Seeing Green

Wednesday, February 29, 2012 4:12 PM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
No, I'm not talking about money, although seeing a little more of that couldn't hurt ;) 
I'm talking about being more "green" - you know, eco-friendly, non-wasteful, "crunchy", and so forth. As you know, (or at least you will know now), I already use cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and mama cloth. (We do not currently use "family cloth" a.k.a. cloth toilet paper, and we may never get to that point.) And I typically don't buy or use paper towels or napkins, my husband does. I usually use a kitchen towel or microfiber cloth to clean up messes and such. But recently, I have come across a lot of info about using "un-paper towels" and cloth napkins.

My mom has always used a lot of cloth napkins (she still does!), even when I was younger. Most times, they were just for special occasions (we had a lot of special occasions. Every birthday, holiday, big accomplishments, etc. was a special occasion at our house). Every now and then we would use them for a regular meal. But I definitely have always associated the use of cloth napkins with either a special occasion or a fancy shmancy restaurant. It never occurred to me to use cloth napkins for every meal at home. But I think it's a great idea!

The only time I never used paper towels in a kitchen was when I worked at Chick-fil-A (yum!). We used regular, washable, reusable kitchen towels for clean ups in the kitchen. Of course, we had paper towels to dry our hands with. But in the kitchen I grew up with at home, we always used paper towels for clean ups and even for drying hands many times. Now thinking back, I was so wasteful! Even in recent years, living in my own places, I have used paper towels for everything! Any kind of kitchen clean up for sure, windows, mirrors, cleaning the inside of my car, dusting, wiping down counter tops and tables, drying hands, cleaning little hands and faces, etc. Never really thought about using a reusable towel for cleaning up until more recently. So, when I started seeing "un-paper towels" all over the internet, I thought that it made complete sense. Especially since I am already using a lot of cloth in the kitchen these days.

So, I came across a couple of blogs (I can't remember them now, and I didn't save them so I can't refer back to them - sorry!), and these ladies had goals of making cloth napkins and un-paper towels for their families to use. One lady had a goal of making 30 - I think she was mostly referring to unpaper towels. Another lady had a goal of 40 - I think she was making 20 unpaper towels and 20 cloth napkins (5 napkins per person in her household). I really like this idea a lot, and I am also going to make a goal for myself to make my family some of these money-savers. (I hate buying paper towels and napkins, so this is going to be fantastic!) 

My goal is to start off by making 10 un-paper towels and 12 cloth napkins by the end of April. That gives me 2 months to get it done. I am giving myself plenty of time so that this is a realistic and attainable goal for me to accomplish. Hopefully, I will have them done a whole lot sooner than this, but at least I have set a time limit for myself to complete it, since I am a huge procrastinator. If we need more, or I have finished earlier than April, then I will just make more!

Of course, I will be posting pictures of my completed work - I may even post a quick and easy tutorial later on during my progress :)

Do any of you use cloth napkins and/or un-paper towels? How did you find out about it? Did you make them yourself or did you purchase them already made? What fabrics do you like for your cloth usage?

~ Jessica


Giveaway from Lovely Fluff!

Monday, February 27, 2012 3:12 PM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
I am happy to announce a giveaway from Lovely Fluff (me!). If you don't already know, I make baby and mama cloth, and opened up an online store a few weeks ago. I currently use cloth diapers on my son, some of which I have purchased and some I have made for him. I recently wrote a post about why I chose cloth diapering, and I would love the opportunity to share the love I have for cloth with you.

I will be giving away this One Size Pocket Diaper in this cute Elephant Walk print.

It is super cute and made by me :) It features 2 rows of snap down front rise snaps for adjustable sizing, a hook and loop closure system, laundry tabs for easy washing, and crossover waist tab for a snug fit. 

The leg and back casings ensure a great fit and leak protection.
It will fit approximately 10 - 30 lbs.
Comes with a standard microfiber insert.

I love it!


I will randomly choose a winner at the end of the giveaway! Good luck and thank you all for your support!

~ Jessica

I Did It For The Money

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 1:59 PM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
Ok. So I've definitely been slacking on this blog, aside from the occasional recipe post or craft post, and I do apologize. It has been a whirlwind of a month so far: 4 birthdays - with parties of course - the Super Bowl, doctor's appointments, a wedding at Disney, my husband working extra long and late hours all last week (he sells sports memorabilia, and his company manufactures the Super Bowl flip coin, so the week before and after the Super Bowl was kinda huge for them), and Valentine's Day is today. All of this happening in the last 2 weeks, plus all the "regular" craziness that happens around here with my 2yr old and 3 yr old, while striving to maintain a livable and enjoyable home! Oh, and I have managed to contract a cold in the midst of it all. So, needless to say, spending time blogging hasn't been my top priority lately. It didn't even make the list.

