Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Doggie (Birthday) Cupcakes

I am a dog lover. I didn't know it until I was almost 30. I didn't grow up with a dog. My mom isn't exactly the most animal accommodating person on the planet. She tolerated cats (one at a time of course), but that was really just because of extreme pressure from her children. The first (and only) dog I've ever had is our wonderful german wirehaired pointer mix Nikki. She was a shelter rescue. We went to the local humane society every week for 6 weeks before we found this scrawny scraggly pup. My husband and I fell in love with her immediately and she's been part of the family ever since. She was our first "child." She was our ring bearer in our wedding. And she is spoiled rotten! :)

This week is Nikki's 7th (people years) birthday. As in most homes with small children, birthdays are a big deal. To help celebrate our dog's birthday, my oldest daughter and I made up a batch of doggie cupcakes. I can't even remember where I originally found this recipe but it was somewhere online. I made these doggie cupcakes for Nikki's 1st birthday and she loved them. Of course, what dog wouldn't like something that looked like people food?? It's been a few years since the last batch, so making some for her 7th birthday (and sharing with the neighborhood pooches) sounded like a good idea. The great thing about this recipe is that it is made with ingredients you likely have at home. Plus, if a child gets a hold of one, they're safe to eat for humans as well. Here's the recipe:

2 shredded carrots
1 egg
2 mushed bananas (the riper the better)
2 T honey
3 c water
4 c flour (whole wheat preferably)
1 t baking powder
1 t nutmeg
1 t cinnamon

Blend water, carrots, bananas, egg and honey in a large bowl. Add all of the dry ingredients and mix well. Prepare muffin tins with grease or papers. (I'm usually a big advocate of cupcake papers, but I usually grease the tins for the dog cupcakes to prevent any accidental paper consumption.) Fill tins 3/4 full with the batter. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Cool well before serving. This recipe makes about 2 dozen cupcakes. Don't need that many? You can half the recipe for just a dozen by cutting all ingredients in half but still using 1 full egg.


Have fun delivering to all you furry canine friends!! Happy birthday to our Nikki-dog!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DIY Cleaning Supplies

Holy cow! Fall is here! OK, not technically until next week, but it's certainly headed that direction. With my oldest going back-to-school and activities starting again, it's been crazy for me. I'm sure your family is no different. I constantly have ideas in my head for new blog posts. It's just a matter of me sitting down and typing them out for you.

At our house, there's never a shortage of messes, laundry, dishes, or cleaning to do. Not only do these things pile up, but they're never ending. And the supplies needed to take care of them can really add up, especially for a family on a budget (like ours). Thanks to the good ol' world wide web and my personal favorite, Pinterest, it's much easier to discover thrifty ways to save on cleaning supplies. In today's blog, I'm going to share a couple of favorites and one that was more of a bust.

Laundry, laundry, laundry. Completely unavoidable. It's not really the DOING of the laundry I dislike as it is the folding and putting away of the laundry. If I can put away all the laundry I wash and dry in a day the same day as I wash and dry it, it's reason for celebration. We do a ton of laundry around here. I wish I had a dedicated laundry room, but our washer and dryer are confined to a closet. (The architect of my house was a complete moron, or a single dude who has no idea how a family actually functions.) I digress. Having 2 kids who aren't afraid of getting dirty creates a lot of laundry in and of itself. Add on my husband and myself and towels and bed linens....well you get the picture. I generally try to limit my laundry to 2 days a week, but they're pretty full days of washing.

What I'm trying to describe is a LARGE amount of laundry. To buy detergent to wash that much laundry was getting a bit ridiculous, especially because of our sensitive skin. I had to buy dye free, perfume free detergent to prevent my kids and me from scratching our skin bloody. You laugh. It's happened. I had read some tutorials about how to make laundry detergent, but it appeared to be a little labor intensive. After talking with a friend who actually made her own, I researched more and thought I'd give it a shot. This is the recipe I used from a blog called I Can Teach My Child. My first batch was pretty much according to her instructions. The batches after that I've made slightly more concentrated. She recommends to split the mixture into 10  1-gallon containers and I've found with the amount of soiled laundry I have that about 7 1-gallon containers makes it at the strength I need to clean my clothes. Regardless, it is less than a penny per load!

I keep my jugs (recycled milk jugs) in the garage, clearly labeled, and bring them into my laundry area as needed. Give the jugs a little shake before using (it separates and gets a little chunky). I use about 3/4 cup per load of laundry. It works like a charm! As good if not better than commercial detergent. It does not irritate our skin. I'm incredibly happy I found this solution!

Another amazing DIY cleaning supply is a tub and tile cleaner I learned from my friend Angie. Angie has her own cleaning business (in addition to being a mom and a wife and having a successful direct sales business). She hosted our crafter's club meeting one month this spring and taught us how to make several different cleaners. My favorite was a tub and tile cleaner. It's easy to make and it works better than any commercial cleaner I've used. We have very hard water where we live, so the mineral deposits are endless. Plus, as I've mentioned before, my kids aren't afraid of getting dirty and my husband owns a landscape oriented business (read: lots of mud). Our showers/tubs get gross. This cleaner takes it all off. It doesn't require a ton of elbow grease to work either! Bonus!

Here's Angie's recipe:
12 oz white vinegar
10 oz blue Dawn dish soap (must be this color and brand)

Heat vinegar for 2 minutes in the microwave, add to spray bottle. Pour Dawn soap
into bottle and shake gently to mix.

TO USE: Spray cleaner in tub or sink, let sit for 2 minutes (or longer, depending on how
dirty it is) and then wipe clean with a DRY cloth! No water, or you will have a
bigger mess than when you started.

Seriously, try it. Hands down best tub cleaner out there.

Now for the flop. I'd had so much success with DIY cleaners, I thought this was the way to go! I researched and found a homemade dishwasher detergent recipe I wanted to try. (ps, this is a great blog, and the recipe may work for others. I am not stating it is a bad recipe.) I wash dishes and run the dishwasher like it's going out of style. That's what happens when you cook for 3-4 kids several meals per day and then a family at night. I was anticipating this blog, so took a great picture of the ingredients needed and was trying to make it look nice for my readers.

I ran the first load and wasn't happy with the results. It didn't clean very well at all. Thought I'd try a little more detergent the second time. It left a nasty film on all the dishes and the dishes were still dirty. I tried adding more vinegar as a rinse agent. Nope. Then I remembered why I originally started buying the expensive detergent: with our hard water and contractor grade appliance, generic and less expensive detergents didn't work. I have to get the name brand detergent (and then it cleans great). Sigh. Can't win them all!

Bottom line is that there are lots of options to try DIY cleaning products. Some will work. Some may not. Most are so inexpensive that you can afford to make them and try them for yourself. Good luck! May your house be clean and your wallet be full!