Photos copyright 2013-2016 Regina Rickert. All rights reserved.

I'm going to try firing up the blog again for 2016, especially the nature/landscape side of things. It is in desperate need of a redesign so I will be working on that while shooting for KSTV. Unfortunately the slideshows on older posts have been disabled by flickr. You can find all of my work in my gallery.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Easy Homemade Valentines

We made these little guys a few years ago for school valentines. They were so popular, I thought I would share a couple of simple crafts we made this year.

Both of these crafts came from Disney Family Fun magazine and you can find complete instructions for these and others here.

We found the gumdrop hearts and cute heart bags at our local Dollar Tree. We also found gumdrop hearts at Target, but the packages contained fewer candies and were individually wrapped.

Finished bags:

We still need to add tags to the rings. We used address labels for the arrow bags. The kids are excited to take these to school for their class parties. Both crafts were simple to make, the supplies were inexpensive, and the kids enjoyed making them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Finally some snow

After an unseasonably warm January, we finally got a dusting of snow this morning. These are seed pods on our golden rain tree.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap & Easy Laundry Center

The poor home/nature blog has been neglected. I have been busy shooting many of the Kentucky men's basketball home games at Rupp Arena. Click here if you want to check out some shots of the number one team in the nation. Go Cats!

With a family of 8, I am always looking for creative ways to save a few pennies. I came across a recipe for homemade laundry detergent a few months ago, but never got around to trying it. Well today the planets aligned and I have now successfully made my first batch of diy detergent. I combined tips from several different places including: Duggar Family Recipes, Fabulessly Frugal and Tipnut. 

The ingredients were all readily available at my local Kroger and the whole process took less than a half an hour. As an added bonus, the house smells like I have been cleaning all day. ;) I also like that this should eliminate the need to wash my daughter's clothes separately due to her sensitive skin and allergies. She enjoyed helping me with the process. It was much easier than I expected.

Here is what you need to get started:

4  Cups - hot tap water
1  Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup - Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

If you do not like the scent or have sensitive skin, Ivory can be used in place of the Fels-Naptha soap. (ETA- I also added a small, inexpensive bottle of All Free & Clear to the first batch, but no longer find this necessary.)

Grate the bar soap and add it to 4 cups of hot tap water in a saucepan. I shaved off chunks with a knife and used my food processor until crumbled, others suggested using a cheese grater. You can microwave the bar for a few seconds first to soften (ETA: I tried this when making the powdered recipe and found it to be much easier).

Stir over medium-low heat until the soap is melted.  Add the Borax and washing soda.

Now you will need a 5 gallon bucket. Fill the bucket half full with hot tap water. Add the melted soap mixture. Mix well. Fill the bucket to the top with more tap water. Stir once again. Cover and let sit overnight to thicken. You will then fill an old detergent bottle or other container half full with the mixture and half full with water. Using this method, the recipe will yield 10 gallons of liquid detergent. A great tip I found: cut off the top of a gallon plastic milk jug to use as a scoop and funnel for pouring the gel into the container. Works great!

I cleaned and filled a large container we had waiting for recycling and several other empty detergent bottles.  I like the fresh scent as is, but you can also add essential oils once the detergent has cooled. I made a mistake and added the powdered ingredients to the bucket of warm water instead of the soap mixture and my first batch did not gel. The bottles you see pictured are undiluted for that reason, so the yield was about 5 gallons.

For less than the cost of 1 bottle of Tide, I was able to make 5 gallons of homemade detergent and still have extra supplies for future batches!

 -Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads if diluted)
-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads if diluted)

 You can add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle to soften and brighten clothes, eliminating the need for fabric softener.

If you are short on storage space or prefer a powdered laundry soap, check out this great tutorial from The Thrifty Couple.

ETA:  Since I had extra supplies, I decided to try the above powdered soap recipe to see which method works best for our family. It was even easier than the liquid and I love that it can be stored in just a coffee can or decorative jar. I think all of these homemade recipes require a little trial and error. Don't give up! There are lots of cost-effective options if one method or ingredient doesn't work for your family's needs.

There is an alternative recipe that uses Purex powdered detergent instead of bar soap. You can find it at The Saved Quarter.

Yesterday I found a great recipe for homemade fabric softener over at Fabulessly Frugal. I had been adding a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of each load with surprisingly good results. The clothes were soft and there was no vinegar scent like I would have expected. This recipe is a variation, adding hair conditioner to vinegar and hot water. I chose Suave Ocean Breeze because it has a fresh, clean scent. I prefer a little scent, but if you do not, vinegar works well on its own. 

ETA 7/16/2012-After using our homemade laundry soap for more than 5 months now, we are thrilled to have found such a cost-saving alternative. We have tweaked the powder recipe and have changed it to add 1 c. of Purex Color Safe Bleach, an inexpensive addition. I have also replaced the bar soap with regular Purex powdered detergent. I can mix up a large batch in just a few minutes. I have always preferred liquid detergent, but the space-saving benefits and ease of producing and tweaking will more than likely have the powder winning out. As you can see, it has taken some experimentation to figure out what works best for our needs and budget, but we have been pleasantly surprised with the results. My recipe now goes as follows:

3 cups Purex
2 cups Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
2 cups 20 Mule Team Borax
1 cup Purex Color Safe Bleach

My daughter prefers the smell of zote soap, so I sometimes mix up a batch of the liquid using zote bar soap for her.

Update: 1/26/2013: Our newest laundry experiment is with no grate liquid laundry soap.  I still keep the powder recipe on hand, but this liquid method is easy, cheap and smells great. No Grate Homemade Laundry Soap I use 1/4 cup. of each and also dissolve a capful of Purex crystals into the batch. I catch them on sale and a little goes a long way in this recipe.

Pictured below is a batch of finished liquid laundry soap using the first method and some of our powdered laundry soap. Good luck and let me know if you try this at home and how it works for you!

 Our homemade laundry soap

My next project was to build a center for sorting or storing our laundry. Currently I fold laundry on our pool table, where it sits until I bring it up or the kids dig through it and I end up folding it all over again.  I wanted something that would free up the pool table and make it easier for the kids to be responsible for their own clean laundry. After finding several beautiful examples of laundry centers on pinterest, I set our to find some cabinets or shelving I could adapt to suit our needs. I searched ReStore several times without success. 

I finally came up with a quick and easy way to "build" my own version. It isn't the fancy laundry center I set out to construct, but it is hidden away in the basement so it really just needed to be functional. On a trip to Lowe's, I noticed a 24" deep shelving unit on sale and a lightbulb went off. I had been making this way more difficult than it needed to be. I ran to find a laundry basket to check the dimensions. I ended up getting the laundry baskets from WalMart. They were $2.97 each. The storage units also come in 3 and 4 shelf designs. Best part of all... no "honey-do" list required! I put it together myself in about 5 minutes. I hope it will take a little of the chaos out of the laundry process for our family of 8.

You could also purchase 2 of the 2 shelf units and put them side by side. This would give you a folding surface on the top. I separated mine to show what that would look like. You would have a shelf at the bottom like above if you did the 2 shelf units. I probably should have done that in hindsight since I have the space. 

We added some name labels above each basket. No more piles of laundry all over the basement and less trips for mom up and down the stairs. Win, win!


Copyright for these photos belongs solely to Regina Rickert. All rights reserved.