• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Monday, November 29, 2010


This 'tree' looks festive and tastes terrific for school snacks,
 holiday buffets and potlucks or even as a table center.
(This one looks better.)

I am so glad there are creative people that think up things like this - I learned how to make it many years back and wish I could thank them for their talent.

TIP: If prepared the day before mist lightly and cover to maintain moisture. Keep in a cool place that will not freeze. (I just place on the top shelf in the frig.)

[I did not particularly care for the shape of this tree.  The tomatoes were too oval for my taste and I was a bit short of nice long stems to complete a more 'pointy' top.]

TIP: Buy lots of broccoli - you can always use left over broccoli - right?

Last year a grandson's kindergarten teacher said it was amazing to watch the kids eat the vegetables - they ALL wanted to eat the 'Christmas Tree'.  Children must be carefully supervised to not ingest toothpicks.

You will need the following supplies:

cherry tomatoes - round are preferable to oval

fresh cauliflower - 1 head that is not marked or yellowed

fresh broccoli - equal to (or a bit more than) the head of cauliflower
at least 4 or 5 large bunches for an 8" cone


pliers (or multipurpose scissors)

a foam cone form [covering with foil keeps foam from contact with food - colored foil looks very pretty as the pieces are removed or eaten]

support (disposable paper/foam plate - at home a tray or serving dish/plate)

Using pliers or sturdy scissors (or a craft knife)
 cut toothpicks in half.

Wash vegetables and pat dry (drain on paper towel). Keep nice and cool  so they don't go rubbery - no one will like to eat that.

Cut broccoli and cauliflower into bite size pieces. Some stems need to be longer and some shorter - the sizes needed will vary.

Cover foam base with foil (plastic wrap is fine but is a bit harder to 'poke')

Insert a toothpick into the bottom of a piece of cauliflower or broccoli .

Next inset the toothpick into the foam (through the foil).

Starting at the wide end of the base,  cover the cone with vegetables.

Keep the peices proportinate, larger and longer pieces near the bottom and smaller / shorter near the top or to fill in.

Work your way around the cone and gradually fill all areas so the foam is completely covered.  On larger pieces I tend to imagine thirds and start by placing a piece of cauliflower at each of the imaginary 3 points along the perimeter of the base and fill in-between with broccoli on that first round.

The cauliflower may be placed randomly or it may be placed in a spiral pattern that resembles a 'garland' on the tree.  Continue placing vegetables evenly around working up toward the top.

Tomatoes may also be placed at random on the cone where they 'decorate' the tree - I tend to just step back a bit and think - 'put one there' or 'it needs a bit of red over here'.  If I have already placed broccoli or cauliflower there I push the tomato or my finger between or if it is too snug I remove a piece.

TIP: tomatoes are too soft to effectively be used to 'push' a toothpick into the foam so I prick the end with the point and then place the toothpick into the cone.

  Next I  push the tomato onto the toothpick I have poked into the cone.

TIP: As the top becomes narrowed it may be necessary to use pieces with longer stems or smaller heads. This strategy 'adjusts' the cone's shape. By using longer (or shorter) stems on individual pieces, a more 'triangular' shape can be maintained.

After the cone is completely covered top with a perfect cherry tomato.

Serve with ranch salad dressing or a variety of dips.

If placed in the center of a large platter of tray, other vegetables, crackers, and snack foods may be arranged on the plate. Olives, celery, carrots, peppers and any extra tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower are great 'plate' fillers.

NB: secure cone to plate with florist putty or a stiff paste of icing that will set.

NOTE: This is a LOT of food! One 8" cone typically will serve a classroom of 25-30 students with some left over. Be careful to think small and use this size of cone for all except the very largest gatherings.

Here is a larger tree on a 10" cone. This one served a mixed crowd of about 50 adults and children (for about 2.5 hours of random snacking) with about two rows left near the base after the party. A small bowl of the same vegetables placed near the tree helps allow guests  'break the ice' - to begin snacking and not feel obligated to be the first to pull pieces off the tree - this also allows most guests to arrive in time to see the presentation.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I am NOT perfect.

Can I be? 
Now there is something to ponder!
And when?

As we look forward to the time Jesus Christ will return to earth - a time of prophesied peace - Paul counsels all that seek to obey the command to be perfect found in the New Testament (and as taught by Jesus in the Book of Mormon), regarding their choices and resources amid the extreme wickedness that will prevail.  In 1984 Ezra Taft Benson, taught that 'Paul also saw our day' and in 1995 Boyd K. Packer said that the time Paul is referring to is now.

