Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Adventures In Natural Homemaking #3: DIY Powdered Dishwasher Detergent

Hello! In my last post I mentioned I would explain the reason for buying citric acid in my next post. 

I wanted it for a DIY powdered dishwasher detergent "recipe". I was set to give the recipe here, but it's from a book that has one of those "don't share my stuff without asking me first" notices in the front.

I looked online and found a similar "recipe", which you can find here. The proportions are a bit different than what the formula I use has (mine calls for more citric acid and salt, for instance), but for all I know, maybe the version in the link is just fine as written. I suppose I could try it and see for myself!

Anyway, I've been using my book's DIY recipe for about six weeks now and have been happy with it thus far. I've tried other DIY dishwasher detergent recipes in the past and it seemed like they didn't have the cleaning power of commercial products. Even if it is better for the environment and cheaper besides, I'm not going to use a DIY detergent that doesn't work well.

I don't know why this version works better than the ones I'd tried before - not sure if the previous attempts included salt and baking soda. But I'm sure glad I found something that works well, is cheaper and is less toxic.

Oh, and the book I referred to: Essential Oils For A Clean And Healthy Home, Kasey Schwartz, author. I bought it discounted at Sam's Club. I've tried quite a few "recipes" from the book already and by and large they've been solid performers. But if you don't want to get this book, or others of this nature, similar content can be found online. It's just nice to have this sort of book on hand if you're getting into natural cleaning solutions and the like; it does save time on doing Internet searches. 

And you know, they say time is money, so I figured buying Scwartz's book would save me a lot of dough in the long run. I think it's probably close to paying for itself already!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why I Love Amish Grocery Stores

Hello! If you want to save money, see unique items on grocery store shelves, eat healthily, or eat unhealthily, then Amish grocery stores are for you. 

I know they're for me, but then again, I used to live an hour east of  a couple of Amish settlements - first, near Lancaster County, PA and then near Arthur, IL. I currently live a little over 2 hours from another Amish settlement, Shipshewana, IN, but due to that distance and the fact that gas had gotten quite high for awhile, I haven't been there very often.

I discovered Amish grocery stores during excursions to these settlements. The store near Arthur, IL, Beachy's Bulk Foods, became especially important because we'd moved to a town with little options for buying ingredients with healthy cooking in mind. Beachy's became my go-to place for whole wheat flours, herbs and spices. But as the Amish are known for their baking, I would purchase unhealthy items like cake/cookie sprinkles in just about every shape imaginable, plus darker versions of cocoa and brown sugar than what are typically found in grocery stores. 

The "bulk shopping" at Beachy's and other, similar Amish businesses means that the store buys the foods in large amounts and then repackages them for sale. This is what the health food store in my current town does, but there's no comparison in price, as seen here:

Citric acid from the local health food store, $4.85/lb. This store cuts the price per pound a bit for larger amounts, but when I was there that half-pound size was the biggest they offered.

The same product, $2.15/lb at Beachy's. 

Alas, I live a good ways north of Arthur, IL now. But when we made a trip to southern IL at the beginning of the summer, I requested a stop at Beachy's. There was very little room in the car (we were taking our daughter and her stuff to her summer job), so I couldn't buy much. This was a big disappointment to me, but I bought what literally could fit in a small box on my lap: the citric acid, some herbs and spices, pink Himalayan salt, some more of that very dark brown sugar, and a few other things. There was so much more I could have bought; with such good prices it was a shame I couldn't do more shopping. 

In my next post I'll explain why I bought citric acid.

Note: E & S Sales in Shipshewana is a similar business.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Get Carded: Father's Day 2016

Hello! My husband came home from a business trip a couple of months ago with an unused baggage claim sticker (or whatever it's called).  I set it aside to use in a card sometime. 

And just a few days ago, I came across old receipts from vacations while cleaning off his side of the coffee table. Thus, a travel theme was born for his Father's Day card this year:

There's a lot going on with this card, but as usual, I started with a white card stock. I added a stamped background in black ink.

