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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mint-Eucalyptus Soft Scrub Trial

Ever since I wrote this post, I decided that since I posted so many "recipes" that I'd never tried, I would go through each one and blog about my review of the cleaner.

In all honesty, I have a toddler and a business and lead a very busy life, so please don't expect cleaning posts every week! haha. 

So, in spirit of trying out each of these recipes one by one, last week I gathered all of the supplies and made the mint-eucalyptus soft scrub cleaner listed in the post above.

In case you didn't read that post, or don't remember, here is what I posted about this cleaner:

Eucalyptus-Mint All Purpose Disinfecting Soft Soap for Kitchen and Bath:

Erica says,"This soap can be used for dishes, handwashing, floors, stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and hands. It's mild to the skin but effective enough to get cleaning jobs done. The eucalyptus and mint provide a disinfecting quality as well as a fresh scent; any areas washed with this soap will be undesirable to crawling insects and flies. They'll stay away for quite a while."

5 cups grated castile soap
1/2 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon borax
6 cups hot peppermint tea
1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil

Put grated soap into a 3-quart stainless steel saucepan and add hot mint tea. Simmer for fifteen minute on low heat. Add baking soda, borax, and eucalyptus oil. Store in a labeled plastic jug or squirt bottle. Shake before using.

 So, here's my story on this cleaner.  I bought all of the ingredients-which took me several days because I couldn't find castile soap anywhere! If you are as lost as I was, try looking with soaps!  I only bought 3 bars which turned out to be about 4.5 cups grated. Not bad.  Everything else was fairly easy to find, and I had most of it on-hand already.

The cleaner was fairly easy to make, and made my kitchen smell uh-mazing.  Eucalyptus and mint has always been a scent combination that I love so I knew I would love the smell.  The castile soap added it's own very clean scent to the mix and it was just lovely.

I have to start out by explaining that I honestly did not know what a soft scrub was!  The mixture seemed just as thin and water-y as my normal vinegar solution so I tried putting a small amount in a spray bottle and sprayed down all of my counter-tops. Well, I attempted to at least. I got about half way through spraying and the nozzle started clogging up and that's about when I realized my mistake.  I decided to just wipe down everything I'd already done and go from there.  This whole time I was using the solution as a normal spray solution, and realized once I was "done" that I did it totally wrong.  In case you are like me and didn't know, You have to use water with soft scrubs!!!  I had to go back over the entire kitchen rinsing off the counters, but -oh boy- was it shiny and good-smelling when I was done!

The thing that drew me most to this cleaner was the boast that ants and crawling insects do not like the smell and will stay away for awhile.  It's spring here in Northwest Washington and let's just say that ants are inevitable.  My desire to find a way to keep them out of my house without using poisons is a pretty strong desire so this cleaner really excited me.  Unfortunately, the ants I had just gotten rid of the previous week came back with a vengeance only hours after I finished cleaning. They have yet to go away.  Looks like I'll be breaking out the poison again.

Despite the ants and the misunderstanding about the uses of soft scrub, I do still like this soap.  Yesterday I tried it out again in the main bathroom and I think this will become our regular bathroom cleaner now. It was easy to use with running water right there, I felt that it got everything very clean, and -as I've mentioned before- the smell is just delicious.

Over-all, I would say this cleaner is definitely worth the effort.  It makes quite a bit, so really it is much cheaper than the cleaners you can buy in the store.  It also has multiple uses which is great. Have I mentioned the smell? 

Have you tried this cleaner yet? What were your experiences with it?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

98% Self-Taught

Posting in a Ravelry forum tonight got me thinking that maybe I should share my story on learning to crochet.  Have you taught yourself a craft? I would love to hear your stories.

For me, the journey of learning to crochet started when I was about 9 years old.  My grandmother always crocheted afghans and made booties for all of the grandchildren.  Looking back, it seems she always had a hook in her hands, and I was intrigued.

I honestly don't remember the little details on how she started teaching me, but one day when I was about 9, she gave me a set of crochet hooks and I picked out 2 skeins of yarn.  We got back to her house and she taught me how to hold the hook, tie a slip knot, and start chaining.  I chained the yarn all day long, making belts and necklaces and really long cat-toys.

I was due to come spend another day with her a couple of weeks later, so she sent me home with my yarn and hooks and my newly found skill at "crocheting".

All week long I crocheted chains, longer and longer. I attempted to make them perfect-same size, no twisting, big enough that future stitches would not be difficult.

I arrived back at my grandmothers house the following week, and she taught me the single crochet stitch.  I couldn't believe it! I was really crocheting! She showed me how to continue working more and more rows of single crochet with the promise of showing me the next stitch the next time we got together.

