In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Thursday, June 28, 2012

California Bound

            I’ve mentioned before that making time to get away from our everyday life is important to my husband and me.  Whether it’s a date night, a one day getaway, a romantic weekend getaway or a planned vacation, we really put forth effort to budget and plan for such occasions. 

            When we first got married, we talked about all of the places that we wanted to see some day.  Big, expensive trips were discussed like touring Europe,  cruising the Mediterranean, sightseeing Asia,  taking in the history of Israel, Egypt and India, visiting the Nile and the Amazon, and exploring South Africa were all on those lists!  The reality is that we can’t afford any of those trips right now.  Those are our “some day” trips....or maybe "not in this lifetime" trips if we want to get really honest about it.   We also had more realistic trips like Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the Gulf shores, NYC, Washington DC, Seattle, Philadelphia, the Rockies, the Smokies, the Carolina coast, Yellowstone, and Las Vegas. These trips are much more realistic, and we’ve even been able to knock out a few of them in our three years of marriage.  Even more realistic, are well-planned day trips to neighboring cities like Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lake Michigan.  We also had a list of trips that were kind of in between the “some day” trips and the “realistic” trips.  You know….the kind of trips that require lots of saving and planning.....trips like Caribbean cruises, an all inclusive trip to Cancun, an Alaskan cruise, a week in Hawaii, a road trip up the Northeast coast in the fall, and a California road trip in the summer.  We’ve been to the Caribbean a couple of times, and it's beautiful there!.  Soon the California road trip can be crossed off of our list too, because this year we are taking our entire vacation budget and putting into one trip….one big road trip…..yes, I have spent countless hours researching and planning a road trip up the CALIFORNIA COAST! 

            I’m really excited about that trip, and I’m even more excited now that it’s right upon us!  My husband and I have talked about taking this trip for awhile, and this year we just decided to go for it!  In the past, the hubs either couldn’t get enough consecutive time off of work for a lengthy trip….or it wasn’t in the budget…..or we didn’t have enough time to plan it…or excuses, excuses!  No more excuses though, soon my toes will be in the sand of the Pacific!  I can’t wait!  I’ve put a lot of work into planning every detail of this nine day trip.  I'm hoping to post about it each day….but we’ll see how that goes.  I might just be enjoying myself too much to write about it;)

Monday, June 25, 2012

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

             This past week I’ve shared the following cleaning recipes with you:  dry laundry detergent and fabric softener crystals.  Today I am going to share with you a recipe that I found online for dishwasher detergent. 


I c. Borax

1 c. Arm and Hammer Washing Soda

½ c. Coarse Kosher Salt

½ C. Lemon Shine Powder

           Mix ingredients together well.  I found that mixing them in a small food processor works best.

       The first time I made this recipe, I stirred the ingredients with a spoon and stored it in the bag that my old dishwashing tablets came in.  The next day, the recipe was hard as a rock.  I was pretty bummed about that.  I thought this recipe was gonna be a flop.  I think it may have been something to with the lemon shine mixing with the salt, but I’m not sure.  My husband said that we needed to keep the homemade detergent in an air-tight container, so I made a new batch and put it in a glass container.  It did better, but it still had the tendency to go from a crystal-like powder to a solid if I didn’t stir it up each day.  Since we only need to run the dishwasher every few days, this was a problem for us.  What I ended up doing was taking my second batch of detergent and running it through a small food processor.  This seemed to do the trick.  The food processor mixed the ingredients thoroughly and made the texture of detergent more of a powder.  I haven’t had any problems with the texture of the detergent since then.
            So, how does the DIY detergent hold up to store-bought dishwasher detergent?  I’d say it holds up well.  Our dishes appear to be getting clean and we haven’t noticed any residue left on the dishes.  I should say that we do, and always have, rinsed off our dishes before putting them in the dishwasher no matter what detergent we use.  Therefore, I don’t really know how this detergent works for crusty food left on dishes for several days.   For us, the detergent did the job just fine. 

