All my life I can remember my grandmother (“it was the great depression”) Buboo  saying at holiday dinners “Don’t you throw away that carcass, I’ll use it for stock!” my mental answer was eeeeeeeewwwwwwwww Bub, why would you want to pick some slimy bones and them boil them for days for some turkey flavored water? But we bagged it up for her to freeze and take home anyway. “There’s nutrition in there” she says. Buboo knows best. Frugality at it’s paramount.

Now that I have made my own stock, I understand what all the fuss is about. Liquid gold from bones and water. It is pretty miraculous now that I understand it. Long slow simmering of cooked and/or raw bones and meat scraps dissolves collagen out of them and into the cooking water. When cool, a good quality stock will be jiggly, sometimes even firm, from all that dissolved collagen ie. gelatin. That is why good stocks have that certain mouthfeel, rich and almost silky on the tongue.The taste should be reminiscent of the meat used, but not overpowered with it or bitter.

If you have stock in the freezer, you have the base for a lot of meals. You can sub it out for water in most savory recipes – it adds a little fat, some nutrients and a lot of flavor.

I use it primarily to make ‘rice a roni’ type dishes that are way tastier, Garrett safe (woo-hoo!), cheaper, healthier and more adaptable than the box stuff. It does take longer to cook (in an oven – hands off) and it is marginally more challenging (you actually have to boil liquid and measure stuff), though –  you can’t have it all. It also makes some fabulous risotto.

“Hey homemaderachel, What’s wrong with boxed/canned/powdered/concentrated stock?”

Nothing really, besides a butt load of salt, preservatives and sometimes things that Garrett can’t have. It’s more that I just prefer to make my own to get the most bang for my buck. Plus, you know, the control freak thing. Stock making is another one of those budget stretching no brainers. You use bones from a chicken/turkey/roast/fish after it is cooked. You use veggie trimmings/skins/tops. You can use veggies that are looking kinda tired, fresh herbs that are a lil sad or dried ones getting old in the cabinet. All stuff that would be thrown out or composted eventually anyway. Minus your time and the cooking energy, it’s basically free.

“So you mean I can make food out of something that I would otherwise throw away?”

Well, sort of.

This is how it works. You save all the bones from the poultry, (beef, mammoth, venison, fish, crustacean shells, whatever really –  separately of course) even the ones that you and your family have gnawed on (get over it-they’re being boiled-if it really skeeves you out that much don’t use them) and they go in the freezer along with maybe a piece of leftover meat or two and the scraps from the pre-cook trimming. Some people don’t mix raw and cooked scraps – I do. Some people roast beef or venison bones or parboil raw poultry bones for a brown or white stock respectively. Some people save the organs from poultry and put that in – some think that makes it bitter. Personally, I don’t use them. Keep another bag in the freezer for scraps and veggies/herbs that are just past prime. Save your onion skins too, they give the stock a golden – amberey color.

You can also use fresh stuff too. Throw in some garlic cloves or a quartered onion. Bay leaf is nice, maybe some thyme and peppercorns. Carrots, onion and celery (mirepoix) are the classic combo for stock. I’ve seen advice not to use things like cabbage, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables because they can take over a stock. Asparagus is said to do the same thing, so are tomatoes. But if you dig a strong asparagus flavor, why not try it?

Salt is also a bone of contention so to speak. Some say salt enhances the flavor, others say you are going to be using it in a recipe or reducing anyway and the salt should be added at cooking time so it is not over salted. I am firmly planted smack dab between both camps on this one. I add sea salt, but only a little tiny bit, just so you can barely even taste it, before the stock is strained. Next time I plan to reduce the stock by more than half so I will not be adding salt at all.

I am told that chicken feet have a tremendous amount of gelatin in them and will thicken a stock considerably. Apparently that is also the secret to the pretty yellow color that Jewish chicken soup has. I’m totally going to try this next time. I hadn’t been able to find chicken feet, but a friend recently posted a picture on Facebook of a package of chicken feet at a local grocery store. They were labeled, oddly enough,  ‘chicken paws’. Maybe all this time I was just asking for the wrong thing?

Great, for some reason, I now have a mental  image of the Swedish Chef with a chicken hanging out of the pot. Bork! Bork! Bork!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

When you think you have enough to fill your biggest pot maybe 1/2 – 2/3 full, chuck it all in, still frozen, and cover the bones and stuff by an inch or two with cold water, add a glug (about 2 T per chicken carcass) of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, wine, or lemon juice (not strictly necessary but the acid helps leach calcium out of the bones and into that cooking water) slap on a lid and slowly bring the whole mess to a low boil, 200 degrees F. or so.

If the stock boils too vigorously for too long it will churn up the solids and make the stock cloudy. I don’t care about cloudy stock, it tastes the same to me, but for some applications like consomme it may be desirable. I’ll never make consomme so It’s not a big deal. I’ve accidentally boiled almost every pot of stock I’ve made and it’s all been fine.

Remove the lid and then back it down to a simmer when small bubbles break the surface periodically(180-200 degrees F.) and keep it there for as little as 4 hours, skimming the scum (coagulated proteins, fats and assorted bits of flotsam) about every half hour or so for the first couple of hours with a spoon or mesh scum skimmer dohickey. After the first few hours, you can just skim as you see it.  The longer you cook it, the better, I think at least 24 hours is best, but I’ve seen some sources say that 30 hours is best. I usually start the process in the afternoon and have it done by the next afternoon. Check the heat periodically and fiddle with the flame when necessary to keep it at that simmer. Add more water when required to keep the level a few inches above the bones.

You could leave the lid off or on throughout the process. Leave it off and the water evaporates more quickly so you need to add water more frequently, but the flavor gets more concentrated. Leave it on and it keeps the heat in the pot (good for summertime) but makes for a more dilute stock because the water drips right back onto it. The temperature also has a tendency to creep up when the lid is on. I generally cover it to get the initial low boil, remove lid for simmer, replace lid and check that water level is high enough and temperature is stable (on the low end) before I go to bed, then remove the lid in the morning before adding water. At this point I leave it off for the rest of the cooking time. Or you could leave the lid partway on for the whole time. It all depends upon the results you are looking for.

After it’s simmered as long as you have patience for, remove all the spent hunks of  beast with tongs or something and trash them. You may also want to run a slotted spoon through the stock to remove some of the larger pieces to make straining easier. You will also find that the bones may crumble when you take them out, that is a pretty good sign that you have extracted all the goodness from them. My man Alton Brown uses the bone crumble test to determine if stock is finished. The smaller chicken bones should crumble when squeezed with tongs. I use this guideline too, but it is just a guideline. You do not have to have crumbly bones to have decent stock.

Now for the straining. Let the stock cool off the burner for maybe a half hour so it’s a bit easier to handle- I wouldn’t go much longer than that because you start to get optimal conditions for bacterial growth if it sits at room temperature for too long.  I usually set up a large colander lined with a floursack cloth inside my dutch oven and use my 4 cup pyrex to transfer stock to the colander. I have to empty the dutch oven into bowls a few times because it is considerably smaller than my stock pot, but it works OK. There will be a good amount of fat in this process and if you drip stock on the floor as I always do it will be EXTREMELY slippery. Watch out! Actually, everything that stock touches will be covered in a thin layer of chicken fat so it will all be slippery after a while.

When everything has been strained and you just have solids left in the colander, press out all those last drops of goodness with the back of a spoon and chuck the rest of the spent meat and stuff. I just rinse the stockpot and dump the strained stock back into it.

Make sure to wash that chicken fat saturated floursack cloth in some liquid dish detergent and rinse well before putting it into the wash. That’s a lot of grease to ask a washing machine to dispose of, this gives it a head start.

Now for the cooling, it’s just as important as the cooking really. As I said, bacterial growth is of concern. This is because cooling a whole stockpot load of stuff takes time. It is a large volume so different areas can be different temperatures, some of those are temperatures that bacteria thrive in. Specifically from 40-140 degrees F., what is called “the danger zone”. The less time you spend in this danger zone, the less chance bacteria has to grow. Not to mention stock is perfect bacteria chow with all those fats and protein. So we have to cool it quickly and without using the fridge because putting a big ol’ pot of hot stuff in the fridge will break it, not to mention warming all of your other food accelerating it’s spoilage.

