Archive | November, 2010

How to Clean a House: The Natural Way

15 Nov

My favorite cleaning tools: Dr Bronner's Sal Suds, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, Norwex Enviro Cloth, and Norwex Window Cloth. I also use a spray bottle full of water, mop bucket, mop, and toilet scrubber.

Clean the bathroom, sweep the floors, vacuum, mop, dishes, laundry, the list goes on and on.  Are you looking for a simpler way to stay on top of your cleaning?  This past weekend I was blessed to host the youth girls from our church.  Not just a couple of them either we had 17 of them in our house!   🙂  As I suspected they slept in every square inch of our house except the kitchen floor!    As I began preparing our home for them last week I was so thankful that we have developed a cleaning schedule that has greatly simplified keeping our house clean.  For me the secret has been to stretch out my cleaning over a couple of days.  I also have switched to a more natural approach. 

Elijah helping me clean the other day by playing happily for a few minutes. Most of the time that I am cleaning I actually wear Elijah on my back in the Ergo.

For years I have had trouble with commercial household cleaners.  I wasn’t too keen on cleaning with vinegar and we have purchased some “natural cleaners” in the past but they were a little pricey.  Since then we have come across Norwex Cleaning Products.  We purchased a set which included a window cloth, regular enviro cloth, and a dust mit from The Urban Homemaker.  The price might seem a little pricey at first but it is worth it not to have a migraine after cleaning!  They also come with a two-year guarantee.  Along with the Norwex cloths I use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds and Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap.  That is it!  My cleaning bucket has shrunk considerably and cleaning is simplified! 

  • Mondays: I clean downstairs: Living Room, Entry, Hall, Kitchen, Library, and Bathroom. 
  • Tuesdays: I clean upstairs: For the bedrooms: change sheets weekly, dust with Norwex dust mit, straighten up, vacuum.  To clean the bathroom: 1) Squirt a little Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap into the toilet. 2) Spray down mirror and sink with plain water.  Yeap that’s right just water.  Wipe with a Norwex Enviro Cloth, then wipe mirror with Window Cloth.  3) Spray down shower and wipe with Enviro Cloth. 4) Scrub toilet with toilet brush.  Wipe down toilet. 5) Wipe down floor with enviro cloth.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to clean a bathroom now that the smell from the chemicals no longer make me sick.  Amazingly the bathroom really does get clean with just water and a Norwex Enviro cloth.  (I was quite a skeptic about these at first but they are awesome!) 
  • Wednesdays: Light downstairs cleaning.  I might mop again.  If I wasn’t able to finish Monday or Tuesdays cleaning on the day it is assigned I do it on Wednesday.  For example this week I wrote a paper most of the day on Tuesday so I finished Tuesday’s cleaning jobs this morning.  This assures that by the middle of the week all the major cleaning is done for the week. 
  • Thursdays: I try not to do heavy cleaning since this is Brandon’s day off.  I do cook, wash dishes, pick up the living room, and maybe run the vacuum or sweep since Elijah is crawling. 
  • Fridays: Clean out refrigerator.  Laundry.  In the summer/fall I do laundry everyday and hang it to dry in the morning.  In the afternoon I bring it in, fold it, and put it away.  Once winter hits I like to do the majority of the laundry on one day (except diapers-I wash every couple of days).  Prepare for the weekend. 

Sometimes I don’t get absolutely everything in the house cleaned every single week but that’s okay.  Elijah might have been having a needy week or I might have had 2 papers to write and a test that week.  Cleaning your house doesn’t have to be complicated just find out what works best in your home.  Before I had a baby it worked great for me to clean just one day per week.  Now in my current season of life I find that it works better for my family if I spread my cleaning out over a couple of days.  Remember the goal of cleaning a house is to make it an inviting place for your family and to welcome others into your home. 

 To check out Norwex cleaning cloths visit: http://urbanhomemaker.com/productcart/pc/viewCategories.asp?idCategory=376

Disciple Now 2010

14 Nov

Sweet girls

This past weekend we were blessed to be involved with the youth Disciple Now at our church.  I have such fond memories of a number of retreats and Disciple Nows that I have been blessed to be a part of as both a youth, leader, and speaker.  I had a great time and am pretty sure that everyone else did too!

