Homemade Bubble Solution

Homemade Bubbles

After going through quite a few containers of bubbles last year we knew that there had to be another way to make them that would be easier and create bigger bubbles from supplies we could keep around the house.

Enter the homemade bubble solution using Dawn dish soap.

This solution is easy to make and lasts a long time.  In fact, the longer it sits before being used the bigger and stronger the bubbles are.  Mix some up in the Winter as a reminder of the coming Spring.  When it is time to go out and enjoy the sun the bubbles will be ready to float jubilantly in the warm air.

Ingredients:
1c. Water
1/3c Dawn dish soap.
2T Glycerin

Mix all of the ingredients in a container with a neck wide enough for your bubble wand and then go out and blow some bubbles!

Reusable Swiffer Cloths

If you have one of the Swiffer handles, and it seems like everyone does even if it is in the back of a closet because of having to buy the clothes, break it out again because you can still use it to keep your house clean.  Without ever buying another swiffer cloth again, saving you tons of money in the process.  If you like doing something good for the earth, this will also keep some trash out of the landfill. The big secret is:

Use a Dish Towel

Voila! The convenience of a Swiffer in a reusable form with something you probably already have in your kitchen.  Seriously.  The hooks that hold on a Swiffer cloth are perfect for holding a towel.  Dry, the towel picks up dust, dirt, and pet hair just fine. In combination with your favorite spray cleaner the towel will mop floors quickly and easily.

Using this method has kept the floors in our kitchen and bathroom clean for years, without having to break out a mop.  Cleaning the floors has turned from a project that needed to be planned:  in order to move the furniture, corral the children and animals, bring the mop and bucket out of storage, fill it up, wet mop, let it all dry, move everything back, release the children and animals, into a routine cleaning task that only takes a few minutes a week.

Give it a try and let me know how it works or if you have other suggestions for how to make other disposable products reusable.

Simple Homemade Cleaning Solution

Keeping a house clean with two small children, two cats, a teenager, and two adults, isn’t easy.  Cups get spilled across a table where they ultimately run into a crack and drip onto a chair, a child, and the floor.  Potty training leads to new, interesting, leaks and deposits.  An unwanted meal is strewn across the kitchen floor.  Inquisitive faces get pressed onto every glass surface in the house.  Dirt and mud are tracked into the tile entryway, up the carpeted stairs, and across the wood laminate in the kitchen.

One of the weapons in my arsenal against keeping our house closer to  than pigsty, is having an effective all purpose spray cleaner.  Something that can cut through dust and fingerprints, and finger paint, on glass and be turned to laminate, linoleum, or tile with the next pull of the trigger, and all wiped down or mopped up by whatever is on hand, be it a cotton dishcloth or the cotton/poly blend t-shirt recently removed from a happy yet filthy toddler.

That cleaner of choice is made with vinegar, alcohol, and a little bit of soap.

In a spray bottle, mix together:

1c distilled white vinegar
1c rubbing alcohol (recommend 70% or higher)
1t dish soap

If you want to make this cleaner with something that you don’t have to worry as much about should a young child get to it, I have made this cleaner with vodka (specifically Tito’s, smooth to sip and gluten-free)  before as a test and it worked well.

I should warn you, the alcohol and vinegar combination can leave a strong odor in the air you might find disagreeable, but it goes away in a few minutes.  Because of the alcohol, which will evaporate, this is for spot cleaning or mopping up small areas.  Don’t go spraying down every surface in your house with it, I don’t want you to get light headed.  It may also be flammable, I haven’t checked, so beware of open flames.  I know, it’s a long list to watch out for, but have you read the warning labels of other things you bring into your house?  This isn’t nearly as bad.

Now whenever there is any cleaning that requires something tougher than a rag and a bit of water, give it a spray with this cleaner and wipe it up.  For something that is really ground in or stuck to the floor, formerly chewed then spit out day-old raisins or that sticker you didn’t notice for example, give the offender a good heavy spray and let sit for a minute or two.  I haven’t found any foodstuff or residue that this hasn’t been able to loosen and remove.

