ENVIRONMENT, ESSENTIAL OILS

Revamping My Cleaning Regime

So many cleaning products have passed through my door. Many have made me wonder why on earth someone thought it would be a good idea. Results never work out the way I wanted them too. Either it fell short of my cleaning expectation or some other physical side effect such as a sore throat or having to hold my breath so I don’t pass out. I’m extra sensitive to all those intense ingredients, perhaps more than your average person. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

There is a surge of healthier and environmentally friendly products in response to the demand for alternatives to keeping our spaces clean. In conjunction with that there are so many ways that you can make your own products. People are taking matters into their own hands and coming up with their own designs, tweaking and personalizing recipes. I started switching out my items by slowly replacing them with my own concoctions.

The most obvious one to go in this house was glass and counter cleaners. I buy a lot of vinegar these days! By adding essential oils you add extra cleaning properties plus it leaves the room filled with natural fragrance.

The All Purpose Mixture

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 – 20 drops of Essential Oils (some good ones for cleaning are Lime, Lemon, Orange, Onguard, Tea Tree)

Tables and counters: I use this on counter tops and for spot cleaning small messes on the floor. I mix it in a spray bottle and keep it handy.

Appliances: This is great for giving everything from your stove to your fridge, a quick wipe down. For a deeper clean and to dissolve tough food stains try adding baking soda or soap.

Floors: A micro-fiber mop with a solution attachment works great to do the floors. The same mixture can be used. The nice thing about this is you can sometimes get extra bottles. You can mix something different in each and swap the bottles depending on your need or mood.

ENVIRONMENT, Simple Switches

Litterless Lunchbox – (yogurt)

One less item in my daughters lunch box that goes to the recycling bin.

Lately I have stopped purchasing those individual yogurt containers and fill a small one up for her to bring to school. This simple switch was easier than I thought! She had no qualms about not having the cute flashy packaging, I have no qualms about the extra little cup to wash. So what is the deal – why did it take so long for me to do this? I was the one who did the shopping and made the decision that she would be more likely to eat it if she had a lunch that looked like her friends. I decided when I was shopping that it would be convenient. She still eats her yogurt everyday, it takes me a few extra seconds to pack it in her lunch box and wash it at the end of the day (I am washing dishes anyway).

By doing this: There is one less plastic container in the school recycling bin each day.

By doing this: I save in cost as the packs usually cost more.

By doing this: One by one it will gradually influence others in their choices. The more common it is to have people do this the better.


Update: One thing I changed since then is sending the small mason jars for things like the yogurt and fruit cups. My daughter actually thinks these are super cute and enjoys using them! I can’t believe it took me so long to use them for this reason because I have them already and have been using them for spices and small food storage for a while now. I guess thinking that she was so young I was nervous sending the weight plus the glass into school with her. She is getting older now and more responsible with things like that.  Those mason jars are quite thick and the small ones are pretty light.  They do sell silicone covers if I am ever so inclined.

FOOD, Recipes

Chickpeas! Made from Scratch

My newest pressure cooker adventure is cooking my own chickpeas instead of using the canned ones. I still keep some cans around for backup for those days when a recipe calls for them and I don’t have any made. I find a batch will keep in the fridge and I take what I need out of it as I go. In my instant pot I can make it in about 40 minutes from start to finish. Actually it’s a bit longer considering the heat up and cook down period so I have to plan an extra hour if I need it that day. It sure beats having to pre-soak and useuse st or slow cooker. Oh and the flavour! Much more intense than the cans.

I find a ratio of 1:3 works well. In this description I’ll double this because usually that will last a few days.

Here is how it goes:

  • rinse 2 cups of raw chickpeas and add to pot (pick out and sad looking ones)
  • add 6 cups of water
  • cover and adjust the manual timer to 35 minutes.
  • make sure the steam release is closed. I have forgotten to check before and wondered why the pressure would not build up. The cooker will just hiss away until it is closed.
  • After it finishes beeping at the end let it naturally cool down so you keep the flavours in.
  • I use a slotted spoon to transfer them into a container to go right in the fridge. Most of the water will be gone but there will be some left that can be turned into a fantastic soup. Last night I just added water, some chicken pieces that I had in the freezer, rice, and made a yummy congee snack for later. It would make a great base for a lot of dishes so you could also keep it in a glass jar in the fridge for a few days.

By doing this:

  1. I save in the cost
  2. I save the time
  3. I save the salt
  4. I have one less can to recycle

Buy doing this I add flavour and nutrients to my recipes!

ENVIRONMENT, Simple Switches

Making Hand-Soap

This goes on my list Simple Switches. There are benefits to making your own soap. I could take it a step further and make my own bars if I want to get even more environmentally friendly but at this time this is what I am willing to do. For years I have been purchasing large containers of soap and refilling our pumps. I bought one of a bottle I liked and just kept refilling.

