29 December 2014

Why I Make My Own Cleaning Products

About ten years ago I became sensitive to a lot of chemicals.  It started out while I was driving truck as part of a team and my sensitivity to the smell of diesel got worse over time. Not only the diesel, which gave me horrible headaches, but one particular incident comes to mind as the turning point when I realized that I needed to quit breathing these things. 

We were somewhere in Missouri and I was out for a walk and I still don't know what it was that triggered a sneezing fit, but it went on and on and my eyes watered, my chest tightened and I have been more sensitive than ever since that time. Some cleaning products I simply cannot be around, period.  Here is a great article by Sophie Gratton on the chemicals found in a lot of our cleaning products.

The best way to be able to fight the battle properly against harmful cleaning products is to be prepared. Knowing the name of the most common and most dangerous chemicals, as well as their potential effects on you and your family is the best plan of attack. Here is the list of the top 5 most harmful chemicals found in cleaning products.

  1. Diethylene glycol: Found in many commercial window and glass cleaners. The main danger is when diethylene glycol is ingested. The effects can be mild to very dangerous and can include gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea)  depression, kidney and renal failure, neurological complications such as lethargy, paralysis, coma and even death.
  2. Phenols: Phenols  are difficult to avoid in cleaning products because it is present in almost all antibacterial cleaners and disinfectant, and is a very common ingredient in detergents and all-purpose cleaners. Depending on how phenol is absorbed (skin contact, inhaled or ingested) the potential effects of phenol on health can be severe eye, nose, throat and skin irritation, headache, shortness of breath, coma, convulsions, organ damage and death.
  3. Formaldehyde:  Formaldehyde is in so many things. When it comes to cleaning products, formaldehyde is found in air and carpet deodorizers, fabric softener and furniture polish.  It is known to cause cancer in humans.  You can make better products or eliminate some (like furniture polish), do your health a favor, AND save a lot of money. 
  4. Butyl cellosolve: Butyl cellosolve is uncommon in major US or Canada cleaning product brands but it can be found in products at discount stores and some inexpensive brand name products. Be aware when purchasing discount cleaning products for your windows, bathroom and tiles, all-purpose cleaners and kitchen disinfectants. Butyl cellosolve is suspected to damage the nervous system, liver, kidneys and even bone marrow.  Better to make your own!!!
  5. Petroleum solvents: Found in furniture polishes and floor cleaners, these solvents are known irritants to mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, ears and eyes. They can also hidden in our food as they are  used to clean machinery that process food.
Not everyone takes the time to read the labels when purchasing cleaning products, and we are even at a disadvantage when it comes to the  manufacturer as they are not required by law to list all the ingredients in cleaning products like they are in cosmetics. I think we become immune to the dangers of the products we buy to keep our homes clean even if we do read those labels.  And I think our health is suffering for it. 
So I began making my own cleaning products as a way to clean my home without suffering for it, and then realized I was saving a lot of money. Now, the more I do and the more items I find that can be made easily and so much cheaper at home, the more I want to do.  I know many of you do not have a lot of extra time and adding "homemade cleaning products" to your to-do list is not very appealing, but I think your and your family's health will be the better for it.  And the best part is, so much of it is made from some of the same ingredients so this could be perfect for vandwelling. And just think of the things you could do or buy when you are saving all that money!!! 

Save where you can so you can spend where you want.  And your lungs will thank you for ridding your home (or travel vehicle) of all those chemicals.

Thanks for stopping by today.  Hugs, Shawna


22 December 2014

Let's Take the Blog in a Different Direction

Hello my friends!  I hope you are ready for Christmas, it's just days away, and 2015 is breathing down our necks.  I try not to dwell on that for long.  Ha!

With much thought I want to share something with you that I hope will be pleasing to all.  Two Dogs has always been a little mish mash of this, that, and the other, and I want to continue in that vein while taking the blog in a slightly different direction.  Maybe "adding to the blog" would be a better term as I want to continue with inexpensive recipes for household cleaning supplies, easier ways to do things, and some gardening tips and tricks along with the occasional recipe.  But after the realization of a dream of mine ---to have a way to do some travelling---my life is going to take a bit of a different turn , and my hope is that I can combine the old with the new and it might be beneficial to all who like to read my blog.

