Great American Backyard Campout Photos!

Recently, we pledged to participate in the Great American Backyard Campout organized by the National Wildlife Federation. I set up the tent and our little camping area Friday while my husband was at work. Whenever we have gone “real” camping, I have been limited to what we could fit in our Jeep so I could never get our campsites as pretty as I would like them. At home, that wasn’t an issue so I could make it as fun, glam, and bohemian as I wanted. 🙂

We actually had so much fun that we ended up camping in the back on two different weekends! We may leave this “campground” set up for the rest of the summer. 🙂 This was E’s first experience camping and he loved it! We can’t wait to bring him camping to a real campsite.

We live on a hill and have no privacy from our neighbors above us. To give us a bit of seclusion, I hung curtains around our pergola.

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Hand soap, lotion and lantern.
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Old fashioned hand washing station (E loved this!).
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Mason jar water glasses for each of us.
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Drinking water with fresh mint.
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We used E’s train table as our picnic table.
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Our dogs joined in on the fun.
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We roasted smores. We came to the decision that I am the smore making master. My husband thought his would win since he has been camping more, but I grew up going to beach bonfires every summer. 😉
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Stella loved sleeping in the tent!
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E loves his little books, and stashed lots of them in the pockets inside the tent. As soon as he woke up, he started grabbing books for story time. 🙂
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How Huggies “Natural Care” Wipes Burned My Son’s Skin

I have very sensitive skin. I know many of our friends and family probably thought I was being a bit nuts when everything on our baby registry was organic and for sensitive skin, but I knew there was a good chance that our baby would end up with sensitive skin like mine. So far, we have been very lucky that he hasn’t had too many strong reactions to anything we have used on him. Normally, we always use Earth’s Best Organic Chlorine Free Wipes for diaper changes (found here), and we have never had any problems. Recently, my husband noticed that we were running low on wipes in the diaper bag and picked up something at the grocery store. Since they didn’t carry Earth’s Best at that grocery store, he figured Huggies “Natural Care” wipes would be an okay option (they claim to be natural after all).

After using them a couple of times, I suddenly noticed a horrible rash all over our son’s crotch and thighs, everywhere I had used the wipes during a diaper change. It was diaper rash to the extreme, except it extended far beyond the reach of the diaper (we had a couple of pretty messy diaper changes that involved lots of wiping). By the next day, the rash had become raw and scabby. Whatever chemicals were in the wipes had literally burnt off his skin. Yesterday was absolutely awful…I wanted to get a picture of how bad it was, but that was impossible with the way he was wriggling and screaming from the afternoon all the way until bed time.

I am a huge proponent of natural health care and remedies, and have been making my own herbal remedies for us and our pets for years now. I am going to start a new series of blog posts about my recent journey into expanding my herbal remedy arsenal for our family’s health care. I happened to have just received my new shipment of dōTERRA essential oils yesterday, so I immediately started adding a few of the oils into the lineup to treat E’s raw, irritated skin. Within 24 hours, he is doing so much better. His skin has started healing up a lot. There is still a little bit of scabby area left, but yesterday his entire inner thigh looked raw like the small raw bit in the photo below.

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This is the arsenal of supplies that I have been using on his skin:
California Baby Calendula Cream (this is what I usually use if he has any diaper rash), Burts Bees Res-Q Ointment (has comfrey as the main ingredient, which is great for soothing and healing all kinds of bumps, scrapes, bug bites, etc.), fresh aloe vera, dōTERRA Lavender essential oil (for soothing the skin), dōTERRA Melaluca essential oil (for its cleansing and antibiotic properties), and dōTERRA Frankincense essential oil (for its healing properties).
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I have used lavender essential oil for many things over the years, but I started getting disgusted by the chemical processes most companies use to extract the essential oils. Most essential oils that you find in stores are actually extracted through chemical processes instead of steam or pressure extraction. Instead of getting a concentrated version of a plant with healing abilities, you end up with a concentrated amount of toxins. I discovered dōTERRA essential oils, and have become enthralled with the company the more I learn about them. They only use organic herbs and produce for their essential oils, and the oils are never extracted by chemical means. You know that you are getting the purest form of the plant essence available. I am really excited to start documenting our family’s journey with using dōTERRA essential oils, as well as some new fresh medicinal herbs that I recently added to my herb garden. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

Some of the issues we have been tackling lately with herbal remedies (and will be coming to the blog soon) include extreme teething (getting the first set of molars), bug bites and prevention, digestive problems with one of our dogs and one of our cats, my journey with finding natural remedies for my severe and chronic muscle, bone, ligament, and arthritis pain, and other issues as well. For more information on dōTERRA, click here.

*Update: After I published this post, a friend sent me this news article link. Sadly, this is quite a common reaction to wipes in general. Be sure to check the ingredients on the wipes you use or make your own! The Earth’s Best wipes that we use thankfully do not have the chemicals that the article mentioned, which is why our son never had this problem before.

