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Homemade Gifts

January 9th, 2018

I’m always making gifts, sometimes they come out of my sewing room, sometimes I crochet them, sometimes they come from my kitchen, other times they’re just creative things I come up with. Most recently, I made a set of spice jars for a good friend. The jars originally came filled with delicious local mustard, I’ve been saving them for a year just for this project. For those of you that love mustard, give Raye’s Mustard a try, I’ve tried most of their flavors and they’re FANTASTIC. Old World Gourmet is the most used variety in my kitchen, but I always have a few others around as well.

The labels were designed on Avery’s website, I printed them here at home, then added a few details with a gold pen. Overall, they turned out beautifully and she LOVED them.

I’ll keep saving jars and keep printing labels. She’s been wanting to organize and beautify her spice cabinet, so I gave her a good start and will continue to add to her collection.

Have you come up with any creative gifts recently?

Homemade Whitening Scrub

April 12th, 2012

Yesterday, I posted this recipe in the comment section and decided to whip up a batch, since I’ve never made it before. The recipe is from The Naturally Clean Home. I talked about this little book before; it’s filled with all kinds of recipes. When it comes to cleaning, we all face different challenges that depend on our homes, the surfaces we clean, and our lifestyles. That’s why this book is great, you can try out a variety of recipes and find the one that works best for you situation.

Mr Chiots and I are tea and coffee drinkers and we have light beige formica counters – not a good combination! I try to wipe them up as soon as a spill happens, but they sometimes escape my view (especially since Mr Chiots is the chief barista and I’m often working when he’s making coffee). When I saw this recipe I figured it would be perfect for removing the stains that creep up on kitchen counter.

HOMEMADE CITRUS SCOURING POWDER
(from The Naturally Clean Home)

1/2 cup baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup borax
1/8 cup grated lemon, orange, grapefruit peel

Combine all ingredients in a container with a shaker top and mix well. Sprinkle small amount on surface and scrub, rinse well. If stains are bad let sit on surface and consider adding some peroxide to enhance whitening effects.

The borax gives this scouring powder a whitening/brightening effect, but it can be left out. It can also be drying to skin, so slather on some coconut oil before using or use rubber glove.

I happen to have grapefruits in the pantry, so that’s what I used. The smell is AMAZING. After mixing the grapefruit peel with the baking soda, I pulsed it in my small food processor to cut the grapefruit peel into smaller pieces. I figured it would also help release the citrus oil into the baking soda, it did.

I set to work using this scrub on the kitchen counter, focusing on the coffee and tea stains. As the saying goes “the proof is in the pudding”, I scrubbed up the counter and returned to the office to work. When Mr Chiots went out to make afternoon coffee he yelled from the kitchen that the counters looked great. I guess that means it worked! These countertops are one of the surfaces in our home that I really dislike, they’re old, the previous owners used harsh cleaners which was hard on the surface. As a result they stain easily and are tough to keep clean. I’m glad to have come across this recipe that will help me keep them looking nice.

What is one surface in your house that is hard to clean or that gives you problems? Have you found anything that helps with your particular problem?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
more to come…

Make Your Own: All Fabric Oxygen Bleach

April 10th, 2012

When it comes to detoxing your cleaning routine, getting rid of bleach is one of the best things you can do. You really don’t need bleach around for disinfecting, good old soap works well enough for that. Sometimes however, you really want something that will get rid of stains and brighten up your laundry. Chlorine free bleach can be quite expensive and making it at home costs next to nothing. I get the ingredients to make a gallon of oxygen bleach for about a dollar.

HOMEMADE OXYGEN BLEACH
1 half gallon bottle or jug
2 cups hydrogen peroxide (the kind you get in the brown bottles)
water 

Pour peroxide 2 cups of peroxide into half gallon bottle or jug and fill jar the rest of the way with water (I use water filtered through my Big Berkey Water Filter). Use like you would use store bought all-fabric bleach.  1 cup per load of laundry.

Oxygen bleach will help remove stains and brighten clothing. It also does wonders for removing odors, making it perfect for pet bedding and kitchen rags. There seems to be endless choices for whitening your clothes without chlorine, some people swear by vinegar, other say lemon juice is the way to go, and a little sunshine never hurts. The key is to find something that works for you and that you feel comfortable using.  I like using oxygen bleach and sunshine!

