Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vinegar – the Nectar of the Gods

Okay, so maybe not the nectar – but the cleaning agent, definitely.

When we bought our new house, I decided that I was just going to buy a bunch of vinegar and a bunch of baking soda instead of stocking up on 409, Windex, and bleach. We’re trying to get rid of the amount of artificial junk we have in our house (I say as I’m eating Flavor Burst Goldfish – DH bought them – it wasn’t me!). We already started washing with soap nuts, and now it’s the only thing I use in my laundry (except for a little vinegar and baking soda).

Vinegar is effective at killing bacteria and mold (perhaps more effective even than bleach). And your kid could drink vinegar and be safe. Bleach on the other hand... Once I realized how effective vinegar is, I had to start cleaning with it. Granted, my house smells a lot like vinegar on my “deep cleaning” days, but it’s better than a bleach smell.

And I used to have to cart around 5-6 different spray bottles to do my cleaning.

Now my cleaning looks something like this:

For a regular load (one with no peed on sheets, etc), I use my bag of soap nuts and 1/2 c. baking soda. I’m going to try out borax one of these days (probably next week, since I need to get some borax for a preschool activity we’re doing tomorrow). So far the soap nuts with the baking soda has been working great, and I can get the baking soda dirt cheap in bulk at Winco.
For towels and for loads that have V’s pee-soaked sheets (still having a hard time with nighttime dryness, but he’s getting there – he is only 3 1/2 after all), I add vinegar to the rinse cycle to make sure to get all the urine smell out, and I run it through an extra rinse.
I still use Shout for a stain remover, but I am going to start trying a soak in a borax solution. I soak stained clothes anyway (I keep a few dish pans in the laundry room for this purpose – you could use dish pans, an old bucket, or a gallon ice cream pail – I used those for a while).

After reading an article recently about cleaning tile floors, I decided that from now on I am going to wash my floors the old fashioned way – down on my hands and knees. I just bring along my handy dandy spray bottle full of white vinegar, and a rag, and spray, wipe, spray, wipe (with an occasional scrub when there is a spot that doesn’t just wipe away). It takes only slightly longer than using a mop and bucket, but I’m not using water so I don’t have to worry about little feet walking across my freshly mopped floor. Another advantage? I can actually see the floor, so I can make sure I’ve mopped up everything – even corners and edges (which are easily missed with a mop).

For the bathrooms, I do a “swish and swipe” every day, which involves spraying the sinks/counters with my vinegar bottle and wiping them down, then pouring a little splash of vinegar in the toilet and cleaning out the inside of the bowl. This keeps the bathrooms in guest-ready shape, and I don’t have to worry so much about my “deep cleaning” bathroom days. On those “deep clean days” I wash the entire toilet bowl (inside and out) with vinegar from my spray bottle and a rag. I mop the floor in the bathroom the same way, and the tiles in the tub, and the tub, and the faucets, and the mirror... basically all I need is that one spray bottle of vinegar. And a few rags – I always use a different rag for the toilet than I used on the counter, or I do the counter first and then the toilet. For obvious reasons. I usually use a paper towel on the mirrors so I don’t leave fuzz on them, but the vinegar doesn’t really streak, so that’s good. Bye-bye Windex.

A little vinegar/water solution in a spray bottle is perfect for this job, too. I can’t believe how good at cleaning some vinegar is. It’s nuts.

I read the other day about using vinegar to spray down your cutting boards and letting them sit out over night (so the vinegar smell can dissipate). I might try doing that, because I hate nasty cutting boards. I also use it on my counters after cutting meat, or dividing up the 10 lbs tubes of ground meat I buy on sale for the freezer.

The only thing I haven’t tried with vinegar is cutting grease, but I also read that a borax and/or washing soda are good at that, so I might need to try that out. I did buy one spray bottle of 409 when we moved in, just to make sure I could clean everything. It’s kind of my last resort tool. In case nothing else works.

Well, there you have it – why I clean with vinegar and only vinegar.

What is the staple of your cleaning products? Do you think you could switch to vinegar and sodas if you haven’t already? How about mopping? Think you could do hands-and-knees mopping?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner – Homestyle

I prepared my very first Thanksgiving dinner ever. Since I was married in 2005, we have spent Thanksgiving with DH’s parents. This year, they took off to visit some of their children who live in another state, so DH and I had my sister and her DH over for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought I needed to chronicle the event for posterity’s sake (and so that I can remember what I did the next time I do my own Thanksgiving – which might be a while).

