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Make your own bathsalts

Lavender-Bath-Salts

Want to make a lovely, affordable gift for a friend or loved one in time for the festive season? Here is a really simple recipe for bathsalts (and when I say simple, I made them with my Brownies one Mother’s Day!)

All you need is:

a pretty jar (you can upcycle a jam jar, or buy one specifically – the 1lb kilner jars you get in Ikea are great!)

Fill your jar just over half full with coarse sea salt (you can use Himalayan salt if you prefer, it’s more expensive, but a pretty pink colour!)

Then add epsom salts until there is about a centimeter left at the top

Fill to just about the top with bicarbonate of soda

Add a few drops of essential oil (I like lavender)

Mix it all up (if necessary tip it out into a bowl to mix and then put back in when blended properly.

If you want to make it even prettier, you can add dried flowers to match your essential oil. If you are using flowers, just put a bit less sea salt in to make room for the flowers.

There you have it, a pretty, eco-friendly gift for not very much at all! You will get 2 or 3 jars of bathsalts from the ingredients linked to and still have bicarb left over for cleaning or cooking!

All ingredients can be bought from www.growupgreen.wikaniko.com

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Magic Eraser – truly magic!

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I spent quite a bit of time at the Highland Baby Show last week extolling the magical properties of the magic eraser.

This clever little invention is a block of dense foam, which when wet can remove deep seated marks safely, without the need for chemicals or detergent. I have to say, the magic eraser was one of the many reasons I decided to become a Wikaniko rep (alongside my cloth nappy business!).

I really put the eraser to the test last week. GUG3 – my littlest, who is not quite 2, had gotten his hands on his sister’s crayons.

The result was this:

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In my hallway – all over the walls!

I did not panic (well, only a little bit!)

I went into the kitchen and got my magic eraser, cut of a square (if you do this it lasts ages!) and wet it.

Wiped my walls and hey presto!

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No marks, paintwork in tact, as new!

There is no end to how useful this little product can be. I’ve used it when baby doll had gone that funny grey colour that old dolls go, she now looks like new, I used it when my hubby’s black soled shoes had left scuff marks on the side of the bath, I’ve used it to get bluetack marks off the wall.. The list is endless in a house with small people in it!

You can order yours here!  http://growupgreen.wikaniko.com/?redirect=magic-eraser.html Only £2.29 for a pack of 2!

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Nappy washing – dispelling the myths!

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When I talk to new grandparents about cloth nappies I get two reactions – “ooh I remember washing my nappies, it was lovely to see them all white fluttering on the line!” and “Gosh, I hated washing my nappies, all that soaking and steeping and if they didn’t come white enough in the twin tub then I had to boil them in the kettle!”

I reassure new mums that washing of nappies is really nothing you need to worry about. Modern fabrics and modern washing machines makes it a doddle. No need to soak, no need to boil. I know plenty of cloth bum mums that manage with just chucking them in the machine and running it at 30!

I must admit my wash routine is a little more complicated. Nappies in the machine and run a cold rinse and spin. This stops stains from setting and removes the worst of the soiling. After this, if the machine isn’t full, I throw in towels or white tshirts to fill the load. Then I wash at 60 (60 will kill most bacteria/fungus etc – after a baby who had recurrent thrush, I don’t chance a lower temperature!).

Yet, despite this ease, the washing of nappies is a whole topic of conversation and worse, a whole industry of products.

A quick trawl of cloth nappy forums will show you that different people add different things to their wash ranging from nappy sanitiser to vinegar. Then there is the camp that believe that using anything other than pure water to wash your nappies will ruin them (really?!) – my favourite blog post in that camp claimed that using soda crystals, bicarb or vinegar in your wash would reduce bamboo to its natural state (I still can’t get the image of putting nappies in the washing machine and pulling a bamboo cane out out of my head!)

Finally you have the very expensive”special” washing powders/liquids, usually imported from the USA (so not very “eco” in terms of airmiles!).

The best well know 2 are Rockin’ Green and Ecosprout. The links I have included take you to their ingredients list. So what makes these so special? Good marketing! All they are is a basic detergent, soda crystals and a sanitising agent called sodium percarbonate (Eco sprout give it its long chemical name of sodium carbonate peroxihydrate, but its the same stuff!). That’s it. That’s their “special nappy cleanser”

When customers come to me with problems of ammonia build up in their nappies, I tell them how to “make” their own nappy cleanser – take one tablespoon of biodegradable non-bio washing powder (Bio D, Ecover, Violets, Simply etc…), one tablespoon of soda crystals (widely available at around £1.30 a bag) and one of nappy sanitiser (I recommend Bio D Nappy Fresh or Violets Laundry Sanitiser – but this could be left out if washing at 60). There you go.

And before anyone wants to tell me that sodium carbonate or nappy fresh will ruin my nappies – I’ve been washing this way for 8 years without a break and my cheap terry fitteds are just about starting to fray around the leg elastic!

