An Uncomplicated Life Blog: September 2019


Monday, September 16, 2019

8 Best Zero Waste Eco Friendly Products

Live a greener lifestyle with these no waste, environmentally friendly product swaps

I'd love to think that by 2019 - heck, we're nearly into 2020 now! - most people are aware that climate change is real and that we're slowly destroying the planet with our carbon emissions, use of disposable plastics, heavy meat processing and consumption in developed nations, and our fuel consumption (gas is bad enough but jet fuel is outright horrific). Even if you're not on board with climate change (ummm...) you're probably aware of various endocrine disruptions you've had: perhaps fertility issues, unexplained weight gain, autoimmune diseases, food allergies, skin problems. I could go on and on! Some people really do get it and are looking for ways to limit waste so that both their personal health and the health of the planet improves; others are just starting to connect all the dots on how ALL of this is intertwined and our personal health is not independent of that of the environment. If you're looking for ways to reduce your waste and become more environmentally friendly, you've got to check out these 8 best zero waste, eco friendly products to help reduce your footprint - and improve your health while you're at it! *affiliate links used*

Starbucks is doing some great things, like taking away straws... But they still serve their coffee in paper or plastic cups. Ouch! If you get a reusable cup like this one, not only will you help reduce non-biodegradable waste (those plastic cups their iced drinks are served in aren't going anywhere for hundreds of years...) but you'll save money making your own coffee! Finance tip from a former financial adviser: buying coffee out is the BIGGEST waste of money - a "fancy" drink can set you back close to $10 now. Do the environment AND your wallet a favor and make your coffee at home. I like ceramic best because you can microwave it to heat it again, and as a mom, I zap my coffee hot again... and again and again.

So many cities, and even a few entire states, are getting on board with how absolutely terrible plastic bags are. I wish I could say Dallas was one of them, but we're about 20 years behind the curve down here. In fact, the city council passed a law taxing the use of plastic bags by a measly 5 cents each in an attempt to discourage their use and people threw such a fit, the law was reversed after a few months. Way to friggin go, Texans. Get reusable bags. These stand up better in your car so that your food and provisions don't spill all over your trunk, so that alone is a big win over plastic bags.

Y'all know you shouldn't be microwaving food in plastic, right? NOPE. The BPA will "bleed" into your food. You're not going to die overnight, but it will slowly cause a disruption to your endocrine system, which will in turn mess with your hormones which will mess with EVERYTHING about how your body functions, fights sickness and disease, and more. So, just don't store your food in plastic, mmmmk? Trust me, these will last longer than plastic containers anyway, plus they don't stain (raise your hand if you've ever stored marinara in plastic to have it turn a nasty shade of pink, permanently!).

We all know plastic straws are terrible for the earth. Some people have moved to paper, which is a step up, but still - any sort of disposable straw isn't idea. The paper ones also start to disintegrate in your mouth if you're sipping alcohol, which is pretty gross. My go to has become these metal ones. I love that they come with a cleaning wand if you need to scrub the inside and they're dishwasher friendly for disinfecting. Win win. Another win is that they're super cheap!
Plastic baggies are on the same level as plastic bags from stores, in my opinion. We used to use tons of these for the kids' lunches, but this year we got smart and got compartmentalized food storage boxes to reduce the waste. I will say, I LOVE not having to write my kids names on every single baggie (if you've got preschoolers, you know what I'm talking about) and I just throw them in the dishwasher with the dinner dishes after a day at school so they're ready for the next day. If my kids went to preschool daily, I'd probably get two per kid so that there wasn't the immediate need to wash them, but I'm kinda lazy like that.

Beeswax covers
Just like with food storage containers, if you're microwaving food with plastic wrap over it... You're going to want to stop! Clearly, all that wrap just ends up in landfills for decades upon decades, or in oceans where it kills fish and wildlife. But the chemicals that comprise the plastic also leak into your food when heated, which means you're ingesting them. Beeswax covers function in the exact same way as plastic wrap but are washable and reusable. No waste and no harmful chemicals. Yesssss.
This one was one of the first things I did many years ago to reduce my personal waste output. It's been preached for years how destructive plastic water bottles are. We've seen the photos of ocean bays covered in floating plastic bottles. And I have to say, I'm saddened and disgusted when I see how many people in Dallas are buying them in bulk. Almost every time I go to Target, Walmart, Sam's Club or Costco, the people in front of me and behind me in line are buying several cases of bottles of water. WHY?? Dallas actually has some of the best public water in the U.S. (it's rated in the top 10 of major cities for taste and purity) so what the heck is up with all the plastic bottles folks?! Ughhh. I wrote the linked post on the best insulated water bottles that keep your beverage cold. Get one of those, save yourself some serious money and do the planet a favor. Your kids and grand kids will thank you for it!

