Friday, December 14, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Last post I mentioned my "is it green, cheap, or local?" quandary.  I've started taking small steps to become more aware of what's in my house, what it contains, and where it came from.  I'm really not happy with how toxic some of my household cleaners are, and how damned expensive some of them have gotten.

One example is laundry soap.  Up until recently, I was a strictly Tide woman.  To me, nothing else was satisfactory.  Until I read about the levels of dioxane your average bottle contained.  Also disturbing was the fact that I never could find out what was in that "fresh" fragrance.  (Small sidetrack-this is the case with SO MANY things-you look at the label and all it says is "fragrance".  Vague much?)  Oh yeah, and this shit's expensive!  Your prices may be different, but I was paying around $20 for a big jug.

So I decided to give making my own a shot.  There are tons of recipes out there.  Through trial and error I came up with this one.  Seems to work great for me.  Not only is it eco-friendly, it's cheap, too!  I think my initial outlay was $15, and after a month I'm still on my first box of Borax.


1 large bar Ivory soap
1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)
1 cup Borax

You'll also need a container to put your mix in, and something to scoop it with.  I used an extra rubbermaid box and a spare tablespoon.

Grate your Ivory with an old box grater.  I had one lying around that had gotten too beat up for food use.

Mix in your powdered ingredients really well.  You'll want to give this another stir right before you use it.  I add 2 tablespoons per load.  That's it! 

This is easily scaled up, so if you find a mega sale on Ivory or a pallet of Borax, you can make a ton at once.  The only downsides I've found are the fact that it doesn't really work in cold water, and the lack of scent in my clean laundry.  For some this might not be a big deal, but I kinda miss the fake mountain spring aroma of fresh clean clothes.  I'm toying with the idea of adding a few drops of essential oil to the mix for a little freshness.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Look what I found!

I hit an estate sale this morning and struck gold.  Real Shetland wool.  It's soft as buttah!  There's just enough there for a cute swing jacket pattern I cut out last winter.  Estate sales rock!!!!

Object in picture is more awesome than it appears.        

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trying to find the intersection of green, cheap, and local

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day.  We were discussing a post on a parents mailing list we belong to, where a poster asked where to find "locally produced, organic produce, at a reasonable price".  Hmm.

Despite living in a big city, I'm lucky if I can hit two out of the three.  Organic produce is all over the place, but it's usually fairly expensive and shipped in from other places.  Cheap produce is also plentiful here, but it's not organic or local.  Local produce is getting easier to find, but not always organic or cheap. 

When I think about it, a lot of "green" things are neither local nor cheap.  Take household products-I am blessed to have plenty of opportunities to buy "greener" cleaning and paper products, but your average bottle of "green" cleaner is going to cost 1-2 dollars more than the cheap, Earth ruining alternative.

And then there's the whole "greenwashing" bullshit that's going on.  Every company is jumping on the bandwagon and slapping "green!!!11oneone" on their label.  I just bought some shampoo the other day.  I picked a brand that touted itself as being "earth friendly".  I looked up the ingredients on the website Good Guide, and my shampoo is full of all kinds of nasty shit!!  I am pissed!!!!!

However, I don't have unlimited funds(oh, how I wish.) and I have to stick to a budget.  I've begun digging deeper in to what's in my food, what I clean my house with, and what I bathe in-and what my family eats and bathes in.  I want to find that mythical spot:  green, cheap, and local.  It's going to be difficult, but I'm going to give it a shot.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pearls of wisdom

Pearls of wisdom can turn up in the strangest of places, when you least expect them.

About this time last year, I was at the Cherry Hill Mall on the lookout for the perfect outfits for my family to wear on an upcoming trip back to the midwest for my youngest brother's wedding.  As was routine for me before every trip back to my place of origin, I was pissing away tons of money, trying to prove to myself I was worthy as a person by buying fancy clothes that would end up in the back of my closet after the trip was over.   I was trudging to my car under the weight of multiple shopping bags, when I heard a catty voice sneer directly behind my head.
"Ohmigawd, look at her hair, it's all ratty!!"
The voice was almost in my ear, it was so close.  She could only be talking about me.
I moved quickly away to the other side of the corridor, and leaned against a wall, hoping to head off the breakdown boiling inside me.  It was then that I had a revelation:

"Why am I emulating the values of PEOPLE WHO SUCK???"