But, I'm back! And I wanted to write about cloth. Yes, cloth. Since I am often asked "Why on earth would you use cloth diapers?", I will answer the question with a question - Why not use cloth? - And I will explain my story.

 I was never an advocate for "green" living - not that I was against it - it just wasn't something I really cared about in the past. The "convenience" of disposable everything meant more to me than the condition of the environment. However, what I didn't realize is that being more "green" could also mean saving more money! The thought just never occurred to me.

That is, until about a year ago. Both my son and daughter were in diapers. My daughter was in the middle of potty training and we used a lot of pull-up disposables with her - I still consider those diapers. Expensive diapers at that! And it seemed like we had to keep buying these expensive poop and pee holders every time I turned around to change one. I hadn't worked in a few years at that point, and my husband was running the physical labor part and customer service part of our pool business, while I maintained the billing end of it. The thing about owning a traditional business is that you don't have a boss anymore. No, you have multiple bosses (customers) running your life for you instead. Which is good and bad. You can choose who your customers are, but you can't really control who pays and who doesn't pay. So, while you "control" your income, you really don't. And that was what was happening to us. We had enough customers to have a nice and smoothly running business - when our customers decided that they would go ahead and pay that month. 

The economy seemed to hit everyone pretty hard that particular year, and our customers just weren't paying up. We had to drop some of them and replace them. And this went on and on until we ended up recently selling the business. No big deal - it's just part of life and how business works. 

I say all that to make the point that we needed to cut back on some things. There were things we were already doing that were helping - making home cooked meals instead of eating out, cutting back on cable tv, controlling the a/c better, hanging clothes outside on the line instead of using the dryer, etc....but one thing we couldn't stop spending money on was the diapers! They were a necessity. I ended up being able to potty train my daughter Riley fairly quickly (once I actually started training "for real" and being persistent and consistent), so we eliminated diapers from one child. That was a huge help for sure. But when you get to the point where you have to choose to either buy diapers or buy food or buy medicine for your sick child, and not buy all three, something else needs to change. 

And so I began my research. I looked into using cloth diapers for Noah. He was 13 months old at the time, and I had no idea where to even begin. The idea of cloth diapering sounded gross and exhausting to me. I didn't understand how it all worked. Until then, the cost of buying disposables was worth the "hassle" and nastiness of dealing with cloth diapers. But when the money just isn't there anymore, the "hassle" starts becoming more valuable and worth looking into. 

The only cloth diapering system I had ever heard of, but didn't know anything about, was the gDiaper system. I loved the idea of using a liner. I loved the fact that they offered a flushable insert. I loved the idea that the outer component was waterproof. And I loved how cute they were. But I sure as heck did not like the price point on these babies. Almost $20/diaper, which did not include any extra inserts or liners, etc. I understood that they will be used over and over again, and I have heard wonderful things about that diapering system, but when you are struggling financially, spending $20 on one diaper just isn't going to happen. 

So I researched some more. After a ton of Amazon searches, mom forums, baby forums, international cloth diaper brands, homemade cloth diapers, etc. I discovered an overload of info. It was so confusing to me and there was so much information out there, and terms that I had no idea what they meant (i.e. prefolds, flatfolds, AIO's, pockets, covers, doublers, sized, one-size, diaper sprayers, and the list goes on and on). It felt like my brain was about one second away from explosion. There were just so many options and I didn't know what to properly invest our money into.

I finally decided that I would start out basic. Nothing fancy. I wanted a prefold and a cover. I came across Real Nappies. It was exactly what I was looking for. Basic, white, waterproof covers, that I could wipe and use multiple times before washing. Amazon had them on sale - I could get 6 for $36, plus free shipping since I signed up for a free 6 months of Amazon Mom. Seemed very reasonable to me. Then I found prefolds, also on Amazon, 60 cotton flannel contoured prefolds for $30 (but sadly these are not available any longer - maybe ebay?)(Later on, I found another great basic diaper system, Econobum, which comes with a waterproof cover and a prefold for about $10, plus other starter kit options. And while I have tried and currently use many different brands, these offer some of the most basic, affordable options I have come across.) After a couple of months of saving up money for the Real Nappies and cotton flannel prefolds, I made my purchase. 

My whole world was changed. An entirely new way of thinking and living opened up for me. Cloth became my obsession, if you will. And so did other green, money saving, healthy, and environmentally friendly options. I started using reusable sandwich and snack bags, microfiber towels to clean the kitchen instead of paper towels, at times reusable grocery totes, many times cloth napkins for meals, eating more whole foods instead of processed, and have even switched over to using "mama cloth" - a whole new adventure that I experienced while doing my cloth research. I love cloth, and I never thought that I would be a person who does. 

