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Wordless Wednesday – November 27, 2013

27 Nov



Why You Need a Water Filter (And What Kind I Think You Should Get)

26 Nov

I don’t like water. Never have. It’s bland and it’s flavorless. Its biggest crime is that it doesn’t taste like coffee.

I have lived in a state of extreme dehydration for years now. But recently, I’ve been on a mission to remedy that. The ultimate reason I’ve been reforming my wicked waterless ways is because of my daughter. I want to be healthier for her, so as she grows up I can offer her the best in word, example and deed. I can’t exactly push her water intake as a child while never taking a sip myself, can I? (I mean, I guess I can, but I’d prefer to avoid the douche-bag do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parenting style.)

The second reason I’m pushing my water intake is because of my struggle with extremely dry skin and cracked heels. That is such a huge topic all on its own that I plan to follow up this blog post with more info on that particular issue later.

So moving on to my quest for more water! In looking up how best to hydrate myself, I stumbled upon this lovely little tidbit of information:

Pensacola has the absolute worst drinking water in the entire United States of America.

In a nationwide study of the safety of tap water in major cities, the Pensacola water supply was found to have 21 chemicals that exceeded health guidelines, including radium, lead, bezene and carbon tetrachloride.

After learning this information, I spent the rest of the week researching water filtration options and ordering the best water filter method for my home. I was in such a hurry to get my water filters, I even signed up for Amazon Prime for the two day shipping. Think I’m overreacting? (Probably.) But check out the full list of contaminants found in Pensacola’s water supply:

Barium (total), Chromium (total), Cyanide, Mercury (total inorganic), Nitrate, Nitrite, Selenium (total), Trichlorofluoromethane, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene, cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene, 2,2-Dichloropropane, Monochloroacetic acid, Dibromoacetic acid, Chloroform, Xylenes (total), p-Dichlorobenzene, 1,1-Dichloroethylene, 1,1-Dichloroethane, 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane, Monochlorobenzene (Chlorobenzene), Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Alpha particle activity (incl. radon & uranium), Combined Uranium (pCi/L), Cadmium (total), Lead (total), Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Heptachlor epoxide, MTBE, Total haloacetic acids (HAAs), 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), Bromoform, Bromodichloromethane, Dibromochloromethane, Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), 1,2-Dichloroethane, Carbon tetrachloride, 1,2-Dichloropropane, Trichloroethylene, 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene, Benzene, Alpha particle activity (excl radon and uranium), Radium-226, Radium-228.

OMGWTF?!?!??!?! I can’t even pronounce half the crap on that list, and I stopped Google searching what each one was and why drinking it is bad half way through the list because I was getting all twitchy. And this isn’t even the worst of it.

Most people don’t realize that federal law does not require tap water to be safe for long-term consumption. Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 harmful chemicals are found in drinking water in the United States.

Why is this allowed? Because the long-term risks of cancer and other health threats are balanced against the cost and feasibility of purification by each city. The current mindset is that the contaminants are fully disclosed to the public, therefore if you care about your long term health, you will take steps to filter your water to your liking. Your water does not have to be healthy. And in Pensacola’s case, it is decidedly not so. You can check out your local drinking water quality by visiting the EPA website here. 


So! Are you convinced you need a water filter? Since I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit researching the different options when it comes to water filters, let me share my findings with you. Here’s a simple guide to the most popular methods of water filtration and why I think all but one method sucks:

Distilled Water

How It Works – This process passes water over a heated coil‚ causing the water to vaporize and become gaseous. The steam then rises and transfers to a cooling chamber‚ where it condenses back into a liquid. This process separates water from inorganic compounds like lead‚ calcium‚ magnesium‚ etc. and destroys bacteria.

Why I Think It Sucks – This process does not remove most organic chemicals, since they typically vaporize at a lower temperature than water and are transferred over with the steam. FAIL.

