Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Pointless Lists

Good-bye, March!  Can't say I'm going to miss you at all.  Because I've been cold.  Where is spring?  Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow:

Sun and snow!  And yet, still cold and crappy.

Skilly is unimpressed.

But it wasn't all just complaining obsessively about the snow this month.  Or making all those cleaners.  Not that anything is coming to mind.  Just that I can't believe that's it.

Although maybe it is?

Johanna helped me clean house this morning while Eric and Abby went to a little league work party at the baseball field.  They came back rather early, as it were, since it's raining hard and everything was soaked.  No such luck inside.  But!  Johanna dusted the living room, cleaned off the table, swept and spot cleaned the kitchen floor, cleaned her bathroom and washed windows in the living room and her room.  Oh, and made Abby's and my beds.  And she STILL had time to decorate for Easter.  There's toothpaste on the faucet in the bathroom, and some streaks on the windows, but do you know what?  I don't care because I didn't have to do it.  Sometimes unlimited energy is a boon for everyone involved.

All right, enough of that.  Pointless list time!

Books read:
The Three Martini Playdate: A Practical Guide to Happy Parenting by Christie Mellor.  Hilarious.  The premise is that parents were here first, so why are kids taking over?  Teach them to make you martinis and canapes, and everyone will be better for it.  My friend Mara gave this to me with the instructions to "pass it on to someone who gets it," so if that person is you, let me know.

...And then I reread the Hunger Games series and then just my favorite parts from all three books.  Well, I'm not ready to let it go, obviously.

...But I did start American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  I follow his Twitter feed and Amazon had the Kindle version on sale for like two bucks awhile back, and how do you say no to that?  So far so good.

Movies watched:
The Hunger Games (!).  Opening day, baby, because that's how Abby and I roll.  She wants to see it again.  I wouldn't mind seeing it again either.

The Spy Next Door.  We've technically seen this one several times, but anyway.  We were flipping around on Netflix one Saturday night, trying to find a family movie to watch, and this is what the girls decided on.  Because our other choices weren't really choices.  Wait, why do we still have Netflix again?

Things my children actually fought about:
Whether or not the other has tap dancing skillz.  Technically, neither of them do.  Except they don't know that, apparently.  And they do not appreciate an honest evaluation of said skillz by a third party, just FYI.

Things I actually said:
"What can you do right now that doesn't involve brushing the cat's teeth?"

Things I learned:
I'm tired of interviewing the fam when they don't want to even think about what they've learned over the course of a month, so fine, just me.  I learned how to measure the paper (which is essentially figuring out what the percentage of ads are verses the percentage of news.  It's not hard, but wow, it's a long involved process that makes my brain hurt).  I learned that artists are usually at home when you call, unless they're checking into a motel, but they'll still talk to you.  I learned that iTunes thinks it would be a good idea for me to download some music by the New Kids on the Block / Backstreet Boys hybrid band.  I learned that I would rather download music by Fuel instead.  (Okay, fine, I already knew that.)  I learned that my uncle has cancer again.  I learned that the hits just keep on coming.  (Fine, I already knew that too.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ALL the homemade cleaners from Trisha's Homemade Cleaner Month

So just as a public service I've decided to put all of the homemade cleaner recipes I tried this month in one post rather than make you / myself remember what stupid title I gave to which random entry.  Um, not that any of my titles are stupid, because the lines I quote make me happy.  But it isn't the easiest way to find a post.

You know what I learned this month?  Homemade cleaners are awesome.  Well, I already knew that, but I would never have gone out of my way to make so many different cleaners had it not been for the blog.  Even if I'm the only one who cares.  I also learned that peppermint castile soap is rather lovely.  I would not have guessed that.  Cleaning and then having the house smell all minty?  Is very pleasant.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't thoroughly enjoy this whole ordeal.  I really did.  And I'm so happy with the results as a whole.  There's no going back, I tell you what.

Dishwasher Detergent: The other day I was unloading my dishes and I realized that I was putting them away just assuming that they were clean.  Because I've had very good luck with rinsing off my dishes, my homemade detergent, adding three drops of Dawn to the dispenser and hosing everything down with white vinegar.  I'm not sure if I should really post this recipe or not since what I'm currently using I sort of made it up (read: didn't read the directions very closely), but what the heck:

1 cup Borax
1 cup washing soda

I have some Cascade I'm trying to use up, so I also added a cup of that, and since I messed up, I added a cup of baking soda, too.  Maybe it's not a mess up but my own special dishwashing powder genius!  Take that, The Man!  Oh, except.  I might have read that Borax is terrible for plants.  Is that true?  Because if it is, that bothers me.

Bath, sink and tile cleaner: This was my favorite recipe of the month.  It's just wicked groovy.  It's my best friend.

2/3 cup baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup water
A few drops of tea tree oil

Shake like crazy to combine, and then shake like crazy every time you use it.  You're welcome.