Cloth diapering works for me and my family. It helped us save money while we were going though a short financial struggle. It is just as convenient (if not more convenient) to use cloth as it is to use disposables. I will never run out of diapers or wipes - yes, we use cloth wipes too. (One of my pet peeves was having to go to the store for diapers and/or wipes - we always seemed to run out of them at the worst times.) They wash and hold up extremely well. They are easy to travel with. The "poop factor" isn't a big deal if you diaper properly - I suggest using fleece or flushable liners if you can, the mess just slides right off into the toilet. As gross as that may sound, it really isn't a big deal. It's not like you are picking the mess up out of the diaper and dropping it into the toilet using your hands. That would be gross. And very unsanitary. I haven't had one single blowout (whereas, with disposables we had a blowout at least once a week). I honestly don't have any cons about cloth, except that it may seem like an expense during the first few purchases. But when you start using it, and you realize you haven't had to buy diapers for a year, that "expense" turned out to be a wise investment. And I have to say, most cloth diapers are super duper cute!

Granted, I am not a hippy, tree-hugging, organic food garden growing (although I would love to have a garden someday), "crunchy" mama just yet (though I respect anyone who lives that way). Noah still uses disposables with certain babysitters and family members, we still buy paper towels (for the husband mostly), we still buy toilet paper (haven't convinced the husband into using "family cloth", and probably never will haha), we still eat fast food occasionally, I now use the dryer more often than I use the clothes line outside, we have a large SUV that eats up gasoline and is horrible for the environment. I could keep going, but I think I have made my point in saying that we are regular people and enjoy the many conveniences of life, good or not so good for the environment. And although I am passionate about cloth diapering (passionate enough to start sewing them myself and selling them), I do not look down on anyone or judge anyone who chooses not to use cloth. Everyone is different and I respect whatever system works for you and your family. 

So, while I ultimately did it for the money, cloth diapering has been a wonderful experience for me and my family, and I hope that if you are on the fence about it, that you will go for it! You won't go back and will be happy you made the change :)

Over and out.


~ Lovely Fluffy Mama











Butterfly Hearts

Monday, February 6, 2012 3:52 PM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
Now that we made it through the Super Bowl (we are HUGE football fans here), we can start focusing on Valentine's Day! Today we did a simple craft of making butterflies using cut out hearts :)


 We used construction paper hearts, fuzzy pom poms, pipe cleaners, glue (either the stick or the bottle - whichever works best for you), craft sticks ( not pictured here), and ultimately ended up needing scotch tape :)


Glue together 2 hearts of any color combination.

Glue a craft stick to the back.

Then tape on some pipe cleaner antennae and glue down a pom pom head and body.
Set aside to dry.

And now we have a butterfly and a happy (and proud of herself) 3 year old :)

Have fun!

~Lovely Fluffy Mama





Homemade Laundry Detergent

1:01 PM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
My go-to laundry detergent is Amway's Legacy of Clean SA8 Concentrated Detergent. It really is the best and super concentrated so it lasts for a long time. But, there have been times when I was in a bind and was completely out of laundry soap, and this recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent turned out to be wonderful. I love it so much that I currently use it when washing my son's cloth diapers. And for those times when I am out of the Legacy of Clean SA8, I most certainly use it for laundering our clothes and linens. It also is concentrated so very little goes a long way.

Very simple recipe. All you need is Borax, Washing Soda (not baking soda), and a bar of soap.
  • 1 Cup Borax
  • 1 Cup Washing Soda
  • 1 Bar Soap (grated)
*As an option, you can also add 1/2 cup of OxiClean (or I like to use Legacy of Clean's Trizyme Concentrated Detergent Booster) to this recipe. I usually leave it out, but if you feel the need to add it, go for it!


If you aren't comfortable using Borax, there are tons of recipes on the internet that don't use it. I don't have a problem using it, so I do :) 

Also, don't get too hung up on the soap. I like Kirk's Castile, but I have used Ivory, Fels Naptha, Dr. Bronners, etc. Heck, I have even used Dial bar soap with no issues. So, whatever soap makes you feel comfortable and that doesn't irritate your skin, go with that one.

I usually double this recipe, but you can start with the basic 1-1-1 ratio (or you could even half that) to test it out and make sure you like it before making a decent sized batch.

In a large bowl, combine the Borax, Washing Soda and grated bar of soap (you can just use a basic cheese grater for the soap).
Give it all a really good stir, making sure everything is completely combined.
That's it! You can stop at this point and store in your favorite container.

BUT, since I am a little OCD at times, I like the detergent to be completely integrated and powdery. So, if you have a food processor (mine is just a mini and works great), add the detergent to the food processor and pulse until smooth, fluffy, and powdery.

And NOW you can store in your favorite container :)

You don't need much of this detergent to get the job done. Use 1 or 2 Tablespoons (maximum), depending on the size of the load. 

Easy Peasy!

