Saturday, December 31, 2011

In under the wire!

With five minutes left to the year, I can safely say that "Personal Challenge 2011" was just a WEEEE bit of a failure. Oh, I actually made some of the stuff I planned. I just forgot I had a blog. A blog I was supposed to post all my wonderful projects in. What can I say, I found Pinterest. My life is forever changed!

I have high hopes for next year, so don't give up on me yet! So long 2011, you were fun and exhausting but now it's time for a new year and new challenges. I still plan on posting my home and body projects at some point. Hopefully I will get those up in the next month or so. Don't hold me to that though.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Make Your Own Diaper Cream & Wipes Solution!

I'm still working on the homemade household products, but in the meantime I thought I'd share what I've been making and using on the kids. I currently have a 3 year old and an 8 month old, both in cloth diapers. I also use cloth wipes because a) it made sense, and b) fishing forgotten, lint-shedding disposable wipes out of your dryer is a pain. It never fails, if I have to resort to disposable wipes I will forget to throw one or two out and find them after washing everything. Even when I throw them out, they look and smell disgusting in my bathroom trash. So, of course, the next logical step was cloth wipes. I didn't buy anything for them, I just chopped up a flannel receiving blanket I was given, stitched around the edges, and stuck them in an empty wipes container. Easy peasy.

Yeah... I just wasn't trying too hard when I labeled this jar.

I like to mix up a jar full of the solution and pour it over the wipes. I also only moisten a handful of the wipes at a time. On wash day, all wet wipes -used or not- get tossed in the wash with everything else. Otherwise, I find the wet wipes get musty after two or three days.

Diaper Wipes Solution
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5-6 drops Tea Tree essential oil (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons baby wash (optional)
Combine everything in a jar and store extras in the fridge. Be sure to shake the snot out of your jar before pouring it over the wipes. This will make sure the oil is well dispersed. I really like the solution with all four ingredients, but you could get away with just the water and oil for simplicity's sake. I disliked plain water on wipes because it seemed a bit rough when wiping the kids' bums. The oil really makes the difference. The tea tree oil is fantastic because it is antibacterial, antifungal, and it smells nice (to me anyway, some may find it to be a bit much).  I have also used the solution with baby wash and really liked it, but because I am currently battling soap buildup on my cloth diapers I am leaving it out right now. For disposable diaper folks, you could easily use this solution over half a paper towel roll. This stuff is so nice, it even makes my hands feel smooth!

I am so in love with making pretty labels!

When using cloth diapers, buildup is a constant concern. Even the slightest amount of detergent, fabric softener, or a host of other things could create a layer that will repel instead of absorbing urine. Not a good thing. One of the things that can cause buildup is diaper creams. My toddler is extremely sensitive to moisture and is prone to rashes, so I find myself frequently needing some sort of barrier cream. There are rash creams available that are cloth diaper friendly, but I decided to try and mix up my own. I just started using this mix, but so far it seems to help, especially when used at every change. It doesn't contain zinc oxide, so it won't clear rashes nearly as fast as the commercial stuff.

Diaper Cream
  • Coconut oil
  • Cornstarch (or commercial baby powder, or arrowroot starch)
  • Tea tree essential oil
I have absolutely no idea how much of anything I used, I simply mixed roughly a tablespoon or two of coconut oil with enough cornstarch to make a good, thick consistency. And, since I have it on hand and it's such great stuff, I added maybe 3-4 drops of tea tree oil. Lavender essential oil would be a great addition to this, as lavender is very soothing to the skin. I transfer the cream to a small baby food jar for easy dispensing. NOTE: Coconut oil is solid below 75 degrees but quickly turns liquid when warmed above 76 degrees or so.  This can affect your cream consistency, so keep in mind that the warmer the weather, the more cornstarch you'll need. If your house is really cold and the cream becomes too solid, you could try warming it and adding a bit of olive oil.

