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Weekend escape to Governor’s Island

The best kind of weekends are the kinds where plans just sort of fall together, usually with little effort at all.  And if you’re like us, free weekends—or close to it—are even better.

On Saturday, my friend invited us to join her family on Governor’s Island for a relaxing day and picnic.  With no plans set in stone, I agreed.  Why not?  We’re always up for something new.  If it involves exploring the City, I’m always game.  The laundry? Yeah, that stuff can totally wait; there’s still so much to see.

After living in this area for over eight years, Governor’s Island was one of the many NYC spots I’d yet to visit.

The problem with getting to Governor’s Island for us would have been logistics, but thank goodness for the Internets.  On Friday night, I Googled “Ferry from Hoboken to Governor’s Island.”  And just my luck, I came across this.  We packed our lunch, the stroller and headed to the ferry slip to make our way to Governor’s Island.

On the ferry

At just 800 yards away from lower Manhattan, Governor’s Island once served as an Army and Coast Guard Base.  In 1996, the island was mothbolled and went dark.  But like New Yorkers do, City Officials sought to maximize every square inch.

Aerial View of Governors Island

In 2003, the Government sold the 172 acre Island to New York for $1.00.    And they say you can’t buy anything for $1.00 anymore!

Ninety-two acres of the island, which is said to be about 22 city blocks tip to tip, is now devoted to public open spaces—picnics, car-free bike riding, historic tours and just like Saturday, festivals and cultural events.

Hanging at a hammock in the picnic areaadirondack chairs overlooking bridge
picnicviews of Lady Liberty
one of many bikesexploring

We picnicked and hung out with my friend and family for a few hours.  It was so nice to sit in the shade, let the breeze blow and listen to the kids play.  The picnic area was on the southern tip of the island, which overlooked the Statue of Liberty. But when it came time for the kid’s nap, we knew we had to intervene in order to preserve his happy state.  So, we strapped him in the stroller and set out to explore Governor’s Island.

map

Asleep within 2 minutes of our stroll, we walked the perimeter of the island and saw tons of people fishing, biking, laying out, picnicking and doing the exact same as us, relaxing with no real agenda.  We found our way back to the middle of the island, where we found the festival.

fish wishesIMG_2786kiddie art
Little Matissesculpting

The free ferry that was offered from Hoboken to Governor’s Island was a part of Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance second annual City of Water Day Festival.  As an eco-concious family, the City of Water Day Festival was just our speed.  The festival had various vendors and exhibits set up that celebrated the NY waterfront.  Whether it was sailing or composting, the festival likely had a stand set up discussing it.  There were tons of food vendors that were a mile long.  It turned out several of the food vendors were taking part in the annual Vendy awards.  No wonder people willingly waited in those lines!

IMG_2800compost, recycle, trash

When the kid finally woke up, we checked out the kid’s art tent, which was set up by the Children’s Museum of the Arts.  Jack “sculpted” and played kiddie Matisse, as evidenced by his t-shirt that left a bit more colorful than when we arrived.  We could’ve stayed at the art tent for hours, but alas, there was so much more to see!

IMG_2754old barracks and office buildings

We explored more of the festival and listened to music, but then found ourselves walking around the Island again and checking out all the placards explaining the former uses for the old buildings and even stopping for a moment to enjoy a much newer amenity the NY Water Taxi “beach.“  With such sweeping views of Manhattan, as well as the Hudson River, it was so hard to believe that the Island was left vacant for several years.  Jeff had a great time learning about the old history of the island, some of which dates back to the 1800s.  And I bet if you asked him about what he took in about the island, Jeff could rattle off random trivia, just like he would about anything else that interests him.

Such as this: Using rocks and dirt from the excavations for the Lexington Ave. Subway, the Army Corps of Engineers supervised the deposit of 4,787,000 cubic yards of fill on the south side of Governors Island, adding 103 acres of land by 1912, and bringing the total acreage of the Island to 172.


