Erin's First Meal

I have been known to follow a more "non-traditional" way of doing things... I home-birth, I make most of our foods, household cleaners, etc from scratch. I made 90% of Patrick's baby food...

But, I'm not planning on making baby food this go around. I will if I need to, but I figure, if Erin is really, truly ready for food, she will be able to handle "normal" foods in their softened form. But, no watering down, no pureeing... So, today, just shy of 6 months old, Erin got her first "proper" meal... apple sauce (unsweetened, of course). She has been showing interest in real foods, and I figured, "Why not?" Here's what she thought.

Homemade Dishwasher "soap"

The dishwasher is one of those amazing household conveniences that most people think you need to buy soap for. I've recently learned otherwise. I had used the electrosol tabs - they're pre-measured and I like that... no guessing as to how much powder/gel you need per load. But, this can get a little pricey. So, I started looking into inexpensive alternatives.

Borax and baking soda with a little castile soap are decent alternatives. I have mixed equal parts of both, thrown in a few drops of castile soap. Put in the cup dispenser and run as usual. The only issue I've found with this is sometimes there is food or a white residue left on certain items. I have read that adding white vinegar to the rinse agent dispenser works, but as I still have jet dry in mine, I can't say for sure how well this works.

White vinegar, baking soda and a little of my homemade laundry detergent seem to work pretty well. I add a tablespoon or so of baking soda to the cup dispenser, slowly pour in the vinegar - 2Tish - and then top off with the laundry detergent. I sometimes put vinegar in the pre wash cup. This is much less likely to leave the white residue, but I do need to make sure most food has been scraped from the dishes and silverware - particularly things like egg and cheese. Otherwise, this works well. :)


Dealing with Diaper Rash

At some point in time, most moms will deal with diaper rash or diaper burn. The usual form of treatment is a store-bought cream that is often thick and pasty and hard to deal with. Not to mention, it smells. (Can you tell I'm not a fan?) I've found that one of my kitchen staples makes a superior diaper rash treatment...

Olive oil. You can use this stuff to treat almost anything.

To make a diaper rash/diaper burn treatment, you'll need two ingredients - olive oil and corn starch. Mix equal parts olive oil and corn starch in a small gladware type container. I usually only mix 1 tablespoon of each at a time because it lasts so long. I have found that mixing the two by simply putting the lid on your storage container and shaking it is easiest. The mixture will separate a bit over time, but there really isn't a need to re-mix it. Just make sure you get enough corn starch from the bottom when you're using it. I've used this on diaper burn (the product of acidic teething poo) and healed it within a day or two. Traditional diaper rash is usually healed within a few hours of application.

Also, if you tend to have dry, cracked hands or chapped lips during the winter season, use olive oil... it seems better than most traditional moisturizers/lotions/chapstick that I've tried.


Laundry Detergent

I mentioned in an earlier post using homemade laundry detergent. Again, why waste money on something that is mostly water and dye and perfume? The only "perk" I have found to using the store-bought laundry detergent is that it does leave your clothes smelling "fresh"... but what we think of as "fresh" and "clean" is really the perfume left on our clothes from the purchased detergent and not what our clothes really smell like in their clean state.

I am still in the "experimenting" phase of making laundry detergent, but here is what I currently use. You will need...

a storage container... an empty milk carton or juice bottle will do just fine
a medium size pot
small measuring cup or a large spoon
borax - found in the laundry aisle of most stores
castile soap - found in the natural foods section or at your local natural foods store
baking soda or washing soda if you can find it (I haven't stumbled across any yet, but I am looking!)
vinegar - optional
essential oils - optional for fragrance

I add a few cups water to my pot and put it on the stove to boil. I don't know the exact amount of borax or baking soda, but I'm guessing I added at least 1/3-1/2 cup of each to the water. I also added about 1 T of castile soap (I use the unscented kind). Once the water has boiled for a few minutes and most of the borax/baking soda mix has dissolved, remove from heat. If you like, add say... a cup or so of white vinegar to the storage container of choice. Use either a funnel or a spouted measuring cup to transfer the somewhat cooled liquid mix to the storage container. Fill to the top with water. If desired, add 10-20 drops essential oils - I use 10 drops or so of lavender and 10 or so drops of eucalyptus. The only perk to doing this is that it smells good when you're starting the wash cycle, but there won't be any scent left by the time your load is done.

