Friday, December 23, 2011

A New Family Tradition

I kept hearing about this "Elf on the Shelf" idea and although it sounded like fun, I was a bit apprehensive about spending $30 on a non-essential item when we're trying to cut back. After some mental debate, however, I decided it would be worth it if we made some fun family memories, and that's why we adopted our own elf this year. He made his appearance before Thanksgiving, even though I had initially intended to wait until the day after Thanksgiving. (It turned out that the kids needed some motivation to work on their behavior, so along came the Elf on the Shelf, just in time.)

We decided to name him Coconut E. Butterfly, and we call him "Coco" for short. Brett had suggested "Ferdinand," and while I thought that was cute, it was easiest to mesh together the kids' ideas and give the elf a first name, middle initial, and last name. Mia suggested "Coconut," because it's a favorite word of hers and "Butterfly" because she loves naming things "Butterfly" right now. Unless it has changed, at least one of her baby dolls has "Butterfly" as part of her name. Logan suggested "E" because this is how he says "read." He says, "E" whenever he "reads" a letter or word. It was fun registering our elf's name and reading that it made Mrs. Claus smile when she recorded it in her book. Obviously, who wouldn't smile when reading that our elf is named Coconut E. Butterfly?

I wouldn't say that having the Elf on the Shelf has made huge improvements in Mia and Logan's behavior. Really, if kids are going to be naughty, they are naughty, but it doesn't hurt to have a reminder that someone is watching. Mia was skeptical from the get-go, insisting that he can't really talk to Santa because he's just a decoration. Brett eventually got her to agree that even if Coco can't talk, he can share with the other elves, who can report to Santa for him. Then, she and Logan became more and more excited by our elf. By mid-December, they were truly wanting Coco to have good reports for Santa, and even mentioning to each other and to me when they thought they had done something that would be labeled "good" or "bad."

The most important thing is that we are having fun with our new family tradition. I would almost say that I am having the most fun because I get to determine what Coco will do each night after the kids go to bed. It's a fun challenge for me to keep coming up with new ideas. The kids, of course, look forward to finding him in the morning, and often giggle with surprise and excitement when they discover him. It's now the last thing that Logan and I discuss when he goes to bed. He happily murmurs, "Elf" in anticipation of finding him in the morning. Here's the run-down on what Coco has been up to for 2011.

{Coconut E. Butterfly sits on the mantel after the kids find him. The kids know they aren't allowed to touch him, so Brett or I move him each morning.}

{The first morning ~ Chilling in the kids' chair.}

{Hanging on the bathroom doorknob}

{Coco says it's "Time for some fun!"}

{Not sure if sitting on a candle was the smartest choice, but it seemed okay at the time...}

{On the Christmas tree ~ An obvious choice}

{I worried he would blend in with the wreath too much, but Mia eventually found him.}

{I just realized it looks like he slid down the banister, not my intent, but funny, nonetheless.}

{Coco relaxes on a photo frame.}

{Sitting on the window ledge}

{Hanging out by the Advent Calendar, another family tradition.}

{Maybe next year I will add fishing line for a "Mission Impossible" elf.}

{"Chilling" by the refrigerator...}

{Coco isn't one to throw in the towel ~ in the kids' bathroom.}

{Caroling with the snowmen}

{This lampshade has since been broken, so thanks for the memories, Coco.}

{Feeling a little fruity, perhaps?}

{Hanging around on another picture frame}

{Sitting on the sofa ~ because sometimes you need to keep it simple!}

{Keeping watch over the baby gate at the top of the stairs}

{Sitting on the centerpiece. At first I had him straddling that candle, but it just looked wrong.}

{After running out of places to put Coco, I decided he needed to start "doing" things.}

{I forgot to move him this time, so I tucked him under my shirt, ran upstairs, and put him by Logan's lamp. The kids were none the wiser and Logan was thrilled because when had gone to bed, he was sure "elf" was going to be in his room in the morning.}

{Drinking a glass of water ~ Mia asked, "Mama, did Coco get thirsty during the middle of the night?" Then she answered her own question, saying, "I guess he did!"

{Coco built a Duplo tower, in Christmas colors, of course.}

{Elf to the Rescue!}

{Naturally, the next time I forgot to move Coco, he somehow wound up in Mia's room perched on her dresser.}

{Coco made some new friends.}

{Chatting with the Man in the Red Suit}

{Perched on top of a candle holder on the cupboard}

{Coco wrote his own Christmas list. Well, okay, I may have helped. Luckily, Mia and Logan are too young to recognize my handwriting! And since you're probably wondering, Coco requests the following: 1) new clothes 2) girlfriend 3) candy 4) pillow + blankets 5) puppy. Mia wondered if Santa has clothes small enough to fit him. Ditto with the candy and puppy.}

{Going for a sleigh ride, er, shoe ride?}
{A friendly little game of Chutes and Ladders}
{Coco made an elf angel in flour on the kitchen counter. I saw the idea online and thought it was cute, but messy. I wasn't sure if Coco should do "naughty" things since he is supposed to be encouraging the kids to make it on the "nice list," but it's his grand finale for 2011.}

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

  • cinnamon
  • applesauce
  • glue
  • bowl 
  • spoon
  • rolling pin
  • cookie cutters
  • plastic drinking straw 
  • spatula
  • cookie sheet
  • ribbon or yarn for hanging
  • scissors
  1. Preheat oven to about 175 degrees. Note: Only adults should use the oven.
  2. In a bowl, mix equal parts cinnamon and applesauce. Tip: If it appears too runny, add more cinnamon.
  3. Add a bit of glue. Tip: We used white glue, but you could try glitter glue for sparkly ornaments.
  4. Knead dough into a ball, and then roll it out until it is about 1/4" thick.
  5. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Mia made a bell and Logan made a tree.
  6. Use a plastic straw to punch holes in the top of each shape so that they can be hung later. Tip: If you don't have a straw, just poke a hole with a pencil or other pointed object, just make sure it is big enough since it may shrink a bit as the ornament bakes.
  7. Using a spatula, slide ornaments onto cookie sheet and bake for about 1 hour. 
  8. Carefully remove ornaments from oven and allow to cool. Tip: Ornaments may need additional time to air dry, so I would recommend setting them in a safe place for 1-2 days before hanging.
  9. Once ornaments are firm, cut a length of ribbon or yarn, thread it through, tie a knot, and your ornament is now ready to display. These ornaments smell great and would make nice gifts for grandparents.

Toilet Paper Tube Christmas Tree

Mia made a similar project at church using rolled pieces of green paper, but it didn't hold up very well. This seems to be a sturdier alternative. If you don't have pom poms, try sequins, glitter glue, or beads for the ornaments.
{By Logan, Age 2}

{By Mia, Age 4}
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • glue
  • scissors
  • stapler (optional)
  • green paint
  • tray to hold paint
  • paintbrush (optional)
  • newspaper
  • pom poms
  1. Cut 3 toilet paper tubes in half so that you have 6 tubes. (If you prefer, you can start with 6 whole tubes, but we found this harder to work with.)
  2. Protect your work surface with newspaper. Pour green paint onto a Styrofoam tray (or bowl or plate), and coat the tubes with paint. We used 3 different shades of green. Paintbrushes are optional; Mia figured out that you can just roll the tubes on the tray and that is faster than using a paintbrush. If you wish, you can paint the insides of the tubes, but my kids chose not to. Leave tubes on newspaper to dry completely.
  3. Glue or staple your painted tubes to form a pyramid shape: 3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 1 on top. (If you are using whole tubes, staples are highly recommended. Otherwise, glue works fine.) Allow glue to dry before decorating your tree.
  4. Trim your TP tube Christmas tree by gluing on pom poms for ornaments. Allow glue to dry completely before moving your project.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vinegar Fridays: Giveaway Results

Thanks to everyone who read my review of Green Grandma's Vinegar Fridays and congratulations to Kelly Thelen, winner of her own copy of the book! Kelly, to claim your prize, please send an email including your address to:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gingerbread Boy and Girl Puppets