As some of you are aware I have purchased an older van and am in the process of converting it into something I can not only travel in but also live in. I am not that far from retirement (oh please come sooner rather than later!) and would, at the very least, like to become a Snow Bird and get out of dodge during the winter months. There are a few things holding me back from going now, but in any case Phase One --- buying the vehicle-- is completed and I am now in Phase Two, fixing it up. I want to journal the process and hope that you will be interested in it also. 

I think adding another facet to the blog focusing on the transformation of my van--who I have named Freedom--will fit right in as so many of the household tips would be beneficial to vandwellers as well. Also, I believe that organization on a smaller scale would benefit many who live in a stick and brick residence and could simply apply it on a larger scale if it was something that appealed to them.

So let's give it a try and see how it goes.

For the first post I want to introduce you to Freedom.  Here she is, a 1998 Ford E150.   She has been very well taken care of and runs like a champ.  I did have a wee bit of anxiety when the gentleman I bought her from said "Honey, it's going to take a hundred dollar bill to fill 'er up", but he left her with a half tank of fuel and the price of fuel has dropped over a dollar since I bought her.  I am liking that!

So Merry Christmas one and all and my wish for you is a stellar, healthy, happy 2015!
Hugs, Shawna

01 October 2014

Update to Laundry Soap II

Hi there!  Thanks for reading Two Dogs today.  This is a quick little post to update the laundry soap formula.   The original post has the ingredients listed as:

3 Tablespoons Borax
3 Tablespoons Washing Soda (washing soda, not baking soda)
2 Tablespoons Dawn Ultra Dish Detergent

I have increased the amount of Dawn Ultra Dish Detergent to 3 T instead of 2.  I thought it might give a tiny bit more oomph, but it's mainly because 3,3,3 is easier to remember!

I also want to report that I have not had a sinus headache since I started using this formula (original or new proportions either one).  Still have chronic sinusitis, but the all-too-frequent headaches that were so dibilitating are gone.  I am sooooo thankful for that.  Ban those yucky chemicals added to the cleaning products we use to clean our homes, do our laundry, and freshen our bodies, and make your own!!!  I think you will be pleasantly surprised, not to mention you'll have a quite a few more coins to rub together. 

My motto has become:  'Scrimp where you can, so you can spend where you want'.  Hmmmmmm, I think I will add that to my banner. 

OK , gotta run.  Have a wonderful week!

Hugs, Shawna

12 September 2014

A Dog Day Afternoon

Hi there!  Thanks for stopping by today.  Yesterday I spent a dog day afternoon.  Yes, it was quite warm outside, but I am not referring to the weather.  I spent the afternoon making dog beds!  The days are getting shorter and even though the afternoons are very warm, the mornings are very cool. 

The Chiweenie Brothers -- and I think most small dogs --- do not like to be cold.  I jokingly call Fries "The Heatalator" because his body temperature is high and having him snuggle up to me is like having a small electric heater against my skin.  Yes, he is a warm one and he likes to stay that way.  Charlie isn't quite as warm blooded but he, too, likes to snuggle and be warm.  And winter is coming! 

So while cruising the internet looking for something completely unrelated I ran across a site called Craftsy and they were offering a wad of free patterns for all kinds of things.  This little envelope bed was one of them.  You can whip one up really fast. I made two envelope beds and a sleep pillow (Burger had to have something, too!) in just a couple of hours.  You can find the directions HERE

After a few rounds of musical dog beds, they chose which one they wanted and curled up for a little siesta. Just look at Fries' sweet little face.  Doesn't he look content?  And Charlie is already in doggie dreamland.  The Chiweenie Brothers will be warm and cozy always. 

 Burger doesn't look too pleased with his.  He would rather have one of the Chiweenie Brothers' beds!!   I think he knows I used some fleece I cut up for dog blankets many moons ago and he is having none of that!  We'll work it out..................

So we have two warm, content chiweenies and an upset wire hair.  BUT,  these beds cost me a fraction of what one has to pay for a dog bed in the stores or on-line.  I chose the fleece from Joanns.com (it was on sale for half off and I love the cute paw print pattern) a bag of poly fill-- also on sale--and had a coupon for free shipping.  I made the beds a bit smaller than the designer's thus using less fleece, so that was a savings, too.  You can make the beds any size you need; just remember, fleece is 54" wide.

