Sunday, July 29, 2007

Nathan has passed

Little Nathan has passed.

Please join us in praying for his parents and his siblings. There is a family tonight beginning a new leg of a journey they never invited or imagined.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


~N~ is improving drastically. He spent the entirety of yesterday looking and acting normally. The rapport between the children continued until the evening, when he started being really annoying to his sister, and she finally started screaming back. I noticed then (around supper time) that few hives were returning and his eye was red again. I dosed him with benadryl, and proof positive that the reaction is abating in total, he went to sleep quickly. I have noticed in massive reactions like this, the benadryl doesn't help them sleep if it's so busy fighting the hives.

Speaking of ~N~, who I call "Blueberry" after his pretty eyes, we spent some time yesterday at the Blueberry farm. It made for an odd Lunch-with-friends because we neither lunched nor spent much time with them, but we saw TheGreenMama and B and barely missed Mackattack. Blueberries rock, man. We all decided we had to stock for the winter, like NOW. As far as I know we all plan to go back as well. (I am musing now whether I should just pack the car while the children sleep so we can get it out of the way.)

The children were extremely excited to go berry picking, and they refused to believe I meant another farm besides Terry's. We would have left an hour earlier had they not been making arts and crafts projects to give their favorite farmer. Unfortunately as we entered Puyallup, they both realized they'd left them.

After the farm, where we picked 6 pounds of blueberries together, G spent the afternoon making bendie people for their castle and treehouse. They took this class from the Freelance Mama one year ago on an MDC campout--One YEAR!-- and have shown little interest in it since. Now G cranked out 7 of them in three hours, very specific to the pattern FM showed them. Kids and their minds amaze me. She made an entire cast of little people based on a story she had written in her head about a farmer and his son who turned out to be a uper hero. She then had to create a supervillain, of course.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Answers to Allergy

It's like nothing every happened, almost. This morning the kids are actively happy and engaged, building their own houses with chairs and stuffed animals and sheer energy. We're leaving to go blueberry picking in a few minutes.

The big kids slept in a play tent in the living room last night together. G wouldn't leave N's side all day and last night, she insisted she be the one giving him the full body wipe-down with hydrocortisone. The green goo-- THE GREEN GOO, people!-- wasn't even fast enough for him. She wiped out the bathtub last night from his oatmeal bath. I haven't seen G this attentive to N's needs since he was "the baby." That alone has been a huge, shining silver lining in this week's cloud.

To answer my friends:

Nick has already had IgE allergy testing, and the only thing he registers as allergic to is milk. He was not tested for pomegranate, so I think that is a safe bet. He is not allergic to milk in challenging, and we will stave off testing for now.

When I looked it up, the pomegranate allergy is strongly co-morbid with pollen allergies, and that we know he reacts harshly to those. (remember his reaction in April?)

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction involving more than one system of the body. Full body hives + vomiting + diarrhea = anaphylaxis . He did NOT however, have a drop in blood pressure or in his O2 sats. That means he was not in anaphylactic shock, I saw the numbers myself, he wasn't even close. He was just miserable as all hell. For now, we have a new Epipen prescription, this time in Nick's name.

I will admit to having a whiny lump in my throat just writing that. I have worked and prayed towards our children going into a safety place, not anticipating them to develop new problems. I know this is not the worst problem we could have. I am grateful, truly, for the issues we have to be just and only what they are. We handled it well and efficiently with OTC meds, and he was never in danger. But the might-have-beens are terrifying to me, and I am still reeling that "it's the wrong child."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Exhausted. EXHAUSTED. Or, B-O-Y-B-O-Y-B-O-Y

Yesterday it began with a delicious new flavor of berry cooler: pomegranate blueberry fizz, at Harbor Greens. We all enjoyed it. Within an hour, ~N~ had hives so bad I was damning myself for trying a different laundry soap. His back and trunk were livid from the waist line up with huge, welting hives. Gave him benadryl, gave him a bath, all was well.

I went to bed at 12.30.

This morning at 3 AM, he woke up puking and voiding the other end. Hives were back. I gave him benadryl again and sat with him on the couch until he fell back asleep.

5AM. Boy Jr wakes up wailing. Settle him back to sleep by 5.30.

7 AM. N pukes again, hives are BAD. On his knees, on his shoulder, on his ears, on his eyelids. Everywhere. Give him benadryl, he keeps it down.

Eats 4 eggs for late breakfast. Keeps it down.

