Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dictocrats and Potty-training

The Jarhead was away this past week for an exercise and per the usual, I decided to take on something challenging while he was gone.  It's usually something like rearranging all the furniture, painting, super duper spring cleaning..something like that.  I've even stretched myself a time or two and gotten a rockin' new hairdo while he's been away.  Now that's work right there.

This time I decided I would tackle the thus unsuccessful potty training.  I thought it might be a bit tough with my whiney little teether wanting every second of my time, but these are the challenges we military wives are told to adapt to and overcome, OoRah! 

I flunked. 

And as I was cleaning the third puddle of pee off the floor, I had this rising suspicion that my girl was doing this just to spite me.  Not really.  But sort of.

Fortunately the mail came and rescued me and my disgruntled attitude.  We got five packages in one day.  Three turned out to be car parts for the gear-head Jarhead, and two were from the gear-head Jarhead's mom.  Gotta say, I love my in-laws.  Upon reading my blogpost on popcorn and how I wasn't able to find any organic popcorn here, they mailed us four bags, totaling SEVEN pounds of the stuff!  Oh, ho, ho...does it get any better than that? 
 I suddenly remembered the chick flicks my Mom had mailed me that I hadn't had a chance to watch yet.  Oh, ho, ho, yes...

After I planned my evening, I took a look at the other package from my mom-in-law; this book,
 Being the educated woman that I am, I had no idea what a "dictocrat" was.  It sounded kind of like a democratic dictator, but then that seemed so oxy-moronic; like sweet little knick knacks that say "simplify" on them.  Thankfully the in-laws also provided us with a dictionary when we got married; something about the Jarhead declaring as a child that he would never have a dictionary in his house when he was grown up.  Hardy, har, har.  He didn't know that his one true love was a self-declared wordy, and already possessed a couple of dictionaries with broken bindings from constant use.  Webster was my steady companion through many assigned books in school...Shakespeare and Scott had much higher vocabularies than me.  I grabbed our beautiful wedding gift dictionary, and searched for the meaning of "dictocrat."  Turns out it's only a word in the mind of Sally Fallon.  Since I had chick-flicks to watch and popcorn to eat...*cough*...I haven't had an opportunity to read it yet.  I gave it a quick flip-through and it seems very interesting.  More importantly she defines what she means by diet dictocrats: "Doctors, researchers and spokesmen for various government and quasi-government agencies, such as the FDA," etc.
I am looking forward to perusing it soon, and will no doubt be writing a review so stay tuned. 

 And say a little prayer for me and my daughter; potty training shall be conquered!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunning Diapers

The girls' diapers were showing stains and getting a little funky, so I sun-bleached them.  By my front door.  I'm sure the neighbors were in awe.
Now I leave you with a conundrum to ponder; we sun ourselves to make us darker and sun our diapers to make them whiter. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Three R's and Disinfecting

When I was 14 years old, my family moved to a new town where we didn't recycle.  We had up to that point, so I am sure it had something to do with the town, or Waste Management there. 

Suffice it to say, for many years I was not in the habit of it.  When I married the Jarhead, our 3rd home was on Quantico Marine Base where the housing is beautiful, and feels like your own.  They provided us with some pretty blue bins, and feeling like a snazzy, grown-up homeowner, I decided I would be responsible and recycle.  I will openly confess though, I was pretty lazy about it.  When it came time to clean out the fridge, I wasn't about to even open the 6 month old sour cream; let alone scoop it out and wash the container.  And the Jarhead had this nasty habit of leaving plastic lunch containers in his pack...for a week...and then bringing them home and placing them lovingly in the sink for me to take care of.  Do you have any notion what a used protein shaker cup smells like after being sealed for that long?  My nose was far too delicate for that kind of work, and into the trash it went.  GNC loved us; we bought alot of shaker cups. 

Fast forward to 2009 when we moved overseas and were presented with a stack of papers on the rules and SOFAS of our new home.  A few pages were dedicated to...recycling.  Turns out, it's mandatory here, which AFN commercials remind us of daily.  I'm talking strict rules and guidelines.  Everything must be placed in clear plastic bags and there must be a bag for shredded paper, a bag for colored paper, a bag for magazines and glossy paper.  Cans, glass, plastic, cardboard boxes, which must be collapsed, lined up and taped together in a criss-cross pattern.  The list went on and on.  I was in shock and thought I wouldn't ever be able to do anything fun here, just expend my life in the cause of recycling, sorting trash into separate bins.  Forever.  *sniff*

Turns out it's not that big of a deal.

