Monday, March 30, 2009

Calendula Nappy Balm Recipe

Today I got a visit from two amazing women who work at Newtown's The Watershed, in Sydney.
It's a community resource centre dedicated to educating about sustainability. Apparently it's won all sorts of awards and all. Annie, the facilitator, and Megan, the coordinator, asked me to come and help out at their next workshop on natural baby care (scroll down the list of workshops to see this). Also known as the Nappy Workshop, as a lot of time is spent on this subject!

We decided to make Calendula Nappy Balm in the workshop. This sounds fancy but is the easiest, yet most rewarding cream to make, as there are so many uses. Rashes, pimples, dry skin, sunburn, cuts and grazes... I use it as a night cream for my face and hands.

I've got a recipe in my book which calls for macerating calendula petals in olive oil for three weeks before making the oil into a solid salve with beeswax. However for the workshop we wanted to be able to make the whole recipe then and there. So here is my simple recipe for on-the-spot, self-solidifying calendula ointment.

For as much calendula balm as your whole extended family can use, you need:

Half a kilo of coconut oil (look for organic, cold-pressed oil)
Calendula petals (3 cups fresh, 1.5 cups dry)

Heat the coconut oil in a stainless steel saucepan until it melts.
Add the calendula petals and, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or chopsticks, heat them on low for about half an hour. Be careful not to burn them.
Strain oil through a piece of muslin and store in clean jars. The balm will solidify on cooling.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

buying modern cloth nappies

If only modern cloth nappies were readily available in baby shops and department stores! I feel sure simply EVERYONE would be using them if only they could see how cute and practical they are.

However until more people use them, baby stores won't stock them. If you are a cloth user, take every opportunity to ask at stores whether they are stocked. If enough enquiries come in, they should consider stocking them.

On the other hand, I noticed Babies Galore now stocks a certain cloth nappy brand which I know from experience look lovely but for all practical purposes are dysfunctional. They are also hugely expensive. So I didn't hold back telling the store manager what I'd found through experience. Most managers have no idea what is a really useful product, until they get feedback like that.

Until better shopping options become available, you've got to either make your own (see my book) or shop online.
My personal favourites for online shopping (in terms of service and quality of product) are as follows:
Zappy Nappies
Our first cloth nappy (a present from a thoughtful friend) was a Zappy - they are truly great value and I really recommend them for daytime use. They're extremely trim and come in interesting fabrics. The design is great for quick drying and for going from newborn to toddler. Very economical.
After a forgettable trial with some second-hand Australian organic cotton all-in-ones, which was too dogged by leaks to be sustainable long-term, I retired them and bought Scottish-made Tots Bots from this Australian outlet. They were like a breath of fresh air. The cleverly-designed covers are pretty much leak-proof, even if it weren't for the excellent fitting qualities of the nappies themselves. Not cheap, but definitely worth it. Ones to note are Flexitots, made of highly absorbent bamboo velour and microfibre, and Bamboozles, made of bamboo terry cloth. Although the bamboo fabric does degrade faster than cotton, in my experience (making it good for composting but not so great if you are hoping to cover the bottoms of two or three children,) it is a great environmental choice (a fast-growing crop that doesn't need any pesticides, unlike cotton).
Wee Wuns
This store was great for the variety of products. Save money on postage by getting nappies (all the leading brands) and training pants plus useful products like washable menstrual pads and nursing pads, waterproof tote bags for used nappies, swimming nappies, woollen baby clothes, and even patterns for sewing your own nappies and covers.
You can often find great nappies here - not used (E-bay forbids it) but home-made by work-at-home-mums. Fantastic quality can be had for a small price, depending on the sewer. Even if there are only a few advertised, ask if you can order extra to save on postage - they may make them to order.

I also highly recommend bidding on used-nappy auctions (see my earlier post).

Second hand nappies

If you feel moved to try washable nappies, but the initial monetary outlay seems high...
Or, if you are already using washable nappies and want to save yourself in money terms even more than the thousands per child that you already are...
Or, in a similar vein, if you want to reduce waste even further than you already are...

At least consider buying second hand nappies.
I shop on a very useful site, here, where you can browse nappies and covers for auction, among other baby-related items. You can also post used nappies of your own.
Some of the nappies have not even been used, only pre-washed. Sellers state if there are stains or pilling. Alternatively, if you are squeamish about the idea of used nappies, consider used covers - you can save yourself as much as half the price of a new one.

My tip is to browse online nappy shops (see later post on these) for an idea of what you need, what size you need it in, and how much each would cost new, so you know how much to bid, and for what, on the second-hand auction site.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

ABC radio

I meant to blog about this the day it happened, but got struck down with a raging middle ear infection, which I'm still nursing. On Monday, I got a hurried call to talk on Deborah Cameron's Mornings show on ABC's 702 Sydney station. Deb was talking about her new sewing machine and how it was going to save her lots of money. She invited me on to talk about how to recycle fabrics around the house and 'reinvent' clothes. The thrust of her segment was saving money in these times of 'economic distress'.

Luckily I didn't have much time to get nervous - about half an hour, before we were on live.

It was so inspiring to hear from all the listeners who called in. One mum, Melinda, talked about how she turned her husband's old business shirts into light hot-weather shorts for her son. She used the pockets and cuffs as they were, into the shorts, and made Velcro closings for long pockets on the legs to keep his matchbox cars. (Was that right, Melinda?)

I've turned an old shirt of A's into pants for T and got 2 pairs of different sizes out of one shirt - it really is an economising measure! The shirt had a tear on the sleeve so was headed for rags anyway. The best part about it was that I absolutely loved that shirt; I think A might even have been wearing it the day I fell in love with him :)
It was yellow with reddy brown striped checks, made out of soft flannel. Ahhh.
I think the baby pants might just live on forever....

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coughs and thyme (and also time!)

It's just been in the news that cold and cough medications may be banned here for children under 12. Some have already been banned for under sixes in the UK.

Apparently there is no evidence they do any good, and some evidence that they do harm, to children.

It makes sense that the cough is there for a purpose - to expel mucous, which is in turn there for a purpose - to rid the body of the virus!

However a persistent cough can keep your baby and you up at night, and sometimes is due more than anything to the already-present irritation - it's kind of self-perpetuating.

There are a number of home remedies you can use for such times to help soothe the impulse to cough, and I've found the best one (endorsed by my whole family and my local pharmacist) to be thyme tea.

Just pick a couple of sprigs of thyme from the garden (or use culinary thyme from the shops) and infuse ten minutes in just-boiled water.

Raw honey added will soothe the throat and help suppress the cough mechanism. Add it after the water is no longer near-boiling. (Be aware that medical people recommend waiting until after baby is one year old to introduce honey). Actually if you have no thyme to hand, just honey in warm water is very soothing on its own, or add some lemon juice, very alkanising on the body.

Leftover thyme tea can be added to baby's bath last thing at night.

Of course, the best thing for any cold symptom is rest - in other words give it time! Colds do take a long time to go through the system, especially for babies and toddlers (and pregnant women!). Don't expect to get 100% well in less than two weeks!

I'm no medical expert, but for what it is worth.