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Saturday, January 18, 2014

DIY Un-paper Towels with Plastic Roll

Today I finally got around to making un-paper towels...reusable cloth towels to replace paper towels. They cut costs, save trees, and keep more trash out of the landfills! 

Plus, making them yourself, you can find the perfect fabric to match your personality and kitchen decor. I've bought Viva paper towels for years now, and I always get the three pack of designs, but there's really only one design I like (with the cute!), but none of them really match my colors.

In constructing my un-paper towels, I used a few tutorials that I found on Pinterest. The main tutorial that I followed was from Eliza at That Short Girl's Blog. While this is a pretty simple project, she explained the steps well. The problem with her tutorial was that it didn't include a plastic roll, and I really liked that idea so they didn't slouch on my dispenser. 

So I kept searching and along the way, I found Amy's tutorial at A Blossoming Life. She still didn't have the plastic roll, but there were a couple of interesting things about her un-paper towels. First, she sewed a wavy line caddy-corner across each towel to keep the two layers of fabric in place through the wash. I liked this idea and thought it added a pretty touch. The other item of interest was that she used velcro instead of snaps. When I first thought of making these, I thought velcro was the way to go because they'd be easier to rip off the roll, BUT in the end, I did decide to use snaps because I feared that the velcro (even the really nice velcro) would get all kinds of fuzz, strings, and general nastiness caught up in it. That didn't appeal to me.

Finally, I found Sabra's tutorial at Sew A Straight Line where she included easy to understand instructions on how to make the plastic roll. She also used a very cute decorative top stitch on her towels. This isn't something I did as I'm not that talented and I didn't feel like putting THAT much effort into it, but I absolutely love what she did.

Putting all of these together, I came up with my un-paper towels.

What you'll need:
1.5 yards flannel or knit fabric
1.5 yards terry cloth fabric
coordinating thread
plastic snaps and assembly tools (approximately 30 sets of snaps for 12 towels and the roll)
11.5"x6" plastic canvas
general sewing supplies

First, cut your fabrics into 11.5" squares. - Now, I made a measuring oops and made my "squares" 11" tall x 11.5" wide on the first strip I cut, so I carried my oops through all 12 towels that I made. It worked, but remember to measure twice, cut once. :)

Pin your flannel/knit fabric and terry cloth right sides together, and sew them using a 3/8" seam allowance, leaving a 2" opening on one side. Trim the corners to reduce bulk. 

Turn the towels right side out by pulling through the 2" opening.

Use a chopstick or similar item to push the corners out.

Tuck the edges of the openings inside. And iron the seams flat.

For a nice finished look, top stitch around the towel about an 1/8" from the edge. This will also seal the opening that was used to turn the towels right side out.

At this point, you can stop sewing, or you can go ahead and sew the wavy line from one corner to the opposite corner. (I did this when I finished the top stitching, without cutting the thread.) 

Now, apply the snaps.

It's a little hard to see in this photo, but be sure to apply two female on one side and two male on the other side. If you have directional fabric like mine, be sure to always put the females on the same side and the males on the other side. Also, remember that you have to snap these together, so you'll want to be sure that you position the snaps in about the same place on each towel and place the snaps in the right direction to be snapped to the next towel (male end goes into female end).

All snapped together!

Now, you can make the plastic roll. Because I messed up measuring my fabric, I cut the plastic canvas 11"x6", but if you measured correctly, cut the canvas to 11.5" tall x 6" wide. Place three female snaps down one 11.5" side and three male snaps down the other 11.5" side. These will snap together to form the roll. 
Then, use the snaps on your towels to measure where to put the snaps in the middle. Make sure you use the proper side of the snap (male or female) to match up with the snaps on your towels. As you can see from the photo below, I lined the first snap up at the very edge, about halfway on the 6" side of the plastic canvas. Then, using the snaps on my towel, I had to bring the bottom snap in a couple of rows.

Snap the roll together and attach the towels. 

Roll them up and place the roll on your paper towel holder.

Can't wait to make another set with my I <3 Bacon!! flannel! I just have to get some navy blue or white snaps. I'm also hoping to find some cute cupcake fabric and some fabric with martini glasses to make even more. Ooooh...and maybe some snowflakes, clovers, and hearts for the many ideas!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Family Cloth: The Down and Dirty part 2

I FINALLY got my system down for using family cloth. So far, it seems to be working pretty well with no smell.

It's pretty simple. I just wipe (still doing this for #1 only) and place in my newly made wet bag. Once a week, I simply wash the cloths with my laundry and place them back in my basket.

