Monday, August 27, 2007

Sew much fun!

I finally broke out the sewing machine that my grandma gave me months ago. I haven't sewn since high school and was really wanting to relearn the basics. So I got this great book from the library "Sew Subversive" and it took me step by step on threading the machine, bobbin info, etc. The last few days have been a blast sewing. It is really relaxing for me. I also find it so nice to use my creative I really don't have too much creativity in me. Next week I will begin a three week class at the "Stitching Post" to relearn sewing with a pattern. I will make a pair of comfy "lounge around the house" pants and hopefully learn a ton. I look forward to getting good enough to make things to sell. Probably more baby and mama cloth stuff, but you never known what might turn up.

I would like to encourage you to get the "Sew Subversive" book from the library if you need sewing instruction, but aren't sure where to begin. It is written by three young women (Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado & Hope Meng) and is so easy to learn from. They are funny too...the humor helped me not to be so uptight while trying to follow the directions. Anyway, I think sewing can be a wonderful way to be creative and save money (if you get supplies free or on the cheap) on having lovely things for your home and to wear. Enjoy!

homemade dishwashing detergent

Yay!!! Finally a recipe that works for homemade dishwasing detergent!! I haven't used my dishwasher in weeks because I refuse to use that store bought chemical loaded up-smells your house like bleach mess and I am too cheap to buy a healthy alternative. So I had been searching online and last night a poster on ( my favorite cloth site) said she uses equal parts Borax and baking soda with vinegar in the rinse-aid dispenser. I used about 1/2 Tbs of Borax and soda (made sure there were no clumps in it) and put vinegar in the little dispenser. My dishes came out beautifully! Yay!!! I am so excited. I don't mind handwashing at all, but sometimes you have things that you want to make sure they get really clean and Yay, I am excited that I have this really easy, cheap, no bleach smell recipe. Sweet!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

waste not, want not post error

I wrote a lot more on the "waste not, want not" post...but some how it got deleted. I will finish it up soon.

waste not, want not

In today's disposable society...where it seems everything is disposable from cameras, to individually wrapped snacks, to paper towels, to juice boxes ( I hate these things)...I am trying to live a life with as little waste as possible. The world would have so much less trash if we all made an effort in this area. I think we just get so used to what everyone else is doing that we don't even think through the impact that we are having on our world. It amazes me...but for years I did it I understand why people do what they do.

So I would like to share with you some of the changes that we have made in our house in this regard. I would love to hear your ideas and changes that you have made in this area too. So please post comments! First off we are almost totally cloth in our home. By almost totally I mean I haven't been able to convince my husband to go toilet paper free...but if I had my way we would be (let me know if you have questions about how to do this). So, what does almost totally cloth mean? Cloth napkins (not paper), no paper towels ( I use newspaper for greasy food to rest on), cloth menstrual pads (no tampons, maxi pads, etc.), cloth wipes for E's bottom (no huggies here), cloth wipes for runny noses (no Kleenex), and cloth diapers ( no sposies).

Another change is we try and recycle or burn anything everything that we can.

Friday, August 17, 2007

chemical-free cleaning

I was enjoying the scent of lavendar today as I was cleaning, and thought I would share how much nicer it is to do chemical-free cleaning. You see I used to clean with Scrubbing Bubbles and other obnoxious cleaners...gasping for air and opening every window I could fine for fresh breath, while closing every door possible to keep the fumes away from the boys. Then about a year or so ago I realized (after reading many books and online comments) that my home could be cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, hot water and essential oils just as easily as it could with all of those other misc. cleaners.

So that is what I did. Slowly I have gotten rid of all of the cleaning chemicals in my home, including bleach and ammonia. I must say though, in regards to the bleach, I am not an obsessive person with white clothing and other such items that "need" bleaching. I do wish all of the bottoms of my socks were bright white...but not having bleach in the house is way more important to me. Also, 95% of my clothes are I am not majorly invested in whether I have ruined an item. I try to take good care of things, get stains out early, etc. but if not...I can go to the thrift store and buy another item. I am also not finatical about my home being super germ free and overly clean. I like things in order, I like cleanliness...but I don't feel a need to bleach things to make that happen. There are plenty of essential oils (tea tree for one) out there to help with that or I wipe things down with straight rubbing alcohol.

I must say the major benefit to all of this, for me, is it makes cleaning so much simpler. You have so few items to clean with, so there is no thought of "I need the bathroom cleaner, kitchen counter wipes, shower spray, etc.". Plus my home smells so fresh. I love essential oils and how clean they make everything smell. Lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus...they are heavenly! It is amazing to me though how much cleaning you can get done with just a rag and some warm water. Truly...that in itself goes a long way!

