Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Cloth Diaper Lessons Learned

I keep saying I’m going to post more about cloth diapering. Here is my two cents. If this is your first – there is no reason in the world NOT to do this… seriously, I want to just kick myself for not doing this when it was just my first. Yes in my opinion it is that easy. OK, not “easy” but it does become routine and just something I do – should we go back to “no pain, no gain”….
Admittedly with two it is a little harder (let alone two actually using the diapers, which is thankfully not my situation). Still, it is doable and rewarding. I fold fluffy diapers while we play on the floor and my older loves to pick out the color that my younger will be rolling around in. They are cute (yea, a bit bulkier – but cute), soft, made/designed lovingly by family run business (mostly women). It is also addicting. Yes, you heard me – I can’t stop reading about them, wanting to try the next new diaper, searching for the best deals, reviewing them, chatting about them…. It can be a BAD addiction if you let it.

It isn’t even just about saving money (see note about addiction above). Though I believe we have seen some money savings. There is of course the environmental savings which is probably what drove me to look at it in the first place. I like knowing I’m reusing something rather than throwing it away – I think back to the huge garbage cans we set to the curb with our first and almost cry.

Oh, I recognize there is still debate about both kinds of “savings” surrounding cloth diapers. Still, the point of this blog is to tell you the choices my family is making and not start a debate. We believe we see obvious financial savings, even using more expensive pocket cloth diapers. We do use a bit more water and energy (1 short and 1 long load with an extra rinse in a HE washer every other day) which is harder to factor into the savings but I believe still adds up to savings.

It hasn’t all been a cake walk. We have had some recent mildew issues that haven’t been fun to deal with. I have had some used purchases not work out so great. But then there is the lack of diaper rash – nearly zero! Yes, that’s right, no chemicals and creams rarely needed, hardly any rash ever. So for whatever its worth – here are some of my lessons learned in my 6 months of using cloth.
  • Used vs. New – In the beginning I tried both and if I thought we were going to have more kids I think I would have purchased more of my cloth new. But lately I have purchased nearly all my cloth used. This is risky - we have had at least three bad diapers so far - but since we will not be having another child I felt better about buying used knowing these diapers can really last. My advice would probably be to buy a few used and try them to see if you like them, then if you want a whole stash buy new so you can return them if you have problems months down the road.
  • Snaps vs. Velcro – We discovered that Velcro was REALLY LOUD in the middle of the night and not for us. But, Velcro is quick and easier to adjust.
  • Prefolds and Covers vs. Pockets or All-in-One diapers - Prefolds and covers will save you money for sure, but for me they seemed more complex (heck they are probably even better for the environment if you get organic unbleached and use only a few covers). I’m not sure I gave them enough time… ok, I admit it I went for convenience and got pockets. However, pockets are harder for daddies hand to stuff.
  • Services vs. Do-it-yourself – I couldn’t see having a week’s worth of diapers sitting around so I prefer to do the laundry myself. Still, this may have made me love prefolds even more and probably would have stuck with them longer.

I found lots of great tips at The Cloth Diaper Whisperer and on other mommy blogs, through friends and local diaper stores like Milogras.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meatless Monday

This week I'm on vacation... so Meatless Monday might be a bit tricky... but it's California right :)

Instead, I'm leaving you with this link to the original Meatless Monday campaign. This site Chronicles the story of what impacts eating just a little less meat can have on our environment, and ourselves. It gives you tips and resources to start your own movement and even news on who's spreading the word (check out the piece on Mario Batalli who recently put Meatless Monday dishes on his menu at every one of his restaurants). It is chalk full of recipes and ideas... check it out!

Do you have a favorite Meatless Monday (or Wednesday). Share it with us - be a guest blogger and post your stories here (food related, or not).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Graham Hill: Why I'm a weekday vegetarian | Video on

Graham Hill is the founder of; he travels the world to tell the story of sustainability... this was a great piece he did for TED - check it out: Graham Hill: Why I'm a weekday vegetarian Video on

Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

My husband and I were chatting the other night and I asked him how it has been to be the dad handling the cloth diaper duty (since he stays at home). He confirmed my sentiments – it isn’t all that much extra work, some extra laundry and time… but then he said something that really hit me … “well, it isn’t always easier to do what is right.”

Wow, that little statement was just so dead true and yet nearly forgotten in my mind. Convenience has a price does it? We are caught up in this new instantaneous world that working harder for something that takes more time just seems like an insurmountable chore at times. Now I almost feel guilty every time I complain. Ok, don’t get me wrong – sometimes a modern convince IS the better solution for you or your family. I am certainly not one to judge. But it did give me a bit of a reflection on the old statement “no pain, no gain” and how the gain is usually HUGE, if you can just get past the pain.

Take what you need, leave your fair share...

