but there was nothing available to buy. Where can I find your book?"


As my years in broadcasting have taught me to say, "The project's in post-production." And here's a tip: When a broadcaster says this, don't hold your breath. Just kidding. Kind of. But seriously, the book has been written, edited, lost to a computer crash, salvaged and re-laid out from an old .pdf file, tested by 25 families to see if it really works, edited again, and now the only thing that remains is the cover, which is, truly, in production and forthcoming.
I'm hoping against hope that the book will be in print and available for purchase at Lulu.com before the new homeschool year begins. Believe me, you'll be the first to know. ;)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FROZEN ASSETS, Part 1

Wouldn't it be nice to spend one day in the kitchen a week, and prepare seven-days worth of meals? What about 14 days? 28? "That's crazy talk, Heidi!"
No, that's Kitchen Day talk, and it's what we're discussing today, in the first installment of a seven-part series: Once-a-month-cooking.

Once-a-month-cooking is, like so many things, circular. My Hazel Meyer's Freezer Cookbook - circa 1967 - tells me that batch cooking is "now quite popular among homemakers". And back in 2009, it's all the rage again. Busy moms are going to little dinner-prep stores with catchy names like "Super Suppers" and "Dream Dinners", preparing one or two week's worth of meals and feeling good about providing their families with nutritious food. Don't get me wrong, every family is different, and if this is what it takes to switch your kids from the "Golden Arches" diet to consuming the 4 basic food groups, then go for it. But with 6-person meals starting at $25 EACH, my grocery budget would be consumed faster than a Happy Meal on Town Day.

Why not take one Kitchen Day a month and transform your own kitchen into a Super Suppers? It's easier than you might think!

But isn't freezer cooking HARD?

It's a lot of work...for one day. But in the end, you'll end up saving time. If your home is anything like mine, the hour before dad gets home is the witching hour...kids bouncing off walls, baby screaming, steam coming out my ears. Something in their internal mechanism tells them that mom NEEDS to get dinner into the oven, so they NEED to act like wild banshees. (Am I the only one?) One day of hard work and you'll have a hot, home-cooked meal each night, simply by thawing and baking. (One of my boy's daily chores is bringing up "dinner" from the deep freeze...right after breakfast! So really, my only job is turning on the oven. Not too bad, eh?) Is a true freezer frolic easy? No. Worth it? Oh, yes!

I don't have a big freezer. Where am I going to put all this food?

First of all, if you have no deep freeze or second freezer, you may do better by only making 2 weeks of meals at a time, instead of a month. Even one week is better than nothing at all. But then again, one freezer cooking session and you might just be amazed at how much food your little freezer can store! Freezer meals don't have to take up as much room as you think. If you store your entrees in gallon-sized zipper food freezer bags, and freeze those bags on a cookie sheet (so they'll lay thin and flat), you can store a LOT of meals in very little space! Besides, this undertaking will give you a great excuse to clean out your freezer, and whose freezer couldn't use a little cleaning out?

Do I have to use one of those Once-A-Month-Cooking Cookbooks?

No. Those cookbooks are simply there to help you do the math, give you a list of meals that are known to freeze well, and provide you with a ready-made shopping list. You probably already have meals in your arsenal that you know your family loves, and that you know freeze well. Then it's simply a matter of multiplying and organizing your shopping and preparation lists (we'll cover these matters later!)
Perusing those cookbooks can be fun, however. Your library is a great place to start, and a Google search is sure to produce at least 17 O's as well.

I've never done this before. Where's the best place to start?

As the song says..."Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." Before you go to the store, before you open up that freezer, before you heat up that stove, you'll need to plan your freezer cooking session.

That's just what we'll do....next Kitchen Day!


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Link List-makers will Love!

Today's Tasklet is for Gmail users, but getting an account is easy and free! Even if you use another email server, it would be worth it to become a Gmailer simply for the use of Google Tasks!

Using Tasks in Gmail

To get started, just click the Tasks link under Contacts, on the left side of the screen.

To enter tasks, just click in the Tasks window and start typing just like you would in a word processor. Once you've typed in a task, press Enter to create another one, or use the + button at the bottom of your list.

Here are some of the options available to you in Tasks:

  • Create a task about a Gmail message using the keyboard shortcut Shift + T, or by choosing Add to Tasks from the More options menu in your Gmail conversation.
  • Switch between existing lists or create new ones using the List icon in the bottom right corner.
  • Create "subtasks" by using Tab to indent them, and Shift + Tab to move them back.
  • Move tasks by grabbing them to the left of the check mark and dragging them up and down.
  • Add new tasks to the middle of a list by clicking at the beginning or end of an existing task and pressing Enter.
  • Check off Tasks when you're done, and use Actions > Clear completed to hide them. Don't worry, you can still view them later!
  • Print your tasks by clicking Actions and selecting Print task list.
 
