Posts Tagged ‘homemade’

Custom Baby Pom Pom Hat on Etsy

Friday, October 28th, 2011

It dipped down to a chilly 46 degrees today by the time I took the kids to the grocery store this afternoon.  Luckily, Evelyn has the cutest little hat to keep her noggin warm! 

One of my friends has a shop on Etsy and sells handmade crochet items such as scarves, cowls, and these cute as a button pom pom hats.  You can visit her shop, afternoonowldesigns, by clicking here.  Rebecca also does custom orders.  If you see something you like, but want a different color or want to tweak something here and there you just send her a message.

From the minute we got out of the car to the minute I put her back in, people were commenting on the hat.  “She’s adorable!” “How precious.” “Where can I get one?” “Is that handmade?”  Almost makes me want to buy one for myself!

If you haven’t heard of you should really check it out.  Simply stated on Etsy’s site, “Etsy is the world’s handmade marketplace.”  People from around the world post hand made items online for other’s to purchase.  Eveything from clothes, crochet, pottery, paper, dolls, jewelry, furniture, housewares, art, and woodworking to decorations, purses, candles, soaps, plus much more can be found there. 

I love shopping on Etsy for the uniqueness and quality of the items, but also to support my fellow craftsperson.  If you have a hobby that you love, why not share it with the world?  If I ever find the time, I’d love to join Etsy and open my own shop.  Maybe I’ll try my hand at pom pom hats for adults.  :-)

Thanks Rebecca – We love the hat!

Clear a Slow Moving Drain with Vinegar and Baking Soda

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I have read from several sources that vinegar and baking soda will unclog a drain without using harsh chemicals such as Draino.  Now that I’m in my full post-partum hair shed-a-thon, we’ve finally gotten the opportunity to try.

Here is what you will need:

1/2 C. of baking soda
1 C. of water
approx. 1 gallon of hot water
drain plug

Helpful items: 1 wire clothes hanger, 1 paper plate/funnel, 1 chopstick or screwdriver

Okay, so here’s the gross part: the clog.  Our tub drained very, very slowly and got worse over a week or two.  It wasn’t fully clogged, but it was getting close.  When you are standing in 4 inches of water after a shower, you know its time to fix the problem!  We bent the end of a wire hanger into a small hook and fished out a hair clog.  The leftover gunk was extensive soap buildup and probably more hair down the line.  The drain was a little clearer after fishing out the hairball, but still clearly gunked up.

Using a paper plate as a funnel, we dumped the baking soda down the drain.  You’ll notice that the drain makes a 90 degree turn a few inches down.  The baking soda won’t magically turn the corner and pour down the drain.  You will need to coax it down with a chopstick or long screwdriver.

It took some fiddling, but the hubby managed to pack in 1/2 of cup of baking soda.

He poured in 1/2 of cup of vinegar and had the plug ready for the INSTANTANEOUS foam eruption (think back to your volcanoe science project).

When he capped the drain we could still hear the mix foaming and then a very audible “PoP” as the clog was pushed through.  We poured in the second half of the vinegar and plugged up the drain.  A much smaller pop was heard and there was much less push back from the foam.

We waited 15 minutes and then poured about a gallon of hot tap water down the drain.  First off, the drain was clean as a whistle!  The soap scum had vanished from the drain itself.  Second off, the clog was 100% gone and the water ran free.

Very Cool!  We were amazed at how well this worked considering how bad the drain was clogged. 

Here is more food for thought: 

A) We haven’t tried this on a clog with standing water.  I don’t see how it would work as the baking soda would dissipate in the water and wouldn’t react with the vinegar.  I could be wrong though. 

B) We also did not use boiling water as some other websites suggested.  We weren’t sure how hot our bathroom plumbing could stand.  212 degrees is a big difference from 120 and the hubby thought it might melt the caulk and cause leaks in the plumbing.  Hot water did just fine. 

C) I’ve read that it may take more than one application to clear the clog.  I guess that depends on what the clog is made of and how bad it is.  By digging around first, we were able to break through the first try. 

