Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homemade laundry soap and dish soap

I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while but kept forgetting to do so. Making your own laundry soap is easy and very economical. The ingredients I buy to make the soap cost me $7.00 at first, but will last me at least 6 months or more. This is not my recipe but you can find different ones online.

Here is what I do:

1 gal of water, 1 bar of soap (ivory, felth napthta or Zote are the most commonly used, but I have used Yardley as well...soaps with tallowate (animal fat) work best!) 1/4 cup washing soda (not baking soda), 1/4 cup of Borax.
optional: lavender or orange essential oil.

The recipes you will see online usually call for double the ingredients, but since I don't have the storage for 5 gal of water, I make smaller batches.

Cut a bar soap in half. Boil 1 gal of water in a large pot and grate the half of bar of soap into the water.
Once all the pieces have melted, I add my 1/4 cup of baking soda and borax.
I stir for about 2 minutes until the mixture is dissolved.
I turn off the stove and let it sit to cool. As it begins to cool, It will start to look like jello...this is normal.
I usually add 5 drops of orange EO to the mixture and 4 drops of tea tree oil.
I pour my mixture into a used empty laundry detergent bottle. You may fill up two laundry soap bottles. Note: Shake before each use since the consistency will be like Jello. I usually use one cap full from the laundry detergent bottle. This soap will not sud but it will clean. My husband is in the military and his clothe always comes out clean and smelling fresh. I have a top loader washer and it works great for me. If you have a front loader, you may need less. I have also heard some people using 1 cup of white vinegar per load before the rinse cycle, to remove residue if you have really hard water. You will not need a fabric softener since vinegar works to this. I usually don't use vinegar at all, but some people do.

You can find pictures and more instructions on this site:

Dish Soap:
I usually just take the leftover tiny broken pieces from my bar soaps and put the pieces into an empty dish soap bottle with water. The soaps that you collect from hotels also work great for this. The soap dissolves and creates nice dish soap for me. Even if dish soap is cheap, I still do this just to use up my pieces of soap. Plus I find that soaps like Ivory, are better for the environment. There are plenty of dish soap recipes online, but this is simple and works for me. I've tried using castile soap but it doesn't cut grease as well and leaves a residue.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why I homeschool!

Ever since I've decided to home-school my son, many people had asked me about it and are curious as to why I had decided to do this. It seems as if this is something that is becoming more common. It is a fact that the United States is slipping in comparison to other countries and our children are indeed "falling behind." Whether you blame the teachers, the lack of funding, or the parents for the poor education your children are receiving, it is time for us to properly educate our children. Most students who usually fall behind are blacks and Hispanics. This is probably because they tend to come from lower income families. As a woman of color, I am proud to home-school my child and hopefully will inspire others to do it. Many of us can't afford to send our kids to public school, so if able, why not home-school? There is so much information on the web that can help you if you are not sure about homeschooling. After all, they are the future. Our country is failing behind academically and we wonder why other countries such as Japan and China are excelling, while we are not. I'm very proud of my son's academic progress. He is going to be five at the end of October and can read simple words. He can do simple addition and is already beginning to write. I'm not in anyway bragging but just simply stating that if we invest time in our kids, it will show.

Here are some benefits to homeschooling:

Flexibility: You can set your own time along with the school year or do it all year around. You can set the amount of hours you want to school for. You can decide what classes they are getting and give them classes that interest them. For example, my child loves to draw, so I plan adding lots of art to my curriculum. Many schools also offer programs for home-schoolers just in case you are worried about social interaction. My son has no problem with that since we have lots of friends with children.

Quality: You know what your child is learning and what he is not. You can give him extra classes that schools can't provide. I know one of my friend's children is taking Greek and Latin. Something that the child can't take in public school.

Spending time with your child: One of the things I like about it is getting to spend time with my children. Getting to know them and raise them is truly a blessing.

