Monday, August 15, 2011

Fueled Up and Ready to Clean

     I really tried to post something last week.  Really tried.  But after two days of being back at work, I was too tired to think.  Too tired to type.  Too tired to turn my computer on.  I spent Thursday and Friday unpacking crates in my classroom, moving furniture and boxes in what felt like 150 degree temps, and doing some deep cleaning.  The school district graciously offered to build us a new school building that should be ready at the beginning of the 2012 school year.  The price, one school year spent in a transition campus that deserves to be torn down and rebuilt itself.  And the third grade classrooms aren't really even in that building at all.  We are out in a portable annex, grounded securely on cinder blocks.  We are the third or fourth school to set up camp in this transition campus that was well past its prime even before it was deemed the transition location.  However after a couple 10 hour work days, some deep cleaning, and a lot of colored paper to decorate the walls, my room in the T Shack is finally looking almost cheery.
     With everything in place, I pulled out my Branch Basics cleaner and paper towels and went to work sanitizing EVERYTHING.  It kills me that the district requires all the supplies in my classroom to be non-toxic and have a non-toxic label to prove it, and yet Clorox, Lysol, and antibacterial soaps are allowed.  The chemical soup that forms in the air when these cleaning supplies are used are a lot more harmful to the students than the occasional marker.  I could smell cleaning supplies all over the campus as teachers brought in economy packs of Lysol wipes and began wiping down desks and tables, assuming they were cleaning.  I posted a while ago about what clean really is.  Are those classrooms full of Lysol and Clorox really clean?  I'm not sure that they are.  They smell clean, or smell like what we associate with clean, but my Branch Basics cleaner did a great job cleaning all surfaces without the strong smells and chemicals.  I also know that it is killing bacteria and viruses that might be lurking around the room.
     In preparation for this week, I refilled my spray bottle with Branch Basics and made some energy bars to help keep me fueled throughout the day.  I can't even begin to tell you how obsessed I am with my Clean Start cookbook.  The recipe for my energy bars came from Clean Start, and they are amazingly good, fantastically simple to make, and free of any sugars or unwanted additives.  They can be made with any kind of nut butter, the nuts of your choice, dried fruit or chocolate chips and are sweetened with a touch of pure maple syrup.  I used almond butter with sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds.  I included a picture so you could take a peek.  I ate more than my fair share before I even put them in the refrigerator to harden.  I always need snacks throughout the day, especially when I'm at work.  Now I'm sure I'll have enough energy to keep cleaning and organizing my classroom.  I have until Thursday to get everything set up.  Wish me luck!       

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodbye Summer

     How is Day 2 of your No Sugar Challenge going?  I woke up this morning dreaming that my sister-in-law had a kitchen full of baked goods that she swore were made without sugar.  As I took a bite of a cookie she said, Well those might have been made with sugar!  She really wouldn't do that to me, would you, S?  I love my sister-in-law.  But do you think my brain misses the sugar?  I kind of started avoiding sugar in Colorado...I had one Dr. Pepper on the golf course when I thought I was getting a migraine and an icecream that my husband bought me, but that was all, and I didn't miss it.  Maybe all the activity outside made me forget that I wanted sugar.  But last night, Day 1, all I could think about was dessert!  It will get easier as the days go by, but I definitely want what I can't have right now.
     For dinner last night I tried out one of the recipes from my new Clean Start cookbook.  The Sesame Scallion Brown Rice Salad was delicious!  Filled with orange bell peppers, mango, scallions, ginger, sesame seeds, it was a really satisfying side dish.  I'd even eat it as the main dish, but R2 wanted something else to go with it so I added some tilapia on the side.  If you haven't checked out Terry Walters' website you definitely should.  She has some great recipes!

     Today is my last day of summer.  It's hard to believe that two months of vacation have already come and gone.  I'm still trying to get everything pulled together around our house so that it is easy to fly out the door at 6:30am or to make dinner when I come home after my graduate classes at 8:00pm.  (As a side note, please excuse the poor quality of my pictures this week.  In all my organizing I have misplaced the charger for my camera battery and have been taking pics with my iPhone!)  This morning I've been washing and putting away the Snapware Glasslock containers I bought at Costco.
     Every day for lunch I take whatever leftovers we have from the night before.  In the past I used plastic Ziploc storage containers for both my lunches and for any other leftovers that I would leave in our refrigerator.  However, because of all the chemicals that can leech out of plastic, I decided to buy some glass containers.  The 18 piece set I found at Costco was only about $25.  The lids are plastic, but they are BPA free.  I usually don't heat up my lunches at school, but having glass containers now makes that an option.  The containers are definitely heavier than the plastic Ziploc ones I was using, but they are small enough to throw in my bag to get from home to work.  They will also be great for storing leftovers or snacks at home.  Do you take your lunch to work?  What do store your leftovers in?  I'm off to enjoy my last day of freedom!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30 Day No Sugar Challenge