Why?  Why am I trying to "fit in" to a world with seriously fucked up priorities?

At that point, I wasn't ready to think on this further, so I pushed it to the back of my mind, but it quietly steeped there.  Over the past year I have become increasingly disenchanted with our "buy stuff, new stuff, better stuff, ALL THE TIME" culture.  I think about what I want my son to value.  A couple weeks ago, I found a news story about a blogger who buys nothing new.  I've decided to give it a shot, with a few exceptions. (Used underwear.  Nuff said!!!)  I also made it my mission to try my best to slash the grocery budget while still feeding us relatively healthy meals.

Yesterday, I was walking home with my son, when we saw a well dressed older man walking our way.  As we were about to pass him, he said:

"Seek contentment in what you have"

You know all those movies where Morgan Freeman plays the voice of God?  And he says something super insightful?  It was like a light bulb went on above my head.

Contentment in what I have.

"God bless you" he said.  "You too", I said.   Despite the fact that we follow different religious traditions, what he said rings true.  You can't take a Wii or a fancy car or a Chanel bag with you to the afterlife.  Material things are no substitute for a loving family.  Not to mention that if 12 year old me saw the living environment of 34 year old me, her jaw would drop in awe of the comparative luxury I live in.

Words to live by, from a random passerby.  Amazing what the world brings us, when we least expect it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Credit card crafting

Usually for me the phrase "credit card crafting" means going to a craft store and buying whatever catches my eye to toss on the craft pile to use when inspiration strikes.  But this project uses actual credit cards!
I got the general idea from a picture I saw on pinterest a while back.  And now that my son has started preschool, I have a bunch of free time I have no clue what to do with.  Sure, I could be scrubbing floors or doing laundry, but those things suck.  I think I'd rather cut up a bunch of old credit and store cards that happened to be in coordinating tones and glue them to a mirror frame I fished out of a clearance bin.
Lately, our family has been in a bit of a money crunch, so this project felt oddly cathartic.  Nothing major, just a little good ol' amurikan living beyond our means and not watching the bottom line.  We're going to fix this.  And I know some of my spending was more about alleviating my depression than actually needing stuff.  Now that that's being treated, keeping to a budget doesn't bother me the way it used to.

So anyway, I've been hanging on to old cards for a while, looking for the perfect project.  This ikea clearance mirror seemed to be the perfect base to glue shit on, so I grabbed it.  I just chopped up six cards and mixed the little squares up at random, after picking out the logos and printing I wanted as details.
The little kinda apple shaped G comes from a Genuardi's store card.  Genuardi's was a local supermarket chain until a bigger supermarket chain bought them out and totally fucked shit up.  They went under earlier this year.  I miss their soups.

I get a ton of bullshit credit card come ons in the mail, and I'm always amused by the ones that go to the trouble to include a fake card with their pitch.  I especially love it when the fake cards say "YOUR NAME HERE".  The cheezier and faker, the better.  Although, Amex has some nice fake cards:
Looks almost like a real one, doesn't it?

I cut the best part out of one and cast it in resin.
I'm still thinking of how I want to finish this.  Pendant? Or riff on the classic I.D. bracelet?  I'm sure one of these days I'll figure it out.

Anyone else get creative with crap they'd otherwise throw out?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

yep, I'm still here

So posting's been kinda dead around here for a while.  I'll do an update with plenty of kickass stuff I've sewed lately in a bit, but first I want to get serious for a minute.

I have chronic depression, and I've decided to talk about it.  Part of what kept me from getting help for so long was the shame and stigma that gets attached to mental illness.  Shame turned that negative voice in my head from a whisper to a deafening roar.  Shame made me feel like I deserved it when I got treated badly.  Fuck shame.  If talking candidly about depression convinces someone else to get help, then it's totally worth it.  I wish I'd started taking medication YEARS ago.  Even though I still have depressive episodes at times, it's like the difference between a tropical storm and a category 5 hurricane. 

