Non-Vinegar Essential Oil Cleaner

NaturalCleaner_Blog (7)

There has been a ton going on lately, with new calves at the farm, house renovations, graduate school starting back up, and general life. I really have been wanting to start writing again, so I thought I’d start up with something that was a wild ride this winter. I was hoping to come back “full swing” with a more upbeat post, but I decided to go this route because it’s something a lot of people might appreciate. So, let’s go!

Last November, after using some harsh chemical cleaners, I ended up breaking out in chronic hives for the first time in over a decade. In November after using a cleaner my hands got very very red and itchy, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I broke out in hives on my hands. Days later they were showing up just about anywhere in patches. This was not a typical dermatological response to a harsh chemical. These were standard off the shelf cleaners you can find in any store. Brand name cleaners.

My system was already more sensitive than normal for various reasons. The chemicals simply caused a reaction that fueled itself. Eight weeks later the hives were still there. An allergy panel showed no allergies (even ones I used to be allergic to). This led the decades long allergist to tell me that my symptoms and onset were pretty consistent with an immune disorder. Clearly – my body had been attacking itself for weeks. I’d say that was my immune system acting disorderly.

Thanks to some changes and starting some herbs that help with mast cells and immune health, I’m doing pretty good. One of the changes I made was starting to search around for a homemade natural cleaner, and vinegar was out. Andy simply cannot stand vinegar based cleaners. The scent in the house is just too much for him. I too was hoping I could find something that cleaned very well, and had a better scent. A plethora of research ensued and this ended up being the final analysis: good essential oils, a gentle cleaner, water, and a spray bottle.

You cannot even believe how good this stuff works as a general cleaner, and with baking soda for tougher spots. It’s not going to strip your kitchen spotless in no time like a commercial cleaner (kind of the point). What it will do though is clean surprisingly well for every day cleanup. To prove to you the cleaning power of this, I am going to show you something I dare show no one: My stove after a bit of cooking crazy meals that I didn’t wipe down.

Non-Vinegar Homemade Cleaner:

  • Spray bottle (the size does not matter)
  • Dr. Bronners castile soap
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Tea Tree essential oil
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil
  1. Pour enough Dr. Bronners in the bottom of your spray bottle that it covers, and comes up about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.
  2. Add about 10 drops of each essential oil. I tend to add just a couple more tea tree oil because of it’s awesome anti-bacterial properties.
  3. Add water to fill up the rest of the bottle. Gentle tip back and forth to ensure everything gets mixed well.
  4. Spray away!

The Fully Unscientific, Non Peer-reviewed, Non-Control Group Stove Test

I fully do not believe in hack science that touts backup when it has none – no matter how good it sounds. I believe in peer-reviewed, control group, scientifically reproducible studies. This is not any of those. This is just what I’ve found works well for me. I’ve reproduced this a few times in my kitchen, but that’s about as scientific as this gets.

Here it is in all it’s glory – my absolutely repulsive stove that I didn’t clean up after cooking for a few days. Hey turmeric rice that boiled over. Hello curry! Also, that totally gross burner has been there no matter how much I scrub it. Deal with it. I’ve dealt with it for five years.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (2)Looking at this repulsive beast, I then sprayed my concoction all over and let it set for a few minutes. One light wipe down (no scrubbing), and the stove was looking better.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (3)One more light mist and a bit more of a detailed wiping down, and it almost looked presentable. Or, rather, as presentable as I care. We’re not talking a Martha Stewart visit here. Even if it were, I mean, come on – it’s me. Hi Martha, here’s a mason jar full of Coors light.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (4)That one damn burner looks better, but it’s still not good. Scrubbing until I had no cartilage between my elbows left wouldn’t really help. I decided to pull out the baking soda to try and get a better clean. I put a bit more cleaner on, and then doused with the baking soda.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (5)Now, before I give the results here let me say this. After wiping just a little bit, it started getting better but then I got annoyed. Then I remembered about the chain mail scrubber my Dad got me at Christmas for my cast iron. Then I remembered it’s a matter of months before this stove gets completely ripped out in our kitchen renovation and that I do not care if it gets totally scuffed to shit. So, chain mail came out like a knight in shining armor.

NaturalCleaner_Blog (6)I’d say that helped quite a bit. I was satisfied enough to take myself out to breakfast. If you think for a second I was about to cook on that newly cleaned stove, you’re out of your damn mind. I’ll cook on it tomorrow. Maybe.

The point is this, overall, just looking between the first and second photo, you can see how well the cleaner works. Plus, it smells super great.

So, there’s that.

All for now, enjoy if you want. I’ll hopefully be back soon with some more updates!

