Basement Organization

We have two spaces in our house that overwhelm us with “stuff” — our office (which I hardly use and Dave uses regularly) and our basement. Since we’re up in the air as to whether or not we’ll find a new house before the little one comes along, we’re trying to be proactive, both by getting wicked organized in case we do sell and move OR in the case that we don’t move, we’ll have simplified and found more room in the process. Win-win, really.

This weekend, before I had a chance to even take “before” pictures (crappy blogger), we headed downstairs to see what we could get done. One toddler naptime turned into another and, of course, we still have lots more to work on, so I’m sure I’ll be chatting about our basement a bit more as we continue our purging/organization fun. I’m hoping to get down every day this week (during naps or after bedtime)…yup, it’s that bad.

On Day #1, while Dave sifted through all of our home improvement items (lots of sanding blocks!!), I turned my attention under the stairs. This is where all of our holiday stuff lives, along with gift wrap, gift bags, ribbon, etc. I didn’t move everything out, but organized and sifted through and evaluated…and ended up with this:


Here are some of the strategies I used to organize the space:

Put Similar Items Together – Believe me; it wasn’t easy in the beginning. Walking into a basement that has become more and more of a dumping ground over time is downright panic attack-inducing. But, my #1 organization tip is to dive in by making piles of (or simply separating into) similar items. Don’t obsess about the sheer vastness of the stuff; put on your blinders and start making piles.

So, now my Christmas stuff is with, duh, the Christmas stuff. (I’m saying “duh” to myself, BTW.) Gift bags are organized specifically by birthday, characters (like, superheroes or Peter Rabbit), and new baby, then there was even a separate bag just for the generic, anytime bags.

This was the first moment (among many) that I realized, JOYOUSLY, that I don’t need to buy a new gift bag for a long, long time. Same goes with tissue paper. And Christmas wrap…and tape…and ribbons…and boxes of all sizes. Holy crap. Literally all I need for Christmas is some new sticker tags to go on gifts (and maybe one wrap of “Santa paper”). Knowing that we’ll have a newborn at Christmastime and realizing that I’m all set with that side of things calms me. “And knowing is half the battle!” Speak to me, Transformers.

Location, Location, Location – Doesn’t it just make sense to keep the things that you use most often closest to you? In this case, it’s gift bags, which we use (and reuse and reuse) with unapologetic abandon. So, keeping those behind the Christmas stuff would’ve been silly. Front and center they are. 

This will also apply to the totes of baby/toddler clothes (of which we have, I believe, 8…I only wish that wasn’t true, and we bought very, very little of it ourselves). Why keep the 18-month stuff at the top of the stacks when we’ll need newborn and 0-3 months first? It also helps direct you as to where certain items should go, as well as help you analyze whether you need the item at all. If something’s automatically being shoved to the back wall, why? If it’s an “once-a-year-but-need-it” thing (ahem, Christmas crap, I’m talking to you), then fine. But if it’s an “I really don’t know when we’ll use that” thing, say ba-bye.   

Get creative with storage – Not everything needs to be perfectly packed in totes with labels typed in a label-maker. I mean, sure, that’d be great, but sometimes a tote takes up too much spaces or doesn’t fit your needs. (Although, I highly suggest using them for storing kiddo and maternity clothes; they don’t breathe as much as I might like, but they’re the easiest solution I can think of for now. Plus, the transparent or semi-transparent ones, you can just shove a piece of paper labeled with a marker for what’s inside along the side and see it – no tearing or getting messed up.)

So, aside from boxes we have been saving FUH-RE-VER, I grabbed things that either were heading for the donation pile or are hardly used. So, a random blue basket that I haven’t used in years just happened to fit all the tissue paper perfectly. One large seen-better-days gift bag holds all the rest of the “can be used” ones. A cheap, heavy duty glass hurricane candleholder worked as a makeshift gift wrap holder (and if it breaks, I truly won’t shed a tear). A random nail or pipe protruding from a wall or ceiling overhang is a great place to hang a string of Christmas lights.

And always, ALWAYS stack as much as possible. All those baskets you see would take up mad space if they weren’t piled up. It is what it is.

Expect All the Emotions – The rush and joy I felt has made me actually excited to head back down to the dungeon, I kid you not. I’m like a purging monster. “Must. Purge. Mooooorrrre.” And finding cards and gifts that kids gave me years ago while I was teaching at a different school? Heartstrings!

But, it hasn’t all been a high. First of all, while I’m pretty active during pregnancy with yoga and, like, not slowing down, the baby has definitely stopped me in my path a few times. “Seriously, Mama. Too much. Go get some water, sit down, and thank me later.” I can always tell that I’ve overdone it; not a matter of “if” but “when.” It’s how I roll, I guess.

At the same time, there have been frustrations and tears. Tears = finding a platter that was my grandmother’s shattered. Frustrations = the sheer mass of stuff that we actually had little control over in the first place (stuff that was passed along that we didn’t want or need).

It’s all part of the game, though, and the best emotion that I’ve cultivated is RELAXATION. No, seriously! While it’s definitely hard, sweaty, dirty work, I’ve discovered exactly the stuff we have. I’ve realized that THIS is when you overbuy.

How many times have you had to get a gift for someone so you bought more tissue paper, not realizing that you already have enough in storage? Or because you don’t know what you have in storage from awhile back, you buy yet another pair of black work pants? In our case, I’ve been starting to mentally gear up about getting some cold season maternity clothes and post-maternity COOOOLD weather stuff. (The last baby was born in July.) However, after going through all the hand-me-downs and stuff I had, even in summer, I’ve discovered a lot of items that will work! It brought a calm to me that I haven’t felt in awhile.


