Monday, December 31, 2012

Make Your Own Clothes Soap

Every year for Christmas, my sisters, mom and I try to make gifts for everyone.  Not only does it save a lot of money, but we are big believers in putting our heart and soul into gifts.  In the past, we've made candles, soup/cookies in a jar, decorative potpourri warmer,

pottery, baked goods, just to name a few.  Some of you have read my bust on candle luminaries,

which turned out to be the biggest pain in the rear end that it ended up being a birthday present for my sister.  Ok, that didn't sound too good.  It took about 12 balloons to make 3 luminaries and they still cracked when I looked at them because they were so stinkin' fragile.  The point is that my sister really liked them and I hope they hold up well for her.  Anyway, this year, my bright idea for Christmas presents was to make homemade laundry soap.  Probably one of the best homemade gifts I've made so far.
My kitchen smelled so good for weeks and I actually liked doing laundry.  This recipe, including the jar and scoop only cost a little over $2 per jar to make.  There are up to 56 loads per jar, which came to about 2 - 3 cents per load.  I added Purex crystals to the jar mostly for color but is not necessary.  This recipe will fill four mason jars.

6 cups Borax
4 cups Baking Soda
4 cups Washing Soda
2 bars of Fels Naptha laundry bar soap, shredded
5 capfuls of Purex crystals (optional)

Shred both soap bars in a large bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Divide into four mason jars.  You can print this label if you want to give it as a gift.  I've never used Google docs before so if the link doesn't work, shoot me an email and i'll send it to you in an email.

You only need a tablespoon of soap per load.  Believe it or not, it does a pretty good job.  If you have an HE washer, you'll notice that your cycles won't last quite as long.  It's a low-sudsing recipe which gets your clothes clean but doesn't make your washer work hard.  It's gentle enough for baby clothes so you can save a lot of money by not having to buy Dreft.

Fabric softener is not necessary but since it's winter, I add about a half a teaspoon of softener just to avoid static electricity.  You can even put a squirt of vinegar in your rinse cycle and it will make your clothes super soft.  No, it won't make your clothes smell like vinegar.  Try using it on your bed sheets.  Ahh!!!

Baking soda takes the smell out of your clothes, washing soda softens the water and Borax enhances the soap, and of course the soap cleans.

I would love to hear how you like this soap, or if you have a different recipe, leave a comment below.

Happy laundrying!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry (belated) Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I've been MIA not only because it's been Christmas, but because my children have become more of a priority for me.  I've learned that the more I pay attention to them, the better they behave.  I suppose I should've figured that out a looooong time ago and perhaps I have, it's just that after 8 1/2 years of staying home with them and giving them 100% of my attention all the time, I thought I could at least spend a little time here and there for me.  Again, perhaps I'm wrong....

Yes, my kids have needed my attention but my computer has needed even more of my attention.  My computer got hit with a horrible virus a.k.a. "Babylon search engine" that ate up my memory and made my computer run slow.  It took 4 days to fix it and my fan was running so much, the keyboard was hot to the touch.  Among trying to fix my computer, I was working diligently on getting my yearly slideshow done for Christmas.  I create a slideshow of my girls every year that's set to music for my family for Christmas.  Sure beats sitting with a boring album and it takes way less time organizing it than it takes putting photos in an album.

The first disc takes about four hours to save and burn. Any additional disc takes about an hour.  As I was burning the third disc, we watched the slideshow and I learned that one of the songs was silent.  So all over it began and this was Christmas morning.  Not too happy there, especially since I was up until 2 am.  So that's my story of why I haven't been writing lately.

We had a fabulous Christmas, except my 5-year-old ran a temperature for a few days.  She's such a tough cookie and got through most of Christmas day.  You know a child is sick when she says she'd rather go home than to go to another grandparents' house to get more presents.  The next day, I took her to the doctor and she had a really bad ear infection.  Why can't adults be that tough?

So my little girls got an iPod Touch this year.  Yes, my 5-year-old got one too.  I wasn't too keen on that idea at first but then I decided I'd rather pay a lot of money on something so my kids don't fight over it everyday.  Yeah, Parent of the Year Award right here.  But I will say that Ellen can work a computer and an iPad better than any other 5-year-old I know.  AND I can have my iPad back and the kids don't have to complain about me taking over their games anymore.  So, it's a WIN-WIN in my book!

I have tons of ideas brewing in my brain, including what I made for Christmas gifts this year to post.  Now that my computer is back and my life isn't so crazy hectic, please keep an eye out for more posts!

