Thursday, March 18, 2010

Five Years and Counting

It took me a long time to get to be "Mother Earth" as my mom calls me.

The first small change we made was to get rid of plastics. We took down our plastic mini blinds, which I am finally almost finished replacing. We also tossed all plastic kitchen utensils and storage containers. It's true, I do not use any form of Gladware. I do, however, still use plastic freezer bags. I try to use them minimally, but for as much as I cook and freeze, glass storage is just not always practical.

We also started reading the labels on baby toys. Anything that was going to be played with by our daughter had to be phthalate free. We still stay away from the cheap toys as much as possible and almost everything that goes into Oren's mouth is wooden or cloth.

Around the time that we started paying attention to baby toys, we also switched to cloth diapers. I love cloth and can now sew diapers. I don't mind the extra laundry and poop in cloth is not a big deal. We've probably saved thousands of diapers from going into a landfill and have saved ourselves a great deal of money.

When plastics and diapers were conquered, we moved on to safe cleaners. I use baking soda and vinegar to clean. I'm not fond of scrubbing the cast iron tub, in fact it's embarrassingly dirty right now, so I still use Scrubbing Bubbles. Vinegar works on the floors, counters, sink, etc. It's also great on salads and you can't say that about the Scrubbing Bubbles. I also make my own laundry detergent for our front loader. I use two bars of grated Ivory, two small boxes of baking soda and two cups of washing soda. It only takes one tablespoon of the detergent to clean a load of clothes.

I have attempted to make my own natural body care products, but I have given up temporarily. The homemade deodorant worked okay, but I didn't like wrestling it out of the jar and smearing it on my pits. Gross and time consuming. I have opted to only use deodorant when I'm going to be somewhere that I might sweat. Like the doctor's office with three kids in tow. I tried using baking soda and apple cider vinegar for my hair and I didn't like the smell. Kiss My Face makes a wonderful lime smelling conditioner that I love. It is without all of the nasty ingredients so I'm happy and so it my nose. I am currently on the look out for fluoride-free toothpaste, but I've only looked at Target. I want to mention too that I try to buy most things that are fragrance free and free and clear. I don't wear perfume or smelly lotions. Or make-up for that matter because it's full of ingredients that I can't pronounce.

Another thing we've learned how to do is buy in bulk, buy on sale, buy in season and buy local whenever possible. We pay attention to ads and don't buy things like fresh strawberries in the middle of winter. If potatoes are on sale, we buy 15-30 lbs of them. We walk the delicate line between buying organic and local and buying in bulk. Sometimes it's just not cost effective to buy organic food and I'm okay with that.

We have a huge garden every summer and learn more each year. We grow our own squash, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, greens (kale, lettuce, swish chard), snap peas, carrots, radishes, beets, peppers, celery (new this year, we'll see how it does) and herbs (also new this year). We will be planting an apple tree, a cherry tree, a pear tree and a plum tree this year. We pick apples from a family's tree in the fall and use them throughout the winter. I plan to learn how to can this year. Actually, I know how to can, it's just a matter of doing it.

We buy our meat in bulk. Our beef is from a local rancher who doesn't feed his cows crap. Our pork is from a local farm that is working on its organic certification. Bacon is a hot commodity in our house and never makes it to the table. We dig the pig. We use whole chickens. Some are from a friend who raised them for us and some are from the grocery store. I curse daily at the fact that I can't have chickens in my back yard. I would love fresh eggs. Sigh.

I make big batches of food and freeze it according to how it will be used. I have seven freezer bags of pulled chicken and tons of chicken, beef and ham stock. I always double pancake and waffle recipes so that I have some to freeze. I freeze muffins, cupcakes, banana bread, etc. I also soak an entire bag of beans, use what I need and freeze the rest for later. I have frozen bags of sliced and peeled apples that are waiting to be turned into applesauce and apple butter. I try not to waste anything and have even started saving steak bones to use for making stock.

I love making my own bread and use the dough for everything. I have started making my own tortillas. I cook with lard, coconut oil and olive oil. I read a lot about food and cooking and it's a constant work in progress. Overall, we buy very few things from the store that are boxed or canned. I feel good when I look at the dinner table and see that everything was made by me. If you would have asked me five years ago to make my own salsa or tortillas, I would have laughed in your face and said that there was no way I had the time. Three kids, a dog and four rabbits later, I have the time because I've learned how to do it.

Homemade Yogurt

I had a gallon of milk that wasn't going to get used before it expired so I decided to make yogurt. The process was simple and only took about 30 min.

1. Heat milk to 180 degrees to make sure nothing interferes with the delicious replicating bacteria. This could be done in a double boiler, but I didn't have anything that was going to work so I just used a big pot. I attached a thermometer to the side and stirred frequently. I didn't scorch the milk.

