Category Sustainability

homemade sunblock recipe

Some ladies and I recently got to together to do a Natural Cleaning Party where we each made one cleaning item and then swapped so everyone got one of each item. We had liquid laundry detergent, powder laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, glass cleaner, sunscreen and bug spray. I picked sunscreen, mainly because I was interested about learning more about what items have SPF and how to put them together for an effective sunblock. Here’s what I came up with:

Sunblock Recipe ~20-30 SPF – makes approximately five 8oz bottles
Purpose Cost for recipe Cost for entire item
1 ½ c olive oil Carry/thin lotion $8.00 $10 16.9 fl oz
1 ½  coconut oil SPF ~15 $8.95 $17.89 (32 oz)
60 drops lavender EO Fragrance/Soothe Skin $5.25 $21
60 drops helichrysum EO SPF ~10 $11.25 $45
120 drops myrrh EO SPF ~20 $22.50 $22.50 (5 ml)
120 drops carrot seed EO SPF ~38-40 $8.75 $17.50 (5 ml)
¾ c zinc oxide SPF ~20 $5 $20 (1 lb)
¾ c shea butter Carry/moisturize $4.00 $9 (16 oz)
5 oz bees wax waterproof $5.65 $5.65
12 vitamin E capsules Moisturize $0.96 $8 (100 count)
5 – 8oz plastic bottles contain $9.38 $11.25
Total $89.69
Per Bottle $17.94

Melt bees wax, shea butter, coconut oil over a double boiler. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients (use a mask when incorporating the zinc – you don’t want that stuff in your lungs) and let cool even more. When it seems like the mixture is hardening, whip to incorporate thoroughly . Once completely cool, I’ve found the best way to get the lotion into the bottles is to put it all in a gallon sized freezer bag and snip the corner.

To increase the SPF, you can add more zinc oxide (although it will make the lotion mixture much thicker). SPF is calculated based on percentage of total mixture with zinc oxide.

At first glance the cost of this is pretty high, but I used almost exclusively organic ingredients. Commercial organic sunscreens seem to run in the $30-40 range, so it’s not too bad in that comparison. Simply removing the myrrh EO, would take cost down to $13.44, which is a significant difference. The bees wax does make the sunscreen pretty thick and I wonder if using fractionated coconut oil instead of the coconut oil would help thin the sunblock out a little further since FCO is always in liquid state.

Next time, I would like to use jojoba oil (SPF 4) to replace the of olive oil or even better, non-GMO organic soybean oil (SPF 10), maybe add Red Raspberry Seed Oil (SPF between 28-50) and remove the myrrh.

Have any of you ever tried to make your own sunblock? Other homemade cleaning items? What has worked for you?


essential oils bandwagon

I’ve recently jumped on a bandwagon that seems to be spreading, at least according to my facebook feed. Are you guys experiencing the same thing? My curiosity got the best of me as I heard success story after success story of people using essential oils to take care of headaches, shorten colds, provide allergy relief, calm their children, help with sleep, disinfect… etc.

I did some research (this series as well as this series in particular were most helpful) and decided for a large variety of reasons, not to go with the very vocal MLM essential oils groups. No hard feelings towards those companies as I received a lot of preliminary education from them, but I found a direct sales company that is slightly cheaper, provides great customer service as well as a quality product. Enter Native American Nutritionals (aka Rocky Mountain Oils). And a lot of reading and research. There is so much information to wade through!

learning about essential oils

We have had some notable success with the oils: using the Calming blend to help sooth Jude’s night terrors, Tummy Rub to sooth upset bellies, Pain Ease to sooth head aches, Skin Care with Lavender to sooth sunburns and prevent peeling, Helichrysum to heal cuts and Molluscum bumps that Jude gets on his skin, lavender + tea tree to stop itchy bug bites, lavender + lemon + peppermint to reduce outdoor allergies … I am slowly losing my skepticism.

If you are interested in trying some out, there is a sample kit for $15 with beginners guide that they didn’t have when I first ordered.

