Sep 19, 2014

Cloth Diapering, Can Save You MONEY!

You can do it a couple ways, you can buy disposables, ruin the environment and spend a TON of money, or you can buy compostable disposables and spend even more money or you can spend a little less money and do cloth diapers OR you can spend way less and do cloth diapers.

Some cloth diapers are just ridiculously priced.  I searched high and low for a diapering solution that was environmentally friendly, healthy for baby, easy for me, and cheap.

If you are not sure if you are a cloth diapering person, there is only one question you need to ask yourself.  Do you have a problem keeping up with laundry? If they answer is yes, definitely or what is laundry? then you will either need to change some things in your life or know that cloth diapering is not for you. 


What I've spent on cloth diapering ...
$225!
And what I've bought will last me until this babe is out of diapers. I may need to add a new set of liners here or there, but even then we are talking $20-$50 more  The average family spends $600 per year on diapers. If you are diapering for 3 years... or more... That really adds. up.

Here's what I use:

Imagine Newborn Diaper cover. Only if you have very small babies. My 6 month old is still in these, she is very small. About $9-10 each. I ordered 4. That was enough for the first couple months. You can dump out the liner and reuse the cover all day or until soiled.

Alva Baby Bamboo Diaper Liners.  About $36-40 for 12. I ordered 24.  They wash up really nicely and are really absorbent and stackable. 

  Planet wise wet bag. A place to put dirty diaper liners when you are on the road. $11.95  You could just use a ziplock bag actually, but these are washable and reusable and come in bigger sizes too. 


A waterproof, reusable, diaper pail liner.  You take the whole thing out of the pail and dump it and the diapers in the wash. You will want 2, so you have one to use while the other is washing and drying.  $17-$20


Imagine diaper cover.  You'll need bigger diaper liners eventually if you go with the newborn size at first.  Both are adjustable to fit many different sizes but the newborn gets very small.  The regular size can accommodate many newborns or after the first month. $10-$12

  
We decided to try a new brand Bumkins. They are great quality and way more adjustable but I kinda like the simplicity of the Imagine covers.  These have way to many snaps and they have a flap inside to "hold in the liner" better. I find it just gets dirty faster and doesn't stop leaks any better than the Imagine brand, without flaps and is cheaper.  They also have double gusseting, that means 2 elastics around the leg. the imagine brand has this too.  I have 2 Flip diaper covers also, that were the most expensive. You can tell when you look at the quality stitching. Other than that they are not better than the Imagine diapers. They do not have double gusseting but it doesn't really seem to make much of a difference in terms of containment. They also have those inner flaps that do nothing but get dirty faster.

  
For wipes, I bought a roll of these bamboo towels. I cut them into fourths.  They get washed with everything else and reused.  They are way better than regular wipes. They are thicker, and better at cleaning and keeping your hands clean with a much smaller wipe. $15-20 

You need a place to stash diapers until you can wash them.  This Safety 1st pail is perfect because it seals the smells out well and my liners fit it well. It is small and compact but holds plenty. $20.

I have 10 diaper covers and 24 absorbent diaper liners,  It is best to put a fleece liner over the diaper liner for a stay dry feel. I simply bought fleece at the store for $2 a yard and cut about 24 that fit my absorbent liners.  You can double up on liners for more absorbency or buy microfiber liners to place under the bamboo liners. You can also use triple folds.  I've even seen people make their own absorbent liners with terry cloth, cotton, microfiber, bamboo, hemp, and other things.    
At each change, dump the liners in the diaper pail, if the cover is clean then you can reuse it. If not put it in the pail too and any wipes used. If baby is eating solids, dump them into the toilet as much as possible, then put liners in the pail.  If baby is exclusively breast feeding, then you do not need to do anything but put it all in the pail.  
To wash I use tide and have soft water in my home.  I have a front loader machine and have no problems with it getting them clean. 
I dump the diapers, liners, wipes, wet bags, pail liners, all into the washer, then I run it on cold rinse and spin. Then I add 1/4 the amount of soap the box recommends for a load, and wash it all on hot wash. When that is done, if my diapers have been getting a little smelly after baby wears them, like uric acid is building up, which is an ammonia smell, then I do one last rinse and spin. This always solves that problem. Remove all of the diaper covers, diaper pail liners and wet bags (do not dry in dryer, it will ruin your covers) and allow to air dry. Put the wipes, and liners and fleece in the dryer and dry on hot. 

