Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer mornings

The Baby Beast and I have been enjoying our mornings the last month or so. Husbeast has an early morning, summer session of Chemistry this summer, so he's out of the house by 7:30am (right around when the BB and I are waking up).

The baby and I stumble to the bathroom with tousled hair and blurry eyes and use our respective toilets, then after popping a new diaper onto him, he and I head out the back door to the backyard.

I usually have some laundry project to work on, like stuffing the pockets of his diapers. That, and a cup of coffee, helps me relax slowly into the day while the baby makes the rounds of the backyard.

Some mornings, I like to let him do some water play. He loves pouring and experimenting with water, and I love to let him have the freedom to do it - when he's outside (no need to get into the stories of him 'experimenting' with the dog's water dish).

While I stuff diapers (and snap pictures), he learns about gravity and water flow and I can't imagine what else, busily moving water from one place to another, and often pouring most of it down his front.

All good things come to an end, though, and eventually he runs out of water (and patience), leaving his project behind.

And every morning, once he's wearied himself in exploring the yard and yelling at the birds and wiggling his fingers through the fence at the dogs next door, he ends up splayed across my lap, still a baby at heart despite his huge toddler size, nursing to center himself and process everything he's learned that morning.

How do your mornings start?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Minimize #1

Image from Getty Images

I've been putting a lot of thought into a minimalist lifestyle lately. For me, living a minimalist life would mean being less of a consumer (which we all know I'm against on principle, simply because consuming on a finite planet cannot lead to happy things - for more on that, visit The Story of Stuff). It would also mean streamlining our busy, cluttered, sometimes too-much-to-handle life.

While a lot of families may not follow the traditional woman-actually-runs-the-household set-up, we in the Beastly household certainly do. I keep track of my appointments, the Husbeast's appointments, the Baby Beast's appointments... and do nearly all the laundry (occasionally, the Husbeast helps fold and hang clothes) and definitely make nearly all the meals (unless my sister-outlaw decides to share one of her truly gourmet creations).

So, there is a lot of pressure on me to keep things moving smoothly forward, and there are days when I spend most of my day tripping over the piles of things that seem to inevitably gather in the perimeters of the rooms (and, occasionally, in the walkways).

The first step for me on moving toward a more minimalistic existence was to clear out our over-burdened closet.

I won't bore you with the details, except to say that I had letters from ex-boyfriends I hadn't spoken to in ten years buried in there. Those, along with shoes I fit into pre-pregnancy, made up the bulk of the closet clutter. Clearing all that out (recycling the letters and donating the donatable shoes to Goodwill) opened up a lot of space in the closet floor and shelves.

Today, I went through and cleared out my clothes. Here's the realistic thing about clothes: you honestly don't need more pairs of socks, underwear, pants, whatever than you will conceivably wear before wash day. If you do laundry once a week, you would need eight pairs of socks, maximum. I generally wash clothes twice a week (because the laundry of two adults and one very messy toddler tends to pile up quickly), so I have pared my underthings down to groups of six, just in case I go a few days over.

I also got rid of most of the clothes I haven't worn in the last few months. This meant clearing out around ten shirts and six pairs of pants. The room on my half of the closet is amazing - I can actually move clothes again! The hangers go more than a 1/4 inch!

All the clothes were donated to Goodwill, and I'm truly hoping that someone out there will have a use for the perfectly useable pants and shirts that I frankly was not using.

Now, I have to convince the Husbeast that he doesn't truly need twelve logo T-shirts...

For more on minimalist lifestyles, check out Rowdy Kittens or The Simple Rabbit Society. If you don't feel you have the time to really read about minimalist living, then try the fast track and read through the eHow of How to Begin Living a Minimalist Lifestyle.

Next on my list is decluttering the back bedroom. Considering it has been a catch-all for junk for the last two years, it may take some doing...

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Image from GettyImages

I've become very concerned lately about the toxic lifestyle we've been living. No, we don't huff from aerosol cans or take illegal drugs or regularly play in nuclear waste... but that doesn't stop us from getting a regular, depressing dose of poison.

