Saturday, November 27, 2010

in real life

It has been a difficult last two weeks. The kids all seem to be going through different and needy phases of growing and developing right now and I have been struggling with a cough and cold all week.
On the whole, it has left me tired, sad, uncreative and somewhat depressed. I know lack of sleep is a big contributor but I can't seem to get ahead right now. Our friend and babysitter took the kids two days this week to give me time to rest. I used the time to clean and organize a badly disorganized house. The house is better but I am worse. Not surprising really. But I don't feel like myself and that is disconcerting. My friend Julie has taught me to remember "This too shall pass." But even that brings no comfort right now.
Shane has been very supportive but since he can't do much about the way the kids are responding nor can he cure the common cold, it feels very lonely.
The physio-therapist expressed some serious concern this week over Kate not walking or even standing yet. I felt like crying when we were talking during her therapy session.
Anyways this is just to say all is not really well and I don't know when it will be but I haven't abandoned this place.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

this place

Pardon me as I share a bit more of myself with you. I don't often lapse into a mood of sentiment but this place brings out my poetic spirit. I hope you can endure it.

Pictures help us remember an exact moment but they cannot replace the actual moment as we remember it. At least that's how I often feel when I capture an image and look back at it later. So when I took these images less than two weeks ago, I did so knowing that the photos could not capture and replace the moment around me. But since this place is not near where I currently live, I wanted something to remind me of this place.
This place is on the grounds of a Moravian Church in Historic Bethlehem in Pennsylvania. A bookstore surrounded by history and culture. A brick walkway leading to a solitary bench and a quiet reminder of God's presence. This place has been a wonder to me since my teen years, drawing me into an idyllic moment where the moment's cares are forgotten and time seems to hold its breath. A magical place that is real which is what we all want in some form or another. A reaching to the back of the wardrobe hoping to feel the trees and snow and see a lamppost brightly burning. This place is my wardrobe and these images are what helps me remember its magic.

photos: the bookstore; it's seasonal window display; the church grounds; the steps leading down to the street and bookstore; looking up; sitting on the bench and looking down.

Friday, November 19, 2010

homemade laundry soap

I did not come up with this method, I just followed some directions found on the internet and adjusted accordingly. However I can say that after making my own soap for the last two years or so, I think it works great and see no need to ever buy regular laundry detergent again. I took photos of what I do but I have to tell you up front that my laundry room is the roughest part of the house so don't expect the photos to be full of gorgeous backgrounds and natural light. It is what it is and no amount of picniking can make it glamorous. I've warned you, now I'll show you.

I start with this large, formerly-occupied-by-Dairy-Queen-ice-cream bucket which is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of five gallons but since this is Canada, they don't use gallons so I'm pretending.

Next I measure carefully(I did at first, now I guesstimate and pour), one-third of a cup of liquid soap. Pictured here is Sal Suds, but I've also used Castile soap, which is usually available at natural food stores. The original recipe called for shaving ivory soap bars, but that's too much work for me so I buy liquid. Feel free to use whatever is available. Now, I realize that the bottle looks empty here.

But as you can see here, it's not. Interesting, huh. And don't even try to read all the writing on the label, a lot of it is (if I can make a sweeping generalization) New-Age mumbo-jumbo. But it's a great multi-purpose cleaner so let's move on.

Okay, so next I add four cups of hot water and stir well. If you are using bar soap this step would be more important so that you completely dissolve all the pieces of soap. That's not an issue here, but since I always follow the directions(ha!) I still do it like this.

The last two ingredients I currently add are washing soda and borax both which can be found with other laundering products at most stores. (For my local readers, Real Canadian Superstore carries the borax, but not the washing soda which I found last time at Walmart, perhaps a suggestion to either store to carry both is a good idea I just brilliantly thought of now.) smile.
These are the original boxes and I just ran out of the washing soda a few weeks ago. So they will last a long time and best news is that both soaps are cheap. I paid less than five dollars Canadian for each box. I'll mention here that this soap has no perfumes so if you are like my husband and you like a laundry scent, you can either get a scented liquid soap or use scented essential oils. You probably would need around 15 drops to give enough scent. I plan on doing this with my next batch as my husband misses a perfumed odor to his manly clothes. :) I don't need a certain smell other than clean.
If you search the internet you will find that this is one area where the recipes vary: the amounts of washing soda and borax needed. I found some that call for only half a cup of washing soda and borax, but I use a whole cup of washing soda and a half cup of borax. Since the clothes are getting clean and the washing soda is very inexpensive, I don't think I will change my amounts. But of course, feel free to experiment if you want.

The borax box hasn't changed much since I remember it as a little girl. It's fun to see how far you can look into the picture to see the girl holding the box. Okay, so maybe that's just me. Anyway, borax is a chemical compound so take precautions and don't inhale it or sample it as you pour it.

