Thursday, June 28, 2012

While it rains, I dry....

We have been dealing almost 7 days of tropical moisture from Tropical Storm Debby.
Thankfully it seems to have passed as of last night.
But for those long stormy weather alert filled days I passed my time putting a new toy to use...
Isn't she pretty?
That is an Excalibur 3900 Deluxe Series and I got from Amazon from the Excalibur Company.
She has 9 trays and is a work horse. A bit pricey but I can justify it pretty easily.

If you have a garden this thing will pay for itself pretty quickly.
We don't because we are renters at the moment, though in the future that will be changing,
but for now this is our reason for not gardening.
However I discovered if you want to have organic food storage for any number of reasons, then this thing pays for itself MUCH faster. Even if you don't garden.
As I was gathering my hurricane and long term storage supplies, I found organic long term shelf stable dehydrated or freeze dried foods to be rare or expensive. The obivous answer to that was to can my own. Which I was intending to do. Then I started canning my own food storage.
Oh my heavens, the space and the WEIGHT of it. But I thought there was no other choice.
Then for whatever reason I stumbled on a Youtube video of a man dehydrating frozen veggies.
I thought, thats pretty neat!
When we buy frozen veggies ours are organic from Costco or Trader Joes. It made me think a small
little dehydrater would fit my bill. Then as all Youtube watching goes one video lead to another.
I saw soups, eggs, milk, sauces and then the one that finally clicked the light in my head was a
man who dehydrated his WHOLE leftover meal of spaghetti with meat sauce. He let the sauce
absorb over night in the pasta, then the next morning, he spead it all over his Excalibur tray and
in 14 hours he had a ready made meal! My head exploded with the thought that my food storage for
our hurricanes or other long term disaters, could be of my own wholesome food I cooked already!
Just make a wonderful pasta dinner for your family, just double it. Put it in the dehydrater
turn it on and in a few hours, you have a meal ready to go. All you need is hot water.
That was my selling point. So I pulled the trigger got the white one to go with my mostly white kitchen. Please note, the front door of it is black which is offending my OCD ticks but I will live. ;)

When it arrived, I wasted no time. I dried lots of odd and end bags of frozen organic veggies I had in the freezer (we have two and I am trying to pare down to one).
When it was done, that is when I truly realized what an amazing appliance it was!
This my friends is FOUR POUNDS of organic mixed veggies.....FOUR POUNDS!
That is a total of one and quarter quart jars. I can store 16 POUNDS in about 5 quart jars!
And talk about lightweight, my 5 year old has no issues with this and struggles with my quart jars of canned goods. These jars are vacuum sealed with a 300cc oxygen absorber in them and have the shelf life of 30 years. 30 stinkin years. I am amazed.

Maybe some of you already knew all this amazing-ness. My goal here is to get you to examine the options of saving your fod for long term, not just short term. There are tons of ways to do that. Freezing, drying, canning and so on. And we are going to explore more of those as I go along. But this one just happens to be new information to me. And I wanted to share.

Also it wouldn't be nice of me to not mention this machine IS made of plastic.
BPA free however and the manufacture is made in the US.
But because you can't trust all plastic, I found the company has gone out of their way to explain what they use (how many companies do that now???) and I feel for my low temp use (mine only goes to 155 degrees) that this will not off gas anything that is toxic to my family.
That being said, know there are more pricier stainless steel dehydraters out there.
Please do your homework, some are made in China and that SS can be suspect.
Excalibur on their own website sells replacement trays for their dehydraters that are made out of stainless steel. Eventually we will be replacing our trays with SS ones because we feel that if there is any danger, that is where it would be over long term use. Though, I feel safe in the meantime to use
the trays. I did not however buy the Paraflexx drying sheets for making soups, fruit leathers or smaller pieced items. I am not convinced that is safe and researching options. I am thinking of using the all natural kitchen parchment paper. Though I do hate the waste (paper) and am open to suggestions on this area of concern.

