Thursday, August 29, 2013

Moving: When one piece of stress is over, it brings new ones and other such lessons

Well after two weeks of apartment hunting, we are ecstatic to announce that we were approved for an apartment today! It was a bit of a nerve-wracking experience, as we are not the most predictable renters. A year and change of "not really renting" + Mr. Moon's former landlord being no longer of this world + my lack of rental history and crappy credit score + Mr. Moon just starting a new job = skittish landlord. But he approved us and that's all that's important right now. We pick up the keys tomorrow!

Now that we have a Place in mind, it's on to strategizing the long-distance move. This is where my organizational skills come in handy, but my lack of body capabilities makes things difficult. Thankfully we have a number of good friends who are caring, strong, and follow directions well so it's just a matter of getting them into the right places at the right times and knowing what I want them to do.

Of course, there are some things I want to do better for this move. I went back through my Moving tag to see if I could remember anything that hadn't gone so great and what I learned.

  • The separate to-do lists I remembered already and implemented this time, and it has been just as awesome as I remember it. Being able to have a place to table thoughts when there are so many running around in my head is valuable to keeping my anxiety levels low and our focus in the right spots!
  • THIS TIME I am going to make sure I have breakables better packaged. We had a lot of breakage last time including the commemorative stoneware goblet from my brother and sister in law's wedding, obviously irreplaceable. 
  • THIS TIME I am going to color-code the boxes with tape or stickers. Last time we had boxes going to three different spots and they got all mixed up so unloading the truck (in the dark even) was a pain. This time it is all going to one place, but getting everything into the proper rooms would be nice. But having labels (like H=house, S1=storage for immediate usage, S2=long-term storage) wasn't very helpful because people couldn't find them (and didn't really know what they meant, even after I told them a few times they just plain forgot in the chaos). If I can get stickers of some kind and label each box and each room accordingly, that will be super helpful. 
  • Having boxes labeled very well as to their contents was very helpful last time, but re-using boxes could make this complicated. Must make sure that previous labels are covered well and current contents are labeled properly. Last time we only had three boxes that didn't end up labeled at all, and I call that a win--but if we can do better, great! 
  • THIS TIME instead of paying for or just using substandard packaging, we are going to use a lot of our clothes to pack the breakables. BONUS: Fewer boxes! DOUBLE BONUS: Motivates us to get everything unpacked and put away so Mr. Moon can have access to all his rock and roll shirts again. I am nothing if not creative with motivation. 
  • THIS TIME we might pack the liquor bottles in other boxes for similar such motivating factors to get unpacked. 
  • THIS TIME we have more furniture to move so I'm just getting the biggest truck we can. It may be a little excessive but hey, we won't run out of space again. Actually I've just been informed I had a smaller truck than I remembered, and perhaps the biggest truck being more than twice as large IS excessive and will just let everything slide around. Noted. 
Having a strategy is a good thing. Soon it will all be over and we can get back to life in the big city. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Making Choices: What we skip or skimp to make room for things like morals and munchies

Young House Love posed the question about things we skip (or skimp) to save money. I started to comment but then it got reeeeallly long so I thought I would put it up here and make a shorter list in my comment. Now, my title talks about morals because some of these choices for reusable things instead of  disposable are environmentally motivated as well as financially. As I've mentioned before, Mr. Moon responds to financial motivation more than anything, but over the last three years we BOTH have come around to being more willing to do things primarily for the Bigger Picture benefits outside our own small lives. Gardening is one of those things we have tried to do for something bigger than ourselves, with only meager success.

Subscription TV: I haven't paid for it in 9 years, Mr. Moon and his roommates had done away with it years before I met them. I watch seasons of TV shows when they come out on DVD, have Blockbuster and now more recently Netflix, so for $16 a month I have DVDs come in the mail and stream a bunch of TV shows and movies. Although I have no idea what is going to happen with internet at our new apartment. It is possible that we will be using cell phone internet--it would only cost us $20 more than what we are paying now on our data plans, and we checked with our current internet company--no way we will go through the larger data plan even streaming as much as we do.

