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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dust Cloths

I really enjoy cleaning.  What I don't enjoy is going through the house, hunting for all of my supplies.  Part of this was solved by storing most of our cleaning supplies in an over-the-door shoe organizer in our hall closet (one bottle in each pocket--try it.  You're welcome).  The worst one for me is dusting.  Why?  I can never find clean dusting rags, and let's face it...if you use paper towels for dusting, you end up using 90 rolls of towels and killing an acre or two of trees.  I decided the solution for this was to keep a jar of already-prepped dusting cloths on the counter in the kitchen--that way, I have no excuse for not dusting!

What do you need?

2 cup vinegar
2 cup water
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
2-4 whole lemon rinds (this all depends on preference)
Dust rags (in this picture, there are eight towels--2 hand towels cut into four pieces each)
Airtight container (I use a 1 gallon glass jar that I got from Target for about $5)

Step One: Cut up your towels (or if you already have towels to use, gather them up) 

Step Two: In a large bowl, mix vinegar, water, and olive oil.  Put your towels in the bowl with the liquid and soak them.  I fold them up, fit them around the bowl, and press down on them.  If they don't soak through in a few minutes, you can add a little vinegar on top of them.  I let them soak while I cut the rinds off the lemons, which looks like this:

Step Three: Ring out the towels one at a time (until they're damp-ish), and place in the jar, alternating towels and lemons.  If you're using four lemons, you can put rind pieces pretty liberally throughout the layers.  I used two lemons in this batch (I'm almost out of lemons--time to get more!), so most layers had two rind pieces stuck in there.  Now you close the lid on the container.  That's it!

Because of the oil in these, you probably don't want to use the cloths on glass surfaces; however, they can be used on stainless steel, wood, plastic, metal, formica, linoleum, ceramic, just about anything.

Have Fun and Happy Dusting!

Laundry Detergent

I have seen 40,001 recipes on Pinterest for homemade laundry detergent.  Personally, I'm partial to liquid detergent; however, the majority of the recipes I found for liquid detergent required giant stockpots, cooking things on the stove, and thermometers...all things that came too close to me having to buy a second set of pots and setting up a chemistry lab in my kitchen.  I make all of my stuff in the kitchen, but I don't want to have to drop through a hole into a secret lab filled with vinegar, Zote soap, and a flashing sign that says "But wait!  There's more!"

After combing through about 15 recipes for powdered detergent, I made a mish-mash of the best parts of each recipe (and yes, we have tested it--it works wonderfully!).  JR says that it gets the clothes softer than our old detergent (which I tend to agree with), and better than that, it doesn't have a super strong smell.  In fact, there's very little smell at all (you won't believe this when you're making it...the whole house will smell like detergent for an hour or two). 


For a year worth of detergent (at five to seven loads a week), it will cost you about $21--or if you use the optional OxiClean ingredient, $29.  Yes, you read that correctly: less than $30 for the whole year.

So, what do you need?

 This stuff!  This picture doesn't represent the full amount, just for clarification.  But it does show all of the types of ingredients.

4 pounds of baking soda
1 box Borax (76 ounces)
1 box Super Washing Soda (55 ounces)
2 bars (approx. 5.5 ounces each) Fels-Naptha soap (you can also use Zote or plain Ivory)
2 bottles of Purex Crystals (55 ounces each)*
A Big A$$ bucket or container for mixing

* In this picture, I have the Purex Crystals for Baby (perfume and dye free, blah blah blah), which only come in 28 ounce bottles.  If you want to make the whole recipe with the Purex Crystals for Baby flavor (yes, flavor), this will require FOUR bottles--not two.

One more optional ingredient to add to the mix is one 3-pound container of OxiClean. do you make it?  The first step takes the longest...if you don't have a good food processor.  Without a good food processor, grate the Fels-Naptha on a cheese grater.  THEN, put it through whatever food processor you have until it's ground up as fine as possible.  With a good food processor, you can cut the soap into chunks and pulse it in the processor until it's done.  Last night I decided to cut the soap into chunks and pulse it in our baby bullet--after all, it makes short work of brown rice to make rice cereal.  Um...don't try to pulse the soap in here unless it has been grated first.  It makes a mess.  It can be done...but it's incredibly messy and time consuming.  I could have carved it by hand with a spork faster than the baby bullet.  Anyway, it looks like this after it has been processed:

* Don't let this picture fool you--it's at the bottom of a 3-gallon bowl--NOT big enough.  Get a bucket.  Just trust me.  I used a 10-gallon Rubbermaid container.

