Post-Hump Day post: Detritus

This past week . . .

> We couldn’t stop watching 58 very good impressions by this guy (thanks to the Girl for finding this).
> We listened to this interview which confirmed that we’re not the only ones who are peeved by mispronunciations (really surprised that our favourite, “mischievious” wasn’t mentioned).
> Our current word/phrase: detritus (now properly pronounced, of course). As in, “The detritus that was spewed during the debate was hard to take.”
> Funniest thing we heard on the radio was this even-better-than-usual episode of “Because News”. Practically every joke was spot-on, and we think Ashley Botting was the star of the show who should have won.
> We ate homemade cookies and more cookies!
rubbermaid-lunch-containers-003
> We’re loving this product: our fantastic lunchbox system. Packing two lunches every day over the years, we’ve learned after many takes what works and what doesn’t work. This system is great because it’s modular, and the boxes and ice packs can be stacked in different ways for different meals and components.
> Our DIY project was these closet hanger space-savers. Rather than buy plastic ones like these (which are getting harder to find, anyway), we made our own with inexpensive chandelier chain ($1.64/foot) and S-hooks made from thick-gauge wire.closet-space-saver
> We learned some great parenting hacks. Even if our kids are past the age when most of these would be useful, and even if we’re finding it hard to read past number 5 on any given Buzzfeed listicle these days, this one had a few gems.
> And finally, we found this great web site for parents who want to sell on consignment all the stuff that their kids have outgrown and outplayed. Very well organised, takes a lot of the work out of your hands, and best of all, it’s parents running it for/with other parents. Look for one in a Canadian city near you!

 

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Post-Hump Day post: “Without a shadow of a doubt . . .”

This week . . .

> We laughed at Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, which leads to fan videos like this one. I don’t think it’s catchy enough to be the next Gangnam style, but it passes the time.
long-chayote-squahs> We ate what we think is called long squash (I think some stores mistakenly call this “chayote squash”). One set of our next-door neighbours is always kindly offering us extra vegetables from their garden, and this is our new favourite. I braise or slow-cooker this with diced eggplant, tomatoes, chicken, and a mixture of garam masala, curry, cumin, salt, garlic, chili flakes, and fresh coriander. Everyone in the family loves it.
> We couldn’t stop watching this really sweet, tear-jerking Amazon Prime commercial. They’re really pushing the same-day delivery service lately, which I’m all meh about, but I could watch the commercial on a loop all day. Each time, my desire for a Lion-Dog increases. Much better than the first Amazon Prime dog commercial, where the owner walks a few feet ahead and just seems inconvenienced by his slow canine pal.
> Funniest thing I heard this week that wasn’t on the radio/tv: While cleaning out the kids’ old baby clothes, I held up an item and—yet again—jokingly said to the Husband, “You sure you don’t want another one?” To which he replied, while backing out of the room, “You’re looking through old baby clothes? This isn’t going to end well for me.”
> Our current word/phrase: “Without a shadow of a doubt” (or as the Boy has been saying, “Without a shadow of the doubt”). It’s cute because you know your kid is growing up and this is an improvement upon the previously un-sophisticated, “Nope”.
> We learned that in some school boards, teachers (not with permission from the board) are confiscating lunches and snacks due to their own judgements of what’s “healthy” and “suitable”. Come on! Yes, some of us try to provide homemade goodness, but we do have to rely on a store-bought Bear Paw with chocolate chips or Goldfish, from time to time.
> Our DIY project was neoprene hair ties. I just re-purposed this dollar-store tablet sleeve that didn’t really fit, and was sitting around empty. Like these ones, our neoprene hair ties don’t cause that pinched or pulled-back feeling, and are no-ravel. Unlike those ones, there’s no hefty price tag.neoprene-hair-ties

>
And finally, à propos of nothing in particular, we found this great article about a basket for sale.

Oatcakes, oatcakes, and more oatcakes!

oatcakes
Ate our oatcakes too quickly, before photos could be taken. These nice crisp-looking ones are courtesy of House and Garden UK.

