Pink Wash Towel

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I have been knitting for weeks. It’s part of my winter routine, each night I spend an hour or two working on projects. You would be amazed at how much you can produce in such a small amount of time.

I made a number of small gifts for the holidays. My favorite gift combination was hand knit wash towels and home made soap. If you would like to make your own soap, check out my tutorial here.

Now it’s time to get back to my own knitting projects, I have been dying to make a couple of Wash Towels for myself.

 I love their soft cotton texture, it feels like a gentle exfoliant on the skin. They look as luxurious and beautiful as they feel.

The towels hold up amazingly well with regular use. They do stretch a bit as they are wet, but put them in the laundry and they shrink back to their original state in the dryer.

Who knew yarn was so resiliant?

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The biggest plus of this project is it’s compact size, it’s easy to stick the needles and all in your purse and take them on the road with you.

This is Peaches and Cream 100% cotton yarn in Rose Stripes. I love how the variegated yarn makes stripes appear as you knit. It’s like the yarn has a story to tell you that is revealed as you work.

Who doesn’t love a good story?

For this project, you will need 1 skein Peaches and Cream yarn and a pair of size 8 knitting needles (I love the Susan Bates needles).

Here’s the pattern:

Cast on 44 stitches

*Knit 4 stitches, Purl 4* Repeat until end of row.

Repeat all rows the same until work measures 10″. Cast off, cut yarn leaving a small tail. Weave in ends.

10 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

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I am ready for the Christmas season. The house is decorated, and the cookies are baked, the ham is ready to cook. We are so blessed to have each other, our health and so much more.

We have made a few simple gifts to give, but have not purchased gifts this year. This year, we are focused on serving others more than ever before.

For this reason, we are very joyful this holiday season.

We contributed our family’s normal gift budget to a couple of important causes. We bought a goat for a family in need through World Vision. Each year we “shop” through their catalog to purchase a livestock animal to give to families in need so they can support themselves. It is one of our favorite family traditions.

This is the first year I have noticed American children listed among those in need, it’s not just a world wide cause anymore.

We contributed through our church to the Advent Conspiracy program, and joined the masses of people who have decided to give more than they spend. Dozens of our local charities as well as many national ones benefited from the funds our church helped to set aside for them.

We baked cookies to give away and are serving on Christmas eve at church as well. These are our simple family traditions.

There are so many places you can serve no matter how little time or money you have.

I asked my fellow bloggers for some ideas on how they are serving this season. Would you like to join us in serving others this holiday season?

Here’s what they came up with:

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1) Commit Random Acts of Kindness: Ellen over at Confessions of an Overworked Mom has 25 great ideas for giving back to those in need. Commit at least one random act this season, or all 25! The more you do the more joyful you will become, guaranteed.

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2)Buy a pair of pajamas and a storybook: Contribute to the Pajama Program’s One Million Good Nights, NYCJenny blogged about her family’s experience buying a pair of pajamas and a children’s story book for this charity. There are so many children who have never experienced the simple luxury of wearing a new pair of pajamas and being read a bedtime story by a parent. This is so close to my heart, I can’t imagine a child not being tucked into bed by a loving parent. This is her husband in his footy pj’s promoting the event for a local news station.

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3)Teach Your Children to Serve: Briton from Rad Mom Cool Kid has ideas for children and how they can be of service. Teaching your children servitude helps to combat bullying and disrespect. Start now!

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4)Take part in Operation Christmas Child: Melissa from Fab Haute Mamma shared her family’s experience taking shoe boxes and filling them with simple gifts and basic hygiene supplies for Operation Christmas Child. This is also a great family activity! This is a national campaign, look for a drop off site near you and change a child’s life today!

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5)Give Back to your Community: Nichole from Simply Nicole has simple ideas for sharing the holiday spirit such as volunteering at your local senior center and cleaning out your closet for charity. I love the Campout for Hunger program she describes. Volunteers collect and distribute large amounts of canned food for a 5 day period! Wow!

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6)Search the Web for the perfect giving option: Ange from Inspiring Hearts and Homes put together a long list of places you can serve, including the Humane Society and the Make a Wish Foundation. Check out the list, and find an option that works for you in your area.

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7)Decorate a Tree for your favorite Charity: Vanessa Brady from Tried and True decorated a tree for her charity Project BRAVO which benefits the poor in her region of Texas.

Beautiful idea, I can’t wait to do something like this next year!