There are a few ways of achieving this.

Leaving it outside for a few hours in sub freezing temperatures is the easiest. Just stir it every 15 minutes or so till it’s chilled to the touch. Barring that, you could put the whole pot into a sink full of ice water stirring periodically and replenishing cold water and ice as it warms. You could also put a couple of zip top bags filled with ice or ice packs directly in the pot, stirring every so often. This method also removes a lot of extra fat as it clings to the plastic bags when they are finally removed. You could also do what I do when it’s warm outside. Divide it into the (labeled with contents and date because you will not remember – my bags of frozen applesauce have been mistaken for stock!) quart freezer bags it will be stored in, lay flat on the basement floor or front porch to cool. If I get impatient, I flip them to a new cool spot after a bit. It’s such a small volume that it will cool fairly quickly. The cool concrete just sucks the heat right out of it. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as it cools quickly.

Once it is chilled, the fat will congeal at the top of the stock. You can remove this or keep it in the stock and evenly divide it between all the storage containers. I keep it in there. I figure if I need to remove it I can do it after thawing. If the stock is to be refrigerated, this ‘fat cap’ will keep it fresher longer. Apparently if you reboil the stock for a few minutes every few days it will keep in the fridge for more than a week. No experience with this though, I freeze all mine. I also saved some poultry fat (schmaltz) from the last batch I made to use as a cooking fat for Garrett that is dairy and soy free, but I haven’t used it yet.

After chilling and before freezing, you could reduce the stock to anywhere from 1/2 to 1/10th or less of it’s original volume. This achieves two things. It concentrates flavors and reduces the amount of storage space needed. The resulting  ‘glace de viande’ (1/10th reduction) can be used as a sauce in itself or have water added to it to make it back into regular stock for cooking. The key is to reduce it with that same low heat you used to simmer it originally. Leave the  lid off for obvious reasons. It will get thick and syrupy after a few hours so make sure to lower the heat to reallllly low when it starts to thicken up so you don’t burn it. I have not yet done this but plan to the next time I make stock.

You can use any freezer safe container to freeze the stock in. So far, I’ve used quart sized zip top freezer bags and wide mouth pint canning jars. The plastic bags are convenient and don’t take up much space but they tend to get beat up and get little holes in them in the freezer so they leak when you thaw them. That and the fact that they are not reusable or recyclable. There is also some question as to the safety of freezing plastic – even the BPA free kind, but that seems to be up in the air. Wide mouth canning jars are recyclable, reusable, eco-friendly and inert. They are also heavy, bulky, breakable and more expensive. So, you pick your battles. I use both, whatever I happen to have on hand.

When I freeze stock, I lay a cookie sheet or cooling rack in the chest freezer and place the bags flat on that, stacking them if needed. The neat rectangles take up much less space than the amorphous blobs that form when you just put them in the freezer wherever they fit.

You could also pour it into ice cube trays, freeze, pop out and store in a larger zip top freezer bag if you need smaller quantities. I never do this because I don’t need small quantities! I may use this technique when I reduce the stock though.

Your stock should last a year in the deep freeze, 6 months in a fridge/freezer combo, probably longer in glass.

So, what about an actual recipe? Well, I don’t have one. That’s part of the beauty of stock. You can use whatever you have on hand and 9 times out of 10 it will be awesome with just what you have. You almost can’t screw it up. I like stuff that I can’t screw up, because screwing up is something I do often! Not having to follow a recipe is refreshing for me since I bake a lot and baking is all about precision. Stock is, by definition, not precise.

But, if you need numbers,  here are a few recipes for different types of stock.

And here are a few ways to use your newborn stock.

So start saving those bones and make yo ass some stock. It’s so easy it’s ridiculous! You won’t be disappointed!

SHINE ON!

I broke my vacuum cleaner last week and it was unfixable.

Oh well, I hated that vacuum anyway. I bought it right after Garrett was born. The one we had (a Hoover V twin, which I loved) crapped out on us as we were deep cleaning the nursery to prepare for him coming home from NICU. What a fantastic time for it to break, lemme tell ya.  The replacement was one of those rushed and poorly thought out purchases that made me rethink how I buy things. I am sick of buying cheap ‘disposable’ Wal-Mart vacuums every few years. I want something that will last for 20 years like they used to. I demand a lot of my appliances so I don’t mind spending a little more money to get a durable product.

In most households, a broken vac is not that big of a deal. But, with myself,  6 furry friends, 1 husband and two kids to make dirt, it is a HUGE DEAL. Depending upon my broom to tackle all that is like using a squirt gun on a forest fire. In the week we had to wait to get the $$$ to replace it, the tumblefur (the accumulated fur of all six critters-, dog, cat, and rabbit) accumulated to the point where it swirled at our feet when we walked. nice.

I needed a vacuum that can stand up to rabbit, dog and cat fur, hay, my looooong hair, phil’s metal shavings, 2 kids worth of crumbs, and anything else that I can throw at it.

Here are the criteria that I used in my search-

Gotta be an upright and I thought I wanted bag-less.

Weight is not an issue as long as it has a decent carry handle.

It needs to switch easily from brushhead to tools.

HEPA or other good filtration is a plus.

Needs to run well on hardwood, vinyl, tile and varying lengths of carpet.

Needs to be durable and be made of heavy duty, easily replaceable (preferrably DIY) parts.

Clogs need to be easy to clear.

The price needs to be right.

No, I’m not really  a control freak, why do you ask, lol?

So, I am lured in by the Dyson ads. They are pretty and people seem to love them. They are spendy, but seem to be a worthwhile purchase because of the strong consumer following. So I launch into my obsessive research thinking that the Dyson Animal is the vacuum I want.  The more research I do, the more I see that while consumers loooovve these vacuums, repair guys hate them. It seems that often repair shops will have many of these vacuums in the shop waiting for repair. The parts can apparently sometimes be hard to get, they are plastic so they can break easily and despite the claims that they never lose suction, they eventually do. This seems to be due to a design issue that allows dirt to seep into a void and stay there until it is cleaned out. For you Dyson owners, check for three torx screws on that cone shaped thingie. Remove them and clean out the dirt behind. I have never done this, just read that it is a common problem.

It is not necessarily a bad vacuum, but it is way overpriced for what you get. IMHO, a vacuum like that should be more in the $300 range instead of the $500 range. Dyson owners please feel free to throw things at me now. I know you love your vacuums and I hope they last you forever, but odds are they’ll be pretty jeweltone trash in three years. sorry.

Along the way I also learned that the whole idea of a bagless vacuum is flawed and a bagless will never have the same suction/filtration as a vacuum with a bag. Bigtime bummer for me because I like to use my vacuum for many things and hate spending money on bags. Guess I’ll get over it, they’re really not that expensive and the boost in performance is significant.

I’ve found too, that the whole ‘small companies making a quality product’ thing seems to have been left by the wayside in today’s disposable society. The focus now is on cheap, made in china crap that big manufacturers can pass off onto consumers who will gladly line up every few years to buy the latest *all-new* model because the manufacturer says it’s got *12.5% more cleaning power than the leading competitor* or comes in *new fashion colors*.  Volume increase and profit maximization = moving production to another country where they don’t have to pay the workers a decent living wage or provide them with benefits. Several vacuum manufacturers (one rhymes with ‘oil’ – a classic brand that many depended on and the other one sounds like ‘hurt rebel’) have moved production to China recently and, apparently, the quality they used to have has suffered. There is also the issue of  built in obsolescence. Some manufacturers will discontinue parts on items that have been out of production for a few years. They know they can because they know that you will try to replace a part eventually, be out of luck and getting stuck buying a brand new appliance. Think about what a toll that takes on our already overflowing landfills. It’s just unnecessary and bad business as far as I’m concerned. I prefer to give my business to companies who make solid products. Phil works too hard for me to spend our money on a cheap piece of crap.

