Sunday, June 14, 2015

Little Green Trash Saver

This post is one that I've struggled with quite a bit. Each time I've attempted to write it, I've found my writing falling into the realm of preachy-ness and hypocrisy. I don't like it, and I know no one wants to read it. So keeping that in mind, here goes.

In the last several years, I have come to be really offended by trash, and products that create a lot of it. Trash is offensive to me two ways. The first is the fact that trash is useless STUFF that goes to a place to be STUFF until the end of time. That is the end of the line. The other thing is the fact that this STUFF is made out of resources. These resources are taken from the earth or are made by materials and energy taken from the earth. Not to sound super granola or anything, but we only have one earth and allowing ourselves to use up finite resources and space at the rate that we currently are seems rather silly to me. (And that's putting it lightly.)

For these reasons, there are a few things that are super popular on the market today that make me super sad; K-cups, styrofoam food containers, disposable plastic table cloths (and basically all other disposable party supplies,) just to name a few. In my opinion, these are nothing but trash-creating, ecological disasters in the making. Our need for convenience and time-saving has begun to take over not only our resources, but our beautiful land and pocketbooks as well. No matter what the market tells us, we don't need these things. We really don't.

Another example of a very popular product that falls into this category are pureed food pouches. It all started when apple sauce was put into little foil pouches with a screw on top that could be easily eaten by messy children without creating the mess. Now they take up half the baby food aisle, with all kinds of different flavors in fruit/veggie combinations.

They may be lighter and easier to transport than glass baby food jars (saving on fossil fuels, which is good) and a simple way to get a picky baby/toddler to eat their fruits and vegetables in a non-messy manner, but the trash it creates kind of makes me want to pull my hair out. Each one of those pouches has an active lifetime for, at most, 10 minutes. Then it becomes a useless piece of trash. And those things have GIANT screw on plastic tops to boot (which are made out of fossil fuels). None of this can be recycled. Sure, TerraCycle recycles them, but sending anything to TerraCycle is a pain in the ass, and most people haven't even heard of them, so at this point, it doesn't count.

But guess what? There are others who share my disgust for food pouches. These wonderful, ingenious people have invented reusable, refillable plastic food pouches. There are several different brands out there, but at our homestead, we use the Little Green Pouch. It has a similar large plastic screw-on top, a super strong zip top, and is dishwasher safe. It is BPA, phthalate, lead, and PVC free, and is made of a very sturdy material. I love it, and so does Eddy. She fell in love with it the first time I gave it to her full of apple sauce. She instinctively knew what to do, and loved the independence it gave her. (So for this reason, I totally understand the draw of the food pouch. It's a great way to feed kids and they learn to have some independence, which for moms, is something that we yearn for for our children. Win-win. I don't blame the mother at the grocery store who buys them a dozen or more at a time. I really don't. I just wish everyone knew about these reusable ones.)

I like to mix half plain and half flavored yogurts for a less sugary option.
Now every time Eddy sees one, she points at it and begs me to give it to her. The smile that spreads across her face when I pull one out is pretty sweet. The cool part is it can be filled with anything. Lately she's really been in to apple sauce and yogurt. I just buy large tubs of the stuff and fill the pouches in the morning and pack it in her lunch that she takes to daycare. Sure, I do have to wash them each night, but didn't I mention they are dishwasher safe? They don't take that much space in the dishwasher and it's a sacrifice I'm totally fine with making to prevent the creation of tons of garbage. Large jars of apple sauce and yogurt are recyclable, so there's ZERO trash that results from Eddy's weekly snacks. AND, buying things in bulk like this is WAY cheaper than buying individual pre-packaged sizes. So much winning.

The options of what to put into them are pretty endless. Eddy, like most toddlers, is not one to just eat her vegetables. So I, like most moms, have to think about ways to hide nutritious plants in the food that she likes. I always have ice cubes of pureed super greens in the freezer, so one of those mixed into pureed fruit is an easy way for Eddy to ingest some salad with her snack. We went to the Sounders game the other day and I packed a pouch-full of yogurt and apple sauce that she happily ate while cheering on the rave green.

