A blog about "nothing"!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Photo of the week, new ventures ahead and nuttiness!

It's been a bit nutty around here this week.  Our air conditioning died :(  Normally this wouldn't be a huge tragedy, but it's been warm and it has rained a ton--one day our area got 4 inches in 24 hours.  Needless to say, it's been a bit like a tropical rainforest around here, and I've spent most of my week just trying to stay cool.  Today it's supposed to be replaced, I can't wait. 

I've been working on some new ideas for my American Girl diorama which has led me to an even bigger idea--starting another blog.  It's still in the works, but I will be sure to post about it here once I have it up and running.  It will be doll themed with (hopefully) some DIY stuff.  I just need to get some time and a cool house so I can concentrate.  I won't be getting rid of this blog, just working on a second.  Yeah, I'm nuts.

Lastly, I've decided to bring my "Photo of the Week" posts to the blog as well as on Twitter. 
This little guy used to hang out on my in-laws deck, my mother-in-law would buy stale peanuts to feed him.  So cute--yet so destructive if they get in to the wrong place!

Have a great weekend, it's almost here!

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's all in the "little" details!

I'm still working on some stuff for my American Girl diorama, it's definitely been taking over a lot of my thoughts!  I've been doing some research online as well, getting ideas of things I want to do (and some I don't!).  I came across a really cute website that not only gave me some great ideas, but also for a couple of things to look for that aren't actually made for American Girl, but can easily be adapted.  I'm so my mother's daughter, she was always looking at things small enough to use in her dollhouse and I find myself doing the same.  This weekend I found some great stuff and didn't spend a lot, now I'm getting really excited about setting this all up. 

First I made a trip to Michael's crafts, I don't go there often since the nearest one is 20 minutes away, but thanks to info I found at American Girl Fan, I decided a trip was in order.  I not only found the cute little clipboards I was looking for but some other stuff that would work great in my doll "bedroom".
 Left to right: the little clipboards which are the perfect size--$1 each.  Mini wooden spools, on clearance for 49 cents that I will use on a project I have in mind.  Mini calendar-$1.  I liked that it had no year on it, so it can be used indefinitely and was even happier after I got it out of the package and found that the month pages are heavy cardstock, so they will hold up.  Mini sewing kit-$1, also for future project.  Mini lunchbox-$3, and mini gift boxes, 6 on clearance for 79 cents.  My trip cost me just a little over $8, I think I did well.

One of the things that I saw at Michael's I really wanted, but the $8.99 price tag stopped me.  Then I remembered seeing the same thing at JoAnn's and I remembered that I had a 40% off coupon.  They were cheaper at JoAnn's to begin with ($7.99) and with my coupon, I ended up only paying $4.79:
Aren't they cute?  I plan on putting them in a bin or small basket, I'm going to make faux knitting needles from two wooden skewers cut down to size.  I love this little package of yarn for so many reasons too, I can't tell you how many times I've just needed a small piece of yarn for something and ended up having to buy a large skein that then just sits around and collects dust.  I figure next time I'll just come and swipe one out of this! 

Last but not least--a trip to the dollar store.  Dollar Tree frequently has stuff that can be repurposed for this kind of project and this time around I really lucked out.
Each of these items only cost me a dollar--the two pink bins will make cute under-the-bed storage boxes, the pink shot glasses can be used as flower pots, the blue bins will be used as laundry baskets, I'm going to put some sort of picture in the frame and the nail art bottles will look cute sitting on the dresser with other beauty items.  I even have a use for some of the stuff in the bottles for another project, so double score on that one!  $5 for all of this, and I'm going to have leftovers on the little bins and shot glasses that I can use for other things.  I like having small containers for when I'm working on craft projects such as card or jewelry making, not a thing will go to waste.

For all of this stuff I spent just over $18.  Might sound like a bit much for a doll project, but I got a lot for my investment.  If you have ever priced actual American Girl clothes or accessories, you know that $18 will barely get you one thing, so I think I did very well.  Plus I got to exercise my creativity which is always a good thing.

