Category Archives: Shopping

Why this mom of six is hardly blogging.

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I “only” had three children.  Along the way, it has always been possible to squeeze out a number of blogs per month, often 3-4 per week!  But, starting with baby Jean’s birth in June, these have been been my slowest months ever.  Here’s why:

  1. Time and priorities.  I love writing.  But, I also love reading.  I love keeping up with my friends and family on Facebook.  I have other responsibilities, besides homeschooling my children and running my home — I still lead worship weekly at a homegroup, and I essentially have a part-time job as a host and coordinator for a CSA (weekly, local farm-share).  I just can’t do everything, sadly.  Most days, just doing school, laundry, and making meals about taps me out.  I could drop any one of these things and have time for blogging, but I don’t want to.  So… it’s just a busy season that precludes blogging.  I have very often started drafts and by the time I finish, they’re just no longer relevant or pressing.  So, slowly nibbling away at drafts doesn’t seem to work for me, either.
  2. The current culture of blogging.  When I started blogging, most people hadn’t even heard the term “blog”.  I wrote with the abandon of one who was pretty certain that no one was reading.  In many ways, I was flippant and too-disclosing.  I wasn’t careful at all.  I could just dash off some thoughts without considering possible repercussion.  I’ve become wiser over the years, and have realized that people ARE reading, and therefore, I need to measure my words.  In addition, if I want to make a statement about health, science, Scripture, pretty much anything, the only responsible way to do that is to provide supporting links, which is the blogging form of end notes.  However, gathering and inserting appropriate links is time-consuming.  And THEN, you add Pinterest.  If someone wants to post something on Pinterest, you really need a picture.  So, I either hunt for a pic online with no copyright protection OR I hunt for a pic to upload and insert from my own.  Both of those add snippets of time to an already labor-intensive process.
  3. My mind is blank.  JUST KIDDING.  Actually, there are more things than ever that I want to share…  Inside my brain, my blog is crazy-active!!

Here, though, are a few small things happening around here:

  • We are still slowly remodeling our home and redecorating.  Both my husband and I are frugal, and our tastes overlap, but aren’t identical.  That’s why the process is slow:  if ONE of us didn’t care, we could get things done a lot faster.  But, we both care.   Here’s a shot (not a great one) of our living room.  It’s a mix of new and vintage/Craigslist purchases.  Living Room
  • We finally had to buy our first new piece of baby equipment.  Virtually everything on Jean’s body and which she uses here in our home is a hand-me-down, a gift, or purchased second-hand.  Oh, wait!  I did purchase a jogging stroller for about 1/4 the price of a new one, at a true outlet — a store that handles all the returns and overstock from Costco, Home Depot, and Rite-Aid.  It was new in the box…  So, I guess that counts as a new purchase.  So, purchase #2:  a highchair.  I can’t wait until it arrives;  baby Jean is six months and eating (limited) table food, but up until now, she has just been perched on my lap.  That is becoming increasingly messy.  I searched on Craigslist for the last month, looking for a chair that had some sort of modern appeal (to at least partially fit in with our updated decor), was well-reviewed, wasn’t too bulky, that both my husband and I like, and wasn’t too expensive.  I struck out.  So, this highchair is being shipped, as I type this.   
  • Just last week, I finished my favorite book of the last… year or so.  I have a few current authors that I follow;  I read everything they write.  Those tend to be dependable authors;  I like their craft of storytelling.  However, they’re not necessarily books that, upon closing, I reflect, “That was so very worthwhile.  I am enriched by having read that.”  Not that they’re trash;  they’re just entertainment, and not necessarily profound.  The book I recently finished?  Profound.  I had read quite a few (nonfiction) essays by Wendell Berry, as well as a number of his poems.  But, I hadn’t read any of his fiction.  Following the families in a community in rural Kentucky?  Sounded campy, à la Mitford (which I’ve never read, so, yes, I’m passing judgement based upon incomplete information).  But, my oldest son, a junior, read Fidelity as part of his homeschool curriculum.  When he finished, he handed it to me.  “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I think you’d like it.”  Which made me love him all the more…  And he was right;  I did like it.  I plan on reading more in the series, after I get through the next two books on my list (Leaving Everything Most Loved — I like Jacqueline Winspear’s storytelling.  However, as her works progress, each book seems more like “Zen Buddhist with an agenda, who is telling a mystery story on the side.”  It’s rather annoying.  I’m a Christian and I don’t even like it when CHRISTIAN authors try to proselytize via fiction.  I like it even less when the author’s beliefs don’t parallel mine.  And, An Old Betrayal by Charles Finch.  I found Charles Finch, whose stories are set in Victorian England, when I had exhausted the surprisingly large genre of literary mystery serials set in WWI-era England.)
  • And…  This little sweetie.  How I adore her.  She is perfect, except she doesn’t like to sleep.  Really, she doesn’t like to sleep at all.  You can try your suggestions, but I’ve probably tried them all, short of letting her cry long enough to give up and feel abandoned.  She is a darling baby, an absolute delight to our whole family.  Everyone is smitten, still.  She is beautiful and chubby, cheerful and funny, and loves to snuggle.  So, so perfect.  Except the sleep thing.  I’m tired.   baby Jean, in arms

Why I hardly ever eat broccoli any more (or, “A Paean to Seasonal Eating”)

Romanesco is the broccoli for math heads. “Romanesco broccoli resembles a cauliflower, but is of a light green colour and the inflorescence (the bud) has an approximate self-similar character, with the branched meristems making a logarithmic spiral. In this sense the broccoli’s shape approximates a natural fractal; each bud is composed of a series of smaller buds, all arranged in yet another logarithmic spiral.”

I used to eat broccoli a lot.  It was THE go-to veggie for my family.  I’d purchase, at a minimum, enough for two dinners’ worth, and prepared it in innumerable ways, but most often, just steamed.  We hardly ever eat broccoli any more.  I like broccoli.  I just usually can’t bring myself to buy it.

Here’s why:

“…the United States is a net importer of broccoli overall. In 2010, the United States imported 524.5 million pounds of frozen broccoli valued at $243 million. The majority of the frozen broccoli came from Mexico (72%), followed by Guatemala (15%) and Ecuador (8%) (Vegetable and Melon Data, ERS 2011).”

To be clear, if you are eating FROZEN broccoli, it is almost certainly from another country;  producing broccoli florets is labor-intensive, and since labor costs are higher here than in other countries.  If you eat fresh broccoli, there is a better chance that it came from the United States, most likely California.  If you eat organic, fresh broccoli, chances are even GREATER that the broccoli came from the U.S.  But, still…

I live in the desert, here in the Phoenix area.  I know that broccoli is harvested here for a very limited time of the year, usually in March.

And how do I know that?  Because a majority of my family’s veggies are from a local farm, Crooked Sky Farms, in a year ’round CSA.  Before 2013, our veggies came — for 20 weeks out of the year — from a different CSA.  The window for local, fresh, organic broccoli is very small.

So, when I’m shopping in the heat of summer, and that broccoli is looking mighty fine for a stir-fry, I ponder and think, “It’s August.  It’s stinkin’ 120° out there.  I know, Grocery Store Broccoli, that you did not come from any place even remotely close to here.”  And I usually pass on by…  I might cave if it’s from an organic producer in California;  that’s not too very far.  But usually, I just pass, and choose a summer veggie.  Or, I just live off of what the CSA provides.

I purchase very few veggies any more.  Year ’round, I do purchase mushrooms, lettuces (when not from the CSA), celery, and red bell peppers (when the CSA doesn’t provide other bell peppers).

Islander Bell Peppers — we received these purple bell peppers last week.

Sand Piper ivory-colored bell peppers, which were also in last week’s CSA share.