I was freaked out about cooking a turkey (DH always complains about dry white meat). So I looked up online “How to cook a thanksgiving turkey.” Well, then I came across this site. Pretty straightforward, that one. So I checked out the website, and decided I would cook my turkey that way.

It’s been snowing here lately, and we’re a one car family (DH rides his motorcycle when the weather is good). So I hadn’t been able to do regular grocery shopping, not to mention Thanksgiving shopping.

The morning of Thanksgiving, I had to run out to the store to pick up pumpkin, pie crusts, a roasting pan, and a digital thermometer, among a few other things. Even getting the turkey in late (around 10am), we still started eating Thanksgiving dinner around 6:30pm – not too bad for a first Thanksgiving dinner, if you ask me!

A word about pies – if you don’t have pie tins, round cake pans work okay. But get some pie tins. Oh, and remember to put the pies on cookie sheets if you don’t want pie filling all over the bottom of your oven.

Note to self – do Thanksgiving shopping well in advance, and prepare the turkey the night before. The end.
Oh yeah, and buy some pie tins. You’ll need those next year...

On our Thanksgiving menu:

-Roast Turkey
-Gravy from the turkey drippings
-candied sweet potatoes
-mashed potatoes
-green bean casserole
-blueberry pie
-apple pie
-pumpkin pie (which turned into pumpkin bake due to my lack of pie tins)

Roast Turkey
Above, I linked to the site I visited to learn about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. Next time I think I will try cooking the turkey upside down (breast side down). Word on the street is that it makes for more moist white meat since all the juices drip down into the white meat.

Probably my best tip for you? Invest in a digital food thermometer. I’ve mentioned a food thermometer previously on this blog, but I think it is absolutely critical for getting a moist turkey. The #1 reason I’ve read about for dry turkey is over cooking the turkey. You should remove the turkey from the oven as soon as the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature (from the USDA’s website, that temperature is 165 deg F). So keep your thermometer on hand and make sure to check that turkey.

Another thing I did was wrap the turkey in tin foil. This was per my MIL’s instructions when I called to ask her about roasting a turkey. She lines her roasting pan with one long strip of tinfoil down the long end of the pan, with a foot or so of tinfoil hanging over the sides. Then she lines the pan across the short way with two overlapping pieces. Then she plops the turkey in there and folds it up. It worked well for me.

The last tip is to let the turkey rest after you take it out of the oven. That way the juices all soak back into the meat.

Even our leftover meat has been good.

I think because I seasoned the turkey really well (see the turkey website) I didn’t have to add much to the gravy. I started with a little butter and cornstarch (you can also use flour), let that get all bubbly, then added the turkey drippings. I did add a little salt and pepper at the end. Just stir it while it boils for a while until it thickens up.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes or yams
4 TB butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water
Boil the potatoes until tender; drain. Peel and cut into fourths lengthwise. Put the butter and sugar in a heavy skillet and heat, stirring occaisionally, until melted. Add the potatoes and turn until lightly browned. Add the water, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

These were the best candied yams I had ever had. And I love simplicity in food – no pineapple or marshmallows for me.

I made the bread cubes myself by putting pieces of bread in the oven on super low heat (like, 175 or something) for about an hour. Then I cut them into small cubes and used them as the cubes in this recipe.

1/4 lb butter                               4 c dry bread crumbs
4 TB finely chopped celery           1/4 tsp ground pepper
4 TB finely chopped onion            salt to taste
sage, rosemary and thyme (or poultry seasoning) to taste
1/2 c. chicken broth (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet and stir in the onion and celery. Cook over low heat until the onion is soft. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat. Add the salt and pepper and seasonings. If you want a more moist stuffing, add the chicken broth.

DH and I had gotten in a little argument about the stuffing the evening before Thanksgiving. I like to make things homemade from scratch (then I have more control over what my family is eating). But DH couldn’t seem to describe to me how he wanted me to make the stuffing, so I was almost prepared to go buy some Stove Top. I’m glad I made it from scratch, though, because I loved it, and he loved it (so did my sister and her DH). I think next time I may leave it in the pan a little longer.

Mashed Potatoes
These were pretty easy. DH doesn’t like the peels in his mashed potatoes, so he peeled them. Then we boiled the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes. The most important step in mashed potatoes is to put them back in the hot pot on the burner after you drain them. That helps all the extra water to evaporate do you don’t have soggy mashed ‘taters. I actually turn the burner off and then just put them on top of the still-hot burner. If you have a gas stove, you’ll just turn the heat down way low. Now mash the potatoes with a little warm milk and some butter. Decide how lumpy you like them. If you like them really lumpy, just use a fork or a hand masher to mash the potatoes. If you like them smooth (like DH does) I put mine in the KitchenAid and beat them that way. You could also use a hand mixer to get them more smooth. If you like whipped potatoes, you’ll want to use more milk and butter and beat them on a high speed.

