Friday, May 6, 2011

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

My first attempt at going green in this area was to buy dishwashing detergent in powder form, in the cardboard box. My first mistake was buying "Cascade". Not only did I nearly pass out each time I opened the box because of the fumes, it did a crummy job of washing my dishes. Next, I tried Seventh Generation. It worked fine with no fumes but it did leave a cloudy residue. But...what if I took it a step further and made my own?

Since my homemade laundry detergent worked so well, I took the ingredients I already had from that experiment and made my own dishwashing detergent. According to Matt Jabs at diy Natural, the citric acid in this recipe helps with the cloudiness that is sometimes left on glasses. Combined with white vinegar as the rinse agent, my dishes came out sparkly clean! Even though the citric acid is a little pricy, the recipe comes out to $0.07 per load, which is half the price of name brand detergents!

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

● 1 cup borax ($2.99/box at Target)

● 1 cup washing soda ($5.99/box at Ace Hardware)

● 1/2 cup citric acid powder ($28 for 5lbs at Amazon or check your bulk aisle)

● 1/2 cup kosher salt

Mix ingredients together and use 1 tablespoon per load. This detergent will clump together because of the citric acid but it doesn't affect the product in any way.

Fill rinse agent compartment with white vinegar.

I also want to make a note that the biggest motivation in making my own cleaning products is not saving money at all. That part is nice, but I love that I can clean with natural ingredients and keep my family safe from toxins as well as reduce waste.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Green Snacks and Lunches

I got these cute reusable snack and sandwich bags last week and I am in love with them. We normally use glass snapware for lunches and leftovers but they are so heavy and take up so much room. Sometimes a ziplock bag is great for snacks on the go and these are perfect for replacing those plastic bags! I bought a few from a small company here in Seattle as well as online at Etsy. They come in different designs, sizes and closures. You can flip them inside out and wipe them out or throw them in the washing machine. Most of them have a velcro closure at the top (some have a drawstring option). The "sandwich wrap" is genius. It's basically just a square of fabric backed by a waterproof liner that you fold your sandwich up in and it seals with a piece of velcro. I wish I knew how to sew so I could make my own and save more money! But, I love supporting local moms and artists so it all works out :)

Below are the links to my favorite shops. I always look for bags with the "gusseted bottom" because it allows for more room and the design allows you to "stand" the bag up when it's filled. (Yes, that is Care Bear and Strawberry Shortcake you see there...Mama needs her own snack bags too!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I found this recipe over at diy Natural and decided to give it a shot. I wanted to stop polluting the earth with those plastic jugs every couple of weeks and save some money too. There are only 3 ingredients and all but one are easy to find. Bar soap, borax, and washing soda. I had the first 2 ingredients already but had to do some investigating to find the washing soda. They didn't have it at my grocery store or Target but I managed to track it down at good ol' Ace Hardware. Needless to say, I stocked up since I also plan to make my own dishwashing detergent later this week with the washing soda. You can also find all the ingredients at Amazon but they are a little more expensive.

I've already done 2 loads of laundry with it and it seems to be working great. I may change soaps (I used Ivory) as I'm not fond of the scent, but other than that, it does the job!

Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe, by Matt Jabs

● 1 bar of shaved bar soap (Ivory, ZOTE, Fels-Naptha)
(I got 10 bars at Target for $3)

● 1 cup borax
($2.99/box at Target)

● 1 cup washing soda
($5.99/box at Ace Hardware)

Grate the bar soap, add borax and washing soda and mix well until it forms a fine powder. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. Also works with HE washers.

I keep mine in a recycled glass pickle jar with a tablespoon scoop inside, properly labeled of course.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Is Bigger Better?

A friend asked me recently if I was planning on staying in my current home for much longer. Apparently, she assumed I would want to get a bigger house, especially now that I have a kid. But how much room do kids really need? How much room do WE really need? Am I depriving my child by not providing him with his own playroom or home theater?

My younger sister and I spent the first 6 years of our life in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment with the laundry facilities in the basement of the complex. My grandmother moved in with us for a short time when my sister was born and my family of 4 shared ONE bedroom so my grandmother could have her own room. When I turned 6, my parents saved up enough money to buy our own house so we "upgraded" to an 820 sq ft home with a big backyard. We still only had 2 bedrooms so my sister and I shared a room and all of us shared the tiny bathroom. Do you think I ever felt deprived of a single thing in my childhood? Never. Do I look back and wish I had more? Nope. I didn't even know what I was missing. The way I saw it, I had a nice clean place to live, toys to play with, a backyard to run around in, and a comfortable room to sleep in.