And… I think that’s about it.  Oh!  Potatoes I purchase year ’round, though they are available from the CSA for a good portion of the year.  I also purchase frozen organic sweet corn and frozen organic green beans, both from Costco.  Again, both green beans and corn are available for a time from the CSA.  And, I froze as much corn as I could this year, but we’ve already eaten it all.  :)

That sounds like a lot of purchased veggies.  But, really, it’s not, compared to how many veggies our family eats.

And when I finally have my garden up and going, it will be even fewer, but that’s another story.

I sent this to my CSA members this morning:

Hello, everyone!

 

I just wanted to send out a note of encouragement to each of you. I’ve heard from several who are growing really weary of eating the same things from week to week. Well, it hasn’t been exactly the same thing, but there have been several items — especially okra and cucumbers — that folks seem to be tiring of. I do understand! I intended to turn a batch of lemon cukes into pickles this past week, and with two different sets of houseguests, I didn’t get that done. I also decided to give away a bunch of okra, rather than freeze it. So, I do understand the weariness.

I do, however, want to remind each of you that eating seasonally is much healthier for YOU and for the planet. Studies have shown that produce that is grown seasonally (instead of imported, or grown locally in forced, non-natural environments) to be much higher in nutrient content.

Eating seasonally is a true return to ancestral ways of eating. Our ancestors ate what they could grow in their own environment, according to the season. They would eat a glut of what was fresh, and preserve what wouldn’t keep. We’re simply not accustomed to that. We live in America, which is, in many ways, a tremendously blessed country. Each of us very likely lives less than a mile or two from a supermarket. In that supermarket, we can buy broccoli year ’round. However, broccoli bought in the deserts of Phoenix in October likely grew in Mexico or South America, and traveled thousands of miles to get here. (The U.S. does grow broccoli in California, but we import more than we export. Most of the broccoli eaten in the U.S. comes from Mexico, Guatemala, or Ecuador.)

I’m not trying to guilt-trip you out of buying broccoli on your next trip to the grocery store, I promise! And in some ways, I do realize that I’m preaching to the choir; most of us don’t have to be convinced of the benefits of eating locally, seasonally, and organically.

For another perspective:

“Better nutritional content and overall health – Most grocery stores and food chains jazz up their fruits and vegetables to keep them looking attractive and inviting when they’re out of season. This naturally compromises the nutrition level of the food. Non-seasonal foods require bending of nature’s rules in order for them to survive the improper season in which they are brought into the world. Therefore, these foods are often full of pesticides, waxes, preservatives and other chemicals that are used in order to make them look fresher than they are.

By eating freshly harvested produce, you will be rotating your foods, thereby keeping your body from developing intolerances to certain foods and reaping the health benefits of a diet that is diverse and naturally detoxifying. Seasonal foods also have a much higher antioxidant content than non-seasonal foods.

Sustainable and environmental benefits – By eating seasonally, you will also be supporting the local farmers and local markets, which, in turn, works well for the sustainability of the entire economy. Seasonal eating helps the environment by reducing the number of food miles your food has to make before it reaches your table. The more local you eat, the less chances exist that you are consuming food that has been flown in from half way across the world, in effect consuming that much more fuel.”

(From: http://www.naturalnews.com/035575_seasonal_food_diet_health.html#)

And here’s another article: http://life.gaiam.com/article/benefits-eating-what-s-season

And another: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=28

ALSO, when farmers (and gardeners) plant the things that grow best in our rather extreme environment, and they don’t try to FORCE things to grow here that shouldn’t be growing in the desert, that helps to eliminate the need for pesticides and fungicides, etc.

So… if you can find the time, DO pickle those cucumbers — refrigerator pickles are easy and don’t require pressure canning. Okra is easily freezable:  Cut off the stem end and pop them whole into a freezer bag. Similarly, you can freeze summer squash without doing anything special: wash, trim the ends, and dice them. Then, just put them into freezer bags. Store your onions and potatoes in the fridge, and they will last for MONTHS.

I’m still enjoying greens that I froze this past spring, and summer squash from my freezer as well.

Preserving helps you maximize the value of the CSA, as well. I know I feel GREAT when I pull out some dried basil from the cabinet or diced rutabaga from my freezer, long after the season has ended. I feel like I’m being an excellent steward of what has been provided to me!

That said… cooler weather crops will very soon be available! I don’t have an exact timeline, but I did receive this message from the farm:

“Good day Glendale CSA. Thank you so much for participating in supporting your local farmer. Eating seasonal takes that ancestor heart that brings us back to eating the way nature intended. This is the best way to ensure your family is putting chemical free produce in their bodies. Farmer Frank always says “we fight GMO’s with our actions, not just our words.” While your taste buds are craving autumn, sweeten your palate with winter squash like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, baking pumpkins and more. Also look forward to soooo many greens, such as swiss chard, spinach, kale. Lets not forget our root crops. This year we plan to wow you with colored carrots, watermelon radishes and more! Jazz up your plates with Romanesco, graffiti cauliflower (purple), lettuces and rare onions. We are just beginning to scratch the surface. Thank you for your patience and commitment. We delight in serving you with many treasures.”

“Naturally Grown, Naturally Yours”, the Crooked Sky family

Again, NONE of this is said to guilt anyone into doing anything. I also understand about being on a budget, and the continual pull between eating more healthily, and being wise with my family’s resources. That’s actually the main reason I started hosting!! I primarily get paid in veggies. ;) It’s a huge benefit to my large family to be “given” about $40 worth of organic veggies every week. But, before I hosted, I participated in CSAs for several years, in addition to growing my own garden…

I do understand that you have to do what works for your family… I truly do.

And I THANK YOU, all of you, for participating, whether you’ve been with me from the beginning and are absolutely committed, *OR* if this whole CSA thing is new to you — or eating healthy is new to you — and you’re just trying it out. Everyone is on a different point in their journey to health and wellness, and I’m so very, very pleased to assist any of you at any point in your journey.

 

~sigh~

The short version of this very long post is that it is an EFFORT to eat well.  It requires something of you.  Time, money, effort, convenience…  All of those, or a combination.But the result is worth it, I do believe.

 

 

Returning to… well, not “normal”.

The babymoon filled with tortilla chips* and ice cream** is over.

I won’t say that we’ve returned to “normal”, though that is what I was initially thinking…  “Wow!  We’re approaching normal!”  There is no “normal”.  And, upon further reflection, it was like thinking, “Hey, baby!  You’ve upset our family’s routine!  You rascal!  How could you do that??  You’ve DISTURBED things!!”  And, truly, I don’t think that.

But on the other hand, I have been working to re-establish a new flow to our family.

I wrote this to a friend yesterday, who probably instantly regretted asking me how I was doing:

But, just to be real, yesterday SUCKED. It was the worst mothering day in a solid year, if not more. Frankly, Jean cries a lot. That isn’t bad, theoretically. I was telling my kids that Ethan cried a lot, and he turned out just fine. Some babies are just… needier than others, and I am happy to provide that extra comfort, extra soothing, more careful… care. But, OTOH, it means a lot of time in my room with the door shut, nursing (not that I always nurse behind closed doors), soothing, trying to help Jean sleep… and then my children are like Lord of the Flies out there, unattended, giving into sin nature, selfishness, unkindness, sneakiness, bullying… Ugh. I kind of flipped out yesterday. For a valuable 45 min of time when Jean was napping, I sat the five down and we went over Colossians 3:12-17. We talked. I lectured. We prayed. But did things improve? No. I had to spank***. I called Martin. And today hasn’t been much better…. But, I’m trying. Played Bethel YouTube worship videos for four hours straight in the main living area of our home, both to worship and sing, and to just invite the Holy Spirit in our day. And I have nipped everything in the bud, as much as possible.

