26 August, 2011

My Laundry's Dirty Little Secret

Have you ever had one of those stains that no matter what you put on it, it just will NOT come out? Welcome to my laundry room! My husband is a farmer, and most days I don't even bother asking what the stain is. It's not coming out whether I know what it is or not. So, when a friend posted the link to this blog, where the author claimed she got out several different stains with a bar of Ivory soap and a wacky little product called Eco Nuts, I was intrigued. 

I had heard of Eco Nuts before, (if you haven't check this out) They are biodegradable, hypoallergenic, nut allergy safe, reusable (yes, really) and fragrance free. I like that last one, I HATE it when every cleaner has to smell like some fake rain forest. I'm allergic to a lot of the chemicals they use to make artificial fragrances (they give me a major headache). So the fact that these have no fragrance? OK, let's give it a try! 

I've been using the Eco Nuts for a week or two now and I must say my laundry comes out equally as clean as it does with traditional laundry detergent, with the added benefits of Eco Nuts being free of chemicals, artificial fragrance and artificial color (I mean, really! Who cares what color their laundry soap is anyhow?) Also, Eco Nuts are fairly cheap (and quite pack-able for ski vacation this winter, a bag with 4 Eco Nuts can be used for 10, yes T-E-N, loads of laundry!) so I'll skip the standard harsh detergents and use these. Also, you don't have to use fabric softener (even less funky fake smells!) and your clothes will still be soft. We'll see how it works without dryer sheets this winter. 

Now, you must understand that clothes in this house are either not going to have any stains, or they will be one large stain (obviously there are exceptions, but one of those options is the norm). I've tried just about every stain remover you can name (and some of the best known ones are the ones that work the least!) so I was more than a little skeptical by this blogger's claim that something as common as Ivory soap could get out stains. So I gave it a try on a BBQ sauce stain on my new pair of khakis (grrrr) and a blood stain (don't ask) on a pair of jean shorts. The results? Bye-bye stains! What?! Really? Hmmm, this just might be worth a try on my husband's work jeans. 

And so I present to you:

                          Exhibit A:                                                 Exhibit B:

The stains: Probably oil and grease of some kind, along with mud/dirt, maybe some diesel fuel. By the way, I'm talking machinery grease and oil here, you know, from tractors and grain trucks and combines, that sort of grease. I realize that in these pictures, these stains look like just dirt, but believe me, these jeans have looked pretty much exactly like this through several washes now. And yes, they've been through the dryer.

Here's what you'll need: 

Spray bottle and Ivory soap (clearly this is not a new bar of soap)
Because jeans absorb water, I had to kind of spray the stains and rub with the soap at the same time. You want it to kind of lather, it should look soapy (if that made sense).

Isn't it nice that I'm left-handed and shoot photos with my right hand?
I'm just ambidextrous like that :)
Here's what the jeans looked like all Ivory-ed up:

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

And, just for the fun of it, here's Exhibit C: (it's going into the wash without Ivory for comparison)

Into the wash they all go!

Along with the baggie of Eco Nuts

Alta needs to use the grass. Que Jeopardy music while you wait!
I hung the jeans outside to dry, so if they look a little stiff, that's why.


Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

And, last but not least, the control (yes, I watch Mythbusters, what's your point?) Exhibit C:

The stains on Exhibit C are somewhat lighter, but compared to A & B, they look like they need to be scrubbed with Ivory and put back in the wash! 

Conclusion: Even if you don't try the Eco Nuts, definitely give the Ivory soap a try! You've probably got a bar or two around somewhere. Shockingly cheap stain remover that actually WORKS! Thanks to Tonya at 4littlefergusons for posting the link to ChemicallyInclined

PS: I have an HE washer, but EcoNuts can be used in regular top-loaders as well!

19 August, 2011

Hot Cross Buns Revisited (and finally perfected!)

What was it I said about not being defeated by recipes? Clearly I have stubbornness issues and probably some "let-it-go" issues as well. I tried the "London Eats" recipe several times and came up with nothing but rock solid little buns. I still have no idea why that recipe won't work for me, and it still bothers me (there's that "let-it-go" thing again). Tonya suggested I try this recipe from the Pioneer Woman. It looked simple enough but it didn't have the spices of the London Eats recipe and I LOVED the flavor of those, even if they were little rocks. So I decided to combine them. The dough from Pioneer Woman's recipe, and the spices from the London Eats recipe. They turned out great on the first try!

Alright, to save you the trouble of figuring out how to combine these yourself, here ya go:

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup canola oil (please note that I do not own canola oil, I used olive oil, just so you know)
1/2 cup sugar
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup additional flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar (no that's not a typo, I meant to put sugar in there twice)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch ground cloves
1/2 cup sultanas (golden raisins)
1/2 cup currants

Combine milk, oil and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat until almost boiling, stirring occasionally. Just before it starts to boil, turn off the burner and let it sit for about 30 minutes. (I left it sit on the burner) 

Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and add the four cups of flour (one cup at a time) and stir to combine. The mixture will be very sticky (and that's an understatement!) Cover it and leave it for an hour.

