Thursday, February 28, 2019

Vinegar Adventures

Vinegar. Amazing stuff. It's been around for thousands of years, and even in today's post-modern world, we still have few products that can compare. Don't believe me? Read on.

Vinegar was discovered by accidentally leaving wine in the barrel too long. As far back as 5000 BC the Babylonians discovered its uses as a preservative and condiment. They were the first to flavor it with herbs and spices. Cleopatra once bet that she could drink a fortune in a single night. She won it by dissolving pearls in vinegar and then drinking it. (For some reason when I have been sharing that fun-fact with my friends, they have not been as impressed as I have As recently as WW1 vinegar was used to disinfect wounds.

I wouldn't recommend the pearl dissolving use and modern-day disinfectants are much better, however there are many other uses which you might not be aware of. Not only do these work as well or often better than the chemicals on the market, but it is cheaper and better for the environment and non-toxic, which is key for me with my little guys.

I always keep a spray bottle of 50/50 vinegar with water around to spray on various tricky spots. For the super severe I will sprinkle baking soda over the vinegar spray and let sit for a few minutes while it bubbles. Works miracles!

I will say that a FAVORITE activity in our house is the typical vinegar/baking soda.  We posted about using it for color theory and a Halloween take on the classic kid volcano.

Vinegar reduces soap build up. The acidic component of vinegar, acetic acid, is a powerful yet safe disinfectant. It has so many uses. Below are just a few ideas. If I say "vinegar" but do not say which type, assume distilled white vinegar.

Bugs: You actually do not catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you have a bunch of fruit flies, remove the source of the bugs and then put a cup of vinegar on your ledge.

Carpet Stains (non-oily): As soon as you discover the stain, mix 1 teaspoon liquid detergent, 1 teaspoon of white distilled vinegar and a pint of lukewarm water. Apply to stain with a soft brush or towel and rub gently (I prefer an old toothbrush). Rinse by blotting with a clean wet towel. Dry with a blowdryer.

Coffeepot: To disinfect a coffee pot that hasn't been used in a while or to remove hard water buildup inside it, pour 1 cup vinegar in your coffeepot, fill the rest of the way with water. Run it through a cycle as usual (sans coffee grounds). Rinse the pot out. Fill it with fresh water and run another cycle without coffee to rinse the inside of the coffee maker (as you probably don't want vinegar coffee). I try to do this about twice a year to keep my beloved coffee pot running well.

Clogged Drains: When baking soda mixes with vinegar, it foams and expands. You can use this fact to unclog your drain. Dump 1 cup of baking soda down your drain and follow it with 1 cup of vinegar. Allow a few minutes for the mixture to work, then flush with hot water for several minutes.

Dishwasher: Throw a cup of vinegar in your dishwasher and let it run a full (empty) cycle once a month or so to reduce soap build up and keep your dishwasher safe. (a good thing to add to your monthly cards.)

Icy Car Windows: Spray a mixture of three parts vinegar to one part water on your clean car windows in the winter. It will save you hours of scraping. Reapply every 2-3 weeks (best if right after going to car wash, but not required). Be careful to wipe away any of the mixture that gets in your car or on your paint as it will eat away at the paint or interior.

Fridge Smells: Pour 1 cup of apple cider vinegar into a glass and leave in fridge for 2-3 days.

Frugal Pedicure: All us ladies need one from time to time, but getting one done professionally can be very expensive. Soak two towels in a mixture of 50/50 vinegar to warm water. Wrap the towels around your feet for twenty minutes. When you remove them, wipe your feet and you will notice all the dead skin is gone, leaving you with smooth feet. Paint your toenails and you are good to go!

Mirrors: Mix equal parts vinegar with warm water. Spray onto windows and wipe. If you use a newspaper to wipe the vinegar away, a chemical reaction will occur that will get your mirrors extra shiny.

Shower head: Remove the gross soapscum and corrosion from your showerhead or facuet by wrapping a terry cloth soaked in distilled white vinegar around the showerhead or faucet overnight. Other lime-scaly bathroom products could be removed and then placed in a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water heated in the microwave. Plop the piece into the warmed mixture and remove a half hour later.

Stove-top: Spray full strength vinegar onto the baked on grit on your stove-top (or your 50/50 mixture if you have a container of it laying around, but you will need to use more). Let it set about three minutes and then go back to scrub your gunk away.

Tile Floors: Mix one part vinegar to five parts water and scrub away at your tile floors. If you dislike the smell, add a few drops of essential oils to the mixture.

Water marks on wood: If you forgot to use a coaster and have that icky water mark you can remove it by rubbing it with a mixture of equal parts of white distilled vinegar and olive oil. Rub with the grain and, for best results, polish with wood oil.

There are so many uses of vinegar. Below are a few other conglomerates of vinegar uses. What is your favorite use for vinegar?

Monday, February 25, 2019

Eating for Fertility Adventures

Pete and I have been trying for baby number 3 for about 18 months now.  It took about that long with our first one.  Our second one only took 6 months.  Every month I say that I'll contact a fertility specialist on the next cycle.  I'm 36 so I really need to get on it if we are going to have another baby.

I guess as a logical extension to blogging about gardening, food and parenting would be a post about good food to eat when trying to conceive (TTC).

I feel like every other page I click on while looking up about TTC is telling me what I cannot eat.  So, I thought it would be fun to talk about what you should eat.  Obviously, fruits/veggies/whole-grains are important. When you are pregnant, you need to eat healthy.  You might as well start now.

