Monday, August 27, 2012

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, it's just been one heck of a summer. I found peace through a 200 hour yoga teacher training, which was life changing! One of the best parts was that Wonderful got to be the house wife-- I can say that after 2 1/2 weeks, he truly appreciates me now. I feel like every couple should do this, switch roles. As soon as I finished that, my mom treated me to a trip to Hawaii for a family reunion. I'm so lucky that she sent me because I would have never been able to afford such a luxurious trip on my own. Of course it was just me and the Wild Things. For 3 days, they were perfect angles and for the other 3... we're just lucky to have made it home in one piece. Let's just say, I'm never riding an airplane AGAIN! Once I unpacked my swim suit, it was time to start packing for the big move to the West Coast. So, I'm sitting here surrounded by boxes, the whole house in shambles, kids bouncing off the walls and Dexter needs to be right next to me at all times (he's almost the size of a horse now). I think the word I'm looking for is chaos. -- I'm escaping to the computer again. Theres a rule in the house now that when mommy is typing, no one is talking... I can dig that.

In other interesting news, we've been trying out veganism. We aren't 100% yet. I'm not going to lie, I still like meat, and the cravings seem to rear there ugly head about once a week. I really want to do a blog post about veganism, but I'm still in the research and development phase. One thing that I can conclude is that I feel amazing and I look amazing. I'm not in it for the animal rights, even though what slaughter and dairy farms is horrible, I'm doing it for the health reasons. We're veganizing the kids too. Twinkle Toes has transitioned wonderfully, but Wild Thing is on a veggie strike, he'll only eat bread. I guess he's finally hit the age where veggies are gross. I'll keep trying. Since going vegan we had to get rid of the chickens. We had a non vegan friend who was more than happy to take care of them, and he's doing a great job!

I'm looking forward to getting moved and unpacked. I've got some projects in my head for redecorating the new place and I can't wait to blog about them all. I'm always so happy that people are reading my blog and it makes me feel so important. Thank you to everyone reading, much love to all of you! See you soon!

Friday, June 8, 2012

DIY Upside Down Wine Bottle Planter

My wine bottle fascination came when I pinned the following picture from Pinterest. I looked all over the internet for a tutorial and couldn't find one anywhere! I wasn't about to give up, so I looked at the picture really close and tested it to see if it worked. Well, I figured it out and I want to share how to do it. It's really simple really, I made a post a while back about making a Hydroponic Wine Bottle Planter and it uses a similar technique. Feel free to look at the previous post to fill in the gaps.
Pic from Pinterest.
What you'll need:
  • Cleaned/empty wine bottle
  • Bottle cutter
  • Ice
  • Candle & Lighter
  • Sand paper
  • Small plant -- preferably a vine or something that grows well upside down.
  • Moss
  • Drill with small glass drill bit
  • WD-40
  • String or twill
Cutting: 1. Using the wine bottle cutter, you want to make a score line. Just go around once or twice with medium pressure. 2. Run an ice cube around the score line until cold. 3. Hold the score line about half an inch above the candle's flame and rotate until warm. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bottle splits. 5. Sand the edges of the bottle until smooth.

  1. Cut as directed except at the very bottom of the bottle. Be patient, sometimes it takes a couple tries. Throw out the bottom and sand along the edge of your cut so that it isn't sharp.
  2. Using the drill and small glass cutting bit, carefully drill 2 small holes, big enough to fit your string through, at the very top of the neck, preferably where it's very thick. Spray some WD-40 while your cutting it to cool down the temperature, it get's hot!
  3. Dampen the moss and stuff it up into the bottle. *When the moss dries, it will expand.*
  4. This is the tricky part, take the small plant out of it's container and size it out for the opening of the bottle, you may have to shake off some dirt. Wrap the damp moss around the dirt/root system and fit it tightly into the bottom of the bottle. You want a tight squeeze!! It surprisingly holds. I was pretty shocked!
  5. String it and hang it up! It'll look cooler as the plant grows.
The ones that we made.
Care tips: To water them, take it down and water them from the bottom. Let them sit *upside down* with the neck in a glass to drain. Don't try to hang them back up when they are soaking wet, they'll drip all over the place and I even had one fall out once.

Fun With Colored Rice

My friend Schi-Schu, as we call her, taught me how to make colored rice and the kids LOVE it! They play with it for hours, even the big kids that come over here can't keep their hands out of it. I'm not going to lie, when everyone is in bed, I even enjoy a little hand dipping in the grains. It's super easy to make, so easy in fact, I let my 3 year old wild thing do it.

First you'll want to run to the store and get these things:

  • A big old bag of the cheapest white rice that you can find.
  • Food coloring
  • Bowl
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Cookie sheets
  • A big bin
  • Measuring cups and spoons (for the kids)

It's so simple! Fill up a bowl with the rice and pour on some food coloring. Stir it up to mix in the color. Spread the rice onto your cookie sheet and put in the oven at 250 for about 30 min. This lets the food coloring dry. You could also let it sit out in the sun. -- I mixed all of the colors in the bin to make a rainbow of rice, I've seen people do separate colors in cute little bowls, but let's be real here... I have a wild thing. We've got to keep it simple. Here's my 3 year old making colored rice:

Pouring the rice in the bowl
Stirring in the food coloring
Putting it on the cookie sheet
Blue and greeen :)
In the oven
And in the bin
He loves it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is a pretty standard recipe for making homemade laundry detergent, you can find it anywhere online, so it's nothing original. It works very well, makes about 10 gallons and costs only a few dollars to make. First, you'll need to go to the store for the following items.

