Monday, September 29, 2008

The Last Load: "Re-use"

Howdy, F.O.T.E.'s,

Aren't you shocked! I actually finished a three-part series! (I'm plumb worn out.)

Today, I'll finish up with "Re-use." (I know, I's supposed to be "reduce, re-use, recyle" but I got things out of order. You'll have to forgive me.)

So, let's get started...

Now, I *could* start out by saying something like, "a child can *reuse* his clothes for more than a day" but I know that would offend I won't say it. Another thing I won't mention is the "sniff test." Disgusting. ;-) I'll say something like...

"Re-use...Your Outfits"

Look for ways to preserve an outfit, so that it could be worn again. I think Sunday clothes are especially good to re-use. Often, we get dressed and go to church...a couple hours later, we come home and change clothes. So, what to do with what you wore to church? Well, hopefully, everyone was bathed before church (or Sat. night)--I know that's not fail-proof, but *generally*. If that's the case, I think many times Sunday's outfit can be hung back up for another Sunday.

Years ago, The Ram's grandma gave all us girls aprons. I think aprons are a great tool in "Re-using." We can get dressed, put on an apron to preserve the outfit, then go about our Sunday morning duties. If we are eating breakfast at home, I like the girls to wear aprons to keep from getting dirty. Another option is eating before you dress, of course. For Tater, we'll pop one of Daddy's t-shirts over his clothes.

In re-using outfits, don't forget to spot clean any stains/spills. Sometimes, you can get a spot off and wear the garment again. Another tip: get some over-the-door hooks to hang "used, but could be used again" clothing.

Next up:

"Re-use...Household Linens"

Ok, now that sounds *gross!* What I mean is to allow certain items to be used for more than one task. One thing I do is to use washcloths as dishcloths. I know that sounds awful, but let me explain. Around here, I use white washcloths for both dishes and faces. (We have those puff thingies to wash our bodies. ) I generally try to keep the dish cloths and face cloths separate, but if they get mixed up, I'll run all of them in the machine with hot water and bleach (and, of course, detergent) and wash a good long time...then dry on high until thoroughly dry. I don't wash washcloths with bath towels. I know the cloths could get called into service for dishes and I don't like the idea of washing my dish cloths with bath towels.

For us, that works ok. If it offends your sensibilities, by all means--skip that tip!

Another thing we do is to wipe up floor spills with used bath towels. Those seem to absorb better than my mop, and they are so easy to clean afterward. Just toss them in the wash. (I wash my towels in hot water.)

Slightly used bath towels might also get carried to the pool with us when we go swimming. I don't think we must have a never-used towel just to wipe off after a swim. After soaking up pool water, the towels must be washed to get the chlorine out. I also run the swimsuits through a short cycle to rinse them. The chlorine just wears our suits out. Oh, yeah--don't dry bathing suits in the dryer. The heat isn't good for the lycra and other things they use in bathing suits. I have a wooden rack I pull out to drip dry the suits after their rinse.

Well, I'm sure there is more I could say about "Reduce, Recycle and Re-use" as it pertains to the laundry, but I've got folks needing their Mama-Ewe. Alipurr, I'll get back to you about your questions as soon as time allows.

Y'all keep your wool dry,

The Ewe

Quote of the Day: "More clothes is the enemy of clean clothes." --The Ewe

Monday, September 22, 2008

Shhhhh....Don't Tell the Printer

Ok, F.O.T.E.'s,
I just did something that made me laugh at myself. I was gathering scrap copy paper--things that had been printed out, but not needed, printed wrong, etc--to put back into the paper hopper (or whatever it is you call the place where you put paper to be printed on) to use the "good side" for something else. What made me laugh is when I picked up a piece (mis-printed on one side) that had a weird looking smudge on the good side. I felt the smudge--it wasn't sticky. Good. So, I picked up the stack...and put the smudged paper on top. Hmmm...that won't do. So, I stuck it in the middle of the stack, hoping (I guess) that the printer would be so busy printing, it wouldn't notice that smudge--but only if I put that paper in the middle. LOL I think I need another cup of coffee.


