Saturday, October 27, 2012

A "Spooktacular" Crew

Tonight is our church's annual "Trunk or Treat" at the park.  It's very good that it usually happens the weekend before Halloween because I am a serious procrastinator when it comes to pulling costumes together.  My kids plan and plot and plan and plot for months before Halloween and worry that I'm not going to get it done.  But I always pull through.  If I remember correctly, I could usually pull out a "B" on a last-minute research paper in high school, and that's about how good these costumes are.  They aren't perfect, but they'll do.

Since we're having our van checked out with our mechanic today I elected Ben to take the three older kids in his car and I'd stay home with Maddox this evening.  I helped the kids get all decked out in their costumes, and off they went - but not before we got their pictures!

As part of Olivia's costume, we bleached streaks around her face last night.  Then, tonight I sprayed some color into them.  Isn't she just beautiful?  She's growing up so fast.

We've spent the last few days trying to come up with a title for Olivia's costume.  Tonight we settled on "The Purple Phantom", I think.

Can you guess what Kelsey is?

 An 80's "punk" rocker!

Connor is easy to guess, right?


Great job on the facial hair, Ben!  I guess you ARE an expert, after all.

And what is Maddox? You'll have to wait till the next set of pictures from Halloween to find out!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

My house smells wonderful.
Even my kids say so.

Now we just have to see how it does on our laundry.
I have great hopes.
I got the recipe from my ultra-picky Tide-snob of a sister (Beth) who deals with sensitive skin issues in her family.

I have tried making the homemade liquid laundry detergent before, and I have to say I wasn't wowed.  It works okay, but if I forget my laundry in the washer overnight the clothes would smell funny the next day.  I have 4 kids and I home school some of them.  Let's be honest: I forget my laundry a lot.

This is what I started with:

1 (4lb 12oz) box of Borax
1 (3lb 7oz) box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 (3lb) container of OxyClean
2 (14.1 oz) bars of Fels Naptha Bar Soap
(I could only find the 5 1/2 oz. bars, so I got 5 of those)
1 (4lb) box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 (55oz) bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener (optional)

I was able to get all of my ingredients at Walmart for just under $30.  They obviously have the same recipe I do, because they are all grouped together on the laundry aisle.  Except for the Purex Crystals.  I did have to walk a couple of yards to get to those.

The recipe I have from Beth advises two things that I didn't do this time, but probably will the next.  First, they recommend getting a big bucket and lid from Lowes for a few dollars for combining the ingredients.  If you don't want to invest in that, a heavy-duty trash bag is probably your next best mixing option.  Unforunately I used a freezer bag from Aldi's which has corners in it.  Yeah, that was not the best idea... and then I had to throw the bag away.

The second thing I wish I had done was pour in the ingredients in layers to make the mixing process easier.  I got it done, but it required getting my hands in there and blending it that way.  
It made me sneeze a little.

The only ingredient prep you have to do is grate the bar soap.  Be sure to use the fine side of your grater.  I used my food grater for it because honestly... it's SOAP.  It'll clean off just fine with hot water and my veggie scrubber.  It looks like funky cheese.

After I got it all mixed together I started putting it into containers.  I measured it as I stored so I could know exactly how much the recipe made.  Kelsey wanted to pose with the first 20 cups.

Here's the whole batch in the storage containers.

I'm am using the OxyClean container and scoop for dispensing it in the laundry detergent.  There's 4 lines on the scoop, and the bottom line is probably about 2 Tbsp which is what a typical load of laundry will take.  Unfortunately we have really hard water in Edmond, so we'll probably need 3 Tbsp.

I opted for the green Purex Crystals, which makes my laundry soap look a little like peas and shredded carrots.  I think next time I'll go with the yellow.  Beth tells me it smells more like sunshine.

Oh, and the final measurement?  We have 34 cups of laundry detergent!  According to the math, that's 272 loads of laundry, which is just under 11 cents per load.

That's about one-half to one-third of what I've been spending per load for my other detergent.  This recipe just might be a keeper - especially if I only have to make it twice a year.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maddox Videos

In honor of Maddox's birthday, I want to share two videos of him.

This first one was taken yesterday.  He was playing quietly while I worked on the computer before breakfast, and I realized that he was very intensely trying to figure something out...

The second was taken tonight after his birthday dinner.  You can see that he's starting to get willing to try words, even though a lot of them sound the same.  It's a new thing, so we're really excited!  And no, the noise levels in our house aren't usually quite so high...

The Candid Cook: My New Addiction

Honestly, I should have take a better "after" picture.  But they didn't really last long enough.  I can't help myself.  I seriously eat the entire sweet potato all by my lonesome every time I make these.  Not that I'm complaining...

None of my family members will touch a sweet potato except me.  Maddox and Connor used to, but the others are a bad influence.

So, what are these babies?  Sweet potato chips, of course!

I realized that I had a slicer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, so I got a lot more slices out of my sweet potato this time than I did last time I made them and sliced them by hand.  The original blogger who talked about these used her Mandolin.  I don't know what that is, but I think I want one.

Speaking of kitchen gadgets, our vegetable peeler has been MIA for a week or so.  This is a tragedy because Connor loves to eat peeled, whole cucumbers. So this morning when I was making a quick trip to TJ Maxx I picked a nice one up at a discount.  It's the first time I've owned a high-quality peeler, and I have only one thing to say: 

"Where have you been all my life?!"

It was like slicing through warm butter... Wow.  I will never go back.  Even if the old one turns up.  That one will go in the camping crate for an emergency backup.

So anyway.  On to the food.  There really isn't much of a recipe for this one, I must admit.  I didn't follow the original recipe for seasoning.  I just used this yummy stuff that my sister-in-law, Julie, introduced me to when she made popcorn at my house.