Reverse Osmosis

How It Works – This is a process that exposes water under pressure‚ to a semi-permeable membrane with a very fine pore structure. Because most inorganic contaminants are of a larger molecular size than water‚ the membrane rejects certain contaminants‚ minerals and a large part of the water.

Why I Think It Sucks – Because many synthetic chemicals like herbicides and pesticides are smaller molecularly than water, they slip through. FAIL.

Granular Carbon Filters

This is the most popular home filtration method. (It’s what is used in Brita filters.) Granular carbon filters remove contaminants by adsorption‚ which is the chemical or physical bond of a contaminant to the surface of the filter. Activated carbon bonds to thousands of chemicals, in fact it bonds to almost all known chemicals! Water runs around the carbon granules, and the bad joo joo in the water sticks to the surface of the granules.

Why I Think It Sucks – This type of filter does NOTHING for straining out bacteria. They are worthless in terms of virus and protozoa, which aren’t adsorbed by the granules and just continue on their merry way through the filter and straight into your mouth. Yum yum! Plus, many chemicals that WOULD be adsorbed by the granules can make their way through the filter without being adsopbed if not exposed long enough. DOUBLE FAIL.

Carbon Block Filters (What I Recommend You Use)

How It Works – A carbon block filter is made of the exact same stuff a granular carbon filter is made up of… only it’s in solid block form.

Why I Think It Rocks – It works with the same method of chemical bonding through adsorption, but it has the added element of mechanical straining.

When water is pushed through the solid carbon block, it is FORCED to slow down and increase the contact time with the carbon, allowing the carbon bonding to take place to remove the chemical pollutants like toxins, pesticides, trihalomethanes, chlorine, bad tastes, odors, etc.

And whatever is missed by adsorption – like bacteria and protozoa and heavy metals like lead – are then strained out by the pore size of the block. Basically, it’s like trying to put a basketball through a hole the size of a ping pong ball. The pores in the block of carbon can filter particles down to sub-micron size. That filters dirt, sediment, rust, algae, bacteria, microscopic worms, cryptosporidium and asbestos. And because of the density of the solid carbon block, there is no room for bacteria to grow so this type of filter does not become an incubator for them.

This type of filter is so hardcore, they’re known as survivalist filters. They are what wilderness backpackers use to purify bacteria infested waters on trails. For added safety, you can put a couple drops of chlorine or bleach in your water to kill off bacteria gathered in a stream, and then it run it through the filter. The filter then removes the chlorine and bleach and dead bacteria and your bacteria infested spring water is now safer and tastier than your Pensacola tap water. Uhhh, WIN.

Best part is? They are super affordable! Since Jonathan and I are going to be moving around quite a bit in the future, we can’t really invest in a whole home filtration system. So instead, we’ve purchased a pitcher style carbon block filter (made with BPA free plastic!) for less than $25 and a sports water bottle carbon block filter for less than $20. So far, we are extremely happy with our purchases and will be using our bottles on upcoming camping and hiking excursions!

Do you use a water filtration system? If so, what kind do you use and why? Talk me people, my blog is so much more fun when the empty void I send this drivel into talks back. 😉

Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

25 Nov


So I’m planning on visiting my family in California next month, and my mom is busy making preparations for Tessa and I to visit (poor hubby has to work). I was giving her a list of things to buy so I don’t have to pack as much, and when telling her which diapers to get, I thought – hey! Blog post! Nothing like chattering into a void to help you formulate and better articulate your thoughts and research…

When it comes to diaper selection, I must first clarify that I consider myself to be only a semi-crunchy mom in that my concern is NOT primarily for the environment. (Sorry hippies.) I mean, I will, when given a feasible option, choose products that are nicer to the planet. I firmly believe that God has charged us to be good stewards of the Earth. But I also firmly believe that my little girl comes first. If “saving the planet” breaks the bank or strains my family financially, Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.

