Sustaining Joy

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.  C.S. Lewis

Ever have one of those days when everything seems to fail, fall apart, or even fall away. Forget “days” I have had weeks, years, and even a decade of the such. And then suddenly it seemed I awoke from it all (whatever it was) to find my life in complete order, such happiness and content all over and within me. I know I’m fortunate as there are many whose entire lives are in a constant messy state, many even die and leave this world in such disarray. Often times, it seems so unfair. How could God or any giver of life allow such things? Of course many times we bring ourselves into the mess, but there are so many other times when the mess just seems to latch on and follow us wherever we go.

Now that I have my own daughter, you bet I’m seeing the world a bit differently. I want so badly to keep all the evil and sadness as far away as possible. I know there will come a time when she will face deep darkness and sorrow, that there will be many failures in her life, and that she will go through days or perhaps even years when nothing seems to work. Just knowing this breaks my heart. But, as parents we can’t keep the things of life away from our children. We can, however, equip them with the resources to handle them. We can also live our lives as an example, allowing them to see that despite the hardships or failures we may face, we have an everlasting hope that gives us joy and a reason to look forward to tomorrow.

When I “awoke” from those years of endless darkness and hardship, it wasn’t as if my life suddenly turned peachy and cleaned itself up. What changed was the condition of my heart and how I viewed the world around me. Although my heart and life were broken, I had a joy within me that was sustaining, a joy that no one, nothing could ever take away.

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Cheap and easy cleaning solutions

There are tons of recipes for making your own cleaning solutions available on the internet. My search left me feeling overwhelmed! Here are a few ideas that I ran across which I felt offered the cheapest and easiest solutions:

All-Purpose Cleaner:

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 gallon of lukewarm water
  • a few drops of lemon oil

Mix the vinegar, baking soda, and lemon oil into the water. Store and keep until ready to use. Now how easy can you get?! Using lemon oil instead of just plain lemons is recommended as the juice form the lemons may attract ants or other unwanted insects.

Bathroom Disinfectant:

To treat the mold and scum in the bathroom, mix one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water in spray bottle.  After treating the area with the solution, it’s best to wait at least an hour before rinsing it off with water.

Thyme Cleaner

2 1/2 cups water
1 handful of thyme (fresh or dried)
2 tablespoons of white vinegar
A squirt of liquid castille soap

Add thyme to a pot of boiling water, cover and let it simmer over medium-low heat.  Let the water-thyme solution simmer for as along as possible, up to a couple of hours if possible. Once the water cools down, strain off the thyme and poor it into a spray bottle Add the vinegar and soap and you’re ready to go.

Furniture Polish

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
20 drops lemon essential oil

Combine all the ingredients in a bottle and shake. Moisten a clean, dry cloth into the polish and rub the furniture in the direction of the grain.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Sprinkle toilet bowl with baking soda and then drizzle with white vinegar. Let the solutions sit for at least 20 minutes then scrub with toilet brush. A squirt of essential oil (such as lavender) will always help to enhance the smell!

Additional items:

  • Microfiber cloths – these are the latest rave in cleaning with claims they can clean up most “dirt” without anything needed but water. I will write more about these later.
  • Rags – try using old tee shirts torn into small pieces
  • Spray bottles – if possible use old spray bottles from previous cleaning solutions
  • Essential oils – can be applied to almost any solution for a more gentle smell.

New toys and taste testing real food

The other day we visited the Children’s Orchard and picked up a few more toys. By far her favorite is the hippo!

We’ve also begun to experiment with giving her solid foods. At dinner time I just give her some olive oil or coconut oil to play and taste. Sometimes I’ll put some cooked pasta in front of her to touch and keep her entertained. Yesterday morning was the first time she tasted egg yolk that was mixed with olive oil and seasoned (very lightly) with unrefined sea salt. I don’t think she actually swallowed anything but she certainly enjoyed making a mess of herself!

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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.

For photo credit click here.

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.

For photo credit click here.