I usually pour .5-1 cup of the laundry detergent into my washes. As I'm still experimenting, I haven't really gotten this down to an art, but hope to soon! Next batch, I'm going to try adding grated zote or ivory soap to the mix to see if it makes a difference. But, so far, my clothes seem to be coming out clean. Also, add some plain white vinegar do your fabric softener dispenser and your clothes will be nice and soft when you take it out. No, they don't smell when its all done. :)


"Everything" Soup

Okay, so I was looking through my cupboards and freezer last night trying to figure out what we'll be eating for dinners next week. Being pretty much the end of the month, my grocery money is basically gone - I work with a cash system to help prevent over-spending. Anyway, as I looked through my cupboards, I realized I had plenty of "single" items, but not really enough to add up to much on its own... 1 can of corn, 1/2 a bag of great northern beans, some pinto beans, some black beans, 2/3 box of whole grain pasta, 1-2 cups dried millet, 1/2 an onion, the "crumbs" of some frozen chopped peppers, a few pieces of chicken, 1 cup diced ham, frozen broccoli, frozen canned tomatoes (I buy these in commercial size cans and freeze them when I get home). You get the idea.

I realized that while, individually these weren't really enough on their own, but if you mixed them together, you could have a really tasty, super filling soup. We love soups this time of year anyway, so I figured it couldn't hurt to start cooking and see what I get.

I got out my huge pot and put about 1.5 cups northern beans and 1.5 cups pinto beans in there. I got out a smaller pot and put 1.5 cups black beans in there. (The reason I separated the black beans from the rest is because cooking black beans with other things tends to dye everything a dark greyish color and while it doesn't effect the taste, it can look a bit unappetizing.) I followed the quick soak directions (I added a little baking soda to each pot to speed up the cooking process) for the beans, let them sit, and then did the quick cook. I kept the beans separate for this, as well. I also added about 8 chicken bullion cubes to the large pot.

Once my pinto/northern bean mix was nearly cooked, I added about 1.5 cups of millet. I also added some left over cabbage (I had about 1/4 a head), the onion, the ham, some of the spaghetti (broken up into about 1 inch pieces), the peppers. I strained the black beans and added them. I have fresh basil growing in my kitchen window, so I threw a few leaves of this in the pot (I tore the leaves into smaller pieces).

I opted to hold out on adding the corn, the tomatoes, the chicken, and the broccoli so that if we get tired of the soup as is, I can change it up as the week goes on. But, I sampled it and its really quite good as there are so many different ingredients with so many different flavors.

Anyway, if you're like me and tend to wonder what you are having for dinner as the month draws to a close, look in your cupboards. Chances are, you have more than you think. :)


Practicality at its cheapest...

Okay, so lets face it... as wives and mothers, we are constantly in the war against germs. They give us the sniffles, possibly a fever and maybe even a sore throat or two. Not to mention, infection in a scraped knee or a red and swollen (a.k.a. infected) cut finger. So, what are we going to do about it?

That's right... disinfect.

Traditionally, we have kitchen cleaners to prevent the spread of germs in our food areas and we have our medicine cabinets to prevent infections in open wounds. Okay, besides avoiding the spread of germs, what do these two things have in common?

Rubbing alcohol. Seriously.

Rubbing alcohol is wonderful... its cheap, it prevents infection and it makes the best kitchen (and window!) cleaner.

Okay, go buy some rubbing alcohol... I prefer the 91% kind, but 70% works just fine. If you don't have an old one from over-priced commercial cleaners, buy a spray bottle while you're at it (you can find them in the household cleaners aisle). Now, go to your kitchen. Pull out your 1 cup measuring cup (or, if you have a 2 cup or more spouted measuring cup, mix ingredients in here and then transfer to the spray bottle once complete). Measure out 1 cup of rubbing alcohol. Pour into the spray bottle. Measure out one cup water. Pour into the spray bottle. Grab your white vinegar and a 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon. Measure out 1T white vinegar and pour into the spray bottle. If you happen to have some essential oils on hand (I like lavender and eucalyptus - these also happen to be great germ killing oils ) dump a few drops into the mix to make it smell good. Attach spray nozzle.