You know how it goes,


Disclaimer: Just like any cleaner, this cleaner does not substitute for proper cleanliness, preparation and sanitation in a kitchen, bathroom, etc. Please do not do weird things like cut meat directly on the counter, and then use this spray and expect it to kill bacteria. That’s just very poor judgement. Use this cleaner at your own discretion.

Oh So Apple Saucy Granola

The other day Andy and I were talking about making some more items ourselves here at home. I already make my own garbanzo flour (it’s loud, but a Vitamix does a great job on dried garbanzo beans), and a few times I made my own almond milk, though I decided that was simply too labor intensive. One of the foods we realized I had never made was granola. It’s one of the easiest things to make and yet I had never even attempted it. Andy eats granola every  morning for breakfast, and growing up his mom often made it. Today I decided to give it a go.

Here was my hangup: Granola is insanely sugary and fattening if made regularly. I don’t mind the fat coming from the nuts but many of the recipes I saw included both a bunch of sugar and or butter to make it clump. Gulp. No thanks.

I had this absolutely delicious granola a long time ago baked with applesauce. It was sweet, low in fat, and contained only a little sugar. I knew I needed to replicate it. I was okay with using some sugar, and some agave nectar as long as total it didn’t exceed one cup (with at least have of that cup being raw agave nectar, and the sugar being raw brown sugar). After some googling I came across this recipe at Fake Ginger.

Her recipe is as follows:

  • 2½ cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm the applesauce with the honey and oil over low heat.
  4. Mix the applesauce mixture into the oat mixture and stir to coat everything. Spread the mixture onto a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is a deep brown. Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Cool completely before enjoying.

This is what it looks like before baking. I messed up the focus on my camera so just look at that tiny strip of in focus mix *hits self in face*. This is what happens when I don’t use my camera very much for a couple months.

Since we limit animal products in our diets, and I already had raw agave nectar on hand I decided to make the switch from honey. My other changes included using cake spice instead of cinnamon since I was out, choosing pecans and walnuts for my nuts, and adding about a half teaspoon of vanilla.

Here are a few notes:

  • I did about 4 1/2 rounds of 10 minutes – meaning 45 minutes and it was a little browner than my personal preference. I’ll do 30 minutes next time but I have to say it did sets up to a nice crunch and adding the raisins in made it a lot tastier. I think it honestly just comes down to preference on this one. Andy thinks it’s fine.
  • Next time I will also either cut out the salt all together, or cut to 1/8 of a teaspoon. I found 1/2 to be too much. I’m fairly salt sensitive though, in general a little amount is plenty for me. It didn’t taste salty at all to Andy.
  • Be careful turning the granola every 10 minutes so you don’t break down the clumps too much. It’s not a clump intensive granola like some, and I don’t think you will get that with an apple sauce granola. It still clumped nicely though, but if you are too aggressive during turning you’ll break them up.

It’s held up really nice, and once it was entirely cool I put it in a tupperware. The key is to make sure that it is entirely cool. Very Very cool. You don’t want any residual heat or else it will turn chewy and blech.

One of the things I really enjoy about this recipe is that it’s pretty versatile if you follow the basic recipe. Next time I’ll likely go with almonds and dried raspberries. Mmmm so tasty.

Verdict: There’s no need to ever buy granola again. This was both super cheap, and super easy. Give it a try!



Easy Septic Safe Homemade Laundry Detergent

I have a thing for soap nuts. What are soap nuts? A glorious fruit. Confusing I know. They are, in a few words – natures detergent. They come from places like Nepal, so I make sure the ones I buy are fair trade. I’ve used them for about a year now for our laundry, sometimes switching out for regular detergent, and sometimes adding an oxygen booster—but I love these things. 4-5 of them in a muslin cotton bag thrown in the laundry and voila, clean pantaloons.

Lately however I’ve been really trying to pare down, even more than I already do, on the additives, chemicals, etc. It means using up what I already have, but interspersing tests of new items I can make at home to see how they hold up. I’m not someone who cares if someone else uses chemicals in their home, I just prefer to limit them in mine. My hope is that by the end of the summer all of the old chemicals will be used up and I’ll be down to cleaning with the following items:

  • Dr. Bronners
  • Soap Nuts
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Washing Soda
  • Borax (rarely)
  • Essential Oils

My first foray into testing soap nuts outside of their regular laundry use in solid form was to make them into a liquid detergent. Soap nuts work best when you use hot water, and we only use cold. So while they work fine, I wanted to see if there was a difference with the liquid. From what I’ve read, unless you are going to be preserving your liquid (yes, you can pressure can and water bath it), it’s best to make it small batches so it doesn’t spoil. I suppose you could also keep it in your fridge which would help to. (Here’s where I buy my soapnuts, but if you don’t want to make your own liquid they sell it too. )

After reading a couple recipes I decided to make a semi-higher concentrated version, since I know what clothes tend to look like around here especially in the summertime. So here’s the recipe I’m testing

  1. Add 15 soap nuts to 4 cups of water, and boil for 30 minutes until you have two cups of liquid. The full concentration recipe is 12-15 soapnuts in 6 cups of water, boiled for 30 minutes to 3 cups. Add extra water if needed to get to the two cups. Use one to three tablespoons per load.

