Signs of Summer

I don’t have a clothesline yet and not even sure where to put it as the layout of the house and yard is unusual. So for now I’m using my wooden clothes horse. The family cloth, however, doesn’t dry well over thick round wooden rails and tends to get blown off easily. So I rigged up this hemp twine across a corner of the deck:

I mentioned in my last post that the strawberries were ripening. We’re in full-on strawberry mode now, and have been enjoying regular bowls of sweet goodness all week. Thank heavens at least one of my children partakes in our harvesting!

Categories: country scenes, Homemaking, know your food | 2 Comments

Easy Bread

I’ve been baking my own bread off and on for a couple of years now, ever since I bought a breadmaker. I liked the ease of the breadmaker, but with a 4 hour cycle I would often think “hmm, I’d like some bread” but didn’t want to have to wait that long so I just wouldn’t bother (and it didn’t keep well). I could have mixed it up at night and set the timer, but in our small home it would invariably wake me up when it started whirring away at 4 am. Anyway, I managed to break it a few weeks ago when I attempted to make spelt bread.

Spelt does not have gluten, which means it doesn’t rise. I should therefore have been suspicious when the recipe I found online didn’t call for wheat gluten, but it was my first attempt at using a bread recipe other than those in my breadmaker’s user guide, and my first time baking with spelt flour, so I hoped for the best. The rock hard dough was too much for the breadmaker’s motor and one of the hooks that attaches to the paddle-turning thingy ripped almost right off. This was a thick chunk of metal, my friends! Anyways, the spelt bread was a dud (and not just because the paddle broke) and from then on I had no breadmaker.

I decided to try the “5 minute bread” I’d been hearing about. These two books, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, provide readers with a “master recipe” that one can draw on for up to two weeks. This means you skip half the breadmaking process on bread-day. A four-hour process is reduced to less than 2 hours and that I can handle. Plus, there is no kneading involved so making your bread each day is easy-peasy.

I started with a recipe that came in my Mother Earth News magazine. It was a whole wheat recipe and was very simple to make (once I’d gone out and bought wheat gluten, that is). It has taken me some time to perfect the actual bread-baking because the oven in our new home runs very hot. I’d end up with bread that baked too fast – the crust would be too hard and dry and the insides were doughy. I’ve been trying lower temps and today I tried 400 and ended up with a pretty-close-to-perfect loaf. I suppose I’m still not “up there” with the true breadmakers who knead their dough and start from scratch each morning, but we go through a lot of bread in this household and if I’m to ever meet my lofty goal of not having to buy store bread I need something I can handle. I’m going to order the books soon so I can try other recipes. I’m hoping to find something that would make good sandwich bread for kids – light, with a softer and thinner crust.

Categories: Homemaking, know your food | 1 Comment

Sorry, Martha, but it’s over between us.

I used to love watching home renovation shows. It started way back in the early nineties with Bob Vila’s Home Again series. The last show I was addicted to was Trading Spaces before we discontinued our cable service. I loved getting ideas on how to decorate a home, seeing what I liked and disliked, and imagining what my future house would look like when I had it done up just the way I wanted.

In fact, it was only recently that I was entertaining the idea of being in a brand new home. There was the condo fiasco, and then the chance to purchase bare land that would require a house to be built upon it. The first didn’t pan out because, you know, I was temporarily insane and all. And the second didn’t pan out because we would have been house/land poor, living on a shoestring, with no chance of paying off our mortgage before we died. And so we ended up here, on glorious Vancouver Island, with 4 beautiful acres to call our own for less than half the price (and half that much land) on the Mainland.

It did come with a home. Well, a mobile home to be precise. Otherwise known as a trailer. Renovating these things is not quite the same process as doing renos on a stick house. These puppies are metal framed, with metal roofs and walls made of something – I haven’t quite figured out what – but they don’t have studs you can hammer nails into and the walls are thinner than standard drywall. Old trailers generally aren’t worth very much and therefore renovations don’t tend to produce enough value increase to make up for the cost. So there’s no real incentive for us to either add on to the place, or redecorate to bring it into the new century. The 80’s country-style wallpaper and cabinets are going to stay, and there is therefore little incentive for me to shop at Ikea or Home Sense for funky trinkets, carpeting, or cheap modern furnishings. So little point, in fact, that it has pretty much robbed me of even the effort of thinking about what might look good in that corner, or whether I should try to match the bathroom towels to the wallpaper.

