Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Laundry Soap, Part Three: Because I care

I have answered some of these questions in the comments....but I know not everyone reads comments, so time for another post about my new favourite topic!

I did forget to tell you fine folk that one site mentioned this soap is not recommended for silk or wool, I'm not sure why. I may make a point of throwing some old wool socks in to my next load just to see what happens.

I washed my undies and delicates in it, they came out fine. I did a load of very dark clothes and they also seemed great, no fading or residue that I noticed. (and wow did I look!) That's not to say it might now cause some fading down the line, but normal detergent does that, too. I'm willing just to wing it for now.

As far as washing really dirty clothes go, I didn't actually have any of those, so I can't tell you how this is going to work on hardcore grime. On the other hand, most people tend to separate the really nasty stuff from the lightly soiled stuff, anyway, so worst case scenario you could use the homemade stuff for regular loads, and commercial stuff for the heavy duty ones.

If any of you try this, PLEASE let me know how it worked for you. I gave samples of this to nine people today, and I know four of them specifically decided to do a load of laundry tonight so they could try it. As soon as I have more first hand info for you, I will be sure to share.

As Robbyn so rightly pointed out, many recipes you see on line call for something called fels naptha soap (whatever THAT is)...but they also usually say, "if you can't find it, use Ivory." The Borax comes in a green box with an old fashioned picture of a little girl on it. The washing soda was right next to it, in a big blue box under the product name "So Clean". It is made by Arm & Hammer, but again, not the same thing as baking soda.

Oh, and one last thing....one of the many websites I found the recipe was the David Suzuki Foundation. And if it's good enough for the good doctor, then it's good enough for me, lol !

EDITED March 19 to add: I have now read that bleach should never be used in conjunction with this soap. Why? I have no diea, I assume it is some chemical reaction. So make the soap. Skip the bleach.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Me and my big mouth

My part of Canada got clobbered by a massive snow storm today. Clobbered. MASSIVE.

Husbandly one and I made it in to work just before 10am, only an hour and a half late...I wandered over to accounting, to see who else had made it in, and of course we started comparing snow stories. I said something about Husbandly One shovelling, and just as I was getting to the point of my story (grr), High Ranking Manger said, "What? Husbandly One doesn't have a snow blower? (please note he did not actually call him Husbandly One.) But what about his back? And at his age, sputter sputter, more annoying stuff, more unasked for advice etc."

So I gave him a brilliant but not very sincere smile and said, "Well, Manager Guy, if YOU have $1500 you'd like to give ME, then I will go buy him one today. But if not, then we'll just continue as we are, thanks." Hmph. Busybody. I showed him.

About an hour later, Husbandly One stopped by my office, and thank goodness I was already sitting down: High Ranking Manager Guy gave him a snowblower.

Turns out, the hotel had bought one about eight years ago during some interuption with the company who plows our door ways and parking lot. Hotel has used said machine about six times, and then put it away in a storage shed where it has sat ever since. High Ranking Manager Guy spoke to Ultimate Boss, who said, "Hey, why don't we give it to him??"

I am floored. Machine will be dropped off tonight and then our days of shovelling are over. And while a snowblower doesn't fit in very well with my environmental values, it fits in VERY well with my values about my almost 60 year old husband not having a heart attack in our front yard.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Laundry Soap, Part Deux: It works, IT WORKS!

I literally can not explain how excited I am right now. I have made homemade laundry soap for less than $0.05 per load. No phosphates. No yucky environmental damage. AND I SAVED A SHITPILE OF MONEY.

Even Husbandly One agrees that the enviro laundry is clearly "clean" and smells that way. I may break in to tears any second.

The recipe...

One cup grated Ivory soap (more on that in a minute)
Half cup Borax
Half cup washing soda (NOT baking soda, there is a big difference)

I'm done now. That's it, that's the whole recipe. For a normal load, use one tablespoon, For super dirty stuff, use two. The end.

All three ingredients were readily available in the laundry aisle of the grocery store (look up!), I did find it funny that the washing soda box recommends adding a half cup of the stuff to normal washing powder to feel the full benefit. Umm, I'm using less than a teaspoon and I'm pretty happy, thanks.

The Ivory soap....either unwrap it and leave it to harden for a week (makes it easier to grate) or freeze it for a few hours, which is what I did. One cup of finely grated soap is about three quarters of one bar, FYI. (I froze two because I didn't know what to expect.) And ALL of the sites I visited recomnend you NOT use whatever leftover bar soap you have laying around, as the scents / chemical agents in most bars may stain your laundry. Just use some kind of pure soap and you're good to go.

Mix the grated soap with the two other ingredients. Now, the Borax box advises you not breathe in the dust, and one of the many places I found this recipe mentioned you should mix it with a mask on. I didn't use a mask, I was just careful to keep my face away from the mixture.

Now, once you have your fabulous laundry soap, you can add two tablespoons of powdered Oxy-Clean if you want (I didn't, although several sites mentioned it) and some essential oil if you want a scent. (I did this, bought lavender oil, which I did NOT include in my cost calculation above, because it's not really necessary, and because I have no idea how to figure out what ten drops of oil out of a bottle cost.) Next batch, if I want a real scent to keep Husbandly One happy, I will probably add 15 drops instead of ten.

This detergent does NOT make suds...which makes it weird when you see it, but also makes it suitable for front lading washers.

I saw a few posts that recommend you add vinegar to the rinse cycle periodically to clean out any soap residue in the machine, and suggest you can use a Downy Ball for this. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener and does NOT leave a vinegar scent to the wash. I don't use fabric softener, haven't for over a year, but I plan to buy a Downy Ball. I will use it everytime I empty my container of soap. (about every 25 loads.)

