DIY Citrus Vinegar Cleaner

Posted by Angela Diaz on April 4, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

     My latest DIY experiment was a succes, so I have to share it. I generally use a vinegar/water solution to clean many surfaces. I do this because it's cheaper, and because it doesn't expose my family and our environmnet to toxic chemicals. There is also a lot less waste when you're not buying all kinds of cleaners in various bottles and containers.

     l decided to try out a citrus-scented vinegar cleaner solution I found online.  It's very easy to make. All you have to do is stuff orange peels in a jar, fill with vinegar and let sit for a few weeks or more.  I used old spaghetti jars.

      After the orange peels have sat in the vinegar for a few weeks, using a strainer, pour the citrus-scented solution into another container filtering out the orange peels.  To use, put the citrus solution in your spray bottle, dilute with some water (maybe 75% solution to 25% water, or 50/50, whatever you like). Now just spray on surfaces and clean.  I like this because it doesn't smell like pure strong vinegar when I clean. It does have the nice citrus scent.  You can also use this same method to make Lemon-scented cleaner; just use lemon peels in place of orange peels.

Started My Gardening Season

Posted by Angela Diaz on March 29, 2014 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

     Well, finally we had a little break in the cold weather last weekend and I jumped on the opportunity to run outside and get som gardening done.  My yard looked like a horrible wreck all winter long and I just ached for all the horrendous snow to melt so that I can get some things started. Here's what I got done:

1. Planted 3 raspberry and one blackberry cane

2. Planted 2 blueberry bushes

3. Planted my garlic cloves

4. Repaired three of my raised beds. One or two sides of three of my raised beds have fallen down. I made these about five years ago with non-treated wood planks. Should have used cedar. It's more expensive, but doesn't rot as quickly. Still, for the few bucks these cost, they lasted five years and will serve me well this season too.

5. Fluffed up the soil in my garden beds (tell you what...the soil is so soft, rich and dark!)

6. Cut the branches in pieces that were pruned off my apple tree in January.

7. Tilled up about 10 x 10 foot area of my yard and removed the weeds.

8. Repaired some of the nets on my trellises and set up two of them. The other two still need some parts of the net repaired and then they'll go up too.

     Overall, it was a very productive day and I felt very accomplished.  Here are more some things I would like to add to my garden this year:

1. Cherry tree

2. Peach tree

3. Jerusalem artichoke bed

4. Grape vine

     If all goes well, I will have apples, plums, peaches, cherries, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries fruiting every year on their own.  What an accomplishment that would be.  I've never grown blueberries, raspberries or blackberries before so I hope what I put in will do well.  I've also never grown grapes before. I'm starting off with a concord grape vine this year and if that goes well, I'd like to get two other grape varieties.  I will achieve ultimate stardom (in my own eyes) if I can build a hen house and have about three egg-laying hens. Technically, I'm not allowed to have hens in the city, but I'm going to see if I can get away with it.  The only way I'll get in trouble if one of my neighbors rats me out, but I don't see why they would if the hens don't cause a ruckus.  If they wanted to complain about something, they should have complained about my barking pit-bulls by now.

     I did all this last Saturday.  This weekend I was hoping to build my grape vine support (planning to use two split-board posts and two 11-foot long split board rails).  Unfortunately, it's raining all weekend, so I didn't get anything done. (sad face). 

     I have so many new projects and learning experiences planned this year.  I'm already trying to grow new things (I'll post the success or failure of my experiments).  I'd like to take food preservation to a whole new level.  I want to learn to make jams and jellies and can them, learn how to use a pressure canner to can green beans and corn and such, and learn to make new recipes with my bounty.  If I get blueberries, for example, I'd like to make a blueberry pie.  I don't eat pies, but maybe it'll taste better if I make it myself from what I grew in my yard.  Kind of like how I don't like apple sauce but when I made it, HOLY COW! It was delicious! Maybe I can even learn how to make raspberry tea from the leaves of the raspberry vines (if that's what you make raspberry tea with).  One thing about urban homesteading is that this never gets old or boring. There is absolutely always something new to try or learn to do.  Every single thing I learn to do on my own not only saves me money, but it's always healthier for my family and more sustainable for our environment. It's a win/win/win thing. I can feel 100% good about what I'm doing.

Finally Finished With All the Apples!!

