Green Living – Dr. Bronner’s

I’d heard a lot of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap over the years. A lot. I almost bought some a few years ago, but I will freely admit the label scared me off. There’s a lot of writing on there. A LOT. Plus, it was a bit pricey and I didn’t understand what I could use it for.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My love and I were wandering through our local health food store (right downtown near my LYS!) and saw they had some. Not only did they have some, they had a bottle of it in lavender. Yes, my love for purple extends to this scent as well. By this point, I’d seen a few different recipes for ways to use Castile soap and I wanted to give it a try. But there was no where to find it here in our town.

We decided to pick it up and I brought it home. I tried a few different ways of using it that day and a few days later as I gathered different recipes and tricks. I’m still not done experimenting, and I’ll share more on that below.

Dr. Bronner's Organic Lavender Castile Soap

The first thing I did was squirt it in the washing machine with the towels. I used it without any other detergent and just really hot water. I used a cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle, only because the scent was still a bit powerful at that point. The towels came out of the dryer the softest and fluffiest and nicest smelling that they ever have before. This is now my go-to way of washing towels.

Then I moved on to cleaning the bathroom. I love our soap (Yardley’s), but it does leave a bit of soap scum on the tub. We have an older tub, so we have to be careful what we use on it. I’ve tried everything from Borax to Seventh Generation cleaner to baking soda and vinegar. All of them required a lot more elbow grease than I like to use (remember my post about being a lazy housewife). I squirted some Dr. Bronner’s on the scrubby sponge and it was like magic. The soap scum was gone, the tub was sparkling, and even better, my shoulder didn’t hurt. Plus, the bathroom smelled amazing.

I promptly filled a soap bottle we had with a 50/50 mix of Dr. Bronner’s and water and stuck it at the kitchen sink. Sure, it’s really runny, but it smells great and cleans fantastically.

The next day I decided to try it to wash my hair. For the last four years I’ve been on a “no ‘poo” regimen, using only baking soda and vinegar (not together at the same time) to wash my hair. It’s worked well, but is difficult to do when you only have a tub and not a shower. Also, we have really hard water here, so it’s been leaving a bit of a residue. I wanted to try something else. I used a small amount of Dr. Bronner’s and it smelled great. It worked pretty well, and my hair felt really clean.

I found a recipe for making a “shampoo” out of Dr. Bronner’s and coconut milk and have been using that regularly now (mix gently about 1 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s to 1 tsp of coconut milk). Be prepared, this gives sooooo many bubbles it can be scary if you’re used to a hair washing method that doesn’t bubble. 🙂 Because I have really curly, really long hair, I adjusted my recipe as follows: 2 Tbsp Dr. Bronner’s, 2.5 tsp coconut milk. It works really well. I mix it each time I need it, although if I were to mix a big batch I could just keep it in the fridge. This was amazing. It does need some type of conditioning rinse, though (at least it does for my hair). I used white vinegar the first few times (1 Tbsp white vinegar to about 2 cups of water), but moved to a really nice organic coconut conditioner. Dr. Bronner’s makes a conditioner that I’d like to buy if I can find it locally.

(Side note: one of these days I’ll post about my hair care routine. For someone living in Florida with insane humidity and very curly hair, I’ve not needed hair care products in my hair for the last four years…which is amazing).

So, what else am I going to try? Well, I have pinned on Pinterest a few recipes for a laundry detergent and a hand soap made from Castile soap. Definitely trying those once the bottles run out of each. Because, of course, I’d just bought a big refill bottle of hand soap and a new bottle of laundry detergent before buying the Dr. Bronner’s.

I now understand why they sell this in gallon jugs as well. Because I see us using a lot of this in the future. Oh, and you don’t have to just get lavender scent. If you go to the link above, you can see all the different scents and sizes available.

And no, I have not received anything from Dr. Bronner’s. I’m just a happy customer who finally discovered this stuff. I hope you’ll give it a shot, too!

Next step achieved – New Business Cards!

I’ve had the same type of business cards since I launched my design career back in 2007. When I started this new venture, adding in professional services, I needed a new business card. I also needed new cards since my phone number was on my old cards and that has changed (and I no longer wanted to list that), as well as having a new website. Granted, if you go to, you’ll come here (thanks to my fabulous webmaster).

Anyway, it was time. I’m not handing out many cards these days, so I knew I didn’t need to get a lot. Gone are the days of needing 500 cards at a time (not that I ever ran out). I’d heard good things about Moo Cards, so I decided to check them out. I started with a sample pack, using one of their premade backgrounds, just to see what the cards were like.

I was blown away. These cards are slick, beautiful, heavy, and packaged in such a way it made me and everyone who saw them smile. So I decided to go ahead and order a set. The neat thing about their cards is I could upload as many photos as I wanted for the back of my cards without being charged extra for them. I chose a few of my favorite patterns and one from a class promo photo. Then I was able to put my logo (which I will be working on updating next) and all my info on the back for no extra charge.

The interface to do all this is so simple, so intuitive, and really slick. I received emails when the order printed and when it was mailed to me. They came yesterday. They were packed in a bubble mailer and the little box they were in had a bright “Yay!” sticker on it. 🙂 I was so excited I opened them right there in the post office. Here, let me show you…

Moo Cards

The six photos I chose and the back side of the card.

Aren’t they awesome? I love them so much.

And now the best part. If you want some Moo cards of your own, you can get them with a 10% discount if you go here. Trust me, they’re awesome and you’ll love them.

Unexpected Afghans

Last year I worked on a project with Robyn Chachula. It was actually the second project that year (the first was in the book Simply Crochet: 22 Stylish Designs for Everyday, out now). I was very excited about this project because I got to work with a scrumptious yarn and work in my favorite technique – lace.

You can see a bit of my design here on the cover (it’s the hot pink blanket in the top left corner).

Unexpected Afghans cover

If you want to pick up a copy for yourself, you can pre-order it here on Amazon (using this link helps toss me a few pennies as I’m now a part of the Amazon Affiliates program): Unexpected Afghans: Innovative Crochet Designs with Traditional Techniques

Real Housewife of Florida


Ok, I’ll admit, I’ve watched the Real Housewives shows on Bravo. I won’t admit to how many or how often, just that I’ve watched them. 🙂

The show both amuses and saddens me. Amuses me because I don’t know any housewife like that. Saddens me because I wonder just how much fulfillment these women are getting. They always seem so sad under all the labels.

Anyway, this isn’t about that show, but more about reality. While I’m not officially a housewife (’cause of that second part of the word), I do consider myself one. And I love it. But…I’m a lazy housewife. Efficient, but lazy.

There’s a saying around that if you want to find the most efficient way to do something, ask a lazy person. Because we’re going to find the quickest way to do the duties we hate to do. 🙂

Today’s post is about one of the things I absolutely hate to do. Not because it’s hard, but because there’s work after it. That thing is washing the dog blankets and bed. We have a black lab mix and she sheds a lot. A LOT. I sweep every day otherwise it looks like I swept up a small animal (we also have three cats and that makes for even more fur). So it’s not hard to guess that her bed and blankets get covered in fur.

The beautiful Cinder who sheds A LOT.

Now, the easy thing is to pop her blankets (and bed) into the washing machine and let it go. The not so easy thing is that after washing her bedding, there is dog hair all throughout the washing machine. I’ve tried everything to stop it, including tossing the blankets and bed into the dryer first to knock off some of the fur. It helps, but not a lot. I even vacuum the bedding first, but that still doesn’t get all the hair.

I’ve tried running the washer after washing the bedding, but that doesn’t help get all the fur out, either.

Last week I finally found something that worked. It’s so simple I’m shocked I didn’t think of it before.

The magic solution!

After washing Cinder’s bedding, I remove it and pop it in the dryer. Then I fill the washer with water and stop it. The next step is super easy. I simply use the strainer and sweep it through the water to pick up the hair. I use a couple of paper towels and wipe out the strainer in between sweeps. Does it take some time? Yes. Is it easier than having the next few loads of laundry filled with dog hair? Yes. Sometimes I have to do a couple of passes (I usually catch it after the washer fills, then add a bit of detergent and let it run until the rinse cycle and stop the washer and do the sweep again).

The kitchen strainer saves the day!

If you have pets, I hope this little tip will help you! I’m hoping to continue this type of blog post as a regular series on here. Looking forward to feedback!

Earth Hour

Tree Silhouette at Night by Petr Kratochvil

Saturday night we participated as a family in Earth Hour. According to the website, “Earth Hour encourages individuals, businesses and governments to show leadership on environmental solutions through their actions, to use Earth Hour as a platform to showcase to the world what measures they are taking to reduce their environmental impact. Earth Hour asks everyone to take personal accountability for their impact on the planet and make behavioural changes to facilitate a sustainable lifestyle. Taking the first step is as easy as turning off your lights. By switching off your lights for Earth Hour you are acknowledging and celebrating your commitment to do something more for the planet that goes beyond the hour.”

