Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lizzy, my sweet sister whom I really don't know (friend of friends), wrote this humbling and provoking post on her blog. I encourage you to spend time not just reading it, but let your heart marinate in it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The tale of the missing ring

FINALLY, I'm able to sit down and spin my tale about my wedding band that went AWOL in Colorado.

So Sonlight runs two different programs: the weekly residence camps, and a High Adventure program, which runs weekly backpacking trips concurrently with the residents camps. The backpacking program is for high school and up, but there is an outdoor wilderness program for Junior High kids called Wilderness Week for Boys, and there's a Wilderness Week for Girls. During those weeks, the kids don't do a full-on backpack trip. Typically a handful of available staff (or just Winston) will pack in most of the supplies a few days ahead of time and set up a campsite in the Wilderness. Then, the kids will pack in their own stuff as well as their food, and use that as their camp for the week. Each day that they're there involves day hikes, team-building activities, devotionals and quiet time, and of course the work that is inherent when you're tenting-it in the woods.

So on Thursday Winston planned on heading into the Weminuche Wilderness to pack in supplies for Wilderness Week for Girls. I asked if Matt and I could come along and help him out - I LOVED packing in supplies for Wilderness Weeks when I worked at Sonlight!!! It's never a terribly long hike, but it's just neat to get a little snatch of the untouched outdoors. And I'm an idiot when it comes to setting up an actual campsite, so I like to learn.

So that is exactly what we did. On Thursdays the kids go to Durango to go white-water rafting ("white water" being a very loose term by the end of the summer). I went rafting once and am over it. Anyway, Winston packed up the stuff and we toot-tooted our way up the gravel road several miles to the trailhead that leads to Four Mile Falls.

I've been on this trail many times before. It's not complicated by any stretch of the imagination, and it's beautiful. Our plan was to head about a mile in, then cut off the trail, cross a stream, and set up the camp in a meadow that could not be seen from the main trail.

Benji, Winston and Mary's dog (who loves Winston and tolerates everyone else), on the way up to the trailhead. Never, EVER try to sit in his seat in the car. I made that mistake.

On the way down the trail...

So we set up camp in this sweet little meadow, right? Pitched tents, hung up a dining fly, dug a poop pit (actually, the picture above is the scene you are graced with as you straddle the poop pit...did I choose well or what?). Below is the pitched tents. Just so you can see the meadow it was in. It's good for a visual as the story progresses.

Finally, Winston asked if I would help him dig the fire pit and line it with rocks. This was the moment of the grave mistake: I said sure, and then proceed to REMOVE MY WEDDING RINGS and put them in my pocket, so they wouldn't get caked with dirt. My shorts pockets were pretty deep, and as I put the rings in (they aren't soldered together), I thought, 'Make SURE you put those back on right away...' and proceeded to help put together the fire pit.

After we built the fire pit, I committed another grave mistake: forgetting to put my rings right back on. I shoved my camera in my pocket - the same pocket as the rings - and walked around the site taking some pictures.

Having completed our task, and thankful that the rain had not yet come, we hiked back out, taking a shortcut back across the stream and through another field. We sat back down once we got to the main trail to change out of our Chacos and back into our shoes.
It was then, when I stood up to put my pack back on, that I realized I hadn't put my rings back on. Gripped with momentary panic, I reached in my pocket and pulled out my engagement ring. *whew!* BUT - my wedding band was NOT in there. I was like, OH. NO. A million thoughts were going through my head, thinking I should say something and head back to the site to look for it. But no, I couldn't do that and hold us all up, because Winston was on a tight schedule and had to drive the bus to another trailhead to pick up the backpackers. Okay. Hm. Well, how many people do I know who lost their wedding ring or the diamond on it at some point? Many. Well, I guess I'm joining their ranks. At least it's resting in a beautiful place. But WAIT!! That's my WEDDING BAND!!! There's only one ring that my sweet husband slipped on my hand at our wedding, and I want it BACK!! He might buy me another one someday, but it's not THAT one!! Then I started to feel like crying. So I 'fessed up to Matt as we resumed our walk. Of course, he wanted to let Winston know and head back right away to look for it. I'm like, there is NO way we're going to find it. It's okay. Sometimes you lose things. Just the way it is. At least - dang, at LEAST - I had the engagement ring, with the diamond on it. My engagement ring has a princess-cut solitaire with channel-set diamonds on either side, and the wedding band matches it with the channel-set diamonds.

