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This is my last entry at this wordpress.com address.  I’ve completed my online WordPress class and am moving to a hosted wordpress.org platform.  I am so excited to make some updates with plugins and maybe even a new theme.  (This “Mystique” theme doesn’t work as nicely over there.)  So, stay tuned for updates and be sure to change your RSS feed to the one at http://thecreativedivide.com.  (And if the owner of http://creativedivide.com wants to sell that domain at a reasonable price, email me! hollyhibner ‘at’ hotmail ‘dot’ com.)

Onward and upward!

So. Much. Laundry Soap!

I told you here how to make homemade laundry soap.  Here are some pictures of the final product, after it sat for about two days and I finally had time to put it into containers and do some laundry with it.

 

(Above) In the bucket. Kind of frothy on top.

(Above) Here’s a better shot so you can see what it really looks like. It’s pretty watery, and very cloudy.

(Above) I had been saving random containers for a while, knowing I was going to be doing this.  I filled two dish soap bottles, one powdered creamer container…

(Above) …one empty laundry soap container…

 

(Above) …and an empty apple juice bottle.  I had about a cup or two left, which I ended up using for a few loads of laundry and dumping the last of it down the drain (I’m out of bottles and have enough here for a YEAR or so of laundry!).

I did four loads of laundry: one dark clothes, one light clothes, one sheets and towels, and one queen sized comforter.  The clothes had no smell whatsoever coming out of the washer.  Perfect – that’s what I was going for.  I washed one towel that had seed starters sitting on it with quite a bit of dirt spilled on it, and it came out clean.

We have no kids or pets, and only regularly do two loads a week (one light, one dark. It’s just me and The Hubs here.)  For our limited laundry needs this should be just fine!

Homemade Laundry Soap

laundry soap ingredients

The Hubs is allergic to everything.  Lately he’s been complaining that his skin is itchy, and he’s blaming it on the laundry soap.  I haven’t changed laundry soap in years, and it is a perfume-free, dye-free product.  But, allergies are a weird thing, and his seem to be ever-changing.  Rather than buy a giant jug of something new and hope for the best, I decided to be cheap and make some at home.  The benefit of making your own anything is that you know exactly what goes into it.  Making laundry soap is actually ridiculously easy.  Check it out:

I chose a pure soap (Kirk’s Castile) for the base.  It’s an all-natural, fragrance-free soap made with no animal by-products.  You can also use Ivory or Fels Naptha.  The other ingredients are Borax, washing soda, and baking soda.

grate a bar of pure soap

(Above) The hardest, most labor-intensive part is grating the bar of soap.  You could just cut it into chunks or slivers, but grated pieces melt a lot faster.  I bought a cheap (50 cents) cheese grater at the thrift store for this purpose.  I’m not sure if there’s any reason you couldn’t use the same grater you use for cheese or if there’s some kind of lingering residue or something after you grate soap.  It seems like putting it through the dishwasher should be good enough.  Whatever – for fifty cents I have a dedicated soap grater.

grated soap

(Above) An entire bar of grated soap

melt the grated soap

(Above) In a large pan, melt the grated soap in a quart of water.  Stir continually until it melts and dissolves into the water. I also bought a $2 stock pot at the thrift store for this purpose.  I really don’t see why you couldn’t use a regular pan you cook in, though. Anyone want to set me straight on that?  Again, whatever. This is a really nice $2 pot, and I can use it for canning small batches too.

add water and dry ingredients

(Above) Pour the melted soap solution into a bucket with a lid.  Add 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, and two gallons of hot water.

Stir it all up until everything dissolves.  Cover and let it sit overnight to thicken.

Notes:

1. This was my first time making laundry soap.  I was expecting it to be a thicker gel, but it’s really not.  It’s not as loose as pure water – there was definitely some thickening happening – but it’s not quite like a “gravy” or a “gel” either.  From what I’ve read online, the consistency should not affect its usefulness.  We’ll see, I guess!