A few years ago, when my son was about one, like most parents, I pictured my son’s first day of school. Like most Americans, I thought that I would have a full time job by now, and like most parents today in America, put my child in public school in hopes that someone will teach him what he needs to know. While living in Texas, I met some friends who home-schooled their children. I have to admit the idea of home-schooling seemed kind of strange to me at first. I noticed, however, that the children I knew that were being home-schooled were well behaved, well rounded children. What convinced me to home-school is the belief held by both my husband and I that there is no better person to teach and raise your child then his or her own mother. I think public schools today have too many issues and it will take another post for me to explain those issues. As an Orthodox Christian, I want my child to be influenced by the right teachings, beliefs, and attitude. I don’t want someone else raising my child. I could choose to put him in private school, but after researching different home-schooling methods and options, I found myself excited about doing it on my own. I read a book recently called Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss, whose ideas was influenced by Charlotte Mason. I also did some research on other methods to home-school. After much prayer and advise from friends, I’ve decided to follow through and home-school Isaiah.

This is my 1st year home-schooling and I am following a mix of the Classical Method and Charlotte Mason’s as well. Isaiah has mastered basic things such as colors, numbers, sounds of letters, sorting, matching, naming objects and animals, coloring and beginnings of writing and tracing. Now we are focusing on reading, writing and simple addition and subtraction. We also try to color one icon a week and learn a little about a saint. For science we learn about animals, plants and how the body works. I also love Charlotte Mason’s approach on “living books” and having good literature for the kids. I try to read to my child daily and ask him questions about the story we are reading. I try to base some of the things I do with him on the books we are reading. Isaiah also likes to do pages out of pre-school workbooks, so I let him do those as well. We also use a big white board I purchased at Wal-Mart to write words and draw pictures on. I sometimes use the white board to present new topics in art form such as matching items, writing numbers and learning new words. So far, Isaiah really enjoys it and he has learned so much.

Though I am new to home-schooling and I am learning through trial and error, I can say for certain that through home-schooling I have gotten to learn much more about my son. I am starting to recognize his interests and taste for things. This is important to me because I want my child to love learning and I want him to excel in his talents. I will update his status here what I am doing with Isaiah from time to time. Hopefully I will be as successful at home-schooling as some of my more experienced friends. I plan on posting updates and my current curriculum soon. Since my son is starting Kindergarten, I don't worry too much about a set schedule just yet.

Final thought:
Our children are created in the image of Christ and are jobs as parents are not just to help them get a good jobs when they grow up, but to help them recognize and reach their full potential. They should be encouraged to use their talents for Christ and motivated to achieve greatness.

St. Macrina the Elder

I decided to post the story of my saint in which my name (Macrina) was given.

ST. MACRINA THE ELDER Feast: January 14

This lady was the grandmother of saints, the most notable being the brothers Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa. It was Macrina and her husband who founded the faith of the family and passed it on as a splendid treasure to her children and grandchildren. That faith was born of suffering and persecution.

St. Macrina the elder was a native of Cappadocia, in what is now eastern Turkey. It was here that the great apostle of Cappadocia, St. Gregory the Wonderworker, established the faith around the year 250. When he arrived in the territory, it was said, there were only seventeen Christians in the town of Neo-Caesarea; when he died in 268, there were only seventeen pagans.

Macrina was born about the time of Gregory's death, and it was the faith of this ardent apostle that became the way of life for her family. Early in the next century, during the persecution of the Emperor Galerius, Macrina and her husband were forced to leave their home and to live in the wooded hills of Pontus for seven years, during which they suffered much. They were often without food. Later, during another persecution, their property was seized by agents of the emperor, and they lived in almost total destitution. When the persecution ended, they were honored as confessors of the faith, a much revered title among the Christians of that time.

It was at his grandmother's knee that Basil received his first instructions in the Christian faith, and it was from her that he and his family were nourished in that Christian discipline that made them saints. Macrina was known to have treasured and read the writings of Gregory the Wonderworker, and it was the fire and zeal of his writings that was passed on to Basil and his brother.

The exact date of Macrina's death is not known. She is revered as a saint in the calendars of both the Eastern and Western Churches.

Troparion of St. Macrina the Elder:

The image of God was truly preserved in you, o mother, for you took up the cross and followed Christ, by so doing, you taught us to disreguard the flesh, for it passes away but to care instead for the soul, for it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, o holy mother Macrina, rejoices with the angels!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Michael Jackson's natural hair!

I found saw this picture in one of the hair sites that I frequently visit and wanted to share. I can't believe how thick and long his hair is! I wish he would have left it that way. Anyway, I was and will always be a huge Michael Jackson Fan.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning

I found this post on which is sort of helpful and I pretty much follow a similar idea, although not as strictly. I follow this blogger and she always has good ideas and tips on mothering.

