Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mooooore laundry detergent!

Mr River is intrigued - and in love - with our homemade laundry detergent. I showed him how to make some today to add to our container.

I also found this while searching around, which seems a nice cross between stretching out the powder a bit further but not having 5gallons full of liquid detergent haha. We might try this sometime :)


Saturday, February 8, 2014


How on earth is it February? Because time is on fast-forwardx3, that's how. Time is going crazy fast right now. I realized I never updated about our Yosemite trip, so even though it's 3 months late haha...

In late October, we took our annual camping trip and returned to... Yosemite! Mr. River and I haven't been there since 2008, when Mr. River proposed to me up in Tuolomne Meadows. The girls had never been. We were a bit nervous about how it would be camping in late October... we had fears of crazy snowstorms and freezing rains. Back in 2008, we camped in Tuolomne in September and froze our tushes off haha. It caused a major overhaul of our sleeping gear. We learned our lesson :)

This time around, Tuolomne wasn't an option because it closes at the end of September. Plus, with the girls, we wanted to be closer to the amenities of the Village. So we camped at Upper Pines, spot 202. We had heard stories about how packed the campgrounds are in the Valley, and I'm sure that is true in the summer. But middle of the week in late October - the campgrounds were pretty quiet and sparse :) And our site was amazing. It was much larger space than the ones around it, the back of the space was a wide foresty area, and it was an easy walk to two different bathrooms. It was perfect!!

Because I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking up campsites to try and pick the best ones - here's for anybody hoping to see what site 202 looks like :)

There were two obvious tent locations, we chose one that put our tent further away from the road and other campsites. Looking at our tent on the walk back from the bathroom (wide open space behind the campsites here, so nobody's trekking through your site to get to/from the bathroom)

And Baby Bear and Blue LOVED playing behind the tent:

We stayed for 5 nights, and it was not enough time. We were all so sad to leave. I really wish we'd stayed for at least two more nights :( But we had an amazing time while there. We did the Mist Trail - all the way to the top. Yep, Blue hiked the full 3 miles and climbed a ridiculous amount of steps. And she loved every minute of it and later told us the stairs were her favorite part of all Yosemite. 

We also just walked around the Valley. Did I mention it was fall and gorgeous?? It was in the low 60s during the day, just beautiful :) And all of the trails were pretty much empty. I told Mr. River that I think we should do all future visits in late October - it was just so breathtaking.  

One thing that has been really fun about our annual camping trips is seeing how much the experience changes each year. Baby Bear was really into exploring the trails and seeing just the simple sites of trails. It is such a fun age - even a simple leaf is magical. 

Blue was really into the junior ranger and discovery talks, so we spent more time at the museums and with the rangers than we normally have - and it was really neat! 

One thing we learned from this camping trip that made life much easier - I precooked all of our dinners and froze them (laying flat) in gallon ziplock bags, and then I stacked those in the cooler.  Dinner was a complete breeze each night - start the stove, open up a ziplock bag, and warm it up. Beef stew, chicken tacos, vegetable soup, meatballs - Yum! We also cooked noodles ahead of time so we just had to add sauce for a spaghetti night. It has made camping with the kids so much easier. Dinner is done fast, cleanup is easy, and very little propane is used on the stove. Easy peasy! 

Also, on our camping trips, I always let the girls pick out a book from the campsite store as their souvenir. Baby Bear picked out their Yosemite souvenir for this trip - Bear Snores On. It is a really adorable book :) You should all get it immediately :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DIY Laundry Detergent - 10 days later

I know you were all eagerly anticipating a follow-up to my post on our homemade laundry detergent adventures. 

Well it's been 10 days and we have no complaints! Mr. River uses about 2tbsp worth on his scrubs, but we are using 1 tbsp of detergent on everything else and it's working great. Stains are coming out, clothes look clean, no fading, and they smell normal :) Most importantly (ok not stinking is pretty important, too), neither Mr. River nor the girls have had any skin reactions to it! Hurrah!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Interviewing Blue at 4 years old

Blue's teachers actually used to "interview her" about once a month last year, including the responses in crafts or projects or art. It was always super cute. My friend over at MommaMonstersConfessions interviewed her 4 year old, reminding me of the cute interviews from school. So I did the same for Blue, who responded between shovel-fuls of sand at her sand table haha.