Not one bit sleepy 🙂

Our fun weekend started at 6:00 with a pizza party at church Friday night.  Then we played some fun games and listened to Bro. Mark talk about our relationship to God.  The theme for the weekend was Best Friends Forever.  We also broke up into small groups to talk further about how we can have a relationship with God and also how we can deepen our relationship with Him. 

Elijah did not know what to think having so many ladies in his house! I think they wore him out.

She's going to kill me for posting this but how sweet is this? By the way she was the hardest girl to wake up!

Then all of the girls headed to our house where they spent the night.  It was so much fun!  When we were looking for a house we specifically looked for one that would lend itself well to having people over.  We talked a lot, sang at the piano, and played some flash light tag. 

It was great fun for me to get to stay up late talking with a bunch of giggly girls.  I’m so glad we were able to open up our home to them.  I even got to introduce about 7 of them to the wonders of hot herbal tea.  Yummy!  The next morning  we all got up and had breakfast (bagels and doughnuts) and headed to church.  The students enjoyed a few more general sessions, some break out sessions, and a service project.  I ended up having to leave a couple of hours early to head to a wedding.  (It was quite a crazy day for me!)

Wondering what this is? It's a basket full of cell phones. 🙂 They were all collected at 2am and charged in our bathroom.

A special thanks to all everyone who helped out with DNOW by donations, cooking food, helping serve meals, chaperoning, clean up, etc.  These kids ate an insane amount of food.  We couldn’t have done it without everyone’s help.

Eli enjoying his lunch with everybody else. Yummy diced carrots. 🙂

My current centerpiece. I had paint/markers to let the girls decorate a pumpkin and then forgot all about it! The tablerunner I made last year.

Stretch Your Food Budget: Cook a Whole Chicken and Make Simple Homemade Chicken Broth

12 Nov

Yum

Are you looking for a frugal yet healthy way to stretch your food budget this week?  Rather than purchasing chicken breasts this week buy a whole chicken.  That’s right a whole chicken that even has bones. 😮  Don’t be scared it’s really not as hard as it sounds.  Once you taste chicken cooked on the bone you will have a hard time going back to plain boneless skinless chicken breast.  I’m not sure how but cooking meat on the bone always seems to make it taste better.

Thaw your chicken (if it was frozen to start with). Rinse the chicken and pat dry.

I like to rinse the inside of the cavity and pat it dry.

Then I like to add a chicken rub or personal blend of spices. Currently we enjoy a type of chicken rub you would use if you were grilling. You could also just use some poultry seasoning and maybe stuff a lemon in the cavity.

Gently lift up the skin and rub spices on the chicken breasts. An easy way to do this is to loosen the skin and then pour some of the spices on. This is a great way to season the chicken. We just started adding spices a couple months ago and it tastes so much better. We do not eat the skin and this locks in all of the seasoning.

Lastly drizzle a small amount of olive oil onto the skin. Rub it in kind of if like you rub in sunscreen.

Bake at 375 for about 1 hour until the juices run clear or a meat thermometer reads at least 165. (insert in the meatiest part of the bird) Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

After enjoying your delicious chicken for dinner let the chicken cool.  Then I pick up all of the meat off of the bone.  I like to chop it into small pieces, place in a container, and refrigerate.  (If you are pressed for time you can also place the entire chicken in the refrigerator and pick it off the next day.)  If I know that I will not be cooking it all within the next couple of days then I freeze the chicken in 1 cup servings in a labeled bag.  We usually make three more meals out of the remaining chicken.  The possibilities are endless.  Not only does this save you a bundle of money but it is delicious!  To stretch the budget even farther make your own chicken broth.

How to Make Homemade Chicken Broth

Place all of the bones and carcass in the largest crock pot you have.