Anyway, I hope if you haven't thought of cleaning without chemicals in the past...that this will spark some interest for you. It saves so much money, so much waste from all of those empty bottles, who knows how many health problems, and it really can make cleaning so much more fun. Enjoy finding what combination works best for you.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Toilets vs. T.V.

So, I don't know about you, but my energy peaks in the morning and stays steady until about 3 or 4pm. Then, I just want to veg out. When my husband gets home at 5/5:30 we eat dinner, hang out with boys and then relax for the evening, unless we have other plans. It's all I can do to get the dishes done after dinner. I am just worn out at the end of the day (well I guess that isn't really the end of the day, since we usually don't go to bed until 11 or so.).

Well, the other evening I was sitting in front of the t.v. with S, watching some show that I could care less about and that I knew I wouldn't remember anything about the next day, thinking I should be cleaning the two bathrooms upstairs. But I just couldn't get the motivation to get off of the couch. When my little ones hit the hay for the night...I want "me" time. I want nothing required of me, no responsibilities, I want to soak in the silence and get some much loved R&R. But I had this nagging conviction to get those toilets cleaned. So I'm thinking, toilets/t.v.. toilets/t.v., toilets/t.v. and well, the t.v. won.

I'm not sure why, because most of the time when I watch t.v. (except for Grey's Anatomy-the only show that I faithfully watch-when it isn't reruns) I think to myself "is this really worth my time?, will I even remember what I watched tomorrow?, does any of this really matter?". It perplexes me that I can just sit numb in front it and let time just slip by. It is an easy fix for letting your brain relax, I guess. Well, it seems at the time it is relaxing, because I'm not thinking about anything, but with some of the images on today, and depending on the definitely can have an affect. The 'ole saying "junk in, junk out". I think I just get desensitized over time to the advertising, violence, disrespect, and subliminal messages that I am taking in.

Turning it off in the day, is no problem, as I don't want my children watching it all day. So we rarely have it on except for a cartoon (PBS) here and there. But at night...if S and I are both tired and not motivated...the habit kicks in. I should just go to bed and get some extra sleep, but I would feel bad for leaving S By himself, as he has been gone at work all day. Evenings are when we spend most of our time together. Anyway, at times I would like to just pitch the t.v. and be free of it. But then it is nice to watch movies at home, and I would miss Grey's, S would miss football, I would miss Jack Hannah and E...well he just hits the thing, he doesn't have a favorite show yet.

So, what is the answer...I'm not sure. Balance I guess, like most everything else in this life. Glorious balance...I should just take the 10 minutes to clean the toilets, get it off my mind, and then go veg. But usually it just gets put on tomorrow's "to do" list and I start my energy cycle over again!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Weekly menu

This is something that I have just started in the last few months. I am definitely not as faithful as my sister-in-law, who educated me on the importance of a weekly dinner menu. But I am trying to get a system down and to stick with it. Wow, it does makes life so much easier!

Usually at the beginning of the new week, Sunday for me (as that is our Sabbath and we usually relax as a family on that day), I spend some time going through the fridge, freezers and cupboards and look for what food we have available. From there I try to plan meals. Each meal typically includes a protein and a vegetable. Sometimes we have bread or fruit also. But I at least make sure we have a protein and a veggie. Our family of four, myself, my husband, a four year old, and a nine month old eat on an average weekly budget of $40. Typically I go to the store (Aldi, Sam's, or what is on sale at Kroger) every two weeks or so, sometimes every three weeks and stock up on the necessities. From there, I try to be creative and feed us from what I have purchased.

Here is a sample of what our weekly menu may look like...

chicken (a whole roasted chicken cut in pieces), mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage
turkey burgers, steamed broccoli and cauliflower with cheese
spinach quiche, cottage fried potatoes w/onion and bread w/honey or jam
baked fish, brown rice and brussel sprouts
tuna noodle casserole and zucchini

We also have a garden right now, so that helps with the zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, and spinach.

We are beginning to live a different life than we did several months ago. Before I had my second son, I was a huge coupon addict. We ate from what I had coupons for the majority of the time and I got tons of free health and beauty items, paper products and just all kinds of misc. stuff. Then I had E and realized that shopping with a four year old and a nine month old by myself, with coupons, was too stressful for me. I also started to evaluate how much time I was spending cutting coupons, organizing them, running from store to store and organizing my stockpile. But the thing that really changed my mind, was the fact that what I was buying was packaged, processed, chemical filled, and not what I wanted my family to put in their bodies. So, now I am trying to buy healthy foods, with little packaging, and really evaluate what I am putting in my body. I want to be an example for my boys and to teach them while they are young how good healthy food can taste.

