Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Mental Health" Days

      When I was a child, every so often Mom would get me up and announce that I was not going to school that day.   "All right!"   I would joyfully agree, "But why?"     She would inform me that today was a "mental    
health" day.   Then we would go for a long walk picking up driftwood and finding crab shells along the Potomac River, or some other similar adventure.     It was good for my mental health and we made some great memories.   
      I think everyone can benefit from the occasional "mental health" day.   Just take a break from everything. The rules are simple.    It can't be a scheduled holiday when everyone else is taking a break at the same time, and you can't stay at home catching up on laundry and painting the spare bedroom.
       Our break day usually involves hiking, sailing, biking or some other outdoor activity.    However, this is not part of the rules.   Just do something that brings your family together in a relaxing manner.   Something that everyone loves and enjoys.   Here are some shots from our trip last week to White Oak Canyon Falls in Shenandoah National Park.....      

                Phoebe found these beautiful flowers and wanted a picture so she could identify them later.

               White Oak Canyon has some great waterfalls that were running very slowly due to the drought.

Selene relaxing in the cool mountain stream.  

         I think Sy still has a sore tailbone, but he went back again and again!

Nora on the rocks.

Sy took the big kids up to the upper falls and I relaxed with Nora and soaked up some sunshine.

       After a long hard day hiking,swimming, sunning and playing, I think we all felt just like Nora.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It all comes out in the wash!

     Sometime ago, I was wandering through the Virginia State Fair with my father and the kids.    We found an entire building dedicated to local farmer's markets and containing many farmers vending their products.  Of course,  I had to support these folks and it was a slow day.   They looked a little bored, and I totally understood those kind of days.   So, while the little ones played in a big bin of corn, I made small talk with the farmers.    
      Suddenly, I was stopped in my tracks.   No, it wasn't the smell of the lemongrass and goat's milk soap that pulled me to a halt.   It was the intensity of the " Homegrown Homeschool vibe."    Some of you know exactly what I am talking about, and the rest will have to learn.    Anyway, this Mama had a great booth filled with her goat's milk products and some hand crafted items.   She had a few kids behind the booth reading and crocheting.   She had a warm smile that drew me in, and before I knew it I had spent quite a while doing market reviews and comparing chicken breeds.   Along the way, I also left with a great new recipe for making your own laundry detergent.   It is marvelously inexpensive and will save our landfills from lots and lots of plastic laundry detergent bottles.   So, here we go!      

 Your basic ingredient list is quite inexpensive and easy to find:

1/3 Bar Fels-Naptha
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax 
and some essential oil (if desired)

Assuming you already have some essential oils, the rest of the ingredients should cost under $10.00 and will make 6 gallons of detergent.    You will still have tons of borax and washing soda left over for the next batch.   

     Begin by grating 1/3 of the bar of Fels Naptha.   In the photo above, you can see I often just use homemade soap.   I grate about a cup of it for one recipe.   That works just fine, but the Fels Naptha works a bit better in my opinion.
      Melt the grated soap in a large saucepan with 6 cups of water.    Stir in the Washing Soda and Borax.   Mix and continue heating until everything is completely dissolved.   Remove from the heat and pour this mixture into a large bucket (3 or 5 gallon).    Add 1 more quart hot water and stir to combine the soap mixture and water.     Add enough water to make about 2 gallons of laundry soap.   Lastly, you can add some essential oils for scent.   One of my favorite combinations is Sweet Orange and Lemongrass.    Let it sit for 24 hours and you are ready to do some laundry!    Oh yes, and it also makes a great floor cleaner.   You can dilute in in your mop bucket and it works great for scrubbing floors!

Note:   This soap will gel and turn into a gooey, watery mixture.   It will need to be stored in a wide mouthed container or bucket.   Also, you will want to stir it a bit before each use.    Now,   I must have raised my eyebrows when the lady at the fair told me this part.   Her reply was quite simple, but it think about it every time I make this detergent.        " Now, if you don't have the time to stir your laundry detergent for  a few seconds before you use it--  perhaps you should reevaluate your life."    These were words of wisdom for me and now I happily stir my laundry detergent before I use it!