Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Sock Darning

Sock darning is a lost tradition in the American culture but a very practical skill.   Sock darning is basically making a patch for a hole in a sock.    Learning this simple skill allows me to wear my socks longer, although a few are relinquished to the rag pile when they are beyond repair.

Here is another close-up of a sock before and after darning:

Lolly Doll Look-A-Like

This project was a bit more involved than I had anticipated.  It started out as walk down memory lane with my childhood Lolly Doll and my coworker preparing for her first child.  I am certainly not a seamstress but I figured doll making couldn't be that difficult...or can it?  I am convinced that with a pattern, I could have eliminated a lot of extra steps, ripping out of stitches, and do-overs.  I made two heads because the first one was a disaster, but alas! I got back on the horse and finished it!  I am quite proud of my first doll and plan to make two more as "spares" for the next baby shower or birthday party.

How is this being resourceful you may ask?  I am expanding my repertoire of skills, not just in doll-making, but in the ability to look at something and replicate it through problem solving, trial & error, etc.  My sewing skills are improving.  I am also not supporting the China economy and/or a large big box store (e.g. Target).  I think more and more people are appreciating homemade gifts.  I am making the gift more personal because it took my time and will be unique from all of the other gifts.  It is a gift of my time more than anything. 

I hope the girl who receives this Lolly, cherishes her!  I took my Lolly Doll everywhere I went when I was a little girl.  From the picture you can see how dirty and faded she is from routine washing.  

Soap Mold Making

Jon and I are pretty handy in the workshop, so when I started making soap, naturally I wanted to make my own molds.  I can use shoeboxes and yogurt containers for molds, but I wanted to have consistent bar sizes and a mold that is durable.  The pictures above are a mold that I made for a friend of mine that is selling her own soap. Making a mold seems simple----it's just a box with a cutting slot, right?  Well, it's not that easy because you have to consider the amount of oils in a batch and the specific size bar that you want.  A soapmaker who sells soap for a profit usually has a cigar band or other fancy wrapping that is used to display their soap.  With that in mind, the mold has to custom fit the size the soapmaker wants.  Making the box was a little tricky because I was measuring in 3/8 & 7/8 inches which is more difficult than let's say 1/2 inches.  Anyway, the mold is beautiful and functional.  I made the cutter to go with the mold out of sheet metal.  

The picture below is another mold and cutter that I made.  I am thinking of selling these molds, so if you know of someone who needs one, let me know!

Making Liquid Laundry Detergent

I attended a laundry class a few months ago hosted by a friend who makes soap.  The class sounds silly, but it felt like I was re-connecting with my roots.  The class took place in a small boutique clothing store and a handful of women attended.  The instructed had her laundry products displayed on a large cutting table and stood under a row of spot lights.  We all sat on the edge of seat, listening with earnest as the teacher talked about laundry.  It made me think of the movie, "Calendar Girls" and the Women's Institute Chapter meetings.

I was absolutely stunned that I didn't know very much about laundry.  At the class, I learned about spin cycles, detergents, water temperature, sorting clothes properly, and how to make my own laundry detergent. I decided to finally make some homemade laundry detergent today!  When looking at the "ingredients" for the detergent, I was a bit skeptical that not much is used to make 1 gallon of detergent!  If this is all it takes, then WOW! I'll never spend big $$ on the phosphate free Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, or BioKleen stuff!!

1 cup hot tap water
1.5 oz grated bar soap
1/4 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
2 T 20 Mule Team Borax
essential oils (optional)

Add soap flakes to saucepan with water.  Stir over med-low heat until melted.  Fill a 1 gallon jug half full with hot tap water.  Add melted soap, washing soda, and borax.  Stir well until all powder is dissolved.  Fill bucket to top with more hot water.  Stir, cover, and let sit overnight to thicken.  Shake before each use.  Optionally, add a few drops of essential oil.  Use 1 oz. per load in a front-loading washing machine.

