Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Things

New guest blog post up on Diaper Junction's Cloth Diaper Blog! Stop by and show me some love! :-)

This week, Jem figured out how to open most of the doors in our apartment. He also learned how to undo his snap diapers (he figured out the velcro ones weeks ago). While he's been mastering these skills, he's also been cutting four molars at once, with all the diaper rashes and crankiness that entails. So in the past week, I've had a whining, thumb-sucking, clingy little monster following me around and chewing on everything in sight, whom doors will not contain and who needs to be strong-armed into his diapers (no easy feat) and then wrestled into clothes immediately after so he does not take off those diapers.

Yep, it's been one of those weeks. It's a good thing he's so darn cute! Parenting ain't always easy. What were some of your roughest moments as a parent so far?

Friday, July 29, 2011

What do YOU think?

Hello friends! So far on this blog I've offered a lot of information, and shared a lot of my own opinions. However, I am very curious to hear more from all of you! What is your favorite eco-friendly household/baby product? Did you make it yourself? Is it WAHM-made? I'm especially curious to hear about your experiences with things I haven't tried yet, like baltic amber teething necklaces, top-loading HE washing machines, high-tech baby carriers like the Ergo, family cloth, backyard gardens, "gray water" buckets in the shower or under the rain gutters... anything you've tried that maybe you've really loved or found useful! Or even anything you've tried and hated. Leave a comment here on this blog post and your thoughts might even be featured in a new blog post! With your permission, of course!

Also, don't forget to enter my Eco Sprout detergent giveaway, open until 8/06! At this point, the odds of winning are still pretty good, so take a chance!

Thank you all for continuing to follow this blog.  Let the sharing begin! :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eco Sprout Review and Giveaway!

The perfect cloth diaper detergent. Does it exist? I suppose that all depends who you ask. Some people swear by good old-fashioned Tide original. Of course Tide isn't very eco-friendly, and it gives me a rash, so I've never attempted to use it on anything Jem wears. We've been through a good number of the eco-friendly, cloth diaper safe detergents out there - Nellie's, Lulu's, Rockin Green, Crunchy Clean - and there have been things I liked about all of them. All of them have worked for us in certain situations, but not others. Battling the stinkies has never been a particularly easy feat for us, especially since we have dealt with hard water in the past, and now with a water heater we cannot control. Suffice to say I am always eager to try the new "best thing" in CD detergents, and I had an opportunity these past couple of weeks to try the new favorite on the block, Eco Sprout.

A little background: while many of the CD detergents on the market today were formulated by WAHMs (Work-at-Home Moms), Eco Sprout was thought up by a WAHD -- that's right, a Work-at-Home Dad. Awesome, right? I don't know that many dads who even want to do the diaper laundry, much less come up with their own detergent! His name is Jared Edwards, and he wanted to come up with a detergent that was "non-toxic, natural, eco-friendly, sensitive for my boy's bottoms, and got rid of the strong ammonia our diapers always had with other detergents... Eco Sprout detergent is free from dyes, brighteners, enymes, phosphates, SLS, and is 100% biodegradable."  Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? I also love that the larger sizes come in cloth bags!

After using it for several diaper washes, I have to agree that it's pretty great. After carefully following the instructions on the Eco Sprout website for switching detergents, I've found it's been able to get out stinkies that our previous detergent wasn't able to!

My favorite of the scented samples is the "Warm Vanilla Sugar." It reminds me of cookies, and anything that smells edible to me is a plus. I always prefer unscented detergents though, and so I personally would stick with "In the Buff" for Jem's diapers. It doesn't smell like anything! The other scents I received for sampling were Baby Powder, Vanilla Sandalwood, and Fresh Linen. Again, I'm not crazy about non-edible smelling scents, but that's just me! I'm more of a "stop and smell the chocolate" kind of girl. However, if you like the smell of baby powder and freshly cleaned sheets, you will probably love these. The scents wash out pretty thoroughly regardless, they're just to make wash day smell a bit more pleasant!

The real test was the RearZ Eco-Kit fitted diapers I bought last month. Because they are so bulky, I have begun to find that they are the hardest diapers in my stash to get thoroughly clean. I have to keep tossing them back in the pail after the first wash to go through another cycle before I'll let Jem wear them again. While this isn't that too much of a problem (there are five of them and we only use them for nighttime), it is kind of a pain.  So, did the Eco Sprout get the RearZ clean? Well, yes and no. Some of them come out of the first wash smelling just fine, and some come out still smelling just slightly funky, in a "should I do them again or just leave them be?" kind of way. However, this is a whole lot better than the previous detergent we were using, and I honestly can't blame Eco Sprout for not getting all of these big bulky diapers totally clean in one shot, especially because of our frustratingly lukewarm water (you really need hot water to get things like that totally clean!) It has gotten all of our other diapers smelling fresh and clean, and that's impressive in and of itself! I've also found there is somewhat less staining with the Eco Sprout than with other eco-friendly detergents I've used.

All in all, I am very impressed with Eco Sprout and would definitely recommend it! Thanks to the generosity of Jared and his team, one lucky reader will have the opportunity to try a 24 ounce bag in the scent of his or her choice!

