Thursday, April 29, 2010

Soap Nuts

I've been hearing about the benefits of soap nuts for a while now and finally about two weeks ago I decided to give it a try. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical of their cleaning power because it's just a the outer shell of a seed from a tree grown in India or Nepal. But I have to say, I'm so impressed with them! They work so well at my regular laundry that I tried them with cloth diapers and soap nuts work even better than detergent on cloth because you don't need to do a final rinse. Think of all the water and energy being saved from skipping a final rinse!
For a load of laundry, put 4-6 soapnuts in the cloth bag that is usually provided when you buy a bag of soapnuts from your health food store.Toss the bag in with your wash load and do laundry as you normally would. Just make sure to remove the bag before putting your clothing in the dryer.
I've been reusing them only twice because I want to make a liquid concentrate from the used soapnuts (I've been reading that you could use them up to four times and then compost the used soap nuts.). You can use soapnut concentrate for a lot of different things: shampoo, dishsoap, add some to a bath for clearing up eczema or psoriasis and general household cleaning. I'm eager to make up a liquid concentrate when I have enough soapnuts to do so. I found this website to be so helpful. There's tons of great information and ideas on how to use soap nuts.
The only negative I can think of for soapnuts is that they aren't effective at getting rid of stains but I usually pretreat my stains with some oxyclean anyways. Also, laying your stained clothing or diapers in the direct sunlight for a few hours will get rid of almost any stain!
I definitely recommend giving soapnuts a try. I'm glad I finally did as I will not be going back to man made detergents again. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Morning Adventures

Since Sophie's arrival, I've spent more time walking on trails rather than city walks. I find that it's easier to do so when you have two little ones because I don't have to worry about Parker as much. On most wide trails he can do and go pretty much where ever he wants. Not having to say: "be careful", "stay on the sidewalk", etc is also very relaxing for me just as it is for him to not have to hear it twenty times on our walk! :)

Today we went to Hemer Park which has really nice wide trails and is very quiet except for the occasional dog walker. I wore Sophie in the stretchy wrap (I'm impatiently waiting for my babyhawk to arrive!) and Parker led the way. Parker was fascinated with all the sounds he heard: birds singing and frogs croaking. We spent about an hour walking and discovering at a toddler's pace. We came upon a lookout over a large pond that Parker absolutely loved...we spent quite a while there watching geese, looking at lily pads and cat's tails.

I thought for sure that Sophie was going to fall asleep (she was dozing in the van on the drive there) on the walk but instead she became quite fussy and cried most of the way back. I'm finding it harder and harder to wear her as she's liking it less and less. I'm hoping it's just the wrap that she just doesn't like anymore (as well as the ring sling but I think that's because it shrunk and no longer fits properly) and not that she just doesn't like to be worn anymore. She was content if I was bouncing as I walked and patting her bum with her soother in her mouth but by then Parker was starting to become tired and wanted me to pick him up but of course I couldn't. Luckily just as we were all about to have a breakdown we passed 5 dogs. Parker loves dogs and the owners were nice enough to stop and let him pet the dogs and I was able to soothe Sophie until she calmed down. Next time I think I might bring the jogging stroller along with a baby carrier as a back up.. Parker can hop on when he gets tired and Sophie can go to sleep in it when she gets tired of being worn.

Needless to say that Parker fell asleep within 5 minutes of us being in the van. I nursed Sophie and she chatted to herself happily the whole ride back into town. :)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Secret Weapon...

against chubby baby neck crease yuckies: probiotic powder!

Neither of my other children really had that problem but while they were big babies (9lbs12oz and 9lbs 3oz at birth) they were also long and not roly-poly like Sophie is. I always washed her creases in the morning and at night but that darn neck crease always got so red and I hate to say it: gross. It was cheesy and smelly and not very pleasant. I tried washing and drying it more often but that seemed to just irritate her. I tried cornstarch which we all know just feeds yeast so obviously that didn't work. Then I thought I'd try some of the probiotic powder that I had in the freezer (Reuteri brand) and it honestly cleared it up almost completely overnight. It was completely gone by day 2! Just sprinkle a little bit on and wash it off in the morning.
Works like magic!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Yummy Food!!