Noon, hives start peeking out again and the itchies start. He starts to cry as his hands swell so fast it hurts. I give him benadryl at 12.45 and put him in an oatmeal bath. He starts to scream as his lips and eyelids swell. He shows me on his hand where he was stung by a bee yesterday Now, I don't know whether to attribute this to beesting or pomegranate. Call the pede.

"Go to the ER," they say. "Keep the epipen close," they say.

By the time we meet TheGreenMama at the (new! local!) ER, he has mellowed out from the pain, but now his feet and hands are swelling, along with his ears. His eye whites are red. On full adult doses of benadryl, he had hives from his scalp to his eyelids to the soles of his feet.

N-boy, do you have to do this to us quarterly?

The Doc-- incidentally the same doc who saw Nick for his last emergency, in 2005-- is putting his money on the pomegranate juice. So random. So random.

I am so tired.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sitemeter Guilt

Sometimes I feel like I have nothing about which to blog. Then there are weeks like this past one, where if I even tried to abbreviate my life into a few blog entries, I'd be chained to the messy computer desk. People keep checking for updates though, and I feel guilty. Shah.

It's been a good week though; I remembered to go to both the Farmer's Market and the free day at the Tacoma Art Museum. I was able to spend my 27.00 (this is ~L~nomic replacement of the weekly CSA expenditure) on a good haul of fruits and veggies. I so rarely remember that I could have spent twice that and been in fine, but I didn't want to be wasteful. I love Farmer's markets. I am currently eating a cheesecake with local strawberries. I am thrilled because G loves cheesecake with an unholy passion, and we can never buy the beautiful strawberry one from Costco due to the allergy issues. This one looks just like it. :)

This time, the kids all participated in the arts room at the TAM. By the time we left, D-baby was insane so we didn't get too many stories in at the art library, but it was very enjoyable watching him paint and paint and paint.

Niki left us for Hawaii, so she has some interesting blog entries going on right now.

The Prof flew in yesterday from Gawgia and the first thing she said to me when she got off the plane was "It's raining." While she is from KY, she is a true Southerner now and I know what she's feeling; it's not that it's rainy, or that it's in the 60s. It's just that for her, it's a 30 degree temperature drop from her morning commute. It can be jarring. I promised her summers here were clear, because that's been my experience. Whoops. Tomorrow it's going to clear up for us all.

N-the-boy has an ugly full body rash, a clear reaction to something. I originally thought it was to some laundry soap but now we think it's from the dip he had in the pool earlier. Of course, D-meister is not reacting and he swam too, so who knows.

P-Daddy has some interest in a choice position with the county. That's giving us some serious food for thought. Gut = no movement right now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gardening in the rain

It's been raining pretty well for two days. I am quite happy about that. I love rain, especially when it is not cold and I know it won't stretch for 2 months straight.

I picked up two flag hangers yesterday for 1.74 each so I finally hung our dolphin garden flag out in the garden. We've had it for at least 8 years, but it has always hung inside, in the kitchen. I hung another flower flag in the back. I love garden flags but they have never seemed worth the expense. No way would I actually spend even 7 dollars for wire to hang in the garden. 2.00, I can do that.

While out to install the flags, I got distracted by the fruits in the garden. The squash are filling out, the Romano beans are at least 4 inches but thin, and the Molbaks tomato plants are going nuts. I thinned the inner branches on the tomatoes and tied some more to the higher stakes. Niki's seedlings are starting to flower and they have thick, strong central stalks. Our zucchini, quarantined in the currently underused "winter" garden, has little baby zukes on board. It's a good time for the garden, where everything is full of promise but nothing has gone so haywire that it's unusable or too much work.

My assessment at this point is that we have a good kitchen garden, but it's definitely not at replace-the-CSA level yet. It will be full complement, come August and September, but for right now all I am getting is greens and some berries. It's nowhere near canning level at all. The blackberries will give us an incredible yield, and next year we should have a good crop of strawberries. This year, though, is already five times the crop we got last year so we are satisfied.

Next steps:

finding a place for the blueberry bed
obtaining chickens and a place to put them
building the creative greenhouse with Niki and putting it to use

I talked to a squishy baby last night who liked to smile at me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Not a farm, but it's ours

This is the back plot of the garden. In the background you can see the blackberry hedges. In this garden bed we have corn, onions, Romano bush beans, cauliflower, spaghetti squash varietal, jalepeno, cilantro, purple cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, swiss chard, bok choy, cucumbers, some squash I bought but don't remember, blue lake climbing beans, and potatoes.

