Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It smells good in here!

Back to a more lighthearted post today (but thank you for the love yesterday friends!), I thought I'd talk a little more about my new love for homemade air fresheners.

So, as pretty much all of you know, I'm neither inventive, nor crafty, so when I have a problem and get stumped, I take it to the web and ask Dr. Google.  For the past year or two, I haven't used any perfume, home air fresheners, and have really significantly cut down my use of burning candles.  I still have a few candles around the house, but they are mostly just to look pretty at this time.  In place of perfume, I use this perfume oil blend of organic jojoba oil and essential oils (mint, pink grapefruit, tangerine, lemon, and lemongrass, to be specific), which has just a light, sweet scent that I love.  But, as far as keeping my home smelling nice, I'm stumped.  And, let's be honest, with two boys and two dogs to look after, I need some pretty smells in my home sometimes!

Initially, all I was finding on the internet were recommendations to boil stuff.  Pretty much any and everything that smells good that you can boil is recommended.  Cinnamon sticks, apple peels, lavender, lemon, oranges, vanilla beans, nutmeg, etc.  Side note- If you put all those together in a bowl with water and it smells terrible, don't send your husband and his plugged nose to me, I didn't say put them all in together ;)  I think that idea sounds great, however, it also sounds like work to me.  And, after I get everything else done that needs to be done, I don't want to do any more work, I want to just play with little man or spend time with DH.  So I will do you one better than this, no pots to clean, no random fruits to peel, just easy.

I found this site on pinterest the other day, and I was honestly pretty excited to try out this suggestion.  The author of the site suggests taking an old air freshener container, rinsing it out filling it with 1/3 essential oils and 2/3 water.  I already had an old air freshener at home, and I have tons of essential oils laying around the house, so I figured what the heck, for free, I'll try it.  Here is what I used:

I used an old air wick container that was sitting in a basket in my kitchen, just waiting to be tossed, and some of my favorite grapefruit essential oil.  I followed the recipe of 1/3 oil to 2/3 water, some recipes say use distilled water, but I just used regular water and it seemed to work just as well.  

This idea goes down as a win in my book.  It was free, first of all, it smells great, and there are no chemicals or VOC's coming out of your artificial air fresheners.  I am a big fan and will be scouring our house for more old air freshener containers to turn into eco-friendly fresheners.  I loved the grapefruit oil in the kitchen, but could see where something like peppermint oil would be great in a bathroom, or lavender essential oil would be great in a bedroom.  

So is this something you'd be willing to try?  What are some of your favorite essential oils?  Help me branch out here!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I am the weight.

One of my favorite books of all time is 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' by Milan Kundera.  I was introduced to this book in my undergraduate studies, and it struck a note that resonated greatly within me.  Kundera spins a web between 3-5 main characters during the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia around 1968.  While it is a really deep book that follows a few story lines and is a great read, one of the themes of the book is how the characters approach their lives.  Kundera ponders two different extremes, the lightness of being, and the weight of being.  A quote from the book that explains somewhat the disparities between the two is as follows:

"The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.  Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.  What then shall we choose?  Weight or lightness?"

In this statement, Kundera proposes that there are two ways of being, two ways of living.  The weight is truly feeling, knowing the burdens of life, the truths of life.  The lightness is dismissing or not even truly recognizing the burdens or truths, and dancing above it all, choosing to live freely of the heaviness of life.  It was the quote above that really helped me to understand who I am, and how I interact with my world every moment in which I am here.  

In every aspect of my life, I am the weight of being.  I fully feel the burden and recognize the truth in my surroundings.  I have always been one to carry that weight in the back of my mind, knowing it is there.  And that truth of my being hasn't escaped the way I interact with my world since having a child.  In every day that passes, in every milestone my child hits, in every piece of his little being that looks more and more like a child and less like a baby every day, I feel the weight.   

Please, please don't misunderstand me.  I am so very lucky to have my child.  I am aware of the fact that having a child is the ultimate gift.  And having a healthy child who does hit every milestone is something that is not guaranteed to any parent.  But I feel the weight.  Every time he does something new and amazing, while a part of me is overjoyed and overfilling with pride for him, part of me in the back of my head recognizes that means he is one step closer to being a child, an adolescent, an adult.  I fully recognize that my child is only one year old, and these thoughts may seem silly, but in my head and in my heart, I know the burden and the truth, that we only get so little time on this earth and each moment is precious.  Every time he does something brand new that knocks me over with pride, I am so surprised that I am equally as struck by the new overwhelming love for this creature that now walks, that now talks, the heart I already thought was bursting at the seams just grows larger.  But in the back of my head, that little voice, the weight of my being, does mourn the end of the sweet baby cuddled in my arms, the end of the coos to tell me what he needed, the inchworm crawling across the floor as fast as his little arms would drag him to get up into my lap, the little nursling bleeting to be fed, the tiny head nuzzled into my chest. 

Tonight I am feeling that weight.

Reusable paper towels

Today on pinterest, I found an awesome idea for reusable paper towels pinned from a friend.  We've been looking for something to replace paper towels in my kitchen for a while.  I've switched to only using cloth towels and cloth wash-rags, and that seems to work just fine for myself, but DH has made several comments that he misses having paper towels in the kitchen and wants to buy more.  

So when I found mamamade's reusable cloth 'paper towels' today on Etsy via pinterest, I was pretty excited.  She offers a roll of 15 cloth towels that snap together and stay on your normal paper towel roll.  As you need one, just unsnap and pull one off the roll.  She also offers wetbags with snaps to hang on your oven or dishwasher handle to hold all the washcloths/paper towels until they are ready to be washed.

