Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning the Natural Way: The Kitchen

I love this time of year- most days I can open the windows and let some fresh air in, get the kids outside to play and burn off energy, and sip on my iced drinks like it's nobody's business!

The other thing I love? Spring cleaning! I know, I know- not everyone loves spring cleaning, and I really don't like the act of cleaning... but I like the result. Nothing a little Starbucks can't help and in the end I feel like my house is super clean. The deep cleaning jobs rarely get done- who has time for that on a regular basis? Not me!

Besides making a list and game plan for all of my cleaning tasks, I also make sure I have all the cleaning supplies I need. I make pretty much all of my own cleaning supplies now, and it has been so nice to be chemical-free. I don't have to lock the cabinet under the sink anymore, and I can rest easy knowing the things I'm spraying around the house are all-natural and healthy for my kiddos and my dogs. Not to mention, it saves us money on cleaning supplies. It's a win-win situation!

Since I spend most of the time in the kitchen, I like to start my spring cleaning there. Here are the cleaning recipes I use in my kitchen:

Window Cleaner
1/2 C. White Vinegar
10-15 drops lemon essential oil
Water to fill

Mix ingredients in 24 oz. spray bottle and give it a good shake. Since oil and water don't mix, be sure you shake it up each time you use it.

All-Purpose Cleaner
1/2 tsp. Dr. Bronner's liquid soap (find at Target!)
1 tsp. Borax
2 tbsp. white vinegar
2-4 drops essential oil (lemon, purification, or thieves)
Hot water to fill

Mix all ingredients in a 24 oz. spray bottle. Shake before use. Spray area to be cleaned and wipe off with sponge or rag. Use on countertops, stovetops, refrigerators, etc.

Sink Scrub
1 cup baking soda
2 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops thieves essential oil

Pour baking soda into mason jar. Add essential oil, twist on the lid, and give it a good shake. Rinse sink and sprinkle mix in and around sink- using more in heavily stained/soiled areas. Scrub and rinse clean.

Deodorizing Spray
Small spray bottle (4 oz) filled with water
10-15 drops purification essential oil

Mix together and spritz throughout room. One or two spritzes is enough in a small room (bathroom, closet, etc.). Perfect to use in the kitchen- especially after cooking. It neutralizes the odor- instead of covering it up!

Oven Cleaner
Spray water in bottom of oven and cover with baking soda. Spray with more water. Let sit overnight and wipe up in the morning!

Stainless Steel Appliances
I use a Kaywos Cloth for my stainless steel. All you have to do is get it wet, wring it out, and then wipe. It works awesome and is the best thing I've found for the outside of my oven and microwave!

Check out some of the natural cleaning recipes we've shared in the past:

Many of my cleaning supplies use essential oils- you can find and order them HERE. (I do receive a small commission on any sales that occur through this link.) If you have any questions about the oils, feel free to shoot an e-mail or leave a comment! 

Have you started spring cleaning? Share your tips and tricks with us below! 
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Good App: UP Coffee

Remember when I wrote about how I broke my soda habit? Well, I was careful not to say "caffeine habit". I still need caffeine. I'm grumpy without it in the morning and no one wants to be grumpy.

I do have to be careful how much caffeine I take it. I get jittery and anxious if I over do it. That's no good. 

Usually, I do fine with a mocha in the morning and a refresher in the afternoon. Sometimes I am tempted to make it a two mocha day though. Like when I'm up all night with a sick kid... Been there. 

I stumbled upon this great app to help me visualize how much caffeine is in my system. The app is designed to tell you when you will get optimal sleep, but I have found it helps me avoid the jitters. 

It's called UP Coffee and it's from the same folks who brought you the UP Jawbone. (This isn't a sponsored post, by the way)

Here's what it looks like in the App Store (all pics in this post are screenshots from my phone):

The first time you use the app you give it info like your height and weight so it can calculate how your body burns caffeine.

Every time I drink something with caffeine I add it to the app- they have lots of options but if you can't find your caffeine of choice you can add a custom entry:

After I add a drink, my caffeine tank fills up showing me how close I'm getting to jittery:

The app tells you how close you're getting to good sleep and as the day goes on your caffeine tank empties: 

There are graphs that show your caffeine levels over time and compared to all other users. They also give you fun tips and facts everyday. "I'll take caffeine for 1000, Alex."

This app has been great for me to see how much caffeine is still in my system. There have been days where I've felt draggy in the afternoon and checked the app only to find my tank half full- this tells me that I need to GET UP AND MOVE instead of drink more coffee. See how that works?

You should try it, I think you'll find it interesting too. 

What apps keep you accountable? We'd love to know how you use technology to stay healthy!
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

The weather is finally taking a turn for the better here in Minnesota and I am totally on the spring/summer train! I busted out my cold cups, icy drinks, and ice cream maker this week and have been letting the fresh air in. It's the best feeling to air out the house after a long and cold winter, and to be able to put away the heavy coats and boots. I'm crossing my fingers that I'm not getting ahead of myself here. :)

Last year for Mother's Day, the kids got me an ice cream maker. I dabbled in some ice cream making over the summer- I made Adam a chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream that was super yummy, and I'm still on the hunt for the perfect s'mores ice cream recipe (if you have one, link it or share below, please!).

