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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Laundry Continued...

For information on how to make your own laundry detergent and fabric softener, please view my very first blog post.  I wanted to follow up with a few more ways to keep your clothes clean and green.

Vinegar Fabric Softener 

Vinegar kills germs and odors.  It also softens your clothes and reduces static electricity.  Try adding this to your Downy Ball:

1/2 water 1/2 distilled white vinegar
Essential oils if desired

I just pour a 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar mixture into an empty vinegar jug and keep it beside my washing machine.  Use it as you would liquid fabric softener.

CAUTION!!  This is not good for elastic.  I wash my kiddos underthings in a load without vinegar. 

Hang Drying

I live in Minnesota and it gets so cold here that your teeth hurt when you walk outside.  Does this mean that I use my dryer during the frigid winter months??  Nope.  I almost never use it!!!  I hang dry everything that I can manage to drape somewhere in the house.  My townhome is tiny (think two bedroom apartment) but our laundry system works pretty well.  I just use collapsible drying racks.  I purchased mine at Ikea for $20 each.  I've seen them at Costco as well.  If you have to pay for laundry, imagine how much money you would save.   You also save a ton of wear and tear on your clothes.  It usually just takes a day for everything to dry.  I do a load or two every few days and it's very manageable.

Wool Dryer Balls

 You've probably seen seen those plastic spikey-looking dryer balls sold in stores.  They're supposed to eliminate static electricity and reduce drying time.  Some people save money by using in a few tennis balls instead.  I personally think the idea of heating up plastic and tumbling it around with my family's clothes isn't exactly the healthiest thing to do.

On the other hand...  Liquid fabric softener is full of preservatives.  Dryer sheets are made out of fiberglass and contain who knows what chemicals.  So, what's a parent to do?  You felt your own wool dryer balls!  All you need is some wool yarn and some old nylons or a sock.  You'll want pure wool yarn, the kind that shrinks in the wash.  You can buy some at a local knitting store or just unravel an ugly old sweater sold in abundance at any thrift store.  You could even try posting on Freecycle for supplies. 

To start, just make a ball of yarn.  Begin by wrapping the yarn over two fingers.  Pull your fingers out and wrap the yarn around itself, making the shape as close to round as possible.  Perfection is not necessary.  Once you have your desired size, cut the yarn and tightly tuck the end into the ball.  I make the core about 2 inches in diameter, but you can make any size you would like.  If you're making multiple balls, make all of your cores and felt them all at once.

Once you have all your core balls rolled, tuck them into the nylons.  Use small pieces of acrylic yarn, ribbon, or whatever you have on hand to separate each ball and to tie the ends of the nylons closed.  Add the nylon/ball creature to the next load of laundry you wash on the hot setting.  Put it in the dryer afterward as well.  I usually wash and dry the balls twice to ensure they are properly felted.

After the cores have been felted, just wrap another layer of yarn over the core.  I make my dryer balls about 3 inches across, but any size that works for you will be just fine.  Just like before, tuck in the ends, place the balls in the old pantyhose, wash, and dry twice.

That's it!  I use 2-4 dryer balls at a time and they really do reduce drying time.  I still have a little bit of static electricity with our fleece blankets, but not enough to make me use a more conventional fabric softener.  If your dryer balls every unravel, just re-roll and felt them again.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Have you ever read the ingredients on a bag of microwave popcorn??  Can you even pronounce half of what you're eating??  Why not try making popcorn on the stove?  It takes just a few minutes and tastes absolutely delicious.  Not only is it healthier, but think about how much less waste you're producing by forgoing the cardboard box, plastic wrapper, and paper bag that contain your movie time snack...

Supplies Needed:

A tall pot with a  lid.
Cooking Oil*
Popcorn **

Salt and Butter

You know the pot you use to make mac n cheese?  That's probably the one you want to use here.  You just want it to be tall enough to let you make a big tasty batch of popcorn.  Start with about 2 Tbsp of oil and a few (2 or 3) kernels of popcorn.  Cover and cook over medium high heat until you hear your test kernels pop.  Add roughly 1/3 to 1/2 Cup of popcorn and replace lid.  Constantly swirl your pan over the burner while the corn pops away.  It doesn't matter how you move the pan, back and forth, side to side, or around the world.  The big thing is just to keep the kernels in motion.  Once the popping slows down (when you would usually take the bag out of your microwave)  remove from heat and put the popcorn in a bowl.

If you want to add butter, simply cut up 1/4 to 1/2 a stick of butter and place it into the hot pan to melt.  You may or may not need to use low heat to melt the butter.  Once the butter is melted, pour it over the popcorn and shake the bowl to mix.  I don't have a cover for my popcorn bowl, so I just wrap a clean dishtowel tightly over the top of the bowl and give everything a good shake.  Add a pinch or two of salt before shaking if you so desire.

*For cooking oil, I prefer coconut oil.  It's rich in medium-chain fatty acids (AKA the good fats) and adds a wonderful nutty taste to your popcorn.  This oil will be sold in a glass jar in the natural food section of your grocery store.  It is solid at room temperature.  I also use coconut oil quite often for stir fry.  My boys love adding pineapple to our stir fry and the two flavors blend together very well.  

**Corn is one of the most common genetically modified foods (GMOs).  GMOs are not labeled.  The only way to ensure you are not eating genetically modified corn is to buy organic.