Not All Driveways are Created Equal


If you happen upon my driveway and turn off the road you will find yourself surrounded by nothing but woods.

If you keep going, soon you won’t see the road from which you turned or the house at the end sitting in a small clearing.

Every time I make this drive I savor those few magical
moments when this is my view.

I Will Not Risk the Economy of My Country


And so it came to pass…

Another year in the life of my tiny little baby who magically turned 5 when I blinked. Each year I think,  time can’t possibly go any faster and yet, it does.

“Children age you.”

I always thought that meant physically,with the stress, worry lines and gray hairs, but that’s not it. It’s that time goes by right in front of you. A little living breathing calendar reminding you of each day that has past. I don’t like it, not one little bit. Soon it will be time for cars and crushes. Thankfully today, a dolly makes her giggle.

I started the Birthday shopping looking for clothes for my girls’ 12 inch baby dolls. But apparently 18 inch is all there is. Although… what they have for 18 inch dolls, make my heart flutter. You see, I was a little girl the first time the American Girl Doll catalog showed up in the mail. Oh how I dreamed, I mean really dreamed of owning Felicity. Felicity was a young girl from the colonial era and had her very own hunter green riding habit. She also had a Queen Anne table and chairs, A TEA SERVICE with a TEA CADDY! I did not know that such wonders existed. But alas, the cost was at least a month’s worth of groceries, maybe more.

 I knew she would never be mine.

images (1) F2940_main_1 SETFELICITY_D4371_main_1

Drooling over all the 18 inch doll clothes and accessories I began to think, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for my their very own American Girl Doll. The accessories would have to wait, my now 3 year old is far too much of a tornado for tiny tea cups, but dolls and clothes, she could handle. And so with anxious anticipation I typed in American Girl Dolls in my search bar. As I quickly clicked a link that looked promising, I saw a word, it flitted across my mind for a second, but I ignore it.  I’m on a mission to relive my childhood. They are expensive for sure, but something else is missing. Their stories are boring, Felicity lived through the Revolutionary War, Molly, WWII, but these new dolls lived through a gymnastics injury!? I mean sure Addie made it through slavery, that compares to the horrors of gymnastics, right?

And so I decided I would try and find my old Felicity and maybe her pioneer trekking friend, Kirsten. So once again with excitement I returned to my Google search and there was the word I had not allowed to sink in. MATTEL. This was no longer the quality made, history driven dolls of my little girls years. They were instead from the land of Barbie

Of course, everything good loses it’s flavor after a while, everything quality with meaning turns to corporatism. It is the country I call home and there isn’t much I can do about it, except…. NOT BUY AN AMERICAN GIRL DOLL. I use the spending and withholding of money as my voice. A tiny whisper in the ear deafening roar of screaming fans. Or followers.

I did a little research and it turns out there are several other companies who make dolls almost, if not as, comparable to the aforementioned doll company. They are still Chinese plastic, but at least they don’t pretend otherwise. Go ahead, try to find the word Mattel in the American Girl Doll website. I dare ya.

I read several reviewers and finally decided on Our Generation dolls. They are fairly well made, much cheaper in price and give a percentage to charity. They are not my beloved Felicity, but at least now for Christmas I can get, I mean I can give my girls this…


and this…


oh yea and this…..


and oh my heavens this…


Be still my heart, this..


Look what I found on Ebay!


OK, I might give up my American Girl Doll boycott for this…


After all…Imma Murican, I have to contribute to some corporatism, otherwise the economy will fail. Right…. RIGHT?!

A Cow, A Goat, 4 Chickens and Chest Pains

I have been cleaning, decluttering, painting and all around beautifying.

And then…IT happened.


First came the news that our Annabelle (bovine) is pregnant. One of the bull calves we put on her to nurse, grew up and took over the role of paramour. She is almost 7 months along which means we will need to stop milking her soon. Only those who live with fresh milk from their backyard will understand the worry that came over me knowing  we would no longer have fresh milk available. So in true form we delved head strong into getting a goat. Aldonza, a sweet gentle LaMancha is now in our pasture. Fences must be replaced, gardens must be protected and the existing animals must be gently introduced to the newest family member.

