Friday, May 4, 2012

All the soaps!

In the 2 plus years since my original post about making laundry detergent we have come a long way baby.  We've tweaked, experimented, failed, and saved.  Loads and loads of cash.

So here is a list of the household cleaners we're making and using now:

Laundry Detergent:

1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1 bar Fels Naptha soap or castille soap in bar form
30 drops of smelly oil  (optional)

Grate the fels naptha then put it into your food processor with the borax.  Process until it's all tiny...  Mix with the washing soda.  Use 1 tablespoon for a regular sized load, 1/2 tablespoon for diapers.

I'm thinking about using a bar of castille soap instead of the Fels Naptha.  I can't really verify how green the FN is, the interwebs are in total disagreement.  FN smells good and does a bang up job...  Castille makes me feel good.  hmmmm...

I recently switched from the liquid detergent in my original post. Here's my reasoning:
  •  Time wise this is about the same, mess wise it is a lot less.  
  • Our house is tiny, I am constantly looking for ways to use every cranny to its space savviest.  3 gallons of detergent in half gallon containers is a space hog.  I made a double batch of the powder version, it fit in an oxy clean container on the shelf.  whew!  All those old cranberry juice containers went straight to the recycling bin.
  • I had to ask myself why I was messing around with so much water in a recipe for the washing machine, which is by nature a very wet place.
  • The way the liquid stuff separates and requires shaking before using, offends my OCD.
Dishwasher detergent:

Courtesy of  

1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1/2 Cup Citric Acid
1/2 Cup Kosher Salt

This one is tougher.  It clumps.  So annoying.  BUT if you shake it every day for the first 3 or 4 days the clumps are wee tiny things.  This is high maintenance, but cleans our dishes to my complete satisfaction.

PS- Don't forget to fill your jet dry well with vinegar instead.  Works like a charm, and don't worry- your dishes won't smell like a douche when they're clean...

Dishwashing liquid:

This is the stuff we use in the sink.  It's just liquid castille soap cut in half with water and a teaspoon of smelly oil per cup.

The hardest part about using this is finding the right dispenser because the mix is pretty thin and well... watery.  The dawn dispenser hole is too big.  I tried using agar to thicken it up, but it clumped, then separated and in general seemed like way too much work for dishwashing liquid.

What I have happily settled on is the peri bottle they gave me after having Ian to clean my undercarriage...  The holes are just the right size.  What can I say... you say gross, I say AWESOMESOX!

Body wash (hand soap too):

Same thing... Half castille, half water, 1 teaspoon smelly oil per cup (or so).  I've been using this for a while now.  My skin feels good.  Not dried out, not oily.  I like it.  Hubby likes it.  Kiddos like it. Earth likes it (she told me so herself)  What's not to like?

and now a note on smelly oils:

Not all essential oils are the same, there's organic ones, cheap ones, expensive ones...

  • Lavender and tea tree oils can act like estrogen in humans.  It can cause boys and men to grow boobs.  GROW BOOBS.  You do with that information whatever you need to.
  • Rosemary oil is my current favorite, in the house hold soaps.  I have used it in the shower soaps too, but feel it is important to tell you:  It's tingly on the undercarriage.  Again, yours to handle as you please.
  • I found some massage/ body oil hanging around from god knows when.  Bath and body works Aromatherapy in Orange Ginger flavor.  I like it for the shower, but it leaves a sheen on the dishes...
Stuff I'm working on:

I am brewing up a pot of All purpose kitchen cleaner.  Should be ready in a few days...  I can't say I'm looking forward to cleaning, but something like that.

any other suggestions??? 

I've eyeballed the toothpaste replacements.  Gabe and I went crazy at a costco one day and bought toothpaste for the remainder of the millennium however...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ranch Dressing

Ubiquitous... Delicious... Addictive... Ranch dressing... I'll never forget the first time I tried it.  My cousin in Florida was dipping imitation crab sticks into the creamy white salad dressing.  It was sooo delicious.

Ranch dressing is now a staple right up there with ketchup in our family diet.  When we're bad, we are really bad and sometimes we have fried dinner.  Fried dinner consists of everything in the garden breaded and fried.  No nod to nutrition here, we don't even acknowledge that fried dinner is one of our few vegetarian meals around here.  That would be silly.  Almost as silly as having fried dinner without wee bowls of ranch dressing spread around the table.

Right now however we are being really really good.  Weight Watchers is back in my life and while dieting in general sucks, dieting while trying to eat whole foods and no fake stuff is a P.I.T.A. everything I eat I have to enter into the food tracker thingie as a recipe first... You get no extra points for drinking local organic milk.  They ding me extra for eating butter not margarine.  They try to sucker me into buying their individually wrapped prepackaged chemically infused fake food.  Weight Watchers are jerks.  But my chub isn't going away by itself.

