Wednesday, August 26, 2009

make-your-own natural cleaning kit




Long ago, I made it a goal of mine to create an all-natural cleaning kit, but hadn’t had that inspirational push to make the change until recently. I got my shizle together, did some online research and made the change three months ago. This was on of the most satisfying and rewarding “little decisions” I have ever made. Not only do I feel an immense release of guilt because I am not contributing to the chemical pollution being put into our environment through production, household use and disposal (and trust me, it is only once you stop buying those products that you realize how much guilt is associated with them - never underestimate the power of denial and self-inflicted ignorance), but I also feel like the switch has had an immensely positive difference on our family’s respiratory health. I cannot believe I ever dreamed of exposing my child to the toxins associated with everyday commercial cleaning products. I can also rest at ease that when he figures out how to work “child locks” because nothing toxic will ever be discovered. If you have your house professionally cleaned you can hire a company that has a “green” policy, or you can insist that your cleaner use your own natural cleaning kit. I promise you, this will be one of the most rewarding, though seemingly simple decisions you ever make.

TO BUY:
  • homebrand white vinegar
  • 1 box bi-carb soda
  • 1 box borax
  • 3-4 spray bottle
  • 2 powder shakers
  • essential oils: peppermint/eucalyptus/lime or lemon

ALREADY AT HOME:
  • an old t-shirt (cut up into cloths and wipes)
  • an old towel (cut into rectangles approx 1 ft sq)
  • newspaper
  • a couple cleaned out glass vegemite containers
  • olive oil
  • peppermint or chamomile teabags
  • basic cooking salt
  • old toothbrush
  • old pair of nylon stockings

KITCHEN:
keep under the sink
  • bi-carb soda in a “shaker” (label “countertop 1”)
  • white vinegar and 2-3 drops peppermint oil in a spray bottle (label “countertop 2”)

crystal clear counter/stovetops:
  1. sprinkle “countertop 1” over surface and wipe down with a damp cloth
  2. rinse the grittiness off by spraying with “countertop 2” and wiping down

sparkling sinks:
  1. mix 3 tbs bi-carb soda and 3 tbs salt and rub into sink with damp cloth- use old nylon stockings or an old toothbrush for in and around the faucet
  2. spray with “countertop 2” to rinse grittiness away
  3. dry with an old towel

BATHROOM:
keep in bathroom cupboard
  • half and half of bi-carb soda and borax mixed together in a shaker (label “sink/counter scrub”)
  • white vinegar and 4-5 drops lemon or lime oil in a spray bottle (label “sink/counter wipe”)
  • white vinegar and 4-5 drops eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle (label “mirrors/shower”)

gleaming sinks and counters:
  1. sprinkle “sink/counter scrub” over sink and counters and firmly rubbing to remove any grime, toothpaste etc.
  2. spray with “sink/counter wipe” and remove any excess grit

magical mirrors and shining showers:
  1. spray “mirror/showers” over entire surface
  2. rub into the surface with dry newspaper until dry

WOOD FLOORS:
flawless floors:
  1. sweep first as usual
  2. fill bucket up with warm water
  3. add 1 cup white vinegar, 2 peppermint (or chamomile) tea bags, 10-12 drops of peppermint oil to the bucket and stir
  4. sponge or mop the floors without using to much liquid
  5. open windows and doors and let air dry

WOOD SURFACES:
keep in cleaning kit
  • pour 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tbs white vinegar and 2-3 drops of lemon or lime oil into an old cleaned out glass vegemite container “label “wood surfaces”

dazzling timber:
  1. dust as usual
  2. dip part of an old soft t-shirt into the “wood surfaces” mixture (you only need a small amount)
  3. run into your woods- chest of drawers, coffee tables, dining room tables etc- in a circular motion
  4. take excess oil away by rubbing down entire surface with part of an old towel
  5. put the oily cloth in a plastic ziplock bag for future use

FAQ:
How do I safely get rid of my old chemical cleaning products?
Do not throw out your old products or put them down the drain because this can be unsafe and harmful on a number of levels. You can go to the following government website- resourcesmart if you live in Victoria and look up the days where they will come and pick up your chemicals free of charge. There is also a list of drop-off points you can use if you do not want to wait for the pick up.

