Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is the BEST laundry detergent you will ever use... but that's just my opinion. It is however, the best laundry detergent I've ever used, and that's a fact. This magic detergent gets out stains, makes colors brighter, towels fluffier, it will save you money, and it lasts forever. It smells wonderful, too! Credit where credit is due - this is not my recipe, I found it here

Supplies Needed:
1 (4 lb 12 oz) Box of Borax
1 (3 lb 7 oz) Box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean
2 (14.1 oz) Bars of Zote Soap - you can also use the ounce equivalent of Fells Naptha or even bars of Ivory Soap (which is what I used because I couldn't find the previous two types of soap)
1 (4 lb) Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1-2 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Scent Enhancer- or use 3-4 bottles of Scentsy Washer Whiffs

If you use Felz Naptha, or Zote, it will need to be hand grated. If you decide to go the Ivory route (which is easier but doesn't necessarily clean as well as the others), the bars can be microwaved one at a time for about a minute. They will expand and look similar to a large puffy cloud! Allow the soap to cool for a minute or so, and crumble it into a powder.
Now dump all ingredients into a large bucket. For ease of mixing purposes I recommend layering the ingredients. While mixing, the chemicals get stirred up into the air so I also recommend covering your face during or holding your breath. 
As you can see you have quite a hefty amount of laundry detergent. The best part is, you only need 2 Tablespoons per load of laundry. I use three if it's in really bad shape. If you used the Purex Crystals, you can store some of the laundry detergent in the bottle for convenient usage, and the cap has a line that is equivalent to about 2 Tablespoons! How handy is that? 

This detergent doesn't suds up, but it gets clothes cleaner than any store-bought suds producing detergent I've ever used. Also just to give you an idea of how long it lasts, I made this detergent roughly five months ago, and with using only this and washing at least one load a day between my husband and I, there is still half left. It just might be magic.

Monogrammed Glitter Book Page Wreath

We moved into our current house last fall. I was bored with most of the decor that we had moved over from the previous house and wanted to bring a breath of fresh air into the new house, which had so many possibilities. My favorite crafts to make are inexpensive decorative ones. Books at thrift stores are very cheap. Last year I bought four at a thrift store for a whopping $1. They really come in handy for book page wreaths, rosettes, and even gift bows. This particular decorative craft is hanging in our bedroom right now. It really meshes well with the 'romantic' tone and colors of antique purple, soft yellow, and pale grey. This project is time consuming but I love the outcome and I think you will too!

Supplies Needed
Old Paper Back Book
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
Elmer's Glue
Scrap Book Paper
Piece of cardboard that's about 2/3 the size you want the finished project to be
Painted Wooden Letter

You can make as many or as few paper cones as you'd like, keeping in mind that the more you make, the fuller the finished project will look. The best way to tackle this is to do one part at a time. Make all the paper cones first. Gently remove the book pages from the book, then one at a time curling a page inward and securing with a dot of hot glue. Since you don't know exactly how many you'll need, make a bunch then move onto the glittering process. You can always make more paper cones and you will undoubtedly need to. 

Pour about a quarter inch of Elmer's glue into a small and shallow bowl. Dump some glitter into another small and shallow bowl. Dip the ends of the paper cones into the glue, followed by a dip into the glitter, and set aside to dry. I recommend putting a towel down where you intend to set the cones to dry. The glue shouldn't drip but you will get glitter EVERYWHERE otherwise. Continue the process until all the cones are glittered.

Once dry, begin attaching the small end of the glittered paper cones to the cardboard backing with a dot of hot glue. Secure your back row of glittered cones about two inches from the edge of the cardboard. This will make the cones stable and less floppy when moving around. Work your way around and eventually inward. Leave about an inch distance between the glittered end of each cone. You'll need less paper cones this way, and it will still look just as full. Make more cones if necessary. Repeat the attaching process on the second layer of paper cones, but this time glue the small end of the cones in between the space you left in the first layer. Repeat all the way around until you get the fullness you like. 