I chose to make my own wet bag so it would be just my style. If you enjoy sewing, I would recommend making your own bag. It's really not that difficult to do. Even the zipper wasn't horrible...just not that fun...especially without a zipper foot for my sewing machine. BUT, I will give you a few tips. I was going to give you a step by step tutorial, but my bag turned out terrible and I know I couldn't have explained it any better than Merrilee at the Dilley Dally Blog

Here's my tips:

1) DO NOT use a light satiny polyester fabric....okay, if you've worked with this type of fabric before and you know what you're doing, go ahead, but if not, just stay away from it. The fabric is beautiful, but it was a pain in the ass to cut as it slides around, and it frays like crazy. When I tried to cut two pieces at once using my rotary cutter, once piece was about two inches too small one way and an inch too small the other direction. It just isn't worth the hassle.

2) The Dilley Dally Blog doesn't give you dimensions for the bag (so you can determine the size you need), nor the seam allowance to use. I'm still not going to give you dimensions as it's really up to you how big you want your bag, but I will say that I made my bag 11" wide by 12" deep. I decided to use a half inch seam allowance, so I cut both the PUL and my outer satiny fabric 12"x13". Here's the thing...don't use a half inch seam allowance on your bunches up inside the bag. Keep it at 1/4" or less. The half inch allowance on my satiny fabric was probably a good idea since it frays so much, but on a heavier standard fabric that doesn't fray as much you'd be just fine with a 1/4" allowance. I'd also make the PUL just slightly smaller than my outer bag...maybe an 1/8" smaller. One more point on dimensions: the handle would be perfect for fitting around your wrist, but I'd prefer it a little shorter to hang on my TP roll holder...maybe 7-8 inches long rather than 12.

3) Try adding a top stitch around the three sides of the bag like they did in this tutorial. That way, the PUL inside doesn't slide around inside the outer fabric, but stays put where it's supposed to be. This isn't a necessary step, but would be nice.

Now, back to family cloths and possible systems. There are a few different systems you could use, if you don't like the thought of this simple wet bag system. Here are the ways you can set up something in your own home.

  • A wet/wet system: Using moistened cloths from a warming baby wipe holder to wipe and then placing them in a container of water and vinegar to soak and "disinfect" them before. Lots of extra work, unless you prefer it.
  • A wet/dry system: Using warmed moistened cloths, but placing the used cloths in a hamper or "wet bag" until washing. This can cause some stink from the wet cloths waiting to be washed unless you're washing them frequently.
  • A dry/wet system: Using dry cloths and placing them used in a container of water and vinegar. Tip: The water/vinegar solution can get really nasty in just a couple days; much more than a dry system.
  • A dry/dry system: This is my preference. Dry cloth toilet paper works perfectly and I've not seen a need for soaking before washing. 

Hope you give family cloth a try!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Homemade Whipped Body Butter

I know...another post about homemade lotion. How many times am I going to talk about moisturizing? 

Well, probably not much more, but I had to post this whipped body butter. My lovely lotion bars are PERFECT for extremely dry skin because the wax helps to seal the moisture in, but they aren't always the easiest to apply to your whole body. comes the body butter. This includes most of the same ingredients, but omits the wax, so it's easy to apply. Since most of your body isn't EXTREMELY dry, the moisture is enough without the beeswax seal. 

Of course, I couldn't follow the recipe I found online, to a T. When they proudly proclaimed it was only three ingredients (yes, I know, this makes it simple to make and means you are putting less on your skin, but...), I asked, what could I add to make it even better? The one thing that I felt it needed was vitamin E oil to help heal scars and cuts, so I made the 3-ingredient whipped body butter into 4-ingredient whipped body butter.

Whipped Body Butter

8 oz of cocoa butter (or shea butter if you prefer)
8 oz coconut oil
4 oz sesame oil or other liquid oil*
1/2 oz vitamin E oil

First, measure out all of the ingredients using a kitchen scale, and melt everything together in a double boiler.

Next, chill the mixture in the fridge until it begins to firm, but it has not yet turned completely solid. For me, this took about 3 1/2 hours.

Then, using a stand or hand mixer, whip the lotion until white peaks form, scrapping the bowl often. 

Finally, scoop the lotion into containers and chill in the fridge for one hour.

Your lessons from me: 1) whip it, whip it good!, and 2) don't forget and over chill your finished whipped lotion. I didn't whip my lotion quite long enough. My peaks were still a little beige, but it seemed fluffy like a yummy whipped frosting (and it smells like chocolate frosting too!). But I don't think there was enough air incorporated into the mixture. Then, I forgot the finished product in the fridge for about three more hours, giving the under aired mixture time to solidify more than it should have. It still glides on, but isn't as easy to scoop out of the container. Granted, I could scoop it back into the mixer, but I'm being lazy and just using it as is. Next time, I'll make sure to whip it longer and set a timer to take it out of the fridge.