I gave my hubby a metal detector for Christmas this year.  He's been wanting one for a long time.  I always know when I nail it on a gift idea for him when he starts reading the manual right away.  Biggest compliment ever!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope that you all had a great week and looking forward to a new year full of new possibilities and blessings!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Jesus Loves the Losers, Too

I've always been fascinated with culture.  I love learning how other people live and why they do the things they do.  I especially love learning about biblical times because most of us know some Bible stories and the people in them, but has anyone ever really thought about the people in those stories as real people?  You know, people with lives who probably had a personality, talked a certain way and maybe even had a hobby?

Back in biblical times, shepherds were considered the "low class".  They didn't socialize much, they weren't invited to parties because they've been known to steal, and because they were out in the fields with the sheep most of the time, they tend to smell.  They usually didn't have manners and they were outcasts most of the time.
When Jesus was born, guess who were the first guests to His party?  Yup, the shepherds.  These "low class" citizens were the first to visit the newborn baby Jesus.

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angle of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." ~Luke 2 : 8-12

 Jesus loves everyone.  Everyone. Jesus loves you.  No matter what mistakes you've made, no matter what broken bridges exist in your life, no matter if you've fallen to addiction, no matter if you've recently found God in your life or if you've known Him all your life.  Even if you feel you don't deserve God's love, Jesus loves you. He invites you to His party every year at Christmastime.  He wants you there with Him.  The shepherds were loved and were invited to visit the baby Jesus right after He was born.  He wants YOU there, too!

Santa Claus, Christmas lights and presents are nice, but the real present is You, Lord.  Be sure to keep Christ in Christmas.  He's the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  ~ Matthew 1: 21

May you all have a wonderful and blessed Christmas this year!  God bless!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Insert Scream [here]

If your computer had ears, you'd be hearing me scream right now!  I've been writing for Yahoo! Voices for almost two years now and by a big surprise, my profile has been featured on the contributor's site.  My whole profile, all 212 articles of mine! 
This is not available to the public, but anyone who has a contributor profile can view that page.  Voices will spotlight nominated contributors so when someone logs in to their account and want to view help forums, winner circles, blogs, contests, etc they'll see ME! 

I am super excited about this as I've been a featured writer for parenting topics and crafts & hobbies each month for a year now.  I get guaranteed articles for pay and if the editors like what I write, they'll feature that particular article on another page of the community site.  That spikes up my performance views which means more money. 

Lately, I've been having heart-to-heart conversations with God about my role as a writer as I've not been motivated to write since September.  I recently got an email from the Yahoo! editors stating that they are doing away with the featured contributor program starting in January.  December is the last month I will be able to write featured articles.  That doesn't mean I won't be able to write for them anymore.  That just means I won't have guaranteed articles for higher pay.  That means I'd have to write double the amount of articles to match what I was making in the featured program.  I'd be crazy to pass this last month up but I'll be damned to hell if I can get motivated to write.  I try to talk myself into it but I just can't seem to scrape up a topic, no matter how hard I think about it.  I take it as a hint that this is not where I'm supposed to be right now, but it's killing me to pass up these last couple featured articles.  What is wrong with me????

I just wanted to share my success with all my readers.  So if anyone has a parenting topic or a craft idea I can write about, please comment and I'll see what I can do.  Someone please kick me in the butt to jumpstart my brain!!!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Candle Luminaries

I love making Christmas presents.  My husband would say the reason for that is that I'm "tighter than a tick's ass", which is true, but mostly because I love getting homemade gifts and I especially love giving homemade gifts.  They're unique, they take time and I always think about that person while I'm making their gift so it becomes personal.  I found these candle luminaries online and I'm so glad I got started on this project early.  Most of my readers know how much I love crafts and I especially love trying new crafts, but this one......  it took a high rating on the patience bar.  Sorry, family and friends.  You're probably not getting these this year.  There's not enough time in the day to get enough of these done. 
So here's what you do:

  • Melt wax in a double boiler.  180 degrees is optimal temperature.
  • Fill a balloon with barely lukewarm water.  The best size is about a tennis ball size, (which will eventually look like the far left side in the above picture).  Try to get as much air out of the balloon as you can before you tie it.  The middle one was full of water.  The far right one... well, the balloon was goofy and it had a weird shape when I filled it with water.  You can try to blow up the balloon to stretch the latex and then fill with water to get a more round shape.
  • Slowly dip the balloon in the hot wax, but be careful not to dip above the water level or the balloon may break.
  • Lift the balloon and repeat 2-3 times.
  • Place on a cookie sheet or plate to flatten the bottom of the balloon.  Allow to cool for a minute or two.
  • Repeat this process at least several more times.
Here's the tricky part:  You have to try your best to dip the balloon each time to the same level at the top.  If you allow a few layers to be super thin, you're luminary will rip towards the end of this project.  The top line of the melted wax must be just as thick as the rest of balloon.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  We'll fix that later. It just needs to be thick.  The black balloon is a good example.  It didn't make it because the top line wasn't thick enough.  Also, don't hold the balloon in the hot wax for more than a few seconds.  The wax will stick to the balloon and it won't survive the next step.
  • Once I got the thickness I wanted, I placed the balloon in the freezer for a few minutes.
  • Take a skewer, pin or toothpick and carefully pop the balloon in the sink.  You WILL get wet!  It's best to pop the balloon quicker, rather than slower for a couple of reasons:  A small, slow hole will squirt water a lot higher and farther than you'll be prepared for, and if the wax stuck to the balloon, it will make your luminary fall apart.  Here's another important tip:  manipulate the little air bubble to the top in the balloon and pop a hole there.  Much quicker, more efficient and you'll get wet.  Just sayin...

  • Now we'll perfect the top.  I used a glass pie pan and placed it on a very, very low heat on the stove.  Set the top of the luminary on the warm plate until the edges are even.

Voila!  Place a battery-operated tea light inside and you've got yourself a very cool luminary.

These luminaries were a pain in my bee-hind to make.  I used a 2-pound block of wax, 11 balloons and I only got 3 luminaries in two days.... all for one of the kids to poke a side in and ruin my one and only best luminary (it was my 11th one I made).  These babies are super fragile but oh-so-neat.  The good thing about this project is that if you screw up, put the wax back in the double boiler and use it again.

So there you have it.  A super cheap and easy craft to make for Christmas gifts, but only if you plan on spending a lot of time over a hot splattering stove.  Once I can get more balloons, I'm sure I'll be back to make more.  I'm obsessed over this because I can't end my project like this.  I will work on it until I perfect the darn thing. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Words That End in "-ia"

Converstations in my house have become code.  If someone came over to visit, and they heard my children talking to each other, they would not have a clue what my children were saying.  Here's a few examples:

"Hey!  You hit me..."

"Marrrrr-CELL-aaah... I was standing here, stupid, Ugly-a."

"Sor-ry, Ellen-a."

As I tend to yell at my kids for rolling their eyes, my eyeballs have a hard time keeping straight when I hear this kind of talk.  It's hard not to giggle but other times, I just want to pitch a fit and stomp out of the room like they do.  Afterall, I've learned from the best.... or maybe they learned it from me?  Is that a born-with kind of trait?  Either way, I've been having a hard time concentrating on anything around here, let alone write or do anything I want to do.

I have to admit, things have been pretty peaceful around here... no wait.  There's not much peace when it comes to the kids.  There's been a lot more peace inside of me when my children have a hard time getting along.  I don't know what it is, perhaps I've been waking up early everyday and spending a little time with God and prayer before my crazy day begins.  I've found myself much more able to handle the "words ending in '-ia'" attitudes and back talking when I can start my day with peace.  Maybe I've learned to let some things go and not hold myself up to a standard I think is appropriate, when really it's too much for me to handle.

With all that being said, I've been having a really hard time staying motivated to write.  Yahoo! is taking away the Featured Contributor Program starting the first of the year, which means I will no longer be a featured writer with Yahoo!.  In a way, I'm not really sad about that.  I'll miss the income but my lack of motivation with writing has gone so low that I wasn't taking advantage of any of the writing opportunities anyway.  My husband and I talk occasionally about my future options when the kids are in school full time.  Will I go back to work?  Back to school?  Stay home?  My options are so open, it actually drives me crazy thinking about all the cool stuff I could do.

Jeff gave me my Christmas present early this year.  He has a hard time keeping a secret and I love teasing him about that, but honestly I'm so happy he didn't wait.  He gave me a Nikon D7000 camera, which is a really, really, really nice camera.  A kind of camera I've always wanted.  It's killing me that it's been crappy outside the last couple of days and there's not much to take pictures of outside when it looks so crappy out.  So in the meantime, the kids will just have to put up with me practicing on them.  Thank goodness the world has gone digital.  I can't even begin to think how much money we'd spend on film with a camera like this.  It's just too fun taking pictures!  Here are a few pictures I've (we've) taken so far....

You can see a couple other pictures on my right side bar.  Once that sun comes out, I'll be out keeping busy so don't be surprised if I don't write again for a while.  Or maybe I'll be posting lots of pictures very soon.  I pray you all get a bit of peace in your heart and your days are sunny and happy!