There would be days like these in the past and I would think that I have totally failed as a mother. The good news is that I feel like it’s a temporary failure from which we all need to recover. I need to pull the reins in on my kids after letting things coast, slide, for too long. And they need to be loving and to obey.

So, see?  There’s no normal.

But, this morning represented a step in the right direction:  For the first time in Jean’s six weeks and two days of life, I made myself a “real” breakfast.  Granted, I absolutely gulped it down, so as to eat it hot, in case Jean awoke.  But, it was:  Three eggs, tomato slices, avocado slices, a cup of raw milk, and coffee.  YUM.  The first week of Jean’s life, I ate like a queen, because my hubby fixed my breakfast, and delivered it to me in bed.  The time since then has been altogether spotty:  A hastily eaten bowl of cereal (and I don’t even eat cereal!), a protein bar, a hastily-eaten pear, occasionally asking one of my boys to fix me eggs…  Or, more likely, me looking at the clock at 11:00 a.m. and thinking, “Crap.  I haven’t eaten anything yet today.”

Speaking of food…  While I absolutely, 100% agree with the thought that post-partum mothers should not give in to an appearance-centered culture that pressures us, “How are you going to lose that baby weight???”****  I also know that I’m carrying 12 extra pounds from the pregnancy — not much, I know! — and

  1. It’s crazy how much even just 12 pounds can make your clothes NOT fit.  Even tee shirts.
  2. I know that most of that wouldn’t be there had I not daily indulged in food I shouldn’t be eating in the first place:  like the aforementioned tortilla chips, ice cream, and cereal.
  3. I just feel better when I’m trim, when I don’t to have to select clothes that hides one sloshy part or another.*****

So, unless I want to purchase a whole new wardrobe — which WOULD be nice, but

  1. Where would the money come from to do that?
  2. More importantly, where would the TIME come to do that??

I need to lose at least some of that weight.

Hence, the subtraction of the carb-laden foods, and the triumphant reemergence of healthier food…

So worth it...  the tears, the "disruption", the extra weight...  So amazingly worth it.

So worth it… the tears, the “disruption”, the extra weight… So amazingly worth it.

———

*Organic, from Costco.  I love those chips!!

**Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra.  It was a lot easier to resist when I had to purchase it for $5/pint from the grocery store or wait for a coupon.  In the last year, pre-baby, I probably indulged twice.  But, since we discovered that the regular price at Walmart is $2.88/pint, and I got my hubby hooked on that particular flavor, it’s been MUCH harder to resist.  “Babe!” he grins, coming in the door with a bag from Walmart, “I got you some ice cream!”  Hahaha!!

***I probably just lost a good 10% of my readers right there.  “SHE SPANKS???” Um, yes.  On occasion.  I can’t remember the last time I had spanked anyone, prior to Tuesday;  a couple of months, at least.  It’s not my go-to discipline;  it’s my last-resort discipline.

****And if you haven’t read Sarah Bessey’s fabulous post on the Duchess of Cambridge’s post-partum hospital appearance, you should.  Absolutely, you should.

*****And we’re not talking “skinny” here.  I’m at 150 lbs now, and my goal is 140.  Pre-baby, it was 138 lbs.

Corn seconds (or… “So Come”)

This morning, my five children and I sat around our island and shucked sweet corn.

My oldest, Ethan (who will be 16 on Sunday), expressed a new appreciation for pesticides.

I was a bit shocked, as was Grant, who is 13.

It was, however, somewhat understandable.

The corn we were shucking was from the CSA, from Crooked Sky Farms.  Organic, fresh, but quite wormy.

Wednesday is CSA Day, where (currently) 24 people come to my home and pick up their share of local, organic, single-farmer-grown produce.  However, on Wednesday, I thought that I was going to have a baby, and I called in the troops — a fellow CSA member who had volunteered to host the pick-up, should I be giving birth or something like that, especially since we’re planning a homebirth.

In retrospect, I feel like a chump for calling her, because here it is, two days later, and I still don’t have a baby.

Anyway.

The instructions from the farm said to give everyone three ears of corn.  She was about halfway through the afternoon when she realized, “We are going to have a LOT of corn left.  A LOT.”  She upped the remaining people’s share to four ears, but was also worried, like perhaps the farm unintentionally gave too much corn, and they were going to ask for it back.

So, she came to my home yesterday with all the leftovers, including four boxes of corn — each box holding 25-40 ears of corn.  Clearly, each member could have had SIX ears, and we still wouldn’t have run out.  I’m not sure what happened — if they delivered too much accidentally, or if they just gave extra so that folks could pick through the ears and get the best ones, or what.

In any case, she kept two boxes, as did I.  I assured her that she had done nothing wrong;  sometimes, you just have to go with the flow and adjust, and she just didn’t know that, as this was her first time.  And, one of the perks of being the host is that you get to decide what to do with the leftovers, and one of the decisions you are free to make is, “Why, I’ll just keep it!”

The substitute host has seven kids;  I have five (almost six).  We happily kept our corn.

HOWEVER…  I must say, this corn was definitely picked-through, and not nearly as pretty as what you’d see in the grocery store.  Most of the ears were, as I mentioned, wormy.  (However, cut off the top third or half, and voila!  You have a beautiful half-ear of corn.)  Some of it was way too mature — dented kernels throughout, telling me that it was over-ripe, and that the sugars had turned to starch, and that it wouldn’t be good eating.  Some of the ears were just too worm-eaten or even moldy, and the whole ear had to be chucked into the compost bin.

So…  It wasn’t exactly pretty work, shucking this corn.  There was a lot of, “Eeeewww…” and ears dropped like a hot potato when pulling back the husk revealed three caterpillars, happily munching away at the kernels.

Wesley (age 11) eventually got grossed out and became mostly the guy who carted all the shucks, silk, and “dead” ears off to the compost bin.

Audrey (age 7) became distraught that I wouldn’t allow her to make a habitat which would enable her to keep all the caterpillars.  Indeed, I was insisting that everyone simply throw away the caterpillars in with the shucks.  She was horrified by my casual discarding of life.

However, Ethan, Grant, and 4-year-old Fiala hung in there like champs to the very end.

I wish I had a “before” picture to show you just how ugly this corn was…  But, I didn’t take a pic.

I found myself, though, reflecting on the treasure we uncovered, in pale yellow and white kernels — one that required a little work.  One that required us to “extract the precious from the worthless.”

Jeremiah 15:19

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

19 Therefore, thus says the Lord,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become [a]My spokesman.

We have enough “pretty” whole or mostly-whole ears of corn to give us two — maybe even three — nights of sweet corn feasting with our dinners.  And that is for our aforementioned large family of seven.

I also took the not-so-pretty ears — those which were less-than-half-sized, those which needed multiple kernels trimmed out, or even whole sides cut off, due to being dried or worm-eaten, etc. — and cut the remaining good kernels.  Those efforts resulted in a couple of knife nicks on my left hand, a partially numb right index finger from grasping the knife for six passes per ear… AND, five quarts of kernels to add to our freezer.

I feel like that’s a win.

Corn!

It’s hard to tell from this pic, but there are probably 25-30 ears of corn in the plastic shopping bag — most of them only partial ears…. But it’s a lot of corn!

This song was running through my head this afternoon, as I extracted the precious sweet corn kernels from what previously appeared to be two boxes of worthless, picked-over, dried, wormy, partly moldy corn…

I don’t know how to explain it…  It just feels redemptive and rewarding to have rescued all that corn… to have worked for it, toughed it out when the going was gross, and now my freezer is stocked and we will feast on hot, buttered, salty corn-on-the-cob tonight.

