dead ant, dead ant, dead ant dead deat ant…

That’s what the Pink Panther said when he stepped on an ant. Ha! Get it?! If not, read it again, really fast. And if you still don’t get it, or you don’t know who the Pink Panther is, take your right hand, slowly raise it about 3 inches from your cheek and then smack your cheek as hard as possible. Thaaaast’s it, you got it. 

Around these parts, dead ants are actually a good thing. Those ambitious little pests can really be a nuisance in your home, especially in the summertime. But fear not! I have a quick and easy solution that will make them virtually disappear! 

First you’ll need Borax. Never heard of it?
Borax, also known as sodium borate, is a mineral and a salt of boric acid. Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water. Borax has a wide variety of uses. It is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is also used as a fire retardant and as an anti-fungal compound.

The term borax is used for a number of closely related minerals or chemical compounds that differ in their crystal water content. Commercially sold borax is partially dehydrated and used in various household laundry and cleaning products, including the “20 Mule Team Borax” laundry booster and “Boraxo” powdered hand soap. It’s even used in some tooth bleaching formulas! 

There are all sorts of household uses for the powdery white compound, but today we’re focusing on those pesky little ants. 

Simply take 4 Tb of borax, 4 Tb of sugar and mix them together with 1 cup warm water until they dissolve. Then take cotton balls, soak them in the solution, and place them in the spots where you’ve seen the ants, most importantly the spot you think they are coming from. 

WARNING: You will see a LOT of ants! This is good! The sugar is drawing them out. (Also another warning, don’t leave this stuff lying around because it’s clear liquid and somebody could accidentally ingest it. I mean I don’t know who just randomly picks up a container of “water” that’s sitting out on the counter and drink it but apparently it happens….reminds me of a story my friend told me once where he slept over his friends house and didn’t have his contact case so he put his contacts in a glass of water. The next morning the glass was empty…turns out his friend’s grandmother had gotten thirsty in the middle the night and drank his contacts! so apparently people do just pick up a random glass of water and drink it…anyway back to the ants…)

I was spurred to do this post due to some little ants I found in our bathroom (of all places). So when I saw all the ants coming out from behind the tiny little opening on the floor behind the cabinet, I panicked a little bit but then realized they were all just clamoring to get to the sweetly poisonous cotton ball. Getting easily distracted as I tend to do, I watched them for a while then left and didn’t return to the crime scene until the next morning. To my surprise, all the ants were gone! I guess I assumed they would eat the solution and die right there on the spot. But apparently they take it with them back to their home first?  

 This made me feel a little bad, I’m not gonna lie. I could just picture a daddy ant proudly bringing back some “candy” for his kids and them all huddling around it excitedly only to drop dead a few hours later…But not bad enough to want them in my bathroom! And at least this was a natural diy solution and some chemical laden awful storebought solution. So that makes me feel a little better…I guess. 

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Suds are for duds…

Growing up there was nothing better than a head full of suds paired with a bubble bath beard and a good ‘ol rubber ducky. But those “suds” were actually completely unnecessary and drying out your skin. It’s due to a chemical called Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), a detergent found in many personal care products like soaps, shampoos, toothpaste etc. SLES is an inexpensive and very effective foaming agent that, unfortunately, causes skin and eye irritation for many humans and animals. I was one of those humans and could not believe how many products list SLEA as its second or third ingredient. (I dare you, look through your grocery store’s soap aisle or even your own bathroom and count how many times you see it.) My skin and scalp were begging for a healthier more moisturizing cleanser so I went searching for one. 

The solution? Castile soap! Castile soap is unique and different from other soaps in many ways. This is a completely earth friendly, biodegradable soap which contains no harmful chemicals like other average soaps. Castile does not require any animal products like tallow which is widely used by regular branded soaps. Rather, Castile soaps are made from 100% pure plant oils. This is a revolutionary soap in the industry and can be considered as a true soap which contains no chemical detergent.

In earlier centuries, an all-vegetable based soap was made in the Castile region of Spain from local olive oil. By the turn of this century, “Castile” had come to mean any vegetable oil-based soap, which is distinct from animal (tallow) fat-based soaps which can be extremely drying.

Although Castile soap does produce a foaming lather, this comes from it’s high coconut oil content, which makes a more luxurious and richer lather than any detergent could ever create. “Pure-Castile” is your guarantee that what you are using is an ecological and simple genuine soap, not a complex blend of detergents with a higher ecological impact due to the waste stream created during manufacture and detergents’ slower biodegradability. Unfortunately, many synthetic detergent blends are deceptively labeled as “Liquid Soap” even though they contain absolutely no soap whatsoever.