So where do we go from here? I want a decent vacuum, Dysons are a no go. So I decide to look for others in that price range. I have about $600 to spend because Phil had a kick ass weekend on call. I don’t like Wal Mart and prefer to patronize small businesses if I can.

Now that I had convinced myself that I did not want to drink the Dyson Kool-Aid, I went looking for upright vacs in the 500-600 price range. I found a few brands, but one seems to stand out. Riccar. Why do they cost so much though? One Word. METAL. Metal bottom plate, Metal brush roller, Metal extension wand, Metal handle. You get what you pay for. Ya know, like those huge old beastly vacs that your grandmother used to have that lasted FOREVER, except upgraded to the modern version.

Look at your vacuum. Chances are that it’s plastic from top to bottom if you got it at a discount store. How long do you think it will last? How long do you think it SHOULD last? Once it’s bitten the dust (so to speak) how long will it last in the dump? Don’t get me wrong, plastics can be great for some things. They are a nessisary evil in todays world, but when there are better, stronger materials it’s kind of a no-brainer to me at least. Just something to think about that when you make your next appliance purchase.

But I digress…

Vacuum shop owners seem to love this brand. Most of them use them in their own homes. I should know, I called most of them in the Baltimore Metro area to find out who I wanted to buy from. Riccar makes durable, solidly constructed vacuums that are intelligently designed and have tremendous suction. Plus they are MADE IN AMERICA! Yes, you read that right, made in St. James, Missouri by actual Americans, albeit from globally sourced parts.Well, You can’t have it all.

I called a few shops and asked them questions like “What is your best seller? Which do you use in your own home?” This allowed me to screen out the people who led me in the direction of a Dyson. LOL, but true. I ended up at Hamilton Vacuum, about 15 minutes from my home. I spoke with one of the owners, Stephanie Marsiglia, who with her husband Rich have run their business in Hamilton for 17 years. She was very helpful on the phone and she basically verified that Dysons are overpriced pieces of shit (my words NOT hers) and there were much better vacuums available in that price range.

Enter the Riccar Brilliance Deluxe.

*cue angelic music*

metal bottom plate, brush roller, extension tube, handle and cord hook

HEPA or paper bags available,  two charcoal filters on the vacuum itself

A super-neato very balanced carrying handle

Easy switch from tools to brushroller

Adjustable tool suction and brush roller height

Bag full and roller jammed lights

Auto shutoff and thermal reset for overheats

Lifetime (!) belt (yes, it’s Kevlar and Rich told me he has never had to replace one)

Bright – ass xenon headlights – they actually illuminate a huge area in front of the vacuum.

Amazing suction – we’re talking golf ball through a garden hose – hold onto your small pets – strong here. The dirt just gets scared shitless and jumps right into this thing. It’s the Chuck Norris of vacuum cleaners.

After much deliberation and research this is the vacuum I decided that I wanted. I got the vacuum I wanted at a price that we were comfortable with, considering the quality. Rich also gave us quite an education about vacuums in general while we were there. After that, I was even more confident that we were making the right choice. Oh yeah, that, and I brought my own dirt (consisting of the ubiquitous tumblefur, pure bunny fur, hay and some of my hair) to test drive the vacuums. Yeah, I’m a freak and I’m OK with that. Stephanie got a kick out of the fact that I brought my own dirt, although I am not the first to do so. I take such large expenditures very seriously. I need to know that this vacuum can stand up to what I will throw at it in the course of a normal day. That thing removed most of the ground in dirt, including the bunny fur, from the carpet *without the brush even being on*.  With the brush on it got <all> of my dirt in two passes. Impressive. It performs just as well on hardwood. The tools are driven by a separate motor and are extremely powerful as well. It’s even strong enough to clean edges and corners with the brushroll alone.

I have now been using it in my home for two days and it is, without a doubt, the best vacuum I’ve ever used. I will report if my feelings change over time, but I don’t think that will happen.

So, I hope that when you are in the market for a vacuum, you will consider my research and experiences. Buy American products from a small business and you just may save somebody’s job. You get an outstanding product to boot.

SHINE ON!

So, apparently, I’ve been building readership for the last few months. (Thank you all very much for your support! – I never really expected one reader when I began this, much less a handful) Now that I have a handful of regular readers, it’s time for you to subscribe!

Now here’s the free stuff bit – To show my appreciation for my readers, everyone that subscribes to my blog between January 1st – 31st will be entered in a drawing to win a jar of my totally bitchin’ homemade strawberry lime jam!

If you are a local winner, I will deliver it or you can pick up. Long distance, I will figure out how to ship it. Sorry no international shipping since it is an agricultural product.

So subscribe today, the link is on the left side of my homepage, and win some jam!

Over the past few months I have been building my herbal pharmacopoeia in an effort to begin treating my family’s problems in a more natural way. I have tried my hand at syrups, tisanes, infusions & decoctions of various herbs and so far I am really liking the results.

Before you work with herbs, always think safety first. Get to know your herbs one at a time. I mean really get to know them. Latin names and all – inside and out. Use all of your senses. What does it look like fresh/dried? What does it smell like fresh/dried. What does it feel like, taste like, you get the idea. What are it’s applications, side effects, dangers, special preparation methods, contraindications with prescriptions or other medical conditions and on and on. Are they safe for kids and babies? What are the active parts root/seed/bark/leaf/flower/fruit/wood etc and are you using the correct one in the correct way?

<<<<<I cannot stress enough that plant medicines are powerful and they can be dangerous when used without the proper knowledge. Most herbs are safe, but in the wrong combination or used incorrectly, they can hurt you. Please, Please, Please do your homework before creating herbal remedies or using herbs to treat yourself or your family. you could possibly kill somebody if you screw up badly enough, and I don’t want that on my conscience.>>>>>

I had a ‘day off’ last Sunday and spent the day making healing salves.

It started out as one recipe that I created to treat my lizard hands and, as is typical with me, somehow it turned into 18 jars of herbal healing salves of different types. An intensive course in salve making if you will. I really enjoyed it and got some nice product out of it.

Most commercial products for dry skin have ingredients that burn, I needed something that didn’t, so, I created it. I wanted something with no fancy smell or color, no artificial preservatives, something that works with your skin to help it heal. I chose the herbs, oils, butters, waxes and essential oils specifically for their healing ability and came up with a final product that I am happy with. A little soft this time, but that can easily be remedied with a tad more beeswax. No, you can’t have that recipe *it’s a secret*, but i’ll follow with a few other recipes that I made.

**SAFETY NOTE – EVERYTHING THAT COMES INTO CONTACT WITH THE SALVE SHOULD BE SCRUPULOUSLY CLEAN, SOME SAY STERILE. THESE SALVES HAVE NO ARTIFICIAL PRESERVATIVES AND MAY GROW ICKY THINGS THAT COULD HURT YOU IF THEY GET CONTAMINATED. FOR THE SAME REASON, ALWAYS USE A CLEAN UTENSIL OR TISSUE (EVEN YOUR KNUCKLE, ANYTHING BUT DIRTY FINGERS)TO REMOVE THE SALVE FROM THE CONTAINER. DISCARD ANY SALVE THAT DOES NOT LOOK OR SMELL RIGHT**

That being said, I used the ‘sanitize’ (it does not sterilize – there is a difference) cycle in my dishwasher to run everything through and I am comfortable with that.

The first step in most of these recipes is infusing the herbs in extra virgin olive oil. That warmed infused oil is mixed with any other oils or butters, then beeswax is melted into it, then it is cooled for a bit so the essential oils don’t evaporate then the essential oils are blended in. It is then poured in prepared glass containers and allowed to cool. Pretty straightforward – like cooking, just follow the recipe.

