Thursday, April 17, 2014

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

Carpet deodorizer, works on upholstery too!

Lately I have been trying my hand at some home made cleaning products and wanted to share my success and failure with you all. There are so many advantages to trying to home made route, it's cheaper, it's natural and it's fun! The down side is that it sometimes doesn't work as well as the chemical packed commercial products but I figured it is at least worth trying out some home made options. With me being pregnant again I feel like it's an especially good time to try a more natural option so I'm not exposing my baby to anything nasty (not that I spend enough time cleaning that it really matters!).

I recently tried two natural alternatives to store bought cleaning and household products. Home made carpet deodorizer and home made laundry freshener. Both were made using some lovely essential oils I had ling around and had no other use for.

The carpet deodorizer was a big success and so easy to make and use! All you do is mix a cup of baking soda with 3 or 4 drops of essential oil and mix well (I just shook mine around in my jar a lot). The you sprinkle some of this magical powder on to your carpet and vacuum up after a few minutes. I hate carpet and can't wait for the day when we get rid of all of ours but in the mean time this takes the funky, musty smell away and leaves the room smelling fantastic! I used peppermint essential oil and it smells so lovely and fresh, it's the perfect easy Spring clean to lift your mood.

The other natural product I attempted was a laundry freshener. Since we cloth diaper I can't use sweet smelling detergent or dryer sheets and I really miss having nice smelling clothes fresh out of the dryer. I read a tutorial online for making a dryer ball that would freshen your laundry so I thought I would give it a try. You take some old mismatched socks, ball one of them up inside the other, put s few drops essential oil on the inside sock and tie the outside sock off to inclose the whole thing.

This one didn't really work for me unfortunately. The sock dryer ball smelled really good on it's own (I used my peppermint oil again) but it didn't do anything for my laundry which was really disappointing. I've heard that you can also use bags of dried herbs so i may try that next. If I do I'll let you know how it goes.

In any case, I got one good cleaning product out of my experimenting and am eager to try more. If anyone has any good home made cleaner recipes for me let me know!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Best Garden Year Ever

Garden area with new beds. It's looking a little messy right now because I have lots of pots of seedlings going but once I transplant them I can clean things up a bit. 

Or so I hope! I am always highly optimistic at the beginning of the gardening year though so we'll see ;-) Last year I had to abandon my raised beds at the top of our lawn because it was just too shady to get anything to grow properly there. There isn't a ton of sunny space in our yard but we are trying to do the best with what we have and Eric put in 3 new raised beds up by our mailbox which is generally the area that gets the most sun for us. He had to take out two more of our holly bushes which is sad but they were ailing anyway and hopefully the results will be worth it.

Radishes, kale and garlic
 Eric used cedar to make the beds this time to try to keep the bugs out of the wood and they turned out really pretty. Unfortunately I got a little mixed up when i was starting my seeds inside and now I totally don't know what some of the things I planted are, oops... Hopefully it will become clear as they get bigger. To further complicate my gardening Echo loves to "help" me when I work out there. This means that a lot of things get pulled up and scattered around but seeing her enjoy the outside and starting a tradition of gardening with her at a young age is totally worth it! I don't take my gardening too seriously so it's no big deal, plus I usually have way more seeds than I have room to plant things so whenever she pulls something up I can always replace it.

Another view of the new gardens
The pictures I'm posting here are a little old and most of the radishes have been harvested already. In the new beds I have a healthy crop of bush beans, cucumbers, zucchini, watermelon and carrots coming up (also a mystery plant that I have no memory of what it is, maybe time will tell?). It's always so exciting to grow things from seed and see the little spots of green start to poke up. It's even more exciting to make a meal with ingredients grown from your own garden!

Salmon cakes and salad, this was ridiculously tasty!
For the above recipe I got to use kale and radishes from my garden in the salad garlic chives in the sauce (which also used Eric's home made yogurt as a base). Although I don't yet provide a substantial portion of what we eat from my garden there is nothing quite as satisfying as growing your own food. Hopefully by moving to a sunnier location and planting things that are easy to grow I can have the best year ever in my garden.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Twirly Circle Skirt

Modeling my skirt and showing off my baby bump :-)

On a lighter note from yesterday's super serious child rearing post, here is my latest sewing project. My mom found this awesome vintage fabric in her attic and let me have my way with it. Apparently my grandmother bought it and never got around to using it for anything so it has been sitting around for a while. it's a wonderful lightweight fabric, perfect for a Summer skirt.

Close up of the pattern
It had a few moth holes so I wasn't able to use as much of it as I would have liked which resulted in a slightly shorter skirt. It still ended up being a decent length for me and I put in a nice stretchy elastic waist so I can wear it while I'm pregnant this Summer. For the pattern I did a simple circle skirt. This was my first time making one even though they are super easy. You can find a good tutorial for making your own circle skirt pattern here. I love circle skirts because they twirl so nicely and I love how this one came out. It's a nice reminder of my grandma (who I sadly never got to meet) every time I wear the skirt so it also has a nostalgia and family history factor that I love.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Parenting: Trust, Doubt and Respect.

My amazing girl

As I lay awake last night holding my little girl and listening to the rain I was overwhelmed by my love for her. Even though she had just gotten me up from a deep sleep at 1:30 am (as she does most nights) I took a moment to savor her warm head resting on my shoulder and her small sleepy sounds as I snuggled her back to sleep. This is the good stuff, this is what it's all about.

