Saturday, June 2, 2012

An Ongoing Collection Of Homemade Mosquito Repellants and Traps

We're having the worst mosquito season I've seen in a while so here are a few solutions:

This one comes via Laura over at Life with Reno Rabbits and it's originally From Thrifty Fun.

Making a Mosquito Trap

mosquito trap
Because mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 we breathe out, I started looking for ideas that used CO2 as the bait for the mosquito trap. I did think of dry ice but it does dissipate fairly quickly.
I found a cached link on Google here. It seems to be active again now. I've rewritten the instructions some and hopefully it will work as well.
Thanks to the students for their hard work on this project. I've used some of their photos for illustration.


  • 1 2 liter soda bottle
  • a sharp knife
  • black paper or black landscaping cloth
  • tape
  • candy thermometer
Take a 2 liter soda bottle. Cut off the top right below where it starts to narrow for the top, invert and place inside the lower half.
Make a simple sugar syrup.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cool water
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast


Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water.
Once the sugar is dissolved completely, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in 2 cups cool water, stir well.
Check the temperature of the syrup to make sure it is no hotter than 90 degrees F, if hotter, let cool to 90 degrees F, add 1 tsp. active dry yeast, no need to mix. Put syrup in the bottom part of the bottle, using the cut off neck piece, leave in place.
Be sure to seal the two parts of the bottle with the tape. The fermenting yeast will release carbon dioxide. Put black paper around the bottle since mosquitoes like dark places and carbon dioxide. This mosquito trap will then start working.
TIPS: Put the trap in a dark and humid place for 2 weeks, you'll see the effect. You'll have to replace the sugar water + yeast solution every 2 weeks.
mt1-226x139.jpg Making A Mosquito Trap

Here's a slideshow of 11 methods, some worked and some didn't. They explain.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

reCAP, for Mason Jar Lovers

A new company, reCAP, recently completed funding on Kickstarter and as a $20.00 backer I received 5 of these flip top lids for canning jars, not a bad deal since they sell for $6.99 apiece retail. It's always a good idea to get in on the ground floor with Kickstarter.


They're extremely well-made from BPA-free recyclable plastic and if you're a mason jar enthusiast like me then you'll love them. Then there is the extra bonus of being part of the funding community and watching the process, definitely one of the draws to Kickstarter when you're a backer.


I like to make sun tea in them and pour my coffee beans from one each morning. Their designer, karen rzepecki, has stated that she'll be creating and marketing a wide-mouth version and other similar projects as well and that suits me just fine.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

When faced with economizing, I find I feel resentful only if my efforts are devoid of some greater truth:
  • Repurposing will give me a creative outlet
  • I will discover there's beauty in living simply
  • I don't need retail therapy, I already have everything I need, and I WILL cultivate that attitude of gratitude
  • If I make my own laundry detergent I'll save a wad of dough
Deep thoughts like that. Still, after three years of being on the unemployment merry go round I have to say that I just wish I could have our old life back. Silly me, I liked having health insurance and who thinks regular paychecks aren't AWESOME raise your hand. Besides, over my lifetime, on the consumption of goods and resources scale, I have, by design, a nearly negligible history, so much so that I believe I don't really need to do another thing to save the environment. That's right, I could stop recycling and repurposing and run the AC on high day and night and no one could say a word. My carbon footprint is relatively pristine. And it's for sale. Anyone?

Which brings us to the subject of homemade laundry detergent. I admit that I like the good stuff, the pricy kind that actually cleans clothes without damaging them, my machine, or my dryer. So when I ran across a blog post that described how to make your own laundry detergent, initially I was alarmed when I began to experience withdrawal symptoms. In this homemade version laundry detergent is made from three ingredients: washing soda, borax, and Fels Naptha or Dr Bronner's soap. Could it be that something so simple and so fantastically cheap actually cleans clothes I wondered. Then I started looking into what actually goes into laundry detergent which is  lots of  fancy shmancy chemicals - mostly surfactants. Better living through science, right?

Now I know what you're thinking, without all those chemicals, will it work? You betcha, it's a perfect mashup of the old and the new. The only drawback I've seen so far is that the liquid version sometimes leaves a residue at the water line which can be wiped off with white vinegar. Better still, just put white vinegar in where the fabric softener normally goes and, voila! Clean, soft clothes and no more equity loans to finance that big box laundry detergent habit.

