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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How to Make Homemade Laundry Detergent

I talk a lot about making my own cleaners here.  There are a lot of reasons to make your own cleaners, but in today's economy, I think the strongest persuasion is the price.  

One of my new favorite cleaners is a DIY natural laundry soap that I found browsing Pintrest.  Not only is this made from earth-friendly ingredients, it's also super cheap, and almost easier than just going to the store to buy detergent.  In fact, I believe once you do the math, it comes out to about .5 a load.  You can't beat that even buying in bulk.

You'll only need three ingredients to make this laundry detergent:
  1. Borax
  2. Fels Naptha Soap (or any other mild soap)
  3. Washing Soda-I use Arm and Hammer. 
Even better, I didn't have to go searching for ingredients.  All 3 items were displayed on the same shelf in the laundry section at my local grocery store.

To make this soap, all you need to do is finely grate 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap using a cheese grater.  This took awhile, but maybe I'm just a slow grater! Once you're done with that part, though, you just need to measure out 1 cup of washing soda-it's very important that you get washing soda and not baking soda-and 1 cup of Borax and pour them into the same container as the soap and mix it well.  I put mine in a pretty glass jar, but a plastic Ziplock container works just as well.

Once you've got it mixed well, it's ready to use.  The original instructions I read said to just use 1 tbs for a normal load of laundry, but I found that it cleans better using about 1 1/2.  I also add a splash of distilled vinegar to make my clothes softer.  It certainly helps when you're used to liquid laundry detergent and fabric softener.

I've used about half of my first batch of detergent, so I can honestly say that I love it.  It smells so fresh and clean while it's washing, but when you pull your clothes out, they just smell clean, with no extra scent.  I guess that can be a pro or a con, depending on your preference.  I think on my next batch I'll experiment with adding some essential oils for scent, but otherwise, I can't imagine ever going back to regular detergent again!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crochet Pumpkin Beanie - Free Pattern!

When I think of fall, I think of trips to the pumpkin patch, brisk mornings, pumpkin pie, and of course, Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte's.

Notice a trend, here? Yeah...fall, to me, screams, pumpkin!

This little pumpkin beanie is a super cute fall hat, whether for photography props or just an every day fall hat.  Want to make one? Great! Because I've decided to offer this pattern up for FREE! The only catch is, I only have the instructions written for 6-12 month and 2T-4T sizes.  Still, little kids make the cutest chubby pumpkins anyway :)

So, how do you get a copy of this pattern? It's simple! It's available as a free download in my Ravelry storefront.  Go ahead, there are seriously no strings attached.  I just felt like offering a fun, seasonal hat to you!

Happy Crocheting!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beach Day

Yesterday morning, when we woke up, we discovered that for the first time in over a week, we had gorgeous blue skies.  While the rain last week was a welcome change after such a dry summer, the sun that followed was almost more welcome!

We decided during coffee that we would take off for the day and hit the beach for a little fun in the sun.  It was such a relaxing day, something we've all needed for awhile after the stresses of a job hunt. 

My cousin and her kids came with us, and the kids had a blast skipping through the water, building sand "cakes" and "snow angels", and collecting sea shells. 

Living near the beaches again is definitely a perk to being back home.  It is so nice to go spend the day at the beach after having made no plans to do so!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's Hard to Do...

I want to write.  So badly, do I want to write.  I have all of these ideas swimming in my head.  I have a notebook I carry around, just so I can jot down what's in my head at any given time. 

I just can't.

It's hard to focus, these days.  It's hard to think about things like crafting tutorials, writing prompts, discussing the "why's" of the last few months.  It's hard to do any of that when everything feels so up in the air.

I thought things were finally coming together.  I thought that after years of struggling and sacrificing, we'd finally hit "pay day." I was wrong.  So, so, so wrong.

It's just hard to care about anything but my disappointment this week.

I feel like the last few years have been spent on Humpty Dumpty.  Yeah...the egg guy that fell from the wall.  After my husband's discharge from the military, I've felt like all we've done is focus on putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.  This month, he was whole, all except one vital piece.  The piece we couldn't find.