And do you know, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, and this brings me great surprise on a regular basis. I wander around doing my laundry and picking up toys and find myself happy and content with our little trailer home. It’s warm and dry and therefore serves its purpose adequately. It’s also in good condition, which means that even though the wallpaper and cabinets are dated, they are all in good shape and there isn’t that decrepit, falling-apart look that does more to make a home look unattractive then a lack of fashion sense, IMHO. And I can’t deny that cleaning a 1000 sq ft house takes considerably less time than cleaning one much larger.

I regularly ask myself how I came to this point. How did I, who used to spend considerable time daydreaming about whether my future mud room should have wainscotting, or whether I want the exterior to be shingles or hardiplank, get to the point where I am happy living in a mobile home with wallpaper in every room (and every room a different pattern)?

I suppose part of it is that I don’t think of this as a permanent house. It won’t last forever and there will come a time when it will make more sense to get rid of it and start over again. We might replace it with a newer model, build something more permanent, or just sell the place and move on to a bigger acreage. Who knows? But this isn’t THE house in which we will see our children grow up and ourselves grow old. So perhaps I have just put off my inner Martha for a time, and am therefore able to be patient and content because in the back of my mind I will yet, one day, get to design my own home.

On the other hand, it may well be that I have managed to truly internalize some of the values of Living Simply to which I aspire. Perhaps I am not just learning, but feeling, that Stuff really isn’t necessary for happiness. And it may also be that when I can look outside my window and see this:

…instead of this:

…that suddenly what my house looks like isn’t of much concern.

Categories: consumerism, Homemaking, simple living | 1 Comment

Work-Life Balance

work-life-balanceThe good news is that, over the last few months, my consulting business has started to take off. Financially this has really been a life-saver since Husband has not found work since he was laid off last July. The income I’m bringing in has made the difference between getting by each month on our own, versus dipping into our savings (reserved for buying that dream acreage!). I’m grateful for that; and the truth is I really enjoy the work I do – especially since I can do it almost all from home and on my own time, and it’s interesting.

The not-so-good news is that this month things have been so busy that I have not been able to fulfill my duties as Number One homemaker. Husband has been taking great care of the kids, but pretty much everything else has fallen by the wayside. Laundry has piled up, there has been no meal plan this month and the kids have been surviving on foods that I’d rather they not be eating so often. We’ve already spent too much on takeout, and I’m starting to get really sick of eating cereal two or three times a day. The house is a total mess and the plastic bag holder which I have managed to keep practically empty has now filled up (Hubby forgets to use the cloth bags most of the time). The kids’ bedsheets need to be changed…should I go on? 

Now it may be that this month is just a fluke and things will be quiet again for another many weeks to come. But it also may be that business is going to keep going or even build up further, and this has caused me to do some thinking about what I’m going to have to let go of should I find myself more engaged in paid work. I thought I’d share that thought process with you, since my guiding values are those I consider to define Simple Living.

First and foremost, I will not give up so much time with my kids that I can’t be the primary caregiver and homeschooling parent. At MOST I want to work part-time (maybe 50 hours per month). Son will be joining Daughter’s homeschooling program this fall which means more reporting and greater activity on that front. I’m so excited about it and no amount of money is going to take me away from that. I’ve already decided that, when and if I am lucky enough to get to that point, I will hire an assistant to take over the daily managing of the business. I earn very good money for my time, but for me no amount is worth losing full-time status with my kids.

I will also not give up my volunteering with La Leche League. I think volunteering is so important and I get so much out of working with new mothers and helping them along in their breastfeeding and mothering journey. I am thinking of taking over an administrative position in our provincial chapter and I’d like to take a comprehensive breastfeeding course some time in the next year or so (taught by my co-leader, an amazing mentor and role model). It doesn’t take up that much of my time, but it is time away from family so it eats into what’s left after working.

