1. 2. 3. Life in a Small House: Organic, Green, and on a Budget: September 2012 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Life in a Small House: Organic, Green, and on a Budget

22. 23. 31. 32. Life in a Small House: Organic, Green, and on a Budget: September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Survival Candles

Something happened to me after I turned thirty.  The smell of all the good candles and plug-ins that I would get as gifts from my students would give me a headache.  Every single time.  We had a garage sale this summer and I sold countless numbers of Partylite and Yankee candles - since they were pretty useless in our house now with my new found reaction to the chemicals in them.  After the garage sale my husband posed the question, "So, what are we going to do when the power goes out?"
In steps pinterest.  I found a link to a "recipe" to make your own soy survival candles.  It sounded pretty easy, so I gathered the materials needed (thanks Amazon), and got started.
The original post shows Mason Jars, but he also advices that you can use old glass jars - so for a few weeks we saved old jelly, sauce, and salad dressing jars.
I soaked the jars in hot water hoping that would help with the label removal process.  The jelly jars were the WORST.  We ended up not using them.  The spaghetti sauce jars cleaned up nicely, but ended up being a pain later in the process when we tried to attach the wicks to the bottom.  (The bottom wasn't flat).  The best two jars were from salsa and our salad dressing.  Cleaned up nicely and had a nice flat bottom to attach the wick tabs to.
Here's what we needed: soy flakes, wicks (I read the comments on the original blog post and learned that you should use a thicker wick for a wider mouth jar and a thinner wick for a skinner mouth), wick tabs, and wick stickers (the original blog did not suggest these, but I found them to be helpful in keeping the wick tabs down on the jar as your pour the wax).  I choose to order a spool of wicks, because my jars were of varying heights.  All of this was found very easily on Amazon.
After reviewing the directions I realized there were no real measurements.  I love measurements.  Anyway, I just put some soy flakes into the the pot (that I got at Good Will specifically for making non-food items), and placed it on top of the boiling water (making a double boiler).  I also pulled some of our Mason Jars out to use, because I ditched the jelly jars after I could clean them off enough.  In the comments it was suggested that you warm the jars in the oven prior to pouring hot wax into them.  Our stove top gets pretty warm, so I just made sure to place the glass jars near the pots and they warmed up just fine and we didn't have any cracked glass incidents.
Then you wait for the wax to melt. It didn't take that long and here it is almost finished. The product melts down a lot, so you may think you have too many flakes, but you don't. I ended up doing this process three times to get enough wax for my jars.
 Once it's melted you'll want to pour the wax into a pouring container.  (I used a large Pyrex glass measuring jar.)  From there, slowly pour the wax into your prepared jars.  (There are no pictures of the preparation of the jars - basically, thread the wicks into the wick tabs, stick them on the bottom of the jar, and trim the wicks to fit the jar size.)  The spaghetti jars were a pain during this process because even with the wick stickers the wick tabs did not stick.  I taped pencils to the top of the wicks to help keep them centered. At this point I thought it might be fun to see if I could handle a "real" scent - so I added 4 drops of Vanilla essential oil to the littlest Mason Jar.  This candle will be kept out and not stored away for emergencies.  When you have to have candles burning for light, it's best not to use scented candles.
Then you wait.  This is what they looked like last night before I went to bed, about an hour after we poured the wax in.  They hardened up nicely - and even the two with the tricky wicks seemed to be okay.  (We'll see how they end up burning.) 
The next morning I trimmed the wicks down to 1/4 of an inch, placed the scented one in our bathroom, and put the lids on the others.  The plan is to add a book of matches to each so that we're always prepared for a power outage (at least for light)!
All in all this was a surprisingly easy project.  I now know which kinds of jars to save and which to just recycle (or use for some other storage).  The cost per candle is about $1.50 each - not bad for high quality soy candles - much cheaper than what you would buy them for in a store. 
In the future we might like to try to make candles from bees wax, but I've read that it's a pain to clean up - unlike the soy wax which washed away easily. 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Combating Allergies (without drugs)

So... Allergy season is in full swing here in the Midwest. Quinn always gets hit the worst. It starts with a running/stuffy nose and itchy eyes and then will lead to either an ear infection or croup cough in the middle of the night. When we aren't diligent we find ourselves in the doctor's office for some antibiotics for an ear infection or steroids for the croup cough. This past spring we weren't diligent with our regime and he woke up coughing and crying that he was "going to die."  He ended up in steroids and boy oh boy do those make him emotional.

I learned my lesson and have stayed on top of his allergies and he's started to pick up in the importance of preventive care.

So... Here's what we do:

The first day of school both boys start taking a Vitamin D supplement. During the summer they get plenty of D from the sun. Vitamin D has many benefits, the most important (for the boys) is that it helps regulate the immune system.

