Wednesday, August 29, 2012

All-Purpose Cleaner - Better than Windex!!

Lately I've been on a homemade cleaners kick. :) It's fun, plus I feel better about the things I'm using when I clean my home, even if my house DOES smell faintly like vinegar. :) I have two toddlers, one of which puts EVERYTHING in her mouth....she has tried drinking toilet bowl cleaner not once, but TWICE. : \  Oh dear. So, not only are homemade cleaners cheaper than the overpriced, store bought ones, but in my case, if my daughter somehow scales the shelves to get to the cleaners (NOT unimaginable for her...), drinking this mixture would be vastly preferable to her downing TOILET BOWL CLEANER. ::SHUDDER:: This cleaner is cheap, easy, and made with things pretty much everyone has around their house anyway!

An added benefit to this cleaner is it cleans windows. It cleans windows WELL. It cleans windows BETTER than WINDEX!!!! I know, that's hard to imagine...I never would have believed it either. :) But it does. And that's pretty awesome. 

I first found this recipe on this blog and I originally wanted to try it as a floor cleaner (we have a LOT of laminate wood flooring, in case you hadn't noticed from all my pictures). However, I STILL haven't used it for that...but I did clean my whole bathroom with it a couple days ago. :) 

Here's what you'll need:

- 1 cup water
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 cup rubbing alcohol
- 2-3 drops of dish soap
- 10-20 drops essential oil 
(optional...I used Aura Cacia Sweet Orange Oil).
In my last batch of this cleaner I decided to try something different and used Aura Cacia Lime Oil. I REALLLLLLY like it in this cleaner!!! It has such a fresh, clean, energizing scent, and I think it works really well with the vinegar smell.
- Fine mist spray bottle

Now this part is complicated so pay attention: add all the above ingredients to the spray bottle and shake to combine. :) Vary the amount of oil based on your preference...I can't remember how much I used for sure. It will still smell like vinegar, but the oil takes the edge off. It smelled so weird to me at first (after being so used to store-bought cleaners) but it doesn't bother me anymore. :) If you use essential oil it will float to the top, so shake it gently before each use. 

As I mentioned, I used this to clean the bathroom the other day...countertop, sink, toilet, mirrors...yes, mirrors. Which bring me to the claim that it's better than Windex.

When I first sprayed it on the mirrors and made the first swipe with my paper towel, I felt my heart sink. It left this huge, greasy looking mess all over the mirror! Imagine my surprise when, after a couple seconds, the whole mess had vanished, leaving a perfectly clean, perfectly STREAK FREE surface!!! Streak free!!!! :) Yay! Maybe I'm just doing it wrong, but cleaning windows is NOT my favorite chore. It takes forever to get BOTH sides of the glass clean, without leaving streaks. I hate it, quite honestly. : P And with two toddlers and a sliding glass door, there is ALWAYS an abundance of sticky handprints on the windows...

Exhibit A: Very sticky sliding glass patio door. It's very hard to take pictures of glass, so look at all the smudges in the picture and then imagine about 3x that many. :) It was BAD.

Exhibit B: Very clean and streak-free sliding glass patio door. :) I'm sorry for the glare in a few spots...believe me, it really IS clean!! :) The thing I love about this cleaner is you don't have to try get the streaks off! When you use it, just spray it on, rub off the dirty, sticky spots, and voila. You're done! The cleaner evaporates within seconds and leaves a beautifully clean surface. :)

My mom was over last night and I gave her a demonstration...the first thing she said was "Wow, it's BETTER than Windex!" :) It really is! Give it a try and I think you'll love it. ;)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Using Cupboard Doors

I've seen a lot of neat ideas lately of how people have been using the insides of their cupboard doors for all kinds of neat organizational ideas....pinboards, chalkboards, menu planning, spice racks, etc...just type "inside cupboard" into Pinterest and you'll see what I mean. :) It's a cool way to put otherwise wasted space to use. 

(By the way, if anyone is interested in joining Pinterest, let me know and I can send you an invite!)

My utensil drawer is a bit scary and I'm always having to dig stuff out to find what I need...I also keep my measuring cups in this drawer, and the handles like to poke up and snag the drawer so I can't open it...cute. I need to get this whole drawer more organized and functional, but for today I'm just starting by getting my measuring cups out of here. This will give me some more space in the drawer, plus make it easier to just grab the cup I need, instead of having to dig for it. :)

I picked up a few packs of these Command hooks at Menards...I think they were $2.22 for a 3 pack this size. 