Which is a big relief. After spending countless hours of running our proprietary algorithms I have been informed by the R & D Department here at The Piazza Uccello Foundation that the difference in cost between the two versions is totally wack:
  • Big Box Detergent = $.14 a load (prolly way more, $.18?).
  • Old Is New Again Formula = about $.2 (maybe) a load.
That might not seem like much but laying down $20.00 -$25.00 for a box or bottle versus less than $1.00 for the homemade version = Extreme Gratifiaction + Big Savings over a year's time. Extensive research and experimentation also shows that there are as many configurations for Artisanal Laundry Detergent as there are makers but so far this semi-secret recipe is what works best here at Piazza Uccello:

Gather up:
  • your choice of washing machine
  • a Microplane or cheese grater
  • washing Soda
  • borax
  • Fels Naptha or Dr Bronner's bar soap
  • a funnel
  • container/two empty gallon milk jugs or vinegar jugs
  • a tablespoon/measuring cup or lid left over from your commercial detergent
  • white vinegar
  • optional: essential oil of your choice
Do most of this:
  1. If you don't already own one invest in a Microplane  (you can buy one meant for kitchen work instead but this is the one I have and I know it works). Mine came as  a freebie when I signed up for a magazine subscription and it's useful for many things in the kitchen despite being a woodworking tool but when it comes to grating soap it is nonpareil. By using it to grate the soap it means, IMHO, that you don't have to convert the detergent into a messy liquid because the soap is reduced to a fine powder. You also don't have to use your food processor or blender to break it down further after you've used a cheese grater as some have suggested doing.
  2. Bite the bullet and save lots of gas and time and go to Walmart and buy Washing Soda, Borax, a bar of Fels Naptha soap (it's my understanding that it no longer contains some of the nasty chemicals it used to) and a gallon of white vinegar. All of that will set you back about $12.00 and it will last for a very, very, very long time. If you prefer to use Dr Bronner's soap you can get it at your local food coop.
  3. Grate 1/3 of the bar of soap
  4. Measure out 1/2 cup each of washing soda and borax
  5. This is where you have to decide if you want to melt the soap in boiling water or just stay with the dry formula. If you want the dry formula, just mix the three ingredients together and put it in your choice of a container. Jab the measuring spoon in there and you're in business. I use 1-2 TBSP per load.
  6. If you want to melt it down, stir the grated soap into 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, add 4 more cups of water and the other two ingredients and stir until dissolved. Pour half into an empty gallon milk jug and half into another. It's really goopy at this point so be sure you have a funnel. Finally, add 11 cups of water to each milk jug and shake to evenly distribute the soap. Using your recycled measuring cup add half a cup in each full load.
  7. Wait 24 hours, stirring with wooden skewer or shaking occasionally.
  8. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to either formula. It will wash out but it smells lovely while the washer is running.
  9. Use white vinegar in lieu of fabric softener and to wipe away any residue at the waterline.
  10. Bonus: Fels Naptha is also good for pretreating clothes. Just rub the bar into the spot and let sit for a spell before washing. I don't know about Bronner's because I haven't tried it.
Finally, we dry our laundry on the line but when I have used the dryer the clothes are no different than if I used commercial detergent so it's a win/win situation all around. And if you doubt my process cruise around the interwebs and be amazed to find how many people are converting to a homemade version of laundry detergent. And don't be alarmed if you don't see any bubbles during the wash cycle, in fact, there shouldn't be any.

*Next On "Homemade": 
how to make your own dishwasher detergent. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Smell Sour Pickles Fermenting...

Right now my utility/pantry/laundry room smells like sour pickles. How do I know this? Because two days ago I made Sandor Katz's "Sour Pickles" and having all that time to marinate they've begun emitting a distinct briny aroma:  a little tart, a lot salty, but definitely pleasing.  Here you see the dill, garlic, pepper corns and wild grape leaves involved. I did a fair amount of research on what to use to crisp the pickles that even included a phone conversation with someone at the Escambia County Extension Agency but in any case I passed on wild cherry leaves in favor of the wild grape leaves. The cherry leaves can be toxic if used incorrectly so I'll just appreciate them right where they are, on the tree in my backyard. I know the birds do.

