A Life In Progress

Consume, Or Not to Consume December 2, 2008

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green — jdalsin @ 8:37 pm

I’ve written before about simple living, about how we are all after the bigger, the better, leaving the good, and the big enough in a heaping pile behind us.  Driving cars that consume twice as much gas as a standard vehicles, building bigger homes (which, even if they are all energy star approved and what not, is still worse for the environment than not building), never bothering to fix what we have.  We are raised in a society where “throw it out and buy a new one” is the mentality.

 

And Christmas. Oh, Christmas. While I love the season, the twinkly lights, the family gathering, the gaining of five pounds from binge eating, it has become a consumer driven holiday.  Our houses get overflowed with new heaps of plastic toys for the kids, we get a new blender, a new drill.  What happens to the old toys, the old blender, the old drill? A landfill somewhere, is my guess.

 

So, just as a friendly little pre-holiday reminder, take 20 minutes out of your life some time this week and learn a little about where you stuff comes from and where it ends up, who it effects and if it can really go on like this forever.

 

Watch the video here: http://www.storyofstuff.com/

 

Happy Holidays!

 

The Essentials November 2, 2008

Filed under: Around the House,Natural Health — jdalsin @ 7:46 pm

I’m still here.  I am.  Just busy as heck.

Not only busy but feeling like I’m lacking on topics to blog about.  Until tonight at supper that is.

We were eating and my 3 year old daughter, Abby, started talking about her bath that would follow dinner that she shares with her 1 year old baby sister each night. 

“Hmm… which oil drops should I have in my bath tonight?  Maybe eucalyptus since we have runny noses.  Or maybe lavender so we can relax.  Or, Mom, what’s that one for headaches again?”

“It starts with a ‘P'” I prompted.

“P.  P-p-PEPPERMINT.” 

In the end she chose to have a few drops of essential oil of lavender in her bath water.  One of my favorites too.

I think essential oils are some of the world’s best kept secrets.  Nothing cures a headache for me better than some peppermint oil on my temples, nothing makes a bath feel as relaxing as adding a few drops of lavender and the girls always benefit from a bath with eucalyptus oil when they are sick.  Or a drop or two somewhere in their beds to keep their noses clear at night.

I don’t know a whole lot about essential oils, besides the ones I have.  I’d love to own more since I know that so many of them are theraputic, some are great to use as perfume (since I don’t wear commercially made perfumes anymore) and some are good to keep in the first aid kit, like Tea Tree oil.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the oils, finding out what each type of oil can be used for, etc.  this website might be a good place to start:

http://www.aromaweb.com/essentialoils/default.asp

 

You can mix and match them and make really nice combinations for perfume, to use around your home or theraputically.  Bergamot is a very popular one for emotional well being and another one that I’d like to own.

Some of them can be quite pricey to buy, such as oil of oregano, but since they are so concentrated, a drop or two can really go a long way.

 

In Excess May 23, 2008

Filed under: Around the House — jdalsin @ 2:07 pm

This isn’t exactly the post I had in mind when I wrote about typing up a post on parenting. For some reason, I can get my thoughts together on that one and don’t want to just spew out a post that goes no where.

 

So instead, I wanted to write about something else.

 

Having too much.

 

We pretty much all live in excess.  We eat too much. Always want something bigger and better.  Need to own more than we really ‘need to own’. 

 

It’s something I’ve been trying to work on around here.  This one is a little more difficult because Jordan isn’t really up for anything as drastic as voluntary simplicity.  He wants the big screen tv, a better computer, a cool pda, wants to own every season of the Simpson on DVD.  Where as I’m the opposite.  I think we have way too much in this house and I’d like to get rid of half of it. Literally, half.  I sit here typing on a fairly new Dell computer, countless DVDs on the shelf beside me, cds lining the rack behind me, printer, scanner, photocopier, camera, phone, surrounding me.  Too much.

 

It’s always an eye opener for me when I see a little old farm house on the prairie.  To think that an entire family lived in those wood walls, sharing beds, no electricity, no playroom overflowing with toys, no office stocked up with all the latest gadgets.  When I see those little houses it is plain as day to see how much we have.

 

I recently read this book called Living Simply with Children: A Voluntary Simplicity Guide For Mom, Dads & Kids. I recommend reading it.  I’m not so much in to the ‘corporate America trying to brainwash our kids’ part but it had some really great ideas.  Thinking back to when I was a kid even, we didn’t have a million toys.  No playroom.  We had a few dolls, some board games, some puzzles, a Lite Brite.  We had skipping ropes, marbles and jacks.   We played outside, built forts in the neighbourhood park, played on the swings until the street lights came on, ran home for dinner, a bath and went to bed.

