I love a clean house.

Merry Christmas readers!  Today was my first day of my "Winter Holiday" thanks to Mississippi State!  This is one of the biggest perks of my job - 2 weeks off of paid vacation at Christmas.  So thankful for the time off after a VERY busy fall semester.  I have so enjoyed being home... sleeping in, cleaning house, doing laundry, wrapping Christmas presents, running errands, and hanging out with the hubs and pup. While I was cleaning today, I thought I should share some recipes with you... however, they are not recipes that will make your tummy happy, but your wallet!

1.  About 2 years ago we started making our own laundry detergent. If you follow the blog, you know this isn't the first time I have raved about making your own detergent! It is amazing how much money you save. By making your own detergent, you end up spending roughly 3 cents a load.  I never realized how much laundry detergent cost until I started making my own.  There has been one time that I had to buy some at the store because we were out and didn't have the time to make some, and it was shocking to me how much I had been paying before and had never thought twice about it.  I have posted this on the blog before, but here is the recipe again in case you missed it!

Laundry Detergent
- 1 bar of soap (whatever kind you like, keeping in mind this is the scent your clothes will have)
- 1 box of washing soda (look for it in the laundry detergent aisle at the store - I bought the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and found it at Kroger)
- 1 box of borax (i also found this in the laundry detergent aisle at Kroger.  The brand I bought was called 20 Mule Team)
- 5 gallon bucker with a lid
- 3 gallons of tap water

Step one:  Grab your cheese grater and grate the entire bar of soup into a bowl.  While grating, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a small pot.  Stir the grated soap into the boiling water and continue to stir until the soap is completely dissolved. 

Step two:  Put 3 gallons of hot water into the 5 gallon bucket (the easiest way is to fill up a gallon milk jug 3 times).  Then stir in the hot soapy water from step one and add 1 cup of the washing soda.  Keep stirring for another minute or two, then add 1/2 cup of borax.  Stir for another couple of minutes, then cover and let the mixture sit overnight to cool.

Tada!  You are done. When you get up in the morning, you will have a bucket of gelatinous slime.  The consistency will be a mixture of watery gel.  I usually stir it again in the morning.  We use 1 cup of the detergent per load, sometimes a little more or less depending on the load size.  According to the website where we found this recipe, you should get about 48 loads of laundry.

2.  More recently we found a recipe for making our own countertop cleaner... and my first thoughts while using it was "Man, I feel like an idiot."  Why?  Because it works just as good as any that you buy at the store for fractions of the cost.  If you are like me, you are constantly wiping down the counters after cooking dinner, or making any kind of mess. I love a to cook but I also love a clean kitchen (and house for that matter).

All-purpose Cleaner
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon borax
- squirt of dish detergent
- hot water
- spray bottle 

Combine the vinegar, baking soda, and borax with a little bit of hot water in a spray bottle.  Swish around until the baking soda and borax have dissolved.  (Be very careful to not create a "volcano eruption" like you did in 4th grade science with these same ingredients!) Add a few squirts of dish detergent and fill the rest of the bottle with warm water, and you are good to go!

We've learned that by keeping a few items around the house, it is very easy to make your own homemade cleaning solutions.  If you have vinegar, borax, and baking soda, you are pretty much good to go.  I'm interested in trying out more recipes for cleaning solutions, so if you have any recommendations, please comment and share!


Banana Nut Bread

It's been a while since I have posted a recipe on here... so here we go!  I had some bananas that were way too ripe to eat, so of course that means its time to make banana nut bread!  Other than how good it tastes, I think one of my favorite things about making banana nut bread is how the entire house smells AMAZING while it is baking.  And since it takes an hour to bake, you get to enjoy the aroma for a while!  After trying out multiple recipes, we have landed on this one and can't seem to try any others.  It is so. so. good. Try it for yourself and see what you think!

Banana Nut Bread
Makes 3 loaves

1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
3 eggs
6 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 (16 oz) sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but why would you leave them out??)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grease 3 loaf pans.  In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Dust pans lightly with cinnamon sugar mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar.  Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Mix in salt, baking soda, and flour.  Stir in nuts.  Divide into prepared pans.

Bake 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.


Unless you "accidentally forget to eat 6 bananas" as I usually do,  you can always stock up in the freezer as you have ones too ripe to eat.  Just thaw before mashing!


Happy Thanksgiving from the Mississippi Delta!

