Mindful Homekeeping: Ditching Plastic Bottled Water

A few months ago we started a series called Mindful Homekeeping in order to share simple homekeeping practices, DIYs, and products that we feel are mindful of the environment, body, and soul as we journey toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Because we live in a time where convenience and cost drive consumption, we really wanted a space to think critically about our practices and what we can do to make healthy, meaningful but also economical choices. Many of the topics we will cover are changes that we successfully implemented and wanted to share in the hopes of motivating you to consider making them too. In this post we will be addressing a practice that is commonplace in American households: buying and drinking bottled water. Now before you go off thinking that this is such an insignificant part of your life it isn’t worth examining…you are mistaken. Your actions can absolutely make a difference.

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Bottled water has always secretly angered me. In an environmental anthropology class I took back in undergrad, we read and talked a lot about the environmental impact of Nestle and other companies that turned a free natural resource into a multi-billion dollar industry. It especially hit home for me because we live in the Great Lakes region and I was beyond bothered that a corporation could just own something that should belong to all people. And then the whole Flint water crisis and Dakota pipeline happened and it really brought the issue of clean, accessible water to the forefront. We pledged then that we would no longer purchase bottled water except on rare occasions {read as “never if we can help it”}. While we have always kept glass bottles filled in the fridge for ourselves, we were still keeping bottled water on hand for visitors. After our pledge, we invested in a larger collection of glass bottles to accommodate guests as well. Most of our collection is from IKEA and the carafes range anywhere from $1.99-$4.99.

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Why are we telling you this? Because with the cost being so cheap there’s really no reason not to completely make the switch. All you need to do is make a small investment in reusable bottles/carafes/pitchers {the cost will depend on the size of your family, we spent around $10} and then make a habit of filling them regularly. When one empties, you clean and refill it while you enjoy the next bottle. Expecting company? Fill a pitcher ahead of time and put it in the fridge. Going for a run? Fill up your canteen with cold water from the refrigerated carafes and refill the carafes for later. These simple practices can easily become habits that eliminate the need for drinking plastic bottled water. Heck you don’t even need to necessarily buy anything. I can think of plenty of glass you can upcyle {think milk jugs, cold-brew coffee, juice bottles} to use for the purposes outlined here. The best part about filling your own glass bottles ahead of time is that you can switch things up by making colorful and refreshing fruit waters. There’s no limit to what you can create once you start mixing up fruit, herbs, and citrus. I recently made a cherry, lime, mint water and it was DELICIOUS. Definitely beats boring plastic bottled water any day!

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If you are still not convinced, here are just some of the many reasons you should give up bottled water. You can read the sources for these facts in-depth here and here.

  1. The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400.
  2. Eighty percent of the water bottles we buy end up in landfills, the absolute worst place for them to be.
  3. Plastic leaches into the water it holds, which has been linked to health issues like reproductive problems and different types of cancer.

Of course we don’t want to be too rigid. Plastic bottled water can have its time and place. We just don’t think it should be every time you reach for a drink of water. To conclude we will leave you with a goal and two action items that you can work toward:

Goal: Reduce plastic bottled-water consumption
Action item 1: Remove plastic bottled water from your grocery lists
Action item 2: Build collection of sustainable water bottles that you can refill over and over again

If you’re still thinking “it’s too hard to make the transition,” try starting with one glass bottle in your fridge and reach for that instead of your plastic bottle. Then as your plastic bottle supply depletes you can slowly build your collection of sustainable water bottles. We know that making these changes are not easy but they definitely make a difference and that is something you can feel good about.

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Potty Training Before Age 2

Happy Monday friends! Our little hobbit just turned two years old last week (sobs) and we are getting ready to take potty training to the next level. I’ve struggled to write about this topic for a while now because 1) The first time I told someone I was potty training it felt like everything went south, and 2) It hasn’t been completely successful. I am, however, trying to look at the positives as we take the next step, so I wanted to share what has worked and what hasn’t.

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We started potty training our son the week before he turned one. I was super determined (clearly) and our doctor had told us that some cultures were successful in training children by 15 months of age. I wanted to be that parent. And things, surprisingly, went very well from the beginning. We had used sign language with our son from a very early age and he had picked the signs up fairly quickly. The potty sign was no exception. It’s easy to start the association early on because babies don’t hide the fact that they’re going. So every time he would start turning red like a tomato or make pushing sounds, I would acknowledge the sounds he was making while signing for potty. After a few weeks, he was signaling to us whenever he needed to go. It was seriously the coolest thing ever until he started manipulating us and using the sign (and sound effects!) to try to get out of his highchair or nap time or anything really. Actually it was pretty hilarious but that’s beside the point. Anyways, the only problem was that his signing to go only covered pooping, which is where we are still at today. I think it’s just that peeing is so effortless, he doesn’t give it much thought or know how to make the distinction yet.

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It certainly has been nice not needing to change poopy toddler diapers (with the exception of a few accidents) but now that we’ve been going to the potty for almost a year, I really want to get him fully trained in the next few weeks. I try not to be too hard on myself but I do put the blame on me for not having fully trained him. I think what he really needed (and still needs) is a few days in just underwear so that he can make the mistake of peeing and learn not to. I was unable to give him that opportunity when the fatigue started kicking in during my second pregnancy and it’s hard now that I’m juggling life with another baby. I’d have to be constantly on top of him so he doesn’t pee on any rugs and with a 8-month old in my arms, that’s difficult to do. All this is not to say that we didn’t have any success at all. Many people don’t start until 2 or 3 so I’m happy with where we are at now. There are some things, besides the signing, that I know have made this journey much easier so if you’re thinking about starting to potty train you might want to consider these things.

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  1. Create a happy space. This is something we try to do everyday in our home but we very consciously made an effort to create a comfortable space he could feel was his. Even though it was just a small corner of the bathroom, it was his potty haven complete with his own colorful hand towel and bathroom mat
  2. Make it fun. This goes hand in hand with the making of the space. At first we would keep and rotate a few special toys in the bathroom. That way, he was always excited to go to the potty so he could play with those specific ones. We would also play DJ and let him listen to a song of choice, which basically turned into “Ants Go Marching” on repeat all day, everyday. When he turned 18-months, my mom got him an Elmo and Superhero Potty Book which we have kept in there as well. Now he enjoys going to the potty because he loves being read a story. We also had a special soap dispenser just for him and he enjoyed using it to wash his hands after a successful go. These small and simple touches have made for a smooth potty training experience for all of us.
  3. Give encouragement and rewards. Stickers can be your best friend. We definitely didn’t want to bribe our son with sweets or toys but we did want to give him recognition that he was doing an awesome job. The potty book he received came with a sticker chart and stickers that we hung up behind the bathroom door. Each time he would successfully tell us and go in his potty, he would get to put up a sticker on his chart. This somehow grew into sticker collecting and whenever we go out to Michaels or Target, we let him pick out his own stickers to put up. High-fives, hugs, clapping, and calling dada to share in excitement over another bowel movement are also wonderful gestures that have allowed us to express how proud of him we are.

We did make the switch from cloth diapers (little sis is using them now) to pull-ups several months ago so we are hoping there is an end in sight. He does and can pee in his potty but he just hasn’t gotten to the point where he tells us each and every time he needs to pee. As he gets older and his vocabulary expands, we are sure it will be a matter of time before it clicks. We made plans for this weekend to finally remove all the rugs in the living area and have him in underwear for an extended period of time. Our fingers are crossed and we could certainly use all the luck we can get 😉

Have you tried potty training before the age of 2? What tips and tricks worked for you? Let us know in the comments below. And as always..

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Mindful Homekeeping Series: Seventh Generation

If you’ve been following along on our blog, you know that we do try to reduce our negative environmental impact any way we can through things like cloth diapering and upcycling, to name a few. This journey has been challenging especially because we live in a country where food, clothing, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, etc. are readily available to us for super cheap. The circumstances we live in are such that we almost have no reason to give our consumption and excess a second thought. But we should and we must. Fortunately there are people and companies out there who are engaging in this conversation and raising the important questions we need to be asking ourselves both as consumers and as citizens of this beautiful planet. This post is the first in a series we are calling Mindful Homekeeping which will cover simple homekeeping practices, DIY ideas, and products that are mindful of the environment, body, mind, and soul.

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Image Sources: Cleaning01 available under CC BY-SA 3.0 NY and Pexels

One company inspiring civic action is Seventh Generation with their Generation Good initiative. Generation Good is essentially an online community for parents and non-parents alike, who care about their environmental impact, to share ideas and support one another, test out products, and participate in green forum discussions ranging from baby nutrition to gardening. Once you register, you are taken to a dashboard populated with various surveys and activities. Completing the surveys and participating in activities and forum discussions earns you points which in turn earns you more activities and sometimes free stuff (wohoo).