And now when it comes time to clean out the fridge and I find the green sour cream, I dump the contents and wash the container.  My nose has adjusted.  And my sweet tender conscience wins out against my lazy, snobby side in an all-out shoulder duel when I come across something kind of gross and am tempted to just chuck it all into the can.  It's a close call as my devil shoulder exclaims that God never said to recycle!  But then my sweet tender angel comes back with something along the lines of submitting to the governing authority and it's all up; I must do it, grumbling though I might be. 

When there is something completely the Jarhead leaves a porkchop in a container in his pack for 9 days and then remembers it....old habits die hard...I, well, I let him take care of it and turn a blind eye.  Pretty sure the plastic container goes straight into the trash, but I can neither confirm nor deny.

All this recycling has been a good influence on us, and we have tried to cut back on our waste.  Which brings me to today, when I snazzily repurposed an old familar friend.   

This is my towel. 
I've had two towels in my life since I was 5 years old; the one before this one was white with mutli-colored pastel stripes and it was a sad day when, at long last, it had to be replaced.  That is where this, my beloved pink towel came in.  It served me well for many, many years, when yesterday I thanked it for it's service by cutting it up into little rectangles, and sewing a zig-zag stitch around each one.  Some things you just can't bare to chuck in the trash, you know.  Thankfully in the name of recycling I don't have to address my psychotic attachment issues with bath towels; I'm just saving the planet, man.  And getting some wash rags for free.  Score.  Serve me well, pink rags. 

 Today I made up a disinfecting cleaner recipe and it's wondrous.  It's 2 cups water, 1/4 teaspoon lavender essential oil, and 1/4 teaspoon tea tree essential oil. 
 And then I tried to get a picture of it's germ fighting power in action.  Fail. 
One of the seventeen photos I took I was trying to get a picture of the spray coming at the camera.  My camera...and my arms and face, are completely disinfected now.  And I didn't even get a good picture. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Avoiding Fast Food

You know those days when you end up being out of the house much longer than you anticipated?  Wrong turns (my specialty), errands that take longer than you ever thought they possibly could, and the old paunch starts saying things like, "grrrrrr, feed me."  Or if it's having a bad day, "food now, or I eat your lung."  Yes, my stomach is just like that...evil.  And I had "one of those days" yesterday.

I got the girls ready, and myself all dolled up, then eagerly left the house early to go watch the Jarhead, who had a prominent role in a change of command ceremony.  It was in an area I don't normally go to and I got lost.  Hopelessly.  Being directionally challenged, it was far from a new experience for me.  I've weaved my way through countless unfamiliar steets, half-panic stricken, sure that if I stop my car for a second I will be pounced upon and murdered.  I've learned over the years to enjoy the ride; or as my Dad-in-law would say, "you can miss an exit, but never miss a meal."  

Yesterday though, I was not in the mood.  I got out of the house late...excessive nose powdering...and was already pressed for time.  After driving around in apparent circles for a good bit, I set my eyes on a taxi and decided I would follow it wherever it went.  I informed God of my decision and asked that the taxi man would happen to be heading in the direction I needed to go in.  No sooner had I made my request than a sign came into view showing me just where I needed to go, and we finally arrived, 30 minutes late.

Thankfully, the ceremony was still going.  Bless you, long-winded Generals.  And the Jarhead was rockin' his combat uniform. *swoon*
After the ceremony we  had some other errands to run, and inevitably ended up being out until lunchtime.  I contemplated whipping through a drivethru...just this once...for about 38 seconds when my daughter echoed the whine of my belly with a, "Mama, I'm hungry!"  The greasy thought was enough to turn me off of it; and enlarge my nose pores.