     I didn't really realize how badly I had cabin fever until we got to Colorado last week.  From the day we got to Beaver Creek to Sunday when we left, we spent all day every day outside in the fresh air.  It was awesome!  We hiked, biked, played golf, swam, kicked the soccer ball around, played putt putt, walked, ran, and just enjoyed being outside.  Oh how I had missed being outside.  With temperatures hovering around 100 degrees here in Houston and the humidity factor making it even more unbearable, I hadn't spent much time outside all summer.  Outside is my favorite place to be.  I need to be outside.  I feel guilty when I'm not outside.  Especially when the sun is shining and the sky is blue and I'm sitting inside...unless of course it's 100+ out there.  Being in Colorado made me even more jealous of my younger brother who is working in Alaska, spending his days outside and eating the fresh fish he's catching in the Pacific.  Sometimes I miss my free spirit, but wouldn't give up what I have here in Houston for anything!  A week in Beaver Creek was just what I needed.  And now that we're back, R2 and I may have to jog together at 9:00 at night just to beat the heat, but we are home.
     So now it's time to get serious about going back to work.  Everything starts up on Thursday and is sure to be a whirlwind until June.  There's no stopping the chaos for 9 months, until the next glorious summer break.  On the plane home Sunday night I unwillingly thought about what I need to get done by Thursday.  Thursday morning is inevitable, and all I could think about was how tired I get during the school year.  Getting up at 5am, on my feet until about 3:00 and then graduate classes that last until 8pm wears me out.  But I do know that what I eat directly affects my energy level and how I feel.  As tempting as it is to eat the candy and junk food sitting around at work, I know that I have to have whole food snacks packed and ready to go every morning or I won't make it through the day.         
     Fortunately, before I left for Colorado I ordered a cookbook called Clean Start: Inspiring You to Eat Clean and Live Well by Terry Walters.  I found the cookbook on my front porch when we got home and leafed through the beautiful pictures of delicious recipes that are gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy free, and contain no refined sugar.  I'm excited to try out some of the dishes.  The best part for my family is that she makes suggestions of meat and fish that could be paired with all of the meatless dishes.  Her philosophy is to start cleaning your diet however suits you, no matter how small the changes are.  Click on the link above and it will take you directly to her website which is full of recipes and ideas for eating clean food.
     I'm also picking up my share of fruits and vegetables from the Rawfully Organic co-op today and challenging myself to try a few new recipes out of Clean Start this week.  In an effort to clean my diet and increase my energy, I have decided to challenge myself to a 30 day break from refined sugar.  No refined sugar, one whole month, period.  And while Tuesday, August 9 is kind of a random day to start a No-Sugar Challenge, I'm marking it on my calendar and starting today.  We'll see if I even want sugar come September 9. 
     Are you up for the challenge?  Join me!  We'll feel better and have much more energy for whatever it is you have in front of you this fall.  I'm struggling to accept that summer is over, but I'm looking forward to feeling up to accomplishing what lies ahead.  Mark your calendar, get set, and let go of sugar.  It's just one month, let's start today.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Get Some Fresh Air

Healthy tip of the day: Get some fresh air.  I know what you're thinking...kind of hard to do when it is 100+ outside.  That's why we are headed to Colorado tomorrow!  I'm so excited to spend a week outside getting some fresh air.  The air quality around us directly affects our health and well being, and I am in desperate need of some revitalizing air before the school year starts.  Here is some information about air quality to get you thinking... 

According to Three Branches:
     + Indoor air is 200 times more polluted than outdoor air!
     + 50% of all illnesses are from poor indoor air quality!
     + According to a study at Harvard, cancer risk from exposure to chemicals inside the home is greater
       than if you were to be exposed to chemicals at a hazardous waste site!
     + According to an EPA study, women working at home have a 54% greater chance of developing
       cancer because of the chemicals and poor air quality in the home!

