In our home, I try to be as careful as I can in selecting the food we eat and how it's prepared. I prefer to use organic ingredients as often as possible and prepare as much of what we eat with my own two hands.
But I had a guilty secret....with all of this cooking and baking, I produce a lot of dirty dishes and messes. The dishwasher runs at least twice a day (thank you for Energy Efficient appliances!) and I often have a sink full of odds and ends that must be washed by hand. Baking ingredients are especially tough to get off and so my only solution in addition to rinsing and more rinsing and using a half cup or more of regular dishwasher detergent for each load made me feel a little guilty. Okay, a LOT guilty when I stopped to think of all those chemicals washing down the drain. Environment friendly products were just too pricey and/or didn't do a good job. Until now.
Eco Store Auto Dishwash Powder! It's a "high performance blend of simple mineral salts and plant-based ingredients" with "no toxic residues and no phosphates or other potentially harmful chemicals" That means:
"No toxic petrochemicals. No phosphates. No nitrates. No ammonia. No enzymes. No chlorine. No EDTA. No synthetic dyes or perfumes."
Those are some great claims aren't they? I bet you are wondering how well it really works with all of those claims.
Let's see how this stuff holds up in the Vanilla Icing kitchen.
Look at these filthy things! Dirty dinner plates, chocolate cookie dough caked all over the inside of a bowl (note that I did NOT turn it inside down and it's upright like the plates), and the gooey bottom of the spring form pan that held the Golden Simplicity Cake the other day. Not pictured are various utensils, mugs and glasses. They weren't dirty enough to make the picture.
A scant tablespoon is all that the directions say to use. I was very concerned about this amount. It seemed so .....
....little. It didn't even fill the basket up half way! I was feeling pretty tense at the thought of the very full load coming out half clean. There was no way I wanted to spend an hour soaking the dishes and washing them by hand.
My fears were unfounded. The Eco Store Auto Dishwash Powder did an amazing job! Look at the bowl! Not a smudge of chocolate. Anywhere. Look at that gleaming spring form pan bottom! Look at those bright white dishes! (The utensils, mugs and glasses were sparkling as well.)
And you know what? I've got another secret...most loads don't even require a full tablespoon. How do I know? I tried this product for a full two weeks before giving it my complete approval.
I also tried this:
Eco Store Naturally Antibacterial Spray Cleaner I like to mist down my kitchen surfaces with it after a long afternoon of cooking and baking. It has a faint scent of citrus from one of its ingredients that leaves everything smelling fresh in addition to putting your fears to rest about nasty bacteria.
I would strongly encourage anyone who was looking for an environmentally safe alternative for their cleaning needs to take a look around the Eco Store. Their products are shipped in recycled/recyclable materials and they arrive very quickly. They are currently having a 15% off sale until the end of August!
It's only been about two days since we came home but already, I'm back in the trenches. I'm up to my eyeballs in laundry--and unicorns and pegasus' who want to topple it--and puzzles. As an aside, why do new puzzles come with their own dust? I tried to clean up their dust once and it involved me, my vacuum wand and a horrified little girl. I tell you, it wasn't a pretty sight.
I'm trying to settle in slowly, reminding myself that I don't have to have everything done and caught up in one day but then little voices come from the zombies who have staggered down from upstairs...."Mum, I don't have any day clothes.'
There was a repeat performance from that zombie this morning. Guess I better quit blogging and start washing and drying and folding!
I don't know about this shaping technique. It doesn't look like any sort of a slipper I've ever seen. I googled ciabatta to see just what they are supposed to look like and all I've got to say is man, there are some funky shaped feet out there!
Not much going on around here but the usual. Though.....some floor guy came out to look at our floors to gather information for an estimate in case the floors beneath the ugly carpet this house came with can't be refinished. That was pretty exciting for me because I really want hardwood floors. I don't think we will be laying a new floor any time soon, but it's nice to have a price range in mind so as to properly set aside money. <---That's Rick's part. =P My part is to envision how good it will look!
I am following into a fairly comfortable routine since the kids have began school. I don't think it's to last very long because it might get expensive. But, oh! Is it nice! With an exception here or there, I wake up and have a light breakfast of tea and either a slice of toast or a bit of yogurt. I catch up on blogs--mine or others--and then head upstairs to wake Maia up. While she has breakfast, I use the treadmill and then by the time she is finished and dressed it's time for me to hop off and help her with her hair. Then, it's off to the bus stop.