I am contemplating what Paul taught.

He explains that "all scripture [instructions given by inspiration] ... is profitable ..." and lists 3 specific things it is 'profitable' for: doctrine, reproof for correction, and instruction for righteousness.

I can study and ponder the scriptures given long in the past and the words prophets are giving us today. They will teach me true doctrine, help me make course corrections AND comfort me when things are difficult or discouraging by helping me learn and understand what to do and when to do the things that I should do to be more like my Father - my Heavenly Father.

 Mathew 5:48 specifically commands us each to be perfect like our Father in Heaven is perfect. How is he perfect? In the footnotes the Greek meaning for perfect is to be complete, finished, fully developed.

[I am grateful for scriptures that are so readily available - words of both ancient and modern prophets in my home, or car, and even at my fingertips as searchable documents any time, any where.]

A footnote for 'perfect' in verse 48 directs me to revelation given to Joseph Smith,  Doctrine and Covenants 67: 13. I paraphrase in parts, "[I am] not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore [I must] continue in patience until [I am] are perfected."

I feel a sudden sadness, even despairing hopelessness but then I remember the word's of Paul. I think on scripture stories of men and women, girls and boys that were able to 'abide' seeing God and/or angels.  My ancestors knew Joseph Smith as a human being, like me. HE was able to 'abide' the presence of God and ministering angels ...

In Mathew chapter 5 verses 44 and 45 Jesus teaches us to love our enemies,  (blessing those that curse us, doing good to them that hate us, and praying for them that despitefully use us and persecute us) so that we, as children, can be more like our Father which is in Heaven.

A footnote on the words 'may be' in Verse 45 indicates that a Greek translation would be 'may become'.

I like that -
I may become like our Father in Heaven -
I am His child.

How am I like my dad?
What ways do I wish I were more like him or less like him?

My father here in this life is a good man and although not perfect nevertheless is an rather excellent example. He keeps working at being better every day.  That is one way I hope I am like my father: he tries to be the best he knows how to be; continuing to learn, gain knowledge of good things, and become better - changing to be better.   

Our Father in Heaven IS perfect.
He lives within the knowledge he has.

2 Timothy 3 enlightens me a little more as Paul warns those trying to perfect themselves, in this manner, about 'perilous times'.  I think if you were to read it you would understand it differently that I have.  I think it would warn and/ or comfort and teach you in things you need to know.  Romans 2 is the same.  Paul teaches me that it is not the outward appearance of my actions that will help me to be able to become like my father but rather the inward desires that are in my heart and mind. As a reformed and converted anti-Christian Paul should know!

Apparently I can become perfect -

it will be an ongoing process -

so can you -

IF we want to.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


" ... for which I would spend money"

Today is sunny and beautiful outside.
This morning was snowing but the day warmed and cleared.

I was wishing I had a snowman.
I knew better than to build it myself.
I have spent my energy
(and much of David's too) on carpet cleaning.

While David ran an errand 3 young boys came by.

shoveled area and boys after being paid
They are the same ones I keep asking to stop using my yard as a shortcut.  They promise but eventually the temptation is too great and they cut through again.

(Don't worry I ask everyone to please go around - I don't pick on them.)

They seem nice enough - they did ASK if they could have apples.

(We made sure to give them a large bag full when the apples were ready.) We are so grateful to have enough to share.

But boys will be boys! These three are pretty fun.  They don't know I have informally adopted them.  I hope they can learn to stay out of trouble.  When I caught them picking the flowers I gave them a bouquet.  I told them to always ask - that was before the apples.  I was so pleased that they did ask! Many more things to be thankful for there.

They wanted to know if I would pay them to shovel my snow.
Ironic since David keeps it cleaned off but today the fresh snowfall, half an inch or so, was melting on the step and driveway.

snow left after they were done
I looked out, told them there is not very much snow, AND that I don't have very much money either but I would make them a deal (seriously I only have 5 one dollar bills and some change of my spending money until pay day). If they would clean off the snow - I would loan them our shovel so it would go twice as fast and 2 of the 3 could be shoveling - and if the 3rd boy, and youngest, would build me a snowman and sweep the front step then I would give them a dollar each.  They think they got a good deal! It took them less than half an hour including the snowman.

I think I got a good deal.

