October 21, 2011

Want to Learn Music Theory?

I was talking to Charise about practicing musical instruments and since she's been practicing daily recently and I've been practicing Sundays and brushing up on theory during the week, I thought I'd post on where I've been learning some further music lesson info.

If you never learned music theory or only learned part, and feel something is missing in your life (hah), then watch the free music theory lessons on You-Tube. There's a Canadian kid that goes through stuff pretty well. I got through the first 20-something lessons and took the self-take exam. Basically I need to pick it up from circle of 5ths and major/minor chord stuff. Click here for link. This starts you at lesson one.

The videos are quite easy to watch and only 10-15 minutes or so each, I think. So if you have some free time and want to dig a little deep into theory. There's a great place to start.

Once you know chords, supposedly music is so much easier to understand and read. That's my goal.

Here are some other resources:
And a chart for guitar too.
Good luck!
It's always great to improve your mind and musical abilities.

What other good resources do you know of?

October 19, 2011

How to Get Rid of Kitchen Smells

1. Pour vinegar into a wide-mouth container or bowl and set on the kitchen countertop to use while cooking. It will absorb some of the odor. Use more than one container and set in other rooms if the odor is persistent. Or boil for 10 minutes once done cooking (however it leave a vinegar odor if you do this approach).

2. Boil cut pieces of citrus on the stove top. Reduce the heat to a simmer once it reaches the boiling stage. Lemon, orange and lime produce a pleasing aroma. You can also add nutmeg or cinnamon.  Check the water level periodically and add more water as needed.

3. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and vacuum after 30 minutes. Or scrub baking soda on the cutting board and areas of use with the food.

4. Break charcoal into small pieces. Place the charcoal inside a newspaper and break apart with a hammer. Pour the charcoal into a bowl and place where needed. Do not use charcoal that has lighter fluid manufactured into it.

5. Use unscented kitty litter in bowls. You can place in decorative bowls, and no one will be aware of their real purpose.

6. Most important is air circulation. Open some windows or use a fan or air conditioner to move air around. You can also put some essential oil (lavendar is nice smelling) on a piece of cloth and hang it on a vent so the air circulates and smells better.

7. Burn a candle or two near you on the counter while you cut onions. The flame can absorb some of the onion gases that are released when you cut them. And keep the onions cool in the fridge before you cut, so the odor is less than if you were to store them in a cupboard.

***Let us know what you works best for you and if you have other suggestions to add.

*from eHow.com and

Baby Food Tools

Baby food can be as easy as handing your baby a banana, or simply squishing it up and feeding it to a baby with a spoon.  Ideally, minimal cooking is best to retain nutrients, but I've been trying all sorts of different ways to make baby food and thought I'd post on some of the tools that are out there. It's not always cheaper, but can be if you're smart about it. So far I haven't had to buy any jarred baby food because I can make large batches and keep it on hand.

Steaming Produce...
Most of the time I'll slice up an apple and steam it then I'll eat the peel off and give baby the remaining slices. Or, I'll steam large batches of sweet potato or carrots and then just pull out a potato or some carrot sticks to mash, grind, or eat in slices.

Freezing Ice Cubes or Making Popsicles...
I mash up ripe bananas or steam sweet potatoes and put them into ice cube trays and freeze overnight, then transfer into a container or bag to store the ice cubes in the freezer. This has been handy for quick meals. I'll throw about three banana cubes into a bowl and thaw them and add some ground up quinoa or some baby cereal into it with a little water and there's banana cereal. Or for dinner I'll put some sweet potato cubes in with some rice and have sweet potato casserole. If baby doesn't like it, I'll add a little milk formula and that normally works great. 

Once I had too much banana (bought bulk discount at the grocery store for being overripe) and froze the mashed up banana as popcicles so it's a nice summer treat for baby to suck on. Don't plan on this until baby is over 1 year old because otherwise it's too cold for baby (at least for mine).

The Mesh food sucker...

This is helpful before baby gets teeth for feeding themselves. Just put berries, banana, etc. inside it and let baby chomp on it. The seeds and whatever stays inside. However, it took me forever to clean it, so I didn't use it a ton, and by the time I wanted to give baby berries, he was already getting teeth and I didn't want him to rip the mesh. So, it's fun to have and about $2.50, but not essential. Oh yea...peas semi-worked and green beans didn't.