As I already blogged, yesterday was Ally's birthday. Last night we had family over to celebrate and I made some pizza, salad rolls with peanut sauce and birthday cake for everyone. It was a nice evening, Ally got spoiled by the family, Parker spent most of the time playing in the yard with his Auntie and Nana and Sophie was cuddled by all.
I never used to like enteraining but in the past two years or so I've really come to enjoy it. I now cook for pleasure rather than just making food to feed us. I really like coming up with a meal plan, shopping for everything and putting it all together.
I made homemade pizzas. Both were vegetarian: one was a mixed veggie and the other was thin slices of zuchinni that was marinated in lemon, garlic and thyme and then grilled with goat cheese. So good! Then I made some salad rolls. I have never made these before as I was always intimidated but after some reasurrance from a friend, I decided to go ahead and try it. And I'm so glad I did, it was not only easy but a million times better than store bought salad rolls. Seriously, SO easy and SO delicious that I will never ever buy these premade again. And because I think they're so fab, I encourage you to try them out too!

All you need is:
  • 12" round rice paper
  • some sort of leafy lettuce (I chose romaine)
  • either thai basil and mint or cilantro
  • cooked and cooled rice vermicelli noodles
  • assorted veggies cut into matchsticks such as: carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, celery, avacado etc...
  • you could also add cooked shrimp
Put some warm water in a pie plate to soak the rice paper in while you're stacking your veggies, noodles and herbs in a lettuce leaf. Lay the rice paper out flat and place the lettuce/veggies/noodles towards the bottom of the paper and roll over once. Fold over sides and then continue to roll up. Voila! It's as easy as that.

Peanut Sauce:
In a small pot, combine 1c. of water with 1 stalk of lemon grass. Let simmer for 5 minutes then remove lemon grass. Add in 1/3 cup hoisin sauce, 3 tlbs. peanut butter and freshly grated ginger to taste.  Let simmer 1 minute, whisking often. Pour into serving dish and chill until you're ready to use (or serve warm if you prefer!)

I wanted to cook something that didn't require much effort because I was putting all my energy into baking a cake from scratch. I have never successfully done this before until yesterday. And what a success it was, the cake was so good. It wasn't overly sweet like some chocolate cakes can be, this was perfection, sweet sweet perfection smothered in a chocolate butter cream icing. I got the recipe from a blog I often read ( The recipe is: here.

I'm already thinking of food to prepare and a cake to bake for Parker's birthday in two weeks. I think I might use the same cake recipe, but go with Dave's uncle Alan's suggestion of alternating the layers of the cake with dark chocolate and white chocolate and doing a vanilla buttercream icing instead of chocolate. Mmmm..... just thinking about it is making my mouth water in anticipation!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ally!

14 years goes by so quickly, doesn't it? She's turning into such a fabulous young woman and although her teenage years has been a struggle for her so far, I'm so very proud of her. She's strong, precocious and one of the most articulate people I know. I'm so proud to be her mother.

Happy Birthday Ally!
From this:
to this:
to this:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Movies and Ear Candling

I don't know what it is about ear candling (aka ear coning) that I like so much but I am absolutely relaxed during and after the treatment.

Last Saturday night we ordered the Chris Rock documentary Hair off Shaw on Demand and candled our ears.  The documentary was alright: I love documentaries but after watching so many "heavy" ones lately, I needed something much "lighter" and easier to watch. So Hair it was!

For the ear candling, we only did 1 cone per ear but we should have used two or three since we haven't had it done in almost two years. And no matter how many times I do it, I always amazed at how much wax is drawn from our ears, how much clearer my hearing is and how I don't feel as much pressure in my head any longer.

You can find ear candles at your local health food store usually.

