Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Paper Covered Cardboard Boxes=Organization!

I saw this done several different ways with various materials: paper, canvas, fabric etc. None really gave me the steps I needed so I just jumped in and tried it myself.

This is the first box I completed using some old scrapbook paper and Craft Glue (tacky glue or whatever). I DO NOT recommend using tacky glue. I'm sure you veteran crafters are saying, "well, duh!" But this is the first bottle I have ever owned, so I had no idea that tacky meant tacky-almost-dry-before-you-get-done-spreading. So my little paint brush and I made the best of it.

I did the rest with good old Elmer's and my paint brush. I didn't measure anything. (You can kind of tell in spots). I just took the paper and made creases over the box before putting glue on. This seemed to make the process really easy (and easier for making cuts too). I did not cover the inside or the bottoms. These boxes are for our craft shelf. I have plans to make prettier boxes for other areas in our home. I'm half done with the craft shelf. I have no plans to match the paper either! I imagine these boxes will get destroyed in a short period of time so they will serve their purpose perfectly.

Yay for leftover scrap paper that was too ugly for photos!

Here's the top half of the shelf so far. Total time spent: 45 min.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fun and Easy Homemade Laundry Soap

My husband has green shirts that he is to wear under his uniform (AKA Camis). Apparently he has held onto the ones he purchased back when he first became a Marine (eww, right?). We've picked up 2-3 new packages of t-shirts but they don't fit right...his words, not mine. It is a freakin' under shirt! Oh well. He is pretty lean so most men's shirts just don't fit right and bunch. So whatever. I've been given the task of finding a way to get the smell out of them. They really don't stink after washing but I guess something happens when he wears them-- something that doesn't happen to any other clothes.

I tried vinegar, baking soda and even my dear Rockin' Green soap. So far no luck. We were about to try some bleach...something I try not to keep in the house because then we find reasons to use it. But a friend suggested Borax and some recipes for making our own laundry detergent.

When I read Peppermint laundry soap from Soulemama, I was sold. So today the girls and I drove around town getting the ingredients for the recipe. I had to go to 4 stores just to get them all. Next time, I know exactly where to go so it will be cost effective. I'm going to see how far this homemade batch goes and figure out if it truly is more cost effective than other eco options.

So Soulemama's recipe calls for
1 cup of baking soda (0.59 cents)
1 cup of Borax ($2.99)
1 cup of washing soda/soda ash ($3.49)
2 cups of finely grated soap (Peppermint Dr. Bronners--1.5 bars at $4.49 each, $8.98)

Total spent $16.05, my usual Rockin Green Soap is $14.95 for 90 loads. However, to make an additional batch I will only need to spend $4.49 for a new bar of soap (I have half of one leftover). This would bring my per batch cost down to $10.27.

Grating was really easy but I am worried I didn't get it fine enough.

Little Avery loved grating the soap. Actually- she wanted to hold and smell the bar all the way home. She unwrapped them both and was SO proud of the detergent we made that it was the first thing she wanted to show daddy when he got home. The stuff does smell great- the whole Creative Space smelled like it until I put it in a sealed container.

I'm running my first load of diapers with the detergent now. As soon as the door locked I had a bit of remorse. I sure hope the soap rinses out easily...yikes...we used the finest holes on the grater but I have read about people using food processors. I'm running an extra rinse just to be sure.

We shall see!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meatless Monday (on Wednesday): Un-Sloppy Joes

On Monday I adjusted another Relish! recipe to be a meatless meal option for my family. The original recipe was called "Not So Sloppy Joes". It was basically a homemade sloppy joe recipe.

We substituted quinoa. In the future I would adjust the cumin in the recipe to make it taste a little better. However, this one did not make the favorites list. Neither my husband nor I like "real" sloppy joes so making it from scratch and making it meatless didn't make the sandwich any more appealing to us. I will say that the homemade flavor was much better so if you already like your canned sloppy joe sauce, you will probably love this.

My adjusted recipe is as follows:

1 cup of quinoa(soaked and rinsed)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
10 ounces of home-canned tomatoes and chiles (or Ro-tel)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 avocado , pitted, peeled and sliced
1/2 white onion , chopped

Prepare the quinoa as instructed. Mix garlic, cumin, brown sugar, cider vinegar, tomato paste and tomato/chiles in a small bowl then add to the quinoa. Towards the end of the simmering--add the chopped onions. Or if you prefer them raw, just top your sandwich with them and slices of the avocado.

We used basic Pepperidge Farm wheat buns this time. (I'd recommend toasting them because the quinoa/sloppy joe mix makes the bun pretty soggy.

The side is a variation of coleslaw.

1/2 10-ounce bag broccoli slaw
2 carrots , finely chopped
1/4 cup raisins
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: Relish! Meal plan service.

I am almost certain that every household with children (and even some without!) would LOVE a personal chef/grocery shopper/meal planner! Two weeks ago MamaSource offered a voucher for 6-months of service at Relish! for $17, a $36 value. I happily signed up!

We have stuck with the program nearly perfectly. The basic idea is that every Thursday Relish! prepares about 15 recipes for you to choose from. You can add these to your Weekly Menu. You can search for other recipes (like vegetarian, kid-friendly, brunch, budget-friendly etc). And add those too. There does not appear to be a limit to how many you can add...but you can mindlessly wait for them to change the menu for you each week and choose from that (which is what I have been doing). They also give you a list of about 10 recipes every month to make ahead and put in the freezer. The first week I made all of my selected freezer recipes in about 2 hours time. So in addition to those 10 recipes we have been making 5-8 recipes from the main menu every week.

The description of the service states that they don't use prepackaged items. For the most part, this is true. I mean, there has been a call for Ro-Tel and frozen pound cake just this week. I can't say this is a major complaint of mine but I do think I will be checking out a few other similar sites to see if they offer more healthy options. I can choose to *search* for all vegetarian, lower calorie etc but really-- if I had the time to search I wouldn't be perusing such services anyway. SO, that is a bit of a downfall for Relish! However, it has been so much fun and such a reduction of my stress that I can't say that I don't recommend this site for just about everyone.

One thing the site does point out is that they hope to inspire us in our meal preparation. I think this is a great thing for them to mention. I have tweaked their recipes several times by substituting quinoa for ground beef, omitting sugar and of course, always purchasing organic when possible. The recipes are simple enough that you really can change them up to make them healthier. However, I still find this to be a bit of a problem because the key feature (for me) is that once you create your menu you get a FULL shopping list adjusted to the amount of servings you designated. So...if I am continually swapping healthier ingredients then my grocery list becomes more complicated. Just yesterday I did not buy "whole milk" and instead, picked up our regular ingredients to make homemade almond milk. The bad part...the whole milk was for a quiche and I'm pretty sure it wont be fluffy without it.

Bottom line- the service is definitely worth the money. It has made our shopping quick and easy (and we have actually spent $40 less each week). The recipes are very good! This isn't the absolute perfect option for a super healthy eating family or a vegetarian family unless they have the time (and desire) to put a little more effort into their meal planning. I'm not lazy but I totally need this to be a service that I can just trust without double-checking things for healthier ingredients.

Give it a try! You definitely wont be disappointed!