Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pizza Paradise & A Recipe Too

Tonight we are having pizza. Yes, I know sometimes that can be a cop-out in the realm of the old "What's For Dinner" game we play everyday. But when you make the pizza, it's not quite so much of a cheat.
Dan and I are pizza connoisseurs, which is just a polite way of saying that we eat the stuff way too much and have decided "Connoisseur" sounds a lot better than "Pizza Glutton". (Has more of a catchy ring to it, don't ya think?)
Anyway. We'll happily snack away on the local fare available to us, with Romeo's Pizza being an addictive favorite. But our all time, hands down, 'walk-over-someone-else's-face-if-you-have-to-in-order-to-get-it' places happen to be just across the Border in Canada. We say we're going up to see Niagara Falls, but, really it has more to do with the pizza. (Well, not really. But maybe they are both stellar draws).
We stumbled upon Antica Pizzeria one day years ago, in a fit of 'late-night-must-have-pizza-but-what-is-still-open?' rage. It was love at that first wood oven cooked, cheesy bite. Our favorite is the pizza margherita. Cheese. Sauce. More cheese. Simple, yummy joy.
Located just a few blocks away, Co Co's is also a wood burning oven pizzeria, only they specialize in a truly unique selection of gourmet pizzas. I can't remember a single name of any pizza on their menu, but I do remember our favorite and I'm even going to post my own version of it here.
Two amazing places. Scores of delicious, not-your-run-of-the-mill style pizzas between them.  If you ever find yourself visiting those majestic Falls, I highly recommend you take a moment to check out Canada's other, less advertised, wonders in these two pizza places. If you do, tell them there are two very loyal people in the U.S.A who sent ya.

Or try this recipe, if you don't want to take my word for it.

Co Co's Pizza

1 pizza crust.
(I happen to love Pizza Buddy dough, which you can get in the deli section of some stores. Seriously. The stuff is amazing. I used to make my own dough, but this tastes so much better and more like a pizzeria that I switched. Plus it's only .88 cents at Walmart, and they have a whole wheat version.)

1 cup roasted red peppers, cut up into chunks.
(I'm too lazy to actually roast my own, so I cheat and buy the jarred kind. It's not quite the same, but in my laziness, I have to accept that. If you choose to take the lazy route like me, make sure you drain the peppers very well or you'll have a wet pizza).

1/2 cup black olives, sliced.
(Olive haters may choose to omit this ingredient, but I say, "Keep the Olives!!")

1 cup cooked chicken, chopped.
(White meat is your best bet for this)

Mozzarella Cheese

Swiss Cheese
(Notice I'm not giving any amounts for the cheese. Use as much as it takes. Whatever it takes to cover that wonderful crust with ooey-gooey goodness and drape it in cheesy splendor. A good rule of thumb would be 2 cups of Mozzarella and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the Swiss, for you number sticklers out there).

1/2 - 1 cup red sauce
(It could be spaghetti sauce, marinara, or bone fide pizza sauce. Whatever you choose. However much of it you want on there. Go for it. This is your moment: Create!)

2-3 TBS Fresh Rosemary, chopped.
(And this is it, folks. This is the piece de resistance for the entire pizza. Omit this and you might as well toss the whole thing on the floor and stomp on it. No matter how much you think you hate this herb, leave it on there. Let it have its moment to persuade you. It will. Oh, it will.)

Extras: Shredded Parm, Salt & Pepper

Oven method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Situate your dough into your preferred greased pizza pan. Ladle and spread sauce. Top with cheese. Toss on the peppers, olives, chicken, and Rosemary. If you want to, finish this beauty off with a sprinkling of the Parm and some freshly ground sea salt & black pepper.
Slide it into the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and joyously tinged with brown. If the center is still a tad moist (that would be from the jarred peppers, oh lazy ones), put it under the broiler for a few minutes to dry it out. But watch it carefully: too much equals "Burn", which equals "Boo".
Cut and enjoy your own slice of Canadian bliss.

Grill Method:
As mentioned, these are done in wood ovens up there. And it's good; better than good, it's amazing. Now, if you happen to have yourself a true wood oven, I say, "Wow. That rocks." But if you don't, your grill will suffice quite well. There's a technique to it, so be patient. But once you get it, it's gonna be Pizza Night at your house a lot more. (If you choose this method, have your ingredients ready to go in dishes and at the grill).

Preheat your grill so that you have a cool side and a medium-high side. (The cool side will be for loading up your pizza). Hand toss your chosen dough and get it into some semblance of a circle. Unless you're a professional pizza tosser (which I am not), it will be more of a mutant circle, but shape truly doesn't matter. Honest.