Well, there you have it, my easy homemade baby recipes. I get such a crazy satisfaction from being able to meet my needs with my own ingenuity and a few kitchen ingredients. That, and making pretty labels for the jars is just too much fun!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Maria Thinks Stuff -If you don't love it...

I've been testing out a few cleaning recipes lately and have been amazed at my new-found passion for cleaning house. Normally, I am a downright awful housewife. I despise the monotony of household chores, and hate hate hate those pesky chores that never seem to go away. You know, the ones like dishes and laundry that seem to pile up seconds after you get done with them.

Oh, how I loathe dishes. My dream house will have five dishwashers. And I will name them Anthony, Rocco, Rosalie, Carmen, and Pete.

Just kidding on Pete.

All this voluntary cleaning got me thinking, what is it about the homemade cleaners that make me actually WANT to clean? I find that just looking at the cleaning bottle gives me a sense of pleasure. Between the novel glass bottle, bright homemade label, and perky orange nozzle, I find myself looking for excuses to use it. It attracts me aesthetically. There's also a sense of accomplishment that I'm able to fill my needs with my own creativity, instead of simply buying a quick fix. The cleaner recipe itself adds appeal because I can customize it with different essential oils every time I make a batch. The various citrus or herbal scents add aromatic appeal and allow me to change it up on a whim.

I just realized I'm waxing poetic over GLASS CLEANER! Wow. I didn't think that was possible, and I don't know if it was necessary. I shall move on.

I Have to Love It!

It finally dawned on me as I stared at the bottle for the umpteenth time. I love the cleaner (well, the bottle more than the cleaner, but that's a topic for another post). The cleaner makes me happy, and so I am more apt to pick it up and use it. This revelation excited me. I have spent the last few years trying to push myself into accepting that housework is misery and I need to suck it up and get it done. Maybe, just maybe, it doesn't have to be miserable. Perhaps I have found a clue to solving my housecleaning misery! It's not enough to make myself a chore list and trudge through. I have to make it challenging and beautiful. I have to love it.

The closer I looked at my life, the more I saw how my environment was fostering my "housework misery." For all of our nearly-four years of marriage, our finances have been exceptionally tight. I have never decorated our home because I couldn't justify spending money on decorative stuff. All of our furniture is second-hand and showing it's age.  Our couch is wearing thin and there are holes and stains on every cushion. It's no wonder I don't bother to clean the dang thing, I view it as a piece of junk! I don't love it, so I don't feel any desire to take care of it. This same sense of apathy applies to nearly every part of my home.

Now, don't get me wrong here, I'm not bemoaning my financial state or complaining about my lack of nice stuff. I'm actually pretty content with my life. I grew up in a frugal family, so living sparsely doesn't make me feel like I am sacrificing anything. Sure, I dream of the day we can buy a big house and fill it with lovely things, but I don't obsess over what I don't have. I simply make do with what I have to work with. We couldn't afford a new couch without accumulating debt, so there's no point in thinking about it.

Somewhere along the way, I went from contentedly making do with what I have to not caring if it got worse. At some point I stopped trying to keep my possessions in good condition and decided that "one more hole/scuff/stain" was no big deal. But 234,623,236 stains later, I have a heap of junk that will never look nice and I begin to despise the state of my home. I've come to realize that I have to change the way I think about housework and home life. I need to take more pride in my home, either by adding things (decor, etc.) that please me or by learning to love and appreciate what I already have, despite it's lack of aesthetic or functional appeal.

Caring for Your Home Fills Another Need

Being a full-time housewife and stay-at-home mother can often mean that you have fewer opportunities to challenge yourself mentally. No, psychological warfare with a two year old doesn't count as a mental challenge. We need to be presented with a puzzle and be able to tackle it until we find an answer; we need that satisfaction of having conquered a challenge. Many women thrive on creativity, as well as surrounding themselves with beauty. There is something to be said for satisfying your need for aesthetic pleasure. It can heighten your mood and calm you down. The day-to-day monotony of diapers, dishes, cooking, and child-wrangling doesn't offer many opportunities to flex the mind or find aesthetic pleasure. At least, not at first glance.

