Make your own shampoo and conditioner

Shampoo & Conditioner

We got to spend winter break with my family again this year, and while we were at my parents’ house, my mom let me try out her homemade shampoo.  I’d been wanting to forge ahead into making custom shampoo for a while, since my hair had begun hanging onto grease buildup that my baking soda-and-vinegar routine just couldn’t kick anymore.  Thankfully, my mom’s shampoo did the trick!  I fell in love with it almost immediately because it left my hair sooo soft.  I found myself stroking my head randomly all day.  (Awkward…)  When I got home, I tinkered with my mom’s recipe and came up with my very own version that I love, love, love.  It smells glorious and makes my hair feel super soft.  Supposedly, it should also stimulate hair growth, which is good news now that I am growing out my hair again after my unfortunate pregnancy-hormone-induced urge to chop it off.  It contains chamomile, which is used to lighten hair, so if you have dark hair or don’t want to lighten your hair, omit the chamomile and choose another herb.  (Green tea should work well.)  Tea tree oil is beneficial for anyone who struggles with dandruff.  Bentonite clay is wonderful for an oily scalp.  I keep my shampoo in a clear plastic condiment bottle I found at the grocery store, and I like it because it has a tiny nose to dispense just the right amount.  Here is how you, too, can make this beautiful (and thrifty! and super safe!) shampoo in your own kitchen:

Chamomile and Tea Tree Oil Shampoo

1/4 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (I used lavender-scented, as that’s what I had on hand)

6 tea bags’ worth of chamomile flowers (approximately, I probably used more like 10 bags’ worth of loose leaf flowers)

2 Tablespoons dried rosemary

1 cup distilled water

1/2 teaspoon sweet almond oil (or jojoba oil, if you have that on hand)

1 teaspoon bentonite clay

20 drops tea tree oil

20 drops ylang ylang essential oil (purely for fragrance — use whatever scent you prefer)

Bring 1 cup of distilled water to a boil on the stovetop.  Add chamomile and rosemary, either in a tea ball or directly into the water, which you will strain later. Whisk to combine, then add bentonite clay, and whisk thoroughly.  Allow to steep, with heat on low, for 30-40 minutes.  Add more water as necessary if you see evaporation.  After herbs have steeped, strain liquid into your chosen shampoo container, then add castile soap, almond oil, tea tree oil, and ylang ylang.  Shake very well to combine, and be sure to shake immediately before each use.  I just squirt the shampoo directly onto my head, lather up, let it sit for a minute or two while I shave and wash my body, and then rinse it out.

Now, for my “conditioner,” the recipe is ridiculously simple.  Ready?  Use 1 part vinegar (Any type will do. I like apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar) and 1 part water in a condiment bottle.  Shake before use, and apply to hair after rinsing out the shampoo. You can rinse out the vinegar, or just leave it on your hair.  The smell will go away after a few minutes, and your hair will be left soft and amazingly detangled. If you want to get really fancy, you can make infused vinegar with orange or grapefruit peels, but the smell really is not noticeable by the time you’ve brushed and dried your hair.

Enjoy!

Hair

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First forays into solid feeding

HPIM3124As the twins recently turned six months, we have jumped headfirst into the world of food that doesn’t come from a boob.  (Although most of their food does still come from a boob…moving on!)  Initially, I planned on following the tenets laid out in baby-led weaning: namely, wait until baby is at least six months old, can sit unassisted, and can feed herself long skinny sticks of cut-up, softish food.  However, Sophie started showing interest in my food right around five months, and began grabbing food off my plate and out of my mouth not long afterward.  I didn’t see how I could keep her away from food for a whole ‘nother month.  And neither of the twins can sit unassisted yet.  They can sit in a high chair just fine, though.  I decided, what the heck, and at five and a half months started out by giving the girls long, skinny pear slices and long skinny apple slices… and that was pretty much all I could think of that they could grab and handle without mushing up in the process.  Also, this style of feeding leads to a lot of food getting smushed into tiny pieces and dropped where the dog can snap it up, and I am just too much of a penny-pincher to see all that perfectly good organic fruit get wasted.  Our adventures in baby-led weaning lasted about a week.

