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Dirty Shopping Malls and Carts

I don't do Black Friday. Dirty shopping malls and carts are just not my thing especially when there's a nasty stomach bug going around; a good friend is puking and pooping clear water as I type. But I also don't like to get up at daylight and rush out the door only to dodge elbows of crazed shoppers trying to get at that (probably one or two at the most in stock) "teaser" product before somebody else does.

The crowds suck but the main reason I do my dead level best to avoid shopping malls during cold and flu season is to avoid becoming infected with every virus making its rounds. When it comes to malls and shopping centers; if you build them and throw out a few hot products tagged with super cheap prices they will come. And by "they" I mean staph infections, flu viruses and lots of other really nasty germs left all over the place and NO Virginia, not just the unflushed toilets in the restrooms. Those little buggers are everywhere.

What is the most germy, nasty spot in the public bathroom? Well, you may be surprised to learn it's not the commode; experts say it's the sink!

When you think about it it makes sense. What do people touch right after they go to the toilet or change the baby's diaper? Those germy hands touch the faucets that probably get washed once a day at best leaving some of the worst strains of bacteria to grow. The sinks and faucets are both damp and dirty which translate into spa-like conditions for a germ where they can thrive unhindered and be spread to each and every unsuspecting visitor.

And if you were counting on germicidal soaps to save you, you should be aware that a large percentage of handwashing soap from the dispensers that they tested contained high levels of bacteria! WTH!

It's still your best bet to scrub your hands after using the bathroom for the time it takes you to sing "Happy Birthday". However, in light of these discoveries, you might consider packing a travel size of your own brand of eco-friendly, chemical-free hand soap in your purse or diaper bag so that you don't carry the germs from the dirty shopping malls and carts home with you.


5 Uses for Breast Milk (Beyond Feeding Babies)

For those of you who produce enough breast milk to spare, here are 5 Uses for Breast Milk beyond feeding babies that are being tossed about on the web which, of course, means that the information may or may not be accurate and I am to be held harmless if you try one of the ideas out only to find that it doesn't work.

People are saying that you can use breast milk to:

1. smooth your skin? Word is that a generous squirt or two of liquid gold (what we call breast milk around my house) will moisturize and eliminate ashy-ness leaving your skin smooth as silk. This seems like a huge waste of good milk to me, but if you find yourself without lotion on a day when you need it; it's worth a shot.

2. Heal minor scrapes, cuts and scratches. I've heard that cosmetic or medical grade sugar over a wound will help it to heal and I suppose there could be sugar or some natural antibiotic in the chemical composition of breast milk that works in a similar manner.

3. Control acne. Perhaps the same components that helps to heal minor wounds work on the inflammation of acne. It would feel weird to wash your face in milk of any kind, but I actually like the idea better than bathing my monthly breakouts in chemicals, don't you?

4. Calm conjunctivitis. Talk about unusual cures for pink eye! It's been written that a few drops will fix those red eyes right up after a sleepless night. I have to wonder if a mom up all night with a fussy baby accidentally splashes some in her eye to figure this one out.

5. Take the place of milk in some recipes. The substitution would most likely work best in dessert recipes since everyone I've ever known who sampled their baby's dinner said it tastes sweet.

I love the idea of
recycling baby stuff
, household items and conservation of all resources so not wasting precious breast milk is right in my wheel house, but I'm not sure I've read anything that I want to try at the moment, have you?
If you have a tip that you would like to add to my list of 5 uses for breast milk or if you've tried one of the above suggestions, please feel free to tell us all about it using the comments section.


Recycling Crafts with Baby Food Jars

Here's my list of 5 of the BEST recycling crafts with baby food jars EVER. After collecting hundreds (thousands?) of glass jars over the last few years, recycling them has become a personal challenge. There are lots of blogs that have posted ideas but some of them are super and some not so much. That's why I've started a top 10 list (ok, I've got 5 so far)!

My husband was always laughing and calling me a "hoarder" and the "jar lady" but he stopped laughing when he saw how much money we saved by decorating the jars and giving them as baby shower gifts. My focus is primarily on the environmental benefits of keeping the empty jars out of the landfill but cheap gifts are pretty cool, too.

Now, here's my list that has many creative uses for baby food jars and where to go to find the instructions and tutorials.

Number One - Decorating the Empty Jars to Give as Gifts
Here's one that I've used over and over again. Don't let the jars decorated for Halloween throw you, just substitute ribbons in the baby's nursery colors. But they also make cool Halloween baby shower or party favors. I suppose that's why I keep going back to this project; it's versatile.

