Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Blanket for Maggie

I had/have a lot of pregnant friends.  It's just the plain and simple truth.  In the past few months alone, I have four friends that have had six babies...that is a lot of baby gifts to buy!  So I got it in my head that I am going to start making stuff.  Handmade gifts are so sweet and personal (even though I do know people who turn their noses up at things that aren't store bought!  Seriously!), and they just seem so much better....that's just my opinion.

Maggie, despite the fact that I haven't met her yet, is my best guy friends little girl... and I love her so so so so sooooooo much.  I had been thinking a while on making her a little carseat blanket or something to keep her warm on the cold days in the car, but daddy and I decided that just a regular play blanket might be much more useful.  So knowing this guy as well as I do, I went on an etsy search for some cotton flannel printed with robots...and then picked up some lime green "minky" at Joann's. 

Here is the fabric, pre-washed, shrunk, and ironed.  Isn't the robot print cute?!  I bought two yards, so I have enough of that leftover for another project.  I have about 1/4 of the yard of minky left. 

And I got to use the walking foot for my sewing machine!  I paid almost $60 for it when I bought it (10 or so years ago), and had only gotten to use it once before today!  Yay!

Pretty easy....put the fabric right sides together and pin.  Seam all the way around the edges and leave a 6" gap in the middle of one side to be able to turn the blanket right side out.  Clip your corners! At this point...I am going to say how much I -hate- this minky fabric.  It fuzzes and stretches and just ugh.  I won't use it's super soft....but no.  Just a personal preference. :)

So once the edges are seamed, turn the whole blanket right side out and press.  Make sure to poke the corners out so they are nice and pointy.  Since the minky is so slippery and stretchy, I made sure to iron and then I also pinned the edges to make sure that they did not slip any further.  then I just ran the whole thing back through the machine with the walking foot to top stitch and close up the turning gap. 

And there you have it!  A simple, rather inexpensive, personal, hand made baby gift for a very special baby!  I'm sure you could also add a layer of batting and do some quilting too if you wanted to! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Oil Cleansing Method

I first read about the Oil Cleansing Method on this blog a few weeks ago.  I will admit that I was very, very hesitant to try it.  Cleaning your face with oil?  It didn't sound right at all.

Then I got to thinking about it, and realized that my absolute favorite moisturizer is made of organic Argan oil from Everyday Minerals.  So what the heck?  It couldn't hurt to at least give it a try.  So I gathered my ingredients:

Pretty simple ingredients!  Extra virgin olive oil and castor oil.  I think the EVOO cost $8.99 (but I already had it in the pantry because we cook with it all the time!), and the bottle of castor oil was $4.99 at Walgreens.  I had previously seen it cheaper and in a much bigger bottle at Wal-Mart, but I didn't buy it at the time because I generally don't buy things at Wal-Mart because of personal feelings towards the place.  Walgreens just happened to be convenient at the time, and unfortunately, you pay for convenience.  I'm sure it could be found at just any old grocery or health food store at a more reasonable price.  And I found that it is usually sold on the bottom shelf for some reason.... :)

Hubs stopped at Michaels Arts & Crafts for me this evening after dinner and I picked up a package of six plastic squeeze bottles with flip top lids- like the small bottles of acrylic craft paint come in- for $2.99.  I thought these would be good for mixing the oils in and storing them, since I didn't want to make too much in case I either hated it, or didn't want to store it for very long.

I used a small funnel and poured three tablespoons of EVOO and one tablespoon of castor oil into the bottle, screwed the lid on nice and tight and shook it really well.  After the oils were poured in, the castor oil just sat on top of the EVOO until I shook it.  It seems to have stayed mixed so far, but if yours does separate, just give the bottle a good shake before using!  So here is my finished cleaner in the bottle.

