We are always looking for small ways to cut costs around the house. One of the best has been homemade laundry soap. The last batch I made lasted us over a year. We usually do about two loads of laundry every week. The soap has a pleasant scent, and seems to do a good job of cleaning the clothes, without any residue or skin irritation. Three Fels-Naptha bars, and one box each of the Borax and Arm and Hammer cost me less than $20 at Meijer. The 5-gallon bucket cost about $5 at Tractor Supply. The stock pot, grater, and spoon are all things that I use only for making the soap. I bought them at a local resale shop. The recipe I used can be found here. After the soap was finished, I transferred it into several old laundry soap containers for ease of use. Just remember to shake the bottle a little before pouring.
Since we were still in the process of starting our lives together and getting the kitchen set up, when my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas two years ago, the answer was an easy one: "A good set of cast iron pans, please". Growing up in a hillbilly household, I had watched my mom use cast iron many times. It was always for corn bread or bacon, and the pans always had to be re-seasoned with shortening. She couldn't wash them with soap, and they always had to be dried on the stove after cleaning. Well, after 20 years or so, what she had were some very sticky pans that weren't terribly useful. I did not want the same thing to happen to our pans, so I put them in the bottom drawer of the oven and promptly forgot about them. They were seasoned according to the manufacturers directions and I did make corn bread once in the largest pan, but I couldn't get rid of the ring that formed after. One day, Chad came across a very interesting article about using flax seed oil to season a cast iron pan for life. I was intrigued. We decided to give it a shot and bought some organic flax seed oil in the health food section at Meijer.
This is what the pans looked like before cleaning.
And after going through the self-cleaning cycle on the oven for two hours.
After being wiped down with a wet cloth and dried in a warm oven for a few minutes.
First coat, wiped off, before baking.
Coat one after baking.
Six (the final coat).
This process took several days, but the results were worth it. The pans have a beautiful hard, smooth "glass-like" coating on them, with no hint of stickiness. I have since used these pans for bacon, potatoes, and corn bread. I used metal utensils on them, and did not seem to harm the coating at all. I did rub a little vegetable oil in the pan after cooking the potatoes, but I don't know if it was necessary. I'm not sure if the coating will truly be lifetime, but I am looking forward to baking and cooking more things in these pans.
This is my favorite beginner pattern, because it is "faux crocheting" and requires no actual crocheting knowledge. I was able to make one of these scarves in about half an hour. This lovely Sashay yarn makes it look like this was a much more complicated project. I have heard of these selling between $15-25. The yarn costs about $5 a skein, and comes in a variety of colors. There are several different brands and types out there, but the Red Heart Boutique Sashay Yarn has been my favorite to work with. I found the pattern on YouTube after being frustrated with the original instructions because the pattern seemed too complicated and time-consuming for me. These have made wonderful presents, and I hope everyone gives these a try!
I love that PetSmart is so committed to helping find homes for cats and dogs who need them. Our local store helps the Alliance for Spay-Neuter Pet Rescue find homes for the pets that they rescue from Animal Control.
So on St. Patrick's Day, we headed out. There were about 8 cats in the cubbies, but none were quite as pathetic looking as Gary. The information card stated that he was two years old, had come into the Animal Control as a stray, and that he had a chronic watery right eye. He needed a forever home. When we sat down in the adoption room to see if he would be a good match for us, he shyly sat on my lap. The more we petted and talked to him, the more excited he became, until he stuck his little tongue out and began to drool. Not just a little drool, either, but drops so big the adoption lady had to get a paper towel with which to dry the floor. I had never seen a cat get as excited as little Gary did. We were sold. A few minutes later, with papers and supplies in hand, we headed home with our new little buddy, Mr. Gary McMittens.
When we got home, I set the carrier down in the middle of the living room floor. Belle was apprehensive, and Gary was the scarediest little cat. Belle hissed and swatted at him, and he quickly took off for the nearest hiding place. Belle would seek him out just to hiss and hit him. It didn't help that Gary was smaller than her and wouldn't defend himself. It took a full week of locking Gary in the bedroom with his own supplies while we were gone at work and letting him out in the evenings before Belle finally conceded to having another cat around.
Now they are the best of friends. They eat, sleep, and play together and run around like little Clydesdales all hours of the night keeping us awake with their antics. We couldn't be more thrilled. Gary still won't eat much dry food, and we do go through quite a bit more litter, but that is fine. Belle really is better behaved, and seems happy to have a little companion.
In my search for new crochet projects, I am always trying new stitches and techniques. My Crochet Answer Book and YouTube have been lifesavers this winter. I wanted to make a headband that had the look of knitting, but I am terribly slow at it. That is when I discovered the Tunisian Knit Stitch. It is one of several Tunisian stitches, and makes for a beautiful headband. My pattern came from Amy Depew's blog. Thank you Amy for this beautiful pattern. I made a few adjustments to the original pattern, and this is what I came up with. I purchased the yarn from Amazon. It has by far been my favorite yarn this year. This headband has been popular among my family and friends, and I imagine several will be made for Christmas gifts this year. The flower pattern I used is here. I hope everyone enjoys making these as much as I have. I plan on eventually finishing a scarf to match. I will post the matching fingerless gloves later. I think this would work well with any yarn. I used the recommended J hook.
To make the 3.5" width, I made 15 stitches.
For the middle portion, I made 32 rows.
I did do the trim, since it gave a nice finished look to the project.
In spite of having shelter and a heater lamp, poor Mr. Peanut had enough of the cold. He has taken up residence in his old cage in the living room until spring arrives. The kitten had not had much interaction with him before, so she is absolutely fascinated with him. I think she likes having a "friend" to interact with when we are at work. Of course, she also thinks it is ok to chew on her new friend, so anytime his pen is open or he is out in the living room, they have to be watched closely. He really doesn't seem to mind her all that much unless she is poking at him in the cage or trying to steal his food, which she almost always is. She is a bit of a spoiled jerk at times. She now refuses to sleep in the bedroom at night, and prefers to sleep on an afghan next to his cage.