So ranch dressing is FULL of weird and terrible things and comes in a plastic container.  Unless you make it yourself.  It's cheaper too... Around $0.11 oz of homemade vs. $0.19/oz of Hidden Valley.

BONUS!  Those WW folks actually gave me credit for this one!  4 wonderful yummy tablespoons are only 1 point!  1 POINT!  My salads are so much tastier than when I tried to eat them with just vinegar and pretend there was oil with it :)

Here's the recipe, I make it using the 1 quart size of buttermilk and the 16oz of Daisy light sour cream...  It makes a lot, but I have more room in the fridge than I have time on my hands these days...

1 quart buttermilk (made with lowfat milk)
1 container of light sour cream (16oz)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp mustard powder
4 TBSP dried parsley (or hey use fresh if you got it!)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper (you know I grind that fresh right?)
1 tsp dill
4 tsp of chives (fresh/ dry- you decide)

Whisk it all up in a big bowl and transfer into your container.  Viola! and Nom Nom Nom.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Something beautiful

Nine months in two minutes.  Just a sweet video for a beautiful spring day.
via Buzzfeed

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Booster Seats...

I just bought Lillie her first booster seat.  I felt guilty doing it, but I am third trimester pregnant and physically couldn't lift her into her car seat anymore.  She fits the minimum height and weight requirements, true.  All over the news and web are articles bemoaning the bad, lazy, morally corrupt parents who put their kids into booster seats too early.  I was sure that I was one.

Today on NPR, just when my guilt had begun to wane was this story:
Parents Cheat On Booster Seats, Despite Safety Risks

Egads, I am a terrible person!

I am also a science major, who passed her required course on statistics with flying colors.  Damn you critical thinking skills! As I read through the article feeling like a horrible person the questions kept coming...

  • Did you know kids are supposed to be in a booster seat until they are 4 foot 9 inches??  My mother in law should have a booster seat, and her 85 year old father... 
  • " I've never known a child injured in a car crash, even though it's the most common cause of death in children ages 3 to 14."  
    • Another crazy fact.  Most common cause... I kinda think that this is true only by nature of the fact that kids dying in this age range is so rare.  
  • " In this 2005 study, eight children ages 4 to 8 who were wearing only seat belts suffered serious abdominal injuries. Five broke their spine. And four are permanently paralyzed. That sure got my attention."
    • Tragic.  There's no getting around how awful I feel for these poor kids and their parents, but there isn't any comparison to kids who by contrast were in car or booster seats or for that matter to kids who weren't wearing any belt devices at all.  The sample size is so low, I'm not sure how this qualifies as any statement of finding.
  • A link within this story sent me to read this one:
    • Which says " "If they use a booster seat and a seat belt, rather than a seat belt alone, they reduce their risk of injury by 59 percent," Hersman says. "And what the data and the facts tell us is that it's much safer to be in a booster seat that restrains your child properly in the event of an accident."
    • This NY Times article looked into the study that the above article quotes and found that " But no matter what you control for in the FARS data, the results don't change. In recent crashes and old ones, in big vehicles and small, in one-car crashes and multiple-vehicle crashes, there is no evidence that car seats do a better job than seat belts in saving the lives of children older than 2. "  And in fact found that in 2001, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety sent NHTSA a memo warning that its booster-seat recommendations were ''getting ahead of science and regulations'' and that certain booster seats ''did not improve belt fit, and some actually worsened the fit.''
I know this sounds kind of rant like, but I wonder every time I feel that pang of guilt and look at the adorable pink paisley seat cover "Have I been bamboozeled?"

There are parents out there that use the better safe than sorry method here, I understand it.  I can't do it however, and in fact I won't.  I don't like being bamboozeled.  I get angry when people choose to live blindly in fear rather than logically in reality, or mostly when they legislate that I do.

Plus here I am stuck with yet another giant piece of plastic in my life.  Sigh.

I can't get rid of the booster seat, it's the law in my state that she be in one.  I'm not sure that I want to without doing a ton more research anyways...  

But what the what? It seems so downright nasty to prey on my mama bear instinct to sell this stuff.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

The infamous Pump and Dump

Back when we first had Lillie, we still had party friends.  I had a tough time with breast feeding, every aspect of it.  Every drop was precious.  So when a friend told me just to pump and dump one night when I had partaken of my one drink and was abstaining from another, I nearly punched him in the face.

Fast forward at least 3 lifetimes, party friends have faded away I am ginormously pregnant with precious Ian and craving.  All I want is WHISKEY!  I am not talking about getting blind drunk here, but this girl misses her Jameson 12 mightily. What's a Moo Mama to do?

On a whim last night while watching sweet husband slurp happily on his Miller High Life I googled breast milk alcohol tests.

MOTHER OF PEARL.  They are real.