According to all of the blogs that I have read about the OCM, you're supposed to rub a quarter sized amount of the oil into your skin and let it sit for a few moments before putting a steaming washcloth over your face for a minute.  Then rinse the washcloth and wipe the rest of the oil off.  I've found that I don't need to use ANY make up remover at all with this method.  The oils easily remove any makeup, mascara, eyeliner, etc- without the stingy burning of regular make up remover!  I had absolutely no problem getting all of the mineral make up I wear off of my skin either.  After using the washcloth to remove the rest of the oil, I don't even have to moisturize!  My skin feels soft, and doesn't feel tight, and I absolutely swear by this cleaning method now.  Try it, you'll love it!

Updated to add:  I added a few drops of lavender essential oil and tea tree oil to my mixture mostly to combat the scent of the castor oil...which I promptly decided that I did not like!  Though the lavender and TTO are both great for your skin, so it doesn't hurt!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Since I got my Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer two years ago, I had been using Method Free and Clear laundry detergent.  It is a little on the spendy side, but it does last forever.  The instructions say to use four pumps per load, but I really only used two per load and the clothes were still nice and clean.  It just seemed that four was leaving the clothes a little -too- soapy for me and my sensitive skin.

I have been reading a lot about home made laundry soap in my crafty lady group on Facebook, and also on Pinterest and decided that I wanted to try it.  So after reading many many recipes, I finally decided on the following:

Laundry Soap

Fels Naptha, Ivory, or other bar soap of choice
20 Mule Team Borax
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

First I gathered all of my ingredients.  I got them all at Kroger (our local grocery store) for around $6.00 together.  I actually already had the borax and washing soda, so I only spent $0.99 on the Fels Naptha today.

I grated the bar soap using the small grater holes on my cheese grater.  I only grated about half of the bar, which was about a cup, because I just wanted to make a small batch in case I ended up not liking the soap or had a reaction to it or something.  And as I grated, I realized that I really need a nice box grater, because this little one I have is just a pain in the rear to grate with!

After grating the cup of soap, I poured it into a clean, empty yogurt container.  Added in equal parts borax and washing soda, and then stirred it up with a fork.  It wasn't stirring to my liking, so I just snapped the lid on and shook the heck out of the mixture.

And here is the finished product.  It fills about 3/4 of the yogurt container.  Oh my gosh it smells so good.  I was really hesitant about the scent of the Fels Naptha, but it really grew on me!

I just tossed my first load of laundry in with two tablespoons of the mixture, so I suppose we will see how it turns out in about 40 minutes!  So far, in looking through the window, it doesn't appear to be sudsing too much.  Actually, it doesn't appear to be sudsing at all...but it could also be the glare off of the front of the washer so I can't see it at all.  We'll see how it smells and feels when it comes out!

This soap, on top of the use of the dryer balls, should cut a good deal out of my shopping budget and energy use over time, which is exactly what I was going for!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Let me tell you a little about....

My disease.

I have an auto immune disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis).  It's kind of the reason I started this blog, actually.  And part of the reason I am all about living as green as possible....for better health.

So what is FSGS, anyway?

FSGS is a rare disease that attacks the kidneys filtering system, causing scarring.  This in turn causes Nephrotic Syndrome.  The kidney filters stop working properly and let the protein in the body that is supposed to stay in the blood, to start leaking into the urine.  You can read more about it here.

I started to notice back in September that I was having an unusual amount of swelling in my left leg.  I thought that it was only my left leg, too.  I didn't really think anything of it at the time and just let it go.  Then two days before Thanksgiving, my feet were so swollen that I could barely get my shoes on.  I went to my PCP, and she pretty much told me that she thought I had a blood clot and if I didn't go to the hospital right then, I could die.  Ok, so I went, no blood clot.

Monday after Thanksgiving, her office called and informed me that I just had a UTI and needed a repeat urinealysis and some anti biotics, but I wasn't sure I believed that.  I've had UTI's and they have never caused leg when I brought that up, I was basically told that my leg swelling was not a concern and all they cared about was this UTI.  I got the run around for days by the medical assistants and never heard from the physician herself.  So what did I do?  I got a second opinion from a different PCP.

He looked at my test results and within a week, I was in to see a nephrologist.  A week after that, I had a kidney biopsy.  Two weeks later, I was diagnosed and started treatment.