Then add: 1 chopped onion, 1-2 carrots, celery stalk, a potato, and any other vegetable scraps you might have.  I just happened to have a lot of mushrooms that needed to be used up so they made it into the stock too.  I like to keep a container in the fridge/freezer for vegetable scraps.  This is both frugal and saves time too.  Then when it is time to make broth I can use them up. 

Add your favorite seasonings: I like garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, etc. Fill the crockpot with filtered water all the way up. Add 1-2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. This allows the nutrients from the bones to be released into the broth.

Turn on low for 16-24 hours.  I usually make a chicken for dinner and then turn off the crock pot somewhere the next afternoon.  Let the broth cool slightly and then strain.  I put a large bowl in my sink with a colander on top.  This makes it easy to remove the bones/vegetables.  Refrigerate the broth and use to make excellent soups or rice.  Stay tuned for more simple healthy recipes that use chopped chicken. 🙂

Italian Lasagna for 2

10 Nov

Ingredients for the best lasagna!

As the wife of a man whose favorite food is Italian I am always trying to master a new dish.  His favorite is spaghetti but this homemade lasagna ranks a close second.  Hands down it is the best I’ve ever had even if I did make it. 😉   It is also fairly simple but does take a little while.  I would allow 1.5 hours from when you enter the kitchen to when you place it on the dining room table.  (That should give you plenty of time to chase a baby, prepare a salad, clean up the kitchen, exercise, etc.) 

Remove the casings from 2 Italian sausage links and crumble in a small skillet. Add 1/4 c. choped onion and 1 garlic clove minced. Cook over medium until meat is no longer pink.

Add 1 can (14.5oz) of undrained diced tomatoes, 1/4 c. tomato paste OR ketchup, 3/4 t. sugar, 1/2 t. basil, 1/4 t. salt, 1/8 t. crushed red pepper flakes, and 1/8 t. pepper

Cook 4 lasagna noodles according to package directions and drain.

Combine 1 beaten egg, 3/4 c. cottage cheese (or ricotta), and 1 T. parsley.

In a loaf pan spread 1/3 c. red sauce.  Trim noodles to fit the dish.  Layer 1/3 of the noodle pieces, top with 1/3 of the remaining sauce, 1/3 cottage cheese and 3 T. mozzarella cheese.  Repeat these layers twice.

Bake at 375 covered for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Let stand 15 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Intentional Prayers

8 Nov

Sweet girls who love studying the book of Mark with me!

How many times have you taken down prayer requests during Bible Study or when friends ask you to pray for something but then failed to pray for them?  Do you find yourself scrambling to keep track of a prayer list?   I have been given the awesome privelege and responsibility of teaching at my church.  Each Sunday night I am blessed to spend my evening opening up the Word with a group of middle school girls.  I don’t just want to teach them a bunch of facts about God.  Rather I desire that God would radically transform their lives!  One way that I have seen God radically transform lives is through prayer.  After a couple of weeks teaching these girls I realized that I really didn’t know exactly what they needed me to be praying for them about.  I don’t just want to pray God bless Suzy to have a good day.  Instead I want to pray specifically for her in the areas where she is struggling that God would act in a mighty way in her life.  At the end of our bible study each week I hand each girl a 3X5 index card.  Then I ask her to write down three different prayer requests on the same card.  Most of them usually write down their name as well. 

  1. Spiritual: For the first one I ask her to tell me how I can best be praying for her spiritual life.  Oftentimes this relates to our lesson.  For example maybe she is mad at God, struggling to make time reading her Bible, doubting God’s goodness, confused about what to believe, etc. 
  2. Personal: Then I ask each girl to write down a personal request for herself.  (Anything that isn’t spiritual.)  These would include things like praying for a girl’s relationship with her parents, that she would stop cussing, her brother would stop being mean to her, etc.
  3. Others: Lastly I have the girls write down anything else going on in their life that they want me to pray for.  Things like grandparents, or friend requests go here. 

