Blah, blah, blah…

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope everyone had an enjoyable Cinco de Mayo as well as Kentucky Derby Day.

I’ve been working double-time to get a couple of digital things ready to unveil, but today is not the day for that.  In my last post, I gave you the brief skinny about what I’ve been up to these past twelve months.  One of the major things was my home improvement trials and triumphs as well as custom art pieces I’ve been working on, but, again, I don’t want to reveal those until certain aspects are 100% complete.  So, that leaves me with some of the less interesting stuff to share today.  That being said, I’ll try to keep it brief…

I’m sure you all remember the devastating Hurricane Irma from last September.  Thankfully, my neck of the woods didn’t get the worst of it.  But it was an extremely long night (not to mention long days of reparation beforehand).

What was left of my shed.

After the hurricane, you can see all the standing water as well as the preparation we took in boarding the windows, etc.

View from my front door during Irma’s trek up Florida.

We lost power for a minimal time (quite different than when I told you about our month-long ordeal when we had Hurricane Charley).  My son got stuck at a friend’s house, so I was nervous about him.  It was scary in the new house.  But I’m not complaining.  I’m so thankful we didn’t suffer any major loss.  We lost a lot of shingles, our shed, and the covers to the cable and electrical boxes outside the house.  Insurance paid efficiently, and life went on.  The next day, we were trapped in the neighborhood until the city came to take away some trees that had fallen across the road.  And the worst of it all was that we had no garbage pick-up for several weeks because the city was busy collecting hurricane debris.  When we finally got out to look around, we realized how really lucky we were.

This uprooted Oak stood less than 1 block from my house.

There were broken trees, missing roofs, broken power poles, and downed lines.  It’s just proof that Mother Nature deserves our utmost respect.

~*~*~*~*~

I mentioned to you in my last blog that I discovered the “absolute best bed in the world.”  Well, that’s not entirely true.  It was my son who discovered it, but after he got his, everyone else in the house got one!  It’s a brand called Purple and the mattress is AMAZING!  (I haven’t tried their pillow or other amenities.)  If you’ll watch these commercials on YouTube:  The Goldilocks one and the Raw Egg one, I can testify that they really do all that!  (Seriously, when my son got his, we all laid on it on top of raw eggs, and they didn’t crack!)  Remember, with my lupus, I have pain in my joints more often than not, and though my last bed was relatively new and a nice bed, I still woke up with a significant deal of pain each day.  Now, every night when I lie down on my Purple mattress, I literally feel each and every part of me being cushioned and yet gently supported.  And when I wake each day, while I still have the “normal” stiffness associated with my lupus, I am no longer in pain!  Seriously, this is the most remarkable bed, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about it!

~*~*~*~*~

A couple of months ago, I had bronchitis that just wouldn’t go away.  After 5 weeks on antibiotics – literally the only oral antibiotic that I am not allergic to – I was feeling worse than ever.  Things got so bad that I thought one day I was ready to die!  Honestly, I couldn’t breathe, and it scared the crap out of me.  I called my sister at work and asked her to take me to the emergency room or else I was going to call an ambulance.  So, Michelle left work and picked me up, but on the ride there, I started fearing the emergency room (because of my history with MRSA when I almost lost my leg).  I decided to go to the walk-in clinic instead, and after bloodwork and x-rays, it was determined that I indeed had pneumonia.  However, because of all my allergies, they couldn’t prescribe me any oral antibiotics, and they said I needed the infectious disease doctor to prescribe me IV antibiotics.  And he wasn’t available for another week!  So, I got a breathing treatment there, a breathing machine for home, a high dose shot of steroid there, and a high daily dose of oral steroid for home to last until I saw him.  Once I did see him, I was prescribed a new IV antibiotic that’s in its own drug class called Invanz.  Except once the nurse started the IV, I had an allergic reaction!  They had to stop the IV, and I had to wait to see the doctor again until the next day.  However, later that night, after my throat swelling went away and my mouth stopped itching, I realized that with that third of IV bag, I actually felt the best I had in weeks.  So, I asked the doctor to allow me to continue taking it with a pre-dose of 2 Benadryls.  That continued every day for 12 days, and after about one more week of taking it easy, I felt MUCH better (except for my poor arms!).

