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I've just started hiking recently. Last week I went with a couple of friends. This week they were all busy so I ended up hiking on my own. It was sooo nice! I loved having the time to let my mind wander, to be in the present, and to admire the gorgeous scenery. I so rarely have the opportunity to do just one thing for a long time. This morning I hiked for an hour and 45 minutes!

The view of the valley from the PG&E trail.

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Making friends again!

Well isn't this an interesting place to find myself in. It's a very mild version of a mid-life crisis. I feel like I'm just waking up from the last 15 years to realize that I've become... Well actually I'm not sure what I've become. That's sort of the point.

The last time I made friends for myself was when I went off to Harvey Mudd in 1995. Or maybe not even then. My first friend there was my assigned roommate. She was an extrovert and I tagged along. Then I met Drew and made friends with all of his friends. During the Great Breakup of 1996, which lasted all of a week, my chief worry was that none of our friends were friends of mine. They did their best to reassure me that this was not the case.

When we moved to Wisconsin in 1999 I worked in a used bookstore with about 3 other people. None of them were my friends, although Mark and I were friendly (Nice guy. Retired lawyer looking for interesting work while waiting for his wife to retire.). Drew was in graduate school, surrounded by people our age with similar interests. I told him that it was his job to meet people and bring them home to me. Little surprise, then, that the majority of our friends from the last 14 years were computer geeks, gamer geeks, and the occasional friend from our synagogue. They were all people who reflected Drew's interests. I lost track of what my interests were while reflecting Drew's.

Then there are all of you loyal readers. A lot of you are from alt.newlywed, people who Drew doesn't know. But in the 14 years I've known you I've only met a small handful. And while you make awesome internet friends I've never felt a deep connection with any of you. So while you are a significant portion of friends I can point to from during my marriage and say "Those are my friends, not Drew's" I'm not sure you really count.

There's only one other group of friends I've made in the last few years who aren't connected to Drew. Those are people I met by being an active parent to my kids. Folks I met at preschool, at play groups, at babywearing and La Leche League, at the playground. But again I never felt a deep connection. And the friendship was based around my being Danny's Mommy or Becky's Mommy. Not me, Jenn, whoever she is.

Now we have moved halfway across the country. I have to start all over making friends. But this time I am going to try harder to make my own friends. People who like me for myself, not because of my relationships to other family members. I've been putting out some feelers, meeting folks for coffee. It's a lot like dating, which is another skill I never really honed before settling down with Drew. I don't really know how to do this. And why flying by the seat of your pants while meeting people is expected at 19, it's a bit of a surprise when a 36 year old is doing it.

I need to try to find more time for introspection or self-reflection. Because right now I feel like I am expecting these new friends to show me who I am. And what I really ought to be doing is showing them that I know who I am. If only I knew.

Homemade toothpaste experiment

We're running low on toothpaste and I won't get to the store for more until at least tomorrow. So I decided to try a recipe I found on the internet. After some searching I found two that appealed: this one with coconut oil and a simpler one.

Since there's no coconut oil in the house I opted for the basic baking soda, peppermint oil, and water formula. It was very easy and cheap to mix up and simple to use. Unfortunately it tasted pretty bad. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and it tastes unpleasantly salty, especially while brushing my lower teeth.

Next time I might try the coconut oil version. I first heard about homemade toothpaste with coconut oil on my favorite crunchy mama blog, Clean (I buy her soaps) but since I don't stock stevia and coconut oil in the house I never tried it.

Why would I replace store-bought toothpaste with homemade?
  1. Cost. I buy toothpaste every month or two, and it's $5-$6 a tube. That's $35/year for what Alton Brown calls a unitasker. My 12 lb bag of baking soda cost $8 and it cleans my whole house for over a year.
  2. Knowledge of what I'm exposing myself and my family to. I don't know what all the ingredients in toothpaste (or any other commercial formula cleaning product) are. I buy them with the expectation that they are safe, but I don't know that for certain. Using food grade ingredients reassures me that we aren't swimming in a toxic soup when we clean our teeth.
  3. Fluoride is not a concern. We drink lots and lots of tap water.
  4. Because I can! It makes me feel like a very accomplished, self-sufficient person when I make toothpaste or dishwasher soap etc etc.
  5. Environmental impact. No toothpaste tube, just a reused jelly jar.

I cleaned out under the sink

Last week the weather was just horribly humid and hot. Our house doesn't have air conditioning, and many of the cabinet doors are made from solid wood. The end result was that the child safety latch on one side of my kitchen sink cabinet didn't latch for several days. We tied a ribbon around the two handles, and that's doing the job for now. I can't wait until the latch works again.

Since the cabinet was no longer reliably child-proof, I cleaned out the cabinet. I pulled all the almost-empty bottles of cleaning formulas out of the cabinet and arrayed them on the kitchen counter. Anything that hadn't been used in a year was thrown out. I know they should have gone to the Household Hazardous Waste place but I just wanted them OUT, you know? I threw out:
  • Ammonia
  • Soft scrub
  • Window cleaner
  • CLR
  • Fantastic
  • Several kinds of "cleaner with bleach"
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
I moved to the laundry room:
  • Bleach
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Goo Gone
Now under the sink I have:
  • Borax
  • Dishwasher soap (homemade formula)
  • Bon Ami
  • Shaker bottle of baking soda
  • Vinegar spray
  • All-purpose cleaning spray (homemade formula)
  • Lemon oil
  • Murphy's Oil Soap
  • And tucked away at the back, silver polish and furniture polish
  • Dustpan and brush
Once I get the laundry room organized and get all of my old housemate's stuff (like the stinky Febreze laundry detergent) out of there I'll probably move the silver polish down there. I just tried cleaning silver with baking soda and it worked, so I can phase out the silver polish.
This morning I went on a green housekeeping book binge at the library in the hopes of finding something good to write a book review about for publication in my neighborhood newsletter. Let me tell you right now, The Lazy Environmentalist On A Budget by Josh Dorfman has not made the cut.
Care to read why?Collapse )

Nice plane!

I'm flying home from visiting my parents. Danny and I are aboard a new regional jet, an Embraer 175. Nice plane! I can tell it is new by the warning lights. Instead of a no smoking light there is one labeled "Turn off electronic devices".

Danny wiggled the whole way. And he tipped my tray table, sending ice water all over the seat back. I have a hunch that he will be wearing a slightly damp diaper later.

We should land at home around 6:30. No idea what's for dinner. I shouldn't get takeout but I probably will. Danny will need to go to bed not too long after we get home.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.


My Daily Nap Rant

Today Danny would prefer to only sleep while latched on and nursing. I have work to do so I can't really lie here for 2 hours.

I will be so glad when he's done teething these molars!

Naptime dammit!

Two days in a row now Danny has resisted naps. He slept/nursed/dozed from 11-12 but wouldn't let me unlatch him. Yesterday we missed the afternoon nap window while running errands. Today I took him to the pool after lunch and then we came home for bath and nap. I've been trying to get him down for a nap for over an hour now. I am very frustrated.

Frustration is compounded by having just read Sleepless In America. I already knew naps were important but it reminded me of how much more pleasant Danny is when he's well-rested. We've been working on bedtime and Danny is consistently going to sleep around 8:15-8:30. Up at 6:30 means he gets 10 hours of sleep at night. So he needs 2-3 hours of nap. Not 45 minutes!

I've done a full bedtime routine for this afternoon's nap and he's still not asleep. Argh.

ETA: Finally I gave up and back-wrapped him and just got on with my housework. Less than ten minutes later he was out like a light. I wonder if that would have worked at 2:45 rather than at 4:15?

Book Review: Organic Housekeeping

Organic Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck

I haven’t finished this book yet but I’m not sure I ever will. I borrowed it from a friend thinking that it would be a book full of Earth-friendly cleaning recipes. While it is Earth-friendly it is not a user-friendly book.

First of all, there are no clearly laid out recipes in Organic Housekeeping. A book like this ought to be able to be used as a ready reference. Got a tub with soap scum? Look up “bathtub” or “soap scum” in the index, and you should be able to quickly reference instructions. In this example the index references the following pages: “138-139, 145-56, 149-52, 154-55”. Notice how most of those overlap? If you scan the pages carefully you may find what you’re looking for, but it’s not going to be easy.

My other major complaint is the author’s use of scientific citations. As the proud recipient of a scientific education I feel that Sandbeck picks and chooses her references very carefully to validate her beliefs. While that is, to some degree, what we all do, the manner in which she does it grates. For example, this is part of her explanation for why she does not recommend the use of fabric softeners:
Rosalind Anderson, Ph.D., and Julius Anderson, MD, Ph.D., of Anderson Laboratories, Inc. published a study entitled “Respiratory Toxicity of Fabric Softener Emissions” in the May 2000 issue of The Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. When the doctors exposed laboratory mice to air that was contaminated with the fumes from fabric softener sheets, the rodents developed irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and some had severe asthma attacks.
Fine, she found a study that showed fabric softener sheets were toxic to mice. A brief scan of the paragraph shows that it was done by two self-employed scientists. We don’t know anything about their lab, it’s tagline might be “Slinging Mud At Big Corporations Since 1988”. A closer reading shows that the study was actually published in a journal which appears to be reputable. If Sandbeck had started her citation by mentioning the journal and followed it up with the names of the authors, no institution mentioned, my eye would only have picked up the journal. And at that point I might have been more likely to swallow the information that Sandbeck was attempting to convey. I know this is nit-picking, but it colors the feeling of the entire book. It seems that Sandbeck has strong opinions that she tries to prop up with carefully selected scientific studies.

This brings me to my last complaint. Ellen Sandbeck’s methods work for her, but I suspect that she is a long way from average. Her first chapter is very overwhelming. Before you get to any cleaning advice at all she states that you must organize and document every item in your home. A reader with a cluttered home, in need of housekeeping help, would probably drop this book onto a nearby pile and despair of ever getting their home clean.

In summary, I would skip Organic Housekeeping in favor of more succinct book such as Clean House, Clean Planet or even a something from another generation of housekeepers like Heloise.

Great nursing-friendly dress

One of the things I miss while nursing is being able to wear dresses on a regular basis. Nursing dresses can be hard to find or expensive or funny-looking. Today at Target with a little birthday money burning a hole in my pocket I found a wrap dress that fit me, looks good, and I think I can nurse in it. I got it in teal. I checked in the dressing room to make sure I can get my boobs out without undressing or flashing the world.

I think it's really cute, and I'm thinking about copying it for more summer dresses!