Borax-Free Homemade Laundry Powder

We stopped using commercial laundry detergent for most of our laundry a while ago.  We’ve been using just liquid castile soap for everything except cloth diapers.  While we haven’t had problems with this method, we haven’t been amazed by its results.  So I decided to make up some laundry powder and see how that works for us.  There are a lot of recipes out there that use borax, but I’m not convinced on the safety of borax, so this recipe doesn’t use it.

Laundry Powder

1 bar Dr. Bronners tea tree oil soap

1 cup washing soda

1/2 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid

1/4 cup pickling salt

Grate the bar of soap and mix that with all other ingredients.  To use, put 1-2 Tbsp in washing machine.  You can supplement with white vinegar.  Store in glass jar or bucket depending on how much you make.  This recipe is safe for HE and front loading washing machines.


I think it cleaned our cloth diapers even better than castile soap or Dapple laundry detergent.  It does take a bit more work to make this powder, but cleaner diapers might just be worth it.  It does clump pretty bad though.  This is due to moisture and you can make a desiccant, or moisture absorber, with a cloth bag of white clay.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any white clay.  I’ll get on that.


Charitable Gift Ideas

In honor of all these great gift giving holidays, I thought I’d make a list of great charitable gifts you can give to that person who has everything.  Or at least someone who realizes that other people in the world don’t have much of anything.


Heifer International has almost every farm animal you can think of as well as shares starting at only $10.  There’s also a children’s book about an African girl who gets a goat from America.

I once gave my niece 4 spayed and neutered cats as a gift.  Not the actual cats, but I made a donation in her name to The Animal Rescue Site.

The gift that keeps on giving, a Kiva microloan that can be reloaned as soon as it’s paid back.  I’ve been reloaning the same $50 for about 6 years now.  Essentially I’ve lent $475 to a variety of people all over the world.  Also, if you use my link, we’ll each get to make a free $25 loan.

Oxfam International is the gold standard of this type of gift.  They have a wide variety of types of gifts from carpentry tools to midwife training.  Even manure as fertilizer!

This last one doesn’t have specific ‘gifts’ to give but I’d like to include a donation to the MPS Society as a worthy gift to give.  My younger brother has this degenerative genetic condition and instead of favors at our wedding, the hero and I made a donation to the MPS Society.

Finally, consider donating to any charity that means a lot to you or the person you’re giving the gift to.  Bonus points if you make a card that’s clearer than the one I gave my niece.  She first thought I was just trying to depress her.

Minion Friendly Footwear


It might seem a bit strange that the minion, who’s over 1 year old, should just now be getting shoes, but until now she hasn’t needed them.  Babies who aren’t walking outside or on other dangerous surfaces don’t need shoes.  I understand that in some places it gets cold.  I live in Georgia but I have heard myth of this thing called winter.  In those cases socks and soft shoes can be used to keep your baby’s feet warm, but hard soled shoes should be used sparingly.

Stiff shoes can constrict a baby’s foot if they are worn too often and cause the foot to develop differently than if it were in its natural, unrestricted state. The bones in babies’ feet don’t harden until they are about 5 years old, so anytime before that, they are much easier to mold.   This is an extreme example, but think about the damage Chinese foot binding did.  Even once your baby starts walking, you want to keep their shoe wearing to a minimum so that their feet can continue to develop naturally.

Once you are ready to put your baby in shoes, make sure you find the right ones.  There should be a pinky width behind your baby’s heel and you should be able to lay your thumb in front of their toes.  Keep in mind, though, that these measurements are using a stereotypical mother’s hand.  If you’re a man or a larger woman, take that into account. Firm but flexible soles are the way to go and a fabric upper is best.  You should be able to pinch a bit of the fabric off the top of your baby’s foot to make sure they’re not too tight.  And when in doubt about sizing, go with the larger size.

Finally, once your baby starts walking around in their new shoes (only outside right?) keep an eye out for any red spots, rubbing, or blisters and try to prevent problems before they get bad.

Want, Need, Made, Read or Gift Giving Simplified

With the upcoming winter gift giving holidays coming up (and some already here…Hanukkah, I’m looking at you), I thought I’d tell you about the gifts we’re giving to the minion.  I’m not going to make a simple list of the particular gifts we’re giving her, but I will explain our overarching philosophy.

Parents buying gifts for their children has recently gotten out of hand.  From parents tackling each other over the hot toy of the season to families going into debt to buy the kids the latest greatest tech, not to mention the insanity of black Friday. To help us avoid that, we use this simple philosophy; want, need, made, read.  That is a gift she wants, a fun toy or something.  A gift she needs, clothes or something similar (we gave her coconut oil for use as a diaper cream last year).  A gift one of us has handmade.  And a book to read.

There a lot of different versions of this floating around some include wear, watch, dress-up, eat, create, listen to, among other things.  I encourage you to decide what will work for your family.  If you’re really into music, maybe you want to include a listen to.  Or maybe you don’t consider clothes a gift so you’d exclude the wear.  Obviously if you don’t like making things, don’t include a made.  Figure out what list works for you and go with that.

Does your family have a gift philosophy or do any of these ideas appeal to you?


Natural Remedies for Ear Infection

The minion and I had a head cold a while ago and I ended up with an ear infection.  I am very thankful that the minion didn’t get one, but it was still no fun having one myself.  I knew I didn’t want to take antibiotics for multiple reasons so I decided to treat it at home.

