Archive for January, 2012

Until around a year ago, I had never heard of castille soap.  When I made an online purchase of small bottles for my homemade vanilla extract, I browsed through the rest of the e-store and stumbled upon castille soap.  On impulse, I purchased it.  When it arrived, I put in on a shelf with some of my other “make it myself” ingredients and forgot about it.  Every so often it would pop into my mind, but quickly dismissed it with the thought, “but is it safe?”

When I noticed a few weeks ago that my store bought green cleanser was running low, I thought of that lonely bottle sitting on the shelf.  But this time, I went for it!  And actually read the ingredients…water, saponified organic coconut, sunflower and castor oils, citric acid and rosemary extract.  THIS is what I worried about? 


Then I looked at my green cleanser…water, decyl and lauryl glucoside, alcohol, fragrance with essential oil, methylisothizolinone, blue and yellow colorant. Uh?  What?

Before I started, I researched castille soap and found that it is extraordinarily safe.  I didn’t find any information to the contrary.  In fact, some people even brush their teeth with it!  Though I’m not quite up for that as of yet.

My first castille soap foray is an all purpose cleanser.  After reading a ton of recipes and seeing that everyone does something different, I decided to tinker around to see what happened.  A little chemistry in the kitchen.  For my first attempt, I put ½ Tbs. of castille soap into 4 Tbs. of white vinegar.  It immediately began to curdle.  Yikes!  I added 2 cups of hot water, stirring constantly but my curdles didn’t disappear.  Strike one.

Luckily, I experienced success with my second attempt…

Start with 2 cups of hot water.

Add 4 Tbs. of white vinegar.

Add ½ Tbs. of castille soap.

Stir until combined.

That’s it!  This stuff is fantastic.  So far, I’ve used it on my counters, mirrors, windows and our little one’s highchair.  My windows are so sparkly.  When I first used it, I was a bit wary – it seems like it’s going to be very streaky.  But it dried beautifully.  Two cleaners in one!

Tips & Tricks:

I purchased my castille soap and spray bottles from www.mountainroseherbs.com .  I also buy my essential oils and glass vanilla storage bottles from them. 

The castille soap from Mountain Rose Herbs is made with organic ingredients. 

Happy Homesteading,


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I fantasize about Ed Begley Jr.   Well, not him, but the bike he uses to help power his house.  I dream about having a wind turbine.  I covet solar panels.  No, I don’t need therapy (for this reason anyway)… I just want to be off the grid. 

But barring an indulgence from our Homeowners Association, the same Homeowners Association that sends out nasty letters if you mulch without their permission, I don’t think we could attach solar panels or a wind turbine to our roof.  Or keep a bike attached to our electrical distribution panel on our patio. So for now, I’ll just have to settle for employing clever ways to lower our electric bill.

This morning, I received our newest electric bill saying that we used 43kWh/day, up 4kWh/day from last year. 

Granted, 4kWh/day isn’t that much but it made me wonder what we were doing differently.  And it made me picture Ed, on his bike, purrrrr…

I went on the website of our power supplier to further investigate our bill.  Their site has nifty statistics about each user.  According to my account information, our biggest day of usage is Saturday, followed by Monday.  It also states that heating our home contributes to 59% of our bill.  A cause for excitement however, is our home is among the lowest consumers of electricity in our neighborhood.

But over the next month, I’m going to try to lower our electric bills.  As we’ve already made the switch to CFL’s and I air dry most of our clothing, we’ll have to come up with some other ways to accomplish this mission.  Some of the first things to work on will be:

  • Eliminating vampire power – Vampire power is the electricity that is drawn when something is not in use.
  • Tinkering with our programmable thermostat to lower usage.
  • Turning off the television – I’d been hoping to do a no TV week this summer when we could get outside, but maybe I’ll just dig out some board games.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress.  And of course, I’m open to suggestions.  What do you do to lower you’re electric bills?

Happy Homesteading,


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It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction when I am able to make something that is vastly superior to what I would have bought in a store.  And it’s even better when that product is also cheaper than what I would have bought.  This bread recipe fits that bill!

This bread is reminiscent of the Italian bread my family used to get when they lived in Queens, New York.  The crust is different, but the inside?  Mmm.  It brings back memories.   Perfect for sandwiches, sopping up tomato sauce, butter and jam, croutons or plain as soon as you can cut it, this bread is awesome.  And, although it’s an overnight project, it is quite possibly the easiest bread you’ll ever make.


