Ditch the Disposables Challenge : Check-in #1

We are now two weeks into the Ditch the Disposables challenge and at last count there were over 80 people signed up! Woohoo! Not bad if I do say so myself. But that, of course, begs the question – how are you doing with it? Are you finding it harder or easier than you thought? If you are having trouble with it, what is tripping you up? If you are breezing through it, do you have any tips to share?

I never did reveal what I decided to ditch for the challenge, so here it is. I’m done with disposable menstrual products. I’ve been working on making the switch to the Moon Cup for the past few months, but had been dragging my feet. This month however, with the exception of two disposable pads used as back-up at the beginning of my period, I did it! You may recall that I was having some trouble getting the hang of it initially and it took me a few months to fully adjust (I’ll write another post about what finally helped me find my happy place with it), but I’m now a Moon Cup lover! In addition to the Moon Cup, I also am using cloth panty liners on my heavier flow days as back-up because I’m not 100% confident using the cup alone yet (and am unsure if I’ll ever be).

In addition to ditching disposable pads and tampons, I’m also going to try to kick the Kleenex habit. I tend to go through a lot of Kleenex, and although I compost some of it, it’s still generating a lot more waste than is necessary (not to mention all of the trees used to make the Kleenex in the first place). I’ve asked my mom – who is much more skilled on a sewing machine than I – if she would make me a bunch of smallish cloth hankies and she agreed (thanks, Mom!), so once I get those I am going to cut back significantly on the Kleenex.

I had considered getting rid of toilet paper, at least for a week or two, but haven’t convinced myself to give it a try yet. Glad to see some others are though! ;) My hat’s off to ya.

Anyway, I hope you will check in. Let me and everyone else know how you are doing. Don’t worry if you have regressed a bit or if you are still working on making the switch. I think just being aware that you are striving to make a change is important. Also, if you have questions about something particular, let me know. Maybe together we can come up with something that will work for you as we all try to reduce the amount of disposable products we consume.

We’ll have another check-in on Sept. 28. Keep up the good work and thanks for being a part of the challenge. :)

Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

A new study including 151 mothers in Brisbane, Australia has found that first-time moms want more information about what life with a newborn will be like and says they often don’t feel prepared for the recovery period after giving birth and emotional toll of caring for a new baby.

A new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

“This study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

While I think there’s a definite benefit to educating expecting moms information on what life with a newborn may be like, (after all, knowledge is power), until every child comes with his/her own user’s manual, I think ultimately there’s only so much you can prepare for. Every woman’s birth experience is different, every child is different, and every new mother’s experience with her child is different. Each child has a unique temperament and will have different needs. Some will want to nurse every few hours, some will want to nurse much more frequently (or never let go of the boob). Every child’s sleep patterns will be different as well.

If you try to explain to a woman ahead of time how much a newborn will affect her life, is it realistic to think your words will have that much of an impact? Could it really help her prepare for what lies ahead? Is recovering from birth and caring for a newborn something anyone can really prepare for ahead of time (without having access to a full-time nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc.)? I feel like this is one of those things that a woman has to experience for herself to truly “get it.”

Before I had my first child I knew that once she entered the world nothing would be the same, that I would be sleep-deprived and have a baby nursing around the clock, but I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how different my life would be, how beyond tired I would be, how sore I would be from an (unnecessary and unwanted) episiotomy, nor just how much love I could have for one tiny person until it actually happened to me.

However, I do think that it’s important to equip first-time moms especially with information and resources that will help and support them in their first few weeks and months of life with a new baby. Instead of sending moms home from the hospital with a diaper bags full of a few diapers and a can of formula, perhaps hospitals should instead give women lists of names, numbers, websites and email addresses of people, places and organizations they can turn to if they need help. Organizations like La Leche League International – with dates and times of local meetings, phone numbers to certified lactation consultants, warning signs of postpartum depression and who to call if you or someone close to you suspects you have PPD, links to groups such as Attachment Parenting International, house cleaning services, numbers of postpartum doulas, local moms support groups like MOMS Club, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), etc. That is real information that new moms can use.

What do you think? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for life with a newborn? If not, do you think classes or a book could have helped? Do you have other suggestions?

Additional resources:


Cross-posted on BlogHer

SKOY eco-friendly cloths instead of paper towels (giveaway)

In keeping with the spirit of the Ditch the Disposables Challenge, I have to tell you about one of my new favorite eco-friendly paper towel replacements – the SKOY cloth. SKOY cloths are reusable, very absorbent, bright and fun, machine washable and microwavable, and at the end of their life, biodegradable. They are non-toxic, chlorine-free and made using water-based colors and inks. According to SKOYcloth.com, “Using one SKOY cloth is the equivalent to using 15 rolls of paper towels in an average home.”