Paper towel: I bought a pack of bar towels from a restaurant supply store for $5 and haven't replaced them in 3 years. It was going to be about time that I was going to break down and resign these to Dirty Jobs cloths and get new ones, but now we are moving unexpectedly and I will just make these do for a while longer. We were probably spending $10 a month on paper towels before that.

Toilet paper: My partner still uses it, but I made myself flannel wipes and switched 11 months ago and won't look back. It didn't cost anything to make, I used a flannel top sheet that was going to be donated and half a spool of thread I already had sitting around. 3 hours of my time (because I didn't have a rotary cutter yet and had to use scissors, otherwise it would have been 1 hour) and I have enough wipes to last about a week. I've tried using TP a couple times when I ran out of wipes once, waiting for them to wash. Hasn't happened since. Can't stand the paper anymore. But hey, it saves me $40 a month!

Reusable menstrual products: Cloth pads in my case, though there are cups and sea sponge tampons and I'm sure some other options out there. So far at the prices I was paying before I switched, I have saved myself over $5k in the last 8 years (I'll save you the math: That's about $50 a month, no that's not a typo). Obviously not everyone can expect that kind of savings, but for me it was clearly worth it.

New Furniture: While I DID want to splurge on a nice couch here soon, that's not going to happen with our sudden move. I typically get my furniture from thrift stores and the side of the road. Oh, bought something that now doesn't fit in the new place? Donate it. Broken? Burn it or typically, re-use pieces of it to build something else. Don't like the color? Paint it or wrap it in fabric. Moving across the country? Yard sale/donate/curb pile. No sentimental attachment to large, bulky items means that I can afford to redecorate, or just release the items when I'm done with them. (Sometimes it helps to think of it as renting them or borrowing them from the thrift store as if it were a library with a small fee for unlimited usage.)

Fancy Clothes (ish): I had to completely resupply an entire wardrobe three times in 2 years due to life events. It was frustrating and devastating. I didn't have time to slowly pick select pieces at the thrift store so it was almost all brand new. I got them at discounts and discount brands but that just makes it even more important to care for them well so they will last. I DID spend bigger bucks on some items that I KNEW for sure I liked, so that they would last longer. MANY of my clothes don't get dried or at least not every time. Rarely is it the worst thing ever if something that usually hangs to dry goes through the dryer. It also means that for every 2 loads that go through the washer, only 1 has to go through the dryer. So that means less $$ on the dryer (esp for coin ops, which may be a Thing again with this move) and less $$ replacing cheap clothes that wear out too quickly. And we also don't usually use the dry cleaners. Which means that there has been a pair of pants there for over a week because they were super snazzy wool interview pants that I didn't want to wash and I forgot about them. Ha.

Jewelry: My mom looooves buying me jewelry as gifts. For one, they are fun and shiny and another, they transport cross-country very well. Even so, it's still inexpensive jewelry. I balked when she paid $15 for a pair of earrings once, it's almost unheard of. My earring holes are a little crooked so they tend to let earrings drop off me so I have a collection of singles. I got a single hole punched in one ear so I can still wear them. Necklace breaks? Meh. I have a couple more expensive pieces from other gifts and don't even like wearing them because they just make me uncomfortable wearing that much money that might get lost or stolen.

Primping: I don't shave my legs (7 years now), and no one has ever noticed (some even after I've pointed it out in person). I spend about $3 a year on razor heads for my reusable handle, for shaving the other parts of me that I still do. My partner got an electric razor as a gift, and doesn't use disposables or shaving cream anymore--plus it means he doesn't get razor burn as he used to no matter what before, so that's even better. He shaves his head with the electric razor, and we shave mine into a mohawk with it. I can do my own bangs, and the occasional trim from a student at the cosmetology school can keep my mohawk at the right angle (it looks like a bob cut when you see it from the side, so it's sort of angled and I can't do that quite right by myself--plus I like the texturing they can do with their fancy scissors). I dye my own hair into fun colors, last year my hair cost me a total of $8. I'm estimating $12 for this year when you count the one haircut at the school. Less hair means less shampoo, coloring it means I shampoo it less often; I've had the same bottle of shampoo for two years now and it's not even half gone. We use bar soap instead of body wash.