Thank for stopping by Two Dogs.  Hugs, Shawna 

01 September 2014

Dogs and a Tip

Before I get into today's quick tip, I simply must share these photos of The Chiweenie Brothers.  As we transition from summer into autumn the cooler mornings have my crew scrambling to find some warm sunshine.  As the sunny patch in the living room slowly disappeared, I let them out front and they quickly jumped into the wicker chair I have on the front stoop and cozied up for a sun bath.  Burger, ever faithful and wanting as much attention as possible, stayed inside with me.  Sweet Burger is beginning to slow down like all the rest of us seniors.  Hard to see this happening to him, but it's the way with dogs.

I love my dogs, and I love this quote from Roger Carras --- "Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole".  Indeed they do.  Oh yes--- indeed they do.

OK, better get to today's frugal tip and leave all this cuteness.   

Having dogs means loving them, feeding them, exercising them, and putting up with a few little unpleasantries.  One of these unpleasantries is the sometimes noticable "doggie smell" that can get into the carpets.   I refuse to shampoo my carpets every month-- I do it about every quarter-- and in between shampoos just a little something may be needed, and something a little more than just covering up the scent with room sprays.  A much-cheaper-than-store-bought carpet deodorizer to the rescue.  Sprinkle liberally, let it sit for an hour or so (I like to let it sit overnight.  Not that it works any better, it's just that it makes me feel like it's doing a better job), then vacuum it up.  Easy peasy,  Lemon squeezy.  :) 

Mix together:
1/2 Cup baking soda
1/2 Cup 20 Mule Team Borax
20-25 drops of essential oil of your choice OR 1 teaspoon ground spices (clove or cinnamon is great)
If you have an old store bought carpet deodorizer box you can cut off the top of the box, dump in your measured ingredients, tape the top back onto the box with duct tape or similiar, shake well and use.  Or if you want to get all fancy-smancy you can purchase one of those glass shaker bottles from your grocery, Walmart, or such, and put your stuff in that.  Or you could use an old jar with a lid and poke holes in said lid for a nice cheap dispenser; being careful not to hurt yourself when getting those holes installed.  Lots of choices for dispensing --- let me know if you decide to try this and what you use to dispense.   
I am going to treat my carpets tonight with the last of my "summer blend" (lemon scented) and then make up a batch of cinnamon and be ready for fall.  It's just around the corner. 
Thanks for stopping by Two Dogs today!  Have a great week!  Hugs, Shawna

11 June 2014

Bug Protection For Newly Sprouted Seedlings

Today I want to show you what I came up with for keeping the bugs -- whatever they may be; I haven't actually caught them at it -- from chewing up newly emerging seedlings.  I had this trouble last year, and never did get any cucumber plants to grow because of it.  I think I planted four different times with the same results, no cucumber plants!  The thing is, once the plant gets past that first critical stage of getting the second to third set of true leaves the bugs usually leave them alone for some reason, and if there are a few bites taken out the plant seems to survive and continue to grow.  I play it safe and leave these contraptions on until the plant grows enough to reach the opening at the top. 

What You Will Need:

  • Institution-size food cans.  In our area the local pizza parlor leaves them at their back door and are free for the taking
  • Milk jugs, one gallon size
  • Pair of old scissors  (I think the plastic would ruin a good pair, but use your own judgement)
What You Will Do:

Remove the bottom of the can.  The top will already have been removed from whoever you got it from, of course, and it will most likely be clean.  You end up with a short fat tube, open on both ends.  Place this tube around your newly planted seed, and push it down into the soil an inch or two. .  OR plant the seed let it sprout, then plan on covering it.  Either way works.

Next take a milk jug and poke holes in it around the top and sides (a screwdriver heated over the flame on your kitchen stove works great). Remove the bottom of the milk jug so you are left with the top, straight sides, and no bottom. Now, using those old scissors again, cut a slit at two or more of the corners of the jug so it will fit over the outside of the can.  It needs to be snug enough so the wind or watering will not knock it off, so don't cut too deep at first go.  Take your time and keep checking the fit until you get it just right.