SKOY clothSKOY clothsI’ve been giving the SKOY cloths a try for the past several weeks and they really are great. I’ve mostly been using them in the kitchen or for cleaning up faces and grubby little hands, but they also work well in the bathroom both to clean the room and to clean body parts. :)

Another great feature of the SKOY cloth is that because it dries quickly, it’s not a breeding ground for bacteria. I don’t know how many times I’ve picked up a sponge out of the kitchen sink only to have it leave my hand wreaking from God knows what. If you toss your wet SKOY in the microwave for a minute or two, you will keep it germ-free. It can also go safely through your dishwasher or your washer and dryer (or outside to dry on a clothesline – hint, hint).

After many, many uses (perhaps even up to a year or more), when your SKOY has finished it’s cleaning life cycle, it can be composted, though it will also break down in a landfill.

In addition to cloth towels or microfiber cloths, SKOY cloths are another great way to kick the paper towel habit once and for all.

Win It!
SKOY clothsThanks to SKOY, I’m giving away SIX 4-packs of SKOY cloths. All you need to do for a chance to win is first sign up (if you haven’t already) for my Ditch the Disposables Challenge. Then leave a comment on this post and make sure you include a valid email address or a blog URL so I have a way to contact you. Deadline to enter is Tuesday, Sept. 23. The six winners will be chosen using Random.org on Sept. 24 and notified via email. Good luck!

If anyone else makes or sells reusable products that are in line with the Ditch the Disposables Challenge and you’d like me to review them and do a giveaway, shoot me an email : crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. :)

How to make and can strawberry jam (with giveaway)

This giveaway has ended and is closed to new entries.

A couple of weeks ago, I made my first batch of strawberry jam (from the organic strawberries we’d picked at a local farm) and tried my hand at canning for the first time as well. It was a lot of fun, but also a very time-consuming task as I learned the ropes. I decided to write up a how to guide with pictures up the wazoo to hopefully help someone else with their first foray into jam-making and canning. I think pictures would have helped me a lot.

I know some people are firmly against it, but I decided to use pectin in my jam, though not just any pectin. I found Pomona’s Pectin at the farm where we picked our fruit. Pomona’s is a natural pectin made from 100% pure citrus. Its jelling power is activated by calcium, not by sugar content, which allows you to make low-sugar or even no-sugar jam*. For my batch of strawberry jam, I used only 3/4 cup of honey as a sweetener. For the batch of peach jam I made, I used 3/4 cup of agave nectar. I thought it was fabulous to avoid the usual 5 or 6 cups of sugar required to make jam. (My kids don’t need all of that!) Oh, and both taste amazing!

Please note: The step-by-step guide below is for making jam with Pomona’s Pectin. If you have another brand of pectin or are making jam without pectin, this guide to making jam will not work for you. However, the process of canning should still be the same. :)

How to make strawberry jam with Pomona’s Pectin:

Get out all of your delicious organic strawberries:
Freshly-picked organic strawberries

Wash and hull the strawberries:
Washing the strawberries

While you work on making the jam, wash jars/lids in soapy water, then sterilize them in boiling water. The rack I had to put the jars in was too big for the size jars I was using, so I put two cookie racks on the bottom of my pot which kept the jars up off the bottom of the pot:
Sterilizing the jars and lids

Mash the strawberries (Cute helpers optional):
Mashing up the strawberries Mashing up the strawberries Ava helps mash the strawberries

Measure out 4 cups of mashed strawberries:
Measuring the mashed strawberries

Measure and add 2 teaspoons calcium water (included with Pomona’s Pectin) into the strawberries:
Calcium water

Measure out 1/2 cup to 1 cup honey (or agave nectar) or 3/4 cup to 2 cups sugar. Put in small bowl:
Measuring out the honey

Add and mix 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Pectin powder into the honey, agave or sugar:
Pomona’s Pectin Stirring pectin into the honey

Pour strawberries into pot. Add the honey/agave/sugar/pectin mixture to the strawberries:
Adding honey and pectin to the strawberries

Bring to a boil and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Return to a boil and remove from heat.:
Stirring the strawberries vigorously

Remove hot jar and lid from boiling water. Carefully fill jar to 1/4 inch of top. Use a funnel if you have one. (I didn’t at the time, but I do now.):
Filling a jar with jam

Wipe the rim of the jar clean:
Wiping the rim of the jar

Place lid on jar and screw ring on until finger-tip tight:
Tightening up the jar

Using tongs, place the jar into the canning bath. Repeat until all jars have been filled and placed into canning bath. About an inch of water should cover the jars:
Jam in the canning bath

Boil 5 minutes (add 1 minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level). (I believe the amount of time varies for each recipe.)

