Verses

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Luke 1:45

Saturday, April 21, 2018

DIY - Part 1

Previous Post

So, as I mentioned in the last post, convenience spurred me to try making things from scratch. Thriftiness played a part too -- more especially since I have switched to real food -- but mostly, it is convenience. Finding something that works, is good for your body, and doesn't cost so much that you have to take out a second mortgage is hard and time consuming.

Amazingly, one of the first things I started with was my face wash. And that came before the whole real food thing. Both Chick and I have always had issues with breaking out as a result of our oily skin. In fact, before we ever moved to Oklahoma, she was getting treated by our doctor for her acne. Age, to some degree I think, had slowed mine down some but you could still have heard me complain that it wasn't fair to have acne and wrinkles at the same time.

Chick was at the strongest medicine she could get before moving to that scary one (which we weren't doing). I think it was called Acutane or something like that. I had been using Proactiv with a little success but it really dried me out and was expensive.

Then I stumbled across OCM better known as Oil Cleansing Method. I bought some Jojoba oil and gave it a try. I mixed some up for Chick too. It worked like crazy. And I highly recommend it to anyone who asks. The expense is much less too. Win win! The best thing about it is that you customize it to your skin. Our recipe is 3 parts jojoba oil and 1 part extra virgin olive oil. Different kinds of skin use a different oil. I have also noticed that this helps with sores on my face like cold sores, etc. Several years later, I am still using and loving this method.

The next thing I tried was hand soap. We had foaming hand soap containers and I didn't like the way the store soaps dried out my hands not to mention that it seemed ridiculous to pay a dollar a bottle for that stuff. A young child can empty one in nothing flat since they seem to think they need half a bottle every time they wash their hands. What's more, I was starting to learn just how unsafe a lot of the ingredients were. Just lovely (not)! So, I picked up a hint from this post (recipe 2) and gave it a try. Add a tablespoon of Dr. Bronner's Castile liquid soap (a generally safe natural soap) in the container and fill it up with water the rest of the way. Give it a little shake and you're good to go. A 16 ounce container of the soap is about $12. 16 ounces contains 32 tablespoons so I can make 32 bottles of hand soap for that approximately $12 which works out to just under 40 cents a bottle. Bigger bottles of Dr. Bronner's have a cheaper unit cost per ounce so it just gets better. They come in lots of scents (from essential oils) or you can get the Baby Mild for unscented or to add your own essential oil scent. I like the peppermint during Christmas time. The rose is a good any time one. And I love the almond one too -- especially for our body wash.

Which brings me to my next DIY that I tried -- body wash. A family of five can go through some body wash. I usually just bought whatever was on sale and that I had a coupon for. But again, looking at the ingredients, they had an awful lot of unsafe stuff in them.

By the way, one way you can find out is by using the app by EWG (Environmental Working Group - the nonprofit that gives us the Dirty Dozen produce list every year). You can scan items in the store and it will give you a rating and list the ingredients of products.

Body wash is almost as easy to mix up as the other two items I mentioned. I mix it up every once in while right in a quart canning jar and keep it in the pantry. I have a pump bottle in each bathroom and we just give the jar a shake and refill them as we need to. In a quart jar, I mix 2 cups castile soap (scent of your choice), 1 cup of vegetable glycerin, and 3/4 cup of oil (I usually use castor oil -good for skin - but you can choose one. Fractionated coconut oil is suggested.). If you use unscented castile soap, you can add essential oil too.

Again, you can use whatever scents you want this way. The almond is my favorite. If you usually bathe in the morning and you need to wake up, I guess you could try the citrus or peppermint (it might make you tingly though -lol). Or if you are bathing at night, you could use the lavender or another calming one. It's fun to play with. And we've been using this for years now too.

After all that success, I began to get bolder. I decided to try some more intimidating DIYs.

How It Began

One of the things that started me truly learning how to cook was the convenience of it. We were living in a rental way out of town when Hubby was in the army. We had one car (that's all you can afford when you are living below poverty level as most military families are) and Hubby had to take it to work every day.

It wasn't a big deal usually. But every once in a while, I would think I'd like to make some cake or something in particular for dinner or that rolls might be nice with lunch. And I'd realize I didn't have that box or can of thing or that thing in the freezer to do that. Nowadays, we think, well, why don't you just find a recipe on the internet. I'll tell you why -- there was NO internet then. The dinosaurs kept knocking down the lines. (ha)

So I was stuck unless I wanted to walk (with toddler in tow) or ride my bike (with toddler strapped into back). Or wait until Hubby got home, drive into town, shop, drive back, and then eat a peanut butter sandwich at 8:00 at night because I was too tired and hungry to mess with making it anymore.

