Living Simply

The weather is getting warmer...snow is melting...mud is everywhere...Spring is coming to Minnesota!  It won't really be warm enough to trade out the winter clothes for the spring clothes for another month or more, but I'm still having fun sewing some fun spring/summer skirts.  I told my wonderful husband that I can tell that I'm sick of winter because I have a "bug" to sew...and to sew skirts, fun summery ones.

I've made three skirts so far.  I also made Ruthie a dress for her birthday -- it will probably still be too cold to where it on its own, but she can put a turtleneck on under it!  I also made a couple headbands out of an old t-shirt.

Since we will be moving soon, I'll start working on some new curtains and a new shower curtain.  I might even tackle finishing the two quilts I have started out of scraps and if I get those done, move onto a third quilt our of scraps. 

I love fabric and fabric stores and can find such good deals on fun fabrics so often that I have a bit of a fabric stash to use up.  So far I only bought fabric for Ruthie's dress and one skirt for me.  I don't plan to buy anymore until I've used up most of my stash!  We'll see how i

Check out for some inspiration and free patterns!
I often struggle with what it means to "live simply" because life doesn't seem to be simple.  It actually just seems to get more crazy each day.

I was reading one of my favorite blogs: Frugal Granola and loved this post about living simply.  She says it better than I could.

Read the post here!

So, what things (activities and/or possessions) do you and your family need to "cut" to make time and room for the things that really matter?  Please share.
Continuing on with ridding chemicals from my family's life, I tackled lip balm and was pleasantly surprised with the results!  I think this recipe is sooo much better than Chapstix or Burts Bees and since it is petroleum-free my wonderful husband can even kiss me without dealing with his reaction to petroleum products!

I use my "improvised double boiler method" to make lip balm, lotion bars, lotion, deodorant so that I don't have to do extra dishes!
- Place all ingredients in a glass jar and place the jar in a pan of hot water on the stove.  You can easily keep the water hot (and melt your ingredients without dirtying a pan or worrying about burning your ingredients.  This is especially helpful since I have little ones and can't keep a constant eye on my projects :-)  When you are done, just cool the jar and leftover ingredients in the jar, put the lid on the jar, label the jar and save until next time.  Dump the hot water out of your pan and place in dish drainer to dry -- no dishes!

Natural Lip Balm
3 Tbsp Bees Wax
2 Tbsp Palm Oil or Coconut Oil
2-3 Tbsp Shea Butter
1 Tbsp Sweet Almond Oil

Melt everything together in your jar.  Use a small dropper or syringe to fill empty lip balm tubes.  Cool filled tubes and use!  Makes about 25-30 tubes.

I'm still trying to figure out how to add beet powder to make a tinted lip far my beet powder has not really mixed in and not really tinted enough to

If you haven't started menu planning, I encourage you to try it this year.  It has made my life TONS easier!  My husband likes me to make meals that we know we like -- he is not into much experimentaion and doesn't mind repetition so our menu plan might look a bit boring to your family, but it works great for us!  The daily themes give me some creative room if need be, then I can try something new but still in the same theme.  I can also switch themes from one day to another during the week if I need to because of schedule or supplies on hand.

Breakfasts -- Oatmeal (sometimes I make baked oatmeal)
Lunches -- sandwiches and/or leftovers
Suppers -- Monday (Beef); Tuesday (Beans or Lentils); Wednesday (Chicken or Turkey); Thursday (Eggs); Friday (Pizza); Saturday (Pancakes or Waffles); Sunday (Eggs) 

To download our actual menu click here.

Remember, we don't eat nightshade (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes), so if you do then you have lots of other things you can add to your menu!                                 
Eliminating chemicals is a bit tough to do, so we started with one thing at a time and once we "mastered" one thing, This was our first change.  Thanks to Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking for her great recipie that actually works!  Click Here for Lindsay's Recipie.  We've tweaked it a bit and really like it!  Here is our version:

2 parts coconut oil (softened/slightly melted)
1 part bees wax (melted)
1 part baking soda
1 part cornstarch (100% pure, now that I've used up all my cornstarch, I'll be buying arrowroot powder)
Mix together, spoon into an empty deoderant container, let cool to harden and use!

I usually make more than one container full and just save it in a glass jar to refill the deoderant container when needed.
As I've tried to make my lifestyle more healthy I've come to realize that in addition to changing our eating and cooking habits, I needed to change our personal hygine products to eliminate chemicals.  I also discovered that these "natural" and "green" products available at our local stores are often not "natural" or "green" and are expensive!  I've done some research, stumbled upon great ideas and experimented.  I'll be sharing what I've discovered and what is "cooking" in my kitchen for body care products. 
With the beauty and fun of the holidays also comes frigid weather (at least here in Central Minnesota!).  I'm always looking for a nice, warm beverage to sip.  Usually I drink caffine free teas -- antioxidant rich, low-cal, easy and inexpensive.  One of my favorites is Good Earth Original (Caffine Free). 

