Friday, March 30, 2012

Goodbye Picnik, Hello Actions

Pin It So, I'm sad to say that picnik, my Favorite on-line photo editing software will be shutting down in April. I LOVED picnik! It was so easy and quick to use, EVERY photo I took went through picnik. I guess this means I will actually have to LEARN something new and start training on Photoshop Actions for editing my photos. I found this website, MCP, the other day. Yes, you can find free phtoshop actions all over the Internet, and a lot of them for free, but, I like MCP's approach with these. I downloaded the handful of free actions they offer for a test run. I love the instructions they provide in the zip files AND the online tutorials! I already knew how to load new actions, but, if you are a beginner in Photoshop or with actions, the video tutorial is really helpful! Here is a my test run photo, before and after. I used the following free actions -

MCP-High-Definition-Sharpening-for-PS
MCP-Mini-Fusion-for-PS
MCP-TouchOfLight-TouchOfDarkness-for-PS

and they also offered a free blog photo board, which I used for this test example.

MCP-Magic-Blog-It-Board-TRY-ME-for-PS


What do ya think? I'm pretty impressed. I have some learning to do on masking and just getting the right feel for each action, but, I'm liking it already and am finding that I can do so much more with this than with picnik. ;) MCP is now in my favorites bookmarks and I already have several action packages on my wish list!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spring Clean Yourself!

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 What are the first thoughts that come to mind when it's time for your annual spring cleaning projects? Taking apart all your windows and cleaning them with a q-tip (lol. that was my moms annual project), Shampooing carpets, or scrubbing down major appliances? Well, have you ever thought about spring cleaning yourself? I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit I focus so much of my time worrying about material items and never take the time or put the same amount of attention to my own body and "inner workings". Similar to the gunk build-up on the shelves of your fridge, the same thing happens inside, as well as outside your body throughout the year and can quickly slow you down and break you. Unfortunately, you can't run to sears or ace hardware to buy spare parts or even replace yourself. So, I know it's time that I take notice and create a spring clean check sheet for myself. Here is a great paragraph I received in my email from Jillian Michaels:

Our bodies are under assault every day. All the toxic chemicals in our environment wreak havoc on our health. The accumulation of these poisons in our lives become even more harmful when combined with bad habits like overworking, overeating, and not getting enough sleep. Your metabolism slows down. You store fat. You feel tired. And your health suffers. But making cleaner choices will help you take charge of your metabolism, so you can lose weight, feel healthy, and look amazing.

Check back later today to see a list of ideas for using natural and greener products (Yes... Vinegar!) for your body and beauty products!

Monday, March 26, 2012

the TRUE all purpose cleaner - in the bathroom

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The bathroom ALWAYS seems to be the dirtiest place in the house. And, I used to save this room for my heavy arsenal of cleaning products. And every time I cleaned the bathroom, I could smell and taste bleach for a week. Sure, it got the bathroom clean, but, was it really helping our health? Have you ever watched to see how far the spray reaches from your spray bottle? Did you ever stop to remove your tooth brushes or the roll of toilet paper from the room before spraying everything down with cleaner? Makes me cringe every time I think about how many chemicals I've been spraying on our sanitary items. I'm was so thankful to learn that using the harsh chemicals is unnecessary! Vinegar to the rescue! :)


Shower Curtains - Place your shower and bath curtains in the washing machine along with a bath towel. Add one cup of Vinegar during the rinse cycle. Dry on low for 3 minutes.

Shine Things Up - To return the shine to your chrome, stainless steel, ceramic, or plastic fixtures, 

Shower Head - To remove lime deposit corrosion from the shower head, simply soak it in a container filled with full-strength Vinegar overnight and replace.

Toilet Bowl - Use Vinegar to remove the ring. Pour in one cup of undiluted Vinegar. Let it stand for five minutes then flush.

Floors - For shiny, streak-less floors, use a solution of one-half cup Vinegar and one gallon of water to mop tile or linoleum. For really tough stains, apply undiluted Vinegar directly on the stain.

Tub and Tile - When bathtub and tile film builds up, simply wipe the surface with Vinegar and rinse with water.

Check out THIS POST for all the ways to use Vinegar in the Kitchen!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Pinterest Project - Daycare provider gift.

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I loved this idea on Pinterest. Recycle a tuna can, paint some used, dingy lookin' clothes pins, and make an adorable flower pot holder. I also loved the saying "Thanks for helping me grow" that I saw in another Pinterest project. I decided to marry the two and make some adorable spring gifts for my sons daycare providers. The colorful cactus worked perfect! Can't wait to give them away next week!