Green Bean Casserole
This was my sister’s dish and it was absolutely amazing. None of that Cambell’s and French Fried onions – completely from scratch, this casserole was to die for. She’ll be guest posting soon with more details, and then I’ll link up here.

Blueberry Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)               1 c sugar
4 c fresh or frozen blueberries                 1/4 tsp salt
3 TB flour                                               1 TB lemon juice
1 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the pan with pie crust dough. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the blue berries and lemon juice and mix well. Dump the blueberry mixture into the pie, dot with the butter, and cover it with the other pie crust. You can do a lattice top, a regular top, whatever, just make sure you cut vents in the top. I cut a heart shape out of the middle of my pie and placed it overlapping the heart shaped hole. It turned out really cute. (My son called it the “heart pie”). Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 min until the top is browned.

Apple Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)              1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c sugar                                               1 1/2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt                                           6-8 large, firm, tart apples
1 tsp cinnamon                                              (Braeburn are best)
2 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust dough. MIx the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples (I peel the apples, then use a corer/slicer, then slice the slices so they are a little thinner). Toss the apples in the sugar mixture, then dump them in the pie crust. Dot the apple mixture with the butter, then cover with the other pie crust. Again, cut vents in the top. I just did four little teardrop shaped vents in the center of the pie like a flower. Bake the pie for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 minutes longer until the top is brown. (You can cook this pie with the blueberry pie in the same oven – just don’t forget the cookie sheet under the pies!)

Pumpkin Pie
pie crust (just for the bottom)                1 1/2 c. cooked or canned
1 c sugar                                                        pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt                                           1 1/2 c evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon                                1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp ground ginger                            2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp cloves
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Pour into the pie crust. Bake for 10 min, then lower the temp to 300 F and bake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is firm.

There you have it. Our Thanksgiving dinner. Sorry I don’t have pictures. Next time I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them. I hope this helps someone trying to cook their very first Thanksgiving dinner (or... your first good one!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

This scale.

To be able to step on the scale every morning and not have to write anything down or remember anything... and have it make a chart automatically... mmmm... love.

Actually I want a treadmill and a sewing machine (and I think I will probably be getting both). But this scale will be in my near future. I can feel it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ants on a Log

Well, what'd'ya know - it's still a classic.

I fed these to the kids for an after lunch treat. That's right - a treat. I told V that he had to finish his Mac and cheese before he could have one. The boy gobbled it up and wanted another. I'm saving the rest for 'witching hour' when I'm trying to make dinner and my children have turned into gremlins. Since they aren't particularly filling, they are a great before dinner distraction.

One tip - if you're like me a don't like to refrigerate your PB, make these a little ahead of time and leave them in the fridge during lunch. Then the PB won't be so runny for the kids.

Oh, and 18 mo J had issues chewing the celery since she only has her front incisors and 4 molars that are only partially erupted. But she liked it anyway and gnawed on it for a while.

So whip up these healthy classics for your next snack time!

-- Post on the go

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

After a short run and some weight lifting on a chilly morning, what breakfast could beat this:

Just a bowl of oatmeal - my chosen toppings? A little brown sugar, chopped almonds, ground flax seed, cocoa nibs, and a little whole milk. Yum.

-- Post on the go

Friday, September 17, 2010

whole-wheat-chocolate-chip-cinnamon-banana pancakes


Yes, they were as good as they sound.

A reader on our family blog mentioned how cruel I was for posting such a yummy looking pictures with a yummy sounding name, and not posting the recipe.

Well, I have two admissions to make:

1.) I rarely use a recipe

2.) I used Krusteaz Honey Whole Wheat pancake mix for these pancakes (there was some in the pantry from a previous tenant at our little furnished place we’re staying)

However, I do use a recipe for baking, and I do have a really yummy recipe for whole wheat pancakes:

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 c ground flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar (I usually use honey and mix it with the milk and eggs)
3 dashes cinnamon (I use a lot more than 3 “dashes”...)
1 egg, divided
2 egg whites 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c milk

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Put the egg whites in a bowl by themselves. Mix up the wet ingredients (mix the honey with the milk if you’re using honey). Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then fold them into the pancake batter (this helps the pancakes to be fluffy – especially important when you’re making whole wheat pancakes).
Don’t worry about lumps – lumps are completely accepted in pancake batter, just so you know.
Now this is the part where you can add anything you want.

