Monday, November 19, 2012

It's been a while...

...since my last post.

I know, probably most people don't really even notice. So I'm not worried. I really post on my blog for my own enjoyment and my own sort-of journaling purposes. But anyway, I'd like to post a quick update on life as we know it at the Montgummibear household. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a complete or all-encompassing update, but just a few highlights and I will do my best to, sooner than later, post many of the drafts that I've got here in my library of posts, also seen in my mind as things-to-do.

1. This summer we decided to take our kids out of public school and homeschool them. So now I'm not only my kids' first teacher, as I always have been, I'm their actual school teacher too. We're loving this new challenge and really enjoying the time we have together and seeing God's plan for us in the education arena.

2. As a result of No. 1, we get to take fun field trips from time to time, we get to spend more time together, we don't have to get up as early most days, and we are finding new and creative ways to do many of our everyday tasks. Chore break, anyone? Field trip to Target, anyone? King Tut exhibit at Pacific Science Center, anyone? God is good. It's fun, and my kids learn a lot, whether on breaks, field trips (real or imaginary...I know, Target's a stretch...) or in actual "school" study time. :)

3. One of my best girlfriends was recently diagnosed with cancer, so we've really had some interesting changes happen in our family as a result. This family is practically family to us - she is like a sister to me, and all the kids are practically siblings. I'm like a mom to her kids, and she's like a mom to mine. So we do a lot of helping out with picking kids up, and having them over to do school work some afternoons. It's such a blessing to be able to help out this dear friend and her family. It's also a super huge bonus that we "happen" to be homeschooling this year, and our similar-aged kids going through much of the same curriculum. I realized long ago that there are no such things as "coincidence". This is just one example of said "coincidence".

4. God is the Blessed Controller of all things. See No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3.
And No. 5.
And No. 6.

5. There is so much more to update, so I guess I will just do one more. My baby sister Tasha had a baby in March, and she's super cute. Her name is Liliana. They just left from visiting here this weekend.  Lili is 8 months old now, and such a fun, happy baby. Not so much a baby now, since she can crawl around and pull herself up and stand while hanging on to the furniture. You know the age. They're so much fun. If you don't know the age, they're so much fun. Take my word for it, or go find an 8-month-old to watch for a few minutes.

6. I'm tired, and it's getting later and later. So I will have to write more updates another time. Again, there is so much more but I feel like I've at least done my "token" post for now, and hopefully it won't be 7 months between posts again. Or 8 months. Or whatever. One of these days I'll learn to count.

So I will leave you with a picture of my sweet niece, Lili. Or 2. Or 5. I'm telling you, this is the cutest baby *ever*. No lie.







See? I told you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homemade Taco Seasoning

I've been meaning to post this taco seasoning recipe for some time now, and since I made up a batch of it the other day, I took a picture or two so I could share! I don't know why exactly, but it's hard for me to share a recipe without a picture.

So without further ado, here is my version of taco seasoning. I love this because I know what's in it, and I know what's *not* in it. No MSG here. :)



Taco Seasoning


Ingredients

2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon minced onion
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons unrefined sea salt
2 teaspoons black pepper


Combine all ingredients in a mason jar and shake until combined.
Store in an airtight container.

You can mix it up directly into an empty spice jar, but I make it in a mason jar so I have enough to store after I fill up my little spice jar.

I usually make up a double batch. Sometimes I make it times four, so I don't have to make up another batch as often. Especially as often as we eat tacos. Watch it though - it's pretty potent - so you don't need to use quite as much as that lame, chemical-ridden store bought taco seasoning.

I use this to season my taco meat, but also when I make quesadillas, I sprinkle this seasoning on top of the cheese/chicken/beans (whatever I put in the quesadillas) to give it some really good flavor. So yummy!

Here's my batch, before shaking...



...and after shaking.



Isn't it pretty? 

Now go on and make yourself some of this yummy stuff!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

This is a basic recipe for laundry soap. I like the simplicity. I like to save some money. I used to buy the cheapest laundry soap - a large off-brand bottle for 8 dollars (ish). But this is definitely cheaper than that.