The blueberries, strawberries and herbs are in separate gardens not pictured here, as are the zucchini, artichokes, Brussels sprouts and sunflowers.

This is a bad picture, but a great shot. I like how the garden frames my family at play.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Commute

The new bridge cut 35 minutes OFF P-daddy's commute this morning. Dayum.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Blowing off the Bridge

Alas, it is an historic day for Western Washington, when The Bridge is finally completed and opened for public inspection. What "public inspection" means in lay language is that tens of thousands of people will be on the bridge throughout today, being all civic and stuff. We fully intended to be among that number, so much so that we actually drove onto the bridge yesterday during the special-people's turn to promenade the new decks. We drove up almost to the bridge deck itself, then got out and began unbuckling children before we got shooed away by the security types. But today, we just decided "Um, no" We'd have to park at the airport or the high school and be shuttled in to be shoulder-to-shoulder with people from all over the state. The nail in the coffin was during church today when the pastor mentioned friends of his driving in from Spokane --leaving at 3 AM to get here on time for the ten AM open. So, so much: no, thank you.

So the boys have left to go clamming, the girl is at the neighbor's and I am going to sign off now and eat a cookie before filling up the new swimming pool Niki found for cheap. Woot.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Bastille Day!

July 14th is the French national holiday, la FĂȘte du 14 juillet. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, an open act of rebellion against the monarchy that is considered a turning point of the French Revolution. Two days after the storming of the Bastille, the king officially recognized the tricolor flag--the blue, white and red said to symbolize liberty, equality and brotherhood.

After the Revolution, chefs--who had cooked for the nobility--found themselves out of work. They were forced to open public restaurants, the fine art of dining was born, and the world has never looked back.

I am actually not French, and I speak it only badly. Je suis desolee.

Here's what I wish I had eaten today, and probably will eat tomorrow!

Crepes with Spinach, Bacon and Mushroom

Picnics galore

Apparently the vortex is in full effect. This is a good thing in that it means people do enjoy themselves here, but it is a rough thing because people sort of have to plan a daytrip to come to my house. At least for Niki, it is a daytrip so it's no big shock. But for my homies who live in the ten-to-fifteen minute range, it can be alarming to look at a cell phone and see "6.30??? I thought it was 4!"

GreenMama came over here yesterday with what we thought was a well-planned day: we'd exchange some kitchen items, open a birthday gift (Thank you again!), then take our picnic lunches through the HP woods on a hike to the gulley. The kids would play and eat in the dappled sunlight of the forest, then we'd hike back. All done, finis!

Nothing ever goes as planned, right?

The rain and gloom started in so we switched to coffee-and-a-playdate, during which the Moms pored over pottery barn books and mentally dressed my house. Alas, just as it was time to go, the sun came out and we decided to go on the hike anyway!!!! We had a great time, but by the time we got back to my house, the vortex had struck:

"What time is it?" she said
"6.30," I replied
"Oh, my GAWD."

Vortex. Yes. Maybe it's not me. Maybe it's the neighborhood!

Flipping the switch

I talked to my Danny today. The second she answered the phone, I could hear it in her voice; I knew.

"You sound like .... you!" I exclaimed

Not one to beat around the bush, she replied "Yes, yes I do!!!!"

"When did it happen?" I asked.

"Sometime last's like someone flipped a switch."

It is so good to hear her coming out of her postpartum haze. Talking with Danny and listening to her newborn ew-glahing in the background, I felt my heart swell with joy and love. It's so strong, and even those of us dedicated to embracing that hibernation for it's best natural intentions (babymoon!!!!) still get overwhelmed by the sheer power of it. It makes us think funny things, feel odd emotions that are so out of sync with our perceived realities. It makes us say things that make no sense and make choices we won't understand later. I remember it in my life and I see it in the friends around me. I can't be there to bring her cookies or make crude jokes that make her laugh in spite of herself, so it was wonderful to hear her come full circle.

I have felt that switch flip, and I am glad it happened for Danny. I see it in others and I have to admit my heart aches, waiting for that switch to flip in another I hold so dear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's feelin' hot, hot, hot!

Last year I was appalled when my indoor thermometer climbed to 89 degrees inside. Yesterday, before we left at 12.30 for the lake, it had already climbed to 85 inside. The place we were going was NW of us, but it was still 94 degrees outside when we got there. Yesterday morning I had a ladder propped on the dining room table to try to reach the skylights with a staple gun. Mackattack said one would have to be desperate to attempt that and she's right. Definitely an inner-redneck solution to the heat problem, but since I have a fear of heights, it didn't work out for me anyway. Imagine my surprise to return home and discover someone had stapled blue flannel up there. We'll see today what different that makes. When we went to bed last night the house had cooled inside to a reasonable 82 degrees. Ack.

