Saturday, September 22, 2012

homemade laundry detergent [update]

so i mentioned that i was testing out a new homemade laundry detergent.

it's a bit early to really make a judgment, but i wanted to pop in and say--so far so good!

here's the recipe i used, in case you would also like to embark on a mini adventure in frugality.

it's cooked on the stovetop, but don't be put off by that.  it's really easy.  (but be warned, if you do happen to spill borax onto your burner, it will produce a noxious smell every time you turn it on.  at this point, you will want to just buy a new burner plate.  borax-scented curry is less than appetizing.

hypothetically speaking, of course.)

silas walked into the kitchen when i was making it, and, bursting with pride, i exclaimed, "Look!  I'm making laundry detergent!"

silas peered into the pot.  "Ah," he said.  "Ye Olde Meth Lab."

as of yet, i haven't noticed any residue or streaks on our clothes (problems i have had with previous detergent attempts).  last time when i was using homemade powder detergent, there was noticeable fading.  (i have a couple black shirts that are now an uneven dark grey.)  obviously, a little more time is needed to make a full assessment.  however, for the moment, i'm happy.

missing that clean laundry smell?  it's easy to achieve, with the help of these little babies:

yes, i still write on my hands like a ninth grader.

just toss a small amount (meaning a teaspoon or two--this is strong stuff) into your load and your clothes will smell clean and fragrant.

toss a little more and your senses will be accosted with an aggressive clean laundry smell.  be judicious.  you don't want to induce vomiting.

so obviously, this addition makes your homemade detergent slightly less frugal.  however, you use such a tiny, tiny amount per load, that i don't think it's really a splurge.

my clothes smell even better than before, and i don't have to use fabric softener (which leaves an odd residue on our clothes).

if you've ever experimented with the homemade stuff, share your wisdom.

and speaking of laundry:

it's time to fold the daily loads.

over and out, loves.


p.s.  i just found this recipe, which looks even easier.  i'm going to try it when i run out of the above.

Friday, September 21, 2012

[recipe] crispy tofu tacos

i used to be a tofu weenie.

i thought it was bland and mushy and kind of gross.  i tried to eat it sometimes, but the most i could do with it was scramble it.  it was a poor, watery, turmeric-flavored substitute for the delight that is scrambled eggs.

people kept telling me, "you have to cook it differently!  try frying it!"

but i was afraid of frying things.

fry it?  in oil?  you must be insane.

(this was back when i was extremely calorie-conscious, which explains why i was trying to choke down flavorless tofu in the first place.  back in those dark days, i would do ridiculous things like eating measured portions of carrot sticks and saltine crackers topped with salsa.  my special breakfast treat was the "toast" i made by spraying both sides of a slice of bread with cooking spray and warming it in a nonstick pan.

it was disgusting, and tasted like the inside of a can.)

eventually, i got over my fear of fat (although i have yet to deep-fry anything), and started to branch out more.  life got a lot better.

(fat = flavor, people.)

and once i learned to press and (lightly! don't freak out!) fry tofu, meat substitutes became a lot more appealing.

allow me to demonstrate.

crispy tofu tacos

from here

1 block extra-firm tofu
3 TBS taco seasoning
1 1/2 TBS dried oregano
butter or oil for frying
your desired taco accoutrements

Drain and press your block of tofu.  I do this by placing the tofu between several layers of napkins or paper towels, and weighing it down with a cast iron pan (or some equally flat and heavy object).  You can press it for a few minutes or a few hours.  I probably did mine for about half an hour.

Heat a large pan and some butter (or oil) over medium heat.

Once tofu has been pressed, slice it into thin (about 1/2 inch) slices.  (You can also cube it, which would result in extra crispiness and flavor.  It is excellent this way.   However, if you are unenthused about flipping three dozen tiny cubes, slice it.)

Mix your taco seasoning and oregano in a small bowl.  Dredge your tofu slices or cubes in the spice mixture, and then place them into the hot pan.  Like so.

by the way, you'll notice i'm not frying the tofu in an inch of grease or anything.  i added just enough butter to keep the slices from sticking to my very old, very weathered, cast iron pan.
also, you can obviously use whatever type of oil you wish to.  i just think butter tastes good.

Cook the tofu a couple minutes on each side, or until crispy.  If your slices are big enough, you can remove them from the pan and place them onto a cooling rack so that they don't get mushy.

Serve taco style!  You can slice it into strips if your tortillas are small.  We ate ours with extra sharp cheddar, baby spinach leaves, and homemade guacamole (recipe: mash avocados with fresh lime juice and salt.  devour).