This whipped body butter is so silky and smooth and soaks into your skin quickly (just don't use too much or it might take awhile to soak in). It's amazing and keeps your skin feeling nourished, even during a nasty cold winter! 

* Jojoba, almond or a mild olive would work great too. I chose sesame oil because Ayurvedic medicine uses sesame oil to help strengthen joints and alleviate joint pain. While I'm not sure if I truly believe this, I figure it doesn't hurt to see if it helps and I prefer to apply it as a lotion rather than as a massage oil. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Homemade Laundry Softener

So the other day, when I made my daily shower cleaner, I flubbed up and actually started making my homemade laundry softener by accident. Fortunately, I was getting low, so it's no big deal, but I wonder how I can be so lame-brained sometimes.

Since I made an oops, I thought I'd share my homemade laundry softener with you. I've been using it for years and love it. It leaves clothes so soft and has no chemicals to leave behind on your clothes. I started using this because the towels would get this nasty stank, even after being washed. Since using this softener, I've never had stinky towels again!!!

I've chosen to leave all fragrances out of the softener because when I used essential oils to begin with, I felt that I was wasting my money as the scent just didn't last. After a day, the scent was gone. I found that using essential oils on my homemade wool dryer balls made the scent last much longer, so I just do that instead. 

BTW - I wouldn't suggest making your own wool dryer balls. You'll spend about the same and save yourself a lot of time if you just buy some on Etsy. BUT I do highly recommend wool dryer balls. Again, no chemicals, no waxy build up on your dryer vent, and they help your clothes dry faster (though you need 6-8 in a load to really affect drying time). 

So, back to the laundry softener...

Homemade Laundry Softener
8 cups water
1 cup baking soda
6 cups white vinegar
10-15 drops essential oil of your choice (optional)

First, measure out 1 cup of baking soda and place in a VERY large mixing bowl.

Next, measure out 8 cups of water and mix with the baking soda. 

Then, slowly add the 6 cups of white vinegar.

I've found that stirring while slowly adding the vinegar about a cup at a time works best to dissolve the baking soda and not have everything bubble out of the bowl. 

When all of the baking soda is dissolved and the mixture has stopped fizzing, use a funnel to pour it into a gallon container. 

I fill a downy ball with the mixture (about 1/2 cup - I do fill it above the line) as it tends to drain out of my softener cup while I'm filling it, but if it works in your softener cup, GREAT!

Enjoy soft, non-stinky, chemical free clothes!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Charitable Giving in 2014 and The ALSA

Did you know that every day, an average of 15 people are newly diagnosed with ALS? That's more than 5,600 people a year. As many as 30,000 Americans may currently be affected by ALS. And what's worse, there's no cure for this fatal disease. 

What is ALS? 
ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways in the brain and spinal cord. When these cells die, voluntary muscle control and movement dies with them. Patients in the later stages of the disease are totally paralyzed, yet in most cases, their minds remain sharp and alert. Eventually, they can't swallow, can't speak...and finally can't breathe. The average life expectancy of a person with ALS is two to five years from diagnosis. 

Help the ALSA
The ALSA is a wonderful organization that advocates for an ALS cure, and assists people with ALS and their families, helping them to get the care that they need to live a productive life. They will even provide home visits to identify solutions to issues that the individual and their family is facing, such as getting in and out of the bathtub/shower, and provide equipment loans free of charge, such as a walker or wheelchair. 

Please consider the ALSA in your 2014 charitable giving (many states have their own chapters).

Happy Birthday, Dad! You are missed.
Michael Lee Johnston
January 7, 1954 - January 19, 2013
Diagnosed with ALS July 2012

Sorry your Packers didn't make it beyond the wild card game this year. Maybe next year.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Homemade Daily Shower Spray

I ran out of my homemade daily shower spray today, so I thought I'd post how to make it. I've been using the same recipe for years now. I found it on some website, but I have no idea where I found it. My apologizes for not giving credit where credit is due, but I really don't recall where this came from. 

This very environmentally homemade shower spray really keeps the nastiness at bay! When I started using it, I was living in a home with extremely hard well water. The shower know the clear plastic doors with the water pattern to blur your silhouette...they were eternally white. I tried everything to get them transparent again. Finally, I found the only thing that worked was Lime Away Gel....I of the worst toxic cleaners out there, but it WORKED! So I'd use it, but after a couple days, the doors were white again. That's how hard the water was. Then I found the homemade daily shower spray. After cleaning the doors with Lime Away, I was able to keep them clear for WEEKS using the daily shower spray once a day with two people using the shower.

