Friday, September 30, 2011

Homemade Laundry Powder

I finally did it. I finally made my own laundry powder. The first load just finished and it's fantastic. Everything is clean and smells so fresh.

I've thought about making my own laundry powder for a while but I never fully committed to doing it. I wasn't sure if it was okay to use it with the type of cloth diapers were were using (some people said yes, some said no) and I didn't want to risk it. There was no where in our town to buy diaper safe detergent so I found a place online where I could order the detergent I liked without paying tax or shipping. That's what I did for the first year we lived here.

And then they stopped selling it. Conveniently for me, L. was ready to quit using diapers at the same moment I realized we weren't going to be able to get diaper safe detergent.

Even though I no longer have to worry about the safety of my cloth diapers I didn't want to go back to using mainstream detergent. We have several people in the house with super sensitive skin and I don't like the chemicals and brighteners and everything else I can't pronounce on the ingredient list. And I don't like the idea of them scumming up the washing machine I worked so hard to clean to protect the cloth diapers from buildup.

So, I decided to take the plunge. I found a recipe for a laundry powder on SouleMama's blog that sounded perfect and easy. That was the key factor. It is so EASY. Here is the link to the original recipe.
This is what you need:
2 cups finely grated castille soap
1 cup borax
1 cup baking soda
1 cup soda ash (also known as laundry soda)
Container to put it all in (I used a old tin from some laundry soap I bought a while back)

Like SouleMama I used Dr. Bronner's peppermint bar. I'm already a big fan of that particular soap so it wasn't a hard decision. I went down to our health food store this morning to buy the soap and guess what? They're carrying a diaper safe detergent now. On the shelves. In the store. Some timing huh?

But guess what else? It costs $17.99 a box not including tax. Yikes. And that is only good for 80 loads. If I ever need to wash diapers again I think I'll try the unscented Dr. Bronner's.

Anyhow, back to making the laundry powder.

Grate the bar of castille soap. Then mix in the other ingredients. Now you're done.

It's that simple. I used my cheese grater to grate the soap. I used the one with the smallest holes. I've heard some people use their food processor but since I don't have one I didn't use one.

You'll want to store the laundry powder in an airtight container and use about 1/8 cup (two tablespoons) per load. SouleMama says you may need to adjust the sodas a bit depending on your water. I have a top loading machine and an 1/8 cup worked fine for me. 

Have you ever made your own laundry powder or liquid? How did you do it? Do you like it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Lunch Wars by Amy Kalafa

I was really excited about the opportunity to review Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children's Health by Amy Kalafa. As someone who is fairly obsessive (anxious is probably a better word) about the quality of food I feed myself and my family, I jumped at the chance to read the latest research.

Lunch Wars does not disappoint. It is FULL of information. It is well researched and written in what I considered very accessible language. Basically, it's a "how to" manual for approaching school administrators about the food served in the cafeteria. Kalafa gives you the information you need to get motivated and be persuasive. She tells you why there are problems, what the problems are, and what the consequences are for our children's health and the environment. She tells you where to start (honestly, the issue can seem a little overwhelming and it's nice to know who to talk to first) and she gives you inspiring success stories along the way.

Don't have kids in school? This book is still for you. The information Kalafa provides is useful to anyone who wants to eat a healthier diet. After all, the food served in schools is a highly concentrated version of the average American diet isn't it? There is processed food EVERYWHERE...even in health food stores.

The best thing about this book is that is made me think more about the food I serve in my home. No matter how many books I read (or documentaries I watch) about food production, health, the environment, and why it's better to eat organic, I tend loose momentum after a while. As time goes by I let things slip. Eating locally produced, seasonal, organic food is really challenging here. More so than anywhere I've lived before. Consequently, I've started to compromise on a lot of things.

This book made me think about the compromises I've made and how I've justified them to myself. As much as I make things from scratch, I've definitely made concessions. I need to eat and feed my family more intentionally. I need to plan ahead and go to the farmer's market even though it's a long drive. I need to question the lack of hormone free cheese at our local grocery store. There are a lot of things I need to do differently. Change needs to happen everywhere, not just in schools. But as Kalafa points out in her book, schools are an amazing opportunity to teach children about food, food production, nutrition, and the environment. 

The worst thing about this book is that it made me think more about the food I serve in my home. It makes me think about all the veggies I've eaten that were not organic. It makes me think about the possible level of pesticide residue in my breastmilk. It makes me think about every time my daughter has had a bite of something I'd rather she didn't eat. I start regretting the hamburger we ate on vacation because I didn't ask where the meat came from or how it was produced.

Even though I'd heard a lot of the information before, it all makes me anxious. I realize that I start to compromise and push the knowledge to the back of my head to preserve my sanity. When I feel out of control--like I don't have access to organic fruit or we're eating dinner with friends who don't buy organic meat--I get really anxious. I have to remind myself that I can only do so much. I can only do my best.

But I wonder if I've been doing my best. As I mentioned above, I need to be better about supporting our little farmer's market, I need to be vocal about our organic choices at the grocery store. I need to do my best because I want my daughter to grow up healthy. I want her to appreciate good, healthy, sustainable food for herself, the planet, future generations. I want her to have good judgement and make good choices. I thought I was doing a pretty good job. And then I read this in the introduction:

"In a 2007 study, preschool children reported that food in McDonald's wrappers tasted better than the same food in plain wrappers, suggesting that branding can even trump sensory input...A 2010 Yale University study found that 'children significantly preferred the taste of foods that had popular cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters.'"

I admit it kind of freaked me out. My daughter isn't even two and she does this. She doesn't recognize most cartoon characters but she does watch Sesame Street. She prefers juice boxes with Ernie or Big Bird on the box. She frequently requests "Ernie juice". She prefers pureed fruits squeezes (the baby food in a pouch with a spout that she can suck out by herself) with Sesame Street characters on them. She still eats the plain ones but if she has the choice, the choice is obvious. I didn't think twice about it. She usually only eats them when we're traveling or at the beach. It's all organic, 100% fruit and juice with nothing added. But when I read that line about branding trumping sensory input...yeesh. My daughter is already learning to judge by pretty packaging and not by what is inside.

That alone shows me how important it is to turn around the food situation in schools. Kids are so easily persuaded. They learn these lessons when they are so young. We need to make sure they're getting the right information at home and at school.  

Finally, a disclaimer: This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but it's all my own opinion. I didn't like the last book I reviewed and I would have told you if I didn't like this one. But I did like it. You should read it...even if you don't have kids in school. 

And if you're passionate about this topic (or you want to hear what someone besides me thinks about it) visit the Lunch Wars page at the BlogHer Book Club.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Home Again

L. and I spent our first day home falling back into our old routines, enjoying all the things (and the little dog) that we missed while we were away, and catching up on sleep. It's been lovely.

I know L. had fun visiting friends, seeing new places, playing with her cousins, discovering rocky beaches, sliding and swinging in new playgrounds, and hugging her grandma and grandpa. But it's been interesting to watch her changes in behavior over the last few weeks.

Even though I know she had fun, too many days without naps caught up with her. So did the stress of being away from home and missing her other grandmother and our dog. She went from using the potty the majority of the time to almost not wanting to use it at all. She went from not nursing at night to nursing for hours on end (day and night). She's been adventurous and extra clingy at the same time.

She's relaxed since we got home. She was so happy her to see her dog. But she was sad that J. had to go to work. She liked having us all together. She really missed him today.    

I missed him too. I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Exploring

I thought I would have had more time to write the last few weeks. But I haven't. I suppose it's not surprising. Coming home has been wonderful and I've been thoroughly soaking up the mountains and the colors and the trees. L. has enjoyed experiencing old places like it's the first time. We've all enjoyed the view...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I am...

I am feeling OVERWHELMED with packing. I hate packing.

I am a little ANXIOUS about flying again with an almost two-year-old who doesn't like to sit still.

I am super EXCITED to see old friends and favorite places and share them with my darling girl.

I am ANTICIPATING "cold" weather. I can't remember what 61 degrees F feels like.

I am EAGER to see the Pacific Ocean.

I am feeling READY to walk through a real city...and up and down some hills.

I am CONTENT after a day filled with new friends and laughter.

And I am EXHAUSTED and hoping we all sleep well tonight.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Running: Week 9, 10, and 11 Report (sort of)

Sunday 8/21: Ran 25 minutes (1.75 miles)
Comments: Felt strong. On the treadmill because I didn't get up early enough and it was already too hot outside. Did a faster pace than normal and some hills. When I say "run" please know I take do a little walking too...trying not to over do it. 

Monday 8/22: Off
Comments: Putting swing set together late into the night...

Tuesday 8/23: Ran 25 minutes (1.35 miles?)
Comments: Nice relaxed pace on treadmill. Felt good.

And then I quit keeping track. Years ago I kept meticulous records of every mile I ran. I recorded all my cross-training...every sit-up, push-up, lunge, stretching...I recorded all of it. I mapped out my runs to fit the mileage I was supposed to achieve each day.

I've decided I'm not going to do that this time around. I'm focusing on running for a certain number of minutes each day. The miles I might fit into those minutes vary from day to day. I came up with a schedule to gradually ramp up my mileage for the half marathon relay I'm planning to run in October and I'm sticking to it as best I can. It's been hard to stick to it exactly while we're traveling. I've decided it needs to be a guideline. It's not written in stone. I'll do my best and when the race comes around I'll walk as much as I need to.

While L. and I were out of town last week I was able to go to REI and exchange my Vibram FiveFingers KSOs for the Bikila style. Even though they are the same size, they fit a lot better and I'm not so nervous about increasing my mileage anymore. I think the nagging feeling that the KSOs didn't fit quite right was holding me back.
So, that's it. I'm running to relax. I'm running to make myself feel better. I'm going to stop obsessing about my mileage (or lack there of). I'm going to stop beating myself up when I don't run as much as I think I need to. I'm going to listen to my body. I'm going to run so long as it feels good and increase when it feels right. I'll get where I want to be eventually. But I think I'll have more fun in the long run. Pun intended.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Prioritizing Father-Daughter Time

L. and I got home from our travels Tuesday night. J. met us at the airport with flowers. He's sweet like that. Watching L. light up when she saw him almost made me cry.

I had been nervous prior to our trip about the length of time we would be away from J. When we chose our flights I was so worried about making it worth the trip, finding the most direct route, avoiding the holiday, etc. that I didn't stop to think about the actual number of days we would be gone.

So, before we left I was a little anxious about how L. would deal with being gone so long. I was worried about how I would deal with her missing J.

I know she missed him. She said, "daddy" a lot. We skyped once and she was so happy to see him. She wanted to talk to him on the phone.

But she had a good time too. We visited my best childhood friend. L. played games and had tea parties with her daughters. We went to two different zoos. We visited a historical village and all the girls got little prairie bonnets. We did a lot of wonderful stuff. Lots of playing and laughing and running.

And now we're home and it's apparent just how much L. missed J.

J. surprised us and took the day after we returned home off of work. We had a really nice, mellow, relaxing family day. L. clung to him. Everything we did she wanted him where she could see him. Wednesday night she woke up at 3am, yelling for daddy. I went in (I'm usually the one who goes to her at night) but it didn't help. When J. came in she hugged him and went to back to sleep immediately in his arms.

They have such a strong bond. Even after being gone for nine days she didn't push him away. She ran to him, she hugged him, she immediately started playing games with him. She wanted him to push her on the swing and play chase. It's wonderful. It makes me so happy my heart hurts.

And it makes me really sad that we're leaving again soon. This will be a much shorter trip. J. will meet up with us. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't put the two trips so close together.

Not that I can change that now. I'm really looking forward to our upcoming trip. I'm trying to focus on the good stuff. This week we're making the priority father-daughter time. Every minute that J. is home from work is time for the two of them. Lots of playing, lots of cuddling, lots of love. I've thrown bedtime out the window and just watch them interact until L. decides she's had enough and is ready for sleep.

It's a wonder to watch.

As I'm writing this, L. is calling for J. Normally she only wants me at bedtime. Tonight she wants her daddy.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Birth Story is Featured!

Shortly after L. was born, J. and I both wrote our own accounts of her birth. I wrote because I had to get it out on paper. I needed to process my experience and I didn't want to forget a single detail.

J. wrote because he was taking a non-fiction writing class and wanted to share our story with his class. He probably had other reasons for writing too but I won't pretend I know what they are.  I imagine he needed to process our experience as much as I did.

My version was really long. J.'s was more to the point.

So, when my friend Officerswife over at I'm a mommy. What's your superpower? asked if I'd like to share our story for her Miracle of Birth Mondays, I agreed immediately and sent J.'s version of our birth story.

I'm always looking for an excuse to share our birth story. I love it. I love that it happened. I love that J. wrote it. I love that he wanted to be so involved in every minute of our birthing experience. I love that he was there with me. I couldn't have done it without him. I'm so thankful he is my husband. I'm so thankful he is L.'s father.

L. is almost two years old and I still get teary every time I read this.

The Miracle of Birth Through a Father's Eyes

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Flying with a Toddler (a whole new way to travel by plane)

I've always kind of enjoyed the excitement of traveling by airplane. When I was younger, it made me nervous (especially if there was any turbulence at all during the flight) but I still enjoyed walking through the airport. I loved watching people scurry around to get to their gates. I savored the anticipation of arrival in a new destination or of returning home after many months.

Now that I'm traveling by myself with a toddler, I don't have much time to think about the excitement. I'm nervous again. Will she nap? Will she nurse? Will she sit still? Will she tell me if she has to go potty? Will she cry? Will her ears hurt? Will we be delayed? Will we crash?

I thought about all of this months ago when I was selecting flights. I picked the times she was most likely to nap. I picked the quickest possible route with the least amount of stops and transfers.

Before we left I packed her favorite books, toys, crayons, paper, coloring books...all the while hoping she would just nurse and fall asleep for the duration of the flight.
She didn't.

She cried when we left J. at security. It almost broke my heart to hear her screaming, "Daddy, Daddy!"

She calmed down quickly after security and happily ran around at the gate until it was time to get on the plane. She even told me she had to go potty before we got in line to board.

Once we were on the plane, she got antsy. Despite having been awake since 4:30am, she had no interest in sleeping. She wasn't very loud but she was squirmy. She didn't want to sit still. She wanted to climb on the seats and was very unhappy when I stopped her from joining the folks in the row in front of us.

Fortunately, all the passengers near us thought she was cute. When she cried they assumed her ears hurt.
"Yes", I told them, "I'm sure it's her ears". I didn't want to tell them she was having a tantrum because I wouldn't let her do downward dog with her feet on the window and her hands on the seats.

I counted down the minutes until we got our drinks and peanuts. Crinkling the bag and picking up the peanuts one by one and dropping them in my cup occupied at least a minute and a half. It was way more fun than anything I brought along. She colored with her crayons for about 30 seconds but it didn't hold her interest. She didn't even want to take her other toys out of the bag.

We had an unscheduled plane change that took up some time and provided some excitement. Luckily it didn't delay us at all. On our second flight we had some nice moments where she enjoyed the clouds and the little houses and buildings down below. I loved watching her take it all in. For a moment I relaxed and felt like I was able to share with her the excitement of flying.

Ten minutes before we landed at our final destination she calmed down enough to nurse. I was so happy we got through landing without her ears hurting.

And we didn't crash. That was nice too.

I'd like to send my fellow passengers thank-you notes. Thank you for not minding that my daughter cried a little and probably kicked your seat a few times. Thanks for understanding that she was just being a kid. I appreciate that. Traveling with a toddler on a plane is stressful. Thanks for being nice.

Thank you L. for being such a good girl. I'm a lucky mommy. It could have been way worse. I'm glad you find flying exciting.  

Now all we have to do it survive the plane ride home.

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