So we headed back to Sonlight. I felt awful. Matt felt that we really needed to go back and at least TRY to find it. I'm like, riiiiiggghhht. I mean, you saw the pictures of where we were!! Thick grass, stream crossing, about the proverbial needle in a haystack. Now it's a wedding band in the wilderness. You've GOT to be kidding me.

But, heading back in WAS the right thing to do to look for it. So we ate lunch at Sonlight, and hopped back in the car to drive up to the trailhead.

So we get to the trailhead, and of course, the afternoon storm was heading it. All week long we had been having UGLY storms. Terrible thunder and lightning, torrential rain, and even hail. Along with the storms came some dang cold air that lingered for a bit after the storm ended. Mountain storms are FABULOUS...when witnessed from inside. Not when they're swirling around the mountains, and you're heading IN to the wilderness, when everyone else is booking it OUT. What a spooky feeling that is, to hear those rumbles of thunder, and you're heading into where there is, well, nobody. But we thought, hey, we'll boogie in, hopefully the rain will hold off while we look, and if it gets terrible, at LEAST there are tents set up and we can stay fairly warm and dry while we wait the storm out.

And so we boogied in. We BOOKED. Fortunately, the way in is mostly downhill, so the booking at 9,000 feet was easy. We cross the first stream. Rumble. Up and over the first meadow. Rumble - rumble. Hang a sharp right after the clump of trees. Rumbling's getting louder and more insistent. Cross the next stream, scoot around the trees and bushes, and there's the site!

We crawled. We looked. We replayed where we had been. Oh my WORD - HOW do you find a little ring in the middle of THICK GRASS, when it could be ANYWHERE? Is it by the log? Under one of the stones by the firepit? This is a JOKE! I'm in the middle of East Moses Nowhere, looking for my have GOT to be kidding me.

Well, then the rain came. I don't want us to get too wet and cold, so I call off the search until the rain lets up. We perched under the dining fly. Dear Matt keeps telling me he only wants to find the ring because he knows how badly I'll feel if we don't. He's not mad at me at all. Yes, we are just as married whether I have it or not. At least my pretty engagement ring is still on my finger! I say we should just head back when the rain lets up. We could look all day in this meadow. Here's a pack of cards in my backpack...Cool! It's Phase 10 (one of our fave games). Let's just play until the rain lets up and head back.

BTW - this whole experience was a huge test for me as far as my struggle with anxiety is concerned. It pops up every once in a while, I haven't had a panic attack in a few years. But sitting there in the middle of nowhere, away from cell connectivity, with a storm approaching...kind of creepy. It took a LOT for me to keep my cool and not lose it. That was VERY scary for me. I had to keep reminding myself that God made the beauty around us AND He created the storm too. I could praise Him and his majesty whether the sun was shining or that storm was raging, because He's in charge of it all. What a great metaphor for life!!

Anyway, the rain let up a bit. Matt said, "Why don't we just walk up the middle of the meadow, slowly, step by step, and look for a few more minutes. Then we can leave." We did just that. Bent over, moving like an old couple doing Tai Chi in slow motion (Tai Chi in slow motion would be REEEEALLLLY slow), we inspected every blade of grass, stick, and wildflower. I'm like, riiiighhht. But I played along. The rain was starting up again. I reached out and grabbed Matt's hand. This next part, I'm not joking. I grabbed Matt's hand, and there was actually a quick flash of lightning, and suddenly Matt says, "Wait...what is THIS?" picks at the ground, and holds up.........MY RIIIIINNNNNGGGG!!!!!!!!

We whooped, we hollered, we jumped.

