How To Make Laundry Detergent

Yes, it’s true – I make my own laundry detergent. I know what you’re thinking – “What?! She doesn’t have 19 kids and counting, why would she do that?!” Well the short story is that I’m cheap. The slightly longer story is below with instructions on how I make mine!

Pin this image and save for later!

Pin this image and save for later!

1) The Why

It’s a pretty predictable story: I saw it on Pinterest, tried it once, and realized that it’s not only cheaper than buying laundry detergent but it’s super easy. A 100 fluid ounces of Tide is $12-$14 and that’s 64 loads of laundry. If you do four loads of laundry a week, that Tide should last you about four months. I realized that for $14.46 (the cost of my laundry detergent materials) I could do laundry for three times as long because you only need two tablespoons per load! Plus, you’ll have leftover materials for the next batch, so it’s actually closer to $10 after you use up the remaining ingredients for batch number two. Not to mention the added benefit of not having to lug huge containers of detergent home from the store…

2) The When

One batch can usually last me about a year.  I made the batch I am currently using in JULY of last year. Now, part of the reason it lasts me this long is because I still do all our workout clothes in a sports detergent designed to eliminate sweat, odors, and make our pricey tech shirts and dri-fit gear last longer (If you take care of them, you don’t have to buy more, which makes that sports detergent worth every penny). I also have a weak spot for the smell of Tide Febreze, which is how I still do our sheets…but otherwise, I do all our laundry with this concoction.

3) The How

Container:

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Gosh, wouldn’t it be so pretty in one of those big hurricane jars? Like the magazines? Yup. Probably would be. But here’s my Sterilite plastic bin that I bought at Target for $6 because I’m super classy…and my laundry detergent is hidden behind a closet door so I’d rather function over form.

Ingredients:

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Grate your bars of soap until you have 4 cups – I’ve found that one bar equals about 2 cups…so if you buy a 3 pack, you’ll have a bar leftover for your next batch. That is officially the hardest part of this entire process.

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Combine the 4 cups of grated soap with 6 cups Borax, 4 cups Washing Soda, and 4 cups Baking Soda.

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Use two tablespoons per load!

Pro Tips:

– You’re going to have leftover ingredients towards your next batch of laundry soap – rather than keep the 3 or 4 half empty boxes and extra bar of soap cluttering up my laundry area, I combine them all in one container and write myself a note of what I need to add to the batch and store that underneath my sink until A. I need to make my next batch or B. One of the ingredients I need goes on sale or I have a coupon for it and I’ll pick it up and add it in.

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– I bought a measuring spoon set at the Dollar Store so that I could have a dedicated Tablespoon to leave in the detergent.

– I decided on my last batch to add a cup of Downy Fresh Protect ($5-6) because I had a coupon for it and I really like how it adds a nice fragrance to the detergent. Totally optional.
And that’s it! I know it seems “extreme” and really cheap to make your own laundry detergent…but I hope after you’ve read this that at least it doesn’t seem difficult as well! I have continued to make my own because its remarkably easy as well as saves money. And I love not worrying about buying it for an entire year…that might be the best part!

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How To Spiralize Zucchini

As you may have read, I got a spiralizer a few months ago and have been obsessed with zoodles (zucchini noodles) ever since! I’ve been working on making this list simple and to the point so it’s the only thing you’d ever have to read in order to start spiralizing. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to spiralize and a couple of my simplest recipes:

1. Buy a Spiralizer!

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There are two characteristics I hate when it comes to kitchen gadgets:

  • Hard to clean – If there was one thing that would prevent me from actually using something in my kitchen, it’s something that is frustrating to take apart and hard to clean (please see juicer; collecting dust)
  • A million parts – If there are 40 accessories I need to store in my kitchen drawers and then become really annoyed at when I try and open the drawer and the part jams against the ice cream scoop and causes the can opener to jam against the top and I can’t open the drawer and then I am really frustrated and… well, you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Annnnyways. It comes with three different blades, all of which can be stored easily in the base. And it comes apart quickly and is a breeze to clean. I can not say better things about it – easy to clean and easy to store? Sign me up.