Explore your options for food storage for your family. Even if you can just buy food that is prepped for long term, read labels make careful decsions. I feel this is most important because in the times you need these items health is of upmost concern. It is always best to make sure the food your eating when medical support is limited or at times not available be of the best quality. 
Get to the heart of what matters for your family and prepare!

Note : I do not profit any way shape or form from these links or recommendations. I just happen to love these products. I do not do paid reviews. I do not do paid features. Nor do I do paid links. My only desire in this is to share what I have found on my journey with other like minded people. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just Send...

 There are a few dozen draft post that are either title only, half written, written and 
needing editing or just sitting there because even after all the finishing touches, it just isn't right.
I stare at them every few days and try to figure out what is the deal. 
Then I stop staring at them and just click "new post".
Just like I did now. 
And I will write and never stop until it is done, maybe to edit some spelling errors.
We all know I don't do a good job in that area. 
Then I don't send it to "draft", I just hit "publish".
No reservations. No fear. Just send.
Which makes me wonder why the others are still sitting there. Why didn't I just send those?
After lots of free time and deep thoughts I figured it out.
Those are the posts I am trying too hard on.
Trying to add content that I think you will all like. Not realizing, if I don't 
write what I like then chances are you won't be interested in reading it.
Those posts are the days when I my insecure self says, "It's been 5 days since you posted. Your going to lose readership if you don't post more often." , "You need to be more like, insert cool blog here, and show more tutorials, photos, recipes or whatever is the cool thing to show." or the one I dislike the most, 
"How are you going to grow your blog if you don't have great content?"
How about this.....I don't care. 
I am glad I don't give into those ridiculous thoughts.
This point of this, for me, is not to see my blog get lots of readership, have perfect content, 
or to make sure I am trending. The point of this is to share. 
Share what I know, what I feel, what I see and what I think to be good.
If you all want to come along for the ride, well that is just even better.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sticking It Out

This morning I was outside as the sun rose. But I didn't see the sunrise. I was busy.
You see, it is about million and one degrees already here in South Florida.
If you want to get your lawn work done with out somehow spontaneously combusting from the heat, you get up early and get a jump on the sun.
Oh, and I own a reel mower.

That thing.
In order to beat the heat I must mow the lawn at 6:20ish am.
It takes me about 30 to 40 minutes cause the grass is wet and I don't care that is it.
As I was doing this task it occured to me...
I am really sticking this out.
I am not giving up and I am doing this green thing.
Many in our society today will not sacrifice if the reward is not tangible.
If the reward is that it benefits someone directly other than them, then chances are it won't get done.
See, even though I am rewarded with a nice healthy looking lawn despite my hacking
it when it's's not why I do it.
I do it because I want my world to be better.
Sounds sappy, I will admit but it is true.
Why else would this over 40 chubby lady be pushing a reel mower at 6:30 am?
I get nothing from this other than my lawn is cut.
But the satisfaction in knowing that I did not contribute to the demise of our planet today is an amazing feeling that should not be taken lightly.
It felt good.
It felt good to give back to no one in particular but everyone all at the same time.
It felt good to know SOMEONE will benefit in what I do at insane hours.
And it felt good to know that I was happy to benefit others, completely selfless act.
Most importantly it meant....
I am being true to what I am.
Who I am.
And what I believe in.
When you have that inside you then you can do anything for anyone.
Even push that piece of metal in the cool but humid morning air.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Seeking The Simple Life

 The race is on! We are moving North in 8 months. 
And we are in the process of down sizing our home to prepare.
On top of downsizing we are also looking for a rental (and property to eventually purchase 
after our first year), researching locations and also getting in mind what our home 
we are purchasing needs to have or not have. Our goal eventually is an off grid sustainable homestead. 
In order to do that we have to learn how to be more frugal with our resources. 
I'm not talking about just money. But with our energy as well. 
Being off grid doesn't just mean creating your own power but to use less power. 
We have seen many who go off grid and want to live the same life as they did before. 
Gadgets galore, lights on all the time and then needing to use propane to power their whole house
generator or still getting some power from the grid. Off grid to us doesn't just mean some solar power.
Off grid to us means we create all our own power with no help from the grid or alternative means of fuel.
We understand that the only way that can happen is if we just consume less power. 
Why wait until then to start? Using less can start now if we want a true off grid life.
We know this is a hard process which will have many learning failures. 
But we also know planning helps in any major change in life. So, we plan. 
What is necessary and what can go by the wayside?