A picnic with friends, a break from the hustle and bustle, exploring in wide open spaces and a low-key day with the family, Governor’s Island was a perfect excursion for us.  We all got to do something that interested us, but the best part was enjoying another city day without any concept of time.

Lower Manhattan

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Mama Likey: Five Favorite Friday

Apologies for not being very diligent with this blog lately. I’ve been so consumed doing the Mom thing in addition to trying to focus on getting NKT out there. So, I thought I’d participate in a meme to cap off yet another week before I very reluctantly pack the car for another long weekend.  This Five Favorite Friday are all products* that I love and ones that we’re using in our home.

1.   I have to admit, we love these products not only because they’re natural and work very well, but also because we love saying the name–Shakalaka Kava Lava.  Awesome, right?  My favorite flavor right now is Macadamia Mint,  De.li.cious!  If you think that name is catchy, check out Shakalaka Lip Blaka.

rad053efkavamx

2.   Last year when I got my hair chopped for my birthday, I left the spa with this wonderful exlir—Keratese’s Serum Oleo-Relax.  It’s like magic for my naturally frizzy hair.  Caveat to this great product is that it’s $34 for a small bottle.  Upside is, this bottle has lasted me all year.  When I had long, wavy hair, I spent at least $60 on hair products a month.  I’m a big believer that you get what you pay for with beauty products. (Well, I was…) If you’re on the market for a good shine/relaxer/frizz control serum, check out Keratese’s Serum Oleo-Relax.

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3.  This soap is something that Jeff brought home that I can’t get enough of!  I’m a huge Kiss My Face fan and this handsoap is no exception.  From their Sudz line, the foaming soap in pink grapefruit & lemongrass is such a fun scent for the bathroom and/or kitchen.  It’s fruity, yet fresh-smelling, contains some organic ingredients and definitely a soap we’ll buy in the future.

sudzfoampink

4.  I was sent a sample of What Odor! a few weeks ago and I love it.  I was doubtful about its effectiveness and was all like, eh, it won’t work.  Hello!  It works much better than that air neutralizer we’ve been using.  We use it in our bathroom where we have Jack’s diaper pail and it doesn’t just cover up the stench, but it gets rid of it all together.  Best thing is, it uses essential oils.  Its effective and natural, which is key for our small space with a kid.  Oh, and how about this, it was recently seen on the TLC show PitchMen.

what_odor_bottle

5.  This one is probably one of my current must-haves.  I have them in every pocket because of all the lingering illness.  The Sanitizing Hand Wipes from EO in Lemon is an organic, plant-based alternative wipes to the chemical-laden wipes out there.  I slip one or two in my pocket when we head out to the park and after Jack’s done playing in the dirt, voila.  I love the convenience and the fact that it’s biodegradable, which does does the trick when we’re on the go.

lemonwipes_24pk_md

***

Happy Memorial Day weekend. Say a prayer/thought and take time to remember our fallen soldiers.
Be safe and enjoy. One day, we’ll do something fun for us over a long weekend. Until then, it’s all about Jack.

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Happy Earth Day!

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Happy Earth Day, all.  The sun is trying to peek out over here, but they’re calling for rain later in the day.  But alas, if I finish my to do list, it’s my hope to get out and enjoy Earth Day with the little guy.

Next year Earth Day celebrates 40 years.  What does that mean exactly?  Well, for starters, as a nation, I believe that environmentally speaking, we’ve become more aware.  But with the effects of global warming obviously becoming more apparent, it’s clear there’s so much more to be done.

So, as many of us already follow suit, it’s so important to be more conscientious about the Earth year-round, not just on April 22.  Not just for us, but especially for the kids, and their kids and their kids.  We might not be able to undo the damage that generations before us have done, but we can certainly foster sustainable and healthier habits that will go a long way.

