Friday, January 27, 2012

Natural Cleaners: What Stuck

Remember a while back when I laid out my plan to make a complete switch to natural cleaners? Well, time has revealed which things stuck and which didn't. 

Things that stuck:
Laundry detergent I'm still using a "natural" detergent that costs around 9-10 dollars for 80 loads. So far, Ava has avoided all rashes and our clothes are clean. 
Dryer sheets I'm using Seventh Generation's non-toxic dryer sheets. They don't have a scent. I really just use them to avoid my arch nemesis, static. Nothing on Earth can make me as crazy as static cling. Just ask Brian. More than once, I've screamed, "Get up! Get up!" as I've ripped static-filled sheets from our bed. 
Laundry pretreat It works just as well as anything else and there really isn't a cost difference. This stuff is pricey either way you go. 
Household Cleaners (multi surface, anti-bac, etc.) They non-toxic cleaners are easier on me as far as headaches and generally feeling yucky as I clean. 
Baby Lotion I use coconut oil (the kind you cook with) on Ava and it exceeds any other product I've tried. She tries to lick anything you apply to her face, so I feel a lot safer with something that's actually edible. 
Deoderant We've been back and forth on this one. I've made my own. It didn't work for me because it was too abrasive and the store bought kind didn't cut it at the end of the day. So I very defeatedly went back antiperspirant. Since then, a friend gave me a jar from a local natural's store that is the stuff. Better than antiperspirant! 
Airfresheners/candles/etc I've started using essential oils in our humidifiers and in candles or boiling on the stove with water. It's an nice way to freshen my house without commercial sprays or candles that give me a headache. 

Things that didn't stick:
Shampoo and body soap Baking soda and vinegar just didn't work for my haircare routine. And Brian was embarrassed by it. And thought the vinegar smelled bad, so that was the end of that. I think I'll give some more mainstream natural products a try at some point. But for now I'm just finishing what we have. 
Dishwasher detergent I had a hard time finding anything that didn't cost a million dollars. 

So all in all, we've made some good changes and it's been fun using products that I like a lot more. I just wanted to follow up with at least one my promises to update you on a project since I always say I will and then never do. For instance, our apartment progress. It's coming along my friends. Maybe one day I'll post some pictures. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our New Place- Week 1

It's our first week in our new place. So far we are enjoying the new space. It definitely has it's quirks, but we're working to find creative solutions for them. Today I'm posting pictures of each room at the "work in progress" stage. 

All our books are still in boxes in our closets (we put them in the closets because they were blocking our walkways.) Once we make a decision about wether or not to keep our monster white bookshelf, then we can either shelve them there or get new bookshelves so we can use our storage space to actually store stuff :)
The kitchen is going to be the hardest room to organize. There is a lot less cabinet space than I anticipated, so I need some help finding the most efficient setup.  I'll also probably end up buying a free standing storage of some kind. 

The living room is also going to be tricky. We think it's going to be necessary to part with one piece of furniture. We aren't sure which one yet. Once we choose, we'll most likely be moving the glider in here where it will take up less space and accent the color scheme nicely. 
 Yes, that is John and Marlena on the TV. And no, we do not watch Days. I swear! I just turned it on and it was already on that channel from the morning news.
 See what I mean about it being a little tight in here?
 Not sure what I'm going to do with the mantel. I'm thinking I'll paint the mirror white and hang it above.
 Remember these lanterns? I finally got around to painting them, but the white is kind of blah. The fireplace is disgusting even after lots of scrubbing. I think I'm going to find a way to detach the metal curtains and leave it open with some decor inside. we don't like wood burning fire places because of the smoke.
That red box is filled with my bakeware that has no place to go right now. I eventually want to have a coat rack and hang my in/out box here. 

This is the biggest bedroom space we've ever had! I love the big window because without blackout shades, it gets me going in the morning. I have some ideas for curtains and accent colors but it will be a while since this will be my last room to subdue.
This is the only bedroom that my hope chest has not overcrowded.
 The corner shelf is nice, but will have to go to make room for the treadmill.
This is the only room where we can fit the treadmill. It definitely isn't sexy, but it's functional and I can work with that until we have a multipurpose room one day. 