Our list of things we are reducing or giving up :
Lights - We have begun slowly to use oil lamps for dinnertime and eventually will rely 
solely on them when we are in our own home. Whether we are off grid or not. 
Dryer - Given that up completely already. 
Dishwasher - Also have given that up completely already. 
Multiple Game Systems - We gave our oldest who is not living at home the PS3. 
We are selling are super outfitted PS2 and only keeping the Wii. 
We are also eliminating any games that are not favorites. 
I realize gaming systems are a luxury but at this point we enjoy playing 
them together as a family. And we only play it a few hours a month. 
But that could certainly change in the future.I am hopeful it will. :)
Heating - Before anyone has a heart attack understand we live in South Florida 
where in the coldest of weather we use maybe 2 weeks of heat. 
The climate we are moving to will be colder than we are use to. We are doing this 
this winter in order to save money and most importantly acclimate ourselves to the cold.
Microwave - We are trying to give up the microwave not only for money and electric 
saving issues but health ones. They are not safe for our foods and really break 
down the nutrients in food. So, we try to use ours less. We home in our next rental to 
either not have one or to unplug it. In the home we purchase we will not have one at all.
AC -  This is an area we are reducing now in hopes when we move we can REALLY
reduce or do without. Our thought is if we can brave South Florida heat with minimal
AC, then Northern heat will be easiest to tolerate. At least that is the plan!
Desktop Computers - My wish is that the 3 desktops we have be replaced with laptops that are 
better quality. They use less power and now a days, hold just as much.
Washer - Now, you really have thought I lost my mind. But we are using our washer 
more efficiently and less often because we are downsizing our laundry & reviewing 
our wearing habits. When we are off grid we will not have an electric washer. 
We will use a manual one, whether our hands or we may invest in a James Washer, 
either way we will have a wringer. This wont be the first time we have 
done laundry by hand, so we are prepared for that.
Small appliances - We have a vast array of small kitchen appliances. Many I really do not need. 
Seriously, they are a luxury items (stick blender, anyone?) mostly so I am parring them down.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Killing Germs Can Make You Sick

If you were to use the restroom at my house you might be surprised at your choice for hand washing.
No hand soap dispenser. No bar of anti-bacteria soap. 
Just a plain handmade looking bar of soap with no logo carved in it.
Would you feel safe?
A few months ago you would have found a nice shiny bottle of anti-bacterial soap, some hand sanitizer and
for good measure a bar of soap with some words that sound like Vial inscribed in it. Just for added safety 
there would be a can of Lysol somewhere too. Even though we were 'green' and natural , I assumed I was in the trenches in the line of defense on the war of killing germs. I assumed that if I could get rid of the germs then my green/natural lifestyle would some how be safer. I was using tree oil in my cleaners and vinegar. 
But I wanted to ensure the germs were gone. 
Then one day an article caught my eye. Was my soap safe?  What do you mean SAFE? It is SOAP for crying out loud. It was anti-bacterial SOAP, of course it was safe. I started to research, read and much to my dismay the very thing I was doing to keep my family safe and clean, was actually contributing to a bigger problem with their health. I never questioned what made the soap anti-bacterial. I never questioned it. I should have.

What makes it effective?
Triclosan and Triclocarban are the two most common germ fighting ingredients found in not only your hand soap but mouth wash, tooth paste and hand sanitizer to name a few. Do they work? No. Many studies show and even the FDA concludes that they work no better than regular soap and water. So, they don't help but does that make them harmful? Actually, yes. See, Triclosan and Triclocarban are used in hospitals to scrub patients to stop the spread of bacteria and germs. It works really well at that job. But just like we are concerned about our bodies being immune to antibiotics in meats, dairy and prescriptions, we should be concerned with them in our personal cleaners as well. The danger is it could be making us susceptible to hardened strains of bacteria, making it harder and harder for us to fight off super bugs. And sadly making the prescriptions we need to work in those cases effectively useless.

