Monday, March 17, 2014

DIY Laundry Detergent

Last weekend I poured out the last cup of liquid laundry detergent that we had, then glanced over my shoulder at the mountain of laundry that still remained to be washed.  Usually, a lack of laundry detergent would be my cue to stop working on laundry, but Brent doesn't let me get away with that, so I figured this would be a good time to make our own laundry soap, since we needed to go to the store for SOMETHING to get these clothes washed.

Luckily, my sister and I have a crafty friend named Kate - that basically knows a lot about everything, including making her own detergent.  She helped my sister make a batch some time ago and I knew my sister was happy with the results.  Kate referred me to a blog post outlining the "recipe" and included some of her own tips.  I would recommend that you read through the process a few times before getting started to make things a little easier.  Including the trip to the store, making 9 months worth of laundry soap took us about 30 minutes.  Yep, it's that simple.

Here is the recipe Kate recommended to me - please read this gal's instructions, she explains everything much more thoroughly than I ever could!  She also answers lots of common questions that you may be asking yourself at this very second.

We crunched the numbers, and this should last us somewhere between 6 and 9 months - and the ingredients cost a total of $25 - which averages somewhere around 3 cents/load.  Unlike commercial detergents that require a cap worth of liquid, you only need 1 tablespoon of this stuff - maybe 2 if you have a load that is super dirty.  And it is HE safe.


1 - 4lb 12oz box Borax (in the detergent aisle)

1 - 4lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (in the cooking aisle)

1 - 3lb 7oz box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (in the detergent aisle)

3 - Fels Naptha bars (we found them at Ace Hardware)

1 - 3lb container of Oxi Clean

We purchased everything you see in the photo from our local grocery store, Hy-Vee, with the exception of the 3 bars of Fels-Naptha bar soap - we could only find those at Ace Hardware.  The turquoise bottle of Downy Unstopables is not necessary, but Kate recommended it to add a nice scent.  It will add about $7 to your total cost, but you don't need to use the whole thing, we only used half.

We started by opening the Fels-Naptha and cutting into big chunks that would fit in our food processor - the blog post recommends using a cheese grater, but we don't have one.  They also recommend if you are using this soap in a HE washing machine that you grate it a little more fine, which is also why we opted to use the food processor.

 The food processor worked well for about 30 seconds, and then it was incredibly obvious that our mini-processor didn't have the "cajones" (look it up in a Spanish dictionary) to get the job done.

So we threw it in our blender.  Our smoothies may taste like laundry soap for the next six months, but at least we saved a few dollahs making our own soap!!  But in reality, the blender worked great!!

Shredding up the bars of soap only took a few minutes and then it was time to just throw all of the ingredients in a five gallon pail lined with a CLEAN trash bag and mix it all together.

After thouroughly mixing everything, we filled the empty Oxi Clean container with some of our detergent and left the remainder of the soap in the trash bag, tied up with a twisty tie.

And for a completely anti-climatic ending - it works!  Our clothes are clean and they smell good, so it's doing it's job - and for a few pennies per load, I couldn't be happier.  I'm actually more relieved that we don't have to add "Laundry Soap" to our weekly grocery list for a long time.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Iron Pipe Family Photo Display

Let's wrap up this family photo project, shall we?  If you missed part 1 - building the picture frames - here's a link.  And on to part 2 - hanging the frames.  The frames we built are so unique that I wanted to hang them in an equally awesome way - something fancy and something grand!  Pinterest has been blowing up with tons of DIY steel pipe and industrial shelving type projects but we hadn't found a way to incorporate any of it into our house.  It was actually Brent that threw the idea out there to hang the frames from steel pipe, which sounded great...until I couldn't find any photos of people that had already tackled it.  So what you are about to witness will appear to be a no-brainer way to mount these things - but you have no idea the level of frustration that went into figuring this out.  My hope is that at least one person will be able to use this information in their own home - and that it will spare them their sanity (and potential marriage) by taking the guesswork out of the project for you.

We started this journey at our local Ace Hardware, where we bought a 6' length of black steel 3/4 inch pipe.  Steel pipe is available in different diameters - we chose the 3/4 inch because the 1/2 inch looked too skinny to me and the 1 inch looked too large.  Feeling like Goldilocks, the 3/4 inch was juuuuuust right.  They actually cut it to the length you need - we aren't sure if they will cut it for you at a big box home improvement store, so we recommend hitting up your own local hardware store.  Make sure to ask them to have it threaded at both ends.

The other pieces we picked up (pictured below) that are necessary to hang the rod are:
        * 2 steel flanges
        * 2 female/male steel elbows - the male end should be the same diameter as your pipe
        * 8 anchors
        * 8 pan head screws

These materials cost us about $40.

No scientific processes were used to figure out how or where we were going to hang the steel was just a lot of Brent holding, while I scurried back to look at it and would direct him to move it up, down, left ,right.  Don't worry, he's used to this - he probably has incredibly strong shoulders from carrying the weight of our family holding up so many curtain rods for me.  We decided it would look best hung at the same height as the adjoining patio door curtains.

But just to be sure the end result was what I was looking for, I needed to visualize where the actual frames would hang.  Brent held up the pipe and I had Emma hold up the photo frame - and since Owen felt left out, he appears to be holding up Emma's butt.  He's a helper.

With everything looking fine, Brent and I switched places.  As I held up the pipe, he put a level across it to make sure we were, well, level, and used a pencil to mark the holes that he would need to drill for the anchors.  

You can see four blue anchors in the top left and top right of the photo below.

I held the pipe up and Brent put 4 screws through on each side.  Note for the weak...stand on a chair while you hold the pipe is very heavy and if you're anything like me, you'll start whining and barking at your husband to HURRY UP after less than 5 seconds.