If you are someone who loves making stuff for dolls of different sizes, you have to check out My Froggy Stuff, it is probably one of the coolest websites I've ever seen with tons of original ideas on things you can make yourself.  I'm still amazed at the mini blender she makes out of a pump bottle and the little stereo out of a body wash lid--wow!  She has so many great ideas, I don't even know where to start. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making your own laundry soap

Several months ago I posted about my desire to make my own laundry soap.  I promised I would post an update, here it is!  Spurned on by a ruined shirt, I was out to make something even better than traditional laundry soap sold in stores.  I think I succeeded.

I did a lot of research and I learned way more than I really wanted to about laundry soap.  Some of it is downright scary, some of it is just ewwww.  First off, there are just way too many chemicals in laundry soap.  This isn't the same stuff our mothers used, not by a long shot.  And we expose ourselves daily to those chemicals by wearing our clothes, sleeping in our beds, using towels.  The thing is, it's not necessary.  Second (and this is the eww part), our clothes aren't really clean.  Here's why:

Most of the laundry detergents sold today have an ingredient that is termed an "optical brightener".  Optical brighteners supposedly take the place of an ingredient from way back when that was called "bluing".  Optical brighteners are chemical compounds that absorb light in the ultraviolet and violet region of the electromagnetic region, and re-emit light in the blue region.  Long story short:  these additives are often used to enhance the appearance of color by making materials look less yellow by increasing the overall amount of blue light reflected.  In other words, they make your clothes "look" clean without really cleaning them.  Military personnel are advised against using detergents with optical brighteners in them because they make them visible to night vision devices, leaving them vulnerable to attack.  Hmmmmm.  My ruined shirt incident was starting to make more sense now at least.

I bought my ingredients and set to work.  I had purchased both Fels Naptha soap and Zote soap in my ingredients run.  Fels Naptha I was familiar with, my mother used it when I was growing up to remove heavy stains (grass, dirt, food) from clothing prior to washing, there was a bar of it sitting in the laundry room for as long as I can remember.  Zote I wasn't as familiar with, but I had read plenty of recipes for homemade soap powder that used it with good results, so I thought I would give it a try.

First off, cut the soap in to cubes:
The Fels kind of looks like cheese, doesn't it? LOL
 
Then run it through a grater or a food processor to make it even smaller.  I have this wonderful food chopper/processor called a Ninja that I used.
 
 
 

Now it really looks like cheese!!!
 
I did make one minor mistake at this point--I tried grating the cheese soap by itself and all it did was clog up the food processor and not grind.  Simple solution is to add some of the dry ingredients (the borax or the washing soda) to the soap, makes it so much easier.  Lesson learned!
 

After adding the rest of the ingredients, this is what my batches looked like.  Let me just say that my soap wasn't even close to fine enough, we have really hard water and I found undissolved soap in my rinse tub.  I solved the problem (sort of, more on that below) by running the batches through the Ninja again until the soap was pulverized.  The batch on the left is just Fels Naptha, the batch on the right is a Fels/Zote combination.  After running them through a second time, the Fels/Zote combination had an orange color to it. 

I used these two batches for several months until they were gone.  I still had some issues with soap not dissolving though, even with it finely ground, particularly in cold or cool water wash cycles.  I suspected the Fels was the issue.  These batches lasted me about 2 months, but keep in mind I was doing a lot of spring cleaning type of stuff, so I was doing more laundry than normal.  (I have the water bill to prove it!)

I decided when I made my next batch it would be straight Zote.  The difference between Fels and Zote is the base--Fels is a tallow (animal fat) base, Zote is a coconut oil base.  I also made sure to finely chop it so that it would help it dissolve in the wash cycle. 
While digging around in my stuff, I found this container to keep it in-perfect!!

Close up of the Zote batch--I had a tiny amount of a prior Fels/Zote batch left which is why you see a few yellow specs here and there.

