Category Archives: Homekeeping

Bedroom Downsize and Toy Room Takeover, Part 1

Since our daughters share a bedroom we’ve been using the third, and smallest bedroom in our house as as toy room for a couple of years.  During that time the room was often a hideous mess, with the door closed and no one using it. Finally we decided it would be best to do a major purge of toys and put that room to better use.  I wish I had realized my camera was “zoomed in” when I was taking my before pictures.

Our first plan was to turn it into a “man-cave” for my husband.  The more we thought about it, however, we realized that our bedroom, which is much larger, but long and narrow, would allow hobby space for both of us.  We really only sleep in our bedroom.  We don’t hang out, or watch tv, in fact we rarely even read in there.  We just don’t need the largest bedroom.

Instead we’re making over the former toy room, and after we move in, we’ll partition the long narrow bedroom and make it into a man-cave for my husband, and a hobby/office space for me.

As you can see, the toy room was the most lovely shade of really, really ,baby blue; walls, ceiling and floor.  Actually it would have made an adorable nursery, but our youngest only used it for three days after we moved here.

I’ve spent recent days moving out the last few toys and repainting in tan and brown, which will coordinate nicely with the bedding and window dressings we already have.  You can not imagine how difficult it is to edge a room where there are no straight lines and walls are textured.  I keep touching it up with a flat artist’s brush, but I am realizing that there is always going to be an angle from which it looks crooked.  I’ve decided to settle for whatever looks best from where my bed will be, that way it won’t drive me crazy when I’m lying in bed looking up at the ceiling.

More photos to come after we move into the new bedroom, and start on the new hobby space.

What are you working on this week?

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A Day In My Pajamas

I stayed in bed until 9 AM, and spent the entire day in my jammies today.  BUT, I accomplished an awful lot. 

First I made a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon.  Then I sat around awhile, drinking hot tea and slowly absorbing the caffeine. 

Once the caffeine kicked in I started to get motivated.  So I canned up a few pints of last year’s venison to free up some freezer space, and to have a quick and easy dinner option in the pantry.  I’m notorious for forgetting to pull something out of the freezer. 

Since I had to stay in the kitchen and babysit the pressure canner while it processed for seventy-five long, boring minutes I made lunch, and got the popcorn we grew last summer off the cobs.  The corn in the smaller jar is the stuff we dried with the husks on the cobs, and the larger jar we dried with the husks off.  I wanted to see if one way would pop better than the other.  I also held a few cobs aside to use for seed in next spring’s garden. 

Once all that was done and cleaned up I remembered I needed to make a batch of laundry detergent.  It doesn’t take long to mix up a batch so I was able to get a load of wash going right after I went out to feed and water animals and gather eggs, er, egg.  It’s that time of year.  At least they haven’t given up laying altogether. 

Most of my winter days aren’t quite this productive, but I was inspired by another mom-blogger who not only homeschools and runs a daycare out of her home, but finds time to blog about it nearly every day.  Kudos to you, Rose

I don’t know that I could do something cool enough to write about every day, but I do know that I should at least fight the urge to hibernate and do something

Next on the list is cooking dinner, and mixing up a batch of artisan bread to be baked in the morning. 

What does your typical winter’s day look like?

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The Countdown Is ON…

Ah! It’s getting to that glorious time of year when I start counting down the days to the end of my work season.  I’m so looking forward to some much needed time at home with my children and catching up on some homekeeping projects.  I sometimes wonder how it must be to play a never ending game of catch up if one’s job doesn’t have a slow or off season.  I feel like I spend the off season getting my home in order, catching up on the things that get pushed aside during the busy time, and bonding with my babies.  How do moms who don’t get an off season cope?  Maybe some of you can enlighten me. 

The list of things I’d like to accomplish this fall and winter is ever growing, but here is what is on it for now:

  1. First things first.  Closet and clutter patrol.
  2. Work on getting my cottage food license so I can participate in our local farmers market by selling some of my dry mixes.
  3. Turn the play room into a guest/man room. 
  4. Can, can, can some more meat, and meals in a jar.
  5. Help my younger daughter begin to read.
  6. Take up a winter sport as a family.  Maybe cross country skiing or ice skating?
  7. Have a snow ball fight. 
  8. Sell some of the above mentioned clutter.
  9. Volunteer at school.
  10. Muck out the mud room.  (If my earlier clutter patrol doesn’t make it there)
  11. Re-decorate the master bedroom (Sigh, after the clutter patrol)
  12. Put the garden to bed by pulling weeds, mulching, and fertilizing with some all natural rabbit poo.