So, from 8:30pm to actually close to 10pm, we had all our lights and electronics off. Now, we did leave the a/c and the fans on, but that’s because this is Florida and had we turned those off, it would have been 3 hours to cool the house back down. We also let Mr. B have his nightlight since it was near his bedtime and he needs those routines (and we were not about to leave a lit candle in his room).

We got through dinner and bath time before turning off the lights. It was amusing to remind Mr. B of the time while he was in the tub. We told him that if he was still in the tub at 8:30, we’d reach in and turn off the light. That kept him on track for getting ready for bed.

At 8pm, we lit a bunch of candles and placed them in the living and dining rooms, and a couple in our bedroom and one in Mr. B’s room just until G could get him into bed. At 8:30, we shut off all the lights, the phones, the computers, and the radio. G worked to get Mr. B into bed, reading him a story by candlelight, and then came out to the living room with me.

While I was out in the living room, I began to realize just how much I rely on electricity for entertainment. I tend to read books on my Kindle with a book light, and chose not to do that during Earth Hour. I left my phone across the room so I wouldn’t be tempted to play a game or check email or Twitter. I simply sat and read and enjoyed the quiet.

So was it just about turning off the lights for an hour (or more)? No. For us it was a part of our bigger commitment to the environment. We recycle pretty much everything we can. We’re thankful that our area has a large single stream trash can for recycling. We fill it every week. We are working towards using all natural cleaners (the only thing I have left to switch over is the laundry detergent, but I finally got a recipe I want to try to make my own). We use reusable bags at the grocery store (and what plastic bags we do get at other places we use for smaller trash bags and for scooping litter). We also try to limit our driving and are working to being a one car family (and using the car that gets better gas mileage). I’m thankful we live in an area where I can walk to many things. The only things we currently have to drive for is getting Mr. B to and from school (which is only until the end of this school year), going to the grocery store, visiting my family, and going to church.

This is also the start of a new section of posts from me. I am going to start talking about green living and simple ways to help the environment without spending a lot of money. Don’t worry, there will still be crochet posts and such, but this is a big part of my life, too.

Do you crochet in public?

Most people who know me have gotten used to the fact that if I can figure out how to do it, I’m going to crochet in public. I’m going to tell you a secret, though. I don’t do it to show off crochet. I do it to stay sane. I shall explain….

I’ve crocheted in line at Disney World (Epcot’s Soarin’ Ride which usually has at least an hour wait time, but it so worth it).

Crocheting a sock while in line at Epcot

My sister snapped that pic because she couldn’t believe I was going to crochet in the semi-dark of the line. But see, 90 minutes standing in a line with a bunch of people who may or may not be getting “cranky” makes me cranky. I don’t do well in large crowds. So having the soothing movement of yarn going through my fingers helped a lot. It gave me something to focus on to keep from thinking about just how many people there were in the line.

My other big crochet in public place is my gaming nights. I’m a member of our local role player’s guild and we meet twice a month to game. Now, let’s just start off with the fact that I have ADD. Two to three tables filled with somewhere around 10-15 people in a room, all of them talking at once is a total nightmare for me. Especially because this is happening in the evening when my concentration is usually shot. I’ve tried playing without crochet in my hands. It doesn’t work for me. I just can’t concentrate.

Crocheting a sock while playing Interstellar Overdrive

When I first started bringing crochet with me, I got a lot of weird looks. I told everyone I’ll be able to pay attention more if I can crochet while I play. They weren’t entirely sure, but they let me go ahead. And I was right. I was more involved with the game, better able to pick up on everything that was happening around the table, and better able to tune out the other tables.

Now, when I started, I had to use very simple projects. This meant things like the sock pattern I have memorized (and I had to start it early so I could get past the increases before the game started), granny squares, scarves, etc. I tried once to work on a lace shawl. That didn’t work out so well.

However, I’ve started branching out a bit. Last week when we gamed, I had just bought some yummy Cascade Alpaca Lace that afternoon at my LYS. And I really wanted to work on it. So, I found a pattern that was an easy repeat (and even better, a chart to follow instead of written text) and took it with me. As long as I paid a bit of attention to my hands, I was able to work on lace while I gamed.

Lace shawl while gaming

It always amuses me whenever we have new people come to a gaming night. They always look at me weird in the beginning, but then they see that I am actually paying attention. And the regulars have started asking each week what I’m working on.

I’ve also crocheted during board meetings at church (I’m not on the board, it’s so I behave and pay attention), but never during church. Not that I wouldn’t, it’s just that I can’t. I work on the sound board during services, as well as a few other things I have to do, so I’m rarely sitting for too long during service.

By far, though, my favorite place I’ve ever crocheted “in public” was at Cama Beach during the 2011 Crochet Liberation Front Retreat. It was the most peaceful and somewhere I really needed to be in order to find that joy in the fiber again and peace within my self. I leave you today with that photo. Have a great weekend everyone!

Crocheting at Cama

Lace crocheting at Cama Beach

Pattern pages updated

When I first got this new site up and running I was also in the middle of a TON of things. So much so that I left a lot of pages to be done later, with only place holders on them. The pattern page was one of those.

After hearing from my fabulous webmaster that I was getting a lot of hits on my pattern pages, I realized I needed to get a move on for putting it together. So, I did. I spent this morning putting together all my photos and links and other stuff to get the pattern pages together.

It’s not as pretty as I’d like it, but that’s what my fabulous webmaster is for. 🙂 I got the info in there, so now he’ll be able to pretty it up soon.

So, if you want to check out the patterns I have in my Fibers By Tracie line and purchase the PDF downloads, you can find them all here on my Patterns main page.

Coming soon, my full portfolio of designs published both here and elsewhere.

Announcing new professional services

The past few months have been very busy for me. If you follow me on Twitter, then you have seen my posts about my recent tech editing for other designers. I’ve been working quietly in the background, picking up a few projects for fellow designers who knew that I wanted to start this side of my business.

I’m very thankful for those who trusted me enough to put their hard work into my hands. I’ve learned a lot, not only about tech editing, but also about what my strengths are. Apparently, this is the perfect thing for me because I’m so nitpicky when it comes to details. 🙂

So, I’m now happy to announce the launch of my Professional Services.

It’s not just technical editing, although I do offer that. I can also provide pattern testing, sample making, and finishing work. One of the other things I’ve done recently was to assist a newer designer with pattern writing.

If you’re a crochet designer and interested in any of my services, please check out my Services page. And then drop me a line using the contact form on the website and we’ll chat about your needs and how I can meet them.

Also, keep an eye out. I’m working on some much bigger things here and will be announcing them once they’re done. Let’s just say that I’ve set some pretty big goals for this year for my business. I’m very excited about what we’ve got working in the background here and can’t wait to share them with you!

A day in my new life

View from front porch

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a day in the life kind of post. Typically, I open a document somewhere on my laptop and actually record, live as it’s happening, my day including all its interruptions and such. Then the next day, I post it. Well, today I’m going to do something different. My days change a bit each day, so this will instead by a general day in the life.

As I mentioned at the end of last year, this new year has already brought a lot of changes (including the fact that there will be a bit more of general life stuff in this blog). I’ve now mostly moved and settling in to my new routine. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that I thrive on routines. So having them in the state of flux that they were in the last four months has been making me crazy. It’s nice to finally settle in.

I’m not completely moved, and most of my work related stuff is still at my parents’ house. We don’t have the office set up yet and I’m currently working in the living room (in front of an incredible lake view) and any crochet stuff resides in the room that will become our new bedroom so the cats don’t attack it in the middle of the night (only took once for me to relearn that little lesson). But, I’m making do. One of the benefits of working in tech editing and not designing is there was a lot less stuff to bring over.

So, what are my days like now? Well, here’s the general schedule:

6:00am: G’s alarm begins to go off. Apparently, I’m the only one who can hear this so I end up waking him up. Over and over again as he hits snooze. I can’t say much, I used to have three staggered alarms for the same reason.

6:30am: G finally gets up and wakes up Mr. B (his son). I stay in bed. It’s just easier. G starts getting ready for work and Mr. B works through his morning checklist (get dressed, let the dog out, feed the dog and cats, eat breakfast, clean up after breakfast). He tries to do this quietly, but that doesn’t always work. So I end up snoozing and slowly waking up in bed. Which is for the best as I am so not a morning person and he is an instant on kind of kid. And those two things don’t mix well. lol.

