Sunday, December 11, 2011

Natural Brew

Back in August a good friend told me about this Natural Brew Recipe. It sounded like pretty potent stuff! It's an Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fungal AND Anti-Viral concoction. We made some up and the results have been short of miraculous. Anytime we feel something coming on, we take an eyedropper squirt. By morning, it's gone. A good friend had a serious sinus infection (she was so swollen from infection, she had black eyes). We gave her some and told her to take it every 15 min. She was infection clear within 2 days- whereas any other time she's been that sick, she's ended up in the hospital. We joke with her that the hospital bill would have been at least $20,000, so she can write us a check for $10,000- a savings of half, lol!!

Here's the recipe of this little concoction:

Equal parts of

Grated Horseradish root
Grated Ginger Root
(these 2 things really do need to be grated, everything else can be coarsely chopped in a food processor)
White onion- It needs to be white, they are hotter than the other onions

Habanero Peppers- I wouldn't do too much to them other than drop them in the food processor whole, you will be straining them later anyway. If you do want to cut them up, please be sure to use gloves.


Put everything in a glass jar. Fill with Apple Cider Vinegar until covered by about 1 inch. Let it sit out on the countertop for 2-3 weeks, shaking up a couple of times per day. Strain. Use by the eyedropper full when you first feel something coming on. 

Usually, if I'm going to feel sick, it's of an evening. I will take an eyedropper and feel fine by morning. This has really knocked out any sign of a sore throat, which for me, since I still have my tonsils, can get very serious very quickly. If you feel ill of a morning, depending on how sick you are, take about 3-5 times a day. My friend, who really was past all reasonable preventative care, took it every 15 min.
It surprisingly isn't as hot as you think it would be! However, we won't give it to our son, because it does have a serious kick. For him, we give him a variety of homeopathics for a cold (which is all he's had ever when he's been sick), use Badger's Winter Balm, and Grapefruit Seed Extract (natural anitbiotic/ 3-5 drops in a small glass of juice- we have Noni juice, but any juice would work- just make sure you dilute it)

Don't know what to get everyone for Christmas? You still have time to get a 2 week brew in!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dye Playsilks with Kool-Aid

Kids love playing with scarves. I know playsilks are a huge favorite at our home. They're also very versatile. I use Eli's green silks in place of plastic grass in his Easter Basket. I've given playsilks as gifts, using it to wrap presents in. Playsilks spark the imagination and can become everything from a superhero cape to flapping birds wings.

Dyeing them with Kool-Aid is simple. First, buy Kool-Aid in the colors you want. The above one is Berry Blue. You will need about 3-5 packets per scarf, depending on how dark you want the color and how big the scarf. If you have a super big scarf, you would need more dye. In a dish (I use a glass casserole dish), combine 2 Cups Vinegar with 2 Cups Hot water and the packets of Kool-Aid. I should mention that at this point you really should wear plastic gloves of some kind. The Kool-Aid will stain your hands. I'm typing this with blue fingers, lol!! Place the playsilk in the dish, swishing around to soak up the color. When you are happy with the color, wring out and then rinse in the sink with cold water- until the water runs clear. With the blue, I rinsed for a long time, it never ran clear, but it was definitely less that when I started, so I was happy. Hang to dry. It doesn't take very long for them to dry- probably less than an hour. Easy peasy :D
I order my playsilks through a cloth diaper co-op. We order the white/natural colored ones and I think they're from Sarah's Silks.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gift Bag

A friend of mine's little girl is turning 2. Here is what I've made for her:

In addition to the bag, I made Counting Cookies, Spinning Speller, and dyed a playsilk for her. Eli is also getting Counting Cookies for Christmas and a Spinning Speller, and another dyed playsilk (he has several and loves them!).

The Counting Cookies are made from felt.

Here are directions from Counting Coconuts for the Spinning Speller
My first row letters: b, c, h, m
My second row: a, i, o, u
My third row: d, g, p, t
I colored the blocks using watercolors from an artist kit I got from Hobby Lobby- it has markers, colored pencils, crayons, watercolors, etc. in it.

Here are the directions to use Kool-Aid to dye playsilks.
I bought the silks from a cloth diapering co-op group I'm in. They are Sarah's Silks.

All together, I think I spent about $10 for everything- we did have some things, like the dowel rod for the speller and I had the fabric (some even given to me!). Buying it retail would have cost me about $50.

Our December Learning

I’ve been getting Eli’s December activities ready all this weekend. We are following Montessori style learning. Here’s what’s on our shelves for December to pick from each day.

