the simple hive

Build a Keyhole Garden

build your own drought-tolerant keyhole garden

These are all facts:

  • We live in Central Texas
  • Summers here are brutally hot.
  • We are in the midst of a drought.
  • My garden dies in the heat of the summer.
  • Poodles trimmed to resemble bonsai trees are funny.

The first four facts relate to this post.  The last one makes me laugh.  Poor poodles.  I would say I’m laughing with them, but I’ve never seen a dog laugh.  Maybe they aren’t big on laughing out loud.  Come to think of it, I’ve never received a text from a dog saying “lol” or more likely, “rotfl”.

I’m easily distracted.

This post is about gardening, not dogs. Specifically, this post is about keyhole gardening.

What is a keyhole garden you ask? Well, you came to the right place.  Nevermind all the dog nonsense.

A keyhole garden is a method of gardening adapted to hot, dry climates. They were first made popular in Africa, but are rapidly catching on here in Texas.  It is a six-foot wide raised bed about waist-high.  It has a wedge-shaped cut-out to allow access to a center composting basket that provides moisture and nourishment to the soil.  Because of the composting basket, it requires less water than a traditional garden bed.

Here is a peek at my keyhole garden.

keyhole garden prior to planting

keyhole garden prior to planting

The garden is 6 feet in diameter and is made of cinder blocks, three courses high.  The compost basket in the center is hardware cloth that forms a tube that is 12 inches in diameter and extends through the bed all the way to the ground.  The wedge shape allows easy access to the basket.  I suddenly have the urge to play Pac-Man.

Although this is a raised bed, it requires very little soil to build up the bed to the top course of cinder blocks.  Before any soil goes in,  the garden is lined with cardboard.  Then a variety of organic matter goes into the bed.  Filling it up as much as possible.  From our recycling bin, we used cardboard, paper and old phone books.  From the open compost pit, we added sunflowers stalks, tree branches and all sorts of garden waste.  Anything can be composted can be added to the garden.  Occasionally, as you fill, you want to jump in and compact the material to avoid too much sinking over the growing season.  I had a willing kid to toss over and do the job for me.

When you have exhausted your supply of organic filler, add a mixture of soil and compost to the top about 6-8″ deep.  This is the soil that will be for planting.

Important:  Because of the raw, organic materials added to the bottom of the garden, this will be a hot-composting garden for about the first year, robbing the soil of nitrogen.  Organic fertilizer, high in nitrogen, will need to be added often to replace the loss.  Some of my favorite organic fertilizers include chicken manure, fish emulsion and blood meal.

When the bed is not in use, I allow the chicken to roam freely to till in their free organic fertilizer.

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They especially love the compost basket.  Or they are playing an ongoing game of I Spy.

“I spy with my beady little eye…something ORANGE!”

(It’s an orange.)

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“Hmm…maybe if we put our heads together we can figure this out.”

Chickens are so smart.  And delicious!

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Uh oh.  I think she heard what I said.

This step is optional, but I drove re-bar into the holes of the cinder blocks and into the ground to add support to the structure.  This also allowed me to bend 1-inch PVC pipe and slip it over the re-bar.  With the PVC canopy in place, I can attach bird netting to keep the chickens out.  If birds aren’t your worry, you could also drape shade cloth for sun protection or row cover to extend the growing season.

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Because I’m an airhead, I didn’t take any picture of the keyhole garden when it was lush and beautiful, so you will have to use your imagination.

While you are using that beautiful imagination of yours, look around and see what you have readily available to build your own keyhole garden.  It doesn’t have to be made of stone or cinder blocks.  Anything roughly six feet in diameter will work. Old, hole-y water troughs would work well.  Even an old bathtub would do the trick.

Last year, the keyhole was our most prolific garden.  Build one and see for yourself!

Charlotte Mason Inspired Kindergarten Plan

Charlotte Mason This summer Baby Honeybee turns five.  I’m not sure how she can be almost five years old, seeing how she was just a tiny baby yesterday.  She’s magical. Like unicorns!  That must be it.

Magical or not, she still demands an education.  She pretends to not know how to spell or read, but I’m on to her.

Because this is the time of year I typically evaluate our curriculum to see what is working and what needs to be tossed to save our sanity, I’ve put together Baby Honeybee’s Kindergarten plan inspired by the Charlotte Mason method of teaching.

I love the way Charlotte Mason treated children as little people and didn’t squash their love of learning with textbooks and math drills.  I also agree with her philosophy of a child’s need for outdoor exploring and activities that nurture a their natural curiosity.

