Little Home, Big World

…what would Ma do?

The Benefit of Doubt April 20, 2011

Filed under: Blahging,Simplicity,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 9:50 am
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I’m convinced that the more we question, the more we open ourselves up to the possibilities, the closer we are to finding our truth – some might call it “belief” or “faith”.Β  I prefer to think of it as simply the truth that resonates in our heart, the kind that can change our thinking and the way we react to life.

I don’t care where you find your truth, whether it’s in the pages of a holy book or graffiti on the alley wall, in the lyrics of an angry punk song or the sound of the waves on the shore. What I care about is whether you are asking the questions, and searching out every possible answer, and ONLY following the one that fits into your soul like a missing puzzle piece.

It doesn’t matter if your truth is different from mine, or if your truth is different from your parents. But finding it matters.

After you’ve found it? When you’re full of excitement and conviction and absolute, unshakeable assurance that THIS IS IT?

Let go.

Not of your truth, but of the desire to convince everyone around you that your truth is somehow “The Truth.” Because while the truth you found may fill your emptiness and change your smile, forcing it to fit into another person is like taking a chunky wooden puzzle piece from your child’s alphabet puzzle and forcing into a delicate 1000 piece puzzle of the Mona Lisa. It will not fit, no matter how you manipulate it.

Give the people you care about the gift of respect, and allow them the benefit of doubt. They’ll find their truth when they need it.


Spring Cleaning Recipes March 8, 2009

Filed under: Penny Saved,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 7:03 pm
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OK, so you should actually use these all year, not just for spring cleaning. But we’ve had above-zero temperatures for THREE consecutive days, so I am officially in spring-cleaning mode. πŸ™‚

Not only are these recipes quick and easy — and effective! — but they are definitely cheaper. And they leave your house smelling fresh and clean… not like funky blue cleaner.

Basic Ingredients:

  • Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap
  • Baking Soda (look for the big, generic box of it at the grocery store. You’ll use lots.)
  • Vinegar
  • Washing Soda (look in the laundry aisle)
  • Borax
  • essential oils (optional; I use mostly Lavendar, Lemon, and Tea Tree Oil)
  • some spray bottles, rags, and a sponge (look for spray bottles in the plant section of your department store, or at a dollar-store location. You could recycle them from other spray products, but since most of those contain the toxins we’re trying to avoid, it might not be the best option.)

Soft Scrubber: In a small bowl, combine about 1/2 cup of baking soda with a squirt or two of Dr. Bronner’s and just a little bit of water (add water by the tbsp until it’s the consistency you want.) Scoop some up on a sponge and use it to clean the tub, shower, sink, etc. Rinse well. (If you need more heavy-duty scrubbing action, use 1/4 cup borax and 1/4 cup baking soda.) Obviously, you can mix this in any amount and consistency you want…figure out what works for you.

All Purpose/Glass Cleaner: In a spray bottle, combine equal amounts water and vinegar. Spray on windows and wipe off with rag. (If windows are really dirty, you can add a few drops of Dr. B’s to the mix. If there is a lot of mineral-buildup, use more vinegar and less water.) I keep a bottle of this in the kitchen and use it to clean counter tops, the table, highchairs, etc. Vinegar is a natural germ-buster.

Dirt Buster Spray: A fantastic recipe over at Care2 – check it out! Works great on stuff like stovetops, fridge door handles, etc.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner: Sprinkle borax over the water in the bowl (I do two shakes and a shimmy, AKA 1/4 cup), use a brush to clean bowl, then let it sit for 1/2 hr or so. Cleans great, deodorizes, and doesn’t turn your water blue.

Stinky Carpets or Couches: For mild stinkiness, sprinkle with baking soda, let it sit for at least 15 minutes, and vacuum. For mustiness or serious stinkiness (hey, if you have kids, you know not to ask) use borax in the same way, but let it sit overnight if you can.

Linoleum Floors: For a sinkful of HOT water, add a couple squirts of Dr. B’s and a glub of vinegar. Use a mop.

Laundry Boosters: Add washing soda to whites and towels — it does wonders on stains and odors. Use vinegar instead of fabric softener to remove detergent residue. For fresh-smelling clothes without chemicals, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a small rag and toss it in the dryer.

