Thursday, March 31, 2011

Composting 101

the final product
So as I mentioned in my post here, one of the ways we reduce our trash in our house is by composting.  Not only does it reduce the amount of trash we have but it also really helps our small family garden that we use to grow all sorts of tasty things during the year.  I wanted to share our experiences over the last two years that we have been composting in unscientific terms, so here it goes:

How did we get started?  We were visiting with the hub's grandparents and discussing their wild success with their tomato plants and the hub's grandpa mentioned that he had a secret in his soil - which he proceeded to refer to as "black gold."  That reference made me curious so I asked him to explain further and I got a good lesson in composting and the benefits it has in gardening.  Needless to say (I should mention that I can be a bit impulsive at times) - We bought a composting bin the next week at Lowes, I did some research, and we got started.  We set up the bin in an inconspicuous location in our garden and started with some bits of cardboard, kitchen scraps (vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds), and old potting soil from old pots, and just kept piling on from there.

What can you compost?  LOTS of STUFF!!!  We regularly compost our coffee grounds (including the filters as we use unbleached filters), vegetable and fruit scraps, egg shells, leaves, unfertilized grass clippings, weeds, dead plants and flowers, and small pieces of plain cardboard.  It is important to keep a balance of those items that are considered "brown items" and those that are considered "green items."  We steer clear of any animal by-products (other than the egg, shrimp, or crab shells) and any grass or weeds that have been treated with fertilizer or other chemicals.  Also, pine straw, pine cones, and large branches are not recommended as they seem to have a hard time breaking down at the same speed as everything else.

the sealed container we keep on our counter for kitchen scraps
What is the time commitment?  No more than a few minutes per week and thats really only to take the scraps we have collected while preparing our meals out to the compost bin and then use the pitch fork to mix everything around to make sure the compost bin is getting enough air to keep it healthy.  You also want to monitor your pile to make sure it doesn't dry out.  It should be about as moist as wrung out sponge but if you notice it looks dry, just spray some water in it or add green items which hold a lot more moisture than the brown items.  If you notice its too moist, just add some more browns to help absorb the excess moisture.

Does it smell?  Surprisingly enough it doesn't!  As long as you have the right blend of greens and browns, it doesn't smell like much more than dirt.  The composting action does make the material inside of it hot, so you may notice during the cooler months some steam coming from the top.  That's just the compost decomposing and generating heat so don't worry, it won't catch on fire or anything crazy like that.

How long does it take to make dirt?  This can vary depending on how "hot" your compost pile is.  It took ours about 8 months to get dirt but we also started ours in the fall so a good part of that time was in the winter which slows the process a little bit.  The finished compost settles at the bottom so our bin has doors at the bottom that we simply pull out when we are ready to use the compost.

our compost bin
Our experience with composting has been a great one and it really reduces the amount of trash we throw away.  We keep our kitchen scraps in a sealed container on our counter top (unless company is coming over and then we stow it away under the sink) and run it out to the compost bin about twice a week.  The soil the bin makes is rich with natural nutrients and fertilizers and is a welcome addition to our garden.  Trust me when I tell you that it is pretty amazing to put a bunch of vegetable and fruit scraps (I have even put in watermelon and cantaloupe rinds) in the bin one day and see them beyond recognition two weeks later and with no rotting smell.  As the pile decomposes it shrinks quite a bit so we are never surprised when the bin we fill to the top is only a third of the way full several weeks later as things start to break down.

Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions ( or click here for another great online resource about composting which also provides all of the scientific reasons it works (there is a lot of good information on the web too).


Monday, March 28, 2011

Product Review - Vaska Laundry Detergent

**I have not been paid or in any other way incentivized - these opinions are my own**

Prior to Addie's arrival, I had always been a sale shopper when it came to laundry detergent and was not committed to any particular brand.  This all changed, of course, when Addie arrived and we knew we would either need to use a baby type detergent or a "free and clear" solution from one of the big brands.  So, we started using the Method Free and Clear which worked well with everyone's skin but it really seemed to be fading out our clothes and making everything very rough.  I couldn't get down with that, so I started looking for different brands and happened upon Vaska one day at Target.  I read the bottle and it looked great on the bottle, it was very earth-friendly and claimed to be safe for babies so I picked up a bottle and figured I'd look into it once I got home and if everything looked good, I'd give it a go.  Here's what I found:

Product Name: Vaska Herbatergent "Free and clear"

Price: $15.99 for 64 load bottle

Product Description: This product uses real herbs and botanical cleansing agents for performance stain removal and freshness and was created and started by Julia Fry, a fashion designer, whos passion for textiles inspired her to create a botanical cleaning solution.  Vaska does not contain Nonylphenol ethoxylates, (NPEs), chlorine, phosphates, alcohol, optical brighteners, animal products, EPA priority pollutants, or dyes and has been tested by the Fashion Institute of Technology and compared to name brands such as Tide and is found to have the same stain removing power as other, less eco-friendly brands.  Even its packaging is earth-friendly, using post-consumer recycled plastic in its bottles.  There is a great article here that goes into greater depth about this product.  

