Country Cleanin’

Well to preface this post, let me begin my revealing my December ‘Mystery Craft’.  It was how to make Christmas Trees out of magazines a la Martha.  You can see them here: Folded Magazine Trees.  Admittedly, mine did not turn out as glorious as Martha’s staff’s did, but who’s checking?  Also, you really need to get Martha’s Bone Folder, which can be found @ your local Wal-Mart for less than five dollars, to make things go along smoothly. 

Ok, now with December out of the way…onto…February? 

My topic today is going to be natural cleaning (read: non-toxic, mostly cheap) products you can make at home.  I starting doing this back in December, when I picked up a neat little book: Make Your Place off of Amazon.  (I also would like her other book, How to Make soap without Burning your Face Off.  Seriously.)  So, freshly inspired, I ran to the local health food store, well, actually I drove because I hate running, but I snagged a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap with Almond Oil.  It smells just like a million cherries are crammed in the bottle!  And, over the course of a couple of weeks, I also bought several essential oils: Tea Tree, Lime, Tangerine, Eucalyptus, and Lavender.  Note that these are NOT aromatherapy blends, these are the real, pure pressed oils from the plants themselves.  You can expect to pay about $5 to $12 dollars (or more) for a small  bottle of these products.  And, no, they do NOT carry them in Wal Mart!  ;0)  Anyway, I have fallen in love with essential oils!  Now, how to make your own products and using oils.

For a great, All-purpose general cleaner, I use this recipe:

1 tsp. liquid castile soap

2 Tbsp. White vinegar

1 tsp. borax (you can find 20 Mule Team Borax @ WalMart in the laundry area)

2 cups hot water

1/4 tsp each:  eucalyptus and lavender oil

3 drops tea tree oil

Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle.  Do not use on glass. 

It also recommends to spray it on, scrub, and rinse off with a clean, damp cloth (which honestly….I don’t rinse it off  *shrugs*)  I also add a couple more drops of lavender oil because I am so addicted to the fragrance!  I use this on my tile floors, countertops, etc. *Shake well in between uses*

Glass Cleaner:

So very simple:

1 part water

1 part white vinegar

This works GREAT.  I mean, a million times better than “the blue stuff”.  Well, to me anyway!  Make Your Place also has this recipe for a Glass Cleaner:

1.5 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup water

4-8 drops of orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well.

Let me now add in here that you must, must, MUST use microfiber cloths.  I love my microfiber cloths and can’t imagine ever, in a zillion years, going back to stupid paper towels.  I only use paper towels for grody clean ups like…dog pee.  You know?

So anyway, back to the castile soap.  I have used it straight up as a body wash, as shampoo, and in the kid’s baths.  Also, the label says you can brush your teeth with it.  Did I do it?  Well…let’s just say…do you remember the scene in PeeWee’s Big Adventure where he brushed HIS teeth? (“Mad dog!Mad dog!”) Moving on:

Now for another biggie:

Dishwasher Detergent  (for use in the dishwasher, not the sink!)

1/2 cup liquid castile soap

1/2 cup water

1 tsp. lemon juice

3 drops tea tree oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

Add to squirt bottle container, preferably a recycled dish soap container, right?!?  I personally use about 2 Tbsp with each load, or, 3 good squirts directly in the bottom of the dishwasher. You will need to shake this concoction up vigorously before usage.  If not, it will form this gel-like substance from the reaction of the vinegar/lemon juice to the soap, which, incidentally still works great, but is potent.  I found this out when I added too much of the gel stuff and I had bubbles frothing from my dishwasher!  Lol.  BUT, if you use your dishwasher on a regular basis, like every 2-3 days and keep this shook up, you should not have a problem with the gel formation.  I love this recipe!!!

My only concern would be the breakdown of the fats which are in your dishwasher filter/lines.  I am not sure if this mixture is potent enough to fully dissolve buildup, so you could use your regular dishwashing detergent ever so often if you feel this could be a problem.  Also, I have noticed that it still leaves a thin film on some plastics (like disposable containers) but frankly with the whole Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate scare, I’m trying not to use too many plastics for food storage anymore anyway.