How many of you have a space in your house that’s overrun by clutter or needs organizing? When I head down tonight, I’ll probably be heading back to purging clothing (this does NOT excite me) or to organize and figure out storage for the home improvement stuff Dave sorted. That has spread out, big-time, so to get that up off the floor and truly organized will be a good feeling. 

Today’s Tip – First Edition!

I’m starting a new series that I’m lamely calling “Today’s Tip.” I’m hoping to share little tips and tricks (or “life hacks” as the kids these days are saying) to make your life just a wee bit simpler. The topics will range from parenting to cleaning to green living to just general time savers…and anything else that pops into my brain.

“Today’s Tip” is a super simple way to cut back on waste that’ll save you time, money, and one by one, the EARTH!!!

{dramatic pause}

No, really. If you’re not already doing this, it’s completely worth the tiny amount of time and effort to get on it.

I know, I know. This tip has been around forever. Yet, I know a ton of people who still buy over-priced bottles of water at work or go through the {oomph} effort it takes to lug the &$#%@*$ case of water home from the store. Switching plastic for reusable and filling it with filtered water at home is by far one of the easiest switches we’ve make, and has made a huge impact on the sheer number of water bottle waste we produce.

I also have seen several news sources cite that there’s a possibility of increased cancer risk (particularly for females) caused by drinking water from a plastic bottle that has, say, sat in a hot car (due to the leaching of chemicals into the water). I know that there was a time that I did this — regularly. I’d rather not take my chances if making such a simple change can possibly help.

Now, we happen to live in a state that now charges a 5-cent fee per bottle (meaning that you can redeem it when you bring back your bottles and cans). But, between the effort of taking back ALL those bottles and cans, and the energy used to recycle that bottle into another (and, by the way, that’s not a never-ending process; one day, the plastic will no longer be able to be melted into another item…and where do you think it goes then?), it’s still a drain on our time, energy, and environmental resources. And, really, we used to have to bring bottles back at least monthly. Now, it’s a couple of times a year (more in the summertime…ahem, beer and hard cider).

The bottle that we happen to use is the Ello flip-top glass bottle (mine is in turquoise; Dave’s is in gray). We love the glass since it’s completely free of chemicals or leaching, and the silicone provides an extra layer of protection from breakage. Dave bought me a gorgeous glass one awhile back with a wood top and beautiful design, but a student knocked it on our *cushioned* library floor and, oye, what a mess. Still can’t believe that tempered glass broke. 

And one open-and-honest caveat: With our particular model, we have to keep an eye on the latch and ensure that the top is properly screwed-on. Totally user error stuff, but I’ve had the entire contents of my purse completely submerged (a couple of times). So, yeah. Keep that in mind! 

You don’t have to get this kind, though. Klean Kanteen provides durable aluminum options that are pretty cool, too. Just be sure that whatever you purchase is at least BPA-free and suits your needs. Some people like buying a larger option to ensure that they’ll get the recommended amount of water for the day; others want a smaller, more portable option. It totally doesn’t matter. Whatever you get, just be sure that it meets all of your own criteria.

And, remember that the price is a one-time thing vs. a continual cost that adds up over time. We grabbed our bottles at Target, but they were around the $15 mark. It sounds like a lot, but if you estimate a bottle of water is $1 (in our work vending machine it’s actually $1.50, but it’s far less if you buy in bulk, so let’s take the average), you’ll be paying it off in about two weeks’ time. I kid you not, though: I love having more than one on-hand to bring along (kept in a cooler…or not, doesn’t matter) when we hit the road. It’s worth its weight in gold since I’m far less likely to grab a beverage along the way.

So, raise your hand if you already have/use your own reusable bottles! What kind do you like? Do you use them for hitting up the gym (not I, says the pig) or for daily use?

The above post may contain affiliate links. This just means that, if you happen to buy the item (or anything else from Amazon purchased after clicking that link), you’ll be supporting this blog. Win-win! You’re under no obligation to buy anything.

Jarred

Hey, homies! I’m finally posting again! Been home sick with a sinus infection that went untreated too long. Long story short, glad to be on the mend!

I’ve recently realized my favorite little buddy in the kitchen (aside for Jasper begging for scraps – yes, he’s a cat – and Hadley wanting to “help”). While I’ve probably mentioned the beauty that is a mason jar before, it’s time to declare my undying love for them, along with a bunch of things you can use them for. Come. Let’s chat.

We’ve currently got a few sizes of mason jars floating around, but our all-time faves are minis (4 oz.) and half pint-sized wide mouth Ball jars. They’re perfect for storage (well, duh, that’s why they were invented), but you might be surprised as to how many ways that we use them. And, guess what! We don’t jelly/preserve a damn thing in them. I think I’m kicked out of the club. (One day, my friends. One day.)

Salad dressing – The tiny ones are perfect for transporting dressing for lunch. Seriously, just pour in your favorite or do what we do: olive oil, some vinegar, and seasonings.


This also deters anyone from sneaking your salad topper from the fridge at work. Seriously, a couple of weeks ago, I observed someone who had forgotten their salad dressing perusing the row of dressings others keep in the fridge, as if shopping. So, bringing one serving of dressing is perfect AND super easy.

Dry spice mixes – We don’t buy spice packets for things like tacos, chili, and salad dressing (Dave’s a fan of Good Seasons, but he hasn’t quite perfected the recipe yet). So, we double or triple the recipe and store the rest in our tiny jars. I use a dry erase marker to make a note of what’s inside, then just spoon it out as needed.

Mmm. Tacos.

