Saturday, June 29, 2013

Internet Free Year

Danny and I have been cable and internet free for about a year now.  We still check our email and whatnot when we're out and about.  Most places have free Wi-Fi now and it's been kinda nice not having the extra distraction at home.  We've been housesitting for the last few days and we have internet and cable access here.  I'm a little unsure what to do with it all.

When we first went internet free a year ago, I was lost without it and could barely figure out how to make dinner every night with out being able to look up recipes to make.  But over the past year, I've been pushing myself to write this cookbook of mine that I've been working on and it's forced me to become more inventive and creative and off the cuff.  I've been creating and I've been learning to taste food as I go and I've learned how to judge taste by smell.  When you take the time to train your senses, you can tell when there's too much salt or it needs more garlic.  I'm still leaning but I'm really impressed with how with less distractions, I've been able to gain such a skill. 
Now, understand there have been tense moments when dinners have been almost inedible but for the most part it's been a really great experience.  Now, all of this cooking at home has come about because I've been learning about different food triggers and sensitivities for ADHD and Auto-Immune conditions. 

It's been a long road and I feel like I'm finally gaining some footing.  Now, it's practically a full-time job cooking everything from scratch all the time for everything and sometimes, I cheat but I'm doing a lot better now than I used to.  It's gotten easier with practice and I've found that most days I can still make dinner in under 30 minutes and there are tons of make-ahead tricks that totally help. I've also adopted some more Italian cooking mentalities which is really all about letting quality foods shine as they are without much technique so to say. 

I feel like I still have some ways to go yet but I'm in a much better place this year than I was last year about being sans internet.  If going internet free is something you've at all thought about, I highly recommend it.  Though I may have to get it back soon so that I can upload my cookbook when I'm finally done with my edits.  :-/

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So, I know I've been out of the running blog-wise for a while but I just want to let everyone know that I'm not slacking in my writing.  Rather, I've decided to start writing a different medium.  I've finished my first draft of a Auto-Immune/ADHD cookbook which I'm currently editing and I'm about half-way through with the first draft of a work of fiction. I'm very excited about it all.  I plan on self-publishing for the time being.

Once I'm done with my final drafts I'll be putting up excerpts while I'm formatting it for publishing.  Anyone interested in testing out some recipes, feel free to leave a comment to that regard.  I'd love some feedback.  In the mean time, here's a picture of the painting that I recently finished and am super proud of and I'm thinking about using the middle section as cover art for my book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Summer of 7: Possessions Week; lets go!

I'm super excited this week.  I am by nature a hoarder.  Not to the extreme but I do like to keep things that can be re-used or re-purposed or recycled.  This can be a good thing but when you're sharing a 950 sq. foot apartment with 3 other people, it can get to be a little much.  But I am excited to give away things to people who can use them.
Danny and I went through our closet last night.  Today my goal is to go through the pantry and give away some food items that have been hanging around that although I like to have it around, I don't really need it.  We have a local food pantry that has helped us out when we needed it and I'd like to donate back to them.
I also want to go through a few of my boxes of books that I've got buried in my closet.  And I want to go through some of our stored clothes.  Ok, now I'm getting a little out of control.  One thing at a time right? Ok, off I go.  Tootles!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bringing this clothes week to a close: Summer of 7

