Friday, July 5, 2013

Cleaning, Not A Chore Anymore

Having children has changed the amount of cleaning I do in a day. Prior to children I would go to work, come home, clean, go to bed and wake up, go to work and come home to a clean house. As anyone with children knows, that's not the case anymore. With five children at home that is definitely an hour by hour, minute by minute accomplishment to have a clean house. I now look at cleaning in sections of the house vs. having the entire house clean at once. 

When I was pregnant for the first time with our sixth child (ha, just fun to say even if it is true), I decided that I would attempt to make my own cleaners. My initial hopes were that if I had a new baby I could rest easy knowing I wasn't using toxic cleaners around my baby. The knowledge that he would soon be exploring his world and using his mouth as a means to do that weighed in the back of my mind.  Little did I know that the fun of making my own cleaning products, choosing my own scents and the research to find one that would work as well as the 409 I was currently using, would be more fun than why I was doing it. 

I read a lot of different recipes and started out with just simply using Dr. Bronner's Castile soap and water mixed into a spray bottle. It worked great and I still sometimes use that. But I wanted something more. That was the first time I came across Andrea's site Frugally Sustainable. I made every one of her cleaner recipes and LOVED them. The fun of making my own and then using them to clean far outweighed my need to be "chemical free" ( Sad but true story on that). I was hooked. 

I have now gotten to the point that I want something more when I make my cleaners. Most cleaners take vinegar to make so I have begun infusing my vinegar to help not only the cleaning properties, but also allowing for natural scents to be in my base ingredients to help cut down on my ever increasing essential oil consumption. Being I use a lot of lemons and oranges in cooking and the kids eating fresh fruit at meals, I now keep the peels and add them to a jug of vinegar and set them out to infuse so I can use them in all my cleaning products. Not only do I get double usage out of my fruit and have a great use for my garden herbs, I also don't waste nearly as much. Fresh Eggs Daily did a post about how she infuses vinegar with different things such as cinnamon, vanilla and orange peel to clean out her coops. Not only does the orange peel help with cleaning but in adding the cinnamon and vanilla bean she gets bug control properties added in also. I had already done the lavender vinegar but her addition of mint was perfect. So now I have those infusing as well as my lemon and can't wait to start using those not only for my chicken coop but in my home cleaning recipes also. 

It has actually gotten to the point that my infusions are becoming part of my decorations in my house...

Making my own cleaning products has definitely changed my views on this daunting task. I enjoy using all of them and the smell is far more fresh and clean than I have found with store bought cleaners. Let's not forget that the toxic chemicals that I used to have now are replaced with products that I feel great about using around my children. All in all, I continue to experiment and add to my list of cleaning products. As I do I will post what I find to work. 

You can find a lot of the ingredients for these cleaners in my Amazon Store, I do receive a small compensation for buying from this store. This cost doesn't effect your price and only goes to help me as I continue to share tips, resources and ideas in the future. THANK YOU!!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Smelly Feet

I have an absolutely adorable son that has INCREDIBLY stinky feet. It is always a wonder to me that a ten year old boy can create a stink like that which emanates from his feet. It's not that he doesn't wash them or TRY to keep them clean but being a boy and prepubescent hasn't helped the situation at all. 

We have found some things that have helped, and knowing I can't be the only mother with a child that has this issue I thought I'd share some ideas on how to help this problem. We do most of these daily, but we have found changing things up helps to keep the odor controlled. 

- Washing feet daily, this is a MUST for us. He either takes a shower and washes them in there or, if he doesn't need a whole shower then he goes and just washes his feet with regular soap and water before bed at night. In some cases he has to do this a couple times in a day, especially if he has been really active and wearing tennis shoes.

- Flip flops or sandals help keep feet aired out and drier than tennis or closed toed shoes. While mine still can get stinky feet, they aren't nearly as bad. 

- Soaking feet in an Epsom salt foot soak. They have some great products that have essential oils already in them or add your own. Lavender (antiseptic and bactericidal), Tea Tree (antibacterial, anti fungal, antibiotic properties), Peppermint (helps cool and kills the odor nicely along with its antibacterial properties), Oregano (it's anti fungal so it helps with athletes foot if that is an issue), Lemon Balm (anti microbial and antibacterial properties), Eucalyptus Globulous (antibacterial and anti fungal), Cinnamon (antibacterial), Cassia (antibacterial and anti fungal), and this list goes on. Make sure to look at if a carrier is needed prior to placing directly on the skin, however, being that all these can cause irritation if not used properly. Soaking in the salts help dry the feet out, so if you do this too often you may find that your feet can get very dry. 

