Monday, April 24, 2017

Stripping: Laundry Style

I've posted a few times about using homemade laundry detergent, something we've been doing for almost 4 years (version 1, version 2).  Other than a bottle of baby detergent that we were given when Luke was born and we used on his clothes for his first year, we've used homemade detergent on all our laundry loads for 4 years, including cloth diapers.  I've made two different kinds and reported back and have never experienced any problems with it.  It was cheaper and fairly easy to make and worked out great.

A few weeks ago my sister, who also used homemade detergent, sent me a link to this article about how supposedly homemade detergent doesn't get your clothes clean.  Her chemistry teacher husband had read it and agreed with all the science in the post and so they did the stripping and went back to using store-bought detergent.

I was starting to run low on homemade detergent and figured I'd use up what we had and then investigate this whole stripping and buying detergent thing.  About two weeks ago we were running super low and I realized laundry day was coming up.  Thanks to Prime, 48 hours later I had some 7th Generation powder detergent on my doorstep (not sponsored, just sharing what we bought!).  I picked that because I wanted powder detergent as well as being free & clear, and biodegradable. 

On Saturday morning I went to start my laundry.  It had been at least a few weeks since I read the post about stripping and had pretty much forgotten that any additional steps were needed besides just starting to wash our clothes with the store detergent.  I quickly figured that out (after a lot of texting with my sister) and got to the beginning of a very long laundry process.  Here's how you strip your laundry.

1) Wash a load. 
I used this as a way to use up the last of my homemade detergent.

2) Get the strip ready
Fill your bathtub with HOT water, about half full.  Add ¼ cup washing soda, ¼ cup Borax, and ¼ of water softener (I used some Calgon passed on from my sister).  If you don't have water softener (which I didn't for my first batch) then hopefully your detergent has water softener in it (mine did) OR just use ½ cup each of washing soda and Borax (you may notice that most of these stripping ingredients are the same as what I used to make detergent...I get the irony).

3) Start carting lots of laundry up and down the stairs
Put the wet, freshly "washed" laundry into the bathtub.  Start another load in the washer and add that to the tub.  (I'd do two full washer loads in each bathtub load.)

4) Let it soak in the tub about 4 hours.
Stir it every 45 minutes - an hour to agitate it and help loosen dirt and bacteria.

5) Wring it out and wash it all again.
I'd fill a laundry basket with still pretty wet clothes, cart it downstairs and then rewash and dry as normal.

6) Refill the tub and repeat.

You might be thinking to yourself.  "That's a lot of work!"

Yes, yes it is.  I did 20 loads of laundry over 3 days, as well as 5 bathtub cycles.   I wrung out so much laundry that I got a blister and popped it.  It's gross.

Your next thought: was it worth it?

Well, I'm glad you asked because I took a surprising number of pictures of my bathtub filled with clothes.  Because, why not.

Here's a load early in the bathtub cycle.  Not too gross:

Here's a load later in the soak cycle:

And that was a supposedly "clean" load of laundry that had been "washed" with homemade detergent right before it went in the tub.  And I even scrubbed the tub before putting the clothes in, which it then needed multiple times in the process because the laundry grime was leaving rings in the tub.

Here's more pictures of the tub filled with clothes:

I was initially really grossed out by how dark the water got with the darker loads BUT I'm fairly certain some of it was dye, not just really dirty clothes.  I mean, some of it was pretty dirty BUT the water was blue at one point and I don't think we had enough blue dirt to do that. 

Still, that's pretty gross.  I was convinced.

Initially I was just thinking about washing just the normal weeks' laundry but then realized that wouldn't  nearly cover everything.  Which it how it turned into 20 loads and a multi-day project.  I washed the normal laundry.  The sheets that had just come off our bed.  Then it was all socks and underwear.  Then the flannel sheets that had been put away for the spring.  Then ALL of our shirts.  All of my workout clothes.  All of Luke's currently fitting shorts (and he was THRILLED that I pulled those out of the attic early).  All of the bath/kitchen/hand towels.  All rags.

It went on and on and on.

Things I didn't strip:
My dresses since I rarely wash those anyways (since they don't get worn enough to wash).  Matt's jeans and shorts (he told me not to bother) and all of Luke's outgrown and yet to be grown into clothes.  I figure I'll mess with the too small stuff when it's needed and the too big stuff never got washed with homemade detergent.  (Although I feel like I've read that you should strip your clothes before wearing them the first time soooo...maybe I should?  I haven't yet...)