To be honest, the reason I added bananas to the pancakes was because when my little helper (18-month-old J) was up at the counter she found the fruit bowl and managed to pull the stems off of two bananas. So I had bananas to use. Why not stick ‘em in the batter! Then I got carried away and decided chocolate chips would add some yummy-ness. You could also use carob chips to go a little more healthy. And then afterward I thought some cacao nibs would be a perfect addition to some health pancakes! Next time. Well, I sliced up the two bananas (next time I will mash them as my three year old, V, refused to eat the banana chunks in the pancakes).

The combination of the flavors was absolutely delicious. One tip when you’re pouring the batter – the chocolate chips tend to sink to the bottom of the batter, so mix up the batter before each batch you pour on the griddle.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Way God Intended

I have been reading Michael Pollen's book, and I am starting to feel like it is a perfect book for me to review on this blog.

I am a strong believer in a God and that He created everything. From that perspective, food is put on this earth for a reason. All of it - the fatty food, the grains, the plants, the animals, sugar, even.

Now, I also believe in a 'word of wisdom' - given from the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith. Included in this word of wisdom is the admonition that the flesh of beasts and fowls of the air "are to be used sparingly." Moreover, said beasts and fowls are only to be used in times of winter, or cold, or famine.

Now, before you think I'm telling you that your summer barbeques have been forbidden by the Lord, I believe that the Lord is simply instructing us that the main component of our meals and eating pleasure should be wholesome herbs, fruit, "fruit of the vine" (veggies - squash, eggplant, etc etc), plants that produce 'fruit' whether above (peppers, nuts, etc) or below ground (potatoes, carrots) and "all grain." (not just wheat and oats and corn)

I think that most of our problems in eating is that we eat a lot of the same thing, instead of a variety of things. God created variety on this planet to make an interesting world - and I think that applies to interesting food, as well.

So far, reading Pollen has encouraged me to eat a wider variety of plants and grains (and, well, everything, really). I'm also done with eating anything low fat (or fat free, etc).

I plan on eating things the way God made them (and intended them, in my opinion) which means eating all the fatty meat and dairy that I want - however, the notable difference will be me eating less of those things, MORE veggies, and MORE variety of plants and grains.

My conclusion so far is this - it's okay to eat anything that God made edible, as long as we are not eating too much - remember the word 'sparingly' - and that we should eat with "thanksgiving." which I take to mean that enjoying a meal or food is nothing to be ashamed of.

-- Post on the go

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food Safety

I was purusing Facebook today, as I am wont to do, and happened upon this album.

It got me thinking about food safety. It’s basically up to us (as intelligent, rational human beings) to practice safe handling of food. That means if you find that something you bought at the grocery store has been opened or not sealed properly, you should

a.) Drink/use it as fast as it can so it doesn’t go bad

b.) Feed it to your dog

c.) Dump it down the drain and sue the producing company for contamination

d.) take it back to the store and exchange it for an unopened/sealed version

Correct answer? D!!! Hello, suing the company because a package has been tampered with or isn’t sealed properly probably won’t get you anywhere. Chances are, the seal broke or tampering happened AFTER the product was shipped to your local WalMart, Kroger, Costco, or other food supplier. Save yourself some headache and just return the stuff!

So, in light on this conversation, let me share with you some food safety tips. I think most of us know about food safety, but many of us (me included!) are completely lazy about it.

So the basics are:

Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill

Clean you should wash your hands often when preparing food. Obviously, wash your hands after you use the restroom – ESPECIALLY if you are preparing food – but seriously, wash your hands. That’s just gross. You should also wash all your surfaces. A friend of mine keeps a spray bottle of a bleach/water solution to spray on counter tops. While I don’t think that much disinfecting is always necessary (and might be a bad thing, if you’re killing all the good bacteria living in your house), it is a good idea to at least wipe down the counters as you go, perhaps with just a warm, soapy rag. Wiping down counters/dishes as you go will also help keep your kitchen clean as you cook! There’s always a way to kill two birds with one stone :D

Separate – raw meats and eggs, etc should be kept separate from ready-to-eat, or already cooked foods. I basically have the rule that if it’s going on the stove or in the oven, I can use the same knife, cutting board, etc. But if it’s going straight to the table, it gets a clean cutting board. A big thing people miss with this is GRILLING. A lot of people will take the raw steaks/hamburgers/kabobs out to the grill on a pan or platter, and slap the cooked meat right down on the same pan. EW. Please get a new tray for the cooked food. Please.

