Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MamaSuds - Handmade, All Natural Wonderfulness

Let's face it - not all of us are into DIY cleaners. Believe me, I've had more fails than successes when it comes to making my own homemade products. It takes patience, tweaking and several bad loads of laundry or dishes. Sometimes it's just nice to place an order online, have it delivered to your door and be ready to go (and work!). 

Meet Michelle from MamaSuds. She is a mother of three who started her own business after perfecting her DIY homemade soap recipe - she takes the Y out of DIY for us!! Do yourself a favor and bookmark this site: I love supporting a mama, especially one committed to providing safe, non-toxic products!! Michelle has a great product assortment including skin care products and essential oils - I will definitely be coming back for more! Here are some must-try products that I've had the privilege of reviewing:

Foaming Hand Soap:

I prefer foaming hand soaps for my toddler so she can see the soap as she learns to properly wash her hands - plus the bubbles make it fun. As soon as I tried it I went online and ordered more for my kitchen and for backup. I love the way it makes my hands feel - clean but not dried out. You can chose lemon or cinnamon (scented with essential oils so perfectly safe) or unscented. The dispenser is also very "I wanna do it all by myself" toddler friendly with an easy pump. $6.49 for one or $6 each for two or more.

All-Purpose Cleaner: 

I selected the Germ Away scent which is a "Thieves" blend of essential oils. This powerful combo of clove bud, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary disinfects, purifies the air, improves immune function and fights various forms of infection. I used to avoid inhaling the toxic fumes when I used 409 type cleaners, but breathing in MamaSuds "germ away" actually improves your health - how amazing is that?! I use it in the kitchen, bathroom, random spills and messes throughout my house. It works great! You can also chose your own personalized scent with your own custom blend of essential oils for an additional $0.89- try that at Target! Priced at $8.99 for 22oz. of good stuff.

Laundry Soap:
I love everything about this label!!
Read my recent post about natural laundry routines here. MamaSuds laundry soap makes my clothes fresh and clean without any harmful ingredients. Since its a soap and not a detergent you don't need a fabric softener! I LOVE the safe and natural ingredients that all work hard (and successfully!) at deep cleaning my family's clothes. Michelle originally formulated this gem for cloth diapering and it gets rave reviews - once I restart cloth diapering next month I can't wait to try it! Another big bonus are the delicious smells you can chose - lavender, lemon, peppermint, sweet orange, ylang-ylang, lemongrass, tea tree, eucalyptus or create your own customized blend. This soap works beautifully with High Efficiency laundry machines. They also have a completely unscented version for the hunter in your life! Very reasonably priced at $13.85 for one gallon (128 ounces).

Castile Soap: 
For the DIYer castile soap is a prized ingredient that ranks right up there with white vinegar and baking soda - it is a critical component of most homemade products. It is made from pure olive oil and is gentle enough to use on your babies but powerful enough to tackle your biggest messes. It should be in every family's cupboard! I use it on carpet and upholstery spills, and also on my skin - love how it washes clean without any residue. MamaSuds Castile Soap is a tremendous value starting at $8.39 for 16oz compared to  $11 for Dr. Bonner's. Michelle is always posting great recipes and new ways to use castile soap on their Facebook page - be sure to like them! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Guacamole Super Toast

The avocado is my favorite super food and a staple in our diet. It is a perfect source of the incredibly good-for-you, monounsaturated fat which protects you from heart disease. I also just learned it has a high fiber content providing 30% of your daily allowance in a single cup - who knew!? 

My picky toddler fortunately is a huge avocado fan. Thank goodness since she won't eat anything else green - according to her it's all spinach (including basil in marinara sauce and strawberry leaves). During my pregnancy I had a major aversion to avocados but luckily I'm all about them again. I recently discovered guacamole toast and am hooked - perfect healthy snack or breakfast! This is how I make my guacamole "super" toast:

First you make the guacamole: mash up a guacamole, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and pinch of sea salt (I've been using Pink Himalayan Sea Salt, great source of trace minerals). 

This avocado looks just right - slightly soft and recently brown
Spread on the toast - we buy either sourdough or sprouted whole wheat. I typically use half the guacamole and save the rest - if I don't finish it off with chips!