Store any information you want! Tasks is designed to help you keep track of things you need to do, but you can still use it for any listing actions you want, such as making a grocery list or outlining a paper. You can create as many lists as you need to organize your information.




___________________________________________________________________


How can this work for Bootcampers? SO EASY!
Because creating new tasklists is as simple as clicking a button, you can have one for each Daily Focus Block. Then just list that day's tasks in your list! As you go about your work, click on each task and it will be crossed off your list. Ahhhh....satisfaction.

Using Google Tasks is so easy, I have lists for everything: ongoing projects, homeschooling, homemaking...even a list of blog ideas! (Have some to share? Please do! I'll add it to my list!)
Like taking your lists with you? Printing off your list is simple.
Have a task with a deadline? Adding it to your calendar is just a click away. 
The best part? My kids LOVE Google Tasks...I leave the Day's list on the screen and they rush to complete the tasks so they can be the one to click it through. (Listmaniacs in the making!!)



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Monday, July 27, 2009

On Pins and Needles

Doing a little sewing on this fine Laundry Day? (Remember, Laundry Day is for all clothes-related tasks, including ironing, mending, sewing and organizing cabinets and drawers!) Check out the tutorial for this cute and easy pin cushion, created by my friend Chautona at Ecletivity.
It may be just the inspiration you need to get back behind the pedal!




While you're there, don't hesitate to check out her other beautiful projects and tutorials. But don't stay too long...you've got laundry to do!
Here's wishing you sunny skies and stiff breezes today.

Now get to work!


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Lord Is Faithful

A Song of Praise. Of David.

I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of(H) the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
 
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.
The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he alsohears their cry and saves them.
The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.

My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.


Psalm 145

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Simple Compost Bin

So you've got a basic garden*, and you're producing your own food. How liberating! You're eating fresh, healthy food and saving your family money. You're on your way to provident living**!

It's time to move on to the next big backyard gardening step: A compost bin.
We researched a lot of compost bin and pile designs and were overwhelmed by either the cost of ready-made crank bins or the amount of sheer physical work the piles involved.
Then my husband came across this instructional video for the Easiest Compost Bin Ever (capitalized ala Winnie-The-Pooh!).

Watch this and smile. Composting can be easy!





My husband made this bin's creation even easier - He watched the video and apparently said to himself, "Hammer and nails... that's soooo last millenium." A cordless drill got through that plastic quickly and with no busted thumbs!










One more note: How do you store the yucky compostables in your kitchen? All you need is a small plastic pail with locking lid -even a plastic ice cream bucket (with the lid) would work! Of course, kichen compost pails with fancy filters can be purchased, but keep your eyes open at garage sales - that's where I found one for $1 that sells online for $45! As always, assign the daily task of dumping from the small pail to the big bin to one of your cheerful, able-bodied children.


*New to gardening? Want to give it a try? I highly recommend Momma's Guide to Growing Your Groceries by Kimberly Eddy. In this ebook, she tackles the subject of kitchen gardening in a way that speaks to stay-at-home, money-saving moms, not master gardeners with hours of free-time and big bucks to spend. For those with smaller spaces, I also recommend Square-Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. This method uses less space, less water, and less labor! Wahoo! (Check out more gardening blogs under the Inspiration tab to your right.)

**Provident living is a term coined by the Mormons, who believe that an essential part of spiritual life is preparing for unknown crises, local or global. While I do not espouse the beliefs of the Mormon church, I do believe that the key points of provident living (which include attempting whatever level of self-sufficiency in means you are comfortable with (yet avoiding pride and daily depending on God for your bread), becoming  more independent from big government and more dependent on your church family, and living within your means) are wonderful goals for Christians, as well. Now I'll jump off my soapbox. :)

Now get to work and have fun in the garden!


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Friday, July 24, 2009

Better Basics for Your Abode

Have you noticed that everywhere you look these days you see little tidbits on how to save money? If you read the newspaper, scroll the web, or watch the news, it appears that most of the country is just waking up, due to the recession, to the fact that not every purchase needs to be spontaneous, "convenient", and costly. There are cheaper ways to eat, clothe your family, have fun, and even clean your home.
Of course, we one-income-family homemakers have always known that.
But a little review never hurts!

Today let's talk about some basic -VERY basic - supplies you can stock in your cleaning cabinet, that are cheap, multi-purpose, and probably better for your family's well-being and the planet's health than the toxic one-job chemicals most folks buy. Why keep 20 bottles of expensive cleaning solutions in your home when just a few will do?