I already throw in towels and dishcloths, so this is an easy addition.  When you're done with the wetbag, you can throw the bag in the wash, too.  Easy, simple, brilliant.  Love this idea, and I can't wait to get some for our house.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My first DIY fail- Dishwashing Detergent

Sorry for a little silence here on the blog this week, our whole house has recently gone through the stomach flu and little man has also decided he is going to walk now, so it's been a hectic past week or so!  Now back to our regularly scheduled program.  

I have tried to change the way I clean my home in the past year or so, by changing all of our cleaning products to be a bit more environmentally friendly and safer for little man who is now mobile and touches a lot of the surfaces I clean.  I'll do a general post later with what our home cleaning products are if there is interest, but for now I'll keep it to our dishwashing detergent.

This one hits home to me, because it is not only something we touch daily, but the items washed by our dishwasher directly come into contact with our food, which obviously enters our body several times per day.  Dishwashing detergent contains several chemicals like chlorine, alkyl phenoxy ethanols (APE's), dioxane, phosphates, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, dichloromethane (DCM), diethanolamine (DEA), artificial fragrances, and more.  These chemicals are why you are instructed to store these products in a locked cabinet away from danger of children accidentally or potentially ingesting them.  These chemicals are dangerous to your family if ingested, but it is said to be diluted enough after running through the wash to make it 'less dangerous'.  These chemicals also can harm our water supply as they are washed down the drain, because they can harm the fish and plant life they come into contact with in water.  

This makes me even more concerned, because, while it is pretty, our dishwasher doesn't always do the best job of getting our dishes clean, and sometimes there is a residue from soap left over on our dishes when we use conventional detergents.  

So, being resourceful (ahem, cheap) and conscious of what we put in our bodies, I made my own dishwashing detergent.  I used this liquid recipe, including the following:

2 cups Dr. Bronner's Castile soap
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp of lemon juice
3 drops essential oil
(below I've pictured both tea tree and grapefruit oils, I like the grapefruit better for this purpose)

I mixed all of the ingredients together and put them in my empty 7th generation dish gel container to store.

Well, I had high hopes for this DIY recipe, and let me tell you, it was a big fail.  I used this for about 2-3 weeks (we run our dishwasher pretty frequently) and outside of DH complaining because it made his hands smell, it really didn't work very well.  Not that all my dishes came out of the dishwasher sparkly clean before, because as I mentioned our dishwasher doesn't do the best job, but this was worse.  The dishes did not come out clean, and this soap left worse of a residue on our dishes than previously.  

After this attempt, I ended up just going back to the 7th generation detergent, which I like for a lot of reasons (mainly that if it is accidentally ingested by someone, their typical recommendation is just drink 4-8 ounces of water immediately and you should be fine, but call a doctor if nausea or discomfort continues), but it still doesn't have a totally clean bill with some ingredients I don't like.  

I am going to keep looking for DIY recipes that are better-for-you, so does anyone have any recipes I can try?

Monday, March 19, 2012

It will get better, BUT enjoy each moment!

I'll start this post with a disclaimer.  I have one child, and he is only just short of 14 months old.  My experiences are only my own, I'm sure if you would ask my husband, who has the same child, his experiences would vary vastly from mine.  But, I just have a few things to say.

I read this post recently, an article titled, 'It will get better.'  The article discussed a lot of the hardships of being a parent, the long, sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the laundry, the uncertainty of what your child needs.  While I have certainly experienced ALL of those points mentioned, I somewhat disagree with the general tone of the article.

It seems like, when people talk about parenting, specifically in the early days, they end up on either one of two roads:  the 'it will get better, this too shall pass' path, or the 'savor every sweet moment, because it goes by so quickly' path.  In a year plus of having my child, in addition to all the reading I did prior to his birth, I don't think I've ever come across anything that melds the two sufficiently.

One of the biggest hardships as a parent in the early months is the lack of sleep, there is no question to this.  I had a conversation with my dad a few months after little man was born about this exact topic.  Normally, my dad is a fairly quiet guy on the topic of parenting, and he approached it with a simple question, 'Did you ever think it would be that hard?'  And no, I hadn't ever in my mind imagined how difficult it would be.  Waking up in the middle of the night, stumbling over to the bassinet in our room, to soothe our crying baby, after we'd done the same 6 other times that night, barely being able to keep my eyes open much less provide for his needs, was the hardest thing I've ever done.  My dad opened up and commiserated with me that day about how it is something that you can never truly understand, no matter how many times you are told, until you go through it.  

Now here comes the BUT.  I have found, in my humble, short experience as being a parent, that I could make those times at night, those moments, either ten times worse, or ten times better, depending on my attitude.  Sure, there were times where I had enough, I needed a moment to breathe to myself, EVERY parent has these, where I needed to gently hand our son to my husband and step outside for a few minutes to catch my breath.  Again, that is normal.  But there was one thing that helped me from getting to that point.  

I longed for this child.

There is no other way to express it, and even putting that statement down into words, while simple, brings tears to my eyes because only I can understand the depth of how much I needed him.  So, in the middle of each night, when his little newborn bleats emerged, and I was up after only getting 30 minutes to an hour of sleep some nights, I took each moment to breathe in his smell, cuddle his face, hold his little hands.  Even now, some nights, when he still needs to be rocked to sleep, I hold his little body to mine and pray to whatever god I believe in at the moment in thanks of giving me such a wonderful gift, because this child means more to me that I ever thought my emotions were capable of.  

