Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things that I love

I read a blog today that offered a photography challenge: take a photo of something that you love, but without a flash. This was, of course, not much of a challenge when you're using an awesome camera (Nikon-D200) and are surrounding by something that you love entirely (my beautiful daughter). So here are some photos, without using a flash, of something that I love very much. What do you love in life?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free Earth Day Giveaways!

Earthday Extravaganza

I really must take a moment to share an amazing blog with you. Dexter's Super Savvy Mommy is written by another young (at least I like to think of us people around 25-years-old as young!) mama. She has an adorable little boy named Dexter who is oh-so-often involved in the topic of her posts as well as the object of her photography. Her blog focuses on product reviews, but the best news is that the products that she's been reviewing for almost a month are all part of daily giveaways! That's right, there are new contests every day which you can enter that she will be drawing for on May 10th, 2008. Support her by checking out her blog and hopefully you'll walk away with something exciting, too! Please post on this blog letting me know that you visited Dexter's Super Savvy Mommy. is an organization created by the Ecology Center that tests children’s toys for harmful contents. Based in Michigan, it’s a "nonprofit environmental organization that works at the local, state, and national levels for clean production, healthy communities, environmental justice, and a sustainable future." They are able to test products for chemical elements including lead, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, mercury, tin, and antimony by using a handheld X-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine. Using the information gathered about the elemental composition of the toys,’s team is then able to determine if there are potentially hazardous chemicals or toxic materials involved. The tested product is then rated into one of three categories (low, medium, and high) based on the hazardous contents.
In 2008 alone, tested over 1,500 children’s products and toys. The results of any tested item can be found on their user friendly website as well as information on chemicals of concern and how to take action against harmful materials being used in toys. You can view their toy database by Brand or Type, as well as through a search engine. Realizing that you may not always have a computer available, has even gone so far as to include a text messaging system that allows you to get safety information on a specific toy.
I tested their text messaging system first by sending "HealthyToys Baby Einstein musical motion activity jumper" to 41411. Instantaneously, I received a message back with instructions on how to opt out of their texting system. A moment after that, I received a message stating "Sorry, no matches. Try a new search, like: healthytoys Wii; healthytoys Elmo." I checked their website, and sure enough, they haven’t reviewed the Baby Einstein jumper. I found a toy that we have that they have reviewed, and sent that message next: "HealthyToys Munchkin super safety ducky." Again, the same message as before. While the texting service is a great idea for when you’re out and about toy shopping, I’m not sure the glitches are worked out just yet.
If you do find that they haven’t tested a toy you need to know about, does offer links to places that provide you with information on conducting the testing yourself. You can also fill out an online form and "nominate" a toy for to test. This website is a great resource for anyone who’s got a kid in his or her life and I must recommend it even if they are missing some children’s products on here. Thankfully, if they can’t answer my questions, they offer a lot of links outside of their own organization that should be able to, including recall lists and information about lead warnings. Check it out, and be sure to let other people know about it—who knows? It may save a child from becoming sick!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sensory Walks

Taking walks is a common past time for families, individuals, and groups. It is something that is often used as an activity for day cares, school groups, and other goal oriented groups like people with developmental disabilties or people trying to lose weight. So often, the activities involved in walking involve only that--walking. Why not spice it up and offer a sensory based walking activity? Studies show that learning best takes place when one involves as many senses as possible. Simulating your senses uses brain power, causing synaptic connects between your neurons which increases brain compacity and functioning. Making a regular walk into a sensory walk can be fun, challenging, and above all else--healthy for you!

It's easy to incorporate senses into any walk by simply pointing out different things as you pass by. To make it more fun, search for specific things: colors, textures, shapes, themes. Two things that I've created to make walking more fun for the consumers at my work are scavenger hunts for our local mall and a photographic scavenger hunt for one of the nearby streets.

For the mall scavenger hunts, I created a list of items that one could find and then randomized the list using an online randomizer. I broke the list down into smaller lists of 10 items each. Each list has a variety of different things on it including objects to visually see, textures to find and feel, or sounds to listen for. One hunt is completely sensory based and was designed for consumers at a lower functioning level. See if you could use this checklist to find things on a walk of your own!