This is the main link to her article:

Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning

Photo Credit

Loading the kids into the car is a significant endeavor – making sure we have a clean diaper, putting on socks, shoes, coats, and finally loading them in and strapping them into car seats. The whole process may take up to 30 minutes of my day. Pack a quick snack, an extra diaper, and we are off. Arriving at our destination, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes to remove children from the car to the grocery cart. Halfway through the store, child #2 begins to melt down. The snack holds them over temporarily (and yes, I feed them at home before we left!). By the end of the store excursion, child #1 has to use the bathroom. Ten minutes later we are back to the store aisles. And we are only at stop number one of the intended three. Does this sound familiar? After going through this experience numerous times prior, I decided it was time to make a better strategy for grocery shopping. I have been practicing these methods for over a year now, and can highly recommend it!

1. Limit your trips.

Why not make it easier on your stress levels by limiting our trips to the store? Consider starting with a weekly trip and see if you can gradually stretch it.

2. Limit your stops.

Why do we find it necessary to visit three different grocery stores to get all our groceries? Many times it may be due to various prices differences at each location, coupons, or sales. When you really think about it, is the extra time involved and the added stress of loading and unloading really worth it? When I stepped back to compare: driving, extra gas, and the added tiredness that entailed were not necessary. Find a store that you can make all your purchases, adapt your menu so that you can get all the ingredients at one location and stick with it. It will be well worth it – your whole family will be more joyful as a result.

3. Order online.

It is becoming so much easier now to actually order your groceries online. How sweet is that? Check out Safeway, New Seasons (local natural grocery in the Portland metro area), Organics to You, and other online delivery systems. Ask around in your area. Many will allow you to order online and you can pick up in store to save on delivery fees, but also save you all the time and effort of touring the store. For a busy mommy, that sounds like a wonderful alternative.

4. Make a menu plan. Make a monthly plan for real simplicity.

I have been a huge advocate of monthly menu planning and my mission was only re-affirmed after a recent season of carelessness in this area which had to lead to sky-rocketing grocery bills and frequent trips to the store. Menu planning in general is definitely not my favorite activity. I would much rather just be in the kitchen preparing the food rather than planning what to make. But taking the time to plan your menu not only ultimately saves you significant time, but it will also help save you money. Why not take a simple step to simplify it for yourself?

Where to Start?

1. Start with a simple plan.

If you are new to menu planning, please start by beginning with just a weekly menu plan, and once you are comfortable with that to adjust to two weeks. Start your weekly plan by making a list of 7 dinners, 7 breakfasts and 7 lunches. Lunches can be mainly leftovers from the previous dinner if you make a bit extra. Breakfasts can be the same each week as we do it (see examples below). After you can make that work, build a monthly menu plan and work with the seasons. You will learn how much your family needs to make it through two weeks. You will also learn to stretch your food purchases in amazing and creative ways.

2. Figure out dinner themes to work from.

I have found it extremely helpful to start out my menu planning by making daily dinner themes. That way I had something to work around. I make a vegetable and rice stir fry or main dish salad every Monday, adding variation with different vegis and sauces. Tuesdays is always soup night, served with a biscuit or muffin. Increasing soups in your diet is an excellent way of increasing nutrition but also keeping the budget down. Fridays is pizza theme each week for family night. Making a large batch and serving it for different lunches or freezing a portion for another meal is also making the most of your time in the kitchen. Here are a few ideas:

Dinner Themes:

Monday – Stir Fry/Main Dish Salad
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Fish/Lentils
Thursday – Mexican/Chicken/Casserole
Friday – Special Dinner – Pizza
Saturday -BBQ
Sunday – leftovers or eat out

Other themes could include: crockpot, Italian, etc. I have heard other creative ideas such as Meat Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Have fun and be creative! Anything to make meal planning enjoyable for your household.