Sadly, shortly after that day, a series of events that I won't get into on my blog estranged me from that half of my family for many years.  I hardly saw them or spoke with them.  Holidays were tense affairs and hardly the atmosphere to ask for more instructions.  I never had another lesson or crochet-related gift from my grandmother. I regret now the years that I stayed away.  It could have been such a bonding experience for the two of us.

Eventually, I gave up learning to crochet.  This was before the time of finding everything on the internet (hard to believe, I know).  I sadly tucked my 2 partial skeins of yarn and set of crochet hooks in a box in my closet, telling myself one day I would go back to them when I had someone to teach me.  That day never happened.

Two years ago (almost to the day!), I found out I was pregnant with a little girl and grew determined to successfully crochet her a baby blanket.  I dug out the yarn and hooks I had stored so many years ago, and started practicing my stitching and looking up new stitches on the internet.  I never did manage to make her a blanket, but I know now that I had very optimistic ideas on what a beginning crocheter could accomplish.

This past October, I decided that instead of attempting a blanket, I would try and make her something smaller-a hat!  I had finally found someone with instructions I could follow and chose to create a hat for Addie based off of her video tutorials and patterns.

My first attempt was...well...a disaster.  I had yet to learn what an "increase" was and just kept putting more and more stitches in until I finally knew I must have it wrong!

I started over and followed her video tutorials-which where much easier to understand than most written instructions-and learned what I was doing wrong (Oh! So you only add an extra stitch once every 2/3/4 stitches then go back to one!).  Finally! After 15 years of chaining and single-crocheting, I had finished a project!

From there, I started slowly making more hats, with the hopes of selling them alongside my hair bows in my brand-new (at the time) etsy shop.  I made a few for friends, made a few to list, and Addie's hat collection grew and grew as well.

I thought I was doing really well with crochet when I listed the hats in my shop, but honestly, even just a few months later, I look back and think "really?!"  My style, skill, and techniques have changed so much in such a short time!

Crocheting really has become a passion for me, and I'm so thankful I'm finally getting paid back for all of my hard work.  It is truly rewarding to know that others appreciate my work and see the value and skill that must be behind each piece and make it worth the money they pay.

Have you taught yourself something? What was your journey like?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Drum Roll Please...

Well the day is finally here!  The day that my first giveaway is drawing to a close.

This morning I double checked to make sure no comments got left out of the drawing (they didn't) and went to random.org to find out who would be the lucky winner.

Random.org chose number 9 which is.....

drum roll please.....

Jenn from over at She Says!!

Congrats Jenn! Contact me on etsy for $20 worth of stuff from my shop!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Addie, Look at Your Garden Grow

Addie, have you seen your garden today?

You planted this garden.  You put the seeds in the ground and patted the dirt around them.  You help Daddy every day to water the garden.

Your work is paying off, Addie! Did you see your garden grow?

Soon we'll eat our own lettuce...
..and  strawberries..

...And maybe even corn!

Addie, look at your garden grow!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Blankie for Zoey

It's about time I posted some more crafts for those of you that love this kind of stuff!  This week I have another baby blanket pattern.  The pattern was not made by me, and I will not take credit for the original pattern, only for the changes I made.

Tara, my cousin, was talking to me before the birth of her third daughter, Zoey, and said she really wanted to find a blanket to match her room.  My reply? HAVE NO FEAR!! (no not really).

This blanket was super easy and fun to make, and was a really quick project as far as blankie's go.

Here is the pattern if you would like to try it yourself.  The original pattern was found in the January issue of Crochet Today magazine. The pattern made a much smaller blanket, so I'll type up my revised notes here.

Worsted weight yarn in any color you choose-around 800 yards
Crochet hook size J (6mm)

Foundation Row:
Ch 3,  DC in 3rd ch from hook (dc eyelet made), [ch 7, DC in 3rd ch from hook] 20 times

Row 1:
 Ch 3, turn; working back along foundation row, work shell in each DC eyelet across (21 shells)

Row 2-50:
Ch 3, turn; work shell pattern in ch 1 sp of each shell across. Fasten off.

Bottom Edging:
 Join yarn with sl st in top of last DC on last shell worked on Row 1. Ch 3; working along other edge of Foundation Row, work shell in ch sp of each DC eyelet across. Fasten off.

I had this blanket done in just a couple of days, but for the average crocheter that is not used to working on projects several hours a day, you may want to allot closer to 1-2 weeks to ensure your project is finished on time.