Then I glued on various travel-related elements, listed here starting from the upper left corner and going clockwise:
  • receipt from parking garage near San Francisco's Chinatown, Dec. 2014 
  • ticket from cable car ride, same vacation
  • receipt from ticket purchase for ride on light rail, Baltimore, March 2015
  • ticket from above purchase
  • Southwest Airlines baggage claim sticker, April 2016
  •  ad from 1950's playbill
A few non-travel items were also affixed onto the card:
  • "Happy Father's Day" stamped in black ink onto vintage flashcard scrap, then cut out and placed on card
  • the ad was embellished by the word "volar" (Spanish for "to fly"), cut from a vintage flashcard. Of course, I glued this word above the airplane image in the ad.
  • I glued a vintage gray button (still attached to a scrap of fabric from the garment it had been sewn to) onto the ad to cover up a prominent reference to Tums. 
Lastly, I dabbed a bit of black ink onto the tickets and receipts just to mute things a bit.

A close-up of that ad:

Love it! I also love having a tidier coffee table for the time being (until he begins to clutter it up again). 

And my husband loves to travel, so he loved seeing the old tickets and receipts on his Father's Day card!


Friday, June 17, 2016

Eats: Rhubarb Cordial

Hello! An unexpected neighborhood clean-up drive sent me scurrying to our garage to see what could be hauled away to a dumpster temporarily parked a mere block away. 

I was glad for such convenience, but it was hot, dirty work. So when I was done I treated myself to a glassful of a rhubarb cordial/club soda concoction. 

I should hasten to add that the rhubarb cordial, in this case, isn't alcoholic; I'd call it a syrup. But Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, authors of  the cookbook Fika,  label it "Rhubarb Cordial". 

"Fika" (pronounced "fee-ka") refers to foods and beverages served during Swedish coffee breaks, and rhubarb cordial (in Swedish, "rabarbersaft")is considered a good option for summer fika. 

Rhubarb is in season now at our local farmers' market, so when I came across this use for it in Fika, I knew I had to try it. And now you can too:

Rhubarb Cordial (Rabarbersaft), adapted from Fika, Anna Brones and Johanna Kindvall, authors

10-12 (about 2 pounds) rhubarb stalks
6 1/3 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole cloves (see note below)

1 cinnamon stick (see note below)

Wash rhubarb and cut into small pieces (no need to remove skin). Place in large saucepan along with water and bring to boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook rhubarb until it falls apart (note: this doesn't take long). Skim off and discard any foam that appears on the surface. 

Remove from heat and strain liquid through a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth. Return strained liquid to saucepan, add sugar, cloves and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Cook until sugar has dissolved completely, then remove from heat. 

Remove cloves and cinnamon stick and pour into clean, sterilized bottles. Store bottles in the refrigerator and use within 6 weeks. You can freeze the cordial for long-term storage. 

To use: dilute the cordial with tap or sparkling water, using 1 part cordial to 4 parts water. 

Yield: about two 25-ounce bottles.

Note: I came across an adapted version of this recipe on another blog; the spices weren't used. I suspect that was because that blogger didn't have them on hand. I do, and so I added them. They add a faint spiciness to the cordial, but I'm guessing it's okay to leave them out if need be. 

Here's how I cooled off after my junk hauling endeavor:

I like this drink very much! The rhubarb flavor is mild, and the drink isn't overly sweet. 

My first batch of rhubarb cordial is almost finished, so I plan on making some more. Although I was more than happy to have the busted deck chair, rusty saw, decrepit space heater and other rejects gone, I don't want the rhubarb cordial to be gone!

PS Fika is a lovely cookbook; I found many of the recipes to be very appealing and plan on copying several of them before I have to return the book back to our library.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Get Carded: Another Graduation Card

Hello! We've watched the girl next door grow up from kindergarten through high school, and today was her graduation party. Here's how her card turned out:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • three layers of art paper scraps
  • "A" cut from vintage card game to match the initial of the graduate's first name
  • graduation cap stamped with black ink onto white card stock scrap
  • "Congratulations" stamped with black ink
A close-up:

I often build up layers of art paper scraps when designing my cards. It's a good way to use pieces of paper that might be too small to use otherwise, and I find it fun to coordinate colors this way. I might be easily amused though. 