Blue's answers at age 4y2m:

1. What is your favorite color? Purple
2. What is your favorite toy? Tristi (her stuffed dog)
3. What is your favorite fruit? apples
4. What is your favorite tv show? Mickey (we're restricted to what we have on DVDs so she actually was really confused by "tv show" lol)
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Chicken and rice
6. What is your favorite outfit? A dress
7. What is your favorite game? Hide and go seek
8. What is your favorite snack? Cheese
9. What is your favorite animal? Puppies
10. What is your favorite song? ABCs
11. What is your favorite book? Forest animals
12. Who is your best friend? Emily
13. What is your favorite cereal? Life
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Riding my scooter
15. What is your favorite drink? Almond milk
16. What is your favorite holiday? Easter
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Tristi (stuffed dog)
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cereal
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Chicken and rice
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? I just want to be Me.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Choosing and Making a homemade Laundry Detergent

I've been wanting to make my own laundry detergent for awhile... I have a few friends who make their own and love it, saving a lot of money on detergent sounds fabulous, and since we have a lot of skin sensitivities and allergies in our family the idea of not having all the extra stuff sounded wonderful.

However... I kept putting it off. First, I couldn't find "laundry soap" or "washing soda" in our store. The liquid detergents sounded like they were a lot of work to make (maybe not?) and I just don't have room to store a huge 5 gallon thing of detergent in our house. I was also really hesitant to risk stinky, stained, or ruined clothes because of a flawed laundry detergent attempt. 

But then I found Fels Naptha at the store, ordered washing soda online... and discovered that you can make a powdered detergent and weren't restricted to liquid (though liquid sounds like it goes further and so saves even more money). So I gathered up all the supplies...

And then it sat in our cabinet for many months because I couldn't figure out which recipe I was going to use. There are a gazillion different homemade recipes, and they were all significantly different. Some had a 1:1:1 ratio of 1 bar Fels Naptha, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda.. others had a 1:2:2 ratio. Some used 0.3:1:1 while even others did 2:1:1.

And they also all had different amounts of finished detergents that you used within the wash... some said 1 tbsp of detergent while others called for 1/4 or even 1/2 cup. 

Of course, they all ended with a vague "adjust as needed for your needs." This wasn't nearly as exact as I wanted, and I didn't want to risk our clothes as I tried to "figure it all out."

But, after too much time spent on laundry research and talking with friends who make their own, we have finally ventured into making our own homemade detergent tonight.

Because this is our very first night, I can't really say the long-term thoughts on this process... but rest assured that tonight, our clothes do not stink and they didn't dissolve into a million tiny bits of thread. They actually don't look any different than they do when washed with our store-bought detergent.  Nobody is wheezing or breaking out.

So what did I decide for the recipe and how did I decide? Being how I am, I just researched the crap out of the ingredients to try and figure out why everyone uses a different recipe.

What the Ingredients Do
The three main ingredients that most recipes use are laundry soap, borax, and washing soda. Here's what they do:

Laundry Soap: The cleaning agent. I even looked up how soap works - how interesting! it acts as an emulsifier, suspending the oils/dirt off the material. 
Borax: detergent booster. It helps remove stains by creating a type of hydrogen peroxide, and it disperses the soap which helps the soap work better. It inhibits things from growing, which is always good when it comes to laundry. It works best in hot water. (How Borax cleans). 
Washing soda (washing soda! not baking soda!): also a detergent booster. It helps remove stains and helps laundry detergent work in hard water by binding to the minerals. (How Washing soda works) It dissolves fast but it can also leave deposits unless thoroughly rinsed off.

Different Recipes
So after reading up on that and reading various forums and peoples' responses... it makes more sense why recipes and peoples' experiences differ. If you have hard water, for example, using more washing soda and borax (which help soften the water) makes sense. If you have tough stains and need more stain remover, using more washing soda and borax makes sense. 