What about you guys? Have you used essential oils for anything? Do you buy in to all the hype that’s circulating out there right now?


changing our food habits

I made some changes to our eating habits recently, after much thought and thumb twiddling. What really pushed me over the edge was reading about the FDA acknowledgement of arsenic in conventionally raised chicken. Instead of risking any exposure to these small doses of arsenic (I mean, we eat A LOT of chicken), I decided to get myself a costco membership so I could begin buying organics in bulk to cut down on the cost of organics. I found this handy costco organics list on a deal blog that I follow and so many of the items are staples in my pantry and keep for extended amounts of time. And you know what, I am loving my Costco membership! It’s exciting to me to finally be using organic flours and organic evaporated cane juice (it’s fair trade too!!) in my everyday life. Someday, I would like to supply all of our chicken locally but we are not quite to that point yet . . . it’s just significantly more expensive.

Another change I have made is signing up for a local produce delivery service – Farmhouse Delivery. Every other week I get a bushel of local produce from a variety of local farms. I can add items to my order, if I choose, include local meats, dairy and other produce items. This has been great in getting us to incorporate more veggies and fruits into our diets. I have learn how to cook new items I would have never encountered. And it gets me trying new ways to utilize veggies that we get every week . . . like squash, cucumbers and zucchini – oy! We had so much this summer! I tried so many different recipes with them. I think the best part about it is that it keeps us eating locally without having to add anything to my schedule. I have good intentions of going to our local farmer’s markers but it doesn’t happen often. . . And every other Thursday it’s like getting a present on my front porch! It’s so exciting to open the bushel!

Farmhouse Delivery Local Box

I feel good about what I am feeding to my family, knowing I am supporting other local families and avoiding unnecessary exposure to pesticides and other chemicals.

What food habits have you changed or are working on changing (or what to change)?

How To: Wool Diaper Covers

To follow up my cloth diaper 101 post and my how to: prefolds, I thought I would share more about wool diaper covers.

Happy Wool Diaper Baby

We use Little Beetle wool covers. Curious how wool covers work? Wool is naturally water repellant but not water proof. The microscopic structure of the wool, along with the naturally produced lanolin contribute to this. This article explains it much nicer than I ever could. And then, listen to this. Lanoline is amazing. When urine and lanoline come into contact with one another, a chemical reaction occurs and the result is soap and water. These covers, when regularly lanolized, are self cleaning. As soon as you can smell urine on the wool cover, you know it’s time to re-lanolize the cover.

The downside? Wool covers need to be handwashed when washing time comes. And spot cleaned if any poop gets on them. Here is what we use with our wool covers:

Wool Diaper Care

We use ImseVimse Shampoo and Wool Cure (lanoline). Lanolizing is as simple as adding a small amount of the wool cure to warm water, allowing it to fully melt and then soaking the cover overnight. Easy enough to do when baby is asleep. Then just line dry in the morning! AND if you have any lanoline ointment from breastfeeding, that can be used to lanolize the covers too!

One of the beauties of using prefolds and wool covers is how cheap you can do them for. If you are crafty, you can knit or use shrunken, thrifted wool sweaters to create your own wool covers. There are lots of free patterns out there for knitting for cloth diaper making – just do a google search! My favorite free cloth diaper pattern is located here and easily adapted into a wool diaper cover.

Any questions?

How-To: Prefolds

To follow up my cloth diaper 101 post, I thought I would share what is currently working for us in the world of cloth diapering. Since Jude has a bit of a polyester sensitivity, most pocket diapers are not an option for us since microfiber and PUL = polyester. This means cotton prefolds and wool covers. Surprisingly, prefolds are not near as difficult as I had anticipated them to be even though most people cringe when they hear the word ‘prefold’. Yes, they are what most people think of when you say “I cloth diaper my child” but they are a bit easier to use then you would imagine. We use diaper rite unbleached prefolds along with a snappi. How do they work? Well let me show you!

Here is the prefold as it comes out of the dryer. Nice and quilted. Quilted = absorbant = good.

Prefold Diapering 101

We start by folding the prefold into thirds. Side one,

Prefold Diapering 101

and side two.

Prefold Diapering 101

Now to create ‘tabs’ to go around the babies waist. This is called a ‘butterfly’ fold. Fold back one corner:

Prefold Diapering 101

and the other. Now we’re ready for the baby.