Once done with the paper cone portion, cut a piece of scrapbook paper to snugly fit the blank space of cardboard where your letter will go. Using Elmer's glue, secure the scrapbook paper in place. To cover the ugly spot where the scrapbook paper meets the unfinished ends of the paper cones, I folded eight book pages lengthwise, secured them closed with a few dots of hot glue, and attached them to the cardboard/paper cone end area with a few more dots of hot glue. I then made four book page rosettes to make the corners look more 'polished.' 

Finally, using hot glue, secure your painted letter to the center of the project. Voila! This has been hanging in our bedroom for about five months now, and while the project doesn't appear to be losing glitter, it still magically ends up sprinkled on our nightstand. Not a lot of glitter but still glitter. We all know how impossible it is to get rid of glitter. I haven't tried it yet, but spraying the project (focusing on the glittery ends) with a spray on clear coat (such as Rustoleum or Krylon) would probably secure the glitter on there for good. 

Happy glittering!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Antique Garden Signs & Spoiled Dogs

Winter makes me absolutely stir-crazy. I get cabin fever like no one I've ever encountered. Plants, leaves, flowers, wild bird chirps (we get quite enough tame bird chirping from our parakeets), lightening bugs, gardening, etc. are what I live for. This past winter I passed the time planning what would be in store for the backyard this spring, summer, and fall. I planned the strawberry patch, herb garden, sunflower garden, vegetable garden.... I think you get my drift. Between studying seed catalogs, and using virtual garden planners (I highly recommend Grow Veg by the way), I made little antique-ish garden signs for three of the gardens.

Our dogs are our world; we absolutely adore them. From the tips of their little wet noses, which I if I get close enough are sure to accompany lots of kisses, all the way to their furry tails that wag with such excitement at the sound of my voice. So of course they need garden signs! They need everything their little hearts desire (and obviously some things they don't really care about, like garden signs). You guessed it, they're incredibly spoiled. 

Russell, our Chihuahua, LOVES strawberries. Strawberries make him go, what we call 'Chi-Crazy'. That love is followed closely by his love of corn anything - kernel, cob,  husk, stalk... even the root. Everything. Also ice cream, but what dog DOESN'T love ice cream? Actually, Russell is the reason I decided to plant a strawberry patch in the first place, so that he could have fresh strawberries whenever the fancy strikes him. Easy choice, Russell shall claim the strawberry patch!

Luna, believe it or not, thoroughly enjoys weeding the garden in the warmer months. She trods through, chomping on weeds, eating some, pulling some out and dropping them. It's quite a sight to behold. She also really enjoys green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots, and cabbage. I declare Luna shall reign over the vegetable garden!

Chester is the youngest and least set in his ways. While he doesn't have a particular passion for sunflowers, he just doesn't seem like an herb garden kind of guy. Herbs are much too serious. Sunflowers it is! Also, knowing him and knowing how carefree he is, I think he an the sunflowers will get along just fine. For some reason, small dogs seem to really enjoy taking on large things so I'm really hoping to see him attempt to take down a 12 foot sunflower or two. He's a Chihuahua/Dachsund mix, I'm pretty sure both of those breeds would attack a lion if they ever got the chance. Such mighty little warriors!

Supplies Needed
Piece of Wood
Acrylic Paint (Indoor or Outdoor)
Small Sanding Block

I happened to have three 'wooden' craft plaques taking up space in our spare room. I sanded them enough to smooth out the previous paint. Unfortunately the only craft paint I had was indoor acrylic paint. Hmmm, didn't want to go to all that work to have the color fade in the sun, or worse - wash away in the rain! A light bulb went off in my head, I have a ton of spray on clear coating. Being bored and itching to do something crafty, I decided to risk it.

First things first, if you want to give any sign a worn feel, there must be 'older' paint showing through underneath. Even though the plaques already had old paint underneath them, it would take a few years to start showing through. No thanks. So grab a dark color (I chose black) and paint around the edge of the wood. I go about 1/2 inch into the part I'm going to get artistic on and all around the sides. Let dry. Using wax (I actually used a Scentsy cube because it was handy, but a candle, or actual beeswax will do) and mark where you want paint to come through. I marked all around the edge and into the sign portion - get messy with it but remember whatever you put wax on, the next layer of paint will not stick to. 

