Monthly Archives: March 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

With a family of 7, there is a lot of laundry that goes through our house. One way I’ve cut back on our expenses is by making homemade laundry detergent. It really saves us a good bit of money. I also make my own fabric softener.

When I started doing this, I didn’t think I would like the liquid detergent. I used the powdered for several months, and then I looked into the liquid option and realized that the liquid has the better value. I don’t think I will go back to the powder.

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

4 Cups – hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (Wegman’s sells a 5.5oz bar for 1.29) (you can also use Ivory)
1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (Wegman’s sells 55oz. for $2.79)
½ Cup Borax (Wegman’s sells 76 oz. for $3.99)

Grate the bar of soap and add to the saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until the soap dissolves and is melted. (It works best if you grate the soap fine. I have a grater I use only to grate soap.)

Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to the top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. (I went to Lowe’s and bought a 5 gallon bucket with a lid. Total cost $6-$8)

Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill the rest of the way with water. Shake before each use. (I use a gallon water jug.)

Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil. (Essential oil is expensive, so I don’t use it.)

Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.
Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)

Powdered Laundry Detergent – Top load machine only

1 Fels-Naptha soap bar
1 Cup – Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda*
½ Cup Borax

-Grate soap or break into pieces and process in a food processor until powdered. Mix all ingredients. For light load, use 1 Tablespoon. For heavy or heavily soiled load, use 2 Tablespoons. Yields: 3 Cups detergent. (Approx. 40 loads)

Recipe cost approx. $2 per 10 gallon.

Homemade Fabric Softener Recipe

2 cups Vinegar
2 cups Baking Soda
4 cups Hot Water

I use a funnel and put all the ingredients in a gallon jug. Be careful because vinegar and baking soda fizz when they are mixed together. You can also mix this in a large bowl or bucket and then transfer it into a jug. I just funnel it into the jug because I like to use as few containers as possible, although the baking soda doesn’t necessarily like going through the funnel. I don’t know why I do it that way. I may have to reconsider. The baking soda settles to the bottom of the jug, so be sure to give a little shake before each use.

Use 1/4 cup per load. One batch does approximately 32 loads.

I had a friend who had been making her own detergent and raved about it, but I was never sold. When I started looking for ways to cut back on expenses this seemed like a place where there could be a big savings, and now that I’ve tried it, I love it and will probably never go back to buying laundry detergent.

Try it out and let me know how it works for you!


Mom Time

My children consume my life. Most of my time and energy are geared towards them. Does this sound familiar? With all the time that I dedicate to my children, sometimes life gets a little crazy.

Here is a look at a normal day in the Cook household during the months of November through about April or until spring arrives. They say it’s here, but I haven’t noticed yet.

6:00am My alarm goes off.

6:30am I get out of bed. (It takes me a while to wake up. I’m not a morning person.) Justin and Darren are up doing their morning chores. Garrett and Ryan are usually up now too. I brush my teeth and then pack Hunter’s lunch.

6:45am Hunter leaves for work. I pack school lunches and get the kids breakfast.

7:20am Justin and Darren get on the bus.

7:30am I realize Taylor isn’t out of bed yet. I go wake her and tell her to get dressed for school. She doesn’t know what to wear. I tell her to get the clothes out of her Wednesday box.

7:45am Taylor is ready for breakfast.

8:00am I make sure Garrett and Ryan have brushed their teeth and combed their hair, then I have them put their shoes on.

8:15am I do a double-check to make sure the backpacks and lunch pails are ready to go and everyone has everything they need.

8:20am I have the kids get their coats and backpacks on. Ryan remembers it’s show and tell and dashes upstairs to find something. He comes down with something of Garrett’s. Taylor immediately makes it known that Ryan has Garrett’s toy. Garrett doesn’t want Ryan to take it.

8:25am After much discussion, Garrett decides to let Ryan take his toy. Taylor remembers it’s her snack day. I run to the kitchen to grab the snack.

8:27am I am stuffing Taylor’s snack in her backpack and we see the bus coming down the road. The boys run out the door. I finish zipping Taylor’s backpack, give her a hug and tell her to hurry to the bus. Ryan gets halfway to the bus then turns around and runs back to the door because he forgot to give me a hug.

8:30am The children all made it safely on the bus and I can breathe a sigh of relief.