Do NOT leave the cap on. You want to give your seedlings protection, but they will need good air flow, too. If you leave the cap on you will cook your little plants when they sprout.  Take the milk jug portion back off and water your newly planted seed thoroughly.  Check on it every few days to make sure it doesn't dry out. 

Leave this contraption on your plants until the seed has sprouted and grown large enough that the can/jug combo becomes too small, and you see the plant will soon be growing out of the top. By the time the plants are filling up your can/jug they should be past that tasty stage the bugs like so well and they can be removed. 

It isn't pretty, but it works very well. 

The plant on the right grew up in the can/jug contraption.  You will need to look closely, but there's a plant on the left that was on its own.  Quite a difference!!!   Thanks for stopping by Two Dogs.

04 June 2014

Laundry Soap II

Hello there!  I know I have posted a recipe for laundry detergent, and it was good.  Saved money and did the job.  BUT..... to me it was kind of labor intensive and I only made it once.  Being a woman I can change my mind, right?  Well, I am changing my mind.  This recipe is SO much easier and I think does the job just as well.  And I have to tell you I LOVE THE SMELL OF MY CLOTHES after using this stuff.  There is NO laundry soap smell, just wonderful, clean, fresh smelling fabric.  I didn't even want to use fabric softener (I have a recipe for that I will share at a later time) on subsequent loads.  I actually stood by my air dried sheets and comforter breathing in the freshness.  I kid you not. To any of you who do not suffer from allergies and/or sinus problems this may not be a big deal to you, but it's huge to me.  I swear I have actually been sleeping better!

So here's the recipe:

3 Tablespoons Borax
3 Tablespoons Washing Soda (washing soda, not baking soda)
2 Tablespoons Dawn Ultra Dish Detergent

Add ingredients to a 1 gallon jug.  Pour in 4 cups of very hot water and swish around to mix.  Once it is mixed up, top off the jug with cold water.  Tighten the cap and shake it up.  How easy is that?  No grating, no cooking, no mess.  I love it!

Now keep in mind this stuff is THIN, it is not going to be like the store bought laundry soap. It's going to be like water.  And you most likely will need to use 1 cup of it, but hey, at 20 CENTS a GALLON to make, who cares. 

Use it like you would store bought:  If you pretreat stains, pretreat, if you need to use a laundry booster for a really dirty load, use a laundry booster with this, if you use Oxiclean (that's another recipe coming up), use Oxiclean with this. I had one blouse that I had to pretreat before washing and the stain came right out.  Most of our clothing isn't dirty, it's been worn and is mildly smelly or just needs freshening.  If I don't have to, I don't want to use anything with this laundry soap ---- I don't want to ruin that fresh, clean, sans artificial scent smell! 

I put my ingredients in empty coffee containers because once the weather warms up and the swamp cooler comes on I don't want the stuff to take up moisture and get hard.  I also cut a small square with the product name from the chipboard containers the Borax and Washing Soda came in to add to the INSIDE of the container.  Believe me, you won't be sorry you have done this.  If you are anything like me and open both containers at once to begin mixing, you may not remember which is which.  Not that it would make any difference in this recipe because you use the same amount of each, but laundry soap won't be the only thing you use this stuff for.... stay tuned.   So don't say I didn't warn ya!  *SMILE*

The milk jug is only temporary; I intend to save an old laundry detergent container to use for mixing and storing.  But wait..... that means I have to finish using it up.  Well, considering how frugal I am, I simply can't throw it out, and I do need the jug.  Shoot.  I will just have to endure until I can use my good stuff exclusively.  :-)  
Thank you so much for stopping by Two Dogs.  Hope you enjoy the rest of your week. 
           Hugs, Shawna                                                                                                                               




28 May 2014

These Boots Are Made For

Planting!  Hello --- thanks for stopping by Two Dogs.  Summer is here and I am fully enjoying my yard.  In 2003 I opened my nail salon and in the fall of that year I got an old pair of boots and planted, of all things, two chrysanthemums.  They did ok in those boots except the plants grew too tall and didn't look very nice at all.  I have been wanting to try again, but it was just one of those things that never came about.