Now that the memories of our Great East Coast Adventure of this summer are fading away, we really miss not having Scottish oatcakes readily available here in central Canada.

In the Maritimes, you can find oatcakes in many places, especially in Nova Scotia, and especially, especially on Cape Breton island, of course. I remember that years ago, VIA train served wonderful complimentary oatcakes on the leg between Montreal and Halifax (don’t know if they still have them). Now, even select Tim Hortons out there have oatcakes on offer alongside the doughnuts, which are overly-sweet by comparison.

Of course, now that we’re no longer there, we had to look for the perfect oatcake recipe to bake for ourselves at home. After a lot of sifting through on-line recipes and discarding ones that seemed like they had too much sugar or an oat-flour ratio that wasn’t quite right, we came up with the following five recipes to try. The sixth one is from the Clucking Hen Café and Bakery near St. Ann’s Bay along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton. (It should be noted that our preferred oatcakes were from the High Wheeler Café in Baddeck, but unfortunately, they didn’t give away their recipe conveniently on a bookmark like the Clucking Hen.)

Take a look at the recipes below with our review notes, and bake up some simple deliciousness for yourself!

Note 1: We slightly modified the recipes by substituting butter whenever the original recipe called for lard, shortening, or bacon fat.
Note 2: We ground all our oatmeal until it was fine, but not quite as fine as flour.
Note 3: In all recipes, sift/mix dry ingredients first. Then pulse in the butter, then water.
Note 4: Unless otherwise stated, bake at 350° F for 15 minutes, turning over halfway through.

1)
http://www.food.com/recipe/cape-breton-oatcakes-334468
·         2 cups rolled oats
·         2 cups flour
·         2 tsp. baking powder
·         ½ tsp. salt
·         1 cup brown sugar
·         1 cup butter
·         ½ cup cold water

Review: We couldn’t taste the oat taste as much as in the other recipes, and with a cup of sugar, this one was the sweetest among all—a tad too sweet for our liking. The dough was also much softer than the others—almost too soft to work with.
2)
http://localfoods.about.com/od/Cookies/r/Nova-Scotia-Oatcakes.htm
·         2 cups rolled oats
·         1 cup flour
·         ¼ tsp. baking soda
·         1 ¼ tsp. salt
·         ¾ cup brown sugar
·         ¾ cup butter
·         ¼ cup boiling/very hot water

Review:
Not as sweet as #1, and it had a nice buttery and oat-y taste. The dough was easy to work with, and because we rolled ours out extra thin (thinner than the photo on the original site), the texture was the nicest and crispiest among all. Really good, and was the first to disappear.
WINNER!
3)
http://thetravelbite.com/travel_and_food_blog/nova-scotia-oatcakes/
·         2 cups rolled oats
·         1 cup flour
·         ¼ tsp. baking soda
·         ½ tsp. salt
·         ½ cup brown sugar
·         ½ cup butter
·         ¼ cup boiling water

Review: This was very buttery and oat-y, similar to #2 (note the oat-to-flour ratio). Because it had slightly less sugar than #2, it ultimately lost by a nose.
4)
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/520634/scottish-oat-cakes
·         225 g rolled oats
·         60 g flour
·         ½ tsp. baking soda
·         1 tsp. salt
·         ½ tsp. brown sugar
·         60 g butter
·         60-80  mL hot water

Review: This was one of the two savoury oatcakes (note the small amount of sugar).  Because we prefer our oatcakes with a bit of sweetness to them, we didn’t go crazy for these ones. For some reason, these weren’t as good as #5.
https://caperfrasers.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/cape-breton-oat-cakes/

·         2 cups rolled oats
·         1 cup flour
·         2 tsp. baking soda
·         ¼ tsp. salt
·         2 tsp. white sugar
·         ⅓ cup butter

Review: The second of our savoury oatcakes, this one had one disadvantage in that the dough was just too crumbly to roll. We had to bake it in a silicon pan, and that worked out fine, as we dug out crumbled chunks to taste. Strangely addictive, these savoury ones were better than #4.