Linen Spray: Combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vodka in a spray bottle, add 15-20 drops of lavender essential oil. Spritz over beds and let dry before making up.

Migraine-free ‘breeze: Combine 1/4 cup vodka and 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Add EO’s as desired. (I like 10 drops lavender with 10 peppermint for a fresh scent, or mandarin and clove bud for a holiday scent.)

Pot Luck: If you have a glass, ceramic or stainless steel pot or casserole — fill with HOT water, sprinkle with washing soda, and let it sit overnight. All the baked-on crud will come right off in the morning.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head. Happy cleaning!

No, really. It’s spring. Clean those windows, let the sunshine in, and enjoy the fact that a) you’re not hurting the planet b) you’re not hurting your health c) you’re not hurting your kid’s health and d) you saved money. See? Almost makes it fun, doesn’t it?


Gully Green February 8, 2009

Filed under: D.I.Why,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 3:45 pm
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Well, I’ve done it. Swallowed a million and one excuses, and am listing a pattern…for sale. (Gasp. Shock.) I’ve been procrastinating a long time, but in the past week had no fewer than three people tell me to just DO IT, so I’m going for it.

Ahh…life on the edge. πŸ™‚

I’m calling it “Gully Green”. The idea was originally born during my post about upcycling holiday wrapping — I initially planned on knitting a plain-jane bag. But then I got to thinking…why not combine the sturdiness of crochet with the loveliness of knitted lace? Why not make a pretty marketbag, that could be used as gift wrap?

That got the wheels spinning. Then I started thinking of all the different variations — maybe a small one, made in mercerized crochet thread, to hold little trinkets. Perhaps a tall skinny version in wool as a wine cozy…perhaps…well, you get the idea.

The pattern is tested and ready, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people do with it.

Happy hooking and knitting!

(And now I’m going to go breathe. My heart is pounding and hands are shaky…who’d have thought this would be such a rush?)


A Secret Crush…and I need help! January 30, 2009

…I can’t deny it any longer. I adore vintage textiles.

I love the worn softness,


the sense of history.

I especially love finding hand-embellished ones. It reminds me that our generation — especially us young moms, largely on our own and away from our families — are another link in the chain of women and mothers who have lived, created, and driven the world.

And will continue to do so.

We’re part of a long history of women who have faced up to hard times and determined not only to survive, but to thrive. To take the simple and ordinary and make it beautiful, using only our creativity and the resources at hand.

Amazing what thoughts a simple thrift-store treasure hunt can bring to mind, isn’t it?Β  πŸ˜‰

I’m planning on using the chenille bedspread for my daughter’s “big girl bed” that we’ll be setting up this weekend.

The tablecloth, I’m not sure about yet…it’s in lovely condition so I might use it as is…or perhaps it will become a sundress for my daughter this summer. Time will tell.

Oh, and I have a question for you — what should I do with this jug? It’s been sitting in my kitchen since our hot apple cider at Christmas, and I need to repurpose it…but as what?


A Pretty Pantry, and Brownies. January 21, 2009

The simple ideas are the best, aren’t they? This project combines my favorite things – recycling, repurposing, shiny glass, bright colors, saving money, a sense of order…and easily accessible brownie-baking ingredients. πŸ˜‰

If while grocery shopping I have a choice between an item in plastic or an item in glass, I try and buy the glass. Even if it costs me a few more cents, I’m gaining a storage container out of it. I have yet to meet a glass jar that can’t be thoroughly cleaned and repurposed when empty. Soaking them in hot soapy water is usually all that’s needed to remove the labels but if there’s a sticky residue, try rubbing a couple drops of Lemon Essential Oil over it, then washing again — it’s amazing how quickly the jar cleans up.

After it’s clean, use it for plastic-free leftover storage, organizing craft supplies, or containing small items in the bathroom. If you use yours in the pantry, you’ll probably wants labels — sharpies work great but lack the pretty factor. I loved these links to free printable labels and recipe cards from my friends over at the Frugal Not Frumpy blog. Use a simple gluestick to attach them to the jar, and they’ll remove easily with a soak and scrub if you repurpose the jar later.

