Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Valley Mama has moved!

Valley Mama has moved from Blogger to is the link: Valley Mama

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

I began making my own laundry soap a few months ago, and I'll never go back to store bought! Our clothes are cleaner, softer, and smell nice and fresh, plus I'm saving money. I needed to make a new batch today, so I thought it would be a great thing to share here. The recipe I use is not exact:
  • I start with an old vinegar bottle and a funnel (you want to use a sturdy bottle as the finished product can get heavy).
  • Then I add around 2 cups of washing soda, about a cup of baking soda (you can do equal parts washing and baking soda, but I don't usually have as much baking soda on hand) about 1/2 cup of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap, around 3 cups water, and 10-20 drops lemon essential oil (or essential oil of your choice). (This proportion usually gives me great results, but adjust according to the texture you like.)
  • Use around a 1/4 cup for a normal load and shake, shake, shake before using.
  • That's it. Simple.
  • I also occasionally use white vinegar and borax with our laundry, especially diapers!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Plant Medicine Monday

Happy May! What a lovely/busy weekend with a big May Day party with lots of wonderful friends and a cozy, rainy Sunday at home with my guys. Today is Plant Medicine Monday, and I don't really have a specific tip in mind today, instead, I offer a few thoughts as a reminder to myself (and anyone who may be reading). Plant medicine is more than herbal teas and tinctures, more than salves and syrups, more than all of the things that come to mind when we think "medicine". Plant medicine does so much more than heal our bodies. Plant medicine is also: The tree whose branches we climb to gain a different perspective, and perhaps some grounding. The seeds we sprout in spring to feed us through the summer. Greens in spring, tomatoes in summer, apples in fall and roots in winter. The grains, vegetables, fruits that nourish our bodies every day of our lives. Flowers in a vase on the kitchen table. The peace and wisdom found in the forest...and in the desert. Houseplants lovingly cared for adding life and oxygen to our homes. A dandelion flower tucked behind a child's ear and hundreds of dandelion seeds being blown, with wishes, into the air to land where they will. The wildness of the back-country wilderness and the wildness of the "weeds" on a city block. What are all of the ways plants are medicine to you? We are constantly surrounded by the Green Nation in one way or another...something I am very grateful for.

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Friday, April 30, 2010

This Moment

A Soule Mama inspired Friday ritual of sharing a single photo (this week a moment of movement, and thus a series of photos) - no words - capturing a moment from the week...a special moment, a moment to be remembered.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Windy, windy days

Spring time in the valley is known for the wind it brings. Sometimes it seems to go on for days, always howling, blowing shingles off the roof, bringing all sorts of debris into our yard and making everyone a little crazy. This time of year we just want to be outside watching the earth green, enjoying the longer days and warm sun, planning our gardens and taking lots of long walks. And then comes the windy days. This spring I've found these days to be perfect for garden dreaming, baking all kinds of yummy things, sewing projects, starting seeds inside, and doing lots of fun art projects with Mason. Today was a baking day and I love baking with Mason!
We made whole-grain starter dough to ferment overnight and bake tomorrow, oatmeal cookies sweetened with maple syrup and delicious sesame garlic bagels. I find baking with Mason is often a highlight of our day. Sure, I have to let go of some control and perfection (and a clean kitchen), but I find that to be good for me. I love sharing the grounding, earthiness of baking with him.
I love watching him delight in digging his hands in flour, scooping and pouring ingredients, kneading, and of course, stirring, stirring, stirring. He tried something new today - rubbing a little piece of butter around the baking sheets - and man was this a squishy, messy delight! He also takes great joy in peeking in the oven and eating the finished creation. So do I.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I'm kind of a messy cook. (OK, my mom would say kind of doesn't even begin to describe it.) It took me one day realizing that I didn't own more than one or two shirts without oil stains and holes from rubbing against our concrete counter top to realize that I needed an apron or two. I was just getting back into sewing again, and I thought aprons would be a fun start. Here are four very different aprons that I made. (Sorry all the photos are in a's the easiest way to take them when it's just me at home).
My mom was cleaning out her fabric stash and sent me some great pieces. One was a little piece of vintage fabric that belonged to my dad's mom. This is very special to me because I never met her (she died before I was born). How fun to be able to make something out of fabric that belonged to her! As I was sewing I thought about what she wanted to make with it...hopefully she would be proud of this vintage-inspired, girly, fitted, little apron! I used a Simplicity Pattern.
This next one is another vintage-like, girly, pleated half-apron made from an old curtain. The pattern came from Amy Butler's In Stitches. Love it!
I should have washed this one before the photo, but oh well. This one is a simple little smock-style apron that I found a tutorial for here. I ended up just drawing the pattern out myself on pieces of paper taped together, and then making various adjustments. It is reversible and I use it all the time. (I made this one a few months ago.)
This one is not a kitchen apron at all but a gardening/harvesting/gathering apron. I think it is so clever and I feel like quite the homesteader wearing it. I found the fabulous tutorial here at The Cottage at Frog Creek. It it all about gathering, with pockets for gathering eggs, and a clever way of becoming a pouch for gathering garden produce. It can also be worn long for kneeling on in the garden (my jeans will no doubt thank me).


Monday, April 26, 2010

Plant Medicine Monday

Today's "Plant Medicine Monday" blog post is about nourishing herbal infusions. Many people drink herbal beverage teas all the infusion is taking it a step further. Infusions are such a wonderful way to nourish our bodies with extra vitamins and minerals in the spring time! Here is my favorite method for preparing a nourishing herbal infusion:
1)Choose the herb/herbs you want. There are many to choose from, and with this method I prefer nourishing, tonic are a few to try: Nettles - (fresh or dried) the ultimate whole-body tonic, good for practically every body system, excellent source of minerals and vitamins, readily absorbed by the body, wonderful kidney and adrenal tonic (we'll talk more about nettles in a future post) Oatstraw - (dried) for vitality, nerve and cardio tonic, great for dealing with stress/depression/chemical withdrawals, sexual vitality, endocrine system tonic, easily digested source of calcium Lemon Balm - (fresh is best) amazing nervous system herb, relieves stress and anxiety, relaxing effect of stomach, very pleasant tasting Red Raspberry - (leaves - fresh or dried) highly nourishing reproductive tonic, very rich in iron so great for energy, wonderful during pregnancy (and for fertility) Red Clover - (flowering tops and leaves - fresh or dried) rich in minerals (especially calcium, and iron), excellent blood purifier, detoxification herb, respiratory tonic, wonderful fertility herb for women Not every herb is gentle enough for an everyday nourishing brew, so check with an herbalist if you're not sure! 2) Put some water on to boil 3) Put a handful (the amount can vary by specific herb and parts used) of your herb of choice in a quart size mason jar and pour the boiling water over. Close the jar with a lid and let steep for desired time...the recommended time is around 4 hours, though if I'm rushed I might only steep it 20 minutes. Often I make it at night and let it steep while I'm sleeping. This way I just strain it in the morning and enjoy it throughout the day. Longer steeping extracts more healing constituents from the plants, and steeping in a closed jar keeps the water-soluble vitamins in.
4) When you're ready, strain out the herbs and your infusion is ready! Add sweetener if you like (I often like honey) and enjoy! Sometimes I like my infusions warm, and in the summer usually iced. A standard dose is about 2-3 cups per day, so a quart will usually last a couple of days. Keep it refrigerated!
**This blog is intended to provide educational information only and is not intended to substitute for the advice of a health care professional. All readers accept complete responsibility for their own health and well-being. The author is not responsible for any health care choices and decisions made by any individual.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exploring Pikes Stockade

Today we took a wandering walk at Pikes Stockade. I forgot about the dishes unwashed in the sink, the unmade bed, the toys scattered around the living room and we jumped in the car and headed south to go exploring. The drive down South River Road is beautiful right now, with the water in the fields, birds everywhere and of course, baby cows. The highlight was watching Mason throw rocks in the river...he couldn't get enough! Here are some photos from our walk...

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

This Moment

A Soule Mama inspired Friday ritual (posted this week on Saturday) of sharing a treasured moment, a moment to be remembered from the week...just a photo, no words.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! How did you love your mother today?? Mason and I spent some time just being outside, taking walks, hanging clothes on the line, and watering the greenhouse. We didn't spend quite as much time outside as we might have liked due to the wind, but we still had fun.We have a little nature bowl, and this spring it holds a birds nest we made from usnea lichen, with eggs in it. Today we moved it to the center of our living room table and added some little items from nature - a couple of sticks, some rocks, a feather. We lit some candles around it and looked at all of the of our ways of appreciating our earth. Of course, Mason promptly blew out the candles, and then asked for them to be lit "just one more time", so he could blow them out again. I also just finished a craft project I've been working on quite a while for Mason. It's so fun that I finished it on earth day, because it's a nature-inspired table fort! We call it the magic mushroom house and Mason adores it. I first got the idea of making a table fort for him from one of my favorite crafty blogs, Make it and Love it. If you sew and don't know about this blog, definitely check it out! I've used several of her tutorials and have loved them all. I didn't buy fabric just for this project, but happened to have a couple of big pieces that worked great when pieced together. I used ladybug vinyl for the windows, and added some felt embellishments. I got some of the ideas for fun felt things from another site I love, Wee Folk Art. They have some wonderful free patterns! I did plan on adding more felt things (mostly animals, bugs and flowers), and Aaron had the brilliant idea to add them on occasionally instead of all at once. That way one day when we put in on for Mason to play in he'll notice a new bird, or a new flower. Love that idea!
Learning how to open the velcro door
He loves reading books inside...I need to get him a little battery powered lantern!
Side window
It was very time-consuming, but very worth it!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Farm boy

Mason and I are spending lots of time outside these days. One way he tells me that he wants to go out is by pulling on his rubber boots (sometimes on the right feet!). It's a skill he recently acquired, and it is so fun to see how proud he is when he gets them on. He absolutely loves helping with chicken chores, playing in the dirt, moving rocks, looking for bugs, watching the matter what it is we're doing, I'm constantly reminded of the importance of him having time to explore the natural world. I love that Mason is learning about the cycle of the seasons, where food comes from, and how he is connected to the soil, the rain, the bugs, the sun. Gathering eggs is one of Mason's favorite chores, and it's worth losing an egg now and then to see the pure joy he takes in collecting them. He also loves shoveling dirt, or as he calls it "Mason move dirt!" We are building a raised bed in the back yard right now, and he helped carry some of the smaller rocks to build the wall. This morning he helped shovel the soil and add some compost. He'll help with the entire process as we add more soil, plant seeds, watch them grow and harvest the food. One of the highlights of his morning was playing in the wheelbarrow after we unloaded some compost...

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Inspiring corners

Inspiration and spring cleaning seem to be two emerging themes in my life right now, so how about combining the two? I'm working on taking a fresh look at all of the little corners and spaces in our home, and seeing which ones I'm inspired by and which ones drive me nuts. The goal, obviously, is to create more of the former, less of the latter. I am so affected by the way a space looks and feels, and I notice the same in Mason and Aaron. I love to knit, but a basket full of yarn that I have to dig through and unravel to find what I want does not inspire me to pick up the needles. On the other hand, since I moved my yarn and notions into these glass cabinets I am inspired to knit every time I walk by. (Maybe not ideal to everyone, but I'm loving it.) It encourages me to linger by the cabinet, looking at the colors, feeling the textures, and envisioning my next project (or next 10 projects). The same goes with the kitchen, Aaron's computer space, and Mason' s toys. I'm looking to create more spaces that inspire us to create, relax, play, imagine. We live in a small one-bedroom house, and I have often struggled space for Mason's stuff. At one point we had a large basket in the living room where all of his toys went, but, like my yarn, he either would never want to play with anything in the basket or he would dump everything out at once and then be too overwhelmed to play with anything. (More about what I've learned about kids and toys in another post). So I started looking for little nooks and spaces that could be re-arranged to better organize his toys. This space is one I've played with quite a bit. Currently, most of the space on this shelf is devoted to toys, and they are organized by activity type, each in it's own basket or box. We have the kitchen toys box, the tool box, the tractor basket, the music basket, and some space underneath for puzzles and blocks. He is encouraged to take down one activity at a time...and it really works! He enjoys playing with his toys so much more, and it makes it much easier for him to help with cleanup as well. We also keep some of the books we're currently most inspired by, and the top shelf is always changing. Right now it's kept simple with a few little family touches and a little basket of knitting that I can pick up when I have a minute or two. I've also found that some of the corners I'm most drawn to are very are a couple of my favorite right now. My biggest challenge in creating inspiring spaces?? My laundry/utility/storage/mudroom space. Can I create a space that inspires me to clean, do laundry, etc.? We'll see!