Thank God that shade still truly means something in the NW, because I still wasn't hot enough to be enticed into swimming. I wore my suit just in case, and my children were all three at it with full abandon, but not so much me. Each of our kids bit it at one point or another, submerging themselves in the water, but they reacted wildly differently. G cried and heaved, her little heart beating like a rabbit's until she rallied and went back to it, while N coughed and yelled, but then cheered and ran to tell me of his adventure before diving back in. I was with D-baby when he tripped on a rock and fell toward me in chest-deep-for-him water. Through the clear lake water I could see him looking up at me, hair waving, eyes big and beautiful. After a pause I realized he wasn't coming up on his own, so I reached down and stood him up. He sputtered a bit then grinned real big and said " I see you inna lake, Mommy!" No drama, no trauma. We need to teach that boy to swim.

This is my third meetup with a forming homeschool group on this side of the bridge. I find myself really seeing a need in G&N's lives to be around other homeschoolers and children of their own age. Yesterday, Dougie was the baby of the group, and treated accordingly (which is to say, largely ignored but definitely tolerated and not run over.) CM was a group I joined for me. I needed the contact and the friends I made there. I love my Moms from there, really love them, but as far as the children, while they enjoyed the friendships they made there, I kept going for my own personal edification for just a while longer than I should have. Other homeschoolers left the kiddie-parts of the group before me for similar reasons-- the older kids were being put in school or preschool, so it was my kids and toddlers. I can keep my friendships, and intend to, but part of the privilege of a homeschool life is that my kids enjoy being with kids of a wide variety of ages, older as well as younger.

I have long resisted the idea of needing a homeschool group, but this one might just click with me. They seem genuinely nice, and more to the point nice-like-me. They laugh loud but mostly at themselves. Further, I know them from various places as well; we have former CMs, Moms from a now-defunct homeschool co-op here in GH. It's like a second chance in that respect, because I now get to know the women I had to pass by because I left a group or chose not to join another. New year, new thing?


Other homeschoolers: have you noticed how it feels like the new "school year" begins in the Summer?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Little Nathan

We are praying for this boy: my dh and I, my fellow Tenters, and the many people whose lives Nathan has touched personally. Unlike many of our Junebugs, who we've visited or have visited us, Nathan probably has no idea who I am. He's been sick most of his life with neuroblastoma. The doctors caught it late as far as the disease goes, when he was a toddler, and the resulting prognosis was 7 years. I remember vividly digging through the internet like a madwoman, trying to find anything to the contrary. I remember passionate conversations with Angie, Leti, Dawn and Kim about how certainly by the time 6 years was up, the researchers would have found something. He'd make it! Surely that was such a long time that the medicine would catch up!

As parents, we now know how fast that time goes past.

Most of us under the tent have children born within days and weeks of Nathan. He turned 7 years old in June. Every birthday he had, we'd celebrate silently as if it was our own child given that extra year. In a way, I suppose, it was. Every lost tooth of Nathan's held a different meaning than our children's. He didn't find it exciting when chemo ruined his smile. Every picture, with new hearing aids, or fresh surgical tape pointed out to us how different his life path would become. It somehow started to seem unfair that we had healthy children. We celebrated life itself when Nathan achieved NED status, and cried in devastation when his disease returned after almost 2 years. Most of us refused to turn away, despite the pain. We kept following their lives, their story, feeling as if we could provide some invisible army, some huge community that would make Nathan's life even bigger than it ever would be on its own.

None of us who know Susan take our children's lives for granted. I have never written about him before because I have always felt it was not my place, not my story. But now, his family has been given the news that "
Nathan has days to weeks left, rather than weeks." They have called in hospice and the boy takes more morphine than an adult could normally handle. So I am posting because I believe in the power of positive intention, prayer, pulsing, whatever you personally call the communication your soul has with other energies. I don't ask for him to be saved, because it is too late for that. But I am praying for his parents and their ravaged hearts. I am praying for his two little sisters, who will know a loss they can't understand. I am praying for little Nathan, who is soon to leave the only life he has ever known. Nathan, who lies about needing pain meds so he can be awake longer with his family. Nathan, who said just yesterday that he'd rather do yard work his mom than sleep on the couch-- and did it.