2. Cool the milk to 110 degrees. I filled the sink with cold water and set the pot in the sink. If we had room in our freezer for an ice cube tray, I would have added ice. I continued stirring to release the heat.

3. Add the started. I dumped in an 8 oz container of plain organic yogurt. I only needed 3 tablespoons, but I didn't want to keep an opened container of yogurt in the fridge. I guess I could have eaten it, but that thought didn't occur to me until just now.

4. Let the milk sit in a warm place. Some people use crock pots, heating pads or hot plates. My crock pot is too small and I don't have a heating pad or hot plate. I put my pot in the oven and turned the oven on very briefly every two hours.

I let it sit for nine hours and it produced a semi-tangy, not-to-thin and not-to-thick kind of yogurt. I really like the taste, but prefer thicker Greek style yogurt so I used a tea towel and a colander and strained the yogurt. If I would have more time, I would have strained it a bit longer, but I got out quite a bit of whey to be used for later projects. I mixed in some pureed strawberries and a little sugar to some of the yogurt. I also mixed in pureed apples and cinnamon to another batch. I made strawberry smoothies with some of the yogurt (honey, strawberries, yogurt and milk) and they were delicious. Making my own yogurt is definitely cost effective and I will most definitely do it again.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Life

I am always happy this time of the year.

Our herbs and tomatoes have started to grow and the tulips outside have made an appearance. I love tulips. I love all of the possibilities that come with tulips. They are the first flowers of the season, at least in my yard, and prove that there is life after snow.

New life, a new beginning.

Another new beginning is that we have started attending church with the kids. I was raised Catholic. I attended a Catholic high school. I have the Catechism of the Catholic Church on my bookshelves, but I haven't been to church in five years. I miss it.

Church has always been the constant in my life. Catholic masses and rituals are the same and that is comforting to me. I know the prayers, I know the history behind the mass and am fascinated with cathedrals and basilicas. I know that a fancy building isn't necessary for worship, but I feel a deep sense of awe when I'm surrounded by such beauty. Unfortunately, my daughter has not yet developed an appreciation for organ music so it seems cathedrals and basilicas are not in our immediate future.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baby Wearing

I am huge fan of baby wearing. I've worn all of my babies and have tried several different carriers. I'm not much of a wrap, sling or pouch girl, but I do love my mei tais. Lately, however, I am finding myself in the market for a soft structured carrier.

I have been very lax with Oren about nap times. When Maeve and Finnegan napped, I would put them down without fail at the same time everyday. It would sometimes take forever to get them to sleep and all involved would get incredibly stressed and irritated. I don't have that kind of time or patience anymore so I've always allowed Oren to sleep in the carrier whenever he gets tired. He goes to sleep peacefully and without struggle. It's nice.

I honestly don't mind wearing Oren for his naps, but he weighs 20 or more pounds at this point and after three hours of wearing a sleeping babe, I hurt. The mei tai straps on my back move around quite a bit and I often times have to hold Oren's head to keep it from flopping out of the carrier. Holding his head defeats the purpose of wearing him because my hands are no longer free.

A soft structured carrier should solve my problems. The back straps will be stationary and save my back and many have sleeping hoods that keep the baby's head from flopping around. Here's what I'm considering and please let me know if I should look at something else.

An Angelpack: I had an Angelpack mei tai and love the straps and body of the carrier. It looks like there would be enough fabric to keep Oren's head from falling back. I also like the fabric choices. That's very important, you know.

A Calyx: This one is very loved by a mama friend who is petite. I am certainly short, but not so petite. At least not until the baby weight begins to disappear. I don't see a hood on this one though and the body seems shorter so I'm not so sure that it would solve all of my problems.

The Patapum: I adore the price of this carrier. It seems like a great choice, although there's an infant version and a toddler version. I know the differences, but am still not certain which I would want to order. I definitely want this to be my last carrier since we are done having kids.

I think that's it. I've considered the Beco, but it's more expensive and out of stock many places online. The Beco website says that a local store carries it so I might check it out so I can see it in person. I've also considered the new Oh Snap! by Babyhawk. That was a very small consideration and only because I love my Babyhawk mei tai. The Oh Snap is expensive and does not come with any sort of hood. It is good eye candy though.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I've Lost that Loving Feeling

It seems as though I've lost my blogging mojo.

I have no idea why. Perhaps it had something to do with the wicked cold that recently infected our family. Or maybe my sinus infection. I'm sure it couldn't be the eight loads of laundry that I have to fold or the two loads of dishes I do daily. And I know that all of the melting snow and spring smelling air has nothing to do with my blogging hiatus. Surely the four rabbits and wild dog that need attention don't take up too much of my time. And the kids? Well, they basically care for themselves.

It's curious, isn't it?