Category Archives: General

Why I love my cloth diapers – Part One

I LOVE my cloth diapers. Oh let me count the ways:

  1. They’re soft
  2. They’re 100% natural; no chemicals are used to make them
  3. They’re super easy to use
  4. They’re inexpensive compared to disposables
  5. They won’t be sitting in the dump in 500 years; although energy is used to wash them it’s a fraction of the energy needed to make disposables
  6. They can be used for subsquent children
  7. Cloth diapered children tend to potty-train earlier; the cloth tends to hold moisture closer to baby’s skin

But cloth diapers is certainly not for everyone. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Does your baby have super sensitive skin? Statistically, babies that wear disposables are more prone to diaper rashes, compared to babies in cloth diapers.
  2. Do you have the time, space, and patience to run frequent washes? If you choose cloth, you’ll probably want to forgo a diaper service, they literally use tons and tons of toxic bleach, which is terrible for the environment and baby.
  3. Are finances a concern? As a general rule, you’ll save about 30 percent if you choose cloth over even bargain disposables. However, there are now so many kinds of cloth diapers available, that you can end up spending much more than you bargained for. 
  4. Is water a tight commodity where you live? If so, cloth may not actually be the greenest option.

I will write more on the types of cloth diapers I have tried and what I find to be the most successful for us as a family.

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Homemade Cleaning

One of my biggest hangups in being a new mom is that my house is never up to the “clean” standard I’d like it to be. I’m not talking about the pile of clean clothes sitting on the sofa waiting to be folded, the toys scattered around the various rooms, or even the unorganized pantry. I’m talking about the actual business of cleanliness. It seems like a constant battle to keep the floors free from dirt and dust, the bathrooms in respectable order, and the kitchen just never seems to be happy! I have friends whose houses always seem to be completely dust and dirt free and I’m utterly amazed. How do they do it?!

Lately I’ve been using Green Works Cleaning Wipes, which I love because they are easily available, biodegradable (I can throw them into my compost!), and they do an excellent job cleaning. However, they aren’t cheap, they aren’t 100% natural, and I go through them quickly! In my quest to become a more environmentally conscious and a frugal homesteader, I’m on the search for some more homemade cleaning solutions.

Here’s are a list of products I’ve discovered that are generally inexpensive and nontoxic:

  • Baking Soda – helps clean, deodorizes, and soften water
  • Lemon – as a strong food acid it is effective against most household bacteria
  • Borax (sodium borate) – helps clean, deodorize, disinfect, soften water, clean wallpaper, painted walls and floors
  • White Vinegar – is excellent for cutting grease, removing mildew, eliminating odors, removing some stains and wax build-up
  • Liquid castille soap – can be used for nearly everything that needs a good wash, including your skin!
  • Cornstarch – can be used to clean windows, polish furniture, shampoo carpets and rugs

My next goal is learn how I can transform these products into simple cleaning solutions.

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Just another reason to love my butter

As I’ve become more aware of the list of ingredients on our food labels, I am learning how often corn and soybean oils saturate what is known as the Standard American Diet (SAD). It’s pretty shocking.

Vegetable oils are basically polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that our bodies don’t know how to use. Instead, they add fat on our bodies and weaken our immune system. These same oils are highly sensitive to oxidation and rancidity. What is the most disturbing is that the actual process of making the oils causes them to become rancid! Food manufacturers have to deodorize and bleach the oils to make them marginally palatable to consumers.

Like most animals, our bodies are primarily comprised of mono-unsaturated and saturated fats. Only 4% of our fat composition is polyunsaturated. In order to stay fit, lean, and healthy, we’ve got to give our body the kinds of fats it needs and craves. Maybe this is why the fragrance and taste of butter and bacon actually make our mouths salivate. What’s even better, these same fats almost never go rancid. Works for me.

So here is a list of healthy fats:

  • Lard (non-hydrogenated)
  • Tallow
  • Butter (best from grass fed cows)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Palm Oil
  • Olive Oil (only cold-pressed, uv-protected, and at low temperatures)

For more information check out Know Your Fats.

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Another reason it’s good to be Swiss (or Japanense, or Austrian, or Greek!)

So I’ve been digging around and researching about fats; the good, bad, and the simply disgusting. What I’m discovering is almost completely opposite from what I had thought. It turns out the basic animal and vegetable sources of  fats provide a concentrate source of energy in our diets. They also help slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry, and act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.