Once shaped, lay it carefully onto the hot side of your grill. Now close the lid and give it about 4-5 minutes to cook. This will firm it up. Check it from time to time to make sure it's cooking okay and not burning. If it's still not quite done at the 5 minute mark, let it go for another minute or 2. A "Done" crust will be stiff and have light to medium grill marks on it.

Once that's achieved, lightly brush the non-cooked side with olive oil and flip the crust over onto the cool side of your grill. Give your cooked side a light brush with more olive oil, and then spread your sauce on it. Add your cheese and follow with the rest of the toppings.

Now slide the pizza over to the hot side of the grill and close the lid. You'll be looking at about 7 minutes of cook time, but again, check several times to make sure the bottom of the crust isn't getting black. You can adjust the heat if need be.

When cheese is melted, you are done. Carefully slide your pizza onto a pizza paddle or the backside of a cookie sheet. Slice and enjoy.
(The flavor added by the grill is amazing. It's the only way we eat pizza around here.)

A May To Remember

Normally my blogs revolve around the common (if slightly mundane at times) world of the Stay At Home Mom. But today I had to share something likewise dear to my heart.

May is an important month in my life. It's an anniversary of sorts. Not one of the major ones that involve cakes, roses, or congratulations; but the quiet kind that can so often slip by unnoticed and unbothered with. It was in May of 1995 that I met Dan, the man destined to become my best friend and my husband. The man who puts up with my one million and two quirks, faults, and eccentricities with aplomb on a daily basis. Today's blog is a quick look back at that first meeting.

As I said, it was May. I was finishing up my sophomore year at CVCA and was getting ready to take on my first summer job: Kitchen Worker At Camp Carl. A requirement for any position at Camp was certification in CPR/First Aid, and our church was offering a day-long class with certification for those who still needed it. Like me.

I was expecting a long day. A loooonnnng day. But I knew some of my fellow Camp-mates, so I figured I wouldn't be lonely. That was enough for me.

Walking into the assigned room, I took a gander around and saw the usual mix of people tossed into a full-day-training course, along with the usual quietness that accompanies groups of people who, as of yet, did not know each other, but who would most likely leave at the end of the day laughing and having made scores of new acquaintances.

Scanning the room for a familiar face and an empty seat beside it, my eyes crossed paths with a tall fellow with sandy brown hair, and who had, (I kid you not), the happiest smile I'd ever seen. This guy's smile lit up his eyes and his whole face at the same time. I was momentarily struck by the force of that smile. I had no clue who he was, nor if I'd ever get a chance to actually meet him. But I was slapped with a feeling that there would be some connection between us.

I know what you're thinking. "C'mon. Seriously? You were, what?..16? You did not seriously think you were going to have a "Connection" with this guy. And what the heck does "Connection" mean, anyway? You were a kid. You had no idea what was going on."

And it's true, I was a kid. But it's true about the connection part. I'm not saying I heard the Wedding March when my eyes first met him, or anything. But it felt like I knew him. Like somehow we had already met. I liked that about him.

The day went on with the usual drudgery highlighted by momentary glimpses of funny moments. From time to time I found myself in this fella's group. From his name tag, I saw that his name was Dan. And I noticed that his smile was even brighter and kinder up close. I can't remember if we talked much, outside of working in a group, but I remember that feeling of importance being placed on him. I left that day unsure of how exactly our paths were going to mingle, but certain that they would in some way.

Come June, our work at Camp began in earnest. I was tucked away in the bowels and heat of the kitchen, while Dan was a counselor, spending his days with his kids. We didn't have much occasion to connect over the course of the summer, but strangely, we started to talk and get to know each other. Slowly. He was, it turned out, incredibly shy. And I'm not sure he knew what to do with this blond, flighty thing who was always on the peripheral. He was 19 at the time, heading into his sophomore year of college, and I was 17 and looking at my junior year in high school.

We became friends easily though, finding that for all our differences, we had a lot of thoughts and beliefs in common. And we enjoyed just being together. Hanging out with no expectations at all. It was nice.

By the end of the summer, we decided to try the dating thing. Let's give it a whirl, we thought. It was a tough decision since he would be going back to college in Pennsylvania that fall, while I would still be at home, 2 hours away. We decided that to be fair, we'd stay in contact and if at any time either one of us didn't like the distance, then we'd go back to being friends and drop the whole dating thing. Could we honestly have done that? I don't know. Maybe not. (I guess it's lucky we never had to deal with it).

Loonnnggg story slightly abbreviated, we sailed through that first year, seeing each other whenever we could, and wracking up monthly long distance bills of $200 dollars (since this was before the advent of decent long distance calling plans). The following fall, we were engaged. And in 1998 (after a year and a half long engagement) we were married.

