Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sponge Water Bombs: Just Say, 'NO' to Water Balloons!

We're officially one week out of school and I can't do another water balloon! It's just a hunch, but I don't think I'm alone out there. With Simon only 10 months old and putting everything in his mouth, I can't pick up shards of balloons fast enough! The weather here has been amazing and we've been living outside from morning until night and the kids are water crazy so we've gone through our fair share of water balloons already.

For Gabe's last day of 3K, they had great weather and got to play outside in a sprinkler and have fun with other water toys. One mom brought these sponge balls that the kids were all loving. Once I got a closer look, I was completely wowed. It was so easy yet so ingenious ... a cut up sponge, tied together in the middle ... that's it! Basically, a reusable water balloon!

Today, I finally stopped at a dollar store to pick up some sponges. The kids and I sat on the driveway cutting up sponges and tying them up. I had them sort the colors and count how many they were putting in a pile ... this kept them busy so they stopped wanting to use momma's big scissors!

In no time at all, we had a pile of sponge bombs and were racing to the back yard for the best water fight ever! Thank you, whichever mom it was that single-handedly changed my summer!!

How to Make Sponge Bombs

What you need:

Zip Ties or Hair Ties


1. Cut all sponges the long way ... into three equal slices.

Sponge Water Bombs

2. Group together 8-9 slices.

Sponge Water Bombs

3. Zip tie or use a hair tie and tighten them together around the middle. If you are using zip ties, make sure you cut the extra tie off. You don't want any sharp pieces off of the zip tie. Using a wire cutter works best to cut it down completely flush.

Sponge Water Bombs

Sponge Water Bombs

4. Race to get the sponges in the water and let the fun begin!

Sponge Water Bombs

That's it! No more filling up endless balloons. No more picking up little pieces in the yard. No more tears after the balloons are all gone because you can go through a whole bag in 2 minutes. Save money, save time, have happy kids, sit back and enjoy the sun and summer!!

Sponge Water Bombs

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Coconut Hemp Milk: Great for the Whole Family!

When people find out that Paul and I are vegetarians one of the first things they ask about is if our kids are too. Next, when they find out we don't drink cows milk they ask what we give our kids ... especially our babies. First off, yes our kids are vegetarians too. Secondly, our kids are kids, not cows so they don't have cows milk. I don't mean to sound harsh, but that's the way it is. Guess what, they are all growing great (all three have been in the 90% for height and weight), their digestive systems are awesome and I can count the times we've been to to doctor for sick visits on one hand. Personally, I think they're doing okay without it.

Since Paul and I started dating, milk has always been a topic of conversation. I loved cows milk and he is lactose intolerant. I still remember one day he switched our milks and I almost spit out an entire glass of rice milk on the counter. It was disgusting! After about a year of marriage, I started trying more of his milk on cereal and things but it had to be vanilla flavored and sweetened. Fast forward ten years ... the whole family now drinks unsweetened original milk alternatives ... usually almond or coconut milk. If it's vanilla flavored or sweetened, the kids are spitting it out on the counter. I can't believe how sweet that stuff is ... and why does milk need to have added sugar?!

When Gabe stopped nursing, I did a lot of looking into what was the best 'fattening' milk out there besides whole cows milk. After a lot of digging around, I quickly fell in love with hemp seeds. According to Pure Healing Foods, they have the most concentrated balance of proteins, essential fats, vitamins and enzymes combined with a relative absence of sugar, starches and saturated fats.Their proteins are easily digestible while being an excellent source of essential fatty acids including Omega 3, 6 and Gamma Linolenic Acids (GLA). People who have allergies to nuts, seeds, sugars and lactose are not effected by hemp seeds ... there are no known allergies to hemp! That's amazing!

When he was 10 months he started drinking hemp milk ... no I did not wait until he was a year. He loved it. It was pretty expensive, but I was still working at a place that I got a great discount on it. He stayed on hemp milk until about 18 months and then switched to what Paul and I drank, almond or coconut milk. By the time Savina came around, we tried hemp milk again (at 10 months) and that stubborn little girl just would not drink it. I tried making it homemade to save money, but she still didn't like it. There was nothing I could do to coax her into it. For her, we did coconut milk and simply kept hemp seeds in her diet via food.