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 10, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

     Okay I have the final numbers.  I bought three bushels of apples for $36 and this is what came out of it:

2 1/2 gallons plus 48 ounces of apple cider

19 pints of apple sauce

5 pints of apple slices

6 whole apples to pack in lunch

     I must admit, that was a whole heck of a lot of apples and apple processing! Would I ever do that again? You bet. It was so worth the cost.   My favorite apple cide made by a local farm costs $6/gallon (if you're lucky).  My apple cider was just as good (if not better).  I learned a lot with this experiment:

1. When I went to the orchard outlet, I was curious to find out how they still had amazingly fresh apples months after the harvest.  I asked an employee and they said they keep their apples in a very large refrigerator at 30 degrees.  In a normal household fridge, your eggs, milk, and just about everything would freeze at that temperature. Apples don't freeze until about 25 degrees so keeping them just above their freezing level preserves them for a long time. How cool is that!?

2. I learned how to make some pretty amazing applesauce that everyone seemed to love so canning them in half-pint jars was a bad idea. My first batch of applesauce was 12 half-pint jars.  By the end of the week they were all gone. Evidently, with apple sauce this good, a half-pint jar is a single serving size.

3. I learned how to operate a juicer and make apple cider. I also learned that it was just as good when it thawed out from its frozen state.  Sometimes the apple cider seemed too tart or too strong.  Adding some water until it tasted right was fine.

4. I found a new tasty apple I had never tried before. Cameo apples are comparable to my favorite apple, Honey Crisp.  Cameos are very crunchy and sweet.  Honey Crisps can be hard to find and expensive.  I will absolutely be purchasing a bushel of Cameos for fresh eating later.

5. I learned that if I plan to make more apple sauce and apple cider again in the future, it's wise to invest in a cranking apple peeler, corer, and slicer. I spent hours peeling, coring and slicing apples. It would have all been done in half an hour tops if I had the right equipment. I am so getting one of these before I do this again:

Making Apple Sauce

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 5, 2014 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

     Making apple sauce was so much easier than I thought. To be honest, I don't like apple sauce. I made it because I know that my kids will eat it, but I was quite surprised by how my apple sauce came out and I really like it!  Having control over the ingredients and the texture makes all the difference in the world!  I used three kinds of apples, Cameo, Pink Lady, and Stayman. 

     I washed, peeled, cored, and sliced enough apples to fill a large pot.  It's important to remember to put the apples in a container of cold water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from becoming discolored while you work on peeling and cutting the rest of the apples.

     Put about an inch of water in a large pot. Put all the apple slices in the large pot (without the water they've been soaking in!) and let cook on medium/high heat.  Stir the apples every minute or so and use a potato masher to help them along as well. They will get soft and mushy as you stir and mash.  When the mash is at a desirable texture, add some sugar and cinammon to taste.

     At this point I already had my canning equipment ready to go.  I had my bath canner full of boiling water and the jars sterilizing in it.  I also had my jar lids and bands in a sauce pan simmering.  Now, don't use this as a guide to canning. Please refer to the Ball Book of Home Preserving or other resources for step-by-step directions.  Anywho, I took out the sterilized jars, ladled the hot apple sauce into them, covered them with the lid and secured with the bands. I placed them in the water bath canner for twenty minutes, took them out to cool and listened to the cute little 'POP' sounds of the lids securing themselves.


     This was my very first time making apple sauce and it's been an absolute success. My kids like it, I like it, and I even had a few of my coworkers try it out. I've gotten some feedback on how good this apple sauce is, but my favorite one was "This is the best home-made applesauce I have ever tried".  That says a lot.  I know it's better than store-bought, but saying that it's better than some other home-made applesauces is a pretty big deal since this is my first time.  I'm very happy with how this all came out.

Making Apple Cider

Posted by Angela Diaz on February 5, 2014 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     My newest experiments have involved apples.  I went to the Cherry Hill Orchards outlet store and purchased three bushels of apples. Each bushel was a different variety of apple.  I bought one bushel of Cameo apples, one bushel of Pink Lady apples, and one bushel of Stayman apples.  I heard you should use at least three different varieties of apples to make a good cider.  Three bushels should be enough to conduct experiments with.  As of today I have made 2 gallons of apple cider, 6 pints of apple slices for pies, and 6 pints of apple sauce.  I still have plenty more apples to put up.  Maybe I'll make another gallon of cider, another few pints of apple sauce and a few more pints of apple slices. The three bushels cost me $36 and I already feel like I got my money's worth.