This is a small but much needed triumph for me as I've struggled with the concept of fermenting foods and as a result not a few batches of sauerkraut, sauerruben, and varying breads have all fallen by the wayside into the compost pile. I think I've finally let go of my involuntary but deeply ingrained prejudices against letting Mother Nature teach me how best to process foods. My biggest, most consistent success to date has been Katz's oatmeal porridge from his book,  "Wild Fermentation". If you like oatmeal for breakfast get yourself a roller mill (I already had mine and was eating cold rolled oats with milk and raisins for breakfast) and sign up for allowing the rolled oats to gently "ferment" in filtered water (chlorine kills good as well as harmful bacteria) for several hours, then cook and refrigerate. I like to double the recipe and then scoop out a portion every morning which I then reheat and eat with stevia and milk or soy milk, depending on what I have on hand. OMB (oh my bunny) but this is so much better than anything from the store. And get ready to feel eerily connected to your great great and great great great grandparents because up until recently, and still currently, in countries all over the planet, people routinely fermented -  and still ferment - grains to release the maximum nutrition therein.

I'm supposed to sample the cucmbers in brine in a week or so, I hope they're tickled to be a pickle by then, my lips are already puckered.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Keating senses something is amiss...
What's that? Pet rabbits for Easter gifts? Noooooooo!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sweet Sweet Sweet Potato Pie

Pumpkin pie and I have agreed to be disagreeable with each other but sweet potato pie and I are of one spirit and mind. I decided to try an alternative form of pie crust, and I'll admit that I went too far when I added chocolate chips to the mix, but I can also say that if I had added some unsweetened coconut instead it would have been a welcome correction and been even better. And it was really good, as in so good it's gone. Tell me, is pie for breakfast so wrong? I think not.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dog Flu: H3N8 - Who Knew?

Making my daily visit to Freekibble today I discovered that dogs can contract their very own version of the influenza virus. Is nothing sacred? Discovered here in the Land of Flowers in 2004 it is highly contagious and can last up to two or three weeks. I see a semi-lucrative new market for canine respiratory muzzle masks - but only if they're edible.
Ranger agrees, but STILL hates having his picture made.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Gingerbread House For Your Mug

Along with making the traditional New Year's black eyed peas and collards today I'm also going to be baking up the two sets of doughs that I put together last night:

3 loaves of hearth bread
2 giant gingerbread men

The bread is familiar territory but the gingerbread men are new. I can't remember the last time I made them, probably when my son was young - which was a good while ago (is he really that old???)

I thought I would get in the mood by sharing this clever idea I found about a week ago. It's a gingerbread house that sits on the side of your mug. It takes a lot to make me squee over a baking idea but I just loved it from the moment I saw it on Not Martha, a new favorite blog I find endlessly fascinating for it's clever ideas and projects. Not Martha says these little beauties can also be made from sugar cookie or short bread dough.
(from Not Martha, her photo)

There's also a video from Howcast that tells you how to make them:

I'll have to set aside a day for making these, I have to admit the sugar cookie dough sounds great but after one or two you could stick a fork in me, I would be done. But what a great photo opportunity.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Things To Do While Your Foot Is On The Mend

We're not sure - yet - what is wrong with my foot, but wrong it is. We know it's not broken and the MRI isn't for a couple more days, so how do you fill your time until you know and what to do about it? If you've bought a chair for your kitchen desk and it's too low you do this.

I used two pine table tops from Lowe's, covered them and reupholstered the seat to match and then bolted them all together. It's a perfect fit and something different than what I'm used to, I kinda like it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Did You Make From Scratch Today?

Today I milled my breakfast oats, ground my coffee beans, and squeezed lemons and limes for lemon-lime-ade.

I realized I don't have to do anything complicated for it to count, just something simple, transformed by my own hand.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Arrangement

We don't have any carpet so Ranger has a bed - which he shares with Bill the Cat. He was none too thrilled about it in the beginning but they've managed to work things out. This alone wouldn't justify a post but just before it got cold Ranger paid an unfortunate visit to the barber and without his heavy coat, especially his undercoat, he's been really uncomfortable. What's interesting is that when we go to bed and turn the thermostat down I've been covering him with spare blankets, sheets, or towels, whatever is handy. One particularly chilly night I was going to bed and reflexively tucked him in. He groaned and then just fell over. Then I almost fell over - laughing. The other night we went through this whole routine and Willem walked up and plopped right on top of him but Ranger never batted an eye. The promise of a warm, "One Cat" night was too delicious I think.

I took these photographs with the flash on my camera so they're pretty stark but I think you can see how funny this is. Now, every night I tuck Ranger in, he groans with happiness, and William cuddles up with him. My boys.

You can't see it but William is actually on Rangers legs and feet.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Ranger in the afternoon.

Friday, January 8, 2010