Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tis the season to be festively mental

I love Christmas!  The food, the decorations, the traditions, spending time with my family, the whole bit!  Every year I challenge myself to make Christmas more fun and exciting for not only myself but my children.

We started two traditions this year, one being the use of an advent calendar, nothing too spiffy, just a store bought calendar with chocolate treats in it for daily consumption. (That is a tradition from my childhood that I enjoyed very much!)  Maybe next year I can make my very own advent calender, we shall see. :) 

We also began the Elf on a Shelf  tradition, using homemade Elves (made by my wonderful mother) instead of the original Christmas elf.  Our elves do their job quite fantastically, and the mischief they make brings joy and giggles to my boys on a daily basis.  Watch for an entry about our Elves Dobby Jingles & Winky Twinkles to come after they return home on Christmas Eve. 

But for now let's focus on fun crafts and the yummy food that is Christmas! 

~*~*~*~*~.C.R.A.F.T.S. ~*~*~*~*~

Toilet Paper Roll Owls -from simple as that
  • an empty TP roll 
  • paint 
  • black marker 
It's really simple and you can make them Christmacy if you like.   You paint the TP roll whatever color you want or don't paint it. Owls are brown anyway right?  Then you press in the sides on the top.   Then add the detail with a black marker! Wah la.

Arn't they adorable?!

Toilet Paper Roll Ornaments -from Lady Anne
  • Tp rolls
  • scissors
  • glue
  • ribbon

Cut the TP rolls into pieces, paint each section, then glue them together!

I used a pipe cleaner to hold two together, then glued the rest onto them. Then I added some ribbon, sprayed them with a clear coat glaze and let my boys sprinkle glitter on them.

Toilet Paper Roll Mice- from Childmade 

  • TP rolls (1 per mouse)
  • scissors
  • glue*
  • paint (I didnt paint mine)
  • eyes (I used googily)
  • a nose (I used a pom pom)
  • ribbon
  • tiny presents

I didnt bother taking pictures of the construction as the tutorial on Childmade is as detailed as it gets.  The only thing I did differnt was use googily eyes instead of black pom poms and I didn't paint my mice.   If you have lots of tp rolls, that is a great blog for many adorable TP crafts!

*Note:  I started out using foam glue for this project and it worked well with the tp rolls, but when I went to make the nose & eyes, it wouldnt hold well, so I switched to a hot glue gun.

Toilet Paper Roll Crowns-by Creative Jewish Mom 
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • glitter 
  • fabric paint
Mine are simple, the original has more detailed directions and a nicer presentation, mine were a spur of the moment request.  As I have mentioned we have Christmas Elves staying with us for the Holidays and they recently brought gifts for my boys for good behavior.  The boys wanted to make something for them in return, so I did some searching and came across the crowns.  I thought it would be perfect gifts for our little Elves.

I cut my toilet paper roll in half,  then cut each piece open.  After flattening it out, I drew a crown outline (quite badly...)  and then cut it out.  I then glued the seams together, making it smaller than the original roll as it needed to fit the tiny elves heads. :)  Gave the boys some fabric paint and they created, then sprinkled on some glitter.

Dobby & Winky are quite pleased. 

Egg Carton Bells- by Sidetracked Sarah
  • an egg carton 
  • fabric paint
  • glitter
  • ribbon
  • jingle bells

Again I let the boys decorate with fabric paint and then sprinkle on some glitter.  After it dried (takes hours, mine wasn't completely dry but I'm impatient, Id recommend 24 hours,) I poked a hole in the top with a tiny screwdriver.

Thread the ribbon onto the jingle bell and tie a knot.  Then push the ends of the ribbon through through the inside of the carton and tie them together.

