Some people don't really learn that drinking from a fire hose or licking a frozen flag pole is a bad idea until they try it. Until today, I didn't think I was one of them. Move over soaked, quivering, wide-eyed, and sore-tongued people; I'm joining your ranks.
I was swimming in domestic optimism recently as I found some recipes for homemade paint, brimming with motherly satisfaction as I laid out the freezer paper and taped it to the table.
The kids came thundering in and I whipped my son's shirt off and stripped the baby to her diaper. We were loaded for bear.
My crew didn't care about the paper much at all. It turns out the recipe that I found must feel really cool especially with the slickery side of the freezer paper. Painting was a two-handed, energetic, whole-body action experience dripping with...well, dripping. From the table, the chairs, the children. For them it was more of an extreme sport than an artistic endeavor. Maybe it could be called an extreme artistic endeavor.
The baby painted herself green and her chair, too. My son (the one who hates getting stuff on his hands?!) made lakes of paint that he mingled and swirled before just scrubbing it all around with both hands. Even my 11 year old was painting two-handed, making designs in the multicolored puddles and wiping them away like a chalkboard.
No problem, I figured, the paint had soap in it. Easy cleanup! I popped the baby out of her green diaper into the bathwater where she immediately began to suds.
The cleanup wasn't really bad, just very soapy. It took at least three buckets of hot vinegar water plus a tubful of water to get table, chairs, and kids all clean. It's a great memory but next time we're doing it outside!
I have three recipes for finger painting to post. One is great for the bathtub, the second is the one we used today, and the third one just sounds delicious. I think if we do the pudding one it'll be with everyone sitting at the table and 'painting' on their plate and eating their artwork.
Fast n' Foamy Finger Paint
4 good-sized dabs of shaving cream (Barbasol works great and is inexpensive)
- Squeeze the shaving cream along the side of the tub where kids like to play anyway. Add a drop or two of food coloring to each dab and mix it up with your finger.
- Add kid or kids depending on size and space availability (this may not be the solution for a budge birthday party though it would make for a hilarious photo op)
- They can paint it all over the tub (and themselves) and it's easy to clean up – you've already got bathwater right there. For using on paper just mix up in cleaned yogurt cups or other unbreakable container with a wide enough mouth to get little hands into.
- Some supervision is a good idea with young ones, my two-year-old found out the hard way that shaving cream stings in the eyes.
Fast n' Soapy Finger Paint
1 cup Flour
1 cup Water
1 cup dish liquid
2 Tbsp. Food Coloring
- Mix all ingredients until there are no lumps and paint is smooth.
- You can divide the batch up into smaller amounts and use a different color of food coloring for each batch.
- Store sealed in an airtight container and refrigerate if you actually have any left.
- Cleans up with hot water. A little distilled white vinegar in the water helps, too.
'Instant' Yummy Pudding Finger Paint
Vanilla Pudding Mix (Instant)
- Mix the vanilla pudding according to package directions.
- Divide into portions and mix in different food coloring for each portion.
- 'Paint' on plates, freezer paper, or a table clean enough to eat off of.
- This finger paint is edible. If you use food coloring sparingly it is also washable.
Have a great finger painting story or recipe? Leave a comment and tell me about it!
Recycle everyday items to make a self-watering plant pot: easy and cheap!
As I promised in the Nomadic Shelf post, I'm planting some seeds.
Keeping indoor plants from kicking the watering can is a challenge for me so I'm enthused about a plant pot that forgives me if I only remember to water it now and then. Thankfully, this is a dirt-cheap project that recycles materials readily on hand.
You don't have to build the pot or planter exactly the way that I've done this one, you just have to understand the principle of the thing.
The self-watering pot or planter contains a reservoir of water, usually fed by a tube, underneath the planting medium and plants. Water is wicked up to the plants from the reservoir to keep the soil damp from the bottom up. In this case I've used potting soil, making sure that the dirt is in contact with the edge of the reservoir all around. The soil itself should wick the water just fine. Some planters of this type use a wick made of cotton cloth or string, dangled into the reservoir from the planting medium. In any case, the pot won't work unless there is some way for the water to get to the plants.
The planting fever isn't going away. Stay tuned for more experiments and updates...hopefully this will all work! Do you have spring planting fever?
If you try your own self-watering pot tell me about it in the comments or just tell me what you're planting this spring. I'd love to hear about it!
Okay, firing up Near Miscellany after a bit of an absence, my apologies for anyone who was waiting for something to read!