That left him weak for this last fall, and now, all I can do is worry that he'll never be whole.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christmas in July on Etsy

Having worked in retail half of my adult life, I have turned into one of those people that starts shopping for Christmas presents somewhere around the beginning of the school year.  I know, I'm one of those shoppers!  I promise, you can be prepared for the holidays early without busting out the Christmas carols and knit sweaters in July. 

 All "Christmas in July" really means is that you can take advantage of some really great sales and start stocking up on Christmas gifts early.  If you do a lot of shopping online, it's always best to order early.  Businesses get backed up, and so does the post office, so Christmas in July is a great way to get rid of the stress of holiday shipping times.

So, for those of you like me that like to get some (or all) of your shopping done with plenty of time, or love shopping online, this sale is for you!

 Many Etsy sellers are offering up Christmas in July sales this month.  Some of them have already started, and some will be starting shortly.

CUTEure Creations will be having a sale this week! Starting Sunday, July 10th, everything in my etsy shop will be 20% off for 2 weeks! Make sure you check it out.  I will have my fall line tentatively out for sale (all color options will not be shown but custom orders will be welcome) along with the products you already know and love.  If you are a fan of mine on Facebook you'll be able to see additional offers and ready to ship items throughout the time of the sale.

 Make sure you come check it out!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Can Discipline Go Overboard?

We all know that disciplining children is a touchy subject among parents.  Everyone thinks that their way is the best way.  We've all read books, blogs, and websites from different "experts" on the topic of parenthood and young children.

Today, I had the pleasure of stumbling across two different blogs (here, and here) discussing different sides on this subject.  The differing views between the two sparked something in me that I just needed to share.

They are both fairly short posts, and both very worth the read.  They bring up some great topics.

Upon my initial reading of the post "Are You Damaging Your Kid's Self-Esteem?", I was appalled.  What right does she have to tell me I'm pimping out my child when I ask for a hug or a kiss?  I feel like my daughter is a very affectionate child, and that I've helped her become that way.  This point is just hard to swallow.  I grew up giving my relatives hugs and kisses (on the mouth, too!) and I in no way feel that this has caused emotional damage.  I did not grow up to believe that the only way I can earn affection is by handing out kisses, or worse.  At what point would I be considered "pimping" my child? Is it when I ask her to show Nanna how she has learned all the words to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," including all of the signs? Or is it only considered pimping if I push the issue after she says "no"?

The author then goes on to discuss our "know it all" attitude as parents.  To an extent, I do agree with what she has written here.  She gives the example of telling your child to put a sweater on when it's cold.  "Let your kid get cold. Let him know where a sweater is just in case," is her advice.  Why should I insist that my daughter wear a sweater when she is telling me she isn't cold? I have found I am much more successful when I just suggest she wear a sweater.  If she refuses, then she can go outside and see how cold she is and make the decision herself.  To me, this proves two points. 

1) I believe she is an individual capable of making her own decisions-to an extent.  She is only 2 years old. and
2) Maybe sometimes mamma knows best.  Next time I suggest a sweater, she may believe me when I say it's cold, and grab her sweater.

Where do I draw that line, though? If my potty trained 2 year old says she doesn't need to go potty before nap, do I just let her go straight to bed knowing she'll be up in 5 minutes asking to pee? Or do I insist she at least try before nap time so she can go to sleep easier.

What about at bed time when she tells me she's not tired after spending the last 30 minutes rubbing her eyes and yawning? Do I really just let her stay up because she insists?

Can I tell her to say "please" and "thank you," or is that asking her to perform on command again?

I fear that if we take this school of thought too far-the school of thought that telling your child to do something ruins their self esteem and ability to listen to their bodily cues- that we may end up with an even worse situation than the one we are already in.  How many day time talk shows do we have to see with the title "I'm scared of my 3 year old," to learn that it's okay to offer guidance and discipline to your young child? The point is, everything in moderation.  It's a good rule to learn in life. I personally have found the best approach to be the power of suggestion, versus insisting she do it my way.

