Monthly Archives: March 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

SoapOkay – I’m  jumping on the band wagon.

While I’ve seen recipes for homemade laundry detergent all over cyber space for some time – I never quite got my act together to make some.

Until now.

Yes – this country gal finally found the right ingredients – had them all on hand at the same time – and made a batch of laundry soap.

Believe it or not – it was easy. And uber-cheap.

My friend Kimmer sent me this recipe. She got it from her friend Cindy – who found it at Thy Hand Hath Provided.

Homemade Laundry Soap
This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate which equals 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent. 

1 five gallon bucket (clean and with a tight fitting lid)
a long handled spoon
an empty (used) laundry detergent container (or juice or vinegar container, clean)
hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap Bar
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup borax

Grate the Fels Naptha laundry soap bar we used a cheese grater (Well, actually, it was Buddy who used the cheese grater. This was the most time-consuming part of the entire process making it the perfect job for an 11 year old boy. If you don’t have one – you could borrow mine- but he does eat a lot.)

Add the grated Fels Naptha to a medium sauce pan along with 4 cups of water.  Heat over medium high heat while stirring occasionally until the soap has melted completely. (The funny thing is – the grated soap looks like amazingly like grated cheese – causing some puzzled looks since we heated it up as we were making lunch!)

While it’s melting, fill your five gallon bucket half full with hot tap water. (At this point your house will be smelling very – well – soapy. Pedro commented that our house hasn’t smelled this clean since Matt got the air freshener for graduation!)

Once the bar soap has melted, add it to the bucket along with the washing soda and borax.  Stir it well until everything has dissolved.  Add hot tap water to fill the bucket and stir again.

Cover tightly with the lid and let sit overnight to thicken.  Stir well (it will gel and separate a bit).  You have just made concentrate.

When you’re ready to use it, stir the detergent well, then fill your empty detergent container half full with the concentrate.  Fill the rest of the container with water.

Shake before each use.  Use 1/4 cup per load for a front loading machine and 5/8 cup per load for a top loading machine.

 I must confess that I had trouble mixing the concentrate the next morning. It was pretty globby (is that a word?!) and I finally gave up on using a spoon and used my hands to squish the globs.
Finally I measured out enough to half- fill my empty laundry detergent container into a large container, added that much water and used my immersion blender to mix it up. Perfect!
Also – if you are needing a good bucket and lid – I would highly recommend using a 5 gallon bucket and a Gamma Seal Lid . These plastic lids fit tightly on the top of the bucket but easily screw on and off. I love them!
Happy washing!

Peanut Butter Woes

I learned something very important recently.

So important that I am dedicating an entire blog post to it.

You might want to sit down.

Are you ready? Here it is –

You can’t bake with all-natural peanut butter.

It’s shocking – I know. But true.

So how did I learn this? The hard way, of course.

In our effort to eat in a little healthier – we purchased a tub of all-natural peanut butter. This is the good stuff.  The only ingredients are peanuts and salt.

It was so natural that the oil separated from the butter. It took Jan an entire evening with the end of my electric mixer attached to his cordless drill to mix it up again.

Dagmar – our peanut butter expert loved the taste!

But to be honest – the rest of us missed the sugar. It tasted so – well – peanutty.

Then we started baking with it.

You wouldn’t believe the disasters.

I guess all the hydrogenated vegetable shortening in regular peanut butter is important to the baking process.

The sugar helps, too.

Now you know.

You’re welcome.

Blackberry Streusel Coffee Cake

breakfastIt’s back to reality around here this week.

The kids are all home again – the washing machine has been going non-stop and there are muddy shoes all over the porch.  🙂

That also means it’s  back to cooking in large batches since those teens are bottomless pits who can empty a fridge in 36 hours or less!

But after my little “vacation” I should be full of creative thoughts – right?!

Well – this little breakfast experiment worked. I think you could even say it was a huge hit!

I combined 2 different recipes and threw in some frozen blackberries to make it fun.

If only all my experiments tasted this good! 🙂

Blackberry Streusel Coffee Cake

1-1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup oatmeal
4-1/2 tablespoons oil
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cup milk

Blackberry Filling

1 quart frozen blackberries
1-1/2 cup sugar (or less – to taste)
4 tablespoons corn starch

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons butter

Put the blackberries, sugar and corn starch into a saucepan and heat until thickened. Set aside.

Then make the streusel topping by combining the sugar & flour. Cut in the butter to make crumbs. Set aside.