Extra virgin olive oil is available pretty much anywhere. I get mine in the 2L bottle at BJ’S because I use it in cooking so frequently. The other oils and the Grapefruit Seed Extract are available at The Health Concern. I got the beeswax at Herbal Accents. It is in pearl form for easier melting, but block will work too if you grate it first, kind of a pain in the ass, but usually cheaper. I got my dried herbs at The Health Concern as well. I will be growing calendula and lavender next year and yarrow grows in the field across the street, so next year I will be wildcrafting that.

I used glass bowls on top of sauce pots as double boilers and my 4 & 8 cup glass measures for squeezing the finished infused oil into. I used floursack cloths for straining the herbal oil, but you could use cheesecloth.

I used clean wide mouth half pint jars, cleaned out baby food jars and those itty bitty jelly jars as containers. Label everything. You think you’ll remember what that greenish goo in the jar is, but I promise, you won’t.

Herbal Infused Oil

Place your dried plant material in the top of a double boiler on low (or a slow cooker on low with water in the bottom and the oil and herb mix in a mason jar) and cover with olive oil. Bring the temperature up to 120-150 degrees F and keep it there for about 4 hours. Strain through floursack cloth, squeezing all the oil out of the plant material. I had four jars in the Crock Pot and two boilers going at once for the six recipes that I made. I tested the temperature periodically to ensure that they weren’t going over 150, but one did ~ ooopsie, it didn’t burn and I used it anyway. *make sure to keep that big pot lid and fire extinguisher handy*
Keep in mind that once oil starts to heat up, the temperature goes up drastically, watch it carefully.
You don’t want to burn the plant material, just release it’s essences into the oil.
Do not cover the pot. You don’t want condensation to build up and drop back into the oils. Water in your mix brings contamination and can affect the final texture.

So now that you’ve studied your herbs and made your infused oil you can make your salves!

Yarrow Salve

Great for clean cuts like paper cuts and knife cuts, not  for dirty, ragged wounds or scrapes because it heals so quickly and can trap in splinters or debris. Good for nosebleeds.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is an herb with antibacterial, analgesic and anti-styptic (stops bleeding) vulnerary (heals wounds) properties.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil infused with 1 cup dried white yarrow flowers and leaves

1/8 cup beeswax

20 drops tea tree (Melaleuca alternafolia) essential oil

20 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil

5 drops Vitamin E oil

8 drops grapefruit seed extract

Blend infused olive oil with beeswax in the double boiler and heat gently until beeswax melts. Pull from heat and set aside to cool for a minute. Stir in essential oils, vitamin e oil and grapefruit seed extract and pour into prepared glass containers. Set aside, loosely capped, to cool. Label and refrigerate.

To Use – Apply a blob to thoroughly cleaned boo boo and cover with a bandage. Use a bit of salve on a tissue to apply to the inside of nose to stop nosebleeds.

Calendula Salve

Use this salve on chapped hands, diaper rash, burns, and scrapes.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is vulnerary, antiseptic and anti inflammatory.

1 cup evoo infused with 2 cups dried calendula flowers

1/4 cup beeswax

1 ounce lanolin

20 drops tea tree essential oil

20 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops vitamin e oil

8 drops grapefruit seed extract

Blend infused olive oil with beeswax in the double boiler and heat gently until beeswax melts. Add lanolin and stir to melt. Pull from heat and set aside to cool for a minute. Stir in essential oils, Vitamin E oil and grapefruit seed extract and pour into prepared glass containers. Set aside, loosely capped, to cool. Label.

To Use – Apply a blob of salve to thoroughly cleaned burn or scrape and cover with bandage. Apply liberally to diaper rash and chapped skin.

Comfrey, Lavender & Calendula Salve

I’ve seen a few variations of this recipe on the internet, this is my version. Some say it is safe for use on chapped lips, but as you will see it has a controversial herb in it. I do not plan on using it for application to mucous membranes, so I feel safe with it.

Use for bumps, bruises, twists and sprains.

Calendula, see above.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is anti inflammatory and internal healer. It also has quite a bruhaha as to whether it is safe for use. Please use your own good judgement about the use and potential danger of comfrey.  I chose to make this salve knowing that this would not be one for broken skin, just bumps and bruises twists and sprains. I actually plan on using it on the ankle that I third degree sprained last year that still isn’t right. I would also use it on my kids – but only in the right situation.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) (my favorite herb YAY! lavender) is anti inflammatory, anti bacterial, and vulnerary. One day lavender will get it’s very own post. Because it’s just that awesome.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil infused with 1/4 ounce each dried lavender flowers, comfrey leaves and calendula flowers

1/4 cup beeswax

20 drops tea tree essentail oil

20 drops lavender essential oil

5 drops Vitamin E oil

8 drops grapefruit seed extract

Blend infused olive oil with beeswax in the double boiler and heat gently until beeswax melts. Pull from heat and set aside to cool for a minute. Stir in essential oils, vitamin e oil and grapefruit seed extract and pour into prepared glass containers. Set aside, loosely capped, to cool. Label.

To Use – Apply small amount to bumps or bruises and gently rub in. Rub gently into minor sprains and strains. Do not use on broken skin or mucous membranes.

All of the recipes have lavender, tea tree, Vitamin E and grapefruit seed extract as natural preservatives and also for their healing properties. Keep in a cool dry dark place, or even refrigerate for shelf life up to a year.

Salves are fun to experiment with because you can infuse a multitude of different herbs into the olive oil for different effects. Instead of or in addition to the olive oil you could use sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, rose hip seed oil etc. Each of these has it’s own special healing abilities for specific conditions. You could add Shea butter, Cocoa butter or any number of natural nut butters for their therapeutic value. Lanolin is very emollient and makes salves creamier. Essential oils are also valuable in a salve because they absorb so quickly.

Once you have learned a few herbs and tried your hand at salves a few times, you can use your accumulated knowledge to create your own recipes and cater to your own families specific needs. Once you know your stuff – experiment, you may come up with something that you really like!

Have fun making salves!

SHINE ON!

Hope you all had a great holiday! I’m happy to be blogging again after the dishwasher disaster.

Right before thanksgiving, my 3 year old dishwasher took a dump on me. Kaput. It gave me a few days worth of half ass cycles and drains in it’s death throes then bit the big one. I was desperate so I kept going downstairs to trip that breaker ~ which sort of worked for a while. Mind you, it wasn’t dead enough to stop blinking it’s little green ‘normal’ cycle light mockingly at me, but dead enough that the keypad wasn’t functional and it wouldn’t do shit.

Those of you who live without dishwashers should be laughing your asses off at me right now. I was a wreck. miserable. My hands were dry & splitting despite gloves and lotion (i hate both). The underside of my counter is flaking and my sticky floor tiles are starting to pop from the moisture. On the other hand, my counter and floor have never been cleaner. I have never lived in a house without a dishwasher. With the exception of times when the ones we owned were down, I rarely had to do dishes by hand. SPOILED ROTTEN.

We even bought our rowhome with dishwasher and air conditioning  over another possible candidate – a single family home without. We really did not want a rowhome, but I guess we value amenities more than being stuck (only on one side though) to somebody else.

Anyway, I figured this whole experience would make a good post on my approach to basic appliance diagnosis and repair. This is one of my tools and I should know how to maintain and repair it within reason. I wouldn’t expect to do a really complicated repair, but easy stuff like cleaning filters should be withing my scope of understanding.

So far there haven’t been any problems we couldn’t fix on our own, except when the washer started leaking while I was 7 mo pregnant. I was not about to squeeze my fat ass behind that thing. Turns out the hoses weren’t tight enough and it cost us 112 bucks for the repair guy to tell me that. ouch!

I have had to pull this dishwasher apart before to clean the filter of a toothpick and other assorted gunk (eeewww) so I wasn’t too intimidated by having to do it to diagnose the problem. The keypad is dead, so that means, at the very least, a new keypad. Duh. I figured we’d replace that part first and then see if it worked. This is usually the first part to fail just because of the nature of the part and where it is located. Water and electronics don’t get along and eventually water wins.

