Handmade Holiday

29 November 2010

The shopping frenzy begins. This year, I am challenging myself to make my gifts, buy gifts that were handmade by someone else, or buy things that were not made in China. Preferably, America. It was so easy to do that in NYC, where artists abound and there is no Super Wal-Mart. Have you been in a dollar store? It’s shocking that there is so much you can buy for ONE DOLLAR. Why is it so cheap? Who made this? How much were they paid? Are the ingredients going to give me herpes? We have gotten to a point where all we care about is cost and paying as little as possible, regardless of quality. Even for food. Ah, but food is a whole nother post. So this holiday season, please, keep these things in mind.

-Buy as little as possible from China. Sometimes that is unavoidable, like when you need an iPhone. I know there are sweat shop, toxin, lead, child labor, carbon footprint, and other ethical issues with products made in a variety of countries but this is based on my experience. I am tired of things falling apart and I want to support people who manufacture in the USA.

-Make your gifts. Paint, bake, frame a poem, paper mache, sew, etc. Or buy something handmade by someone else.

-Spend more on less. Really, your kids don’t need 20 gifts. Spend a little more for something that will make it to 2012.

-Redo. Find something old and ugly, like a candelabra, at a flea market and spray-paint it. Or recover the seat of a chair your mom is throwing out. (Assuming you have parents who get rid of things and I swear, recovering a chair seat is easy.)

-Carry this over into 2011.

-Resources:

Etsy–the mecca of handmade.

Salt Scrub

Felt Food

Pickles

Freezer Jam

Knitting, Crocheting, Embroidering, and Sewing Projects from Purl Soho

Prudent Baby Projects

ETA: Edited (slightly) to add a few pics of my Homemade Christmas Extravaganza…

Stockings for la familia (Prudent Baby)

Pillowcase Dress (The Needle and the Damage Done)

Apron (Prudent Baby)

Tote Bag (The Purl Bee)

Clean

8 November 2010

Since my job loss last month, I have been scheming ways to make money without sitting in an office or classroom all day. So I listed all of my skills, and it turned out to be a not long list that doesn’t point to any specific career path. My in-demand skill list is: stain removing, internet researching (any topic, people), Facebook picture caption writing, baby clothes buying, blog reading, half apron sewing, sleeping until noon (we alternate days waking with Beau), teaching/training/helping (but I don’t want to teach or be a customer service representative), and dancing (very subjective).

Then, today, I was accused of hoarding cleaning secrets, so I decided that since it is apparently a skill not everyone has, I would share some cleaning tips. Go ahead and close out this tab if you are already bored. I try and make most of my cleaning products or use things that are natural. If you are using chemicals and cleaning with the windows closed, you are inhaling those fumes. I don’t think that’s why my mom got lung cancer (non-smoker, non-genetic) but I don’t want to take any chances. So pictured here is my crew.

-Vinegar. I pour white vinegar into a spray bottle that I got from Publix for $1 and use this for almost everything. You can dilute it with water but I use it full strength. Yes, vinegar is not the most pleasant smell but it dissipates, along with other odors. I use it to clean mirrors, windows, toilets, sinks, floors (we have an electric mop like a Swiffer but by a different company that lets you fill it with whatever you want), counters, and basically anything you would use a spray cleaner on. I have also used it to stain treat, as bleach, fabric softener, cat urine smell remover, hair rinse, car carpet deodorizer, to treat jellyfish stings, and to clean out the coffee maker.

-Lemon juice. If I get a stain on clothing, especially white clothing, or if I find something old from a thrift store, I use this to treat it. I just squeeze lemon juice on it and hang it out in the sun for a few hours. Then I wash it and repeat the lemon juice/sun cycle, if necessary. So easy and it works really well.

-Dawn. Old-school Dawn, not newfangled super concentrated Dawn. This stuff is my general stain remover for clothing. It gets out grease, oil, blood, food, and dirt. Depending on the stain, like a general food stain, I just squeeze some on and throw it in the hamper. Then I wash as usual. If it’s something major, I squeeze it on and rub it in with an old toothbrush. If I can’t get a stain out with lemon juice, I go to Dawn. I have used this to get stains out of hand-me-downs that were there for a couple of years.

-Borax. I use this when I want a paste or a scrub, like when I clean the tub. I also use this for laundry stains, if lemon juice or plain Dawn didn’t do the trick. I once washed a white tank top with pink jeans and the tank top got a huge pink stain on it. I instantly treated it with borax and a toothbrush and got the stain out. It is really hard to remove clothing dye stains, so I probably rewarded myself after that with an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

-Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. So far, I only use this for the tub because I couldn’t get a ring off with anything else. I hear you can use it for other things, like marker on a wall. It is my last resort, since it is the least natural.