It was that simple for me, it was that realization that made it click.  Even in those times where I could barely function, I never wished for my previous life back, I never thought of missing the things Ms. Corneal's article discussed, such as having adult conversations, going to the gym, leaving the house without a diaper bag.  Because as one of my parenting idols, Mayim Bialik, mentioned before in an interview, I surrendered myself to the process.  I gave in completely to the fact that it was going to be a new normal for me to be exhausted, and that isn't even a good enough word for the fatigue.  I was going to be the person who gave 100% to my child and put my needs aside for however long he needed it, whenever he needed it.

Sure, there were nights where it was horrible.  But I tried to enjoy every stinky, spitup filled, blowout diaper, pee everywhere, teary-eyed (his and mine!) moment of it, as much as I could.  And I'll tell you what, it has made me a better parent.  Because I recognize that in those moments, it was really hard, but I tried my hardest to make the best of it, and it DID eventually get better.  As with any aspect of parenting, with every child, once you get the hang of something, once you figure it out, it gets easier.  And if it is something you can't figure out, the 'tincture of time', as my wise mama calls it, kicks in and it somehow just works itself out.  

If I could tell my pre-baby self anything, it would be the content of this diatribe exactly.  I think that parenting has completely changed me as a person, and I am thankful for every bit of what I have learned so far in this process.  But I'll tell you what, it isn't all gloom and doom and people giving you scary predictions and advice about how it is horrible and how it will get better.  It also isn't only savoring every moment because, let's be honest, there are some moments that are just plain not fun.  It is a mix of both.  And you know what?  If you are trying to provide for your child to the best of your abilities, you're doing a good job, and it will get better, but do your best to try and enjoy each moment as much as you can.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Babywearing 101

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Prior to having little man, I was 100% on board with carting him around in a stroller, having space for my purse in the bottom compartments, as well as having a cup holder, and a spot for my keys all in one simple contraption.  It seemed really simple.  And then I had little man.

I really, really had a hard time with his stroller.  It is a common brand that is supposedly really easy to use.  Well, tell that to my mother in law and I, as we attempted to get the darn thing opened up outside of the hospital so that I could get rechecked for some post partum mama issues.  Try as we might, we were completely unable to get the darn thing open, and we are pretty smart mamas (well, she is at least!).  She has her PhD and is a nurse practitioner and tenured faculty at a large university, I have a master's degree in speech pathology.  You would think we would be able to get a stroller open, right?  


On that day, we ended up just leaving the stroller in the car, and lugging the super heavy car seat around, plus the diaper bag full of stuff (give me a little credit, I was still in that new-mom-figuring-everything-out stage, I moved on to either throwing a diaper and a wet bag in my car or shoving extra necessities in my purse a few months later) up to the doctor's office.  I will still on occasion use the stroller, but I've really found my comfort zone, and that is babywearing.

As Wikipedia states, babywearing is the practice of wearing or carrying a baby or child in a sling or other form of carrier.  There are TONS of speculated (and some researched) reasons why babywearing is popular and recommended, such as increased baby-mother dyad connection, decreased risk of plagiocephaly, more organized infants as walking motion and mama's heartbeat is soothing, ease of breastfeeding, etc.  I found it to be the most beneficial because there were many days where all little man wanted was to be close to me, and using a wrap, carrier, or a sling gave him the closeness he wanted, and gave me the free hands I needed to continue to get a few things accomplished, like a warm meal on the table for my hardworking hubs.  I also LOVE having a carrier/wrap/sling to pop little man in when we are making quick trips, such as just to run inside a store for one item.  I don't have to mess with pulling a whole stroller out and back in, and it saves my back from carrying my 25lb guy around town.

There are also tons of different modes of babywearing.

A wrap is basically just a long piece of fabric used to wrap the baby to your body (while there are many other options out there, think Moby Wrap as one of the most widely known. Other brands are Didymos, Dolcino, and many more).

A sling is a piece of fabric either held up by rings or knotted that is usually worn over one shoulder (my favorite is from Comfy Joey, but another option is a Sakura Bloom).  Little man & I are at the aquarium using our favorite sling in the picture below.

A soft structured carrier is a more structured carrier that I find to be almost like a backpack or pack in some brands (like the ERGObaby, Boba, or Beco Gemini).

A mei tei is a square of fabric with four ends that tie around you to hold the baby to you (like the Infantino Mei Tai or BabyHawk Mei Tai).

The list could go on and on.  There are so many different options, you just have to find the one that works for you.

As I mentioned above, I have a few favorites.  The carriers I own right now are a Moby Wrap, an Ergobaby, and a Comfy Joey ring sling.  In terms of use, I used the Moby Wrap almost exclusively when little man was a newborn, although it is not structured enough for me to be comfortable with him in it now (it is a very stretchy wrap, to carry him now, at his weight currently, it would probably be more appropriate to try a woven wrap).  I would say that now I wear him in the sling 80% of the time, and in the Ergo 20% of the time, although they both have their benefits, the sling being for quicker trips and the Ergo better for longer trips like the grocery store or family trips like the children's museum, etc.  To get the maximum benefit from your carrier, you really need to try as many as possible from your mama friends and relatives to know what you like and you'll wear the most.  It is different for every person.

Since this is an introductory post, I want to finish with some safety information.  Babywearing has had some poor media coverage due to incorrect use.  When carriers/wraps/slings/etc. are used properly, it is not dangerous to the baby.  But you have to be careful and know which positions are safe for your little one.  I like this article from the as a general guide with babywearing safety, and of course my always favorite Becoming Mamas page.