I really needed Ava's room to be fully functional asap, so I got to work on it Monday and I'm enjoying the fruits of my labor. I still need to delete the coffee table that we're using for a changing table ...
 And move the dresser to a different wall ...
 And organize the closet ...
Even so, it's the closest room in the apartment to being finished. 
The bathroom is just depressing. It's blindingly white and dingy and in need of a really creative storage solution. I have no idea what to do with it yet. 

So there it is. My goal is to update my weekly progress until I've whipped this place into shape. I would love your ideas and suggestions for making our new home beautiful and functional!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Want to Hear a Joke?

I'm washing my sheets for the second time this week. Ava had the biggest poopy diaper of her life in bed with me this morning. I still haven't figured out a contingency plan for that kind of poopy disaster. Poop up to my elbows, on the sheets, all over Ava. What do you clean first? I went with my arm, then Ava, then the sheets, then Ava again. 

All that poop reminded me of the joke about the two brothers. Do you know the one I'm talking about? One brother, a pessimist, asked for a room full of toys for Christmas. The other, an optimist, asked for a pony. On Christmas morning the pessimist awoke to a room full of toys just like he'd wanted, only the batteries were not included so it was the "worst Christmas ever!" The optimist, on the other hand, awoke to a room full of poop. He grabbed his shovel and started digging because, "with all this poop, there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!" 

As a mom, I can choose to be one of those two boys when we have an epic mess like this morning. And thankfully this morning I grabbed my proverbial shovel and started digging because all that poop was just evidence of how blessed I am to have Ava to be able to stay at home with her. 

Which leads to me think about my friends who had the same kind of morning but only after cleaning up themselves, the baby and the sheets had to put on their makeup and head out the door to their 9-5 job. You are amazing mommies and I pray God continues to give you extra strength and grace as you work both at home and away. 

Monday, October 10, 2011


BeBe (my mom) is coming to visit this week! She hasn't seen Ava since she came to visit when Ava was born. We're all excited. We're going to keep the trip simple since Mom will probably just want to cuddle with Ava the whole time. I'm hoping to get a little decorating and organizing help from her in between cuddle sessions. Mom's a huge fan of Biaggi's Italian restaraunt and Wholefoods cafe, so I'm sure we'll hit those up as well.
Ava started eating solids this weekend. It was kind of a big deal around here. Since her 4 month Well Baby appointment 3 weeks ago, I've been planning on making rice cereal and starting her on solids. Making rice cereal isn't that hard. You just grind brown rice in the blender until it's a powder and cook it with water for 10 minutes. But even though it isn't that hard, I just couldn't muster the will to actually do it. I made it easy on myself and just picked up some organic rice cereal at the grocery store. I'm increasingly becoming less hardcore the longer I have Ava and the less I sleep. 

This Sunday our pastor is going to be out of town, so in lieu of a sermon a few of us will be sharing our Grassroots stories. Brian and I are going to be talking about what it means to be the church as opposed to going to church, something God used Grassroots to really bring home for us. I'm thankful for the opportunity because this topic has been especially close to my heart lately. Next week I'll plan to share a summary of our story with you and maybe I'll have some pictures from Sunday as well. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What I Love About Moving

You know what I love about moving? It's certainly not the packing. Not the cleaning the old house and the new house. Not having to bribe and beg your friends and family to help. Although I do enjoy all the purging I do before a move. When I give away a box or bag to Goodwill, I get a type-A organizational high. But that's not what I'm talking about.

What I love about moving is the motivation to make our new place more beautiful and functional than the last. I have ridiculously detailed plans for every room (even the teeny, tiny bathroom) in our new apartment. 

Since we are saving on the new apartment, I have a little bit of an initial decorating/organizing budget. I'm going to try use to as little of it as possible on actual decorating so we can do something fun for both of us like a new TV. 

One of my besties is moving too. Fortunately she is moving before me, so I can rummage through all her goodwill castoffs from her move. Today while helping her with some last minute moving I accquired:

Two black lamps that are big enough to actually provide light in the living room and are my style (I'll need to paint these to blend into my lighter color scheme and get new shades since these a little banged up)
Three small red metal lanterns that will look awesome above my fire place (also will need to paint)
A large Monet flower print that will tie all my living room colors together (I'll need to frame it, so I'll keep an eye out for Hobby Lobby's 1/2 off framing sale)
So these are my "free finds" for the new place. Can't wait to get started on their transformation!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


If we are in Christ we are going to be continually transforming from our old selves to our new selves by His grace. Sometimes the changes are dramatic and rapid and sometimes they are subtle and slow. Today, I'm rejoicing over one of those subtle and slow changes in my life and I thought I'd share it with you so you could rejoice too. 

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might remember my post about taking over our budget and how I spent the first year of our marriage freaking out about money. Money is one of those things that brings out the true condition of my heart. I'm happy if the budget is in balance and all of our bills are paid on time and there are no unexpected expenses. If one of those things go awry, I'm depressed and sulking. 

So normally when an unexpected expense crops up I feel cheated. The money I had intended for something else (it could be as small as a latte or as big as new dining room table) must now go to this hugely inconvenient unexpected expense. Or even worse, when I feel the Lord asking me to give money to someone or something I feel the same way. 

For a long time now, I've practiced preaching the truth to myself in these circumstances: "Ashley, you can give this money/pay this unexpected expense gladly because your money is not yours, it's God's. He knew _______ would break and need to be repaired or He choose to meet this person's need through you." But no matter how much I told myself this truth, my heart still felt all those nasty selfish feelings. Until recently ...

We've had some small unexpected expenses the past couple months. The kind that would normally send me into a tantrum (just being honest, people. I never said it was pretty). But instead of going berserk over a 12.00 charge, I let it go knowing it's only 12 bucks and God is taking care of all our needs and a lot of our wants. 

Well on Monday evening, I was leaving the apartment to make a cookie run when my car died in the parking lot. No warning. Just died. I tried to restart it to no avail. So I called Brian to come out and work with the car while I sprinted back in to be with Ava. 

And not once did the repair costs cross my mind. I don't know if it will cost 100.00 or 1000.00 to fix the problem, but I'm still not sulking and I don't feel cheated. And believe me, there are a lot of things on my wish list that will have to be pushed back because of this unexpected expense. But it's okay because my money isn't really mine anyway. Neither is my car. It's all God's and I finally believe it in my heart as well as my head.  Let's hope this transformation sticks when I get the bill from the mechanic ;)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkin Soup

Two of my girlfriends and I had a Harvest Tea last week. Ava slept through our actual tea time, so I was able to enjoy real tea cups and adult conversation. I tried to keep it classy by using my cloth napkins and not talking about poop. 

I contributed pumpkin soup for our Harvest themed entree. I read a few different recipes and adapted them to fit what I had and it turned out great. I'm thinking about bringing this to Thanksgiving dinner. 
Harvest Tea Pumpkin Soup
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1-¼ teaspoon Curry Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Coriander
  • ⅛ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper (more To Taste)
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1 can Pumpkin (15-16 Oz, Solid Pack)
  • 1 or a little more cups half and half
  • a pinch red chili pepper paste
Melt butter and saute onions and garlic until golden brown. Add spices and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes. Add pumpkin, stirring till smooth. Add half and half. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes. Puree. I pureed mine with an immersion blender. It wasn't as smooth as I prefer, so next time I'll probably go to the trouble of putting in the blender. 

In other news, Ava is rolling both from front to back and back to front. She is a very vocal baby, talking and cooing and squealing a lot. We love it. Except when we're trying to watch Psych (it's impossible to hear over her jabbering.) So we turn off the TV, thankful for the reminder that these early months fly by, and just enjoy her. 
We are moving November 1st. We've been trying to relocate to an area here called Cragmoor. This is one of the areas of the city that our church is trying to reach, so we've been praying and looking at apartments there for a while. Last week we found one that will not only meet our space needs (unless you count my need for my own bathroom and an excessive amount of storage), but also will allow us to save pay Sallie Mae a nice chunk of money every month. 

Since we are saving on rent, I'm going to have a decorating budget! I've got most of my paint colors picked out. If you have any paint suggestions or tips, I'd love to hear them.