And here I sit today, thinking back on the importance of that first meeting, and finding myself very grateful for it indeed. It seems so long ago; we were different people then. But that friendship, the one that we protected fiercely and were willing to fight for from the start, it's still ever present in our married life. I have the privilege of saying that I love my husband dearly, truly, deeply.

And I also really, really, really, really, really, really like him.

(A lot).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And then there were 4

Somehow this year is drawing to a close.
Somehow, through the turmoil and chaos that has been "This First Year", the end of it is in sight.
Where it all went, those countless days in between the 'First Day' and these nearly last ones, I cannot say.
Days that were happy. Some that were sad. Days filled with  accomplishments. And days where the only "good" thing they could say about it was that I added another check mark to our calendar.
Slowly the days have all ebbed away to this point. Four more days.
Just four.

This is always the best part of the school year; when you are nearing the end.
You can look back and almost not see the negatives.
The day-to-day struggles seem diminished somehow, by the bright light that is "End Of School".

And to be honest, I'm a bit melancholy about the whole thing. You probably knew I would be. Hells bells, if I'm being honest, I probably knew it too. I'm semi-sad to see this first stage of their learning adventure draw to a close. No matter how stressful things got, I was always able to say, "This is the first part of their adventure. They're on their way!"

Sure, it wasn't the peachy-keen picture I'd hoped it would be for them. But it's theirs, nonetheless. And we've met some pretty spectacular people along the way.

But even as this "First" draws to a close, a new adventure awaits just over the horizon. First grade at home. They're excited to begin it. I'm anxious just to see how it goes, and excited to dust off my 'Teaching' hat once again.

Four more days.


And then. Oh my. The places we'll go.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The One Where Our Garage Door Opener Bites The Dust

Our automatic garage door has broken. It was just a matter of time before this event occurred. And  now we're living in the dark ages of a life without electrical lift.

I honestly didn't realize how much I took that singular button for granted. When I wanted the door open, I just pushed a small button and up it went. Ta-da! Time to put it down again? No problem; with just a small jab of a finger, down it went again. Reassuring. Certain. Constant.

Except for now. Now, when one of the brackets is broken and no one carries the part. Now, when we have to order the part and wait. And wait. And wait. Now, that we've had to regress practically back to the stone ages and actually lift the door under our own steam.

It's true what they say, you know. You just don't know what ya got till it's gone. Turns out, this even applies to garage door openers.

I thought about it today as I ran out into the rain to close the garage door before I took the girls to school. And I thought about it some more when I ran out into the rain to open the door after I returned. Only now, sitting here quite soggy and sad, can I truly appreciate the joy that garage door openers brings to people like me. Spoiled people who don't particularly want to get wet entering or leaving the garage. People who prefer not to have to mentally chant "Bend At The Knees, Lift From The Legs" before heaving the giant thing up or down. People who, gosh darn it, just want their lives to be made more simple with a door that opens when you push a button. That's me. All of those things. Hi.

Thankfully the part will arrive sometime this week, and Dan will get it put back together. Then hopefully, (oh-so-hopefully), I'll be back to living life in all its button-pushing-electric-lifting splendor. And you know what? Every time I push that button and hear the "Smoke Monster-esque" sound the door makes as it lifts or drops under the power of the opener, I'll remember to be a little more grateful for it.

I will.

I promise.

I'll smile and say, "Thank you."
(Maybe not every time. But most of the time. Or at the very least, some of the time.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thanks to the meandering grapevine of "she-told-him-and-he-told-me", I've recently come across the site Multiples & More. It would figure that my twins are rounding the corner to 7 and I just found this site, which is like a round table meeting for all things multiple. When I think of all the crazy insanity we went through back in the day, when my girls were clearly "the only twins to ever do this"......(insert sigh here).

But better late than never, right?

Anyway. On this site, they posted a very important question. One that justifies spending chunks of time on it, sipping coffee, eating a pastry; deep in thought. The question? "What would you say to an 18 year old you?"

Ah, yes. My 18 year old self. I remember her. Vaguely. But what would I say to her? Would she listen to me? (Doubtful).  Maybe it would go something like this:

Dear 18 year old self, (yes, I know that's impersonal, but since I was completely clueless about life, I doubt I'll mind or take offense).

It's me, you're 32 year old, much wiser self. I'm sitting here in the futuristic world (ha-ha-ha) of 2011, thinking back on you. I know you're busy right now. You've just finished up your first year of college and have pretty much decided that you know absolutely everything about everything. First of all, I am very pleased to announce that you will eventually lose that cocky attitude, where by making your relationships with your fellow human beings easier, for everyone involved. So you can look forward to that, you're welcome very much.

