Monday, August 25, 2014

Safe Scrub for Kitchens and Baths

Growing up in my house, if you wanted something cleaned right you used Soft Scrub. Naturally, that carried over to my own home once I was grown. However, Soft Scrub is a far cry from natural:  even their baking soda formula is rated a D in safety by the Environmental Working Group. Obviously, it was time for a change.

So get ready to dust off that old box of baking soda in the back of your cabinet because, in no time at all, you will have your very own Safe Scrub. This scrub will defeat soap scum, dirty grout and tough toilet bowls just as well as the other stuff but will be better for the health of your body, planet and bank account.

You can use any old, clean squeeze bottle to store the scrub in or use a pump bottle for easy application. Since I use Ball glass jars for just about everything, I was beyond excited when I came across a Ball pump lid at my local Meijer store for $8.50. I got ridiculously excited when I realized you could buy two Ball jars for $1.50 each and get one lid accessory for free. I might have danced a little bit in the aisle but, as no one else was around, I will admit nothing except that I saved 5 bucks and added two more jars to my extensive collection.

One more thing: due to the vinegar and lemon essential oil this is not safe to use on granite. Also, even though this recipe uses all natural ingredients this is still a cleaner and should be placed where children and pets can't reach it. Now on to the recipe...

Safe Scrub for Kitchens and Baths
By Living Life Granola
1-2/3 cups baking soda
1/2 cup castile soap
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp vinegar
10 drops lemon essential oil
10 drops tea tree oil

Mix all ingredients except oils until combined. Add in oils and mix until incorporated throughout. If using a Ball jar to store in, mix everything in jar to save on dishes. If it starts to separate just shake before use. Apply to area and rinse or use a vinegar/water solution to rinse.

Safe and affordable cleaning is attainable for everyone so get out your rubber gloves and start stirring before you start scrubbing!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Almond Butter and Jelly Muffins

In honor of my kids starting 8th and 2nd grade today, I'm posting one of their school lunch favorites: muffins. Muffins are great because they can hide a whole host of healthy ingredients kids otherwise wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. You can also make a double batch, freeze the extras and have a ready-to-go lunch for those really hectic mornings (that's every morning in my house).

These muffins can be vegan, gluten-free and nut-free, too. If you want them to be completely vegan, swap out the eggs with 1/4 cup almond milk mixed with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed. Let it sit for 5 - 10 minutes then mix in with the wet ingredients.

The recipe below already uses gluten-free flour but the same amount of sprouted or whole wheat flour can be used as well.

For nut-free: replace almond milk with rice or hemp milk and the almond butter with sunflower seed butter.

The ingredients:

A couple a quick notes on the ingredients: make sure you are buying aluminum-free baking soda- you don't want it in your deodorant and you don't want it in your food, either. According to Dr. Weil, aluminum can be harmful to kidneys and may weaken bones. The Alzheimer connection with aluminum is still up in the air- but why risk it when there are aluminum-free options out there?

If You Care brand baking cups are bleach-free, use sustainable forestry practices and, best yet, are compostable. You can find them here.

Almond Butter and Jelly Muffins
Living Life Granola
1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
3/4 tsp salt
1 pastured egg
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup almond milk
1/3 cup almond butter,
1/3 cup juice-sweetened jelly, divided

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix egg, maple syrup, almond milk and almond butter together until smooth- can also use an immersion blender if the almond butter is too chunky. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just moistened. Fill muffin pans 2/3 full and using your thumb or end of a wooden spoon, press a hole in the top of each muffin to fill with jelly. Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

These were taste-tested and approved by my 13 year old, 7 year old, 1 year old and my biggest kid of all, the 35 year old... so these can also make great office lunches, too! Just add some trail mix and veggie sticks and lunch is done in a snap. Quick, healthy and affordable, too. Happy new school year everyone!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Baby Cloth Wipes with Spray Recipe

Last week I had written about the splendors of cloth diapering but now I am going to broaden that awesomeness to cloth wipes. Honestly, I was more concerned switching to cloth wipes than the diapers. I was one of those 3 wipes-per-poop gal (if not more) and dreaded the mess and amount of laundry that cloth wipes would generate. Those worries soon proved unfounded.