We also had a chopped cabbage salad on the side, drizzled with a delicious sweet chili dressing inspired by this one.


and here's the recipe that made me love tofu.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

preschool: counting train

so you know tesla loves to play alphabet train.  (and that he is smitten with trains in general.)

every single day, without fail, he asks to play alphabet train as soon as we put desmond to bed.

the alphabet train has been really helpful in cementing the capital vs. lowercase concept for tesla.  i hadn't really introduced the vocabulary before because i didn't want to confuse him, but now he can easily identify the capital and lowercase forms of each letter.

however, i was getting bored of playing alphabet train every day.   :)  so i decided to expand the concept.  tesla's pretty solid on his letters, but numbers are still a bit shaky.

enter the counting train!

 available in the homely thanksgiving-themed colors of brown, cream, and orange!
(we ran out of construction paper)

i  made cards with the numbers 1-20 (although we usually just use the 1-10 set, since recognizing the written numerals is a relatively new thing around here and the 11-20s just confuse him).  we practice counting and numeral recognition as we add each "car" to the train.

and still, the simple fact that i told him it's a train makes this game enthralling.

toddlers.  so easy to please.

i plan to continue the train game, adding a sight words set and possibly a set for rare color names.

let me know if you have any ideas for categories!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

preschool: prewriting skills

placing coins into a slot,

threading pieces of straws onto yarn,

and stringing and sorting froot loops.

skill-building doesn't have to feel like work.   :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

preschool: homemade playdough


FINALLY the boys are old enough for playdough!

we've done it before (both homemade and storebought) with limited success.

well, limited success with the storebought.  the homemade was pretty bad.

in the past, playdough has only captured the boys' attention for about 3 minutes.  also, they ate a ton of it.

but this time, they loved it.

and, they didn't eat it.

(maybe we're actually starting to move past the "everything-must-go-in-my-mouth" compulsion.)

i gave the boys each some plastic easter egss, some lids, and some straws (full-size and cut up).

they also claimed some butter knives from the cutlery drawer.

tesla loved making playdough worms (he informed me that they were actually "trains", in accordance with his locomotive obsession) with the straws.

they both loved pressing the lids onto the playdough to make circle imprints.

(they do this a lot on the carpet with lids and pots.  making circles is thrilling.)

they were entertained for quite a while.

until an airplane flew over.


here is the recipe we used!


from art nest

1 1/2 c of flour
3/4 c salt
1 1/2 c water
1 TBS vegetable oil
1/2 TBS cream of tartar
food coloring (amount needed to achieve desired color)

Whisk all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low.  Once mixture is smooth, exchange the whisk for a rubber spatula or wooden spoon and continue to stir occasionally until mixture thickens and begins to form a mass.

Remove from heat and scoop mixture out onto a sheet of wax paper.  Allow to cool for a minute or two, or until cool enough to touch.  Knead for a couple minutes, and then use or store in a ziplock.

yield:  about 2 1/2 cups

on sharing a room

i have something for you.

allow me to draw some wisdom from my deep well of parenting knowledge (it's been almost 3 years so i'm basically a pro now, right?) and impart it.

the secret to peaceful toddler room-sharing?

staggered bedtimes.

when the boys were babies, room-sharing was no problem.  a newborn and a 13 month old don't get into too many shenanigans.  (plus, they were both still in cribs.  cribs are the best.)

 until they learn to escape.

but now that the beasts boys are older, we have to stagger their bed/naptimes.  we usually put desmond to bed about 30 minutes before tesla so that he is (hopefully) asleep by the time tesla gets in there.

if they're both awake, all hell will break loose.  they will (1) destroy things (2) stay up the entire naptime or (3) all of the above.


for example.

a few days ago, i put the boys in for naptime.  desmond wasn't fully asleep but i didn't think it would be a problem.  (sometimes my judgment leaves a lot to be desired.)

they didn't end up going to sleep.

i figured they would be tired and cranky, but since there isn't much in their room but their beds and an empty bookcase (we have also installed high locks on the bathroom and closet doors so they're off-limits during sleep time), i thought the room would be okay.



somehow they acquired a metal bar from the sliding doors (silas said it was on top of the bookcase, so i'm not sure how they got it down) and used it to fell a paper lantern*.

when i walked into the room, i found that they had completely shredded the lantern into tiny pieces.  there were support sticks and paper bits all over the room, and the lightbulb had been smashed (i cleaned up what i could find but random bits of glass keep turning up, which is super fun).

those. boys.

they're lucky i'm biologically wired to love them.


however, to bring this full circle (not that i'm exactly known for my concise and relevant storytelling), putting desmond to bed 30 minutes earlier than tesla pretty much solves the problem.

all the boys watching kipper.