My water isn't quite as hard these days and I have a shower curtain rather than doors now, but I still have hard water spots if I don't use this shower spray. It not only helps with hard water, but keeps mold and mildew away. I can't say enough good things about it.

So without further delay....

Homemade Daily Shower Spray

1/2 c rubbing alcohol
1/2 c hydrogen peroxide
1/2 c white vinegar (the original recipe called for a splash, but I use more due to the hard water)
water to fill bottle
about 1 tsp blue Dawn dish washing liquid
old Windex spray bottle (or other similarly sized spray bottle)

Measure out the rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and use a funnel to pour it into your bottle.

Measure the vinegar and add to the bottle.

Now fill the bottle with water, leaving about 1/2 an inch below the neck. Add a splash of Dawn.

Put the spray top back on the bottle and gently turn the bottle upside down a few times to mix in the Dawn without creating a bunch of bubbles.

Keep in your shower and spray on the curtain/doors, walls, and tub. Walk away! You're done!

Hope this helps keep your shower fresh without all the chemicals, and keep you from cleaning as often!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Homemade Lotion Bars

I LOVE lotion bars! They are the best thing ever! I have dry hands from frequent washing, and nothing seemed to help until I tried my first lotion bar (great for chapped lips too!). 

I first discovered these little beauties at the honey booth at the state fair a few years ago. I fell for the Love's Delight bar from Randol Farms. It smells a-maz-ing! I've ordered a few bars from their site since then, but the shipping can make these little things a bit pricey, so I decided to try making my own. 

There are several recipes out there, but most of them call for equal parts oil (usually olive or coconut) and "butter" this, I mean shea butter or cocoa butter. Then just a little bit more beeswax. Some recipes will also include a little bit of vitamin E oil (typically 1 tsp if you are using a 4:4:4.5 oz ratio of the other ingredients). Then, of course, the essential oil of your choice. I decided to follow the recipe on One Good Thing by Jillee, and add my own flare.

I had some leftover cocoa butter and shea butter, so I decided to use both of these up, making two different recipes. First I used up the cocoa butter (I had 4.2 oz left, so I felt I was pretty close to the recipe and could wing it). So I weighed all of my ingredients to ensure I had equal amounts.

Chocolate Oranges Lotion Bar
4.2 oz cocoa butter
4.2 oz coconut oil
4.8 oz beeswax
2 tsp honey  ***Update*** I'll omit this in the future. It left a gooey messy in a few of the bars.
a couple splashes orange essential oil

Next, I combined all the ingredients in a double boiler, allowed everything to melt (it melts faster if you don't leave your cocoa butter in big chunks but I was being lazy), and made sure to stir it well so everything was combined.

When everything melted completely, I removed it from the burner and added the honey and essential oil

Finally, I used a ladle to fill my molds. Being my first time using these molds, I over filled a couple, which meant I ended up with 9 and 3/4 bars. 

Allow the bars to cool completely (preferably overnight) before popping out of the mold.

Rub the bar on your skin to soften the bar and rub into your skin. Perfect for dry feet, elbows, knees, and hands!

The other batch I made to use up my shea butter was:

Black Cherry Lotion Bars
4.1 oz shea butter
4.1 oz olive oil
4.7 oz beeswax
1 tsp vitamin E oil
black cherry essential oil

My hands are feeling great! I'll probably still pick up a few Love's Delight lotion bars at the next state fair just because I love the scent, but I'll definitely be making more of these in whatever scent I feel like.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

DIY Yarn Holder

So about an month and a half ago, I ordered this beautiful custom-made yarn bowl with a locking lid on Etsy. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the lid, so the seller asked for more time to get it right. Since I want it to work and be gorgeous, I agreed. Unfortunately, with Kiera in my life (Happy 6 month birthday today, Kiki!), I can't knit as she goes after the yarn. 

Drives me crazy, but I wouldn't trade her in for anything.

So I needed something until my beautiful yarn bowl arrives, but I didn't want to spend tons of money. Then I found this great idea on pinterest for a cheap DIY yarn holder. Using an inexpensive throw away plastic food container, a drill and some grommets, you can have a perfect lidded yarn "bowl".

I went out today and bought generic containers from my local grocery store and 6mm grommets at Hobby Lobby. When I got home, I grabbed my drill, some scrap wood, and my hammer. I was going to have some fun bashing the crap out of things! :)

First, I put full skeins of yarn in my containers...I decided to do as Jenn suggested in her blog and put two holes on one end and a single hole on the other end, so that I could fit different sizes of skeins in my container as a single, double, or maybe even triple yarn bowl. So I made my marks for the center of the skeins.