Bye Bye Smelly Towels

Do your towels, and washcloths ever emit that stinky smell that never goes away despite continuous washing?  This moldy, musty smell has mystified me for years and I finally decided to find out why they smell, and most importantly, how to get rid of the smell.  I contacted my Busy Bea soapmaking friend and asked for her advice.  Here is her response:

Things that lead to smelly washcloths: not hanging them to air dry before tossing them in the hamper or leaving them crumpled up around the bath and laundry room and too much laundry soap. Remember that if they already have un-rinsed bath soap on them when they go into the wash you're adding to your overall soap content of the wash.

At this point I would recommend doing a load of just washcloths and towels in very, very hot water with a half cup of washing soda or borax or both or one and then the other. You might have to do it more than once to really get rid of the soap build up. It's like stripping cloth diapers that have gotten stinky from too much soap build up. After that if you still have an odor I'd wash them with a few ounces of Bac Out and then call it a day other than cutting down on your soap usage.

I always wash towels and such in hot water to prevent this, but sometimes it still happens with dishcloths anyway. I usually use a non-soap surfactant called Basic H on my dishes, but once in a while we'll use reg dish soap for a few days until my dishcloths start smelling again and I remember why I don't use dish soap!

Taking Kristina's advice, I decided to try Borax because that is what I have on-hand.  I put a 1/2 cup Borax in the washing machine with my towels and washcloths.  I used the Deep Clean Sanitary Cycle which uses super hot water for both washing and rinsing.  The entire cycle takes 2 hours!

The results:  NO SMELL!  I couldn't believe it!  By finding a solution to the smell, I have increased the longevity of my towels, and therefore, fewer have to be cut up and used as rags.  Thank you Kristina & thank you Borax!

A Cute Little Box...

Recently I attended a baby welcoming party for a friend.  Before the party commenced, I was given a cute little box with a cupcake inside to take home.  All families were given these cupcakes and I felt the pressure to take one too.  Such a small, innocent-looking box with a plastic see-through lid showing a cute chocolate cupcake with pink frosting and silver sprinkles evokes happiness and a salivating mouth for everyone, right?  Well, not me.  I tried to look pleased and grateful for the gift, but I couldn't shake the feelings of wastefulness from my mind!  It's such a simple thing, but to me, I find it unnecessary.  I fought the urge to tear open the box, and pop the cupcake in my mouth in one bite, licking frosting off my lips, so I could forgo the use of the box.  I resisted the urge.  I could promptly decline the cupcake, right?  But in reality, it wasn't about the cupcake, it was the happiness I saw on the host's face as she generously handed me the box.  My stomach did a summersault as my fingers clutched the box.  

On the drive home, my stomach proceeded to do a backflip as the cupcake toppled off the seat next to me, and landed upside down onto the floor of the car while we all whipped around the winding road.  As I looked at the frosting smeared plastic window on the box, a thought came to me, "How about I put heart cookies in the box for Paul's daycare teachers as their Valentine's Day gift?  Yes!  Yes!  That will solve the problem of this cute little box that I have no use for!!"  So, there....problem solved.  The cute little box is being reused and sent onto a new owner.  And plus, wouldn't you rather receive heart cookies in a cute box smothered with the word, "LOVE," than a flimsy plastic Ziploc bag?

Making Valentines!

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day---my second favorite holiday of the year!  I love the act of giving valentines, chocolates, heart cookies, and flowers to friends.  Sending store-bought valentines to Paul's grandparents just doesn't relay the virtual hug that I would like.  Paul only sees his grandparents a few times each year.  : ( Encouraging art creations with young children is very important to me so I decided to make valentines with Paul.

I keep cards that we receive and cut out the pictures & words for use as gift labels and card making throughout the years.  To make the valentines, I cut the hearts and words off valentine cards from years past that I saved, along with some glitter, glue, and a piece of pink paper.  Paul's little fingers knew instantly what to do.  Using his fine motor skills, he squeezed glue on the back of hearts and pasted them to the paper.  Paul especially enjoyed shaking the glitter!  When the glue had dried, I cut three valentines from the piece of paper and placed them in extra envelopes that we had.  Simple, thoughtful, and creative.  Happy Valentine's Day!!


