This poor series has been dragged on for nine months (it’s not a coincidence that it’s as long as I was pregnant, either!), but here: here is the final installment!  My last word about cloth diapers! (Please excuse the lack of pictures)

Since I dispelled some nasty misconceptions about cloth diapers and explained why cloth diapers are so beautiful to me, I’m now going to explain pretty much everything else I can think of about cloth diapers. 

If I leave some questions unanswered, please ask them and I will try to answer!

How We Use Cloth Diapers (. . . and some other info)

1. What cloth diapers do you use?

We use (only because a dear friend of mine uses them and I figured she’d done enough research for both of us! ;) Fuzzi Bunz one-size diapers.  There are about a thousand different types and brands to use, but I love our Fuzzi Bunz!  The reason we opted for one-sized diapers is because we didn’t want to have to buy more and more diapers as Luke grew.  Instead, our diapers grow with him.

I’ve heard that they’re too bulky for newborns (and so leaking is an issue), but we used disposables for the first 3 months of Luke’s life (because they are just easier) and so I had never tested them on him as a newborn.  After having tried to use them with our new little girl, Elizabeth, I would have to agree with what I had heard–we won’t be trying her in cloth diapers for a month or so more.

Do you use a different type?  A different brand?  Which cloth diapers are your favorite?

2. How many cloth diapers do I need?

We had 18 with one child.  We need to change Luke’s diaper about 4-5 times each day, so 18 diapers lasts us about 3 days.  Of course there are blowouts and extra poopies and whatnot, but 2½-3 days was about right.  That’s good enough for me!

Now, with Elizabeth, we need some more.  We’ll probably get about 6 more, for a total of 24, once we start using them on her.  That will mean laundry about every other day, which will only last for a time, so it’s okay with me! :)

Of course the more diapers you have, the less laundry you will do, so you just have to decide how often you’d like to do laundry.

How many do you have?  What works for you?

3. Ok, that’s a lot of laundry.  Isn’t it really expensive to use all that water and energy?

. . . I don’t know.  This is a concern that one of my closest friends brings up every time we talk about cloth diapers and I honestly haven’t looked into it at all.  It seems like it just can’t cost so much extra electricity and water that it makes disposable diapers and cloth diapers cost the same in the end.

In a previous post I figured that you make up your money in about a year by using cloth diapers.  Oh, and you can use them for more than one child.  Oh, and you diaper a baby for more than 1 year.  I can’t imagine that the cost of electricity and water (from doing those extra laundries) would cost so much that it wouldn’t be worth it in the end. 

Has anyone done the math?  Is it still worth it?

4. What system works best for you?

We have Luke’s stack of diapers in a box on his changing table.  They are already set to the proper size.  Usually the inserts are not in the pocket, but it’s easy just to slip them in when it’s changing time.  We use both the big insert and the small insert every time.  We double up the small insert so he has three layers of inserts in the front of his diaper.

After the old diaper comes off, we set it aside and diaper him up.  Then, if the old diaper is dirty, we take it to the toilet, drop the poo in the toilet, take the inserts out, rinse the diapers in cold water in the bathroom sink, then take the diaper (and the inserts) to the utility room where we deposit them in a trashcan (with a lid).  We have 2 Planet Wise washable diaper pail liners we use as trash bags.

When the trashcan is full (or we’re running out of diapers), we dump the contents (with the liner) into the washer, wash with hot water, rinse twice with cool water (this is to be sure to get any build-up rinsed out–this has helped us eliminate any leaks), then dry on low.

When they’re done drying we organize them into three piles: 1. diapers, 2. small inserts, 3. big inserts, and then put them back in their proper place on Luke’s changing table.  It’s as easy as that!

Do you use a different system that works for your family?  What do you do?

5. What detergent do you use to wash your cloth diapers?

We use Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds, but there are several other good detergents.  Often the cloth diaper company you use will sell a detergent that they endorse.  Charlie’s Soap is also good.  Basically you don’t want any additives, softeners, whiteners, brighteners, and such.

I’ve used the Dr. Bronner’s based solution that I use on our clothing on the diapers before and it seemed to irritate Luke’s skin.  So now I just use straight Dr. Bronner’s on the diapers (about a ¼ cup per load).

What do you use?  What’s worked for you?  What hasn’t worked?

6. All this talk about natural diapers–what do you do for wipes?

Until very recently we just used disposable, commercial wipes.  With all the traveling and ups and downs of the last year, worrying about cloth diapers alone was enough for me.  Wipes can get expensive, though, and I was always a bit concerned about what was actually on the wipes and what I was wiping all over Luke’s booty.

We have a couple cloth wipes that were given to us, but we only have two or three and obviously it would take a lot more than that (like 2-3 dozen) to use them for real.  If we had more, though, I would store them in water with a squirt or 2 of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild solution in an old wipes container.  After each use I’d just throw them in with the cloth diapers.  Easy peasy. :)

A few of my friends have done something very similar to the above and have made their own cloth wipesHere’s how Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking made hers.

Several months ago I found a great homemade, disposable, frugal alternative to store-bought wipes.  I found it on Pinterest, but here’s the link to the original post.  It’s really so easy:

Homemade Disposable Baby Wipes

You’ll need:

  • 2 tupperwares (I use the Rubbermaid Lock-its 7 cup container)
  • 1 roll of paper towels (word is that Bounty Select-a-size is by far the best choice)
  • a clean, large, sharp, non-serrated knife
  • 4 cups water
  • a Tbsp. or 2 of coconut oil (if it’s in its solid state, heat it up with a bit of the water on the stove til it melts)
  • a squirt or 2 of a safe baby wash (this is optional, as the coconut oil is anti-bacterial, microbial, and fungal–but, I would use a tiny bit of Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild if I used anything else at all)
  1. Cut paper towel roll in half. Set aside.