There seems to be mixed responses on whether borax causes colors to fade in laundry. Some people have used it for years with no issues. Others said that when they sprinkled borax to boost their detergent, it faded their clothes in spots. After reading the various posts and how borax works, my thoughts are that the differences in opinions probably are from different amounts of borax used, water hardness  of the house, amount of detergent used, and water temperature. For example, if you have soft water but use a 1:2:2 recipe (bar:cup of borax: cup of washing soda) and then put in 1/4 cup of detergent and then wash on cold... it's working differently than if you use 1 tbsp of that same recipe with warm hard water where there is less concentration of borax, it dissolves easier (it is very rough on clothes if rubbed on them), and is in hard water.  This is where the "use as best works for your needs" comes in with those recipes :)

So after all of that, this is what I factored into when deciding on a recipe. We have hard water, typically wash on warm, and our clothes need a lot of stain and stink removal because of kid stains and gym smells.  We have an HE machine, so using 1/4-1/2 cup seemed excessive and I decided to do either 1 or 2 tbsp of finished detergent.

Final note: We are doing Fels Naptha this round, if sensitives show up after a few days we will switch to a milder soap and try again. So far, so good.  Because of Mr. River's profession, using a "milder" soap makes me nervous - his clothes and gym clothes get really dirty. 

What we did
We used the 1:2:2 recipe. So:
1 bar laundry soap, grated. 
2 cups borax. Again, we have hard water, we wash on warm.
2 cups washing soda

I first cut the soap into a few sections and then put it all into the food processor. I was a bit skeptical that it would finely grate it but it downright pulverized that soap in just a few seconds. I was amazed.  Then I added the borax and washing soda to the food processor and blended it all together to make sure it was well mixed up and that there were no clumps of washing soda or borax. Then I just dumped it all together. I used a small old oxiclean container to hold just a small portion of it to bring to the laundry room, the rest is in a giant food storage container. 

The whole thing took less than 2 minutes to make. All that hemming and hawwing and it was ridiculously easy to make!

I used about 1.5 tbsp to wash... why 1.5, well I couldn't decide whether to use 1 tbsp or 2 tbsp so I used 1.5 to see how it'd come out :) 

If we had different lives or different water or a different washer, I would likely not start with this recipe.  For example, if we didn't have to worry about dirty unhealthy things on Mr. River's clothes, we would probably use a 1:1:1 recipe. If we did not have to worry about Mr River's clothes *or* the kid stains, we would be using cold water and would probably do more like 1:0.5:1 using only a half cup of borax.  I never washed on warm until Mr River went into his current profession.  If we lived in MS, where the water is extremely soft, I would likely do a 1:0.5:0.5. If we had a normal washer and not an HE, I would probably use 1/4 cup of detergent mix rather than the 1-2tbsp. So that's kind of my thoughts on why the recipes are so very different for different people and diffferent needs. Hopefully it makes sense :)

One final tip I saw, but have not tried, was to add a bit of vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing to make sure that all of the detergent is gone. Plus it helps soften up clothes. I haven't tried that but with only using 1.5 tbsp, I wasn't too worried about residue being left. Some people also add essential oils to the detergent, but several reviews I read said it really doesn't make them smell any differently after coming out of the dryer - the heat takes off all the scents. So might as well save the essential oils. Since we have skin sensitivities, we will not be adding anything scented. 

How'd the clothes come out? They came out great. They look normal, they smell like clothes... no fancy smells, but then we haven't ever had fancy smells because we can't use scented detergents :) Normal dirt and stains are gone (woot!) and my big container of the detergent looks like it will last a really long time. So yay for saving money! We'll see how we feel after testing it out for awhile :)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy New Year!

