We are all becoming more aware of the types of products we use everyday. Whether it’s a concern for the environmental impact, the effect they have on our health or the safety for our pets and children, we want to know we aren’t inadvertently introducing harmful things into our homes. Something I do to feel confident in the safety of cleaning products I use around my family is to make my own where possible. One such product is a simple all purpose cleaner I use for cleaning hard surfaces, such as kitchen and bathroom counters and walls. It only uses a few ingredients, all of which you probably already have on hand.
All Purpose Cleaner Recipe
Liquid soap, either dish soap or something like Dr. Bronner’s castile soap
Distilled white vinegar
Optional: Essential oil of your choice
Clean, empty spray bottle
Liquid measuring supplies if you aren’t comfortable just eyeballing it
Optional: A funnel might make it easier to fill the bottle.
How to make it:
Measure about 2 tablespoons of soap, one cup of vinegar and one cup of water into the spray bottle. It doesn’t have to be exact. I usually just eyeball it. If you would like to use an essential oil, add 3-5 drops as well. Do be aware of safety guidelines regarding any essential oils you use, especially around pregnant women, children and pets. Tea tree oil or lavender are nice for cleaning and generally safe for most people. If the soap you use is scented or if you or your family members are sensitive to scents, you may want to skip the essential oil.
Swirl the bottle to mix everything without making the soap foam up too much.
That’s it. Now you have an all purpose cleaner that works as well as any other I’ve tried, with the added benefit of being safe enough that kiddos can help with the cleaning.
If you like this cleaning recipe, you’ll also like my DIY soft scrub for tougher cleaning jobs. To make sure you don’t miss out on future posts, sign up for my newsletter.
In the past, I often featured handmade or vintage shops on Fridays. Over the years, the world of crafting and blogging has changed dramatically. I would love to resume Feature Fridays, but with a broader scope.
Handmade shop and websites are still welcome. I also want to feature guest writers sharing tutorials, tips, advice, recipes, etc. Categories that I feel are a good fit for this blog are crafting, sewing, sustainability, refashioning, healthy living, parenting, hair and beauty tips for busy moms, homeschooling and homesteading. I am open to other topics as well, so if you are interested but don’t quite fit into one of the above categories, please contact me anyway with your idea.
Guest posts will be promoted across my social media sites frequently throughout the week they are published and then periodically after.
Handmade shop/website features
For handmade shop/website features, answer the questions in the following list and email them to email@example.com. I will contact you before your shop is featured and if any clarification is needed. You can give as much or a little info for each section as you are comfortable with sharing. Be sure to include links to your shop, web page and blog, if you have them. If you sell your products in a brick and mortar store and would like to include that info, you may include that as well.
I also choose a favorite item from your shop on the week that you’re featured and briefly tell why I like it. The first image from your shop for both your favorite item and my favorite item will be included in the blog.
Name and Business Name
Tell us a little about yourself and your business.
What made you get started in your business?
Anything else you’d like to share?
Tell us about your favorite item listed in your shop.
Links to your shop, website, blog, etc.
Email address (This will NOT be published)
Guest posts, tutorials and everything else
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your idea. If you already blog, a link to your blog or site where your writings are published is also helpful. Newbies are welcome, too. I’m also not opposed to reposts if they are a good fit and your own work.
If I think your idea is a good fit for SubEarthan Cottage, I will let you know and we will work out the details from there.
Well, I didn’t get quite as far as I would have liked on creating our homeschool command center last week. The hard part of clearing and reorganizing shelves is done, though. Now I just have to bring in the supplies and books I plan to use this year.
In the past, Beckett and Finn kept their materials in their computer desk or on a shelf in their room. Except for web-based assignments, though, they rarely work at a desk. Usually it’s on the couch or bed or wherever is comfortable. The end result was missing pencils, notebooks and textbooks. I’m not really a desk-worker, either, so I’m focusing on a better arrangement for the supplies. Each kiddo gets their own shelf in the office for their books and writing journals. While Thadd doesn’t officially start Kindergarten until next year, he’s already beginning to write letters and simple words. It seems like giving him simple assignments to work on, so he can do what his big brothers are doing will work better than trying to keep him otherwise entertained while I’m helping B and Finn, so he gets his own shelf, too.
