Wednesday Walkthrough. . .the sun

Today's a rainy day. . .alas, my hubby is hoping for even more rain than the few sprinkles we've already had, but let's take a moment and talk about the anti-rain, a.k.a. the sun. Toss aside your umbrella and search the clouds for rainbows when the sun peeks through to say hello. He's such a lovely friend, and he's good for so much more than just a good tan.

Fun fact about the sun: Did you know that when an eagle is sick, it will go to the highest point on a mountain, closest to the sun, sprawl its wings along the rocky ground, and just lie there and let the sun pull the sickness out of its body? It's true.

English nerd fact about the sun: When discussing the sun in technical terms (e.g. when referring to science), sun is capitalized. For example, straight from my Chicago Manual of Style, "Solar neutrino experiments provide unique information about the interior of the Sun." (You know I didn't write that sentence off the top of my head!)

Today's walkthrough fact: Sunlight is a natural bleach. It makes white clothes whiter and sterilizes and deodorizes more than just your tighty whiteys and your cloth diapers. Lately, I've been taking advantage of its natural purifying properties and using it for more than just my laundry:

1. Sterilizing toys. When friends' kids come over and slobber all over A's blocks, stuffed animals and the like, I leave them out on a blanket in the sun for a natural cleaning.

2. Sterilizing and deodorizing diaper pails. Again, a quick rinse and wipe with a clean cloth, then the bucket is set out in the sun for a nice sun bath and smells oh-so-fresh when it returns to its respectful place next to the changing table.

3. Cleaning animal dishes. Recently a friend came over and filled one of my plastic bowls with water for their dog. Before that bowl made it back to my kitchen, it took a long soak in the sun, then took a swim in my soapy sink.

What about you? What do you use the sun to clean?


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . You Tell Me

It's Thursday, I know. Wednesday must've knocked me out because this morning I woke up and realized it was already Thursday. Sorry this is late, but I thought I'd try something different today.

In the spirit of my fav blogger Nathan Bransford, let's do a "You Tell Me" day.

Let's take a walk through your wallet today. You tell me, what's your favorite way to save money while providing a safe environment for your family to live and thrive in?


Sippy Cup = Spill-All-Over-Me Cup

Help! My daughter has learned the finer art of using her sippy cup as an indoor milk sprinkler. Every time I turn around, she's spreading it over her carseat, her legs, her clothes, the couch, the floor, etc. etc.

She's still pretty young, so the harder spout sippy cups are a bit much for her to handle. And I hear that the straw sippy cups require one to be able to bite and suck at the same time. Is that true with all of them?

Anyone have any suggestions of sippy cups that really are leak proof?


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . your freezer

Because of my childhood spent in Michigan, the concept of an entire week of 100+ degree days
is, well, wilting. So when spring threatens to wind down and summer temperatures take up residence in my steamy backyard, I have to focus on the good to keep from curling up in my refrigerator and waiting for cooler days and Friday night football games to return. The one redeeming factor of Oklahoma summers (yep, there's only one) is the abundance of fresh produce for cheap prices. Farmers' markets (a recent trend in the Tulsa area), local produce stands and nearby farms have me almost giddy about summer again. This year, being a SAHM, I have had more time than usual to really explore and try all the different local produce stands to find my favorites. I've also had time to dream about fresh summer meals topped with yummy romantic toppings, like. . .arugula. That just sounds fresh and healthy, doesn't it?

While my fridge is brimming with organic raspberries (only $3 at Sam's!), blueberries (if only they were fresh-picked from MI, sigh), tomatoes, corn that melts in your mouth and cucumbers that beg to be crunched between my teeth, I am keenly aware that this bounty of fresh foods is only for a season and soon winter days will once again draw me toward comfort-food baked dishes begging for a least a hint of veggies in their thick batters.

So, why not bring summer to winter? There are certainly ways to stock up and hold on to the fresh all year long.

The first step is to invest in a bigger freezer. Right now we only have the stock freezer sitting atop our fridge, and since it is already filled with ready-to-grill-at-a-moment's-notice items, there is little room left for frozen veggies or fruits. I've noticed a reasonably priced external freezer available at Sam's, and I'm sure they're even more to find with a little hunting.

Step two: stock up. By a few extra ears of corn (or buy a dozen at a time at your local farmer's market), and when you're finished with dinner, throw the rest of the ears in boiling water for just a minute or two, then cool, shave the corn off with a big knife, and stock the remains in freezer bags. Don't forget to label and date the bags!

Sam's always has bigger-than-my-family-eats-in-one-week quantities of fruit, so take the leftovers, stick them in a freezer bag, and stash them away before they start to grow hairy.

Step three: Take up canning. I don't have any storage in my current house, so I'm saving this step for a bit later, but if you have the room, by all means, get to canning. In Michigan, we had a basement with a shelf reserved just for canned items. We canned beans, jams, pickles (my personal fav), and tomatoes. Other friends canned fruits and pie fillings. Yum, my mouth is watering. When I tackle canning, I'll blog about it. But until then, canned dill pickles will continue to haunt me in my dreams.

