Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Eighth Step

What could be more natural than cookies? Okay, you might think it's a stretch, but there really was a goal here. In these pictures, we are on a quest ("What kind of a quest?" Pippin asks) to find a good gluten-free cookie recipe. And since we are staying with a resident cookie expert, I decided to enlist her help. Mary Lee has killer cookies, and I was incredibly sad when we went gluten-free that I would not be able to partake of them any longer. But never fear--we did make some killer cookies, definitely by gluten-free standards, and most probably would not notice they were gluten-free except that we were dealing with such a connoiseur. Mary Lee thought they were slightly grainy, but I said, "You haven't had gluten-free cookies before! There's some really bad gluten-free stuff out there." Which us gluten-free people know that it's like a slap in the face when the gluten-free ones are bad because you have paid $5.50 for said cookies.

Here comes some gluten-free advice. People who've been gluten-free for under a year, beware: Do not go on a gluten-free buying spree. Take someone who has made those foolish mistakes along with you. And anything you make yourself will be at least 5X better than anything at the store, because gluten-free stuff doesn't last that long, and to get it shelf-ready does diminish the quality, if it even tasted OK to begin with. Also, skip the bread mixes and make your own flour mixes ala Carol Fenster cookbooks or online'll never find gluten-free bread as good as you can make it. But sadly, once you have good bread again, you'll go through bread too fast to solely depend on baking it yourself. And it will probably have a lot of of "white" type flours in it. I would like to "brown up" the gluten-free options out there, but it is definitely hard to make good-tasting brown rice bread, for instance (I did find a recipe online tonight though that I will try soon). As Moto Moto would say, "EH-nee-ways," let's get on with the cookies already.

More photos from Eighth Step

Seventh Step

I am fighting the guilt...the past couple of days have been so basic I know. But I have had waterbottles sitting on my counter for a couple of weeks waiting to be refilled, and I rush through and maybe fill one and tear through it so fast in my pregnant dehydrated state, and never have the patience to fill them all, and don't want to open any new ones because I have these to refill (Note on refilling: filling with filtered water is usually done from my fridge because it has the smallest "stream" and is already cold, but it takes a lot of leaning over staring at the crumbs on the carpet and waiting waiting waiting). I know #1 plastic is not to be used over and over ideally, but as long as I watch them not being in a hot car or going in the dishwasher, I think it's okay until one gets a significant dent that keeps it from standing up. Then I recycle it. I don't have a regular "water bottle habit" where I pop open a new one each day or week; they are usually acquired in random ways, slowly over time. But as fascinating as this topic is, I find it necessary to expound even more. I grow attached to certain ones, and finding the dented one that is causing them all to fall over like bowling pins can sometimes be sad. "Oh, the Dasani one. That has a good top, not so thin that you can barely screw it back on again" (I know, they're conserving plastic at least). Well, it had a good life. But here's my big step for the day: For our trip to Chicago, I filled the graveyard of empty ones ALL up to the brim. Nice cold, abundant, refreshing water--luxurious and plentiful. We drank them ALL dry in the van. But I am parched. Going to get some now.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sixth Step

OK, another small, simple step. I have to be honest, for a while now I have been throwing away recyclables upstairs because throwing them down the laundry chute to the basement and then finding them throughout the clothes and having to sift them out and bring them up to the basement landing was getting annoying. So excuses, excuses--I finally dug out some little boxes from the bathroom trash and saved them from the landfill (hopefully--sometimes I'm not sure I trust those recycling companies...not for any informed reason, but because the bins are always overflowing in our town). And I put a little box for recyclables that is probably too small under the table next to the stairs for easy take-down-the-stairs capability. I will find a bigger one if necessary, maybe big enough for paper from the office now that our town has paper recycling instead of just newspapers. There is no curbside pickup, so I take everything when I'm out and about.

Little boxes and plastic bottles in the trash are the little things I've been guilty about for months and "meaning to do something about" for just as long. My brother, an environmental expert, says that recycling is not the best thing you can do--reusing and not using in the first place is better, along with making your home more energy efficient. But this mom is glad to at least be doing something. Hopefully I'll be able to take bigger steps like composting or collecting rain as times goes on. But again, no guilt. I just want to be a good steward of the resources we have on this earth and use them wisely, without making life impossible for me or my family. BTW, we got to Chicago OK after an exhausting day! The kids are in bed and I'm about to be. Another BTW, don't you love our desperate peach toilet and lime green plastic tile? Now that is a bathroom that could use some LOVE.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fifth Step