Definitely looking forward to the cheese.


Next came the matter of our egg layers, who are now basically pets, they are either laying in some obscure location or have decided to retire. I would gladly stew the Rhode Island Reds, Henny and Penny, as they are not the friendliest, but Mrs. Orpington is the girl who loves too tight hugs from my 2 year old and will then follow her around for more. How do you make soup out of an animal that loves hugs?!

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So next we found ourselves in a stranger’s backyard, large fishing net in hand terrorizing 4 laying hens to relocate to our little farm, names to be determined at a later date.


Once all things on the milk and egg front calmed down, I found myself sitting in the ER with chest pains. If I had just waited 6 hours I would have discovered a virus that would make it’s way through each member of my family, morphing into a different symptom with each incubation. My body weakness is muscle tension so it was no surprise Doc thought it was muscular. I am pleased to report that despite a hereditary heart problem my ticker is in perfect shape.

As we began to make progress in health it was time to take a look at the state of my much too ignored home, only to discover, the washing machine decided it was time to say adieu and the small drip from the garbage disposal I was managing with a tupperware container was now gushing.

As  a final “how do you do” we received the sad news that my husbands best job prospect demanded he work in Baltimore, Maryland where homeschool laws are absurd and the next best prospect would not be needing him to relocate until next spring. Hope is still alive, but the urgency for a ready to sale home is not.

Life, IT happens.

The purpose of this post is to get my patooty back in gear. Our home deserves to be beautiful and stress free whether we sell it to someone else or spend yet another winter here in Utah.

After finishing the room downstairs, my youngest started asking  to sleep in the “pretty bed downstairs”. I had spent so much energy on “getting the basement finished”, I didn’t realize my children would feel left out.

IMG_2457 bed

When my first was born we bought a beautiful convertible crib (crib, toddler bed, daybed, full bed).  When my second was old enough I purchased a second toddler mattress and slipped it under the daybed as a trundle and this has been their bedroom for some time.  I expected at some point they would share the full size bed, but their personalities are not shaping up in a way that makes that expectation seem plausible. So I think it’s time to define their spaces.

Here’s the plan:

I’m going to make 2 toddler beds. That’s right I’m going to make them. I just can’t see spending money on furniture that will last only a few years.

Paint the walls. Keep me in your thoughts, I’m having a hard time with neutral. I want pink walls and so do the girls.

Toys will be limited to a few.

Create 2 full bed sets. Pillow cases, throw pillows and comforter. I’ll probably buy the bed skirt, that actually seems too difficult to sew.

Art for the walls.

New curtains

New furniture, well new to us. I will be scouring the classifieds and thrift stores.


Top 65 Essential Kitchen Tools


What are the essential tools every kitchen needs?

While I’m attempting to beautify my home room by room I’m also deep cleaning, decluttering and making sure I have everything I need for that room to be useful. Which means the kitchen has been a huge undertaking. I know they say start with your biggest project first. I flaunted the general consensus and did my pantry and laundry room first. It gave me a little confidence and helped me along my path.

As I watch my kitchen makeover gradually come to fruition I knew what my next project would be. Using my kitchen. So what do I need to make sure my kitchen is useful?

“Get people back in the kitchen and combat the trend toward processed food and fast food.” Andrew Weil

Here is a good list for all things kitchen essentials. I needed a few more things than listed here, but it gave me a good start.

Katie at Wellness Mama has a wonderful list with several things I hadn’t thought to “need”. She is a fount of knowledge and my go to for so much. She speed reads medical dictionaries for fun, for heaven’s sake. I highly suggest you take a moment and visit her blog. If you don’t learn something new,  I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

Although both these lists are good, what I really need is a paired down list for a small kitchen and even smaller budget.

