"All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind."
Khalil Gibran

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Meal Delivery

Just the other day I was getting ready to send out an email to organize meal delivery for a friend who is having a baby.  I was going to go about it the way I have in the past, which was to print out my own calendar.  Ask each person to contact me to sign up for a day, and keep everyone posted with multiple emails.  But then I had an idea....why don't I see if anyone has come up with a free online calendar that would make it simple to give everyone the information, dates needed, food preferences, allergies, etc all in one place.

I decided to do a Google search for 'Free Meal Delivery Calendars' and I checked out several.  I originally signed up with a different site, but once I had gone through the entire process, I discovered that although it was free, it would require each person who wanted to sign up for a meal to create an account (for marketing purposes no doubt).  I quickly scrapped this site and moved on to another.

I ended up using the site http://www.takethemameal.com which I've discovered to be relatively simple for both the site administrator and those wanting to provide a meal.  Friends can just click on a link that you send them, which takes them directly to the page regarding the person you are serving, and click 'take' to sign up for a date.  With a quick glance they can see what others are bringing so that the recipient of the meals doesn't receive spaghetti 4 days in a row.

You are also able to print out the schedule and the recipient can see what is scheduled to come as well as having easy access to phone numbers and email addresses should they need to cancel a meal or make changes for any reason.

So far this has worked beautifully!

Here is a sample schedule:

Next time you have a friend or family member who is having surgery, welcoming a new baby, or in need of meals for any reason....I'd suggest trying out this website.  It's never been so easy to coordinate meal delivery!

If anyone is interested I'd be happy to share how I made the email notification that I used.  I didn't use the site's standard notification email (surprise, surprise).  I created an email in Microsoft Publisher and emailed it as well as attaching it as a .pdf file.  I did this so that I could use the colors of the nursery, photos of my friend, her ultrasound photo, and a picture of a painting that her daughter had painted for the baby's room.  It felt more personal to me with these added items.  This is something that I enjoy doing and if I didn't, I would have happily used the email that is provided by the website itself to notify the friends and family of the meal schedule. (Which is perfectly adequate.)

Here is what my email looked like:

If anyone has any sites that they have used or found helpful in coordinating assistance for other people or families, I'd love to hear what they are!  You're comments are welcome and appreciated!

Painted Canvas

I was at it once again.  My Best Friends son just recently turned 20 (a reality I'm not sure I've accepted yet) This young man is very artistically talented so I hesitated at first to make a painting for him as a gift, but decided that he would probably find sentimental value in a gift I made, so I decided to go ahead and do it.

This was a small canvas that I used acrylic paints to complete.

I began by using a large brush and dipping it in my water dish to wet the entire surface, then I proceeded to use 3 different metallic paints to make the background (white,taupe, & bronze).  I overlapped these colors so that they would bleed into one another.  If one color stood out too much, I simply wet my brush again and went over the previous brush strokes to lighten and blend them.

Once the background was finished drying I took a pencil and lightly traced out where I wanted to paint my flourishes.  After that I drew the cross and erased any of the flourish lines that went behind the cross image.  This way it would give the effect that the cross was laying on top of the flourish.

When that was complete I could start painting again.  I came back and used a deep red to paint the flourishes.  I was very pressed for time (I did this whole project in about 2 hours) so I decided not to paint the cross.  I grabbed a metallic gold pen and went over my pencil lines.  Next I highlighted the flourishes with metallic taupe, and grabbed the hair dryer to assist the paint in the drying process.

Finally I opened up a Word document and typed in his name (Nik) and I looked through several font types until I found one that I liked.  In this case I liked the 'N' from one font and the 'IK' from another.  Once I had decided on a font, I enlarged it to a size that was easy for me to see in detail.  Then I took my pencil and drew his name as I saw it on the computer.

If you are not good at freehand or you are lacking confidence in this area, a great tool is to use carbon paper.  Just print out your picture or words using your computer, lay the carbon paper over your project, lay your printed name over the carbon paper, tape them down to keep them from sliding around while working, and trace over the printed name or picture.  Be sure to go over every line.  I like to use a pencil or writing tool so that I can easily tell which sections I have traced over.  Remove your carbon paper and you should have a nice outline in which you can now paint.

Once I had his name on the canvas I painted it with a black metallic paint and used the gold pen to draw on highlights.  (Again, I used the pen because I had waited until the last possible minute)

In the end I was pleased with how it turned out.  Given more time I would have likely painted a second layer of flourishes but this might have been too busy, so perhaps it was better this way.

The whole project was less than $10 since I had my own paints and brushes, and it was personal and hopefully had a special sentimental value to the recipient.

So, next time you can't think of what to get someone....consider painting them some artwork.

Green Cleaning

I was recently researching some environmentally and financially friendly cleaners to use at home.  Having some of my own health issues, I am more concerned with reducing the harsh chemicals that I use regularly.  Especially when it isn't even necessary.

