Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Team Green Clean

I'm all for going green. We've done the organic co-op (it sucked), the composting (it rocked), we own one car, and produce 300% more recycling than garbage (and where is our prize??). But something I have a hard time really getting behind is the whole all-natural cleaning thing. If it doesn't smell like bleach, I don't think it cleans. I used to adore Clorox Clean-up and would still use it if Matt hadn't used it randomly several times bleaching things like pillows, kitchen towels, and shower curtains. We now use Windex Antibacterial, which is bleach-free but still has a great, chemical smell that lets me know that everything is squeaky clean. And if you keep your eyes out, you can get great deals/rebates on this product... we've gotten about 4 bottles of windex free in the past year :)

When we started trying to have a baby, we limited my exposure to chemicals because, well they're chemicals and they're toxic (I read The Complete Guide to Organic Pregnancy... great book whether you're pregnant or not). But, I would still handle the cleaning, airing out the house as needed to get rid of those wonderful fumes.

Now that I am finally pregnant (24 weeks tomorrow!!), my wonderful husband is cleaning the house. It's not only about the chemical exposure, but it's also the manual labor of it all- it's just not good for a high risk pregnancy. And we worked really hard to get pregnant so we aren't leaving anything to chance.

In theory, it's fantastic to have someone cleaning for me... but it's driving me UP. THE. WALL. for several reasons:

1. He works all week, only to come home and spend his free time cleaning and organizing. Not only is he ADHD, but he also knows nothing about cleaning. Some spots get missed and it takes him 2 hours to clean our tiny bathroom. On average, it takes him 8 hours to clean our 900sqft cottage; it's takes me 2. And I just cringe thinking that his "down time" is taken up with my responsibilities. And when he's finally done and things still aren't clean, I just can't bring myself to tell him because all I really want is for him to relax.

2. He only cleans once a week, which I think is a totally reasonable expectation for a 27-year-old man who works full-time (plus). But it grosses me out. Our place is teeny and our dogs shed like crazy. I cook and bake all week. Our house is down-right gross in 3 days - and I need a clean house. I do not function well in the filth.

So, I finally decided to problem solve. Sure, it's over half-way through the pregnancy, but to my credit, we've lived in three different places in the past 3 months so I've been a bit busy just getting life settled. How am I going to avoid cleaning chemicals/heavy cleaning while pregnant?

Four words: vinegar, water, rubbing alcohol, spray-bottle (spray-bottle is one word because it's hyphenated). Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a (new) spray bottle and you've got a surprisingly inexpensive all-purpose cleaning solution. Mix one cup water, one cup rubbing alcohol, and 1 tablespoon vinegar and you've got window cleaner. I plan on using my special cleaner everyday on the kitchen counters and every-other-day in the bathroom for upkeep. We also purchased a cheap-o lightweight vacuum that I can take around the house daily to make it a little less hairy.

I am a bit weary of these things actually working well because they're so simple. I found some other cleaning recipes that are for stronger solutions, though I really don't think I'll need it if I'm cleaning on a daily basis. I just made these today and will try them this week to see how I like the cleaning solution and process. Hopefully these substitutes will get me by until the weekend when Matt can bust out the real stuff and give the house a good scrub-down.

Friday, February 26, 2010

One Small Step for Man

I finally got this on Wednesday (it was a 2009 goal...)

AND, I checked out 2 books!! I couldn't find 8 of the 10 on my list, but they are mostly specialized parenting books or social justice reads (I'm a dork), so I'm not surprised. I love how frugal and waste-free the library is, and it's only a 1/2 mile from our house. I see many walks with the baby in my near future.