~Lovely Fluffy Mama








Baked Potato Skins

11:23 AM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
These took some time to make, but was well worth it!! You will not be disappointed with this one!


Baked Potato Skins
Adapted from Simply Recipes.

Ingredients:
  • 6 small to medium sized russet baking potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Canola oil or grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400*F. Scrub potatoes clean and pat dry with a kitchen towel. 
  2. Lightly rub olive oil on potatoes, sprinkle with kosher salt, and bake for 1 hour directly on oven rack - make sure to flip potatoes over after first 30 mins. 
  3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet about 10-15 minutes, until crispy. Place bacon on paper towels to drain and cool. Once cooled, crumble.
  4. Remove potatoes from oven and let cool long enough to handle. Increase oven temp to 450*F. 
  5. Cut potatoes horizontally and scoop out inside (save the insides for another time), leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.
  6. Brush or rub canola or grapeseed oil over potato skins, inside and out. 
  7. Place skins on baking rack in a roasting pan or broiler pan. Bake for 10 minutes, flip skins and bake another 10 minutes. Remove skins from oven and cool long enough to handle them.
  8. Sprinkle insides of skins with pepper, cheddar cheese, and crumbled bacon. Return to oven for 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven.
  9. Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream on each potato skin, and sprinkle with green onion.

~Lovely Fluffy Mama

Chicken Nachos

10:51 AM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama
I made these nachos on Super Bowl Sunday - so good! You can add anything you like to it, but I pretty much followed the recipe and everyone loved it!


Chicken Nachos
Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

Ingredients:

    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 6 green onions, sliced, white parts and tops separated
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 shredded, cooked, whole chicken breast
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 cup salsa
    • 1/2 (12 ounce) package tortilla chips
    • 1 (8 ounce) package shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese blend
    • 1/2 large tomato, diced


  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
    2. In a 12 inch skillet over medium heat, cook and stir the garlic and white parts of the green onions in canola oil until tender. Mix in shredded chicken, salt and pepper. Toss until well coated with oil. Stir in the salsa.
    3. Arrange tortilla chips on a large baking sheet. Heat chips in preheated oven for about 1 minute and remove from oven. Spoon the chicken mixture over tortilla chips. Top with Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese blend and tomato. Bake in the preheated oven 10 minutes, or until cheese has melted. Remove from heat and sprinkle with green onion tops before serving.

    ~Lovely Fluffy Mama

    Bean and Honey Burrito Casserole

    10:32 AM Posted by Lovely Fluffy Mama


    This is a great recipe for those night you just want something "different". It has a wonderful sweet flavor and a fun crunch from the tortillas.


    When I realized I would need shredded chicken for this recipe, I cooked one large chicken breast in a crock pot for about 3 hours earlier in the day, and it yielded exactly 2 cups of shredded chicken. Then I stored it in a container in the refrigerator until I was ready to use it.

    I also prepared the yellow rice ahead of time.

    When you are ready to get started, preheat the oven to 375*F. Spray a 9x13 in baking pan with cooking spray and line it with 4 large tortillas. I cut 3 of them in half in order to line up the edges.

    Make the honey sauce and set aside.
    Make the bean mixture, reserving 1/2 cup for topping later.
    Mix the chicken, rice, cumin, honey sauce, and 1/4 cup of each of the cheeses into the bean mixture. Make sure it is fully combined.
    Pour this mixture into the tortilla-lined baking pan. 

    Then top with the remaining tortillas, cheese, and bean mixture. 

    Bake in the preheated oven for 30-45 mins, until the cheese is hot and bubbly. Cool for about 5 mins, cut into single serving squares, and enjoy!



    ~Lovely Fluffy Mama

    Bean and Honey Burrito Casserole
    Adapted from Allrecipes.com.

    Ingredients:
      • 1 1/2 cups cooked yellow rice
      • 1 serving cooking spray
      • 8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
      • 1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
      • 1/4 cup sour cream
      • 1/3 cup honey
      • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
      • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
      • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
      • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
      • 1 cup corn kernels
      • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
      • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
      • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
      • 2 tablespoons honey

      Directions:

      1. Prepare yellow rice as directed on package; reserve 1 1/2 cups. Refrigerate any remaining rice for another use.
      2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
      3. Line bottom of baking dish with 4 tortillas. To make the honey sauce, whisk together the mustard, sour cream, and 1/3 cup honey in a small bowl. Combine the red pepper, green pepper, garbanzo beans, black beans, and corn in a large bowl. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the bean mixture and reserve for topping.
      4. Stir the chicken, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, cumin, yellow rice, and honey sauce into the bean mixture. Mix well. Pour mixture into the baking dish. Top with 4 tortillas; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Cheddar cheese, and the reserved 1/2 cup bean mixture.
      5. Bake in preheated oven until hot and bubbly, 30 to 45 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil if top browns excessively. Remove from oven, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey.