Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I have a kindergartner?!

This past year, our family has had a lot of changes, including a huge job change for Mr. River. It was not just a change in jobs but also a change in shifts. So all of our schedules changed quite a bit. Although Baby Bear is still in preschool, we couldn't keep both girls in the program and wound up enrolling Blue in a transitional kindergarten (TK). TK is essentially the same as what kindergarten used to be. It emphasizes social skills and very basic academic skills (learning letters, beginning reading, etc). When California's kindergarten age cut-off changed, they implemented the TK program for the kids who used to be old enough for kindergarten but are too young now. So the kids who would've been nearly-5 upon entering.

Blue fit the age requirements and, after doing a walkthrough, I liked the program. I tried to find charter programs, but very few have a TK. (As a side note, the charter, magnet, local schools, choice schools, etc are very overwhelming!) The TK still emphasized play-based learning even though it also incorporated more sit-down, formal academic instruction. I would have rather kept her in the more play-based prekinder program, but that just wasn't an option. 

So unexpectedly, I now have a kindergartner!  She will go to the "standard" kindergarten next year, but she is loving the program so far. 

In September, with Baby Bear entering preschool and Blue entering TK, I got a bit excited with all the back-to-school buzz and tried to better organize the girls' corner in the living room.  Here is the result:

The table isn't anything new. We bought Blue a "Jr" Little Tikes picnic table for her first birthday and used it for everything. Snacks, puzzles, lunch, crafts, cooking, everything. When Blue was 4, her legs started to get a bit long for it, and it was a bit crammed for both girls at the same time. So this fall, we upgraded to the normal Little Tikes picnic table. When I bought it, it was on sale for about $40 off and included an umbrella - which we used for the girls' sand/water table to replace the old worn out one.  So it was a good deal! The table fits both girls perfectly with plenty of room for friends :) Here is Baby Bear using it to work on their Melissa and Doug fishing puzzle. 

The calendar and color wheel I've actually had for a few years. I purchased them at Lakeshore Learning, but I just never could find the wall space for them (my desk used to be at this spot). Blue and Baby Bear already know their colors, but the mixing of colors is something they're still learning. And it just looks so cheery! I really wanted to have a calendar at Blue's level; she already knew the days of the week but she loves to look at the big calendar for upcoming days. So this worked out perfectly. I used a 3M velcro strip (cut down to squares)  to make the days easy to rearrange each month. When I volunteered at a preschool at college, the teacher used like thumbtacks in the calendar, and punched holes in the days to hang on the tacks. I really liked that, but didn't want 30 thumbtacks at Baby Bear's eye level.

The artwork was a caricature done at the zoo and I love how it came out! Cheetahs are still Blue's favorite animal, so the cheetah was her request.

The white board/bulletin board used to be in our kitchen. I needed a whiteboard for Blue, though. Her teacher is working hard to address and challenge the kids at their own level, and Blue was put into the small group that is receiving sight words. It's pretty informal; Blue receives three words every two weeks for her to find in books. If she knows them after 2 weeks, she receives 3 more. If she doesn't, no big deal and she'll just keep what she has. If she loses interest in them, no big deal. I like the approach. And Blue is extremely excited about reading and picking it up like crazy. It was almost like she was a fuse, just waiting to be lit. Everywhere we go, she's trying to sound out words, spot sight words, write things out, etc. It's amazing to watch. So I wanted a space to be able to write those for easy reference. I also badly needed a bulletin board though; the school sends home papers every week for upcoming events. I've never been the most organized person, and this was definitely testing my limits! The bulletin board made it much easier :) 

Finally, this past weekend, I picked up the wall file organizer at ikea. It's metal but has rounded edges so not too sharp, and I liked that it included many more slots than most (for the same or less cost). We wound up only using four of them. One for important school papers (i.e. parent email lists, etc). One for weekly homework (Blue gets one page a week, it's more for the parents than for her). One for completed school papers that have come home (I go through these about 1x per month to sort what to keep or discard). And one for the girls' artwork. Blue is in a phase where she'll easily produce 5-12 drawings and "letters to friends" a day, and I was going a bit crazy with the piles of papers it was producing. I wish Mr. River had mounted it a bit to the right, but alas I wasn't here when he put it up so I can't complain :)

So long rambles short, that is our corner for the girls! This is also adjacent to the area of wall we use for the monthly theme, their artwork, our felt wall, etc. They also have their own craft cabinet (Rubbermaid type pull out drawers) with craft supplies like crayons, watercolors, pencils, stickers, etc) but that is kept across the room. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Felt Halloween wall decoration

Lots to update! But a short one first.

