Vinegar with a Twist

I had plans of having a few things ready to post while I was gone.  They’d automatically pop up while we were out having our fun vacation.

And then I thought, what if our vacation ends up not being fun?  What if the boat pulls a Titanic, and we die, and then a blog post from me pops up?  How creepy would that be??

Unlikely, I know, but after thinking that, I thought it’d be better to just wait until I got back.

Just in case.

Well luckily we all made it home safely, so I can tell you all about the vinegar I had working for me while I was gone.   

I have been on ‘Team Vinegar’ for awhile now.  There are a number of factors that led to my choosing to use more natural products in our home, but I first started cleaning with vinegar when we lived in Hawaii.  I think something about living in a place where it is so easy to notice and focus on nature makes you more mindful of the world around you.

I love cleaning with vinegar.  Why?  A few simple reasons.

1.  You can eat vinegar.  So anything that ends up on the counter is 100% chemical free. Exhibit A:

Shortly after my husband came home today (which was shortly after I cleaned the kitchen), I found this. He didn’t know the counters had just been cleaned, and it didn’t matter.

2. It is super duper cheap.  You can’t beat the price, especially if you are comparing it to the more “eco-friendly” cleaners for purchase.

3. It is baby-safe. I was talking with a friend one day who was complaining about how she had to clean the bathroom while her son was napping. No way, napping is “ME” time, not cleaning time. He can run around the bathroom while I’m cleaning and I don’t have to worry about it being harmful to him.

Now, I’ve been using vinegar for long enough that the smell doesn’t bother me.  For general cleaning purposes (aka everything), I dilute it with water, using equal parts of each.  You can definitely smell it, but it dissipates so quickly as it dries that it doesn’t bother me.

But of course it would be better if it smelled good too!  Since Simon has a certain penchant for oranges, I made a point of supreming him some orange slices for the car ride.

Soon, I had a plate full of orange slices, orange juice, and orange peels.  Lots of orange peels.  So I decided I would tick one of my “to-try” ideas off my list, which is citrus vinegar.

This is three pint jars filled with the rinds of 2 oranges, and plain white vinegar.  It sat for two weeks, and I used it today in the same ratio as the plain vinegar to clean the house (kitchens, bathrooms, toilets, floors, etc).  Its nice! Not necessary on a regular basis, but this is a great use of leftover citrus peels if you’ve got them!

Have you ever tried cleaning with vinegar?  Have you made another variety of vinegar cleaner that I should try?

If you haven’t tried it, you should (I feel like ‘Sam I Am‘ saying that)!  Try it, try it, you will see!  It works just as good, if not better, than other cleaners I’ve tried, and even you aren’t a frugal shopper (I am definitely not), you can’t beat the cost.

A Wreath Full of Peeps

I just plain love Peeps.  Every year my husband (and others) tell me how gross they are.  In his words “They just don’t seem like food”.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re just a sugar covered marshmallow.  What’s not to love?

Generally, I do try to avoid marshmallows and all gelatin, but I definitely admit to slipping in Peeps around this time of the year.  I just can’t resist those day glow yellow chicks.  At the very least, I’ve stopped eating the Peeps they now make for Halloween, Christmas, Valentines’ Day, etc.  Well, unless someone buys them for me.  Most people know that I love Peeps though, so I can’t say I’m never gifted them.  I’ve even gotten the occasional box that already has a slit cut in it because I like them stale (I’m not the only one!).

Anyway, this year I am seeing Easter decorations involving Peeps, everywhere.  I figure this satisfies both the Peeps lovers and haters.  The haters get to poke them with sticks, scald them with hot glue, and leave them out to get rock hard and really inedible.  While the Peeps lovers get a lovely reminder of their favorite treat, and get to eat the leftovers.

Some examples included traditional yellow chicks, some multicolored chicks, some multicolored bunnies.  Some had mounds of Peeps, others lined them up in neat rows.  I kept mine nice and simple, and tried not to waste too many Peeps in the process.

I kept it all yellow, but went with bunnies.  Because, they’re kind of cuter.  Yes, the chicks are signature, but those bunnies just look so friendly.  Perfect to hang on the door to say, “Welcome, we love Spring”!

I wrapped a foam wreath with glossy brown ribbon, then hot glued my Peeps on.

I thought it’d be a good idea to do this in the garage.  I’m not really sure why, but it worked out, because I was able to glue my Peeps while Simon played with his new favorite ball.