Clucking Hen Café and Bakery (400° F)

·         3 cups rolled oats
·         3 cups flour
·         1 tsp. baking soda
·         1 tsp. salt
·         1 cup white sugar
·         1 cup butter
·         ¾ cup cold water

Review: Finally, we didn’t make these, since we had some directly from the bakery and could make our review notes based on those. These weren’t as crispy and oat-y and yummy as the High Wheeler Café’s. They weren’t even as yummy as our winner, #2, but if we’re ever in the mood to re-live our Cabot Trail memories, we’ll grab this recipe.

 

We made it!: Revolving earring organiser

(Edited to clarify instructions.)

Using a drill (properly, at that) is a very important life-long skill that should be learned from a young age. So is finishing a project. Last week, the kids were able to share in this fun and rather easy project and learn from my procrastination. Too bad the resulting product is really only useful to one of them (unless the Boy decides that he’d like to wear earrings too).

This was a project that I had hoped to finish as a gift to the Girl this past Christmas, because her earrings had been slowly invading too much space on my own wall-mounted earring-holder. So I looked at my earring holder, and some that were already designed out there, and set out to design a holder that would be functional, easy to build, fun to use, and which wouldn’t require expensive materials (in fact, I wanted to use not only inexpensive, but upcycled materials as much as possible). But time got away from me around Christmas, and I convinced myself that the Girl had received too many gifts anyway. As days went by, the materials sat there and mocked me, and the Little-Girl-earrings were slowly overtaking the Sophisticated-Adult-earrings. So now was the time.

This is my own invention: a revolving earring storage unit on a Lazy Susan base, with holes to easily hold fishhook earrings, and notches to hold fishhook and stud earrings.

Below is the list of supplies and materials, and a brief description of how I built this. I know, I know—it would have been easier if I had stopped at each step to take photos, but sometimes you’re just too into a project (or the hot glue is threatening to drip all over your fingers and/or project) to stop and take pictures. It was great fun to do this, both kids had such pleasure drilling holes, and even The Beloved Husband commented admiringly that this was my best designed and executed project yet.

Revolving Earring Organiser

Estimated time: 1 hour (about 50% longer if using child assistance)

Materials (with a rundown of my costs, and estimated if you don’t have materials to upcycle):
> 1 wooden Lazy Susan, one size: $10, IKEA
> 2 wooden embroidery hoops, measuring 25 cm (10″); this will give you a total of 4 hoops as shown, when disassembled: $2.50 for both, upcycled from second-hand stores ($3-$4 each, from most needlecraft stores or Michael’s craft store. If you’re not in a rush to finish the project, wait for one of Michael’s frequent coupons that discounts any one item at 40% or 50%.)
> 5 wooden dowels, measuring 30 cm long x 1 cm thick (12″ x 3/4″): $1 for package of 8 at dollar store (slightly more if purchased at hardware store). We had some left over from a previous project, making suction-cup arrows for the Boy’s bow and arrows, so the cost for this was nominal.

Supplies:
> electric drill with 3 mm (1/8″) bit
> hacksaw with fine blade (alternatively, a serrated knife)
> glue gun and glue sticks (or wood glue, for a more secure fit)
> sandpaper/emery board/nail file
> measuring tape
> pencil

Procedure:

1) Plug in glue gun and keep in a safe place away from children. Disassemble embroidery hoops.

2) While an adult holds the measuring tape along the outside of each hoop, a child can pencil in marks about 2 cm (1″) apart on each hoop, all the way around (try to keep it centred vertically). This will be where you will drill the holes or cut the notches that will hold the earrings.

3) Making the holes to hold earrings: While an adult holds each hoop steadily, the child can carefully drill holes where marked, on two of the hoops only. This should be fairly easy to do, because the hoop wood is thin. Use the drill’s lowest speed.

4) Making the notches to hold earrings: Adult only should use a hacksaw or serrated knife to saw little notches about 3 mm down the hoop on the remaining two hoops, where pencil-marked.

5) Using sandpaper or emery board/nail file, sand both inside and outside of hoops, to get rid of minor wooden splinters.