     Today I'll just be going over my process of making apple cider.  I've learned a lot from making my first gallon and the next day when I made my second gallon, the process went so much more smoothly. As it is with all things, you learn as you go and tweak your process to make it better the next time.

     First, I went onto Craigslist and found a juicer new in the box for $40.

     I washed and cut up about 12 apples.  I figured out how many of each apple to cut up to make a half gallon.  I won't share that number because the size and type of apple you use makes all the difference in the world so I don't want to lead you astray. The Cameo apples I got are very large so out of the 12, only three of them were Cameo.  Not only were they sliced in traditional wedges, but I also cut those wedges in half cross-wise because I found out that sometimes when I put the wedges in the juicer shoot, they get wedged (ha ha, wedges get wedged!) in because they don't always stay straight and get knocked sideways. 

     I have one large mixing bowl of the half wedges, a large measuring cup to catch the juice, a gallon sized mason jar with a canning funnel in the mouth of it and a small strainer inside that. I put a kitchen towel under the juicer to catch any leaks, messes that may occur (learned this from my first experience).  

     The juicer is so easy to operate, I had my little one help out.

     From this point, just keep tossing the apples in the juicer and when the large glass gets full, pour it through the strainer and into the half gallon mason jar.  At this point, I disassemble the juicer and give it a quick wash.  I've learned that it can get clogged up and start leaking out the sides when too much apple pulp covers the majority of the holes.

     I filtered the apple cider a second time by putting a cheesecloth in the strainer.  The jars got placed in the freezer for later use.  Making apple cider is easy and the taste of course depends on the apples you use.  I will be using different apples the next time I make this recipe.  I used a lot of very sweet and somewhat tart apples so the cider is very strong.  Next time I'll throw in a few of my not-so-favorite bland varieties to balance out the taste.

Thrift Store Treasures

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 22, 2014 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

     I like thrift store shopping.  Scratch that. I LOVE thrift store shopping.  I like to go to the Salvation Army on Wednesdays because they have 50% off almost everything except a specified color tag. I am sharing what I got this week for $23.  I went there looking for bed sheets to cut up into strips to make a braided rug for my bedroom (a project I'll share with ya'll as well).  Anyways. Here's what I got:

I found two bundles of new fabric, five sheets for my project, two uniform school pants for my daughter, and six large spools of strong thread that I plan to use for rug-making.

Look at all this fabric! There must be twenty yards of this stuff!

And at least five or six yards of this lovely blue that matches perfectly with the other fabric stash.

My plans for this fabric is to make some of these all-purpse or re-usable grocery bags.  I've made these before and they are awesome! I love them and use them every day.  I want to make a bunch of these to raise money to buy a pressure canner. Pressure canners can cost about a hundred bucks or more for a good one.  I would like to get my hands on one before I end up giving away half my harvest due to lack of proper canning equipment.

I couldn't wait to get out the sewing machine, so I made up a quick apron for my youngest daughter. She always wanted one and always uses mine when she "helps" wash dishes. Now she has her own and she absolutely loves it.

I'm glad that she is showing an interest in the things I do.  I plan to teach her as much as possible the skills that schools don't teach any more. She's only five years old, but she knows what a pressure foot on a sewing machine is, how to turn the machine on, and how to press the pedal to make it go.  Little by little she will learn so that by the time she is a young adult, she will have all the knowledge it me countless hours of library research, internet surfing, and experiments and mistakes to learn.

DIY Laundy Liquid Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 22, 2014 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     I've had a lot of requests for this recipe.  I haven't purchased laundry detergent in over a year.  I was sick and tired of paying over ten bucks for a container of Tide.  It wasn't just the cost, it was my sensitive skin and all the chemicals used in most laundry detergents that I was sick of dealing with. So anyways, I found a recipe that makes three gallons of laundry detergent at a time.  I spent ten dollars in ingredients over a year ago, and still have enough of the ingredients left to make at least another four 3-gallon batches. So here it is:

1 bar of Ivory soap (grated into shavings)

1 cup of Borax (found in most stores in laundry detergent aisles)

1 cup of Arm and Hammer All Natural Super Washing Soda

3 gallons of water

Directions: Put one gallon of water, 1 cup of Borax, and 1 cup of Washing Soda in a large pot and cook and stir constantly over medium heat until all soap flakes are dissolved.