Lunch packin’ – This is especially an awesome one for toddlers. We send breakfast and lunch to Grandma’s for Hadley, so we’re lucky that she’ll hear stuff up as needed. Most days I’ll pack his whole lunch in a glass container with a silicone-lined lid, but I’ll often split it up and give, say, his peas and carrots or corn in a tiny jar. They’re also a great size to fill with applesauce. Just like those little plastic cups at the store, only eco-friendly, reusable, and you can control what goes in. It’s also super cheaper to buy or make organic applesauce in large amounts and dole them out.


Yogurt keepers – Similar to the applesauce idea, yogurt is a great snack that is the perfect match for mason jars. The little ones are awesome for the little guy (just check out that link!), and I use the slightly-larger size for my own. Again, cheaper, reusable, and easier than you’d think!

Snack ‘n dip – Half-pint jars are a great way to make a tasty, healthy snack alternative. Just put whatever dip you like in the bottom and the fruit or veg spears of your choice standing up on top of it. Carrots sticking in ranch, apples in almond butter, celery in peant butter. Really, the combos are endless, and make otherwise boring snacks something to look forward to.

On-the-go snacks – Speaking of snacks, the 4-oz. size is awesome for toddler treats on a little trip. Fill ’em with raisins, mini crackers, pretzels, or dry cereal and skip the baggie.


Serve up some fun – Use mason jars (plain or decorated) to serve appetizers or little snacks for company. I even like the idea of creating a salad or taco bar by filling separate jars with toppings and just scooping out your favorites with a spoon or fork. Simple, rustic, fun.

Bank it – Hee hee. While Hadley has an incredible robot bank for his millions (uh, no), Dave and I use a few jars, labeled with simple cut-out paper rounds on the top, to sock away for future goals. It’s cool to look and see our change filling up these jars that have super happy connotations. Just seeing the vacation jar brings a smile to my face.


Oh, and surprisingly, none are swear jars. Knowing me…one probably should be. 😉

Coconut oily goodness – Dave and I both use coconut oil for different (and wondrous!) uses. He keeps a tiny jar of it nearby to style his hair with, and I have some mixed with essential oils (namely, peppermint and an “alignment” combo) for occasional aches and pains. Like, now. On top of getting stupidly sick, I pinched a nerve in my shoulder/neck. *didn’t say I was smart*

Decorating – Pinterest has a million awesome decor ideas using mason jars. I used the large ones to display fruit skewers at Had’s second birthday shindig and they provided some “height” and purtiness (totally a word) to the table. I’m dying to try one of the painted jar crafts, too!

Gifting – This is a great tip that I hope to use for the holidays, but you can use it all year long. Fill a pint jar with some candy, a favorite product, or something homemade, like granola or a “recipe in a jar” layering dry ingredients, and tie on a tag (I suggest printing something quirky/dorky like “we mix you a merry Christmas!” for a recipe mix). Embellish with ribbon or raffia…or don’t. Either way, the jar acts as a beautiful presentation, so you may not even have to put it in a gift bag.

Flower “vase” – Looking for a no-nonsense, sweet, rustic alternative to those flower shop vases? (Sometimes they’re okay, but mostly outdated or too frilly-looking.) Well, mason your vase game! The cool thing is that you can split up a mixed bouquet and use various sizes of jars to create a tiered, layered look. 


Holding collections – We have one jar that stores rocks and sticks that the little guy “collects” on walks. I’m sure that, as his “collections” grow, we’ll be splitting them up into organized items, too. And, not only does he feel that the things he finds are validated in their special containers, but they look cool all lined up. Which I can’t say for most of his toys. Ahem.

So, that’s just some of the ways we use our beloved little jars! Do you have any awesome ways that you utilize them that you’d like to share with the class? Go ahead in the comments!

Eco-Decor

It’s no secret that I enjoy home decor stuff. While I love simplifying, parenting, eco-tip, and humorous personal blogs (I’m talking about you, Roo and Christine), the DIY and home decor ones clog my daily feed.

Ha. That sounds like a personal problem. Pshaaaahaaaa! Ha! Ha.


Ahem. Anyhoo. I’m pretty sure I got the bug from my mom. While we don’t really match in taste (she’s more country traditional, although she’s veering into the simple transitional realm lately — love it), I’m more into straight, modern lines and eclectic mixes of old and new (and, yes, transitional, too). But, her general enjoyment of freshening up her spaces and buying a few new pieces here and there (not to mention a great fondness for antiques), I totally get.

Being on a budget and being of the opinion that the Earth needs looking after, I’ve had issues here and there considering my purchases and their environmental impact. We can’t all afford to look for a sustainably harvested chair with organic linen upholstery when shopping. It’s a big enough purchase as it is, right?

But, there are plenty of small ways to surround ourselves with beauty inside our dwellings with friendly consideration for the beauty outside. See if you’re already doing any of these…

Thrift and claw your way. Okay, I honestly use a lot of excuses when it comes to thrifting. We don’t have the room to buy a lot of furniture (which would need to be stored until I could refinish or upholster, then use it). We only have two thrift shops that mostly stock broken Target furniture (which is what we use for our TV console) and too-traditional stuff. I also don’t find a lot of time to visit them. 

But, when I need an emotional lift or creative boost, I stop by on a whim. The Goodwill store is literally a minute drive (I drive ‘cuz ya never know when you need to haul a big piece), and the Sally Ann’s (or Salvation Army for those not in the know) is two towns over. I find the best accessories and frames (keep an open mind; the art or filler pictures usually suck, but a frame for 50 cents? Get out!) at Goodwill. Sometimes you can even find a brand new blanket, curtains, or pillows here. Yes, seriously, unused. I used a mix of frames from Goodwill for our nursery’s wall collage.

Our Sally Ann’s is best for furniture. I don’t find the mod pieces I wish I could get, but there are super cheap, rehab-able stuff, like this bench (which I’m thinking of rehabbing again) and this chair I love for a bit of the unexpected.