Here's a craft idea that has double the entertainment value. Once the kids are done making their puppets, they can use them to put on puppet shows... just in time for the holidays.
{Gingerbread Boy Puppet by Logan, Age 2}
  • brown construction paper
  • pencil/pen
  • gingerbread boy/girl cookie cutters
  • scissors
  • craft stick/s (one per puppet)
  • glue
  • decorative items: yarn, buttons, puffy paint, pom poms, rickrack, sequins, etc.
{Gingerbread Girl Puppet by Mia, Age 4}
  1. Fold a piece of brown construction paper in half. Trace around a gingerbread boy or girl cookie cutter. Keeping paper folded, cut around the outline. You will end up with two identical gingerbread shapes.
  2. Have your child decorate one gingerbread cutout. Mia and Logan made eyes and mouths with red puffy paint. (I helped Logan with this.) Next, he chose buttons, so I helped him with the glue. Mia cut lengths of yarn to decorate her gingerbread girl, making clothes and hair. Once the gingerbread cutout is decorated, set it aside so glue or paint can dry.
  3. On the other gingerbread cutout, glue a craft stick so about half of it is sticking out the bottom.
  4. Make sure all embellishments are attached and glue is dry before doing this next step. Add glue to the entire plain gingerbread cutout including the part of the craft stick that is inside. Carefully press your decorated gingerbread cutout on top of the plain one, sandwiching the craft stick in the middle. Run your finger over the top of the paper to make sure all parts are glued down.
  5. Once glue is dry, you can play with your gingerbread puppets. 
P.S. Don't forget to check out my book review and giveaway for Green Grandma's Vinegar Fridays. Giveaway ends at the end of the day today (Wednesday, December 14, 2011), so you still have time! This book has many amazing tips for cleaning just about everything including pet messes and crayon marks from the walls. There is something for everyone, so be sure to like Green Grandma's Facebook page and let her know I sent you.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Rudolph Treat Cup

    While making Frosty the snowman treat cups as Mia's teacher gifts, I came up with this idea for reindeer treat cups to fill with home-made goodies and give to Logan's Early On teachers. This is a great way to use some of the tin cans that are taking up so much space in our recycling area, and they look pretty cute, too, especially with his little hand prints for antlers. Note: If using a hot glue gun, which I recommend, keep out of reach of children. Otherwise, you can substitute tacky glue so that older kids can do this project themselves.

    • tin can
    • brown paint
    • paint brush
    • newspaper
    • something to hold paint
    • pen
    • scissors
    • yellow felt (or craft foam)
    • red felt
    • 2 googly eyes
    • red pom pom
    • black dimensional paint (or marker)
    • gold sequins
    • hot glue gun (or tacky glue)
    1. If using a hot glue gun, first plug it in to warm up.
    2. Cover work surface with newspaper. Pour some brown paint onto a Styrofoam tray (or whatever you are using to hold paint), and coat the outside of a clean, dry tin can with paint. Tip: Foam paint brushes work well for this. Set can aside so paint can dry.
    3. On yellow felt, trace both of your child's hand with pen. Cut out the hand prints. Tip: If you don't have felt on hand, you can substitute craft foam.
    4. Decide which part of the can will be Rudolph's face. I suggest avoiding seams. Once paint is dry, use hot glue (or tacky glue if you prefer) to adhere on hand print on the each side of your can to make Rudolph's antlers.
    5. Finish Rudolph's face by hot gluing two googly eyes onto the can. Below the eyes, glue on the red pop pom nose. Draw a mouth with black dimensional ("puffy") paint (or use a black marker).
    6. Cut a strip of red felt long enough to fit around the tin can. I cut ours about 3/4" wide. Glue near the bottom to make harness. Lastly, glue gold sequins around the felt to look like jingle bells. Tip: To make it look more finished, be sure the overlap of the felt is at the back of the reindeer.
    7. Make sure that all glue is dry before moving or filling your Rudolph treat cup. Give as a gift or use as a decoration.
    P.S. Don't forget to check out my book review and giveaway for Green Grandma's Vinegar Fridays. Giveaway ends Wednesday, December 14, 2011, so you still have time! This book has many amazing tips for cleaning just about everything including pet messes and crayon marks from the walls. There is something for everyone, so be sure to like Green Grandma's Facebook page and let her know I sent you.