Monday, Wash Day, Part II: Recycle

Hello, F.O.T.E.'s,
Hope y'all had a great week last week. The temperatures seem to be cooling off a bit here, which is very welcome by The Ewe. Mostly, it's been under 90F during the day. Still too hot for me to do much outside, but very pleasant after the sun goes down.
So, is all your laundry washed up? ROTFLOL!!! (sorry) Mine is not. I believe my laundry holds the secret to perpetual energy. Even still, let's press on with today's treatise on laundry, entitled: "RECYCLE"

The first idea: "Recycle...Carefully"
Here, I am speaking in regard to hand-me-downs for the children. When Lioness was little, I saved every piece of clothing she had, in case we had more children and another girl. (Was *I* in for a surprise! lol) Well, when Lovable was born, she was born in a different season than Lioness, weighing 3 pounds more. How much of those carefully saved baby clothes do you think she was able to wear? Practically none. Still, I gathered more and more baby clothes, bought more and more Rubbermaid boxes and rented a storage unit to keep all our stuff that we couldn't cram into our home. Three years later, Musical was born--a pound heavier than Lovable and in yet a different season. So, though Musical and Lioness could have conceivably worn the same clothes (Musical was born in late Spring, Lioness in Summer) the weight difference was substantial AND...ahem...well, I couldn't even *find* the baby clothes amongst all the other umm...Swell Junk. Eventually, when I was ready to give away our baby clothes (we simply did not have room to keep everything we had) I discovered that most of them were either mildewed from storage, moth eaten or had sprung odd stains that were impossible to get out. So, all those carefully hoarded baby clothes went *in the dumpster* (some with tags attached) !!! because I had kept them so long they were ruined and unfit for any baby! ARGHHHH!!!! What a terrible waste! (Some day I'll tell you about the $500 uniform that broke me of hoarding...grrrr...)

So, what's my point? Don't save clothing too long. Here, we save what we could probably use within the year. I will buy clearance clothing at the end of a season for use the next year, but that's it. If it came from Goodwill, at the end of the season, to Goodwill it will return. As my precious friend, L.A., once told me, "If God could give it to you once, He can give it to you again," meaning that we cannot let fear turn us into misers. We trust that the Lord will provide all the things we need. He has never let us down--even when we began giving away the children's clothing (uh, after they'd outgrown it, I mean :-)

Next up: "Recycle...The Laundry!"

This is so simple, I don't know why I never thought of it. When the dryer stops running, put the clothes away. Then, put the wet clothes into the dryer and start it. LOL
Amazing how much laundry I can do in a day, when I am sure to listen for the "beep, beep" that tells me the dryer is finished. It does require self-discipline to stop what I'm doing and just go finish that load. I'll admit, I'm not real good at doing this except on the days I've committed myself to tackling as much dirty laundry as possible. Like I said last week, that's usually Monday and Thursday.
So, to summarize today's thoughts: "Recyle Carefully" and "Recycle the Laundry"!

I realized I forgot something last week. I could call this tip, "Recycle...Health Care Items," but I won't. When I'm treating blood stains, I've found that shampoo works great. Use it full strength on the stain...scrub it in and let it sit. I've let things sit for a few days before washing them, and it was fine.

Well, The Ewe must run. I need to (can you guess?) do a load of laundry. And a load of dishes. But, we won't talk about dishes for now. :-)

Hey, y'all keep your wool dry!
The Ewe

Monday, September 15, 2008

Monday, Wash Day

Hello, F.O.T.E.'s,

(That's "Friends of The Ewe" for any newcomers ;-).

I'm elbow deep into the washing machine today--it being Monday and all. I usually do *some* kind of laundry every day, but on Monday and Thursday, I try to beat Mt. Washmore down (the lambs call it "Mt. Foldmore," since folding is the least enjoyed part).

We have tried many L.A.P.'s--Laundry Attack Plans--each with its own strengths/weaknesses. Most plus-sized families I know make laundry a topic of much study and experimentation. When you multiply the daily clothing, bedding and towels/miscellaneous times 7 every day...welcome to the power of compounding. :-)

I've decided I'd like to blog a series (stop laughing) about defeating laundry. I'm certainly no expert on efficiency or organization, but I do want to pass on any tips that have helped us. So...

I will share my thoughts on laundry in a 3-part series entitled....(drum roll)

"Reduce, Reuse and Recycle"

Today, "Reduce":

--Firstly, "Reduce... the Wardrobe"

Don't overestimate your children's clothing needs. Especially if you homeschool, little ones can get by with very few clothes. When they're little, they don't really care if they wear the same 4-5 outfits every week. Also, sometimes an outfit can last 2 days. Buy cheap over-the-door hooks for them to hang clothes that would do another day. An exception: we do try to keep each child in 6-7 pairs of undies which are in good repair and not overly stained (what if they were involved in an accident?) :-) Also, 2-3 nice Sunday outfits. When the girls were younger, I'd buy each of them 3 Land's End jersey, pullover dresses each season (actually, I bought 3 at the end of each season, in the size the girl would be in the next year). They would wear their Land's End dresses on Sundays until the dresses started to get worn/tight. This usually took 2 years. (!) Then, those dresses became weekday dresses, and the new Land's End dresses (purchased on clearance the last year) became the new Sunday dresses. Of course, as the girls got bigger, this lovely plan stopped working, as Land's End doesn't make pullover ladies' dresses like that, and I have a couple girls in ladies' sizes now. But, anyway, do try to limit the amount of clothing your children have.

