Monday, July 27, 2009

Cloth Diaper Success

Okay, I didn't use the free pattern after all. I chickened out. I used Kwik-Sew's pattern for an All-in-One diaper, and it turned out great! My diapers work so much better than the ones I bought, which are already coming apart, unfortunately. I'm going to try to convert them from pocket diapers into all-in-ones. My diapers are kind of boring looking b/c I got a plain white outer material, but that's okay. Their sole job is to soak up/catch stuff, so they don't have to be pretty. In my opinion, anyway. :) Definitely give this diaper pattern a try!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Way or No Way: A Comparison Between Children & Americans

My two-year-old, bless her, is a study in yin and yang. One second, she's as ornery as can be, the next, she's giving me hugs and kisses and telling me she loves me. How do you discipline such wild swings in temperament? It's like the little girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead: when she's good, she's very, very good but when she's bad, she's (sort of) wicked. Actually, I have it quite easy, as parenting goes. I have no qualms counting to three and actually administering the threatened punishment. I refuse to raise my voice unless we're too far for normal speaking distances. These traits have developed (thankfully) a mostly obedient child. I just take it really badly when "instant obedience to orders" isn't fulfilled...

Which made me think of Americans and how we act with our government. When we want something, we whine and moan and gripe until we're given what we want. When we something gets taken away, we bellyache until the cows come home. It's not much different from how our two-year-olds try to manipulate us into doing what they want. How many people work to change their situations instead of making the government pay for their poor decisions? How many people work to help others instead of forcing the government to support them? May I remind everyone that all this "help" comes at our own expense?

Whatever happened to helping each other out and tackling problems on a local scale instead of at the national level? Why can't communities provide the primary help their needy folks require? Don't go thinking right away that I'm a stingy Rebulican who can't stand poor people. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like helping people in need, but I feel my definition of need is much different from the government's.

Case in point: A married couple buys a house in 2003 even though their incomes show that they really shouldn't. They decide to have kids even though they can barely support themselves. They whine about barely being able to pay bills while pulling out all the most up-to-date techie gear and watching their 700 channels of cable or while shopping (again). In 2009, one of their cars breaks down. There's no money to pay for repairs, so they decide to get a new one. They take out yet another loan to pay for something they can't afford. This drains all their savings, which means they are now below their state's poverty level. Now, they qualify for all sorts of government assistance like food stamps, WIC, reduced tax rates and other expense-reducing benefits. Why, why, WHY? They caused their own problems, quite happily, I may add.

Their very bad financial decisions put them below the poverty level, not some horrid accident. They still have 700 channels, fancy phones, and the highest cell phone plans. They still go out to eat and shop regularly. They don't employ any bill-reducing practices like turning lights off or running the A/C slightly higher so they pay a little less. In my mind, that's just wilfull stupidity reaping its own rewards. (Yes, several people tried to warn them about their spending...repeatedly).

Who qualifies for help in my mind? The single parent who is trying to go to school and work part time to support her family and get ahead. The person who got seriously injured on the job and can't work anymore. The refugees and immigrants who are trying to start a life in a new country. People who are working three jobs but still can't make ends meet. These people need some assistance, some encouragement.

If you need information on why you should get out of debt and how you can do it, check out Beating Debt. This non-profit organization offers excellent resources (for minimal prices) that will help you take a realistic look at your income and expenses and how they are used. Check it out, and let me know what you think.

-Domestic Goddess out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Domestic Goddess?

My husband gave me this name. In truth, I am a very poor homemaker. I hate cleaning, I hate picking up after people, and I hate the futility of it all. What's the point of tidying things up during naptime if my kids are just going to tear everything apart within an hour of waking up? They don't do these things on purpose. They just like to get into things and play. They do a haphazard job of cleaning up, which means things are put away somewhere, but that somewhere is probably not where I want it. Clearly, the title of "domestic goddess" is more of a motivational title to aspire to, not something I already am.

I take my domestic goddess responsibilities seriously. I do clean (over and over and over again), I wash, I cook, I play with my small children. I just do it all on my own time. Sometimes I get everything done in a day or two. Sometimes it takes the whole week. Nevertheless, nobody is going to get after me for not keeping to the timeline, because joy of joys, there isn't one! Nobody is going to inspect my work. Nobody is going to write me a performance evaluation or write me an award and need all the hair-splitting details of what I've done for the past three years.