Things have changed so much for me since the spring, when I finally broke down and went looking for help.  So much is different.  The urge to stuff myself with salty snacks and drink to excess is almost gone.  I have so much more energy for my kid and the things I enjoy.  The best thing is that I no longer feel hopeless all the time anymore. 

One last thing, I feel like this is an illness, and it's being treated, like any other chronic condition.  Anyone that wants to judge me or act like I'm defective or something because of this, well, that's their problem, not mine.

Okay, I'm stashing my soapbox now.  Time to go photograph some of my latest projects.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Subversive stitchery.

I'm back!  Last night I was whining to my husband about feeling desperate for some adult conversation.  I love my three year old, but it's not like I can debate politics or say the f-word around him.  This morning the obvious occurred to me-my blog!  I've been neglecting it pretty badly, but it's a perfect little grown up oasis in my world of sippy cups and potty training accidents.

And sometimes, a mommy just needs to say "fuck it"!!

Lately, I've been working on a cross stitch sampler.  I'm a huge fan of Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch.  It's cross stitch patterns with saucy language.  I've made several in the past, but since moving two years ago, I've let my embroidery floss and aida cloth gather dust.

A couple days ago, I saw a phrase on facebook that really resonated with me, so I decided to bust out the cross stitch supplies and sew it up!

Please ignore my crappy attempt at a fabric frame. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I made it a whole year!

I  can't believe it.  I actually managed to keep up with this blog semi-regularly for a whole year!  I just want to tell my readers how much I appreciate you.  There are people and things in my real life that suck, and it's nice to be able to come here and to pinterest and share stuff I made and stuff I like.  That, and nobody here clutches pearls when I say "fuck".

I've got a couple new things I've been working on.  I hope to show them off soon.  March in our house came in like rabid lion on steroids.  My son and I got some kind of a super cold, then a truly awful houseguest showed up.  It has just been a rotten month so far, but things are finally starting to look up. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mama's got a brand new bag (Simplicity 4391)

Today I finished this messenger bag from Simplicity pattern #4391:
Yes, I cut out the flap upside down, but I learned a valuable lesson-double check your grainlines!!  I found this fabric at a Jomar during their big half off fabric sale.  It's canvas printed all over with the logo for Trader Joe's.  I wonder how it ended up in a fabric clearance pile.  Since it's canvas, I thought it would make a good bag.  It's lined in this funky fabric, another Jomar find:
I'm feeling pretty good about the interior double pocket-with my first ever zipper!
For the most part, the pattern was easy to follow.  I omitted the padding the pattern said to put in, because I don't plan to carry anything super fragile in here and I don't mind if a messenger type bag is a little slouchy.  This pattern also comes with pieces for all manner of electronic toy cozies, so I can see using this again in the future.  Maybe next time I'll lay the damn pattern out right side up! :-)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sewing fun!

Remember back around new years' when I said I was going to sew more in 2012?  Well, I got a project done!  I sewed a blouse from this pattern:
Butterick 5722
This is how my version looked:
Belt not included.  I got it from Torrid.
The pattern was pretty easy to follow.  I used a polyester fabric with a little sheen I found on special at my local Joann's.  The only real difficulty I encountered doing this top happened when my sewing machine died.  It could probably be fixed, but at this point in time I just want to sew, dammit!!  I might take it to the shop in the future, since it was my mom's, and I did learn to sew on it.  But since I had a half-finished blouse, and a function to which I wanted to wear the blouse coming up in three days I bought one of these:
Singer 2263, a.k.a pain in my ass
I needed that damn blouse finished, and didn't have time to wait for something to come in the mail.  So, I got one of these.  It's a pain in the ass to use.  It's loud, cheap, and shakes like an alcoholic right before payday when it goes fast.  In fact, I've decided to give my new machine a nickname.  Snooki!