So we replaced the keypad and cleaned the circuit boards with swabs and alcohol and she is back up and running! We only had to remove a few screws and the ribbon cable just needed to be plugged into the new board. Anybody could do it with the right tools and the right frame of mind. Seriously, it was really easy. You can sometimes even find service manuals like the ones the repair guys use which makes the jobs even easier. JUST REMEMBER TO TURN THE POWER OFF AT THE BREAKER BEFORE TINKERING WITH YOUR APPLIANCES! DON’T BLAME ME IF YOU GET DEAD BY CRACKING OPEN A LIVE APPLIANCE. DON’T FUCK WITH ELECTRICITY!

The one sorta specialty tool that you will need for basic appliance repair is a set of torx screwdrivers. Ya know, the star shaped ones. Totally worth the investment if you don’t already have a set. Hell of a lot cheaper than a service call.

Here’s a few websites with info on appliance repair. Sometimes just googling your product model number and the symptom (or the error code if it displays one) can bring you a whole bunch of info.  I’ve diagnosed clogged filters in my washing machine and my dishwasher this way. Found some icky cloth wipes, a baby sock and a toothpick but saved a bunch of money. Sometimes you’ll even find you have a very common problem with an easy fix.

fixitnow is my favorite. It doesn’t always have what I need, but I usually start here to absorb some of the Appliance Samurai’s knowledge about the particular appliance that is giving me a hard time. The first step of diagnosis, grasshopper, is understanding the patient.

applianceguru is the forum for the Appliance Samurai

This guy’s motto is “If  I can’t help you fix your appliance and make you 100% satisfied, I will come to your home and slice open my belly spilling my steaming entrails onto your floor” Gotta love that. All he wants is for you to donate to his beer fund.

fixya is the most comprehensive and well organized, but with none of the bizarre charm of the Appliance Guru.

repairclinic offers exploded views and you can order parts from them. The prices are competitive, but there are plenty of local parts warehouses you can go to.

We usually end up at Landers Appliance. They are close to home, have decent prices and the staff is helpful.

I usually attempt to diagnose and fix these things myself. I’m not very mechanically inclined, and I didn’t used to know a lot about appliances, but out of necessity, I’ve learned. Once you have a basic understanding, it’s really not hard or even intimidating anymore. You owe it to your budget to at least give it a shot. Who cares if you end up calling someone out? At least you tried! That’s what it’s all about!

Now go figure out what is wrong with that washer/dryer/fridge/dishwasher/oven/freezer/furnace/air conditioner condensate pump/ (fixed that one this summer!)/whathaveyou/thromdimbulator AND FIX IT! YOU CAN DO IT!

SHINE ON!

Sorry I haven’t posted lately, my dishwasher died and I have been spending a lot of my time doing dishes by hand.

I promised myself I would only do this blog if it did not interfere with my ability to keep up with things at home. Well, two extra hours out of my day for dishes means no time for blog.  If I followed what my brain was telling me, I’d be blogging, unwashed dishes be damned! Sometimes I hate having to be all responsible and shit.

We plan on repairing it soon. Hopefully I will be able to get the parts this week.  When it is up and running, and I have at least caught up with my chore backlog, I will be back once or twice a week like I planned.

On a side note, Thanks for reading, I am really enjoying documenting my experiences and helping others.

Please let me know if you have any ideas for posts you would like to see. I have probably 20 drafts waiting in the wings, but could always use more ideas.

Hope you Have Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

~homemaderachel

I love a good hot coffee on a cold day. Cream and sugar please. None of that fake shit like sweet n low.
I don’t drink it but once or twice a week, but when I do I like the flavored stuff. Raspberry, Cinnamon, Chocolate, Spice, that type of stuff.
For the Raspberry I use either a flavored coffee syrup or, if I have any left, homemade raspberry syrup. Even seedless raspberry preserves will work in a pinch. Actually, any jelly will work if you’re into that kind of thing. Cherry might be nice.

I especially like pumpkin spice coffee – specifically a Starbucks grande pumpkin spice latte. It’s like fall in a cup.

I love those damn things, but must eschew such pleasures because I can no longer justify spending almost five dollars of our grocery money on a cup of coffee with some milk in it when my husband is not getting full hours at work.

Every once in a while I scrape up enough change from pockets (laundry money is mine! all mine!) and couch cushions (did i mention that’s mine too?) to get one. Of course I cannot enjoy it uninterrupted like I would like, perhaps savoring it and reading a book, because the only Starbucks in Essex/Middle River is in our friendly neighborhood Target. I always have the kids with me, so I never enjoy anything uninterrupted anymore😉. Not to mention Garrett can’t even have milk, so if I have it on my lips and then kiss him, he may get a rash. There is also a good possibility that he could knock it out of my hand while I’m wrangling him back into the seat (no cupholders like Wegmans😦 )or, even worse distract me enough (not too hard to do w/my add- ooh look something shiny!) to take a drink. It’s stressful enough that I don’t do it often.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking for a few years that it might be easy to recreate it. Maybe not the steamed milk part, but at least the coffee with milk part.  I tried a few different ways and putting the spices in with the ground coffee seems to work the best. It tends to clog the coffee filter a bit this way though. Expect a little water to not make it through. I also wouldn’t do this in one of those 1-2 serving jobbies either, it may back up. I actually use a sieve lined with a filter on top of a glass measuring cup. No space for a coffee maker, my mixer takes that spot🙂

If you put enough spices directly into the brewed coffee to get a good strong flavor, you also get a nice spicy sludge at the bottom of the cup. I discovered this by accident one day while running late driving to ABC (our playgroup) when I went to take the last swig out of the cup and got this horrible mouthful of nasty grainy liquid. I spit it right back into the cup BLECH! WTF? Tyler got a kick out of that. Mommy why did you frow up? I got a sip of sludgy coffee. Hahahahaha that sounds funny mommy you got sludgy coffee!!!!! you got sludgy coffee yougotsludgycoffee yougotsludgycoffee hahahahahaha.

I’ve seen some recipes that actually call for canned pumpkin like this one. Looks yummy, but I’ve never tried it.

Here’s my best go at it. Not exactly like the Starbucks, but close enough for me.

Pumpkin Spice Coffee

1/2 cup  ground coffee

1 t (ish – more or less to taste) *Pumpkin Pie Spice

dash salt (I swear)

blend thoroughly and brew as you would normal coffee. I use 3 cups of water for two big servings. As I said, some water will not come through.

I use *Vanilla Sugar to sweeten and milk (sometimes powdered milk or creamer or mimiccreme, whatever I happen to have on hand) to taste

*do happy dance*

 

Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 t cinnamon

1/4 t ginger

1/8 t nutmeg

1/8 t allspice

blend.

Vanilla Sugar

This is just a no brainer if you ever use vanilla beans.

Don’t buy them at the grocery store. Just last month I made a vanilla bean cake for my Mother-in-Law’s birthday and paid less for 8 whole beans at BJ’s than I pay for 2 at Food Lion. Better quality too.

Split open bean and scrape seeds out. Use seeds to add a deep vanilla flavor to any baked goods. You could probably put some in the ground coffee blend too. Damn, I wish I had thought of that then, it sounds yummy.

Take the empty bean(s) and bury it in some sugar.

Wait a week or so. or less. or more. depends upon how patient you are. a week is best.

I’m not positive of the amounts, but I have six empty beans in a glass quart mason jar full of sugar and the sugar has a very assertive vanilla flavor, might be too much for some, but I love an intense vanilla flavor. This is the second round of sugar I’ve had in with these beans and it is still flavoring it well. I’d say I could probably get a few more rounds off of it too. When the flavor deteriorates, chuck the beans and start again.

You can use this sugar anywhere you would use regular sugar.

A great use for something that would otherwise be discarded. Right up my alley.

Hot chocolate is great in the evening in front of a fire. yum.

You don’t need to buy the expensive packets of mix if you keep this on hand.

This recipe originally came from the Good Eats Episode – The Art of Darkness II.

