Friday, March 22, 2013

Eating Well On A Road Trip

I love road trips.  Good thing, too, because we tend to take a lot of them, what with living 700 miles from our family.  We love to visit them all, so we cram all of us into the car and make the trek to whomsoever's house.  We usually make a stop at the grocery store to load up on snacks for the trip, most of which tend to be of the terrible-for-you variety, and that bag full of junk ends up stuffed somewhere down by my feet.  None of which is good for the waistline or the budget.

This past week my parents were the ones to make the drive to our house, and as I was helping them get ready to head home last night, I noticed that my parent's idea of packing food for a road trip was vastly different, and vastly superior, to ours.  Their road trip food program starts with a large cooler bag that looks like this:

Big enough to fit all manner of things, yet small and squishy enough to fit in many different spots in the car.

In that cooler bag, she places clear, tupperware sort of boxes, packed with each meal or snacks.  For example, they had a breakfast box with milk and pastry type food:

She even includes a plastic zip lock with napkins for trash and whatnot.

I love the word whatnot.  So does my sister-in-law, who I call my Seester.

I digress.

Then there is a lunch box.

There are sandwiches under those massive chocolate bars, but my mom is no dummy.  She knows what's really important in life.

Chocolate, that's what.

Then there was a large ziplock with snack stuff in it.  Some chips, some cut up apples, some cheese.  You get the drill.  But you don't get a picture, because somehow I missed that one.

Lastly, she stuffs a bajillion, or maybe just 8, water bottles in the bag, leaving it looking like this:

... and adds a couple of plastic grocery bags for trash.

Voila!  Meals and snacks to get them through the entire road trip, roughly a 12 hour drive.

I am definitely going this route the next time we hit the road.  That way I can plan actual meals for us, rather than just hitting fast food joints the whole way to California, and filling the gaps with junk. 

And that, my friends, is how we (will) eat well, and stay on a budget, on road trips.


Grab my button while you're at it:

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I linked this post on these amazing blogs:

It's Overflowing 
Or So She Says
Be Different Act Normal
Too Much Time On My Hands
Flamingo Toes
Everyday Moms Meals
Nifty Thrifty Things
Raising Memories
Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity
Keeping it Simple
Skip To My Lou
Creating My Way To Success
Mom 4 Real
Sugar Bee Crafts
Mandy's Recipe Box
Blessed With Grace
Gingersnap Crafts
Lil Luna
Lady Behind The Curtain
High Heels and Grills
Ladybug Blessings 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Natural Cleaning Experiments

Since going natural in my life, thanks to Noodle's little situation, I have found many, ummm, interesting things.  I also have found a lot of really, honestly interesting things.  When you start to look at what you're putting in your body, you start to look at all the things around your body too.  And then you start reading blogs and articles about what you are keeping around and on your body.

And then you kind of get the creeps.

Because, really?  If you think about it too long it does get a little gross.  And all that thinking hasn't gotten me entirely past my orange-colored-cheese-like-stuff addiction, but it has really gotten me thinking about the things that I am bringing into my home, putting in my children's mouths, and cleaning both our home and ourselves with.  And looking for alternatives.

One of the alternatives I found was a company called Shaklee.  Over 50 years old, Shaklee offers all natural, non-toxic, biodegradable alternatives to many of the cleaning products we use in our home.  They offer a lot of other things, too, but the cleaning products were what caught my eye, and while the other things may be absolutely amazing, cleaning is what we are talking about today.

Because spring cleaning is upon us.

** Pauses for happy dance that has nothing to do with cleaning and everything to do with spring **

Shaklee's motto is "We provide a healthier life for everyone, and a better life for anyone".  Which sounds great to me, because who doesn't want a healthier/better life?  No one, that's who.  Duh.  But one of the other things I noticed on their website said "Always Safe.  Always Works. Always Green."

Which I took as a little bit of a challenge.  Not the first part.  Or that last part.  I liked the sound of both of those, but it was that middle bit... Always Works.  Really?  Always?  I mean, how great can it be?  Very little in life always works. 

So of course I ordered some.

And started cleaning things.

I'm not going to lie - the packaging on this stuff is fan-freaking-tastic.  I was a little worried that I was so caught up in how great all the products looked that I was willing to overlook any defects in the product itself.

