Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Chattanooga Trip Day 1

Thank you in advance for looking at our trip photos. We had so much fun, and of course there are lots more photos than these (like 250 more), so I picked only the best ones to show what all we did.
First of all we left late, not going to say whose fault that was, they are forgiven. We had to stop along the way for shoes because the ones Tim had on rubbed his feet raw. Also, we had borrowed my MIL's car and unlike our SUV, the sun was coming in rather strong on the kids heads. So my hubby improvised:

In case you are wondering, this is glass chalk. You know, when people put for sale or just married on their cars. The kids had so much fun drawing on the windows!

We arrived at the Aquarium at noon, and I was surprised there were not more people there since it was Saturday.

As we were walking up to the member entrance, Tim saw people doing face painting and helped M&M pick out something for herself. Of course, she loved it, and it made her eyes look even prettier.

We went to the seahorse exhibit first since it is usually one of our favorites. M&M reached out to touch one of these kind (sorry, I don't remember the name of this one), and it looks like it is touching her finger. So cute!

JJ trying to figure out why the "phishies" wouldn't come close enough for him to touch.

The Butterfly area was wonderful, and JJ learned how to say "bbrfies". M&M wanted one to land on her, but there were so many people in there it was hard to stay still long enough. This one was larger than the width of both my hands!

At this one M&M said they looked sad and wanted to know why.

At the large tank, every picture I took had this ginormous turtle in it. JJ loved it, but not the sharks. M&M loved the colorful fish, and I and Tim were trying to figure out if the divers were going to survive the shark with only their sticks.

We then went in the underwater cave, which JJ didn't like but M&M pretended to be gasping for breath. She is too funny...

Then we went to Big River Grille and Brewery across the street and then to Ben and Jerry's ice cream. The kids were exhausted but not so much that they couldn't enjoy some ice cream.

After we left the downtown area we went to our cabin in north Georgia. We had a slight problem because I had never received the email asking me for confirmation on our cabin, so they didn't hold it. However, we are thrice returning customers so they gave us the large cabin for a discount. We arrived at the cabin just in time to see someone from the hanggliding place above us. If you are wondering about the plane, they once told my hubby, "If there isn't any wind, we make it"

We also were just in time to watch the sunset over the top of Sand Mountain, directly across from Lookout Mtn. in Georgia. I thought the wraparound porch made it even prettier, but I am a sucker for sunsets anyway.

By the time I got inside our stuff was already unpacked so I didn't take any pictures downstairs, but here is a picture of our room upstairs. It was quite beautiful and the king size bed made for a wonderful sleep.

The only downside was my increasing allergies, but the kids were behaving well and before 8:30pm our time both were asleep. Funny side note: JJ slept in his port-a-crib inside the closet! He likes to be in complete dark with quiet and I knew I would be up for a while and since the closet was the size of our bathroom back home I put the crib in the closet and he slept all night. I did open the door though, after he went to sleep so he could get some air circulation. Too sweet, aren't I?
Anyway, day 2 is continued in the next post. So sorry for the long posts, and thank you again if you have read or even looked this far. I can tell who has the most patience!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chattanooga Trip Day 2

Here is Day 2 of our weekend trip to Chattanooga, Tn
After we checked out of our wonderful cabin in River Fawn, Ga, we decided to go to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. However, we did have to wash the car off first and make sure the glass chalk would come off, it did. Then we took the scenic route through Hinkle, Ga (yes, HINKLE) to reach the Choo-Choo. It was a gorgeous ride with a cute little roadside store called, The Hitch N Post, and only took about forty minutes.

I got pictures of Grandma and JJ on the main exhibit, as well as,

a picture of my almost five year old, M&M.

Then after we had been at the Choo-Choo for about two and half hours we went to eat a late lunch at a place called Tony's Pasta Shop and Trattoria. The food was spectacular and the service exceptional, plus the prices were really great, especially since I had a 10% of coupon from the Chattanooga tourist website.
The place is in an area called Bluff View Art District and has beautiful architecture and even better views of the river. Here is a picture of the inside where we were seated.

After leaving with to go boxes and full tummies, we went to Craven's House and Point Park. For those of you not familiar with Craven's House, I would love to share the story in a nutshell since I love history and old houses. The house was built in 1855, by the Cravens, who were first involved in the cotton trade but then went into iron after the cotton trade dissipated. Then the Civil War came, and the Confederates used the house as a lookout point for the opposition. In November of 1863, the Union soldiers advanced in the "Battle Above the Clouds" and took the Cravens house. Later, the house was burnt down all the way to the rock foundation during a Union drunken brawl (those crazy Yankees!). When the Cravens returned after the war, they rebuilt on top of the remaining foundation and added a third story to what was orginally only a two story layout. Adolph Ochs later bought the house and 88acres from the Craven descendents, combining with land he had already purchased, and in 1893 he donated the land to the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Park. In 1956 the house was renovated and now you can take tours of it during the summer.