Breakfast around here usually consists of oatmeal, eggs & toast, whole wheat pancakes with fruit, sometimes waffles (not so good for you!) in the waffle maker ( I haven't found a whole wheat recipe that won't stick to our waffle maker), or I regularly like to have what my mom calls a "monkey shake" which is milk, whey protein, frozen banana, & peanut butter in the blender. Mmmm yummy!!! I could eat breakfast foods for every meal!

Lunch around here looks like a lot of peanut butter sandwhiches (my homemade whole wheat bread, natural pb, and honey), spaghetti and carrot sticks (S doesn't like red sauce, so we don't eat spaghetti for dinner), tuna noodle casserole, dinner leftovers, homemade pizza, or quiche and toast.

I do have a book that I use that has my favorite recipes, a list of meals that I know our family likes ( so I have something to pull from if my memory goes blank), and substitution lists (which I live by). This came about as I have found recipes that we really like and as I have tweaked recipes to meet our needs (trying to eat little white flour or sugar).

We are pretty basic people, trying to live the best we know how for today. I hope I learn more tomorrow, and the next day, that will change our lives and others for the better.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Cloth diapering

As I mentioned before, I cloth diaper my nine month old son and have since he was about 3 weeks old. It has been a wonderful experience! I actually thought about cloth diapering my four year old when he was a baby, but I used store bought prefolds that leaked horribly. So needless to say, I got very discouraged and didn't continue. Then a friend of mine got me interested again when she began to cloth diaper her little one with diapers that her sister had used on her little ones. She recommended as a site to check out...and ever since I have been hooked. Before my little one was born I spent hours on that site trying to figure out how best to launder them, where to purchase them and so on. I ended up trading with a mama on their for the majority of my MotherEase diapers. Which is what most of my stash is made of. I also posted a wanted ad on Freecycle (more on Freecycle later) and had mamas give me diapers, wool covers and cloth wipes. People are truly generous and blessed me beyonf belief. I also traded with a mama on freecycle for some boys clothes that I had for her dipes. So I ended up with a stash of about 26 dipes in all, six MotherEase wraps, three wool covers and one crocheted cover. The total cost for everything was $110.00. The dipes that I have are one size and fit from 8-35 lbs. So the plan is that they will last me until E is potty trained.

As you can see cloth diapering has been so modified over the years. It no longer has to involve prefolds and pins. Altough that still is an option, I used snap style dipes. They have velcro closures also. I chose cloth diapering to save money and to try and help the environment. The only downside that I see to cloth is that my son has a very strong ammonia smell to his urine. So he does smell quite often (my sister says like a litter box at times!). But for me, his cuteness overrides the smell...and I'd rather change him every hour due to smell then have to buy disposables. It is such a relief not have to spend that money and have that diaper trash. We rarely ever have more than one large trash bag full of garbage a week. With disposable dipes I think it would be a lot more.
I enjoy doing laundry and household chores, so to me the extra laundry is no biggie. I wash dipes every three days or so. I use All Free & Clear right now, but am going to make my own laundry detergent ( thanks to Rhonda Jean) when it is gone. In the meantime, they go in little plastic trash cans with lids that lock on the sides. I have one upstairs in E's room and one in the laundry room on the first floor. I do a hot wash cycle and usually two rinses and then hang them on the line outside to dry and get bleached by the sun. The ME covers get hung to dry as well (I never put them in the dryer). My wool covers get hand washed with a Sudz 'n Dudz organic wool wash bar ( I only bought a sample piece and it has lasted me for nine months!) which works wonderfully! Then I hang them to dry, preferably on the line outside also to get some fresh air. I really enjoy my wool and was so blessed by a freecycler. She gave me numerous wool pieces including longies (covers with legs) and shorties (a cover that fits over the dipe with no legs). They work wonders for letting a baby's bum get some air, since it is a natural fiber. They are lovely because most of the time you just air them out to dry.
I wish more people would try cloth diapering and see how enjoyable it can be. The site has been such a blessing to me. I have used it to learn, to swap items, to get recipes, to give and recieve thoughts on frugal living and healthy living. The mamas there seem so nice! The world would be saved of so much trash if people would make this one simple change. Also, it can save you so much money. Especially if you trade, or buy items that are used. I will look forward to the day my little one gets potty trained, but will be so sad to see my cloth dipes go.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Letting others control our time

So an incident the other got me thinking about how other people can control your time if you let them. I was focused and working on some prospecting calls for work when I got a call to see a property (I am a Realtor) and immediately I began trying to reconfigure my day to meet the needs of this buyer. Yes, this is pretty typical in my business, but I am usually pretty good about maintaining my schedule and working clients in to fit what I already have planned. So I begin rushing around, getting impatient with the boys, taking my focus off of the task that I was focused on and so on. Then it got me thinking...why am I letting someone else control my schedule? Why am I freaking out to make things work for this person because they are in a hurry? I guess this is one of things that goes along with my line of work...but it got me thinking big picture.