 My List of the Top 65 Kitchen Essentials

kitchen pots


  1. Cast Iron Skillet
  2. 2 large Pots for Pasta etc.
  3.  Sauce Pan
  4.  2 Large 9×12 Glass Lasagna Pan
  5.  2 Glass Casserole Dishes
  6.  Cast Iron Bread Pan
  7.  Cast Iron 9×9 brownie pan
  8.  Cast Iron Cookie Sheet
  9.  Cast Iron Muffin Pan
  10.  2 Cake Pans
  11.  Glass containers with Lids for leftovers
  12. Mixing bowls


Kitchen Gadgets and Tools

  1. can opener
  2. cheese Grater
  3. nutmeg Grater
  4. bread Knife
  5. chef’s Knife
  6. paring knife
  7. knife sharpener
  8. vegetable peeler
  9. meat thermometer
  10. candy thermometer
  11. whisk
  12. slotted spoon
  13. rubber spatula
  14. large spoon
  15. large ladle
  16. small ladle
  17. slotted spatula
  18. flat spatula
  19. wooden fork
  20. wooden spoons
  21. wooden spatula
  22. steamer basket
  23. potato masher
  24. salt and pepper grinder
  25. salad spinner
  26. colander
  27. cutting board
  28. measuring spoons and cups
  29. glass measuring cup for liquids
  30. rolling pin


Linens and Dishes

  1. dish towels
  2. cheese cloth
  3. oven mitts
  4. oven pads
  5. french press
  6. mugs
  7. glasses
  8. dishes
  9. silverware



  1. crock pot
  2. blender
  3. mixer
  4. toaster or toaster oven
  5. electric tea kettle (stove top would be just fine)



  1. canning jars
  2. large stock pot
  3. water bath canner
  4. Pressure canner (I’m still scarred by the volcanic explosion of canned beans I witnessed as a child, so I don’t have one, but to each their own.)
  5. jar rings
  6. canning lids
  7. magnetic lid lifter
  8. jar lifter
  9. funnel

Non Essential Appliances One Might Want

  1. food processor
  2. electric grill
  3. hand mixer
  4. dehydrator
  5. juicer
  6. immersion blender
  7. coffee pot
  8. rice cooker
  9. bread machine


Click Here for Printable  List of the Top 65 Kitchen Essentials

I realize this list of 65 Kitchen Essentials doesn’t cover everything you could possibly want. This list is for my family’s needs and our small kitchen. I wanted a clear concise list that I could print out, walk through my kitchen and check off. That way next time I’m puttering around the thrift store I’ll have a better idea of  what we need and I can drop off the things we don’t.

The Lies “They” Tell

Skin, the largest organ on our body, absorbs almost 60% of what we put on it into the blood stream. There is no filter. It would be better to drink your shampoo than to put in on your skin. At least your saliva, intestinal tract, kidneys and liver would get a chance to clean out those nasty chemicals. On your skin, it goes straight into your system. A very scary thought when one starts shopping for baby’s first bath.

There are a few things I have discovered along the way that shocked me when it comes to baby products. First that any company would put anything toxic in a child’s product, secondly that they would then lie to us. Not just about it’s safety which is bad enough,  but about what is in their products.

Here are a few of the mistruths:


You keep using that word, I do not think it means, what you think it means. If you are like me, unscented means fragrance hasn’t been added. What it actually means is fragrance has been added to mask the scent of chemicals, but nothing you can actually smell. Look for the phrase Fragrance Free.

Tear Free

This one actually made me cry a little bit, pardon the pun.  Tear free doesn’t mean there are no tear inducing chemicals, it means they have added a  numbing agent or tear duct paralyzer so the harsh chemicals don’t burn little baby eyes. Yea, you read that right. This is where it gets even worse, the chemical used may not even be listed on the bottle. When looking for a baby wash or shampoo look for the ingredients PEG  followed by a number. And if you think it can’t get worse, scientists do not know what impact PEG’s can have. Are you crying yet?


Here is another tear jerker. I naively assumed fragrance was fragrance. Some were just essential oils, some were harmful synthetics, but they are just stuff that makes a product smell good. WRONG! Since the FDA allows fragrance to be called a “trade secret” any manufacturer can load up “fragrance” with a stew of chemicals and never list the ingredients. The term “fragrance” on a label could be ANYTHING! Most of which have not even been assessed for safety. How could they be, it’s a “secret”.