And be warned... some people may find this next picture gross but I find it fascinating at how much wax is drawn from the ear!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A late night dinner

I've been on a baking kick lately and last night was no exception. I love bread. Seriously, I love bread. And pair that bread with some melted gooey brie and I've died and gone straight to heaven.

No-Knead Honey Seed Bread
  • 2 tbls. honey
  • 1 tbls. active dry yeast
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tbls. each: hulled pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, hemp seeds (I like hemp hearts)
  • butter for greasing
  • milk, for brushing (optional)
  • 1 tbls. poppy seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
~ Dissolve the honey in 1 1/4 cup hot (not boiling) water in a small bowl or pitcher. Whisk in yeast and let stand in a warm place for 15 minutes until frothy.
~ Combine the two flours in a mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in salt and pumpkin, sunflower and hemp seeds. Gradually add yeasty water and mix into a dough. As the dough draws together, use your hands to press the dough into a soft, pliable ball. If it's very sticky add a big of flour. If it's dry, sprinkle in a few drops of water.
~ Grease a cookie sheet. Place dough on it and form into any shape you desire. Dust with flour and cover with a damp tea towel. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400F. Use scissors to make decorative snips down the middle of the bread. Brush all over with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds (optional). Bake loaf for 30-40 minutes until golden, firm and hollow sounding.

Hot Brie Fondue
  • boxed brie
  • little white wine
~ Preheat oven to 400F.  Take the lid off the cheese and drizzle on a little white wine over the rind. Replace the lid and wrap cheese in it's box in foil. If you can't find boxed brie, you can just wrap the brie itself in foil. Place in preheated oven in middle rack for 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and dunk slices of bread into the warm runny cheese!

Friday, April 16, 2010

12 weeks already!

Sophie Maddelyn is 12 weeks old today. I'm doing the best I can to savour every mili-second as she's most likely our last baby but it seems every time I blink, she's grown an inch or changed in some way!

Sophie at 12 weeks:
~ can hold her head up 90 degrees when on her tummy
~ has great head control
~ is starting to grow back all her newborn hair that she lost
~ Coos and baby talks
~ smiles all.the.time!
~ thinks her hands are the best playthings ever
~ on average, wakes up twice a night to eat
~ grasps for toys in her reach
~ kicking with her feet
~ thisclose to rolling from back to front. (I think the big cloth bum gets in the way, lol)
~ weighs about 12lbs (was 11lbs 15.5oz at 11 weeks)
~ is starting to create a daily rythm for herself.
~ loves to "sit" and prefers to face out to observe her surroundings
~ tends to really only get upset when she's overly tired
~ even though we've never adjusted our noise level when she's been asleep and she's been used to sleepign through normal family noises since birth, she now wakes up to the slightest sounds.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Window Painting Fun

Parker loves to paint but he quickly fills up a piece of paper in mere minutes. So instead of wasting sheet after sheet of paper and in my quest to find anything to give me a few minutes break I set him up with some paints outside on our deck so he could paint our patio glass windows!

I just mixed some tempera paint with a few drops of dishsoap in a cup, gave him some paintbrushes and let him loose on the windows. He was entertained for half an hour... that's alot for a not yet two year old!

To clean up, all you need is a bucket of water and a wash cloth. It comes off so easily because of the soap added in to the paints.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Energy Balls

A while back I had tried a Hornby Island Gourmet Energy Ball from our local health food store and have been addicted ever since. Problem is that they're $3 a ball which is a bit pricey so I wanted to make my own at home. I experimented with a few recipes but none of them tasted like the real thing so I just mixed a few of the recipes together until I got it right!

Rip-off Hornby Island Energy Balls

  • 2 cups oats

  • 2/3 cup natural peanut butter

  • 2 tbls unsulfured blackstrap molasses

  • 3 tbls powdered milk

  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar

  • 1 tsp vanilla (optional)

  • sesame seeds

  • melted chocolate
Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl.
Roll into a log in wax paper and chill for 2 hours.
Shape into golf ball sized pieces and roll into sesame seeds.
Dip one side into melted chocolate.

