Friday, January 29, 2010

Saving Searches on eBay

We all know that being frugal involves being patient, waiting to get what you want until you can find it at the best price. But how does that work on eBay, where it's totally random as to what items are listed and when? Allow me to introduce you to saved searches!

Go to eBay as normal, and enter the item for which you wish to search in the search box. You may want to play around with the terms you use, trying to be more or less specific. Since my Goose is at Grandma's right now where it's ALL CARE BEARS ALL THE TIME, I searched for Care Bears. Here's what comes up with the search results:

The arrow is pointing at a link to Save This Search. Click on it, and you may be asked to log in with your eBay information - go ahead and do that. It will then bring up the following box:

You can change the name of the search if you wish, and you can click on the arrow of the drop down box to adjust the length of time that you will receive e-mails regarding that search.

I currently have around two dozen searches saved for various things. I receive e-mails daily regarding listings on books by a couple of my favorite authors, for example. Other searches might only yield e-mails once a month, or less. At any time, you can click on a link at the bottom of the e-mail to refine the search (useful if you need to adjust the search terms - especially when they are too broad and you're getting e-mailed on stuff you don't want), view all your saved searches, renew the subscription for that search, or unsubscribe.

If there is more than one listing that day that matches your search, all of them will be included in a single e-mail. There is a brief description and a photo (if provided) for each, and there is a link you can click to view the listing.

This method is helpful because I don't have to visit eBay frequently to see if items of interest have been listed, and if there's something I'm interested in but don't find, I can save the search and forget about it! I have found this method to be very handy.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom.

Also, today has been a great day for decluttering and organizing at my house, in preparation for the 40 Bags in 40 Days decluttering challenge for Lent. (I'd never make it without a head start!) I'd love it if you'd join me!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Declutter Challenge: 40 Bags in 40 Days

Jessica at Shower of Roses recently posted something that immediately caught my eye, and I actually linked back to it in this Reading the Whole Internet Post. In her Daybook post, she linked back to a post she'd written last year on a 40 Bags of Stuff Challenge. [side note, I'd like to start doing Daybook posts... I really like reading other peoples' and I think it would be neat to look back on my own!]

Following the rabbit trail backwards, Jessica's initial post linked to this post at Jennifer's Favorite Links, which indicates the idea came from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. [and I *just* realized that "Jennifer" is in fact the one from Conversion Diary, a blog that has spiritually smacked me upside the head every few weeks or so since I began reading it.] Jen then linked back to this post at Simply Catholic.

My reason for all this linking is to note that in no way did I come up with this idea, but I sure do think it's a good one. Hubs has been noting lately that we're outgrowing our house - which is sort of true. BUT - our house is plenty big for us! And when I look at the devastation in Haiti right now from the earthquake, and when I think back to my mission days, I realize that we are blessed with abundance beyond the dreams of many, many people on this earth.

As an extra nudge, the lesson from this week's Women of Grace Bible study in which I am currently participating spoke of "detachment". God surely is speaking directly to me in these words from our book:

God asks us to value human life above material wealth, the human person above comfort and luxury, the kingdom of God above the desires of the flesh, and the will of God above convenience and selfish wants.
Sure, that sounds easy to do. "Of course, Lord, I believe all those things!" But the accompanying workbook takes things deeper, in the words of my beloved Pope John Paul II:

This is the so-called civilization of "consumption" or "consumerism" which involves so much throwing away and waste. [...] One quickly learns --unless one is shielded from the flood of publicity and the ceaseless and tempting offers of products -- that the more one possesses, the more one wants, while deeper aspirations remain unsatisfied and perhaps even stifled... (from his encyclical "On Social Concerns, no. 28)

He later quotes Matthew 16:26: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?"

A contributor to Women of Grace, Dale O'Leary, has actually written a booklet called Addicted to Stuff. There is what I presume to be an excerpt from that book in our Women of Grace workbook. She notes that:

Christians who are proud of their "thriftiness" may be horrified to realize that the Scriptural words for their attitude are lust and greed.
Holy cow. Mark 7:22 and Luke 12:13-21 relate what Jesus says about this vice, and Matthew 6:19-21 tells us what happens when we store up earthly treasurers. We certainly don't need "bigger barns" (see the passages in Luke), we need less stuff!

She notes later that
If they [Christian women] gave their excess to the poor before moths and rust destroyed it, they would be storing treasure in heaven. As it is, they are storing up condemnation.
Initially, I thought those were pretty strong words. "Really, Lord? Just because I have a pair of extra mittens, stashed away in a box, that condemns me?" But then I thought about it more. It's actually like five pairs of mittens. And I only have one pair of hands. And there are many, many more than five pairs of cold hands out there, right at this very minute.

