Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ode to Amazon

I have decided that Amazon is a busy mom's best friend. I always used the site to purchase books, movies and the occasional gift but I have discovered a whole new appreciation for Amazon since A was born. You can buy virtually everything there! I got sucked in when I signed up for Amazon Mom, a nifty little free program which lets you try Amazon Prime for free for a set amount of time (a month, maybe?) but will add on additional time with qualifying purchases. Basically, I utilized the service plenty while I was mega pregnant and right after A was born and we ended up with a whole year for free*! (*Yes, I realize that my "freebie" was the result of me buying lots of things so it wasn't exactly free. Still, these were things I would have bought anyway.) Amazon Prime  members get some pretty sweet benefits, the most important of which is free 2-day shipping on any Prime-eligible products (there are thousands) without any minimum purchase. We also have access to free movies and tv, the Kindle lending library and I can add several other friends on for them to be able to buy items with free 2-day shipping too. The catch is that this service costs $79 a year but we no longer subscribe to Netflix (approximately $96 a year), I buy fewer books and I am able to make fewer stops when running errands. The bonus is that I have also discovered that many of our household products are actually cheaper on Amazon than at my local stores.

I have had several people ask what I buy there and the extensive list, frankly, is a bit embarrassing. Here are some things that I have bought in the last 90 days: gifts (DVDs, a blanket, toys), canned dog food, organic applesauce, hair product, hemp diaper doublers, essential oils, air purifier filters, books and dog treats. How is that for a hodgepodge? And all of these things showed up on my doorstep approximately 48 hours after ordering them, which is just awesome! I will admit that I feel bad about taking business away from my local economy because I truly see the value in shopping locally. But the hassle of dragging a fussy toddler to four stores to find what I need for $2 more (plus the gas from driving around) makes me choose Amazon for this era of my life. Also, many of the items I buy on there arent available to me locally (like the canned dog food we like or the diaper doublers.) I assure myself that I will go back to buying many things locally in a few years and I hope to hold myself to doing just that.

Do you shop online? If so, have you found it to be as handy as I have? What do you like to buy from Amazon?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stainless Steel Cookware Love & Tips

I love to cook and bake and I enjoy having nice kitchenware. I used T-fal for years because of how convenient it was for clean-up as it virtually cleans itself. It is the cookware my parents have always used so I guess it was just what was comfortable for me.  Then, I started hearing rumors of it not being safe a few years back. Basically, the speculation is that anything treated with the Teflon coating can be dangerous as Teflon is a carcinogen. Great, huh? After researching the claims a bit more, I discovered that DuPont, the company who developed Teflon has even admitted the potential for danger. According to them, Teflon cookware should be discarded once it is scratched, scuffed or damaged as it becomes dangerous at that time. They say that it is safe so long as it is intact and not heated empty (apparently this also releases toxins).

Well, suffice it to say, I really wanted to rid my home of this chemical. In general, I didn't view it as a necessary risk since many people love their stainless steel cookware. And I no longer felt safe using it.  So, we saved and I eventually replaced all of my T-fal with Cuisinart stainless steel cookware.  We have had the stainless cookware for about a year and I have been pleasantly surprised by just how much I love it. It heats quickly, cooks evenly and is much easier to clean than I ever expected. A little Bar Keepers Friend and scrubbing takes most foods out very easily. Really the only food that frustrates me is pancakes. It isn't so much the pancakes themselves but rather, the oil I use to cook them in. It tends to burn on the edges a bit and is very difficult to clean out.  Bar Keepers Friend helps with the issue, but it usually requires lots of scrubbing and multiple rounds. Yuck. Who has time for that? Anyway, enter baking soda!! Just sprinkle a bit on the burnt oil spots and let it sit overnight or for several hours. Don't scrub or do anything, just sprinkle a healthy amount over the burnt spot. After it has set overnight, scrub it and most of your burnt food/oil will come right off.  Sometimes, this removes everything but I will frequently need to scrub a little with the baking soda to remove the last few bits. This is such a handy and cheap discovery. See below for before and after pics:




And really folks, this is minimal to no scrubbing, just putting the baking soda on the grease spots. I love my shiny cookware :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Negative Post

Some days you're the bug and some days you're the windshield, right? Man oh man, can I relate to being the bug lately. I am baffled at how I am so busy. Really, a year ago at this time, I was working full-time, doing bookkeeping part-time and caring for a newborn. I see why I was a mess then, but why now? How on earth am I feeling so overwhelmed and how am I not ahead yet? Exactly when will I get it together?

I have a sneaking suspicion that my expectations just aren't realistic. And the older I get, the more I am reminded that expectations are the root of all disappointments in life. Think about it, if you expect little or nothing, you will never be disappointed! Expecting little or nothing from life is the challenge, though. And I'm not saying to lower expectations where it counts, folks. I'm just saying that the world will not come to a halt if I leave dishes in the sink when I go to work, don't mop for a week, etc.  I have been striving to expect less, especially since becoming a mother. I have all but given up on expecting to arrive on time to any event, with everything we need - it just isn't likely to happen. Something will be forgotten, we'll be late or some other bizarre kid-tastrophy will occur (ie, the soaking wet socks and lost shoe I discovered last week after hurrying to an appointment). *sigh* Lesson learned: I must leave my child's feet naked while traveling as he hates wearing socks and is mesmerized by playing with his shoes. I'm still feeling guilty over a conversation with a fellow mommy a couple weeks ago as she lamented about mopping her floors daily. I nodded in agreement, while quietly beating myself up. I mop every week or two...bad mommy I am. Oh well, my kid will have better immunity for playing amongst all that dirt, right? This is what I tell myself anyway.

And while on the subject of expectations, can all agree that Pinterest sucks? It WILL be the final nail in our sanities' coffins, I am convinced. Really, who has time for all this Martha Stewart-esque perfection? Not I, my friends, not I. I think it is fun to peruse here and there and get an idea or two. But beyond that, no thanks. So to anyone thinking I have it all together, let me assure you I do not. Still, I have my loving family and we snuggle, play and laugh each day. These things are what matters, right? I think so. Here's to hoping we can all be the windshields next week.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mystical Magical Dr Bronner's Soap

One of the first earth mama products I tried was Dr Bronner's liquid Castile soap. Described by Dr Bronner's and his peeps as "magical", these soaps boast 18 different uses. Considering can you buy this stuff by the quart for about $17 and it's super-concentrated, it's not a bad deal for an Eco-friendly product.  Most of my interest stemmed from a desire to use this as a basic hand soap in my home. Long ago, we'd stopped using antibacterial soaps in our home but I wanted a greener option overall. So I figured any additional uses for this product beyond hand soap were gravy.  I excitedly picked up a couple bottles at my local Target to try.