I’m hoping that this arrangement will make it easier for me to keep track of their materials. I also like that, as I find more materials that I want to incorporate, I have a specific place to put them. Then there’s the added benefit of getting an overall view of what they are working on just by checking their shelves. This is especially helpful for subjects like elementary science and history. For those, we tend to use more topic-specific books rather than a traditional broad textbook.
Our office has two walls of white boards. Usually we just write things out on paper when they need my help to work through math problems or other tasks. The white boards might add some variety, or be useful if we’re doing a science experiment and want to explain what’s going on to more than one kiddo at a time.
I also plan to have a daily task list for each child that can be checked off as they complete tasks. I haven’t decided if I’ll use the white boards for that or use printouts or calendar sheets in sheet protectors. With the sheet protectors, I can print out a basic task list and write specifics on the sheet protector in dry erase marker. That way there’s less paper used. The white board is also easily changeable and highly visible, but not something that’s portable and easy for them to check off themselves.
Looking for more homeschooling help?
Obviously I still have some planning to do. We usually have our official start to the year when the local public school starts. That’s about four weeks away, so there’s still time. If you’re familiar with Ultimate Bundles, they launched their Ultimate Homeschooling Bundle 2020 today. It contains 13 eBooks, 8 eCourses, 22 workbooks & printable packs, 5 curricula, 2 membership sites & a summit, all geared towards homeschooling families. If you purchased everything separately, it would cost over $1200, but if you purchase it as a bundle, it’s only $29.50. In order to offer it at such a discount, the sale is limited. In order to get the homeschool bundle, you must purchase it by Friday, July 31 at 11:59pm ET. If you purchase the bundle and find it’s not for you, there’s a 30 day money back guarantee.
I just purchased mine. Once I’ve had a moment to look it over, I’ll share the things I find the most helpful to round out planning for our school year. For full disclosure, if you purchase a bundle through any of the links on my blog, I will receive a small commission. I personally find the bundles a good value with tons valuable information, but everyone’s needs are different. This week’s blog focus is homeschooling, but next week I’ll return to more recipes, DIYs and refashions.
If you’re interested, I urge you to check it out before midnight ET on Tuesday, July 28 (tomorrow night). If you purchase before then, you’ll get a free early bird bonus: a Wild Happy Family Media Membership worth $27.00. The Wild Happy Family Media Membership is an all-in-one, instant adventure library, ready for you and your family to explore at the click of a button.
Purchase your bundle before this timer runs out to get your early bird bonus.
I finally got around to refashioning the green knit dress that I found at Goodwill over a year ago.
What I did to the dress
I decided to shorten it to mid-thigh and take in the top for a better fit. In order to keep the pretty stitching at the bottom, I took the excess length from the middle.
I took the top in a little at the sides, but not enough to make it too fitted. It’s hot, so loose and breezy isn’t a bad thing.
To join the two parts, I added elastic to the waist of the skirt and then reattached it to the top.
Here’s the result. In retrospect, I wish I had made the elastic fit a bit tighter. Right now, it just hangs fairly straight. I may go back and redo that some other time.
As it is, it’s comfortable to wear over leggings, so perfect for hanging out at home with the kiddos.
A note for homeschoolers
I’ve been cleaning the office and getting our homeschooling supplies ready for our official start to the school year. If you’re new to homeschooling, or just looking for new ideas, I’ll post photos of our setup, as well as other homeschooling tips next week.
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Laundry detergents have always been problematic for me. Certain brands irritate my skin, and I’ve never been able to pinpoint what ingredient is the problem. Even if I knew, most laundry detergents don’t exactly provide a list of ingredients I could check. Luckily, laundry detergent is easy to make. Doing it yourself not only allows you to control what ingredients are in your detergent, it also saves a ton of money.
My recipe uses four basic ingredients stocked by many supermarkets now, and one optional ingredient.