Every day with his regular multi-vitamin Quinn takes one dose of Children's Sinus Support by Redd Remedies. He hates these chewables, but will take the dose with milk. Once his allergies start making their appearance we up the dose to twice a day. I wish we could find something that tastes better for him, because you should see his face as he's taking them. However, this is the only supplement for kids that contains Quercetin. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine.

In addition to the supplements Quinn has also started using the netipot! I am thrilled for this development and amazed at how great he does. We always do a round at night and there are some mornings when he asks for it. Good for him for listening to his body and reading the signs of what it needs.

Our last line of defense is a bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide. We place a few drops in each ear. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural antiseptic and by putting the H2O2 into the ears we are hoping to prevent ear and sinus infections. (Both boys do this, mostly because Liam likes the way it feels - lucky Liam doesn't suffer from allergies.)

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Picture Day

Today was the dreaded school picture day. Well, dreaded by Quinn who claims the photographers are too bossy. (I'd have to agree. After years of working in a public school I've come to dread the directions of "turn your head a little bit to the left" "not so much" "put your chin down" "up a little" etc.etc.)

In the past (when I was working) I'd make it a point to go out and find nice new shirts for the boys for their picture day. Not this year. This year I looked in their closets and don't they just look adorable?!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Emergency Paper Towels

Liam's been feeling much better. Thank goodness. I was able to put away our one roll of paper towels we keep in the house for emergencies. Just about a year ago I stopped buying any paper towels, but then a few months after only using rags, Quinn got sick in the middle of the night making me curse my decision to be rid of all paper towels. So now we keep a roll for emergencies.

So, other than stomach bug stuff, we've survived almost an entire year using rags for our cleaning needs. Most of them are old towels or t-shirts, but I did invest in a pack of cloths meant for car detailing - those are my favorites. They're easy to wash (just don't use fabric softener), readily available, and have saved us money on paper goods.
We also switched to cloth napkins over a year ago - those just go in the wash with our dish towels. Easy peasy.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


When a typical child wakes up throwing up you worry about dehydration. That's pretty much it. Sure, you feel for them, nobody likes to throw up.

When a child who has been on an aspirin regime wakes up throwing up your first thought might be, "is this the start of Reye's syndrome?" or maybe you'll wonder, "is this seizure enhanced vomiting?"

Liam and I were up all night - started with vomit, which he had a really difficult time with (he hasn't thrown up in years) and then he switched to diarrhea. He hasn't managed to keep down sips of water - and will vomit that back up.

I'll be calling the doctor as soon as they open. I called last night and was told just to watch for him to get worse (which he didn't). I'd like to have blood work done to rule out liver failure before I give him today's dose of aspirin.

Whenever something happens with Liam - be it a stomach bug waking him up, him getting goofy when over tired, hitting his head, scraping his knee, etc... All the lists of "what ifs" fill my head with worry.

I wonder how long this will last.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Story

One disservice that I think parents tend to do is to not talk with their kids about tragic events or things that might seem like something they don't need to know about.

Kids often ask questions and too often those questions are dodged by parents having the best of intentions. 

After talking with the team at Liam's school I wrote a little story about Liam's stroke and his recovery - meant for kids.  There's one part I'm not proud of - I don't say that the doctors feel the vaccine caused the stroke.  I do not want other parents being upset with me when their child says they don't want a shot!  Of course, I could have said Liam had reaction to a medicine...

Anyway, here's a link to the story if you're interested.  It would be neat if I had an illustrator and could actually make a book.

Speaking of avoiding topics with kids - have you seen this?  It's a post I wrote a long time ago, but one of my favorites.

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Talking to Your Child About Death

Perhaps the worst thing we can do as parents is to avoid the topic of death with our children. Eventually, like it or not, somebody (or some pet) that your child knows and/or loves will die. That's just the way it works.

Before your child needs to experience this first hand, it is important for them to be familiar about the topic of death and what it actually means. This can be accomplished through songs, books, and even movies (careful - some Disney movies make it seem as if somebody is dead, but then, voila! a spell is broken and they are fine, just fine. This can be very confusing for a child.).

Here are some terms for helping children understand death. (I only suggest only using these terms if a child starts asking questions. There is no need to sit down for dinner tonight and talk about death - unless of course, you've just read a book where somebody or some pet dies and your child is curious.)

Physical death - death of a body; the body stops walking, doesn't eat, doesn't hurt, doesn't poop anymore.

