Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homemade Baby Wipes

So when I decided to take the cloth diaper plunge, I also decided to give cloth wipes and homemade wipe solution a try. It is more natural but my main reasoning was (as always!) to save money. I've used all kinds of fabric for making cloth wipes but I really like to use old t-shirts so I just save ours up and cut them into the size I want when I need more wipes. I have also used some old pre-folds and dish towels.

If you search online, you will find endless recipes for wipe solution. I use 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of baby wash. You can also use baby lotion in place of the olive oil (which I did this time because I'm low on olive oil). I like to just spray the wipes as I need them. If we are on the road or have a real *ahem* blowout diaper, I just use regular wipes or I sometimes pack homemade disposable wipes for the road using paper towels that I cut into the appropriate size. I just put them in a baggie with a little of the solution.

I'm wishing now I would have put my new solution in this cute spray bottle that I recently got from the Target dollar bin but I already filled it with part water and part conditioner to use as a detangler spray on Ellie's unruly curls :)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hosting Showers

I am by no means an expert of hosting events but I have picked up some great ideas from other ladies that I hope to pass on to you. If you are looking for some beautiful "Martha Stewart" type showers that put mine to shame, you must check out this post from my friend Lindsay's blog or this one. Here is another one that my friend Emily hosted. These girls are sisters and you'll really enjoy their home projects so check out their blogs! Creativity runs through their veins and I'm just glad they share their ideas :)

Baby shower
"Nana" shower for my mother-in-law
I typically have a small budget to work with for showers so I try to use the decor I have around my house instead of investing money in decorations. I love using tulle fabric (can you tell?!) for decorating so I keep a couple yards in a variety of colors on hand. It is so cheap and versatile for using to decorate.

Also, I try to incorporate part of my shower gift into the decorations I use. For example, my sister-in-law's shower colors were black and red. I found these cute little plates that she could

 then keep after we used them. I also framed some of her engagement photos in frames that would match her apartment colors. My friend Audreya made the cake. Isn't it beautiful?!

For baby showers, a diaper cake makes a great centerpiece and they are so easy to make - just grab some diapers, rubber bands, ribbon and straight pins. If you want to get fancy, you can add floral sprigs or baby accessories to decorate the "cake." There are tons of tutorials out there if you want a step by step approach.

I hope you will share any ideas you have for decorating and hosting showers without breaking the bank. I'm always looking for new ideas :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cloth Diapering

In preparation for baby sister, I ordered some new cloth diaper covers and I can't wait until she will fit into them!

I started cloth diapering with Ellie when she was about seven months old and used them until she was potty trained at 22 months. We saved a lot of money on diapers this way and, maybe this makes me weird, but I actually enjoy cloth diapering :) Chase was a little hesitant when I began this endeavor but when he realized how much money we were saving (about $50/month), he was thankful and didn't even mind changing the diapers! I only invested about $50 in covers and pre-folds when I started out with Ellie so they paid for themselves after the first month. 

The Flip brand of covers are my favorite because they hold up the best in the wash and are reasonably priced. I have also used Econobum (which is the cheapest!) but they only come in white and aren't quite as good of quality. 

I use all types of traditional pre-folds on the inside of the covers.

 I just take the pre-fold and fold it into thirds, place it in the cover and that is it! Unless the cover gets soiled, I can use it several times throughout the day and only have to replace the pre-fold. 

 With Ellie I used cloth diapers mainly just at the house and for short trips. I am *hoping* to use them almost exclusively with baby sister after the first couple of months. I've even bought some disposable inserts from the Flip line that can be used instead of pre-folds for when we are out and about. I also bought a cute little wet bag for putting dirty diapers in until we get home. I keep a plastic lidded container in our laundry room and just wash all the diapers at once at the end of the day. I use homemade laundry soap for washing them which you can find here. Being a keeper of the home is such a joy and I am thankful for the privilege I have to be a wife and mommy!

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It's Overflowing

Monday, April 25, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap

So this is my stock of laundry soap! I'm getting ready for baby sister and decided to make several batches so I won't be stuck without detergent in the first several months after she arrives. I love homemade laundry soap because it is MUCH cheaper than anything I've bought at the store and it works just as well (if not better!) than the old brands I used. I also like knowing there are no dangerous chemicals in it and it is sensitive enough for using on cloth diapers. This is not my own recipe but it comes from my dear friend Jeanie who lives in Arkansas:

1/2 cup Borax
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1 bar Ivory soap (or 1/3 bar Fels-Naptha soap)
large funnel
2- 1 gallon milk jugs

1. In a large stock pot, heat 6 cups of water to boiling with grated soap. Boil for 10 minutes. 
2. Add washing soda and borax, stirring to avoid boil-over (which happens a lot to me!). You may need to turn the heat down low or take it off the burner for a moment if it starts to boil over. Boil for 10 minutes until dissolved.
3. Remove from heat and add another 6 cups of very hot water, stirring until well dissolved. Using a large funnel, divide the laundry soap into 2 milk jugs and fill the rest of the way with hot water (leave about 2 inches at the top to allow for shaking). 
4. Let sit for 24 hours. Use 1/2 cup per load and always shake well before use. 