TIP: I had always thought that if you leave the pit in it helps from turning it brown - not the case,  just a myth. What does work is adding lemon or lime because the acid slows down the oxidation process. 

Top with sliced cherry tomatoes (love this organic heirloom,variety from Trader Joe's - soon will enjoy fresh from the garden!) chopped green onions, and a tiny sprinkle of red pepper flakes. 

 Voila guacamole super toast - YUM!!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Non-toxic Pedicure - Springtime Toes!

This is the day that I put away my Uggs and paint my toenails pink. It is a springtime rite of passage for me and declaration of a new season. No more surprise cold fronts. Time for ALL my bulbs to pop up. Pink toes.  Ed always notices too, which I think is really cute for a clueless beauty guy- "pink toenails, must be Spring!!" I love a good pedicure, but have a hard time paying $40 when I feel I do a better job myself. Since I've converted to non-toxic products I have a few new favorites when it comes to my toes.

Poofy Organics makes a nail polish remover that I think that every woman needs to own (or man if nail polish is your thing). I don't think that anyone doubts how toxic traditional nail polish is - I put the cap back on as soon as possible to keep all the fumes and chemicals in! This remover is very different and is oil based with no offensive chemical smell - it scores a zero on EWG. It does take several more swipes with the cotton ball to remove ALL of it. Cutex always leaves a little polish behind in a groove or corner and Poofy removes everything. Your nails will also look healthy and nourished by the oil - they'll be so happy and appreciative. Seriously good stuff!
My favorite peachy pink shade "Trout Pout" - love the name!!
I'm a big fan of Butter London and their 116 gorgeous shades of polish. My polish tastes are pretty conservative with peachy pinks and reds, but they have fun options covering the whole rainbow - Nordstrom has a great selection. Butter was the first company to sell non-toxic nail polish in the US and all their lacquers are "3-free" meaning they are formulated without formaldehyde (known carcinogen), toluene, and DBP (both reproductive toxins). These three toxins were banned for use in cosmetics by the European Union in 2004. Sure would be nice if the US cleaned up their safety standards and stopped allowing ingredients KNOWN TO CAUSE CANCER in personal care products - drives me batty!! 
THESE ARE NOT MY FEET - doesn't the foot on the left look a little photo-shopped? (Pinned photo)
I found this exfoliating remedy on Pinterest and have wanted to give it a try every time I see my crusty winter heels. I'll spare you my before pictures… I followed the instructions and soaked my feet in warm water with a cup of Epson Salts for 30 minutes. My feet fit nicely in our big stainless soup pot. I was imagining the spas in Asia where the little fish nibble the dead skin off your feet. The instructions say to use a toothbrush to brush off excess skin. That didn't seem nearly coarse enough so the best thing I could find was my Libman dish scrubber( although I would have used a brillo pad if I had one). My feet weren't that bad, but a toothbrush certainly wasn't going to accomplish a thing. They seemed much The true test though was how they fared during my hot bath that night. You know how the dead crusty heel skin turns white after soaking in water? Mine were nice and pink - no white gunk!! SUCCESS!!!! I'm trying to convince Ed to do it - that would be the true test.

Mommy daughter toes!
Enjoy your pretty non-toxic pedicure and the beautiful Spring weather!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Get off the couch!!

3 under 3 - I can't even imagine
My son turns 12 weeks tomorrow, which means he's no longer officially a newborn. Feeling mixed emotions of sadness, relief, survival - HARD phase. It also means time to get my butt in gear and start exercising again. I really need to rotate the cushions on my couch because I sat in the same spot for three months straight. Me, Teddy and My Breast Friend spent hours upon hours on the couch eating, feeding and sleeping. We had a great set up at the right end of the sofa with all the necessities right there - my lip balm, Sigg water bottle, blanket, phone, computer, remote and view of Olivia's play area. We got comfy, TOO comfy. It's amazing how quickly and easy it is to evolve into a sedentary lifestyle.