Really, if you think on it, disposable wipes are not all that grand. The nice, thick, plush ones that separate perfectly are so filled with toxic ingredients that they are not even an option in my book. On the other side of the coin are the wipes that are safe for baby but a major pain in your rear. My experience has been that I either can't get a wipe out of the container or seven of them come out at a time. Fun times- but not really. Then you have the wipes that are either too dry or sopping wet… there didn't seem to be a happy medium. And yet, I still went month to month trying brand after brand and hoping that eventually I would hit disposable-wipe gold.

I did hit gold but it was in the form of cloth. It seemed prudent at the time of us switching to cloth diapers to also switch to cloth wipes as well. My reasoning: I didn't want to deal with two forms of disposal. Why deal with trash and laundry? My laziness paid off (for once) and this 3-wipe gal turned into a 1-wipe gal no matter how messy the diaper. Cloth wipes are a-maz-ing. They are thick and soft and separate perfectly AND not filled with toxic junk because I make my own wipe spray using the recipe below. Since I am writing this post we are of course saving a butt load (really bad pun but I can't help it) of money using them and saving our poor overloaded garbage dumps as well.

The last brand of disposable wipes we used was DermaH20 Water Wipes that cost $14.09 for 240 wipes. That would be a little under a month supply for us with a total cost of $338.16 for two years of diapering. We are currently using thirty OsoCozy flannel wipes that cost us $9.99 for a pack of fifteen so $20 total. The spray solution costs pennies to make so you are looking at a savings of over $300 using cloth wipes. Like I said: Amazing!

Making this diaper spray solution is super fast and easy.  You don't have to measure anything out and saying it only takes a minute to make is generous. I will put measurements here, though, because I know how annoying it is to find a new recipe and not have exact measurements given. In time when you are comfortable with the recipe just eyeball it- it goes a lot quicker. You can spray a corner of the cloth wipe to clean and then use the rest of the wipe to pat away any excess moisture. The wipe then gets thrown into the wet bag with the dirty diaper. Keeping the wipe solution in a spray bottle really lets you control how wet you want the wipes to be and it makes a perfect travel container as well.

***Edited Recipe due to research on olive oil that was brought to my attention on one of my forums. Almond or jojoba oil can replace the olive oil.

Easy Peasy Diaper Wipe Spray
From Living Life Granola
1 4oz spray bottle
1 tbsp castile soap (or 1 pump/squirt)
1 tsp organic almond or jojoba oil (or pour directly into bottle counting 1-one-thousand, 2-one-thousand)
2 drops tea tree or lavender essential oil, optional (I personally would not use essential oils on an infant younger than 1 month.)
Filtered water to fill spray bottle

Pour the castile soap and olive oil in spray bottle. Add essential oil if using and then fill the rest of the way with filtered water. Shake before each use.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The New and Improved Cloth Diaper

It's no secret that cloth diapers are better for the planet and your wallet, however, the time and gross factor are enough for most people to say "no freakin' way." I hear you- really, I do. That was my exact sentiment for two of my children. To assuage my guilty conscience we used diapers labeled biodegradable, so while my conscience was clear so, too, was my bank account. Then during my 3rd child's third month I stumbled across an article that put things into a new perspective. Now I'm saying ewww to disposable diapers.

The days of our grandmother's and mother's cloth diapering are over. (Thank God.) No public toilet rinsing- no home toilet rinsing for that matter, no pins, leaks, blow-outs, and ugly plastic covers. Ba-bye. Hello to adorable diaper covers that grow with your child and an ingenious little rubber piece called a snappi. The snappi has little plastic teeth that grip the cloth and hold the diaper together without the aggravation and safety issues of pins. Putting on a cloth diaper is as easy as:

1. Folding the diaper.

2. Fastening the ends with a snappi.

3. Putting the cover on over the diaper.

I love cloth diapering- love it! Yes, there is some extra time involved but we are talking minutes here. Minutes, in my humble opinion, well served.