After all, it's free to go walking and it's good for you. Why not make it even better for you, and interesting at the same time?

Mall Sensory Walk
o A hard bench
o A cold window
o A fuzzy shirt
o A soft pillow
o A furry kitten
o A smooth (or furry) dog
o Movement in an elevator
o The leaves on a plant
o Silky lotion

o Water flowing
o Puppies barking
o Kitties meowing
o Mice squealing
o Birds chirping
o People talking
o Bells from video games
o Music playing
o The Crinkle of a book (find an actual crinkley Children’s book)
o Hangers clank
o A Piano play

o Lights flashing (Time Out)
o People
o Colors
o Sizes
o Shapes
o Objects
o Reflections
o Animals

o Animals
o Different Foods
o Chlorine in the water
o Lotions
o Candles

Mall I spy…
o A quarter
o A rocking chair
o A wheelchair
o A sewing machine
o A pink watch
o A map
o Something striped
o Something soft
o A bird
o A hot dog
o A wagon
o A Christmas tree
o A red tray
o A giraffe
o A sparkly dress
o A photo frame
o A history book
o A silver bracelet
o Something tall
o A button

o An ice cream cone
o Something rough
o A dime
o A ball
o A penny
o Something slimy
o A pig
o Hair made out of yarn
o A salt shaker
o A rat
o A green belt
o A crab
o Something red
o A pepper shaker
o A painting of nature
o A dress fit for a princess
o A mirror
o Bubble Gum
o Blue shoes
o A book on the topic of animals

Thursday, April 23, 2009

10 Ways To Save TIME by Going Green

Too often, time is the cruncher that drives some mamas away from living more simply (okay, so that was a hidden pun; for those who are unfamiliar with the term, “crunchy” is often used to mean “natural” or “green”). Here are ten ways that I actually save time over one week by green living.

1) Remember that money = time! A penny saved is a penny that I don’t have to earn, which means more time spent with my family. Reusing means that you don’t have to re-buy something.

2) We reuse bath towels three or more times before washing them. Benefits? Saving on the wear of the towel, energy to heat the water, less water and soap for washing…and LESS TIME doing laundry. If it takes me 20 minutes to complete a load of laundry (gathering, putting in washer, transferring to dryer, taking upstairs, folding, putting away), that’s a savings of 40 minutes.

3) Pocket Change cloth diapers. They are designed with a pocket that is open on both ends, allowing the liner to agitate out of the diaper during washing. All you have to do is throw the used diaper in the pail, then dump the pail into the washing machine. Benefits? NO TIME involved in separating diapers! 10 seconds x 10 diapers a day = almost 12 minutes.

4) Cloth diapers in general. Not only is it definitely better for the environment, my pocket book, and my baby’s skin, but it really does save me time. It takes me a lot more time to go shopping than it does to wash a load of laundry, and this also means less garbage for me to package up and lug out to the curb (at least an extra 5 minutes) every Friday morning. Sleep is of the essence for any new mama, believe me. Let’s say that I usually bought diapers with other things and only had to run out “separate” once in a while…It’d be about a total of 22 minutes.

5) Turning off lights when I leave a room. Corny, I know, but think about it: if I turn the lights off when I leave the room, I save money and energy, and I also don’t have to walk back through the house before going to bed to turn them off. Savings of approximately 4 minutes a day = 28 minutes a week.

6) I prepare batches of food for Amara all at once and then freeze the portions in ice cube trays to use later. Generally, I cook the food, throw it in the blender with some milk, spoon into the trays, freeze, pop out and wrap or bag. This may take 15 minutes total for an entire month’s worth of food, depending on what I’m making. Benefits? No cleaning of jars, bad stuff into my baby’s body, or wasting of food. Also less recyclables that I have to bring to the curb every Friday. This equals about 7 minutes a week, once I subtract the time I might spend cleaning the food containers from my own method.

7) Instead of putting Amara on the floor, I put her on a blanket on the floor. For now, this means I don’t have to vacuum every day because I can just shake the blanket out when we’re done. Dare I admit this, but we only vacuum about once every three or four weeks (yikes). If she was on the floor, I would want to vacuum every day. Even if we’re only talking about one room, this saves on the life of the vacuum, the energy and money to provide the electricity, less noise pollution (even if only in the house!) and about 8 minutes a day (considering the time spent setting up the vacuum, vacuuming, and putting it away). A total of 42 minutes a week if I only vacuum once a month. Yes, we do take our shoes off when we’re home, so our floors really aren’t gross, just not something I would put my daughter who’s prone to eat the carpet down on it.