Liquid dish soap: This is not particularly sudsy--or, should I say, the suds don't have staying power.  But it works like a champ and is especially pleasant with peppermint castile, just FYI.

1/2 cup castile soap
1 tablespoon white vinegar
A few drops tea tree oil
1-1/2 cups hot water

Shake like crazy to combine, and then shake like crazy every time you use it.  Wait, that sounds awfully familiar...

All purpose cleaner: Ah, I love this stuff.  I use it on practically everything in my kitchen, from floor to counter.

3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
1/2 teaspoon castile soap
2 cups hot water
10 drops tea tree oil

Mix in a spray bottle.  Give it a good shake before using.

Room freshener: Well, this was probably a waste, really, since I hardly ever use room fresheners anyway.  Mostly I was just curious how it would turn out.  Watch where you spray this or you'll end up with baking soda droplets on your TV and windows.  Not that my girls know ANYTHING about that.

2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda
10-12 drops essential oil (which for me means tea tree)

Combine water and baking soda and stir until dissolved. Add oil.  Place in a re-purposed spray bottle and use liberally.

Homemade laundry detergent: I had the most fun with this little experiment.  I can't believe that a tablespoon of this stuff gets my laundry so nice and clean and fresh.  But it does.  It is NOT sudsy, so keep that in mind.  But it IS awesome.

2 bars Fels Naptha (look in the laundry aisle)
2 cups Borax
2 cups washing soda (NOT baking soda!)

Grate the Fels Naptha in a food processor, then run the blade until it turns into "powder."  It won't actually turn into powder, but more like little soapy yellow beads, which is cool.  Then add the Borax and washing soda, mix it all up, and store in two quart jars.  

Carpet stain remover: This does not get out old stains, but it works pretty well on new stains.  Read: That blueberry Johanna ground into the carpet?  Still there.  That dirty looking blob by the wood stove?  Gone.

1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap (I used peppermint castile soap)
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 cups hot water
5 drops tea tree oil

So mix that around in your re-purposed spray bottle.  To use, spray, then blot with clean, damp cloth and repeat as necessary.  Don't saturate the area or all hell will break loose.  I think.

Window and glass cleaner: This is the very last recipe I tried this month, but I have yet to post it.  Well, I got bored writing just cleaning posts all the time.  This works just as well as the cleaner I was purchasing, so yay me!  At first I wasn't so sure because the mirror looked all streaked, but then all of a sudden it evaporated and my mirror was gorgeous.  Weird.

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
Few drops of Dawn

Mix that around and then go crazy.

Tub and shower cleaner: Technically this one was from February, but what the heck.  I'm continuously surprised how well this works.  Goodbye, soap scum!  I wish I could get rid of my water stains too, but perhaps that is too big of a wish.

12 ounces white vinegar, hot
12 ounces Dawn... unless you think that is excessive, then cut it down to like 4

Heat the vinegar, add the Dawn, and then mix that around well.  When it cools, pour into a spray bottle.  Spray on tub / shower and let sit about 10 minutes to a couple of hours, wipe down with a damp cloth or sponge and then do a happy dance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

And now for something completely different

Guest post by Abby, written March 26.  Angst is fun!  Enjoy!

They See Me Rollin...

Today, I went to my little sister's coach pitch practice, and let me say, it was a bad idea on my part.

It all started when my Dad asked me to tag along. "I don't want to have to drive you all the way home, and then back to the school," he said. "It's right along the way, c'mon. I even brought a basketball so that you can shoot around!" These were the magic words for me. I'm on my school's basketball team, and I've been meaning to practice on a good court. I have my own hoop, but it's hard to dribble because the driveway is covered in gravel, and so I agreed.

When I got there, the play shed was empty, good luck. I shot around for a little while, making at least 90% of my lay-ins (I'm a post), but then a high school varsity player showed up and started making me feel stupid with his fancy three-pointers and his awesome Nike shoes.

And I was like, "I'll show him who's boss."

So little old me began shooting harder, more fancy shots, and I was getting pretty good too, when suddenly, like it was a flash mob, all these other varsity guys show up. I guess the one guy who was there was getting tired of me showing him up (ha!) and so he invited them over. And they be bro huggin', and they be makin' ALL of their threes. They be playin' three on three half court and they ALL had awesome Nike shoes, while I stood there, a lone chick, standing in my socks and holding a rugged old basketball underneath a netless hoop.

And I was like, "Okay, this is getting awkward."

So I left for the playground, lugging my Puerto Rico gym bag behind me, which was a bad idea. Of course, since it was like 5:00 and there was practice going on, there were a lot of little kids running around, playing tag and jumping around on the equipment. As soon as I set foot on the playground, at least half of the kids in my vicinity ran away, peeking out from behind the little metal poles like I'm going to pull a gun out of my bag and kill them. Or offer them some drugs. Whatever.