I had read a bit about the Dr Bronner's Castile soap and knew that it needs to be diluted for most purposes since it is so concentrated. For hand soap, I had read to dilute it with about 4 parts water for each part of soap. This creates a really thin liquid which would be tough to use with a traditional dispenser so I picked up some cheap foam soaps so I would have their dispensers. (Technically, you can just buy the dispensers as well but I wasn't able to find any that weren't outrageously priced.) We have been using the Dr Bronner's soap I our house for about five months and, overall, I'm very pleased! I have begun diluting the soap a bit more than I was in the beginning but we have a water softener so soap goes a long way at our house. Also, the Dr Bronner's can be drying to skin so I try to use the minimal amount to get the job done. Overall, this is a great use for this green product and I have no doubts that we save money by using it. Plus, it is a toxin-free soap, which I love. (No icky triclosan or sodium lauryl sulfate here!) There are a variety of scents you can buy, including lavender, peppermint and almond and there is an unscented version as well.

Another use I'd read about was using the Dr Bronner's as a toothpaste. Since I've already ventured into natural toothpastes, I figured why not try this too? I put a little of our peppermint soap on my toothbrush and began to brush. It started out lovely and minty. healthy!! Go earth mama! Then, it suddenly wasn't lovely at all as it began to taste like...tar, maybe? Whatever the nasty taste was, I couldn't get past it. I never used it to brush my teeth again as it took a couple hours to get the putrid taste out if my mouth (even after using evil, chemical-laden Colgate).

Lots of people also love this soap for shampoo and body wash. I may try it as body wash at some point but I really love my (non-hippie) shampoo.  All in all, these are great products that are very economical as well. Dr. Bronner's is definitely here to stay at my house.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fabric Softener, Who Needs It?

Growing up and into early adulthood, I thought fabric softener was a necessity. I mean, if I didn't use it, I would surely have crunchy, staticky clothes, right? And it smells so yummy! I had heard of using vinegar as a softener but I hate the smell of vinegar so I certainly didn't want my clothes smelling like it. Well, fast forward to when I was pregnant and researching cloth diapers. Fabric softener is a huge no-no as it keeps the diapers from absorbing properly. Diapers that don't absorb = no bueno. So,  I just wouldn't use softener on my diapers, right? Many things I read recommended not using it at all as it can (supposedly) leave residues which will create problems for diapers even if you just use it on your regular laundry. *sigh* During this time, I also read of numerous other reasons to not use softener, including the following:

  • They contain chemicals which are linked to a variety of health issues including neurological disruption, lung irritation, allergies and even cancer. Those wonderful scents I mentioned earlier singlehandedly cause lots of issues for people with allergies and asthma.
  • The liquid softeners are known to make clothing more flammable. The manufacturers even warn against using them on children's pajamas for this very reason.
  • It makes your towels repel just like diapers and really should never be used on them. This makes sense, I just never really thought about it.
  • It just isn't necessary. HUH?? Of course it is, right? Many sources mentioned getting dryer balls to increase dry time and decrease static but they aren't even necessary.

So, I decided to try to eliminate fabric softener from our routine. Guess what, I don't miss it at all! Apart from the strong smell (which really bothers me now), I don't think it ever did anything for my clothes. I have also tried using vinegar in the softener dispenser on my machine (more on why in another post) and it works wonderfully! There is no vinegar smell at all afterward, I promise! Static is a non-issue too, so long as I don't overdry the clothes.

I also purchased some wool dryer balls. These help a bit with static (again, I only have issues with it when I overdry clothes). And they definitely help things to dry faster. But they're noisy and our laundry area is next to A's room so I don't use them too often. You can also buy dryer balls which are scented with natural oils if you really wanted clothes and linens that smell yummy.

I am thrilled with this little accidental discovery as it is one less thing we have to buy or store. And I am excited to have eliminated a few more chemicals from our home. We have been softener-free for about 18 months and I really don't miss it. I just kick myself for buying it for so long! You should try leaving it out for several loads of laundry as well and see what you think.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

DIY Laundry Soap

In my quest to save money, I recently tried making my own laundry soap. There are many different "recipes" out there for powders and liquids, but many require that a large batch is made and stored. Storing a large bucket of detergent is less-than-appealing to me, even though we go through some serious detergent in our house (the poor washer is always running!). I have read lots of divided opinions on the liquid detergents, too, so I thought I'd start with the basic powder.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this simple recipe and tried it:

1/2 a bar of Fels Naptha soap, grated
1 C washing soda
1 C Borax

All of these "ingredients" can be picked up at your local hardware store but they are also available at many grocery and discount stores. These items are all pretty old-school. I also picked up a cheap cheese grater from the dollar store and grated half the bar of Fels Naptha. To be fair, this took a little time and elbow grease. I grated it into a clean cottage cheese container and added the washing soda and Borax. Then I stirred it up. Easy-peasy! I keep a tablespoon in it and use one tablespoon for each regular load of laundry; I use an extra half tablespoon for really big loads. For kid clothes, I also add a quarter scoop of Oxyclean as my kid's clothes seem to always be covered in food and grime.

So far, I've been pretty pleased. It seems to do really well on Rick's greasy work clothes and most stains come out of A's toddler attire. I haven't been brave enough to try it on diapers and probably won't (I have something that works well for them and that's worth every penny to me). Still, this little concoction has worked better than I ever expected. I think it even works better than our old standby, All Free & Clear.