8:30am – 3:00pm I am home alone! I turn the radio on to my favorite Christian radio station, start the laundry, take care of any dishes in the sink and then sit down for my breakfast. After breakfast I try to have my quiet time, although I admit that it doesn’t always happen. While the kids are at school, I busy myself with my daily chores. I do laundry every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday’s I run all my errands for the week (or try to anyway). Wednesday’s I bake bread, and make snacks for school lunches. Every Thursday morning I volunteer in Taylor’s class and Friday’s I pay the bills.

3:00pm Darren gets off the bus. He bursts in the door yelling “MOM, Hello” and he continues yelling until I have replied. He is very happy, he asks me how my day was and typically he says his was great, terrific, or awesome. Occasionally he says ok, but this is not normal. He does his homework , has a snack, completes his afternoon chores and heads for the Wii. (The Wii is their favorite winter past time. We don’t have any other gaming systems and we do not allow them to have hand-held gaming devices, so the Wii it is.)

4:00pm Garrett, Taylor and Ryan get off the bus. This is when things get crazy. Coats and backpacks are flung, children are racing for the bathroom, and “What’s for snack” are the first words I hear.

After they have put their shoes away, unloaded their backpacks and hung them up along with their coats, and emptied their lunch pails, they may have a snack. You would think that at some point they would catch on and put their things away without being prompted, but this hasn’t happened yet.

After or during snack, depending on their moods, they do their homework. Some days this goes smoothly, especially if they have something to do afterward. Other days one page of math review has turned into World War 3. I prefer the first scenario, but nearly every week we have one day when World War 3 is looking very near.

4:20pm Garrett and Ryan make their way to the living room and inform Darren his time is up. Taylor is in the kitchen with her school papers. She is either still doing her homework or she’s quizzing me on papers she has completed at school.

4:45 By now, Taylor is usually looking for something to do. The boys are all occupied and she is left alone. She goes up stairs to Garrett’s room, randomly grabs a toy and parades through the living room with the toy of choice. She marches directly in front of Garrett and says to the toy “I love playing with you.” Garrett is upset that Taylor has gone into his room without asking and begins yelling…you guessed it, “MOM”. I head to the living room. Taylor takes the toy back up stairs, whining all the way.

This doesn’t happen everyday, some days, it goes more like this.

4:30pm Garrett and Ryan have just now chosen a game that they have agreed on. They begin to play. Suddenly, Garret has done something. I don’t know what because monster truck racing isn’t my thing, but never the less, he has done something that has upset Ryan. I begin to hear bickering in the living room.
“Garrett, STOP!”
“Ryan, don’t do that.”
I go to the living room and say in a not-so-nice voice, “That’s it, you’re done, turn it off.”
To this I hear “but Mom.”

4:45pm Since Garret and Ryan are already unhappy, Taylor chooses to go upstairs. A few minutes later, I hear a commotion. Taylor has barged into Darren’s room. This is Darren’s biggest pet peeve. He cannot stand this. It infuriates him. I leave the living room and head upstairs. I tell Taylor not to go in Darren’s room without permission and I ask Darren to be kind to his sister. I ask Taylor “What would Jesus do?” I leave her to think about things and head into the kitchen, where the pot of water I was boiling has gone dry as a result of evacuating to the living room, followed by a hurried retreat up the stairs.

5:15pm I start dinner over again. I hear fighting, yet I choose to ignore it. The water is boiling, the meat is in the oven and I need a vegetable.

5:30pm Dinner is going. I happen to notice the clock. Oh no! Justin’s practice just ended. I hurry to turn off the stove and make sure nothing will burn. I tell Darren to watch the kids while I go get Justin.

5:50pm I arrive at the school to pick up Justin. I wait in the car for him to come out.

Justin is not out yet, evidently practice ran over. Taylor calls me.
“Yes, Taylor”
“When are you coming home?”
“I’m waiting for Justin. I’ll be home as soon as he comes out.”
“Okay.” She pauses a moment. “Mooooom.”
“Yes, Taylor.”
“I’m sorry I was being whiny.”
“I forgive you Taylor. I love you. I’ll be home soon.”
“Yes, Taylor.”
“I’m hungry.”
“We will eat as soon as I get home. Why don’t you set the table so it will be ready when I get there.”
“Okay. I love you.”
“Bye honey.”