Every time I saw a guy wearing an old pair of boots that had seen better days I would think of those boots I had at the salon and want to try again.  I finally remembered to ask my son if he would save me his work boots when he wore them out.... and he remembered.  So last fall he stopped by and brought me a wonderful old pair of boots and a couple of weeks ago I got them planted! What do you think?  Cute, no?    I am thrilled with how they turned out and the allyssum planted in them will, hopefully, cascade over the sides a.bit..

I also have a pair of old high heels that I planted a couple of years ago but I simply could not get the sedum and hen & chicks to grow.  I finally replanted last fall and I propped them up on a low step so they would be more horizontal and the water would get to all of the soil instead of running into the toe and the rest of the shoe cavity be dry.  That's what worked and here are the results.

I hope you had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend with family and friends remembering those past and present who have served and are serving to keep America free.    Hugs, Shawna

03 January 2014

Happy New Year --- Let's Get Organized

Hello and Happy New Year!  I hope 2014 is kind to you.

My goal for this new year is to be a tad more consistent with my posts. Uummmm, let's see how that works out *BIG GRIN*............ and to get more organized.  I am making small inroads starting with Christmas stuff.

As I was working on getting all the Christmas decorations down and put away in between the birth of my new granddaughter, Patton Lea, a bout with the flu and becoming very frustrated with it all, I decided that one of my goals (not a resolution, just a goal) is to get more organized.

I began the process  with my Christmas decorations, and I put together a fairly good sized box and gave it away to a family just starting out. Remember just starting out and buying a thing here and there year after year?  And then one day you look around and say to yourself "Good grief, where did all this stuff come from?"  That's how it starts. The "stuff" that consumes Christmas joy.  I loved giving this sweet family a head start on their own "Good grief moment years down the road! 

So I made a bit of  progress --- but it isn't nearly enough.  The biggest problem is I rarely have time to deal with it before Christmas and after Christmas I just want it all put away.  Out of site, out of mind, I'll deal with it next year.  And it never happens.  But I did make a bit of progress:
  • Took all my gift wrapping supplies (which is mostly Christmas) out of one of those gift wrap organizer bags and put it all in a box.  For me, it's easier to deal with and it actually takes up less room. Not as pretty as the cloth organizer, but it just works so much better.
  •  The gift wrap tubes of paper are now secured with empty toilet paper rolls cut down the middle lengthwise and placed over the tube of paper to keep it from coming unrolled.  This sounds a bit tacky, but it's recycling at its basic best and believe me, it is so much easier to deal with than a piece of tape that is more often than not a bugger to remove.  This has been all over the internet and it's quite ingenious.
  • I took the recycling a bit further and dug some of the large plastic blueberry boxes I had in my plastics-to-recycle bin and used them for a couple of storage solutions. 
  • A coffee container also came to good use and I plan on using more of these as I get them.

The large plastic containers, 3.5 quarts I think they are, that I buy blueberries in to freeze for winter use were perfect to store gift bows in.  I can see what is inside and they do not become crushed. 

 Previously I had my strings of glass and plastic bead garlands in a flimsy gift box that over the years has never kept the beads contained nor protected.  There's that "I'll deal with it next year" mentality rearing it's ugly head.  I do know I want to keep my bead garlands, but a better storage solution had to come about.  The empty coffee "can" was my solution. They all fit inside and once the lid is snapped on, they are completely protected.  The fact that the container is square is a plus as it will take up less space than a round one. 
An empty Cinnamon Bun container was the perfect size for another item I know I will be keeping.  The mini red silk poinsettia plant and the little red elves have always been displayed together.  The elves belonged to my mother, and I bought the silk plant to go with them when the elves were passed on to me.  I hope to pass these on to one of my granddaughters.  The little breath mint tin holds ornament hooks; this was another item that had previously been stored in a box that had seen better days.  I will probably use another of these tins for storing the suction hooks that I use quite frequently.

So.  It's not a lot of progress, but it IS progress.  Now that I have an idea of what I can do to store my Christmas decorations better  I will be saving these containers from the recycling bin and will continue the organization process for this glorious holiday next year.  A little bit at a time, my friends, a little bit at a time.