This treatment is suggested as a monthly ritual for all your drains to keep them clean and running free.  I am so impressed that I am adding it to our chore list!  Much less caustic than Draino and MUCH less expensive!  More money to save for a new house.

Cradle Cap Treatment

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

“Say what?!? I have dandruff?”  Actually, it’s called cradle cap.  Evelyn gets scaly, flaky skin on her scalp from time to time.  The docs say its harmless and is caused be a buildup of dead skin cells.  The cells get gunked up by her natural oils, which cause them to stick to her head in scaly patches instead of slough off.  Ewwww….

We went through this with Oliver too.  The doc guesses it doesn’t help that both my babies have a full head of hair, which helps to trap the dead skin.  Of course, the condition is harmless unless you are a freak like me who can’t stop picking at the flakes on her head. 

One quick fix I discovered with Oliver is to rub olive oil into the baby’s scalp and let set for a few minutes to soften the scales.  Next, use a baby brush and gently brush the scalp in small circular motions to loosen the dead skin.  Finally, give the head a good washing with some baby wash or shampoo and gently brush the scalp again to get rid of all the olive oil.

The cradle cap usually disappears with one olive oil treatment, sometimes two for severe cases.  As a bonus, her hair and skin were silky smooth – and she smelled like a salad!

Project 52: Glimpse Into Motherhood

Frugal Food: Chocolate Coconut Bonbons

Friday, January 7th, 2011

 chocolate bonbons

Over the holidays, I made some simple chocolate covered coconut bonbons to give to family and friends.  This recipe is super easy and fun to make.  My chocoholic friend says that these taste just like Mounds candy bars.  One of these days I might add an almond to some of the bonbons to make my own Almond Joys!

Ingredients: Makes 30-40 1-inch bonbons.

2 7ounce bags of sweetened coconut flakes
8 oz light corn syrup
16 oz chocolate candy coating


Wax or parchment paper
Cooking Spray to grease your hands
White chocolate chips
Toddler (Optional)

Day One:  Start by emptying the coconut flakes into a bowl or ziploc plastic bag.  If you have a toddler and are very brave, let him or her squeeze 1/2 the bottle of corn syrup into the coconut flakes.  (If you have just let your toddler do this, a very warm washcloth will clean up the mess no problem.)

Mix the coconut and syrup very well and then put it in the fridge to chill and firm overnight.  I like the ziploc bag for ease of storage in our fridge, but the bowl is easier to work with when rolling the coconut balls.

mix coconut and corn syrup well

Day Two: Break out your chocolate and melt it.  I used semi-sweet chocolate chips for the first trial and the resulting bonbons were subpar.  The chocolate coating was too soft.  This candy coating worked great.  Another option is to use baker’s chocolate and paraffin wax at a ratio of 1 oz of paraffin to 8 oz of baker’s chocolate.

candy chocolate

The candy coating could have been melted in the microwave in it’s own tray or in a saucepan on the stove over low heat.  I prefer the double boiler method to avoid burning or overheating the chocolate.  I put the chocolate in a metal bowl and set the bowl on top of a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water.  Stir occassionally and don’t let the bowl touch the water directly.

melt chocolate

If you didn’t make a big enough mess yesterday, let your toddler help you coat the coconut balls today.  Strip the baby down for easy cleanup later. 

cover cococonut balls

Otherwise, take out a small spoon and dig out a scoop of coconut.  Roll it into a 1 inch ball with your oil sprayed hands.  Drop a few balls into the chocolate mixture and use two spoons to coat each ball by rolling the ball from one spoon to another.  Rolling the balls from one spoon to the other helps to keep the round shape.

use two spoons

Your first few balls will probably look like the one on the right.  This is because A) the chocolate is too hot and is melting the coconut ball and B) you just need to practice rolling the ball and dropping it onto the wax paper.  With a few more practice balls, they will start looking like the one on the left.

cool chocolate

Don’t worry too much about shape and form.  The beauty of a homemade gift is the uniqueness of every bite!  You can stop now or continue on to spruce the bonbons up a bit.

dump on wax paper

For that little something extra, I melt white chocolate chips and a few shavings of paraffin wax in the microwave.  The paraffin wax helps to smooth and thin out the chocolate, in addition to setting it up when it cools.

melt white chocolate chips and wax

Microwave the chips for 1 minute at 70% power and then stir.  Add increments of 10 seconds if needed.  If you nuke the chocolate too much it will go from velvety smooth to the crud on the left in an instant.