Thirty-six weeks. Birth and baby preparations.

I’m 36 weeks pregnant today.

That’s rather a milestone, because Arizona law only “officially” allows home births between 36-42 weeks.  So, I’m IN!!

In general, I’m not feeling miserable.  Well, I kind of am…  And part of me thinks that must be my age (I’ll be 40 next month!), but another part of me well-remembers the last weeks of pregnancy with my first, at age almost-24, and I think that, perhaps, I was even MORE miserable than I am now.  So, I can’t blame it on age.  Really, I just don’t enjoy pregnancy.  My body resists it, and all the more so as the birth approaches.

I do enjoy the birth itself — so satisfying, so joyful! — and I adore having a newborn.

I’m not going to have a water birth.

It’s kind of funny, because with most of the home birth pics I see — like on the ever-encouraging Birth Without Fear — inevitably, they’re of a vernix-coated brand-newborn being pulled straight from the water into the mother’s waiting hands.  And I just don’t… want that.  I don’t know why, exactly.  I just don’t.  Every time I’ve had the opportunity to labor in a tub — with all but one of my five previous births — I have gladly done so.  And I do envision myself in labor in my swimming pool and in a bathtub here in my home.  But, birthing in the water?  I just don’t want to.  Part of me feels like I should have a birthing pool on hand, just in case.  But, I have successfully, joyfully birthed five children while NOT in the water, and I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing the same with baby #6.  I don’t like the feeling of NOT feeling… grounded while in the water.  My midwife and her assistant (who is a friend of mine — a doula training to be a midwife) assures me that, with a rebozo (basically just a long, cotton shawl), they could wrap/loop it around me in such a way that I wouldn’t feel like I was floating away.  But that makes me feel even more twitchy — having fabric looped all around my body and two women holding it while I push out a baby.  I don’t want that… much touching me.  And I’m just not a fan of plastic touching me, either.  A rented pool is a blow-up plastic pool with a thin plastic liner.  Not a fan of the plastic-to-skin sensation.  No, thank you.

Plus, the pool rental is another $100 that I’d rather not spend, and my husband is worried about the second story of our home successfully supporting that much weight — and WET weight, at that — in the corner of our bedroom.

So, a birth pool is out.

For other baby-preparations…

Friends have POURED out love and blessing and baby stuff on us.  I’ve received:

  • A gorgeous crib.  (Actually, two of them.  I’m going to give one away.)
  • The first six months of clothing — really, really nice clothing from a friend whose baby girl was born in August of last year.  She works for a mall development company and I’m confident she spends WAY more time shopping at WAY nicer stores than me…  Plus, she has two boys and her family was thrilled that she had a baby girl, and of course, everyone gave clothes.  And she has passed them all down to me.  And we’re going to meet up soon and she’s going to give me a Boppy (which I love), a breast pump, and some other items, too.
  • A really nice car seat.
  • A bouncy seat.
  • Baby toys.
  • A play pen.
  • Some cloth diapering supplies.
  • Some baby linens — like bath towels and blankets.

The bassinet bumper is made from this cloth, edged in the chocolate brown of the leaves and stems, and tied with yellow grosgrain ribbon.

I already owned a nice, big, rocking, oak bassinet.  I purchased it second-hand when Fiala (who is now 4.5 years old) was not yet born, and it has been making the rounds, so to speak, ever since.  I’m kicking myself for not having all the mothers who have borrowed it write their baby’s names in pencil with the dates the bassinet was used.  I think the count is at seven.  Seven babies who have slept in that bassinet between the birth of my four-year-old and this new baby.  I think that is such a rich, sweet history.  And now, the bassinet has come back to me from the most recent baby (born in November) who had it…  Along with the bumper I made for a friend who used it for HER little girl, who will be four in August.  It’s still in great shape, still super-cute.

All I have purchased are:

  • More cloth diapering stuff.
  • A pail liner for said cloth diapers.
  • Another wet bag (a friend already gave me one) for cloth diapers on-the-go.
  • A diaper bag.
  • A Moby wrap.

And with all of that, I have spent less than $200.

For diapers, I have purchased all-in-ones, pocket-diapers, prefolds, diaper covers…  I have nearly enough diapers and supplies to last from newborn until potty-training.  Craigslist is a GREAT source for cloth diapers.  Thankfully, cloth diapering is quite trendy right now.  However, countless mothers have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on pricey, new cloth diapers, tried it for a week or two, and freaked out and decided to stop cloth diapering.  Then, they offer their nearly-new stash on Craigslist for 10-50% the cost of new.  And I come in and scoop everything up, happily.  :)  There are also die-hard cloth diapering moms who keep meticulous care of their cloth diaper supplies and have great items to sell — even if they’re older — that have been so well-cared-for that they’re worth buying.  I’ve also purchased a number of diapering items from eBay.  I’m still bidding on some more infant-sized prefolds…  And I still need a few additional items, but I’ll still probably end up spending just under $200.

And that’s even with my pricey diaper bag.

NOTE:  I am so NOT trendy.  I’m really not.  I have zero interest in being a stylish, hot mom who uses her baby as a public indication of her ability to spend loads of money on the best, most expensive brands.

So, on one hand, I’m kind of embarrassed about my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag.  This brand, in “touring” style I purchased, retails for around $150.  Discontinued fabrics — such as the one I purchased — can be found for $75-105, typically.  That just seems so, so, so pricey.  Like, ridiculously so.

Darling.  The colors.  The birds.  The fact that it’s real, woven houndstooth.  I love it.

On the other hand, I absolutely ADORE my new diaper bag.  I adore it.  I can’t wait until it arrives.   I bought it used, for about $40, and I literally cried with joy.  Though it is a fraction of the cost of a new bag, it still seems crazy-expensive to me.  But, once I saw that diaper bag…  I just felt like I had to have it.  Me, the immensely practical, pragmatic, penny-pinching mother of almost-six, “had to have” a $40 diaper bag.  And I was willing to spend more!  Ack!!

I consoled myself that I had been so frugal with my other purchases, and overall, have spent so little for this baby, that the $40 was justifiable.  :D  It’s my one baby-splurge.

So… with me now being 36 weeks, and with procuring — in one way or another — almost all of my baby supplies, I’m feeling almost-ready for the baby to come.  She could come any day and we’d at least not be in a panic, though everything is not quite ready…

 

 

In which I complain — and other stuff

I am 31 weeks pregnant.  I had two and a half glorious months, post-morning-sickness, where I felt AMAZING.  Now, my large belly has caught up with me, and I am feeling rather crabby and swollen and it’s hard to breathe, and I generally feel uncomfortable.  I’m also getting exhausted in a way… well, prior to my diagnosis with Celiac Disease, I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome*.  I remember how it felt in the evening, anticipating even ONE outing the following day, and having to fight despondency, because I knew that ONE outing would wipe me out, entirely.  That is where I’m at, now.

Until the last few weeks, the worst I could say was that the mass of varicose veins on the back of my right leg was giving me pain.  All things considered, being a 39-year-old pregnant woman, I figured that was quite good.  I got my stinkin’ expensive “pregnancy support garment” — which is very much like a girdle, or a compression garment.  On one hand, it’s a blessing:  It allows me to walk around without feeling like my leg is going to fall off;  it minimizes the pain and pressure, as well, from vaginal varicosities.  However… it is 80% nylon and 20% spandex which, apparently, my skin doesn’t appreciate.  If I wear it for too long, I get hives.  But if I’m NOT wearing it, I can literally be on my feet for maybe 5-10 minutes at a time.