 

Before I keep rambling on about this, I just wanted to share what I’ve been working on in this area.

 

Toys.  I’ve talked about this before.  We have too! many! toys! 90% of them never even get played with. 99% of the stuffed animals Abby’s been given never get snuggled.  Abby and I have made it a monthly habit to get a big garbage bag and find things she wants to give to ‘the kids who have no toys’.  This has been really positive for both of us.  I’m clearing up space in the house and Abby has become really aware of how much she has.  Sometimes, on her own initiative, she’ll see a toy she rarely plays with and says “I really don’t need this toy anymore.  Let’s give it to a children who doesn’t have any.” Gladly.  I almost never say no.  I don’t care if the gift was from her grandma and she only got it two months ago.  If she feels it in her heart to share it with someone less fortunate, I don’t want to get in the way of that.

 

So that’s how we are clearing toys OUT.  Stopping the flow of toys back IN to the house is more challenging. What we’ve been doing lately is only buying toys that both girls can enjoy.  This weekend we picked up and awesome musical instrument set that both girls (AND Jordan!) are crazy about. (Note to other parents out there- think really hard about whether you want a harmonica, a kazoo and a recorder in your house. yikes.) We aren’t buying anything plastic and we are trying to buy locally made and/or handmade toys.  Not that easy to find – which is good because we therefore buy a lot less.

 

Ideally, I’d like each of the girls to have maybe 5 or 6 toys that they LOVE.  A stack of books.  A favorite doll. A favorite teddy bear.  And that’s all.  I’m kind of getting there with Abby. She has a wooden train set, a wooden ‘town’, a magnetic dress up doll, a set of memory cards, art supplies, a couple favorite dolls, a favorite cuddly bear and a container of beads for stringing.  99.9% of the time that she’s in the house playing, she’s playing with one of those things.  It’s also been nice to have a fresh start with Josie.  We really haven’t bought her any toys yet.  She has a couple of old things of Abby’s and is sharing Abby’s toys.

 

Food. This may seem like a weird thing to mention to some reading this.  But I recently read an article in a magazine (Macleans??) about how portion sizes have grown over the years.  Especially in restaurants. The size of an average hamburger has double and french fries have something like tripled in size in the past 20 years. I think the craziest part about it is that now days we, on average, probably need a lot less carlories than people did even twenty years ago. There is a lot more sitting around, a lot less calorie burning. 

 

I’m trying to do two things in this area. #1- Quality over quantity.  Easier said than done, especially when your stomach is growling.  #2- Trying to only eat when I’m actually hungry.  I’m terrible at this.  Really terrible. 

 

Around the House. I’ve really been trying to evaluate if we actually NEED something before we buy it.  I’m also trying to adapt the mindset of repairing instead of replacing.  I’m fighting Jordan right now on the big screen t.v. thing. He wants a bigger, better plasma t.v. and I want to have the one 27″ tube t.v. we have to be turned on a lot less than it already is. Clothes is another one.  Not a problem for me so much since I’m a jeans and t-shirt, I-have-no-clue-about-brand-names kind of gal.  But Josie, Abby and Jordan all have overflowing closets and dressers.  I love buying clothes for all of them.  I buy every stitch of Jordan’s clothes except for jeans.  He’s never with me.  And I love dressing up the girls and find it hard to resist cute little rompers and sun dresses, especially if I can find them matching ones.  So instead, I’ve been trying to buy the basics only.  A few t-shirt and tank tops matched with solid colored shorts so that a few purchases can really be many outfits. 

 

We are a one car family and I’d like to keep it that way.  I really am going to try this year to walk where I can.  We’ve already taken a few longer treks to the library, grocery store, etc.   Good exercise, easier on Mother Earth and the fresh air does us all good.

 

Why? You may be asking.

 

I really think simple is better.  We refinished the playroom this weekend.  We took out most of the toys so we would have room for our painting supplies.  Abby has never played in that room so much as she did while it was nearly bare.  There are about 3 or 4 toys in there right now and she’s in there playing with them more than she was ever in there playing with the dozens and dozens that we packed away for the renos. 

Too much is overwhelming.  Too much causes clutter and mess.  Too much is too expensive.  Too much is unneccesary.  Too much is tiring.

We’ve been also trying to sell some of the things we no longer want and have been quite successful.  With the money we are buying new things, but less things.  We sold a whole bunch of smaller toys and are now on the search for the perfect swing set for the backyard, for example.