*their room has no lights and we hoped that hanging a lamp and running the cord along the ceiling and into the bathroom would be a way to light the room without interference.  it worked...for a while.


if you have any room-sharing tips or horror stories, i'd love to hear them!

have a lovely tuesday.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

my celebrity doppelgänger [except not really]

apparently i look like everyone.

not anyone cool or famous (not that your ex-boyfriend's aunt isn't cool); just random relatives and acquaintances.

"i just got back from wisconsin, you look just like my brother's girlfriend."

"do you know [insert name here]?  because you look like you could be sisters."

"you remind me of a russian exchange student we had a few years ago."  (when i had dark hair)

"that is so weird, you look exactly like this girl i used to know in high school!  are you sure you don't know her?"

i guess i just have one of those faces.  (one of those generic faces, i mean.)

however, one beautiful day, a friend told me she watched the hunger games movie a few nights ago and in one of the scenes katniss kind of looked like me.

so i googled jennifer lawrence excitedly.  (no, i still haven't seen it...)

totally hot, right?

...unfortunately, i don't see the resemblance.

Friday, September 14, 2012

speaking of the 90s...

do you guys remember those stretchy crinkle shirts?

you know, the ones that looked like they were made for your american girl doll but in reality could stretch to fit both you and your bff?

yeah.  those.

well, the other day i was at walmart and i saw a woman wearing one.

(walmart.  of course.)

if you try to tell me they are going to make a comeback, i will beat my head against a wall.

let's just take a look at the website's fallacious claims regarding the aforementioned tiny doll shirt:

1.  they describe it as "the perfect item for the fashion-conscious woman!"   (um.)

2.  it is also, apparently, "great for travel" (i'm assuming because you can just crumple it up and shove it into your carry-on) and "flattering on everybody!"  (i beg to differ.)

3.  lastly, and here is my biggest problem--it comes in "many styles", apparently ranging from a button-down cardigan for "a night on the town" ("hey girls, it's ladies' night!  grab your cardigans!") to a spaghetti-strap "comisole" (??) for lounging around the house.  

what are you waiting for?  order yours today!  at $15 each, it's a steal!

sweet like a chica cherry cola

1.  yes, i'm still listening to savage garden.

2.  i got to babysit my friend's baby last night.  he's a few months old and he's beautiful.  the boys (especially tesla) were enamored of him.

 be still my heart.

3.  i ran out of laundry detergent (and money in the budget) so i'm trying the homemade stuff again.  liquid this time.  hopefully it works out better than my crap-tastic homemade powder detergent.

behold my optimistically-labeled milk jug.

3.  brunch with the boys.

those dang blueberry costco muffins.  we have a serious issue.  i am banning myself from buying any more.  ever.

at least for a few weeks.

4.  project runway is boring to watch by yourself.  i told silas he needs to be my PR buddy, but he is uninterested.

he doesn't appreciate Tim Gunn.

oh tim.  all stars was lame without you.


happy friday!  enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

in which a messy braid is the highlight of my day

i attempted a pinterest hairstyle yesterday.

and even though it's crooked and messy and there are a ton of pieces sticking out, i am ridiculously proud of myself.

for me, even a bun takes some pretty fancy fingerwork.  so this was like climbing everest.

but i think i've proven myself sufficiently now.

bring on the daughters!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

90s love

i've been listening to the savage garden station on pandora.

i'm in love.

because not only does it play savage garden,

look how cool they are.  those faces.  the necklace!  the subtle statement hoop in one ear!

it plays *nsync, seal (the only song that matters--kiss from a rose), some old-school britney spears (can we call the 90s "old school"?), and of course, the backstreet boys.  which i love.

i mean, what's not to love?


unfortunately, silas does not share my affinity for 90s pop.

his loss.

i want to start a workout class called "90s Throwback", where we listen to all the glory that was 90s music and make up dance moves (or try to learn the music video choreography) like we did when we were kids.  (did you guys do that?)

and we can all fight about who has to be scary spice.

maybe it's just because it brings back so many good memories, but listening to this stuff puts me in such a great mood.  and it's  THE BEST to sing to (especially when you know every single word to every single song).

it's a far cry from the soundtrack of my high school experience (evanescence and linkin park!), which does not evoke such blissful memories.

now i'm going to cut myself off before i start quoting lyrics ("i don't want to be a fool for you/ i'm just another playa in your game for two") or start making embarrassing confessions.

but if you want to come over and watch Spice World sometime, holla at me.