I still need to strip the sheets currently on our beds and all lap blankets but then I think I am done.

Am I still glad we used homemade detergent for 4 years?  Yes.  I'm glad I tried it and it did save us a lot of money, especially in the cloth diaper stage (and I did strip those about once a month with bleach, as recommended by the maker).

Do I think anyone could strip their laundry and have the water come out gross?  Yes.  Especially for the "tends to be dirtier" stuff like socks, workout clothes, and anything worn by little boys (huge fan of dirt, at least in our house).  I plan to do this again next spring, specifically on those items and maybe some towels and sheets too, just to test my theory.  I will, of course, be reporting back.

Did I notice a difference in all this extra clean laundry?  Once it was rewashed and dry?  No.  I really didn't.  Nothing really smelled, looked, or felt different.  If I hadn't seen all the dirty stripping water and wrung out a couple hundred items of clothing I'm not sure I would have believed it was necessary.  But I did see the water and I did wring out all that clothes and carry a couple (hundred?) pounds of wet laundry up and down the basement stairs.  I know they are cleaner now.

I did more laundry in a few days than I typically do in a month but it's pretty refreshing to have all clean.  Also, a good way to Kon-Mari it and touch every. single. item of clothing.  And I don't mind laundry (blisters are another story) and it was a good bonus arm workout hauling all that laundry!  Overall, no regrets.  And I'll feel a little more justified when my strip comes out dirty still next year. 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

{5} Thoughts

Sometimes it's just nice to write down some of these random things rolling around in my head.  It's maybe been that kind of week when that is about all I can handle!  So, from my brain to your eyes.  Happy Friday!

1) Luke and I went for a run on the morning of Good Friday.  It's back to (occasional) stroller runs which mostly just shows me how much better in shape I was last summer when I'd run 4-5 miles with him 3 times a week...right now 2 mile runs with him is killing me.  And I have friends who run much further, some with double strollers.  Crazy impressive!
The last time I ran on Good Friday just so happened to be about 12 hours after he was born, but we didn't know it yet!  Just crazy how life changes.

2) We are back to getting to spend money again and so I've been browsing clothes at my favorite stores and keep finding cute things...and then realizing they are maternity.  I feel like all the cute clothes I want is maternity but I doubt pregnant ladies feel the same?  Maybe I just want what I can't have?  I don't know but it's frustrating!  Maybe a sign I'm not supposed to be buying more clothes...

3) I recently finished the last of the Cookie Dough Truffles which I always save as my last Christmas treat (because they might be my favorite), between other cookies and desserts that I always make in the spring.

I've gotten into the habit of taking a picture of the last truffle I eat every year, mostly to document how long I've made them last.  For reference (I have a tendency to over document...):

April 7, 2017
May 17, 2016
March 21, 2015
June 30, 2014
November 19, 2013

You are welcome, internet, for both knowing AND sharing that knowledge.  I hope your day is better for it.  (And thanks to my super tagging didn't take me long to find all those dates.  Highly recommend, again.)

4) I love winter because we basically hibernate and leave the house as little as possible.  I look forward to being warmer but then also am never in a hurry for our long days and weeks at home to end.  Then it starts to get nicer and I'm always surprised to realize I WANT to be outside and want to see people and want to be social again.  We go through this cycle every year but it still surprises me...every year.  I'm at my homebody-est self in the winter and love it but also really love being outside again in the spring.  I'm so glad we have seasons.

5) A blog I follow recently linked to these distressed jeans...for $88!

Expensive distressed jeans

Matt often likes to tease me about my favorite torn jeans that I wear around the house (and maybe other places) in the spring and fall:

I sent him a link to those jeans so show him that people BUY them looking like that.  Whereas mine cost about $30 almost five years ago, I wore them for over 2 years before they had holes and then more than another 2 years with holes.  So, mine are totally a steal.  I have to admit to recently buying distressed jeans (which I really like!) but not nearly as holey. That, I don't get since I will inevitably wear them out anyways.

What random thoughts would you like to share with the internet?  Anyone want to admit to buying very holey $88 jeans?  Or just $88 jeans...because I'm definitely not spending that...