I left and decided to go swinging, feeling awkward because not only was I the oldest, tallest kid on the playground (aside from the varsity guys), I was the only white kid (no racism intended).

And I was like, "This blows."

Lo and behold, my stomach started hurting, and so I opened my gym bag and everybody froze like I was going to shoot them. Instead, I pulled out a 500 pill bottle of ibuprofen and a bottle of water (And no, I'm not a druggie. I just have bad stomach cramps, and 500 was what my mom bought me). Acting all nonchalont, I popped the pill in my mouth and took a swig of my water.

Casually, I looked up. And every. Freaking. Mom. Was staring at me like I was a druggie.

This, was actually a pretty good assumption on their part. I have bad allergies this time of year, and so my eyes are all red and puffy, and today wasn't my best hair day, and I haven't been feeling good so I just threw on a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt, and I was carrying around a little Puerto Rico gym bag, which looked like it could be carrying some drugs. And I did just pull out a huge bottle of pills and pop one.Yeah, I probably looked like a stoner today.

Sensing that I was no longer welcome on the playground, I went back to the car and sat there. For about half an hour.

I had a great time, actually. I'm glad I went.



Sunday, March 25, 2012

I woke up in a dream today

So I've essentially tossed everyone outside this morning, except for Eric, who went out on his own accord. This means I can listen to my iPod instead of the musical sounds of my children as they demand stuff from me that I am not prepared to give.  Come on, kids!  Make your own toast!

Anyway, while Eric is out burning yet another pile o' limbs from January's ice storm, and the girls are exploring, I'm surfing the Internet AND making banana chocolate chip muffins at the same time, which can be sort of disastrous, blogging and baking, but anyway, that's just what I do.  Press the limits!  On Friday when I was writing and attempting to cook down those cherry tomatoes into sauce, what really happened is that ALL the water evaporated and we were left with a tomato paste-like substance that looked fairly grim, but didn't taste too bad.  Abby must have read my blog because she was all like, popcorn and apples is fine, but I was all, nope!  It's Lent, and if this isn't suffering, then I don't know what is.

P.S. I'm making banana muffins because I bought some very overripe bananas from a farm stand ON PURPOSE, because I was like, well, these things are truly disgusting, but there must be lots of mushy banana recipes on the Internet, right?  So this morning I made a batch o' muffins, and then searched around for something more creative.

Some of it made me want to vomit.  Banana soup with garlic?  Bloody hell, people!  Do you even like who you're cooking for?  Some looked awesome, like banana pancakes, except I'm out of butter (whoopsies), so there goes that.  For kicks I clicked on a Paula Deane banana pudding recipe, just because sometimes I like to research how to give myself diabetes.

The moral of this story is that it turns out banana muffins are the best option out there when you lack butter and the general desire to make something weird.  (I'm still not over that banana soup.)  Johanna took a muffin to Eric when she went outside, and the good news is she only dropped it once.  In the grass, which is way better than in the dirt.

Um, let's see.  Oh, right, The Hunger Games!  I was able to snag tickets before work on Friday, just in case you were worried about that.  The kid behind the counter was quite blase about the whole thing, like they had so many tickets for the 6:30 showing that my rush was just embarrassing.  But Abby thought I was awesome, and there was a lot of jumping around and screaming.

Internally, probably.

Anyway, so we get to the theater and there's a long line forming outside.  And I'm all, who's the dork now, theater ticket kid?  And Abby was like, quit talking to yourself!  And I was like, oh, right, sorry.

It turns out that there were BUS LOADS of kids there.  The sixth grade teachers at Abby's school had purchased tickets months ago, apparently, and even staged a whole movie/Hunger Games trivia contest event.  So we ran into her old Literacy teacher, who was on crutches because he's a kayaker and accident prone, and I was like, we have tickets so I'm hoping to just cut in.  And he was like, me too, but I can't get through.  Well, he's very short, so probably no one even saw him.  So I was like, follow me!  Because I can break up a crowd like nobody's business.  I'm not sure why.  I guess being 6' tall has its advantages.

So we broke through the crowd, and Abby and I were all cool, handing our tickets over and getting pointed in the direction of where the film would be showing while the masses waited in line.  I figured based on the line and the time, we'd have our pick of seats.

Wrong.  Our showing was filled up.  We ended up sitting on the end of one row near the top, but that was cool because they were actually good seats.  And then for some reason people kept getting up.  The lady sitting next to us gets up three minutes before show time (WHY???) and comes back after the movie has started (she missed the Breaking Dawn II preview where Bella was stalking a deer.  THAT made me laugh out loud).  And she wasn't the only one standing up and/or knocking things over and/or opening packaging at the least opportune moments.

Sort of reminded me why I usually don't go to theaters, actually.

