Friday, March 29, 2013

Planning and resting

Taking today off, my friends.  My 15 year old daughter has been sick for over 6 weeks now and after multiple visits to various doctors she has finally been diagnosed with mono.  We are NOT having fun at our house right now.  Her temperature is up and her spirits are down.  She is tired and so is mom.

So we are taking a few extra quiet days to rest and regroup.

And plan!  Yes, I am busy writing 5 new posts for you.   I will be kicking off a new Fun Friday April series called Saving Money in the Kitchen by posting next Wednesday on Budgeting! 

See 'ya next week!
Have a blessed Easter,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Project Organize Final Edition- Furniture

Well, folks, Project Organize has come to an end.  We have cleared more stuff out of this house than I ever imagined we could.  Did we cut it by 50%?  No.  But quite honestly, though there is still some to go,  I feel the need to stop boring you and move on.  Let me assure you we are still on the band wagon, with the garage and outdoor "stuff" to come once the weather warms up.  IF it ever warms up! 

Here is another load ready to go...

Don't ya know that the people at Goodwill are starting to wonder about us!
Anyway...last on the agenda for now...FURNITURE!  We do have a lot.  Most of it was given to us and most of it I love!  My in-laws have a thing for antiques and have passed on many things to us that we cherish!  (sorry friends, you can't have those!)  But along the way, and to fill out various military housing, we have acquired extra pieces that need to find another home.  NOW!  We are ready to scale down...won't our movers love us?  It is a slow start, but it is a start.  Wonder why I have a harder time parting with furniture? 
Local friends- you want it?  Make an offer.  :)
Project Organize has helped us declutter.  But more than that, it has helped us re-prioritize and remind us of what is important.  Friends are important.  Stuff is not.  Memories are important.  Do-dads are not.  Family is important- clothes are not.
Clutter not only takes up space but it takes up precious time, energy and thoughts.  I want to use that time wasted spent with my family and friends instead.  I want to use that energy making a difference in the world.  I want to use those thoughts on things that matter.  May the Lord use this all as a lesson I never forget.  Let me learn from the experience and not go back to old habits and ways!
Thanks for sticking with me!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break

We typically school year round with little breaks here and there, no one year being the same as the next.  This year we have found that adhering to our college daughter's schedule works well as it gives us free time with her when she is home.  The younger kiddos think it is great...they say this is the first time we have ever had SPRING BREAK!

Yes, SPRING BREAK!  Despite the cold temperatures and gray, cloudy skies, we took the week off of school and just spent time together. 

We played computer games-
And went to Sweet Frog for yogurt-

Practiced archery-

Made clothes-

Finished two quilt tops-

Nursed a sick child, now diagnosed with strep and mono-

sewed some more-

and had some EPIC family Nerf wars!



How about you?  What does your family do for Spring Break?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fun Fridays- Natural Cleaners

I am cheating this week just a little and reposting an old post for our final Natural Cleaner.  This laundry detergent post has gone crazy, being re pinned on Pinterest weekly since my daughter first posted it back in May.  Honestly, I thought it might be one of those things I would try and eventually fall back into my old Tide ways, but not so!  We make this often, and I have even started putting a drop or two of essential oils in it as well. (Have I mentioned I love those things?)

Anyway, here is the original post! 


Hello! I'm the oldest daughter, ALP, and mom asked me to guest post today while she is in surgery. So here we go. =)

The topic of today's post: Home-made Laundry Detergent.

Let's face it; Laundry detergent is not only expensive but also contains harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances (code for more chemicals), and dyes. A few years ago I started exploring websites and blogs, looking for an easy laundry detergent recipe. It had to meet the following criteria:
1. It had to be easy. (Mom was not totally on board with this yet so complicated recipes were going to be a no-go.)
2. It had to be a powdered recipe. (see number 1. Mom was not going to go for a huge 5-gallon bucket of slime sitting on the laundry room floor. I also didn't like the idea of having to melt soap like so many of the recipes called for)
3. It had to work in a high-efficiency washer.
4. It had to be cost effective. (a tough thing to live up to, as mom was ((and is)) a coupon queen and got laundry detergent at great prices)
5. It had to work. (obviously)
After some experimentation I have come up with this recipe, which is very close to this recipe.