This “excess” thing is something I’m actually quite passionate about and sometimes need to control. I’ve learned to bite my tongue.  When I hear about people spending $300 on a purse, $50,000 on a brand new vehicle, $100 on one single outfit for their child, upgrading every single electronic in their house on a regular basis, an 8 year old with a cell phone! – it seriously makes my blood boil.  I don’t care if you can afford it.  Buy a $50 purse and give $250 to a charity.  A $10,000 car will get you to the same destination as the $50,000. And your kid? I promise you they will either rip, stain and undoubtedly outgrow that $100 outfit within a few months.  But then I need to remind myself that it’s not my business and all I can do is do what I know is best for me, set an example for my girls and hope they learn a little something about over-indulgence, taking care of others, about what is a neccesity and what is a luxury and what truly is money well spent.  I can only hope.

 

And really, I’m not a tight wad.  I just like to think of it as ‘sensible’.  🙂

 

Anyway, that felt like a mind spew rather than a well written post.  I guess I was just eager to finally post again.  Hope through the babble you were able to find something useful that you might want to encorporate around your home.

 

The Scientists are Catching Up to the Hippies April 21, 2008

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green — jdalsin @ 9:25 am

With all this talk of BPAs in baby bottles, a friend of mine said something along the lines of “finally, the scientists are catching up to the hippies.” I thought it was hilarious and so true! I’ve been telling people, literally for YEARS, about the dangers of plastics and no one did a thing.  But now someone on t.v. says it and everyone is all gung-ho.  I find this both hilarious and well, honeslty, annoying.  Did they think I was lying?  😉

Anyway- for all those who are suddenly interested in the BPA stuff, know that it’s not only in baby bottles but everywhere.  It lines tin cans, water bottles, dental sealants, compact discs.  No, I’m not lying. Yes, soon it will be on t.v. and you’ll all be up in arms trying to rid your house of the stuff and wondering why no one told you before.  haha.  Anyway …

Here’s an article I thought some of you may enjoy and might as well take action on while you are ridding your house of plastic bottles. Might as well take a closer look at your kids’ toys, what’s around your house, etc.:

http://thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=65&sec=2

Enjoy.

 

Solutions April 14, 2008

Filed under: Around the House,Going Green — jdalsin @ 9:51 am

Just quickly popping in to tell you about two new products that we have fallen in love with.

#1- ECOS Laundry Detergent.  It’s one of my favorite finds yet.  (thanks Mom!)  It’s environmentally friendly, it works well, it’s super affordable AND, and here’s the best part that you usually don’t find with natural cleaners – it smells AMAZING.  Magnolia and Lily.  But, it’s perfume free.  All the perfumes in laundry detergents and especially!! dryer sheets are full of chemicals and are irritants to the skin. I have to be especially careful about that since Abby, Josie and I all have sensitive, excema prone skin.   ECOS is scented with essential oils.  It’s available at Costco where we bought it for about $15 for 105 loads.  Compare that to the $7 you spend on Tide for 35 loads or whatever.   So ECOS is actually cheaper.  No excuses now.  😉

#2 – Pink Solution.  This stuff is amazing and you can use it in about 1,001 different ways.  It cleans glass, windows, bathrooms, kitchens, cars, laundry stains, I could go on and on.  If you apply it full strength to your eye glasses or bathroom mirrors, they won’t fog.  I just don’t know what else to say because it literally does EVERYTHING.  It’s fantastic.  It takes crayons off of walls, ink off of clothes, it’s just magical.  Also, environmentally friendly and safe to be using around the house.  We bought a whole load of it at the Spring Home & Garden show a few weeks back.  It’s also occasionally available at Costco or you can order it online here: http://www.pinksolution.ca/  We bought every product they had available. 

Here’s a blurb from the Pink Solution website:

“Pink Solution is a natural enzyme cleaner, which when mixed with water, emulsifies dirt, grease and grime, and restores finishes to their natural state. This means that it will not only clean, but will actually brighten surfaces that most cleaners dull, such as stainless steel appliances and fiberglass bath and shower stalls. The enzymes will emulsify even the oldest stains, which means that so long as there are not permanent dyes involved, even the oldest of laundry and carpet stains will be removed. Also, it contains no chemicals, and can be inhaled, eaten and used without any gloves, with no ill effects.

Contents of Most Other Cleaners
Most other All Purpose Cleaners contain harmful and dangerous Ingredients. The most common ingredient in household cleaners is ammonia. It is a carcinogenic and stays in the air for up to 4 hours when sprayed in the house. Look on the ingredients of most household cleaners and you will see Ammonia. All chemical cleaners are caustic, and so they actually corrode the lungs when inhaled. Products which claim to be “magic” contain formaldehyde, which is one of the most carcinogenic chemicals known to man.

Pink Solution contains none of these chemicals, and is non-caustic.