I bought myself a small snowman for $3.75 (he's out there looking at me through the window right now - it is looking at the house not the street) and as a bonus got my step swept and 'some' of the snow off my driveway - they shoveled the way most young boys shovel - a little here and a little there but I got a snowman! I even suggested a carrot for the nose and gave them one along with a .25 tip for being such good sports and so nice to a crazy old lady. Their shovel was pitifully little but the biggest boy asked me why ours was so big and heavy. *snorting laughter* David finished clearing the snow in a few swift passes when he returned.

snowman on lower right 

He noticed the snowman. It might have been missed but there was no way to miss the trompled snow replacing the pristine wind carved drifts he has been admiring all week.

I am sure I couldn't go to the local stores and buy a better yard decoration - especially not for the price.

2 satisfied parties for one deal -

and later I saw them cut through the yard with their older sister, - or a baby sitter, - or cousin or maybe their mother ... I can't tell - age is so hard to tell anymore.

[There are babies of course, and older toddlers; and younger and older children; teens and young adults; adults that must shoulder the cares of the world and think they know enough to do so; then those that have some grey in their hair and may not have a lot of 'sproing' in their gait or their attitude anymore; and lastly those with papery thin skin, failing eyesight or hearing, and frail shuffling steps.]

I know where I fit into those categories and where some of you fit in but you might not agree. My oldest daughter definitely is a youngish adult *giggle* but I think her 16 year old would place her into the beginning of the grey hair category.  I know she doesn't belong there because I am hardly there myself *snicker*- it is her birthday here at the end of November. Happy Birthday, deary!

This woman was younger than her.  (I think that is why I couldn't judge her age.) The 3 boys proudly pointed out the snowman that they built to her, as they cut through the yard!  I told them earlier that it is OK to come in the yard to build snowman anytime they want to.

I still think I got the deal.

Why didn't I think of kids earning their spending money that way when I had kids? They sure shoveled a lot of the white stuff!

Never mind - back then people would have thought they were crazy and told them to 'go fly a kite'. I bet that now many people would pay kids to build snowmen in their front yard.  Please let me know if any of your kids make it to college on these earnings - I'll be very surprised - but happy - I'd be happy for them.

And it would be a good service project for a group - don't you think that would be a blast?

So what if everyone thinks we're goofy - we are -
and lovin' every minute of it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Just so you know -

here is documented proof -

sometimes the grass IS greener on the other side of the fence! and no that is not snow - it is too much light - the grass was actually very yellow brown like hay but on a rainy day pictures were no easy trick.

The first time we saw this area while traveling through Oregon we thought it was fluke and wished for our camera.

When we saw it this last trip it was too late to snap the picture. On the way home we stopped first by the side of the road and then in another area at the lookout above the winding road up the hill. My adventuresome hubby trekked off over hill and dale and captured the shots.  He wanted the evidence. So did I.

Why is the grass (in at least 2 places in Oregon) greener on the other side of the fence?

I have no idea! I could make up some theories but so can you.
What are yours?

There are many ways we compare ourselves to others.
Sometimes their lives seem 'greener' than our own - better in some way.

I despised my frizzy mousy brown hair when I was growing up.  All the really 'cool' styles required smooth locks. And nice blonde was beyond my wildest dreams. I so wished I could only have hair that wasn't so frizzy that the other kids shouted, "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear ... " and other taunts.

(I had to learn to NOT brush it 100 strokes a day.  That didn't make my hair shine - it made it fuzzier!)

Last time I visited a very young granddaughter, she asked me why my "hairs is all curled." She said hers isn't and 'curls is pretty'. Her mother's 'hairs are all curled' too - we both have naturally curly hair.

I am very grateful for naturally curly hair.

Once someone asked my daughter where she got her beautiful perm. She said her mother gave it to her.  They phoned me for an appointment! We all had a good laugh. I suppose that wasn't a lie. I do NOT 'do' hair - not even my own. I live on the wash and 'finger-comb-shake' method.

My poor little grandchild - I think she feels bad that her shiny blond hair is straight as a board.

I told her that when I was a little girl I thought only 'hairs' without curls were pretty.

I left her mulling that over as a seemingly new thought.
She is one lucky little girl to have straight blond hair!

In my life I have often just had to accept that I am not always on the greener side of the fence.  I do my very best to be my very best and be in the very best places I can be. That will have to be good enough.

But at times I come to realize 'all my hairs is curled'.  There are some who believe I live on the green side of that conundrum.

I will have to be sure I don't envy those that are in greener places and be grateful for what is on my side.

Perhaps you wish your grass wasn't so green because it needs to be mowed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Yesterday started wrong.
 It is not that I didn't know the spider was there -

I tried to whack it before but it was too fast. And it is very hard to WHACK between the knife block, paper towel roll and the microwave mounted over the stove.  That is where it got away to - behind the microwave. 