Christmas Sensory Bin: Red/white colored rice, 2 boxes, sparkly poms, a pine cone, jingle bells, mini presents, holiday ornaments, bows, trees, some garland cut into smaller pieces, metal scoop, and yellow cup.

Language: Beginning Word Sounds- I’m waiting until January to officially start him in the Montessori Pink series, but will use these for December since he knows his alphabet and the sounds each letter makes. I don’t know how he knows this, other than from watching PBS because I didn’t drill him on it! Definitely want to keep that momentum going!!

Sorting: This activity came from Counting Coconuts. She also has a free download for the Nuts Nomenclature cards.

Science: Continuing with the Frog activities- matching and sequencing, as well as adding the Amphibian 3 pt. cards. These were from Montessori Print Shop. I also found some free materials from the MO Conservation Dept. about Frogs and Toads.

Tree Peg Board: I bought this at the Dollar Tree store. It will be used for fine motor skills, counting, addition/subtraction, and sequencing.

Christmas Activities: 3 pt Cards, 12 Days of Christmas counting cards, and Sorting Presents. I made these and as soon as I can figure out how to post them here, I will. If you really want them, I don’t mind emailing them, unless I get over-run with emails, lol!! Just email me

Silver and Gold: these are new colors for Eli, so I have Silver and Gold Jingle Bells and Presents. I made sequencing/matching cards for him. Also, insert Burl Ives singing Silver and Gold, you know, from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 

Arts and Crafts: Holiday Stamps from Hobby Lobby

Practical Life: Folding washcloths. I bought these from Wal-Mart, then with a straight edge and Sharpie, marked where Eli needs to fold the washcloth. There are several for him to do.

More Practical Life: I bought this little dish from Goodwill and it’s the perfect size to use for spoon/tong activities. Here, I have green/yellow flat glass beads for him to spoon. I also have holiday cutting stripes.

More Practical Life: I bought the holiday erasers from the Dollar Tree. For lacing, Eli will lace beads onto the sparkly pipe cleaner. I’m searching for red, white, green Tri-Beads for him to make candy cane and wreath ornaments.

Discovery Tray: I got this idea from Counting Coconuts.  Eli LOVES his magnifying glass! In the basket- cedar branch, pine cone, mixed nuts, cinnamon sticks, piece of Pompas Grass.

Geometry: Once again, from Counting Coconuts. I had the colored straws, so I cut them into smaller pieces. The control of error is that they are color coded with the correct number for each of the shapes.

Geography: Land Forms booklet from Montessori Print Shop. We will be “making” these land forms using green rice and for the water, blue construction paper I’ve laminated (with clear kitchen contact paper), all within a plastic bin. We did this today, and I used Eli's green play dough for the land. It worked well.

Button Tree: For some reason, I can get this to rotate. Felt Button Tree that I made this afternoon.

Christmas Felt Board: I had everything to make a felt board for Eli, and then when I saw this activity from Counting Coconuts, I knew the time had come for me to make the board! I have ideas for several more felt boards for the upcoming months!

Not shown: Green Homemade playdough with beads for Christmas tree making
Salt Dough Ornaments
Cooking- Eli loves to help me with baking! We will be making these Animal Crackers from Weelicious. We will also be making Christmas Sugar Cookies for Santa.

Natural Parenting

Original post- Feb. 19, 2011

So what is this “natural family living” thing? For us, it’s a mix of attachment parenting, urban homesteading, and living a simpler life. I recently came across the term “natural family living” in an article at by Peggy O’Mara. She listed some of the basic ideas for this lifestyle which include, but aren’t limited to:
~Pregnancy and birth are normal processes that do not require drugs or interventions.
~Breastmilk is the optimum food for humans.
~Co-sleeping helps to facilitate successful breastfeeding and bonding.
~Mothers and babies need to be together, especially during the first three to five years of life
~Human babies have a need to be touched and to be held in arms.
~It is important to cultivate a community of like-minded families for friendship, information, and support.
~Eat food that is in as natural a state as possible.
~The human body has the capacity to fight off illness without the use of drugs and interventions.
~Unstructured play is essential to the full development of the human imagination.
~Hitting and punishment are unnecessary when children’s natural desire to cooperate is engaged to resolve conflicts.
As I read this list, my heart soared! It’s felt so good to be validated for my innate knowingness, even though what I knew to be true usually is in direct conflict with the mainstream. I find most mainstream parenting to be very detached and cruel. There, I said it, CRUEL! For example, letting a baby cry doesn’t teach them to sleep, it teaches them to give up because no one is coming to get them. Absolutely NOT something I want Eli to EVER learn! My goal for this blog is to help educate about a non-mainstream way of life while also providing links to experts and other articles. It isn’t just about natural parenting, but natural living.