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  2. Make the solution: Combine water, coconut oil, and baby wash (optional) in a bowl and stir gently.
  3. Pour the solution evenly into the two containers (about 2 cups into each).

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  4. Place the paper towel rolls (cut side down) into the containers.  They seem too big, but they’re not!
  5. Scrunch the paper towels down and shut the lid.  Turn the containers upside down and walk away for 5 minutes.

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  6. After 5 minutes open them up, gently pull the saturated cardboard rolls out from the centers.

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  7. Pull the inside towel out a little bit so you can easily grab it.  Close the lid and you’re good to go!

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I love these wipes because they’re easy, super frugal, and they last for a long time (this recipe will last 1-2 weeks).  The original author suggests only making two containers at a time–more than that and they may get yucky.

So what do you think?  Have you tried something like this before? Do you have suggestions?

7. What (if any) diaper rash cream do you use?

Well.  On Christmas Eve we spent a few hours in the E.R. because Luke’s groin area was super red and super swollen and seemed like it hurt a LOT.  The doctor prescribed an oral antibiotic and said we should use Desitin.*  So we did.  The rash went away quickly using the Desitin and the swelling subsided because of the antibiotics.

Obviously, these remedies were not my first choice, but it was pretty serious there for a while.

When we’re not afraid about whether we’ll ever have grandchildren or not, we use coconut oil mixed with a few drops of lavender essential oil.  The essential oil keeps the coconut oil in a paste form and it works quicker than anything else we’ve ever tried (Eucerin, Butt Paste, etc.). Oh, and it’s really inexpensive!

What do you use? 

*A note about cloth diapers & Desitin: DON’T DO IT!  The Desitin leaves the cloth diapers smelling like fish (cod liver oil, to be exact), and it’s nearly impossible to get out.  If, like we were, you’re wondering how to get the nasty smell out of your cloth diapers, the best way is to scrub (for several minutes . . . like 15-20) the diapers with the original blue Dawn dish-washing soap.  Then wash them several times.  You may need to do this more than once.  What a pain!

8. What about traveling?  How do you use cloth diapers on the road (or just out and about?)

Whenever Luke’s going to stay with someone else (including when he’s in the nursery at church) we use disposable diapers & commercial disposable wipes.  These sweet friends are doing us a service and if they’re not used to cloth diapers (or even if they are), no one wants to deal with someone else’s kid’s poop more than absolutely necessary.

But, around town or when we go on trips as a family, we still use cloth diapers.  These are the items we have to make this possible:

  • 2 washable wet-bags- Ok, trash bags would work for this, but that’s a lot of trash bags, which can add up!  Planet Wise makes washable wet bags that are super cute.  Here’s a link to making wet bags yourself, if you’d rather.  We keep 1 in the diaper bag/car and just throw the dirty diapers in them to deal with them when we get home.
  • travel sized wipes container- We put some of the homemade wipes in the travel sized container.  It seals tight enough that they stay fresh for long enough.  If the trip will be longer than just running around town, we bring a whole tub of the homemade wipes with us.
  • If we’ll need to wash the diapers while away from home (like when we’re on a vacation lasting more than a couple of days), we bring the Planet Wise diaper pail liners, sometimes the trash can (although you obviously wouldn’t have to), and a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds.

There! I believe that I have officially dispensed all of my cloth diapering knowledge on you.  I’m sure I missed some things or was confusing.  For that reason, here are a few links to two of my favorite blogs (Passionate Homemaking & Desiring Virtue) to help round-out my series:

Helpful links about cloth diapers:

So there we are. This poor little series is done!  I hope you learned something and if cloth diapers have grossed you out in the past, maybe you’re giving them a second thought.

Did I leave anything out?  Do you have suggestions?  Questions?  Please leave them in the comments!

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Three months ago, before I fell off the planet, I began a series about my most favorite frugal find for babies–cloth diapers.  “Find” makes it seem like I’m one of the only people in the world who know about them.  Not true.  In fact, cloth diapers seem to be making quite a come-back.  If you’re curious about them and all they entail, this is the place for you.  First, check out my post on the Ugly Misconceptions about cloth diapers that I tried to Expel.  Today I’ll simply be discussing why they are so beautiful to me.

The Reasons Cloth Diapers are so Beautiful

1. They save a TON of money

Last time I discussed in detail how cloth diapers save us money over the “normal” disposable diapers.  Here is what I wrote on the subject then:

The average cloth diaper, after tax & shipping & whatnot, is about $20 each.  For one child you need about 18 (for two, I’ve heard 24 works well).  So that’s $360.

Now think about disposable diapers.  Each package is like $50 for 275 diapers (and that’s a pretty good deal).  So you can buy 2,000 disposable diapers for the same $360 you could buy cloth diapers for.  How long will it take you to go through 2,000 disposable diapers?  Let’s say you change a diaper every 3 hours and your baby sleeps for 12 hours each day.  That’s 5 diapers a day (this is a low estimation).  So in 400 days, which is about 13 months, you’d easily make up the money you’ve spent on cloth diapers.

Remember, though, you’re going to use more than 5 diapers a day and this was just for 1 child.  (For instance, if you use 6 diapers a day, those 2,000 disposable diapers will only last you 11 months for one child).

If I were honest, this is really the only reason we decided to go with cloth diapers.  That is, that they were less expensive than disposables.  And really, I think that’s reason enough that they’re beautiful.  However, after having used them for a year, there are a few other reasons they are so lovely to me.