Pros:  It's earth friendly and does a great job washing my clothes.  It is "free and clear" of all dyes and perfumes but still has a nice clean scent to it.  It leaves clothes feeling soft (I don't use any fabric softener) and lets clothes hold their color.  It's also baby friendly and I have had no problems at all washing Addie's clothes in this.

Cons:  It's a bit pricey for laundry detergent and the consistency of the detergent is a bit watery although that doesn't effect the cleaning power of this stuff, just caught me off guard a little.

Would I buy again or give to a friend: Yes, I am a convert and will use this from here on out!

Happy laundering!!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday, Not

good morning!!
Well...its here...the day I have been dreading has finally arrived.  Today I will be making the trek from my home to South Carolina (about 6 hours away) for a company "retreat."  I'll be leaving the baby girl with my hubs, who is a wonderful daddy, but I still can't seem to stomach the thought that I won't be singing "you are my sunshine" tomorrow morning to get my girl up or seeing her gummy grin when she sees me for the first time.  I have full faith and confidence that she will be fine and my parents are right around the corner in the event he needs an extra hand but I'm being selfish right now and really feeling sorry for myself about having to be away from her for a couple of days.

As for the feeding situation, Addie is basically exclusively breast-fed with a few bottles of formula thrown in when she's going through a growth spurt or milk gets left out overnight (nothing makes me feel more defeated than realizing that a bottle of milk got left on the counter all night and has to be thrown out) but I only have about 3 bottles stored in the freezer so she will be getting MUCH more formula over the next couple of days - which I'm ok with, I just hope she adjusts ok.  She gets the bulk of her milk from what I pump in a bottle because of my work schedule but she has always nursed for her first feed - so I'm hoping that change in her routine doesn't upset her. Another twist is that these company "retreats" require everyone to share a room due to some space constraints so thankfully, a good friend of mine with the company is also going and she has a little one that was born in January and she is pumping too!  Can you imagine that conversation (as they usually put you with someone that works in a different city that you don't know very well) - "Hi, I'm ___________, I'm just going to go in the bathroom for about 30 minutes and use this black bag to pump - please don't mind the noise."  And, don't worry about the bottles of milk that are accumulating in the fridge, I'll take those with me when I go."  Yeah, that would be awkward and uncomfortable so thankfully, I've got a roommate that knows all too well and is also leaving her baby girl for the first time too - misery loves company:)

So, today is a tough one for me and I must give credit to my husband too - its a tough one for him.  I know he's nervous about being the only one here.  Hopefully, I'll be able to blog down there but in the event I can't, I've scheduled a few small posts to go up while I'm gone but I apologize in advance if I'm not able to get on blogger and can't keep up with and comment on everyone's goings on.  Fingers crossed...they don't take that from me too:)


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Morning Scene

So...I can clearly remember in my younger years taking note of the fact that it seemed as if whenever a friend, foe, or acquaintance had been married for a little while and then got her hair cut it meant she was pregnant.  I don't know why it always seemed that way to me but I made a promise to myself that I would not do that when I got pregnant.  And, well I held true to that promise to myself - I've always had long hair and always loved it.  Well, after having Addie, I took a good look in the mirror one day and realized my long lovely locks were now dipped in puke and usually the cause of pain in the morning as Addie would grab fistfuls of my hair and refuse to let go.  So...I did what I had said I wouldn't do and said good-bye to those long locks this morning.  So here are some before and after pics of my hair....tear, the long locks are gone.  I didn't go super short - my face isn't built for that and I learned that lesson a long time ago!  I hope everyone is having a lovely Saturday!!!



it looks so much healthier!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

For the love of dogs

I just had to post this fun video that I caught on the hub's phone of Addie laughing at the dogs.  Within the last week or so, she has really started laughing and we are just loving it!!  She just thinks the world of our two pups!!  Happy Friday!!!