My one and only concern is my daughter and reducing her exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

Cloth diapers, which reign supreme in the crunchy mom circles, are not a realistic option for us. We don’t have a washer and dryer and only do laundry every other week when I have the car to run errands. Frequent trips to the Laundromat, with me dropping husband off at work to have the car (an hour drive there and back) would break our budget at this point. Additionally, our apartment complex has a strict “no hanging clothes out to dry on your balcony or patio” rule that they expect us to adhere to, or face a fine. (Really, it’s like Arcadia from X-Files around here.) And besides those facts, neither Jonathan nor I are overly interested in hand washing poo on our down time.

So with cloth diapers out, when approaching the world of disposable diapers, I’ve discovered that there are four major concerns about what will be placed on my baby’s skin every day for the next 3-5 years. And they are as follows:

Perfumes and “Mystery Ingredients”

Perfume fragrances are sometimes used in disposable diapers, under the assumption that parents would prefer a “spring rain” scented turd in lieu of simply changing a smelly diaper. The scents found in many diapers are strong and chemical-laden, harboring unnecessary irritants with potential to cause such health issues ranging from diaper rash to respiratory symptoms to allergies or worse.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, infants skin is unbelievably sensitive to product. Babies skin is ten times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t have a natural acid mantle yet, which in adults has a pH value of 5.5. The acid mantle protects the skin from irritants, allergens, pathogens, and from drying out. Babies do not have this protection. Additionally, their ratio of skin surface area to body volume is significantly larger than in adults, so their skin soaks up even minute amounts of chemicals, and it directly effects their fragile developing systems.

My biggest concern with perfumes in disposable diapers (and any product I put on my baby) is the “Mystery Ingredients” that get slipped in. As reported in the Huffington Post and elsewhere: “…due to the ‘trade secret’ status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.”

As a result, a manufacturer can legally bury dozens of potentially toxic chemicals under a “Fragrance” ingredient listing. (This is how Johnson & Johnson has gotten away throwing in downright toxic ingredients for so long.) Anything with “Fragrance” in it’s ingredient list will NOT be going on Tessa’s skin.

Chlorine Bleach and Dioxins

The process of chlorine bleaching diapers leaves tons of chemicals in the fibers of disposable diapers.  These chemical toxins are called “dioxins.” Based on animal studies, dioxins are believed to have the ability to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified dioxins as a “likely human carcinogen.” You can read all about dioxin from the World Health Organization here.

Dyes and Skin Irritants

Dyes are usually added to diapers to color them. (Duh.) This is really the lesser of all the disposable diaper evils, but still one that I choose to avoid.

The biggest downside to dyes is that they are known to cause skin and diaper rashes and have provoked allergic reactions in some babies. In a study published in Pediatrics in 2005, switching to dye-free diapers was shown to eliminate skin rashes which occurred in areas exposed to colored portions of diapers.

I’m not anti-dye (after all, the fabric on your babies onesie is likely dyed) but when it comes to prolonged exposure on my babies genitals, why not go with a dye-free version? I don’t care if a diaper is colorful and pretty, it’s just gonna get pooped on.

Phthalates and Harmful Chemicals

Phthalates are mainly plasticizers, added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In some disposable diapers, phthalates may be used as part of the process to create a waterproof outer or inner liner. The problem with phthalates is that they are not tightly chemically-bonded to the plastic, and therefore they continuously release through leaching into liquids.

Phthalates have been a concern in the medical community for its use in bottled water for some time now due to potential toxic effects to endocrine and reproductive systems – to which infants are particularly vulnerable. (This is why phthalates are a main concern with baby bottles and why I will soon be switching to glass bottles for Tessa.)

Not all diapers use phthalates, but here’s the kicker: US law does not currently require disclosure of phthalates. The only way to know that diapers are phthalate-free is if the manufacturer declares that they are.

So the good news is, there ARE natural diapers out there that are free from these four poopy ingredients listed! (If there weren’t I’d be switching to cloth in a heartbeat.) There are a number of manufacturers who offer complete transparency in their diaper ingredients, though not many. You’d be surprised how many companies do NOT practice full disclosure with their ingredients – the biggest brands guilty of this are Huggies and Pampers.