Keep your breakfast and lunch plan simple by rotating the same schedule each week. Here is ours:


Monday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Tuesday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Wednesday – kefir smoothie, bread (muffin, bagel, or toast)
Thursday – Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Friday – Eggs or French Toast
Saturday – Pancakes
Sunday – Granola (a quick breakfast before church)


Lunches are a bit more flexible, as often times we will have leftovers on hand to eat from a previous meal, but if not, I keep the ingredients on hand for these ideas:

Monday – Ham & Cheese sandwiches, fruit/vegi
Tuesday – Egg Salad Sandwiches, juiced vegi & fruit
Wednesday – Salmon Melts or Tomato Soup & grilled cheese/ham sandwiches, fruit, salad
Thursday- Quesadillas, burritos, or baked potato bar (chili, cheese, lettuce, misc toppings)
Friday – Peanut Butter & Jelly or regular sandwiches
Saturday – Leftovers (Saturday is generally leftover day or clean out the fridge day)

3. Make a list of 4 ideas for each of those themes.

Now simply collect ideas for 4 weeks of recipes around those themes. Chicken Ceasar Salad, Taco Salad, Cobb Salad are some of our Monday choices. Jot them down on your monthly calendar.

4. Compile a master shopping list for the items needed to make those meals.

Go through each recipe and make a master shopping list of all the ingredients required. Now each month you have the same list of groceries, and you can keep a memorized list on your computer, phone, or notebook. You can see my master grocery list here. We use the Shopper app for its usefulness in organizing our shopping to the tee – aisle by aisle and keeping track of the costs in one.

5. Limit your shopping to one major stocking day, and one small refiller day in a months time!

A easy plan is to shop at the beginning of the month for all your staples, toilet paper, body products, meats, and dairy and produce for two weeks. I have found produce and dairy can last for two weeks successfully. Then make one extra stop halfway through the month to restock on produce and dairy. Or if you have a local farmer’s market, or farm stand, that would be a even better alternative.

6. Build a new monthly plan with each season.

You will appreciate the variety if you build a new monthly menu plan for each season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. In this manner you can incorporate the more comfort foods for winter, and the light refreshing foods for summer. You can stick with a Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter plan as well, as I have done in the past. Now you only have to plan a menu 2-4 times a year! How nice is that? Care to join me? For inspiration, check out my Winter monthly menu plan and Spring/Summer plan from previous years.

I have experienced it first hand that doing a monthly menu plan can definitely save you money. I have saved at least $100 per month pursuing this method – which is certainly useful when you are striving to eat naturally on a budget.

Those are just some of my practical ideas for simplifying the grocery shopping adventures!

What tips do you have to share?

Other Menu Planning Ideas & Resources:

Weekly Menu Planning – by Crystal Paine
Healthy & Frugal Menu Planning Help Part 1
& Part 2- by Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Printable Monthly Menu Form

Printable Weekly Menu Form

Menu Planning: Saving Time in the Kitchen
Menu Planning Made Easy

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oh so good aloe juice and curly fro-hawk!

Many people know about the benefits of Aloe-vera on the hair. It is one of the greatest moisturizers and has many beneficial properties for the scalp. I recently learned that Aloe vera juice has an acidic Ph that can be beneficial for balancing out the Ph level in the hair. If you have hard water, spraying your hair with some aloe vera juice can help restore the Ph of your hair and seal the hair.

Last night, I pre-pooed with some olive oil and coconut oil, washed with aloe juice mixed with Dr. Bronner's castile soap, 8 drops of rosemary oil and a little glycerin. I poured it in a squirt bottle and proceeded to wash. I noticed that the mix was not strong enough to get the oils off my hair, although my hair felt really soft. I then used some Giovanni 50/50 shampoo to wash the oils off. I did not wash the oils off entirely but I was happy that I didn't. When I was done I applied some aloe juice mixed with Giovanni's direct leave in, about half and half, and let my hair air-dry. My hair felt amazing. It was soft, shiny and bouncy. I love this Aloe Juice! and pre-pooing with olive oil and coconut oil is definitely staying in my regimen. I later used some of my homemade aloe moisture spritz (same recipe I posted before). I also love this mix. I am so happy with my curls. I had little shedding and split ends, even after flat ironing.

Here is a pic:

I was so happy with my hair that I decided to try something new... a curly fro-hawk. Although this is a tad bit funky for my taste, I loved the way it looked. I tied my hair into thre sections, top, middle and bottle and used black large bobby pins to work the rest of it and shape it.

Here is what it looks like: