Browsing Category

Health & Home

Health & Home

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

February 19, 2016

Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows that the smell of my poor dogs is driving me nuts right now. Although pregnancy hormones are heightening my sense of smell, I am convinced other people can walk into my living room and smell Piper and Hamish too. We try to wash the dogs as often as makes sense, but unfortunately over-washing can lead to dry skin and irritation in our pets- so there is only so much we can do. I’ve tried carpet sprinkle found in the pet aisle of the grocery store, but I find that smell kind of overwhelming and sickening. Plus- have you checked out the list of ingredients? I don’t want to inadvertently poison the dogs or humans in my house! Then, I remembered that a friend of mine mentioned that she made her own carpet sprinkle from a mixture of baking soda and essential oils.

I made some to use as a carpet and upholstery sprinkle last week- and I must say- I am pretty pleased with the results! It soaked up some of that gross puppy smell and, and left a relaxing smell of lavender and lemon that lingered throughout the room. It vacuumed up easily from the carpet and couch. I’m going to be sprinkling this a few times a week to keep my living room smelling fresh during these cooped up winter months.

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Carpet Sprinkle

1/2 Cup Baking Soda

10-15 drops of your choice of essential oils (I made two batches, one with lemon, and the other with lavender and dried rosemary- be sure to research your essential oils before use! Ilana has some info about them here.)

1 Tablespoon Rosemary (optional)

Add the baking soda to a mason jar or another container with a lid. Next, add your dry herbs if you are using any and shake it all up. Remove the lid and gradually add the oil of your choice to the mixture. Its simple to make, but try not to put all of your oil drops in one area, because then you will end up with more wet clumps- which isn’t great for your vacuum. You only want to be vacuuming up dry baking soda! Put the lid on and shake up the mixture!

I let my mixtures sit covered over night, and then used them the next day. I sprinkled my couch and carpet, and let the sprinkle sit for 20 minutes before vacuuming it up. Unless the area you are vacuuming is huge- you will definitely have some mixture left over for later use! You may have to run your vacuum over certain areas a few times, but it all will come up!

Has anyone else tried making their own cleaning products? I’d love more suggestions!

Health & Home Life

My Attempt to Simplify: Tidying Up, Decluttering, and Streamlining

February 1, 2016

I’d like to begin this post with a disclaimer. These are first world problems, folks. I am blessed to have a roof over my head, clothes on my body, and food to eat. I just need to become less materialistic and discerning about the things I fill my home with. Does anyone else feel like they spend way too much time trying to catch up on cleaning? I feel like I am constantly behind and can never catch up! When I finally do sit down to relax at the end of the day, I feel a little bit guilty because there is still work to be done. Part of that is just learning to accept that in a home that is really lived in, housework never really is done. Our house is pretty well loved at almost 100 years old, and very much lived in. We’re always having guests come to stay, and the minute my stove is clean, I’m usually dirtying it again with some from scratch recipe. Once I  vacuum up the dog hair, my big girl Piper jumps up to cuddle me on the couch! Who can say “no” to that face? Well, right now I can, because  my poor dogs’ smells trigger the old gag reflex. I can’t wait until my son is born and I can hug my dogs without holding my breath!

When I was off over the summer, I spent a solid week organizing every nook and cranny of my house. It was extremely satisfying! However, the minute morning sickness reared its ugly head, and I was headed back to work, much of my work was undone. The tidiness was not something that stood the test of time, or the test of real life, which is very often busy and messy.  I think we never lost some of our messy habits, and I didn’t throw away or donate enough things. I’ve  been thinking- who wants to be cleaning all the time? Is it really worth it? Maybe its time to stop being disgusted that two grown adults can’t keep a small home clean. Maybe it is time to find out what the real clutter problems are,  so that I can solve them before our son arrives in May. I don’t want to be worrying about cleaning all the time, and I definitely don’t want my son to grow up walking on eggshells and trying not to make a mess. I want to cherish all of the time that I have with him. But deep down, in my neurotic soul, I also would like a house that doesn’t look like a house party gone wrong the minute I relax a little. However, another part of deep down me is something of a hoarder that can’t bear to throw out pictures drawn for me by former students, old christmas and birthday cards, or get rid of clothes that never fit right. It is definitely a battle as those two sides attempt to fight it out! I aspire to achieve balance in these areas. I want our home to feel comfortable, but arrange it so that tidying only takes a few minutes because everything has a place. As for deep cleaning, perhaps I can set up some kind of loose schedule for that! I’ll have more time to deep clean if I’m not constantly relocating clutter.

I’ve decided to identify a few of the messy culprits in our home.


You know how it is, every day you get a huge stack of grocery store circulars, actual bills that matter and maybe a few political ads in the mail. We are terrible at sorting our mail right away. Things that need to be kept and filed are mixed in with old catalogues. This can lead to mild panic for the sixty seconds that I think I accidentally threw out our new insurance cards. Not worth all of the drama.

Solution: I need to set up a system of sorting things right away and immediately discarding junk. I  need to firmly I ask my husband if he is ever really going to read his issues of Popular Mechanic. We recently found an old mail sorter/whiteboard thing that we are going to be hanging in the pantry. Bonus: it also has space to hang our keys. I’ve finally started hanging up some family photos, and will continue to hang up more favorites as time goes on. As for those old pictures and cards, I’m going to keep the ones that are most meaningful, and file them away, and mercilessly throw out the rest. Ugh is that hard for anyone else?

Clothes and Laundry

I have a habit of letting laundry pile up, especially after we’ve had guests and we have a bunch of linens and towels to wash. Right now, I’m still doing laundry almost every day to catch up. This is not a habit I want to be in- especially as we plan to cloth diaper our son, which will mean another load of laundry every other day. Plus, I feel like we can never fit all of our clothes in our dresser and closet. So then I let the laundry pile up because I don’t know where to put it! Part of this is the fact that my husband and I share a dresser, and part of this is that we have way too many things that we don’t wear taking up space. We also have a bad habit of coming home and plopping our coats right on the back of the kitchen chairs, and my purse goes right on the table.  This winter has been pretty fickle, so we are constantly alternating between our lighter coats and winter jackets.

Solution: I need to seriously reevaluate what I do and do not wear, and encourage my husband to do the same. No more feeling obligated to keep a stained top that I can wear only if I find a sweater to go over it, or that hand me down dress that never fit right. If it’s damaged I need to let it go, if it is in good condition, but never worn, I need to donate it. Soon, my son will be inheriting our dresser, so my husband is  planning to build us a wardrobe for our bedroom that will better suit our needs. I have also started doing complete loads of laundry before I start another one. This means less piles of clean laundry waiting around to be folded. My husband also hung up some coat hooks in the kitchen. Hopefully soon we’ll remember to hang up coats, put keys away, and sort the mail immediately! This will mean a tidier kitchen table for more family meals and a clean space for my husband to study.


I love a cute knick-knack! I have a ton of candles that I love the smell of (when I’m not pregnant), as well as pretty glassware and a collection of salt and pepper shakers. I love the little sheep that lives on the counter and my postcards of foxes on dates that line my kitchen shelf.   That’s not all, but you get the gist. However, these are all things that take up space and get dusty. After awhile, there are so many of them, that things just look dusty, messy and cluttered, and you don’t even notice how pretty that vase is, or that those salt and pepper shakers are shaped like sea shells.

Solution: I’ve decided anything that is broken and not easily fixed must go. I am keeping only my favorite candles, and some will go into the attic to be rotated out by season.  My postcards will be framed and hung up in baby boy’s room. I will keep two sets of salt and pepper shakers in the kitchen, and the rest will be cleaned and relocated into our china cabinet. I can rotate them out whenever I want a change! My goal is to clean as many flat surfaces as possible to keep things from looking cluttered, and create more space for using the kitchen.

Not having a dishwasher

This is a tough one. I just need to better keep up with dishes and not let things pile up! Sometimes this will be inevitable when I cook a big meal or have company. I have learned to buy paper plates and cups when we are having a lot of company, so that we don’t spend the entire time doing dishes.


A Cluttered fridge

Anyone else find  themselves plagued by a cluttered fridge? Two weeks ago I did a big fridge cleanup and wiped down the shelves and drawers. I also threw out expired condiments and emptied old containers of food that made their way toward the back of the fridge to hide- gross!

Solution: Now that I have a basically tidy fridge, I check it every time before I do dishes for old food containers that need to be washed. I also quickly  glance at each shelf before grocery shopping to see if anything needs to be thrown away. Doing this has kept things pretty clean for the past two weeks!

There are so many more areas in my home that need tidying, but these are the spaces I am trying to conquer first. My current plan of attack is to declutter room by room and try to donate or throw out what is unused.  I know that goes against the Kondo method- has anyone read The Life -Changing Magic of Tidying Up? I am waiting for my turn to borrow it from the library! For now, these methods have been working for me- we’ll see if I change my mind after reading.  I guess nesting is kicking in, but I want to simplify things as much as possible before May! I know life is only going to get crazier with a baby and two pups! Luckily my husband is a big help and will get into cleaning mode if I encourage him!

My main message of encouragement to anyone out there who has similar issues is to make your home a space that works for your own needs! My parents recently decided they needed a pantry near the kitchen more than that coat closet. My dad built custom shelves into the closet and it’s been a game changer! It frees up a lot of needed cabinet space for them. The coats were relocated and the space just works better for them. While you want your house to be a welcoming space for guests, also remember that you and your family are the ones who live there every day, and you are the one’s cleaning it! Make it a place that you love to live, rest and create in. Living in an older home means that we alway have a list of updates that we are trying to gradually fit into the budget. However, the things that need to be improved don’t bother me nearly as much as clutter and mess. I love our house, warts and all- but I do know I feel more content and creative in a tidy space. Don’t live among the chaos if it’s stressing you out.

Good luck tidying up!

Baking Health & Home Life Parenting Uncategorized

Things I’ve Been Loving Recently

January 16, 2016

Hello folks, Kristen here. Just stopping by with a quick list of things that have been making me happy recently:

  1. Homemade Laundry Detergent– My mom came to my rescue with this fantastic detergent recipe. You see, store bought detergent is a huge trigger for my gag reflex. Prior to getting pregnant, I loved the smell of our detergent. Now, I can’t wear clothes that have been washed in that detergent without getting sick! There are a few other advantages to this detergent as well. It is gentle on your clothing, and is gentle for people who have sensitive skin and are prone to allergic reactions. It is also cheap to make, and easy to customize to fit your needs. I like that it smells only faintly of soap, but if you’d like a stronger scent, add your favorite essential oil to the recipe. Ilana recently posted some great information on that topic. The recipe is as follows- 1 bar of ivory soap (grated), 1 and 1/2 cups borax, and 1 and 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer washing soda. I’ll be making some more as soon as I  run out!
  2. Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread– Holy moly- this is good bread, guys. I know that bread is not the healthiest thing to eat, so if you are going to eat bread- why not make it really delicious, good bread? I love the experience of baking bread on a cold day when you are cozy and warm at home. This recipe is not difficult at all. I didn’t have whole wheat flour, so I just used unbleached bread flour, and it turned out fine. The beginning of the recipe is a little time consuming, but once you get past that part, you can totally do other things while the bread is rising and proofing. I used that time to do dishes and clean up the house. It makes the house smell amazing, and it makes two loaves, so you can always freeze one. The simplicity of the recipe is inspiring me to see how long I can go without buying store bought bread! We ate ours with this yummy chicken salad. I left the sugar and poppy seeds out of the recipe when I made it, and used almonds instead of pecans, because that is what I had. I also added a bit of shallot pepper and rosemary to season it more.
  3. Electric City Roaster’s Coffee– Now that I am past my first trimester, coffee is back to being delicious! I do limit myself to one cup of half caf, but it’s a nice way to start the day! Recently, a friend has been making fun of us for buying the cheapest generic coffee the grocery store has in stock, and he encouraged us to try out this company. My mom has also been on me to make sure that my decaf is water filtered, because apparently a lot of decaf is filtered using some kind of chemicals. On Sunday, we took the plunge and ordered a few bags of beans online. By Monday morning, my coffee was hand delivered to my door. We are super impressed. The coffee is delicious and we ordered a roast with low acidity, so it’s not as tough on my sensitive stomach. So far, we are pleased and plan to reorder more when we run out. I highly recommend checking them out!
  4. Bringing Up Bebe and The Happiest Baby on the Block– I read Bringing Up Bebe a few months ago, and it was a really enjoyable read. It’s interesting to read about raising children in other countries and different parenting methods. It does make the French childhood sound idyllic, but some of it isn’t realistic for me because I do not live in France. I will not deliver my baby in a fancy private hospital with fresh baguettes and champagne on the menu! A girl can dream though! However, I enjoyed the chapters on gentle sleep training and making sure your child’s diet is diverse. I’ve witnessed how well that works with my niece! Little Miss happily eats whatever Ilana puts in front of her. It is pretty fantastic! I’ve been rereading it again recently, and my husband promises to read it soon. I just started The Happiest Baby on the Block. It deals with methods of soothing your baby. I witnessed my friend using a few of these methods on her newborn, and they really seem to work.
  5. Finding out our baby’s sex- a boy!!! We were in total shock, because everyone who looked at me predicted girl! I’m not sure how to feel about that- I guess I’m carrying kind of low and round? I am a short girl with hips though, there is not a lot of space for this baby weight to go! Luckily my doctor says that my weight gain is healthy and right on target. We are so thrilled to start being able to call Baby “him” and to start making plans for our little fella! His tiny kicks are the happiest part of my day. He even kicked hard enough for his Daddy to feel him the other day. It’s the best. I am so thankful for him, and pray for him pretty much all day every day.