2. I just feel good using them

There’s just something about not creating a million pounds of waste that makes me feel good.   Re-using things (in this case, diapers), just makes me feel helpful.  That’s all :)

3. They’re just so darn cute

I mean, seriously, they are so cute.  I love picking out a color that will match Luke’s shirt and letting him run around in just a colorful little diaper all day (in the summer, of course).  They’re just fun, ok!? :)

4. They keep little bottoms from getting diaper rashes

Because they’re natural and don’t have who-knows-what in them, little booties are much happier!  If you’ve ever been around a baby with a bad diaper rash you know how sad it is–it’s our experience that cloth diapers keep Luke from getting near as many rashes as he does when he wears disposable diapers.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to sell these in any other way.  The main reason cloth diapers are so wonderful is because they are so frugal, and like I said–that’s reason enough to use them!

Do you have any questions?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Tell us why cloth diapers are beautiful to you!

Next time: How we use cloth diapers

Happy Thanksgiving Week!  Yay for Thanksgiving!  I admit I’ve done absolutely nothing that I wanted to do in preparation for this holiday!  Oh well, this just isn’t the year for it.  At the end of this post I’ve listed two articles with ideas that I can’t wait to implement next year and I hope will be helpful to you in cultivating a thankful Thanksgiving.

Our Perfect Turkey

I have never been a big fan of turkey.  It’s always been dry and chewy to me.  This includes when people say, “Oh, here, this is the best turkey you’ll ever taste.”  I just very rarely like it.  A few years ago my dad began frying our Thanksgiving turkeys and while it was much better than the traditional roasted type of bird, we used a lot of oil to get that thing cooked.  This year he’s trying a no-oil frying method.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m excited to taste it.

H-E-B has had a deal for a few weeks (it ends on the 24th!) where if you buy a spiral sliced ham, you get a 12 lb. turkey for free!  As soon as we heard about it we ran to H-E-B, bought the best ham ever, and got our turkey for free.  I found what promises to be the best way to cook a turkey here, and I must say: it turned out mighty yummy!  And so here are the instructions, for you, if you’d like to try Our Perfect Turkey. :)

The main difference between this recipe and all others is that with this recipe, when you cook the bird, you put it breast side down.

You will need:

  • 1 turkey
  • juice of a lemon
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • tops and bottoms of a bunch of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • parsley
  • sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme (optional)
  1. Bring turkey to room temperature.  Let it sit out in a pan (in the original plastic) so that any juices will fall into the pan and not onto your counter.
  2. Remove plastic wrapping.  Remove the neck and giblets (I know . . . ).  The original recipe has a link on how to use the heart and gizzard to make stock for stuffing and links on how to use all the gizzards to make gravy or a turkey soup.
  3. If the turkey has plastic ties holding the legs together, you probably don’t need to remove them to cook (check the package instructions).  If you take the ties off, you should tie the legs back up before cooking with kitchen string.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400  degrees F.
  5.  Wash turkey and pat dry with paper towels.
  6. Lather the inside with the juice from half a lemon.   Rub a small handful of salt all over inside.
  7. Also inside the cavity, put half a yellow onion, peeled and quartered, a bunch of parsley, a couple of carrots, and some tops and bottoms of celery.  You may need to lay a piece of aluminum foil in there to keep everything inside.  Make sure the legs are tied tight, the wings are tied up close to the body, and the neck cavity is tied closed.
  8. Rub olive oil or butter all over the outside of the turkey.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on the outside as well.
  9. Put the turkey breast down on the bottom rack of your oven in a roasting pan.  Cooking it this way makes all the juices fall down into the breasts.  Add a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme if you have them to the outside of the turkey.
  10. Check the cooking directions on the original packaging.  This is the tricky part.  For our 12 pound turkey we cooked it for 3 hours. (That’s 15 minutes for every pound.) For the first half an hour it baked at 400 degrees.  Then for the next hour and a half, we lowered the temperature to 350 degrees.  Then, for the final hour, we lowered it even more to 225 degrees.
  11. Start taking the temperature (using a meat thermometer) every once in a while from about an hour before the turkey should be done.  Check the dark meat (the thighs) and the white meat (the breasts.)  The dark meat needs to reach 175 degrees F eventually, while the white should be 165 degrees F in the end.  Because the turkey will continue to get hotter after you remove it from the oven, you can take it out of the oven when the dark meat is 170 degrees F and the white 160 degrees F.  If you don’t have a meat thermometer, cut deep into the breast–the juices should be clear, not pink.
  12. Once you take the turkey from the oven, let it sit 15-20 minutes, turn it breast side up, carve, serve, and enjoy!

Fabulous Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes.  I really do.  They’re such a wonderful treat and so good for you, too!  The following isn’t really a recipe as much as it is the easiest thing you’ve ever done to make the best sweet potatoes of your life–sans marshmallows!

  • about 1 1/2 sweet potatoes for each person eating (for instance, if you’re serving 6 people, you need 9 sweet potatoes–you’ll have left-overs, but that’s the point of Thanksgiving dinner, right ;)
  • butter
  • cinnamon
  1. Boil sweet potatoes.  (You can either peel them, leave the skins on because they’re good for you, or wait and peel them after they’ve been boiled)
  2. Place quartered or sliced sweet potatoes in enough water to cover them.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Drain right away.
  3. If you left the skins on and want to remove them now, submerge them under cold water and they should come off easily.
  4. Mash the potatoes all up in a bowl or right in whatever you’re going to serve them in.
  5. Add butter–I don’t know how much–they taste wonderful without butter, too, so it doesn’t really matter.  Just put a little in, taste it, and do whatever you want!
  6. Sprinkle and mix in some cinnamon to taste.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

I love this recipe because it’s so easy and it tastes so good and it’s relatively good for you (depending upon how much butter you add, of course).