I'm committed to my moomama duties, and looking forward to a vastly better experience this time around due to ahem- topographical changes after breastfeeding Lillie.  But I am having a pint and a side when I can.  At the price ($1.45 each) they're dear and should be saved for special occasions (as should drinking while breastfeeding) but being able to definitively  know whether or not I need to use a bit from the freezer is a comfort .  With Lillie the stress of not knowing led to a lot of a) sobriety and b) wasted breast milk.  I'd like to avoid that.

There are all sorts of caveats and common sense rules that should be applied to these things.  The strips only give a positive result when BMA (breast milk alcohol) levels reach 0.03.  Some research shows this level to be safe while the American Pediatric Society says that you should never ever drink and feed.

What do you think?  Amazon readers give pretty good reviews, and there's one super judgy reviewer who essentially says that if you drink anything stronger than an accidental swallow of your mouthwash you simply shouldn't breed... she is silly.

I think I'm going to order some in a bit...  And take a short ride on the Whiskey River.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


No posts all semester!  Being pregnant, having a toddler and 16 science credits left little time for blogging.  That being said, now begins the time of LEAVE OF ABSENCE!!  That's right, no school for a year!  Thus the SAHM (Stay At Home Mom!!) Time to raise some babies and stretch some pennies.

Coming up are posts on the new Flip diapers that came in a couple of weeks ago, an update on my storage container conundrum, and a followup to the garden harvesting, shampoo and body wash, and laundry detergent.

For now... naptime is over and off we go on errands and in search of fun on a cold winter day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Recycling is a PITA

Recycling is a P.I.T.A.  It's not that I mind rinsing containers, or ripping the plastic windows out of envelopes.  It's the space.  My town only does paper every other week and plastic/ glass on the opposite weeks.  So I've had 3 giant computer boxes sitting on my back porch for 2 weeks, waiting for paper day.  It's gross and cluttery.  Years ago I built this giant box to hold all of the recycling but it doesn't fit anywhere in our new -ahem "cozy" digs.  There isn't room in my house for 3 more bins to hold stinky stuff.  Plus the cans and bottles that are saved for bottle deposit return.  Can't really get smaller bins, they are full when I put them out on the street.  What gives!!  At least the composter has a charcoal filter thing in the lid. It keeps the stink down, plus we fill it up almost every day but we can empty it every day as well.

SunCast Bins  
So I looked and looked... Here's what I came up with.  These Suncast bins are pretty great for what they are: loudly colored, bins to hold yucky stuff...

They stack well, the lids come off and on easily and they're made of a good heavy weight plastic.  I still don't want them in my kitchen (they live in the mudroom) but there aren't a lot of practical choices out there.  There are beautiful stainless steel, 3 bin, floppy step on lid contraptions- which I love- but their capacity is so tiny that 3 cans of tomatoes would over flow them... Wooden storage bins, beautiful but also with capacity issues.  Commercial recycle bins... nope.  Which leaves me with Bright Yellow, Bright Blue and Wicked Bright Green.  Wicked Bright.

Storing them outside on the porch doesn't work in the winter, we've learned this.  We've never been the people who shovel more than needs shoveling...    So the bins last year were mostly snow covered and empty.  Even worse than NOT recycling is being too lazy to take the stuff  out to the bins because it means putting on shoes/ boots and a coat and possibly a balaclava so all the cans and milk jugs stack up on the counter by the door.  THIS IS NOT OK!!

So mudroom floor space is what gives.  Sigh.

Can anyone do this better?  PLEASE HELP!  Comments snarky or otherwise are welcome, as well as criticism, constructive preferred.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shampoo and Body Wash...

A friend  asked if I had a recipe for homemade shampoo, I didn't.  Now, I do.  I found this at one of may favorite DIY websites:  It's pretty basic, and my hair feels good and my skin isn't dried out.  I used it as a body wash also.

Here's the dealy-o:

1 to 1 ratio of distilled (get at pharmacy) or deionized (get at chem or bio lab if your a poor college student) water to pure Castile soap. Then 1 to 2 teaspoons of plant type oil per cup of hair body wash.

You can guess which water I used...

I had Rosemary oil in the cupboard (for the laundry detergent) so I used that.  I have some lavender oil leftover and may make a separate batch for just me later on too.  (Remember Lavender stuff acts like estrogen in your body and may cause boys to grow boobs.  Gross.  Plus it smells girly and some boys don't like that~ especially the one I live with)

Castile soap, I just bought it and was all googoo eyed at the organic looking label.  What the heck is it?  Why is it special?  Why is it green?  Well it turns out that Castile soap is made exclusively from vegetables/ vegetation.  This means there aren't any nasty chemicals in it.  By nasty I don't mean that your bar of Ivory is going to melt your skin off, but that a lot of chemicals in our soaps that we are used to create nasty waste by products in the manufacturing process and after their use they do not break down easily in the environment.  Castile is made using plants and olive oil.  The lathering agent is coconut oil.  These oils are nicer to our planet.