I am praying for Grace, for everyone involved. I hope you will send some of your energy as well.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

This is where I live

Click the link for a really accurate description of our current home. Tonight we're going to see an outdoor movie at Skansie park.

Earlier today we drove out to the gloriously lovely Hood Canal and had lunch at Twanoh State Park , where the kids enjoyed swimming and I won cool Mom points for packing their suits "just in case." While I don't recommend the park-- it's ugly, which is hard to do on Hood Canal, but it was a "resort" before it became a state park-- the trip had some interesting points. P-Daddy and I didn't so much as bicker while we drove around somewhat aimlessly, and the beach at Twanoh made a tinkling sound as people walked over the bleached, dried oyster shells crusting the high tide waterline.

Right now we're making tacos while we wait for dusk. I think I will make some popcorn to take with us.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I don't know whether it's because I have been so cold this year, or whether I just want to metaphorically rest in my mother's bosom, but I have been so homesick lately.

I memory-scent my hometown's fragrance and it makes my heart ache. Yes, Charleston has a fragrance. A lot of Southern cities do, but Charleston in the spring smells like gardenias, roses, tea olive and sea air, with some rugged undernotes of horse and pluff mud. It's been a couple of years since I have done this, but lately I will be making our plans for the day and I will find myself mistakenly thinking "oh let's pop over to East Bay Street while we're at it," or "we haven't been to Folly Beach in a while, let's go there, " or worst of all "Let's see if [insert person I love here] wants to go to lunch today."

I don't question our decision to move here, because it was the right thing to do at the time. We have been "making it" and the children are thriving. I have made solid, good friends and gotten in touch with the real me who I'd been missing for quite some time. We have barely scratched the surface of what it means to live in the PNW, and I look forward to exploring even more. The life we've built here has been done with intention and mindfulness, instead of a haphazard arrangement based on reactions to circumstances and weather. But I admit to some mild panic when I wrote "It's been a couple of years." We have been here for a while, and we know we won't be leaving any time soon if ever. That's a nice thing, to know... but the permanence of separation is a hard thing for a person like me to bear.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Knee-high by the 4th of July

That's how tall the corn is supposed to be, said P-daddy's step-daddy from Michigan. I have never planted corn before so I had no hope of it actually working out that way. By the end of June, the little stalks were, well, little. But darn-tootin' if it didn't so happen that by the 4th of July, they were even as tall as Niki's dh's knee. Very cool! The sunflowers are already as tall as the kids, and the fruit trees we planted in early spring are now over 7 feet tall.

We had a little tent city going on for the 4th, where the C-family and the Mack family came to celebrate the beach fireworks. Unfortunately, it was a blisteringly hot 4th and by the time they arrived, I'd been cooking in an 85 degree kitchen and was embarrassingly cranky. My friends are good friends, however, and they forgave me; we went on to have a nice time. :)

The tide was too high this year for us to repeat last year's sprawl, especially with three times the people, so we settled for perching on the rock wall. Unfortunately this unduly confined the toddlers and by the time the best of the rockets were going off, they wanted none of it. They revolted so most of our party left early, but I stayed behind with Niki's dh and one big kid from each family to enjoy the big show. I kept chanting for Gandalf's dragon, while Mack's older son kept telling me it didn't exist! That gave me my opening for the quote of the day, where I said "Nonsense! There haven't been dragons around these parts for years....." but I deviated to finish with "there might be one any day!"

Sitting with G on the blanket, watching the explosions reflect in her eyes, made the entire endeavor worth it for me. She sat there, face glowing in the night, with an expectant smile on her open face which broadened with every sparkling detonation.

On July 5th, the Mommies plotted against the nine children we had collected together in an attempt to wear them out. We fed them a carb-heavy breakfast, led by chocolate chip cookies, and then took them on a small hike before leading them down to the sunny-hot beach where most of them actually swam (in Puget Sound. The very idea makes me shiver). We finished them off with a sprinkler fest in the back yard with chilled leftovers from our cook-out the day before. There's something awe-inspiring to me about a 5 year old gnawing on a cold BBQ rib bone.

Has summer finally arrived????

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Green Guide Eco-Cleaners

DIY Household Cleaners
by P.W. McRandle
Filed under: Cleaning supplies, Cleaning products, Indoor air quality, Green living

With spring upon us, those extra hours of daylight have a way of revealing every bit of schmutz and stubborn stain that hid from sight throughout the winter. But as you open your windows to let in fresh air, don't pollute it with lung irritants like ammonia and chlorine bleach or hormone-disrupting phthalates used in fragrances. Instead, make your own cleaners from healthier, least-toxic ingredients.