This sounded easy enough.

My tips:

  • Either use a larger pot, or simmer this, don’t boil. You’ll see bubbles form because it’s a detergent. A rip roaring boil will make the water overflow. Don’t ask how I know this.
  • When you’re done, pour into a measuring cup to ensure you have boiled down far enough (or if too far, add more water back).
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a glass container to separate the liquid from the soap nut pieces. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mason jar or a bowl, just try not to use plastic. This mixture is hot and it could potentially melt the plastic, which would either make a mess or release chemicals into your soap nuts. Melted plastic = bad
  • Let cool completely before either capping in a mason jar for future use, or pouring into a dispenser. I used an old salad dressing bottle to hold it as I plan on making this in small batches.

So how does it hold up in laundry? I like it a lot, even more than regular soap nuts. I’ve been known to accidentally throw the muslin bag with soap nuts in the dryer which is a no no with soap nuts as they *should* air dry. Now, with that *should* said, I’ve never really had a problem with the dryer ruining mine unless they were already near the end of their useful life. Since I use cold water though, this liquid works way better.

Verdict? Win! I will be definitely making/using this more. One natural cleaner alternative down (and it’s so so easy).

Happy Greener Living,


Pst – This is a septic safe laundry detergent. I have used the other recipe with grated soap in the past, but stopped once I found out it can be dangerous for septic systems. Even though it may melt on high heat, the soap may re-solidify in your pipes and cause major damage down the line, so I’ve erred on the side of caution and stayed away from it.

Psst- This liquid is also very popular for other general cleaning purposes too from counters to windows, when mixed with vinegar and diluted. I have used neither of these before, but there are tons of recipes out there! If I test it, you’ll be sure to know.



All Hands On Deck {Part Four}

Update: Last night at dinner Andy informed me of two huge mistakes I made in this post. One, I called construction adhesive ‘caulking’ and two I referred to our belt sander as a ‘band saw’ (wtf?). I would like you all to know that if I get a construction term wrong, and it seems to make him look incompetent—it’s totally me. Not him. He knows what he’s doing. Poor guy. I really should have him proof these kinds of posts first.

This post has taken me a while to get up. As an old professor used to say, “As is life”. She also wore bright nail polish all the time because if she was ever upset all she had to do was look at her nails and laugh. She also used the word flummoxed a lot. She was one of my favorites….and so is this new deck.

Last weekend, after a week of rain and general drizzly weather, Saturday and Sunday turned out to be beautifully sunny so we were able to continue progress on our little piece of heaven security.

Since Andy had already finished everything up through the decking (seen here, here and here) it was time to start the cedar posts, and mahogany rails. The first step was measuring and notching out the post itself. Update: I thought we had bought the cedar posts, Andy informed me he actually made all of those.

Then Andy did a test fit, before cutting the decking itself just to make sure it would fit correctly. Test fits are absolute key, since you don’t want to cut into decking that was a.) free and b.) expensive to replace.

And then he repeated it, eight more times.

Once the cedar posts were set, he grabbed the mahogany railings and set them out so we could see where we wanted them, if we wanted to rip them narrower, and where we were going to overlap them. Also, some of the pieces had channels on the bottom, and some were flat and Andy and Casey (Tom Cruise has a real name) went back and forth over whether they should all have channels or not.

Andy won (pst – this railing is not centered where we were actually attaching it).

Once we figured out the placement, and all of the angles (and by we, I clearly mean just Andy while I took photos) it was time to start assembling them. Andy started with the one corner that required a clear 45 degree on each end piece. First he marked it all and then cut the angles on our portable saw.

Once everything was cut, he assembled them using a mix of construction adhesive, biscuits as well as a few screws with the Kreg jig.  Andy doesn’t usually use of the Kreg jig as a primary way to secure two items (though there are times it works, as you’ll see later in this post), but in this case it worked great as a secondary way to secure the railings in conjunction with the biscuits.

He also used this method to secure the joint on the other side where two boards met. It’s a good overall technique for most similar purposes.

Tip: If your caulking/adhesive seems clogged up use a screw, either putting it in by hand or with your screw gun, and then reverse it and pull. It works just about every time.