Thursday, March 24, 2011

goodbye flower bed - hello lawn

love these flowers
Project: Remove flower bed and turn back into lawn

Cost: About $20 for the grass seed

Time to complete:  About 2 hours of both the hubs and I's time

Skills needed: Raking and digging

Before we had Addie, my husband and I spent most of our free time doing projects around our little house - after having Addie our priorities have changed a bit and we feel pretty accomplished getting through our weekends getting the laundry done and dishes washed.

We purchased our house in 2007 at what we thought was a great deal...but then meet the 2008 and 2009 real estate market and that great deal soon became  a great overpayment!  When we purchased the house we really bought it because we loved the neighborhood as our 1960s ranch was all original.  Needless to say, we have spent the last 4 years doing alot and although we still have a lot to do, some big and some small, I thought I'd share the start of a very little project we did last weekend.  My husband and I started when we moved in 4 years ago by working on the exterior landscaping by removing some gigantic holly bushes and adding in flower beds, rose bushes, other perennials, a weeping cherry tree, and a japanese maple.  The only thing we left were 3 beautiful peonies that were in full bloom when we moved in.  I adore these bushes as their flowers are absolutely marvelous and in late april and most of may, provide me with all of the free flowers a girl could ever want.  I love placing them all around the house and enjoying their shabby chic look.  The only problem - my husband despises them - not their beauty - he agrees with me on that, its their location that he hates.  They were located in a flower bed that exists between the sidewalk and the front yard - which is kind of an odd place for a flower bed and while I have managed to keep him from tearing it out for 4 years, I lost the battle this year.  And actually, I surrendered.  While being pregnant last summer, and this being one of the few existing flower beds from when we moved in, it had no weed paper down and the hot summer sun beats on it most of the day so weeding it and keeping up with it had become a struggle.  The other rub was that there was a lamp post located at the edge of this flower bed that we had never figured out how to operate in our 4 years and the paint was starting to peel and we had no desire to replace it or fix it up so it was time to say good-bye to it as well.  So...this past weekend, we went at it.  I raked off all of the mulch from the flower bed, dug up the peonies with my fingers crossed that they survive the relocation, and dug out the lamp post.  Next we grounded the wires to the lamp post and leveled out the flower bed so it was even with the rest of the yard and the sidewalk and threw down some "heat tolerant blue" grass seed and gave it a good bath with the hopes that soon we will have "lawn" where there once was a flower bed.

Here is a pictorial depiction of what we did:

Here's the view before we got started.  You can see the lamp post at the far end of the flower bed (next to the driveway) and how quickly the weeds had already started to grow on the edges of the bed.  Plus, I do agree with the hubs, the placement of this flower bed looked awkward in our yard.

Here is a close-up of the lamp post after we dug it out:

And, here is a pic of how my hubs grounded out the wires that had attached the post.  He first secured the end of each individual wire with wire nuts and then used black electrical tape to tape them off (you can see the black taped mass on the right side of the hole.  We then filled the hole with dirt.

Heres a pic of the relocated peonies that I will hopefully survive in their new location.

And, here's a pic of the bed all leveled out and the grass seed put down.  Now are fingers are crossed that the grass grows in quickly.  I'll post an update when we start to see some green:)


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baby Product Review - Evenflo Exersauser

she was trying to tell us how much she loves it!
Addie is absolutely loving her exersauser right now so I thought it might be good to blog about all of the different baby items we've had success with and those things we haven't had success with - starting with her exersauser.  These reviews are solely my opinion and not influenced in any way and are products we have bought for our daughter.  I clearly remember being 6 months pregnant and so overwhelmed when it came time to figuring out what we were going to need around here when she finally made her arrival.  So, heres hoping that someone might get some use of my successes and failures with various baby products.

Product name: Evenflo Exersauser Triple Fun Jungle

Price: $119.99 at Babies R Us

Gender: neutral

Easy to clean: Yep!

Success or Failure: Huge success

Age she started using it: 4 months

Age she stopped using it: still going strong at 5 1/2 months

Ease of assembly: I certainly don't give it an A in this department.  I gave up after about 30 minutes of working on it and my husband spent about another 45 minutes before he had it put together.  It's alot to put together and so it just takes some time and patience.

Pros:  I love all of the bright colors as they really seem to catch Addie's attention.  It also moves up and down-not johnny jump up style but enough to keep her entertained when she wants to bounce - which she loves to do.  The seat moves in a complete circle so she can play with all of the different things - which she does.  It has several things that either light up or play music so that also keeps her more entertained than the norm.  It also has 3 different height adjustments so I feel confident that it will grow with her - which is wonderful!