Another benefit to the pouches we discovered when Eddy was prescribed antibiotics for an endless cough and runny nose. We struggled for the first several days getting the meds into her, with lots of crying, lots of fighting, and lots of meds being wasted as she spit them out. We basically ruined her trust for us. She didn't want to eat anything that came from a spoon, and foods that looked suspicious were out of the question. She mastered the eyes-closed, whiny, furious shaking of the head. We were all miserable. Then two things happened. We switched antibiotics to one that was less bitter, and I introduced the Little Green Pouch into the mix. I found that the meds were nearly flavorless in yogurt, and Eddy sucks down anything that's in one of those without thinking twice. That pouch came to the rescue and Eddy finished her round of of antibiotics with a smile on her face.

I can't say enough about these things. They bring Eddy an incredible amount of joy, and it's a joy that comes with nutrition and no trash. This brings be joy. When we're both joyful, life is excellent. Who doesn't want that?

So please, next time you're thinking about stocking up on food pouches, think about giving these a try. They do require a tiny bit more of your time and effort, but I think that's a small sacrifice we can all make to take care of our lovely little earth. It really is lovely.

They are an instant crying stopper as well.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Just One Thing

Captain Obvious here: having a kid really changes your daily schedule. It also really forces you to plan your day and use your time wisely.

Life is great. Eddy is THRIVING. She's the most amazing person in the whole world and gets amazinger and amazinger every day. I have a great job with the perfect amount of hours that allows me to do what I'm good at, yet stretches my skills. Overall, I go to bed each night satisfied with my day.

But I know I could do more. I could do better. I could thrive, too.

Let me get back to my Captain Obvious statement. After a full day at work, it's easy to be tired. It's easy to come home and want to order some food and play with your kid for the rest of the evening. Especially now that it's so nice and light out. This is not the best choice for financial, health, and practical reasons. Shawn works much longer hours than I do, which is fine since he has a job that requires this. This means that it is up to Eddy and I to get dinner on the table. The three of us are a team and these are the jobs and roles that we have that make our team work.

I am proud to say that I cook a (most of the time healthy) homemade meal, on average, four or five times a week. It is hard at times, but I feel like it is worth it. It allows us to eat healthy on a budget and teaches Eddy good food habits. This also means we have leftovers for lunch, and not buying lunch everyday is a huge cash saver. But it does take time. And then there are dishes afterward. By the time I'm done with all that and we've put Eddy to bed, the TV calls us to the couch and many evenings are spent relaxing and vegging out.

That's ok from time to time. Especially those days when work has been extra stressful, the child is sick, or something happens in life that is extra hard. On those days, veg out. It's totally ok. The problem is when the vegging out happens every evening. Sure, I've been getting everything that needs to get done done, but just barely. I do just enough to keep the house up, keep the child happy and healthy, and keep myself presentable on a daily basis (and succeeding at catching up on Game of Thrones).

This is why I've decided to restart my Just One Thing rule. This rule says that I have to do at least one useful thing each day, in addition to the usual. I always have a list of things I should be doing. Don't we all? Small house projects, things that need to be cleaned and/or organized, and life things that just need to get checked off the to do list. Having those things looming overhead is not a good feeling, but checking them off is always satisfying. Most of these things are not large projects. They are things that take between 10-30 minutes. Don't we all have at least 30 minutes to spare each day? I know I do.

Some of these things might be:
* Doing the grocery shopping (I'm a fast grocery shopper)
* Cleaning the fish tank
* Reorganizing the linen closet
* Cleaning the toilet
* Cleaning the refrigerator
* Going to the gym or for a run outside
* Making that one repair on that shirt, or hemming a pair of pants

Like I said, these are things that always need done and burn holes in everyone's to-do lists, but aren't necessarily daily tasks. Some take 10 minutes, some take 45. What you decide to do depends on the day.