Next is the easiest part: dump everything else in and stir it up!  Okay, stirring that much material that is basically like sand isn't easy...but it's not hard. 

A large part of this will fit back into the Purex Crystals bottles.  Put the rest in another container and refill your bottles as needed.

How do you use it?  Just like any other detergent!  (and here's a side note just in case you didn't know--you should always add the detergent to the WATER, not on top of the clothes to then turn on the water) You use significantly less though:

1 to 2 TABLESPOONS (on the Purex Crystal bottle lid, that is the middle line)

It doesn't get really sudsy, so you're going to need to let go of the whole notion of "sudsy = clean" in order to use this stuff.

Have Fun and Happy Laundry Day!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Facial Toner

I have officially found ways to eliminate every chemical-based skin care and hygiene product that I use!  No, that doesn't mean that I went to the farmer's market and bought the organic stuff.  Everything I've made or found is completely natural and able to be made on the cheap (e.g. for both JR and me to use the baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar conditioner that I described here, it costs us less than $1.50 PER YEAR for the supplies).  Yay for going chemical-free, and double yay for being inexpensive!

First step: CLEAN and EXFOLIATE!

For cleansing and exfoliating (these are essentially the same thing--when you use an organic, fine-grit exfoliator, you are actually cleansing at the same time)...this will be your new favorite product:

You want your baking soda to be in an airtight container.  Buying it in this plastic container solves that problem, but if you don't want to spend the extra money, find a good, airtight container.  You'll be keeping this either in the bathroom or in the shower (depending on where you normally wash your face), so it's generally a humid environment.  Baking soda can get really clumpy when even the smallest bit of moisture is introduced.  To use this, get your face and hands wet.  Pour 1-2 teaspoons of baking soda into your hand, rub your hands together a bit, and use it on your face just as you would any other exfoliating product.  Bonus: baking soda is mild enough that you can use it on your face every day.  Rinse it off and then, voila!  You're finished.

Next step: TONING!

This is my giant 23.5 ounce jar of toner.  The least expensive toner I've found so far (other than just witch hazel) is Neutrogena toner...which is $6 for an 8 ounce container.  This jar cost me just under $1.50 to make (not including the jar).  You do the math.  You only need a few ingredients for this:
3/4 cup witch hazel
1 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
container (I used an old spaghetti sauce jar)
*if you have oily skin, you can also use 1-2 tablespoons of alcohol

Mix all of this together and put it in whatever container you have deemed worthy to use.

To use this, I just dip a cotton ball in it (dip...don't soak!) and wipe it over my face...just like you would do with any store-bought toner.  It neutralizes skin pH, cleans, and the lemon juice brightens (for those of you playing the home game, it helps correct skin discoloration).

Final step: MOISTURIZE!

I use one product for moisturizing (and sunscreen), and that is unrefined virgin coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil can be used as sunscreen (in fact, there are many areas of the world where this is their only form of sunscreen).  To read more about it in an easily understandable source, look here.  It's a quick read.

This is my moisturizer and sunscreen!  (I also use a different jar of it for oil pulling, but that is another post entirely)  You need VERY LITTLE of this to cover your skin.  It's a trial and error thing; however, I use about a fingertip size tiny chunk of it.  A little goes a long way.

Trust me, once you start this, you won't want to go back to anything else. It has AMAZING effects!

If you have any questions about this (or for any other blog questions or suggestions), feel free to email me and I'll respond as soon as I can!  You can do that here.

Happy cleansing, toning, and moisturizing!

Friday, April 19, 2013

To Clean Stainless Steel

While living in university apartments across the country, we have come across our fair share of a few things: mainly, stainless steel sinks.  As you can tell from the picture, they are always quite scratched, and I find that stainless steel is really hard to clean.  Well, you know, a cleaning that will last through the next time you turn on the water.  I've tried the $30 bottles of special stainless steel cleaner (that always promises to turn rusty scrap steel into the sink equivalent of a shiny new car), basic soap and water, and myriad other things.  This week, I decided to try out a couple tips I found on blogs...and both of them work well!