One trick I'm using now, to help keep the clothes weeded down is the Broken Hanger Trick. We use those tubular, plastic clothes hangers. They are not hard to break, especially when a little person is a bit too short to easily get their clothes off the rod in the closet. ;-) So, when a hanger breaks, I choose (or if the child is old enough they do themselves) a garment to discard--either into the Goodwill box or the trash. I choose the rattiest of the ratty or the most stained or least liked or illest fitting--something that won't really be missed. I used to buy hangers at Walmart regularly, but I like this plan better. Granted, eventually I will have buy more hangers--we have to have *some* clothes!!--but I'm not buying nearly the amount I used to.

Next: "Reduce... the Paraphernalia" -- laundry gadgets, stain removers, etc...

I think I've tried nearly every laundry detergent and stain remover on the planet. I bought a bleach pen and never used it...I was afraid the residual bleach would spot the rest of the clothes...So, my laundry arsenal is down to cheap detergent (I didn't find much difference in effectiveness of the different brands), Clorox (the name brand...somehow, it seems to matter ??), cheap fabric softener sheets and dishwashing liquid. Yes, dishwashing liquid. I've stopped buying any stain remover, as I never found one that worked as well as Dawn or Palmolive dish soap. Most of our stains around here are food anyway, so it makes sense that Dawn would work. I tried the new Tide with Dawn...didn't seem to help much. Oh, btw, when you use Dawn as a stain remover, don't wet the stain, and don't dilute the Dawn. Just squirt it on full strength and scrub it in with a brush or between your hands. Let it sit at least an hour or so...up to a week. I can get most stains out this way.

And, if the stain is bad enough, and I've tried the stain treatment and washing 2-3 times...I toss the garment. Not worth more effort than that, unless it's a special piece of clothing.

Now, lest I sound heartless, I do let the lambs save back outgrown/stained clothing that has special meaning to them. Those items go into our sewing fabric chest of drawers (6 drawers--red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple) to be used (only by the owner of the Special Item) in a quilt or other crafty venture. The unbending rule is that the owner is the only person who can use that special cloth for a project. We have some precious items that were made for the girls by their Grandmom--we don't toss those things!

Here's another tip: "Reduce... the Sorting" --i.e. dirty laundry

I sort into "hot," "cold," and "hot with bleach." I don't do a lot of bleach loads--primarily just dish cloths and towels, and I don't even bleach those every time. Everything else gets either hot water or cold water. I don't do "darks and lights," "jeans only" or anything like that. (I do understand the rationale behind doing jeans separately--they *do* bleed forever). This is the only sorting system in which I get to keep my sanity and have the satisfaction of knowing a Lamb could take over, if need be. I don't have time for each piece of clothing to get special treatment--outside of stain removing. For clothing, coming to our house is like joining the Marines--the Few, the Proud...the Durable. :-) I try not to buy anything that needs hand washing...and very few things that can't be tumbled dry.

Reducing the sorting also is a part of our next laundry attack tactic...

Next: "Reduce... the Confusion"

--It is my goal to work myself out of a job and to raise up children who are *not* as clueless as I was when I left home. Learning to run a household was (is?) very strenuous for me. There was just so much I didn't know how to do...or even that you were *supposed* to *do it*! ("You dust THOSE?!?" "Yes, Dear. It's called a 'baseboard.'") So, I've got to stick with simple house care attack plans. One thing I do to be sure that someone else could step in and help w/ the laundry is dotting the undies. (not related to "crossing the T's") This would work for socks and anything else as well, but for us, we just dot undies. The firstborn gets 1 dot...the second born gets 2 dots...the 3rd child gets 3 get the drift. I put a Sharpie dot on the waist elastic of each pair of child's undies, in the back, on the outside. That way, if The Ram wants to bless me, he can easily tell whose drawers are whose. Or into whose drawers to put the drawers...I'll admit, it helps me, too. Another way we reduce confusion is to stick with mainly white socks for the children. We usually buy the same style, so everyone can share (within reason). White is good, too, because I can bleach them if (when) they get really dingy.

Finally, "Reduce...the Whining"

For years, I was amazed at how much faster my wonderful mother-in-law could do my laundry than I. Eventually, I realized that I wasted a lot of time just dreading the task. I would avoid putting the clean clothes away, because I feared it would "take all day." Once I just dove in and stopped dreading/complaining, I started making laundry headway.