6:15pm It is 8 degrees outside. Boys are starting to come out of the school. Suddenly, I see a crazy child running out of the school in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Wait a minute, I look closer, that’s my child!! “What?” he says, looking at me as if I am the one who is crazy.

6:30pm We arrive home. The table is set and no one is in sight. It’s quiet, but why? Did someone break in and kidnap the kids? I go upstairs. I look in Taylor’s room. That’s odd. There are no blankets on her bed. I look across the hall into Justin’s room. Hmm…there are no blankets on his bed either. I go down the hall and look in Garrett’s room. What happened? Someone broke in and took my children and their blankets? I go across the hall to look in Darren and Ryan’s room. Aha!! Every blanket in the house is in there and I assumed that the kids were also, but who could tell. I announce loudly “Time for dinner.” Suddenly, a stampede appears out from under the enormous heap of blankets. I am nearly trampled.

6:45pm We are all finally at the table for dinner, but we are not all happy. It begins.
“I don’t like chicken.”
“Do I have to eat the rice?”
“I don’t like green beans. Do we have any corn?”

7:00pm Three of us have eaten dinner, three of us have picked and complained and are contemplating starting to eat now if they can have a slice of bread afterward.

7:05pm Taylor gets in the shower.

7:30pm I go check to see whether Taylor was sucked down the drain, because she has not come out yet. She’s fine. I make her get out and have Ryan get in. Ryan doesn’t think he needs a shower because he took one the other day.
“Yes,” I say “you did, but that was 2 days ago and now you need another one.”

7:45pm Ryan is finally in the shower.

7:55pm Ryan gets out of the shower, Garrett gets in. I have Taylor and Ryan head for bed, an hour past bedtime.

7:56pm Garrett gets out of the shower. I make him get back in.

8:15pm Garrett gets out of the shower again, clean this time, and I head him upstairs to read. I go tuck the others in and as I walk down the stairs, I release a huge sigh of relief.

8:17pm Ryan comes back down stairs to go to the bathroom. Taylor sees him walk down and decides she needs a drink of water. I send them both back upstairs.

8:20pm I send Darren to take a shower and then sit on the couch with Justin and he begins telling me about his day.

8:22pm Ryan comes down stairs.
“Mom, Taylor came in my room.”
“Ryan get back to bed. I will take care of Taylor.”
Taylor peaks her head around the corner, “I just wanted to give him a hug!”
“Both of you, back upstairs, now!”

8:30pm Darren is out of the shower. I send him up to read and ask him to let Garrett know it’s time for lights out. Justin gets in the shower.

8:40pm I have just begun to relax, when I see headlights pull in the driveway. Hunter is home and he’s hungry. I go to the kitchen to get his dinner and sit with him as he eats.

8:45pm Justin gets out of the shower and sits down with us.

9:00pm Hunter gets in the shower. Justin heads to bed.

9:20pm Hunter gets out of the shower. We are both tired and decide to go to bed ourselves.
Once in bed, I try to start a conversation. I haven’t had any adult conversation all day. Hunter, however, has been dealing with people all day. Although he is trying his best to listen, he can no longer stay awake and falls asleep in mid-sentence. I end up falling asleep as well.

I have possibly exaggerated slightly, however, we do occasionally have a day like this.

With all of the commotion of everyday life, sometimes we forget the important things. It is important as mothers, that we don’t forget to take time out for ourselves. We need to have to time to relax and remember who we are. Sometimes we lose our identity in our children. There are days when I am Ryan’s mom and I lose myself. We need to stay rested and maintain ourselves so that we can keep up with the fast pace of motherhood.

Along with mothers taking time for themselves, it is important that we make time for our children. Children also need time for themselves. They need special time, which is focused on them. In our house, we call it “mom time.” It is a time, when I take one of the children and do something with them. Usually, it consists of getting picked up early from school and having a special lunch out. This time should be centered around the child. I give them options and let them decide where we go. Taylor will choose the bookstore and Ryan loves Wal-Mart. Garrett just loves being with me. He has learned to handle the grocery list well. On this day, I spoil them more than normal. On a normal day, when I am asked to buy small treasures, I say no. But on this day, I say yes. They a get a quarter for the gumball machine and they always come home with a special treat. They usually get ice-cream on the way home.

When your children are young, sometimes it is better to choose something at home. Taking a toddler out can be a tedious task. Here are some things my children have enjoyed. If you have more than one child, make sure the other children are down for naps or ask a friend or family member to watch them for a couple of hours.

Girls love tea parties. Taylor has an inexpensive tea set. If your daughter doesn’t have one, it would be a great investment. Instead of your normal lunch, plan a special “tea party” lunch for you and your princess. Make a big deal out of it and be sure to have foods that she likes, along with a special snack for dessert. She will love this! This would be great to do once a month or so with your special girl. It will create memories that will last a lifetime.

For your toddler boy, Lego’s or train sets are great. My sons love Geo Trax and so do I. They are well-built and very durable, which is a plus in our house. My boys have always been hard on their toys. Take time to sit down and just play with him. Make sure it is a time when you focus your undivided attention on him. Don’t jump up to switch the laundry or check your email. This is time for you to focus all your attention on your little man.

Boys and girls alike, love helping mom in the kitchen. For this, it is fun if they have their own apron. They think this is great! My children love baking cookies. Cutout cookies are their favorite. They are more work than drop cookies, but the kids have so much fun with the cutouts. We have a great recipe for sugar cookies that I got from my Aunt Cora. Look for it in Remarkable Recipes. It makes a large batch of cookies. You can make what you want and freeze the rest for later, or you can make them all and share them with your neighbor or a shut in. This is a great way to teach your children to think of others. Let them help you decide who to share them with and have them color a picture to go along. Be sure to allow your child to join you for the delivery. This really makes them feel good and elderly people love getting visits from little ones.

If making your own cookie dough is more work than you would like to do or have time for, buying a mix or dough from the store is fine too. The kids love rolling out the dough, but they do need guidance. We have a large assortment of cookie cutters they can choose from. Cookie cutters are relatively inexpensive. Cutting them out is the most fun. When they are baked, we ice them and put sprinkles on top. This is another part they really enjoy. Don’t let this become a chore. Relax and allow it to be a fun activity. If they don’t get the maximum amount of cookies out of the dough you have rolled out, it is not a big deal. The sprinkles will not be evenly spaced on the cookies. I’m not sure at what age they really get the art of cutting them out “properly,” because my children have still not figured this out. It can become aggravating if you let it, but remember this is supposed to be for them, not about you making perfect cookies in minimal time. It will take you considerably longer to do this with your children than it would take you to do it alone, and they will be less pleasing to the eyes, but your children will be proud of their creations. Take a deep breath, relax and have fun!

Play-doh is always a big hit too. Play-doh is not one of my favorite things, but kids love it. No need to buy special play-doh toys, you have plenty of things in your kitchen they can use. Remember, the point is to be spending special time with your child. Look in Remarkable Recipes for a recipe for Homemade Play-doh.

Children love the outdoors. If the weather permits, you can pack a picnic lunch and head to the park. After lunch, you can go on a nature walk. Make sure to bring a basket or bucket of some kind to collect your special treasures. They will love collecting colorful leaves and funny shaped rocks. This is also a great time to teach them about nature.

Enjoy spending time with your kids and don’t forget to take time for yourself!

I would love to hear your ideas for special “mom time.”

Sugar Drop Cookies

Here is a great sugar cookie recipe my Aunt Cora gave me. My kids love these. We make them for nearly every holiday and just switch out different shapes and themed sprinkles.

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup milk
4 cups flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix sugars and shortening. Add eggs and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and add to sugar mixture alternately with milk.

This dough is very sticky. If rolling out, add 1 cup of flour and freeze overnight. When you go to roll this out you will need to add a good bit more flour.

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10-12 minutes or until the top springs back when tapped lightly.

**I always cut these out and I never put them in the freezer overnight. I don’t usually think about it ahead of time.
I simply add more flour when I make the dough. I add nearly 7 cups of flour total. You should be able to judge the consistency. You want it to be manageable, but remember you will add some flour when you go to roll them out.

These are wonderful! We ice them and add sprinkles or nonpareils.

I don’t actually have a recipe for the icing. I just dump.

Confectioners sugar
A teaspoon or so of flavoring of your choice – We like lemon flavoring, but you can use vanilla, almond or whatever
you like.

Start with about 2 cups of the powdered sugar and enough milk to get it to a good consistency. I usually make it fairly thin. You can always mix up more. You can add food coloring if you’d like.