If you have stains on your liners, hang them in the sun for 1 day. The sun bleaches away the stains.
  
When you leave the house pack a wet bag, 2 covers, equivalent liners, plus one or two extra liners and some wipes.

If your baby has a rash problem, try washing with a cup of vinegar in the second hot cycle. 

Do not use any diaper creams against your absorbent liners or they won't absorb anymore. Use your fleece liners to protect your absorbent liner and then just make new liners when you need to.

If you are not sure if you are a cloth diapering person, there is only one question you need to ask yourself.  Do you have a problem keeping up with laundry? If they answer is yes, definitely or what is laundry? then you will either need to change some things in your life or know that cloth diapering is not for you.  
If you are ok with laundry, then know that you only have to wash diapers once every 2 days or so and you are doing tons of laundry anyway with a little baby.       


Sep 18, 2014

Get your Fall on! Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's not enough to have a pumpkin flavored cookie. There must also be spice to engage in the fullness of fall. That's why there's a lot of "fall" in my cookie recipe. This is my tried and true recipe I have been using for many years.




Preheat oven 375 F

just throw it all in a mixer:
1 C pumpkin
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C oil ( coconut of course!)
1 egg, from your own chickens (ok, from the store the fine.)
2 C whole wheat flour, That you just ground yourself. (or white whatever you have)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
and 1 tsp vanilla,
then add
1 tsp cinnamon
and
2 cloves, whole (~1/16th tsp ground)
2 allspice whole (1/16th Ground)
1 tsp ginger
1/16 nutmeg
OR
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice.
and 1 cup of chocolate chips. Semi sweet is best.
Drop on cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes per sheet

Home made Seasoning Salt

I was checking my Seasoning Salt Label for MSG, like I do all my prepackaged foods, when it occurred to me how easy it would be to make it myself.  The ingredients are basic, and simple, minus a few unnecessary ingredients like anti caking silicon and coloring.  I love using seasoning salt because it ads a little extra flavor to dishes without a lot of complication.  Most likely you would be adding the spices contained within it to your dish anyway.  You will need a mortar and pestle or a high powered blender like a Blend Tec, or a vita-mix or a coffee/spice grinder, or use finely ground salts and spices to start with. To prevent settling, it's best to have all of the ingredient particles roughly the same size.


1. Salt
I like to use Redmonds Real Salt, it is minimally processed sea salt.  It maintains many beneficial minerals, that is why it is pinkish in color.
2. Chili Powder
I love a good chili powder,  Get one that is a nice bright red and smells like fresh chili's for best flavor.
3.  Pepper
I used fresh ground black peppercorn blend,  If you do not have a grinder or blender I would recommend white pepper.  the hard shell has been removed and it is very finely ground. Go easy on it though! Use roughly half what you would regular pepper.
4.Celery Seed
Celery seed is so savory and fragrant! If you are not already using this to season dishes, you should!
5. Onion
Use dry onion powder, or flakes if you are using a blender or mortar
6. Paprika
Ads more of that classic red seasoned salt color, plus a gentle heat.
7. Garlic
Use dry garlic powder.
Without the coloring added to this mix, the color will be more pink in the bottle, than red like commercial seasoned salt, a small price to pay...  It tastes just like it and this recipe will make enough to fill your old 8 oz seasoned salt container!



1/2 Cup Salt
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1/2 Tablespoon White pepper
1 Tablespoon ground Celery seed
2 Tablespoons Onion powder
1/2 Tablespoon Garlic



Grind any whole spices or flakes, or put the whole shebang in your blender.  It's that simple!
Happy Cooking!
-Valerie


6 Minute Hard Boiled Egg

I love a good fried egg but they can be tricky to get them just right. I do not like any part of my whites brown or chewy, and I don't like it runny either, but I prefer my yolks slightly runny, but not watery and never hard. If you agree with me, then what you are looking for is not a fried egg, but a six minute boiled egg.  
 Start a pot of boiling water with about 1 teaspoon of salt. Once it begins to rapidly boil, carefully place the eggs in the pot.  Immediately set your timer for 6 minutes and walk away.  As soon as the timer goes off, place your pot under cold running water and allow it to overflow into the sink until the water is all cool.
 Then you can break and peel your eggs. If you did it just right it will peel easily and will not break the whites.
 When you cut into your egg it will be creamy and just right.
 Not too runny or too hard. All of the whites will be cooked firm but not rubbery.
 MM, delicious! Put it on top of toast, or a biscuit and enjoy!