Spread out a couple bonbons on wax paper.  You can fill a small plastic bag with chocolate and make a small snip off the corner to squeeze out white chocolate.  You can also use your spoon to drizzle chocolate from 12 inches or so above the bonbons.  If you have a toddler in the house, chances are you will have a medicine syringe too.  I like sucking the chocolate up in the syringe and then precisely dispensing it on the bonbons.  If you use the syringe you can run hot water through it to get the chocolate out and then run it through the dishwasher in the utensil basket.

Have fun with your designs! Drizzle some lines, spin some spirals, or pipe on some decorations.  Mix them with your plain bonbons for a nice surprise.

Frugal Tip of the Day:  Making your own bonbons is a low cost way to sweeten up someone’s day.  It’s even more inexpensive if you use coupons or wait until after the holidays to stock up on supplies.  Our ingredients, if left unopened, last quite a long time in the pantry.

Does It Work: Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

As you can see, I have used about 1/2 a gallon of my homemade liquid laundry soap.  That works out to 8 loads so far.  And the burning question on everyone’s mind?

Does it work?

Sort of.  I’ve done whites in hot water, whites in cold water, colors in cold water, and 2 loads of baby clothes in cold water.  Here’s what I’ve found:

1 ) The clothes all smelled clean, as in not funky.

2 ) For the most part the clothes looked clean.  I noticed that the whites looked a tad grungy – not bright, and that some stains merely faded rather than went away.

3) It takes more effort to use than conventional liquid detergent.  You have to really shake the jug up to break up the goo inside and then it slops and splashes into your cup.

4) The recipe used produced almost 3 1/2 gallons of soap.  That’s alot of soap to store and we don’t have much room in this tiny house.

Will I do this again?  Not with this recipe.  Perhaps the Coco Castille soap is too mild to be used for the laundry.  I could try again with Fels-Naptha, which is a true laundry soap bar.  On the other hand, making, using, and storing liquid soap takes more effort than using my tried and true powdered detergent recipe. 

The verdict:  I was not crazy about the liquid soap and how it cleaned.  I love my powder laundry soap recipe and the results I get from that.  I don’t see any reason to make the liquid soap again.

Tutorial: Making Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

After running out of my surprisingly excellent homemade powdered laundry detergent ,I set about making a new batch.  During my research for the powdered detergent, I found that the most popular soaps used were Fels-Naptha, Kirk’s Castile, and Ivory.  For this batch I wanted to try Kirk’s Original Coco Castile Soap.  I quickly found that Kirk’s Castile was too soft for my handy dandy Cuisinart processor to grind and was forced to try a liquid laundry detergent recipe to save the soap I had just mutilated. 

I researched over a dozen recipes online and they all shared the same ingredients:  A bar soap of your choice, Arm &  Hammer Washing Soda, Borax, and water.  The amounts of all ingredients varied with some concoctions ending up more concentrated or more gelatinous than other detergents.  I chose the recipe that had the most positive comments from readers from The Simple Dollar website.  My variation on the recipe is that I used 1 and 1/2 bars of Castile soap versus just 1.  Why?  For the simple fact that I thought my soap looked puny against the Fels-Naptha that I used previously.  Adding the extra 1/2 bar could totally be pointless, but I also didn’t feel it would hurt.

The following is my tutorial on how to make your very own liquid laundry detergent.

Ingredients:  Makes approximately 3 1/4 gallons = 52 cups = 52 loads

1 bar soap
1 C. washing soda
1/2 C. Borax
3 gallons + 4 cups water

1) Grate the soap into fine pieces or shave the soap with a knife into thin strips.

This is the result from putting a soft soap like Kirk’s Castile through a food processor.  The soap closest to the blades was pulverized to dust and then gummed up the machine.  While it wouldn’t work for a powdered laundry soap, which needs consistently sized granules, the soap was fine for melting in a pot.

