Zero-Waste Tips and Starter Kit

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If you follow me on social media, then you noticed that my family and I started getting serious about our zero-waste lifestyle. I spent months planning, strategizing, and thinking of ways that we could live while creating less waste. At first it seemed pretty daunting, especially with a 9-month old. Like most things in life, the anticipation was much worse than reality.

To  ease your transition, I thought that I would share some tips along with what I call “my starter kit”.

So here are the first strategies that we implemented:

  1. We dedicated to the 5 R’s by Bea Johnson who pioneered the zero-waste movement. the-5-rs-of-waste-management
  2. I canceled my prime membership. GASP! I did this because the membership enabled my need for instant gratification. I found myself ordering one thing from Amazon every few days. That resulted in a lot of packaging from shipping those items. I also saved $99 a year. If you spend $49 then your shipping is free–as long as you can live with standard shipping, that is. Once a month, at most, I place an Amazon order. I spend all month adding things to my shopping cart. This way I have time to really think about those items before I buy them. I also have time to look for those items second-hand. Amazon offers the option to purchase things used, so I try to use that whenever possible. By purchasing used items, I can contact the seller and ask for all paper packaging. I can also ask for items to be grouped together in as few packages as possible.
  3. If it is a natural non-protein material, then compost it. I was used to recycling paper, but one rule of zero-waste is to recycle as a last resort. Be careful of wax paper or coated paper. It does not compost and not all facilities can recycle them. Check here to see what your area can recycle. I have two composts. One outside that is for rot only. That one is the larger compost. The second is my kitchen composter (DIY post coming soon) that is for kitchen scraps that I don’t plan to save for making broth. The kitchen composter is full of worms!compostComposter.png
  4. We started fighting junk mail. It’s not easy, but start a file of junk mail offers that come to your home. After the first month, start calling these companies and ask to be removed from the list. Here is a great resource to help with this. While you are at it, if you have not signed up for paperless statements yet then go ahead and do that. Eliminate as much paper from the mailbox as possible. You can cut out the plastic window from the sender and compost the original envelope. Reuse the return envelopes that come with any bills.
  5. I found local sources for food and items besides the store. Now I love Whole Food’s, but it isn’t the most sustainable place to get what you need. I found local farms, farmer’s markets, and even facebook groups that make, sell and trade things. From elderberry syrup and soap to mama cloth and jewelry. I found someone who could make these locally while supporting small businesses. elderberry
  6. Buying in bulk. Find out if there are stores in your area that allow you to buy your dry goods- rice, beans, coffee etc. in bulk. I use either canvas bags  or glass jars. The store can pre-weigh the jars so that you are not charged extra. We buy our toilet paper in bulk from a restaurant supply store so that it is wrapped in paper. Liquid Castille soap is another bulk purchase. We use it to make dish soap, shampoo, and hand soap. Also, stop paying for your Costco membership. If you do need to shop at Costco then buy a gift card, they will let you in the store without paying for a monthly membership. Keep in mind though that most areas cannot recycle plastic cards so reload the same one. farmers-market
  7. You only need four things to clean your entire home. Vinegar, baking soda, water, peroxide, and sometimes essential oils. Buy these in bulk too so that you get more product and less packaging. Look here for DIY recipes.
  8. We make our own as much as possible. You can DIY make-up, shampoo, broth, sauces, seasoning mixes, nut butter and milk, etc. Pinterest is full of tutorials and recipes. I’ll share my favorites soon.easy-slow-cooker-bone-broth
  9. Reusable and compostable instead of disposable. I simply thought to myself, “What did people do before this was invented?” Try using cloth diapers and wipes, old rags and cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, glass jars for to-go cups, glass or stainless steel food storage containers or again, jars.cloth
  10. Ask the manager first. When I do need to buy something from the store like meat from the meat counter, I ask to speak with the manager first. That way the employees won’t fuss if you ask them to fill your half gallon mason jar with ground beef or chicken breast. Just tell them, “I spoke with (manager’s name) and s/he said it was ok.”

My Starter Kit

I thought about options of how to acquire what I needed to start our waste-free life. At the same time, I wanted to minimize my carbon footprint while maximizing our budget. I already had some items on this list, but what I did need I decided to order from Amazon all at once. See #2 above.