7:00am: G comes back in the bedroom and makes sure I’m awake. We chat for a few minutes as I get up. Then I prepare everyone’s coffee for the morning, help G make Mr. B’s lunch, and then get them both out the door by 7:30am.

7:30am: Take a nice deep breath enjoying the sudden quiet in the house. 🙂 Enjoy my cup of coffee. Play catch with the dog. Start my bath. Get ready for my day.

8:00am: Dressed and usually at the desk. I use this time to check my email and such and then settle in to work. This changes every day, but lately there’s been a lot of tech editing and I love that. Glance up every few minutes to stare over the lake (the picture at the top of this entry is that view, so if you’re reading this through a reader feed, go ahead and click on through to my site. It’s worth it).

9:00am: Whenever I get up to move around, I do some of my housework. See, I’m in love with the fact that I’m finally a housewife (of sorts). So I intersperse some of my cleaning throughout the morning. This is when I’ll start a load of laundry, or maybe wash the dishes real quick, etc. A lot depends on what work I have going on. If I’m really busy, then housework gets pushed off until the afternoon. If I don’t, or I need more frequent breaks, then I do a little throughout the day.

11:30am: This is when I start my lunch/exercise break. Most of the time, I walk the 0.8 miles up to meet G at work and go to lunch. Sometimes we hit one of the local places near his work, sometimes if I’m unable to walk up there then he comes home and we have sandwiches here. Sometimes we use this time to run errands. I also hit the post office at this time to check mail. I usually walk back when we’re done, unless I need his car that afternoon and then I drive home.

1:15pm: Usually home by now and I either settle in to get a little bit more work done, or I start some of the housework that’s easier to do without Mr. B underfoot (sweeping and mopping the living room, for example).

3:15pm: Leave to go get Mr. B from after school care (he goes for an hour, he gets to hang out with friends and it’s a lot less chaotic than picking him up at school). Bring him home, get him his snack and start him on his homework. I have learned very quickly that there is little work I can do while this is happening. So, I tend to take care of the housework while he’s doing that. Which works out for me anyway, since I’m more alert first thing in the morning than I am in the afternoon.

4:30pm: Mr. B gets his playtime in and I start working on dinner prep, usually.

5:15pm: G gets home from work and he helps me with finishing up dinner.

5:30/6:00pm: Dinner time and cleanup.

7:00pm: This is when our quiet time starts. We have quiet music playing and during the week there is no more screen time happening. We either settle in on the sofa to read, do crafts, or we play a board game. It’s nice. And I think it’s helping all of us sleep better.

8:00pm: Bedtime prep starts for Mr. B. Bath, sleepytime tea, phone call to Mommy, story time in bed before lights out at 9pm. The quiet time above is making this go so much smoother than it used to.

9:00pm: This is when, theoretically, G and I would watch a movie or something. But often, we tend to just sit on the sofa and either keep reading or work on things online for a bit.

11:00pm: We go to bed. I usually read for a bit more before falling asleep, but for the most part I’m asleep by midnight.

I really do love this new routine. I find I have a wonderful work/life balance, something I was struggling to find for a few years now. Some days I will sit out on the front porch to work, and that usually leads to days where I’m chatting with some of our neighbors over the fence as they walk their dogs. Some days I take a longer walk back home from lunch and enjoy the quiet time to be with my thoughts. I enjoy working to keep the house looking nice and welcoming to family and friends. I love having time to cook a real meal, mostly from scratch (working hard to cut out processed foods here). I love the quiet time we have in the evenings together as a family.

To say I’m happy right now would be an understatement. 🙂

Upcoming local class!

Southern Lights Cowl

Calling all central Florida crocheters! I’m going to be teaching a class at Four Purls in Winter Haven, FL on January 28th.

Here’s the info from my Classes page (as always, you can go there to see what local classes I’m scheduled to teach…I keep it updated):

Four Purls, Winter Haven, FL: January 28th, 12:30-2:30. Shop number: 863-662-8288
-From the Four Purls announcement:

DESIGNER, Tracie Barrett, will be coming to our shop to teach this fun crochet class! This mobius cowl is just perfect for our recent weather. You can check out the Ravelry page to see all the beautiful ones others have made and read the comments about how much fun they had doing it! Join us Saturday January 28th 12:30-2:30 ($20) There are a few spots available in the class, registration closes Thursday the 26th.

Call the shop if you’re interested and I hope to see you there! This is a fun class and you’ll learn a few cool skills, too.

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