I had another in mind just as I sat down to edit this post, but it’s been shuffled to the back of my mind again.  Dang it!  It’ll come to me. I’m sure that I will be adding more and nixing some in favor of others, but isn’t that life?

What are your goals this winter?  What kind of winter do you have where you live?

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Water Storage

With a heat wave hitting many areas, a lot of us have water on the mind. And with recent power outages, and a weekend camping trip, I find myself refilling our water storage today. It works out since the two containers I used up were due for rotating anyway.

You may be wondering why we store water. Stored water is part of our preparedness plan. We try to follow the “Rule of Three” which basically means having three sources for everything you need. Our first source for water is our well. We store water because when our power goes out so does the well pump. And the power goes out pretty regularly around here. It’s usually up and running again within a few hours, but we’ve had it out for five days before. So we store at least three days worth for our family and pets. If the outage were to outlast our stored supply, our third source would be a nearby river. We would either filter, boil or chemically treat the river water to make it safe for drinking. Notice a trend?

We store the bulk of our water in seven gallon Aqua-tainers. I like these because the capacity is enough to seem “worth it” and small enough that I can carry one up the basement stairs myself. They also have a convenient tap which turns inside out for storage. We have several of these which would technically meet the gallon per person, per day recommendation for our family of four. But we also clean out and fill our empty two liter soda bottles with water. I recently started freezing some of these, after reading about a few good uses for the frozen bottles at The Survival Mom’s blog.

We store our water for six months and then use it up either by taking it camping, or watering plants, then replace it with fresh.  We treat the stored water with 1/8 tsp of common household bleach per gallon, and store it in our cool, dark basement, where it gets little exposure to light or heat.

Being prepared for these little inconveniences as well as larger crises allows us to live more independently. This approach works well for us, and thankfully, since we started practicing preparedness we’ve never had to rely on our stored water for more than a few hours.

How do you approach preparedness?

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Homemade Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time now.  I feel like I’m a little mentally foggy after work, but it’s worth the extra effort to keep the blog updated.  I’m still trying to find time and energy to balance it all.  Seriously, if any of you work-outside mamas are also “keeping it all together” at home please tell me how you do it. 

Last time I told you about my love of the Homestead Drying Rack.  Today I’d like to share my recipes for laundry detergent and fabric softener.   Both of these recipes are simple and inexpensive.  My kids love to help me make them both.  Since the ingredients are all fairly mild, my biggest concern with letting children help is the heat from the stove when melting the ingredients for the detergent. 

The detergent is easy to make, economical, and seems comparable to the commerically available brands I’ve purchased in the past.  It is low to no suds and is generally considered appropriate for use in HE machines. I still occasionally have stubborn stains, but that happened with the name brand products I’ve used too.  It would probably help if I treated stains promptly and washed clothes regularly instead of letting them pile up during the week.   The fabric softener works as well as any I’ve used without the heavy perfume smell.  Clothes smell fresh coming out of the wash, but I can’t really discern a particular scent after drying.  I like this since many of the commercial brands make me sneeze.

Detergent

Shred 1/2 a bar of Fels Naptha into six cups of warm water over medium heat.  When the soap shreds have all melted add 1 C washing soda (not baking soda) and 1C borax.  Continue to stir until the ingredients have all dissolved.  Allow the mixture to cool then put it into a larger container.  I use an old 1.5 gallon dispenser from the laundry detergent I used to buy.  Then just top it up with cool water and stir to incorporate the ingredients well.  Use 1/8 cup for a medium load, a bit more for a large or heavily soiled load.  You may need to re-stir or shake the jug before each use as the solids tend to glob up.

Fabric Softener

Start with a gallon jug of white vinegar.  Store brand is fine.   After it is about half used up add one whole bottle of cheap conditioner like White Rain or Suave.  Stir gently, do not shake as it will foam.  Then, again, top up with plain water.  Use as you would store bought liquid fabric softener.  To make your own dryer sheets dilute the solution to 1/2 strength with more water and soak pieces of a ratty old tee shirt in the mixture.  I keep some solution and tee shirt squares in a lidded “tupperware” type dish.  Ring out a tee shirt piece and toss it into the dryer with wet clothes. 

Both of these are eco friendly, and economical solutions for your laundry needs.  The ingredients for either can be found at the grocery or big box store and should cost less than ten dollars.  Each batch of detergent lasts me 4-6 months, and each batch of softener lasts me about one month.  It would last longer if I used it solely for making dryer sheets, but I like to hang clothes out to dry so I mostly use it in the rinse cycle. 