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As a participating member, I received a free Baby Care Kit (diaper, lotion, wipes) , 2 trial packs of Free & Clear wipes, and three coupons for a total of $4 savings on Seventh Generation products. With the coupons, I purchased Seventh Generation Hand Soap from Target. All-in-all we enjoyed using the products and found them to be “greener” than many of the products out there in terms of the plant-based ingredients they use and their packaging. Our favorite product was definitely the coconut lotion which smells AMAZING! While we loved the texture and feel of the diapers and wipes, they were unfortunately non-biodegradable, making them not a sustainable alternative to cloth diapering.

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Despite these issues, Seventh Generation and their Generation Good initiative deserve major credit for not only encouraging the conversation on social responsibility but for providing a platform where it can happen and where they can listen to their consumers. Sure they’re not perfect (who is?) but what they offer is a great start. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of five Seventh Generation products (along with links to their pricing at Target) that we would consider buying because of their high rating by the Environmental Working Group. If you are ever unsure about the health or environmental impact of a particular company or product, the EWG is an excellent and invaluable resource for deciphering labels and learning to make safer, healthier consumer choices. These following Seventh Generation products were given an A rating by the EWG:

  1. Natural Dishwasher Detergent
  2. Laundry Detergent
  3. Multi-surface Disinfectant
  4. Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  5. Tub & Tile Cleaner

The important thing is that companies like Seventh Generation are offering alternatives to the unhealthy status-quo household and baby products. For that reason, we highly recommend you check out their products and consider participating in Generation Good.

What are your favorite “green” homekeeping products? Let us know in the comments below or share on instagram using #mindfulhomekeeping

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Note: This is not a sponsored post. This is purely our opinion regarding our experiences using the Generation Good Platform and some Seventh Generation products.


Adventures in Hocking Hills

If you live in the Midwest and you’re looking for a picturesque place to vacation, hike, or unwind then we have the perfect place for you. There is a hidden gem located in Ohio, called Hocking Hills State Park, and it is only a 4-5 hour drive from many bordering states. We know what you’re thinking. Ohio?! What can possibly be in Ohio besides cornfields and farmhouses?! Well, this.

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Yes, this exists in Ohio. And with a little bit of planning ahead you can refresh your soul and enjoy a relaxing getaway with a gorgeous view. There are plenty of activities for children and adults alike including hiking, fishing, canoeing, swimming, horseback riding and just all around enjoying nature. We have been visiting Hocking Hills since 2012 and have experienced its beauty both in the summer and winter. After our latest trip this past August, we decided to share a little bit about one of our favorite vacation spots for no other reason than we find it awesome and think you should visit. Our first adventure post…here goes!

Lodging
Where you lodge makes all the difference when you stay in Hocking Hills country. While there are hotels and motels you can stay in, we feel that the experience simply isn’t the same if you don’t stay in a log cabin. Rustic and cozy, these secluded cabins truly feel like a home away from home. There are so many different ones to choose from based on family size and amenities (like if you want a jacuzzi on your porch) but our personal favorite that we always come back to is Cabins by the Caves. Some cabins that you may come across online look dingy, tacky, and outdated but these ones are from it. The interiors have always been clean and inviting and the woods surrounding them are just serene. They are also very reasonably priced considering you’re getting a whole home to yourself. And if you go with a group and choose to share a cabin with friends or family, you’ll save even more. Just know that these cabins get booked far in advance (especially weekends and holidays) so if you’re thinking about a trip in the summer then consider booking soon.

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Food
If you do choose to rent a cabin then there’s likely a full kitchen inside and this is where that extra bit of planning comes into play. It’s amazing how a simple meal plan, grocery shopping, and a cooler can really enhance your experience. Who wants to stress about what to eat when you’re on vacation? Most of these kitchens come equipped with everything you’ll need to cook (some even have outdoor grills like ours) so just do a bit of prep work before you leave and make life easier for yourself. I made a meal plan a few days before we left and did the shopping and chopping the day before. My advice is to pick easy meals that are healthy and not too involved. You don’t want to be cooking a five-course dinner on vacation either. If your cabin comes with a grill then plan your meals around that. Burgers, steaks, portobello mushrooms, peppers, etc… You name it, you can throw it on the grill.