I have friends who have made their own cleaners for years, and I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon. After all, most are way cheaper than the cleaners you buy at the store.

I thought I would share some of these natural cleaning tips for those of you who may not have heard of them before. You will likely notice that most of these include the use of vinegar (in one form or another), baking soda, or lemons.  And the good news is that most of us have these things on hand in the kitchen already.  Yay for using stuff we already have!

I hope you enjoy my list!  Happy Cleaning....  I'm a firm believer that loud music helps to assist with easing the pain of cleaning!  Have fun and be silly...after all, you only live once!
Sticker Remover
Soak the sticker or label with vinegar, let stand until it's saturated, then peel off.

Stain Remover
For stains caused by grass, coffee, tea, fruits and berries, mildew, and inks, soak clothing in full strength vinegar.  (adding 2/3-1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your wash will control static cling and also work as a fabric softener)

You can also remove bloodstains by soaking cloth in a bucket of cold water with a cup of vinegar and an equal amount of baking soda, let it stand overnight before washing as normal. 
Scouring Powder
Mix a tablespoon of baking soda, salt, and borax.  Use instead of chemical scouring powders such as Comet or Ajax.

Cheap Cleaning Solution
1/3 part white vinegar
1/3 part rubbing alcohol
1/3 part water
3 drops of dish-washing liquid

Put this in a spray bottle and use to clean many surfaces including floors and tile.  The alcohol is added for faster drying but you could leave it out.  If you don't like the smell of vinegar you can add some lemon juice to assist in neutralizing the vinegar smell.

Another recipe, which is simple is to mix 2 cups of very hot water with 2 teaspoons of borax and place in a spray bottle.

Glass Cleaner
Use a solution of 50/50 white vinegar and water to clean glass and windows.
     *  Windshields - Use a solution of 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water, it will not only clean your car windshield but it will also keep it ice and frost-free! 

 Laundry Detergent
1 quart Water (boiling)
2 gallons of water (tap)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda
  • Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. You can keep on low heat until soap is melted.
  • Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
  • Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
  • Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry. Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).

Detergent Booster
Pour 1 cup of lemon juice into your wash (in wash cycle).  This will help get rid of stains and make your clothes smell fresh.  Stubborn stains can be soaked for 30-60 min's in a solution of equal parts white vinegar and lemon juice.  Then wash as usual.  You can also get your white socks whiter by boiling them in water with a slice of lemon.  **I can't wait to see Regan's face when he sees me cooking his socks!**

Fabric Softener 
Mix one part white vinegar, one part baking soda, and two parts water.  You can keep it in a labeled bottle and add four tablespoons to the final rinse.
Anti-Fog Solution
Want to stop your windshields or bathroom mirror from fogging up?  The first thing you can do to help is to clean regularly because dust and dirt particles are necessary to form fog.  Another great idea is to make your own anti-fog solution.  Firstly, clean your window or mirror.  Secondly, heat 4 cups of water (as hot as you can make it while still being able to touch it.  If your hot water heater is high enough, you can use the hot water from the tap.  Add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the hot water.  Put a lint-free cloth, such as linen or an old t-shirt in the solution, wring out the excess and then rub the surface in circular motions.  This should last 3-4 weeks, when the window starts fogging up again, reapply the solution.

Dishwasher Detergent

1 cup borax
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/2 cup kosher salt
(You can add 1 teaspoon of dry rice to help with some of the clumping, but it will still clump up...don't worry...it will work fine.)
Mix all these together, it will yield 20 oz of detergent.  Stir before each use.  Use 1 tablespoon of detergent for each load.   

Rinse Aid for Dishes
Put 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to the rinse cycle, or add to rinse water when hand washing.  It will take the soap off and leave them squeaky clean.  (You can also clean your kitchen sponges by rinsing them off and then soaking them in a solution of 4 cups water with 3 tablespoons of vinegar overnight to clean them)
Cleaning Drains
Keep your drains clean with vinegar.  When they seem a bit sluggish, or even blocked, pour white vinegar down the sink or tub drain.  If that doesn't work, use 1/2 a box of baking soda with a cup of warm vinegar.  Let it work for an hour or two, then pour down a lot of very hot water.

Removing Water Stains on wood
I am excited to try this one!  Make a mixture of equal parts of distilled vinegar and olive oil.  Rub with the grain and polish for the best results. Another remedy is to mix a paste of vegetable oil and salt and rub the paste on the spot and let it stand for an hour or two, then remove.  (You should try these on an conspicuous place first just to be sure it won't discolor your furniture.)

Cleaning Silk Flowers or Plants
Fill a spray bottle with vinegar.  When they get dusty, spray them lightly, and the dust is gone.