Oh, and when you’re done organizing the pantry, bake these. And bring me some.

Bethany’s Bestest Brownies

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend the butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Add eggs, beat well with a wooden spoon. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, then gradually add it to the egg mixture. Spread in a greased 8×8 square baking pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, just until the brownie begins to pull away from the edges of the pan. You want them to still be moist and chewy. Cool, then frost with:

Yummy Brownie Frosting

  • 3 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp honey or corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tbsps milk.

Cream butter, cocoa, honey and vanilla. Add icing sugar and milk, and beat to a smooth and spreadable consistency. Apply liberally to brownies, then lick the spoon. πŸ™‚


Hibernating InΒ Style January 11, 2009

Filed under: Frayed Shoestring,Penny Saved,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 7:10 pm
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If I look out my window, I see white, grey and brown. That’s it. Snow, clouds and tree trunks. Neutrals combined with color is one thing; a world of monotone shades wears on me. I usually spend the weeks from mid-January to late March twitching, eating too much chocolate, drinking gallons of coffee, and knitting things in impossibly bright shades just to keep the color-desperation at bay.

Since none of those strategies are beneficial in the long run, I decided on a new one. This year I am attempting to use these months of nearly-mandatory indoor time as an opportunity to clean, organize, decorate…to create a warm, colorful den in which to spend my hibernation.

I am a quirky person (I have made my peace with it) and I am delighting in slowly crafting my world to reflect who I am. We moved just a few months ago, and I took advantage of the opportunity to rid myself of a lot of STUFF…much of it perfectly “good” stuff…that I simply didn’t want/like/need. It was liberating; just because things were still “good” didn’t mean I had to keep them. It felt to good to free myself of the baggage, and trust in the future.

My new style is cheerful. Colorful, too, because beige be damned — I’m not beige and my house won’t be either. I’m a jeans-and-sweater girl; my home shouldn’t look like a business suit. I spent some time listing what I like – strong, bright colors; bold patterns; soft and warm fabrics. I love the shine of glass and the warmth of wicker baskets. I like using things for a different purpose than intended – baskets to store DVDs, an old creamer to hold handmade soaps, mandarin orange crates to organize boxes of tea. I don’t like fussy patterns, boxstore art, knick-knacks, or too much symmetry.

Over all — I love crafting a home out of materials that have already had a previous life. I am a regular haunter of the local thrift stores; I don’t always buy. The goal is not to get more STUFF; the goal is to keep an eye open to the possibilities…and the things I buy are often what nobody else likes — the old vintage tablecloth; random cloth napkins in funky colors; old glass jars and baskets. The fascinating thing is this — it all comes together. When I stick with the colors and textures that I love, they always seem to work.

The trick seems to be tossing the rulebook out the window and listening to my hibernating instincts.


Moroccan Mint Facial Cleanser December 10, 2008

Filed under: Penny Saved,Virtuosity — bethanyjoy @ 2:28 pm
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I’ve been using this recipe for a couple weeks now and I love it. It’s all my skin needs for morning cleansing, and it does wonders for puffiness under the eyes…and I am convinced it evens skin tone as well. All without drying my rather sensitive winter skin.

You know how healthy Green Tea is…now treat your skin to some of the benefits!

You’ll Need:
1 1/2 tbsp Moroccan Mint looseleaf tea (OR 1 tbsp green tea leaves and 1/2 tbsp dried mint; OR 2 green tea bags and 1 peppermint tea bag)
1 cup boiling water
Bowl or large mug, lid of some sort to cover it
Glass jar with lid

To Make:
Place tea in bowl and pour boiling water over it. Cover, and let steep until it reaches room temperature — about 3 or 4 hours. Strain out tea leaves (or remove teabags) and pour into jar.
Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Use:
Saturate a cotton ball and apply generously to face, using short upward strokes. Allow to dry on skin.
Personally, I like using it straight out of the fridge — it really wakes up your face and brings color into your cheeks. πŸ™‚ But if that’s too abrupt for you first thing in the morning, let it sit at room temp while you take a shower.


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