Cook – Everyone who cooks raw stuff should have one of these:

Or, if you’re too tech-saavy for the old fashioned type, there are lots of digital options. I have to admit – I don’t take the temperature of my food when I cook it (shame on me) although I think I may ask for a food thermometer for my stocking for Christmas. I’m always nervous that I haven’t cooked my meat enough, but then it always ends up coming out dry. If I was taking the temperature of my meat like I should be, I would be able to cook my meat just long enough – so that it stays juicy and tender! Mm… a thermometer is also useful for heating up leftovers. Yes. You heard me right – you should heat up leftover food to kill the bacteria that are living in it. And I guarantee that there are bacteria in your leftover food. Why? Because it’s been sitting out on your table probably through the whole meal time. Keeping leftovers in the fridge doesn’t get rid of the bacteria – it just slows (hear that – slows, not stops – ever had moldy leftovers in your fridge? yeah. Yuck) the growth. So you need to make sure to heat it up sufficiently to kill the bacteria. Another place that little food thermometer would come in handy. I really gotta get me one of those. (You can even get them with cool little covers that have clips so you can clip them into your pocket. Talk about nerd)

Chill - “Bacteria grows fastest at temperatures between 40 ºF and 140 ºF (‘Known as the danger Zone’)” (from the USDA’s food safety website) If you chill your food promptly, you’ll reduce the risk of nasty bacteria growing in your food. My husband had a roommate in college who was a nutrition/dietetics major – this roommate thought milk was bad if it sat out on the table/counter for more than 30 minutes. That’s hardly long enough to have breakfast! But, in retrospect, he had a point. The longer stuff sits out at room temperature, the faster those bacteria multiply! Yuck.

Some more good tips from the USDA’s website:

Chill leftovers and takeout foods within 2 hours, (one hour when the temperature is above 90 °F) and divide food into shallow containers for rapid cooling. Cut the meat or poultry into smaller portions or slices, place in shallow containers, cover and refrigerate. Use the food within four days, or freeze for later use.

So there you have it – clean, separate, cook, chill. It’s as easy as one, two, three… er, four. Now go get yourself a thermometer (and a few extra cutting boards and knives) and keep your food safe!

Monday, June 7, 2010


I haven't been around much this last month in the blogging world due to a move and some other crazy stuff. I just requested the book at the library, so I think it will become June's theme instead :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

In Defense of Food

This month’s theme is going to be based on Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food. I am going to check the book out tomorrow from the library, read it, and then write a review, and base my discussions this month on his book.

Feel free to chime in in the comments. If you have read, or are reading this book, what are your thoughts? Let’s learn from each other!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Checking In

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted – we’ve been moving and finishing school and all sorts of other crazy stuff, so it’s been really really… busy, you know.

Just wanted to check in on how our goals have been working for us.

R was worried about soy milk making V too “girly,” so we’ve moved on to Almond milk. It has more nutritional value than rice milk, and I think it tastes great! It’s a little more expensive, but I’ll do what I have to in order to keep my family healthy and my husband happy :)

All the other goals are going as well as can be expected, since our live is in a period of HUGE transition right now.

I think I need a goal for this transitional period of our lives, and so I am going to try to still be as green and healthy as possible, even while moving and living with other people. It’s going to be hard, but I can make it. We’re going to stick to our guns, even if the people we’re living with don’t make as green choices.

I still have to get my MIL to stop putting dryer sheets in with my laundry when she switches them over for me. I don’t really know how to approach that.

Any ideas on accepting someone’s hospitality and still hold true to your eat healthy/live green mentality?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Yesterday was my first day washing with these and it was overall a good experience.

My towels came out smelling better than ever, but my whites turned a little brown (even with a whitening agent in the wash). But I’m pretty sure that’s because I accidently threw in some of DH’s green army issue cotton/wool socks with the whites.



Well, at least the only semi-expensive thing that turned “off-white” was one of DH’s fitted French cuff shirts. And it’s not completely brown. Just a little … less white.

So, other than my own laundry faux pas, washing with soap nuts are amazing!

I also did a load of cloth diapers, which have been smelling kind of… hmm… lately. Before soap nuts I’d tried washing them in just hot water, trying to get any soap residue off, to no avail. Every time I washed them in hot water they STILL sudsed up (is that a word?). Then I washed them with the soap nuts today. The wash cycle sudsed up, and then the rise cycle ran clear! But then, just to make sure, I ran the wash cycle again. No suds!! Hooray! My cloth diapers are clean! Hopefully the nasty smell that was accompanying the suds will be gone too.