Rules for Entry

Contest is open to anyone in the US or Canada (sorry to my international followers!) There are several different ways you can enter. There is no mandatory entry, pick any one or do them all! Please leave your email address with each entry. I will only use your email address to contact you if you win, I do not spam contest entrants or my subscribers. Email subscribers will have to visit the actual blog to enter.

~ Visit the Eco Sprout website, then come back to this blog post and leave a comment to tell me which scent you'd like to try.
~ Like Eco Sprout on Facebook. Come back to this blog post and comment that you have done so (with your Facebook name, please!)
~ Leave a link to this contest page anywhere on Facebook or your own blog. Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find the link!)
~ Follow Jem's Room on Google Friend Connect (by clicking the "follow" link at the top of this blog page or going to the GFC box in the righthand column). Leave a comment here that you have done so (if you already do, it counts!)
~ Follow Jem's Room on Facebook. Leave a comment here that you have done so (with your Facebook name).
~ Follow Jem's Room on Networked Blogs. Leave a comment here that you have done so.
~ Follow Jem's Room by email by entering your email address in the box in the right hand column of this blog page. Leave a comment here that you have done so.
~ Grab my button and post it on your blog. Leave a comment here that you have done so (and tell me where to find it!)
~ Add Jem's Room to your blogroll. Leave a comment here that you have done so.

The contest will end next Saturday, August 6th. Winner will be picked by a random number generator. Good luck to all!

**I received a free sample of this product for review, however I received no other payment, and I verify that the opinions expressed in this review are my own.**

Monday, July 25, 2011

Gearing up... do a detergent review and giveaway! But which detergent? Stay tuned!

Hope you're all keeping cool! (Speaking of which, check out this post from Treehugger! What will they think of next?)

Have a happy Tuesday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our Recent Freecycle Find

This one was actually from a month or two ago but I never posted the pic. I was looking for clothes and board books for Jem, and a very nice lady gave us two big bags full of hand-me-down clothes (12m-3T), plus these:

This is actually not even all of it, but I'd already stored all the paperback books away before I snapped this photo. I couldn't believe it when my husband brought it all home. Such a generous find! I thought, he doesn't need all this! I was very happy to have the books and puzzles (especially the four books about trucks...Jem is obsessed with trucks), and I admit I was pleased with the corn popper (we love those but never would have spent the money on one, since we're trying to avoid buying new plastics), but I figured I'd re-Freecycle the walker toy away. Jem had other ideas. As you can see, he wouldn't even take his hand off of it long enough for mommy to take this picture. :-)  I don't think we'll need to get him any new toys or clothes for awhile!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Enjoy the week ahead!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mommy's Touch review

Well, I finally got to try the Mommy's Touch Easy Clean pocket diapers, and I have to say they get mixed reviews. I ordered two diapers with snaps and one with touchtape (velcro). Although they all have a pretty cool design as far as the pocket goes - they have an opening in front and in back, so the inserts are easier to put in and take out - the only one I'm really loving is the touchtape. The velcro on this diaper is quite heavy duty, which means not only is it slightly harder for my clever son to undo than other velcro/aplix diapers, the laundry tabs (to keep the diapers from sticking together in the wash) also hold up very well. This diaper will likely last us awhile!

In fact, it will probably last us well into his toddler years if need be, because, although these are advertised as one-size diapers, the fit would suggest otherwise. These are not one-size as in "from birth to potty-training," they are one-size as in "from big to huge." The touchtape tabs are meeting in the middle of Jem's tummy! He is a pretty thin little guy, but he's already 15 months old! Even if the top of the diaper was folded down to fit a newborn (see picture below) I don't see how it could fit any but the chunkiest of babies...but I guess I'd have to try it on a smaller baby to get a better picture. The good news is that the loop tape on the inside of the diaper for this purpose is very soft and doesn't irritate Jem's skin at all. We've had no leaks so far in this diaper! Of course, I haven't been using the insert that came with it. It's very long and thin, while the diaper itself is quite wide. Seemed a bit odd to me, so I've been using two wider, somewhat shorter inserts and they've been working great. I've been using the Mommy's Touch insert with our one-size Fuzzibunz, since the Fuzzibunz are thinner. It is a pretty absorbent insert, but I definitely need to double it with another one for my little super soaker.

The snaps are not nearly as easy to use as the touchtape, nor are they as easy to use as the Fuzzibunz snap diapers. I have no experience with any other brands of snaps, but I'm not terribly impressed with the design of these. First of all, even looking at the picture on their website (below) I can't figure out how on earth to adjust them to fit a shorter baby or newborn. Other than that picture they seem to have no other instructions. I'm sure there is a way, but it would be nice if some instructions had been included! Again, like the touchtape, I have these on the slimmest setting for Jem, so I don't know how they'd fit a newborn anyway.  These diapers were definitely made with bigger babies in mind! And getting the right fit takes quite a bit of experimenting.