There's the green part, how about the poor part?  Well I compared prices between my new shampoo and body wash to Pantene (high end of the supermarket aisle) and Suave (low end).

Pantene :  48 cents per ounce
Suave:  11 cents per ounce
GPP Wash:  22 cents per ounce

Twice as much as Suave, which I never used anyway and significantly lower than Pantene (which is my brand of choice) not too shabby!  Plus I'm not buying that ridonkulously pricey bodywash either.  Bonus.

So I just made it, just used it.  Let's see how it's going in the depths of winter when my skin is scratchy and dry and my hair is yucky... Have you tried this?  I'm curious about the oily folks and how it works with their hair/ skin, I'm a dry person...

The comment section said that folks are using apple cider vinegar cut in half with water as conditioner.  I do not like the smell of ACV, it's yucky.  They say it goes away quickly.  I am avoiding this for now, as my hair is short today and I don't have any shampoo build up.  I will try it when I have to... I guess...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The deuce is loose!

Off we go on another adventure.  In our new awesome house on the outskirts of town we've baby #2 on the way.  Where to start??  Our garden is no longer ghetto.  It is gi freeking normous.  Guess I was feeling a we bit boxed in and over compensated.  I still could have made it bigger I think.
Gabe made me a composter (top left corner) which we have using faithfully.  Not turning as much as I think we are supposed to though, the smell makes me pukey.  

Last night I realized the spinach needed to be picked.  I picked two giant bowls, so much spinach!  Melted with a couple slices of bacon, called my brother I figured there'd be so much... Approximately 2.5 ounces each. Silly spinach, you are so delightful, and deceitful.

I learned a tomato growing trick in Conservation Biology class this spring, when you're ready to plant the tomato seedlings, strip all leaves except for the top two.  Bury the seedling all the way up to those two teeny tiny leaves, the entire stem will root out.  This gives your plant loads more root surface area to suck up tasty nutrients.  Plus you get a stem that is wicked thick and strong.
Don't forget to be brutal with trimming off all the suckers and extra foliage.  The trick is to find just the right ratio of leaves to fruit so all the extra energy goes into making maters (yummy) not leaves (yucky).

Basil as far as the eye can see...
Tonight I'll be making my first batch of pesto for the season.  mmmm.... pesto.... I may have gone a bit batty with the basil patch, it's probably 20 square feet of basil.  If you get christmas presents from me, guess what you're getting!!

We put hay and mega grass clippings in all the aisles to help with weeding.  I know, I know!! BUT THE SEEDS!!!  Don't worry, we didn't really rake the grass of the dirt when we tilled it so the whole garden is wild with the grass.  It's fine, really.  

All the grass and clippings from the garden go to... THE CHICKENS!!  YAY!  My brother (lives across the driveway- I know right!  AWESOME!!)  has chickens, and they love kitchen scraps and grass and bugs...  Fun Fact:  Chickens who eat grass and kitchen scraps (veggie) make eggs that are higher in omega 3s and lower in bad cholesterol than store bought eggs.  Plus they are tastier.  And chicken poop on the garden this fall is going make a more banging garden next spring.  

The green parenting project is continuing... 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ghetto Garden LIVES!!

I did move the ghetto garden to the front this year, ripped out a bunch of grass and planted tomatos, green beans, peas, and all the herbs.  All of them.  The GG was so much happier in the front where there is sun!  And thanks to my neighborhood folks for leaving it alone all summer, we even got a few sweet strawberries.  Yesterday I put away a bunch of coriander and some flower seeds, and basil.

We're moving, a post about that someday when I can be a little more clear and a little less emotional.  So yesterday was the day to harvest the basil, a little early but we're moving.

I planted 4 dollars worth of basil this spring, it would've been less money and more basil if I had started from seed.  After stripping the stalks, the leaves filled an 18 QUART container.  That's a lot of basil my friends.  We've had our yummy farmers market tomatoes with basil and balsamic, we've picked at it all summer, we have enjoyed the crazy heck out of the basil.  Even trimming it to keep it from going to seed is a smelly joy.

Soooo... what to do with 18 quarts of basil?  PESTO!  mmmmm.... Pesto.

Pesto on pasta with onions and loads of garlic is one of our favorite meals.  My dear friends Mom has been supplying me with frozen jars of goodness for years but it was time to let her enjoy the fruits of her labor and use all the now empty jars she's given me over the years....

It was a full day,  stripping the leaves took most of naptime but the Daily Show and Skype kept me company... After stripping (I just like to say stripping) I put the leaves in a big 30 gallon storage container and filled with water.  Swish swish, and wait... the dirt sinks to the bottom leaving leafy loveliness floating for scoopage.  I did that twice...