One thing we laugh about at Bible study (but understand the seriousness of!) is the human ability to rationalize and justify. I just snagged the heck out of one of my gloves this afternoon on my rose bushes taking down the Christmas lights, so I probably will need a new pair of gloves before long. (I scratched my hand, too, but Goose is in the stage where, upon hearing someone else exclaim "ouch!", is ready with a kiss. And it really DOES make it all better!) O'Leary cautions us against making excuses or rationalizing our behavior. [One extra pair is one thing - but five?] She recommends we have a family member or friend to hold us accountable - and not to get angry when they do.

She leaves us with the following:
Take courage! Fight off discouragement, fear, and temptation! Keep moving forward, and trust in God! [...] Engaging the process is half the battle.
Here is the basic outline, as identified by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati:
1.) Taking a look at the size of your family and household, with an acknowledgement of how much 'stuff' is present, make a prudential choice on the size of bag to be employed during this challenge. Bag size should be small enough that the goal of 40 bags during the season of Lent is able to be accomplished, while not being too big that you are left with nothing. We must still live in the world, after all!

2.) If smaller children are a part of your family, a 'gauge' may be helpful to keep them engaged and help them keep track of progress. As part of your preparations, make a 'paper chain' of forty numbered links. As each new bag is started, place a new link in the bottom of the bag. This way, as the chain gets smaller, there is a greater sense of accomplishment.

3.) This challenge necessarily involves sacrifice. Each member of the family should be encouraged to give something to each bag, or there could be designated bags for each member of the family.

4.) Instead of just throwing things away, recycling is a great way to encourage good stewardship of the gifts we have been given, as it symbolizes that we are passing along our gifts to others. Families with children are encouraged to pass along clothes that no longer fit or toys that sit dormant in a closet to families in need instead of just throwing them away.

5.) Units of count need not necessarily be trash bags, either; however they should be equivalent. For example, a box of gently used toys or clothes could equate one bag off the chain. A stack of books donated to the parish library is another easy equivalent.

As the family accepts this challenge together, bonds will be created that will last a lifetime. Lessons are also learned not just by saying, but by putting it into practice. Here, the simple lesson will last throughout life that having fewer things can lead to a greater contentment in life.

(Credit due to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for this handout on vocations and family faith formation)
Our Bible study group is considering implementing this as a group project and possibly inviting our whole parish. Some ideas we had for adapting it included:

1) Each family should have complete flexibility in determining what a "bag" would constitute.

2) This is a quote from our Women of Grace book, although not regarding detaching and decluttering, I think it fits: “There may be sacrifice, but there will not be conflict.” So, for example, if my husband isn’t on board with my decluttering his fishing equipment, I’ll leave it alone and move on! :>)

3) We talked about possibly blessing a local family, or setting up a “swap” meet where people can bring things and take things, and we talked about possibly getting Catholic Social Services to bring their trailer out. We will be discussing this at our next meeting and fleshing out some ideas.

Amy at Finer Things is doing a declutter challenge, too - 730 in 365 (that's two things a day). I don't know if the big numbers or the long time frame had me shying away - it's a really, really good idea! If the 40 bags in 40 days isn't your style, head over to Amy's and see if hers is a better fit for you.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Link Roundup - Will The Sun Ever Shine Again? Edition

I love Nebraska, and I love living here. But I am NOT loving all the awful fog we've been having - I've barely seen the sun in somewhere around a week. (It's all fuzzy.) The lousy part is that it sounds like we're in for at least a few more days of clouds and yuck. Hopefully we'll get some sunshine soon!

Thankfully, the internet is a bright, shiny place, full of fun things. Let's take a look!

I've not seen magic fairy wands like these at Blue Cricket Design. Poof! Very fun!

These family blocks at Chris, Erin, and Jayce are a neat way to remind a little one of far-away loved ones. (And I think it rocks that Mom made a set for herself!)

File this away for next year - Santa's Belly Candle Holders and a bonus handprint tree at Crafty Chic Mommy.

I'm loving this dollar spot towel skirt at creativegal42. Especially how there is part of the towel left over to applique on a shirt to make it match!

At For What It's Worth...Or Not, a sweet Grandma's lucky charms bracelet using Scrabble tiles. Considering my mother has four granddaughters whose names begin with "K" (all of them except Goose), I think I'm going to need another spare Scrabble game for that one. :>)

Also at For What It's Worth...Or Not (what can I say, the name makes me laugh!) - I like this monogram family plaque.

A must for a little girl who loves "Little House On the Prairie" - vintage sunbonnet pattern.

This gooey hearts day shirt makeover tutorial at Happy Together is crazy cute! And I love how it makes the shirt longer.

Mia Moo Designs has a very fun felt heart candy tutorial - my favorite part is using a sharpie to write the words. I'd be fumbling around trying to embroider them, which would take a zillion times longer and probably not look as good!

Oh, I'm digging these! How Does She... posted a very fun a`maze'ing Valentine's card tutorial. I love the way she altered it to fit her sewing skills!

I coulda used this a month or two ago - make your own bookmarks at Tipnut. (The ones I did - which are takes off some of these - are at my Handmade Christmas 2009 post.)

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has 10 tips for even better chicken stock.