Number Two - Making Party Lanterns Out of Empty Glass Baby Food Jars
But speaking of parties, Here are some instructions for how to transform those empty jars into lanterns! Imagine strings of these twinkling lanterns at your next backyard barbecue or pool party. Sock some citronella candles in there for bug control and you're all set!

Number Three - Etching the Glass Jars
If you run out of parties and showers to decorate and make gifts for, go here to see how this crafty blog used a glass etching technique to transform the jars into spice containers!

Number Four - Make a Chandelier with Baby Food Jar Globes
Another of my favorites (that I have yet to get around to actually making) is this chandelier decorated with globes that are actually; you guessed it, baby food jars! I can just imagine my husband's eyeballs rolling in his head if I asked him to help me with this one.

Number Five - Make Magnificent Christmas Window Decorations
Being a mom who is never afraid to let her freak flag fly, I made a Christmas tree out of baby food jars to display in our window. I have plans to make either another tree so that I'll have a matching set or stars for the upstairs windows. Here
are the instructions for the tree that helped me use up all the jars that so many of my neighbors and friends left on my steps when you thought I wasn't home.

This one didn't make my list but it's cool all the same.

And last of all of the crafts with baby food jars is this one a space-age looking chair made with LOTS of jars. Not very practical, but cool looking and you use up lots of your stash!

Please feel free to add your own favorites to my list of the
5 BEST Recycling Crafts with Baby Food Jars
. Now, let the
baby food jar recycling begin and don't forget to come back and share your pictures!


Cloth Diapering a Newborn

Baby wearing an old-fashioned vintage cloth diaper with pins

We were all cloth diaper newbies at one time or another although cloth diapering a newborn comes as natural to me these days as brushing my teeth; I've been at it that often and that long. Sigh...many loads of laundry have passed since I took a crash course in cloth diapering 101. In fact, when I had my first baby I had quite a few boxes of disposables in my stash since I was still working full time and had read that using cloth diapers were not going to solve the planet's environmental problems.
A baby wearing a bulky, old-fashioned cloth diaper.

Yes, I was all ready to wrap my baby girl's bottom in a disposable diaper until her sensitive skin that was already broken out in (what we believed to be at the time) eczema added diaper rash to the mix. At my wit's end, research convinced me that it would be wiser (and CHEAPER) to diaper with organic cotton.

As a cloth diapering newbie, I had SO MANY questions about cloth diapers. Here's the short list stuff I wanted and needed to know:
  • What kind of cloth diaper should I buy?
  • What was the best brand of diaper
  • Where could I find deals on cloth diapers to ease the initial investment
  • How do you wash baby poop out of cloth diapers? Would I have to swish them in the (GAG) toilet bowl?
  • What kind of detergent is best to use when washing cloth diapers?

Old-fashioned, vintage baby ducky, yellow duck diaper pins.

And I'm sure there were many, many more including a real dumb one; How do you secure the diaper on the baby? Do you still use those old-fashioned safety pins?

Yes, I was perhaps worse than a cloth diapering newbie; I was a cloth diapering IDIOT! You may be curious as to why I knew absolutely nothing about cloth diapering a newbown but you see, I never held a baby until I held my own. There were no babies in my family when I was a kid. The only babies I saw getting their diapers changed were on TV and the cameras tend to not do closeups of the business end of a diaper change so my early education in Cloth Diapering 101 was sketchy at best.

As you might imagine, making the jump from using disposable diapers to a full-on campaign of diapering with cloth was kind of scary. And then came the opinionated in-laws to throw a guilt trip on me.

Their rants covered everything from "Do you know how much all those cloth diapers are going to cost?" and "Who's going to wash all those diapers?" to "Are you turning into some kind of a fanatic?".

Their generation apparently believes that disposables are the best invention since sliced bread but what do they know? They are the geniuses that over-dosed us all on antibiotics which is most likely the reason my husband and daughter have MRSA!

So that YOU will not have to go through the torment that I did, I'm going to post a complete series of instructions to show you how to cloth diaper a newborn and share the answers to all of the questions that I had in very beginning. I was thinking of calling the series Cloth Diapering for Dummies but that's kind of insulting. My moms are NOT dummies so I'm calling it Claire's Cloth Diapering a Newborn 101 so stay tuned!


Water Saving Landscaping Ideas

Water saving landscaping ideas

Water is for humans, not the yard especially during droughts! However, by using some of the water saving landscaping ideas on this page you may not have every blade of grass turn brown or lose all of your plants every summer.

One of the best ways to not be tempted to waste water watering your yard and plants in the landscape is to plant drought resistant plants. Learn more aabout xeriscaping, mulch all landscaped beds and plant native species.

To give you an idea of how much of our precious water supply is wasted outdoors; reports estimate that in the United States over half of residential water used is used to maintain landscape and lawns. That's pretty sad for a country that I believe to be one of the greatest on the planet!

One of the ways that we can make that number (and citizens of North America) look better is to religiously engage in xeriscaping. This practice can reduce use of water to maintain landscaping by as much as 50 to 75%.

What is Xeriscaping?

Xeriscaping is the name give to a style of landscaping specifically designed to save water. These methods are nothing new. In fact they have been used for centuries to grow food in areas prone to drought conditions. It finally dawned on some landscape designer that xeriscaping might be something of interest to the modern homeowner.

The benefits are many! Xeriscaping:

  • saves water
  • saves money
  • is low-maintenance

The drawbacks are truly not worthy of consideration but I will give you the main objections of those who hold back. Xeriscaping:
  • often involves (what some perceive to be) less attractive plants

There you have it; the only negative is that native plants are not as exciting as plant species that were never meant to be in drought stricken areas to begin with. People should not be planting ferns where cactus grow naturally; get it?

If you landscaped your lawn long before you heard of Xeriscaping, chances are that your bushes and plants are established and no longer require as much watering as they once did. Rather than dig everything up and start over, the next best thing is to mulch like your life depended on it! Don't laugh! Our lives DO depend on having enough fresh water to drink.

If you have any profound water saving landscaping ideas that you would like to share with readers of my green living blog, please drop them in the comments section! We would also appreciate tips on where we might see pictures of areas landscaped using native or drought resistant plants so post the address if you know of any that we should see!


The Conservation of Water

Drought stricken cracked earth.

The subject of the importance of the conservation of water came up recently at a new parents meeting. I wasn’t prepared to field questions about how to conserve water since the meeting was about easy steps for having a green home and a chemical free, organic baby nursery.

But since we are smack dab in the middle of one of the hottest summers on records, with a record number of states suffering through either a full on drought or drought-like conditions I decided that there would be no harm in venturing slightly away from my notes (that had tips on reducing chemical exposure in the family home) to focus on current events. I’m posting some of the FAQs and tips I offered to the audience below.

What is conservation of water?
Water conservation is nothing more than saving water. There are many, may ways of doing so on both a large and small scale. Each and every person can do some small part from not wasting water by leaving the faucet running while you are brushing your teeth to the CEO of major corporations searching for ways to manufacture products with less water.

Why is it important that we conserve water? We have plenty! After all the earth is literally covered in ocean water.
Yeah, we have plenty of salt water, which should be great news for you if you are a fish. What we don’t have enough of is unpolluted, fresh water suitable for drinking by humans and we especially have very limited water resources during record heat waves.

Here are 5 easy ways to save water at home.

Save money and time by washing a sinkful of dirty dishes in the dishwasher!
1. Dish washing techniques with the conservation of water in mind.

If you have a dishwasher fire it up and use it! The automatic dishwasher uses less water than washing dishes by hand. To be sure that you don’t counteract your savings, don’t use the extended, pot scrubber cycle unless it is necessary and do not pre-rinse.
If you hand wash, do NOT rinse the soap off each dish. As you wash, load each dish in a wire, in sink rack and use your sprayer or a pitcher of water to rinse them all at one time.

2. During a heat wave, it’s inadvisable to wash your car at all. Wash the windshield if you must, but let washing the body of the car wait until the water shortage is over. Even then, it’s best to use an automatic car wash over washing with a hose in your driveway. If you prefer the old-school method, install a sprayer on the end of your water hose that will shut off the flow of water when you don’t need it.
Don't play in the water or wash your car during a heat wave!

3. Getting clean without wasting water is so easy, just take shorter showers or keep the water level in your bathtub low. Showers feel so darn good it’s easy to fall into a habit of enjoying the spray for much longer than we should. To be sure you don’t stay too long in the stall, set an egg timer and step out when it dings. If you want to be really fancy, buy a special timer that sticks to the wall of your shower.
To give you an idea of how shaving those minutes off the length of your shower time pays off; consider that anywhere from 20-40 gallons of fresh water goes down the drain every 5 minutes. OUCH! When I think of how much water I’ve wasted, I feel so ashamed!

4. Water is for humanity not your yard.

I, personally, have a problem with people who water their yards any time much less when the conservation of water is so important. What’s more important, that we have water to drink or that they have a lawn like a golf course (chemicals and all but that’s another article).

5. Cover your swimming pool when you aren’t swimming in it!

Who knew that swimming pool cover was good for more than just keeping leaves and your neighbor’s Labrador out of the pool? Your pool cover keeps you from having to add water to your pool that was lost to evaporation. During times of low humidity or windy conditions, pop the pool cover on top.

