Monday, May 14, 2012

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't throw away that empty toilet paper roll!

I've been saving toilet paper rolls for a couple of weeks now since seeing a post on Pinterest about all the cool things you can make from toilet paper rolls. So far, I've only got three rolls. It's going to take a while to build up a good supply because the last time I bought toilet paper, it was the Charmin Mega Roll kind. One of those rolls is equal to like 500 regular rolls, you know. They even had to send out special toilet paper extender bar things for your TP holder because the rolls are so huge they don't fit well in a standard toilet paper holder.

Check this out! Pin it! The possibilities are endless for something I once looked at as just trash. Oh, Pinterest, I love you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A festive St. Patrick's Day with Shamrock Shakes, green beer and corned beef and cabbage rolls

I'm a week behind on this one. Something about not having my precious phone puts me in a pouty mood. When I'm in a pouty mood, I shouldn't blog. I've got my phone back and have been happily blogging away today.

For St. Patrick's Day, I made corned beef and cabbage rolls. I found the recipe a while back on Pinterest. Oh. My. God. They were amazing! I never eat fried stuff because it kind of grosses me out, but this? Simply amazing. Oh sure, I had a hell of a time finding egg roll wrappers. How was I supposed to know they have to be refrigerated and would be in the refrigerated produce section? I had been staring at a tiny space devoted to Asian foods in an ethnic aisle for what could have been 15 minutes. I could have asked for help, but there wasn't an employee in sight, and I was lugging two small children around, and they were getting tired. I did find someone to point me in the right direction eventually, and I got some Melissa's brand eggroll wrappers.

Back to St. Patrick's Day--my little family went out to run a few errands and on our way back home we all got McDonald's Shamrock Shakes. A little piece of heaven. I want one now, just thinking about it. Then after I sucked down my shake and what was left of my daughter's shake, I got to work on those tasty little corned beef and cabbage rolls.

I made a huge mess as I always do when working with cabbage. Cabbage just gets everywhere when you're cutting it. Or, it does for me. I just make a mess when I cook anything. ANYTHING, I tell you. My husband ran to the liquor store to buy some whiskey for himself and some beer for me. I drank green beer while I made these rolls. I was feeling very festive. That may have contributed to the mess. I was also listening to Milli Vanilli radio on Pandora. I just thought you should know that.

Sprouts was out of Monterey jack cheese, which is what the recipe calls for, so I bought colby jack and figured it was close enough. To save time, I bought corned beef from the deli. Instead of bagged cole slaw, I bought a small head of cabbage. It was cheaper that way.

It took a while, but I got them all wrapped and fried. I served them with thousand island dressing (my favorite!). And then I moved on to make oatmeal cookies while a little bit tipsy. The corned beef and cabbage rolls were a hit with everyone except my son, who is weird. If you're not counting calories, give these a try.

Spring clean your mattress.

I saw this idea from Make it Do pinned a few days ago but had recently washed my sheets, so I meant to get back to it. Of course I forgot until last night when a diaper malfunctioned in the bed. Our daughter sleeps in our bed with us. She refuses to sleep anywhere else. Don't judge.

This morning I stripped the sheets and the mattress cover off to wash them, and looked up the pin and repinned it onto my "Cleaning" board. My strainer is still in the dishwasher from making refried beans yesterday (another blog post to come), so I just sprinkled the baking soda directly onto the mattress. I am also out of lavender essential oil, so I used tea tree oil instead.

After allowing the baking soda to do its job for a couple of hours, I vacuumed the mattress. I had help.

I have to say--I am impressed! It smells so much fresher in there. The tea tree oil scent is there, but it's not terribly strong. It just smells clean, and that is hard to accomplish when the entire family sleeps in that room. Give it a try! It works.

I'm on a quest to find the perfect sandwich bread.

My kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I do too. We use a lot of bread. Bread is expensive. So, I've been searching for the perfect sandwich bread recipe on Pinterest. I have tried a few and am in the process of trying another recipe.

The first bread recipe I tried was from Budget Bytes; a blogger I follow through Facebook posted the recipe saying she wanted to make it. It was her raisin spice bread. It was good, and it was very easy to make, so I thought I could start trying more recipes and possibly find one to make sandwiches from so I don't have to pay $4 for a loaf of bread at the grocery store.

A couple of weeks later, I tried Budget Bytes' honey wheat sandwich bread. It tasted good, and my children and husband devoured it, but it was dense and heavy and nothing like what I would think of as sandwich bread. Maybe I did something wrong, but it just didn't work for me.

I searched Pinterest for sandwich bread recipes and found a King Arthur Flour recipe for their Classic Sandwich Bread. I repinned it (of course!) and then I made it. For the first loaf, I subbed one cup of whole wheat flour for one of the three cups of all purpose flour. I took a few photos of that bread and the process of making it with the intention of blogging about it if it turned out well. I had high hopes. See?

It didn't rise as high as I had hoped and was denser than I wanted, but it was pretty.  After making that one, I decided to immediately make a completely white loaf from the same King Arthur recipe. I took pictures of that one too, but not after it was finished baking because my husband got home from work as I took it out of the oven and its pretty self got destroyed by my family. Take my word--it was pretty! It rose up better than the wheat loaf. It was fluffier and tasted better, too. The problem was that it was a bit too moist in the center, even though it was done. I also didn't like that the crust was hard. I don't know why the crust is always hard and tough, but if you have an idea of how to prevent that, let me know. When the crust is tough, it makes slicing the bread tough.