My first line of offense was taking raw garlic.  At least a clove a day.  Some people cut the clove up and take it like a pill, but I like to make (ok, have the hero make for me, come on, I was sick!) smoothies with the garlic blended into it.

My next step was to put 6 drop of breastmilk in my ear every 4 hours.  If you don’t have access to breastmilk, you can use olive oil.

The last thing I did was use a heated rice bag for pain relief.

The infection cleared up in just a few days with the amazing power of natural antibiotics.  Garlic as an internal antibiotic and the breastmilk as a topical antibiotic.

While I encourage you to try to use alternatives for modern pharmaceuticals, don’t be an idiot and see your doctor and get medicine if you really need it.  When trying to treat yourself with natural treatments, you have to pay attention to you body and know when and if you need to see a doctor.

The Big Latch On 2013

Breastfeeding the minion has been an amazing experience for me.  And I guess for her, since she does like it!  We have found a great community of other breastfeeding moms and this past weekend I got together with 14,536 of my closest friends and we all breastfed at the same time all over the world.

We participated in The Big Latch On.  We attended the gathering in Athens, Georgia and at precisely 10:30 AM the minion latched on and nursed for a minute.  It was hard keeping her on, she was too interested in all the other babies.  Potential friends!

There was one mom there who had an older daughter with her also, probably about 5 years old, and she was using the opportunity to teach her about breastfeeding.  That was pretty awesome to see.  We also got a cute little breastfeeding coloring book that will be great for the minion when she’s a little older.

It is very cool to have been a part of this.  We made it change from 14,535 to 14,536!  If the minion is still nursing next year, we will totally go again!

Hereditary Furniture

I read a list of things every woman should do before they’re 30 years old.  One of them was to own a nice piece of furniture that no one else in your family owned first.  This got me thinking about our furniture.  We’ve got a dining room table from the hero’s sister, two arm chairs from my aunt, a table from my grandparents, a glider from the hero’s grandmother, a flat file from my uncle, patio furniture from the hero’s dad, a side table from my mom, a dresser from the hero’s brother, another arm chair from my parents, a book case from the hero’s grandfather, and a futon from my parents.

We do have a china cabinet from a family friend, technically that counts right?

I actually kind of like having a mishmash of things from our families.  It makes me feel like they are here supporting us even when they’re not.  I like having the side table that my mom had in her room when she was a kid.  And the bookcase that the hero’s grandfather built for his house.  I like the history.  I feel like it’s similar to having family photos displayed (which we have too).  I like the connection to our family.

Do you have any furniture that you treasure from your family?

A Quick List of Surprising Things I Can Do While Nusing

  • type this post
  • shop for groceries
  • read comic books
  • sleep
  • brush my teeth
  • go for a walk in the park
  • browse books at the library
  • eat dinner (well, only select things)
  • discuss very in-depth topics like philosophy, evolutionary biology, and what we want to eat for dinner
  • pet the pavlovinator (she loves to sit in my lap while I’m nursing)
  • shop catalogs for fruit trees
  • trim the minion’s nails (I bite the nails off the top hand while she nurses)
  • attend the sermon at my Unitarian Universalist church
  • garden (ok, I can tell the hero what to do and he can garden)
  • play video games (Skyrim!)

What things were you surprised you could do while nursing?

A Quick List of Foods and Ingredients We (try to) Avoid

  • hydrogenated oils (trans fat)
  • artificial food dyes (especially red #40)
  • artificial sweeteners (splenda, aspartame, nutrisweet, ect)
  • non-organic versions of the dirty dozen produce
  • BPA in packaging (plastics, microwave popcorn bags, and can linings)
  • Canned foods (other than from Trader Joe’s which are BPA free)
  • BHT
  • propelled foods (whipped cream in a can and cooking oil spray)
  • sodium laurel sulfate ( I didn’t know this was in food, but I just found it in cake mix)
  • MSG
  • nitrates
  • hormones and antibiotics (added to meat and dairy)

Which of these do you avoid?  Do you have any that you avoid that I didn’t mention?

The Sprouts Have Sprouted

I have been trying to sprout some mung bean sprouts in my windowsill recently.  They went from looking like this:


To looking like this:


In just 3 days!  This is a great project to do with kids also since it doesn’t require much attention span.

First you take 1/4 cup of whatever you’re sprouting (beans, alfalfa, lentils, ect.) and put in a bowl with 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water.  Let this sit while you take a large canning jar, lid ring, and a square of cheese cloth and boil them to sterilize.  Let them boil for about 10 minutes.  Take them out carefully, they will be hot.  Then drain your sprouting medium and put it into the jar and fill with water.  Cover the jar opening with the cheesecloth and screw the ring on.  Let this sit overnight.

Next morning, drain the liquid out through the cheesecloth at the opening of the jar.  Now you will have to fill the jar and swish the water around 3-4 times per day.  Be sure you fully drain it after each swirl.  That’s why our jar is propped in a bowl in the photos.

After about 3 days they will be ready to eat.  If you want to remove the seed coats, empty the jar into a pan of water and the seed coats will surface.  We didn’t do this and just ate the seed coats too.  These will store in the fridge for a week and you can freshen them right before eating by rinsing them in cold water and draining.