Spa Days: Recently I had a spa day that consisted of a "revitalizing mineral soak" (epsom salts, green tea, rose petals, a few drops of rosemary and grapefruit oils); "refreshing body, hand & foot scrub" (sugar, olive oil, peppermint and tangerine essential oils); "exfoliating & moisturizing facial masque" (avocado and cucumber, mashed together with some sugar); "build-up stripper/body-building scalp massage" (baking soda, fingertips); "deep conditioning hair masque" (literally wiped the masque off my face and into my hair then rinsed with a reserved pitcher the green tea bath water); all with a refreshing agua fresca (a pitcher of water with cucumber and mint steeped into it). I checked a local health spa recently and for all that I would have paid over $1000! And I wouldn't have even gotten the massage or the mani-pedi I wanted!

Laundry: We make our own detergent. It cost me $3 to make enough to last us about 6 months. If our new place even has a dishwasher I'll make my own soap for that too. Stopped using fabric softener years ago and don't miss it. The clothes come out brilliant, too! Much cleaner and the towels absorb again.

Fancy cleaners: Baking soda and vinegar do darn near anything. I've got off-brand powdered Oxy Clean for the occasional laundry boost (powdered peroxide, cleans the toilet wipes). The only other thing I sometimes need for cleaning is hydrogen peroxide or dish soap.

Bottled water: We have reusable bottles and refill them. Although the mister managed to lose three of mine this year, but they were ones I didn't like much anyway. They didn't even get replaced. But I am thinking about buying a case of them, because we love ONE SPECIFIC flip top over all others and if I buy them by the case I can get them for $2 each, have the two colors I hate to give away as gifts, and still have color-coded water bottles.

Soda pop: I DO buy plain carbonated water to which we sometimes add flavored vinegars or syrups. But mostly when I want soda, I drink our homemade kombucha. It's refreshing, hits that craving for something bubbly, and MUCH healthier for us.

Coffee: I mostly make my own at home. I do occasionally splurge on the go, but when I do I make it REALLY count. Something super fancy I could never make at home.

Restaurants: We have a few specific things we eat out for. Sushi is one of them because when I want sushi I WANT the presentation and the variety of flavor options, and I can't get the same quality of fish they can. But generally we eat much better at home, both healthier and more flavorful, even if we spend the same amount of money--which we rarely do. I won't go out to eat and order something I can make (better) at home. This means I never eat pasta out, rarely order a steak, but the perfect burger, fish fillet on fancy wood boards or anything deep fried is totally on the table. That also limits how much deep-fried or sweet food I eat, if I don't ever make them at home.

Gym membership: This one gets me because I prefer to swim more than anything for my exercise. It's what's best for my body anyway, because especially right now, weight-bearing exercise is bad for my joints. But I generally skip it unless I can get a fantastic deal for a while. I have allowed an extra $20/m for rent in our budget for our new apartment if it has a pool I can swim laps in. But so far those places have actually been comparatively priced to the places without pools and we wouldn't be paying the extra $.

Movie theaters: It is VERY difficult for me to sit through a movie with my joint and back issues. I pretty well can't sit without propping my knee up, which means we have to go to the expensive theater with the recliner chairs and footstools. The expense itself makes it not a regular activity, and if I'm going to pay lots of money to suffer through a movie theater it is going to be for a movie I REALLY want to see with the surround sound and big screen. (Though bonus, we will soon have an expensive 21+ theater near us that has $5 Tuesdays and all the requisite seating arrangements for me, so we might get to go more than once a year.) When it doesn't cost as much, I feel much more able to just leave if being there becomes too much for me to handle.