Tonight we had tuna sandwiches with sprouts.  Yum!  Sprouts are ridiculously expensive in the grocery store and also have unnecessary chemicals on them to keep them looking "fresh" and green.  Making sprouts at home is so simple and affordable.  All you need is a mason jar, a sprouting lid, and seeds.  Sprouts are also very high in nutrition and good for you!

There are a variety of seeds to choose from, with alfalfa being the most popular.  The bag of seeds in the picture maybe cost $1.50 and will yield thousands of sprouts.  All of the supplies should be found at a Natural Food Store, and possibly a regular grocery store.  To make the sprouts, you first soak the seeds in a jar full of water for 24 hours.  After 24 hours, the water can be drained out.  Shake the jar so the seeds are clinging to the side of the jar. 

Over the course of about a week, rinse the jar with water every day so the seeds don't dry out.  In about a week, the sprouts are fully grown with leaves and ready to eat!  To give them a more "fresh" look, place the jar in the sun, and the leaves will get really bright green. 

Cleaning & Food Preservation Logs

After several summers of keeping careful track of all my food canning adventures, I decided to organize them properly into a binder.  In the past, they were on the computer which is not conveniently located in my kitchen where it is most needed.

I don't consider myself super artistic but consider this worthy to brag about!  I created a unique page for each fruit, meat, and vegetable that I preserve.  Each of these pages has hand-drawn food on a piece of cardstock paper.  I even reserved a space for my husband's soda making experiments and my someday mead making adventures.  Each section (or chapter) contains recipes, specific canning instructions for that particular fruit or vegetable, and notes from each year's crop production, price per pound, and suggestions for the following year.  I typed this information up so it was a little more organized; but in the future, I will just hand-write my notes.  This project seems a little tedious, but I've been meaning to get it finished for years.  It took several evenings to complete the binder with 14 separate sections; but it looks beautiful and it's one more random project checked off my "to do list!"  I was so inspired with the canning log that I decided to make one for cleaning recipes & soap making!

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Every summer we pack our freezer full of berries and vegetables; and every spring, I purge the freezer of all these fruits and vegetables in preparation for the coming season.  Contrary to what most people think, freezing food doesn't preserve it indefinitely.  Food looses its nutrition, flavor, and freshness while frozen.  It is recommended that food is consumed within a year after being frozen.

It is February, and strawberry season is only 4 months away.  I have a gallon-size freezer bag full of strawberries.  I can only make so many jars of jam, smoothies, and muffins with strawberries, so I decided to make fruit leather, which is commonly known as Fruit Roll-Ups.  Making fruit leather requires heat because you are basically drawing the moisture out of the food.  My options are: an electric food dehydrator, oven, or the sun.  Living in the northwest completely rules out using the sun, and using the oven seems complicated, so I decided to use our electric food dehydrator which only gets used about once each year.

Some may say that using an electric food dehydrator isn't sustainable, which I agree, isn't.  I am getting the added benefit of the heat it produces by using it in the winter when it's cold outside.  I plan to create a solar dehydrator/oven this summer.  More about that in the coming months...

I thawed the strawberries, pureed them in a blender, and spread them on the fruit roll trays that came with the food dehydrator.  I only have three trays but I could have used four.  The first two trays only have strawberries, whereas the third tray has vanilla yogurt mixed in.  I didn't take any measurements, but in the end, about 2/3 of a gallon bag of strawberries filled three trays.  No sugar was added because the puree tasted sweet and my 2 year old son won't know the roll-ups aren't sweet like the traditional ones.  (The benefit to having a young child who doesn't know any better.)

The house smelled heavenly of strawberries!  It smelled like I was canning jam which makes the home feel so cozy.  After 7 hours the fruit leather was finished!!  My little bear cub couldn't contain himself while I rolled the leather.  He ravenously ate 2 rolls.

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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