Friday, March 23, 2012

the TRUE all purpose cleaner

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You see "All purpose cleaner" on all kinds of cleaning products today. But I have to say, I've tried to use the "all purpose cleaner" on my counter tops, then use it inside the fridge, and finish on the windows... well, every time, I've found that it works great in 2 out of 3 areas. Not in ALL areas. Except for Vinegar!

Yes, distilled white vinegar is the TRUE all purpose cleaner. I remember the first time I saw vinegar in action... My mother cleans houses and businesses for a living and while we were growing up, we went with her and helped. My duties were ALWAYS emptying the trash cans and dusting. From time to time, she would ask me to do odd jobs like mopping a floor or clean the bathrooms. I look back now and realise she was teaching me how to clean EVERY area of the house. She used vinegar for cleaning coffee pots, stainless steel sinks, and windows. I always thought it was odd, because, vinegar was for dying Easter eggs... little did I know then, it's capable of so much more.



Vinegar in the Kitchen (cleaning!)

Coffee Pots - To eliminate unpleasant lime deposits that can build up and clog the inside heating element of your automatic drip coffee maker, once a month fill the reservoir with distilled white vinegar and run through the brew cycle. Rinse thoroughly with two cycles of water

Garbage Disposal - To keep your garbage disposal clean and fresh smelling, make some vinegar ice cubes. Mix one cup of white vinegar in enough water to fill an ice tray, freeze the mixture, and then grind the cubes through the disposal. Flush with cold water. 

Pots and Pans - Soak the insides of food-stained pots and pans in full-strength white vinegar for 30 minutes. Then rinse in hot, soapy water

Dishwasher - Cut the soapy film on your cloudy glassware by placing a cup of white vinegar on the bottom rack of your dishwasher, run for five minutes, then run through the full cycle. This will also reduce soap buildup on the inner workings. I use vinegar as my rinse aid as well.

Drain Clogs - To help prevent grease buildup and to keep your drains fresh smelling, pour a handful of baking soda down the drain pipe. Add one-half cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain tightly for a few minutes, then flush with cold water. 

Cooking Odors -  Just boil a tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup of water to eliminate those unpleasant fishy cooking smells. Rub some white vinegar on your fingers before and after slicing onions to eliminate the lingering after-aroma. To absorb stale, smoky odors, a bowl of white vinegar  placed in an out-of-the-way corner of any room works wonders, too.

Shine things up - To make your chrome fixtures, appliances, and counter tops gleam, rub away the streaks and smears with a cloth soaked in white vinegar.

Check back today for more tips on how to use vinegar in the Bathroom, Laundry Room, and other living spaces in your home!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

No {more} Excuses

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Well, all my stuff has finally arrived... so... I guess there are no more excuses! here we  go!

Products we Love

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I was so excited to receive our first Wittlebee box yesterday! If you haven't heard of Wittlebee, you're in for a treat. This company will ship you a box of children clothes, each month, for $39.99. These clothes are new clothes, brand name, and your box is put together by a style profile you fill out on their website. One of their stylists actually called me to verify that my form was correct and if there were any specific items I wanted in my box. Love the customer service. Yesterday, My status on their website was still listed as "packing", so, I was shocked to see the little yellow logo on a box delivered to our house! We opened it and spread the clothes out right away. I asked Wyatt to "pick your favorite one" and he stuck a "Great Job!" sticker on the hero t-shirt. LOL. The box consisted of American Apperal, Gap, and Old Navy. Thanks Wittlebee! Can't wait for the next box!

If you want to try it, I'll share a $10 discount on your first box! Fill out your style profile here!

Mattress Love

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Let's say that hind sight is 20/20 when it comes to buying a mattress for the first time. We found and bought the biggest, pillow-top mattress back in 2004. At the time, it was SO comfy, spacious, and almost like sleeping on a cloud. Who knew you were suppose to buy a mattress cover... Everyone but me I guess....

Over these past 7 years, coffee, one route 44 cherry coke from Sonic, a full cup of milk, and a few pairs of wet pants (by my son) have stained this, not-so-puffy cloud. I've used carpet cleaner, stain remover, Oxi-Clean, and fabreez to try and remove the stains AND mask the faint, funky smell. I now know that the surface may look a little better, but, I have been dumping more and more chemicals into the padding of our bed, the place we spend 33% of our life. EWW!!! Makes me want to burn it and start over. BUT until I can do that, I've been using a mixture recipe I found on Pinterest in a last ditch effort.