Thursday, April 20, 2017

When Recycling Isn't so Easy

Recycling is a pretty big deal for me; I probably got the bug from my parents.  We didn't have curb-side recycling for most of my growing-up years but we would dutifully sort our recyclables into 5-7 categories in the garage and then my Dad would take it all to the semi trucks in the Sam's Club parking lot about once a month.  It could fill the back of the Astro van.  8 people = a decent amount of recycle.  It would have been easier to throw it all away (which was picked up at the street) but we recycled because it was the right thing to do.

Of course, it's better not to consume in the first place because recycling can still place a burden on the planet and it's resources (Don't even get me started on bottled water.  SO UNNECESSARY to most of the developed world.) but it's (almost always) better than throwing it in the trash.

What it boils down to for me is not wanting to destroy this planet that God gave us.  As far as we know, this is the only planet that can sustain human life.  We shouldn't cover it with garbage.  It is our duty not just as Christians but as humans.  (Get me on a soapbox and I could go on and on about this.)

I will fully admit to yelling at people for not recycling (generally just people I know...not strangers) but, you know what, more than one person has told me that they recycle because of my yelling.  Because I started it at my former office.  Because they hear me yelling at them every time they try to throw a beer bottle in the trash can.  Matt started recycling cans at his work (which we then get to cash in, woo-hoo!) which got a coworkers to start using her curbside bin at home.  Yelling at people (or even just nicely encouraging them) can make a difference.

We have a pretty good curbside recycling program here that takes care of most of our basic plastics, paper, cans, jars, etc.  All the standard recycle stuff.  I'd very heavily encourage you to use whatever resources are available in your area for all that basic stuff.  Ours is as easy as throwing all recycables together in one giant bin that is next to our giant trash can (you can guess which one needs put to the curb every pick-up's not the trash bin).

But then there are plenty of things that we consume that they DON'T take and this is how we recycle those things.  We could still do better and I am somewhat anxiously awaiting the day we get curbside compost pick-up (It's a thing!  I want it!)  This is by no means a comprehensive list and I encourage you to use a site like Recycle Nation or Earth 911 to look-up how to recycle odd items in your area.  We are all living on this planet, we have a obligation to take care of it, and to teach our kids to do the same.  (And please don't drink bottled water unless you are in a place where the tap water is truly unsafe to drink...reusable bottles are your friend!)

Batteries - regular and rechargable batteries can be dropped off to Batteries Plus, usually free of charge

Electronics - Best Buy takes many dead/outdated electronics, many for free.  Wipe your hard drive, monitors cost (please DO NOT throw electronics away!).  Staples also has an electronic recycling program.  Also, check locally, Matt has recycling various computer pieces and monitors at the same place we take our metal recycle. 

Ink Cartridges - Matt takes the toner cartridges from work to Office Depot and gets some reward for them but we've never redeemed them...  Also free bins at Target and other stores. 

Plastic Shopping Bags - I take ours to Wal-Mart because I've found they have the largest boxes for them (and we need large boxes) but Target, Kroger, and other stores take them too.

Scrap Metal - We take all of ours (ALL, down to beer caps and scrap nails) to a local scrap metal place.  And get money for it.  The payout usually isn't much but we can easily fill the Jeep once or twice a year with scrap metal and it's better than all of that ending up in a landfill. 

About a year ago one of my brothers-in-law told me about Terracycle which has programs you can sign-up for to recycle what I always thought of as really un-recycable things.  I couldn't get Matt to go for a Zero-Waste box (and at $367 for a box we could easily fill in a month...I kinda see why) but I have signed up for multiple different programs where I collect things and then send them in a few times a year.  I get points based on weight and those points can be redeemed as a donation to a non-profit of my choosing.

I collect for the following programs:

Baby Food Pouches (squeezies)
Oral Care Items (toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers)
Personal and Beauty Care (make-up containers, hair care bottles/tubes, more)

I can't find a way on their site to find people collecting in your area so I realize this isn't much help unless you know somebody who is or start collecting on your own (and paying to ship it to me, even if I wanted to share my address with the internet, so I can ship it for free doesn't seem like the best idea).  BUT, I'm pretty excited about not having to throw away any of the items above and keep bins in my basement to sort them all out.  I don't really care about the money I've "earned" (and it hasn't been much yet) but it is making a small impact on what goes into our trash bin.  I'm always working to get that less.

We aren't perfect but I do think it's worth going the extra step beyond what your region might easily provide.  I doubt I'll see major sustainable life on another planet in my lifetime and I don't want to leave this one filled with trash for my kid.  Please do your part.