Some Thanksgiving Reads

Just because I haven’t done anything special for Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean I haven’t read about things other people are doing!  Here are two great articles dedicated to focusing on being thankful during Thanksgiving:

That’s all for this week!  I’ll be spending the rest of the week celebrating with my sweet family.  I pray you focus on all the blessings God has given you (mostly, Jesus!) this week as you cultivate a spirit of thankfulness in your home.  Happy Thanksgiving!

This post is linked to

Menu Planning Mayhem

over at Desiring Virtue.

Probably for most of you when you think about cloth diapers the last thing you think about is beauty.  However, for those of us who have experienced cloth diapering, “beauty” really isn’t that far off from the truth.  There are so many wonderful things about clothing those cute little booties with soft, soft cloth and bright, sweet colors!  Not convinced?  Well maybe I can help.

Today I’m going to expel some ugly misconceptions associated with cloth diapering, next week I’ll explain how beautiful it really can be, and the following week I’ll give you the 401 on how to use cloth diapers–which ones we use, why we use them, how we use them, etc.  I’ll even show you some options that we don’t use!  My hope is not necessarily to convert you to a life of cloth diapering, but just to educate.  

Some Ugly Misconceptions Expelled

1. You have to touch poop all the time.

Ok, so it’s true that you have to deal with poop more than you might while using disposable diapers, but it’s really not nearly as bad as you might think.

When there’s a dirty diaper you simply drop the waste into the toilet (without touching it) and then rinse the diaper under cool water.  You might sometimes need to scrub a bit and your fingers may come into contact with some poop, but seriously.  That’s what soap is for.  It doesn’t take long to get over it, either–trust me.

2. You have to constantly be washing the diapers.

This was the thing I was most concerned with.  I mean, I really don’t care for laundry.  However, we have 18 diapers and I wash them every third(ish) day.  It doesn’t seem like that often at all.  It’s a quick load and it’s easy to grab them out of the dryer and put them back where they go.

3. You have to hand-wash them.

I suppose there may be brands of cloth diapers out there that you can only hand-wash, but for the brand we use (and all of the ones I’ve ever looked into) this is not the case.  I have used my washer and dryer to clean our diapers for almost a year and they are still in great condition.

4. You have to use super-expensive soap to wash them.

Ok, it’s true that the brand of cloth diapers we use recommends using a detergent that is not full of chemicals.  But since I use a natural detergent for my laundry anyway, we already have the proper soap on hand.

I think the thing that worries people about natural soap is that it is too expensive.  However, that’s just not the case.  Natural soap, although it often comes in large quantities and so might be more expensive up-front, is almost always cheaper in the long run (and better for you anyway).

5. They get really gross and dirty looking really fast.

I suppose if you let them sit for days cloth diapers might end up getting bad stains on them and looking gross after a while, but my diapers still look almost new.

6. They give babies diaper rashes worse than disposable diapers.

I’ve heard this, but I don’t understand it.  It just doesn’t make sense and it’s not my experience.  The only thing I can think is that a new little booty might get a bad diaper rash if the cloth diapers being used are getting washed in a detergent that is too harsh.  Our experience is that Luke gets far more rashes when using disposable than cloth diapers.

7. They don’t hold as much waste as disposable diapers.

There might be something to this if you keep a diaper on for hours and hours.  However, we’ve had the same number of “blow-outs” or “leaks” you would expect with disposable diapers when we change the cloth diaper every 3-4 hours.

It’s true that for a while we were getting leaks on the inside thigh, but we figured that out: I wasn’t rinsing them well enough and so there was build-up.  (gross, I know . . . I’ll explain more about that later in this series)

Overnight is a different story, though.  In fact, because Luke pees so much and sleeps so long during the night we’ve started using a disposable at night.  Even that one diaper a day, though, still keeps the cost under what we would be spending if we only used disposable diapers.

8. They are too expensive.

This, I think is the misconception I’ve heard most.  They are expensive up-front, it’s true.  The average cloth diaper, after tax & shipping & whatnot, is about $20 each.  For one child you need about 18 (for two, I’ve heard 24 works well).  So that’s $360.

Now think about disposable diapers.  Each package is like $50 for 275 diapers (and that’s a pretty good deal).  So you can buy 2,000 disposable diapers for the same $360 you could buy cloth diapers for.  How long will it take you to go through 2,000 disposable diapers?  Let’s say you change a diaper every 3 hours and your baby sleeps for 12 hours each day.  That’s 5 diapers a day (this is a low estimation).  So in 400 days, which is about 13 months, you’d easily make up the money you’ve spent on cloth diapers.

Remember, though, you’re going to use more than 5 diapers a day and this was just for 1 child.  (For instance, if you use 6 diapers a day, those 2,000 disposable diapers will only last you 11 months for one child).

A Note on When We Don’t Use Cloth Diapers: I feel like this is necessary to explain while I’m talking about the expense of cloth vs. disposable diapers.  I’ve explained that we use one disposable at night.  We also use disposables when Luke stays with someone else, or we have a babysitter over, or when he’s in the nursery at church.  While it’s our preference that he use cloth diapers, there’s no reason to make other people deal with them.  We want to bless those who love us and our little man enough to watch him, and so we don’t make others who have not chosen to use cloth diapers use them.  This increases the number of disposable diapers we must buy.  We usually use (including the night-time diapers) 14 disposable diapers each week.  This comes to about 56 disposables/month, or about $10/month.  This $10 is worth it to us to bless those who take time to bless us!