I personally use Earth’s Best brand disposable diapers on Tessa, as it meets all my personal disposable diaper requirements and then some – it’s also environmentally friendly – and it does not break the bank. They are priced only slightly more than the toxic mystery ingredient leading brands. A really awesome source for side by side comparisons of natural disposable diaper brands is available over at Baby Lab in their Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers.

Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? And if so, which ones and why? ^_^

Emergency Car Kit Checklist – Baby Edition!

26 Oct


So one of the major changes I’ve noticed in myself ever since becoming a mother, is that I now feel the need to be freakishly organized and prepared for any and every worst case scenario. My new nightmares consist of finding out that we’ve run out of toilet paper or lightbulbs or that we need a screwdriver that we just don’t own. EGADS!

Anyway, a couple of months ago I made a “Things To Keep In Your Car” checklist. Prior to having Tessa as a resident in my uterus, I just wasn’t all that prepared – ever. And I was (and still am) chronically forgetful. So now that Tessa is here, I thought it would be wise to add another tubful of goodies to my car kit checklist and stay on top of this whole being prepared and taking care of my family thing.

I’d like to mention that the brands that I have stashed in my baby car tub is NOT indicative of brands that I support or regularly use or endorse in any way. These are all quite literally baby shower gift leftovers and gift registry freebies. Since I don’t anticipate actually having to use this bucket – it’s meant for the direst of emergencies – I figured I’d use them in the car stash rather than just toss them. That said:


Emergency Car Kit Checklist – Baby Edition:

DIAPERS – My little poop factory is only 7 weeks old, and I’ve already come to realize that you can never have too many of these stashed away. While we’ve never been completely diaper-less when I’ve needed one, I have forgotten my diaper bag on some quick 30 minute outings (like going to pick up my husband from work). And had the poop machine decided to blow, I’d have been screwed.

BABY WIPES – Again, I don’t like using store bought wipes on my baby. I use all natural DIY baby wipes for her little tooshie. But in the off chance we’re in a situation that requires wipes, and there are none on hand (for instance, just last week she decided to poop all over her car seat and her diaper decided to have major leakage issues), we have some hypoallergenic baby wipes stashed away for cleaning things and / or baby.

HAND SANITIZER – I have SO MANY of these stashed away… at her changing pad, at our nursing station, in the stroller, in the car, in the diaper bag, and now in the car kit. You can usually find little three packs at a dollar store.

FORMULA AND BOTTLE – This is for the “oh crap, I forgot the diaper bag and we are nowhere near civilization oh god oh god oh god” emergencies. To date, I have not given my daughter a drop of formula. She has been exclusively fed with donor breast milk, and Lord willing, she’ll continue to be so till she is weaned. But in the extremely unlikely event I somehow fumble in her feeding duties on a road trip, I have a random freebie formula sample I was given from Babies R Us stashed away so my darling doesn’t starve.

BURP CLOTHS – Like diapers, I am loving having tons of these scattered around everywhere. You will always need them around with babies, and since plopping this emergency car kit in the car, we’ve already dipped into our burp cloth stash once.

RECEIVING BLANKET – In case she soils the one in her car seat, or if for some unforeseen reason it gets too cold and one blanket just won’t cut it.

EXTRA ONESIE – I don’t know if it’s normal to go through these frequently on outings, but about every other trip out of the house since she’s been born, she’s decided to poop on, massively spit up on and just general wreck her outfit. There’s been a couple days where she has soiled the outfit she left the house in, AND the two extra onesies I had stashed in the diaper bag. So I’ve got a few more hiding the car tub as well.

EXTRA SHIRTS FOR THE PARENTS – I haven’t had a massive wardrobe disaster yet (knock on wood), but I have arrived to functions with spit up stains or huge wet spots on my blouse. So I’ve got one of mine and one of my husband’s spare shirts hiding in the trunk for that inevitable emergency.