Simple Ecology Organic Cotton Deluxe Reusable Grocery Bag with Bottle Sleeves - Natural (3 Pack) Reusable Grocery Bags. Don’t get stuck bringing home hundreds of plastic bags a year. Simply bring your own.

Ball Wide Mouth Half Gallon 64 Oz Jars with Lids and Bands, Set of 6 Glass Jars. These are half gallon jars so that I could put a good amount of food in them. I already had quart size all the way down to half pint size. Buy what you need.

Augbunny 100% Cotton 10- by 12-Inch Muslin Bags with Drawstring, 12-Pack Canvas Bags. These are great for buying bulk dry goods such as rice or beans. You can also make your own from old sheets or pillow cases.

Reusable Produce Bags (Set Of 3) - Organic Cotton Mesh - Large Size for Grocery Shopping and Fruit and Veggie Storage - With Convenient Muslin Carry Bag Mesh Produce Bags. You may or may not need these, but they do come in handy.

LinenTablecloth 17-Inch Polyester Napkins (1-Dozen) White Cloth Napkins. These are polyester–I’d much rather have cotton, but I was able to find these used so that was a plus.

The Organic Handkerchiefs Company Set of Organic Cotton Handkerchiefs, Medium Handkerchiefs. I bought 2 dozen so that I would have enough to put around the house in the same places you would have a tissue box.

Drinking Straws, X-Chef Stainless Steel Beverage Straws 7.9 inch for Juice Milk Yeti Tumbler Soda Water,Reusable,PreBend,With Cleaning BrushesReusable Straws. You can either buy stainless steel or glass, or go strawless.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps - Castille Soap Baby Mild Unscented, 1 Gallon  Bulk Liquid Castille Soap. Buying more means less packaging per product. We use this to make so many things.

Full Circle Neat Nut Walnut Shell Scouring Pads, Non-Scratch, Set of 3 Natural Scouring pads. This does come with a small amount of coated paper packaging but the pads themselves are made from walnut shells and can be composted.

Caldrea Dishwashing Brush Natural Dish Brush. All but the small amount of metal on this brush can be composted when you are done with it.

Mega Pack - 120 Count Dishwasher Detergent Pacs, Fresh Scent by General Quality Brands  Sustainable dishwasher detergent. This isn’t necessary for everyone. If you can, hand wash everything but if you can’t, these are shipped and stored in the same box. No plastic.

Love My® /Mama/Girl/Maiden/Antibacterial Bamboo fiber/ Menstrual Pads/ Reusable/ Panty Liners - 6pcs pack-(Large size)  Mama Cloth. If you don’t want to make your own or can’t find them locally, then these are a good option. Also, a menstrual cup could work for you.

Lola Eco Clean Bamboo and Tampico Bottle Brush Bottle Brush. If you have a baby, I recommend using glass bottles and a natural bottle brush that can be composted when you are done using it.

Lipper International 887 Bamboo Plate Rack/Pot Lid Holder Drying Rack. This can be used for all dishes but we use it most for drying baby bottles.

Do you do anything to reduce your waste? Do you have any tips to share? Leave me a comment, and let me know.

DIY + Teach Your Baby To Read

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The kids have gone back to school. The lunches are packed, first day photos have been posted and moms everywhere let out a sigh of relief as they no longer need to plan activities to occupy their children’s days.

I have a few years before I will need to start back to school planning, but I thought this would be a wonderful time to start a learning routine of our own. Now at 7 months old I know that my little guy is learning and growing every day. In fact, studies show that 60% of all the energy that an infant will expend is concentrated in brain development. This means that if a baby’s body grew at the same rate as their brain, then by one month of age they would weigh 170 pounds. Yikes!

With this information, I thought it was a good time to start using flash cards to help my baby’s brain development. These flash cards are similar to the flash cards that I remember using when I was learning to read. However, starting when your baby is between 6-9 months old greatly improves the chances of having an early reader. This makes sense since children’s brains have formed 1000 trillion connections between neurons by the age of 3.

So pull out your ruler, glue stick, and scissors (assuming you could find any along the barren school supply aisles) because it’s time to get a little crafty.