And for the books that I can't find at my library (they are not at the Stanford library, either...), I am searching for on www.paperbackswap.com (my friend, Ashley, told me about this- she's always full of great ideas). I haven't found too many of the books on my list, but I'm getting rid of about 50 books that were taking up space in our garage!! I usually just sell books that are worth $5 + on amazon and donate the rest, but with Paper Back Swap I can essentially "swap" my old books for used books I want to read (for about $2 shipping). You can also swap-out old CDs and DVDs... I love getting junk out of the house!!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

She's My Cherry Pie

I stole an idea from my old-friend, Keight, (not that she's old, but we were inseparable from grades 3-7 which was awhile ago) and she stole the idea from popular blogger, NieNie. In short, it's celebrating moments in life with your family and helping create traditions for them. I've been thinking about how I can do this for awhile now but life hasn't exactly been settled enough to really get there. But this month I did two things to (hopefully) make our home a more festive and memorable place.

1. We are celebrating the Olympics in style!! Both Matt and I love the Olympics so I decided to give it a bit more umph this time. We pulled out a map and are keeping track of the medals; we made torches; and we will be making a few more things along the way. We watch every night with our American flags and talk about it constantly. In a perfect world, we will either be at the 2012 Olympics or host a big, Olympics party for the opening ceremony with our friends: the food will have a British touch and the kids can make Olympic related crafts.

2. We celebrated George Washington's birthday!! Well, kinda. I made a cherry pie (because he mythically chopped down a cherry tree). Why didn't I post the recipe and a stunning picture?? Well, because it consisted of rolling out a pre-made pie crust, opening two cans of pie filling, dumping said filling in the pie crust, topping with the second pre-made pie crust, and baking. How un-domestic is that?? Martha would be soooo ashamed... but life is just crazy sometimes and short-cuts are ok. The best part is that Matt absolutely loves the pie. He says it's the best pie he's ever eaten. Apparently, my homemade pies from last summer were all in vain :)

I love that we did these things this month. They are simple, stress-free ways to make everyday life a little more fun and enjoyable. And once we have a full family, it's a great way to include kids on what's going on in the world.

My goal is to do 2-3 of these a month. For March I'm thinking St. Patrick's Day (wear green, make Irish stew and soda bread, play some Irish music, etc), the start of spring (I'm thinking of planting our flowers on this day and making a big, fresh salad with grilled meat), and Gerdy's first birthday.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sewey McSew Pants

That's my new name (my real nickname is Prudence McPrude...). Anyway, look at what I did yesterday!!

My pillow took an hour (and a half) of private instruction at Bobbins Nest (which I love). It was a great scene of my instructor looking horrified at how little I know about anything sewing related- and yes, she knew I was a beginner. She was shocked that I didn't do any sewing projects growing up...

I did not realize that I was making a bed pillow case; my other one was a 12x12 pillowcase. Anywho, I went with the Valentine's Day fabric because a) it was on sale, and b) I didn't really want or need to make a pillow, but figured I could always pull this out in February. Or perhaps we will call it the "love pillow" and pull it out when anyone in our family is sick to feel special (sorta like a mix between the vomit bowl and the "You Are Special Today" plate).

Today I will fix the dog bed. Our youngest pup, Gerdy, destroys anything with an eye ball, button, or zipper, as documented here. Her bed is 2 weeks old and she already demolished the zipper beyond repair and ate part of the stuffing (she's 15 pounds), which makes for some "interesting" digestion situations... So, I will one-up my crazy dog by sewing the entire bed closed therefore negating the need for a zipper and hopefully, her need to destroy it.

My instructor thought it would be good for me to start with bibs and burp cloths (so if you have a baby, you can expect a beautiful piece of artwork to randomly appear in your mailbox- feel free to donate). I also got an Amy Coe pattern for a bag and some of her fabric (you should see how $$ her fabric is... I think I need to shift careers). As for my plan to make window treatments for my house, she thinks that's a bit ambitious. I will do it just to spite her. I am hoping to check out some good beginner's sewing books from the library- any suggestions??