All of the ingredients are cheap and have various other household uses, so you really have nothing to lose by trying to make the detergent. Fels Naptha bars cost around $4. They work well for removing stains (just rub the bar on the stain - much cheaper than Shout :-) ). Borax costs around $4-5 for a small box. It works well as a laundry booster as it softens water and boosts your other detergents' cleaning power. It also works as a natural insecticide. Please note that it is toxic if directly ingested by humans or pets, though. It works well in crawlspaces, sprinkled around your foundation or anywhere inside your home where kids or pets won't eat it. I recently mixed a little in with sugar water to combat an ant problem we were having. Voila - no more ants! I have long been a fan of Borax, if you couldn't tell. Finally, washing soda costs around $5 for a small box. It is the base for many laundry detergents but can also be used around the house for general cleaning. It works well for degreasing your range or oven or it's pieces. If you want to be extra frugal, you can make your own washing soda from baking soda per the Penniless Parenting blog's instructions here. I haven't ever made my own washing soda beacusse it isn't that much of a staple in my house but baking soda is cheap, so this is handy knowledge if you love the stuff. Many people also make their own dishwasher detergent and use washing soda as a base but I have not tried this,

Based on my use, the homemade detergent costs approximately $0.08 per load. Each batch of the recipe above washes around 45 regular loads of clothes. I have always bought All Free & Clear? It is not an expensive detergent but the cheapest I can usually find it is for $11.99 for the 110-load bottle and that is on sale. Occasionally, I am also able to find coupons for $1.00 off but I can't always find them. At $11, the 110-load bottle costs $0.10 per load. Two cents per load isn't much but it's all savings. Considering we wash about 5 loads of laundry a week (excluding diapers), that adds up to more than 250 loads a year. That much laundry means $5 a year. And really, it's even more when you consider that you can't always find coupons or buy detergent on sale. Each little bit counts. Give this a try today - you have nothing to lose!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Clearing a Drain the Green Way

A couple weeks back, I completed the dreaded chore of steam cleaning my bedroom carpets. Yuck. This back-breaking task always reminds me just how disgusting carpet is to me. I clean our carpets a couple times of year and am grossed out every time by the amount of gunk that comes out in the water. This time was no different. Unfortunately, I created a new problem for myself as I dumped the dirty water in my bathroom sink and ended up with a semi-clogged drain. Don't you hate a slow drain? I know I do.

I've never been a big fan of the strong, caustic chemicals that can take care of these things, and our curious toddler makes me even more adamant about not having them in my home. I am also not a big fan of taking the drain apart and cleaning out the p-trap, although that's probably the best way to solve this problem. So, I decided to try to clear the drain using baking soda, vinegar and hot water. I've read about using this little potion but honestly, I was pretty skeptical. I mean, I've seen the nasty crap that came out of my carpet and... Anyway, I put about a cup of baking soda down the drain. I then dumped about a cup of vinegar down the drain and closed it with the plug (making the bubbly solution work it's magic down into the p-trap rather than up into the sink). After doing this, I let the mixture sit while I heated 3-4 cups if water in my tea kettle to a boil. After bringing the water to a boil, I let it sit for about 30 seconds to cool just a bit, then I poured it down the drain.

This concoction seems to have completely fixed my problem! My drain is completely clear again. I doubt this would work if the drain were completely clogged but I will definitely remember this little trick in the future.

Friday, August 10, 2012

I'm the Bag Lady

I've been on a pointed search for a new beach bag (really, more of a pool bag for me).  Between looking online and in every store I can think of, it hit me - I am the bag lady. I mean, it's not like I don't have a bag to use for the pool because I have tons of bags. But I love to have options that will work for many different purposes. I have travel bags, diaper bags, work totes, gym bags, purses for going out, everyday purses, etc. You name it, I have something that will carry it. The abundance of options is embarassing. I think I have a problem.

Thinking back over the years, I think I've always been this way. It all started with my Strawberry Shortcake tote when I was about four. Sure, I was small but it nicely held a couple books and my favorite strawberry lip gloss. You know, the essentials of a kindergartner. Then, I had the purple duffel that saw me through many grade school sleepovers. And who could forget my first set of luggage - it was red pleather. Yes, folks - pleather. I can't say I'm too worried about what ever came of it. I still fondly remember the Esprit bag of middle school as well. It was the cool way to carry your books, even though it nearly broke my back.

My latest fascination is Vera Bradley. I used to loathe the VB bags, thinking they looked so old lady-ish. But then, I started noticing a few patterns that I actually *gasp* - liked! Still, their prices seemed outrageous to me so I didn't get too interested. Then I had a baby and seemed to hate every diaper bag I tried. I saw a VB bag on my local Craig's List that looked like it would work well for a diaper bag and I bought it. I was quickly hooked! The quality is really, really good. And I love that the bags are washable. Plus, there are bargains to be found on them as they've been making them for 20 years and there are lots of retired patterns (I prefer the newer ones, personally). Since that first purchase, I've bought several more bags (sorry, my husband reads this and I refuse to self-incriminate by providing an exact number). Plus, I'm seriously thinking of buying another VB bag to use as my new beach bag. Just one more bag, really...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting Down & Dirty With the Truth About Cloth Diapering

Ever since I was a child, I planned on cloth diapering. My parents cloth diapered me and they always spoke pretty positively of their experiences. Add to that, my desire to live with the fewest chemical exposures realistically possible, especially for my baby, and I was all about exploring cloth diapering. When I found out I was pregnant, I envisioned the old fashioned system my parents used - prefolds and rubber pants. I hoped there were better options but was willing to consider these, especially if I could find a way to stay at home with my baby. I quickly discovered that there were loads of options for diapering my child! And that this would be totally doable. There is a lot of false information about cloth diapers which seems to have permeated our modern culture, though. I'm here dispel some of those false ideas. Here goes...

 1. Today's cloth diapers involve rubber pants and other antiquated supplies. Technically, they can if you want them to. But I don't know of a single mama who chooses to use rubber pants. Options abound and diapering can be as easy as you want, with many diapers functioning as a single piece which is used just like a disposable. And with options as adorable and simple as these, who would ever choose rubber pants? See below for images of the Swaddlebees Capri covers, some of my personal favorites! The Capris, like many covers, can fit for a long time. (I bought these when A was around 9-10 months old and I expect they will fit him through potty-training.)

 2. Cloth diapers are unsanitary. Wrong. Diapers should always (in my opinion) be washed in hot water with the proper amount of detergent. This alone will kill most bacteria. A splash of bleach can also be used sporadically (and should be used if there is yeast or Staph infection) if needed. Beyond that, the dryer or the sun will further sanitize the diapers. Did you know that the sun's rays do that? They also help to make stains disappear, which is handy for diapers and kid clothes in general. Cloth diapered kids tend to have fewer rashes and avoid the exposure to controversial toxic chemicals such as dioxins. In recent years, many questions have also been raised regarding the safety of the absorbent gels used in disposables. Furthermore, many cloth diapers are breathable, which is healthier for baby's skin. The chemicals found in disposables are linked to cancer, reproductive problems, chemical burns and skin irritation. 