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To give you an idea, I made pizza dough the day before we left so that when it came time for dinner one of the nights, all I had to do was roll out the dough and top the pizzas before popping them in the oven. I also packed a gallon-sized ziplock bag with diced carrots, celery, and onions and added tuna, mustard, and mayo for a quick lunch of tuna salad sandwiches after one of our hikes. In the evenings when we had a sweet tooth, I would spoon homemade cookie dough that I made before we left and we’d have fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies with cold milk. Having the meals decided and mostly prepped ahead of time really made the trip much less stressful.

Activities
We aren’t going to list every single activity there is to do because you can find all of them here but we will share some of the things we did and enjoyed along with some tips and tricks we learned for next time. One of the highlights of our trip was renting a pontoon from the Lake Logan Marina to ride around the lake for a few hours. While we thoroughly enjoyed the warm summer breeze and the scenery, it was a bit unnerving having babies on board. Our suggestion is that if you have young children to pack some toys to preoccupy them as they get restless pretty quickly. Also we hadn’t planned on boating until we drove by the small marina and so by the time we were out on the lake we realized it was lunchtime and we were starving. Next time we would plan for a picnic on the water because it would make for a memorable and fun experience. And why not?

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Our little hobbit soaking in some sun and mist.

Out of all the activities we definitely hiked the most (you can’t really zip-line or ride horses with babies). We don’t know how we would have done it without a baby carrier for our 14-month old because only one of the caves had a semi-paved trail for handicap access. Also some of the hiking trails (The Rock House & Cantwell Cliffs) are more treacherous than others so we did not include them in our plans for safety reasons. We recommend you skip them too if you have babies with you. You can also plan on your daily schedule looking a bit different (surprise surprise) if you’re traveling with little ones. When we used to go before we had children, we would just hike carefree for hours. This trip we had to divide the trails over a couple of days to accommodate nap time and baby attention spans. Because of that our days ended up looking something like this:

Afternoon Day 1: Ash Cave
Morning Day 2: Old Man’s Cave
Afternoon Day 2: Swimming at Lake Logan
Morning Day 3: Cedar Falls
Afternoon Day 3: Boat ride on Lake Logan
Morning Day 4: Conkle’s Hollow

It wasn’t such a bad thing though. By breaking it down, we got to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of each trail and waterfall and we also drastically reduced the occurrence of fussiness and meltdowns. In between activities we would return to our cabin to rest up and eat so that we would have the energy to go back out again. Our cabin was fairly close to all of the hiking trails/parks and the scenic drive through hilly farm country was something we didn’t mind especially because our son was super excited to see all the horses and cattle.

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Stopping by the side of the road to say hello to this beautiful horse.

Well that pretty much covers all of the finer details of our trip. You surely must be wondering what is so special about this place that we keep coming back year after year. For that explanation we will just let our pictures do all the talking…

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Old Man’s Cave
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Taking time for a splash at Old Man’s Cave Lower Falls.

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Do you have any family favorite vacation spots? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below 🙂

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Fall Harvest Herb Bouquets

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It’s nearing the end of October and the weather here is finally taking a chilly turn. With all the things that need to get done, including preparing for baby #2’s arrival in a few short weeks, tending to our garden has been one of those things low on our priority list. We really wanted to maximize our harvest this year and preserve what has managed to stay alive but we are just so short on time that we have to be realistic. All those green tomatoes and jalapeños may not be jellied or pickled this year but we at least wanted to dry some herbs for use through the winter. When I found myself bringing basil in but not having the time to clean and dry them, I placed them in a vase on the kitchen counter until I could find the time to tend to them. To my delight, not only did they thrive in their new home but they gave off the loveliest aroma. As you can see, I got a bit carried away and started making more herb arrangements to put around the house. I guess some good can come out of procrastination 😉

If you need to bring your herbs in before they completely die out but can’t preserve them immediately, consider making small bouquets out of them. With regular water changes, they should last up to a week or longer. And the best part? They make such beautiful decor! The pop of vibrant green has really brought life to our home. You can use vases, teacups, jars; any pretty glass you have on hand. I made simple, single herb arrangements but the possibilities are endless.  So hold off on lighting those pumpkin spice candles just a bit longer and consider bringing the fresh scents of basil, thyme, lavender, or whatever else you grow into your home. Nothing beats the clean, natural fragrance they give off!

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