Our Gardens

I’ve had lots of questions from people about our gardens. First, we are not master gardeners. Second, I am more than happy to share what limited knowledge I have and Third, our garden is a work in progress, trial and error, hoping to do things better each year!

About our garden…

We have raised beds- one done one year and then we added the second one the following year. 2 “L” shaped, one “L” flipped so there is a square w/ 2 openings at the top and bottom. Each “L” is 2 cinder blocks high and are approximately 4
x16, and 4x8. They are 16 long so we can use cattle panels, they are 4 wide so we don’t have to step into the garden. They are 2 blocks high so we can plant root veggies. We have taken cattle panels and made arbors at both openings to help maximize the space, where we grew peas and then green beans, and birdhouse gourds which took over where the peas were. We also have a smaller, 1 block high strawberry bed and herb garden. 

Filling the beds: Bottom layer is dirt. Then a layer of compost and then bags of Hummert Grow Mix and Manure. We did the bottom half in just plain dirt b/c it gets expensive when filling the beds. If you don’t want to plant root veggies, you can get by with 1 block high and it would save on $$, or just do a portion of the garden 2 blocks high. Milo helped fill the gardens too.

The design and fill ideas came from Len Pense created this raised bed gardening concept. However, he doesn’t use any dirt. We only used dirt in the bottom to save $$. You can purchase his e-book, which now comes with DVD’s. He also offers classes throughout the year in Strafford, MO.

Square Foot Gardening
The really big thing we discovered was incorporating square foot gardening grids to maximize our garden space. I have a friend who has a small garden space, but he gets LOTS of produce by using this method. This method was developed by Mel Bartholomew and his website is

Pest control/Companion Planting
I planted marigolds in my garden, but I can see I need either more marigolds or just more/different plants. This is called companion planting. Attract the good bugs, detract the bad bugs. I don’t know much about it, but I did get a great book “Great Garden Companions” by Sally Jean Cunningham.

Soaker Hoses- this gets the water directly into the ground, not just randomly watering everything as we were doing with a sprinkler. I was surprised as how well they worked! However, the summer of 2011 was horribly hot- weeks on end of 100+ degree weather :( Here's to hoping for a better 2012 garden season!!


Original Post March 8, 2011

My husband and I have had a lot of discussions about why we’re developing out little homestead. It would be A LOT easier to just go to the grocery store. We wouldn’t have the responsibility of the chickens. We wouldn’t have all of the work of the garden. It would be easier to leave for an overnight trip without having to get a “farm sitter”. So why all of the trouble and fuss?
Because we can, and we should. There’s a lot of talk about the economy, food sources, and prices. We want to be very careful about just how far we travel down the doomsday road. We don’t want to be doing all of this out of fear, and we don’t want to pass that fear along to our son. Even as my grandparents would talk about the Great Depression, they were able to do it without instilling fear. They didn’t have much to begin with, so they weren’t affected too much by the Depression. The one big difference in how they experienced the Depression, since they were farmers, is that they never had to stand in a soup kitchen line. These stories made a lasting impression on me. They didn’t depend on someone else to do for them what they could do for themselves. In the face of hard times, what we want to pass along to our son is a responsibility for the Earth, a connection to food and the knowledge of how to feed oneself good, homegrown food. We do have an emergency plan in place, but it isn’t our focus. Our focus is, however, the joy of backyard chickens, planning/planting a garden and flowers, cooking meals together, as a family and enjoying those wonderful meals. We are continually discussing plans for what to add to our little homestead next. We are very aware of what we are modeling and teaching our son, what we are passing along to him. Our hope is that we teach him respect, responsibility, awareness and joy for where his food comes from.
We are fortunate that we have 2 acres, even though only about half of that is usable, but it’s still more than what many have. Not everyone has access to land and growing their own. Everything we do here, takes away that much dependence on commercial food production. If everyone, who had access would use it, how would that change our commercial food production? If commercial producers weren’t so stressed to feed everyone, would they be able to incorporate better methods? Would they, even if they could? I would like to think they would. I feel, that as consumers, we have a responsibility in what and how we buy. If you have land, try growing something! Even when I rented a home in Springfield, I tried a small garden, but there was just too much shade. I had one spot with enough sun for a container in which I planted a cherry tomato plant. I did what I could do. Now that I have more, I can do more.
What can you do? Maybe you don’t want to raise chickens and that’s okay. Maybe you don’t want a big garden and that’s okay too. If you don’t want to, or simply can’t, grow and raise your own, find a small local farmer, join a CSA (community supported agriculture), go to the farmer’s markets, and get to know the people growing your food. Every step counts.