Check out these sourdough crepes at Sarah's Musings!

"It's just like you're drinking a brownie!" If that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what will. I think I need to try these warm chocolate soothers from Heavenly Homemakers. ***Special note - if you used to be a subscriber, you need to know that Laura has changed servers and lost ALL her subscribers! Doesn't matter if you subscribed in a reader or via e-mail, you'll need to re-subscribe. I didn't realize how much I've missed her!

Chasing Cheerios posted a fun number wheel activity that would be super easy to replicate.

We usually do pretty well with tomatoes, but I learned quite a bit from this growing tomatoes tip sheet at Tipnut.

What a great idea - remaking play food boxes to last at Helping Little Hands. Make sure to check out the Felt Food Cook Along Tutorials in the sidebar!

It's surprising how good I am at not looking in my oven, but I'm starting to realize that I need to check out these simple, safe, and frugal ways to clean your stovetop and oven at Kitchen Stewardship.

The post that reminded me of the above oven issue, Katie speaks of more than resolutions: why go green?

Brett Kelly has some interesting tips on How to Make Today a 25 Hour Day. (Warning - PG13 language.)

A guest post at Kitchen Stewardship, Cara from Health, Home and Happiness has some great quick tips for keeping a clean kitchen.

Going back to a post from this summer, Donielle at Naturally Knocked Up wrote about natural cures for mastitis. I recognized the beginning stages of mastitis when Goose was about two months old on Sunday of Memorial Weekend. I spent the day resting in bed with my baby, who I latched on at every possible opportunity. I also drank plenty of water. Thankfully it went away!

Boy, oh boy does this have me thinking - 40 bags of stuff via Shower of Roses. Basically, you get rid of a bag of stuff a day during Lent. This is the sort of thing I need to think about and plan ahead, so starting now would be idea for me. :>)

Thanks to Angela for sending me this article from Catholic Exchange "Does God Want Us To Worry?" (short answer - which I love! - is "Be Not Afraid!")

I'd call this a black eye for socialized health care: a Canadian couple seeks an injunction to keep their baby alive, via Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

This falls under the "ponder" category, I guess - Katie at Kitchen Stewardship posted about some home remedies for ear infections. I bought some sweet oil that I've put in my ears a number of times when I have suspected I might be getting an ear infection and the warm oil feels *good*.

Sippy cups for Christ is a great post on a mother's works of mercy at Faith & Family Live.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Very, Very Small Successes

Today is the day to celebrate small successes over at Faith & Family Live. Mine are very, very small today.

1) I have accepted the fact that the toddler and I both got up before we were ready to be done sleeping. (Her choice to get up, NOT MINE.) I'm really looking forward to naptime, though!! She missed a nap day before yesterday and has been quite "TWO" ever since. It's so hard to get her caught up!

2) I (mostly) kept my cool when there was a potty incident because she was messing around while on the potty. There was a brief exclamation of surprise, which I think is reasonably acceptable considering the circumstances.

3) I'm focusing on the fact that Goose recited the last half of her beloved Snow White book that she got a week and a half ago *from memory * while we were washing her hands.

and I have a bonus success:
4) After the stomach bug, Goose is finally back in her regular "under clothes" and seems to be back to normal. I kept a diaper on her just in case since then, though she did great at telling us when she needed to go potty most of the time. (There were a few incidents that woke her up from her naps - I can't blame her for those!)

Click the link above to see more moms and their small successes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cloth Diapering Routine

So I began with Our Cloth Diaper Journey, but the hard part for most people is how on earth do you wash them? The first thing is to get over the ick factor. All babies dirty their diapers, and at some point, as a parent, you are going to get some on your person no matter what kind of diapers you use. I found that dealing with dirty cloth diapers wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be.

Goose never had formula, so I can't speak to how cloth diapering works with formula fed babies. Dirty diapers from exclusively bre@stfed babies (nope, can't bring myself to put that word on here, I don't want the wrong kind of searchers finding these posts by accident) can go straight in the wash. Older babies' "stinky bottom" that is reasonably solid can just be shaken into the toilet and anything remaining (usually not much) can go in the wash.

There is a certain no-man's-land when babies start eating some solid foods that results in diapers that are yucky and not solid. I found these to be the worst, but still not terrible. I kept a diaper-only rubber spatula in the bathroom (in the toilet brush container) and used it to scrape as necessary. I swished the spatula, and wiped it off with toilet paper then returned it to its home with the brush. I then tossed the diaper in the pail as usual.

When we were just starting out with cloth, I used two pails - one for the inserts/liners, and one for the diapers. This is true of all fleece - if you wash it with cotton, it will pick up the lint and pill the fleece. In the case of the diapers, it doesn't affect their absorbency, but they aren't quite as soft. Both pails were lined with a nylon bag that I purchased in the camping/sporting goods section of Wal-Mart. I tossed the diapers in as-is, though I tried to make sure they weren't balled up - I found the stink problem in the nursery came about only if things didn't have a chance to dry out. As Goose got older, I tended to lay the liners over the edge of the pail so they'd dry out better. I was lucky, though - Goose never really got into her diaper pails.