Prefold Diapering 101

Leaving the folds where they are, place the babys bottom on the prefold. You want the top back of the prefold (with the butterfly) to be just above any butt crack. Then you just wrap the prefold up. Now we’re ready for the snappi.

Prefold Diapering 101

The snappi works by digging the plastic teeth into the cloth, so pull that tab you created in the back around to the front and put a snappi there. Don’t worry, even though the snappi teeth are sharp, they aren’t long enough to go through the entire thickness of the prefold.

Prefold Diapering 101

Snappi the other side tab and once both sides are secure, pull the middle snappi down and secure.

Prefold Diapering 101

Then just cover up the prefold with a cover! Make sure to tuck any extra prefold into the cover around the legs and waist area.

Prefold Diapering 101

All done! That’s not too bad, right? The cotton fabric may not be as poop repellant as microfiber, but the quilting does a pretty good job. Often, you can just shake off the poo into the toliet, no handheld sprayer needed. And to make things easier, you can use a flushable liner when out and about. That simplifies things a lot!

And prefolds are only a couple dollars each. I honestly never saw myself this knee deep in cloth diapering, but when it comes down to it, I actually LIKE using prefolds!  I especially feel good about myself when I do a load of diaper laundry and see all the diapers that I didn’t have to throw away (both money and trash)!

Any questions?

from trash to compost

It’s taken long enough at this new house, but we finally started our compost pile. Hooray! I feel so much better about our kitchen scraps going back into our garden than sitting in a landfill. We ended up getting this nifty 90 gallon plastic bin from that nicely conceals that compost. I’m hoping to do a little planting around it eventually to conceal it a little more, but for now, I am just happy that we have it!

If you’re new to composting, it’s a really great way to reduce the amount of trash that you create – you can add shredded paper, leaves, grass clippings, pet fur, hair, dryer lint, stale bread, fruit and veggie clippings, egg shells, paper towels, etc. As long as it doesn’t have refined sugar or animal fats, you can add it to your compost pile.

It requires a little maintenance, mainly just turning the contents every couple weeks and then after a couple of months it turns into a rich soil that you can use in your planting beds or garden. Free mulch from your waste? Not a bad deal!

Compost Bin!

Cloth Diapering 101

Ahh yes, the world of fluff. CDing. Almost a lost art but lately there has been a resurgence. There are so many reasons to use cloth diapers – saving thousands of dollars, reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills, reducing baby’s exposure to chemicals. Lately I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about cloth diapering from my friends that are new mamas or expecting mamas. I thought it might be easier if I can concisely sum up some of the different methods available on the blog and talk about some of the items that have worked well with us. This is by no means an exhaustive study of all of the brands and methods out there, just some of the more common.

One size vs fitted diapers – Regardless of what method you go with, this is an option.

  • One size (fits all) diapers size up and down, usually with a series of snaps on the body of the diaper (Fuzzibuns uses elastic around the leg holes and the back). We have used both types and I prefer one size because of the cost savings. The benefit is that you never have to worry about buying diapers and covers as they grow, you just redo the snaps. The downside to using one size diapers is the bulk when they are small. Examples of these are the Bum Genius 3.0, SmartiPants and Little Beetle Wool Covers.
  • Fitted/countour diapers and fitted diaper covers are sized based on weight and age. Usually sized as S-M-L-XL. The benefit is that fitted diapers and covers are significantly less bulky. The downside is that they are significantly more expensive because you have to buy a stash in each size as your baby grows. Example of the fitted sized diaper cover is Bummis Whisper Wrap (requires a prefold, insert or contour diaper underneath). Example of a fitted diaper is Imse Via Contour diapers. Fitted diapers can come with snaps, velcro or flaps that require a snappi to secure. You can also make your own from prefolds.