I also need to tell you something that will take you a small portion of forever to understand and truly take to heart. Life can turn out much differently than you've planned it; and that is okay. Actually, it's beyond okay. In fact, it makes "okay" look like the dumpiest day you can imagine. I know you've got plans, and they're all great. They are. I know you want to go out and conquer the whole world, and no one is going to stop you.

But plans change, don't they?

You'll have your opportunity to teach, dear Young Self, and you'll be happy with it. But then something magical will happen. I don't want to give anything away, (I know how much you still hate people spoiling endings), so I'll just give you a hint. It involves an egg splitting and you becoming a Stay At Home Mom.

What's that you say, Young Self? That gave it away? Well, you'll have to get over that down the line anyway, so you can start now.

Indeed, you'll have twin girls. From the moment you find out about them, they will change your world completely. There will be struggles, but in the end, you and Dan will manage just fine. And you'll choose to stay home with them. I know, I know, you can't picture yourself doing that. You're too "on fire" for your future career as you read this. I remember.

But like I said, plans can change.

You know what the most amazing part of the whole career switch will be for you? (And it is a switch in careers, Self. Make no mistake, this is still "work"). You won't mind it. Not one bit. Oh sure, you'll wonder how you'll ever get used to it, but the instant you lay eyes on those two fuzzy heads, it will be the easiest decision you've ever made. Every day will be all sorts of chaos and crazy, but you'll love every single second of it.

Well, gee. I can't spend all day sending you crib notes to your future, can I? Gotta leave some surprises for you to find on your own, after all. You'll do fine, Young Self. You will. Your plans are great. But the layout that actually takes place? Well, that's even better.

Lots Of Love,
(And yes, acne really DOES clear up).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parenting 101: Though They Be Cute, They Be Wild

Picture this, if you will. It's been what feels like the 40th rainy day in a row. You're thinking about possibly building an ark, or at the very least renting a pontoon boat. Your children, desperate from lack of sunshine, have fallen into a mode of behavior that has only two sounds: 'Whine' and 'Oh dear Lord, How Could They Actually Have Gotten Even Whinier?' At any given time you know exactly where they are located based upon the primordial sounds of anger, disgust, and inactivity being emitted in their vicinity.

At some point you realize that your ears may explode if they are forced to transept one more derivative of "Wahhh", so you send them away. Upstairs. Somewhere else. Proximity to you is not a good thing at this moment; away is better. Safer.

They trot off, trailing the sluggish sounds of Whine behind them, and you plunk down on the couch: exhausted and ready to read and have a few minutes of peace. As you mindlessly flip pages of a book you're only barely paying attention to, you keep track of their activities through a series of audible thumps, squeals, and yelps that are floating down the stairs.

Content that they're not assembling any ammunition or making dung bombs, you turn your attention fully to the book. You tune them out.

(Can you spot your mistake in those last 2 sentences?)

Immersed in the world of make-believe your book has blessedly whisked you off to, you only presently realize that there is an odd sound filling the room. Pricking your ears up, you realize what the sound is and why it distresses you so much. It's silence.

Moving slowly, you put the book down and begin the trek upstairs, listening as you go; waiting for some indication that you were mearly hearing a lull in their conversation, and hoping that they're really behaving. Perhaps, you silently hope to yourself, they're just sitting quietly with their hands in their laps, waiting to apologize for the week's worth of frustration they've inflicted upon you.

(Because you can always keep that dream alive, my friend. Always.)

Entering their room you find that your hopeful dream was miles and miles away from the truth of what was happening. Sitting in the middle of the room are your two cherubs. For the first time in a week, they are playing with gusto, it's true. Unfortunately, they're playing with the mounds of newly headless (and some legless) Barbie dolls, and few headless My Little Ponies that they've apparently just created.

You see, there is a lesson to be learned here. There is. Sure, you were exhausted and worn out by days of whining and fighting. And certainly you were ready for a quiet moment to yourself. And the truth is, you did everything right by keeping an ear towards their non-visual play, listening for any sounds that might suggest naughtiness.

(But really, what sounds would be suggest the beheading of dolls?)

However, the harsh reality is, my friend, that you were suckered in. It's true. You made the error of taking those acceptable noises and assuming they were up to an equally acceptable past time. You were lulled into complacency by a false sense of clueless guise. I've seen it happen so many times before; you forgot the first mantra of parenting multiples: Though They Be Cute, They Be Wild.