Keeping that in mind, I have put together a plan for Baby Honeybee that will fit her personality and fit in also with our teaching Tween Bee and Teen Bee, who will be a senior next year.

Thunk.  I just fell out of my chair.

College Bee graduates this August.

Thunk.  I just died.

Ok, I’m not dead yet.  I think I’ll go for a walk.  I feel happy.  I feel happy!!  (Can anyone name that movie?  If you can, we should be friends.)

Moving along.

Reading

We read to Baby Honeybee daily.  To say she loves books doesn’t even come close to describe how she feels.  She will chase down and harass us until we cave.  It’s cute.

If you’re not familiar with the Charlotte Mason style of learning, living books are read aloud to younger children then they are asked to retell the story in their own words.  This allows the child to organize the story in their heads and is the first step to learning reading comprehension skills

Some of the Read Alouds will include:

  • Leaves from a Child’s garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Mother Goose’s Little Treasures – Iona Opie/Rosemary Wells
  • Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present – Charlotte Zolotow
  • Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
  • The Princess and the Pea – adapted by Janet Stevens
  • The Tale of Benjamin Bunny – Beatrix Potter
  • The World of Christopher Robin – A.A. Milne
  • The World of Pooh – A.A. Milne
  • The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  • Little House Series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Boxcar Children – Gertrude Chandler Warher
  • The Story of Dr. Doolittle – Hugh Lofting
  • The Story About Ping – Marjorie Flack
  • Beezus and Ramona – Beverly Cleary (along with other books by this author)
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Judi Barrett
  • Least of All – Carol Purdy
  • Johnny Appleseed: Story of a Legend – Will Moses

This list is based on books we have or can check out from our local library.  This is not a complete list by any means.  It seems all my kids were born with the ability to persuade me into buying them books just about anywhere books are sold.

I’m a sucker for kids and animals and they all know it.

Handwriting

dry-erase alphabet binder

dry-erase alphabet binder

I made this binder for her this year to begin practicing her letters and numbers.  I found some free printables online and slipped the pages into sheet protectors.  With a dry-erase marker, she is able to reuse the worksheets.  It stores easily and it was very inexpensive to make.  As she masters writing her letters and numbers, the pages can be swapped out for copywork, drawing or math sheets.

History & Geography

Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia

We will use The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder to begin our journey of American history.  We will sew (with lacing cards, plastic canvas and yarn), grow our own food, bake bread, make butter, raise livestock and live like pioneers.  We attempt to do much of this anyway, but we are spoiled with the luxuries of indoor plumbing and electricity.  I’m OK with that.

Math

math manipulatives

math manipulatives

Practice writing numbers with dry-erase binder pages.

Learn Shapes – Attribute Blocks by Learning Horizons.

This is a set of shapes of varying size, color and thickness.  With the shapes, children can sort and classify and learn how they are alike or different.

Counting games with marbles, cards and dominoes and dice games.  Yahtzee anyone?

Sorting items (like buttons and coins).

We also have a set of Cuisenaire Rods that have been and will continue to be useful with counting, sorting and pattern sequences.

Science & Nature

Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature

Nature Journal – Observe and draw plants, birds, insects, clouds, weather.  Basically we will spend time marveling at God’s creation.

Wonders of Science & Creatures of the Air and Sea – Reader’s Digest Pathfinders books

Magic School Bus books

My First Book About Space – Dinah L. Moche

Calendar & Clock

Learn days of the week and months.  I plan on letting her pick out her own calendar at the dollar store so it will be special for her.  I have no doubt it will have puppies and kitties on it.

For the clock, well, we will use a clock.

Building Healthy  Habits

This seems like a natural time to implement a Chore Chart for structure so she knows what is expected of her daily.  This will include tasks like: make bed, put away toys, feed Sam (her guinea pig), brush teeth, etc.  This sounds great in theory.  We shall see how it works.

Please and Thank You Book – Richard Scary.  This is so people won’t think she’s being raised by wolves.

Learn about healthy eating habits.

Physical Fitness – Outdoor play

Foreign Language

One of my goals for the year was to implement Spanish Immersion techniques to teach Baby Honeybee and Tween Bee and to reinforce what Teen Bee has been studying for the last two years.  For me, I would like to be able to say more than “I have a dog”.  It’s a bit awkward for others when that is my answer for every question asked.  I’m a natural conversationalist.  On opposite day.