Back at home for round two, I make sure Tristyn is up and moving and then I make him breakfast (and Rick too if he hasn't already eaten) because he usually needs something a bit more substantial to make it to lunch. If I want a few more treadmill minutes I do so at this point and then head to the shower. Rick makes sure Tristyn leaves to walk to his bus stop.
Here comes the part where I can see things getting expensive. I go to Starbucks. Yup, that's right. So far I've been supporting my tall, non fat raspberry mocha addiction on a gift card my mother-in-law presented me with for my birthday and all has been well. I take a book and while I stand around at the end of the bar waiting for my coffee to be made, I shoot daggers at anyone who glances at the green plushy chair I've staked out as mine alone. I must be pretty good at looking daggers because thus far my chair is always available. I read for a wonderful 45 minutes or so and then reluctantly gather up my things and leave. Any errands I need to run I do at this time, otherwise it's home to work on some chores.
Yesterday, I had a hankering for cheeseburgers after sampling a delicious sharp cheddar cheese at Whole Foods. At home, I made sure one of my chores included making hamburger buns! Lunch is either by myself or my friend, Missy drops by to share some with me. Then, it's more chores and then time to relax!!! <---This time will be used for writing right after the novelty of doing much of nothing wears off.
Not a bad way to spend one's day.
I'm back. It was not my intent to take a break from blogging on the eve of Maia's first day of school but our internet connection mysteriously cut out on Wednesday afternoon and didn't come back until a Verizon fix-it guy came on Friday (the outside box was fried??how??).
It figures that just as I was getting quite a few daily 'views' on my blog that it had to go down. I don't check my stats ever. Really. I don't. =P
Anyhow, to catch anyone who is still with me up:
*On Thursday, Maia started her first day of school at the new Environmental Charter School that just opened nearby. She is in first grade now and was very excited to ride the bus. (That came at 7:15 am and brought them home--very late!!--at 4:40 but we are only talking about happy things). She had a great first day. And a great second day on Friday. Her school gives the children two daily recesses and this was very near and dear to her heart and mine.
*While Maia was in school, I had breakfast with a friend and her son, ran errands, had lunch with another friend and then I went grocery shopping at Whole Foods where I took my time and picked up the most beautiful watermelon I've ever seen. It was medium sized and a deep green color, cool to the touch and sparkling with condensation. I was literally salivating at the thought of eating it. When I got home, I put away the groceries and took Riley for a run. We ran from our house to the park, through the park and to the bus stop where we waited for Tristyn and Maia mostly in the rain for an hour. (due to late buses.)
*On Friday evening, Rick and I stayed in for dinner and had an elaborate meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn on the cob and baking powder biscuits. Then, after being frugal by staying in for dinner we went and splurged on a little treat for ourselves and the electronics store that we've been holding off on for some years now. I also spent all of Friday with sore, aching knees from Thursday's run. Apparently, the muscles (ligaments?) around my knees and going up my thighs forgot what it is like to run on trails versus treadmills. Must remedy that.
*On Saturday, legs still aching, I helped Rick with back yard work. We got more mulch and stones and also a holly bush. Rick did most of the carrying (fine, 98% of it!) and nearly all of the work. We spent the evening in having leftover chicken and watching some of the sixth season of the Sopranos. Also, we tackled some of the Mint Chocolate Chip Ice cream I had made the day before.
*Today, unfortunately was more back yard work. But--prior to picking up more supplies, Rick and I enjoyed some time talking over coffee at Starbucks which was pleasant and also picking up Maia's birthday present. After returning home and completing the yard work, we spent the rest of our free time sitting on the deck with piles of books, hot pizza and sweet, tiny delicious grapes.
All in all, a productive last few days. =)
P.S. That watermelon? Not so good. It might possibly have been the blandest, tasteless watermelon I've ever had!!!! What's a girl got to do to get a watermelon WITH seeds which EQUALS flavor? That tiny one our CSA share sent us was such a tease. I need 'bout 8 more of those type at least.
This blog post could have so many titles: First Attempt at Sugar Paste, Failure at Sugar Paste, Try Try Again. Why You Should Always Have Your House in Presentable Shape. But I'm going to call it: OMG Guess What??!!
Now before you go getting all excited, probably only I am the only excited one.