Still, all of these diapers are quite soft and the colors are very vibrant. The snaps don't get points for ease of use, and none of them meet my criteria for a "one-size" diaper, but they don't leak so far and Jem seems quite comfy in them. The fact that they are "easy clean" (the insert supposedly comes right out in the wash because of the double-ended pocket) is irrelevant to me, since I use the "rinse and wring" method before putting every diaper in the pail and manually remove the insert to do so (this method helps to prevent ammonia buildup from letting the urine-soaked diapers sit in the pail). However, I can see how this might be a good feature for other moms who don't rinse and wring. I appreciate that they're manufactured in the USA by WAHMs, and I have a couple more of the touchtape dipes on Jem's wishlist (though our rule now is that he has to wear pants if he's wearing any velcro diaper, or he will work his way out of it). I'll definitely keep all three of these in my stash. But I don't think I'll be buying any more of the snaps anytime soon!

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, July 22, 2011

"Cloth Diaper's Delight"

I've made a couple of updates to the USA manufactured cloth diapers list.  Did a bit of research on Blueberry diapers (and their partners Swaddlebees and Weehuggers) after seeing them for half off on BabySteals today (sorry to report they're already sold out).  They've not only made this list, but Jem's Christmas wish list as well! :-)

I have much to write about in the coming days, but I had a couple of margaritas with dinner tonight and my lightweight self is feeling a bit too relaxed and sleepy right now. So I'll just leave you with the following video from the Weehuggers website. I posted it on my Facebook page already, but I thought those of you on my email list and GFC could use a laugh! Although my husband says it's creepy, I think it's hilarious. What do YOU think?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

And the winner is...

Tammy Miliambro Corsini from my Facebook followers!  Congratulations Tammy!  I will be messaging you to find out where I can send your prize.  If it is not claimed in 48 hours I will pick a new winner.

Thanks again to all my readers! 55 in all right now. I feel very blessed to know that many people are interested in what I have to share. Please continue to feel free to share my blog with your friends!

Hope you are all having a terrific Thursday.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Greenking Out!

Yes, that's green geeking out. (How much geekier can you get than inventing a lame new word for that?)

I got a bunch of stuff in the mail in the last two days. Three Mommy's Touch pocket diapers, the new Rearz diaper cover, some Naturoli Soap Nuts to try (right on time, I just used up the last of my laundry detergent last night), a gallon of centrifuge extracted coconut oil, Jem's new stainless steel cereal bowls, and a special "green" little something for a certain someone I'll be celebrating two years of marriage with next'll all just have to wait till then to find out what it is (as will he). :-)

Now, then, what shall I review first? And who shall I Freecycle all of these little shipping boxes to? Decisions, decisions... :-)

I haven't forgotten about the contest that ends Thursday at noon! One of you will win some sweet little eco-friendly bath products! Good luck, and good night.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Freeze the Cantaloupe!

A few months ago, Jem came down with a severe case of the sniffles. I mean he was congested pretty badly. At first I thought it was a cold. Then I considered seasonal allergies. However, it seemed to come and go throughout the day, and as I tried to pinpoint the timing of it I started to notice it always started in the afternoon, was mostly better by the end of the day, and by the time he woke up the next morning he seemed absolutely fine.

I started to piece things together one day while we were having a little picnic lunch outside. It was a breezy day, but he was showing no signs of stuffiness, so whatever pollen happened to be in our neighborhood air didn't seem to be affecting him. I fed him his usual frozen blueberries (organic blueberries are much cheaper and easier to come by in the frozen food section). A bit of goat cheese. A few organic "cheerios." Then I opened the jar of freshly diced cantaloupe. 

The reaction was almost instantaneous. Suddenly he was snotty and breathing through his mouth. He still wanted to eat, but it was a bit more of a struggle because his nose was so stuffed up. A couple of minutes later, he started coughing a little. Not severely, but enough that I knew something wasn't right. Against his protests, I put the melon away. How had I not noticed that this was a reaction to the cantaloupe before? 

I hadn't noticed simply because usually, at this point in his life, Jem was feeding himself from a tray at lunchtime. I'd give him his food and then keep half an eye on him to make sure he didn't choke or anything, but otherwise just let him eat happily while I attended to other things. So I hadn't realized the stuffiness was starting every time I put the cantaloupe on his tray. This particular day I noticed because we were outside and I was feeding him by hand.

Now, I was a little bit confused. I had never seen cantaloupe on any list of allergenic foods. This also clearly wasn't an anaphylactic reaction he was having, it more closely resembled a seasonal allergy. What was the deal? I sent an email to his pediatrician (who had suspected either seasonal allergies or possibly something viral) and then did some Googling.

What I found was surprising, but made quite a bit of sense. Apparently there is a phenomen called "cross-reactivity," whereby people who are allergic to one kind of plant can also develop allergies to other plants (like fruits and vegetables) which have somewhat similar proteins. If your body is already on the defensive against, for instance, a certain type of pollen, then it may mistake other plants that have similar proteins for that pollen and produce an identical allergic response. This is known, in the medical world, as Oral Allergy Syndrome, or sometimes Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome. 

We all know ragweed is a huge allergen for a lot of people, including my dad and others in my family. Well, can you guess one fruit that is commonly cross-reactive with ragweed?  Yup, cantaloupe.

