Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Few DIY Recipes

Homemade Deodorant:
5-7 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
1/4 cup baking soda
6 drops tea tree oil (or another oil of your liking) I prefer tea tree for its antibacterial properties.
Container to put it in (I like one of these)

1. Combine arrowroot powder and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.
2. Slowly add in coconut oil and mix it in with a spoon until it is well incorporated. The consistency should be solid, not too wet, but easy to be applied. Add more arrowroot/baking powder mixture if it is too wet.
3. Add the tea tree oil and mix to combine.
4. Put it into a container. I like to use a glass jar with a lid that seals but is easy to take on and off.
5. Apply to your underarms by scooping small amounts out with your fingers. This seems strange at first, but you get used to it quickly. Apply it just as you would apply a lotion.

Why homemade?
It doesn't contain any harsh chemicals, parabens, aluminum chlorohydrate, propylene glycol, talc, or other harmful substance found in most commercial deodorants. In fact, this stuff is so safe you could eat it!
All those nasty substances above that are found in most deodorants you buy at the store have been linked to all sorts of issues like Alzheimer's, cancer, contact dermatitis, skin irritation, kidney and liver damage, and more. Not to mention the homemade stuff is cheaper, works well, and smells great!

Homemade Lip Balm:
2 Tbsp beeswax (approx. 1 oz)
1 Tbsp shea butter
2 Tbsp coconut oil
A few drops essential oil (peppermint, lavender, sweet orange, and lemon all work well)
12 lip balm containers or 5 small tins

1. Melt the beeswax in a small pan over low heat. Add coconut oil and shea butter until everything is melted. Add a few drops of essential oil.
2. Use the dropper to add the melted liquid into your lip balm containers. Add a few extra drops to the top after filling as the ingredients will shrink as they cool.
3. Cool completely then cover with a cap and enjoy.

Why Homemade?
Commercial lip balms may contain chemical preservatives, petroleum based products ("mineral oil"), parabens, synthetic fragrances, and more depending on the brand. These have been shown to cause hormone disruption and cancer in animals.
Also, this DIY stuff is cheap, easy to make, works really well, and is a wonderful gift!

Homemade Insect Repellent:
1 oz. Neem oil
1 gallon water
1 tsp liquid soap
50-75 drops essential oil (peppermint oil, eucalyptus, lavender, cinnamon, lemon, or cedarwood all work well or a few can be combined)
Spray bottle

1. Shake up all the ingredients in a large container or a gallon jug.
2. Fill up a spray bottle as needed.

Why Homemade?
It doesn't contain ingredients like DEET, picaridin, permethrin, and others that are found in most commercial repellents.
These chemicals are neurotoxins and have been linked to impaired cognitive function, seizures, insomnia, mood disturbances, severe skin reactions, nausea, headaches, muscle weakness, cancer, and more. DEET can actually dissolve some plastics, leather, and remove nail polish and permanent marker. What is it doing to our skin and the rest of our body once it gets absorbed through our skin? Yikes.

Homemade Moisturizer:
5 Tbsp coconut Oil
1 1/2 Tbsp almond oil
15 drops lemon essential oil
15 drops lavender essential oil
1 – 2 tablespoons grated beeswax (less for softer cream, more for firmer cream)
Container to store it

1. Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil.
2. In the top, combine the beeswax, coconut oil and almond oil. Allow to melt and stir to combine.
3. Add the essential oils and stir again.
4. Put it all into container and allow to cool completely before closing.

Why Homemade?
Commercial moisturizers and lotions often contain parabens, phthalates, fragrances, petrochemicals, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates, synthetic colors, and diazolidinyl urea or iodopropynyl butylcarbomate. Petrochemicals have been found to cause anemia, kidney and nerve damage, damage to the brain and spinal cord. Sodium lauryl/laureth sulfates actually dissolve the natural oils on your skin. The opposite of what you want when you put lotion on your body! Not to mention they also have been found to damage the immune system, denature proteins in our bodies, damage skin and cause inflammation.