When it was time to wash, I dumped everything (including the nylon bags) in the washing machine, turning the bag inside out to make sure nothing was trapped inside. This was back when I had a top load washing machine, and it took a long time to get a wash routine figured out. As I remember, I ended up running them on a short cold wash cycle, then a hot heavy wash long cycle, then an extra rinse. I used as little detergent as possible.

When we got our front-load washing machine, I was a bit nervous because I've heard a lot of complaints about them not getting diapers clean. It took a bit of messing around, but I ended up very pleased with the following routine:

Cold soak cycle with one tablespoon of borax/washing soda and a very small drizzle of Tide. Then I ran a sanitary wash cycle (light soil) with just a few drops of Tide and a teaspoon or so of povodone iodine in the bleach compartment. Why the povodone? Because it's what my friend Patty does. (In the initial post, I noted that I purchased my Happy Heinys from her. And she has a LOT of kids, so she knows diapers.) I didn't use it for a long time, but it does very well at killing germs. I followed the sniff test - if they came out smelling like hot poop, they weren't clean.

For quite a while, I didn't put anything in with the diapers for the soak cycle. Then I realized that it made sense to use detergent when they were at their dirtiest. I then used just a touch more in the sanitary wash cycle because most of the gunk was gone at that point.

I know some people (including Patty) who dunk and swish their babies' diapers in the toilet. I preferred to rewash them if they didn't come clean rather than do that. A mom somewhere wrote that she preferred picking an occasional stray piece of corn or a raisin out of the washer rather than dunk and swish. Yeah, me too.

By the time Goose potty trained, I quit using the pails and just used my washing machine as a dry pail. Occasionally I had to pull out dirty diapers if I needed to run a load of regular laundry, but I thought it was more convenient than the pails. After I changed Goose, I just took the diaper to the machine, pulled out the insert, and tossed it all in. Like the pails, I didn't have much trouble with Goose getting into them. Please note that with a front-load washer, I highly recommend you leave the door open because I would fear the diapers would get NASTY if they didn't dry out.

I certainly preferred to hang Goose's diapers to dry on the clothesline, though we went through a spell of several weeks this summer where it either rained or was cool/cloudy/humid on the days that I wanted to wash diapers, or I wasn't able to get them washed until night. Our dew point here is high enough that clothes are *soaked* by morning if left on the line overnight.

The waterproof PUL fabric is such that it does well to have an occasional turn in the dryer to help keep it sealed. Overall, to help keep down the ickies, I preferred to dry Goose's diapers as quickly as possible. So if sunshine wasn't available, I tossed them in the dryer. Katie at Kitchen Stewardship notes that she can tell a difference in her dryer-dried microfiber versus line-dried, but she notes that her dish cloth microfiber needs a round in the dryer to keep stink at bay.

If you have any questions on washing cloth diapers, feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment. This is one of my favorite things to talk about! :>) Next up (someday), a brief post on potty training...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Link Roundup - SIGH Edition

As noted yesterday, Goose is under the weather. She seems a bit better today, but there is still a lot of "Mama hold you" and messes have been held to a minimum but are still there. (And I've had to keep working on yesterday's mess. Ick, eew, and blech.)

But, there are lots of pretty, shiny links to click, and doesn't that make everything better?

Should we ever be blessed with a little boy, I *will* be making these, and my hubs will love it: Ribbon Bow Tie Tutorial at Keeping It Simple.

While the design is wonderful ("Big Sister" embroidered in German at Muffins and More), what I love even more are the links to Primrose Design that has a little something called "Stitch School" in the sidebar, that explains embroidery stitches. Oh, the possibilities!! [Update - thanks for the heads up from Miss Muffin - there is now a Stitch School blog!]

Muffins and More has a very sweet mail kit tutorial in Lovely Letters. (Refer to Stitch School for more info on the blanket stitch! Whoo!)

I'm a sucker for such cuteness as these embroidered felt hair clips at Treasures For Tots.

You can see the fabric "paper" dolls my MIL made for Goose here (scroll down). Since the fabric is tough to find, an easier method is to use heavy paper and print your own magnetic paper dolls as shown at One Pearl Button.

"Feeding" (ha!) my felt food obsession: no sew felt pasta at Treasures for Tots.

[Remember my policy about if I keep linking to a blog, it's time to subscribe? Looks like that's where I'm headed with Treasures For Tots!] SUPER CUTE and not too hard - How To Make Tiny Fairy Dolls. Even cuter? They tuck into "bug catcher" necklaces! (Link to that project in the post.)

I love this idea - turn socks into long sleeves at Treasures For Tots.

Aaaand finally, a tutorial on how to turn a potholder and a dish towel into a child's apron. Whew.

Thanks to Zimms Zoo for the heads up on this make a drawstring halter top at Craft Stylish. I especially like how it is cute and feminine without being a bit racy.