When I was 9, we moved to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and rented a duplex apartment with again, 2 bedrooms, while my parents figured out whether this would be a good place to settle down, as well as determine if the restaurant was going to be successful or not. A couple of years after the grand opening, it was clear that Coeur d'Alene would be our "home" so we looked for a bigger, permanent house for our family. We settled on a 4000 sq ft home with nearly an acre of land located on the lake with a swimming pool and a basketball court. This was quite a step up from what we were used to. But, over half of the house went unused. We were always hanging out in the kitchen, the family room or our bedrooms. I remember walking into our formal living room and dining room and feeling uncomfortable because it did not feel lived in. Unless we were practicing piano, no one liked being in there. We had one t.v. but no cable (my mom didn't believe in it) so we had maybe 4 fuzzy channels to choose from. We did have a "Nintendo" but only a handful of games. My sister I spent a lot of time outdoors, riding our bikes all over town, playing sports, reading, and volunteering at the local hospital. We also had many responsibilities at home since my parents were always working. In addition to household chores, I was in charge of baby-sitting my little sister, helping her with homework, defending her against bullies (it was not easy being one of the only Asian kids in North Idaho), and also working at the restaurant. I look back on my childhood with fond memories and am thankful my parents encouraged us to learn new skills, develop a good work ethic, and taught us to conserve and save-- monetarily and thus, ecologically. These are the things that stand out in my childhood. Not toys or fancy birthday parties or media rooms.

I know that the American way is to "go big" but I am actually quite content in my 1800 sq ft home. I don't have a playroom, or a theater, or a wine cellar, or even a formal living room. Would I like to have a bigger house and have all those extra rooms? Sometimes. But then I think about the additional cleaning, money, and maintenance involved and I'm glad I don't have to waste all that time taking care of rooms I don't need. It makes me happy that every single room in our house gets used.

What do I get for "sacrificing" more space? I get to live in a wonderful, close-knit neighborhood with small kids up and down our street. We're in a cul-de-sac so Owen can ride his bike and run around without worrying about traffic. Our fence opens up to a park right behind our house. We are 2 blocks to the grocery store, coffee shop, restaurants, and more. There is a trail system that runs throughout the entire 900 acre community along with pools, tennis courts, and parks. Our schools are some of the best in the nation and they're public. What more could I ask for?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Less is More

In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to pass along a post entitled, "Less is so much More" from my new favorite blogger and mentor. I was introduced to the Zero Waste Family 3 months ago while I was in Santa Cruz visiting my sister-in-law. She shared an article with me from Sunset magazine about this family in Northern California who produces nearly zero waste in their household. Just a small handful of garbage in 4 months. Furthermore, this family lives a beautiful, simple, and clutter-free lifestyle and because of this, they have time to enjoy the things that really matter... spending quality time with family and friends, enjoying nature, eating healthy food, and being respectful to our planet.

I was immediately inspired and along with my sister-in-law, started thinking about the many ways we could start reducing waste. We, like many others, had already stopped using plastic bags at the grocery store but wanted to find ways to do more. We decided the next step was to stop using paper towels and napkins completely and instead start using cloth wipes as well as cloth napkins at dinner. That weekend, Laura and I scoured the antique shops in Santa Cruz for vintage linen cocktail napkins and dish towels (besides being really cool, buying vintage or second-hand is a great way to recycle and reduce unnecessary resources on new products). My favorite cloths for wiping up spills are "Trader Joe's Super Amazing Kitchen Cloth". You get 2 in a pack and they hold up great in the wash and absorb lots of liquid (although they do shrink a bit after washing).

When I got home from my trip, I pitched the paper towel idea to my husband who was confused as to how this would work out. This was the person who probably used an entire roll of paper towels per day, just by himself. But...he was willing to give it a try and that's all I ask. We went cold turkey- we had maybe half a roll left and after that was gone, it was gone for good. For the past 3 months, my paper towel holder has been empty. I should just remove it from the wall but sometimes I like to look at it as a reminder of our zero-waste goal. Was it difficult? Absolutely not. Ask my husband. Every time I went to reach for a paper towel to dry my hands and it wasn't there, I just grabbed the kitchen towel that hangs right above my sink. Every time I went to grab a paper towel to clean up a spill, I opened up my kitchen drawer and used a cloth instead. Out of sight, out of mind. Seriously. I've since moved on to other zero-waste methods but I'll go into that in future posts. For now, I ask that you just consider trying something different.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa and Owen, Then & Now

Everyone has their favorite spot for Santa photos and ours is at Nordstrom in Bellevue. As you can see, we've been there the last 4 years and plan to continue the tradition. I love how the background remains the same but my little baby keeps changing and growing. I love how he responds to Santa differently each year, and how this year, he finally feels comfortable enough to sit on Santa's lap and express a genuine smile.