Does any one have a good recipe for a spray on type stain pre treater? I’m thinking of filling a spray bottle with diluted dish soap and spraying it onto stains before clothes go into the hamper,(Ok, honesty check.  They usually go into a pile on the mudroom floor.  Shame.) but I would love to know what has worked for you. 

Happy Homemaking!

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Back To The Grind

Today was my first day back at my seasonal fish and wildlife job.  As much fun as the job is, I’m so sad that I’m letting someone else have all the fun of being with my kids all day.  If I could strap them to my back and carry them along with me, it would be the perfect job. 

Each spring I tell myself this is the last year.  The last year I’ll sell my kid’s childhood in exchange for 120  television channels, brand name coffee and  crummy convenience foods.  The last year we only get the benefit of half my earnings because the other half takes care of gas and childcare.  The last year I’ll tread water as a wife and mother, because family will forgive half measures where employers will not. 

This is a huge struggle for me, because I was raised to be independent, and such a huge part of independence is having one’s own money.  Prior to having children I always worked and had relatively well paid jobs.  I grew accustomed to having a lot of extra money.  When I found out we were expecting our first child we were between work seasons and I fully inteded to stay home instead of returning to work.  But when I got the invitation to return to work all I could think about was how much we could use the extra income in our down-payment-for-a home-fund.  I told myself it was just a few months and after we found (and qualified for the loan on) a home I’d quit and stay home to be a frugal mama.  Well, it took three more years to find the home, by that time there was another child, not to mention a bunch of pay increases which make that income all the more gripping.  With each new season I tell myself it’s just until we pay off…whatever.  But there always seems to be another whatever waiting behind the first. 

I don’t know that I have a real point with this post, I guess I’m mostly just venting.  I’m feeling very motivated to find another way to contribute to my families financial well being.  I’m feeing motivated to cut costs so that this can really be the last year of my kids childhood that I miss out on.   I’m not sure how I’ll do it just yet, but I know that there is a will so, there has to be a way right?

Do you work outside your home?  What was your deciding factor?

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Lotion Bars, And Another New Use For An Old Altoids Tin

 

My hands have gotten seriously rough-side-of-the-velcro dry from all the yard work we’ve been doing, and we got a lull in the good weather, (snowing big fat nasty flakes) so I figured it was a good day to take a deep breath and do my dishes, catch up on some laundry, and make lotion bars.

While I was digging through my craft supplies to find my soap molds, I found some old tins I saved when my husband started tying flies.  I thought I’d see how the bar lotion worked in the tins.  It works great! I was so impressed in fact that I delivered four tins to neighbors as soon as they set up.  I also made four bars, and have enough supplies left over to make another batch soon.   I couldn’t resist tinting the small bit that was left in the bowl after I poured all the molds.  It makes a nice lip balm, but the color doesn’t really show. 

I used Smockity’s recipe, which was easy to follow and took approximately half an hour once I had all the supplies gathered.  The ingredients were expensive, but the end product is well worth the investment, especially when I can give some as gifts.  I was able to get everything I needed at my local natural foods store, but I suspect one could find better prices online. 

My hands, lips and legs feel very happy!

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28 Days To Hope For Your Home

***Not for the mildly disorganized***

Before you read this take a quick glance at your house.  Does it look beautiful? Yes?  I’ll save you some time.  This post is not for you, come see me again on Monday and we’ll cook up something delicious.

Okay, now I’ll share some sad truths with the rest of you.

The Sad Truth: I’ve been living under the assumption that, being a grownup, I don’t have to do my dishes if I gosh darn don’t want to. Another sad truth, is that eventually, I do have to do them,( I know, it SUCKS!) that is unless I want my husband to throw them away and buy all new ones, which he has suggested and would be more than willing to do. He’s not even mad. He hates washing dishes as much as I do, and that’s only the beginning. We’re not lazy mind you, we just have more interesting things to do. While I’m happily minding my hens, garden and, oh yeah, the kids, and Nate is happily creating something out of wood and antlers, our house slowly really, really quickly falls into disaster status.

Have you ever wondered why your home can go from company clean to “don’t open the door, it might be the health department here to shut us down” in a matter of days  hours  moments?

I used to wonder that, until I read 28 Days To Hope For Your Home.  Do I have my dream home now? No, but I have hope.  I now understand why and how my house can get so messy in mere minutes.  AND, I know how to reverse the trend.  I’m developing new habits, getting used to the look and feel of a neat home, and not even cringing when someone drops in unexpectedly.