Here is the dough ball from the white loaf.

Again, take my word for it--the white bread rose up nicely and tasted great--especially with some butter and strawberry jam!

This morning I searched Pinterest for "soft sandwich bread" and found and repinned this recipe for Kitchen Simplicity's Soft Honey-Wheat Sandwich Bread. I've got the sponge part rising now and will finish it up soon and will let y'all know how it turns out. Here's what it's looking like so far.

I was thinking this was a huge ball of dough and I must have screwed up. Turns out, it pays to read a recipe all the way through before beginning. I know, I know. I'm lazy sometimes. This recipe is for three loaves of bread! Yikes. I hope it's good. Also, I've only got two loaf pans. Maybe I can freeze the third?

I ran out of bowls. This will have to work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade dishwasher detergent too? UPDATED

UPDATE (3/22): Well damn. We ran the dishwasher last night with this stuff and every glass is now encrusted in white--despite the vinegar rinse. I'm just going to add a cup of borax to this mixture I made and will grate my Fels-Naptha soap into it and use it for a laundry detergent. The search for a homemade dishwasher detergent continues. *sigh*

I didn't find it on Pinterest, but Food Inc posted a link to a story about making your own household cleaners. One of the tips is to mix two cups of borax with two cups of washing soda (more washing soda for hard water like I have in Lubbock) to make your own dishwasher detergent. I tried to pin the story, but Pinterest couldn't find a usable image. Damn!

Cascade packs are expensive. Even with coupons. I cringe when I have to buy them. Plus, who knows what's in them? Does it all rinse off your dishes that your family eats from? I don't know, so in light of all this, I was excited to read that I can make my own dishwasher detergent.

We have very hard water in West Texas, so I mixed two cups of borax with three cups of washing soda (remember--more washing soda for hard water) that I had leftover from making my own laundry detergent. I put the detergent in a clear plastic container identical to the one I used for the laundry detergent.


I am currently running my first load with the homemade detergent. I filled the pocket to its rim, and it seems to have washed out completely. Not bad, considering the gels and liquids never rinse out and leave a white, crusty residue.

The dishes appear to be clean and are in their final drying cycle. There's no funky fake fresh smell as you'd notice with a heavily scented commercial detergent. I guess that's good. I don't want to smell anything at all when I drink water...

So far, so good. I will update y'all after I have run a few more loads with the homemade detergent.

Update: The dishwasher finished, and I found some plastic in the top rack had a white powdery film. Boo! I filled the rinsing agent compartment with white vinegar and am running a rinse cycle only to see if that will remove the film. I'm keeping my fingers crossed because it would be really great if this works.

The vinegar as a rinsing aid worked! Excuse me while I do my happy dance! The vinegar removed the white film from the plastic and even my drinking glass was spotless and not hazy at all. So, if you try this homemade dishwasher detergent, the trick is to use white distilled vinegar in your rinsing agent compartment. 

Remember I'm terrible at taking photographs, so I apologize for the poor image quality. There was a big difference after using vinegar, even if my bad photos don't show it.

 That is as clean as Cascade Complete Action Pacs have ever gotten my dishes. I'm impressed.

Borax (20 Mule Team) and Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda can be found in the laundry aisle at Walmart. At my Walmart, the borax cost $3.38 and the washing soda was $3.24.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade laundry detergent

On a whim Saturday, I asked my husband to pick up the ingredients for me to make our own laundry detergent. We do so much laundry and go through so much Tide that it eats up a significant portion of my weekly budget--even with coupons. I quickly browsed Pinterest for a recipe and of course, I forgot to pin it, but not before I made my own batch of detergent. Fortunately, I found the site and pinned it.

The recipe on DIY Natural uses Ivory soap, which is smaller than a bar of Fels-Naptha, which is the soap I asked my husband to grab. I just don't like the way Ivory smells. Someone figured that the difference in the size of a bar of Ivory and of Fels-Naptha should change the other ingredients to equal just shy of two cups of borax and just shy of two cups of Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda.

To make it easier, I'm just going with two cups of the borax and washing soda, and if I remember I will put just a little less in the second cup. So, here's what I did. I grated an entire bar of Fels-Naptha into a large glass batter bowl. I used my fancy Microplane cheese grater's smallest side. Then I added the (short) two cups of borax and the (short) washing soda. I stirred it up and put it in a pretty clear container with a latch.

The Fels-Naptha smells nice and clean. It almost reminds me of the scent of Dial, which shouldn't be surprising, considering the two soaps are made by the same company. It made my kitchen, where I worked, smell great. The garage also smells a bit better too.

I use one to two tablespoons per load in the drawer of my front loading HE machine. I had been worried that it wouldn't melt completely or that it would leave a whitish haze on my darks, but I had none of the problems *some* people have had. Most of the reviews of homemade laundry detergent have been overwhelmingly positive.

I like it! It doesn't suds up like Tide does, but it seems to work well. I even used it on my cloth diapers, and those are fussy little things. As a bonus, it costs just a fraction of what Tide costs!

The 20 Mule Team borax cost $3.38, Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda cost $3.24 and the Fels-Naptha soap cost $.97. The borax and washing soda contain much more than enough for one batch, but I will need to buy some more Fels-Naptha. I haven't done any cost figuring, but others have determined that this detergent costs about $.05/load whereas Tide costs $.21/load.