MSNBC Ran this article today "New Panera Location Says Pay What You Want" and I just thought it was a fascinating experiment. I love the motto they hang on the wall "take what you need, leave your fair share" and the concept that if you can pay what you feel is fair or more if you want to help the cause or just because you feel like you can afford to help others who may need to pay less. Will it work? This is a tough one but I do hope they get enough success to try it out here - I for one would love to shop there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saving money on "real" food

I follow a local blogger Frugal Living NW and yesterday she had a pretty good post on how couponing helps her, even with the "real" food purchases. Her post is here  Saving money on “real” food.

I still have a hard time with coupons because I can see how time consuming it could be to come up with the deals (that's why I follow the blogs instead) and while I meal plan, I have a hard time "stocking up" on non-food items. But maybe you'll find some good tips here.

I personally have been using the monthly $10 off on $50 purchases at Safeway that appear each month in the paper here in Oregon, and just this weekend I scored my best deal yet. A few weeks back our 5+ year old Brita water pitcher finally broke. I purchased a new one at target for just over $26 along with a 4 pack of filters for $16. I had a $10 off coupon from Target, a $5 off coupon from joining "Fit for Life" online and a $2 off filters coupon for signing up for filter change reminders on Brita. Bringing my original $42 purchase to $25 including enough filters to last for 1 year (each filter lasts about 2 months). Oh, and according to Brita's website the old pitcher and filters are recyclable at Whole Foods... so I'll be recycling my old broken on too. Portland has really great water - but for the things I need filtered water for (like baby bottles) this is a great deal.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Meatless Monday

Last week my experimental husband decided to try to mix up our stir fry a bit and cooked what might have been the biggest Meatless Monday hit yet for the whole family yet. I called it an Italian stir fry because it was a veggie mix (broccoli, corn - you could do just about anything) with silken tofu and tomatoes served over orzo pastas instead of rice. It was a nice twist on a meal we have a lot and our older daughter loved it.

Anyone else do a "meatless" twist on a classic at their house?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Going on a Disneyland Vacation

Yes I said the “D” word. We are actually taking a trip to the land of commercialism and overconsumption next week (cue vision of me hanging head in shame). BUT, it is also the land of imagination and outdoor fun right (who am I kidding)? So here are some of my thoughts on this trip:

Like it or not, my older daughter is LOVES fantasy and princesses. She loves to dress up, to pretend to be a princess and she knows them all by name despite not seeing all the movies. This actually doesn’t bother me at all. What disturbs me is the thought that we will be surrounded by a HUGE amount of princess “stuff” which she will want, beg for, and likely be bringing home (as if we don’t have enough already – and yes we do have a lot). Just this morning my husband I talked about the ‘requests’ she might be making and how we would honor them. I’m not sure how it will go but one great idea he suggested is limiting her to one item per day (I know, even this is a lot) this way we can really help her value the item she chooses to ask for instead of having it end up in the trash before we even leave to come home. I thought this was a good idea and we intend to try it.

The food scares me! Living in a hotel for four days and eating out every day – at the park mostly – is a tough one for me. I know that you have to live a little while on vacation but the cost and impact will still probably weigh heavily on me and my guilt about agreeing to this trip in the first place. Gluttony comes with a price. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised and will find that they have taken up some healthy choices even if they are shaped like Mickey. Oh, and let’s just not factor in the “princess” breakfast I’m sure we are likely to go too. In the words of Charlie Brown - Ugg!

Family vacations are good bonding experiences and can make amazing memories. Growing up, my grandparents nearly always joined us on our family vacations – these are memories I will treasure all of my life! My family grew up going to and loving Disneyland –we went there a lot. My dad is a big kid at heart and he loved taking us… I have some really fond family memories of the place. So no matter the place I’m looking forward to making memories with the entire family (my sister and her family are also joining us as well).

This is an opportunity to spark a sense of adventure and wonder and to entice the kids to try new things, take risks, be bold, and be free. One thing about being out of your element (commercial or not) is to focus on what lessons we can learn while there. I’m really looking forward to seeing how carefree and adventurous we can all be in such a big group and with big crowds. Plus the fresh air and exercise of walking all over will actually be nice, not to mention the hotel pool which we plan to use and not just ride rides all day.

Finally – I’m hoping we won’t have time for TV (again, who am I kidding – but I can dream can’t I), cousins will bond, grandparents will love our kids, heck parents might even get a break. That the conversation will be powerful, that we will all be kids again, discover something, learn something and that I won’t feel so guilty about spending all this money to supporting all that consumerism (yea, that whom I kidding thing again).

Anyone else have any good tips for these types of vacations?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A half a hog - locally sourced meat

I know, not in line with meatless Monday, but something I’m feeling pretty good about none-the-less. We have been buying a large portion of the meat we do eat from a local buyers club through Abundant Life Farms (check out their awsome story on their site). About a year after buying from farmer Scott and his family who run the farm we took our daughter and several friends who also buy to the farm to meet him (see pic to the left and below). We took lots of time to talk with him about his animal practices and we felt really good about the choice we were making to pay more for the product. This was the one of the first times in my life I realized I would happily eat less and pay more for such a pure product.

