Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How to Make Beard Oil

I happen to be in love with a man who has a really great beard. Yes, I know... I AM very lucky! :) Sometime in the last year or so, I started making him some homemade beard oil... he loves it because it keeps his beard and face soft, smooth and neatly groomed. I love it because it smells wonderful, and makes him look even more handsome than usual. ;)

There are lots of beard oils on the market that you can buy, but y'all know how I roll... why buy it if you can make it?! It's really easy to do... the basic ingredients of beard oil are a carrier oil, vitamin E oil, and a blend of essential oils. That's it. You can use pretty much any essential oils you want... this is entirely personal preference. I try to pick ones that not only smell good, but are also beneficial to the skin. The Man tends to prefer spicy, woodsy, citrus scents, so I generally stick with those, and steer clear of anything flowery. I experimented a lot in the first few batches I made, until I settled on a blend I really liked. One important thing, though... make sure you use a good brand of high quality oils... I use Young Living brand for this, but any good therapeutic-grade oils are fine.

Here's my recipe:

Homemade Beard Oil 

3 oz carrier oil (I usually use a mix of jojoba and sweet almond oil)
25 drops cedarwood oil
18 drops tea tree oil
6 drops orange oil
1 drop cinnamon oil
little drizzle of pure vitamin e oil

Combine all the oils into a dark dropper bottle and shake up to mix. To use, place a few drops in your hand and rub through beard and into the skin under your beard, then comb or brush beard into place.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

First Honey Harvest!

So the world has been going crazy lately, and I've started about 20 different blog posts the last 6 weeks, which I just haven't been able to find the words to finish. Rape culture, homophobia, mass shootings, racism, police brutality, murder of police officers... gah. Seriously, life is really hard for much of America right now, and like most people, I feel helpless and frightened, and I really don't know what to say. I'm trying, instead, to keep listening, to speak up when needed, and to try to keep my kids feeling safe and happy in an unsafe world. That's pretty much the best I can do at the moment.

So I'm not going to write about the troubles in the world. Instead, I'm going to focus on my own little cocoon, my wee little Suburban Farm, and I'm going to tell you all about getting our first Honey Harvest from our hive! Minding my bees has been a wonderful escape for me, and getting to harvest a whole mess of delicious, sticky-sweet honey has been such a treat.

I put the honey super on the end of May, and when I took a peek mid-June, I was impressed to see that they'd made amazing progress!

By the beginning of July, the whole super was filled with capped honey! I couldn't believe how quickly my ladies worked! And I couldn't believe that after a little over a year as a beekeeper (and after a few setbacks!) I was finally getting to harvest my first batch of honey. 
Capped honey, ready to harvest!

Scraping off the comb and honey


We put all the comb and honey into a cheesecloth-lined colander
over a big pot. The honey drips down, and the wax stays behind. 

Ladling the fresh, raw honey into jars

I'm so grateful for this little bit of joy and normalcy in my life... more grateful now than ever. I hope that you're also able to find a small amount of peace as we make our way in this crazy world.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

My New Favorite Lunch Recipe...

Most days, lunch for me is a big salad and/or some soup, or some leftovers from the previous night's dinner... but sometimes I get a craving for a really good sandwich. Who doesn't, right? My typical sandwich choices are hummus or cashew cheese, piled with lettuce, tomato and other veggies on sprouted grain bread (or a wrap) 

But lately... I have a new Sandwich Love... it's called Chickpea-Avocado Salad and it's DELICIOUS. It's sort of similar to the non-vegan sandwich staples chicken salad or egg salad. But vegan, and amazing in every way. It not only tastes great, it's also super nutritious and really satisfying. It's the perfect sandwich for summer picnic.

Chickpea-Avocado Salad Sandwich
1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas, mashed
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 med purple onion, finely chopped
splash of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything in a bowl, and mash/stir until well blended. Serve on toasted bread with lettuce, tomato and any other veggies you like (sprouts work great!) Alternatively, you can serve it up in a wrap, in lettuce leaves, on crackers... etc. You can make this salad up ahead of time... it will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Routines! Part 2

So, last post I talked about how my daily routines help me keep up with my busy life. Today I'm going to talk about my weekly routines.

While my daily routines keep up with the basic daily needs of my home and family (basic tidying, daily meals, laundry, etc) my weekly routines take care of everything else I need to get done to keep my home running smoothly, such as paying bills, planning meals, errands, cleaning, etc.