If you don’t live in Victoria most provincial/state governments provide a similar service. Search “throw out household chemicals” and then your city name on the web.

What about toilet bowls, dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent?
I buy eco-friendly biodegradable products which are available at most local health food stores and some larger supermarkets. If your local supermarket doesn’t carry a biodegradable option request a brand and most times they would be happy to give it a go.

Monday, August 24, 2009

extended breastfeeding




I am still fully breastfeeding my son at 1-year and am becoming increasingly aware that this is not the norm. I have secretly and obsessively observed each of the mothers in my mother’s group tuck their breasts into their bras and call it quits, while I have been left with no one to talk to but my wonderfully supportive husband, who let’s face it will never understand how annoying leaking nipples can be. Some breastfeeding days are filled with love, mutual desire and satisfaction, while others, I fantasize about jumping ship for the day and leaving him with a loving bottle bearer*. However, above and beyond my day to day feelings is an overall sense of knowing that I am making the healthiest and most holistic decision (and sacrifice) I can for my child (click here to see a list of the benefits of extended breastfeeding).
The only thing I seem to be lacking is a real support network of women who have also breastfed past the first year, and who can share their stories and experiences. If we expect the men in our homes, our workplaces and our communities to support breastfeeding and to let go of the many social stigmas associated with the act, we must insist that mothers, above all people, are non-judgmental and open minded.
My mother’s group has always been highly supportive of breastfeeding, many of them breastfed their babies until they were 10 or 11 months old. However, one lingering comment made in passing during one of our first “latte moments” as a group, has forever been engrained in my mind: “...don’t get me wrong, I am pro-breastfeeding, but if they can ask for it, it’s time to give it up”. The “hear, hear” sentiment could be felt reverberating throughout the room. And although my mother’s group seems to be silently supportive of my continuation of breastfeeding, that statement seems to be the general consensus amongst many women nowadays. “Breast is best” followed by “but...”. I can give you a whole list of “buts” I have received. They include, “but not when they have teeth”, “but not when they can drink from a cup”, “but not when they are able to drink cow’s milk”, “but not when they can walk”, “but not when they’re 2!!!”.
The only one who seems to be actively encouraging the decision to breastfeed past the first year is the baby himself. And why shouldn’t he? When have his instincts ever been wrong? I have spent hours studying the internet sites that list the unarguable benefits of extended breastfeeding, creating a sense of security and normalcy for myself. I have called the ever perky and kind women on the australian breastfeeding association hotline with vague questions, just to hear from a real human that ‘extended’ breastfeeding is a valuable and valid choice.

Just as the hot topics amongst mothers used to be whether their children were eating solids, sitting up, crawling, or walking, the hot topic when your baby turns one seems to be weaning. Who decided weaning was a 1-year milestone? Why is it that as my son’s birthday passes, I will go from being a dedicated, self-sacrificial mother to a freak who is getting some kind of sick selfish pleasure out of his dependency on me?
Everyone’s witnessed, or perhaps been, the mother who stops breastfeeding in the early months, who blushes as she reaches for the bottle in her nappy-bag and bashfully says, “I stopped breastfeeding- we gave it everything we had but it just wasn’t working. He’s much happier now.” Of course she tried her best, every mother makes decisions based on their child’s total and utter happiness and well being. We all do what we can do, no more and no less.** But now I am on the opposite end of that spectrum. As I pull my breast out of my shirt at the local park and my son toddles over for a drink, I hear myself sheepishly saying, “Ideally, I don’t want to wean him until he’s two. Pediatricians tell you they should be on formula or breastmilk until then.” And then just to really stir things up a little more, I add, “He’s also vegetarian.”