 

*please note that some manufacturers will void on their warranty if you use sanitiser ingredients in your wash, so you may want to check and make an informed choice.

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Simply living in a tent!

I spend much of August in a tent. A fortnight on the Isle of Wight, a weekend at a festival with the nappies, and a long weekend at a music festival with the kids. And I loved it!

I have always loved camping. I choose camping for a family holiday, partly because it is all we can really afford, but partly because it’s great fun.

In a moment of peace on the campsite this year, I mused on what I love about camping so much. Here are my reasons:

1, You are outdoors, all the time, from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep. This was particularly lovely this year when the weather was great, but is always good and soul-satisfying, whatever the weather!

2. The kids can have freedom. There are hardly any cars, and you can pretty much see everyone, so you can let them go off and play. We joked about packs of feral children roaming the campsite, but really it was groups of kids, having fun together and coming home when they are hungry or it gets dark. Like childhood used to be.

3. This is the biggy. This is why it feels so freeing. We have no stuff. I have 1 box of cooking equipment and crockery, one box of food, and 2 suitcases one with mine and my hubby’s clothes in and one for the kids. Then each person brings a carrier bag with toys/games/books etc.. and that’s it. Cleaning up takes minutes as we are living in one room.

So that is it. A simpler, paired down life. Every year when summer ends and we pack the tent away for the last time I feel sad. Part of me wishes that life could be like that all the time. I yearn for that level of simplicity. But real life goes on and to be honest I love some of my stuff ; what would I do without my Kenwood chef and slow cooker?!

What about you – how do you find simplicity in your life?

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Network Facebook group

If you are pregnant, or have a baby, in Tyneside. This is the network for you!

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I never meant to breast feed a toddler…

Image copyright http://www.breastfeeding-magazine.com/breastfeeding-older-children.html
Image copyright http://www.breastfeeding-magazine.com/breastfeeding-older-children.html

I never meant to breast feed a toddler. I started breastfeeding a baby, my third baby at that.

My first, I weaned at 13 months, because I knew I wanted to get pregnant again, and being a sufferer of hyperemesis gravidarum, I didn’t want to be nursing and pregnant at the same time, so I dropped a feed at a time from 12 months, by 13 months we were down to mornings and nights only, and then we stopped. It was relatively painless, he was already sleeping through the night and, after a few days, stopped expecting to be nursed in the morning.

My second weaned herself at 12 months, or so it seemed. I went away with work and missed two bedtimes (she too was only feeding twice a day and sleeping through by then). The night after I got back, I sat down to feed her as normal and she turned her nose up at it. In fact, she screamed, until I got a bottle of milk out of the fridge, which she took from me and downed. Oh well, I thought, if that’s what she wants, it means I don’t have to “wean” her and never offered again.

My third, well, my third is my third. He is a wonderful little boy, but as a baby he was such hard work! He didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time, and the only thing that would settle him was breastfeeding. He turned 1, and the thought of weaning went through my head. But if I weaned him, how much sleep would we get, if I couldn’t just roll over, give him some milk and go back to sleep, what would my nights be like? I envisioned nights of walking the hallway trying to persuade him to go back to sleep, spending most of the night awake, and then having school runs and work and a preschooler and a home to deal with in my waking hours. So I continued.

Time past. His wakings got less frequent. He stopped feeding to sleep (in fact most nights he prefers a cup of cow’s milk before bed, like his big brother and sister). But time has past, and the little boy who likes some milk in the morning, before his breakfast in not a baby. He is 18 months. He is walking, not quite talking, climbing and growing.

I never meant to nurse a toddler. But I nursed the baby I had and I parented him the way he needed me to. I never meant to nurse a toddler, but my baby grew and still needed me.

How long will I nurse him for? I don’t know. Probably not much longer – he doesn’t seem to need me to, so we’ll see.

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Surviving summer with a baby, the green way!

I love summer. I adore summer. It would be fair to say I am a solar-powered person. In summer my energy levels are higher, my mood is better and my skin looks healthier.

However, summer with young children can be a bit of a balancing act between making the most of the good weather, and keeping your children safe and healthy.

We’ll start with the obvious – sunscreen. It is of course important to protect delicate skin from the effects of UV radiation, but it can be tricky to find a sunscreen that is not full of synthetic chemicals. There are a couple on the market though, including this one from Carribean Blue which uses natural Zinc Oxide to shield from the sun’s rays.

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Hot and bothered children often find it difficult to settle at night too. One thing I have found that can help is to cool them down before bed. After a lukewarm bath, smother them in something Aloe Vera based. Aloe Vera is naturally cooling, and moisturising, so can help replace some of the moisture lost in the heat and leaving their skin feeling cool and refreshed. A great aloe based aftersun is this one with lavender and peppermint to soothe and cool, and its in spray form, so if some is a little sore, you don’t need to touch! Image

Finally, there is the insect and stinging nettle problem! We spend as much of our summer out of doors as possible, but this invariably leads to someone having a run in with a midge or a stinging nettle at some point. This summers big find is this after bite spray. Again it has cooling aloe vera, along with eucalyptus, clove and tea tree oils. It takes the sting out. I used it tonight after 3 lots of nettle stings weeding the garden and it really works. There is a matching insect repellent too!

