Sunday, May 27, 2012

Liquid Soap Nuts Uses

I LOVE using Soap Nuts. They are so many uses- everything from laundry to bug repellant and best of all, NON-TOXIC!  I buy our Soap Nuts from Green Virgin Products.

I make up a gallon at a time since I use it for LOTS of things. It's one of my most important products I have in the house.

Here's my recipe for making liquid Soap Nuts

Take about 30 soapnuts in approx. 4 cups of water- bring to boil, simmer/boil for 30 min., let cool, strain out the nuts. I store mine in an empty gallon vinegar jug. I add a cup of Nixall as a preservative so it doesn't go bad, fill the jug the rest of the way with water. You can Essential Oils- EO-  if you want.

Here's a list of what I use liquid soap nuts for.

Laundry- 1/4 c per load- With the Soap Nuts from Green Virgin Products, you can still use the cold water setting on the washer.  I also add 1/2 c of vinegar to the fabric softener dispenser. Clothes won't smell like vinegar, plus in the winter, Vinegar doubles as a static cling remover. For stains and whites, we still use OxyClean.

Bug Spray- straight, can add EO if you want

Garden Bug Repellant- straight or add EO and/or neem oil- I add neem oil

All Purpose Cleaner- 1T per 16 oz. spray bottle, fill with water will work just fine, but here's my recipe for a 16 oz. bottle (the 16 oz. bottles you get in the laundry section work so much better than the 32 oz. bottles, in my opinion- the 32 oz. spray bottle sprayers kept breaking, even the ones from recycling empty commercial cleaner bottles)
1T liquid soap nuts
2 T Vinegar (helps with cutting grease, using for mirrors)- it's diluted enough that you don't smell it
1/4 C Nixall- makes it anti bacterial, viral, fungal, acts as a preservative- this is optional, but this is a serious anti-everything product that I use a lot!
Various EO- I personally love a lavendar herb combination- Lavendar/Lemongrass and Lavendar/Thyme are a couple of my favorites. I even just added a bunch of herbals scents (rosemary, thyme, oregano, lemongrass with Lavendar and it was just divine!)

I use this for cleaning everything, even mirrors. For mirrors, it looks as though it's going to streak, but it's always dried just fine, without streaks.  For sinks, toilets, showers, tubs I sprinkle baking soda/borax combo, spray with solution, wipe down, rinse. I've tried a variety of cleaning solutions and this is my absolute favorite. I noticed an immediate difference in just how clean everything was- it sparkled. Much better than anything else, including commercial cleaners, and at a fraction of the cost.

What's on our Summer Shelves

So finally a post, with pictures, of what's on our summer shelves. Just because it's summer doesn't mean the learning stops! We are doing the Summer Library Reading Program and the summer homeschooling literature/activities guide from Wee Folk Art. Before being introduced to these amazing guides, I had already decided to have a summer unit about ponds, so the Wee Folk Art Puddles and Ponds summer guide really was the perfect fit. It focuses on weather and ponds through children's literature and activities. I'm also supplementing with activities from  With Montessori, we have Practical Life Skills and Sensory items.

First a few items from May, which will probably stay out through the summer.

I bought these puzzles at the Dollar Store- there's also a snail puzzle I don't have in the picture. Eli really loves working these and he's getting better at finding matching pieces.

I have a couple of splurge items- items which I spent more than I should have, but they were just too cute to pass up! I do allow a small amount of splurge items each semester, and these little bees were one of them! They fit perfectly for our Bees Unit and Practical Life Skills.

I would like to insert here information about the Barnes and Noble Educators Discount program. They include Homeschoolers!! I would have the link, but can't find it. It was very easy, they were very polite and very helpful in assisting me in receiving my discount card, which by the way, is 20% off of ALL educational supplies- books and toys. All I had to do was tell them I was a homeschooling mom. Once I received my discount card, I used it to buy these all too cute little bees. **PLEASE NOTE** The little bees didn't come with the pom-pom balls, I added those myself, which I purchased from Wal-Mart in the party supply area.

Speaking of Educators Discounts, JoAnn's has a similar program for 15% off. You do have to show some kind of evidence that you are homeschooling- workbook that your child has worked on, lesson plans, etc. I just happen to have my Wee Folk Art book lists with me in case I find myself in a bookstore. I also had my year overview, which I had just printed out that morning, with me. They accepted it as evidence. The manager was really cool about it. She was homeschooled too and loves it when homeschoolers ask for their discount card.

Next, on our shelves...

These are items I bought from, except for the small brown pitchers in the first picture. Those came from goodwill, on sale for 50 cents.

The crumb brush is the perfect size for smaller hands.

There were several pouring kits to choose from. I decided on this one to help teach pouring and equally dividing between several containers.

This little kit was too cute! I was afraid it would be too easy for Eli, as we've been working with tweezers/tongs for awhile now, but it was a little difficult for him. Not only does it teach fine motor skills with the tweezers, there is the sorting colors aspect as well.

Here's another couple of splurge items- spiral tongs and a little shell scoop. One of the activities I have planned for later in the summer is to have small shells which Eli will scoop, pour and then practice using the crumb brush with. The spiral tongs work very well with the pom-pom balls and placing in the little dish from goodwill which has probably been one of the most used items I have- I think it's a little egg dish?

Dish from goodwill- this was from our December shelves

Here's another Montessori activity- flower arranging. Everything came from the Dollar Store. I had to cut the flowers apart into individual stems.

Still out- folding washcloths

Texture Dominoes.

We also have the Melissa and Doug Shapes clock. We also are doing outside sensory bins. So far, we've done insta-snow and Moon Sand (8 cups flour, 1 cup oil- either baby oil or vegetable oil- we tripled the recipe for the outdoor bin, which is the Step2 raised sandbox). Eli also has a water/sand table, which I just have water in. He has a separate sandbox.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Home Schooling Retrospect and Next Year

First WHAT'S ON OUR SHELVES for the Summer~

Various Practical Life Skills activities, the Wee Folk Art home school guides (see below) and participating in the Library Reading Program. Another fun summer activity has been to designate Friday's as Adventure Day. Yesterday was our first one. We went to the Fountains and it was a HUGE hit! Post coming soon about our Summer Activities including photos. 

This past year, we home schooled Eli. I used the Montessori style, which is a lot of hands on activities, including nomenclature cards. As I'm looking forward to next year, I've been assessing what worked and what didn't. In all honestly, Eli tolerated the nomenclature cards- 3 part cards designed to teach about various topics. They have pictures with words. For example, there were about a dozen springtime cards. The tulip card included 1) a picture of a tulip with the word tulip, 2) just a picture of a tulip, and then 3) the word tulip. What I found was that Eli responded MUCH better by walking across the street, with me, to look at the neighbors springtime flowers, which included tulips. Instead of only seeing a picture of a bud, we watched a little tree in our backyard, almost daily, to see the changes in the growing bud into a leaf. Now, I know nomenclature cards are only a supplement to learning and even Montessori says GET OUTSIDE and do hands-on learning. However, when learning about Africa, it isn't like we can just go outside to do so. I'm now tweaking the home school plan for next year to include a lot more hands on activities and utilizing Google Earth. I have been collecting books to cover our various topics. I'm pulling together a list of activities from which I kept vacillating over the cost, $27 per year. I finally just did it and it is well worth the price! I have Toobs of animals for the different land biomes. I bought Practical Life Skills activities to help teach sorting and pouring. I even splurged on some really cute spiral tongs. I have my list of math manipulatives we need to purchase.

BUT, the most important part being added to home schooling is the beautiful find of the Wee Folk Art Home School Guides- thank you Jessica for sharing! OMG! These guides are amazing and can be easily incorporated whether one is home schooling or not. It is Waldorf based and focuses on literature and creative activities. THIS WAS THE PIECE MISSING FROM OUR HOME SCHOOL! The guides are based on the seasons, which I had already lined out next year's learning accordingly, so they fit perfectly. There's a list of books for each season. It's been a wonderful treasure hunt to find these books used- just buying them off would eliminate half the fun, even though I'm sure I will have to purchase a few that way. Also, our local library has many of the books.

I'm so excited about these guides, we're starting them now. All of the curriculum is spiral learning- meaning I can reuse the same materials each year, just going deeper with each topic, or picking a different aspect to focus on. For example, geography this year, we will focus on biomes and animals for each continent. I'm fairly certain there will be some Putamayo CD's in there as well. And cooking some kind of traditional food, or at least eating at an ethnic restaurant.

So that's what we've been up to, at least on the home schooling front!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pickled Beets

We've had a variety of things going on here at Peace of Earth~ gardening, raising cornish cross meat chickens, and pulling together a home school curriculum for Eli, who will be 4 at the end of August!

In the garden, we have peas and beans coming up. The Brussel Sprouts are looking great, as are the Eggplants. I don't think we've every had eggplant plants look so good! We also have the herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squashes all planted and hoping for some more kale, lettuce and spinach. For some reason, we haven't had much luck with the greens so far this year.

Last night, I pickled 4 pints of beets. Well, really, 3.5. I was hoping for more but at least I had 3- one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas and one for Easter- and then the half is in the fridge right now. I will do a fall crop and fingers crossed, will have more.

As I was working on the beets last night, I was thinking about my grandmother (who has passed). I also thought about my dad (who passed away this last fall). I learned how to can beets from my dad, who learned from his mother. I could feel both of them with me as I peeled the beets. In case you don't know, canning beets is a lot of work! I now realize just how much love went into each jar from year's past. A dinner at my grandmother's always included a jar of canned/pickled beets.

Here is the recipe passed down to me:

Pick beets- cut tops off, but leave the root (this is very important, according to my dad)
Rinse- I got most of the dirt off, but they will be cooked and peeled, so don't worry about getting them perfectly clean.
Cook- boil like potatoes. They are done when you can put a fork into them, tender, like you would for potatoes.
Rinse- I pour mine into a large colander in the sink and run cold water over them. They are still warm when I peel them.
Peel- The peeling comes right off- I also cut the tops and bottoms.
Fill jars- I do mine in pint jars

At this point, if you're going to follow the directions for canning in the Ball Blue Book and use the hot water method, get your water started, then prepare the following mixture for canning.

Heat together and boil for 10 min. the following:
For 4 pints

2 Cups Sugar
2 Cups Water
2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
1t. whole cloves
1t whole allspice
1T Cinnamon

Pour over beets, place lids/rings on jars and then continue with canning directions from your Ball Blue Book. They do have directions for pickled beets, which I did. *Bring water to a simmer, place jars in, bring to a rolling boil and maintain for 30 min. Turn off, let jars cool down in pot (I left mine in for a couple of hours), then place on towels on the counter and cover with a towel. Check for seal within 24 hours. *PLEASE read the directions from the Ball Blue Book!! This is just a brief summary so you know what you're getting yourself into!