The Bar: Yes, I know we go to the bars and we enjoy ourselves. But if I want a cocktail, I can have it in the comfort of my own home. For the price of two of us to go have cocktails at the bar, we can buy a couple bottles AND host friends for dinner. So while we don't completely forego the bars, we go for the socialization and the fresh-brewed beer, but mostly use the cocktail menus as inspiration of what to make at home. Plus it's easier to find fruit-wine (i.e. not made with grapes) in stores rather than in bars. So if I want wine, I HAVE to drink it at home. And sitting around the fire pit is pretty awesome.

Books: Mostly just use the library anymore. But both our families LOVE giving books as gifts, so it also makes an easy Wish List for gift-giving holidays. The things we REALLY love to read again and again can get treasured space on our limited bookshelves, and everything else can usually be borrowed.

I have to say, we don't feel deprived by most of this. Sure, I would love to go shopping for clothes whenever I want and see any movie I choose to, and I KNOW Mr. Moon would be at the bar every night if he could afford it, but these are ways that we fit our personal needs and save money in the budget at the same time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How do you recover from the disappointment of getting scammed?

This announcement is a bit sullied, but Mr. Moon and I are ecstatic to announce we will be moving back to Seattle. This of course comes with apartment hunting, not the most exciting of activities and worse yet from 200 miles away.

The mister and I may have gotten caught up in a Craigslist scam. There were a couple red flags along the way, which made me ensure I asked a lot of questions, had solid answers for everything, did some research and recon, and didn't reveal too much personal information too soon.

Well, we still may have gotten caught. I don't know if there will be any identity theft issues, they didn't get much information. But we did waste two days and a LOT of emotional investment to potentially getting an apartment we really wanted, and now we have to start all over. I AM happy to be able to say that we did not exchange any money. The worst blow right now is to my pride.

It's frustrating. I'm grateful to my dad for being another pair of eyes to go over the situation, point out a couple things I hadn't seen yet, recommended some steps to take to protect ourselves when we weren't SURE of the scam status, and that he agreed I'd been pretty careful. But now, I feel like I don't know who to trust on Craigslist anymore. I see scams at every turn. Our budget was pretty skimpy, so now I feel like anything that is within our price range has to be a scam. Especially if it has any amenities to speak of.

I'm disappointed, I'm frustrated, and I'm (just a little) embarrassed. I'm not sure how to get back on the horse now!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Story Time Recipe: Gumbo

Once upon a time, I decided I wanted to make Gumbo. I'd never had gumbo before, and I wanted to try it. So I looked up about 100 different recipes, and figured out what they all had in common:

  • Roux, especially a peanut butter roux
  • Mirepoix
  • Stock, mostly chicken stock
  • Spice
  • Andouille sausage (in most of them)
  • Shrimp (also in most but not all)
Well, I had no idea what half of that was. So I started asking questions. 

What is a roux? It's a thickening agent for sauces and soups. It's a mixture of equal parts fat and flour. You melt the fat and mix the flour into it slowly so as to avoid lumps. Works best if you sift the flour directly into the fat. You can use pretty much any fat, but lard, bacon grease and butter are preferred. All purpose flour is best, but gluten-free websites have other suggestions with good results and you can use whole wheat for some things but you may have to adjust your proportions and thickening expectancy. It is great for anything you want to have a creamy texture, and it is how I get a creamy tomato soup that's vegan. 

What the heck is a peanut butter roux if it doesn't have PB in it? White roux is when you get it all mixed together, and it comes to a bubble; it's still pretty runny and has quite a bit of a gritty, starchy texture and flavor. Blonde roux is when you cook it a little longer, stirring frequently, and toast that flour a little, so it looks like a nice blond ale or a buttercup yellow; it is sticky, but still kind of loose with a light starchy flavor to it. Peanut butter roux is about as sticky and the same color as peanut butter, doesn't feel too gritty and has a nice caramelized starch flavor rather than tasting like uncooked flour. A brown roux is cooked a bit further, to the point where you've almost burnt it but not quite. 