I just so happen to have an extra Scrabble game, and I'd love to do something like this make your own magnet board at Twice Remembered. Though I think I'd go small scale and use a cookie sheet. :>)

This is a very fun idea - make matchbook notepads at Sweet Brown Sugars.

Poor Hubs. For most of the two months leading up to Christmas, we were shuffling my ironing board around while I was working on my handmade Christmas gifts. Every time I'd take it down, the next day I'd invariably need it again and we'd trip over it for a while. My MIL hooked me up with a tabletop ironing pad that had a small cutting mat on the back side for Christmas. If she hadn't, I'd be all over this tabletop ironing pad tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets.

Yup, these are making me hungry the second time around - Italian Chicken Melts at Eat At Home.

If you're on the same journey I am in eyeing the yogurt making process, here's one more: Level Up Your Yogurt Game at Kitchen Stewardship.

Right up there with making my own yogurt is baking bread. Here's a no-knead bread hack into a sandwich loaf at the kitchn.

We have some garden onions that need turning into caramelized onion marmalade and then full circle into three cheese fondue. MMMM.

Not sure if any of you will be as geeked out about this as I am, but I'm looking forward to clicking around a site called Nebraska Memories, which is "a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet". Sounds great to me!

There isn't much too much "making" involved with these repurposed containers at Skip To My Lou. Though I think most of the cuteness comes from the super-cute paper used.

Lots and lots of awesome Valentine's Day Ideas at Skip To My Lou.

I've started acquiring bias tape but haven't quite figured out what to do with it - I'm thinking I'll start by watching this bias tape tutorial video at Angry Chicken.

Perhaps this is the reason I can't seem to get rid of Christmas cards - The Long Thread reminds us to recycle them into Holiday Card Gift Tags. (Too bad I don't have the super-easy circle punch, though...)

An oldie but a goodie, found at In the Heart of My Home: St. Francis de Sales Wrote Me a Letter?

Happy clicking!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Night "Fun"

I knew something was up when the Honker didn't eat much lunch. That in of itself isn't terribly unusual, except that it included some much-loved tortilla. And she asked for "bedtime" - though she did that a week ago, so it wasn't without entirely precedent either. I gave her a bit of Tylenol and put her down for a nap. She was up about an hour and a half later with a nasty, nasty diaper, and once cleaned up, she asked to lay back down. She slept for around another hour after that, and seemed to have better energy.

Until she wanted "Mama hold you". We cuddled for a while, and I could hear her tummy gurgling. Should have been my first clue, eh? I asked her if she needed to go potty a couple of times, and she kept telling me no. Then she sat up and hurked on me. I guess it surprised me enough that I kind of froze, instead of taking her over to the sink that was just a few feet away. Multiple hurks later, I shook myself out of the daze and we both hopped in the tub, which I think she found hilarious. I left her in there to play while I worked on cleaning the (carpeted) kitchen floor and (upholstered) kitchen chair, and started a load of laundry with our icky, icky clothes.

I just finished cleaning the floor when I heard her cry from the bathroom (it's right off the kitchen, so I felt reasonably OK leaving her - usually I do stay with her while she's in the tub, though). She'd gotten sick again. So, I put her on the potty in case she wasn't done, and started draining the tub and pulling her toys to clean. Thankfully there were no "emergencies" after that, though I kept her in a diaper the rest of the afternoon and evening and she was able to tell me once that she needed to go potty.

Keep in mind that I've been a deal nut for a while... About the tenth time I walked through the kitchen and sighed because I can still smell something yucky, I remembered that I bought a carpet shampooer a while back and it was still in the box downstairs. So, with a little help from Hubs (whom I had to awaken at 8:30PM, another sigh), I got it assembled and running. Let's hope I don't wake up tomorrow to any more icky smells!

Actually, I'm kind of hoping that I don't wake up in the middle of the night to a crying Goose and a mess to clean up, but as she's grown and evolved as a person, I've grown and evolved as a mother right along side her. Two years ago, I would have been nearly paralyzed at the thought of dealing with a sick child during the night. (It didn't help that I was consistently only getting about four to six hours of sleep during a 24 hour period.)

I'll admit it's hard knowing I am no longer able to comfort Goose by nursing her to sleep. However I know now that if she's up during the night, once her need is met, she'll go back to sleep. I know now that even if I have to get up with her multiple times during the night, God will give me the graces to deal with tomorrow on a lack of sleep, to clean up messes, to snuggle a cranky toddler, to do whatever it is that I need to do to fulfill the vocation of motherhood to which He has called me. I'm thankful that I can count on Hubs to help me out, even if it's just to snuggle Goose during the night while I am cleaning up messes. (Or during his pre-bedtime nap, if I need help with carpet shampooer assembly.)

For sure, things are put into perspective when I consider the struggles of people in Haiti right now, and many other parts of the world where day-to-day living is a struggle in of itself. If you'd like to join me in a good cry, watch this video from ABC. I don't know this couple myself, but they went to the same Nebraska college as a high school friend of mine. As a mother, I can scarcely begin to imagine what it was like for Mandy and Matt, not knowing if their nearly adopted daughter was hurt or even alive.