Brent said there were enough anchors in this thing that it could act as a pull up bar - I wouldn't let him try that.  Although Owen may someday.  It actually really makes me think that I may go this route for curtain rods in the future, since the steel is thicker and stronger than a curtain rod, it doesn't need one of those goofy support bars in the middle.  You know what I'm talking about Patio Door.

Here's where things got dicey.  Without any sort of plan in place regarding HOW exactly we were going to hang the picture frames from the pipe, we did what any couple with hungry, restless children would do - we took them to the home improvement store!  I'll spare you the gory details but essentially we wandered around for an hour - that is not an exaggeration - listening to Owen sing One Direction and Britney Spears - trying to figure out a way to hang these.  At one point I even said, that's it, we need to be done, my brain is dead and I want to go home.  But Brent isn't a quitter and he wants our children to have grit - which means we keep going even when we want to quit.  Too bad I still need to learn this lesson.  And now I'm singing "Too legit, too legit to quit, hey hey!!"  So we powered through and by some miracle we ended up with the following:

          * metal hose clamps (choose a size that will fit the size pipe you bought) 
          * decorative chain from the lighting department
          * ceiling hooks

We went with ceiling hooks rather that eye bolts because it would make it easier to hook the chain to the frame - you'll see later on...

With parts in hand, we began by drilling pilot holes in the tops of the picture frames - we didn't measure anything out here, just eyeballed it.

Put a ceiling hook in and twist it down.

Using a nut driver, open up the hose clamp.  If you don't own a nut driver, a flat head screwdriver would work, but Brent says a nut driver makes it a lot easier.  Plus, that's my nickname "Nut Driver" when I'm behind the wheel.  Just kidding.

Then we located the middle chain link...since the chain we bought was the perfect length, we didn't need to remove any pieces, this is how it looked right out of the package.

Put the middle piece of chain through the open hose clamp...

And tighten the hose clamp around your steel pipe.

Then using the ceiling hooks that are screwed into the picture frames, hook them on the chain at whichever height you desire.  If you need to adjust the picture frame, in case it isn't hanging perfectly level, you can tighten or loosen the ceiling hooks or mess around with the hose clamp and how tightly it is squeezing the chain link at the top.  Ours didn't need any adjusting, everything hung perfectly but we knew we would be able to adjust it with those other means if necessary.  There are 2 or 3 links of chain leftover at the bottom, a person could remove those but we chose to leave them, in case we wanted to hang something of a different size there in the future.  Like the certificate I will likely receive for "most cupcakes eaten in a single sitting" award.

And now for a million "After" photos...I'll let you insert your own words, as long as they aren't swear words.

I wanted to include this photo, taken from the living room looking into the dining room, so you could get an idea of just how large the entire frame display is.  Substantial is probably a good word to describe it.  Or large and in charge.  And I like that you can see how the picture frames are the same color as the large mirror over the buffet.  You'd think I actually planned this...

I'd love to hear, or see, of any awesome ways you've figured out to hang family photos - and how often do you change out family pics?  I guess we're on a "every 4 years" basis.  That means we'll do this again when the kids are in middle school!

Monday, March 3, 2014

We've Been Framed!

The family photos on our dining room wall are almost 4 years old, you can mostly see them in this photo.  Owen was only a year old, which was so long ago that he barely recognizes himself when he looks at the photos.  But regardless of how old they are, we love to look at them during dinner together each evening.  
A good friend of ours took new family photos for us a few months ago, I just hadn't had a chance to do anything with them until recently.  Walgreens, which is conveniently only 3 blocks from our house, was having a sale on their cardboard poster prints.  And since these were cardboard poster prints, I knew if we built our own frames, it would eliminate the need for glass in the frames.

I ordered an 11x14 of each of the kids and a 16x20 of our family picture.  Total price = $35.00.
I had two requirements for the frames we were going to build - chunky and free.  Kind of describes my childhood.  Brent had a bunch of solid cherry scraps in the garage so he started by cutting these four pieces.
I flipped everything over so you could see what the back looked like.  Those holes are the pocket holes we drilled out with our Kreg jig.
When it's time to actually run the screws in, we use this Kreg clamp to hold everything flush.  Never underestimate a good set of clamps.
Adding extra moldings to further chunk it up seemed like an obvious choice, so Brent added this border around the edges.
Normally I would give things a good sanding at this point, but I really wanted these frames to feel rustic and rough with lots of texture, since that sort of plays in with all of our other furnishings.  Rustic and rough also means your kids can further destroy it and it simply "adds character".  No fancy things for the Kruse's!  Anyway, I stained both frames with an American Walnut color.  
Here's where I got stuck - I couldn't decide if I was going to paint the whole thing turquoise and sand some off or if I was going to leave the frame with just the stain - so I went down the middle of the road and chose to leave that outside border stained and just added a thin coat of paint to the interior frame.
With a rougher grit sand paper, I quickly sanded a small amount off shortly after the paint had dried.  I followed up the rough grit with a finer grit to get more detail and I also sanded more roughly around the edges of the frame.
I showed that picture above to my mom and she recommended adding an additional strip of moulding around the inside, to frame out the poster a little bit more.  One of the many reasons I love my mom - because she was absolutely right and I hadn't thought of that!!!
This next photo is after they've received a coat of poly - because I thought that would make them easier to dust.  I'm laughing now, so is Brent and my mom probably, because we all know the probability of me dusting is extremely small.  Ok, so maybe the poly coat will make it easier for me to blow the dust off.
We still have one more frame to build, for the 16x20 poster but since the temperature is -10 degrees today, it's impossible for us to work in the garage so we are on to other projects.  Hopefully we can get the third one built in the next few days and then we're working on a way to hang them in the dining room, which may be a win or a fail - we'll see!