What’s your favorite way to brighten & whiten your clothing?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Sherri from Little Home in The Country asked where I got the lovely tea towels in the second photo. I found these beauties when I stopped at Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa last summer. Luckily they have them for sale on their website. They’re the best towels I’ve ever owned big absorbent flour sack towels with beautifully illustrated with garden fresh goodies – I’ll be ordering some more soon to replace a few more towels!

Make Your Own Multi-Purpose Cleaner

April 4th, 2012

I spent a few years trying to come up with just the right recipe for a multipurpose cleaner. At first I simple mixed some castile soap with water and tried using that. It works OK for some surfaces but not for others. Then I tried adding vinegar but that didn’t quite work either. I wanted something that would disinfect, clean, cut grease, and do away with stains and odors. Somehow I ended up with this recipe and I LOVE it.
I use it for everything, cleaning my hardwood floors, toilets, windows, pet stains on the carpet, and it also gets rid of pet odor like you wouldn’t believe. It’s also so really great at getting rid of stains, but beware, it’s so good that you might notice a clean spot and the rest of your carpet might look a little dingy (from personal experience).

HOMEMADE MULTI-PURPOSE CLEANER
1/2 cup peroxide (the regular kind in a brown bottle)
1/2 cup distilled water
1/2 teaspoon castile soap or Sal-Suds*
(*Note that as Sage pointed out in her comment Sal Suds from Dr Bronners does contain SLS. I keep a bottle around and use it sparingly only if I actually do need to dissolve grease from my hands/clothing. It’s then followed up with castile soap to remove any residual SLS. Definitely not something you want to us all the time. )

Mix ingredients in spray bottle, use for cleaning floors, dusting furniture, cleaning toilets and other hard surfaces. This is also a powerful stain cutter and odor pet neutralizer. Make sure to test on an inconspicuous spot before using over a large area of your furniture or carpet. I spray my furniture and carpet without issue, but all fabrics are different. The Sal Suds will cut grease better than a regular castile soap will, that makes it perfect for cleaning windows.
When it comes to mixing up your own homemade cleaners, don’t be afraid to tweak things, add more soap, less soap, swap in vinegar. Just be sure not to mix ammonia & bleach (do you even keep those in your house?). A while ago I purchase The Naturally Clean Home. It’s filled with 150 different recipes for cleaning just about anything you can think of, including a number to clean various surfaces in your home, even one to can make your own car wax. For me, having one that use for everything makes it easy, I don’t want a bunch of bottles of various things sitting around. Sure every now and then I might need something special for cleaning carpets or something else, in case I’ll grab this book and mix up one batch to use. Other than that, you’ll find me using this mix for everything!

If you’d like to have a nice reference filled with a bunch of different recipes I’d recommend purchasing The Naturally Clean Home. For less than $10 it’s a valuable resource to have on hand. Who knows, perhaps you can even start a small business mixing up non-toxic cleaning products to sell at your local farmers market!

Is there anyone in your area that sells homemade non-toxic cleaning products? Would you be willing to purchase them from a small local business?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit

April 2nd, 2012


A few years ago I detoxed my cleaning routine. Before that I was using “green” products, but they can be pricey and sometimes they’re not any better than regular products. Some of them still contain artificial fragrances, along with toxic ingredients. Once you get rid of all of your old cleaning products and stock your cleaning kit with a few inexpensive items you’ll never look back. Your house will be sparkling clean and you won’t have to worry about what is in those cleaners lurking in the cabinet. Here’s what I have in my cleaning kit:

CLEANING SUPPLIES
carrying case
vinegar* – you can use white or apple cider vinegar (I prefer apple cider vinegar because it’s not made from petroleum and I can make it myself) I keep a squirt bottle and spray bottle with vinegar.
baking soda – which is easy and inexpensive to obtain in bulk
castile soap (regular and scented if desired)
peroxide
essential oils if desired for fragrance & cleaning power
spray bottles
foaming soap dispenser
parmesan cheese shaker
cotton rags
variety of scrubbers & sponges
old toothbrushes
pumice stone