So, like everyone else, I will be including the victims of the earthquake in my prayers, and snuggling my little one just a bit tighter.

Homemade Citrus Vinegar

I've been collecting recipes for homemade cleaners for a while now. My favorite post on homemade (EASY!) cleaners is What's Under My Sink by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship - she uses baking soda, vinegar and peroxide. Click over to read about how spraying vinegar followed by peroxide (or vice versa) and letting it dry is as effective as using bleach!

My mom loves the smell of vinegar. I think she once told me that it smells clean to her. (Is that right, Mom? Or does it smell yummy as in salad dressing? :>)) Anyway, I don't quite agree, though vinegar is growing on me a bit as I've been using it more for cleaning. One of my favorite smells is citrus - you can read how I even use it to combat motion sickness here.

I found an article at Tipnut quite a while back on making citrus vinegar for cleaning, and gave it a whirl. We don't eat a lot of citrus, so in the wintertime when we enjoy clementines, I save the peels and let them dry. I begin by washing the fruit with a dab of dish soap; Tipnut has a link to a fruit and veggie cleaner on the vinegar post, or you can read Katie's experiment with several different methods of cleaning at 8 Ways To Wash An Apple: How Well Does Produce Wash Work?.

Last year, I laid the peels on the counter until they were dry and then tossed them in a bowl; then when we'd worked our way through the clementines, I put them in the vinegar. This year, I tossed them in the bowl without letting them dry and there were a few that I thought might have been moldy (I threw those away). Live and learn. I suppose it also wouldn't hurt to put them in the vinegar as you accumulate them, but I'd add some time to the four weeks of "brewing", still making sure to shake it every day.

Once the four weeks it up, you strain it a time or two, and your citrus vinegar is ready to use! If you hate the smell of vinegar, this might be enough that you can use it in your green cleaning routine. I have come to enjoy the smell of the citrus stuff, at least.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Link Roundup - Mid Week Melting Edition

So, I have WAY too many links to wait all the way for the weekend. I try not to overload you as it is, I promise. :>) Anyway, we are finally getting sunshiny days with highs in the 40s and it is wonderful! Of course, the snow is going to be slow to melt because there is just so darn much of it, but I really can't complain.

Let's get to the good stuff!

I'm enchanted by these Ribbon and Pearl Necklaces (and bracelets) at Blue Cricket Design.

Also at Blue Cricket Design, Easy Peasy Scrap Fabric Barrettes.

Easy - check. Cute - check. Reuses something - check! turn a zipper into roses at All For This Penny.

Boo Beary Binks has a great tutorial on how to make a dreamy tulle bed canopy. I have to admit, I would probably never have thought to *cut* the hula hoop, and it makes things a zillion times easier!

One of those simple but very well received ideas: Beauty Shop In A Box at Chasing Cheerios. My favorite part is that the cords are cut off - I'd probably never think to do that and they'd just be in the way anyway. Not to mention they are no (obviously!) no longer plug-innable and therefore not posing the temptation.

I am amazed at this handmade chain maille shirt made out of pop tabs, wire, key rings, and duct tape at Baba's Farm Life. Just amazed. I'm REALLY amazed at this honest-to-goodness chain maille shirt at Random Interesting Stuff/Pondered in My Heart.

Homemade Family Yahtzee at Happy at Home - what a fun idea!

Home Sweet Homebodies has a great tutorial on turning an adult fleece shirt into toddler hat, mittens, and scarf. Nicely done!

Our Catholic family has never abstained from meat on Christmas Eve, though it's a fine tradition - especially when something like this Broccoli and Three Cheese Lasagna is on the menu, at Feels Like Home.

I'm still searching for the perfect meatloaf recipe, and once I find it, these Meatloaf Tips at Tipnut will help me cook it properly. :>)

On my "to try someday" list - growing herbs. Tipnut explains basil. (First I need to get a better handle on my recipes, so I know what herbs I really use, and I haven't made much progress since this. Sigh.)

On that same list, making yogurt. Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a guest post at Nourished Kitchen with 10 Tips For Perfect Homemade Yogurt.

Since Hubs is my go-to guy for all things techy, I need to show him this article on How to Optimize Your Computer (for free!) at Bargaineering.

Though I don't link to it often, Here In The Bonny Glen is one of the first blogs I started reading, and I love it! Lissa posted By The Pricking Of My Thumbs regarding her kids' Shakespeare club. (Note: if you're wondering why on earth a mother of six would take the time to do such a club, read Alice Gunther's Haystack Full of Needles and tell me if it doesn't get you fired up to do the same with your kids!) {Note 2: that Amazon link is an affiliate link.}

Speaking of homeschooling, check out this amazing assortment of snowman letter S stuff for pre-kindergarteners at Confessions of a Homeschooler! Holy cow! And what I love about finding stuff like this, is that I'm pretty sure all the other letters are on there, too. :>)

Check out Conversion Diary's list of Ten Best Links of 2009 - there's all kinds of stuff on there.