As Jeff and I always tell people, we’re not over the top eco-freaks.  But, for our kid’s sake, we do what we can to make the right choice.  We might not be able to afford all organic groceries, we might not have the capability to compost or cloth diaper full time, but we hope to make up for it in other ways. Perhaps one of our greenest choices to date was to ditch the SUV and buy a more fuel-efficient car.  Not only is it cheaper for us gas-wise, but it’s a much better choice all around.

bamboo-cleaning-clothThere’s always going to be room to improve, especially when making eco-friendly choices.  Me, I’m a paper towel addict.  They’re there and I use them incessantly–after I wash my hands, to wipe dirty hands, to clean spills, to wipe off the sink and so on.  The paper towels are so convenient, which means I can be so wasteful—it’s awful!  Last year actually, I started to stock up on sustainable kitchen towels to break my paper towel addiction.  It’s gotten better, but there’s a long way to go.  Specifically, I have a growing number of Bamboo kitchen cloths by 3M’s O-Cel-O Brand.  I think they’ve since transitioned this product into their new line, Scotch Brite Greener Clean.  The bamboo cloths are made from natural fibers and are also very absorbent.  Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on earth (just ask my sister in law about this!), making it an extremely sustainable option for fibers and textiles.  They’re great for cleaning up messes, wiping hands and the like.  But better yet, reusable cloths like these help control paper towel addicts like me.

As our choices get greener and greener, I can absolutely see it rubbing off on the kid already.  At the playground just last week, Jack found an empty plastic water bottle on the ground.  He instinctively picked it up, mumbled his jibberish and grabbed my hand, as if leading me somewhere important.  I asked him, “Does that go in the trash?”  He mumbled back and led me to the trash and recycling containers at the other end of the park.  He obviously doesn’t know which container was which, but the fact that he knew it didn’t belong on the ground and in a container somewhere made me pretty damn proud.

Here’s to everyone making greener choices everyday, not just on Earth Day!

graphic via Rock2292

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Rub a dub dub: ‘No More Toxic Tub’ study sheds light on bath products

There’s a new report out that reveals some daunting information that will make you want to think twice about your babe’s bath products. Oh no, what now, right?

whats-going-onThe Campaign for Safe Cosmetics published a report that says several children’s bath products are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane.  This isn’t the first time you’ve probably heard similar information; a study came out in 2008 that focused on organic personal products. However, this new study called, “No More Toxic Tub,” is the first to document the widespread presence of both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane in bath products for children, including baby shampoos, bubble baths and baby lotions. The group says Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens; formaldehyde can also trigger skin rashes in some children. The report said that unlike many other countries, the U.S. government does not limit formaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, or most other hazardous substances in personal care products.

Just a few of the products tested are:

  • CVS Baby Shampoo (CVS/Pharmacy)
  • Suave Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo – Wild Watermelon (Unilever)
  • American Girl Real Beauty Inside and Out Shower Gel – Apple Blossom (Bath & Body Works)
  • Equate Tearless Baby Wash (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.)
  • Grins & Giggles Milk & Honey Baby Wash (Gerber Products Company)
  • Huggies Naturally Refreshing Cucumber & Green Tea Baby Wash (Kimberly-Clark)
  • Sesame Street Bubble Bath – Orange Mango Tango (The Village Company)

To see all of the products tested and results go here. Per usual, there’s no need to be alarmed, so don’t go and toss out all of your bath products.  The big picture here is, it’s all about being smarter consumers and to be aware of what you’re buying and using. I mean, who doesn’t want the best for their kid?

Once again, I’ll take the opportunity to tout the awesomeness of natural products. With this latest report, I thought I’d share some alternatives to the more questionable products that were included in this latest study.