Anyway, February and March are gray and depressing in my locale and I start to want to grow things. The desire to see little green plants come up is almost a nervous obsession in early spring. However, I've had a problem with my house and that is that I have no windowsills. Not one. Nada. None of my four south-facing windows have a windowsill that I can safely put plants on.
It occurred to me out of the blue that I have the perfect materials for an easily-movable light suspended shelf. The top of an old guinea pig cage (the guinea pigs are long gone RIP) and some clothesline. All I needed was a way to hang the thing so I went to K-mart and got four 'swag hooks' which were, for some reason I don't understand, cheapest if you bought them in white. Since I didn't care what color they were I got those. My main concern was that they'd be able to hold the shelf so I made sure that I bought hooks that would support 50 lbs of weight which should be plenty. My dad taught me to over-engineer everything, I doubt he knows he did that!
The hooks came with instructions on the back of the package for attaching them to various surfaces. For wood I drilled a 1/8" hole with the cordless drill and then screwed the hooks into the drilled hole. I was careful to make the open part of the hook to face away from the shelf so that the loop of clothesline wouldn't slip off.
After doing this by trial-and-error I found the best way to tie this up. The main problem I had was to get it level and exactly where I wanted it.
1. Start with two pieces of clothesline long enough to knot at each end and reach to the bottom of your cage lid, across the bottom, and back up to the other hook. Put a loop in one end of each length of line and knot it.
2. Thread the rope down through the cage bars and back up on each end so that you have four lengths of line extending from each corner. It helps if the looped and knotted ends are in the back corners away from you as you hang the cage. Make sure the door of the cage is in the front, facing you.
3. Hang the loops over the hooks farthest from you and work one side at a time, finding the right length to knot the front rope. You may have to play with it a bit, adjusting and re-knotting until you get the shelf level and at the height you'd like it to be.
The cage top could have been hung on its side and then you'd have a two-level shelf. However, a shelf suspended by ropes tends to wiggle or swing if it's bumped. Besides, I thought using the upside-down cage door as a watering hatch was too darned cute! If you have the space and a bigger window you could probably hang another few planters from the bottom or sides as well.
As you can see in the photos the kitchen is unfinished. So if I need to move this shelf while we work on the kitchen or if I just don't like it in this window I can easily move it by taking it down and hanging my hooks at one of the other south-facing windows. It's nomadic!
Of course, I woke up the next morning to a typically gray early-spring day. I think I'll try making my own grow light...after the planters and seeds are done. That'll be next! Watch this space.
And if you make your own version of the suspended nomadic shelf please comment and tell me about it! I'd love to know what you used for yours.
Cleaning out a fridge is a chore I abhor but once I had my new one set up it looked so nice I swore to myself that it would never, ever be cluttered up like my old one. This is why I don't make new year resolutions, either.
And so, today I realized that it was garbage day, perfect for tossing food that has grown a healthy head of hair. One thing that bothered me were the bags of chipped ham and turkey from the deli. Those plastic zip bags are nice and easy to get the food in and out of but they're a nightmare sliding around in the refrigerator. As I worked on my fridge three easy improvements occurred to me.
Tip #1 - The Recycled Storage Container
I am unlikely to chase out to buy a storage solution for the deli items and to round up the cheese in comfy confinement so instead I went with the recycled option. One clean plastic gallon jug (I have tons of water jugs around), one pair of scissors. Cut the top part of the jug off and you have a nice handy holder that fits nicely in the fridge.
If this gets damaged or crushed I'm not going to feel bad. If it gets some noxious substance leaked on it (not that it will, after all, I've made this resolution to keep the fridge clean!) I can pitch it rather than scrubbing it. That's the beauty of not having paid one extra cent for this.
If they're good enough for commercial goods they're good enough for me. My husband is allergic to the idea of leftovers as it is, if he isn't certain that they're still good he has extra reason to avoid them.
So, as long as I take the extra moment to actually do it, I label my leftovers with a strip of freezer tape and a Sharpie. Just a little tag to say what it is then I put a date seven days from when I'm putting it in the fridge.
This is reassuring when we want to eat anything from in the fridge and it helps immeasurably when it comes to cleaning out anything old. Look at the difference between the nicely labeled container and the dish of mystery food.
Tip #3 - Weekly Cleaning
It's logical. Regular cleaning means that there will be less of it, and I'm all about that! Not to mention then you don't have slimy Things from the Back of the Fridge reaching for you when you open the door.