I think I should've let them dry a bit more because my pesto is a little more brown than I'd like, but still tasty.

I toasted 2 cups of pine nuts to golden on the stove, and used way more garlic than anyone would probably be comfortable with (thanks Peter and Lori for garden fresh garlic!) and some olive oil... Food processor, salt Parm....

SHAZAAM!  Look at all the crazy fresh yummy meals waiting for us in the crummy dead of February!  If you're not familiar with pesto, 2 to 3 tablespoons (4 to 5 in my house) will dress a pound of cooked pasta, it is mighty stuff and a little goes a long way.  Plus a wee schmear on a grilled cheese with chicken and tomato makes a special treat.  A tablespoon in Tomato soup... on and on I could go...  My strange child seems to like basil a lot, she chows on pasta coated with it and was picking the leaves out of the water and eating them.  Not complaining, just saying...

Sooo, $4 Basil, $9 Pinenuts, $1 Olive Oil, $1 Parm...  Adds up to $15 dollars for about 4,000 meals... Thanks ghetto garden...

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Best baby monitor ever

It's Cock-a-mamie scheme time!  It really works!  It's free (well you're all ready paying for it) Are you ready!

Call a phone (phone baby)  from another phone (phone mommy).  

Put both phones on speaker... 

Place phone baby in baby's room, as near to baby as you can without precious darling baby grabbing phone and hanging up...

Take phone mommy with you, put it on the kitchen counter or strap it to your waistband while you garden...

KEY HINT!!!  Mute Mommy phone.  MUTE!  Otherwise the first time you flush the toilet or a police car goes by, it will be amplified on phone baby and wake up your dear precious child.

You're now free to roam about your life... :)  

I figured this one out at a friends one night when the campfire was too far away for the craptastic babymonitor... PS the Graco imonitor Vibe 2 Parent baby monitor is the WORST baby monitor ever.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

If I had a brand new baby and was about to be stranded here's what I would take: (Part 1)

Ok, I've got more than 3 pregnant girlfriends and a hankering for baby 2 so I've been thinking about my list.  The things I would pull out of the attic first.  My baby NEEDs list.

When I was pregnant with Lillie, many people told me about all the things I NEEDED.  The thing is, I really didn't, some of them I have, some of them I like, most of them I don't NEED at all.

Wipe warmer... nope.
Bottle warmer.  naw
crazy baby bathtub, I have a sink thanks.
Oh my god, so much crap.  Electrical suckers, environmental menaces, landfill hogs.  No thanks.  Really.  Plus I really hate the look of all the plastic, I don't want it all shiny-at-first then so grimy you don't want to touch it later gross plastic.

Whatever.  These are the things that made our first few months with Lillie so much easier.  Stuff that I am so grateful for, really grateful, thankful like I'm thankful for garden tomatoes in August thankful.

 The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD.  It essentially teaches a great technique for calming an infant.  Works like a charm, saved our sanity, got us sleep when it was so desperately needed.  I went with some friendly advice to only watch the chapter beginnings and would pass this advice eagerly along to you.  There are 5 chapters, the intro to each chapter explains the step in full, the rest of the chapters  is the guy showing you the same thing he just showed you a hundred more times.  Then weepy parents who haven't slept in 4 months except for last night after watching the DVD tell you how awesome it is.  Maybe you'll like it... I guess it would be a pretty short DVD if they left out all the weepy crap...  I'd still pay 3.5 million dollars for it.   I watched this DVD out of desperate need, I wish I had watched it before I went into labor.  It's fantastic.

The Miracle Blanket:  We were given/inherited at least 5 different types of swaddling blankets.  This one is far and away the simplest design (no one really counts the squares of pretty flannel as a swaddling blanket right?) and the clear winner for us.  We couldn't get the velcro on other types tight enough.  Swaddling was not something I really had put any thought into, turns out it works.  Really.  Really.  The Happiest Baby Guy explains it perfectly... Your baby looks weird all wrapped up tight, but they've spent their whole life all squished up in your womb and all the newfound freedom can be disconcerting for them.  I figure their first few months is like when you've been jumping on a trampoline for an hour then hop off and walk all funny for a few minutes, except it's not funny to babies.  The miracle blanket is a baby burrito wrap, you can get a tight swaddle on and it stays put, which gave me a lot of peace to catch some zzzz's knowing the wrap wouldn't come loose and cover her face or something terrible.

Newborn disposables with the umbilical cord notch. Even though we use cloth diapers.  First things first, the meconium is really disgusting, it's the gunk that's been in baby's intestines while in the womb.  Black tar sticky nasty poo gross.  I had no guilt throwing that away as it was clear it to me the tar like crud would still be on our cloth diapers today...  And nothing but nothing could prepare me for umbilical cord.  It seems so delicate and by the way is really gross looking all shriveled up, and I was quite sure that I would accidentally knock it off and she would bleed to death and die.  Because really, that's all I freaked out about, when and how I would accidentally maim or kill poor Lillie.  Having a baby is sooo much FUN!