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal. In a separate bowl combine the oil, eggs, and milk. Add milk mixture to oatmeal mixture until just moistened.

Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan.

Top with the blackberry mixture and streusel crumbs.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.


The Material Just Spoke to Me…

I had a quiet house this last week.

With three kids at TeenPact Iowa, Buddy at Grandma’s, and Matt working every day – it was just me. All day. In a big quiet house.

For a stay-at-home home school mom – it is a rare event. It was also wonderful! 🙂

So what did I do with my week of alone time? Well – I started the week with a big list of things to accomplish – but I got a little sidetracked.

On day two of my week of quiet I was still on target. My job for that day was to sort through all of the material we had stashed – fold it all neatly and put it in Rubbermaid tubs. After all the crafting the girls have been doing – and all the costumes they had made – it was a huge mess!

Matt carried the tubs upstairs before he left for the day and I got busy right after breakfast.

I was all business at first – but didn’t take long for the material to start speaking to me.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened – but I found myself putting pieces together to see how they would look. Little pieces of calico would call out “look at me! Wouldn’t I look pretty beside the dark blue over there?”

A quilt was forming in my mind.

By the time I had discovered 2 bias square plastic quilt forms that I had gotten at a garage sale – and forgotten I owned –  I was a goner.

I mean honestly – who wants to sort insulated coveralls and clean the attic when you can quilt!
Quilt 2Jan came home that night to a mess. I was sitting on the floor of the living room surrounded by fabric scraps and wearing a silly grin.

He helped me carry the sewing machine up to the sun room when the light was better and got out of my way.

I was on a roll!
Quilt 1By the time he came home the next night – the material was still spread out all over the living room, and threads and scraps had seeped into the entire downstairs.

But there was also piles of 9 patch quilt squares on both the dining room and sun room floor.

He took me to the Amish store for more material and batting.

Quilt 3By the end of the week I had enough squares to piece together 2 twin size quilts, a back ache from sewing, and a major mess in my house.

But boy was it fun!

I haven’t patched a quilt together for 19 years. Yes – 19!

I’m a little out of practice – but it’s all coming back to me.

The next step is backing, batting and basting. Then I have a whole lot of hand quilting to do.

Wonder if I can get them done and on the girl’s beds before Dagmar’s graduation in May?

Anybody up for a quilting bee? 🙂

Seed Starting Craziness

You’ll never guess what I did all last week!

Well, okay – maybe you will. After all – I have admitted to buying 63 packages of seeds – in addition to all the tomato and pepper seeds I mail-ordered. 🙂

SeedYes, I’ve been starting seeds.

Many, many of them!

Four kinds of tomatoes, sweet peppers, lots of the amazing Tam jalapenos, a new purple jalapeno, the dreaded ghost pepper, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, and 2 kinds of broccoli.

Oh – and several herbs too!

Seed flatsI got the plastic seed trays and inserts last year at Menard’s for half price.  We weren’t sure they would make it two years – but a little strategically placed duck tape should help us make one more season!

I got a good potting soil from the Amish store since my friend Carolyn said it was the best!

Once the seeds are planted the only thing I need to do is keep them moist. That’s the easy part.

Things get a little trickier when they start to sprout! Then they need light and warmth and lots of it.

I prefer using sunlight – but with this many plants started, we don’t have enough southern windows! Thankfully we do have 2 grow lights to use.

Then I water, rotate and generally fuss over the seedlings.

The object is to keep them alive and healthy until the temperature is right in the garden to take them out.

Sometimes I need to re-pot them into bigger containers so that they have room to keep growing.

Once the weather is warm enough to get them outside during the day – we take the flats out and sit them in the sunshine.

hardening off plantsMaking sure they are well-protected from marauding chickens and cats, of course! This “hardens”  them off and prepares them ready for the real world – the garden.

So why do I go to all the trouble to start my own plants from seeds? After all – I could just go buy them.

For one thing – it saves us a lot of money. When you plant in bulk – as we do – the cost of plants adds up. The over 50 tomato plants growing in my basement now cost us pennies, yet they will hopefully yield a year’s worth of spaghetti sauce, ketchup, tomato sauce and salsa.

Then there’s the variety. It’s so much fun choosing new kinds of seeds to try! Besides – the only way I can grow the wonderful tam jalapenos is if I buy the seeds and start them myself!

But mostly – I just love doing it! 🙂

I’ve linked this post up with the Tuesday Garden Party over at An Oregon Cottage.