We made a felt Halloween wall decoration today! Blue was sick this morning and couldn't go to school, so she and Baby Bear helped me find clip art images online and cut them out.  You can find a ton of great images by just Google searching what you need and adding the word "outline" or "silhouette." I.e. "ghost outline"

Print out the clip art,  pin to the felt, then cut out :)

The felt I used was a mixture of the cheap sheets you can find at Walmart or any craft store as well as the more high quality felt you buy on the  bolt (thicker than the kind you buy in small squares). We had a lot left over from other projects so this project was free for us but would probably average a few dollars if you had to buy everything.

And please excuse my sloppy backdrop :)

Baby Bear's preschool class usually has some kind of felt wall, so this is normal for her. But Blue is loving being able to decorate and move stuff around. She loves that the "spooky house" windows can even moved.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Interviewing Baby Bear at 2 years, 4 months

I figured Baby Bear might be big enough to "get" the interview thing, so we tried this today :)
If you can't tell, she LOVES chicken and rice! (Please excuse her shirt, watermelon for snack = messy shirt!)

1. What is your favorite color? Green!
2. What is your favorite toy? Bunny
3. What is your favorite fruit? Strawberry
4. What is your favorite tv show? Lambie (Doc McStuffins - they have an episode on my phone)
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Chicken and rice!
6. What is your favorite outfit? Blue shirt (she doesn't own one)
7. What is your favorite game? Hide n Seek
8. What is your favorite snack? Chicken and rice
9. What is your favorite animal? Bunnies
10. What is your favorite song? ABCDs
11. What is your favorite book? Chicken and rice book (we don't own one)
12. Who is your best friend? Blue
13. What is your favorite cereal? Miniwheats
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Swing, please
15. What is your favorite drink? Ice water
16. What is your favorite holiday? Easter
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Bunny
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Eggs
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? Chicken and rice!
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Baby bear!

And of course, Blue, hearing me interview Baby Bear, wanted to have a turn too. Here is Blue's interview last time
Blue at 4 years, 7 months
1. What is your favorite color? Blue and silver and purple
2. What is your favorite toy? Cheetah!
3. What is your favorite fruit? Grapes
4. What is your favorite tv show? Cheetah (Duma - it's a movie) and Frozen
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? chicken and rice
6. What is your favorite outfit? Sparkly dress (a fancy red dress that has sparkles)
7. What is your favorite game? Hide and go seek
8. What is your favorite snack? Fruit
9. What is your favorite animal? Cheetah
10. What is your favorite song? Let it Go (from Frozen)
11. What is your favorite book? Animals of the forest
12. Who is your best friend? Emily and Bailey
13. What is your favorite cereal? Miniwheats
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Go for a walk
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? Cheetah
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cereal
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? A cake
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Artist

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Zucchini cupcakes and carrot bread

We had a big neighborhood BBQ today. One of the upsides of living in an apartment complex is the sense of community.  I imagine it is what it was like when my mom and grandmother were young - neighbors all enjoying the afternoon, lounging and chatting while the kids run around. I'm sure that still exists in some neighborhoods, but it hasn't been the case for most of the ones I have lived in. Nor, ironically, most of the apartments I've lived in. I mean, sure we knew one or two neighbors, but it wasn't a real strong sense of community.

Mr. River is really good at building bonds and socializing with neighbors. He's just a likable guy and is very friendly and helpful to everyone. So that was a catalyst to getting to know some of our neighbors.

Plus, this year, we have several more neighbors with kids. So when I'm outside playing with the girls, the neighbors will trickle out and come play with us  (their balconies overlook the common lawns between our buildings). Previous years we have lived here, our neighbors had kids much older than ours or no kids at all. So our kids have become another catalyst to getting to know each other.

