Thursday, February 9, 2012

All Purpose Cleaner

I got this recipe from a Green Convention. I got a big Home Depot spray bottle with this recipe. It broke before the solution was used up. Get bottles at WalMart for a buck! Half the recipe if you have a smaller spray bottle.

30 oz. water
4 Tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons borax
(10 drops fragrance)

I haven't used this recipe in a long time, because I never had borax around. I just mixed equal parts water and vinegar, it works great! Vinegar has some disinfecting properties and also kills nasty smells. I use vinegar for lots of household needs. I just made a batch of laundry detergent, so I am going to start making this recipe again since I have borax on hand. But if you don't have it, vinegar and water is fine. It costs just pennies to make. I used to buy 409 all purpose cleaner, haven't bought a bottle in 3 years.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The 5 S's - The Cure for the Fussy Baby!

I read a lot of books when I was pregnant and post-partum. One that I read was called The Happiest Baby on the Block. There was a lot of interesting points, but the one that stuck out to me was the 5 S's; swaddle, side, sshhh, swing, suck.

Swaddle. This was a life saver for me! My midwife was the first to show me swaddling. Being a new mom and not knowing much about babies, I found this fascinating! But Ethan always seemed to get out of his swaddle, startle in his sleep and wake up. Happiest Baby has an awesome step by step diagram on how to swaddle. I've been teased by friends on how tightly I swaddle. But neither of my son's ever wriggled out! I've tried the Swaddle Me velcro wrap, never worked. I liked the larger thin flannel receiving blankets. Here's a video tutorial.
Swaddling was awesome for me because both kids flailed around while eating. This calmed them down, and they slept better.

Side, Swing, Sshhh. These I usually did together. Even when I hold newborns, I find myself instinctively doing the side, swing and sshhhh.

Suck. This is the cherry on top for a baby. It can be a finger, pacifier, or food source.

This totally work for me to calm my babies. My second is naturally sensitive, so there was no curing his innate fussiness. But this calmed him enough to have a meal and give him moments of happiness.

Baby Food

My first son had hardly any store bought baby food. Mostly because I was really cheap!

I just cooked down veggies (carrots, peas, green beans) or fruits (apples, pears), blended with a little bit of water, and froze them in ice cube trays. Easy! Ice cube trays are great. I popped themout and stored them in gallon size ziploc baggies, labeled; carrots, peas, etc. That way I could as many or little as needed. (I also do this same system with homemade chicken stock!)

I sometimes added a little more water and rice cereal. With canned fruits, I just mashed them up and served. It's super cheap to make baby food. A friend of mine owns a restaurant and she made her son all kinds of gourmet baby food. There are such great books out there too. I've gotten great recipes from books for toddlers that have become some of my favorite meals for the entire family!

Converting to Cloth

This is my cloth diaper journey...
Growing up, all I had ever known in diapering were disposibles. I knew when first dating my now husband, that his mom was still using cloth diapers, but I didn't really grasp the idea of it. At 15 years old I had no interest in babies or diapers! So I never gave it a second thought. It wasn't until after I had my first son that I realized how expensive diapers were! And since he was a breastfed baby, he went even more! Even with the abundance of gift diapers, we were constantly going to the store to buy more diapers. I had thought about cloth diapers, wondering if they would really save us money... but I read things that said it's not really that much cheaper when you factor in the water costs and detergent and the investment of the diapers. Plus the thought of poopy diapers soaking in water grossed me out. From what my husband told me about cloth diapers, they were disgusting and stinky.
I was reading a parenting magazine and came across an article about the evolution of the cloth diaper. They were totally cute! And from what I was reading, they were easy. I took baby steps in trying cloth diapers out. I was given used prefolds and covers at my local kids consignment shop. So far it seemed ok, but it was a hassle to do part cloth, part disposible. There was a lot to store, 2 diaper pails, AH! My husband thought I was just going on one my crazes, getting obsessed with learning about cloth diapers and trying to convince him (and myself) that they would be a good investment. Not only would they be free diapering once they paid themselves off, but they are better for the child and the landfill. I'm not a major environmentalist, but I do think about my carbon footprint. I try my best to be a good steward.
This website helped me a lot with an array of products and links to cloth diapering information. It was my local cloth diaper store at the time.
From what I gathered, a pocket-type diaper with a cover and insert or prefold would be easiest and most cost efficient. The covers can be used over again with wet diapers (and poopy ones too if the mess doesn't get on the cover). I went into a diaper shop in a nearby town and told the owner what I was looking for. She suggested the Flip diaper system made by BumGenius. I slowly added more to my stock, as needed. I also added things that I needed over time. A pail (which is a tall kitchen garbage can) and 2 liners (which I made from 1 yard of water proof fabric, $9.99), a dry/wet bag (Planet Wise, $20), doublers ($3 each) and a diaper sprayer (bumGenius $45). Almost 2 years later, I ended up with about 30 inserts, 9 doublers and 11 covers.