No you can't really trust them. Even though they're past the age of sticking things in outlets and pulling dressers over on themselves, they still aren't fully trustworthy! Don't be so naive, man. So what that they're almost 7; let us not forget that there are 2 of them, and according to Mandy's Law, whenever 2 or more gather, mischief can and will be made.

So now you have to deal with those poor headless/legless creatures. All of them. One by one. You have no real way of knowing if you get the heads sorted out and reattached to the correct body, but you give it your best shot anyway.

In the end, you take away the much anticipated TV time, explaining to them that poor
Barbie & My Little Ponies can no longer watch either (since they've been decapitated), and isn't that quite sad indeed? And you explain in firm terms that under no circumstance will this ever happen again. But somewhere, deep in side, you know it will. Somehow. You'll let your guard down one day; you can't be everywhere at once, after all. You're good, but not that good.

And in the end, this much is ever true: Though They Be Cute, They Be Wild. Beware.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Take away MY Multiple's Discount? Not without a fight, I tell ya!

Dear Oshkosh Customer Service,

I am writing to you in regards to your Multiples Discount; or rather, your decided lack thereof. As you may guess, I am a mother of egg-splitting multiples myself. Twin girls. When they were born, besides being monumentally overwhelmed and extremely tired, we also happened to be quite strapped for cash. Buying 2 of everything all at once will do that to you, you know. As my girls outgrew their wardrobes (which felt like every 2nd Tuesday, to tell the truth), my first shopping destination was always to my local Oshkosh outlet store.

Yes indeed. That's where we went first. Every time.
When friends and family asked me why we chose Oshkosh over the tons of other children's clothing stores, I had one very easy answer. Are you ready for it?....

My answer was always thus: "Why, they offer a Multiples Discount. So I choose to go to them first, since they're offering me something too."

And that was it. Not the quality. Not the nearness of the store. Truly; the discount. You see, I know 10% off doesn't sound like much to you. In truth, it's not much. But it was something. It was your corporate hand reaching out to cash-strapped, bleary-eyed with exhaustion me, and saying, "Howdy, friend. Buy your little cherubs' clothes here. We'll even give you a discount because, gosh darn it, you deserve it. We can't give you more sleep, or rid you of the ever present smell of spoiled milk, but we can give you 10% off just for shopping right here. Now what do you think of that?"

I thought you were pretty great indeed. And so I shopped. I spent. That had to make you happy, right?
And then you decided to take that away. That small amount, paltry by most standards but important to we who shop for groups of children who outgrow clothing all at once; and you took it away.
Why? Can you please answer me that?
I went into my local store today, which happens to be the one at Lodi Outlets in Lodi Ohio. I looked around and bought a few items. But as I checked out, I felt sad. Talking to the cashier, I explained my sadness over the magical disappearance of one of my favorite Mom Of Multiples perks. She agreed.
It is sad.

(It is).
I represent a growing demographic. The demographic of parents to whom Mr. Stork dropped off more than one bundle. My preggo shirts said 'People On Board', not 'Baby On Board'. When one of my girls outgrows all her clothes at once, there is no hand me down pile to take from, or to save for later. No. There is only her identical twin sitting next to her, equally squashed into a pair of likewise too-small-pants. Two new wardrobes to shop for, from top to bottom. Again. And again. And again.

And to think, there used to be a store who cared enough about that slight inconvenience to offer a small discount. Small, yes, but like a friendly little nudge and a wink, it was appreciated nonetheless.
Since you've done away with that discount, you haven't seen my money in your till. Whatever profit margins you've gained or lost over the last few years has not been with my help. I've found other places to shop where the clothes are cheaper. Because I have to.

Now. I've taken the time think this through and write to you; sharing with you my feelings about something you probably did away with without a moment's thought. I'm guessing after reading this I'll either get one of those super-impersonal "Thank you for contacting customer service" form letters, or no response at all. (Wee! Lucky me.) But what I'd really like is an actual correspondence from a real person explaining why the parents of multiples, who have loyally shopped at your stores, are no longer deemed worthy of that discount. And I'd also like to know what it would take to get it back again.
Because we're worth it. We are.

We endure tedious pregnancies, nightmarish deliveries (I won't even GO there), struggle through a first year which only fellow parents (or grandparents) of multiples can truly understand, trudge through stores ,which are more than likely designed too small for our over-sized strollers, while politely answering an onslaught of embarassingly personal questions thrown at us by complete strangers, AND somehow manage to make it all look like we'd planned for it all along; a smile on our faces, and a kind word at the ready.
Yep. I'd say we've earned that 10%.

Wouldn't you?