Music

This year, we implemented a study of three composers each year.  So far, we have only studied Beethoven.  As we wrap up our math and science curriculum in the spring, we will have more time for music history studies.

Art

Not only will she be allowed to create her own masterpieces, but we will study three artists each year.  Tween Bee and Teen Bee will study the artists in depth.

Last, but certainly not least:

Bible Study

Baby Honeybee and Tween Bee have the best Sunday School teacher we could have ever wanted.  Not only is she kind and generous, but she has picked up on their learning styles and has been able to teach them while having fun.  They love their Sunday School teacher and she loves them.  When I have to fill in on the occasional Sunday, the girls grumble and groan.  I feel the love.

We have numerous children’s bible story books from which to learn, but this year we will be putting more effort into scripture memorization.  I have some ideas to incorporate this with art.  Stay tuned.

 

So that’s our Kindergarten curriculum in a nutshell.  The cost of this curriculum for us is zero dollars since we have all the resources available to us from the older kids.

Leave a comment and let me know if you have any thoughts or know of any resources that we shouldn’t be without in our homeschool.  I’m all ears!

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Solar Clothes Dryer aka Clothesline

BIG

Today is a sad day in the hive.

Our clothes dryer died.

I don’t how long I’ll be in mourning, but while I’m mourning the loss, I’ll only wear clothes that are black and shades of gray.  I’ll pretty much look the same as always, is what I’m saying.

Luckily for me, the hubby built a clothesline not long after we bought our house.  Problem solved.

We are in Central Texas, so if it had to happen, the death of the dryer was well-timed.

Depending on how much the repairs are for the dryer, or if we decide to buy a new one, we may be without a dryer for a while.  I have not been impressed with the life span of our 3 year-old washer.  It seems to have contracted an illness and is unable to drain and spin properly the first time around.  Poor thing.

If we need to use our clothesline into the summer, the good news is that a full load dries in 10 minutes.  (I’m making lemonade with all the lemons life continues to bless me with.)  That’s just enough time to slightly recover from the heat stroke I’ll suffer from hanging out the clothes.  See?  It all works so perfectly!

So, if you have a clothesline, or decide to build one because you’re green and love the earth and all, you will need these:

 

thesimplehive.com

thesimplehive.com

They are known by many names, but we found these in the camping/sporting goods department at Walmart.  They might be called clothesline, volleyball net or rope tightener.  I call mine Mary.

You can order them online here.

That’s all.  Now I’m off to bury the dryer.  Do you think it would mind if I used a refrigerator box for the casket?

DIY Wood Burned Spoons

DIYwood-burned spoons

Psst…..yes, you. Do you need a quick gift because you don’t have your act together and you don’t have a gift for your sweet Aunt’s birthday?  For those of you who said “yes”, stop talking to your computer. You will look a bit off your rocker to those who are blessed to be in your presence.

I’m not judging.

But if you need a gift in a hurry, for whatever reason, these are quick and easy. And pretty cute, if you ask me.  But you didn’t.

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To make your own wood burned spoons, a few plain wooden spoons and a wood burning tool is all you need.

And a pencil.

Plain wooden spoons, a wood burning tool and pencil are all you need.

(Is this post reminding you of The Jerk, yet?)

You’ll need some food-grade mineral oil if you want to seal them.  It’s optional, but I opted for it.

Plain wooden spoons, a wood burning tool, a pencil and mineral oil.  That’s really all you need.

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Lightly trace out your design on the spoons with a pencil.

Use the wood burning tool to go over the pencil lines.  You can shade areas at this point.  When finished, rub food-grade mineral oil into the wood and wipe off.

after oiling

after oiling

That’s all there is to it!

mom's spoons

This is a set I made for my mom for Mother’s Day last year.  I didn’t have my act together then either.  No surprise there.

I’m going to watch The Jerk now.

Check out other great ideas at the Artsy Fartsy and Your Turn to Shine Link Parties!

 

DIY wood-burned spoons

DIYwood-burned spoons

Psst…..yes, you. Do you need a quick gift because you don’t have your act together and you don’t have a gift for your sweet Aunt’s birthday?  For those of you who said “yes”, stop talking to your computer. You will look a bit off your rocker to those who are blessed to be in your presence.

I’m not judging.

But if you need a gift in a hurry, for whatever reason, these are quick and easy. And pretty cute, if you ask me.  But you didn’t.

DSC_0240

A few, plain wooden spoons and a wood burning tool is all you need.

And a pencil.