Seems like a silly, small detail but all those plastic toothbrushes you use in your life? Yeah, they add up. And they stay there. They're not decomposing in your lifetime, your kids lifetime, your grandbabies' lifetime, your great-grandbabies' lifetime... and on and on. We don't know how long they'll take to decompose because it hasn't happened yet, but current estimates are several hundred years. Think about that - you brushing your teeth today will negatively impact the world for hundreds of years. That's intense! Reduce your load by switching to bamboo tooth brushes, which will combine back into the earth in just 2-3 years. Oh, and they're SO MUCH CHEAPER than the plastic ones, and also come in brush softness levels.

These are all some great products you can swap in to take over conventional products that not only aren't so great for the environment, they're also not so great for you. The more you look into being eco friendly, the more you learn that eco friendly is HUMAN friendly, and the product swaps are good for you on a personal level too. These 8 best zero waste eco friendly products are a great place to start for better health for you and a planet that stays greener for longer, too.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Currently, September Edition

Here's what I'm thinking and feeling, currently

Holy moly, we're already halfway through September! Man, the older I get the faster time moves. I swear that we just got back from our beach vacation but no... That was already 6 weeks ago. Soon, it will be sweater weather here! Then I'll blink and it will be Thanksgiving, then Christmas and all of a sudden it's 2020. I skipped over the fact that the twins' first birthday is basically next week and three days later I turn 35. What the heck. I'm being really cliche here but man if my mind isn't blown with how fast life moves the older you get. Hell, it's basically time to plan my funeral with the speed things are moving! Too much? Ok. Anyway, here's what's been going on around these parts since my last currently post back in the summer:

The twins' first birthday party and my 35th birthday trip! God finally validated my love for Halloween with twins born mid-October (I was trying to get them born as close to Halloween as possible!) so their birthday party theme is The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is one of my older sons' favorite "scary" movies. It's a "cult" film, so there's actually a ton of adorable decorations on Amazon for the theme! I'm sure I'll do a recap post with links to shop from, so if you're a Halloween freak like me and want an unconventional kid's birthday party theme, I got you! My 35th birthday is four days later, and hubby and I are taking our first solo trip together after having the babies. We're still trying to figure out where we're going, but now we're thinking of heading to Richmond (so that I can see some of my inner circle friends!) and taking a day trip to Charlottesville for some wineries. The Virginia wineries are seriously breathtaking and the weather should be perfect mid-October.

The twins' invites! Looks a little funny because I've blocked out key info but you get the idea

Preparing for:
A trip! I'm headed to NYC with my best friend from high school. I haven't been to NYC since 2009 (funny how travel is limited with four kids, no?) It's definitely NOT my favorite city, but hopefully by the end of the month it will feel like fall there (still triple digits here...) and we'll have some amazing food. Oh, and spending time with her is always a good time. You know people who just get you? That's her. She and I understand each other's souls, I swear. Hanging with her is not only always fun, but I feel recharged. I don't have to explain my crazy feelings or bad jokes to her, she just gets me. Loooooove friends like that! I have a handful of girlfriends like this and every single one is such a gift to me. I know well that I'm a very intense person and it takes a "special kind" to be my friend. While I'm an extrovert and know many people and have a wide circle of friends, I have a small "inner circle" who get to know the emotional side of me or who get to know my real, true life story and all those gals (and one guy!) are as loved by me as my own children and hubby.

Me and my homie, back before high res cameras were on iPhones and I actually wore makeup. Weird. 

Ohhhhhhkay, that's enough emotions, let's move on and get back to the sarcasm and self-depreciating humor that y'all come here for, mmmmk?

Frustrated? Annoyed? Dismayed? The twins started preschool three days a week for a few hours. Since they're still under a year, along with their lunch I send a bottle of breast milk, since we all know that up until a year, babies should get the bulk of their calories and nutrition from that or formula. And they're being sent home with nearly full bottles! They eat all their lunch, and love food, so I know they're not hungry but y'all... Pumping that milk is HARD WORK. I used to just wake up in the middle of the night and pump out 8oz in under 15 minutes, easy as pie. Which is perfect because they both take 4oz bottles. But now I'm mayyyyyybe getting 4oz total, sometimes just 3oz and I've increased my pump time to 25 minutes. I'm cutting into my freezer stash daily. Sigh.

We'll make it to a year, but I'm working way to hard for that milk to go to waste! Of course it's sour when they come home because it's been sitting out for five hours. Now, they've only had two days of preschool so obvi we're still figuring out all our "systems" and routine, but I'm going to talk to their teachers and see what we can do about it. Or, I'll be sending them to school with 2oz bottles so I'm not wasting as much milk! I CANNOT WAIT for them to be a year so I can stop pumping... Cannot. Wait. We'll continue nursing on demand until they no longer want to, but lawd have mercy, pumping is just the WORST and I'm so ready to no longer be stressed about how many ounces I've pumped and what kind of bottles they're getting (and actually drinking) for the day. So ready.