 

You will need:

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  • Cardstock – I used 140 lb. weight
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Self-adhesive laminate sheets (optional) I found them at target for under $7 a pack and needed two packs.
  • Printable ABC’s – click here and here.

Now the easiest way to create these cards would be to print the images directly onto the cardstock. I found that my printer would not take the thicker cardstock that I used. I simply printed the ABC’s on printer paper and cut them out. Then I glued them onto the cards.

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1. Cut out your cards.

Measure your cardstock (or eyeball if you like to live dangerously) and draw lines where you will cut out your cards. Cut the cards out.

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2. Paste

Glue the ABC’s to the card stock. Letters on the front of the card and pictures on the back.

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3. Round the corners

Optional: round the corners and laminate the cards, then cut the cards out of the laminate sheets. I used a bottle cap to trace half circles to round the corners. I didn’t do this at first but after realizing that my 7-month old wants to eat everything I went back to the craft table.

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4. Admire your work

This is a pretty simple DIY as long as you don’t get frustrated with the laminating sheets. Follow the directs for your sheets carefully and work with half of the sheet at a time, pulling the backing apart slowly.

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When it’s time to learn, Bronson and I sit on the floor with the cards, a few books and toys. We aim for a 30-minute lesson depending on his attention span that day. As I flip through the cards I start with the letter side first and pronounce the letter and word slowly a few times. Then, I flip the card over to show him the picture side and pronounce the word again.

We have been practicing baby sign language so as I show the picture side, I also do the sign for that word. I keep my phone close by in case I need to look up a sign that I haven’t memorized yet. After we are done with each card I hand the card to him so that he can explore it. Once we have finished with all of the cards I scatter the deck so that he can play with them. I also say and sign any card he picks up.

 

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Do you have any fun games for teaching your little one? Have you ever tried baby sign language? Comment below and tell me about your experience or ideas.

Postpartum Wardrobe Essentials

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It’s understandable that we get excited about our bump style and often forget that we may need a few postpartum clothing options. Especially while transitioning from pregnancy to back into our old skinny jeans– assuming that we ever get there…Fingers crossed. Don’t get me wrong, I had a few maternity pieces that I wore after my baby was born. In fact, I’m wearing maternity leggings now, but shhhhh we don’t need to make that common knowledge.

When it came to what I would wear post pregnancy, I didn’t give my wardrobe much thought. Aside from deciding that I was perfectly comfortable with the idea of wearing my maternity clothes long after the baby was born. It seemed like a great idea until that first trip outside of my comfortable home. The sad fact is that I was used to dressing up my baby bump and all of a sudden I had a belly that I desperately wanted to conceal. I quickly learned that some of the clothes that looked great while I was pregnant, gave me that same look post pregnancy… and by this, I mean that I still looked very pregnant. That meant that my favorite body-hugging maternity maxi dress didn’t help. My best advice is to put aside a little cash for a few postpartum wardrobe essentials. Also, try to get as much as you can second hand because the idea is that you won’t wear these clothes forever. Again, fingers crossed.

 

Nursing tanks

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Let’s just be honest, not everything in your postpartum wardrobe needs to be made for nursing. The truth is that if my shirt is stretchy enough to pull down and get my boob out it works for me. Nursing tanks, however, are a gift from the postpartum gods. Trust me when I say that you will want more than a few of these in dark colors. Black = no visible spit up or milk stains. My favorite one is soft and the elastic band is covered with fabric for maximum comfort.

Leggings

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Of course, leggings will be as much of a staple post pregnancy as I am sure they were during pregnancy. Again my top choices are always soft like the jersey knit maternity leggings that I am wearing now. Also try to grab something a little sporty looking, just in case you actually do make it to the gym at 6 weeks PP.

A tunic shirt

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Next up I highly recommend a front button or v neck tunic shirt or dress. If you are nursing then you will want easy access to your assets. The longer cut can help hide new mama hips and postpartum panty lines. Again a dark color will hide any spit, spills, or spots. Also, try to buy fabrics that don’t show stains when wet.

Button-up shirts

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As I pointed out above, those buttons will make nursing easier. I liked having a denim shirt and a plaid shirt. With those two options, you can actually get three different looks each. Fully button up the shirt, leave it unbuttoned and open to throw over a nursing tank, or tie around your waist for a 90’s throwback look.