But let's talk the nitty gritty- disposal. This is how I do it: When my daughter was exclusively breast fed the soiled diapers went right into the wet bag to be laundered. Now that she is on solids, her "reconstituted" solids do have to be plopped in the toilet. (If you read the fine print on disposables- you should be doing this with them, too!) I do this by taking the soiled diaper, turning it over the bowl and literally plopping it in the john.  I never touch poop- ever. When the wet bag is full I unzip it and empty it into the washing machine. My hands do not touch the dirty diapers. When the bag is empty I turn it inside out and it also goes in with the diapers. I do a cold rinse first to help loosen up any bits and pieces and then do a regular load with hot water using a mild detergent. The diapers come out clean and fresh every time.

Now, poop diapers will end up staining unless you rinse them right after you change them. Since its not a sanitation issue and the diapers get just as clean with the extra rinse in the washer, I choose to skip this step. If the stains will be an issue for you there are spray attachments that can be attached to the toilet's clean water valve to clean the diapers, again without having to touch anything gross. Or you can dry the clean diapers in the sun for a natural bleaching action. A step we should be taking anyway, if the weather is acceptable, since it saves money and is better for the environment.

And speaking of money, exactly how much is all this going to cost? If you are new to the world of cloth diapering it can be a little overwhelming to realize the quantity and variety of differing cloth diaper systems. The most economic is using a diaper cover with prefolds.

My own cloth diapering inventory includes: 6 covers, 24 prefolds, 2 snappis, 4 hemp inserts (extra absorbency for naps and night time), 2 wet bags for storage of dirty diapers, and 1 travel wet bag.  Everything is stored in the bottom drawer of my daughter's dresser for easy access for diaper changes. There is a jelly jar with holes punched in the top that is filled with baking soda to help with any odor issues. Due to the smelliest portion of the dirty diaper going down the toilet, the smell factor is usually not a problem. I decided to use the Thirsties brand for the diaper covers because the company employs stay-at-home moms to sew their covers. Their covers cost $12.75 each and come in a ton of cute designs. The prefolds I use are OsoCozy unbleached Indian cotton and they run at $28.88 for a dozen at the infant size.

While researching current prices for cloth diapers I came across the Econobum line. They have 2 different kits: the Trial Pack that includes 1 cover and 3 prefolds for $11.95 and the Full Kit with 3 covers, 12 prefolds and 1 wet bag for $49.95. Where the heck was this a year ago! Econobum also grows with your child so you can use the same covers and prefolds from birth to potty-training. The covers and prefolds are all unbleached which is a must. So the cost to diaper your baby for 2 years using the Econobum system is:

2  Econobum Full Kit $49.95

1  2pk Snappi infant size $5.75

1 2pk Snappi toddler size $7.15

2  2pk Thirsties Hemp Inserts $9

                                                          Total:          $130.89
(All above prices are from It’s a great website and company that will really help you get started in cloth diapering.)

We were using the Nature Baby Care line while we were using disposables due to their claim of being biodegradable- and they most likely are but not in our garbage dumps. My calculations are under the assumption that newborns get changed about every 2 hours and babies and toddlers get changed about 6 times during the day. I also figured in the rising prices of disposables as baby gets bigger. So with this criteria, using the Nature Baby Care line we would have spent $1,743.99 to diaper my daughter for 2 years. (Prices for Nature Baby Care is from

Cloth: $130.89         Disposables: $1,743.99
Your savings using cloth: $1,613.10
Savings to our planet and your baby's health: priceless

 A few pointers on cloth diapers:

-make sure to wash and completely dry the diapers 6 - 7 times on the hot cycle before use. Sounds like a lot, I know, but the oils need to be stripped from the cloth to make them more absorbent. They will leak if this is not done and the water used for this priming still does not even come close to the damage that disposables cause to this planet.

-babies usually don't get diaper rash with cloth but if it happens regular diaper ointment cannot be used as it will make the diapers repel instead of absorb fluids.  The ointment does not wash out of the cloth. We use straight up coconut oil for everyday protection and breast milk lotion (look for it in a future post) for any diaper rash that might crop up.

-Youtube has some great videos on how to put a cloth diaper on a baby. I'll admit the first day was awkward but by day two I was a pro.

Today's cloth diapers are not the chore they used to be and, with their innovative design and thrifty price tag, are a great alternative for parents on a tight budget and for anyone who wishes to lessen their eco footprint. I urge you to give them a try!