2) Add 4 cups of water to a saucepan and bring to a nice hot simmer just under the boiling point.

3) Add the soap to the pan.  Let it heat up and melt.

Since I had such big chunks of soap, I improvised and used a whisk to mash the big pieces into smaller ones. 

4) While soap melts on the stove, add 3 gallons of hot water to a bucket.  I used a 2 quart juice container to add the water to a 5 gallon bucket.

5) Add 1 Cup of washing soda and 1/2 Cup of Borax to the hot water in the bucket.  Stir to dissolve.

6)  Add the melted soap mixture from the stove to the bucket and stir well to mix.

It took about 8 minutes to completely dissolve my big soap chunks.

7) Cover your laundry detergent and let set for 24 hours. 

8 ) Transfer detergent to containers, or leave it in the covered bucket.  Stir, shake, or mix the soap prior to each use.  Use 1 Cup of detergent per full-sized load of wash.

Notes:  Most all the research I did pointed to an end product that looked either thick, slightly gloppy, or gelatinous after 24 hours.  Most all detergents needed to be mixed before use due to the slight gelling of the ingredients.  I found that after 24 hours, my mixture did not appear goopy and felt like a very slick and soapy liquid that was slightly thicker than water.  As several days passed, my mixture started to gel. 

I have transferred my detergent to empty milk jugs and have already tested it on some laundry.

Is it worth it?

The total cost of the ingredients in this recipe: $2.69.
Cost per load (1 Cup of final product): $0.05

Gain liquid laundry detergent bottle 32 loads costs $6.99 or $0.22 per load.

Using homemade liquid laundry detergent over Gain I save $0.17 per load.  At 416 loads per year that’s a savings of $70.72.   I’d say that making my own detergent is worth it.

But does it work?  Tune in next week to find out! 

UPDATE 10/26: I have the results posted!

Does It Work: Homemade Powder Laundry Soap

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

I made a batch of powder laundry soap a little bit ago and have used it for about 10 loads of laundry: colors in cold water, whites in hot water. We use an old formula scoop, which equates to 1.5 tablespoons per load. The load is extra large. The soap dissolves easily, within seconds, in both hot and cold water. There has been no staining that I can tell, no lingering funky odors, and the dirt appears to be lifting from the clothes. There is a very slight Fels-Naptha scent to the wet clothes, but that disappears after a turn in the dryer.

Does it work?

Here are the results of the Norton test:

I took two old t-shirts and gunked them up.

The Gain t-shirt:

Everything but the ketchup and mustard came out.

The powder laundry soap:

Everything but the ketchup and mustard came out. (The arrow says “This is paint. Not dirt.”)

Side by side results:

The homemade soap cleaned just as well, if not a little better than Gain. The mustard on the Gain t-shirt is more vivid than the other mustard stain. In person, the ketchup is also slightly more vivid.

My verdict:

This money saving idea is a winner in my book. Since the ketchup and mustard did not come out in the Gain t-shirt, I say that my soap worked as expected. The soap takes 20 minutes max to make and costs pennies per load. We are happy with the results.

Now, does anyone know how to get rid of ketchup and mustard stains??

Tutorial: Making Foaming Hand Soap

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

I always thought foaming hand soap was too fru-fru for me.  I had tried a few of my friends nice smelling foaming hand soap and thought I would give it a try.  Well, I didn’t like my hands smelling like flowery cucumbers, so it sat in my bathroom forever.

Having a baby changed my mind real quick on foaming soap.  It is a million times easier to use to wash his hands than bar soap or plain old liquid soap with a pump.  When my fru-fru foaming soap ran out this week I was dreading paying another $3.50 for SOAP.  I researched online and came up with a foaming hand soap recipe!


1 Empty foaming handsoap dispenser
Clear liquid handsoap

For this experiment I cleaned out the foaming dispenser until clear water ran through the pump.

I used a ratio of 1/5 liquid soap to 4/5 water.  This dispenser was 8.5 oz.  I guessed that the pump took up an 1/2 an ounce of space.  I divided 8 by 5 to get 1.6 ounces of soap.  Subtracting 1.6 from 8 I needed roughly 6.4 ounces of water.