You can buy yours here:
Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer

2. Spiralize 

Cut one end off the zucchini and place cut end against the spikes to secure it…then twist the crank! It’s that easy!

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Tips for Success:

  • Secure base (handy dandy suction cups are located on the bottom).
  • Spiralize 30-60 minutes before you plan on cooking in order to dry out the zoodles. I do this by shaking a little sea salt on a paper towel, putting the zoodles on the paper towel, shaking a little sea salt on top of the zoodles, and then placing another paper towel on top and weighing the paper towel down with something (I use my trivets). The salt helps draw out the moisture and the paper towels will both be damp within 30 minutes. It’s pretty universally accepted that zoodles can be a soggy mess and just taste better if you take the time to dry them out.
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The amount of zoodles from one zucchini. As you can see, the long zucchini stem is all that is not used after spiralizing.

3. Saute in Olive Oil

I heat up barely a tablespoon of olive oil and then toss in the zoodles, covering for a minute, stirring, covering, stirring…the entire process takes 5 minutes. Obviously, it will take a little more time and olive oil if you spiralized two zucchinis.

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I think they are good with a little bit of butter and some salt and pepper…but that’s not nearly enough fun (or protein) so see below for my favorite ways to make them a meal.

4. Add Stuff!

The easiest way to introduce Josh to zoodles was to add in a few cheese tortellini, and that has become my favorite way to jazz them up. At the beginning of the week I’ll make some tortellini and keep them in the fridge – then all week whenever we have zoodles, I’ll throw in 6 or 7ish tortellini as well. I am all about the easiest method to prep dinner each night – so whenever I can make things just once, and use it all week? I’m all over it.

Spaghetti…ish

Spaghetti sauce, turkey meatballs (yup, I buy them in the bag), grated Parmesan (nope, didn’t grate it myself, only my crazy cousin Erin does that) and a couple tortellini

20150423_180600 Greek…ish

Halved cherry tomatoes, scallions, feta cheese, shrimp or grilled chicken

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Minimalist (AKA, I already ate too many calories that day or haven’t been to the store)

Feta, grilled chicken, salt and pepper

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Asian Veggie Stir Fry

Asian Vegetable Steamer bag, grilled chicken or shrimp, Parmesan/mozzarella cheese

20150616_190715See that frying pan? That’s the result of me sauteing the zoodles for about three minutes, then throwing in the already cooked tortellini, grilled chicken (buy a big bag of this pre-cooked from Sam’s, or I grill a bunch of chicken beforehand for meals all week), and veggie mix (Steamer bag, microwaved already) in order to heat up the tortellini and grilled chicken and use the least amount of dishes or pans possible in the process. I do the same with the shrimp, but in reverse – first I saute the shrimp (again, from a bag, frozen…are you noticing a theme? #easy) then I throw the zoodles on top. I just want to be sure the shrimp gets fully cooked.

kitchen

Alright. There you go! I never thought I’d do a list about cooking (as I really, really dislike cooking) but the spiralizer intimidated me at first and wanted to share how I use mine in the easiest way possible. Hope this helps and please feel free to share with your fellow spiralizing friends or those looking to get started spiralizing!

What’s your favorite spiralizer recipe? Would you like to see future Easy Cooking with Cailyn posts? 

Disney World Planning Tips

disney meme

As a frequent Disney World guest, I often get asked for tips on how to plan a trip to The World and decided it was time to put it all in one place. Now, this is very much a starter session in planning and covers the basics – the idea is to answer this question:

“Ok, I want to plan a trip to Disney World – where do I start?”

1. Do Your Research

Well, you’re here, so you’re off to a good start! The first thing I say to anyone that is planning a trip to Disney World is “do your research.” Sometimes these trips are once in a lifetime, sometimes they’re once a year – do you really want to spend it waiting in a line you could have avoided or being miserable because you’re starving? Disney is known for their customer service and they’ll certainly do everything they can to accommodate you but there are limits to everything (see #4, dining reservations). Look at park maps, become familiar with your hotel choice, decide what attractions are “must see”… all of this before you even go!

2. Hotel

Since you’ve done all your research now, you know that staying onsite at a Disney hotel comes with a few unbeatable perks:

  • Extra Magic Hours – early entry or late stay at the theme parks
  • Transportation – free bus, monorail and boat system … If you stay offsite, be prepared to spend $17/day to park
  • Fast Pass Plus bookings – you can book your Fast Passes 60 days in advance, rather than 30 days you get when staying offsite
  • Magic Express – shuttle to and from the airport, complete with luggage delivery to your hotel room
  • Immersion in the Disney bubble – your hotel is themed and you never need to leave the magic!
  • Convenience – staying onsite allows for parties to more easily split up for scheduling around the needs for different family members – Dad can hop a shuttle and go back to the hotel with the baby for the afternoon nap while Mom takes the older kids on Space Mountain.

Can offsite be cheaper? Can it be more appropriate for your family if you have different needs? Absolutely. But be sure to add up all the extra costs and consider the importance of convenience.

Goofing around at Value Resort Pop Century - features a giant foosball table! Starts at $95/night in off season.

Goofing around at Pop Century – the hotel features a giant foosball table! It is considered a Value Resort and starts at under $100/night in the off season!

3. Park Tickets

Tickets are sold in both day passes and multiple days and of course the more days you stay, the cheaper the extra days get. Currently, one day will cost you $105…but two days is $192.  The price per day starts to significantly drop after 4 days – a 5 day ticket works out to be $63/day, or $315 total. So what you’re saying is Disney wants you to stay longer and buy more Mickey Pretzels? *gasp* Yes.

3b. You can add a “Park Hopper” option to your ticket for anywhere from $50 (1 day) to $65 (5+days) so you can go into more than one park in a day. If you do not add this option, you cannot go into both Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom in the same day on one ticket. Park hopping is a personal preference, but with the introduction of Fast Pass Plus, I have found that it is often not worth the money for ME. But you and your family may love hopping around and just doing a few rides or attractions before moving to a different park. Or if you are only at Disney for a few days, park hopping is the best way to squeeze more into your trip. Plan out your days and go from there to decide whether it is necessary.

4. Dining Reservations

It is a rare day that you can walk up to a sit down (table service, in Disney World lingo) restaurant in Disney World and eat a meal without waiting. In all the times I have gone, I can count on one hand the times in the last five years that I have been able to quickly get a table at a restaurant in the parks without a reservation, and all those occasions felt like miracles. There is an online reservation system as well as a phone number that makes it easy, and you can do it 180 days out from your hotel reservation. And 180 days is necessary if you are going during a peak time, or if you are trying to get one of the high demand restaurants (Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, etc).

I cannot stress this enough: Make reservations. The LAST thing you want is a hungry toddler (or a hangry mother) and nowhere to sit down, enjoy some air conditioning and relax with some Mickey-shaped food. Nothing ruins vacations faster than being hungry.

Mickey-shaped food tastes better. #fact

Mickey-shaped food tastes better. #fact

5. Fast Pass Plus

SIGH. I don’t love the recent changes and can probably write an entire list of what I dislike about it the new program, but I’ll stick to the facts for now:

  • Fast Pass Plus allows you to reserve attractions and entertainment in advance. For instance, you can book a Fast Pass for Space Mountain and you will get a window of time in which you need to report to Space Mountain, skip the regular (stand by, in Disney lingo) line and ride.
  • Or you can book a Fast Pass for the parade, and you get seats within a small cordoned off area where you can see the parade and not be continuously and purposely nudged by  a stroller in the back because you’re 30 and maybe it’s as important to you to see as it is the toddler and the toddler’s Mom is resentful that you thought to get your spot on the sidewalk 35 minutes before she strolled over.
  • Guests are limited to three pre-chosen fast passes per day and can only be used in one park. One additional Fast Pass can be booked AFTER you have used up all three of your fast passes. You can book your Fast Passes online, on the My Disney Experience app, or in the park on the day of your visit.
  • Even though I have found several problems with the Fast Pass Plus system, using it is an absolute must and be sure to book them before you arrive.