In a 5-gallon bucket, pour two gallons of hot water.  Add hot soapy mixture to the 5-gallon bucket. Stir it up and cover.  Let sit over night. It will get its gloppy consistency.  I call my laundry detergent Laundry Snot.

I stir up the contents of the 5-gallon bucket every time I re-fill my laundry detergent bottle (an old Tide bottle). I use the same Tide lid to measure my laundry detergent. I use the same amount as when I used Tide.  No one can tell that I don't use store-bought and use my own home-made laundry detergent.  My clothes are always clean and my skin doesn't break out in allergic rashs due to harsh laundry chemicals. 

For fabric softener, I put white vinegar in my Downy ball and toss it in. Vinegar is a natural fabric softener and it works just fine.  I don't mind that my laundry doesn't come out super-scented, but one can add a few drops of essential oils for scent if needed.

DIY Liquid Body Wash

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 22, 2014 at 8:50 PM Comments comments (0)

      Last week we ran out of bars of soap.  Me being the cheapskate that I am, keep all the little pieces of soap bars that are too small to wash with. You know the ones I'm talking about. You usually throw them out.  I have a container in the bathroom that we toss them into.  Why? Well, they are still soap.  Usually, I take all of those little pieces, soak them all in a small bowl with a little water until they are soft and pliable.  I then squeeze them all together and form them into one big bar of soap.  Yes...I'm that badass. LOL.  Well, this time, I wanted to try out a new DIY liquid body wash recipe that I found online, so I didn't squish them together to form a new bar of soap.  So here's what I did:


1 bar of soap (I hear Dove doesn't work well with this recipe, I use Ivory) I figured I had about a bar's worth in my little stash

2 tablespoons of liquid Glycerin (got mine at CVS for like four bucks)

1 gallon of milk

All you really do is use a cheese grater to grate the soap. Put the gallon of water, soap shavings, and two tablespoons of Glycerin in a large pot on the stove. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until all the soap is disolved and you end up with hot soapy water. My little helper loved this part of the job.

Cover and let sit over night. It will change from hot soapy water to...well, a thick, gloppy substance.

I used a blender to break up the solid-like goopy mass.  I poured it into an empty milk gallon container using my home-made funnel (an old soda bottle with the top part cut off...did I mention I'm a cheapskate bad-ass?).

I had to change the name on the gallon from liquid body wash to Slimy Body Gloop.  My oldest daughter (and toughest critic) told me that it looks like and has the consistency of....discharge. That is going to haunt me every time I use this stuff.  I filled an old shampoo bottle with this concoction to keep in the shower to dispense the liquid (gloopy) wash onto wash cloths. 

     My opinion on this recipe? Mmmm. It's okay.  It does the job, but yes, when it comes out of the shampoo bottle it's slimy gooey stuff.  Kind of like egg whites, LOL.  It doesn't make suds and lather, but it smells soapy and feels pretty nice.  I'll use up this batch because, again, I'm a cheapskate, but I will be trying another recipe for liquid body wash next time.

DIY Bisquick Mix

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 9, 2014 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)

     Bisquick is another one of my guilty pleasures that I knew I had to remove from my pantry (well, sort of).  I need to figure out how to make this stuff on my own.  We kinda love Bisquick here.  It makes perfect, hassle-free biscuits and fluffy, flavorful pancakes.  We go through a lot of Bisquick here and that stuff isn't cheap! I scoured the Internet and browsed different DIY Bisquick recipes and tried one out yesterday. 

6 Cups Flour

3 Tablespoons Baking Powder

1 Tablespoon Salt

1 Cup Vegetable Shortening

I went with this recipe because it came from a very reputable site and received five star ratings from a large amount of reviews. 

This recipe is easy. Basically you sift the dry ingredients all together three times.  Using a food processor or pastry mixer, cut in the shortening and keep mixing until the mixture resembles a slightly crumbly texture.  I don't have a food processor and don't know what a pastry mixer is, so I used my good old-fashioned hand mixer and mixed it up until it looked somewhat crumbly.  This recipe keeps in the fridge for 6 months (wouldn't last that long in my house).

