Wednesday, April 30, 2014

April at Our House

4/1/14 {Responses to our April Fools' Dinner}
L: "Tricky meatloaf is yummy!"
L: "I don't want to eat cardboard."
M: "Brown E's... I get it! Good one, Mom!"
That was a fun evening!

4/4/14
Me: "Why are you walking into me?"
L: "I'm playing bumper cars!"
Right. I should have known that.

4/5/14
At her first full-length musical, State Fair (featuring her friend, Maggie!), Mia turned to me at intermission and asked, "Is this halftime?"
And this is my first clue that she spends more than enough time watching sports with Daddy...

4/6/14
M: "I want another pickle for breakfast!"
I don't even know what to say to that. Ew. Just ew.

4/8/14
M {upset}: "They wrote this backward."
Me: "They wrote what backward?"
M {points to "LOVE" on her sweatshirt}: "This."
Me: "Oh. They didn't write it backward. It just looks that way in the mirror because you see the reflection.
Yep.

4/8/14
M: "Do you think fish know how to smile?"
In general? Maybe. At our house? Not so sure... We're having a streak of bad luck with keeping them alive. I didn't mention it here yet, but Orangey died last Friday. This means that we are on our third betta fish in less than five weeks.

Mommyism: "Don't use the baseball bat to hit dog poop!" (4/8/14)
Yes, I am the mother of a boy. This probably should NOT have surprised me.

4/9/14
L {points to dead bird that he found}: "Mom, what kind of bird is that?"
Me: "That's a grackle."
L: "What do grackles do?"
Me: "Well, they fly around and... drop dead in our yard, apparently."
Yeah, I need to get better at answering this type of question.

4/14/14
L {describing the sound of a peacock from the nearby farm}: "It sounds like a animal is saying 'help' or 'ow!'"
I totally get that, although I have always thought they sounded more like big cats.

4/14/14
M: "Uh, Mom... You might need to help Logan. And you'll be surprised when you see him."
This is what I discovered: he was stuck with his feet up in the air, between the arm chair and the wall. Turned out that he had dropped a toy back there and decided to retrieve it head first, but then he didn't know how to get back up. Also, he likes mismatched socks.

{That's my goofy boy.}


4/15/14
L {biting into a black bean}: "Hey, there's a potato in it!"
Well, sure, I totally put a potato in there -- whatever gets you to eat it.

4/15/14
L {trying the taco soup that he initially refused}: "Nummy yummy! When I say, 'nummy yummy' that means really good!"
Thanks for the clarification, but I actually figured that one out on my own.

4/15/14
M {on why she slipped and fell in the kitchen}: "I didn't do it on purpose. It was the floor's fault!"
Obviously.

4/16/14
M {while we were reading Froggy Plays T-Ball}: "It's called home plate because it looks like a house."
I never really thought about it before, but if that's NOT why it's called that, then it really should be!

4/18/14
L {on springtime allergies}: "Sneezing causes snot to come."
Unfortunately, that is true.

4/21/14
M {toweling off her hands after digging in the yard}: "Mud is NOT for us. Mud is for worms."
Thank you for sharing. Now please go inform your brother of this revelation.

4/24/14
Logan overheard me talking to myself and asked, "Why did you call yourself Meg?"
Me: "What should I call myself?"
M {chiming in}: "Mom!"
Yes, as a matter of fact, my name IS Mom.

4/24/14
M {on Brett's choice of the number 3 for his softball jersey}: "You should have picked 1 and then you could be the rock star dad!"
Yeah, why didn't you think of that, Dad?

4/26/14
M {on Brett's use of the new hedge trimmer}: "Wow! Look at that rectangular prism bush!"
Then, pointing to an untrimmed bush, she added, "Can you make that one look like Mickey Mouse?"
I love that she thinks that he magically developed the ability to transform overgrown shrubbery into topiaries. Way to dream big, little girl.

4/27/14
M {dancing around before bedtime}: "I feel like I should do yoga. I don't know why. Wait, what is yoga?"
Wait, she wants to do something but she doesn't know what it means?! Should I be concerned?

4/27/14
L: "Monsters -- when they're dead -- can turn into dirt and grass. And dinosaurs' bones turn to stone. Do dragons have bones?"
Me: "Um, I guess."
L: "So their skeletons turn to stone, too!"
Apparently so. He would be more of the expert on this subject.

4/29/14
L {on why the orange centipede was trying to get away from him}: "Maybe he's playing hide-and-seek!"
Riiiiiiiiight. Or maybe he heard that ours is the house where fish come to die and he decided to get the heck of out Dodge. Either that, or he learned that you were the boy who pulled the curtain rod out of the wall -- and that just can't be good for a bug. It simply cannot be. In other news, he didn't get the memo that dirt is NOT for us.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rollin' On...

I now have two children who can ride two-wheel bikes without training wheels! How is that even possible? On Saturday, April 19, Logan requested that Brett take the training wheels off his bike. I was in the house at the time and didn't even know that this was happening until Mia came running in to tell me that I "might want to see this!" Apparently, he got right up and started riding like it was no big deal. Um, you think I might like to see that? And take photos and video!

{Tongue out in intense concentration as he gets started...}


{And he's off. Look at him go!}


Proud mama right here, folks. I guess all that practice on the Strider really paid off. He knew how to get started, balance, turn, and stop all on his own! With tons of confidence. And when he falls down (which is hardly ever) he just gets right back up. I am so amazed!

*                  *                   *                   *                  *                  *                   *                  *                 *                    *                   *                   *
In other news, I am pleased to announce the results of the giveaway sponsored by Path Publishing! Congratulations to Liz! Liz, I will be in touch with you soon.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Teddy Bear Toast

I saw a picture of this on Facebook and decided to make another cute breakfast this past weekend. (In case you missed it, I had made Easter bunny pancakes the previous weekend, so I may have started something...) Anyway, this cute toast was quick and simple to make, and it made Mia really happy!

Ingredients:
  • 1 piece of toast
  • peanut butter (or nut-free spread or butter, if you live in a nut-free house)
  • 3 slices of banana
  • 3 raisins
{Does your breakfast make you smile?}


Directions:

  1. Spread peanut butter (or nut-free alternative) on a piece of toast.
  2. Place three banana slices on top -- two at the top corners for ears, and one near the center (ours was slightly lower) for the muzzle.
  3. Add three raisins -- two for eyes and one placed sideways on top of the banana slice for a nose. (You can "glue" it in place with a dab of peanut butter, if you wish.)
  4. Enjoy some tasty and adorable teddy bear toast!