Plain wooden spoons, a wood burning tool and pencil are all you need.

(Is this post reminding you of The Jerk, yet?)

You’ll need some food-grade mineral oil if you want to seal them.  It’s optional, but I opted for it.

Plain wooden spoons, a wood burning tool, a pencil and mineral oil.  That’s really all you need.

DSC_0242

Lightly trace out your design on the spoons with a pencil.

Use the wood burning tool to go over the pencil lines.  You can shade areas at this point.  When finished, rub food-grade mineral oil into the wood and wipe off.

after oiling

after oiling

That’s all there is to it!

mom's spoons

This is a set I made for my mom for Mother’s Day last year.  I didn’t have my act together then either.  No surprise there.

I’m going to watch The Jerk now.

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cilantro pesto with zucchini noodles – perfect for St. Patrick’s Day

TEXT HERE

I made this for dinner tonight and it knocked my socks off!  It was a cinch to prep, it’s gluten-free and would be a perfect addition to your St. Patrick’s Day feast, being green and all.

In order to get this posted so you all have plenty of time to gather your ingredients, I am posting this while pretty close to a long-day-after-dinner coma.  Please forgive me for any misspellings and poor sentence structure that may result.  (Not that poor grammar doesn’t happen any other time.  Nope, not here.)

Here’s what you need for the pesto:

  • 2 bunches of fresh cilantro
  • 6-8 medium size cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 c. pecan halves
  • 3/4 c. sunflower or olive oil
  • salt to taste (I used Celtic sea salt)

For the “noodles”:

  • 4 zucchini squash and a pinch of salt

Here’s what you do:

Wash and slice your zucchini.  You can do this with a knife, making thin slivers or you can track down  a Veggetti spiral vegetable slicer, or something similar.

the Veggetti in action

the Veggetti in action

I went the Veggetti route because, a) I have one and b) I like the long “noodles” it creates.  I also like typing “noodles”.  I like anything that I can use quotation marks.  Don’t even get me started on how much I love doing cheesy air quotes with my fingers.  We’ll be here all day!

zucchini "noodles"

zucchini “noodles”

Stick with me.  After your zucchini is transformed into long strips, place them in a strainer over a bowl and toss them with a pinch of salt.  This helps to remove some of the water so the dish isn’t watery.  Make sense?  Gooood!

Now, on to the pesto!

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In a food processor (or blender) add all ingredients and process until smooth.  You may have to play with the vinegar and oil amounts depending on how much cilantro you are using (a bunch isn’t a standard unit of measure.  Neither is “a whole mess” of something, but it should be.  It paints a clear picture.)

I think the food coma is getting the best of me.

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Once your pesto is processed, heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet.  Throw in the “noodles” (there are those lovely quotes again.  In my head, they are air quotes since in my head, I’m talking to you all.)  Gently heat over medium heat for just a couple of minutes then add the pesto and stir to coat all the zucchini…”noodles”. (I can’t help myself.)

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When you begin to smell the garlic, remove from heat and transfer into a bowl to stop the cooking process.  You only want to warm the pesto and still have some crunch to the “noodles”.

A note on the lovely cilantro pesto. Cilantro has been linked to being a detoxifier of heavy metals.  Not only is it nutritious and delicious, but it’s a hard-working chelator!

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Happy clean eating!

(This recipe makes 6-8 servings depending on how many ravenous teen-aged beasts you are feeding.)

That’s all folks!

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goat’s milk and honey soap in the crock pot

Add subtitle text

When I tell people I make my own soap, I’m sure many of them think it’s a waste of time.  After all, soap is readily available in just about every grocery, drug, convenience and dollar store and it’s inexpensive.  So why do I make my own?  I’m glad you asked.

Your skin is your largest organ.  Some adults carry around 8 pounds or about 22 square feet of it.  While it does a good job at regulating temperatures and keeping our insides on the inside, it’s porous, and that means it is penetrable.  Some of the  stuff we put on the surface of our skin can make it’s way into our bodies.  If you are not convinced, think about the medication patch delivery system.

Because my girls suffer from food allergies and psoriasis, we spend more time than I would like traveling to and fro and sitting in the office of our allergist.  On his advice, we have been removing fragrances from the cleaning, laundry and toiletry supplies we use.  We have completely omitted dryer sheets (replaced with dryer balls) and said sayonara to store-bought liquid fabric softener in favor of homemade fabric softener and cleaning concentrate.  Our cleaning supplies are baking soda, vinegar and a few essential oils like tea tree and eucalyptus.  When extra cleaning power is needed, I break out the big guns like borax and washing soda.