2 parts Borax
2 parts Washing Soda
1 part Grated Bar Soap
0.25 part Baking Soda
Optional Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil
You’ll want a clean, dry, lidded container or bag to store your homemade laundry detergent. If the container isn’t air-tight, the detergent may clump from moisture in the air. Usually it’s easy to break it up, so this isn’t a big problem. If you don’t do laundry very often, though, you probably want to store it in something with a good seal.
The soap can be anything. Most people start out using a laundry soap like Fels Naptha. Once I started making my own soap, I switched to using whatever basic recipe soap I had on hand. You can grate it by hand with a cheese grater or with a shredding disk on a food processor.
Combine the first four ingredients in a large mixing bowl. If you’re not familiar with the “parts” measurement, it’s a simple way of making a recipe fit whatever amount you need by giving the amounts as a ratio instead of a specific measurement. You could substitute “cup” for “parts” if that makes it easier.
Leave it unscented, use a scented bar of soap, or add your choice of fragrance or essential oil to the combined ingredients and stir to combine. I usually use about half an ounce of fragrance oil per batch. With essential oils, I usually start with 15 drops or so and see how it smells before adding any more. I’ve heard you could use your favorite cologne or perfume, but I haven’t personally tried it.
I use about two tablespoons per load in my top loading machine. You can use one tablespoon for lightly soiled loads, but with my family, every load is a two tablespoon load.
Making soap is like magic. Seriously, think about it: You take stuff that makes things feel greasy, mix it with stuff that would eat your face off and, if you do it just right, the end result is a wonderful bar of non-drying, skin-loving, fluffy-lathering soap.
Soapmaking is fun, but safety is a priority when dealing with sodium hydroxide, aka lye, aka the eat-your-face-off stuff. This is just a brief overview of the soapmaking process I use. Please do not use this as a complete how to guide. If that’s something you’re interested in, please, leave a comment and I will direct you to some more thorough resources on soapmaking.
Melting the Oils
Creating soap takes two basic things: oils or fats and an alkaline solution. In order to combine the oils and alkaline solution, the oils have to all be in liquid form and uniformly mixed. So, step one is measuring and melting the oils. For precision, all measuring is done by weight. Since I use a Crockpot for my hot process soapmaking, I add all my weighed oils to the Crockpot, then melt and mix them in the pot. For soapmaking, I generally use the low setting, but if I need to jump start the melting process I will start it on high then turn it down after a few minutes. This Crockpot is similar to the one I use.
Measuring the Lye
While the oils are warming in the Crockpot, I weigh the lye. It is important to be very precise when measuring the lye. Too little and the soap will be too soft. Too much and the soap could burn your skin. This is also why you need to be very careful about the soap recipes you use. If they are not correctly formulated, the end result could be dangerous.
Before I measure the lye, I measure the water or other liquid for the lye solution, also by weight. I do that first to limit the time I have the lye out.
I make sure to measure the lye into glassware and all containers and utensils that come into contact with lye or the lye solution are reserved solely for that purpose. Once the lye is out, I never leave it unattended. Lye crystals resemble table salt, which would be a potentially deadly mix-up. That’s also why my soap production has slowed since Thaddeus was born. Until they are old enough to understand the importance of staying out of the room and can be trusted out of sight but in earshot for the time it takes to get the soap cooking, I only make it when they are either out of the house or asleep with Chris there to tend to them if they wake up during the process.
Mixing the Lye Solution
Once my lye is measured, I add the lye to the water and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Lye fizzes up when mixed, so it is important to have the liquid in a container with plenty of room. The solution with also get really hot and put off fumes, so be prepared. I like to have a window open or fans and the vent a hood running. Some soap makers mix the solution outside, but I like to stay close to my work space to limit the chance of spills.
Blending the Oils and Lye Solution
For cold process soapmaking, it is important to have the oils and lye solution at about the same temperature. With the Crockpot hot process method I use, I find I can mix the lye solution into the warmed, melted oils without having to measure the temperatures first.
When you first add the lye solution to the melted oils, the color will change from clear to opaque. In order to properly combine the lye and oils, I use a handheld stick blender. You can stir by hand, but it is much harder to get everything properly blended and it takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I have had a stick blender die in the middle of making a batch of soap and it is a crazy long arm workout. I do not recommend it.