I went to Illinois this past weekend.  I went to my maternal grandmother’s memorial service and visited my paternal grandmother, who is very ill.  I traveled with my sister (who lives in the Phoenix area, as well) and my brother (who drove down from Utah to travel with us).  It was, all things considered, a wonderful trip, in spite of the sad catalyst for the journey.  I could write for a very long time on my thoughts and the events of the four days, but I likely can’t:  My experience is so intertwined with others’, for whom I deeply care.  Telling my tale would necessitate telling theirs, as well, and I don’t know if they would appreciate me broadcasting their story;  it’s not mine to tell.

Still, in spite of late nights, days spent going hither and thither on necessary business, spending my days in the endless company of others (which generally drains me, as an introvert) — whom I needed to see and wanted to see and LOVED to see, cramming a couple of weeks of events into those four days, in spite of unending exhaustion of both body and mind, an aching leg, and the aforementioned hives, it was an exceptionally worthwhile journey.

IMG_20130420_100838_168

Views like this refresh my soul. It does, doubly so, knowing that this land, this view, has been connected to my mother’s family for nearly 200 years.

I love Illinois.  The above picture was taken from the back steps of my aunt’s home.  I took it, steaming coffee in hand.  The sun was shining, it was about 7 a.m., and the temperature was 35°.  The view is a corner of a field, which will likely have corn growing in it within a month or so, and a little pond beyond that.  In the timber behind the pond is the remain of an old road, likely last used in the early 1800s.  It had rained torrentially in Illinois, the day before our arrival, so the ground was saturated and impassably muddy in many places, and I didn’t own the boots which would allow me to go down that lovely road-path.

My husband, though, is considering having our family return to Illinois for our family’s summer trip this year — which would be our first time as a whole family — and I will most certainly meander down that road…

Anyway.

It shouldn’t be odd that, with the absence of The Mom, there are many things, upon my return, that have needed my attention.  Life does go on, even when I’m not here at home.  Laundry continues to pile up.  Children still need attention in their schooling.  The dog’s medicine runs out.

Today was much busier than I would have preferred, even if I weren’t pregnant.  So far, I have:

  • Gone to a grocery store — needed especially for milk and meat for the week.  (In related news, I got three gallons of organic milk for $4.99.  This was accomplished due to the fact that Shamrock Farms organic milk was 50% off this week, with the final price of $2.49 for a 3-quart container.  Two containers were near their “best by” date, and were marked $2.50 off.  In other words, FREE.  I figured that even if they went bad before we finished drinking them, no harm done;  they’re free.  I got two other containers, as well.  Four containers, three gallons total, $4.99 spent.)
  • Done two large loads of laundry — it’s still not folded, yet.
  • Overseen school with my three older children.  I will admit my first grader, Audrey, did pretty much nothing today, other than some self-directed art and Lego-building.
  • I fertilized my mini-garden with fish emulsion and epsom salts — something that should be done every two weeks, but of which I was very overdue.
  • I called LG for my washing machine — again.  It keeps having issues.  I’ve needed to call them for a couple of weeks now, but kept putting it off.
  • I ordered Algebra 2 on Teaching Textbooks.
  • I had an overdue, hour-long conversation with another homeschooling mom, helping her (I hope) with some issues she’s having with one of her children.
  • I went to Trader Joe’s for more groceries.
  • I returned some overdue library DVDs.  Yes, even with a smart phone, I kept forgetting to renew our family’s DVDs while I was away, resulting in $7 in new fines.  :(
  • I went to the pool supply store and got chlorine tabs and shock.  Our poor pool…  It really needs a new pump.  It is under warranty until July, but a repairman has already been out once, and he said that there’s really nothing he can do, under our warranty, until the pump breaks.  If it breaks entirely before July, the $400+ cost of replacement will be covered.  If it only limps along inefficiently, as it has been doing, we’re out of luck.  I must admit that I am tempted to sabotage the pump to “help” it completely break.  My husband, though, man of absolute integrity that he is, wouldn’t hear of such a thing.  But, it’s in the 90s now, and our pool-cum-pond is unusable.
  • I went to pick up more fluconazole for our dog, Tally, who is still recovering from Valley Fever.
  • I stopped by a used furniture store and bought a small chest of drawers for the new baby ($25 — it needs to be either painted or lightly sanded and revarnished — I haven’t decided which, yet).  I also bought a very solid, medium-sized bookcase for $35.  It has a blond finish, and appears to be from the 60s.  It is almost cool.  Tomorrow, I will clear out the beleaguered particle board book case which is currently holding most of our school books for this year.  It keeps collapsing.
  • I still need to shower.
  • I need to make dinner — which will be the Crockpot refried beans I made last night, reheating a roasted Costco rotisserie chicken, and likely some roasted beets from the CSA I host each Wednesday.  Easy peasy.
  • I need to pick out the worship set list for tonight’s small group.  It is definitely one of those nights where, if I didn’t have to go to small group, I probably wouldn’t.  Frankly, I’d rather put up my feet, watch baseball, and read my current book** during the commercials.  When I’m actually there at group, I always enjoy it.  Always.  But, right now, I am tired, and wish I wasn’t compelled to attend by my responsibilities there…

So, that’s it!  That has been my day.  Too busy for me.  Still not over.  But, life could be worse, eh?  All things considered, life is still good — many things have happened in the last week that are stellar, and on which I cannot comment.

If you’re still reading, thank you.  :)  Since it has been nearly three weeks since I posted, I felt that this post was overdue, as well…  Not my best work, but it will have to do for now.

Blessings to all my readers, those whom I know personally, and those whose acquaintance I’ve only made through this blog…  I’ve been feeling particularly thankful for you, lately.

 

—————–

*Virtually all CFS symptoms disappeared when I went onto a gluten-free diet.  I do believe that the underlying cause of my chronic fatigue was celiac disease itself.

**In spite of middling reviews (which I have not read — only noticing it has only about 3.5 stars on Amazon), I am still very much enjoying it.  Well, I just peeked at some reviews.  It appears that those who love Anne Perry’s mysteries, set in 1800s England, are most disappointed.  Perhaps that explains why I like the book:  I don’t care for Anne Perry.  (I did read her four-book series which was set in WWI, but once the series was completed, decided that any more of Perry would be a waste of my time.)

 

A good day. Mostly.

It’s not quite two p.m. as I type this, but today has been one of the sorts of days that I hope for, but rarely occur.  To me, a “good day” is one in which I get things done in the home, outside, with the kids’ school, and that something pleasant happens for me, too.  It has a nice pace:  Filled, but not frenetic.  I hate busy, deadline-driven days.  I hate days where I feel like I’m doing stuff all the livelong day but nothing gets accomplished.  I hate days in which there is an abundance of strife amongst the children.  Today has been good, full of the things I like, and with little to none of the things I don’t.  So, I thought I’d document it, if for no other reason, than to encourage myself.