Next door is a vacant house that is beautiful as well. On the property line is this shed/cellar built into the side of this huge boulder. Thought it was quite pretty.

JJ enjoyed the porch on the side of the house facing the city. He looks so cute and little on the that long porch!

After Cravens House we went up to Point Park at the top of Lookout Mtn. This is the view from the Ochs Museum.

At the top of the Point we had Grandma take a picture of us four at the cannon. My parents took me here when I was little and we have a picture of us when I was about ten. It is quite nice to see how time can repeat itself. Isn't the view gorgeous?!

We also had our picture taken at another spot I loved as a kid. Tim also had a picture taken here when he was a preteen. I just love this picture at Umbrella Rock!

On the way out of the park, I was taking pictures and noticed how if you stand at the entrance into the park it looks like the eagle is looking at you. It doesn't look too friendly to me!

This is the view outside of the park. It looks like a fortress/castle and M&M started making up stories about a princess trapped in the castle and needing to be rescued by her prince.

We had a great time on our trip, even though we didn't get in bed until after 10:00pm our time. We did pack in a lot in two days, but it was well worth it! I could very easily live in the Lookout Mtn. Georgia area and take daily treks into Chattanooga. Next trip we plan on skipping the Aquarium and the Choo-Choo and spending more time in the Bluff View Art District and at Point Park. Maybe this time we will make it to the Incline before the last train is gone. Overall, we made some very good memories and learned a lot for future trips. Like, take everyone's expectations into account ("the planned to the minute person with no stops" compared to "the the trip is part of the journey and impromptu stopper person") Can you guess which one I am?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How To Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

Okay, so I am trying to save money however I can, you know: pinch the penny till it screams. I came across making laundry detergent and in our family that washes a load of clothes a day (especially hubby's work clothes) this sounded like a good idea. I also found other cleaning tips that I will share at the end after explaining how I made the laundry detergent.

1/2 bar of Colgate's Octagon All Purpose Soap ($1.30ish per bar)
1 cup of Borax ($4.00ish per box)
1/2 cup of Baking Soda (5o cents per box)
5 gallon bucket with lid (free from husband's work)

~The Borax took me a while to find and I finally found it at Western Supermarket on Rocky Ridge Road in Birmingham, Al. It was about four dollars, I forget the exact amount, though.
~The Octagon soap was also at Western Supermarket and about a $1.30 a bar. The original recipe I came across called for Fels Naptha soap but I could not find that anywhere. Any all purpose soap or even Ivory will work for this, if you can't find anything else.
~The Baking Soda I already had on hand for cleaning my glass top stove. Cost at Walmart is about $0.50. Side note or rabbit trail: Use the recipe for an all purpose cleaner at the bottom and sprinkle baking soda on top of it, it will clean your smooth glass top stoves better than the expensive stuff that smells bad

#1 First step: cut up or grate soap into pieces and place in a pot with approx. 4 cups of water. Heat until pieces dissolve.
The Octagon soap is like a glycerin or cake soap and come to find out is what my great-grandmother and great grandparent-in-laws used to wash their clothes.

*Now I must caution you on the next steps! Take it as user experience or me just being ditsy.
I didn't look back at the directions as I was making this, so I goofed.*
After you cut up half the bar and place it in 4 cups of water to melt,
#2 Second Step: Place the mix in the 5 gallon bucket.
#3 Third Step: Add more water and the cup of Borax, stir.
#4 Fourth Step: Add more water, and the half cup of Baking Soda, stir and more water.
DO NOT add the baking soda to the mix still in the pot or you will have a science experiment on your hands! Can you tell that is what I did?!
It started growing and growing and growing. I had to grab another pot and separate the mix but it kept on growing and bubbling so I ran for the 5 gallon bucket in the laundry area and dumped the whole mix in that. I added water, and after it stopped growing I added the Borax. It caused the mix to gel some and stop the bubbling foam trying to take over. So sorry I didn't get pictures of that, they would have been Internet worthy for sure, but I had other things on my mind at the time. I am sure you understand.

Let the mixture sit for 24 hours in the 5 gallon bucket with the lid on and stir before using. The consistency will be neither a liquid or gel, unless you adjust the amounts of soap and Borax (less making more of a liquid, more making a thicker gel). You can experiment to see what works for you, but a cup of the mixture is enough for a load in the wash for us. Disclaimer: mine turned into more of a liquid because I didn't add the ingredients in the right order, but it still works beautifully. It doesn't sud up like I expected to, but the clothes smell wonderful.
Rest assured these ingredients do really clean clothes, individually as well. These three ingredients will clean your clothes, remove stains, and keep them white.
The cost is nothing compared to what you pay for the more expensive ready made kind and this way you know you are not putting anything toxic on your clothes. I won't go into all the math except to say I was paying about $0.28 cents a load for my detergent, and now I am paying about $0.01 a load. That is a savings of $0.27 a load! If you figure a load approx. a day for us, that is a savings of $98.55 a year!!