Now, put on a few layers of whatever base paint you choose. I used Plaid Apple Barrel's Light Ivy Green. Let dry, then start sanding! Make sure to get wherever you spread the wax, and even sand some of the base paint if you like. 

I'm a big fan of free hand painting because, well, I don't play by the rules! But seriously, I'm just too lazy to use a stencil or print anything out and mess with modge podge. I use a trusty ole' pencil and an eraser to draw out what I'm going to paint. It takes some practice getting everything centered, but it works for me. After you've drawn everything on, get to painting! Be creative, mix colors, use different brushes. I got frisky and used the fancy fanned brush for the carrot tops and I must admit, they turned out great!

Once dry, use a clear, protective SPRAY paint to add several layers to the front, back and sides. I sprayed on about three layers just to be safe. I don't advise using a clear coat that you have to brush on, as it may smear the indoor acrylic paint.

Attach to a garden stake and proudly display your work of art in your (or your dogs) garden! Luna let's Chester slide because he can't read yet. Oh, to be a young pup in a garden on a sunny day.

Pineapple Wine

My husband loves pineapple. We both love wine, particularly my homemade wine. A pineapple wine was inevitable. I must admit, this wine isn't on my top five list of favorite wines. Granted, it is still wine and still very enjoyable. That my friends is the VERY important part. The problem? It's not as pineapple-y as I thought it would be. I have a hunch that has a lot to do with the tannin that I added. You can choose to leave this ingredient out if you like, as I will the next time I make this. Practice makes perfect!
Pineapple Wine

makes just under 5 gallons

18 (12oz) cans frozen pineapple concentrate, thawed
10 c. White Granulated Sugar
3 tsp. Acid Blend
3 tsp. Pectic Enzyme
1 1/2 tsp. Tannin
6 Campden Tablets, crushed
1 pkg Wine Yeast

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT wine yeast in primary fermentor. Specific gravity should be between 1.092-1.099, if below add sugar as necessary. Cover primary. After 24 hours, add yeast. Cover primary and attach airlock.
When ferment is complete (specific gravity has dropped to 1.000 - about 3 weeks) siphon into clean secondary. To aid clearing, siphon every two weeks for the next two months or until wine is clear. Bottle. Can be enjoyed immediately or aged to mellow.

Formula for wine alcohol percentage:
(Starting SG - Ending SG)/0.8 = Alcohol Percentage!

*If preferred slightly sweetened, add 1/2 tsp. Stabilizer per gallon, followed by 1/2 c. sugar per gallon.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Peach Raspberry Wine

A simple semi-dry wine from juice concentrate - perfect for summer sipping!

Peach Raspberry Blush Wine

makes 6 gallons or 28 (750ml) bottles

9 (12oz) cans Raspberry White Grape concentrate, thawed
9 (12oz) cans Peach White Grape concentrate, thawed
10 c. White Granulated Sugar
6 tsp. Acid Blend
6 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
6 Campden Tablets, crushed
3 tsp. Pectic Enzyme
1 pkg Wine Yeast (I used Red Star Cote des Blanc)

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT wine yeast in primary fermentor. Specific gravity should be between 1.092-1.099, if below add sugar as necessary. Cover primary. After 24 hours, add yeast. Cover primary and attach airlock.

When ferment is complete (specific gravity has dropped to 1.000 - about 3 weeks) siphon into clean secondary. To aid clearing, siphon every two weeks for the next two months or until wine is clear. Bottle. Can be enjoyed immediately or aged to mellow.

*If preferred slightly sweetened, add 1/2 tsp. Stabilizer per gallon, followed by 1/2 c. sugar per gallon.

Formula for wine alcohol percentage:

(Starting SG - Ending SG)/0.8 = Alcohol Percentage!