Feeding Children

Original Post March 19

Now that my son is 2 1/2, I keep receiving children newsletters with articles about how to feed a picky eater. In one mainstream magazine, they even offered suggestions on how to get your child to eat different foods. These different foods included avocado, sushi, hummus or falafel, curry, and some other things which I can’t remember. What I do remember is the complete disbelief that a child wouldn’t have already been introduced to these foods! Eli eats everything on the list of what is considered different. It’s his normal. I also read various mother boards. There’s always a post about how “my child will only eat pizza and spaghettios” and wanting advise on how to get them to eat something else. I always want to scream HOW ABOUT NOT FEEDING YOUR CHILD PIZZA AND SPAGHETTIOS! If they don’t know it exists, then they won’t want it!
I bought one bag of chicken nuggets and hated feeding them to my son so much, I threw the bag away and have never bought another bag. Guess what, he hasn’t starved and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel deprived from not eating dinosaur shaped nuggets. Now, I only feed him what I feel good about feeding him. Making homemade food, from scratch, doesn’t have to be hard or take a lot of time. In fact, with a little prep, I can whip up a delicious meal in about the same amount of time it takes for chicken nuggets to cook. Some meals take a little longer, but for those, I make extra so we have leftovers.
So, what was for lunch today? I thawed out some pesto, cooked some veggie pasta, steamed some veggies (frozen blend of broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, carrots), warmed up left over chicken, threw it all together, Eli helped sprinkled parmesan cheese over it. Eli ate it up! The entire meal took about 10 min. to put together. And there’s leftovers for tomorrow.
Now, there are foods he doesn’t like and I honor that. There are foods I don’t like, it’s okay. Since he was about 8 months old, he has had some version of what we were eating. We have always offered a wide variety of tastes, flavors, and food for him to try. We also cook foods in a variety of ways for him to try. While he won’t eat just plain steamed veggies (which I find to be very bland as well), add some pesto, or put them in a soup (usually with garbanzo beans and seasonings) and he will eat them right up. One way I introduce fresh greens, like spinach or kale, is to make him a green smoothie- which is basically a fruit smoothie with greens. He loves them!
Some kids are going to naturally be picky eaters. But I am a firm believer in offering a variety of real, whole based foods, early on, restricting processed food, and not making food a power struggle. Mealtime really can be a fun time, even with a toddler!
For more delicious meal ideas, visit It’s one of my favorite sites and the crock pot oatmeal is WONDERFUL!


Original Post April 10, 2010

2 Favorolles and 2 Welsummers chicks

We are new to raising chicks- both meat and laying. Here is what we have learned so far.
Chicks smell. They poop A LOT, especially the cornish cross hens. Maybe that’s because we have 14 of them. Having them this long in the garage has been smelly.
Cornish cross chickens really are mutant chickens. They grow incredibly fast. They outgrew their brooder box, but weren’t yet old enough to go outside in their pasture pen. We put them out anyway, putting an igloo dog house in their pen with their heat lamp hook up inside. So far, so good, they’re still alive.
Did I mention that they poop A LOT and smell? Don’t put the pasture pen next to the house. However, for the extension cord purpose for the heat lamp, they needed to be somewhat close.
Unless you have the space and a plan, don’t do meat chickens and pullets at the same time. Due to the growth rate of the cornish cross chickens, the pullets can’t be in the same space. Plan the chicks to where there are only one set in the brooder box and pasture pen. This is what we had intended to do, but we ended up with 4 pullets that are the same age as the meat chickens- they were given to us and we couldn’t say no, lol. The pullets now need to be outside, but we didn’t want to build another pasture pen. We rigged something up for them, it includes that igloo dog house. It isn’t pretty, but it will do, for now.
Things we will do differently:
Have a bigger brooder box for inside the garage. We will still use the smaller one, it is great for the first couple of weeks. However, we need a space for when they are too big for that box and too young to go outside.
Get meat chickens in April, rather than March. They can go outside earlier without the cold nights.
We had a friend tell us to start pullets in July. This way they will go 18 months before molting- we will get more months of egg laying before their 1st molt.
We will NEVER do meat chickens and laying hens together. We just don’t have the space or the energy. Taking care of one set at a time (plus everything else we do) is enough.
I’m very glad we’re raising meat chickens. They are kind of creeping us out since they do grow so fast. In the future, when we can get the bigger chicken space and coop built, we will probably just do straight runs of dual purpose birds. But until then, the cornish crosses will do.
We are getting our next run of chicks after the cornish crosses have been processed. These will be the dual purpose chickens. We are getting some Americaunas, Red Sex-Links, Jersey Giants, and maybe a few Australops. It isn’t quite in July, but it will be mid-late May. I’m not sure the hatcheries around here sell chicks in July. Since we do have a rooster, we could hatch out our own, but that isn’t going to happen this spring. I do have some fertilized Americauna eggs sitting in the coop in a couple of boxes, hoping someone will go broody.
We really like our chickens and we’re glad we have them. Each year we add something new and each year, we take notes on how and what we can improve on. This spring definitely has been a learning experience with chickens!
 Cornish Cross Cockerels- little boy chickens ;) This was taken just a few days before processing.