- DIY foot spray, place some of the Essential oils listed above in a spray bottle and use on feet prior to putting shoes on. We like using about 10-15 drops of Cinnamon or Peppermint/Lavender (mix) with about 5 drops of Tea Tree placed in a 4-6 oz spray bottle filled with distilled water. 

- DIY Shoe powder, we do a 50/50 mix of baking soda and cornstarch in a shaker container I have from the baking section with a finer mesh shaker top. Then I add 15-20 drops lavender and 5-10 drops peppermint and shake to mix it into the powder. My son just shakes some into his shoes at night and then they have time to sit and are ready for the next day. The baking soda helps with the odor and the cornstarch is there for the moisture control. 

- Clean socks are KEY, I actually wash my sons socks with some baking soda, tea tree and lavender added to the wash a few times a month just to help kill any lurking bacteria in those loads of wash. 

- Creosote bush, the leaves of the creosote (chaparral) bush is what gives a fresh smell after a rain in the desert in the Southwest. This herb is also great for freshening shoes and killing odor. Just crush the leaves down after drying and sprinkle into shoes. It is supposed to have anti fungal properties and kills mold. We have not tried this yet so I can only go by the fact one guy at our local nursery LOVES and swears by it being used to kill foot odor. I also know it is used in different ways to help kill athletes foot. 

- Keep those toe nails cut and neat. This can cause a great place for bacteria to grow so if they are kept cut and clean it will help with the common cause of the odor. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that can be done to help control foot odor but hopefully it helps as a start!! I love making my own stuff so I am always working on new creative ways to use my essential oils. I will add more as I come across and try new things. 

Disclaimer: Please understand that this information is for educational purposes only. The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and they are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. Don’t take my word for it…you should always engage conventional wisdom and consult with your medical professional to determine potential drug interactions and safety of use.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer's Best Potato Salad

Nothing says summer picnic like a big batch of potato salad! I just made the batch below, too bad you can't taste the goodness, but don't worry I have the recipe below. 

I first had my Mother-in-law's potato salad when we got together with family for dinner. OH IT WAS DELICIOUS. I only changed a few things but it was the first potato salad I ever made. Today I made it for a picnic we are having for my hubby and his coworkers since they have to work on the 4th of July. This is too good of a recipe not to share though so here it is... This makes a big batch and being I don't measure feel free to put things in to taste, best way to cook I think. This is based on what I know and what is a good estimate of the ingredients I put into each batch. 

Potato Salad

1 -   5 lb bag Yukon Gold potatoes
1     pint (about 2 cups) Homemade Mayonnaise (there are a ton of recipes out there for a mayo that fits your liking.)  Obviously you can used store bought also, I won't tell!!
2     cucumbers sliced into bite size pieces
3-4 sprigs Fresh dill (I usually add more), this one I add a lot but depending on your liking 3-4 may be enough
10   hard boiled eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4  Tablespoons prepared mustard to taste, Again, I usually add a bit more to get it to where I like the taste

Crunchy baby dill pickles (YUMMY), cut small
Chopped celery

Cut the unpeeled potatoes into bite sized cubes and boil them in salted water (helps so you don't have to add more salt later, the potatoes hold salt well). Cut cucumbers if you haven't already, chop dill into small pieces, and dice the hard boiled eggs into small bite sized pieces. 

Drain potatoes and put into a large mixing bowl along with the eggs, cucumbers and dill. Fold ingredients together until the dill coats all the ingredients. Next add the mayonnaise and fold until everything is covered. Add mustard and salt and pepper to taste. 

Chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour at least before serving. I generally make this a day ahead of time to make sure the dill and mustard favors infuse into the batch well. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Does Going "Natural" Mean You Have to Become Critical?

This has bothered me for a long time. I have to say that I have seen some of my favorite bloggers get hammered. They have told real stories and not made themselves look better by softening or lying that they are perfect in what they are attempting to do. Then you watch the comments and you see people judging and get actually mean, why? What truly does this accomplish other than make the "attacker" feel better that somehow they have pointed out a flaw?

When I decided to try to do things a little healthier, a bit out of the box and with far less chemicals and processing than we had in the past, I started researching. I love reading pros and cons to how things are done. There are so many varying opinions, facts and scientific studies out there that are FAR more accessible than ever before. I would find myself up far later than I wanted researching this or that.  I found blogs that were within where we would like to be and followed them. Through all that I've read there never seemed to be the "perfect" answer. I was able to gleam enough information to make a sound decisions for my family but always with some asterisk sitting there. I started slowly implementing ideas, recipes, creative crafts, etc. through that I have gotten to where I am.