One last thing I'd like to highlight is something I only found out relatively recently.  The type of carrier you purchase, and the position the baby is seated in the carrier is important.  There is some controversy in the babywearing community about a few ways to wear your baby.  Some carriers, like the Traditional Baby Bjorn use what they call a 'crotch-dangler' position, where the baby is supported only by a strap of fabric between the legs, as opposed to being positioned seated in a carrier, like the Ergo.  While some in the babywearing community don't believe this is a problem, I'll refer to the hip dysplasia institute.  Please check out that link to see their concerns regarding placement in baby carriers.  I also would like to point out a few quick links on whether or not you should 'forward face' a baby in their carrier if that option is available.  Please check out thisthis, and especially this post from the Eco Friendly Family.

This is a very basic introduction on babywearing, but I hope some of the information has been helpful to you here.  I absolutely LOVE wearing little man in a carrier when we go places, and it isn't just me, as my husband will wear him in a carrier at times too, when I'll give him up for a second!

If you would, let me know in the comments below what is your favorite carrier!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The dreaded kitchen cabinets

Picture this scenario.  You are putting away the dishes after they are washed.  As you pull each plate out of the dishwasher or from the drying rack, there is no question in your mind where it goes, because each item has it's spot.  Each cabinet has the perfect placement of the dishes, cups, bowls.  Each shelf is labeled to perfection of where each item goes, so that even when your loving husbands do the dishes, they put them back in the right spot.

Then you wake up, snap back to reality, and open your tupperware cabinet, and a whole boatload of plastic wear falls out and hits you in the face.  Yep, that's what happens at my house too.  It seems that, no matter how I like things neat and tidy, and no matter if I have the best intentions, it always ends up with me or DH throwing dishes up into the cabinet haphazardly to hurry through the task.  Typically, there is a meal waiting to come out of the oven, a puppy that needs to go out, a baby's arms reaching up to be held, which are all really truly wonderful things.  But that doesn't help my kitchen out any.  That is what my cabinets looked like, we'll start with the storage container cabinet over the sink.  

It just so happens that the tupperware container cabinet is right over my microwave, so to get things out, I have to reach over my head, so things really do in fact fall out and hit me in the face.  There are a few other random items in there, like an Easter basket, and some light bulbs... that I'm not sure how made their way into that cabinet.  In the future, I'd love to replace all my plastic tupperware with glass, better for the environment, better for my family, much more durable and better looking.  But for the time being, that isn't in the budget, so with my plastic I'll stay for now.

So this is how I started:

1. Clean up the clutter!  There were tons of items in this cabinet that either didn't belong, or didn't need to remain there.  For example, the I had about 10 lids that were missing bottom containers.  I also had at least 3-4 containers with no matching lids.  And every time I go through to get a storage container, I have to rifle through all of it.

2. Readjust your shelves, if possible.  In this case, they were configured pretty well for what I needed, so I let it be.

3. Buy some storage pieces.  A few cheap cabinet organizers will really help to keep you from ending up with piles of junk.  I purchased single medium and double cabinet shelves from the container store, that were between $5-$10 each.  

More specifically, I used this one below for this cabinet.

4. Keep your items easy to grab.  If it had a cap that locked together (see below) then I stacked it.  No locking caps?  Each bottom and cap/lid were clicked together and stored together.  It only takes a few more minutes of drying time laid out on a towel until these items were dry enough after washing to be clipped together.  I do have some caps that locked together and stored nicely, so in that case those could be stacked.

So that was really simple, right?  Well, here is the end result:

I think, comparatively, this is going to be a lot easier to keep clean, because there is a space (or as my mom calls it, a home) for everything.  I won't constantly be searching for the other half of a container, because it is already there.  So, done and done on that cabinet.

Then I moved to the next biggest offender.  The baby accessory cabinet.  


Just the thought of that shelf made me frustrated.  I had a bad habit of shoving everything into that cabinet, and then going to get one cup for little man in the morning before I was really awake and sending an avalanche of bottles and pump parts flying out at me.  I'm not a coffee girl, but there is not enough coffee in the world to make someone excited about playing 52 card pick up with a ton of baby bottles/cups and their separate pieces.  Here is the starting picture of that cabinet:

One thing you may notice, is that the shelves are all in line with each other, just like they were when we bought the house.  There are tons of dishes in these cabinets, but there are also coffee mugs, the ball freezer jars I mentioned in this post, some candy dishes, and just a whole bunch of randomness.  That's the problem with the kitchen, I think, there are just way too many categories of things to store!

To start cleaning this out, I went back and repeated steps 1-4 from above, but added one more.

5. Keep the things you use most close at hand.  I divided up a bunch of things, keeping the plates, bowls, and bottle parts closest to the bottom, because we use these the most.  The coffee mugs and cutesy dishes were moved to the top, because I don't get cutesy very often :)

Here is the end result of that cabinet:

And here is a close up of the dreaded bottle section, now not so dreadful:

I've been living with these cabinets for probably a week or so now, and I have to say, it is a lot easier.  Even putting my dishes away takes less time, because I'm not wrestling to make everything fit.

So, that makes about 20% of my cabinets in perfect order.  Ah, well, I'll get the rest of the way done someday :)

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Monday, March 12, 2012

I've been tagged

I've been tagged in a game of 'Eleven Things' by Miss Melinda over @ life with blog.  If you haven't already seen Melinda's blog, you should head on over and check it out.  She's got a great eye for photography and an adorable little at home as well!

The first rule of fight club is.... just kidding.  But here are the rules:

1. Post the rules
2. Post a picture of yourself & 11 random things
3. Answer the questions set for you in the original post
4. Create 11 new questions and tag fellow bloggers to answer them
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them that you've tagged them

So here we go on the picture, this is the first picture of little man and I when he was born, and may be one of my favorite pictures of the two of us still.  

Next, onto 11 random things about me.