Our Learning Enviornment

Pic. 1- Art Desk

Pic 2 In the corner is a Step2 table sandbox which we use as a sensory bin. Currently there is an additional tub of corn cob litter in it - I bought the litter from PetsMart in the guinea pig section. Also, I had Milo take the closet doors off. I sewed these curtains up and use the closet area for materials storage. I've seen other blogs where everything is nice and neat in little jars, all line up in a row. I would love to tell you my supplies are like that as well. But I would by lying, lol!! However, I know what's behind those curtains and I can usually find what I'm looking for.

Pic 3 Our learning shelves- There is a book shelf facing the other direction, as well as a "tent" in the corner. This is where some of his books are. He likes to hide in his tent ;)

Pic 4 Sticky Window- clear kitchen contact paper facing sticky side out, art easel, and dress up corner with mirror. The toy box is mine from when I was his age! It holds his dress up clothes, which right now is mostly play scarves and hats.

This isn't a true Montessori learning environment. Eli has access at all times, not just learning times. Also, I'm not as organized as what Montessori style recommends. It's a smaller room. I would LOVE to have a larger room/basement, but that just isn't the case, so I've done pretty good with what I have! It works for us and Eli loves his room!

Peaceful Parenting

I came across the phrase peaceful parenting on facebook, the social media platform for Here is what she says about this style of parenting: Peaceful Parenting is essentially the effort to mother and father our babies and children in a manner that leads to their optimal health, happiness, and well-being. Peaceful parenting is as old as humanity itself, and is coherent with listening to our own mothering and fathering instincts, as well as tuning into the cues our little ones provide for us. As parenting that is normal, natural, primal and innate, it is *not* exactly the same as the pop-culture definition of ‘attachment parenting’ and it is *not* a set of hard, fast methods or laws to follow. Peaceful parenting does no intentional harm. It is parenting based not only in natural human and mammalian experience, but also in hard science and evidence-based research.
So what does that mean? For us, it is a foundational principle for raising our son. We model the behavior we desire, even the emotional traits we wish for our son to learn. The traits/behaviors we wish for him to learn are respect, empathy, and internal motivation.  Since we want him to learn empathy towards others, we model empathy for him. His cries have always had value to us. We have always attended to his needs, both physical and emotional. We have NEVER allowed him to be by himself in a room, crying it out. There is so much research out there that shows this is detrimental to emotional development, I’m shocked anyone would even consider doing this to a child. Are there times he’s upset and crying? Yes. But we’re right there with him, holding him, giving him emotional support and comfort. At 2 1/2 he knows to show empathy towards others because it’s been modeled to him. He comforts others who are upset, shows concern when someone it hurt, and shares his toys with others, as well as a 2 1/2 yr old can do, which in our opinion, he does pretty good.
Another value we are instilling is intrinsic value of self, internal motivation, versus external motivation with the attitude of what’s in it for me. Eli is learning what is right and wrong because it is right and wrong. He is not learning this through external motivation, i.e the reward/punishment system. There are no time-outs (which in research has shown to be ineffective) for undesired behavior, just like there isn’t rewards for desired behaviors. The idea of sticker charts for learning to go potty just absolutely drives me crazy! As an adult, I have yet to have anyone give me a gold star for using the potty.  He will get stickers because he likes stickers.  The same with food.  Food is not a reward or punishment.  It is a basic human need.   Here is the key to peaceful parenting, or natural parenting, treat children with the same respect you would an adult. I believe in my child’s ability to have his own mind, ideas and expression. I treat him with the same respect I expect him to show others. When I model this behavior to him, he then show this behavior towards others.  Is he perfect, other than me being a proud mama who thinks he’s always perfect?  No, he’s still learning.  Does this mean we don’t have rules and boundaries?  No, we do.  Are we more open with our boundaries than a lot of mainstream parents?  Probably yes.  We also believe in free range parenting, which is basically allowing him to discover his world without us having to hover over him.  It’s something I constantly work at, for me.  But for Eli to be our first, and only child at this point, I feel I’m pretty relaxed when it comes to allowing Eli to explore and discover his world.  Eli is a very outgoing, free spirit and we nurture that spirit.  We don’t let him run completely wild in public, but we have reasonable expectations of his public behavior.
So what do we do when he is misbehaving? First, we see misbehavior as the symptom, not the problem.  When Eli is acting out, it is an outward expression of some other issue.  Is he tired, hungry, bored, not feeling well, teething, emotionally ready to explore/expand the boundaries?  We address these root issues and guess what, the so called misbehavior is taken care of!
Some of you ready this might be thinking “how sweet, just wait until he reaches 5, or they have another baby, we’ll check in with you to see how you feel about peaceful parenting”.  What I do know, is that this foundational principle of treating our child(ren) with respect will not change.  We are always learning and growing as parents, adapting to fit the needs of our child.  What we do at almost 3 is absolutely different than what we did at the newborn stage, so of course what we do at 5 will be different than what we do now.  BUT we have the foundational principles of respect, empathy, and internal motivation to guide us through those changes.

How We Clean Our Home

When it comes to cleaning, one doesn’t have to sacrifice a lot of money or give way to harsh chemicals. In our journey to a cleaner, greener home, I decided I was tired of spending so much money on commercial cleaners. I found effective, cheaper cleaning methods, which I’m happy to share with others.

First, the basic ingredients we use:

Vinegar- is good for everything! From cleaning mirrors, windows, cutting through tough grease, to being used as a fabric softener, it is a staple in our home!

Baking soda- wonderful at cleaning sinks, tubs and showers. There are many uses, even beyond what we use it for. It can even be used in homemade deodorant and toothpaste.

Borax- there is a little controversy surrounding just how safe Borax is to use. It does work, I like the extra “grittiness” when using it as a scrubbing powder. It addition to being recommended as a laundry whitener, it is also an effective pesticide. We’ve used it successfully for ants. Don’t eat it, don’t inhale it, use common sense, but I’m sure some people will be more sensitive and won’t be able to use it. In that case, there are plenty of alternatives that can be used in it’s place.

Essential Oils- I use Grapefruit Seed Extract and Tea Tree Oil for anti-bacterial solutions, Lavendar, Lemon, Lemongrass and Orange for good smelling solutions. My favorite right now is the Lavendar/Lemongrass combo.

Dr Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap- This is another multi-purpose cleaner. I’m pretty sure a person could use this one product for all cleaning- including not only home cleaning (dishes, laundry, general), but also as a body wash, toothpaste and shampoo.

Soap Nuts- Most people have never heard of soap nuts. They grow on a type of tree and have been used for thousands of years by native cultures from around the world. They are simple to use. They also have many uses. They can be used whole in the laundry, or boiled down into a liquid cleaner. We like boil them into a liquid cleaner. I make up a gallon at a time. Bring a gallon of water to a boil, add approx 30 soapnuts, let it gently boil for 30 min, cool, then use in variety of solutions.  They seem to be a bit pricey- usually about $24 for a one pound bag.  BUT, as you will see, they can be used for practically everything and a bag lasts a long time.  I’m still using my 1 pound bag I bought over a year ago!

Towels- We were addicted to paper towels. I knew it had to stop! A friend shared with us what they did to stop their paper towel use. She had purchased inexpensive “flour bag” kitchen towels, then cut them into fourths, sewing under the edges. These are 100% cotton and lint free. Instead of sewing the edges under, we just used our serger to finish off the edges. We LOVE them and now that roll of paper towels just sits there! On a side note, we had already switched to cloth napkins. If you come to our home and see the paper napkins sitting on top of the refrigerator, they have been sitting there for over a year now, as well as the paper plates. Feel free to take them if you will use them. Leave the paper towels though, we do have a preschooler and inside animals and sometimes the things which need to be cleaned up needs to be done with a paper towel which goes straight to the trash can.