During all this, the biggest pet peeve and greatest "grind" I have is being associated with people that somehow see being healthy and "natural" as somehow a perfect science. That if you don't fully conform to one way of thinking or another you are somehow "wrong". Being in medicine for any amount of time you see how imperfect science is. The fun part is watching the constant change and growth that comes from trial and error, from research and development. You see that the biggest greatest thing today can become the worst thing you could ever do for yourself later. I have watched that in just the few short years I have been looking to go more natural in what we do. Agave nectar was "the best sugar replacement", it promised a low glycemic rating and was the next best thing to sliced bread. Go look that up now.... We need to remember this is an imperfect science and people are trying to keep up and do it better, in doing so they may not get there on the first few tries. God made us with incredible brains, free will and with bodies that can overcome and adapt to many things. It's incredible that we live as long as we do, that we thrive even though not all eat perfectly, use chemicals, choose ways of living that don't conform to what others deem as "healthy" living. I think judging and being critical of those that don't live to what someone's definition of "healthy" is can also be seen as not within a realm of "natural". Natural is generally where things are left to grow, produce and live in an unaltered way. Like I tell my children, look to see how many fingers are pointed back at you as you point to another in a judging way. As you judge you place yourself in a position to be judged yourself. 

In this "more healthy, natural" world that I have entered it seems people need to have a label as to where you fit. I have many friends that have found the paleo, gluten free, GAPS, or other diets to work wonderfully in their lives. I really am thankful that there are set ways to have a lifestyle that work for people. I also have friends that because of dietary issues have had to stick to a diet that helps whatever it is that they have going on. For the most part though, I have not met many that don't "cheat". I'm sure there are a few, but even going on the specific diet sites where people are blogging about how they live that "style" you see others that call them out as "not following" or "cheating" because they have different ideas or information as to how that diet should go. My biggest question is why do we do this to ourselves and others? I had this belief that people within this community of living would be supportive, resourceful and tolerant of varying ways of living. Trying to encourage and edify, not judge, criticize and break down because somehow it's not perfectly conformed to a preconceived notion. Most are so wonderful and follow my personal views of how this community would be, its just that the ones that are out to push their ideas or views seem to stand out. Those that are there to personally attack put a "poison" out there worse than any GMO product made. If we all just went by one way of living we wouldn't have all the creative, new, imaginative diets and ideas that are out there. Why would we not encourage this? 

My hope is that this community of people starts to realize that in being critical it does nothing to benefit or bring about the change most are looking to make. Chose your words, if you don't like something then change it through positive influence. Not every way works for everyone and that's ok being there is enough out there to allow everyone the chance to find a good match FOR THEM. Part of the draw for me to all this is the fun in making, changing, researching, listening and learning from many different sources. I don't agree with them all but who said we all had to?


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vanilla Bean Extract

I have been talking about doing this for MONTHS with a friend of mine that has. I finally did it and so now just have to wait the 3-6 months for it to develop into the taste I want. I did one smaller jar of extract so I can have one quicker than the quart jars. I used a recipe from 'The Prairie Homestead' but they have a TON of recipes out there and they are all about the same. I know a lot of people that get their vanilla beans from but I am a part of an organic buying club so I was able to order a bulk amount cheaply and without the shipping cost. Mountain Rose is a great place to order from though and most people out there that I've seen use them for their herbs and such. 

You really can't get easier than a quart jar, 7-9 vanilla beans cut lengthwise,to expose the inner seeds, then cut into about 3" sections and placed into the jar with Vodka of your choice! I used 4 beans for the smaller jar.
 I have a friend who has to be gluten free due to a family member having celiac disease so she found a gluten free vodka and used that. So those that are gluten free, know it can be done!! 

All done and in the jars that I don't use for my kefir since my ringed lids don't fit on them (I use the rings to hold my netting of kefir). I always pick through these jars wishing I had a good use for them and VOILA! Here you go! The smaller jar I seem to have a lot of and that was the first one I grabbed. 

I will post pics in about 3 months to show the finished project. All and all the whole process took about 5 minutes. Not bad!!

Oh How It's Grown...