Ceremic Pot Santa- by Lesha (& Momma)
  • small ceramic pot, painted red
  • santa head 
  • cotton balls. 
  • red pipe cleaner
  • small ornaments 

My mom gave me the ceremic pots, they were already painted. The santa heads were on old Christmas ornaments. I just grabbed some cotton balls and tiny ornaments and we glued it all together with hot glue. I pulled the cotton balls apart to make the trim on Santa's coat. Glue the head onto the bottom of the pot, add the cotton edging, glue a red pipe cleaner on each side (cut in half to make the arms look right), and add the tiny ornaments as gifts.

For the heads (I did not make them) it looks like wooden balls painted peach, drawn on faces, then some small white pom poms as the edge of his hat. A little bigger red pom poms above those with a red pipe cleaner folded in half and a white pom pom for the tip of his hat.  The beard is made with a white pipe cleaner, folded and shaped to fit. You could just as well use some cotton.

These little guys were made by my mom, which is where the idea of making a Santa came from.   Pots, pom poms, felt, sticks, and a few embellishments.

Plastic Cup Snow globe-by Lesha
  • clear plastic cup 
  • foam
  • cotton balls
  • glitter 
  • small decorations (we used tiny ornaments)
  • hot glue 

Again I just threw this together with things I had. Here is where the initial idea for the snow globe came from, though I didn't follow directions. I just kinda made it up as I went along... I turned the cup upside down and traced around to make the bottom with foam.

I let the boys pull some cotton balls apart and glued it to the foam. Then they selected the decorations they liked and we glued those down.  Add some loose glitter, put hotglue around the edges and press the cup onto the foam.

Button Christmas Trees- By Lesha

  • foam or construction paper (Green  & Yellow)
  • buttons
  • glue
  • scissors
  • glitter

This is just something I thought of off the top of my head though Im sure many others have done the same thing.   I took foam sheets and cut them into the shape of  Christmas trees.   Then I handed the boys some stick glue and some buttons.  While they were gluing their buttons, I traced some stars onto yellow paper, using my cookie cutters.

When they were done, they thought it needed more sparkle so I gave them some glitter glue.   Using regular glue and dry glitter would work just as well.  They had a blast making these and my oldest insisted on making another one so he could give them to his teachers for christmas.

Speaking of teachers, I found this cute idea on Pinterest of a frame with the teacher's initial made with crayons, I thought that it would be great for my son's PreK teachers.

Crayon Initial Frame- From Keeping Up With The Comptons
  • a box of crayons (I used 21 for two frames)
  • a frame
  • a sharp knife
  • glue
  • printer & paper

First you type up the teacher's initial in Word (or some other type of program), make it a big size Font, (I used Century Gothic at 400) underneath it, type their name in a smaller font (I used 36)  Print out 2 copies just in case.  Then get a cutting board and get ready to cut some crayons.  Its really not as simple as you'd think it is, trust me!

 Most of the crayons need to be cut at a slant so that they fit the letter correctly. You just kind of have to eyeball it and learn from trial and error.

I recommend having all pieces cut before beginning the gluing process, to make sure they are going to fit correctly.  With the "A"  I was able to use two whole crayons for the center, which is the first part I glued so that everything else would line up properly.  The K was alittle more difficult.

His teachers just raved about them! 

Stone's School Crafts

I did not make these but I wanted to include them as they are tooo cute!  I was able to use Pinterest to find some instructions for anyone who would like to create these crafts. 

Footprint/Handprint Reindeer

Instructions found at Oopsey Daisy 

Paper Plate Tree

Instructions found at A Little Learning For Two 


My Grandmother has her christmas dinner every year, the sunday before christmas so that all of my sisters and our familes are able to join in the festivities.  Grandmother usually makes the big things, i.e Turkey, Ham and what not, while the rest of us bring sides.  This year I was in charge of  deviled eggs (as usual!), a veggie tray and the Green Beans I made last year (soooo yummy!  Im not a fan of green beans either!)

As you've probably seen on most of my entries, I like to complicate things, so I just can't make regular deviled eggs or throw some veggies on a platter. Just take a look at my Thanksgiving veggie tray....