Dudes, I am beyond excited. My efforts at self sufficiency (baking, making my own butter, knitting, gardening, etc) have all been fun, but THIS? This is something that I can benefit from in my own home, both from an economic and environmental perspective, and ALSO easily share with others.

Off to make more soap, so I can give "samples" to the girls at work...

EDITED on march 19 to add: I have now read that this soap should never be used with bleach. Why? I don't know but I assume the reason is due to some chemical reaction. So please, make the soap. Skip the bleach.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Laundry Soap, Part One

Well, in the end I decided to skip whatever this weekend's cheesemaking disaster was destined to become, and instead only made the laundry detergent.

The entire process took, umm, three minutes, and that included a time-out to make myself another cup of tea. Could NOT be easier. Now mind you, I haven't washed a load of clothes with it yet (that's tomorrow) so I am reserving judgement on the whole thing for another 18 hours or so. But if it works, and I have no reason to think it won't, I will post the recipe here tomorrow.

Oh please let this work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good eats

Dinner tonight was pretty basic, but well enjoyed. I made a beef stew in my crock pot -- including lots of barley and kidney beans to add bulk and overall yumminess for so very little money-- served with homemade bread and homemade butter.

I suspect that my obsession with making everything at home and by hand is my version of a mid-life crisis, but so far I am loving it and having a lot of fun. Husbandly One has clearly decided to just roll with it and let me do my thing. After all, I'm not hurting anyone and he is getting some great meals out of the deal.

Oh, my project for this coming weekend? Homemade laundry soap! I may also attempt Version Three of the Cheese Fiasco, but don't worry: I won't do both at the same time!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My tummy hurts

Yesterday I bought my plane ticket to Madrid, my ticket to walk the Camino de Santiago with my best friend, my ticket to spend two and a half weeks examining my own life and heart on that pilgrim trail.

And I want to vomit.

I have never spent that much money on myself in my life and I am not comfortable in this new skin, this skin of a woman who thinks of herself before those around her. I feel very selfish.

And so very, very happy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My brief flirtation with normal is over

Husbandly One sure enjoyed the cookies I made last weekend, loved the fact that I seemed, however briefly, like a normal suburban wife.

Here's hoping he likes the butter I just made.

So it starts

Last week, our general manager announced that all salaried employees' annual pay raise (usually 2%, whoopdeedo) would not be issued in January, but only in July. Unionized employees, of course, still get their raise on time, but whatever, that's what a collective bargaining unit is for, I get it.

Anyway, raises postponed to July is soooo last week's news. This week's news was announced today: no raises in 2009 for management, period, effective throughout our entire national company.

I know, I know, I shouldn't be complaining about my lost 2% when I still have a job, but DAMN. See, you have to remember I work in sales, and a lot of what ends up in my pocket every two weeks is my share of the banquet gratuities. And a lot of what ends up in my pocket at the end of each quarter are sales bonuses. Well, that's not quite true: a lot of my quarterly earning used to be tied to sales bonuses. It's not that I am making fewer sales or anything like that, it's the fact that every single year the company "revamps" their incentive plan for the sales force, makes the guidelines completely impossible to understand, and makes the targets more and more unattainable.

Now, I'm not a fool, I know I can't count of bonuses, but let me put it to you this way: from 2004 through 2008, my annual take-home "pay" has dropped by several thousand dollars EACH AND EVERY YEAR, despite the fact that sales continue to grow and despite that 2% I started complaining about way back up at the top.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I understand I have to tighten my belt, that we all do. But I am now five years into making small changes in my daily life, not five months. And I don't know about the things you buy, but I can assure you the thing I do don't cost what they did five years ago.

Okay, enough bitter grumbles for one night. ( Because, again, at least I have a job. I have no right to complain.)

The upifting part of my day was also related to things starting: my garden seeds arrived today. Funny how a handful of little lumpy envelopes can make me so happy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Quiet weekend

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in years: I made chocolate chip cookies. Husbandly One has been great about living with my worm farn, about my cheese-making disasters, about all the whole wheat flour I've foisted on him, about all my garden plans. I figured the least I could do was make him something normal for a change.

Yeah, well, that was yesterday. Today I got right back on the breadmaking band wagon and threw together some garlic and parsley bread. I mean, that's not too weird, but it's not full of chocolate, either, so I understand why he enjoyed yesterday's bakng more.

I also did quite a bit of housework, including a ton of laundry. No no, not an exaggeration, I swear it must have been an actual ton. The truly sad part is that we actually need to maintain a certain amount of clothes in the whole laundry system (as opposed to clean and put away) otherwise it doesn't all fit in our closet and drawers. This is not because we buy clothes all the time, far from it: it is because we never get rid of anything. So, in the next week or so, I'm going to try to get a handle on some of it. Some items are perfectly fine but don't fit me (too big) and can be donated to charity, and some items just need to be cut in to rags. After all, there really is a limit to how many t-shirts one woman needs.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My seed order is in

Sometime in the next week, I will receive the seeds which will make up most of my garden this year. I have dabbled in growing vegetables for five years now, but this year marks the first time that I plan to not only eat fresh from my garden, but preserve as well.

On the other side of the country, there's Kelz. She has never gardened, never had the space or opportunity. But this year I have gotten her to start a garden.

Now, my ambitious seed order was $50.00. Hers? Almost two hundred! Either she's crazy or I'm lazy...

(Oh, my order? Carrots, beans, peas, lettuce, garlic, asparagus peas, mint, thyme, garlic, basil, and my beloved ground cherries. I will buy tomato and cucumber plants locally in the spring.)