I tend to make graduation cards on the simple side, with the school colors setting the tone for the design. I always figure the kids wouldn't appreciate a wackier or more complex design.

No, for those kinds of cards, my husband is the recipient. Father's Day is coming up in one week, so stay tuned for what I come up with then! 

But in the meantime, I still enjoyed making the above graduation card, and I hope the neighbor girl liked it too.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Goodbye Dad

Hello! Just last Sunday, June 5th, my husband and I paid a late-morning visit to my dad. Since he's been on hospice care since last November, we weren't exactly surprised to see his frailness. But although he was agitated at times, he did seem to recognize us, and was strong enough to hold his water cup and sip from it by himself.

I told him "I love you" several times, and each time he responded with his usual reply: "Naturally." That's my dad! 

Six hours later, he died, less than one month from what would have been his 94th birthday. Apparently my husband and I were the last ones from the family to see him alive. He went so quickly that there was no time for anyone to be at his bedside. His heart just stopped. 

It seems sad that he died alone, but as one of my sisters commented, maybe he wanted it that way? Some people do seem to wait until they're alone to die. It happens. 

Since my dad lived so long, he had outlived many of his contemporaries, so we weren't sure how many people would show up for the visitation and funeral. We were uplifted by the number of family, parishioners and other friends from the area who were there with their presence and sympathy. And of course, we also appreciated the support given by those who weren't physically present as well - flowers, charitable donations, prayers and other expressions of sympathy. 

True, my dad had lived a good long life, had assisted countless people during his long career as a social worker, and had had hobbies and interests outside of work. But as a widow since the end of 2010, he missed my mom terribly. We kids tried to take care of his physical and emotional needs after that, but of course we couldn't make up for the loss of his helpmate of over 55 years. 

Now they are together once more, so even though the 4th of July (his birthday) - and a lot of other things - will never be the same I take comfort in the rejoining of their souls. 

Now, about the card seen in the photo that opened this post:

Being a greeting card designer, I had crafted the above for my dad for Valentine's Day 2013. I found it among some of his things when we kids went to his room at his nursing facility to gather up mementos of him. I don't think many of the cards I made him were kept (which of course they didn't have to be), so I was glad this one was!

I do recall that he seemed pleased with this card, for he sent me a note thanking me for it and said he'd passed it around for his friends at the facility to see. I felt good about that! 

In case you were wondering, the photocopied pic is of my dad, from his WWII days in the Army. I always liked that photo of him. 

Goodbye, Dad! I love you - naturally!


Friday, June 3, 2016

Get Carded: It's Graduation Time!

Hello! Graduation party time is here, and thus I made greeting cards to take to the celebrations for two fine young men. 

The first card I made was this one:

Materials used:

  • white card stock
  • scrap of altered 1880's ledger paper
  • dark red art paper scrap
  • vintage playing card; the letter "J", of course, references the first letter of the young man's name
  • "201" stamped on card stock scrap (to go with the number 6 on the playing card)
  • "201" written with red marker (to go with the number 6 on the playing card)
  • graduation cap stamped on white card stock scrap with black ink
  • "Dream Big" stamped in black ink on off-white card stock scrap
A close up:

Those 201's I added to the 6's on the playing card may look a little goofy, but I did that to change the 6 to a 2016, of course. The graduate's mother is used to my quirky crafting, so she can explain  my "embellishments" to her son if need be. 

Card number two:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • dark blue art paper scrap
  • blue and white plaid art paper scrap
  • graduation cap shape cut from gold art paper scrap with stencil
  • "Congratulations" stamped in black ink on white card stock scrap
  • "BEN" stamped in black ink on white card stock scrap
There's a good reason why this card is plainer than the first card: it was getting late in the evening last night, but the time flew by as I happily crafted away in my basement studio. 

But time wasn't the only thing that flew by - I suddenly heard a whoosh as something went past me. I didn't see the creature (I was looking down at the card in the proceeding photo), but I figured it was a bat. I also figured it was time to run up the stairs! Fortunately the card looks fine as is, so I'm considering it done. 

I find greeting cards for boys more difficult to make than cards for girls, probably because I don't have a son. But I think these two cards turned out pretty well, and I hope the two graduates think so too.

Congratulations to both young men!