      The No Cry Sleep Solution: I call this book the oracle.  I consult the oracle every time her sleep schedule goes off kilter.  I love this book like I love Pie (with ice cream).  Again I skipped all the tear jerking sob stories and skipped to the actual useful information.  Hallmark card drivel.  Pure emotional poo.  Normally I cry at hallmark commercials, pregnant... I sobbed.  I had to turn them off.  Really, why is all this Mom crap chock full of this stuff?  Do they really think I can't find an appropriate outlet for my tears?

    Peasant Food... part 1

    The only way I've ever heard this term "Peasant Food" is in context of happy fat gourmands like myself sighing and slurping contentedly.  The good news is... I can cook me some peasant food, and you and your mama.  You'll weep with joy, your taste buds will sing like the angels, your stomach will gurgle, whatever you get it.  Beans, greens, chicken, cornbread, anything that can be cooked in one pot:  I can rock.  My paella the other night was out of control.  My middle eastern chicken with barberries came out better than expected.  The Singapore, boiled chicken with rice almost perfect (we need better condiments).  Fish tacos are healthy cause they're fish, fun because they're tacos... :)

    Sometimes when I'm feeling low and can't sleep... I dream a different dream.  I make menus.  Luscious, luxurious menus.  I crack a bottle or two of a '97 vintage Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and make food.  I argue with myself about fois gras versus seared just past bloody duck breast salad.   With baby arugula, wilted or not?  Do I really like blood oranges or just that they're deep red?  Camembert or chevre...  lamb chops, curry, mint or rosemary... 

    Would I have kept the sweet job, the dual income no kids status, and seemingly (in retrospect) limitless food/booze budget, knowing now what broke really is?  Not a chance.

    I'll dream a little dream, continue to make this a challenging obstacle course find the fun in the game and the joy in my life.  It's all about the journey right?

    Sunday, June 13, 2010

    Little Girl Birthday Present...

    So I have mentioned before that we're broke right?  So um yeah.  We busted.  All the bills just got paid and the fridge is full, so we're ok but... had no money, like none, to buy my friends precious daughter a present for her birthday, and we were headed to her party.  No chance of dropping by a gift next week or anything...

    Hmmm, panic.  Run around like crazy.  Then brainstorm.

    I save weird stuff.  I have a couple of boxes of random shiny things that I like to keep, I think I'm part crow.  I can be found shouting "ooooo shiny!" and picking things up off the ground, what can I say?  I like shiny.   And I found a tin that came with pretzels in it at Christmas time.  Just last Saturday at a tag sale in the middle of no where I found 2 big bottles of glitter, along with a compass, old thread and a super duper old school they don't make 'em like that anymore Thermos. For like 2 dollars.
    I know, I know WHAT A FIND!!

    Colored glass jewels from broken window charms, glitter glue gun,  you heard me Glitter Glue Gun, stickers... Apply spray adhesive and copious amounts of glitter.  It's a magic box.  MAGIC.  And it says her name.  I added some sidewalk chalk inside for fun, 6 year old girl glitter glory.

    I'm not sure what I'll do if we're invited to grown up birthday parties... Stay tuned, do 40 year old men like glitter beers?

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    How we've cut down on Monthly Bills...

    I'm wondering if any one has any other tips on monthly bill slashing.  Here's what we've done so far.
    • Electricity:  Down $30 YES THIRTY DOLLARS a month.  
      • Squiggly light bulbs instead of round ones. 
      •  Turned off the lights! Really, it works... 
      • Swap light switches for lights that you can't see for the ones that light up when they're on. 
      • Put power strips on all electrical systems so the whole TV/ Entertainment system is on 2 power strips.  I was up one night at 3am (I don't even remember why) and heard a weird noise... buzz buzz buzz pause buzz buzz buzz pause a quick investigation drew me to the DVD player.  It had a dvd in it (shocker) and was keeping the dvd at the ready for my viewing pleasure, 24 hours a day. OMG and I hate writing OMG.  It turns out that everything in the whole wide world that you leave plugged in draws power, even if it's off.  Even power strips that have the lights on them, suckers.  Cell phone chargers, suckers, microwave, guest room alarm clock, random stereo upstairs, and the basement was full of them... power strips, chest freezer with a chicken breast in it, dehumidifier in the winter... EVERYFRIGGINTHING.  Suckers.  Sooooo, I went a little nuts.  Unplugged everything. and at the end of the month I found thirty dollars!  3 months later everything has been plugged back in.  Time to go hunting again.  I am the (electric) vampire killer.  
    • Internet:  Our cable company offers Road Runner Lite, it's still "high speed" internet, just a little less so.  They wanted $25 a month, but verizon offered the same speed for $19.95.   All I had to do was ask, just once and very nicely.  Tada!  Internet: $20 a month.
    • Cable: This is hard for a lot of people, but we're down to the basic and I mean basic (network, ESPN, TBS and the Weather Channel) $10/ month.  Do I miss the Daily Show?  Hell No!  I watch on for free.  Our Cable/ Internet bill went from $100/month to $30 for a yearly savings of around 6 million dollars.  That's a wad o cash!
    • Heat: O Berkshires, O Berkshires, Why must you be so wretchedly cold?  O House, Old House, Why Must you be so OLD?  Yes, it's true, our house is well over 100 years old and has a drafty everything.  Insulation was blown in some time ago and has gently settled around the houses midsection like my breasts after breastfeeding.  Oh my poor boobs... Another blog another day... Heat!  
      • So, the windows.  They're drafty.  For a few years we did the plastic over the windows deal with the blow dryer and the tape and the stuff.... But the dog or the cat or I always ended up popping some appendage through and broke the seal.  This year I found a miracle product.   This stuff actually works!  SEALS AND PEELS!  Really, the windows were air tight (we have some gaps that are over a 1/4 inch) and it peeled off in the spring like a teenager on a crotch rocket motorcycle.  
      • Our house is big, and I'm not bragging here, it's old, needs loads of work, in the ghetto and big.  We are only 3.  So in the winter, we shut it down.  The front half of the house.  There isn't any plumbing to worry about so I bought loads of not unattractive fabric on super duper sale and made heavy curtains for big doorways (I put old blankets between the layers of fabric), and hung them with spring loaded shower rods.  I made door worms using rice or lentils or sand from the hardware store, depending on which was available/cheapest at the time.  We sealed it up tight and turned off the radiators.  The temp difference was enormous.  Sometimes it was 45 degrees in the front and a toasty 68 in the back.  SAWEET!  Approximate heating savings, 18 Million Dollars.  You heard me. 
    I'm sure there's more... I'm thinking about heading into coupon land pretty quickly.  Coupons.  Scare. Me.  Anyone with cost cutting tips?

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Food Storage Conundrum

    So lately I've been in cellophane conundrum, a foil frenzy, having a tupperware tantrum.  It's all so gross to me.  Cellophane is just stupidly wasteful.  Use it once and throw it away. Foil maybe twice.  We don't have real tupperware, but the disposable glad stuff.  Not to mention the 8 billion sour cream, ricotta, hummus containers that may or may not have lids just sitting in my kitchen HOGGING all the precious cupboard space.

    How many of these containers do I really need?  At any 1 time?  3? 4?  Thanksgiving maybe a few more.  WHY?!  Why am I drowning in plastic container ware?  Why do I cut up a half pineapple then wrap the second half in cellophane for tomorrow?  Why not just cut it all up and put it into a container?

    I will not microwave anything in plastic either so it all has to be transferred to glass before being nuked.  (I have a love/hate/fear microwave thing going on).

    I'm thinking the tupperware revolution is coming to the Lloyd family.  Glass dishes with lids are pretty cheap.  I wish the ones with glass lids were more widely available, but I'm fairly sure all the glass lids would break within five minutes of being in the house.  I have no intention of an absolute ban, we don't do a whole lot of things without fail around here, but a change of habit.  Cellophane is a wonderful invention, but I feel a little overdependent.  Foil.  Foil is shiny, which makes me a fan... so it can stay too.  But on the down low.  Don't be a Thunder Stealer, foil.  It's Glass' turn.

    Any thoughts?  I'm pretty sure I can pack lunches without foil and tupperware.  I can save some stuff heading into holidays...   Maybe I'll put the stuff that's in decent condition AND has lids in a secret stash place...

    What about ziplock freezer bag replacement, talk about a wasteful endeavor.  Buy the chicken breast mega pack on sale, pack into freezer bags in 2s, remove from freezer in 10 days, throw away bag.  People wash their bags but somehow I am sketched out by this idea.  Butcher paper and masking tape?

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    For spring... The Ghetto Garden.

    We live in a, a, ahem... blue collar neighborhood.  Our houses are so close together that on one side we really could borrow a cup of sugar through the window.  It takes 3.25 minutes to mow our lawn, and there are Norway Maples, big huge trees that don't let anything grow underneath them all around us.  We do get some sun though which hatched Kathy's Cock-a-Mamie Scheme #468:  The ghetto garden.

    I found this idea on Instructables.  Sticks, screws and 2 liter bottles, what could go wrong?

    Well, I did my homework, studied the back yard for a few days and saw where the light landed best.  I went to a redemption center and bought 2liter bottles for 5 cents a piece, the burn pile at our city park had perfect sized branches and viola!  Ghetto Garden!  