I made some broccoli salad for my fifth day. I generally try to make it about once a week because it keeps everything moving, if you know what I mean. Charlie's not into it, but Clarissa usually chomps some down. Robert's eyes usually light up and he says, "Whoa, broccoli salad!" which usually means he needs some fiber. :) Here's the veggie ingredients:

-1 head of broccoli, chopped pretty small and limited use of stems (you can make broccoli slaw with those stems and some carrots later if you want--just double the dressing and refrigerate for no longer than 3 or 4 days)
-2 stalks of celery, chopped small (I slice lengthwise 2 or three times and then chop away)
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped small (again, I slice the carrot in two or three pieces, then lengthwise a few times and then chop the sticks small).
-1 bell pepper (I usually use any pepper but green, but green was all I had this time)
-either green peas or raisins, depending on your mood (I didn't add either this time)
-sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts, if you go the raisin route
-1 small onion, chopped small (this time I took some out for the kids before adding the onion--usually don't do this but had mercy because Clare says they are spicy)


-3/4 cup vegenaise (can use mayo or miracle whip, but I like the end consistency with vegenaise)
-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
-2 Tbsp raw honey, if you can find it
-1 Tbsp or less of olive oil (I just turn it over once for a brief moment--I think it helps with consistency & coating the veggies)
-juice from half a lemon (optional)

Whisk together in separate measuring cup and pour over veggies. Stir, and voila! You can add a little sea salt if you'd like too. Crunchy goodness, always best the first day but will last about 3 days. Warning: Raisins can get swollen (I don't like that so I try to put my raisins in as I serve it), and peas can get mushy past a couple days. To get it eaten within three days, I really push it at every meal after I make it (well, I give us a break at breakfast). Go raw salads!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fourth Step

After a very involved third step, I knew I wanted to keep the fourth one really simple. I kind of stumbled onto it. I dumped out my old purse while looking for my sunglasses, and besides discovering a ROTTEN EGG (I almost lost my lunchies), I found something I'd done a couple of months ago at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers group at church). It was a laminated card with 2 Bible verses on it, which I had chosen specifically for my kids and put each of their names into "his or her" verse. Clare's is Psalm 5:11 and Charlie's is Proverbs 3:7-8. All I did was finally cut them out of the laminated sheet and put them in my windowsill. But it has been encouraging to pray for them through those verses while I wash dishes, and it sparks other prayers for them. I've enjoyed praying through The Power of a Praying Wife for them each day too--I'll pray for Clare with one chapter and Charlie for the next, then the next day pray for Clare with the Charlie chapter from the day before and so on. Cleaning out the purse was an added bonus, although I need to air it out some more. I hope the rotten egg smell does not stay permanently (at least the baggie had not leaked). So dumping a purse = a step toward spiritual health for me and my kids. But I still need some sunglasses! It's a beautiful weekend out there.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Third Step

So I'm not a cleanie by any means, but my fridge was getting gross. Something that had been smelling stopped smelling--a bad sign. Maybe it just gave up hope of being found, or petrified (putrified?) into something else. Whatever the case, there was nastiness that needed to be dealt with. Even I have my limits! Plus I couldn't use the whole back half of the second shelf because of stickiness, so my "shove" method of putting things in was not working. This clearly called for some action. I informally enlisted both of my kids to help, Charlie during Clare's Thursday school, and Clare during the rest of Charlie's nap (since she has some insomniac nap days at 4 yrs of age, which I truly want to keep as limited as possible because I like to have my quiet time then and sleep too). Really they probably started helping because it looked cool and different.

Charlie was way into it for the first hour (impressive time span for him) and even washed his stepstool. A boy with a scrub brush is a beautiful thing. But later he resorted to washing his cars and animals in the sink, which was fine with me because he was already soaked. Mommy had to say, "Excuse me buddy, I need to wash this shelf" while he tried to drive cars over it. I thought that the 2 hours during Thursday school would be enough, but it got really tight toward the end: "Oh no, I have all this milk & food out and still have to clean more shelves and wipe down the walls and floor and put it all back together again in half an hour!" So Charlie was banished from helping at that point. Plus my mom called: "Are you busy?" "Yeah, mom, I'm balancing a massive piece of glass as big as both sinks that smells like whatever rotten brown stuff dripped from the second shelf..." I guess cleaning woke up the smell again--it was not going to go without a fight.