Here's what I have learned and my observations over the past 2 1/2 months of using this:
  • My clothes smell clean.   Really clean.  I didn't add any fragrance to my soap so the only scent is from dryer sheets. 
  • My clothes look every bit as clean as they did when I was using commercial laundry soaps.
  • I have noticed a SIGNIFICANT reduction in the amount of lint coming off of most of the clothing during the wash cycle that accumulates in our filter.  That tells me that commercial laundry soap is also breaking down the fibers in the clothing, causing premature wear.  Interesting.
  • No skin irritation/sensitivity for me (I have major allergies) or my husband.
  • The straight Zote mixture dissolved with no problems in all temperatures.
Here's the recipe I came up with after doing some research of others, and it worked fine for me.  You can always tweak it for better results, depending on what you are washing, water hardness. etc.

                2 cups of Borax
                2 cups of Washing Soda
                2 cups of finely ground soap (Fels Naptha, Zote or other)
                1 cup of baking soda
                1 cup of Oxiclean

A lot of recipes only use the first three ingredients but I ran across many that used all of them as well but in larger quantities.  I knew from my own prior experience that the baking soda is terrific for neutralizing odors.  Oxiclean is good for helping to whiten clothing.  One thing about both of the last two ingredients, you can always add them to the wash load on an individual "as needed" basis.  It is a matter of personal preference. 

I did learn something disheartening about the Zote after I started using it--it contains optical brighteners.  ARGH!!  I will continue to use it until it is gone, I still have a couple of bars left.  In the meantime I will be looking for something else. 

FYI--I use 1 1/2 - 2 Tablespoons of this for each load (depending on load size), I have a top loading, large capacity washing machine.  This will also work well in front loading washers as it makes next to no suds.  I have a friend who uses it in hers with no problems.

I hope this post has been helpful and informative!  If I come across any further information in regards to this recipe, I will be sure to pass it along.  I encourage you to try it too, it really didn't take all that long to make, it saves money and it's not nearly as bad for you or for the environment as commercial cleaners are. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Stuck Indoors

The first two weeks of June are the worst for me when it comes to allergies.  I haven't figured out exactly what it is, but I do know that tree and grass pollen levels are usually both very high, and this year is especially bad due to the long and nasty winter we had.  I am trying to stay inside, particularly in the mornings, it seems to be helping some.  My hubby has been watering my plants too, he's been a big help.  I'm hopeful that we are almost to the end of it. 

Since I'm stuck inside at the moment, I've been working on some weird things.  I mentioned in a previous post that I've been thinking of how to arrange my doll/bear collection, and specifically mentioned my American Girl doll.  Let me just say this--there will be no American Girl dollhouse like I'm working on for my Sunshine Family.  First off--this stuff is expensive!!!  I have lucked out and found some nice stuff on sale and also some items that are made for similar dolls.  But the other issue is the doll itself is 18" tall, so the furniture is rather large.  I have seen some houses people have made for their kids to play with and it's cute, but I can't help but think how much space that must take up.  Kudos to them!  Since I'm just doing a display, I'm concentrating on "decorating" a little girls bedroom.  For those not familiar with them, American Girl dolls are supposed to be around the age of 10. 

A couple of years ago I came across a really good sale on the AG site and ordered a bunch of stuff--the little clock/phone I featured in the previous post was part of that.  I also got a really cute bunk bed set:
It included two mattresses, pillows and comforters that when zipped together turned in to a sleeping bag.  It's cute, but not quite what I wanted.  Soooooo...this past weekend, I decided to do something about it and I made this:
Samantha is waving "Hi" from the bottom bunk! 
Here's a better shot without the dolls:
 
I made the "bedspread" reversible too!
 
Let me just say that I love this fabric and I originally bought it to make a tote bag.  I did make the bag and actually intended to make a second as a gift, but it never materialized.  I'm kind of glad it didn't because it was the perfect fabric for this project.  I wasn't sure how it would go with the bright yellow of the bed, but I was pleasantly surprised once I got it all together and how it looked.
 
The mattresses were fine, but I felt that they needed sheets--I mean, seriously who sleeps right on the mattress?????  I used a technique that I learned for making removable pillow covers and it worked great, and it's even reversible if I choose it to be:
 
 
 
Overall I am very pleased with how this project turned out!  It really was very easy, the hardest part was figuring out the measurements so that the cover fit the mattress well and so that the drape on the bedspread was accurate.  The sewing part was really easy, it was all straight lines.  In fact, this would make a great project for a beginning sewer.  Now I want to make some doll clothes for them--back to the sewing machine :)  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Back to Business, sort of

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--you almost need a vacation after you return from vacation just to recover!  It seemed like the two weeks after we got back I was continually running behind.  I did finally get caught up and I'm back to my usual "stuff". 