P.S. Don't forget that today is the last day to enter my giveaway. You don't want to miss out on winning a free recipe book or other blank book of you choice -- from Path Publishing!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Natural Dyed Eggs Experiment

We've decorated Easter eggs in a variety of ways over the years, and for something new, I decided to make our own natural dyes this year. The results were not as great as they could have been, but I have figured out the basics for making homemade dyes, and I now know what to do differently next time. Up front, I should have prepared the dyes the day before we wanted to dye eggs since this was a time-consuming process. Since I felt the time crunch, I didn't let the dyes steep nearly as long as I could have (and probably should have) in order to get deeper color saturation. Also, I would have liked to try to make more variety of colors, but for my first attempt, 3 seemed like plenty!

{Left to right: spinach, beet root, carrot, plain white egg}

The first color that I tried was red/pink. I used my beet root powder that I've been using to make lip gloss, blush, and eye shadow. (And as an aside for anybody who is wondering, yes, I love all of these homemade makeup recipes and I wear them daily!) There may be another way to make dye, but I kept it super-simple. I just put a small amount of beet root powder in a bowl and then added some water. I stirred it until the beet root powder was dissolved and let it set until we were ready to use it. I thought that this would produce the most intense color on the eggs, and I was surprised that it wasn't the winner in that respect.

Next up, I wanted to make green out of some fresh spinach. I pureed the spinach (maybe two cups?) in my blender and then placed it in a pot on the stove top. I added a couple cups of water, and brought it to a boil. Then, I put a lid on it and simmered it for 1 1/2 hours. (This is one that most likely should have simmered longer, but again, I had that time crunch -- children who were ready to color eggs!) In retrospect, too, I wished that I had strained it because this dye left green flecks of spinach on the egg shells, which didn't look as interesting as it might sound -- more like they were kind of messy. So, note to self: have cheese cloth on hand for next time. The good news, however, is that this was the clear winner for most intense dye of the three that I made.

Lastly, I attempted to make orange dye using fresh carrots. This is another one that likely needed to simmer longer. It produced the faintest dye of the ones I tried. Most of the color came from the flecks of carrot that were left on the egg shells. (So, perhaps this one needed to be strained, too?) I chopped 4 medium size carrots and pureed them in my blender along with some water. Then, I placed them in a pot with more water, and brought it to a boil. After that, I simmered the pureed mixture with a lid on top for 1 1/2 hours.

{Natural Dyes from Beet Root, Spinach, & Carrots}


To dye the eggs, I put some of each homemade dye into a bowl, added about a teaspoon of vinegar to each (possibly unnecessary?), and let the kids put the eggs in to soak. We tried letting them sit in the dyes for 5 minutes and for 10 minutes, without noticeable differences in color saturation. (I can't even identify which is which for you in the above photo, but one row is the 5 minute-colored eggs and the other is the 10-minute colored eggs.) Anyway, the takeaway here is that you may want to leave eggs in the dyes for much longer if you want more vibrant colors! Also, we tried this on both white eggs and brown eggs, and it pretty much goes without saying that this worked better on the white eggs.

Just looking at the dyes, I thought that we would have better luck getting vibrant eggs. The good news, however, is that these dyes are completely safe -- if not all that intensely pigmented. I knew exactly what went into them. And, none of them -- beet root, spinach, or carrots -- flavored the eggs in any way. (Admit it, you were worried about that, right?) So, even though they weren't as bright as my kids and I hoped for, it was still a win and worth trying out.


P.S. Don't forget to check out my review and giveaway sponsored by Path Publishing! The giveaway continues through tomorrow, April 28th, so you still have time to enter to win your own blank book of your choice.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Easter Bunny Nose & Whiskers Craft

Here's a super easy project that you can quickly make with your kids. Older kids can do this on their own and little ones can do it with some assistance. Mia made this all by herself last week when we were at church on Good Friday. It's not exactly a mask, but it's the same idea, and it's way too cute not to share!

{Cute and Simple Easter Bunny Craft!}


Materials:
  • craft stick
  • pom pom
  • three pipe cleaners
  • white glue

Directions:
  1. Glue a pom pom (your choice of color) to the end of a craft stick.
  2. Wrap a pipe cleaner (your choice of color) around the center of the craft stick, below the pom pom, so that there it each end sticking off of the craft stick is approximately the same length. Repeat with two more pipe cleaners, one at a time. You can trim the pipe cleaners if desired. (Alternatively, you can switch the order of the first two steps and glue the pom pom on TOP of the twisted pipe cleaners. Your choice.)
  3. Allow glue to dry before modeling the bunny nose and whiskers.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to enter to win my giveaway sponsored by Path Publishing, which runs through Monday, April 28, 2014!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Spring Wreath Craft

Mia recently made this wreath at church, and I wondered why we had never made a wreath with tissue paper before. We have made a few wreaths in the past including this hand traced one for fall, this egg wreath for Easter, and this toilet paper tube holly wreath. This version is both beautiful and very simple, making it perfect for even toddlers to help create!

{Pretty Easter Wreath by Mia, Age 7}


Materials:
  • paper plate
  • scissors
  • white glue
  • tissue paper (in your choice of colors)
  • ribbon/yarn for hanging
  • hot glue gun (optional, for attaching ribbon/yarn)

Directions:
  1. Cut the inner circle out of a paper plate. Do not discard it because it makes a perfect glue holder.
  2. Cut tissue paper into small rectangles. (Tip: If you want your child to practice scissor skills, she may be able to help with this step. If you are doing it with a large group, it is best to do this in advance. Another option is to have kids tear off pieces of tissue, but again, it's often best to prepare in advance.) Our pieces of tissue paper were about 2" x 2" I believe, but you can make yours bigger or smaller, depending upon your preference and the ability of your child. (Tip: Don't buy new tissue paper! Just reuse that old stuff that came in gift bags. If you have to buy tissue paper, though, don't spend a lot. You can find it at Dollar Tree and most grocery stores.)
  3. Pour a small amount of glue onto the inside circle. Have your child bunch the tissue paper up, dip it into the glue, and the apply it to the paper plate ring. She will keep doing this until it is filled up (or until she gets bored and decides it's finished).
  4. Cut two lengths of ribbon (or yarn). Tie one into a bow and use a glue gun to apply it to the front of the wreath. Ours it at the bottom, but you can place it wherever the child wants. Make the second piece of ribbon into a loop and adhere it to the back of the wreath for hanging. (Tip: If you don't have a hot glue gun or you don't want to use it around young kids, you can also use glue dots or a stapler. I wouldn't recommend white glue for this job, though, since it's not really sturdy enough.)
  5. Let all glue dry before displaying the wreath.