Amanda Dickinson

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Here We Grow Again

It absolutely never fails; I try to be on the good side of things: to be prepared, ready, even ahead of the game. And it all goes south in a wild flush of misery and boo-ness. (No, that's not a word. Spell check confirmed it. But I don't care. I'm making a it a word.)

Spring has finally decided to unleash warm temps on our fair city, thus necessitating a trip up to the attic and the Summer Clothes Bins. Every year, they're up there waiting for me to go through them. Will it fit? Too short? Too tight? Going through those seasonal bins is always a bit of a crap shoot for us. I pack away as much as I possibly can at the end of each season, hoping, hoping, and hoping that maybe some of it will fit in 365 days. When the calendar & weather align, I pull out piece after piece of clothing, making 2 piles on the floor beside me. Pile One: Hooray It Fits. Pile Two: No-Go. Darn it.

Guess which pile is always bigger?

Indeed. Pile 2 is our seasonal winner.

Out of frustration and with a sincere desire to pack away some clothes that we could actually wear again, I went out at the end of last summer and shopped ahead. I scored big time on Capri pants and shorts, and a few tee shirts. I scrutinized over the sizes, being sure to choose the next size up from what they were currently wearing. When I brought it all home and tried things on them, I felt good about the prospects of a full wardrobe for the next summer. For this summer.

But alas.

Foiled again.

Everything is too tight.

Too short.

Too small.

They basically skipped an entire size. I simply cannot win.

And so I'll not be trying to buy ahead now. Nope. No more. Not until they stop growing like weeds. Not until one size will fit them for more than a few weeks. Then we'll see. I'll try being more prepared then.

And even then, I'll be wary. Because I know how these things usually work out.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Operation: Making Hand Soap.

Soap Making Saga Continues.

So maybe you're tired of reading about my attempts to cut the financial corners down a bit. But. I'm writing about it anyway. Because it's important. Because it matters. And because I want to.

As you know, I've met with some success with trying my hand at making Laundry detergent. It's fun. It's cheap. It works. Cannot complain about it. Makes me feel a distant kinship with our pioneering ancestors, (their use of boiling lye compared to the relative ease of my dumping a few pre-made ingredients together not withstanding).

Riding on the wave of that glory, I decided to try my hand at another soap making endeavor when the last drops of liquid hand soap slowly eeked out of the soap dispenser. What a sad moment that is: empty bottle, needy hands. Ah, what to do.

I was fed up with buying jug after jug of refill soap when I knew darn well that I could make it for a fraction of the cost. I just never wanted to. But now....Ha! I've had laundry soap success! Let's add this to the list.

After some research, I gave it a shot.

Here's the How To part, for your appreciation.

Take 4oz of your favorite bar soap and grate it. (You'll get exercise AND soap. A winning combination as ever there could be).

Bring 1 jug of water to a boil. (Distilled water is good for this).

 Remove from heat and add the grated soap.
Stir until melted. (At this point, you'll have liquidy stuff. But do not despair! You're not done yet. The magic has yet to happen. This is a lesson in patience.)

Allow to sit for 15 minutes and give it another stir. Now let it set quietly for a few more hours to overnight so it will thicken. (Mine was ready after about 2 hours).

Once it thickens, and believe me, you'll know when it is...decide if you're happy with it. You can adjust it as needed. Too liquid-y? Reheat and add more soap. Too thick? Reheat and add more water. If you want it smooth it out a bit, take a moment to run an immesion blender through it.

When cooled, you can add a few drops of essential oils (if you want it to smell so 'purdy'), and some coloring, (if you want it to look so 'purdy' too). Fill your dispensers and wash away, friend; wash away.

As an added bonus, you pour the rest of the soap back into your jug, which now becomes a handy soap bottle. How great is that?

The exciting news is that it keeps for a long time, so you can make a big batch several times a year and have your soap when you need it.

My verdict is....
I am happy. I am. I added some lavender oil, which smells nice. I also used my immersion blender on the cooled soap to make it velvety smooth and nice.
We have automatic dispensers, so I wasn't sure how this stuff would feed out of it. It's been fine though. I like the stuff. It's true. And what I like even more is that a quart of it cost me a whopping 45 cents. That's right. 4 dimes and a nickle. Or 9 nickles, if you'd rather.
And before you say it, I know it's cheap at price clubs. That's where we've gotten it for the last few years. This represents a freedom from Da Man. I'm starting a thumb-on-nose revolution at our house whereby we don't buy stuff we can make.

Because I can.

Because it's just as good.

Because, darn it, I'm not falling victim to the mighty ad-men any more than I have to.

And because, it turns out, sometimes it's just as easy to save money as it is to spend it. (My first GALLON of soap cost a mere .78; the cost of the water).