Monday, September 10, 2012


messy hair.


messy beans.

 tesla and desmond

(now imagine every single one of those beans spread across the entire living room and kitchen.  i'm still finding them.  sensory bins and i are not on good terms right now.)

and an unrelated but delicioso cheese sandwich.

happy monday.

Friday, September 7, 2012

when the daddy's away...

sirius pines all day.

and strikes lewd poses for the camera.

but when daddy gets home...

all is right in the world.

"don't mind me, eh; i'm just gonna lie here and snuggle you while you study."

that dog loves him.

and only him.

this picture is a lie.

in reality, sirius and i cultivate a companionable relationship of mutual indifference.

it works for us.

window crayons

we love them.

the boys have asked to do this every morning this past week.

they're very easy to clean.  they wipe right off skin, and (so far) wash out of fabric easily (thanks for testing that, desmond).  to clean the windows, just wipe with glass cleaner and a rag.  make the wee ones help.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

calling all curlies!

so, i talk about my hair a lot.

but it's just so fascinating to me.

(apparently i also take a lot of pictures of myself.)

after spending years arguing with my hair, i've finally started trying to accept my natural texture.  (sometimes.  obviously i still straighten it occasionally.)

i've been doing tons of research on hair care since i discovered the curly girl method a few months ago.  (technically, i have type 2A-2B wavy hair, not curly hair, but some of the same principles apply.  [here is a link with the different hair types.])

there are a ton of curly techniques that i'd never heard of before i discovered the naturally curly/wavy internet community.  plopping, co-washing, here's a little summary of what i've gleaned.

basic care for wavy hair

-don't wash it every day.  most people probably shouldn't shampoo every day, but curly and wavy hair tends to be especially dry (this is extremely true for me) so washing it 1-3x a week is usually ideal.

a tip i've read for making 2nd (and 3rd and 4th...) day hair work is to wet it with a spray bottle in the morning and scrunch it with a little product to "wake" the curls or waves back up (my hair never looks quite as good after i've been sleeping on it all night.  go figure.)  i haven't tried this yet but i'm going to.

speaking of nighttime, i've heard sleeping on a satin pillowcase does wonders for combatting frizz and keeping waves from looking atrocious.  i haven't tried this, but if you have, i'd be interested to know if it helps.

-do. not. brush. your. hair.

if you have curly or wavy hair, this is probably a no-brainer for you.  brushing just destroys the curl pattern and causes hair to frizz out.  a lot of women comb their hair in the shower with a wide tooth comb before scrunching and plopping, but that's the last time you're allowed to run anything through your hair.

-when drying your hair, don't rub it.  don't put it in a turban.  heck, don't even use a towel.

microfiber towels or t-shirts are recommended.  right now i use a t-shirt to dry my hair (by scrunching and then plopping...although my plopping technique still needs work) but i'm going to try a microfiber towel the next time i wash it.  i need something that will soak up more water and help my hair dry more  quickly.

yes, plopping makes me feel like a dork.  but i think it makes a difference.  a noticeable one.

-using a diffuser to blowdry my hair (after it's air-dried for a bit) makes a huge difference--i get more volume, and a more defined wave pattern (this morning it actually looked curly when i was done!  and then i went outside and it fell into a flatter wave.  boo.)

there is a proper way to diffuse your hair.  youtube will teach you.  (also look up wet-setting...basically you twist your hair before diffusing to help define the curls.  it takes some extra time but it works.)

-co-washing (conditioner-only washing) and no-poo (no shampoo or conditioner, washing with a baking soda solution and apple cider vinegar rinse)...i'm not going to go into all the details but you can look both of these methods up.  a lot of women have had success with them.  i tried both methods for about a week each but didn't last any longer than that.  :)  i hear you really need to give it at least 6 weeks before judging the results though.

however, i have made one big(ish) change: using a sulfate-free shampoo and silicone-free conditioner and styling products.  (fyi...they're hard to find.)  basically, sulfates strip the hair (ammonium laureth sulfate, which is usually the second ingredient in most shampoos [after water], is also the primary ingredient in dish soap.  cuts grease!).  silicones coat hair to make it shiny, but they also weigh curls and waves down.

right now i'm using the L'Oreal EverSleek shampoo and conditioner (from the place where i get all my fancy hair and i really like them.  but i like to switch it up a lot and i'll probably be using something different next month.

lastly, if you're interested, here's a sample wavy hair morning routine.

i want to love my hair.  my friends, if you have any tips for coaxing out the curls, lay 'em on me!

(by the way, it's really hard to take a picture of the back of your head with an ipad.

just so you know.)