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?