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


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.


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!


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'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!


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.


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!


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?


-Wondering in Wisconsin

('Hey, Heidi...did you really get a note from "Wondering in Wisconsin?"' 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!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


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

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.


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!


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!


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