I also need some new fabric for my bibs/burp cloths... looks like I get to go shopping this weekend!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

If I Only Had a Brain

I have tried some new recipes in the past week and none of them have been good. I have somehow messed-up recipes that are labeled "easy" and get 5/5 stars. So it's definitely me, which is cool. I've already been adjusting my dinners; the whole "pregnancy brain" phenomenon has taken serious root and I can't really handle anything more than a main dish and maybe a side dish. Most of our dinners are one-pot meals because I simply can't keep it together enough to do more than that. I've been thinking I need to break out the crock-pot and put that to good use, too.

Another wonderful mess-up of mine is the sewing machine. I purchased it 18 months ago (along with a box full of "supplies"), took a beginners class, made my pillow and completed 1.5 projects at home. And then we started IVF and anything "extra" fell off a cliff. So, I haven't even looked at my machine in over a year.

Flash forward to now: I'm pregnant with our son; I'm nesting in our new home; and, I see these adorable bibs and burp cloths that I suddenly must make for myself. I locate my long-abandoned sewing machine and realize I cannot remember how to turn it on, much less thread the darn thing to save my life. So, I signed up for beginners class numero dos where I will make yet another pillow. The only problem is that I spend all of my free time thinking about car seats and strollers, leaving little brain space for dates/times. Yes- I wrote down the wrong day for my class, completely missing it. Luckily, the little studio (which is adorable) took pity on me and is having me come in tomorrow for an hour private lesson. They will teach me how to turn on the machine, thread it, and yes- make a pillow.

Here's to hoping I can pull it together just enough to get all my supplies in the car and to the studio by 4pm tomorrow...

Thursday, February 11, 2010


My mom is considering buying a dutch oven to make the Barefoot Contessa's Beef Bourginon... I was helping her pick out a color and I found something I must have:

Aren't they beautiful?? I have a red Le Creuset that I adore and use at least three times a week. But I think I need every piece of the Carribean Blue line... so it looks like I'd better win the lottery to pay for my new cookware (and organic meat).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Grocery Budget

Let me start this by saying that I have learned (the hard way) that all of the horseradish I ate with my yummy beef strudel gives me horrible pregnancy gas. And by horrible, I mean painful... I probably ate half a jar of that stuff, which left me barely able to stand up yesterday... so no more smothering on horseradish- bummer.


One of the absolute best things about living where we do is the wide availability of organic foods. Not only does our Safeway carry organic produce, eggs, and milk at a decent price- BUT we also live right down the street from a Whole Foods which actually stocks a wide variety of organic, grass-fed, locally grown meat. The meat, however, totally messes with my grocery budget: I purchased 3 pounds of red meat (2 pounds stew meat and 1 pound ground beef) and it was $24. Thank you for the gift card, Santa... but seriously: it made me want to purchase a herd of cattle and set up a butcher shop in our garage.

On Long Island, we couldn't quite find the organic, grass-fed, locally grown meat, but we looked for organic or antibiotic free options. We really have been wanting to make the big jump to great meat like this... the more we read about corn-fed animals pumped full of drugs on massive meat farms, the more sense it makes for us. But let's be honest: we're a one income household and my husband works at a non-profit that currently will not cover our next round of fertility treatments should we want another baby (which is much more than the standard IVF cost you see in ads on TV- trust me). How will we be able to retire if our grocery budget explodes and all our extra $$ in the next 35 years goes to meat (and babies)??

Because we want to make the better choices for our health and environment, here is what I'm thinking:

1. Look into zoning laws for the aforementioned herding/garage slaughter-house option.
2. Limit the amount of meat we actually eat and learn how to make hearty, protein rich meals that are meat-less. These meals must also be yummy. By no means would we go totally vegetarian, but this would give us some dinner options that are a bit cheaper.
3. Hold-up the Whole Foods meat department.
4. Win the lottery.
5. Research a meat share or actually purchase a full animal. We would work with a certified organic farmer in our area, pick out our animal, and he would take care of killing/butchering it. Lovely, right? We'd store Bessie in a deep freezer in the garage. Not sure the pricing for this. BUT, I love the idea of being able to support humane, organic, local farming.

If you have any ideas (or experience farming/butchering cattle) please, please let me know...