The beauty of this pattern is that you can completely customize it.  You can make it longer, wider, or even put a straight edge on it depending on your tastes. I made this blanket larger by adding extra stitches in the foundation row and working until I ran out of yarn.  The original pattern instructed to make 15 DC eyelets in the foundation row and work 45 rows.  I could have made this blanket much longer than I did, but to be honest, I ran out of yarn and time.

I hope to make another one while being fully prepared that while the pattern called for only 1 skein of yarn, it was a very very large skein!  I had to go in search of more yarn three or four times and finally gave up and said "this blanket is big enough for a newborn!"

In the end, it did end up being a decent size, just not as large as I had pictured in my head.  All in all, it is a great blankie for a new baby.  I hope Zoey enjoys it!

Happy Crocheting!

Linking to:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Mother, My Hero

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, and to commemorate it, I thought I would share something I wrote in high school.

I was given an assignment in my high school speech class to give a speech about my hero.  The decision was not hard, given what my family had just been through...

I was told to give a speech about my hero today.  It took me awhile to come up with someone that i could write about and really appreciate, but then I realized who I have always admired...More now than I ever have before.  It might sound cliche, but today, I am going to talk about my mother.  I'm not going to talk about her as a parent, though.  I just want to talk about her as a person.

She really is the strongest person I know.  I remember a time a little over a year ago when she sat me and my sister down on the couch and told us she had some important news...She went to the doctor and they found what they thought might be cancer.  She had one night to prepare us and to prepare herself for what might happen.  My sister and I sat there and cried for awhile, but she told us to be strong, because no matter what, she was going to beat it.  The next morning, she left to go to the hospital to have her surgery.  She did not know what to expect when she woke up.  When she got out of surgery, the doctor informed her that he removed her left breast because he did find cancer.  Soon after that, she started chemotherapy, which made her really sick.  I know she felt horrible and weak, but every morning she got herself out of bed, took a shower, got dressed, and put her make up on...even if the most exciting thing she would be doing that day was watch TV on the living room couch.  One day, I came home from school and asked her about this and she said nothing was going to stop her from living her life.

I remember sitting with her at the kitchen table one Saturday morning as she ran her hands through her hair and it started falling out.  That was the first time I saw my mother cry.  She shaved her head and got a wig styled to look good on her and things went back to normal...or at least as normal as they could be in my house at that time.  She still went to most of the football games to see me, went to all of my band concerts, and seemed concerned about how my day went.

After a long year of hard work and a lot of struggling to keep the household running, she was considered in remission. She has now had 5 surgeries with one more to go.  After a year and a half, life is going back to the way it should be.  With this speech coming up, I sat her down the other night and talked about everything that happened.  She told me that she had seen me and my sister through too many hard times and if she did not get to see us graduate, she was not doing her job....and that if she got to see us married, she was truly blessed.

My mom is my hero because she taught me the most important lesson anyone can learn.  No matter what happens in life, you do what you need to to keep going.

This speech was written originally 7 years ago.  My mom has since been considered "cured"-if you can ever truly be cured of cancer is beside the point.  She never did have that last surgery.  She said it was just reconstructive, and really doesn't want to go "under the knife" again if she can help it.  It's all behind us now.

Two-and-a-half years ago, I cried with my mom on my wedding day.  She was there, dancing.  We really weren't sure if she would be there for awhile.

In all honesty, as a high school student, wrapped up in my own drama and my own life, I never realized how bad my mom really got.  How worried I really should have been.  I guess she kept all of that from us to protect us.  Now, as an adult, talking to my Granny, talking to mom, I realize what I close call we avoided back then.

My mom is my hero for all the life lessons she's taught me, and for sticking by me no matter what I decide (even if that decision is to move across the country with her grand baby), and for persevering.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom. You earned it.

Easy Peasy...or Not..

I flip through your pictures, and you make it look so easy.  You're still in the hospital, but your hair is done. Your pictures look almost poetic.  The happy new family, full of love, smiles, and photo opps.

Why is it so hard for me, while others make it look so easy?

Maybe it's not so easy for you.  Maybe that's just on the surface.  I couldn't do that.  What I feel and experience goes out into the open.  I guess that's why this blog is so perfect for me.

Maybe I do put too much out there for the world to see.  Maybe I share too much. I'm okay with that, though.

You see, I have this hope that what I write can help another struggling mom.  I hope I can show that mom that's wondering, "Why do they make it look so easy?! " that we don't all have an easy time of it.

Maybe I can help another mom to not feel so alone. To not feel so crappy when she's struggling, barely treading water.

You aren't going to drown.  Just relax and let your body float back to the surface.  Accept that maybe you won't have the perfect form, but you can still stay in the pool.