All my husband really expects domestically is to know where his stuff is, to have some clean (not ironed-I refused to iron in the marriage contract) clothes, and eat at semi-regular intervals. God bless him. On the down side, that does mean he's messy and doesn't really notice when I get the cleaning/home arranging done. But that's okay. I've finally learned how to brag about my work. "Look, honey, I finished the whatever. What do you think? How does it look? I like it." Upon which he responds in a suitable, much needed manner. I absolutely adore, cherish, and love my husband!

Part of my domestic goddess responsibilities is making the house and our lifestyle greener. I recycle and fuss when good stuff gets thrown away. Then I take it out of the trash can, rinse it in the sink, and sort it properly in the recycling shed. I need to start a compost pile. I am trying to grow my own cantaloupes. I use coffee grounds as fertilizer. I keep the A/C on a higher temperature and only use fans to help cool rooms I'm using. I cook things at the same time, if possible, to reduce kitchen heating. Got any other ideas I can use? Let me know!

I am also using all the last of my store-bought, chemical-laden cleaners because it's better than dumping them down the drain. Once they're all gone, I'm going completely natural. I started with the toilets because I ran out of toilet cleaner first. I now use baking soda and vinegar to get a nice sparkle out of them. In fact, you can use baking soda and vinegar on almost anything to get it clean. Check out the following cleaning recipes and let me know how they work for you.

Mild all-purpose cleaner
4 T baking soda
1 qt water
-Mix together in cleaning pail or quart bottle
-Spray and wipe surface with soft cloth or sponge
-Vinegar is a great degreaser and works especially well to remove soap scum. Mix 1/4 to 1/2 c. white vinegar and 1 qt water in spray bottle. Spray on surface. Wait 30 s. Wipe away. Rinse off with hot water if you're cleaning soap scum in tubs, showers, or sinks.
-Place 2 T of liquid hand soap or dishwashing detergent in a bottle, fill with 1 qt warm water, and shake. You can add some lemon for scent. Use a soft cloth or sponge to wipe up countertops, floors, painted interior doors, and walls. For exteriors, use a scrub brush.
Minty fresh all-purpose cleaner
2 T peppermint liquid castile soap
1/4 c. baking soda
1/4 white vinegar
Water o fill quart spray bottle
-Mix all ingredients in bottle. Spray on cloth, mop, or directly on surface.
Tile and vinyle floor cleaner
1/4 c liquid castile soap
1/8 c white vinegar
1 gal water
-Mix all ingredients in bucket. Damp mop.
Linoleum floor cleaner
1/4 c white vinegar
1 1/2 to 2 c water
-Mix all ingredients in a qt spray bottle. Spray soft mop until just damp and mop.
Window, glass, and mirror cleaner
1/2 to 1 c white vinegar
1 qt cool water
-Combine all ingredients in spray bottle.
-Spritz solution on surface. Rub until dry to avoid spotting with newspaper.
-For heavy duty cleaner, combine 1/2-1 c. white vinegar, 1 T liquid dish soap or detergent, and 1 qt water in a spray bottle. Spray and rub until dry.
-To clean glass vases, fill them 3/4 full with room-temperature water and add 1 t baking soda. Cover and shake. Rinse with clear water and air dry.
Dust buster
2 c water
1 c white vinegar
2 drops lemon oil (for scent)
-Mix all ingredients in bowl or spray bottle. Dampen cloth with solution. Wipe down collectibles.
Hardwood floor cleaner
3 c. white vinegar
1 T castile soap
3 drops grapefrut essential oil
3 c water
-Mix all ingredients in a bucket of water.
-Barely wet rag or mop with the solution. Run over floors and let air-dry.
Wood furniture polish
1 pt linseed or oil oil
4 or 5 drops lemon essential oil (for scent)
-Mix all ingredients in an open container
-Dab cloth with mixture. Rub oil into furniture, using sparingly. Buff into wood.
Carpet spot remover
1/4 t clear, plant-based dishwashing liquid
1 c warm water
-Mix dishwashing liquid and water.
-Dab mixture on spill. Blot to dry.
Stainless-steel sink cleaner
3 T baking soda
1 drop essential oil (for scent)
1 1/2 c water
Water rinse
-Mix baking soda and water together.
-Add oil for scent if desired.
-Rinse with clear water.
-Dry with a cloth.
Toilet bowl cleaner
Baking soda
1/4 to 1/2 c white vinegar
-Sprinkle sides with baking soda and allow to stand for a few minutes.
-Pour in vinegar and let stand for 15 minutes.
-Scrub with toilet brush and flush.
Toilet brush cleaner
-1 T dishwashing liquid soap
1 T white vinegar
Hot water
-Mix solution in bucket or toilet brush holder
-Place the toilet brush in the solution and swish until clean. Follow with a rinse in clean water.
-Shake to dry and return to the holder or stand
Drain cleaner
1 c salt
1 c baking soda
1/4 c cream of tartar
-Mix ingredients and keep in a well-marked container.
-Pour 1/4 c of this mixture into the drain. Rinse with water. Repeat as necessary or save the rest for later.
Drain declogger
1/2 to 1 c baking soda
1/2 to 1 c white vinegar
1 gal boiling water
-Pour the baking soda down the drain. Follow with vinegar, pouring slowly.
-Listen for a fizzing sound. Cover the drain and let stand for 5 min.
-Pour boiling water into drain.
White clothing stain remover
1 T borax
6 T water
-Mix ingredients to make paste. Dab on stains. Follow with normal washing.
Old linen stain remover
2 squirts dishwashing liquid
1 qt water
-Mix water and soap in a bucket or sink
-Place linens in the solution. Soak for an hour or so.
-Follow with a light swishing by hand. Rinse with plain water. Line dry.
Presoak and fabric softener
2 T cream of tartar
1 gal hot water
-Mix solution in bucket and let cool. Let the fabrics sit in the mixture for 1/2 hr or until stain is released.
-Rinse with fresh water. Launder as normal.
Dry laundry detergent
1 c soap flakes or shredded homemade soap, or any store-bought type without lotion
1/2 c washing soda
1/2 c borax
A few drops of essential oil (for scent)
-Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Use 1/4-1 c detergent, depending on the size of the load and machine type.
-For sofe water, reduce washing soda to 1/4 c. For hard water, increase washing soda and borax to 1 c.
Liquid laundry detergent
1 c soap flakes or shredded homemade soap, or any store-bought type without lotion
1/2 c washing soda
1/2 c borax
2 T glycerin
2 c water
-Mix soap, washing soda, and borax. Add glycerin and water, stirring until thoroughly combined.
-Use 1/4 to 3/4 c per load in cold or warm water.
Air freshener
1 t baking soda
1 t vinegar or lemon juice
2 c water
-Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle with fine spray
-Mix the air gently, particularly near the source of odors.
-Add 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks to 4 c boiling water. Simmer for an hour or so. Don't let all the water evaporate out of the pan.