So, I'm having a blast with this only 7 items of clothing thing.  I think I may extend my week, gotta talk to the hubs though because we're doing it together.  If I do extend I will begin washing my clothes but my goal will be to only wash my clothes once a week.
Today I washed a half a load of kids clothes by hand.  Why, you ask? Several reasons actually:
1. I find that we just keep going through clothes like they're an endless resource.  Granted with two kiddos under 4, a couple of changes of clothes a day can be necessary but I digress.  It's been driving me crazy and I felt that a reality check was in order.
2. Our clothes get cleaner when I wash them by hand (I put the clothes in the tub and barely cover them with water that I've sprinkled with Borax, Washing soda and a drop of dish washing liquid).  Before I even begin scrubbing, they're brighter and whiter than with the washing machine.
3.  It's a great upper body work out that has a purpose.  For some reason I can't seem to keep myself motivated to exercise if there is no immediate goal.
4. It's a great deal cheaper for me.  Our apartment building has coin operated laundry in the basement and a wash costs $1 and a dry cost $1.25.  If I'm diligent and use both the washer and the dryer, laundry can cost us upwards of $50/month.  That's a lot of cash flying out the window.  We simply can't afford that and I know that I need to save the money now when I can hang dry with my new clothes line.
5. Clothes last longer when washed by hand and hung dry.  If I'm going to be pairing down my wardrobe, I want what I have to last longer.
I also made some homemade English muffins, homemade multi-grain buttermilk blueberry pancakes for breakfast,and homemade sweet potato french fries for dinner.  Yummy.  I find that the more things I make homemade.  The happier I am, the more I appreciate food, and I honestly eat less because I find that I'm more mindful of what I put in my mouth when I've made it myself.  And it's usually better and I want to save some for leftovers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A quickie blog

Just a quick update while I've got dinner simmering away.  We're keeping up with the farmers markets here in town and it's AWESOME! I love all my plants and the greens we got Sunday are gone (so is everything else we got), Fresh really is best.
Clothing week is going way easy for me.  I'm totally happy to not have to think about what I'm going to be wearing at any given point.  Even not washing things hasn't been a big deal.  I don't do enough strenuous activity to make me all that stinky.  My hubs on the other hand sweats profusely all summer long and he's been exercising too so we're washing his clothes (its really for everyone's benefit).  --Love you honey--
Well off to go finish dinner.  Brats with sauerkraut & onions cooked in beer and masked potatoes, I should probably make a peas or something to go with it huh? YEAH, I should.  Ok, off I go!

P.S. I love my new clothes line!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer of 7: Food week down

Hey blog-o-sphere.  Long time no post, I know I'm a slacker.  By slacker of course I mean my desktop/air conditioner combo blew out a circuit a few weeks ago and I've had it off since. I turned it back on today to print coupons and send an email for a possible work from home sales gig that I'm really digging the possibility of.  I figured I'd see if I could write a whole blog before blowing the circuit again.  Here it goes...

So, any of you who also follow my hubs probably know that we're doing this Summer of 7 challenge along with a ton of other folks.  It's based on Jen Hatmaker's book 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  But instead of going for 7 months, we're all doing it for 7 weeks o the summer.
We've completed week one (food) and we're on to week two (clothes).  I have to say that this week really isn't nearly as much of a challenge for me as last week was.  Wearing only 7 items of clothing for a week (not washing them, I've decided) will totally not be a stretch for me.  As momma of two little ones (3yrs and 10mons) I don't get to shower very often and thus I don't always change my clothes at the start of a new day.
I've chosen the following items to wear this week:
One white tank top with a big flower printed on it.
One pink t-shirt that still needs to get washed from last week.
One pair of jean.
One Purple and green summer dress.
One pair of leggings.
One pair of flip-flops.
One scarf (from Child Restoration) that doubles as a baby sling.
To be honest I could probably go all summer with just these items.  With one simple caveat that I get to switch out my flip flops when I redoubtably wear through these ones in a month.
I'm a foodie so last week was tough. But I found it refreshing and I actually found myself less stressed out about what to make for dinner than I usually am.
On a totally unrelated note, my 10 month old is currently perched on my chest watching the Imagination Movers DVD on behind me for the 3rd time today while chewing on my shoulder.  She has one very mean tooth coming in and she's extra clingy and this DVD is the only thing she'll watch for calming music aside from Danny playing guitar.
My poor baby and her hurty teeth.