BTW, if you get an email from me or I respond to your Instagram DM between 1:30-2am, that's what I'm doing. No, I'm not a night owl or someone who works around the clock. I'm well aware I look like an insane person, but if I'm going to be up pumping I may as well multitask!

Knox isn't sure about this first day of school business...

Taking Otto to tumbling class. He and the twins only go to preschool three days a week, so on Thursday mornings, a nanny stays with the twins while I take him to White Rock Tumble and Cheer with about 8 other rambunctious 3 year olds. He LOVES it and talks about going there every single day, and I love that he gets to bounce some energy out... And have something special for him, since all the attention is usually on Henry, who's a big kindergartner now, or the babies, who are not only our babies but are twins to boot. Poor middle child Otto! This has been something for him to do on his own that his brothers don't do, a chance to connect with other kids his age (beyond his preschool class) and a chance for him and me to spend one on one time together.

If I may brag for a second, it's so fun to watch him because he's one of the best listeners in the class. There's a few boys that just run WILD and I'm reminded about how amazing my kids are, but especially Otto. The first day they did a race across the tumbling floor at the end of class. Nobody listened to the teacher, and while he never said, "GO!" they all started racing... Except Otto. He stood there and said, "Where are you going, the teacher didn't say go!" and the teacher said, "Otto wins! He's still at the start but the only kid who's listening! Yay Otto!" Awwweee, my sweet boy.

Why is she always named Janet?!

Thinking about:
Writing a pretty controversial blog post. I've noticed a huge trend in parenting lately. I'm not in many mom groups, but the few I'm in have all had posts on the topic recently. But my view is 100% OPPOSITE of what most moms feel, so I'm scared to write it because I legit might get crucified... It'd be on how being a "bad mom" has become in fashion and if you're a "classic" or "good" mom, you're the "Janet" of Facebook memes and a total jerk. For instance, one group I'm in started an "I don't" thread, where moms posted what they don't do - so many people replied saying they don't cook, they don't clean, they don't limit screen time ever, they didn't/don't breastfeed and don't feel remotely bad for it... You know, all the things you AND your spouse should do as parents (not just moms!) has become what "annoying, perfect" parents do and no longer the norm. It's kinda like how wine culture with moms has become the norm, and it's a way to hide behind being either a borderline alcoholic or a functioning alcoholic or a straight up alcoholic. If you cook meals from scratch and have a clean home, all of a sudden you're marginalized by current mom culture. I really want to do a deep dive into why I think this is not only wrong, it's outright destructive, but I'm really scared I'm going to be burned on the cross in the comments and on social media for it. What do you think - should I write it?!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Sore Throat Spray

Make this sore throat spray and get ready for cold and flu season!

The kids are all back in school and it's officially upon us: cold and flu season. Since my twins are starting preschool a few days a week, I'm sure we'll all have our first seasonal colds by ohhhhhhh next week or so. Nothing like getting a bunch of babies together who all put EVERYTHING in their mouths and share all their germs! Yuck. My very least favorite way to be sick is a stomach bug, but coming right in there in a close second is a sore throat. I hate sore throats! It's taken me a few years to perfect this recipe, but it's hands down the most effective spray for sore throats. It WORKS.

Now, fair warning! All the essential oils in this spray are "hot" oils, meaning they'll burn you if you don't dilute them enough. I make this fairly strong for myself because I don't mind the "burn" on the front end and find it numbs my throat better afterwards. But I wouldn't use this on my kids - I would dilute it by half! My sister was visiting me several years ago and complained about having a sore throat, and I handed it to her without warning that it's "spicy" and will burn for a few seconds before it numbs. She was a bit surprised when she sprayed it and coughed/choked... But after, she said wow, this stuff really does work! So, you've been warned. Half the ratios listed if you're making it for kids, and clearly label what bottles are what strength. I just make this for adults so there's no confusion, but once my kids are older, I'll make two versions.