My sweet view
And there it is - my tiny little kingdom 
I'm what Lindsey Vonn calls "skinny fat." I've fortunately already lost all my baby weight thanks to breastfeeding and clean eating (still holding onto 2-3 pounds which I'll retain so long as I'm nursing). While my BMI is low, I shutter to think what my body fat percentage is - probably pushing 100% if that is possible... There are a few small muscles in my arms from lifting Teddy and Olivia but other than that my body is pure mush.

Before kids I was a gym rat and in great shape. I trained for triathlons, half marathons and did serious workouts 5-6 times a week.  I looked great, felt great, slept great and loved all the energy that comes with exercise. I want to feel that way again but don't expect to be in that sort of shape. I just want a little tone and no more squishiness.

Starting tomorrow there are NO MORE EXCUSES. Spring is here, Olivia likes riding in the BOB again, I live 3 houses away from the Little Sugar Creek Greenway (perfect place to walk), 1/2 mile from Freedom Park and my workout clothes now fit. MOVE!!!

Beautiful Freedom Park in Charlotte
Here's my plan:
  • Every day wear my pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps. GET OUT AND MOVE. I bought this one off Amazon and really like how you can put it in your pocket. 

  • Saturday morning during my "mommy break" go take a yoga class somewhere. I've practiced yoga for over 15 years and love it - 
  • Restart trainer Kelly Fillnow's exercise routines. Kelly was my Personal Trainer (she set up me and Ed on a blind date!) and planned out a calendar with different workouts. I can break them up and do a little here and there throughout the day.
  • In another month when I'm comfortable leaving Teddy at the child watch, commit to Tuesday and Thursday visits to the gym. The Myers Park Presbyterian Wellness Center in Charlotte has everything I need at a great price. Plus they have wonderful child watch - $5 for two hours and there are always just a couple kids in there when I visit.
  • I hate exercise videos, but have heard good stuff about T-Tapp. Only 15 minutes, can't beat that. This will be my last resort.
  • I've also pinned several easy workout plans exactly like this that I might try.     

This is my declaration that I'm officially getting off the couch. Tomorrow. I've gotta give myself one last day to soak it all up.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Lip Gloss Diaries

 I had the orange, strawberry, bubblegum and Sprite (green) ones  - memories!!
In the wake of Bonnie Bell's bankruptcy I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my expert analysis of non-toxic lip glosses (Yes, I am self proclaimed expert on glosses considering I've been obsessed for nearly 30 years).

I think it all began around 5th grade with the Bonnie Bell candy canes that I would get in my stocking at Christmas. Strawberry was always my favorite with bubble gum a close second. I have had a serious addiction ever since and am NEVER without some sort of a lip product at all times, usually my Burt's Bees which I buy in bulk. Clothing with pockets is a must - Ed loves it when I find church dresses with pockets so he doesn't have to carry it around in his coat for me. Burt's Bees and Simply Rustic lip balm is stashed all over the house - there's one in the bathroom, in the kitchen catch-all tray, on my bedside table, in all my purses and has a prominent spot in my car cup-holder. I can't think of a time that I have been without it, just never happens. If you ever have chapped lips, come find me and I promise I'll be able to hep you out immediately.

Lip glosses have been my preference for a long time over lipstick because I like the texture and moisture. Glosses with a lot of scent or flavor are a big turn off - something very subtle is okay though, especially if it's minty. I also don't like anything that is overly gooey that your hair will stick to. Most recently Nars and Bobbi Brown have been my glosses of choice. They meet all my requirements - that is until I learned about the importance of safe ingredients in cosmetics. It's hard to comprehend how lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is still found in lipstick. In this FDA study, lead was discovered in 400 lipsticks at levels two times higher than found in a previous study. This is especially concerning for pregnant women since lead can interfere with brain development. Lip gloss is especially critical since you end up, well eating it. 

