Friday, October 14, 2011

Candy Corn Wreath Tutorial

I've been wanting to make one of these since I saw one on the cover of Woman's Day last year and I finally got around to it!  I think candy corns are really cute (and Brach's are gluten free for those who are gluten intolerant like me) but I don't want to eat a zillion of them so I think it's a really cool idea to use them for Halloween decor.  Since my threshold for scary/spookiness is The Muppet Christmas Carol (hey, that ghost of Christmas future is pretty freaky!) I don't get into the scary or gross decorations at all.

Materials you will need:
-Hot glue gun and about 8 glue sticks
-Wreath form (I used a 14" styrofoam one you can get at Hobby Lobby but be sure to use their 40% coupon because they are normally $7.99!  Or check the tips below for cheaper options.)
-Black paint or electrical tape (I found the electrical tape at Lowe's for around $1)
-Candy Corns- (2) 1lbs bags (I got mine at the dollar store)
-Ribbon of your choice
-Optional: Waterproofing spray sealer if you will be hanging your wreath outside.

1-Wrap black electrical tape around your entire wreath form, overlapping as you go.  It doesn't have to be too perfect since you will be covering it with candy corns later.  (If you are using black paint, paint your wreath on all sides and let it dry.  I have also read of people who used black ribbon.  In that case you would want to glue it down with your glue gun as you wind it around the wreath form.)

2- Glue your candy corns to your now-black wreath form with your glue gun.  I found it easiest if you start with a row in the middle of your wreath form, laying the candy corns all in the same direction, like in the following picture.  Also, it's much easier to put a dab of glue on your wreath and press the candy corn on to it lightly instead of trying to put glue on the candy corn and then placing it on the wreath (It took me a few burnt fingers to figure out the obvious!)

3- Try not to let yourself or your children eat all of the candy corn before you can glue them to the wreath!  (But somebody's got to eat the broken ones, right?)

4-Glue another row of candy corns right next to your first row, but have them face the other direction.  Keep doing this with rows facing alternating directions all over the front, inside and outside of your wreath (obviously leave the back blank so it will lay flat against your door.)

5-Spray on your sealer now and let it dry if you will be hanging your wreath outside.

6-Attach a ribbon and hang your wreath!  (It is a little heavy so I used a wreath hanger to hold up my wreath and used the ribbon over the top of it for the look I wanted.)

Extra tips:
-You can use a lot of cheaper options for a wreath form like a swimming noodle duct taped together or use foam tubing (found in the plumbing dept at a hardware store for under $1 for 6 feet!)  Cut to the size you want and duct tape the ends together.  I used the wreath form because I liked the look of the flat front and back (like the shape of a life saver.)
-If you live in a place that is hot and/or humid during the Halloween season you will probably want to hang your wreath indoors.  I've heard of some wreaths melting in the heat or attracting bugs!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments and how your wreath turns out!

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Make your own (easy, cheap & green) laundry detergent!

This is one of the things that I get asked about the most, so I thought I would write a post about it.

Can you really make your own laundry detergent?!  Yes, you can and it's so easy, so green and so cheap that I'm wondering why in the world I didn't know about this sooner!  Honestly, who wants to spend more money on laundry detergent than you have to?

When I first heard about this amazing concept I got right down to business, doing what I always have to do, and that is...research!  Anyone who knows me well, knows that I like to research pretty much everything.  Why?  Well, in this instance, what if it doesn't work?  What if it's really bad on your washer?  What if it kills fish when it gets into the ground water which then travels to their river home?  And if those all pass the test, I then have to find the absolute best recipe (still kind of weirds me out to use the word "recipe" when we're dealing with soap) which leads me to learn that hard water requires different ingredients than soft water (info about that here if you care to know) and then I had to know the best and cheapest ingredients to use of course...anyway, with out further ado, here is the recipe I currently use and love.

Recipe for Laundry Detergent
Finely grate the bar (or half bar) of soap.  (Kind of a weird thing to do, but it won't hurt your grater at all.)  Mix the grated soap with the borax and washing soda for about five minutes and you're good to go! 

This will make about 32 ounces.  I use 2 Tbs (or 1/8th cup-black scoop in the picture) per load but if you have softer water than I do, you probably only need 1 Tbs per load.  This come out to between only 5 to 10 cents a load! (Commercial detergents are 20 cents or more per load.)

Some additional info & tips:

-This has very low suds so it works great in front loader High Efficiency (HE) washers.
-I add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar in place of the fabric softener and that softens the clothes and breaks up the mineral deposits found in my lovely hard water.
-I've found this detergent works great with warm or cold water washes.
-You can add a few drops of any essential oil to the recipe to scent your laundry (I want to try this after I research essential oils a little more.)
-I found the borax, washing soda, Zote/Fels-Naptha at my local grocery store (Macy's in Utah) for good prices.  They were in the laundry detergent isle, kind of dusty on the top shelf ;)  You can also buy them online.
-From what I understand, this is much better for the environment in several ways: less toxic ingredients, less manufacturing (less fossil fuels), and no huge plastic bottles being made and then thrown away.
-I love that I can easily make a year supply and store it on my laundry room shelf with out taking up a ton of room!
-There are many recipes out there for a homemade liquid/gel/glop laundry soap but it required boiling the ingredients and storing a huge bucket of the stuff which I wasn't all that excited about.
-There are also recipes out there that use other types of bar soap but from what I read, some of those soaps can leave a residue on your clothes, especially any bar soaps with mosturizers, so don't use those!
-The soap grates easier if it's dried out a bit so I unwrap it as soon as I buy it and leave it out for a few days.  Some people also recommend microwaving it for a few minutes, the idea being that you can then just crush it to powder.  I tried that with limited success so I recommend grating unless I find a better way.
-Borax and washing soda have many great household uses, such as making your own dishwasher detergent (I will post about that soon!)

That's it!  Although the research is certainly not that simple, in my opinion, the end result is because it's easy to make, better for the environment, cheap and can look pretty great in a cool upcycled bottle with neat label.  

Please let me know what you have learned about homemade laundry detergent and what your results are if you try this recipe!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Simplicty is the ultimate sophistication" ~Leonardo DaVinci

I think DaVinci was on to something there.  The thing is, life is NOT simple in a lot of ways.  But, the way I see it, if you can simplify the things that you DO have control over, the better life is.  Now, we may be tempted to think that simple is what is easiest/fastest right now, but that usually isn't the case at all.  For example, if we choose fast food for dinner because it's, well, fast it really isn't simple because we deal with the consequences of it being expensive, unhealthy & bad for the environment-nothing simple about those things!  Anyway, I hope to explore some of the ways we can make life more simple, whether it be making your own laundry detergent, buying furniture from the classifieds and making it into something fabulous or making a monthly meal plan that is full of healthy, delicious and inexpensive meals.  On with the simple!