Now for something completely different, scary ingredients:

Parabens– a synthetic preservative, can  interfere with the production and release of hormones

Phthalates– fragrance preservative,  known carcinogen,  organ damage, birth defects, decreased sperm counts and early breast development in both girls and boys

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – This is a big one, it’s a surfacant in just about every soap for the body there is and it has many names, Sodium laureth sulfate, ammonium laurel sulfate,  Sodium dodecyl sulfate, A13-00356, Sulfuric acid, monododecyl ester, sodium salt, Akyposal SDS, Sodium salt sulfuric acid, Aquarex ME, Monododecyl ester sodium salt sulfuric acid and Aquarex methyl. Known side effects include allergies, organ damage, cancer, mutations (no idea what this is really, but who wants it), developmental issues, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption and reproductive concerns

Propylene Glycol-  also known as  1,2-Dihydroxypropane, 1,2-Propanediol, Methyl glycol, and Trimethyl glycol, known to cause organ damage and respiratory issues

Triclosan- also known as triclocarbon, it’s antibacterial. So if it says antibacterial, you can bet it’s most likely in there. Known side effects are liver damage, and thyroid function disruption

Formaldehyde– I covered this in my last post here.

Soap by nature is alkaline so it’s going to burn. Trust me I have personally burned my eyes with many an organic tear free shampoo. There are some that are less irritating than others and have healthier ingredients. But in the end, the best thing you can do is teach your children to tilt their head and close their eyes. Until that time don’t let them get it in their eyes. Sorry that is just the way it is.

With that written, here are the brands I have researched and used. 

California Baby – It did irritate my eyes a little, but it didn’t burn. It’s ingredients are low in toxicity, but not entirely chemical free. But for what you can now find in most grocery store shelves this is the best and easiest available.

Everyday Shea– I buy this at Whole Foods and I absolutely love it. It makes the best bubbles, it is missing all those nasty unpronounceable names and is a fair trade item to boot. I didn’t much like how it felt in my eyes, but it doesn’t burn.

Now here’s the one my Mother In Law is going to hate.

Don’t use soap that often! Water and a soft cloth between all those sweet little folds is really all a baby needs on a daily basis. Every other day or 3 or even once a week use soap. The days of daily baths with pungent washes, oils and powders are gone. It’s been proven time and time again this is so not healthy for the little ones.


Chemical Fears of A Mother

When I discovered I was expecting my first child I went about pregnancy much as I would have any other situation. Educate myself on what I should know, make decisions and move in their direction without prejudice or fear. Well, that is not entirely honest, fear has always been a part of my life, but never in control. I have always acted with courage. Whether right or wrong, once I made a decision I moved forward. I once walked in a Subway and loudly demanded to know who had left their dog tied outside in 10 degree weather for over an hour. When several large construction workers in line turned to look at me, it gave me only a moments pause. Turns out it was a woman in the store next door and those men were just as outraged and put the fear of God in her more than I ever could. I have always experienced fear, but if anything it was a motivator.

Until I had my children.

Now fear can cripple me in an instant and turn me into a self doubting mess. Nothing more so than discovering the toxic chemicals that are commonly found in every household, on every grocery store aisle, in car seats, clothes, pillows, mattresses, couches, fake Christmas trees….I could go on and on. They are everywhere and can not be avoided. Where do I shop, what do I buy, what is safe, what is it doing to my children?  My children are getting poisoned everyday, by the things I buy and bring to them.  It makes me shudder.

My Husband got me thinking about this when he offered our outgrown car seat to a expecting Mother at work. She was beside herself. She couldn’t find a  car seat  that wasn’t treated with flame retardant. She was beginning to experience the fear too. My heart went out to her. As my Husband began to relay all the various surprising facts about seemingly harmless products she began making notes. There were things she had never thought about. ” My wife has a whole list, are you sure you want to know these things?” he asked. “Yes” she demanded. So Megan, this post is for you.

