Friday, January 17, 2014

Weekly Wrap-Up – December 29th-January 4th

Check out our final activities of the year, as well as those that rang in the New Year!

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New Year’s Day happens to also be my own birthday!  And for my birthday this year, my daughter decided to enlist her dad in helping her make dinner for me.  She selected two recipes from her collection from Young Chef’s Academy classes, and she decided to make me some sausage tortellini soup and little pizza turkey sliders.

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DSCF1062My Birthday #1

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The soup was especially yummy!  And it was nice not to have to cook for my birthday.  We’d just had an ice cream cake for Holden’s birthday 3 days before, so I decided not to get one for my birthday as I normally would.  So instead, I put a candle in my pizza slider and let everybody sing to me!  It was unconventional, but hey, it worked for me!  And if you’re wondering, I’ll admit I turned 42.  Smile

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As I neared the end of my stockpile of Purex liquid laundry detergent, my husband and I prepared to try out making our own homemade laundry soap.  We took the recipe from the Duggars, because who else would know a little something about doing tons of laundry and saving money while doing it but a family of 21 people?!?  We figured they’d surely come up with a tried and true recipe, so we gave it a shot.  Here’s all you need.

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There are just 4 ingredients:  a bar of Fels-Naptha soap, which costs about $1.50, a box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda for a couple of bucks, and a box of Borax laundry booster, which is also a couple of bucks.  I found everything together on one shelf at Wal-mart right beside all of the stain treaters.  If you want to add a scent, you can use about a teaspoon of essential oil…I picked up a cheap Jasmine fragrance oil for $1 at Dollar Tree.

First, you start by grating the bar of Fels-Naptha soap into a saucepan on the stove.  The soap is extremely hard, and you’ll want to use your finest grater because it will melt faster in smaller pieces.  When you,re all done with this part, you’ll get a fine powder in the pot.

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Add the hot water to it and boil it, stirring constantly, until it’s completely dissolved.  Then gather up some empty detergent bottles.  I’d been storing empty bottles for about a year.  This recipe will make 10 gallons of detergent, so you’ll need a lot of bottles.  Then I poured the melted soap into an unused 5-gallon bucket with lid, which I bought at Home Depot.  I think I paid around $8 total, as they sell the bucket and lid separately.  Then Steve got a mixer attachment for his big drill and blended it with the Borax and Super Washing Soda in the bucket until it was well blended.  This gives you about 2.5 gallons of super concentrate, which you have to blend again with another 2.5 gallons of hot water.  After the final blending, you put the lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight to thicken.  The next day when you take off the lid, you’ll find a thick layer several inches deep floating on the top.  You just blend it again with the mixer until it’s well blended.

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You can add your scent if you desire and blend again.  Now you have a total of 5 gallons of concentrate.  Based on the size of your saved empty detergent containers, measure out enough concentrate into the bottle that so that it’s a little less than half its capacity, and then match that same measurement with hot water.  You’ll have extra room at the top of the bottle, and this allows you to shake the bottle to blend it.  Each time you use the soap, you’ll need to shake it again before use.  Then measure as you normally would when you do your wash!  About 1/2 cup is all that’s necessary.  You’ll find that this soap produces hardly any suds at all, so it can also be used in a front-loading machine that requires HE detergent.

I’ve been washing with this detergent every day for about a week now, and I have to say that it’s been really great!  It smells very clean and fresh, and I haven’t had any issues with stains.  Give it a try!  For just a little bit of effort and a few dollars investment, you’ll have months and months’ worth of detergent for your family.  And when you’re ready to make future batches, you’ll have plenty of the other ingredients left to use…you’ll just need a new bar of Fels-Naptha soap each time for $1.50.  I read that this recipe costs about 1 cent per load to make!  Give it a try!

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I run a homeschool field trip group that serves over 400 families.  Each month, I try to organize a new field trip or activity for kids to participate in, and sometimes I am able to negotiate a discounted group rate for ongoing classes for a variety of activities.  For this winter, I set up homeschool gym classes on Friday afternoons, and we’re paying about $10/class instead of the regular rate of $17/class, plus the lifetimes membership fee is waived.  We held an Open House the Friday before the class started so folks could come out and try a class for $5 and see if they liked it before committing to the 3 months of homeschool classes.

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I was able to set up the classes for after Hayden’s school hours, so he is still able to participate.  He was really happy about that because we did these classes last winter, and he really had a lot of fun.  The photo above shows Haylee doing a backflip on the rings.  She was so proud to make it over by herself!

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On Saturday, January 4th, Holden got to have his 6th birthday party.  Because his actual birthday is just 3 days after Christmas, we always wait and have his party in early January so that friends have a chance to finish up their holiday visits and activities before squeezing in our party.

Holden wanted a Spongebob theme this year, so I bought a cake kit of 3 little plastic characters at Harris Teeter and made him a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting.  I hand-drew some stencils and used spray-on edible color to make the background shapes.  Then I drew on an icing border in the shapes and set the characters on the cake.  I wanted to draw pink jellyfish at the bottom corners, but I ran out of pink icing!  So I filled in the space with confetti sprinkles and called it a night.  Smile  I also spent hours the night before making cake pops, dipping them in chocolate candy melts, and covering them with sprinkles.  Haylee helped me with the bags so I could tie each one to keep them fresh.  Our guests love taking these home!

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Everyone had a great time, and I bought lots of poppers and snaps for the kids to play with outside.  This is where after-New Year’s clearance came in handy!

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Holden really enjoyed his party.  He got lots of fun toys, and he also got new oven mitts and a handmade denim apron since he loves to help in the kitchen!  He was so excited that the mitts actually fit his little hands!

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Stay tuned for more updates of our January events.