I would love some other opinions on this subject.  Do you find today's parents to be too pushy with their children?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Perfect Hiding Place {Writing Prompt}

Like most kids, at nine years old, I had a best friend.  At the time, she was really the only friend I had, to be honest.  Every afternoon after school, I would go to her house to play.  Her house was my sanctuary. I could listen to New Kids on the Block. I could play video games. Her family lived on a coul de sac full of other kids from school, so we would get together and play kick ball, chase, soft ball, and other childhood favorites.
Things I couldn’t do at home.  Friends didn’t come to my house.  I wasn’t allowed to listen to anything but country music, or wear fun clothes.  The neighborhood kids were all much older.  Playing at my friend’s house was the only time I had to be a kid.

Then, my parents did the un-thinkable.  They ripped me away from my entire life, and we moved to a new town, a new school, and a new life.  What’s worse, we moved from a thriving, busy metropolitan out to farm country with the world’s smallest school district, biggest yards, and fewest neighbors.  
I wish my nook looked this awesome.
Moving away from my sanctuary was a hard adjustment for me.  I had nowhere to hide and be a kid again. I couldn’t make new friends in such a small town.  All of these kids had been friends since birth.  I was the weird kid, the outsider. I promised myself and my parents that I would go back home.  That I would leave the one-horse-town our new home resided in, and go back to the city.  I just needed time to pack.  I needed to “iron out the details.”  

Once, during recess, a boy in my class told me that if I just followed the railroad tracks, they would lead my straight out of town.  He said I couldn’t get lost if I just stayed by the railroad tracks.  I thought about it.  I road in the bus past those railroad tracks every day on my way home from school.  I could just never get the courage.  I was a very compassionate person, even at such a young age. Every time I thought I had the courage up to leave, I would realize my birthday was coming up, or Christmas, or Mothers day.  I thought to myself, “If I left now, it would hurt them too much to enjoy the holiday.  I’ll wait until it’s over.” 

Needless to say, I never ran away from home.  I mean, where would I have gone?  Instead, I created a safe haven for myself.  I created my own little world that no one ever knew about in the back of my closet-complete with a reading lamp, my journal, my favorite pillow, and a stack of books that could take me anywhere I wanted to go.    Just like that, I had found my sanctuary-my perfect hiding place.  I spent every afternoon in there doing homework, reading books, and writing.  I like to think that is where my love of writing came from.  

Best of all, no one else knew it ever existed until just now.

These days, I no longer have a special hiding place in my closet.  I'd love to have my own little nook, even as an adult.  Of course, now, I'd settle for a great writing nook hidden in my closet! 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Sunday, June 26, 2011

'Tis the Season...For Gift Making!

It's that time of year again! Well...not really. It's not Christmas time yet.  After all, it's supposed to be somewhere up in the 90's again here today. So no, it's definitely not the season...yet.

However, if you're anything like me-and I hope some of you are-you'll realize that yesterday was exactly 6 months until Christmas.  That's right.  Yesterday was 6/25.  So the count down has officially begun!

I know, I know.    Everyone is sick of hearing about the holidays earlier and earlier each year.  I promise I'm not going to start singing Jingle Bells and break out the decorations just yet.  In fact, I usually don't truly get into the spirit of Christmas until December.  Sometimes. The thing is, though, that for the last 3 years, I have sworn I would have a hand-made Christmas. Unfortunately, between running and online crafty business and keeping my daughter occupied, that has yet to happen.  Sure, I end up with a few hand-made gifts to give out, but nothing extra-ordinary.

I realized last night, that if I truly want to do this, I've got to start early.  You know, like June! So, here I am, compiling lists of crafts and fun ideas for everyone on my Christmas list.  I thought it would be fun to share as I go for anyone else interested in a DIY holiday.

Will you join me in planning a DIY holiday? I would love to hear about your adventure in handmade gift making!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Item Down, 56 More to Go.

That's right.  I just finished something else off of my Bucket List.

43. Take a road-trip across the country in our bus.

I guess it sort of depends on how technical you want to get though.  I mean, we did take a road trip camping in the bus.  Does it matter that the bus was being towed?


That's right.  That's a U-Haul towing our bus.  We towed it all the way from Washington to Texas.  I won't get into the gory details, but let's suffice it to say that during my absence from blogging, I was busy packing, driving across the country (again), and adjusting.

