Checking In

Wow what an amazing month this has been! I didn’t even realize I hadn’t written in a while. We have met at TON of new people and are so excited about all the amazing friendships we’ve made. I can not wait to share some of the amazing blogs we’ve read over the last couple of weeks. The stories are so inspirational, the recipes look amazing and the crafts are inspiring.

We participated in an amazing P.E. program through Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA) in partnership with Pacific Lutheran University. The program involved student teachers and a visiting professor to PLU/WAVA High School teacher running a 5 week physical education program, twice a week for about an hour and a half each time. The girls learned a bunch of new ways to work out, they loved their student teachers and made some really great new friends. In the end they got the cutest rewards for all their hard work and “sweat”. Hopefully the program will continue and allow the kids to progress through, as they get older, through various stages of new lessons. What a great program!

I got to participate in my first blog hop. That was a fun way to meet new people, and Katherine from Katherines Corner was so patient with me while I got the ins and outs of html code. I just recently started learning, in very limited fashion, how to write and manipulate some of my own html code. Which has opened up a world of doors as far as adding things to Word Press. However, it also at times has added to frustration when I can’t get a code to work, or try to add something and it shows up – but the code shows up to. This blog has been a true learning experience and continual work in process for me. Hopefully I can resolve my most current issue which is, how to add a Instagram widget – so confusing….an yet so challenging. (hopefully there aren’t a bunch of computer engineers sitting around laughing at me right now – 🙂 )

I have been exercising quite a bit in the last couple of years and recently made the goal to start running again. My overall goal is to walk the Golden Gate Bridge on my 40th, but for a closer goal I had hoped to run a 5k in February 2014. Well, that plan has been botched as recently the pain in my knee got pretty intense. After trying about every home remedy I could think of, I gave up and went in for XRays. Apparently I have osteoarthritis and bone spurs in both my knees. (well that would explain the shooting pain – thinking of bone spurs in painful period!). My doctor said it comes from too much sports when I was younger, along with the impact of current exercise, and not enough concentration on building the muscles in the leg to support the impact to the joint. Interesting….so old age is starting to kick my butt. Not for long – I have a 6 week treatment plan which includes some anti-inflammatory meds, yoga, low impact exercise, as well as starting to work on building leg muscles. So, lesson learned – proper strength training is important. In the meantime, I’m also headed to see a physical therapist whom I hope can help me become stronger overall so I don’t have to keep having an argument with my knee every time I want to walk a couple of miles in the sun.

In the meantime as well we have been working on doing a little more revamping to our diet plan at home. I use diet in the sense of food consumption – not being on a diet. The way a person eats is a lifestyle choice, and while ours is a constant evolution – I’ve recently been motivated by not only LaLa’s desire to be a vegetarian, but by my own desire to cut out the crap food (what little was left). I’ve had a lot of fun trying new recipes and chatting with people about food and meal choices. One of our friends Dottie shared this amazing recipe which we tried the other day  – and LOVE IT! We used vegan chocolate chips instead of blueberries (because we’re about blueberry out with smoothies) and it was SO enjoyable! Jump over to her blog and check out the recipes! Thanks Ms. Dottie!!

Almond Pancake Recipe
5 T. Almond Meal (I buy Trader Joe’s) 2 t. Flax meal (I buy Big bag at Costco)
1 T. Sour Cream …
3 T. Water
1 egg
1/4 t. vanilla
1/4 t. baking powder
Mix all together and cook like regular pancakes. I add blueberries to the mix. this recipe is 1-2 servings. Robby eats the entire batch 4 pancakes

Well, off to the races! Another day of school and finishing up a sewing project tomorrow…pictures to come. Enjoy the day!

Namaste

For the love of Bunkie

So I spent forever the other night trying to come up with a cool way to write about our amazing dog – Bunker, who goes by Bunk, Bunk The Dog, Bunkie, Bunkie-dog, or the kids favorite – HEY YOU! I thought instead on this one I would just post some amazing pictures of her to share with everyone so you can see why we love this patient and tender-hearted girl so much. Enjoy!

New Puppy, New Home, New Rules……………

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” If the babies rest, I rest” – right after we brought the twins home in 2005.

Daddy, Kayla, Emma & Bunkie

Happy Girl in her favorite spot in the sunshine… 2012.

