Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer's First...Craft.

My kids know that the beginning of summer means one sure thing...Mom will surely manufacture a new chore chart and reward system, and come up with some cutesy paper crafted schedule. We all know it will only work for the first half of the summer, at which point we'll go out of town and everything will fall apart when we get back...

But this year - I have been empowered by Pinterest, which has showed me that the whole "family command center" thing is awesome for the entire year AND quite possibly a little bit trendy. Well, trendy in Pinterestland, which is about as trendy as I ever get. 

In honor of kicking off a Pinterest-inspired, organized summer, I give you: Part One of the Family Command Center. Us crafty people all know that nothing is official until you've created something to commemorate it, so - Organization, meet crafty calendar board.

I made this little beaut for approximately $2 and 30 minutes- yay me! 

The parts:
Frame with plexiglass: 25 cents at a thrift store
1 piece of blue cardstock: 25 cents in a huge multi-pack
Simple Stories elements: approximately $1.50 worth from a huge multi-pack

As I've talked about before, Simple Stories is awesome - each set (this is the Year-o-graphy set) comes with 12x12 double sided cardstock (the calendar page above was one of these) plus tons of cut-apart journaling cards of all different sizes (all the other pieces above) and stickers. I literally just cut stuff apart and glued it onto the cardboard in the frame. I added a few stickers and word strips and ALL DONE! My kind of project - thrifty and crafty!

 We use a dry-erase pen to write in all the necessary info:
Now we have the months' calendar, the day's activity/schedule, shopping lists, long term to-do list, garden weeding list (we cross of each item as we do it each week) and reminders...all in one place! It's right next to the chore chart (I will show you later...), so everyone sees it. 

I'd like to think everyone in the family frequently looks at it because its so cute, but I suspect they take a look hoping they'll see "eat ice cream" or "go to Disneyland" magically appear on it... eh, maybe I should  add little surprises on it from time to time. I'll start with "Make a Pinterest-inspired menu board"...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap for Cheap People

Since I've been spending so much time messing with clothing and fabric, I thought I'd share one of my more brilliant money-saving moves with you. Have you tried making your own laundry soap?? It saves SO much money and is so ridiculously easy. I have been trying different recipes and concoctions of various types for a couple of years now and finally came up with a mixture that works really well for me. I will share it with you -- with the caveat that I developed this for my front loader (your machine's warranty may be voided and/or the machine damaged by using homemade laundry soap...please do your own research first) , super hard water (laced with lovely red clay) and ingredients available near me. What works for you and your situation may be completely I suggest you do a little research yourself.

This recipe cleans like mad...but hasn't done much to prevent my whites from turning dingy (which happens no matter what storebought detergent I use, too) - so I am still working on that part.  I also do not use this for my baby's cloth diapers - I use Rockin' Green for that.  For all I know, Rockin' Green could be made of the same ingredients in different proportions, but its working as is, so its staying. I should also mention that since I have a septic tank -- I have looked up all the ingredients separately and they all *appear* to be septic safe. Use at your own discretion...

Anyway... here ya go. Let me know if you try it and how it works for you.

Homemade Laundry Soap for Cheap People with Hard Water:

Ingredients (all can usually be found at a typical grocery store):

1/3 Fels Naptha soap bar, grated (other recipes online use castille or other soap - I haven't tried any of those, since I didn't want to spend $5 getting a $2 bar of soap shipped to me...)
1 c. Washing Soda
1 c. Baking Soda (note that these are different sodas...find washing soda in the laundry aisle, with the borax and fels naptha...baking soda in the, you know, baking aisle)
1 c. Oxi-Clean (cheapest in bulk at Costco or WalMart)
1 c. Borax
A couple drops essential oil (optional) - I like lemon and lavender for the smell and natural anti-bacterial properties


1.) Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until it blends together into a fine powder.
2.) Don't open up your food processor right away - wait about 10 minutes for everything to settle so you don't end up breathing in the detergent dust (just trust me on that one...).
3.) Put into a container with a lid and wash clothes with it.

That's it.

I use 1 Tablespoon (yep - ONE tablespoon) per load for my front loader. I would estimate a regular washer would probably use 1/4-1/3 cup, but I really have no idea, so you'd have to experiment there.

Now that you have the recipe, let's compare costs. You can buy all the ingredients to make at least 3 batches (plus leftovers of some ingredients) of this stuff for around $10 ($3 or less per batch). I've found that 1 1/2 batches is pretty equivalent to the amount of loads I can do with one of those big liquid laundry jugs from Costco, which cost $15-20. So...we're talking $10 versus $40 for 3 batches. Yeah. I'm in.

$30 savings ...think of all the awkward clothes I could buy at the thrift store to refurbish for that :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Health...ier Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today my 3 year old and I made up a "healthier" cookie recipe. I know, I know - there isn't any seaweed or acai berries or whatever - it could be healthier - but this is a step UP from regular chocolate chip cookies, and doesn't contain anything you can't get from your own pantry or a regular grocery store. They are also not the prettiest cookies ever, but these cakey little goodies satisfied our sweet tooth and will work great as a wholesome after school snack for the kiddies! They kind of taste like muffins...but a cookie...and let's face it - calling something a "cookie" gives us a little leverage in getting our kids to eat it, right?

I just caught my little helper trying to sneak another one off the counter, actually...

Healthier Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. unsweetened applesauce (you want relatively thick applesauce that will round up on a spoon...if its too thin, you'll have melty cookies)
3/4 c. raw honey, soft or melted (but not hot)
1-2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 T. plain Greek yogurt
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. chocolate chips (pulse in a food processor until the chips are broken up, but not mush)

Mix together the applesauce, honey, vanilla and yogurt in a bowl. Mix the flour, salt and soda together in a separate bowl and then add to the applesauce mixture until blended. Don't over mix. Your batter should be thick and keep its shape. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon full onto a cookie sheet, a couple inches apart.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes (your oven may need a minute or two less or more) until light brown and firm. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack. Depending on how much dough you eat (no eggs! Eat your heart out!), this is approx. 2 dozen-ish cookies.

I am not a food scientist, so I will just say: results may vary...if they don't turn out, sorry ;)