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Which is French for “the time of the month.” Everything sounds better in French, non? Even though the French say “la course,” (je pense), that’s still what I call it in my head.

But first. First I feel like I should have some sort of disclaimer here saying something along the lines of:

Menfolk! Avert your ears! Turn your eyes! Listen not, lest you be defiled, ashamed, shocked at the mention of LA COURSE!”

Then, of course, the feminist in me thinks that men should stay and listen, that we as women should take ownership of our bodies, and they should not be freaked out by things like “menstruation” and “women’s issues” and “periods.” But let’s face it, men, and even a lot of women, are freaked out. And if you indulge my medical anthropological nature for a minute, I think that’s oaky. Mensturation is “taboo” not just because it is associated with women, but because it refers to something that once inside of the body but is not outside of it. And if you think about it, we have a taboo on most everything that comes out of the body – blood, poop, pee, snot, vomit, sweat, etc. Except babies. We’re generally okay with the fact that babies come out of our bodies. Because of this taboo, these things generally aren’t up for public discussion. And these things are taboo for a reason – they are generally considered “unclean” and in reality can transmit diseases. It’s probably been good for our society that we have thought of those things as “icky” cause we wouldn’t have lasted too long as a species if we went around eating our own poop. So as long as you’re leaving this page because you think “periods- yuck, I’ve been culturally indoctrinated to avoid substances out of my body for my own self-preservation” that’s fine.  But if you’re thinking “periods – yuck, women are gross and stupid,” then not cool, man. Not cool.

Moving  on.

I made a slight adjustment in my birth control regimen which has meant that I suddenly have started getting periods again which has meant I needed to restock my supplies. After one or two rounds of using conventional pads, which I repeatedly told my husband “felt like sitting on a chemical laden wet trashbag” I decided to ditch the Always in light of something new.

Enter….

Not the Diva Cup. Sorry ladies. Any of you who are left were probably just waiting for me to start writing about the wonderful amazing fantastic Diva Cup aren’t you? Sorry to disappoint. While it does sound fantastic (no waste! no chemicals! no frequent changing!) it won’t work with my specific internal structure. (And neither will tampons). It’s a bummer, I know. Plus, it seems that women who rely exclusively on pads are thought of having some weird hang ups about touching themselves or losing their virginity to a tampon. Not the case here, folks.

So what has been my solution?

Washable pads.

The verdict? So far so good. This particular brand is called Party in My Pants (eyeroll) and they’re actually pretty fantastic. They feel incredibly dry and are amazingly absorbent, despite being so thin. You can tell you are still wearing a pad, which makes me want to try out a few other brands. (I’ve heard good things about this Etsy seller). I decided against GladRags because it seemed a lot more work than the PIMPs. These don’t require any assembling or disassembling or special soaking (although I do rinse them out before tossing them in with the rest of the laundry).

I haven’t switched full time due to our lack of a washer/dryer and so I’ve been filling in gaps with Seventh Generation pads. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with them. The lack of chemicals is WAY easier on me than regular pads, and since I don’t go through too many in a month, they haven’t broke the bank.

Maybe one day I will switch to reusable pads full time in an effort to save the earth or something, but making these adjustments has greatly improved my experience ofle temps du mois.If you are up for it, I recommend one. If you are completely grossed out, I gotta point out that you probably don’t toss every pair of underwear that you’ve ever had a leak on, and it’s really about the same. But if that still isn’t your thing and you are looking to get rid of the wet trashbag filling, try the Seventh Generation pads.

So what do you use? Conventional pads and tampons? Diva cups? Sea Sponges? Just go camp out in a Red Tent for a few days?

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March

March is my least favorite month.

There. I said it. I feel very guilty about that since my husband’s birthday is March, but my dislike of March started well before I met him and hasn’t dissipated yet. March is a cruel month, stretching out the wait between winter and spring. And while I know that the spring will eventually come, March makes it feel as if it never will.