Turkey Veggie Tray 

Thus I began my research and ofcourse I couldn't find anything for Christmasy deviled eggs aside from the usual paprika sprinkle, but then I got an idea, though I wasn't certain it would work or if it would be appetizing to the eye but I went with it anyway.  Must experiment...can't help...myself. 

Basic Deviled Egg Recipe 
  • 12 hard boiled eggs
  • 4 tbs of Mayo
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp of mustard
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • paprika
  • My additions: bacon bits, green onions & cheddar cheese
You know the drill, boil the eggs, put them in ice water to cool, then peel them.  After you get your eggs cooked & peeled, you slice them and take the yolk out.  I tossed all the yolks into the Ice Queen (My kitchen aid, if ya didnt know).  Add the other ingredients and let it mix up real good.

This is where my idea comes in.... while it was mixing...I added a few drops of green food coloring. That's right green eggs, it is Christmas right? After it was done, I spooned the mixture into one of my frosting bags, (you can use a ziplock bag, just snip the corner!)  Using a star frosting tip I piped the mixture into the egg.  I sprinkled on some bacon bits, diced green onion and paprika.  Then I sliced up some thin pieces of chedder cheese and used my tiny fondant star cutter to make little stars.

I was afraid no one would eat them because they were green, but I was dead wrong!  They were gobbled up immediately!  I didn't taste them as I am anti-mayo, but I got rave reviews.

Christmas Veggie Tray- from Betty Crocker 
  • -stick pretzels
  • -cauliflower
  • -broccoli
  • -grape tomatoes
  • -cheddar cheese (my own addition)
Broccoli looks like trees right?  Duh.  Tomatoes?  Christmas balls.  Pretzels for the trunk of the tree.  Cauliflower for a snowy border!  Cheese, you ask?  Why its for the star of course! The original recipe states  yellow bell pepper.. but I wanted my tree to be spectacular, so I sliced up some cheddar cheese and using a star cookie cutter, I made the topper and added some smaller cheese stars as decorations.

Serve with the dip of your choice!

Green Bean Bundles a la Brennay- from
  • 3  (14 1/2 ounce) cans of green beans*
  • 10 slices of bacon
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt*
  • 1 dash soy sauce.
  • toothpicks

*Notes:  I use frozen green beans, I hate canned.  I use garlic powder & kosher salt instead of the garlic salt.  1/4 tsp of each.

This recipe was shared with me by my friend Brenna whom I lovingly refer to as Brennay.  My boys love green beans and bacon so I thought this was just perfect.  I made them last year and it was a big hit!  Quite fattening, but its only Christmas once a year , right?

First you need to cut your bacon into pieces, halfs or thirds depending on the length of each of your slices and the thickness of your green bean bundles.  Take 6-8 green beans and wrap a piece of bacon around it, secure it with a toothpick.  Take the brown sugar, melted butter, garlic, salt, and soy sauce and mix it until the brown sugar dissolves.  Arrange your bundles in a 9x13 inch baking dish and pour the marinade over it.  Refridgerate over night.  Cook in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

I was able to get 16 bundles from one 12 oz bag of frozen whole green beans and I should have double the recipe as these disappeared quite quickly.

Hope you enjoyed my ramblings!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pour ~ Shake ~ Curse ~ Repeat.

"When you're experimenting you have to try many things before you get what you want, and you may go days getting nothing but exhaustion." ~ Fred Astaire

Since Homemade Laundry Detergent was so successful I thought why not try dishwasher detergent?  Little did I know it was going to take weeks of experimenting to concoct the perfect recipe, but eventually I nailed it and then some.  

Before testing out a homemade detergent, might I suggest the simple (yet disgusting!) task of cleaning your dishwasher, as detailed on, "The Quick & The Hungry". You will be amazed at what you find, and even if you don't plan on using a homemade detergent, I would just about guarantee this process will help your dishwasher run much better.