            One last thing before I break down the cost of this recipe.  I want to breifly touch on one of the ingredients mentioned in today's post.....Borax.  Borax is controversial among many who make their own cleaning supplies.  Some say it is "toxic" and "harmful" while others say that is perefectly fine to use when making non-toxic homemade cleaners.  Even more confusing is the fact that Borax is listed as a main ingredient for cleaning recipes on almost every "green" website I've found.  I could list off several facts about Borax and give my opinion on it, but why do all of that work when someone else says it better than I ever could.  Go here to read more about Borax.  My PERSONAL opnion is the same as hers, and I will continue to use it around my house. You, however, will need to form your own opinion about Borax.

            Now that I've addressed that issue, let’s break down the cost of the detergent.  The cost of ingredients is as follows:  Borax (74 oz) - $3.38, Washing Soda (55 oz) - $3. 24, Coarse Kosher Salt (48 oz) - $3.19, and Lemon Shine (12 oz) - $3.66.  That's a total of $13.47.  The cost of each batch breaks down as follows:  Borax - $.35, Washing Soda - $.45, Coarse Kosher Salt - $.26 and Lemon Shine$.92.  That's a total of $1.99 a batch.  Using one tbsp per load, you should be able to get 48 loads out of one batch.  In our house of two, we only run the dishwasher once to twice a week, so I am only anticipating on making this detergent twice a year at most.  What a savings! 

          Before I close this post, I should also say that vinigar is a cheap, natural rinse agent.  I really can't stand the smell of vinigar, so I have not personally tried it.  I just thought I'd throw that little bit of info out there for those who may be interested in trying it;)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

DIY Fabric Softener Crystals

            I mentioned in my last post that as I run out of store-bought cleaning products, I am replacing them with my own DIY version.  At the beginning of the week, I shared with you a dry DIY laundry detergent recipe.  Today, I’m going to share with you frugal, smell-good fabric softener crystals. 

            Store bought fabric softener averages anywhere from $4-6 a bottle for 32 loads.  My new DIY fabric softener cost $1.65 a batch for the same 32 loads.  Before I tell you what I use for my fabric softener, let me just say that in my research, I found there to be a few things that can be used as natural fabric softeners for the frugal soul.  One of those is baking soda.  It won’t leave your clothes scented, but it does supposedly make clothes soft and could possibly be the cheapest fabric softener out there.  I’ve also read that vinegar has been known to get laundry soft.  I personally can’t stand the smell of vinegar and try to avoid it when possible in my cleaning products, but it is a common natural fabric softener for many people.  The fabric softener that I chose to use is……Epsom salt.  Yep, I read that it makes laundry soft and you can also put essential oils in it to make it smell good.  It's also supposed to help with stains, so that's a plus.  Since my store-bought fabric softener of choice was Purex crystals, I decided to give Epsom salt a try.  Coarse sea salt is also supposed to work, but Espom salt is less expensive than sea salt. 


4 cups of Epsom Salt

40 drops of Jasmine Essential Oil
(Can be found at GNC or health food stores.  Any essential oil can be used.  I found the scent of jasmine resembled traditional fabric softner smells more so than other scents of essential oils.)


            This is hardly a recipe since it only has two ingredients, but here it is.  Mix one cup of Epsom salt with 10 drops of essential oils.  My container held four cups of salt, so I used 40 drops of oil per batch.  You don't have to use oil at all if you want a fragrance-free softener.  You can also use as much Epsom salt as you think necessary in a load of laundry.  Either way, you will still save money using Epsom salt instead of store-bought softener.

        Using the lid that I use for the Purex crystals, I will be able to get 32 loads out of my four cups of fabrics softener.  I should note that just like the Purex crystals, this recipe is to be added to the actual laundry in the washing machine before the wash cycle starts.  It does NOT go into the part of the washer labeled "fabric softener". 

      Now, the next question is "How did it work?"  I have to say that the results of the Epsom salt were good.  It succeeded in making my laundry nice and soft.  The only downside to my recipe was that I couldn’t really smell the jasmine in the finished laundry even though it was very fragrant in the actual batch of fabric softener I made.  I even tried adding a few drops of jasmine to the beginning of the wash cycle and still nothing seemed to make it smell as fragrant as the Purex crystals.  I may have some tweaking of this recipe to do in the future, but for now the results are good enough for me to finish this batch.