I've been eyeing the iPod Touch for a while, but I keep telling myself that I don't really need one. Until I see a post like this one at Here in the Bonny Glen where where Melissa Wiley explains how much she uses hers and for what during a typical day. Excerpts of this post are at Faith & Family Live and check the comments for more info on Catholic apps.

Also at Faith and Family Live, In Search of Picture Books - recommendations for when your little one is ready to move beyond board books. There certainly are a lot of options out there, and I love to hear about what other kids (and moms!) enjoy. I laughed at the repetition part - a certain fluffy-headed Honker has been choosing the following three books for pre-nap and bed reading: Snow White, More Snow White, Snow White Again! (Guess who got a Snow White book from Grandma? At least it's short, and it doesn't make me want to poke my eyes out.)

Are you like me, piling up strings of Christmas lights that don't work, but have no idea what to do with them? Thanks to Shaye, I clicked onto this info about Christmas Light Recycling.

Farmers and rust go together like peanut butter and jelly, but without the deliciousness. Tipnut has suggestions on how to remove rust stains.

Happy clicking, and I'll have plenty more links for this weekend!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Calming a Cranky Goose

This past week, it has been reinforced to me that certain children (cough*GOOSE*cough) really need to stick to their schedule - especially with regards to sleep - to do well. Even if, for example, Goose still gets her nap but it's at a later time, it throws things off because our bodies have certain times that they are wired to sleep, and sleeping outside of those times tends can result in poor quality sleep. (I'm not just making this up, someday I'll tell you about my favorite baby sleep book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.)

After the "hen party" last week, I returned home to a crying Goose and her not-feeling-so-good papa - I think they were both pretty glad to see me! I'll admit that one of the reasons I waited so long to wean the honker was because she woke up pretty much every morning and from every nap crying until she was well over a year old. (After that, it was most of the time, and then decreased until her second birthday or so.) Since I can no longer squirt milk at her, I have tried to find various other means of distraction.

Though I try to limit how much "screen time" of various types to which Goose is exposed, there is a certain set of YouTube videos called Simon's Cat that will cheer her up almost without fail. So, Papa and Grandma, if you need some help, try these (I think I remember all their proper titles as bestowed by Goose) - the rest of you can just enjoy. :>)

Meow Meow On The Door


Meow Meow Papa Go Night Night

Meow Meow On The Couch

Meow Meow In The Bed

Meow Meow In The Snow

Meow Meow On The Desk

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Link Roundup - Happy Birthday Hubs Edition

I began this post while sitting in my big brother's living room, surrounded by family and having spent the day watching Goose interact with her cousins. She had a ball! My poor sister-in-law had a stomach bug and I'm sad that she missed out on the chaos, but she rallied to come out and watch the Huskers with us. And I do mean that I spent the whole day watching Goose with her cousins - little dickens refused to take a nap. This week, Goose has come down with a cold and is an unappetizing ball of snot.

Today is my sweet baboo's birthday. I *think* I salvaged the coffee cake I made for him - apparently you aren't supposed to mix it up and store in the fridge overnight like I thought. I'm guessing the texture might be a bit, uh, interesting. Today is also a "meet-the-baby" event for my 10 month old nephew, who is visiting on his first trip from Alaska. I took a load of stuff over last night and have secured Hubs to be home while she naps and we have the hen party. There will be a seven-week-old baby there that I don't want her giving germs to! And, she really, really needs the nap - she napped five and a half hours on Thursday and three yesterday.

Of course, I have two full weeks worth of links for you. I'm thinking I'll try to do another link roundup midweek sometime so it's not so overwhelming for both of us. :>) Some cute and fun stuff this week!

These 5-minute ribbon belts from Small Notebook have SO MANY possibilities.

A Bible Study acquaintance makes felted purses, and I think I'll see if I can get any leftover scraps from her to make these felt wreath ornaments at Alpha Mom.

Anna Maria Horner has a pdf pattern for a very cute felt owl.

This is an oldie but I think a very cute goodie - fabric wrapped initials from Goody-Goody Handmade.

Jane and the Ducks put together some very cute fabric wrapped ornaments. And heaven knows I love fabric scraps.

Speaking of scraps, they'd work great for these Nordic House Ornaments at Orange Flower Patterns.

Another oldie but new-found goodie - Robin's Egg Blue has neat tips on Embroidery for homemade Christmas.

Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog gets a thumbs up for repurposing in this Penguin Playset Tutorial - bonus points for the fish! :>)

I thought this new year's craft post at No Time for Flashcards was very sweet - a wishing tree.

I eyed these crepe paper flowers at Tipnut as decorations for our "hen party" today (Hubs's words for any gathering of women), but ended up going with these paper flowers that I found at Creature Comforts. I used some bigger pieces of paper as well as little ones, and I basically just rounded the corners of a rectangle and then cut the spiral (no lines are really needed). I was very pleased with the way they turned out.

