Postpartum Pampering & Bright Planet Review/Giveaway

Disclosure: I received free samples for review from Bright Planet, but all thoughts opinions shared herein are mine…all miiiiine! Also, I only review products that meet my standards for environmental/social responsibility and are relevant to Meg Acts Out.

Ever since Harper arrived 7 (!) weeks ago and Hadley is still, well, a typical 3-year-old, I’ve been tossed back into the world of “what day is this and when was my last shower?!”

At a stage such as this, it’s all too easy to forget that I’m still part of the human race – a human living in sweats with semi-permanent eye bags, but a human, nevertheless. In orderΒ  to remind myself of this simple fact from time to time, I force feed myself some simple versions of pampering with what limited time I can steal.

So, what are my postpartum pampering go-tos to feel like myself again?

1) Time to bathe *like an adult*. I don’t mean the 5 minute shower where you spend so much time pulling the shower curtain aside to check on the baby in her vibratey (totally a word) chair that you forget whether you washed your hair. I mean the “lose track of time, select pretty-smelling products (conditioner, yay!) and remember to shave” type of bathroom experience.

2) Getting out in the fresh air. Much like a golden retriever enjoys the occasional car ride, so do I love getting out these days. Mind you, I don’t want to do it daily; the effort to get everybody cleaned, clothed, and packed up isn’t a treat at all. But, whether it’s going for a ride, taking Hadley for a walk, heading to a family member’s house to hang out, or actually attempting a fun family outing, the fresh air does a body (and mind) good.

3) Drinking something that’s actually hot. I haven’t been remembering to drink as much water as a lactating woman should drink, but I’ve been making up for it with tea. I find myself turning the tea kettle on throughout the day now (which isn’t the norm) just to refill my mug of green tea again. Some days even go by where I don’t have to microwave it. That, my friends, is the sign of a good day.

I know these things seem incredibly mundane and simple. Maybe they are. But, on those days when you find yourself happily singing Daniel Tiger songs all day or not so happily run ragged, they’re a godsend.

So, when Bright Planet contacted me to see if I’d like to try a few sample sizes of their bath and body products, I literally teared up a bit. “Spa experience, table for one!” As an environmentally conscientious company, Bright Planet offers hair and skin care products that you can feel at ease using.

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Group shot on stones crop

Overall, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of all of the products. I can totally get behind Bright Planet’s 100% natural ingredients, which are paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, petro chemical-free with no artificial fragrances or colors. Plus, the products are 100% vegan and made in the USA.

When you try out eco-friendly products, there’s a preconceived expectation that they’ll smell like…well…patchouli. If you catch my drift. But, the first thing I noticed was how calming and delicious-smelling all four items I tried were. If the scent’s right, it can be a downright spa-like experience, and these definitely were.

Here are some brief thoughts on each item:

Inspiration Sour Cherry Scrub – A gentle but effective scrub that utilizes walnut shells (rather than those now-illegal microbeads), I tried this out on my elbows, feet – any place that was looking a little rough, if you know what I mean. Not only did it work great, but the scent was absolutely wonderful. Like, “Calgon, take me away” but without being, y’know, chemical-laden Calgon. πŸ˜‰ I felt totally pampered.

Orange Blossom Green Tea Facial Cleanser – Let me tell you…this was my favorite. It was mild yet effective, didn’t leave my face feeling dry OR greasy (how do they find the perfect middle ground??), and, as with all of their products, the scent was perfect. Not cloyingly sticky-sweet, definitely not “hippie.” Seriously, just right.

Inspiration Conditioner and Inspiration Shampoo – It could’ve been my “no poo” attempt awhile back or simply the changing of my hair’s pH after having kids, but my hair is like straw. Like, Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz could relate. I ALWAYS need to use a conditioner now (I wish coconut oil worked) or else my hair simply won’t detangle. So, I was apprehensive about these ones. Not all natural products work in my mess of a nest. But, they far exceeded my expectations. Plus, again, the SCENT was absolutely lovely.

In addition to the fact that Bright Planet makes legitimately incredible products, I love their social conscience. Take their latest initiative, for example. From now until the end of January, they’re partnering with KUTOA, a company dedicated to feeding children in need. With every purchase made using the campaign code HELPKIDS, they will give TWICE (once to an American child and once to a child overseas) to the KUTOA cause.

If you’re interested in trying out any of the Bright Planet products, now’s the time to do it, knowing that in doing so you can help fight malnutrition and childhood mortality worldwide.

And you can also get a chance to try a sample kit of the items I received by entering the giveaway Bright Planet has generously agreed to sponsor. Just click on the graphic below in order to head to my Meg Acts Out Facebook page and follow instructions to enter. Be sure to share how you like to pamper yourself (postpartum or not).
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The Time Has Come

What a dramatic title. Probably overly so, but this is one of the biggest topics I’ve had to get a hold on since we even got pregnant in the first place. Yeah, THAT big.

We’ve been putting off using cloth diapers for a bit of awhile for a couple of reasons.

#1. We wanted to get the hang of H.A.’s feedings (yeah, sometimes I just feel like calling him “H.A.” as if he’ll one day be a fancy schmancy author or professor who goes by his initials. Plus, I gave them to him, so I can call him what I want. Fartypants McGee. Poopsalot Poutyface.)