            Now  let’s break down the cost.  Cost of ingredients is as follows: one bag of Epsom salt - $1.98, one bottle of jasmine essential oil - $5.99.  That’s a total cost of about $8.  Cost of ingredients in each batch of fabric softener is as follows: 4 cups of Epsom salt - $.65, 40 drops of jasmine essential oil - $1.  That brings the cost of each batch of DIY fabric softener to $1.65 for 32 loads, compared to the $4.76 I was spending on my Purex Crystals.  Saving money on fabric softener was a sucess!!!  The next recipe I'm going to share is dishwasher detergent, so stay tuned folks. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

DIY Laundry Detergent (Dry)

A few months ago, I began looking into making my own cleaning supplies with the intent of saving money on our grocery bill.  I decided that as I ran out of cleaning products, I would replace each product with my own DIY version.  This week I will be sharing some of those recipes with you.

I’ll start by sharing the DIY dry laundry detergent that I have been using for a couple of months.  The following recipe is simple, and it smells good.  In my research, I found this to be a popular recipe among DIYers.  I have found that it leaves my laundry clean and fresh, and the cost of each batch is only $1.80!  It’s definitely a keeper for me!


1 c. Borax
1.c Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1Bar of-Fels Napthia Soap
(all ingredients found in the laundry section of grocery store)

I used Fels-Napthia bar soap, because the purpose of that particular laundry bar soap is to get out stains. It is about $1 a bar. In my research, I found this to be the most common soap in DIY detergents. My recipe is the same as the Duggar's, and I figure that if this recipe fights the stains of that many kids, than it works for me. However, if you are looking to save even more money, you can buy regular bar soap, although I have no experience using it for this recipe. If you are looking to be more natural and organic, you can use Dr. Bonner bar soap. Just be aware that Dr. Bonner is around $5 a bar, and for me it defeated the purpose of saving money.


Before you begin, you will need a grater, a spoon, a measuring cup and a container to store the detergent.

Using a cheese grater, grate the bar soap into your container. I bought a cheap grater at Goodwill, and I only use it for making detergent….not cooking. Some people throw the grated soap in a blender or food process after they grate it to make the soap finer and more powder-like. I skip that step, and my detergent seems to work just fine. The texture of the detergent is more of a personal preference for some.

Once the soap is grated, add the soda and Borax and stir all of the ingredients together, and that's it!  Couldn't be easier:)

Now let’s break down the cost of this recipe.  The total cost of ingredients is as follows:  55 oz of washing soda ($3.24), 76 oz of Borax ($3.38) and one bar of Fels-Napthia ($1).  The cost of each batch of detergent breaks down as follows: washing soda ($.45), Borax ($.35) and Fels-Napthia ($1 a batch).  That’s a total of $1.80 a batch, compared to  the $5.99 I was paying per bottle of Purex.   Using 1tbs. of detergent per load of laundry, one batch of detergent yields 40 loads of laundry.  That is also the same amount of loads I get out of bottle of Purex. 

In our house of two, I only need to do three loads of laundry a week, so I go through a bottle of detergent about every three months.  Since one batch of the DIY detergent only filled about half of my jar, I doubled the recipe.  One jar of detergent = 80 loads = $3.60 for six months……and if I only need to make it twice a year that’s a year of laundry for $7.20! Yay for saving money on laundry! Mission accomplished!!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

IMA Summer Nights

By now my regular readers know that weekly date nights are a regular part of my marriage.  I’ve been trying to log some of them on my blog lately, so that my local Indianapolis readers can get some future ideas for their own date nights.  This past Friday, Matt and I enjoyed the evening at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.  Museum admission is free, but we weren’t there to browse the museum.  We were there to partake in a weekly event the museum offers called Summer Nights.  Every Friday night throughout the summer months, the museum shows old movies on a big screen in an outdoor theatre.  The cost of the movie tickets is$10, and visitors are encouraged to pack picnics and enjoy the grounds before the movies begin.  Matt and I try to go see at least one film a summer at the IMA, and this year was no exception.

We arrived around 6:00 p.m. and purchased our tickets for $10 a piece.

After we purchased our tickets, we walked the gardens and enjoyed the beautiful, manicured grounds the museum has to offer.