2. This is not a high-suds soap.  Therefore, it is safe for high efficiency washers.  Being a little on the looser side actually makes me feel better about using this in an HE machine.  I’m probably just paranoid, though.  I’ve only had an HE washer for a little over a year and have followed the manufacturer recommendations to the letter up until now.

3. It only took about twenty minutes to make.  Ok, plus the overnight part, but actual labor was about twenty minutes.  Most of that time was the grating.

4. This is ridiculously cheap per load.  It should work out to literally pennies per load because you only use between two tablespoons and 1/4 cup, depending on how watery it is.  I plan to just fill my washing machine soap tray to the “minimum” line.  This recipe makes over two gallons of laundry soap.  There are 256 tablespoons in a gallon (512 in two gallons).  At two tablespoons per load, that’s…A LOT OF LOADS!  Even at a quarter cup per load it’s A LOT OF LOADS.  So go ahead, Hubs, have some bbq ribs and change the oil in my car. I’ve got your destroyed shirts covered.

Chile-Garlic Chicken Thighs

chile garlic chicken thighs

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine.  The original recipe is available here.  We couldn’t leave well enough alone and just make the recipe, though, could we? Of course not.

We didn’t have chicken legs, so we used boneless skinless chicken thighs.

We also had a poblano pepper going bad in the fridge, so we added that too.  The result was a medium-spiced (hot by many peoples’ standards…my tongue and lips were a bit burny afterward!), highly-flavored chicken dish that didn’t take long at all to put together.

brown the chicken

(Above) First, brown up the chicken.

sautee garlic and poblano pepper

(Above) Then, sautee four cloves of garlic and half a diced poblano in the same pan in a little of the chicken fat.

add sauce ingredients

(Above) Add 3/4 cup white vinegar (we used white wine vinegar), 1/2 cup soy sauce (we use reduced-sodium soy sauce), 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (I SWEAR The Hubs used a full teaspoon, minimum!), and 1/4 cup sugar.  Bring it to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes. The, uncover, raise heat to medium, and cook until sauce is reduced by half, about 10 more minutes.  You can add corn starch mixed with a little water to thicken if you want, but it pretty much thickens on its own.

return chicken to pan

(Above) Add the chicken back in to heat through.

serve

(Above) We served with mini egg rolls, curry-spiced quinoa, and our ever-present broccoli.

chili garlic chicken thighs

Seed Starters 04-14-13

I took some inspiration from Pinterest and did my seed starters on the cheap this year.  (Sadly, I haven’t taken the time to figure out how to embed Pins in WordPress posts yet on the “new” Pinterest. Sorry!) I’m using a variety of containers, from yogurt cups to Wendy’s salad containers to newspaper rolls, etc.  I just poked holes in the bottom for drainage, filled them up with seed starter mix, and planted seeds!

I planted a lot of different veggies on April 6th, so they’re just starting to sprout now.  I planted:

  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Green Beans (bush variety)
  • Jalapenos
  • Poblanos
  • Pepperonicinis
  • 2 kinds of tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Swiss Chard
  • Spinach

(Above) Here we have two varieties of tomatoes: Roma and “Sweet Snack Hybrid.”

(Above) I believe these are peas.

(Above) These haven’t germinated yet, but they are poblano peppers planted in yogurt cups, set inside a Wendy’s salad container with a lid. You can see the water droplets – greenhouse effect working like a charm.

(Above) Side view of the “salad dome.”

Graphic Novels

Habibi

By Craig Thompson

Published 2011

 

Every now and then I make an effort to read something outside my wheelhouse. I picked up a couple of graphic novels from the library.  I’ve read a few graphic novels before, and for the most part enjoyed them, but they’re definitely not my “thing.”  I chose Habibi because I enjoyed Blankets by the same author.

Habibi is much, much different.  It is beautiful and touching and brilliant in so many ways, but I still struggled with it.  I guess what I’m saying is that I appreciate the artistry of it – of the book as a whole, not just the literal artwork – but it was a tough go for me.

