Thursday, September 29, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Freecycle is Your Friend

Baby Step 22 - Freecycle is Your Friend

Challenge: Check out your local chapter of Freecycle, and sign yourself up!

Why: In my opinion, free is good.  I think this is a fantastic way to preserve the lifespan of any object.  Be it by passing it on to others instead of throwing it away or getting something second hand instead of brand new.

"The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,981 groups with 8,736,603 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills."

How: Head over to Freecycle, find the chapter nearest you, and sign yourself up.  You can post things that you want to give away or things that you hope to find, all for free.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Diapers Go Green

Baby Step 21 - Deck Your Baby Out in Cloth

Challenge:  Consider making the leap to cloth diapers.

Why: There are 3 main considerations regarding disposable versus cloth diapers: cost, environmental stewardship, and health.

Cost - While start up costs of purchasing the cloth diapers seem staggering, the cost spread out over a child's diapering years make up for it over and over again.  The cost of disposable diapering (including wipes, etc.) is on average about $50 a month or $600 a year.  To purchase cloth diapers and covers all the way from newborn to toddler age (at least 2 years worth) does not even cost $600.  Plus, you can use those diapers again on future children.  Also, from what I have read, there is no significant increase in costs for extra hot water, detergent, etc. for cloth diapering.

Environmental Stewardship
- Here is a statistic that was quoted in the book:
"[A]ssuming that approximately 18 billion diapers are sold each year, and that over 90 percent of these end up at landfills, this translates into more than 4,275,000 tons of disposable diapers trucked to landfills each year.  Add the remaining 10 percent that end up in resource recovery plants for a total of 4,500,000 tons of single-use diapers thrown away this year." 
This is from an American source, but I am sure the story is the similar here in Canada as well.  I cannot see any way in which this is responsible stewardship of the earth, and it is leaving behind a bleak legacy for our children and their future generations.

Health - In recent studies, it has been discovered that emissions from the chemicals used in disposable diapers can cause respiratory distress and asthsma-like symptoms.  Dioxin (a known carcinogen) is a byproduct of the materials in disposable diapers.  The absorbent chemicals used can cause allergic reactions, skin irritations and infections, and are linked to toxic shock syndrome.  Also, some dyes used have been linked to damage of the central nervous system, kidneys, and liver.  Yikes!

There are so many different options and cute styles out there nowadays.

How: Similarly to the cloth pads consideration, I had always been against cloth diapers based on the gross out factor.  After reading this section of Stephanie Langford's book however, I had begun to feel that that was not a good enough reason to ignore all of the harm disposable diapers are doing.  Not too long after, there was this fantastic series posted on her blog, Keeper of the Home, called Dispelling the Myths: Why Cloth Diapering is Truly Easier Than it Seems (if you have any interest in or curiousity about this topic, I really encourage you to check out these blog posts as she is so upfront and informative, and the comments from other real life moms really show the truth).  The blog series won me over once and for all.  If/When Brad and I are blessed with children, they will be rocking out with their cloth out.  (We are also very interested in elimination communication so hopefully we won't need many diapers anyways, but that is a whole nother topic.)

What are your thoughts on cloth diapers?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Pop and Juice Addict

Baby Step 20 - Kick the Pop or Juice Habit (Only 6 steps left!)

Challenge: Make a plan to get your family off of regularly drinking pop, powdered beverages, and juice.

Why: Pop is full of sugar, caffeine, artificial colours and flavours, and preservatives.  Powdered beverages are similar because they are completely artificial, there is no real juice in them.  Juice on the other hand can be good for you, but it depends on the type and the quantity that you drink.  The problem with juice is that it contains all the natural sugars of the fruit with none of the fibre to slow the body's consumption of the sugar.  One glass of apple juice would have even more (natural) sugar than just one apple, but without being slowed down by the fibre, it will act similarly to white sugar in the body and blood sugar levels will spike.

How: The easiest way to remove anything from your diet is gradually.  Cut intake until you can begin to live without out, and just stop buying it after that.  This can be difficult.  Sugary drinks are more addictive than we think.

Brad and I got rid of any juice and pop or powdered drinks (ice tea and hot chocolate mix) when we did the Lighten Up Your Pantry challenge.  We found that we needed to get rid of it cold turkey because if it was in the house at all, we would drink it all the time.  We do buy juice to have at home on very rare occasions, and Brad will have the odd Coke if we are out to dinner at a restaurant, but overall it has been a huge improvement.  Now we are at the point where we don't miss it or think about it at home.  Along with rice milk, and herbal tea, the beverage of choice at our house is now water, water, water.  As for the hot chocolate mix, my sister blessed us with a homemade batch of hot chocolate mix.  Here it is.

So tasty!
-skim milk powder

Mix 1 1/2 tbsp of hot cocoa mix into 1 cup hot water.  Stir.

What do you drink at home?

PS - I have been noticing that my comments have really been dropping.  I hope I don't sound needy and desperate, but this really makes me wonder if anyone is reading or enjoying my blog as of late.  I spend time publishing content that I like in hopes that you'll like it too, and receiving a comment is the hugest encouragement.  Of course, you don't have to comment on every silly post but you connected with something, have a question, or more information, I would love to hear it!

So, I want to ask you, the readers, if you're out there, what can I do to encourage more comments?  I realize that answering this question will require leaving a comment, but I would so greatly appreciate any and all feedback.  Thanks!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Produce

Baby Step 19 - Improve Produce Quality

Challenge: Make a plan for purchasing better quality produce and select 1-3 items to buy either organic or naturally grown (unsprayed).

Why: Today's fruits and vegetables are highly sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizer and even genetically modified and exposed to radiation. 

How:  This is how Brad and I work towards eating the highest quality food possible all while on a budget (about $6 a day).

Grocery Stores With Options - For us that would be Natures Fare Markets and even Superstore as they have the most reasonably priced organic and natural choices for grocery stores.

Local Produce Markets - The BC Fruit Packers Cooperative carries fruit and vegetables grown in our province with organic options as well at the best price I have found yet.

Farmer's Markets
-April to October are my favourite months for grocery shopping because of the farmer's market. I love the freshness, organic options, and knowing that I am supporting local farmers.  The food there is so delicious!

Gardening - As I've mentioned before, Brad and I have a garden with 2 other couples where we grow nearly every vegetable you can think of.  I really think this has saved us a lot of money.

Latest haul from the garden.

General Tips - We also pick and choose what is most important to buy organic.  For example, apples are the most heavily sprayed and thus it is a priority to buy organic.  On the other hand, onions are the least sprayed and thus we don't worry about it being organic or unsprayed.  Also, when something comes on sale, if we can, we will stock up and freeze it at home.

For the list of the "Dirty Dozen" (most sprayed) and the "Clean Fifteen" (least pesticide use) check out the EWG's guide here.

Where do you shop for produce?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Plastics

Baby Step 18 - Dangerous Plastics

Examine cupboards for items made of dangerous plastics and begin a plan to replace them.

Some plastics contain chemicals that leech into our foods when in contact (pthalates, BPA, dioxins).  Also, the process of making these plastics uses, creates, and disposes of harmful chemicals as well putting them into our environment.  The effects of these specific chemicals on our bodies have been clinically shown to be detrimental.

I've moved to a new website! Head on over to Heartful Habits to read What You Need to Know About the 7 Types of Plastic. Thanks!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: For Women Only

Baby Step 17 - Naturally Female

Challenge: Consider the products used for your menstrual cycle, and if you're willing, make a switch to a more natural option.

Why: First, there is the waste issue.
-Next to disposable diapers, disposable pads are one of the next items filling up our landfills at the greatest speed
-In 5 years (and most women say they use them much longer than that), a single cloth pad replaces an estimated 120 disposable pads or tampons

Next, is the health issue.
-Disposable pads reduce air circulation creating a stagnant environment where bacteria thrive
-The plastic sheeting can cause rashes, irritations, and a susceptibility to yeast infections
-They contain bleaching residues which many women have allergic reactions to
-Low levels of dioxin (a known carcinogen linked to cervical cancer and more) have been found in almost every major tampon brand

Lastly, is the cost issue.
-While reusable options may cost more upfront, the savings are hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years

How: After reading through the information in the book, I was very much against cloth pads based on the gross-out factor alone.  I felt like I at least needed more information.  I Googled and researched the heck out of cloth pads.  I perused the websites of many different companies and brands, and read countless reviews from real women.  The more I read, the more convinced I became that cloth pads really were the best option for me.

After looking at the products on sites such as Luna Pads, Glad Rags, and even Etsy, I chose the Glad Rags products as best for me.

My biggest concern was that my period is so light (not usually a concern), and I did not want to have a thick, uncomfortable pad when I didn't even need it.  I was so pleased to see that Glad Rags actually had pads specifically for "light flow."  The customization you get when you buy these products is incredible.  Every woman is different and there are different stages of life to consider.  We shouldn't all have to make do with the same products.  I wanted a full cycle's worth, so I shelled out the dough and purchased the Light Flow Kit (pictured below) containing:
-3 day pads (which include removable inserts)
-3 pantyliners
-1 carry bag for on the go
-1 small wet bag for storing pads at home

I am definitely on the bandwagon.  I loved them.  They are so comfortable.  They are cloth, so they just feel like your underwear would anyways, and you feel completely dry.  When reading the reviews before, I thought the women saying, "How did I live without these?" were over the top, but now I understand and even agree.  And if a concern of yours is the cleaning and care, it's easy!  Saving money, being healthier, feeling more comfortable, saving the planet.  Who knew you could do all that with your period?