I'd challenge you to find one thing you'd normally throw away and instead figure out how to recycle or properly dispose of it.  I have a collection of spray paint cans, empty paint buckets, and expired/no longer needed medications in the garage, all of which I need to figure out!  And I welcome any suggestions or tips on other places and things to recycle!  I truly do!

(If you want to feel inadequate, no matter how much you recycle, read Zero Waste Home.  I mean, I'm not making my eyeliner from burnt almonds

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pineapple Crush

Maybe I just didn't pay attention to home decor trends for a long time but it feels like pineapples and flamingos have both been having a moment the last few years.  With some things I am a band wagon jumper (hello everyone's recent interest in all things Nordic and hygge) but these two, I've been on the band wagon for a long time, going back to high school long time (I still have the lawn ornament flamingos a friend gave me for high school graduation!).  I've done shopping lists for both before (flamingos, pineapples) but I kept finding things I like and if I can't buy them all then at least sharing them all here gets it out of my system a little.  

Also, I may have been really eager to spend some money after a discretionary spending freeze for Lent.  And internet browsing helped a little. 

So, here are a whole lot of pineapple items that have caught my eye recently.  I currently only own two...but I might be sale stalking a whole lot more.  (And here's a free phone background that I'm currently using!)

*I saw these at Target recently and was super tempted...but we don't need any more cups.
**I've been using the same flamingo case for more than 2 years but these might finally convince me to change it up
***if I didn't already have flamingo trunks for Luke (in the next two sizes...) I would definitely be sale stalking these.
****I bought this last year.  And even though I recently wrote a post about spending out...I still haven't burned it.
*****This may have been on my Easter wish list.  You don't have one of those?  It's a huge step up from our "buy my own gifts" plan we used to have...I'm going to spray paint them, rose gold I think? 

Highest priority to buy?  A ceramic pineapple.  I've been looking for one for YEARS.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Love: Sugar

I've read all of Elin Hilderbrand's novels but my favorite is The Blue Bistro which is set behind the scenes of a fancy Nantucket restaurant.  It might be because it has "blue" in the title (#blueismylovelanguage) but also because fancy restaurants and fancy food and people who can whip up fancy foods easily is super fascinating to me.  I've read a few "foodie" novels since I first read that one and none of them have lived up to my (maybe too) high expectations.

Until this lovely little book.  Just the cover alone has be wanting to bake something ridiculously yummy without a recipe (which I doubt would turn out yummy...I'm good at directions, not at spontaneous kitchen creativity). 

It follows the story of Charlie (short for Charlotte, I do believe) who is a second in command pastry chef at a fancy NYC restaurant but yearning to be the head pasty chef.  She is fantastic and doesn't like/get along with/respect/etc. the head pastry chef and leaves her long hours of work feeling pretty fed up.  Then an old friend from culinary school, Avery, reaches out to her and wants her to come run the desserts at his new fancy restaurant in Seattle. 

Obviously, she goes, after a little convincing from Avery.  He sets her up in a super fancy (how many times can I say fancy?) apartment in Seattle and gives her a great kitchen and a not so great sous chef and lets her have complete creative control.  Since I can't throw together fantastic meals/desserts/anything on a whim, I always enjoy reading the process of those that can.  Charlie considers different desserts for their menu and trying out local produce and is having a great time...when she finds out that not only did Avery want her to come be a chef, but also be on his new reality show about the kitchen of the restaurant.  DRAMA.

So there is that going on, and long restaurant days and a guy that owns a cute local diner and also lives down the street from Charlie's BFF (who just happens to already live in Seattle) and manufactured drama for the show and living.  Life is busy for Charlie and she gets some things sorted out and priorities reconfigured and all those growth things that typically happen over the course of a good book.

It made me glad I've never worked at a restaurant (unless we're counting a stint at Arby's in high school?  Even though it's fairly decent fast food it's still barely a "restaurant") and definitely glad I don't work those hours although the idea of "family meals" and a bunch of wonderful cooks making food for me every night does sound pretty great.

It was also a surprisingly "clean" novel although wasn't obviously Christian Fiction.  I had never heard of this author before and didn't have any expectations going in but was pleasantly surprised by that.  There was still romance but not overly sexual which was nice.

This was an enjoyable surprise read for me.  It was hard for me to put down and I looked forward to picking it up because it was just a fun read.  I'd recommend, especially if you like food.