  1. Let the day begin!  The day started just as I prefer:  On the back patio, with a cool breeze blowing, coffee mug in hand, reading the Bible.  I have an odd (?) affinity for Old Testament prophets, and was reading from Zechariah.  Then, my four-year-old, Fiala, came outdoors, sleepy-headed, and crawled up into my lap.  It was just right.  What started as a bright and breezy morning has turned into an all-out windy, dusty day, but that’s OK.  It’s keeping the temps down to the high 70s, which is fine with me.
  2. Gardening.  I am out of large and medium pots, now!  In what I semi-affectionately call my “fake garden”, I now have 10 medium or large pots filled with plants and seeds, in addition to my two, 2′ x 4′ planting boxes.  Today, after creating a mix of native “soil” (clay, really), compost (from a bag;  my homemade stuff isn’t ready yet), and vermiculite in a wheelbarrow, I transferred two large heirloom tomato starts into my last two medium pots.  I planted cilantro seed around one and cumin seed around the other.  I also transferred three small tomato starts (not ready to plant outside) into larger containers.  In related news…  I thought that with such a small garden, that there was NO WAY I’d forget what I had planted.  Wrong.  I have three different kinds of squash (I think) plus a few cantaloupe plants and a couple of cucumber plants, and they all look identical.  I have no remembrance about what is planted, exactly, and where.  Around each larger plant, I also planted smaller things like chard, scallions, various herbs, and flowers.  Some things are pretty easy to tell:  Chard, for one.  Scallions, too, are pretty apparent.  But the various herbs and flowers???  I have no idea.  AFTER I had planted cilantro seed around one tomato plant today, I noticed that some seedlings in another pot were getting real leaves.  “That looks like cilantro!” I thought, “Or is it parsley??”  I sampled it.  Cilantro.  From now on, I am making markers for each pot.
  3. I found the one I’m using, in perfect, nearly-unused condition in the shed. It is identical to one that my family had, while growing up. If I had realized it was “vintage” and could sell for $20 on Etsy, maybe I’d have sold it instead of using it…. Maybe not. I like it.

    Yard work.  I am happily transforming our back yard.  Our home, into which we moved in July 2012, needs some serious work to the back yard.  The front, too.  But, the back is where the living and the gardening takes place.  We have plans to seriously overhaul the back yard, but one bad thing about this being a larger property (almost 1/2 acre) is that the bigger the yard, the more it costs to re-do.  We need a pool fence, a completely redone drip irrigation and sprinkler system.  We need more trees.  We need to install my REAL garden (which, blessedly, my husband does consider a high priority!!).  We need to re-do at least some of the landscaping so that grass is not growing right next to the swimming pool.  The cool-decking needs redone.  We need gutters.  The whole yard needs to be Roto-tilled, as the clay soil is VERY compacted.  The list goes on.  But for now, we’re doing small things.  For instance, every Monday, I’ve been moving a sprinkler around the yard.  I let it soak a spot for an hour, then move the sprinkler.  It has very much greened-up the yard.  Regrettably, a good half of what’s growing is weeds.  But, when the collection of grass and weeds are mown, as my 15yo son did on Saturday, the yard is looking quite nicely.  There are a number of bare dirt patches, still, though.  I decided today to start aerating them, to see if that will encourage the grass to spread.  Today, I only did a maybe 5′ x 20′ section with an aerator we already had.  It’s just a four-prong step-on device.

  4. Homeschooling.  In spite of the above, I still got school done with my four school-age children.  Actually, I’m sitting at the dining room table with my son Ethan (who is a sophomore) while he works on science reading and questions…  I read in several subjects to my 11 and 13-year-old sons, and gave them instructions for further self-directed work.  For my first-grader, Audrey, well…  I should have done more with her.  I only had her do her workbook items (phonics and math) and then let her play with her new Play-Doh contraption all morning.  That’s fine motor skills and creativity, right??  (It was her birthday on Saturday…  Can’t believe she is seven!!)
  5. Laundry.  I also washed, dried, and folded a giant double-load of laundry, and loaded the machine with a new load to start tonight, after the electricity rates go back down for the evening…
  6. Food, etc.  I noticed that some red oak leaf lettuce, obtained from the CSA on Wednesday, was looking decidedly water-logged this morning.  So, I sorted through that, as well as some CSA spinach, and started a small salad for my lunch, and a large salad for our family’s dinner tonight.  And I used up the rest of the Red Russian Kale I had on hand, too, though that went on top my eggs this morning.  It feels good to use something completely.  I also harvested ten small-to-medium-sized Red Rhubarb Chard leaves this morning to add to the salads.  It was the first chard harvest of this spring…  I love my organic CSA veggies, but there is nothing better than plucking something from the back garden, which you’ve grown from seed, and nurtured into maturity.
  7. from Wikipedia

    Birds!  I finally positively identified a hummingbird that has been flitting around our back yard for the last couple of weeks.  It’s an Anna’s Hummingbird.  I got to get quite close.  “Male, medium-small, short beak, red gorget, throat, and head, green back, wingtips not quite as long as the tail…  Think it’s an Anna’s.”  Then, I went back inside and checked my Sibley guide.  It was an Anna’s.  Those are fairly uncommon here — I usually see Black-Chinned or Costa’s hummers.  It wasn’t quite as satisfying as ID’ing a new-to-me species, but still very nice.

  8. Pain.  The ONE bad thing about this pregnancy — I am now 28 weeks — is that I have a mass of varicose veins running up the back of my right leg, from my knee area up into my rear.  It sucks.  It is often incredibly painful.  I am WAITING AND WAITING on a stupid, expensive, girdle-looking “pregnancy support garment” that I purchased about two weeks ago.  I hope it works miracles.  I do take Horse Chestnut Seed extract for leg vein support and pain, as well as cod liver oil to thin my blood.  That worked brilliantly until about six weeks ago…  Some days are better than others, and today, even though I’ve been on my feet for much of the day, has been good.
  9. The one bad thing about today:  Last week, we took my truck — I call it The Land Barge — in to get fixed, as the RPMs were revving with little corresponding power to the engine.  The shop found a cracked gasket somewhere that was letting air into the system.  Problem fixed.  Except that it wasn’t.  On my way to the zoo on Friday (a 25 mile trip), the truck started to lose power and we had to pray it into the zoo parking lot.  My husband came to our rescue and traded out vehicles.  (Originally, all five children were going to go to the zoo with me, but my husband said that Ethan, our 15yo, needed to stay home and work on school.  I wasn’t quite in agreement, but did go along with it.  Well, if Ethan HAD been with us, we wouldn’t all have fit into my hubby’s small commuter car!  As it was, myself and the four kids fit snugly but fine…)  The truck completely broke when my hubby was driving it, and he had to get AAA to tow it back to the shop, which is closed on the weekend.  (I don’t mind single-owner, small businesses that close on the weekend and give themselves and their employees a break.)  Today, we heard from the shop that they had to take it out for a spin for a good 20 minutes to get the truck to repeat the problem, as no codes were showing up on the computer diagnostic system they use.  The good news, I guess, is that the truck DID lose power and they DID determine the source.  The bad news is that we need an entire new transmission for the truck.  That’s an expensive fix!  :(  One good thing, though, about being 39 and gaining the perspective of years, is that I have seen provide for us NO MATTER WHAT, and I wasn’t worried.  No, I don’t know where the money will come from — we’ve been saving money for a tax bill and the midwife — but that’s OK.  God still provides, He still takes care of us, and I found myself saying, “At least it broke down now, not on some big, long summer trip.”
  10. Now, I’m blogging, which I’ve been working at, off-and-on (mostly “on”) for the last hour and 20 minutes…  I’m always happy when time allows for that.
  11. Next, I will sort through Sunday’s coupons and plan my four-store grocery trip, which will be this evening, after my husband comes home from work with the car, instead of this afternoon…

No matter what happens the rest of the day (it is now 4:00), I can look back and say, “Today was a good day.”

Do you plan out your meals?

If you think this is a post in which I berate encourage you to do a better job planning, it’s not.

I don’t plan.  Not really.  Well, sort of, I do.

But not like my friend Daja at the Provision Room.  She’s a pro.

A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you have a website that you use to plan meals or do you just wing it?”