Next, I started giving the babies spoonfuls of plain, whole-milk yogurt.  Sometimes I mixed in a little flaxseed meal or mashed banana.  They LOVED it!  I’d read in Super Baby Food that introducing babies to the tangy-tartness of yogurt is great, because then later on they’ll be more likely to eat other tangy foods, like kimchi.  (I have not even tried kimchi, so that’s in the future for all of us, I guess.)  However, at our doctor visit the other day I got chewed out for introducing dairy too early — oops.  Also, the doctor said I need to start feeding them rice cereal, because it is fortified with iron and zinc, which breastfed babies tend to be deficient in.  Let me just say right now that I’m not at all against vitamins, but I’m pretty sure babies have survived for thousands of years without eating super-processed fortified cereals.  This set me on a quest for a food-based source of iron and zinc that I could give the babes instead.  Generally it is my belief that if you need a vitamin, the first place to go looking for it is in whole foods!

That leads me to my newest venture into baby-food making: baby green smoothies!  Blending the greens into a smoothie slices through the cell wall and makes all the nutrients ultra-available even to immature little baby guts.  For the past couple of days, I’ve been blending together raw frozen spinach (iron), an apple with the peel intact (vitamin C for iron absorption), a tiny squeeze of lemon (more vitamin C and to keep the apples fresh) and sesame seeds (zinc) with just a tiny bit of water and feeding this to the girls throughout the day.  They love it, and I’m happy to be giving them something a little more nutritious than rice cereal.  (And just plain more exciting, am I right?)

Also, an interesting side note: in my research on how to maximize zinc absorption from foods, I discovered that actually whole grains inhibit zinc absorption in the body because of the phytates they contain.  So fortifying rice cereal with zinc isn’t really all that efficient anyway.

What have been your favorite foods to give your babies?

Make your own nontoxic HE liquid laundry detergent

Laundry soap

To continue on the laundry theme from my last post, I decided to share the recipe for my all-time favorite homemade laundry detergent.  I have been making my own detergent for a couple of years now, and after trying some recipes that were really only so-so, I found this one on another blog and tweaked it a little to make it the absolute best!  In fact, I ran out of laundry detergent last night and in a moment of laziness, I took a stroll through the laundry aisle at our local natural foods store.  Luckily, the shock of those price tags reminded me why I love my current recipe so much.  I went home and made another batch.

Not only is this recipe super thrifty, it also takes less than ten minutes to make a giant batch, and it cleans even the stinkiest cloth diapers beautifully (and does a great job of removing stains from regular clothes).  It is formulated for HE washing machines, but I have been using it in my non-HE washing machine while my HE machine is in storage, and it works just fine.  I do have to add a little extra to each load, though.  Also, it is hypoallergenic for those of us who cannot tolerate conventional scented laundry detergents — and it actually has a really nice scent!  So, without further ado, here you go:

HPIM3136

Just three awesome ingredients

Nontoxic lavender laundry detergent

* 4 cups of super washing soda
* 4 cups of Borax
* 1/4 cup of Dr. Bronner’s lavender-scented liquid castile soap (or whatever scent you prefer)
* hot water
* utensils needed: two large (1.5 gal) stock pots, a wooden spoon dedicated to making laundry detergent, a funnel, and 3 gallon-sized containers (I just re-use milk jugs)

Directions

Fill both stock pots with hot water, put on high heat on your stovetop, and stir 2 cups each of Borax and super washing soda into each stock pot.  Add 1/8 cup of the Dr. Bronner’s to each stock pot and stir again.  Bring almost to a boil, stirring frequently, then remove from heat and transfer to your gallon containers.  Let cool overnight, and voila!  Easy-peasy!  Just shake it up before you use it, and add 1/4 cup to each load in your HE machine.  (Use 1/2 a cup or more in a non-HE machine.)

Follow with white distilled vinegar in your machine’s fabric softener spot for extra softness and static control.

Setup

*** This is nontoxic in the sense that it doesn’t contain toxic chemicals that could potentially transfer from your clothing to your skin and cause undesirable reactions.  It is definitely toxic if eaten, so keep it away from children and pets.

My review of Woolzies Dryer Balls + win your own (giveaway now closed)

Dryer balls

A few weeks ago, I signed up to review a box of Woolzies wool dryer balls, thinking they would probably come after a few weeks, once we were all settled into our new house (by the way, we moved!!!).  To my surprise, they arrived just a couple of days after I sent Woolzies my address.  As we were moving into a house without a functioning dryer and without the service to power my fancy (read: post-1950s) electric dryer, I ended up hanging all our clothes out to dry on our nifty inherited clothesline for a couple of weeks.  Let me tell you, hanging clothes to dry is much more romantic in theory than in practice.  Sure, I got to experience the lovely line-dried smell and awesome bleaching powers of sunshine, but I also got to have three loads of laundry rained on, and one load that got rained on and then dropped in the mud when the clothesline snapped.  Also, no one ever told me that line dried clothes are as stiff as cardboard.  And picking out tiny spiders who’d been living in my babies’ cloth diapers is something I’d like never to do again.  I am so happy to have a dryer again!  I probably lose hippie points for this, huh?

That said, I finally got a chance to test out my new dryer balls.  Previously, after I gave up using dryer sheets, I had a pair of the plastic dryer balls that worked pretty well.  They did kind of sketch me out, though, because they were clearly squishier after they got heated up, and I’m sure this means they were leaking some sort of plastic residue onto my clean, chemical-detergent-free clothes.  (I make my own laundry detergent.  I can post that recipe if anyone is interested.  It’s great.)  I lusted after the wool dryer balls my roommate had made herself but I just never got around to making my own, even though she said it had only taken her a few minutes.  There are lots of great Pinterest tutorials if you want to go that route and you don’t have two small babies demanding your attention all day long.

Woolzies makes a couple of claims about their dryer balls: first, that they soften clothes without chemicals, and second, that they can reduce drying time.  In my experience, I found that they absolutely do soften my clothes.  The babies diapers’ are all super silky soft after they run through a cycle with the dryer balls.  And I love that I have eliminated another chemical-laden, disposable product from my household supplies.  I didn’t find that the drying time was reduced at all, which I was sort of surprised about since I went from using two medium-sized plastic balls to six large wool balls.  I thought the larger number would at least have some effect on the drying time, but I also have really, really thick Cloth-Eez prefolds that might just require the full hour to dry completely, regardless of any fluffing they might receive from the balls.  The Woolzies are also guaranteed to last 1,000 cycles, which gives them an advantage over the wool dryer balls you can roll yourself, because I’ve heard that those can come unrolled somewhat easily before they are fully felted.  Woolzies are fully felted right out of the box, and they seem very durable.  One last perk about the wool balls over the plastic ones is that they are so quiet.  The plastic dryer balls sounded like I had tennis shoes banging around in the dryer, but the Woolzies don’t make any extra noise.  Plus, the Woolzies are just really pretty to look at in their little basket in my laundry cupboard.  (That’s important, right?)

Now, it’s your turn to try out a pack of Woolzies!  Write a comment about your laundry routine, or why you’d like to give Woolzies a try, and I’ll randomly pick a winner to receive their own box of six XL Woolzie dryer balls!  Good luck!  I’ll select a winner on Sunday, September 22nd.

Stay tuned for more about our new home adventure.

Update: The winner is Jennifer!  Congratulations, and I will get your Woolzies prize box mailed out to you shortly.