I've been looking for ways to make "grab and go" snacks for just such occasions.  I bought a food dehydrator prompted by visions of eating delicious homemade trail mix while wearing hiking boots and doing something outdoorsy.  The first things I dehydrated were banana slices.  I cut up ripe bananas and layed the slices out on the tray.  Some hours later, they had shrivelled up into almost unrecognizable blobs.  Still you can't judge a book by it's cover, so I took some off the tray and brought them to the Jarhead to try.  He said something along the lines of, "ewww, yuck!  No, not happening."  Perhaps I should've waited for them to cool before giving them to him....maybe.  Still, I thought it had to be possible to make banana chips that actually looked like, well, banana slices.  I read somewhere that green bananas hold their shape much better through dehydration, so when I found a large bunch of green bananas for cheap at the farmer's market, I snagged them.
Do you have any idea how hard it is to peel a green banana?  I ended up doing three of them; enough to fill one tray.
I knew something was amiss when they dried in just a couple of hours.  They were nasty.  Don't ask me why I thought they would magically taste sweet and wonderful after dehydration, when they tasted like chalk before dehydration.  My brain is way ahead of reality.
I made a recipe I found for flaxseed crackers too.  The taste was wonderful but the consistency was like...whole flaxseeds smashed together.  It wasn't rockin' my socks.  I made fruit roll-ups with applesauce; they didn't do much for me.  I cut up a honeydew and dehydrated wasn't terrible....  *sigh*
Anyone in the market for a dehydrator?

So, how do you avoid fast food when out and about?  Any recommendations for snazzy snacky stuffs for grab and go convenience? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Buy Local, Buy Fresh

There is nothing like a day full of errands to get the juices flowing in the morning; that and a big cup of delicious coffee.  I haven't been able to indulge in the latter in quite some time because the transformation caffeine renders on me is akin to the Hulk.  I don't turn green and gain mass amounts of sinewy muscle, but I do most definately turn "super."  My productivity level spikes dramatically as I shake my way through the day.  I'm talkin' the shakes like a shy person singing at the Superbowl.  Many well-intentioned friends have suggested decaf.  Decaf coffee?!  It's like fat free butter!  Sugar free ice cream!  What has happened to the world??  In a fit of pure geniusness, I created a coffee shop in my mind called "Half-Caff" and thought I would make millions of dollars selling coffee to the masses with half the amount of caffeine as regular coffee.  I excitedly related my plan to a friend, who said, "yeah...they've already got that at the store." 
Curses; foiled again.

With the immense amount of errands I had to do, I got my non-caffeinated self and the two sweeties ready to go and set off.  The first place we hit was the local farmer's market. 
Like discovering color in a world of black and white, the fragrance and taste are beautifully overwhelming with locally, organically grown produce.  It takes me back to playing outside during long Summer days, and heading to my Mother's garden whenever I needed a snack.  Cherry tomatoes, green beans, chives...they seldom made it inside with my grazing. 
How have we grown accustomed to such flavorless produce shopping at the supermarket?  The convenience of a one-stop wonder is not worth it.  For flavor, for health, for freedom!  Charge on over to to find locally grown, organic produce in your area (USA).

I know it is not always possible to buy organic everything.  Many factors, including finances and location can greatly hinder doing so.  The Environmental Working Group recently put together a new shopper's guide on buying produce:

 These "dirty dozen" are the things you should buy organically, or at least try to avoid when shopping in a supermarket due to the high pesticide residue found on them.

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines - imported
7. Grapes - imported
8. Sweet Bell Peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries - domestic
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/Collard Greens

  The produce with the least amounts of pesticide residue, or "the clean 15" are:
1. Onions
2. Sweet Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe - domestic
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Ewww, mushrooms.  Make that the clean 14 for me...pesticides or not, mushrooms are just plain dirty and disgusting.  Except for when they are stuffed with bacon and cheese...I'm proud to be an American.  Pass the ketchup.   

