Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vinegar and Vodka = Natural Cleaners

I realized the other day that I have never, not even one time, talked about how to make cleaning supplies with vinegar. Which is just awful because if you look at any other green blog it's probably going to be one of the first things they will tell you to start doing. But today I am going to remedy that by not only telling you about the wonderful things you can do with a little vinegar in a spray bottle but about another, surprising, liquid that can help you clean around the house and avoid using nasty chemicals - vodka. Yup I you read it right, vodka. Now you'll have an excuse to have a little drink while you're cleaning the house. How much better can it get?

White Distilled Vinegar
The most basic surface cleaning recipe I found for vinegar is this:
  • Equal parts water and white distilled vinegar
  • Essential oils as desired for smell
  • Shake well before using to be sure that everything is mixed up
I mean, how much easier can you get? I looked around for a recipe that could be made using apple cider vinegar (since you might already have a bottle in the house if you have decided to go no 'poo) but I couldn't find any. However, I did stumble across this page from the Vinegar Institute that has recipes that use vinegar for everything from freshening up your laundry to making sure that your car windows don't frost overnight.

Yes, that's right. You can use vodka around the house as you clean ... can you imagine being able to take a swig out of your spray bottle whenever you wanted to and not having to call the poison control center after you do it? Oh the freedom (and the fun)! With these as one of my household cleaning tools, I might actually want to do some cleaning.

Here are few of the things you can do with vodka, all of which I found on a page from a website called the Daily Green.
  • Bug Repellent
    • Spraying directly onto the bugs or on yourself will help to keep you from becoming a moving buffet.
  • Hair Beautifier
    • Adding a jigger (1 1/2 ounces) to your bottle of shampoo (you'll need to add 1 1/2 oz for every 12 oz in the bottle) will help keep your locks soft and shiney.
  • Mold Killer
    • Load up your spray bottle and let fly. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then attack with a toothbrush and your problem should be solved!
  • The Natural Version of Febreeze
    • Just spritz it on your smelly clothes and let it dry in a well ventilated place. When the vodka's dry it won't leave an odor and it will take the nasty ones with them! (A tip that can also be helpful the next time you want to sneak out to the bars ...)
  • Poison Ivy Remedy
    • When poured directly onto the affected area right after exposure, vodka will wash away the oil that will make you itchy and give you that nasty rash. It just one more reason why taking that flask with you on your next camping trip is actually a great idea!

Monday, October 6, 2008

LOG: Candle Making

Welcome friends to the first installment of the 'Living Off the Grid' series!

While my mother was off visiting my grandmother, she learned how to make candles. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and the candle she made was very cute. So I figured this could be our first 'how to' in the Living Off the Grid Series. I mean, you're going to want to see at night and electricity will probably be one of the first creature comforts to go if we do end up in the dark ages 2.0. I mean, it's helpful but not completely necessary for your survival.

First off, you're going to need to gather some supplies. You are going to need:

  • A candle mold
    • You'll want to be sure that it's something that has a base wider than the mouth so that you can get the candle out of the mold when you're done.
    • Soup cans won't work either ... they have ridges that will stop you from taking your candle out.
  • A medium sized pan and a coffee can
    • These will work as your double boiler to melt down your wax
  • Last, but certainly not least, you'll need some wax
    • You can choose to use paraffin (the most popular), bayberry (pricey), tallow, beeswax or soy wax.
  • Thick cotton string for the wicks
Candle Making:
First, you'll need to set up your boiler. Place the coffee can in the medium pan and fill the pan with water. You will always want water in the pan, but not enough for the coffee can to bounce all around. Once the wax starts to melt though, the weight will help with this problem.

Now, put your wax (you can also melt down old candles if you have some laying around your house) into the coffee can and let it melt. Cut your wax into chunks and if you're using old candles, remove charred wicks before putting the candles into the boiler. Stir the melting wax with an old spoon and fish out the old wicks from the used candles.