Since you're here anyway, please check out my review and giveaway, sponsored by Path Publishing! The giveaway goes through Monday, April 28, 2014, which means that you still have plenty of time to enter to win your very own blank book. With lots of options to choose from: recipes, kidisms, gardening, and more, you will definitely find something to make your life a bit easier. Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Eggs for the Birds

I found this idea in the the April 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine (page 36) and it reminded me of the hanging birdseed treats we had made over the winter. The recipe includes the same ingredients, but in slightly different proportions. I had the idea to make these eggs into hanging treats, but the embroidery floss didn't stick in them very well because when we opened the plastic eggs to take the treats out, the embroidery floss came out as well. Not a big deal, though. We just found places to set them and make an Easter egg hunt for our feathered visitors. (I can't help but wonder if this would have worked with the recipe used for the hanging birdseed treats? We may have to try it some other time.)

{An Egg Hunt for the Birds}


Materials:
  • 2 packets of unflavored gelatin mix (We used Kroger brand.)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (I used boiling water.)
  • 2 1/2 cups birdseed
  • cooking spray
  • 12 plastic Easter eggs

Directions:
  1. Dissolve the gelatin in hot water.
  2. Mix in the birdseed. (Kids can help measure, pour, and stir.)
  3. Spray the insides of plastic Easter eggs well with cooking spray.
  4. Spoon the birdseed mixture into the eggs and press down firmly, filling both sides of the eggs. (Kids can do this step.)
  5. Snap the eggs shut and let them set overnight. (We placed ours on a cookie sheet and left it in the refrigerator like we did with the cookie cutter birdseed treats mentioned above, but this may not be necessary.)
  6. In the morning, remove the birdseed eggs and place outside where you can watch the birds enjoy them. (Kids will love helping with this step!)
{Happy Easter!}


Don't forget to head over to my review and giveaway to win a free blank book from Path Publishing. (One book that you can win is the Kidisms journal, where you can record all the cute and quirky things that the kids have to say.) The giveaway goes through April 28, 2014, so you still have time to enter!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hoppy Easter Pancakes

I saw a photo on Facebook the day before Easter and decided that I had to make these for the kiddos on Easter morning! It was a cute and fun breakfast, and it didn't take much longer than it does to make "normal pancakes." I used the following recipe for pancakes, but you can make yours from a mix if you prefer. For a healthier version, you can also substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour or use a 50/50 mix of the two. There are lots of possibilities for making these pancakes bunnies!

{Bunny pancakes made my kids "hoppy!"}


Pancakes (Makes 8)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I like EVOO.)
  1. Combine ingredients in a large bowl and blend well. (Tip: For fluffier pancakes, you can first sift your flour. I usually skip this, though.)
  2. Preheat griddle. I use the medium setting which is 300*.
  3. Once griddle is heated, pour batter in 1/4 cups measurements. Wait for the bubbles to form and then flip the pancake over. Cook the second side and remove from the griddle, checking to make sure that it is cooked all the way through.

How I Made "Bunny Pancakes"
  1. I poured a small circle for the head and a larger circle for the body. Next, I made two oval shapes, smaller than the head. These became the feet. Then, I poured two "dribbles" that were long and skinny to make the ears. 
  2. I assembled the bunny from the top down. First ears, then head on top, body on top of head, and then the two feet. It looked like we had just missed the Easter Bunny and he was hopping out of sight.
  3. I didn't have any shredded coconut on hand for the tails, and I considered making some whipped cream, but decided it wasn't worth it. I could have used marshmallows for he tails, but in the end, I opted for some fresh raspberries.
  4. For the toe pads, I placed three sliced almonds on each foot. Then, I added a dollop (about 1/4 teaspoon) of real maple syrup to complete them. The photo I had seen used sliced bananas which was perfect, but I was out of bananas that morning, and it's always smart to use what you have!
  5. Serve while warm, and you're sure to make "somebunny" quite "hoppy."
{Hoppy Easter, everyone!}

P.S. If you enjoyed this recipe, you'll probably want to write it down. Check out my giveaway where you can enter to win your own blank recipe book (or any of the other handy blank books offered by Path Publishing)!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recycled Snake Craft

Last week was spring break so I promised the kids a trip to "the big library." We lucked out because we just happened to go during the 1 hour that they had a craft room open! It was toward the end of the hour, so we had to carefully pick and choose how to spend our time. I pointed out that some of the other projects were ones we could easily do at home, but this one in particular intrigued me so I asked them to help me create it.

In just about 5 minutes, we ended up with this friendly blue snake made from recycled materials. I think it's fitting to share this clever craft idea now since today is Earth Day. If you've got some old tights that you were thinking of tossing out, here's a nifty way to re-purpose them into something fun and new. Isn't it fabulous?

{I Ssssssssssssssee You!}


Materials:
  • old pair tights (or pantyhose, if you don't mind your snake's body being sheer instead of opaque)
  • scissors
  • newspaper
  • googly eyes (or eyeball stickers)
  • scrap of paper, felt, ribbon, or yarn for tongue
  • glue

Directions:
  1. Cut the legs off a pair of old tights (or pantyhose). One pair of tights will make two snakes.
  2. Stuff one leg with crumpled or wadded newspaper. Depending on the size of the tights, it may be helpful to first cut the paper into smaller rectangles.
  3. Stuff the nylon full of newspaper, leaving about three inches at the end. Use this material to tie a knot, closing the end. It's stretchy, making it easy to work with!
  4. Glue on two googly eyes. We were provided with eyeball stickers for this, but I think googly eyes may hold up better long-term.
  5. Glue on a tongue. We placed ours right along the seam, which reminded me of a mouth. The tongue we were provided with was a yellow construction paper rectangle with a fork at the end. I curled it slightly around my finger before gluing it to the tights. If you don't want to use paper, I think felt, ribbon, or yarn would be a more durable alternative. This is resourceful, too, if you already have bits of those items laying around.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to check out my review and giveaway from Path Publishing! The giveaway runs through April 28, 2014.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Path Publishing: Review and Giveaway!

Disclaimer: I recently purchased a blank recipe book to help me get organized. The publisher, Path Publishing, has also provided me with two blank journals for review: Happiness and Kidisms. Path Publishing is sponsoring this giveaway, in which you can win your own blank book of your choice, however, the information contained is purely my own opinion. There are several blank journals available, so read on for the details of the giveaway!


My home is filled with little scraps of paper on which I have written down assorted things that I need to keep track of for everyday life and future reference. I like to write things down so I don't forget them: recipes, cute things my kids have said, stuff that made me smile... Problem is, it's getting out of control. Sound familiar?

A recent goal during spring cleaning time was to get the paper clutter under control! (Even just a little bit of paper decluttering makes a HUGE difference for me.) One area of my life that was a complete disaster was my recipe organization (read disorganization). I had tried a couple different ways of doing this over the years and most recently, I had two overflowing file folders stuffed with loose papers of assorted sizes -- some were computer printouts, some were torn from magazines, others were on index cards, and still more were scribbled on any scrap of paper I had handy at the time. Chaos masquerading as "organization" because, hey, they were in folders, right?

