Thursday, January 24, 2013

DIY Laundry Soap

After hearing several people talking about making their own laundry detergent, and after my husband badgered me for months to get the recipe & buy the ingredients so we could try it... I finally did - and I am extremely happy with the results.  This stuff will save you SO much money, and after using it for a few weeks now, I can confirm that it actually works BETTER than the stuff I was buying at the grocery store.  Here are the supplies you need:

One five gallon bucket and lid to dedicate to detergent making/storage = $3.88
Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda = $3.24
Borax = $2.98
Bar of Fels-Naptha soap = $0.97
Bar of Ivory soap = $1.00

Total to get started = $12.07
(Note:  You will get quite a few batches out of the Borax and the washing soda, plus the bucket is a one-time expense.  So the cost per batch is around $3.50)


  • Grate the Ivory & Fels-Naptha soap and add to saucepan with 4 cups of water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.
  • Fill 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add the melted soap mixture, plus 1 cup of the washing soda and 1/2 cup of Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
  • Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of the way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)
  • Optional: you can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. (I didn't do this)
  • Yields 10 gallons of laundry soap

This is what ours looks like, all done.  It has a thick, gel-like consistency.  Remember, you use a smaller, everyday use bottle with a mix of half this stuff, and half water... so this should last a long time.

And here are before and after pics of one of Shane's dirtiest, grubbiest work/garage shirts.  The before pic was taken AFTER the shirt had been laundered in our old store-bought soap - I pulled it from the clean clothes basket to see if there was any noticeable difference with the new homemade stuff.


Now I know the after shot isn't pristinely beautiful, but in comparison to the before shot, I think it's easy to see some improvement!  What do you think?

Oh, and one more benefit of the new soap - I really like the smell of it.  I did not choose to add any essential oils, so it just has a nice clean soapy smell (which came from the Ivory & Fels-Naptha) rather than the overly perfume-y smell of the store bought stuff.  So there you go: $3.50 for 10 gallons of laundry detergent, that works BETTER and smells nicer than what you buy at the store.  Everyone should be doing this!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pit Stop in Virginia Beach / Navy Base - Oct 2012

On the way home from our week-long vacation in the Outer Banks in October, we made a pit stop in Virginia Beach.  We lived there about 15 years ago, when we were first married and Shane was in the Navy.  We visited some old friends who still live in the area, and they showed us around AND most excitingly, got us onto the Navy base where Shane used to be stationed!

Cinema Cafe.  This was one of our favorite places when we lived in Virginia Beach.  It doesn't look like much, but it's a movie theater that has tables and chairs instead of rows of seats, and you can have food and drinks while you watch your movie.  A brilliant idea - I wish there was one near where we live now!

Our friends took us on a tour of a really cool newly developed area, which didn't exist when we lived there 15 years ago.

When we were there, it was called the Little Creek Amphibious Base.  I think the new name seems a bit cumbersome...
Shane and his buddy, Woody, at their old barracks.

I forget if this was on Shane's or Woody's old boat.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wright Bros National Memorial - Oct 2012

Another field trip we took while we were in the Outer Banks in October, was to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC.  There is a small museum, replicas of their camp/workshop buildings, and markers showing where the first four flights took off and landed, along with the original rails that they used to launch the planes.  Finally, there is large monument on top of a hill that offers lovely views all around, from sound to sea.

A diorama inside the museum

Replica plane

Friday, January 18, 2013

Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education - Oct 2012

(Still catching up!)

We took a few small field trips from our beach house while we were in the Outer Banks in October.  One day we visited the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the nearby Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education.  The lighthouse was very cool, and a good workout too!  We climbed all 214 steps to the top... but there were a LOT of bees buzzing around up there and we chickens immediately went right back down.  I did bravely pop out and quickly snap a few shots of the view before running away, though.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A week at the beach - Outer Banks, NC - Oct. 2012

Bear with me here, I'm catching up.