What is a mirepoix? In French cooking, a mirepoix is a mixture of onion, celery and carrots. Other international cuisines have different names for this mixture or a different mixture entirely, but the important thing is, it is the basis of almost any sauce and soup. Here's the kicker: Cajun and Creole cooking use the Holy Trinity instead, where the carrots have been subbed out for bell peppers. So for Gumbo, that's what you want to use. Mirepoix is typically half onion, half an even combination of the other two; for the Holy Trinity, just make sure the celery isn't overpowering the rest and you're not skimping on the onion, this does not have to be an exact science.

Ok but can I use boxed stock or bouillon cubes? Please, just don't. I've been known to use them in various things but whatever you do, absolutely don't use condensed soup mix or cubes or anything like like. Use boxed broth/stock if you must, or make it yourself which is actually really easy. But that is a post for another day.

So what is this Andouille? It's a spicy smoked pork sausage. You can get it in chicken, it's good too. It comes in various spicinesses, but (I'm committing blasphemy here) I used kielbasa the first time with great results and almost any similar smoked sausage would do.

Onto the recipe!
I will never forget that first day. It is ironed onto my brain. I was in the kitchen at 9am, and by 10am I'd gotten the stovetop fired up.

First I made stock: I took a whole chicken and I boiled it with some mirepoix and a sachet of herbs. When it had simmered a bit and the chicken was done (a couple hours), I took it out and carefully pulled the chicken off the bones. I put the bones back in the water and simmer that for another couple hours with the shells from the shrimp. I strained well and discarded the spent vegetables and bones.

Then I made my roux: It took me an hour of constant stirring over my cast iron pan on ridiculously low heat to get my peanut butter roux. I was terrified I would burn it, and I am ever so grateful for the experience. Now I'm confident that I understand the process that's happening, and I can get a peanut butter roux in a few minutes, or not stir so constantly.

I slowly added in my stock, hot though it was because at the time I didn't know it shouldn't have worked. I still do it wrong, and I've never had roux balls the way my culinary instructors insisted I should. As long as I add liquid to roux, I do just fine regardless of the temperatures.

Next I sautéed my holy trinity and added it to the soup with a bunch of seasonings that I couldn't possibly remember now. I sliced up my kielbasa and added it. I let that simmer for a few hours.

By now, people had heard what I was doing. We had neighbors coming by asking what the smell was. The security guard at the gate came by to say he could smell it from there, a quarter mile away. A friend  who grew up in New Orleans came by and I was more nervous to feed anyone than I had ever been up to that point or ever have been since. People were crowded into my living room, waiting. It was 9pm.

I started rice to cook in another pot, and when it was ready I turned the gumbo off and added the shrimp. My recipes said that if it cooked for more than a couple minutes it would become too tough, and to add it right at the end. It only cooked long enough for me to wash some bowls so we would have enough for everyone. We still didn't have enough bowls for everyone, and I told people they were going to have to share.

Our friend from New Orleans got the first bowl. Everyone waited with bated breath, waiting to see his reaction, waiting to see if this was the most horrible thing he'd ever tasted. I won't repeat here what he said because it would make my sailor uncle blush, but suffice it to say, he enjoyed it. We dished out the rest of the bowls, and there weren't enough for everyone. When someone finished a bowl they would refill it and hand it to someone who hadn't eaten yet. We called the security guard down to grab a bite to eat, and he took a bowl back to the guard shack with him to keep him warm on the cold wintery night.
That was the first time I'd ever cooked something completely from scratch. I was hooked. I knew this was my calling. I knew I wanted to spend my life as the mama in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove for hours to feed people a meal that would be gobbled up in minutes, the bowls and plates licked clean.