And so I’m left with my one other role: homemaker. I love being a homemaker and I take great pride in the way I run my household. I love that we buy  wholesome, healthy foods that are produced ethically and locally whenever possible. I love that we use only 1/4 of our allotted waste volume each week, and that we compost. I love keeping things orderly and running smoothly. But that in itself is pretty much a full-time job. Whenever I’ve taken a day off here or there to work, I almost always come home (or come out of my home office) to a house that needs a good day’s worth of organizing and tidying to get back to an acceptable (to me) state. As much as I love my domestic duties, they are very different from parenting, volunteering, and consulting in one very important regard: the latter three are jobs only I can do.

And so I’m entertaining the idea of bringing someone in every now and then to help me with the general housework. Up until last fall when we moved to this house we had a cleaning service come every other week – I decided I didn’t really care all that much about how clean things were – wiping down a toilet doesn’t take much time when a guest is on the way. What gets to me is when things aren’t tidy, when things aren’t in their rightful place. And of course certain things like laundry and taking out the recycling/garbage also need to be done fairly regularly otherwise the system starts to break down. If I brought in someone once or twice a week to do those tasks it would leave me more time with the children. I’d still be able to enjoy plenty of time to bake, hang laundry, and tend to my vegetable garden. I’d be a part time homemaker and my hired help would still be doing things my way, so overall the house would be running the way I like it.

I have struggled with the notion that someone who is being true to the concepts of Simple Living doesn’t hire domestic help. It seems rather elitist. So I began to think about what Vicki Robins wrote in her book Your Money or Your Life: calculate the true cost of your job and purchases. So I estimated the cost of having a housekeeper come twice a week for six hours each time and that amount is less than I charge for 2 hours of consulting. So it seems to me a pretty darn good trade, don’t you think? I work 2 extra hours in one week and I get 12 hours of housework done; that’s 10 extra hours with the kids. 

Of course, this may all be premature. The above calculation also depends on how many hours I bill each month – the less I bill, the more of my income is being taken up by hired help. If things stay at their current pace and Husband starts bringing in some money  it will be worth it, if I’m lucky enough to see business grow further it will definitely be worth it. On the other hand, things might slow down a bit now and that would be just fine with me, too! It’s nice to feel like I have options, and some control over my choices in life. And while I hate to sound preachy, that comes from being debt-free, y’all (props to Dave Ramsey)! So perhaps I am being true to Simple Living after all. 🙂

Categories: Homemaking, money matters, simple living | 6 Comments

I’m sewing!

sewing-machineIt was several months ago that I excitedly took possession of an old hand-me-down sewing machine. After “test driving” it with some scraps of paper and finding it working perfectly, it sat for all this time waiting for me to find a project. That opportunity presented itself recently when I purchased a pair of pants that needed to be hemmed – usually I would send these to my mother, an excellent seamstress, but this time I decided to do it myself.

I also happened to finally get around to a thrift store expedition, from which I brought home 3 men’s flannel shirts ($5.99 each) to turn into cloth wipes. I cut them up into squares, not bothering to measure since I don’t really know what size I like best anyway, and because I am impatient, and because I wanted to use as much of the fabric as I could. 

scrapsreadyFor the last few days I have been happily sewing away whenever I get the chance, even treating myself to an old movie (The Apartment, 1960, staring a very young and beautiful Shirley McLean) one evening. The flood of memories this brought back was really lovely – my mother sewed throughout my whole childhood, and I had forgotten how many evenings were spent with her sewing while watching a movie on TV. Not only were the memories happy ones, but it felt extra special to be passing this scene on to my own children.

I had a few glitches to overcome. First, the bobbin winder didn’t work because the rubber ring that rubs against the main wheel had dried up and broken off. Determined not to be put off I wrapped a rubber band around it. I have to remove the cover plate and hold onto a few parts, but I can wind my bobbins and that’s all that matters!

