Efficiency at its Finest: Killing 5 Birds with One Stone (Figuratively of Course)

What does having a crappy blender, having an awesome juicer, having a picky toddler I must trick into eating, my homemade pasta sauce and my homemade veggie broth all have in common?  You might want to find something to hang on to (for my fellow Whovians)…it’ll be a wild ride!

I’ll start with the fact that I have a crappy blender.  It is a Ninja but not a good enough one for veggies and ice.  I made an amazing peanut butter banana smoothie the other day, but I like greening smoothies and it wasn’t cutting it for that. 

Enter juicer.   My parents bought us a juicer for Christmas 2013.  I had always wanted to start juicing.  I thought about just juicing veggies, then adding the juice to the smoothie, but what would I do with all that pulp?  Then my mother-in-law told me she heard you can use the pulp from juicing.  Perfect.

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Enter picky toddler.  I mentioned in another post how my daughter used to eat everything in sight and now at 1 1/2 has seemed to gain this newfound independence and refuses most food, shaking of the head, waving of the hand and all.  If you know me well, I HATE wasting food.  If I could send it to the starving children, I would.  I made Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (in recipe folder) the other day and she ate it all!  Hiding veggies in sauces seemed to work, so I must do it again!  The pulp from juicing is mostly chopped super fine so I needed a sauce to put it in that would hide it well.

Enter my homemade sauce.  Therese (and my hubby) have consistently loved one thing, and that is my pasta sauce, and it is a great thing to prep ahead and freeze in portions for a wide variety of future meals, like different pastas, chicken or eggplant parm, or create even more meals with lasagna, stuffed shells or manicotti.  I would hope I make my Nonna proud!  Let’s rewind for a second.  I had juiced 4 carrots, 2 stalks of celery and 1 packed cup of spinach.  I mixed a little bit of the pulp in Therese’s portion of the sauce and although it had visible spinach bits in it she gobbled it down!  SUCCESS!  I set aside more sauce and mixed the rest of the veggies in it for her for leftovers.  Now, I will never give away my sauce recipe, but I will say I do have a lot of left over stems from herbs and ends and peels from onions and garlic, plus the left over ends and peels of the carrots and celery from.  What do I do as to not waste this?

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Enter my homemade veggie stock.  My maternal grandmother showed me how she freezes organic material and although she throws it away, she doesn’t throw a lot away and freezes it to prevent it from sitting in the trash rotting.  I can just do this with celery, carrot, onion and garlic for veggie stock.  I still have plenty other organic material for composting!  Veggie stock is relatively easy.  Most recipes, like my Butternut Squash Soup and Tomato Bisque (both in recipe folder) call for 5 cups/32 oz. of stock, which is usually the size of a store-bought container.  I measure 5 cups of water in a pot and when I have about 3 cups of the peels and ends, I cover it and simmer it with salt, black pepper, white pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and celery salt until flavorful and most of the veggies are super wilted, soft and some even translucent.  I never measure the salts, powders and peppers I put in…I just test it.  🙂

I am always trying to come up with efficient ways of doing things and this definitely is one!  I really hope it helps you!  Cheap, easy, efficient and next to no waste.  Who could ask for more?

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

My little one went from eating everything in sight to being the pickiest eater on the planet, and veggies are taking a hit.  I needed a way to hide them and I know a lot of parents need the same tricks to ensure their kids are getting everything they need.  She has been okay with peas, so those made an appearance but she had no idea about the squash and downed every bite…except of course the peas!  She picked those out of the bowl and gave me the, “How could you?” look.  Guessing what food she is in the mood for day by day is an Olympic sport!

1 cup Heavy Cream
1 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
3 Tbsp Butter, unsalted
1/2 cup Butternut Squash, cooked and pureed (I made this while making Butternut Squash Soup)
2 cups Pasta
1 cup Peas (or any veggie like broccoli, just keep in mind cooking times are different)
Salt and Pepper

Directions
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a small pot and simmer on low until completely melted.  Add butternut squash and continue warming on low.

Boil 3 cups of water, add the pasta and peas and cook for 7-9 minutes.  Drain.  Put pasta and peas back in the pot and mix the cheese sauce in with it and add salt and pepper to taste.

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I added tofu to mine!  You can add any protein you desire.  Makes about 4-5 servings.

