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."