      Frosty the Treat Cup

      Does anyone else ever have to get out of bed to write down craft ideas that pop into your head at night? I'm guessing this doesn't happen to that many people, but you're in luck because this is the result of the "visions of sugar plums" that were dancing in my head. I decided that it's a cute idea for a teacher gift so Mia's preschool and dance teachers will each be getting one of these snowmen filled with homemade goodies. Note: I'm labeling this as a kids craft, although I did most of the work. Mia chose the colors of the buttons for the eyes and mouths and also the colors for the pop pom/pipe cleaner ear muffs. Older kids could do more themselves, and if you substituted tacky glue in place of hot glue, I would feel more comfortable suggesting that. Hot glue guns should only be used by adults.

      • tin can
      • white paint
      • paint brush
      • newspaper
      • something to hold paint
      • glitter (optional)
      • buttons (for eyes and mouth)
      • pipe cleaner
      • scissors
      • 2 large pom poms
      • broken bit of orange crayon (or pom pom or button)
      • hot glue gun (or tacky glue)
      • felt (optional for adding a scarf)
      1. If you are planning to use a hot glue gun, plug it in to warm it up.
      2. Cover work surface with newspaper. Pour some white paint onto a Styrofoam tray (or a plate) and paint the outside of a clean, dry aluminum can. If you want your snowman to be sparkly, sprinkle glitter onto the paint while it is still wet. Set can aside so paint can dry.
      3. Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Take one half and bend it slightly to form a "u" shape.
      4. Decide which part of your can will have the snowman's face. I recommend avoiding seams for this. Once paint on can is dry, apply hot glue to the inside of each end of the pipe cleaner and press down each end to make an arc across the top of the can. Apply hot glue to two large pom poms and then affix the pom poms on the ends of the pipe cleaners to finish the ear muffs.
      5. Lastly, make your snowman's face. Use hot glue (or tacky glue) to adhere buttons for eyes and mouth. Hot glue works best if you are using an orange crayon stub for the nose. If you don't want to use crayon for the nose, tacky glue will work to hold a button or pop pom nose. Tip: If using a crayon, rub it down so that one end is relatively flat. This is the part you will attach to the tin can. For the other end, you can color with or use a sharpener to shape it as desired. 
      6. We didn't do this, but you could also cut a strip of colorful felt and tie or glue it around the base of your tin can to add a festive scarf for you snowman.
      7. Allow all glue to dry before moving or filling your snowman treat cup.
      P.S. Don't forget to check out my book review and giveaway for Green Grandma's Vinegar Fridays. Giveaway ends Wednesday, December 14, 2011, so you still have time! This book has many amazing tips for cleaning just about everything including pet messes and crayon marks from the walls. There is something for everyone, so be sure to like Green Grandma's Facebook page and let her know I sent you.

      Saturday, December 10, 2011

      Christmas Sun Catchers

      I love making sun catchers with the kids because any time they want a project and I don't have a new idea, I can dust this one off and make it fit with the current season or upcoming holiday. While the approaching Michigan winter may not make me normally think of sunshine, these look pretty and remind me of stained glass windows, which is something I do think of at Christmastime. These can be made by toddlers on up, but they do require some parent prep work. If you aren't interested in drawing your shapes you can trace holiday cookie cutters like candy canes, Christmas trees, bells, stars, angels, gingerbread men, reindeer, or Santa Claus. I drew the ornament free-hand and traced candy cane and Christmas tree cookie cutters to make our sun catchers. Another option is to download a template, cut that out, and then trace it. For construction paper, we used traditional Christmas colors of red and green, but you could try black to make your sun catchers look more like stained glass windows. Or, use any color you wish.

      • pencil 
      • clear tape
      • scissors
      • clear contact paper
      • construction paper (We used traditional red and green.)
      • cookie cutters (optional) 
      • tissue paper (Again we used red, green, and some white.)
      • paper trimmer (optional)
      • hole punch (optional)
      • yarn, string, ribbon, etc. for hanging (optional)
      1. If you are making a shape that is symmetrical, fold your paper in half like a hot dog before drawing and cutting out your shape. This makes it go a bit faster, and hopefully it creates less frustration, too. If you are making a shape that isn't symmetrical, simply draw (or trace) your shape and cut it out on two pieces of paper. Tip: If you are using two pieces of paper, you will need to make sure they stay together so that you get identical Christmas shapes.
      2. Cut two pieces of clear contact paper (I used both a paper trimmer and scissors for this.) so that they are 1/4 inch larger than the construction paper all the way around. Tip: Do not remove backing from contact paper until you are ready to use it.
      3. Adhere one piece of paper to the clear contact paper so that there is a border of 1/4 inch all around the paper. Tip: Slowly peel the contact paper away from the backing as you smooth the construction paper down onto the contact paper. This way you don't end up with "bubbles."
      4. Have your child stick tissue paper squares onto the contact paper Christmas shape until it is filled. (Mia has created her own technique for filling in small spaces: crumpling up the tissue paper into balls. It makes the sun catcher a bit bulkier, but it does work, and I think it adds a bit of visual interest to the design. She helped Logan fill in the ornament hook using this method.)
      5. Layer the second piece of construction paper on top of the first, making sure that the Christmas shapes line up.
      6. Add the second piece of contact paper over the top, smoothing it down as you go. Trim away excess if desired, but don't trim too much or the sun catcher will not stay together. 
      7. You can display your sun catcher in a window using clear tape. Another option is to use a hole punch to make two holes near the top, thread some ribbon or yarn through the holes, tie it off, and then hang your sun catcher.
      Don't forget to read my review of the book, Vinegar Fridays, and enter for a chance to win your own copy. You have until Wednesday, December 14, 2001 to enter the drawing.

        Friday, December 9, 2011

        Vinegar Fridays: Book Review and Giveaway

        Green is My New Favorite Color
        I was very excited to receive a copy of Vinegar Fridays by Hana Haatainen Caye (aka Green Grandma) for review. Why am I so excited? Ever since Logan was born and I became a full-time mom, I have slowly gotten away from some conventional ways of cleaning and have switched to greener alternatives. Sometimes I look back and wish I had known about greener alternatives when Mia was a baby, but it is never too late to learn "new" things. While vinegar itself is not new, and the tips for using it have been known for generations, we have been bombarded by chemical cleaners in the past few decades. If you're like me, you have grown up using only commercial products for everything. Lately, we hear more and more news reports of things hurting our kids, so I am sure you will be glad to learn that there are simple, safe, and inexpensive solutions for cleaning practically everything! I never knew that vinegar has so many uses, and honestly, I had never used it all that much until last year when I began making my own cleaning solution. I am excited to be able to share some of Green Grandma's tips with you as well as point you toward a giveaway so you can get your own copy of this great little book.

        Something for Everyone
        Vinegar Fridays is a compilation of Green Grandma blog posts, organized into chapters of related items: cleaning in the kitchen, cleaning for other areas of the house, pest control, car care, kids, pets, health, beauty, and more. In the introduction, the author explains that her tips are "intended to change the way you traditionally do things -- and get you out of the habit of using chemicals and toxins in your everyday life." There is literally, something for everyone in this book. Several tips could easily fit into more than one chapter, so I found myself wishing there was an index for easy reference. Luckily, I had highlighted anything that I thought I might use (which means that my copy is full of neon yellow) and I found myself reading and rereading those highlighted sections this week, as I tried out as many tips as possible.

        Why Vinegar? 
        In chapter 2, Hana Haatainen Caye explains exactly what is in those commercial cleaning products and why you don't want them in your home.
          1. Floor and glass cleaners and furniture polishes contain ammonia, which "can cause skin rashes and eye, nose and lung irritation." (page 3)
          2. Toilet bowl cleaners, disinfectants, and laundry whiteners contain bleach, and when the American Association of Poison Control Centers' released its annual report for 2007, it showed that "over 14,000 children were poisoned by chlorine bleach." (page 3) When chlorine bleach is produced, mercury and dioxin, a carcinogen, are released. Bleach is also a skin irritant and can cause asthma attacks. Not to mention, that "when combined with ammonia, the result is a toxic gas!" (page 3)
          3. Formaldehyde can be found in several places in your home including your cabinets and carpet, as well as in disinfectants, furniture polish, and detergents. This can cause "nasal stuffiness, itchy eyes and nausea." (page 3)
          4. Glycols, found in degreasers, floor cleaners, and dry-cleaning solutions, can cause eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation.
          5. Many carpet and air deodorizers contain napthalene. Possible side effects of inhaling this include headaches, nausea, confusion.
          6. Petroleum distallates, found oven cleaners and pesticides can irritate the skin.
        If you are feeling scared and overwhelmed by all of that, don't despair. The good news is that you can replace all of your dangerous commercial cleaning products with vinegar, which is cheaper and safer for your family and your home. Vinegar is an effective antiseptic, and it cleans and deodorizes. What more could you ask for from a cleaner?

        Do Try This at Home
        Someone's in the Kitchen with Vinegar
        I definitely wanted to try a few tips from the book before reviewing it. As with everything, results vary. What works great for me, may be slightly different for you. Of course, this also means the ideas that didn't go so well for me, may have positive results for you. Really, you have nothing to lose by trying. My only major disappointment was using distilled white vinegar in the dishwasher (page 13). First, I tried making my own dishwasher detergent using Borax and Arm and Hammer Washing Soda. I expected this to work great since this is what I have been using to make laundry detergent for the past year. I was frustrated to find a cloudy film on all of the dishes, and that was even with using vinegar in the rinse compartment. I thought maybe I wasn't using enough vinegar, so I tried again, only the second time I used vinegar in the rinse compartment and our regular dishwasher detergent capsules. I still had very cloudy dishes, not spotty, but covered with a film. While I am sure it was harmless, it wasn't very appetizing, and Mia refused to drink from the cups that were cloudy. So, I wasn't interested in trying that again.

        You'll be sure to like this method of cleaning your microwave. "Put a microwave-safe bowl in the center of the oven with 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water. Cook on high for 90 seconds and let sit for a few minutes." Once the water has "cooled down a bit, just remove the bowl and wipe down the microwave with a damp cloth." (page 14) (Note: I used a microfiber towel that I got in a 24-pack at Sam's Club for about $12, and absolutely love.) This made cleaning the microwave super easy and I knew that the smells and any germs would be gone.

        Remember when I mentioned that I started making my own cleaner about a year ago? One of the first things I tried was straight vinegar for cleaning the toilet. I didn't like it because of the smell. I have changed my viewpoint on this as I have been using green cleaners. Yes, vinegar has a smell, but it always goes away in a reasonable amount of time, and I much prefer the smell of vinegar to the smell of bleach. This is increased by the knowledge that vinegar is safe to touch and inhale and bleach is not. (And I do not like wearing gloves when I clean.) That said, I decided to give distilled white vinegar another shot at toilet cleaning. (page 10) A couple of nights ago, I poured a cup of distilled white vinegar into the toilet and went to bed. In the morning, I scrubbed it a little, and was pleased with the results. The toilet was clean, sanitized, and even a bit whiter. I am convinced that the vinegar made a dent in the orange streaks in the the toilet bowl, which are caused by the iron in our well water. Verdict: You won't find a better toilet cleaner; it's simple, safe, and effective.

        Distilled white vinegar (1 tablespoon) also can be combined with water (1 cup) and baking soda (1 teaspoon) to make a fantastic room deodorizing spray. (page 19) Just mix in a spray bottle and use as needed. This is perfect for bathroom odors, including the ammonia smell coming from our small, open trash can where I keep Logan's used cloth diapers until I'm ready to wash them. I was curious if this would take away kitchen smell, too, like grease, and sure enough, it will. The plus is that I don't worry as much about where the spray lands because I know it is safer than the aerosol room spray I was using (as infrequently as possible because I was pretty sure it wasn't really a good thing, but I didn't know there was an alternative.) Now, I will never buy those sprays again.

        I cleaned all of the bathroom mirrors with a 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. (page 11). Spraying the solution onto one of my microfiber cloths instead of directly on the mirror made for sparkling, clear mirrors that were totally streak-free. That was a first for me.

        I was excited by that success so I decided to see what would happen if I took the same mixture sprayed on my microfiber towel and wiped down the chrome faucets, which always seem to have soap scum and mineral deposits on them. Wow! This was so quick to do, and it worked better than anything else I had tried before. I didn't even have to scrub them with a toothbrush.

        Next, I tackled the shower door. (page 10) It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but this turned out to be a sorely neglected feature of our master bathroom. To clean the shower door track, I poured undiluted white vinegar in it and let it soak for a few hours. When I went back, I rinsed with hot water and watched the gunk started pouring out. A little bit of scrubbing with an old toothbrush yielded a lot more gunk, hair, and orange iron build-up. It was pretty gross, but I feel better knowing I took care of that mess before it got any worse. And now that I know how easy it is to clean, I'm going on record to say that I have no excuse for ever again allowing it to get as disgusting as it was. To clean the shower door itself, I sprayed it with vinegar and then took my shower, allowing the steam to do the work for me. I wished I had a squeegee to wipe it down afterward. I'll have to add that to my shopping list. I did notice some film on the door when I went back later to check on it, so I sprayed more vinegar and gave it a light scrub with the toothbrush, followed by a hot water rinse. Problem solved. When I was scrubbing out the shower door track, I inadvertently discovered that the vinegar and toothbrush were taking off all that that build-up iron on the inside of the shower itself. You can't imagine how excited I was by this discovery! I have tried countless things to remove all that orange from our shower with little success, but all of a sudden it was just coming off and I was barely touching it. Needless to say, I tackled as much of the shower as I could with my little toothbrush and spray bottle of vinegar. (Note to self: I should probably add larger scrub brush to my shopping list to go along with that squeegee.) Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this one should tell the story of my rust removal pretty well.
        {Vinegar + toothbrush = less orange shower. No elbow grease required.}
        Around the House
        For cleaning the mini-blinds, a most abhorrent chore, I used a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water in a small bowl. (page 7) I put on some inexpensive cloth gloves (the stretchy winter kind), dipped my fingers in the solution, and then slid them between the slats in the blinds. This was time-consuming, like any other method of cleaning blinds, but it worked, and as a bonus I didn't have to worry about Logan poisoning himself when he started sticking his face into the bowl.

        By this point in my experiments, I am pretty sure that vinegar has magical powers. It's even giving me motivation to do chores that I let go longer than I should like dusting the wood furniture. (page 8) To do this, I made a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. I dipped one of my microfiber towels into the liquid and then started wiping the furniture down. This is fantastic for so many reasons. The wood looked wonderful, clean and shiny. It seemed to get rid of the grime that was built up in little crevices that I can't tackle with a dry cloth alone. I had previously been using my home-made all-purpose cleaner, but it didn't work this well, although I felt safer using that than back in the days of using Endust. It evens smells nicer than aerosol sprays (as long as you don't mind the smell of salad dressing). Once again, when Logan wanted to "help" I had no reason to be concerned for him touching or possibly ingesting my cleaning solution.

        The last of the household cleaning "miracles" was using vinegar as a carpet spot remover. Even if none of the other trials had been successful, I would be touting the powers of vinegar just for the fact that it did wonders for my carpet. As described on pages 48 and 49, I first used vinegar to eliminate a spot where (conveniently enough) the dog had just thrown up. There are a few steps to this but it's completely worth it. First, blot up liquid. Then, sprinkle baking soda over the spot and leave overnight. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda. Then scrub with distilled white vinegar and follow that with water. I was incredibly amazed by how well this worked at eliminating the spot and the odor, especially considering that we have tried a few different products, mostly geared toward pet accidents, with little success. Don't tell her I told you this, but the following day, Mia urinated all over the carpet. (Moms of preschoolers know that they get so involved in playing that they forget to go.) Of course after sopping it up with my microfiber towel, I reached for the baking soda. In the morning, I was worried when I saw so much urine on the surface of the carpet, but now I realize that is the way it was supposed to be. The baking soda did a great job of drawing it out and the vinegar took care of the rest. Once I knew that this works on pet stains and kid messes, my next question was "how will it do at tackling set-in stains of unknown origins?" I am thrilled to say that it got rid of one, so I am planning to do the rest of my house as time allows. If only I had known about this sooner, it would have saved me a lot of frustration, time, and embarrassment. Since seeing is believing, I have included some before and after photos of my amazing carpet stain removal experiments.
        {Urine Stain (aka "Pee Pee") -- with Baking Soda}
        {Urine Stain (aka "Pee Pee") AFTER -- Can you say "Wow!"}

        {Stain of Unknown Origin -- BEFORE}
        {Stain of Unknown Origin -- AFTER}
        I Feel Pretty
        Okay, after all of that cleaning, this may come as a surprise, but vinegar is my new favorite beauty product. Earlier this week I posted about my experience with no 'pooing. My new method of hair washing without shampoo was inspired in part by Green Grandma herself, and involves, you guessed it, vinegar. I've been no 'pooing for 7 weeks now, and I have no plans to go back to shampoo. To read about my experience, see my post. For more information check out Green Grandma's post or chapter 11 of the book, Vinegar Fridays, which is devoted to the topic of no 'pooing.