The clothes are also as soft as promised – sans dryer sheets.

And my clothes smell like… clothes. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier!

I used about 6 soap nuts in my little bag, and I’ve used the bag three time (four if you count the second wash cycle with the diapers). We’ll see how long they last. Next time I’ll use less, to try that out. Six seemed to work fine, but I’d like to stretch my dollars, and my soap nuts.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

All Sorts of Changes

Okay, we’ve upped the ante!

Remember that New Year’s Resolution we made about making our home environment more healthy? Well, that coupled with me reading The Happy Minimalist has brought on a strong desire for me to simplify my life.

So now I’m trying to go back to the basics in everything. Home cleaning, self cleaning, and eating.

You read about soap nuts, and our swap meet. But now, we’re going “no-‘poo” – as in, we’re not using shampoo anymore. Oh, we’re still washing our hair, but either just with water, or with baking soda (followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse) if the need arises. For the kids, when they get really dirty, I am thinking about making a soap from my soap nuts when they get here. I will also make a body wash from soap nuts. Stinky/greasy/dirty bodies often need more TLC than just baking soda. But I bet baking soda will be one of the ingredients of my homemade soap-nut body wash! And some essential oils… maybe lavender… mmm.

Today was my first “no-‘poo” day. I washed with baking soda because my hair was pretty greasy. I switched shampoos about a month ago (trying to cut costs) and I have hated hated hated it. So I’ve got to do something else. Going back to my high-maintenance, high-cost salon products is just not going to work, so I figured I’ll go low-maintenance, low-cost, and natural.

I loved it, by the way. At first, scrubbing baking soda paste into my hair was a little… unnatural feeling, but once I rinsed it off, I was surprised! My hair had never felt so clean and natural, without being also frizzy, dry, and coarse. I’m hoping this will help my frizz-headedness as well.

I’m going to try some Vitamin E oil as well for the frizz if it gets really out of control. And Aloe Vera gel for when I want some curls or something a little more intense.

Already I have a feeling that this is going to be one of the best changes I make all year!

I have already made a list of all the parts of my “cleaning” life I want to swap out for cheap, natural, homemade versions. We’re moving in a few months, so I think I’m going to leave all my old chemical cleaners behind (I’ll probably donate them to friends or something) and swap out when settle down again. I’ll keep you posted. It’s sure to be an adventure!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Good Reads

Two of my new favorite blogs:


Go there. Read them. Now.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Healthy Soap

I found out today about this really cool way to wash. Use a soap that grows on trees. Yes, you heard me right - soap nuts.

In fact, they are eco-friendly, good for you, and CHEAP!

I have been using a free and clear detergent for years. I know even the regular detergent isn't good for you, but I just don't have the $$$ to really do much about that. Soon that will change.

The soap nuts also naturally soften fabrics, so that means away with dryer sheets.

I am going to try them out and see how they work for my family. I imagine they will work pretty well (a friend in my neighborhood uses them, so if they work for her, I can’t see why they wouldn’t work for me).

If you read my last post, you know we’re doing a big switcheroo at our house this year. Add to that list – switching detergent for SOAP NUTS!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Swap Meet

This year we are going to begin a great food swap.

When we were first married, we ate pretty well – fresh food, mostly, tried to avoid preservatives, added sugars, etc. Then life happened (school, children) and we lacked a budget, so we started buying cheaper food. Then something else happened – we started buying MORE food. I was convinced that we always had to have “variety” on hand. Then it ended up being that we consumed more because I bought more! So I kept buying more.

I was wondering why our food budget was so high. It’s not like we were buying organic or anything.

So now. Life has changed. We are “growing up” in some ways. And one of those ways is how we feed our family.

Step 1: Change our Relationship with Food

I have realized recently that a lot about food is emotional and psychological. I think our brains and emotions need food more than our bodies do.

Most of our eating is emotional – not necessarily negative – but emotional. When we are eating, we feel safe, comforted, and taken care of. We feel busy, we feel productive (especially if we’re eating a meal we cooked ourselves).