Late this morning, I mixed up a batch of Sugar Paste. It's time, I thought to myself, to start learning how to do 'more fancy' decorating in case my dream of owning a bakery ever comes true. (I'd prefer the writing thing first if there's anyone out there listening. Thank you.) I'm planning on taking a cake decorating class and also a marzipan class in the fall with my friend Missy's, sister but there's no time like the present to give it a try now I thought.
In between lunch with Missy and kids running in and out of the house I made my first attempts at Sugar Paste Roses. It wasn't easy! I think my sugar paste was too dry; next time I'll have to make it so that it's more pliable because the petals were drying a little too fast and then cracking.
Right after a torturous attempt at a fourth or fifth rose, the doorbell rang. Flower in hand, I went to the door to find an older man standing on my porch with a camera in his hand. Behind him, in a van was an older woman looking very hesitant and unsure. I stepped outside and he introduced himself to me.
His name was Leo N. and he lived in my house from 1940 to 1953 when he was 7 years old. I was so excited I invited him and his wife in and then proceeded to have one of my most enjoyable hours of the summer. I took Leo and his wife all over the house and he told me all about how the house used to be and answered all the questions I had about the house and the town.
Things about my town:
*A Greek family lived next door that had five sons that fought in World War Two and the mother displayed five stars ( a flag?) to indicate that her boys were fighting.
*The parkway that goes through the middle of our town used to be woods and had a creek running through it.
*When they finally built the parkway some of the houses on Greendale Avenue had to be moved!
*Dixon Park had clay tennis courts that were scrupulously maintained. (Overgrown now but you can still see them). Leo's sisters learned how to play tennis there.
*One of the nearby apartment buildings near the main road used to be a lumber yard.
*Our 'downtown' area used to have stores like a grocers, a drugstore, a gas station, a barber shop and a shoe repair shop. The barber shop and the shoe repair shop are still there.
*Koenig Field used to be the football field for Edgewood High School.
*When the second of two rock quarries were being dug a natural spring was hit and the hole rapidly began filling with cold, fresh spring water. Hastily, the equipment was pulled out and Rock Bottom Swimming Pool was 'made.'
*Johnny Weissmuller dived off the 50 foot diving board (manmade?) into Rock Bottom Swimming Pool.
*It was common for boys to carry fresh spring water to their mothers from Rock Bottom Swimming Pool.
Still with me? I'm so excited that I want to write this all down so I don't forget anything. I think I'm managing to get everything down accurately.
Things about my House:
*Originally there were four fireplaces in my house. The two on the 2nd floor have been covered (As a side note, all the woodwork in my house has been painted an off white). The mantel above the living room fireplace is mahogany. The mantel above the dining room fireplace is chestnut.
*In the mirror above the dining room mantel there is a flaw on the glass. Leo and his siblings called it 'Hitler' because they thought it looked like him
*I DO INDEED have pocket doors in between my living and dining room whose openings are covered with painted plywood just as I suspected that compliment the pocket door in between the living room and foyer. His mother used to lock them shut to keep warmth in the living room. The pocket doors are chestnut (I believe this is the type of wood he said--he told me so much!) as well.
*The weird tree looking support in the basement is from a Black Locust Tree. His dad painted it many, many times.
*He and his brothers used to make homemade root beer and cool it in the basement.
*Leo's mother did laundry in the four basin slate wash tubs.
*My kitchen did have the old servant stairs (blocked up), larger windows and walk in pantry. Hopefully this is something we can one day have again! Their fridge was kept in the walk in pantry.
*Leo and his brother once got locked in the corner kitchen cupboard and had to wait for their sister to come home to let them out.
*Ping pong was often played on a long dining room table not unlike the one I now have.
*Our large master bedroom was once two bedrooms; Leo and his brothers was on the left and they used to sleep on the back porch roof (now gone and replaced with a deck) when it was hot.
*There used to be an old claw foot bathtub in the second floor bathroom. Now there is a somewhat sunk in whirl pool bathtub and Oh! Do I wish that I had that old clawfoot tub!
*The third floor used to be let to a young lady and when she married her and her husband lived there until she was expecting their first child.
*The third floor bathroom was a full kitchen.
*The life sucking Maple tree in the back yard was NOT there but there were ducks and chickens.
*There was a large tree in the front yard.