Simple and Natural Cleaning

Some of the most toxic stuff in our homes are those that are used for cleaning. So toxic that people die each year from the chemicals in cleaners.
Some of the toxins in commercially made cleansers are:
  • formaldehyde which is a known carcinogen.
  • chlorine which is the #1 cause of breast cancer and has also been used in chemical warfare.
  • triclosan which can cause liver damage
  • petroleum distillates causes skin and lung cancer
  • amonia which causes respiratory problems
  • perchlorethylene damages liver, kidney and nervous systems.
  • hydrochloric acid damages kidney and liver.
  • hypochlorite bleach damaging to skin, eyes and respiratory system and pulmanory edema.
  • enzymes and phosphorus cause rashes, allergies and sinus infections
This is just a SMALL list of what is in commercially made cleansers. Since world war 2, more than 80,000 chemicals have been invented. Most of these have been invented for chemical warfare but are now used in our cleaners, food and water supplies.
Once I found this out, I had to make a change! For the past few years I've stopped using most commerical cleansers and went back to basics: vinegar, baking soda, aromatherapy, washing soda, etc. These clean just as well if not better than what you can buy at the store and best of all you save SO much money.
Here's a list of recipes for cleaners:

Soft Scrubber: Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with just enough liquid detergent (I like 7th Generation) to make a paste. Scoop some onto a wet cloth and scrub away! Works great for the bathtub.
Window Cleaner: In a spray bottle, mix in 1/4tsp liquid detergent, 3 tbls vinegar and 2 cups water.
All purpose cleaner: Fill a spray bottle 1/4 of the way full with vinegar (5%), add 20 drops tea tree oil, 10 drops lavender essential oil and fill with water. Shake well before each use. I use this cleaner the most to wash down my counters, spray on cutting boards, wash the bathroom, etc.
Floor Wash: To clean my floors, I fill up the sink abouta  1/4 way with hot water and add a glug (1/4 cup maybe?) of vinegar with 10 drops tea tree oil and 5 drops of lavender. The essential oils will not only help disinfect your floors but leaves your house smelling great!
Mold Killer: Mix 2 tsp tea tree oil in 2 cups water in either a bucket or a spray bottle and apply to moldy area. Do not rinse. Works better than anythign I've ever used!
Disinfectant: To wash cutting boards or when cleaning the toilet bowl, use straight vinegar and leave on as long as possible. I spray vinegar on my cutting boards before I go to bed at night and just rinse in the morning.

Give it a try and I promise you'll never go back to toxin filled chemical cleaners!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Understanding Cloth Diapers

(the kids are still napping so why not throw in another blog post today!)