Of course I hadn't seen a doctor about this yet, but getting another doctor's appointment for Jem would take a few days, so in the meantime I simply stopped giving him cantaloupe to see what would happen. The next day he was fine, no stuffiness whatsoever. And the next day...and the next...

So did this mean I had to keep Jem away from cantaloupe, a highly nutritious fruit that he loves, forever? Nope. Here's the thing: cooking or freezing fruits and veggies somewhat alters the proteins, usually to the point where they no longer resemble the offending pollen protein and the body won't react to them. Since dicing and steaming the cantaloupe was time consuming and usually turned the cantaloupe into a soggy mess, I started just tossing it into the freezer. Bingo. Jem has never had another reaction from eating cantaloupe, and, like his blueberries, he now has another refreshing, natural, popsicle-like fruit treat for these hot summer days. Or, if it's too cool for frozen foods, I'll let his blueberries and cantaloupe thaw in the fridge for awhile before lunch. Either way the proteins have already been rendered harmless and don't effect him!

So now you know: if you or your child are getting stuffy and exhibiting a mild reaction to a particular fruit or vegetable, the solution may be as simple as cooking or freezing it. However, you should always report such allergic symptoms to your doctor in case there is a need for further testing. Click here for a list of cross-reactive pollens and foods (please note that this list is by no means complete and should only be used as a reference. Also note that not everyone with pollen allergies will necessarily exhibit signs of Oral Allergy Syndrome).

Have a wonderful Tuesday, everyone!

Saturday, July 16, 2011


To say thank you to you all for following my blog, I'm giving away a small box of yummy smelling, eco-friendly bath products to one random reader. The winner will be randomly selected from my full list of Google Friend Connect, Facebook, Email and Network Blog subscribers. If you have multiple subscriptions you'll have multiple chances of winning!

I'll be picking a winner this coming Thursday (July 21) at noon (EST).

(Please note that my immediate family members are not eligible for this contest. Sorry guys! I'll get you back at Christmas.) ;-)

Please spread the word, and good luck everyone!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Jem's Goat Milk Formula

In Tuesday's post about coconut oil, I mentioned that we make a goat milk formula for Jem. My husband and I are both cow milk intolerant, as are many members of our extended family (as well as 60% of the adult population), and as a newborn Jem displayed intolerance to a cow milk-based formula (we were having to supplement at the time due to low supply issues).  However, I have used goat milk in the past with great success, since, due to having smaller protein molecules, goat milk tends to be easier to digest. We decided that once Jem was old enough for milk we would try goat milk first, and if he responded well we would keep him on it for some time.

When Jem was 11 months old, he started biting at the boob -- hard -- and although I would usually shriek, pull him off and say "no" very firmly, he thought my shrieks were quite amusing (since he usually did it when he was finished, or bored, or just not particularly hungry, he wasn't terribly upset about having it taken away).  I decided it was time to start weaning. I researched homemade goat milk formula, and I found one that I thought was very impressive here.  Unfortunately we could not justify the high cost of all of the ingredients involved, and I didn't think it was actually necessary to include ALL of the ingredients, since he was already almost a year old, not the newborn that the recipe was formulated for.

The first sacrifice we made was the raw goat milk.  I did find one seller about twenty-five minutes driving distance from us, but she was selling for over $6 a quart, and getting it would involve constant driving back and forth. Too pricey for the amount we would need! My only other option, therefore, was pasteurized commercial goat milk. The only company that sells this, that I'm aware of, is Meyenberg. We'd been buying cartons of this at the grocery store to make Jem's yogurt (hmmm...a recipe for tomorrow's post, maybe?), but since now we would need it in bulk, we started buying evaporated cans of it from Amazon (the evaporated Meyenberg is also fortified with vitamin D and folic acid. Their regular goat milk is not). We used the "subscribe and save" program, which kept the costs low.

Now, which other ingredients did we want to use?  Since Jem was already eating solids, and lots of the healthiest organic fruits and veggies we could find -- avocado, bananas, blueberriespeas, spinach, pumpkin, butternut squash, and cantaloupe -- I decided many of the ingredients were unnecessary. I ended up including only three of the suggested ingredients. The first, not surprisingly, was organic coconut oil, which I felt was essential in order to keep giving him the benefits of lauric acid, which he was getting less of since he was weaning. The second was blackstrap molasses, which is supposed to be very high in calcium and iron (though I've found it can be difficult to find one that is actually high in both...most brands are very high in one but not the other). I included the molasses as much for taste as for nutritional content, since evaporated goat milk is not, in all honesty, nearly as tasty as fresh goat milk. The third ingredient I included was a probiotic. After much research, I decided to go with PB8 by Nutrition Now for it's high probiotic content and variety of strains.