There is an endless world of research dedicated to fats, claiming high fat diets to be the main culprit of cholesterol, heart disease, and cancer.  However, nearly every research study I have read has essentially turned up no solid evidence against healthy fats. I could name many studies out that debunk the low-fat diet ideologies, but here are a few that really stood out:

  • The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (LRC-CPPT), a study that is often cited by low-fat supporters, I found to be very inconclusive. In the study all subjects were given a low-cholesterol, low-saturated-fat diet. Dietary cholesterol and saturated fat were not tested. Despite independent researchers who tabulated the results of the study, finding no significant statistical difference in coronary heart disease death rates, both the media and medical journals touted the study as the long-sought proof that animal fats are the cause of heart disease.
  • The second study is based on the diets of Japanese, who are famous for their longevity. What is interesting about the Japanese diet is that it contains moderate amounts of animal fats from eggs, pork, chicken, beef, seafood, and organ meats. They also consume more cholesterol, through shellfish and fish broth,  than the typical American. However the most significant factor about their diets when compared to the American diet  is their lack of vegetable oil, white flour, and processed foods.
  • Next in line to the Japanese for longevity and overall health are the Swiss, who interestingly live on one of the fattiest diets in the world. They are  followed by the Austrians and Greeks.

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My Quest for Traditional Foods

In my quest to incorporate more nourishing meals into our diet, I am gaining an understanding at the important role traditional foods play. Personally, I am very worn out with all the “politically correct” foods, the “new” foods, and new products that are swarming the grocery store. It’s overwhelming!

While I believe in progress, I don’t believe changing or alternating a food’s natural state is progressive. It’s no amazing feat to discover that humans have eaten traditional foods or foods in their natural state for thousand of years and have managed to survive beautifully, yet today despite our vast wealth of medical capabilities and endless food options, Americans are literally dying from conditions (heart disease, cancer, diabetes to name a few) that were considered rare at the turn of the century. What is going on?

I am also wary of the massive food selections available in the grocery store simply because I know that food processing is the largest manufacturing industry in the United States, which makes it the most powerful. I know for a fact that the food industry will use it’s financial clout to influence university research and government agencies. Fortunately, I live in a free world and have the option to dig through the politics if I want to learn the “truth” behind my foods.

There is an endless flow of information out there on nutrition, diets, and simply just on foods. I’m on a quest to learn and discover the “truth” behind the curtain. I understand refined sugars and processed foods aren’t healthy, what I want to learn is what kind of fats and carbohydrates are wholesome and natural. I want to know how I can plan nourishing meals that incorporate unprocessed foods without diluting taste and draining my wallet.

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Homesteading Goals

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I’m a goal oriented driven person. I have long lists of things I’d like to do written on scrap paper all over the house. Most of the time it takes me years before I actually accomplish something. Now that I am an official Stay At Home Mom, I hope to have some time to be able to cross some of these goals off of my “Someday List.”

My main goal for being a “homesteader” is to be able to be as self sufficient as possible, to learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of eating homegrown vegetables,  wearing hand-sewn clothing, and even the wonders of unplugged entertainment. To date I am or I should say “we” as I am not alone in this journey, are as far as away from being a real homesteader, at least according to Wikipedia. There is a new movement called “urban homesteading“, and even there we fall far short from the real definition. But really, who cares? We are on are own journey.

Here are some of our (mostly mine!) 2010 goals, some of which we have already started on:

1. Plant a vegetable garden

2. Plant an herb garden

3. Learn food preservation

4. Learn to sew

5. Learn to knit

6. Learn how to make homemade soaps

7. Learn how to make homemade cleaning solutions

8. Learn to compost

9. Learn to collect our rainwater for the garden

10. Learn to “live” locally

Walking Walden Pond

On of our favorite things to do as a family is take long walks. This past weekend we drove over towards the Concord area and walked around and on Walden Pond. The pond was very well frozen and we had such fun walking over it. Afterward Michael treated me to a nice lunch at Helen’s in the center of Concord.

Revel on Walden Pond

Here I am walking across the pond. It was super cold and windy!

And here’s Caroline in her Valentines outfit (thank you Aunt Susan!) at Helens.

Pinching Pennies

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As I mentioned earlier, my main goal for 2010 is to prepare more nourishing, locally produced meals. This is not an easy goal in the middle of a New England winter!