*if you dislike the smell of vinegar, consider infusing it with citrus peels, lavender or herbs – here’s how.
Fill a parmesan cheese shaker with baking soda and keep one in your cleaning kit and one by your kitchen sink.  Baking soda is the perfect non-abrasive scouring cleaner to give your sinks, toilets, tubs and pretty much everything that nice shine.  It’s especially nice for cleaning stainless steel pans and leaves them sparkling.  Baking soda is also a natural odor absorber.  Keeping it in a cheese shaker makes it super convenient to use. You can simply save a plastic shaker jar, I happened to have these glass ones that I use since I don’t purchase pre-ground parmesan cheese. I’ve been using them for about 10 years without ever breaking them.

In my cleaning kit you will also find a spray bottle filled with vinegar and one filled with my own homemade multipurpose spray (recipe to come later this week). Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and is perfect for spraying countertops after cutting raw meat. It also is a fantastic soap scum buster, spray on sinks, tubs and showers, let sit for 10-15 then scrub with castile soap. No need for a that super blue liquid for cleaning mirrors & windows, use plain vinegar (citrus infused vinegar works even better) or the multipurpose spray on windows & mirrors. Spray on and buff off with a cotton towel or a microfiber. You can use saved spray bottles but I prefer to get new ones, then I know they don’t have any chemicals that have leeched into the plastic. You can find a variety of them on-line, this Clear Spray Bottle 16 oz. is nice and I also love this colorful Crystal & Neon Mist Bottles as well. A foaming soap dispenser is also a great thing to have, you can purchase empty ones. All of mine were Method bottles.

Castile soap is one of the best when it comes to non-toxic cleaning, it comes in unscented or with essential oils. You can use Dr. Bronner Organic Castile Soap if you’d like, I purchase mine in gallon jugs from Mt Rose Herbs. If you want the essential oil castile soap, Dr Bronner’s come in a wide variety of scents like peppermint citrus, lavender, tea tree, rose, almond and my favorite eucalyptus. I also keep a bottle of Dr Bronner’s Sal Suds* on hand and linseed oil soap, they’re fantastic at busting grime and dirt that regular castile soap won’t (like that burnt on grease that gets on your oven mirror and super dirty rags). Sal Suds does contain SLS though, even though it’s biodegradable I use it sparingly and only when needed.  <em>*Note that as Sage pointed out Sal Suds from Dr Bronners does contain SLS.  I keep a bottle around and use it sparingly only if I actually do need to dissolve grease from my hands/clothing.  It’s then followed up with castile soap to remove any residual SLS. </em>

You’ll also want to keep a variety of scrubbers, sponges, old toothbrushes, q-tips and a pumice stone in your cleaning kit. Keep whatever kind of scrubbers you like to use. I’ve talked about my love of Twist Sponges here, they’re compostable and made from all natural materials. Why a pumice stone? It works at getting those tough rings off the porcelain of your toilet. Although it does still take some elbow grease, it’s easier to just keep the toilet clean in the first place.

I also keep some rags in my cleaning kit, along with a microfiber (although I admit that I hate microfiber with a passion and when these wear out I will not replace them). I’m more of an old towel cut up for rags than a paper towel kind of gal, I think they work so much better and are much more absorbent. The microfiber will come in handy for polishing mirrors and faucets (though a towel works just as well).

All my cleaning supplies fit in this shower caddy that I picked up a long time ago for a few dollars. When I’m not cleaning it lives in the laundry room closet. When I’m going to clean I grab it and work my way around the house. The rest of this week I’ll be showing you my methods for using these products to clean the cottage here at Chiot’s Run. We’ll go room by room and I’ll share any tips I’ve learned along the way, like non-toxic toilet cleaning made easy (which a lot of you asked about).

The truth is that it’s easiest to keep you home clean, you’ll spend far less time if you maintain clean rather than letting it completely out of control. This is often when people feel like they have to reach for heavy duty toxic cleaners.

What’s your biggest cleaning challenge?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Homemade Whitening Scouring Scrub
Non-Toxic Cleaning: Doing the Dishes
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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