Wednesday, January 28, 2009

If my house smells like chemicals, it's not clean!

I have a very sensitive nose. I've had this affliction my entire life. I especially can't stand the smell of commercial cleaners. Don't tell my mom, but even as a teen, when it was my turn to clean the bathroom I would 1) open all windows and doors and turn on the fan, 2) use a miniscule amount (or, ahem, none)of Scrubbing Bubbles and Comet and whatever, 3) run up my parent's water and heating bill by just scrubbing with masses of hot water. I swear my nose has gotten even worse with time and age (and peaking during my pregnancy when I could hardly go to church because some old lady sitting 3 pews away from me was wearing perfume). After nearly a decade of living as a single girl with beaucoup roomates and having to put up with their cleaning habits and products, the final straw was my last roomate. She didn't clean super often, but about once a week she would go through the kitchen and bathroom and lay down this inches thick (I exaggerate not) layer of Comet over all the surfaces therein. And then she'd let it sit for hours, sometimes even overnight. And I had the only migraines I've ever had in my life. It would be instantaneous. I'd walk in the door and be hit by that smell and boom! There was my headache. And all I could do was hide in my room and sit by my open window.

But I made a decision. I'd heard of people who could clean their whole house with lemon juice and love and crystals and chi, tee hee, and I resolved to become one of those people now that I would have charge of my own little nest. Then, as I often do, after having made this decision, I did tons of research on the matter so as to bolster my resolve, and have some good facts on hand in case anyone should tell me I was crazy. But I don't want to spend all kinds of time convincing in this post. I figure most of you probably have already heard some rumours on the wind about the asthma rate in children rapidly increasing and scientifically linked to chemicals and how the air inside your house is 50 times more toxic than the air outside, even if you live right next to the freeway and some drycleaners and an oil refinery and how many of these chemicals never leave our bodies, they just build up and up and up over our lives. I'm not going to go into all these things because I want to dedicate this post to just how easy, effective, and gosh-darn-cheap organic cleaning can be.

The secret is in the magic ingredients. There are three main ones, but the first and foremost and can't-live-without is vinegar. White distilled vinegar; you can use it for everything. The second and third are baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Before I move on to how I use them, I just want to take a moment to talk about the other supercool features of these three ingredients. They are useful for TONS of things. Over here in Mormonville we believe in food storage, which actually means more than food storage. It means everything-you-need-to-live storage. So as that is a big list I like to simplify and consolidate. So instead of having a year's worth of window cleaner and bathtub cleaner and drain de-clogger and disinfectant and floor cleaner and that stuff that covers up/get's rid of funky smells/causes infertility, I just have vinegar and baking soda and peroxide. And all three of those things have other useful purposes besides cleaning, like baking, and you could make salad dressing, and hydrogen peroxide has all kinds of medical usefulness. And if you're in a pinch (which is the point of food storage, right?) you could also brush your teeth and wash your hair with those ingredients. Crazy.

1) Take one empty squirt bottle.
2) Fill it halfway with vinegar.
3) Fill it the rest of the way with water.

This is all you need to clean your counters, your floor, and your mirrors/windows. For the first two I use rags/mops (no sponges! sponges are the devil!). For the last one I use some form of newspaper (usually the free ones I get in junkmail as we don't have a subscription). I also use it to do wipe downs of sinks and the toilet (that last one i use special designated rags for). But Megan, you say, doesn't vinegar offend your delicate little nose? Not really. Watered down by half like it is makes it a lot less stinky, and it dissipates lickety-split. And this stuff also works to deodorize everything. I spray it in my garbage and diaper pails after I've emptied them and I've even just sprayed it in the air if there's some kind of lingering funk from one of these two pails (and then I invite my mother-in-law over, who then breathes deeply and decides I'm not such a horrible housekeeper after all, just like the Febreze commercials).

4) Buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
5) Replace the little cap with a squirt bottle top you stole off another empty squirt bottle. Most of them fit.