Once I'd decided on these, I decided to add my own ingredient.  I was concerned about the fact that goat milk is so much saltier than breast milk, and was afraid the extra salt content might be a bit of a shock to my little guy's kidneys. I didn't want him developing a urinary tract infection, which one of my little nieces had had when she was a baby. So I bought some pure, unsweetened cranberry juice, which is great for keeping the urinary tract in top working order. Although I was worried about how this might effect the taste, I found that adding the cranberry juice to the molasses-sweetened milk gave it a tangy taste very much like the yogurt he'd been eating. Apparently Jem thought so too, because he sucked his first bottle of it right down like he'd been drinking it for months.

Jem has been doing great on this recipe! Even though I add a lot of water to this formula, I find that it is still necessary to give him plenty of water on its own throughout the day, if for no other reason than to keep him hydrated and prevent his urine from becoming too concentrated with ammonia, leaving us to battle with cloth diaper laundry stinkies (trust me when I say this is no fun!) Jem seems to have a pretty good instinct for how much water he needs to drink, as long as I have it readily available for him. He has a bottle (with sippy spout) designated just for water and one in the fridge just for milk, and trust me, he knows which is which!

Here is our recipe (not recommended for babies under 1 year):

1 can Meyenberg evaporated goat milk (with folic acid and vitamin D)
1/4-1/3 cup organic, unsweetened cranberry juice
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses (organic if possible...I usually use whatever brand I can find in a glass bottle)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 capsules PB8 probiotic (or preferred brand)
Filtered water

Open goat milk and carefully pour into half gallon glass jug. Open probiotic capsules one at a time and pour into goat milk. Lightly swish the milk in the jug to mix (do not shake too hard yet, since the milk is still concentrated and can get rather foamy). Add blackstrap molasses, then fill the empty milk can with water and pour into jug (this gets any leftover cream residue out of the can and into the jug where it belongs. You want the cream! Little ones need the calories). Repeat. Cap jug and shake thoroughly until there is no molasses residue left at the bottom of the jug.  Allow to sit for a few minutes (I do this in order to let the probiotic start feeding on the sugars in the milk before adding the acidic cranberry juice. I have no idea if this actually works or not. You can skip this step if you like!)

Add the cranberry juice, and shake again, lightly.

Heat the coconut oil just to the point of melting to complete clarity of color. Immediately pour into jug, cap bottle and shake like your life depends on it! (This helps to keep the coconut oil from clumping up all in one big mess at the top of the bottle.  Keep in mind that the coconut oil will solidify in the cold fridge and rise to the top, however following these instructions should help keep the hard drops of oil separated and easier to pour. Alternately, you can pour the whole mixture in a big blender, but I personally hate dirtying up my big blender all the time.)

Fill the rest of the jug with water, cap, and lightly shake again. You're done!

Lightly shake jug before pouring milk into bottles. Warm to serve (to melt the coconut oil).

We give Jem 3.5 to 4 ounces at a time, 5 times a day. You may choose to give your baby more at one time, but less frequently.

For the full raw goat milk formula recipe for babies under 1 year, please go to Organic & Thrifty's blog here.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone! Harry Potter, here we come! Oooh... I better get started making butterbeer... Guilty pleasure? Indeed. It sure ain't gonna be organic. :-)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coconut Oil: Not Just for Diaper Rashes

If you're reading my blog because you're a mom interested in greening her lifestyle, you may have at least heard about using coconut oil as a diaper rash ointment. This remedy is extremely effective for some moms and babies. For Jem (who has very sensitive skin and is prone to rashes) straight coconut oil tends to work only on milder redness. I've found the best remedy for him is CJs Spritz o' Butter Plus, which contains mostly coconut oil but with added sesame and neem like a charm!

In my house, coconut oil isn't just for rashes. In fact, the last time I bought coconut oil I bought a quart, and next time I plan to purchase a gallon. Why? Well, due to its unique properties, coconut oil (once given a bad rep for containing saturated fats: read about this here) is not only excellent for your skin but in your diet as well. It contains medium chain fatty acids which are essential to your health, in particular lauric acid, which the body converts to monolaurin. Monolaurin has anti-fungal and anti-viral properties and is a component of human breast milk. In fact, as far as I know breast milk and coconut oil are the only sources of monolaurin for human consumption.

Here is a list of what we have been using coconut oil for in our house (other than diaper rashes):

~ Jem's milk: I make Jem a homemade goat milk formula (I'd list all the ingredients, but that's for a future post), and include a couple of tablespoons of organic coconut oil per half gallon. Since coconut oil solidifies and clumps when cold, I still have to serve his milk warm, but I don't mind the extra time it takes to keep giving him the benefits of monolaurin! Especially since I'm only breast-feeding him once a day now.

~ Cooking! Because unsaturated fats like olive oil can convert to hydrogenated (trans) fats when cooked at high heats, we have switched to using coconut oil (a healthy saturated fat) for most of our cooking. We've been using organic expeller-pressed RBD (refined, bleached and deodorized) coconut oil for this because it's mostly tasteless and odorless and made by mechanical processes (versus chemical processes), however we are considering switching to organic virgin centrifuge-extracted coconut oil. This oil retains a little bit of the coconut taste and scent but is a more pure oil. RBD oils are made by first drying the coconut meat in the sun, which can lead to bacterial growth (ew), hence the need for refining and bleaching. Virgin centrifuge-extracted oil uses the fresh, wet meat of the coconut, separating the oils through a refrigeration process. Sounds a bit more appealing, doesn't it?