-Hairspray. This is the only thing that gets ink out. I will be using it tonight; thank you, Beau. You could probably use rubbing alcohol, if you don’t have Aqua Net around. I prefer to use a traditional spray over the aerosol but they both work. Just spray the stain, let it set, blot with a rag, and repeat.

-Specialty items (not pictured). When something crazy happens, like your husband spills a glass of red wine on your white couch, I refer to the internet. I removed a huge red wine stain with a combination of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide, which was awesome, but the cleaning solution left a big water mark, which was sad. You can wad up newspaper and throw it in the fridge to remove odors (like fish). I use Goo Gone to get the sticker residue off of things. I wish there were a Poo Gone I could use for cloth diapers. For light laundry stains, I use the Ecover stain stick and that works well.

Wasn’t that enthralling? If you’re still reading, you’re probably a nerd.

Ferreira Fête

13 October 2010

Somewhere in between sleeping on a urine-scented couch, driving seven hours, and attempting to eat what Burger King calls a “veggie burger” (it’s actually just a pureed latex glove with corn poop),  I had the most amazing time this weekend. The Ferreiras hosted a costume required, Tim Burton themed birthday party, which can best be described as a carnival of the macabre. There’s probably also a made-for-tv movie monologue that would do it justice. In honor of Lady Ferreira turning 30, I am cementing the most peculiar and memorable moments in time, by blogging it. Blogging is forever.

-All of the classics were represented: Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Beetlejuice, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman Returns, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Where, I ask, was The World of Stainboy? And just because Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Frankenweenie are in pre-production, no one even considered those?

-Tara and Seth were Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd. They were exquisite. Meat pies and rolling pins. I was the White Queen and yes, I can get whiter. A Revlon color master chose the lipstick and nail polish I wore (thanks, Rhonda). Oscar was not in attendance, since Tim Burton does not have black characters. It would not have been true to the theme.

-The animal kingdom was not without representation. No less than 3 snorms (snake worms) from Beetlejuice, Absalom the Caterpillar, and a tenderly trimmed dinosaur bush set the mood. And a clown. Large Marge was not available to escort Pee Wee, so a clown did the job. We all know clowns aren’t people.

-By the end of the night, a group journeyed to the roof. This was promptly followed by a helmeted football player head-butting street light posts, in order to snuff them. I believe that could be used against him, in the court of law.

-One taxi taken. One couch arm broken. In my defense, that couch is old. And I do lift a mean 5 pound weight. 55 meat pies eaten, despite roaches and dead fingers. Three layers of red velvet cake devoured.

-Why were my fingertips stained purple the next morning? Pigeon poop purple.

-You can’t just show up to a party like this all willy nilly. There were reenactments. People knew their sh*t. Scenes were filmed under the direction of Seth that I daresay give Tim a run for his money. Dances were danced. Songs were sung. Remotes were controlled.

-Avon. Hookah. Live Nude Girls. Sand pit. Attic. Door that leads to nowhere. Flowers with baby faces. Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Curioser and Curioser.

-At midnight, I got clearance to disrobe and spent the rest of the evening lounging in Tara’s vintage, holey pantaloons. And yet, I still made friends.

-Tara is stunning at 30. Which is why I proposed this weekend.

Lit Loot

1 October 2010

Check out this amazing stash scored at my local thrift store (my favorite is The Miami Giant). This excludes the books that I lost in battle to JLH. They were only .79 cents each and instead of writing Beau’s name inside, I write a little note/poem/factoid to her. I also do that in books people give to her, so you may want to start writing your own messages, to avoid things like this:

Beau-

On your first birthday, Aimee Lastname gave this to you. Please enjoy the gratuitous penis illustrations; Aimee will make you ovary-shaped pancakes and explain how those things work when you’re 4.

Mama

This post is not for the faint of heart. It is about a blood bank for your cervix. Consider yourself warned. I have crossed over into the world of menstrual cup, a land unknown to many. It is a silicone cup that you insert during your period to collect blood, in lieu of a tampon or pad. This month was my first round with it, so I am still learning.

Here’s how it works: you order it online (unless you have a great hippie pediatrician), sanitize it in boiling water, figure out which insertion technique works best, and leave it in up to 12 hours (officially, or longer, unofficially). Then remove, rinse, and replace. You can sleep, work all day, and be physically active without removing it. Don’t go camping; bears smell blood. Is it messy? A little. You have to pour out your blood/lining/unused eggs into the toilet, which I find interesting but many find gross. You also get blood on your fingers when inserting, but that happens sometimes anyway. It’s not like now I have to wash my hands, which I never did before. There are different brands and after much research, I went with Fleurcup. Bottom line: I want something French inside me. Or; it’s French, that’s how you know it’s good. I haven’t tried any others but this one is working for me.  There are many brands and the popular American brand is Diva Cup. People also like the Lunette but it is a little smaller than I wanted. There are typically two different sizes and they are simply based on your age and whether or not you have given birth. Pretty simple. See below for resources.