Deciding to use cloth diapers was an easy choice for me (see previous post). Deciding which cloth diapers to use wasn't so easy! The easiest way to get started is to explain the differences in diapers out there.
  • Flats These are the diapers your mothers and grandmothers probably used. It's a big square of flannel or cotton that is folded to fit your baby. It's fastened with either a pin or a snappi and requires a cover.
  • Prefolds A rectangle piece of layered cotton (can be hemp or bamboo as well). Gets folded into thirds and either pinned or snappied together or placed in a wrap-style cover as is. Requires a cover. Also great to use as an insert in pocket style diapers.
  • Contoured Prefolds Same idea as the regular prefold but is more shaped and imo, easier to snappi. Requies a cover.
  • Fitted Just as the name suggests, this is a diaper fitted to your baby's shape. No folding required but a cover is needed. Usually closes with snaps or velcro although some require a pin or snappi to close.
  • Pocket Diaper This is a two piece system that comes with an insert (absorbant part of diaper) and a cover. There is an opening so that you can stuff the insert into the diaper. It closes with either snaps or velcro. Can be stuffed with multiple inserts to tailor absorbancy needs.
  • All-in-one This is as close the ease of disposables as you can get. No need to stuff with inserts. Just put diaper on as is. Closes with either snaps or velcro.
  • One Size Typically fit from birth to toilet learning. These can come in pocket, all in one and even fitteds. Usually sized with snaps that you can adjust as baby grows.
  • Covers Used over flats, prefolds and fitteds. There is a lot of choice out there in covers: PUL is in most covers and especially in pockets and all-in-ones. But you can also get covers in wool, fleece and some people still use plastic pants.
To get started here's what you need:
  • Pail or hanging wet bag To store soiled diapers until washing.
  • 24-36 diapers I suggest going with 36 so you don't need to wash every day. Don't forget covers depending on type of diaper.
  • Wash cloths If you're using cloth, you might as well use cloth wipes too.
  • Wet bag To put soiled diapers in when out and about.
  • Snappis or Pins Depending on what type of diaper you are using, you may want to use these.
  • Diaper friendly detergent I always use Country Save laundry soap. Doesn't cause build-up and is bio-degradable. Remember you only need 1/4 to 1/2 scoop!
  • Oxyginated Bleach Powder Gets rid of stains and boosts your laundry detergent. Optional.
  • Tea Tree Oil and Lavender Oil Both of these essential oils are great for cloth diapers. A few drops on a cloth dropped into your diaper pail eliminates odours. A few drops added to the rinse cycle will help disinfect your diapers. Optional.
  • Diaper friendly diaper rash cream You'll find that your child doesn't often get a diaper rash but it's handy to have around. Be sure it's diaper friendly (such as Bum Bum Balm) and use sparingly to avoid build-up.
For laundry soap suggestions, I found Diaper Jungle to be really helpful:

Reasons To Choose Cloth Diapers

I have lots of pregnant friends right now who are asking me about my experience cloth diapering 3 children (two of whom are currently still in diapers). I'm so happy to see cloth diapers becoming more and more popular and even happier to see the great changes made to cloth diapers since I started using them on my oldest nearly 14 years ago!
Cloth diapering is the obvious choice for my children for many reasons. Some reasons to consider cloth diapering are:
  • Less of an environmental impact than disposables. The average child goes through between 6000-7000 diapers. That's a lot of garbage if using disposables. Only 30% of disposable diapers are actually biodegradable and what's worse is that a heavy majority of disosable diaper users don't bother to flush fecal matter so that gets sent to our landfills too. Many people don't know that you aren't actually allowed to throw human waste into the garbage because the viruses that can be found in fecal matter can make it's way into our water system. And that's just nasty! Also less energy is required to make cloth diapers. Choose a diaper made from a renewable resource and you're being ultra friendly to our planet!
  • Cloth diapers are healthier for your baby! Male infertility has been linked to disposable diapers because it's believed that the gel warms up a boy's testicles and can stop normal growth. Also, consider the chemicals that are used to make disposable diapers: Tribulytin has been found in Pampers Baby Dry (Greenpeace, May 2000) which harms the immune system, is a hormone disrupter and is speculated to cause male infertility. Traces of dioxen which is a known carcinogen has been found in disposable diapers. The gel in disposable diapers is made from Sodium Polyacrylate which is linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome. And yet another health reason to switch to cloth: It's been shown that disposable diapers can cause asthma in children!
  • Cloth diapers will save you money! Do the math! If a child goes through an average of 6000-7000 diapers the costs add up! On average, cloth diapers can cost you $500 over 3 years including laundering expenses. Disposables can cost on average $2000. That's already a savings of $1500... just imagine how much you'd save if you went on to have more children! And cloth diapers have an excellent resale value so you could easily get half your money back.
  • Children potty learn at a younger age. Because cloth diapers do not hide the feeling of wetness, children tend to use the potty at a much younger age.
  • Less diaper rashes and skin irritations. Disposable diapers tend to cause more skin irritations and diaper rashes than cloth diapers due to two reasons: the chemicals are irritating to the skin and because children feel dry parents tend to change their children's diapers less frequently.
  • Cloth diapers are just cuter! Cloth diapers have changed so much in the last few years... they now come in adorable prints. No one will argue that cloth diapers beat out disposable diapers in the cuteness factor!