 To hang the hooks, start by peeling off the RED side of the adhesive strip.

Press the exposed adhesive to the back of the hook.

Now peel off the BLACK side.

Press the hook against whatever surface you're adhering it too. Hold it firmly for a few seconds. If you're hanging anything that weighs very much, wait about an hour before hanging it up.

And voila! :) Now I can just grab the right measuring cup without having to dig for it...nice and neat. 

You may have noticed that the white 1/4 cup wound up lower than the other white cups....those of you who know me well will know how MUCH that bothers Oh well. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fabric Softener

I've been really liking my super cheap, homemade laundry soap, so when I came across a recipe for homemade fabric softener I decided to give it a try! I can't remember for sure how much I paid for the bottle of conditioner (it's been sitting around for awhile) but I think it was a little over $1 (it's the bigger size Suave makes), and the vinegar is also something that I've had around I can't really give you an exact cost-per-load on this one, but if I remember I'll try to double check the prices next time I'm in Walmart. :) Basically, it's very cheap to make. :)

What you'll need:
- Cheap conditioner (I used Suave Sweet Pea & Violet)
- White vinegar
- Hot water
- Container for storage (I reused my old fabric softener bottle after rinsing it out)

The original recipe is as follows, although I came up with my own variation. :)

- 2 cups conditioner
- 3 cups white vinegar
- 6 cups hot water

My jug wasn't quite big enough to hold this whole recipe, so I decide to half it. I was also a little concerned about it having too strong of a vinegar smell (I've never used vinegar in laundry although I know some people just use straight vinegar as a fabric softener and they say it doesn't smell at all) so I cut that down too. Here's the recipe I used:

- 1 cup conditioner
- 1/2 cup vinegar
- 3 cups hot water

Use a funnel to add the conditioner and hot water to the jug. Shake to mix. Add vinegar, and shake again. See? Easy peasy. :) It does settle some, so give it a gentle shake before using it.

I was surprised at how little you can smell the vinegar in this mixture, and you can't smell it on the finished laundry at ALL. I haven't noticed the laundry really smelling like this softener, but it does seem to be coming out soft, so I'm happy. :) 

I've just been using a full cap of this per load (I use a top-loading washer that has a spot to put fabric softener, so I just fill that up) just like with store bought softener, but if you aren't using an old fabric softener bottle I'd say maybe use 1/3 - 1/2 cup per load.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mozzarella Cheese

We've been getting raw, organic milk from a local dairy recently, so I've been having fun coming up with new uses for the stuff we haven't used up by the end of the week. This weekend I tried mozzarella and it was surprisingly good, especially since it was my first attempt at cheese making. Ever. :)

You will need milk (I believe you can use any kind of milk....raw, store-bought, whole, skim, whatever), non-iodized salt (I used coarse sea salt), citric acid (found in the canning section), rennet (I used junket rennet tablets, found in the pudding/jello aisle...a few places online said that this will not work for making cheese, but there was a recipe in the box so I went back and forth between that recipe and one I found online using liquid rennet. I honestly don't know what I'm doing so I can't really enlighten you on the difference between junket and any other form of rennet...but hey, there's always Google if you're interested in learning more! :) ), a thermometer, and a cheesecloth or tea towel to strain out the whey. 

I only made a half-batch since I only had half a gallon of milk to use up...most recipes call for a whole gallon of milk. I will give you the measurements I used, so double everything if you're using a whole gallon. 

Warm 1/2 a gallon of milk over a gentle heat until it reaches 88°F. Stir often and be careful you don't scorch the milk. 

Dissolve 1/2 tsp. of citric acid in 1/4 c. of cool water. Add to the warmed milk and stir thoroughly. 

Dissolve 1/4 of a tablet of rennet into 1/8 c. cool water. (If you're not using junket, follow the directions that came with your rennet) Add to warmed milk and stir thoroughly. 