So there ya go.
Give it a try. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

They Call Her Mom.

Thinking, "Mom".

Being a mother means learning to think in terms of "Others" rather than "Myself".

It means baking the chocolate cupcakes when I'd much rather have the vanilla ones
   (because 2 happy smiles make up for any frowns I may make. Come to  think of it,
    it's all good diet sense anyways, right?)

As a mother, my first thoughts are for them.
    are they safe?
     are they happy?
     do they feel loved?

Motherhood means wearing my heart on my sleeve
   (and wanting to put bubble wrap on it. And duct tape. And a big sign that says, "CAREFUL!  My heart is
     here. Don't bump it. Don't hurt it. Don't even look at it crossed eyed. Or I'll claw your eyes out."

In fact, motherhood has taught me that I probably do have it within myself to seriously hurt someone who harmed or even attempted to harm my children. Oh yeah. I think so.

Being a mom has opened my eyes to a world I used to know. It's brought back the magic of a lightening bug. The simple thrill of a pinwheel blowing in the wind. The wonder of a rainbow.

In being a mother, I'm remembering to be thankful (oh-so-thankful) for every blessing.

Each. And. Every. One.

Baking Up Some Love

Today I woke up in need of cinnamon rolls.
Real cinnamon rolls.
The kind that you bake properly; from scratch. With dough. And mounds of cinnamon. And slabs of butter.

The kind I should have thought about making last night so I could get them semi put together before this morning's craving hit.

(But how was I supposed to know?)

In the midst of my cinnamon roll making, dough creating, madness, two little girls pranced into the kitchen. Both eager to see "What's Going On" and to be a part of the magic. With a couple of well-placed compliments tossed in a long the way: "Oh Mom, your cinnamon rolls are my favorite", "I think your cinnamon rolls will help my allergies go away, Mom. I'll probably need to eat quite a few." (Hmmmm...)

So here I am now, with time on my hands (approximately 40 minutes), and fingers itching to communicate. (Rise dough, rise).

The girls are now plopped in front of the TV, watching their current favorite "Ratatouille". Caedance is happily eating some dry cereal, while Ashlyn skirts around the rug to find a place for herself on the couch. It's not what they're doing that interests me at the moment; it's how they're doing it.

Ashlyn, skirting the rug, careful not to let her bare feet touch it.
Caedance, touching each piece of cereal to her upper lip before popping it in her mouth.

On display. In a moment of unguarded, unpretentious abandon. Hair "let down", being themselves.

Ashlyn deplores having her bare feet on a rug. I'm not sure if it's a testament to my extensive personal collection of cheap rugs that are tossed around our house; or if it is a universal aversion to all floor covering of the small and movable kind. All I know is, she creeps around the edge of them all if her feet are bare. In the morning, getting ready for school, the socks go on first. Every time.

Caedance, on the other hand, seems to have a fixation with touching food to her upper lip before eating it. Not every piece of food, thank goodness. Just select varieties. I'm not sure if she's smelling it, testing the texture, or just being odd. Quintessentially Caedance; how I love her. Pick up the food, tap it to the upper lip, put it in the mouth. Pick up, tap it, eat it. Interesting.

They seem to sense my observation from across the room and turn to see me watching them. They smile at me. Heads leaned towards each other, ear-to-ear grins plastered identically on each face. A smile that conveys love, joy, content.

They love me. Look at that sheer adoration in my direction! What a lucky lady I am to have two such-

"Mom, are the cinnamon rolls about done?"
"Can you go finish making them now?"

I see.
There you go.

I'm loved. Yes.

But right now, cinnamon rolls have the adoration.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In A Moment of Silence

We are in the middle of our 245th fight with allergies this year.

They were doing fine yesterday. Today they're stuffed up and staring vacantly ahead.

On the way home from school I asked them, "Are you feeling okay?" They just stared ahead, unblinking. "Yes, Mama", the answered in unison. Still staring. I had an eerie recollection of the twins from The Shinning. 'We want you to play with us'.

I have them resting on the couch now.
Well, one is resting. The other is snoring. Loudly.

It's quiet. (Except for the snoring, obviously).
That is not a usual sound in our house.

I'm not quite sure what to do with myself when I don't have to say the common phrases every five minutes:
"Stop that."
"Stop fighting."
"No pushing on that."
"No jumping from there."
"No throwing. Anything. Ever."
"Did you bite her? Don't bite her."
"Who didn't flush the toilet? If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

In the midst of this unusual din of silence, I find myself wondering what I ever did before they were here.
How did I occupy my time? I can't seem to recall, but I must have done something. I was always so busy. So tired. Exasperated about some definite lack of time. Rushing. Hurrying here and there. Forever 5 minutes behind.

