Sunday, January 25, 2009

We have the most amazing birds in our yard. Nothing rare, as far as I know, but so colorful and beautiful. They come to the trees right outside of our sunroom, which is second-floor level, and so we get really good views. One day last week a cardinal family came- it seemed that the adults were supervising the juveniles. The proud father's coloring was so vivid, it actually took my breath. He perched on a branch with his chest puffed out (possibly as insulation from the cold, I think, rather than pride), watching over his family.
I show my bird-ignorance by telling about the two woodpeckers that came along later that day- brilliant red heads and tailored markings. They landed on the telephone pole outside of our window- interrupting me right in the middle of a lesson, but I couldn't help drawing the kids' attention away from the material before us to watch these birds.
We get bluebirds- so blue! And many others- wrens, sparrows, tufted titmouse, and others I haven't yet learned to identify. We had a beautiful hawk (I don't know what kind) swoop down into our yard, too- unfortunately it was trying to nab one of my chickens- so I didn't fully appreciate it's majestic approach (the chickens made a lot of noise but escaped without apparent injury). And then there are my chickens- big, white waddling birds of a breed I haven't quite been able to determine. So- lots of birds to watch and appreciate. Now I have to try learning more of their names.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to Make Laundry Detergent-
(It's really cheap, and it works!)

Supplies Needed:

Fels Naptha* (You can usually get this at the grocery store, but look high and low in the laundry aisle, it's sometimes hard to spot!)
-or- Ivory Soap* (bar)
Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer makes this, but it's NOT the same as baking soda, and comes in a bigger box!)
3-4 quart heavy pot or saucepan
large bucket, marked to the "2 gallon" spot
Metal spoon or wooden spoon that you won't use for food preparation any more!

First, grate 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha (or 1/2 bar of Ivory)
Add this to 4 cups of water in the pot on the stove, and turn the heat on!
Stir over heat until it dissolves, but DO NOT let it boil!
When the Naptha is completely dissolved, add 1/2 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, and 2 more cups of water. Continue to stir, just until the washing soda and borax and throughly dissolved, too. Put your clean bucket in the sink, and pour the mixture into it. Now fill your pot with cool water, swish it around, and pour that water into the bucket (this is just to help rinse your pot and not waste anything!). Fill the bucket all the way to the 2 gallon mark, and mix well.
Now you can let it sit overnight or put it into whatever containers you plan to store it in right away. Most recipes say to let it sit overnight, but when I have a nice fresh batch of this fresh-smelling detergent, I usually use some right away... how's that for motivation!?
To pre-treat bad stains or heavily soiled material, just put some directly on the stain and let it sit- even overnight. Use 1/2 cup of detergent for the average load of laundry; you can use more if your clothes are really dirty (Georgia red clay, anybody?). Sometimes I fill the washing machine, let it agitate for a few minutes, and turn it off for a few hours, or even until the next day. This is pretty much a non-sudsing detergent, so it's safe for HE machines.

To make the detergent with Ivory Soap, just switch the soap and follow the same directions. Great for sensitive skin, cottons, and baby clothes!

*Fels Naptha, Arm & Hammer Washing Soda, and Ivory Soap are all registered trademarks- I just haven't figured out how to insert the little symbol into this format.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In Everything Give Thanks...

This morning, as I pulled my socks onto my feet, they felt so comfortable- soft, stretchy and just the right thickness- and my feet felt good! "Thank You, Lord, for comfortable socks."

I have a really comfortable pair of shoes that my sister gave me. I pulled them on over my socks and I stopped again. "Thank You for these shoes, Lord, and thank you for my sister."

That got me thinking, and so my thinking went:
Thank You for both of my sisters. Thank You for the family I was born into and grew up with- four brothers, two sisters, my mother and father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and lots of cousins.

I miss my mother. Almost nine years have passed since she left us- but those few years before she died were harder, I think, than I've let myself realize. Just yesterday, I thought of my mother and remember what she was like before Pick's disease robbed her- and us- of her personality and gifts. I think I'm sometimes a slow healer. But now I'm starting to remember my mother, before she was sick. How blessed I am that we spent as much time together as we did in those years before she was sick, and what a fun, talented, and multi-faceted person she was. I miss her so much- but Thank You, Lord, for my mother. And thank You for refreshing my memory this week.