The Food Mill...

This is a handy little tool for grinding up food so you can hand it to or spoon feed your baby. It won't do raw carrots or green beans, etc., but I've put in steamed carrots and potatoes and other similar things and it works super well. This has been great for mixing veggies into rice, grain, etc. It normally runs about $11. I've seen them at nutrition shops, baby stores and online. I love them for putting in whatever we're eating so it's in bite size chunks...without having to get the blender out and dirty. It's super easy to clean.

Other Fancy Stuff...
There are other things you can buy, but don't need to, like special baby food steamers, freezable food cube containers, etc. But they're just baby-ized versions of things most people already have in their kitchen, so if you're making baby food to save money it's probably not worth the investment.  There's also a spoon that has a large handle that you can fill with pureed food so you just squeeze it out onto the spoon as the baby eats, but only use smooth puree, because the chunks clog up the hole that deposits onto the spoon.

A Wheat/Grain grinder/Mill is great too for grinding up rice, quinoa, oats, etc. I like to keep a jar of these on hand to use in the morning to add a spoonful to boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes. Voila--baby cereal. It's a cheap version of baby food without having to buy it. And it's helpful to thicken other purees or foods you give baby so they get more substance than just the pureed veggies.

I'm doing the baby food for many reasons:
1. I know what my baby is eating
2. It's fresh
3. It's resourceful
4. We're generally eating it anyway, so they get use to what we eat
5. It saves money
6. You don't throw away/recycle so many baby food jars/containers
7. It's fun (if you're smart about it and prepared....no fun when you run out of food)

October 18, 2011

Low-Carbon Diet --Reducing Your Environmental Footprint

I read about this progam they've started in Park City, Utah called the "Low-Carbon Diet." Basically it's a way to make small steps using a list of goals to reduce your environmental footprint. They have action items for various areas: transportation, dietary choices, recycling and home energy.n See their website for more details: www.parkcitygreen.org

Here are a Few ideas of what you can do:
Household Energy Options
Carbon Reduction Options Lbs of CO2 Reduced
per Year
Tankless / Demand Water Heater
Use a House Fan Instead of A/C 33% of the time
Rainfall Sensor for Sprinkler System
Window Curtains Prevent Heat Gain / Loss
Always Use Cold Water & Moisture Setting for Clothes Washer
Refrigerator Maintenance
Air Drying Dishes in Dishwasher
Toilet (water displacement)
Utilize 'Sleep Mode’ on Computer, Printer & Monitor
Closing Off and Not Cooling One Room in the Summer
Eliminate 'phantom' electricity waste from the VCR & Stereo
Note: The above estimates assume that electricity produces 1.34 lbs CO2 / kWh. This is in line with the national average and also the estimate used by the Low Carbon Diet workbook. Due to high amounts of coal usage, Utah’s electricity is about 58% more carbon intensive than the national average so efforts to conserve electricity prevents even more CO2 emissions than indicated.

Transportation Options
Carbon Reduction Options
Lbs of CO2 Reduced
per Year
Eliminate One of Your Household's Vehiclesa
One Less Round Trip Flight per Yearb
Two Less Round Trip Flights per Yearb
No Personal Vehicle Use for One Day per Weekc
1,330 per Vehicle
No Personal Vehicle Use for Three Days per Weekc
3,991 per Vehicle
aAssumes 25 MPG and 12,000 miles travelled per year for vehicle. Estimate assumes no additional travel in other household vehicles. The CO2 reduced estimate does not consider alternatives pursued in place of personal automobile travel (e.g., walking, biking, carpool, bus, rail, etc.).
bAssumes 1,658 miles per round trip flight (roughly the distance between SLC International Airport and Seattle). Assumes 1.3068 lbs CO2 per passenger mile per the Colorado Carbon Fund.
cAssumes 25 MPG and 12,000 miles travelled per year. The CO2 reduced estimate does not consider alternatives pursued in place of personal automobile travel (e.g., walking, biking, carpool, bus, rail, etc.).

