Thursday, April 6, 2017

Couch Night

About once a month, Mitch will travel out of town for a business trip or work meeting. The kids like to take advantage of Daddy's time away and have started a "couch night" tradition for when daddy isn't here. His business trips are always on a week night, so it adds in a little extra fun for the kids to stay up past their bedtime on a school night. This week Mitch was away for 2 nights. The first night I set up a blow up mattress in the living room and the couches and mattress were covered in blankets and pillows. Everyone dressed in their pjs early, and we settled into our cozy while we ate pizza, donuts, and watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is not a night to eat healthy, but rather a sibling slumber party.

The next day a huge storm blew in. The kids spent most of their day still in their pjs, while I worked off and on on Maddox's costume for his end of the year Faces of History performance. Maddox has worked weeks on researching and writing a five paragraph paper on Eric the Red. A nasty storm raged on all day, with lightning strikes and thunder rattling the house, causing the kids to scream with excitement with each loud clap of thunder. Rain continued to pour down from just after lunch until past bedtime.

At dinner time we drug out the blow up mattress, blankets and pillows, while I worked on a spaghetti and garlic bread dinner. We ate in front of the tv and the kids and I enjoyed jello and cookies for dessert while we watched the movie Tarzan and Jane. Mason and Josiah fell asleep just after the movie and the big kids continued to watch old episodes of  Full House until 11 pm.

I love that the kids have started this sweet tradition that's at least 4 years old, I hope they continue and one day will look back and think fondly of this sibling bonding time.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Homemade Laundry Detergent, Lotion, and All Purpose Cleaner

I try to keep up with laundry by washing 1 to 2 loads a day.  However, every once in awhile I'll get behind, and with a family of 6, getting behind on laundry is easy to do. Below is a completed 6 loads in one day, with only 2 baskets folded. I'll have Skylar and Maddox fold and put away their own clothes.

We usually use Gain as our detergent, we like the way it smells, and Mitch swears its the only detergent that doesn't irritate his skin. If I switch detergents on him he'll start itching and know right away. When Skylar and Maddox were young and I was on a couponing kick and trying to do whatever I could to save the family money, I tried my hand at making my own detergent. It was easy enough, and it was gentle enough on Mitch's skin, but it didn't take long for us to fall back into the habit of buying Gain again. Fast forward a few years later, and I'm motivated to make my own detergent again, but this time saving money isn't my goal (though a pretty cool perk), instead I'm in a stage of wanting and enjoying making things from scratch for my family. I want fresh produce from a garden or a farmer's market, I want homemade bread with few ingredients (and with ingredients that I can pronounce), I want more whole foods, I enjoy eating meat and eggs from the animals that we raise, and in our everyday products I want more of what is natural and less chemicals. Of course I'm not hardcore 100% natural, I certainly appreciate the convince of modern food in boxes, fast food every once in awhile and store bought toothpaste, and many other store bought conveniences. But if I could make a shift in our daily lives with more things that are natural and healthy, then I'll be happy and satisfied.

Homemade Laundry Detergent:

1 beautiful glass jar (optional)
1 Tablespoon sized scoop
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
1 bar Fels Soap (grated)

Mix the ingredients in the jar and just use one tablespoon per load. I think this detergent smells great on its own, but you could easily customize it by adding in essential oils.

All Purpose Cleaner:

Glass Jug or squirt bottle
Lemon peels

I filled an empty windex bottle about a 1/4 of the way with lemon peels. My kids love to eat lemons like most kids like to eat apples or oranges (they like those too) and then I'll cover the lemon peels with vinegar, so the bottle is still only about a 1/4 of the way filled. I'll leave this bottle under my sink for about 2 weeks before removing the lemon peels and filling the bottle the rest of the way with water. Now I have a lemony all purpose cleaner. Honestly, this cleaner does what its suppose to do, its an excellent cleaner, but it does smell like vinegar and lemons. However, when the vinegar drys the smell goes away, and I haven't once had the kids or anyone else complain of a vinegar smell. I've been thinking about adding a few drops of lemon essential oils to add to the lemony smell. I also went ahead and made a bulk jar of this lemon cleaner. I filled a gallon sized jar a little less than half way with lemon peels (this took a few days of 4 kids snacking on lemons) and then I filled the jar completely with vinegar and let sit for a couple of weeks. It doesn't take long for this vinegar mixture to turn yellow and smell like lemons. Now when my windex bottle runs out, I'll refill my bottle 1/4 of the way and add the rest with water. Or I can use this jar mixture as my mopping cleaner. I'll simply fill a mop bucket with hot water and splash in some of my all purpose cleaner.

