Thursday, May 27, 2010

Green Cleaning

Back in this post almost a year ago I shared about beginning our journey to clean green. I can officially update that these four cleaners are now the only ones in my home: baking soda, white vinegar, olive oil and lemons. It has taken me awhile to make the transition complete but it's done! I also bought a huge stack of white cleaning cloths at Bed, Bath and Beyond with some of their nifty 20% off coupons and have almost completely eliminated our family's use of paper towels. :)

Before I go on I will answer two questions that always come up when this conversation begins. First, no your home does not smell like vinegar all the time. As soon as the vinegar dries the smell is gone. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer and will actually remove smells. Don't believe me? Google it! :) Second, yes vinegar is a disinfectant. When I researched this awhile back the consensus was that vinegar does kill germs and bacteria. Not like bleach will but enough for most household uses. You may want to keep something stronger on hand for areas that need to be disinfected more thoroughly (thinking raw chicken here - ick!).

I thought I'd share how we did it because for me that was part of what took me so long to make
the transition. I knew the "what" and also the "why", but the "how" was holding me up. Below is what has worked for me. Depending on the surfaces in your home, you may have to adjust. For me it was just trial and error to see what would work. Also in the beginning I was using spray bottles for my vinegar but they kept breaking on me. Now I just carry around a gallon jug of vinegar with me as I clean and pour a bit on the cloth I am using.
  • mirrors & glass, bathroom/kitchen fixtures - I use 2 cloths. One I put straight vinegar on and wipe all over glass surface and with the other I wipe it all off. My glass and fixtures are clean and completely streak free!
  • bathroom sink and counters - In the sink I sprinkle some baking soda, scrub and rinse. On the counters I use straight vinegar and wipe off.
  • toilet - in the bowl I pour a cup (eyeball it) of vinegar and let it sit while I clean the rest of the bathroom. Then I scrub and flush. I was really skeptical this would be enough to keep the potty clean but it has worked great. For the outside of the potty I just wipe it down with a vinegar dampened cloth (usually the one I used for the glass earlier).
  • kitchen/bathroom floors - I discovered the Magic Eraser Mop a few years ago and it was love at first site. I used to use a multi-purpose cleaner along with it but now I simply add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of hot water and my floors are really clean, at least until the boys or the dog come through. ;)
  • kitchen sink - I sprinkle baking soda in the sink. Then I cut a lemon or two in half, squeeze the juice on the soda making a paste, then use the cut part of the lemon as my scrubber to clean the sink. Clean and smells really, really yummy, too!
  • kitchen surfaces - for every single thing in my kitchen I use straight vinegar and the two cloths - one to wipe vinegar on and one to wipe it off. If you have really, really stuck on food in your microwave you can put a little vinegar in a microwaveable bowl and turn microwave on until vinegar steams up microwave a bit. Let sit for a minute or two and then even the most stuck on food will wipe right off. Be prepared for a strong vinegar smell though. ;)
  • furniture polish - this one I played with a bit. There were several different homemade recipes I saw out there using brewed tea, essential oils and all sorts of other things. I really wanted to stick with the basics I already had on hand though. I found several recipes for using a mixture of olive oil and vinegar; most had a lot of oil with a little vinegar. For me that was too much oil. Now I just mix about 1/4 cup of white vinegar with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a container with a lid, shake until mixed and use.
  • carpet cleaning - I have white carpet and before you think I'm nuts, no I did not pick it out! I try to clean the carpets in lesser used areas once a year and in high traffic areas every six months. All I do is use really hot water in my steam cleaner with two cups of vinegar per fill up. It would depend on how large the tank of your cleaner is to determine how much vinegar you would want. I do use Spot Shot if I have gone over an area 2x and a spot remains but honestly the vinegar and hot water alone get out much more than you would think. And the deodorizing properties of vinegar will leave your carpets smelling really fresh and no soap residue!
I have not had any luck with homemade dishwasher detergent. I tried multiple recipes with many different ingredients and my dishes were just not getting clean. It probably has to do with the fact that I have a 15 year old machine; I will try again if/when we get a new one. I haven't even tried making my own laundry detergent for two reasons: the dishwasher fiasco made me a little gun-shy and Sams Club now carries an enormous container of Ecos that will last me forever because I only use half the suggested amount and supplement with a half-cup of Super Washing Soda per load.