    The whole thing took maybe an hour to assemble and I did need to pre-drill the holes for the soda bottles and the branches, but an easy project.  If you check out the link on Instructables, you'll see how rad this truly is. The top bottles flow into the bottom bottles, for easy watering!  I put some rocks in the bottoms so the soil wouldn't fall out.  The link used scrap wood, but I was looking for a more organic look, I really wanted some birch branches.  I planted green beans and basil, zucchini, broccoli, parsley, and a couple of other herbs that I can't remember now (cause they never grew!)...  

    Why am I recommending a FAIL? I plotted out the sun before the trees were fully leafed out.  Really.  Really.  It turns out that we don't have enough sun all summer in the backyard to make 1 gallon of sun tea.  Not even 1.  I'm thinking about transferring the ghetto garden to the front yard (strip) this year, we have more sun there... Strawberries anyone?

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Baby Food...

    Baby food.  I made my own for the most part.  When I'm talking to pretentious folks I say "Oh yes, I make my OWN baby food, it's just sooo much healthier for Lillie."  Imagine your best snotty uppity voice.  That's how I say it.

    To everyone else... IT'S SO EASY AND CHEAP!   I bought one of these food mill thingies and just started squishing away.  I squished EVERYTHING I could get my hands on.  Fruit veg and protein.

    To store:  smush, spoon or pour squished stuff into ice cube trays.  Cover with saran wrap~ This part is important otherwise your b-food smells and tastes like freezer in about 2 minutes.  I don't know why, I just know.     Pop into freezer until hard and then put the cubes into labeled freezer bags.  Whenever you need food, it's just right there and in convenient sized cubes!  Nuke and serve.

    I bought a huge yam for $.50 and made the equivalent of $2.00 worth of Gerber yams in baby food jars.  

    Also, because we're squishing stuff, it doesn't have to be pretty.  AND it needs to be as ripe as possible.  Are you with me yet?  Day old produce bin!! Yeah baby!  25 cent mangos that were perfect, but weren't going to make it another day on the shelf.  Bananas, eggplants, apples.... 

    So time.  Time.  It's not that much of a time investment.  Yam, wrap in foil throw in oven and bake until soft.  If that's all you have time for that day, fine.  Squish tomorrow.  

    The fruit took about 45 minutes from grocery bag to freezer.  I did it in large batches.  45 minutes on a Saturday morning seemed do-able.  Peel, squish or puree in the blender/ food processor. I mixed up all of the fruits also, although you may have to be careful with allergies.

    In the summer I graciously took whatever was leftover from everyone's gardens, when my ghetto garden failed.   Squish.  Dr. says Lillie needs protein in the form of eggs and beans.  Squish.  Stuck at someones house with a hungry baby.  Squish.  

    The squishing is fun.  Not having your child eat every meal out of a plastic container is green.  Not buying into the idea that only Gerber can feed your baby well is empowering.  And cheap. 

    Squish on Rocker Mamas.  Squish on.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Baby Clothes

    Baby clothes are mad expensive.  My jeans on sale are $20.  Baby jeans on sale... $20.

    Baby clothes are also cute.  So cute.  Unbelievably adorable.  Especially if you have a cute baby.  And let's face it, we all have the cutest baby on the planet.  And the smartest, but that's another post.

    BUT.  Wow babies grow fast.  And they are gross.  They poop all over everything.  They can't walk so they drag themselves all over the floor.  And their eating skills are mediocre at best.  They RUIN clothes.  Almost as fast as you can dress them.

    So, we get our day to day, gonna get wrecked and we don't care clothes from a few places, because really they're just gonna get stained and wrecked and my baby would look cute in a gunny sack and we're not leaving the house anyway today.

    • Friends and relatives.  I'm a 30 something Mom and one of the last of my friends to have a baby.  All of them offered clothes.  My relatives shipped boxes of clothes from all over the country.  Say YES!  YES to free clothes.  
    • Have I mentioned our friends at Freecycle?  My local freecycle is full of free baby clothes posts.  And our community is relatively small.  
    • Craigslist.  Not the sale part but the freestuff part.  
    Were some of the clothes too gross?  Yes.  Were some of them unbearably ugly?  You bet.  Did some of them smell?  Absolutely.

    But.  We cleaned and used them, or sent the too ugly too gross too smelly to the rag pile or to goodwill.  AND we have purchased clothes, but for special occasions.  I have no guilt splurging on the cutest Easter dress.  Because yesterday and the day before when it rained and we left the house to go to the store she wore her cousins clothes, my best friends kids clothes and the ugliest outfit I have EVER seen EVER.  She wore that one at lunch.

    And.  I'm grateful.  Thanks to the generosity and community I have in my life, we are able to raise our daughter a little less as a consumer and a little more green.  Maybe it just makes me feel better, but maybe I'm becoming a more conscious consumer and a better community member along the way.