More sweet ladies

Having the girls write down specific requests not only helps me to pray better for them but also allows me to write more poignant Bible Studies for them.  (If you didn’t know writing Bible Studies for teenage girls is what I love to do!)  We have spent this semester going through a study on the Gospel of Mark that I have written but tonight took a break to talk about spending time with God.  Almost every girl had written  down within the past couple of weeks that she was having trouble reading her bible or praying.  I don’t know that I would have realized this had I not asked them to write down specific prayer requests regarding areas where they were struggling. 

This could also easily be adapted as you pray for your family members and friends.  I have literally handed friends of mine 3X5 index cards and asked them to write down what I could pray for them about.  Sometimes when I am on the phone with a family member or friend I grab an index card and jot down requests.  Index cards work great for me.  I usually keep them in my kitchen as I cook dinner, wash dishes, clean, bake, etc.  At other times I take them on walks with me.  They are small enough that I can place them in my purse and go through them as I am waiting somewhere.

Why I love the Bulk Herb Store

7 Nov

Ever since my mom introduced me to the wonder of Celestial Seasonings hot herb tea I was hooked.  I remember pouring myself a cup of tea, adding a sugar cube, and thinking I was so cool.  Well not much has changed I guess.  I think I would fit in well in England because it seems like every afternoon I am making a cup of tea and sitting down for a couple of minutes to relax.  My love for tea continues to grow over the years.  Perhaps it is because of all of the fond memories that I have that involve tea.  I enjoyed tea at home occasionally growing up but it was when I went to college that I really became hooked.  In college I frequently shared a cup of tea with a friend in my dorm room after a long day.  It was a great time for us to unwind and just minister to one another as we talked.  Now I am blessed to be able to have a cup of tea with my sweet husband often.  What could be better than that?  (I was actually the one to introduce him to tea.  I’m really glad he likes it!)  If you are ever in my area please let me know.  I would love to have you over for tea. 

If you are an avid tea drinker like myself then you must try some loose leaf tea!  You may never be able to drink tea made in a bag again!  The difference in taste is hard to explain you will just have to try it.  Loose leaf tea is much cheaper than purchasing a box of tea bags and so much better.   Where in the world do you buy tea?  Some natural food stores sell loose tea but they are quite expensive.  Instead I buy all of our loose tea from the Bulk Herb Store.  I have been buying tea from them for probably five years at least.  I know I was in college the first time I ordered tea from them because my friends thought I was crazy!  Their prices are amazing and I have not found one tea or herb that I was unhappy with.  The store also ships insanely fast!  They sell herbs in bulk which you can use to make your own tea blends, tinctures, additions to cooking, etc.  So far I have only made my own blend of Mama Tea but hope to come up with more in the future.  I plan on making our own Emerson Blend knock off of Tazo’s Passion Tea (Brandon’s favorite).  They also sell books, videos, and other resources.

The following are some of tea blends that we have enjoyed in our home which were purchased from the Bulk Herb Store:

  • Christmas Tea
  • Creamy Pumpkin Pie Tea-absolutely amazing with a splash of Pumpkin Spice cream.  Starbucks has nothing compared to this!
  • Frosty Kandy Kane Tea
  • Red Raspberry Brew-wonderful tea for women to drink.  Helps alleviate symptoms from an unwanted friend who appears monthly.
  • Rise and Shine Tea
  • Red Roobios-my favorite!

Today we also tried adding a teaspoon of Daily Boost Herba-Smoothie Mix to our smoothies.  It is like adding a scoop of vitamins to your morning smoothie.  (I have found smoothies to be a great way to sneak nutrition into Brandon’s diet.)  This blend increases alertness and energy.  Who couldn’t use a little more of that!  They also sell blends to help relieve stress/anxiety and to increase circulation. 

What are some of your favorites from the Bulk Herb store?

How to Feed a Baby

6 Nov

Eljah enjoying some chicken at 10.5 months

Are you a new mom completely overwhelmed at the idea of beginning solids?  Have you walked down the baby food row at your local grocery confused at where to begin or have you nearly had heart failure when you picked up a tiny little jar and saw the price.  The other day I decided to buy Eli a jar or two of baby food but I nearly had a heartattack when I saw the prices!  Even with a great coupon baby food costs at least .50 a jar with organic baby food costing closer to .79 a jar!  No way!  I bought one jar and headed back home encouraged in my pursuit of making baby food. 

