Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

The other days before I fell and busted my foot, I was working on a few projects around the house. I never did get my pesto made but I did make some homemade laundry soap.

I used this method, which was super easy and super cheap. We've been buying essential oils to use for medical purposes (we're actually distributors, talk to Jeremy the apothecary if you have questions)...and had gotten several oils for free like Lemon, Citrus Fresh and Tangerine. Since these don't have any medical significance for us, I figured we had to find a way to use them!

So liquid laundry soap it is....

I carved up some Fels Naptha bar laundry soap, which apparently isn't always easy to find. In a pinch you can use Ivory as well. You melt it in water and make the 'soap soup' that the directions mention.

Then add Arm and Hammer washing soda, borax and I added about half the bottle of lemon oil. Plus 3 gallons of water, voila....that's A LOT of soap.

The lady who wrote blog crunched the numbers on cost savings but that was for a FRONT LOAD washer and we have an HE, so when she said one batch is enough for 52 loads, that's actually 104 for us.

But check out her analysis...

Each batch of detergent contains 52 cups of the solution – 48 from the three gallons in the bucket, and four more cups of water with the dissolved soap. Since I use one cup per load, this means a single batch makes 52 loads’ worth of detergent.

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I make six batches of the stuff and use the other half of the box of Borax for something else. That means I’ve made enough detergent for 312 loads of laundry for a total cost of $6.97. That’s roughly two and a quarter cents per load of laundry.

It smells pretty good and lemony fresh, and seems to clean well although I haven't had any major laundry catastrophes to deal with yet. It's a little more watery than hers but dissolves great. So far, very pleased with it.

And I have enough washing soda, oil and soap to make lots lots more. Anybody want some?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Know for Sure

1) Thomas the Train toys should not be left on the kitchen floor.

2) Tearing tendons in your foot hurts almost as much as med-free childbirth.

3) Space boots are sexy.

4) Vicodin makes me puke...repeatedly.

5) God is still good, all the time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perpetual Change

There used to be a pack and play crib in this corner, for the past 5 years. We used it for diaper changes and storage of cloth diapers and kid shoes. Amazingly, like a lot of baby items, it just up and disappeared one day....

I have to note the felt grape piece on the wall is from Mamaw for Jeremy's birthday. Thanks Mamaw!

Charley is using two diapers a day right for nap time and one (double stuffed) at bedtime. So all of the piles of diapers kept in this location have been rendered moot. He now has a small stash in his dresser upstairs, and I have a couple of bags of smaller ones to be re-used or sold at some point.

As a side note, I only have to wash a load of diapers twice a week. Part-ay!

Like many people, you may be wondering if we are saving all this stuff away for more babies. The answer is, we don't know yet so stop asking. Okay that sounded about just, we don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. Personally I think we should wait five years and then have a set of twins. Good plan right?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Big Announcement- Adding to the Family

Well, I was going to wait a few more weeks until it felt more real, but you know how I can't keep my mouth shut on these things. We are both excited, and understandably nervous.

When I think about the months to come and how our family will change and grow, it can be overwhelming. And obviously this decision did not come without much thought and prayer.

But I know this transition will be so natural, and the kids will respond well to the changes around the house. Tessa is already excited about the new addition and getting to help.

So without further babbling, I'm ready to announce....

We are now owners of a SET of Le Creuset cookware. Exciting right?! What do you think we should name them??

Disclaimer--- I'm hoping at least one person thought I was going to say I was pregnant, otherwise the irony is lost. Secondly, before you think we won the lottery and start knocking on our door for money...these were Jeremy's reward for racking up thousands of Marriott hotel rewards points. It was this or an iPad. I think it's obvious he made the right choice.

Visiting the Elephants

About a month ago, the Indy zoo had a baby elephant. We had to go check her out before she got too big, so Friday the kids and I packed a lunch put on some sunscreen and headed to the zoo.

Note for the future...I totally didn't plan it this way on purpose but it was also free admission day at the state fair so the zoo was so so quiet. There was like nobody there! We'll have to do the same next year.