I have been thinking on how to catch it for many minutes since. I know spiders are creatures of habit.  They build a web, make a nice cozy place to live and then live there - in other word I knew I would see it again in the same locale.  

And if you know me I did not forget it was lurking.  I have been watching, and thinking.

6:15 in the morning is not a good time to bother me.  
I am a bit, well, not awake really.  
That sounds nicer than groggy, cranky, testy, 
or other similar adjectives!

I decided oatmeal would be nice for breakfast.  
I decided to make some for hubby too. 
I was trying to be quiet so he could sleep in a bit. I am very grateful for all he has done for me while I recuperated this summer and fall. I rummaged for a pot, and lid, dropped several, made enough noise to wake the dead (but not David) and generally made myself testy and cranky by the time I filled it with water and turned to place it on the stove. 

(Thanks again to all my kids - 
it is so new and clean and shiny still).

THAT is when I saw it. Some small movement caught the corner of my eye and I must admit I absolutely froze.  There it was! hanging midway between a knife handle and the microwave. I was not about to repeat our previous encounter.  David does not kill most insects. I do - but usually only if they come in my house.  He captures them by inverting a glass over them, slides a paper under the glass and carries them outside to freedom.  I let him.

I have seen him do it many times.  It is very simple and effective.  Sly kicked up a notch as I set my pot of water on a burner, picked up a nice thick envelop from the pile of mail on the table, and a mostly empty glass from nearby.

It worked too.  
Now what was I supposed to do?
Here I was at dawn standing in my kitchen barefoot, in my nightgown, holding an envelop over a glass to keep the spider inside and all I wanted was a bowl of oatmeal - good hot oatmeal - the way I fix it - not gooey or slimey but light and flakey,with honey and fruit. 

I had told David about the spider and what I thought were unusual markings - I hadn't seen the striped back or the strange light tummy before. I wanted him to see those but it could be an hour before he was up if he got this chance to sleep in a little. I found a heavy bowl (do not try to imagine that process with my hands both occupied) and balanced it on top of the envelop on top of the glass on top of the counter.  I could look at it eyeball to eyeball that way.  I could also make sure it did not get away.

My parents were strict about not tormenting little creatures.  If they had to be killed so be it but without suffering.  I don't know what makes a spider suffer but I don't suppose the spoonful of water in the glass bottom was its most pleasant moments.  I almost felt sorry for it but not quite.  I also felt bad that one of its legs got caught under the edge of the glass as it tried to get away and now it was dragging that leg a little bit BUT too bad! it should not have been in my house!

I heated the oatmeal, turned the burner off and left it steaming under the lid and David got up. We messed around with the spider and he took some pictures of it - I put on my sandals in case it tried to get away (David likes to magnify the pictures on the computer - I admit that is interesting). After the pictures he went to get ready for work.  

WAIT a minute!
The spider was still in the kitchen!
I asked him what HE was going to do with it.
It had snowed over night and was very cold outside.  
He seemed to not hear me so I dumped it out and stepped on it.
As my foot came down I heard him suggest, from the other room, that I take it outside.  He felt like it might be able to crawl into some place and survive. 

I said nothing, put the glass in the dishwasher and the envelop in the trash, and off and on for much of the day thought about habits and patterns of living. 

I don't feel guilty.  I am NOT going to let a spider nest in my kitchen and I am not going to go outside in the cold, much less in my nightgown and sandals, to let the thing freeze to death slowly.  It did not die slowly. It looked way too much like the black widows that occasionally turn up around here - but then 'they' all look alike to me - generally speaking, ya know?

When we know little about people or creatures 'they' can all look alike and be categorized as good or bad with little thought.  David helps me think past categories and generalizations.  I like that. (It can also be irritating).

Speaking of irritating - I never did get my oatmeal.  The pot vacuum sealed itself shut while we were taking pictures (mostly I just hovered nervously). I almost made more oatmeal but then made a valiant attempt to reheat it and get it open. David ate toast and fruit and went to work meanwhile. The oatmeal burned - and stayed stuck. It was still stuck at 5:30 when he came home.  I tried ice and hot water and, and, and ... nothing worked.  He tried to take the lid apart - nope. He tried to get an opening, even tiny to let air or water in by prying - nope. He boiled it in a much larger pot of water for more than an hour.  It finally came loose and could be cleaned - smelled up the house like burnt oatmeal but could be cleaned.

My day went downhill from the dawn to dusk.
The rest of the day was a comedy of clumsiness and chaos
 - and although mostly uneventful just immensely irksome.