6. MagicBands

MagicBands are Disney’s version of the ultimate Key to the Kingdom. Your MagicBand is your park ticket, hotel key, Fast Pass Plus reservations, Disney Dining plan, and you can even link a credit card and pin to it so you don’t have to carry anything into the parks. You can program a pin when you get there for the credit card, but don’t worry – the actual band contains no personal information – it has an RFID chip inside. You will get to choose your MagicBand color when you book your onsite hotel and it will be shipped to you for free before your vacation – otherwise you can purchase a MagicBand in the park if you would like to.

My yellow MagicBand, self-decorated with a Sharpie to support my Bruins!

My yellow MagicBand, self-decorated with a Sharpie to support my Bruins!

7. Packing

It occurs to me as a write this that I should probably also do a list on what I personally pack for a Disney vacation. But I’ll give you the basics:

  • At least two pairs of comfortable, worn-in shoes: You’ll be on your feet more than usual and your feet will thank me when you are able to switch up the footwear. I routinely walk 15,000 steps in a Disney day.
  • Rain gear: If you want to buy a quality $10 Mickey poncho at the park for the inevitable afternoon shower or water ride, knock yourself out. I’ll be buying several from the dollar store that I can immediately throw away after the shower ends and I’m walking around in a portable sauna. Have you ever tried folding up a wet poncho? Buy one you don’t mind tossing after Splash Mountain.
  • Gum: If gum is a must, then pack your own. It isn’t sold at Disney because gum on the ground is so not magical. Which reminds me – don’t throw your gum on the ground. It isn’t magical at Disney or in the parking lot when I step on it and curse your inconsiderate existence.
  • Food: Yup, you can bring it into the parks. No glass containers or alcohol or the normal no-nos…but you absolutely can bring in your kid’s Goldfish and make them happy.
Dole Whip with Rum...in the rain...in my $1 poncho.

Cheers! Dole Whip with Rum…in the rain…in my $1 poncho.

8. Be Prepaaaarrrrreeed.

I know. I already told you to do your research. But it feels right to start AND end this list with that sentiment. If there is one thing you take from this post, it is that you absolutely cannot expect to “just wing it” at Disney World and still have a magical time. Every moment you spend planning will be worth it when you have those park maps memorized, a lovely buffet lunch with Mickey and you’re skipping to the head of the line with your Fast Pass.

Here are some blogs and sites that I have found helpful in the planning process:

Pin this image to share my list!

Pin this image to share my list!

And my final thought –

Remember the importance of expectations and what it means to be on vacation. You will not fit everything in on one visit. Absolutely impossible. Prioritize and plan accordingly so that you can have a fun, relaxed trip!

What’s your number one Disney Planning tip? Have a trip to Disney World planned soon or know someone planning one? Share this list!

 

**All prices quoted for tickets and parking are subject to change**

Moving Tips & Tricks

This week we moved for the second time in eight months. That’s right — I had just finished unpacking when it was time to pack up my entire house again. And as practice (and OCD organizational tendencies) makes perfect, I did everything I could to make my second move in less than a year stress-free and painless. All my hard work paid off when I overheard the movers (people who do this for a living y’all!) complimenting my process and organization. And thus this list was born. Here are my top 14 tips for an organized move:

1. Don’t start too early

Listen, all you’re going to do is be living in chaos with boxes everywhere and not being able to find anything if you start three months before your move date. Plus, as SOON as you pack up that waffle iron that you never use, the kids will beg for waffles and you’ll be diving back into sealed boxes on the hunt for waffle perfection. You don’t need that stress in your life.

2. Don’t start too late

If you start packing the weekend before your Monday move date, it’s not going to get done and you’re going to go into panic mode and lose/break things. Only you can decide what’s early enough based on the time you have to spend packing and the amount of junk going in your trunk. Start early enough to finish the night before without anything to do the next day but zip up the overnight bags and last minute box.

3. Buy mover’s packing tape

I wish someone had told me this in college when we moved all the time. Professional movers use this brown packing tape and it is SO much easier to both apply and remove. You don’t have to use scissors to cut it and when the time comes to open your boxes, you usually can peel it right back without using a box cutter or scissors. It is MUCH better and easier to work with than the packing tape you buy at a drugstore and ship packages with.