Owen and Santa talk about his Wish List.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Need

In preparation for our visit to Santa tomorrow, I asked Owen what he was going to ask for this year. He replied, "Ummm....Candy. Cars. And a suitcase."

"Okay, what else? "

He threw his hands up in exasperation and declared, "That's all I need!"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Naughty by Nature

O and I have been having some serious discussions lately about his behavior and whether or not Santa will be bringing him presents this year. He's having some difficulty listening to us and argues about every little thing...what to wear to school, which jammies to wear to bed, what plate to eat on, which shoe to put on first...I know the difference between asserting an opinion and just being argumentative and it's definitely the latter. He even argues with me about whether or not I love him.

Me: I love you Owen.

Owen: No you don't.

Me: Yes I do sweetheart.

Owen: NO YOU DON'T!!!!!

But wait...there's more....

Me: It's raining outside.

Owen: No it's not.

Me: Hey, you pushed me.

Owen: No I didn't.

Me: Please hang your coat up, it doesn't belong on the kitchen floor.

Owen: Yes it does.

Aaaand we could do this all night......

Big O has his own Elf named Georgie who watches over him and reports back to Santa each night. Kind of like Elf on a Shelf but we can't actually see Georgie. I knew he would never believe that a stuffed doll had enough clout to actually follow through with my threats, so it's better this way. Sometimes when things get really bad, I pull out my cell phone and "call" Georgie.

"'s Tammy... Owen's mom. Yes, I just wanted to let you know that Owen is not listening to me again...."

At this point, O is BEGGING for me to hang up the phone. It works like a charm. I have no idea what I will do once Christmas is over!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A story about hot chocolate

Last week I sent Scott out to the store to get us some hot chocolate. We had run out of our Ghiradelli mix and I was in the mood for a big cup of cocoa. He came back with a box of Swiss Miss packets. In his defense, I didn't actually specify which brand of hot chocolate I wanted, but assumed he would pick out something a little more...upscale. Anyway, I totally turned my nose up at him and scoffed, thinking to myself, "Hmmph! I can't believe he bought me Swiss Miss! My taste is much more refined than that!" I never did drink the hot chocolate. Not because I was protesting, but because I just never found time to sit down and enjoy it that evening.

Two nights ago, I was at my friend Jamie's house for a holiday party. She is known for her elaborate parties. She has great taste and always serves an impressive spread. I saw that she had prepared a thermos full of hot chocolate for us so I helped myself to a big cup. I can't pass up a moth to a flame. And it was delicious. Creamy, rich, but not too chocolatey. Just perfect. I must have drank 5 cups that night. This morning, I had a craving for Jamie's perfect hot chocolate, so I sent her a text asking what brand it was. I was prepared to drive all over town looking for this special cocoa.

She sent me a text back: "ha ha! Swiss Miss powder!"

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Spirit, continued...

People ask me all the time, "How can you have all those decorations out with a 3 year old boy running around??" Well... I can honestly say it's never been a problem. I know... considering how crazy and destructive he is with everything else, I would have never guessed, but O is super careful around everything and he always has been. I don't follow him around or scold him every second either, if that's what you're wondering :) I just tell him that he can look and touch gently but that they are not toys, and amazingly enough, he understands!

This year, I thought it would be really special for Owen to have his own small tree in his room. I knew I wanted to find something different...perhaps a vintage feather tree or a tinsel tree. I looked and looked for weeks and couldn't find anything. Finally, I gave up and bought him a cheesy 4 foot tree from Michaels. That evening, we went to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens for their Christmas d'lights show and I stopped in their gift shop to browse. I came across a new (but vintage looking) tinsel tree that was exactly what I had been searching for!

I've been saving a box of Scott's old ornaments from childhood and I knew this little tree would be the perfect backdrop for displaying those cherished items, as well as the ornaments I've been collecting for O each year. He was so excited..."A Christmas tree?? For ME??!!"

I love these old wooden ornaments.

How cute is this??!

A fishing pole!

This one was made by our friend Dana at MommyBrain

This is O's 2010 ornament from Mama :)

And these little piggies hanging out under the tree are from PoPo (Owen was born in the year of the Pig, just in case you were curious)

The other day, I was dropping off some clothes at the local thrift shop when I decided to look around. In their holiday section, they had a group of Christmas villages for sale. None of them matching but similar looking. They were all $2-3 a piece and I thought it would be cute to get a few and display them on the shelf in O's room where his dinosaurs normally reside. I also found a miniature horse and carriage as well as a tiny Santa that was perfect for the tiny village. For $25, I came away with all of this:

I think I'm done now...until next year :)