1. I really really don't like wearing shoes or socks.  As soon as I get home, my shoes and socks immediately come off.
2. I do like to travel, but I hate to fly.  We drive a lot, which I think is actually a lot more fun.
3. When spring comes around, I have to have toenail polish on constantly.  I don't like the look of my toes without polish.
4. I would rather be hanging out at home with DH and little man than doing just about any other thing in this world.  I'm completely a home body.
5. I really dislike most kinds of meat and seafood.  I always have, since I was very young.  It's just something about the texture/taste.  I can't handle it!
6. My favorite band has and likely always will be the Dave Matthews Band.  I've loved them since I saw them live in 1997 for the first time, and been addicted ever since.
7. Whenever I have a big life change or a situation I'm having a hard time dealing with, I do something random and drastic to my hair.  I've had short hair, long hair, layered hair, bangs, red hair, black hair, brown hair, the whole gamut.  (I'm naturally blonde)
8. I am really close with my parents.  If I don't talk to them at least every other day, one of us is calling saying, 'What have you been doing all this time, I missed you!' I'm so happy and thankful to have such a great relationship with them.
9. I thrive on a clean environment.  If the house gets too messy or cluttered, I get very cranky or go on an all out cleaning spree.  Having a clean, organized home instantly makes me feel better no matter what my problem is.
10. My favorite store is H&M.  They have tons of really great clothes, and while sometimes my trips there are hit or miss with what I find, they always have really great deals.
11. If I had to have a perfect meal that I'd eat every day for the rest of my life, it would be an appetizer of hummus and veggies, a main course of quinoa, veggies, and edamame, and a brownie with peanut butter for dessert.  I'm salivating just thinking of all the delciousness in one meal.

Questions from Melinda:
1. What is your favorite way to relax?  Hands down it would be a warm soak in the tub for a half hour by myself :)  
2. What is your favorite hobby?  After planning and throwing little man's birthday party, I think I would have to say party planning.  It was really fun and I think it went fairly well.  Before that, I would have said decorating our home.
3. Pool or beach?  Why?  Beach.  Nothing like soaking up the sun while listening to the waves crash in.  Although I know my time at the beach now will more likely be building sandcastles while listening to happy giggles, which is pretty much even better!
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? I'd probably live somewhere near DH's parents in North Carolina, but for me to live there my parents would have to come too :)
5. If you could have three wishes, what would they be? First I would want good health for my family members, and that would include a few of my family members no longer suffering chronic pain as well as the overall good health of my family.  Second would be the ability to have more children.  Not saying that isn't a possibility now, but it is never guaranteed.  Thirdly, I'll be predictable and say unlimited money.  That'd be nice too.  ;)
6. How do you take your coffee/tea?  I don't drink coffee but I typically take tea with either a little real sugar or some honey in it.
7. If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it? I'd immediately put 75% of it away in savings/investments.  Then we'd pay off our home, our student loans, our cars.  We would probably give some of it to our families for various things they need and then we'd probably give ourselves each a few thousand dollars to buy some fun stuff or renovate parts of our home.
8. If you could change something about your home, what would it be?  It would make DH really happy if we were able to finish our basement, or have a third car garage.  I'd love to have a fence out back, and maybe to replace our carpets or redo our kitchen in the future.
9. What is your favorite season and why?  Fall, oh fall.  Leaves changing, sweatshirt/sweater weather, pumpkin everything, apple cider.  Yep, fall is certainly my favorite.
10. For what do you want to be remembered?  I'd love to be remembered for being a good mama, wife, daughter, sister, friend.  If I could do all that, I'd probably be pretty amazing.
11. How old were you when you last played on monkey bars?  It has been quite a few years, I can't say to be exact, but it has at least been probably 15+ years.

Questions for those I am tagging:
1. What was your favorite children's book?
2. What is your dream job?
3. Where was the last place you went on vacation?
4. What did you/will you have for dinner tonight?
5. What is the best piece of advice you've received?
6. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?  What's the story?
7. Are there any causes you strongly believe in?
8. What is your favorite song of the moment?
9. Who do you look up to the most?
10. Name one item in your home you could not live without.  Why?
11. Where is your most happy memory?

I am tagging:
Brianna @ sew, the thing is
and Ashfield @ that's so pinteresting

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I don't use shampoo.

As per usual, I will put a disclaimer on this post.  If you are not down with dirty hippies, you may want to click the little red x in the upper right hand corner of your screen right about now :)  For every one else, here we go!

I don't use shampoo.  Or conditioner, for that matter.  That's right, you heard me correctly.  There is a movement in some ladies called "no 'poo", and if you google it, you will find tons of bloggers who have written about the same topic.  Since November of last year, I've only used shampoo and conditioner a few times (like less than 10, tops), and I'll explain why below.

Let's talk about our hair first. 

Everyone wants shiny, bouncy, voluminous hair that jumps off of a magazine page, yes?  We all buy and apply tons of different products each year, from shampoo, conditioner, detangler, mousse, hair spray, texturizer, gel, pomade, dry shampoo, and the list goes on and on.  Every single one of these products has A TON of chemicals in them.  I used to use a rather pricey shampoo from Biolage back in the day.  Well, if you click that link, you'll see the cosmetic database's listing on all the chemicals in it, as it is listed as a 7 out of 10 (10 being the worst score you can get).  I put that on my head, right next to my brain, every day, for years.  That cannot be good.  And it isn't.  Check out a little of the research why, and what it does to your body here.

In my quest to take better care of my body, I came across several blogs discussing the idea of not using shampoo.  Initially, I thought it was nuts.  And then I read a little more and it started to make sense.  Why?