As for the homemade detergent, I tested out several different recipes,with similar ingredients, washing soda, baking soda, vinegar, borax, lemon juice, kosher salt, etc.. I tried 2 versions of powdered detergent, Powder#1 and Powder#2.

I learned quickly that anything powder would leave residue on my glasses, so I went with this liquid version, Liquid Homemade Dishwasher Detergent I. Still the residue remained, clouding up my dishes. I even went as far as to test the liquid laundry detergent from the last entry in the dishwasher and while it cleaned the dishes, it also left the cloudy residue. I used white vinegar in the rinse compartment on all test runs.

Test Container--Using Liquid Detergent #1

It then became apparent to me that perhaps it was the borax/washing soda/baking soda that was causing the residue effect, so using the same website, I attempted the very last recipe, Liquid Homemade Detergent II. The only one I had seen in all my searching that used liquid ingredients only.

Powder-less Dishwasher Detergent
  • 1 cup liquid castile soap
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Now here's where my issue comes in. (There's always atleast one!) I had been searching for liquid Castile soap for quite some time and was unable to find it anywhere in my local area. I was at the grocery store (E.W. James & Sons) one afternoon and just so happened to see a bar of Kirk's Original Coco Castile Soap nestled neatly beside the Lava soap on the very bottom shelf of the cleaners aisle.

Castile Bar Soap
It wasn't the Dr Brommer's Castile that Ive read about everywhere but it was the only Castile I could find and at $1.39 a bar it was worth a try. I figured with water and a little heat I could make a liquid version. Experimentation is my thing.

 The first thing I did was grate the soap into my S.O.P. (Soap Only Pot) I then added 2 cups of water and let it simmer, making sure to stir it frequently. It took awhile for it to melt down completely but I didn't want to turn it up and have it stick to the pot.

 Converting Castile Bar to liquid.
  •  1 4oz bar of Castile Soap 
  • 2 cups of water. 
Grate the soap into a pot. Add the water. Heat on the stove top til soap is dissolved. At this point I wasn't sure if the soap would thicken or if I'd just made a pot of clear liquid, but it was an experiment, one that eventually paid off quite nicely!

After the liquid castile was finished, I poured it into a measuring cup, it made exactly 2 cups of liquid(I was afraid the heating would evaporate it). Taking a cup of the castile and mixing it up with the other ingredients from the recipe above, I made exactly two cups of dishwasher detergent. I mixed it in an old powerade container and shook it up.  Using the other 1 cup of castile, I mixed up this recipe for dish soap.

Dish Soap
  •  1 cup of liquid Castile Soap
  •  1/4 cup of water
  •  1 Tb of vinegar
You know you love my writing.

Mix it up and put it in a container. I used an old Lemon Juice container. The dishwasher detergent was white and foamy liquid. The dish soap was a thick & clear gel. The only difference is the amount and type of liquid added to each. I.e. the dishwasher detergent had more water & vinegar plus lemon juice added.

24 hrs later they both thickened up ALOT. But once again I was disappointed as the liquid dishwashing detergent left the same residue on the dishes. This led me to believe that my theory of the powders were dead wrong. So again I searched for more recipes. I came across one on Natural and Organic Products & Recipes that had one ingredient that I had yet to use. Citric Acid.

Found in the Canning Section
 I had used lemonade powder  in past tests because its citric acid properties is supposedly the same.  It had no effect what so ever, so I did alittle research and found that a .15 oz packet of sugar-free lemonade has about .03 of citric acid, as well as Maltodextrin (a sweetner?!), salt, calcium phosphate, natural flavor, ascorbic acid, artificial flavor, artificial color and a preservative. (which is what citric acid is?!?)

This Recipe makes 158 oz (average) which is about 19 cups. It uses a total of  3.6 oz of lemon kool aid, which if you recall only has about .03 oz of citric acid per .15 oz.  3.6 oz of kool aid=.108oz of citric acid.