Not unlike the parable of the lost sheep, huh? Or the lost coin? Interesting, no?

Well then the rain really started and the thunder was louder, and there was lightning...and it was getting cold. So we hopped in one of the tents, pulled out Phase Ten, and played a few more hands. Not without a few victory pics, first.

My hero!

And that was that. The rain let up, we emerged, hiked back up the trail, and happily made our way back to camp.

And THAT is the tale of the missing ring. It's that much more special to me that it perched alone in a mountain-flanked meadow before coming back to me. :)

The end.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CMS, Part 3

Tuesday: Hike Day!!! Actually, hiking is a little cooler with the junior high and high schoolers: we actually hike on real trails in the Weminuche Wilderness. Not so with the younger ones; we just "hike" up the spring line outside of camp and kick back in a meadow, eat lunch, throw frisbees, and then head back to camp. Amazingly, though, this glorified walk results in many complaints, laments about hating hiking, and enough blisters, bug bites, and plant scratches to make you think that we forced them to scale K2 (well, I doubt they'd get bug bites on K2, but you get the point).

So here's Matt bringing up the rear with a group of his devotees. Matt is mildly obsessed (in a good way) about protecting his skin from the sun. As we hiked away from camp he realized that he didn't have his hat on, so he hopped on the supply bus and grabbed a sombrero. The boys thought that was a fabulous idea, and who can argue with such great sun protection? They were claiming to be "Spinese." Spanish if they wear the sombrero tilted back, Chinese if they wore it directly on top of the head. Or maybe it was the other way around. No matter.

(Hey, I said we went to Sonlight Christian Camp, not Sonlight Politically Correct Camp.)

The trail was pretty overgrown but with all the rain we had been getting, it was fragrant and green and beautiful. BTW - guess who had a pretty bad reaction to a bee sting the day before? (Hint: look at the left hand of the girl in front of me.)

Check out this beautiful bear track!! The toes are pointing to your right, the palm is on the left.

The week is mushing together for me by now, so I can't remember what we did on Tuesday night. No matter. Tuesday night or Wednesday night was Pirate Night!!! Who doesn't LOVE Pirate Night??? The staff had a box of pirate paraphernalia to pick through if you forgot your eye patch and sword. Matt and I whipped up our outfits in a matter of minutes (as if you can't tell).

In case you want to replicate my fab outfit for Halloween (or create your very own Pirate Night at home), follow these simple instructions: find a plastic pirate flag and rip it off its straw post and duct tape it to your forehead. Next, find the nearest plastic ornament bird (I just so happened to find an ugly little rooster standing on a shelf in my trailer), and duct tape it to your shoulder. If you do not have said plastic bird, a teddy bear will do (thank you, Matt). Put on a really mean face, and you will be well on your way to ARRRGGG-dom.

OR, of course, you could pilfer a perfect outfit from your mom, who teaches middle-school theater. Whatever.

Are you convinced?

Pirate Night usually takes place outside, but it was storming, so we had to make do inside. We had blow-up palm trees, handed out plastic eye patches and bandanas at the entrance, and served "parrot legs" (chicken drumsticks), veggie kabobs, and something else that seemed pirate-y. Loud pirate music was playing and pretty much everyone was shouting and growling "Arrrrrg." It was kind of zooey, but everyone had fun.

I'm now going to diverge from hiking and pirate-ing to tell you some of my favorite things about Sonlight. Not the least of which is the hailed "Second Pantry."

We can thank the health department for the Second Pantry, for it houses the leftovers that you really can't hand back out to the campers. Thank you, Health Department, for this bastion of Sonlight goodness. Many things at Sonlight are made from scratch. You know how most camps have really gross food and everyone loses weight? Yeah, NO. Sonlight is a "fat camp" not because you send your kids there to lose weight, but because everyone who stays there too long risks getting fat. Really fat. So it's late at night and you need a snack? Second Pantry. Too long of a stretch between lunch and dinner? Second Pantry. Need to feed a small nation in a pinch? Second Pantry.

