Christmas Decorations

Christmas Tree 2015

We didn’t waste any time getting our Christmas Decorations up this year! Black Friday, we waited until all the crowds were gone and drove to Home Depot for a small $18 “Charlie Brown” tree. We do not yet have the room for a big one, but once our large family room construction happens in the spring, we definitely will! Looking forward to that for next year 🙂

On Saturday, Target had an awesome deal where if you spent $100 on Christmas things, you got $50 off! So Jesse and I sat down at a computer and picked out extra outdoor lights, window candles, a nativity scene (we don’t have one, just one of those Fisher Price ones), and some stocking hangars for our bookshelf, since we don’t have a fireplace (yet!). We paid for everything online, then drove to Target to pick it up once the order was ready (my new favorite way to beat crowds!).

Christmas Reindeer decoration

Christmas Stockings Christmas Manger scene

(yes, Santa made an appearance behind the manger scene…)

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Boys Decorating the tree

Monday, we finally tackled the outside of the house. First, I updated my wreath with Christmasy things (you can find my $5 tutorial from last year here!).

Christmas Wreath

Since all of my plants are indoors now that the cold has struck, we decorated my plant shelf with pine boughs and some water resistant ornaments.

Christmas Front Porch Decorations

Christmas Candles in the window

Christmas Decorations Outside House

 

We love the Christmas season! I’m so glad that we were able to make these fun memories putting up Christmas Decorations as a family <3

Getting Our Yard Ready for Winter

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We had our first frost in Dallas a few days ago, and since it was right on average for a target date, I guess I have no reason to be surprised.  But it still was kind of jarring to wake up to such a cold morning! It didn’t get above 45 degrees this weekend. The first thing I did was to move my herb garden indoors to keep them from getting frost bite.

Luckily we already had a few projects in the works, and with a few days off for Thanksgiving, we started getting our yard ready for winter. I built hoop “green” houses for a few of my garden beds, using greenhouse plastic. I left a few of them open, because these are the ones I will be fertilizing first for spring planting. Crop rotation is a wonderful thing, if you have the space!

garden beds winterized

 

We already have a few winter veggies in the ground. These guys probably don’t even need the greenhouse plastic– they love the frost and cold, but we’ll see.IMG_8534

Shockingly, a few of my tomato and squash plants are still alive! A few leaves here and there have some frostbite from the other night, but they are still producing dozens of tomatoes, so maybe we can keep them alive a little longer 😉

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We also harvested quite a few squash!

Squash harvest

 

Here is the last of the winter crop to go in the ground. We’ve been growing these seedlings for weeks– it’s nice to finally be able to plant them!WInter garden seedlings

 

One of our final winterizing projects was to re-roof the chicken coop with tar paper underneath the corrugated roofing. With all the rain we get, we figured this would be a good investment. Now, we just have to repaint the whole thing to match our house!

Jesse chicken coop

 

As you can see, Gregory is very bonded to his “chickies”. He even has little nicknames for them in addition to their actual names. Sometimes he’ll say, “Oh, there goes my naughty one!”Gregory with chicken in mud kitchen

 

Gregory hugging the chicken

What projects have you done to get your yard ready for winter?

My oldest is 5

Gregory's 5th birthday cake and candles

Now that October is over, I feel that I am finally able to process something monumental that occurred– my oldest is 5! My firstborn baby, the one who made me a mother, is half a decade old.

The older my kids get, the harder I find it is to put what I feel towards them into emotions. This phenomenon is how I know that what God gave me that day, 5 years ago, is as miraculous as it gets on this side of eternity. There are some things that just can’t be encapsulated in a human language. We can only scratch at the surface of what the relationship means by hugging, kissing, and treasuring moments, little by little.

This birthday party was different than any of the other ones I’ve thrown for my G (you can find Birthdays #1, #2, #3 and #4 here!). I didn’t do any decorations, other than the birthday sign we used last year. The party was 95% outdoors, in our own backyard, which made food prep a lot easier. Gregory’s godmother even made the “Avengers Cake” (gluten free, of course!) for him!

Gregorys party patio AJ at Gregorys party Tire Swing

Gregory's party singing happy birthday Gregorys party blowing out candles

Really, the only work came in getting all the food ready. We had over 40 people, all the adults included, and we served dinner and appetizers! I kept the cost down by making a TON of chicken in a crockpot and doing a self-serve taco bar, with beans and salad on the side.

As far as presents go, we only got Gregory one present– a $5 large soccer goal off of Craigslist (quite a deal!). We have such a large yard, we want him to be able to practice his skills on the off-season.

Happy Birthday, my baby!

Cleaning With Essential Oils

Essential Oils Cleaning Blog

 

I’ve been using essential oils for 90% of our cleaning and household needs for a little over 2 years now, and I have finally decided to share more about my system. It’s become such a habit, and I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased anything pre-made from the store or Amazon!

Many people think that making your own household cleaners is hard. The reality, however, is that it is 10x easier than running to the store! I can make my own household cleaners for less effort than it takes to get my kids buckled in their carseats– truly!

Not only is it easier than going to the store, it is also cheap– DIRT cheap (a cleaning pun! See what I did there?). I can clean my whole house (including laundry, toilets, carpets, windows, hands, you name it!) naturally, without harmful or harsh chemicals, for less than $10/month!!

Here’s the cost breakdown. Using just lemon and thieves, you would spend $50/year on oils, and $63/year on supplies. That’s just $10.08/month, for EVERYTHING your house will use!! Add in a few more oils like peppermint and lavender, occasionally, won’t really raise the cost, since you’ll be using less of the other oils to do so (and having peppermint and lavender on hand is always a good idea anyways, especially if you get frequent headaches like I used to).

None of these recipes or systems are fancy, so if you’re looking for something that Martha Stewart would make, you’ve come to the wrong place!! 🙂 In the interest of having a life, I want to spend my chore time actually cleaning, not wearing myself out by making the supplies. After trial and error, these are what I’ve used to streamline cleaning with essential oils.

My system has been put to the test over the years. I actually refined this system back when we had our foster children, which meant I had FOUR stinky boys to clean up after (not to mention we were staging and selling our house at the same time!) When our foster boys first arrived, our family got sick with some type of bug every other week. Once I started using essential oils to make these cleaning supplies, we got sick only twice more in 6 months. To say it was a night and day difference is an understatement, and I NEVER have to worry about my kids getting harmed by my cleaning supplies!

To make these, you will need Lemon, Peppermint, Lavender, and On Guard/Thieves essential oils in stock. On a strict budget, you could do well with just lemon for everything, since it’s a natural disinfectant that works like bleach (you can actually mix it with hydrogen peroxide to “bleach” just about anything!). If you just used lemon for everything, you would probably need 2 bottles a year. At $10/bottle, this is very cost effective for ALL your cleaning supplies! When you add in On Guard/Thieves ($30/bottle) and Lavender or Peppermint ($20-30/bottle as well), the cost still isn’t bad, since one bottle will last a year when you just use it for cleaning purposes (there are lots of other helpful purposes as well, but that’s another post!).

In addition, all you will need to clean your ENTIRE HOUSE are NINE INGREDIENTS!:

1. baking soda (costs $2/year if you buy a big container from Walmart)

2. Ami powder cleanser ($2 for 3 months worth, totaling $8/year– please do not buy on Amazon! It’s ridiculously expensive compared to Target and Walmart, for some reason!)

3. white vinegar ($5/year at Walmart or Target)

4. witch hazel ($8/year)

5. Bronner’s unscented castile soap ($12 for 6 months’ worth, totaling $24/year)

6. super wash soap ($8/year, just for laundry detergent)

7. vegetable glycerin ($6/year)

8. citric acid ($5/year, just for the dish detergent, so it might even last longer than a year)

9. borax ($5/year at walmart, just for the dish detergent so it might even last longer than a year)

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You also need to use GLASS BOTTLES, because the citrus oils attach themselves to toxins and will eat through any plastic containers (yikes!). I got mine for $2/each a few years ago, and they’ve lasted very well!

So, without further ado, here is my system for cleaning with essential oils!

Counters, mirrors, hardware, doorknobs, appliances– basically any surface!

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For all of the above, I use my “Blue Bottle”. I combine the vinegar with water from the tap, 50/50. I then add 10-20 drops of lemon (or, sometimes, orange!) essential oil. That’s it! It smells AMAZING, and it cleans and polishes everything! No more windex– just one handy dandy bottle that cleans 90% of messes, cuts through grease like nobody’s business, and kills germs on contact!

This bottle works especially well for windows and polishing sink hardware. I used it to make our stainless steel sink back in CA shine whenever we had to show the house.

Kitchen Sink and Bathtub

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I first sprinkle it all with water, then sprinkle the powder cleanser over it (the initial water spray gets the powder to stick, so I use less). I use my dollar store scrub ducky (reserved only for cleaning sinks and bathtubs– never dishes) to scrub the surface, rinse it, then spray the whole thing down with my “Brown Bottle” (On Guard or Thieves spray– 30-40 drops added to a 50/50 mix of witch hazel and vinegar). Since this essential oil blend is more expensive than lemon, I reserve my “brown bottle” for my dirtier jobs.

Lest you doubt how effective On Guard/Thieves blends are, take a look at this petri dish experiment holding it up to hand sanitizer! Can you guess which one wins?

You know what’s even scarier? Someone did a study a few years ago testing kitchen sinks…and found that they were harboring more dangerous bacteria than a TOILET! Yikes!!! Let’s get those sinks clean, people!

Speaking of toilets…

Toilet

I haaaate cleaning toilets, but it must be done daily when one has boys (no more details, you don’t want them, trust me). I use my “Brown Bottle” for any exterior surfaces, and the Ami cleanser with a toilet brush for the “inside”. Once in a while, I will also throw in some hydrogen peroxide and lemon oil, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Foaming Hand and Dish Soap

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You’d think this would be hard, but it’s not! You mix together Castile soap, vegetable glycerin, Thieves/On Guard, and some water, and it makes the most delectable smelling hand soap! After I’ve washed my hands or the dishes, I catch myself sniffing my hands, it’s that good 😉

Laundry Detergent

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Did you know that you can make your own Laundry Detergent for pennies? Neither did I– until I started cleaning with essential oils.

This recipe doesn’t even involve grating any bar soap– something common with DIY recipes. But I don’t have time for that, so I like this recipe best! You make it in a huge 5 gallon bucket, and it lasts about 6 months! You just need baking soda, the super wash baking soda, castile soap and a few essential oils of your choosing!

Dish Detergent

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Full disclosure– I have not tried this recipe yet, but I’ve been wanting to! I cannot wait to try.

Hardwood Floors and Tile

I use my vinegar/citrus “Blue Bottle” to spray the floors as I mop. I add a bit of orange oil if I really want them to shine! It makes the whole house smell like an orange grove!

Carpet Cleaner/Deodorizer

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I used this trick a ton when we were staging our house! Fill a sugar sprinkle jar full of baking soda, then add 10 drops of peppermint and 10 drops of lavender.  Sprinkle the mixture on top of rugs or carpets, wait 10 minutes, then vacuum up! Your house will smell so clean and divine, you won’t even believe it! No more musty carpet smell up close!

Stains in Carpet

You don’t even need the essential oils for this. Just sprinkle on some baking soda directly to the stain and pour baking soda on top! Just like 7th grade science class, the mixture will bubble, loosening the stain. Scrub, wait a few minutes, then vacuum it up! Simple!

All Natural “Febreze”

Just a 75/25 mix of water to witch hazel, along with 5-10 drops of lavender, and you have a pillow and couch freshener! Just spritz the room whenever you feel like you could use a relaxing burst of scent. Mix in a bit of peppermint for combating the germs!

Other/Pests

Peppermint + cinnamon (or On Guard/Thieves) is also very good for keeping bugs away. Just put some in a spray bottle filled with water and spray the door frames– ants, and mice, especially, hate the smell and stay far away!

That’s it! Now you know my “dirty secrets” (another pun!) for cleaning with essential oils on a budget. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I love responding to comments, as always 🙂