Remove the pump and add the water to the empty bottle first.  Next pour in the liquid soap.  By adding the water first bubbles will be minimized.  Twist on the pump and shake gently to mix the soap into the water.  (NOTE: The pump was about 1/2 an ounce larger than I expected, ergo the excess spilled all over the counter.)

I used the same method to fill an ordinary liquid soap dispenser as a control.

The ordinary pump produced no foam, just watered down soap.

The foaming pump actually produced soapy foam!

The results side by side.

I washed my hands with the foaming soap and it worked like a charm.

Provided that you have an empty foaming soap dispenser, the cost of this recipe was rougly $0.30.  That’s a steal!

Things to remember:

1) Do not use moisturizing liquid soap.  It can clog up the pump.
2) The ratio of water and soap may vary depending on the pump style.  Use more or less until you find something that works.
3) If the pump gets clogged after a bit, pumping vinegar through the dispenser should clear it up.

I will report back in a month to see how the soap and dispenser held up.

Frugal tip of the day: Need I say it?  Make your own refills for pennies instead of buying a new bottle.

UPDATE:  I emptied out a little of the soap mix and added more liquid soap to the bottle.  The ratio is now probably 2/5 liquid soap and 3/5 water.  Upping the soap made a thicker foam and has not clogged up the pump yet.  I’ll report back in a while to see if this penny pinching idea is worth it!

Tutorial: Making Homemade Powder Laundry Soap

Friday, March 19th, 2010

With a baby in the house, we wash a ton of clothes.  I’d say we wash at least 8 loads a week.  After buying another container of Gain for $11, I thought I would give homemade laundry soap a try.

I am choosing the dry method for this tutorial.  I purchased all the ingredients for this at my local Kroger in the laundry supply aisle.  I used Fels-Naptha for the bar soap.  Some people have used Ivory, Dove, etc… Do not substitute baking soda for washing soda.  They are not the same thing.

Ingredients:  Makes approximately 2.5 cups = 40 tablespoons = 40 loads.

1 bar soap
1 C. Washing Soda
1/2 C. Borax

1) Grate the soap into fine pieces.

I used 3 methods to grate the soap to see which one was the most efficient and worked the best.

A) The medium-fine side of a box grater.

It took about 10 seconds to do this little corner.  That’s a lot of grating to do!

B) A Black and Decker mini-chopper.

 I used a bread knife to cut the soap.  It cut easily with downward pressure.

I then chopped up the cut block a little bit.  It had the consistency of a firm cheese.

I pulsed the chopper about 4 or 5 times and it crumbled the bits.  I held the button down for a steady 5 seconds and the pieces did not get any smaller.

C) A Cuisinart processor.

I put the same sized soap crumbles into the Cuisinart and did a couple pulses of grind and a couple pulses on chop.  Within 10 seconds, the soap had been finely ground.

The results:

The Cuisinart was the winner.  It took 20 seconds to shred the soap.  The particles were uniform and fine.  The second best was the box grater.  It took 20 seconds to grate 1/8 of the bar, but also had uniform and fine particles.  Lastly, the Black and Decker just couldn’t cut it.

 2) Dump the grated soap in a container and mix in the washing soda and Borax.

 3) Store detergent in a sealed container. 

Use 1 tablespoon for a full load up to 2 tablespoons if it is really dirty.  We use one baby formula scoop per wash, which is about 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Is it worth it?

The total cost of the ingredients were roughly:  $9.10
The total cost of the ingredients in the recipe:  $1.88
Cost per load (1 Tablespoon): $0.04

Gain Detergent – Powder, 63 oz, 40 loads: $7.25 = $0.18 per load

Using homemade detergent over Gain saves $0.14 per load.  At 416 loads per year that’s a savings of $58.24. 

From start to finish, minus the trial and error, I would guess it takes about 20 minutes max to make a batch of soap.  I would say it is worth it.

But does it work?  Tune in next week to find out.  I will be doing a dirt test between Gain and my homemade soap.

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