If somebody in your child's life does die, it's important to:
  • use the word "Dead". Make sure you do not say "lost" or "past on"
  • make sure the child knows the person that died doesn't hurt.
  • make sure they know the following - death is irreversible, permanent, painless
  • let/encourage your child to ask questions
  • have books about death and be sure to have read them already (list below)
  • let children participate in closure/help set up ending practices
  • allow children to grieve in their own way
  • share feelings with your child (it's OKAY to be sad in front of children)
  • provide support for your child
  • maintain the child's daily routine
  • death can be a celebration
  • remember it is not the age of the child when deciding if the child should attend a funeral service, but rather the relationship between the child and the deceased.
  • answer honestly when asked if you are going to die. "No, I'm not going to die right now."
  • establish memories ("This is the first birthday since your father died.")
Talk about death before it happens. Some people avoid books where people or pets die - I seek them out. One of Quinn's favorite books is "Tough Boris". It's a great little book about a tough pirate - who's so tough, but then his parrot dies, and the pirate cries, and cries, and cries. He was familiar with this book before our dog died and asked me to read it many times afterwards. Here's a list of other books that are appropriate for young children.

  • Tough Boris - Mem Fox
  • Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge - Mem Fox
  • Sophie - Mem Fox
  • You Hold Me and I'll Hold You - Jo Carson
  • Old Pig - Margaret Will
  • Go Tell Aunt Rhody - Aliki
  • Everett Anderson's Goodbye - Lucille Clifton
  • Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs - Tomie dePaola
  • Miss Tizzy - Libba Moore Gray
  • Remember Me - Margaret Wild
  • Still My Grandma - V. Van Den abbeete
  • The Goodbye Boat - Mary Joslin
As well as reading, there are many songs that talk about death. One of my personal favorites is "Go Tell Aunt Rhody". Sometimes Quinn will ask me to sing that one to him as I'm tucking him into bed.

Children's Understanding of Death (stages)

Stage I (ages 2-4) - At this stage children don't believe death is final. It is temporary and reversible. They attempt to equate it with something they know (sleep, parents going on vacation, etc.) They are more interested in what death means right now (person is never coming bac) rather than how it happened.

Stage II (ages 4 - 10) - Children at this stage understand that everything that lives will die, although they may or may not apply this to themselves. This is fine and normal. They play many imaginary games like ghost, superheroes, and role play in an attempt to understand death and to deal with their fears. Children will often play dead and pretend to have funerals and other practices (if they are familiar with this).

Stage II (ages 10...) - At this stage, children understand that death is personal, inevitable, universal and final. They may have fears related to this understanding. At all ages, part of the fear of death, for children, is that they will be separated from their parents.

*Much of this information was gathered from workshops given by Tom Hunter and Bev Bos. And for any of my readers in Southern California, Bev Bos is an amazing women, with an amazing preschool in Roseville. I encourage you to check it out, fall in love, and sign up for the waiting list.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

HE laundry soap

Awhile ago I found a recipe to make your own laundry detergent on Pinterest.  It took me a few days to gather all the ingredients needed... not everything was easily found at our grocery store, as was suggested by the original blogger.  I found Ace Hardware to have most of what I needed.  (They probably had everything... I just didn't find the baking soda.)  I changed the recipe a bit, because we have a High Efficient Washing Machine.  The original blogger suggested keeping the recipe the same and just using less, but after reading the suggestions for adding Borax, Washing Soda, or Baking Soda to HE washing machines I figured cutting back on the soap would be a good idea and then using the same amount per load.  I tested it out this weekend and we love it!  The batch made plenty of laundry soap, I was able to put the powder right into the dispenser meant for powder soap, and the clothes were not soapy after the wash (which is what happens when you use too much soap not meant for a HE washer). 
I choose a different bar of soap, because the soap she suggested had more chemicals than I would prefer.  I choose Grandma's Lye Soap - it was a bit more expensive then what she suggested, but the ingredients included lye and lard.  That's it. Another change I made to the original recipe was that I didn't use Oxyclean in the mix.  I decided to just add Oxyclean to any loads I thought needed the extra boost.  So.... here's my adapted recipe for an HE Laundry Detergent. 
Box of Borax (about 4 pounds)
Box of Washing Soda (about 4 pounds)
Baking Soda (about 4 pounds - I couldn't find a 4 pound box as was suggested, so I found a huge bag and used about 4 pounds of it.)
Two bars of Grandma's Lye Soap
Shred the soap (Mike did this and used our cheese grater.  We weren't worried about it - it's soap - simple soap - so we figured it would come clean and we wouldn't taste the soap.)
Mix all ingredients together.  This smelled wonderful and made my hands feel so soft.
You can store it however you like, Liam and I found this container and a measuring spoon meant for coffee at Target.  It works perfectly.  One tablespoon scoop per load is all you need.   
I'm excited to see how long our mixture lasts.  My estimated cost was $25 - and this picture shows about half of what we made. 
I'm not sure exactly how "green" or "organic" this is, but the waste from the boxes was all recycled and the only thing that went into the trash was the wrappers from the soap.  I feel comfortable with the ingredients - Borax, Washing Soda, and Baking Soda each only have one ingredient listed.  So - our laundry soap has only five ingredients.
I tested it out yesterday and am happy to report that our clothes came out of the wash smelling clean and clear of fake fragrances.  They look great too!
This might just be my next project.

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