After everything was attached, Andy then hand made wood plugs out of mahogany for each hole so it would look nice. Once they were dry he cut them off (I don’t have a photo of

Side Story: Before the boys secured the rail down they had it sitting on posts and it was too long, so it was across the opening. Guess who walked up the stairs full charge and COMPLETELY missed a giant wide piece of mahogany across the opening? This lady right here. I crashed right into it. Andy just put his hand on his forehead and my brother-in-law laughed at me and made fun of me for a solid five minutes.Then I almost did it. Again. And then one more time just for good measure.

This about did it for the work on Saturday/Sunday, and then the rain came. Again. Last night it finally gave us a break (for a little while) and since Andy took the day off work he got to working on the deck some more. When I got in home all of the posts were cut and he was making the hand rail out of mahogany. The key to the hand rail is that it can’t be as wide as the perimeter railing. It needs to be comfortable and narrow enough to get a grip on if you start to take a digger.

Test fit one.

Success! It was comfortable, narrow enough and looked good. To secure it, Andy used the Kreg Jig  on the bottom side into each post, sans (I think) any other needed adhesive. We joked about face nailing it, but I should point out there are a couple things you shouldn’t do with a deck—secure things with nails, and face nail your wood (unless you really like look of screws everywhere…).

Now, I thought he was done for the day since the rain started sprinkling but then I heard this loud noise and looked outside to find this.

Refinishing the railings with a belt sander? You bet! As good of an idea as this is, please wear a mask. Not your shirt pulled over your face like my husband. Why? Because eventually you will be covered in sawdust and look like this. Oh, and the saw dust is actually shooting in front of his hat, it’s not shooting underneath like it looks below. Trickery of photography.

I love how it looks with that old weird sealant off the top and the fresh wood. Over time the mahogany will darken up again, but at least it will look even.

So much better!

When he was done I asked him to stop for a second so I could take a photo of him to prove how much dust gets everywhere.

As you can note by the photo above, he does not ever stop moving. Blurry Andy it is. I need to keep my shutter speed on a million just to keep up with him.

Well, that’s where this part ends. Hopefully (cross your fingers) the next deck post will be the last. In the mean time, let’s play the “let’s see how many errors we can find in this post” game. The fact is I’ve waited way too long to post this.

So I’m going to, without proof reading it first.

What? I’m a risk taker.

Happy Building (and mask wearing),


Sun Tea for Three

*tap tap* Is this thing on?

Ahh good. You’re still there. I didn’t post last week because frankly, I had nothing to say. I mean I had plenty to say. I’m a talker, everyone knows that. I just didn’t have much to announce in blog world. It’s been pretty miserable weather so there hasn’t been much outside, and aside from an utterly boring post about me doing laundry, or cleaning the dogs ears, there hasn’t been too much worth discussing. So I spared you. However, last weekend we got things going again, so I’ll have a couple posts to share with you this week. Including a deck post. Eep!

Let’s ease into this by giving you the absolutely easiest recipe ever, next to Rachel Rays “Late Night Bacon” recipe. You should go read that recipe and then read the comments. They are fairly hilarious and sarcastic. What I’m about to share with you I’m not even sure qualifies as a recipe. It’s more like, a couple steps. So feel free to pile on the hilarious and sarcastic comments here as well. I’m pretty sure I deserve it.

When Andy was a kid, some ladies in his family used to make something called Sun Tea a lot. I’ve heard about it for years but we never made it; until this weekend when Andy found a drink dispenser I had bought (and not used) for our wedding. There’s something fun about making this, and I don’t know why. Just do it. You’ll think it’s fun too.

Sun Tea


  • Clear drink pitcher, dispenser, large mason jar, etc.
  • Tea bags (about 5)
  • Water (about one gallon)
  • Sunny Day


  1. Hang on to your panties. These directions might blow your culinary mind. And just for this I will pronounce it “Q-linary” because this is very sophisticated.
  2. Put water in dispenser/jar/pitcher.
  3. Add tea bags.
  4. Let sit in sun. For a few hours.
  5. Add sugar and ice to the entire shindig once it’s brewed, if you want. (I prefer mine plain. Andy prefers his with sugar. Just don’t add milk. Especially if you’re going to continue to let this sit out. Yikes. You might as well make tuna and mayo and let that sit out too. Just kidding. Don’t.)

Can I tell you a secret? This makes more than tea for three. It’s just that there were three of us sitting around drinking it—and it rhymes with tea.  I bet we’ll likely make a jug of this pretty often now that we remembered we had these jars.

Also, I’m sorry for assaulting you with such a complex recipe. The Food Network will be banging on my door any day now. It does after all include at least a few more steps than “put bacon in microwave”. Though, putting bacon in the microwave isn’t a half bad idea.

Happy Sunning,