Homemade Dog Treats Made with Juicing Leftovers

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I have been doing a lot of juicing lately. I have read so many places that juicing helps your body heal by delivering a straight shot of nutrients to your system. Since I still have torn abdominal muscles and damaged ligaments from my pregnancy, I have been doing anything I can to help my body heal. I have been starting off most mornings with a glass of carrot/beet/apple/ginger/spinach juice before breakfast. After I am finished running these goodies through the juicer, I have all this leftover fibery pulp. Adding the fiber to the compost bin is definitely one good way to use the leftovers, but I kept thinking that there must be a few better uses for this great fiber that I could whip up.

I often make some homemade dog treats for our dogs with carrots (recipe here), so I know they are fans of veggies. For my first experiment in reusing the fiber leftovers, I decided to make some dog treats. Our dogs have been going nuts over these treats, and I can barely make enough to keep up with their requests for them! These are so far their favorite treats of any they have had.

I love finding ways to utilize every last bit of nutrients, and will post another recipe tomorrow that I whipped up using the juicing leftovers! It reminds me of a funny quote from one of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls, about chef Sookie:

Ingredients:
3 cups of vegetable/fruit fiber leftover in juicer
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup beef broth (I use homemade beef broth leftover from my pot roast recipe, coming soon)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Mix all ingredients together in stand mixer. Scoop a small amount of batter into silicone baking squares. You can find the tray that I use here. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until cooked though to center. Take out and cool on wire rack (mine can be found here).

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Baby E 6 Week Update

Our baby boy “E”, has been much happier the past few days. Every day it seems like he is feeling a little better without the dairy/soy in my diet and therefore in his. He still has some pretty fussy periods at night, but he has been so much happier overall.

He is growing up so quickly! He outgrew the size “tiny” cloth diapers this week and moved up to size small. Not that he was really ever “tiny” to begin with (he was over 9 pounds at birth!), but it still made me a little sad. My little guy is getting so big so quickly! My husband and I are in love with this little outfit shown below. He looks like such a strong little guy in it. 🙂

Another thing of note this week is that he outsmarted the Velcro close swaddle blankets. I could tell even before he was born that he was not going to like to be swaddled because he was constantly pushing out against my uterus, trying to find more room. Swaddling him with blankets only worked for the first couple of days. By about the third day in the hospital, he figured out how to get out of those in no time. We started putting him in the Velcro close swaddle blankets for bed time, and he never seemed to like them. One morning this week, we looked over to see him with his arms and legs all out of the swaddle, with just the Velcro part left around his waist. We have since given up on trying to swaddle him at bed time, and let him wear big boy footie pajamas to bed now. 🙂

Other than us and my parents, E has not met too many people yet except for when we have gone to all of our doctors’ appointments. Apparently he is already working on his flirting skills with the ladies and has taken a liking to nurses. He charms all of the nurses at all of our appointments. At one of our appointments this week, we walked past two nurses and they made a “what a cute baby!” comment. He heard them say that, turned his head toward them and gave them a big huge smile. What a little charmer! 🙂

All of our furry kids love E a lot, but his “sister” (seen below) has a special devotion to E. She seems to think of him as her own baby and rarely leaves his side. If he is napping and starts to wake up, she runs to come and get me. It is so cute how she is always watching out for him!

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This last one was his very upset face after our dogs chased away the birds E was watching in our back yard. 🙂

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My Methods of Organic Pest Control

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I have been gardening on and off since I was a kid and I had my first vegetable garden with my dad at our old house in Long Beach, CA.  Some places I’ve lived did not accommodate for much gardening, but I made do with a few potted plants, herbs in containers, etc.  The house where my husband and I lived last had a decent sized yard, but not nearly as big as our house now.  Since we have more space to work with here, it has brought some interesting bug prevention problems that I didn’t have to deal with in the past.  I also feel that since the yard was so neglected and overgrown for a while before we moved in, it created the perfect environment for bugs to go wild.  I have definitely had a lot more work with pest control here than I have ever dealt with in the past.

There are many theories and varying opinions about the best ways to deal with pest control in an organic garden.  I am not claiming that my methods are the perfect solution, but they are what has worked for me over the years.  Here is a list of all the methods I use!

1.  When it started to warm up here at this new house, I noticed that we were getting tons of mosquitoes coming into the house and the patio.  I have a theory that one of the neighbors must have a bucket of stagnant water around or something because there were more than I have ever seen in my life.  I can’t burn a citronella candle 24/7, so I found something even better.  I got a citronella plant (shown in the back in the teal vintage planter) and placed it on our patio table.  I haven’t seen any mosquitoes around since!