3. Cloth diapers don't work as well as disposables. Sorry, but this one is wrong too. With any diaper (cloth or disposable), a good fit is imperative! This usually involves trying a few out to find out what works well for your baby. But with the right diaper, the dreaded blowout is rare!. Honestly, my son as yet to have a blowout in cloth. Don't get me wrong, we've had the occasional leak, including poo leaks, but they have been few and far between. Talk to any parent who has used both cloth and disposable diapers and they'll assure you that cloth will win this fight every time.

 4. Cloth diapering is expensive. Did you know that you can expect to spend approximately $2,400 diapering a child from birth to potty training? Please note that this is just the cost of diapers, not including disposable wipes and accessories like the Diaper Genie. Cloth diapering costs vary greatly based on the number of diapers purchased and the brand/type. A baby can be diapered with cloth for as little as $200. There are a plethora of options but a full stash of big brand all-in-ones (one of the most expensive cloth options) only costs $800, so it's still far cheaper than disposables. And the diapers can typically be used through multiple children or sold to recoup some of the original investment - you certainly can't do that with disposables! Many parents (myself included) also use cloth wipes, which saves even more money.

5. I send my child to daycare, so I can't cloth diaper. Not necessarily. From what I've read, laws on this subject vary greatly between states. Some states completely prohibit cloth diapers in childcare facilities (why, I have no idea) while others have little to no regulations on the subject. I've been very pleasantly surprised that every daycare I have used or seriously considered welcomed them. This has shocked me since I live in an area where very few parents use cloth. Plenty of providers will use any diaper you provide but I'm a proponent of using a simple, disposable-like option such as an all-in-one or pocket diaper and always providing a clean wet bag do store them. These aren't the cheapest diapers but they are the simplest to use. I would certainly find out what your daycare's parameters are before buying a stash. offers the full line of BumGenius diapers which are very daycare and babysitter friendly. One of them, the Elemental, is shown below. (Forgive the messy picture, but I wanted to show all the layers, which are sewn to the diaper. Just snap it on baby and go!)

6. Cloth diapering isn't really very Eco-friendly because of the extra electricity and water required for washing. There is certainly extra laundry involved with using cloth but it is only 2-3 extra loads per week, as I wash every 2-3 days. Unless you have multiple children in diapers, you really shouldn't need to way more frequently than this. There are many different scenarios with regard to laundry cost but the actual cost differs greatly based on your cost of utilities. You don't need a fancy washer to use cloth. In fact, the old fashioned top loaders are generally considered the best washers for getting them clean. And most detergents can be used. For us, our utility bill has gone up since having our son but it has only gone up a very small amount (maybe $10-15 a month?). Not all of this increase is related to diapers as he generates plenty of dirty clothes and bedding too. And there is obviously additional wear on your washer (and dryer if you don't line dry). On the flip side, there are never late night diaper runs (which also require fuel and wear on your vehicle). When one considers the paper, water and petroleum products that go into making disposables, shipping them and getting them to and from your home, cloth wins again, hands-down.

Like many things in life (and parenting in particular), there is no right or wrong. Cloth diapering has definitely been good for my family, but I realize it isn't the right solution for everyone. I am obviously passionate about cloth, personally. I just hope that new or soon-to-be parents will consider the issue objectively rather than from assumptions.

Monday, July 23, 2012


What is it inside of us that makes us flexible within our circumstances? Why are some people high achievers who thrive despite many obstacles, while others merely survive? I have really been pondering this recently. There are a number of things which have made me think about this. Further, why do some people retreat and wither away? I am convinced that there must be more to us than being victims of our own circumstance. 100 years ago, heartaches were much more numerous and people were expected to just move on. By all accounts, it seems like Americans were much more resilient in prior eras, as are other cultures' people today. So why have we become weak? I, personally, have endured numerous challenges in my life which were barriers to success but I have pushed on. "What other choice does one have?", I have always asked myself. From a far less-than-idyllic childhood to weathering the heartache of divorce from a cheating husband, I have learned time and again - life is hard. The older I get, the more I learn about others' pasts and there are a lot of people with very real pain, from both past and present issues. Suffice it to say, most people have at least something which still haunts them many days. Maybe their mother beat them or an uncle molested them. Or they were raised by a parent who regularly did drugs or abused alcohol. Maybe they had wilder younger years and birthed a child they couldn't care for, so they placed them up for adoption. Or they "simply" had an abortion. Or they may have tried desparately for years to have a baby, without success. Maybe they've had to endure the heartache of burying a spouse or child. I personally know people who have lived through each of these grueling scenarios. But most of the people I know dust themselves off and get back to life. Are they ever the same people after experiencing these huge knocks? No, I tend to think that they aren't. But they don't throw in the towel, either. These are largely college-educated professionals who are raising children of their own today. So why can't some people seem to continue getting up? Personally, I credit my faith in God for my ability to continue to get up when I know I didn't have the strength. The Lord really does carry us through some eras in our lives, I am convinced. But what about the Aethists of the world? How do they continue to live and even thrive? What other qualities deep inside push people to bounce back? These are all questions I have really been pondering recently. I also cannot help but wonder who is quietly hurting right in front of me. God has really placed this on my heart. I've heard it said before that we should all be kinder than necessary because you never really know what others are facing. I suppose this is ultimately the lesson I take away as well. That, and to not be a slave to the bad decision or circumstance of yesterday but to get up, dust myself off and pray for the strength to always face tomorrow. What or who do you credit for your own personal strength? What do you think drives people?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Flats Challege - Final Thoughts

First of all, I apologize that this post is painfully late. Still, I really want to write my final thoughts regarding the Flats Challenge, using flats and hand washing diapers. So, onto those thoughts!

I was surprised at how much I actually liked my flats. My son pees a lot when he goes and they certainly aren't our best option as I ended up with a couple leaks during the week. I have to change A every two hours on the dot when using a single large flat or I am tempting fate and risking leaks. Still, I am convinced that my son is a heavy wetter (the term cloth diapering mamas give to kids who pee more than average). We use heavier duty diapers for day-to-day which work great but I believe that flats would work well for most babies, including mine, if I didn't have the resources to buy other diapers. If I used flats daily, I would definitely use something else as a doubler for him, such as small flats, flour sack towels, preemie or newborn prefolds, etc. As I've mentioned before, flats are extremely economical so I was very pleased to discover how versatile and easy they are to use. It excites me to think that many mamas truly could diaper their baby from birth to potty training on a very limited budget!