This is what our sink looked like to begin with:

Not terrible, but really faded, filmy, and definitely lots of water spots (because of the lighting, it's hard to see ALL of the spots in the sink). we CLEAN!

For the first part, you will need two products that you probably already have: baking soda and salt.

When the sink is wet (like, say, after you finish the dishes!), sprinkle all over with baking soda and salt.  Mine looked like this after everything was on:

Using a wet sponge, scrub the sink.  The hardest part was scrubbing the sides of the sink because it's basically impossible to sprinkle the baking soda and salt onto the sides.  Anyway, scrub it all over!  I did the bottom, the sides, the stopper, the faucet, everything.  When everything has been scrubbed, rinse it with water.  At this point, it will be pretty clean...and if you want to stop here, you'll still have a clean sink!

For the next part, you will need:

An empty spray bottle (anything around the standard size of a Windex bottle)
1 cup water
1 cup vinegar
1 cup alcohol
Splash of olive oil

Pour all of the liquids in the spray bottle and flip it a couple times to mix.  Now you spray away and wipe off with a towel.  That's it!  If you want some extra shine, you can buff the sink with olive oil; however, I didn't have time to do that on this particular day.  So this was the finished product:

And the other side of our sink (I only used the spray on this side):

Make up some cleaner and have fun!  (By the way, the spray also works really well on hardwood floors)

If you have any tips on how to get scratches out of stainless steel, feel free to tell me about them so I can try them out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

'Poo Free

For a little more of the background story of what led me to look into this, click HERE for the intro on the PCOS Diva blog.  

A little over a year ago, I started reading quite a few things online (and in a few magazines) about a "poo-free" or "no-poo" movement.  And no, this is not referring to fecal refers to shampoo.  I read blogs and comment upon comment, only to reach the conclusion, "that sounds like you'd smell like a salad thanks!"  Fast-forward a year (and four shampoo brands) later, I found myself looking...again...for a new hair cleansing and conditioning situation.  After my foray into the world of homemade sugar scrubs and lotions over the past year, I decided to go back and give the whole 'poo-free thing a second read.

That second read actually turned into a LOT more information that I ever thought I would know about shampoo and conditioner (all considered information from legitimate sources, of course).  It boils down to this: shampoo works by stripping away the oil that your scalp naturally produces.   Unfortunately, when you strip the oil away, your scalp produces know...because the oil is important to hair and scalp health.  Historically, people only washed their hair once or twice a month; however, around the age of Vidal Sassoon, we were told that we needed to wash our hair every day.  Of course, if you ask any hair stylist worth their salt, they will tell you that it is incredibly unhealthy to wash your hair that often.

After reading all of the information I could find, I decided to make the switch and try it for a month.  After all, it's only a month!  You can use this up to three or four times a week (any more than that and it could become drying, but that is going to vary for each person).  Something to note: instead of apple cider vinegar, you can use lemon juice in its place.  Personally, I wouldn't do that unless you have lighter hair, but that's just me.  I used to use lemon juice instead of Sun-In to make my hair lighter in the warmer months--so if you have darker hair, use lemon juice at your own peril.  Also, you can add some honey to the conditioner bottle if you want some extra moisturizing.

So, what do you need?

Apple cider vinegar
Baking soda
2 squeeze bottles
*optional: lemon juice and/or honey*

For the "shampoo" bottle: Mix one tablespoon of baking soda per one cup of water in the squeeze bottle.  For the best results, I used hot water and then shook the bottle after I put in the baking soda.  This way the baking soda dissolved better instead of landing in one clump at the bottom. 

For the "conditioner" bottle: Mix one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per one cup of water in the squeeze bottle.  Same thing on this one--I used hot water and mixed thoroughly.  If you want to add honey, this would be the bottle in which to do so.  You'll have to experiment with how much honey to use--I put in one tablespoon for the whole bottle and it seems to do well.