Sunday, June 12, 2011


The past few days have found me soaking up every second I could get with my Jarhead, who took some much needed leave.  We did some fun family stuff, and burned up way too much gas trying to find a waterfall that doesn't seem to exist.  I've made popcorn.  Lots and lots of popcorn.  We've always been fans of the stuff, and used to buy the healthy microwave kind, before realizing that "microwave" and "healthy" really shouldn't be together; they don't get along so well.  Both of our mothers knew this, and popped it on the stove throughout our upbringings.  We decided it was high time to get back to our roots, so I bought some popping corn, and asked my Mom for her "desert storm" recipe.  Desert storm happens to be the best popcorn on the face of the earth...popped in olive oil, with a sprinkling of salt.  Butter is a capital crime.  You can go ahead and call me plain jane.  The recipe was 3 Tbsp olive oil, and 1/2 cup of popcorn.  Cook covered over medium heat until it starts to pop, then cock the lid slightly to let air out.  Pop until it starts to slow down a bit, then remove from the heat.  I thought, knowing my Mom, that 1/2 cup of popcorn would in no way be enough for us, so I doubled it and used a big pot.  I watched in awe as the corn popped, and then "ooohed" and "ahhhed" my way through the grand finale; it was impressive.  And it lifted the lid right off my pot.  And lifted it higher.  I put back the huge metal bowl I had intended to serve the popcorn in, and got out the gigantic one.  I think 1/2 cup would have been enough.  This picture doesn't do the mass quantity justice because Jarhead has huge hands....ahhh, those hands. *swoon*
Delicious.  So much so that we had it for dinner the next night; and the night after.  That's the epitome of health right there; nothing like a well balanced diet.  Of course this was before my discovery that everything corn you can buy that isn't organic is a GM food, *gasp*  I've searched high and low on the commissary shelves and can't find organic popping corn. *sigh*

On top of the popcorn, I made ice cream for a special treat.  My fantabulous, ice-cream lovin' mother-in-law made us a gift of my Kitchen Aid, along with an ice cream maker attachment and the Ben and Jerrys Cookbook.  I'm from New England...Ben and Jerrys ice cream is my love language.
There is something wonderful about indulging in a special treat when you know exactly what's in it; it kind of takes some of the guilt away.  Fully deserving of my plain Jane christening, my favorite ice cream in the world is...vanilla.  To quote my good friends Ben and Jerry, "a good vanilla ice cream is the measure of all ice creams."  True that. 

Ben and Jerry's Vanilla Ice Cream

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream (conveniently, 1 pint)
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Do a float test on your eggs to make sure they are still good (if you don't shop at an overseas military commissary, you may be able to forgo this important step).  Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.  Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more.  Pour in the cream, milk, and vanilla and whisk to blend.  
Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer's instructions.
Makes 1 quart.
Now that floats my boat. 

I made pancakes again too, this time reaching deep down inside and gathering my courage to attempt a mickey mouse face for my daughter.  I am now part of the club; the mickey mouse club. 
M-I-C-K-E-Y  M-O-U-S-E!
You may be wondering what happened to his ear.  I fancy he fell on hard times after retirement due to a series of bad investments, and, while hungrily scrounging around for food one night, found a solitary piece of cheese in the middle of a wood and metal contraption.  Part of his ear didn't make it out.  My daughter didn't seem to notice, so I didn't have to relate my gruesome tale.  She was however quite upset when I chopped Poor Mick into bite-sized pieces for her.  Woops.  Her imagination, every bit as vivid as mine set to work, and she began putting in requests.  "Make Donald Duck Mom!  And Daisy, and Goofy, and Special Agent Oso, and Handy Manny, and....."  !!!!!  I think I'll stick with circles from here on out.

I received another book I ordered in the mail the other day, and am captivated.  I searched for hours online looking for a book that would give me what I wanted in the way of herbal medicine.  I ended up with A Modern Herbal.  It was just what I was looking for.  I believe whole-heartedly that God has provided what we need for our health in nature; we just need to learn how to apply it.  One of my favorite quotes from the introduction of the book is, "Surely it makes a garden more romantic and wonderful to know that Wallflowers, Irises, Lupins, Delphiniums, Columbines, Dahlias and Chrsyanthemums, every flower in the garden from the first Snowdrop to the Christmas Rose, are not only there for man's pleasure but have their compassionate use in his pain." 
 I couldn't have said it better. 

My girls are excellent mess-makers.  My oldest dropped a jar of applesauce on one carpet in the house, and spilled a bit of blueberry yogurt on another.  I decided to test the "all-surfaceness" of my all-surface cleaner, and sprayed it on both.  Incredibley, they both lifted immediately out of the carpet with minimal blotting.  I had a few other stains on the carpets that had stubbornly remained after bouts with Resolve, and two steam cleanings.  I sprayed them too, not expecting too much.  They lifted right out as well!  I was near giddy, and looking for every little thing I could smite with my cleaner.  I spotted some marker on the daughter is a very talented artist.  Again, it lifted right out.  This is the same all-surface cleaner that costs 5 cents to make 32 ounces.  I need it in my life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I'm Reading

I have always loved to read.  Since I became a Mom I don't have as much time for it as I would like, but every now and then there comes along a book that makes me make the time.  The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother's Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America's Food Supply-- and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself is one of those books.  Even though I am just up to page 27, it's a compelling read. 