In 28 Days to Hope For Your Home, Nony from A Slob Comes Clean, shares what she’s learned about the roots of slobberism, and the de-slobification process.  She takes you through a specific set of daily steps to develop four simple habits which will lead to a home you can actually live in.

28daystohope250Interested? For the rest of February, you can get 28 Days to Hope For Your Home at half price, by clicking on any of the affiliate links in this post.  That’s only four dollars!  Just two weeks ago I would have spent ten times that on take-out because I couldn’t find my kitchen!

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Friday Already?

Wow! This week has flown by, and I didn’t get as much finished as I had hoped.  Does that ever happen to you?

After the winter storm two weeks ago we had a cold spell, but it has been relatively warm and breezy this week.  It feels a bit like spring, but the groundhog has spoken, so I’m forcing myself to wait two more weeks before I start my seeds for the garden.  It seems like I always get antsy and start them too soon and the plants end up leggy before it’s warm enough to set them out.  We have some seeds left over from last year, but we’re making our seed catalog order today…just as soon as we can agree on what we’re getting.

Yesterday I quit dragging my feet and cleaned out the rabbit cages.  It was especially gross this time, since when I went out to do it early last week the pee and poo trays were pretty much frozen to the cages.  It was irresponsible of me, but instead of dealing with it at the time, I hoped for a warmer day soon, apologized to the bunnies, and added a fresh layer of hay.  They seemed cozy enough but it’s been nagging at me so I took care of it today while it was so nice outside.  It was gross, but our garden will be really happy for the primo fertilizer this growing season.  This spring I plan to build elevated hutches above one corner of the garden so we can just rake the poo out to where it can do some good.  We’ll have to insulate it well since they won’t be as protected as where they are now, but it will be so nice for them to enjoy the sunshine and nice for me to have them up off the shed floor.

Our rogue hen, who was recently broody is back up to her old tricks, laying eggs in weird places instead of in the nest boxes.  At least they’re in the coop now that the ground outside is covered in snow…er, I hope they are anyway!  We’ll have to make sure we don’t have the egg hunt at our house this Easter.  I’d hate to see some unsuspecting poor tyke get an unpleasant surprise in her basket.  I hope this hen has another broody spell this spring as it would be nice if she’d do the work and raise a batch of chicks for us!  Wishful thinking, probably.

We’re attending a Super Bowl party at a friend’s home this year and thank goodness, because this has not been a good week for keeping up on housework.  I don’t think we’ve reached anything like “health department dirty” but there are sure a few items refusing to reside in their homes.  We’ve recently been given some Lincoln Logs, and I’m happy to say they don’t hurt quite like Legos or dried play dough when you step on them, but it isn’t a picnic either.  Lots of fun to play with though!  The kids even like them.

I hope you all have a great weekend!  Enjoy the Super Bowl, funny ads, halftime and most importantly  to me, spending time with those you love…eating their snacks.  Don’t judge.  I’ll bring some good snacks too!

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Denim Child’s Apron

My children decided pretty early on that they were too old for bibs.  Lucky for me (and thier shirt fronts) they think aprons are pretty cool.  Is there anything more adorable than a little girl in an apron? Well, perhaps a little girl in an apron and a sun bonnet. 

This adorable apron isn’t my original idea.  I don’t remember where I first saw it, but it’s probably been floating around since jeans started wearing out.  If your sewing supplies are already organized and you have a pair of worn out jeans and some bias tape around you can probably whip one out in about an hour.  I had a hard time finding bias tape I liked, so I used homemade bias tape. 

First cut the leg off of a pair of jeans, and open the outside seam.

Next hold the resulting piece of fabric up to yourchild to determine my length and width.  I didn’t follow any pattern here, just fold it in half and cut it out free form.  After making a couple I’ve decided to err narrow on the bib part to prevent gapping when the kid wears it.  Also, avoiding sharp corners makes it so much easier to attatch the bias tape. 

Attatch bias tape,(I prefer the cheating method) beginning with a short piece for the top hem, followed by a longer piece for the neck ties and apron body trim. 

Finally, cut and finish two pieces of bias tape to use as waist ties and attatch them at the waist of the apron.  If you’d like a fancier apron you can attatch pockets cut from the jeans, or sew your own. 

My girls love to wear these to eat, help mama in the kitchen or garden, and do art projects.  One less stain to treat, one less pair of worn out jeans laying around and mama gets to do a sewing project.  Works for me! 

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