And seeing as how William and Mary hasn’t made it to the tournament in its past 320 years, the madness eludes me. Except that one time I did a bracket and won. Remember that, honey? And since I’m batting a thousand, I have retired.

March is long. It is cold. It is damp. It is unceasingly gray, with forecasts of low 40s and snow for the foreseeable future. It is the month of midterms and due dates, smugly nestled between the enthusiasm of a new semester and the promising glimmer of graduation. This weekend I have made it to page 98 of my thesis, an accomplishment made depressing by the realization my 3 committee members will be likely the only people to ever read it. But no matter how many pages I write (at least 20 to go), the sky outside of my office stays gray. 20120318-182329.jpg

And it’s in the middle of Lent. Somber, depressing, Lent. Lent is a time of fasting for Catholics (each person defines what their own fast is though), which lasts for about 40 long days.

But I love it. I don’t love it the sense of “oh my gosh! so much fun! this totally rocks!” love, but love it in the sense of I know it is good. It is hard, but it is good for me. It is amazing that no matter how spiritually subdued I am feeling, entering into this drab, dull season of the Church calendar can make me feel so alive.

I don’t enjoy it, but it’s good.

It’s what I always tell people about my time with JVC. Was it fun, awesome, amazing? Yeah, some days. But was it hard, challenging, stressful, overwhelming? More often than not. But it was good.

And I know that the earth taking this long, deep breath between snow and sun is good as well.

I might not enjoy it, but it is good.

 

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Lately I’ve been making our own laundry soap. Crazy, right? John’s been a good sport about indulging me in this venture and so I think we’ll keep it up for the near future.

The recipe:

1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
1 grated bar of ivory soap or fels naphtha.

Mix. Enjoy. I run it through the food processor to get the soap the same powdery consistency as the rest.

The result?

I can’t tell a difference between it and our old soap. We were using scent free gentle stuff before so it wasn’t a huge jump as it might be going from the regular stuff. It gets stuff clean and gets smells out which is good enough in my book. Other people might rhapsodize about how much softer it makes their clothes, but I don’t notice any difference like that. It works and is cheap, so it’s good enough for me!

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Every morning I see a little more of my breath, feel my nose a little less as I walk to work. I can feel it coming in the air. There is a bit of excitement to it, skis and snowmen are not far behind.

It’s coming. The cold.

When I was a kid we got the American Girl magazine and one of my favorite articles was on 50 ways to stay warm in the winter. I don’t remember many of them (besides putting your PJs in the dryer before getting in bed!) but I’m sure I tried most. Unfortunately  I can’t find the article on-line anywhere, so I will simply have to recreate it for you. So here are my (and my readers!) top tips for staying warm this winter without jacking up the thermostat. (and fall and spring if you live in Montana).

1. Layer. I know, I know its one of those tips that you hear all the time. But until I moved to Montana I didn’t know all of the things that you could layer. I swear I’ve seen people wearing two scarves before.

When I was a kid, I used to wear two pairs of underwear to go play in the snow. I don’t know why I was worried about my butt getting cold – that only happened when I was ice skating.

2. Every man for himself when it comes to the hot shower. First one up gets all the hot water. No exceptions, no mercy. Oh wait, y’all have hot water heaters that last more than one shower? Why are you even reading this?

3. Laugh when it starts snowing inside your house. Because it’ll melt quickly.

4. If you live in an apartment that has one tiny heater situated somewhere next to the door and very far away from the living space and you pay gas and your landlord pays electric (as one certain husband of mine used to), buy an electric space heater. Extra points if it looks like the Eye of Sauron. If you start having dreams about an evil eye lighting your house on fire, don’t blame me.

Also don’t do this if you pay your own electricity bill.

5. Cuddle. Mainly for the body heat. Don’t get too sappy about it. Pets work well too.

6. Eat soup. Drink soup? Just don’t slurp soup, that’s supposedly rude. I don’t think Emily Post has ruled decisively on that one though.