And the product line is broad, covering everything from multisurface cleaning, to dishes, to laundry.  So I had to choose something to start with, and I chose something called Scour Off.  Mainly because it smelled good, in a really subtle way.  And it looked like fun to use, with it's interesting pink color, and slightly-gritty-but-still-kind-of-smooth texture.  And because it said it was for ovens, among other things, and I have an oven that makes cleaners run for the hills shaking and crying like a baby.

Oh no, that was me.  I run for the hills shaking and crying, but the oven is what brings it on.  It's ugly.  It looks like this:

 And like this:

Ewww.  And those photos really don't do the ickiness of the oven justice.  It's ickier than it looks.  I swear it.

So I dug into that Scour Off, and went to town.  And after just a little over four minutes, here is what I was left with:

Mmmm hmmmm, that is the same nasty door that you saw two pics ago, except now it is shiny and bright.  So shiny and bright, in fact, that you can see the reflection of the refrigerator next to it.  See it's handle?  And see the lights in the ceiling?  All you saw before was grease from something I cooked many, many months ago, and now you see beauty.  Amazing, that's what.

Then there was this:

Yup, those same couple minutes also got me this.  Without nasty chemically fumes.  Yes, I probably could have gotten similar results by using the auto clean option on my oven (if it has that.  I really have no idea if it does.)  But that takes HOURS.  This took minutes.  And a little scrubbing, which I am okay with as long as I am not breathing fumes while I do it.  Scrubbing, yes.  Fumes, no.  Plant based ingredients, yes.  Chemicals, no.  Again, amazing.

So, now here I sit, at 1:34 in the morning, excited to get my spring cleaning on, which I can honestly say has never happened to me.

I am super excited to see what the rest of the cleaners can do, but maybe not in the middle of the night.  Maybe that is a post for tomorrow.

Yes.  Definitely a post for tomorrow.

Night night.

Want to know more about Shaklee's cleaning products, and other products for that matter?  Check them out HERE!

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Love This Cat

First of all, his name is still Moon.  I know.  Not much to be done about it.  When I tried to change his name the kids rebelled and I was left with no choice.  So he is Moon, which obviously morphs into Mooner, Moonie, or just plain Cat if the need arises.

Mr. T and I have agreed that he is virtually perfect.  Moon, not Mr. T, though he is pretty awesome.  No, Mooner is a virtually perfect cat, only slightly missing the 100% perfect mark because of his tendency to do this:

And this:

Oh, and there is this:

In case you are wondering what all those things are, they are his claw marks all over our unfinished doors and trim.  He likes to claw wood, which just gives me the heebie jeebies thinking about splinters under fingernails and all, but that is beside the point.

This little defect in his character makes him an only 98% perfect cat, but he makes up for it by looking like this:

And this:

And doing this:

So we'll give him his 2% imperfection and keep him forever.

If his breath doesn't kill us first.

Make that 97% perfect.

Friday, March 15, 2013

I need to shed...

See, here in my tiny mountain town it is remarkably dry.  Seriously dry.  Like, my weather station thingy sitting on my counter is telling me that it is 4% humidity in my house right now.  I can feel my little membranes shriveling as we speak.

So I am on a constant hunt for something to save my poor skin.  And I have tried everything, let me tell you.  And my most recent addiction is homemade sugar scrub.  Two reasons - first, it couldn't be easier to make, and I love easy.  Second, it really helps to keep the moisture in my skin versus out of it.  Oh, and there is the fact that it feels absolutely luxurious to use this.  That helps too.

To make a sugar scrub, you need just a couple simple things:  sugar, oil, and essential oils.  Actually that last part isn't something that you technically need, but it makes it that much more fun.  Or therapeutic.  Or rejuvenating.  Or whatever it is you are looking for.

Measure out about a cup of sugar into a bowl.

Maybe more or less depending on the size of container you plan to put your scrub in, but roughly a cup will last you for a good bit.  Unless you're like me and slathering this stuff on not just daily but maybe even multiple times a day. Then the chances are good you will be making this often.  So pay attention.

In the beginning I used sweet almond oil in my mix.  Not for any particular reason, just because that was what I was told so that was what I used.  But when that first one ran out, all I had on hand was olive oil.  Thick, yes.  Olive oil smelly, yes.  But I went for it anyway, and I am so glad I did, because my skin LOVED it.  It feels like velvet, and shaving after using this on my legs is bliss, if shaving can ever qualify as bliss.  And with the essential oil in the mix, you don't smell the olive oil at all.  So yummy! In the summer, when perhaps it won't be quite so very dry, I might switch back to a lighter oil, but for now, I am loving the olive oil.  And feeling a little like a salad, but whatever.