Now, back to why I make my own soap.  I don’t know what is in the mass-produced soap.  The “fragrance” on the list of ingredients doesn’t have to be disclosed.  It can be a dangerous cocktail of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and  phthalates that can lead to asthma and allergies.  Not in my bath water.  No thanks.

If you are a homeschooling family, like we are, a lesson in soap-making is a great way to connect chemistry and real life.  Do a unit study of organic chemistry and make something useful in the process.  Embrace your inner geek!  We all have one!

There are other goat’s milk soaps on the market that are safe and lovely, but at 5-6 dollars a bar, it’s not doable for my family of six.

So that’s why I make my own soap.  I get to design the soap with the cleansing, lathering and moisturizing properties I want.  Fragrance and color can be added by using essential oils and natural pigments.  Although, my favorite unscented “scent” comes naturally from goat’s milk and honey.

Here’s how it came to be.

A few years ago, I made my very first batch of cold-process soap.   It was unscented and made with goat’s milk. It was mild and even though it did not contain any added fragrance, it smelled heavenly. There is something about the scent of goat’s milk when it “cooks” in the soap that I find irresistible. If you don’t have any idea what I mean, then you need this soap in your life!

Today, because I needed mild soap and didn’t want to wait, I made that same goat’s milk soap by the hot process method. This is the first time I have used this method and I have to say, I’m a convert. You see, with the cold process method the bars require a curing period to make sure that the oils are completely saponified and the lye is no longer present. The curing period can last for several weeks and is difficult if you want it now!  With the hot process method, the lye “cooks” away in the crock pot (yes, you can make soap in the crock pot!) and the soap is ready to use in as little as 12 hours.

I want my soap now! My winter-ravaged skin needs it. I’ll bet many of you feel the same way, so I’ll tell you how I did it!

You will need:

  • a kitchen scale that measures ounces or grams
  • safety goggles
  • gloves
  • face mask
  • spoon for stirring
  • glass container for mixing milk and lye
  • crock pot
  • olive oil (22.4 ounces or 635.029 grams)
  • coconut oil (8.96 ounces or 254.012 grams)
  • castor oil (0.64 ounces or 18.144 grams)
  • goat’s milk (12.16 ounces or 344.73 grams)
  • honey (2 Tbsp)
  • lye (4.521 ounces or 128.158 grams)
  • pH strips (or phenolphthalein )

You also need 2 Pringles cans to use as molds (my kids thought I was the bees knees for buying Pringles) or a soap mold that accommodates 2 pounds of soap.

Warning:  Lye is a caustic substance.  Failure to follow safety precautions and to wear proper safety gear can result in injury.

This recipe is for two pounds of soap. It fills two Pringles cans about 3/4 of the way. It’s important to note that Pringles can may only be used during the hot-process soap method because the soap being put into the cans is already soap.  Do not use Pringles cans with cold-process soap as it still contains lye until it is cured.

Safety first: If you make any changes to the oils, run your oils of choice through a soap calculator. SoapCalc.net is the one I used.

When using goat’s milk or any other milk in soap making, it must be ice cold to keep the sugars from caramelizing too much and creating an off-putting scent.  On the morning I make soap, I measure out the amount of milk needed for the recipe into a container and place it in the freezer.  Within a couple of hours, the milk is slushy and ready for the lye.

weighed oils into crock pot

weighed oils into crock pot

Weigh each oil and place in the crock pot on low.  While the oils are melting, measure out your lye (I used a disposable paper cup).  Be sure to wear your safety goggles, mask and gloves when handling lye.

Turn off the crock pot when the oils have melted.

Transfer your slushy goat’s milk into a large glass measuring cup, or pitcher.  Wearing all you safety gear (long sleeves are a good idea here, too) sprinkle the lye slowly into the milk and stir gently until completely dissolved.  I add the lye to the liquid outside to avoid breathing in any fumes.  I recommend doing this.  Always.

Safety note:  (This post is full of them!) Never pour your liquids into the lye.  It can make a very dangerous volcano-like situation.

Once the lye is fully dissolved in the milk, slowly pour into the oils.  Stir gently with a spoon to mix, then break out the stick blender!  I wouldn’t think of making soap without one.  I’m pretty sure by the time I stirred the oil/milk/lye mixture to trace, my arms would fall off.  I’m pretty attached to my arms, so I use a stick blender.  You should, too.