6) Stack all hoops one atop the other, and mark four lines on the inside of each hoop, two sets across from each other (think of these as your North-South-East-West points). These will be where you will glue the dowels for support.

7) On each dowel, pencil in three marks approximately 15 cm (6″) apart, starting at one end. These will be where the hoops will be glued.

8 ) Glue dowels to hoops: Take one dowel and place a dab of hot glue to the first mark. Attach a hoop. Now dab glue to the second mark on the dowel. Attach a second hoop. Dab glue to the third mark on the dowel. Attach a third hoop. Dab glue finally to the top of the dowel and attach the final hoop. (You can have a child help you with this step, as long as you take precautions around the hot glue.)
Continue until all four hoops have been glued onto all four dowels at the marked spots.

10) Wait a minute until the hot glue has solidified on the last dowel, and place the entire structure onto your lazy Susan. Place where you’d like it, and using a pencil, trace circles around the base of each dowel to mark where they will be attached.

11) Remove structure, and dab hot glue to each spot, then quickly secure structure onto Lazy Susan(Edited to add: during a house move, the dowels detached from the Lazy Susan, so we’ve since updated this by drilling holes and attaching the dowels to the base with wood glue.)

12) Optional: Glue the fifth dowel across the top of the earring holder, for necklaces and bracelets. You may want to use your handsaw or knife to cut notches into this, to prevent sliding of the necklaces.

Et voilà—you now have a revolving earring holder for under $15 and an hour of work. Hang necklaces and bracelets from the horizontal bar.

With all that extra space at the base of the lazy Susan, we also used poster putty (like Fun-Tak) to position some little paper jewellery boxes to hold extra earring backs, rings, etc..

Thinking of doing this project yourself? Snap a photo and show us!

We made it!: Homemade laundry detergent

A few years ago, one of my friends who was cloth-diapering part-time and concerned about the phosphates (not to mention the cost) of commercially-made laundry detergent, asked me how I made my own laundry detergent. I always said that I’d write it down for her, but kept forgetting to do so, and time went on even as my recipe was being tweaked. Of course, I certainly didn’t invent it, and merely modified other recipes that I’ve found on-line over the years. But now what I have is a lovely detergent that works well, and has a scent that I can custom make to our family’s liking.

Although many laundry detergents nowadays are phosphate-free, there are still great reasons for making your own detergent. First off, the savings (see below) are significant—2.5¢ per load compared to 10¢-30¢ per load (depending on the brand). Second, making your own detergent means that you can control the amount (if any at all) of scent that go into your clothes. That’s always been one of the things that bothers me about laundry detergent—the strong, cloying smell on your clothes (not to mention the fact that you smell like everyone else who uses that detergent). Experiment with a few different essential oils to get the natural scent that you’d like in your detergent. We prefer citrus scents. Third, believe it or not, it’s easy and fun. It really doesn’t take that much time and effort, and the kids and I love running our fingers through the gel-like texture.

I recently discovered this recipe for laundry detergent on David Suzuki’s site. If homemade laundry detergent is good enough for Dr. Suzuki, it should be good enough for the rest of us. Although his recipe differs slightly from my own, his page has an easy-to-understand how-to video.

Below are my recipes for both liquid and solid versions, along with an estimate on how much it costs per load. (I edited this to take out mentions of Oxi-Clean, since I’ve discovered that that stuff’s not so great for the environment, and is essentially just an expensive version of hydrogen peroxide + washing soda).

Your kids will love running their hands through this!

Homemade Laundry Detergent (liquid)

Step 1:
> 1 bar of soap (Ivory, or any soap that is free of added scents, moisturizers, oils, etc.)
> 2 litres of water

A) Boil water in a large stock pot. While water is boiling, grate soap. Tip: Soap is easier to grate if you’ve frozen it for a bit. You could try to grate soap in a food processor, but some soaps (like Linda’s Laundry Soap) grate well, while others (like Ivory) end up clumping and forming little balls that stick together.

B) Pour soap into boiling water and stir to melt.