Ingredients:
Baking Powder
Essential Oil

Tools:
Mason Jar
Fork
Strainer
Vacuum

I went ahead and mixed up a large mason jar full of this stuff so that I have plenty for next time too.
I fill the large mason Jar with baking soda, drop in 5-10 drops of essential oil (we now use lavender... I first used patchouli and it was a little too much... My hubby said we smelt like hippies...lol...)
The original recipe says to shake the jar to mix up the powder and oil, but, I found that the drops of oil were only coated by the powder and didn't mix in too well, some even stuck to the jar and the lid. SO, I took out a fork and really stirred it up. The original recipe also says to use a Kitchen strainer, but, I didn't have one and didn't really want to use something that would be hard to wash after it comes into contact with the oils. SO, I just took the mason jar, poked holes in the lid, and sprinkled the mixture onto the mattress. This then put some larger clumps on the bed, so, I took a small dusting brush and brushed over the mattress to spread the powder. This also seemed to help the powder get INTO the mattress and not just dust the surface.

picture from original post. I refuse to document mine in a photo...
 I do this every other Sunday, taking the sheets off and starting this process first thing in the morning, well, after my coffee anyway. I then leave it on ALL day. Using the hose end of your vacuum and an upholstery attachment, thoroughly vacuum the mattress.  Bye, bye dust mites and other nasty things (and smells!).  The baking soda helps draw up any moisture and deep dirtiness.  It deodorizes and leaves the mattress smelling fresh and clean.


I love cleaning the mattress and then rolling around and playing with my son on our freshly cleaned cloud. It smells SO nice and relaxing and I know I can sleep at ease by doing something natural and not dumping another gallon of chemicals. I plan to spread out all of our pillows this spring and do the same thing to each. I've found that by washing our pillows, they then become lumpy. So, maybe this will do the trick.

More great tips for your spring cleaning efforts:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Drying Time

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My spring cleaning by going green this year isn't just about making my own cleaning products. I believe going green should also be about saving money too and working towards self sufficiency.

I really like the term "off the grid"... meaning: (in part) "Usually when people say they are living “off the grid” they mean that, very simply, their home doesn’t get its electricity from the power lines. Instead, they’re living without electricity, or generating their own. However, the term is sometimes used to mean something broader. “Living off the grid” can imply that you’re self-sufficient in other ways, too: For example, you may be getting your water from a well, and heating your home with a wood stove. Being completely off grid would make you completely independent of the utility companies!"Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/ask-our-experts/living-off-the-grid.aspx#ixzz1pmVFSjo5

One SMALL way I'm moving us closer to "off the grid" is by using our appliances less and nature more. Besides, people survived many years ago without a Maytag dryer. We should be able to use the gifts given to us to sustain. And flourish. My first step is line drying our clothes. I've wanted to do this for years, but, the trees in our back yard house lots of little winged friends who don't have a designated spot for using the rest room. In other words, spotted clean clothing is our result. And drying them on wooden racks in the house didn't seem to be possible either... it was taking days for these wet clothes to dry.... UNTIL... I found this wonderful blog. thepeacefulmom.com

One of her many wonderful tips is to put your wet clothes in the dryer, on high, for only 10 minuets. make sure to use a kitchen timer, as, your dryer timer has a built in cool down system (your clothes won't get a full 10 minuets of high heat). This short amount of time with high heat starts the drying process in your clothes. quickly take them out and then lay/hang them out on drying racks. The clothes will continue to dry. Again, I was skeptical, as, I've tried drying clothes on racks before and it took days. This time, I put the clothes next to our back door and let the spring breeze blow through the screen. And whala...by morning, an entire load was dry. including jeans (well, baby jeans anyway). I can't wait to continue this and compare last month's energy bill to next months bill. Will there be a change? I hope so. Another great thing is, with the clothes spread out on racks clearly visible from our kitchen, (and somewhat blocking the back door) things get put away quicker. And with urgency (especially when my mother is dropping by...) :)

I dislike {insert random object here} because...

Pin It I dislike {RED.VELVET.TRUFFLES} because...




These sneaky little balls of sin keep popping up in my life! I can't get away from them! They are made by my friend Kelly Duggan at Velvet Cream Bakery. I'm being teased constantly at work about this. We have a freezer full of these guys (left over from a party) and I'm reminded how GREAT they go with coffee, how awesome they are right out of the freezer, and with them being so small, you can actually grab a handful at a time. Why does this bother me so much? Because the red velvet ones are my FAVE!!! and I'm cutting out all of the extra sugar from my diet. It's bad enough that I can't have soda, I have to cut the sweetness in my coffee, but you have to tempt me with truffles too?!?! Well, I guess I'll see what my will power is made of!