Hello blog world!  It has been a while since I last posted... the semester is winding down, which means that travel season (for work) is over and that I graduate on Friday!  I have one stats test left and then I am done with grad school! Jesse has a final design project he is finishing up, as well as some projects for his grad assistant position and then we can wrap this semester in maroon and white. I decided that I am going to walk on Friday.  If you had told me in December 2008 that I would be back at December graduation in 2011 getting another degree I would have laughed in your face.  But, here we are!  All that Jesse has left next semester is his thesis... "all"... haha.  No classes (!), just thesis hours and his grad assistant position... oh and welcoming Baby English into the world, no biggie.  He will graduate in May and are very anxiously awaiting the Lord's timing to reveal where we will be come May.  Sweet home Starkville?  Somewhere else?  We shall see... 

We had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving this year.  My parents, Kristian, George and Ashlyn, and Jesse and I went to the big city of Yazoo City on Thursday to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We have done this almost every year of my life... the years that we don't come to this house don't really feel like Thankgiving to me. 

This is my Aunt and Uncle's house on the farm in Yazoo...

...and this is my favorite room in the house.

 I love everything about this room.  The wood on the walls is from an old barn and I love the brick floors, wooden beams and big fireplace. Being in the delta, it is complete with a deer head on the wall.  In the first picture, you can see the net of a basketball goal.  I love that there is a basketball goal in this room.  I have many memories shooting hoops in here (with soft balls, of course).  You can see it better in this picture:

After Thanksgiving, Aunt Marie (affectionately known as "Gam") hides elves all over this room.  It is tradition to visit Yazoo City to go count elves.  If you get the number right, you get a prize!

And this is where the after lunch naps happen on Thanksgiving day.  I am especially thankful for the two men in this picture.  I wouldn't be who I am today without either one of them.

Every year, Aunt Marie (Gam) always has a beautiful table arranged.  She is on the left, here with my mom.  

Hands down, Thanksgiving Day could not happen without these two ladies!

Close up of the table:

Here is the beautiful place setting.  This is where my love for McCarty's pottery began. We always eat on this every year.  It will always remind me of my family, which is why I wanted to collect it.  This is what I got instead of china when Jesse and I got married.  I wanted to always have a piece of the Mississippi Delta with me no matter where we live.  From their website, "McCartys pottery can be identified by the trademarked "river," a small black wavy line representing the Mississippi River on most functional pieces, and by the trademarked McCartys signature which is hand signed on the bottom or back of each piece."

Thanksgiving corn:  In the picture above, you can see three kernels of corn just above the plate.  This is a big tradition of the Cato family.  Each year, three kernels are placed at each place setting.  Once we are stuffed with the wonderful family recipes, we make room for dessert and coffee and gather around the table again.  As we feel led, we all take turns saying three things that we are thankful for from the year.  Each year, I usually get emotional, simply because it is so special to hear how the Lord has blessed my family.  We remember family members that are no longer with us, who used to have a seat around this very same table... we remember the good times and the hard times of the year... we remember how amazing the Lord's presence is in our lives... and how if we didn't have His salvation, we would have nothing.  I am so very thankful and blessed to have a family that takes the time to recognize and verbalize these things... and especially one that is so open to share how the Lord has worked in their lives.  For some reason, Uncle Bob (affectionately known as "Pop") thought that this year Jesse and I might have something we were especially thankful for and asked us to go first.  :)  He was very right.  We are so thankful for this baby.  It's crazy to think that at Thanksgiving next year, we will have another person at the table! 

Here's the Cato family!  The group was actually small this year... we missed everyone who could not make it! The original Cato's in this picture are my Mom and her brother, Uncle Bob (Pop) who are both seated in the middle.  The rest of us wouldn't be here without these two!

It looks like my Mom, Dad, and I are dressed for gameday. We were just getting ready for Egg Bowl, that's all.  :)  Here we are with my sister Kristian, her husband George, and their daughter Ashlyn.  

After our late lunch, Jesse went hunting with the guys and I joined my parents in picking up pecans in the front yard.  For some reason, we thought we were hungry again that night and had taco soup and turkey sandwhiches on homemade bread.  Yum.  All in all, it was a wonderful day on the farm. 

On Friday, Mom, Kristian and I did some shopping and made a big purchase for Baby English's nursery!  Jesse and I headed back to Starkville by way of Tupelo (what???) and picked up another big purchase along the way for the baby and a special happy for Maggie (no, we haven't forgotten about her).  We originally had no intentions on participating in Black Friday, but ended up getting three great deals - all in the afternoon.  Who says you have to get up early to get a good deal?  Once the semster ends, I will share the latest on preparations for Baby E!

I think everyone knows what happened on Saturday.  The Dawgs whooped up on the Black Bears and kept the Egg Bowl trophy in Starkville!  3 years in a row!  Even in the pouring rain, the game was so much fun.  GO DAWGS!

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and that you are getting ready for Christmas!  We are planning on putting up our tree on Monday.  Can't wait!