Next, I add about three gallons of warm water. This amount varies as well with some people only adding two gallons but it appears to be very effective with three gallons of water so I would say stretch it as much as you can. (Yes, that is my hand holding the bucket up to the tap, freakish thing.)

Grab an expensive paint stick stirrer and stir for a moment or two until the powders are dissolved. As you can see, there are some suds but they will not last as the soap settles. If you use a bar soap, I think your consistency will be different. I do often use my soap immediately although some people speak of letting it sit overnight.

I then fill my containers with the soap using a plastic cup which is usually what I use to measure all the soap ingredients. I don't own any funnels but it would be handy here.

My assortment of containers grew out of my son's orange juice addiction. Wouldn't the OJ people be so glad to know? :)

And this is how many full containers I get from that bucket.

I do leave room at the top to shake it well before I pour it into the washing machine. And how much do I use for a large load of laundry? I think I generally use a laundry capfull, but I often just pour it in a circle around the washing machine as it is filling. And I use the same amounts for a hot and cold wash.
A couple of notes:
* I do not have a high-efficiency machine as the photos show so if you have such a fancy new machine, you'll need to check into this further to see if this stuff works for those new-fangled gadgets.
* I do soak soiled baby clothes and bibs in an Oxi-Clean solution(found at grocery stores and Walmart) before I wash them. But I did that when I used store-bought detergent so nothing has changed for me. So I'm saying if you pre-treat stained clothes now, then you will want to continue this with your homemade soap.
* I don't have any numbers to crunch to show how much per load you will save by making your own, but it is cheaper and I'm sure if you look into it, someone somewhere has done all the calculations.

And it seems only fitting to end with a laundry blessing. (If Mot-el can get his sewing machine blessed in Fiddler on the Roof, it only seems fair there should be one for laundry).

May your clothes be clean and your wallet be full and may you happily shred all your detergent coupons as you waltz past that aisle every week.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


As I progress further down this path of homeschooling, I am looking far and wide for inspiration and workable plans. Teaching and immersing our son in the Word of God is still at the forefront of every school day and is the area we start first and try not to rush to just get done. And although I read up on other methods of education, I always evaluate them in light of the Bible's view of mankind, in particular, children and Redemption. So with that said, I have spent time in the last year reading up on the methods of Montessori and and more recently, Waldorf schools(more on this to come).
My Montessori Journey was my first exposure to a Christian Montessori approach and from which I have gained many ideas and web links. Using the Montessori resource catalog, For Small Hands, I bought the fabric and sewing supplies to begin to teach Seth some simple stitches as handwork(aka handicraft) which was recognized by Charlotte Mason as being vital to a child's development and life skills.

He is eager to learn and seems content to sit and concentrate. He is already making plans of sewing me a shirt for Christmas, however I did temper that by saying he probably would need to give himself more time to learn and practice. He has decided to wait for that until next Christmas. :)

Lest you worry about the needle, it's a tapestry needle which is very blunt and safe to use as a beginner. Burlap fabric was recommended as it is an open weave and by removing a single thread, a guide path is created to enable straight stitches.

just so you know

A random list of strange habits I manifest. Be nice and don't take me too seriously.

1. I hate seeing myself on camera and potentially even more, hearing my own voice which I understand I am not alone, others hate hearing it too. Smile. So I generally do not take pictures of myself nor usually do I request others take any of me, but every now and again I think it's kind of strange that another 365 days have passed with only a couple of pics to record my existence to my children. So I try to look as normal as is possible, which is mostly impossible and then snap a whole bunch, hoping that one of them is passable. This is the only one that made the cut.

2. I am addicted to my cherry Chapstick and could never go on Survivor for that one simple reason. It is in my pocket by day and under my pillow by night. I do not leave home without it and I keep a back-up in my purse just in case disaster strikes. Hang on. Just thinking about not having my chapstick makes me need to use my chapstick. There. Much better. Onto the rest of the list.

3. I have this favorite sweater (see Exhibit A from 2008 below and quite possibly Exhibit B above) that I would wear everyday but I don't want to wear it out so I force myself to wear my other clothes but the days I give myself permission I often end up sleeping in it too which as my mother told me when I was younger, ruins your clothes, so I try to not do that too often. Phew! These admissions are tricky.

4. I would rather read than eat but since doing only that one activity would eventually prevent me from doing that activity, I eat so I can read. :)

5. The secret reason I homeschool is so I can study and learn. And the secret reason I want to study and learn is to be a returning champion on Jeopardy!. What do you think my chances are? Don't answer that. Actually I just love to learn and think about how it all fits together in God's world. So either way, I'm still a nerd, but at least I'm a Christian nerd.

There, that should be enough to make you need a strong drink and lots of chocolate as you try to recover from this post. I'll try to come up with a post about more normal hobbies and interests for next time.

bobbing for apples

it's harder than it looks.

but not for everyone...

you just reach your hand in like this, brother. see?

it's all in the technique! :)