A thin T-shirt

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You might already have a few flattering thin T-shirts. I was discouraged from wearing any of my favorite T-shirts because I didn’t want to expose my belly by pulling the shirt up to nurse. Then I realized that wouldn’t be necessary. All I had to do was layer the T-shirt over a nursing tank. When it was time to nurse, the T-shirt went up and the tank went down. It also gave me a little more coverage if I wanted privacy. By layering, it meant that I could get away with my T-shirt being a little shorter than I would normally have been comfortable with. This handy trick works with almost any shirt.

A cardigan 

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Similar to wearing a button-up, a cardigan is easy to throw over any shirt. Depending on when your baby is due will determine if you will want something thin and gauzy or something more like a sweater. Either way, you will be thankful that you have something to grab and throw over your tank and yoga pants when the Amazon delivery person is knocking at your door.

A wrap dress or shirt

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Wrap shirt

 

This may not be necessary for everyone but you might be heading back to the office. Or maybe Grandma is watching your new baby while you get a much-needed night out….and maybe you just need to find a reason to change out of the leggings that you have been wearing for the past four days. Whatever the case if you’re wanting to dress up a little, a wrap dress or shirt is a must.

Non-slip shoes

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Surrys

Shoes are not always on the list of things to buy after your baby arrives. After all, you might have needed to go up a size during pregnancy. If you already have safe easy to slip on shoes from before or during pregnancy then, by all means, skip this suggestion. I gave birth in the middle of a blizzard. After most of the snow melted I didn’t need boots anymore but I didn’t want to risk slipping on the wet floor while babywearing. If you are going to buy some new kicks then you should at least make them cute and comfortable. Find the three pictured here, here, and here.

 

 

DIY Charging Station

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I am sure that you know what it is like… Device after device with no real home. Every outlet in the house has a charger with something plugged into it. As time goes by we end up collecting phones, tablets, laptops and all the combinations in between. For me, the final straw came when my husband’s new job gave him both a business cell phone and a tablet. Great, something else that needs a plug.

I made this DIY when we still lived in our tiny apartment in D.C. As you can imagine space was precious and I didn’t enjoy fumbling or tripping over cords.

So let’s get started, shall we?

You will need:

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  • A shoe box
  • A surge protector/busbar/power strip/does anyone know what these things are actually called?
  • Contact paper. I’m loving the marble trend and I found my paper here, but I like this one more.
  • A craft knife
  • Your chargers and devices of course

 

First, cut holes into the box where you will want the charger cords to go. I used a bottle cap to trace circles on the bottom of the shoe box.

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Next, measure the shoe box and cut the contact paper. Simple enough right?  Cut the paper so that it is at least a half inch longer than the sides of the box. You will fold the edges into the box.

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Apply the contact paper to the box. I centered the box on the paper and folded up the long sides first. I worked from one side to the other removing the backing of the paper a little at a time as I went. It is not wise to remove the whole backing at once. You will regret it if you do, trust me. Then, I cut the corners so that I could fold the short sides like a present

Then, fold the extra top pieces down into the box.

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Go ahead and stop here since your children will need you for something. Note: Do not leave craft knife unattended. The kids will smell it out.

After you have folded the contact paper edges into the box, you can now cut out the circles. I did this by holding the box up to the light and then cut an asterisk. Then fold the triangles inside the box. I needed to add a little extra glue to hold the triangles down.

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Once you have cut out the circles you can decorate the box however you like. I used a gold paint pen to outline the edges of the box and the circles.

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Plug-in chargers and insert the power strip into the box. You have the option here to use the lid of the shoe box and cover that with paper too. Then you would cut out a circle for the cord to the power strip. I lost the lid to my shoe box so I did not do that step. I also tied the charger cords with twist ties.

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Pull charger ends out of the box. Plug in every device in your house that needs a new home. I’ve been stacking the tablets under or on top of the box while charging.

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Smile and admire your hard work. It’s not easy completing a DIY project with little ones running around. Pat yourself on the back and eat some chocolate. Cheers!