Stainless Steel Kitchen Appliances
Use a moist cloth and baking soda and polish.
Stainless Steel Sink
Clean with a solution of vinegar and baking soda and polish.  Rinse with water.  This can also work on your silverware.

Melting Snow and Ice
Use baking soda to melt snow and ice, especially in garden areas since salt will harm any plants it comes in contact with.  
Air Freshener for a room or car 
Mix a few drops of your preferred fragranced oil in a small bowl of baking soda and set in your desired room.  An unused ashtray in a car is a perfect place too!  Another great idea is to use the foot of an old pair of nylons and add the mixture and tie off to make a sachet you can place or hang anywhere.  Place the mixture in the toe of the nylons, twist several times, and go back over the ball of powder with another layer.  Tie off with a string or ribbon.  Another option is to cut a lemon in 1/2 and place it cut side up in a dish or plate and put it in your room or on a windowsill.

Mix 1 pint of water and 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil into a spray bottle.  Spray in room as tea tree oil has proven to have powerful antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-fungal benefits.

Dry Shampoo
Ever in a hurry with no time to shower?  Or gone camping and either have no place to shower or the only place available creeps you out?  Sprinkle baking soda on your hair and massage it into your hair.  Comb out and let warm air help get out residue.  I'm thinking that if your home, a hair dryer might work also. 

Treatment for Dry Skin
Make a paste of olive oil and baking soda and apply it to rough skin on your feet, elbows, etc.  Let it sit for 3-4 min's and rinse with warm water.  

Cleaning your Microwave
Mix 3 tablespoons of lemon juice with 1 3/4 cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 5-10 min's, allowing the inside to fill with steam.  Wipe with a cloth and it should be clean and smelling fresh.
Weed Removal
Spray with lemon juice and they should dry up and die within a couple days.
Insect Repellant
Lemon juice/peel, vinegar, salt, and borax have all been shown to repel insects.  I've seen articles that say to spray a vinegar/water mix on carpet, furniture, rugs, dog beds, and even directly on pets (if fleas are your problem insect).  Placing lemon juice or lemon peels on door frame or windowsills are also listed solutions.  This last summer we had our first problem with fleas and I had them eliminated by doing the following:
  • * First I added a couple cap fulls of vinegar to spray bottle filled with water and I sprayed the cat and the dog.  (I found out quickly that they don't like this!  Especially the cat!  I was chasing the animals around the house with the spray bottle...it was quite comical.  I'll be prepared next time)  I brushed their coats with a brush to get the mixture down to the skin.
  • * I bought a large container of salt and generously poured it on basically everything....the carpet, the couch (I also lifted cushions and sprinkled the salt on the arm rests and back rest), chairs, I left a line in front of the doorway for a while, and I opened the dog bed cover and poured salt into the stuffing and shook the whole bed around to evenly disperse the salt.  ** Because I read that the salt can hurt your pets paws, I moved the animals into bedrooms and heavily salted the other rooms in the evening, then in the morning I vacuumed it all up before letting the pets out.  **  I repeated this step 2-3 times because I wasn't totally sure how often to do it.  That was several months ago and I haven't had to do it again.

My understanding behind using salt is that it dries out the insect and it dies.  For this to work it has to come into contact with the salt.  Borax can also be used alone or with salt in the same way as salt.  Borax releases boric acid, which is poisonous to fleas, ants, cockroaches, & silverfish.  BE SURE TO GET IS ALL VACUUMED UP, BORAX IS NOT GOOD IF CONSUMED BY KIDS OR ANIMALS.
I hope that this post has been useful and contained some information that you can use with your family.  I know that I love the idea of saving money and reducing the harsh chemicals that I use!

If anyone has used any of these solutions or has some good ones that aren't listed, I'd love to hear!  Please comment below.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crafting Daze

I have been crafting away the past few days making Birthday gifts for my sweet friend Maddie who just turned 11 years old today.

Maddie and I have a regular weekly craft day, so naturally I wanted to make her something for her Birthday.  I remember being her age and transitioning from the little girl to the pre-teen.  Last week I noticed that she had gotten a new bedspread so I decided to make her some new things that match it for her room.

I decided I would take my sewing machine from the cupboard and clean off the dust to sew her some matching pillows.

Based on the colors of her comforter, I chose the following fabrics:

I sewed 2 standard square pillows and made the third pillow with a felt flower on the front by sewing about 175 'petals' in circles on the front.

Maddie took her pillows and placed them on her bed and we were both so pleased to see that amazingly they matched just like they'd all been made together. I love it when a thing works out!

Maddie's bed with her new pillows on it.

The second thing I worked on was a painting with Maddie's name on it that would also match.  I painted a background of orange swirls with 2 shades of aqua flourishes as well as painting her name in a fun font in a metallic red.

Today I had the pleasure of watching Miss Madison open her gifts with a big smile.

It was a good week of crafting....