While I waited for her to drift back off I thought about the kind of parent I want to be and the lifestyle I want my family to have. I had been reading some parenting and unschooling articles earlier that day and and came across this really excellent one from Life Learning Magazine (which is a really amazing resource for anyone interested in unschooling). This article reaffirms so much of what I believe about raising children and education and it made me feel so relieved to hear it from someone else.

I tend to be the kind of person that doesn't have a lot of strong opinions. I try to see both sides of any argument and will always admit that I could easily be in the wrong. However, parenting and education are probably about the only things in life that I have VERY strong opinions about. In spite of the fact that I am convinced that this style of parenting is for us, in spite of the fact that I know unschooling works from personal experience and in spite of the fact that I have faith that if we trust and respect our children they will surpass our wildest expectations for them, I have a hard time not doubting myself every so often.

Why is it so hard for parents to trust themselves and their instincts? Why is it so hard to keep the doubt at bay? For me I think it is that I am so passionate about my children and their education and lifestyle that I think about it constantly. I read tons of parenting and child related articles and I feel like I am usually barraged with information that is totally counter to how I want to raise my kids. I knew going in to this that I would be in the minority but it is still sometimes difficult to stand by what you believe when it feels like everyone else is telling you something different.

It seems to me that the majority of parenting articles I run across are aimed at trying to trick your child in to being a particular way. They tell you how you can "win the bedtime battle", or "make your kid good at science". All too often they pit parents and children against one another and encourage you to manipulate your children. The people who write these articles depict children as wily little devils who are trying to manipulate and outwit their parents while the parents are trying to beat them at their own game. Why do people want to mold their children to be a certain way? Why can't we celebrate who our children are rather than coerce them in to being what we want them to be? Why can't a family all be on one team instead of it being parents against kids?

The core of my parenting philosophy revolves around trust and respect for all family members including ourselves. I believe that children should be given respect equal to any other household member and this means no arbitrary rules, no power struggles and no "because I'm the parent and I said so". My children will be given the freedom to do what they want, when they want. Just as if they were adults in the house they will be allowed to use it's contents as they see fit (provided they are respectful of the communal living spaces and don't damage property). Just as I would never tell my husband that he can't have a snack right now or can't watch any television, I don't want to do these things to my children either. I want to afford them the same freedom that any family member deserves. This is really not easy to do for me even though I raised this way. It's hard to go against the societal norm and let your children have freedom to do what they wish even if it's not something you like. For example it's easy to let your kid paint or read all day but a lot harder to sit by while they play video games for 8 hours straight. The thing is, and I truly believe this, if you leave them alone they won't want to play video games for 8 hours straight. At least not for more than a week or so. Once the novelty wears off they are going to get bored and want to try something else. Kids are naturally bright and inquisitive, if you leave them alone they will want to do interesting and amazing things!

This doesn't mean that my kids will always do things I agree with and it doesn't mean I can't have concerns and talk to my children about them, but basically there should be a good reason behind it if I am going to ask them not to do something. If I feel like the kids are watching too much TV I can talk to them about and explain why I feel that way. Conflicts will be resolved with family meetings rather than top down authority. Since my daughter is still a toddler there are plenty of times I have to tell her no, but I try to think very hard before I tell her she can't do something. Is there really a good reason she can't do it or am I just instinctively saying no because I don't want to deal with it right then? As long as she isn't hurting herself or someone else than I think she should be aloud to do pretty much whatever she wants.

It's really hard to keep all this in mind on  a daily basis and consistently put it in to practice but communicating with others helps me remember to be the kind of parent I want to be. That is why I want to not only continue to read stories from others that have a similar parenting philosophy but to write down in my own words what I believe, to reinforce and remind myself that I can trust my own parenting instincts and I can trust my daughter to be the amazing person she is.

I know that my time and temper will be a little shorter when our next baby arrives so it will be even more important to make the effort to trust and respect Echo at that time. I look at how strong and smart and happy she is now and I want her to stay that way. I want her to know how truly valued and respected and loved she is. I never want her to feel like a second class citizen in her own home, I want her to know that she is a full fledged family member who's opinions and needs are valued.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Echo's Recent Artwork

Echo continues to enjoy painting on a regular basis and I love seeing her skills with a brush improve! She recently started making dots with her paintbrush instead of just kind of scribbling with it and has noticed that the color green she uses is the same as the leaves on our houseplants. She loves comparing things right now so she will point to the green paint and then at the leaves and back and forth. We have also done some experimenting with stamping using home made shape stamps and she has been doing some collage and getting practice glueing. Here are some examples of her recent artwork that i am loving!

Experimenting with stamps

The above left picture was a collaborative effort, she really likes painting and drawing with me and I feel like it encourages her to stay interested in painting and drawing longer if we work on something together. She also loves to show people her paintings and can't wait to show her daddy what she has been making when he gets home from work. It's been really exciting to watch her as she continues to learn about different art techniques. She still hates finger painting but loves using a brush and is getting better all the time.

Showing me one of her paintings

My little artist with a cute paint smudge on her cheek!

I love that this is something we can enjoy together and it always makes for a great rainy day activity. I can't wait to see what she will paint next :-)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

March Photos

We've really been enjoying getting out more as the weather continues to get warmer. Playing outside is so great to help tire out a toddler! Here's some of the fun stuff we've been up to in March, for the full set see my shutterfly.

Early in the month we went to Gibbs Gardens to see the daffodils  

At the skating rink for toddler day

Wish I had gotten a better picture of this but Echo and her friend Nathan were playing peak a boo around the sign, so cute!

Playing in the sand box at the botanical gardens

Meeting up with friends at the park