Well, for starters, shampoo is expensive.  Take that same bottle of Biolage we talked about earlier, which costs around $18-21 dollars a bottle.  Even if you only used one bottle per month, that is over $200 a year, and that doesn't include conditioner or any styling products.  Basically you are washing money down the drain.

Next, if you think about what you are doing with harsh shampoos and conditioners, you'll wonder why.  Or, well, I did at least.  Shampoo basically strips your hair of all of the good oils it produces.  When you strip those oils off of  your hair every day, your scalp thinks you don't have enough oil, so it then produces even more, which then causes you to shampoo your hair even more to get it 'clean', which then causes your scalp to produce more oil.  See where this is going?  This is also the reason why most hairstylists tell you not to wash your hair every day, even though a lot of them make commission off of selling hair products to their customers.  This is also why they don't want you to come in and get your hair done after it was just washed, because your hair is a lot more manageable when it has some of it's own natural oils.

So where does that leave us then?  Because, I mean, really, I am going to have to wash my hair with something, right?

This leads me to my favorite friend, Baking Soda.

Baking Soda is great for a number of reasons (some are listed here, such as it is household cleaner, is used in toothpaste and in deodorant, as a deodorizer in your fridge, as well as many other uses), and I already use a ton of it in our home. Turns out baking soda is actually a mild abrasive that will clean your hair without stripping your scalp/hair of it's natural oils.  I've read all over the internet a ton of different recommendations for the mixture of baking soda and water to use, and it varies from a paste to only a tablespoon or two to a few cups of water.  I personally use about two cups of water with probably a few tablespoons (maybe three?) mixed in.  I mix this up and keep it in a small rubbermaid container with a spout.  

I wash my hair maybe every 3 days now, longer when I'm not working.  When I wash it, I just pour a little of the baking soda/water mixture over my head, let it sit while I get washed up, and then scrub the heck out of my hair with my hands.  Then I rinse it out.  This takes me to my next step.

Apple Cider Vinegar is the next step.  This is used to seal the hair shaft and leaves your hair soft and shiny.  I also keep this in a rubbermaid pourable container, and use a few tablespoons to the 16 oz container.  I promise you, that if you pour this through your hair (I only pour through the ends, as otherwise my hair feels more greasy up top) and then rinse well, you will not smell like vinegar after you get out of the shower.  Promise.

This leads me to the third piece of it, that I didn't figure out until just recently.  

A boar's bristle hair brush, the one I purchased only a couple of bucks from the Scunci brand at CVS.  At first when I was doing BS/ACV washes, I was getting really greasy roots and really dry ends, which was sort of odd, because the top of my head would be super greasy, while the bottom ends would be dry and flyaway.  (This was after the two weeks they say to give your hair to adjust, after making your scalp so overactive in producing grease, it does take up to two weeks for it to normalize again)  Anyway, the greasy dry situation was not a great combination.  But, I went back to the internet and read that people were having better luck when they used one of these brushes two times a day for at least 5 minutes.  And I wholeheartedly agree, as this step has made my hair look and feel awesome, and I no longer have any grease or dry hair at all.  Prior to getting this brush, I did use shampoo and conditioner a few times when the grease got a little crazy and I couldn't wear a ponytail one more day to work.  But since having this brush, I have had absolutely no need to use shampoo or conditioner.  

Don't believe me?

So this above picture is my hair, after only washing with BS/ACV.  And this is actually day two, as I hadn't washed this today.  (Don't mind my messy bathroom!)

Here is a picture of my roots, no grease there.

And here is a picture of the back of my hair, no oil or grease there either.

After quitting shampoo and hair products, I've had great results with baking soda and apple cider vinegar.  Apparently eventually some people don't even need the two of these products, and can just rinse with water and have great looking hair.  I'm not there (yet?).  My hair is still shiny, less dry and crackly than it was before, easier to style, and holds a style for WAY longer.  There are lots of days (today included) that I don't have to flat iron the ends when I wake up, because they still hold the slight curl under like they did the day before.  It is great, saves time, saves money, and is better for my body and the environment.  

Also, if you have any other shampoo, conditioner, or hair care product natural substitutions, I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Clean Food Challenge- Days 6 & 7

As I sit here snacking on my veggie sticks (crunch, crunch), I can only think of one thing:

I made it!  

7 days worth of eating real food done and over with.  No chemical ingredients, nothing on a label that I couldn't read.  And it wasn't terribly difficult!  Sure, it took a little bit more time to eat only real food, but I think that the past week has been really great for me, and I will definitely take a few things away from this experience.  

#1- I can make conscious choices for the betterment of my health.

I have long been on a journey of learning how to eat right, and I'm not there yet.  But, I'm getting closer.  This week, I didn't just try to feed my child healthy, real, organic foods, I actually fed myself and my husband the same things.  Which makes a lot of sense, because if I'm going to want to be around for his babies and their babies, I need to make some choices that put me as a priority too.

#2- There are a lot of things that taste REALLY good that I take for granted.

When is the last time you ate a piece of fruit and really tasted it?  I found myself looking for sweets in places where I wouldn't have before.  Like a banana.  Who knew a banana could placate a sweet tooth?  But there I sat earlier today, sharing a banana with little man and I don't know who was happier to be eating it, me or him! When I took away a lot of those artificial sweets and actually ate the real stuff, everything started tasting better.

#3- An extra few minutes at the store and an extra few dollars from my budget are worth it, to me.

The time and energy I spent deciding which food to purchase were very much offset by the time and energy I obtained just by feeling a little better by eating a LOT better.  And yes, my grocery bill was a little bit higher this week, but I haven't actually gone through and itemized to see if it was because of the food items I purchased or because I found a few super cute wet bags at Meijer  ;)

The question now, I think, is where do I go next?  