I've switched out all of my makeup to green, safer products but lip gloss was my last holdout. Last month I ran out of my Bobbi Brown and Nars and decided it was finally time to venture out of my comfort zone. Luckily Burt's Bees is all natural, what a relief! Unfortunately I don't like their glosses or lipsticks, way too much fruity flavor. After researching different brands online and referencing the EWG website I decided to try out the following brands: Poofy Organics, Josie Maran, 100% Pure, Jane Iredale, and Tarte. Here is my report and review: 

  • Jane Iredale PureGloss in Red Currant: This was my first natural gloss purchase and I wish I had given myself more time to test out the product before purchasing (I also wish I didn't have the pressure of my toddler's short attention span while shopping…). There were many salons in Charlotte that I found thru the website that carry Jane Iredale products and I chose T. Reid in Dilworth. They only had about 4 or 5 different shades and I was drawn to the Red Currant. The color is very pretty and has a very subtle shimmer. It does have  a little more fruity flavor than I prefer and is very thick and gooey. If my hair gets close to my lips its a big sticky mess. It also doesn't stay on very very long at all - this is common with glosses, but the Jane Iredale is worse than others. If you've ever tried the Sephora brand lip gloss, this is very similar. Not my favorite and I won't be buying again. Grade: C-

Jane Iredale "Red Currant"
  • Jane Iredale PureGloss in Spice ($24): This very pleasantly surprised me! I recently switched my hair stylist and started going to Follicle Salon, which sells Jane Iredale products. Caroline was telling me how much she loves their glosses and encouraged me to try a few other shades. They had a selection of probably 15 compared to the only 5 at the other salon. I LOVED the pinkish nude with a gentle shimmer and shine that is appropriately named Spice (doesn't taste spicy though). Nice smooth finish, unlike the sticky and gooey Red Currant. Weird how they are so different, but I'm glad I found Spice! Will definitely buy again, very very pretty gloss! Grade: A-
Jane Iredale "Spice"
Here is a real life photo of the two. The "Red Currant" looks a little scary bright, but is much more subtle.  Love the spice and this is a better photo of the actual color. This tube fell out of my purse at the Trader Joe's parking lot and was unfortunately run over a few times - luckily I found it safe and sound, just a little beat up...
  • Poofy Organics is a brand I recently discovered and I'm crazy about everything I've tried - their EWG scores are all 0, which is unheard of with a gloss. The only problem is you can't try it on before you purchase (unless you live in New Jersey and can visit their stores…), which is a huge risk when buying cosmetics. Since I had been happy with all my other Poofy products and read several positive reviews about their glosses I figured I'd take a gamble. Their shade "Powerful Plum" looked very similar to my Bobbi Brown "Aubergine" which is my more dress up shade that I wear to church or out to dinner - my fancy, bold gloss. It is very full coverage, not sheer at all and a little goes a long way. It's texture is just right and stays put. I was surprised how much I like the faint vanilla scent because this fragrance is usually my least favorite. It smells just like the real deal vanilla extract you bake with, not the artificial fake stuff used in the likes of Bath and Body Works. While I like this shade, I don't LOVE it and am hesitant to make blind lip purchases in the future without trying on first. Grade: B
Poofy comes with VERY basic packaging - nothing fancy.
  • Tarte LipSurgence lip tint in Buff ($24) When I went to Sephora and found I was so happy I could have cried. For years and years my "signature" lip color was Shu Uemura's OR513 which was a gorgeous peachy pink with a little bit of frosty shimmer. It was perfection. I wore it on my wedding day and remember having Ed hold it in his suit pocket for me. If I would have made a late 20s personal time capsule would be in it. I was crushed when they discontinued it about 4 years ago and my search for a replacement ended when I discovered. IT'S THE SAME!!! (well almost the same - closest I've found).I love it's creaminess, the faint faint mintyness (is that a word?!), the slight shimmer, the perfect shade of peachy pink. It comes in a chunky pencil that you push up and is more of a creamy lipstick rather than a gloss - SO HAPPY!!!!! I want to try more shades - Obviously an A+ 

Buff deserves THREE photos!!
  • BeautyCounter Lip Sheer ($28): I'm itching to try this but you have to attend a party or host one as it is only sold thru reps. Raisin, Petal and Twig look like they belong in my purse. Awesome ingredient profile, but very pricey. Love the glam gold packaging - would make me feel super fancy every time I use it! I've heard nothing but rave reviews about this brand across the board - think I need to host a party soon :)  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Featured Fruit: Pineapple trick

We love pineapple and I buy a whole one every week at Trader Joe's during my Monday morning shopping trip. I'll leave it sitting out on the counter until Thursday to get nice and ripe. When I can easily pull out one of the leaves I know its ready.