These are my top picks:

star-pink-32x32Dr. Bronner’s Baby Liquid Soap
olba16USA Today said that products bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture Organic seal, such as items by Dr. Bronner’s, were free of 1,4-dioxane. Dr. Bronner’s is one of these products that is truly organic. Their extensive line includes liquid soap and baby wash that both Jeff and I love. We use the Peppermint and sometimes Lavender Castile soap throughout the house, as well as Sal’s Suds for household cleaning. Like Jeff often says, after using Dr. Bronner’s soaps, you smell good and you actually feel clean. With many of those perfumy soaps, there’s so many irritants and moisturizers now, the whole objective of getting clean gets lost in the mix. In addition to the organic composition, the fact that its fair trade and has so many uses, Dr. Bronner’s product line is a longtime staple in our home. In my opinion, it’s one of, if not the greenest, line of soaps out there. For 60 years, Dr. Bronner’s has been at the forefront of the green movement.  So, it’s no surprise that Dr. Bronner’s Baby Liquid Soap is one of my top picks.  The baby soap is mild, contains no fragrance and great for sensitive skin.

star-pink-32x32California Baby
yhst-83878190403399_2045_48046543I’m a big fan of all of California Baby’s products, especially the bubble baths. They’re light, natural and smell incredible.  Calming and Overtired and Cranky are my favorite bubble baths.  Before bedtime, my sometimes overtired and cranky kid loves this bubble bath as part of his nighttime routine, just as much as I do!
I love how they divulge a host of information about their products and ingredients.  Many of the products in question do not have this information readily available. So, in that sense, I appreciate companies like CB for being generous with this information. In addition, their products are free from common allergens, contain organic & sustainably grown ingredients. The company says that many of the plants and flowers that are grown for essential oil distillation are very hardy, do not need pesticides or fertilizers and are by default organic and/or sustainably grown.

star-pink-32x32Seventh Generation Wipes
318g2rssrlThese, in my opinion, are the best wipes out there. These wipes feature Aloe Vera, Vitamin E and are alcohol-free, making them gentle, yet so effective and eco-friendly. Unfortunately, we haven’t used these wipes as frequently as we would have liked since they haven’t been stocked at our local organic store until recently. Good news, though: Seventh Gen has coupons online.
Check them out here.

star-pink-32x32Nature’s Baby Organics Tangy Tangerine Bubble Bath
NB

This is a brand that I recently tried and loved! Jeff brought this home and I plan to do a full blown review, but in the meantime, I love the sweet tangerine smell and the fact that it’s such a gentle bubble bath. We’ve been using this bubble bath for the past few weeks and Jack can’t get enough of the fun bubbles. This brand is out in several stores, but I’ve also noticed that you can get it at Diapers.com. More to come on this great line and product.

star-pink-32x32Trukid Silly Shampoo
sillyshampoo

This is another brand that we recently had the chance to try as well. So far, I’m in love the soap and lotion, but this shampoo is awesome, too. It has a great smell, contains various organic ingredients and is all around a great product line. This is another brand that I plan to do more of a thorough review, so stay tuned for that!

Obviously, there are many more really great products that are worth mentioning, but I can recommend these without hesitation because either we use or have used these in our home! Like most people, we use 2-3 different products, sometimes even more, at bathtime. Not everything we use is natural since we’ve been using good ol’ J&J shampoo among a few others since we received them as gifts, but once those are up, I hope to stick to products that fall under the natural category.

This is how I see it: with healthier, more natural alternatives out there, why go the cheaper, questionable route? If you’re worried about cost, so you buy one less toy, one less electronic gadget—that, right there, would cover the few dollars of the difference in expense. Years ago, many of these brands and options weren’t even available, and if they were, I’m sure these products were only at specialty and organic stores. Good news now is, in addition to a plethora of online outlets like diapers.com, big box and baby stores carry many of these products, such as Babies R Us, Harmon, Target, Buy Buy Baby, Whole Foods.

Before you go putting your baby or kid in a bubble, here are more recommendations from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:

  • Simplify: Select products with fewer ingredients and no synthetic fragrance or dyes, and use fewer products overall.
  • Choose safety: Search EWG’s cosmetic safety database, Skin Deep, to learn more about the products you use and find safer alternatives.
  • Read labels: Select products for baby and yourself that don’t contain the ingredients listed above, which are commonly contaminated with formaldehyde or 1,4-dioxane.