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 c powdered sugar

1 c dutch process cocoa

2 1/2 c powdered milk

1 t salt

2 t cornstarch

1 pinch cayenne (I didn’t use this)

blend ingredients thoroughly.

to use – fill mug halfway with mixture then top off with hot water or milk and stir till combined.

you could also add drop or two of peppermint essential oil to each mug after stirring in the water for mint cocoa.

 

Another one of my favorites is mulled cider. No real recipe here. I usually wing it and taste as I go along.

I usually use whatever whole spices that I have on hand that sound good. I usually include fresh ginger (frozen actually) cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, star anise pods, lemon slices, & orange slices.

I add about 1/3 cup total of the whole dry spices to 1 gallon of cider on the stove. I add maybe a 1″ piece of ginger, sliced, 1 sliced lemon and 1 sliced orange and bring to a simmer. I usually simmer really low for maybe an hour, then cool and bottle for fridge storage. I usually pull some out to drink fresh before I store it though. I just can’t help it. It tastes so good!

I usually just reheat it in the microwave for a few seconds.

 

I hope I’ve been able to save you a few bucks!

 

as seen on a bumper sticker in my neighborhood – “having kids is like being pecked to death by a duck”  – well put.

SHINE ON!

 

 

 

 

 

I hate laundry, but i am determined to make this a good post.

I’m not so good at it either. It is pretty ironic that they day I plan on publishing my post on laundry is the day after I accidentally dyed a whole load of kitchen linens ‘titty pink’ by washing four brand new, bright red (on clearance!) napkins with them. Then drying them. On high. It was late when I switched the load and I guess I wasn’t paying attention. whoopsie.

At least it wasn’t hubby’s work shirts!

The only thing worse than doing laundry is thinking about it.

But I do. All the time. Like 2 or 3 loads worth a day. Notice I did not say I do 2-3 loads a day, that is just how much I should be doing to keep up with the flow. Which I rarely do. I always end up throwing in a load of clothes or diapers only to forget about it till the next day. Not good news in a front loader. They get stinky if you do that. And then it makes your clothes stink. Not at first when you put them on, but once you have had them on a while and your body starts to heat them up, they become wretched. Like a wet dog who shat then puked all over himself after rolling in a long dead skunk. I mean evil Bad NASTY.

Solved that problem using three affresh cleaning tablets in there (yes, all at once it was that bad) to clean the machine then every stinky load got a long cold soak in oxy-clean followed by a heavy duty cycle with a prewash and extra rinse.

Now if I could only have my washer and dryer next to each other and I’d have it made! Don’t ask me why they are across the basement from one another, has something to do with plumbing. I have no clue why the previous owner set it up that way. Yet another thing that reminds me of just how monumentally dumb this guy was.

I admit, having a fancy schmancy  high efficiency washer (relax, I got it scratch & dent so I got a good deal on it) makes laundry a little more tolerable. It makes nice beeps and boops when I push the buttons, a pleasant signal beep when it is done (yeah – i’m simple like that), and it cleans more clothes, better, with less water and detergent. It also has a good range of cycles all the way from hand wash to sanitize.  It can even fit my king comforter with room to spare on the bulky items setting. But you have to leave it open so it don’t get ‘dat funk’ and you have to use more expensive h.e. detergent.

These h.e. detergents are specially formulated to be low sudsing and quick rinsing. Meaning, they can suspend the dirt particles and rinse them away with much less water than standard formulas. If you use regular detergent in a h.e. machine for a long time, you will burn out the bearings faster from the machine having to run multiple extra rinse cycles to clear all those suds. The suds also cushion the tumbling cleaning action so the water cannot be driven through the clothing properly. You then end up with permanently dirty clothes from the not fully rinsed detergent and dirt not being rinsed away cycle after cycle. Yuck. You are then one of the great unwashed.

Most commercial powder laundry detergents contain sand as a filler (!) and can have things like phosphates, enzymes and optical brighteners. Sand is not good for your clothing or your washer for obvious reasons. Phosphates are harmful aquatic life, but they really do clean well. Enzymes are great for stains and odors, but if not thoroughly rinsed, may irritate skin. Optical Brighteners do just that, they brighten colors by leaving a residue on fabrics. Optical brighteners are part of the reason clothing glows under a black light. Not really bad, just unnecessary imho. Commercial liquid laundry detergents can contain enzymes, phosphates and optical brighteners as well as a good amount of water (even the super concentrated ones) which is heavy to ship and harder to store.

Sooo…

I use my own homemade (suprise!) laundry soap (not detergent) against the advice of the manufacturer. I figure it’s my machine and I’ll do what I want with it. My formula is low sudsing and quick rinsing. It dissolves pretty well in cold water if it is ground really fine. It leaves a minuscule amount of soap residue in the clothing which actually keeps them softer, and acts as a barrier against dirt. That is, the dirt lands on the soap residue, not the clothing so it washes out easier. It also eliminates the need for fabric softeners in all but the most staticky loads, like those really soft fuzzy acrylic blankets, or fleecey stuff. I don’t actually use too many wax based dryer sheets, I use these static eliminator sheets. They do not work quite as well as the wax ones, but they don’t smell and they don’t leave waxy residue on towels that can affect their absorbency. I hate drying myself or trying to wipe up a spill when the towel doesn’t absorb anything! Best part with homemade laundry soap and static eliminator sheets is that clothes actually smell like clothes. Not mountain air or fake ass flowers, but clean, fresh, clothes. ahhhhhhh.

This is the recipe that I use, but there are more here.

Homemade Laundry Soap

12 cups Borax

8 cups Baking Soda

8 cups Washing Soda (sodium carbonate)

8 cups ivory soap (grated)

  • Mix all ingredients well and store in a sealed tub.
  • Use 1, 2 or 3 T per load for he machine (+/-1/8 c for top loader) depending upon size and nastyness of the load.

I use my bad ass 12 cup Kitchen Aid food processor to grate the bars of soap and then combine all the ingredients together, in batches, till they are a fine even powder using the chopping blade. The finer and better mixed it is, the better it dissolves. I would not try this with a wimpy food processor, mine is pretty powerful and has a large capacity. It is a bit messy because of the powder puffing up and it takes 8-10 rounds to get it all well mixed and fine. I use the pulse button till it lookS right. You really should use a mask for this, (cough cough), but i’m a dumbass (cough cough) and forgot so I didn’t. (cough cough) don’t worry, the kids were in bed. (cough cough). And yes, I still use the processor for food. It’s just soap, it rinses right off. I actually did mine by weight last time, (converted from cups) but of course I lost the paper I wrote it down on.

I make a quadruple recipe and store it in a ziploc big bag inside a large trash bag inside a cat litter bucket. I dump it all in one of those big bags to mix thoroughly it without all the dust flying around. It costs about $50 for that size batch and I’m thinking it’ll last about a year.

I still use boosters such as oxy-clean, bleach, Borax or Bac-out if needed. My whites sometimes need a boost, so i use oxy-clean or bleach for that every few loads.

I get the washing soda in the pool chemical section of Target. It is used in pools to raise PH. It is also called 100% sodium carbonate. Make sure it says 100% – if it has inert ingredients listed (the brand sold at wal mart has 1% inert ingredients) don’t get it. I’m not even sure what the inert ingredients are so I wouldn’t use it. If you are planning to make a buttload of this laundry soap it may be cheaper to get it at a pool supply store in a big bucket. I buy the baking soda at BJ’s in the big bag, It’s the cheapest I’ve seen. I get the Borax at Target too, in the laundry aisle. Borax is a very mild bleach and it may lighten your darker laundry. It lightens our black tee shirts (knits – they’re tee shirts, who cares) a bit, but Phil’s work shirts (Polos and ‘work shirt’ permanant press type material), jeans, sweats, etc. seem to be fine.

