January 23, 2014

Everything Under the Kitchen Sink

How much do you spend each month on cleaning products?  Whether you buy the chemical laden junk (can you tell I'm not a fan?) or the bottles of all-natural supplies that clean your wallet out before they clean the potty (yeah, I went there) you are spending precious hard-earned money.  It doesn't have to be that way! Today I'm going to show you my under the kitchen sink mini make-over and a few all-purpose cleaners that are safe, easy to use, and inexpensive! 


I took everything out from under the sink.  It was not a pretty sight.  There were some cleaners in there I haven't used since we moved into this house (since I saw the light on those nasty cleaners). Almost 6 years ago! I pitched them, along with a lot of old brushes, and other junky things.  To be honest I always shuddered when I had to go under the sink.  It has always been a not-so-pretty sight.

I vacuumed out the cabinet, wiped it down with my homemade anti-bacterial cleaner, let it dry, and then put down shelf paper.

I have an addiction to these baskets.  It's a rare treat when I find them at our local Dollar Tree. I may or may not buy all of them when they are in stock.  *wink*  I use these baskets in my craft closet to organize supplies and rubber stamps, my kitchen cupboards to organize baking supplies, cookie cutters, and other odds and ends, in my pantry to organize snacks, and now I use them under the kitchen sink!

I bought the Full Circle Come Clean Natural Cleaning Set a while ago on Amazon (affiliate link).  They came as a set with a juicer attachment so you can put fresh lemon juice in your cleaner if you wish.  I also love the labels, a microfiber cloth and a little recipe/idea book that came with it!  I haven't decided what to put in the smallest bottle, yet, but I'm sure I'll think of something!  I'm thinking a homemade (and inexpensive) shower/tub pourable scrub of some sort.  (I'll let you know when I come up with something!)

* * *

All-purpose cleaner 
(good for windows, mirrors and toilets 
(add in some baking soda), etc.)

16 oz. water (2 cups)
2 oz. vinegar  (1/4 cup)

 *  * *

Anti-bacterial cleaner  
 (for good deep cleaning, toilets 
(that lingering little boy potty smell...yup), 
anything you need to disinfect!

16 oz. water
10-100 drops anti-bacterial essential oil blend (recipe HERE). 

Note: On the post with the anti-bacterial recipe I suggest 100 drops per 2 cups water for cleaning.  I've been using 10 drops per 2 cups.  There is still a scent there and it does seem to work pretty well.  If you have a more difficult area to clean you might want to up it a bit.  I'm all for saving money!

January 20, 2014

Cheesy Potato Mash

We had left-over potatoes in the fridge from a meal of roasted chicken, smashed potatoes, and veggies the other night.  Hubby decided to get creative!

The measurements aren't real precise so you'll have to make it to "taste".  The flavor and consistency sort of resembles a twice baked potato.

Ingredients you'll need are:
  • Left-over smashed potatoes (or mashed if you don't like the skins)
  • Cheese (we used cheddar, but you could use co-jack, pepper jack, or any other kind you like)
  • Seasoning of some sort.  We used a hickory burger seasoning. (pictured below)
  • Toppings such as crumbled bacon, onions, chives, etc.

 Picture courtesy of www.madeintheusa.com

What to do:
  • Brush a thin layer of olive oil on a griddle or skillet and heat it up to 375 degrees
  • Put a few mounds of smashed potatoes on the griddle
  • Sprinkle on seasoning and stir around in the potatoes a little bit in their little pile to warm them
  • Sprinkle on cheese and any other toppings that you desire
  • Serve and enjoy! 

* * *
Come visit our family on Instagram!  http://www.instagram.com/oldhousehomestead

January 19, 2014

New Lovelies!

I have a few new signs in the shop that I thought I'd share with you!  Less than 4 weeks until Valentine's Day!  Which means there are only 3 weeks left until the deadline for shipping out any Valentine's orders! 

(click on pictures for direct links)




January 16, 2014

DIY Essential Oils: Lavender & Tea Tree

I asked the question on Old House Homestead's Facebook Page ...

"What would you like to know about essential oils?" 

Here are a few answers...
Lavender, while very helpful, has fallen a bit under scrutiny in the last few years.  I found a few articles pertaining to lavender being an estrogenic element and unsafe for little boys.  But as Mommypotamus pointed out it was a case of three boys.  They grew (very) small breasts during the time that they were using products that had lavender in them.  We have no proof that it was just the lavender and not any other chemical in the product.  There have been no studies about it since (as far as I can find).  So...to answer the question if lavender (or tea tree oil for that matter...because it's undergone some scrutiny, too) is estrogenic?  I have no idea.  And apparently neither does anyone else.

I caution on the Ingestion of any essential oil.  As with all products I urge you to do your research and don't take a companies word for it when they state something that sends a caution flag. Investigate!