Of course, our current residence is very temporary, but it was still an adjustment.  I'm back in my childhood hometown, a place I never thought I'd return to for any extended period of time.  That itself is a post all on it's own, or maybe a book.   I haven't decided yet.

Any way, we did travel across the country, camping in our 1972 VW bus.  It's a sort of fun story, when you exclude the stress of moving and making it to town by a certain day.  I've joked a lot about becoming a "hippie" during my time in Washington, but honestly, none of the green living, crunchy lifestyle habits made me feel more like a hippie than traveling across the country, camping in this bus wherever we stopped, and not showering for four days!

It was pretty cool.  We sure attracted a lot of attention from passers-by, even had a few friendly conversations.  After all, when strangers see you step out of a bus that's being towed by a 26' U-Haul trailer, questions are bound to come up.

I'm not going to cross this one off of my list just yet, as much as I'd like to.  After all, we didn't drive the bus.  Plus, I'd like to leave that one staring at me a little longer to encourage a trip East, just for fun this time instead of necessity.

So, here it is, staring at me and just waiting to be crossed off for real next time:
43. Take a road-trip across the country in our bus.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sure Enough, Snow..

Well, sure enough...we've got snow.  In late February even.  It started mid-morning yesterday and has been snowing off and on for the last 24 hours.  My front yard has turned into a bit of a winter wonderland.. It's quite beautiful, depending on your tastes.

My tastes change throughout the year.  Even a month ago, I would have thought this was beautiful.  I would have been thrilled at the chance to play in the snow and would have been drinking hot chocolate while watching it out the window.  Now, however? Now my inner Texan is kicking and screaming like a 2 year old in a candy aisle.

It's not supposed to snow in almost-March!  My body is aching for 70 degree weather and salty air. I want to buy tank tops and sandals again.  I want to need a reason to look good in a bikini again! I'm tired of hats (okay, not really!), long sleeve shirts, and layers. 

Oh, beautiful snow, I love you, but you're a little late this year.  Can you please let the sun come out to play?

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Bucket List

I know many bloggers and writers in general make a list of things they want to do in their life.  I finally decided to jump on the bandwagon and get mine down on paper, so I have something to hold myself accountable for.

So, here are the top 100 things I want to do before I'm too old to do them.  I'll keep this updated to the best of my abilities and mark things off as they are done.

1. Get Married
2. See the Pacific Ocean
3. See the Atlantic Ocean
4. Visit Europe
5. Visit Europe with my family
6. See a real castle
7. Go to Disney World
8. Go on a cruise
9. Write a book
10. Get published
11. Get a bachelors degree
12. Get a masters degree
13. Run a successful business
14. Buy a house
15. Start riding a bike as an adult
16. Have a kid
17. Accumulate frequent flyer miles (but first, learn how to accumulate frequent flyer miles)
18. See New England
19. Visit NYC
20. Have a well-known blog
21. Find more time to pamper myself
22. Cook a dish that impresses "foodies"
23. Have my products featured in a magazine
24. Learn how to take photographer-worthy photos
25. Plant and tend to a flower garden
26. Plant and tend to a fruit/veggie garden
27. Landscape a yard
28. Have a home that people enjoy visiting
29. Have articles published in a magazine
30. Get a dog
31. Do a hiking trip that lasts at least 2 days
32. Learn to spin yarn
33. Learn to dye yarn
34. Learn to sew
35. Sew an outfit
36. Get my products into a store
37. Look good in a bathing suit again
38. Learn how to navigate without GPS
39. Have a 100% hand-made Christmas
40. Make hats for chemo patients
41. Build a tree-house/fort for my kids (or have W build it)
42. See Hawaii
43. Take a road-trip across the country in our bus
44. Visit Canada
45. Have a "trash the dress" photo shoot
46. Renew our vows
47. Go on a (late) honeymoon
48. Vacation somewhere "all inclusive"
49. Get paid to write on a regular basis
50. Have a second kid
51. Visit the Carolinas with my family
52. Get down below my wedding day weight
53. Go camping with my family
54. Have an organized work space/craft room
55. Hire a cleaning service
56. Be able to afford good schools for my kids
57. Help support my family
58. Learn to speak a foreign language fluently
59. Backpack across Europe
60. Teach someone how to do a craft
61. Celebrate a 10 year anniversary with Willie
62. Celebrate 25+ years with Willie
63. Be known for something positive I have accomplished
64. Hire an interior designer
65. Join a book club

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Letter to my Future Teen

I've recently re-discovered Mama Kat's blog and her weekly writing prompts.  This week, I decided to join in, and chose to write a letter to my future teen.