#2. The confusion of what dipes to choose has been a tiiiiiny bit overwhelming.

#3. (singing) Time, time, tiiiiiiime. Time-time tiiiiiime. Time.

Yeah, those’re about it. We recently discovered the VERY encouraging option of purchasing a $10, 2-week trial at a local diaper store but thought we’d put it off until we have lots of time with Hads, ourselves. It wouldn’t be fair to make his caregiver do all the testing, especially since she’s got a pretty active 1-year-old on her hands, too.

Then we heard about the whole Japanese plant explosion that may cause a shortage of disposable diapers (read: jump in price)…and upon reading about the lack of chemical that will be causing the shortage, it was hard for our brains not to jump straight to “Mmmmmaaaaybe we need to switch over sooner rather than later.” I guess it was easy to force ourselves into a world of conveniently ignorant bliss, but to think of the chemicals we’re subjecting his “lil’ bidness” to…shiver.

In regards to the above challenges…#1 – we’ve pretty much figured it out, with exception to his uncomfortable gas situation. #2 – the trial helps here (and just jumping in with the ones I’ve purchased…although I’m up in the air as to whether I should just wash ’em all since the first time is an undertaking or just do a couple so that I can resell ’em if they don’t work out). #3 – while things are still hectic (or, shall we say, difficult to schedule?), once we get the hang of it I foresee it taking as much time as the disposables…maybe a tad more laundry time.

Up until this point, we’ve tried several kinds and found a favorite. While I’d like to say we’ve been Seventh Generation-ing it up, we haven’t. Pampers Swaddlers (not the other kind…and, strangely, it does make a difference) has been our go-to. It’s what FEELS the most like cloth. The other brands feel like, well, paper. I’d LIKE to make the switch to SG for those as-needed times (they weren’t HORRIBLE…just not what you’d like to put on your newborn’s sensitive bits), so we’ll see how that goes. A little at a time.

So, we may be finally picking up that trial package soon to get an idea of exactly what kind(s) we want to invest in — most likely to be tried over the following couple of weekends and overnight as not to overwhelm the sitter. And, when the moment strikes (ie during my next sudden burst of energy; that’s the only way I get anything done lately), I’ll be laundering the dozen organic bumGenius dipes that I bought pre-Hadley that have been sitting, in their packages, in a corner of the nursery. I’m nervous yet excited to get them on his bum and see if/how they work for us.

And, of course, I’ll be stopping back with my *honest* opinion of all the goings-on. Oh, and I suppose a “final” (is it ever really finished? And is there ever NOT an incoming bag of outfits messin’ the place up again?) nursery tour is in order. Especially now that he’s in the crib and we’re able to call it HIS space. πŸ™‚ Now, we just have to determine where to hang a few final pieces of art…the hardest part.

*BTW, totally off-topic. Whatchya think of this font vs. my usual? Snazzy? Better or worse?*

DIY Detergent

Thanks to a super mild winter, our school was lucky enough to get an extra day for Memorial Day weekend, so I was home this Tuesday, a pretty eventful day. It just happened to be Beardslee’s “birthday” (ie the day he came into our lives) and we had our first tornado watch/warning of the year. Exciting stuff!

So, what’ve I been up to today? Laundry. Fun stuff, I know, but it involved finally making some (hopefully) eco-friendly, mild detergent for baby items. I’m not sure whether the oxy-detergent (you know the kind…mine was more of a generic brand, and I’ll keep an eye out for a still-cheaper version) is completely natural and I’ve read mixed reviews on Borax (which IS labeled “all natural”), but it should still be gentler than most detergents. And you know how I feel about soaps that provide us with natural options – like my vinegar/baking soda shampoo alternative (which I still use regularly – occasionally using a semi-eco-friendly shampoo if I’m in a hurry).

After chatting with my #1 go-to advice-giver (next to…y’know…Google), my mother, I felt comfortable not using Dreft on the baby clothes, blankies, etc that I’ve been lucky enough to receive (either as new gifts or as very welcome hand-me-downs). So, with only slight hesitation, I went forth making the stuff.

It was an easy process. I just mixed a cup of each of the following together in a French air-tight container (we bought from The Christmas Tree Shoppe for quite the deal!): Borax, washing soda (NOT BAKING SODA) and an “oxy” (or “oxi”) detergent. After reading recipes and reviews online, this combination seemed successful, along with the very important direction of using just one or two tablespoons of the stuff in your cycle. (I’m also considering, if necessary, an extra rinse cycle; if only we had an Energy Star washer that had features that you could simply *set* to do such things. πŸ˜‰ But, again, we’re terribly lucky to have a hand-me-down washer and dryer, so beggars can’t be choosers.) Oh, and while I read that white vinegar can be added in the rinse cycle, sheer laziness dictated that I’d throw a splash in with the wash. And, with all detergents, it’s a better idea to let the machine run a bit so the detergent dissolves before adding clothes…just a lil’ trick.