It was difficult to choose to be cheerful,
 and not say cranky things all day.

By bedtime blizzard warnings had become the reality and bitter temperatures froze blowing snow over both the front and the back door.

This morning drift sculptures that eddy around the car tempt me to get dressed and go out to take some photos.

I have become a pansy.  I only stay out long enough to document some strange snow around the car and decide not to move it.  

I knew I would catch that spider sooner or later.  
I knew where it had hidden. 
When I removed its webs I knew it would make more.
I knew I would be able to 'get' it there.  
It would be there. That is how spiders are.

I suppose I also knew I would kill it 
and that David wouldn't.
Sometimes I take them out ...

I am grateful for his example to me in this.
It helps me be a more compassionate, considerate being.

I am left wondering about habits, traps and webs.
Is there anyone or anything trying to catch me? or you?
Lying in wait?watching? waiting for our vulnerable times?

If so what do I (or you) need to do to foil that?

Surely we must at least consider and ask,
"Do I have habits that endanger my well being
or even my very soul?"

Monday, November 22, 2010


When my first child was born
I was introduced to disposable diapers.

I then pretty much decided there was no point
 to ever using any other kind.

Especially since I was using a laundromat anyway
 and it actually saved us money.

My third child decided otherwise.
Her skin was very sensitive.
Diaper rash does not a happy baby make!
All diapers were a problem.
I asked my pediatrician what could be done.
We struggled until it was a serious problem.
He prescribed diaper service.

Diaper Service (DS) for the un-initiated is amazing.

Used cloth diapers were placed in a provided bag, in a provided sanitized, deodorized container and exchanged weekly.

If I remember correctly we recieved about 4 or 5 dozen sterile gauze cloth diapers on Thursday each week. I was not expected to rinse them out, or clean them in anyway (except to shake out the worst that would simply fall and flush) - just put them in the bag in the container and they were picked up from the designated delivery/pickup area.

Diapers were also guaranteed free of most other residues like soap, fragrance etc. That solved our skin problems and baby was much happier and healthier.

When we took a lengthy car trip we debated what was best for baby care. Diaper service always was VERY helpful and we assumed they would provide enough diapers but wondered what was best to do for the soiled ones.

The manager came personally to my home.  He explained that they never supply more than a 2 week supply and that they could be kept in the bag/container for that long. YUCKKY - not to mention that we would be traveling for 3 full weeks - IN a car.  He then took pity on me and taught me how to wash the diapers 'properly'. He invited us to tour his facility and see how clean is done commercially.

That was kind of cool.  My curiosity alone would accept that kind of invitation. My clothes have been clean every since. I use variations of the techniques on all our laundry.

BTW:  if you choose to try any of the following be sure to use your common sense.  It is your best friend and will save you many mistakes and larger problems - listen to your own instincts!

First of all the diapers are white.  This allows common bleach to be used to sanitize them.  I used cloth diapers for all my other babies.  I recommend and preferred the gauze type to the flannel.  Thanks Nancy - that was one of my best gifts ever when you blessed our house with those.

I have since begun using white house linens too: sheets, towels, dishtowels etc - mostly white - easily cleaned. Have you ever noticed that large hotel chains use white linens? Another advantage to white is that you can immediately see that it is clean (or not).

So Mr. DS explained their process and walked me through their factory.  Soiled diapers are dumped into large machines, as is, and washed in cold water - no soap, no bleach - only cold water.  He said this is the FIRST and most important secret to clean laundry: a cold pre-wash without product in water only.

When my husband worked as a janitor they were instructed to use plain water first.  Many things clean up with water only.

Secret #2: Mr. DS next told me to be sure to not overcrowd washers.  Lots of water and room to 'swish' is essential. At the laundromat he said most people sacrifice real clean by stuffing the washers too full.  Are you guilty at home?

I am guilty, guilty, guilty when in a hurry.

If you find yourself wondering if a batch is a little full - it is!
Split it up to more loads.

I am also a bit finicky about sorting.  It really does make a difference.  Keep white with only white, light with only light, brights together, darks with darks. I often give lights an extra cold pre-wash or hot post wash and always give heavily soiled loads an extra 'rinse' - an extra complete cycle.

 I also keep different weights and soils separated.  Heavily soiled jeans or other work clothes get a rinse before being washed.  Some fabrics need special care but I wash most things and seldom use the cleaners. I worked at a dry cleaners for a few years.  Many of the things you bring to be cleaned are simply washed properly and pressed.