~ Lip balm: My lips have been rather dry lately, and I'm not a fan of most commercial lip balms (wasted little tubes of plastic filling up landfills, and most of them contain chemicals I'd prefer not to have near my oral cavity). So I bought a little glass roll-on perfume bottle, filled it with coconut oil and a touch of aloe vera and vitamin E oil, and voila, lip balm. Bingo, works like a charm!

~ Massage oil: I may not have mentioned this on this blog yet, but before I became Jem's mommy I was a full-time licensed massage therapist (I specialize in pre-natal massage). Since I plan to get back to work soon (part-time...very part-time) I will need extra coconut oil handy to mix up my own homemade massage oils. Its unique property of being solid at room temperature yet liquid when warmed makes it the ideal massage oil, especially because of its ability to soothe and nourish dry, damaged skin.

~ Toothpaste: If you didn't already check out my toothpaste recipe on this blog, today you can see it featured on one of my favorite websites, Keen for Green!  I was so flattered that they asked me if they could include this on their site!

I have a feeling this list will get longer in the coming months. I plan to try using coconut oil to make homemade deodorant soon (as per the recipe I found on My Baby's Green). Does that make me a dirty hippie? Well...maybe. :-)  Stay tuned, and maybe pick up your own jar of coconut oil to try!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Exciting Deal on Cloth!

I was so psyched to open my email this morning and find that Mommy's Touch cloth pockets and AIO's were on sale for 40% off. I've had these WAHM made, US manufactured diapers on my list of "must tries" for weeks! Go here for the deal.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Since my in-laws are visiting this weekend and I have less time for blogging, I'll just leave you with the following links to other blog articles that caught my attention this week. Hope you find them as interesting as I did!

The Good: Homemade Deodorant from My Baby's Green.  I love this blog, so many great ideas! I am definitely trying this recipe when my Tom's of Maine stick deodorant runs out. If you choose to follow this blog, please leave a comment and let her know you found her here!

The Bad: Organic Gardener Taken to Court (for planting veggies in her own front yard!) from Great Green Idea, article by Jillian Fellows. A prime example of how snooty big-wigs with too much power can twist the wording of laws and codes to fit their own agendas. Kind of infuriating, but good for this lady for fighting back!

The Ugly: What the Heck is Fracking? from Big Green Purse. The more I read about this topic, the more I fear the destruction we humans are capable of. Seriously, what next? Signing the petition linked in this article may or may not help, but it sure can't hurt! Let our leaders know that this generation's dependency on natural gas should not cause so much harm to us, our children, our land, water, animals and all future generations!

Hmmm, maybe I should've put them in reverse order to avoid depressing anyone. Sorry about that. Hope everyone has a happy and blessed Sunday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

I won!

One might think it's quite a coincidence that today I won a RearZ diaper cover from a contest on the company's Facebook page, since my last blog post was a review of RearZ diapers! You might think that...or you might think something fishy was up. It's actually not really a coincidence and not fishy at all.  As I said in my review, RearZ is a rather small Canadian company. Their products and website seem to be undergoing constant renovation right now, and they were likely in need of some customer reviews for some of their newer products. The contest required that participants leave a review for a product they tried, with the opportunity to win a matching product if their review was picked at random. Since I had tried their diaper covers, I left sort of a mini version of the review I had already written. Apparently there weren't a whole lot of participants for that particular product, so my odds were really good! Anyway, I won and I'm psyched! I love the diaper cover we have already, and not having to reuse the same one over and over will be lovely. :-) Especially since this one won't be plain white!

In other news, we swung by the house we're buying today to take some measurements, and my husband found a tag on the (recently rebuilt) deck that said it had been treated with a chemical pesticide which may potentially leave traces on skin when touched. Great. Which means we'll have to completely seal the deck before we use it (probably with something from AFM Safecoat, a company dedicated to formulating more environmentally-friendly paints, stains and sealants). First, though, we have to sand the deck...which means we'll have chemical-treated wood dust flying around. Sigh. Oh, the things you don't think to ask when buying a house. Still, I'd rather Chris and I slap on masks and sand and finish the deck before we move in, exposing ourselves (and, temporarily at least, our lawn) to the chemicals, then have Jem and his future siblings playing out on a chemical-treated deck day after day for the rest of their young lives. We'll just have to try and make sure we take precautions and clean up well.  It's too bad we didn't find this house (which we love) before they rebuilt the deck six months ago. We would have made sure it was built with cedar or some other natural pest/moisture resistant wood. Argh. Being thwarted in your greening efforts by circumstances outside your control always stinks. Well, we'll just do the best we can to make sure from now on the house will be as toxin-free as possible! If anyone has any tips for dealing with this situation (other than "just buy a different house"...since this is pretty much a done deal) we'd certainly appreciate it!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

RearZ "Eco-Kit" Fitted Diaper review

Due to our little Fuzzibunz PUL fiasco (which we finally heard back about...Fuzzibunz has agreed to replace them) we were in need of some new dipes, quickly, for a relatively good price.  So when a package of five overnight fitted diapers (with cover) popped up on for half off ($44.55 including shipping, to be precise), I consulted the hubby and punched in the credit card number.