  • 1 Bar Fels Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap (I looked everywhere and finally found it at Wal-Mart for 97 cents.)
  • Borax (1/2 cup) (I found 4 lbs and 12 oz for $4)
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (1 cup) (Again, you may have to look around, but my grocery store had 55 oz for $2.50)
Start up cost: $7.47 -- But let's break it down because you can use the washing soda 6.5 times and the borax 7 times. Each recipe: Super Washing Soda $.38 + Borax $.57 + Fels Naptha $.97 = Total $1.92 Per Recipe **Each recipe yields approximately 640 Loads (Front Loader) or 180 loads (Top Loader) Since math is just so fun and we have a front loader, it costs $.003 per load -- uh... that's like a fraction of a penny... Hello? AWESOME!

Grate the soap
Heat soap with 4 cups of water on medium, stirring constantly until melted.
Fill a bin with 2.5 gallons of hot tap water. (That's 40 cups)

Add melted soap, 1/2 cup Borax, and 1 cup Super Washing Soda. Stir until all of the powder dissolves.

*All mixed*
Add another 2.5 gallons of hot tap water (40 cups)
Let sit overnight and it will turn into gel. You have 2 options: 1. Fill up an empty laundry detergent container halfway with the concentrated mix and half with water and do this as you go. 2. If you have a large enough container, add another 5 gallons of hot tap water. -- **Note: Be sure to shake the container or mix before every use as the gel and water will separate.

Front loader washing machine = 1/4 cup per load
Top loader washing machine = 5/8 cup per load

**Note: You can add essential oils if you want. I've heard about 10-15 drops is good and to add it after it's cooled.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My 10 Best Mom Moments

  • When I'm going to the restroom and everyone has to witness the act. They all crowd in there like a packed nightclub, I might as well dim the lights and install a disco ball.
  • How saying "Don't drop that" triggers an immediate dropping response.
  • Getting settled into a hot bubble bath to relax when my son walks in with his big tug boat full of bath toys, strips down and gets right in.
  • How as soon as he gets into said bath, he immediately pees in the tub.
  • When flow comes to town, of couse everyone needs to be in the bathroom, my son lays down on the floor, looking up between my legs, "Mom, are you dying?".
  • Getting to the check out, pulling out my wallet, only to realize that my credit cards have been swiped by a 2 ft. tall kleptomaniac.
  • Sharing my water, only to get it back cloudy and with food particles left in it.
  • Poop. The amount of it and how it always manages to get on my hands.
  • Enjoying a nice hike in the woods or fishing by the river and my son looks up at me, "Mommy, I have to poop."...
  • When my son is spazzing out and I go to grab for my coffee cup, but it is magically empty.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Spend Wisely - 10 Money saving tips for a family of 4

Spend Wisely - 10 Money saving tips for a family of 4 + Some baby saving tips.

There are 2 things to remember when it comes to spending wisely: 1. Time is money - You can buy so many things to save time. If you want to cut back on your spending, you need to be willing to put in the time. 2. You can have everything. Just not today.

** Updated 5/17/2012 
I just  wanted to share a little bit about using credit cards wisely. Using your debit card for purchases and bills can be dangerous. If you get mis-billed or double billed, which happens, it can drain your bank account and can take weeks to recover, leaving you high and dry. It is wise to find a credit card that provides good protections and rewards. There are 3 benefits: 1: If you get mis-billed or double billed, you can contact your credit card company and the transaction can be put on hold for investigation without wiping out you bank account. 2: Some cards provided an extended warranty on your purchases. So, if a buisness won't honor your refund or exchange, your credit card company can protect you. 3: Building rewards. You can collect points for flights, vacations, and sometimes even cash back rewards. Now, it's very important to not carry a balance. Set a limit on your monthly spending so that you can pay it off every month. By not carrying a balance, you do not accrue intrest charges. 

