Monday, May 12, 2014

High and Dry: Why the Clothesline Deserves a Comeback

Throughout my childhood, we had a clothesline. It was just out the back door of the house, right past the laundry room. In many ways, the clothesline almost seemed like an extension of the house, like an outdoor adjacent room.  I can clearly remember my mom always hanging out the laundry. I loved to play in the damp rows of clean towels, cloth diapers, jeans, and sheets as they billowed in the breeze.  And, to this day, one of my very favorite smells is clean sheets that have been dried on a clothesline; when you lay down to sleep on them the smell is heavenly. If the sun has a smell, that has to be it.  When my family  moved away from the house with the conveniently-placed clothesline, my mom used the clothesline less and less for everyday laundry, though she still used it for sheets and pillowcases.

Despite all my pleasant memories of having a clothesline, I'd never given much thought to having one of my own until a few years ago ago when I got really interested in cleaning naturally. I remember reading books about green cleaning and being amazed/horrified by all the things in dryer sheets.  A ton of chemicals are used make laundry static-free (you can find a list of the ingredients here). I wanted to use a clothesline just to avoid the toxins in dryer sheets! (Sidenote: even if you use your dryer, you don't need dryer sheets or chemical softeners -- vinegar does the trick!)

I've also since learned that dryers are a major energy-using appliance. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the clothes dryer alone uses up around six percent of your home's energy usage. Of all household appliances, the clothes dryer comes in at #2 for using the most energy; the refrigerator comes in at number one. Isn't it interesting though, that, unlike the refrigerator that is on 24/7, the dryer ranks so high even though it is only used in spurts, just a few times a week? I've read that running a clothes dryer is the equivalent of turning on 225 CFL lightbulbs for an hour. And that's for an appliance that we don't have to use.

Let me repeat that. You don't have to use a dryer.

To read the rest of this post -- about why the clothesline has lost its popularity here in America and why it deserves a comeback -- check out my post at The Green Phone Booth (where I contribute every second Monday of the month)!

{This post is linked up to Homestead Barn Hop.}

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Report: What I've Been Reading

One of my New Year's resolutions is to read more books. It feels weird to type that, because I've been a bookworm since I learned to read -- frankly, I'm obsessed with books. Oddly enough, though, I found myself reading less and less over the past few years. I got so busy with all my responsibilities as a mom that I put my favorite pastime on the backburner. Not anymore! This year, I've made my personal reading a priority again and, well, let's just say I wish all resolutions were this enjoyable to keep!

I thought I'd share a few of my recent reads with you -- at least the ones that are applicable to this blog. (If you're curious of all the other books I've been reading/listening to, you can check out my Goodreads profile here.)  

{Pssst! Let me just say from the get-go, any of these books would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift. If you order today with Amazon 2-day Prime shipping, you'll most likely get it in time! Or you could be all old-school and go to an actual bookstore...}

Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes by Catherine McCord
One thing I am adamant about in my kitchen is that I will only cook one meal at dinnertime; I'm no short-order cook. The kids eat what the adults eat (and vice versa).  As I was looking for some more kid-friendly recipes, I  was drawn to the premise of this cookbook: one family, one meal.  I was curious how she could make food that wasn't too intense for kids but not too bland for parents. This book has lots of simple recipes and my family has enjoyed almost everything I've made from it. Particular favorites: the graham crackers (I actually prefer her recipe over the one I've been using from The Homemade Pantry), enchiladas, pumpkin waffles, pesto meatballs, cottage cheese pancakes, and wonton soup. This cookbook is definitely a great resource for family-friendly recipes and ideas. 

I did a have a couple drawbacks about the book: one, the book is full of photos of the author in such posed situations (she mentions in the book how she used to be a model and it shows); I would rather see more photos of food than of her working in her garden, looking over her shoulder at the camera, or gnawing on a chicken kabob. Another drawback: I came to this book for some help with a picky toddler and I found all the talk about how absolutely amazing her kids are and how they eat every single thing ever offered them kind of annoying/frustrating.  But, I have to give credit where it's due -- that picky toddler has eaten pretty much everything I've made from the book!  

Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
Last year, my doctor advised me to limit grains and dairy in my diet. When he told me that, I immediately thought of my dad, who has followed a paleolithic diet for years (right before it started getting all popular) and decided to turn to some of the paleo cookbooks for ideas of what to eat. I'd flip through various paleo cookbooks, thinking some of the recipes looked good, but they mostly made me miss all the foods I really wanted to make. (Spaghetti squash can never replace regular spaghetti for me, no matter how hard I try). 

Anyway, I found Nom Nom Paleo a few weeks ago and was blown away because every recipe in the book looks delicious! Seriously, I would make any of them. Unlike other paleo cookbooks I've come across, the writing style is fun to read, not preachy, not dogmatic, no doom-and-gloom talk of how wheat will kill us all. I'm still working on cooking through this cookbook, but I'll tell you, what I have made has been awesome. One stand-out: the walnut shrimp. It was just as good as the kind I order at my favorite Asian restaurant. I couldn't believe it was paleo! My husband took the leftover spiced maple walnuts from the recipe to work and his coworkers loved them. My family doesn't follow a strictly paleo lifestyle, but this book definitely has a place on my kitchen bookshelf (yep, I have one -- cookbooks are my weakness) because I want to feed my family whole, unprocessed foods. I can't recommend this cookbook enough!

The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It, Too by Alys Fowler
I can't quite remember where I saw vegetables incorporated into flowerbeds for the first time. I can remember, though, how the purple cabbages were woven in with the flowers and how brilliant I thought it was. Over the years since then, I've become enamored with the idea of turning yards and lawns into mini-homesteads. So when I saw this book, I ordered it right away. My impulse buy did not disappoint at all.

Simply put, I loved this book. So often, gardening books get complicated and/or formulaic; this book is neither of those things. Alys Fowler's approach feels so natural and the way she writes is so friendly, like she's walking you through her garden and giving you information, recipes, and tips as you go. Like the tip about making fertilizer out of comfrey -- I'm still excited about that one and trying to get some Russian comfrey into my garden as soon as possible.  One other kind of silly thing I loved: this book is so British! The Anglophile in me couldn't help but sigh over phrases about how rhubarb is "a doddle to grow" or the best ways to grow courgettes and aubergines (zucchini and eggplants). This book was a lot of fun to read and it made me even more excited to get out in my garden and try new things!

Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
If you've read this blog for a while, you probably know that I am a Dave Ramsey devotee. I wholeheartedly believe that his program of seven "Baby Steps" leads to financial peace. My husband and I have completed Baby Steps #1 and #2 and we're close to finishing #3. If you haven't read The Total Money Makeover, stop reading this post now and get your hands on a copy! 

Since, as I said, I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey, I preordered my copy of his latest book, Smart Money Smart Kids. I went into this book already familiar with his program for kids, but I still learned a lot. I could write a whole post about Dave's program for kids and teenagers, so I will soon. But for now, I'll just say that this book should be required reading for every parent. What a world it would be if the next generation followed the principles in this book!

The Nesting Place: It Doesn't Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful by Myquillyn Smith
This book surprised me, to be totally honest. I'd read lots glowing reviews of it, so I ordered a copy. At first, I only liked it and found myself sort of wondering what all the fuss was about. I found myself wishing it had more actual decorating ideas/how-to instructions -- the perfectionist in me likes having things spelled out and I struggle with improvisation and experimentation (which is a big theme of this book). But as I continued reading, I caught the vision of what this book is really about: transforming the place where you live into a home you love. I finished the book this past Monday and already I find myself feeling less intimidated and more excited about decorating my house. In fact, the day after I read it, I finally took down the curtains I've hated for years but have been too afraid and overwhelmed to change. Right now, I'm looking at the new drapes in my family room as I'm typing this and can't help but feel a surge of happiness. I love that room more now than I have in a long time!

In terms of how this book relates to this blog, Myquillyn Smith's message about contentment, gratitude, and finding joy in your present situation goes hand-in-hand with frugality. I know I've found myself thinking more about what I wish I had and about plans for someday, instead of living in the present. She also shares lots of tips of how to decorate inexpensively, often using things you already have and breathing new life into them. The writing is funny and moving all at once (I was in tears by the end). I wish I could buy a copy for each of the women in my life!

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Lovely Links: Lovely Locks Edition

About six months ago, I chopped close to fifteen inches off my hair.

Since I don't dye my hair and because I'd worn it up so much (being a mom with nearly waist-length hair meant lots of braids, buns, and ponytails), my hair was healthy enough to be donated. I even got a $10 discount for donating (everyone wins!).  I've always had long hair, but I was ready for the change and barely flinched when she chopped that long braid off. 

As the lady was styling my new haircut (which I loved), she was suggesting all sorts of products and tools I would need to style my now shoulder-length hair. Like I said, before the cut, I wore my hair up most the time; I didn't have time to blow-dry or curl all that hair! But once it was chopped off, I was told that I needed a flat iron, curling wand, salt spray, heat protectant, and mousse.

Confession: I was so excited about my stylish new hairdo, I bought all of it.

Granted, I didn't buy the $100 flat-iron the stylist told me I needed and the salt spray was basically free with the discount for I got for donating.  Still, I spent a good bit of cash buying these supplies. I felt a little strange buying all those beauty products. I mean, I'm the girl who has washed her hair with baking soda, cleaned her face with oil, and is using the same solitary eye-shadow compact I bought at least two years ago. 

Since I'm a little paranoid about frying my hair, I go easy with my styling tools, limiting myself to only 2-3 times a week. In the process, I've found a lot of alternate ways to curl my hair. In many ways, I find myself preferring the look of the heat-less curls over the heat-styled ones.

But why am I blogging about my hair on a blog about frugality? Because as I've been thinking about it, curling your hair without heat can actually save some money.

One way that heat-free curling can save you money is that undamaged hair means less trips to the salon. Split ends are often the result of heat damage and the only way to get rid of them, despite what many shampoo commercials say, is to cut them off. Unless you're particularly brave and can cut your own hair or you have a stylist in the family, you'll have to pay to get your damaged hair trimmed. There are lots of in-salon treatments for damaged hair, but the prices for them can range anywhere from $40 to $600 (seriously -- I did a little reading and there are these keratin treatments that can cost that much!). Even if you skip the professionals and try to fix heat-damaged hair at home, it can still get costly. 

Another way heat-less curling can save you money is pretty obvious: you don't need to buy an arsenal of tools and hair products, like curling irons, wands, flat-irons, or heat protectant sprays. For most of the heat-less curling methods out there, your needed supplies are likely things you already have at home and if you don't have them, they don't cost much. Usually, you just need a couple socks, some bobby pins, or a headband to curl your hair.

Here are a few of the many ways you can curl your hair without heat, often while you're sleeping:

This was one of the very first tutorials I pinned on my hairstyle board on Pinterest and one of the first I actually tried out. When I had all my hair wrapped up, it looked like some kind of weird hairstyle Princess Leia would have, but I went to sleep on it and hoped for the best. It totally worked! I got lots of compliments on it the next day, so, of course, I explained how to do it to a bunch of people. My friend has a darling little girl with super-fine, super blonde hair and she tells me this method is the only way her daughter's hair will hold a curl. My sister-in-law, Katherine, also swears by it and always has great results. I love this curling method for vacations -- it's so easy to just pack a headband! (The link at the top is where I first saw the idea and she has a video there (but it's kind of long). This pin has a quick and simple overview of how to do it; I would've put a link to that but I couldn't find the original source.)

Natural Waves :: Join the Mood
I like this tutorial because it doesn't have to set overnight to work. Plus, sometimes I'd rather have some soft, natural waves instead of curls. This method only requires some water and bobby pins.

Foam Curls :: The Shine Project
Of course, no post about heat-free curling would be complete without mentioning foam curlers. If you're like me, you have childhood memories of wearing pink foam curlers to bed at night (ouch) and waking up with Shirley Temple-esque curls. Even though foam curlers haven't changed at all since I wore them in the 1980s, there are ways you can use them stylishly in the 21st century. The link above is proof. 

Beach-hair waves are in right now and the whole goal is to look all windswept like you've been to the beach. I find it funny that often a lot of work is required to curl and style your hair so it looks like you didn't do it. In any case, this tutorial looks pretty simple and I'm totally going to give it a try.

71 Toes
This curling method looks really, really easy and only requires 3-4 socks to do it.  I hope my hair is long enough to make it work because I really want to try it this weekend. I love doing my hair Saturday night instead of when I'm trying to get my boys ready for church on Sunday.

Refinery 29
Empty coke cans, pink foam rollers, hand-ripped rags -- this post shows you how to use all them (though not all once) to get gorgeous hair. Seriously, each hairdo is gorgeous. Who needs a blow dryer or curling iron anyway?

Hope your weekend (and your hair) is lovely this weekend! 

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.
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