Searching to fill that need, we are left with two choices. We can either look outside the home to find our challenge, or we can find the challenges in our home life. Many wives and mothers have found activities outside the home to satisfy the itch. For my part, going outside the home is impractical right now. Heck, just going to Walmart AND Aldi in the same shopping trip is a challenge! My only alternative, then, is to allow my daily work to inspire me and challenge me.

Housework bores me because I view it as the awful thing I have to get done before I can have fun. But what if I could make the housework fun? What if I can find ways to utilize my personal skills in my every day tasks? This could satisfy my need for mental exercise, creativity, and aesthetic pleasure, as well as give me the motivation to maintain a well-kept home.

My Personal Goal

From now on, I'm going to try to keep three things in mind.

  1. Change or add things into my home that encourage me to love it.
  2. Learn to love the things I cannot change right now.
  3. As I go about my daily tasks, think of reasons to appreciate the object I'm working on.

I have a feeling I will quickly latch on to the "change or add things" part and overlook the harder part. My biggest challenge will be learning to appreciate what I have, no matter it's condition or appeal.  Until I learn to appreciate what I have, and strive to take pride in it, then I will fall into the rut of constantly buying or making new things in an effort to find happiness. I plan on printing out my new mantra and posting it where I will be reminded regularly.

So hit me up with some ideas, what do you do that encourages you to love and care for your home?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Personal Challenge 2011

In the last few weeks I made the sudden, impulsive decision to go au natural with my cleaning and body products. I soon found myself spending hours gathering recipes and testing a few out. It didn't take me too long before I realized I would need to set definite boundaries on this project or it would carry me (and my wallet) away completely! My overall goal is to replace as many household products as possible by the end of the year.My main objectives are to:

  1. Reduce household expenditures
  2. Switch out commercial products for more natural, child safe alternatives
  3. Try to use edible ingredients where possible
 Once I had my goals set, I began to look at what products I currently used. They seemed to easily fit into two categories: Home and Body. This is the list I came up with for each category.

  • Laundry detergent
  • Glass cleaner
  • Dish soap
  • All-purpose antibacterial cleaner
  • Toilet cleaner
  • Heavy-duty scrubbing cleaner
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Conditioner
  • Hair remover
  • Toothpaste
   I didn't include fabric softener on my list because I have already replaced it with distilled vinegar. I use roughly 1/4c in a downy ball and toss it in the wash. My mom likes to use a ball of aluminum foil in her dryer to eliminate static. I don't use it because static isn't an issue in our disgustingly humid house, but it works great for Mom.

Once I saw everything I used, I figured there were several things that could possibly be replaced with a single item. After paring down my needs and surfing the web (do people say that anymore?) for recipes, I came up with a master list. With 4 months left in the year, I'm hoping to try and perfect two products per month. I did this primarily to slow myself down. If I had my way, I'd be in the kitchen concocting all of these at once!

THE MASTER LIST (I have updated this list as I've found replacements)
  • Laundry soap
  • All-purpose cleaner and scrubbing solution
  • Dish soap (I opted for original Dawn. It's such a strong surfactant that it has multiple uses)
  • Glass cleaner
  • Deodorant
  •  Face wash/scrub ( my "hair wash" does the job, plus a little brown rice flour when I'm feeling feisty)
  • Shampoo/body wash (for body wash, we now use Kirk's Castile bar soap.)
  • Hair conditioner (don't need it! See shampoo post [coming soon!].)
  • Toothpaste
  • Hair remover (yes, I mean wax. I found a recipe and I'm just crazy enough to try it!)

 I have no idea if any of my homemade replacements will become a permanent household item, but it's sure going to be fun to experiment!