Needless to say, this was not working very well for me. Yet I kept using this chaotic "system" -- rifling through each folder EVERY time I wanted to cook or bake, which pretty much meant several wasted minutes. EVERY. Single. Day. Who has time for that?!

{Recipe Book Table of Contents in Action}

I'm happy to tell you that this is improving! Here is my work-in-progress recipe book from Path Publishing. I've already transcribed 61 of our favorite family recipes (several days worth of work), and there's room for 43 more! This gives me plenty of space for those stragglers that are still hanging out in the file folder (I have it pared down to one much skinnier folder instead of two massive bundles!) and room to grow -- because I am sure to find more good recipes that I simply must save. (The desserts alone take up more than one page in the table of contents, and I don't see my love of sweets dwindling any time soon.)

The pages are just the right size for listing all of the ingredients and directions, even for my more complicated recipes. There is also a spot to note where you found the recipe. (I've already retraced my steps once since I accidentally omitted an ingredient, so this made it handy to find the website again.) My favorite part is that I don't have to rifle through a huge folder or check the Internet for a recipe. They are all contained in one book, organized the way I want them to be. Soups and stews are at the beginning because I look these up weekly for "Crock Pot night" (a.k.a. Wednesday, when Mia has dance class). Next, I listed chicken dishes and other family favorites, followed by those much-loved desserts.

{Recipe Book in Action}

Since it's a blank book, YOU make it completely personalized to your own preferred method of organization! I didn't alphabetize anything because I thought that would take too long, but maybe that's what works best for you. List your recipes and note which pages they are filed on. Put like items together, if you wish. For example, I wrote my favorite sugar cookie recipe on the left side of the book and a frosting recipe on the corresponding right side. This made it so simple when we wanted to make cut-out frosted cookies for Easter. However, you don't have to categorize your recipes if that's not your thing; just jot each one down as you acquire it. Do whatever works for you.

 {Blank Books from Path Publishing}

More Blank Book Options from Path Publishing:
  • Kidisms -- All parents need this for all those cute and clever things the kids say. Give it as a gift, too, because what grandparent wouldn't love getting a journal filled with all of the funny things that the grandchildren have said? Write down the who, what, when, where, and why so that you don't forget! Normally, I write these all in my notebook and then do a blog post when I have several. (Lately, that is at the end of each month! Here's the most recent of my kids' quote posts.) This is quite entertaining to look back on. Now, I'm finding it convenient to keep this little green journal in my van, for when they say their little witticisms away from home! This would make a nice baby shower gift, too. (Those little booties and onesies only fit for so long. Eventually parenting becomes quite the ride, and you don't want to forget the goofy things they said along the way.)
  • Happiness Journal -- This year, I've had the goal of writing down little things that I feel joy or gratitude about. Then, I slip the scraps of paper (more paper scraps, geesh!) into a small jar. Even though I don't come up with something every day (and truly, it seems like there is something to be thankful for each day), my jar is quickly overflowing, and it's only April! This journal is the perfect clutter-free solution to noting these small bits of happiness, and there is NO pressure to do it each day. It would make a nice gift for moms, dads, grads, and teachers.
  • Gardening -- Okay, I will admit that this really isn't my "thing." I pretty much botch every gardening attempt. I like to remind my children that I don't sew and I don't grow, whenever they get the mistaken notion that Mommy can do everything. That said, if I do decide to get serious about gardening (because, after all, we only improve with practice, right?) this journal is just the thing for keeping track of what is planted in each location, when it was planted, where it was purchased, guarantees (if any), and notes on progress. That should help take away some of the guess work! And, if you're not much of a gardener (join the club!), this would be a very thoughtful gift for someone who is.
  • Advice -- I love this idea! Give a blank book to the grandparents and have them share words of wisdom with your children. Or, take the time and fill it in yourself. This would make a nice gift for kids of any age, but I think it would be really special to give as a graduation present or as a baby shower gift -- offering all that acquired wisdom to people who really can use it!
  • Usernames and Passwords -- Handy place to note all of those things that are getting increasingly difficult to keep track of. And it's certainly smarter than using the same password for everything! Perfect for the tech-savvy graduate on his way to college.
Now, here's what you've been waiting for...

Two Ways to Get Your Own Blank Books:
  1. Head to Path Publishing right now and order one (or more)! With Mother's Day, Father's Day, and wedding and graduation season upon us, you probably need some gifts for all the important moms, dads, grads, brides, and teachers in your life. Surely one of these affordable blank journals will be just the thing for helping them keep track of all the important memories. You could even choose to fill them in yourself and make that part of the gift. For example, the recipe book would make a nice bridal shower gift!
  2. Enter my giveaway! (For residents of the United States only.) For an entry to the giveaway, first check out the different blank book options on the Path Publishing site. Choose your favorite one and then come back here and leave me a comment on this blog post letting me know which one you like the best. For additional entries, please share the love by linking to your favorite social media sites!
  • Share this blog post on your Facebook page. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you shared -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know you did this.)
  • Share this blog post on Twitter. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you tweeted about the giveaway -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know that you did this.)
  • Share this blog post on your own blog. Come back and leave a comment here letting me know that you shared on your blog -- for one additional entry! (Please make a separate comment letting me know that you did this.)
That's a total of 4 ways to win a blank book of your choice! The giveaway will run from Monday, April 21, 2014 through midnight (Eastern) on Monday, April 28, 2014. I will draw a winner on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 and share the results on the blog. Stay tuned for the results!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 7 (Homemade Fruit & Veggie Wash)

If you've been following along, I am cleaning up my house with homemade (safe and cheap!) cleaning solutions including these for:
  1. Windows
  2. Room Freshening Spray
  3. Carpets and Hard Floors
  4. Counters, Sinks, Tubs
  5. Toilets
  6. Wood Furniture, etc.

Admittedly this next one is a bit of a stretch to be filed under "spring cleaning" but it is too great not to share while I'm working on this series of greener cleaning solutions. I use this fruit and veggie spray wash each day (usually several times) and I am guessing that you will, too! This was another one that I learned about at a recent MOPS meeting and wondered why I had never done this before.

I don't think I have to tell you that your produce has stuff on it that you would rather it didn't -- pesticides, wax residue, whatever... Even if you're buying organic or growing your own vegetables, I think this is something you will want to have on hand. (And this is coming from someone who until very recently only rinsed her produce with water, knowing full well that this wasn't good enough.) Save yourself some worry and mix up a batch of spray wash to keep it right next to the sink. Then, you have no excuse to try to get away with just a water rinse like I was doing.