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With the stick blender, immersion blender or whatever you want to call it (call it Hank, if you want) blend until the mixture looks like a soft-set pudding.  This is called “trace” because your blender (or Hank) will leave a trace of a trail when pulled through the mixture.  This stage usually takes 8-12 minutes, depending on the oils being used.

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When trace happens, turn on the crock pot to low and cover with the lid.  I offset the lid slightly so the heat stays in, but the lid does cause condensation.

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As the soap cooks, it will bubble along the edges.  Stir with a spoon occasionally to keep the mixture cooking evenly.  While cooking, the soap mixture looks like applesauce.  Resist the temptation to taste it.  When the soap is ready, it will resemble waxy mashed potatoes.  At this point, use a pH test strip to make sure the lye is cooked out.  Remove a small blob of soap mixture and test it with your pH strips or phenolphthalein, whichever one you’re using.  Your goal is a pH of 8.2-10.  Some soap makers use the zap test.  If lye is still present, the soap will zap your tongue like a 9-volt battery.  When the soap is fully cooked, it just tastes like soap.  Using pH strips or phenolphthalein is more accurate and the recommended way to go.  Do that.

This recipe took about an hour and 15 minutes to cook.

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When you have determined that your soap is fully cooked, turn off the crock pot and add the honey.

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Stir until the honey is fully incorporated.  If using any other additives, such as coloring or essential oils, add them at this point.

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Spoon the mixture into the Pringles cans.  (You do not need to line them with parchment or freezer paper.  Beautiful, isn’t it?)  Work quickly and tap the cans on the counter occasionally to avoid air bubbles.  Fill the cans no more than 3/4 of the way.  You need a little space to cut and tear the can away when the soap has hardened.

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The soap needs at least 12 hours to cool and harden in the molds.  When ready to unmold, take a sharp knife and cut straight down and then tear the can off the rest of the way.  Slice into bars.

Congratulations!  You made soap!

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I usually let my bars sit on a wire rack to continue to harden after I cut them into bars.  By allowing them to dry out, they last longer in the shower.

This recipe yields 12-14 bars (3/4″-1″ in thickness).

As soon as I force more Pringles on my kids and the youth group (or I make my own wooden soap mold), I’ll be making more soap in the crock pot.  I’m see  Lime-Basil or Lavender-Mint in my near future!

What about you?  I’m curious.  What is your favorite soap scent?

(I am also curious how many people have the urge to watch “Fight Club” after making soap.  Is it just me?  Please tell me I’m not alone.)

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Wool Dryer Balls DIY with Essential Oils

It’s that time of year again.  Time to welcome spring with a frenzy of cleaning.  Today I’m sharing one of my oldies, but goodies just in case you missed it the first time around.

Previously, I shared with you what I use for fabric softener.  Now I’ll reveal what I use in place of dryer sheets!

You are all on the edge of your seats, I know.

dryer balls

It’s dryer balls!

Dryer balls fluff laundry as it tumble dries, reducing drying time and making your clothes feel soft and fluffy without leaving a skin-irritating film on your clothes. You may have heard a tip to toss tennis balls into the dryer or you may have seen dryer balls made from rubbery plastic sold in stores. I prefer to avoid the chemicals in tennis balls and plastic can release dangerous compound when heated. Neither of these thrill me so I made some using wool yarn!

These are exciting times, man! Ditch the Downy habit! You can do it!

I seem very excited today. It might be the mood-enhancing essential oils, or that I just love a good DIY project. Especially one that is as simple as this one is. Top it off with not spending four bucks for a box of dryer sheets and I’m downright giddy!

Wool Dryer Balls DIY

100% wool yarn
crochet hook
pantyhose

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If you have wool yarn leftover from the scarf you knitted Aunt Suzy, now is the time to gather up all your scraps. The only catch is, it must be 100% wool yarn. No substitutes. Sorry, on this I must be a stickler. The point is, we will wash and dry and agitate the heck out of these wool fibers to make them lock together and become one with each other. This beautiful process is also known as felting. It’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to garment care instructions and put the lovely sweater you received as a Christmas gift through the washer and dryer only to realize your mistake when you pull out what looks to be a doll sweater. Then you look around with a puzzled expression wondering how a doll sweater made its way into your load of laundry until the sweater begins to look vaguely familiar and it hits you what you have done.

Breathe.

Moving along.