These are the ugly misconceptions I’ve heard most about beautiful cloth diapers. Have you heard others?  Do you have any questions/comments/concerns?  Leave a comment!

Next time: The Reasons Cloth Diapers are so Beautiful

Living in a climate like Houston can make for a pretty stuffy, indoors-type of life for much of the year.  It seems like it’s often either too hot or too cold or too humid to do anything outdoors or even just to open the windows.  Lately I’ve been learning about indoor plants and I’m hooked!

Bring the Outdoors In

One of the easiest ways to brighten up (not to mention bring fresh and clean oxygen into) your home is to bring in flowers and plants!

The Science of It

Plants absorb carbon dioxide and other chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde.  They also regulate the humidity in your home.

The EPA estimates that indoor air is 2 to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. Things like adhesives, carpeting, furniture, mattresses, ply-wood, and shower curtains add to the crazy levels of pollution inside.  This is not to mention any harsh chemicals you might use to clean your home or body.  (Click here to learn about natural cleaning alternatives and here to learn about natural body alternatives!)

Two small plants or one medium size plant per 100 square feet will provide fresh air and healthy, mold-free humidity in any room so everyone can breathe deeply with ease. (Easy Green Living by Renee Lou)

Other Benefits

The obvious benefit is that bringing plants indoors makes for a cheery, bright home.  I love the look of beautiful, live plants!  It just really makes a room look alive!

Additionally, having a host of different beautiful plants makes for a great discussion with your kiddos about God’s fabulous creation.

It also makes for a built-in, easy way for children to help take care of something while learning about growth and responsibility!

So Which Plants are Best?

Bamboo Palm, Chinese Evergreen, Chrysanthemum, Corn Plant (Dracaena massangeana, not edible corn), Dragon Tree, English Ivy, Peace Lily, Philodendron, Pothos, and Snake Plant.

I can’t wait to continue decorating our home with beautiful and healthy plants!

Naturally Keeping the Pests Out

The biggest complaint when it comes to live plants indoors seems to be the bugs that come in with them.  Here is a recipe to a homemade natural pesticide that I found, have used, and love:

Natural Homemade Pesticide

  • ½ cup coarsely chopped hot peppers
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 cups water
  1. Combine ingredients in a clear glass jar.  I think I just covered a glass mixing bowl with saran wrap, which worked fine for me.
  2. Leave in the sun for 24 hours to let “tea” steep.  Obviously the sun is not out for 24 hours.  Just leave it outside for 24 hours!
  3. Strain “tea,” pour into spray bottle, and spray on plants. Store extra in a gallon jug.

Naturally Keeping the Fungus Out

Sometimes, particularly in our humid climate, plants can get fungus (mildew) growing on their leaves.  Here is the natural fungicide recipe we use:

Natural Homemade Fungicide

  • 2 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  1. Mix thoroughly and place in a spay bottle.
  2. Spray on plants. Store extra in a gallon jug.

So there you have it: a charge to bring plants in your home and a way to keep those pesky pests and no-fun fungi out!  In fact, both of these recipes work great for outdoor plants and flowers, as well.  Happy in-home gardening!


During my three week hiatus I was once again blessed to be able to be published at my sweet friend’s blog, Desiring Virtue.  Last time I was able to write for her I wrote about Why Natural Living Matters to Me.  This time I gave her readers several tips to slowly slide into living a more natural life in terms of the products we use on our bodies.  Several of the tips and recipes were similar to my own series, Natural From Head to Toe, however my posts on Desiring Virtue are a bit more succinct and might be easier to follow for one just beginning in the Natural Living world!

10 Ways to Ease Into a Natural Body (Pt. 1)

Last time I told you why natural living matters to me. Hopefully that sparked some of your interests and maybe you desire to know how you can begin to live more naturally. The first area of natural living that I learned about was beauty products-things that go on our bodies. My hope is that this list will help you ease into a world of Natural Living when it comes to your body and your family’s bodies . . . (read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

10 Ways to Ease Into a Natural Body (Pt. 2)

# 10. Take it slow! Be patient. Find a balance.

The hardest thing for me about easing into natural living is that I didn’t ease into it at all.  I tried to jump in head first and I just ended up getting frustrated because I either didn’t understand or couldn’t afford whatever it was I wanted to do. Learn from me!  If you’re just starting out, go slow!  Pick one or two things to switch this month.  Then maybe add a third next month. Be patient!  The most important thing is not that you switch to a natural deodorant. You’ve been using aluminum since you were 12.  A few more months—or even a year—won’t kill you.  Find a balance . . . (read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

Because it has been five months since I shared my Whole Chicken Week with you, I will remind you of my heart behind making a Healthy Menu Plan:

Whole foods, fresh produce, meal plans, whole wheat, raw dairy, soaking grains, homemade . . . everything . . . it’s overwhelming, really.  I want so badly to be a better cook.  I want to cook faster and smarter and cheaper.  I want the food I cook to be healthy for my family.  I want to get rid of processed foods and preservatives.  I want to learn the traditional ways of cooking–things women did up until 50 years ago.  Only I want to be able to do them in an efficient way that fits into today’s lifestyle.

Well, that may be a tall order, but I think I might actually be on my way to achieving this.  I’ve learned (during the past year of trying to be more natural) that baby steps are the best way to go.  There’s no point in me throwing myself into a way of life that I don’t really know how to live in!  I started a year ago learning just about natural beauty products, then house-hold cleaning products, then I very slowly began switching things like my all-purpose enriched flour to things like whole wheat flour, and now I think I’m finally ready to continue adding more natural ways to my cooking by making even bigger steps than just switching to purchasing bottom or top shelf items (because that’s where they tend to store the “good-for-you” products).