*The shifted bricks and the crack in the outside window ledge were present when Leo and his family lived here. I guess there's no reason to worry about it anymore, huh?
*Leo and his family had a porch swing exactly where my porch swing is except it was wicker.
*Despite what the online county records may say, our house was built in 1909 and that means that pretty soon it will be 100 years old!
We are going to have a big party next year for our house and we don't care how silly our neighbors think we are!
I shared our town's monthly newsletter with Leo and his wife and also gave them t-shirts from the 2007 Edgewood 5k race just as a little something from our town. I urged them to come to our town's community day (this Saturday) and also to stop by anytime they are in town. We also exchanged information--names, emails and his address--and I mean to keep in touch. I'd like to email him some interior pictures that he can share with his siblings so they can see what their home looks like now. Leo took a few pictures of the outside of the house as well and he did so with tears in his eyes.
I am so happy that they stopped by and THIS time were brave enough to come up and say hello. It was pure pleasure to spend time learning about my house and town from someone who used to live here. I only wish that they could have stayed longer!
Here is a picture of our house as seen from a small 6 year old girl's perspective. Maia knew she wasn't allowed to step in the street to get the top of our house in but she made up for it in making sure she got in our garbage cans. (they really need a new home but where??)
This isn't a very flattering picture because our poor, tall house desperately needs to have his face and body washed. The porch is scheduled to be repainted sometime this month when the painters can schedule us in. We are finally getting rid of that icky shade of green. Also, believe it or not this house is supposed to be a yellow brick house! I know! Who would have realized under his coat of grime of oh--likely 88 years (he's a pretty old boy) that he had such fine clothes!? Poor guy---he might have to wait until next year for that one.
The plants in this picture aren't so wonderful either because when you know that any day now you are going to have college boys from College Works Painting trying their hardest (and likely succeeding only half of the time) not to tramp your flowers and plants there is no great urge to put a lot of effort in prior to the painting. The rosebush on the left against the porch hasn't bloomed yet; I'm hoping to get a few flowers before its squashed demise. The pool of green on the right are hundreds of babies from last year's very prolific Forget-Me-Nots' threesome. I'm pretty sure those guys are not going to make it either because they get to be about 3 feet tall before their flowers really come out in force.
Lastly, at the top of the steps you can see my plant hospital. This place gets the most sun and also the most attention from me because I can't help but notice them every single day. On the right, is a small container of marigolds that were left over from our Daisy Tea Party that Maia potted. They were doing wonderfully--that is until Maia and her friends decided to pick some flowers and wrenched them out flower, stem and roots! I found three out of the four of them in a glass of water and re-potted them two days later when Maia had forgotten about them.
On the left are four plants. One is a purplish vine-y ivy plant that Tristyn grew for me at school that had two stems and three leaves in a tiny dixie cup pot. I had potted them both in this bigger pot and they had both grown to about 18 inches long with many leaves and then someone kicked over the pot. I was able to replace the one back in the pot and it's sort of thriving; the other one is in a glass of water in my kitchen attempting to grow back its accidentally chopped off roots.
The second plant is a calla lily that I 'won' at a wedding shower where it was the centerpiece. It really doesn't need to be in the plant hospital but I don't know what to do with it or anything about calla lilies. Do they get bigger? Should I plant it in the ground? I'm clueless and keep forgetting to look it up. The third is a prayer plant that I rescued from hall outside of Rick's office. It had one leaf and was in a cracking pot. I re-potted that plant and now he's up to four leaves with another one rolled up cigar style and ready to unfurl any day now.
The last plant is in the hospital entirely due to my own negligence. It was one of the mini-rose bushes that come in a pot. It and its sister graced my table during the Daisy Tea Party. Amanda took the sister home and left me with the brother. Who then sat on my mantle dying for a few weeks. Who then moved to my kitchen when I realized he had received no water in said period. Or sun. Who then in a desperate attempt to save him got moved to the plant hospital and rewarded me by making the rest of his leaves turn brown and fall off. Then, and as silly as this sounds, I remember reading this L.M. Montgomery book, The Blue Castle, where Valancy shops a rosebush to smithereens and it comes back better than ever. Because I believe everything I read in books (ha!) I did likewise until I had three much shorter sticks coming out of the pot. Four days later and guess what? Teeny tiny leaves are starting to grow!!!!!!
All are healing well in the plant hospital. =)