2.  Most people know that cedar lined closets deter moths, and I have found that cedar wood chips used as mulch have really been helping me keep pests away from my delicate plants.  Added bonus:  mulch always helps with water conservation by limiting the water evaporation from around the plant.

3.  I have been using Sluggo to get rid of slugs and snails in my garden for years.  It is approved for organic gardening, and I have had great results with it.  I sprinkle the little pellets around most of my plants, and have always seen a great reduction in snails and slugs when I do.

I have tried to “bury a cup of beer in your garden” method with horrible results, and I do not recommend it at all.  Not only did the beer attract a few snails, but it also attracted wasps in swarms.  It was not a good experiment, and now I only use Sluggo.  I do not recommend Sluggo Plus however since that version kills bees unfortunately.  Sluggo Plus also gets rid of earwigs (a.k.a. pincher bugs), but I have found better ways to safely get rid of those.

4.  When we moved in here, the planters in our patio were overrun with earwigs.  I noticed all of my artichoke plants were getting eaten to within an inch of their lives.  They were all hiding in the overgrown and dead ivy that was in one of the planters.  Trimming back the ivy and eliminating their hiding spot and breeding ground helped a lot.  I also started trying to train our cat Pearl to hunt the bugs, which also started to help.  The cedar mulch helped as well, but I think the thing that has helped the most is a mixture of about 1 tablespoon Ivory dish soap and water in a spray bottle.  I spray the affected plants in the early morning and late at night.  I have noticed very few holes in the leafy green plants since I started doing this.  No one wants to eat soap, not even bugs!  The dish soap is safe for organic gardening, and if you have to get a little on something you will eventually eat, it just rinses off. 🙂

5.  When I installed the raised beds in one area of my garden, I bought a lot of bags of rich organic planting soil.  The soil was so rich with nutrients that for some reason it started attracting a ton of ants.  I found where they were coming in, and poured some boiling water on them (being careful not to pour any on my plants in the area).  I then sprinkled the area with cinnamon, and after a few days, my ant problems were over!

6.  When we moved in, the existing roses had been suffering with some aphid problems.  I bought a container of ladybugs at the garden center, and the problem solved itself. 🙂  Added bonus: now I get to see cute ladybugs all over the garden!

7.  One of my favorite methods of pest prevention in my garden is the concept of companion planting.  Planting garlic near things like roses and lettuces deter pests with their strong odor.  One old time known favorite is basil near tomatoes.  I also plant marigolds near my eggplant, squash, and tomatoes since their scent also deters pests.  Added bonus:  marigold petals are a great addition to salads!  I highly recommend the book Soil Mates for more ideas on companion planting.  The concept also helps the plants flourish to their best ability by finding plants that work well together.

8.  My favorite means of pest prevention is employing the help of our cats and our dog.  They help me scare away the crows that are intent on raiding my garden, and cats are great for eating bugs.  I would love to have a couple of chickens to help eat the bugs around, but since I am allergic to eggs, my husband thinks that idea does not make much sense. 🙂

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9.  We are planning to start covering all of our fruit trees with bird netting to try to keep out the squirrels and birds from stealing all of our fruit.  The green netting was sold out at our local store, so we haven’t gotten around to it yet, but once we do, I will post an update!

I hope these tips help inspire you to grow your own chemical-free garden!  It isn’t as hard as most people think. 🙂

*A side note:  None of the products mentioned in this post (or any of my posts actually) are sponsors or have requested to be mentioned.  These are just honestly all of the products that I have found to be useful to me over the years.

New Cat Dress

I love animals.  I love clothes.  I especially love clothes with animal prints on them (as dorky as that may be), like my owl print top, my horses print dress, and my cats and roses dress.  I really love my new dress with the little cat prints on it!  I also love my”new” vintage Chanel slingbacks. 🙂

My favorite part of these pictures…Our dog Shombay finally learned how to give me air kisses, just like he sees our cats doing. 🙂

Dress:  H&M
Sweater:  Lara (South Bay Galleria)
Tights:  Target
Shoes:  vintage Chanel
Purse:  vintage

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Homemade Dog Treats

I love baking homemade treats for us, which includes treats for our dog, Shombay.  This is one of the latest treats I have been making for him lately.  I am trying to monitor his protein intake, so I wanted to make some healthy veggie treats for him.  As you can see from the pictures, he loves them!

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 7 tablespoons homemade vegetable broth (canned and leftover from this recipe – but made without the ham)
1 cup cooked carrots

I started by pureeing the cooked carrots in my food processor.  Then I added everything together into my stand mixer, until it had the consistency of cookie dough.  I rolled it out with a rolling pin, and cut it into fun little shapes with cookie cutters:  hammers and wrenches because he’s daddy’s helper! 🙂  Then I baked them on cookie sheets lined with silpats in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  I kept them in a baggies in the fridge, and he loved them so much, I even caught him trying to open the fridge a couple of times!

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