Mr. DS said that when washing clothing to drop them loosely into the drum until it reaches the top of the center vanes - no more. I wanted to know how many diapers that would be since I would be dumping in soiled wet nasty diapers and not wanting to touch them.  He gave me a random number that I verified by taking a basket of clean diapers to the nearest machine and checking.  I was paranoid about my baby having serious diaper rash again. For the front loaders follow the instructions on the machines - too few is better than too many.

Secret #3 from Mr. Diaper Service was to put the diapers through a hot wash cycle with soap and bleach (after a complete cycle of cold).  He said soap brand did not matter significantly.  He also said to NEVER, ever, under any circumstance,  add fabric softener.  He said it leaves an oily residue on clothing that attracts dirt and pigments (causing eventual grayish discoloration) and irritates sensitive skin.

I protested - but the diapers were so soft!
How did DS get them to be soft?

He explained secret # 4: Money! and then he laughed.
Secret 4 equals an investment for most of us - of time and money. It is simple though. Put them through one more complete wash cycle! Really! And make it hot - except for brights and deep colors.  Ideally it should be boiling for the wash and rinse cycle.  Good luck finding any machine that will do that.  Modern washers make all water somewhat warm and somewhat cool.  The temperatures are regulated to adjust to the middle ranges.  Hot means hotter than lukewarm.  Cold means warmer than straight from a cold well or pipes in the winter.

That makes for 3 complete wash cycles: 1. cold with water only, 2. hot with bleach and soap, 3. hot with water only.  Since this does take extra time (and we pay for our water), even now that we have our own machines and don't use a laundromat, this process is spelled money and time.  He was right.

I have heard that adding 1 Tablespoon of vinegar per quart of water will remove soap residues from laundry.  It helps but an extra rinse is VERY effective.  Part of the problem is getting the correct amount of vinegar for a large load - that is cups full when dealing with gallons of water and  a stack wet clothing and it costs money also.

You may be able to save some of that money by never buying fabric softeners (fs) again. But what about static? It will go away when you stop using the fs and clean your machines thoroughly to remove the residues. Yes it will take time.  You have to endure a bit of static while the fs gets washed out of your laundry.  The only time I have to endure static now is when you visit and have lots of fs in your clothing or if I let you wash your laundry in my machines. Static seems to also happen when some fabrics are washed and dried the first time or two. It goes away - I promise!!

While my babies were small I used diapers to mop up spills and messes of all kinds. Now I use my white towels. I must also thank Helen for teaching me how to keep stains off the rug and furniture.  My toddler spilled grape juice on her off white living room carpet one Thanksgiving. I was a basket case. She calmly handed me some light colored towels and a pitcher of cool tap water and then showed me how to soak and blot the stain until all the color went into the towels.  It took a while but her carpet was stain free - BELIEVE me when I say it was - I took all the time needed to ensure it was clean and mostly dry.

 First blot the majority of the spill - soak it up all you possibly can - paper towel works great to wick it back out.  Take care to not spread it further - blot it from the outside to the middle.  Pour a small amount of cool water onto the spot and immediately soak it back out.  Continue until no color remains. Press firmly to help it wick up from underneath. I have often stood on the diaper/towel to press it enough to get all the moisture possible back out of the rug.  Repeat until clean.  Do not add soap to a carpet/furniture spot - it has an oily residue that will cause dirt to cling to the spot later.

An aside: If a carpet or furniture needs to be cleaned you will notice the spot you are cleaning up is lighter than surrounding areas and that it is time to do some deep house cleaning.  Since I know you weren't planning to do it right then (go ahead if you were going to anyway) this is when you do not follow the 'blot to the middle' rule.  After the stain is removed 'feather' your clean area back into the rest of the rug/furniture by letting some water soak the outer edges and blotting it up 'less'.  Of course remember to only blot -  fiber on most furniture is not manufactured to tolerate excessive rubbing and may be damaged.

I should thank my third child for her sensitive skin.  I like clean clothes.

Friday, November 19, 2010


*deep breathe, adjust chair, get glasses*

Are you ready? I am done, done, done and done!
(Except telling you about removing stains.)

If you only want the short answer, fast ... go to comments here.
You can also see the victims and culprits there.
Now for the rest of the story.

The shirts are saved.
The pj's functional, the sweater is history,
and  my washer clean -
amazingly it did not get any ink inside!

Just to be sure, I washed a dark jean batch first
and then a batch of dark colors. (Naturally I scoped it out first).

Yes I do always sort - carefully -
I like my clothes to stay the original color.