The diaper package was the "Eco-Kit" from RearZ, a Canadian company which manufacturers both at home and in Pakistan (covers in Canada, diapers in Pakistan). The company also specializes in adult diapers and other personal care products.  They appear to be a small company with a growing following.  The diapers we bought are unbleached cotton velour with a waterproof layer inside (not sure what that layer is made doesn't feel like there is any plastic inside), and fastened with aplix (hook and loop).  We bought them in size large (I believe 24 lbs and up) since Jem will be getting too big for anything smaller in the coming months.

I had never used fitted diapers before, so I admit some trepidation when placing the order...fitteds are thicker and, I presumed, take much longer to dry than my beloved pockets.

I also had somewhat mixed feelings upon opening the package.  The diapers were fuzzy and colorful with rainbow trim, and very soft, but some of the stitching on the aplix was coming slightly undone on a couple of the dipes.  I also wondered if the diapers were TOO fuzzy. It is summer, after all! I didn't want Jem to be hot.

Upon washing and drying the diapers I found a couple of things to be true: first, they DO take forever to dry.  After three times in the dryer I gave up and hung them to finish drying. I have remedied this problem quite simply, however: since they are nighttime dipes and only meant to be used once per day, that means I only end up washing two of them at a time with my other diapers. So I throw them into the dryer once with the others and then let them take their time air drying, since I have three others!

The other things I found while washing them were that the laundry tabs on them are... well, a bit of an afterthought, really.  It's as if they just threw some laundry tabs on there because that's the thing to do with aplix diapers, but didn't really think about how best to do this.  They are too close together, literally right next to one another with almost no space in between, and since the diapers are so thick it's a miracle if any of them stay properly fastened...they all pop right open in the machine.  So if you get REALLY annoyed by aplix chains in your laundry these might not be the diapers for you. Also, the edges of the dipes get a bit frayed in the wash...not horribly so, but enough to be a bit unsightly.  Though again, since they're a nighttime diaper and meant to be covered, this doesn't bother me so much. They don't seem to bother Jem at all!

Now let's get to the positives: so far, these diapers work GREAT!  I especially love the cover.  It's just a plain white PUL cover (with pockets on either end inside if you want to use them with prefolds), but it fits over the bulky diapers perfectly, and we haven't had one leak! After being in them all night, Jem does usually manage to wet through the diapers themselves a bit, but this cover holds it all wet jammies. Considering he's still several pounds shy of the weight specification (30 lbs+) for this size cover, I think that's especially impressive!  The dipes are bulky, that is, they're very thick, but that's a good thing for nights, and they actually look rather trim on Jem. So far the aplix on all the diapers has held up fine, and if the stitching becomes looser I'll just attack them with a needle and thread.

I actually love using these as our go-to nighttime dipes right now, which frees us up to use our previous nighttime diapers, BumGenius 4.0, during the day!

I'd love to give you all a link to buy these, unfortunately they appear to have been discontinued, since I cannot find them on the RearZ website or at any of their retailers' sites. (This would explain why they were listed at such a great price, and also the somewhat shoddy stitching on the aplix...clearance!)  They do have a new model though, the RearZ Smitten diaper, which appears to be an improved has a pocket (always a plus for me!) and is supposed to be faster drying.  I would be very interested to try this new diaper in the future!

All in all, aside from a few annoyances, I really like these diapers and would recommend Rearz for your nighttime dipes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Grab My Button!

I finally made my very first grab button! It's not exactly top-notch quality, but it's a blinkie! It's in the right-hand column under the "About Me" section. Please feel free to grab it for your own blog or website. :-) I'll try to make a better one soon!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Is Your Favorite Body Wash or Shampoo a "Faker?"

If you've read my earlier posts, you know that I recently started buying clear, natural, synthetic/fragrance-free soap to use as a bar soap in the shower and to make liquid handsoap and body wash for Jem. It isn't organic (maybe next time) but it's pretty darn pure. For shampoo I've been using Aubrey Organics, but I didn't like their conditioner so I've been using the only other two we still have around the house: one by the brand Organix, and one by Giovanni Organics.*

Based on the product names alone, you might assume those are all awesome, all-natural, organic products, right? Wrong. Aubrey's products are, actually, very natural with no synthetic ingredients, though they generally contain very few truly organic ingredients. Of the three companies I named they are by far the most natural. Organix and Giovanni don't even come close. Their names are incredibly misleading considering their products contain hardly any organic ingredients (and those which they claim to be so aren't certified), and are also loaded with synthetic, even potentially toxic, chemicals.

But this is no big deal, right? After all, it's not like we're eating the stuff. It just goes on our scalps momentarily and then gets washed away, right?

Well, not exactly. The first problem here is that your skin, including that on your scalp, is porous and absorbs a bit of whatever molecules it comes in contact with that are small enough to be absorbed. So many of these synthetic chemicals will be absorbed into the skin and then hang around in our bodies. Some may be carcinogenic, some may be endocrine disruptors...the jury's still out on a number of them.