Robyn O'Brien is a former equities analyst, whose life changed one morning over breakfast when her youngest child suffered an allergic reaction to the food she had eaten.  It sent her on a quest to learn everything she could about food allergies, and the types of things in the "food" we eat.  The forward is written by Dr. Kenneth A. Boch, who speaks of the epidemics we see of autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies.  Dr. Boch asserts that 1 in 3 children are affected by at least one of these new epidemics.  Autism has risen 1,500% in the past two decades.  The statistics are alarming to say the least, and I can say I know several people affected by each one of them. 

As I read about GM (genetically modified) foods, and how they are in every bite of processed food we eat, I threw the door open on my cupboard and started reading labels.  The big two offenders that I have learned of so far are corn and soy; if you eat anything with corn or soy in it that is not labelled "USDA Organic", you are being exposed to GM food.  I thought for the most part we would be good to go, because I don't really buy a whole lot of processed anything.  My eyes grew wide and my ears rang with climactic scary music as the obvious offenders jumped out at me.  "Corn Flakes", "Tostitoes", Canned Corn for my famously delicious corn chowder; popping corn that I had just bought, feeling slick and healthy, to replace microwave popcorn.  All the sudden my food stash seemed like chemical warfare, and the thought of eating it anymore made me sick.  I was just on the verge of throwing it all into the trash when I heard the voice of my Jarhead saying, "let's have popcorn."  I gasped in horror and said, "but it's been genetically modified!"  He said, "I really want popcorn, we'll eat genetically modified one more time." 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mountain Rose Herbs

I wasn't feeling so great today; I had made up my mind to have a snow-day...minus the snow...and keep indoors.  As the day went on though, my thoughts kept turning to the essential oils I ordered last week; I knew there was a long-shot chance they would arrive today, and in the late afternoon the anticipation was just too much, so I loaded up and headed to the PO.  The box was there.  And I think I might have been a bit more excited than my daughter was, who thinks every package we get is a late Christmas present for her.  I opened it up in the car and took a whiff of everything.  Oh my; delicious. 
Except for the Tea Tree, which is not so delicious.  I was slightly unprepared for this.  My run-ins with Tea Tree have most often been in the form of cosmetic products that boast it as a main ingredient and smell just lovely.  The truth has come out; Tea Tree stinks.  Despite it's smell, it works as an antibacterial (among many other things), and is a great addition to many cleaners.  I have noticed that most recipes I've come across include equal parts Tea Tree and Lavender oils; do I smell a cover-up?  Perhaps, but Lavender also works as an antibacterial, so it's a great double-whammy.  And it smells nice too.  It's a cover-up.

Being my typical, excited self, I couldn't wait to add the essential oils to my cleaners, and check out the un-vinegar-like scent.  I dropped 8 drops of Lavender into my glass cleaner, and rushed over to clean our TV screen, which had become smeared by little handprints.  I had to wait; the Jarhead was in the midst of war, killing virtual bad guys on Call of Duty.  After the round was over, I set to work.  The Lavender sure adds a nice somethin'-somethin'.  I have never been so excited to clean!

I am particularly happy with the Sweet Orange oil, which was a bit of an impulse buy because it sounded pretty.  The Peppermint Oil I purchased because I have heard it works well to deter ants, which are a big problem here, and the Citronella I intend to use to make our own bugspray.  I will let you know the outcome of both.

I have nothing but praise for Mountain Rose Herbs, the company I ordered my supplies from.  Their shipping was FAST!  Their products are excellent, and economical.  Their website has great information, as well as their own cleaning recipes I can't wait to try out.  I will most definately be ordering from them again.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Clean Green Part 2 ~ Cost Comparison

Today I took yet another trip to the commissary, this time armed with pen and paper.  My purpose was to write down the cost of the ingredients for my homemade cleaner recipes from the book Green Up Your Cleanup, as well as the prices of the standard cleaners for comparisons sake.  Let me state right off the bat that the COST of green living is secondary to me; you can't put a price on protecting your family.  Is there really a problem with the chemicals in standard household cleaners?  Here are some statistics from the book The Naturally Clean Home: 100 Safe and Easy Herbal Formulas for Non-Toxic Cleansers

"According to a five-year EPA study, the air in an average American home has chemical contamination levels 70 times greater than outdoor air.  The EPA maintains that half of all illnesses occurring in the United States can be attributed to chemical contamination of indoor air.