{All Natural Homemade Produce Wash Spray}


Fruit and Vegetable Spray Wash

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 10 drops grapeseed oil*(optional)
  1. Place ingredients in a brand new spray bottle (Dollar Tree has nice ones) and shake gently. (A funnel is handy, but not necessary.)
  2. Spray onto veggies and let set for about 2-3 minutes. (Or longer, if you're busy with something else. I was told you can leave it longer on root vegetables, say up to 15 minutes. I have not found that it leaves a taste on anything I've tried: raspberries, grapes, green beans, potatoes, carrots, pears, strawberries...) So easy!
  3. If you wish, you can rinse before eating, but this is not necessary. All of the ingredients used are safe for ingestion.
Grapeseed oil is one that is new to me but it has several uses including as a cooking oil because it contains antioxidants. It's also used as a carrier oil for skin moisturizers, so this is handy for both external and internal applications. Technically, the directions I was given said to use grapeseed extract* for this, but I chose to get grapeseed oil instead. I found mine at a health food store. You can totally skip it if you prefer. Vinegar and lemon juice will clean the produce just fine.

Two ways to use your fruit/veggie spray:
  1. Plug your clean sink and fill it with water. Add several spritzes of the veggie wash spray and let soak.
  2. If you're like me and you know your kitchen sink is rarely as clean as it should be, place fruits and veggies in a large bowl. Then, add 2-3 sprays of veggie wash and let soak. (Guess which method I use? No shame in it!)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 6 (Homemade Furniture Polish)

If you've been following along with my series on greener spring cleaning solutions then you have probably already seen how to clean:
  1. windows
  2. room freshening spray
  3. carpet stains and hard floors
  4. tubs, counters, and sinks
  5. toilets
If you happened to miss any of those, just click on the links to learn more.

Chances are that you've got some wooden furniture somewhere in your house that could use a little TLC. Whether it's dull, dirty, or covered in sticky finger prints, this homemade recipe for dusting solution/furniture polish can take care of it. It cleans and conditions the wood, leaving nothing behind but a beautiful shine  -- no harsh or dangerous chemicals. (I'm not going to claim that it will repair dings and scratches, but it certainly can't hurt!)

You can quickly and easily make this at home with just two common ingredients: olive oil and distilled white vinegar. (Thanks Green Grandma, for teaching me this!) There are a couple of different options, both very inexpensive and effective!

Option 1: Basic "Salad Dressing" Furniture Polish
Mix equal parts olive oil (mine is extra virgin, but use whatever you have at hand) with distilled white vinegar. (If you still don't have this, you need to get some -- preferably a gallon -- because you can clean anything with it!) Place in container (I use a glass jar that used to hold honey mustard) and label it: 50/50 olive oil/DWV. You can add a note that it's for furniture polish. Apply to wooden furniture (or lots of other stuff; see my list below) with a microfiber cloth and wipe clean.

Option 2: Extra Oomph "Orange Power" Furniture Polish 
This is my preference, and I've been using it for about 2 1/2 years. The citrus smells pleasant and it's a natural de-greaser. Bonus! (If you're new to cleaning with vinegar, this might be a good introduction since it doesn't smell like straight vinegar and people often complain that they can't stand the vinegar smell. Trust me, though, you will get used to it. And someday, you may grow to hate the smell of all store-bought cleaners! It happened to me.)

I used to just make my orange-vinegar by soaking orange peels in my vinegar for an indeterminate amount of time... It shouldn't go bad for a loooooong time. Then, I would pour out some of my orange-vinegar and mix it with the olive oil whenever I needed a new batch of furniture polish. Again, mix equal parts of orange-vinegar with olive oil, store in a labeled glass jar, and apply with microfiber cloth.

{3-Ingredient Homemade Furniture Polish}


Notes on Making Orange Power Vinegar:
At a recent MOPS meeting, I learned that you can also strain the orange vinegar after two weeks of soaking. (Shake the jar whenever you happen to think of it.) Then, place it in a spray bottle and voila! Homemade citrus cleaner that you can use most anywhere. You can also keep some in the jar, because like I said, it should last a very long time.

I haven't tried it with lemon or grapefruit peels, but I have used clementine peels, and they also work. I think any citrus peel is handy for this. When you're ready to toss out the peels that have already soaked and served their purpose, just toss them in your garbage disposal and run it for cleaning and deodorizing.

{Left = BEFORE, Right = AFTER}


Places I have used this furniture polish with success:
  • tables
  • chairs
  • book cases
  • picture frames (best for wood, but can be used on other frames -- avoid smearing glass, if possible)
  • wooden legs of upholstered furniture
  • kitchen cabinets
  • knick knacks
  • window ledges
  • banisters/stair rails
  • dressers
  • wall shelves
  • particle board/MDF type furniture pieces
  • removing stickers and sticky residue (Just yesterday, Mia was coloring at the dining table and her drawing paper was stuck to who knows what? Anyway, the paper tore when she tried to pick it up, leaving behind a sticky mess. I grabbed my orange power furniture polish and a microfiber cloth and easily removed it all without too much elbow grease. Better and safer than Goo Gone!)
  • electronics (I am NOT suggesting that you do this, merely confessing that I have done so very carefully when I already had the cloth in my hand and was cleaning the entertainment center anyway... Usually, I flip over the cloth, so it's more of a "dry dust" for the TV, DVD player, etc. Again, I don't recommend it, but it has worked for me with no negative effects that I am aware of.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 5 (Homemade Toilet Cleaners)

If you missed my earlier posts this week, so far I have shared greener cleaning tips for:

Now, see if you can guess what I was using to clean toilets until recently... If you said "homemade all-purpose cleaner" then you can go right to the head of the class. You're such a good reader! Yep, that was my favorite for toilets (and literally everything else) until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to switch it up a bit.

Today, I am sharing with you a few different recipes for homemade toilet bowl cleaners, and I have to say that I am waaaaaay more excited by this than I probably should be! Some are very basic and some take slightly more effort, but the end results are worth it.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #1 (Vinegar)
First up, Green Grandma suggests that you need nothing more than straight distilled white vinegar for cleaning toilet bowls. Simply add a cup or two and walk away for a few hours. Then, come back and scrub the bowl.

This is my least favorite, to be honest. The vinegar alone doesn't cling or fizz or do anything that "shows" that it is doing its job. There is nothing else to make it smell a bit better; even though I am much more accustomed to the smell of vinegar, it is still a bit much when you use a large amount in undiluted form. (NOTE: I do realize that we do NOT need any fake fragrance to make everything smell "fresh" or "clean" -- that is a marketing gimmick. True "clean" has no smell.) Even though I know that this is perfectly effective for killing germs, it's not my first choice. It is, however, very cheap, very easy to use and completely non-toxic, so it deserves mention in the lineup of natural choices.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #2 (Vinegar + Baking Soda)
Pour a cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and then follow with a cup of white vinegar. You get the fizzing action and once it's done, you scrub the bowl. Baking soda neutralizes odors and vinegar kills germs. Straightforward, right? (You can adjust the proportions to your preferences.) You can also follow with lemon juice or a few drops of lavender essential oil if you want it to smell nice. Safe, cheap, effective, and you can easily do this with everyday kitchen items. No mixing or storing needed.


Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #3 
I learned about this recipe at a MOPS meeting:
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine baking soda and essential oils (Lavender smells nice and both lavender and tea tree oils have antiseptic qualities).
  2. Add vinegar to the toilet bowl and then pour in the baking soda mixture.
  3. Allow the fizzing of the chemical reaction to take place and then scrub with a toilet brush.

For all three of the above recipes I asked myself, "Now what about the rest of the toilet? The seat, lid, outside of the tank...?" These all have to get clean, too, so of course, I used that all-purpose cleaner and a sponge. Sometimes, this seemed like more work, so that was why I often just used the all-purpose spray cleaner for the whole shebang. One product, and done. 

Then, I tried this next recipe (also from the MOPS meeting), which calls for castile soap. It is far and away, my favorite homemade toilet cleaner. EVER! (In other news, I am really, really in LOVE with castile soap, and I plan to use it in my next batch of all-purpose cleaner, in place of dish soap.) Without further ado, here is my new FAVE homemade toilet cleaner recipe! (Who knew I would ever use that expression?)

{My New FAVE Homemade Toilet Cleaner}

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner #4
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon castile soap with tea tree (I used unscented castile soap.) 
  • 3-5 drops of tea tree oil (if using unscented castile soap)
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup with a spout, or a measuring bowl, mix together the baking soda and water.
  2. Add castile soap (and tea tree oil, if desired) and stir.
  3. Pour into a squeeze bottle (I used an clean, empty condiment dispenser.) and make sure it is covered by a finger or cap. Then shake well. If you do not have a mixing bowl or measuring cup with a spout, a funnel may be helpful. (Remember, do NOT use old cleaning product containers from toilet bowl cleaners or that sort of thing.) 
  4. If the consistency is too runny, add a little extra baking soda. You want it to be thick enough to cling to the inside of the toilet bowl. (As another side note: You can make this recipe and yesterday's recipe for my other new favorite, homemade soft scrub, all with a single 1-pound box of baking soda!)
  5. To use, squeeze out enough to coat the inside of the toilet bowl. (The recipe said this makes enough clean two toilets, but I found that it was enough to clean three.) You can either scrub immediately OR you can walk away and let it set. I have tried both ways, but I can't say that I noted any distinct differences. Just do whatever is easiest for you.
  6. Now, as a bonus, I decided to clean the rest of the toilet with this cleaner instead of reaching my my all-purpose spray cleaner. I just put a small amount onto a sponge and wiped everything clean. Tip: Start with the less dirty surfaces (top of tank, handle) and work your way toward the germier surfaces (outside of bowl, where spray happens, if you have a boy) and so on until you have cleaned it seat and all. (Don't forget to clean your sponge. I put mine in the dishwasher, but it seems that there is a microwave cleaning method that I have heard about, too.)

So, there you go. Non-toxic, effective, and you can clean the whole toilet -- inside and out -- with this single recipe! It doesn't smell funky. It clings to the bowl very well, and you even get some fizzing action, if you like that sort of thing. The only possible downside is that you will need to mix up another batch the next time you want to clean toilets. (I had fun doing this, so I don't see that as a problem.)

Plus, putting it into a condiment dispenser? This is brilliant! I was so excited to hear this idea. If you make this one, don't forget to label your container with a permanent marker. Include the recipe, so you can make it again without looking it up. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 4 (Homemade Hard Surface Cleansers)

Spring is in the air around here for sure. Both outdoors and inside our home are starting to smell fresh. Today, I spent some time tackling the grime on various hard surfaces: tub, counters, sinks, and toilets. (More on that last one to come later...)

I've already mentioned my old standby, homemade all-purpose cleaner, a few times this week. So, I won't keep blathering on about that. I will just mention that it is what I have used for the past few years to clean counters, sinks, the tub (and toilets). That said, I will add that I am more recently interested in a couple of cleanser recipes that I learned about at our last MOPS meeting. I am excited to share the results with you!

Homemade All Purpose Scrub
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup washing soda
  • 1/8 - 1/4 cup salt
  • 10-20 drops essential oil of choice (optional)
(We made this at the meeting and did not include any essential oils. I haven't added my own, so I can't comment on how that works, but here are the directions I was given. I have been using it around the house for over a week now.)
  1. Use a spoon to mix the ingredients, distributing the oils. (We just scooped the dry ingredients into a baggie to take home and put into our own containers, but if using essential oils, you will most likely want do your mixing in a medium size bowl.)
  2. Store in a mason jar or a Parmesan cheese container. (I also learned at the meeting that the lid from an old Parmesan container fits onto a canning jar. What an awesome epiphany that was! This is how I am currently storing my scrub cleanser.)
  3. Use as you would a powder scrub cleanser (like Comet). Sprinkle directly onto counters, sinks, etc. and wipe with a damp sponge or cloth or sprinkle onto the sponge or cloth and then wipe surfaces.
Observations:
  • I was worried about the salt being irritating for dry, cracked skin. I was relieved to find that this was not a problem.
  • This is not my absolute favorite cleaner because the powder seems to take a few extra swipes to get cleaned away. (Not that it's bad. It's certainly safer than a lot of things I could be using, but I never used powder cleansers even when I did use store-bought cleaners. This is just not my preference.)
  • I was really optimistic that this would erase old stains on counter tops, but alas, it didn't do the trick. (Read on for what did, though!)
  • One thing it did work great for was getting rid of the ring of grime that was where the counter top meets the outside edge of the sink -- worked better than anything else I can think of!
  • Positive features: This is quick and easy to make. One batch will last a long time. You do not need many ingredients, and all of them are inexpensive and readily available and your local grocery store. (Find Washing Soda in the laundry aisle -- not to be confused with baking soda.)
  • I would be very leery of using this on wooden tables. Not that you were probably considering that, but I figured it was worth mentioning. It could very likely scratch the finish. So, if you are looking for a recipe for a cleaning product that you can use anywhere in the kitchen and dining room, this would not be my recommendation.