This I use for extra germ killing power. The one-two punch of vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide leaves no germs, and then no residue. They both completely evaporate. And even if you managed to lick the counter before they evaporated, no harm done. Just to illustrate the super cool power of these two ingredients; industrial meat farms, some of the nastiest, dirtiest places on earth, use vinegar and HP (I'm sick of typing the whole thing out) to clean--and it works. Other cleaners (bleach, Lysol, etc.) leave chemicals behind. Some hints with HP: it's not aerosol like Lysol, but you can use it basically the same way. Things will be a little wetter, but just let it air dry, and then it's good to go! This is especially important if you sprayed it on your toilet seat! If you then sit on it before it's dry, it won't hurt you, but it will give you a strange, fizzing sensation (or so I've heard...I've of course never done that...ahem). Also, you do not need to use HP every single time you wipe your counter down. I tend to spray my counter down once every other day, but you could do it once a day if you are a little more nervous than me (I do clean with the vinegar solution several times a day). And once a week or so I'll go through the place and spray some major germ spots, like doorknobs, and the phones/remote controls (although I spray it on a cloth and wipe the phone instead of spraying directly).

6) Get a box of baking soda. Or if you want to be like me, buy huge bags of it at Costco.
7) Sprinkle it where you need it!

Baking soda I mainly use in the bathtub, and when I want to more thoroughly scrub down the bathroom and kitchen sinks. The trick here is to very thoroughly wet the entire surface down with the vinegar spray, and then sprinkle the baking soda pretty liberally over that. Then leave it alone for a few minutes. This part is important and makes all the difference. Go clean something else for a minute, or lick your counter again, ha ha, then come back and scrub the paste off. Cleaning this way is alot like cleaning with Comet, minus the migraines; you just sort of scrub the paste into the surface and then rinse it off. Beautiful and shiny! You could use a rag for this, but I prefer those plastic meshy scrub pads, which I then rinse off with pretty-darn hot water. The other cool thing I use baking soda for is the drains. Here's how you keep your drains fresh and clean. Once a month or so you throw a couple of handfuls of baking soda down the drain, then you pour straight vinegar on it (i'm not sure how much, maybe a 1/2 a cup? I just pour a little, watch it fizz, pour a little more, watch it fizz, a couple times) then you let it do it's thing for a few minutes, then poor boiling water down the drain. Voila!

I haven't got it all figured out yet. I still buy toilet bowl cleaner and dishwashing liquid and dishwasher detergent, though I get the environmentally friendly version of all those (mostly Ecover and Method brands). Some day soon I'll figure out how to do those cheaper and easier (a little bird told me you can use vinegar in the toilet bowl too, but you have to do it more frequently) and then I'll let you know. You can find a lot of homemade cleaning recipes online, but they are more complicated then I can committ to. This system works for me, and it works well. Most of it I found in a really fabulous book called (are you ready for this title?) Organic Housekeeping: In Which the Non-toxic Avenger Shows You How to Improve Your Health and That of Your Family, While You Save Time, Money, and Perhaps Your Sanity, by Ellen Sandbeck. This is one of those non-fiction books that's a great, easy, interesting read; and she does all kinds research and very clearly presents the proof to you about the truth of all this germ-killing, anti-biotic, toxic chemical controversy, and much more.

So there it is! A pretty simple, cut-and-dried, cleaning method, written up in a really complicated, wordy post. Feel free to ask any questions! Or just roll your eyes at my kookiness!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hubby Tag