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He eats EVERYTHING Including Burt’s Bees Diaper Ointment

Thank God it’s Friday, for real.  Jack and I have been up since 4:30 a.m. today–quite unwillingly on my part.  It’s my turn to be sick, so of course, I’m feeling totally out of it and extra grumpy.  TGIF, people.  TGIF.
Our morning escapades thus far have included the usual furniture climbing, breakfast smeared onto the ottoman and my coffee poured all over the chair.  But the best yet, Jack ate some Burt’s Bees diaper cream and proceeded to rub it into the ottoman, next to the area where I just cleaned up his breakfast disaster.  It appeared that, because this diaper cream is all natural and contains sweet almond oil, Jack thought it was his morning snack.  Awesome.

735_xl_v2While panic set it in, it occurred to me that this is one of the reasons why I only use natural products.  I don’t use them so that he can eat them at his leisure ;)   but instead, I use them because they’re safe, in case he does get his chubby paws on them.  After I wiped the thick white cream OFF of his face and tongue, I checked the label and immediately went onto the Burt’s Bees website but didn’t find too much information in the event that the cream is ingested.  Yeesh!  Info that I found on one of the poison control sites:  Diaper rash creams/ointments such as Desitin/A&D ointment have a very low level of toxicity contrary to warning labels on the product.  Here again, this product usually only causes oral/stomach upset.
I’m keeping a close on eye him today because it’s just another one of those sheer terror/chaotic/nightmarish mornings.  Maybe it’s cabin fever.  Maybe it’s me having much slower reaction time.  Maybe it’s an indication of what’s to come… haha.  Mental note to myself and to others, keep toiletries like this and other items in question out of your child’s reach.  I’ve learned my lesson!

Anyway, aside from Burt’s Bees Diaper Cream being all natural awesomeness, this product is a must-have in your diaper bag/baby toiletry arsenal.  The ingredients are wonderful, the smell is heavenly and for us, it works practically overnight!  We’ve tried all the diaper creams and ointments out on the market and for our kid who has extremely sensitive skin, this is THE diaper cream I swear by.  It’s like an all natural magic potion, but yeah, just don’t eat it.

Ingredients:  Prunus amygdalus dulcis (sweet almond) oil, zinc oxide, beeswax, lavandula hybrida (lavandin) oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, tocopherol, lavendula angustifolia (lavender) oil, anthemis nobilis (chamomile) flower extract, calendula officinalis flower extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, canola oil, glycine soja (soybean) oil

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The lowdown on phthalates

The safety of toys and children’s products are in the news once again, but this time it has to do with compliance and regulation of phthalates, as well as the enforcement of lead levels in children’s products. Both topics deserve their own separate posts, so look for one on lead levels later.

According to CPSC:

Starting on February 10, 2009 children’s toys and child care items cannot contain more that 0.1% of any of the six phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP, DINP, DIDP, and DnOPA) regardless of when they were manufactured.

What are Phthalates?

Phthalates (Pronounced THAL-ates.) are a group of man-made chemicals that are structurally related to the organic acid, phthalic acid. The most important use of phthalates is in plastics, especially PVC, where they act as plasticisers. Essentially, phthalates aid in making certain plastics softer, certain toys like rubber duckies are a prime example.

Source: based on the GreenFacts Digest on phthalates

What’s the big deal about phthalates?
As the EWG describes,

phthalates are ubiquitous in modern society; they are in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo. So the big deal is, Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

The regulations are now in effect, what now?
Because the regulation went into effect yesterday, some retailers are prepared and others not so much. Retailers like Toys R Us have set up helpful websites to aid in understanding this topic.  There are also resources such as Healthy Toys that features a database of safer products.  A lot of these products in questions may already be in your home, so it would be at your discretion what you do with them. For us, the questionable plastics continue to be phased out in our home, including bath toys and plastic sippy cups. There are plenty of affordable alternatives, so we opt to go the safer route.  So, we have less plastic toys (as in, we avoid buying questionable plastic toys at all costs) and use mostly our stainless steel sippy cups.

