Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Laundry Detergent

I just read an article that Tide is now the new hot item to steal. Seriously? Tide?

This recipe is needed now more than ever, I guess, lol!! 

There are a lot of homemade laundry soap recipes out there. However, I really love soap nuts. They're easy. I also can use them for a variety of cleaning products, not just laundry.

First- buy your bag of soap nuts. I get mine from Green Virgin Products. 

Let's do a little cost comparison-
Tide, 150 oz. 90 loads, from Wal-Mart is $17.97- 20 cents a load
Soap Nuts from GVP, 1 kilo bag, 330 loads, $27.95- .08 cents a load
AND I will have additional Soap Nuts cleaning recipes, so you will have additional savings when you're not buying other commercial cleaners as well.

Next, use your Soap Nuts. They will come with a little drawstring bag. You can put 4-6 in the bag and use them just like that in your laundry. They will last for up to 6 loads of laundry. They work great. But if you want to be daring, make liquid soap nuts. I love the liquid. The little bag would get lost, or come open. Or, I would forget how many loads I had done. Liquid was easier plus I use it in making other cleaning products.

To make a gallon of Soap Nuts concentrate:

Boil 4-6 cups of water. Add about 30 soap nuts (for me, it's about 3 hand fulls). Let simmer for 30 min. Turn off, let cool. Add to gallon container and fill with water. I use empty vinegar bottles.

To use: 1/4 cup per load. If you read about soap nuts, most will say you need to use warm/hot water, but you really can use cold water and they will work just fine. 

What about whites? We use Oxyclean- one of the few commercial products I buy, with soap nuts. I do the prewash soak overnight in Oxyclean, then the regular wash with soap nuts.

What about stains? I use spray Oxyclean pre-treat then wash with soap nuts. Yes, I even have the Tide pen for tough stains and the Clorox bleach pen for let's say blueberry-smoothie-accidently-spilled-on-white-shirt stains. Yes, it's happened. The Clorox pen is great for that stain. I bought those pen things a couple of years ago, so it isn't like I use them often.

What about Fabric Softener? Great question. STOP BUYING FABRIC SOFTENER!! It's full of nasty chemicals, plus it smells horrible. I hate the smell of those dryer sheets. Yuck!
USE VINEGAR in your rinse cycle. Yes, just plain white vinegar- approx. 1/2 cup per load in your rinse cycle. You're clothes won't smell like vinegar.  I will also be doing a tutorial on making wool dryer balls which can be used as a fabric softener/static cling remover as well. But for now, use vinegar.

If you read about liquid soap nuts on-line, they all say that the liquid will go bad after about a week. However, I haven't noticed that to be true. I did take a whiff of some I made up a few weeks ago, and there's a slight smell, but nothing horrid and my clothes definitely don't smell. You can always make up less- standard recipe is 8-10 soap nuts per 6 cups of water. After it's simmered, you're left with about 4 cups of liquid- 1 quart. You can also add a preserver- ascorbic acid or I've used Nixall (in my all purpose cleaner, it acts as a preserving agent as well as a disinfectant) I don't think I'd use Nixall in my laundry soap though. Nixall is hypochlorous acid- is non-toxic, and can be used for a variety of things- but there could possibly be some negative consequences if using it in laundry- highly doubtful, but it could happen. It has plenty of other uses, not to worry. It's a great product. Not only do I recommend it, so does Dr. Norm Shealy. Get some.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Why we are Homeschooling


Public Schools teach to the average child and they teach to the test. Eli isn't average. If he were to go to public school, he would be bored. He doesn't do nothing well. It wouldn't be good for anyone involved! I am in no way bashing teachers. I think they do an amazing job with what they're given. I really wish they were allowed to just teach.

I find it sad that children in Kindergarten have to stand in a straight line and are expected to sit, quietly at their desks, which are all in rows. They also learn they must color inside the lines, both literally and metaphorically... conform. He has his whole life to learn this and actually I want him to always feel comfortable thinking outside of the box. It is a skill which will serve him well.

I want Eli to feel free to express himself, to be creative, to explore and learn about his world, to be who and what he needs to be with the support of the adults around him, gently guiding him. Once again, creativity is a great skill to cultivate.

We also don't use the reward/punishment system of discipline, which the school seems to only be able to exist on. He is learning to do what is right, because it is the right thing to do and not because someone is watching over him.

