a laundry list

Since we are in the midst of Hurricane Isaac’s aftermath (I think?) and will not see the sun for the next three days, a laundry list is in order. Maybe this will make me feel better for not being able to actually do any laundry.

Also, it’s a really long post. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get cozy.

1. Homemade laundry detergent. (A fitting start, no?)

A couple weeks—months?—ago, I made my own detergent ’cause everyone was doing it and I felt left out. So I bought the borax and washing soda and zote soap and made myself a five-gallon bucket full of the stuff.

Only problem was, the bucket had a slow leak, so my husband had to set it inside an oil pan and put it in the basement. Within a few days, much of the water had leaked out and my liquid laundry detergent had become a gelatinous laundry detergent. It still worked fine. Instead of pouring it into the little slot in the washing machine, we just had to blop-plopped it in. (So why all the fuss with making a concentrate and then diluting it if you can just make a jiggling gel from the start?)

Actually, I lied when I said “only problem.” I did have another problem with the stuff. Simply put, our clothes stank. Not all the time, mind you. Sometimes, when they fluttered dry in the breeze on a hot, sunny day, they smelled downright lovely. Or at least neutral. But other times (cloudy days maybe?) they had a dank, rank stench to them. Not so strong that others would notice (I hope!) but strong enough to bother the wearer.

So last week I re-subscribed to my favorite laundry detergent on Amazon, and two days later a large box of the sweet-smelling, magic powder arrived on my doorstep. Doing the laundry never felt so good!

2. Keeping it real.

I loved your comments on the walking-the-line post! Of course, I love all your comments all the time, but these were especially great—so thoughtful and insightful. Insightfully thoughtful. Thoughtfully insightful? Whatever. For some I laughed out loud, for others I nearly cried. I love you guys.

I said I have a built-in BS detector, and I do. But after further reflection, I wonder if my BS detector is as sturdy as I think it is. FringeGirl wrote, “ In the end, I think people know.” I pretty much agree with this statement except that sometimes I really don’t know. Sometimes I read about people who are joyfully making supper with a passel of kids underfoot and I think, Really?  Five o’clock isn’t arsenic hour at your house? (Arsenic hour: when everyone falls apart just before supper and you’re tempted to put arsenic in the food.) In my house, pre-mealtime equals crashing blood sugars and mass meltdowns. So I start doubting myself. If I smiled more, maybe, or if I only took pictures of sunshine on gnarled wood, could I, too, joyfully prepare supper while my children genteelly played games or set the table or visited with me? It eats me up sometimes. (Now that the children are older, arsenic hour is less … poisonous. So there’s that.)

The other day in Barnes and Noble, I picked up Ree’s new cookbook. At the very end of the book there were some pictures of her kitchen completely buried in dirty dishes after a full day of cooking. At first I found the pictures reassuring—she makes messes, too!—but now not so much. Because she never (at least not that I know of) says who washes all those dishes. Her kids? Her husband? A cleaning crew? It really doesn’t matter…except that it does. I need to know these things. I need to know the dirty details so that I can feel a little better about my own dirty details.

Dirty details: it could be the name of a book. Or a blog.

3. Going to the theater.

My husband and I went to see “The Lion in Winter” on Friday. We were blown away, both figuratively and (almost) literally. It was intense. I walked out of the theater so filled up that I was on the verge of tears. And I wasn’t sad. If you’ve been thinking of seeing a play at the Blackfriars, do yourself a favor. See that one.

Then on Sunday night we took the whole family to see the dress rehearsal of Twelfth Night (ushers’ privileges). I think it was good, but I’m not for sure since I was battling with my younger children the whole time—the poor wretches were victims of air conditioning, full bladders, intense thirst that could not wait, sleepiness, and general angst. The theater’s rule may be no kids under the age of six, but mine (as of Sunday night) is no kids under the age of ten.

Positive Note #1: the older two sat on the opposite side of the stage by themselves and behaved marvelously. Kids do grow up.