Right now, I am on a treatment of 60 mg of prednisone per day, among other things to keep my systems working.  The prednisone causes me to not be able to sleep...hence the blog.  I feel awful pretty much all of the time, and I am gaining weight like crazy, but I am optimistic.  And I am positive that this treatment is going to work for me.  So there's my story. :)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Grocery Binder

It's not the most 'green' of postings, but saving money is another kind of green, isn't it? Yep, just a different kind of green.

I was perusing Pinterest the other night and was noticing a great deal of posts about home management binders as well as meal planning and grocery binders.  I did a little googling and came across a great deal of websites and blogs that talked about these things.  Most of the women have kids and such, so there were pages for schedules and chores, but since I don't, I wasn't planning on putting those in.

I've started two binders.  One is my "Home Management" binder, which I put pocket tabs in and labeled as electronics, appliances, warranties, etc.  I put all of the paperwork for each in the pocket tabs for easy reference.  And being the silly goose I am, I didn't take a picture!  It's not very exciting, after all.  Just manuals and warranties for all of our appliances and furniture for easy reference!

The second binder, however, I did photograph.  It's not totally together yet because I haven't found printable pages the right size for it, nor have I taken the time to make my own....

Sorry about the glare....I could only get the photo to come out if I had the overhead light on, and we see what that does to plastic.  I found the mini binder and all of the accessories at Staples the other night, and thought that they would make the perfect meal planner/coupon holder/grocery binder.  Small and portable.  Not to mention cute.  Perfect.

I got the binder, two velcro closure gusseted pockets, write on tab dividers, plastic pockets, loose leaf paper, and photo pages.  Oh...and those pens are Pilot Bottle 2 Pen...and are the best pens ever.  Made from recycled water bottles....and they write so so so smooth!

I still haven't figured out how I want to organize this thing exactly, but I am working on it.  More photos to come as the project evolves!

Updated to add:

I put it all together today!  I sat down and planned dinners for us for the next week and while I was doing that, the plan came together in my head....mostly.

This is the front of the binder.  In the front pocket, I decided to keep miscellaneous coupons- the one in there is $15.00 a Southwest flight that hubs got for being a Rapid Rewards member.  The blue pocket has a velcro closure and in that I have the coupons I am going to use for shopping this week and a pen for marking things off of my list or making changes or whatever the case may be. 

These are my tabs.  I have Meal Plans, Shopping lists, Coupons, and Price Lists so far.  I do have another tab for something else, but I have no idea what to use it for yet!  I am sure, however, that I will come up with something.  Since we're just a little family of two adults and three will probably have something to do with pet store stuff or *gasp* the craft store.  :)

Lastly, these are the plastic pockets I have put in the coupon section to somewhat organize them.  Craft sores, dry goods, frozen goods, personal care items, and household needs items.  Again, I have a leftover pocket that I will certainly employ at a later date.

In the back of the binder I also have a bunch of 4x6 sleeves that are meant for photos that I can certainly put special coupons or recipe cards in later if need be!

Thursday, February 9, 2012


For the record, Ashley, did it first.  :)  I saw her tutorial for wool dryer balls several several months back.  I had all of the materials, but apparently none of the motivation or drive to make them. 

When we bought our condo two years ago, Hubs insisted on buying me the Mercedes of HE washers and an eco friendly (as friendly as dryers can be) dryer.  I made the switch to HE detergent, Method Free and Clear, but never got away from the dryer sheets.  My skin is incredibly sensitive, so most of the time when I used the dryer sheets, I wanted to tear my skin off with a cheese grater every time I put clothes on.  I stopped using the dryer sheets completely and our clothes are static-y and cat hair magnets like crazy.  Since we have three cats, that tends to be a problem. 

I did some research into it and decided that while they were highly recommended by Sopie Uliano of Gorgeously Green, the plastic dryer balls are not for us.  Mainly because of the plastic, which can leach chemicals no matter what, and because of the cost.  Why buy what I can make?