Take your yarn and wind it into a tight ball about the size of a baseball. You can go with tennis ball size or even softball if that’s your game, but I did baseball size and it seems to work just fine.

tuck your tail

tuck your tail

When you have the size you prefer, pull the tail through many layers using a crochet hook. Tuck the tail deep into the ball to completely secure.

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You can make as many as you would like. Three seemed like a good number to me because I ran out of yarn after the third one. Three was meant to be.

Now, raid your drawer for some pantyhose. I happened to have a perfectly good pair of suntan colored hosiery hanging around for more than a decade because I’m too pasty to pull off “suntan” without looking like I’m part oompa loompa and also, I despise wearing pantyhose. Use whatever you have, folks!

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Cut a leg off the pantyhose and shove one ball into the foot. Tie and knot and put in the next ball. Keep going until all your yarn ball are in the hose with knots in between and at the end.  When finished, you have dryer ball sausage links.

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Now it’s time to wash a load of laundry. This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it? Towels or sheets are good choices because you want to wash this load on HOT and EXTRA HEAVY or whatever cycle is the most brutal on your washing machine.

After washing, throw the load of laundry into the dryer, yarn balls and all. Don’t take them out of the pantyhose just yet. Use the highest heat setting o your dryer.

When the drying cycle is complete, snip away the pantyhose from the yarn balls.

We are almost there!

Take your essential oils of choice.  Lavender lemon is lovely, but you can do whatever you want.  I’m flexible. If you are having a difficult time deciding which oils to use, this chart may help.

Apply 10-20 drops on each ball, until desired strength is achieved. This may take a few tries to get it right. I have noticed that 20 drops per ball is enough to leave a pleasant scent in the dry laundry.

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Now they are ready to use!

We are a family of five.  Hubby is an archaeologist and I have a gardening habit, so laundry is an everyday occurrence. I like the idea of fresh, clean laundry without using synthetic chemicals.  When not in use, I just leave the balls in the dryer. If you prefer to contain the scent longer, store them in a glass jar with a lid until ready to use.

If you’re anything like me, you will toss these into the dryer with your wet laundry and immediately reach up to grab a dryer sheet. Talk about a habit!

Check out The Art of Home-Making Monday Link Party!

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

diy wool dryer balls with essential oils

Now that I have shared with you what I use for fabric softener, I’ll reveal what I use in place of dryer sheets!

You are all on the edge of your seats, I know.

dryer balls

It’s dryer balls!

Dryer balls fluff laundry as it tumble dries, reducing drying time and making your clothes feel soft and fluffy without leaving a skin-irritating film on your clothes. You may have heard a tip to toss tennis balls into the dryer or you may have seen dryer balls made from rubbery plastic sold in stores. I prefer to avoid the chemicals in tennis balls and plastic can release dangerous compound when heated. Neither of these thrill me so I made some using wool yarn!

These are exciting times, man! Ditch the Downy habit! You can do it!

I seem very excited today. It might be the mood-enhancing essential oils, or that I just love a good DIY project. Especially one that is as simple as this one is. Top it off with not spending four bucks for a box of dryer sheets and I’m downright giddy!

Here’s what you need:

100% wool yarn
crochet hook
pantyhose

DSC_0104

If you have wool yarn leftover from the scarf you knitted Aunt Suzy, now is the time to gather up all your scraps. The only catch is, it must be 100% wool yarn. No substitutes. Sorry, on this I must be a stickler. The point is, we will wash and dry and agitate the heck out of these wool fibers to make them lock together and become one with each other. This beautiful process is also known as felting. It’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to garment care instructions and put the lovely sweater you received as a Christmas gift through the washer and dryer only to realize your mistake when you pull out what looks to be a doll sweater. Then you look around with a puzzled expression wondering how a doll sweater made its way into your load of laundry until the sweater begins to look vaguely familiar and it hits you what you have done.

Breathe.

Moving along.

Take your yarn and wind it into a tight ball about the size of a baseball. You can go with tennis ball size or even softball if that’s your game, but I did baseball size and it seems to work just fine.

tuck your tail

tuck your tail

When you have the size you prefer, pull the tail through many layers using a crochet hook. Tuck the tail deep into the ball to completely secure.

DSC_0113

You can make as many as you would like. Three seemed like a good number to me because I ran out of yarn after the third one. Three was meant to be.

Now, raid your drawer for some pantyhose. I happened to have a perfectly good pair of suntan colored hosiery hanging around for more than a decade because I’m too pasty to pull off “suntan” without looking like I’m part oompa loompa and also, I despise wearing pantyhose. Use whatever you have, folks!