Diazolidinyl urea or iodopropynyl butylcarbomate is used as a preservative and is a formaldehyde releaser. Formaldehyde has been labeled a human carcinogen, but because its precurser is the one used in lotions they have been able to get away with allowing it as an ingredient. This chemical has been banned in Europe because of its connection to cancer, causing allergic reactions, headaches, damaging eyes, irritating mucous membranes, causing headaches, depression, dizziness, and immune dysfunction.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Few Ways to Save

I've been wanting to write something up on this topic for a few weeks and I'm just finally getting to it. Since we are a one-income family, we have found a few different ways to save some money and live a little more simply with what we have. Hopefully there's some things here that might be helpful for anyone reading.

- Instead of buying napkins and paper towels we use cloth napkins/paper towels.

- We buy our meat in bulk. We purchase 1/8th of a cow and make it last for a year and we buy chicken in 40 pound increments from Zaycon Foods. The beef (grass fed and organic) ends up costing a little over $2 per pound and the chicken (natural, no hormones/etc. added) is $1.69 per pound.

- Use black beans in place of ground beef for certain recipes. This doesn't work for every recipe, but we've found it to work for us on numerous occasions.

- Meal plan. I decide what meals I want to make for two weeks ahead of time (we do 3-4 new dishes each week) and then shop accordingly. I find that if I have a plan then I don't waste food as much and we end up with exactly what we need.

- We mostly use water and Norwex cloths for cleaning around the house. I make a few cleaning sprays with baking soda, vinegar, water, and Borax for cleaning heavy duty messes.

- I make a grocery list and do my best to stick to it every time I grocery shop (with a little leeway). This way I don't buy things that just look good in the moment and spend more than we have.

- Use cash whenever possible. It's more painful to hand over bills than a card.

- Make meals in large portions. I try to use my crock pot often and make large batches of soups, pastas, or whatever just so we'll have leftovers to eat the next day or to freeze for a later date.

- Use coupons or sites like

- We make our own deodorant, lip balm, and moisturizer.

- We bought all of our soap (laundry, dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, dishwasher, bar soap, windex-like, and all-purpose cleaner) in bulk (a 4-year supply) when we purchased our water treatment system. It doesn't contain any harsh chemicals and is made for our soft water system and it was a really good deal.

- Buy in bulk from Amazon using the Subscribe & Save feature. We buy gluten free flour, macaroni and cheese, tea, and a few other things this way.

- Cloth diapers. We used them for Emery and now for Declan and have saved thousands, literally. The initial investment of our time and money was well worth it. I can post about what we use and how they're used later.

- Thrift stores, garage sales, and craigslist. We've found so many great deals on clothes, shoes, toys, large items (furniture, outdoor toys, etc.) from these sources. We almost always check craigslist first before purchasing something slightly more costly.

- Make our own salad dressings, marinades, pizza sauce, and bread.

- We don't have smart phones. We have the cheapest plans and most basic phones except Dustin has a smart phone for at work that's provided for him.

- No cable. We have never had cable and really don't regret the decision.

- Pack our own lunches. Dustin doesn't have the ability to heat anything up at work so I make him cold lunches to take to work everyday. He takes a cooler, some snacks, and a lunch I pack in one of these. This saves us quite a bit.

- Eat at home as much as possible. We go out to eat or order from a take out place only about once a month so it's more of a special treat when we do.

- Repurpose things like food containers, bags, old clothes, etc.

- Wash really large loads of laundry instead of lots of small ones to save on the water bill.

That's all I can think of for now. Let me know if you have any other ideas to save!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You know you're a parent when...

Since it was just Mother's day and soon to be Father's day I thought this was fun. Add your own to the bottom!

You know you're a parent when:

- You have to pull over on the side of the highway to nurse your crying infant and let your toddler pee in the weeds.

