Wednesday, June 25, 2014

6 Things you can do TODAY to lead a less wasteful life

I'm always on the lookout for different ways to generate less waste and use more natural products where I need them. Here's 6 ideas that work for us. Have any more ideas you'd like to share?

1. Make some homemade deodorant. I have tried so many store bought natural deodorants ranging from at the grocery store to uber-expensive Etsy purchases. This simple recipe works better than anything I've tried. It's also inexpensive and simple to make. I even brought this on our trip to Puerto Rico. It really works!

2. Stop buying paper towels and napkins. We use kitchen washcloths to do counters and a quick wipe of the floor, towels for drying hands and dishes, and a stack of baby washcloths for hands and faces and tiny messes. We keep a bucket under the sink to collect the rinsed out used cloths and wash them every couple days.

3. Buy a reusable menstrual cup. There's a learning curve to these, but it is more than worth it. You save tons of plastic and bleached paper waste. It's cleaner (seriously, it is) and saves you tons of money. This is the best for traveling. All you need is a tiny bag and a pack of pantiliners.


4. Use a foaming soap dispenser and large refill bottles of hand soap. Refills for foaming dispensers are pretty much all water! Buy the concentrated stuff, add about 3/4 inch of soap. Fill the rest of the bottle with water leaving about an inch of space at the top. Replace the foaming push top, shake it a bit and reuse. You'll go through refills much more slowly without sacrificing cleanliness.

5. Skip the sunscreen and wear a hat and long sleeves when you can. Grab a lightweight long sleeve shirt that you can wear comfortably on a hot day and a wide brimmed hat that covers your neck and face.

6. Drink water instead of soda, juice, sports drinks or enhanced water. Plain water that you filter at home or drink from the tap. Bring a water bottle with you when you're out. You're saving money as well as saving all those shipping costs of bringing cans and bottles and boxes of mostly water across the country.


Monday, June 16, 2014

To Little C

Dear Cecelia at age 5 1/2.

You're funny and you know it. You love to tell jokes and have gotten pretty good at it too. One of your favorite jokes is to knock loudly on the wall or ring the doorbell. When I ask you if it was you or someone, you very seriously tell me it was someone. You're so serious, in fact, that I usually believe you and check the door. I'm on to you though. All I have to do is look you in the eyes and ask if it was really you. You can't lie to me yet (let's keep it that way!). It starts with your eyes widening and then travels down to your smile and then you've collapsed into giggles.

You have an insatiable desire to learn. You'll stop me as I am speaking to ask what a word means. Then I'll hear you put that word into conversation throughout the day. You ask questions throughout the day. Thoughtful questions that I sometimes cannot answer.

I like being quiet with you. When we walk or sit quietly together, these are the times where your deepest thoughts and dreams and troubles come to surface.  I tell you I love you. You tell me you love me too. You remind me that silence and peaceful moments are important and we should protect them always.

For years you have called our first meal of the day "breaf-kast" and while we always said it properly back to you, we never corrected you directly. It was one of my favorite things that reminded me of how little you really were. Someone else recently told you that you were saying it wrong, so we practiced "breakfast" together. Now each morning I hear you practicing "BREAK-fast."

You love being a big sister. You pick up your baby brother and sister and kiss them and do all sorts of silly things to make them laugh. You play with them and sometimes even fight a little bit with them.

You still want to be snuggled like a little girl sometimes or crawl into bed with me. You don't jump on  me much anymore and it's a much more comfortable time for both of us. You've gotten so long and tall that each time I hold you I'm reminded that I won't be able to do this much longer. And that at some point, you won't want me to.

Thanks for being you, little one.

Love,

Mama

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

I am having an affair with pancakes. Now, I know that sounds extreme but the term rings true. I have a gluten sensitivity. My excema flares up and my stomach gets upset. But I still keep coming back to pancakes despite their gluten-filled-ness.

So it is with a mixture of glee and defeat that I share a new recipe from my arsenal.... No it is not gluten free but it IS high in protein, so yay!

I found a recipe online and tweaked it. Many Greek yogurt recipes use the sugar filled low fat type, so it needed to be adjusted a bit for the plan whole-milk kind that we buy.