Circumvent the armada of commercial cleaners by keeping an ample supply of these eight items, which make up the basic ingredients for nearly every do-it-yourself cleaning recipe.

Baking soda: provides grit for scrubbing and reacts with water, vinegar or lemon by fizzing, which speeds up cleaning times
Borax: disinfects, bleaches and deodorizes; very handy in laundry mixes
Distilled white vinegar: disinfects and breaks up dirt; choose white vinegar over apple cider or red vinegars, as these might stain surfaces
Hydrogen Peroxide: disinfects and bleaches
Lemons: cut grease; bottled lemon juice also works well, although you might need to use bit more to get the same results
Olive oil: picks up dirt and polishes wood; cheaper grades work well
Vegetable based (liquid castile) soap: non-petroleum all-purpose cleaners
Washing soda: stain remover, general cleaner, helps unblock pipes; should be handled with gloves due to its caustic nature. Washing soda is usually found in the laundry aisle of grocery and drug stores.

Don't forget to pick up an empty spray bottle at the hardware store, and keep those old rags and used toothbrushes for wiping up and scrubbing.


All-Purpose Cleaner
1/2 cup borax
1 gallon hot water

Mix in pail (or use smaller amounts in a spray bottle: 1/8 cup borax to 1 quart of hot water) dissolving the borax completely; wipe clean with rag.



1/4 cup white vinegar
1 gallon warm water

1 cup white vinegar
2 gallons warm water

Mix in mop bucket, rinse afterwards.

Furniture Polish
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil

Mix and apply with a clean rag to dust and polish. Reduce the olive oil if wood looks too oily.

Metal Polish

Copper and Brass
2 Tbsps salt
White vinegar

Add vinegar to salt until you've created a paste. Adding flour will reduce abrasiveness. Apply with a rag and rub clean.

Stainless Steel
Baking soda
White vinegar

Apply baking soda with a damp cloth, using the vinegar to eliminate spots.


Toilet Bowl
Baking soda
White vinegar

To clean and deodorize, sprinkle toilet bowl with baking soda, add white vinegar and scrub with a toilet brush.

Tub and Tile
1/2 lemon

Dip the face of the lemon half in borax to create a hand-held scrubber for dirty areas. Rinse and dry the surface afterwards.


Marble: Mix one Tbsp castile soap with a quart of warm water, rinse well, then dry with a warm cloth.

Other surfaces: halved lemon dipped in baking soda to scrub off residues. Follow up, by spraying with glass cleaner mix (below).

castile soap
White vinegar

Wash your dishes in one dishpan filled with a mix of water and castile soap, then rinse in a separate pan containing a mix of water and vinegar (a 3-to-1 water-to-vinegar ratio works well).

1 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar

Add baking soda and vinegar to a pot of boiled water and pour down the drain, then flush with tap water.
For more stubborn clogs, use a "snake" plumbing tool to manually remove blockage, or try suction removal with a plunger.

To prevent clogs, install inexpensive mesh screen, available at home improvement and hardware stores.

1/4 cup vinegar or 1 Tbsp lemon juice
2+ cups water

Fill a clean spray bottle with water and either white vinegar or lemon juice; wipe with a rag or old newspaper.

Baking soda

Sprinkle baking soda on surfaces, spray water, then let soak several hours or overnight. Rinse with water.

Stovetop and Oven Grease Remover
1/2 tsp washing soda
1/4 tsp liquid soap
2 cups hot water

Add washing soda and soap to hot water in spray bottle. Since washing soda is caustic, wear gloves.


Laundry Detergent

1 oz. liquid castile soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1/4 cup baking soda or 1/4 cup white vinegar

Using the liquid castile soap as a base, combine with washing soda, borax (for stains and bleaching), and either baking soda (reduces static and softens fabrics) or white vinegar (softens fabrics, reduces static and bleaches clothes). If you feel like your clothes aren't clean enough, play around with the amount of liquid castile soap, using from 1 oz. to 1 cup.

Bleach alternative
1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide

Household Cleaning Supplies Report

Green Clean, by Linda Mason Hunter and Mikki Halpin (Melcher Media, 2005, $16.95)

The Little Book of Quick Fixes for Eco Conscious Cleaning, by Bridget Bodoano (Quadrille Publishing, 2006, $12.95)