Mama's Losin' It

Dear Daughter,
As I write this letter, you are 2 (going on 13).  You're just discovering your independence and the fact that you do have opinions.  They call this age the "terrible twos", and I can certainly see why everyone fears toddlers.  However, I wouldn't call them terrible.  You're strong willed, emotional, and very opinionated, but all of these things are what makes you you.  Parenting "experts" and all of the well-meaning advice from friends has nothing on you, but I enjoy the challenge! We're certainly never bored in this house.

You've been my biggest lesson in humility. After all, I never did enjoy asking for help, and I have learned that sometimes I need it.  After all, I don't know how I would have made it through your colicky phase if I hadn't had your father to take turns with during that time.

I know that as you get older, you and I will butt heads a lot.  We'll have differing opinions on what is best for you, and if you'll really marry that boyfriend of yours after graduation.  It's just a matter of fact given that we are both so similar.  As much as we may fight, though, I want you to know that even my worst days as a parent have far surpassed even my very best days before you came into my life. 

I hope this letter finds us with a good relationship and a great appreciation for each other.


Saturday, January 29, 2011


Kalaloch, WA
My whole life, I have always had the distinct feeling that the grass would be greener on the other side.  I always felt like there was somewhere else I should be; somewhere bigger and better.  I was a big traveler, heading out to big cities and exotic places.  Every time I went somewhere new, I started daydreaming of living there.  Then, I moved here and it all changed.  I feel like from the moment I arrived in Washington, I knew I had finally found a place to settle down.  As it turns out, the grass really is greener here.  So are the trees.  It must be all of the rain.

For the first time in my life, there is no where I'd rather be.  My wanderlust has finally been satisfied.  Sure, I get homesick-quite frequently as a matter of fact, but I have no desire to leave here now, or any time soon.

Ironically, for the first time in my life, the decision is not entirely in my hands.  I've mentioned before the struggles we've faced since moving here.  It's been a hard  (almost) three years here, and we're reaching the end of a very long journey that has left us achy and tired, and ready for a nice big meal.  In other words, Willie is almost done with school, and the job searching has begun.

While he's searching, the reality is hitting the two of us like a ton of bricks.  This is it. It's basically our last chance.  He's gone back to school. We've made the required sacrifices. We've (well, he's) worked the odd jobs and gone without insurance, all to make this happen.  This is the end of the road.  We've already decided that if-after all of this-he is still unable to find the appropriate work for someone with his education and experience here, we'll have to expand the job search as far as it will reach.

The idea saddens me.  I can't imagine leaving here.  By the time all of this works out, we will have been here for three years.  That's the longest I've lived anywhere other than the place I grew up, and even then I left as soon as I had graduated!

Seattle skyline at twilight, seen from West Seattle
Of course, this is the worst-case scenario. We've still got our hopes high that the area will prove as fruitful as we'd imagined when we first set our sights on the northwest.  Still, it never hurts to be prepared for all the possibilities.  In that mindset, I've been slowly coming to grips with the fact that I may have to say good-bye soon to a place that has finally felt like home.  It's left me a bit withdrawn and cranky. 

This is not like me, though.  I don't really know how to react to the idea of leaving a place before I'm ready.  Last week, for example, we had to come up with a list of the top ten places we would be willing to transfer for a job.  Yes, top ten places we would transfer.  It's a pretty impressive job, too, so of course we came up with a list of places we would like to see.  After all, this was our agreement when we decided to move here.  We had to allow it to be a temporary home if necessary.  We have no true roots holding us here, so we must be willing to go where we can find a decent income.  The only problem is, neither of us expected to become this attached to a place where we knew no one two and a half years ago.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bachelors Degree in Thriftiness

Like everyone else, my family has been hit pretty hard with the economy the last few years.  Regardless, we made it work.  We scrimped and saved and we've gone with only one car for the last three years now. 