How is that possible?

I didn't know what "Busy" or "Lack Of Time" meant back then.

And the truly marvelous thing is; even though I have no time to myself (save these rare moments of allergy-induced silence), I cannot imagine my life any other way.

I don't want to.

These two fill my life with the best sort of busy-ness there could ever be.

The soft hum of a family filling these walls.

A daily blessing, indeed.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Laundry Soap

We are in the middle of an experiment in the fine art of "Saving Money". I don't know if you've noticed or not, but things are starting to get pricey.  (And if you haven't noticed that yet, I have some questions for you regarding your whereabouts for the last year or so.)

We're a one income family, and as such, our Money Tree has dwindled down to more of a sapling, really. I'm always looking for ways to save money or use what we have in better and more efficient ways.

One day I stumbled upon the recipes for making your own laundry soap and figured I'd give it a try. Turns out, it's a great recipe that works well and can pull double duty around the house. The recipes come from The Duggar Family (you can google them if you don't know who they are), and I highly recommend trying these out!

The Recipes

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
1 (or 2) bar(s) of Fels-Naptha soap..or Ivory
1 Cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
-Put everything in a food processor and pulse until powdered. For a light load, use 1 TBS of powder. Use 2 TBS for a heavy or large load.

Liquid Laundry Detergent:
4 cups Hot water
1 (or 2) bar(s) Fels-Naptha or Ivory soap, grated.
1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
-put grated soap & water in a saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until soap is melted.
-fill a 5 gallon bucket half way with hot tap water. Add soap, washing soda, and borax. Stir until powder is dissolved. Now fill bucket the rest of the way with warm water. Cover and let stand overnight to thicken.
To use: stir and fill a clean lidded container half full of soap, then fill the rest of the way with water. You'll need to shake before each use. 5/8 of a cup for top load machines, (approx. 180 loads) 1/4 cup for front load machines (approx. 640 loads).
You can add a 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. But add it after the soap has cooled.

My Verdict:
The powdered soap works great. I use 2 bars of soap per batch and think that's right for me. A nice, light smell. I use Ivory, although I may try the Fels-Naptha brand soap too. I have found Fels-Naptha at Walmart for .97 a bar.

The liquid version has been great. First off, make sure you grate the soap. Very important. I also think 2 bars is the way to go in the recipe as well. To use it, I fill a flip-lidded 2 quart container with the soap and add the water (I use a cleaned out Cat Litter container), although I use less water than called for. I then use my immersion blender to blend it all together, dropping in a few drops of essential oil as I do. Cleans great and whitens whites. Can't complain about that. The soap itself smells wonderful, but doesn't leave much of a scent on the clothes. It's taken me some time to get used to that, but since they smell clean, I am learning. Besides, I can use fabric softener, right?

Will I get 640 loads out of it? I'm guessing not. First off, I don't use an actual 5 gallon bucket. Second, I find I'm not watering down each batch as much as called for. I use less water to keep the soap a bit thicker. Finally, I'm using it for other things besides laundry, so it's pulling double and triple duty for me. I'm guessing, based on how I'm using it, that I'll still get roughly 250 to maybe 300 loads of laundry out of this. Considering it cost me under $2.00 to make, I'll chalk this up as a very big Win.

I've also used this liquid stuff in my steam cleaner. Carefully. I add it to the filled water tank, stirring to make sure it totally dissolves. In my opinion it out cleans the store bought solutions, which are really pricey.
I use this to clean out the mice cage too, and have had great results. There's not a lot of sudsing, so it's a cleaner rinse. And the mice like the lavender smell, I think. (Seriously, the little boogers do).

Again, I recommend giving this a try. If you do, please let me know how it goes for you. I'd love to hear it!
If you visit the Duggar Family website, they have other recipes (some are "Duggar-sized") for family favorites as well as a good fabric softener idea. Check it out!

Update: 4-28-12
It's been a year now since going Homemade with detergent. I love it. Absolutely. I keep both the powdered & liquid versions around. Incidently, I have also been using Fels-Naptha as my go to, one and only stain treater. Wet the stained area, scrub the soap onto it, then put in the wash. Presto-Pasta! Stain is gone. At less than a dollar a bar, and with a success rate of nearly 100%, I'm voting a big Yes on that. Another cost cutting thing I've been doing is to water down my fabric softener. I pour the softener into a gallon jug, then fill the now empty FS container with water and begin adding water to the jug as well, repeating that until jug is full. The effect is the same as full strength, only now my FS lasts a lot longer. Easy-Peasy.