  1. Eliminate waist and re-use: It seems like you can get just about anything in disposable form these days; ranging from paper towels, paper plates, disposable diapers, wipes to make up remover pads. Think about everything that you just throw away, it's money down the drain. Try switching to washcloths for cleaning, using the plates sitting in the cabinet, cloth diapering and wipes are big savers too. Instead of throwing something away, try to re-use it or find a new purpose for it. *We dedicated a month and to see if we could fill up our big kitchen trash can once after watching No Impact Man. We weren't able to pull it off, but it brought a lot of attention to how much we were just throwing out. We've reduced our waist 10 fold since then. Now we have a closet where we put stuff to re-use, ex: coffee containers, wine bottles, cereal boxes, etc. We actually have a blast making things out of trash!*
  2. Make it, don't buy it: I just love Pinterest! Have I said that before? You can find a DIY tutorial on there for just about anything. Need a set of stackable outdoor chairs? Make 'em. Baby mobile? There's a million ways to make those. *We've proudly made our kitchen table, coffee table, side table, and a wall shelf by using discarded wood and furniture. Our kitchen table was once someone's workbench.*
  3. Garden and buy local: Grass looks nice and all but it doesn't really serve much of a purpose... Take half of your lawn and grow a garden. Try using heirloom/open pollination seeds, you can get years of use out of just one packet. It's great to get the kids involved too. *My Wild Thing loves to go sneak lettuce and kale out of the garden for an afternoon treat. I'm not sure that he would want to eat those things if he hadn't watched them grow from little seedlings.* If you don't have a lawn or your city folk like us, urban gardening is the way to go. You can use anything as a planter; shipping crates, an old wheel barrel, bowls or cups... I could go on all day here. Also, buying local produce from farmers markets or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) not only helps your wallet but it also helps the economy. Support small business. These guys are family farmers that put their blood, sweat, and tears to grow quality crops. Local is better than organic.
  4. Cook from scratch: Everyone knows that you will save tons on money by eating at home, but you can save even more by making everything from scratch. You could buy a loaf of bread for $2.99 or make one from scratch for 25 cents (p.s. you don't need a bread machine to make bread). Everything that is pre-made, in the box or bag is going to cost you a premium. *I would say that our family of 4 eats about 75% organic fresh produce and non-processed foods... sounds expensive? Our monthly grocery bill runs us about $450.* Aside from the money that you are saving, eating processed foods (even when they have that cute little organic label or a picture of a pretty hillside farm on the front of it) is loaded with unnecessary calories and sodium. - Don't have the time? Eat it the way nature intended to. Eat it raw, eat it simple. You don't need fancy recipes to feed your family a well balanced diet.
  5. Take hand me downs and buy used: Kids go through clothes so fast and sometimes, they only wear them just a few times. Don't be afraid to take hand me downs from a friend with an older kid or buy used at a consignment shop or garage sale. I'm not just talking clothes here; furniture, toys, kids gadgets like swings, bouncers etc. I'm also a big fan of curb finds. People will throw something out for the slightest imperfection. Hello? Crayon washes out! When it comes to furniture, you want to look for something that has potential. It may look crummy on the surface, but if it's solid wood, you can sand that baby down, put on a new coat of varnish and voila! looks like new!
  6. Make a budget and track your spending EVERYDAY: Don't just spend freely without knowing where it goes and you can't just ignore you're account balance. When you're making your budget, be realistic. Maybe you eat out once a week *we do*, maybe you like to go see a movie once in a while... put it in there. Don't pretend like it doesn't exist or it will sneak up on you later. Map out your spending and see where it's going. You may be surprised to see that you are spending a lot on eating out or buying frivolous things. When you break it down, it's easy to see where you can change your spending habits. After all is said and done, see how much you have left over, (I know that some of us don't have a lot) and try to block out a portion of that to save. If you end up having a bad month, then at least you left yourself a buffer.
  7. Find those extra expenditures and cut them out: Think about your monthly expenditures and ask yourself if you really need it all. Cable can cost a fortune. An antenna will cost you about $60 and is free to use indefinitely. You can watch all of your network shows and prime time TV in HD with an antenna now a days. Do you need a smart phone? Better yet does everyone in your house need a smart phone? *Wonderful and I decided that we did need one, but that it wasn't necessary for us to both have one.* The service on each smart phone costs an additional $30 on top of your contract. Gym memberships that your not using... a home phone that just rings with sales calls... find out what you don't need and cut it.
  8. Be a loyal customer: Loyalty will get you a long way with your insurance company, cell phone company, internet provider, and your bank. Your insurance rate goes down the longer your with a company and your bank is more likely to give you a better interest rate after you've been with them for a while. It also gives you the leverage to say, "Hey! I've been with you guys for 10 years, you owe me a better deal.". Bouncing around can get expensive with early termination fees, start up fees and deposits. *Wonderful said that I should give the disclaimer to still shop around for a better deal. He's right. You can take that deal and go back to your people and say, "These guys are offing me this. Will you match it or beat it?". If they can't, maybe it's time to move on.*
  9. Buy smart and take advantage of the freebies: First of all, always make a shopping list! Never, ever, EVER buy anything off the list before going home and sleeping on it. That's what you call an impulse buy. 9 times out of 10, you'll realize that you didn't need it the next day. When making a big purchase, ask yourself a few questions first: How long do I expect this item to last? What's an appropriate amount to spend on something that is going to provide X amount of use when I make X amount of money? And give yourself a spending cap before you price out the item. *For example, Twinkle Toes is almost 11 months, and she needed new summer clothes. I knew that they aren't going to last for very long and I'm just going to end up giving them away in a few months, so, I gave my self a $75 spending cap before I went in the store.* Most importantly, don't buy cheap! It'll just fall apart and you'll have to buy another one. Buy something that is well made and durable so that you only have to get it once. Don't forget to take advantage of your freebies: I don't have a long list here because... well... I grew up with the Texas Republican Agenda in my ear. I'm not talking about welfare or food stamps, ok. I'm talking about your local library and special deals... This is tough to explain... *for example, the children's museum out here does half price if you go after 4p. The aquarium is free to locals on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.* Get savvy on that stuff. Living Social and Groupon are pretty cool too.
  10. You can have everything that you want, you just can't get it all today. Spread out your spending. *We leave a "free spending" section in our budget for things that we "want", but once the limit has been reached, it has to wait til next month, even if we have the money for it.*
Baby saving tips: (I can add more of these later too, because there are tons! *I'm always telling people that we have "free" babies.)
  • Breastfeed
  • Cloth Diaper
  • Make your own baby food
  • Don't buy toys. - They really don't need them, a measuring cup and a wooden spoon has brought more happiness to my children than any toy that I could have ever bought them.
  • Be minimalistic. Kids really don't need much. Just you.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Women Only! - The real deal on The Menstrual Cup

**Dudes beware: This post is SO not for you.

The real deal scoop on The Menstrual Cup:
Beware: I tried to be discreet as possible, but it is necessary to share the details. We're talking about a menstrual cup here...

Why you should consider it:
If you're trying to reduce your waste impact, something to think about: Tampons can take up to 400 years to decompose in a landfill. Let's make a scenario so that we can grasp the full impact of this: the average woman menstruates for 7 days... maybe she changes her tampon 3 times a day, for about 40 years... you're looking at at around 10,080 tampons over her life. Multiply that times a million and then by 400 *great, I have to pull out my scientific calculator here*, in half a century there could be over 4 Trillion tampons rotting in a landfill. Should we even mention the chemicals?... Oh yea! They aren't just pretty white cotton. Those chemicals will be leaching into the earth and ground water, yum.

If you're in it to save money... hold on, let me pull out my calculator again... (I just googled tampons, shopping, and found that on average, with name brand tampons, you can get an 18 pack for around about $5.) Let's just do an annual calculation because the cup is really only supposed to last a year. 10,080 divided by 40, then divided by 18, multiplied by 5... c'mon, keep up! That's $70. The cup will cost you $40. That's a $30 annual savings. Big woop, right? Multiply that times 40... $1,200 savings between puberty and menopause.