So basically, you slice your sweet potatoes really, really thin.  If you don't have a mandolin, it might look like this when you're done.

That's okay.  It'll work.

The part you can't leave out is the parchment paper you put under the slices when cooking.  If you are doing them in the microwave, it's even more important or they don't get crispy (or so I've heard).  My turn-table is too small to cook enough at one time, so I opted for the oven method today.

Put a single layer of sweet potato slices on the parchment paper.  Spray them with cooking spray or use your kitchen spritzer and olive oil.  Sprinkle with the yumminess called Jane's Crazy Mixed-up Salt.  As you can see, my first tray looked really pretty and neat.

My second tray I got impatient and dumped the rest of my "shavings" onto the paper.  They were still tasty, just not quite as crispy.

Bake at 425 until crispy.  How long will depend on how thick your slices are.  These took about 12-15 minutes.  

Want to try cooking it in the microwave?  I think those came out crispier and better.  Here's the original recipe link so you can see how she did it:

You'll see some prettier pictures, too.
I can't wait till tomorrow's lunch when I can eat some more.

Oklahoma Railway Museum

I am about to spam you with pictures.
I'm sorry - I really can't help myself.
But I'll try to make it interesting by adding in a little witty dialogue. 
Because it really, really was a fun day.
And my kids are highly entertaining.

Don't believe me?  I have proof:

He was screaming with pleasure and running towards me - I just got lucky capturing that expression on camera...

I need to preface these photos by telling you that yesterday was Maddox's 2nd birthday.  We decided to celebrate today (Thursday) because Ben's in class on Monday and Wednesday nights and he would miss out on the festivities.  So in honor of Maddox's birthday we took advantage of some unexpected free time with field trip to the Oklahoma Railway Museum.  I can't believe I haven't made it over there before now!  Especially since it's free.  

Nevertheless, we have remedied this gross oversight.  Hence the dozens and dozens of pictures I took today.  I whittled it down quite a bit, but still ended up with well over 30 pictures that I'm dying to share.

This is an outdoor museum with trains and equipment all over the place for the kids (and grownups) to climb on.  I'm so glad our neighbors went with us - Kelsey and Eva haven't been able to spend much time together in about 2 weeks and they were dying to be together.

Our group "posed" picture on the steps of the first train we boarded.  And yes, Connor is wearing sandals and socks.  No, I haven't lost my senses or become one of those "sweatshirts and shorts" loons (you know who you are).  He hurt his big toe riding his scooter barefoot a couple of days ago.  Closed-toed shoes still hurt, and he needed socks to keep his feet warm.

Kelsey decided to be the conductor: "Tickets!  Tickets, please!"

Eva, on the other hand, is quite the little lady these days.

I love, love, love this picture!  It perfectly shows how the kids felt about our visit.  They just couldn't get enough and wanted to see everything!

Going down the stairs has never been such fun!

I saw my first red caboose!  I really, really did!  It was wooden and built in 1878.  It was awesome!

Just inside the caboose are two chairs accessible by a short ladder.  Kelsey climbed up one and immediately said, "Mommy, hand me the camera!"  I had to snap a picture of her plea before handing it over.

This is what it looks like from the top:

And from a different car, but another "top chair" picture...

The caboose was apparently where the engineers lived, too.  Or someone.  There was an iron sink...

...and even a wood-burning stove with a cook top!  (Though I'm pretty sure Dr. Pepper wasn't around back in the late 1800's...)

There was even a bed with pillows.  I wanted the boys to pretend to be asleep on the bed (without using those highly questionable pillows laying there), but they were more interested in playing.  I have no idea what Connor's trying to do here, though...

This is a great picture of the variety of time periods represented here.  You can see the older blue engine on the right, as well as the newer black and yellow on the left.  And what's that behind the blue engine? Is that a red caboose?!  Why yes, yes it is!

The kids couldn't get into this one, but they sure had a good time climbing up there!

Getting down was a trickier matter.

Even Eva felt a little concerned with the steep steps, and she had the longest legs of all the kids.

I have such handsome boys...

And it was so, so nice not to have to use Maddox's "leash" most of the time we were there.  He was so entertained and everything is kid-friendly.  I only had to use it in the museum car, which was to be expected.

This car was used to transport railroad employees from one station to another.  I'd hate to have to ride on that car in the winter.

The back of the bench is a single board that both sides lean back on.  It isn't angled for comfort at all.  Yeah.  So glad I didn't work for the railroads back then.

Maddox loved looking off the side.

And just for laughs... here's that hilarious picture of Maddox again.

I never knew I loved trains so much!

We found another car with a pair of seats up high.  This time we left Maddox climb up, too.

He's really good at getting his point across, even if he doesn't talk much.  Obviously he wanted to get down, right?

But don't let him fool you.  It was just so he could climb up the other side to join Connor and Eva.

Over and over again... See how he's right behind Kelsey on the ladder?  The boy is going to fall off something and break his arm someday, I just know it. 

Eventually we made our way back out to the entrance/exit area and the playground that was there.  Maddox loves slides, but sometimes he's nervous about letting go.

And with good reason!

Kelsey really enjoyed the tire swing.  She enjoyed being dramatic on the tire swing.

Really dramatic.

Wait... what is that?  Is that Maddox climbing up on the swing?

Absolutely!  I told you.  He climbs EVERYTHING.  He wants so badly to be wherever his older siblings are and to be doing what they're doing.

We have GOT to get one of these...

It was such a nice day!  The weather was perfect, the trains were amazing, and everyone had fun.  Happy Birthday, Maddox!