But!  The movie was great.  The book was better, sure, but of course that was going to be the case. They stayed true to the book, even if they had to cut some stuff out and condense some other stuff.  That made me happy.  I hate when things that don't happen in the book happen in the movie.  Abby's already announced she knows what she wants for Christmas.

Well, it's lunchtime now, and the girls are in demanding food.  Good lord, it never ends.  Oh, and it's spring break this week.  Wow and wow.  Happily, my parents are onboard to watch the girls and maybe even take them places. Thank God for grandparents!  Oh, and at work I'm learning how to measure the paper.  My head still hurts.  I tell you what, there's a lot of math involved to get ONE paper.  Because that's what you're going for, I kid you not: The number one.

So off I go to make sandwiches.  And turn on Toy Story 3, I guess.  Linkin Park has shuffled up, and I'm loath to turn them off, but.  I guess I'll just make them my daily pick.

P.P.S. Lunch has come and gone, and I've moved on from muffins to cookies.  My friend Tamara called out of the blue and we had a nice chat.  As soon as I'm done with my cookie project, I'm headed out for a walk.  It's gorgeous out there.  And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you should go outside while you can, because tomorrow it may be snowing.

Linkin Park, With You.  This is as close to a love song as LP can get.  Which might be sort of heartbreaking, now that I think about it.  Oh, Linkin Park!  You're my favorite.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I'd like to fathom the unfathomable

That's me, right now.  Raging against the machine.  You know what I'd serve for dinner tonight if I thought I could get away with it?  Popcorn and apples.  Maybe a bit of peanut butter on the side.  That's most of the food groups, right?

Instead, because I knew everyone would freak out love my family, I sucked it up and rooted around in the freezer a bit and found a gallon of cherry tomatoes.  From 2010, but whatever, they're probably perfectly fine.  So spaghetti it is!  I'm attempting to make those little tomatoes into sauce, except all they're doing right now is being watery and disgusting.  It's helpful sometimes, being optimistic about all the wrong things.  Undaunted, I press on.  (Popcorn and apples can be Plan B.)

I promised Abby I'd try to get tickets to The Hunger Games before work today, so that's on my list.  Here's hoping our small town is small enough that I can waltz right in and get tickets for tonight.  Oh, and FYI, I'm a little nervous about seeing this movie, because I love the books so much.  Well, of course the books will be better, but still and all.  I'm not above joining the fray.  And I admit that the thought of Abby jumping up and down screaming is also a plus.

P.S. Have one last homemade cleaner to post, but I'm not in the mood.  This weekend!  Probably.

Chevelle, Indifference.  Because!  It's time to measure the immeasurable.  I love you, Chevelle.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Your head is there to move you around

Hello, Internet.  How are you this fine St. Patrick's Day?  Glad to hear you're doing well.  Oh, I'm good too, thanks.  Especially since I got to sleep in this morning.  It was touch and go there around 6 a.m., what with the cat meowing and the husband getting up to cut wood (it's Saturday!  COME ON!), but thanks to Jane Austen (my iPod), and a rather well organized Bedtime Playlist, I was able to pull it off after all.  I might have even slept past 8:53 had not Johanna come in complaining of hunger.

I suppose that's what I get for putting the cereal on the top shelf.

P.S. I am not wearing green, and you can't make me, either.  I'm actually wearing gray, although now that I think I about it, I might go pull on an orange jacket a la Liz Lemon.  Take that, The Man!  Except instead of yelling "Megan!" out the window, I'm attempting my semi-annual ritual of cleaning everyone's bedding from top to bottom.  Boring.

P.P.S. When Johanna came in, she announced that she'd set a Leprechaun trap last night but didn't catch ANYTHING.  Um, oops.  I guess that would have been good to know ahead of time.  Although it IS sort of fun inadvertently crushing dreams.

Well, anyway.  

Hey, I have a new All Purpose Cleaner * recipe to share:
3 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon washing soda
1/2 teaspoon castile soap
2 cups hot water

Mix in a spray bottle.  Give it a good shake before using.

I added 10 drops of tea tree oil just because it's sort of grown on me.  Plus added antibacterial agents in the kitchen is appealing to my OCD brain.  Anyway, this is simple and works great.  My "old" recipe is sudsier, but I'm not so sure it worked any better than this one does.  Cleaning up bubbles all the time is highly overrated.  

*There are a few recipes on that site I'd like to try.  That's just a good resource right there.  AND they gave me my beloved sink cleaner.

...And a room freshener of unknown origin because I don't always pay attention:
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda
10-12 drops essential oil (which for me means tea tree)

Combine water and baking soda and stir until dissolved. Add oil.  Place in a re-purposed spray bottle and use liberally.