See, the economy took a dive right before Willie got out of the air force and we moved across country. Despite our high hopes, Willie was unable to get a job in even a similar field of work since we've moved here.  I won't give you the exact figures, of course, but let's just say we've grown used to living on about a third of what we should be, with an extra mouth to feed even!

It's been hard, to say the least.  It's been a lot of sacrifices and prioritizing. I mentioned the other day that it's almost my turn to go back to school.  I don't know why, since I've certainly had the longest course ever in living a thrifty life.  I should be getting my bachelors degree in thriftiness any day now.

Our biggest problem area, like most families, is groceries. I've had to learn to stick to a list.  I mean, wow! I never realized how many pointless things we bought before, but even now if I don't make a list, I watch our total quickly exceed what it should.  My trick is to plan 8-9 dinners for 2 weeks.  I know that sounds wrong, but when you shop using whole ingredients rather than boxes, it lasts so much longer! For example, if I want to make chicken and broccoli Alfredo, I would buy frozen chicken breasts (or a whole chicken), a couple of heads of broccoli, a box of pasta, Parmesan cheese, butter, and heavy cream.  I'm certainly not going to use a whole chicken or an entire package of butter. I most likely won't use all of the Parmesan or pasta either since my family eats maybe half a box of pasta.  See? Now I have all of these extra ingredients for another meal!

As of this week, I've even begun using coupons.  In fact, Saturday I sent Willie out on our very first coupon run.  I need to re-install the printer program on my computer since I had to wipe it clean recently, but I found cellfire.com thanks to a friend.  This site lets you register your store rewards cards for the grocery stores you frequent, and you load coupons right onto your rewards card.  It's awesome! You just let them scan your card during check out like always and the coupons are automatically deducted from your total. Isn't that amazing?! I never thought I would be the type to use coupons, but after talking to so many people that get things practically for free, I decided I must try it! This week's grocery shopping trip will most definitely include as many coupons as I can get my hands on.  It's time for me to take that step and save even more money.

Anyway, hopefully by including coupons into my weekly shopping, I can save even more money, therefore putting more money in our pockets. In a way, it's almost like getting a pay raise! Until there is an actual pay raise in our future, we'll just have to stick with our thriftiness.  Maybe this is supposed to be a life lesson.  It's better that I learn this now, when we don't have money so that I can continue to use it one day when we are  both working and bringing in a good paycheck, right?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

When I Grow Up

Do you remember when you were a child, and grown-ups would always ask what you wanted to be when you grew up? Do you remember any of your answers?

I'm reading a book for Addie called Taming the Spirited Child (more on that another time), and the author talks about helping spirited children find their passion in order to meet their full potential.  In this chapter, the author mentions asking children what they want to be when they grow up, and expanding on that to support their interests. It's supposed to make them more focused and give them direction later in life, even if it is a different direction.

This chapter got me thinking about what I always wanted to be.  I came up with nothing. Not a single inkling as to what my childhood aspirations were.  Did I want to be a doctor? A lawyer? A princess? I have no idea!

An interesting fact about this is that I also feel I've never had any direction.  The road that travels through my teen and young adult years is long and winding, often going in complete circles just to bring me somewhere I've already been.  It's no wonder I have no career or goals.  I've never been able to settle on anything for longer than a minute.

I do realize that most people don't even end up doing what they said they would as a child.  As you grow up, the curtain lifts and you see the not-so-glamorous side of those dreams.  Maybe you chose another dream, and another, until you finally found one and stuck with it.  Maybe your childhood dreams had absolutely nothing to do with your career now. Money and power can be great motivators.

I feel like I must have been asked this question a million times as a child. It's almost time for me to go back to school, and while I'm still looking at my options, I feel as though my hand has already been dealt.  I waited too long to go back to school. I feel like now it's just time to find a degree that will land me a title rather than a dream job. So now I have to figure out, what do I want to be when I grow up?