Step Number One: Create a Healthy Menu Plan.  This will be a 6 week schedule of meals where each week the meals I make will include some of the same ingredients so I can re-use fresh produce without it going bad.  My goal is to create these 6 weeks worth of meals using healthy ingredients and homemade items whenever I can.  Then I can start over with week one and run through the 6 weeks again without my husband getting bored with the same old meals every week. 

Today I will share with you my Mexican Beef Week.

Meal #1: Crockpot Nachos

  • 1 lb. ground beef, uncooked
  • 16 oz. black beans, canned or fresh and soaked (if using fresh beans, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can)
  • 10 oz. corn, canned, frozen, or fresh (again, if using fresh, make sure to include some water–about as much as would be in the can or would melt from the frozen corn)
  • 10 oz. (or about a cup of the homemade) Rotel*
  • 1 packet (or ¾ oz. homemade) taco seasoning**
  • cheese (we use mozzarella, however, you may want to use cheddar since that’s what Enchiladas Fantasticas calls for)
  • chips
  1. Put beef, beans, corn, Rotel, and taco seasoning in crockpot.  Cook on low 4-6 hours.
  2. Serve with cheese and chips. No really, it’s that easy!  And it is so yummy!

*Homemade Rotel

Makes about 5 cups

  • 1 ½ qts. peeled chopped tomatoes (seeded) (about 4 lbs.)
  • 12 jalepeno or hot chili peppers, sliced (7 for medium, 4 for mild)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  1. Place it all in a 4 quart saucepan and simmer until reduced to 1 quart. (Before you do any cooking, fill the pan with 1 quart water and mark with a dry erase pen–on the outside of the pan–where the 1 quart mark is.  Dump the water and then cook the tomatoes and peppers all up.  That way you’ll know when it’s reduced to 1 quart!)
  2. Freeze in 1 cup portions.  This will be equal to one small can of Rotel!

**Homemade Taco Seasoning

This makes enough for Crockpot Nachos, plus some.  I usually multiply the following amounts by 4 to make a bunch of taco seasoning.  This way I don’t have to re-make it all the time!

  • 6 tsp. chili powder
  • 4 ½ tsp. cumin
  • 5 tsp. paprika
  • 3 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container.
  2. This is twice as strong as store-bought seasoning, so only use half as much.  That means ¾ oz. would be the equivalent to the 1.25 oz. packets in the store.  Of course, you may want to use a little more or a little less depending on your tastes.

Meal #2: Enchiladas Fantasticas

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 c. picante sauce***
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach (or 3 oz. fresh chopped spinach)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • 14.5 oz. Rotel* (for homemade Rotel, use the above recipe.  This calls for 1 1/2 cups, though)
  • 12 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Brown beef.  Add 1 cup picante sauce, spinach, 1 ½ tsp. cumin, and salt.
  2. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until most liquid has evaporated.
  3. Add cream cheese, stirring just until melted.  Remove from heat.
  4. Spoon about 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla, roll up, and place seam-side down into 9 x 13 inch dish.
  5. Combine the Rotel, remaining picante sauce, and remaining cumin.  Smooth this mixture over enchilads.  Sprinkle with cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 for 20 min.  Enjoy!

***Homemade Picante Sauce

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1 Serrano chili (or Jalapeno), seeds removed, chopped fine
  • 6 medium (or about 8 Roma) fresh tomatoes, chopped into ¼-inch chunks
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced thin with green tops included
  • 1/8 cup loosely-packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon oregano, crushed between your palms
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild green chilis (or 4 oz. fresh chopped green chilis)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine Serrano chili (or jalapeno), tomatoes, red onion, green onions, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, tomato sauce, green chilis, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  2. Let sit overnight to let flavors blend.
  3. Store any leftover salsa in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Grocery List

This list is if you’re going to make all three homemade recipes (Rotel, taco seasoning, and picante sauce).  The asterisks let you know what you don’t  need to buy if you’re not going to make these from scratch!

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • bag of shredded Cheddar cheese
  • bag of shredded Mozzarella cheese (unless using cheddar for both recipes)
  • tortilla chips
  • bag (or 16 oz. can) black beans
  • 1 (8 oz.) can of tomato sauce***
  • red wine vinegar***
  • frozen or canned corn (10 oz. either way), I’m not sure how many cobs this would be :\
  • 8-10 tortillas
  • spinach (10 oz. frozen or 3 oz. fresh)
  • 1 (4 oz.) can chopped mild green chilis*** (or 4 oz. fresh chilis)
  • 4 lbs.* + 8 Roma tomatoes*** (I would weigh 4 pounds and then add 8 to the bag.  We use our garden Roma tomatoes, though, so I’m not sure how many pounds 8 tomatoes is, sorry!)
  • 7 jalapeno peppers* (12 for hot, 4 for mild) + 1 jalapeno pepper***
  • 1 medium red onion***
  • 3 green onions***
  • cilantro***

Items you probably already have

  • cumin
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • paprika**
  • onion powder**
  • cayenne pepper**
  • chili powder** & ***
  • garlic powder** & ***
  • oregano***

*can substitute 2 cans (24.5 oz.) of Rotel for these ingredients

**may substitute 1 packet of taco seasoning for these ingredients

***can substitute 1 ½ jars of picante sauce for these ingredients

And there you have it.  It might sound boring to have Mexican dishes with beef in them all week long, but it’s not!  These two dishes are so different that we don’t even notice we’re eating basically the same ingredients!  Also, it saves money!

A final tip

You’re not going to use all of the cilantro or green onions you have to buy.  You may buy too much corn.  You may decide one red onion is just too much.  Don’t throw the left overs away!  Chop ’em up, put ’em in freezer bags or Tupperware and throw ’em in your freezer.  Then the next time you need one of these ingredients you may have so much frozen that you don’t need to buy any at all!

