Friday, September 16, 2011

Oh Simple Thing, Where Have You Gone?

Sitting here in a giant bedroom, with huge eastern windows and hardwood floors, 12 foot ceilings and unique architecture that shows our home's age...I wonder if I'm crazy.  I should have known from the beginning that a life with Justin wouldn't be what some call normal, but then again I have never led a life that was very in line with that concept.  And having come this far without it, it just doesn't feel right to strive for it now. 
Since our marriage began, we have slowly made some pretty big decisions, always mutually after some deliberation.  The first one that stands out to me was our deciding to eat healthier, which in a way probably motivated all these changes in one way or another.  Justin couldn't handle my southern home cooking, so I strove to learn about proper nutrition and we both started eating better.  This eventually led to us deciding to become vegetarian.  I had always wanted to do it and even tried a couple of times on my own, but really needed the extra support of having a partner to do it with I guess.  Next up was to move into a bigger place.  We found a house that we loved about a year ago that had a green house and a gigantic back yard with enough space to grow a garden.  So we did it.  We moved there and had our garden, which mostly died in this summers record temperatures, and we are still living here and love this house.  A few months ago we got a pretty nice tax return back and decided to pay off all of our debt with it, so we did.  Boy, that felt nice.  And next up was our decision to sell our vehicle and become bicycle commuters.  Not everyone, but nearly everyone, thought we were nuts.  We knew we would be fine.  We talked it over, and over, and over and decided it was the right thing to do, so we did it.  With no car maintenance and no debt, that left us a little more free time and mental space to prioritize.  That is when we decided to go back to school.  I'm starting in January and Justin will start sometime within the next year.  And that leads to our most recent decision, which I have already talked about some in a previous blog and that is to move out of our huge, fancy house and into an apartment.  The surprising part of that decision has turned out to be that we have decided to go with a one bedroom.  I was inspired by a visit to a friend's home who had seven guests to dinner in a one bedroom apartment.  He was a single man, of course, but everyone ate and drank and visited comfortably in his house and when I told him how much we were paying for rent he was shocked.  He is from Kenya and he told me of the modest living arrangements there and how his one bedroom apartment seemed lavish to him, with an air conditioner and plumbing and that Americans need too many things.  He's right.  We are a society that are convinced of our own entitlement, while the rest of the world is doing without.  Here I am, a twenty-nine year old returning college student, living in a 107 year old historic home, with antique doorknobs and floors I can see my face in.  Seems a bit much.  So, I put my mind to work after we decided to stop living above our means and move into an apartment and tried to decide whether or not I could sacrifice some of the comfort that I have become use to and make our lives comfortable in a one bedroom apartment.  It would save us lots of money, that we could be storing away in the bank and also probably teach us all some valuable lessons.  I talked it over with Justin, who seemed to jump with joy at the thought of liberating ourselves from excess possessions, and we decided we could make it work.  I plan to give the bedroom to Gwendolyn, and make it just as comfy and cozy as it has always been with all of her favorite books and toys (yard-saling the excess) and this will also allow us to tuck her in at bedtime, shut the door and we can go on doing what we need to do in the rest of the apartment.  I found a really sweet sofa bed by IKEA and we plan to treat our living room as a bedroom when bedtime comes.  How great is that?  Funny how simple and genius it all seems, when really it's just what poor people have been doing forever and why shouldn't we?  We are among the poor.  (I know, $700 isn't the kind of money poor people spend on a pullout sofa, but we are selling most of the rest of our excess furniture to justify it...and if we're actually going to be sleeping on this thing full time it can't be one of those janky ones where the pole stabs you in the back all night long.) 

The apartment that we hope to move into is one block from campus and also one block from Justin's job.  We will be a five minute walk from one of the most beautiful parks in town and two blocks from our grocery store, which makes hauling groceries on a bike a lot more pleasant.  Simplicity=Happiness for us and I am so glad I can finally see that.  It makes things so much easier for us all. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

So, I've been thinking... (oh no!)


    So, I've been thinking a lot about doing another blog lately, and well, doing more in general.  I have been pretty busy with working on this month's articles so I haven't had much time to meditate on subject matter for a blog post, but for just a minute I'd like to sit down and type about some things that are going on in my life right now.  (For those of you who don't know, I am a staff writer for The Current magazine, a local Entertainment/Events magazine in Northwest Arkansas.)  I had a lot of articles this month, which was great, but it's left my alone time full of work, so it's taken me until now to even think about blogging.
    Anyhow, I'd like to think that most of my blogs will have a sort of set subject matter, be it a project or philosophy, a book I like reading or whatever...but this one is just me, in the mood to ramble on a little bit about all the changes that are going on in my life at the moment.  Isn't change a wonderful thing?  Just when you think you've become an old maid and you have more gray hairs then you can count on all your fingers and toes and nothing will ever be exciting again...that's usually about the time things start to get interesting.  At least that's how it's always worked for me.
    So, those of you who know me know that I am married to a great guy and I have a beautiful daughter who keeps me on my toes.  For a while now, I've been nestled quite happily into the mommy/wife routine, with little daydreaming about the outside world.  But recently, I have sort of started to think about getting back out there.  I've always been busy.  I can't help it.  I am the kind of girl who always has ten things going on at once and rarely every finishes anything.  That's not a trait I'm bragging about, believe me and it's one I intend to change.  I suddenly realized that even though I was confining myself within these four walls, I still had a million projects going on; being a good mommy, gardening, baking, knitting, crochet, canning, painting, reading, eating, sleeping, writing, and on and on and on.  A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting somewhere talking to someone and having the most intellectually stimulating conversation I've had in a long time and it was like there was a chord struck inside of me.  My whole life, I have said I either wanted to be a teacher or a writer, or perhaps both.  I got married young, got divorced young, quit college just shy of being a junior and went on a soul searching path that led me to question my own intelligence and intuition.  Being hired to write for the magazine has surprisingly stimulated a part of me that hasn't been bothered in a while and has ultimately given me the drive and confidence I need to get back into school.  And now, after some inward perspective, I realize that I do absolutely have the ability to juggle several things at once and as long as I discard the excess and just focus on the three or four that are most important, I will be able to get something done for once.
    So yeah, woah.  I'm twenty-nine years old and last week I sent in my application for re-admission to the University of Arkansas.  They didn't get it until last Thursday and it takes 7 to 10 days to process...but who are we kidding?  I'm a shoe in.  :)  I have declared my major to be Editorial Journalism and plan to pursue a minor in Sustainability.  This won't be easy.  I already know that.  Juggling two curriculums while writing for the magazine and still managing to be a good mommy and wife, but I really, truly believe I can do it.  I'll have to study a lot, since there are a lot of math and science classes that come along with the sustainability minor, but that's ok.  I'm passionate about it, unlike general math or science that isn't applied to anything in class, so I think I'll be fine.  My husband works evenings now, so I can go to class in the mornings while he's home with my daughter, and I think he may have decided to go to school too.  I'm getting very excited.
    Another big change we have decided to make is to move out of our lovely house.  The house we live in now is amazing.  It's 104 years old and has been restored and is just really stunning.  We practically have three back yards and are centrally located downtown, one block from the library and fifty yards from the bike trail.  (The latter is especially important since we recently decided to sell our only vehicle, an SUV, and to use our bicycles as our soul source of transportation.)  Anyhow, I decided that if I am going to be able to shed all of my fifty-million, half-finished projects and focus on my daughter, husband, school and magazine then I am going to have to literally shed them.  We found an apartment that is even closer to everything than we are now that has been renovated for sustainability and is one block away from campus and one of my best friends.  It's also much closer to the grocery store where we shop which will make grocery shopping easier on a bicycle.  Our lease is up here in late October, and before then I plan to get rid of all my unnecessary possessions.  I want to rid myself of half finished projects, skeins of yarn that I will never make anything out of, books I will never read (or re-read), more dishes than it takes to feed 8 people, useless pieces of furniture and decor that weren't even really nice when I got them and certainly aren't now.  The new apartment will be smaller, with less distractions and less things to clean.  Plus, on top of that, it's about two hundred dollars cheaper than what we are paying now and way more energy efficient.  All these years, I've been collecting things and now I want nothing more than to let them go.  A few days ago, I ate dinner with 8 people from Kenya, in a one bedroom apartment, with random furniture, no t.v. and amazing African food.  It was one of the best dinner parties I have ever been too and there was nothing fancy about it other than the beautiful company and conversation.  It inspired me to prioritize even more so than I already have and to place importance on things of real value.  I want free, clean space and free, clean thoughts.  And that's what I'm going to have to achieve in order to pull this school/mom/wife/writer thing off.
    Other things are going on too, I guess.  I may be taking on more responsibility with the magazine in the spring, but I'm not sure about that yet since I will have just gotten back into school.  Also, about three months ago, my husband and I decided to let our sweetheart doggie Jack go out to live on a farm with some family since his barking was bothering the neighbors.  Yesterday we got a call saying that he had been eating their chickens and we could have him back if we wanted, otherwise they had planned to get rid of him the old fashion way.  He also had a new friend, a female dog they had been calling Jill.  We rescued Jack...and Jill from the bullet by taking them back in.  This doesn't fit into my relocation plan very well, but we won't be moving for a few months so I guess for now we can spend some time with these sweet dogs and just enjoy it.  I also have a meeting with the magazine staff tomorrow and I'm looking forward to that, since we hardly ever get to sit together in person and brainstorm.
    I guess that's really all I'm up for writing tonight, and sorry it seems so directionless.  I was just in the mood to ramble about something other than programs, ticket prices and show times.  If any of you are in the market for a sweet and lovable dog who, aside from a carnivorous taste for the blood of chickens, is damn near perfect, let me know.  But he's mine for at least a month.  We've got some snuggling to catch up on.

Monday, April 25, 2011

DIY: Easy and Cheap Homemade Laundry Soap (Gentle enough for Cloth Diapers)

   This is the first project I would like to share with you guys.  I tried it for the first time earlier this month and I will probably never buy laundry soap from the store again.  The only problem I ran into was that I couldn't find some of the ingredients here in Fayetteville, but they are sold in Gentry, AR at the friendly Ace Hardware.  It's a great time of year to take a trip to The Gentry Safari and we were going anyhow for a friend's birthday party, so I picked up everything I needed on the trip.  As far as I know, this is the closest place to get them but they can also be ordered online at places like for a reasonable price.  The ingredients include Fels Naptha Bar Soap, Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (Sodium Carbonate....the one ingredient I couldn't seem to find here in Fayetteville), Borax and Water.  I also added in about 15 drops of Tea Tree Oil for scent.  You could also use lavender or any other essential oil that suits your fancy.  I would recommend using closer to 30 drops or 4 tbsp. though, as I could hardly smell the tea tree in mine at all.  Even without anything added into it the soap smells very nice though.  I stopped into the Gentry Ace Hardware and asked the man behind the counter if he carried the washing soda and he happily showed me the way and also gave me a copy of the Duggar's laundry soap recipe.  He said they kept the supplies in stock for the Duggars, which lead me to believe I actually may have found the only location to pick them up.  I had printed off several recipes online but decided to try theirs first since I figured it had been tested and approved, as much laundry as they must do.  I have to say, the soap works great and I spoke with one of the ladies at Terra Tots, a local all-natural and organic baby supply store in Fayetteville, and she said this soap was gentle enough to use on cloth diapers, which is great.  After handling the soap and investigating the ingredients I may switch to a more basic soap next time such as Dial Pure and Natural Soap or something from Dr. Bronner's or Tom's.  So far though, my daughter hasn't gotten a rash at all from the diapers washed in this soap and they have all come out of the wash looking great.  I'm just a little over protective of her tooshie.  Ok, enough talk....onto the recipe.  

Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap- Front or top load machine- best value
4  Cups - hot tap water

1  Fels-Naptha soap bar
½ Cup Borax

- Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. (Sorry for the crappy photo.  My camera batteries were dead that day and I had to use my phone.)

Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted.  

-Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken.
-Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water. Shake before each use. (will gel)
-Optional: You can add 10-15 drops of essential oil per 2 gallons. Add once soap has cooled. Ideas: lavender, rosemary, tea tree oil.
-Yield: Liquid soap recipe makes 10 gallons.
-Top Load Machine- 5/8 Cup per load (Approx. 180 loads)
-Front Load Machines- ¼ Cup per load (Approx. 640 loads)
*Arm & Hammer "Super Washing Soda" - in some stores or may be purchased online here (at Baking Soda will not work, nor will Arm & Hammer Detergent - It must be sodium carbonate!!

*I think this confused me a bit the first time I read it, but the concentrated form of soap fills a 5 gallon bucket absolutely full.  When you transfer it into another container, only fill it half-way and finish the rest with water.  This means this one recipe actually makes 10 gallons of laundry soap and I figure the total supply cost to be somewhere between $4 to $5, which is an amazing bargain!  Remember to stir mixture in bucket before you transfer and stir or shake small container before each use, because it will thicken.   
This is a really fun, easy, cheap and fulfilling project that I recommend to anyone who wants to become more self-reliant and is tired of paying a ton of money for laundry soap.   

---I am selling this laundry soap on Craigslist for $4 a gallon, so contact me if you would like to purchase any.  Cost is raised above production only to cover gas mileage to Gentry for supplies and back.  I highly recommend making it on your own, but for those who don't have as much time as me, it's still a way cheaper alternative than buying from the store.  :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Howdy Folks!

    A big, warm hello from the hills of Northwest Arkansas.  My name is Jodi and I decided to finally jump on the blog wagon because I feel like I have some things to share and also some things to learn.  I'd like to establish an online group of friends who are interested in sustainable living, urban homesteading, cooking, baking, making things and parenting.  My interests include all of these things, but more specifically gardening, canning, knitting and crochet, cloth diapering, baking, vegetarian cuisine, secular homeschooling, chickens, beekeeping, fiber animals, self-sustainability, pioneer music and peace on earth.  If you would like to follow me through my hardships and learning, learn from my mistakes or even offer tested words of advice and wisdom, please join me on this journey of personal growth.