So today we had a big "block party" style BBQ. We had pollo asada tacos, cinnamon raisin couscous, fruit salad, and I made zucchini cupcakes and carrot bread. I hadn't ever used these recipes before but they turned out amazing :)

The zucchini cupcakes were made with this recipe. A few changes I made based on another reviewer - instead of 2 1/4 cup sugar, I used 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown. I used 3 cups of zucchini and barely blended it in. I also added about 2 tbsp of lemon zest because I wanted a bit of lemon to it. Then, I poured it into 12 muffin tins and 2 mini-loafs. I cooked at 350 for about 17 minutes for the cupcakes and 22 minutes for the mini-loafs. I added a bit of icing to them.

The carrot bread I made using this recipe. 

Well they were all gobbled up by the end of the BBQ, which is a sure sign that they were good!

The kids played during the BBQ.  A kiddie pool was set up, though it wasn't quite warm enough to swim. So the kids just splashed and played with toys in it. They also played on the slide, did sidewalk chalk, and of course lots of bicycle riding. There are a lot of paved sidewalks throughout the complex, and since they run through lawns - and not streets - you don't have to worry about cars or anything :) It was really a very very nice afternoon! We had about 8 different apartments come out and stay and various apartments and friends coming and going throughout the afternoon. I'm going to miss this when we move!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pantry moths and pantry storage

Where we live in San Diego, there really aren't any bothersome bugs. No mosquitos, gnats, etc. We leave our sliding door open a lot (including screen) because there really aren't any bugs to worry about. Except the moths.

 Having lived here for 8 years now, I have had issues with pantry moths three different times. They are annoying, mostly so because they're so hard to get completely rid of unless you do a total purge of your cabinet.  About a month ago, I had my second incident with pantry moths and began the purge of the cabinets. I thought I had caught them early on and applauded myself. But I must've missed a box or something because I started finding them again a few days ago! So I started over again! 

I've already fixed our pantry situation, but afterwards came across these two posts that might be useful to others:

How to clean out and check for pantry moths, here
Here's another blog post with tips and her experience.

What did I do?
Well I started with the standard empty everything out and check it. This time around I just chucked everything that wasn't in an airtight. I'm not doing this again in a few weeks!

Then I washed out the cabinets. I first did soap and water, then did a vinegar wash. Remember to get the tops of shelves too! Also wipe down all jars or cans!

Then I began putting stuff back. I had made the mistake last time of assuming that once I was rid of the moths, I was done and could resume my standard habits. This time around, I said no more boxes or non-airtight goods in the cabinet. Pastas, crackers, cornmeal, raisins, whatever - they all need to go into something airtight. We had been putting most of those things in ziplock gallon bags but that didn't work. 

So I picked up a couple of airtight containers but those things can add up fast! So I started searching around the house for what I already had... and lo and behold, I had a ton of empty jars that I had been saving and gathering from neighbors. I had been saving these for craft projects, and had a total "duh" moment of "oh these would be perfect for storing all the pantry stuff..."

And they are perfect! We will now be making a habit of putting pantry items into airtight containers before putting it into the cabinet. Even a lot of unopened food packaging is not immune to moths (cardboard boxes or even cardboard containers for things like corn meal). Sealed bags are not immune. So into containers they will all go!

Here are a few of my jars: raisins, black beans, barley, Israeli pearled couscous (with cooking instructions inserted because I can never remember the boiling time), and panko. 

I think it looks a lot nicer than the boxes too :) And definitely cheaper than buying a bunch of new containers! Hopefully these will be moth-proof. We'll also be trying the bay leaf tip to ward off moths!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Our balcony garden pallet


The story of our balcony garden actually begins about a year ago.

For Mothers day of 2013, I asked Mr. River if he could get me just a few small herbs so that I could have an herb garden. The girls and I were doing a garden theme, so it also seemed like a good chance to teach them about herbs.

I also had a few plants I wanted to better organize. We have a nice balcony, but it was hard to find room for both plants and kids' toys that left enough space to actually sit (or play) out there and enjoy them. Planters just take up so much square footage, even though we had several hanging on the rail.

While looking at more vertical options, I came across a how-to guide on a vertical pallet garden. I was in love. Mr River was in love. The guide is here.