Where we met: In the side yard of the house in which we currently live, actually! It is my aunt's house and she introduced us. We gave her flowers when we got engaged. She is now currently our landlord!
How long we dated before we got hitched: 6 months.
How long have we been married: 2 years in March.
What's my favorite feature about him: His eyes, his height, his hair, his legs, his...ok, I'll stop.
What's my favorite quality about him: His intelligence and spirituality. The way he has wholeheartedly thrown himself into fatherhood and husbandhood. The way he totally supports my granolaness. The way he loves me!
What's his nickname for me: Lately he calls me Meganstar.
His favorite color: He likes navy blue and dark dark purple. I think. Guys don't often do fave colors, you know?
His favorite food: Cheese, much to my despair. And peanuts/peanut butter.
His favorite sport: Is hiking a sport?
Who said the L word first: Jon said, and I quote, "I think I'm beginning to love you." All I did was ask him if I should introduce him as my boyfriend at my work Christmas party.
First kiss when and where: In my living room about 2 months or so after we started dating.
Favorite couple thing to do: Going out to eat (Mazza's and Bombay House) and watching movies and none of your beeswax.
How many kids:1 little boy.
His hidden talent: cooking.
His age: 31, but not for too much longer.
His favorite music: classical.
What I admire most about him: His cheerful attitude and willingness to help. And his extensive scriptural knowledge, at least compared to me.
His favorite pastimes: hanging out with his family, playing on the computer, the aforementioned hiking.
Will he read this: If I tell him to!

I tag: Jess and Julie, and Emily and Rosalyn, and Jen and anyone else who wants to do a little reminiscing/bragging about their husband!

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Have Liftoff!!!

For weeks now Booboo has been nearly crawling, and not just rocking on his hands and knees but even putting one knee forward and one hand forward. But then he'd always just lunge at whatever he was trying to get to and go down on his stomach again. If he wasn't able to reach his prize he'd get back up on his knees and do it again! I've just been waiting for his little light to click on and for him to string those individual little "steps" together before I officially called it crawling. Well today, ta da ta da!!! while at my mom's he finally figured it out! Now the full force of his exploratory energy will be felt and nothing will be safe. Lock up your valuables.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Grab that Cash with Both Hands and Make a Stash!!!

Money!! It's a crime!!

Ok, I'll stop quoting Pink Floyd now and get down to it. Money has been much on my mind lately and I have a tiny inkling that I might not be the only one feeling that way. Yet it seems hard to talk about it, like its a sensitive subject or something. Perhaps it has to do with our definitions of success: if I talk about worrying about money or pinching pennies then people will think we are not successful and feel sorry for us and in our society not successful with money=not successful as a human being. We at least feel that way a little bit, deep down, even though it's not true!! But in today's economic climate, you can make pretty good money and still feel the pinch!! We are not suffering for lack of money but I'm still suffering from a chronic disease known as Worrywartitis. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have a touch of it too? If you watch the news you are probably experiencing symptoms of worrywartitis. It's definitely contagious!!

We have been working really hard on storing up food and necessary items and I think we have done really well there. If you haven't worked on that I highly recommend it. It feels really good to look at a pile of food and know that you will be ok for awhile if something should happen! We are also trying to pay off our only debt, which is basically MY student loan. The thing that we really need to do for me to lessen my "symptoms" would be to build up more savings. We have a fairly good amount in our 401k, but that is pretty inaccessible (and quickly losing its value). What I'm really trying to work on is our basic savings account. To accomplish this, I need to get better at saving money. Makes sense, right?

Like you (probably), I have things I'm good at and things I'm not so good at. Not so good at: sometimes I just cannot HANDLE eating or preparing anything we have in the house so we go out to eat; I'm picky about the food we eat and sometimes buy the more expensive but healthier stuff; sometimes I buy clothes that I never end up wearing and I never take back. That's just a few of my downfalls but you get the idea! And yet I think I have some strengths in the budgeting area also. The other day I told my sister-in-law that I'm a bit of a cheapskate and she said she would never have guessed that about me! At first I thought she was being sarcastic! Then I realized she really just hasn't known me long enough. I've often joked that I was raised in the Great Depression. In truth I've just spent my life reading way too many books that take place during that time. And I really LOVE to find ways to save money. Frugality feels a little bit like creativity to me, does that make sense? I may not be making something, but I'm saving something and that is pretty close. This nutty frugality kick of mine is very closely related to my inner granola. If something saves me money and trees then I am on it!