The Price of Beauty

I am a tomboy; always have been, always will be.  I have never been one for designer clothes, shoes, bags, hair products or make up.  My wedding dress was a white cotton dress that was $15 at Ross.  For every expensive, unnecessary “beauty” item, I can think of a thousand other things I could want or do with that money.  Why is all that considered beauty?  When did our society become so wrapped up in outward appearance?  Even if you can afford it, why?  Why is our self-image a thing? I won’t even go into how magazines and starving, airbrushed, inch-thick-make-up models continue to make us feel worthless.  I am not even talking about it in the sense of an art form.  Our self-worth somehow rides on what we look like, men and women alike. There are people that genuinely like make-up and clothes and it is a fun, artsy thing.  They just like coloring their hair, cutting it different ways, wearing different colors of make-up.   Then there are some that think, “I can’t leave the house unless I look like a million bucks.”  The word “make-up” is taken as that; making up for something.  No thanks. Thrifty shopping and homemade “beauty” products are my thing. Coconut oil is all I need!  I am not worried about gray hair or wrinkles, because guess what?  We all get old, we all wither and die.  A sad part of life, but life all the same.  No one cheats it.  I wear dresses…but only when someone gets married or dies.  Wait I lied, I do love a nice sun dress over a bathing suit for the beach or pool, but because it is comfortableComfort is key for me. I do not like nice dresses, and the second I put one on, I am counting down the minutes to when I get to change.  Give me yoga pants and Yankees shirts all day.  In heels, I am a baby giraffe learning to walk, so I don’t own any.  I absolutely hate tweezing my eyebrows and will let them get to the point right before a unibrow is visible before tweezing them.  I wear a little make up; concealer, eye liner and mascara, because I like the way it looks, and maybe foundation and eye shadow, again, if someone gets married or dies.  I leave the house all the time without make up and even the times we go out for family time or a date night, it doesn’t take me very long at all to get ready.  For a few years now, my hair curls naturally so I haven’t straightened it in years.  My hubby is a lucky guy, huh?  🙂

However, just liking the way something looked wasn’t always the reason.  I thought I looked bad.  Every time I looked in the mirror, it was all critical, and sometimes still is.  It is a constant struggle, but not so much with my face or hair, just the rest.  I started out growing up with self-esteem issues, and it morphed into self-image problems.  I am pretty confident in who I am as me, and also as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and so on.  We won’t even talk about the time in my life where the two overlapped.  However, the self-image started when I gained weight.  I was always athletic and active, but during that “I hate myself and don’t know who I am,” phase, I let that go.  I have never been obese, but overweight nonetheless.  I’ll take a cannoli over a carrot any day.  I have gotten A LOT better, though.  I started caring more right before my hubby and I got together, and although I never got back to the almighty “high school weight,” I was active and started feeling better about myself.

Then I got pregnant.  Which was crazy and awesome all rolled together.  The greatest thing I’ve done to date.  Having a baby is the single greatest and most bad ass thing the human body can do. Thanks to not-so-good genes, I earned my tiger stripes and even if I get in the best shape of my life, I will have a little pooch forever, and that is okay! I had a ways to go losing weight post pardum, even though I ate super healthy while pregnant, breastfed and lived on the third floor of an apartment her first year with no elevator (great workout). Then I started criticizing myself again.  The best thing is that I have a hubby who is crazy about me and compliments me all the time, but it makes it harder because he is still super attracted to me.  So yes, pass the cookie…he loves it so who cares, right?  Then I started really changing my perspective.  It isn’t about looks, it is about health.  It is about being there for my daughter and the next (and last) child.  It is about actually growing old with my husband and being able to enjoy retirement, not live it in pain and misery because I didn’t take care of my body now.  It is about feeling good, feeling healthy, feeling alive.  Then I thought about this the other day and it brought me to tears.  My daughter hears everything now.  She may not be able to say it all, but it is safe to say she understands the English language pretty well and has moved to mimicking EVERYTHING.  I will make jokes about being a “fat kid” or make a comment about myself that really is a joke and has no bearing on how I view myself, but she hears it and doesn’t understand other than I am saying something negative about myself.  I never want her to feel that way.  EVER.  Her Daddy compliments me all the time, in front of her, why would I counterattack that with insults, jokes or not?  It is bad enough society will break her, why should I not be her source of strength and a great example?  It isn’t even a woman thing, although we may take advantage of it more because we tend to be more emotional.  Every magazine, every commercial, bullies, the lot, constantly make us feel like we aren’t good enough.  Your hair isn’t good enough, you don’t smell good enough, your workout routine or diet isn’t complete without X, Y and Z products, your apparel isn’t good enough, your sex life isn’t good enough, etcetera, etcetera.  Screw that!  WE need to change.  WE are society.  Let’s get rid of this awful plague that we aren’t good enough for ourselves or someone else.  Your weight is a measurement of gravity, nothing more. Male body sprays smell AWFUL.  Too much make-up looks fake and bad most times unless you are really good at it.  Have a cookie once in a while as long as you are making the norm a healthy lifestyle, a cookie won’t kill you…we do only live once, so moderation of health and splurging is key. 

To the moms who think their body was “ruined” by having babies…STOP.  We did something so amazing and wonderful that we should think of the visible reminder as battle scars, tiger stripes, morphing from girl to woman.  We are women, hear us roar!  If someone isn’t attracted to you physically, it is okay.  Remember, there are 7 billion people in the world…kick ’em to the curb, on to the next one!  Everyone deserves to be with someone that wants to be with them and that appreciates who you are. 

Yes, be healthy, set a good example for your kids, teach them to take care of what they have, including their body, but for the right reasons.  Change your perspective.  It is about health, not beauty. 