There’s something about a hot bowl of soup. Anyone who has lived with me can attest that I can barely cook anything in which “broth” is not one of the top ingredients. It’s the magic meal – take a few meager potatoes and onions, some pearl barley or quinoa and rice and you have yourself a meal. We invented a delicious squash & sausage soup recipe the other night. Perhaps I should share that one day.

7. Drink tea. Or cocoa. Cocoa is easier to sneak a shot of schnapps into, if you are so inclined. Either way, the respectable version or the adult version, it will keep you warm from the inside out.

8. Knit as much as you possibly can. If you knit for yourself, you will have things to keep you warm. If you knit for someone else, they will feel obligated to do things like buy you a cup of hot tea or pick up your next heating bill. The second one probably won’t happen though.

9. Make yourself a bean bag. I’m sure you can google it and find a blog that is actually “helpful” to show you how to do it. My advice is to sew a bag, fill it with beans, microwave, and repeat. Plus every time you do, your house will smell like food and when your significant other asks if you’ve been cooking, you can proudly respond, “No. Make your own dinner.”

10. When all else fails, get out. Find some warmth, be it in another state or at a friend’s house where you go and shiver and sigh awkwardly until they feel obligated to turn up their heat. Works every time.

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In short: because hamburgers are the most delicious food ever invented.

In long:

We don’t eat a ton of meat at Chez Blueberries. Which might surprise you if you know us, because we’re big fans of the stuff. But the truth is, 3/4 of our dinners are probably vegetarian, and virtually all of our breakfasts and lunches. If you count fish (’cause you know, fish don’t have little animal souls so they don’t really count) it’s probably more like 1/2 of our dinners are truly vegetarian.

Growing up  Irish Catholic, we both would go exactly 8 days a year without eating meat (Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent). I’m assuming for John anyway, but I know for me, at least two meals a day would feature meat as the star of the plate. Fast forward to college when I began living with a vegetarian (well technically a pescatarian but no one walks around calling themselves a pescatarian), though having no real ideological basis for her vegetarian state, she had little interest in converting me to her veggie only ways. The experience of cooking for myself full time meant that meat was becoming less and less a part of my diet. It was definitely still an every day part but occasionally I would mix up a meatless spaghetti-and-jarred-sauce entree. I was quite the chef.

I think the transition to meat-less (to be distinguished from meatless) began with this cookbook:

The Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special. To survive during my insanely busy college years (I swear, I think I hardly sat down besides to study before 10 most nights) I took to stirring up a pot of potage each week. Black bean soup, tortilla soup, Texas two bean soup, cucumber soup. Name a vegetable and I have probably pureed it into soup form. My JVC housemates in Spokane joked that whenever it was my turn to cook, it was soup. They were probably right. I think I made ziti once though.

The Moosewood cookbooks are incredible. People like to say “I don’t know how to cook vegetarian” to which I snarkily reply “Its easy, you leave out the meat in recipes.” And while that is how most of our JVC-induced vegetarian cooking went (when you have a budget of $14 a week per person for food, meat is not common), the Moosewood recipes are solid enough that you are halfway through the dish before you realize its veggie.

But I’m not a vegetarian. And even though this summer, with a CSA, an odd work schedule, and no air conditioning, our frying pans haven’t seen too much meat, I have no plans to become one. First off is the fact that I am on a strict low-acid diet, so cutting out a whole food group is a bad idea (and veganism would be beyond impossible so I won’t even go there).

But mainly, I have no qualms eating meat. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the country, but I am okay with the idea that some animals are dinner and some are pets. While I believe that animals are valuable creatures who contribute to the complexity of our eco-system and were put on this earth by God, I do not believe they have souls.

On the other hand, I do understand that vegetarianism is more sustainable, and if we truly want to feed all these people in the world, we need to think about how we are eating. Cows eat way more than we do, and thus take up a lot more land to feed one person than if you were just growing edible produce on that land. And so I believe that, if you eat meat, it should be done with consideration; it should be viewed as a luxury and not as a necessary part of your diet. To me that’s a far more convincing argument than animals have souls. ‘Cause you know, I’m a selfish person who believes human needs come first, and so if eating less meat is better for people (both health-wise and feeding-the-world-wise) then so be it.