I can only hope my efforts to please my guests tomorrow are half as successful.

To Do List: August Quarterly Update

A nice, updated list after the second quarter of the year has gone by. I highlighted our highest priorities in red, the things we are working on now or will be in the next few weeks. Deleted the old Done list, what's crossed off is done since our last updated To Do list in April.

Front Yard:
  • Re-edge the existing beds, and refill with wood chips as needed--not buying more though!
  • Prune roses. All the roses. Possibly use the pruned bits to grow roots on new plants, potentially even to replace the existing ones that aren't in the best shape. 
  • Fill the beds with flowers. What we have now leaves most of the yard bare most of the time, I'd like to landscape in such a way as to have something blooming most of the time and not ever have to look at a bunch of rotting yuck. 
  • Mum has decided to hire contractors to relandscape the entire front yard because the project has gotten too big to manage. I approve!
Back Yard:
  • Plant the toilet planter or get rid of it. (Half done.)
  • Prune the roses along the shed, re-trellis them, or get rid of them.
  • Remove the tree by the patio, and the one by the compost.
  • Remove most of the plants (and wood chips) along the back of the house and re-plant that whole area with usefulness and patio parties in mind. 
  • Re-edge the existing beds. 
  • Break down firewood. (uncrossed-off because we added more wood to be done!)
  • Hang eye bolts on the hanging planter rail. 
  • Replace the crappy, non working grill with one that works--bonus, we are looking at one with a side burner so we may be able to can out there!
Vegetable Gardening:
  • Build compost bin.
  • Install rain barrels. 
Outside House:
  • Power wash siding, concrete, windows.
  • Repaint wheelchair ramp. 
  • Put away the final boxes that need moved into their homes.
  • Pick up two couches from an Aunt.
  • Arrange garage as lounge area. (Half done)
  • Related: Move to a smaller storage unit if possible. 
Inside House/Hallway:
  • Paint all the things! Every single room needs a paint job.
  • Scrub hardwood in entryway and seal it. 
  • Replace some/all of the flooring (esp. kitchen and bathrooms, also dining room, hallway, living room).
  • Replace chandelier with globe light. 
  • Bolster the small appliance shelves.
  • Sand and refinish the countertop edges and backsplash.
  • Install a tile backsplash behind stovetop.
Dining Room:
  • Clean, reorganize bookshelves.
  • Sand and refinish the tabletop. 
  • Replace curtains.
Living Room:
  • Replace/Dye curtains.
  • Sort, scrub, and reorganize. 
  • Set up Mum's computer. 
Master Bedroom:
  • Install more lights.
Small Bedroom:
  • Unpack books.
  • Put up my jewelry and hair stuff. 
  • Bring records in from garage.
  • Sort out clothes for donating.
Laundry Room:
  • Make our own laundry soap
  • Lacto-fermented veggies
  • Kombucha
  • Sourdough and whole grain everything! Pretzels, pancakes/waffles, cookies, who knows what else
  • Yogurt and sour cream
  • Perfect the mozzarella recipe
  • Roasted chickpea snacks (These were disappointing and we won't be doing them again.)
  • Sprouts (successfully done once, need to get back on track with those)
  • Mr. Moon wants to get more into baking in general, and I want to get into baking with soaked & sprouted grains
  • CANNING! (Successfully did our first canning day!)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Daily Accomplishments


  • Successfully got all the daily chores done
  • Shopped all the groceries for the week in the hot, muggy sunshine
  • Picked up some crafting supplies for a project in the works
  • Washed all the laundry
  • I count walking through the grocery store as part of my physical therapy for the week. 
  • Relaxed with a game of cards (rummy) where I came back from a first-hand 80 point deficit to win the game!
  • Finished drying the laundry
  • Mr. Moon went with his parents to check out replacement grills for their broken one
  • I took a lovely nap! And then discovered that an ice pack on the forehead really helps with that post-nap hangover-like headache
  • Forgot to water the garden
  • Folded all the laundry and got it put away! This is a bloody miracle! 
What we did not do today? The kitchen. Again. Second week in a row with his new work schedule. Looks like we will be fiddling with chores again to get that kitchen scrubbing onto a different day. I know I keep saying that part of this process is being flexible and being willing to change things up when they're not working, but I keep saying it because I need to convince myself! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Perfection and the art of forgivennes; Daily Accomplishments