There are a great many chemicals, but for today I’m going to cover just 2. In my opinion the 2 most prevalent and noxious chemicals and what to do about them.

Flame Retardants

 This chemical is linked to cancer, reproductive concerns, lower IQ’s and organ damage

Found In

Mattresses, pillows, children’s sleepwear, comforters, all upholstered furniture (including children’s furniture), children’s car seats, curtains, fabric blinds, carpet, car interiors, citrus drinks ( Gatorade, Fresca etc), as well as many electronics. Their are more products, but these are the ones that touch our lives on a daily basis. If it is filled with stuffing it will be treated. Keep that in mind.

What you can do

Buy Preowned! Flame retardants will off gas over time. Some research says around the year mark the majority of flame retardants are gone. The one exception is the label “inherently flame resistant”. This is a synthetic flame retardant bonded to the thread before the fabric is made. It will never off gas. Children’s products and furniture can all be easily purchased through Ebay, garage sales, Craig’s list and thrift stores. Ask for hand me downs and check classifieds. I know for some people this is bothersome. They want to run out and purchase all new things for their precious child because they believe this is the safest thing to do. When in fact it is the opposite.

Car seats… *sigh*… this is about the saddest new purchase you will make for your little one. There is no way to avoid your new car seat being full of toxic chemicals. There are some companies such as Orbit that are better, but not by much and they are pricey. Check for the health rating. Be aware they do not test for all types of flame retardants, but it is the best resource I have found. Also check Etsy for handmade car seat covers. This will help minimize skin contact. Take off the cover and wash it with a free and clear non toxic detergent and let the whole thing sit outside for as long as you possibly can before use. Once installed air out your car as often as possible. Purchasing a used car seat can be scary, I will grant you that.  You’ll have to depend on luck to find the one that has the safety rating you want. Hand me downs are nice, because you can be sure it hasn’t been banged about and abused. Check recall notices at  and give it a good look over for anything loose or missing.

Purchase 100% cotton snug fitting pajamas. These are not treated.

If you must buy new ask for the display model. Most places will gladly let you have the display model if you simply explain your child has a chemical sensitivity and the chemicals on the display model have had a chance to dissipate. Most people will jump at the chance to help you. It’s not a lie, it is a truth, but it does imply that your child has a special need. If this bothers you then tell them the whole truth. It might work too. I tried that and the sales rep looked at me like I was a loon and was even less helpful after that. Give all new items a good go over with a free & clear soap and put it outside to dry. Let it sit in the clean air and sunshine to off gas.

Check your labels. Do not give your child a fruity beverage without first looking for the ingredient brominated vegetable oil or BVO( flame retardant). Many companies are beginning to remove it such as Pepsi, but several have not. I know! This one was a shocker, flame retardant in beverages?! It’s used to make sure the citrus bits don’t make the beverage cloudy. Seriously.


This chemical is linked to cancer, allergies and a myriad of respiratory concerns

Found In

Pressed wood(most inexpensive furniture is made of pressed wood). It is abundant in new homes, as it is found in timber, cabinetry, insulation, caulk, paint, polyurethane, insulation, carpet glue etc.  Also found in household glue, baby shampoo, baby body wash, adult hair care products, most all antibacterial products, many bar soaps, sunblock, cosmetics, baby wipes, toothpaste, many household cleaning products, facial tissues, sanitary napkins and the list goes on. This  is my most hated chemical. It’s in everything.

What you can do

Make your own household cleaning products. Type in “natural homemade cleaning products” in your search bar and you will find a wealth of ways to clean your home better, cheaper and healthier. I clean my house using only vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice,  free & clear organic dish soap and tea tree oil. For just a few minutes and a few dollars you will feel like a homemaking super star.

Buy eco friendly or organic personal care items. Be careful, there is a lot of “greenwashing”. A simple plant derived ingredient or one organic ingredient allows manufacturers to label as such. You are going to have to do your research here. I wish there was a list somewhere, but there isn’t. My best research for baby items is Mommy sites. Mothers are always happy to share their research and experiences.