Positive Note # 2: all four kids loved the play.

4. The garden is kaputz.

We are done with the garden. Done, done, done! Boy, does it feel marvelous.

I gave my husband permission to mow down the corn. He was excited (in his I’m-not-going-to-show-any-excitment-about-it way) because, one, he doesn’t like the garden all that much, and two, he likes to mow. In fact, my husband was so freakin’ excited to mow the garden into oblivion that he celebrated by mowing down the corn and the beans without checking with me first.

As soon as I realized what he was doing, I ran out on the deck and started hollering at him. He cut the engine and I yelled, “People were going to come pick the beans!”

“I didn’t know that!” he yelled back.  And then he surveyed the flattened garden and added,“Well, I guess not anymore.”

“I told you they were coming!” I was all sorts of huffy self-righteous.

I went into the house. He turned the mover back on to finish decimating the bean patch. The gleaners drove in the driveway. The timing could not have been better.

The gleaners, bless their hearts, had to sift through the dirt for their beans. My husband felt so bad (which was exactly how I wanted him to feel—I made that quite clear) that he plied them with basil, beets, and tomatoes in an attempt to compensate for their mowed-up beans.

All that to say, we’re pretty much done with the garden.

5. My favorite pizza sauce recipe.

I wrote about this recipe in my newspaper column. You can read the whole story here.

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pizza Sauce
This recipe first appeared on Simple Bites.

12 pounds paste tomatoes, such as Roma
½ cup olive oil, plus extra as needed
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 head garlic
3/4 cup green pepper, rough dice
1 cup onion, rough dice
1 jalapeño, rough mince
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each, dried basil and dried oregano
citric acid, bottled lemon juice, or vinegar

Cut off the top of the head of garlic, making sure that the tippy-top of each clove has been removed. Set the garlic, cut side up, on a piece of foil, drizzle it with a bit of olive oil, and wrap tightly.

Wash and core the tomatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise and toss with ½ cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and the black pepper. Divide the tomatoes between two large, sided trays (put the foil-wrapped garlic on one of the trays) and roast at 400 degrees for 60-90 minutes, rotating as necessary. The tomatoes will blister and blacken a bit—this is good.

While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté the peppers and onion in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very soft.

Dump the roasted tomatoes into a large stockpot and add the sauteed veggies. Squeeze the garlic pulp out of the skins and add to the vegetables. Puree the mixture. Stir in the sugar, dried herbs, and more salt to taste—2 to 3 teaspoons.

Ladle the sauce into pint jars. To each jar add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1 tablespoon vinegar. Screw on the lids and process the jars in a hot water bath for 20 minutes at a gentle rolling boil.

Yield: approximately 5 pints.

6. Charlotte, we adore you.

We are smitten, I tell you. Smitten.

I am not an animal person, and I am definitely not a small dog person, so I am a little caught off-guard by how much I like this bundle of fur.

Fellow mamas, you know how when your baby goes down for a nap and after a little while your arms start to ache to hold her again?  Confession: I get those same achy-arm twinges over Charlotte.

She’s a snuggle bug. You can put a sleeping Charlotte over your shoulder like you do a real baby and then walk around doing your thing. It’s soothing.

We have started some basic dog training, a la youtube. She’s catching on pretty quickly which is encouraging.

The first couple nights my daughter slept outside with her. The third night we decided it was time to let Charlotte cry it out. I closed all our bedroom windows and put the noise machine right by my head.

My poor parents were sleeping downstairs, however, only an open window separating them from the yowling pup. 

Let us know if it gets too bad, we said sweetly.

She eventually went to sleep, they reported. And in the morning she and Francie emerged from the doghouse together!

My husband and I are united in the no animals in the house (most of the time) rule. The first night, after the kids were asleep, I brought Charlotte inside. My husband was outraged by my audacity. He lectured and sputtered, and then I put Charlotte in his lap and he shut up.

“You can’t put these pictures on the blog,” he said. “I’ll never live it down.”

“I can do whatever I want,” I said.

7. The things they say (and do).

Exhibit A: My younger daughter unwittingly made up a new word: hypergetic. It’s a combo of hyperactive and energetic. I like it.

Exhibit B: My younger son was bouncing on the sofa beside me. Knock it off, I snapped. He took one final enormous jump, lifting his legs high so he could land in the sitting position. Except he jumped out at the same time he jumped up so he missed the sofa entirely and landed smack on the floor.

Without thinking, I quipped meanly, “Serves you right!”

Two seconds later, his stunned silence turned to wails of pain. “My butt went up into my stomach,” he sobbed.

I rubbed his back and tsk-tsked soothingly, like mothers are supposed to do, but inside I was still giggling.

Example C: “Do I come from you?” my younger daughter asked. “Am I your child?”

“Of course,” I said. “Whatever gave you the idea that you’re not?”

“Well, there’s this dumb song that says I’m not your own child.”

Can you guess what song she was listening to?


  • Anonymous

    Do you have to peel the skins off the tomatoes for the roasted garlic tomato sauce? If not, then that makes the recipe even better and a must try!

  • mavis

    I think you are on crack if you think she does her own dishes. I don't even do my own dishes, nor do you. That's a job for the kids. 🙂

  • For My Boys

    I've been using my homemade soap since July and love it. It has taken out grass stains and most grease stains with no problems. It smells great but it is a powder and a little more expensive to make then the liquid ($25. for a batch which should equal 9-12 months). I use to be a strictly liquid girl before, but am happy I gave it a chance. I'd be willing to share, if you were closer.

  • Zoë

    I'm scared of homemade laundry soap. I tried dishwasher soap and it left the worst scum on the glassware. So now I have a whole batch of it under the sink waiting to find another use. I don't want to make laundry detergent and ruin our clothes. At least I could scrub the scum off the dishes…

    (For those interested, we have hard water but it's run through a softener so it should be fine…but apparently not.)

    Your garden is over?! This is the time of year that I love it again. Instead of buckets of produce I just bring in small bowls of it here and there. Just the speed I like.

  • Becky

    We've had good luck with our homemade laundry detergent but I think a lot depends on your water. I use a bar of grated Fels Naptha, 1 cup of each borax and washing soda. I use it as a powder intead of a gel. I just add a TBSP into each wash. We have city water and it's not very hard water.

  • the domestic fringe

    Thanks for the laundry soap review. I have almost made my own laundry detergent about ten times, but I hesitate. We are very stinky people and my husband comes home filthy every single day. Filthy. I've found I don't even like every commercial brand of soap because they don't all work. So appreciate you saving me money and work. I will keep clipping coupons,finding sales, and using my favorite brands.

    I don't think Ree does her own dishes. Just saying. I could totally be wrong, but if I had to do that many dishes, I would not could nearly as much as she does.

    Love your puppy. I told my husband all about her the other day.

    My husband and I are due for a date night (we're always due for one, because we rarely ever get one), so I am putting that movie on our must see list. It will be the only movie on my list since I have no idea what else is playing. 😉


    • Jennifer Jo

      Oops, I wasn't very clear, I guess. It was a play, not a movie, that we saw. I've never seen the movie, so I have no idea if it's any good. Somehow I don't think it could even come close to touching the play. (Might I be biased?)

      And about the laundry soap: our clothes got clean. At least, as clean as they get with commercial laundry soap. It was the smell that bothered me.

  • Amanda

    You are making me homesick with your talk of Blackfriars! I always get my father in law a gift certificate for the theater for Christmas.

  • Kathy ~ Artful Accents

    Our big golden retriever is laying beside me as I type. She started out as an outside dog, that was our intention. But her cute little puppy self wanted to be inside with us, can you blame her? Good luck with that. HA!

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