Check them out!
GladRags - Safe. Simple. Smart. Period.

Other options:

I personally cannot use tampons or the likes of them, but there are more natural, healthier, environmentally friendly options for those too.  These are menstrual cups and sponges.  There are many brands and styles to choose from.  Glad Rags sell some of these as well here.

If you're not feeling too into the reusable options (even though I don't think you should knock it 'til you've tried it) another option would be to seek out an alternative brand of disposable pads that are more natural and chemical-free.  I have seen these in natural food stores or the natural aisle of mainstream grocery stores.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Healthy Homemaking Series: Yogurt

Baby Step 16 - Making Homemade Yogurt

Challenge: Make a batch of homemade yogurt.

Why: Yogurt is packed with pro-biotic goodness, containing millions of beneficial bacteria that promote a good digestive system and keep you healthy.  Organic yogurt with nothing added can get pricey, and thus making it at home is a frugal choice.

How: I have been so looking forward to this challenge!  Here is how to make yogurt at home.

1 L of milk
1 tbsp plain yogurt (must be plain - no sweeteners, thickeners, or anything)

1. Pour the milk into a large pot over medium heat.  Bring to a boil (slowly).
2. Remove from heat and allow to cool until it is lukewarm.
3. Put yogurt starter into a jar and add a bit of the warm milk.  Mix until it is dissolved then pour back into the pot and mix well.
4. Ladle out milk mixture into as many jars as necessary.
5. Turn on oven light.  Put the jars full of milk inside the stove covered with a dishcloth.  Leave them in the oven for 6-8 hours. (If you do this in the evening, you can leave them overnight.)
6. Put yogurt into the fridge to cool off, and then its ready to be eaten.
Recipe and procedure from Healthy Homemaking by Stephanie Langford.


I don't know what happed, but something is not right about this yogurt.  The one jar is snot consistency (I apologize for that imagery) and the other is as thin as milk.  They also taste awful.  If anyone has any insight as to what I did wrong, I would love to hear it.

Have you made homemade yogurt?

Monday, September 5, 2011


Brad, two of our best friends, and I recently watched the documentary Tapped.  I had heard about it on another blog, and was immediately interested after watching the likes of Food Inc and Food MattersTapped came out in 2010 and has won 5 film festival awards, 3 of which were for best documentary.

This film is eye opening and informative.  I have always had an anti-bottled water stance mostly because of the added cost and the extra waste from plastic water bottles.  After seeing this film, there are so many more reasons as well.

Tapped goes through all the issues of how bottled water relates to our health, global climate change, pollution, the world water crisis, and our reliance on oil.  An analogy that stuck with me was when one woman compared our modern Western society to toddlers.  We throw temper tantrums if everything isn't easy and immediately available, and we don't want to take care of anything, instead throwing it away when we are done.  Is that how we want to behave?  I know I don't.  I honestly wish I had taken notes during the movie because there is so much important information.

The two biggest lessons I learned in this movie were:
-do not believe everything you read/see in advertisements or even on product labels
-when you buy something you are voting for it, choose wisely

The easiest ways to avoid bottled water are to carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it with tap water.  If you don't like tap water, buy a filter for your home to run the tap water through.  Something as simple and inexpensive as a Brita pitcher will do the trick.

I urge you all to view this informative and still attention capturing film.  At the very least, please take some time to check out the Tapped website.  Here is the trailer for the film.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Juicy Bamboo

I recently won a sample of Kaia Bamboo Facial Cleansing Cloths from Nature's Fare Markets.  They are one step cloths that remove make up (safe for eyes too), cleanse, and tone, and there is no water required.  They are made from sustainable crops (bamboo) and 100% biodegradable.  Plus they are designed in Canada and made in the US - a North American collaboration.

 I received 5 sample cloths.
What's In It:
-8 pure plant-based essential oils
-certified organic Canadian honey
-sunflower oil
-oat amino acids

What's Not:
-no alcohol
-no synthetic fragrance
-no parabens
-no sulfates

 Trying one out.

I really enjoyed using these cloths.  They are so soft on your skin with no burning or discomfort.  There is no stickiness or anything after using, you really feel clean.  I don't wear make up, but from what I've read online these remove the toughest make up including waterproof mascara.  I found that my skin really stayed clear.  When I did see a break out beginning, it faded away.

The only downside I see to these cloths is that they are one time use.  Even though they are biodegradable and come from a sustainable crop source, I have a really hard time using something once and then throwing it away.  I don't think I could get past that to use these everyday.  Also, you have to constantly buy more as you run out, and they are more expensive than just soap.

Even though I really enjoyed using these cloths and they are so effective, the one time use issue makes them not the choice for me.  I think that their ideal use would be for camping (especially because there is no water required) and traveling or perhaps keeping in your car for after the gym, etc.  Great product, just not for me.