And, guess what! The loads came out fine!! I haven’t finished all the baby stuff (still have all the clothes to do; that’s a tad more daunting task given tag-snipping and the sheer amount of items), but with how the sheets and blankies and burp cloths and so on came out, I’m happy with it! Of course, I’ll update y’all with how things continue, and how the baby’s skin eventually reacts. (If they’re anything like Daddy or Mommy, they may have sensitive skin…although I consider all baby skin to be “sensitive.” :-))

By the way, I’m going to continue using my “usual” liquid detergent on our own clothes until we run out, but try to continue using this method for the baby items (and, yes, probably even cloth diapers…just don’t tell the company I purchase from ;-)) and eventually switch over completely for all our laundry needs. Given how far a tablespoon or two go, I’d say that this is a very cost-effective washing method (although the “oxy” detergent ain’t cheap-cheap…which is why I’d like to keep an eye out for it in different stores; we bought the smaller container for a couple bucks rather than a huge one, but given how much smaller the package is compared to the Borax and soda, it doesn’t feel as cost-effective), and by throwing in some vinegar, things stay soft and fresh-smelling as well as uber-clean.

So, whatchya think? Am I crazy for not using Dreft? Do you think I should’ve done the Borax/shaved soap/washing soda boiled-into-a-liquid-method? Do you have a brand that you wouldn’t give up for the world? Do share!

E-Zines

The Internet rocks. To some, this may sound downright idiotic; to others, it’s blasphemy. “Well, of course it rocks. Where have you been living the last 20ish years?!” says one side, while the other insists, “It’s ruining the moral fiber of our country, and others.” I totally understand both sides, I really do – I do worry that it, at times, has kept me from spending enough time with my husband or has been the master king of time suckage to my life. But, be that what it may, the Internet is still an awesome thing. Clearly. I’m blogging on it.

While I’m a user of Pinterest (I don’t think I’d have the nursery art inspiration and other ideas that I’m currently housing without it!), I’ve been able to keep myself from getting obsessed. As it is, the blogs that I follow (and, believe me, it’s not nearly as many as most folks…well, the folks who follow) provide me with enough eye candy and information to read on a daily basis. Oh, and if I miss a day or two, I’m set! It’s like winning some strange jackpot.

Not that every aspect of the Internet is da bomb. I’m not a fan of Twitter (but I have one…which I rarely use…@megactsout, holla), and have a love/hate relationship that I’m trying to break off with Facebook (but it DOES help me know more about folks following my blog, and to keep up with possible cloth diaper deals, etc). And the fact that the Internet has absolutely deteriorated the use of general manners and decorum in conversation and treatment of others is disheartening. See, lots to hate.

But, what do I love? E-zines. There are some awesome e-zines out there that I’m getting into – and most are currently free. SERIOUSLY! (Why does that impress me so much?) Normal folks are putting information and eye candy out there for the whole world to see, mostly because they’re uber passionate about the topic. It’s a wonderful thing!

I do get regular ol’ glossies, too, don’t get me wrong. Thanks to a few REALLY good deals, I scored myself Real Simple (a mainstay that I’ve been reading since college…although it can be hit-or-miss), House Beautiful (which has actually been a disappointment, but dirt cheap and provides some eye candy) and Better Homes and Gardens. I also get a stack of used This Old House and Consumer Reports mags every time I visit my parents. (Dave gets some mags of his own, and we share The Writer). Oh, plus the Newsweek that I get free for donating to our local PBS station. And, yes, I recycle old copies. πŸ˜›

But, there’s something neat about e-zines. They’re relatively eco-friendly (sure, you’re using a computer, but that uses a heck of a lot less energy than the creation of the paper versions), generally shorter (so you can easily read it in one sitting), and there are often links to cool products or places on the web that follow up with the story.

My new favorite is Kaia Magazine (and that’s not just because I recently submitted an article for consideration). It’s all about living realistically sustainably. The articles aren’t overwhelming, expense-inducing or even lecturey (yes, I made that up) like lots of green living magazines seem to be – it’s attainable. They’ve only released a couple of issues, but I hope they’ll be around for the long haul.

I also enjoy The Lettered Cottage Magazine. Of course, I’m already a huge fan of Layla and Kevin’s blog, but sometimes a magazine format gives you a case of the “oooOOOOooo”s. You know what I mean. It’s when you see something in a glossy that looks wicked professional or pretty or gorgeous and you have to say “oooOOOOooo”. Or, wait. Is that just me? Regardless, they rock.

And, lately, I just keep stumbling over new online magazines, mostly thanks to FB posts (sue me!) from other Kaia Magazine contributors/editors. I spent more time than I’d like to admit reading Green Child Magazine, for example. It’s a great place to pick up ideas for raising kids in an eco-friendly setting. And, now that I’m “with child” and expanding exponentially, how can I resist? The recent issue even had a great review of various baby carriers. Sweet!

See what the Internet has to offer? I know, there are billions of other cool things out there, but currently I’m sticking with a few new e-zines. It’s all my schedule can really handle, and I’m enjoying the process of learning new things (while not spending an arm and a leg on “regular” magazines).

Vinegar Rinses and Baking Soda Scrubs

I have officially had my first attempt at trying a more eco-friendly (and, coincidentally, cheaper) shampoo alternative, and thought I’d share my experiences. Y’know. Just in case anyone else is thinking of making a change.

Strangely enough, earlier in the day I used vinegar and baking soda to unclog a drain AND do some nice, non-asphyxiating cleaning in the bathroom, so it just made sense to leave the products in the bathroom for my impending shower. What could it hurt?