We can in life react to situations and make ourselves miserable due to the emergencies that other's create from their lack of planning, the need for immediate gratification, selfishness, etc. Part of being a good steward , in my opinion, is using my time wisely, planning, having a peaceful life that isn't all jumpy and last minute with things. I am definitely a person who appreciates a plan and knowing what my schedule will look like for this day, this week, even this month. I don't like feeling rushed and unorganized. I understand that at times it is good to be spontaneous and go by the seat of your pants. But I think if you are like that most of the time it leads to chaos, overspending, overconsumption, and so many other feelings/actions that do not result in joy or good stewardship.

One thing that drives me wild, but I am not sure really how to manage is when people are late. To me, tardiness is one of the most selfish actions you can take. It shows that the person thinks that their time is more valuable than the others, that their lack of planning is acceptable and that they find is acceptable to ask others to waste their time waiting on them. With clients, I have a 15 minute rule. I wait for 15 minutes after our scheduled appointment time, call them, if they do not answer, I leave. I refuse to wait and wait on people and waste my time. With friends and family, it can be a bit trickier. Fortunately most of my friends and family don't have tardiness issues! I guess my way of managing it would be to quit making plans with the person. Obviously if a person doesn't value your time, they are self absorbed, and who wants to spend time with someone who is self absorbed? Gosh, putting this in writing is making me so much more accountable for being on time!!

The other thing I was thinking of is the social aspect of a woman's life today. Lately I have felt quite a bit of pressure to be social, get the kids with other kids, do things, make the summer "count". Why is it that we do things for the sake of looking good to our peers? Why is it that we let other people teach us how to spend our time, money, and resources? I want to stand up and yell at the top of my lungs for everyone to hear " I LOVE MY SIMPLE LIFE, I DON'T NEED ACTIVITIES TO FILL MY TIME, I DON'T NEED TO SHOP, SPEND MONEY OR GO PLACES...I AM CONTENT, I HAVE THE JOY OF THE LORD, I AM AT PEACE...AND BY THE WAY, CONSUMERISM AND ALL THIS RUNNING AROUND...SUCKS!!!" Okay, that was my, it felt good! I really am quite content to be at home, clean the house, take care of the boys and S, tend to my garden, watch little tv, go few places, spend $40 a week on groceries...make creatove homemade meals with what we have, make my own bread, eat until the cupboards are bare, by used clothes, rarely eat out, save money knowing that the house will be paid off early, hang clothes on the line to dry, and enjoy a peaceful life. Life is good, I am blessed...and I will continue to work on not letting others control my time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The meaning...

So when I think of a good steward, I usually automatically go to my Christian upbringing and thoughts of tithing and being faithful with your money. But in the last few months, I have really begun to think of all that I am responsible for in this life. I need to be a good steward of my time, money, body, relationships, and so much more. It definitely is not just about money.

My search right now is for simplicity and for what really matters. What is life really about? What really is meaningful and worth spending my time and energy on. I have two young boys (four years & nine months) that I am trying to bring up to be God fearing men who love others and will be loving husbands and fathers. When you watch children grow and you realize how short time really is...I guess sometimes you begin to put things in to perspective, or at least try to.

So, I have been focusing on drawing closer to God & seeking him for his direction in my life. I have been trying not to go places, just for the sake of keeping busy. I have been trying to see my job as a homemaker as a true job and doing what I do with excellence. I have been trying to be patient with my boys and see life through their eyes (and needs/wants). I have been trying to not spend money on anything that isn't a necessity. I am making a goal to try and be more of a locavore (which I just learned about recently from a poster on'll write more about this later), eating foods that are locally grown or raised within a 100 mile radius of my home. I am trying not to bring anything into my home that cannot be put on our burn pile (I'm not sure if burning paper & cardboard is being a good steward, let me know if you have any thoughts on this) , or composted in our compost pile, or recycled. Anyway, these are some of the actions that I have taken lately to try and direct my life toward being a good steward.