Diapers are washed with probably the best laundry detergent I’ve used, Allen’s Naturally. I prefer the liquid version of this. Free of scents and dyes, enzymes, phosphates, optical brighteners. This stuff is great for diapers because it does not leave any residue at all to impede absorption. I’d use this stuff for all my laundry if I could, but it is a bit too pricey for me. I just got a gallon and it has 512 he loads, should last me till Garrett’s out of diapers. You cannot buy it in any stores around here, it has to be shipped which makes it more expensive. It is worth it. Other detergents don’t clean the dipes as well in our hard water and the other good one gives Garrett a horrible diaper rash.

When the laundry eventually makes it’s way to the basement I make 9 piles.

jeans & other similar heavy fabrics – normal setting unless they are really grungy, then i use heavy duty

dark knits (Phil’s work shirts, dark tee shirts, dark sweats) – normal

socks, kids undies & other whites to be brightened/de-funked – whitest whites ~ this load gets oxy-clean, sometimes bleach.

bright colored knits – normal

bath towels, mats, washcloths, hand towels – heavy duty or sanitize depending upon how filthy they are.

bed linens – bulky items

diapers 3-4x week – sanitize (carried down in their own bag – I don’t even have to touch the dirties, just turn the bag inside out into the washer)

kitchen linens – 2x week – sanitize (hand towels, terry washcloths, rags, aprons, cloth napkins  & placemats)

delicates – hand wash (bras, undies)

Stain removal is easy! Be a slacker at it like me!

I only attempt to rescue nice looking pieces. Kids are supposed to be dirty, Locksmiths bring home all kinds of grease & dirt, I stay at home most of the time and get dirty. I see no need to waste my time and sanity on stain removal when we are all so hard on our clothes anyway. The odds are dead set against me in the stain removal game. That being said, if it is a nice piece, still in good shape, I may attempt to rescue it. I’ll wet the stain with cold water (hot water sets most stains) and scrub in some laundry soap, maybe oxy-clean, Stain stick, Borax, or bac-out depending upon the stain.Then into the wash it goes. If the stain is still thereafter one wash, I treat again, then wash again. Don’t dry it until you’ve gotten all of the stain out, the dryer will set a stain and make it permanent.

I do keep some decent looking clothes in reserves for the occasion we all need to look presentable. Most of our clothes are what my mom used to call ‘play clothes’  lol. Simple, remember? It fits our lifestyle best.

As for mending, I usually toss the garment that needs fixing in a pile of stuff  ‘to be fixed’ and pull it out a few years later, at which point it no longer fits, the button has been lost or the hole has magically enlarged itself beyond repair. Then I hem and haw about having to throw away a perfectly good (read – only one button missing and a few spots – but no holes) pair of jeans. Then they end up back in the pile only to have the cycle repeat itself every few years. I have stuff in that pile that has been here since we got married in 2002. I just feel like I should be doing something with them. I can compost the stuff that is 100% cotton, but that’s about it. I have read about old jeans being used to insulate homes. My house is really drafty. hmmmmmm, maybe they should go back into the pile!

Ironing – What’s an iron? LMAO! Actually, I do have one, and a board too, but they are buried in the back of the basement. I suck horribly at ironing. I always end up with double creases or manage to scorch things. Don’t really need to iron that much so it’s not a big deal. Hubby’s work shirts are all permanent press or polos. Me and the kids don’t wear stuff that requires ironing but maybe once a year. I’d make a really crappy wife to somebody who had to wear suits and dress shirts every day. If I really take my time, I can do an adequate job. But who has that kind of time with two kids? Ironing is not a good area to take my advice on at all. ever.

Throw a wet washcloth in the dryer with the wrinkled clothes on medium for a few minutes. POOF! wrinkles gone! You could also cheat like I do sometimes and use a steamer on bigger stuff. No need to dig out the iron!

Folding is another area that I highly recommend you turn elsewhere for advice. Phil does most of the folding in this house.

I have a big problem folding things. I am severely folding impaired. I am so bad at folding things, that my basket of folded clothes has been mistaken for dirty and taken back down to wash on more than one occasion. You figure somebody who has a homemaking blog would be able to fold a simple pair of pants, but alas, my folding abilities only extend to things that are square or rectangle. I can fold the shit out of some towels, even tee shirts because they are just rectangles with other little rectangles attached to the sides, but add long arms or legs to the equation and I fail miserably. Once again, I am glad I did not marry a business suit type, he would look like crap going in to work all wrinkled and disheveled due to my complete lack of ironing and folding skills.

I do have a bit of an excuse for not folding now though. I was in a car accident about four years ago and have a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome. This cause my fingers, hands and part of my arm on both sides to go pretty much completely numb when I hold them up for more than a minute or so. Four years of arm numbness, however,  does not excuse a lifetime of never folding anything properly and never bothering to learn.🙂

One day I may try to learn how to iron and fold properly, and of course you will get to laugh at me as I screw up time after time if I do. Not sure I really want to bother though. It’s just not that important to me right now when I have so many other things going on in my life.

Sometimes, If the stars and moon are aligned, and the music is right, laundry actually gets put away. This does not happen as often as I would like, however on occasion, I actually get ‘caught up’ with laundry. I could not get this far without my husband’s assistance.

This post (and this blog in part) was actually inspired by an old friend Kelly who posted on her facebook page that after 31 years, she had finally learned to fold a fitted sheet. A small thing really, but people really responded positively to the post. It made me really realize that our generation, unlike our mothers and grandmothers, were not taught the basics of housekeeping, we kinda had to learn on our own, or make it up as we went along. Most of us probably didn’t even really care because we figured that we’d be out in the working world anyway. Why bother to cook when foods can be put from box to oven to mouth so easily? Why bother to make a Halloween costume when you can just buy one?

Then we started to think about it and realize that we wanted to go the opposite direction various reasons. Part of my reason for attempting to rediscover these things is pride in my job.  Seeing my kid beam with pride when he got told over and over again that he had the coolest Halloween costume in the whole neighborhood was amazing.  The other part is purely from a practical standpoint. How can we nurture growing bodies and brains on the lifeless foods that come from packages? and why are we spending more money to do it?

These little things like how to fold a fitted sheet or even how to bake bread or make a meal that didn’t come out of a box have become somewhat of a lost art. So really – who cares whether your fitted sheets are folded? Does it really matter? Not to me, I’ll probably never be a sheet folder, I just kinda fold them the best I can and put them with the other sheets in a plastic box under the bed. But to some people, things like that are important. Just like things like baking bread are to me. The point is that Kelly made the effort to learn this little lost art and it made her proud enough to want to share. It makes her home a better place for her and her family. Some of the people who responded to the post said that they didn’t know how to do it and would like to learn, so the desire to make home a nicer place is still there. I think that’s awesome. I am so glad to see that people are still interested in doing things like that.

I am looking forward to inspiring people to rediscover the simple things in homemaking.

Shine On!

Halloween is hands down my favorite holiday. I love to dress up and scare the crap out of people. I love dressing my kids up even more!

We were supposed to attend a party at a friend’s house, but she got sick and had to cancel. I knew Tyler would be disappointed so I tried to put a positive spin on it. I told him we would decorate, then carve pumpkins then go trick or treating in our neighborhood instead. Since it was on Saturday this year, we actually had the whole day to carve and decorate.

Tyler and Garrett were dressed as robots. Both homemade costumes for about $25 not including the sweatsuits underneath. Phil and I had a great time making them. We had a few drinks in us at the time, which of course made it even more fun. ;D

Tylertron 4000 & Garrettron 2000

Tylertron 4000 & Garrettron 2000

IMG_1698

the back of Tyler's costume.

Tyler’s costume is made of an apple picking box from our orchard trip. The headlight is one of those stick up lights, and the keypad is and old safe part Phil had on his truck. The nameplate & on off knob at the top is a bit of an old head unit that we wired to the box. The rest of the head unit is on the back of the costume.

I cut head & arm holes in the box, reinforced with duct tape then attached the arms made of dryer ducting with duct tape and keyrings. Then I painted the box with 3 coats of silver spray paint. Phil attached all the goodies to the front and back.  The headlight turns on and the keypad beeps and flashes.