I love walking out for morning chores to see that my garden is getting big and blooming!! After chicken chores this morning I snapped a couple pictures. :)

Kefir Smoothies

Our general morning breakfast includes kefir smoothies. The kiddos love them and I know they are getting a great boost right when they need it. The best part is that whatever fresh fruit I have that's  frozen I can throw right in, and every now and then I add some spinach for an extra boost. I don't juice just plain and simple due to cost and the clean up aspect of it. I love fresh juices but I rarely have the time in the morning to go through all the hassle of bringing stuff out. These allow me to add all my stuff and have it ready in 5-10 minutes. 

For those of you that don't know what kefir is I really encourage you to go research it. The reason I started was I saw my sister in law making it on her counter and got curious as to whether it really was "all that". So I went home and l looked it up, pros and cons, what it was and why it's beneficial. I found very few cons, which always makes me more interested, so I decided to give it a try. I use actual kefir grains I bought off Amazon from a trusted buyer (I love that I can check reviews) and started out. Being you can buy it in a store pre made seems like the way to go BUT in researching found that the quality of that kefir is so low that you can't use that kefir to make a new batch. Kefir is like yogurt in the fact that it's a culture so you should theoretically be able to do that. You can do it with my fresh stuff just not the store bought. SO I now make kefir daily to use in my smoothies. I know where all the ingredients come from being we try to be less processed in what we eat, AND I know that I don't add anything I don't trust. 

Unfortunately I am horrid at measuring anything. All my food comes out slightly different than the last. I go by smell, taste and what I am in the mood for usually. Most of my kefir shakes though consist of 4 cups kefir (almost always the same because that's how much I make at a time), 1- 24 oz. container of Greek God's Greek yogurt (the only one my family really loves) then about 1/4 - 1/2 c. raw local honey.  Then I run that until the honey is fully mixed since next I fill the blender to the top with frozen fruit of choice. This picture was strawberry and banana that was going to go bad if not used. That's it... Mix and serve. 

My family loves these smoothies and has them almost every breakfast before school. Last year was horrid for colds and the flu, we did shakes, Greek yogurt on days without shakes, vitamin D (just during winter months when we aren't outside as much) and managed to make it through with just a few days of light sniffles. I do have to add I don't let my kids use antibacterial hand sanitizer from school also. I tell them to just politely ask if they can wash their hands. Some days I sent some I made with them so they could just "use their own" but most times the kids just washed their hands. 

If you are interested in more information about starting kefir or benefits of water/milk kefir I highly suggest checking out the links to healthy cultures in my "favorite links" area. Also I encourage anyone that was or is as reluctant as me to using raw local honey to talk w/ different local bee keepers in your area. I have learned a lot about raw honey from conversations with them and found it interesting to do that and then do more research from there. 

Double Batch Oatmeal Pancakes

My family LOVES pancakes and especially these. I do a variety but these are my staple "go-to" pancakes. I sometimes soak the oats overnight or just wait anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour while they soften. Obviously the only difference is in the texture when I don't soak them as long. 

I make a double batch and if I am really lucky I will have enough left over to either freeze for a fun breakfast treat (my kiddos usually cut it close in the mornings before school) or just put in the fridge to use the next morning or for school lunches. These make great "sandwiches" for packed lunches, I just put either cream cheese or some other filling (fresh ground peanut butter) in the middle of 2 of them and the kiddos love them. 

These photos were taken at Halloween time so you can see I did "jack o lantern" pancakes. 

Double Batch Oatmeal Pancakes (I make this then either freeze or refrigerate the rest for future breakfasts or cut out into shapes and make sandwiches w cream cheese or peanut butter for lunch!!) ;)

* 5 c. buttermilk (or use plain kefir milk for extra nutrients)
* 1 1/2 c. rolled oats

* 3 c. King Arthur Whole Wheat flour
* 1/2 c. wheat germ
* 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
* 4 t. baking pwd.
* 2 t. baking soda
* 1 t. salt
* 2 t. cinnamon (I add a little more)
* 1 t. nutmeg (add a lil more of this too, and sometimes fresh grate it)
* 2 lg eggs
* 4 lg egg whts
* 4 T. coconut oil, divided

(I also sometimes add ground flax seed meal, apples, fresh bananas, strawberries, blueberries or other fun stuff for fun)

Combine buttermilk & rolled oats in a sm. bowl. Let stand 20-30 min. or overnight for soft oats.
Stir flours, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking pwd., baking soda, cinnamon/nutmeg & salt in medium bowl. Mix eggs & 2 T oil in another bowl w/ a whisk. Add the oat mixture and egg mixture and stir w a wooden spoon until just combined.

Halloween lunch the next day as a treat...