Cleaning solutions:

Laundry:  We use liquid soap nuts for laundry detergent and vinegar for a fabric softener/odor neutralizer.  Essential Oil, like lavender, can be added.  For whites, we do use Oxy Clean, but I’m open to trying Borax for whitening.  Also, on my sewing list is to make wool dryer balls.  Wool is a natural fiber,  softens fabrics, eliminates static cling, and adds space between the clothes, speeding up drying time.  I will share these when I get them made.

Sinks/Tub/Shower/Toilet:  I use a mix of borax and baking soda- probably about 2/3 baking soda and 1/3 borax.  Then in a separate bottle, I have a mix of Dr. Bronner’s, water, and vinegar- around 1/3 of each.  I probably don’t need to use as much Dr. Bronner’s as I do.  Also, I use the Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Oil Soap.  I sprinkle the dry mixture, then use the liquid mixture for a foaming cleaner.  Scrub, rinse, finished.  In the above picture, you will notice I do use Greenworks Toilet cleaner.  I’m trying to decide which works better.  We do have hard water, but I really think the homemade is going to work just fine for us.

Mirrors:  Once I finished up the bottle of Greenworks Glass Cleaner, I filled it up with 1 cup vinegar, rest with water, with a few drops of Lemon Oil.  Works just as well as the commercial cleaner and it was a great way to repurpose the spray bottle.

General Cleaner:  There are so many options for a general cleaner.  Right now, we’re using a soap nut based cleaner.  At a ratio of 1 cup water, 1 T liquid soap nuts and 1 T vinegar, we keep a spray bottle sitting out in the kitchen for cleaning the counter tops.  I also added a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract and Orange Oil, for a citrus smell.  Change the ratio to 2 cups water per 1 T liquid soap nuts/ 1 T vinegar, and it can also be used a glass cleaner.

Liquid Hand Soap:  We use either Castile Bar Soap, or for liquid, we have Dr. Bronner’s Liquid soap, with about half water.  I also use this for a liquid body wash.  Liquid Soap nuts (without watering down) can also be used for a liquid soap.  Essential Oils can be added, like lavender.

Dishwashing:  This is where we need to do some changing.  Right now we are using Ecover liquid soap for hand washing dishes, and then a commercial product for the dishwasher.  I tried the borax/baking soda powder with vinegar rinse and it didn’t work.  BUT, I really think it was a dishwasher problem.  Now that the dishwasher is fixed, I will try that combo again since I have read so many reviews of how well it works.  Other alternatives include, yes once again, liquid soap nuts.  Just fill the dispenser and then use vinegar for the rinse.  We will be exploring these options.

Hardwood Floors:  We LOVE our Eureka Enviro-Steam Cleaner.  Easy to use, works great.  I do add a few drops of Tea Tree Oil.  Before we got our steam cleaner, I was using Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner.  It works great too.  Once you buy the starter kit, which includes the spray bottle and mop, the jug of concentrate cleaner (which you buy separately) lasts forever.  I still use it for spot cleaning, but probably won’t buy anymore when I’ve used it all, but that will be literally years from now (I have about 3/4 of a jug left and bought it over 2 years ago).

Additonal Solutions:


Ants- sugar water with Borax.

Garden and Chicken Coop- Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. We’re not opposed to harsher chemicals, when needed, but we use those very sparingly when our option is either use it or lose the garden.  We show no mercy for Japanese Beetles.  I have gotten into some serious discussions over these little destroyers over using chemicals.  At the end of it, we used chemicals and still had a garden, others didn’t use chemicals and didn’t have a garden.  It wasn’t too hard for us to figure out what to do.  Since we have chickens, one thing we did that worked very well was to use the baits.  Yes, I know they attract more beetles but there were already thousands of beetles, attracting a few more wasn’t going to make a difference.  We hung just the baits (without the bags) over by the chickens, the beetles swarmed the baits and the chickens gorged themselves on this beetle feast.  This left very few in the garden, but even a few will destroy everything they can.  We then could use the chemical spray very sparingly, targeting pretty much the beetle itself without having to spray everything down.  And NO, I’m not going to hand pick those nasty little things off the plants a put them in a bucket of water.  That just makes my skin crawl thinking about it.  This year, we are getting some guinea chickens, but I don’t know if they will be big enough in time for this year’s beetles, but they will be for next year!  Side note: guineas are better than chickens at free ranging in the garden area.  They will eat bugs without tearing up the garden like chickens do.