When the doors to the outdoor theatre opened at 7:00, we grabbed our picnic, lawn chairs and blanket from the car and followed the line of people to our destination. The movie doesn’t start until dark, but the pros to getting there early is that you get a good seat. If you wait until the last minute, you can forget about having enough room to spread your blanket out and eat. The procrastinators are pretty much guaranteed to not get a good seat at all. The cons to getting there early is the two hour wait until the movie begins. If it’s really hot outside, this could be a bad thing. I always prefer to be early though, because it gives you time to eat and talk and just enjoy one another’s company. Plus you have the advantage of picking a seat in the shade when you are early;)

Usually I make food and pack it on our picnic, but Friday was one of those rushed days.  While I was out getting Matt’s favorite popcorn for the movie at Trader Joe’s, I saved myself some time and got the rest of the stuff for our picnic there as well.  A couple Cuban wraps, some pasta salad, cherries, cookies, popcorn and salt water taffy and I was good to go. Oh, and be sure to pack bug spray along with your picnic.  It is the a location surrounded by trees.....yep, bug spray is strongly encouraged.  Citronella candles are also allowed.

The next two hours were enjoyed eating our picnic and talking about all of things going on in our life without any interruptions…..and that’s why I love date nights;)

As it got closer to the showing of the film, I pulled out Matt’s favorite movie snacks: Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn (it's a must, he eats it by the bag), salt water taffy and fruit-filled butter cookies.

When it starts to get dark, the movie begins.  Summer Nights always shows older movies.  Some are in black and white from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.  Those are my favorite ones to go see.   Others are classic films from the 1960’s to the 1980’s.  Out of the movies that are being shown this year, my first choice would have been Bring Up Baby with Katharine Hepburn, but we are going to be on vacation when that one is shown.   My next choice was what we saw this weekend, Father of the Bride from 1951 with Liz Taylor.  It was really good.  I had never seen it before this weekend and was really pleased with it.  It had almost the exact same dialog as the remake from my childhood.   Even my husband, who usually isn’t fond of black and white films, laughed his way through this one.  If you’re looking for something fun to do on a summer Friday night in Indy, pack a picnic and try Summer Nights at the IMA. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Change of Plans.....

            I would consider myself to be a planner.  I like to know what’s going on and when it’s going on.  I hate it when plans change, but sometimes a change of plans is unavoidable.........

Here’s what was supposed to happen at our house this past weekend:

Friday- date night
Saturday – work on our floors 
Sunday – church (like usual)

Here’s what ended up happening:

             Matt sends me a text at 9:00 Friday morning, telling me that he threw his back out.  I ask if he needs to go to a doctor.  He replies with a no.  I remind him that we are scheduled to continue work on the floors on Saturday......and that there is a doctor’s office at his work for the employees (a free med-check, if you will).....and  that he should try to get an appointment scheduled before he comes home.  He tells me that he will "be fine".  At 6:00, Matt comes home from work hunched over and barely walking, but he's still telling me he is "fine"!  I tell him that I have muscle relaxers in the medicine cabinet from when I was having neck spasms and encourage him to take one.  He doesn’t think he needs muscle relaxers, because he is just  "fine" and just needs to lie down to feel better. 

           By this point, our date is obviously canceled, and I pretty much forced my husband to get in the car and go to med-check.  I know that I don’t sound like a very sympathetic person at this point in the post - that’s because I’m not.  Seriously, I really don’t feel sympathy the way some do.  I wish I did, but I don’t.  For some people, I think sympathy is a real gift.  For example, I believe that my mom has that gift, the gift to truly feel the pain that someone else is feeling and hurt with them.  I'm more of a fixer.  I'd rather exhaust myself trying to fix a problem than feel sympathy over a problem.  Regardless of my lack of sympathy, I tend to feel less of it when someone is physically hurting and refuses to see a physician (ie: a healer of physical pain).

             So anyway back to my Friday night…...we end up going to med-check….in concert traffic!  Yes, that's right, because we live just a few miles from where the concerts perform on the north side of Indy.  While everyone was driving to see Miranda Lambert, I was driving to med-check.  Did I also mention that I'm not a very patient person?  Wow, I'm revealing a lot of my character flaws in this post.   Half way there, Matt tells me that he has a medical card from his work (not to be confused with our insurance card), and  we can put up to $1500 of medical expenses on it.  I ask where the card is.  He tells me he left it at home!  I ask why it’s not in his wallet.  Get this…..he never uses it, so why keep it in his wallet!  Refusing to turn around in concert traffic, we go ahead and pay the co-pay for med-check and a couple hours later, the doctor tells us that Matt is having back spasms and prescribed….wait for it….the same medicine that I had at the house for my neck spasms!  MEN….why do they have to be so difficult when it comes to being sick or in some kind of pain! 