2014 will be bringing many major life changes to us, and in some ways I wish it'd fly by just so I can be done with them and find out where we'll be this time next year hahaha :)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dollhouse Furniture and Bendy Dolls

Dollhouse furniture is definitely a learning process... Mr. River insisted on making things out of wood, so it's a lot of cutting... figuring out how things would lock together, trying to make tables and chairs not wobble, etc. After a week spent of looking online for "dollhouse furniture plans" and not coming up with much that *we* could make... Mr River took to lined paper and drew out the designs. And wow is he good at it! He made the bed and chair in a "locking" design so that the pieces go together a bit like a puzzle. They're very sturdy this way without the need for nails :) 

Mr. River made the table and chairs. We found the small wooden cups and barrels and bucket at Michael's in the unfinished wood section. The pies I made out of bottlecaps using this blog for the idea. The blueberry pie is straight from the tutorial. The cherry pie, though, I just cut small circles from red felt and then used brown felt as the pie crust and I think it looks much better than the foam + cardstock. also, I didn't bother drawing around the pie crust before cutting strips, I just cut strips, wove on top, and then trimmed after it was all dry.

My favorite is easily the rocking horse :)

I made the girls "bendy dolls" as the dolls for the dollhouse. I used the size of the dolls that Elves and Angels sell for the dollhouse, which are a 1/12 scale dollhouse. So a 5-6" doll.

For Blue's birthday, I got a book on making fairies - and they're extremely straightforward and easy to make. Bendy dolls are the same idea. I looked at a few blogs to learn how to thread-wrap the pipe cleaners for a cleaner look. The Enchanted Tree has a really awesome tutorial.  A few lessons I learned on Bendy Dolls though...

  1. I took two pipe cleaners and twisted them together for extra strength for the adults. For the kids, I used the "star" shape design of the Forest Fairy Crafts book, which already doubles up the pipe cleaner. 
  2. Use a bit of tacky glue on hands/feet to keep the thread from unraveling.
  3. The hair is tricky. If you loop it through the pipe cleaner like The Enchanted Tree does, just plan on fitting the clothes on the body from the foot up or with a big enough neck hole to fit over the head. I wasted several nights trying to figure out how to put the head on after I got the doll dressed, which is impossible if the hair is on and it's impossible to get the hair on after everything is "fitted" with head on the thread-wrapped body.
  4. I found clothes patterns to be extremely annoying. Rather than trying to print and use any clothes pattern as a template, I found it far easier to just cut a large rectangle with a neckhole, put it over the doll, then trim to size. If you want an applique on the dress or shirt, just figure out essentially where it will be after trimming (i.e. in the smack middle of your rectangle), and applique it before sewing up the clothes. 
  5. For pants, I used the Forest Fairy craft idea of a rectangle with leg slits and the felt is wrapped around the leg with thread. I tried sewing nice little pants, and the bendy-ness of the legs was significantly impaired because the pants didn't have much movement to them. Thread-wrapped felt pants move in any direction you want. Also, using a rectangle that is mounted over the head/shoulders for pants makes it so you dont' have to worry about them falling down :)
  6. I first tried to sew on felt shoes - the little boy is the only one with felt shoes. After that painstaking process, I realized I could just thread-wrap the feet with shoe-colored thread. I feel a bit silly about the hour spent on those felt shoes now :)
  7. The Forest Fairy Craft book recommends putting a coating of like modge podge on the head before drawing the eyes. This is true - permanent marker will bleed if you don't have a base coating of something on the head. We discovered it was true on the sugar/flour cannisters :) Paint probably won't matter like permanent marker does.
  8. I couldn't get boys' hair to work quite right, so they just got hats. Size 3 thread with a D hook if you know how to crochet :) 
  9. The baby is just a wooden peg that I first thread-wrapped, then wrapped in felt that I stitched together as a "swaddling blanket." The hat is crocheted.
For the boys' hat - work in the round. This is a super informal workup of what I did:
Rnd 1. 4sc in magic ring (4)
Rnd 2. *Sc in each stitch* around (4)
Rnd 3. *sc, inc* around (6)
Rnd 4+. Continue *sc, inc* around until the hat will fit on the head, then just sc until length desired. You want it to fit snug.