Our challenges during this process:

  • "finding a pallet" isn't actually that easy. Where we live, it is illegal to remove pallets from behind stores - that is their property and they have to pay to replace lost pallets (or so we were told by several store managers when we asked). The pallets are essentially recycled for shipping, so they aren't just free for the public to come take.
  • Even if we could just "find a pallet" I did not want one that had been treated. With small kids, pets, and herbs, I didn't need to be adding treated wood to the mix.

So Mr. River built me one :) It actually wasn't hard or expensive at all. He made the cuts and nailed it together in less than an hour. The plus side was that we were able to choose the wood and make it the exact size we wanted.  I even got to choose the spacing. here is where we were starting to line up the boards:

We then stapled burlap on the back, as it was far cheaper than other options at the hardware store and it seemed to be the best for drainage. 

The girls tested it for durability and helped us sand it down (since they would have a lot of contact with it and water it, I wanted it to have smooth edges):

And we painted the top of it and added the girls' handprints so that it would be extra personalized. this is probably my favorite aspect of my pallet - especially now that we have had it a year and I can see how tiny their hands were.

The girls were soooo excited to choose the plants for it and help plant it. We also planted many many seeds in little pods to later plant in it. Now, this was quite a startup cost compared to "just a few herbs." We had 10 open slots and 2 top slots to fill up! And my excitement over large lush plants meant we had left huge gaps between the slats... But it was absolutely worth it. We propped it up at an angle against our balcony wall and Mr. River secured it over the rail with an anchor so that we wouldn't have to worry about the girls pulling it down.

Some of the things that I absolutely love about my pallet garden: 
  • it makes for an absolutely beautiful wall. It makes for a great "atmosphere" for when we sit on the balcony with the girls, have summer dinners out there, or the girls play in their water table out there. When I'm sitting in the living room or the dining room and look outside, instead of a stucco balcony wall I see my garden.  it is lovely :)
  • It has a very small footprint. We do have it leaning against the balcony wall, so that added a bit more, but it still comes out maybe 14"? It isn't far at all. I get 6x the space for planting as 1 planter box's footprint. 
  • Again, a vertical garden is just beautiful. It is such a different aesthetic to have it go up rather than everything low to the ground.
  • It is the perfect height for the girls. I gave them the bottom three levels for their flowers and plants to take care of, and I put my herbs in the top two. Then we just added flowers up top.
  • It makes for a great backdrop for pictures :)

Lessons we have learned from it:
  • Setting it up is a bit tricky :) So after you plant the garden, I have seen some sites recommend letting it lay level for several weeks to let the roots take hold. We let it stay horizontal for a few days while we watered it just to make sure the soil was moist, but we weren't giving up our balcony for several weeks for the roots to take hold. Plus, keeping it at an angle, I think it didn't need to be quite as strong as if it were fully vertical.
  • Watering it is a bit tricky... being at an angle has made this a bit easier. But Mr. River wishes he'd put in or figured out some kind of pvc piping irrigation for it. We water the top then try to carefully water the front. But too much water and the dirt pours out, and you don't want to completely drown the plants at the bottom (keeping it at an angle also helps some of the water drain out the back rather than all go down to the bottom).  You also have to water it very regularly because if the dirt gets too dry, it just cascades out as you start to water :(
  • Burlap works out GREAT for drainage, but it is a bit more fragile than other options. It has been a year now and we need to replace the burlap. one tiny hole led to an entire layer falling out because the hole expanded within seconds!
  • Planting it means thinking a bit more than I usually do about water/sunlight needs. Our balcony has a half-roof, so the shading and sun on the pallet is different for the different sides. For the most part, the right side gets full sun and the left side gets "partial sun" (4-6 hours) a day. The plants up top, the watering was easy, but for the plants in the slots, it was taking into consideration that the ones at the bottom levels would definitely get more water just because of gravity. 

We had to replant the bottom left of the pallet after a month because we realized it just wasn't getting enough sun: 

We slowly added more plants as our seedlings grew and by mid-summer we had an amazing vertical garden. 

Our cat Thistle, though, seems to be a leaf eater and devoured the bottom two layers in just a few afternoons of being on the balcony. Baby Bear then pulled off several flowers in her curiosity. So by winter, the garden needed to be replanted. 

We have replanted it this past weekend and I will post the new garden in another post :) We have done succulents this year and are super excited to see how they come out!

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 :)