A study by the Toronto Indoor Air Commission concluded that, due to increased exposure to household carcinogens, women who work at home have a 55 percent greater chance of developing cancer than women who spend the majority of their time outside the home.

The National Academy of Science estimates that 15% of all Americans are multi-chemically sensitive due to chronic exposure to household and cosmetic products.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has determined that more than 150 chemicals found in ordinary household products are directly responsible for producing cancer, allergies, birth defects, and numerous psychological disorders. "

Putting aside the safety issue for a moment, let's look at cost comparison.  The cleaners I would normally purchase for my home are:
Windex: $2.88
Pledge:  $3.42
Lysol All-Purpose Cleaner: $1.99

Oh I would buy a whole bunch more than those too, but I was just looking for something comparable to the cleaners I made up the other day.  I included Pledge since the All Surface cleaner, lightly sprayed on a microfiber cloth will replace it for me on "wood-like" furniture, and I will use just a microfiber cloth on real wood furniture.

The prices for the cleaner ingredients are as follows:

1 Gallon of Vinegar: $2.19
Borax: $2.79
Baking Soda: $0.59
Castille Soap, 16 ounces: $6.00
Organic Lavender Essential Oil, 1/2 ounce: $4.00

So the glass cleaner, after multiple calculations, broke down like this:

2 cups water = free
2 cups Vinegar = $0.28
1 tsp Castille Soap = $0.06
8 drops essential oil = $0.11
TOTAL: $0.45 per 32 ounce bottle 

That's a savings of $2.43 over Windex, per bottle.  Also, keep in mind the castille soap is not necessary after the waxy buildup is gone.

All Surface Cleaner:
32 ounces water = free
4 tsp Borax = $0.02
1/2 tsp Castille Soap = $0.03
TOTAL: $0.05 per 32 ounce bottle

A savings of $3.37 over Pledge. 

All Purpose Large Batch:
Gallon of water = free
1 Tbsp baking soda = $0.04
2 Tbsp castille soap = $0.36
TOTAL: $0.40 per gallon

I used to use Lysol All Purpose Cleaner for mopping my floors.  It's $1.99 for a 40 oz bottle, and the recommendation is 2 ounces per gallon of water, bringing the total per gallon to about 10 cents.  That slams the all natural cleaner by $0.30 per gallon. 
So let's say you make up 20 gallons of this, which is the equivalent of one 40 ounce bottle of Lysol All-Purpose cleaner.  The cost would be $8.00.  That's a big, massive point for the store-bought cleaners in this cost war!

Here's how it all plays out.

If we were to go shopping, and buy just the amount of ingredients we needed to make the 3 cleaners, the price would come to $8.50.

The cost for the three standard cleaners is $8.29.

The difference is 21 cents.  As my Dad would say, "Whoopdeedoo."

Friday, June 3, 2011

Clean Green

I've never much cared for cleaning.  I remember my mother telling me once, as I sat in the midst of utter destruction in my bedroom, that I had a certain amount of days to clean it all up or else she was giving it all away.  To six year old me, that was pretty heavy stuff right there.  I did what any reasonable child would; put away my two most treasured possessions, and played with the rest like they were about to be taken away.  And they were.  And once they were gone I had a spotless room without having to clean.  I thought I was pretty smart...until my mother grabbed even the toys I put away and shoved them deep inside that black garbage bag.  I cried bitter internal tears and said a quiet goodbye to my beloved toy typewriter, knowing I would never hear the *cla-ching* of it's platen again.  All these years later, I can still picture it exactly as it was...*sigh*

Though it's still true that I don't particularly care for the process of cleaning, I love a clean house; there is something so rewarding in the relaxation that comes as you sit and bask in the sparkliness of a tidy home.  For me could be just one more thing that classifies me as weird.  Unfortunately it's a reward I haven't been able to partake in for the past couple of weeks.  You see, I gave all my cleaning chemicals away.  I knew if I gave away the old stuff, I would follow through with the effort of ordering the ingredients I couldn't find here, and not fall back into the comfort of the way I've always done it.  So out the old went, and I placed an order for the missing ingredients; castille soap and essential oils. 