In order to balance home needs with our very busy schedule of homeschooling stuff, activities and work obligations, I spread out household responsibilities throughout the week. That way, I only have a few things to do each day, so I can squeeze them in at the beginning and end of the day, or between our activities or obligations during the day.

Quick Home Blessing (a throwback to when I used to follow Flylady, back in the day)
Good bathroom cleaning
15-20 minutes of detail cleaning in one room (wherever needs it)

15-20 minutes of detail cleaning in one room
Sort mail, tend to paperwork

15-20 minutes of detail cleaning in one room
Errands: Target and Trader Joes

Write up menus and shopping list for the week
Whole Foods, any other necessary errands

Clean out Fridge
Big grocery shop for the week
Sort mail, tend to paperwork, pay bills, etc

Saturday and Sunday 
Food prep (to makes weekday meal prep a little easier!)
Home and Garden Projects

I keep all of this together on printed "to do" lists for each day, which also include the regular classes
and activities we have scheduled for that day. For one-time events, or something specific to a single day, I also have a post-it "to do" list attached to write those things down. I keep these lists on a clipboard on my desk, so I can refer to it as needed throughout the day. I also keep a journal near by, to jot down things such as recipe ideas, plans for special events like birthdays or holidays, notes about things to do with the kids, etc.

The transition back to work has been so much smoother than I thought it would be, largely due to these basic routines. As I increase my work hours in the coming months, I'm hoping these routines will continue to keep my home in shape and my family happy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Routines! Part 1

It's been a very busy couple of months around here, as I've been launching my new business, SimpleLife Home Solutions, while still managing my home and family and homeschooling 4 kids! I'm trying really hard to keep the balance, and so far, so good! Being my own boss, I'm in charge of my own schedule, and can arrange my client appointments and office time around the kids schedules, so that is very helpful.

But the absolute most important thing I have, that makes it possible for me to juggle work, home and family, is that I have some really solid routines in place... things that I do each day that make my life run a little bit smoother. Over the years I've developed a variety of daily and weekly routines that help me keep up with everything I'm responsible for. The most important of these are my Morning, Afternoon and Evening Routines.

Getting my day off to a good start in the morning actually begins the night before, with my Evening Routine:

1. Pack The Man's lunch for tomorrow

2. Set up the coffee pot

3. Finish folding the day's laundry (see more about my laundry routines here)

4. Do a quick 10 minute "tidy up" around the house (This one is super important. Doing a quick clean up each night means I start every morning with a tidy home! This makes a HUGE difference in my attitude in the morning!)

5. Check my calendar, and make sure we have everything we need for the next day's activities, classes, appointments, etc.

6. Make my "to do" list for tomorrow.

7. Lay out my clothes for tomorrow.

This routine usually only takes about 45 minutes or so. After I'm done, I end my day with a nice hot shower to wash away the stress of day, and I make it a priority to spend some time with The Man of the House (so important to a relationship to make sure to reconnect each evening, after a busy day apart)

After a good night's sleep (or as close to a good night's sleep as I get these days... ), I'm ready to tackle a new day with my Morning Routine:

1. Get myself up and ready. (Once upon a time, I'd make the bed, but now The Man does it, as he's the last one up!)

2. Wipe down the bathroom.

3. Put the teakettle on to boil.

4. Empty the dishwasher.

5. Fix breakfast, dole out vitamins, fill The Man's thermos for work.

6. Put in first load of laundry.

7. Cat boxes

8. Sit down with my coffee to check email, etc

9. Before we head out the door, I make sure the kitchen is tidied up, and switch the laundry.

Once these things are done, I can go about tackling whatever is on our agenda for the day. Our schedule varies greatly depending on the day of the week, but the middle of our day generally consists of various classes, chores, activities, appointments, schoolwork for the kids and work for me.

By around 4-4:30, I start my Afternoon Routine...

1. Keep the laundry going

2. Start dinner prep

3. Empty dishwasher, if needed (with a family of 6, our dishwasher usually gets run twice a day, after breakfast and lunch, and after dinner)

When these three basic routines get done, the most basic needs of my family are met: our home is fairly tidy, we're fed, and we have clean clothes. If all else falls apart in our day (which does sometimes happen!) at least we have that.