The good news is that for the first six months your baby only needs breastmilk or formula as it provides all of the nutrients that your baby needs.  Talk with your pediatrician but most agree that it is safe to start solids when your baby is six months old.  I think it is also a good idea to probably wait until they can sit up by themselves.  I’ll never forget the first couple of times we fed Elijah food.  Honestly it was pretty disappointing because he couldn’t have cared less.  Some babies do not appear very interested in food until closer to their first birthday. 

Elijah working on some self-feeding

At almost 11 months old Elijah eats a couple of times a day but still is not super interested.  In the past month I have really noticed an increase in his interest level.  We pretty much keep Elijah’s meals to fruits and vegetables with a little meat thrown in.  At this point he has eaten almost every vegetable (except broccoli) and a good variety of fruits (not including any type of berry).  I do make the majority of Elijah’s baby food.  We do purchase a couple of jars per month to keep on hand but try to read the labels and purchase food without additional fillers such as flours, preservatives, or other chemicals.  If the idea of making your own baby food still has you scared look for some already food that has already been made into a puree in the regular section of your grocery.  Ex: pumpkin or applesauce.  Most of the time they do not have additional ingredients and would be great to feed to your baby.  Whenever I open a can of pumpkin I usually pull out a tablespoon or so to give to Eli that day.  (He loves pumpkin.)

I like to make a batch of baby food up about every other week or every week. 

  1. Select my fruit, vegetable, or combination.  Then I would cook the food by lightly steaming or baking in the oven.
  2. Next I either use a blender to puree the ingredients or use the KidCo Baby Food Mill.  At about $12 this pays for itself very quickly.  Basically to use the mill you just insert the cooked food in one hand and turn the crank at the top.   Pureed baby food is ready in a matter of seconds.

KidCo Food Mill

I like to make a bunch at once.  I take the baby food and place it in an ice-cube tray.  You could also make little plops (like you would when making cookies) on a cookie sheet.  After they are frozen I simply place them in a plastic bag with the date.  You may want to also include what the food is as it can be quite hard to tell the difference between frozen squash, carrots, and pumpkin. 

We purchased the Tommy Tippee 4-pack food pots (BPA FREE) and they have been great.  (Don’t worry Eli’s are blue and green not pink!)  🙂  Each morning I decide what Elijah will be eating that day say for example it was pumpkin.  I just pull out an ice-cube of pumpkin out of my bag in the freezer and place it in one of these pots.  If I leave it out on the counter it will have melted enough by lunch time.  These are nice and small and easily hold one large ice-cube.  We also sometimes take them along with us in our diaper bag. 

Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder

One of my favorite baby feeding utensils is the Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder.   It is so convenient and very affordable ($5-6 for 2).  You just add food and your baby can chomp away to his heart’s content.  Sometimes we also feed Eli a frozen ice cube of food in this.  He can slober all over it for a while and seems to really enjoy it! 

Eli enjoying the Munchkin Feeder

Honestly feeding puree baby foods has never been something that I really enjoy.  Now that Elijah can easily pick things up we have started giving him tiny pieces of cut up food.  We also try to encourage him to feed himself with a spoon.  For that we really like the Sassy Less Mess Training Spoon.  If you look closely you at the picture you will see that there are guards on BOTH ends of the spoon so that Elijah does not choke himself on the spoon.  So far he is doing pretty good with it. 

Sassy Less Mess Training Spoon - Sassy  - Babies"R"Us

We haven’t been able to find a suction cup bowl or plate that Elijah can’t pick up.  He is one strong little boy!  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  Right now we just plan on giving him a bath after he eats! 🙂 

That’s about it so far on my experience feeding a baby.  After Elijah’s birthday we plan on introducing some more foods so stay tuned for more ideas this December.  I’m sure there will be some actual recipes as I work on making some healthy toddler snacks next year. 🙂