But you know what? Besides this blog, I don’t go around talking about the fact that I don’t eat a lot of meat. I’m not going to label myself a “flexitarian” or create rules like “I only eat meat that I know where it comes from.” I’ll make a concerted effort to eat meat that is better for me, better for the earth, but that’s about it. Maybe I just don’t care enough and maybe one day I’ll care more, but for now I’m good. I’ll sink my teeth into a buffalo burger any day of the week. Well, unless it’s a Friday and during Lent.

I am at peace with this decision. I believe it’s honoring God’s creation without being legalistic. While I don’t miss meat at a meal without it, I certainly appreciate it when it’s there.

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It’s a hot one today.

Eighty degrees and climbing. I know I’m still resting in the shade of the Rocky Mountains, one of the coolest places in the country as this heat wave blasts through the nation as if someone had opened an oven door and let the heat pour out.

I love it.

Nothing feels better than holding a cool ice cube up to your forehead and letting it melt, dripping down your face an onto your lips, salty as the water mixes with your sweat. Pouring a cool cup of water over your head as you finish a bike ride, a race, or a day of gardening. Stepping into a shower and letting the water hit you in that one unbearable spot on your back between your shoulder blades, sending shockwaves of coolness right through your body.

I love it.

Summer time is freedom.

No extra layers to add on, worrying if you are bundled up enough, calculating how quickly you can get from point a to point b in the snow. There is no scraping windshields or shoveling sidewalks. Sandals, shorts, t-shirts and out the door.

Maybe not everyone would trade the shivering for the sweating, but I would in a heart beat. In the summer all you need to do is to be. To rest. To find a glass of sweet tea and some shade and to just sit and listen to the world.

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Essentially

I have a new love. Essential oils.

Yup, I’ve crossed that line. The one that took me from being pseudo-hippie like (in a very east coast prepster way) to being one of those people. You know. Remember that roommate of yours whose bedroom smells like a Bath and Body Works? Yup, I bet she used essential oils.

Okay, so it’s not that bad yet. But a few weeks ago I bought a bottle of rosemary and peppermint essential oils. I had read that you could make your own “natural icy hot” by combining those with some olive oil and sugar to make a “muscle relaxing scrub.”

A caveat – I use Icy Hot a lot. A whole lot. I basically walk around smelling like an antiseptic wintergreen lifesaver all day long. But I don’t care. It is the only thing that has been able to relieve my pelvic pain, and God bless my husband for suggesting it. (He probably didn’t foresee that he would have to go to bed with a girl smelling like a box of Altoids, lest he might not have suggested I try it).

So to avoid walking around smelling like a spilled bottle of Listerine, I decided to make my own icy hot by combining a few drops of peppermint and rosemary essential oils with some olive oil (those who are adept at this will probably realize that I should use a better “carrier oil” such as almond oil, but hush, I’m on a budget). That combo works okay, but let me tell you what could really give the Icy Hot corporation a run for its money. I bought a 2oz jar of unscented lotion and added a few drops of the oils to it. Holy goodness, it works like a charm. It’s not the same fire and ice cube sensation icy hot gives you, but a much subtler way to help your muscles relax. And just throwing out a guess here, probably better to use long term.

Another heavenly use of peppermint essential oil that we discovered this week? Because John is on week 2 of the-cold-from-hell, I’ve been doing some research on natural cold remedies. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a washcloth, toss it in the bottom of your shower, take a nice long hot shower, and you have yourself a delightful nose-clearing, throat soothing minty steam. I tried it myself when my allergies were giving my nose a run for its money, and it was quite lovely. I recommend it even if you aren’t sick. It just smells nice.