I was also very surprised that hand washing wasn't that bad. Don't get me wrong, I still use my fancy washing machine and I have a whole new appreciation for it. (I know I'm a spoiled mama!) But hand washing in my camp bucket was very doable. I think it could be done long-term but one would really have to be dedicated. And it did take me 20-30 minutes a day to hand-wash the diapers and covers and hang them to dry. Finding the time for hand washing was certainly the toughest part of the challenge. It also was physical work to wash the diapers. If I did this all the time, I would definitely have some buff arms! I frequently hang my machine-washed diapers to dry, inside or out so the time spent hanging them and taking them down didn't faze me. Line-drying is a great way to decrease your utility bill and, when dried outside, the sun keeps your diapers fresher, helps sanitize them and gets rid of many stains.

There were several things I learned from hand-washing, which included the following:
  • Flats truly are the easiest diapers to wash by hand. They are very thin and you can really move water through them, which is important for getting a diaper clean. They will also dry very quickly since they're thin. Thicker diapers can also be hand-washed and it isn't the end of the world (I hand washed Flip organic inserts during the challenge without any issue). Sure they require a little more work (which would, admittedly, get old if I were doing this every day with no known respite). Yet, it wasn't a big deal for just one overnight diaper a day. If I were hand washing every day, flats would certainly be my diaper of choice, though. They're so thin that it's easy to move water through them and really get them clean. Plus, they dry super-fast! I definitely can't argue the drying point with my Flip organics, which took 3-4 times as long to dry.
  • The camp-style washer was/is worth it's weight in gold. It got the diapers so much cleaner than I expected and I didn't have to touch them while washing! The fact I didn't literally wash them by hand meant that I could use our hottest water too, which I prefer to do when washing diapers. 
  • I only needed a teeny bit of detergent to wash. I used my regular detergent (original liquid Tide) and I quickly learned that I was using way too much. Rinse, rinse, rinse. We also have soft water, so I really should have known better. Still, lesson learned.
  • Again, it really wasn't that bad! If I didn't have power or my washer was out of commission for a few days, I wouldn't hesitate to grab my flats and use this system for diapering. 
All in all, I am very glad I completed the Flats Challenge! It gave me great insight into the most basic forms of cloth diapering and really made me think about how things used to be done before modern cloth diapers and washing machines.  I would love to use my experiences to help others, in particular, less fortunate mamas looking for economical diapering solutions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flats Challenge: Day 4

We're 4* days into the Flats Challenge and going strong! Truthfully, it's going significantly better than I ever expected.  We've still had just one leak (we're still not using flats overnight, either).  I've been pleasantly surprised at how well they are working for us. And I am thinking I just may leave them out and continue using them, for around the house if nothing else. Also, the hand-washing isn't nearly as bad as I'd expected it would be.  Sure, it's time-consuming and I'm doing it every day, but it really isn't bad. I have plenty of diapers but washing a day's worth of diapers and covers takes about 20 or so minutes. And washing and rinsing IS work. I definitely feel like I'm getting a good workout for my arms.  But it is all manageable.  I've been fortunate that I've been able to put everything outside to dry the past few days, too.  I have a clothesline in my laundry room for indoor drying too, but I really love to dry diapers outside.  The sun bleaches stains and UV rays work to help sanitize them - both of these things amaze me.  A clothesline is a cloth diapering mama's best friend! I've been shocked at how quickly the flats dry, too. They are completely dry after a couple hours in the sun on these breezy days. The covers dry very quickly as well.

I have discovered that not everything is rosy about hand-washing. Namely, pocket diapers are definitely harder to get clean than flats and covers. But they have still come cleaner than I expected they would. I may have a couple more stains than I would normally have they look pretty darn good.  I also have to work on them a little more, though. I'm also finding that it takes our overnight diapers a long time to dry (we use a Flip organic insert and a Flip stay-dry insert).  They seem heavier than normal when I hang them up to dry, so I assume I'm just not getting the extra water out of them like my washer does. If I were doing this long-term, I'd probably try rolling these in a clean, dry towel to get the extra water out. But I'm too lazy to do anything else at this point...they're just taking a couple hours longer to dry than they usually would.

All in all, I'm feeling much more confident about recommending and using flats. We'll see how I feel after another couple days ;-)

*If you've read the official challenge information, you've seen that it just started yesterday and goes through next Sunday. Since we have plans for the long weekend, I opted to start two days earlier and will stop the  challenge this Friday. I'm still getting my full week in, but didn't want to mess with the project while traveling and enjoying the holiday.

Flats Challenge: Day 2, Laundry

Today's the day that I've been anxious about - laundry day.  In general, laundry has always been the scariest part of cloth diapering.  Buying cute little diapers and putting them on my baby is easy! Most people who have never tried them are terrified of the poop, but even that isn't bad. (Really, cleaning it off the baby is almost always the worst part.) Anyway, I digress. The host blog for the Flats Challenge is Dirty Diaper Laundry. This is the second time they hosted this event and they have several resources posted on their blog, including a tutorial for building a camp style washer. After watching their YouTube tutorial, I was convinced that the bucket washer was definitely worth the $12 or so it would cost me.  So off I went to buy a 5-gallon bucket with a lid and a toilet plunger. Basically, you drill a hole in the lid of your bucket which will allow the handle of the plunger to fit through it. Then, you can drill holes in the plunger itself but this is considered optional (from everything I've read, this is well worth the time and energy it takes). Apparently, if you don't drill holes in the plunger, it will suction to the bottom of the bucket pretty strongly.  Since I've used a plunger for its intended purpose, I decided to trust the online recommendations to drill the holes.  Here are a few pictures of my finished product:

I think the bucket is pretty self-explanatory - you put the diapers (or whatever you're washing) in it with some soap and water and seal the lid, then plunge away!  I have been taking them out and hand-rinsing once they've agitated and soaked in the soapy water (I'm using our rarely-used, extra bathtub for this project.) . All in all, I've been pretty pleased with how clean the diapers appear to be getting from hand-washing.  Here's an example of a once-poopy pocket diaper after it was cleaned in the bucket washer:

There's a slight stain, but as any mama, cloth diapering or not, would tell you, poop frequently stains.  After they're all washed and rinsed, I hang the diapers on the line outside to dry (please ignore my ugly propane tank in this photo - there are a few things about country living that aren't beautiful and serene and this is one of them).