On the other side of the spectrum, smaller retailers, like the local mom and pop stores, could be hard hit with these new regulations.  According to reports, the abrupt change and the lack of guidelines has left many smaller retailers questioning these new standards and compliance, as well as questioning current inventory.

Here’s some helpful information I found on products regarding phthalates:

  • According to the CPSC, stopped using phthalates in teethers in early 1999: ArcoToys, Chicco, Disney, Evenflo, The First Years, Gerber, Hasbro (Playskool), Little Tikes, Mattel (Fisher-Price), Safety 1st, Sassy, Shelcore Toys and Tyco Preschool.
  • Soft Landing has a list of phtalate free bath toys http://thesoftlanding.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/bpa-pvc-and-phthalate-bath-toy-guide/
  • A guide for healthy toys
  • TRU’s link that focuses on safety-related issues
  • Opt for products made with latex or silicone, both of which are resilient for babies
  • Discard any soft, plastic toys that were manufactured before 1999, especially if the ingredients are unknown.
  • Look for toys and furniture that don’t contain polyvinylchloride (PVC) #3. These may contain plasticizers called diisononyl phthalates (DINP) shown to cause birth defects, cancer and organ damage in mice. New PVC products often have a strong odor; if it smells like a new shower curtain, it’s probably PVC.

More resources and helpful articles on phthalates

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Mama Likey: Nature’s Gate Velvet Moisture Body Wash and Liquid Soap

Just in time for the cold weather, we recently started using Nature’s Gate new Velvet Moisture Liquid Soap, as well as the Body Wash.  The company touts this new line with being enriched with seven natural moisture boosters, which include Shea Butter, Sweet Almond Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil, Soybean Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Vegetable Glycerin, and Vitamin E.
I currently have the Tea Tree soap in both the kitchen and bathroom, which is a nice change from our trusty Dr. Bronners.  After hand washing dishes, on top of wiping you know who’s booty all day, my hands take a beating.  This soap is, like its name suggests, moisturizing.  We previously tried the Pomegranate scent, which was a bit much for me; however, I’m a big fan of the Tea Tree scent.  This liquid soap definitely does the trick and best of all, it’s natural.
Right now, we have the Aloe Vera Body Wash in the shower.  Again, we normally use Dr. Bronner’s as our body wash, so if you’re familiar with castille soap, it’s not as thick as other soaps.  Nature’s Gate Velvet Body Wash is quite similar in texture to the liquid soap, and is equally, if not more, moisturizing.  I’m one of those people that must lather on lotion immediately after the shower, but after using the Aloe Vera Body Wash, I felt like I could’ve gone without.  I’m a big fan of the Nature’s Gate Velvet Body Wash.

We use many of Nature’s Gates products already, so the new liquid soap and body wash will be welcome additions in our home.  We’re big fans of all of their products, so the fact that the company is socially responsible and extremely eco-friendly are huge selling points for our family too.  The Velvet Moisture soaps come in four different flavors and can be found at stores that sell Nature’s Gate products.

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DIY: homemade baby wipes

I think for the first time since Jack was born, we actually ran out of one of our staples–baby wipes.  Well, ones I wanted to use, anyway.  In addition to the stash Jeff sometimes brings home from work, I try as much as possible to stock up on supplies while they’re on sale.  For a week or so, we were using a store brand since I got them super-cheap on sale, but as they say, you get what you pay for.  Our price was an annoying and painful diaper rash.  Since his diet hasn’t changed, nor has anything else in our normal routine, only the wipes, I pinpointed this as the culprit.
We had more wipes on hand, but only had flowery-smelling wipes, so since Jack’s stubborn diaper rash was lingering for a few days, instead of using more chemicals on his super sensitive skin, I thought this weekend was the perfect chance to try out a Do It Yourself project I’d been meaning to do.  Since it was so cold over the weekend and we didn’t leave the house much, this weekend was the perfect opportunity.  Glamorous weekend activities, indeed.
Homemade wipes

Including those for sensitive skin, many of the conventional wipes, contain alcohol, parabens or other agents that can be major irritants.  Safemama did a great write up on wipes and even has a glossary of ingredients and list of favorite brands. It looks like our favorite brand, Seventh Generation made it to the top of the list.  My favorite brand, hands-down for baby wipes, in addition to other baby-related and household products, is Seventh Generation.