Side note: I also shop these stores for my theater costumes. Our theater has a huge attic of clothes but somehow I hardly seem to find what I need. There are only so many ballgown roles, y’know? So, this is the best costume selection for the price. Same goes for DIY Halloween costumes!

Craigslist is a great alternative. Again, since our area is stuck in the land of country traditional, there aren’t always great finds to be had. But, it’s nice to check and see what’s out there. I’m not giving up hope that I’ll find some awesome pieces one of these days. And, in case you don’t notice a trend here, one of the eco-friendliest ways to furnish and decorate your space is to reuse items that might otherwise end up in the landfill.

Don’t scoff at hand-me-downs. If they’re in your style realm, or you think you could transform the piece into something you might love, go ahead and kindly accept the offers from friends or relatives. I know my stepfather has offered us many items (he has worked for tons of sweet elderly folks who don’t need their stuff anymore) for F-R-E-E! It’s how we got Hadman’s awesome dresser, which we painted a cheery yellow and changed out the hardware for something more modern…and, come to think of it, all of our dressers are current hand-me-downs. Not only is this cheaper, it keeps these pieces from ending up in a junk pile.

Oh, and if you’re not a fan of the piece, itself, don’t write it off. Dave brought his old bachelor-ish blue couch, which I’m still not in love with, but adding an inexpensive white slipcover gave me the look I craved without having to drop a buttload of money into a brand new piece of furniture.


Find a piece of history. What’s better than giving new life to an antique? Some of our favorite items were picked up at antique shops. Rustic tables, awesome accessories, cool kitschy kitchen stuff — you never know what surprise you’ll stumble over.

Our all-time favorite antique is our dining room sideboard (you can see it on display in this post). We found it while antiquing on our honeymoon in Vermont. Not only was it cheaper than any new versions we had found, it was full of art deco character and history. Oh, and that $#&! is solid. Way better than press board. Blech.

The best thing about antiques is that they fit so many tastes. If you’re into mission-style stuff, there’s an antique for that. If you’re into mod, there’s an antique for that. If you’re into quirky, there’s definitely an antique for that. If you’re into romantic…well, you get the point. Antiques got your back.


Know whatchya like. Take quizzes and visit Pinterest, Houzz, and blogs to determine what your style is. I take outdated magazines that would otherwise end up in the trash (and that teachers or art classes overlooked) home from school; my faves are Country Living, Good Housekeeping, and Real Simple (which I, admittedly, buy), and my mom passes us This Old House from time to time.

I love that the mags get a second life, sometimes even living IN my decor, as well as helping me find what I love. The inspiration helps me think outside of my comfort zone as well as determine what fads are for me, might be a long-term thing I can get lots of mileage from, and what would just make me buy new crap which would end up being discarded sooner than later. I’m still 50/50 on chevron.

Knowing your style definitely helps you but less crap and only what you know can find a home with you for the long haul.

When buying new, try to be cognizant. Sure, not every item you fall for will be eco-friendly, and that’s okay, but the sustainable seal of approval is becoming more and more mainstream. After coming to know my style, I’ve stumbled upon some stores (mostly online) that accompany my tastes. And, what do ya know? Some of my faves happen to have some sustainable options!

I sign up to find out when sales are popping up and always keep in mind what my needs are. Just because something awesome is for sale doesn’t mean I jump at it. Ain’t nobody got time money for that.

For example, lately I’m on a hunt for rugs. Yes, plural. I know what I’m willing to spend, so when I get an email that, say, West Elm (which has a good mix of eco-friendly products), I check out the site. I also keep an eye on discount stores and remember to look at eco-friendly materials (generally wool/cotton/hemp/jute vs. poly-something-or-other).

What matters most to you? A big purchase like a fridge or bed might be more important for you to find to be Energy Star approved or organic; or not. Maybe you’d rather have all-organic sheets instead. Or eco-friendly pots and pans.

Since none of us is a Rockefeller (right? You’re not a Rockefeller?), it’s unrealistic to buy all eco products all the time. Just figure out what matters most to you, and you’ll be doing just fine. It’s not a competition, after all. Don’t stress.

Bring the outside in. Not only is it beautiful, but bringing nature into your surroundings is super zen. Rocks around candles on a plate, geodes as paperweights, plants to clean the air, flowers to add some color and texture, water features to provide a calming white noise; nothing’s off limits. Just think about what makes you happy and hook yourself up. I know I’m into the succulent trend right now, actually (although who else but moi can kill frickin’ succulents? Seriously).

If you have pets, just check into what greenery is safe for animals. Because…y’know…they like to nibble. Mine do.


If all else fails, DIY it. I haven’t got a lot of experience in building things from scratch, but I dipped my toe in with this desk. It’s not perfect, but it works for us, and was way cheaper (and more creative) than a real parsons table. 

My best suggestion for you is to check online for plans if you want to undertake this type of endeavor. Start with something simple but that you truly want around your house. My favorite site to search is Ana White, in case you’ve lived under an Internet rock. Apparently she has a new gig on HGTV, too (speaking of living under a no-cable-induced rock). Can’t wait to catch some eppies online.

And keep an eye out for sustainably farmed or reclaimed lumber, and low- or no-VOC paints and stains to keep the off-gassing to a minimum. ‘Cuz off-gassing sounds gross enough as it is without actually dealing with a gas bomb in your living room.

There are also a bunch of tutorials out there for inexpensive ways to decorate your house. If you totally adore a how-to craft project or a pillow tutorial, go for it! Use whatever materials speak to you, and add your own pride into a job well done that you love seeing everyday.

Do you think about what you fill your house with and where it comes from? What’s your decor style? Any tips you’d like to add? 