So here is where I come out of the closet and confess some of the zany things I do to save money and the planet (I'm not saying which is more important although I'd like to also remind you that by "the planet" I also mean our children's health and cuddly animals, and drinkable water and yes, beautiful, gorgeous, good-smelling, spirit-lifting, wind-breaking, erosion-preventing, air-quality-improving, huggable trees). Feel free to scoff at my silliness and don't think too hard about the one or two things I left out because I'm a little too chicken to admit to them unless I know you are a card-carrying member of the Clandestine Hippie Club. So now in no particular order....

Crazy Little Things I Do That Probably Don't Save Much But Make Me Feel Better Anyway:

1. I wash and reuse sandwich baggies, plastic produce bags and sometimes even foil, and use plastic shopping bags for our trash bags.
2. I've never bought a paper towel in my life. Those commercials about how this or that brand of paper towel has a more "cloth-like feel" really crack me up. Guess what has a really "cloth-like feel"? Cloth!!!
3. We use cloth diapers. I know, crazy. But don't knock it till you've tried it! We love it and find it super duper easy. We do use a few disposables, to be honest, but I'd say it's only 10% of the time.
4. My entire skin care regime consists of one thing: coconut oil. That's it. Ok, if I'm feeling like I want to pamper myself I'll use a little honey. But that's pretty rare. It's great, it's cheap, the tub I bought nearly 2 years ago is only maybe half gone and coconut oil has a fantastically long shelf-life. It also works great in your hair and helps kill cold sores! It's pretty miracle stuff!
5. (I'm almost done!) We eat pretty basically. Almost no processed foods. We bake our own bread and sprout our own sprouts and have even started making our own breakfast granola. I hope that it makes up a little (budget-wise) for the fact that I'm not the best bargain-shopper and sometimes I splash out on organic and I don't cut any coupons. Last summer we grew our first garden, but because we had a newborn we mainly just grew buckets of tomatoes, which worked out perfectly because I eat tomatoes like they are going extinct. This year we really hope to grow more, but since neither one of us is what you'd call a natural green thumb, it will definitely be a learning process!
6. Last but not least, I wash pretty much my entire house with vinegar and baking soda and a little hydrogen peroxide.

I hope this doesn't sound like bragging. I'm actually really nervous to post this because I'd hate for anyone to think I'm extreme. This stuff is mostly just a balm for my worrywartitis flare-ups. It's kind of like when your whole house is a mess and you're all stressed out because you feel you can never get it Really Clean so you just do the dishes and scrub the sink and you feel SO much better to have that one shining little corner in the chaos. Do you have anything like that? That little thing that gives your spirit a lift when you've been down in the dumps or that little bit of service you perform when you've been thinking about yourself too much lately or something deep and intelligent you think about when you've been talking about the potty with your toddler for far too long?

Coming Soon: I'm going to post more about #6 on my list because my cousin requested it(sorry this is taking so long Adrienne!), because your house will be a cleaner place (meaning dirt, germs, AND toxins that hurt you and your kids), and because it really is super cheap and super easy. But not tonight because I need to go to bed!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Belated Christmas Pics!

The Dreaded Christmas Cold has prevented me from posting this for a while. But I'm feeling better (slowly) so I thought I'd just throw some cute pics on here and call it a blog post. When I'm feeling better I'll write more! This was Booboo's first Christmas, so it was pretty easy to go low-key, but as you can see in these pics, he had a blast!

The wrapping paper is the most fun.

Man. He looks more and more like his dad everyday!

I got him a sippy cup as a toy/I hope to get him drinking out of it soon. See how he's holding it? Yeah, he's not any closer to drinking out of it now, 2 weeks later! At this rate, it could be months!

Mama and baby. 'Nuff said.

Jon was fooling around with one of those pics from the photo shoot a while ago. It's not perfect but it's pretty cute/funny!
I hope you all had great holidays!!