Things that don't count because they need to be done so regularly:
* Doing the dishes
* Cleaning the litter box
* Making dinner
* Doing laundry

It's been hard to stick to my rule. Some days I've failed. But I have to keep trying.  I have found that if I let myself sit down and pull out the old laptop, then I'm setting myself up to fail. You don't realize how tired you are until you sit down. So I don't sit down until I've done everything I planned on doing. On days that I do my one thing, I go to bed feeling accomplished and ready to take on a new day. I like this feeling and I'd like to feel it on a regular basis. So I'll keep trying. I'm thinking dragging Shawn in on this might help. He probably won't appreciate that, but I think it'll be good for him too.

So, what's your 'one thing'?

Playing is so much fun! Can you spot the baby?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Boiling Sheets

It happened. The thing that all parents fear and have experienced at least once.

The dreaded crayon through the dryer. Ugh.

I was washing a load of sheets and at the last minute threw in a sweatshirt that needed washing. That sweatshirt had a broken orange crayon. ORANGE. With khaki colored sheets. FAIL. Sheets, really?

This is what they looked like. It was bad. I kind of wanted to cry.

I was traumatized.
I needed to sleep on it (literally and figuratively), but the next morning I woke up with a fire to fix my mistake. So I did some googling and got some ideas.

I knew I needed heat to melt the wax. There were too many bits all over to do the ironing method (and I HATE ironing) so I chose not to go with that. I also knew that I needed some strong soap to lift the wax. There were a few sites that recommended WD40, but I felt like it was just replacing the crayon with an equally damaging stain, and I didn't want to deal with the whole chemical aspect as well.

So I pulled out my large canning pot and filled it with water, a few squirts of dish soap, and a few tablespoons of borax and put it on medium heat. Once the water got hot, I tossed in the pillowcases. I let them simmer for about 30 minutes, vigorously agitating them and scrubbing them with a wooden spoon. After a while, I replaced the pillowcases with the fitted sheet. (Luckily the flat sheet escaped without any stains.) I did the same to the fitted sheet, but let it simmer for a little longer. I turned the heat off and let the pot cool for several hours. I poured the excess water out, but dumped the rest into the washing machine and washed them with other stuff just like normal. I let them hang out in the sun for a few hours, which I think helped a bit as well.

I didn't need to go to the gym that day after this.
I'm satisfied with the results. There are still faint orange stains where the crayon was, but we can live with it. I think I should have tried straight up lemon juice for the stains before tossing them into the wash, but its too late now that it has been through the dryer. I might try it anyway. I'm just glad I didn't have to toss 800 thread count sheets. Yeah chemical-free stain removal!

Monday, March 23, 2015

ACV: Magic Medicine?

I have previously discussed my love of vinegar. There are so many different kinds with so many uses, how could one not love vinegar? The fact that it is a naturally occurring substance from a long fermentation process, that is safe for human consumption without containing any harsh chemicals or additives to hurt the environment, makes it all that much better.

I have at least 4 different kinds in my house right now:

White: Uses include cooking, cleaning, deodorizing, softening, etc. Use it for ALL the things!!!

Rice: Sushi and other delicious Japanese cuisine. Mmmm...

Balsamic: Salad dressings, roasted vegetables, and a dash in marinara really deepens the flavor.

Apple Cider: My new love, and what this post is about.

(Did you know there are lots of other types of vinegars like coconut, beer, and raisin? Whoa.)

Word to your mother.
A couple months ago, Shawn and I started taking apple cider vinegar as a supplement once or twice a day. I always get the unfiltered stuff, and the kind you see above is my favorite. (Even though the Braggs seem like a couple of crazy hippies. But who I am to judge?) Just a few teaspoons to a tablespoon diluted in about a half cup of water. I had heard for a few years about people doing this, and then came across an article that outlined the various health benefits to it, so we decided to give it a shot. It seemed like a pretty easy, non-invasive thing to try out in the name of health and well-being. What did we have to lose?

We started taking it every morning before work. Shawn has trouble with the taste, but I don't mind it so much. We tried it with honey, and it was gross for both of us. I once took a little bit too much with not enough water, and did feel a burning in my stomach for an hour or two afterwards, but other than that it's been fine. We just dig deep and chug it like a frat guy shotgunning a PBR.