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David and Goliath…. 2012

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Bunkie’s kind of camping – backyard only! 2012

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“Her” pack……

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“That whip cream was sooo good…mmm..mm.. huh? what? The cup is s-t-u-c-k!”

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That’s our girl!

Extra Help on a Busy Day

As a busy Mom I have learned that time is the most valuable commodity you have, and there is little to be spared when you have a busy schedule. Whether you work, home school, stay at home, work from home, trying to help your kids with homework – whatever your path is, enough can never be said for using the tools of your home to make your day easier. Sometimes I think we forget about these and end up spending time doing something, which could be done by a machine and give us a few spare precious minutes to be using somewhere else.

Tool Number One:  Crock-pot

Never underestimate the use of a crock-pot. Lots of healthy dishes can be cooked in a crock-pot – it’s not your grandma’s beef stew anymore. This is something you can get up in the morning and in the time it takes to make coffee or tea – you can have dinner in and ready to go. For an extra hand, set out the plates, utensils and napkins next to it so when it’s time for dinner, all you do is dish it out. Just Google Healthy Crock-Pot Recipes and tons of options will show up:  http://busycooks.about.com/od/healthycrockpotrecipes/a/healthycrockpot.htm

Tool Number Two: Dishwasher

I bet everyone uses one, but did you think about the timing for using it? We load ours after dinner and then empty it in the morning. The reason is it allows loading throughout the day. Then I don’t go into the kitchen and feel overwhelmed by having to do dishes – or my house looks a mess with a stack of dishes. Also, have your littles load their dishes throughout the day (you can always adjust the placement later) or have them help unload – it allows them to feel helpful and it gives you a break.

Tool Number Three: Washer and Dryer

Yes don’t laugh, these are tools too. If you have as much laundry as I do, sometimes you forget you left a load in. Put loads in first thing in the morning and even right before you go to bed. Let the machine work while you sleep.  If you can, during the day make sure you have the time buzzer turned on both the washer and the dryer. Let your littles help unload the dryer and throw everything on the bed if they like – kids love this because the clothes are warm and it’s fun to make a big mess of clothes on the bed. Either way, ensure you keep your loads going throughout the day – fold at the end of the day and put everything away – this way you’re still getting the productivity of the machines and not having to stop every hour to fold.

Tool Number Four: Steam Mop

This has saved me a ton of time hauling around a bucket and mop. A steam mop can be purchased for about $50 at your local store. You can use it to scrub your floors during your normal cleaning, but it is also great at spot cleaning. If you don’t have a carpet steamer it also removes stains from carpet.

Tool Number Five: Bread maker

I strongly dislike looking in the cupboard and realizing I need to run to the store to get bread. Having invested in a bread maker is a great way to not only ensure I know what goes into my family’s food, but it keeps me from having to run yet another errand. Set it up to cook at night, so when you wake up you have fresh bread. Make a couple loaves ahead and freeze them. Make sure not to slice them before your freeze them as it breaks down the starch and doesn’t freeze well. Here are a few recipes:  http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Course/Bread-Recipes/Bread-Machine-Recipes

These tools are all different for each home, but the point is the same. Use the tools you have to make your daily life easier. Let your littles help out, it teaches them the value of your and their time – as well as the responsibilities of being a contributing family member. Then you have extra time to play with your kids, or hang with your partner – or just have a quiet moment to yourself.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  ~Confucius

The Homemade Laundry Soap Experiment…1 Year Later

In January of 2011 our family would attempt to make/use our own laundry soap.  Most of the people in our family thought I was cracked to use a non-commercial brand of laundry soap….as well as leaving the fate of my family’s cleanliness in the hands of Fels-Naptha.  HA!  Here is to pioneering a “new”  way…

We heard all kinds of horror stories about men who were unhappy with the smell of the laundry, women who would NEVER use it, how it never took out stains, didn’t suds enough to count as clean, never really worked – and positive stories of how it worked well and saved a family a ton of money, removed smells and stains, families who would NEVER live without it – people were pretty much on one end of the spectrum or the other – what we like is that it had much reduced chemical components in it than standard laundry.