Successful Gardening in a Tiny Back Yard

Before we moved into our townhouse we lived in a rental house that had a huge garden in it.  I was very successful at growing giant sunflowers, tomatoes and carrots, I even grew delicious giant ears of corn and had zucchini taking over my life. Well, we bought our townhouse, which I love, but the garden is lacking. It has a small 30' x 15' back yard that is half patio.   
 
There are of course, pros and cons to not having a massive yard and garden to take care of, like more time to do everything else, smaller water bills and less sun burns and heat stroke in the Utah summers.  
 The first year in our townhouse, I tried raised garden beds. They were a huge flop.  They didn't drain properly and the soil in them was such junk that nothing would grow very fast.  By the end of the season we had not one tomato.
The next year I tried container gardening as you can see in the picture below.  It was slightly more successful.  By the end of the season I had 4 green tomatoes which my son picked before they could ripen and I didn't even get one squash.  I know this method works for some... but it certainly didn't work for me. I thought long and hard about what made my garden successful for those two years in the rental house.  One, the landlord dumped amazing black topsoil AND compost from the waste processing facility into the garden. Amazing soil, very important. It got almost full sun. My backyard gets less than 6 hours a day of direct sunlight. But that year I tried container gardening something funny happened. A stray tomato from some kitchen waste got thrown into the back under a tree. It got maybe 3 or 4 hours of sun a day and it grew better than anything else I had planted that year. So I knew that sunlight in my yard should be less of an issue than I thought.  
Container gardening, not very successful. Grass area of 15'x15' before beds were put in. 
I decided I would get rid of the grass and use the soil available. I used the cardboard method.  I covered the spots I wanted to be dirt in cardboard and covered it with top soil. I left it all fall and all winter and all spring.  When the ground thawed I pulled up what cardboard had not composted and threw it out.  Then I turned it all in with a hand tiller.  Back breaking! But good exercise. All winter long we threw all of our kitchen scraps out into the soil.  I smashed every egg shell we used and threw it out there, knowing that the dirt in this area is often lacking calcium, which the tomatoes especially need but it benefits all plants.  
In the process of composting the grass for garden beds.
As you can see in the picture below, come June I had thriving tomatoes on the right (started from seeds inside), a zucchini that is now 3 times that size (started right in soil from seed), and some various squash and pumpkins, all stated in the soil from seed. I also have some peppers near the tomatoes, and have already harvested peas and a full crop of lettuce.  

squash vines after a month of growing. They grow so rapidly!  We went away for 4 days and when we got back the vines had doubled in size prompting us to build the permanent arbor.  
 Since my vines have gotten out of control, and I just don't have the heart to get rid of some of them I convinced the husband we needed to build this arbor out of scrap wood.
Simple arbor I designed and the husband helped build.  All out of scrap wood. 
 You can see below that the vines have already climbed over the arbor, with some coaching by me.  I have a small push mower that takes about 90 seconds to clean up the horseshoe shape of grass path.  I have a drip system tied into my hose and each section of the garden has one sprinkler.  This has seemed to be enough.  I have a simple timer that I just have to manually set to the time I want it to run each day.  I spend about 15 minutes a week weeding.  I expect by the end of August I will have plenty of food coming out of my garden. I only wish it was bigger so I could spend more time gardening!
Aerial view of tiny yard.  You can fit a lot of plants in a small space, they just need some sunlight, not full sun, some water and GOOD soil is the key.



Now we have almost an acre to tackle.  But I wanted to share how you can have a successful garden in a small space, soil is really the most important part of any garden.

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Sep 16, 2014

How to boost your Ipad sound for free, in seconds.



 Just 2 cuts with a good pair of scissors.  Then fold so it will hold tight to your Ipad. It even works with a smart cover. Just adjust it to go over your speaker on your device.



Aug 6, 2014

Breast feeding mystery pain: Thrush, get rid of it for good!

My third child, you would think I would be a breastfeeding pro, right? My midwives and lactation consultants kept telling me it was just my latch that was the problem. What else could it be?  So I reeducated myself on a proper latch and persevered but the pain was getting worse each day. I researched for hours a day and cried with each feeding. Sure the first couple weeks are always rough but I had 2 successful breastfed babies before this.  What was I doing wrong this time? I came across vasospasm.  Yes! This was it! This had to be the problem. No, the symptoms fit with one exception, vasospasms cause an intense pain to cold.  Cold actually helped my pain.