Probably one of my favorite things about Sonlight, I don't even know if I can fully explain. Actually, I won't even try to explain it. These two coffee mugs side-by-side just say it all:

Such a juxtaposition you will find nowhere else. The mug on the left has a picture of a disgruntled cowboy on the other side of it. Matt and I just laughed so hard: disgruntled sarcastic cowboy vs. a Bible verse. WHERE ELSE?

In our next edition I will tell you the spectacular story of The Lost Wedding Ring. It really IS cool!!! Stay tuned!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Colorado Mini Series, Part 2

Sunday and Monday found camp well underway. There's a sweet rhythm and flow to life there that I had an easy time settling back into. Staff breakfast and devotions give way to hustling to "rock the dish pit," put breakfast out for the kids, start working on the chore list, and pull medications for my regulars.

I could probably write a whole post on the Dish Pit. I'm so pleased with the training I received in the pit, as it has come in handy on busier days when I working at the Mission. I'm equally pleased with the health code regulations with which I am now familiar, thanks to Sonlight. Such as, wear a proper head covering. At Sonlight, "proper" is pretty loosely defined and can mean a variety of things. Matt and Nick will demonstrate:

(Yes, Sarah, Matt is now truly wearing an animal on his head! It's Nemo!)

On Monday, the kids worked on Teams Course activities (team-building exercises) in the meadow, and then had Options, where they can choose the activities they want to do. Usual options include "horseback riding" (on the stick horses, of course...but they still have to wear proper getup - like hats and bandanas - learn how to talk to their horse, how to approach their horse, etc. It's quite hysterical.), the climbing wall, archery, dodgeball, and sitting in the hot tubs. Options can also include things like hair cuts (if we happen to have a style-gifted counselor), baking in the kitchen (if the cooks will so oblige), playing board games, tie-dying, or even playing with the camp dogs if the kids feel so inclined.

Matt helped harness kids up for the climbing wall.

We had a burger cookout Monday night (I think it was Monday night)...notice the spatulas attached to ski poles. Did I mention what a great example Sonlight sets of using your resources well??????

We kicked back and relaxed...

Changed into our party pants (that's me and Mary)...

And got our campfire on.

Time to retire in the Prowler. Where the nightly routine included killing moths the size of small birds and gagging over the smell of our Chacos. In case you wanted to know.

Coming up: Hike day and Pirate Night!!! Don't miss it!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Colorado Mini Series Part 1

Our trip to Colorado was so fun, I can't fit it all in one blog post. So I'm starting a mini-series. You can pretend you're rolling yourself in a ball and stuffing yourself into our suitcase!! Now doesn't that sound FUN?

This first post isn't all THAT exciting, but every exciting adventure has to start somewhere. So we flew out of Chicago on Frontier Airlines. I know you don't give a rip about what airline we flew, but it was my first time flying Frontier, and man, I LOVED it! There's a little TV on the back of every seat with Direct TV!! I could watch HGTV, TLC, and National Geographic (sidebar: what's with the "Nat Geo" that they're calling it now?? Seriously???? It's like Washington Mutual becoming WaMu and Beverages and More becoming BevMo. BEVMO? Are we THAT lazy of a culture that we have to shorten multiple-syllable words????? There, Katie B. - that was a rant for you)! Of course, 25 minutes into the flight they cut you off unless you pony up 6 bucks, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

We stayed in Littleton (southwest suburb of Denver) before heading off to Pagosa Springs the next day. If you didn't know this, we used to live in Littleton. It was totally surreal to stay there. Matt and I just kept saying, "We can't believe we LIVED here!" Our time in Denver was just...weird. We were newly married and moved all of our earthlies to Denver barely before the ink on our marriage license dried. We didn't really know anyone (Matt had made a couple of friends there during the summer), and I was the new wifey moving into what had become his home (ish) just opened up some weird dynamics, plunged us into the challenges of married life with not much of a support system...All in all, our life in Denver never really "gelled." We never felt like we were thriving there, totally connected, all those things that you like to feel when you're starting out in a new area. BUT - we got Molly there, and are convinced that that may have been the one reason we lived there. :)

I did have Matt do a slow drive-by and snapped a picture of our old condo. Our first home together!!! We lived in the upper unit. As you can see, there are lots of windows and very high ceilings, yet a lot of wasted space. Pretty, though.