Oh, and that graphic? Not my house. Just an awesome royalty-free pic of a space I admire, just so ya know. 😉

One-Ingredient Bathtub Fix

For as long as I can remember, I couldn’t find a product to clean all the years of built-up grime from our tub. I scrubbed as much as I could, so I resigned myself to pretend that it was clean enough for us. Y’know. The surface grime was “clean” so the guilt wouldn’t overtake me when I threw my 2-year-old in. *gulp* Seeing that written, I feel guiltier and guiltier about that.

Well, since my plumber-extraordinaire stepfather’s coming up with ways for us to deal with the horrible bathtub walls, I figured I should make another attempt at scrubbing it. He had suggested a highly toxic solution we’ve all heard of and a razor blade. Seriously. I’m nothing if not lazy, so I wanted to try something else first.

And it totally worked!

Yup, that’s all it took. After wetting the tub, I dumped in the baking soda. (Note that mine’s a generic brand. Use the cheapest you can find.) Be sure you toss it everywhere — sides, especially. You don’t need a HUGE amount, but be sure it’s thick, especially where any grime is particularly caked.

Allow it to sit. Since I was busy chasing a little one around, I let it sit for about 1-2 hours, but less may work, too.

Then, I got a green scrubby (technical term — you know the kind, not TOO rough, but enough friction to work) wet and added a little more water as I scrubbed. Most of it got loosened on its own, but the rough spots needed some good scrubbing. This took about 15 minutes, tops, for a HORRIBLE tub. Sorry I didn’t have a “before”, but I guarantee it’s as clean as it could possibly be. LIKE NEW.

I was worried I’d have to break out the white vinegar, too, but it wasn’t necessary. If you find that you’ve scrubbed (or don’t feel like scrubbing THAT much), do a wipe-down and rinse again, and throw some more on for another hour or so.

Just know that if you leave it too long, it’ll cake on and might be tough to scrape off. All you need is a little water to loosen up the situation and scrub your cares away.

And, now it’s time for the hubs and my stepdad to attack the walls. 😉 I have a feeling I had an easier job.

Do you have any cleaning projects that you’ve been putting off *gulp* years to finally tackle? I can’t be the only one…can I?

Green Guy

Hey, guys. Today’s post was inspired by my super sweet brother-in-law, Dan, who asked me my opinion on some green brands and products he was considering. Of course, I immediately thought, “Oh, cool! Maybe someone in blogland could use my thoughts, too.” So, here we are!

I’m not an expert at any of this stuff. I’m clearly not a dude. (Um. Hopefully you knew that.) But, after reading reviews and doing some research, I’m pretty confident that these are some kickass products. Of course, it should be stated that not all products work the exact same way for everybody. Like, our current shampoo works great for Dave and “eh” for me, but I still think my poo-free days changed my hair’s pH and I’ve lived with straw-like conditions ever since. But I digress.

Today’s post is all about the guys. And, because I’m me, it’s particularly about the eco-guys. You know who you are. The ones who are looking for ways to eliminate the earth-hurting crud from your daily grooming routine. Who still want to look good (and, ahem, smell yummy) without the tingling chemicals, drying foaming agents, and general nastiness that goes down the drain.

I’ve got your back. Since I’m unable to try these myself — do you really have to ask why? — I’ve decided to pick a couple of extra products (like two shampoos, etc). Check out the reviews for yourself and consider what will work for your needs. And, ladies, the next time you need a sweet little gift for your sweet, don’t do the Axe. Seriously. Just put down the Axe.


1 –  Maple Holistics Sage Shampoo (for Heavy Dandruff), 100% Natural and Sulfate-Free – I selected two shampoos because everyone’s head is different, and I thought it would be cool to give you guys some options. I know the bottle is purple and it may look a little feminine, but that’s actually because this is a shampoo that could work for both men and women. It’s so awesome that there are natural options out there for folks who have dry skin, dandruff, and dermatitis. (Are those all the same things? I don’t know. Maybe.) Oh, and it’s cool for color-treated hair. That’s pretty cool.
2 – Every Man Jack’s 2-in-1 Thickening Shampoo – Like I said, everyone’s head is different, and some guys are fighting an issue with thinning. I know how much thinning can affect a guy’s self esteem, so the fact that this phthalate-free option exists (and with a conditioning option) is awesome. Let’s just say that I may ask Santa to bring this to our house this year.
3 – Baxter of California Chrome-Plated Safety RazorThe Dorky Daddy loves his safety razor, although he admits that it does take a time or two to get used to a newer, short-fast strokes method. Seriously, this thing is awesome, and you’ll only need to buy the individual razor blades once in awhile. (Hint: If you dry off your razor well every time you use it, you’ll hardly need to buy new ones.) Plus, if you buy one package of blades, they’ll last FUH-RE-VER. Just try it. Oh, and this (along with a kit of the proper brush, a holder, and some soap in a cute bowl or mug) was his all-time favorite Christmas present. I kid you not.
4 – ManCave Natural Face Moisturizer – No parabens. No sulfates. No synthetic fragrances or dyes. No petrochemicals. No GMOs. No cruelty. No problem! Plus, it comes in super manly packaging. These companies are really catching on to what people want. Oh, and it helps firm your skin (thanks, caffeine), clear it up if you’ve got a bit of acne (thanks, borage oil), and has several anti-aging agents. Wonder if I could get away with using this…
5 – Kiss My Face Creamy Cleanser Clean for a Day – I wouldn’t usually support a face cleanser, mostly because everyone’s face is very much unique. As a teen, I had battles with moderate acne (wasn’t that bad, but it tore my self esteem to shreds enough to matter), so I know something that works for one person won’t work for another. However, the reviews were good enough for this one that I feel confident saying that maybe 8 out of 10 people will have success with this one. It’s great for sensitive skin, has a light citrus scent that could work for ladies or gents, and full of everything we like and has NOTHING we don’t like (vegan-friendly, not animal tested, etc etc)…yeah, I think I WILL be ordering this one myself.
6 – Moon Dance Soaps Refreshing Mint Lathering Shave Soap – This will work perfectly with #3 above! The reason I picked a mint soap is because it’s such a refreshing scent that leaves your skin feeling tight and gives you a morning aromatherapy session that will rival your cup o’ joe. I also hit up Etsy every year to put a different scent in the bottom of someone’s stocking. It’s always great to support a small business owner who supports the philosophies we live by. 
7 – Herban Cowboy Dusk Cologne – (How cute is that name?!) Here’s some more super sexy packaging containing an even better product. It’s another vegan product, produced completely in the US, and the Herban Cowboy series of products seem worth checking out. (Especially their deodorant, which people are saying “actually works for a truly stinky man.” Good to know.) ***Please make sure that you purchase the true brand of this since, apparently, there are knock-offs going around. Since this made the below list, which means a lot to me, I’m still supporting it, but some of the online reviews are warning against some sellers.***
8 – Burt’s Bees Cologne – If PETA thinks these colognes are great, I’ve gotta get behind that. We’re a Burt’s Bees family, so I decided to include this cologne because a) it’s a natural, animal-friendly option and b) it seems to be a completely different scent from #7. It is TOUGH to buy a cologne online, so I should mention that most reviewers love it, although there are one or two that find it a bit too…shall we say…hippie-ish. But, if your guy’s into that, awesome. That said, plenty of reviewers mention citrusy, Bergamot, Cyprus and Fir notes (which sounds pretty woodsy and manly to me).  