Do I continue to eat only real foods and try to maintain the diet I've already started as much as possible, or do I return to my old ways of feeding my child organic, minimally processed, real foods, but feed myself with whatever junk I can find at the end of the day?

I think that, for me, it has to be a little bit of a mixture.  I am definitely going to incorporate more real, fresh foods into our diets, and continue to scour labels to find the best products of what is available.  But I think I have to temper that with a little bit of reality.  No one can eat perfect 100% of the time, and I don't think life is meant to be that way, because there are certainly foods that are not great for you that SHOULD be enjoyed every so often.  However, prior to completing the challenge, I will unabashedly admit that I was enjoying some of those foods WAY too often, and wasn't really and truly enjoying them because of it.  

So, tonight, as a little gift to myself for doing so well, and in an attempt to not be completely manic about everything, I will allow myself to sneak a bit of candy out of my secret stash (sorry DH!).  I will have one, only one, mini Reese's egg.  And I will enjoy every last second of it, instead of shoving it down the hatch while I'm busy opening another.  And after that one piece of candy, I'll be happy, and I'll start again tomorrow putting myself as a priority.

Head on over to the other challenge ladies' sites to see how they did!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Clean Food Challenge- Day 5

I feel like I'm somewhat hitting the homestretch here.  Today was pretty good as far as eating real food was concerned.  I was home all day with little man so everything I ate was real food that we had purchased this weekend from the store.  

For lunch I tried natural peanut butter with honey on whole grain bread with flaxseed.  I don't know why I had never tried peanut butter with honey before, but goodness does it taste awesome!  I feel like with a little bit of honey added to the peanut butter, I can just skip the jelly, which is probably good, because I couldn't find any at the grocery this weekend that didn't have some sort of junk in it.  That surprised me a lot actually, because even when I looked at jam or preserves, there still were a ton of odd ingredients.  I initially thought that it would just be fruit in some sort of sugary syrup, canned, so not too many extras, but I was way off on that one.  

Dinner was simple, but good, as I made stir fry with lots of veggies and rice for me, lots of chicken, veggies, rice, and mushrooms for DH & little man, and a little organic tamari to give it some flavor.  We also splurged on some bakery-made cupcakes for dessert, seriously amazing.  

Of note, we did also switch over some of little man's foods this weekend as well.  Previously, we had been giving him all organic baby foods, organic smoothie ingredients, and trying to make all his table foods as organic as possible.  However, we had been feeding him Gerber and Meijer puffs, yogurt melts, and crunchies.  We all know of my love of Meijer, and they carry a store brand of each of these that was cheaper than Gerber.  Our local Meijer doesn't carry any of the organic versions of the starter finger foods.  On a recent trip to Target, however, we found that they did carry organic versions of all their baby/toddler finger foods.  A few of the products that we purchased from Target were:

Little man LOVES the broccoli, cheddar, and kale crunchies (or as their brand calls it, munchies).  I'm pretty sure he has already eaten at least half of the container in the one day we've had them.  Happy Tots does add some vitamins and minerals, but other than that, they have all real food, organic ingredients as well.  

That about sums it up for me tonight, but if you haven't already, head over to the new facebook page and show me some love.  And if you have a few, check out how some of the other bloggers are doing on the challenge:

New Facebook Page

In the interest of not spamming all my facebook friends, I've created a facebook page specifically for the blog.  Head on over to the facebook page and click like to continue to follow my posts!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clean Food Challenge- Days 3 & 4

Saturday was far and away the hardest day of the challenge for me so far.  As per usual, Nicole and I are strikingly similar everything we do, and Saturday was my day of not eating well enough due to not enough planning.  

I worked Saturday from 8:30-4:00, which is not atypical for me.  Before I left, I had my normal oatmeal with some additions, and then tried to pack my bag.  The only thing I could find to pack (we desperately needed to go to the grocery) was a banana.  So, at 4:00p, all I had eaten were a banana and a bowl of oatmeal.  Not quite a good start to my day.

When I got home, our friends had asked us over to their house for dinner, and they were ordering a pizza.  This was a hard one for me.  Not only was I starving, but pizza always sounds good to me.  I tried looking up the restaurant's nutritional information, but as it was a large chain, they did not list any actual ingredients.  

I really, really wanted that pizza.

But, I felt like the momentum of what I was doing had to keep me going, so I asked DH to stop by a Subway (because we still had no groceries) on our way there.  I ended up getting a salad, which actually made me happy, that I could stare into the face of my arch nemesis, pizza, and turn my open mouth away into a pile of leafy greens.  

Also, while I was at Subway, I discovered a really great snack that is actually made of only food, no words I can't pronounce:

Yay, Sun Chips!  I am also a super fan of Sun Chips because they taste great and the original version is vegan friendly too, so I can eat something good that isn't always Veggie Sticks for a snack.  That way I don't always have to be this chick :)

So that leads me today, which was fairly uneventful (minus my glorious trip to the container store, where I could have spent hours of my life and multiple months of my pay, but we'll get into my new projects spawning from that trip after the food challenge is over) as we were able to go to the grocery and get some more real food.  I had more oatmeal for breakfast, I know booooring!, a salad for lunch, and then avocado, tomato, beans, lettuce, sour cream and cheese over nacho chips, also on Nicole's recommendation, because I again couldn't find tortillas with nothing on them.