Add about a 1/4 cup of oil to the sugar and start mixing.

It will start to look like wet sand.  We'll move on to my secret weapon next, so if it feels like you should add a bit more oil to it, resist temptation.  We're going to get there.

My secret weapon:

I made this scrub so many times, and just felt like something was missing.  It was good, but I always felt like it could be better.  I don't know why it took me so long to figure out that I NEEDED to add coconut oil, but once I did this scrub was perfection.  For me.  It was perfection for me.  And, admittedly, I am easily appeased.  But seriously, coconut oil just put this mix over the top.

Just shploop a big heaping tablespoon, the kind you might stir your coffee with, not a real tablespoon, into a microwave safe bowl.

Then ignore the little bit that bailed over the wall onto your counter, or better yet, just scoop it right back in there.  Show it who's boss.

Microwave the coconut oil for maybe 15 seconds, then check it.  Give it a little stir.  Keep going like that until it is completely liquid, then just dump it right on in the sugar mix, and start mixing it in.  It will look goopier.  Oilier.  Perfecter.

Like this:

And yes, I absolutely know that perfecter is not a word.  But today it is for me.

Next add several drops each of your essential oils.  I seem to always use some mix of citrus oils (wild orange, grapefruit and Citrus Bliss is my mix of choice) but there are any number of scents you may go for.  Vanilla peppermint?  Ginger Lime?  Lemon Lavender?  Your choice.  Mix it up.  And remember, you might not smell it very strongly when you mix it, but when you are in the shower, the scent of the essential oil seems to come out stronger.  Maybe from the steam?  Not sure, but I do know that you will love it!

Maybe just one more.  I love essential oils.

Also, probably ignore my hands.  They are gross.  My apologies.

Essential oils all mixed in?  Great, now just spoon it into a container of some kind.  Yes, it's wonderful to have a gorgeous container, but I have this:

Okay, it's boring but it does the job perfectly.  But that isn't really what's important.  What's important is all that oily goodness that is going to save my skin.  And maybe yours, too.

In the shower (not that you need to know my routine in the shower, but I'm all for being helpful), I wash my hair and body, and then I use the scrub before I shave my legs.  That way I don't need to use any kind of funky shaving gel in all it's chemical glory.  The oil in the scrub is all I need.  AND, as if that wasn't enough, the oil residue (yes, I know that sounds gross, but it is what it is) goes a long way toward moisturizing my poor dried out skin.

On top of it I add a thick layer of my lotion concoction that I have started using, but that is another post for another day.

So grab yourself some sugar, oil and smelly stuff.  You'll be happy you did!

What are your favorite scrub scents?

I linked this post at these amazing blogs:

504 Main
...Or So She Says
Be Different Act Normal
Too Much Time On My Hands
It's Overflowing 
Skip To My Lou
The Girl Creative
Jam Hands
Creating My Way To Success
Frugal By Choice, Cheap By Necessity

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Welcome to the bone yard... I mean backyard. I meant backyard.

We are having a bout of just beautiful warm weather here in my tiny mountain town these days.  And when I say warm, I mean warm for here in March.  Which is low to mid 50s.  Which is also shocking and obscene to my California friends, and I apologize for that, but who knew that I would find myself at a point in my life where 52* would feel warm.  Not I, I can tell you that!

So, to celebrate the lovely weather Mr. T, Noodle, Nugget and I all donned our rain boots and went slogging around in the mud that is our almost 6 acre parcel surrounding our house.  Would you believe that we have owned this land for almost a year and a half, have lived in this house for almost a year, and I have never walked the whole lot?  Completely ridiculous, that's what.

At least that's what I thought, until we really got into it.  Would you like to see what we found?  Okay, here we go, but remember, you asked.

First, let me give you an idea of what we are working with:

This is our backyard.  I know.  Eventually some of it will be landscaped (all that dirt in the foreground, perhaps?), but let's face it, we have almost 6 acres of scrubby sage.  Not much to be said about that.

So off we go.  And the first thing we find, before even getting out of the civilization part of our yard, right next to the garage, is this:

Ummm, what is THAT?  Well, we eventually found out, but I will spare you the details.  Or at least the picture.  Because it was gross.  And smelly.