Got the plants in to my pseudo garden and I'm happy to report that everything seems to be doing well.  Blossoms have appeared on my tomato plants, the peppers are thriving, I have lettuce and onions sprouted--I can't wait!  I also tried something different this year, I had some of the onions from last season left, so I cut off the tops, trimmed the roots and planted them.  After a couple of days, the tops grew back and were sticking up out of the ground.  My goal is to leave these in all summer so I have a couple of nice medium sized onions when the season is done.  I'll let you know how it goes. 

I'm also trying to get back to listing stuff on Ebay, I took the entire month of May off since we were on vacation and quite frankly, I needed a break from it.  They've also changed some of their policies on listing, so I'm working through some of those new things.  Ugh.

My dollhouse project is temporarily on hold due to a "structural issue".  I've figured out how to fix it, I just need to make a trip to IKEA.  Unfortunately the closest one is an hour away.  Hopefully I can run down soon.

Since I'm not working on that, I decided to get back to something else that I had kind of shoved back in the corner.  My goal is by the end of the summer to have the area where my dolls and bears are displayed all organized.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!  One of the things in my doll collection is an American Girl doll.  I first discovered this company back in their early days when they were still Pleasant Company.  I had taken a day trip to Findley Lake, NY with my husband and my best friend Susan.  We ended up going to this cute little restaurant there called The Curly Maple (sadly it isn't there anymore).  While waiting for the restroom, I took a seat and noticed a Pleasant Company catalog sitting there, so I leafed through it.  Before I left, I ended up pulling one of the catalog request cards (remember, this was 1990, Al Gore hadn't invented the internet yet!).  When the catalog arrived I was like a little kid, checking out the dolls (at that time they only had 3) and all the accessories.  Unbeknownst to me, my husband was actually paying attention and for Christmas that year, he got me Samantha Parkington, a little girl from the Edwardian era.  She ranks as one of the top 3 Christmas gifts he has given me in the 30 years we've been together.  (In case you're curious, the other two were a camera and a watch)

Over the years I've acquired some accessories for her, some from American Girl and some from other places.  One of the things I bought was a bedroom set that included a nightstand with accessories.  The other day it dawned on me that one of these accessories was a clock with a fake phone, but it had a working clock--and I hadn't taken the batteries out of it.  I was half afraid to get it out, I knew exactly what I was going to find, and let me just say that it was every bit as bad as I thought it was.  In fact, it might have even been worse.  I had a terrible time getting the battery compartment cover off because the corrosion had leaked out a little, but I did eventually persevere.  This is what it looked like after I took the batteries out:
Yuck, what a mess.  My first thought was to just put the cover back on it and forget it, but then I remembered someone telling me that there were ways to clean this.  TO THE INTERNET!!!  I did a search and came across this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CHzy7XgvuA

After watching it, I decided to give it a try.  It looked easy enough and I figured if it didn't work, I wasn't really out anything more than a couple of minutes. It took a very simple ingredient--baking soda.  So I assembled my stuff:
All I needed was baking soda, some q-tips and a little bit of water.  You mix the baking soda in to the water so you make a nice paste out of it, then using the q-tips, start scrubbing.  It helps neutralize the acids from the leaking battery as well as softening it up.  I did have to use a sharp knife to get some of it off, but it was much easier after using the baking soda/water paste on it.  After I was done I wiped it out thoroughly using a damp paper towel and set it aside to air dry.  Here's what it looked like after I was finished:
Big difference, huh?!?!
 