First and foremost my goal is to keep as frugal as possible. Not easy with Wholefoods down the street and the endless options available right through the internet. Here are some of my thoughts in mastering my goal of frugality:

1. Cherish your food. By learning how your food is grown and where it came from is just the beginning of the journey. With food available so cheaply and with such ease, it’s so easy to take for granted the real value of food: it keeps us alive. When you cherish your food you are more likely to be careful on how your money is spent on it.

2. Make your own. When you have a box of cookies sitting around the house it so easy to just grab a few here and there.  Instead don’t buy anything that is premade or packaged, buy instead the ingredients and make the snacks yourself. Homemade snacks are more nourishing and satisfying anyways.

3. Grow your own. Nothing beats having your own vegetable garden! I have also started to grow sprouts on the kitchen table. Growing your own veggies is not only cheaper, but is much more healthier for you and the environment.

4. Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture is a fantastic way to receive fresh vegetables or meat from a local farm. There’s nothing better than supporting your local farmer! There are even CSA’s that provide other items such as seafood, eggs, and milk. This year my husband and I have joined a CSA with another family. We are splitting the cost and the amount of produce. This is another way to help us save on fresh veggies until our own garden is up and running.

5. Visit your local farm stands and farmers markets: What another great way to buy locally grown or raised food. Many farm stands and farmers markets will also sell eggs, homemade treats, flowers, and vegetables that you can plant in your own garden.

6. Keep things simple. This can be hard when your a foodie like me. I actually enjoy going to the grocery store and will spend hours reading up on recipes. But in the end the best meals are usually the simplest.  Keeping your meals simple helps to keep the ingredients to a minimum and in turn the grocery bill. To satisfy my need to cook fancy, I’ll pick one meal a week that will indulge slightly on. And for the rest of week I’ll try to use the same ingredients over and over in different ways.

7. Stay Traditional. I believe strongly in keeping food the way God intended it to be eaten. Eating naturally prepared whole grains, fresh vegetables, naturally ripened fruit, meat from cows that grazed on grass, eggs from chickens that enjoyed sunshine and picked at worms off the earth, fish caught from clean seas, and milk from pastured cows or goats is how generations before us have eaten. Or as my mother always reminds me “don’t buy anything that your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize.” I find when I stick to this excellent advice I tend to keep away from from the more costly food items or foods that have lots of packaging around them.

8. Stay home. Eating out is always more expensive and usually not as nourishing as a meal cooked at home. Although I do love it when my husband treats me to a meal out, as it gives me a break from the kitchen. When we do go out we’ll go for lunch or breakfast which is typically less expensive, and easier with a baby!

9. Don’t be afraid of the kitchen. I know this makes me laugh too! But this is something that I tell myself daily. As the old saying goes, “time is money” and so is the main reason why so many foods are prepared for us. As whole we are too busy to cook and make homemade breads and such. I’m fortunate that I grew up in a house where the kitchen was the main place of the house, not the television. Everyone was involved with mealtime. Of course I didn’t appreciate it then, but I can see how important it is to involve the whole family in preparing meals. Not everyone has to be a cook! For example, my husband doesn’t cook at all, but he’s fantastic at kneading bread, chopping onions, and he’s busy getting our garden ready. Spending more time in the kitchen simply means more nourishing, satisfying meals and it’s another way to bring the family together.

10. Make your own rules and stick to them: For example, one of my rules is to buy only grass-fed beef and free-range poultry. This can be expensive but it is extremely important to me that my family is eating quality meats. To help even out the rest of food bill, I’ll pass on buying organic produce (gasp!) if the price are significantly  higher than the conventionally grown produce. I also will only buy Whole Milk and Butter as I believe strongly in their health benefits and the quality of taste they bring to food.

Food: Keeping it Real

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With so much of my time spent nursing during these last couple months I have been fortunate to have the time to catch up on my reading wish list.  Here are a few of my favorites so far:

Real Food: What To Eat and Why by Nina Planck

Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby’s First Food by Nina Planck

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

Animal Vegetable Miracle A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

As you can tell from my list, all my favorites have to do with food! Nina Planck’s books have really opened my eyes up to the important role locally grown, non-industrialized food plays in our lives.  One of my main goals for 2010 is to eat more nourishing meals while being as frugal as possible. I also want to plan our meals in such a way that we are eating produce that is in season and grown locally. Is this really possible? We shall see!