There are so many things I want to do that fall under "daily journaling" and I have never been very good at that. I'd like to do a quick, one paragraph/5 bullet points entry on this blog every day about what we did around the homestead, but I'm afraid I would end up losing steam and feeling like a failure. Of course now that I've said that "out loud," it almost feels like failing even more not to even try. But if I've tried something similar a bunch of times with less than stellar results, is it failure to save my energy?

I know that I struggle with perfection, and the phrase "do it right or don't do it at all" was oft uttered toward me in my childhood. So at least I come by it honestly! But I think accepting a certain amount of imperfection in our lives IS doing it right. Being able to forgive ourselves as easily as we forgive others is difficult, a lifelong lesson, and one worth learning. I'm hard on myself, and that's why there is a tag on this blog about Being Gentle. I hope that as I learn to be gentle on myself, I can also learn better to be gentle with my loved ones. I'm grateful to have found a partner so willing and ready to go on that journey with me, learning to make ourselves and our relationship priorities in our lives, learning to treat ourselves and each other with the respect we both deserve, and challenging each other to learn and grow and be better all along the way.

Today on the homestead, I:
  • Did 20% of my physical therapy exercises for the week. A great head start!
  • Wrote a blog entry for each of my blogs, personal and public. 
  • Cleared the towering pile of clutter off the desk in our room.
  • Updated our to-do lists on the wall so they are printed on pretty paper (ok I started this yesterday but I finished it today!)
  • Got my head shaved!
  • Supervised Mr. Moon ding chores--but forgot to set timers for them and nothing had been deep cleaned in a while so everything took twice as long as it normally would but hey, it's 5:30pm and all the hard stuff for the day is done. I CALL THAT A WIN!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Laundry Soap

First off, I have been dealing with a bunch of fatigue and lack of creativity. For a while now. It's why I haven't posted about the plum project that we worked so hard on. I don't know if I'm just burned out on it or what, but I feel like I have nothing to say about it. Maybe I should just post the pictures without commentary. 

I also promised a discussion about the Oat Dough I made, but then I discovered my oats had been rancid before I used them and the stuff tasted nasty. So I didn't even have a good product to discuss. I am really winning this week, huh?

But one thing did go right!

I have been meaning to make my own laundry soap for about two years now. Unfortunately, Mr. Moon has trouble gauging when he needs to add laundry soap to the shopping list, and waits until we are completely out on/right before laundry day and we don't have time for experiments like making laundry soap. Combine that with trouble finding the ingredients, and it's taken two years to have all the ingredients AND the time AND the lack of store-bought soap to even be able to make some. This time only because the bottle I bought--exactly the same brand and scent as I used before--was driving my asthma nuts as soon as we opened it, even after the clothes had been washed, dried, and aired out. YUCK. I returned it, and came home to make some laundry soap instead of buying more. I'm just done with my asthma getting irritated and getting headaches from laundry scents.

My biggest problem with the free and clear soaps is twofold:

1) They often are not truly unscented, but actually use a masking fragrance or a chemical to remove the naturally occurring fragrance. No matter which method they used, I seemed to have a reaction to it (either in my lungs if they used a masking agent or my skin if they used a removal agent); and

2) They would leave the clothes smelling Not Clean.