I did some rough calculations on my start up costs, we spent about $250 on cloth diapering, for everything. (Of course I have added things over time, and each day they pay themselves off!) Because I was diapering 2 in the beginning of this journey, we spent over $100 a month on bulk diapers and wipes. So the cloth diapering paid itself off in less than 3 months! Wow! We have a well now, so water is free. No guilt or cost for washing diapers. I usually line dry, and in the summer I like to hang them outside. My house never smells like diapers, and it's not any harder, really, than using disposibles.
Another thing I contemplated was making my own inserts. And I spent many hours on the computer looking at different patterns and fabric choices. For a pattern that had similar fabrics as my StayDry inserts, it would cost about the same to make as it would to buy. So I thought I would save myself the trouble and buy them from Plus, they have a resell section (which I didn't know about until AFTER I bought 2 dozen inserts). So you might be able to save a little money there. Even though homemade patterns may seem easy or less expensive, I find assurance in the quality of the fabrics used in store bought inserts, prefolds and covers.
When Euan was about 1 and a half, we were just using disposibles at night since he was a heavy wetter. I was almost out of disposibles and I dreaded the thought of buying another pack of diapers to use at night. I figured there had to be an answer to overnight diapering. I stopped by Cotton Babies and Hurrah! Hemp diaper doublers, used for naps and overnight wetting. I bought enough for 3 nights worth so I can have a set even when washing diapers. Since Ethan rarely wets at night, he would wear one Stay Dry insert and cover. Even if he tinkles, it's sufficient. I use 2 doublers and an insert for Euan and so far so good. He has nights were his cloths are a little damp. He wets SO much! His overnight diaper weighs a ton! It really absorbs.

I still use disposibles when we do date swaps and I don't want people to have to bother with cloth diapers. Or if we go away for a weekend. I used to use them for diaper rashes too. Rash cream and create a lot of build up in the cloth diapers. They make a disposible fleece insert for that purpose. They are cheaper than disposibles too! Some people like to use them regularly so that their diapers won't be a mess when baby poops.

I plan on being 100% cloth from here on out. It's become a part of our routine now. And I love that I am doing the best for my kids and for our wallets. Any way I can help out with saving money, I'm eager to do it.

Adjustable Toddler Belt

Have you ever had a pair of infant or toddler pants that were just a little too loose? My first son is thin. When he was a toddler, his waist size in pants was smaller than his pant length. So I put a belt on him for a while. What a pain to take off every time he needed a diaper change. Then I discovered the adjustable waist pant. Hallelujah! But these can be hard to find in infant sizes (24 months and smaller). So he wore athletic pants for a long time! Good ole elastic pants!
My second son is.... not so thin. :) He is built like a tree trunk, round and solid! With the added bulk of a cloth diaper, now I run into the opposite problem. He needs larger pants in the waist, but they are still a little too loose.
My sister-in-law had the same problem with pants staying on her son too. She introduced me to the Dapper Snapper. It's an adjustable toddler belt that snaps in the back, so you never have to worry about taking it off during diaper changes. I thought it was a great invention! Created by a mom, of course! And they come in all different colors to either match an outfit or add flare.
I really didn't want to spend $10 per belt. So I made my own version of one. It's a simple concept. But I've never attached snaps before, and I went through almost a whole package before I figured out how to use the tools and attach them correctly. Typically I could make about 4 belts with one package of snaps (at $2.59 per package, plus my 40% off coupon because I'm cheap). I already had the black elastic on hand. But I did check the elastic out to see if I could get a navy for jeans and tan for khakis. Unfortunately I only found black and white elastic in my local craft stores. More colors are probably available online.
I didn't measure anything, which is strange for me... the perfectionist! I just placed the first outtie snap and then fitted them on the jeans to the tension I liked, and placed the rest of the snaps. I used a youtube video as a reference on how to attach snaps, and of course now I can't find it! The problem I had was putting the innie snaps on backwards, or hammering until the metal was crooked. I seriously had no idea how to attach these things! The innie piece with the side that feels raised up is the side that gets hammered against the prongs.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Homemade Bar Soap