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Hippie Parenting 2: Cloth Diapering

I know…when a lot of you think “cloth diapers,” you think, “smelly,” “dirty,” and probably “gag me.”   At first, every time Therese delivered a lovely gift, I thought all those things and sometimes gagged.  However, it got better. I mean, the gift didn’t get better, but I became desensitized.  Thinking of the immense environmental impact you make when choosing cloth diapers, it fills you with pride.  Another bonus is it is cheaper in the long run.  You have the diapers forever for all future kids and they are supposed to potty train quicker because cloth doesn’t soak it up too much.  When most kids were cloth diapered, they were potty training at 18 months.  Now, some kids have a hard time well after 2.

At first, we had a service.  $125 gave us a rental of the diaper bail and bag, snappies (fasteners), diaper covers, air fresheners (attach to the inside of the pail) and a tutorial on different techniques!  Then for $100 a month, we got the dirty ones picked up with new ones dropped off once a week.  The air fesheners work well until the little one starts eating solids, then you have to supplement with spray.  We did that for a year and then used a new service after we moved.  That was only $85 to start, came with the same supplies and was only $19 a week for the weekly pick up/ drop offs.  Two months after, they went out of business and were the only service!  They sold us the diapers and let us keep the supplies and I started cleaning them myself.  Now when Therese was around 9 months, we had to start using disposables more often because she would get bad rashes from the new foods she was eating.  We used Seventh Generation recycled ones and they work well.  Sometimes she has to wear them exclusively a few days depending on the rash situation, but for the most part, she only wears them during nap time and during the night.  A huge help is when we started putting coconut oil on her bottom...EVERY TIME.  Now, I clean them myself.  Ones that are only wet can go right in the pail.  The dirty ones should be rinsed before going in the pail.  I just rinse it in the toilet….gross, I know, but as parents we either have seen or will see much worse things!  Some use sprayers that hook on the toilet, making it a little easier. I strip them, then wash them every time.  Not everyone strips every time but I find it cleaner and better working against rashes when done every time.  See what works for you, but definitely strip if they are sick or have a rash.  No two washing machines are created equal, but here is what we do and you can tweak it to your washing machine.  This is the only time I use Dawn (more chemicals than I’d like) and chlorine bleach (yuck yuck yuck, look out for a blog post on that at some point).

Strip (we have a top loader so we throw them in and put everything on top)
-1 tsp Dawn (I use regular blue)
-1/2 cup Bleach (with chlorine)
-1 pouch MelaBrite Oxi

Set on Hand Wash (works them more than a regular spin cycle), Water Temp-Hot, Soil Level-Extra Heavy, High Spin cycle, Extra Rinse cycle, and Deep Clean cycle.  We have a sweet washing machine.  Takes 63 minutes.

Sometimes, if the diapers look stained and/or moldy and you want to get that out, after the strip cycle, you can “sun” them by soaking in lemon juice and laying it out in the sun. Hanging them doesn’t always get it all out because the whole thing isn’t evenly facing the sun, so laying them down works best.

Wash
-Detergent (MelaPower 6x Concentrate)
-1/2 cup Bleach (non-chlorine)
-1 pouch MelaBrite Oxi
Set on Normal Wash, Water Temp-Cool, Soil Level-Heavy, High Spin cycle, Extra Rinse cycle.  Takes 60 minutes.

Here are a couple different types of cloth diapers.  These are the ones a service will give you and just a small batch of what I have of both diapers and covers.  I believe there are 4-5 sizes from Newborn up.  The covers come in snap or velcro.  Snaps last longer because they have snaps that adjust the size, but of course velcro is quicker!  The covers can be cleaned in the laundry with their clothes. 

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These next ones are a diaper and insert.  The ones at the top of the picture are the cover and insert that comes out.  Sometimes you can change their diaper before the diaper gets wet or dirty, so you can just change the insert, but you have to be quick.  The ones at the bottom of the picture have inserts that don’t come out.  I find these really needing to be changed more often than the cloth with covers.  These get washed with the cloth ones.

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Below is her swim diaper!  I wash it in with her clothes because she usually just gets it wet, but if it is dirty, we rinse it in the toilet and wash with the diapers.

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Oh and this is her pail.  A standard trash can with a lid works.  The bag is a laundry bag with a drawstring.  I wash it in the wash cycle with the diapers (not the strip cycle).

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Here’s a few stats.  These are not for a service, but if you wash them yourself from day one.  Some numbers are different because they are averages, but are pretty close and it really depends on where you live, how big your child is (size-wise), where you shop and how often you buy bulk

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*UPDATE* 

She was showing signs of being ready to potty train, but reverted back to not only shying away from it, but not wanting cloth diapers at all. She started freaking out and not only not wanting them on, but not going to the bathroom on the toilet either!   She is now just in regular diapers at almost 2 1/2, but I feel a lot better about it knowing that we saved so much in the beginning!