You have now made the most cost efficient, and the best germ killing kitchen cleaner around. It also works great when sprayed directly on small, open wounds. And, it will make glass cleaner than any you've ever seen. :)


My Kiddos

One of the perks of being a stay at home mom is getting to be a part of all the cute things my kids do during the day. When possible, I try to capture their adorable moments on "film"...

Patrick - my ever-growing explorer!

Erin - such a pretty girl!

Having a chat.

A brother-sister moment.


"What would you like for dinner?" I ask my husband. "Food," he says.

I realize that not everyone is as blessed as I am in that my husband is not super picky about the food put on the table. But, it has still taken me 2+ years to realize that as long as there is food on the table and as long as its edible and filling (being tasty is a perk, but not a necessity!), I don't have to cook something different every night. It has also taken me far too long to understand that NOT eating something different every night is an excellent way to save money on my grocery bill.

I have experimented to find the best way to put variety in our weekly dinner menu without spending too much time cooking. Here are a few things I'm trying to put into practice.

1. When possible, plan your meals at least a week in advance. You don't have to go out and purchase the groceries immediately, but start thinking about what you might like to eat.

2. Make 3 different dinners for the week, allowing enough for plenty of left overs. I alternate dinners as such: Mon&Thu, Tue&Fri, Wed&Sat. Sunday, we fend for ourselves most of the time.

3. Do most, if not all of your cooking on one day. For example, if I'm making soup with bread, rice with veggies and Mexican pizzas, I'll start the soup, cook the rice in my rice cooker and begin cooking the pinto beans for the Mexican pizzas on Monday morning. I may only get the soup completed on Monday, but I have the beginnings of my other two dinner alternates started. Basically, get the bulk of the cooking out of the way in one day, if possible.

4. Another great way of making meals stretch is to add sides. I recently bought a large box of locally grown apples at the natural foods store. I've started cutting up 1-2 apples and serving them with dinner. They are a great, healthy filler. You can also use bread, or veggies as your side and generally these are cost efficient. Frozen veggies tend to be less expensive than fresh, but are healthier than canned. Making your own bread is more time consuming, but is notably cheaper.

5. If you make enough servings of each dish, send some of the left overs with your husband for lunch the next day. Trust me, he will appreciate it. :)

Here is my dinner menu for this week, just to offer some ideas.

Monday and Thursday: Minstrone soup with whole wheat bread and apples

Tuesday and Friday: Millet (my new favorite grain), steamed broccoli and apples

Wednesday and Saturday: Mexican pizzas and apples


Baby Poo Managed

Okay, so I was going to wait a while to post about this because its kind of a gross topic. But, Erin (my 5 month old) gave me a prime opportunity just a few days ago, so I figured I'd go ahead and write about it.

Poo happens and in many breastfed infants and some formula fed infants, poo explosions can happen quite regularly. For many people, this means hastily stripping your little one of their clothes and throwing the soiled items in the washing machine as quickly as you can in hopes that the poo does not stain the onesie and pants and whatever else the poo has touched. More often than not, I have seen that just washing the clothes immediately is not enough to completely remove the mustardy brown spots. Of course, you could go out and buy the expensive products made for stain removal (which incidentally are made mostly of water), or you could go to your kitchen...

Its amazing what a few kitchen staples can do. My favorites are baking soda and vinegar. :)

In order to remove the poo stains, you'll need to get out a large pot, some white vinegar and some baking soda. Using an old toothbrush is also helpful.

I've included the onesie (the floral one) and pants involved in today's poo explosion and I'm also experimenting with trying to remove drool stains from the neckline of one of my favorite onesies (the pink one).

To jump-start the last step before washing, pour some baking soda into the bottom of your pot. I used about enough to cover the bottom of the pot. Slowly add white vinegar to the pot. Pouring slowly is important because a small volcano will erupt. Once you've added enough vinegar to cover the bottom of the pot about 1/2 inch or so deep, add water, leaving enough room for the clothes you're going to add.

Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. You'll be heating up the liquid enough to reach a steady simmer. It is not important that the liquid is simmering before you add the clothes.

Next, in a small bowl (I use a small custard dish), add about 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda. Very slowly add the white vinegar. You're going to be making a paste out of this, so you'll need far less vinegar than you did before.

As you can see from this photo, the vinegar does tend to separate itself a little at the top. This is fine, because at the bottom of the bowl, you have a nice, medium-thickness paste.