I decided that I would try to use the ice cream maker more this spring and summer, so I started off with this super yummy strawberry chocolate chip greek frozen yogurt. It's a tart and has just the right amount of sweetness to satisfy my sweet tooth. Plus, it's super easy to throw together, and if you use frozen fruit instead of fresh, you don't even need an ice cream maker!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

2 C. Plain Greek Yogurt (Chobani non-fat is my favorite)
2 C. Frozen or fresh Unsweetened Strawberries
1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 C. Mini Chocolate Chips

In a blender, add yogurt, strawberries, sugar, and vanilla. Add a splash of water and blend on high until smooth.

Add to your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's directions. Add in chocolate chips at the end of churning.

If you used frozen berries, you can probably skip the ice cream maker because the mixture will be pretty thick already. Just pour mix into container and mix in chocolate chips.

Add frozen yogurt to a freezer safe container and freeze until desired consistency is reached. You may need to check in on it every once in a while and stir around to get an even consistency.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

How does my garden grow? {Part 3: Container Planting Tips}

The time for planting has come! Well, if you live in Oklahoma. Chances are, we are past all "hard freezes" and if it might get close to freezing overnight I just throw a couple of old towels over my containers.

I chose to plant in containers for a few reasons- no weeds, no soil testing, nothing for my husband to mow around, and I can move them and rearrange as necessary.

I used large galvanized water tubs from my local farm supply store, organic planting mix ("soil" isn't necessary) and organic seed starter mix, later I will fertilize with organic fertilizer. I talked about how I started a few things from seeds, they were well established in their seed cups so I knew it was ok to plant them.

I made notes of a couple of tips I have for planting and wanted to share them with you. 

I am looking forward to some yummy herbs, veggies and fruit. Stay tuned for more from my garden!
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Friday, April 4, 2014

How I Broke My Soda Habit

Soda, pop, coke, whatever you call it- it's not a healthy drink. Don't even get me started on "diet" versions! Regular pop has a lot of sugar (41g in 12 oz of Pepsi), a lot of empty calories (150 in 12 oz), and sodium that no one really needs because we get enough from our food.

Up until recently, I have been a one-pop-a-day drinker. The size of that pop varied depending on how much caffeine I felt like I needed that day ;-) but I have always had to have a pop in the afternoon to keep me going. I was so addicted that if I hadn't had a pop by 3pm I'd start to get a headache. Yikes.

I know better!

I've been on this journey to a "healthier me" for a while and I have made so many improvements to my lifestyle over the past year or so. I knew it was time for me to stop my pop habit.

So, I started contemplating alternatives. I knew I still needed the caffeine, but I didn't like the idea of having more coffee- that's more caffeine than I needed in the afternoon. I don't like iced tea- I end up making it too sweet and less sugar is one benefit to letting go of pop. I was also worried because, at this point, I craved pop. Finding an alternative would be difficult. I was ready to make a change, I just needed to find something I loved as much as pop.

After much R&D I have replaced pop with...

Starbucks Via Refreshers Strawberry Lemonade (6g of sugar, 0mg of sodium, and 35 calories for half a packet)

  • I only use half a packet in my 16oz cup and I usually fill the cup half full with ice.
  • I love the flavor. It's sweet and slightly tart. 
  • The caffeine comes from green coffee extract- this is also the stuff found in popular drinks like Plexus.
  • Since the powder is added to water- I'm also drinking more water, always a good thing!

I went for a whole week without a single sip of pop and never had an issue! I didn't even crave it. I have one half-packet of refreshers per day (two if I'm super run down) and I'm good to go.

Now that I've broken the habit, I'm determined to keep this up. Just to make sure I don't fall into the pit of deprivation, I do still get pop when I eat out- but that's rare so it's more of a "treat" than a "must have".

Taking on unhealthy habits one at a time is a manageable way to make lifestyle change.

What's an unhealthy habit you wish you could break?

**This is not a sponsored post, just my story**
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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Calcium- What's the Big Deal Anyway?

When most of us think of calcium we think of two things- dairy and bones. I like to think I get my daily dose of calcium every morning with my skinny decaf toffee latte- it's my favorite way to put a dent into my daily dose. Ha ha!

But, did you know that calcium can come from sources other than milk, yogurt, and cheese?  Or that calcium does more than build strong bones?

Calcium aids in muscle contractions, blood clotting, nerve impulses, secretion of hormones and, of course, in bone structure. Those are some pretty important jobs- and many women have a hard time getting their daily dose of calcium.

I'm really not a milk drinker unless it's in my coffee or flavored with chocolate, and my morning coffee definitely doesn't give me all the calcium I need for the day. Bummer, right? Well, the good news is that there are lots of other ways to get calcium that don't come from milk or dairy!

White Beans
Soy or Coconut Milk
Fortified Orange Juice
Cheerios (fortified)

What's your favorite source of calcium? I won't judge if you say ice cream or a mocha/latte/fancy coffee drink- those are my favorites too! :) 

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Monday, March 31, 2014

March Favorites

I'm so glad Spring is here. My house is cleaner, we are spending more time outside, I've gotten my first "Spring pedicure"... good times, friends, good times.

March was a fun month. Here are my favorite posts:

Favorite Recipe Post- Apple Almond Oatmeal::perfect for chilly Spring mornings

Favorite Product Post- Kitchen Canisters::keep the kitchen looking good and keep baking supplies handy

Favorite Kid Post- Sneaky Orange Smoothie Pops::I hope my kids will share these with me

Enjoy the last day of March! I hope, wherever you are, you can open the windows and let in a little fresh Spring air.
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