Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Laundry Detergent

I just finished making a big batch of laundry detergent. I don't yet know how well it will work, but I'm optimistic after reading the comments on the site where I got the recipe.

I found it here at The Simple Dollar.

I've actually seen the recipe all over the place, but this was the latest one and the one I used. I added some essential oils because I didn't like the smell of the Fels Naptha soap and wanted to cover it as much as possible. I used Orange oil, Tea Tree Oil, Lavender Oil, and Peppermint Oil. Yes, I realize that sounds like a strange combination, but it smelled good to me. As a matter of fact, at one point, before adding the Peppermint, I thought about how weird I am that I actually thought it smelled like it "needed" some mint. But all of those oils, perhaps with the exception of the peppermint which I just don't know about, have antiseptic qualities to them so they should actually help to clean our clothes while helping it smell a little better, too.

Then I used an old All container to pour some of it in. I had one load worth of detergent left in there. That used to be my favorite detergent, but today it just smelled awful compared to what I'd just made. It cleaned relatively well and no one broke out if I used it. Then I tried Melaleuca detergent and liked it better than the All, but it was really expensive and we just can't do that. Then I heard about Charlie's Soap. I really like this stuff! If the homemade stuff doesn't work out, we'll go back to Charlie's Soap. I would highly recommend it to those who don't want to try making their own or are just looking for a really good laundry detergent! It works great! It has no scent at all and got our clothes--even the dirty filthy nasty and sometimes mildewy stuff that a large family on a farm can generate--really clean. From what I've heard, this homemade stuff is as good as Charlie's Soap, yet even cheaper. So we'll see.

There are recipes out there for powdered detergent, but I prefer liquid. So I chose that recipe. It makes 3 1/2 gallons. You're supposed to use anywhere from 1/2 cup to 1 cup per load. We'll be trying that out to see what works. But if you figure it takes a full cup of detergent, there are 52 loads worth in the batch I made today. And I only used about $2-$3 worth of stuff to make this. That's less than some of the cheaper laundry detergents you can buy today, but it is said to work better than Tide. We'll see about that. But certainly it will work at least as well as the cheap stuff. If it isn't better, it's not worth the trouble. But if it really is as good as the Charlie's Soap, it works out to be a LOT cheaper and therefore was very worth my time and effort.

I'll let you know after I wash a few loads.

Melissa

Monday, November 26, 2007

Soups and Teas

I've been amazed lately at what I can do with a pot of boiling water.

This isn't exactly new to me, but it's something I'm doing more and more often and it's having amazing results on our health. Although listening to the chorus of coughing in the other room it might not seem like it.

The last couple of weeks the children have all been sick. We thought it was just a cold and nothing to worry about. They have been active and playful and well, normal, except that their noses are runny and they cough a lot. Then yesterday Sam got bad and we realized that it's probably the flu we're dealing with (which explains why this cold was lasting SO long) and we've just been in really good shape considering!

Well, when funds were tighter than usual in October I started making soup more often. It's really a rather cheap way to stretch food dollars. I could take a frozen chicken and plunk it in a big pot of water. While it was coming to a boil I could chop up a bunch of fresh veggies like carrots and potatoes, throw in some frozen veggies from the freezer that I'd stocked up on while they were on sale, add some salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and onion, maybe throw in some brown rice (white rice gets mushy too fast and you have to add it later. Plus it's not as good for you.) or barley, then let it all simmer for an hour or so. Pull a loaf of homemade bread out of the cabinet, remove the bones and add the meat back in, and voila! An inexpensive, tasty meal. And to top it off, it usually lasts us two nights. It is really good for you. It turns out that boiling all that stuff in a pot of water doesn't just feed you, it nourishes you. It draws out all those vitamins and minerals and then we eat it up (or sop it up in the bread). So for probably less than $10, I was feeding my family a good meal for 2 nights! I started making soup once a week--which means we eat it twice a week-- and no one is tired of it yet.

So then I started making tea. I've got a cabinet full of herbs that I bought at bulkherbstore.com over the last couple of years. When the sniffles hit and didn't seem to be going away, I decided to brew up a big batch of tea. I just put on a pot of water to boil and started adding handfuls of this and that. I included a handful of stevia leaves to sweeten it so there is no sugar needed and no honey even! Plus the stevia is kind of good for you (helps fight cavities?)! Then I strained it over ice into a 5 gallon cooler, added some cold water and we have iced tea. It's great! Everyone loves the taste of it and it is so good for you! All those great vitamins and minerals in those leaves get drawn out by the boiling water and then we drink them down. We don't drink juice or tea or soda around here. It's usually just milk at meals and water any other time. This has been a very welcome addition and it's so easy to do! But we ran out Saturday and I didn't make more soon enough. Saturday night several of the kids got worse than having sniffles. They developed fevers and worse sore throats and Sam got croup and had trouble breathing. I made a new batch of tea, plus a special batch of good, strong licorice tea to add separately to the sick ones cups (not safe for pregnant or nursing moms)and they started to feel better right away. I was amazed!