So in order to change our relationship with food, we need to understand more about why we eat, what food our body actually needs. Then we have to convince ourselves that we only NEED to eat what our body actually NEEDS, physically and come to terms with the fact that everything in excess of that is purely emotional. Being rational human beings we should be able to control our emotions, and so we need to control our emotional eating. It’s not bad to have a cookie as long as we admit to ourselves that the main reason we are having a cookie is because it feels good to eat it (sure it provides some nutritional value, but not nearly as much as a celery stick or a spoonful of beans). We often do things that feel better to do than they are good for us, like watch a fictional TV show or movie – they feel good to watch, but aren’t nearly as productive for our intellect as watching a documentary or a program on the History channel. Or doing extreme sports (jumping dirt bikes, sky-diving, etc) – it feels great, the rush is awesome, and you are burning calories, building muscle, etc – but there is more risk in doing extreme sports than there is in lifting weights or going for a jog or a walk or biking or something a little less extreme.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t eat cookies, watch TV, or do extreme sports. Just that there is a balance and we need to admit to ourselves why we are doing the things we are doing.

Step 2: Eat Less, But More

We hardly need the number of calories that we are eating. There is a concept called “calorie restriction with optimal nutrition”- eating less to live longer. A research in the project in the 1930s fed lab rats less and less, but always making sure it was nutrient-dense food. The results were fascinating – “…the deprived mice lived longer than their well-fed counterparts.” (source) Now, I can’t say that I want to do this entirely, because I love a treat every now and then. And I love to bake.

However, the underlying principle is just about right on. We don’t need to eat as much as we are eating, and what we do eat needs to be packed with nutrients.

So as of today, I am going to start buying less at the grocery store. We don’t need 3 different kinds of cereal. We can eat oatmeal and cream of wheat (which I prefer anyway). We don’t need crackers and cookies, we can eat veggies/pitas in hummus, and I bake all the time, so why buy store bought cookies when I can just make a yummy (and sometimes healthier) treat? I am going to look for ways to simplify the number and amount of things we eat and increase the complexity of the nutrition of our food.

Step 3: Drink instead of eat

If I get a craving for something, or feel like I need to eat, I am going to drink water. In fact, I am going to put a little cranberry or fresh squeezed lemon, or lime, in my water. Spice up my life a little (and add some nutrients as well – remember, less calories, more nutrients).

Hopefully this will also help me get more fluid intake each day. I am sorely lacking in that department.

Step 4: Sleep More

There is some truth in the old saying “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

Our goal is to be in bed by 10pm every night and up by 6am. That gives us a full 7-8 hours of sleep, and being up early gets us ready for the new day (hopefully before the kids are up!)

Step 5: Make the Switch

Switch #1: Beans for Meat

We already eat more beans that meat, but we’re going to up that. We will start trying out tofu in our dishes (a recipe book I have suggests going half and half for the first little while, then gradually increasing the amount of tofu and decreasing the amount of meat).

I’m not saying we’re going vegetarian or anything (because we’re most definitely not – we love our steaks) – but we’re going to try to eat more beans than meat. They are a more nutrient-dense source of protein.

Switch #2: Milk for Milk

Haven’t decided exactly what is going to happen here. If you read my milk post, you’ll know that we’re still undecided – but a change will happen this year.

This change will also affect cheese and yogurt options (but probably not ice cream, unless DS really does have a dairy allergy… in that case, we’ll switch there, too… if only just his)

Switch #3: Homemade for Store bought

I am going to make homemade as much as possible. Our requirement for goodies and treats will be that they are homemade, and we give some away. And if possible, we WALK to deliver the goodies.

This will serve 2 purposes - #1 if we want goodies, it will actually take some thought, planning, and work on our part. None of that mindless munching. #2 we’ll burn some calories in the process, cooking and delivering goodies.

Switch #4: Gluten Free for wheat

My husband’s family has a history of celiac disease, and some of my mom’s sisters have a gluten intolerance. We’ve never been really  big wheat eaters, and we always eat whole wheat instead of bleached, refined stuff. Now I am going to take that to the next level. There are things that are easy to switch out, like pastas. And then there are some things that are a little harder, like cookies and other goodies. I’m sure I can find alternatives for some of those, however, and as long as we cut wheat down and find some really delicious recipes for bread and pancakes, etc, then I think I will be able to do this one full on.


Looking at this list makes me feel like our grocery budget is going to get bigger instead of smaller, but then I remind myself that we are eating less, not more, even though it may be more expensive. Since we will be eating less I imagine our budget will stay somewhat the same.

Which milk does a body good?

DH and I suspect that our son (age 2 1/2) has a milk allergy. We hope to have him allergy tested in the next few weeks, but with some visits from relatives, and other dr’s visits, we may have to put it off.

Yesterday, he didn’t have cereal for breakfast (which means that he didn’t have any diary for breakfast) for lunch he had a PB&J with a tiny (less than .1 oz) slice of cheese, and then just before dinner time, I gave him a sippy cup of milk. About 30 minutes later, I noticed that his body, arms, and face were covered with bumps and were starting to get red. He also had a meltdown (which was probably due more to being over tired than the milk – but I know food allergies can cause behavioral problems). He hadn’t had any behavior problems all day and had been particularly helpful to me.