He is pretty sturdy standing up now, and is walking (very) short distances.  I still wouldn’t call him a walker, but it seems like any day now he is just going to run away from me(!!).

After some playtime, I found some leftover ribbon, and hung my Peeps proudly on the front door.

I thought about ways to preserve my Peeps, because I wanted to save my wreath.  I searched for awhile, and didn’t find much in the way of Peeps preservation.  The best that I came up with was that they dried up so rock hard that they should last wrapped up in a plastic bag anyway (I suppose that proves my husband’s point in some way).  I did find plenty of people worried about ants and other bugs getting into the Peeps.  Gross.  I am hoping that our storm door will protect the Peeps from most buggy creatures.

I am so excited about my Peeps wreath, that I am considering making some other kind of Peeps decoration for our Easter party.  Easter is my favorite holiday.  I told you I really like spring, that is part of it.  Why I like Easter:  I like looking for my present, I like candy (specifically sugary candy like Peeps and jelly beans), I like Easter egg hunts, I like egg salad sandwiches (we always had tchristmasvhese after we dyed our Easter eggs), and I like that it is usually warm enough to wear a cute dress.  I also like that it doesn’t have the same pressure that there is around Christmastime.  Sorry Christmas.

This year we will mainly be celebrating Easter with our playgroup friends, and then the actual holiday with just my husband and Simon.  I have such fond Easter memories, I do wish we were going to see our family, but we have a lot of traveling in our immediate future, and it is just too much driving for a little boy.

Do you love or hate Peeps?  Have you ever made anything with them (or conducted any experiments?)?  Does anyone else love Easter?  I can’t wait for Simon’s first real Easter egg hunt!  Perhaps by then, he’ll be toddling around with the bigger kids!

Love my Peeps!

Moon Jars

This was not my idea.  I am not that creative.  I like recipes, patterns, and craft tutorials.  Perhaps this is why I am so fond of Pinterest.  Yes, that’s right, I found this on Pinterest, too (you can’t be surprised).

Anyway, the original was the Sun Jar, but mine came out to have more of a cool, rather than warm, tint to them, so I’m calling them my Moon Jars.

I admit, when I pinned this, I thought it was so cool but I would never ever do it.  Then while out and about one day, we dropped by the dollar store.  And right in front of me was a huge display of solar lights.  For a DOLLAR.  So I picked one up, just to test it.  After all, you can’t always test dollar store quality.

It worked.  Then, I got excited.  The next day I went back to the dollar store and bought 5 more.  Simon and I continued on to WalMart where we got a bunch of jars with glass lids.  Then, we stopped.  I couldn’t find the frosted glass spray paint.  I’m sure it has to exist somewhere, but not where I was looking, and the people I asked looked at me like I was nuts.  So I went to the always-trusted Amazon, and found some paint-on frosted glass paint.  I thought this would be easier.  But, that was only because for some reason I had it in my head that I would have to paint the inside.  Spray painting the inside evenly seemed hard.  After doing the first one, my husband pointed out that it would be much easier to do the outside.  It was so obvious.  And it would have been so much easier with spray paint.  The only upside to painting, rather than spraying, is that you can bake the glassware, and then it is dishwasher safe.  I highly doubt these will ever need to go through a dishwasher though.  In fact, we don’t even own a dishwasher (yet?).

Regardless, I still think they still came out well.  I used Gorilla glue to attach the solar light to the lid of the jar.  You can use any type of adhesive that works with glass though.

And just for the record, hot glue does not work.  I read a few different sources say it does work, and a few say it didn’t, and I agree with the latter.

Gorilla glue needs some time to set, but after about an hour, they were set, it was dark, and my Moon Jars were ready to be tested.

A big one on the front porch.

A small one inside by the back door.

I haven’t done much (camera phone) nighttime photography, so the graininess was just inevitable.  They work really well though!  I do have plans for the other four, they all will have their own nice sunny spot to occupy around the house.

Chalk that up to as another Pinterest success story (and it has since been added to the “I Did This” board).  My house is just becoming more and more crafty every week.

State of the Family

While this blog isn’t dedicated to keeping my extended family updated on what we are up to, the fact is, a lot of family and friends read it. And because we aren’t close to them, and don’t see them as often as we might like, I thought it might be nice to do a general update about how things are going with everyone around here lately.

Simon: Yesterday, Simon officially turned 13 months old! We are done with the onesie pictures, and I honestly didn’t realize until the day was almost over. Silly February being such a short month, threw me off.  I still haven’t updated my watch with the correct date.

Some of Simon’s most exciting news is that he had his first swim class this past week! He was so cute in the pool, he loves the water, loves bathtime, so we had a feeling it would be a hit. He was the wettest baby there, he was splashing and playing and having so much fun. Plus we got to see some friends we hadn’t seen in awhile, and meet some new friends.

He has started taking steps here and there. We met someone today at the library who couldn’t believe that he wasn’t walking, because he moves around so fast. But really, he still stands up, crawls over, stands up, cruises, crawls over, stands up, etc. He is a very mobile guy; on the go, all the time. His 12 month Dr appointment was last week, he is still pretty low on the weight percentages, and with how active he is, I don’t expect that to change.

He is still a great eater though! My friends with slightly older kids are always telling me to be ready for that to change, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. I’m sure he will have a picky phase at some point, but I don’t have to look forward to it! He loved his dinner tonight, which was something that every vegetarian probably tries at least once. Recipes for it pop up in multiple books I own, and it has definitely been featured in many of the magazines I subscribe to. The simple, classic, Red Lentil Pasta Sauce.

We actually have never tried any version of this before. The lentils are meant to be a substitute to chunky meat based sauces, and they do add some nice texture. I thought I would be creative and wing it, and..well I did wing it, but it wasn’t creative. I had a jar of pasta sauce, I had lentils. I cooked a cup of lentils, added the pasta sauce, threw in some extra seasoning, and called it a dinner. Simon loves gnocchi, and these are made with sweet potato and whole wheat flour, so it makes me feel like I’m giving him something healthier than plain dried pasta (not that he doesn’t eat his fair share of that).

We also put his crib in our room shortly after his first birthday (the following day, actually).  It is nestled up against ours, as a sidecar, so he is still close to Mommy and Daddy, but not too close.  He might not be the biggest baby around, but our queen size bed was getting a little snug.  So far he is loving it!  While he does still end up in our bed sometimes, he mostly prefers his own space.  There are plenty of times that he will be in bed with me, and will crawl over into his crib and fall back to sleep.  I’m really hoping that it will better prepare him for being in his own bed, in his own room.  Which we are hoping to accomplish before his second birthday.  I know that will be an adventure though, so when the time comes, I’m hoping to make it as gentle a transition as possible.

Daddy: Speaking of adventures, my husband is gearing up for one as well. Obviously due to the nature of his job I have to be somewhat vague, but we are really excited and proud of him! He has a lot more responsibility, which means longer hours and more stress, but it is a great opportunity for him.

The weather has been nice, so on his days off he has been taking care of some house maintenance.  Of course we were back to 10 degrees and frozen pipes today, but it should warm up again by mid week. Oh, and his birthday is coming up! Next week he will be so old. Unfortunately he is going to be away on his birthday, so we will get to celebrate the weekend before.  I see cookie cake in our future.

Mommy: Not that Daddy’s birthday isn’t important, but my birthday is this month also! It’s really kind of fun having everyone’s birthdays close together.  I’m also really excited for Easter.  I know that isn’t until April, but its always pretty close to my birthday, so I kind of think of them together.

I have been trying really hard to stick with a menu plan, but it isn’t working so well. Does anyone else have this problem? I make a menu, buy the food, and then I don’t want to make what I thought sounded yummy a few days prior.

Our gym visits are still not regular, although we get there at least once a week. That makes me cringe, we used to almost every day! Last time I took him, he screamed as soon as we walked in the door, although he was apparently fine while I was gone. I am still going to keep trying to go with him in the morning to get my short cardio workout in, but I’m also going to start an “at home” program tomorrow. My husband has been trying to get me to start doing something at home for months. Many months. Since Simon was born. I just wasn’t interested in the things he wanted to do. I finally found something I wanted to do though, and I think I can stick with it. I’m going to start it tomorrow, I’ll keep you updated.

Mommy with friends.

Other than that, Simon and I spend a lot of our time with friends, or making new friends. Most weeks, we have something planned every day. Today Simon’s Grammy visited, and we still went to storytime at the library and had playtime. This kid adores the library.

Simon with toys.

I’d like to think that I have a little bookworm on my hands, but as much as he does enjoy being read too….he’s really just there for the toys.

Everyone:  I almost forgot our most exciting news!!  We are going on our first family vacation!  In a few weeks we will be boarding a big old boat and cruising to the Bahamas for a week to relax.  This is Simon’s first ever vacation, and really our first vacation that we’ve gone on by ourselves.  We went on a few little 4 day trips when we lived in Hawaii, and we have been on vacations with both of our families, but never just us.  All the vacations we have taken with our families are wonderful, and I’m sure there will be more in the future, but it is really exciting to be doing something this “big” with just us.