Here was my response:

Somewhere in the middle. I don’t use a website. What I do is see what is on sale for the week, and plan my meals — roughly — around that. “OK. Pork roast is on sale. I can do a Crockpot with green chile pork.” And I know that I always have green chiles, onions, garlic, and the spices to make that happen. “OK. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on a smoking sale. I’ll buy four packages, put one in the freezer, do stirfry with one, grill two packages using one batch of grilled chicken for dinner that night and saving the other grilled chicken for chicken sandwiches on the night I have small group and I need a fast meal…” Like that. I also purposefully make LARGE dinners, both so that Martin can take leftovers for lunch at work (he prefers that, and it saves money) AND so that we can have at least one night during the week (usually Saturday) where we have a whole meal of just leftovers.

And then… if there isn’t a cut of meat on sale at a price I want to pay, or if there are other staple items that have taken a big chunk out of that week’s grocery budget, I pull stuff out of the freezer.

So… I don’t plan stuff out like with a website. But, I do make a rough plan in my head, based on what I know I keep on hand in the pantry, dishes I know our family likes, and dishes that will best use what’s on sale that week.

Hope that makes sense.

This does bring to mind a few things:

  1. I have quite a few standard pantry items.  When I run out of one thing (or come close to it), I always put it on my grocery shopping list.  I know my pantry well, and I ensure it stays stocked.
  2. When I make my grocery shopping lists, I combine both what I know I need with what is on sale that week, using the weekly ads, if the store has one.  With the sale ads, I can see what “occasional buy” type items might be found at a good price that week.  For instance, in my shopping trip last night to Sprouts, I had, among other things, arborio rice, chia seeds, and yogurt on the list.  When I looked at the sale ads*, I saw that Sprouts also had bulk quinoa at $2.49/lb, Mom’s Best cereal (not g.f., not organic, but all-natural and my older two boys can eat it) at $2/box, and Cascade Fresh 6 oz yogurt cups at 2/$1.00.  Those are all things that I can and will use, even if they weren’t initially on my list.  Yes, there was yogurt on my list, but I usually only buy plain.  Cascade Fresh is one of my favorite brands — all natural, fruit-juice-sweetened, and it was nice for a treat.  So, I purchased.  (I also purchased one soy-based yogurt at $0.99 for my son who can’t have dairy.  It was a brand that uses non-GMO, organic soybeans…  I’m not a huge fan of soy, but when he only has one soy yogurt every month or two, I think his body can weather it.)
  3. I have a mental file of what is a good price for pretty much everything.  For example, on my shopping list were dry beans and canned pumpkin.  However, this shopping trip, both were expensive – – not on sale.  So, I didn’t purchase.  I’ll wait until next week or another store to get a good price.  Can I wait for a few days or a week or even more to purchase those things?  Yes, I can.
  4. I cook exclusively from scratch and mostly without using recipes.  I know not everyone has this skill…  My mom taught me how to cook, starting at age seven.  I’m 39.  That’s 32 years of cooking.  I enjoy it, too!  So, while I often keep an eye out for a new recipe to try, I would hazard to say that nine out of ten dinnertime meals are made without a recipe.  This allows me to be more flexible.  I know what I can make, I know what our family likes, and I can make those items, sans a recipe.  I don’t have to pull out a recipe card, look at the 15 items, realize that I don’t have 13 of them, and then put all 13 things on my shopping list.  In other words, what’s on sale dictates the menu, not the other way around.
  5. If I have a hankerin’ for something or someone makes a special request — like homemade pizza or homemade Caesar salad — I’ll put mozzarella cheese, (nitrate-free!) pepperoni, and tinned anchovies on the list, and I’ll purchase them if I can find them at a good price, and make that special item.  Often, though, I will “plan” to make a special dish for two, three, or even four weeks before I find all the items needed to make that special dish at the right price.  If those items cost too much that week — or if they don’t otherwise fit within the budget — I will add the “special purchase” item back to the grocery list for next week.
  6. My flexible approach makes participating in a CSA, farm share, or other “random” produce plan work well:  It really doesn’t matter what kinds of produce I get that week.  Whatever comes in the basket, I can find multiple ways to make it work.

So, I guess that’s what it boils down to:  I prefer flexibility and saving the maximum amount of money OVER having all my ducks carefully lined up in a row and me knowing a week (or a month!) in advance what I will be making on any given day.  But, like I wrote to my friend above, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all;  I just don’t plan in what might be considered a traditional, menu-planning way.

So, how about you?  What tools do you use?  Any?  Are you looking to change your meal-planning habits any time in the future?  If so, why?  If not, why?  Inquiring minds want to know….

————–

*As a bonus, Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays.  Each sale ad starts on Wednesday and ends Thursday, eight days later.  So each Wednesday, two weeks’ worth of ads are valid.  So, when there is a screamin’ deal — like navel oranges at 4 lbs/$1.00, I know I can buy 10+ this Wednesday, and 10+ lbs next Wednesday, too.  I virtually always shop at Sprouts on Wednesdays to take advantage of double ads.

CHEAP, natural cleaners for your home

There are a lot of resources (including recipes) on the internet for all sorts of natural cleaners.  I still get asked frequently, though, about what I use.

So, here’s what I do.

First, gather your ingredients:

  • Baking soda.  I buy baking soda at Costco in 13.5 lb bags, about $6.50 per bag.

    On sale right now at Vitacost for $4.53.

  • White (distilled) vinegar.  I also buy this at Costco.  It comes in a 1.33 gallon size, about $3.75.
  • Essential oil.  I buy this at Sprouts — there are a lot of online resources for essential oil, too.  Depending on the oil, it will run you $4-15 per 0.5 oz dropper jar.  I typically buy tangerine or lavender, both because I like the scent and because they’re one of the less-expensive varieties.  Various essential oils are supposed to accomplish various things (for example, lavender has disinfectant properties and is calming), but I just buy them for the scent.
  • A natural, phosphate-free dishwashing liquid.  I like the kind from Trader Joe’s, but you can find it just about anywhere.  Method, Meyer’s Clean Day, Seventh Generation, even Clorox Green Works is fine.  Just not Dawn or Palmolive or the like;  they contain chemical detergents and dyes and scents that aren’t good for you or for the environment and just don’t work when you’re using it as an ingredient to make a household cleaner.

Now, make your cleaners:

  • For my Everything Cleaner:  Fill a 32 oz squirt bottle about 60% full of white vinegar.  Add about 20 drops of essential oil.  Add about 1 tsp dishwashing liquid.  Top bottle with filtered water.  Shake gently.  This cleaner literally works on everything non-porous:  toilets, counter tops, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, whatever.  And, it’s non-toxic, so use it without fear in the kitchen.  The vinegar is a disinfectant, so if that’s important to you, let the cleaner sit on the surface for a while before wiping down.  If you notice streaking on windows, mirrors, and stainless steel, you’re using too much dish soap.
  • For things that need scrubbing:  Baking soda.  That’s it.  If you want to get fancy, fill a bowl with baking soda and add 10-20 drops of essential oil.  Store in a shaker jar.  Use this to clean out tubs, sinks, cook tops, ovens, etc.  This also works as a stink-remover on carpet and furniture.  Sprinkle, let sit for a while, then vacuum off.
  • For floors:  A squirt of dish soap in a bucket of hot water.  For floors that are NOT a natural stone, add a cup of white vinegar.  You don’t need a fancy, expensive floor cleaner.
  • For laundry:  For about two years, I made my own laundry soap;  I don’t any more.  I now buy Costco’s Kirkland brand “environmentally friendly” laundry detergent.  It is scented (much to my surprise when I first purchased it).  To the bottom of each tub of laundry, I add 1/2 cup of baking soda.  I fill the fabric softener compartment with white vinegar.  The white vinegar is especially effective if you live in an area that has hard water, and/or if your family suffers from eczema and you need all soap residue removed from clothing.  If your washing machine does not have an extra rinse/fabric softener cycle, when your clothes are washed, run an additional rinse cycle, adding 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  I use regular ol’ unscented bleach on my whites.  I do not use fabric softener in the dryer.  Don’t need it.  Our clothes aren’t as highly scented as if I were using Tide and Downy, but they are CLEAN and what I’m doing is better for our skin and our environment, not to mention cheaper.