Cons:  Like I said earlier, it takes a little longer than I would have hoped to put together.

Entertainment Time:  Addie gets bored after about 20 minutes - pretty much once she's spent about 5 minutes at each toy she's ready for a change of scenery.

Other info:  This exersauser actually comes with a tummy time type mat that they can start using much earlier and actually progresses to a table/entertainment center when they start to stand.  The latter part had some safety concerns in the reviews I read but the mat and the exersauser are great!

Would I buy again or buy for a friend? Yes - my mom actually bought it for her best friends' daughter's baby shower!


Monday, March 21, 2011

We try not to be trashy...

for the love of beaches
Yes, I said it...we TRY not to be trashy...and by that I mean, we try really hard not to put more than one bag of trash in our can per week.  I know the whole "green" movement is trendy right now and everyone seems to be jumping on the bandwagon but with all of the dire predictions about global warming my hubby and I felt like we needed to jump on too!  Now...I'm a firm believer in "doing what you can, when you can" - meaning I'm not here to judge what anyone else does or doesn't do.  But, I thought I'd share how we make that happen in our house.  So, here goes it:

1.  We recycle and reuse - We are fortunate to live in a city that provides us with a recycling bin the same size as our large trash can that we can simply push to the street every other week for pick-up and let me tell you - that sucker is always full!  Our recycling can in our house where we dispose of everything that can be recycled is actually twice as big as our regular trash can.  Everything from junk mail, empty plastic bottles, cans, newspaper, and cardboard boxes goes in and it really saves space in the regular trash can.  We are also big fans of the reusable totes and baskets that can be used to bring groceries home and produce from the farmers' market.  We also like to donate old clothing thats still in good shape to Goodwill and save worn out t-shirts for wiping the cars down after a good wash or cleaning my hub's golf clubs.

2.  We compost - Two years ago we purchased a compost bin from Lowes and we have been composting everything we can since then.  I plan to blog about all of the nitty gritty details at a later date but by doing this we really reduce our household waste, not to mention this keeps alot of the smelly rotting veggies from stinking up the trash.

3.  We cloth diaper and make our own baby food - Before having Addie when people would ask about whether or not we had started stockpiling diapers, I would sheepishly reply that we were going to be trying out cloth diapering - too which I would generally hear something like "Are you crazy - yeah, that will last a week."  However, I really have fallen in love with it and its much easier than I could have ever imagined.  This too is something else I really want to blog more in-depth about as I hope to share how we make it work in this house.  And, we also make our own baby food - this too reduces the amount of waste we are throwing away as I use the reusable containers and trays to make and store Addie's food.

4.  We use Craigslist and E-bay - Yes, we try to sell or give away anything we no longer need and I've found E-bay to be an excellent source for specialty clothing for Addie at great prices in excellent condition (I mean seriously, I don't think some of this stuff has even been worn).

So there you have it, that's how we manage to keep as much out of the landfills as we can.  We've made it a little contest in our house and love nothing more than wheeling our almost empty trash can to the street each week.  It also makes us think twice about buying things that we probably don't need or won't use - which helps in the impulse department.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Scene

Spending this Saturday morning at Starbucks with our besties - Addie is enjoying pears for the first time so we snapped some pics with our friend's i-phone.  Addie has been up since 4am today so the caffeine is much needed:)  Enjoy!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Just the motivation I needed...

I've been moaning and groaning since the day Addie was born about losing my pregnancy weight, which is about 15 pounds (thats what was left after she was born) addition to that other 25 I put on between our wedding and getting pregnant.  Everyone I talked to told me that as long as I was breastfeeding the pounds would just literally melt off.  Visions of a bikini-ready body by summer danced through my head as I envisioned those pounds just melting away. mom always told me "if it sounds too good to be true, most of the time it is" and well, she was right...again.  I've lost almost all of my pregnancy weight but thats a small victory considering everything is still loose and shaky and I have fat in places I didn't even know you could get fat and I still have those other 25ish pesky pounds to work off.  So, when an email came across my screen the other day about a new program at our company with cash incentives for being active and my boss asking us to respond as to whether or not we were going to participate, I knew it was time to commit.  As part of the program, you keep a pedometer on you at all times as one way to earn miles as well as participating in various "fitness challenges" that will be announced throughout the year and weighing in every so often.  You can earn cash incentives by earning miles and I figure what a great way to get in shape and lose some of those pounds and earn a little extra "me" money that my husband can't hassle me about spending on hair bows and embroidered and smocked clothing for my baby girl.  So, I did it - I signed up, responded with an enthusiastic "yes" to my boss and am now a proud pedometer wearer!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day

Happy St. Patty's Day!!  We will be enjoying a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage donning  our green...and well, in Addie's case - pink too!!  Here's a pic I snapped of her this weekend before joining some of my husband's co-workers (4 others to be exact) that all have babies within 3 months of our little one - hello, baby boom!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

My darling daughter christened the bathroom vanity last night - I suppose thats what I get for carrying her sans clothing from her bedroom to the bath - and I thought pee pee tents were just for boys!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daylight Savings - its only an hour...