_____________________

Step 2:
> 250 mL (1 cup) of borax (found in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores now)
> 250 mL (1 cup) of washing soda (also found in the laundry aisle)

C) Combine these powdered ingredients into a large container (I use washed buckets that held kitty litter or snow-clearing salt).
D) Pour hot soap mixture into powdered ingredients, and stir to dissolve.

_____________________

Step 3:
> approximately 14 litres of water

E) Pour 14 litres of water into the above mixture, and stir. Can be used immediately, or let cool and set into a gel (several hours).
Use 125 mL (1/2 cup) per load. I tend to use 250 mL (1 cup) for heavier loads.

Works perfectly in our HE washer.

****************************************************************************************************************************

Homemade Laundry Detergent (solid)

Measure the same amounts of soap, borax, and washing soda as in above recipe. Mix these ingredients together dry, without water.

Use 1 tablespoon per load.

****************************************************************************************************************************

Cost comparison (all prices in Canadian dollars, rounded)

Homemade laundry detergent
Ivory soap, 10-pack: $4.00
Borax, 2 kg: $5.00
Washing soda, 3 kg: $5.00
Water: nominal cost
Total cost: $14.00, yielding enough detergent for 56 loads
= 2.5¢ per load

vs.

Store detergent
Cheaper brand: $6.00 for 60 loads, or 10¢ per load
Expensive brand: $9.00 for 30 loads, or 30¢ per load

We made it!: The decorated drinking bottle

Okay, this project isn’t so much a “We made it!” project as it is “We embellished it!”.

In our household, we’ve lost two kids’ Sigg bottles so far, with the latest being the Boy’s. So I bought him a plain stainless steel bottle as a replacement, figuring no great loss if this went missing.  But it was so plain that I didn’t want him feeling like the odd man out when the rest of us have such lovely bottles, so I suggested this easy project.

We bought some simple vinyl stickers at a dollar store, intended for decorating the cover of laptops, and turned this:

into this: .

The Boy loves the result so much (even wanting me to glue extra rhinestones on to it), and is now so eager to bring his bottle everywhere that I bet he’ll take extra special care not to lose this one.

I liked the project so much that I continued with one of my own travel mugs.

This became this: .

If you try this project, just remember that you’ll have to handwash your creations and never put them in the dishwasher.

We made it! project: Laundry bag out of fabric strips

My mind seems to be taken up with all things to do with laundry this past week.

The old saying goes, “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.” Well, I’d been wanting to make this for a long time, but have been putting it off. We haven’t used an unwieldy laundry basket for years; good heavy-duty laundry bags are just easier to carry from one room to another, and in a pinch, you can throw it down a flight of stairs in a fit of frustration, without any damage to anything. We’ve been very happy with a sturdy garden/leaf bag that I’d found in a hardware store a few years ago. Unfortunately, we only have one that is the right size (the other ones, twice as large, serve as giant receptacles for the kids’ outdoor toys and various stored items in the basement), so we’ve just been emptying it and using it for several loads at a time, which is a pain. So, inspired by this very purple person project and using the current laundry bag as a template, I set out to use some scraps from my ginormous stash of fabric. From my stash, I chose fabrics in a green colour theme, and for the handles, I used funky pink cotton webbing from a leftover project.

The problem with me when it comes to personal projects, however, is that I’m lazy and like to cut corners. Measure twice, cut once? Pshaw! Interfacing? Who needs it? So this project, which in my estimation should have taken about an hour, actually spanned about three days, in-between various other domestic and everyday tasks, and yes, a trip to the fabric store to actually buy, sigh, interfacing.

But it’s done now, and is serving its purpose well; it holds a lot of clean, unfolded laundry for many weeks days at a time. It even holds one medium-sized kid for slippery rides on the hardwood floor.

Sure, I could have bought some cheap-o bag like the Frakta from IKEA, and it might have served the same purpose for a while before ripping apart. But that wouldn’t have been any fun, and the kids wouldn’t have had a chance to look at and feel all the nice fabrics and reminisce with me. Anyway, maybe this project will get me back to some sort of semi-regular sewing schedule so that the cobbler’s children can again be shod.