 

 

 

Boho Baby + Mama Essentials

As a first time mom I remember devouring any and all information about what I needed for my new baby while I was pregnant. Now that my son is 6 months old, I feel like I have a pretty good idea about what I actually used, and what was unnecessary. While I could do multiple posts and break down the difference between newborn essentials and what we use most now, honestly what I consider my essentials list has not changed much from birth to 6 months. Here we go….

1. Ring Sling

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I am the biggest fan of baby wearing. I don’t think that I would be able to get anything done without wearing my son. In fact, he is strapped to me now. I pretty much have all forms of baby wearing fashion, a ring sling, a wrap, and an ergo. I love all of them for different reasons, but my ring sling is my favorite. You can carry your baby from newborn all the way up to toddler in these works of art, not to mention that they add to the cuteness of your outfit. In my opinion, a ring sling is the new must have mama accessory. From nap time to lunch time, this sucker has saved me over and over again.

You can find my DIY ring sling here.

2. A well stocked diaper bag

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While I’d like to say that my diaper bag is as well organized now as it was in the picture above, that is not always the case. I do however, make my best attempt to clean it out every other day or so. It can quickly become your newest catch-all. My diaper bag is made by Big Buddha and you can find a similar one here.What I like to keep in my diaper bag:

  • Diapers of course. I like to have three in the bag and I also have a few in the car as well. We cloth diaper so I carry a wet bag too.
  • Wipes, both cloth and disposable.
  • A bib
  • A few toys
  • Three changes of clothes for baby. I also have an extra change of clothes for my baby and myself in the car.
  • Bug spray, sunscreen, homemade hand sanitizing spray, and coconut oil.
  • Blanket
  • Sunglasses for me
  • Snacks for me. I like to have natural applesauce since it is easy for me to eat but I can feed it to my son now that he is old enough for solids.

3. A small purse

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This small wonder holds money, cards/I.D., cell phone, a pen, receipts, lip balm, and anything else  that you would keep in a purse. The beauty of it is that I can throw it in the diaper bag or take it out with me when I’m baby free. I highly recommend an option like this. I purchased this one from Target but you can find a similar one here and here.

4. A safe multi-use cleanerHonest Company home cleaner

I am a total DIY girl. My go to cleaner is normally vinegar but when I was given this as a gift I fell in love. I use it mostly in the kitchen and bathroom. It is a plant based cleaner with a fresh grapefruit scent. Find it here.

5. Coconut Oil

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By now, I think that everyone loves coconut oil. I use it on my face, body and hair, and it is the only thing that I use on my son’s skin. After his bath, I use it in place of lotion or baby oil, and I use it as a diaper rash cream. I can’t get enough of this stuff and it makes us both smell delicious.

6. Slumber Mist

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Nighttime Soothing Slumber Mist…. One spray and my son is in a trance. I can’t say for sure if it is the essential lavender oil or the relaxing sight and sound of spritzing this product on to his PJ’s before bed, but it has a nice little home in our nighttime routine. The fact that it smells like heaven is a giant plus.

7. Nipple Butter

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As one of my favorite product company’s, Earth Mama Angel Baby struck gold when they created this nipple butter. With 6 months of nursing and still going strong, I have used this from day one of motherhood. I also use it on my lips when I can’t find my lip balm.

8. Amber Baby Necklace

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Made of Baltic amber; it is believed that wearing the necklace causes the release of oil containing succinic acid. This is a naturally-occurring substance in the body and when the oil is absorbed, it is said to have an analgesic effect on swollen and sore gums.

9. Mama Teething Necklace

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While we are talking about teething and necklaces, I like to wear this silicone necklace to give my baby something to play with and chew on. It is perfect for baby wearing as it gives your little one something that is within reach, other than your hair. I like to wear it while nursing too since my little guy gets grabby and tries to pull at my face. This one is by My Baby Chews and I love that it is not only functional but stylish.

10. Water

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Last but not least, is water. Staying hydrated is one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and your baby, especially if you are breastfeeding. I am a lover of minerals and crystals so I like to drink crystal elixir water. I have a glass tea infusing water bottle and I simply add my crystals to the mesh infuser. This may sound extra fancy, but as long as you are well hydrated, that is the goal.

 

How about you, do you have any boho baby and mama essentials that you love? Share them in the comments. I would love to take a peak at your list.