How much do you use?  That is entirely up to you.  I use about 1/8 cup of each one--but I have short it will probably be different for you!  How do you do it?  Squeeze the baking soda mixture on your head (I basically squeeze it until I feel a good bit running over my scalp).  Rub it, just like you would shampoo, but you're going to mostly be focusing on your scalp.  The weird part is getting used to making the motions of rubbing shampoo on your head while there is nothing that feels like shampoo.  I leave it in a few minutes and then rinse it out.  Squeeze the apple cider vinegar mixture onto your head.  Apparently you are supposed to focus on the ends of your hair; however, I have short all of my hair would be considered "the ends."  At this point, I use a wide-toothed comb to comb it through my hair, making sure that it's evenly distributed.  Leave it on 5-10 minutes and finish up with a rinse.  If you rinse it out at the end of your shower and can stand it, rinsing it with a blast of the coldest water you can stand gives you the best shine factor.

Many people have stated that over the first 2-3 weeks their scalps go on overdrive in the oil production area.  I haven't noticed this at all...but again, short hair is totally different.  What I have noticed is much softer and more shiny hair.  Additionally, it has more natural volume and (my favorite part) has needed ZERO product in order to style it!  I just comb it into whatever style, run my fingers through it, and go about my day.

Here are a few pictures of the whole "no-poo" thing in the first two weeks of the switch.  I'll come back and post more as this experiment progresses!  Keep in mind that we have LOTS of humidity sweat is somewhat of a factor when I'm taking these pictures :-P

Here are a couple pictures after three plus weeks (I'm about to hit the one month mark, as of 4/26/2013)

Yes, thus far my hair is looking about three times thicker than it normally does!

*EDIT*  Here is a picture on day 40

For some reason my most recent pictures weren't showing, so I'll post some even more recent pictures (my hair is lighter now...San Antonio sun was giving it weird brassy spots that I didn't like, so I finally just lightened it to make it even LOL!).  I've now been off of shampoo for something like 19 or 20 months...I can't remember.  And at this point, I only use anything other than water maybe every couple weeks.  Most days I just use my fingers to rub my scalp with water and then go on about my day.  It's amazing what your hair gets used to!  (These were both taken within the last three weeks, as of 10/9/14)

Ricotta Cheese

I've been posting some pictures and Facebook statuses of the homemade shenanigans I've gotten into lately.  So I was thinking that I would just put everything in one blogtastic location, in order to cut down on the amount of times that I end up typing and emailing recipes and/or instructions!  I figured a good first recipe would be for ricotta cheese, which is only just slightly more involved than boiling water.

What are you going to need?

4 cups whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup heavy cream

That's it!

First you want to cut a piece of cheesecloth that--when unfolded--is long enough to be folded onto itself twice, so that you have four layers of cloth.  The kind that I purchase is packaged in sort of a weird tri-fold situation, so I cut about 22 inches of it.  I unfolded it and then folded it in half once, and in half once again.  Voila!  A large-ish square that fits in an 8-10" handheld strainer!  So set it in the strainer (this will be more clear in one of the following pictures) and set the strainer up over a bowl or your sink.

Next, you'll put a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat.  Pour in the milk, buttermilk, and heavy cream.  Bring this to a boil (if you're using a thermometer (like in the picture), you'll want the liquid to reach 185 degrees.  By the time it boils, most of the curds (solids) will have separated from the whey (liquid).  The following picture is at about 160 degrees, so this is not completely separated.

Once the curds have separated from the whey, take the pot off the burner and use a slotted spoon to put the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.  To be honest, the slotted spoon that I have was taking WAY too long, so I just used a tiny hand strainer to scoop up about 1/2 cup at a time.  Every few scoops, I put in a pinch of salt (I use pink Himalayan salt, but use whatever floats your boat).

If you want, you can leave it like this to finish draining.  I tied my cheesecloth around the faucet so I could use the strainer for a few other projects.  The draining takes 3-5 minutes if you like the cheese more wet, and 5-10 minutes if you like it more dry.  If you drain it too much, you can just add a little milk to it and it'll be fine.  

After it's finished draining, put the cheese in whatever storage container you're using.  It should keep in the refrigerator for a week or two (okay, let's be honest...any time I've made this, it's never lasted longer than a week before I've used it all...but I know other people who have made it and said that it lasted for at least two weeks).

 There ya go!  Homemade ricotta cheese.  :-)  It is WAY more delicious than anything you'll find at the store.  I think this time I'm making lasagna rolls with it; however, one of my favorite ways to eat it is on toast with marmalade on top of it.  Yeah, I'm weird like that.

Happy cheese-making!