First of all, it is ginormous at just over 650 pages.  That makes it physically huge and hard to hold on to.  I like to read in bed, and it was just awkward to hold it.  650 pages is a lot, but graphic novels read so much faster than “regular” novels that I still got through it in a week or so.  It’s still a psychological challenge to see such a giant book and commit to reading it.

The story itself is good.  It’s a hard one to book talk, though, so please follow the link for a better description than I can ever give.  In a nutshell, a teenage girl raises a small boy in the desert.  They live like brother and sister for years until they are torn apart.   The girl is sold into a harem and the boy struggles to find his true path.  They both lead difficult lives for years.  They meet again under strange circumstances and realize that they love each other.

I liked the story line, I liked the art work, and I liked the artistry that is the book as a whole – the symbolism, the interesting characters, the history, and even the religious storytelling.  I didn’t like the size or the challenge.  I should have held out until I was in a “mood” for this kind of thing.

Anya’s Ghost

by Vera Brosgol

Published 2011

 

Cute story!  It’s more for a teen audience.  It’s paperback, fairly small, and very quick to read.  I devoured it in about three days.

Anya is from Russia.  She goes to a private school and has worked hard to lose her accent and be a typical American.

She falls down a well one day, and meets the ghost of a teenage girl from a hundred years ago.  When Anya is rescued, the ghost follows her home.  It’s great at first: the ghost helps her cheat on tests in school and helps her dress and act in a way that a popular boy she likes will notice her.

Too bad that popular boy is a jerk.  Too bad the ghost becomes a jerk too!  Anya researches the ghost’s story and finds out the truth about her death.  Now she has to find a way to get rid of her.

Good action, funny situations and characters, touching scenes between Anya and her family.  Not the best book I’ve ever read, so I’ll give it 3 out of 5 stars.  There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just not very memorable. You know, not a life-changer like some books are.  I will, however, be recommending it to teens who want to read graphic novels.

Eggs Benny

What we have here is eggs benedict and grits.  Well, sort of…

Grits – check!

Bread – check!

Eggs – check!

Benedict sauce ingredients (lemon juice and butter, basically, besides egg yolk) – check!

Awwww, man, we don’t have any ham!  You might be thinking that this is a deal breaker.  If you’re an eggs benny purist, then yes, no ham would be a deal breaker.  (So might lack of English muffins, for that matter…) Luckily for everyone, we think outside the bun.  We broke out the bacon and made bacon bits.

Bread, poached eggs, benedict sauce, bacon bits, and cheesy grits.  De-freaking-licious.

What’s Up?

It’s been a busy week!  Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on around here:

FIRST Robotics
The Hubs and I stopped by two high school robotics competitions (US FIRST) yesterday.  These are so fun, you guys!  Here is a team in the practice field working on their climb up the pyramid.  So cool!

Spinach is growing

wordpressclassWordPress Class
I am currently taking an online class about WordPress.org through a service that my library subscribes to called Ed2Go. It’s so cool!  You can choose from so many different classes in so many different categories, all at no extra charge to library patrons.  (I say “no extra charge” vs. “free” because library patrons DID pay their taxes.  Nothing is free, people!)  Anyway, the class is somewhat of a refresher so far, but I’ve learned a few tidbits along the way.  I have never done a WordPress install on a server and I’ve never installed a theme outside of WordPress.com.  There are some other first-time experiences coming up in future lessons, too.  After the class is over, I’ll be moving this site over to WordPress.org. I’m excited to have more customization options than WordPress.com allows, and the ability to use different plug-ins. Stay tuned!


Our Book is Almost Done
Remember when I mentioned that I co-authored a book? Well, the second edition is just about ready to be sent to the publisher.  The final read-through is in the works.  I’m very happy with the updates (to the point where I’m a little embarrassed by the first edition! We left so much out!) Ah well, live and learn.

Spinach Seedlings 3-30-13

We have germination!

The spinach seeds I started last Sunday have sprouted!

 

 

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