It's not overly strong, which for me is a plus.  You could also use lavender or peppermint oil, I suppose. Bonus: The girls are fighting over who gets to spray it.  Can we get too fresh?  Probably not, right? Anyway, success!  With a word of warning:

Baking soda and water on windows.
Enough said.

Someday I'll try a homemade window cleaner, and then that will be THAT.

R.E.M., Stand.  Because it's from their Green album, get it?  (Wow, tough crowd...)  P.S. Stand with Lego figures!  You're welcome, Internet!  Hey, by the way, Eric was asking the other day where I come with with my blog titles.  I thought it was obvious--it's just a line from whatever song I've picked that day--but I guess not.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I don't think they know that I know how to swim

Updated 3/15
I've had a rather raging cold, as it were, for about the past week.  Saturday was no fun.  Well, yes it was, because I took two naps.  But the sore throat / headache / earache / stuffy nose sucked.  On the upside, everyone left me alone.  It was practically a vacation.  But now that I'm feeling better, the game of homemade cleaning month goes on.  Well, you have to do something during the day.

Homemade Liquid Dish Soap: Once upon a time, like last month, I just dumped some castile soap into my sink when I needed to hand wash the fussy amongst my kitchen ensemble.  That works fine, but.  So I was intrigued when I ran across this recipe for homemade liquid dish soap from another blog:

1/2 cup castile soap
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon washing soda
1/8 teaspoon tea tree oil
1 1/2 cups hot water

So you combine the first four ingredients, then slowly whisk in the water to melt it all up.  It's actually sort of a cool process.  Once it's at room temperature, you put it into a bottle.  And then try to remember to give it a shake before you use it.

Update 3/15: I'm taking back everything I previously said about this soap because you know what?  I messed up.  Well, I don't always pay attention.  See, when I would use it, I would give it a shake and then pour it into the sink.  But today as I was cleaning the kitchen I noticed that there was a bit a foam (read: A LOT OF FOAM) floating on top of some liquid there in my bottle.  So I gave it a vigorous shake (and actually added a bit more water) and lo and behold, it's thick, it's lovely, it's way more sudsy (although, yes, fine, the suds do vanish), it works like a champ.  So all that stuff I said about maybe trying to find another recipe for homemade liquid dish soap?  I take that all back.  I'm good.

Dishwasher Update: Bloody hell, people!  I've actually been getting clean dishes out of my dishwasher using my homemade detergent!  Actually, getting clean dishes out of my dishwasher with any detergent would be miraculous since the thing has been giving me fits and fits and more fits.  The thing about this particular recipe is that I screwed it all up, so I'm actually sort of looking forward to using up what's in my jar so I can try something else.  Because it's experiment month, that's why.  Plus, aren't you curious?  I feel like I'm exploring the last frontier or something.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it's not just the detergent that's the miracle here.  I've also been rinsing off my dishes with the care I'd give a newborn before loading them up, spraying the whole ordeal freely with white vinegar, and then adding a few drops of liquid soap along with the dishwasher detergent.  For the record, I've tried both Dawn and the above liquid dish soap, and both have worked.  Okay, fine, the Dawn might work a little better--things are shinier, you see--but the bowls and glasses behave with both, so there you go.

P.S. I LOVE the bath, sink and tile cleaner I posted on Mar. 7.  That is some good cleaner right there.  My kitchen sink has been ever so happy, and I even let my bathroom sink share in the joy even though I STILL have purchased cleaners I'm trying to get rid of.  Everything about it is amazing.  I have no desire to go look for another recipe either, cleaning month or not.  So scratch that one off the list!

Welcome to the Numb, Flood.  Because I can, that's why.  Hey, why isn't this on YouTube?  You can actually get the song free from Amazon.  Click here for the link.  Man, its unavailability makes me sad.  Although maybe somewhere in my little Alternative heart I'm actually happy about that.  What?  It's confusing being me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cracker Project: Parmesan and Pepper Sticks / Cinnamon Sugar Sticks

The Cracker Project lives!  Well, it's turned into a once-a-month extravaganza, so really, how hard is that?  Amazingly hard, actually.  I need to rethink my resolution for next year.

I sort of cheated this time around.  I got the April 2012 issue of Everyday Food in the mail the other day, and Johanna and I spent a bit of time looking through it together.  It's sort of funny how much she likes cooking magazines, considering that she doesn't like many things that are actually cooked.  Her dinner last night was frozen green beans.  From our garden, if that makes it any better, which I'm pretty sure does not.  Such is life.  I've decided nutrition happens over the course of a week.  Otherwise I'd just be tearing my hair out all the time, and honestly, I do enough of that already.

The point of that paragraph?  Johanna saw this recipe, which uses store-bought puff pastry, and decided it looked "really good."  I mean, what could I do then but make it?  Especially since I have some puff pastry in the freezer.  We're a good five months past the "best by" date, truth be told, but whatever.  There's one less box in my freezer now.  Freezer burn doesn't taste that bad.

Parmesan Pepper Sticks dough.
Again, yes, this looks whack, okay?  I'm just in it for
the photographic proof.  Sheesh.

So as I was readying the ingredients--puff pastry, melted unsalted butter, freshly grated parmesan and black pepper--I noticed that ol' Martha had a little note at the bottom of the page suggesting cinnamon and sugar for a sweet stick.  Puff pastry and parmesan!  And puff pastry and cinnamon!  I mean, how do you choose?

Answer: You don't.  You split the dough in half and viola!  No choices necessary.

Cinnamon Sugar Sticks dough.

And yes, there's a recipe, but it's probably copyrighted, PLUS Martha went to jail and all so she's probably like a total law abiding citizen now, having been scared straight in the slammer, so I don't want to get on her bad side.  Happily, this isn't rocket science.  It's rolling out dough, and cutting it in half lengthwise, and spreading it with butter, and then sprinkling on toppings.  And gently rolling over those toppings to get them to adhere, and then FLIPPING IT OVER AND DOING THE SAME THING on the other side.  Oh, and cutting them into strips, I suppose, and popping them in the oven (may I suggest 375ยบ?) for like 7 or 8 minutes.

Cinnamon and parmesan, living in harmony.

Although if you want the recipe and I know you, I'll totally email it.  I get these things on my iPad too, so it's easy to send it along.  But honestly, that's all you do.  You can TOTALLY do that without a "recipe."  Skilly can do it, and he doesn't even have working thumbs.

Skilly leads a hard life.

The verdict:  Well, both kinds disappeared with alarming speed.  In fact, I've had to declare a radius of safety around the cooling rack so Eric will be able to try them later.  The recipe supposedly makes 72, but I didn't come even remotely close to that because my measuring skillz suck.  You'd think I'd feel bad about that, and yet, not so much.

Abby suggested I make the sticks bigger next time, so they're more breadstick and less cracker (well, cracker in the loosest sense of the word).  "Do you have more of that puff pastry?" Johanna just called out.  "If you buy more, we can make more!"

So yay.  I love it when a project works out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome to the game

Updated 3/8
...Or, a victory, a failure, and a P.S.

Homemade cleaner month continues.  I tell you what, people, the ups and downs I've had are unbelievable.  And pathetic.  I mean, we're talking about cleaners here, not world peace.

First, the victory: I found this recipe for bath, sink and tile cleaner online.  It is AWESOME.  (I'd previously been using a baking soda/vinegar combo, which worked fine, but this works much better.  Plus it's sudsy, so I can see where I've cleaned, which, when you're OCD, is a plus.)  I have it stored in a quart jar right now because I'm out of squirt bottles, but someday, this cleaner will have a bottle all its own. In the meantime, I just pour a little in the sink and swish it around.  It doesn't take much.  One little note--it separates, so give it a good shake before using.

UPDATE: I tried to put my pre-made mixture into a squirt bottle today.  It didn't work--the baking soda is all puffed up from the water/castile soap/something or other and it refused to go through the funnel I'd hilariously thought would be up for the transferring job.  So I've decided it is going to live in my quart jar and I'm going to like it.  It IS a great cleaner, so I figure I can bend on this.

2/3 cup baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup water
A few drops of tea tree oil

It's good I had this little victory, truth be told, because my dishwasher continues to offend.  I think I've gone from anger to... wait, what's the next step again?  More anger?  That sounds about right.

The failure: When I wrote on Monday, I had come to the conclusion that I needed to rinse my dishes well before putting them in the dishwasher.  I did, threw in my homemade soap, and!  Success!  Well, mostly success.  For some reason my bowls and glasses just want to revel in residue powder/foodstuffs.  Just because you're all curvy and fancy doesn't mean you don't have to behave, bowls and glasses!  Why aren't you more like the dinner plates?

So, emboldened by the best load of dishes I'd had in a while, I decided to run the dishwasher with my homemade soap sans initial rinse in the sink.  And do you know what happened?  Right, I got to run the entire load again.  Even the plates rebelled.

Fine.  The next load I cut down on the soap, thinking maybe that would cut down on the residue, and rinsed everything off.

So you can imagine the fit I threw, alone in my kitchen, when the bowls and glasses STILL were all residued-up.  (It's possible I just made up a new phrase.  My mommy will be ever so proud.)

Fine, fine, fine.  BE LIKE THAT.  I filled my sink with a bit o' water and rinsed those bowls and glasses off my dang self.  I'm pretty sure another run in the dishwasher would just bring more of the same, so why bother?  Plus I had a few things to wash by hand anyway.  What's an extra ten minutes of my life?

(I'm trying to be wise and mature on purpose.  Anyone fooled?)

So we'll see what the next load brings.  I'm thinking rinse in the sink, less detergent, a few drops of castile soap.  Well, what could happen?  Aside from a complete mental breakdown, I mean.

UPDATE: People!  I actually got a CLEAN LOAD OF DISHES!  (Heck yeah, I'm yelling.  THAT is how excited I am.)  True, I rinsed off everything before loading the dishwasher.  And I added a wee bit o' castile soap.  And somewhere in there I must have flipped open the rinse agent dispenser, so perhaps we just had a motherlode o' vinegar pouring out.  Who knows.  The point is, I had only one bowl--one!--that didn't rinse completely off out of an entire load of dishes.  I am dancing as we speak.  I am also hoping we can hit two in a row.

A P.S.: I forgot to mention that I almost cut my finger clean off* on Sunday while attempting to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  You know when you realize you've done something very, very bad before the pain and blood kick in?  That was me.  Abby ran to get me a band-aid, and I'm sort of surprised she even found one because Johanna tends to need band-aids all the time, for scratches or just for style.  Perhaps this is another waste issue we need to address... when I've healed.

*Fine, not clean off.  Not even deep enough for stitches.  Just deep enough to bleed like crazy and hurt.  Are you happy now?

Breaking Benjamin, Hopeless.  Oh, Ben.  You might need a hug more than I do.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I only dream of you, my beautiful

I am so, SO frustrated.

Because of my dishwasher, that's why.  Once upon a time, when it was new, it was a thing of beauty.  I was ever so pleased for ever so long about the state of my dishes.  And then.  Here we are now with me tearing my hair out.

Where did the love go,

So anyway, I did read about how a change in detergent formulas are probably to blame, now that they're all phosphate-free and everything, except I was using phosphate-free detergents ON PURPOSE up until a while ago when we decided to cut down on plastic receptacle purchases.  (Bottles, bags, you name it, we're trying to eliminate it.  There are some things that I just have to grit my teeth and buy, like bread.  Eric does not believe homemade bread makes a decent sandwich.  Oh, and in the bulk section sometimes.  PLEASE do not ask how I learned that baking soda does not work in my little cloth bags.)  Only now I realize that since like 2010, they've all been phosphate-free, so really, what was I doing?

[Insert primal scream here.  See?  Frustrated.]

I've been trying little tricks in my dishwasher, like spraying things down with white vinegar before running it, and adding a few drops of Dawn to the powder (which is in a plastic bottle, which I would rather not buy any more of).  And that sort of works.  It seems like the dishes on the bottom rack are great, but the ones on top are not.  And I'm really sick of having to rerun my dishes--such a waste of water and electricity.

So yesterday we had to make an emergency trip to Wal-Mart (gag) because Abby has a choir competition later this week and needed a pair of leggings to go under her skirt.  She waited to tell us until last night, so there you go.  Anyway, while I was there, I picked up a few more things for my homemade cleaner stash: Borax, washing soda, and a huge box of baking soda.

All are in cardboard, so all are easier to recycle than plastic.  That's a win.

So I mixed up a batch of homemade dishwasher detergent when I got home: 1 cup of Borax, 1 cup of baking soda*.  And then I added 1 cup of the powdered dishwasher detergent I have in the cupboard just for shits and giggles.  (That is a phrase that needs to be tossed around more.  It's a joy to say.)  I put in two tablespoons and made sure the rinse agent thing was full of white vinegar, and then sprayed the silverware down with more vinegar just to be safe.

Bottom dishes were great, top ones were hit and miss.  But that's no worse than with just regular detergent, and maybe was even a little better.  Or maybe I'm just telling myself that so I don't take a sledgehammer to the whole operation.

Ran another load (well, I had a lot of dishes last night.  I spent my weekend making a double batch of enchiladas and a pot roast that I turned into barbecued sandwiches.  And somehow I ended up making three desserts), took the dishes out this morning.  Dishes clean on the bottom, not so much on the top.

Really not so much on the top this time.  Apparently roasted pork and barbecue sauce debris are hard to wash off.

So I've basically just come to the conclusion that instead of tossing my dishes into what used to be the most kick-ass dishwasher in the world and having everything come out clean and shiny and sparkly and perfect, I now need to rinse my dishes off really well before loading them into the dishwasher.  Which is where I'm at right now.  I'll run a load before I head to work, and tonight we'll see what the results are.

And I tell you this: There had better be some improvement.  Because I just can't live like this anymore.  

And yes, maybe March will be Trisha's Homemade Cleaner Blog Month.  I have no idea.  It's certainly where I'm at right now.  It's gone from "that's cool" to "clear obsession," if you want to know the truth.  I WILL SUCCEED!  Or go down fighting.  (Yep, still rereading The Hunger Games.  I'm in that mind frame.)