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8) Donate needed items to a food pantry:  Paula Biggs from the Frog Price Paperie has great suggestions for what is needed at the food pantry this time of year. Did you know that Almond Milk is greatly in demand at pantries? I had no idea! I will buy a couple extra bottles on my next trip to the grocery store.

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9) Ask others to buy Holiday Gifts for Giving Back: Stacy and Eric from Anastasia Vintage Home share their request to family members to give to others instead of themselves. They had some great ideas not on other lists such as Heifer International and Oxfam Unwrapped.

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10)  Be a part of the Drive Thru Difference: Our local Christian radio station started this idea. All you have to do is pay for the car’s order behind you when you are at a drive thru restaurant.  Visit this site to print out a letter of explanation and give it to the cashier when you pay for the meals. This little random act of kindness could change someone’s life today!

DIY Candy Cane Soap

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We have been hard at work on making Christmas gifts. One of the joys of homeschooling for us over the years has been to learn basic homemaking skills, along with a few skills that are just fun projects.

Making soap is just plain fun. It’s an easy project for younger children, and the next thing you know they are 16 years old and begging to help you make soap for gifts.

We love Candy Canes at our house and decided to combine the two for our very own DIY Candy Cane Soap.

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If you didn’t know, sugar has long been known to be an excellent ingredient for smoothing and exfoliating the skin. You can buy sugar scrubs, make your own, or have one professionally done at your local spa.

Since we had a bundle of candy canes around the house, they became our inspiration for this holiday soap.

We made a couple of different batches, experimenting as we went. I had a bunch of left over glycerin bars from another project, I think it was a 1 lb. bag that we melted on the stove top in an old pan.

The first batch was poured into small bars (you can buy molds at the craft store) where we added crushed candy canes to the melted glycerin (center bars). The bars hardened quickly and looked so pretty with the crushed candy in them.

So far, so good.

Then, we got braver and made a bigger batch, using crushed candy canes in the bottom of a large bread pan, then adding the melted glycerin (white) for the bottom layer.

After we allowed it to harden, a another layer of glycerin tinted with red food coloring was poured on top.

The soap was left to harden, inverted on a tray and cut into slices.

I resurrected an old cookie tin to wrap the soap in for giving.

Magical!

Candy cane trees

The Candy Cane Soap was born! We also added some extra peppermint essential oil to the melted glycerin.

Our kitchen still smells minty.

It smells good enough to EAT.

By the way, the soap rather looks like peppermint bark doesn’t it?

If I could figure out how to add a layer of chocolate to it, I would.

Candy cane bee soap

The last batch we made was with the crushed candy canes melted into the glycerin to get this lovely pink color. The bee design is my blog logo and I love using it for special gifts.

The only mistake we made was in cleaning up after we were finished.

I had this great idea of saving myself some time and putting all the dishes that I used to make the soap in the dish washer.

This was not wise.

We had a mountain of minty, soapy bubbles all over the kitchen floor.

Ooops! Who knew soap would be so, SOAPY?

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I had fun putting together this little display in our bathroom. The pink soaps called for some pretty glass jars, striped ribbons and my Mason Jar Snow Globes.

Candy cane bath cabinet

This is the only spot in the bath where I can decorate. It has a little holiday feel now and that makes me happy!

Guess what else made me happy this week? I was one of the bloggers featured in the Huffington Post article on gifts you can make.

Read all about it here.

The wall cabinet was another project, but we will talk about that on a different day!

Felted Wool Dryer Balls

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I have seen these Felted Wool Dryer Balls on Pintrest a number of times. They seem to be tried and tested enough to know that they really do work in place of buying dryer sheets.

I have a confession to make…

I have never actually purchased dryer sheets.

At least I don’t remember buying any, perhaps I did way back when.

Before I realized how bad they are for you.

Part of our quest to live an organic and chemical free lifestyle is to review each and every item that comes into our home.

Is it really necessary?

Is it full of chemicals?

Why do we need it?

Is there another alternative?

You would be amazed how your perspective changes after a while.

There are many things that most families purchase that are considered “essentials” , that we simple don’t buy. One of them is dryer sheets.

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The skin is the largest organ in the body, so they say.

Why do we perfume and chemically dose our laundry that goes next to our skin?

It doesn’t make sense to me.

We absorb so much of what we come in contact with in our environment, we don’t even realize it.

When our son was young and struggling with ADD, ADHD, allergies and learning disorders and a bunch of other things, I remember reading about how many environmental chemicals are absorbed by small children.

Children are so much more sensitive to things than adults. If chemicals in our environment bother us, just think so much more it must bother them.