It's pretty scary!  But there are things we can do to increase the air quality in our homes.  When it isn't 100 degrees outside I open all my windows every chance I get.  Just letting in a little fresh air significantly improves indoor air quality.  Removing the chemical sources that are contributing to poor air quality in your home is a must!  Chemical sources include conventional cleaners filled with chemicals, and candles and air fresheners that can contain up to 600 chemicals.  Another important step in improving air quality is changing your air filters regularly and using filters with a high merv rating.  There are also air purification systems that can be purchased from Austin Air if you're really serious about having clean air in the house.  However the small steps I mentioned above really help improve the quality of your indoor air.  Going to Colorado is even better, too bad I can't just live there!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shower Time!

     I want to say a big thank you to those of you who took advantage of the 25% off sale on Branch Basics products!!!  I'm so happy you're on your way to chemical free cleaning.  If you haven't taken advantage of the sale yet, there's still time.  I'm offering 25% off your purchase of Branch Basics non-toxic cleaner until the end of August.  Email me at if you're interested.  You can also check out my posts, "Babies, Bubbles and A Branch Basics Giveaway" from July 20 or my post on July 16 entitled "Looking for A Non-Toxic Cleaning Solution" if you want some info first.  Three Branches Healthy Living also has some great information about the product.  I'm only promoting it because it is a product that I use on a daily basis and have been really happy with.  Plus, I know my house is clean without the toxic burden.  It is free of chemicals that mimic estrogens and disrupt hormone function, it is free of chemicals that affect how our bodies store fat, and doesn't create a chemical soup that lingers in your house!
     And now for today's post:  R2 and I spent Sunday and Monday at the Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.  He was there for meetings for work and I was there for....well, I was there so that I could take advantage of the pool, float the lazy river, and enjoy a mini vacation!  Both days I grabbed an inner tube and floated around and around.  With temperatures as high as 105, I could have spent all day in the lazy river.  It's clearly too hot to be anywhere but in the water.  However, as I floated and enjoyed the day, I couldn't help but think about all the chlorine in the pool and how unhealthy it really is.  I'm not trying to ruin your summer pool experience. I definitely need my pool time and spent my fair share of time in that lazy river.  But, I do want to share the small changes we can personally make to protect us from the chlorine and chemicals in the water around us.
     Water comprises two-thirds of our body weight.  We have to drink it every day.  We use it to shower or bathe every day and yet the water running out of the tap is filled with chemicals.  The Environmental Working Group did a study of the chemicals found in the water of big U.S. cities and the findings are pretty astounding.  Click on the link and see if you can find your city.  Houston was one of the cities with the most polluted water, coming in with a whopping 46 total contaminants found, the largest concern being radiation particles.  So what do I do other than freak out and consider boycotting the use of water at my house???   I started with the water that makes the most impact, the shower.  According to Three Branches Healthy Living, because our skin is such a large organ and soaks everything in, our bodies absorb 10 times more chemicals from the water in our showers than if we drank that same water.  I installed a New Century Shower Filter with a Bernoulli shower head and am cutting the chlorine and chemicals in our water by 90%.  It was really easy to install (I did it by myself while R2 was at work) and the filter is good for 18 months.  If you take baths or have kiddos you have to bathe, there is a Bath 3000 Filter that you drag through the water to reduce the chlorine.  Both can be found on the Three Branches website or if you Google them they can be purchased from a variety of sources including this link at Amazon.  Without all the chlorine in the water, there is instant relief from dry skin, scalp and eczema.  How's your shower water?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Babies, Bubbles & A Branch Basics Giveaway! (just the cleaner, we're not giving away babies or bubbles :)

     I spent the end of last week at Cedar Creek lake with 4 fabulous friends.  All moms, these girls needed a little break from the Dallas heat, so they brought their kids and we hung out at the lake.  I was a little intimidated.  Being in the classroom all day with 17 eight-year-olds doesn't bother me, but the thought of 9 kids all under the age of 4, that's a little intimidating.  However, all the kids were so well behaved, a true testament to what good moms my friends are.  We played in the pool, iced cookies, and took naps.  We made chemical-free bubbles with Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap soap, a great alternative to conventional bubbles.  It was an especially good alternative when the soap ended up in little mouths.