Let's talk about the health benefit claims made by people who take ACV (not PBR) as a supplement, and then I'll tell you the things we've actually noticed:

* Better circulation
* Lowered blood pressure
* Weight loss
* Lower cholesterol
* Lower blood sugar
* Cures hiccups
* Acts as a decongestant
* Boosts energy
* Prevents leg cramps
* Prevents bad breath
* Prevents indigestion and acid reflux

I know. It's a lot. Looking at this list, some make sense, while others take more thinking. Vinegar in general is known to have antibacterial and anti inflammatory properties so some of these seem less far-fetched than others. This list makes me realize that had I taken it throughout my pregnancy, I might have been a much happier person. If/when the second round happens, I can guarantee that ACV will be a regular part of my diet.

Now let's talk about the health benefits Shawn and I have noticed from our little experiment. In the beginning, we didn't notice much. We were taking it pretty religiously each day, and having the bottle right there in the kitchen made it easy to do in the mornings. I have to say I did feel more energetic (whether that was because of the ACV or just drinking more water while taking it, I can't say,) and it became something I looked forward to.

Like I mentioned we didn't notice anything at first, but it was after we stopped taking it regularly that we both noticed a change. The first thing both of us noticed is how our digestive system was so much more healthy and regular while taking it. Yes, our poops were awesome on days we take ACV in the morning. Having awesome poops really makes your day better.

I also lost 4 pounds. I was exercising quite a bit preparing for a 15k that Shawn and I did a few weeks ago, but I think the ACV helped. I've worked out in similar fashion in the past, but have never really lost much weight. Being on ACV put me about 4 pounds below my baseline average where I have been for years. I think another reason it helped me lose weight was because I started taking a shot of it each time I would get a sugar or snack craving. It only works to cut that craving about 50% of the time, but eating 50% less sugar and snacks has got to make a difference.

Shawn is borderline with his blood pressure and cholesterol. His numbers aren't to the point where he needs meds or anything, but it is something he's been instructed to watch. He eats relatively healthy, doesn't smoke, and drinks only occasionally, so it's just the way he's built. We haven't checked his numbers since we've started taking ACV, but it will be interesting to see what his numbers are now. I'll update this post if and when there is something to report.

I think the benefits we've noticed are enough to keep taking apple cider vinegar as a supplement. Maybe we'll see more benefits as we take it longer term. Here's to natural health!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Eddy!

Happy Birthday to my dearest. She's one today.


I can't believe it's been a year already. It simultaneously was the longest yet quickest year of my life.

It's been hard, at times, I'll admit to that. But those hard times are far far far outweighed by how awesome this little human is becoming. Shawn and I will look at her and then look at each other, then look at her again and just shake our heads. How is it that we created something a gajillion times cooler than us combined? Nature. It's a crazy thing.

As with all first birthday parties, it was a combined celebration of her greatness as well as a "hooray, we didn't fail as parents" party for the two of us. As with all celebrations in our family, we had tons of food and a delicious cake made by my pa. Eddy had fun with her friends, we had fun with ours, and it was a good time.

The only hiccup was when Eddy decided to get ambitious and eat an entire strawberry before I could stop her and nearly choked on it. She recovered quickly when she discovered that there was a whole cake hidden underneath that strawberry.

Oh, watching her discover the magic of cake. It was the highlight of the party. See below.

"You all sing weird." 
At first a little shy... 
Best way to eat cake: by the fistful.
"Soooo gooood!"
That sprinkle was on her forehead the whole time.
Holy cuteness.
Precake: Playin' piano with friend Truman.

Happy birthday, my sweetness. Here's to so many more. (But there really is no rush.)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sleep Sack #2: Winter Edition

This girl is growing. She is still petite, and people are never shy to point that out, but she's growing nonetheless.

She's growing because she's sleeping. Quite a bit, this happy mommy might add.

As is recommended by 'experts,' Eddy's been sleeping in a sleep sack since we stopped swaddling her. Now that she's a year old, we can safely change her bedding to a blanket, but her sleeping patterns make that a non-possibility.

This girl cannot sleep still. Every time we look at her in the monitor, she's facing a different way. She has no sense of which direction is up, which results in blankets being pretty much useless.