Road tripping with the twins

Bear Lake

Abe*, the twins, and I just returned home from our annual summer getaway with my family at Bear Lake.  The wonderful thing about having a big family is that reunions are always loud and full of laughs.  This year’s trip was extra enjoyable, though, because it was the first to include grandkids.  Sophie* and Cleo*, my four-month old twins, finally got to meet my dad, my three youngest sisters and my brother, and got to see their grandma and the oldest of my younger sisters again.  That made eleven of us at the lake!

Although our stay at the cabin was supremely relaxing, the drive to get there was not quite as pleasant.  The idea of tackling a five hour journey (plus stops) with two babies in a backseat way too small for me to join them loomed over me for weeks.  We ended up making a couple of rookie mistakes on the way to the lake that landed us with about four hours of screaming.  Luckily we learn fast and the trip back was not as stressful.

Rookie mistakes:

1. We drove through the night.  We thought that the least painful way to road-trip with the twins would be to wait until their bedtime and drive through the night, allowing them to slumber peacefully until we reached our destination.  This was a terrible idea.  The babies didn’t sleep at all, and we were so tired ourselves that the babies were not the only ones who cried during the trip.  On our trip home, we left around eleven in the morning.  Even though it made for a long day of driving, it was much better than the endless night of driving we’d had.

2. We put the twins in the car without a nap.  We thought being tired would help the girls fall asleep more easily in the car, but actually it just made them really, really cranky.  They didn’t sleep at all on the way to the lake.  On the way home, we gave them a good long morning nap before leaving, and amazingly they napped for much of the car trip, too, and were much happier when they were awake.

Genius ideas:

1. We used disposable diapers.  We use cloth diapers at home, but I knew that quick diaper changes would be key to short-as-possible pit stops.  Not to mention the fact that the ability to toss stinky diapers rather than stowing them made the atmosphere in the car just a little more pleasant.  I used Earth’s Best chlorine-free brand for the first time, and I was pleased with their absorbency and fit.

2. I tied mirrors to the headrests in front of each of the girls’ rear-facing car seats.  This was helpful in two ways: it kept the girls entertained for a while and it made it super easy to check on them from the front seat.  To create the mirrors, I hot-glued two pieces of wide baby ribbon to each back of two big (8×10) mirrors I found at the dollar store.  I tied the mirrors to the headrests and tilted them so they would face the babies in their seats.  The mirrors were lightweight enough that the hot glue held them well enough for this trip but because of the summer heat, the glue ended up melting by the time we got home.   Probably another kind of glue would work better for long-term durability.

3. I loaded the car with baby toys and the girls’ “loveys.”  A couple bright giraffe toys with chewable legs kept the girls entertained while they were awake, and their soft lovey blankets gave them something to snuggle while they napped.

4. We closed big square swaddle blankets in the back windows to shield the babies from the harsh sun.  We have those pull-down sun shields that they make to suction on backseat windows, but they just did not block enough sun during the daytime hours driving through the desert.  The blankets shaded the entire backseat, keeping the girls cooler and the sun out of their eyes.

5. When the girls did cry, we pulled over as soon as possible for a diaper change and feeding.  On the way home, the twins generally stayed calm between stops until they wet their diapers, and I made sure to tank them up again before we resumed our drive so we wouldn’t have to stop for a separate feeding.

I’m a little hesitant to admit that when all else failed on the way home and the babies couldn’t stop screaming even after a diaper change and a feeding, I leaned into the back seat and nursed them (separately) until they fell asleep.  I hadn’t planned on doing this, and next time I might pump some milk so that I can feed them more safely, but it was honestly a lifesaver to be able to comfort them rather than let them scream for hours again.  I would never do this on a normal drive, and probably won’t even do it again on a road trip, but in the moment it was all I could think of.

All in all, I feel like we had a pretty successful vacation.  We can’t wait to fly back east for Christmas with my family in a few months!  Hopefully we will be a little better at traveling with babies by then.

Have you ever traveled with a young infant?  What were your rookie mistakes and/or genius ideas?

*Names have been changed