Our bodies are designed to work best when we are healthy.  Mother Nature wouldn't want us to add a new kid to the bunch if we can barely sustain our own life.  Obviously, it happens, but it is harder when you are not getting all the nutrients your body needs.  These power foods will help get your nutrition in top baby-making shape.

Pre-Natal Vitamins
Even if you are not pregnant, you should start taking a pre-natal vitamin.  Back to the whole "it's easier to get preggers when you are healthy", you might be full, but your body measures nutrition on many different levels, and one of those is in the amount of important vitamins in your system. 

You need protein but studies, such as one at Harvard School of Public Health, have suggested that plant protein is the best type of protein to get while trying to conceive.  Too much animal protein has been linked to problems with infertility.

Back to the benefits of plant-based protein.  This article has a great list of ways to make easy swaps and add more nuts to your diet.

Whole Milk Products
I've read that too much dairy can cause problems with infertility, but Jorge E. Chavarro, M.D., Sc.D., author of the fertility diet says that whole milk products can be good.  Apparently it's something with the fat.  Also, more hormones are in skim milk products (so going organic could help).  Don't go overboard, it's only one serving a day.

Leafy Greens
I feel like leafy greens make almost every "good foods for you" list.  But that's because they are leafy little nutritional power houses. Bulk up on spinach, rapini, broccoli, arugula, and kale.  Vitamins in these show to improve ovulation.  Also they make sperm better, so get the daddy-to-be to chow down on some too!

Iron-Rich Foods
One study found a 40% decrease in troubles getting pregnant if the woman took an iron supplement (which is non-heme iron).  Quinoa, red meat, egg yolks, raisins, prunes, scallops, beans, liver and sweet potatoes are all easy ways to increase your iron amount. 

Pumpkin Seeds
It's very seasonal right now. Buy a bag or scrape out a pumpkin.  Coat the seeds in a little bit of olive oil (which you'll see below is another Baby Makin Food) and your favorite spices (salt/Italian seasoning; or  pumpkin pie spice; or cumin/salt....get creative)

Whole Grains
High blood sugar levels have been shown to decrease your chances of getting pregnant by up to 50%.  Luckily complex carbs can help keep your blood sugar (and insulin levels) stable.  Oatmeal and brown/wild rice are super easy they are whole grains by default.  But, when it comes to bread be careful and make sure to grab 100% whole-wheat or 100% whole-grain breads/pastas.  You don't want "made with whole wheat".  That's the labels trying to cheat.
  • Swap in whole wheat pasta in your favorite recipe.  Can't stomach the whole wheat pasta?  Try going half and half whole wheat to regular for a few meals then, increase the whole wheat percentage.
  • Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Bananas
  • Cajun Wild Rice (Can do it in the slow cooker!)
  • Quinoa Tabbouleh (Extra points in quinoa for it's high iron.  Throw in some raisins to really get the extra iron points)

Olive Oil
Olive oil is helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level and decreases inflammation throughout the body which can help fertilization and development of the embryo.  I sautee my veggies in olive oil and use it instead of butter in many recipes.

Low-Mercury Fish
Salmon is one of those "super foods" that scores a place on many top foods list due to the amount of  Omega 3 Fatty Acids it contains.  Omega 3s have been shown to assist in regulating reproductive hormones.  It's also good to take a DHA supplement once you are pregnant.  Might as well start now.  As for getting your DHA in food, any low-mercury fish is a good choice.  Salmon, scallops, sardines, anchovies, squid, tilapia, and catfish are amoung the list of lower mercury fish.  Check out the whole list:

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Garden Planning Adventures

I've been growing fruit for a few years.  I felt like it was an easy way to ease into gardening.  Raspberries and blackberries are basically weeds so I knew they'd do alright.  We have had a couple of great years and now I am ready to expand into vegetable gardening.

I thought that I would start a new blog about my gardening adventures, but then I found this old blog with some great older posts and I figured that I'd just revive it!  So, I'm back at it!  I won't just focus on gardening.  I'll also keep posting about our life and adventures in Indiana...but around the time that the garden work picks up, my blog will probably have a lot about that!

Here is Pete and Z in front of one of our fruit boxes.

We've had pretty good success with our fruit and I'm ready to branch out to veggies!

I thought that I'd take a moment to pop up a level and share why I want to garden.

1) Reduce food miles and our carbon footprint
In the USA, food travels 1,500 miles+ before it hits our plates.  The way we farm with all these huge machines, pesticides, is taking a huge toll on our planet.  And then there are the containers to hold these food, usually from plastics, which come from fossil fuels.

2) Eat more cleanly
When you are farming on a smaller scale, it's easier to manually pick the bugs off your plants rather than spray everything and kill the good microbes of your soil along with the "bad bugs" eating your plants. Also, the sooner you eat food after you pick it, the healthier it is.

3) Connect with our food.
I want my kids to understand what "real food" is and that food comes from the ground not from a store.  I want them to understand (and me too, for that matter) that the closer food looks like something from the ground or directly from the animal, the healthier it probably is.  I also want them to know that carrots are not just orange.  They can be purple or white or red.  I want them to know that tomatoes can be big, small, green, orange, round, or oval.  Also, I hope that participating in the growing and harvesting of our food, my kids will be more willing to try new veggies.  We'll see how that goes.

4) Get Outside
I work from home.  Between that and the therapies for the boys, it's sometimes hard to prioritize getting outside.  My goal with the garden this year is to spend 15 minutes every day out in it.  This might be weeding, watering, de-bugging or harvesting.  If there is extra time, I can just sit and enjoy or teach the kids about the garden.

Do you garden?  If you do, why?  If you don't, but are thinking about it...what is calling you?