I used a wool belt from my new winter coat as the core for my dryer balls.  I love the coat, hated the belt and never used it anyway, so I removed it and cut the belt into three inch chunks.  The yarn is Patons Classic Wool yarn that I found on clearance at Michaels about 8 months ago....they were clearing out these two colors so I got it for $1.99 / skein.  It's just been sitting in a bag on the craft room floor ever since!

Ashley's tutorial is awesome...follow it and your dryer balls will come out perfect.  Here are a couple of pictures of mine, for posterity.  

This is just after a few wraps with some of the red wool yarn.  I tried to keep the wrapping pretty tight and even, which wasn't to difficult with the thick wool core.  I wrapped until the ball was about the size of a tennis ball, maybe a smidge bigger, then stopped and tucked the ends in and wound it up really well.  I was able to get 4 out of the skein of yarn.

Like the tutorial says,  once the balls are wrapped, put them into the leg of an old pair of pantyhose and tie knots between each one.  Ash used baby shampoo on each of hers before she put them in the washer, but I didn't have any of that so I just used a drop (it only takes one) of Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap on each ball.

They felt down pretty well, and I think that mine ended up being about the size of raquetballs once the felting process was completed. I washed them on the sanitary cycle, which does three really super hot douses and rolls them around in the washer for about an hour in the hot water and soap. 

I threw them in the dryer also, and my dryer only ran for about a half hour before it decided that they were dry enough, and shut off.  That was fine with me, and I just let them air dry the rest of the way. 

The only problem that I ran into was that some of the wool found its way through the pantyhose and felted the nylons to the wool!  It came off pretty easily though, so no big deal.  The second set is in the washer right now, waiting to finish so I can take them and share with my best friend tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review!

Green Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck       

I -heart- this book.  In fact, I am not sure how I started the journey to Simple and Green Living without it.  I've had my copy since October and already it's beat up, dog eared, post it notes sticking out of it, wrinkled pages and all! 

This book goes through the average house, one room at a time, and details the best way to detox and green your home through natural methods and with natural products.  The author also recommends alternatives to household items that are overly toxic.  

Did you know that the average kitchen sponge harbors E. coli, salmonella, pseudomonas, and staphylococcus?  Uh....and you WASH YOUR DISHES WITH THAT?  Those cellulose sponges are the perfect incubators for bacteria because bacteria cannot survive more than a few hours on a dry surface, and sponges rarely dry out.  I know that some think that microwaving the sponge kills the bacteria, but it doesn't, it just splits the colonies into more colonies and goes downhill from there. 

Anyway, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is making the attempt at going green.  I  have used most of the home made cleaning supplies taught in the book and will continue to do so in order to detox my home and improve our health.

Lets begin at the beginning

And so I start in the world of blogging.  I know that I will probably never have followers or minions or whatever it is that they call blog-stalkers, but I really am writing more for me and for posterity than anything else.  Mostly to document my slow progress into more Simple and Green living. 

Some people think that "Going Green" just means throwing your soda can or empty water bottle into a recycling bin, or driving an 'eco' friendly car, carpooling, or switching to "green" cleaning products.  Sure, that's all a part of it, of course, but to me there just seems to be so much more to it than that.

So what am I doing that's so much better?  Probably nothing, but I am doing what is good for me and my little (husband and three kitties) family.  Things to make us healthier, happier and greener.  Here's what I have started:

1.)  Reduce:  How does one do that?  I have been very careful when I am at the grocery or any other store to choose products with either the least amount of packaging, re-useable packaging, or recyclable packaging.   I've noticed that I've gone down to one garbage bag a week by doing this.

2.)  Reuse:  I've been trying really hard to find new uses for old things like pill bottles, empty sprayers, the empty kitty litter buckets, etc.  I'd rather not throw all of that plastic into a landfill if I don't have to.  

3.) Recycle: I have the basic recycle bins set up next to the kitchen garbage can now: paper, plastic, glass, and cans.  There is a local recycling place on Main Street, but I haven't been yet.  When the bins are full, however, off I go!

So cheesy, right?  I don't think so.