Like I said the first couple weeks can be rough to breast feed, no matter how experienced you are. It takes time for the nipples to toughen up.  But on week 4 and 5, I knew something was seriously wrong.  I had to take my percocet pain killers to make it through a feeding.  

Here were my symptoms.  My entire breast burned through most of a feeding, tapering off towards the end. Then stabbing burning pain inside the breast began and continued for hours, usually tapering off just in time to feed again.  That was it. I looked over the common list of breast feeding problems. I thought for sure it was not thrush (Candida) because baby had no symptoms of it and thrush was not supposed to hurt when you were nursing. That is a FREAKING lie. I finally found an article on Kelly Mom that was helpful. There's a protocol by a Doctor. Google it, if you want specifics. I did follow the protocol but was only temporarily relieved.  

This is what I tried:  Grapefruit seed extract. Its sounds like a natural solution but it's really not. Tried this for one week. No noticeable change at all. Still in searing, "punch your face in" pain.

Gentian violet. I had to run all over creation to find it and ended up paying $21 for the bottle. It made no difference and made my babies mouth purple for a week. It is also not really natural solution either.
I also tried prescription Nystatin, coconut oil and even probiotics.  
Then I made all purpose nipple ointment (or have your doctor prescribe it through a compounding pharmacy. Hear it costs over $80 for one.)  Make your own with Lotramin, Hydrocortizone and Polysporin, equal parts of each. Finally some relief! Within 12 hours the pain was majorly reduced and I could nurse without crying. I thought YAY! I can get through this! Well, in 2 weeks the pain was back, not as bad as before but enough that I wanted to hit the wall with my fist a few times an hour. 
Well, I went through a cycle of reinfection for about 2 months. NO, for real 2 months. I would be cured for 2 days and reinfected for 3 over and over again. It was bearable but come on. Some days it was too much and I wanted to cry  cried all day.  I had been sterilizing binkis and even bought 6 new bras so I could wear a clean one everyday. Still the cycle continued. Finally I prayed! "Please, there has to be a way to cure this for good!" I was immediately told what to do.  I had done so much research I guess I just needed the guidance to put it in the proper order and proper protocol.  I was prompted to go ahead and use the essential oils that I was avoiding because they can have unintended consequences on things like milk production and are very strong, and intimidating to use on or near a new baby.  But at this point my last option was either essential oils or get an prescription for Diflucan oral which has lots of nasty side effects. I went ahead and used Tea Tree, which is a great anti fungal. I was also prompted to use the All Purpose Nipple ointment for pain and to heal the scab that would form every three days.  Also to microwave all pacifiers in water for 5 minutes and to launder anything that came in contact with baby's mouth or my breast, to be washed in hot water and one cup of vinegar. I'm not kidding it was that specific.  A flood of clear and precise thoughts and I knew just what to do after all of these months of suffering, and in 3 days I was thrush free and it has not come back! 
Here is a more precise breakdown or what I did. 
  • Use Tea tree oil, straight, one drop for both sides after every feeding and shower.  Do not wash it off before feeding. (may make baby a little colicky but its worth it to kill thrush) 
  • Use one cup of plain white vinegar with every load of wash.  Wash anything that touches baby's mouth or your bare breast. Including clothes that get spit up on, burp cloths, sheets, blankets, shirts bras, pajamas etc. 
  • Microwave (boiling for 15 minutes would work too) in a glass bowl of water, anything that comes in contact with babies mouth. Including pacifiers, binki's, bottle parts or toys. If baby is a finger sucker, put socks on babies hands at all times and wash them with the vinegar load of laundry. 
  • If you are still sore and have actual scabbing and open wounds from the thrush, use the all purpose nipple ointment after the tea tree oil.  The hydrocortizone does help with the pain and the polysporin helps heal the wounds faster.  It can take 3 days for the symptoms to subside so do not give up if it doesn't work the first day.  Continue the treatment for 2 weeks no matter what! No matter how good you feel keep it up to prevent it from coming back.
You have to do all of it at the same time because it is so easy to reinfect yourself.  Your baby can also carry it without symptoms and reinfect you, so it is so important to sanitize everything and it is so simple by just adding vinegar to your laundry. I had been doing this the whole time but with grapefruit seed extract and it clearly wasn't working. I hope all my pain and suffering can bless the lives of others who are struggling with this same problem. If you are not sure you have thrush, they can do a culture for it to know for sure.  Just ask your doctor or midwife. You don't have to suffer and breastfeeding doesn't have to be so hard and you don't have to quit to get rid of the pain!