So it was time to make another sleep sack for our girl who has already grown out of two others.

Sewing time!

I started with fleece I had leftover from her stegosaurus costume. I didn't have a pattern, but I used another sleep sack as a stencil for the pieces.

I also wanted to use all the materials I had on hand, so I had to come up with a design that used velcro instead of a zipper. So I decided that this would be put on like a sweatshirt, over the head. (I know for a fact that there are many babies out there who would not be into the whole sleep sack over the head deal, but I knew Eddy wouldn't mind.)

Step 1: Cut out pieces.

Step2: Sew pieces together.

Step 3: Embellish with fun things like owls that you cut out of other leftover flannel.

Step 4: Decide that your sewing machine skills aren't good enough to finish the arm and neck holes so do them by hand and create a fun cross stitch pattern.

Step 5: Sew in velcro at the bottom.

Step 6: Take pictures of the super totes adorbs model wearing the garment.

This has a good six inches at the bottom so I'm hoping that she'll sleep in this until she's ready for a bigger kid bed with blankets and pillows and stuff. Plus I have the other sleep sack I made for the summer months that is also extra long.

Here's to keeping my crazy little lady warm at night.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Fab Four!


I haven't done a book review in ages, but this one's a good one to break the fast.

I was doing some Christmas shopping at Barnes and Noble and saw this little gem in the discount table. I picked it up thinking, "what a lovely little gift for myself!"

Salt, Lemons, Vinegar, and Baking Soda by Shea Zukowski.

I am already a huge fan of baking soda and vinegar as all purpose cleaners throughout my house. I rarely buy any cleaners and now come to think of it, I don't really know why I do at all. I use vinegar and BS (ha! BS!) so much that I buy vinegar by the gallon, and make special trips to Fred Meyer to buy the GIANT boxes of baking soda.

These two are just so great for so many things. Some of my regular uses include:
* Washing and conditioning my hair (baking soda and apple cider vinegar)
* Making a 50% water/vinegar solution and keeping it in a spray bottle for general cleaning purposes.
* Cleaning the toilet (both)
* Cleaning the bathroom sink (both)
* Cleaning and deodorizing the carpet in areas that Gus used to decide to relieve himself (both)
* Helping clear up a slow drain (both)
* Use as an ingredient in my home made laundry detergent (baking soda)
* Home made dryer sheets (vinegar)

I'm sure there's more, but I think you get the picture.

Now that we have a mobile little lady who loves to get into things, I'm even more happy about the fact that we have very little chemical cleaner presence in our home.

So you can imagine how excited I was to find this book. It has information (history, chemical makeup, etc.) on each of the four ingredients, as well as tons of recipes and other super cool uses for them. Obviously it's a super quick read and one that is awesome to just peruse when you have a few spare minutes. My favorite part about it is that every time I pick it up, I learn some new use for something that literally makes me say "whoaaaaaah, cool." Granted, I'm a giant dork so this is the kind of stuff that makes my wheels turn.

A few of the uses from the book that made me a little too excited when I read about them:
* Spraying your windshield down with a salt solution at night to prevent ice build-up, thus preventing the need to scrape your car on the morning. (Something we all hate.)
* Making a candle no-drip by soaking it in salt water overnight.
* Lemons are a natural stain remover. They can help get grass and sweat stains out of clothes, clean coffee and tea stains out of mugs, reduce age spots on your face, and add blond highlights to hair.
* Putting baking soda and/or salt on spills on the carpet or tablecloth can help prevent staining by neutralizing the substance and lifting it up out of the fibers.
* Adding a small amount of baking soda to the soil when planting tomato seedlings will help make the tomatoes sweeter.
* Spraying kids toys with vinegar as a natural disinfectant.
* Spraying seeds with a diluted vinegar solution will help with germination by preventing mold and mildew growth around the seed.

Oh, so cool. There's so much more too. I feel so inspired to fully embrace a chemical-free lifestyle. The best part about it is it's easy, and so frickin' cheap!

Ah, I love this book, and even more what it represents.

I don't often take selfies, but when I do, it's with really nerdy books.

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