- You can survive on much MUCH less sleep than you ever thought possible.

- You make sure the kids all have matching clothes, are fed and clean but you walk out of the house without brushing your hair or teeth.

- The phrase "oops, I spilled" most likely means you'll be mopping up an entire bottle of dish soap from the door of the dishwasher.

- You find dried baby poop on your pants and aren't completely grossed out by it. In fact, you're so tired that you forget to even change your pants.

- Your house becomes a mine field of dolls, legos, and books.

- You aren't surprised to find a pair of socks or other pieces of laundry in kitchen drawers or the fridge.

- You find hundreds of teeny tiny pieces of toilet paper strewn about the bathroom floor and stuck to the bottom of your feet.

- You often fold the laundry twice or three times because we all know what "I want to help fold the clothes, mama" really means.

- Stickers. Everywhere.

- You find glitter in the baby's hair.

- You realize late in the afternoon that you've only eaten half of your toddlers' banana, the last bites of her toast, and a handful of nuts all day.

- You find yourself humming the Elmo's World theme song when your children aren't even nearby.

- You stop wearing black shirts because you find that spit-up and boogers are too easy to spot on them.

- Your windows and doors always have nose/hand/finger prints on them even right after they're cleaned.

- The perfect date night is taking a nap with your hubby.

- You can recite "Jamberry" and "When You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by heart because you've read them 28 times this week.

- You know the clean-up song. Oh you know what I'm talking about!

- You frequently find rocks or small toys in the dryer.

- You find yourself gently swaying back and forth even when you're not holding a baby.

- Grocery shopping alone is a mini vacation.

- Your purse no longer holds make-up, hair accessories, a compact, and gum. It is now filled with plastic toy animals, a container of snacks, an extra pair of undies for your toddler, diapers and wipes, and a few loose crayons.

- Your fridge is covered in beautiful art!

- The phrase, "I wiped myself, mama!" means finding a mutilated roll of toilet paper and pee and/or poo on the toilet, the rug, the sink, the floor, and her clothes.

- You beam with pride when your baby smiles for the first time, learns a new song, a word, shares with others, rolls over, sits up, learns to put her clothes on by herself, takes their first steps, laughs, etc.

- You get excited when you're able to sleep for 4 consecutive hours at night.

- Your computer goes excruciatingly slow because you have billions of pictures of your kids on it taking up all of the memory.

- Your table no longer has vases of roses and daisy's, but of dandelions and creeping charlie's.

- You are a pro at cutting up any kind of food into teeny tiny pieces.

- Hearing the phrase, "I love you, mama/dada" from your little one is pretty much the best thing ever.

- You would do almost anything for your kids and you absolutely don't regret any of the above!

Feel free to add your own!  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sesame Chicken Pasta

I thought I'd post one of our favorite recipes around here. I found it online a while back and have added and eliminated things over time, so here's my version. It's super easy, especially if you do your prep ahead of time so when dinner time rolls around it takes about 15 minutes to throw together. Plus, for the 4 of us (3 that eat solids!) we end up with leftovers for lunch the next day. It's really good hot or cold!

Sesame Chicken Pasta

1/4 c. sesame seeds
1 16oz. package of spiral rice pasta (or whatever you like)
1/2 c. olive oil
1/3 c. gluten free soy sauce (or regular, if you can eat gluten)
1/3 c. brown rice vinegar
1 t. sesame oil
3 T. sugar or sugar substitute (honey, agave, stevia)
1/2 t. ground or fresh ginger
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 pound cooked cubed chicken breast
1 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c. chopped green onion
1 1/2 c. shredded carrots
2 c. sliced sweet peppers (green, red, orange, whatever you like)
(optional) Any additional veggies of your choice (bok choy, pea pods, water chestnuts, etc. are all good options) -If you add a lot of extra veggies you may have to make a little more of the dressing.