These are sure to be a hit!

Homemade Play-Doh

Here is a simple recipe for homemade play-doh that your kids will love.

1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
Food coloring

Combine in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it becomes play-doh consistency. Store in an airtight container or zip lock bag.

Blueberry Muffins

Breakfast is often rushed at our house. By the time everyone is up and dressed and the morning chores are done there isn’t much time before the kids have to leave for school. Cereal is quick and easy, but it can get expensive. And the more inexpensive cereals are the ones with the most sugar! I have started only buying cereal if it’s on sale, and I have a coupon to match. If I can buy a box of cereal for less that $1, I feel like it’s worth it, but spending $4 a box is outrageous. Cereal used to be the main event at the Cook household every morning. Not anymore!

One of things my kids love are muffins. They are easy to grab on a busy morning and a whole lot better than say…a poptart. And they are much cheaper. I have made blueberry muffins so many different ways, but I recently came across this recipe. It is by far the best one yet, and it’s very simple.

4 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sour cream
2 cups fresh blueberries ( I use frozen dusted with flour so the color doesn’t run)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease 24 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar a little at a time while beating. Continue beating and slowly pour in oil while beating. Beat until well combined. Stir in vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking soda and salt. With a spatula or spoon stir together flour mixture with the egg mixture alternately with the sour cream. Stir until well combined. Fold in blueberries. (This makes 24 nice sized muffins. The muffin cups should be full.)

Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I got this recipe from

Let me know what you think!

Love to Last a Lifetime

Do you remember when you said your wedding vows? When you looked into the eyes of the one you loved and vowed to never leave them or forsake them? Do you remember feeling almost giddy with joy for your new lives together…forever?

I remember that day well. I remember thinking how happy we would be. I expected hard times. I did not think that we would always agree. I felt as though I had realistic expectations of what marriage would be. I was wrong.

Yes, I expected disagreements and arguments, but I did not expect to feel lonely. I had no idea that I could be married and be lonely. To have someone who is supposed to be by your side and support you through your ups and downs, and then realizing that they aren’t there is a heart-wrenching feeling.

There have been times in our marriage when it would have been easy to walk away. Neither of us is without fault. Marriage is a two-way street. The first couple of years were very difficult for us. They were tough. Life is tough.

God never promised that it would be easy, but He did say He would help us through the storm. If we could only get past our sinful nature and follow His Word, what a difference that would make. I recently heard a radio broadcast asking the question “what is it like to be married to me?” What a thought! I obviously know what it’s like to be married to Hunter. Some days are easier than others. Some days are just difficult. I am not sure that I have thought about what it’s like to be married to me. In my own logic, I feel that if he only knew how I felt and could see things through my eyes then he would understand. But, have I ever tried to see things through his eyes?

We teach our children to put others first. We go over and over the concept of thinking of other people’s feelings, but do we truly model this in our marriage?

As the years have gone by, our marriage has gained tremendous strength. There are days when my love cup is overflowing, and I don’t know how I could love him more. Yet, there are days when I wonder why I am still here and my heart feels so empty.

My marriage continues to grow daily, and we continue to learn new things about each other. I have been digging into God’s Word, reading books and listening to programs and sermons on marriage and the family. I want to be equipped for whatever comes our way because I am not backing down. With God’s loving hand guiding my life, I will not fail. With Him by my side, I can face the storms.

I long for a love to last a lifetime.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

Hunter and I Fall of 2010


Hope for Tomorrow

This week for our family devotions we are talking about hope. Hope is believing in something expected or that something will come to pass.
Lamentations 3:25-26 says “The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Today there is so much turmoil and chaos in the world that it is hard to hold on to that hope. Some days when I look around it is hard for me to see hope, to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everywhere I turn marriages are failing and families are falling apart. Children are dying of cancer and accidents are claiming lives. Obscene language and acts of violence are all around us. People are losing their jobs and struggling to support their families. When you listen to the news there is seldom an encouraging word.

My heart aches for those who do not have the hope that we as Christians have. My hope lies in Jesus Christ
the Giver of life. It is only when I daily come to Him that I can look past all the sorrow in this world and find true hope and joy.

It is so easy to let the troubles of this world discourage us, but have hope for joy abounds in the Glory land.

Natalie Grant \"Our Hope Endures\"