A 5 oz container of pure citric acid contains the acid itself with less than 2% silicon dioxide which is merely an anticaking ingredient. The recipe I used calls for 1 cup of acid, which is 8 oz.  8 oz verses .108 oz....?

Citric Acid Dishwasher Detergent 
  • 2 cups Washing Soda
  • 2 cups Borax 
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt 
  • 1 cup Citric Acid
If you were to multiply the ingredients to make the complete 19 cups as the lemonade recipe calls for you'd use about 5 cups each washing soda  & borax, then 4 cups each salt  & citric acid.

Lemonade Recipe:
19 cups with .108 oz of citric acid 

Citric Acid Recipe: 
18 cups with 32 oz of  citric acid.

There is a big difference that obviously sets pure citric acid as the winner, though it is more expensive at $4 for 5 oz.  You'd spend $8 to make a whole cup.  As always, I halfed the recipe for my test run and recommend you do the same so that you dont spend the money if the detergent doesnt work for you.

Now the question you are asking is, "Did it work?"

Test Container- Using Citric Acid Recipe
Praise Merlin it certainly did!  Obviously Citric Acid in pure form is the key to the perfect Dishwasher Detergent.

Now let's go back to the Homemade Dish Soap.  I only made it to test it out...and it works wonderfully. It suds up real nice and has a fresh clean scent.   Its just...well I already had a 64 oz container of dish soap so I didnt actually need it.  Allow me to randomly go off on a tangent and brag for a moment.  

When we moved into this house, we replaced alot of the old fixtures (the house is over 100 years old), one was the kitchen faucet.  The sprayer had been completely removed and like my dishwasher (also added by us), I could not see my life without a sprayer.

 I found an awesome set where the sprayer pulled down from the faucet itself  and it came with a soap dispenser, which magically fit right where the old sprayer had been. The soap dispenser came with a plactic container that you fill with soap and screw onto the dispenser from under the sink.  It wasn't easy to do at all but I loved being able to dispense soap as I needed.

The plastic container broke not long after being put it and the husband said he'd get me a new one.  Months went by and I had to squeeze soap from a bottle.  (Oh poor poor me!)  Well one day the husband had a brilliant idea, which sometimes scares me especially when it comes to my daily routines, but I encouraged his project as he planned to fix my soap dispenser.   He worked diligently under the sink for about half an hour and when he was done, showed me that the soap dispenser was now working again!

Now this may not seem like a big thing as he probably just replaced the crap plastic, right?   Wrong.  Instead he rigged a tube to the dispenser that led under the sink and into a 64 oz soap bottle.   No more refilling the plastic bottle, no more breaking plastic crap! Its pure genius really.

Anyway back to the topic....Homemade dish soap.  I decided to see what else I could use it for.  I needed some degreaser and didn't have the ingredients on hand to make some of the recipes that I had come across so I decided to do my own experimenting.

 I poured the homemade dish soap into a spray bottle, it was probably about 1/2 cup and it was seriously thick at that point.  I filled the bottle with hot water and shook it up real good, then I let it sit for a while to make sure it wasn't going to go all thick again.  After a few hours it remained in a thin liquid form, so I set out to find a mess.

The Husband had made chili that day as well as a mess that I just can not understand how it came to be.  The stove top was completely covered in sauce drippings and splatters, so I sprayed it down with my "degreaser" and let it set long enough to switch clothes from the washer to the dryer.   Then I took a regular dish towel and wiped across it.  I was immediately amazed.

I now have no need to look for a degreaser recipe as I have found the perfect cleaner.  I added some fresh apple essential oils and anytime I clean, my house smells like fresh apples, its most awesome!

Fresh Apple All Purpose Cleaner 
  • 2 cups liquid Castile soap (See bar to liquid conversion at the beginning, if needed) 
  • 4 cups hot water 
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar 
  • a few drops of fresh apple essential oil (or whatever fragrance you prefer!) 

Put it all in a spray bottle and shake it up!