Buy preowned furniture and homes! Formaldehyde will also off gas.  If you must have new then once again opt for display or older models. Buy the RV, boat or car that has been sitting on the lot off gassing. Or look for model homes or new built homes where the deal fell through.

If you already bought that new home keep at least one window open in your home at all times and buy some plants. ( be careful if you have cats, they will eat them and a great many are toxic to kitties). Also you can “burn out” some of the formaldehyde by cranking up your heat for 24 hours, then open up all the windows and air it out for 24 hours and repeat for a week. This requires  a vacation and a helpful friend or neighbor. But even a full 48 hours is better than nothing.

Read your labels, sadly it won’t say formaldehyde. That would be too easy. Here is what you should look for.

  • Formalin,
  • Methanal
  • Oxymethyline
  • Urea
  • 1.3-* Doxetane
  • Quaternium 15
  • Methylaledyde
  • Methylene Oxide
  • Formic Aldehyde
  • Oxomethane Formalin
  • Phenol Formaldehyde
  •  2-bromo
  • 2-nitropropane
  •  1,3 diol (Bronopol or BNPD)
  •  DMDM hydantion
  •  Diazolidinyl urea.

There are a great many dangerous chemicals in our lives and it is impossible to keep them all out. I will be covering more of these lurking chemicals, unfortunately there are just too many for one post and too little time to get it done in one day. But there are ways to minimize them, it starts with education and then changing the way we shop and sadly the way we see the world. Nothing is as it seems.

  • New is seldom better
  • Eco friendly can be a lie
  • Antibacterial is unhealthy
  • Just because it’s for babies doesn’t mean manufacturers care more about their ingredients (this one was particularly hard for me to stomach)


What Anam Baile Means To Me

Anam Baile is Gaelic. Loosely translated it means Spirit Home. I started this blog to organize my brain. I have a very clear vision of what life should be for my family. It’s like a brilliant diamond  with so many facets the glare often blurs them from my vision. My intention is to see it written, to feel the accomplishment in photos and maybe even clear the glare for someone else.

First and foremost I want a spiritual existence for my Family. I don’t mean religion, I mean a connection to the Earth. I want my children to know life was taken for their cheeseburger and that fresh milk tastes like nothing that can be bought in a store. I want them to feel the dirt from their very own vegetable garden. I want them to appreciate the squawking of a hen, because that means fresh eggs will be on our table. I want them to feel the loss when a neighbor cuts down a 200 year old tree for better curb appeal. I want them to appreciate what the Earth has to offer and be grateful. Not an entitled taker. It’s not an easy choice to make. The hardest part is actually knowing the life that will someday be taken to feed my family. I think most people would prefer to have it neatly done somewhere else, by someone else. But there is no amount of money that can buy the knowledge that the animal in question was given a good life, good clean food and a quick end. More importantly it was given our deepest gratitude.

The work of raising clean food is toil. It’s dirty, it’s cold ache in the winter and hot stinkiness in the summer. And yet there are moments, beautiful, spirit moving moments. There was a time you could find me in the moonlight weeding our vegetables. I loved that. I stopped when kiddo number 2 came about, but I intend to get back in that dirt next spring. There is a love that develops when you milk a cow. When we first got Annabelle, she had not had the best of living conditions. So to calm her while milking, I sang to her. That is something that I will always remember. There was the time we stayed up all night dousing Annabelle with baking soda because she got in the grain bin. It’s commonly called grain overload and frequently a killer. She made it through and ah the joy of hearing that first belch. (it means her digestive was back to normal). We love her, we respect her and we need her. She is the most important animal in the world to our family. She’s feisty, fierce and gentle. These are the things I want for my family.


On the surface I also want a beautiful home. Not something I bought at West Elm, but something I imagined into existence from something whose usefulness had ceased to exist. 

But in the end all I really want is a happy world for my family. A happy world to me includes abundant music, laughter, hugs, kisses, dancing, reading and beauty. Sometimes we get a day with all those things, sometimes it’s just hugs and kisses.