This soap is available in bars, flakes and liquid form. Liquid is my favorite, as it is much easier to mix and measure. Castile soap is famous for its affordability, simplicity, and it’s variety of uses. I used to buy mine on Amazon but now you can find it at Target and I’m sure other stores as well. 
It’s also an all purpose household cleaner. The cool thing about it is that you can experiment using different essential oil herbal infusions to the soaps to diversity and customize your Castile experience. You might feel like a scientist testing out with various products and with different results each time. It’s fun! (Well, at least my idea of fun, I have to do something to make cleaning more fun…) Maybe you prefer lemon blossom to your floor, and orange on your dishes. Some prefer lavender in their laundry and lemon in their bathrooms, the choices and possibilities are endless and you can try something different every time to add more “fun” (again, playing fast and loose with that word here) to your life.

Here are ten ideas on how you can use the Castile soap…

   
1. Shampoo- Mix it with some almond or avocado oil. Add a little peppermint essential oil for a tingly clean! 

2. Laundry Detergent- You can make yourself a chemical free, safe laundry detergent with simple, common ingredients. Mix your soap with hard water to the ratio 1:3 and there you go. This way you can save loads of money and helping the environment in the process. Use lavender or citrus scented soap to give your clothes a pleasant (but not overwhelming or chemically…I know I know, it’s not a word) smell.

3. Dish Soap- Take half a cup of castile soap and mix it with half cup of water and vinegar. Put the whole mixture in a plastic squeeze bottle, shake up well and you have a high quality dish detergent. You can even use it as a hand wash.

4. Dog Shampoo- What’s good for you is also good for your pets, use the same ratio that you use to prepare your body wash to create an awesome dog shampoo. I put lavender in mine because it has a calming effect and anything to help calm Raven down from the torture that is bathtime, I’ll take it! 

5. Car Cleaner- Take one fourth of a cup of Castile soap and mix it with hot water, it will work wonders to remove stains from cars and keep it clean.

6. Use it as a Floor Cleaner- Use castile soap to mop your floors, all you have to do is add one eighth of a cup of castile soap and safe ratio of vinegar and mix it with one gallon of warm water. A few drops of lemon essential oil and your whole house smells divine.

7. Household Cleaning Spray- It is a great way of cleaning your regular household items; mix with water to dilute. 

8. Carpet Cleaner- Castile soap could act as a great carpet cleaner, mix one fourth of a cup of castile into one cup of water. Blend the solution and stir until it forms a stiff foam. And you get a nice solution of eco friendly carpet cleaner that really works! 

9. Body Wash- Use castile soap as a body wash with your choice of essential oil. You can directly buy the Castile bar soap which is available at all retail outlets or you can mix the liquid soap with water in the ratio 2:1. I prefer the liquid. It’s great for shaving too! 

10. Scrubbing Solution- Make toilet soft scrub with the help of baking soda and castile soap. Fill a spray bottle with soap and water in the ratio 1:3. Spray the area you want to clean with the solution, and then add baking soda to it. Rub it with a sponge and watch the stains disappear, it also works on ovens, stovetops etc.
* it should be noted that I’ve also read castile can be used as an insecticide for indoor and outdoor plants buuuuuut….since I don’t have a green thumb and haven’t tried this myself I decided not to list it as number eleven. 

Who knew you’d learn so much about soap today and I never thought I’d say the word “castile” so many times in one post! 

yogurt and cookies…

I don’t know who comes up with these nonsensical national days but they’re silly and fun, and who doesn’t need a little bit more of that in their life?! So I’ve decided to dedicate July to some of the silly national days this month and I’ll be featuring a couple each week starting today. Obviously it’s the second and I missed yesterday so we’ll start with that first. It was….drumroll…National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day! If you’ve never made your own ice cream, do not be scared it’s actually extremely simple and cost-effective, even the ice cream maker itself (I recommend this one) is inexpensive! One of my favorite things to make in the summertime is Greek gyros with all the fixings like roast lamb, tomatoes, homemade tzatziki, and my Greek quinoa salad (see the recipe here). And what’s a better Greek dessert than baklava?! I do make a pretty mean baklava if I do say so myself. But with all the hungry men I feed, that measly little pastry square wasn’t going to cut it. So, for a twist on the traditional pie and ice cream, I decided to make an ice cream that would go well with the baklava and came up with…Greek yogurt ice cream!

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The result was a deliciously light, fresh, and delightfully tangy summertime dessert. Here’s the recipe…

BEAUTY & THE BUTCHER GREEK YOGURT ICE CREAM

INGREDIENTS
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugaR
3 egg yolks (save the whites and make meringues!)
1 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
a little pinch of salt

Combine heavy whipping cream, milk, and 1/2 cup sugar in medium saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Whisk 3 large egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in large heatproof bowl until blended. Gradually add hot cream mixture to yolk mixture and whisk until blended. (make sure you do it slowly, we’re making ice cream not scrambled eggs!) Return mixture to saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens slightly and coats back of wooden spoon, about 3 minutes (do not boil). Pour custard through strainer set over medium bowl. Place bowl with custard in larger bowl filled halfway with ice and water. (it helps to have the bowl of ice already prepared) Whisk until custard is almost cool to touch, about 5 minutes. Remove bowl with custard from ice water. Whisk yogurt and pinch of salt into custard. Refrigerate custard until well chilled. Transfer custard to ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer’s directions. Transfer ice cream to freezer container. Cover and freeze until ice cream is firm. Can be made 3 days ahead, if you think you can last that long!

Now, onto today’s post. Normally I would have just written the greek yogurt ice cream post and called it a day. But I just could not ignore what National Day July 2nd is…National Anisette Day. Anisette is an anise-flavored liqueur that is consumed in most Mediterranean countries, mainly in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, and France. But in our family, an anisette isn’t something you drink, its something you eat. Its an Italian cookie flavored with anise seed extract and its delicious. The recipe we use was my husbands great Grandma Mary’s and if I gave it to you, I’d have to kill you. But I’m sure you can find a recipe online that will be almost as good. We haven’t done it lately because of life’s many complications but in times past, we’ve had a family cookie contest. Each female representative of the different families made their version of Grandma Mary’s cookies and we presented them for a blind taste test simply marking them “A-D”. The men and children (is there a difference haha) line up, cup of milk in hand, taste each cookie, then thoughtfully place their vote. Here’s some pictures of a quite momentous year because the winner just happened to be…me!
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My favorite part about the contest (other than the actual cookies which disappear almost as quickly as they are prepared and then we start haunting each other to see who has a hidden stash of them) is the way the votes turn out. Despite it being a blind taste test, each man and child unknowingly votes for his own mother/wife’s cookie. This is just so neat to me because a) I love social experiments and b) we know what we like and there’s nothing like home cooking, especially when it’s from our own home.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconut…oil

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Have I mentioned lately how much I LERVE coconut oil? To LERVE something is to love something so much that you say you “leeeeeerrrrve” it. It’s not a real word. Moving on. Coconut oil is amazing. And in case you haven’t yet discovered it, or maybe you have but still don’t know all it’s wonderful uses, I’d like to introduce Beauty & The Butcher’s 30 days of coconut oil! There’s way more than 30 but I feel that eventually you’ll get sick of hearing about coconut oil. It won’t be every day, maybe just once or twice a week and I can’t wait to hear your testimonies and comments! My first tip is a simple one and just for the ladies. Coconut oil is an AMAZING makeup remover! I am a fan of the cat eye which, as pretty as it is, is a real pain to wash off despite a good scrubbing. But now I keep a small dish of C.O. next to the sink and every night before I wash my face I dip a damp washcloth into it and with one quick sweep off comes eyeshadow, eyeliner, and even mascara. The added bonus? The C.O. is a natural moisturizer and cuts down on undereye circles, can’t get much better than that!