I also had a frustrating first attempt when the stitches kept getting all tangled up. If I hadn’t used it when I first brought it home I’d have worried it was broken. After trying all sorts of variations on thread and bobbin tension I resorted to Googling the subject. Sure enough the advice was to check the needle to make sure it was inserted correctly. I double-checked and, even though I’d read the instructions, I’d still managed to put it in the wrong way! With another problem solved, I happily proceeded.

Since then I’ve broken a few needles but was finally able to head out yesterday and get some replacements (thank goodness the standard needle size hasn’t changed in the last 40 years!). The pants were successfully hemmed and I’m almost finished with my wipes. I used a wide zig-zag stitch and polyester thread since they will be washed frequently. Here’s a sneak preview:


I’m very happy to have learned another skill in the repertoire of self-sufficiency. I doubt I will take this hobby much farther than doing little projects like this one – I am far too impatient to properly measure things. (knitting a test gauge is usually done under self-imposed duress!). But it is still a very useful tool and, combined with the warm memories it provides of my own childhood, a priceless addition to my home.

Categories: being green, Homemaking, learning, simple living | 5 Comments

The Dish on Natural Soap

I was going to wait to write this post but I’m just so excited by the results that I had to post about it today.

As some of you may remember, I decided a few months ago that once I’d used up the last of my mega-bottles of cheap, commercial shampoo and conditioner I would switch to natural shampoo bars. I wanted less plastic, and soap made from natural (i.e. non-petroleum based) products that would be gentler on my body and also on the Earth (because all our soaps and detergents end up in our water system). 

6This past week a large Craft Fair was on at our local convention centre and there were at least six different soapmakers, so it was my chance to check out the products and talk to the people who make the stuff. I bought a Rosemary Shampoo Bar from Pacific Coast Soap Works. Yesterday I tried it for the first time. 

Now I confess, I was a bit nervous and not expecting a positive outcome. First, I’ve read about funky hair syndrome and was unsure how a rinse with diluted vinegar would turn my hair from greasy into gorgeous. Second, I had a nice chat with the lovely lady at Kama Soaps and she told me her long tresses didn’t like the shampoo bars she’d made; despite the vinegar rinse her hair was “funky” even after several days of use (she suspected it was her very hard water; ours is nice and soft; and sure enough the link above notes that funky hair syndrome can result from very hard water). So I wondered if my long tresses would suffer the same fate. Finally, I’ve bought into the whole “humans need commercial shampoo and conditioner” bit that I found it hard to believe that a bar of soap that is basically just saponified oils with some nice smells thrown in would be sufficient to clean and condition my hair.

sharosmrAnd so into the shower I went. The soap lathered up very nicely, though interestingly the lather seemed to disappear the more I scrubbed my head (adding water helped). I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have Sodium Laurel Sulfate in your stuff! When I rinsed my hair it felt…normal! See, I ran out of my commercial conditioner a few weeks before I ran out of shampoo, so I was using a spray-on, leave-in conditioner after I was done in the shower. So I was getting used to that feeling of having hair stripped of all its oils after shampooing. You know – you run your hands over your wet hair and they don’t slide along, but rather stick to the hair and pull on it. Well, after using the shampoo bar it didn’t feel stripped at all. I didn’t notice any difference after using the vinegar rinse (which was the same bottle I use to mop my floors, lol, gotta love using natural products in your home), but the next time I washed my hair it did seem that my hair felt a bit more “slippery” after the rinse, who knows? So…after I was done in the shower I wrapped my long hair up in a towel, and when I was dry and dressed I unwrapped it to see what sort of disaster lay in wait for me (I was concerned that my hair wasn’t slippery because it was “funky”). The first amazing thing I noticed is that I was able to comb it easily, no spray-on conditioner needed! Right then and there I can look forward to less hair breakage. The next test was how it would look when it dried. I’m pleased to report that it looked lovely. Now, my hair is quite damaged from years of colouring and bad shampoos so while it wasn’t model-perfect it was, for my hair, really really nice. It feels great, too. Finally, the next day my hair did not feel any greasier than it does after washing with the conventional stuff. If anything it feels less so because it hasn’t been coated with chemical goop. I’ve now washed my hair twice with this shampoo bar and vinegar rinse and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Yet one more benefit is when you are rinsing the vinegar out of your hair and some of it gets into your mouth by accident, instead of tasting disgusting chemical goop it was sorta like salad! Anyways, the shampoo bar was $7 for a 6.5 oz slab that will probably last us for months given we don’t wash our hair every day. Definitely a good value!