A new trick I just learned is to set it upside down for about an hour before cutting and all the sugars and juices will spread throughout the fruit - yum!

For all its yummy sweetness, pineapple has only 82 calories for a cup of cut up chunks.  It is a great source of Vitamin C, manganese, fiber and is one of the only sources of the anti-inflammatory enzyme bromeliad. I add a slice to my smoothie (along with frozen berries, spinach, coconut milk, Brazilian nuts, flax and a banana) and love it in fresh squeezed juice.

When we were undergoing fertility treatments I ate A LOT of pineapple - supposed to make your uterus sticky. Both times I got pregnant quickly, so ya never know - maybe it was the pineapple!!

Try grilling it sprinkled with a teeny tiny bit of salt and pepper - DELICIOUS!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Natural hair color

Ah, the joys of getting old. About five years ago my brunette hair sadly started turning gray. At first it was just a few that were easily hid but over time they multiplied. Why do they have to be so much thicker and wiry?! I was able to hold off on coloring for a couple years and then the time had come. Dang professional hair color is expensive! After a couple bad experiences in college I don't trust home treatments, so off to the salon…

There is a reason why you're not supposed to color your hair while pregnant - the chemicals they use are seriously toxic and absorbed right into your scalp. Not to mention all the wildly strong fumes you inhale.

I knew I didn't want to go to an Aveda salon - have heard negative reviews about their hair color. Plus they're what I consider to be a "greenwashing" company - that means they pretend to be all natural but it's just a marketing gimmick. Henna is probably the most natural option out there, but that wasn't the look I was going for. I had driven by Follicle Salon on East Blvd. in Charlotte a zillion times and was excited to learn about their Keune So Pure line. The ingredients are 100% plant based - a combo of "over 30 rich plant extracts and essential oils  that are harvested using biological agriculture that sustains the health of our ecosystem and the quality of the oils." One of the key ingredients is PhytoKeratin which rebuilds the natural hair structure from within and protects during the color treatment. most lines Keune is ammonia and paraben free. Instead of inhaling fumes that burn your nostrils you experience aromatherapy - it smells so good!!

Here is a Keune salon finder link.

I had all over color and balayage highlights - I'm thrilled and a month later it still looks great! I also had 11 inches cut off at this appointment which I donated to Locks of Love. This has been on my bucket list for years and I hope my hair brings a little happiness and smile to a child fighting cancer.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Luxe Organic Sheets

Trimmed set
Every night when I put my head on the pillow and cozy up in my sheets I feel like I'm at the Ritz Carlton. I had been on the lookout for the perfect set of organic sheets for at least two years. Everything I found was either too silky, too crisp, not soft enough or the wrong weight. Ed ad I are very picky about what we introduce to our beloved Tempurpedic - expectations were high. So glad I held out for perfect and discovered Boll & Branch. In one of my online searches during Black Friday their name popped up and the description fit the bill - they were even on sale!! 

I was prepared to splurge a little and had a budget of around $200 for a queen set. We had gotten sheets from Pottery Barn as a wedding gift and they were nice but nothing special. After a couple years they had started to pill and we wanted to invest in a quality replacement that would last. This is what I was looking for:
  • It was very important for my new sheets to be organic. We spend about 1/3 of our life in bed (unless you have a newborn and then ts closer to 5%…) and I've just been reading about how cotton is excessively sprayed with chemicals. That stuff unfortunately doesn't just wash off like you hope it would. I don't own many organic clothes but do try to purchase organic pajamas - Hanna Andersson offers so many cute and comfy options!
  • 100% organic cotton. Natural, eco-friendly, safe for me and my family. 
  • Sides long enough for a large mattress
  • SUPER soft. Like a t-shirt you've worn for 5 years soft.
I found all of the above and more with Boll & Branch. Our new sheets feel like the finest ones I've ever slept in and I get to enjoy them every night! Its been two months now and Ed and I are still commenting how luxe they are.  I would bet Beyonce has the finest sheets around and I wouldn't trade with her. THE BEST!!