I love me some potatoes, and this sheet on Tipnut with cooking potatoes tips should help in my endeavors.

For the "hen party" today, I'm making this crack aka bean dip. I'll admit I'm a bit nervous as I've not made it before, but I'm hoping the glowing reviews here are spot on. Her pan must be quite a bit larger than a 9x13 because mine is FULL and I haven't even put on the second jar of salsa (home-canned!) and cheese yet. (I'm also making Strawberry Cider and a ham and cheese dip that I got from my cousin - I'll have to share that recipe later 'cause it's DELISH!)

This is going to become an oft-referenced post for me - Sarah's Definitive Guide to Sourdough at Sarah's Musings. (confidential to Sarah: my starter is still being rather neglected. Good thing this stuff is hardy!)

Mercy sakes, I want to make this RIGHT NOW: creamy macaroni and cheese from Tammy's Recipes.

Maybe once Goose gets a bit older, these New Year's Eve Countdown Goodie Bags from Hoosier Homemade will be a fun way to celebrate the holiday. (Though *I* don't even stay up until midnight most years . . . but I'm thinking with the bags, you don't have to! Let's hear it for pretending!)

As a proofreader, one of my pet peeves is seeing spelling and grammar errors everywhere! Though I know I make my share of mistakes . . . feel free to (gently!) point them out to me in the comments, regular readers. :>) Anyway, here is an amusing (warning: PG-13!) post on the 10 words you need to stop misspelling.

A more lighthearted post, Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog demonstrates indoor "ice" skating and surprisingly, she says there's no static involved.

Something I've been meaning to do is learn how to cut hair - lots of ideas there on Tipnut.

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has a great list on how to store and freeze fresh produce, grains, and more.

I could hardly believe it when I read of the "Christmas Miracle" - a mother and baby revived after "dying" in labor. The doctor who rushed to the aid said that she "cannot explain the mother’s cardiac arrest" - but others believe they can explain it. A post at Science and Sensibility includes a portion of the transcription of the interview with the couple and the doctor. This post contends that the story is the "classic sequence that follows what anesthesiologists term an `unexpectedly high blockade,' meaning the anesthesiologist injected the epidural anesthetic into the wrong space and it migrated upward, paralyzing breathing muscles and in some cases, stopping the heart." Please, mothers, know the risks of interventions!

Faith & Family Live has a lovely article called Just One More which is subtitled "Real Life Meets Open to Life". I have been praying for the daughter of a friend of mine who is undergoing her fifth miscarriage. Although she probably doesn't realize it, her openness to life is quite a testament to her faith.

I'd not heard of the "Churching of Women" as described at Shower of Roses, but I'm intrigued!

Though I'm still pondering my resolutions, I really liked this piece at Faith & Family connecting Self-Improvement and the Sacraments.

Top Ten Posts of 2009 at Cute Overload. I'm still giggling.

Another cause of the giggles: Ode to Joy by Beaker from the Muppets. If you listen and aren't "meep"ing all day, I'll be shocked!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Settling into the New Year

I've mentioned before that I'm a firm believer in blogging without obligation but I seem to forget to remind you guys of that before I decide that I don't feel obligated to blog. :>)

We have returned from a four-day trip to visit my brother's family where Goose was surrounded by and doted upon by her four cousins. And Grandma. Who, if she was holding one two year old, had to be holding the other. RIGHT NOW! The littlest is about seven months younger than Goose, and the others are 10, 6, and 5, so she gets carried around a lot by them.

At one point, the 6 and 2 year olds were petting Goose as I was holding her. Petting her, like she was a nappy! Goose clearly didn't care for it, so I taught her to tell them "no thank you!" which lasted about 90 seconds before they started petting her again. Oh, that she will always be so loved by someone! Hee.

The same day we got home, Hubs's sister and her family arrived after a 24 hour trip from Alaska. This is the first time Goose has met her only boy cousin (he's almost 10 months old), so we've been trying to spend a bit of time with them. We're planning a little meet-and-greet shower-sort-of-thing for this weekend, so I've been busy working on that as well. Even though I did a mostly handmade Christmas, I still squeezed our budget pretty tightly so my contributions are leaning towards the things that take lots of time and love and not so much money. (I think I have pretty much a final update on the handmade Christmas post, so if you'd like to see how everything ended up, you can click through. Unless you're one of the two people with whom we've not yet had Christmas. Sorry, girls.)

I actually started on a Reading the Whole Internet post while I was there, and a resolutions post, but haven't made the time to finish either since returning home. And right now, there is an enormous stack of dishes on the counter and I'm not dressed yet for the day, so those posts are going to have to wait a bit longer. Also? It's supposed to get crazy cold and yucky out again. So, we won't be going anywhere if we can help it, which will hopefully translate into a few posts getting written. But I make no promises, and I don't feel too obligated. :>)

Hope everyone is having a good start to the new year!