Pockets vs Prefolds vs Hydrid vs. All-in-Ones (AIO)

  • Pocket diapers are exactly what they sound like: they have a pocket where you insert a absorbant core. When you wash them, you remove the absorbant core and wash both the outer and the inner. Benefits are that they don’t take too long to dry. Downside is that you have to stuff the diapers before using. Examples of this system are Bum Genius 3.0FuzzibunzSmartiPants. A stash of about 22-26 is a good place to start an exclusive stash.
  • Prefolds with covers are what most people think of when they hear cloth diapering. It’s a sized by weight rectangle of fabric that is secured with pins or a snappi and then a waterproof/resistant cover is put over it. When wet, the prefold is washed but the outer cover does not have to be unless pooped on. Benefits are that you don’t have to have as many covers (especially if you go with a one size cover), which makes this system the cheapest. Downside is you have to buy more prefolds as your baby outgrows the size you have and that this is the more difficult method and harder to teach how to put on (not the best for babysitters). An example of this is Econobums, Bummis Whisper Wrap with diaper rite prefolds. 22-24 prefolds and 4-6 covers is a good place to start an exclusive stash.
  • Hybrid – These are like a combination of prefolds and pocket diapers but without the pocket. You lay/snap the insert in the diaper and put it on. So similar to prefolds, you don’t need as many covers because you just launder the soiled insert. Another benefit is that often there are flushable inserts, disposable inserts, and cloth inserts all available within one brand. This is like gdiapers, Flip diapers, BumGenius elemental and GrowVia. 22-26 inserts and 4-6 covers is a good place to start an exclusive stash.
  • All-in-Ones are most like disposables, nothing to insert, just put on the diaper and go. Once soiled, the whole thing goes in the wash. Benefits are that it’s easy to use. Downside is they take a long time to dry. Examples of this are Rumparooz and many of the cloth diapers sold on etsy. 22-26 is a good place to start an exclusive stash.

Waterproof vs Wool

  • As you may know, we used to use Bum Genius 3.0 AIO diapers. I loved them and they are waterproof diapers. Waterproof diapers use a type of fabric called PUL or Polyurethane Laminate. That is what makes them waterproof. It contains polyester though. About 8 months into cloth diapering, Jude developed a polyester sensitivity and I had to sell the BG diapers. Benefits are that waterproof covers can be machine washed and they are inexpensive. Downsides are that they are not as breathable as wool.
  • I looked for natural alternatives and came across wool diaper covers. Wool diaper covers are not waterproof, they are water resistent because of a natural occurring compound called lanolin. When wool is on the sheep, their skin produces lanolin to coat each wool fiber. This is how sheep’s coat repel water when it rains. And once the prefold is saturated, wool diaper covers can absorb up to 30% of their weight in liquid before feeling wet. Benefits are the breathability, all fibers are natural and you can use 100% wool thrifted sweaters to make your own (or knit your own). Downside is that wool covers can be expensive, need to be handwashed with a special wool wash to restore lanolin and line dried, require more diaper changes. Examples of this are Little Beetle and Kissaluvs wool diaper pull ons.

Laundry Detergents– Cloth diapers require a different laundry detergent than your clothes for a variety of reasons. Smell control, stain control, proximity to baby’s genitals, use of fragrance/dyes/enzymes/brighteners. Rockin’ Green has worked the best for us. That being said, here’s a chart with a bunch of different options and their costs and ratings. Also, make sure to read the washing instructions that come with your diaper – they are usually very specific and sometimes if you don’t follow them, you will void the warranty on the diaper (like Bum Genius 3.0). Most of the time, you can ‘strip’ the diapers using dawn dish detergent and that will get rid of the most rank build-up and smells!

Diaper Creams – Typically, you won’t have to worry about diaper rashes when you are using cloth diapers. It is one of the benefits of increased air flow. If you do encounter a rash, the best rash cream isn’t actually a cream at all – it’s breast milk! Breast milk has antibacterial properties that heal most minor infections. Baby has an eye infection, try breast milk! I know it seems strange, but it works and it’s free. If you do find yourself needing diaper cream, you can’t use it with pocket diapers or all in ones. The cream can block the absorption and cause leaks. This is less of a problem with hybrids and prefolds, but I still might use a flushable diaper liner to serve as a layer between the bottom and the absorbant material.

Nighttime SleepingDoublers are the best solution here although we are still working on a solution for our heavy nighttime wetter. Wool just doesn’t contain the way that waterproof diapers do.

Wipes – This might be the easiest cloth diapering product to use! We use these but I’m sure any are great. If I had a serger I would have made my own. We use a spray that I make at home and it works well. Here’s the recipe:

  • Baby Wipe Solution
    1 cup water
    1 tbsp baby wash (I used Burt’s Bee’s)
    1 tbsp olive oil
    few drops of tea tree oil

    Mix together and either soak your cloth wipes or use as a spray.

Smell– Ah yes, the dreaded ammonia smell of a cloth diaper. It’s not pleasant. It’s a sign that your laundry detergent isn’t working well. It’s a sign that it’s time to do laundry. Some people will not allow the dirty diapers to sit longer than 2 days. We can make it about four before it starts to smell. Here’s what we do. We have a laundry basket lined with a large wet bag (use small wet bags when out and about) and toss soiled diapers in there. We give it a spray with some biokleen bac-out odor and stain eliminator and we’re done. No smell. Biokleen is all natural and not to expensive either. Whole Foods carries it locally or you can order it online.

Poop – This is the question that I get asked about the most when people find out I cloth diaper. How do you deal with the poo? Well when babies are exclusively breastfed, their poo is water soluble and does not smell bad. So you toss the whole soiled diaper in the wash, poo and all. Once solids or formula are introduced you have to figure out how to get that poo from the diaper to the toilet. There are several different methods. Many pocket diapers have microfiber interiors. This allows the poo to just fall right into the toilet with some shaking. You can also use flushable liners like these. Then all you do is lift the liner out of the diaper and flush. We also have a sprayer that hooks into our toilet that will spray the solids into the toilet. And really, it’s just not as bad as you think it’s going to be. Poo is supposed to go in the toilet, not the landfill.

My final thoughts

  • Buy different brands, try different types. Heck, get a kit like this one to help figure out what you like. Don’t get too sold on one system because other systems may work better for you!
  • Don’t be afraid to search craigslist for deals. A lot of times you can find ‘like new’ sets of diapers because a mom has gone back to work and the daycare won’t take the cloth diapers.
  • Register for cloth diapers. Target carries Bum Genius and FuzziBunz, Babies R Us has Flips, Econobums, Kushies, Bumpkins, FuzziBunz and gdiapers (at least online). We received almost all of our cloth diapers as gifts, reducing our diapering costs even more. You can find local stores that carry cloth diapers that will allow you to register as well.

Alright, what questions still remain? What have I missed? What works well for you and your little one if you cloth diaper?

the ongoing diaper quest

Remember how I made my own wool diaper covers? Well, they work . . . alright at best. I obviously have somethings to learn about crafting my own wool diapers. So I caved and bought two ‘one size’ wool diaper covers from Little Beetle from Tiny Bird Organics. A green one and an orange one. Eventually I want a blue one but they are quite expensive. . . A friend put it to me this way – how much longer do I have of diapering Jude (at least a year, if not more) and how much more money would I be spending on disposables over time (a lot more than $80)? Obviously this, paired with the fact that I sold the other diapers, made it a worthwhile purchase. I figured two should be enough to get us back into the cloth diapering routine and they will help me better figure out how to make my own.

Happy Wool Diaper Baby

Let me start by saying that I LOVE these diapers. They work amazingly well. I do have to change the prefolds more frequently to keep the diapers from leaking, but that adds maybe two extra changes throughout the day. My one struggle is that they do not last through the night. I don’t know if I need to add a soaker or buy some knitted wool longies for night time use. I’m going to either teach myself to knit, or buy some on etsy. Probably the latter. 🙂 I did also buy a sock monkey diaper on etsy that has the PUL waterproofing layer sandwiched between the natural fibers. I haven’t tested it out yet, but it is similar to a disposable, so I’m thinking it could be a good babysitter diaper. I may be buying a few more of those. . .

Cool things I’ve learned about these wool diapers:

  • Urine + lanoline (natural waterproofing in wool) = soap. Incredible. You don’t have to wash the diapers when they get wet. You lay them out and let them dry. Sounds gross, but they don’t smell, at all! I will have to periodically rinse and lanolize the diapers. About every two weeks is recommended.
  • Two diapers is enough to get you by. Maybe not as convenient as having more, but not bad.
  • They are not near as itchy as I had imagined.
  • I feel like I’ve confirmed Jude’s polyester allergy. Our cloth swim diaper has polyester and we’ve been doing a lot of swimming lately. When I change him back to his prefold diaper, that familar rash starts to pop up, even wearing the swimmi for less than an hour. Not so with the wool diapers. Rash clears up and stays away. Hooray!