If none of those appeal to you, I've got 3 words for ya, Toxic Shock Syndrome.

What to expect:
I'm sure that you're first thought is, gross! It's really not. You get no more dirty than you would fooling around with a tampon or pad, and no, I'm not splatter painting my bathroom walls.

  • Expect to have to buy more than one to find the right size at first. Every woman is different, most cups come in 2 sizes and each brand is sized differently. They are non-returnable and it's not like buying a bra where you can go into the dressing room and find the right cup size. I had to buy 2 and wasn't exactly stoked about it.
  • Plan on it taking a couple months to get used to. I don't know about all of you other women, but it took me a while to get used to using a tampon. This is no exception. Stick with it, things will go wrong.
  • You won't feel it. If it's in right, and you have the right size, you won't notice that it is there.
  • It really does last for 12 hours. It's a cup! It'll hold a lot more than some cotton stick. The plus side of this, you only have to change it morning and night. So, you don't have to worry about changing it in a public bathroom.
  • It does NOT come out like a tampon. Don't freak out, it's not going to get lost in there. It will come out.
  • It doesn't smell. Blood starts to smell once it touches oxygen. The cup makes a seal, so the blood doesn't touch oxygen until you pull it out. No smell.
My experience:
Ok, I'm not speaking from some dream experience here, "Oh, the Diva Cup changed my life!". It's was a huge ordeal, and the information on the internet is very limited. I'm hoping that by sharing my experiences, other's can have a better experience starting out. 

Round 1: The first cup I bought was the large size Diva Cup. A pushy sales lady talked me into it because I had previously had children, I explained that am I am very petite and have had cesareans, but she wouldn't let me walk out with the smaller size... I was right, it was way to big for me. 2 terrible things happened: 1. It wouldn't expand properly and leaked. 2. It pressed up against my bladder having me going to the restroom, no exaggeration, literally every 10 minutes. It felt like I had a UTI for 2 weeks afterwards. For the record, the test results came back negative for a UTI, I assume it was some kind of internal bruising. I was irate when neither the store that I bought it from or the actual Diva Cup company would not offer a replacement. *I'm boycotting both of those jokers now* So, I went to the internet, read all of the forums that I could find, and researched all different kinds of cups. There's a couple different kind. The main ones are The Diva Cup from Canada, The Moon Cup from the UK, and The Lunette Cup from Finland. **They are all a little different, it's about finding what fits you** I decided to order the small size Lunette Cup off of Amazon because the forums claimed that the silicone rim was softer and their website had better information that applied to me, such as, people who do yoga and pilates have a stronger pelvic floor and should go with a smaller size.
Left: Lunette Cup Model 1 Right: Diva Cup Model 2
Round 2: The Lunette Cup. I was NOT excited to do this thing again... I continued to used the Diva Wash because I still have it and they sell it at Whole Foods. The initial experience was pleasant. It fit, it didn't leak, and my bladder was fine. I needed to trim the wick because it was irritating me, which made me nervous because it was my safety string. Things went well for 3 days... Then, I started to get some serious irritation from putting it in and taking it out. It's silicone... rubbing rubber on your skin isn't that pleasant either. Problem numero dos, something that felt like a yeast infection. -- This time I wasn't going back to the doctor to get the head tilt, "Now, please explain to me... what exactly is this Menstrual Cup?" with her pen and notepad as if I was some lunatic patient that was experimenting by pouring cyanide in my vagina. -- I was very clean about it. I boiled the cup before use, washed it at every change, washed my hands, washed down below... How could this happen? Again, I consulted the internet forums. Turns out, like douching, the wash will strip you of all of that good bacteria. They recommended using a half vinegar, half water solution to wash the cup between changes. Having that information, and since the Monistat wasn't working *it probably wasn't a yeast infection*, I cleaned myself with a vingar soaked towelette for a couple days and the symptoms cleared up. 
Round 3: The Lunette Cup round 2. I went into it more confidently, I had a good cup and a better plan of action, which I'll describe in the "how to use the darn thing". It all came together: No irritation, no discomfort, nothing negative. It went great! It took me 2 months to work out how to use it, and now I'm officially a menstrual cup user.

How to use the darn thing:
Pick these things up, you'll need them:
  • Your menstrual cup. Any size or brand that works for you.
  • Some type of feminine wash, I'm still using the Diva Wash $11 even though I think that they suck for not offering a replacement to such a loyally green customer.
  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • KY Jelly
  • A bath tub and 5-10 min.
*When you get your cup, boil it for 5 min to disinfect it before use.*
  • Get into the empty bath (bottoms off) and run the water with the drain open.
  • In a small bowl or basin, soak your cup in vinegar and water for a few min.
  • Using the wash, clean your hands and your labia majora (outside of your vagina) -- since we're getting technical here.
  • Rinse off the cup and fold it according to the directions or as indicated in the image below.
  • Using a dot of KY Jelly, rub it around the portion of the cup that will go in first.
  • Insert the cup *standing up* until you'll feel it expand. It'll go *bloop*. Is that a good explanation? Run your fingers around the base of it to make sure it's fully expanded. *Note: It's not going to go all the way up to your cervix like a tampon, just into the entrance of your vaginal canal. You should be able to feel the wick with your finger. I've also heard that you should insert in the direction of your rectum. Not IN your rectum. Got it? The directions say to give it a turn, but who can do that?
Visual Demonstration of how it works when you put the cup in.
12 hours later... **It is very important that you read these directions or you maybe be running around freaking out that you've lost this stupid thing inside of you, trying to figure out who you can call who's got a set of forceps on hand.**
  • Repeat step 1 from 12 hours earlier.
  • Get into a squatting position and bear down. If you've ever had a baby, or faked an orgasm, you know how to push your kegel muscles. This will push the cup a portion of the way out, enough to where you can grab the base and pull it out. You'll feel a very brief and slightly uncomfortable suction as you pull it out, you can squeeze the base before hand to release the suction to make it more comfortable.
  • Empty the cup and repeat steps 2-6 from 12 hours previous.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day 16 - A new way of doing things.