Once the wax is really nice and melty, it's time to pour the wax into the mold. You'll take the coffee can out of the pan and let it sit for a minute before you pour it. Remember, you will really want to use an oven mitt or towel to pour the wax - the coffee can will be hot! Leave a little space between the bottom of the candle and the top of the mold, it'll make taking your candle out of the mold a little easier.

Making the wicks:
I bet you were worried that I wouldn't cover this topic ... well, never fear! You will want to measure your string so that it's the length of your mold with an extra couple of inches so that you have something to burn on the top part of it.

Before you pour the wax into the candle mold, you'll dip the ends of the wicks into the wax and either hang them on a clothes line or lay them on some wax paper to harden. Be sure to lay them out straight ... they will go into the candles better when the time comes.

To insert the wicks into your freshly poured candle, wrap the long un-waxed end of the wick around a pencil and lower the other end of the wick into the candle. Do your best to be sure that your wick goes all the way through to the bottom of the mold. But if not, don't despair. You can always melt down the left overs for another candle!

Removing your candle from the mold:
You'll want to wait about 24 hours before taking your candle out of the mold. While the outside of it may be solid, that doesn't mean that it's cooled the whole way through. To get a fully cooled candle out of the mold, just flip it over and tap it. If your mold was made of paper, just peel the paper off of your new candle.

If tapping the bottom doesn't work you can insert a knife and run it around the edge of the candle to sperate it from the mold. If that doesn't work and your candle is refusing to move, you can submerge the mold in really wamr water which should soften it up enough that it will just slide right out.

If you want to some more information, I found these websites to be quite helpful. How to Make Candles and the Types of Wax Used for Candle Making.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Living Off the Grid:

In the last few weeks, with the economy collapsing and all, the thought has occurred to me that if you were ever interested in becoming self sufficient, now would probably be the best time to try it out.

I mean, if the economy collapses what are you going to do when the grocery store runs out of bread or beef? Would you be able to take care of yourself and your family? Personally, I think I want to start a commune-like community. Totally self sufficient - and completely unrealistic at this point in my life. But it's fun to imagine. And so I thought I would take a little time and write some articles about being self sufficient and, hopefully, Earth friendly. That way if everything really does goes down the potty and we're sent back into the dark ages, you'll at least be able to do something for yourself. But you might want to write this stuff down because I don't know if there will be any internet left when we hit the dark ages 2.0. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Challenge - 3 months down!

Hey all! I know I've been neglecting the blog lately and I'm sorry. It's a combination of having a ton going on in my life and being lazy. I will do better, I promise!

I seeing as how it's the end of September/beginning of October, and about 3 months since I started my No New Duds challenge, I thought I would check in with you and let you know how it's going. And ... it's going well! I did slip and buy a bra, but I was desperate, and I have worn it a ton so it was money well spent. Other than that the only other clothing items I've purchased was a dress and shrug to wear to a very, very fancy wedding reception. My cousin got married over the summer and my family was invited to join her on the west coast at a super fancy party with her co-workers. So, the purchase falls under the "being asked to stand at a wedding" category of exceptions.

But other than that, I haven't spent one dime on clothes or shoes. It feels good not to do it. And I've finally gotten to the point that I can go out shopping and not have the urge to buy stuff. It's nice to stop, almost like I've broken an addiction I didn't know I had. Although, I still run out of money at the end of the month so clearly, not buying clothes isn't really doing much for my budget. But I'm working on that.

I did get some hand-me-overs from my BFF Abby and she got some from me too! I love clothes swapping, especially with someone I know. I already called her this weekend and asked if I could borrow one of the sweaters I gave her for a family get together next month. It's the only time I'll wear it, but Abby wears sweaters all the time so it works out just perfectly.

I also stumbled upon a blog that is completely devoted to not shopping. It's called Holly's Stopping Shopping. She's not shopping for a year also, but it sounds like she really has more of a problem spending than I ever had. But it's another resource, and a good read, for those out there who are challenging themselves too!