Wait, next year Tessa might already be in Kindergarten when that day comes, BOO HOO HOO!...Sniff...Okay moving on. Enjoy the pics!

Riding the zoo train
Yes there are bats that big. Crazy right?

PB&J time.

Of all the amazing animals at the zoo, my kids like the ducks that hanging out by the food court begging for scraps. I can see the appeal, unlike the other can reach right out and feed them goldfish if you want. I'm partial to ducks myself.

There she is, so cute! I couldn't remember her name but the internet tells me it's Kilena.

She flipped her trunk over her head and nursed.

My Cookie Project- 1 year later

I was thinking it was time to check in on my cookie baking project, and that it had been about a year since I started. Then I checked the blog archives and it's only been 10 month. Huh. Oh well, close enough.

I started baking cookies last fall for several reasons but mostly because I hated baking and was also very very bad at it. Very bad.

So my goal was to force myself not only to learn it but to LIKE it. As the kids were getting older and the addition of weekly babysitting brought more kids in the house, I liked the idea of having something homemade available for treats. It seems like a very June Cleaver idea doesn't it?

I found that making drop cookies is really not hard at all. It seems most of them have the same basic ingredients...flour, sugar, eggs and then some other stuff to differentiate. Making a huge mess all the time had been a concern of mine also, and I was pleasantly surprised that that wasn't so bad either, using my handy rubbermaid containers for dry storage and a file folder for recipes.

I guess a year later I would say I am no longer scared to TRY cooking and baking new things. I'm almost certain that extra time spent in the kitchen is part of what me brave enough to try my recent adventures in freezer cooking. The kitchen is not as scary as I thought, and not necessarily only "Jeremy's territory".

Many friends and family members have benefited from donations of cookies, and I found the joy in sharing food with people for no good reason other than that you want to. My waistline didn't suffer or's pretty much (sadly) the same as it was a year ago, but having a jar full of fresh cookies always in the kitchen was a good exercise in self control.

I guess there is no point to my post here than to say that it's good to make silly goals and stick with them. I didn't bake all those cookies just cause I was bored, but because I wanted to learn something and bless my family. Mission accomplished.

I've made 19 recipes, and they can all be found here. I'm still baking, and Jeremy has ventured into baking our bread on a weekly basis. Bread scares me a bit (wait didn't I just say I wasn't scared?).

Today I made some of the famous black onyx cookies for Jeremy's birthday tomorrow, and I did it with such speed and efficiency that I surprised myself. Not too shabby.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

School Lunch, Junior Edition

It's so conveinent that at this age I can pack them identical lunches and nobody complains. Today's selection pb&j on a whole wheat bun thingy, string cheese, cup of blueberries and an applesauce squirty. Add two cute lunch boxes and 'honest kids' juice pouches. Done!

As a side note, they also both got a new pair of shoes for the fall. Even though Charley refuses to grow (he still fits best into 18 month clothes), his feet are growing as are Tessa's.
Thank you Target. Gah, we love Target. Imagining a life without Target gives me some major anxiety. These were $9.99 each. Tessa has three other pairs of shoes that fit, and Charley has just one other...and I think that's perfect. As cute as little shoes can be, I never saw the point in having a ton of them. They grow too fast!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting My Chef On

I will openly admit that while I embrace some facets of of domestic life (cleaning, laundry, baby butt wiping), I miserably fail at others such as meal planning and food budgeting.

This is an issue we've talked about for years. Jeremy is clearly not only a better chef than me but far more creative when it comes to menu. I am not creative nor often heavily motivated to try. Therefore, we spend way too much on impulse buys at the grocery, and way too much on eating out.

Seriously, if you knew how much money we spent per month on dining out, you would stop being my friend.

So an effort to right all these wrongs, I spent ALL day yesterday stocking up our freezer with pre-cooked food. Freezer cooking!...a novel idea that I have never really tried (aside from spaghetti sauce and the rogue container of leftover soup).

Oh no, this cooking was hardcore.
On the days when we are too tired or busy to cook, I'm hoping this will be our answer instead of Chinese delivery. Praying that this STICKS!