*DAMN IT, PEOPLE.  I just reread my detergent instructions and realized I was supposed to use 1 cup of washing soda, not baking soda, along with the cup of Borax.  So I added what I estimate to be a cup into the jar I'd already made.  This should be interesting... baking soda, washing soda, Borax and Cascade.  Well, what could go wrong?  That hasn't already, I mean.

Muse, Sing for Absolution.  Wow, there's some cheerful lyrics in this song: Our wrongs remain unrectified / and our souls won't be exhumed. Surprisingly, there's not a song out there about being frustrated with your dishwasher, so this one will have to do.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Pick me off the floor

Various updates below
So I've spent my morning cleaning house and pretending to be interested in all the penguin facts Johanna keeps running in to tell me.  It's been exhausting.  Oh, and I made oatmeal cookies and brownies, but the cookies look whack, even though Eric says they taste good, so my pride is hurt.  I'm going to channel my feelings of failure into my writing.

Or use it as an excuse to tell Johanna I can't talk right now.  Really, it's win-win for everyone involved, especially if you're me.

Cleaning my bathroom with stinky harsh chemicals earlier, I realized that I have never written about my gradual switch to homemade cleaners.  Gradual because I still have bottles of stuff and I don't want to be wasteful.  But what I have used up, I've replaced with a homemade alternative.  And I have been very, very happy with the results.

Here's what I use to make my own cleaners: Castile soap, white vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil.  The castile soap cleans, the white vinegar disinfects, the baking soda cleans and deodorizes, and the tea tree oil is a natural antibacterial agent.  For containers, I just reuse spray bottles that would have been tossed into the recycling bin, writing what they now contain in permanent marker.

I get the castile soap in the bulk department of my grocery store--unscented, which is awesome, because I'm a girl who doesn't really like scents (unless I am in nature and they are occurring naturally around me)--in my own little reusable bottle.  I also buy baking soda in bulk.  I found tea tree oil in the vitamin section, and it does have a smell to it... sort of minty, I guess... but it's not so bad when you're not using very much of it anyway.  It's actually grown on me, that and the smell of vinegar.  I associate it with "clean" now.

For my all purpose cleaner--and I mean all purpose because I use this on counters and sinks and floors--I fill one of my spray bottles with water, add a couple tablespoons of the castile soap and vinegar, and about 15 drops of tea tree oil.  The trick is not adding too much castile soap, because then you're just cleaning up a whole lot of bubbles.

For my sink cleaner, I've filled a quart jar with baking soda and added about 10 drops of tea tree oil just for kicks. I also filled a spray bottle with vinegar.  I sprinkle the sink with the baking soda and spray on the vinegar, which makes it fizz.  It's actually pretty cool.  Then I scrub.  UPDATE: I've actually found THIS recipe, which works like a champ and is my new best friend.

I've replaced my rinse aid in the dishwasher with white vinegar.  I also give the silverware a good spraying before starting the dishwasher because I'm not really that happy with the dishwasher soap I've been using.  And that's improved things a bit.  On my list to try: Homemade dishwasher detergent.

I'm not sure where this fits into the list, but anyway, yesterday when I cleaned the girls' bathroom, I found their sink wasn't draining very well.  So I sprinkled some baking soda into the drain, added some vinegar, and watched it bubble around like an oozing volcano.  It was awesome.  After a little while, I ran the water and lo and behold, it totally worked!  We're draining again!  I wish I remembered where I'd read that little tip so I could thank the person.

For hand soap, I fill a foaming soap dispenser with water and add a bit of castile soap.  I also add three or four drops of tea tree oil just  for the antibacterial boost.  And I've been using this to wash my face, too.  One less package in my bathroom.  Apparently it takes a while, but tea tree oil is good for acne.  My face is softer, I can tell you that.  And this is the first winter that our hands haven't cracked from being dry.  Even Johanna's, which are notoriously horrendous this time of year, look great.

And!  For dish soap, I've refilled a bottle with a water / castile soap mixture.  I give that a shake and use it as I would a store-bought dish soap.  It's not as bubbly as store bought, but I tell you this: My dishes come out squeaky clean. UPDATE: I've found THIS recipe, so this is what I'm now using.

I find I'm actually cleaning more with my homemade cleaners, probably because the smell doesn't kill me.  I can't wait to be done with my purchased cleaners so I can go natural all over the house.  Homemade cleaners are easier to make than I thought they'd be, they work great, and I like the fact that I can spray this stuff everywhere and not worry about the girls or cats getting into anything.  And my hands!  Are so soft!

Plus: Less packaging, which was the reason I got started in the first place.

In case you want some extra reading on this subject, here are some links that I've found useful:

Zero Waste Recipes (Laundry / Cleaning)
51 Fantastic Uses for Baking Soda
The Many Uses of Castile Soap

Chapterhouse, Something More.  A break-up song for purchased cleaners, if you will.  Or just because I like it and it sounds cool.  And both are true, as it turns out, so there you go.