Using your tongs, remove the jars from the water:
Putting jam into canning bath

Let jars cool completely for several hours. As they cool, the lids will suck down and you will probably hear a popping sound as the vacuum seal forms. Pop!

Once the jars are completely cooled (several hours), unscrew the ring and lightly pull on the lid to check the seal. Any jars not sealed will need to be reprocessed or refrigerated and consumed first.

Admire your finished product. Makes 4-5 cups jam:
The finished product - strawberry jam!

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Win It!
Pomona’s PectinNo, I’m not giving away a jar of my jam, but I am offering you a chance to make your own! Leave me a comment telling me what kind of jam you like best and you will be entered for a chance to win a box of Pomona’s Pectin. The deadline to enter is Friday, Sept. 19. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and notified via email, so make sure you leave a valid email address or a link to your blog where I can reach you. Good luck!

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Pomona’s Pectin is generally available at health food stores, food co-ops or farm stands. If you can’t locate it locally, you can purchase it online. They also have a JAMLINE for questions or assistance with converting recipes. (Doesn’t that rock?) And their boxes are made from recycled cardboard and the paper the recipes are printed on is recycled as well.

* From Pomona’s site: “Some other possible sweeteners are honey, fructose, sucanat, concentrated fruit sweetener, maple syrup, agave nectar, frozen juice concentrate, stevia, xylitol, Splenda and other artificial sweeteners.”

What a difference a year makes – Preschool, year 2

This past week Ava began her second year attending Waldorf preschool. I still don’t know where we’re going to send her for kindergarten next year, but we were so pleased with the Waldorf-inspired in-home preschool we found (thanks to some friends) last year, we decided to continue with it this year. In comparing pictures from the two years, it was amazing to me to see how much Ava has grown and changed. Oh, and Julian too!

2007:                                              2008:
Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Age 3 Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Age 3Ava’s first day of preschool 2008 - Age 4 Ava, age 4
Ava took a caterpillar she had made the day before as a gift for her teacher.

Julian didn’t accompany us to drop Ava off on her first day this year, but he and I walked to pick her up after school (something I hope to keep up with regularly, walking, that is), so I took some pics of the two of them after we arrived back home.
2007:                  2008:
Ava’s first day of preschool 2007 - Ava, 3; Julian 9 months Ava’s first day of preschool 2008 - Ava, age 4; Julian, 21 months
Ava, age 4; Julian, age 21 months

I think my pick for My Best Shot is the last picture of Ava and Jules together. See what everyone else’s best shots were over at Mother May I.

Best Granola Recipe Ever

So maybe I’m biased and maybe I haven’t really tried all that many granola recipes, but that’s only because I LOVE this one, so why should I bother with others? ;oP

The Best Granola EverI’ve been making this granola recipe for at least a year now, though I’ve taken the summer months off because I didn’t want to heat up the house. Now that it’s cooled off here in Colorado (at least for now), I’ve been craving the granola again, so while Julian napped one day this past week, Ava and I made a big batch.

I actually got my recipe from USA Weekend, but I’ve experimented with ingredients and tweaked it here and there, doubled the recipe (since my family always eats it up in no time flat) and made it my own.

Here’s what I now call the…
Best Granola Ever.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. oil, vegetable or canola
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbs. molasses
4 Tbs. maple syrup
(Or you can just use 1/2 cup of maple syrup and omit the molasses)

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup wheat germ
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. ground flaxseed
2/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup pumpkin seeds (sunflower seeds can be substituted)
2/3 cup almonds (chopped or whole)

Adjust oven racks to middle positions. Preheat to 275 degrees. Coat two metal cookie sheets with cooking spray or oil and set aside.

Bring oil, syrup, molasses, cinnamon, water to a simmer in a saucepan over low heat.

Mix oats through almonds in a large bowl. Pour oil/maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine.

Pour mixture onto two prepared cookie sheets. Working a handful at a time, squeeze granola to form small clumps.

Bake for 30 minutes. Stir and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

Let cool. Granola can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Enjoy!

Makes (roughly) 2 quarts.

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And if you’re looking for a great granola BAR recipe, try this one I wrote about a couple years ago. ;)