*In order to be certain he would continue breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time, I didn’t embrace the bottle because babies often reject the breast for bottle, being the efficient energy savers they are

**I also want to make it quite clear that I do not judge or frown upon any mother who has decided to bottlefeed whether from birth or at some point through their child’s first year. Breastfeeding and bottlefeeding are very personal choices and there are limitless reasons why one method suits one mother and child and another doesn’t. I am only expressing my desire that all decisions be equally respected and supported regardless of the age of the child.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

vegetarian shepherd's pie for the whole family





This is a huge hit with my hubby and baby. It’s filling and can be prepped hours before the evening- making dinner a breeze.

makes 3 adult portions and 1 baby
(dinner for everyone and one packed lunch)

(This works better if you have two casserole dishes, as you can separate the adult version from the baby’s in order to add salt to both the mashed potato and legumes)

Ingredients
4-5 potatoes + butter + milk for potato mash (optional cheese too for
extra taste)
1 onion, diced
2 tbs. oil of choice
1 can brown lentils
1 can of chickpeas
Generous pinch Dried Herbs (either thyme, oregano + parsley or "herbs de provence")
3 small tomatoes, chopped
3 tbs. unsalted tomato paste
4-5 handfuls of baby spinach roughly cut (avoid stems as these can get tricky for baby to chew)

Directions
Make mashed potato and put aside

Saute diced onions in pan with oil
Add lentils, chikpeas, herbs, tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes on med high
Spray casserole dish and put mixture at bottom, top with spinach, top that with mashed potato (layered effect)

Put in oven at 180˚ for 20-30 minutes (until top becomes slightly golden on edges)

Friday, August 21, 2009

ten ways to live green on a budget




In 2009, even the most fortunate are looking for ways to tighten the budget. Here are some easy ways to cut that shopping bill while still giving Mother Earth the respect and thought she deserves.

  1. Use homemade cleaning products. Load up on homebrand white vinegar, bi-carb soda and some eucalyptus oil. Cut up a couple of old tee-shirts to use as cloths. For more, see my entry ‘make-your-own natural cleaning kit’.
  2. Go vegetarian (at least a little more than usual). Lentils, beans, tofu, and eggs are all cheaper (and healthier) ways of getting your protein intake. Look for recipes at the www.fatfreevegan.com or keep an eye on “fork-worthy” for some of my favourites.Vegetarian foods require less natural resources to be produced.
  3. Start from scratch. Bake your own cookies, teething biscuits, muffins, even bread. It’s cheaper and you avoid the plastic wrap and preservatives associated with pre-packaged stuff.
  4. Use your local Library. Don’t spend money and waste paper buying new books for yourself and the kids when you have an endless supply at the local library. Search for the library nearest to you at http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/libraries
  5. Buy local, in season produce. It is fresher, and therefore higher in vitamins and nutrients. Produce that is in season doesn’t have the carbon footprint of a fruit imported from overseas.
  6. Rediscover. Instead of buying new clothes go through your wardrobe and find pieces you forgot you had. Chances are you’ll find a few items you love hiding in the back of that closet.
  7. Ride, Walk, Run, Push. Walk to the supermarket daily. By buying only the essential ingredients you’re using for dinner that particular night, you’ll use less petrol and save more ... as well as burn off the homemade cookies you had after lunch.
  8. Share! Instead of adding more coloured plastic junk to your diminishing sized living room, trade toys with your friends. Often babies that are only weeks apart are at very different levels of development and interest. A plush animal or book your bub is sick of may just be what the bub next door needs.
  9. Recycle. Your kids will love playing with the recyclables. Make a rattle out of a water bottle and rice. Save cereal boxes for nesting, building and stacking. Make dolly’s beds out of shoe boxes.
  10. Reuse. Don’t throw your baby’s nightly bathwater away, use it for the plants, the herb garden or the lawn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

yoga during pregnancy



Whether you already have a regular practice or you’ve never practiced before, yoga can be a great way to stay physically, mentally and emotionally strong and limber during the most feminine (and therefore vacillating) times in your life.