Moving Tape

4. Buy Smart Move tape

The movers from 8 months ago used this tape to organize and I thought it was so brilliant. I even bought more this move because I thought it made the unloading process so much easier for both the movers and me — no one had to ask me where anything went! Best invention ever and worth every penny.

Moving Labeled Tape

5. Labels

I was inspired by the Smart Move tape to make color-coded labels for all of the boxes. I used the colors of the tape to coincide with a package of Post-It flags I had bought and was able to stick to each of the labels. It worked really well and insured that I could just label one side of the box, Smart Move tape the top, and be able to know which room the box went into just by seeing any side of it. The labels are just mailing labels that I designed with the name of the room and three lines for contents. I used the Post-It flags to mark the furniture so it was color-coded by room as well.

Moving collage

6. Have a ‘Last Minute’ Box

There are going to be things that are not packed, but also don’t technically belong in your overnight bag – extension cords, nightlights, tape, household cleaners, paper towels, etc. All of these things need a home and having an empty box or tote ready on the morning of your move will help you not have anxiety about where to cram all the “extras.”

7. Have a system

Now, this is a “whatever works for you” situation… but my system includes this small screwdriver tool – I use it to keep from losing the end of the tape, and also use it to “cut” the tape after I have it stretched across the box. I basically just stab the center of the tape with the screwdriver. It breaks the tape pretty evenly, I don’t lose the end, and I don’t have to fuss with scissors. It is very efficient. Nothing makes you want to stab yourself in the eye with the scissors you keep misplacing more than losing the end of the tape every time you seal a box.

Moving System

8. Carry a packing basket

I used a basket to carry everything I need to pack with from room to room. You can pretty much see what was in mine, but it included: Tape, Screwdriver tool, scissors, labels, sharpie, Post-It flags, pen, gallon Ziplock bags, quart Ziplock bags.

Moving Basket

9. Have a ‘First Open’ Box

The First Open box features all of the things you might immediately need at your new home. It is useful to have all of these things in one place as soon as you arrive so you can start settling in with the essentials – toilet paper, trash bags, toiletries, power strips, tape, Sharpie, pen/paper, scissors.

First Open Box

10. Saran Wrap

I bought a roll of cheap Saran Wrap and wrapped anything we owned with drawers, with whatever was in the drawers still inside. I wouldn’t do this with your collection of paperweights, but it worked especially well for these plastic drawers (with my scarves, hats and gloves in them) as well as my crafting cabinets. Saran Wrap is much easier to cut off than tape, and it doesn’t leave behind any sticky residue.

Moving Saran Wrap

11. Trash Bags

Packing in trash bags is never classy, but sometimes it’s just necessary for the bulkier items. I wrapped the bottoms of our Shark mop/brooms/Swiffer in a trash bag and used painter’s tape to wrap the handles together. I also separated our hanging clothes with trash bags to both protect them and organize them.

Moving Trash Bags

12. Ziplock Bags

I used these for everything. I bought gallon and quart sizes and used them to wrangle my junk drawer, makeup, utensils, spices, measuring spoons/cups, liquid cleaning products, desk trays of office supplies, etc. I only used a box of each and it was the best $5 I ever spent.

Moving Ziplocks

13. Foam Plates

I used foam plates to help pack and protect my real plates and am happy to report it worked like a charm! I stacked a foam plate in between each real plate, did four at a time, and then wrapped all four in paper. All of my plates survived and I didn’t have to use a ton of paper. Plus, the leftover foam plates went into my ‘First Open’ box, which was very useful for having something to eat off of at the new house.

Moving Foam Plates

14. Designate rooms with signs

Because I had been so organized with packing (color coded, labeled), I was able to put signs on the door to each room so that the movers didn’t have to ask me which box or piece of furniture went where. The movers were able to call out “Green!” to each other and know that “green” meant whatever they were holding went into the Guest Bedroom, blue to Master, etc. This greatly expedited their process and they were very appreciative of the ease in which they unloaded the truck. And I was appreciative of not having to run around and shout orders as to where each bookshelf went.

Moving room label collage

Alright, there’s my list of moving tips that I think may help you to a stress-free move – Feel free to pin or post this list so that others can benefit from my numerous moves – someone ought to! Any moving tips or tricks you can add to my arsenal for the next move?