1. Heat skillet over med-high heat and add sesame seeds. Stir frequently until toasted and set aside.

2. Cook pasta, drain, and set aside in a large bowl.

3. Add shredded carrots, peppers, and any other veggies you'd like to the skillet and saute with a little oil until lightly cooked but still crisp. Add to the pasta.

4. Combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce, spices, sugar, and sesame seeds. Shake this up well.

5. Pour the dressing over the pasta/veggie mixture and mix gently. Add cooked chicken, fresh cilantro, and green onions. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Bumps

I thought I was doing really well with two kids and that the transition wasn't really as hard as I had imagined it would be. I started internally tallying all the things I had mastered doing with one hand while holding a baby who didn't want to be set down while awake. Things like, pealing an egg, cracking eggs, making eggs, actually anything egg related, getting dinner prepared, folding laundry although not very neatly, putting laundry in the washer or dryer, getting Emery dressed, and well the list goes on. Then I impressed myself with the ability to do things while nursing. Walking was first, then getting Emery breakfast, helping her on the potty and getting her cleaned up afterwards, even disciplining if need be...while Declan remained latched! Pretty impressive, I told myself.

Then this week came along. Things changed. Emery got a cold last week, then Dustin got a cold, then I got a cold and none of us were feeling so great. This Monday was definitely the downfall though. I didn't think it was so bad when I woke up (after waking a few other times in the night) at 3am, then 3:30, then 4, then 5, then 5:30, then 6 to a fussy gassy baby. It wasn't horrible realizing that my head cold had turned into a chest cold and cough. The challenge came when Emery walked out of her room, looked up at me and began vomiting all over herself, the carpet and me. When I had to rush her to the bathroom, peal off her clothes, my clothes, bathe her, clean up the hallway, put the load of puke covered clothes in the wash, AND care for a wailing baby boy who somehow was starving after only nursing an hour earlier. Yep, at that point my lists and pride went out the window.

I obviously hadn't learned my lesson Monday though because Tuesday I had similar sleep/gas issues with Declan and then as I was desperately trying to get 2 more minutes of sleep as he lay propped up against my side, he proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach all over me. My pride faded even more as I felt the oozing curdled spit-up soak through my shirt, pool into my neck, and reach either side of me and sink into the freshly cleaned sheets. Of course Emery woke up right then to announce that she "was hungry, mama!" I knew then that I would be going on day 3 of no shower.

I recently read "Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches" by Rachel Jankovic. A fabulous book and inspiration for anyone with little, a ridiculously quick read, which is vital at this point.  In it she says, "You know those pain scales at the hospital, where they rate your pain from one to ten? Well, pretend that you are screaming, "Thirteen, thirteen! Fifteen!" What that should tell you is that it is time to restart the whole thing, stop screaming, and just deal with the fact that this is now the new "one." Start over, and accept the new "normal."

I think God was laughing at me for acting like I had things handled. It's so easy for me to think I have all things under control, the laundry done, folded, dinner prepared, Em somewhat clean, and all one-handed, lol!! I always took pride in the fact that I could take on a big load and would try to go out of my way to do more. I'd pick the thickest and toughest book to read for our optional book report in high school, take 28 credits at two different schools in college, take 34 credits in grad school while planning a wedding for the day after finals...
Then God used little things like vomit and spit-up to show me just how ridiculously out of control I am. When I have to let go of clean, let go of everyday showers, of clearly defined 'me time', of a beautifully prepared meal every night, of my reading goals, to let go of babies who never cry and little girls who never have emotional break-downs. Because these things are a part of life. My new normal.

Of course, everyday isn't hard and there are actually many really easy days, and it's only been 2 years with one little one and 1 month with two of them. It's those trying days though that bring me back to the reality that God is in control. He wants growth and if those hard days get me there, bring me closer to Him, lead me to prayer, and falling on my knees asking Him for more help, more patience, more time, more, more something to get me through... then I pray for more hard days.