Mountain Rose Herbs has a page of hazards, cautions, and guidelines.  I trust their information and you are welcome to peruse it. I don't think it is wise to blindly follow a companies products and not do some research about it. I use Google a lot!  And while you can't trust everything you read on line, odds are good that if you read the same info (regarding oils, anyway) on several sites it's safe to assume that it's close to accurate. (And still research some more!)  But to answer one of the questions of oils that are safe to use during pregnancy there is a long list on Mountain Rose Herbs' info page HERE. (I would steer clear of all essential oils in the first trimester.)

What about essential oils in soap and lotions? I, personally, don't put a lot of essential oils in my goat milk soap that I make for my shop (soap will be listed in the next week or so).  Just enough to give it a scent, but not enough for it to linger with you all day long.  Savvy?  I don't feel that my soaps are a hazard to pregnant women or to children.  I think the phrase "In all things moderation" is key when it comes to oils.  If you have a concern make sure you consult the company's list.  If you don't find a warning list for the brand of oils you use, then contact them. If they won't give you one, I'd suggest finding a different company. 

*  *  *

I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to essential oil use.  I'm still learning!  But what I can tell you is how a few oils have been super helpful in our home!

One of our girls had ringworm on her arm.  I was shocked and mortified!  My daughter?!!  After I got over the initial horror I did some research.  Lavender!  I swabbed it (undiluted) on her little friend (that's what we called it) in the morning and at night and in a few days it was gone!  

When the same daughter (poor child) was stung by a bee, we put lavender on her bite and it reduced the swelling and relieved the pain.

When I have trouble sleeping I'll diffuse a little lavender and clove. (Lavender is a very calming oil.) Hubby's not a huge lavender fan so I add a little clove to mask it. Besides, they smell awesome together!  I think I'll make some goat milk soap with lavender and clove!

Tea Tree (Melaleuca) 
When one of our teens has an acne problem I'll dab a drop of tea tree oil on their issues.  I'll also make sure they use our rosemary and tea tree goat milk soap on their faces (not bad to use it for their bodies either since their teenage bodies are producing oils like crazy!).  

One daughter had a wart and so we have been dabbing tea tree on it and it's going away rather well!  I know she prefers this method to freezing or burning it off at the doctor's office!

There are so many ways that essential oils can be used.  Do some research and research some more!

* * *
I'm not a licensed health care professional.  The information has been found through various books, websites and word of mouth.  What I use seems to work well for our family.
 *  *  *
I am an affiliate for Amazon and Mountain Rose Herbs.  While our family makes a smidge of income if you order through our links neither company has swayed my opinion.  Only their great products have!  

January 13, 2014

DIY Vanilla

Remember in the last post how I mentioned taking things in baby steps?  I had always wanted to make my own vanilla because the ingredients in store bought imitation vanilla extract are not healthy for you (look it up!) and the store bought vanilla extract (the real deal) was way too expensive.  With all the baking our oldest daughter does we go through it like water!  So thankful for Mountain Rose Herbs!  I got some wonderful dried vanilla beans there!

The steps are so super easy!  Let me walk you through them! Ready?  (First off, let me apologize for my atrocious cutting board.  That puppy is over 15 years old.  I bought these cutting boards and I can't wait to get them in the mail! UPS man should be coming today with them!  Woohoo! Anyway...)

Let the mixture steep for a couple months (Patience required here, sorry.)  Be sure to shake it ever few days. Or if you have shake-happy children, then every few hours. You will have little bits and pieces in your vanilla in the form of seeds or itty bitty pieces of the outside, but if that bothers you then just strain the vanilla extract through a fine mesh strainer into another jar and pitch the bean along with the bits and pieces.

Enjoy something that you made with your own hands! 

January 10, 2014

DIY Essential Oils: Anti-bacterial blend

If you've taken a peek into the world of essential oils it can be quite intimidating. I have to admit that I'm still a bit intimidated by them. There is so much to learn!  But I've taken the approach like Bob on What About Bob?... "Baby steps..."!  I first became acquainted with essential oils when I started making goat milk soap a few years ago.  Then I became interested in using oils for other purposes.

It started with peppermint oil (diluted) rubbed under our noses for congestion and lavender for the rinse cycle in the washing machine and has gone on from there.  There are several companies from which you can purchase good quality oils. The brand that I prefer is Mountain Rose Herbs.

 Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

What to look for are oils that are organic is best so you can be sure there are no chemicals or pesticides.  Make sure you have a pure oil, not one that's diluted.  Steer clear of fragrance oils that are either synthetic or a bit of essential oil mixed with a carrier oil (like almond, jojoba, etc.) You'll probably hear the label "therapeutic grade" thrown around, too.  Some debate that it means nothing.  I'm not sure, but Mountain Rose Herbs are labeled as "therapeutic grade".

There are a few very popular essential oil companies that have great oils, but for my budget they are too pricey.  It is more economical for me to mix up my own blends than to have a bunch of specialty blends around the house.  I like to have individual bottles and mix up my own blends how I like them, adding a bit more of this or a bit more of that for my personal liking.