It doesn't have to be an entire day's worth of work to stock up. Start with buying a little more and freezing the leftovers. Come the crazy ice storms of January, you'll be glad you did.

ps. Thanks, Mom, for the inspiration :)


Northern Exposure

Wednesday Walkthrough . . . your beach bag

The recent trend in my Inbox right now is sunscreen. Lots of people are encouraging you to slather it on when you hit the beach or even when you just walk outside. So, let's take a stroll to your beach bag and pull out the lotion that called your name from the store shelves because of its high/low level of SPF, promise of organic matter, colorful and cute (or not-so-cute) label, or price tag.

If you're like me, there's a draw between two main factors: 1) Ingredients 2) Price. I'll buy the product that has the best ingredients with the most reasonable price tag. But what's really important when it comes to buying sunscreen?

According to the Enviornmental Working Group's 2009 Sunscreen Guide, just because the label promises a waterproof lotion with a high SPF rating, doesn't guarantee that it's the best sunscreen for you. The FDA standards that the sunscreen industry is abiding by are 31 years old. And even those out-of-date standards are not necessarily being followed by all companies. Your best bet for buying sunscreen is to follow the EWG's guide that tested hundreds of sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms for actual-SPF-protection and ingredient toxicity. Here's their top 10 list:

1. Soleo Organics Sunscreen SPF 30+
2. Badger Sunscreen SPF 30
3. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stuff, SPF 30
4. UV Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+
5. Mexitan Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
6. Lavera Sunscreen Neutral, SPF 40
7. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion No Frangrance, SPF 30+ (I've found this at Target!)
8. MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28
9. Little Forest Sunscreen Lotion for Babies and Kids, SPF 30+
10. Trukid Sunny Days Facestick Mineral Sunscreen UVA/UVB Broad Spectrum, SPF 30+

A couple of other thoughts before you slather your sunscreen on:

1. Why aren't babies under the age of six months allowed to wear sunscreen? There were so many things that I was told not to do/consume during pregnancy and nursing that I previously had had no idea could be potentially harmful to my growing baby. It got me thinking. . .if I shouldn't be doing this when I'm pregnant, should I ever be doing it? This thought still haunts me now and then.

2. A friend of mine has been fighting skin cancer. One of the first things her doctor told her when she was diagnosed, "Stop using sunscreen." Ironic, huh?

3. Large brimmed hats and oversized sunglasses are really popular right now, and rash gaurds for babies are in abundance. So, it's stylish to shade your skin. That's easy enough.

4. One thing you can inject (or rub on topically) is coconut oil. And the research says it not only moisturizes, but it prevents premature aging.

5. A tan is your skin's natural form of protection against the sun.

My personal sunscreen habits fluctuate around a few key principles:

1. Stay in the shade/wear a big hat and long sleeves as much as possible.

2. When I know I'll be in the sun for a long time (i.e. when I have been in this situation before and burned my skin), I'll grab an EWG-approved sunscreen and double it with a big hat.

3. Start the sunny season with short sessions in the sun to build a tan and naturally shield my skin from harmful UV's.

What have you learned about sunscreen that left you feeling more exposed than protected?


Happy Fourth of July! 
Take time today to remember the sacrifice so many men and women have selflessly given for the sake of our freedom. Thank you.


Wednesday Walkthrough . . . your medicine cabinet

In my (too) early morning stupor, this news story flashed across my TV screen: FDA Panel Urges Cuts in Acetaminophen Dosage. Recent research has linked high levels of acetaminophen (most commonly taken in the form of Tylenol) to acute liver failure. Despite the FDA's findings, they are not required to follow their own advice: "The FDA usually follows the panel's advice. A final decision by FDA is likely months away" (emphasis mine). It should be noted that the FDA found that people who take high dosages of acetaminophen or who mix it with something dangerous like alcohol are most likely to be affected.

While the mysteries of Michael Jackson's cause of death are still weighing heavily on many people's minds, the timing of this story is, well, interesting, to say the least. So, today let's take a stroll through your medicine cabinet, and perhaps, more importantly, your trained way of thinking. 

If you've been taught all your life to pop a painkiller when you get a fever and drink some cold medicine when you're feeling under the weather, take a moment and reconsider that advice. The human body is designed to self-heal, and something as seemingly inconvenient as a fever is not always something to fight. When you're body has a fever, it is because it was designed to heat up to kill bad bacteria. Of course, all of this needs to be considered in moderation. 

There are two main factors at work here:
1. The miraculous design of the body to self-heal 
2. Simple common sense

If your common sense is telling you that you're dealing with something serious, go see a doctor. But if you're dealing with something minor, think twice before popping a painkiller as a quick fix. Do your research and find out how much acetaminophen is in your OTC meds and choose carefully.