My kids got to see the ocean for the first time in October.  It was wonderful.  We went to the Outer Banks with my parents and my aunt, and we shared a house right on the oceanfront that would have cost $3800 a week if we'd have gone in the middle of summer during the busy season... but which only cost $1200 a week (which we then split three ways) during the off season.  Boom, suddenly a beach trip became feasible!  The weather was a bit chilly and rainy the first two days, but it was absolutely perfect for the rest of the week, with temps in the upper 70's/low 80's. 

Home sweet home for a week

Text from my mom:  "I am Sheldon and have picked my spot.  The yellow chair is mine."

Our room.  Aaaaahhh, I LOVE sleeping to the sound of the ocean!

The top deck offered lovely views.

Our view...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A little confirmation that something is working here... and some thoughts on technology.

Just a small, special moment that I want to remember:  last night at bedtime, as we sat down for storytime and I started to read, Monkey took the book from my hands and took over.  He read The. Whole. Thing.  That's right, my boy read his little brother a bedtime story last night, while I just sat back and watched with a glowing heart.

This was especially exciting to me because lately, Monkey has been very reluctant to do any reading. I have backed off and waited for him to be ready, because my goal for my kids is that I want them to love reading as much as I do, and I don't want it to ever feel like a painful chore.  He was very excited about sounding out words and learning to read for a while, but then he suddenly began resisting.  Maybe I started putting too much pressure on him, or perhaps I was correcting him too quickly when he would made a mistake, instead of giving him time to figure it out on his own.  Occasionally over the past few weeks though, he has been jumping in and reading a few lines of whatever I'm reading aloud - and he is constantly surprising me by knowing many words (and some are big words!) that I didn't think he knew.

I think some combination of watching/listening as I read aloud, and also playing video games has sparked this seemingly spontaneous learning.  After much internal struggle in trying to decide how technology should be handled in our home, right now I do not put limits on screen time, but I DO limit what he *does* with his screen time.  Meaning, I monitor what tv shows and movies he watches and what kind of games he plays, but he is free to choose what to play or watch within the approved selections, and how long to do so.  Some days he spends a lot of time playing on the computer, and some days he doesn't.  But on those days that he does, I do not think it's wasted time.  This is just a format that "toys" have evolved into, IMO, and I think there is a great deal of learning happening during this kind of play.  He often chooses educational games - for example, those on and  But even in games that are not specifically educational in purpose, there is still value.  Besides motivating learning to read in order to navigate menus and learn intructions for how to play a game, he is also learning basic logic - what steps need to be taken to solve a certain problem (i.e. get past a difficult level) and the satisfaction one gets for solving a tough problem on their own.  He learns how to deal with frustration when he doesn't succeed right away, and he definitely practices persistence and keeps trying over and over until he figures out the solution.

I am constantly reading conflicting articles about this subject, and you can find many on both sides of it.  So far, I have found the pro-technology side of the argument to be more compelling.  I think technology gives us amazing tools to make learning interactive and FUN, and I think people fear it unnecessarily.  Just because it's relatively "new" to the educational scene doesn't make it a bad thing.

Here's a list of links I've bookmarked over the past year or so, that I've found particularly thought-provoking:

No Thank You, We'll Stay Plugged

TED Talk - Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make A Better World

TED Talk - Gabe Zichermann:  How Games Make Kids Smarter

Limiting Video Games is Delusional

Video Games:  An Hour a Day is Key to Success at Life

Surprising Things Parents Should Know About Video Games

The Many Benefits for Children Playing Video Games

Value and Uses of TV for Unschoolers

Benefits of Video Games

A final thought, which came to me as I was thinking about this one day:  I wouldn't buy a kid a toy car and then say, "Ok, you can only play with this toy for one hour a day, and then I'm going to take it away."  That seems silly, right?  Well, I think the same thing applies to technology-based "toys" too.

I welcome any thoughts from anyone on both sides of this issue.  How do you handle technology use in your home?