Homemade Lotion 
(or body butter, its really more of a body butter)

1/3 cup coconut oil (found in most grocery stores)
1/3 cup raw organic shea butter (ordered off amazon)
essential oil of  choice

I softened the oil and shea butter in the microwave like I would soften butter for toast. I put the 2 together, added an essential oil and whipped them up with a hand held mixer. This made a perfect whipped texture! I thought the coconut oil might cause this butter to harder, but days and weeks later it has held its whipped texture. A little bit goes a long way with this butter, and it goes on a little oily, as one might expect, but it soon absorbs in the skin, leaving your skin soft and silky, not greasy. I love this butter for myself and it works as a perfect moisturizer for my 2 younger boys who have naturally dry skin and hair (yes I put it in their hair after a bath and while their hair is still wet). I'm playing around with the essential oils and the fragrances that I like. The first batch I made was with 15+ drops of lavender and a tablespoon of vanilla extract. Lotion fragrances that are on my to do list include:
vanilla and cinnamon 
lavender and chamomile
orange and lemon essential oil
peppermint oil
peach extract
. I'm sure my options are endless!

Beard Oil

And while I had my oils out, I went ahead and made Mitch a small batch of beard oil

1/2 cup coconut oil
15 drops of cedar wood essential oil
8 oz mason jar

I melted the coconut oil and added the cedar wood oil and stored it in an 8 oz mason jar. He says he loves it and it leave his beard feeling soft, and it smells good too! Next time I think I'll use jojoba oil instead of coconut oil. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Homemade Loaf Bread

A sweet friend of mine, who is always whipping up something wholesome and delicious in the kitchen, would graciously give our family a loaf of her homemade bread whenever we would get together. This bread tasted like honey, but it was filled with whole wheat that she would grind herself from berries, flax seed, and coconut oil. After so many loaves I just had to ask her for her recipe, and I am so glad that she was willing to share. Her recipe came from the company that she buys her wheat berries from and she tweaked and customize it to make it work for her, and after trying my hand at baking this recipe I found that I need to make a few slight changes to make this beautiful sweet loaf bread my own. (One of those changes being I use store bought flour, and she uses fresh wheat berries that she then grinds into flour lol).

After weeks and weeks of baking this bread, that leaves my house smelling amazing, I finally have this recipe memorized.

1 Tablespoon dry active yeast

1 1/2 cups of warm water

1 egg

1/3 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil)

1/3 cup honey (or sugar)

1/2 cup ground flax seed (optional)

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups whole wheat flour (or white flour)

Proof your yeast by mixing it with warm water and allowing it to sit and foam for 5 minutes. If it does not bubble throw it out, your yeast is bad.

In your kitchen aid mixer using a dough hook, stir in your egg, oil, and honey into your yeast mixture, followed by half of your flour and your salt. Next add in your ground flax seed, and then the rest of your flour. Stir until your dough forms into a ball and is only slightly sticky. If you feel like your dough is too sticky add in a little more flour.

Next, take your dough and knead it on a floured surface for 8 to 10 minutes. You'll be surprised by how long 8 minutes can take, but don't skip this part. Kneading your bread helps develop the gluten needed to make your bread light and airy.

Place your kneaded dough in a bowl and cover with a towel and allow it to rise until it is double its size. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. I usually set a timer for 45 minutes.

My kneaded dough before it rises. Look at those yummy healthy looking flax seed specks!
After your dough rises punch it down and try to get all the air bubble out of your dough while you shape it into your loaf. Most of the time I just make a sandwich bread loaf in a loaf pan, but sometimes I shape my dough into a french bread, or I'll split it into 18-20 dinner rolls. What ever your shape, allow your dough to rise again for another 30 to 45 minutes. Then bake your bread in a 325 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. My friend's recipe says to bake for 30 minutes, but I have to bake mine for at least 40 minutes. Everyone's oven is different. So if your bread doesn't turn out the way you think it should, try again and play with different temperatures and bake time.

This bread is so light and sweet! And I just love the flax seed in this bread! Spread a slice of this bread with butter and drizzle with honey, and oh my! You're in heaven.

But I have a confession to make, my slightly less healthier white bread version without flax seed and made with white flour, might be my favorite. The dough when making this bread is so soft, and so pretty. Both breads are sweet, light, airy, and chewy. My white bread is more of a guilty pleasure, where as my flax seed bread is my go to, guilt free, weekly sandwich bread.

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