While I was waiting for it to dry to try it out, I decided to clean my doll.  I had the baking soda out anyhow.  A while ago I noticed she had a sticky sort of feel to her, so I contacted the company to see what they recommended and they too suggested making a paste of baking soda and water.  I set to work to clean her up, it seems to have worked.  I did her legs first, then her arms and her face last.  I did rinse her arms and legs gently with the spray attachment at my sink, but I DO NOT recommend doing this on a doll face if they have sleeper eyes (which she does) because if you get water in there, it not only could mold, but in many of these dolls the eye assembly is made of metal and it will rust and make it quit working.  You don't want rusty eyes do you?!?!  The nice part about using baking soda is it is completely non-toxic, so if you do have some residue left behind it will eventually wear off without the potential of it harming anything. 
Samantha enjoying her baking soda "facial"
 
Once I was done with her, I wiped her off with a soft towel and set her aside to dry.  I figured enough time had passed that the inside of the little clock had dried, so I got some batteries and put them inside to see if my efforts had paid off:
IT WORKED!!!!!!
I set the clock about an hour ago and it seems to be working just fine.  I did try to use some of the other things on it and I can't get them to work properly, but I think it might have something to do with whatever is rattling around inside--oops.  I'm not really too concerned with that, I'm just tickled that the clock itself works, it will look so cute when I get my display set up.  

 
The moral of this story--if you think something is broken, don't give up right away.  Look it up on the internet!  And let me just say that baking soda is wonderful for so many things, I can't even begin to list them all, and now I have found two more :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

My Nightmare Trip to Target

Tonight I decided to make a quick trip to Target to pick up 3 items that I saw online.  The closest Target is 15 miles away.  Two of the items I verified online that they were in stock, the third I couldn't, for some reason it wouldn't work with that particular item.  I took my chances anyhow.  I should have stayed home.

When I got there, I of course got sucked in to the $1 area--that place is dangerous.  I found two things there that I wanted, they were actually things I needed-yay!  And then I went to put them in the cart.  You can imagine my horror when I looked in the area with the child seat and found this rather large brown smear.  I'm not sure if it was mud, tar or poo that had leaked out of a diaper (or worse), but I wasn't taking any chances and I switched the cart.  Of course, I couldn't find an employee to show it to either so it could be cleaned, so I left it behind, hoping that some innocent person wasn't "victimized".  Yuck.

The three items I went for were in the toy department, so I headed there.  I found one of the items, then the other, but was still looking for the third when two little girls arrived in the department.  Oh my gosh, talk about annoying.  I don't know if they'd had too much sugar or what, but they were in super hyper mode, and the mothers were doing nothing about it.  Then it got worse.  They each found things they wanted, but were told no, they weren't getting anything.  Now who takes a kid to the toy department if they aren't prepared to buy something?  But what made it really bad is the little girls threw full out temper tantrums, screaming, etc--and the mothers didn't do a thing.  They tried to reason with them--oh puhleeze, you can't reason all that well with a 4 - 5 year old.  I left the department and looked around the store for a while--a long while, and they were still there!!!!  What I thought was going to be a 20 minute trip in the store turned into 45 minutes.  Luckily I was able to resist putting anything else in my cart and stuck to my list (other than the 2 $1 items).  I did finally get back there without the screaming children, and unfortunately I didn't find the last item I had been looking for so that was a complete waste of time. 

I headed for the checkouts, hoping that the wild screaming children had left--no such luck.  I did find a line open besides the one they were in, but I did pay attention.  To give you some idea of just how bad these kids were, the woman who got in line behind them ended up moving to another LONGER line, I noticed her make a face just before she moved.  Wow.

To top it all off, after I got home, I opened the one item to check it--and it's seriously damaged, and now I have to take it back.  It wouldn't be so bad, except it's extremely heavy, so much so that my husband had to help me get it out of the car.  ARGH!  Now I know why I don't go to Target very often.  The kicker--I went back in to the website and checked the item I wasn't able to get at this store and it tells me that it is there.  I can assure you that it was not.  So I checked several items in the same category, and it was telling me that several items that were available at that store and I know for a fact they were not.  So what was the deal--inaccurate information in their computer system, or items sitting in the stock room?  I encountered that with ToysRUs last year, I actually made them go look and sure enough, there was the item I was looking for--not just one, but 6, all sitting in the stock room.  What made that one even worse was the fact that these were items that had been reduced because they had been in stock too long--how do you expect to sell them if you don't have them available for customers.

And we wonder why some of these retail chains are struggling?????