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Have a happy summer everyone and stay safe in the sun!

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The problem of packaging

This week I received a copy of my favourite magazine in the post. It came with a free gift. It also came with an inordinate amount of unnecessary packaging.

First there was the folder:

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Inside the folder was a box:

 

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Inside the box was……

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A travel size mascara!

Seriously?!?! It’s not even like it was fragile.

Did it make me want to go out and buy a Chanel mascara? No, it made me appalled that so many resources were wasted to promote a product. A free mascara stuck to the front of the magazine would have been fine, even the box would have been tolerable, but the giant folder? All in high gloss card that is hard to recycle.

Many companies still haven’t learnt to keep their packaging to a minimum to save resources. Even cloth nappy companies can be guilty – one of my suppliers sends their nappies individually wrapped in plastic packaging, inside a plastic bag, inside a cardboard box!

As a consumer, you can influence how a company packages it’s products. Vote with your purse and choose products that are packaged more responsibly. Buy refills where possible (this is a great way to get household products cheaper to – check out these Eco2life refills ). And if you want to be really radical – post unwanted packaging back to the company who produced it, with a letter explaining why 😉

 

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4 meals from a pack of mince…

After the popularity of my blog post the four meal chicken, I decided to follow it up with another cost saving tip, this time with a 500g pack of beef mince.

Ok, so buy your mince, take it home and split the pack in 2. Put half in the freezer for another time.

With the 250g you have got, make a pasta sauce. Use onion, whatever veg you like (I use courgette, pepper and mushrooms), garlic, a couple of tins of tomatoes, a handful of mixed herbs, a dash of worcestershire sauce and a teaspoon of mustard ( you can make yours with whichever herbs and spices you like!). Add a good handful of red lentils and simmer for a good while until the lentils are soft. If you cook them long enough you can’t really see the lentils, so veggie resistant hubbies need never know 😉

This pasta sauce will do twice for my family if I add enough veg/lentils. I serve half with spaghetti and freeze the other half.

The following week defrost the half pack of mince you haven’t used. Make it into the filling for cottage pie. This time I bulk with mushrooms and chopped carrot, onion, handful of herbs and beef stock from a cube (I thicken the gravy with a spoon of gravy granules if necessary). To bulk it out you can either add a can of baked beans or a good handful of porridge oats if you prefer. This works really well made in a slow cooker if you have one!

Make a cottage pie with half the filling. With the other half, you can either make another pie and freeze it, or just freeze the filling with the other half.

The following week, defrost the pasta sauce you haven’t used. You can either use it with spaghetti again or make it into a lasagne.

The fourth week, defrost the cottage pie filling. Either make another cottage pie or mince and dumplings or mince and tatties!

So, you’ve had spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie, lasagne and mince and dumplings, all from a pack of mince that has cost £3 ish, and a few quid more on veg!

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Raffle prizes for the Great Cloth Diaper Change

So, just over a week to the big event, and lots of lovely raffle prizes are arriving from our lovely supporters. Proceeds from the raffle will be split between helping us cover the cost of the event and Tiny Lives (the charity that raises funds for our local neo-natal unit).

So, in no particular order, I have in my possession:
1 x gift pack from Bambooty Real Nappies, including 2 nappies, coordinating Tshirt and a cuddly toy
1 x 1.5l Violets Laundry Liquid from Home Scents
1 x Blueberry Onesize,Minky from Grow Up Green
1 x WAHMIES wet bag with a selection of organic baby toiletries from Grow Up Green
1 x Baby gift set from Bare Bodycare organic toiletries
1 x address book, from Sparkle Sandart
1 x voucher for Pushy Mothers
2 x nappies and on pair of baby legs from  Tiny Nippers nappies

On it’s way:
1 x 1 months hire of a sling of your choice from Sunderland Sling Library
1 x one to one sling consultation with the North of Tyne Sling Library
1 x Breastfeeding necklace from Mamablessings
2 x gift certificate for Temple Spa pamper packages
something special from Phoenix cards
something special from Jamie at Home
1 x hand cut design from Embellish Paper cuts
Something from Sue Brind Neals Yard Organics
A full body massage from Jude Soames of Newcastle Pregnancy and Baby Centre

If I’ve forgotten anyone, let me know!

Tickets are £1 a strip and will be available at the event at the Crisis Skylight Cafe Newcastle on 20th April at 10am-11.30am as part of the Great Cloth Nappy Change event

If you can’t make the event – you can email me at aggie@growupgreen.co.uk and reserve some tickets, paying by BACS or cheque!

Good luck everyone

And thank you – to our wonderful supporters!