These recipes were taken from
Green Cleaning for Dummies. All credit for them goes to the book's author.

Cloth Diapering

I jumped on the cloth diapering bandwagon without doing much research about it. Four cloth diapers and a couple of wet bedtimes later, I've just learned the trick of adding an extra liner in my pocket diapers to help absorb during nap times. That's okay. I've been scouring the net for *free* cloth diaper sewing patterns, and I think I finally found one that I'm brave enough to try. Check it out on Smart Mama's "Sew Diapers" page. As soon as I finish my current sewing project (a cute, going-out type shirt), I'm going to collect diapering materials and get ready to start sewing my own cloth diapers. We shall see how this endeavor goes. The good news, in case I make a mess of this attempt, is that Smart Mama also sells her patterns on eBay and gives all proceeds to charity. Nice!

As far as cloth diapering goes right now, I can honestly say I really enjoy it. I like all things green, and I find myself being able to survive off of the last few disposable diapers we have. I'm not doing any extra washing to keep them clean and on my baby. There's no stink because I put them into the washing machine (already staged with detergent) as soon as I take them off. They wash with the regular stuff and are great.

I'll post some feedback once I get this project done. I'm becoming increasingly single-minded on this issue. Maybe I can get some nice organic cotton or bamboo fleece at the fabric store...

Domestic Goddess out.

Vegetarian Week

I'm trying to make my husband a healthier eater, so I declared this week would host only vegetarian lunches. He wasn't too excited about it. However, on day two of this experiment, he's starting to come around. At least he didn't subconsciously wrinkle his nose at the Zucchini Rissoto (from Rachael Ray's vegetarian cookbook) I made him. Seriously, though, I went to the Farmer's Market yesterday morning and picked up all the necessities for only $5. Sure, I had quite a few items on-hand, like spinach, rice, pasta, and crushed tomatoes, but still. I'm sure it all totals about $15 for a week's worth of meals. Not bad, not bad at all. Plus, I've really enjoyed cooking new things.

I love the NC State Farmer's Market here in Raleigh. I'm really going to miss it when we have to move next year. It's got everything: freshly baked German sweets, fruit, veggies, grass-fed/non-hormone meat, and wines. It's great to support local farmers and to eat fresh. My kids snack on all the watermelon, cantaloupe, berry, and tomato samples, making the shopping experience much more pleasant.

While cleaning yesterday, I was thinking about race and the issues associated with it here in the US. Does it make any sense for anyone to be racial in these times? Seriously. Sure, some generalizations will hold true for people groups, i.e., Hispanics eat a lot of rice and beans or Japanese eat lots of seafood. But to characterize entire people groups based on what the media (news, music, and movies) shoves in our faces all the time is just silly. Make your own generalizations based on your neighbors, co-workers, and friends. I'm sure a majority of them rise far above what the mainstream would have you believe. I sure hope I represent my race (too mixed-if I decided to hate any one people group, I'd hate myself) positively. Wasn't America supposed to be all about acceptance and judgement based on merit? Just tired of hearing black, white, and Hispanic references being tossed around the news like we're all a bunch of ignorant imbeciles.

Domestic Goddess out.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Messy, Messy Monday

Ah, the bliss of two children who nap at the same time in the afternoon. Three glorious hours to myself, which usually includes a nap, exercise, and a book. Such was this afternoon. I was tripping on endorphins when I went upstairs to fetch my children and smelled something strange. The strange smell grew as I approached my two-year-old's room. I opened the door and...there was poo everywhere. All over the bed, all over two of the walls, all over the floor, all over my child, who was trying to hide under her soiled pillow. UGH.

I hate nasty messes. They smell really bad (especially to those who have sensitive noses) and take a long, long time to clean up. Instead of beating my little girl (as instinct tried to make me do), I scooped her up gingerly and ran an unenvironmentally friendly amount of water, soap, and Clorox over her. No, not the Clorox. After she was cleaned up, she helped clean up a bit of the mess as I repeatedly explained that poo goes in the toilet, not on/in her room. She did her stint in the corner with lots of crying and calling for daddy (who was at school, mercifully for him), she sucked it up and took good care of her sister, pointing out birds (they were standing on her now-cleaned/sterilized bed and looking out the window) and trees. I certainly earned my two glasses of wine tonight!!! :)

Lessons Learned:
1. Old military uniform undershirts are wonderful rags.
2. Poo dries really hard. Use a good cleaner and scuzz brush.
3. Turn on the radio, turn on the fan, and open the window. Otherwise, you'll get high.
4. Get out of Dodge for a couple of hours to burn up energy/frustration at the park.
5. For the love of all that's clean and good for the environment, don't let your child/ren eat as many blueberries and blackberries as they want. My two kids each produced four BMs today after downing tons of farmer's market berries yesterday. After talking to my sister-in-law (and mother of four children), she informed me that was my critical error. But she did think the whole episode was hilarious. My lack of patience is legendary in my family...shall I say more?
6. A good, locally produced white wine helped it all seem funny to me too.

Incidentally, I am being converted to the locovore beliefs. I've never had better fruit and vegetables in my life. Yes, I've tried growing my own and failed every time. Instead of being a plant killer/money waster, I admit my faults and purchase from the locals who have ultra-green thumbs and organic minds. Seriously, if you have the opportunity to buy local, do it. Your waist, palate, and wallet will thank you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Welcome to July!

This is my third-favorite month. (December and May take the first two spots.) I just love celebrating the 4th of July. It's such a wonderful thing to sit back and think about how far this country has come from its beginning. We have such a colorful past. Sometimes we were the underdog while at others, we have been the superpower. We have done reprehensible things and yet fought against them for others as well. We are rich and poor at the same time...Yes, America is a land to cherish, but it is also a land to improve. I'm doing my best to teach my kids to take care of the nation by caring for those within it and by cleaning up (aka recycling). What are you doing?