That brings me to my revelation of today.  In my time as a strict vegan, and now after, I ate a LOT of things with random ingredients in them.  I've been looking through my soy/rice/almond etc. products that take the place of my dairy products, and what I'm seeing makes me a little nervous.  They have tons of not-so-much-real foods in them.  To get around eating dairy and meat, I eat a lot of things that are 'fake' products, like fake cheese or fake milk.  I haven't quite decided how I want to move forward from this after the challenge, but it has certainly opened my eyes to the fact that those imitation products I used are not real food.  So the question moving forward is, is it better to avoid dairy with all the nasty hormones and chemicals and poor treatment of the animals, or is it better to eat fake, processed foods that also have chemicals in them as well?  I'm just not sure of the answer to that one yet.

Well, anyway, check out my other ladies completing the challenge and show them some love too!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Clean Food Challenge Day 3

Just a quick note as today was crazy and I'm already off to bed,

I'll update more tomorrow on how today went, but in the mean time, check out the other participating blogs!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Clean Food Challenge- Day 2

Since I only posted yesterday morning, I'll start with a wrap up of my day 1.  I thought it would be a much harder day, for a few reasons.

#1- DH is out of town.  Anyone who has kids knows that it comes to be that time of night where you've fed, bathed, dressed, changed, comforted, and loved your little when you are on your own for parenting, and you just want to shove your face with anything (as my mom says) that is 'fast, cheap, and easy.'

#2 - I spent a little of my day yesterday back at my University, giving a guest lecture to a graduate school class.  Anyone who has been to college knows it is a place of fast food, pizza, and food debauchery in general.

#3- I eat all.the.time.  And eating clean, real foods takes both preparation and self control, which at times, I am far lacking in.  The radio of the amount of food I eat to the amount of self control I have is a little lopsided.

Even, though I think it was a set up to fail, I actually ended up doing really well.  After the lecture, my amazing daycare provider kept little man at her house for a bit extra so that I could go out to eat with two of my lovely SLP friends (who are currently still enrolled in the PhD program).  Thankfully, my girlfriends aren't the type to eat (or take for that matter) crap.  They suggested a Mediterranean place and I happily obliged.  For dinner I had an eggplant and vegetable dish and some hummus.  Loooooove me some hummus.  The dinner I had looked remarkably similar to the one below (recipe here) just without the cheese.

And then they wanted to go get frozen yogurt for dinner.

Dun dun dun.

Then a funny thing happened.  Since I was already so on a roll, I figured, why not get yogurt, but try to make it with real foods instead of junk candy?  This leads me to my first big revelation of the day:

One good choice leads to other good choices.

So, instead of walking over, grabbing the biggest cup ever, and filling it to the brim with likely artificially flavored yogurt and tons of Reese's peanut butter cups, I took a small cup, filled it only half full of their plain original yogurt, and topped it with good things.  I put on coconut, nuts, and strawberries.  

Prior to this experience, I've gotten the exact same thing every time I go to a place like this, so I was quite a bit stunned when I tried something new and actually really liked it!  (Yes, mom, you can say I told you so now about not being so boring and never trying anything new)  I guess this experience has already taught me a lesson in being a little more adventurous in my food choices.

All in all, I consider yesterday a big win.

Now onto today.

Thankfully, because I was in a crazy hurry this morning (DH normally does drop off little man on the two weekdays I work early shifts), I had leftover pumpkin oatmeal from making too much yesterday.  So breakfast was easy.  Lunch was a bit harder, but mainly because I'm picky.  I thankfully work at a hospital that has REALLY great food, and I had my choice of a full salad bar, a wrap/sandwich bar, two different soups, and the main course section which today was fish and veggies. (I'm not going into all the unhealthy foods they have there, because frankly this week I am going to pretend they don't exist... mmmm fried green beans...)  As I said, I'm picky, and since they didn't have hummus at the salad bar, I opted for a full meal of veggie sides from the main course line.  (This is also a really economical way to eat at my workplace, because a full carryout container of asparagus, green beans, carrots, and corn is only between $3-4)

But then in the afternoon I was still hungry, because, as I said, I'm always hungry.  (Before you start harping on me about protein, I'll get to that, I had a ton for dinner!)  I walked across from our offices in the hospital over to the coffee bar, which also has a plethora of snacks.  I was planning on getting either a cup of pineapple or a cup of strawberries, and was slightly frustrated that they didn't have a mixed cup of both (who doesn't like that combination?  really!) when I took a moment and began to drool at the tons of baked goods, cookies, muffins, brownies, etc. also behind the glass.  

However, just then, one of my coworkers walked past and likely saw the drool dripping from my mouth, and made a comment about how she'd report me to my blog followers if I bought the wrong thing.  Hai Stacey if you're creeping the blog tonight :)

Which brings me my next revelation of the day.  If you're going to do something, if you're going to put your mind to something, tell people.  Because, if they care about you, they will help you succeed.  That was just what I needed in that moment to reassure myself, that yes, fruit was a better choice, and a ton of cookies weren't going to keep me focused on my goal of eating better for my health this week.

Dinner was all fine and normal, I had my typical bean fiesta, which I do have a question for you peeps about.  Anyone know of a good, simple, real food tortilla?  I scoured Meijer (can you tell this has become my favorite store?) for each brand and type they sold, found the one with the least offensive ingredients, and purchased that.  But I'm pretty sure there are at least two ingredients in the tortillas I can't pronounce, so that to me makes it not real food.  I eat Mexican food a lot, because beans are a staple in my diet.  Tonight I had black beans with lettuce, tomato, and avocado for dinner, and just like hummus, I am starting to be obsessed with avocado as well.

So far, so good, I think.  

Keep checking in throughout the week, and again, if you feel so inclined, check out some of the other ladies completing the challenge as well!

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