Anyway, we shot off from Littleton the next morning and enjoyed the amazing drive away from the Front Range, and through the farms, funny little towns, and past beautiful mountains.

Pagosa Springs is a little mountain town in the southwest portion of Colorado, about an hour and a half east of Durango. You pull off the main drag and drive a ways down a county road to camp.

This summer was Sonlight's 30th year...Winston and Mary Marugg, the couple that God called to start this camp, have built this camp grass-roots style, using whatever God has provided, built the buildings barn-raising style...there is nothing fancy or luxurious about the place. The nurse (that's me!!!) gets the fanciest digs among the summer staff: a 1980-something Prowler trailer, complete with running water and a toilet. But like I said in an article I wrote for a camp nurse publication, who would have thought that the height of my career would be spent living in the middle of nowhere in a trailer??

(Once Jennymark, always Jennymark! And yes, that's a "No Swine" symbol.)

The Prowler is even MORE special now with a deck, a shelter, flowers, AND Adirondack chairs!! It's downright L.L. Bean!

We unloaded all our junkus and met up with Mary

and headed into town to meet up with Winston (who had just dropped off backpackers and their trailhead) and Mike, a friend from Albuquerque who spends much of his vacation time as a counselor at Sonlight. We ate at this awesome Mexican restaurant in town. (Mike's all the way to the left, Winston's on the right.)

And so we enjoyed our evening and anticipated a week of 5th and 6th grade goodness.

I just have to say that I spent a whole week tending to random kid needs (cuts, scrapes, fifth-grade drama), in addition to doing load after load of camp laundry, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, emptying trash, vacuuming, and whatever else needs to be done on a daily basis to keep such a thing running smoothly. Matt fixed their network problems, I sifted through mounds of old health forms, we ate great food, danced silly dances at the campfire, and wore ridiculous outfits to make the kids laugh.

During that whole week I had to fight back tears, because I was so humbled and honored to do even one of those things. I'm not trying to say that in a braggy yet self-depricating way, but be at Sonlight is an honor. This place has some crazy high-90% return rate. Kids start coming when they're 8 years old, and every January are nearly crawling all over each other to reserve their spot. And when they're too old to come to camp, they want to do whatever they can to be on staff. And like I said earlier, there's nothing remotely fancy out this place. It's in a meadow in the middle of the mountains. There's no pool. Instead of horses there are stick horses, and even the high schoolers want to climb on the "horses" and gallop thru the meadow pretending they're cowboys. Nothing glitzy, nothing glam, just camp. Camp!! They play Capture el Rubber Pollo (Capture the Rubber Chicken, for those less informed in espanol - like me), super-sized Twister, and laugh like crazy.

But they meet God here too. Some of them wait 51 weeks every year for that one week that reminds them that there is a God who loves them, pursues them, and longs for a relationship with them. And He speaks for Himself easily enough. He doesn't need glitz, He doesn't need glam, He really doesn't need us to help Him declare his majesty. And when people are able to come into that amazing presence and the trappings of the world fall away....Wow. Sign me up. I want to be there.
Sonlight's mission is simple: Be with kids and show them God. Be with them, laugh with them, learn their name, wash their dishes, play with them, sing with them, model Christ's love for them. And then, continue in what you have learned. Take Sonlight back out into your world.

I can't wait to tell you about our week!!!

Rockin' the FM

I about wet my pants at the Farmer's Market on Wednesday...our FM is always full of great stuff, but this week it positively EX-PLODED with flowers and produce. I've been experimenting with some new veggie-oriented recipes lately, and I gotta tell ya: I'm not wearing socks right now because, well, they've been knocked off.

The following three things yielded enough food for the two of us for three nights, so they have long legs. And most of the ingredients came straight from the local farms.