I am horrible at math and haven't tried to calculate it but this supposedly comes out to approximately a penny per load and $0.80 per 2-gallon recipe (about 64 loads)! This compares to $0.25 per load for Tide or Gain. All I know is that we have saved a ton of money :)

Depending on where you live, you may have to check a finer grocery store like Kroger for Borax and Washing Soda if it isn't carried at your local Walmart. Where we live, I finally had to go to Ace Hardware (of all places!) to get my ingredients. There are lots of other great uses for Borax and Washing soda that you can research. Borax has a natural anti-fungal property so I use my laundry soap for cleaning the bathroom too! So I guess all I have left to say is...happy cleaning!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter!

What do you think of my Easter tree? A good friend gave me these cute egg ornaments to decorate my feather tree. I love this little tree! I use it at Christmas in the girls' room, add felt hearts to it for Valentine's day and now I get to use it for Easter decorations too :-) Speaking of Easter, I found some great uses for the leftover plastic eggs. I want to make one of these cute caterpillars for Ellie and I hope to make these to help her practice her alphabet.

This weekend we are reminded of the sacrifice our Savior made on our behalf. My hope and prayer is that we will remember the power of His resurrection with this same intensity all year and that we will never forget what a privilege it is to partake in the Lord's supper each Sunday in remembrance of Him. 
"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefor we have been buried with Him through baptisum into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Fater, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His ressurrection..." - Romans 6:3-5

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Simplistic Hospitality

 “My philosophy is that true intimacy and romance always flourish at tables, not on sofas. At the table you have the best eye contact, and that’s what it’s all about. People push their empty plates to one side and linger longer and longer at the table. Once, people used to move from the dining table to the couch. That was a disaster because all the intimacy they had built up disappeared and they had to start all over. A table is the most beautiful piece of furniture there is.” 
-Jan des Bouvrie Opzij
Part of being a keeper of the home is preparing meals for our family and other guests. I believe one of the most intimate ways to get to know others is over a meal. And in our culture, just about all events center around food! Some of the best quality time my husband and I get is over a candlelit dessert and coffee and similarly, some of the best conversations I have had with friends has been during a simple lunch or cup of chai in my breakfast nook.
Entertaining can be as casual or fancy as you (and your guests) are comfortable with but what matters is the love that you put into that special time you have together. I love to cook and try new recipes and the privilege of having someone over to my house to eat is a joy. Unfortunately, it seems less and less women are opening their homes and I’m not sure why. I imagine part of it is the busy lives we lead but I also think it is because so many of us feel inadequate to “host” an event in our home. The following hospitality starting points are summarized from the book “The Six Gifts of Hospitality” by Laurel S. Sewell and I would recommend you read this book because there is much more to gain than these quick tips:
  1. People like to eat, so have a good meal. It doesn’t have to be fancy but tasty, pleasing to the eyes, and enough of it!
  2. People are curious about how you live so show them through your house.
  3. People enjoy talking about themselves so ask questions that encourage them to share themselves with you.
  4. People like to to be treated special. If you know they like a certain food, try to have it for them.
  5. People want to feel comfortable so don’t constantly apologize for things - like “I’m sorry our house needs painting.”
  6. Your guests want you to feel comfortable too. Learn to take things in stride.
  7. People are the same the world around
  8. Although people are alike, they are also unique (I know this sounds like it contradicts #7 but I hope you see how both of these points are true.)
  9. Don’t forget some of the most important people that will eat at your table are the members of your own family. Don’t save your special fine china just for guests. 
A lot of these tips have to do with inviting others into our home but I love  that #9 is on the list. I look for any excuse to use my fine china - what is the point of saving it anyway?! We need to treat our spouse and children just as well (if not better!) than the guests we host in our homes. Hospitality is something we need to practice each and every day with our own family.
One of our family rules is that we always eat dinner as a family. Because Chase and I both work at home, we strive to eat every meal together as a family but that doesn't always work out. Even before Ellie was born, it was important to us to have time after work to unwind without the distractions of television and computers. Now that we have Ellie and another baby on the way, we recognize this importance even more and look forward to many memorable dinner conversations in the years to come. 

I hope this encourages you to open your home and to even show more hospitality to your own family as we each strive to love our husbands and children and fulfill our role as keepers of the home.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chocolate Shortcake

Strawberries are finally back down to a reasonable price so I am sharing my favorite dessert recipe. I originally got this recipe from Family Circle magazine and it comes from their May 2004 issue but I can't find it anywhere on their website or elsewhere online. I don't normally eat shortcake but this reminds me of a chocolate lover's alternative to the summertime dessert. It is actually considered a chocolate biscuit and this recipe makes enough to share so be sure to invite your friends over for some dessert!

1 pint strawberries sliced
1/2 pint raspberries
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 to 3/4 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of heavy cream whipped (add sugar and vanilla to taste)
chocolate shavings for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. My oven always seems to cook things faster so I heat mine only to 420.
2. Taste your strawberries and decide if they are sweet enough. Sometimes they are perfect just the way they are but if they are tart, sprinkle them with 1/4 cup of the sugar and stir them occasionally.
3. The easiest (and least messy) way for me to make this in the food processor but you could also do it by hand. Add the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix together and then add the chilled butter. I let my food processor run until the mixture looks like wet sand. I slowly add the milk and vanilla while the food processor is running and turn it off as soon as the mixture comes together. You don't want to overmix it or the dough will get tough.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured surfaced and roll to 1/2 inch thickness. Depending on the occasion, I use different cookie cutters to cut mine out.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until set in the center. If you overbake these, they will get to brown on the bottom so keep an eye on them!
6. I serve mine with whatever fruit is on sale - strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or a combination of those three! Top with a healthy dollop of homemade whipped cream and chocolate shavings. The whipped cream is even better if you make it with vanilla paste. I love the taste of vanilla and the whipped cream looks really pretty with all the speckles of vanilla bean in it.
This should make about 8 servings but it really depends on the size of cookie cutters you use.

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It's Overflowing

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Recycled Goods

 One of the ways I like to save money is by finding new purposes for old objects or "junk" we would normally throw away. I am certainly not claiming all of these ideas as my own but I want to share with you some of the ways I have repurposed containers and such in our home and I hope you'll share some of your ideas too!

This one is pretty obvious but I always save glass jars, bottles, etc. All the different sizes can make beautiful vases to put around your house or to give as a gift :) I especially love the fun shapes the olive oils and different types of vinegars come in. A good friend of mine keeps me well stocked with dried hydrangeas and I love these simple bottles in my window. It makes washing dishes so much more fun when I get to look up and see these:

I also save all of the canisters from baking powder, bread crumbs, instant breakfast mix and so on. I covered mine in leftover fabric but you could use scrapbook paper and some Mod Podge.

I love this fabric and I use this one to hold all my pens and pencils on my desk.

And you can also use them for bookends...that secretly hide clutter like mine do!

I also use glass jars for gifts and for little knick knacks like these buttons. Baby food jars are also the perfect size for votive holders. I love those little jars! If you want to cover the lid, Design Sponge has a great tutorial here. My example didn't turn out so well because I used the thick paper that my delicious Tazo tea bags come in but thinner paper is a lot easier to work with! 

So those are my "cute" projects and here is to the more practical: 
I save these canisters and put plastic bags in them to keep them a little more organized under the kitchen sink, in the bathrooms, etc. The small crystal light containers are nice because you can pull the labels off. I put the small, clear produce bags from Walmart in these and keep them in the bathroom cabinet to quickly change out the trashcan liners. We also keep a canister in each of the cars - with a toddler, we've learned to be more prepared for the unexpected!

I've also been saving the metal disks from our frozen orange juice concentrate so that I can make this fun memory game for Ellie that I found on Smashed Peas and Carrots. I think we still need to drink 7 more pitchers of orange juice before I have enough game pieces :) I'm also starting to save the caps off our plastic milk jugs to use for this books of the Bible game I found on Blessings for Bible School Teachers' blog. I was thinking I could also put alphabet letters on them and help Ellie put them in order. Now I'm not quite sure what to do with all these clear plastic cups I've been saving from our Crystal Light containers. I'm sure there is some fun project Ellie and I could do but for now I'm just saving them. They would be great for putting different color paints in but besides that, I don't have any other ideas. What do you think? 

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It's Overflowing

Monday, April 11, 2011

Titus 2 Work in Progress

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." -Titus 2:3-5

God has given me the amazing blessing of being a wife and mother. Although I fall short and have a lot of growing to do, loving my family and being a homemaker are two of the greatest joys that I have. My hope and prayer is that as I grow, I may be able to encourage other wives and mothers to fulfill their responsibilities mentioned in Titus 2:3-5. I have been fortunate to learn from some great examples in the Lord's church and, of course, my own mother and mother-in-law. I would recommend any of Cindy Colley's books or, better yet, listen to her speak in person if you have the opportunity. Her lessons to women are all centered around Titus 2:3-5. You can visit her blog here.

One of the most enjoyable parts of fulfilling my responsibility of being a homemaker, is finding great deals and saving our family money! I love to bargain hunt and use Craigslist, Ebay and the local newspaper to find the best price. With the new baby on the way, I knew that we needed to find Ellie a "big girl" bed but could NOT believe the prices when I started searching stores online. Fortunately, I found this day bed with two mattresses and and a trundle on Craigslist for $100 (well, $150 but we were able to bargain on the price). When I asked Chase to pick it up for me, you can imagine that he was not impressed:

However, spray paint is a wonderful thing! After sanding down the rusted spots and repainting it "Ballet Slipper" pink, we were happy with the final product. I tried to get a picture of just the bed but Ellie was very curious about my picture taking in her room and insisted on being in the picture. So here are the best two I could come up with:


And here she could not resist getting her sweet bunny off the bed. :-)

I already had the quilt from college so we literally only invested a few bucks into sheets, a bed skirt, and pillow shames (which my awesome mother-in-law made).

I am totally new to this blogging thing but I hope that I can inspire other homemakers and that we can learn from each other.