Do you have any earth-friendly products that you or your guy enjoy? Are you fans of a particular brand? Tell us all about it in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and buy something (even if it’s not on my list), you’ll make my day AND help us pay some bills. Seriously. So much appreciation.

Anti Clorox Wipes

In a house full of cats and an active toddler around, messes are inevitable. Namely, messes of the bodily function variety.

That’s right. Cat pee and potty training smears.

It happens. Daily. Gross, but it’s kind of a moot point when you’re in love with those little rascals.

So, when we recently ran out of my OCD-ish husband’s favorite clean-up tool, disposable Clorox wipes, I found myself hesitant to buy some more. I knew full well that it was contributing to an eco-hater status, which I cringed over every time we wiped a potty seat. Plus, the nasty chemical makeup of the wipes bummed me out.

Of course, I did what every mother does when faced with a dilemma: I took to Pinterest.

There actually wasn’t as much as I thought I’d find, but I really only needed to find one great pin. And I found an awesome resource for you guys at Live Renewed. You’ve got not one but TWO recipes for a natural disinfectant.

I decided to take her Castile soap (ahem, I hope you all know we mean Dr. Bronner’s when we say that, right?) and tea tree essential oil recipe and run with it, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand.

Side note: My essential oil experience has been a fun experiment that’s working out quite well so far, and I still haven’t ordered my replacement lemon (and any new ones I’d like to try out, so any suggestions for new “flavors” would be welcome in the comments!), which is why I didn’t try the other recipe. I’m loving the quality and non-pressure system that Native American Nutritionals has in place compared to others.

Anyhoo, back to the wipes. Here’s how I put this shebang together:


 
For the reusable wipes, I just cut up a couple of (*cough* too small *cough) soft old T-shirts, which gave me…like…maybe 16-20 wipes per shirt, depending on how big you make your wipes. You can also use old cloth napkins (I cut up a few of those for the days I’m out of T-shirt rags) or your husband’s old boxers or whatever. Just check first. Let’s just say I’m waiting for mine to give up on a couple of crappy white tees to sacrifice for the cause. I’m not sure if color really matters or not; it’s not like I care whether they get stained since they’re rags, but I’ll be sure to update you if the color runs. (That said, if you have something white to cut up or use, um, choose that. Probably best.)


Here’s the stuff I mixed up. Per her recipe, I used about 10 drops of tea tree oil (which actually SMELLS like it’s disinfecting, I kid you not! Like Lysol, but natural!), two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s, and a cup of water. I ended up splashing a little more water in to moisten all the wipes, but I think it’s because I put the solution on the bottom of the container instead of pouring it over the top.

Doubt that this stuff works as well as Clorox? Behold…doesn’t this look all disinfecty? If that were a word, of course…

Right?? So, I put the solution at the bottom of my empty, de-labeled and washed Clorox container…

Sexy. Anyhoo, this is the point that I cut up my reusable wipes. I wadded them together, kind of in a roll, and pulled them up in the middle (I didn’t end up using the old white napkins on the outside since there wasn’t room in the tube)…



Don’t overthink it. Just shove it in and pull in the middle. It works. Okay, this is probably the point I should have poured the solution over everything, but I had already put it in the bottom hoping that it would seep upward. I’m sure it probably would have seeped just fine, but I’m an impatient mama and love to see results. So, I splashed a bit more water on the top and shook the thing. Here’s our final product:


Yup, I grabbed a marker and labeled it with a cheeky description. It also has the recipe in small lettering on the other side, just in case my husband feels like whipping some up next time, or in case my incredibly shoddy memory fails me. Again.

I’m keeping them where we kept our old wipes, under our bathroom sink. It’s where we dump Hadman’s potty and where they get used most frequently. This also happens to be where our laundry hamper lives, so it’s perfect. If I think it’s gross to toss these in with the laundry, I’ll grab our old wet bag from cloth diapering days and keep them in there ’til all the rags and linens need to be washed. No big deal.