Patience has never really been my thing, and today I decided I just couldn't wait for the arrival of my order anymore.  I went to the commissary hunting for substitutes, and found some Avalon Organics Glycerin Handsoap.  Jill Potvin Schoff in Green Up Your Cleanup suggested an organic soap as her second choice if you were unable to find castille soap, so I snatched it up.  Finally, I had everything I needed. 
I also picked up some microfiber cloths, which apparently are the holy grail of green cleaning; except for baking soda.  And vinegar.  And spray bottles. 
I made the All Surface Cleaner and Glass Cleaner recipes.  Thankfully my Mom had the foresight to be a Tupperware lady in the early 90s, or I probably wouldn't own a funnel.  Thanks Mom.  For the glass cleaner you need a blue spray bottle; yes it has to be blue if you want to even remotely compete with Windex.  Pour in one cup of white distilled vinegar and one cup water.
  I used distilled water too, because I'm a snob like that.  Or it could be because we were given a notice on our base along the lines of, "your water is full of lead; don't drink it or you'll die a horrible, painful death."  Something like that.  Thankfully I have a really cool Mother-in-law who just so happened to buy us a distiller a little while before we were sent over here.
Add 1/2 tsp liquid soap, and a few drops essential oils.  The essential oils are not really essential, even though my nose disagrees.  Vinegar and my sniffer are not the best of friends.

For the All Surface Cleaner, use a 16 ounce spray bottle, and pour 2 tsp Borax into it.  Be sure to get an exact measurement like I did *cough*
Fill the bottle with hot water, and shake until the Borax is dissolved.  Then add 1/4 tsp liquid castille soap.
Now I was armed and dangerous, and ready to see the fighting power of my concoctions. 
I set to work on one of the dirtiest surfaces in my house; the windows.  I have never cleaned the windows here, because everytime I have ever cleaned windows in the past, it's been an epic, streaky failure.  But with little fingers and little paws all over the sliding door, something had to be done.  I armed myself with the recommended squeegee, and set to work.  And the smell of vinegar filled ther air...hurry up essential oils, I need you! 

I was pleasantly surprised with the results, and while I can't honestly call it "streak free" I think that has more to do with my lack of squeegee expertise than the actual cleaner.  I used to be pretty magical with one of those things; back in the days of girlhood when cleaning the windshield at the gas station was the coolest thing on earth.  Somehow it doesn't seem quite as appealing anymore; or maybe I'm just too distracted by the maniacal laughter of the meter as it "ca-chings!" it's way through our hard-earned money... 

I was so excited the cleaners actually worked, that I went on a cleaning frenzy.  I organized my pantry.  I cleaned out my fridge.  I pulled my stove out and cleaned behind it.  Now I sit, basking in my reward.  A clean house.  And remarkably, it doesn't smell like salad dressing.

Try these out; they really work.  I will be doing a break-down comparison of price soon...

All Surface Cleaner:
16 oz spray bottle
2 tsp Borax
hot water
1/4 tsp liquid castille soap

Put the Borax in the spray bottle.  Fill the bottle with hot water and shake until the Borax is dissolved, then add the soap.  Spray on surface and let sit 1-2 minutes.  Wipe with sponge or microfiber cloth.

Glass Cleaner:
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 tsp liquid castille soap
3-8 drops essential oil

Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and water, and shake gently.  Add essential oil.  Add the soap just to dissolve waxy buildup (from standard cleaners.  Once it is gone, you can leave out the soap).  You can also use sprayed on club soda.  Don't clean in direct sun as it will dry too fast and leave streaks.  Use a squeegee.

All Purpose Liquid Cleaner ~ Large Batch: 
 1 gallon hot water
1 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp liquid soap

Fill a bucket with hot water, then add the baking soda and soap.  Add the soap last to prevent foaming.  Add 1 Tbsp of washing soda for removing heavy grease, or 1 Tbsp of Borax for disinfecting and killing mildew.