After shutting off the TV, we were like, what do we do? We've had to adjust how we spend our time and I wanted to write an update and brag about how we are spending our "quality" time. First of all, we now have breakfast, lunch and dinner quietly at the kitchen table, he's plays quietly by himself, nap time is back and bed time is going smooth. I sit with the Wild Thing for about an hour a day working on letters, numbers, colors and shapes. I had to take a video for Wonderful, because I knew that he wouldn't believe me. The Wild Thing sat at the table for a whole hour!! Hello?! Is this my kid? We've got the following letters of the alphabet down pat: A, E, I, O, Q... I know another mom whose little boy is a year younger than Wild Thing, and he can recognize the entire alphabet. She's been doing a terrific job with him, and when I found out it made me feel like I've been slacking big time. Ok... ok... it's all good, it's not like he'll never get into Harvard because he didn't know his alphabet at 2. He still knows A LOT about many many other things... I just really want to work on reading because it was something that I fell behind on as a kid, so I did the same thing that my mother did, I ordered hooked on phonics. I'm excited to see how that goes,  I noticed it came with DVDs, so I don't know how it's going to play into our no TV thing.

We're still 100% on the TV ban. Ok, 99%... He asked if he could use the paint program on my iPhone yesterday, so I let him play with it. Twinkle Toes needed a diaper change, and I ran upstairs to change her and I start to hear voices. What th-?! I come down stairs and he's watching Curious George on the PBS app that I had downloaded a while back. I grabbed it and shut it off right away. He couldn't have watched more that 30 seconds of it... I deleted the app. He's found an outlet for his movies though. A while back he got a book with 22 Disney Classics all rolled into one. It has The Little Mermaid, Lady & The Tramp, The Lion King, Cinderella, etc. He sits there for hours looking at this book. It's his way to still connect to the characters from the movies without watching TV. It's pretty cute.

That about covers it. Things are still going really great! We also got some exciting news that Wonderful is getting to do something really cool soon and that means that we'll be moving back to the West Coast for a year. We've got more fun adventures ahead of us...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Visual Guide: Make your own Hydroponic Wine Bottle Planter

Can you say: Upcycle? YAY!!! It's my favorite thing to do. I love finding junk and turning it into something cool. In this case, the enjoyment doesn't have to end when the wine is all gone...

What you'll need:
  • Wine bottle (Empty and cleaned)
  • A bottle cutter -- I used this one from Amazon $22 Generation Green g2 Bottle Cutter
  • Clay Pellets -- Amazon $17.99 Hydroton Hydroponic Rocks (This bag will last FOREVER!)
  • A candle (and a lighter, says Wonderful.)
  • Ice Cubes
  • A felt wick (or you can make one like I did out of an old hemp cloth diaper insert)
  • Cellophane wrap or a plastic bag
  • Rubber Band
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Herbs

Hydroponic herb planters made out of recycled wine bottles. 

Cutting: First you want to cut your wine bottle. 1. Using the wine bottle cutter, you want to make a score line. Just go around once or twice with medium pressure. 2. Run an ice cube around the score line until cold. 3. Hold the score line about half an inch above the candle's flame and rotate until warm. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bottle splits. 5. Sand the edges of the bottle until smooth.

Making a wick: You can just use felt strips, but if you want to make your own wick, I used the hemp from one of my old cloth diaper inserts because I knew that they were super absorbent. Using my sewing machine, I folded it over and over until it became skinny and tight. I'm not very skilled with a sewing machine, so you can use my example below or if you have a better idea, do that.

Planting: Once you have the wine bottle cut and a wick, it's time to put everything together. 1. Take the top half of the wine bottle, the planter section, turn it upside down and place inside the other half, the reservoir. 2. (Presoak your wick so that it is wet) Feed the wick down the tube till it hits the bottom. 3. Slowly add the clay pellets to allow the wick to circle up the inside of the bottle. (The wick will keep the clay pellets moist by drawing up water from the reservoir.) 4. Pour water over the clay pellets until the lower reservoir is three quarters of the way full. 5. Spray water with spray bottle to make sure that all of the pellets are moist. 6. Add seeds. (I think I always add more than you need, but to each their own.)  7. Cover with plastic and keep it sealed with a rubber band.

Growing: Keep in a dark, warm place with the plastic on and spray water with the spray bottle everyday until the seedlings are an inch tall. Then, you can remove the plastic, and I would continue spraying the seedlings until you can see that the roots have worked their way down the neck of the bottle. When your done using your herbs, wash off the clay pellets and start over. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Coming to terms with being a SAHM

I've been a stay at home mom for 4 years now. It wasn't exactly my dream to be at home with kids. I had envisioned my early adulthood working as a high powered graphic designer, working late nights and meeting deadlines, not doing late night feedings and changing diapers. When I met Mr. Wonderful, something strange happened, I wanted kids. (If you knew me at the time, you'd know that it was out of character.) Maybe it's some biological connection that you make when you meet someone right, or maybe my clock started ticking... who knows. When I found out I was pregnant, it's was the obvious decision to stay home. 1. As a child I had spent a lot of time in daycare and I hated it. 2. I didn't like the idea of someone raising my kid to be one of those obnoxious rugrats that I couldn't stand to be around. 3. We couldn't afford it. So, we maintained a simple life and I stayed home.