 ~*~*~*~*~

So, looking back, I can see that I was unable to keep this as short as I’d hoped.  Thanks for sticking with me if you’ve read this far.  And I’ll try to make things more interesting in the future.  As a parting gift, I’d like to offer you a photo of my girl Cleo wearing her Halloween skull sweater.  Isn’t she sweet?

Now, tell me:  Have you ever lived through a hurricane or other natural disaster?  Is your interest piqued by that Purple mattress?  Are you allergic to any medications?

Advertisements

Rub-a-Dub

As I’ve shared with you before, I’m allergic and/or sensitive to just about everything under the sun.  (Sigh.)  For example, when it comes to laundry, I absolutely adore the scent of Gain… for about three minutes.  After that, my lungs and sinuses burn like hell, my throat gets tight, and I want to throw up.  (Sigh.)

In fact, this happens with many laundry soaps.  And when the smell doesn’t try to kill me, I usually get an itchy rash after washing my clothes in the stuff.  (Sigh.)  So what’s a girl to do?

I make my own laundry soap, of course!  Not only do I get to bypass the nasty allergy stuff, but I get to save tons of money as well.  It literally costs less than $2 to make enough laundry soap for a two month’s supply of detergent, and today I’m going to share with you how to make your own.

I used to make the liquid soap, which I liked very much.  However, when I make laundry soap, I typically make enough to last six months or a year, and that many liquid containers took up way too much room.  I had some friends who also made their own soap because they have a lot of small children, and they wanted to save money.  When I told them my dilemma, they turned me onto something called “Mom’s Super Laundry Sauce.”  (If you haven’t seen it yet, you can Google it and find it everywhere.)

The people who invented Mom’s did an excellent job as far as making a soap that saved money, but the basis for their soap is Fels Naptha, a strong bar soap made for laundry, and you might be surprised to learn that I was, in fact, allergic to it.  (Sigh.)

So, I used the basics of their recipe and created my own, which I will share with you now.

For every two – one quart sized jars (which hold one month’s worth of detergent each!), I use the following:

1½  bars of  Kirk’s Castile Soap
1¼  cup of 20 Mule Team Borax
1¼  cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (This is not the same as baking soda!)
5 cups of hot tap water
2 1-quart sized Mason jars (NOT the wide mouth type)
canning funnel
wooden spoon
large saucepan

(If you can’t find Kirk’s, you can use any other coconut oil based soap.  Because I also make my own body/hand soap from scratch, I know that coconut oil soap is a very hard soap, and it’s an excellent cleanser.  It’s actually quite harsh on skin in that it cleans so well, it strips the skin of its own natural oils, which is why if you use it on your body, you want it to be mixed with other oils… But for laundry, we want the body’s oils to be removed from the clothing, so this is a good thing.)

To make enough for just 2 jars, it takes less than 30 minutes total time.  To make 12 jars which should last you a year, it will take under two hours total time.

Step 1: Grate 1½ bars of soap.  The easiest way is in a food processor.

Step 2: Mix the borax and washing soda together in a bowl.

Step 3: Put 5 cups of water in a large saucepan on high.

Step 4: When the water starts to slightly boil, add the soap and reduce heat to low.  Stir constantly until the soap has dissolved, but don’t let it boil over.

Step 5: Keep the pan on the hot burner, but turn off the heat.  Add the Borax/Soda powder, a little at a time, stirring constantly.  You want the powder to dissolve completely so you can’t feel any graininess on the bottom of the pan.

Step 6: Use a ladle and spoon the liquid equally into two Mason jars.  The canning funnel will help you not to spill.

Step 7: Add warm tap water to each jar until the liquid is exactly 2 inches from the bottom thread where the lid screws on.

Step 8: Screw on the lids and turn the jars upside down for 4 hours exactly.  (Use oven mitts to avoid burning yourself!)

During this time, do not move the jars.  The liquid and soap will separate into two layers, with the hard layer at the bottom (which is the top of the jar when it’s right side up).