Was any of that confusing? Are you trying one of these recipes and running into a problem?  Do you have a question?  A comment?  A suggestion?  Leave a comment!

I am so excited to announce that I have been asked to begin contributing to a very dear friend’s blog, Desiring Virtue!  Jessalyn (the author & editor) has such a beautiful heart for the Lord and I am so very excited to be able to be a tiny part in the growth of her fabulous blog so that she can encourage even more souls to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ!

My periodical is called Natural Living, which will focus on just part of home | health | heart (the “health” part, obviously)!  If you’ve ever wondered how I became interested in living a more natural life and why it’s important to me, well, here is your answer:

Why Natural Living Matters to Me

It was two summers ago that I became interested in living a more natural life.  At first it was incredibly overwhelming and intimidating. At the time I was on my summer break from teaching high school freshmen about world geography.  My sister-in-law was dipping her big toe into the realm of natural living and I couldn’t decide if I thought she was crazy or if I wanted to join her . . . (Read the rest of my post here, at Desiring Virtue!)

 

For some of you I suppose these things aren’t so much a part of your “deep cleaning” regime–you probably do them every week or so.  Well, that’s wonderful for you, and I wish it were so for me, but I just don’t have enough time in my weekly schedule to dust all my furniture or wipe down my baseboards!  ;)

Before I go any further, let me remind you the reason that I first began looking into natural cleaners: I learned that the chemicals that are put into the cleaners I was using (most specifically the bleach) have incredibly harmful effects on our bodies and health.  Read about the deadly chemicals found in almost all store-bought products here.  Last time I told you the basic ways I keep my counters, sinks, and floors clean.  Today I’m going to go through my “deeper cleaning” methods–how I keep my windows, mirrors, wood furniture, stainless steel appliances, toilet, and bath tub sparkling!

In some of the following categories, there will be more than one way to clean whatever it is we’re talking about.  The first solution in any category will be the thing that I use.  Anything after the first bullet point (except for the baking soda bullet points) will be ideas that I’ve heard from other people that worked, but I don’t use myself.

Windows & Mirrors

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: In addition to using hydrogen peroxide to get stains out of my carpet, I use it on windows and mirrors! The first time you use it you’re going to think, “Oh, no!  This isn’t going to work!”  Because it’s natural and doesn’t have a ton of chemicals, it doesn’t wipe off as perfectly as you might hope.  No worries–give it 30 seconds and your windows or mirrors will be streak-free and sparkling!  You can buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the first aid section of your drug or grocery store.  Replace the cap with a spray bottle head so you can use it as a spray.  Keep the liquid in the dark bottle, though, so it keeps its effectiveness.
  • Club Soda: I’ve heard that club soda applied to a window and wiped with a towel does the trick.
  • Vinegar Spray: Equal parts water and vinegar sprayed onto a window and wiped with a towel.
  • Enviro Cloth for windows: I just learned about these great antibacterial cloths and I’m excited to try them soon.  Once I do, I’ll write a review.  It seems like your best bet would be to get this basic package.  You get a regular Enviro antibac cloth to use on counters, sinks, floors, tubs, etc. and then a window cloth to use on windows and mirrors.  The greatest part about these is it seems like all you need to clean your whole house are these two cloths and water!  Again, I haven’t tried them yet, but once I do, I’ll let you know how they work!

Wood Furniture

I really, really, really don’t like dusting.  That’s why I was so excited when I came across this dusting/polishing recipe.  It really shines up my wood furniture and (although I think I might be making this up) it seems to keep it dust-free for longer.

  • Olive Oil & Lemon Juice: 1 cup olive oil & 1/2 cup lemon juice.  I keep mine in a glass cruet with a spout and a stopper.  Before applying to wood, with the stopper in place, I lightly shake the jar so that the oil and lemon juice mix as much as possible.  Then I pour out a tiny amount onto an old rag and wipe down the furniture.  A very small amount will go a very long way!  Then you’ll want to wipe the furniture down with a part of the rag that you didn’t pour the mixture onto to try and pick up excess oil.  This works great and keeps my furniture looking beautiful for quite a while.  Also, it smells wonderfully clean!
  • Enviro Cloth: From what I hear, the regular antibac Enviro cloth also is a great duster of furniture.

Stainless Steel Appliances

  • Olive Oil: Use with a soft cloth for getting smudges off of stainless steel appliances.
  • Enviro Cloth:  Yep.  Good for this, too!

Toilet

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: I use the same bottle that I use for my carpet stains, windows, and mirrors.  I spray the hydrogen peroxide on and in the toilet, wipe the outside down with a rag, and scrub the inside with a toilet brush.  It works fabulously.
  • Baking Soda: For really rough scum, after cleaning initially with hydrogen peroxide, I sprinkle some baking soda on the bowl, let it sit for a moment, and then scrub with my toilet brush.  I store baking soda specifically for cleaning in a large aluminum salt or pepper shaker.
  • Enviro Cloth: I’m not joking.  I hear that a damp Enviro Cloth wiped inside and outside of the toilet and then a toilet brush scrub-down of the inside does the trick!

Bath Tub

  • Hydrogen Peroxide: Using the same bottle I use for everything else, I spray the entire shower (tub & tile walls), and then using a Scotch Brite Scour Pad I scrub the tub down.  Sometimes after scrubbing I might wipe a damp rag all over the tub to rinse off any left-behind scum.
  • Baking Soda: For scum that Hydrogen Peroxide won’t completely get rid of, I sprinkle baking soda, leave for a few moments, and then scrub with a Scotch Brite Scour Pad.  Since I started using natural cleaning supplies, I’d never had to use anything stronger than hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.   I store baking soda specifically for cleaning in a large aluminum salt or pepper shaker.
  • Enviro Cloth: That’s right!  A damp Enviro Cloth, from what I’ve heard, does the job to clean a tub.  I seriously need to try this thing out!