The first 6 months were awesome! I got to sleep in, relax... clean... stare at the walls... change diapers...  stare at a sleeping baby... feed the baby... stare at the floor... It got old fast. That first year, having 1 income couldn't even afford us internet and cable, I was bored out of my mind. What I would have given for a fussy baby... The following 6 months, I just felt like a loser. All of my friends were finishing their degrees and here I was, a couple credits away from a bachelor's degree, kicked out of art school, and being a "mommy". Nobody that we met even bothered to ask what I did, it was just assumed that I was some mindless housewife, and I felt small and undervalued. Depression hit hard and when the Wild Thing turned a year, I finally got a bug up my butt to try to work from home. I did research on what qualified me to be a graphic designer and I had enough credits between web design and graphic design to earn me the title of "bachelor's degree equivalent". All that I needed was a 20 piece portfolio. -- I think my computer crashed on purpose, it was like, you suck and you need to start over. -- At first I was furious to have to start over but then my new stuff rocked! I secretly thanked ol' mac for crashing. I did 13 pieces in a year. My plan was to start promoting myself after my 15th piece and do freelance graphic design from home. When I became pregnant with Twinkle Toes, I developed a serious case of artist's block. After she was born, I expected the fog to lift and I'd be able to jump back on the wagon, but 2 kids made it impossible to complete an entire thought -- Thus, I began hating being a stay at home mom. I wasn't crazy about it before, now I HATED it.

I just wanted a little job. A way to get out of the house, earn a little extra cash, and find some sanity. I knew that the kids needed me here, and I only wanted something part time. The other issue was that I still wanted to be able pursue graphic design... So, I decided to train to be a yoga instructor. I love doing yoga, I want to be able to share it with other people and the job has very flexible hours. Last November, I signed up for a course in June. I would have done it sooner, but June was the first available. Well... it hit me a couple of months ago, my days are numbered... I'm not going to be home all day forever... It's like a huge weight was lifted, and I could finally treat this like the vacation that everyone thinks it is. Haha! Yea... I'm not yet a working mom, but when I hear about them complaining about working and not being able to stay at home, I think, THEY have it easy! This sums it up perfectly: Stay-At-Home vs. Working Parents: Questions to help spouses bridge the communication gap. The only thing that I can add is, pretend you busted your ass all day and nobody noticed. Nobody said thank you and the world proceeded to move on as if you never existed. Maybe I'd feel differently in their shoes...

Now we are taking full advantage of this and we never sit still. We're either fishing, hiking, gardening, taking care of chickens, running errands, or going to yoga. I've given up having a spotless house because after dusting your entertainment center 1,460 times, you really just want to throw it out the window... and if your never home, it doesn't bother you. I'm ABSOLUTELY LOVING IT!! Why did it take me so long to get here? Why did I care so much about what everyone thought? And can I maintain this joy about it forever? We will see, we will see.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Our cute little Chicken Coop

Alright, if you don't already know about the chicken's, you need to refer back to Being Green - Urban Farming - The Chickens. I'm getting used to the idea of having them around and I've even worked up a good case to keep them. They've been staying in a little bin inside of our house and it's time for them to go. We have a crummy little make shift chicken coop, but... well... I'm a designer. Everything has to be beautiful. Deal.

I looked up chicken coops on Pinterest and found my inspiration... Isn't it beautiful!! It's only $1,250 or your soul! I'm not spending $1,250 on a chicken coop because... well, why do I have to explain?! I have mouths to feed, and they're just CHICKENS!! BTW, I was so right about catching heat for the chickens. People are so narrow minded and totally behind the curve. 5 years ago, Organic food was just a conspiracy, now it's all the fad. -- Backyard chickens is where it's at!

Inspiration from Kippen House. They obviously rock and totally know what's going on.
Remember this pic of our urban garden? Yea... time to redo!
And here's the thing we found on the curb. It was originally a guinea pig cage that someone ghetto rigged out of those crate shelf things that you get at Wal-Mart and some zip ties. Whoever made it had som kickin' ingenuity.

I went to the store and got twice this. I spent $40 total.
We had an extra one of these that we stripped for wood.
The cage sagged in the middle, so we needed some support legs. Using that thingy above, we cut the size we needed and drilled holes to affix it to the cage later.

We also measured out a stick to act as a perch. Chickens like that when they are roosting and we want happy roosters (not roosters but hens) to lay eggs. 
The topper piece before.
Topper piece while being painted.
We spray painted the whole crate black. It was originally mismatched with black and grey before. Sooooo much better! We encountered a problem with leveling the ground, the chicks can easily sprang their ankels, so we had to make sure the dirt was even below.
After being spray painted green :D
We reorganized the urban garden! The grass was growing better on the left. Thank you Dexter the digger... Like how the Wild Thing put Dexter's water bowl in the coop? Yea, he's a pain like that <3
Wonderful affixing the perch. I encountered a problem with the stairs. I staple gunned it and put some wood glue on with a clamp. It's starting to look so good!!
Wonderful attaching the supporting legs. We used jute to tie it up. Better than zip ties...
Don't they look great?! This is the cage "open".
I wanted to put handles on the lid since we didn't have any fancy cabinets like Kippen House. Wonderful drilled holes to run rope through.
You have to cut it carefully or it will fray everywhere. I used electrical tape to block it, a hot knife to cut it and melted the ends up with a candle.
We knotted the ends on the inside...
Viola! Handles!!!
Me, putting the last piece on. 
Finito! And it looks great!! Wahoo! Now these chickens can get outta my house!
By the way, in case you're wondering why we didn't make a planter on top... We really wanted to, but the cage didn't have cool compartments to get the eggs out and the top would be WAY too heavy to lift on a daily basis. The Kippen House chicken coop is definitely on our "someday wish list" but for now, this is pretty awesome... and we only spent $40.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to Cloth Diaper

I'm taking this post down temporarily to rewrite it. Please stay tuned for it!

Day 8 - Done Deal.