Note:  All my soap didn't fit in one container, I had to put some in another bottle for future use. If you find your cleaner has thicken, it needs more water.  You can add to the bottle and shake or you can dump  it all out into your S.O.P, add water and heat it again.  

We hope you found this blog entry useful. Please leave us a comment and let us know what you think!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Adventures In Laundering....Part 2

While I still have tons of powdered laundry detergent left, I decided to test out a liquid version, found on the lovely blog, Why Not Sew? I halfed the original recipe as I didnt have a 2 gallon pot.

Original Recipe-Liquid Laundry Soap
  • 1 bar of soap
  • 1 cup of Borax
  • 1 cup of washing soda
Yields 2 Gallons.

Lesha's Test Try
  • 1/2 bar of Fels Napa Soap
  • 1/2 cup of Borax
  • 1/2 cup of Washing Soda
  • 1 oz of essential oils (Optional)
Yields 1 Gallon

Grate the soap into your S.O.P, (Soap Only Pot.) and add a 1/2 gallon of water, cook until the soap dissolves. Add the Borax & Washing Soda, bring to a boil, it will thicken. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 gallon of cold water & essential oil. Mix well and pour into a gallon container (A milk jug works perfectly.) I poured mine into my old detergent container. Use 1/2 cup per load.

Notes: After a few hours, this detergent thickened ALOT. So much that it wouldn't come through the spout on my detergent bottle. Next time I am going to use 1/4 bar of soap to the halfed ingredients to see if it makes it a bit thinner.

Breakdown cost of the original liquid recipe.
  • 1 box of Washing Soda ($4) is approximately 6.5 cups (55 oz box)
  • 1 box of Borax ($4) is approximately 9.5 cups (76 oz box)
  • 3 bars of Fels Napa($3, $1 each)
Total: $12.00

Using the original recipe, 1 cup of each makes 2 gallons of detergent. Using almost all the washing soda (6 cups) and 6 cups of the borax, and 3 bars of soap (1/2 bar per 2 gallons) you can make 12 gallons of detergent.

That's 192 cups. At a 1/2 cup a load, you can get 384 loads of laundry for $12 (without the addition of the essential oils) That's $.03125 per load of laundry.

This version worked just as well as our powdered version in which $25 (minus oils) gets you 3.5 gallons (that's 56 cups.) At 1/8 cup per load, you get 448 loads of laundry. That's $.0558 per load of laundry.

If you double the liquid recipe, you are paying $24  for 768 loads of laundry.  That's 320 more loads of laundry for practically the same price as the powdered.

~Liquid~ For~ The~ Win~

Laundry Stain Remover

If you've been using Fels Napha for your laundry detergent, I'm sure you've seen the stain removing details on the back of the bar.  Mamy tested it out in our first Laundering entry and it works wonders.  

However I'm lazy, or quite possibly brilliant.  I decided it was just too much work to rub the soap into the stain and wet it with water. (just toooooooo many steps!! )  So I decided to take the concept and premake it, though this does add more steps to the initial prep process.   But you only have to do it once, no more scrubbing with a bar of soap and wetting the fabric, just dip, rub and go on with it.

I took my 1/4 bar of soap Id been using for the scrubbing and grated it into a half pint mason jar.   Then I filled the jar with boiling water just to cover the soap.

 Put the top on it, shake it up real good, continue to shake it up everytime you walk back into the room until the soap dissolves.

About 3 hours or less later, I had a little jar of gel.

 I just had to test it.   I took my 4 year olds shirt from school, that had been in the laundry for a few days, it had food stains on it from lunch, no idea what exactly it is....

I dipped into the gel, rubbed it on the shirt, not a scrub just a deep rub to it.  Took like 5 seconds.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes and tossed it into the wash.

Taaaaaaaa Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Later I did some research to find, I'm not the only brilliant mommy out there.  Google it, there are several recipes out there, but this one works for me.

Coming soon:  My Trials & Tribulations of Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.