Thursday, January 29, 2009

Freecycling does the world good

I have recently joined the vast network of freecyclers. What is freecycling you ask? Freecycling is a group of people who give and receive each others cast offs...for free. This is a great way to keep things out of dumps and reduce your waste and carbon footprints. It's a pretty straightforward first come, first served network. You list what you are offering and where you are located and people will e-mail you back. Often, you will get several takers for one item and you can pick who you give your item too. I usually do first dibs and then go down the list from there if there are people who end up not showing up. I love that you can do porch pick up so you don't have to worry about knocking on someones door or having some stranger knock on yours. I get nervous about that when I'm alone with the kids.

You'd be surprised at what people will take and what they want! I've seen such random stuff being given away and people need your cast offs! It's completely true that one persons trash is another persons treasure. I'm part of a Yahoo! group that has freecycle groups by city, but you can find all kinds of networks. I'm very appreciative of the fact that the majority of the people honestly need the things they ask for and aren't going to turn around and sell it on Craigslist. I've had that happen and it really hurt my feelings! Sad, I know, but it did. I highly suggest joining a freecycle group and you never know what you might be able to take off someones hands. And there may be a person out there who needs the tacky pillow or weird pants that you have laying around that you just can't bring yourself to throw away.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wonder Wraps

I recently ordered a Wonder Wrap diaper cover. I was so impressed I had to tell you about it. I was eager to try one because it's a one-size cover - it has several rows of snaps so it will adjust to fit almost any size baby. It claims to fit from 9 to 35 pounds. As I mentioned, I have only just now tried one so I can't tell you how it fits a little baby. Jesse is around 20 pounds and he's got two larger settings to go. Being adjustable, it can easily save you money because one cover can replace about three (small, medium, and large).

Another feature that sets it apart from other covers is it doesn't have fold-over elastic around the waist. The elastic is a little lower in the waist (if that makes sense) and looks more comfortable. To try to show you what I mean, compare these two pictures.

Jesse's wearing a Bummis Super Whisper Wrap in this picture. The white trim you see around the legs and waist is fold-over elastic.

Here's Jesse in a Wonder Wrap. Wonder Wraps are available in several great colors. (This is Blackberry.) It's a little difficult to tell from the picture, but you may notice the bit of "flare" around his waist. The elastic is sandwiched in the cover about an inch from the seam.

There are two things about the Wonder Wrap that some might consider disadvantages. It doesn't have the flap of PUL in the front under which you can tuck a trifolded prefold. You can still lay the prefold in it. If you snappi or pin then you probably don't care anyway. The Wonder Wrap also doesn't have gussets. I have covers with and without gussets, and I like both kinds. I don't find the lack of gussets to be a problem. I haven't done a side-by-side comparison (and Jesse's asleep in his Wonder Wrap at the moment) but the Wonder Wrap seems to be cut a little more generously through the crotch than the Bummis Super Whisper Wrap. So even if you're a die-hard gusset fan, you might still want to try one. I think I've got to get a couple more!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Better late than never

Having a baby is a wonderful, magical...expectant period in your life. Whether it's your first or sixth child, you are waiting for everything. Waiting for the test to say pregnant...waiting for the sickness to pass...waiting for the first flutters, first hard kick, for the heartburn to go away! The waiting just gets worse as the pregnancy goes on. Then you're waiting to find out who you're having and all the cute baby clothes you've been dying to buy are suddenly practical since you know the sex.

I've always found that once I hit 36 weeks the waiting becomes unbearable. Like a ticking time bomb. When is that baby going to come?! Please baby, come out! Am I the only one? I think that is Mother Nature's way of getting a woman prepared for childbirth. We are so tired and so READY for our baby that we would do anything to get them out! Perk up though ladies! Cherish those last few weeks and days because whatever tiredness you felt before baby came out...well, it's nothing compared to the utter exhaustion that will happen after baby is born. And it's nothing compared to the absolute love and joy that your baby will be. So don't worry if you are overdue for your baby to come out. Feel good about the fact that your uterus is a comfy home for your baby and they just don't want to leave, and once you have your joy in your arms...nothing will compare to that feeling.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spring Fever

I went to the mailbox this morning and found two seed catalogs waiting for me! One was from my favorite seed company, Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. They offer great choices of organic seeds, plants, trees, and garden supplies at great prices. It’s time to start planning my spring garden. I can’t wait to sit and peruse my catalogs. Before I order, though, I should take inventory and see what seeds I still have. While the germination rate may be slightly lower, the ones I bought last year should still be viable.