Homemade Soft Scrub Cleanser
  • 3/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup castile soap
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 10-15 drops tea tree oil (optional)
  1. Combine baking soda and castile soap in a medium bowl.
  2. Add water and tea tree oil (which has antiseptic qualities) and stir mixture with a fork.
  3. Add vinegar slowly as it will bubble up.
  4. Stir until it has a paste-like consistency.
  5. Pour into a container, using a funnel, if you wish. (Mine is stored in an old kids' shampoo container. I will not mention the brand name because I don't want you to think I am recommending it. Knowing now what I wish I had known then, I never would have used that stuff on my children! You might also wish to use an empty dish soap bottle or another type of squeeze bottle.)
  6. To use the soft scrub, squeeze out a small amount onto a sponge or directly onto the surface that you want to clean.
{Safe and Green Homemade Soft Scrub!}


Observations:
  • This was my first experience using castile soap, and honestly, I had no clue what I was missing! It is wonderful. I bought the unscented version, but you could make this with any of the other scents that it comes in such as tea tree or lavender. (Mine is Dr. Bronner's brand and I got it at the nearest health food store.)
  • Confession: I didn't really like the smell of tea tree oil when I first started using some months back (for making moisturizing oil). Lately, though, I have been using it for more homemade concoctions and the scent is definitely growing on me. I'm not going to make perfume out of it or anything, but... It's worth it to give it a chance.
  • This homemade stuff is AMAZING! Just gently scrubbing with a sponge helped more with some counter top stains in the master bathroom that anything else I have tried in the 8 years we have lived here. (I have no clue what the stains are. They came with the house, but my best guess is coffee.) Anyway, I decided to kick things up a notch and combined this soft scrub with an old toothbrush and some good old-fashioned elbow grease and BAM! The stains are almost gone. (Honestly, you probably wouldn't even know about it if I weren't pointing it out. Below and to the left of the toothbrush, in the bottom photo.)
{Bathroom Counter BEFORE Homemade Soft Scrub}

{Bathroom Counter AFTER Homemade Soft Scrub}

  • This made me so excited that I decided to try it on the ring around the tub. It worked wonderfully for the grimy build-up and once again, when armed with a toothbrush and my own scrubbing power, this made a decent dent in the orange ring (rust stains from our well water). 
  • Here's how it worked on the bathroom sink. The top part of the photo shows the orange rust ring and the bottom part shows how it looked after I scrubbed gently with a toothbrush. No real muscle needed for this task!
{Bathroom Sink BEFORE (top) and AFTER (bottom)}
  • And, if that's not enough to convince you, it also knocked out the nasty filth that was lurking in my stainless steel kitchen sink (including the drain trap, which was just plain gross). So, now you know my dirtiest household secret: Until this afternoon, my kitchen sink was a veritable cesspool of germs, admittedly the most neglected of the high-traffic areas of my home. Now, it's soooo shiny and germ-free!
{Kitchen Sink BEFORE (right) and AFTER (left)}

  • In case you can't tell, I quit using store-bought Soft Scrub years ago because I was concerned about what was in it. Clearly, I had forgotten about all the benefits of cleaning with this type of thing and certain parts of the house were missing out on more thorough cleaning. That's won't be happening any longer now that I can make this homemade version.
  • I hate wearing rubber gloves, so knowing that the ingredients are safe to touch (and inhale) is a nice feature of this scrub (in addition to its effectiveness!).
  • Like the first scrub cleaner, it makes a nice size batch that will last a good long while (even with the extensive scrubbing that I put it through just today). The ingredients are common, cheap, and totally safe to use around kids.
  • Also, I will sum up by making it very clear that of the two scrub cleansers, this second was my clear favorite. It just took care of build-up that the other one couldn't in the sinks -- both porcelain and stainless -- and on the counter tops, this one was tops.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 3 (Homemade Floor Cleaners)

Mud season is officially under way here in Michigan and that means plenty of dirt getting tracked in on my linoleum and wood floors. (And occasionally onto the carpet, as well, even though we have a no shoes in the house policy.) These are my current favorite homemade solutions for cleaning all of my floors.

All-Purpose Cleaning Solution: (For Hard Floor Surfaces)

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap (your safest bets are Dawn or something like Seventh Generation)
  • 1 teaspoon Borax
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle (one that did not previously contain chemicals!) and shake gently. Using a funnel is helpful when filling your bottle. Optional: Add a few drops of essential oils if you would like a light scent. Label your bottle with the recipe using a permanent marker. Cover the writing with a piece of clear packing tape to prevent it from being wiped away over time.

To mop the floors, add a small amount to your bucket and then fill it with hot water. This solution cleans up all sorts of gunk and it disinfects, too. Personally, I have had no issues using this on our floors, but of course, you may want to test it on a small area before tackling all of your floors.

Now, what about carpet cleaning? If you have kids and pets, you are sure to get an assortment of spots on them. For small messes, I often grab my spray bottle of All-Purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth. But let's be honest. Most of the messes on my floors aren't small!

For bigger stains, I have successfully used baking soda and vinegar to remove every kid and dog-related bodily fluid that can possibly end up on the carpet. I'm talking blood, vomit, urine, and poop -- completely eradicated with just a couple of simple to use, inexpensive, and totally safe things. To get this nasty business out of your carpet without resorting to commercial carpet cleaners (which are loaded with toxins and do NOT work as well -- Believe me, I've tried a number of them, even the ones that claim to be specifically for pet stains.) follow these steps. This even works on old stains!!

{Urine Stain: BEFORE}

{Urine Stain: AFTER}


Carpet Stain Removal
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • water
  • clean cloths (microfiber cloths are good for this)
  1. First, sop up as much liquid (and solids, if that applies. Ew, I know...) as possible.
  2. Next, cover the soiled area with a generous sprinkling of baking soda. Let this set overnight.
  3. Vacuum up the baking soda. You will see that this has already absorbed some if not all of the yucky stuff (and hopefully, taken a lot of the smell away, too).
  4. Pour undiluted distilled white vinegar over the soiled area. Sit back and let the bubbling action do its thing for a minute or two.
  5. Now, grab your microfiber cloth and start scrubbing the carpet. This should get out the remaining grossness.
  6. Pour some fresh water over top scrub/mop it up with a second clean cloth.
  7. Allow the wet spot to dry. You will be amazed! (However, if it is not as clean as you would like, repeat the above steps.)
{Unknown Set-in Stain: BEFORE}

{Unknown Set-in Stain: AFTER}

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 2 (Homemade Room Freshening Spray)

Got stinky stuff in your home? Yep, we all do from time to time. Here, I will share my tried-and-true recipe for making room freshening spray out of totally safe and natural ingredients. Don't worry, it tackles the tough stuff from greasy kitchen odors and smelly trash cans to bathroom funk (including diaper pails!) just as well as store-bought sprays.

The difference is that instead of masking the smell with artificial fragrances and other chemical nastiness, this simply eliminates it! Behold the power of baking soda. The vinegar helps to kill any bacteria that is lurking in your home and possibly causing those less-than-pleasant smells in the first place. Mixing up some room freshening spray is quick and cheap to do with three simple ingredients that you should already have on hand. (And if you don't, trust me, you will be getting these soon, because they are just that important for homemade cleaning solutions.)