DSC_0114

Cut a leg off the pantyhose and shove one ball into the foot. Tie and knot and put in the next ball. Keep going until all your yarn ball are in the hose with knots in between and at the end.

DSC_0115

Now it’s time to wash a load of laundry. This just keeps getting better, doesn’t it? Towels or sheets are good choices because you want to wash this load on HOT and EXTRA HEAVY or whatever cycle is the most brutal on your washing machine.

After washing, throw the load of laundry into the dryer, yarn balls and all. Don’t take them out of the pantyhose just yet. Use the highest heat setting o your dryer.

When the drying cycle is complete, snip away the pantyhose from the yarn balls.

We are almost there!

Take your essential oils of choice.  Lavender lemon is lovely, but you can do whatever you want.  I’m flexible. If you are having a difficult time deciding which oils to use, this chart may help.

Apply 10-20 drops on each ball, until desired strength is achieved. This may take a few tries to get it right. I have noticed that 20 drops per ball is enough to leave a pleasant scent in the dry laundry.

DSC_0135

Now they are ready to use!

We are a family of six, so laundry is an everyday occurrence. When not in use, I just leave the balls in the dryer. If you prefer to contain the scent longer, store them in a glass jar with a lid until ready to use.

If you’re anything like me, you will toss these into the dryer with your wet laundry and immediately reach up to grab a dryer sheet. Talk about a habit!

simple homemade cleaning concentrate and fabric softener

homemade cleaning concentrate

You do know what time of year it is, don’t you?  It’s time to begin Spring cleaning!  Spring-like weather is just around the corner! Although, depending on which part of the country or world you live in, you might be laughing at me right now.  That’s ok.  I don’t mind.  But, here in central Texas, we have been flirting with temps in the upper 70’s this past week!  I’m torn between pure and utter joy for this warmer weather and the far-away doom of blazing summer heat that damages my garden and my spirit.

But for now, I’ll push away the summer dread and just full-on flip over Spring!  Maybe, I’m not normal, but I actually love Spring cleaning.  I do.  Crazy sauce, I know.  Over the years, I have pared down my cleaning arsenal to what works well.  Today, because the world should be a cleaner, greener place, I’m sharing with you my favorite cleaning concentrate!

Usually I stick with baking soda, vinegar, a liquid castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s and a few essential oils.  Peppermint, lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus, orange, and grapefruit essential oils can be found in my cabinet at any given time.  I use them sparingly.  Sometimes I just go the vinegar, baking soda, water route in my cleaning routine, but for the cold and flu season, I add germ-busting essential oils to the mix.  For Spring cleaning, they are my secret weapon to a clean, fresh and healthy home.

So, what’s in this cleaning concentrate of which I speak?  I’m glad you asked!

the usual suspects

the usual suspects

Vinegar

isopropyl alcohol

essential oils: tea tree, lavender, grapefruit (or whatever essential oils float your love boat.)

Here’s what you do.  Grab a glass jar (plastic and essential oils don’t get along) and add 4 cups of vinegar.

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Add 1/2 cup of alcohol and 20-30 drop of your favorite essential oils.

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Put a lid on the jar and shake to combine.  That’s it!  Now your ready to use this crazy concoction!

For use as a fabric softener, add 1/4 or less to the rinse cycle.  I add it to my washing machine’s fabric softener dispenser with no ill effects.  Go with your heart on this.

As an all-purpose cleaner, put 1/2 cup of the mixture in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the way with water.  Shake and spray on counter-tops, windows, etc.

I also use this same mixture to mop my wood, ceramic tile and vinyl floors.  In a bucket. combine 2 gallons of water and 1/2 cup of the cleaning concentrate.  The alcohol helps it to dry quickly, so the wood doesn’t stay wet for an extended period.

Because I like pretty things, I made some labels to share.  Just follow this link and print!

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Once printed, I cut out the labels and placed them face down on the sticky side of clear contact paper.

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I trimmed around the label, leaving a border of sticky to apply to my glass jar and  spray bottle.  If you don’t have clear contact paper, use strips of clear packing tape in the same way.  Or, you can just grab a Sharpie marker and scrawl the contents across the jar.  Either way.

all-purpose spray and cleaning concentrate

all-purpose spray and cleaning concentrate

If you have any tips or ideas to streamline cleaning tasks or any do-it-yourself cleaners, I’d love to hear about it!  By simplifying the cleaning routine, there is more time for play!

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