So while we haven’t whipped out any essential oil diffusers or branched into sandalwood, eucalyptus, bergamot or the like, I’ve enjoyed the foray into the world of essential oils. A side note – peppermint and rosemary are also supposed to improve concentration. So far nothing, no matter how much of it I inhale, has convinced me to stop checking G-Mail. In fact, right after applying some of these oils, I decided to write this post instead of researching WIC like I am supposed to be doing for this thesis. Oops.

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So I finally got around to watching the No Impact Man documentary.

The documentary follows the life of a man whose goal it is to make “no net impact on the earth” for a year. He and his family (well, really his family does just as much, but it’s called the no impact “man” which I’d be a little peeved about if I was his wife) go without TV, non-locally grown food, toilet paper, trash, and six months in electricity to see if it is possible to live in a completely green way.

I had heard fantabulous reviews, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed. You know when you get invited over to someone’s house for dinner, and the couple starts arguing about who was supposed to pick up the milk on the way home, and you are awkwardly trying to pretend like you are really interested in their wall calendar and can’t hear what they are saying?

That’s kind of what watching this movie is like. The couple gets into a lot of awkward arguments about why are they doing this, why she has to play along, if they should have a second kid, etc. I’m sure it’s very “real” but I ended up just feeling like an unwilling voyeur.

Another problem I had was that the documentary was not very educational. I think I was expecting a movie version of Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma which artfully combines personal experience with real world information. This movie, on the other hand, solely focuses on the personal experiences of the family, with the no-impact-man himself spouting out a few claims here and there about why recycling was bad.

It also gave me flashbacks to the early days of JVC when we were trying to decide just how “green” we should be.

On the other hand, it is interesting to watch someone actually talk about the things most of us just read about doing. It didn’t leave me feeling very inspired but it was worth a watch. It would’ve been a great knit-through movie, but my fingers have blisters all over them from trying to fix my Chaco straps. And that’s about as hippie as I’m gonna get today.

Check it out if it interests you, but if not, that’s fine too.

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My life would be significantly worse with out this:

It seriously is a magic cure all for any major fail. So, besides baking, here are a few of my favorite uses:

1) Mix 1/2 tsp with a cup of water and chug. Wonderful antacid. It’ll stop most any flare I am having in its tracks. So days where I am going to the bathroom 3x in 20 minutes, I’ll drink a little baking soda cocktail and I’m back to once an hour. I think it disturbs my husband a little how non-chalantly I can drink it. Plus, when you burp afterwards (and you will), it tastes like you drank a real soda.

My lawyers would like me to tell you that you should not drink too much baking soda, lest you alkalize your body, but from what I understand, 1/2 tsp occasionally is fine.

2) Washing those pans you meant to wash last week. Magic formula for washing anything stuck on: sprinkle some baking soda on it, add some water, put the pan back on a burner and scrub. Obviously, don’t burn your hand. Works like a charm!

3) Cleaning the toilet. Baking soda is abrasive so it works like comet to get any grime off. Also true for bathrooms, etc.

4) Canker sores. I get bad canker sores occasionally, and baking soda works to help calm them down. Either mix a little with water and put it on the sore, or make the recipe in #1 and use it as a mouthwash.

5) Cleaning my oven. I’ll sprinkle it on, the spritz some vinegar+water mix over it. Probably not as good as a legit oven cleaner, but I tend to forget to clean my oven regularly, and so I’ll be about to start baking my bread, look at it, and think “Ahh I don’t want my bread smelling like pot roast.” Unlike bleach, you don’t have to wait for hours to use the oven again. You can just get in there, scrub, and start baking.

What are your favorite uses for this wonder substance?

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Hey guys!

I’m over here today, at Angela Barton’s My Year Without Spending. She joined the Compact, a group that commits to not buying anything new and decided to blog about her experiences. I started following her blog when I was in JVC. She does a feature called “Thrifty Threads” where she invites people to submit pictures of their thrifted outfits. A couple months ago she said she was running low on submissions, so I decided to give it a whirl. Her blog is great, go check it out!

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