You will need:

One 4oz. (or close) bar of natural soap. Any will do, such as Kirk's Castile (pictured here), Dr. Bronner's, or Kiss My Face, which can be found in the laundry aisle or in the organic/natural section of your grocery store. Ivory soap can used in a pinch but does contain fragrances.

Fels Naptha, although recommended by many, contains harsh ingredients and comes with an eye and skin irritant warning - not something I want to use to wash my clothes! If you are looking for a soap to use, read the label and look for something that has only a few ingredients, ones you recognize! Kirk's Castile does list fragrance as an ingredient, but it is that last thing listed and will not make your clothes smell. It is sort of the least of all evils, if you will. =)

Washing Soda, found in the laundry aisle in a Yellow box.

Baking Soda (usually cheaper if bought in the baking aisle or the dollar store!),

and Borax, found in a white box in the laundry aisle.

Please do not be afraid to make your own laundry soap, it is super easy!

First, grate (or have your children or siblings or husband grate) the 4 oz. bar of soap with a cheese grater. (oh, and please be sure to wash it after you are done. thank you.)

You want the flakes to be fairly small, not huge soap shavings.


You can sort of mash them up if they are too big.

Next, add 2 cups of Borax,

then add 1 cup of Washing Soda,

and 1 cup of baking soda.

Mix well, stop to take a picture. ;)

Now, this is where you can get fancy and add 2-3 drops of an essential oil to make your clothes smell nice. I have yet to do that. But please feel free.

Put your laundry detergent in a container. Mine happens to be a vintage glass jar that came from an falling down house on a family farm but a plastic dollar store container works just as well. =)

You can also make a fancy tag, if you are so inclined. And you are done!

To use: just add 1-2 tablespoons per load. Now, if you are like me, you will want to add a cup. After all, (in my mind) regular laundry detergent works that way and if 2 Tbs. is good a cup will be better, right? Wrong. Regular laundry detergent is watered down so it is cheaper to produce and so you have to use, and therefore buy, more. This detergent is not watered down at all so you do not need nearly as much of it. 1TBS for regular loads and 2 TBS for heavy or super dirty loads like towels or gym clothes. Trust me. Much more will not get rinsed out, leaving soapy residue on your clothes.

Now for the details.
1. It is safe for top-loading, front-loading, regular, and high efficiency machines.
2. It will not foam and bubble like store bought detergent. This is normal, and makes it safe for HE machines. Trust me, it is still working.
3. It will not make your clothes smell like a forest, spring meadow or rainbow. The smell that we have come to associate with clean is actually a toxic combo of chemicals. Please realize that until you get used to the lack of "clean smell" (aka pink cherry blossoms or lavender dream) you might think the clothes don't smell clean. They are clean, and I promise that you will get use to it. You can, however, add a few drops of an essential oil of your choice if you would like your clothes to smell like something.
4. It makes about 90 loads worth of detergent. Our family of six does a minimum of 9 loads of laundry a week. That means I only make more detergent about every three months, and it only takes 10 minutes to do. (Ok, more if you photograph it.)
5. Cost break-down. I figured it out at one point but I'm not sure where it went (maybe it got washed...). Suffice it to say that we are still using it, so it must have been cheaper than what mom was paying for detergent even using coupons. =)

There you go! Easy, cheap, and natural laundry detergent.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Project Organize- Bye Bye Clothes

I want to start this post by telling you up front I am not a clothes expert!  Far from it.  The girls and I have often joked that I needed to go on What Not to Wear.  Except of course, that words of affirmation are my love language and they would surely make me cry.  So I wear pretty simple stuff I like and can afford and hope the amazingly dressed people get noticed more than I do.

Quite honestly, it is not something I have a lot of time for.  Yes, I like to look, and therefore, feel nice, but friends - I have four kids.  I homeschool them. I have a house to clean and a husband to love on.  And shopping, honestly, doesn't do much for me.  Except frustrate me.  So I do not do it often anymore.