Now #2 this is a huge issue for a lot of reasons. For one, if I had even the smallest suspicion my clothes weren't getting clean, my OCD would go into overdrive and I would end up re-washing everything I own and throwing away anything I couldn't easily wash. I've done it twice, it's not fun. For another, we are societally trained to associate the perfume with a Clean feeling, even if the clothes aren't actually CLEAN! In the short term, I had to switch back to perfumey laundry soap to trick my OCD into saying SEE THESE CLOTHES ARE CLEAN and forcibly not allowing myself to fixate on the idea that they might not be. But that is exhausting, and not a sustainable solution. I wanted something that got my clothes clean without perfume.

Important to note is that we have hard water. When we moved in I had no idea, since there are no rust stains in the tubs and toilets as I'm used to with hard water. I knew "hard water" meant a heavy mineral content, but I had no idea that there were different kinds of "hard water" and not all of them leave red stains on the plumbing fixtures! It was water bath preserving the plums that finally clued me in, when the water turned WHITE fairly quickly due to concentration of minerals as the water evaporated off. Explains a lot actually.

One of the things it explains is something we already knew, that powdered detergent doesn't dissolve well in our washer. The 'Rents still use powdered detergent, but I got tired of our clothes coming out of the dryer covered in soapy granules. So dry soap isn't an option. Had to make the liquid stuff.

I love One Good Thing By Jillee and when it came time to make my own, having already futzed around the internet looking for directions, I knew she had a recipe and directions I liked. And of course, she did! Jillee's Directions! No need for me to reinvent the wheel here.

It took about ten minutes, since we have a stand mixer grating attachment. It was super easy, and super fast. Only thing is, I followed the directions for the 2 gallon batch, not the 5 gallon batch--the only difference being water quantity. And that was apparently a problem!

The problem was NOT that I had about a cup more than fit into my containers. No, that was fine. The problem was that after the detergent cooled, it gelled into something that was NOT conducive to pouring. The smallest container of course cooled and gelled first, and I added some water to try to dilute it. With... well, UNmixed results:

I had ALREADY shaken vigorously! Well it took a little more elbow grease and Mr. Moon assuming the male role in the relationship (i.e. more vigorous shaking than my poor, sore arms could manage), but between the two of us we managed to get the water to incorporate into the gel blob so we had a pourable substance. Fortunately, the rest of it was in much bigger containers so they hadn't cooled as much yet--they were still pourable. We dumped one whole bottle of soap and half the other one into an empty kitty litter bucket, added warm water to both, and now we have a perfectly useable laundry soap for a fairly insignificant cost. About a year's worth for effectively $3.

Ok but DOES IT WORK?! Like, On the clothes?!

Preliminary results are good.

The Fels Naptha we used had enough of a scent to it (not perfume but a natural scent created when oils saponify) that it was a little overpowering in bar form. But that one little bar made A LOT of liquid soapy detergenty stuff! I was standing over the concentrated version as it was dissolving in the pot, and while it was unpleasantly strong, it wasn't making me gag or cough or sneeze or anything--so that's a good sign! The final result doesn't have an overpowering scent at all, it's very pleasant. It DOES have a scent to it but nowhere near what I was getting even in the less-scented versions of store-bought laundry soaps. And if I wanted to I could add some essential oils but I wanted to see how it was working without them.

So far so good! Smells came out of armpits and dish towels, so that's a REALLY good sign. Now, this picture is a little misleading because it included Mr. Moon's jeans from a week of teaching boy scouts to shoot archery in a sand pit, but just SEE how dirty that water is:

Nasty! But you know what it means? THAT DIRT IS NOT STILL IN MY CLOTHES.

So I say go for it. For $3 I got the same amount of laundry soap as I paid $18 at Costco. It was super easy to make, stores fine by all reports, and cleans my clothes better than the Arm & Hammer with Oxyclean I've used for years. The only thing I don't know yet is how it treats the clothes long-term. If there is remarkably increased wear and tear, meaning if these chemicals are harsher than the store-bought ones, I may need to figure something else out. But that is something I won't know for months.

Have you made your own laundry soap? What results have you had? If you haven't, have you considered it? Tell us in the comments!
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