Last year I decided to try gardening in raised beds instead of traditional rows so I could garden more efficiently (less soil preparation, less water wasted, less weeding). I bought a pallet of cinder blocks and made two beds (ok, my husband did most of the work). He then filled them with rich soil and composted chicken litter. We staked a cattle panel in the middle of each row. I let cucumbers climb up one panel and tied tomatoes to the other. My husband added gutters to my greenhouse to drain into two “water towers.” On the bottom of each water tower is a faucet to which I can attach a hose, enabling me to water my plants with collected rain water.

I start all my plants from seeds except onions and potatoes. I like to use companion plants, so I drew and re-drew my garden plans, moving this and that until I had everything arranged to my satisfaction. I started my seeds and transplanted my little babies. However, since I was in my last trimester, I was too big and too tired to give my plants as much attention as they needed. After Jesse was born in May, I was too busy with my newborn to try and salvage my poor garden. Fortunately, one of the joys of gardening is you can start over. So here I go again!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fabulousity comes in green

We have been working so hard to green our home and lifestyle lately. Not only is it better for our environment, but it's cheaper for our pocketbooks! Honestly, at this time we need to be as cheap as we can be. Sooo, we've made some simple everyday changes that is easy for everyone.

Turn off your water when you brush your teeth! Most people don't think of that when they're looking to save some water, but you can literally save gallons of water by just turning off the tap while you scrub those pearly whites. Also, I often need to fill a pan or mixing bowl with water to soak it before I can scrub it and put it in the dishwasher. Start using that soaking water to scrub your other dishes before putting them in the washer too! Normally, I would think that's icky and would want fresh water, but it's all going to get washed in the dishwasher so it doesn't matter much, right? Right. One last thing...make sure that dishwasher is filled to the brim so you can get as many dishes clean as you can with one load.

I'm always chasing my kids around turning off their lights behind them. We also unplug most of our small electronics to help with our carbon footprint. Using LED light bulbs will save energy and lots of money. You can replace one light bulb a month and will see the difference in your monthly bill almost immediately if it's a light you use often.

There are so many ways to save money and green ourselves that we make it a game with our kids to find ways to be eco-friendly. If you have any tips or tricks, I would love to hear them!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Man of the Cloth

He’s short, doesn’t have much hair, and has just four teeth. During the heat of the summer he was dressed in little more than a loincloth. Cold winter weather now finds him bundled in footed pajamas.

My little man of the cloth diapers. While I was pregnant with Baby #2, I made an amazing discovery. I discovered there is more to cloth than Gerber flats and prefolds (which barely suffice as burp rags). All-in-ones, pockets, fitteds, contours, prefolds, flats...there are so many kinds to pick from. How do you decide? If you’re like me, you act like it’s Thanksgiving and try a little bit of everything. I thought I’d use all-in-ones because they’re most like disposables – put one on, it gets wet/dirty, take it off (and wash, of course). I barely gave prefolds a second thought. After all, you've got to fold and pin them. Along came Jesse. I found out I hated all-in-ones because I wonder whether they get clean and they take forever to dry. Pockets are great; I can stuff as needed, then they’re easy on and easy off. However, much to my surprise, I’m beginning to think prefolds are my favorites. They get clean. They dry relatively quickly. I don’t have to worry about broken snaps or shot elastic. They are very adjustable – fold the extra down in front or back if the rise is too long, then pin where needed. I can add a doubler at night or naptime. There are several ways to fold them and, with minimal practice, I found one that works for us. They seem to be trimmer under clothes than pockets and all-in-ones (cheaper, too!). And there are wonderful devices called "snappis" that eliminate the need for pins.

If you haven't tried prefolds, you should. Make sure you get some of diaper-service quality (no polyester strip down the middle!). You may end up liking them as much as I do.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

There's a monkey on my back!

That's our fun phrase around our house. There always seems to be one child or another climbing on myself or my husband. Because of this we often wear our children; especially when we're out and about. Strollers are great too, but nothing beats being able to throw a kid in a carrier and jetting out the door.

There are several types of carriers including hip carriers, wraps, mei tais, ring slings and pouch slings, as well as a hybrid between a pouch and a wrap! My favorites include a hip carrier, wrap, and pouch sling. I always have one within easy reach. (As in I have one in my car, my diaper bag, my purse, my home, and I've even been known to throw one in my stroller "just in case".) They make my life so much easier and mobile. I don't have to worry if the store is stroller friendly or if my fussy 6 month old baby will go to sleep in her stroller. I know that she'll sleep if she's laying next to my heartbeat.