Pleated set - this is what I have, gorgeous!!
The prices were in line with what I wanted to spend and range from $200 to $260 per set. (They do offer discounts sometimes - I think my Black Friday deal was $25 off) and are hundreds less than comporable luxury brands like Sferra and Frette. I would rather spend $250 for a set that will last several years than $75 for a cheaper option that needs toy be replaced annually. You get to enjoy this purchase every night!

Banded sheet set
A huge bonus for me is when something is made in the USA or uses fair trade practices. Not only does Boll & Branch make an amazing product but they also are passionate about fair trade practices. Read this impressive commitment from their website:
  • "Right now, more than 30 million children and adults around the world are enslaved in force labor, debt bondage, sex trafficking and military servitude, and that number continues to grow everyday. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "after drug dealing, trafficking of humans is tied with arms-dealing as the second largest criminal industry in the world" at $32 billion dollars a year." 
  •  "We want to prove there is a better way. We're dedicated to creating a world where everyone lives better, works safer, and has the best. We're making a difference. Every farm and factory we work with is Fair Trade Certified. Our products are made ethically by workers who are treated well and are working by choice. Our sheets are crafted by adults who are paid a fair wage in above-standard work conditions that keep everyone's health and safety in mind."
I just saw on their website that they believe in their product so much that they'll let you try it for 30 days free - it's a no-brainer, try them!! They arrive at your doorstop wrapped in a pretty package - a present to yourself that I guarantee you'll love!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Clean up your laundry routine

A clean, green laundry routine is a critical component to achieving a chemical free home. After switching to a natural deodorant I would say it is the second most important purchasing change you can make to reduce your toxic burden. Think about it, you and your family wear clothes all day and all night (for the most part…). Toxic chemicals in your detergent, fabric softener and dryer sheets are being inhaled and absorbed by your skin 24-7. YUCK.

Appropriate signage at Target
If your products of choice include any of the following ingredients, I highly recommend you make the switch to a natural option (the big names like Tide are offenders):

Sodium laurel sulfate (This is a known eczema irritant...)
Sodium dodecyl sulfate
Sodium methyl 2-sulfolaurate
Lauryl dimethyl amine oxide
Sodium laureth sulfate
Ammonium lauryl sulfosuccinate
Ammonium xylene-sulfonate
Cocomide monoethanolamide
Alkyl benzene sulfonates or ABS (also linear alkyl benzene sulfonates or LAS, linear alkyl sodium sulfonates)
Alkyl phenoxy polyethoxy ethanols (also nonyl phenoxy ethoxylate or nonyl phenol).

I was hesitant to stray from my long running, tried and true routine but am so glad I ventured from my comfort zone - I'll never go back to my old toxic ways!! This is what I've learned along the way…

Laundry Soap:

I have tried Charlie's SoapMolly's Suds and Mama's Suds and they all work pretty much the same in my opinion. They get your clothes nice and clean but do not do much to remove stains or brighten. Our whites are no longer super white and I'm okay with that because its a safer for my family. Molly's Suds makes a whitener that I've been wanting to try out and I have great stain solutions written below. I purchase these brands online and am a new fan of Mama's Suds since I like supporting small Mom & Pop businesses.
You can select your scent (lavender, lemon, tea tree to name a few) or customize your own!

A product I'm very curious about and have never tried is Eco Nuts Organic Laundry Detergent. They are highly recommended for anyone with sensitive skin issues and are super cheap. People rave about how clean, soft and fluffy they get clothes. Weird, yes which means I'd probably love them!

Definitely different detergent.
Stain Remover:

Thank goodness Oxi-Clean makes a clean, green product that is safe and WORKS!!! Their Baby Stain Soaker scores an "A" on Environmental Working Groups evaluation - HALLELUJAH!! Now its ONLY the stain soaker powder, NOT the stain remover spray that is safe - the spray scored a "C". With a newborn, toddler and cat that likes to throw up in defiance I use this stuff all the time.  I found that soaking for 24 hours does the trick and I keep a big bucket in my laundry room for this sole purpose. I buy mine at Target in the baby section.