Homemade Lime-aid goes over well

Ugh, it is hot and humid here like it is in most of the US.  We’re trying to stay cool and hydrated.  I got a good deal on limes at the store and Sheridan asked if I could make lime-aid.  Well, I had never done it and didn’t find any recipes in my cookbooks and didn’t want to run to the computer so I just gave it a shot.  Here is the recipe:

Lime-Aid

  • 3 limes
  • 1 C sugar (more or less to taste)
  • cold water

Wash the limes well and remove any stickers. Cut the limes in half and juice into a large pitcher or other glass container (don’t use plastic, they are very acidic.)  I used a Pyrex 1 Qt measuring cup.  Add the sugar and mash the limes into the sugar with a wooden spoon or something like that.  Let sit for 5 minutes or so.  Put this mixtures into a 2 quart (1/2 gallon) container – preferably glass – and add water to fill.  Chill.

That’s it!   I’ve been told it is tasty and it is about gone now so I’ll have to make some more.  I want to try substituting honey for the sugar next time since we are trying to cut down on refined sugar.

I had a shock yesterday while strolling the garden.  The plants I though were cucumber plants are not, well, I don’t think they are.  One of the fruits is softball sized, round and looks surprisingly like a cantaloupe.  I have things things all OVER my garden so whatever they are, if they live until the fruits are ripe we’re going to have a lot of them.  I found ten while I was out there.  Still getting strawberries, peas (almost over), peppers and my first Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes.  Not many tomatoes made it past the deer this year.  <sigh>  Still thinking toward fall.  We may build some hoop houses this year.  We’ll see.

Stay cool!!!

Plan for next year, save your tomato and pepper seeds!

Never too early to plan for next year - save those seeds!

Boy was it hard to get motivated this morning.  I didn’t sleep well plus the weather is just oppressive and doesn’t make you want to leave the house.  Ugh!

As I was fixing dinner the other night I found myself doing something that I bet a lot of people don’t think about any more.  When I was cutting up a green pepper I saved the seeds instead of throwing them out.  I wrapped them in a paper towel to dry, taped it shut and labeled them with what they were and the date.  After a few days drying on top of the fridge they’ll go into my seed box for planting next year.

I do the same thing with tomatoes and sometimes stone fruits too – just to try my hand at growing them from seed.

“Way back when” (which in most places was pre-WWIII) people used to do the regularly as it was the best way to get seeds for your garden.  Somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that the seed sold by Burpee for $2.99 a packet  is the same seed we get free inside our food.

It is true that if you are eating a hybrid crop (and if it came from the supermarket most likely it is a hybrid) the pepper you get next year may not be the same as the one you ate today, but it will be a pepper for sure and the seed will be free.

It is kind of fun to put all your pepper seeds (separating hot and not hot if you like) in the same container and then plant them without knowing exactly what you will get.

Tomatoes work the same way though for those the prep is a little messier.  For them I mix the tomato seeds/pulp in a baby food jar with some water.  I let it sit for a few days, shaking to mix the stuff up when it separates.  Eventually most of the seeds will drop to the bottom and you can get them out to dry on some paper towels and then pack them away.  Sometimes the stuff in the jar ferments and smells unsavory, the seed is still OK but it is best to not soak the seeds in a plastic container since you’ll never get the smell out.

Keep all your seeds in a cool place or in the fridge crisper drawer (I have way too many for that) and next year you’ll be set.

Other seeds you can be collecting for next year are:  columbine, sunflower, marigold, thyme, oregano, chives, catnip, basil, four o’clocks and lots more.

The Feline Pine Adventure

Ronnie is on the left, Hunter on the right

I think kitty litter is the worst part about having cats.  Ours do not go outside so there is no outdoor privy for them, they have boxes in the basement.  I don’t mind changing kitty litter, but I do mind seeing it on the cats’ paws.  Hunter is a Maine Coon and has a lot of hair between his paw pads so he often has clumpy litter stuck to them.

Enter my bright idea to try a more healthy, and environmentally friendly, kind of cat litter.

We tried Yesterdays News which is a nice option since it uses waste materials, but our cats did not like it at all and I didn’t either.  It didn’t keep the cat boxes from smelling like ammonia.  So it was a no-go.