Goal of Blending
The goal for all the hard mixing is called “trace”. Basically, I’m wanting to be able to lift my blender out of the mixture and trace a design on top. With cold process, there are various stages of trace that guide when to add any fragrance, essential oils or other add-ins. Since I use the hot process method, I add almost everything after the cook. Because of that, I can mix my batches to a full, hard trace where my traced design doesn’t melt back into the mix. This limits the possibility of a false trace, or the mix seeming to quickly come to trace when it isn’t thoroughly mixed. When that happens, it might separate or have lye heavy spots.
Once it is at a hard trace, I stop mixing and put the lid on the Crockpot. If the mix seems too hot, for example, I had a false trace that I had to stir through, I will either turn the Crockpot to warm or off for a few minutes. Otherwise, I make sure it is on low and busy myself with cleaning up, lining my soap molds, and preparing essential oils and other additives.
Any lingering lye solution or soap mixture on the blender is still a risk for lye burns, so I’m cautious with the cleanup. For the whole soapmaking process, I keep a good amount of water with vinegar and a bit of dish soap ready in the sink. The vinegar helps neutralize the lye, so anything that comes into contact with lye goes directly into the vinegar solution, and I use a similar vinegar solution to wipe down my soapmaking area, just in case.
Stages of Saponification
During the cooking, the soap mix will change from an opaque, milky color to a shiny, translucent gel like texture. A pool of liquid also forms on top. that pool of liquid is glycerin, a byproduct of the saponification process. This transformation starts at the edges of the pot and happens in a wave moving towards the center. I find it really fun to watch.
Finishing the Batch
When the entire soap mixture is translucent and the consistency of mashed potatoes without lumps, I turn off the heat and stir the soap by hand for just a couple of minutes to let it cool. At this point, if done correctly, the mixture completely transformed to soap. I don’t want it to cool too much, or it would be hard to add the essential oils, but too hot and it will burn off the scent.
I then add any essential oils blended in my chosen carrier oil and any other add-ins I’m using in that batch, stir thoroughly by hand, and plop it into my molds. Since it is thick, I generally have to tap my molds on my counter firmly to eliminate air pockets.
Curing the Final Product
Because the saponification process is completed during the cooking, the soap is totally safe to use as soon as it is cool enough to touch. It needs to cool in the molds for 12-24 hours or so to hold it’s shape, though. Once it is firm enough to cut, I cut and wrap the bars. While not necessary, hot process bars still benefit from curing for at least a week or two to allow excess moisture to evaporate. As I discussed in my Proper Care and Feeding of Your Bar Soap post, the firmer and drier a bar of soap is, the longer it will last. That’s one of the reasons I wrap my soap in cloth rather than plastic. Cloth allows the soap to continue to harden for a longer lasting bar.
No one wants to get sick. Whether it’s the flu going around or something more unknown like the coronavirus, everyone wants to avoid catching it. While nothing is 100%, there are a few things my family does to increase our chances at staying healthy when there’s something going around.
A few notes on supplements and essential oils
I am not a doctor. Everything we do may not work for you and your family. It’s important to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have other health concerns.
In addition to supplements, I also use essential oils to a degree. While I do think essential oils are beneficial, I don’t believe they are a cure-all or always appropriate. If you choose to use essential oils, I recommend researching contraindications and general usage guidelines for each essential oil before using. Two of my favorite sites for essential oil safety are the Tisserand Institute and AromaWeb, particularly AromaWeb’s essential oil profiles.
There are safety guidelines to using all essential oils, such as proper dilution and not ingesting, that are important to know. There are also safety guidelines to using specific oils, such as knowing that eucalyptus essential oil should not be used on or around young children. These safety guidelines apply to all essential oil brands, regardless of whether they are “therapeutic grade”.
With that out of the way, here are my family’s tips for staying healthy when there’s something going around.