Most of the tips for saving water in your home are virtually pain free other than the last one; dragging a pool cover around can be aggravating when you’re ready to go swimming. But even if there is no painless path towards the conservation of water, since we can’t live without it, it’s worthwhile to do what we can to be sure that there’s always a drink of water ready and waiting when we open the tap.


Teaching Kids About Green Living

The first steps in teaching kids about green living and an eco-friendly lifestyle begins by getting them involved in household recycling. Telling children about recycling and actually letting them be active and see the benefits are two completely different things! You can talk till your blue about how vegetable peels and eggshells turn into black gold in the compost pile but when you take the time to walk them through the process from start to finish, chances are that you've just created a recycler for life!

Even a toddler can do a little recycling. It makes them feel like such a big, smart kid to know which bin to put the plastic, glass and/or paper items

Why should we start teaching them these practices early? Because if you raise them to automatically do these few small things, then they never have change they way they live and go through a transitional period. In other words, raise them in the way they should go.

Another important part of teaching kids about green living that can start very early in life is the introduction to proper eating. They may not understand exactly what it means when mommy and daddy say "We only eat organic" but learning not to eat sugary junk until we can teach them to identify the signature organic labels on food we buy from the grocery story is a great start.

There will be plenty of time later to fill them in on the facts of how organic foods are free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. It's my belief that our children deserve to be fed organics and to have a chemical free, green baby nursery and that this will most likely prevent issues down the road such as cancers and immediate problems like rashes and breathing problems.

After you have recycling and diet under control, it's time to talk about pollutants and harmful chemicals and how they much harm they can cause especially to small children and babies. Kids need to know that pesticides are poisons and they don't just harm bugs!

They should also know why we buy and use non-toxic cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products like shampoos and soaps. It's up to us to be ever mindful of the ingredients that manufacturers sneak into the items that we bring into our homes. Why would these companies want to do this? Well, often it's about money and being more effective than Brand B. Often products that are the most natural, organic and animal cruelty-free cost a penny or two more to manufacture and caustic chemicals take less time to clean the oven. OK? The good news is that you can make many of the most effective natural cleaning products yourself from common baking soda, salt, lemon juice and vinegar!

Those are just a few steps to take in teaching kids about green living, the importance of maintaining a green home and and living an eco-friendly lifestyle. If we start them out early, we will have done our part to launch a new generation with respect for the environment.



Guess what, we have to know how to clean the washer and dryer! Soapscum, limescale and lint are the enemy in the laundry area. I'm not ashamed to admit this came as a complete surprise to me. When we got our first home, we got all new appliances. They were so shiny and clean that I happily washed and dried many loads of laundry without ever so much as knocking the dust off the tops.

About a year passed before my husband finally got around to replacing the lightbulb in the laundry room (hey, don't judge him he had been sick!) casting light on lots of lint, dust and dirt that the dim light had camouflaged. The build up that had been taking place right before my eyes was shocking. I was appalled at how dusty, dirty and lint-y my beautiful machines had become. The guilt that I felt was more than you could imagine in light of my children's breathing problems.

After a moment of much-deserved self recrimination I set out to learn how to clean the washer and dryer, FAST! I'm not a lazy housewife (well, actually maybe a little lazy but my kids' asthma keeps me going) but my dusting, mopping and disinfecting routine had completely bypassed the laundry area. Well, that has now changed and I have become a pro at learning how to clean the washing machine drum, filter and all without using chemicals!

How to clean the washing machine with with vinegar:

Some household cleaning tips informed me that I should learn how to clean my washer with bleach but that went against my campaign for using only green household cleaning products. I try to use only non-toxic and environmentally friendly home cleaning solutions. I went in search of a cleaner to use besides household bleach and learned that my old friend, vinegar, would do the trick. Vinegar does a fine job of removing soap scum, limescale and just plain old dirt that floats to the top of the tub and sticks when combined with hot water and doesn't leave a bunch of nasty chemicals floating in the air of my green home. Some people claim that you can learn how to clean the washing machine with baking soda, but I haven't tried that method yet. If you know how to clean your washer with baking soda, please direct me to the instructions so I can give it a try.

1. Adjust the settings for a wash with HOT water. While the tub is filling add about a gallon of vinegar. You may be able to use less and get the job done but I was dealing with a significant amount of build up.

2. I let the washing machine run through the super cycle so that the acidic cleaning solution would have plenty of time to do its work.

•3 After the wash cycle was finished I took a wash cloth and wiped out the inside of the tub just so I could see if my green household cleaner had worked. And other than some crud around the top of the tub, everything looked great!