     So anyways, I made garlic cheddar biscuits using this mixture the same as if I were using Bisquick (the garlic cheddar biscuit recipe is on the Bisquick web site).  I have to say that I did not notice any difference between using this mixture for the recipe versus using Bisquick. Yay Win!  The true test though, and we all agree here, is pancakes.  Good thing I have evening plans after work today and don't have time to cook a full dinner so it's breakfast for dinner day at my house and pancakes is on the menu! 

    The results were great! These pancakes were flavorful and fluffy!  This gets the thumbs up from everyone here!  The only thing I noticed was when pouring out the pancake batter, I noticed small clumps.  Turns out those small clumps are little pieces of vegetable shortening.  Maybe a food proccessor or pastry mixer would have prevented this, but this made no difference in the texture and taste of these pancakes.  YAY ME!!  No more buying Biquick! I can make tons of it for a fraction of the price and I won't have to suck up the guilt of the cardboard box and plastic inside bag that the Bisquick is packaged in. Woot Woot!!! 

     ***I've seen recipes where you could make this with regular butter or margarine as well. Vegetable shortening is not an item I ever keep in my pantry, but used this recipe because of the high ratings.  I will use this as a stepping stone to experiment with other versions without vegetable shortening now that I know that making your own Bisquick is indeed possible!


Using Garlic as a Home Remedy

Posted by Angela Diaz on January 6, 2014 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)

     I'm going to put a little of my personal business out there for the sake of the betterment of human kind.  As a little history lesson, natural home remedies have been used for centuries before pharmacies came into play.  Back during homesteading days and the days of homemakers, home remedies has been the first line of defense before households became a two-income endeavor.  Cookbooks used to have a section devoted to home remedies until pharmacies came into play.  With both parents out of the home working full-time jobs, common knowledge of home remedies fell to the wayside as it was outsourced to pharmacies and doctors.  Home gardens used to provide many of the herbs and plants needed to make all kinds of tinctures, balms, salves, and healing teas.  "Medicine Cabinets" consisted of dried herbs, jars, bottles, droppers and things you found in the kitchen.  The more I research home remedies, the more I realize not only how much cheaper they are than items you would purchase in a pharmacy, but also how easy they are to make and how much better they work!

     Anyways, all this is to say that I tried a new home remedy this past week and, as promised, I am sharing my newfound knowledge with you folks.  This past weekend I felt the symptoms of a...of a.....ugh... a yeast infection okay?! I was getting a freaking yeast infection. There I said it. Sheesh (blushing).  What I do for you folks I swear.  Anyways, I was not in the mood to step out in freezing January temperatures during an ice storm to head to the grocery store or pharmacy to drop 15 bucks for a box of Monistat. Researching the internet for home remedies gave me a number of different options I could try. One of them being garlic (and the only one in which I had the ingredients in my kitchen).  Remember, I was not trying to go out of the house. Freezing, sleet, brrrrr.  So what I found out was that apparently, you can carefully peel a clove of  garlic and, uh, well, uh, Put it up there okay?! You shove it up "there" before you go to bed at night.  Apparently garlic kills yeast which is why when making garlic flavored bread, you cannot add the garlic until the bread rises. If you add the garlic before the bread rises, the garlic kills the yeast and it won't rise. 

     Now, just like some of you may be reading this might think, I also thought "no freaking way am I gonna do that nonsense!"  I'm gonna get some other kind of infection doing that!  Hell, I'd much rather be out sitting my hot burning lady parts in a pile of snow for some soothing relief! At this point, a day went by and my infection was becoming more and more uncomfortable and I hit the web hard reading at least 150 reviews from folks who have tried this and their results.  I made sure all the reviews came from different sites and that this remedy has been used for a historically long time.  Okay, I thought, this seems to be legit so I went for it.  I peeled one of my garlic cloves (still had some left from my CSA shares!) and before I went to bed I inserted it and slept all night with it in place.  In the morning I, uuuh...ummmm, 'pushed' it out while sitting on the toilet. 

     The result? The yeast infection is gone! I wouldn't lie to you and I wouldn't post something this personal and embarrassing unless I thought this might help someone else. Now, the remedy recommends doing this for two or three nights to make sure the infection is completely gone. I can't say I'll ever look at garlic the same way again, LOL.  I'm ecstatic about the results and could kick myself in the bum for not knowing this sooner.  I could have saved myself loads of Mulah. 

   Signed Yours Truly,

   Garlic Lady Parts