Some other things we found were lots of cactus (goody), lots of animal poop, and lots of tracks, like this one:

That is a deer track.  Doesn't look like much, does it?  Until you are surrounded by about 147,285 of them, then it looks like we plopped our house down right on a deer/elk highway.

We also found this track...

... which I have been assured is a dog track, and not a very large wild cat print (though we have those here too!).

And this one:

I'm pretty sure it belongs to this:

That's a Nugget.  He makes cute prints.  I'm going to keep him.

Then we came to this:

I don't know what it was, but it was big.  And I was pondering where the rest of it was when Mr. T told me to turn around.

Welcome to the bone yard, people.

Now, I know that this used to be cattle land, a long time ago, but, really?  And that isn't where it stops.  I got some close ups for your enjoyment.

Couldn't even start to tell you what this is, but the thing behind it is most definitely a spine.

Yup, and even I could tell you that those are ribs back there.

And my personal favorite:

Don't know what it is, but it reminds me of a periscope.  I'm pretty sure it's not one, though.  What with us being land locked, and all.

And with all this carnage around us, still happy campers.

There is also a crazy amount of petrified wood around this joint.  It looks like this...

...which to many people might look just like a rock, but once again, I've been assured that it is, in fact, wood.  Or once was wood.  Whatever.

I took Nugget back in, since he tripped and ended up covered in a fair amount of mud, but Noodle and Mr. T kept nosing around, and Noodle shows up at the door with this:

Which is an antler.  Which came from our front yard.  Made all the more disturbing by the fact that this is the usual sight in our front yard...

Oh dear. 

Just for the record, that was also the source of the fur we found way back when we started this excursion.  Not that particular deer, but trust me, it was a deer. Heavy on the "was".

So, that is my land, and everything on it.

How nice.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Easy Dinner Idea - Taco Slosh

Mmmmmm, sounds appealing, doesn't it?  Taco Slosh.  Okay, admittedly, the name doesn't produce a really great picture in one's head.  And honestly, I should have come up with something better to call it for this post, but that was the name we gave it a long time ago, and that is the name it shall stick with.  Mostly because I can't think of anything else to call it.


Several years ago I was on the hunt for something to make for dinner.  I had on hand some shredded chicken, a couple cans of diced tomatoes, and a couple cans of kidney beans.  I just decided to throw it all in a pot and see what else I could find to add to it, and the end result was a yummy, hearty, semi-soupy-but-not-really bit of goodness that can be used in a million and one ways.  As we were eating it, we wondered what we should call it, and Kid A busts out with Taco Slosh.

And a phenomenon was born.

Or at least dinner.

To get started you need some shredded chicken.

Yes, I too am in love with Pinterest, and I too pinned the deal about shredding chicken with your stand mixer.  And whoever thought of that should get a darn medal.  Or the key to the city. Or something, because I HATE shredding chicken with forks.  Time consuming and painful, that's what.  So I cook and shred a lot of chicken at once, and freeze it for later.  Sometimes a lot later, as I apparently shredded this last October.

You can freshly cook and shred your chicken if you have the time, but this is a post on quick dinners, and I used what I had.  Frozen.  In fact, I just tossed it straight into the pot in a big frozen lump, turned on the heat, and went about my business. 

Once that chicken is in the pot and warming, I get together the rest of my ingredients.

You'll need 2 cans diced tomatoes, 2 cans kidney beans, 2 cans corn, taco seasoning, and whatever you like for garnish.

Once the chicken is thoroughly heated (it's already cooked, so it shouldn't take long), start opening cans.  I start with tomatoes and corn.

And after rinsing the beans, I add them too.

 Mix all that together and let it keep warming.  In the meantime, mix about half the packet of taco seasoning (more or less, depending on how much punch you are looking for) with about 1/2 cup of water, and poor that in with the rest of it.

Mix it all up and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Eventually it will look like this:

Pretty sloshy, yes?  At this point, if you are like me and like a little citrus kick to your mexicany meals, squeeze the juice from a lime into the mix.  So yummy.

Get all your garnish items together.  We start with avocado and black olives.