I immediately began seeking chemical free alternatives, and have never looked back.

That’s my soap box for today: the less chemicals you have in your home the better.

If you absolutely love these organic, beautiful Felted Wool Dryer Balls, then read on!

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To make the balls you will need:

one skein of 100% wool roving yarn

essential oil of your choice

a couple of old socks and rubber bands

(Note: You must use 100% wool for this project or it won’t work. Also beware of light colored roving, it may be bleached and will not felt properly.)

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Wind the yarn into balls of desired size. Use a large needle to thread the loose end of yarn back through the ball to secure it and cut off any excess.

The balls don’t need to be all that huge, I would say the maximum size should be that of a tennis ball.

I used one skein to make 4 balls, one is a bit smaller than the others, but I like the variety in size.

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After you make the balls, tie them up in an old sock and secure the end closed with a rubber band.

(I knew that big basket of single socks would come in handy some day!)

The balls are then ready to be felted.

Throw the sock into the laundry with your regular wash on the hot water cycle.

It is helpful to have a full load, more agitation is better for felting.

Don’t forget the soap! It helps in the felting process as well.

When the wash is finished, throw them into the dryer on the hot setting along with your wash, until dry.

When the load is finished, remove the balls from the sock and admire your felted balls.

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Isn’t this the easiest thing ever?

All that is left is to add essential oil to your balls for fragrance.

I chose lavender oil, but you could use lemon, cinnamon, orange or grapefruit oils.

To use, place the balls in the dryer with your damp laundry.

The heat of the dryer during the dry cycle will release the oils into your clothes and they will smell wonderful. You may add more essential oils to the balls if needed as time goes on.

Wool is an anti-static and is excellent for absorbing extra moisture and odors inside the dryer.

It is priceless organic alternative to the chemically laden dryer sheets.

I am going to make a bunch of them to give as Christmas presents.

What sort of organic things do you use in your home?

Homemade Knitted Gifts

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I have been hard at work making homemade knitted gifts for the Holiday. Several people mentioned how they enjoyed receiving a handmade gift last year and I am planning on doing the same type of thing again this season.

Lately, I have been cranking gifts out of my free time in the evenings while I watch TV.

It’s become a favorite past time of mine. No matter what sort of day I have had, no matter how much or how little I have accomplished, I relish the thought of sitting down for some quite time with my projects in the evening.

I am most productive later in the day it seems.

I was recently captivated by this beautiful super bulky yarn by Bernat. It is so soft and cozy, you can just feel the warmth.

I followed the directions on the pattern label to make this chunky scarf. It was very easy and involves only the purl and knit stitches. Love it!

I don’t make anything that’s complicated, by the way.

I am just not there yet with my knitting skills. Don’t know if I ever will be!

I decided need to make one of these scarves in every color, but I especially love the white.

White is soooo luxurious.

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Here’s the instructions:

Supplies: 1 skein super bulky yarn by Bernat and a pair of straight needles size 17 US

Cast on 12 stitches.

Knit 3 rows.

Pattern Row 1: Knit 2, yo purl 2 (repeat 4 times), Knit 2.

Repeat pattern row until you have used up almost the entire skein, about 57″ in length.

Knit 3 rows, cast off.

Simple and beautiful!

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Here are some other things I have been working on: This variegated scarf will work well for that anonymous gift exchange with the relatives on Christmas Day. Red and green is so festive!

This one is just a straight knitted stitch with bulky yarn on a size 11 needle. I didn’t really count the stitches, but I believe I used a cast on of 24.

I just knitted without really over thinking it.

I do that sometimes.

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My kids are very interested in the fingerless gloves that I made. They work well for those busy fingers that need to touch a cell phone at all times. I see a pair of them for each kid this season.

They too were super easy, just a straight stitch on straight needles and only required one skein of yarn. The thumb holes fall right on the seam so there is no need to reduce stitches, you just sew the sides together. I also love that they are not sized. My boys have rather large hands and if I had to figure out how many stitches it would take to fit them, I think I would go CRAZY.

These are definitely a one size fits all item.

Love it! I need a pair of these too. Perhaps in white to match the scarf? Oh, YES!

Santa is allowed to get a gift for herself, isn’t she?

Don’t answer that.

It’s our little secret. If my kids knew that Santa was allowed to buy a gift for herself, I would never get to be Santa again. The gig would be over.

SHHHHH!

Are you thinking Christmas yet?

I have a number of Christmas decorating projects in the works, so be sure and stop back for the update!