Wait... what did you say? what do you mean there were TWO truffles... I don't know what you're talking about... it's a mystery....


a mom blog community

DYI Laundry Detergent

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I know all of my followers and friends will probably roll their eyes when they see this post... Yes... I'm talking about the DYI Laundry Detergent again! Bare with me...

I can't get off my soap box with this product! (hahaha... sorry, that pun was a little too cheesy) I made my first batch in January this year and have been using it for EVERY LOAD since. And I still LOVE it. So much so, I have made two batches since, to bottle and share with others (note... I'm still using the first batch for my laundry). I wish I could take full credit for this wonderful concoction, but, I found it on Pinterest. You can find the original recipe here.

 http://frugallygreen.blogspot.com/2008/05/how-to-make-your-own-laundry-soap.html

Here are the products and tools needed to get started:


Recipe:
1/3 bar of Fels Naptha grated
1/2 cup Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax powder

Instructions:
Grate the Fels Naptha Soap  (I found a cheese grater with container attached. Works like a charm!) I suggest doing this ahead of time. It's a great thing to do while watching your favorite show... it takes about 10-20 minuets to grate the whole bar. I grate the whole thing and put the extra in zip lock bags for later. Put grated soap in a large soup pot. Add 6 cups of water and heat on low until soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens. The original recipe said it would get almost as thick as honey. well, mine never has, so, I stir until it is thicker than when I started.(about 10-20 minuets) Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into soap mixture. Pour this into a 2-5 gallon bucket. Now add 22 cups (1 gallon plus 6 cups) of water and stir. Let sit about 24 hours with the lid off and it will gel. After 24 hours, you will need to mix it up to blend in the gel and the liquid bottom. I use my emulsion blender. Works great. I then add my essential oil and blend one more time. 20-25 drops. I then pour into my containers. I found some cheap ones that have great lids that close tight. You will have to shake up your soap before using each time.

I was so happy to find most of my product at one store. I didn't have to travel several different places to pick it all up. I did have to look around for the essential oils. You wanna make sure you are using the real thing when it comes to these. I picked up three different scents and have been using "Creative Juices" for my laundry smell. The name fit the project and the smell is fresh and a little spunky. ;)

I use this detergent to soak clothes that maybe a little dirtier than others. I soak them for 2 hours in our sink with 1/4 cup of detergent. If you have a nasty stain, you can take the Fels-naptha bar and rub it directly on the stain before soaking. Works great! the soap is also delicate enough for our little furry friends (not to be mistaken with LIVE furry friends!) I have a since of ease knowing my little boy will be snuggling up to he best pal, chemical free. ;)



When I first realized how much money this DYI detergent was going to save me, I was a little skeptical of the quality. It must be "too good to be true"... right? If it's this cheap to make, all natural, and works... how can these brand name products stay in business?! (but that's another discussion I'll save for later...)

Cost:
Laundry Detergent Ingredients: TOTAL - $9.53
You will need Super Washing Soda (make sure you get the washing and not baking soda) - $3.24 55oz
Borax - $4.29 4lb box
Fels-Naptha Soap - $2.00 for a bar

(Optional) Essential Oil - prices vary on flavor. I paid $10.00 for one bottle which will last a LONG time and I bought local, so, the price is going to be higher. I found a bottle of the same stuff online for $6.00... Here is the fine print for this essential oil: No synthetic preservatives, colors or fragrances. Inspire and nurture your creativity with this energizing and uplifting blend of citrus, spice, and mint aromas. Creative Juice Essential Oil Ingredients: Citrus Bergamia (Bergamot) Bergaptene-Free Oil, Citrus X Limon (Lemon) Oil, Elettaria Cardamomum (Cardamom) Seed Oil.

Not sure how many batches this will make since I haven't used it all yet. BUT, I've made three batches so far (1 batch = 2 gallons of soap) and one gallon of this soap = 120 loads if I use a 1/4 cup per load. (if you use a top loader washer, you may want to use 1/2 cup due to the amount of water used per load). I have a front loader washer! just in case you were wondering. :)

So, I figured it up, a 1.17 gallon bottle of a brand name laundry soap (in a red bottle and starts with a T) costs $20.46 and gives you 96 loads. I have made 6 gallons of soap so far (still have lots of product left to make more) for roughly the same price (I'm including the cost of essential oils), giving me 720 loads... 96 loads VS 720+ loads AND I'm doing it with natural products....