Today is the first day that the Wild Thing hasn't asked for TV. He misses it, and he doesn't understand why he can't watch it but I'm happy that he's finally getting used to the idea. I'm loving the new and improved Wild Thing! He's a completely different kid. He plays quietly by himself, he'll sit down and talk to you or play a game, he follows the rules, he cleans up after himself, and the melt downs have dramatically decreased. It's not just effected his energy level but his emotional level too. Another surprise... no potty accidents. He hasn't had a single accident since the shut off. I'd tried to do some research on it, a quick google search on "how TV effects a child's brain", and the information that I found was mostly about ADD and the same information that I previously provided in Day 0 about the neurological effect that they are now calling "the flicker effect". The change has been so dramatic that I believe the experiment is concluded. I'm totally convinced at this point that the TV needs to be shut off permanently. Wonderful and I have talked about maybe doing a movie night once a week, but we still need to do the 30 days and break the habit completely first. I will admit that the TV or PBS for that matter, does have one benefit that I miss, and that's the information that they provide. He learned so much about reading from Super Why and so much about Dinosaurs from Dinosaur Train. I took him to the Natural History Museum yesterday to learn about Dinosaurs because I didn't want his education to stop just because I turned off the TV. I need to step up my game in the education department and learn how to teach my kids. Darn it to hell for kids not coming with a manual!! Hopefully we can find some help in this department at our local library. Just to add... he's now 60% calmer. I might have to rename the kiddos now. Twinkle Toes has become the wild one. She's into everything!!!

I'm not going to continue to do a daily update on the shut off, but I will post one more time about it on Day 30 and reflect back on the changes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 4 - Check in.

Quick check in. My mom is in town, so we've been busy all day. The kids have been angels and still no TV. Rock on!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 3 - Manipulation

Personal: I've got a few non-kid related issues to vent about, so let's get it over with.
  • The Chicks have taken over my kitchen and they smell. I tried to give them a bath but the water ran right off their feathers. They've got one more week inside and then I'm kicking them outside, I don't care what the temperature is.
  • My mom will be here tomorrow and the house needs to be cleaned. Mr. Wonderful is napping and I'm blogging to avoid the work. Genius...
  • I've been 5 pounds away from my pre-baby weight for a month now and I can't get rid of it -- I'm not so concerned about the number as I am about being an inch away from fitting in my clothes. I feel great, I look great... it's the yoga pants. I'm tired of the yoga pants!
  • I've been having this irrational fear that someone will abduct the Wild Thing out of his room in the middle of the night. But the more I think about it, he'll likely drive them nuts and they'll  return him and beg us to take him back. Just to be safe, maybe we should put a bell on the door.
Day 3:
Kids are manipulative. How they learn this at such an early age is beyond me. Wild Thing knows that TV is off limits by now. So, this morning he crawls into bed with me, gets under the covers, snuggles reaaaaal close, gives me a kiss and says, "Mommy? I have an idea." -- I have an idea is his new code for I want because I want is no longer permitted. -- What?, "How about I watch Curious George on your iPhone?", Remember, I said no more TV or movies?, "Yes, but your iPhone isn't a TV.". It was a cute attempt, but I didn't let him get away with it. We're still going strong!

Wild Thing actually put himself down for a nap at 11a. WOW! Having the kids co-sleep in the same room has been working out really well. We've been doing it since Twinkle Toes turned 6 months and I totally expected it to be a disaster. They don't keep each other up and when they are both awake, they entertain each other. It's pretty cute to watch from the baby monitor. Twinkle Toes thinks her brother is hilarious! They get along great!

**Update: Things are going great. Really REALLY great! The house is so much more manageable. When everyone woke up from their naps we all hard charged and cleaned the house. I assigned Wild Thing a bunch of helping tasks and he did fantastic. Afterwards, I treated everyone to our favorite Mexican Restaurant. -- I only wish I had worked with Wild Thing on something educational today. It's been raining outside and Wonderful and I have been walking zombies. There's been a couple of times that I've wanted to plug in a movie and veg out on the couch. *Stayin' strong*

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Freaks - And Happy Earth Day

I'm pretty aware of the fact that we are nothing like the rest of the people that we know. Is it my fault that we don't share the same interests? Maybe it's because I was an only child and I'm a little socially awkward, or maybe we're just so intelligent that everyone else can't keep up. The latter would be preferable but highly unlikely. Either way, to everyone else, we're freaks. Growing up in Texas, we called people like us Tree Huggin' Hippies. My family was convinced that the school system had a liberal agenda by hosting assemblies to "Save the Rainforest" and participate in Earth Day activities. After moving to California, one of my friends put it perfectly, "In Texas you stand out, but in California, you blend right in.". We're not in California anymore and here on the East Coast we are surrounded by people from all over the country and all walks of life. Our community is a bit of a melting pot.

My cheeks still get hot to think about it, but a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to another mom about cloth diapering and she laughed at me. Like a child who can't contain the giggle, laughed at me. Are you for real?! COME ON!! I asked her what was so funny and she didn't have anything. Of course not. There's not a lot of really great arguments against it. I know what was going on... She didn't have to say it, she thought it was gross. This isn't the first occurrence either. We got a dirty look from someone once for not having paper towels. "What else do you use?"... a cloth towel. Every time we bring up composting, we have to explain it-- take your food scraps, put it in a bin, close it and viola! dirt. The way we eat comes under scrutiny too. I told someone once that we don't eat fast food. Her reply: "What else do you eat?". My favorite comment still to this day: "I heard that organic food makes you poop a lot.". I sure hope so! When I started doing yoga, people plugged in their comments: "I tried it once and I couldn't stop laughing.", "I'm always afraid that I'm going to fart.". Nobody puts anything past us either, as if the Wonderful's will do anything weird. Let me think of how to explain this... Let's say you told your friend that you were going to fly home for Christmas and his reply was: So... You're going to build yourself a set of wooden wings and jump from the Empire State Building? It's pretty obvious that that person thinks your a complete dumb ass. I always let it go. I have to. I know that I'm not a dumb ass... I just don't have the time and the energy to teach them all of my immense knowledge about being green. And we're not even THAT green! I have seen some extremes out there and trust me, we're not living in some hippie compound pooping in a bucket. *Although, I'm not going to lie, what they are doing is pretty awesome.* We're completely average Americans that use electricity, toilets and the internet.