Since I started using natural soaps this summer I have been very impressed with how long they last. I do keep them on a wooden, slatted soap dish like the one pictured above and I leave the shower door open when we’re not inside, and the window in the bathroom is always open. That all helps a great deal. The prices are not bad at all. For example, my favorite (so far!) soaps from the Sunshine Coast Body Care company are 4 bars for $20 and each bar lasts me at least a month. I got a big bar of Hemp Forest soap from Kama and it was $5.50 (it’s made with hemp oil and scented with pine and cedarwood; I’m using it now and it smells lovely and the lather is luxuriously smooth and creamy). I also got a lime Luffa Soap from Pacific Coast for under $6. I think people assume (I know I always did) that natural soaps are a luxury that you can’t afford for daily use, but really that isn’t the case. Sure, they may be expensive compared to commercially available soaps, but they last just as long if not longer, and they are such a wonderful experience for the body and senses, plus it feels so good to be buying a responsible product from a sustainable, local small business. Is five or six dollars a month really too much for all that? I can tell you all that I am a complete convert and I will never, ever go back to commercial drugstore products again. So get you all to a soapmaker near you (there are some amazing ones in the US) and make the switch! (as I write this I keep running my hands through my hair, not quite believing that the softness is natural and not a coating of crud!)

Categories: being green, Homemaking, simple living | 7 Comments

Crazy, Busy, but Good

I want to apologize for not keeping up with the blog much lately. And I’ve barely had time to visit all my favorite blogs, too. So I’m sorry if I seem to have disappeared!

There have been some big changes around our household lately. My husband got laid off; but it was a Good Thing. He got a nice severance package which made up for the fact that he wasn’t planning on leaving until January of next year: we ended up with the same amount of savings but sooner, and without him having to slave away at a job he didn’t like for six more months! The best part is that he ended up getting a new job with the guy he was hoping to work with next year, so he’s very happy.

This new job has him working mostly from home and setting his own hours (this is why we thought it would be a good job to have when we move – it doesn’t require us to stay in the city). There will be busy periods interspersed between slow periods and that works out perfectly for us. My business has suddenly picked up speed so we find ourselves in the happy position of sharing child care and work duties pretty equally. It was what we’d wanted all along but we didn’t expect it to happen this soon. We’re still shaking our heads and smiling at the way it just sort of landed in our laps!

So, with two case deadlines looming I’ve been spending a lot of time working and not much time on my blog. Things will slow down a little bit after those cases are done, and I plan to get back into more regular blogging then. I hope you’ll bear with me through these adjustments, as Husband and I try to settle on a schedule of housework, cooking, and grocery shopping. It’s great having him home, but we need to completely rework our routine and that part is challenging!

Categories: career, Homemaking, parenting, the dream | 2 Comments

Aesthetics: luxury or necessity?

I’ve been thinking lately about the effect of aesthetics on our sense of well-being. Is money spent on making a place “look nice” an investment in mental peace? Or is it just another excuse to go shopping?

I started my interest in the aesthetics of environment back in my twenties when home improvement shows began cropping up all over TV. I loved Bob Vila’s Home Again series, and Home Time with JoAnne Liebeler and Dean Johnson. I didn’t have a home to decorate, but I did share a rental home with three roommates. Our modern tastes and tiny budgets were perfectly suited to Ikea and every now and then we’d go blow our money on furniture and spend the rest of the day with the music cranked, assembling stuff and moving it around to give our home a fresher look. After a while the melamine would show its age and the cycle of shopping would repeat itself. I constantly dreamed of having a house of my own one day to paint and decorate and renovate to my heart’s content. 