Then I drilled out the three holes on the first container using a 3/8 drill bit. Unfortunately, the holes split. It may have been the bit I used or it may have just been me, but I decided not to use the drill on the second one.

So on the second one, I used my exacto knife to cut out the holes. While a pain, this worked much better for me.

To finish it off, I then installed the 6mm grommets as instructed on the package, using the scrap wood to protect my counter.

 The finished product!

Hopefully this will help allow me to knit while keeping Kiera out of my yarn!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Family Cloth: The Down and Dirty part 1

Okay...I know this is a taboo subject, but you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't interested, so I'm going to put everything out there for you.

In my effort to be green (and save a little green - seriously! I can't believe how much toilet paper I can go through), I recently started using family cloth...poo paper, people...the reusable kind. I know you might be a little disgusted by this, but you put parents down who choose to use cloth diapers? No. We all think this is great (even if we couldn't/wouldn't do it). So why is it so different when it comes to adults? The isn't. Our pee and our poo isn't any better or any worse than a baby's. Of course, with that being said, I've chosen to start using family cloth (isn't that a stupid name for it? somebody was trying a little too hard to be politically correct) for numeral uno only. Maybe someday I'll give it a try for number two, but first, I need to get a "system" set up. Right now, I just have the cloths.

But I want you to learn from me here. I read a blog that made sense to me (I'm not going to link to it this time, because I'm about to rip the blogger to shreds). In said blog, she stated what she believed was the best way to make these family cloths, and I bought it....don't. First, one thing I still agree with, choose cotton flannel over fleece. At first, I was sold on fleece. It's thick, soft, and it doesn't need to be sewn to avoid fraying. Perfect, right? No. She did make a good point that fleece isn't absorbent. Think about it. When you get a drop of water on fleece, it sits on top for awhile, doesn't it? Flannel is much more absorbent.

Here's the first point I disagree with the other blogger on: flannel doesn't fray very much...just enough to prevent unraveling, so you can use single ply and just cut your squares using pinking shears. Well, maybe it only frays enough to prevent unraveling, but that's a lot! She also said that she had just a little bit of fuzz the first couple of times she washed the cloths. I've only washed mine once, but they created a little bit of fuzz and a BUTT LOAD of strings. They were on EVERYTHING! I was picking these friggin' strings off of every piece of clothing I pulled out of the dryer and they were all over the washer and the dryer screen.

Next point of contention...single ply won't leave your hands wet. NO! Single ply does let some moisture seep through to your fingers. NASTY! I ended up taking my seriously frayed squares and using them two at a time as two ply.

One more quick lesson, which wasn't something from the other blog, but just something I learned. Every source out there is going to tell you to use a dark color...use a print if you like, but make sure it's an overall dark color to hide stains. I'm not arguing with this, I just want to point out that black might not be the best idea. That's what I used...plain black flannel. This baby isn't going to show any stains. Awesome, right? Not really. Here's the issue: you aren't going to SEE anything on the cloth (except the nasty white crap left behind from regular toilet paper if you're still using it for number two...YUCK!). Still not seeing the issue? If you're a man, there isn't much of an issue, but if you're a woman...well, maybe you don't care, but I do. You aren't going to see when your period starts or stops. If it's light, you may not know until it reaches your undies. If you choose one of the lighter dark colors (like maybe a medium brown), you still won't see stains, but should be able to see other things.

In conclusion, cut your medium dark flannel into the size you want (I did 5" squares...remember, it will shrink a little), sew two squares together, leaving a small space to turn them inside out so the raw edges end up in the middle, and wipe away! If I make more sometime, I'll do a post showing how I'd make my family cloths.

Like I said, I haven't gotten my system in place (mainly because I need to make a wet bag), but once I do, I'll be posting part two to explain my dry/dry system, as well as other system options. 

Hope this helps if you are thinking about going green and using family cloths!



So I decided to create my own blog. I thought there weren't enough people out there giving their opinions on life, posting recipes, doing crafts, giving advice on going green.....

So I'm here to add my two cents. I thought you needed to hear about getting healthy from a middle aged, saggy boobed, single nerd with too much time on her hands.

I'll be posting about going greeN, a little bit of nonsEnse, improving your heAlth, and making crafTs (My Four Letter Life: NEAT....and sometimes other four letter words). No matter what I post, I'll tell it like it holds barred....if you offend easily, I apologize, I don't intend to offend anyone, but I'm not using a filter for this one...probably because I'm in human resources for a living and always wear my filter. This is my unfiltered outlet and won't be about work at all.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and find yourself laughing every time.

Happy New Year!