We have been known to add cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, green sauce, and, always, tortilla chips.  In the end, we're left with:

There are so many ways to use this mix.  Wrap it in flour tortillas and have burritos.  Wrap it in corn tortillas for tacos.  Add lettuce, fresh tomatoes, onion, and anything else you like for taco salad.  Add more chicken broth and turn it into a tortilla soup.  Or just eat it straight out of a bowl like we do.  Can't go wrong there.  Also, this is a super easy thing to make a huge batch of and freeze for later.  It's one of the only things Noodle and Nugget can be counted on to eat without any complaint or coercion, so this is a great nutritious thing to feed them on crazy nights when we need dinner quick.

Fast, easy, one pot/one bowl meal.


I linked this post at:

Simply Sweet Home
Ladybird Ln 
Everyday Moms Meals 
Jam Hands
Mandy's Recipe Box 
Blessed With Grace

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

To do, to do, to do...

I love to do lists.  I really do.  Sometimes I will make a to do list just for the satisfaction of crossing stuff off of it.  Makes me feel accomplished.

Yes, I know I need to get out more.

But it seems that since our move... LAST MARCH... I just can't get myself back into a routine cleaning my poor house.  It's gross.  Okay, let's be realistic, it isn't gross, it's just dusty.  And the laundry isn't getting done until it's dire.  And the toys are pretty much everywhere.  Oh, and my office looks like it threw up.  I just can't seem to get a handle on it.

But what with being two months into a new year and all, I think it's pretty much time to get on it.  Because if I don't I might not be able to find my computer one of these days.

And then you might miss me.  Or at least I would miss you.

But even though I need to have a cleaning schedule, I don't really like to have a schedule because I feel tied to it, which makes me not want to do it.  Because I'm contrary like that.  So what I need to make myself is a schedule that tricks me into thinking that it's not a schedule but much more like a party involving cleaning supplies.



I could create a schedule that has me tackle a little at a time, so that I don't feel like I spend all day everyday cleaning the house.  Which is kind of how I feel now, but I'm guessing that has more to do with having too much junk than it does with me actually cleaning.  Which means that I need do a severe clean out and then my cleaning schedule will go farther.

OR... I could get this:

This is my Home Routines App that I keep on my phone, and when I say I could "get" this, what I mean is I could actually use this, since I have had it on my phone for roughly the last year and I'm pretty sure that I haven't looked at it once since we moved into this place.


But really, this app is ideal for someone like me who is, what's the word? Oh yes.  Lazy.  That would be me.  And scatterbrained.  That's me too.

The idea here is that there is a list of morning To Do items, a list of evening To Do items, and a list of Weekly tasks that need to be done.  Here is my morning list:


As you finish each task you can check them off your list by tapping that little star to the left of each task.  The more colored stars there are, the more you've done.  As you can see, I have done absolutely nothing this morning. Let's move along shall we?

But here is where it really gets good for someone like me.  See see that little timer thingy in the bottom left corner?  The idea is that you set a time for yourself to finish all your morning/evening tasks, and then you move on.  If you don't finish it all, oh well.  Set your timer longer next time.  This is a double win for me.  I get to play beat the clock while straightening up, and I get to walk away when the timer dings with no guilt at all.  (Do I?  No, of course not.  I completely ignore the timer and keep going until I'm finished so I don't feel like a slob.  That is, if I set the timer at all.  That is, if I even look at this list in the first place, which obviously hasn't happened this morning, or there would be stars checked off.)

Keep it moving, people.  Nothing to see here.

Then, to keep on top of the deep cleaning that has to happen in a house, there is a menu with Zones 1-6.  You assign these zones to areas of your house, like bedrooms and bathrooms.  Mudroom and Laundry.  Kitchen.  Office.  

This is my Zone list for Zone 4:  My Bedroom.  The zones rotate each week, so I have a whole week to really clean each zone, and again, there is the little timer.  And with this one I really would stop with the timer, because the whole idea is to take the week to deep clean the room.  That works for me.

You can get the Home Routines app for your phone too.  At least you can if you have an iPhone, and I am assuming you can if you have a Droid phone, though I wouldn't know because I don't have a Droid and I would have had to have thought to ask someone that before I typed this, which I didn't.  So there's that.  Check out the App Store.  

Also, just for clarification, I have no connection to Home Routines.  Like I said, I got this app a year ago, and I'm pretty sure I will love it once I actually start using it.  But they aren't paying me to say that.  I just wish they were.  

Happy cleaning!