Dietary Options
Carbon Reduction Options
Lbs of CO2Reduced
(Everyday Adherence)
Lbs of CO2 Reduced (Three Days per Week)
Lbs of CO2 Reduced
(One Day per Week)
Purchase All Food Locally
304 130 43
Replace Red Meat and Dairy with Chicken/Eggs/Fish
1,628 698 233
Replace Red Meat and Dairy with Vegetables and Vegetable-based Products
Note: the above CO2 reduction estimates are based on one individual making these dietary changes. Multiply these figures by the number of individuals participating in your household to get a total estimate of emissions reduction potential.

Recycling Options
Carbon Reduction Options
Lbs of CO2e Reduced
Energy Saved
Material Recycled
Per lb of Material
Per Itema
Million BTU Saved per Ton
Recycled Instead of Landfilled
Residential Mixed Paper

Essential Oils 101: Starting Small

If you ever wonder what to give your family when you don't want to use regular over the counter medications and things, you may want to think about essential oils. Granted, there may be times when oils won't cut it, but at least you can turn to them first before other alternatives, since they're straight from the plant.

Basically your Essential Oil build your own kit should include the following things (and then I'll explain why):

A few essential oils (peppermint, lavender and tea tree are musts--stored in dark containers away from light)
A bottle of carrier oil (extra-virgin olive, almond, jojoba, etc. that is pure and least processed)
Cotton balls or strips of fabric (to put drops on directly)
Small bowl (to mix/dilute oils if needed)

There are many oils and you'll want to decide which work for you, but here are some oils I've found to be the most versatile:

Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral and invigoration
Uses: Digestive issues, freshen breath, hot flashes or fevers, headaches, indigestion, nausea, breathing problems, fatigue, inflammation, hives, toothaches, flavor water, etc.
Scent: Minty, sharp, intense
Info/Warning: Not best to use on pregnant women or babies. May cause skin sensitization. Caution if have high blood pressure.

Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, anticatarrhal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, insectcidal and expectorant
Uses: acne, bronchitis, ear inflammation, flu, hay fever, high blood pressure, iris inflammation, nasal mucous membrane inflammation, sinusitis, etc.
Scent:  Slightly camphorous, sweet, fruity
Info/Warning: Caution with babies and pregnant women. Best to dilute before applying to skin.

Properties: Analgesic, anticoagulant, anticonvulsant, antidepressant, antifungal, antihistamine, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimutagenic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, antitumor, cardiotonic, regenerative and sedative. Nutures creativity and calmness.
Uses: Balances the body and generally work wherever is needed (if in doubt, use lavender). Acne, allergies, burns, cramps, dandruff, hair loss, insomnia, lowering blood pressure, lymphatic system drainage, PMS, nausea, scarring, thrush, water retension, bruises, gallstones, headaches, heart irregularities, repel insects, reduce mucus, stress, bee stings, throat infections, fever, cough, sunburns, etc.
Scent: Floral, sweet, herbaceous, balsamic, woody undertones
Info/Warning: Don't use on babies. Doesn't need to be diluted (one of the more gentle oils--like chamomile). Blends with most oils very well.

Properties: Anti-anemic, antimicrobial, anti-rheumatic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitoxic, astringent, bactericide, carminative, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, hemostatic, hypotensive, insecticide, tonic
Uses:  Acne, anemia, cuts, greasy skin, insect bites, mouth ulcers, warts, throat infections, arthritis, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, poor circulation, varicose veins, asthma, bronchitis, colds and flu, fever, infections.
Scent: Light and refreshing. Fruity and penetrating, yet soothing.
Info/Warning: Blends well with other citrus oils, lavender, eucalyptus and chamomile. Phototoxic, so don’t use on skin before going outside in the sun. May cause irritation—use in moderation.

Tea Tree (Melaleuca)
Properties: Analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, strong antiseptic, antiviral, decongestant, immune stimulant, insecticidal, nerotonic, stimulant, and tissue regenerative
Uses: Promotes cleasing and purity: heal cuts, wounds and skin infections, athlete's foot, bronchitis, colds, coughs, diarrhea, flu, gum disease, rash, sore throat, sunburn, tonsillitis, thrush, acne, cold sores, digestion, fungal infections, infectious diseases, inflammation, mites, shock, ticks, warts, etc.
Scent: Medicinal, fresh, woody, earthy, herbaceous
Info/Warning: Could be sensitive to skin with repeated use. Blends well with citrus, cypress, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary and thyme oils.

How to Use Essential Oils
First off, make sure you buy 100% pure essential oils (if it's the cheapest type out there, it's probably diluted already in the bottle with things you don't want to put in your body so buy smart).
Become acquainted with oil guidelines before you just randomly use them, so you dilute them properly and don't use certain oils on babies or when you're pregnant. Basically one drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of drinking 30 cups of peppermint tea, which could be overload to one's body if not used correctly (esp. if pregnant). Always make sure the oil is ok for the age/pregnancy status.

Also, use your nose! When using oils, it's important to pay attention to our noses. Sometimes our body may not like a smell (even if it did before). This just means that your body doesn't want/need it at this time. Maybe your body already has enough of the properties contained in this oil or maybe that oil has more of a relaxing vs. stimulating effect (depending if you need energy or calm). Ex: Peppermint is awakening/energizing, versus lavender which is more calming.

You can also look at charts which tell you the properties of oils as to how relaxing vs. stimulating they are so you don't take the energizing oils at night when you need to sleep. And which oils to blend together for synergizing effectiveness and what % of a blend the different oils should be. See Chart below for an idea (not comprehensive though).

There are three basic ways to use the oils:
1. Inhalation
Use something to diffuse the oil into the air. You can buy a fancy one that uses electricity or a little one that uses a candle (in which you add the esential oil to a carrier oil: almond, jojoba, extra-virgin olive, etc.) Or you can just smell the oil from the bottle or put a drop on some fabric/cotton ball to put in your pillowcase, drawers, near a vent, etc. to give the smell off wherever you'd like it. Or you can put it into hot water and do a steam treatment with a towel over your head.

2. Topical Application
Direct: Put it right on the area of problem (if an external problem)

Indirect: Or put it somewhere else on the body through various means: massage, bath, compress, etc.
Dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil (to about 5% for adults or .5% for babies and pregnant women) and rub wherever needed. Places include feet for a reflexology massage--because the feet are connected to the whole body and within 20 minutes the oil applied there will get to your whole body. (ears and hands are also reflexology/pressure point good areas). Or massage into back, or neck. Be careful with areas near the eyes.

3. Ingestion
Generally not the best method and most oils say not to ingest. If so, they are normally in water (such as a drop of lemon or orange in your water to aid digestion) or put into capsules to swallow. Here are some examples of general dilution guidelines.

Adult Dilution: 3-6 drops per Tablespoon carrier oil
Child Dilution: 1/2 the adult dilution
Pregnant or Under 2 years: 1/4 the adult dilution

Body Systems and Medical Properties Charts for Reference
taken from Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils

*Some oils listed are blends of this particular brand of oils (DoTerra--a multi-level marketing company), but the list has most of the basic oils that you can find across brands, without needing this particular brand.


Natural Carrier Oils (use to dilute essential oils)

Sweet almond oil: Pale yellow oil from the nut kernel. Rich in protein and good for all skin types. Helps relieve dry, itchy skin, and can help reduce inflammation.

Grapeseed oil: Colorless and odorless, made from pressed seeds. Contains vitamins and minerals, and can be used by all skin types.

Avocado oil: Dark green oil from the avocado fruit. Contains vitamins, protein and essential fatty acids. Can be used by all skin types, especially dry skin, and by those who suffer from eczema.

Olive oil: Pale yellow to dark green. Contains protein, minerals and vitamins, can be used in hair care and is soothing to sore, achy muscles and joints.

Sesame oil: Dark yellow and rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Can be used to treat arthritis, psoriasis and eczema. Good for all skin types.

Sunflower oil: Pale yellow oil that contains vitamins and minerals. Can be used by all skin types.

Jojoba oil: Popular because it is similar to our own skin oils. Contains protein and a waxy substance that is similar to collagen. Useful in reducing inflammation and treating acne. Can be used by all skin types.

Castor oil: Pale, unscented oil made from the seeds of the castor plant. One of the few oils soluble in alcohol. Can be used by all skin types and also can be used on hair, nails and lips.