I did.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Family Isn't Your Guinea Pig, Pampers!

Attention all parents!  I have a WTF?! Moment for you all.

You see, a few months ago, Pampers came out with a new Dry Max diaper that is thinner and more absorbent, but at what cost?

A few months ago, Addie also started getting much worse rashes on her lower back and stomach.  It's actually what prompted our allergy testing. 

In a completely unrelated course of action, we ended up switching diapers a few weeks ago.  Addie's rashes are much much better in that area.  I actually never made the connection before now since we were dealing with rashes all over, but the diaper area cleared up at the same time we made the switch.

Now, in our case maybe it could be coincidence.  Maybe.  Seriously though! Stop using my family (or any other) as a guinea pig! First it was the Tylenol recall, and now this.


This week (Mother's Day to be exact) marks our two-year anniversary in the Pacific Northwest.  It's a big occasion! 

They say time flies when you're having fun.  It sure does.  Time flies so fast it looks like a red streak zipping down the road in front of you.  Has it really been two years?  I still feel like such a new kid here.  I still feel  like I have a lot to learn.  I'm not part of the crowd yet.  We're still not really settled.

I believe that is partly due to how much life keeps changing for us.  We arrived in Washington this time two years ago cold, scared, and 13 weeks pregnant with Addie.  We didn't know anyone except my aunt-who I barely knew at the time.  I was so nervous to get our lives started.  I mean, that's why we moved here, right? To get our lives started again.  To start over.

Two years ago today, we were both unemployed, but confident that the hefty sum of money we were sent here with would hold out until we started making better money. It did, but only by us settling.  The market is just not there right now.  Willie finally found a job only remotely related to his field working for Sears.  He made decent money, but at what cost? I never saw him.

Almost a year later, we couldn't take it anymore.  We were both tired of waiting for our lives to start, so Willie decided to go back to school.  He took on a 3 month certificate program to get him into a hospital in a kinder work environment and enrolled in a nursing program so he could find a job that was in demand.  He's been at it for almost a year now (again).  People still laugh at us at what a drastic change we went through for Willie's career, but it's what we had to do at the time to get out of the hole we were digging ourselves deeper and deeper into.


Things are changing again.  Two weeks ago, Willie told me he was not sure he was happy on his current path.  He really wants to go back to working in electronics, so me being the supportive wife I am, agreed with this (I thought he enjoyed it more anyway).  Yesterday he got accepted into a college in Bremerton to get his associates degree in Electronic engineering.  We'll see in the next week or two how long that will take considering all of his military training and classes along with what he's already taken in college so far.  We're hoping for a year or less!

So, yes, we are facing more changes in our lives.  A song quote I have always loved is that "the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes."  Boy is that right.

We've faced many, many changes in the last two years, and there are many, many more changes waiting for us in our future.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How To Make Green Cleaning Products

It's that time of year again...the dreaded (for some) spring cleaning.

This year, instead of spending all of that money on commercial cleaning products-and subjecting yourself and your family to the harsh chemicals in those bottles-maybe you want to try some home-made, non-toxic cleaners that get the job done without all of the negative side effects.

Now, you may be asking, "why? Why should I 'fix something that ain't broken?"

I'll tell you why.  Just like I said above, to eliminate the harsh chemicals.  Chemicals like bleach are not necessary for your average household on a regular basis.  In fact, these chemicals contain harsh toxins that aren't good for you, your children, or the people that come into your home.  I won't go into all of the scientific proof on this (because honestly, it's long & boring & I know it didn't change my mind on it's own), but there is a reason the label says "Use in a well ventilated area".

I know how weird it can feel switching to green cleaners, and how you can feel that maybe it doesn't clean your house as well because it doesn't have the well-known name or that fresh scent.  Trust me.  I mean, I just made the switch a year ago while trying to ease Addison's discomfort with Eczema.  I was really worried about dis-infecting and knowing everything was clean and germ free.  I mean, that's what they breed into our heads! It can't be clean if you don't buy cleaner and anti-bacterial products, right?!


Here, I'm going to share several recipes for green cleaners.  Some have been tried by me and some have been sent to me by readers that are hoping to help out.

All Purpose Cleaners:

My personal favorite:
1/2 cup of white vinegar
2-4 drops of eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil (it's very important to get essential oil, not scented oil)
2 (ish) liters of water
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 cup baking soda

Mix all of these ingredients together in a spray bottle and shake.  I use this cleaning solution in the kitchen, bathrooms, and even occasionally on the floor (although you should be careful as certain floors require special care).  Although you expect a vinegar based cleaner to smell strongly of vinegar, my house does not.  You may smell vinegar while cleaning (although the oil will cut down on that), but the smell quickly goes away.