Whatchya think? Would you try reusable wipes, or are you addicted to your current method of disinfecting? No judging here.

(By the way, there’s an affiliate link or two included in this post. Just a warning. It won’t blow up your computer, and if you purchase anything off of Amazon after clicking through my links, even if it’s not a product I listed, you’ll be helping to run this here little blog. Which is awesome of you and earns you a gold star for the day.)

Lemony Goodness

Apparently lemons are my thing lately. I’m hoping to make a lemon cake for Hadman’s birthday this weekend. But today’s not about recipes. It’s about essential oils.

I’ve had my starter kit for a couple of weeks now, and I’m discovering the awesomeness of each kind s-l-o-w-l-y. As a problem strikes, I turn to Google to see which oil will help me out. It’s been fun to learn about these all in a hands-on way. And it’s kinda funny to see how excited, amazed and clueless Dave is about these little viles of magic. I’ll never forget the first time he set eyes on them and said, “Aww! I’m so sorry they’re so small. Is there a bigger size to buy?” Sure, 15 mL is a small container, but for the most part you’re only using a few drops to maybe 10-20 in one use. So, they actually last quite well.

So, while I’ve been using lavender on my pillow (Dave says it’s the best sleep ever), an “arthritis” blend for my achy knees (I’m not old, really), tea tree on my feet when I feel like I’m coming down with a summer cold, and peppermint to chase away an upset stomach, I thought I’d share my current FAVORITE use for essential oils. By far the best.

See, while I’m not a laundry hater, and I stay on top of it pretty well, I have a tendency to get that smell goin’ on with it. You know the one. The I-forgot-the-load-and-left-it-in-too-long-on-a-humid-day musty smell that, if you wear the clothes, follows you all day.

I’m the queen of that smell, it seems. Am I the only one?

Well, the only EO that I’ve decided to relocate out of the handy carrying case is the lemon — next to the washer. It’s going to stay there until it’s empty…then I’m getting more to repeat the process!

There are two ways that I use the stuff. I’ve come to add it automatically (10 drops, give or take, depending on the size of the load) to the washing detergent before dumping it into the washing machine. If I don’t get to the clean-but-wet load in a day or so, I haven’t noticed that musty smell AT ALL.

Then, if the load has been in the dryer and is displaying any not-nice smell, I put about 10 drops on a washcloth (it can stain, so make sure it’s an old cloth or one you’re okay with staining; this hasn’t happened for me, but you never know), toss it in, and run it until everything’s dry (or run it for awhile to “fluff” the load). If it doesn’t take it away completely, repeat the process. It shouldn’t take more than two “fluffs” to rid the clothes of the smell.

The reason that the lemon EO is so ideal for laundry use is its disinfectant qualities. (It can also be used in other cleaning applications, too.) See? The stuff ain’t just for aromatherapy! I’ve found a couple of links (like this one – alternative to disinfectant hand gel?! – and this one) that give you far more information than I currently can on other incredible uses for this lemony goodness.

Does anyone have an EO uses that they can’t live without to share? I’d love to pick your brain!

By the way, I’m not a seller of any essential oils, so these opinions are just to help out anyone interested in the benefits of EOs, no strings attached. 🙂     

Bad Grocery Juju

Why, oh why do I stray from the norm? Seriously, Meg: stick to Hannaford, the occasional Aldi stop, and go nuts with farmers’ market trips.

I was in the need of a handful of stuff. You know. Not a “stock the cupboards” type of trip; more of a “just the necessities that we’re out of” thing. So, I thought naively, why not give the new local Price Chopper a go? And bring the guys along?

Ugh. So. Dumb. *points to self*

Mistake #1: Assuming that this new, snazzy Price Chopper was going to be equal in options to, say, the same branch about half and hour away, or even (goodness forbid) our local Hannaford. *buzzer*

Totally different. Not much room to maneuver, especially the areas we needed (namely produce). And HARDLY ANY NATURAL/ORGANIC OPTIONS!!! Hannaford wins, hands-down, in that department just be, um, HAVING “that department.” I walked through a ton of aisles just to see what options they had mixed on the shelves. ONE organic cereal, and it was Kashi (which we don’t buy thanks to some unsavory practices…say, being owned by Kellogg).

Lesson: Stick to what you know. Locally, Hannaford is our best bet. It just is. Prices were generally comparable, there are occasional sales at both places on the organic produce so it’s hit-or-miss, and there’s just SUCH a selection at Hannaford, hands-down. 

Mistake #2: Assuming that bringing the guys along would be a pleasant experience for all involved. I should’ve known better on this one, honestly. It’s completely my fault.

Considering I had seen in advance on their new flyers that an ex from college is apparently in management at the place…that created one awkward environment. I can’t be the only person to whom this type of ridiculousness happens, right? Normally, I’m cool talking to people from my past, but this guy clearly wasn’t over…well, anything. Just…awkward and stupid.

Lesson: Shouldn’t I know better by now? Don’t subject family to potentially awkward situations if at all possible. (smacks forehead)

Then, the “toddler itch” kicked in. Oh, yes. The grab items (a non-organic Granny Smith apple which he proceeded to chomp down on…eh, at least it kept him quiet for awhile. “Go ahead, sweetie. Eat the sticker.”), squirming to get down, fine-poor-daddy-will-walk-you-all-over-the-store itch. We later figured out that the little guy’s teething up a storm, so I feel a tad less upset about this whole part. Not to mention it was a very big “I told you so” moment since Dave has a crystal ball and realized the place wouldn’t be as well-stocked as Price Chopper. :-\ Eh. He’s right, what can I say? When the man’s right, he’s right.