After two years of buying a few items within our budget every two weeks we have taken the plunge and filled our freezer with half a hog. We are more of a pork family than beef and frankly the prospect of trying to get a freezer big enough to hold even ¼ of a cow just sounded insane (though I would now consider sharing with someone). So we went with ½ a hog and sharing some with friends. I’m excited. My daughter says she can’t wait to have more zucchini and nut feed bacon (because when we went to the farm they were eating zucchini and farmer Scott explained they forage for acorns in the woods too). If you ever get a chance or can manage a freezer to do it I highly recommend you consider finding a friend to try this with. I’m really looking forward to truly experiencing all the pieces of an animal and not just buying the same pieces over and over from the store. Oh, and last nights pork chops on the grill were so sweet!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Meatless Monday

Ok, I admit it. I really don't like salad. It isn't that I don't like lettuce or can't enjoy a side salad now and then... but honestly it isn't the first thing I order or think of for dinner. While I think the butter lettuce that is coming up now is so tender, like a good spinach salad, or even some arugula.... salads just aren't my favorite meal. I'm not sure why this is and while I'm being totally open, I'll also admit that I really don't even enjoy lettuce on my sandwich. There, I said it. Now I'm ready to eat my words. Anyone have any good hearty salad recipes that even a salad hater would love? How about a kid’s favorite? Maybe a pasta salad? :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finding balance

I recently caught an article in the local Oregonian about the new radical homemakers. It highlighted three amazing women who it seemes are doing it all. They are making homemade everything, growing herbs for medicine, gardening, and living car free… seriously – they seem to be the picture of everything I try to be and yet I keep finding difficult to get to even a fraction of this. Now don't get me wrong - this isn't a working mom vs. stay-at-home mom post. My husband stays home and I KNOW he has the harder job :) so these ladies are amazing.

Still, I don’t know about you but I have a hard time finding balance in my crazy life with two kids. Even with my husband now at home, even with the luxury of having saved in our early career, even with the 1000’s of resources at my fingertips, I find it hard to motivate to do the right things all the time. I know that I can do a lot more with less, and I know that I don’t need more to have more and thus can spend less, I know that doing less is doing more for my earth. Still, there is so much MORE, I wish I could do.

There are shopping trips where I agonize over whether I should by the organic grapes from Mexico or the regular grapes from California. There is the every day when I drive my car to work because I just NEED that extra half hour each way that the bus would take. There are the vacations I plan that feel more like excess than relaxation. But then, there are the meals we eat that are local, the cloth diapers we use, the friends we trade goods with rather than go to the store, and the families we share memories with rather than go the movies or watch TV. Oh, and then there is the cookie dough I buy instead of make, the stupid TV I watch when I should be doing something else, the lists of new things I long to buy. Well, then there is the garden we tend, the days spent making crafts from recycled items, the hikes and nature walks, trips to farms and hours spent reading as a family. Still… I find the balance hard and always wonder if I could be doing more, should be doing more.

I’m not a new domestic goddess, not even close. I still go to Costco sometimes, and yes I still eat some processed food. But I’m working on finding more balance and motivation to do the things that are important, to involve my kids in the things that really matter, to discuss as a family how far we are willing to go and what tradeoffs we are willing to embark on – together. I’m not sure which way the scale will tip for us but I do feel like we have started rolling a wheel and sooner or later the wheel gets going fast enough that it becomes easier and easier to push it along – I just need keep the momentum going.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meatles Tuesday?

Ok, I know it isn't Monday. I'm behind this week. But tonight my chef husband cooked a nearly meatless meal of tofu and broccoli stir fry (oyster sauce makes it not so entirely meatless I suppose). It isn't anything special by the sound of it, but what made it special for us was the locally made tofu we purchased this week.

Last week I was reading some amazing food reviews in the Willamette Weekly and sure enough I read about some local tofu. This we had to try. There were several stores on our side of town not too far from us. Bui Natural Tofu got great reviews on places like Yelp. Ota Tofu also sounded delicious and Thanh Son Tofu, which was the closest to us so we gave it a try first. They had fresh tofu by the block in many different forms (firm, fried, etc.) was just too much to resist and a whole lot cheaper too. Only about $2.50 for 2lbs of tofu (Safeway here charges $1.99 for something floating in plastic for who knows how long).

Simple, yummy - it had our daughter asking "can I have more tofu daddy" oh, and she ate her broccoli too. A cheap meal, full of healthy stuff, throw in some seasonal veggies next time and I think we may have found a new family favorite. We can't wait to try the other stores and do some more tofu-tasting.