I'm prepping myself up here because I know it's coming. I know that we're going to catch a lot of heat for the chickens. -- Any why? I don't think we're very different from my grandparents or our ancestors from a hundred years ago. My grandpa is an amazing man. He saw the great depression as a kid and I think it shaped who he is. He had a section of the yard blocked off where he had a decent sized garden. He took the dog's droppings and used it as fertilizer... and we ate the food from that garden. *Hello! Still living* One Easter my grandpa brought home 2 bunny rabbits that made tons of baby bunny rabbits to which we learned why you should never play with baby bunny rabbits. Another Easter grandpa brought home a dozen colored chicks. No idea where he got them, but they were so cute! *You should never dye chicks by the way* We raised them and one of them turned into a rooster and crowed every morning at 5:30. Mind you, they lived in a small house inside Houston city limits. This wasn't the country. -- My grandpa couldn't keep all of the chickens so he sent 2 home with my mom and I. We hadn't the slightest clue what to do with them and we lived in a tiny apartment, so while we were gone that day, we thought that they'd be safe in the storage shed on a very, very hot Texas day. When we came home... the poor guys... and their slouchy necks. It was very sad... they didn't survive. -- My grandpa believed anything could be fixed with duct tape *true statement* and that the mold on bread and cheese could be simply scraped off and eaten. The bread and the cheese, not the mold! *See, I have to explain that stuff!* He taught me the perfect technique for catching lizards... you find one and sit very quiet and still so that he forgets you're there and then you quickly *and gently*, grab him behind the neck. I have pictures of me, age 5, with a chameleon sitting on my shoulder and a piece of string tied around his neck for a leash.

Okay... Now that I've gone back and read this... We're total freaks. If you too, are a freak and you go against the social norm to have a better quality of life, let that freak flag fly because life's just too short to live it for other people.

Day 2 - 10% Calmer.

Wild Thing:
Activity #2: Learning Games. Our family has sent us tons of them, it's time we utilize them. I just finished playing a game of letter bingo with Wild Thing. Go on and read it again-- It's that amazing! He actually sat down and played a whole 2 games with me. No frog hopping, no squirming, no crying. The benefit of shutting off the TV is already starting to show through. My expectations are realistic: He's a 3 year old and I don't expect him to sit down and not move all day. I just want him to tone it down enough so that I can spend some time with him. He's still wild, he's only calmed down about 10%. I'm cool with that. It's also becoming obvious just how smart he is. He learned 5 letters during the bingo game. I feel like his learning opportunities just became endless and I can finally be the mom that I set out to be.

Potential Problems:
I found a problem with our plan. When the Wild Thing and I came home from running errands, he saw our neighbor outside and immediately ran over there. She is very open with letting Wild Thing come over and play with her daughter any time he wants, and this is great because she's a girl wild thing and they can be obnoxious together at someone else's house! So, I proceeded inside, quietly minding about my business when it hit me. Shoot! He could be watching TV over there! I sent Wonderful over there right away to retrieve our child. But I can't shield him forever... I've already lost the organic food battle when he plays with other kids. What's next?

The Family:
I think that the whole family is even impacted by it. Wonderful and I are more productive, the house is back to being spotless, and it's really quiet -- aside from the chicken chirping. There hasn't been chaos in a 2 days, but I'm waiting for it...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Visual guide for making your own stupid chicken stuff without spending any money.

Remember how I said "Chickens. Nothing else."? Well, I'm determined to make this F.R.E.E. Here's how:

The Wild Thing named the one on the left Lola and Wonderful named the one on the right Abigail or "Abbey".
Me with one of them... I was trying to get Wild Thing to hold it, but no go.
I tried to see if I could eliminate the chicken problem by leaving the chicks with Dexter and he chickened out. Ha! Lame.
How to make a self filling waterer:

A pie pan... you know you've got one.
And a coffee can or anything similar. Drill little holes in the side of the top of the rim. Fill with water, cover the top with the pie pan and flip over. It will create suction and make a self waterer. It's really simple. That's why it took us 2 hours to figure it out.
How to make the chicken feeder:

Take a another small coffe container. (Can you tell that we collect these things?)
You will need a drill and those hole drilling thingys.
You want a size that is bigger than the chick's head so that he can eat of ouf it, but not too big because you don't want him in the feeder. He'll contaminate the food with his massive amount of pooping.
Drill ready. My father-in-law sells Snap On. I love the tools he sends!!
Drill a hole high enough that you can put a good amount of food in it, but low enough that the chick can reach it.
Clean up the hole with an exacto knife.
I made 2 holes on this little feeder.
I also made a bigger feeder for outside. I should have made the holes and inch or 2 higher. I'll probably remake one as they get bigger-- if they survive.
We're using a plastic bin that we already had to keep them in at night (they need to stay warm) and the feeder and waterer that we made seem to be working out pretty well. I made a mess with the food.
The Guinea Pig cage that we found. We cleaned it up and put shredded paper and hay in there. The chicks aren't quite ready to be in here, but it's set up and didn't cost us a dime. And yes, we're the kind of freaks with hay on hand... In our defense, this is a perfect example of how you never know when you'll need it.
I figure that all of that junk mail and old magazines that we get in the mail will finally go to good use as bedding for the chickens. See... UPCYCLE!!

Our Urban Farm and Dexter.