Hmmm - one of these days I will tell you about how I learned to get clothes clean and keep them that way.

The ink in Fountain pens and gel pens are water based so wash out more readily, especially when wet. Regular ball point pens use a synthetic colorant with an alcohol solvent in a thick paste and are usually oil based. They tend to dry quickly and set to a permanent stain easily. A sister sent this link and it was very informative. Another sent me some tips and tricks - Thanks to both - I think I got it out.

My first line of defense against stains, especially food on clothing, is SUNLIGHT Dishwashing Liquid with lemon. Rinse out all the spot you can, as soon as you can, with cool water and rub the Sunlight in. It will remove grease spots, spaghetti sauce (even on whites) and all but the toughest, dried on or in, set stains.  Occasionally grease on polyester/synthetics may need a second treatment or TIDE. I air dry suspect items until I know the spot comes out.

It did not remove these ink stains.
No color came out when I rubbed it in or rinsed it.
I did not really expect it to but I usually try it first.

I must state that I like Tide laundry detergent. My mother used it and survived washing for 11 children  and a husband on the farm (manure be gone).  Dad also did construction and sheered sheep.  His clothes always got washed last in the old wringer washer. Water was precious, hand pumped, heated on the stove, and used and reused to wash many batches of clothes: first whites and baby stuff, then light colors, then mediums colors, next darks and last (and always nasty) were the jeans and work clothes.  There was a separate tub of rinse water. The electric wringer swung between the washer and the rinse tub to squeeze - literally wring - the water out. The rinse when replaced was dipped back into the washer for a load or two of some of the colored and dark batches (with the addition of soap and fresh water to bring it back to the needed level and temperature). If you have never used such contraptions or bucketed all your water count your blessings ... and they were so much nicer than washboards and riverbanks!

But I digress.

And did I mention the tiny ink spot on the shoulder of one of his new shirts that was also in the batch?

I put Tide on that and it came right out.

TIDE is an effective stain remover for almost every stain on every fabric.

Just make a paste, (or use the marvelous, modern miracle of liquid) rub it into the stain and launder as usual.  Before drying, check to be sure the stain is completely gone.  If not repeat. I admit it openly - I believe in TIDE! And yes it does cost slightly more - small cost for clean laundry! BTW - use much less than the cup in the box. I never use more than the lowest mark on that cup so I chose a dipping cup that size and discovered my soap lasts much longer, and cuts the cost.

I always soak very deep, large or dark stains for a minimum of 30 minutes. Some difficult stains persist through several tries but get lighter each time.

Tide did not remove the larger ink stains. It did remove the small superficial marks surrounding the large soaked in one.

No color came out when I applied the paste or rinsed it.
I actually did hope.

I figured there was little point in trying lemon juice, vinegar, milk, baking soda, or salt as some stain removal guides suggested.  I also felt that starting with mixed compounds and detergents was a bit extreme or might set it so chose to use the simplest things I had on hand. Please do your own research as to what mixes involve.
I also saw no point in spending money to purchase various stain removers that I don't use otherwise anyway - and that none of you recommended. If I needed to spend money I would rather buy a NEW item of clothing. Some friends loaned me some products - that did not budge any ink/color.

All sources available suggested rubbing alcohol or hairspray.

First I tried the pj's.

I saw little difference in the effects but both did loosen the ink and cause it to bleed into the pad underneath AND the pad I blotted it with. Hairspray (I tried several kinds) seemed to really spread it quickly and created a messy halo effect that did hand wash out using a paste of Tide. The stains were now slightly smaller and lighter - and purple - they became a fairly bright shade of purple while in contact with the alcohol.

A word about padding: Use it - lots of it and then a little more.

Protect all surfaces and be careful to keep your hands ink free.
I choose a couple of worn out hand towels.
Most of my towels are white. Some are ready to replace.
*mental note: answer the why on laundry post*

When I became careless I nearly stained my white counter merely by setting things down

and I got it on my hands and made a mess on my green shirt that had to be spot cleaned before I could continue.

I started the alcohol process on my shirt - dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, dab, dab,dip, dab, dip, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dip, spill, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab, dab - ENOUGH ALREADY!!!

There was no other way! put the cloth behind, put drops of alcohol on the spot and blot.  Move towel pad to clean spot and repeat. It was getting lighter though. It was coming out.  I was bored! I could only stay at it for short bursts and then go work on something else - and that isn't exactly how I had planned to spend my day, much less my week!!! I persisted because I really do like that shirt.