Ingredients:

2/3 c whole milk plain greek yogurt
2 tbs whole milk
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup flour - I used whole wheat

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a fork or whisk. If it is still too thick, add a bit more milk. This should still be thicker than a typical pancake recipe. Cook like a pancake :) Use your favorite topping. There is no sugar in the recipe, so I used maple syrup on top. (side note, I also put maple syrup in my iced coffee so I didn't have to grab the bag of sugar... YUM!) These would be great with fresh fruit though for a sugar free breakfast!

I don't have a photo because I ate them already. Double this if you are feeding more than 2!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Little Things to Remember - v.1

Things are going by so fast with the babies and Cecelia. I want to take a bit of time to remember the mundane little things.

The twins love their baths. All you need to do is turn on the faucet to the tub and they both crawl as fast as they can to stand at the side of the tub, banging and cheerfully yelling until you put them in. Of course then they just want to stand up the whole time... so I guess they really like wet feet :)

Felicity has been rolling her eyes at people. Giving a great grumpy face and then when you laugh at her, bursting into a big grin.

Damian's belly is at least three times bigger than his tiny bum. Such a hilarious, sweet disproportion. He's such a squishable little thing.

They laugh with each other all the time. It's one of the most magical parenting things I have ever experienced. I can't make it happen and I have stopped racing for the camera to try and capture it (they always stop to try and eat the camera). It happens at the oddest times and usually when my back is turned. Those big laughs come mostly from one another rather than some grown up acting silly.

They both have the brightest blue eyes! Just like their big sister.

Cecelia... she amazes us every day with her creativity and knowledge. She's so open to talking about anything and everything on her mind. She's forthright and persistent, loving and kind. She is a bit hard to wrangle sometimes. We hear about how well she follows rules at school and wonder if they have the same girl there ;)

She's perceptive and curious. She listens carefully to us and when she hears a word she does not understand, she asks for the definition and then uses it in a sentence. She connects experiences from different areas of her life to books and other situations.

Cecelia teaches us about love and fairness. She came home from school with stories about girls not wanting to play with boys because they were "gross". As we talked about it, she told me with sad, serious eyes that she would be nice to the boys because it would make her so sad if someone treated her brother Damian that way just because he was a boy.

I love them!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Andromeda White Granite - Kitchen Saga Phase 3

Once we had our tile laid and the cabinets leveled, we were very excited to get the countertops installed. We were scheduled to get our counters instlaled on a Wednesday morning. We had already been without a kitchen sink for a whole week, so we were anxious to get moving!

I drove out to the warehouse with all three kids to tape out a template.



Pretty, right? It's called Andromeda White and I was nerdily excited to have something that looked a bit outer spacey in my kitchen.

The first piece went in and I was snapchatting away, sending photos to Jonathan and my sisters.



Spoiler alert. This was the only piece of granite we had for the next several days. Anyway.

The second piece arrived and I was still super thrilled. And then the third one popped into place....




Our kitchen is only 115" at the longest point and the short end of our "L" shape is only 54". This means, in theory, that the L can be delivered in one piece preserving the pattern and making it look very cohesive. The company we chose to install the granite said they would charge us extra to install it in one piece, but they were experts at seams, so it would be very minor. They verified that the pattern would still be consistent across the seam. A very obvious seam because the fabricators rotated the short end of the L around before polishing.

It didn't look awful, but it wasn't what we paid for. They put those two pieces back in their truck and promised to do it right the second time.

It was a long extra few days without a kitchen, but so worth it in the end!







I love the andromeda white! We went with a light color to help transition between the dark lower cabinets and the white uppers. I am also very happy that we opted for a small single bowl sink to increase our countertop space. The 23" wide sink is definitely wide enough and we are getting so much use already from the extra 6 or so inches on either side. (Not to mention... the undermount sink is so much more user friendly!)

Backsplash is going in as I'm typing along with the rest of the finishing touches.

Temple Rock Tile - Kitchen Saga Phase 2

First up on the kitchen project was to demo the old counter tops, move the cabinet to make way for the dishwasher, move the gas line for the stove and lay new flooring.