Then I tried Feline Pine which, when compared to clumping litter, seems very expensive.  I loved the way it worked and the cats seemed OK with it.  It keeps the boxes smelling fresh which is great.  Problem was cleaning the boxes was tough since you scoop out the still usable pellets and leave the sawdust behind.  Not an easy task.

So I bought sifting cat pans.  They work wonderful.  With two pans and a sifter to each set you can alternate out bottom pans to make cleaning easier.  They were not cheap – we’re talking $30 or so for both of them and we could really use a third for upstairs.

Then I read online that you could use heating stove pellets instead of Feline Pine.  They are MUCH cheaper and made of wood so are basically the same thing.  Only they aren’t.  A friend has a pellet stove and had a few bags partially damaged by water so she let us have a bag to try.  The pellets are larger than Feline Pine and are made of hardwood not softwood.

They DO work and perhaps could be successfully used by certain people, but they didn’t control odors well and our cats rebelled by using the floor instead of the box.

So I had had enough and switched back to scoopable litter.  I bought an average priced brand and used the sifting boxes thinking they’d work really well and make cleaning easier.  NOT.  The litter clung to both sides of the sifting lid and ended up like cement.  I also found that I was spending way more money on clumping litter than I had been on Feline Pine.  A $13 container of clumping litter was used up in a week and we were back to stuff being stuck on the cats’ paws and dust everywhere.

I finished that container of litter and went back to Feline Pine.  It took an hour to pry the scooping cement off the litter boxes, but I got them clean and the cats and I are now happy to be back to the sweet smelling pine stuff.  I’m trying extra hard to keep their litter area vacuumed and so far they are pretty happy.

So ends the Feline Pine adventure – for now.  I’m sure someone will protest soon and I’ll need to find another solution.

Making a sandwich used to be so simple….

Marshmallow Kitchen Art by Sheridan

I used to take two pieces of bread, spread peanut butter on one half and marshmallow on the other and smoosh them together, voila!!!  Sandwich for Sheridan.

Well, a few years and a few diagnosis’ later now here is what it takes to make sandwiches for my kids:

  1. I get out six slices of bread.
  2. I open a jar of Crunchy Barney Butter (almond butter that spreads just like peanut butter) and get enough on the knife to make one sandwich and put it on one slice of bread (I can’t double dip because Scott likes Barney Butter and double dipping would contaminate the jar with gluten.)
  3. I open a jar of marshmallow (or nutella or jelly depending on the day) and get enough for three sandwiches (again, no double dipping) I put it all on one slice of bread and divide up between two other slices.
  4. I smoosh Sterling’s sandwich together and give it to him.  (Sterling is allergic to peanuts so his sandwich can’t come anywhere near it so he gets his before I even open the PB.)
  5. I can now get enough smooth peanut butter out of the jar to do one sandwich at a time.  (Scott doesn’t like smooth PB so it is OK to double dip)
  6. I put one sandwich together and give it to Sheridan.
  7. I put the other sandwich together, cut off the crusts and give it to Alyn.

NOTE: If Scott is eating a sandwich his has to be made first so the wheat bread doesn’t get near it BUT I have to make sure that no PB gets on the counter to touch Sterling’s sandwich.

<sigh>

It used to be so easy.

Gluten Free Rice Krispies have arrived!

They're here!

Yes, it is true.  All those celiac patients out there can now have rice krispie treats!  General Mills has developed a brown rice based Rice Krispie that is gluten-free.  This is one cereal we thought at the beginning that Scott would be able to have in its regular form, but not so, it had malt in it.  In fact most breakfast cereals have malt in them.

I haven’t found these at our stores yet but we will be trying them. Brown rice is better for you for sure, but I’m not convinced it will pass my taste test in the marshmallow squares.  We’ll see.

Here is the website for Gluten Free Rice Krispies – with recipes of course!

A two-hour perennial bed – how to make one fast

The Perennial bed is in the front - too long to get all in the photo

Last week we had 50 or so perennial plants that needed a new home.  We’ve been having hot and humid weather so I avoided the task as long as I could, but finally I set myself to do it.