That is all for now! I hope you can all find a few things every day that make you feel happy. It’s the little things, right?

Feature Health & Home

Those oils: are they essential?

January 4, 2016
Essential Oils. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

When Kristen and I began this blog, our goal was to explore and share our experiences integrating the modern and the traditional. So while we do plenty of things in a newfangled manner, that also means we do plenty of things the old fashioned way. For me, doing things in an old fashioned way means something more traditional, and often more natural. Less chemicals, less preservatives, and less drugs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate modern medicine and all it has to offer. I’ll take antibiotics when they’re needed. But the rest of the time, I’m very happy to find other, natural ways to combat little discomforts.

My mother has been using Melaleuca products since I was a child, so I have always been aware of the magic of tea tree oil (scientific name Melaleuca alternifolia, which is where the company got it’s name). As a teenager, on a family trip to Salem, Massachusetts (which was an incredible vacation, by the way), my mother and I found a little aromatherapy shop right on the water. We bought a book on aromatherapy and went back the next day to stock up on oils. That was the beginning for us.

There are plenty of people who will wave away notions of using essential oils therapeutically – it’s just scented oil! It can’t do anything!

And with that type of statement, I need to disagree. Will you be instantly cured of what ails you by essential oils? No. Of course not. But I can say from personal experience that they can be a simple and natural way to vastly improve and treat a number of issues.

Please note: there are a number of different schools of thought on the use of essential oils. Some oils may safely be used undiluted, some should not be. Some sources will recommend certain oils be taken internally, others will say not to ingest them under any circumstances. This blog post is not meant to serve as medical advice. Please do your own research and use your judgement if choosing to use essential oils therapeutically.

Years ago, following that trip to Salem, my mother and I amassed an impressive collection of essential oils, and used them for making different products we used as well as simply utilizing the oils. These days I have a small stash of oils I consider indispensable; ones with wide and varied uses while I have had success with.

Where did they come from, you may ask? Some were ordered from Melaleuca, some I have ordered from, and some of my Tisserand brand blends were found at a glorious price in Marshalls. If you decide to buy, look for pure essential oils (not scented oils) from reputable brands.

Now without further ado, my favorite essential oils, and how I use them:

Tea tree: Tea tree oil remains my number one most used essential oil. It is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral; basically, yucky things aren’t a fan. Using a cotton swab, dab a little onto pimples (even ones which haven’t fully surfaced) to dry them up. For ear aches, again with a cotton swab, apply gently inside the ear – your ear will feel a little funny for a few minutes, but I’ve had great success with this stopping the ache from progressing. It’s a great oil for skin conditions and rashes, and can help prevent fleas and lice, if those are concerns. I use a number of products that contain tea tree oil and have been impressed with them all.