I guess she's alright for small jobs like hemming slacks.  I don't dare hem jeans with her.  She'll be downgraded to a travel machine when this baby comes in the mail:
Say hello to the Slant-O-Matic!!  Bought from ebay user hulagirl1!
Oh yeah!  Just look at this baby!  Singer advertised it as "The best sewing machine ever made!"  Just look at the specs on this thing.  I could get off on a massive rant on how this is a shining example of how as a society Americans no longer value quality workmanship or want quality items built to last, but I'll just let the pictures of Snooki and the Slant-o-matic speak for themselves.  Which machine do you think I'll still be using in 30 years?

Okay, soapbox stashed.  I'm currently working on a little clutch purse.  I'm using some random fabric yardage I found at a thrift store plus scraps from the blouse pictured above.  I'll post a few pics once I'm further along, assuming I don't toss Snooki out a 3rd story window first.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Am I the only one who remembers 7up Gold?

For a brief moment in 1988, this was available.  I was ten, and loved it as much as a ten year old could love a soda.  Soda was a rare treat in our household.  Because we were broke, the grocery money had to stretch as far as possible.  But on some lucky days, there would be a sale on 7up products, or a little extra overtime.  Paydays are magical things when living broke.  Frozen pizza and soda tasted like ambrosia after a week of rice and beans.  7up gold tasted unlike any other soda on the wall o' beverages.  It was like apple ginger ale, with a dash of sweet spices.  And it had caffiene!  Buzz, buzz, buzz!!

But then as quickly as it appeared, it vanished.  And I have been just a little sad when I walk down the soda aisle ever since. 

Maybe 7up will jump on the retro/throwback bandwagon and re-release it as a special edition.  Look how well Pepsi Throwback did.  And Salsa Rio Doritos, another childhood fave I thought I'd never taste again just came back.  I emailed 7up.  Maybe if enough junk food nerds did the same.....I can dream, can't I?

Monday, January 16, 2012

I don't get it.

How is this ad offensive?
thanks msnbc
I just don't see it.  To me it looks like some twentysomethings out having a good time.  Offensive?  No, this is offensive:
how would you like to explain this to the kids on their way to soccer practice?  At least everyone in Fargo is wearing clothes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


One of the things I got this past holiday season was The Big Ass Book of Crafts.  It's loaded with great ideas that will keep me busy for a while.  I've already done one project: fancy switchplates!
I used some scrapbook paper and some pages from a Dr. Seuss book that was past it's prime.  The project was super easy.  I wiped down the switchplates with a little alcohol to remove any crud, then brushed some decopauge glue on them and applied the paper.  The glue made the book pages a little transparent:

I'm pleased with my plates, and wondering what else in my house should get the "Big Ass Craft" treatment.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy New Beer #2 Pennsylvania Pale Ale

Hey beer fans!  I'm sipping some Pennsylvania Pale Ale today.  It's a product from the always awesome Philadelphia Brewing Company.

I'm sipping from a standard pint glass.  The brew pours out a pretty amber-ish color with a frothy head.  It smells nice and hoppy, without being overpowering.  I've smelled some pales and IPA's that had a greener fragrance than my lawnmower.  Can you tell I'm NOT a hop head?  Nothing against hop lovers, it's just not my thing.  Anyway, back to the Pennsylvania Pale. 

As I sipped, I tasted just a touch of malty sweetness, followed by the floral flavor of the hops.  It finished crisp without being overly bitter.  I could see drinking this with a big pile of hot wings or some tacos.  I shouldn't have typed that.  Now I'm craving wings. 

I know I said it before, but I just want to repeat how awesome PBC is.  They operate out of a building that was originally built as a brewery in the 1800's.  Their tasting room is open Saturday afternoons, with plenty of samples and tours of the brewery.  If you're lucky, you might get to try a sample of beer fresh off the line.  Also, if you're into variety cases, you can get one custom assembled with your choice of beers in the sales office.  How cool is that?  Did I mention cases straight from the brewery are usually about $5 less than a distributor charges?  yeah, I visit this place a lot.