Baking Soda  This is not just for fridges anymore, Bootcampers! It works great as a non-abrasive powder cleanser on countertops and ovens, sinks and tubs. Add some to your laundry load to get rid of summer stink! It even rids carpets of that wet-dog  (or wet-kid) smell - just sprinkle a little on, let it sit for a bit, and vacuum it up.

Want a little more oomph in a ready-made version? Try Bon Ami, which contains no chlorine, perfume, or dyes. It contains feldspar and calcite, and will not scratch. You can even use it on those delicate glass-top stoves instead of the expensive creams they say you need.

Badly stained porcelain sinks or tubs? Bar Keeper's Friend is inexpensive, and can be used on almost any surface. It's made from oxalic acid, which is derived from rhubarb, so it's non-toxic and biodegradeable.

Salt Yes, salt. Team it up with baking soda, and it is a wonderful abrasive that adds more power to your elbow grease. It's perfect for scouring pots and scrubbing Sharpie stains off the kitchen table. Ask me how I know.

Washing Soda  Also known as sodium carbonate, washing soda is a caustic cleaner that is far safer than other solvents. (It's still recommended that you wear gloves while using it, though!) It cuts grease, gets stains out of clothing, whitens whites, brightens brights, and neutralizes odors. You can find washing soda in the laundry aisle of your grocery or big-box store.

Lemon Juice  The acid in lemon juice neutralizes hard water deposits, dissolves greasy fingerprints and dirt buildup on wood, and cleans silver as well as commercial silver cleaner. (For really dirty silver, make a paste of baking soda and lemon juice, scrub, and rinse well.)

White vinegar  White vinegar is the mother of all multi-purpose cleaning products, and can be used in place of lemon juice. The great news: It's dirt-cheap. The even greater news: It can be used safely in every room of your house. Use it in place of toxic ammonia-based cleaners (like Windex) to clean glass and mirrors.(Just combine 1/4 cup undiluted white vinegar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, and 1 quart warm water. Divide into spray bottles.)
Use vinegar as a degreaser on counters and table-tops. Mix vinegar and baking soda in your toilet for a fizzy bowl-cleaning extravaganza. (Remember those fun papier-mache volcanoes from grade school? Same concept, sans the red dye.) You can even use it as a simple mop solution for hard-wood floors, when something stronger isn't necessary. The infamous strong smell dissipates as the vinegar dries, but if you can't stand the smell, or like your cleaning supplies to smell, well, good, consider adding...


Grapefruit seed extract or essential oils such as lavender, clove, and tea tree oil. Not only do they smell good, but they have antiseptic properties and operate as natural fungicides (These products hush that little germophobe in you...you know he's there!)
They work great by themselves (diluted in water) as well. To keep mold at bay in the shower, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of essential oil to 2 cups of water in a spray bottle, or 20 drops of grapefruit seed extract to 1 quart of water.

Still prefer something without vinegar?

Liquid Organic Soap Concentrate (natural biodegradable castile soap), such as that from Dr. Bronner's or Ballard Organics, can be diluted as needed and used to clean EVERYTHING. We use it on counters, walls, dirty tile and hardwood floors, mirrors, dishes, hands, bodies, and even the baby's hair. Sure, it's more expensive than vinegar, but it takes only a tablespoonful, diluted in one quart of warm water, to clean our house for a week or more.(Use more to clean your home, less to clean your family.) Because it is organic and non-toxic, I trust my children, as young as four-years old, to use it unsupervised in their cleaning chores (after training, of course.) By the way, the bar form of these soaps are great for use in the bathtub, as stain removers, and to grate into homemade laundry soap. (Recipes coming on a future Laundry Day post!)

These concentrates come in a host of yummy scents, such as lavender, orange, grapefruit, lemongrass, peppermint, tangerine, almond and tea tree. Your home will smell delicious!

"This is too much!" you say. Actually, it's really quite simple. Just buy a few spray bottles (or better yet, clean well and re-use the bottles from supplies you already have as you use them up), create your solutions, LABEL THEM CLEARLY, and you're all set. The CLEAR LABELS are especially important in case a child or pet ever ingests the solutions - - in a moment of severe stress you do not want to have to remember your recipe, or worse yet, have another caregiver assume that the Windex bottle is filled with Windex when it is really just white vinegar.

So the next time your run out of Lysol or Mr. Clean, don't run to Stuff-Mart - - Run to your pantry and clean the cheap, safe, and natural way!

Looking for more great recipes? Look for Natural Cleaning for Your Home by Casey Kellar and Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond at your local library.


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