As a note, it can dry your skin a bit, so keep an eye on the spots you use it on. As a second note, tea tree is a specific tree native to Australia, not the plant that tea leaves for the beverage come from.

Lavender: Lavender essential oil is my number 2 favorite, coming in right behind tea tree for it’s myriad of uses. Lavender oil is extremely healing for skin ailments, with a scent that many find more pleasant than tea tree. It can be used on acne, eczema, cuts and burns, and can help alleviate headaches. Lavender is also a calming oil (again, pure essential oils – you want the properties of the oil, not just the scent) which can be applied behind the ears before bed to sooth you and help you to sleep, diffused into the air or worn in a jewelry diffuser during the day to calm nerves and promote a sense of calm, or used in products.

One of my favorite uses for lavender is my coconut oil/lavender moisturizer. Heat up some coconut oil in a saucepan or microwave safe bowl, or simply do this when it’s warm  out! Remember, coconut oil goes liquid about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so don’t heat it too much. Once it’s liquid, stir in several drops of lavender oil, pour into a glass container and let cool. Once it solidifies a little, you have an all natural, super healing skin cream. It will be liquid when you rub it in because of your body heat but soaks into your skin almost immediately. I use it each evening before bed on my face and hands so I get the moisturizing benefits as well as the calming effect of the lavender. Oh, this makes amazing diaper rash cream too (obviously, keep it separate from your face stash!)

Peppermint: I have a bottle of peppermint for one simple reason – sniffing it helped with my terrible hormonal headaches when I was pregnant. That aside, it is antimicrobial, great for clearing the sinuses, and a natural alternative to Icy Hot (mix it with a carrier oil for a tingly, cooling rub). The scent is also an excellent pick-me-up, perfect to get you energized. Another great one for diffusing.

Eucalyptus: Similar to peppermint, Eucalyptus essential oil is antiseptic and can be used for skin irritations, and is amazing for respiratory ailments. It’s a fantastic decongestant, which is my favorite purpose for it. A drop on a tissue, or a few drops in a diffuser or humidifier can do wonders for sniffles and stuffiness.

Lemon: Lemon essential oil comes from, guess what? Lemon peel! You know when you zest a lemon, the oil that forms on the surface…it’s more or less that, just extracted differently. It’s great for your skin, can be used as a household disinfectant, helps get super dirty hands clean again, can polish silver and wood (and it removes permanent Sharpie marker from wood, FYI), improves mood and can ward off nausea (great for when you’re pregnant, just saying). Not too shabby, right?

Thieves Oil: This is the only oil I’m including on this list that is a blend. Thieves Oil’s unique name dates back to the middle ages, when thieves wore this blend of oils and spices when robbing their targets who were ridden with the bubonic plague as protection against the plague…and it largely worked. It’s a pleasant smelling mix containing lemon, rosemary, clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus oils. This oil is as it’s origin suggests, great for immune support. Mix with water and spray around your house or onto the air conditioner vents to purify the air, or spray it on stinky shoes to disperse the odor. A few drops in the dishwasher before you run it eliminates funky smells. It makes a great cleaner, and just smells really nice. There are about a million and one ways to use Thieves Oil.

Carrier oils: I mentioned diluting your essential oils earlier; your carrier oil is any oil that is used to dilute an essential oil before use. Many people swear by apricot or jojoba; I have sweet almond oil in the house, but often use coconut oil. Because you know, it works and I use coconut oil for everything.

These 6 oils are my go-to, my indispensable, must have essential oils. The uses and benefits I’ve listed are only the tip of the iceberg – a quick Google search will pull up everything you ever wanted to know about them and their uses.

So sure, some people may dismiss essential oils as frivolous, silly, unscientific. But with a lifetime of tea tree experience behind me and about 15 years experience using a wide variety of oils, I can’t argue with the results.

Have you tried using essential oils for their health benefits? Which are your favorites?