Let me just say this  - I am not a morning person - never have been.  I was never one of those people that could "work it out" before going to work and trust me I tried.  For some reason, my legs could just never get going no matter how much stretching I did they always felt so stiff so I usually saved my runs for the evening or nights if I got a wild streak.  So, as you can imagine, moving my morning forward by even an hour takes some adjusting for this night owl.  Yesterday morning was a bust - I was late getting up, Addie didn't wake until 7:45am (an almost exact one hour departure from her usual 6:30ish am wake-up time), and the whole morning was out of sync from that point on.  I got to work late, very late, which I hate because it never fails that someone needs something from you early on the morning's you're late.  Fortunately, this Monday morning, my boss was returning from a week of vacation and was spending the first few hours sorting through emails and not yet needing anything from me.  So fast forward through yet another stressful day and I find myself on my couch with a box of Girl Scout cookies watching the Bachelor finale(which by the way, I purchased 10 boxes this year because I love them so much - not quite helping get those pregnancy pounds off but they are mighty delicious!  And walking into HT past the GS cookie stand an adorable brownie asks me very politely - "would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?"  to which I replied - "no thank you, I already have 10 boxes at home." and her response was classic - "WHOA, thats like $20!"  and I didn't have the heart, although my little accounting soul wanted to remind her that at $3.50/box, it's really more like $35 - but then again, I'm not sure I could admit out loud that I actually spent $35 on cookies - but at least its for a good cause:)) During commercials, I was pushing laundry through and getting bottles washed in the hopes that after indulging for 3 full hours in reality TV land I could hang it up for the day and start counting sheep.  Only to remember that I needed to take my shower and pump before being able to crash - ugh - I could already see that Tuesday morning was going to be another hard one.

Fortunately, Addie did a much better job adjusting to DST than I did and was up at her usual 6:30ish, which meant, despite my delirium I was up too.  Still late to work this morning, but not as late and with no TV date this evening I plan to get some good shut-eye and hopefully get adjusted to the new time.  Which by the way, I do love nothing more than it staying lighter longer in the evenings.  I can actually get a few things done outside and its a reminder that spring is here!!


Sunday, March 13, 2011

the workaholic momma - defined

So, I'm sure 99% of first blog posts go just like this and as they should - so here goes a little about me and why I've started this blog.  First off, I should probably preface all of this with the overt statement that I am not a journalist, English major, or communication specialist so please ignore my grammatical errors and inappropriate uses of words - trust me when I tell you that I attended a large state school with a good reputation and was somehow able to avoid ever taking a college course that required me to write more than a five page paper.  Yes, one of my first questions when looking at any sort of English-type class was "Whats the longest paper this professor is going to make us write?"  If the answer was greater than 5, I scratched that name off the list.  But I digress, and well, I do that often too so I'll try to stay focused when writing about topics.  I am a 20-something new momma to a darling little girl named Madeleine, or Addie as we call her, who was born in October and a loving wife to a wonderful husband since May of 2008.  I used to define myself a working woman who had sold her soul to the corporation I work for but I am stead-fast in re-defining my life as family first and work second.  I've had the benefit of some great timing and in combination with a lot of really hard work, I have a wonderful job with a wonderful company that demands a lot.  More on that later...

I find joy in the simple things in life and often long for days of past where life was much simpler.  I enjoy doing what I can to live "green" from organic gardening and composting to cloth diapers and making my own household cleaners.  I love nice things but get even greater joy from watching the dollars add up by shopping sales and using coupons - although I admit this is something I want to get even better at.  I love cooking dinner for friends and entertaining outdoors.

And so, with all of that being said about myself, I've decided to join the wonderful blog world that I've been stalking for some time - yes, for at least the past year I have thoroughly enjoyed reading others' blogs.  I hope to share my balancing act and hope you'll follow along with me and share in the wonderful madness my life has become.