I also recently read Homemade Pantry: 101 Things you can Stop buying and start Making and I've been on a homemade everything kick.  I've been making homemade ricotta, goat cheese, English muffins, shampoo, face wash, laundry detergent, granola, fabric softener, yogurt, baby food, coconut milk, teething biscuits and my hubs has been making bread, soup, pie, and arepas.  He's awesome!  It has cut down severely on our food budget and has allowed us to buy more fresh fruits and veggies with our food stamps and we're eating better.  Also, this week is the Post Office's annual food drive I am going to go through my pantry and put some stuff in a box to leave for my mail carrier.
We've been a busy family.  Because... Joey just finished her last week of her first year of school and she's already missing it.  We've had two minor car accidents.  We're still trying to get me my driver's license (thanks DMV for turning me away yet another time).  Danny's started volunteering at a local shelter while still trying to find work.  I'm still working two days a week and I'm trying to pick up a side gig as I previously mentioned.  And we've planted a little garden hanging off our two little porches.
So, that's the haps with this family.  I've got to go finish up some dishes and move my sad baby from the couch to her crib.  Night all!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Homemade and Well Made Dish Detergent!

Hey Blog-o-sphere...

I've been drumming up this post for a while now and here it goes.  I've been trying to make things at home instead of buying them in the store and seeing what works better (or tastes better) and figuring out what is worth the effort.  There are some great books out there about this.  The Homemade Pantry is the next on my book-list.  One thing that I've been struggling to make at home has been dish-washing detergent.  I found one recipe for a liquid dish-washing detergent that was better than all the powders that I found but it was still a little lacking.  The soap separated between uses, I still needed to scrub sticky stuff before running a load, it had issues.  So, I did some thinking and I found a way to make it better.
Most of the green cleaners that you buy in the store say that they use "all natural enzymes" to clean stuff usually coconut or citrus.  And I thought hey, I found a tutorial to make that from Clean Eats at the Zoo on Pinterest.  The recipe that I had on hand called for 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar and I figured that 1/2 cup of orange enzyme infused vinegar would would even better.  I was right!! WooHoo! And I'm still only using stuff that I have at home on a regular basis (that's very important to this process for me).
Now I had it cleaning better but it was still separating and I thought hmm what about those coconut enzymes, I have coconut milk around maybe that will help it clean and the fat in it should act as an emulsifier.  Score two for me! It worked.  So here's my recipe:

1 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup citrus enzyme vinegar
2 Tbsp LemonShine (or fresh lemon juice)
2 Tbsp Kosher Salt
2 Tbsp coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 Tbsp washing soda 
1/4 cup castile soap
12 drops essential oils (optional)

Heat the water and vinegar mixture to boiling. 

Reduce heat to simmering and add salt, washing soda, coconut milk, & lemon shine one ingredient at a time to prevent boiling over.  There will be a chemical reaction so, be careful!

Stir together until all of those ingredients are dissolved completely.

Pour hot liquid into blender.  Leave top ajar but covering the top.  

Turn blender on while still covering top.  Once the liquid stops bubbling to the top, pour in the castile soap.  

Pour into container of your choice and let cool before using.  
As you can see the liquid will still separate a little during the cooling process but shake it up once it's cool and it'll stay together pretty well. (This picture is of a double batch.)  And best of all.  It really cleans the dishes!  I use approx. 1 Tbsp liquid in the pre-wash and 1 Tbsp in the wash in my dish washer but I have an older model portable machine.  Newer machines might not need as much soap.  
And as for the cost of it, it's way less than store bought soap.  I haven't broken down the cost per ingredient because the only thing I don't keep around is the LemonShine and the washing soda. I bought them specifically to start making dish detergent.  For a bottle the size I made today, it probably cost me less than a dollar and it'll last me 2-3 weeks at one load of dishes per day.  
Happy dishes!!

UPDATE: I've found that some stickier messes (mostly peanut butter in my house) don't always come off with this detergent but one teaspoon each of baking soda and kosher salt in the pre-rinse have solved that problem.