For example, let's say you use hairspray. The likelihood of it containing pthalates - which have been found in conjunction with damage to the kidneys, liver, lungs, and reproductive organs and have been found concentrated in breastmilk - is very high. Just that one source alone, used daily, exposes you and the rest of your family to extremely dangerous toxins. And that's not mentioning things like commercial deodorants, perfumes, air fresheners, nail polish, hair gels, shampoos and conditioners, lotions, eye make-up, concealers... the list is endless, because in America a product had to be proven, through multiple tests, that it is poisonous before it will be taken off the market. Compare that to the UK, where a product must be proven to be non-toxic before it is allowed on the market. Scary. (this is not to say the UK is toxin-free... just that the US is more toxic by comparison)

So, recently I began feeling pushed to try and limit the amount of toxic substances I willingly bring into the house or put on my body. There are some sources I can't avoid - the new carpet and living room furniture that are out-gassing formaldehyde, for example - but there are some that I can, and that is where the 'Poo-less hair-cleaning, natural homemade deodorant, and organic soap came into the picture. I also use a non-toxic hairspray and have started cleaning all the hard, non-porous surfaces (like countertops, toilet seats, sinks, tables) with nothing but white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, which work just as well - if not better - than pretty much every commercial cleanser on the market, without the pesky side-effect of dangerous chemicals being left all over surfaces that your skin will be in contact with.

I think Earth Motherhood summed the problem up well. In fact, why not head over to her blog, and check it out? Living in a World Where Everything Is Toxic

And once you've read her blog, if you're still interested in learning about the toxins in your life, what you can cut back on to preserve you health, try visiting your local library to see if they carry "Green Housekeeping" by Ellen Sandbeck, a guide to everything around you house that is probably poisoning you and causing everything from headaches to stomach upset to persistent allergy symptoms.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How do we No 'Poo?

Since the No 'Poo/'Poo-Free Method is working so well for the Husbeast and I, I thought it was time for a much more detailed post about how we do it.

We went cold turkey into the No 'Poo Method.... we didn't do anything like go a week without washing our hair, or go a week using nothing but conditioner on our hair. We just started using baking soda and apple cider vinegar and didn't look back.

My usual mix is 1/4 cup of baking soda per 1 cup of water. The container we put our mix into holds about 2 cup, so we put in roughly 1/2 cup of baking soda, then add water. This usually lasts for two washes for each of us (so, four hair washes per mix) before we have to refill it. I've more-or-less stopped measuring now, and just refill it in the shower by shaking what looks like the right amount of baking soda into the container and adding water straight from the shower head.

The apple cider vinegar mix is approximately 1 Tbsp ACV to 1 cup of water. Once again, the container we use holds 2 cup of water so I do approx 2 Tbsp of ACV. Since I'm not a big fan of the smell of ACV, I also add 2-3 sticks of cinnamon and a little vanilla extract. After soaking for a day or so, the mix smells more like cinnamon and vanilla than ACV.

A good look at the cinnamon sticks in the mix

The smell of vinegar SHOULD wash away when you rinse your hair... if it doesn't, you might be using a little too much ACV in your mix.

So here's the usual wash cycle: get hair wet in regular shower temperature water. Shake up the bottle of baking soda and water, and apply to your hair (I use one hand to pour and the other hand to scrub my scalp to insure the mix is getting over my entire scalp). Massage mixture into your scalp well, and allow to sit for a few minutes (I take this time to soap up and wash my body with my new addiction, LuSa Organics soap). Rinse well with warm to warm-hot water, massaging your scalp under running water to rinse all the baking soda out.

This is the patchouli, orange, and lavender blend and it's fantastic!

Apply the ACV mixture to your scalp. I usually find this part shockingly cold, after being under the warm water, but after the initial pouring, I adjust. Allow this to sit another three or so minutes (i wash my face and just enjoy the warm water). Finish by rinsing with lukewarm to cool water (this closes the hair shaft, and should be the last step in ANY shower, no matter what products you use to clean your hair). Rinse well to insure you are getting the ACV out of your hair (otherwise you will smell it any time you sweat, she says with the bitter voice of experience).

That's all there is to it! Yes, you do much more scalp massage using baking soda and ACV than you do with commercial cleansers, but here's the scary thing: most commercial shampoos and conditioners contain carcinogens. Yes, cancer-causing chemicals. And your skin - including your scalp - is the largest organ in or on your body, so why would you want to rub carcinogens all over yourself?

For more information on the toxins in beauty and personal care products, I will turn the mic over to EcoMall.

I can definitely attest to how successful this 'Poo-Free experiment is... my hair looks fantastic.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lazy days

There is nothing quite like sitting outside on a summer evening, watching the light slowly fading while the Baby Beast toddles around the backyard, chattering and burbling to himself. He checks in with me occasionally, tossing me a smile or a flail of his arms, but for the most part he is content to wander around doing his own thing. I trust him to come to me when he needs me, and I keep an eye on him at a distance to give him freedom of choice without giving him 100% freedom to do something dangerous.

So I sit on the porch step, browsing through my favorite blogs and news updates, contemplating if I should try the new homemade deodorant recipe that I found, digesting a dinner of sprouted pinto beans and raw avocado on the side. Is there such a thing as true bliss? I suppose I might've found something pretty close to it.