I read up on some methods and chose the one I’d try. I was slightly fearful for getting stinging vinegar in my eyes, and that I’d blatantly smell like a salad for days (perhaps to the delight of my salad-lovin’ hubby). But, my thoughts kept returning to Shirley Temple — if she could endure her daily vinegar rinses (as a child, of course), I could, too. Gotta keep those curls perfect! πŸ˜‰ (Just kidding, I don’t have curls.)

So, I diluted some vinegar and water in a stainless steel cup we had lying around the bathroom (I’d say about a 6:1 ratio, water to vinegar — but this depends on the length of your hair and other factors, like tendency toward oiliness) and let it sit alongside the box of baking soda. After wetting down my hair, I poured the solution (about 2/3 of it) on my head, in sections, from my scalp to the tips. The point of this first soaking is to bring the oil and grime to the surface of the hair – so it’s good to leave it on for at least two minutes. You can do the rest of your showerly bidness in the meantime.

I’m not sure if I did it properly, but I rinsed my hair in the shower before doing this next step – I wasn’t sure I wanted that “fuzzy” reaction with the baking soda happening on my scalp. So, after the rinse, I took a small handful (a couple of tablespoons, maybe) of the baking soda, dropped in a bit of water to make a thick paste, then rubbed it pretty aggressively into my scalp and hair. I believe I only had to do two handfuls, then I just worked the abrasive action of the baking soda until I felt the job was done.

But, of course, this isn’t the end. I then water-rinsed – again, not sure if I should’ve done this or just added the last vinegar rinse, but I’m a rebel – before doing one final vinegar rinse with the leftover vinegar/water dilution. A final rinse of water, and I was done.

It may SEEM like it took forever, but it really didn’t waste as much water as you’re thinking — it was pretty quick, even with the 2-minute “soak” (which, again, left me with time to clean, um, the rest of me). And, while I think I should’ve rinsed more at the end, I didn’t necessarily notice a vinegar odor…not a strong one, at least. I’ll pay better attention to my rinsing in the future, but I could only faintly smell it when I shoved a handful of hair from my ponytail up to my nose.

I’ll give a more in-depth review of this technique after I’ve been doing it for a week or two, but, in all honesty, my hair was SO soft (after blow-drying with zero product) and easy to comb through after just one shower. I don’t notice any greasiness the day after, but also very little dryness. The chemicals and suds in normal shampoo (even lots of the “eco-friendly” versions out there) strip our hair of the oils that it needs. I’m excited to see whether this continues to suffice for me (I’ve even heard that some folks are able to wash their hair less than once daily after trying this method!).

But, seriously, even if I try this technique a few times a week, it’ll cut back on chemicals a) going onto my body…yuck… and b) joining the environment. I’ve got some shampoo to use up, so I’m up in the air about finishing it (or seeing if a family member or friend would use it).

Oh, and no, I’m not forcing Dave to try this. Although, I told him to watch out for the jug of vinegar in the bathroom and I believe he made a joke about using it as shampoo…to which I replied, “I did!!!” Boy, was he surprised. I guess he must not have smelled it coming from my head! πŸ˜‰

Green Goals

Why, yes. I do want a onesie like this one. Why do you ask? πŸ˜‰

Winter’s the season for hibernation, hunkerin’ down, inactivity and coziness. It’s nice to have a time devoted specifically to, well, in essence laziness – believe me, I’m a huge fan, especially while the little chicken dinner roasts away inside me.

But I’m also reminded of how nature utilizes the season. While it seems like nothing much is happening beyond winter weather patterns (which we’ve had absolutely minimal of this year!), the frozen ground holds within it lots of activity. If not for this “rest period”, the organic material wouldn’t be preparing itself for spring planting, animals wouldn’t survive properly until spring, and the whole system would be outta whack.

It makes me feel remiss, in the midst of all that nature’s doing to prepare for the next season, that I’m not doing my part for nature as much as I have in the past. While I’ve discussed “going green” quite a bit around my slice of the world wide web, I feel that I’ve dropped the ball a bit lately. An easy excuse is “I’m distracted by planning for the baby” — but, seriously, what better excuse to try to implement more “greenery” into our lives than the future generations?!

That being said, I shouldn’t be TOO harsh. I mean, there certainly are lots of areas of our lives that we’ve already changed – to the point where they’re second-nature and we’ve forgotten we’ve even MADE the changes.

Firstly, almost all of the products that we use (be them cleaning or otherwise) are “eco-friendly”. While I’d like to do more (by way of finding shampoo alternatives and making our own laundry detergent), we’re still doing more than a lot of people. There’s always room for improvement.

We use cloth napkins at every meal, and try to use dish towels and rags as much as possible (although we have to keep minimal tissues and paper towels around due to colds and gross cat ears that need cleaning); again, an area in which we can continue to improve.

We like to use glass-and-silicon reusable containers for our work lunches, and recyclable/recycled double-plastic bags when needed (I wish I wasn’t so dependent upon these!). Dave reuses any accidental plastic grocery bags (y’know, the ones you get when you don’t have a reusable bag on hand) to carry lunches, and I use a cloth lunch bag for mine. Seriously, it’s literally a brown bag. So plain and somehow cute at the same time!

Then there are those “Oh, yeah, I forgot about that…” eco-friendliness we’ve been imparting for awhile. When we moved into our house, Dave went on an energy-saving whirlwind through the house – CFLs in any and every light fixture (we’ve only had to replace one; that’s not bad!), tiny foam insulators for the outlets (most of which have also been switched out), among other little changes. And, lest we forget the low-flow toilet and shower head, as well as the brand new boiler and heating unit (both with excellent Energy Star ratings) that my stepdad put in before we even knew what hit us.