Add the extra 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine. (I stirred with a fork) 

In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup of sugar (please note that Pioneer Woman's recipe says 1/4 cup, I used 1/2 cup because uuhhhh I can't read apparently) with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice and cloves.

Lightly flour your work surface and plop on the dough. Slightly flatten the dough then sprinkle on some of the sugar/spice mixture and about 1/3 of the sultanas and currants. Fold the dough over on itself and knead just a little, then repeat the sprinkle and knead process until the spices and raisins are mixed in. 

Divide the dough into 12 pieces (Pioneer Woman says to make them ping-pong ball sized, I made them a bit larger) and put them on a cookie sheet. (Do yourself a favor and line the sheet with parchment paper, the buns will come off SO much easier and are less likely to burn on the bottoms). Cover the buns and let them rise for another hour.

Heat the oven to 400. I skipped the milk and egg wash and the icing, you can add them if you want. Bake for 20 minutes until the buns turn golden brown.

What do ya know? I CAN make bread!

05 August, 2011

The Wind and Rain Still Know

This summer has been a test in patience for the farmers in this area. The complete lack of rain and ridiculously high temperatures have made for some not so fantastic looking crops (not to mention everyone's yards). According to our local TV station, August 2nd marked our 38th day this summer of temperatures over 100. We had 12 record highs, 3 of them hitting 111! Definitely a BIG change from February 10, when it was -17! Welcome to Kansas, people. 

A hopeful song through this desperately dry summer has been the hymn "Be Still, My Soul." My favorite line says, "Be still, my soul, the wind and waves still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below." I changed the word "waves" to "rain" and it works perfectly. The wind and rain still know His voice; they still obey Him. It will rain when God says it will rain. Believe me there have been a LOT of  begging God to tell it to rain this year!

Wednesday evening I had laundry hanging out on the line. The way I see it, if it's going to be this hot, I can at least put the sunshine to work. There were storm-looking clouds forming in the distance, but the storms have gone around us or fizzled out so many times this year that I wasn't worried about them. My husband told me to leave the laundry out there and maybe it would finally rain! I couldn't find any stats on how much rain we've had this year, but it's been close to a year now since the last time the ground had the kind of moisture it needs. I didn't want to forget and leave the laundry out until after dark because that part of our yard gets, well, dark. So I took them down. Then my husband and I (along with an ever present dog) went out to watch the "storm."  As the dark clouds approached, we became hopeful that it might actually rain on us this time! The clouds swirled and grew larger and I wished I had brought the camera outside because they were quite unique. It had been almost eerily calm, but as the front of the storm hit, the wind picked up. To a howl. Along with the wind, came dust. Enough dust that it became quite dark and the sky turned orange. We realized that what we had assumed was a rain shaft, was just dust. So I went in to get the camera. 

No, this is not a tornado, but it looked weird!

Still just dust!

That is dust you see close to the ground, not rain.

I had to wipe off the camera lens every time I took a picture or it would be covered in dust.
I forgot to wipe it before this picture.
My contacts were dry and my eyes and teeth felt gritty. But, behind the wind and the dust, came more wind (I mean, really, this IS Kansas) and rain! Huge, beautiful and cold raindrops that stung my face when they hit!

I have a video to prove how windy it really was, but I can't figure out how to get it to upload. I'm still new at this blogging thing! I think the local TV station said it was around 60 mph.

After a while, the rain stopped. Grateful for what we had, we went inside. Sometime later, my husband let the dog out to go, and it was raining again! This time it was a gentle rain with very little wind but lots of lightening. We heard a "pop" as lightening struck something close by, and expected the loud crash of thunder that usually follows something like that, but it never happened. The lights were still on in the house, but the strobe light that indicates that the irrigation system behind our house is running was no longer flashing. Thursday afternoon, my husband told me that pop of lightening we heard, had ruined the control panel for that irrigation system, as well as the pump for the system's well. So, that irrigation system is off for at least a few days (maybe weeks) until the new pump can get here. At this time of the year, it's pretty important that the irrigation keeps running 24/7, so it looks like we're back to praying for rain again! We have to trust God to provide water for that field now, since He took out the irrigation system.

As of right now, it's 3 p.m. and only 92 degrees! This is what August is SUPPOSED to feel like, but after the extreme heat of the past several weeks, it feels almost cool. We had 1.25 inches of rain Wednesday night. That beautiful rain brought not only much needed moisture, but relief from the heat. Even if only for a few days. "Be still, my soul, the wind and rain still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below." He sends the rain (and the wind and lightening!) in His time, no amount of leaving the laundry on the line or vehicle washing will make it come any sooner. I need to remember that I live on God's timeline, not He on mine. To listen to a full length version of this hymn, please click here. (Not my video, and I don't know who created it, but it's beautiful!)

currently drinking:
Coffee: Gevalia Indian Budan Peak - Oh yum! I love this stuff. Although, to be honest, I have yet to meet a Gevalia coffee that I don't like.

Tea: Twinings English Breakfast - This makes a rather strong cup of tea. Probably a good place to start if you're used to coffee and want to transition to tea, as it can be bitter (especially if you happen to over-steep it). It definitely takes some getting used to, but it's growing on me.