Lesson: Well…I kinda wish Dave had voiced his concern beforehand, but I’m stubborn and not sure I would’ve listened. However, I have already learned that a) a shopping trip with Dave and Hadley along always has a different level of “excitement” (and takes longer). I should’ve just gone on my own and been done with it. Not to mention, Hadley wouldn’t nap when we got him home, so that made for a crazy visit at my parents’ later in the evening.

FINAL THOUGHTS (I’m Jerry Springer!): If you aren’t looking for natural options, this new Price Chopper would be a fine choice. If you’re not dragging a brood along (seriously, it’s tough to maneuver those aisles!), it’s a fine choice. If you haven’t dated any of their employees who have clearly not yet dealt with their issues, it’s a fine choice.

If you WANT good organic and natural choices, if you WANT everything on your shopping list, if you WANT a pleasant environment, if you WANT to have a fun grocery shopping trip with your entire family…maybe not the best choice.
By the way, your situation may be completely different, and this could be an isolated thing. It’s entirely possible.

Summer Eats

Am I the only one who gets a bit of a jolt when one season melds into the next? Don’t get me wrong, my favorite thing about living where we “feel” four seasons is that new transition into the next one; the new smells and sights and feelings of temperature changes. What hits me a little harder, aside from figuring out what the heck to wear, is what to eat.

I always seem to forget what “got us by” the previous year. Plus, now that we’ve got a little guy who eats dinners right alongside us, it’s a tad more challenging to come up with meals that he’ll partake in, as well. There was a time that Dave and I could live on salads almost every night for dinner, but that won’t cut it with the munchkin and his super-human appetite along for the ride.

So, here are a few ideas. Feel free to add more in the comments!

Grilled stuff. Grilled chicken, grilled veggies, grilled pizza…grilled freakin’ siding from the house. Seriously, almost anything? Grill it. It’s the new “put a bird on it.” (Hadley is hit-or-miss on this. If it’s, say, a grilled cheeseburger, he’ll generally eat it. Grilled chicken is a 75/25 chance [75% of the time he doesn’t eat it]. It is what it is. Gotta keep trying!)

– Low-key sandwiches. In the winter, it’s a quasi-weekly “soup and sandwich” night (which my husband inevitably turns into a “salad and soup” or “salad and sandwich” night…); in the summer, it’s a “sandwich night” (with something as normal-yet-unhealthy as chips on the side, or something healthier like carrots or cooked veggies — which is more for the toddler than anything). This is also what my mom used to call a smorgasbord night. Just grab some hoagie/sub/whateveryouwannacallthem rolls, set up a station of veggies, meat, cheese, and condiments, and go wild. Hey, it’s better than Subway!

– Another variation on the “smorgasbord” is the “let’s see what’s in the fridge” meal (probably closer to what a smorgasbord really is). BTW, I feel like the Swedish chef every time I say “smorgasbord.” K. So, this is something my sister and I used to do when we ate “picnics” on a blanket on the living room floor. It entails finding cold cuts, cheese to cut up, pickles, olives (if you’re into those; I am, but Dave isn’t, so it’s useless buying them), crackers, carrot sticks (any veggies, really) and dip, granola bars, apples with peanut butter…seriously, anything in the pantry or fridge that could be considered a finger food. It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing ever (well, actually, it CAN be, depending on what you have), but it’ll work for those “so hot my brain won’t work” nights.

Paninis. Sure, this is a variation on “grilled” (especially if you put something grilled on it) AND “low-key sandwiches”, but they’re still kind of their own thing. You make the sandwich (including SOME sort of cheese…it’s gotta get melty!), then throw it on the grill pan (less messy and less work than a regular grill, honestly), and you’re done. You can use no-nitrate cold cuts (or don’t, no judging) or leftover grilled chicken; whatev. If you’ve got a picky eater on your hands (like, I doubt Hadman would eat a balsamic carmelized onion mushroom panini…just a hunch), just make him a grilled cheese and call it a day. Don’t stress, guys.

Pasta. I know it sounds heavy, but seriously — (lightly cooked) veggies + pasta + pasta water + grated cheese + lemon juice (optional) and seasoning = dinner. Bam.

Wraps, like sandwiches, are a great light option for those sweltering evenings. They can turn a boring sandwich into more of a restaurant-like experience. Just think of what you’d like to order and see if you can recreate it at home! And don’t worry if you don’t wrap it up perfectly; it’s the taste that counts. (And toothpicks help!)

Stir-fry. Again, it sounds heavy, but when you don’t go heavy (like teriyaki) and aim more for veggies (and maybe chicken) on some rice, you’d be surprised. Especially if you keep it bright and light with some citrus. Yum…I think I’ll make that tonight. 🙂 I did. Don’t forget to use soy sauce…instead of Worcestershire.

Quesadillas. You can make this as complicated, traditional, or simple as you’d like. Here’s a recipe for a black bean quesadilla I made awhile back, but you could easily just make a simple chicken or beef quesadilla, or push the envelope with something more “daring” (as daring as food can be, I guess) like a breakfast version with sausage or a buffalo chicken version — which my husband would go nuts over. Oh, and you can probably tell that if there’s melted cheese on something, it ups the chance of our little guy’s eating it. Clearly.

– Speaking of breakfast, this is a go-to anytime of the year for me: breakfast for dinner. Whether it’s pancakes, french toast, omelets or simply eggs/toast/hash browns, this is a quick, relatively light way to get some food down your family’s gullet.

And if all else fails, make a couple of grown-up salads will grilled meat and give your munchkin some of his own grilled meat, some heated-up frozen veggies, and a cheese stick (or, our son’s latest FAVORITE, pineapple) and call it a day. It’s hot, after all. Don’t knock yourself out.