As I've said before in other posts, the recipes I have here are not my own (unless I've told you that I made up the recipe, and in that case, it *is* my own). I just put my own twist on them and take a few pictures and share them with you. Because I like to share. I would hate to take anyone's glory by telling you I made up a recipe for laundry soap all on my own. You can do a quick web search and find roughly 4.2 million recipes for laundry soap. So this is just my variation of many a web search for laundry soap recipes.

Cost Analysis
(Wow, that made me feel really smart, writing "cost analysis". I think I might need to get a life. 

My bars of Fels Naptha soap usually cost about 97 cents each, and the washing soda and Borax boxes are a few dollars each, but they each hold enough for at least 6 to 8 batches of soap, respectively. So, after adding and dividing and multiplying, we're looking at less than $2 per batch of soap.

Details: Each batch makes a little over a quart of soap. Probably about 5 cups or so. It also depends on how fine you grate your soap. We'll go with 5 cups per batch for the math here. My scoop is about 2 tablespoons (it's a 1 ounce scoop), and I use one (sometimes rounded) scoop per load. That means you're getting about 40 scoops per batch. Let's just say about 35, (to be conservative) in case you like to round your scoops sometimes.

At $2 a batch, and a conservative 35 loads per batch  (drum roll please...), that's (just less than) 6 cents a load. Wow! If you want to add the cost of white vinegar in place of fabric softener, you might add about a penny per load? I'd still say that's a pretty good deal!

Even if my math's all wrong and it's twice that price, it's still cheaper than store-bought detergent.

Enough math. On with the recipe.

Homemade Laundry Soap (on the cheap)

Ingredients:
1 Fels Naptha Laundry bar
1 C Borax
1 C Washing Soda



Not an ingredient for this recipe, but you may want this also: White Vinegar.

I'll explain a bit later...





First, grate up the soap bar.
You're welcome to use a food processor if you want, but I prefer a Microplane grater. It makes such nice small and easy-to-dissolve soap shavings.






Plus, it's pretty.
See? 
Pretty soap shavings.
I really like these. 
They almost look like cheese.
I like cheese too.
Never mind.









Next, add the Borax and Washing Soda to the bowl.
You can stir it all together, and if you need to get the clumps out, just stir a while until it's nice and smooth. Be careful stirring, though, unless you want to have a sneezing fit. This happens to me sometimes. Yikes!

Now if you want some smoother soap, or if your clumps are pretty big, or if you used a food processor to grate the soap, you're welcome to put the washing soda and borax right into the food processor and pulse until it's smooth.

I did that with this batch because I had lots of clumps. Borax likes to clump up, especially if it's kept under the sink and there is a tiny leak under the faucet and the box gets a bit damp. Ahem.
Pulse a few times...
See how smooth it gets when you mix it up like this? Beautiful.

However, I don't always make it this way (with the food processor). It tends to concentrate the grated soap more, and then the batch doesn't last as long. After this batch, I decided that if I need to break up the clumps in the future, I'll do the borax and washing soda in the food processor first, and then add it to my grated soap. It makes for a fluffier end product, which lasts a bit longer. I'll leave it up to you though. I'm all about letting you do it your own way. Don't say I didn't give you options.

So here's the final product. Stir it up a bit, then you can add it to whatever you keep your soap in. I prefer beautiful blue Mason jars.

Use a funnel to scoop the soap into the jars and voilĂ ! Laundry soap on the cheap. Ready to use.

The container on the right is what I usually use on a daily basis. My scoop sits inside the jar. I don't fill it all the way, so my scoop still fits in.

As you can see, this batch made about 2 quarts. That's because I made a double batch, but I ran it through the food processor. If I hadn't done that, it would have been more fluffy and I'd have had almost another whole quart jar full. But it's up to you, either way you're saving some money!

So pretty.

This pictures shows a different double batch I  made without using the food processor. You can (hopefully) see that it's a different consistency, and it made more than just 2 quarts. So I like it this way - but like I said, you can make it however you want. And either way, it's still pretty.