All that by just boiling water.

I'm really impressed with the taste of the stevia. I'm wanting to see what else I can do with that. I was thinking we should be able to make some tea with just the stevia leaves and use that in place of water and sugar in some recipes (maybe start with oatmeal?) to avoid using sugar. Then it occurred to me that that is so obvious someone else must have thought of such a thing. So I turned to the internet to search for recipes. What I found was that since the FDA won't approve stevia as a sweetener (but aspartame is okay?!? I guess the stevia growers need more lobbyists, huh?) you can't sell cookbooks telling how to use it as a sweetener. Isn't this a violation of freedom of speech or something? But now I'm confused because I finally found stevia.com where they have recipes and sell it as a sweetener. Anyway, I'll be doing some experimenting in my own kitchen. I'd like to figure out how to use it starting with the leaves rather than buying the refined extract. It seems to me that part of the problem with sugar being bad for you is from refining it--you take out what little nutrients were there in the first place. But maybe I can boil it down and try using it very concentrated. We'll see. If I have any successes, I'll share. For now, I do know that it works great added to our tea!

Melissa

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Paint Colors

I said I would post pictures of the rooms I painted. I am finally getting around to that.

This is Clark and Sam's room. Notice the cover plates over the switch and outlet? Roger taught me how to do that and while it is an easy job, I was proud of myself. This room will get a green trim and then we'll paint things like bugs and frogs and snakes on the wall. But there's no hurry on that big job.


This is Faith and Grace's room.


Claire, Joy and Gloria's room. This will have flowers painted on the wall, and probably a few butterflies.


The boys' bathroom. This room will have a bright blue trim. I'm not sure yet what else we'll do with it. Notice the light switches down low and at normal height? That is so the little ones can turn on the light by themselves and the bigger people don't have to stoop down. Both of the kids' bathrooms have this feature.


The girls' bathroom will have a bright yellow trim. Yes, we like bright colors.


The baby's room will also be a guest room and an office if we ever get done needing a nursery (I'm almost 40 so that day should come within 10 years, right?) so we went with a tamer color in there. It's called Hazelnut cream. The trim and window seats will be white.


The Master bedroom will have white trim and window seats also. If you can see out the door of the bedroom, right across the entry way is the baby's room. I haven't enjoyed having Gloria in our room for so long (she'll be 18 mos on Monday), but I don't like having my baby's too far away either!


And I already showed the color in the Master bath in my last post. The laundry room and pantry are white. I'm sure you can picture that, but here's a pic anyway although the pantry isn't finished yet in this picture. I had to prime that brick wall first. It's amazing how cool that room stays. It will be great for food storage, but I may have to wear a jacket if I have to spend any time in there.


Mitchell's room isn't painted yet, neither is the kids' Common Area (which will be the bright blue and bright yellow being used as trim in the bathrooms). Mitchell initially wanted white, but having seen all the colors he is now re-thinking that. We're letting him take his time. He's getting his own room since he's worked so hard on building the house. Most likely he'll only live with us about 3 more years before he goes off to college. By then, we'll need to move them all around anyway to move the baby out of the nursery and Gloria out of the Toddler bed she'll be in (unless we switch her to a trundle). But hopefully I won't have to re-paint it all. We'll have 2 girly rooms and two for boys. Hopefully that will keep working, but who knows? (Any guesses on what baby #10 will be?)

Melissa

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Painting, tiling, cleaning, etc

First things first: we'll start with the etc. I took pictures of the house today, but when I went to upload them to the computer I found that I had taken the cutest couple of pictures! Gloria got the markers this morning that Joy and Claire had left on the floor. I tried to take a picture of her and she said, "cheese!" with the sweetest smile. Then Sam had to have a picture taken too, of course, and made a "scary face."


Okay, on to the house stuff. I've spent a lot of time painting and cleaning up construction mess over the last week and a half. Nothing like the time Roger has spent making the mess of course. He and Mitchell are doing an incredible job building that house and I just can't wait until I can spend more time in it.

