Alina Sewing and Design
Lately, that’s what has stayed front of mind as I think about the upcoming year. Simplicity. Spurred on by some time unplugged (I’ll get to that in the second part of this novel) and a domino effect of sorts started by making my own…everything.

First, it started with going “no-poo” (mentioned here) back in November of 2011. Then, I proceeded to watch every documentary available on Netflix that was related to or was about organic farming vs. conventional farming, the effect of chemicals in the home (household cleaners and beauty products alike) and/or the how the ecosystem works. Then, we started an organic garden a couple of months ago. 
Then, I read Homegrown and Handmade: a Practical Guide to Self-Reliant Living, by Deborah Niemann. I checked it out from the library, but it’s helpful enough that I would consider it well worth purchasing. Right now, I’m in the middle of Skinny Bitch: Home, Beauty & Style: A No-Nonsense Guide to Cutting the Crap Out of Your Life for a Better Body and a Kinder World, by Kim Barnouin (disclaimer: this book is EXTREMELY informative, but this author is well-known for her colorful language! Consider yourself warned.). In my books-to-read pile is: The Gorgeously Green Diet: How to Live Lean and Green, by Sophie Uliano; The Green Beauty Guide: Your Essential Resource to Organic and Natural Skin Care, Hair Care, Makeup, and Fragrances, and Green Beauty Recipes: Easy Homemade Recipes to Make Your Own Organic and Natural Skincare, Hair Care and Body Care Products, both by Julie Gabriel.
A few days ago, I bought a water bath canner (I’d been waiting for it to go on sale, which it finally did) and, after a trip to the farmer’s market, spent part of my weekend making and canning pasta/pizza sauce from scratch with farmer’s market (mostly organic) freshly-picked whole tomatoes. Next up is jams. I’m coming close to perfecting my bread recipe (low in sugar and oil, 100% whole wheat + ground flax seed and still beautifully hearty and light at the same time). Last week, I learned how to make my own fresh almond butter and granola (which goes beautifully with the batch of greek yogurt I make every week).
You get the picture.
I’ve been learning how to rid our home of chemicals and processed foods. I’ve thrown away countless bottles of half-used lotions, creams, cleaners, etc. My rule of thumb is that if I can’t safely consume it, I’ll think long and hard before I use it to clean our house, clothes (the occasional bleach cycle is the exception) or our bodies. My cabinets are becoming clutter-free, my recipes are becoming something I’m proud to serve to people and my beauty “routine” has become so, so simple.
No, I haven’t made my life easier; it would be [a whole lot] easier (and cheaper on the food side sometimes–not all of the time) to buy processed foods, pre-made cleaners and beauty products. But my life is simpler for the mere fact that I know what I am consuming and/or lathering all over my skin and hair. And I’m healthier for it.
So why is this important to me? 
  1. Because, first of all, you can’t take in this much information about these topics without feeling a sense of need to change how you’re living and treating your body. 
  2. Second, it’s important to me to keep both myself and my husband healthy (as much of it is in my control, anyway…which you know isn’t any at all, if you believe in the same God I do)…and because someday, babies will be welcomed into the home we’re working to build. And so it’s important to me to begin making small changes every week to clean up our habits so that by the time that season of life rolls around, I’ll feel a little more, in theory, “ready.” I want to have these recipes (for home cleaners and the like) down and the habits made so that it will be easy to see through in the long run.
  3. I AM actually saving money by making bread, granola, greek yogurt, household cleaners, “shampoo” and “conditioner,” lotion bars, deodorant, pasta sauce, pizza dough, etc. from scratch. I’m investing my time, but I’m saving A LOT of money. Because of that, I feel much more at ease about buying the organic versions of the “dirty dozen” fruits/vegetables.
  4. Finally, because there’s a great sense of pride that goes along with “making your own.”
So here’s the thing: I realize that the Lord has recently placed me within a season of life that allows me more free time…or at least an extremely flexible schedule, and we don’t have littles yet, which makes these changes and ventures 100% easier. 
My heart’s desire is to be responsible and to be a good steward with the flexibility he’s given me. I want to build a clean and safe home, but I also want to pour into the lives of the people around us. You may or may not know this, but Cowboy and I will be leaving Wichita to move across the country next May-June to begin residency at a naval hospital. Away from our church, our families and our [in some cases, lifelong] friends. So, as a result, I’ve been focusing on unplugging as much as possible. My phone is no longer with me at all times and my blog posts have become few and far between. I don’t dislike my phone (OK, really, I’m talking about every stinking facebook notification that would make my phone buzz…I put a stop to that) or my blog (I love you guys), but I simply needed to re-focus the time I was investing in those things. I’m focusing on being available for people (not something that comes naturally to me as I like to stay busy with my own to-do lists and projects) and having the attitude of willingness to drop whatever I’m doing or whatever I had planned for day to be able to spend some time with people. The Lord is growing me and preparing me (though I’m not entirely sure what all for) and I feel so incredibly grateful for this current season of flexibility as the clock ticks on our time left in Wichita.
So, while My Yellow Umbrella isn’t going anywhere, understand that the posts probably won’t be as often as they once were. Just know I’m redirecting that time into relationships. I will however, give you a round-up, Instagram-style of what’s been going on in our house lately. 🙂

From top to bottom, left to right:
1. 25 lbs. of organic farmer’s market tomatoes became 3.5 quarts of canned pizza/pasta sauce for the winter!
2. Yikes, a tiny little mouse popped out of the box of mason jars I was digging through in the garage. He was set free in the back yard shortly after the photo was taken. 🙂
3. Cowboy took me on a mystery date…to the rodeo!!
4. New canning set!
5. Cooper is sleeping well these days.
6. Homemade citronella candles (all soy wax!)
7. Finally finished hand-painting the sign for the living room. It reads, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. – Abraham Lincoln”
8. Full set of 8 metal bowls/plates/cups for camping…for $5 at a warehouse sale!
9. Homemade bread and fresh basil. Yummmmm.

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