Now I do understand that "pretty" has nothing to do with how well a product works. So I'm here to tell you that this soap works really well. I have been using it for over a year now, I think, and I have absolutely no complaints. Not a single one.

It makes the laundry smell wonderful, and cleans great too. And I've already mentioned the benefit of being way less expensive than what you buy in the store; and I know exactly what's in it.

The Vinegar
Here's where the vinegar comes in. I don't buy fabric softener or dryer sheets. I decided a long time ago that it would save me money not to buy it, but also that I don't like the feel of my clothes when I use it. Also - it causes towels to not absorb water. Who wants a fluffy looking towel (like on the commercials) that doesn't absorb any water? No, thank you.

So I stopped using it years ago. Instead, I use white vinegar in the wash *instead* of fabric softener. I pour it right into the fabric softener cup thingy, and it does the job.

I don't use it in every wash, only once in a while.
Or when I remember.
Or whenever I feel like it.
For example:
~If I have a load of extra-dirty clothes, and I'm using extra soap, I might use some vinegar in the rinse cycle.
~If I have a load of clothes or towels that got left in the washer a day or two too long (ick!), I'll wash them again and use the vinegar in the rinse cycle. Also, in that case, I sometimes even put some vinegar right into the wash. It's a great deodorizer.
~If I'm just washing towels, and I remember, I'll use vinegar as a fabric softener.
~Totally unrelated: vinegar and water makes a great hair conditioner too. But I'll leave that for another post.

When you take out the clothes, you may smell a hint of vinegar, but once the clothes are dry, you won't even know you used it. It's wonderful!!

So get on it friends, save yourself some money and make up a batch of laundry soap.

If you want...

I don't want to be bossy or anything.

But you really should make some. 

Homemade Dishwasher Soap

I had been wanting to try to make my own dishwasher soap for some time and I finally got around to doing it a few weeks ago.

I had been buying the Costco-sized (and brand) dishwasher gel, and it worked; but I kind of wanted to get away from the bleach in it which sometimes ended up on my dishrags or towels or hands or clothes...you get the picture. Besides, I wondered if I could make it for way cheaper than I could buy it.

I looked around online for a recipe, and found some, but because I never had the exact ingredients they did, I opted to improvise.

Here's what you'll need if you want to wash dishes in your dishwasher like I do. And I know that you all want to be like me. So here they are:
 

You'll need:
Borax
Washing Soda (not baking soda...) 
Canning Salt (or any salt; kosher would work fine too)
Lemi-Shine (or citric acid, but I can't find that so I'm using this. If the store carries it, it's in the dishwasher soap aisle. I got mine at the Walmart down the street.)

You'll also need some White Vinegar. (But not quite yet.)

(Disclaimer)
I'm sure somewhere out there in the world, someone makes this the same way I do, but I'm not going out to look for it. I won't claim this as my own recipe; just my variation.


Here's the basic recipe I use:
1 C Borax
1 C Washing Soda
1/2 C Canning Salt
1/2 C Lemi-Shine


Mix all the ingredients together, and voilĂ ! Homemade dishwasher soap. I mixed it up in a snap-ware container, and then shook it up to mix it all together. I then filled an empty Lemi-Shine bottle for easy dispensing into the dishwasher. I just fill my two soap cups mostly full - I probably use a rounded (or sometimes heaping) tablespoon of soap per load.

Prices are different wherever you go, but I figured the price for this is somewhere around .05-.08 cents per load. I can't honestly remember how much my other soap was, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't that cheap.

The Verdict
Here's the best part: It works GREAT! I do a load of dishes most every day, and sometimes two. I cook, I bake, and we don't use paper plates or cups, so I'm washing our dishes a lot. But I actually don't mind doing the dishes, especially when I realize that it really doesn't take up all that much time. My girls are in charge of unloading the dishwasher, and when it's time to load it up, all it ever takes is about 5 minutes.

Years ago I used to gaze into my dish-filled-sink, and dread the task of dishes. I had lived without a dishwasher before, so I'm not sure why I had a problem filling my *dishwasher* with dishes so it could *automatically* wash my dishes for me.