        If vinegar is good for hair, it must be good for nails, too since they're made of the same stuff, right? After soaking my feet in a bowl of water mixed with 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar, I polished my toe nails. I was hoping that the soak would smooth out my cracked heels like it did for Green Grandma (page 23), but I must have set my expectations a bit high. My feet were soft, but I still had dry, cracked heels. Oh well, I figured, and decided to try out the nail polish since she said it would go on smoother and last longer after an application of vinegar. (page 26) (Honestly, I didn't expect the foot soak to be a miracle cure, so I wasn't terribly disappointed.) Verdict: the polish did go on more smoothly, and as far as I can tell it lasts longer (no chips yet, and it's been a few days). So, this was a success.

        I really wanted the acne remedy to work. In fact, I think this is the first thing I actually tried from the book. (pages 26-27) In a plastic container with a lid, I mixed 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. I apply this morning and night after I wash my face. I decided this is healthier (and cheaper) than the store-bought astringent containing things I cannot even pronounce. Right away, I was sure it was working. I remain optimistic despite getting two new breakouts. It certainly isn't any less effective than the store-bought stuff, because I was getting zits while using that, too.

        I haven't used face masks in awhile. As any mom will tell you, we don't spend as much time or money on ourselves as we did in the BC era (Before Children), so that seemed like an obvious extra to cut out of the beauty regimen. However, after trying Martha Washington's Vinegar Facial Mask, (page 25) I am planning to make this a weekly me-time ritual. It's easy to make up; there are only 3 ingredients. Combine 1 egg, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, apply to your face, and wait 20 minutes before rinsing with warm water. I know that this improved my skin because my husband commented on it both the evening that I did the mask and the morning after. My skin was fresh and glowing, and I swear it even felt tighter, at least temporarily. This will definitely give you some exfoliation, just not in a harsh way like those scrubs do.

        High Hopes
        There are many, many more tips and tricks contained in the book, Vinegar Fridays. I am sure it will take me a few months (or even years) to get through them all. The good thing is that I have this guide to refer to whenever the need arises, and I have high hopes that vinegar will get the job done. I've compiled the following list of tips I am sure to use in the near future:
        • removing crayon from the wall (page 8)
        • hiding scratches in wood furniture (page 9)
        • cleaning the grime off cupboard doors (page 13)
        • unstopping clogged sinks (page 15)
        • getting garlic or onion smell off of hands (page 20)
        • eliminating odors after carsickness (page 21)
        • for minor cuts and scrapes (page 24)
        • wart removal (page 26)
        • relief for aches and pains (page 33)
        • to soothe coughs/congestion (page 34)
        • to prevent ear infection (page 35)
        • relief from nausea and vomiting (page 36)
        • sunburn relief (page 43)
        • treatment for itchy skin-- caused by bug bites or poison ivy, sumac, etc. (page 44)
        • gum removal (page 45)
        • cleaning toys (page 46)
        • all natural flea-bath and preventive -- To keep in mind for when it gets warmer (page 47)
        • cure for pet's hot spots (page 48)
        • keeping rabbits out of the garden (page 51)
        • getting rid of ants --This will have to wait until next summer. (page 54)
        • laundry stains and other woes (pages 60-61)
        Two Ways to Get Vinegar Fridays
        Want more great ideas that will save you money while making your home clean and healthy? Buy the book, Vinegar Fridays by Green Grandma, Hana Haatainen Caye. Or win a copy of Vinegar Fridays by doing the following:
        1. Like Green Grandma on Facebook.
        2. Post a comment on the Facebook page letting her know I sent you. Simple, huh?
        The deadline for this giveaway is Wednesday, December 14, 2011. One winner will be randomly selected by Green Grandma. The winner will be announced on this blog.