First, I checked out the various recipes online for a solution that was suitable for Jack’s diaper rash.  I know there many families that go the totally all natural route, so homemade wipes are nothing new.  I try, as much as possible, to use natural products, including the diaper ointment of choice–Burt’s Bees.

I found that the basic recipes for homemade wipes solution could contain many different ingredients.  These are all products I had at home, so I went for a simple solution.  Since I was looking for something to detoxify our current option and soothe this ongoing rash, I chose to go with aloe vera for the soothing properties, California Baby as a cleanser and tea tree oil for its anti-inflammatory, disinfectant, analgesic and anti-bacterial properties.  There are many, many recipes for homemade wipes solution, so try and find one that works for your babe’s bum.

Supplies and ingredients:

Clean used wipes container–any sort of container of convenience can be used.  I read that some people used Tupperware or similar containers.
paper towels to fill container–I used Viva brand paper towels because of its cloth-like texture
2 cups of hot water
1/2 cup of aloe vera
a few drops of natural baby wash, Dr. Bronner’s and California Baby
2 drops of tea tree oil

Heat the water and add to the container.  Add the rest of the ingredients to the container and mix thoroughly.  I unrolled about half of the paper towel roll and kept it in tact, so that it could be fed through the container.  I cut the paper towels width-wise to fit, but added the remnants to the container to be used as well.  Once you have all the paper towels together, add to the solution and soak.  I turned over the paper towels so that all the sheets could be saturated thoroughly.  Let cool and use!

This recipe can be adapted to your liking.  Some people add or substitute oils such as vitamin E, lavender or chamomile.  As a greener alternative, cloth wipes can also be used instead of paper towels.  This solution can also be prepared and put into a spray bottle and be used with dry wipes–whatever works for you.
Finished batch
To boot, the homemade route is more cost effective, especially if you already have these products onhand.  In this day of frugality, who isn’t trying to get back to basics and save a buck or 5!  With all the complexities and irritants that exist today, we sometimes forget that products as simple and super-convenient as baby wipes didn’t exist generations ago…that is, until something like a diaper rash makes you reevaluate your choices of convenience and reignite the DIY resourcefulness.

And for what it’s worth, two days later, the kid’s stubborn diaper rash is no more.

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Tis’ the season for Green trees

Christmas season is in full swing, and we’ve got Christmas Trees on the brain at our house.  Besides trying to figure out the logistics of where to PUT our tree this year, I’ve been reading up on green trees, as in eco-friendly.

Even though our economy is in shambles, one article said, while many shoppers are cutting back on their holiday spending, Christmas tree sales don’t appear to be getting the ax.  People might be cutting back in spending, but the actual trees are one cutback families aren’t going to make, another report said.
Trees in the church parking lot down the block

Many of you might be in the market for the real deal.  We always had a real tree at my parents’ house as a kid, so naturally, even despite our tight space, we always go the real tree route.

According to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) we’re not alone:

  • There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.
  • There are close to half a billion Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers. Real Christmas Trees are grown on farms North American Real Christmas Trees are grown in all 50 states and Canada. Eighty percent (80%) of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
  • Real Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource. Artificial trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead.
  • There are more than 4,000 Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
  • For every Real Christmas Tree harvested, up to 3 seedlings are planted in its place the following spring.
  • There are about 500,000 acres in production for growing Christmas Trees in the U.S.; much of it preserving green space.
  • There are about 21,000 Christmas Tree growers in the U.S., and over 100,000 people employed full or part-time in the industry.
  • It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 – 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.
  • The top selling Christmas Trees are: balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine and white pine.