I made my first ever lasagnas. I guess I thought they would be alot harder. I made four small ones (6 cups as opposed to 12), and lined the baking dish with foil. One they were cool and set up, I just pulled the whole thing out and wrapped it tight in foil.

I made four bags of taco meat, using Grammie and Grampie's super special taco seasoning. Way better than old el paso. Just add tortillas, cheese and lettuce and we are good to go!

Jeremy is very anti frozen chicken nuggets and I totally get that (I mean, what ARE all of those mystery ingredients). But seeing as how the kids love them so, I made a homemade batch using organic chicken and whole wheat flour. Sooooo tasty. Tessa says better than McD's. God I hope so.

Following a friend's advice, I let them cool and then laid them all out on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once they were fully frozen, then I portioned them into ziplocs. That was they don't stick together upon freezing. Brilliant!

As a side note, I turned these into last night's dinner....keeping a marinara bubbling away all afternoon on the back burner. My marinara is SO easy....cook up one onion and lots of garlic cloves, add pureed maters (skins and all because I'm lazy), a handful of fresh basil, one tablespoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar. Let simmer for hours and hours. Done.

Once we have more maters, there will be lots of this being made and frozen, plus Jeremy's Ragu. We have about 2 million yellow tomato flowers out there. C'mon already!

It's a beautiful thing when this....

Turns into this! 24 oz of home grown pesto made and frozen. Ka-chow!

Jeremy taught me how to make REAL mac and cheese this way. You make a roux (or in Indiana terms, a gravy paste) of butter and flour, add milk and cheese and more milk and more cheese. Proceed like you are making sausage gravy, then add cooked noodles.
Beautiful. Portioned into 3 cup bags. I'm hoping this reheats well and we have some very satisfied children. If it doesn't work I might cry, then back to the drawing board.

I also made 12 runzas to wrap and freeze. I'm thinking these should reheat well and be a good quick lunch.

I didn't get pictures of it but somewhere in here I had a bubbling cauldron of chicken noodle soup that equaled 7 quarts.
Somewhere in there I made meringue cookies after seeing them on my friend Brittani's blog (and realizing I had an over abundance of eggs). They were popular. Let's just say they didn't make it to the cookie jar.

And although it's mostly unrelated to this project, I cut some of our herbs to start drying.

So that was a LONG day, and I'm not hoping to have days like that very often. But now we have a base to start from and more importantly I proved to myself that I CAN do it. And I even did most of it with out the advice of our resident culinary expert, as he was out at the park with the kids. And that was a very satisfying feeling.

So to my blog audience I must ask....what do you like to freezer cook? I need more ideas, LOTS more ideas. Help!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

They Got it Right

I love this website:

Parents everywhere must indulge themselves with these funny 'crappy' commentaries on parenting. And so so accurate. I mean, has someone been spying inside our house?

For instance....

This is Charley
I had forgotten what the "terrible twos" were like. I was reminded today.
My 21 month old wanted yogurt. Or "fogurt" as he says.
So I open the fridge to find three identical containers of yogurt.
He is peering in behind me and wants to pick.
Yes, they are identical but I'm aware of exercising independence and all that parenting toddlers stuff.
So I pause and let him pick. He grabs the one on the right.
I begin to shut the fridge door thinking we are done.
Apparently he has made a mistake. The yogurt on the right is no good.
So I put the offending yogurt back and he grabs the middle one.
And throws it on the floor. This one is even more offensive.
So I pick it up, put it back and he grabs the one on the left this time.
And he throws himself on the floor along with the yogurt. Clearly, the worst yogurt ever.
When he calms down he goes back to his original choice. The one on the right. A wise choice.
He is happy with his final choice and he is ready to eat it.
Except he can't open it.
So I do something stupid.
I offer to help.