WOW. This post is getting longer and longer. LOL

I'll be posting later today on a clever trick I found on another lovely lady's blog on how to save money when using the dryer. ;)  It works and is also helping us get laundry DONE and put away quicker! Bonus!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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HELLO FIRST DAY OF SPRING! I'm excited to say that I'm participating in a blogger's challenge this spring for cleaning! More work you say? to not only clean, but to blog about it too?! Nah... just makes it more fun and now I'm REALLY held accountable to get the job done! :) In addition to blogging myself, there is a list of ladies out there blogging about their projects too! Follow this link to check out  their tips, plans and goals http://tidymom.net/2012/how-to-clean-dishwaher/#more-17031

Because I'm a huge fan of the FLY Lady, (if you have heard of her or her cleaning methods, check it out here www.flylady.com) I really don't need to do a FULL spring clean make-over of my house... I work on areas all year long! So, this spring, I've decided to clean my house of harsh chemicals, save my budget from expensive brand name products, and help mother earth by reducing, reusing and recycling MORE in our home! Hooray!

With discovering Pinterest, this process has become easier! the DYI section is flooded with great ideas and recipes ranging from DYI laundry detergent (my fave!) to teeth whitener! Who would've thought?! So, my goal is to fill up my Spring Clean and go Green pin board with these ideas and try each one to see if it really works!  You can follow my Pinterest board here http://pinterest.com/lharvey81/spring-clean-and-going-green-2012/

Check out my blog tomorrow to see the recipe I use for the DYI laundry detergent AND how I save money on drying clothes. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

...some day... he is gonna grow up

Pin It After work today, W and I decided to walk to the park down the block. There must have been 20 kids running around the equipment, some kicking a soccer ball. W was super excited to get out of the wagon to join them. I decided to sit on the side walk and allow him to figure it all out. As I sat there in the sun, watching him run after the kids, a little girl (I'm guessing 6 or 7) in thick rimmed glasses, wearing a hot pink basket ball jersey came over to me and leaned against a pole...

" you know... some day... he is gonna grow up... and you're going to cry" she said matter-of-factly.

Little did she know, W is turning two tomorrow and I was already on the verge of bawling my eyes out about it. How did two years go by SO fast?!?! Just last year he was taking his first steps at this very same park and now he was chasing a soccer ball around, careless if I was there holding his hand or not...

Almost a year ago today
As I starred off into space (I'm sure the tears were building up in my eyes along with the knot in my stomach) this little girl took a couple of steps closer to me and said,

" keep him in the house as long as you can... when he is 18... you just have to let him go."

I smiled at her and said "Thanks honey... I will do that". Obviously, wise beyond her years, It was meant for her and I to cross paths today. To remind me not to get caught up in the busyness of life, but, to enjoy the time I have with this boy... until he is 18 of course. ;)

Words of Wisdom

Pin It I've seen a lot of fun quotes on Pinterest that I'd love to use for my Project Life book, only, most of them don't go with my own look and feel. So, I'm taking them one-by-one and redesigning them. Including some others that a friend asked me to do (pro bono) for her classroom. :) Feel free to pin/print/share/keep for yourself! :)

I love this one. I need to remind myself of this constantly. And now, I find myself going through the list when others speak too! Ha!

Pro Bono

Pin It Pro Bono is really the way to go. If you can afford to do so. And really, we all can. Pro Bono just means the giving of yourself and your talents to help another without expecting anything in return. You know... Do for others...

And what's funny (or I should say, amazing) is, I always seem to be blessed even more with these projects, rather than a check for money.  And just as I finish up two small projects, two larger ones fall in my lap! YES! can't wait to see what comes of these. :) Below are the two logo designs I did last week.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

WHAT happened?!

Pin It Ok, so, if you are currently following my blog, you might be a little confused with all the changes in the past couple of months. And now, ALL the past posts are GONE?!? Well, unfortunately, I'm never happy with my own design and I'm constantly changing things. For the deletion of all the previous posts, well, I some how LOST all my photos from my blog. What's a blog post without the photo? Especially since most of my posts were about design or art?! I decided to remove all the empty text and start a-new.

It actually worked out good this way, as, my first post is about spring cleaning! :) The first day of spring is March 20th (next week!) and I'm so excited to be participating in an online, blogger challenge! You can read more about it by clicking on the image. With all the fun new DYI things I've found on Pinterest, you bet I'm gonna share all the recipes and how they worked for me! Can't wait to get started!