There's a lot of variety when picking the type of carrier that is right for you. The price range for carriers vary depending on the brand and the type. You can easily find a carrier for $30 up to $300. There are different types of fabric and different gadgets that you can get on your carrier. I prefer a woven wrap that doesn't stretch so much, but a friend of mine likes hers to be really stretchy so that she can mold the wrap to her baby. I find that stretchy wraps work especially well with newborns since they're often softer and a little more pliable (the wrap not the baby). I also like pouches for newborns. Be prepared though that your baby might disappear into the depths of your pouch! It makes me feel like a kangaroo!

Most carriers now come with extra gadgets that you can purchase. You could request a loop to attach keys or a toy. Or a little pocket to throw your ID and some cash. I've even seen ones where you can get a big pocket sewn in and put in a diaper and a case of wipes. You don't even need a diaper bag anymore! My husband has a pouch sling that he got a little big so he can have room to tuck a blanket around baby and a burp cloth since she has a habit of spitting up on him. Make sure that the sling is still safe and comfortable before ordering a size up or down though.

Baby wearing is such a fun, fun world to get into. We've tried so many types of baby carriers and each one is fantastic in its own way. Don't be scared to try several brands of the same type of carrier since each company has it's own formula for making its carrier. There's also several WAHM's that make custom carriers. Kathy at has a great variety of carriers that's perfect for beginner and advanced baby wearers alike.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Produce Bag Tutorial

Last week I showed you a picture of the reusable produce bag I made. Some of you expressed an interest in making your own, so I wrote up a tutorial (with pictures!). It takes up quite a bit of screen room, so I thought I'd post it on my blog and direct you there if you're interested. Click here for the tutorial.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

In with the old, out with the new!

The title seems a little backwards, right? However, I think that with all of the dangers of chemicals in today's toys...well we could stand to go a little old school for our children. Most of the toys, teething rings, and even medicines are made with harmful chemicals and chemical by-products. There are reports almost every month with more toys being recalled due to safety hazards. Because of this many companies are jumping on the "trend" to become BPA free and cold medicines have been recalled for children under the age of 6. Great! Those are all good things, but let's talk about bypassing the problem completely.

There are several companies that have BPA free plastics now for their bottles and sippy cups, but there are also companies that make their products out of completely safe materials from the beginning. There are now glass bottles again! These days you can even get a rubber sleeve for them so when/if they are dropped, they will be protected and less likely to break. These can be a little heavy so make sure your baby can hold them before leaving them unattended. There are stainless steel bottles that come in a variety of colors and designs that you could use for sippy cups. There are usually three cap choices and one of them is a sippy spout and adaptor. These are eco and child friendly. An added bonus is that these bottles keep beverages colder longer which is a must in the Texas summer. These bottles all have great resale value or freecycle them to pass on the eco goodness.

There are several companies that make natural and eco friendly toys. There are wooden rattles and cloth teethers for babies. Getting the cloth teethers organic is even better. At the very least you could use a damp, cold washcloth and you now have a free teether! I have seen rattles made out of cherry wood which is sustainable and maple which is a hard wood and perfect for chewing on. And what could be more wonderful than a handful of play silks? Get large rectangles or squares of cheap silks or some other light fabric and use them for dress up or fort making. Get the kids outside and using their imaginations. We find it really easy to get stuck in front of the tv or computer and I'm always trying to find ways to get my kids outside and pretending the day away.

How about comfort measures for teething babies? There are homeopathic tablets and gels that you can use (and I do!) but I really like something a little more natural. I've found that amber necklaces really do the trick. Actually, these do the trick for relieving pain and discomfort for several different maladies in babies and adults. Keep in mind that these are not to chew on! You only need to put the beads on the skin to get their healing properties. Amber is a healing stone that has been used for generations to help relieve discomforts. I've also found that letting baby gnaw on a shaved corn cob works wonders also. Delicious and nutritious!

Eating out of plastic bowls, plates, etc. can be just as dangerous as playing with plastics! Especially if you microwave them since the heat releases toxins that seep into your food. Try using bamboo bowls which are sooo pretty and the bamboo is sustainable. Plus, the clacking of wooden spoon to wooden bowl is so cute and homey sounding! Don't forget to try bamboo towels and washcloths. They are amazingly soft. I mean that in a "I can't believe more people aren't using these because they feel so good!" soft.

I hope to have inspired you to try a few old school goodies. I always feel that I must have been born in the wrong era since I love all of the retro products so much more than their electronic counterparts!