Another cool stain remover tip that I just discovered on Pinterest is this genius DIY technique using a bar of plain soap and a mesh produce bag:

so clever and easy!
For simple instructions visit Real Housemoms blog - this works like a dream! I use the mesh bag from the Trader Joe's lemons (garlic, shallots also work!) and Dr. Bonner's unscented castile soap.

Fabric Softener:

Once you stop using fabric softener you realize that "softness" is actually subtle greasiness. Now I add good ole' white vinegar for all my regular laundry and love, love, love the way it makes my clothes feel. 1/3 cup is all you need and it also helps deodorize your load. Just put it into the softener dispenser or you can pour it into your old Downy ball. I buy my white vinegar at Costco for $2.99 for 1.35 gallons!
I go thru this huge size every month - a staple in our household.
Dryer Sheets:

In our quest to smell clean, we have turned to a thin, synthetic sheet LOADED with nothing but chemicals. According to Dr. Jack Wolfson, an Integrative Cardiologist, the chemicals in dryer sheets likely increase the risk of heart disease, brain disorders like dementia and Parkinson's, and cancer. He claims that dryer sheets are worse than eating conventional produce sprayed with pesticides - who would have thought?!

Its amazing how my laundry smell preferences have shifted since changing to natural products. I loved the scent of dryer sheets, especially Bounce. It made me smile when I would be out walking in my neighborhood and would smell laundry coming from a house's dryer exhaust pipes- so fresh and clean (I now know this is a form of environmental pollution). Now it just smells fake and artificial - just like walking into a Hallmark store that bombards your nasal passages with offensive Yankee Candles.

Luckily there are great natural alternatives that I prefer so much more! I now use Nellie's balls that I bought at TJ Maxx (also buy them here on Amazon). They work great to shorten drying time and eliminate static. Next on my list is to try these Smart Sheep 100% Wool Dryer Balls that you can add drops of essential oil to scent your laundry - lavender is a REAL fresh smell :)
Can also be used for back rubs!
Smart Sheep 100% Wool Dryer Balls - you can find similar balls from Etsy, Molly's Suds and Mama's Suds.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Newborn Necessities

Our little baby boy was born the day after Christmas! He's a sweet, bright-eyed little guy that looks exactly like his sister - we're all completely smitten :)

This is my second child and this time around we've simplified everything drastically. We know that during the first month there really isn't a whole lot that you need - diapers, a few onesies, a blanket and boobs.  Here are some of my favorite can't live withouts for me and baby:
For Baby:
Serena and Lily Prague Market Organic Sling:

My sister and niece 

beautiful details!
Oh my word, I can't even tell you how wonderful this sling is!! I used an Ergo baby carrier with Olivia and really loved it, but feel this is a better option for a newborn. He feels snuggly, supported and almost instantly falls asleep - give him a passy and he's in heaven. I'm able to be mobile and get so much done - he'll snooze in there for a couple hours and it's comfortable for me to wear. The organic jersey cotton is unbelievably soft and washes easily. Plus it makes me fell like a chic New York City mom! I can thank my sister for sister for my #1 must have - Amazon sells them now and it is worth every penny!

Aden and Anais custom "cozie" triple layer blanket: 

I was thrilled that Teddy took to being swaddled - it helps him sleep better and he doesn't instantly fight his way out like his big sister. Aden and Anais swaddle blankets are wonderful. We love the buttery soft bamboo ones although I feel like the muslin swaddles hold together better. I had read about custom multi layer blankets that you can make with swaddles and wanted one for my little winter baby. I found two coordinating bamboo swaddles (had the hardest time deciding with all their gorgeous prints!) and selected the turquoise trim. Just a heads up about bamboo swaddles - they pick and pull very easily. I don't mind because the softness makes up for it, but if this would bother you then select the traditional muslin swaddle. I could easily make this myself, but due to lack of any free time I found a seamstress to sew it for me - Zabdi Efrain does beautiful work and can be reached via email at