While doing laundry, I try to remind myself how blessed we are to have clothing for all the children, with even extra to spare. I try to often pray for the family member whose shirt I'm hanging up or whose dress I'm de-staining. This is not to say that washing clothes is never a daunting task for me or that I just can't wait each day to get into my laundry room, but it *is* becoming an easier job as I continue to "Reduce."

Must run...The Ram needs clean clothes for work. ;-)

Y'all keep your wool dry,

The Ewe

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hillbilly Hoedown a.k.a. Big Bean Binge

Howdy F.O.T.E.'s,
Well, things are just zinging along here. I'm so pleased with the diligence my Lambies are showing with their studies this year. Their co-operation helps make homeschooling a joy.
Let me tell you about our dinner last night...
We used to call it our "soul food dinner," but somehow it's evolved into a "Hillbilly Hoedown." I am very happy that my whole family loves pinto beans. We make them (uh, the beans not the family) the main dish, with sides of greens, bacon and hash browns. YUM YUM!
The night before, I sorted 8 cups of dry pinto beans, rinsed them, them let them soak all night in enough water to cover over them a couple inches. Now, 8 cups makes a *LOT* of beans! Once they had soaked all night, I put them in a large (large!) stockpot with water to cover. I added about 1/2 cup of dried onion flakes--one of my favorite pantry staples--about a tablespoon of oil and 2 teaspoons of salt. (I know adding salt at the beginning is controversial, but my mama always did it and I've done it nearly 20 years. And my beans are good. :-) I bring them to a quick boil, then lower the heat to let them simmer about 2 hours, at least. Last night, they simmered all afternoon. I stirred occasionally and added water if it got too low. Oh, yeah...and I keep the lid cocked a little to let out the steam. Not sure why. That's just how it's done.
While those beans were simmering all afternoon, I baked some thick sliced bacon in the oven. I really like doing it that way--no standing watch over a spattering pan of grease--very little clean up...flat slices and predictable performance. :-) I do this by covering rimmed cookie sheets (enough sheets to house all the bacon) with 2 sheets of foil. Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake the bacon for about 20 minutes. No turning...just let 'er rip. After the bacon gets as crispy as you like it, remove it to a plate lined w/ paper towels for draining.
The greens last night were spinach. I do those in the crockpot. I dumped a couple pounds of frozen spinach into the crockpot and added 1/2 cup of hot water and a teaspoon of chicken base (like for soup...kin to bouillon). I put a generous sprinkling of dried onion flakes and a teaspoon of minced garlic. Stirred it up well and set the crock to high for a couple hours. Once they were cooked, I drained them and kept them on "warm." Yummy.
The hash browns are the frozen patties, fried crisp in coconut oil in a large skillet. Lioness makes these--she seasons them with seasoned salt toward the end.
Finally, I made up a few gallons of tea (we had company coming) and a double batch of cornbread. Yee haw!
Too bad we didn't have any possum and hog jowl. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Gotta run...there's a bunch of Lambies who need tucking. (in)
Y'all keep your wool dry,
The Ewe

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just Chattin'

Hello F.O.T.E.'s,
The Ram has taken the children to try out a playground we discovered yesterday. It's quiet around here (!) so I thought I'd touch base w/ you guys.
We have not yet found a church here. This is a real discouragement. We will visit another one tomorrow. The children are anxious to meet some other children. (Can't imagine!)
There are dozens of homeschooling groups here, but I'm finding it hard to "crack the code." As in, many of the groups seem pretty exclusive. I think the AL law plays into that--as many people feel the need to prove that homeschooling really educates children. So, most of the "cover schools" here have requirements far above what the state deems mandatory. For example, several I saw require member families to meet "X" number of times each month for group activities. Many covers require more reports--attendance, progress, etc--than the state does. Thus, it was not easy to find a cover school that aligned with our educational philosophy. :-) ie, the parents are the ones responsible. In Missouri, the state assumed homeschoolers *were* educating their children, until something proved otherwise. (Kinda like, "innocent until proven guilty") Down here, I feel like they think we're guilty until we prove we're innocent. lol
Anyway, the fact is, we did find a cover school that doesn't make us feel like criminals and the children *are* learning. I'm so happy with their progress so far this year.
Hey, speaking of which, we found an interesting computer game that is helping our kids learn/polish their multiplication facts. It's called "Timez Attack" (sic). Maybe you can Google it. It does use dragons in a castle, so that might be offensive to some. (just be warned) The little fellow who is defeating the dragons doesn't kill the dragons, they just go away. I was happy about that. I'm just not keen on games where something kills something else. Guess I'm a wuss. lol
Well, must run...the Flock will be back soon and I know they'll be hungry...
Y'all keep your wool dry,
The Ewe