Method: I filled the sink and added regular Dawn dishsoap, then a capful of ecover all purpose cleaner, then the juice of an old sad lemon. I also filled a bowl with the same combination to keep closer to the fridge. In the end I ended up using only 4 paper towels, but needed many dishtowels to wipe and dry things. I found ecover lost its steam after a while, at least in terms of bubbles, and I had to add more a couple times. So after washing the drawer or shelf in the sink I started spraying it with biokleen all purpose cleaner and wiping it dry. I also made sure to wash the bottom of jars etc. (Charlie dipped in the sink first and I wiped with a towel) so that they didn't get the original scum on my new shelves. I ended up getting rid of some old dressings, preserves, fancy condiments we never used, so there was enough space to put all the bottles and condiments in the door instead of floating around on the shelves and getting knocked over by my "shove" method of fridge loading. I also put in a bin for yogurt containers, loose items and things that could potentially get messy, so then they would just scuz it up with sticky circles or spill in the bin (I really don't think of things like this usually, must be pregnant nesting hormones). I was in a rush when I put everything back in, but I think it makes a little more sense. And I now have a shelf for the big plain yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, pickles to be on--those are things that always hid in different places and tended to secretly expire. One thing that was tricky was sorting and getting stuff out without losing too much cold air. Maybe I should have turned the fridge off, but, ahem, I can't move it out at this stage of my pregnancy (you know, because when I'm not pregnant my bionic woman powers come back).

We got the fridge as a wedding gift from Robert's parents to replace the original one that had lime green innards, and honestly, I don't think I have cleaned it like that in 6.5 years of marriage. So it was like a second honeymoon when Robert got home, hahaha. He was so proud. He did help adjust a shelf so that the eggs fit on the 2nd shelf without affecting the tall stuff on top. Brilliant spatial minds baffle me! The natural cleaners did the trick though--don't be afraid to just buy one at a health food store and try it instead of attempting to make your own. Here's to a third step and a brand new fridge! I get goosebumps every time I open it.

More Photos from Third Step

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Second Step

I have been trying to juice for two weeks now, and finally got the motivation to do it as my "second step" for making natural living a reality. That veggie juice does wonders for my family's digestion! And it's a great way to get my son more veggies, because he loves juice but only has 2 voluntary veggies of choice without doing the "take two bites" rule: green beans and raw carrots with ranch dressing. We could all take lessons from Clarissa, on the other hand--she crunches down raw broccoli, cauli, carrots, green beans, cherry tomatoes, peppers, snow peas, radishes, FIRST and WITHOUT any dressing. She's amazing. But they were both good little helpers in the midst of all the juicing excitement! My usual veggies are two 3 lb bags of carrots, one head of celery, 1/2 green pepper, and 5-6 romaine leaves. Split evenly between "rounds" of juicing. Plus I highly recommend my Green Star juicer! (an ebay Mother's Day gift)

First Step

Okay, it's way late, so I'll be quick. Yesterday I took a small step. After forgetting for months and just being lucky to get both kids and my coupons inside the grocery store, I finally BROUGHT IN the reusable bags with me. And remembered to ask the clerk (guiltily) if she could use them, along with reusing some plastic bags I had. It's kind of a pain for them! Instead of using those handy rotating plastic bag things, they have to dump everything into a huge bag on top of the "bagging island," or uncrinkle and open the old plastic bags, many of which were from a competing store. But by having my big reusable ones, I liked not having to lift so many dinky plastic bags, and knowing they weren't going to break and tear like our plastic friends. I even remembered to bring into the store and recycle an old bag of plastic bags that had been in my van for a few months waiting to be remembered along with my reusable bags. My pregnant brain must have taken a field day, because I also got the recycling into and out of the van in one day (I'm not counting that as my step though, since I have done that each week for the past 4 weeks--before that, mounds of recycling would pile up in my garage until I found out my husband was about to lose his sanity over it). So woo hoo for one small step into making natural living a reality!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Each Day

This blog is a forum for moms to sort out what's really important to us in terms of living naturally, and to support each other so that we can make it a reality. I have done a ton of research on natural living related to birth, mothering kids and keeping a healthy household, but whether that translates into daily life is another story. So for this blog, I plan to do something simple each day to support natural, healthy living for my family (as defined by me, thankfully). My goals are to keep it real, get communication going about how to prioritize and set realistic goals, and again, not allow comparison and faking it to poison our relationships as moms. There are so many choices about how we spend our time and energy as moms: figuring out how to make healthy "doable" meals, making homemade cleaners, combining coupons and grocery store sales, creating fun learning outlets for the kids, rigging up a tent in the living room. I have had to learn after much frustration that I CANNOT DO IT ALL. A couple of months ago, overwhelmed by the state of my house after 4 months of pregnancy nausea & sickness, I took on a "do one thing everyday to make it better" mindset. I will take a step each day and not get hung up on ALL I'M NOT DOING. I'm not going to give a big summary of "who I am," because hopefully you'll discover that over time...even though this blog won't be about just green living, I think I'll post my first "real natural mom" attempt on Earth Day.
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