But, boy did I use to!  And through the years I have had the piles of clothes to prove it.  Way too many!  They tend to collect and take over just like all the other things in our lives.  I have even gone through other phases of dumping stuff on the curb, but this is one area that tends to take back over quickly.  Can anyone relate?  Please?

For those of you that have been following Project Organize, you saw the stuff we cleared out of our bedroom closet.  It was a lot of stuff.  And since then I have been determined not to go backwards.  Ever!  Too much stuff, too many choices.  And I do not have time for choices. 

A word about my style - I have had people ask me, "What are you so dressed up for?" 

Answer: for me, for my husband, and for my day!
With few exceptions to the rule, I simply get up and get dressed for the day - not for an event.  In my closet you will find:
-everyday clothes
-church clothes
-military-event dressy clothes
In a drawer in my dresser you will find four sets of "grungy" clothes that I clean in, paint in, workout in and garden in.
That's it.  Because I have found when you have an outfit for this and an outfit for that and oh yeah, an outfit for that, someone I can get carried away and end up with more outfits than one can possibly need.  Or should need.  And you end up with too many choices.
I have also learned that I do better with minimal color choices.  Go here or or anywhere on pinterest and you will see gals telling you to pick a color palette and stick with it.  Then you can mix and match and end up with more outfits using less clothes.  While I may not be good at it, it is a great way to think.  Do my friends get tired of seeing me in the same clothes?  Maybe.  But at least they are nice enough not to tell me ;)
I now have hanging in my closet:
10 sweaters/cardigans
2 white button downs
10 blouses
10 tank tops (to wear with a sweater)
One gray Jacket
1 pair of gray pants
3 pairs of black pants
1 pair black jeans
2 dark jeans
Church clothes (3 skirts, 1 dress pants, matching tops)
Minimal?  Maybe.  Boring?  Maybe.  But freeing! 
Cutting back on everything from dishes, to toys, to clothes, has freed our home of clutter and my brain from stress.  And yes, even my heart from guilt!  And I have loved every minute of it.
Hope you will join us next week for our final Project Organize: Furniture!

Monday, March 18, 2013

CREW REVIEW- The Essentials of Writing

Essentials in Writing is a complete language arts curriculum, with an emphasis on composition, taught by former teacher, now homeschooling father, Matthew Stephens.  Offering levels from first to twelfth  grade, we had the opportunity to review the 5th grade level which includes 2 lesson CDs. With each level you order, an email will be sent to you with a PDF file for access to the printable workbook.  If you prefer you can order a pre-printed workbook instead.  Essentials in Writing is divided into two pretty distinct parts, the first 34 lessons concentrating on Grammar, and the following lessons focusing on the writing process.
Essentials in Writing Grade 5 photo EIW5thgrade_zpsbb95ceb8.jpg
This was an easy product to review.  Because of the CD format, you just pop it in and click the lesson you are on.  At this 5th grade level, each lesson is only a few minutes long so as not to overwhelm the student with too much information at once.  Following the lesson there is a corresponding worksheet for your student to complete.  Answer keys are included in the printable files.  
For the purpose of the review we did a few sections of each part of the program.  The grammar part is pretty standard, with Mr. Stephens reviewing parts of speech and sentence structure.  These lessons are fairly short and on occasion we did several at one time.  Once we started into the writing portion of the program we did slow down to one lesson per day.  Each writing assignment is broken down into sections to include: Organizing Thoughts, Draft, Revising, and Edit/Publishing.  At the end of each writing assignment you will find a checklist to help your child and yourself as the teacher evaluate the work done.  Topics we encountered were-
Descriptive Writing
Friendly Letters/Invitations
Persuasive writing,
Summary Writing
Informational Reports (including how to write a Bibliography)
Figurative Language
While most can be completed in a week or so, the Informational Report is more detailed and thus will take more time to complete. 
Our Thoughts-
Unlike my older girls, my 5th grade son has not had the opportunity to do any classes with this type of video instruction with a teacher.  One of the things that drew me to the program, quite honestly, was that the teacher was a male.  I think that all too often our boys never get to see a male teacher, and I liked that Mr. Stephens provided us that opportunity.  The short lessons were a plus for us as they did not drag on and on.  With his humor and laid back approach to teaching, Mr. Stephens kept my 5th grader engaged and interested.  While writing is not his favorite nor his strength, he did do the lessons with minimal moaning, the persuasive paragraph being his favorite so far.  Each lesson is presented step by step with each step being modeled on a whiteboard, so you get that true classroom feel.  Mr. Stephens does interact with students, but you never see them.  Another part we liked about this program was the fact that the worksheets were self explanatory.  Often, my son and I worked together, but this is a program that could be done by a student at this age independently with no problems.  It is quite simple- watch the video lesson, complete the worksheet.
Not really.  A few times "last year" was mentioned and I worried that we might be missing something, but never did we find that it hampered our ability to understand a concept.  Because my son is 11, I do think he could have easily kept up with the next grade level, especially in the grammar portion.  Make sure you review the topics covered in each level when making your grade choice.  If in doubt, I would say go to the higher level.
I have to say, for the low cost and comprehensive content, this is a writing program I anticipate us using for years to come!
Essentials In Writing, 5th Grade- $40.00
Pre- printed workbook- $20.00
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fun Fridays- Natural Cleaners