Scott knew where he wanted things but when I went to dig in the ground I couldn’t.  It was hard as rock – so…. I decided to improvise.  Fortunately for me we had all the makings for a “lasagna” garden.  It took a lot of trips in the wheelbarrow but that probably was easier than the digging I’d have had to do if I did it the normal way.

First I put down a layer of cardboard that we get from the grocery store.  These are the boxes that frozen food comes in.  Boy is that an education seeing what people eat and how much packaging is involved.  Made me swear off of frozen food.

I didn’t have enough cardboard so I finished with thick layers of newspaper.  You aren’t supposed to use color pages or glossy pages, but if your paper is like ours EVERY page has color on it now, even the classifieds.  So I did skip the glossy pages and heavily colored ones, but used the rest.

The point of this first layer is to block out all sun to the grass beneath to kill it.  Some folks say to poke holes in it for the plant roots to go through but that also means you have holes for grass and weeds to come up so I don’t.  It will break down completely over about 2 seasons here.

Next I put down a big layer of straw, probably more than a foot, in the center of the cardboard.  This straw we bought to mulch the strawberries but we had too much. It was already starting to break down.

Then I put a thick layer of compost over the straw – about 6-8 inches.  I made sure all the straw was covered.  This was the planting area for the plants.

Next came the wood chips to put on the border where you could still see the cardboard.  This is playground mulch we got to work on the yard earlier and it was left over.  I put that on thick to to make sure the cardboard was held down.

Then I planted the plants.  Tansy, yarrow, lavender, coreopsis, shasta daisy, lambs ears, purple bee balm and others I can’t remember.  These were either given to us by a neighbor we found on Freecycle who needed to clean out her garden or they were bought for .99 at our town florist who is cleaning out the plants nobody bought.  The plants from the florist were badly root bound so I had to break apart the root ball and in some cases cut it because it was too densely matted for me to pull apart with my hands.  I also cut off any blooms so the plants could put their focus on growing new roots.  Made them look pretty ugly.

Once the plants were in I watered them well and then covered them with more wood chips to help retain the moisture.

I thought the bed looked really nice for only two hours of work.  It is over 10 feet long and I still have a lot of space to put things in. The plants won’t be much to look at this year, but next year they should do better and spread.  We get nice sun in this part of the yard which will help them.

Hope that helps any of you wanting a new garden bed but not really wanting to do the heavy digging.  This method has worked for us over and over and it makes a real nice looking flower garden that grows well.

Sunshine Dill Pickles – make them in your yard!

Perennials waiting to go into the ground

It’s 5:30am here and I’m trying a new posting scedule for Earth to Eats. I’ve been reading The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book: 20 Years of Food, Family, and Faith
and it has inspired me to try writing early in the day.  This book is an enjoyable read for me and helps me keep my work in perspective.  Reading all about an Amish family who get up at 4am and all they do before leaving for work or school motivates me to get more done.  It is just amazing all they accomplish – and it is important things too like cooking, preserving and keeping their homes clean.  It isn’t watching TV or playing video games.

I made some pickles last week in our front yard.  Yep, in the yard.  I forgot to take a picture of the jar, but they turned out good enough that I want to try them again.  I just put dill in and not garlic and something was definitely missing.  A little too much salt went in too since I didn’t have a gallon jar.  I’ll adjust all that next time.  You can find the recipe here.

I’ve been chatting with some folks from Paperbackswap this week and that is what pushed me to try a different writing schedule here.  The discussions and ideas we are sharing there would benefit so many people if they were put here in this public forum so hopefully I’ll get more posts up.  I especially want to thank Jamie G for chatting with me about frugality and making a better life for our families.  You’ve been inspiring Jamie so keep up the great work!!

Above you see a picture of perennials I purchased at our local flower shop for .99 a piece.  These are the ones she hasn’t been able to sell and it is a great way for us to extend our garden without spending much money.  I got 40 plants for $39 or so and put in a perennial bed the other night.  I need to take pictures of that and explain how I did it in another post.  Yes these plants are pot bound something awful, but if you bring them home and soak them and then break up the root ball they do just fine.  I even picked up one of my favorite plants – lemon verbena.  MMMMMM…..  Not a perennial sadly, but at least I’ll have it till frost.

Must get things moving here.  Hope everyone has a great day.