But later I began to question my values on this: many people around the world live in poverty and/or face far greater challenges in life than coordinating paint colours throughout their home. I began to wonder if my desire to create an aesthetically pleasing environment in my home was a reflection of being born and raised in a wealthy country where basic survival requires little thought, leaving plenty of time to reflect on more esoteric pursuits. Is it really necessary to live/work in an attractive environment to be truly happy? Or was I just a victim of marketing?

Then I read some articles that described the effects of colour, orderliness, and natural light on human emotional states. I learned that the state of one’s environment does affect mood and mental state, and that the optimal combination of these elements is dictated by both innate and cultural tastes. This information also prompted me to view the notion of aesthetics beyond the realm of home decor to encompass many aspects of our surroundings: work, play, our neighbourhoods. For example, the addition of flowers, decorative lampposts, exterior paint and architectural design can transform a bleak and depressing streetscape into an uplifting and hopeful experience even in the poorest neighbourhoods. The choice of colour and light source can actually affect work performance and productivity.  

So if there is a rational, scientific basis for clean aesthetics that involve certain colours, certain kinds of lighting, certain architectural elements (which may vary widely from one culture to the next but retain basic principles of design) then how do those of us wishing to live frugally and avoid senseless consumerism find a balance? Where do we draw the line between creating a peaceful, uplifting, spiritually nourishing environment and simply getting caught up in trends and marketing forces that pushed us to spend money on peach stucco and white tubular railings in the eighties, and granite countertops and stainless steel appliances the 00’s? (sideline: how DO we refer to this first decade of the new century anyhow?) 

Almost twenty years after watching my first Bob Vila show I still don’t own a house, but we’re definitely getting close to that goal. Ideally we’d like to build our own, based on the principles of the Not So Big House. Considering the different elements of a house – the interior, the exterior, and the land around it – drives me to the sort of questions I’ve posed here. I’d be interested to hear others’ thoughts on the importance of design and aesthetics and how (or if) they play a role in the Simple and Frugal life.

Categories: consumerism, Homemaking, simple living | 13 Comments

Laundry Soap: my dirty little secret

Today I’m going to tell you how to dramatically cut down on the amount of laundry soap you use. Doing so has many benefits: first and foremost it saves you money. Collectively, we can reduce consumption of laundry soap which may reduce the need for manufacturing of said product. It means less packaging in the waste stream (hopefully you’re already recycling either the cardboard or plastic container). Some commercial laundry soaps contain chemicals that can be damaging to the environment, so using less is better. And it means less frequent trips to the store to buy laundry soap (okay, you probably get this at the same place as your groceries but theoretically it could save on gas costs). And frankly, there is just a good deal of satisfaction in squeezing the most out of something you buy. 

The dirty little secret for reducing laundry soap consumption is this: you need much, MUCH less than you think to clean a load of laundry.

Now my mother always told me not to use as much soap as they say on the box, but still I would regularly pour in about 50 mLs (~ 1/4 cup) of the stuff. But then when I started cloth diapering I learned that detergent buildup is a potential problem – it causes diapers to lose their absorbancy. To watch for this you are supposed to monitor the rinse water. If it’s sudsy you repeat the rinse cycle until the water is clear of soap suds. I was quite stunned the first few times to find that I had to do up to FIVE rinse cycles to get rid of the suds! I soon learned to drastically decrease the amount of soap I used, getting it down to about 25 mLs (approx 2 tablespoons) of powder (powder was recommended over liquid as it supposedly rinses out better). 

I buy Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent, which is supposedly environmentally safe. After I was done with diapers I switched to liquid because I could buy it in much larger quantities (it is not available at my usual store so I make a special trip). I use about 20 mLs of liquid per full load. Tip: I pour the soap as the water is filling up the washer, and I hold the cup under the water to make sure I get all the soap rinsed out of the cup. 

The jug I buy contains 4.43 L of liquid. They suggest you use 90 mL for regular loads. That would give you about 50 loads (which is what they claim on the bottle). Well, at 20 mL per load I’m getting about 220 loads per jug! Now THAT is stretching a dollar!