Link any posts you have done on homemade cleaners or leave a comment with tips you have found to eliminate chemicals in your home. I would love to learn more!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Books, Books and More Books

When I get a little money I buy books;
and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
I love books! Some people spend money on music, some on huge movie collections; others value having the cutest clothes for their kids or all the new techie gadgets. Me, I spend money on books.

I have spent our school budget for next year and I was able to get the big stuff we'll need: math, science, grammar, writing, logic, history, handwriting, spelling and phonics. But there are oh so many more books I still want. Fun books, science books, history books, lovely and wonderful books.

My boys adore the You Wouldn't Want to Be... series and we still have lots more of those we want to collect. And then I recently discovered Horrible Histories. Listen to these titles: Awful Egyptians, Frightful First World War and Woeful Second World War , and Vicious Vikings and Measly Middle Ages. Doesn't a houseful of boys need a set of books with those titles?! And look, a box set. Sigh...
And their science titles look amazing as well: Ugly Bugs, Nasty Nature and Bulging Brains are just a few I would love to have in our science book basket. I don't think I'd be able to pull my boys away! And yet another box set. Bigger sigh...
Then I was looking through a homeschool catalog and found the Draw Through History series. There are five books in the series and they are just wonderful! My boys are so into drawing and this would supplement our history beautifully.

Once I decided that next year's science for Haddon would be delight-driven and based mostly around a basket full of books to spark a love for science and build a strong foundation for years to come, I began researching science books that are appropriate for emergent readers. I have lots of level 2 Let's Read and Find Out books but knew I wanted to add lots of level 1 readers to our collection. And then I found this pre-packaged set at Rainbow Resources and this one and this one!

And then I was introduced to Usborne Beginner books and many, many of them are science related. I ordered one just to get my Rainbow Resource order high enough to get free shipping and Haddon has been carrying it around all day. :) These books are beautiful, full of great information on each page but not overcrowded. Very eye appealing for young readers!

Oh this post could go on and on and on. I haven't even mentioned all the history titles I want to buy to supplement SOTW 4 or our Texas History and Geography units this year. Or the novels I want to have so that Thatcher can have plenty of quality literature to read. No twaddle here...okay maybe just a bit now and then! ;)

Can you tell I am like an addict needing her fix? And my fix comes in the form of books and lots of them. My next door neighbor is having a garage sale soon. I just had a huge one last summer so I am low on inventory, but I am digging just to be able to put some stuff in with hers hoping to get a little money to buy a few of these amazing books. Wish me luck!


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Want to Know Why You Will be Seeing More of Me?

This was my Mother's Day present this year:

A Dell Netbook! It comes tomorrow and I cannot wait!!! It will be mine, all mine. I can sit in bed and blog. I can go in the backyard while the boys play and do lesson plans. I can take it to one of my favorite girly places and listen to a lecture online or research. I can call a girlfriend for a video chat anywhere and anytime.

I can stop borrowing dh's laptop which is enormous and cumbersome (perfect for him for all his graphics stuff but just too much for me). This is just my size and it does everything I need. I can surf the net, blog, check message boards, do word processing and email. I can take it in the kitchen and pull up the recipe I'm trying for dinner. That's about the 90% of what I do on the computer; for the other 10% I still have my 10 year old desktop. :)

So get ready to see more of me because I will have my very own computer that I don't have to share with anyone!!

And a very, very Happy Mother's Day to all of you! I hope your day was wonderfully special.