Now, a word on essential oils.  Essential oils come in varying qualities.  I just use my local natural foods store because it is convenient and I like the oil quality just fine.  Also, essential oils should be considered as possible skin irritants so DO NOT get them on your skin undiluted. If you want to tinker with making your own aromatherapy/massage oils, the essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil (an oil which is safe for the skin).  Some essential oils are extremely irritating to the skin!!!  I do not know anything about making massage oils and the like, so you’ll have to do the legwork there!

I hope this will help you all save some money and help you to break the cycle of thinking that we MUST buy specific cleaning products for every purpose, which is just silly!  Many more natural cleaning recipes can be found online.  OH, one last tip.  If you ever have stains/burned on food/etc. on your countertops, bathtub, other solid surface, try using baking soda and a damp sponge.  Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and scrub gently with your sponge OR microfiber cloth.  Most stains/food spills/etc, will just vanish.  It is very similar to using a Mr. Clean Magic sponge….but a looooot cheaper!

The Simple Life is the Life for Me

“Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”

My mom and I were talking the other day about all her stuff that she has.  It depresses her to know that she has a huge house full of stuff, a storage building packed to the gills with stuff, and a huge barn full of stuff.  What constitutes “stuff”?  I would classify it as nonessentials that are taking up space.  Essentials being food, some household goods, and some clothes. I made the comment that I LOVE the ‘simple’ look for my home.  In other words, lots of uncluttered clean lines.  I also made the comment that the act of simplification is HARD!  For example, when I decorated my kitchen counters, I had to decide what I use on a daily basis.  For the most part, aside from my dry goods such as sugar and flours, if I did not use it on a daily basis, it did not deserve to take up space on my kitchen counter. The most difficult decision was deciding not to leave out my kitchen utensils (ladle, spatulas, etc) which, even though they were tastefully arranged in a vintage crock, were just too much eye clutter for me.  It sounds silly, but I do believe that my stress levels go down when I see ‘clean lines’, that is, not a lot of STUFF laying around!  I also believe in the power of a CLEAN KITCHEN SINK. I swear, it’s better than anti-anxiety medication! 

Anyway, I think this is why I have embraced the vintage country look so tightly.  I have also embraced the saying, “If you don’t love it, lose it.”  If it is an item of considerable worth, I will sell it.  If I can ‘recycle’ it into something new, I will do that.  If I just can’t figure out what to do with it, I run it to Goodwill.  I think this is an extremely valuable lesson for all of us to learn.  Why surround yourself with things that you don’t absolutely love?  This is just simplification of your Life.  Are you, too,  drowning in a vast sea of stuff?

I came upon a website that I fell in love with:  The Farm Chicks blog.  I am going to direct you to her Laundry Room blog.  I saw that blog and it so inspired me that the next day, I took an hour to re-do my own laundry ‘room’. She totally decorates with the same style that I love.  I also spent the rest of that same day re-doing my pantry.  Three hours later, I love it!  I will post pics soon.

In farm news, I would like to brag to you all for a minute.  I had this shirt that I got at Goodwill the other day.  Truthfully, I did not love it.  I will have to admit to you that it was an impulsive, dumb buy for 4.99.  But I did love the fabric.  Well the other day, I decided to do something with it.  I ripped out the side seam of that shirt, and I made each of my girls a prairie skirt/maxidress (why not get 2 uses out of one item of clothing, right???).  Oh, they really turned out so cute.  And, to top it off, the elastic I used to make the skirts’ waistband was an elastic band I had removed from one of my own skirts that I am re-doing!  Oh, please pat me on the back, lol!  See, I’m really getting into this whole ‘repurposing’ thing.  Like, I took some sundresses that I had, where I really LOVED the fabric, but frankly, as sundresses, they made me look like a beached whale.  I whacked off the straps and VOILA!  they became a full-length skirt.  I have gotten many compliments on them, surprisingly not as dresses, but as the new skirts.  So, when I go to Goodwill, yard sales, etc.  I don’t always look at something as it’s original intended purpose.  God bless my mom for buying me a sewing machine 10 years ago!