Sore Throat Spray
- glass spray bottle
- hot water (not boiling)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 or 2 drops oregano essential oil (yes, just one or two drops, this stuff is strong!)
- 5 drops Immunity Boost (Thieves/On Guard are the same thing)
- 5 drops lemon essential oil

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Put the salt in the spray bottle, then add the drops of oil. Add the hot water and swirl the bottle so that the salt dissolves. Before using, give the spray bottle a shake to distribute the oils and salt. Spray on the back of your throat and wait 20-30 seconds before swallowing so it has time to sit on the affected area. Spray as often as you need relief from your sore throat.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Homemade Bolognese Sauce

Making this traditional "spaghetti sauce" yourself is SO easy, has far less sugar than jarred sauce, and has hidden veggies in it too

It's funny how life changes when you "grow up" and become an adult. As a little girl, both my mom and stepmom always made bolognese sauce from scratch. I remember my mom making it in a pressure cooker (the old school Instant Pot!) after work and my step mom making it in a beige dutch oven on a weekend, letting it cook all day long. Fast forward 22 years and I had my own apartment, cooking all my own meals. And... I bought jarred sauce. I'd always add some of my own herbs to brighten it up, but I bought jarred sauce for 12 years before I rediscovered the art of making my own. Yes, it takes a little time, but you can throw all this stuff in a slow cooker or instant pot (or a pressure cooker!) before work and come home to an amazing meal. Or, you can do it on the stove top and double or triple the recipe, then freeze the leftovers for a month or two down the road. Seriously, once you learn how to make it from scratch, you'll never buy jarred sauce again! This is how I make homemade bolognese sauce.

My kids all love spaghetti sauce, so I look at this as an opportunity. They don't love veggies. In fact, one of the only ways I've found to get them to eat veggies are those fruit and veggie pouches (you know, that have tons of fruit and like one veggie in it... Oh well). I take this opportunity to hide veggies in the sauce! Not only does it deepen the flavor of the meat sauce, but it provides extra nutrition for a traditionally carb and cheese heavy meal.

Homemade Bolognese Sauce
- 1-2 carrots, but into small pieces
- half a large white onion, diced
- half a package fresh spinach
- half a pint Portabella mushrooms, diced
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound ground beef (I like the 90/10 local grass fed beef for this so it's not too greasy)
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1-2 cups of water
- variety of fresh herbs (read below for details)
- salt and pepper

In a large dutch oven pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrots, mushrooms and spinach. Cook for several minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef and salt and pepper. Cook until the beef is cooked through. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook a minute or so. Stir in the tomato paste and diced tomatoes and add the sugar (the sugar cuts the acidity of canned tomatoes so it's not as sharp on your tongue... The more you know, right?!)

Add the water until the sauce is slightly runny. Don't worry, it will thicken! Let all that stew together over low heat for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. The effort of this recipe is in cutting up the veggies and browning the ground beef, after everything is in the pot it's super easy! Just turn the stove down low and let it bubble away. If the sauce gets thick, add water.

After all the veggies, sauce, tomatoes and spices have been added
After it's cooked for about an hour, add some fresh herbs. I grow a variety of herbs in my garden and use whatever happens to be flourishing. That's part of the beauty of this recipe, it's flexible! Have a ton of fresh rosemary? Great, add it. Basil? Yes, delicious. I've done fresh chives, thyme, basil and rosemary, or a combination of all of those. The sauce takes on a different flavor every time, but it's always delicious! As long as my basil is growing well, I top it with fresh basil before eating which is extra yummy.

After the sauce has been cooking for a few hours
Just like with the herbs, the same goes for veggies! Don't like mushrooms? Don't add them! Have something on hand that's about to go bad - use it! I've added fresh tomatoes from my garden that were too "mushy" to eat on a sandwich but perfect for a sauce. Root veggies are great to add for winter sauces, and summer squash and zucchini work in the summer. I just like to add 3-4 of whatever veggies I have laying around, and make sure to roast them a bit first in the pan, before the beef and the tomato sauce is added. That helps develop the flavor.

I like to top this robust homemade bolongese sauce over fettuccine or linguine. I like the way the thicker noodle holds up to all the meat and veggies! But you can certainly put it over whatever pasta you prefer. It pairs well with a side salad. If I happen to have a ton of fresh basil, I like to pair it with a caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomato slices and basil, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) or you could make your life super easy and pick up a bagged Cesar salad. Yup, that was the sound of all my foodie blogger friends cringing at the fact I recommended a bagged salad. Oh well! I happen to like them and how easy they make my life.

A white bowl of linguine pasta covered in bolognese sauce with a side sprig of fresh basil
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Once you make this sauce, you'll never go back to jarred again! It's so easy to make homemade bolognese sauce. All it takes is time, but if you've got an instant pot or a slow cooker, you can easily make this while you're at work or use the pressure cooker function on your instant pot and throw it together when you get home. It's the perfect Sunday meal (as seen here with Teddy) or weeknight meal. Don't buy jarred sauce! Make your own homemade bolognese sauce.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Happy Labor Day

It's the last unofficial day of summer - get off the internet and go enjoy it! I'll see you back here on Thursday with a fresh post on the best essential oils for an anti-aging regiment in your skincare.

Au revior summer! This girl can't wait for fall.