Meal numero uno

Tomato and Feta Crostini and Fresh Corn and Avocado Salad

Here's what they looked like...

To make the crostini, you will need...

5 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 T kosher salt
12-in baguette, cut into thin rounds
Olive oil cooking spray (I just used olive oil and brushed it on)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/4 t ground black pepper
1 T chopped oregano
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Place the diced tomatoes in a colander. Add the salt and mix gently. Set aside over a bowl or the sink to drain.

Heat the oven to broil.

Arrange the bread rounds on a baking sheet. Brush the bread with the olive oil, then broil on the bottom rack until just lightly toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside. Transfer the tomatoes to a medium bowl, discarding the juice that has drained out. Add the olive oil, the balsamic, pepper, and oregano, mixing gently.

Spoon some of the tomato mixture onto each bread round, then top with the feta. If desired, you can place the sheet back under the broiler for another minute or so to warm and lightly brown the cheese.

Now the corn/avocado salad...

3 ears fresh sweet corn, husked (or 3 c frozen, thawed)
1 c red onion, diced
1 sm. avocado, diced
juice of 1/2 lime
1 T freshly chopped basil
1/2 t sea salt
pepper to taste

After husking corn, pull out as many silks as possible. I then cut the corn off the cob and steamed it. However you like to cook corn. The author of the recipe says that you can eat it raw, too. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, allow to marinate for a bit. It's great as a side, with nachos, or on tacos.

We just had the salad with the crostini and some fresh fruit and it was a fabulous meal. Then, the next night, with the corn salad went fabulously on top of...

Meal numero dos

Garbanzo tacos (sorry - no picture - we ate them too fast)

2 cans garbanzo beans
1 packet taco seasoning
Whatever taco shells you like (I used blue corn hard shells)
Tomatoes, onion, salsa, whatever else you like on your tacos

Now stop right here. Don't scoff at the garbanzo beans until you've tried them. Matt and I LOVE beef tacos, but we both agreed that the beans were even BETTER (you really couldn't tell the difference, the taco seasoning kind of takes over anyway). So don't knock it till you try it.

All you do is dump the beans in a saucepan, using the juice from only one can. Mix in the seasoning and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. I used a potato masher to mash the beans right before I served them. Make your taco, top with your stuff - including the leftover corn/avocado salad - and you'll be in love.

Meal numero tres will be leftover tacos (along with still-leftover corn salad).

Now get out there and rock that Farmer's Market!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The results are IN!

Wow, I had no idea so many people were interested in making their own laundry soap - or at the very least, knowing what it involves. So for my Facebook friends, here are my thoughts and the recipe, and you can let me know what YOU think if you try it!!

I may have already mentioned that I found this recipe laying around at work, and I thought it sounded like a fun thing to try. Yes, I like to be "green," but not in a trendy sense ("green-ness" seems to be trendy, and you already know what I think about fads), or in a sense that I think that we as humans can save/renovate a planet that was fashioned and set in motion and is in the hands of an enormous God...BUT - that God is mighty proud of His work and gifted us with life on it and gave us stewardship over it. With that stewardship comes a certain degree of responsibility to honor Him by taking care of what He has made, just like I would be a careful steward of my money, clothing, furniture, etc. But I do believe that He declared a beginning of our planet and He will likewise declare an end, and we have no control over that.

But I digress. I also like to try to save money. And hey, if I can control what goes into a product AND save some moolah, then rock on. It's always fun to try something new, anyway.

SOOOO...this recipe comes from a lady named Crystal Miller and is on her website. Rather than infringe on her copyright OR reinvent the wheel, I'll have you click on the link and go straight to the recipe, as well as read her answers to frequently asked questions regarding the soap. I'll give you a quick summary, though!

Here's all the stuff I used.

I already had the Borax (found in the laundry aisle at Meijer). I fished a gallon water jug out of our recycle bin, because Matt always buys jugs of water when we're on road trips. I bought the Ivory soap, a set of measuring cups, the bucket, and the oxygen cleaner at the Dollar Store. The Arm and Hammer washing soda was at Meijer as well. And I bought the lavender oil at the health food store, but you can take it or leave it, because the cost about made me croak, and it really doesn't make a huge difference anyway in the smell of your laundry. Crystal's recipe calls for you to use the whole bottle of essential oil, but at that cost I may as well buy the uppy-end laundry detergent and bag the whole DIY thing.

