Friday, January 28, 2011

Screw It Up Yourself

In the three seconds
it stayed on the wall
I missed having an advent calendar for the kids last year.  For this past Christmas I hunted around for one.  In my price-range I found mostly garage-sale-fodder, crappy crafts made by enslaved Chinese nine-year-olds who would probably rather be in school.  And these sorts of things do not make me feel festive.  Apparently I am alone in this.

I checked http://www.etsy.com/ and found a ton of cutesoid stuff not in my price range.  But! Hark!  What was this?  A 24 muffin tin Christmas Countdown calendar...for $45!!  Golly,  I could buy my own muffin tin for cheaper.  And I did.  A shiny silver one.  The kids decorated circular labels.  We filled each muffin with chocolates and sealed them in with the stickers.  And I hung it up on the wall.  It was festive! and fun to make!  And it only cost me $10!  And then the stickers started falling off one by one and the candy trickled to the floor.  Not yet daunted, I pulled long strips of tape across the rows.  It looked a little less cute, and the Kisses would be harder to pry out, but it was still kind-looking and homey and would do the trick.  And then.  Because all the covers were stuck together, the whole of them fell off at once and Kisses bombed the floor.  And that is because they seem to only make NON-STICK muffin tins these days.  Oh for the aluminum of yore!

DIY marshmellows took on a gruesome look
Then I tried making my own washing machine detergent.  And it was a great success.  For $5 and 20 minutes I get 6 gallons (150+loads, but I only make two gallons at a time) of earth friendly soap.  Considering I have no income and some time, this is a bargain.  It was immensely easy.  And I felt like I'd been duped into buying pre-made stuff.  Really, it's like buying pre-made water.  The recipe is ubiquitous on the net.  And all ingredients are easily found in the detergent section of any old grocery store.  And here it is:  1 BAR SOAP (some people recommend Fels Naptha, but they don't list the ingredients and that stuff stinks to high heaven of toxic crap.  If you use it, you're only supposed to  use 1/3 of a bar) grated on your cheese grater and dissolved over medium heat with 6 CUPS OF WATER.  Mix in 1/2 CUP WASHING SODA (not baking) and 1/2 CUP BORAX until dissolved.  Remove from heat.  In your 2 gallon bucket you have already put about 4 CUPS HOT WATER into which you now stir your soap mixture.  You put in the rest of your two gallons (one gallon plus 6 cups, or add WATER to the two gallon mark).  You can add a bottle of essential oils at this point, but that will more than triple the cost of your soap.  It will gel over-night.  And then you put 1/2 cup per load.  I have heard that the consistency varies.  And it should look like eggdrop soup.  It had the texture of jello mixed with milk.  And it works.  We stink up our clothes really bad around here (Huck with his work, running and soccer, Coyote with his un-potty-training, me with my cows, and Blue just with having those feet attached to her legs) and they come out non-stinking. If you insist on having glowing whites, you should probably rethink that.  A heck of a lot of mercury is released into the environment when it's made.  And maybe my kids aren't the ones affected, but we're all stuck on this shrinking planet together and I'd like everyone to be functioning on as many cylinders as they've got.  The other solution to the whites problem is to just stop buying whites!  I think Coyote's the only one with much in the way of whites and those all get covered by shoes and pants.  And I think white is just about the stupidest color for anything other than snow, milk, clouds, butts, and lilies.  It's also a really stressful color.  And that's how you make laundry soap!

Heartened by this success, I began looking around for other costs to cut.  I've made my own facial toner, a supply which has so far lasted me four years.  I do spend quite a bit on my one bottle of facial lotion, but that's because my face demands it.  And that's my only cosmetic expense.  But what of toothpaste?  Coyote is picky and has to have expensive fennel stuff.  But the rest of us...we could go cheaper.  So I found this recipe: 6 parts baking soda, 1 part rubbing alcohol, 1 part liquid vegetable glycerin, and some peppermint oil, which I already had on hand.  I think some parts of these directions were missing.  I mixed it all up and loaded my pastry bag and leaned it in a bowl in the bathroom.  The next morning, the oil, glycerin and alcohol had all flowed out in to the bowl and a bunch of dry, minty soda was stuck in the pastry bag.  And do you know how SALTY baking soda is?!  Oh my god.  No one will touch the stuff, but me and I'm not going to let my $1/2 go down the drain!  But I could drink an ocean after I brush now.  No...not an ocean, a salt-free aquifer!

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