Aside from proper hand washing, I think this is probably the most important tip of all. If you want your immune system to be able to do its job, you need to give it the proper fuel to work well. Sugars give you calories and energy but not much else. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein while limiting refined sugars gives your body energy and nutrients to keep everything working as it should.
With the coronavirus that’s going around, grocery stores are running out of some pantry staples like rice, beans and canned goods. Fresh produce and meat seem to still be readily available for the most part, though. With a little prep and planning, many fresh fruits and vegetables can be frozen to make them last longer. You can also make soups, stews and casseroles in bulk to freeze if you have the freezer room.
Fresh air and sunshine are good for you mentally and physically. Sunshine helps your body produce vitamin D. Vitamin D has many functions in the body. In addition to helping build strong bones, there is some evidence to suggest that vitamin D helps to inhibit viruses, like those that cause the flu. (Sources here and here.)
In normal flu seasons, while everyone is healthy we frequent outdoor playgrounds unless it’s ridiculously cold or rainy. With the current recommendations regarding COVID-19, we will probably stick to hanging out in our own yard or open green spaces.
If you can, though, try to get outside every day. Children especially need an opportunity to run and play outside. Even if it’s raining, as long as it’s not too cold and there’s no lightning, let them play in the rain and get muddy.
Exercise is important, but even just sitting outside reading a book gives you the benefits of fresh air and sunshine. If you can’t get outside, at the very least open the curtains and windows to let a little of the outside inside.
Vitamins and supplements
During cold and flu season, we all usually take extra vitamin C. While taking extra vitamin C may not be a miracle cure for colds, it is important for proper immune function. The best way to get vitamin C is through eating foods, such as citrus fruits, that are naturally high in vitamin C. Since it is important for immune function, I feel like a daily supplement is worthwhile on the off-chance we’re not getting enough from out diet.
Vitamin D is another supplement I take, particularly in winter months. As I cited earlier, there is some evidence that it helps to inhibit certain viruses. We all began taking vitamin D at our doctors’ recommendations. Unlike vitamin C, vitamin D is more dangerous if you take too much. It’s definitely a good idea to consult with your doctor before supplementing with it.
Another way I like to use essential oils is to diffuse a few drops in a diffuser. To be fair, I’m not sure how much, if any, antimicrobial benefit they have in that form, partly because of the high dilution and because I haven’t had much luck finding research on that specific method of use. I like the scents better than air fresheners, though. Also, if used properly, it won’t harm even if it does little, if anything to help. Proper usage in this case means keeping it away from pets, especially cats, only diffusing age and condition-appropriate essential oils for the people in the room it’s being used, and not adding more than a drop or two to the diffuser at a time.
I do usually keep a can of Lysol and some bleach around in case something really disgusting hits our household. For the rest of the time, though, I think they are overkill.
Wash your hands to stay healthy
One of the best ways to stay healthy, of course is to wash your hands. One study showed that hand washing-even without soap-was more effective at eliminating influenza A on hands than hand sanitizer. Washing with soap further increased the benefit. According to the CDC, hand sanitizer is not as effective at removing all types of germs, such as Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile, making handwashing all the more important.
With COVID-19, wearing a mask is recommended or even mandated in some areas. The main argument for them is that they help prevent the wearer from spreading the virus, especially before they have symptoms and know to self isolate. I’ve seen many arguments against wearing a mask. If you’re wondering about the effectiveness of homemade masks, this is a good site to review https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/diy-homemade-mask-protect-virus-coronavirus/. They did several tests, including filtration of particles smaller than the coronavirus, effectiveness of homemade masks in general, which fabric works best, and how effective a cloth mask is if worn for an extended period.
I do think mask wearing is beneficial for staying healthy if done properly. I wear them when I go grocery shopping or am in a similar situation where keeping a distance isn’t possible. A mask isn’t 100%, though, so it’s important to use them with other healthy practices.
Even if you do everything right, nothing is a 100% guarantee against viruses and other types of infection. Sometimes, despite our efforts a doctor’s visit and medication is required. By taking measures to support our immune system with proper nutrition, fresh air and exercise, and limiting exposure to germs through cleaning and hand washing, though, we can increase our odds at staying healthy.
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