There’s always room for improvement, though, so I’d like to share some thoughts on ways that our family can get on-track to better help both our interior and exterior environments. I’d like to call this list (apparently I’m all about lists, who knew? My mom would be so proud…as would my husband), with lots of positive energy and less guilt in mind:

The Greening Our Family List
(“Dun dun duuuuun” – Ooohhh, impressive!)

– Getting back into the ever-important composting. We’ve got a bin full of the stuff to use for planting in the spring, but got off-track as far as the “adding to it” aspect of composting (the upstate NY winter also helped throw us). I also never found the time/money to get into vermicomposting, unfortunately, so I believe the focus will be the much simpler, hopefully manageable composting. This is an area that I relish teaching to our kids. Oh! And we were lucky enough to get gifted a large composting bin that should be interesting to learn how to use!!

– Speaking of garbage, I’d like to cut back on how much garbage actually gets put out. We do generally have LOTS of recycling, and usually put a full garbage bag out to the curb every other week. Hopefully, by hitting the “restart” button on composting, we’ll be able to cut this down to *fingers crossed* once a month. And, while I don’t think we’ll ever be as awesome as the Zero Waste family, it would be nice to cut back on how much we recycle, too. (One step at the time, lady, one step at a time.)

– Aaaaand also speaking of spring planting, there has been some conversation in our household as to whether or not we should try out a CSA this year or continue with our two (yep, we build another one last year!) raised veggie beds. I found that we had a less successful year in 2011, mostly because I think that we didn’t plan enough and planted far too much — it was simply too much to keep up with. However, I’m not sure I’ll have the time to put into “finding new recipes” to fit in with a regular CSA, so find that it may be a waste of money. So, I’m currently leaning towards utilizing our beds (if ya got ’em, use ’em!) but spacing things out and ONLY growing what I KNOW we’ll use. I know, I’ll be in my third trimester when it’s time to plant, and have a newborn when it’s time to tend and harvest, but I do feel that this will be tons easier if we simplify, simplify, simplify. Plus, I’ve got a loving husband to help (who also happens to LOVE the fact that “this came from our own garden!!!”, especially when salads are involved).

– I’ve had a difficult time finding “green” toiletry products that are actually green or that do a decent job. I find my hair getting dried out or weird-feeling (sorry, I can’t find a better way to describe it than that!), then feel that I need to use this product until it’s gone as not to waste it. So, I thought that I’d try the ever-popular, most-eco-friendly method out there. Here’s a hint: It involves baking soda and vinegar (and, no, I’m not making a volcano on my head – although, weren’t those fun when we were kids?!). I’ve pretty much given it away, but I’m sure I’ll report back on my success/failure rate.

– In my mind, green = simplification. We don’t NEED so much STUFF, and we’re doing a pretty good job of trying to purge (and send on our unwanteds to the thrift shop, or put them aside for our quasi-annual garage sale). The scary thing for me is that all-too-true saying “with baby, comes stuff.” I’m not blaming the baby, and I totally understand the need that people seem to feel about buying cute things (regardless of a) the necessity or b) the size of said item) – but I don’t agree with it. If we need it, it’ll be on our registry. If you think we need it, check with us first. Odds are, we don’t. (I hate to sound so mean or ungrateful, but we’re working VERY hard to purge, purge, purge, so if we end up getting even MORE “CRAP” to purge, we’ll be a couple of very grumpy new parents.)

THAT being said (yes, a new paragraph within a bulleted list – shocking!), we’ve already started this baby off as green as we can (without purchasing expensive green furniture…that’d be easy to do). We’ve borrowed newborn through 6-month neutral clothes from my sister. I’m researching what cloth diapers to purchase. We’re trying to only buy/ask for eco-friendly lotions and soaps. I’m hoping to breast feed and, eventually, make baby food (or try baby-led weaning) which may cut back on the need for a kazillion bottles, formula and purified water containers, baby food jars etc. I’m also uber-excited about the prospect of receiving certain goodies, such as a space saver high chair (it attaches to a normal dining table rather than taking up lots of extra square footage) and a portable swing (which will not only be portable, but take up way less space, too – and is foldable for when it’s not being used). These, I foresee, will be worth their weight in gold, along with perhaps some natural baskets (we’ll look for these on our own, that doesn’t need to be on a registry) to help us maintain the clutter.

So, that’s it for my immediate green list. While I’d like to say that every little thing we’ll be doing around the house will involve a step closer to a habitual green lifestyle, I realize that there are some simply un-green things that we’re working on. For example, Drylok-ing the basement isn’t the best for our internal environment (stinky!!!), plus painting all the walls and floor down there will be costly if we use only low-VOC paint. Since we’re not planning on staying here forevah-evah, the cost is simply too much to go too gung-ho with our greenification efforts. We’ll do our best (especially when it comes to, say, painting the baby’s furniture), but it’s not like we’ll be putting in a brown water system or solar panels. We’d just like to continue fixing the place up enough to make it worth selling, and purdy enough to look at. πŸ™‚

So, how about y’all? Any green efforts going on in your little piece of the world? Or green efforts that you didn’t even realize you were taking part in? Do tell!

Diaper Debate

I’ve been researching diapers for months. Months ‘n months ‘n months. Seriously, long before I found out that we’re pregnant. Strangely enough, I got away from my obsessive searching after I got the news, so it feels like I’m re-starting the search all over again. I had found so many incredible resources online that I feel like I’m sifting through big piles of…ahem, diapers.
Why all the diaper research, Meg? What question do you need to find out? Where to buy them? What brand is the cheapest?

Nope. I feel like I’m about to “put my foot in it”, but I suppose part of being a parent is having your decisions questioned, and eyebrows raised. Go right ahead- this is a decision that my husband and I are making, and if it doesn’t work out for us, we’re willing to admit our mistakes. I figure this whole experience is one big lesson after another. Nobody’s an expert…except maybe Michelle Duggar, and even she gets raised eyebrows from time to time.

Anyhoo, the big “what, are you nuts?” revelation is the fact that we’d like to try cloth diapering. There are plenty of reasons, in our minds, to take this route:

Long-term cost. While the initial investment is just that – a major investment – lots of sources have indicated that the diapers that we’re considering will pay for themselves in comparison to disposables. From diaperingdecisions.com, it’s stated that over the course of 3 years, one will spend $2694.54 for 7,349 disposable, single use diapers – at a moderate estimate (nevermind if your kid has lots of extra blowouts and accidents). Depending on our budget (of course I’m researching every available option of purchase, and which diapers get the best reviews/last the longest), we’ll be spending many hundreds fewer than $1000 for diapers that will grow with our baby until they’re no longer needed. Also, when it comes to laundering, “Consumer Report estimates that the most inefficient washer and dryer system costs approximately $0.78 per load to launder whereas more efficient models will cost approximately $0.44 per load to launder. So wash your own, twice a week for between 44-78 cents including water, hydro and detergent or spend $16.94 to $22.05 for single use disposable diapers.” Woot. Besides, if I think about it enough, I know I’ll be doing tons of baby clothes (which are tiny), so we can wash them together. Kind of how we just throw our cloth napkins in with our usual white loads (which we’re still going strong with, thankyouverymuch).

Ecological impact. Lots of folks argue that disposables aren’t THAT ecologically bad when compared to the energy used when cleaning cloth diapers. Even with the dinosaur washer and dryer that we run, it’s greener. Further information from diaperingdecisions.com: “Consider the numbers: 36 cloth diapers, that are used over and over; most likely for more than one child, or on average 7,349 single use diapers per child. One time use throw away diapers are the single largest non recyclable component of household garbage, creating 1 ton of garbage per year per child.” The process of rinsing and flushing out diapers, then washing once or twice a week utilize sewage that will be treated and released back into the environment properly. Disposables…eh, well, I think they’re the devil as far as their biodegradability.

Comfort. After reading lots of personal blogs (none of which were perked by any companies for their reviews), a common thread is the fact that a lot of children don’t have diaper rash when parents use cloth diapers. Sure, every butt’s different (and how!), but between the good rash-free odds and the fact that no plastic-y, paper-y feelings will be on baby’s bum, I’m a happy mommy. I even heard that in 1970 (back when cloth was pretty much king) less than 10% of kids experienced diaper rash; today, it’s closer to 80-90%.

Longevity. We’re hoping to have a brood (ie more than one baby). Do you think those future babies will be able to wear their big brother or sister’s disposable diapers? Um, ew. Nope. But, if I learn how to properly care for these (plus the fact that I’m looking into the snap options rather than velcro, which tends to get weak over time), we may only have to purchase the occasional newbie. If that. πŸ™‚

“If it was good enough for my mother…” My mom was pretty basic and old school – she raised 4 kids, all on cloth diapers. (Have I mentioned I love her for her simplicity in raising us??) She also worked as a hairdresser (using our front porch, of all places), so it’s not like she had all day to do laundry. PLUS, those were the days of safety pins and the old flat diapers as the only option, until disposable diapers came along – far too expensive for our family. While technology has changed (you can get 4-in-1’s, organics, pockets…holy crap, everything), I still love the idea behind ’em.

Arguments against? Well, the financials aren’t quite a drop in the bucket initially (more like the whole bucket), and time is a hard thing to control these days. Add that to the fact that we’d like to *try* to breast feed, and there’s a good chance I may never leave the house again. Hee hee, just kidding. We’ll make it work.

I’m still deciding between some brands and would prefer to just buy one, especially if I see iffy reviews here and there, so I’m sure I’ll let you know a) what we end up deciding and b) in the long-term, how things go. Lots of cloth diapering mamas on the interwebs share their disaster stories as well as their success stories, and I’m all about honesty.

In the interest of full disclosure, we’re talking about using some more eco-friendly newborn disposable diapers for the first week or two (especially if breast feeding works out), and will probably use the occasional disposable when traveling. Depending on our babysitting situation, we’d like to be able to continue with the cloth diapering if possible. πŸ™‚

The Importance of Cloth

Dave and I had a bit of a shopping spree last weekend. From making a huge Hannaford haul to stocking up at the Christmas Tree Shoppe, we dropped some pretty serious change (for us). The best purchase of the day? We had plenty to contend, but the one that got us the most excited was (drumroll, please) …napkins!!!