Wendy Anne Moses Basket:

Teddy's moses basket with rolled towel for elevation
It is very important to me to have an organic mattress for Teddy's bassinet. Babies spend so much time sleeping and I do not want him breathing in the off-gassed fumes that are inevitable with conventional mattresses. Yes, they are significantly more expensive but it is a purchase I won't skimp on. I was excited to discover Wendy Anne - her beautiful moses baskets are hand woven of all natural maize material and the mattress is filled with 100% organic cotton - and made in the USA! They have many beautiful options (many extremely frilly and frufru) and I love this simple white eyelet. Moses baskets allow you to have a mobile bed, but I always keeps Teddy's on the wooden base which gently rocks. We keep a rolled up towel under the front end to keep it slightly elevated to prevent any reflux. Teddy will sleep on this the first two months and we'll transition him to his crib with a Naturepedic mattress. 

Side note: I always try to warn moms about the Fisher-Price "Rock 'n Play". We used it with Olivia and thought it was the bee's knees when she slept longer stretches at night - that is until she developed Plagiocephaly (flat head). The RNP was a major contributing factor and she had to wear a helmet for 3 months, ugh. Her Occupational Therapist said a flat, hard surface is best - trust me, stay away from the Rock 'n Play!!!!!

Coconut Oil:
I use coconut oil every single day. We cook with it, put it in smoothies, I use it in my hair and put it all over my baby's bottom - there are countless uses for this healthy living favorite! Every family should have some - its the perfect protector and moisturizer for baby's sensitive, tender skin (an mama's too). I keep a little ramekin if it at his changing table and spread a little on each time. After I use my Clean-Well sanitizer I rub some into my own hands, love it especially in the dry winter months. Costco sells a very high quality organic, unrefined coconut oil for a great price - $15.75 for 54oz. I'm going to start including one in baby shower gift baskets - an absolute must!

Water Wipes:
These are a new staple in our house. When Teddy gets a little bigger we'll switch to cloth wipes (read more here), but in the meantime Water Wipes get the job done gently and free of chemicals. They are 99.9% water and the remaining 0.1% is fruit extract which earns them the title: "world's purest cleaning wipes." I definitely pay a premium for these and buy in bulk from Amazon - for me they're worth it!
For Mom:

Hanna Andersson Love, Hanna Supersoft PJ Set:

After having a baby most moms spend ALOT of time on the couch and these lounging pjs are THE BEST - blissfully comfy and the botton front tops are ideal for easy breastfeeding. The combed cotton jersey is so so soft and the relaxed fit makes you never want to take them off. I'm so happy to see on their website that the Love, Haana pjs are a line, so I can get new fun Hanna Andersson prints each season :) They are certified by Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which is a declaration that promises to provide human friendly textiles that do not contain any harmful substances - love them even more. 

Medela Nipple Shield:
Packaging at Target - make sure you get the right size (measure before you shop…)

I so wish I had known about these with Olivia... Breastfeeding is so important and rewarding, but can be painful in the beginning - toe curling pain. It only takes one bad latch for your poor nipples to get seriously damaged. I highly recommend finding a top notch lactation consultant to meet with you during the first few days. Also take advantage of the nurses at the hospital who can give you advice early on and hopefully prevent a bad start. My lactation consultant introduced me to the nipple shield, which is a very thin piece of pliable silicone that enables your baby to latch on better and protect your nipples. It allowed mine to heal and I feel Teddy learned how to be a better nurser. You can buy them from Amazon or Target - just make sure to measure to get the proper size.

My Breast Friend: 

I used a Boppy when I nursed Olivia and MBF is SO much better! My lactation consultant recommended it and said they help support the baby and make nursing more comfortable - I am able to get Teddy in the proper "football hold" position in a breeze. It has a plush back rest that helps my posture and prevents back aches - my back was killing with the Boppy on the couch for hours! The cover of the deluxe version is very soft and comes in lots of different colors. I see these all over Craigslist - you could always replace the cover and it would be like new!

Please add any of your favorite newborn "must-haves" in the comments :)