But on the flipside,

  • According to figures released by the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans purchased 17.4 million artificial trees last year — a significant jump from the 9.3 million of the previous year.
  • Most fake trees (85%) in the U.S. are imported from China. Almost 10 Million fake trees were sold worldwide in 2003.
  • According to an article onAJC artificial trees are an alternative for those with allergies or asthma. Some people are allergic to terpene, the substance found in the oil or sap of Christmas trees, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
  • They are durable. They last about six years.
  • Artificial trees are affordable. They’re generally cheaper than cut trees because you can use them more than once. “Even though most consumers are still going to be putting up a Christmas tree for their holiday parties, they will be looking for discounts,” a spokesperson for ChristmasTreeMarket.com an online retailer of Artificial Christmas Trees said.

AJC.com has a really great article on the pros and cons of the real vs. artificial vs. eco-friendly.

But my personal favorite option (if we had a yard):  Buy a potted tree that can be planted in your yard after the holidays.

We had a live tree several times growing up, and I remember it being a hassle for my dad, but it was fun to see one of those trees grow into a HUGE tree 20 some years later in their backyard.  This year’s Rockefeller Christmas Tree is just that, a live tree that was nourished by a family in central Jersey that went on to become the gianormous celebrated tree and quite possibly the best example of a true green Christmas Tree.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the kid’s eyes light up in awe over our Christmas Tree!

Whatever you do for your tree, enjoy!

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Diabetes, Heart Disease Linked to BPA

BPA is back in the news. U.S. News World & Report published a very interesting article earlier in the week. According to the article, there’s a new study that sheds even more light to bisphenol A (BPA)– the same chemical found in those rigid plastic bottles that’s been quite the hot topic, especially among moms and dads. Apparently, there’s a link to heart disease and diabetes, and as the report reveals, adults may be at risk.

“The study of more than 1,400 people ages 18 to 74, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that those with the largest amount of BPA in their urine had nearly three times the risk of heart disease and more than twice the risk of diabetes as those who had the lowest levels. ”

“Other researchers say there’s enough evidence from previous animal studies to suggest that BPA is harmful to adults.” The article continues to say, Babies, though, are still most at risk. “They’re the most highly exposed to BPA through bottles and formula, so they get more on a per-pound basis.”

Here’s what the FDA says on their site:

Based on our ongoing review, we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects. However, we will continue to consider new research and information as they become available.

Canada has already banned BPA from bottles and various environmental groups among others are calling for a ban in the U.S. California made news recently by initiating, yet failing to pass the Toxin Free Toddlers and Babies Act. The Toxin Free Toddlers and Babies Act can be read about here and here.

Here’s what CNN had to say:

BPA is everywhere, used to make polycarbonate, a rigid, clear plastic for bottles, bike helmets, DVDs and car headlights. It’s also an ingredient in epoxy resins, which coat the inside of food and drink cans. About 93% of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control had the chemical in their urine. There is no safe level of BPA,” declared Dr. Nancy Snyderman, an NBC medical reporter, on the Today show.

So, what do we do about all this information?  First of all, before you go chucking all your plastic containers in the trash, consider alternatives.  With all these reports and new findings popping up, it’s certainly a topic to pay attention to.  In the meantime, here’s a few ways to avoid BPA courtesy of US News and World Report.

1. Buy your tomato sauce in glass jars.

2. Consume frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned.

3. Purchase beverages in plastic or glass bottles.

4. Use powdered infant formula instead of ready-to-serve liquid.

5. Think in terms of moderation.

Obviously, there are a myriad of ways to avoid excessive exposure to BPA, with the most obvious one as limiting consumption of products with plastic packaging.  Some are say #7 plastic is the number to avoid.  #1, #2 and #4 are the plastics that do NOT contain BPA.

For more resources and info. visit. the Environmental Working Group‘s website.

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