I don't want to protect him from the world (as some homeschoolers do), but rather to give him the confidence- and skills- he will need to navigate the world. I want to nurture the skills we value in adults but so many times discipline out of children. It is my job to raise a contributing citizen of society.

I want to teach him HOW to think, not WHAT to think. This goes back to being creative and being able to apply what he learns. Right now, Eli is really into Math. He loves patterns and shapes. Not only has he learned his shapes, but now, he sees shapes in everything! He is applying what he has learned.

We are teaching using the Montessori philosophy with some Reggio sprinkled in. Both of the philosophy's are not just for teaching, but are LIFE philosophies. One of my favorite Maria Montessori quote is from a student speaking with her who said "teach me so I can do it for myself." That sums it up! We are teaching him to be independent and confident, giving him the skills and tools he needs to navigate his world. The Reggio sprinkling is based on the awesome, awesome blog of Play At Home Moms. LOTS of hands on activities and supplies which the children has access to at all times. In Montessori, they recommend a specific place and specific time for learning. Eli has access to all of his activities at all times, including art supplies. Because he has been shown the proper way to use everything, other than a short coloring on everything in the house phase, he is very respectful of his things. Which leads me to the final point~ Montessori also includes the phrase "quiet and respectful". I don't expect Eli to be a quiet little mouse- that would be impractical for an active 3 yr old boy! But, he isn't a crazy disrespectful preschooler either. He doesn't destroy things. He is very respectful, not only knowing the proper use of things, but he also does it. 

We have an awesome Montessori school in town which is always a consideration. But for now, I am very happy homeschooling him. He is learning and is a happy, outgoing preschooler. It's working for us!


Filling the bird feeder


watching for birds


Sunday, March 11, 2012

What's on Our March Shelves

The big introduction for Eli's Homeschooling is THE CALENDAR. I love this thing. I spent a lot of time on it. I'm really glad he likes it too. My inspiration is from Counting Coconuts, but I tailored it for our needs.




The moon phase cards and the weather tracking cards came from Montessori Print Shop- the weather tracking cards are FREE. I bought the calendar from an educational supply store and made everything else using Print Shop.

Eli enjoying his calendar. Yes, his shirt is wrong side out and backwards. BUT he put it on all by himself. He was so proud and I was proud of him as well.


The other thing I did was to move his larger sensory table outside. The weather is getting warmer, so it will be good out on the back porch for warm weather experiments and such. The table is a Step2 sandbox table, but we use it for all kinds of things. In his room, I put a bookshelf in the corner where the sensory table was. 


For his learning shelves, I bought blue trays at Target. I wish they would have had 6, but they had five so that's what I got. I have one for each of his learning subjects- Math, Language/Reading, Science (it's the one overflowing!), Geography, Practical Life, and then Sensory didn't get a bin. 

Math
We are using the colored Counting Bears to create patterns- he's really into making patterns, so I'm going with it

Number Counting Cards- Index cards with the number 1-10 and then counting chips- actually they're food chips (plastic green circles with an image of a carrot in them) from a casino that were given to us- they work ;)

Language
Opposites- he has a book of opposites and then sorting cards from Montessori Print Shop

Rhyming words- using his Spelling Spinner

Beginning Letter Sounds- simple 3 letter words, sounding out beginning letter and finding the letter that goes

A couple of books that have a lot of rhyming words

Science
We're learning about the weather and seasons. With St. Patrick's Day coming up, we will be making Rainbow Rice, creating a Rainbow Jar (with the rainbow rice) and learning about rainbows. He also has sorting cards for hot/cold weather clothing

Colors- We did this a couple of times last month and he really liked it- White ice cube tray with water in each of the holes. Add primary food color to 3 of the holes. Then he has color cards for the secondary colors- For example, I put a blue dot + red dot = purple dot, so he will take an eyedropper of blue, then red and make purple in another hole. I also found a Blues Clues book about colors.

Baby Animals- names and matching with adults animals

Geography- right now we still have the green playdoh (earth) with the blue bin (water) to make land form shapes. Eli really doesn't like it and gets bored very quickly- I only try every once in awhile, I don't force it. We do have a poster with land forms that he loves. I really need to learn how to use Google Earth. The Montessori At Home ebook suggests using it to look at actual land forms. I think Eli would really get into that.  Can I get it to work on the Kindle I wonder?

Practical Skills
He loves spooning the glass rocks and tonging poms. He's way past learning it, but he likes it so much, I've kept it out. He's also really good with threading- buttons and then the smaller pony beads onto a pipe cleaner. We need to work more on folding washcloths. He's probably getting close for sewing shapes- various shapes with holes, then you string a shoestring through the holes. Other practical skills not in his room are dressing and undressing- he's getting pretty good at it. I'm also moving towards having his snack shelf in the fridge and in a lower cabinet so he can begin making his own snacks.

Sensory
We have a matching game- cards with pictures of objects and animals and matching them with the silhouette. I have some water beads we need to get out.  I also have a running list of cool things from Play At Home Mom

Frugal Green

I always hear people say it's so expensive to be green. I am so confused by that because we do it because it saves us money!! Then I realized why some think it's so expensive. They haven't discovered the world of DIY.  Have you seen the cost of "green" products! YIKES!! So, I'm starting a Frugal Green section, showing how easy and cheap it is to be GREEN!

Here's a list of home products I make:

Laundry soap
Fabric Softener
Shampoo/Conditioner
Lotion
Deoderant
All Purpose All Purpose Cleaner- including mirrors/windows
Air Freshener
Lip Balm
Hand salve
Body Wash
Bug Spray
Bug Bite cream- that sounds kind of funny, if the bug spray worked then why would I need the bug bite cream, lol!! The bug spray works WHEN WE REMEMBER TO USE IT!!
and soon, toothpaste- just waiting to finish up the commercial toothpaste we have

It seems as though I make more of our stuff, but that's all I can think of for now.

If you would like to start stocking ingredients for upcoming recipes, I HIGHLY recommend these products:

Soap Nuts from Green Virgin Products- great price, great product. Most of my cleaning products have liquid soap nuts as it's base. You don't buy liquid soap nuts, you buy regular soap nuts and then make the liquid. It's easy, I promise. You just have to be able to boil water.

Nixall- anti everything. great disinfectant.

Baking Soda, Vinegar, Liquid Castille Soap, Borax (optional), Various Essential Oils

I use Emulsifying Wax for my lotion. Some people take issue with emulsifying wax. If you're one who does, then you won't like my lotion recipe. If you don't and want to make awesome lotion for literally pennies for commercial lotion, then I recommend buying Emulsifying Wax from Mountain Rose Herbs. You might want to also pick up some beeswax while you're at it.

Containers: I've tried reusing my old spray bottles, but I think there's a conspiracy for the spring in the sprayer. They always seem to break. It's like they know you're not going to buy the commercial stuff anymore and they don't want to participate. I don't even have luck with the spray bottles in the cleaning section, the empty ones that are supposed to be for cleaning and should last. They don't. The best spray bottles I have found are in the laundry section at Wal-Mart, with the irons and ironing boards (I know, Wal-Mart). They are 16 oz. and work for more than just a couple of spritzes. Also, they're a dollar apiece. We use them for all kinds of things- well, water based things that is.

Healing Honey/Elderberry Syrup Candy

Here is Part 2 of Healing Recipes. I got my inspiration from The Pistachio Project and her Homemade Cough Drop Lollipops. She made homemade cough drops and lollipops using just honey.

Anyone who knows me, knows I just absolutely can NOT follow a recipe exactly as it's written. I have to add this or that or do something different. So here's what I did.
I used 1/2 c of honey like the recipe called for and did all of the heating/stirring, BUT I added these ingredients.
About 26 10 mg of Zinc- I bought the tablets and ground them up in my little Silver Bullet using the flat blade.
1/4 c. of Elderberry Syrup
Juice from 1 lemon

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Here's her basic recipe and directions I used:

Cough Drop Lollipops

The good news is that cough drops are incredibly easy to make! I found the original recipe at Little House in the Suburbs and when I saw someone mention lollipops and idea was born. Naturally kids need cough drops too but I don’t like giving my kids itty bitty pieces of hard candy. Cough drop lollipops are a logical solution. Cough drops on a stick.
½ cup to 1 cup honey (honestly any amount would do probably)
Candy thermometer (optional)
Lollipop sticks
Lollipop mold (although if you do not have a mold you could make free form lollipops by pouring the honey over the stick on a non-stick surface)
Cook-

Pour honey into small saucepan and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and bring honey to a boil. If using candy thermometer, insert in and continue to stir the honey until it has reached a temperature of 300 degrees. Remove from heat and move to test phase. If not using the candy thermometer then continue cooking and occasionally test. Just don’t wait too late to test; testing too early is better then testing too late. 
Pictures of mine~ Everything, including the zinc powder. The powder eventually dissolves.

About 45 min. later- getting very close!
Test –

To make sure your honey has reached the right consistency, place a drop or two of honey into a cup of ice water. If the honey turns and stays hard (like a hard candy) then you are good to go. If it is still soft then you need to keep cooking a bit longer.
Making the Lollipops –

With Molds- Grease lollipop molds and insert sticks so that they are ready in the mold. Pour honey into mold and let cool at room temperature. (No cheating and putting them into the fridge. It won’t work)
Without Molds- Lay lollipop sticks on a greased non-stick surface such as a silicone mat or parchment/wax paper. Carefully pour honey over each stick, creating a free form lollipop.
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I'm not a candy maker. I had NO IDEA just how long it would take for this to reach 300 degrees- 45 minutes. So don't start out with a short metal teaspoon like I did. Also, when popping them out of the molds, especially if you make drops (without the sticks), they will fly, be careful. Speaking of molds, make sure you get the ones for hot candy. I bought mine at Hobby Lobby- I bought one for lozenges and one for lollipops. This recipe filled those just fine- I think I had about 6 lollipops and 18 lozenges.

I do have one question for those who are candy makers- okay, actually I have a couple of questions:

1. How do you keep it from scorching once heated but needing to spoon into the molds. I can't keep stirring and pour into molds as the same time. I scorched the 1st batch, so for the second batch, I poured it into a pyrex glass pan. I might as well have just made a brick- it solidified almost immediately. I still got most of it out and into my molds.

2. Once it was cooled and I popped them out of the molds, I stored them on a plate, to which they adhered themselves to, better than any glue I've ever seen. How do you keep candy from getting so sticky?

Overall, they tasted really good, Eli loved them and I found them to be very soothing for my throat. I would make them again because practice makes perfect and these are just too good to not perfect!

Elderberry Syrup

We've been sick and I've been the one who got really, really sick. Two weeks ago, when we all first started coming down with this upper respiratory stuff, I decided to make some Elderberry Syrup. I've been hearing all kinds of wonderful things about it, and I will have to say, IT'S ALL TRUE!!

First, the syrup. There are various versions of this basic recipe floating around out there. It's simple and EASY, oh, and very inexpensive.

Ingredients:

3 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Dried Elderberries, or 1 Cup Fresh
1/2 Cup Raw Honey

Bring 3 Cups water to a boil, at Elderberries, simmer. All of the recipes I saw said to simmer until liquid was half. I'm a really bad judge of what half actually looks like in a pot, so I just let it simmer for about 45 min. and called it good. Strain out the berries (I used a small mesh sieve and just poured it into my pint jar. Oh, I forgot to say this earlier, this recipe will make about a pint, so have a jar clean and ready for your syrup) Add 1/2 cup Raw Honey and stir it until it dissolves (I didn't do that with one batch. I ended up with a glob of raw honey at the bottom of the jar). And now, you have Elderberry Syrup for a fraction of the cost as buying it. It cost about $3-4 to make versus $18 to buy, and that's $18 for a small container, not a pint!

Preventative dosage:

Children 1t daily
Adults 1T daily

When your sick dosage:

Children 1t every 3-4 hours
Adults 1T every 3-4 hours

For Eli, I put several t in a glass of watered down apple juice for him to drink on throughout the day. This stuff is good by itself and absolutely awesome in apple juice.

When we get sick, we start with the alternative stuff first. This was the only thing that even remotely came close to helping me feel better.  I continued taking it even after I went to the doctor and got meds (yes, I was that sick- alternative wasn't cutting it, OTC didn't touch it, so off to the doctor I went). This, plus a warm honey/lemon/rum concoction worked better at helping my cough than the cough medicine. I still took my antibiotics but stopped the cough medicine. And yes, I am taking my probiotics ;)