Now for my other tips relating to laundry:
~Tip 1 Instead of using the expensive fabric softener which has strong perfume and who knows what else in it, use vinegar. Yes, vinegar! Use the recommended amount for your washing machine in the fabric softener spot. I put four drops of Bath and Body Works Fig and Brown Sugar eccentric oil in mine to give it a nice smell. Just make sure it coincides with the smell of your laundry detergent and use the fabric softener rinse cycle. The clothes do not come out smelling like vinegar but instead smell fresh and clean because vinegar, in its sour content, removes bad smells. For those of you wondering, vinegar is made from the oxidation of ethanol in an alcohol-containing liquid, such as wine, fermented fruit juice, or beer.(source: wisegeek)
The savings you ask? About $73 a year. If you add in making our own laundry detergent then we are up to $171.55 already a year savings.
~ Tip 2 Cut your fabric softener dryer sheets in half and only use half a sheet in a load. We tried only using vinegar sprayed on a washcloth, but we still had static in our clothes. So far, the half sheet has been easy and works just fine. Savings: about $8.oo a year. Maybe that doesn't seem like a lot but you are still getting twice as much for the money.
~ Tip 3 Instead of buying name brand stain removers for clothes, especially for the kids clothes, use dish washing liquid. I use whatever I have on hand, but don't use anything with bleach in it or you will bleach your clothes. Just dab on the spot and put aside until you wash the item. Don't leave for more than a week though, or the soap may stain the stain on the clothes. I consider this one free, because I already have the soap and I don't have to buy any especially for this use.

Other cleaning tips:
~ ALL PURPOSE Cleaner Take a spray bottle and pour in one ounce of vinegar. Fill the bottle with warm water and add one Tablespoon of baking soda to bottle. Do not add baking soda before adding the water to the vinegar or you will have a volcano erupt from the bottle. Add drops of essential oil, like peach or orange, to the bottle for a pleasing scent.
~ STREAK/FOG FREE MIRRORS After cleaning the mirror, rub a little vinegar over the surface with a clean rag. This will keep it streak free and prevent it from fogging during showers. If it starts to streak again, reapply.
~ SPOT CLEANER FOR CARPET This is for if you have a carpet cleaner and have the solution on hand. Take one ounce of the carpet cleaning solution and place in a spray bottle. Fill the bottle with water and spray on spots, letting sit for about five minutes. Rub gently with a clean rag to remove spots.
~ STAINLESS STEEL SINK CLEANER I know it says it is stainless, but I get brown residue on the bottom of my sink. So does everyone I know that has a stainless steel sink. Simply wet the sink and sprinkle baking soda, let it sit for about 15 minutes. Use your dish sponge or scrub pad to scrub away the stains. Then rinse with water. Baking soda will not harm you if ingested and also works as a grit in cleaning dishes.
~ BURNT RESIDUE IN PAN simply sprinkle salt over burnt places and let sit overnight. The salt makes the burnt pieces brittle and easy to break up. If the burnt residue is stubborn, try adding just a little water to it.
~ HOMEMADE TOOTHPASTE Now I don't use this one often, but it does work. Take a baking soda and place a small amount in the bottom of a shallow dish. Add a tiny bit of water and some peroxide. Dip in toothbrush and clean away.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Official

I finally finished making Mercy a pillow case dress! For me to finish something is wonderful and pretty rare, since that seems to be a challenge of mine; example the two closets I have never finished cleaning out or the four sewing projects left to be finished.

I had some trouble with the arm holes not wanting to lay right, but otherwise it was a breeze to make. Instead of putting ribbons that tie, I simply put shoulder straps because for the life of me I can't tie a bow (even though my husband can). She was absolutely thrilled to have it and began "modeling" it.

Mercy just had to wear it to church the next day, but since it was a bit cooler, I put a long sleeve shirt on her underneath it that happened to be the same color as the embroidery trim.

This pillowcase is an orginal and came from my maternal grandmother's house when she passed away about fourteen years ago. I have been saving it for something special, and I think my little M&M is pretty special. However, I did make it a little big so that maybe she can get two seasons wear out of it (M&M has already grown two inches and four pounds since I made this three weeks ago). Since making this one, I made another dress without a pattern and it turned out alright. I will get pictures of her in it and post that one soon. Thanks for looking!

Friends of Mine