After adding the citric acid and rennet, remove from heat and let the milk sit undisturbed for 1-2 hours, until a clean break is achieved. To test for a clean break, push a finger into the milk and lift up. If it has gelled enough to break cleanly as your finger is lifted, go to the next step. If the milk is still liquid or only semi-gelled and it sort of flows over your finger, let it sit until you can get a clean break. I think this took about 3-4 hours for me.

Once you have gotten the milk to the "clean break" stage, use a knife and cut the curd into a grid pattern. 

Warm over low heat, stirring often, until the temperature reaches 108°F. Now the recipe I used said to hold the curd at this temperature for 35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. However, I dropped my thermometer into the pot and apparently it doesn't do well when it's full of whey. :( It was showing the temperature jumping up and down, switching between F and C, and just generally going berserk. The curds had stuck together into a big lump at that point and I decided it had gotten too hot and didn't want to burn it, so I pulled it out and went to the next step instead of waiting for 35 minutes. :) Worked ok for me...

I forgot to get a picture of this next step, but I'm sure you can figure it out. :) Set a strainer over a bowl or pitcher, lay your cheesecloth over the strainer, and pour the curds and whey through to separate them. If you want you can keep the whey to be made into ricotta cheese (which I will post about at a later date), otherwise just dump it and keep the curds. Let the curds sit in the cheesecloth and strainer for about 15 minutes to make sure they're thoroughly drained. 

After it's drained, break up the curd and add 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix thoroughly.

Put the curd in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30-45 seconds. 

When it comes out, pull and stretch it until it is shiney, smooth, and elastic. If it isn't the right consistency yet just microwave it for a few more seconds and try again. 

Shape it however you want, and drop it into some ice water for a few minutes to harden. 

There you have it! Homemade mozzarella! It tasted really good...we all liked it. :) I think it was maybe a bit drier than store-bought and it had more of a raw milk flavor, but it was good!

It has a nice, stringy texture. After we'd all tried some I grated the rest and stuck it in the freezer to see how it would do. :) It's still in there, but I'm guessing it'll come out like any other frozen mozzarella. :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Baby Wipes

For awhile now I've been thinking about giving homemade baby wipes a try, and this week I finally got around to it. :) It was very simple, and they work well! I used them on my toddler and she told me they smell really good, and that they don't hurt like the other (store-bought) wipes...I guess whatever is in regular wipes stings a little bit. :(

To make your own baby wipes you will need a roll of good quality paper towels (I used Bounty, but I've heard that Viva works well too), baby wash (I used Parent's Choice with Lavender), baby oil (I used Johnson's), baby lotion (this is optional. I used Johnson's Bedtime smells amazing!!), water, and a container with a good seal.


Since I've learned more about the bad health effects petroleum products can have on your health, and THEN learned that baby oil is a petroleum product, I've switched from using baby oil to sweet almond oil in my wipes. :)

First, cut the roll of paper towels in half using a sharp knife. Apparently mine wasn't quite sharp enough as it didn't make a very pretty cut....oh well. :) It works.

Put 2 cups of warm water in your container, then add 2 tablespoons of baby oil, 2.5 tablespoons of baby wash, and 1.5 tablespoons of baby lotion. Put the lid on and shake to stir. 

(I think I wound up with a bit too much liquid and it's a little sudsier than I like, so I think I'll play around with the amounts next time I make a batch, but for now, this is the recipe I came up with after reading several online.)

Put one of the halves of the paper towel roll into the container and seal the lid. After the bottom half was wet I turned it upside down to moisten the other half. 

Once your roll is wet through, remove the lid and gently pull out the cardboard tube from the center of the roll. Pull up the first wipe from the inside of the roll, and you're done! :)

I've been buying Huggies wipes on using the Amazon Mom program (20% discount plus free shipping) and have been very happy with the price I was paying...about $0.03 per wipe. However, these homemade wipes are SOOOO much cheaper!! I bought a 6 pack of Bounty paper towel rolls for about $5.97 at Walmart...6 rolls should make about 1,700 wipes, so that works out to be about $0.003 per wipe (plus the cost of the wash, lotion, and oil, but you use so little of those that I don't think it would add much to the price. Everything I used was stuff I already had on hand so I'm not exactly sure what the prices would be). Wow! That's a pretty big difference when you use as many wipes as we do! Plus the combination of ingredients I used made some pretty awesome smelling wipes....yay! :)