Anyway, so we’re going to switch him to soy milk, unofficially, for a little while. We’ll see how that goes.

Originally we wanted to switch to goat’s milk, but after doing some research today ($3.99 for a QUART of milk! HA!) We may have to rethink going goat.

I read this article today, and it got me thinking that perhaps we should start drinking a variety of milks. I’m thinking that we will probably have almond, soy, and hemp milks in our fridge at any given time. That will give us a variety to drink, as well, so we won’t get bored with the same old same old. We’ll be very careful which brands we buy, and we’ll try to buy unsweetened as much as possible. Maybe we’ll even mix some of the milks and come up with a “combo” milk that we like – you know, a little almond, a little soy, a little hemp, a little rice. I imagine that a “milk” cocktail could be very beneficial, especially if you buy all the unsweetened versions. And it might give a little more unique taste.

One thing is for certain – we need to change our milk habits. We drink a lot of milk, and I think there are good reasons to cut back in the dairy department and increase consumption of other things (such as foods high in Vitamin D – see article).

What milks does your family drink? How did you make the decision? Was it for necessary health reasons (allergies, intolerance, etc)? Or did you just decide to try out something that might be healthier?

Friday, January 1, 2010

To Your Health!

In honor of the new year (and the fact that my last two posts have been about Halloween goodies and Christmas goodies!!) I have decided to write a post about New Years resolutions. So here we go.

Our health is dictated by a lot of things – genetics, environment, what we eat, what we do with our time… the list is too long, and arguable, so we’ll just go with a few things.

This year, I will work on three areas of my life to improve my health.

1.) My environment

2.) What I eat

3.) What I do with my time

1.) My environment

In order to keep our bodies healthy, it is important to keep our environment healthy. One of my New Years resolutions is to make our environment more healthy. I am going to keep more indoor plants, open the windows more often, and replace a lot of my cleaning products with more “green” products. Already we use a lot of “green” things, but we can always be better. It is a little more expensive, but I have been more convinced lately that doing even what little things we can do has a big impact.

Another big way I am going to make my environment healthier is by reducing clutter and reusing as much as I can. Instead of throwing things away I am going to sell them, donate them, reuse them, or recycle them. Our waste facility here has a great recycling program. I would encourage you as part of your New Years resolutions to write your city waste management facilities as request more recycling programs. If we all write, then perhaps they will listen.

When we purchase furniture for our home next fall, I am going to try to purchase as much used furniture as I can.

2.) What I eat

We’re going to eat less junk food and more vegetables. Beans and other vegetables are going to be the main feature at our home!

This is a hard one for me, because my DH just loves his treats. Well, he is a little more on board this one than he used to be. One thing we will do this year to help with this goal is find healthy “treats” that can replace the candy and cookies. Then we’ll save candy and cakes for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. And even then, we’ll try to eat more of our “healthy treats.” Do you have any good ideas of healthy foods that still satisfy your sweet-treat tooth?

3.) What I do with my time

I’ve already been starting to change this one. I made myself a reusable to-do list (see #1) that I mark up with a dry erase marker and then reuse each day. It has been helping me be a better manager of my time. I have been a lot more productive since I have been using my list.

The other major problem with my time usage is my bedtime and rising time. Due to the holidays and DH being off school, we have been staying up WAY too late. Then I’m dragging in the morning, and I feel a lot less productive, plus I have no energy to exercise.

So starting in the new year (I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to start this until DH goes back to school) we’re going to be early to bed and early to rise kind of people. We usually put the kids down around 7:30, so if we’re consistent with that, we should be able to spend time in the evening, just the two of us, reading, playing games, we may even have time for a movie! And then we’ll still be in bed by 10pm and up by 6am.

And for my final, life capping event (okay, so probably not that significant) – I will spend the first half of this year training for a half marathon. I hope to run one sometime at the end of the summer or in the fall. I have done 5k’s before, but nothing like a half. I am really excited, because I just love to run, and it’s easier to run when you have something you’re working for.


Do you have New Years Resolutions? Are you going to lose some weight? Run a marathon? Get enough sleep each night?

"To be sent greeting... by... the word of wisdom...

Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints...

All wholesome herbs [or plants] God hath ordained for the consitution, nature, and use of man-

Every herb [or plant] in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving...

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings... shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones...

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."