You can wake up now. We’ve been using disposable napkins as long as we’ve, well, been alive. For the past oh-who-knows-how-long we’ve purchased Seventh Generation’s brand because at least we knew that some trees had been saved in their making, being mostly (or 100%?) recycled materials. But it still seemed wasteful. The same went for paper towels (which, incidentally, are also SG brand in our household).

So, when we recently ran out of both, we were a) too busy and b) too lazy to purchase anymore for several days. It really made me notice how reliant I had become upon just grabbing a couple of paper towels to wipe up cat spills (water – they use it as a control weapon, spilling each other’s as a big ol’ neener-neener) and TWO, count ’em, TWO napkins just for dinner (that’s just for me, not including Dave’s). Granted, I used to reuse napkins when they didn’t get used much, but it added up. It was enlightening to notice that it had simply become a habit, hopefully slightly easier to break than the cable habit (and here‘s an update).

When I mentioned the idea of switching to cloth napkins for everyday use (we’ve still got a small package of disposables in the cabinet for guests – namely our families who will probably find us to be nuts for our quirkiness), I was pleasantly surprised at how willing and happy Dave was to comply. Sweet! So, while in the Syracuse area, we searched a couple of stores before Target finally had what we wanted – a dozen soft, plain white napkins for $9.99. Not on sale, not as cheap as I’d have liked, but just THINK of not only how much we’ll save in paper napkin costs, but the cost to the environment. I’m truly a believer in “every little bit helps”, although it’s sometimes easy to get dismayed.

Needless to say, I won’t be washing napkins (and towels/dish rags, which are taking the paper towels’ place – again, a couple rolls on hand for those messy cat emergencies) everyday. That would defeat the environmentally-friendly aspect of the switch, especially with no energy efficient washer/dryer living in our basement quite yet. We will be re-using for a few days. I’m excited to see how it goes.

The end of this thought brings me to the idea of cloth, in general. It’s been around for so many thousands of years, and it’s the modern society in which we live is finally reminding folks that it can help them to live a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle without the harmful impact of the easy, wasteful technologies of the last 100 years. Clearly it’s always been important (hello? We’re not nudists. Well, most of us aren’t), but when I see the commercials for the new disposable “hand towels” with their own dispenser, I start to get physically ill. I’m all for sanitation, but there’s an easier way. Ask the Quakers.

With this in mind, I’ll make public the plan that Dave and I have discussed to cloth diaper any future Dellecese bambinos (or baibins/wee ones, for the Irish side). I’m not sure about Dave, but I know that my three siblings and I were all cloth diapered – Pampers were su-spensive back then! I think that the idea of convenience has somehow married itself to need, becoming the new American entitlement – no matter what someone can afford, they deserve to have whatever they want. Sure, Pampers (sorry, Mom only calls them Pampers, like Kleenex or Xerox) would have been a hell of a lot easier on my mother, especially with a sick husband and three other kids of varying ages to care for, but a) she was used to cloth diapering and b) they only used what they could afford. For not being that long ago, I’m shocked that Americans have so quickly forgotten such ideals.

Luckily, these days, cloth diapers have come a long way. There are several variations on them, from the traditional get-the-pins-out ones that we were raised with to all-in-one diapers that resemble disposables, there’s a lot of research to be done – and I’m doing it. Currently, we’re thinking of using the all-in-ones, which give the ease of disposables with the eco-friendliness and longevity/durability of cloth. I’ve also heard that diaper rashes are greatly diminished (if not non-existent altogether) using them.

However, these are generally-speaking NOT your mother’s diapers, cost-wise. While they pay for themselves in the first 6-12 months (and even moreso in the years to come, if other babies are in the cards – mind you, we’re not even close to pregnant right now), the initial cost is damn near staggering. Aaaaand this is why we lurve eBay. πŸ™‚ Is it wrong to bid on items before one’s even “with child?” πŸ˜‰ Honestly, I figure we’ll start bidding WHEN that day comes, but it’s nice to see that there are used (and sometimes never-even-used, especially when a mommy gets them for a shower) options out there at reduced costs. *whew* ‘Cuz my superstitious Irish side knows that the second I ordered anything, my ovaries would shrivel up for good. Graphic, but true. It’s a powerful thing.

On THAT weird, TMI moment, I’ll bid adieu, but will be sure to give an update on something you actually may WANT to know about; the napkin use.

Earth Day — in our own way

My fiance, Dave, and I stumbled upon “Food, Inc.” on PBS last night and were equally touched and horrified by what we saw. I gotta tell ya, well-produced documentaries sure are the way to get tears and fears out of me, but I suppose that’s what they’re meant to do. I hate to fall into the trap, but I agree with and accept the information they provide — in general.

While watching it, my mind started hopping from thought to thought. Why are we so dependent on big business? Has it been given too much of an opportunity to grow, thus take over our lives? Are Americans (well, many humans, not just us) so ignorant that they follow the leader so eagerly (and lazily)? I don’t want to sound overly hippie, but this all turned my stomach…well, it could’ve been all the slaughter scenes, but anyhoo….

One reason that Dave and I get along so well is that we seem to transcend time. No, we’re not Dr. Who or Marty McFly. We’re just very connected to past time periods. I’m not sure about him, but I’ve always wished that I could live in a different time, from the Colonial period to 19th century to the 1940s to the 1960s…hard to live in the now, but we are where we are. I know the grass isn’t always greener, but when it comes to eating, I wonder if we’d be a lot better off living a century ago. So, my first extreme idea was to buy a farm, quit our jobs and start a whole new lifestyle.