Now, a word about Concentrated Formulas. The next time I buy laundry detergent I won’t be able to find the stuff I’ve got right now – Seventh Generation has joined all the other companies in offering an “ultra concentrated” formulation of their laundry soaps. This is going to be a bit of a pain for me: it claims it is double the concentration of their previous formulation, which means I’m going to be using less than a tablespoon per load, which isn’t quite as easy to measure (pouring small amounts of viscous liquid from a big jug compromises accuracy somewhat). But even without my cost-saving measures of using way less than the recommended amount, chances are I’m going to end up using more now. And in fact, that is exactly what companies want you to do…

Ever wonder WHY all these companies offer Ultra Concentrates? They claim that these products will save you money because you use less. But then why would a company offer such a product? Why would they want to reduce the amount of product you buy, and the cost-per-use of that product? Here’s where the dirty little secret gets even dirtier: turns out you don’t end up using less…

There’s an interesting psychology I’ve noticed, and I’m sure it holds for others as well: we live in a culture that is very concerned about cleanliness (antibacterial wipes and soaps; ads showing all the germs that live on our countertops and telephones) and so when given the chance we will use more rather than less soap. People get used to filling up that cap with laundry soap and when they switch to a concentrated version they will end up actually using more than the dilution amount required. In other words, if you used to add 1 full capful of the regular formulation and you are told you can now use 1/3 of that with the 3x formulation, you will likely end up using closer to 1/2 which means you end up using more product than if you used the regular stuff. 

Companies know this, which is why they offer concentrated laundry soaps. It makes more money for them while making their customers think they are saving money. 

If you are unsure about what I’m saying, I propose a simple experiment. Fill up your washer with no clothes in it and no laundry soap and let it agitate for a few minutes. Then open it up and take a look. Chances are you will see a tub full ‘o bubbles. Start experimenting with reducing the amount of laundry soap you use. I did this with my diapers and I did notice when I ended up using too little because they didn’t smell clean (I also made sure the rinses were clean each time so I wasn’t dealing with leftover soap residue from previous loads). You might be very surprised at how little soap you need to get your clothes clean. 

Footnote: if you want to be really frugal with your washing you can actually make your own laundry soap. I’m not sure how this stuff compares to store-bought detergents in terms of the amount used per load but I’m guessing that one can do similar experiments to determine how much is needed per load.

Categories: being green, Homemaking, simple living | 14 Comments

Something old, something new

On Sunday I went to pick up my latest and greatest thrift find. A friend’s mother is moving into an independent living facility and thus majorly downsizing. I scored myself this baby, and I’ve named her Martha:

If you are wondering why the background is crooked it’s because the table into which the sewing machine is built has a broken leg on one side. I managed to find a temporary solution later on. The machine itself is marked with the Woodwards brand, a department store that was very popular when I was a kid but went bankrupt in the 80’s. I’m guessing this machine is at least 30 years old. But it does seem to work! Great for a beginner like me to learn on, right?

And to go with my newfound friend I scored this find at the thrift store the week before:

It was $5.99. Woo Hoo!

So now I’m going to learn how to sew. First I need to sit down and read the Owner’s Manual. Yes, it was in one of the drawers. Then I’ll have to have my Mum give me a quick lesson while I learn to do some straight stitches. I did learn how to sew in Home Ec class, back in Grade 10. That was about 25 years ago, so I’m a bit rusty. I don’t even know what I’m planning on making just yet, although Daughter has some pajama pants that are about 6 inches too long in the legs, so perhaps I’ll hem something. She also has some pants with holes in the crotch seams. I’d like to sew those up. And then, of course, I’m going to make some pads to send to Goods4girls!

Oh, and the something new? A preview into my next Veggie Tales post:

My very first ever harvest, my very first ever homegrown vegetable. I picked it (and ate it) not long after the sewing machine arrived. Never thought I could get so excited about a radish!

Categories: Homemaking | 4 Comments

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