3 cups  – bread flour – I like King Arthur

1½ cups warm water – around 70° – just warm on the wrist

1½  tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp yeast

Place the flour in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine 3 Tbs. of the water with the yeast.  Stir gently and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine the salt with the remaining water. 

After the 10 minutes, your yeast should look like this.  Not very exciting, is it?

Pour the yeast/water combo & the salted water into the flour.  Stir to combine.  Don’t overwork it.  This dough will not be coming together like other doughs just yet.  Stop stirring when it looks like this.

That is it for today.  Cover it up and let it rest on your counter overnight.  In the morning, it will look like this.

Pull the dough out of the bowl and lay it on a floured surface.  Sprinkle some flour on the top and gently shape it into a ball.

Cover lightly with a towel and let it rise for 1½ hours.  You can see how the bread spread over the line I drew in the flour above.  Preheat your oven to 450° 15 minutes before the rising is completed.

Sprinkle flour into a large baking crock that has a lid.  I use a 4 quart oval Corningware.  Gently place the dough in the crock.  Place on the lid.

 Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Allow it to rest in the crock for about 15 minutes after it has completed baking. 

This bread is very tender.  The natural tendency is to smush it while slicing.  It will pop back up if you don’t smush too far.  Enjoy!

Happy Homesteading,


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Every so often I experience a twinge of resentment over the amount of money I spend on poop, between pooper scoop bags, kitty litter and diapers.  For nearly the past year, I’ve seen various instructions for making your own baby wipes all over the blogosphere.  This idea speaks to me!  I do not enjoy being beholden to the diaper companies. 

When I made the switch a few months ago, I found it liberating… and cheap.  The wipes I had been using were about $0.03/wipe, but this homemade version costs less than $0.02/wipe.  Sure, a penny a wipe doesn’t sound like much, but if I use only 1 wipe for each diaper change, averaging 8 changes a day, that is a savings of $58.40 over the course of 2 years.  And let’s be honest, 1 wipe per diaper change? 

An added perk is that I always have these ingredients on hand. 

You will need:

2 cups of water

baby oil

baby wash

½ roll of Bounty select a size paper towels – Bounty seems to be the best for this task

a plastic container big enough to hold the paper towels that seals tightly

Using a sharp, non-serrated knife, cut the paper towels in half. 

 Pour 2 cups of water into your container.  I’ve marked a 2 cup line on the side of my container with marker to make it easier.

Add 2 Tbs. of baby oil.

Add 2 Tbs. of baby wash.

Place paper towels in and gently push to the bottom of the container.

Flip the container over and wait 5 minutes for the water to be soaked in to the paper towels.

Flip back over, remove the lid and pull out the cardboard tube.

The wipes will now easily dispense from the center.

Tips and tricks picked up along the way:

When adding the wash and oil, I squeeze and count “1Mississippi, 2Mississippi”.

Some people recommend adding tea tree oil to the wipes.  However, I have read that there may be a connection between tea tree oil and breast tissue growth in boys.  I’d rather not risk it!

Because these are preservative free – bonus! – we rotate our 2 containers.  We use far fewer wipes upstairs.  When the downstairs container is empty, we bring down the upstairs container and deposit fresh ones up there.

I found our container at Target.  It’s the perfect size and the way the lid snaps on creates a great seal.

Happy Homesteading,


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One of our goals for 2012 was to finally put together a 72 hour kit.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a 72 hour kit is a large backpack that contains everything you might need to “survive” for 72 hours should you need to evacuate your home in an emergency.  As this project is going to take some careful planning and purchases, we thought we’d start small by organizing our firebox.

As our home is small, our firebox is small but it’s big enough to hold what we’d need to keep safe.  Inside you’ll find:

  •      2 extra credit cards – one in my name, one in Jon’s
  •      last year’s health insurance cards – none of the information has changed
  •      our marriage license
  •      our birth certificates
  •      our social security cards
  •      our latest expired driver’s licenses – to serve as a photo identification
  •      Jon’s passport – mine has expired.  I plan to apply for a new one this year.
  •      life, car & homeowners insurance information
  •      bank account information
  •      immunization records – for the pup & cat also
  •      list of family & friends phone numbers and addresses
  •      individual medical information for each family member listing blood type, allergies, diagnoses and other important tidbits
  •      map of our local area
  •      map of our state
  •      cash


All of this stuff fits, albeit tightly, into a gallon Ziploc baggy on which we’ve written an inventory of it’s contents. We also plan on putting duplicates of many of these items, as well as a flash drive with scanned copies, in our 72 kit.  But now we can easily grab the originals in a hurry, if needed.

Happy Homesteading,




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