Depending on the size of the stain, you may find it is best to rinse the clothes with water first. If the stain is small like the ones I've shown, there really isn't a need to rinse beforehand. Using your old toothbrush, generously add the baking soda/vinegar paste to your soiled clothes. Scrub with the toothbrush, adding paste as necessary, until you have generously coated the stain and you have seen the stain start to fade or smear a bit. The paste should be visible on the clothes.

Once you have treated all the soiled items, add them to the pot on the stove... seriously! Boiling them is very helpful in this process.

As shown in the next photo, the water in the pot will start to foam a little. This is fine, but keep an eye on the pot to make sure it doesn't overflow as it reaches its steady simmer point.

The foam will continue to increase during the simmering process.

Once the pot has simmered for a few minutes - I usually let it go for 3-5 minutes - remove it from the heat.

This can be a little tricky if your washer is on a different floor, but I usually just take the entire pot and dump the contents into the washer. It is okay to add this to any other laundry as the baking soda and vinegar will not damage other clothes. If you are taking it down stairs, be extremely cautious as the pot's contents are hot and could cause serious burns. You may want to make sure your children or pets are nowhere nearby when transferring this.

Add laundry detergent - I use homemade - as usual and run the cycle according to the directions on the clothes. If you like, white vinegar can be added to the liquid fabric softener dispenser for fabulously soft clothes. Seriously, it works!

Here are the results of my stain treatment. As I mentioned above, I was experimenting with how this treatment worked for drool stains. I'm not sure how visible it is in the photo, but the drool stains were minimized, but still there. I'm considering trying a borax paste as my stain fighter next time.


Going out...

I attend two moms/women's Bible studies each week, one on Tuesdays and one on Thursdays. If it wasn't for my double stroller, I highly doubt I'd ever make it to either of these as carrying Patrick in one arm and trying to lug Erin in her carrier with the other simply doesn't work well. I tried it once and decided "never again!" I've been going to both studies for a little over a month now and find that it takes a little less time each week to get out the door. Here are a few things I've learned that, if you are married without kids, single or married with kids, you can impliment to your routine.

1. plan ahead. My mom always told me this. The night before, even if you don't have time to set out clothes, at least think through what is clean and readily available. Think through an outfit for yourself, and each of your children. If you have time, set it out. This speeds things up in the morning.

2. If you have kids, get sippy cups, snacks, bottles, diapers, etc. ready and in the diaper bag. Bottles and sippy cups may need to stay in the fridge overnight, but they're easy to grab before you leave the house. Just don't forget!

3. The morning of, make sure you get up in time to do anything you need to do. Allowing yourself time makes for a minimally stressed mom/wife! And, if mom isn't stressed, chances are, the kids won't be stressed. :)

4. Get your kids up and fed in a reasonable amount of time. If your child is old enough to eat cheereos, let those be breakfast. They can feed themselves while you get ready.

5. Since I have two kids and a diaper bag to get out to the car, I've learned that taking trips helps. I put the diaper bag, sippy cups/bottles, nalgene bottles in the car several minutes before I actually need to leave. I put Erin in her carseat, take her out, and then grab Patrick and run for the car. Usually this takes under 5 minutes from start to finish.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the morning as I am about to leave for my Mom2Mom group. :)


Domestic Homemaker - a calling to be proud of

I've learned in recent months that the art of domestication is fading quickly. Unless you live out in the country with minimal modern conveniences, chances are, that as a wife and possibly a mother, you are caught up in the modern trend of buying everything you need pre-packaged and overpriced.

As a young wife, a mother of 2 small children, and a homemaker (a noble calling long overlooked for its value) I am always on the lookout for practical, economical ways of serving my family in the home.

The term "domestic" may be offensive to some, possibly sounding too old fashioned to be a good thing in our modern age. But I do not mention it to be negative. In fact, when you look at a few meanings of the word, I see nothing negative about it. According to websters.com, here are a few meanings...

domestic - duh-mes-tic
1.of or pertaining to the home, the household, household affairs, or the family: domestic pleasures.
2.devoted to home life or household affairs.

I love being a homemaker. I love being a wife and I love being a mother. I love learning how to be creative and practical in my own home. So, the word "domestic" and even the word "homemaker" are two words, two callings I am thankful for. :)