So, here is my amazingly easy Holiday Cider recipie:

Put in a large pot on the stove or in your crock pot:
1 gallon apple cider*
4 Good Earth Original tea bags

Heat until hot, let the tea bags steep for at least 20 minutes before serving, and serve!

* In a pinch you can also use apple juice made from two cans of frozen concentrate.
Laundry can be a seemilngly never ending task.  Just as you think you are finished, more appears -- as if by magic!  It is hard to feel like you ever accomplish anything because it is a never ending task.  I think I do at least seven loads each week (plus two loads per week of cloth diapers).  Here is what I have found works for me to simplify this process and make it seem less overwhelming:

Remember that laundry is another way that you can serve your family and glorify God in the process.

Sort when you take an item off.  I place three laundry baskets on the closet floor.  Then we sort dirty clothes as we take them off -- one for darks, one for lights and one for whites.  I choose baskets so that each holds only one load worth of laundry.  I have another basket in the laundry room (a closet really) that I put dishrags, towels and cleaning rags into.  When this gets full I wash it.

Maximinze loads.  Once  a week, or so, I wash bedsheets.  I throw whatever else is in the same color family into the load until it is full.  Whenever a basket is full, I do that load.  It only takes a few minutes throughout the day to do a load of laundry.  This way I don't have to spend my whole day doing laundry and it doesn't seem like such a large task.

Pre-treat stains. We keep the stain pre-treater in the closet so that we treat stains when we take the clothes off and before they go into the laundry basket.  We also check pockets, zip and button pants, etc. so that it doesn't have to be done later.

Simplify! We use one type of laundry detergent for everything: Charlie's Soap.  It is hypoallergenic, good for the environment, tough on dirt and cloth diapers yet gentle enough for everything and is very frugally priced!  I don't buy fabric softener or dryer sheets -- if your clothes are really clean you don't need them!  I haven't noticed any problems with static; it only happens in the winter and then the dryer sheets didn't help anyway!  I do use oxygen bleach occasionally in the load with my whites -- it brightens dingy whites but is safe to use on colors too -- great for those "mostly white" loads!  Oxygen Bleach is also great to use with cloth diapers, especially if you have hard water -- it really gets them smelling clean!

Buy easy care.  We purposefully buy clothing that is easy care -- can go into the drier and doesn't need to be ironed -- for everyday wear.  The things that require more care are special items that we don't use as often -- mostly dress clothes for us but if you work in a business environment that you need to wear dress clothes daily, it is worth the extra money to invest in easy care pieces that do not need to be ironed or drycleaned.
This is an easy recipie that tastes like lasagna but is easier to make!  The spinach adds some extra nutrition.  This was a favorite before going "Nightshade-Free".

Brown 1 lb ground beef/turkey and drain grease
    -OR- 1 1/2 c. cooked black beans
Add and simmer for 20 minutes
4 Tbsp minced onion (fresh)
4 c. tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. basil
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water drained
    -OR- 10oz fresh spinach, chopped or purreed
Optional add ins:
black olives
green peppers
Make 8oz. whole wheat pasta according to package directions (I use penne or rotini)
Drain pasta and stir in sauce mixture and 8 oz cottage cheese.
Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Top with 8 oz mozarella cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.
Cooking from scratch is easy, quick and inexpensive with a bit of advance planning and the right recipies.  I marvel at all the magazines that boast "5 Easy Weeknight Meals in 30 Minutes or Less."  I look at these recipies and agree that they may take less than 30 minutes to make, but they require expensive pre-made "convenience" foods, are unhealthy, require things I don't keep stocked in my kitchen, or are something my husband will not eat, not to mention my toddler.  

I also desire that my family eats as healthy as possible.  This means I make most things from scratch because then I know what is in it -- avoiding processed foods and preservatives.  I only use whole wheat flour, brown rice and oatmeal (I'm working on incorporating a variety of other whole grains).  I buy whole milk from cows not given hormones, real butter, coconut oil, etc.

The key to cooking from scratch is to plan ahead.  Some things take very little hands on time but require longer cooking times or require soaking (dried beans) before they can be cooked.  I try to do as much of my supper prep as possible in the mornings -- my toddler is happiest then and this reduces a stressed and rushed dinner time.  I also like to make bigger batches and freeze the extras for another meal -- this takes basically the same amount of time and you made two meals at once!

Check out the Recipies section for some great and easy "Real Food" recipies!