  • Dr. Brommer’s unscented pure-Castile soap: 1 part (this works out to 2 tbsp)
  • Spring or distilled water – 10 parts (1 & 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • Wild orange essential oil (or any other preference)
  • Good soap dispenser

It is that easy! A bottle of Brommer’s goes such a long way.  It is super concentrated and when diluting it myself I can play around with the ratio a bit. I also has so many other uses although I haven’t tried them yet.

In retrospect I would find a glass dispenser but I can’t bring myself to buy a new one when the plastic one that I am reusing is working fine. Until it breaks or something … a great replacement will be one of my mason jars with a replacement lid with a pump.  A note about the essential oils – they are not necessary but if you do appreciate the aroma or want to give it an extra boost during flu and cold season it’s a great way. I have found it does not bother my sensitivities.

The real reason I want to do this is because with my skin and the amount I wash my hands they have taken a beating. They’re dry and are prone to eczema breakouts. Plus the older I get the more worn my hands are starting to look. Mom was right. She always told me to look after my hands, always wear dish washing gloves and moisturize.

Many of the ready made ones in the stores are perfumed and irritated my skin. I considered searching and trying different brands but the cost and wastage (when products fail me) seemed impractical. Basic is best! Our last batch ran out and we had a small amount of what I used before left so I wanted to use it up. For a couple of weeks my hands were itchy and red and particularly dry. I developed dark spots and had a regiment of having to lather on some of my serious “wonder creams” throughout the day. I switched back to the Brommer’s a couple of days ago and do I really feel the difference!

DECLUTTERING

Counter Space

A constant source of aggravation for me is always having very little to no table space. I am continuously having to move things over to make room to work whether it is preparation for meals, eating, work or a place to set down a book.  I realized this was a problem long ago but it wasn’t until my daughter came along that I saw the real negative implications of this habit. I call it a habit because it was really just procrastination of putting things away.  Things are always just being set down to put away “later”. The problem with this is that later comes much-later, most likely during a cleaning blitz that I feel forced into and resent. Housework and maintenance should not be so negative.  I don’t want that for my family.  I want to provide an environment that is comfortable – not with the noise and chaos of clutter.

The Decluttering Plan

I tried some different approaches already.  I tried focusing on an area of the house. I tried dividing it into sections like kitchen supplies, office supplies, clothing, etc. – you get the drift. They all worked for a bit but then I lost steam.  That’s OK because I figure as long as I keep going, slow as it may be, it will gradually turn into a lifestyle. My approach these days is to keep reminding myself to be ruthless in my decision of whether a particular item stays or goes – yes or no. The yes is fine and if I am right it will find a home. The no’s are another story and post, but it must go out the door.

My biggest stumbling block is distraction.  Sometimes it is a physical interruption such as a call, text or email I need to deal with or some sort of mom duty – even letting the dog outside.  More than likely it is me getting stumped by “where do I put this”, or “should it be donated or tossed in the trash?”

And then my train of thought is off … rambling down the tracks.

This brings me to my next big block which is not to be wasteful. I have trouble carelessly filling up our landfills with things that are not broken. I am always wanting to pass things on somehow but sometimes junk is junk and other times it can be put to good use by someone else. So I have to decide whether it truly is trash or worth something to another.

And again, my train of thought is off.

Minimizing our stuff is all about discovering what we want to have around you – getting rid of all the excess. I am by no means looking to be a minimalist. I won’t get into it right now but I recognize that there is a difference. What I want is to just be thoughtful about the choices we make and the materials that buy.

I made this list of some of the reasons I have been drawn into this idea of minimizing/purging/decluttering/simplifying. They overlap and are integrated with each other. I don’t really think you can have one without the other, but for the sake of the list here it is.

  1. Healthy body
  2. Healthy mind
  3. Family
  4. Organization
  5. The environment
FOOD, Recipes

An Alphaghetti Taste-alike

In my search for lunch ideas that a 7 year old would be happy to have in their lunch I have come up with this version of the infamous Heinz Alphaghetti that kids love so much. These ingredients are all items which I usually have on hand. Bonus! I will get right to it.

You will need:

  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • clove of garlic (or garlic powder)
  • oregano
  • cilantro
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • pasta
Go that extra step and use organic and fresh whole ingredients if you wish, but I am just pleased to have an alternative with less sodium, additives and without the can.
In a pot blend together all ingredients except the cheese.
Boil the broth, tomato sauce, garlic, coriander, oregano, and cheese. Simmer over medium heat to cook the garlic and thicken a bit. If your kids like their sauce thicker either use cornstarch blended with broth or water and add it to the sauce or adjust the amount of cheese. I find when you cook the pasta in the sauce it brings the starches out anyway. The cheese thickens and adds tasty creamy texture so you can always play around with how much you add.
If you are eating it right away add the pasta and cook for about 7 minutes. otherwise you can portion the sauce out in glass containers and freeze it or keep it in the fridge for the next few days.
I found because the pasta will keep absorbing the sauce even after it is cooked it works best for me if I just cook enough for that days lunch portion and add it before it goes in the soup flask.