            In all seriousness I love my husband, but he drives me nuts when it comes to being sick!  I don’t doubt for one minute that he is in pain when he is ill, but whining to me about that physical pain won’t do anything!  I went to school to be a teacher, not a doctor!   Here’s a tip for all men out there, because this seems to be a man thing - if you want to feel better GO TO THE DOCTOR!!!!

            O.k. then, so that was my Friday.  Looking back on it now, I find the situation funny, but in the moment, it wasn't very funny....just frustrating.....yep, very, very frustrating.  Now that I got that off of my chest, I’ll move on to the rest of my weekend.

            Saturday, if you recall, we were supposed to continue work on the floors.  We had two good weekends of work around the first of May.  The past four weekends Matt’s brother (who lives two hours away, has all of the tools for the project and is soooo wonderful for helping us on this massive project) had to work, and our floors  were understandably put on hold for a month.  Well, after the med-check incident, Matt naturally called his brother and told him that he didn’t think he would be much help this weekend, not to mention Matt’s brother’s wife is due to have a baby any time.   In the end, the timing of things just didn’t work out for anyone this weekend, so the floors in our loft still look like this……

…… a ripped up mess!  I’m not sure when they will be finished.  I like things finished, so this drives me a little crazy.  At the same time, I’m kind of glad that Matt’s brother stayed home this weekend.  I was really worried about his wife and the baby, and I’m glad that he stayed home considering his wife's condition.   If Matt’s back didn’t go out, his brother would have probably come up (another man thing, I’m sure of it), and I would have been worried about his wife the whole weekend.

So instead of working on our floors Saturday, I went to work and took the girls swimming…….

…..while Matt lay in bed drugged up on muscle relaxers and pain killers…..

            Since the doctor told Matt that it would be bad for his back to stay in bed all day, we ended up having a weekend date after all.  It wasn’t what we had planned, but we ended up going out to dinner Saturday evening and doing some shopping for our upcoming California trip at an outdoor mall just a few miles from our house.  We had a really good time together Saturday night.  So much so, that I almost forgot how much my darling husband drove me crazy the night before;) 

And the moral of the story is…..

You can't control the uncontrollable.  Sometimes plans change…..just deal with it and make the best of what you can:)


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Take me out to the ball game......

               Date nights…..we try to have them every week in our house.  I know that this will become more difficult when we have kids, but for now we sort of expect to date each other.  In the summer, it’s easier to plan dates that lead us some place other than dinner and movie, because there is so much more to do in the warmer months.  For example, this week we went to Indianapolis Indian’s game.  I’m not a fan of baseball.  My husband is though, and I do, however, enjoy getting tickets for the lawn, packing our own food and spending the evening outdoors.  That’s exactly what we did for our date this weekend:)

Tickets are only $10 each for the lawn…..

….and when you pack your own food it’s a really cheap date.

Rain wasn’t in the forecast yesterday morning, but we do live in Indiana.  You never know what to expect when it comes to the weather.  Sure enough, as soon as we put our blanket down on the lawn, it started to sprinkle.

By the time we ate our dinner…..

…..the rain clouds moved out just in time for the start of the game…..

…..and that was my cue to pull out my survival bag for the evening.  It was filled with warm blankets, an extra coat and a book to get me through all nine innings.  You see, my husband actually likes baseball, so talking to him nonstop through all nine innings wouldn’t be a very fun date for him.  I learned a long time ago, that if I was going to sit through three hours of watching guys hit a ball with a bat and then run around a big dusty circle, I was going to need a book to get me through it.  My husband always says that I am the only one who brings a book to sporting events, but last night I proved him wrong by pointing out a girl reading a book that was at least five times thicker than my book;)

A book is my must-have for me at a baseball game, but for my husband it’s a bag of this stuff.  You can’t go to a baseball game without popcorn.  My husband eats this Trader Joe’s kettle corn by the bagful.

Overall, it was a really fun date even if I don’t like baseball.  The whole idea of a date is to spend time together and enjoy one another’s company, making this date a success.  Oh, and we were even on the kiss cam during the game.  That was a first for us, making it an even more memorable night;)