This is Tessa

We went to the post office the other day and I gave my change to a homeless man who always sits outside with a sign. On this particular day, my son questioned why I gave him my change.
At some point during the car ride home, I must have said something like "giving to those less fortunate" because hours later, that same night, the following conversation happened...
He asks me what "fortunate" means and I know immediately he is still thinking about the homeless man we encountered earlier.
He isn't satisfied with a synonym like "lucky" which I attempt at first. No, he desires a deeper explanation.
So I try.
I basically tell him that we are fortunate because we have a home and the homeless man might have to live in a cardboard box.
At first, I think I did a pretty good job.
But he latches onto the cardboard box idea too eagerly. Too enthusiastically.
And by the look on his face I can tell he has the wrong idea.
So I try again. Further explaining how it would basically suck to be homeless. Being an adult female, I mention not having a bathroom. Obviously.
He asks me where the man goes to the bathroom to clarify.
I could tell I have failed once again.
So I get smarter.
I think about who my audience is.
And try again.
Having no freezer in your cardboard box has lots of consequences.
He gets it. Fully understands the impact.
So much so that he is downright concerned. He comes up with his own charitable idea.
And I say sure. That we can ask the man if he wants one.
So next time you see a little boy handing an ice cream treat to a homeless man at the post office...
Well, that little boy just might be mine.
And THIS is what fortunate means

And THIS is my relationship with the dogs, to a tee

I first encountered this closet phenomenon of parenting and pet annoyance when I was 23 and had just started dating my now husband.
We were invited to dinner by a couple we didn't know well. They were older (like, 30 or even 31 which sounds horribly old when you are 23) and they had a baby who was spending the night at Grandma's.
I was enchanted with their friendly orange cat. Our hosts, however, were not thrilled with him.
I politely looked at the baby photo. And then continued to ask questions about the cat. What his name was and how old he was and all the things I was supposed to be asking about the baby. I was 23. Babies were not on my radar and thus, very alien to me.
It became clear that our hosts were truly irritated by their cat. They admitted that they used to love him to pieces (as evidenced by the framed cat photos on the walls) but that their adoration had faded since having their daughter.
I was shocked. And appalled. The mom concluded with a dismissive "You'll understand when you have kids" and I decided that she was a cold-hearted animal hater.
I knew I'd never, ever be like that.
Fast forward a bunch of years. We now have two cats that we pamper. We take photos with them. We buy them fancy collars, toys and treats. We sing songs about them. We are a "two cat couple" and we are proud.
I even talk about them on the phone with my mother and she asks me how they are doing.
And then I get pregnant!
But being pregnant only makes me more maternal towards my cats. I smugly think of that cold-hearted animal hating mom. I am going to be nothing like her!
To prepare for the baby's arrival, I get one of those little bassinet things. The cat loves it. I love that he loves it. He is welcoming the baby! I even take photos of him sleeping in it. Several.
But after the baby is born I feel a little different. Just a little. And only about the bassinet.
At least at first.
Cats do not wear underwear. They should.
Somehow, this fact never bothered me until I had kids. Now it bothers me often.
This is how not to pick up, hug or otherwise touch a cat:
And yet this is how they always do it.
But it isn't the kitty's fault. Can't hold it against him.
Can't blame him for the cat puke on the floor either. Or how the toddler always finds it first.

Or how he is right under my feet all the time.
Or that they jump up on my lap the first moment I have to myself after a full day of kids hanging off me. When I just. want. to. be. alone.
But there is something that puts me in cold-hearted animal hater territory. Something they do that makes me fully relate to that mom I mentally berated for years.
And this is what it is...
The toddler falls asleep. Finally. I tiptoe out of the room, attempting to walk without actually touching the floor for fear of creaking floorboards.
My exit is successful!
Until the cats realize that someone in the house is asleep which sets off their meow alarm.
Sometimes they even go in the room the baby is asleep in.
Even worse is when both cats start tearing through the house, chasing each other and making sure the upholstery is adequately destroyed.
The upholstery destruction procedure is accompanied by the blaring meow alarm.
The good news is that they only do this when someone is about to fall asleep or just fell asleep. And sometimes all night long. And also very early in the morning.
Okay, I admit it. My cats are annoying as hell.
To the cold-hearted mom from years back: You were right. Wanna see some baby photos?