The new flooring went in without a hitch. We are doing this kitchen on a budget and chose a simple porcelain tile from Menards - Temple Rock by Ragno. We looked at expensive porcelains and this seemed just as good of quality. I liked the variation in the pattern and the slightly roughened texture - we don't want to create a slippery environment in the kitchen.

We had it laid it in a brick pattern with small grout lines and it gives this simple tile a very polished look.

I agonized for too long over the grout color but ended up with TEC grout in light smoke and we're very happy! I spent a long time with one of Cecelia's art brushes and a bottle of sealer with that grout and I never second guessed the color ;)

Here it is installed with new baseboards:





So the tile portion went very smoothly, but just about everything else has been a headache and a half! The cabinets are 60 years old and while still quite solid had settled with our 60 year old house. The contractor we hired is good, but is definitely not a preservationist. He was definitely pressing for us to rip out the base cabinetry and put in new ones since they "don't match the tops anyway!" I really wanted the style of the cabinets to match even though it's a tuxedo kitchen. He pressed on and did quite a bit of shimming and slamming and sanding....

You can see how high they needed to raise it in some areas from this photo. They also did a lot of sanding and filing from the top.



We also ran into a problem with our dishwasher. I always liked the look of a button free dishwasher, but since we don't have a lazy susan corner cabinet, the handle bumped into the adjacent drawer:



Thankfully we shopped at Abt which has a 30 day no questions asked return policy. We were able to switch it out for the same brand with a recessed handle. I think the new one looks better anyway since it was a lot of handles in a tiny kitchen with the stove right next door.

Of course two dishwashers meant two dishwasher boxes to play with.... So I think that headache was worth it for Cecelia :)



This is getting too long but I'll be back soon to talk about our granite!


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Refinishing 1950's Cabinets - Kitchen Saga Phase 1

We're about to get a bit more of a facelift in the kitchen! I'm documenting what we've done so far so that we can appreciate the true before and after.

Behold our little 1950's kitchen with cobalt blue countertops on move-in day:

 

We just ran around snapping a few photos that day, so we don't have the greatest quality of shots... but here are a few more to give you a sense of the space:

I'm not showing off my rear, this is the only good shot we have of the spice-themed wallpaper. If you look at the first shot again you'll see this also makes an appearance next to the sink window.



Look at how excited and how unaware we are of how much work this little house will be....



hahahahaha

Here we are 6 years later and ready to add a little bit more style and function to the space. We discussed ripping out the cabinets for years, literally, but the decision came down to two big factors. #1, the room is narrow so there are very few layouts that work for the space including only simple changes from the existing one and #2, the cabinets themselves are built of strong birch plywood and are built to last.

I'm excited since it's greener and I always like to see things original to a house get reimagined. Keeping the cabinets means we could spend a little more on the pretty, fun details too!

In the time we've been here, we've:

1. replaced the old stove. One oven and one burner stopped working entirely. It had no insulation so it would burn little hands and it ate up a lot of counter space. We put a placeholder cabinet/ countertop next to it which added a lot of functional work space even if it didn't match.

2. Refinished the 1950's cabinets. Removed the valance above the sink and shelves next to the sink window. Stripped the cabinet doors. Stained the lower cabinets. Removed some upper doors for an open shelving look. Painted the upper cabinets including four interiors.

3. Painted the backsplash white.

4. Replaced all cabinet hardware.

5. Replaced the refrigerator.

6. Removed the drop ceiling above the work area in the kitchen.

7. Replaced both light fixtures.

8.  Removed wallpaper and chair rail. Repainted walls. I do regret taking down the chair rail, but it had been installed on top of the wallpaper, so it needed to come down and then it never went back up.

9. Painted the window trim and baseboard molding white.

10. Replaced blue mini blinds with white faux wood shutter style blinds.

11. Not technically in the kitchen, but we also removed the metal awnings that were outside of both windows in the kitchen. This change brought in tons more natural light!

12. Removed the blue metal "hood" over the stove. We have a ceiling exhaust fan in the kitchen, so this hood just took up head space. Did I mention it was blue? And really enormous? And blue?

13. Replaced the faucet.

14. Removed the under cabinet paper towel holder and hung up a magnetic knife rack, under cabinet banana hook, and an under cabinet wine rack.

Some in-progress shots before the real work begins on Thursday!