I was given a bar of homemade soap once. It was pumpkin scented and smelled delicious! It had coffee grounds mixed in as an exfoliant, and it felt great! I was shocked when I found out that it was homemade. Buying all the start up ingredients wasn't easy or cheap. The sodium hydroxide (used to make lye, which is used for saponification and makes the soap, soap) had to be ordered online and some of the ingredients weren't carried in the same store, so I had to make multiple stops. But once I had everything, the process was pretty easy. (And once I found a recipe I liked, like the grocery store soap, I could find most everything easily and in the same store.)

The cold process method is what I use. I found the link below to be very useful. It's a great tutorial. It also has a grocery store recipe (which I've used many times), so you can find all the ingredients you need in one place! With the exception of the sodium hydroxide of course. I buy that from along with any essential oils. Occasionally I will make a batch of specialty soap. But I dread having to buy extra ingredients and fragrances. I make soap for our everyday use and typically make a simple recipe with coffee grounds and call it good. One batch usually lasts many months.
I did the math and a simple bar of soap is about .50 cents per bar. A specialty bar is over $1 per bar. We usually bought Lever 2000 from Sams (because it was the best price). It's about .42 cents per bar. Just a tiny bit cheaper than homemade, and a lot less work. Store bought soap bars are a little bigger too. But ick! It makes my skin super dried out. And to buy something like Dove or Dial is almost $1 per bar, even from Sams.

I get so freaked out when I hear about the crazy ingredients in everyday things that end up being bad for your health. I know all the ingredients that I put in this soap.
A great resource is a book called The Soapmakers Companion. It's on my list of things to buy! It has everything you need to know about soapmaking and recipes.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I was getting low on All Free & Clear liquid detergent. I was dreading a trip to Sam's. Not only do my Sam's trips turn expensive really quick, but it was the end of January, which meant the end of our monthly budget. I just wanted to hold off until February. We made a trip to WalMart and my husband said "Why don't you just buy a small jug of detergent to get you through until February and it won't cost very much." A valid idea. But I of course think of value when I buy. Groceries are shopped for by the unit price, not the listed price. And something like laundry detergent is bought by price per load. I think All was about 11 cents per load.

I use Country Save for my cloth diapers. It's a detergent free of dyes and perfumes, it's a detergent for clothes, but safe for diapers as well. I did the math on how many loads I do, how many boxes I had left, and if I would need to buy more by the time I was done with diapers. I figured I would, in fact, need to buy more detergent, so I could always use that for my regular laundry too. When I did the math, Country Save was 10 cents per load. Hmm...

I remembered that I had made my own detergent once. I wasn't impressed by it. It didn't clean my clothes any better than other detergents and I found it to be a hassle. Stirring and dunking a scooper in a huge bucket with every load. And now with 2 kids, I do a lot of laundry. I need laundry time to be easy and quick. I hate how the liquid detergents (like All) always leak and create a soapy mess on my shelf. So I contemplated homemaking a powdered detergent. My math came out to 5 cents a load. Wow! I did the math on homemade liquid detergent... 1 cent per load. Yikes! That sold me right then and there. But only if I could find a way to easily mix and dispense. I remembered a watching the Duggar's on TLC. I googled the Duggar recipe and it suggested filling an old liquid detergent container and giving it a shake before you dispense. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients; cheap and all found at WalMart. Process; quick and easy. I bought a 5 gallon bucket with a lid at Lowe's to store my gelled detergent. Every time my dispenser runs out, I just fill it half with water and half with detergent. Shakey shake and done. And for a tenth of the price! Oh, and it does clean our clothes very well! Even my husband's work clothes come out smelling fresh and clean.

Shadow Puppets

The library has a monthly Born Learning event where families come and play. The theme this month was shadows. Luckily, we had just played in the dark with flashlights a few days before. So Ethan was very excited! One of the stations was a make your own shadow puppet. Ethan chose a train (pink!) and a dolphin. Euan got 2 different dinosaurs. Taped to popcicles, and we got some shadow puppets!
This inspired me to use my newest birthday gift, my Cricut! A part of me wants to use the Cricut as much as possible so I can justify how much it costed! I filtered through the templetes and found images that were easily recognizable by shadow only. And Voila! The first my Cricut creations!