Some last things:

  • I keep all my cleaning items (except my vinegar spray, olive oil, and the Swiffer Wet Jet and vacuum, of course) in a tub in my laundry room.  The olive oil stays in my pantry for cooking and the vinegar spray stays under my kitchen sink since I use it all the time.
  • Items I use that didn’t get their own bullet points: Scotch Brite Scour Pad, Toilet Brush, & Rags (I use old t-shirts–men’s undershirts are great for this because they’re usually so soft and don’t have scratchy designs)

Finally, here’s a photo & a quick reference list of the items I use to clean my entire home:

  • Vinegar Spray: 4 tsp. vinegar & 3 cups water in a spray bottle
  • Hydrogen peroxide: original bottle with a spray bottle nozzle
  • Baking soda: in an aluminum salt or pepper shaker
  • Olive Oil & Lemon Juice polish: 1 cup olive oil & 1/2 cup lemon juice in a glass cruet with a spout & stopper
  • Olive Oil: Just kept in the jar it comes in (stored in my pantry)
  • A mop: I use a Swiffer Wet Jet without using the spray
  • Old rags or paper towels
  • Scotch Brite Scour Pads
  • A toilet brush
  • A vacuum cleaner

And that’s it!  I love using natural products so I don’t put my (or my family’s) health in jeopardy and I LOVE that these natural products really keep my home clean.  Also, since I also use almost all of these items for cooking, I save a ton of money each month NOT having to buy separate cleaning products! 

Did I miss something?  Let me know and I’ll find a natural way to clean whatever it is I missed.  Do you have a great natural way to clean your home?  Share it with us!

 

Today begins a series that I’m going to call Natural From Floor to Ceiling.  It seems to me that there is a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to household cleaners.  Today I’m going to give you a bunch of facts about these cleaners that will hopefully turn you off from traditional cleaners.  Then for the next few weeks I’ll be going through the house, providing you with natural cleaning alternatives.  The best part is that most of the things I use to clean my home I would have anyway for cooking or first aid.

First, before you scoff and decide that you’d rather just bleach your home to death, take a moment to think about what you’re exposing yourself and your family to.  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association) requires employers to provide their employees who handle bleach with gloves and safety masks.  Yet we’re encouraged to clean our child’s toys by submerging them in a bowl of bleach. WHAT!?!?!  The more I learn about the harsh, horrible chemicals found in the normal, everyday, popular cleaning supplies that most of us have in our homes the more and more frustrated I get.

Some Things to Know

  • There is no federal administration to regulate the safety of household cleaners.  There’s no FDA for cleaning products!  This means that manufacturers can pretty much put whatever they want in their cleaners–whatever gets the job done.  And they do.
  • Manufacturers of cleaning supplies do not have to tell consumers (or anybody else, for that matter) what is in their cleaners–they’re protected by trademarks and copyrights.
  • The Sanitation Department will not take your full containers of cleaners because they have classified them as hazardous materials.
  • Bleach irritates eyes, skin and the respiratory tract just from inhalation.
  • When bleach is mixed with other cleaning agents, a poisonous gas is released that can cause bloody noses, neurological disorders, headaches and even death.
  • Household bleach, whether its mixed with other agents or not, can cause pulmonary edema, vomiting, or coma if ingested.
  • Chlorine, used in many household cleaners, was among the first chemicals used in chemical warfare during WWI.

There are many more things I could say about the dangers of bleach, chloride, lye, etc., but the point is simple: they are not safe.  We have been told to rinse baby toys in bleach, to wipe our floors, kitchen counters, and bathtubs with bleach, to wash our whites with bleach, and our coloreds with color-safe bleach (whatever THAT really is), however, it simply isn’t safe.  If scientists are required to practically put haz-mat suits on to handle these chemicals, why are we scrubbing our homes down with this stuff!?

If you are one of those ladies who just loves the smell of bleach, if that smell equals clean in your mind, re-train your thinking!  Remind yourself that that smell actually equals death and brain damage.  I know that is not what you intend to expose your family to–just like it’s not what I intended to expose my family to, but that’s just the truth of the matter!  I used to bleach my tile floors, my entire bathroom, and our white clothing.  When I discovered the truth about household cleaners it was devastating: 1) that I was going to have to figure something else out, and 2) that I had been hurting my family for so long!  Well, never fear: it’s not your fault that you didn’t know the dangers behind what you were using and now you have this series to help you find natural cleaners to replace the nasty chemicals! (and it’s going to be SO MUCH CHEAPER, TOO!)

Alright, alright, are you sold?  So what are the alternatives?  Well.  I’m happy to tell you that (after a year of researching, reading other blogs, trying things out, failing miserably, and trying new things out after I failed) I no longer use any harsh chemicals to clean my home (both inside and out).  In the next few weeks I will be breaking down exactly what I use to clean my home!  The following is a general list of the types of cleaners I use.  

  • general household cleaner
  • anti-bacterial cleaner
  • tile/hardwood floor cleaner
  • window cleaner
  • mirror cleaner
  • toilet/tub cleaner
  • laundry detergent
  • dish soap

Have I missed anything?  Is there something that you clean or that you use that isn’t on the list?  Let me know and I’ll try to find a natural alternative for you. 

Next time: How I keep my counters, sinks, and floors clean.