But when I realized that it really only took about 5 minutes of my time (literally, I timed it...) to fill the dishwasher and get on with my chores? Piece of cake. So now, when I dread the task, I remind myself that A), I have a dishwasher in the first place, which is a super-huge blessing, and 2), I only have to spend about 5 minutes filling it up. It really only ever takes that long.

So anyway, back to my point.

This dishwasher soap works really well, cleans all my plates and bowls and jars and silverware beautifully. I suppose if you have hard water you might want a bit more of the Lemi-Shine (or similar), but you'll have to see for yourself.

Vinegar
Now, here's where the vinegar comes in. You know how you can buy those bottles of rinse agent for something like $8 per bottle? Maybe I'm exaggerating, but it seems like they're so expensive.

I'm here to tell you: White vinegar works great as a rinse agent in the dishwasher!! Just pour in vinegar instead of whatever rinse stuff you use now (if you use any at all). Pour in vinegar until the pointer points to the "full" line and see how well it works.

I use glass all. the. time. We drink out of Mason jars, I use them for storing food, making kefir, you name it, I've got a Mason jar for it. :) Whenever I see the jars the girls take out of the dishwasher, I'm super impressed at how clean they look! Glass looks great with this stuff, the silverware looks great, the plates are clean.

I know, I'm rambling again. But this stuff works so well I just had to share!

I hope you get a chance to try it.

p.s. Something else you should know - you can use your washing soda and borax to make laundry detergent too; I'll post that one later. But it works great too, and makes my laundry smell heavenly!! Oh, and using vinegar instead of fabric softener? Also a very good idea.

Ok. Stopping now.

Happy dishwashing, y'all.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tangy Tomato Soup



After church today I decided to make one of our go-to easy after-church lunches, grilled cheese and tomato soup. Usually, I keep some of those yummy boxes of Pacific Natural Foods tomato soup in the pantry. I looked in the pantry today, and they were all gone! No tomato soup to be found. So I decided I had better try to make some!

I first thought of diluting some tomato paste for the soup base, since I have a can or two of that sitting around. I looked up several recipes for more ideas. Then I remembered that I had canned some tomatoes in the fall, using a recipe from the Ball Blue Book for Roasted Roma Tomatoes. This recipe uses roasted romas, roasted garlic, onion, oregano, salt, and pepper. It was great too, because I had fresh romas from a friend, a bunch of garlic and onions from my CSA box, and fresh oregano from the garden! I love having these things on hand so I can try new recipes.

So far, I hadn't used any of these canned tomatoes yet, and honestly, wasn't sure how I was going to use them up. So now, I know. Whenever I need tomato soup, I'm going to use up my roasted romas to make this yummy soup recipe!

Because I'm not experienced in making my own recipes, I had to share this one. Try it if you want, and if you find a way to make it better, please share it with me!



Tami's Tangy Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

1 Pint Roasted Roma Tomatoes (recipe from Ball Canning Blue Book)
1 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
1 tsp Better than Bouillon Organic Chicken Base
1 C heavy cream


Method:

Pour tomatoes into blender jar and blend the tomatoes until very smooth. Pour blended tomatoes into a saucepan add cream. While heating to desired temperature, add salt, chicken base and cream. Stir and adjust seasonings to taste.

If desired, add fresh ground pepper, basil, parsley, or any other herbs or seasonings you like! I'll bet this is super yummy with some fresh basil thrown in.


Pour into bowls and serve with grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum!


Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Mountain Rose Herbs Giveaway

Ok. I am super excited about this giveaway.

I already make my own laundry soap, which is super easy and I believe I have been remiss in posting about it. I will soon remedy that situation.

I would love to make more cleaning solutions to use around the house - and this company might just help me be able to do so, for free! :)

This giveaway from Mountain Rose Herbs is amazing!

If I happen to be the lucky winner, I'll definitely post back and let y'all know how many great items I'm able to create from all these wonderful ingredients.


I hope I win.
:-)