Think this is gross? I really don’t care. I think everything period-related is equally gross. It’s your body, it’s natural, deal with it.

Benefits:

-Save money. A menstrual cup costs about $20-$30 and can last up to 20 years. I spend about $10 a month on disposable products, so in two months I have recouped the investment. In ten years, I have saved over $1000.

-It loves the environment. I am not throwing out dirty paper products that have been bleached with chemicals and scented with fragrance.

-More productivity (maybe your boss will foot the bill). You don’t have to go to the bathroom every hour on heavy days (is that just me? I fear I have shared too much).

-No dry scraping if you remove it too early. It is not absorbing everything.

-No string hanging out. Which also means you can wear it with lingerie, but why sexy nightwear when 1994 made such awesome sweat pants?

-You don’t feel anything.

-They have not been associated with TSS.

-You get to pick your own color. I don’t know why that matters, but it does.

-They have been around since the 1930s and are popular in Europe. They are more advanced than we are in a hygiene area?

Awkward:

-You see your blood and lining.

-Your fingers get messy.

-There is a 2-3 cycle learning curve and it can be tricky figuring out how to insert/remove.

Tips:

-Squirt bottle. If you have given birth, they give you these free squirt bottles that probably have a medical name. They are a great help for rinsing out fluids.

-You should not feel the cup. If you do, trim the stem. I trimmed the stem completely off.

-Don’t put it in and out too often. Just trust that it’s in there, doing its job.

-If you do need to empty it when you’re out, just keep some toilet wipes or a water bottle with you. Or use the handicap stall.

Next up: reusable pads?

Resources:

A blog dedicated to menstrual cups

Size comparison chart, by brand

Overall comparison chart, based on one person’s experience

Another comparison chart

Fleurcup Review

Menstrual Cups on Amazon

Every time I add something to my Taskmaster 5000 list and think “I don’t have time for this,” a judgmental voice in the back of my head reminds me that if I have 15 minutes to blow snooping into other people’s lives (or blabbing about mine) on Facebook, I have no excuse to not do tasks on this list. Let this be encouragement and a bit of chastisement; you too! can do these things and certainly, much, much  more.

-Hang clothing on a clothesline. If you have space, buy one. If you live in FL, they should be handed out on your 18th birthday. We use an umbrella-style dryer which you can buy for about $40. Save money on your power bill, get a dose of vitamin d, and extend the life of your clothing. It won’t take long to recoup the cost of purchase with savings on your power bill.

-Make your own cleaning solutions. I use vinegar for almost everything. I keep a mix of vinegar and tea tree oil in a spray bottle for basic cleaning. For scrubbing, I make a paste of either baking soda or borax. Since I eliminated chemical cleaners, I rarely get headaches. Think about it–when you spray anything with your windows closed, you are absorbing it through your lungs and skin. Other things I use vinegar for (which is super cheap, BTW): rinse aid in the dishwasher, air freshener, fabric softener, floors, stain treatment, windows, microwave, kill fruit flies, boiling eggs, getting rid of cooking smells, and you can see more ideas here.

-Read. I used to read so much. In NYC, I took the local train on purpose so I could spend more time with Pillars of the Earth. Now I have these piles of books and lists on my phone (aka TM5000) that seem so daunting. Where is the time? Oh, it’s on the computer.

-Learn to do something new. In my case, sew, which I can now remove from the “Things I Want to Do” list on the Taskmaster 5000.

-Exercise. I’ve already gained 4 pounds since I entered suburbia. I blame the sweet tea. I got free DVDs to test from Fitness Magazine, so there’s really no reason for me to be on Facebook.

-Everything else I have intentions of doing: create and send a birthday card to my brother, figure out which state offers the best 529 plan, realize I shouldn’t have a 529 plan until I have something significant in a retirement plan, journal, blog, finish Beau’s baby book, edit photos from 3 weeks ago, file my claws, decide on a costume for a Tim Burton party, and vacuum. Mary Ellen made sure I got the vacuuming done.