Next post, I'll be talking about weekly routines, and how those build on my daily routines to keep our lives running smoothly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Babies and Devices: Observations from the Grocery Store

This may come across as a "back in MY day... " rant, and I hope it doesn't. But I can't help but write about something I've noticed going on around me in cafes, stores and markets lately. Nearly EVERY young child, with the exception of a very small handful, are sitting in shopping carts or at tables with a device in their hands, be it iPads, mom's phone, whatever. Almost every single one! What is up with that?! The other day I saw a little girl who looked to be barely a year old, playing with her mom's phone. I find this so, so disturbing.

I've written about my feelings on technology here in the past (see "Technology, Media and Simplicity") but boy-oh-boy in the two years since I wrote that post, it seems to me that tech is now even more pervasive than ever, and that is NOT a good thing.

In addition to the damage being done to young brains from these devices (see this article) I'm also really concerned about what these kids are missing out on by being hooked up to a screen while out in public. Back in the "before device" days, when my kids were toddlers and preschoolers, going out and about to stores, cafes and restaurants was a regular part of our life, and going to these places gave my kids the chance to interact with other humans in meaningful ways. Every Friday I would take my kids out grocery shopping. While we made our way through the store, we talked about what kind of cereal we'd buy, counted oranges, and discussed what colors the apples were. They behaved in the store (usually) without a device because they were involved and engaged, and not "tuning out" with a smartphone. Also on shopping day, we'd stop to get a smoothie at the juice bar. Bette, The Juice Bar Lady, would make small talk with the kids while she fixed their smoothie... telling them she liked their new hats, or asking if they're excited about their new little brother, or what's your favorite fruit? Would Bette have bothered to try to engage my kids if they'd had their noses buried in a screen? I'm thinking maybe not. When we waiting for our food at restaurants, my kids were occupied reading picture books, drawing, playing tic-tac-toe or I Spy. They were actively engaged with the other humans at the table, instead of a smartphone. And these interactions, me, with Bette, and various cashiers, waitstaff, fellow shoppers and restaurant patrons, were such valuable experiences for my kids. They learned so much about the world on all those outings. All these babies I see with device in their hands? They are totally missing out on these experiences... and what will be the long-term effect of this?

I'm not sure I want to know.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Before and After: Recycling Center

In a most embarrassing display of gender stereotyping, the trash and recycling in our home is the job of the two oldest men in the house. I generally try to stay as far away from this job as possible, because, really, I have enough of my own chores to do, and that particular one is my least favorite (ok, maybe second-least-favorite, after cleaning the cat boxes!)

But... the state of our recycling area in the basement had gotten to the point where I simply HAD to intervene. Seriously. It was a disaster. Did it serve the purpose, which is to contain the recycles until trash day? For the most part, yes. But was it nice to walk by and see? Not at all.

Now, I really would have loved to buy nice bins and really make the area pretty, but... since it's in an unfinished area of our basement and not in the main house, it didn't really seem like it was really worth it to spend good money on this project, so I just made do with what we already had. This means it's not exactly "Pinterest worthy" or anything... but I do think it's definitely tidier and the space is being used more efficiently.

Here is the "Before" photo:

See? Not very pretty, with everything just sort of shoved into the corner in the basement. There is also a door to the right, which sometimes gets blocked a bit by the overflow... not very efficient. I wanted this stuff to take up less space, and look a little bit more organized. 

 And now... AFTER:

To help keep the door from being blocked, I decided to use the walls to get some of the stuff up off the floor and out of the way. While it's not the prettiest, it's definitely a huge improvement from before. Just for fun, I hung up and old "No Trespassing" sign we had lying around. And who knows... maybe one of these days I will replace the bins and barrel with things that look nicer... but for now, I'm happy enough with this area. 

Since I've been working on organizing other people's homes, it's motivated me to take a look at a few slightly neglected corners of own home, which has been a good thing. It's funny how it is... we all have these little spots in our homes that are cluttered or just plain not working for us, and we keep putting off doing anything about them, because we think the job will be too big, or will take too long. In my experience, these areas can almost always be straightened with much less time and effort than we think. This recycling area, which has been driving me nuts for literally YEARS was redone in just about 45 minutes. 45 minutes?! Why on Earth didn't I do it sooner?? 

So here's my little challenge for you... find a little spot in your home that you've been neglecting, and just DO IT. I bet you'll be glad you did!