Friday, January 30, 2015

The Lawman

My childhood super hero is retiring today.

I can remember as a very little girl when my handsome daddy would be getting ready for work. He would sling on his heavy, wide black belt with the various sized pouches on it just before he left for the evening.  When it was off and sitting on the table I would latch and unlatch the "keepers", little black loops for keeping things on the belt, apparently.  I would marvel at the weight of the mag light, and couldn't understand why it needed to be so much heavier than our household plastic flashlight.  I never could figure out how a night stick could actually be a weapon.  And the .357 Magnum was more of a paperweight than anything else to me.  Taught with firm discipline that it was not a toy, I was a child who was surrounded by firearms and was never tempted to use them. I still am not.

If I was able to be awake when he left for the midnight shift, I would hug my daddy tight around the neck, kiss his smooth cheek, deeply breathe in his cologne, and think about how handsome he was in his uniform with his dark hair.  Even as a young girl I could grasp that in his line of work there was a chance that he wouldn't be coming back home.  I told myself that the heavy bullet proof vest he wore, which I would throw on my skinny shoulders and parade around the living room each time I could, was like Captain America's shield, able to protect in all circumstances.

My daddy, in my mind, was 10 feet tall.  After all, when your daddy is a cop, he is the one everyone else calls when they are in trouble.  He was called on duty, and off duty----to help break up domestic skirmishes among the neighbors, or the time there was a peeping tom in the neighborhood.  He had really cool places to take us, like when we got to go to the courthouse and ride in the elevator, or to the county fair when he directed traffic, or for rides in the Crown Vic.  It seemed we always had friends with German shepherd dogs, and we had them too.  We knew the clerks in the convenience stores by name, and listened to a scanner at home.  We had lots of cops that were friends----most good, a few bad, and a few somewhere in between. 

As I got older and my dad got more experienced, he moved up to different positions, culminating as a police chief.  But no matter where he was working or what he was doing, being a cop continued to touch our lives.  There were times the job or the pager interrupted family activities.  There were long, long hours that would stretch into nearly days sometimes, whenever a substantial crime was first committed. 

Perhaps the most pressing thing is the interruptions I didn't see.  Being a cop, or a soldier, or anyone else who deals with the basest of human behaviors, touches places inside that most of us don't have to visit very often.  It changes your world view of humanity.  It causes a silent, secret tap dance inside between the reality of the workplace and the reality of home.   

This is what other families don't see.  They don't see Superman coming home after a long day of dealing with sinful shenanigans, only to change out of the cape and into Clark Kent's suit to pretend  the job was just another day at the Daily News.  They don't see the up close evil in the day to day, the cruel and hard ways in which people deal with one another.  Other families can live in relative normalcy, assuming that bad things happen to other people-----when the super hero's experience tells him that in the blink of an eye, we can all be the other people.

So it seems strange that, after being a cop, a detective, a captain, an investigator, working for the coroner, and finally, pasturing out at a bailiff (haha!)----my dad is retiring.  For the first time in my lifetime, my dad will have the chance to be like everyone else.  And I hope that he enjoys it to the very fullest.

Dad, thank you so very, very much, for the hard work and sacrifice you have made for me.  For providing for me through multiple jobs at a time, and for doing it in such a taxing way.  I am so very proud of the service you have provided to your community; for helping others in their most despairing moments with little thankfulness, but I thank God for giving you to me.  I hope you have a wonderful day today and rather than send you some cheesy gift, I will send you what ends every Superman's career.

Kryptonite.  Not in the form of a donut, but in the form of an entirely different cheesy gift---

You can pick up your double anchovy pizza tonight after work from Guido's. 

Sandra :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Laundry Soap

Hello ladies (and fellows, if you are reading this)!

I want you to know, that both as a blogger and as a person, I never want to put something in my blog that makes me look like I have it "all together".  You know the blogs----the cutesy, flowery ones where the moms are confessing some terrible humble brag about something like, "sometimes when I clean out the van, I am so embarrassed--- today I found ONE french fry under the car seat".  Or maybe, "I must confess that this year I only made 5 quilts, since I am busy making cheese, roofing the house with synthetic shingles the children created with rocks and Play-do in our home school engineering class, and making sure that I have ironed all the socks.  Remember, the ones that I hand-knitted, not while watching TV, but while I was watching my children put on a spontaneous musical adaptation of 'War and Peace'?" Ugh.

My friends, I am a student of life.  I am learning who I am, what I struggle with, and how to try to rule over my flesh every. Single. Day.  As a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and most importantly, a child of God, I fail a lot; but God is so good to patiently teach and instruct me.  That is what I want my blog to be about:  how God has put me on this adventure, and what He is teaching me, and how absolutely, wonderfully awesome He is.

This is precisely why I don't share a lot of "how to" things.  I usually wait for someone to ask me, and then I share in person.  Because I don't want to be that "Ugh" person.

Well, today I want to share something with you that I have been doing now since about 2010, if I am not mistaken.  It has saved me hundreds of dollars and countless trips to the store. And it truly takes about 10 minutes to do, once every four to six months:

I make my own laundry soap.

I remember when I first read an article in our local paper about someone doing this.  "What?!?  She does. . . WHAT?!?"  The woman may as well been making ricin or Spam.  I thought, "Can you really DO THAT?"  Well, why couldn't you do it?

I don't know what I was afraid of.  I mean, I am hardly a professional laundress.  We have a laundry checklist: 1.  Is it clean?  2. Is it dry?  3. Is it not too embarrassingly wrinkled to wear it in public?  Three yes's and we are ready to go out.