In my next post, I'll update you all on how this challenge is going, from diapering to the hand-washing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Flats Challenge: Day 1

Flats Challenge Rules (summarized):

  • Use flats for one week
  • Doublers or additional inserts can be added
  • They can be used in pockets
  • The flats and everything used to diaper baby must be hand-washed
Well, we survived our first day of the Flats Challenge! I was sick with allergy issues yesterday, so that made this experiment extra "challenging".  I bought flats and tried them a few months back. They are so economical and easy to care for that I really wanted to love them, but they weren't the right tool for us. Still, they are so cheap and versatile, I hung onto them. They are great for cleaning (mopping, cleaning glass, soaking up messes, etc). They are also much easier to get clean since they're so thin, and they line-dry quickly. And they're cheap! You could, theoretically, diaper a baby from birth to potty-training for less than $200 using these and some basic covers like the Thirsties Duos. These virtues make them ideal for many budget-minded mamas. And many other mamas get them for camping or mission work, where resources are scarce.

Typically, "flats" are simply one big piece of birdseye cotton or flannel. We have a couple dozen Diaper Rite large flats which I'm using this week, which are birdseye cotton. We also have a couple dozen small flats which I have kept for diapering a future baby as a newborn.  I bought ours at Diaper Junction for $22 per dozen (the small flats are cheaper). I originally purchased flats thinking I could stuff our pocket diapers with them but they can be used folded in a variety of ways too.  Since they are just cotton, a cover must always be used to create a waterproof barrier.

Here is a picture of a flat and some covers we like:
This is a large flat, completely unfolded and two of our covers. We use Blueberry Coveralls, Flips and Swaddlebees Capri covers but we usually use Flip organic inserts in them. We also use pocket diapers for daycare, grandparents, sitters, etc. I also greatly prefer the pockets when A is having tummy issues...they're much easier to clean poo out of. I like the simplicity of pad-folding the flats and using them in the covers.  So, for this project, we really are just substituting a flat for a Flip organic insert...pretty easy!

Here is a picture of the pad-folded flat in the cover, ready for A to use:
Again, we use these covers with a similar system on a daily basis. I greatly prefer covers with the flaps built into them (our Blueberry Coveralls do not have these but they are great for nighttime).  The flaps just hold the diaper in place nicely.

As I mentioned before, you can also fold flats in a variety of different ways and put them on the baby in that way. Here's an example of the flat folded into an origami fold:
This fold (and most others besides the pad-folded flat) require using pins or a snappi to attach the diaper to the baby. Truthfully, I don't have the time and patience to fold diapers like this all day, nor to master the skill of getting them on my squirmy, active baby. But I have to say that they look pretty cool!

Anyway, our first day was fairly uneventful.  Flats aren't as absorbent as our standby, the Flip organic inserts, so I have to change A every 2 hours or we're risking a leak.  A seems to pee more than the average kid, though and these really work great for many kiddos.  I'm finding that these work better now than they were a few months ago (likely b/c A is eating more solids and drinking less milk than he was).  We made it through with one little leak (mama pushed over the 2 hour mark). Otherwise, they worked better than I'd remembered from a few months back.  I also did not use them overnight (which I'm supposed to do). My plan was to use our usual Flip organic insert with a flat (we usually use a Flip Stay-Dry), all in a cover.  But the flat was bulkier than the Stay-Dry and I just couldn't get a good fit. I knew we were destined for a crying kid with wet sheets. And sleep is worth more to me than this project. So, he got his usual solution, but I'm hand-washing it with our flats and other daytime solutions.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about the scary part of this experiment - the whole hand-washing thing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cloth Diapering, Old School

I just signed up for this year's Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge!  I'm really excited about this and have pondered it for some time before deciding to take the plunge. Basically, I'm committing to diapering A for one week with only flats and covers (I can add something extra for overnights) and to hand-washing all diapers. Yes, hand-washing! (Although homemade camp-style washers are allowed, which I have bought materials to make.) 

My husband thinks I've gone mad but I'm really, really excited to try this! When I began cloth diapering, I chose to do so for a variety of reasons (it's healthier, friendlier to the environment, saves money, etc).  I've bought so many fun diapers that I've probably just broken even, though. Still, I'm intrigued by the fact that  people could diaper their child for $3-400 from birth to potty training, if they used really basic diapers. Flats are the most basic of diapers. They are generally made from birdseye cotton or flannel. One doesn't even have to buy official "diapers" for diapering their child - you can buy flour sack towels from your local discount store or use old receiving blankets. These were what our great-grandmothers probably used to diaper their children. Since they are just cotton, a cover of some sort must be used to create a waterproof barrier. I already own a couple dozen flats which I purchased for stuffing our pocket diapers (which are a more expensive, modern cloth diaper). Truthfully, I didn't love them for this purpose but they're very easy to hand-wash, so I kept them in case of  emergency. As someone who 1. lived without power for a couple weeks in 2007 due to a major ice storm and 2. lives in the country, I think about these things. For my $35 I have invested, I'm hanging on to those bad boys!

Anyway, what I'm most excited about, is seeing what true budget diapering is all about.  Is it as easy as it's touted? If so, I'd love to help those who are less fortunate in our community. I've read too many statistics about needy families who need diapers but just can't afford them.  I've even read that people are commonly re-using disposable diapers. ICK!!! I can't even fathom how this is possible! If you can't tell already, I'm very passionate about cloth diapering. It's much easier than most people envision, but I can say that as a mother who has had the luxury of trying different things and buying nice, big-brand cloth diapers at a variety  of costs. And I had the money to invest up front, which many mothers do not.  I would like to really KNOW that one can diaper their baby with a small investment up front. And that not owning a washer doesn't have to be a deal-breaker. I currently choose to line-dry our diapers frequently, so I can confidently say that not having a dryer isn't a big deal.

So hang on, this could be a wild ride. I may decide this whole idea is a nightmare and quickly quit. Or I'll end the challenge more passionate about cloth diapers than ever! Regardless, I'll post pics and thoughts along the way about the materials and how they're being used, starting with building the camp washer. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nom, Nom, Nom for Baby

I make the majority of A's food and have found it to be much easier than I expected. Recently, several people have inquired about this with the impression that it's difficult. If you're considering it, please be reassured that it is easy! I'd contend that no one should ever buy some foods for their baby as virtually no extra work is required for feeding baby at all. Bananas and avocado are two of those foods which anyone can make - just peel and mash it up! For these foods, I really love our Mash and Serve bowls by Annabel Karmel. They're a simple product but get used multiple times each week in our home, especially now that A's eating more textures.  Also, I recently saw them at Walmart for much cheaper than the Amazon link, if you're interested in finding one to try.