The second problem here is that it is false advertising to claim you are selling an "organic" product if few or none of the ingredients are actually organic and if the product also contains synthetic chemicals. However, in this country cosmetic products are not, nor have they ever been, regulated in the same way that food unless a cosmetic product contains only food grade organic ingredients, it will not be USDA certified, and the company can pretty much get away with putting whatever they want on the label.

That is, up until recently. In the past several months many of these companies have come under fire for false advertising and violating a California state law that does, in fact, dictate standards for organic cosmetics. (Read about this here.)

I applaud the Center for Environmental Health for taking these companies to task for taking advantage of consumers who want to buy truly natural and organic products. (Though I will admit I already knew Giovanni and Organix contained synthetics and non-organic ingredients...I bought Giovanni because there were no better options at the store we happened to be at when I bought it, and my husband just really likes Organix).

Today I stumbled upon this list on a forum which, although a couple of years old and possibly in need of some updating, I found to be incredibly helpful and enlightening. The woman who made the list (a mom to young kids, like myself) definitely put a lot of careful research into it, which I appreciate (note that both Giovanni and Organix made her list of Fake Organics, while Aubrey made her list of Real Naturals but not Real Organics). I plan to save this list and consult it the next time I decide to buy a new conditioner or deodorant. I invite you to do the same!

Hope you all had an amazing Fourth!

* When I went to look up the address for their website, I discovered Giovanni has changed the name of their haircare line from "Giovanni Organics" to "Giovanni Eco Chic." Guess they're taking the lawsuit seriously...though I still find the use of the word "Eco" somewhat misleading.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Field Trip!

For today's post I'll take you on a little "field trip" over to Diaper Junction's Cloth Diaper Blog, where I've been doing a bit of guest blogging recently. Feel free to take a peek!

We had a great day today with friends at an early Fourth of July town gathering, and plan to spend the day with family tomorrow.  Hope you all have a happy and full Independence Day weekend as well!

Friday, July 1, 2011

It Ain't Always Easy Bein' Green

Okay, I know sometimes I, and my eco-conscious comrades, only show the positive pretty side of living green.  And it's true there are a ton of positives!  Saving the earth and keeping our kids healthier in the long run and all that.  The truth, however, is that sometimes it can be difficult. Really difficult.

I mean part of the reason people have junked up the earth so much with toxic chemicals and pollutants is for purposes of convenience, right? We have plastic stuff because it's easier to cart around and more durable than glass and wood, and lighter and easier to manufacture than steel (and more flexible than any of those materials). Many industrial pollutants came into being because it's easier and faster to churn out goods via machinery than by hand. We have toxic preservatives in food and cosmetics because it's easier to buy things that have a long shelf life than try to keep good organic fresh stuff, well, fresh. Driving and flying sure are a lot more convenient and less time-consuming than walking, bike-riding and taking horse-drawn carriages everywhere, isn't it?

So yes, there are downsides to living green. Cleaning with homemade products and eating homemade organic food require taking the time to make all that stuff, and organic food is, indeed, more expensive (and harder to find). Freecycling and thrift shopping can mean it takes a lot longer to find what you're looking for than running to Target or Wal-Mart. Cloth diapers, as much as I love them, can be a real pain in the butt, literally... while it's true that disposables can be the cause of many diaper rashes, cloth diapers also can, if you're struggling (as I have) to find the right detergent and wash routine for your specific washing machine and water type.  While it's easy enough to switch brands of disposables, cloth diapering problems can be a bit trickier.

And so I will confess that sometimes my husband and I buy take-out food and even (gasp!) McDonald's, particularly when on road trips. Planning road trips with the baby can be hard enough without remembering to pack lunch for us too!  Sometimes we use disposable diapers with antibiotic ointments and steroid creams to combat the worst diaper rashes, and believe me I have sometimes felt the pressure from well-meaning friends and relatives to switch to disposables altogether (and have sometimes considered doing so). And once in a great while we will still head into Target to grab a pack of batteries or other needed item (and in spite of all their packaging and transportation issues, we are still Amazon junkies).  We are certainly not homesteaders or zero-wasters yet by any means (maybe someday)!

The truth is that you do what you feel you must do when life gets a little overwhelming. I'm never really proud of these choices but I try not to beat myself up for them either. Because in the end, we keep coming back to our crunchier ways, and in fact as the months go by we commit to even more eco-friendly, though sometimes harder, choices. That is the (sometimes unfortunate) power of conviction: believing that there is true value in what you are doing for the world around you, for the future of your children and the generations to come. Yes, it might be less convenient, and harder in some ways on the pocketbook (or even occasionally on baby's tuchus), and sometimes it's easier to see the downsides than the often long-delayed or seemingly minuscule benefits, but ultimately it's all worth it. Knowing we're lowering our contribution to the onslaught of chemical carcinogens and hormone disruptors on our son, our land and our water supply, even just a tiny bit, keeps me going when the going gets rough.

After all, we all need something to stand for, don't we?