At this point, I usually make enough soap to fill 12 jars which lasts at my house approximately one year.  Additionally, I usually have friends that ask me to make some for them, and I make some as gifts, so I repeat the process several more times, keeping the upside down jars in order so I’ll know when their time is up.

Step 9: At the 4 hour mark, open a jar, and use a butter knife to cut deep down through the solid soap.   Cut a tic-tac-toe, then run the knife around the mouth of the jar so that the hard stuff falls into the liquid.

Note:  If you have kids, you’ll want them here for the next step… That’s the fun part!

Step 10:  Unscrew the blade and bottom from your blender and screw them onto the jar.  Then place the jar on the blender and blend for approximately 40 to 50 seconds.  If you see that the mixture just isn’t blending, add a couple of teaspoons of warm tap water and try again.  After about 20 seconds, you’ll see the mixture turn white and “work its way up” to the top (which is really the bottom of the jar).  Mix for an additional 15 to 20 seconds after that.

Step 11:  Remove the blender attachment.  The laundry sauce should be warm and creamy, and it will look like sour cream or marshmallow fluff.

Step 12: To use, spoon 1 heaping teaspoon of sauce into an empty jar, and add a little water.  Fill your washing machine with clothes and water.  Shake the sauce/water mixture well and pour it over the clothes.

This detergent does not produce a lot of suds, but it gets your clothes very clean.  (My son works outdoors in the Florida heat screening pool cages, and he gets extremely dirty and sweaty.  His clothes always look and smell awesome after they’re washed in this.)

Note: We do use fabric softener with this detergent.

Time to talk:  Do you think you’ll ever try making this?  How much do you spend each month on laundry detergent?  Do you have any allergies?

It’s that time again…

Believe it or not, I’m not really into prairie living, but because I have so many allergies and intolerances, I have to do a lot of cooking at home.  Another thing I make at home is laundry soap as well as body and hand soap.  Usually when I make either of these, I like to make enough to last for several months so that I only have to do it a couple of times a year.  This weekend, I made the first batch of body and hand soap.

Step One: Gather your oils and ingredients.

If you’re not familiar with the soap-making process, basically, you mix various oils with lye and heat it.  It’s actually a bit more complicated than that, and everything has to be measured precisely by weight on a digital scale.  There has to be a certain percentage of each type of oil to get the desired results, such as how hard you want the soap to be, how sudsy it will get, how moisturizing it will be, etc.  I like to add cocoa butter and shea butter as well as goat’s milk because these all add extra moisture.  Castor oil and coconut oil add for extra cleansing, and olive oil and almond oil add extra creaminess.

Step Two: Mix the lye water with the heated oils.

After the oil-lye mixture has cooked for the appropriate amount of time (around four hours), I add essential oil to make it smell pretty then pour it in a mold.  Because I use hot process (meaning I cook it), I can unmold it the next day and use it soon thereafter.  If I used the cold process method, it would be more “liquidy” and I could pour it in pretty shaped molds.  But then it would take weeks to “saponify” meaning for the lye to have a chemical reaction with the oil and not be caustic any longer.

Step Three: Cook it for a really long time.

This time, I made gardenia soap.  Later this week, I’ll be making a batch of lavender to which I’ll add some dried lavender buds to make it pretty, as well as some honey-oat-almond, which will smell like almond, and have honey as well as ground oats in it for extra exfoliation.  I actually prefer to use this oat soap in the kitchen because it smells so much like food!

Step Four: Pour it into a mold and let it harden overnight, then slice.

You can buy homemade soaps all over the place these days, as they are increasingly popular.  I did that for a few years, but they used fragrance oil rather than essential oil to keep their costs down, and I became allergic to the perfume in the fragrance.

Step Five: Enjoy!

If you’ve never used homemade soap before, let me tell you that once you do, you’ll never want to use store bought soap again.  The first time you use homemade, it feels like you just washed ten years of yuck off your skin! You’ll also realize after that, store bought soap actually feels slimy in comparison.  Your skin will be softer, your shave will be closer, and you’ll feel the cleanest you’ve ever felt.

Time to talk:  Have you ever used homemade soap?  Do you have any allergies?  Would you use soap with ground oats or lavender buds inside?