Once a week or so, we would take Hubby to work in the morning and run to the library. Where I would load up books to read. I began making a substantial portion of those cookbooks, learn how to cook books, and books in general about homemaking things (like saving money, sewing, etc.). Pretty soon, I began to experiment with making home made bread, home made cake, home made entrees. My mantra became: "if it wasn't butchered or grown in the ground, there should be a way to make it from scratch."

And I found out that there often was. I found recipes to make everything from sweetened condensed milk to Cool whip to caramel corn in my own kitchen with normal ingredients. It was liberating, I have to say. And very convenient.

Surprisingly, I also found that it saved a lot of money and I suddenly lost 20 pounds (literally) without doing anything.

My journey began there and just progressed to the point it is now and is still going strong.

That 'convenience' (not to mention thriftiness) is what spurred me on to try making other things from scratch.

Next in series

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

I have made this cake for Chick once before a few years ago for her birthday as a surprise. She loved it! And, no surprise, she actually requested it this time for her birthday cake.



The chocolate chips are totally optional. You can also use chopped up chocolate bits or just leave them out. It just kind of adds to the look of cookie dough. Doesn't hurt the taste either. :)  If you plan to do any piping or decorating, you might want to do set aside some frosting before adding the chocolate chips. I forgot to do that this time so she didn't get any borders or dollops. Even mini chocolate chips do not get along with standard size pastry bags. The chocolate chips can also be sprinkled on or around the cake.

This recipe made plenty of frosting for my 2 layer cake - both filling and outside.

The original recipe came from here but it looks like she has changed it some. So you can check out her updated one or just use this one that works quite well, let me assure you. Totally up to you. Enjoy either way.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Frosting

2 cups butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Beat together butter and brown sugar. Mix in vanilla, flour, and salt. Slowly add powdered sugar in one cup at a time, beating carefully, until you reach desired consistency for frosting. Mix in chocolate chips or use as decorations.

Best Chocolate Cake

I've actually had this recipe for quite a while. I discovered it for one of the birthdays at least a year ago. But, as I have probably mentioned about 4 million times already, my time has just evaporated. I honestly cannot ever seem to find time for anything. There are many days when I feel like I literally get up, get dressed, do school, cook dinner, and go to bed. I know I'm not the first person to ever feel that way but it is still a newish feeling to me. And I'm not sure how to combat it (which really drives me up the wall by the way).

But lest I put it off yet again and then find I need it and can't find my own, I am placing it here. Where I am sure it will soon be loved by all of you.

The first time I made this, I did not have espresso powder. I got some later on but, trust me, you don't have to have it. It is still quite awesome. The batter was very thin compared to others I have done so don't let that throw you if you try it.

We still love it. And Hubby has even commented that we don't need another because this is the best chocolate cake recipe. So give it a try. The original can be found here and she also has a perfect chocolate buttercream recipe there too. But we like to get jiggy with it on the frostings so I don't usually use that. :)

The Best Chocolate Cake Recipe Ever

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil because I don't do vegetable oils)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup boiling water
  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray or buttering and lightly flouring.
  2. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  3. Add milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter until well combined.
  4. Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center of the chocolate cake comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Playing Catch-Up

The last month or two of 2017 was a pretty rough ride for us. Frankly, I'm kind of glad it's all over. I'm ready to distract myself with some normal and routine, even though there are parts of it I wish we could just undo and go a different way with. But life runs a forward course and there are times when all you can do is hang on.

It started with a phone call. Hubby's mom had found out that her cancer had returned. There would be no treatment this time. It just had gone too long without detection. Hubby made a trip down to see her and help out however he could. He returned and we all made a trip down. We got back the same weekend as Rugrat's birthday.

She had been asking to have a party but with everything else, we just didn't get it worked out. So she picked out a restaurant (Red Robin) and got a rainbow cake and presents. The next weekend we worked it out for her to have a friend come and celebrate with her. I had told her she could have an outing with a friend but, to our surprise, all she wanted to do was go eat lunch and come home to play with her.





And so we did. Lunch at Braum's (her choice) then home again to play. For four hours. And they weren't ready to stop then. But I didn't want to hamper any of her friend's family plans.  They both declared it their "best day ever" so I think maybe she had a good time.

A few days later, we got the call from hospice and Hubby began to make his way there. We followed for the funeral and returned shortly before Hubby made his way back.

Because we had decided to do our Christmas visit before Christmas this year with plans to be home afterward (a good thing with the dire weather forecast for a frozen Christmas Eve), we left a few days later to head to my mom's for a Christmas visit. And we made it home in time for Chick to fill her Christmas Eve shift at the store.