Yesterday, I made my first batch of refrigerator pickles.  I planted some pickling cukes back in September and they are now ripening.  Boy, are they good!  Here is another reason to hang onto used glass jars!!!  I was wondering what I would do with all of these glass jars that I can’t use for canning.  I can’t bear to toss a good glass jar!  Here is the recipe for those pickles.  I scaled down the recipe to make just one quart jar.  I did this by tasting the vinegar solution after boiling (Hint: Do NOT inhale when bringing the tasting spoon to your mouth.  Bad, bad idea)  I didn’t have enough liquid the first time by simply cutting the recipe down, so I just made some more up, flavoring with sugar and pickling spices.  You can substitute pickling spices instead of all of those spices they use, by the way.  I believe one reviewer used 2 teaspoons of pickling spice for the full recipe, but do add to suit your taste. 

I also made a homemade apple pie!  I picked up an apple slicer, peeler, corer at the flea market the other day for four dollars.  They are usually about 25 brand new.  I had bought one previously for 2 dollars, but I found out it was missing an integral part, so I will have to come up with something to fix it.  Anyway, to peel, slice and core and apple with this doodad takes about 20 seconds.  It is so awesome!  Well, the pie turned out delicious.  Here is the recipe.  You know it’s good when it gets almost 4,000 5 star ratings!  But, I would only suggest this:  Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a tiny (!!!) pinch of nutmeg.  Also, after you made the syrup, combine it with the apples, THEN pour it into the bottom crust.  That is all!

Well, I ordered 13 books for my birthday from Amazon.  As you can probably guess, most, if not all, are on self-sufficiency.  Well, I did also get some on how to make rag rugs and vintage kitchen linens.  How I love books!  Right now I am reading through the complete Tightwad Gazette.  It is like my own personal bible.  I love it! 

Until next time, learn to simplify!

A Happy Housewife

I want to know something.  When did the word “housewife” become a dirty word?  Why are we made to feel inferior if we are ‘just a housewife’?  First of all, being a housewife, or, as it is now called; SAHM (stay at home mom), is nothing short of one of the most difficult jobs out there.  I don’t know what kind of delusional people imagine that it, in any way, ISN’T hard work, but they need to stay at home with their own brood for about two weeks and get a clue.  I am really happy to be able to stay at home with my kids.  Yes, it can be maddening.  No, the work is never, EVER done.  But, I get to see them grow up a little bit every day. There is no way to ever get that precious time back.

I have learned:

Housework is never done.  Period.  The laundry, dishes, and dusting will never, ever be completely done, at least not for more than 3 minutes.  Also, floors will never stay clean. Ever.

You have to let some of it go.  Some of the best advice my mom gave me a long time ago.  I still struggle with it on a daily basis, but you have to come to the realization that dust/dirt never stops accumulating, nor do kid’s messes.  I usually do my ‘deep’ cleaning when the kids are gone, so that I at least get to admire my work for a (very) little while.

If you have an unexpected guest, your house will inevitably look terrible.  I had some family drop by one day and although I was really happy they stopped by, I was really ashamed that the laundry was everywhere, dirty dishes were in the sink, beds weren’t made,and I looked like absolute crap.  After that, I joined and took some of her pointers to heart.

Housekeeping IS a job, without the paycheck.  You’re a maid, a cook, a nurse, an economist, a valet, a mom, a wife, a friend, etc. all rolled into one being.  Don’t let anyone ever make you feel ‘bad’ or guilty that you aren’t out working outside of the home.  If we learn to live within our means, you’d be surprised at how little you really need, moneywise,  to stay afloat.

Well, that’s all for now…I am off to assume my role as chef and prepare lunch!