Where I do use purchased cleaners:

  • Murphy’s Oil Soap.  I still use this on wood surfaces like kitchen cabinets.
  • Method Wood For Good Furniture Polish.  I like the scent, I like the shine.  It works well.
  • Lysol toilet bowl cleaner.  You can use bleach or even baking soda, but the Cling variety of toilet bowl cleaner is still my old standby.
  • Dishwasher detergent.  I typically buy Palmolive Eco+.

There are folks who make their own dish soap, their own dishwashing detergent, their own laundry detergent…  I have experimented with all of those.  But from a cost + effort + effectiveness, at least for now, these are the things I have found to be the best choice for our family.

Desert gardening update and (oddly enough, related) thoughts on blog monetizing….

I’m unsure if I can actually call myself a “gardener” right now.  After having a true, desert, organic garden for about 2½ years at our previous house (plus experimental forays into gardening sporadically over the previous ten years or so), I’m not certain if my current efforts qualify.

In desert climates, the GOOD news is that you can garden year-round.

The BAD news is that pictures like this make you want to puke, just a little bit:

Or cry.

This sort of pic implies — or outright states, on most gardening websites — that all a prospective gardener needs to do is remove an offending layer of sod, roll it back, and plant some veggie seeds in order to turn your lawn into a thriving garden.

Not so in the desert, dear reader.

  1. There is no “sod”.
  2. The soil underneath the sparse surface vegetation is not actually soil.  It’s a compacted, dry, humus-free clay dirt called caliche.
  3. If the dirt isn’t transformed by adding VAST amount of compost, you’re wasting your time.
  4. If the composted dirt has no water source, you’re wasting your time.

So.  If you want to have a “real” garden in the desert, you must prepare the bed with much greater effort and many more nutrients than is required in virtually every other climate.  You must also supply a water source.

I know a guy who lives on a property that is flood-irrigated.  He invested in storage tanks and pumps, and sucks up the flood irrigation water that is delivered (via a small gate and a neighborhood system of irrigation pipes) every two weeks, and then metes it out with an additional drip irrigation system he has attached to the storage tanks.

That sounds really expensive to me.

It also sounds impossible, as we have no flood irrigation available in my neighborhood.

I live really close to a flood irrigation district;  less than a block to the east of my street, the homes have flood irrigation as an option.  My home does not.  :(

The home into which we moved, July 2012, has a large property (just under a half-acre) and MUCH SPACE for my garden.  However, under that potential growing space is a broken sprinkler and drip irrigation system.  The WHOLE THING needs to be dug up and re-done.  That ginormous project is among the next things we hope to accomplish, but right now, it’s seeming a long, long, long way off.  In the meantime, we had to shut down the sprinkler system.  About 1/3 of it simply didn’t work at all.  One third had broken pipes resulting in a few marshy areas.  The other third did work, resulting in a few patches of green in our back lawn.  We decided that the small amount of green provided by the sprinkler system wasn’t worth the overall waste of water.

SO!

This means that everything growing in our yard must be watered by hand, including any gardening efforts by me.

I have decided that supplementing a patch of dirt on the ground to turn it into actual soil and then watering it by can or hose was not going to be sustainable, especially when I would have to remove the whole thing when we finally re-do our sprinkler system.

So…  All I have right now are two raised garden beds on legs, similar to this:

Except mine aren’t quite as big.  They’re 2′ x 3′.  That makes a grand total of 12 square feet of garden space, which is less than 1/10 of the size of my previous “real” garden.

I’m also trying to not think too hard about how difficult it is going to be to sustain these beds in the summer, when keeping ANY container moist enough in the bone-dry 115° air is nigh-impossible.  I may just have to abandon them during the summer.

In the meantime, though, I have muted excitement about what IS growing in them, these last few days of January.

I have:

  1. Crimson Giant Radishes
  2. Calliope Blend Carrots
    (both direct-sown into the soil)
  3. Brocade Marigolds
  4. Bouquet Dill
  5. Clary Sage
  6. Simpson Lettuce
  7. Yevani Basil
    (all started indoors in Jiffy “pellet” pots, then transplanted outdoors when large enough)

Additionally, I have more seed starts going, some nearly ready to transplant, some still not germinated…

  1. more marigolds
  2. more lettuce
  3. more dill
  4. more sage
  5. Italian parsley
  6. Feverfew
  7. Common thyme
  8. Big Red (bell) pepper
  9. Stevia

I also have at least 10 other things that I would LIKE to plant, and for which I have the seeds — some purchased, some saved from previous gardens — but I likely won’t have the space.

So, how is all of this related to blog monetizing??

This post started its life in my head as a wee blurb that I was thinking about posting on my Facebook page singing the praises of Botanical Interests’ customer service.

See, the stevia seeds are quite pricey:  I paid $3.49 for a packet of 15 (TEENY TINY) seeds.  I have been trying since the beginning of December to get those suckers to germinate.  My two little seed-starter window boxes only hold 24 starts at a time, so I’ve been starting four seeds each of the various varieties.  Every other seed variety has been successful so far, though a couple of them have taken two tries.  I have had three go-rounds with the stevia seeds with zero success.  This morning, as I was about to start the fourth try — and thus use the last of my stevia seeds — I decided to call Botanical Interests to see if they had any suggestions to increase my chance of success, this final attempt.  “Final” because I didn’t think I was willing to spring for another $3.49 packet of seed, even though thoughts of homemade stevia tea and smoothies sweetened with fresh stevia leaf are VERY appealing to me.  (Plus, stevia wards off aphids whilst it is growing among other garden plants.  THAT is a valuable asset to have.)

Here’s what happened when I called:

  1. A person answered the phone.  A HELPFUL person, not just a receptionist.
  2. After I explained my stevia germination problem, she told me that Botanical Interests guarantees that their seeds will germinate and if I would give her my address, they would send me a new packet, for free.  That was a surprise to me;  I wasn’t calling as a disgruntled customer demanding a refund…  But I happily gave her my address.
  3. She volunteered to transfer me to the voice mail of the staff horticulturist who specializes in germination.

So, I did leave a message, and look forward to hearing from said horticulturist.

Over all, I would say that was a very successful call.

In my glowing satisfaction with Botanical Interests, I thought to post a bit, singing their praises.

THEN, I hesitated, concerned that I would come off as a shill for the company, as I have posted a number of times about how much I like them, as a company, and their products.

Please believe, gentle reader, that Only Sometimes Clever is NOT a money-making venture.  I’ve been blogging for seven years, and if I post something saying, “I like this product,” it’s because I actually like it, not because someone has paid me $20 to say that I do.  Or, if there is a link I’ve included, it’s because I think it’s for a worthwhile read, not because I am receiving a kickback per x number of clicks that link generates.

No one pays me.

I receive offers — usually 2-5 per week — for money in exchange for a positive review or a link or a guest post (where someone with financial interests guest-posts on OSC, and for which the other author will pay me).

But, I turn all of them down.

I do occasionally review products which have been sent to me for free, but I’ve been doing less of that lately.

I like to think of myself with a Consumer Reports mentality:  It’s for your benefit, dear reader, that I post.  You don’t have to worry about my reasons for suggesting a product.  If I do, it’s because I have had a positive experience with it.  Simple as that…  I’m not trying to make money off y’all.  :)

So, happy reading and happy gardening to you!

And go buy some Botanical Interests seeds.

 

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