Extra Tips
This website has a lot of great info for finding which oils to use by what ailment:

• Aromatherapist Jeanne Rose offers these tips for choosing pure essential oils:
1. Place a drop of essential oil on a piece of paper. If a greasy spot remains after an hour or two, the product has probably been diluted with other oils.

2. Add a drop of essential oil to water. If the oil forms a cloudy slick on the surface of the water, it’s probably a synthetic oil.

• To best preserve the properties of essential oils, store them in a cool, dark place in a dark glass bottle.

• The shelf life of most essential oils is approximately two years (one year for citrus oils). Some oils, such as sandalwood, frankincense, and patchouli, improve with age.

• Avoid oils labeled as “perfume oil,” “fragrance oil,” or “nature identical oil.” These labels indicate that the oil is not a pure essential oil.

• Buy oils that have child-proof lids if you have children around the house (the ones you push down to twist).

Baby Diaper Rash & Essential Oils for Baby

I've often wondered at the creams and ointments you need to help baby diaper rash problems. "Airing out" by itself doesn't bring baby or mom much comfort when I've not wanted to use these creams, so I've looked for other other alternatives.

First of all, I use a homemade diaper spray with some old flannel I cut up and this diaper spray can contain the same things you'd need to help diaper rash....that are natural and safe for baby. I wrote a post on it; just click on here.

But, here are some other tips about baby diaper rash problems....

First thing to do is bathe your baby in either plain warm water, or add some oatmeal to it. Once your baby is out of the bath, use a hair-dryer on its lowest heat setting and gently dry baby’s bottom. If you don’t have a hair-dryer, gently pat the bottom with a soft towel.

Then, let your baby have some diaper-free air time. Getting some air to the area is one of the most natural healing aids you can do. If your baby is not mobile, use a waterproof mat on the floor and place her there with some toys, or lay her on your chest with a towel. If mobile, you might have a harder time keeping your little one in one place, but still try to give them some air time.

If you are just changing a dirty diaper, avoid using commercial baby-wipes as they contain harsh amounts of alcohol, which can irritate baby’s skin even more. Make sure you dry the area thoroughly after cleaning, and then try to give some air time again.

Tried & Tested Natural Remedies for Diaper Rash:
Olive Oil & Water
Natural and healthy, olive oil has been used for centuries for all different kinds of ailments. Try whisking a tablespoon of olive oil with 5 drops of water until it forms a creamy smooth texture, then apply to baby’s clean, dry bottom.

Essential Oils
Essential Oils are wonderful products that can be used to naturally treat a number of problems. Tea tree is one of the best out there. This multi-use oil is effective against yeast, is antibacterial & anti-inflammatory and healing to wounds (vulnerary). Some others you could also try:
  • Calendula Antiseptic & Soothing
  • Comfrey Ultra Skin Healing
  • Echinacea Antibacterial
  • Chamomile Soothing & Gentle
  • Lavender Anti-Inflammatory & Gentle
  • Sandalwood Soothing & Gentle
  • Myrrh Skin Rejuvenating
When using Essential Oils in their concentrated form, you’ll need to add them to a base oil first (Olive, Jojoba or Sweet Almond work well). The oils in their natural concentrated form will be too strong for baby’s delicate skin. (Dilute more than you would for an adult: maybe 2 drops per Tablespoon of oil and shake that with a cup of water if making a spray).

You can also find plenty of natural ingredient ointments on the market that may work well for your baby, including a lot with the above Essential Oils.

*Refer to my post on using essential oils. The best to have around your house include lavendar, tea tree, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus (but don't use them on babies unless you know they're safe and in the recommended dilutions). My favoritesfor baby are tea tree and lavendar.

Other uses for baby include:
- 1 drop of lavendar on baby sheet or piece of cloth to put by baby's head to comfort and help sleep.
- 1 drop lavendar, 2 drops tea tree in 1 T bath gel and then put in tub of warm water for soothing/cleasing baby bath
- 3 drops tea tree/lemon oil in water to spray on areas to disinfect (even some stains--like baby pee on a matress)
- spray a washcloth with tea tree oil or lavender and place at the bottom of the pail to control odors