We need to get rid of germs, right? Wrong. 
Most germs are not bad for you and in fact having germs can be helpful to you in your health. See, when we "kill" germs we are not really killing them all. What we are doing is fact killing the weaker strands of germs. Leaving the hardened super germs and no low level germs that actually help strengthen your immune system. So in effect our efforts to make us germ free has in fact made us more susceptible to illness and weakened our immune systems. If you think about how one treats allergies naturally you know this to be true. One of the most common ways that doctors tell seasonal allergy sufferers to treat their allergy is to add local honey to their diet. Ours did. Is it because there is a magic cure in honey? No. But it does contain the allergens in low levels that is making you miserable. Then what happens is you build up an immunity to that allergen. It is low levels, not enough to trigger an attack but enough to help your body learning to resist the larger amounts that send us sneezing. This is the same principle with germs. I am not saying don't have good hygiene. I am however saying, washing with regular soap and water is enough and will keep you just as safe if not more so then the products that fill your cupboards.

What do we use instead?
For your hands and body, just plain old soap. And the most basic naturalist form of soap will do.
You don't want your soap to contain any of the following :Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Propylene Glycol (Antifreeze), Dioxane or Dioxin. Those are harmful chemicals and not needed to get you clean. You want a very pure soap and if it is a good soap, it really won't lather much.
The lather comes from some of those chemicals, not from soap in it's pure form.
To sanitize your home you can not get anymore basic that vinegar. Make sure your vinegar is a plant based vinegar though, not a petroleum based one. Vinegar is an effective disinfectant, killing 99% of bacteria, 80% of mold and 80% of viruses.

Common Sense, not chemicals. 
Cleaning yourself and your home does not have to be a higher science.
It requires common sense, some good plant based ingredients and that is all.
Regardless of what major manufacture companies try to tell you.
Even the FDA agrees. And trust me when I say that is probably the only time
me and the FDA is on the same side of an argument.
The thought is if these cleaners do no better than traditional soap and water, then why risk it?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Project One A Day : You've come a long way, baby...

There was a time not too long ago, just five short years ago, that I lived in a 2,200 sq. ft home.
A home I filled to it's gills. A garage you could not park in. So much stuff that at one point I did not
have one storage unit but two. It seems like decades ago now but it wasn't.
I had 12 Christmas trees. Twelve. I had two living room sets. Two. The house was never clean.
It was too cluttered to be clean. I could clean it and two hours later it looked a train ran through it 
because nothing had a home. Nothing had a space which it was always put back at. 
Because there wasn't a space for everything. There was more things than spaces.
Fast forward to today...
1200 sq. feet. 
Van parked in the garage.
No storage units.
But still letting go of that lifestyle. Still feeling a bit cluttered. There is however progress being made.
For this month I had a few projects outlined that I blogged about at the end of April. 
I did keep a close tally of what left the house. But I have to be honest, we replaced some things, so
some new stuff came back in. As well as bought things to replace appliances we were no longer using.
However, all in all, I think we did a great job! Let's see how I did on our list
May Declutter Projects
Over the fridge cabinet - I have no clue what is in there
Pots & Pans
- Might do tomorrow??
All clothing (whole family)
Kids Bathroom - DONE!

And how about a tally of how much left this house?
May Total : 412

Wow! That number still shocks me. It shouldn't but it does.
And to answer the burning question, yes the Thanksgiving decorations were purged. Heavily. 
Barely one box left of those things. But I kept what was special to me and let go of the "things"
that was there just because I paid money for them.  There is still a great deal of items to be gone
through - a box of silver knick knacks just off the top of my head. So I am fairly confident that June's totals will be just as high. I do however want to make more project goals, as I found the 
accountability to be extremely helpful.

June Declutter Projects
Silverware Box
Small Appliances
Gaming Systems and Games 
 Linen Closet