If you are looking to keep up with us on a more regular basis, check out the Facebook page for our blog!  This applies to everyone visiting, as I said, this isn’t meant to be a family blog.  But if you are coming here from my personal Facebook page, you’re only seeing about 10% of our posts!

So that, is pretty much what is going on with us.  Nothing too terribly exciting, but we are having fun!

Make More Bread

Breadmaking, is an art form.  Once practiced, you will just know when bread has risen enough.  The feel of the perfectly kneaded dough will instinctively tell you, to stop.  When the crust darkens to a sumptuous golden brown, you will remove it and have perfect golden homemade sandwich bread.  You will be able to slice it into perfect dense but springy slices, and make lovely sandwiches with it for your family all week.

Unfortunately, I do not have this knowledge yet.  But this week I did start on one of my New Year’s Resolutions, to bake more bread this year.  I thought I was using a fairly simple recipe, but it was a bit of a flop.

First, came the King Arthur Flour 100% Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

Everything was mixed, kneaded, and rose.  It all seemed to be going well.

After rising the second time

I was fairly happy when it first came out of the oven.  It looked like bread.

With almond butter for breakfast

After it was cooled and I was able to slice into it, it was obvious that all was not right with this bread.  It was dry and crumbly.  It doesn’t taste bad, we have been eating it.  It is just nothing like sandwich bread.

 

Hummus and tomato "sandwich"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I do like having homemade bread, since I don’t give Simon too much of the store-bought variety. In fact, I’ve only very recently started giving him wheat products at all, since they were bothering him tummy previously.

So I will just keep working on it!  If anyone has bread-making tips, or loved recipes, I am open to any type of suggestions.  My hopes are that this December, I will be able to return to this post and laugh at this first loaf of bread, and gloat at how far I’ve come.

If not, maybe I’ll be getting a bread machine for Christmas.

Baby vs Toddler

When Simon was a teeny tiny, I wondered when you stopped identifying their age in weeks.  You don’t really hear anyone say that their baby is 39 weeks old, right?  So when would it stop?

3 months, that’s when it stops.

Now, I periodically wonder when you stop identifying their age in months.  I’m assuming after 2 years.  Definitely by 3.  But I wouldn’t know yet, we aren’t there yet.

Where we are though, is on the cusp of a different type of child identification:  Baby vs. Toddler.

As Simon approaches the one year mark, people have started to say things like “welcome to having a toddler”, or “aren’t toddlers so much fun?”.  But what makes him a toddler?  He doesn’t walk yet, he barely talks.  He doesn’t wave bye-bye, and he still chews on everything.

Then yesterday, I happened upon this:  

 

That little guy is a Topzy Tumbler (accompanied by orange block).  Simon loves them, and this one is his favorite.  He’s been on the “Missing Toys” list since Christmas.

Later that night, things got better.  Or worse.  I guess it depends on your perspective:

Worse, for me.  Now I have to clean the whale…well.  Better for the whale.  Being a water dwelling creature and a bath toy, he probably enjoyed it.

Minutes later, I went to take Simon’s diapers out of the wash:

This little tiger must’ve been dropped in the diaper pail, unbeknownst to me.  He took a few spins through the washing machine, so at least I can assume he is clean!

Each of these made me laugh, pretty hard.  Maybe bbecause it is still the beginning.  The beginning of what?

Having a toddler!

I’m pretty sure toddler must mean “able to get into mischief”.  No walking, talking, or waving required.  It’s fun, crazy, and a little scary to see my baby growing into a little toddler.  If nothing else, things are certainly going to be getting a bit more interesting!

Balance

Laundry, knitting, cleaning, playdates, working out, blogging, sewing, buying Christmas presents, wrapping presents, making appointments, upholding appointments, cooking, making presents, laundry.

I know, I said laundry twice, there is always an opportunity for laundry.

This is a (not comprehensive) list of everything I want or need to get done in the upcoming days and weeks.

There is never enough time for everything, is there?  At the dawn of this upcoming week I have been thinking a lot about trying to find balance in my life.  What is the most important, and how to put some priority to things that I don’t necessarily want to do.  And of course alone time, husband time, and baby time are factored in amongst all of this as well.

I’ve had a couple of projects that I just haven’t been able to get done, and I think it’s really gnawing at me.  I’m going to have less help than usual this week too, so I can’t even see how any of it is going to get done.