8) My daughter gets a bath one time a week instead of every day. Most of the time, I just pop her in the shower with me, wash her up, and hand her off to her dad. From undressing her to re-dressing her, this takes about 15 minutes. If she got a bath every day, it’d be in our big bath tub. The whole process would waste a LOT of water, soap, heat, and time. To be exact, 25 minutes a day. Savings? 160 minutes a week.

9) When I cook, I make double batches and freeze one. It’s healthier to eat at home, we all know, but with this method, it’s a lot easier, too. Only one set of dishes to clean (great for saving on energy, soap, and water), and half the time spent cooking. We eat the leftovers for lunch, so that takes care of lunches, too (I won’t calculate that time, though). This equals a grand total of 210 minutes a week. At least.

10) Breastfeeding. I think everyone who’s ever heard of milk knows the great qualities--amazing health benefits for mama and baby as well as saving a TON of money (with formula easily being $25/powdered can which I’m told by coworkers lasts them only two or three days), but it saves me a tremendous amount of time, too. Some people may say, hey, but you have to pump at work! Well guess what, that’s “free” time! It legally has to be provided to me, and I’m actually able to continue working while pumping at my current job. In all, it saves time in the following ways: no shopping for it, no cleaning off diapers during the time when I was exclusively breast feeding (as the solids are okay to put right into the washer), no prepping bottles, no getting up during the night (breastfeeding allows you the beautiful option of bed sharing). If we’re ONLY talking about the nighttime here, we still save a lot of time. Amara still eats three times a night. I usually only have to wake up long enough to pull her over to me and make sure the blankets and such allow for a safe nursing time. Granted, what you can get away with will vary from family to family. If this equals 15 minutes a night, I’m saving myself at least 420 minutes a week compared to bottle feeding.

That’s a total of 941 minutes a week, or 15 hours and 41 minutes! By living more simply in just 9 ways, I am saving myself the equivalent in time of a part time job, leaving MORE time for those precious baby kisses and giggles.
What green thing do you do that saves you time?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Product Review: bumGenius! Diaper Sprayer

A lot of times, people tell me that the reason they don’t want to use cloth diapers is because they will have to rinse any solids out of the diapers and into the toilets. Images of the “olden days” come to mind with a mama bent over a toilet, swirling a prefold in the water and attempting to shake out any clumps before she rings it out and puts it into a 5-gallon bucket with a stash of other diapers who suffered the same procedure. Gone are those days!

Before our daughter was born, my husband and I invested our money in a bumGenius! Diaper Sprayer (DS). Similar to a personal bidet, the DS easily attaches to the side of one’s toilet, allowing the water source to be easily turned on or off by the lifting of a handle. This has been a life saver to us, allowing us to quickly, cleanly, and efficiently rinse our cloth diapers before placing them in our pail. No more yuckies!

The list price of this product is around $45.00. We found this to be true in store and online, and also for other similar products. Though this may be more expensive initially than many would care for, let me assure you that is and investment worthy of your money. Overall, I give this product 4.5 out of 5 stars.

- Easy to install and doesn’t require any additional parts.
- The water power is strong enough to remove all solids including those that are “seeped” into the fabric. In fact, you need to be careful to hang on to your diaper so that it doesn’t end up being sprayed itself into the toilet.
- Very easy to use—even my mother in law uses it!
- No more bending over, getting your hands wet, or wasting precious time to remove solids from diapers.
- It’s small and barely noticeable on the side of our toilet.

- After the initial installation, we had a small leak where everything connected to the toilet. I think it was a placement issue as it has since spontaneously resolved.
- You must lower the handle that allows the water source to connect to the DS after you’re done using it. The pressure of the water can build up and cause toilet damage over time. We weren’t lowering it at first, and whola, we had to replace part of the toilet mechanism as a result. Since then, we lower it every time (shutting off the water supply to the DS) and have had no problems.