One thing I've discovered about kids is that they like to make their mark...preferably on everything. My walls are covered with their artwork from the earliest time they can hold a crayon, my car had two muddy handprints placed artistically right on the rear window of my car, my front door bears matching handprints, and my son's little friend became similarly decorated yesterday. When my kids went to grandma's she cracked up watching my son sit in the mud then go running to her bridge to the road and sit on it, triumphantly proving his presence to all who passed by.
This pretty much guarantees that my second-hand washer is nearly always running and so I began to wince hard everytime that I bought laundry detergent and dryer sheets. For one thing the companies that make these seem to be of the firm opinion that I am not interested in cleaning clothes unless the detergent is some bright color and reeks of perfume. I like nice smells as much as the next gal but have you walked down the cleaning aisle lately? There is a smog of scent.
I can find unscented detergent, usually in a small box hidden somewhere on the bottom shelf as though the manufacturer is saying, “Well FINE if you really must!” Then they charge an ungodly amount of money for it.
So I make my own detergent with the directions found right here and it works very well. I love that it's so much cheaper than the commercial stuff, it's easy to make, and it's exactly what I want.
That left me with dryer sheets. I don't have much problem with commercial dryer sheets and they're a couple bucks for a box of them. The unscented ones aren't a big deal to get. Then...I ran out. Remember how the washer just keeps going? I had used my last one too late at night to go and get more and my hubby needed his jeans for the morning. Hubby was not going to be happy if his jeans felt like cardboard.
So I found out how to do it myself.
Fizzy Fabric Softener
½ C. white vinegar
1 C. very warm water
½ C. baking soda
Mix the the vinegar and the water together in a bowl big enough to handle the fizzing to come. Mix in the baking soda a bit at a time and let the chemical reaction to take place, swirling or stirring to give it a good chance to get the bubbliness done with. I loved mixing vinegar and soda as a kid, it never occurred to me that it was good for something other than entertainment!
Pour into a container with a lid.
There are several ways to use this once it's done. I usually shake the liquid up to re-distribute the soda then soak down a washcloth or clean rag with the mixture and throw that in the dryer when I'm going to run it. Alternatively, you can use the liquid in the rinse cycle of the washer or soak clean cloths in the mixture and dry them to use like commercial dryer sheets.
In any case, it doesn't take much money to have loads (and loads) of laundry that comes out soft and handprint-free.
Let's face it, the third baby has it tough, especially if they were a surprise delivery. Instead of arriving in showers of bunting, bottles, and bumpers (not to mention an inexplicable hail of thermometers) they are met with a puzzled, 'Didn't I used to have a...?' and a lot of jury-rigged accommodations.
It could be worse. My dad says he slept in a dresser drawer when he was a baby. There weren't a lot of 'Babies R' Us' stores on WWII army bases, you know?
Back to the present. I have a two-piece baby grocery cart cover. I can find one part of it and that wasn't even the part that I needed. The baby is almost fourteen months old and is kind of tired of riding around in her car seat. It's time to sit up and look around!
I don't have money to buy a new cover right now and I don't have room/time to sew one. (Full disclosure: I can't sew very well anyway) But the grocery carts are just icky especially when kids insist on tasting them and there is a lot of uncomfortable metal.
Very simple, just laid the towel down on the seat with one end going up over the back and the other between the baby's knees and up over the handle of the cart. Might switch to safety pins instead of clothespins although I only had to re-do two clothespins when they popped loose. Also need to find four safety pins...no mean feat in my house.
The little one was very happy with the arrangement and best of all she didn't taste any germy metal. Yay!
Bonus! 12 More Reasons to Keep a Towel in the Car:
- Wet kids (or pets), it's nice to have something to wipe them down and sit them on other than bare car upholstery.
- Steering wheel cover for hot days
- Bug squisher (I hate when bugs get in the car with me. They belong flat on the outside of the windshield.)
- Crumb catcher. I know, I know...just don't let the kids eat in the car. You ogre!
- If someone throws up. Or spills orange drink. (It happens)
- Mini blanket for the one person in the car who says the a/c's on too high or who doesn't want the window open
- Spare padding for fragile things
- Roll it up and use it as an extra pillow
- Ersatz umbrella
- For when you didn't have an umbrella, ersatz or otherwise
- Quick baby changing pad
- Wipe condensation off the inside of the windows
Of course if you're too protective of your towels for these things you might want to designate an older 'car towel'. As you can tell, mine is a workhorse. There are all these reasons and probably a lot more to keep a towel in the car and just toss it in the wash when you get home.