Onto the mistakes that I have learned that I made in making my own diapers. First off, I used the ribbing on the bottom of the sweater as the front of the wrap style diaper cover. Too stretchy. The tabbed stretched out so far that the waistband is now too big for Jude’s waist. Secondly, it seems that they need to have more than one layer. The Little Beetles have interior and exterior wool layers. I think I could mimic this pretty easily. I’m also wondering if I don’t need to wash the sweaters in hot water before I make them into diaper covers. One of my problems was the that sweaters shrunk up so small that I could barely get the length I needed out of them! I’m thinking it’s time to hit the thrift store with the new information I know about wool diapers and give diaper making another try.

Thanks to all of you for your help keeping me cloth diapering! I’m so happy that we’re on the right path again!

wool diapers

I think I’ve taken this whole hippie thing to a new level with this. I mean, I did it out of necessity (see here for more info on that), but man, I never thought I would see the day where I was sewing my own diaper covers.

These are definitely not my finest sewing moments, but right now I’m just looking for functional, not cute. Once we get functional down, I’ll go for cute. I was thinking of sewing a bright green guitar on the butt of one of the gray ones. . . And I mean, somewhere in Austin’s thrift stores there have to be some fun stripey sweaters, right? For now, I’m sticking to boring colors. Mainly, gray. It seems to be the most readily available.

So here we go, I’m going to give you the run down on all I’ve learned about making wool diaper covers. First off, I thrifted three 100% wool sweaters and then ran them through the washer on hot to shrink and felt them. Shrink and felting bulks the fabric up so that it can better repel water. Then it’s time to sew.

My first attempt was to make a wrap cover, what I’m most used to with the Bum Genius 3.0 and the Bummis Whisper Wraps. I drafted my own pattern and looked at a bunch of tutorials and came up with something that seems to work. It needs some tweaking but it’s heading the right direction. I made all three in one nap time, so they aren’t too time intensive to make.

Wool Diaper Cover Wraps

Next up, I tried the triangle method of making pull up style covers. The top of the pull up is the ribbed waistband of the sweater, and the leg holes are the ribbing from the waistband on the part of the sweater I didn’t use. Very quick to make.

Wool Pull Ups

And then I make two pairs of longies (you only see one in the picture because Jude is currently sleeping in the other pair). These are apparently great for sleeping in at night and nap times. These were made from the leftover sleeves of a sweater. It’s nice to use all parts of the sweater.

Wool Sleep Pants

Once everything is sewn, you have to lanolize the covers. Lanolin is a natural water repellent. You dissolve it in hot water and the diapers soak for a while. Then air dry and they’re ready to go. You use them just like you would use any waterproof diaper cover – with the prefolds or fitted absorbents underneath. The wool is natural antibacterial and allows for airflow.

I think once I’ve figured out what works best, I’ll share a tutorial with you guys on how to make my favorite item. It really is very cheap to do diapering this way!

mourning the cowmooflage

Back before Jude (BBJ), we were researching baby items and decided on the Roundabout cowmooflage convertible carseat from Britax. It converted from newborn all the way up to 35 lbs! Remember? Gosh, I loved that tacky cow carseat.

Yes. Loved. In the past tense.

A couple weekends ago, my car, complete with carseat in it, was totaled. Thank God, no one was seriously hurt but because the car was totaled, the car seat is no longer usable. (Don’t worry, Jude and I were not in the car.) Remember my bellyachin’ about how carseats have expiration dates and how they end up in landfills? Turns out you can recycle them. And that the place that does it is local to me! If it isn’t local to you, you can ship it to them and they’ll send you a $5 credit at their store. I dropped off the carseat yesterday at Babyearth, and browsed around their storefront a bit and spent my $5. If you check out their site and buy anything, you can enter my customer code (ge0zvN) and get $5 off your order of $50 (it gets me $5 to spend too!).

Well, thankfully insurance ended up paying for another carseat for us but since we decided to go with the Marathon carseat that would last us even longer, the cowmooflage cover was not an option. I mean it was, but the straps were tan and it just wasn’t as cute. So we said goodbye to the cowmooflage. We will miss you. We hope your parts are recycled into something fun.