Here's what the end result looks like...the recipe says to let it sit and gel for 24 hours, but I needed to get my laundry done and used it after it had been sitting for about 16 hours.

Crystal describes the soap as having an egg-drop soup consistency. I prefer to think of it as viral-infection phlegm. Hope that didn't ruin it for ya.

The results? My laundry was clean. It didn't smell like anything when I pulled it out (so the lavender oil was kind of a waste), which I don't care about anyway. I've been using lightly-scented eco-formulas anyway for the past couple of years and have come to prefer NOT having heavily-scented laundry. And I line-dry almost everything, so it just has a fresh-air scent anyway. I think for normal run-of-the-mill laundry it'll work just fine. Crystal recommends a recipe tweak if you have more heavily soiled laundry, OR just using a cup of Oxy-Clean (or Dollar Store brand, like mine) for more soiled loads.

I honestly can't tell if the basic recipe removes worn-in dirt stains. My grimier socks have perma-grime stains because I never use bleach. I have white towels that are not gleaming white, but white enough, and I'm okay with that. I've always thrown a half cup or so of Borax into my loads of whites (in addition to my detergent) to brighten them up, and it does a decent enough job, and doesn't gradually penetrate the water table with bleach. So it works for me, and no one has remarked, "Holy cow, your towels aren't glowing white," or "Oh my goodness, your running socks are SO not very white."

So there you have it! My MIL and a lady from my church tell me that you can use vinegar during the rinse cycle and it's a great fabric softener.

Other ways to save $$ and electricity when it comes to the laundry:

*Line dry!!! I line-dried when we lived in apartments, too (and when I lived in a trailer at camp). Door knobs, cupboard knobs, countertops, shower curtain rods, balcony railings, chair backs, and lawn furniture all work great. We actually rescued one of those collapsible drying racks from a dumpster and used that too!

*Cut your dryer sheets in half.

*If you're in the market for a new W/D, consider a front-loader. I balked at the price, too. My first instinct is to always go with the cheapest, most basic appliance. Matt's the one who will consider the long-term cost. As it turns out, the extra $$ you pay for the front-load HE washer is recouped within the first year in your water bill. So it was worth the extra that we spent in the long-run.

*For other cleaning needs: vinegar goes a LONG way, is a natural disinfectant, and is cheap. It smells strong when you spray it, but the smell goes away as soon as it dries. Spritzing a shot of white vinegar and a shot of hydrogen peroxide on a surface will kill E. coli and other common ick-meisters. I pretty much only use vinegar for's cheap, effective, and doesn't leave a chemical fog. And bonus: no poisonous cleaning agents sitting in the cupboard when we eventually have little fingers exploring their way around the house.

So there you have it!! I will shortly post a couple of delicious recipes that I tried last night, as well as some awesome pictures from Colorado. I might not get to the CO pics until this weekend, though, so stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Catching up!!!

Sorry for the long delay between posts!! We just got back from vacation - we spent a week at Sonlight Christian Camp in southern Colorado, where I spent two summers as a camp nurse. It was the first vacation where at the end I said, "Oh...we have to go home now??" Usually I'm so ready to get home. We had a total blast in the mountains, sang funny songs, acted like total kids and experienced the kind of peace you can only feel at such a random place in the San Juans. I can't wait to post stories and pictures from that.

I have some great recipes that I'm trying soon...including homemade laundry soap!!!! Is that Ma Ingals or WHAT? I found the recipe laying around at work - someone had printed it off and made copies - and thought, "Well, that might be a fun thing to try!" So I'll let you know how that goes...and post the recipe if it works out well.

In the meantime, enjoy the cool(er) summer, go to the beach, try something new, shop at the Farmer's Market, and thank God for everything He's done!!