Anyway, someone else has been getting much better at balancing than I have.  My goal for this week is to get one thing done every day that I don’t want to do.  For now, I’ll just leave you with hopes that I, as well as you all, can get most of your to-do list done!

Dirty Oven?

We had a small disaster on Thanksgiving. Let me paint the scene:

We had just gotten back from our Thanksgiving Day Run.  Adrenaline pumping, I went straight to the kitchen to start out next endurance event.  Thanksgiving dinner.  Simon sat on the floor in the kitchen eating a clementine. I whipped out my Thanksgiving cooking timeline and set to work: Make Cornbread. Send husband to get eggs to make Cornbread. Defrost Gravy. Set the bag in a pot of hot water. Check. Slice Cranberry Sauce. Check. Heat Soup. Well, a little early for that, removed from the refrigerator and set on the stove. Not burners are actually on. Nick comes home with eggs. Start cornbread. Set out Hummus. Check. Cut Veggies for Hummus, and slice Brussels Sprouts. Check. Smoking stove. Check.

Wait. Why is the stove smoking?

I assumed first that I had put a burner on without realizing it (because that happens all the time, right?). No, nothing is on. But the top of the stove is smoking.

***I should take this time to mention that I have never had a gas stove before. When you don’t have a gas stove, and you like to cook, you always dream a little about having a gas stove. So its great. But I am slightly terrified of it. Back to the scene***

I freak out. I pick up Simon and run him into the living room. Then I cautiously, so cautiously open the oven. And smoke smacks me in the face.

Obviously, at this point I turn the oven off, and write a new to-do in the Thanksgiving plan. Clean oven.

See, I made a big mistake. One that, as I have been cooking for awhile, I shouldn’t have made. I feel silly even sharing it. The cornbread recipe called for the butter to be melted in the oven, in a cast iron or metal cake pan. Well, I didn’t have a cake pan, but I had a springform pan. The butter melted fine, but when I swirled it all over the pan, and then added the batter, the butter leaked out of the join and burned on the bottom of my oven. Hence, the smoke.

I have never cleaned an oven before (sorry to anyone renting apartments after us). I don’t even own oven cleaner. And I kind of thought it took a really long time. Luckily, I frequent enough crunchy blogs, natural parenting forums, and granola facebook groups to know that there is a natural alternative to everything. And when it comes to household cleaning, it usually involves baking soda.  Here is what I did:

4 T vinegar
a few drops of dishwashing liquid
enough baking soda to make a paste.

I let this sit for about 10 minutes, then scrubbed it down.  It cleaned off the grease perfectly.  There were a couple smaller spots that were predecessors to this incident, and they came off with some elbow grease.  There were two big black spots that had been there for much longer, and they did not come off.  You can’t win every time.  Next time, lemon juice?

Anyway, if you ever find yourself in a pickle on Thanksgiving with minimal time and no oven cleaner (or you just don’t want to use oven cleaner, because who knows what’s in that), this is a pretty decent solution.  Although I do hope you never find yourself in such a situation.

Let the Floors Creak

Have you ever ran up the stairs, singing a little song, busted into the bedroom, and then halt. Terrified. How could this have happened?  THE BABY IS STILL ASLEEP.

This happened to me today, I found myself in the middle of our bedroom, stuck. Trying to see through the mesh guard rail, to see if the baby is actually still sleeping.

Is he just being quiet?
I swear I heard him making noise!
But his eyes look closed…

Let me just lean in a little closer.  Slowly, carefully, making sure both of feet were firmly planted on “safe” floorboards…

Just as I suspected. This is a sleeping baby. Whatever peeps and grunts I heard over the monitor were no longer. So what do I do now? Sure, I had just ran in there banging around and singing, but I couldn’t just walk out. Right? The floorboards would squeak! The squeaking will wake up this beautiful sleeping boy. So I turn around, and slowly, so so slowly, tiptoe out of the room. Trying to hit the spots that I hope don’t make thunderous cracking sounds as I slip from the room.

Our house was built in 1900, and I’m sure all of the floors creak. But you don’t notice any of them except our bedroom floor. Every nap time, I try to map myself a “safe” non-squeaky route out of the room. It hasn’t happened yet. Every morning, when my husband, who by design I don’t think is capable of tiptoeing, gets up to go to work at 4:30AM, he wakes us up. Actually, he wakes me up.  I don’t actually think that the squeaky floors have ever actually woken the baby up.