Go ahead, take the time you need to finish laughing. I can wait. πŸ™‚

Not even sure Dave understood what I meant when I tearfully explained that. But, I never expected it to become a reality. The second idea was less extreme…but still extreme: moving away to an area that has more resources for healthy living. Of course, this would mean leaving family, friends and jobs. Not something that we’re currently ready to do.

So, the compromise that Dave came up with after sleeping on it a bit was to take our first steps to get healthier — and we don’t mean in order to lose weight, but to retrain our bodies not to depend on the salt, sugar and fat that they have thus far grown to crave. Mmm. Sugar. *shakes head* That’s gonna be a tough one.

In our area of the country, we’ve gotta drive about half an hour to a modestly-sized city (where Dave works) or an hour to the east or west for a larger option. We’re between suburban and rural; we’re relatively close to farms but they still seem foreign. Many of my students live on farms, and a lot of the kids I went to school with back in the day (a town over from where we currently live) also lived on farms. Oh, and suffice it to say, Dave’s from the above city and my parents both grew up on farms (Mom eventually dated a dairy farmer, so I spent lots of time on it during that time — being a youngster on a farm has its merits), so farms are a little less foreign to me since I’ve vast experience scraping cow pies into gutters. Yessiree.

While you’d think that a quasi-rural area like this would allow us tons of great organic produce, it isn’t necessarily the case. We still rely on Walmart, Aldi (man, why can’t they have more organics?!) and Hannaford for groceries; the harsh winters take up most of the year, so farmers markets get set up for the summer — making it rough the rest of the year. Also, much of the “goods” the local farmers create are for a larger market, so they’re feeding (literally) right into the big business hype. *sigh* Sometimes we think that if we lived closer to a city, we’d have an easier time living differently. Strange how that works.

But, there’s some good news (albeit not cost-effective), and it’s what Dave’s great idea is. We found a local buying club called The Foodshed Buying Club on Facebook which, depending on the time of year and availability, offers eggs, meat, produce, etc from local farmers. You can order by Sunday night and pick up your goods that Friday or Sunday. There’s an annual $15 fee for their services (can’t blame ’em, and that’s not too bad, is it?), you get organic, hormone-free foods, AND support local farmers who, in turn, support our cause — buying locally.

So, here’s our first step — talking. Ohhhh, it sounds so simple, but rather than jumping in and spending a fortune (which we don’t have) on everything the Foodshed has to offer, we’re going to discuss our priorities and what we can’t already buy at a sufficiently healthy level in a “normal” environment. So far, my priorities are as follows:

  • MEAT!!! Ew. What are they FEEDING us?! We were raised as the traditional, all-American omnivores (with a big accent on the meat and potatoes…or heavy pasta), which there’s nothing wrong with. Well. There sort of is. We’re flabbier than we probably could/should be, and that probably has something to do with it. Regardless, once I’ve used up all the bulk goodies in the freezer, I’m buying no more meat from the grocery stores (unless specifically labeled as grass-fed…which is rare around here). This is one area that we will pay a pretty penny, and rightfully so.
  • Dairy – All the corn-fed (corn sounds healthy…it’s not…and it ain’t natural) cattle are producing hormone-infested milk and cheese products. Now, we’re not big milk-drinkers (didn’t we drink it, like, constantly as kids?) but I’d like to get into the habit of not grabbing whatever plastic container is cheapest, especially since we’d like to have a brood of our own one day. Instead, here’s one place that we’re a little luckier. Hannaford has organic milks as well as some locally-produced no-hormone brands which aren’t uber pricey — so, shall we say score?! Yes. They and the Foodshed also have great cheeses and yogurts which, although slightly expensive, aren’t enjoyed that much in the McCoy-Dellecese household, so will be a nice splurge here and there.
  • Produce – Here’s where I’ll have to do some experimenting. I’m not completely ignorant; I know that just because it’s a fruit or veggie, it’s not necessarily “good for” us. But, this is also the area that I think leaves us the most wiggle room. It’s still way healthier than hormone-laden meats and poultry, so, for now, we’ll work on getting fruits and veggies that help us stay within our budget.
  • Grains – Since I don’t bake as much as I should (why can’t I be Donna Reed?), I figure I can splurge on the whole wheat and organic flours from Foodshed. The harder thing is figuring out what to feed my guy — brown rice is always a go-to, but pretty boring, and anything with a strange-sounding name is a no-no. He’s a little like a child with some foods; I guess we all are in our own ways (I hate hate HATE raw tomatoes). Here’s where I’ll need to do some research. ANY SUGGESTIONS ARE WELCOME! πŸ˜€

We’ve already gotten well underway with our beverage consumption (except for that moo juice!), drinking mostly seltzer or flavored waters with zero additives, juice, plain water, etc. The occasional soda (ginger ale) gets tossed in when we’re feeling naughty. Oh, okay, and beer or wine, but those are social or mental health beverages (rough day at work much?), and consumed rarely.

So, that’s a start, I think. We’ll update when things get further underway. I know there’s a lot more in our area that’s still untapped. What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to take a new stance on our own impact? Well, at least I’m not crying over meat anymore.