But making my own detergent was sort of going rogue.  I was a Rebel at Home.  It was a way to, well, stick it to the man.  I felt like I was sitting on some big enormous secret.  Psssst-----hey!  You there!  The one hauling out your 55 gallon drum of Tide that cost $700 from Sam's Club.  Do you know what I can do?  And can you find your receipt you just crammed in your purse before you get to the lady at the door with the marker?  I felt a little Amish. I felt like if there was a zombie apocalypse, that my family would be the only one in clean clothes.  I'm sort of a laundry doomsday prepper:  if the nation's economy ever shut down and the stores were empty. . . well, we could trade laundry detergent for some rice and beans!

A woman who is a keeper at home may be doing many manual tasks with her hands, but don't be fooled:  our brains are moving a hundred miles an hour.  We are CEO's of our households and are always looking to lower that bottom line because, after all, that is what keeps flavored coffee creamer in the fridge.

And truly, seriously-----I think that a lot of mama's out there could reduce their work hours by living a thriftier lifestyle.  I would highly suggest to read a "Little House" book.  Reading those helped me to see that out on the prairie, joy was found in WORKING.  Not at Target with Starbucks in the hand, strolling for hours.  And yes, I am sure there were times that Ma wanted to run Pa, still wearing his shirt, through a wringer washer because he went hunting all day and left her there with kids that only had 2 toys between them, but there was still joy in just doing a hard day's work. The Lord started to show me that I have trouble feeling satisfied with a simple lifestyle and that I crave distractions, and while it is something I have grown in, I still have a long way to go.  If we could find our joy in tasks rather than in goods, we wouldn't have as much leisure time for entertainment and we wouldn't buy as many things.  And more women could stay home a little more. I fear for our nation as a whole, as we have become so very dependent upon entertainment to get us through our discontented, busy, soft, and unnecessarily stressful lives.  

So, someone inquired of this laundry "elixir", and I thought, "I am going to tell the whole world about my laundry soap!!!!  With pictures!!!"  Just in case you are too skeerd to try it.

So enough rambling.  On to the soap!

1.  You need the following:
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Empty, clean, 1 gallon milk jug
  • Cooking pot dedicated for laundry soap only----I got mine at Goodwill
  • Cheese grater
  • Long stick, like a yardstick, 5-gallon paint stirring stick, or just a plain old stick.
  • 1 box of Arm & Hammer washing soda, which on is $3.24 for 55 ounces
  • 1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax, on for $7.70 for 76 ounces
  • 1 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, at walmart stores for $1.00
  • One cup measuring cup 

What you need to get started.

   Unwrap the Fels-Naptha, which is an old school laundry soap.  You may use other soaps for fragrance, etc., but Fels has a great reputation as a degreaser.  You will then grate the soap as pictured by my lovely model below.  It will look like cheddar cheese.  Keep all husbands and male children out of the kitchen and do not leave the faux shredded cheese unattended.  Trust me.  (Some people also use their food processors to grind up the soap, therefore limiting the amount of knuckle present in the final product.)
If she can do it, so can you!

Can you see why they eat it?
It is time to cook the Fels.   Put the shredded soap in the pot and add 1/2 of a gallon of water.  You don't have to be exact, you just need to eyeball it.  Turn it on low and stir (with stick) until it is melted.  You don't want to boil this.

Fill your bucket with 3 gallons of lukewarm water.  Don't use cold.  It will cause the soap to "set up" really fast.  Pour 1 CUP of washing soda and 1 CUP of borax into the bucket, and stir with the stick.  Be careful with these powders.  It's kind of like making Kool Aid, as in it is easy to inhale accidentally, so you should hold your breath when pouring it out.  Mix it until it is dissolved.

STEP 4: 
Gently pour the contents of the pot (the Fels)  INTO the bucket and stir.  Your soap will congeal a bit, typically by the next day but sometimes before.  It is perfectly OK to use the soap as soon as you make it.  You will either need to stir it before using if the gel-like consistency grosses you out, or you can just use it straight in there.  After significant self-talk, I can now use it straight in. 

Finished product, before it congeals.     
Congratulations!!  You just made detergent!!  Cover your bucket with a lid, keep it up high from little people, and you can use it immediately. 

1.  How much do I use in a large load?  1 cup for top loading machines, 1/4 cup for front loading machines.
2.  Will this hurt my machine?  I don't think so, but you'd have to ask it.  It hasn't bothered mine and I have had both machines.
3.  Does it sud? No.  Which is awesome because you can use it in a front loading machine, and you DON'T NEED FABRIC SOFTENER.  At all.  Not even a dryer sheet. 
4.  What does it smell like?  Nothing.  It is just clean.  There is a tiny bit of a fragrance from the Fels, and you can add essential oils, but to me the price of the oils negates my laundry savings.  What I do is use the Downy Unstopables for fragrance, and it doesn't take much for a great scent, probably because it isn't competing for fragrance space with my detergent.  P.S.  Those Unstopables are great for making auto air fresheners.  Just make up a "Christmas Ornament Dough" recipe, and put some of those in the mix. Use a cookie cutter for the shape and use a straw to poke a hole in the top to put a string through.  Great gifts from kids to grandparents.
5. Does it really work?  Yes, it does.  I do use the detergent to pre-treat really bad stains.  I also use peroxide for blood stains too.  But it really does work.  Try more or less in your machine.  
6.  Is it safe for my clothes?  I have not had one problem in using it on my clothes.  
7.  Do I really save money?  Ok, this is the fun fun part:
                        I wash about one load a day.  I have a family of 6.
Cost per batch:  Borax, $0.80 + Washing Soda, +$0.48 + Fels Naptha, $1.00 = $2.27


So I spend less than $10 a year on washing all of our clothes!  And SO CAN YOU!!!!!

Aren't you inspired now?!?  Get your keys, get to Walmart, and

. . . . . stick it to the man.

Have a great day!!