That’s My Jam

In my opinion, there’s nothing better than a good ‘ol BLT. The savory saltiness from the bacon, the light crunch from the lettuce, the juicy freshness of a ripe tomato, tiny tang of mayo, all sandwiched between two slices of a carbohydrate lover’s dream, lightly toasted of course. But I felt the BLT could be improved just a teensy bit more. I know, I know, I sound crazy. But hear me out. What’s the secret to the deliciousness of kettle corn, chocolate covered pretzels, and sea salt caramels? It’s the combination of sweet and savory! So although the BLT is deliciously savory, it’s a bit lacking in the sweet department. But after being inspired by a jar of tomato jam at our local farmers market, I decided it would be the perfect extra touch to the sandwich and set off to making my own batch. Before we get too much further into the details, let’s discuss this whole jam thing. What’s a jam and what’s a jelly? I mean botanically speaking, a jelly is based with fruit juices– no seeds or pulp. A jam would be the opposite, having seeds and/or pulp. (join me in going “yuck” to pulp, in OJ at least…) Since we all know (right?) that a tomato is technically a fruit and not a vegetable (should we petition for an aisle change at the grocery store?!), and we know that they certainly have seeds, of which we will be leaving in our concoction, we will call this a jam…of sorts, even though Aunt Della (the lady who’s recipe I used, which you can find here) calls it “tomato preserves”. I made a small batch (using the yummy tomatoes and lemons from the local farmers market) but you can adjust the serving size on the website and make a whole gallon if you want to! After that it’s time to prepare your sandwich, including a small dollop of daisy…er I mean jam, and enjoy!

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mug rug

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Monday mornings are my most and least favorite. My love of entertaining paired with my chronic fatigue syndrome is a dangerous combination and though I always push myself and make it through our busy (but enjoyable) weekends, by Monday I’m pooped. Not to mention I usually have a lot of cleaning up to do from the weekend, putting away of dishes, moving tables back into place, and the dreaded but necessary washing, folding, and ironing dinner napkins. I know you may think I’m crazy for the dinner napkin thing but let me explain. To me, a dinner isn’t complete without cloth napkins. There’s just something formal and elegant about cloth napkins that is completely unachievable with paper. (Ooh speaking of paper napkins though, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post for a cool and helpful tip regarding them…maybe I should call it TIp Tuesday? No…I don’t like the sound of that. But I love me some good alliteration so maybe I’ll figure something out, I’m open to suggestions!) ok now I’m really getting off track…napkins ok…anyway I have an array of cloth napkins in different colors and textures among some of my favorites are a white set with red hand embroidered shapes my sister made for me. After each dinner they obviously need to be washed and I have found that the best way to make sure I can throw a dinner party with cloth napkins at a moments notice (trust me, it happens) is by immediately (and painstakingly I might add) folding and ironing each one before putting them away. Despite the effort, there’s a sort of satisfaction in it, especially when I throw said impromptu dinner party and can effortlessly pull out my ready pressed napkins for the meal. What I was I talking about before my napkin rant? Oh right, Mondays. So after the cleaning up, the part I like about Mondays comes, relaxation! It’s my day to catch up on sleep, take the dog for a nice walk, map out my meal plan and grocery list for the week, read, study for the next day’s meeting, and make a nice dinner for my hubby. But the best way to start all of this, the reason for the above picture, and the greatest thing about Mondays? A nice cup of coffee (particularly a homemade latte from my beloved nespresso served on the adorable “mug rug” ALSO made by my sister, guess she’s pretty talented huh?) and something yummy for breakfast. I know most peoples Mondays aren’t like mine and for that I am grateful…but no matter what yours is, I hope you enjoy it my friend.

When the moon hits your eye…

Hopefully you can finish the rest of that lyric…”like a big pizza pie, that’s amore!” (if not, hang your head in shame then immediately look up “That’s Amore” by Dean Martin and learn it!) So, one of the biggest things I miss about living up north is good pizza! Boy it is hard to find in Florida let me tell you, so I have resorted to making it myself at home. Thankfully our trusty neighborhood Publix has fresh refrigerated pizza dough in white or whole wheat so I just picked up a few of those and got to work. This pizza is delicious and super easy so here goes…

(I should first preface this by saying if you don’t like goat cheese stop reading here…what’s wrong with you?!learn to love it because it’s amazing)

Now back to the recipe, you will need…

Ingredients

1 pizza dough homemade or store-bought
1 bag organic baby arugula
1 jar fig jam (you could also add real figs if they’re in season at your local market)
About five slices of very thin prosciutto 1 small hunk of goat cheese (I don’t know what the size is that it’s sold in but you know what I mean)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Spread to dough out on a stone or cookie sheet, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake in the oven by itself for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and spread liberally with fig jam then goat cheese. Lay out prosciutto in strips randomly along the top of the pizza and put back in the oven for about 8 minutes (just until the cheese has melted and the prosciutto has gotten crispy) then remove from the oven and top with as much arugula as you’d like. Serve and enjoy, doesn’t get much easier than that! This is a great weeknight meal but would also be an awesome party appetizer cut into smaller pieces.

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