I purchase amber bottles from Mountain Rose Herbs and put my own labels on them.  My current favorite is a thieves blend (For legal purposes we'll call it "anti-bacterial blend"...I've heard a certain company can have a problem with that.).  If you don't know the story of the thieves oil do an online search and you'll find all sorts of stories. It's an anti-bacterial oil blend that I use in my diffuser (this is my current favorite diffuser ).  I have it diffusing in the living room during the day during cold season and also for cleaning.  So far since I've been having the family take extra vitamin C and diffusing my anti-bacterial blend in the diffuser this winter we've had sniffles and coughs (mostly from our asthmatic kiddos) and that's about it. 

This recipe will fit into a 1 ounce bottle (30 mL) amber bottle that costs $1.  I buy the ones with the little dropper-type cap built in so you can dispense drops at a time and don't need an eye dropper. This blend, made with oils from Mountain Rose Herbs, cost me less than $10 to make a 1 ounce bottle (less than $5 if you're looking at the average sizes the other companies sell).  Over 75% less than the name brand blends.  Yes, you read that right...75%!

Ways I use my anti-bacterial (thieves) essential oil blend :
  • diffuse it for fresh smelling and clean air (3-4 drops)
  • put in a spray bottle with water to disinfect (1 tsp (or 100 drops) per 2 cups water)
  • spray on insect bites and poison ivy to reduce inflammation and itching (you can use the same solution that's in the disinfectant bottle!)
  • mix the blend with a carrier oil (jojoba or olive oil) and rub on sore muscles (1/4 tsp (25 drops) per 1/2 cup oil (don't forget to keep it in a dark glass bottle)
  • rub the same oil mixture on chests for congestion
  • dab on acne to help it heal and shrink
  • make an anti-bacterial soap for the shop soon!

A word of caution ... while the essential oils can help with healing they can also do harm.  For instance Tea Tree Oil (or Melaleuca) is a great anti-bacterial oil that is wonderful for acne, cleaning, etc., but it's potent! Like a lot of undiluted essential oils it can burn your skin!  They should be diluted in carrier oils such as jojoba, almond oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc., before being applied. I know a few companies advertise that their oils are so pure you can ingest them.  I am hesitant to ingest most essential oils. I do, however, put a drop of lemon essential oil in my water because we eat lemons.  If you choose to do so be sure to use a glass (not plastic) cup or a glass bottle such as Lifefactory Glass Bottles since essential oils can break down plastic in drinking bottles and cups and that's the last thing we want in our bodies.

Next week I'll share how we use other essential oils for other medicinal purposes in our home. Baby steps everyone! 

Photo courtesy of Mountain Rose Herbs

I'm not a licensed health care professional.  The information has been found through various books, websites and word of mouth.  What I use seems to work well for our family.
 *  *  *
I am an affiliate for Amazon and Mountain Rose Herbs.  While our family makes a smidge of income if you order through our links neither company has swayed my opinion.  Only their great products have!  

January 6, 2014

Tasty Truffles!

Our oldest daughter, Rebekah, makes all sorts of baked goods! Very well.  So well that I crave them!  Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, etc.  When I got The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays for Christmas she poured over this book for over an hour!  She found a truffle recipe and it's super yummy!  I'll warn you, though, you can't eat just one! 

Pioneer Woman's Truffles
(makes about 24-36)
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
8 ounces chocolate almond bard, melted and cooled
8 ounces white almond bark, melted and cooled  
                 (we omitted the white and used double the chocolate bark) 
Assorted sprinkles if you wish

Melt semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chips in a heatproof glass bowl over gently boiling water in a saucepan. Add in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla.  Stir until it combines, remove the bowl from the pan, and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.  When it has cooled scoop out tablespoons of the chocolate and roll it into neat, smooth balls. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and put in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.  Melt the almond bark and drop chilled balls in to coat. Use a fork to lift out the chocolate covered truffly goodness and place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Before it sets you can sprinkle with edible sprinkles!

Sprinkle with sea salt for sea salt truffles or stir in 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract in place of the vanilla!  She did this the other day and they were yummy!  (Just make sure you don't use spearmint extract.  Not good.  Don't ask her how we know.  *wink*)  I'm thinking of making these with raspberry extract for raspberry chocolate truffles!

Make sure you use decent chocolate for this!  Ghirardelli chocolates are the best in our opinion!


**This post contains affiliate links.  When you click through the link and purchase from Amazon our family earns a smidge of commission.**

January 3, 2014

New Year ... New Hope

Happy 2014!  This year is full of promise! A new page.  A blank slate. 

If you've surfed the net, taken a gander at Facebook or Instagram, or even perused Pinterest you've seen all sorts of resolutions, goals, plans, or even words for the new year.  When you've had a year like we've had. Full of fun and joy, but also trials and tribulations sometimes you just want to just have a do-over. I posted on my personal Facebook page a portion of scripture for the new year.

From the book of Isaiah...

"The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."

I'll be back next week, friends, with an essential oil post and a truffle recipe! 

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