Now, it's Simon's turn. He's 10 months and it's milk time! For the past four years, the price of hemp seeds has really come down. I used to have to wait for our health food store to have them on sale (about once a quarter) and I would buy all the seeds on their shelf. They were $5/8oz bag when on sale. Now, I can buy a bag at Trader Joe's for about $4 ... no sale needed! Finally, it's cost effective to make my own hemp milk for him. To save bit more and get larger variety of vitamins and minerals, I wanted to do a mix of coconut and hemp. Plus, I love the healthy fats it provides as well as being a good source of iron!

After my first batch, Paul and I just about died the flavor was so good. Even though we have hemp seeds almost daily in our food, we hadn't had the milk in a few years. The coconut added to it was the perfect complement. Paul and I both started drinking it more as well. I quickly realized that this was going be the new milk for the whole family! Making it from scratch is more cost effective than buying the half gallons of Almond/Coconut milk too. Plus, it's so nice not to have multiple milks in the house.

I'm not going to lie, at first Simon was not a huge fan. He wanted his old milk. However, after three short days he was back to his normal milk intake and enjoying the new flavors ... and I was loving that he was getting all of that great goodness that hemp and coconut provide!

One last thing that drives me crazy about milk alternatives. Watch out, I'm going to get a little intense here. Why is sugar needed and why do they label one of the milks 'unsweetened'. The manufacturers add sugar to their milk. It is not a natural product of nuts, coconut, soy or any other milk that your are buying. If you look, the second ingredient is almost always cane sugar. These milks should be labeled 'sweetened' and the regular, unflavored shouldn't be labeled at all. Please, stop adding extra, unneeded sugar to your diet. I know a lot of recipes out there that add dates to their milk for sweetening. Yes, the flavor tastes good, but there is a time and a place for sweet foods ... your daily milk intake is not one of them. If you want to make a dessert with this recipe, sure ... add 1/4 c of dates and a dash of cinnamon but remember: it's for dessert, not dinner!

Coconut Hemp Milk

Makes 4 1/2 cups

4 cups water*
1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 c raw hulled hemp seeds

Put all ingredients into a high speed blender and blend for 3 minutes.

Using a cheese cloth, towel or reusable grain bag, pour the milk in and strain all of the pulp.

Refrigerate and serve.

Don't throw out the pulp! Add it to your homemade nut butters, muffins or other baked goods.

*I love the bold strong flavor and the heavy dose of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. If you're more of a 'skim milk' kind of person, feel free to add an extra cup of water.

Monday, June 1, 2015

DIY Natural Laundry Detergent

Have you ever done something and asked yourself, 'Why did it take me so long to do this?!' That is exactly how I'm feeling about making my own laundry detergent. It was so easy, so cheap and I always have the ingredients on hand from making other cleaning products.

In the past four years, I have become a laundry detergent snob. With Gabe, we did cloth diapers. I did so much research while I was pregnant about what detergents were the best for the job while still being economically conscious. I fell in love with Country Save.  It was good for the diapers, the washing machine and not so bad for the environment either! It was (and still is) a great detergent.

Once I began working on a dishwasher detergent, I remembered why we had to stop cloth diapers. We have such hard water with iron and other materials in it that no matter what detergent I used, we couldn't keep them clean ... or get that gross ammonia smell out. I tried EVERYTHING! With dishes, I was easily able to tell if the detergent wasn't working great because my dishwasher would look bad or simply enough, there would still be spots on the dishes. I was nervous to try it out with clothes because it would be harder to tell.

Well, my last box of Country Save was dwindling down and I decided it was time to at least give it a try. After a few loads, it seemed to be working really well. No smells and everything appeared to look really good. This weekend, I finally had a good test ... clothes after a bonfire. The clothes reeked of smoke and some grass and dirt from the kids running around. They came out smelling like roses! Actually, they came out smelling like nothing because it is fragrance free!

It's cheap, it's effective and it will last for a long time ... I'm sold! Again, why did it take me so long to do this?!

Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Makes 5 cups

1 bar castile soap
2 c borax
2 c washing soda

First, grate your bar of soap. Then put the grated soap into a high speed blender and pulverize it to dust.

In a bowl, put all three ingredients together and mix well. Keep detergent in an airtight container.

For regular washers: use 1/8 cup; 40 loads
For HE washers: use 1 T; 80 loads

Homemade Natural Laundry Detergent