I also found that baking soda works great as a scouring powder today.  My bathroom sink had some gunky, grimy, nastiness in it, and the All Surface cleaner just wasn't doing the trick.  I grabbed a brush and some baking soda, and voila!  Sparkly clean.  And here I thought nothing would ever replace my beloved Comet.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hello, Glimpse Of My Future Life

I used to love animals.  Alot.  Then I realized it was a love-hate relationship, with me doing all the loving.  For example...

A family friend got some pigs, and five year old me was very excited to go see them.  I had my cutesy wutesy, teeny weeny rain boots on, and walked into their crib, The Mud Hole.  I've blocked most of what happened on that traumatic day; I just know that my cutesy wutesy, teeny weeny rain boots got stuck in the manure.  Then the pigs came running towards me and trampled me down...face the manure.   'Screams' don't describe it.  Years later my Mom ruptured her ear drum and I am convinced it traces back to that incident when my world was destroyed by pig poop.

My best friend had horses!  What little girl doesn't love beautiful, magnificent horses?  I was no exception, and longed with all that was in me to jump on the back of one and ride free across the world!  I was doing just that...well...actually it was more like being led around the yard by an adult walking the horse, but when you are young and have an overactive imagination, it's practically the same thing.  The wind was catching my hair gloriously and flinging it back as we galloped across the country, when my daydream came to an abrupt end due to the horse trying to bite my feet while I rode him.  Then another horse they had bit me in the shoulder when I was kindly trying to give him an apple.  I'm as sweet as horsefeed I guess.

When I was a teenager I got up the chutzpah to jump on another horse.  I told the girl running the stable I had horse experience with my chin held high...I just forgot to mention the details.  She didn't ask and let me ride outside the fenced area; just what I was hoping for!  Visions of riding free across the world came back into my mind, and that horse must've been telepathic.  In a second he was off!  And I couldn't stop him.  And it wasn't quite as magnificient as I had always dreamed.  Cover your other ear Mom, it's the only one you have left!

Then there was that goat that showed me which of us was in charge; it wasn't me.  I had a little boy I was watching at the time, and the ornery ol'e goat got loose.  There was no retreat.  I stood the little one up on the swing he had been joyously swinging on a second before, and blocked him with my body while Billy the kidd played with my legs with his horns.  Then Paul Bunyan came to the rescue, yanked him up by his horns and threw him 2 miles away. *swoon* It was actually my brother, and he wrestled him back to his post, but whatever the case he was my hero that day.

After all my run-ins with big animals, I wasn't the least bit trepidatious when my parents informed me we would be getting some chickens for eggs.  At last, an animal smaller than me.  They were so cute!  Fluffy little yellow chicks, aww.  Turns out fluffy yellow chicks turn into big stinky chickens, and big stinky chickens like to keep the company of mean and cocky roosters.  Mean and cocky roosters don't much like my kind.  Then there were the eggs.  ALL those eggs that my father insisted couldn't go to waste.  And to think, I used to like egg salad...

It would seem from all my previous experiences with animals, I would be the last one to want a farm.  And that's the truth.  I had resigned myself to owning a few evil chickens for farm fresh eggs for my family on one condition: no roosters.  Imagine my surprise then, when the Jarhead declared he would also like to have a few pigs and a cow.  I'm down with cows.  I worked at a dairy growing up.  I've been knee deep in manure, had cow pee splash on me, and cracked the ice on water buckets when it's been way too cold outside.  I've seen rat carcasses strewn in the dirt from barn cats, and I've pulled hay out of every article of clothing on my body.  A cow I can handle, the bonus of which would be not having to worry about mowing the ridiculous amount of acreage we would like to purchase when we bid the Corps a farewell.  But pigs?  The internet assures me they are very friendly and very smart. *eye roll*

Yesterday I went out with some friends to a tourist attraction.  They have chickens roaming free, goats you can walk, pigs you can feed, and water buffalo you can stare at.  Here's me walking a goat.  I wouldn't mind a little goat like this, unlike the massive Billy.
The roosters there weren't quite as plucky as the roosters we had.  Maybe my ice-cold stare offered the intimidation I hoped.
I kind of liked these goats....sort of.
Gotta tell you though, I didn't see smarts and manners from the pigs.  They were just kind of...pigs.
                                  There's the water buffalo; he won the stare down.
Maybe a farm won't be so bad after all...