Somewhere in there, we also managed to get Rugrat's annual Santa shot. This time, our local Kohl's was doing it with people taking their own pictures. While the Bass Pro one is much more professional, it frankly isn't so much better that it's worth the nasty downtown trip to get there if Kohl's will do it only a few miles away.


Doing Christmas that way was much easier and more enjoyable for us. I could feel myself starting to stress on Christmas Day several times before remembering that we didn't have to go anywhere. And for once, the week before Chick's birthday was a lot more calm.

We celebrated Chick's birthday pretty much the same way as we usually do except that it fell on Sunday this year. So she had a morning worship, a birthday lunch at Shorty Small's (her restaurant choice), and cake and presents at home.



We've enjoyed a few days rest and time together. And now, tomorrow, I look forward to getting back to our school routine.

And just routine in general.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Wright Brothers by Quentin Reynolds

More comprehension questions.

If you need them, they can be found here.

You're welcome. :)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Of Balls and Laundry


I had heard of wool dryer balls but didn't really plan to try them. Then, one day I got a wild hair and ordered some.


I love them. While I usually just dealt with static, during the winter when it was worse, I would buy dryer sheets to keep if from electrifying me. I just accepted it as a fact of life. It's gone now.

Recently, I washed several of the soft fluffy throw blankets that have become more popular in recent years. Anytime I have one of them in the wash, it makes the entire load static-y. I can usually hear it crackling when I open the dryer door. And everything sticks together. It's always a huge pain.

In the process of  cleaning out someone's room, I pulled 3 or 4 out to wash and put away. I think I may have thrown another one or two in as well. I had been pleased with my dryer balls but I didn't expect miracles so I wasn't really hoping for much with the blankets.

When I opened the door and started to pull out the first one, I heard a crackle. But that was it. No static. Nothing stuck to anything. The hairs on my arm didn't stand up. No getting electrified.

Even with all those blankets in there, no static cling. I'm sold.

Now, they are also supposed to keep your clothes from wearing out as quickly and reduce drying time. That may be true. I haven't really tested that because I've been excited about the no static thing. I can say that my dryer is ALWAYS done well before the washing machine. But I don't know that it is because of the dryer balls.

One other thing you're supposed to be able to do is add essential oil to the balls which will freshen the laundry. I keep meaning to add Lavender to them when I do our sheets but I never think of it because I am usually running to throw them in the dryer and get right back to doing school with Rugrat.

My friend has actually tried that but she doesn't really notice a difference I don't think. One thing I did find out from her is that if you have a lot of synthetic fibers, it doesn't work as well as with more natural fibers. Most of our clothes are cotton -- tshirts, jeans, button ups, etc. They have a lot of those moisture wicking workout kind of clothes - the ones that feel slick.

I'm pretty happy with my dryer balls though. The ones I ordered are here. I have also seen these at the children's livestock area at the fair and various other places as well. I'm sure there are lots of booths at farmer's markets that have them too.

More recently, I gave in and ordered these balls for the washing machine after reading a review of the brand name ones:

Apparently, everything laundry is in the form of a ball. These take the place of your detergent. Yes, detergent. I really didn't think they'd work. After reading the review where the woman was shocked to realize that they had removed the stink from her kitchen towels, I really wanted to try them.

I think something about the hardness of our water or some additive they put in has changed in the last year. Suddenly, all of my towels -- even the bathroom and washcloths - were developing this mildewy smell. Some of our clothes had picked it up too if they were pretty bad already when they got washed, mostly workout clothes and such. I tried everything I could think of to get rid of it but it was most persistent on the towels.

When she videoed her husband taking a tentative sniff as she asked him to, I knew hers were just as bad. And I knew it had really worked when he then buried his face in it with a smile. The surprise was evident on his face. Unfortunately, the ones she used were over 50 bucks. Yikes.

I wasn't going to spend $50 or more on something I wasn't sure would even work. I found these, once again, on Amazon. They were around $10. They are less now.


I could go 10 bucks for an experiment. So I gave it a try. There was no smell left in the towels after the first wash. I couldn't believe it. They are also supposed to brighten your clothes. I was just happy to get rid of the smell.

Chick has one pink work shirt that looks horrible. I just thought it was the fabric. It started out as a pretty pink but then it just got really dingy looking. After I washed it the first time, I thought it looked better but dismissed that as wishful thinking. After the second time, I showed it to Hubby and we both KNEW it looked better. Then, when Chick (who never even notices or cares about such things) said something about how much brighter and cleaner it looked, I couldn't pass it off as wishful thinking anymore. These things work! Call me impressed.

The one thing you have to do is place them in the sun once a month to 'recharge.' They work by raising the ph, I think it is, just like laundry detergent does with chemicals. Very cool.

So, I think I like doing laundry with "balls." Have any of you ever tried either of these?