Learning how to clean the washer with vinegar on the inside is just the first step of the cleaning process. I then started at the top and cleaned down the sides, front and back of the washer using one of my homemade cleaning products that I made from a recipe.

Nobody sees it, but it just makes sense to go on and clean behind the washing machine and the dryer while you're at it. If you have a stackable washer and dryer, it's inadvisable to attempt to move it without help but you can use your vacuum cleaner tools to reach behind and beneath the stacked washing machine and dryer to do some good.

If you have the old-fashioned kind (like me), you can move the washer and dryer using casters (available at hardware and discount stores) but do not stretch the hoses attached to the dryer and washing machine too far! If you can't move the appliances far enough without stretching them, disconnect them. This is also a good time to inspect your washing machine hoses for cracks and bulges which indicates they need to be replaced.

While your appliances are out of the way, clean not only the floors but the lint from behind the dryer, the inside of the dryer hose and the dryer vent using your vacuum cleaner tools and brushes that will reach into the cracks. After you have removed as much as you can by brushing and vacuuming, wipe everything down with a clean cloth.

I wish I could tell you that you don't have to do this again for a very long time, but the truth is that the soapscum, lint and gunk with start to accumulate once again with the very next load of laundry that you run. Regular maintenance helps, but I can see that this process will have to be repeated at my house every six months or so.



These green nursery ideas are affordable and will give even low income families some tips on how to reduce their baby's exposure to toxic chemicals that tend to sneak inside our homes when we aren't looking. If there is one piece of information that I want you to get from this article it’s that when it comes to baby's room, green is always better in all your purchasing decisions.


It's true that some designer brands are playing the eco-friendly card in order to market their brand. However, there are many conscientious manufacturers that are working towards providing the average consumer with baby safe products available at your local discount store. Your responsibility is to refuse to buy items made from questionable materials.

Just so you know, while I love nurseries that have a green color scheme; what we are talking about here is eliminating dangerous toxins in your baby’s environment by using "Zero VOC" paints that have no volatile organic compounds. If you live in an older home please check to be sure that your baby will not be exposed to lead based paint that was used before this nasty stuff was taken off the market.


Our home had hardwood flooring when we move the info of course I didn’t replace it. And even though I have fond memories of wall-to-wall carpeting and miss it’s coziness and cushion, we only have small washable area rugs because the flame retardants and petrochemical stain repellents are not something that I would ever want in my house even if my babies didn't suffer from asthma.


The only thing that I have against buying cheap baby furniture is that it is often made of pressboard and plywood that may include toxic resins in its construction and cheap nursery furniture made from synthetic materials may compromise the air quality of my baby‘s room by off-gassing. Thankfully, my father is they would work for that builds natural wood furniture from reclaimed wood. For those of you who are not as fortunate I highly recommend giving your local woodworking guild a call to see if there is someone that would be willing to build your furniture to your eco-friendly specifications. I’m also a big fan of looking for stuff to recycle so if you can find good, used solid wood furniture to repaint with baby safe paint, go for it!


Investing in organic cotton fabric to make your own crib set, buying a set of used organic baby bedding and an organic crib mattress are the best green nursery ideas ever! Your baby will spend most of his or her time snuggled in the crib that you provide and it just makes sense to be sure that there are no questionable chemicals coming from dyes or synthetic fabrics going into your baby’s lungs or being absorbed into your baby’s skin.


I realize that this article is primarily to provide green nursery ideas in terms of painting and decorating but what is a baby’s room without toys? Once I became educated regarding the dangers of BPA plastics, phthalates and other chemicals our kids’ toy box became almost empty. After the scare I decided that I would eliminate plastic toys from our household for awhile and started to make my own baby toys using 0rganic fabrics and my dad came up with some amazing homemade wooden toys that he made from reclaimed wood in his workshop. There are safer plastic toys available now, but if there is one thing that Thomas the tank engine toys , contaminated baby formula and BPA plastics remind us is that we should not let our guard down.

These green nursery ideas should put you on your way to keeping baby safe by improving the air quality in your home and reducing everyone’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Just because the immune systems of adults are stronger than an infant’s doesn‘t mean that chemicals in the home are OK . This is why it is important to check for hidden toxins no matter what the demographics of your home may be.

Our goal should be to ensure that all products that we bring into our home are eco-friendly and have the least amount of chemicals possible.
To achieve these goals we should look for stuff to recycle to reduce household waste, resist the frenzy of consumerism and buy fewer items and ALWAYS watch for organic tags and choose non-toxic products over items that are manufactured using chemicals that we are trying to avoid therefore putting pressure on the companies that want our business to develop more earth friendly merchandise.