     It was great to hang out and have some girl time when all the kids went to bed.  As we washed dishes and caught up, we briefly discussed the dishwashing soap.  By the sink was a bottle that boasted being pure & clear.  We talked about whether it was truly pure & clear.  It contained "no unnecessary chemicals" and "no heavy fragrances".  So I investigated this pure & clear soap and this is what I found: sodium laureth sulfate (the second ingredient and therefore the second largest ingredient by quantity), fragrances, dyes, and a short list of other chemicals.  Sodium laureth sulfate is a known carcinogen, and I always stay far away from fragrances as they can be made up of 1,000+ synthetic chemicals.  And as far as the claims of "no unnecessary chemicals" and "no heavy fragrances", what does a multi-billion dollar company consider necessary or unnecessary in the chemical world?  And how do they determine whether the fragrance is heavy or not?
     I only highlight this to show my frustration with the companies who are leading us to believe that their products are healthy and chemical-free.  They are not.  They look healthy, they look natural, they seem to be good, economical alternatives, but they are still full of really dangerous chemicals.  That's why we love Branch Basics cleaner at my house.  You know exactly what you are getting.  The ingredient list is: Purified water, fatty aids, coconut oil, organic alcohol, folic acid, minerals and enzymes derived from edible and seed-bearing plants.  That's it.  No fragrances, no dyes, no sodium laureth sulfates, no other weird chemicals.  And, it cleans EVERYTHING!  For the end of the summer I'm offering 25% off your first purchase so you can try it out and be guaranteed a clean home without the chemicals.  The concentrates are to be diluted with 5 parts water, 1 part concentrate and go a really long way!  Contact me at if you're interested!
       Branch Basics All-Purpose Cleaner
     Pre-diluted ready to use solution

Branch Basics Concentrate


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yes...2 Years to Celebrate

     Yesterday R2 and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary.  We have been blessed with 2 fun years of marriage and have a lot to be thankful for.  We spent the day yesterday hanging out, painting our house, moving furniture, watching TV, talking, laughing.  What we did was nothing extraordinary, and yet being together made the most ordinary of days special.  It was a perfect day.  We rarely have a day at home to hang out and enjoy each other.  At our house, we don't run, we fly, and we usually fly by the seats of our pants.  We are always travelling, always busy and rarely stay still.  Our plan had been to spend the weekend in Galveston, but somehow being at home seemed to make more sense.  There is a lot that I love about R2.  He makes me a better person, a happier person, a person with purpose.  The list could go on and on, but I'll just share a few of my favorites:

1. You are a man of integrity.
2. You actively care for me.
3. You make me laugh every single day.
4. You are my number one fan.
5. You are honest.
6. You love your family.
7. You enjoy being with my family.
8. You put the concerns of our family above everything else.
9. You know how to make me forget my cares and laugh.
10. You are a hard worker.
11. You are handy.
12. You make everyone feel important and worthwhile.
13. You go out of your way to do things for others.
14. You pick up after our dogs.
15. You love any chance to spend time with me.
16. You trust God.
17. You have great ideas.
18. You care about things how I feel.
19. You love me for who I am.
20. You eat whatever I prepare for dinner although you'd rather be eating a meal from Whataburger.
21. You're trying your best to embrace Meatless Mondays and Fresh Fruit Fridays...

     So what does all this have to do with healthy living?  R2 is the encouragement behind this blog.  Without him, I probably wouldn't have 20 posts and 23 followers.  Not only did he think starting a blog was a good idea, he got in the kitchen and made the first batch of coconut oil deodorant for me.  He has traded in his Windex, a HUGE deal at our house, for chemical-free cleaners, because he knows that living chemical-free is important to me.  He has even dared to try chemical-free deodorant, shaving cream, and toothpaste.  He keeps me going writing about something I am passionate about, sharing what I am learning about cutting toxins.  So thank him when you wake up and have a new post to read about another chemical-free product.  He also created my website:, which is not ready yet, but coming soon!  I almost didn't write this post today at the risk of sounding overly sappy and cliche, but I couldn't write without including the most important piece.  
     And now your little bit of healthy living: Yesterday we spent the morning painting the entry way of our house.  We bought No-VOC paint from Lowes and turned our understated entryway into a glam foyer that I wouldn't mind sitting in all day long! VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals released into the air from certain solids and liquids.  Most paint has VOCs that seriously compromise air quality.  The EPA's website says that these chemicals stay in the air "long after the activity (painting) is completed".  Olympic brand paint has great colors and is good quality paint without the VOCs.  We were happy with the results and felt good about painting without the harmful fumes!  Happy Anniversary, R2, I love you!  And by the way, I'm out of deodorant, could you make more?