Be very careful, because this solution does foam!

Erica's Powder Cleaner Base #1
2 cups baking soda
1 tbs Borax
1/2 cup shredded natural soap

Erica says "Having a bottle of White Vinegar on hand works great for those hard to clean areas as it makes the cleaner foam and warm up a bit and boost the cleaning to get rid of the soap scum build up that happens especially in the tub. I use my gloves when I have heavy duty cleaning to do like this. I like to make a paste with the powder cleaner and rub on the surface that needs cleaning and then spray with the Vinegar and rub it a bit more, allow it to set for a while and then rinse away. Another application might be necessary for those areas that do not clean up easily. [It] can be used in the powder form or added to some hot water to make a paste for washing surfaces, along with any of the Essential Oils you like. The amount of water used in not listed as some might like more than others so you can judge what you like best. A nice rubbing paste works great for counters, refrigerators, etc.

Here are her recommended essential oil combos for this cleaner (and her Powder Cleaner Base #2 which will be listed further below):

1 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Lavender Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Tea Tree Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Spearmint Essential Oil
3/4 tsp. Sweet Orange Essential Oil
1/4 tsp. Pine Essential Oil 

 Eucalyptus-Mint All Purpose Disinfecting Soft Soap for Kitchen and Bath:

Erica says,"This soap can be used for dishes, handwashing, floors, stoves, refrigerators, sinks, and hands. It's mild to the skin but effective enough to get cleaning jobs done. The eucalyptus and mint provide a disinfecting quality as well as a fresh scent; any areas washed with this soap will be undesirable to crawling insects and flies. They'll stay away for quite a while."

 5 cups grated castile soap
1/2 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon borax
6 cups hot peppermint tea
1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil 

Put grated soap into a 3-quart stainless steel saucepan and add hot mint tea.  Simmer for fifteen minute on low heat.  Add baking soda, borax, and eucalyptus oil.  Store in a labeled plastic jug or squirt bottle.  Shake before using. 

Bathroom Scrubs:

Being on a budget (like I am), I really love using Borax in the bathrooms as a scrub.  Grist did an article testing 8 green cleaning bathroom products, and Borax won me over just as much as the writer of the article.  It's not no scrub, but it does the best job I've ever seen in my tub and shower.

Erica's Powder Cleaner Base #2-A scrubbing base for the tub, sinks, or to scrub any surface that needs scrubbing:
2 cups baking soda
1/4 cup orange or lemon peel (finely powdered)
1 tbs Borax
1/2 cup shredded natural soap

Erica says, "It is best to take the dried Natural Soap and powder it down in the food processor a bit in order to get it to mix in the powder mixture better."

De-odorizers and Air Fresheners
The most simple, effective, and budget-friendly way of deodorizing your carpet while vacuuming is to sprinkle baking soda or Borax on your carpet before vacuuming.  It offers a fresh scent and eliminates odors in your carpet. 

If you have tougher odors, or just want a more noticeable smell, you can also mix in your favorite Essential Oil before sprinkling it onto the carpet.

Like a fresh smelling home?  There are so many ways to freshen the air in your home.  Some simple solutions include simmering cinnamon or other spices with water on the stove, keeping fresh coffee grounds on the counter, and baking soda. 

Do you like those gel air fresheners you can buy in the stores?  You can make one yourself!

1 packet unflavored Knox gelatin
3/4 c water
1/4 c vodka
1-2 tbs fragrance oil
food coloring as desired

Dissolve the gelatin in boiling water.  Allow to cool at room temp then add the vodka, coloring, and scent. Pour into a decorative jar and refrigerate until set.

I hope some of these cleaners help get you started on the road to a greener, less toxic lifestyle.  There are many, many, many more recipes for cleaners, and as you get more comfortable with the idea of making your own, you'll find that you like different mixtures.  

Keep these key ingredients handy and remember to use them when making your own cleaners:

White Distilled Vinegar
Baking Soda
Lemon Juice
Essential Oils
Natural Soap

If you would like to do more research on this topic yourself, here are some great sites I recommend.  Some of the information in this post has at one  point or another, been learned from these sites as well:
1001 Uses For Vinegar
The Daily Green-Spring Cleaning
Green Cleaning Resources
EarthEasy Non Toxic Solutions
Uses for Essential oils
Article on bathroom cleaners

I would also like to send out a big thank you to Erica over at Goddess Of Cooking for sending over her recipes, tips, and tricks to include in this blog post.

Happy Cleaning!