Many other foods are easy to make as well, but a time and energy are required (two things that are tough for mamas to find).  Last weekend, I had a little baby food-a-polooza and made pears, squash, sweet potatoes, chicken and apples for A. Yes, it was a couple hours worth of work, but this will also cover many meals for him in the coming weeks.

I put the chicken in a baking dish with a little water and covered it in foil. Into the oven it went. Sweet potatoes just got scrubbed, then baked. And I split a squash down the middle, scooped out the seeds and goo, then placed it "meat" side down in a shallow baking dish with a little water and foil over the top. Peeled pears (and later, peeled apples) just got cooked in my steamer basket on the stove until they were soft. 

Once cooked, I just scooped the sweet potatoes out of the skin and mashed them up. Yum!
I then either serve it right away, store in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze the food for later feedings.

Squash is a baby food staple and is so easy to make! I baked the squash as described above. It should be baked until the skin is lightly browned and the squash is soft.
Then, scoop out the "meat" of the squash, discarding the skins. The squash is usually still a little thick/chunky, so I run it through my food processor with a little water.
Process until the squash is smooth and creamy (or the desired consistency for feeding your baby).  A blender or immersion blender can also be used for squash or similarly textured foods. Once your food is smooth, prepare it for the freezer.  There are lots of fancy trays out there, but I just use basic, plain ice cube trays and they work well (note: do NOT buy the really cheap, lightweight plastic trays as they do NOT work well at all). My trays are a hard plastic and are made by Rubbermaid. I spoon the food into the tray, shake it a bit to get it to settle and pop it in the freezer for several hours. This is the exact same process I later used for apples and pears as well.

Sometimes, I also freeze food in jars if that will be easier. I bought a couple dozen 4-ounce quilted canning jars from Ball and their plastic lids (not shown). These are old fashioned but work very well as baby food jars. They're also great for feeding on the road as the lids screw on and can't pop off in the diaper bag - a very important feature in baby food transport. The plastic lids with the jars are great for food on-the-go.
Meats, in particular are scary to many mamas but I have found them to be easy! Just cook the meat however you'd like (I baked my chicken, as previously discussed), then process it, adding water as necessary.  Here's my processed chicken, before I added water:

It was chunky, as you can see.  A isn't ready for this much texture yet, so I added a little water to it and processed a bit more (below). (It looks yummy, doesn't it? That's the only downside of making meats for your baby...they look less than appetizing.  But canned baby food meats also aren't terribly appealing and at least you know what's going into this, right?
I then freeze the chicken into cubes as well. Once my cubes are frozen, I dump them into large Ziploc freezer bags and put them in my deep freeze.

Then, each feeding, I thaw a cube or two for A's meal. Fruit cubes are great with oatmeal and a little formula or breastmilk. The meats are good with rice and a little formula or breastmilk.  I tend to serve the veggies on their own or mixed together, although I occasionally mix them with meat too (this is just personal preference).  One observation I recently made was that many commercial baby foods use squash as a base with "meat" foods so that's an idea too, even though I've never tried this personally.

I have found that the time and energy required for baby food-making is well worth the satisfaction of knowing what my baby eats and the monetary savings (baby food is expensive!). Hopefully you will find it equally satisfying and easy!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Vinegar is Magic!

For years, I've read about how fantastic vinegar is but I generally didn't care. Sure, it's cheap, but it reeks!! And there's no way it could possibly do all the great things my tub o' cleaning products does, right? Wrong!!!

In my quest to make our home healthier and save some cash, I decided to try it. I mixed a solution of 50/50 vinegar and water and have used it for a variety of purposes. See below for my review of each use.

Cleaning glass - I use this solution and a microfiber towel to clean the glass in our home. Beware, it starts off looking like a big, smeary mess but just keep wiping. All those ugly streaks will quickly disappear and leave you with a sparkling clean mirror or window.

Cleaning countertops - just spray countertops with this solution and wipe clean with a sponge. The vinegar is a mild disinfectant so it will kill many germs, mold and ickies living on your counters. I have to admit, I still use bleach to clean up after something really bad, like raw chicken, on my kitchen counters. But for everyday cleaning, the vinegar solution works great!

Bathrooms - I have been extremely pleased with how well this solution cleans my bathroom too! I spray down the sinks and countertops as well as the outsides of the toilets (you can also clean the insides of the toilets but I haven't tried that just yet). I wipe everything down with a damp spomge. Again, I'm amazed at how sparkling clean everything looks! I have also tried this in our showers and bathtubs and have had mixed results. It didn't do a great job in our shower but we had some soap scum build-up. I cleaned with traditional products last week and am hoping that regular use of the vinegar solution (using it like the "daily" shower cleaning products) will keep the shower cleaner. It has worked well for our bathtub but, again, the bathtub doesn't get used as much.

As for the stinks while you use vinegar. Some people add essential oils to make it smell prettier but the smell dissipates really quickly. I 'd read this before and was still leary. But really, the stink is gone within 20 minutes or so. Kick all of your toxic products out and give vinegar a try!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

These Are a Few of My Fav-or-ite Things - Baby stuff

A year ago at this time, we were creating baby registries, setting up a nursery and trying to sift through what seemed like a never-ending sea of baby advice.  After a few months in the trenches, I'd say that most things marketed to new parents are completely unnecessary, although some of them can make your life easier. This is a list of a few of the items I'd recommend for any new parent. (Current parents, feel free to comment below as well.)

I'm convinced that a high quality stroller is worth its weight in gold. This is one area where many parents skimp, though, and I don't think they should. You will likely use your stroller for at least a couple years per kid, so be wise with your investment. We have the Baby Jogger City Mini ($199) (shown below) and love it!  There are many other nice strollers out there but we chose this one for our everyday use (mall, outdoor festivals, trail/city walks, etc). It's very lightweight, folds easily with just one hand and takes up minimal room in our trunk. The City Mini is easy for me to get in and out of the trunk and all of the material comes off and is machine washable. I've been thankful a million times over that I didn't settle for the travel system stroller I initially looked at, which would've been about $75 less. I only recommend the City Mini specifically because of its relative low cost compared to other high-end strollers.

