Archive | June, 2011

Tuesday Challenge: Peanut Butter

28 Jun
both peanut butters

What, you don't eat spoonfuls of peanut butter? DIY on left, Buy on the right.

Sigh. I had high hopes for homemade peanut butter. Really, I did. And I blame the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market.

There’s this vendor there that sells fresh veggies and also, over to one side, peanut butter and other nut butters: Cashew butter. Almond butter. Plain peanut butter. Chocolate peanut butter. They’re delicious. Rob and I got sucked in a few years ago by the little old woman who was helping sell them. We were sampling the wares, and being picky shoppers and asking questions. She was answering us back with sass: Of course it’s good. They’re ALL my favorite. Store it on the counter top, not in the fridge. And then, on the cusp of buying, we asked how long it would last. She laughed at us. “Oh, it’ll keep a long time,” she said, “but I promise you, it won’t last.”

We were sold.

The obviously hand-crafted peanut butter is somewhere between creamy and chunky, smooth with small bites of peanuts in it, not overly oily, sweet but not too sweet and utterly delicious. Better than the store-bought stuff, even than the natural store-bought stuff. The ingredient list is simple, and all things we had on hand. I can make this, I thought.

And so I tried. And it turned out… not as expected.

Challenge: Peanut Butter 

Continue reading

DIY Laundry Soap and HE Washers

23 Jun
red HE washer

Wow. Some HE Washers now come with pretty graphics. (From LG)

It seems that one of the biggest questions regarding DIY laundry soap is: Can I use it in my HE washer? Lots of people say they use it in their HE washers, and it works wonderfully.

But is anecdotal evidence good enough for this pseudo-scientist? Well, actually, yes, and if I had a HE washer, I’d feel comfortable using it based on those recommendations. But I had some time to kill this evening, so I decided to dig deeper.

Continue reading

Tuesday Challenge: Laundry Detergent

21 Jun
adding laundry detergent to the washing machine

Step One: Add Homemade Laundry Detergent!

CONFESSION: I like doing laundry. I don’t know why, but I do. I don’t so much like the folding and putting away of laundry, but I like having big fluffy piles of clean, fresh-smelling clothes. And I like getting to pull something freshly warmed out of the dryer. I even like the swishy whir sound of the washer, working away in the background. I dream of a house that has a bright laundry room with a cabinet with shelving and neatly ordered supplies and a wall-mounted ironing board and a window to let in a little sunlight. (I also dream of a house with a very large kitchen, but that‘s another post.) And don’t even get me started on sun-dried clothes – the way they smell all sweet and summery? Divine. (Except for jeans. Jeans need a dryer.)

So, when my friend/blogger Cat of Hipster Housewife suggested a detergent-making party (she was already through her first batch, and she SWEARS by the homemade stuff), I was all in. Along with a few other friends, we made epic amounts of laundry detergent to share. But now I have a fourth of an epic amount of laundry soap, which is still quite a lot, plus all the stuff needed to make detergent until approximately 2026. And so I need to know (since I’m going to be using it for quite some time), how does my homemade laundry detergent stack-up to the store-bought laundry detergent?

Challenge: Laundry Detergent

Continue reading

Another Sugar Scrub!

17 Jun
scrub ready for use

The Olive Oil and Sugar Scrub

Okay, so earlier this week I posted about a sugar scrub. It was lovely and wonderful and it smelled great, but it required a few specialty ingredients. Namely, sweet almond oil and essential oils. (Well, the essential oils weren’t required, but they really did help.)

Anyway. I also made a second batch of scrub, that uses only things you can find at the grocery store – no extra shopping trips or goofy specialty oils. Ready?

Continue reading

Tuesday Challenge: Body Scrub

14 Jun
Body scrub!

Lavender-Lemon Body Scrub!

I have a deep and abiding affection for scrubby products. When I was younger, it was because my skin was a mess and I liked to imagine the scrubs were helping clear out the gunk. Now, I like them after my long-run weekend workouts: It gets rid of all the caked-on sweat, and massaging it on is kind of like a reward for my legs, a little “thanks for not falling off back at mile 8” sort of thing. (Not that they would fall off, but you know…)

Anyway, the problem with commercial scrubs? You get what you pay for. For example: Drug-store St. Ives Apricot Scrub? Highly effective, very affordable… but also rough and drying on the ol’ skin. (Yes, I know it’s marketed for the face. But it works everywhere.) Special-order Arbonne SeaSource Foaming Sea Salt Scrub? (My favorite!) Fantastic on the ol’ skin, but a bit harsh on the wallet. Now, we all need little indulgences, but I like to save my indulgences for things I can’t replicate myself, like a good haircut or a really awesome butterscotch malt. Does body scrub really fit that category?

Challenge: Body Scrub
Continue reading

Tuesday Challenge: Pina Colada

7 Jun
beach in mexico

This is not a pina colada; this is a beach in Mexico. But I bet you want a pina colada right about now, don't you?

Summer is here, in all its sun-drenched, mid-90s-temperatures glory. (Proof: I got so distracted playing in the garden last night that I almost forgot to finish this post. Ooops.) Anyway, summer really means that my favorite winter drinks (rye and ginger ale, heavy brown beers) are put aside in favor of lighter things. Like vodka gimlets, gin ‘n’ tonics, and the biggest, goofiest tropical cocktails I can get my hands on.

First and foremost of those has to be the pina colada. A few recent heat-soaked trips (see above) made rum seem perfecto – and when we came home to equally hot days, it continued to seem perfecto. Rum is crisp, slightly sweet and fantastically cooling, all at once. Add the tangy sweet-sour notes of pineapple and the creaminess of coconut, and what do you get? Blissful relief in the middle of a sweltering, melty day.

But certain people (erm… me) sometimes feel ridiculous ordering giant fruity drinks in bars. So, the question became, how best to make the pineapple wonder at home? Buy a premade mix, or create one of our own with cream of coconut and pineapple juice?

Challenge: Pina Colada

Continue reading

Growing Brussels Sprouts

4 Jun
Brussels sprouts

Keep growing, little sprouts!

Sunny gardening space is at a bit of a premium in our yard. And by “a bit” I mean, we only have one small strip of sunny land, over on the south side of the garage, and each year its contents are determined by a Battle Royale between Rob the Butterfly Garden Fan and Amanda the Passionate Vegetable Grower. Alas for the local butterfly population, I typically win. And while space is at a premium, I do try to find something new to test among the must-have tomatoes and bell peppers and green beans. One year it was tomatillos (raging success). One year it was bush cucumbers (wholesale failure). This year… ‘Jade Cross’ Brussels sprouts!

Continue reading