His hat is a plastic mixing bowl covered in foil with an old antenna taped to it. Garrett had one like it too, but refused to keep it on because it was too small. I don’t blame him.

Garrett’s costume is made from an old digital kitchen thermometer. I took the lcd screen out and used that as a nameplate, then put the frame back on and screwed it (yes, that is the only way I could think of to attach it) to the shirt. I backed the screws with duct tape so they wouldn’t scratch him. He also has a magnetic pin with red and blue lights on it and a red flashing Halloween safety light on the front of the shirt. The back of the shirt has the circuit boards stitched to it with fishing line.

They both had blue fingerlights on and we put as many glow bracelets as possible into both of their costumes. They both looked great. Tyler was basking in compliments and Garrett was making happy noises the whole time we were out trick or treating.

Tyler’s costume got so many compliments, he got to the point where somebody said “that is a great costume” and he went “Yeah, I know”

A few people even said that it was the only homemade costume they saw all night. I know Tyler’s was the only homemade costume i saw at his school.

They really had some bad ass costumes. We were very proud of that.

I also enjoy carving pumpkins. I love to be creative with them. Unfortunately Garrett woke up from his nap early and I had to hurry on mine this year. Oh well. Phil got a lil crazy with his this year and decided to put a roll of toilet paper soaked in white gas in his and let ‘er burn. he got some cool pix though.

IMG_1721

Phil's flaming pumpkin

IMG_1681

our pumpkins

The kittycat pumpkin is Tyler’s. The baby pumpkin eating pumpkin is Garrett & Phil’s  and the angry pumpkin on the bottom is mine.

I decided that this year I would make roasted pumpkin seeds. Because, ya know, frugality and all being part of my life now, homemaderachel just had to justify spending $20 of our already short money on gourds that we would not be eating.

We (Phil, actually) gutted them and then we (yes, both of us this time) picked thru to get the big hunks of flesh out. Kinda slimy and fun. Said chunks and all pumpkin waste will be taken to the compost pile as soon as Garrett goes down for his nap😉 I rinsed them with water and more slime came off. Get them as clean as possible, a few stringy things are ok though, then boil in heavily salted water for a bit. 20 minutes seems to be the norm, but I did mine for maybe 15, till they were just barely grayish. This removes more stringy thingies, softens and seasons the seeds.

After boiling, spread the seeds out to dry for a bit. Actually, if you do like I did, you will forget that they are sitting in the colander ‘cooling’ until 11 pm, then go SHIT! I forgot to bake the freaking seeds! Anyway, then toss with a little olive oil and sea salt (I really have no clue how much, it was late, – just to taste) spread ’em out on a cookie sheet in a thin layer then bake at 300 for about 45 minutes rotating pans halfway thru & turning seeds frequently, maybe every 10 minutes. Mine had little brown spots on them and were slightly over done because my oven runs hot (tsk, tsk, i should have known better – but they were still good) so, learn from my goof and bake till just barely brown. Try them warm from the oven. YUM! Because you boiled them, you can eat the shell as well. Can you say roughage?

Hope I have inspired you to have a homemade Halloween next year!

Shine on!

I luv baking soda. I should have a bumper sticker that says that. it’s my favorite cleaner of all time.

Baking soda is an amazingly versatile  substance. There is a ton of info out there on the interweb singing the praises of good ole sodium bicarbonate. We all know about the box in the fridge. There’s even a book dedicated to all the uses for baking soda.

It’s cleaning power comes partially from the fact that it is mildly alkaline and also from it’s very mild abrasiveness. It basically turns grease and dirt into a form of soap. Soap just makes water ‘wetter’ so the funk particles are suspended in a form that is easily rinsed away. That’s enough of this chemistry shit though. I just know it works.

It is also environmentally friendly and safe for our water system. It cuts down on the packaging and chemicals in common petroleum-based cleaners too. Cleaning products are a huge source of water and air pollution and they contain such cheery sounding things as ‘hormone disrupters’, ‘carcinogens’ and ‘neurotoxins’.  thanks, but no thanks. I have something that does the job just as well, is cheaper and safer too. Plus, they all seem to smell like nasty ass fake flowers or mountains and make me sneeze.

I believe the marketing of these products is out of control and leads people to believe that if you do not kill all of the germs in your house with their products, your children will die a horrible, germy, green glowing death. Please don’t fall for it! We have immune systems for a reason. Some of the chemicals in commercial cleaning products actually weaken the immune system and make it harder to fight off the germs so you need more cleaner! Coincidence?  LOL

Antibacterial products in cleaners are so bad for us too! Ever heard of antibiotic resistance? Some of  those cleaners basically have antibiotics in them. I say, unless you have a damn good reason (immunocompromised, post surgical, etc.), Just make sure things are visually clean and your amazing body and it’s little buggies will do the rest.

That being said, I do occasionally need to use a stronger cleaner like bleach or mr. clean and I do not hesitate to do so. I just use as little as I need to do the job.

But I digress….

I’ll just cover my favorite uses here.

In cooking, it neutralizes acids and releases carbon dioxide to help things rise.

In the kitchen, it can be used to extinguish fires.

Doc told me to use it on bee stings.

I also use it for damn near any and all cleaning projects that require a mild abrasive.

The key, I’ve found,  in most scrubbing applications is to keep the cloth barely damp, not wet, and use the baking soda like a dry scrub. you’ll actually feel it ‘grab’ the dirt. And you’ll feel how clean the surface is afterwords. squeaky!

Use with a barely dampened cloth to clean soap scum from the tub. My tub is white acrylic (I think) and this works very well. also nice on the tiles. On a really grungy tub you may need to bust out some elbow grease, but it will work. A good scrub never hurt anybody.

Scrub mildew out of kiddy pool

Use with a toilet brush to clean the toilet bowl (I use a stronger version of my all-purpose cleaner for the seat).

Shine up faucets and fixtures.

Clean kitchen sink and sweeten the drain & disposer.

Use it in homemade laundry detergent (i’ll post about this at some point).

or just throw some in the washer for a cold presoak to attempt remove icky odors.

Put a few cups in the bottom of the trashcan and sprinkle with a few drops of lemon or some other essential oil. Change it out periodically because it will absorb the odors and then it will start to stink. Bad. Like to the point that you ask yourself what that smell is and go on a stank-hunt. Don’t laugh, you know what a stank-hunt is.

Clean the stove top – especially after making jam. Wet the spilled, carbonized nasty, crusty jam on the stove top and then sprinkle baking soda thickly on it. Let it sit for an hour or so with a barely damp cloth on top then use a plastic scraper to remove it. Repeat if needed, then follow-up with a barely dampened cloth till shiny. or at least not revolting anymore – hey, I don’t judge, matter of fact, my stove top is just about at revolting right now. Have to clean it tonight.

It takes coffee stains right off of mugs with no effort.

It will sweeten a musty cooler or thermos.

It will freshen shoes.

Or carpet. just make sure it’s not even the slightest bit damp before you sprinkle it on otherwise you get paste. Not what we’re after and a big pain in the ass to clean up. Just trust me on this one.

I sprinkled it on the dog after he rolled in something dead (or otherwise rotten) when he got out the other day. I bathed him then sprinkled on the still stinky spots and let it sit for a bit, then I rinsed it out very, very, very well.  He still smells a wee bit rank, but it is a significant improvement over the eye-watering stench that he came in the house with.

I also use it to clean out the pets’ water dishes. Just dump some in the rinsed bowl and rub it on with my fingers till squeaky.

and there are so many more.

I do not use baking soda for toothpaste or deodorant, but every once in a while I’ll mix it with some of my face wash for a scrub.

I get my baking soda in bulk so it really is cheap. Apparently you can get 50 lb bags of non-food grade sodium bicarbonate at feed stores even cheaper. Haven’t checked that out yet.

Using baking soda can be a good way to reduce household cleaning costs and reduce the impact of things we use every day.

Hope you decide to give it a shot. Comment me and let me know what you use it for.

Shine On!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 25 other followers

Archives