Some sources suggested fingernail polish remover.
I rummaged in my cupboard and found some.
I vaguely remember buying it perhaps at the $ store.
I think its name brand  (at that price) piqued my brain -
AMES brand - I am not kidding! made in Ames CT.
It was a non-acetone protein enriched remover. That means it had glycerin and, among other things, fragrance - really? -
 Pheww - these smells are very strong and I ventilated the area.

I stared at it awhile before I decided to actually apply it. I decided not to waste anymore time avoiding David's shirt. I got some cotton swabs and tentatively applied it to the tiniest spots on the back (far right) I didn't want to damage the fabric - oh yeah - I didn't mention these before because I found them later.

The first and most amazing thing that occurred was a strange yellowy residue that blotted out almost instantly.

(The next day I saw the yellow spreading out of spots treated with alcohol.)

I was a bit afraid of the polish remover on the green cord but tried it too. It made it look like a scab.

The stains generally did not lift significantly until the yellow blotted out.

JOY! Astonishment!

The smaller spots, on the tan shirt back, almost disappeared in 4 or 5 dabs, but they were only the size of a glass pin head.

I moved on to bigger stuff and decided to use paper towel on the top side. The ink seemed to be more on the outside so I began from that way.  A first application looked like an ugly bruise. I could see the yellow crud coming out first.

The nail polish remover mostly did not bleed through to the pad on the back - or rather the ink didn't.  It seemed to almost peel the ink off the fabric. I checked the label.  100% cotton just like my cord shirt but this one has a smooth finish of some type that launders like PermaPress. [There's another blessing! I remember when there was no such thing.]

In an hour or so I had most of the ink gone from that shirt.

When the ink was a light gray-blue, hairspray seemed to become more effective.

 Half an hour later a grey blue spot identified each stain - still.

I took a break.

The now lighter and smaller 'w' shaped spot on the front would not budge. I tried everything.

Putting more on by tipping the bottle directly onto the stain.

Soaking it in alcohol, nail polish remover, etc.

I started combining stuff according to directions.
I tried the more radical ones on the pjs first.
Between each attempt I hand washed the area out, sometimes only rinsing, sometimes with a paste of Tide. It lightened, slightly.

My green cord shirt was not fairing as well.  The nap was holding the ink. When I saw the area start to lose some color I decide appliqué/embroidery was the best option for it. A small berry over one and a leaf traced from the original design for the other (both on upper right).

I started trying and combining anything and everything even solvents.  Sometimes I washed it out, sometimes I didn't. I spilled the remover.  My friend loaned me some that was different from mine. I was willing to risk a hole in the fabric to learn what might or might not work. I tried the harmless acidic foods. I even tried the stuff on the other fabrics. Nada, zip, nothing helped.

BTW - that is when the sweater became history.

So far I hadn't tried anything on it. I applied the polish remover and it wicked ink into a huge spot. I attempted  to wash it out just to see if I could but admit that I was not diligent or persistent in treating it.  I couldn't be bothered. I did learn to be very cautious about stains 'wicking' into surrounding area in the future. It is always good to work from the outside to the middle - often the stain is not as heavy on the edge.  Other things to consider would be color fastness and fabric types.  Some solvent type of treatments would harm, shrivel and/or dissolve some fabrics. Some fabrics are fragile enough that abrasion might cause thread breakage or other signs of wear.

Finally I washed it thoroughly and started again with my friend's remover.  It lightened a bit more.  When it stopped lifting again I decided to see if sunshine might help.  I put lemon juice on it and laid it outside on my back step for a couple of hours in full sun.  Next I washed it out completely in the machine. It was light enough that I had to look for it.  I left it with a paste of Tide on it overnight, washed that out and put Sunlight Dishwashing liquid on it and left it for several hours and then washed it out again.

I decided I am done.
It is good enough- not perfect but OK.
If I don't have my glasses on I can't see the light grey w shaped spot or find the small spots left on the back.

It is air drying on the back of a kitchen chair. I will treat it again before the next wash.

Oh and since it is staying so blue/gray I decided to experiment on my royal blue T-shirt.A few months back bleach accidentally flicked a few tiny spots on the front.
They turned completely white.
I tried writing on them with a blue pen on purpose.
It laundered out.
I wear my green shirt buttoned there anyway.
I asked David to retrieve the pens (he wore gloves).
After I wet the shirt I carefully pressed the ink onto the white spots. They look absolutely black.

I intend to let them dry completely, heat set them with my iron,
 and see if I can 'stain' my white spots blue!

Can I deliberately do what happens accidentally?
Wish me luck.