So how is your cleaning going?  Have you made the switch yet to more natural products?  Several people have asked me, "Do these really clean?"  Let's hope so, it's all I use now!  ;)

Seriously, I have not seen any more dirt than normal and I love the fresh scent as opposed to the chemicals, so yes, I do believe they work.  Plus, with all of the research I have been doing on essential oils, I am convinced they are a good addition to your life!  (If you are interested in essential oils, let me know!)

Like I said at the first of the month, I use one general cleaner for almost everything, but there are times when you need something with a little more umph.  For tile showers, sinks and tubs then I use the following mixture...

Soft Scrub
1 1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap
10 drops of tea tree or lavender essential oil

Combine all to make a paste, adding water a little at a time if you need a softer consistency.  Scoop out and use on cleaning cloth to clean.  If you save this from cleaning to cleaning, it will dry out.  Just add a touch of water and mix!

Happy cleaning,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Project Organize- Pens, Pencils and glue-oh my!

How many pencils are enough for one family? 5, 10, maybe 20?  Certainly not more.  And yet we have a lot more.  How about pens?  And glue? And, you get the idea.  It is starting to feel like an office supply store around here.

Not sure why we have so many of each.  Not even sure where half of it even came from.  But I am pretty sure we have enough to last until the rapture.  I mean, really, when was the last time you remember throwing out a pencil or pen?  And yet we still buy more.  Those silly back to school sales get us every. single. time!  We don't even GO back to school here- we school year round.  And so all those supplies begin to gravitate throughout the house.  A few here, a few there, until they are everywhere.

I thought the stacking plastic bins were the answer.  And they will have to be for some items like folders and notebooks.  But they, too, seem to be multiplying and taking up more floor space than I like.  Oh, how I would love to open a closet and actually see the floor.

And so this caught my eye. 

Pinned Image

And I have been debating it ever since.  (see why I am not a huge fan of pintrest?!  Those images call my name and then haunt my dreams!)  After a long debate with myself, I gave in, bought a $5.00 shoe organizer, and decided to give it a try.  What do you think?

Adult stuff at top, kids stuff at bottom!

For now, I have decided not to label the pockets.  I fugured we could see what was in them!  ;)

A little more floor space!  We keep the block basket handy for when little people come to visit.

In the spirit of decluttering, I will note that I did throw out a lot of old pens and dud pencils!  Even a few sparkly craft items left over from the girls that I am pretty sure the boys are NOT interested in. And now I have cleaner drawers and fewer plastic bins. 

I have even seen this done with toiletries!  What do you think???


Join me next week for Project Organize- Clothes!