Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Powdered Laundry Detergent

When Snowflake was just a few weeks old, she developed a nasty eczema rash. At first, we figured it might be a food allergy so I went on an elimination diet for several weeks with no luck. Then we speculated that it might be an environmental allergy to certain chemicals in her baby wash, lotion and detergent. At the time, I was using a pretty standard laundry detergent, Johnson's baby wash and Johnson's baby lotion. We threw out the lotions and baby wash and replaced it with Dr. Brommer's baby mild soap, an all natural lotion and I started using an all natural detergent. That seemed to do the trick, and her rash cleared right up!

Well, after some time using the new detergent, we ran out again and I decided to make our own and see if that works just as well. I was amazed at how easy this detergent was to make! 

1 Fels Naptha Bar Soap (or any other bar soap)
1 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Borax

Yields approx. 3 cups. Use 1 tablespoon for light loads and 2 tablespoons for heavy loads.

I don't think I will use this recipe for cloth diapers, however, since the Fels-Naptha and Borax are not good for them from what I have read (interferes with absorbency and waterproof shells). Hopefully this recipe will work well for Snowflake - I only made one batch to test it out first. I think I might use Dr. Brommer's soap next time to make sure there are no added fragrances that may irritate her skin. I plan on making a second recipe for her and Peanut's cloth diapers too as soon as I am able to go buy the additional ingredients I did not have on hand.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Peanut's Favorite Books

Peanut (26 months) is an avid reader. She reads all throughout the day, and we have an impressive children's library to help sustain her appetite for books. Yet she still chooses the same books over and over and over and over again. And just when you think she has had enough of the book, she asks for it again! Here are some of her favorite books at the moment:

The Little Red Caboose - This was Daddy's C's book when he was a boy, so it's a special book handed down to Peanut. She LOVES this book. The reading is repetitive, but the illustrations are so involved, it's no wonder she likes looking at all the pages. I think I have this one memorized!

Little Red's Autumn Adventure - I bought this book at Ollie's last year to go along with our leaf theme week awhile back. I wasn't expecting too much fuss over it, but it has become an all-time favorite read for her. The writing is clever and the illustrations are captivating.

Pajama Time - This i s a great bedtime book with a catchy rhyme-song. Daddy C and I both read it differently, but we both have it memorized. A fun read sure to delight any child!

It's Time to Sleep My Love - This is a beautiful book written like a lullaby. It makes ME want to curl up in bed and begin dreaming! The illustrations are simply wonderful, truly a treasure.

The Bible in Pictures for Toddlers - This is Peanut's Bible, and we read it to her every night. She loves reading her Bible and often totes it around with her during the day too! What I love about this toddler Bible is that it is the perfect size for little hands and has great illustrations for many stories - not just the popular ones! I highly recommend this one!

Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm -
I will admit, this is not my favorite book, but Peanut is obsessed with it. It reads with a strong accent so maybe that's why she likes it, oh and the fact that there are tons of balloons (one of her favorite things to which she used to refer to as "Bingy!")- this one is a winner.

Franklin's Baby Sister - Ah, the Franklin book. We have this one almost memorized as well, which is saying something considering it's not exactly a short book! She just loves this book, and it was read to her frequently before Snowflake was born. Given the chance, she will reach for this one! I could list more, but these are definitely on the top right now!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recent Frugal Activities

I meant to publish this post a while back, and since I am just getting to it I decided to include a couple week's worth of frugal activities.

During one of our evening walks, we came upon a couple apple trees we never noticed before. The apples were all over the ground and the tree was bursting with ripe fruit. We asked the homeowner if they minded us picking some, and he was more than happy to let us since it would help reduce the amount to pick off the ground later. We filled the bottom of our stroller with some lovely crabapples - about 12lbs. Our first fruit gleaning experience!

I made a nursing necklace for Snowflake. I had been eyeing a few on etsy for a while, and I was all but ready to shell out $12 or so for a nice one when I had the idea to just make my own. I followed this tutorial and it turned out lovely. It has really helped with keeping her focused!

I decorated for fall using the decor I had in storage. I even had a few new items in there that I bought last year during an end-of-the-season sale.

Daddy C is at the wood working again and is almost finished with a new bookshelf for our living room. I am really excited for it to be finished - it's just what we need to help contain the small toys and books that seem to pile up quite easily around here. He has plans to make a matching end table for me as well!

We've been working on redecorating our living room and shopped around for many different pieces. We found a couch we really liked, but we did not like the price. It was $700, which was way more than we wanted to spend on a single item when you have small children running around. We kept looking and eventually found one almost identical at another store for only $400. The same thing happened with our chair and ottoman - we got them for $150 and $80 instead of $350 and $200. Yes, we could have bought used, but we really wanted something specific and the pieces on the used market were very worn and not at all our style. We paid cash for all our new living room pieces, saving on interest and other fees.

I visited several garage sales this past weekend and picked up a cute basket for $1, a brand new children's puzzle for 75 cents (these kind retail for $10-15), a wall hook for Snowflake's bedroom for 50 cents and a cute sweater and new looking shoes for Peanut for 50 cents each. I also found 10 books by Janette Oake to add to my library for only $2.50. Garage sale season is almost over, so I am scouting the few that are still happening. Many of these sales are of the best kind- people just wanting to get rid of things. That means you can find some great deals if you are willing to look.

I also line dried a couple loads of laundry this past week, kept the house at 74 degrees only when it became too hot and used coupons for our Sunday lunch out.

What frugal thing have you done lately? Share in the comments below!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

White Beans n' Bacon with Cornbread

We had something new for dinner tonight - beans and cornbread! A true pantry meal, everything about this dish is quick and easy. Daddy C loved it and so did Snowflake. Peanut liked her cornbread but wasn't as much of a fan of the beans. But, 3 out of 4 taste-buds, I'd say that's a winner.

Here is our recipe:

White Beans N' Bacon
1 can of Great Northern White Beans (or 1.5 cups cooked)
1.5 TBSP Bacon Grease
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
dash of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water

1. Drain and rinse beans. Meanwhile, melt bacon grease in a small pan.

2. Add beans to pan, stirring to coat. Add additional seasonings. Add water and cornstarch. Turn to low.

3. Cook until soft and thick. Serve over cornbread with a cold glass of milk.

You can use boxed corn-bread, but why do that when it's easy to make your own? I made up a mix of whole wheat cornbread mix quite a while ago and so I used that. Here's the recipe for that:

Whole Wheat Cornbread Mix

3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups corn meal
¾ cup sugar
2 Tbs baking powder
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ cup oil (olive or coconut)

Mix flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt, until well blended. Drizzle oil through the mixture and work until fine crumbs. Store in a sealed baggie.

1 cup of mix = 1 box of purchased cornbread mix.

To use: To 1 cup mix, Add 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk. Pour into greased muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-25 minutes or until done.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Frugal Family Vacation

Last week we returned from our family vacation to Michigan. We visited the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, relaxing at a family-loaned cabin and enjoying lazy days spending time with each other. It was a wonderful time, and we will always cherish the memories!

This was our first true family vacation since getting out of debt. We debated a lot during the planning stages on where we should go. Finally, we made a pros and cons list of all the places we wanted to see, and Michigan won! 

One of the many reasons we choose to go to Michigan instead of somewhere like Disney World, was that it was low-cost. We are still working on saving up for some other expenses, so it was important for us to not go overboard on a vacation, but we still wanted to have a carefree and fun time. 

Daddy C and Dallas rock hunting

Our expenses for this trip included gas (1200 miles at the end of the 2 week trip), food and entertainment. Since we stayed at a family-owned cabin, we did not pay for lodging, which saved us quite a bit! The entertainment money was spent on a museum visit, national park pass, books/gifts at a visitor center and ice-cream!

Hiking along the sand dunes

We ate most of our meals at the cabin, with food we brought from home. The nearest grocery store where we stayed is very expensive, so we saved a LOT by thinking and planning ahead by buying food before we left. For example, milk at the tourist grocery store is $4.99 a gallon, but here it's only $2.29! Add that savings up across the board and we easily saved $100 or more.

Snowflake and Peanut ready for a walk

 Almost all of our activities were free or nearly free. We spent a lot of time hiking, playing in the sand-dunes, driving the scenic drive and swimming. We didn't want a rush-rush vacation and some days we just spent lounging around the cabin, watching Veggie Tales or reading! Our cabin was a lakefront cabin on an inland lake, so we always had a nice view!

Peanut having a blast on the dunes

The space of the cabin was a necessity, since it helped all of us sleep better having our own rooms and ensured the girls got a good nap in during the day. We didn't have to worry about being too quiet during naptime and could do other activities in the afternoon and evenings as they slept. The low-key and peaceful surroundings helped rejuvenate our souls, which is what vacation is all about!

Peanut Swimming in the lake

All total, we spent less than $900 for a 2 week vacation for our family of 4. Definitely a frugal trip, but the memories we made while there are certainly priceless!

Snowflake hanging out on the dock

Some things that helped make our trip more enjoyable:
  • an ERGO baby carrier - this made it extremely easy to carry our 8 month old Snowflake on short outings
  • a double jogging stroller - Daddy C enjoyed taking Snowflake on several trail runs while we were there.
  • a picnic basket - this helped make the packed lunches in the car seem more adventurous and special!
  • a portable DVD player - borrowed from a friend, it really helped towards the end of the long 9 hour drive. Peanut isn't old enough to be interested in many car games/toys, so most of her time was otherwise spent staring out the window and listening to music!
We are looking forward to taking many more trips as a family in the coming years!