Ergo Sport Baby Carrier ($115). I love this carrier! I have always found babywearing to be extremely handy for shopping trips and errand running (much easier than lugging the heavy infant seat around). And A really likes to be able to watch people as well. The Ergo Sport has been great as it is ergonomically correct for little ones' developing hips (many others are widely criticized for not doing this) and it puts the baby's weight on mom's hips, not on her back. For me, this means I can comfortably carry A around for an hour or two without being exhausted or in pain.

Nose Frida ($15.99). Yep, a snot sucker. That's what it's called. Gross, yes. Effective, yes.  It works better for me because you can keep suction going longer and get it angled differently than the bulb syringe. I also like that you can fully take it apart and clean all of it and replace the filters, unlike the bulb syringes. I say "me" because my husband still won't touch this thing despite the fact that there is NO snot anywhere near your nose ever (see replaceable filters).

FridaBaby<br />NoseFrida Snot Sucker

Boogie Wipes ($3.79 for 30, although we tend to tear them in half as they're quite large). Okay, so I thought these were one of the silliest products I'd seen (why not just use a wet wipe??)  Part of me still agrees, but I gave these a whirl after several friends raved about them. They are moistend with saline solution and are very good for cleaning a little nose on the go, especially when that nose doesn't want to be cleaned.  Catch them on sale and throw a package in the diaper bag, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Gentle Saline Wipes, Simply Unscented

Booginhead Pacifier Holder ($4.99) These are just simple little pacifier holders. What makes them awesome is that they come in a variety of cute patterns, will work with any style pacifier (many holders use snaps which don't allow you to use pacifiers with just holes in them) and they're washable. A bonus is that these are not giant, like many of the other holders I've seen which are 2-3" ribbons that look ridiculous on teeny babies. We've invested in a couple for our Binky-addicted son.
Booginhead PaciGrip Pacifier Holder
Bumkins bibs ($6.95-$10.94) I was first drawn to these bibs because of their adorable prints (Dr. Suess, anyone?) but their prices steered me away. So I settled for a couple of basic waterproof bibs from my local Target.  I later spotted the Bumkins bibs on a mommy bargain website for about half price, so I bought a couple of the sleeved bibs. (Really, sleeved bibs, need I say more??) They are very full-coverage with plenty of room to grow.  Well, about two months later, the cheap bibs are curling and ratty-looking and the Bumkins still look brand new. More importantly, the cheap bibs are not machine washable and the Bumkins are.  I've since purchased a Superbib from Bumkins and love it too. I plan to buy more as I feel these are actually cheaper in the long run and are far, far more convenient.
Bumkins Waterproof SuperBib, 6 months to 2 yearsBumkins Waterproof Sleeved Bib, 6 months to 2 years

Annabel Karmen Masher & Bowl ($6.95) This is a simple little set but we loved our one so much we bought a second. Both get used frequently at our house for preparing simple meals for A (this is especially great for fruit and cereal in the mornings). Just put your fruit in the bowl (cooked, if necessary) and mash it up. Feed baby from the bowl. Very handy.

Cloth diapers. I won't elaborate on this subject too much as it's a large enough topic to easily demand a post of its own. But I couldn't write a post on my favorite baby items and NOT include them, as I love our cloth for a variety of reasons. My personal all-time favorites are Swaddlebees Econappis which are shown below

I hope this post has been helpful to you if you are in the throes of baby planning/shopping.  Feel free to ask me any questions if you'd like. And I'd love to hear other parents' opinions and their favorite products.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Living green - things we're already doing

I first started thinking about going more "green" when I planned to get pregnant. My first goal was to create a healthier home for my family, but I also enjoy saving money and am all about helping the earth where I can too. I started contemplating ways to create a healthier home.  After a bit of research, I realized that we were already on the right path with several things we were doing in our home. Since that time, we've  tried some new ideas as well. These are some things that our family is already doing which are healthy and green and most of them save money too.

  • Use a steam mop. These mops simply use steam to clean and sanitize floors. Since most of our home is hardwood or tile and we have a little rugrat, ours gets plenty of use. I love, love, LOVE our steam mop for a variety of reasons - there's no bucket to haul around, it's faster  than traditional mopping and, best of all, there's no chemicals! The only maintenance is washing the microfiber pad after each use. We have the Bissell Steam Mop (shown below) which I would highly recommend to anyone.

  • Minimize paper towel usage. I've recently seen lots of buzz about "unpaper towels" such as these.  All of this buzz has made me wonder how many paper towels most people use and for what purposes?  We've always used lots of reusable alternatives in our home.  Some of these include the following:
    • Kitchen towels and hand towels for hand-washing and drying dishes
    • Flour sack towels for washing/drying produce and covering yeast breads
    • Shop towels and old t-shirts for general cleaning
    • Old bath towels for cleaning spills
    • Microfiber towels for cleaning glass
    • Baby washcloths for cleaning A's hands and face (especially after mealtimes)
We still use paper towels for a few things in our home, but they are pretty much relegated to really icky chores like cleaning up large pet messes, cleaning the toilets and cooking bacon.  We currently use less than 8 rolls a year which seems reasonable to me.

  • Skip the dryer when you can. Get a basic clothesline (or make one) and dry your clothes outside.  The sun will work to sanitize and freshen your clothes and you'll save a little money.
  • Eliminate unnecessary toxic chemicals from the home. We don't use air fresheners and don't burn candles very often. Sadly, these things bother my allergies too much to be used in our home  (I have to cheat with the occasional candle, though, because I genuinely enjoy them).  But in general, they are just unnecessary chemicals which compromise air quality. A far bigger elimination for us was no longer using fabric softeners. My original reason for eliminating fabric softener from our laundry routine was related to cloth diapering (see next bullet) and the fact that softeners can create problems with the diapers. After a bit more research, I was far more concerned about eliminating it for health reasons.  Commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain chemicals which are linked to a growing list of health concerns from asthma and lung irritation to cancer. This was enough for us to go softener-free.  Oddly, we don't miss it at all as our clothes are just as soft without it. 
  • We use cloth diapers. Cloth diapering means that our baby isn't exposed to the toxic chemicals in commercial disposables and he rarely gets rashes or has blowouts.  Plus, they're cute and they're very easy to use. We use a variety of brands and types, but the BumGenius 4.0 (shown below) diapers are among our favorites.


We still have a long way to go but I feel like we have a nice start.  My current focus (and the subject of a future post or two) is detoxifying our cleaning routine, which I know is completely unhealthy as it is. What is your family doing to be greener that works well?