Bug Repellent (for people, animals, garden)- Yes, liquid soap nuts!  1 cup water to 1 T liquid soap nuts and optional 1T Neem Oil (which we did use). 
There are so many options in making homemade cleaners!  I’ve listed what works for us.  Sometimes we just need a place to start since it can be rather overwhelming.  It’s also nice to be able to have a clean home without harsh chemicals and to save money in the process!

Montessori Homeschooling

Originally Posted August 7
UPDATE DEC 1- I have since been introduced to Counting Coconuts- LOVE HER STUFF!!!! As well as the Montessori At Home ebook~ over 250 activities for children 3-6. For $8.95, it was well worth the price. Even if you don't homeschool, it is a treasure trove of awesome activities. Also, Eli has decided to really take off with sign language, so we are going with it, using Signing Time. I also add signs for things we need and use- for example peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

Eli turns 3 at the end of the month. We have decided to start homeschooling him for preschool. Banish any images you may have of strict instruction, filled with flash cards and worksheets. Nope, not for my child, which is why we’re homeschooling! I love the Montessori style of learning- which is hands-on, experiential learning. I found Lisa Nolan and her website Montessori for the Earth. She has very affordable curriculum (around $16 for the year and I received the curriculum for both 2 and 3 yr olds). This is my foundation for instruction. I add to the foundation in a variety of ways. One way is to add more art based learning. Play at Home Mom is a group of moms teaching through art based activities. They follow more of The Reggio Emilia Philosophy. I don’t know a lot about this philosophy, but it seems to be very similar to the Montessori style of learning. Just yesterday, I was introduced to preschool packs from 1+1+1=1.  These packs totally rock! Yes, they are worksheet based, but they will make a great supplement to our learning. They are arranged in themes, which will make designing themed instruction much easier. She also offers book suggestions for each theme, making a trip to the library easier! Finally, through a homeschool group I’m in, I also discovered the video Little Pim for learning a second language. I put it in our Netflix que to see what it’s like before we purchase it. We have decided to start with Spanish. Since Eli does have a cousin who lives in Italy, we will also add Italian down the road. Speaking of videos, we’re not opposed to using technology to enhance our learning. We live in the age of technology. It doesn’t do any good to deny it. Leap Frog, Blues Clues, Sesame Street have become staples in our home (thank you Netflix!). Add social activities from the local YMCA, Library, Zoo, and Nature Center, and we have a very full, active schedule!

Here Eli is painting with paint he made, then hammering ice blocks, and finally playing with ice, water and paint all together!

Pesto Recipe

Everyone raves about my pesto, always wanting the recipe, so here it is- the exact recipe. It’s one of the few times, other than baking, I use an exact recipe.

First, I plant LOTS of basil in the spring- at least 12 plants.

Next, we wait until it grows enough to harvest. We always hope for about 3 harvests per year.

Finally, it’s time to harvest and make pesto!

I go to Sam’s to buy all of my additional ingredients in bulk. Yes, we make that much! It’s our goal to make at least 12 pints, plus enough for gifts.

Ingredients, which I buy from Sam’s: 
big bag of Walnuts, 2 lb bag of Pecorino Romano grated cheese, 24 oz. container of shredded Parmesan, 3 lb container of Garlic (we use lots of garlic for lots of things)

Additional ingredient: salt

I mix everything up in my Blendtec blender. After many trial and errors, I have finally figured out the perfect order to put ingredients in the blender for the best blending. Basically this magical order to perfect blending is oil/walnuts, basil, cheeses/garlic/salt. If you’re wondering, yes, I’m a Virgo.

1 C. Olive Oil

2/3 C. Walnuts

4 C Basil

1/2 C. Parmesan

1/2 C. Pecorino Romano

4-6 garlic cloves

Salt to taste- approx. 1 t

Blend on the “sauces/dips” setting. Makes 1 pint. We freeze ours in glass pint jars we’ve either saved or glass canning jars.

Homemade Play Dough Recipe

1 c. flour
1 c. water
1/2 c. salt
2 t cream of tarter
1 T oil
food coloring

Combine water, salt, cream of tarter, oil and food coloring in a sauce pan and heat. Add flour, stirring until a ball forms. Remove and store in air tight container.

I like to half the recipe and use the ziploc 1 cup storage containers. I use gel food coloring for more vibrant colors. I would love to try some with glitter!

There is a shelf life for the play dough. I've had it mold, but then again, we didn't play with it for a few months, so that could have something to do with it.