After a year’s use, here’s my two cents:

  1. Stain Removal:  “Standard” laundry soap [SLS] (starting with a T, but I do not want to get in trouble from the big guns…) does remove some stains better, if you are in a hurry and do not have time to put on stain remover.  (On the other hand, I may have laundry gremlins who forget to remind me they spilled chocolate sauce with Kool-Aid on their FAVORITE white shirt!)  “Homemade” laundry soap [HLS] removes everything just fine, however on items such as grass or oil – I keep a bar of Fels-Naptha on hand and rub a little extra on for my own peace of mind.
  2. Smell:  SLS has a highly perfume smell to it – even if you buy the one that has NO added perfumes or dyes which touts itself as “clear”.  After using HLS for a year plus, the perfume smell in SLS if overwhelming – similar to walking through a perfume section in a department store.  I did not realize this until we stopped using SLS for a year and then restarted in April of 2012 for the comparison test.  HLS has no order to it, unless you utilize a bar soap that has a smell or add essential oils for smell.
  3. Loads: We have a front loading HE washer – a 5-gallon bucket of concentrated HLS lasted our family from January of 2011 through April 1st of 2012.  On average, I do six to eight loads of laundry per week for a household of four, extra when our son is visiting.  That is 1/2c of HLS per load.
  4. Cost:  I was skeptical about using HLS, so I kept on hand SLS I had bought on sale in 2011 – three 50 Fl oz containers total cost of $15.89.  I only recently opened one at the beginning of April to do a fair comparison and have been using it since April 1st – I have very little left as I notice it takes more than HLS to do the same standard of cleaning.  The HLS cost $11.74, the reason the initial investment was so high was that I bought a brand new 5-gallon bucket from Home Depot.  Keep in mind that even though an entire bar of Fels-Naptha was utilized, very tiny amounts of washing soda and borax are utilized – so I added these to my cleaning arsenal.  The double use of products makes them even more cost effective.  This time the only investment for one year’s worth of HLS will be the Fels-Naptha – which is $1.39 at Fred Meyer’s.
  5. Whitening: I am a stickler about the whites.  I choose to use Mrs. Stewarts Bluing, as I detest bleach.  I was only recently introduced to this product as soon as I started using HLS, and I think it’s wonderful I wish I would of known about it years ago.  (http://www.mrsstewart.com/pdf/W2F/UT.pdf)

Overall, our family will continue to use HLS – not only is it highly cost effective – I know what goes into it, and it is better for our machine and the environment.

Here is the recipe:

  • Borax
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (NOT Baking Soda)
  • Fels-Naptha Soap Bar or Zote Soap Bar
  • 5-gallon bucket with lid
  • A Container that has been cleaned and rinsed
  • A cyprinid (I used a cleaned 2-liter soda bottle and cut the bottom off.
  • OPTIONAL:  Essential Oil Drops for fragrance (We did not add this)
  • Grate the whole bar of Fels-Naptha Soap
  • Put into a pot with 4 cups of hot water – stir constantly over medium to low heat until all the soap is completely dissolved (took about 15 minutes) Ensure there are no chucks because if there are they will not dissolved over time.
  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket with four cups of HOT water.
  • Pour the soap mixture into the bucket then add 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda and ½ cup of Borax.  Continually stir until combined. (There are many different tools you can use; I used an old wooden rod to ensure you reach the bottom of the bucket).
  • Fill the rest of the 5 gallon bucket with water until full then stir again.
  • Let sit out overnight (we sat ours on the back porch).
  • When opened the next day it will be thicker (gel like consistency) and more difficult to stir.  Stir again.
  • Use a funnel to fill a clean container for your laundry room.  (I utilized an old Costco laundry soap container because of the spout size) Only fill the container HALF way with the soap mixture.  Fill the other half with water and SHAKE.
  • Reseal the 5-gallon bucket and store in a cool place.

Once you’re ready to do your first load here are the recommended measurements:

-5/8 cups for a regular top-loading machine
-1/4 cup for a front-loading (HE) machine**

**(NOTE: I have been using this and find that ½ cup works best in our HE machine.)

Disclaimer: If you are worried about your HE machine, please call the manufacturer.  I called ours and they said it was not a problem to use with our machine.  One of the major concerns with HE machines is the suds and this recipe does not generate suds.  We have had no issues with our machine, however please consult your machine manufacturer if you have any concerns.