BENEFITS:
body: When you have a dedicated yoga practice, you learn to read, feel, and respect your body, appreciating it as the vessel that enables you to experience so much of life. In pregnancy, the body may begin to feel foreign and not completely your own. Yoga teaches you to tune into your new self (with cherished baggage), and in turn, you see the body as a sacred vessel that is even more magical than ever before.
Yoga exercises help to tone the pelvic floor, the back and core muscles, which are all essential to lessening the pains and aches associated with pregnancy. Yoga helps to reduce fluid retention, boost blood circulation, lowers blood pressure, and improve digestion, all of which can be concerns throughout pregnancy.
mind: Yoga is renowned for it’s ability to decrease stress and anxiety. In pregnancy, the combination of ever fluctuating hormones plus the mental gymnastics every new parent goes through trying to make sure that everything is “just the way it should be” before the baby arrives, is often the cause of great emotional upheaval. Pranayama, literally defined as practices to restrain (control) your life force (energy flow) are breathing techniques that provide your body (and in this case, baby) with oxygen. Taking the time to centre yourself, turn off the outside world and tune into your breath, is the prescription for a calmer, happier pregnancy and mother. Deep breathing techniques (such as ujjayi breath) can be used during labour to create bodily self-awareness, and promote relaxation (and decrease pain).
spirit/heart: Through centered focused breathing, yoga brings you to a place in the present moment where you learn to let go of the past and the future. In the moment you become less concerned with fleeting and trivial problems and are able to renew your emotional self, shedding the stresses and anxieties of the day. As a result, you are providing a more positive environment for your baby to develop in.

PRECAUTIONS:
Unless you already have a well established practice, it is important to go to special “prenatal yoga” classes which cater to the physical needs of pregnant women. You should never do strenuous backbends (for example, upward dog, wheel, camel or locust pose), because this puts too much strain on the uterus, especially in the first trimester. You should also always avoid strong twists, again especially at the beginning of your pregnancy as this literally causes the uterus to “wring out”. If you are trying to become pregnant it would be wise to avoid these poses as well, in case you have fallen pregnant and are not aware of it yet. If you have an established practice you can continue to practice inversions (shoulderstand, headstand, handstand), as long as you are confident you will not suddenly fall over on your tummy!
As your stomach gets bigger you will want to avoid Savasana (corpse pose) as lying on your back can restrict blood flow. Opt to lie on your side instead.
When performing any pranayama, never hold your breath as this can restrict oxygen to the foetus. You can still participate in most pranayama, just don’t retain the breath.
If you go to a regular yoga class while you are pregnant make sure you arrive a few minutes early and make the teacher aware of your circumstances. A good teacher will usually give you variations to the poses while your fellow classmates do their regular practice.
As in every yoga class, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not it is important to listen to your body and respect your limits. Every day is always different, don’t go to class with any expectations. Remain in the moment and feel free to come to child’s pose (wide-legged if you’ve got a big belly in the way) whenever you need to rest.

FIND A CLASS:
Go to www.findyoga.com.au , type in your post code, and choose “prenatal” classes from the drop-down menu to search for a class near you.
If you live in the south eastern suburbs feel free to contact me at ecomilf@me.com to organize a group or private class. See my services section for more details.

RECOMMENDED READING:
excerpt from fishpond.com.au:
“From internationally renowned yoga teacher Gurmukh comes a book on pregnancy unlike any other...With illustrated, step-by-step instructions, she teaches time-tested techniques, meditations, and exercises that will help you physically, mentally, and spiritually...The sections in this book cover each trimester of pregnancy as well as delivery and life with the baby. In her wise, gentle, and comforting voice, Gurmukh suggests meditations, exercises, and yoga positions to respond to the various needs of expectant and new mothers as you undergo dramatic body changes.“

oatmeal dark chocolate chip cookies





This recipe is dedicated to Leanne. Mookies?
Puh-lease! These taste much better if you use free-range organic eggs. My favourite brand is pace farm organic free range eco-eggs.

Ingredients:
1 cup organic butter
1 cup cane sugar (raw)
1 cup brown sugar
2 organic eggs
2 tbs soy milk
1 tbs vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
2 1/2 cups quick oats
1 1/2 bars dark chocolate (smashed up into little shards)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 180˚
Grease baking sheet

Cream the butter and the sugars
Add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix well

In a separate bowl combine all the dry ingredients (minus the chocolate) and then add wet
Add the chocolate
Form small balls of dough and place on the baking sheet with enough room for them to spread

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden
Cool on baking sheet for at least 1-2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool

Makes about 50 small cookies