Vaccinate This

2 September 2010

I’ve gotten a number of emails/calls in the past two weeks regarding my vaccination choices for Beau, so I thought it’d be easiest to put them on web paper. I chose to vaccinate my baby on a selective/delayed schedule, based on the one offered by Dr. Sears in The Vaccine Book (my main resource), although I did read other books. The reasons I chose for her to not have all vaccines and not get too many at once are: she was breastfed; not in daycare; vaccines do not grant you lifetime immunity and many adults do not get boosters; some of the ailments we vaccinate against are not that severe (99% of the time); there are aborted fetal cells in some vaccines; the FDA has not set a recommended aluminum content for infants and many vaccines contain way more than the limit for adults; not all strains are covered in a vaccine so you can still get the disease; and some of the diseases are not infant illnesses. Here’s Beau’s schedule, for the first 12 months:

2,4,6 months: DTaP (Daptacel brand)
3,5,7 months: HIB (actHIB) and PC (Prevnar)
12 months: Polio

I chose the first three because they are the most detrimental to infants under 2. I asked my pediatrician which brands she carried and of course she did not know. The brand they carried for DTaP had the largest AL content. I told her I didn’t want to use that brand because of the AL and she replied “Yeah, but there’s no mercury.” Uhm, yes, I know that. She did not know why they chose that brand (I am sure that pharmaceutical company gave out sweet vacations and lots of candy). I told her I wanted to use the Daptacel brand (less AL and no animal tissue) and they actually carried that in-stock because that is what Medicaid patients get. So, she set that aside for me. Otherwise, they were not going to order it. HIB and PC do not contain animal tissue. I am not opposed to the animal tissue vaccines entirely, but I try to limit them. I wish the DTaP was just P (Pertussis) but you have to get all things at once (diphtheria and tetanus and pertussis).

The hardest part about implementing this is finding a pediatrician who will be flexible with you. When we were in NYC, my pediatrician flat-out told me I was crazy and that she did not know what was in vaccines but she knew what they prevented. Awesome. Please make more decisions about my child’s life. But, she let me do whatever I wanted, so I stayed with her. When we moved to FL, I made a point of finding someone who is open to alternative schedules. We have no insurance, so I pay out-of-pocket to see her but it’s worth it to me. You can also get free vaccines at the Health Department, so I am going to look into that for her next round.

I did not do Rotavirus because I do not think the virus is that bad. And, this year, they had a recall on one of the brands because of contaminated pig tissue. I did not do Hep B because that is primarily from a needle or STD and I’ll decide on that later. I just take it one year at a time. At 12 months I did give her Polio. It has been around a long time and I consider it responsible for eradicating Polio in the US, so that’s the thing–there is no polio here. But since it’s been around so long I felt like it was safe and I gave it to her. I am undecided on the MMR vaccine and will examine that in a few more years, since they no longer offer it as separate shots. She will not be getting the chickenpox (varicela) vaccine. I would rather her get chickenpox and have lifetime immunity, although it’s getting harder to find chickenpox since most kids are vaccinated. I do not give Beau the flu vaccine nor do Oluv or I get it. Somewhere in the back chapters of The Vaccine Book, Dr. Sears talks about the statistical chance that your child will get any of the diseases and be hospitalized, which is really helpful when making these decisions.

Remember, you have the right to walk out of a doctor’s office. Do not let them intimidate you or make you feel bad. Some doctors do not actually know what is in the vaccine–all they know is what the pharmaceutical rep told them. And, if they are older, they may just do things the way they have always done them; or, so has been my experience. No one cares about your child as much as you do. I had so many regrets about what happened with Beau in the NICU that it gave me the courage to do things differently than my doctor advised and I am totally happy about the vaccine choices that I made. I did so much research that I honestly felt like I knew more about the vaccines than my pediatrician (at that time) did. This is not representative of every pediatrician and is just based on what I went through and discussions I’ve had with friends in the medical community. You are not violating a law by not/selectively vaccinating. All states offer a religious exemption for school (and some offer philosophical), so you just have to get a form signed by your pediatrician or the Health Department. In FL, they don’t ask any questions. They just sign it. I have been through that first hand and so have a few friends. But, the explanation that I have prepared, in case someone asks, is that vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue and I am religiously/ethically/morally opposed to abortion and don’t want those cells going in my child. That should suffice. The three vaccines that Beau received do not have aborted fetal cells in them. Although, I am more concerned about the pig, cow, and monkey tissue they put in vaccines. It is usually more helpful to discuss all of this with the pediatrician before you go to the first vaccine appointment, so you know how they feel about it.

I know people who get all vaccinations and people who get none and at the end of the day, you have to do what you believe is best for your child based on your experiences. I am not pushing this schedule on anyone, I do not think I have all the answers, and I am not a trained physician–I have just been asked about what I did and how I came to that decision and I thought it would be easier for people to reference here than in an email.

Resources:

The National Vaccine Information Center

Dr. Sears Vaccine-Friendly Pediatrician List

Dr. Tenpenny’s Website

BabyCenter Message Board for Alternative Vaccination Schedules (top post has additional resources)

Chickenpox Vaccine Article by Compassionate Souls

Read my follow-up post to this (recounting a trip to the health department) here.