Pink Solution also replaces all household cleaners, even laundry detergent, so when used as directed, it can last an average family up to 2 years, replacing every different cleaner they would normally purchase.”

Buy it.

Be back this week with a post about children and parenting. 

 

Do Over – Toy Edition April 4, 2008

Filed under: Around the House — jdalsin @ 4:31 pm

I wish I could empty every room in my house and start again.  Only bring in things that a) I love and b) are safe and healthy for my family.

This is especially true of our girls’ playroom.  It looks like a plastic rainbow burst in there.  It’s a disaster, 99% of it is plastic and I’m sure some if it is coated in lead paint.  I try to keep up with the recalls but with a new one every week, it’s hard to ensure that every toy your little ones are playing with are truly safe.

I can’t afford a “do over” but have been trying to be much more careful with what I bring into the house now.  Here are two of my most recent purchases that I adore.

http://www.underthenile.com/underthenile/itemDetailBR115.htm

and

http://www.atoygarden.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=1888

I wish that I had only purchased these types of toys for the girls right from the get go.  And even though we are trying to cut back on toys, especially plastic ones and oodles of stuffed animals, we can’t control what they get for gifts. 

We did a rewards chart for Abby for the month of March to help with some behavior problems.  She got enough stickers to earn herself a new toy.  She’s known what she’s wanted since the first day of the chartt when we explained the reward chart to her.  It gets my stamp of approval!  A wooden bead set!

http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/melissa_doug/butterfly_garden_jewelry_kit.cfm

Anyway, I thought I would list some of my newly discovered favorite online stores in case you are looking for some great toys for your wee ones.

www.acornsjourney.com

http://www.waldorfwoodentoys.ca

www.naturalpod.com

www.atoygarden.com

www.parentingbynature.com

www.habausa.com

www.melissaanddoug.com (LOVE Melissa & Doug stuff. Available at Chapers too!)

www.novanatural.com

I find that the simplest toys are the ones that have the most staying power.  The classics that kids don’t get sick of.  Abby’s current favorite toy is a wooden train set my mom got her.  She’s played with it almost daily- the first few days for HOURS – for atleast 7 or 8 months now.

I’d love to buy more locally but there isn’t much demand for wood, basic toys so it’s hard to get a hold of around here. 

Happy Shopping!

 

(Micro)Waving Goodbye February 20, 2008

Filed under: Around the House,Healthy Eating — jdalsin @ 3:41 pm

We’ve said goodbye to our microwave.  Almost.

We’ve never been big microwavers.  I’m guessing it got used maybe two or three times a week for things like melting butter and that’s about it.  We use our oven for reheating all leftovers from lasagna to pizza to whatever, making nachos and the like.  We use our cooktop for making quesadillas, reheating soups and making popcorn. So really, getting rid of the microwave won’t/hasn’t been too hard for us.

For now we’ve moved it to basement and have used it maybe once or twice when we’ve needed something heated in a hurry.  When I suggested to Jordan that we get rid of the microwave, his only concern was how we’d melt butter for our popcorn.  🙂  The other night when he whipped some popcorn up for us in a big pot on the stove, he even melted the butter in a little saucepan.  By the end of the month, I’d like the microwave gone all together.  Slowly, we are phasing it out of our lives.

Why? Because it’s white and clashes with our new black appliances.  Kidding.  Although there is truth to that.

But really, it’s because microwaving food zaps most of food’s nutrients.  A 2004 study done on the health benefits of broccoli found that, when microwaved, broccoli lost between 57% and 97% of it’s nutrients. That’s crazy! Why bother eating it when all that’s left is 3% of what’s good about it?  True, all cooking methods deplete the nutrition in food but steaming, for example, only destroy 10% or less of nutrients.  Raw is best, of course.

In our (too) crazy (too) busy world everything is about speedy and convenience.  You can go to the fresh produce aisle and get a bunch of fresh, nutrient packed broccoli for $2.00 or you can go the frozen food section and get a plastic bag full of broccoli that you are supposed to cook in the microwave for double the cost.  It’s too bad that when the going gets busy, the first thing to go is our health, our nutrition, the way we prepare food when really, the food we eat is what fuels everything else we do in our entire day.  Makes little sense to me.

Plus, what the heck is microwaving? Here’s one definition from an online dictionary:

“A microwave oven, or microwave, is a kitchen appliance that can come in many different sizes and styles employing microwave radiation primarily to cook or heat food.”

um… microwave radiation?  Check this link out if you want to know more about the electromagnetic waves that “cook” your food: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microwave. Spooky.

So that’s it.  We are thisclose to being done with the microwave.  Something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.  Done.