Homemade Room Freshening Spray
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Combine ingredients in a new (not one that previously contained chemicals!) spray bottle.
  2. Shake gently and spray as needed. A few mists should get rid of even the toughest household odors.
{3-Ingredient All Natural Room Freshener}


Other Tips:
  • I learned about this recipe from Green Grandma's book, Vinegar Fridays, which is a great resource for natural cleaning solutions (and many more uses for vinegar).
  • A funnel comes in handy when filling your bottle, but it is not necessary.
  • I store my bottle of room spray in the main bathroom, but you can make more than one bottle and store it wherever you will need to use it.
  • You can also use this as a fabric refresher. Just spray onto fabrics and allow to dry. Again, baking soda is a natural deodorant and the vinegar kills and yucky odor-causing germs so this is just as effective as Febreze -- just without the scary chemicals that you shouldn't be inhaling.
  • Be sure to label your bottle with a permanent marker. Include the recipe so that when you need a new batch, you don't have to look it up.
  • If you want to prevent the marker from getting rubbed off over time, just add a piece of clear packaging tape over the top.
  • You can find spray bottles at Dollar Tree, IKEA, Target, and craft stores.
  • You do not need to buy name brand baking soda. I just found this on sale, so that is what I have. I tend to stock up and buy several boxes whenever I find a good deal since this is a staple at our house. 
  • The above is true of the vinegar, too. I tend to buy the one-gallon jugs from Kroger because that is usually my best deal.
  • I don't personally add a scent to my room spray, but if you like you could add a few drops (say 3-5) of essential oils such as lavender or orange just to give it a little extra something-something.
For more tips on homemade cleaners, check out my previous posts:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Greener Spring Cleaning: Part 1 (Homemade Window Cleaners)

Until very recently, I was using my all-purpose cleaner for pretty much all household cleaning -- from floors to toilets, counter tops to windows, and everything in between. Since learning about another homemade cleaner for windows, I decided to do a trial and figure out which one works best for me. (Note: This in entirely my opinion. Your preferences may be completely different.) This will be the first in a series of posts in which I put some green cleaners to the test. It is that time of year, after all.

Trial #1: All-Purpose Cleaner
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbs vinegar
  • 1 Tbs dish soap
  • 1 tsp Borax
Combine in a spray bottle (not one that previously contained chemicals!) and shake gently. I find that a funnel is especially helpful. If you would like a light scent, add a few drops of essential oils such as orange. Be sure the label your bottle and include the recipe for the next time. A black Sharpie works well and I recently discovered that adding a strip of clear packing tape keeps the marker from wiping off over time. Genius!

Conclusion: While it does work for windows and mirrors, it is a tad on the sudsy side which means that it takes more elbow grease to wipe clean.

Trial #2: 50/50 Vinegar/Water

I first tried this when I was reviewing Green Grandma's book, Vinegar Fridays. It's exactly as promised: take an empty spray bottle (Again, use a new one that has not contained chemicals! This is just for your own safety. You can find plastic spray bottles at Dollar Tree.) and add a 50/50 mix of water and distilled white vinegar. A funnel is helpful. You can either spray this directly on your windows or first spray it onto a microfiber cloth to prevent streaking. Don't forget to label your bottle.

It does smell strongly of vinegar, which some people don't care for. (I didn't either until I started cleaning more and more with vinegar. Now the smell doesn't bother me, but if I set foot in the cleaning product aisle at the grocery store -- Well, that's a whole other thing, let me tell you. I can feel my eyes and lungs being assaulted by all of the nasty chemical concoctions contained in that aisle and it scares me that I used to clean with that stuff!)

Conclusion: In general, this works very nicely on windows and mirrors. It is very cheap to make and completely safe. You don't have to worry about it coming in contact with your skin. It's not harmful if swallowed, so it is safe to use and store near children. (Always nice to know even though I wouldn't recommend consuming this as it isn't really all that delicious, but as a mama I know these things happen...) The only word of caution is to avoid getting it in your eyes since vinegar does sting a bit. (I learned this during my no 'pooing days.)


{Homemade Window Cleaner}


Trial #3: Homemade Window Cleaner
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 Tbs vinegar
Combine ingredients in a spray bottle. (As always, use a new bottle, one that did not contain chemicals!) Don't forget to label your bottle and include the recipe. Use with microfiber cloths for cleaning windows and mirrors.

Conclusion: This solution that I recently learned about at a MOPS meeting is definitely safer than store-bought window cleaners and it works very well. In fact, I actually preferred it over the 50/50 water/vinegar solution in terms of streak-free shine and quick drying power. My main concern that makes me hesitant to name it my new favorite is the alcohol. Obviously, this is not a child-safe ingredient and it has to be stored up high away from little hands. It also has an unpleasant smell. Although, to be fair, it dissipates quickly and I tolerate when we dye rice and pasta.

So, What's the Verdict?
In deciding which window cleaning solution is best for you and your family, you just have to weigh whether or not it is worth it to include the alcohol. For now, I will continue to use this homemade window cleaner since I made an entire batch. It does work great and I just have to remember to store it in a safe place. Whether or not I will make this again, I just can't say at this point...

The 50/50 vinegar and water mix also does a good job at cleaning up all those hand prints and dog nose smudges! And I have no qualms about using it anywhere, anytime, around anybody in my family.

Sorry, if you wanted a definitive answer, you won't find it in this post. The only thing I can say for certain is that you should really consider ditching store-bought window cleaning products if you are still using them. They definitely are not worth the cost!

Notes on Where to Buy:

  • My microfiber cloths came in a package of 24 and cost about $12 when I bought them several years back at Sam's Club. I hear you can also get them at Dollar Tree.
  • The spray bottle in the photo came from Dollar Tree. It's one of the nicer ones I have bought, so that would be the first place I would recommend looking if you need to buy spray bottles. They had them with three different sprayers: pink, blue, and green, so of course, I bought one of each. Another source of good quality and pretty spray bottles is IKEA. If you are less picky about quality, I have also found some in the impulse section of Target and Michaels craft store.
  • I buy my vinegar in 1 gallon jugs from Kroger and use it for tons of stuff. If you aren't familiar with where to find it, try the baking/spice aisle. I hear you can also get 2-gallon jugs at Sam's Club, but I have not personally looked there. That might be a bit big for me to work with!
  • As you can tell from the label, the rubbing alcohol came from Meijer. You should be able to find this in the first aid section of any grocery store or pharmacy. I had purchased a small bottle just for dying rice and pasta, but if I continue to use it for cleaning, I will probably look for a larger bottle that may be a better value. (And, I know I've said this already, but please keep alcohol away from children!)
  • If you are interested in making the all-purpose green cleaner mentioned first and are wondering where to get Borax, try the laundry aisle of Meijer or Walmart. It comes in a white box and the common brand is 20 Mule Team.