I took a bunch of pictures today, but either blogger is acting weird or it's my computer or internet provider or something. I'm having a hard time uploading pictures. So I'll upload some today and more tomorrow. Today, I'll show you the kitchen and the bathroom that has tile started in it.

Above is the kitchen looking toward where the stove/oven will go. I was standing toward the end of the bar, but a bit closer to the middle of the kitchen. To the right you see the window that looks out to the East.

Below is the kitchen to the left of the above picture. You can see the windows up high that face North. The cabinets are painted white (I didn't do that painting, Roger did I believe) and Mitchell has stained the cabinet doors. You can see the stain on the lower corner cabinet. But the doors all still need polyurethane before they get put back on. The big tall cabinet is where we'll keep all the milk stuff--the bucket and filter and such that currently have to just sit out or hang on a hook in the middle of the kitchen. This is so exciting to me. I get to have things put away! Plus, the cabinet is right next to where the refrigerator and freezer will go. We currently have to go to another room, which is down a couple of stairs, to put away the milk after filtering it. We're looking forward to the convenience of having a whole kitchen in one room!


This next picture is the master bath/guest bath. Roger has started the tiling in there. I've painted the wall and it's a beautiful color. The picture just really doesn't do it justice. If you ever want to look it up to see the true color of it, it's called Magic Spell by Behr. It's a lot bluer in real life than it looks here, but it is kind of a cross between purple and blue--Roger's and my favorite colors. Great compromise that we both love. It might work in the kitchen above the cabinets, but we'll see.


The cleaning I've been doing is to clean up the dry wall dust and mud from taping and texturing. It's a hard job. We discovered that Joy does a better job than I do because she isn't afraid to let it get really wet. So I took a cue from her today. I mopped without squeezing out the mop so the floor got really wet. Then I used the wet/dry vac and a squeegee attachment and vacuumed up all that water. It worked pretty well.

Mister Clean Magic Erasers (which won't really burn your skin or your child's contrary to the popular email floating around) do a pretty good job removing spilled paint from the floor. Unfortunately, they also remove the paint/stain that is supposed to be on the floor. But we will be touching up all that and putting polyurethane over that.

Check back tomorrow to see pictures of all the bedrooms I've painted--with Mitchell's, Faith's, and Grace's help.

I'll leave you with one final picture. This is how Claire, Clark, and Joy occupy their time while we're out there. You know how a fan comes in a box with lots of styrofoam packaging? Well, they put it to good use building houses!


Melissa

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Graduation Gift

God is so good. I know, you all know that already, but here's another example of how He helps to work things out.

Stephen, our oldest son, is currently in Army Basic Training. We had hoped to make a family trip and go to his graduation. I've heard over and over that Basic makes a man out of you and that it is something special to soldiers. I felt it was really important that we be there for Stephen. But there was just no way. Our finances wouldn't allow it. I prayed and it looked like the answer was to be no. My mother had offered to let us use her air miles and even watch our children if I went or if we could work it out for Roger and I to both go, but that just didn't seem right to me. You know how sometimes you have no reason to say no to something but have no peace about saying yes? That's how I felt. I have enough experience with ignoring those feelings and having bad consequences that I was not going to ignore it this time. But I just felt heartsick that no one would be there to cheer for Stephen when he graduated.

So I asked for a substitute family. I prayed about it a lot and then wrote to the MOMYS list and asked if someone who lives in that area would attend the graduation for us. I know, it's weird, but that would have helped me feel better.

The responses I got at first were heartbreaking. I was being told how very important it is that someone from our family go. It would mean so much to our son, etc. etc. So again, I cried out to God and asked Him to help. Then I read one response that said we should try to somehow send Roger. That felt so perfectly right to me! So I asked the kids if they would mind doing extra chores and extra milking while Dad was gone. They agreed they thought it was a good idea and would be glad to help out. I called my mother and the offer for air miles was still good. Roger tried to tell me I should go, but agreed he would be glad to go when I insisted it should be him.

All that was left was to find lodging. The MOMYS came through for me here. There is a family who will let him stay with them on base the night before graduation. Then Roger gets to stay with his old youth pastor (who is now an army chaplain) right near the airport the second night.

This is all working out so well! It's all set! Roger even gets to have a mini-vacation which he soooo deserves! And all we have to do is rent a car.

See, didn't I tell you God is good? He gave us all a graduation gift for Stephen's graduation!

Melissa

Update - Roger's old youth minister is a retired Army Chaplin Corps Colonel.

Additional Blessing - Roger's dad, Leland, called this evening and said he'd take care of the rental car. So, Roger gets to go see Stephen graduate and we don't even have to rent a car. Thanks, Dad. Rock Chalk!