BUCKET TO HOLD ALL OF THE JUNK – Slap some Velcro on the bottom so it doesn’t slide around the car when you’re driving.

Other things you might want in your tub, that I have covered in my regular car kit:

FIRST AID KIT – With baby Tylenol and kid specific items

BOTTLED WATER – For mixing formula, cleaning up messes, etc.




Wordless Wednesday – October 16, 2013

16 Oct


Moving Into Our New Apartment

20 Aug


From the moment we crossed the border and drove into the Sunshine State, the sky continued to darken with rolling grey clouds and kept pelting us with random intermittent showers ranging from misty sprinkles to full on flash flood torrents. Which just filled up my rain-loving happy, but made moving furniture out of a trailer and up a flight of stairs kind of precarious. I did my part by getting in the way of the boys, blocking the stairwell while snapping pictures and going on about how nice the rain was as they got soaked.

Our new apartment is gorgeous, with an open floor plan, vaulted ceilings, gas fireplace and enclosed balcony / porch. We love it, the cats love it, and it is slowly starting to feel like home. Oh, and have I mentioned how FREAKING AWESOME it is to have my husband back and by my side again?!





We spent the majority of the weekend driving all around the gulf area picking up cheap furniture off of Craigslist to furnish the apartment – and we were extremely blessed in our Craigslist finds. We ended up getting: A matching leather sofa, love seat and recliner, a matching solid wood coffee table and two end tables, a Kirby vacuum cleaner with all the attachments and extra bags, a bedside table, a table lamp, and a glass top bamboo dining table with four chairs for $250! Jonathan’s friend Mason from Division 938 in boot camp spent the weekend with us, helping load and unload the trailer and get our boxes of belongings unpacked and scattered around the place. (As of right now the apartment still looks like a moving van exploded all over the place, but it’s slowly coming along..)








Before dropping my dad off at the airport, we decided to scout out some local waterfront dining spots and settled on trying Nick’s Boathouse in Pensacola. The food was great, the prices were decent and the view was phenomenal, with beach access right off the outdoor dining porch. And the best part? It’s only 10 minutes from our apartment. Between the rain, the tropical humidity, and the gorgeous views, I could really get to liking this place. Once we get our place fully put together, and internet access in the apartment (still seeking internet shelter at the local Starbucks..) I think we’ll have it made. Well, then there’s that whole “having a baby” thing to look forward to. When it rains, it pours, doesn’t it? 😉

Orange Maine Coon and Tortoiseshell Kitten Looking For Forever Home!

10 Jul


A couple of days ago I posted a gushing blog all about Maine Coons, inspired by the kitten Cosi my dad got my mom for their 30th wedding anniversary. Well! Cosi’s brother and sister, Kenny and Sophia are currently up for adoption, and I took some pictures for my friend Bree to help her help them find some amazing homes!

This litter of kittens came from an extremely petite, shorthair tortoiseshell momma, and a longhaired black coated Maine Coon poppa. The mom, Addie, is one of the coolest cats I have ever met, and I have a family of five amazing furry babies, so that is saying a lot! She is very chill, a hunter, and pretty much the embodiment of the tortoiseshell temperament, or “tortitude”.

The 12 week old kittens reflect momma’s chill personality, and being raised in a household with 4 kids and 2 giant dogs, they are remarkably well handled and acclimated to kids and dogs!



Kenny is a large build kitten with a long coat and very classic spotted mackerel Orange Tabby Maine Coon markings. He is already sporting solid build, huge paws with tufts of fur between the toes and the shaggy Maine Coon ruff at this young age, so he is sure to be a stunning looker when he matures! His dark orange coat has tinges of tortie blue from momma’s side, so he is going to be a classic looking Maine Coon with a uniquely colored coat. You have no idea how badly I wish I could take this kitten. He has a very independent personality, but enjoys being handled and politely tolerates excesses of affection! He has the regal air of the classic Maine Coon, and will most likely be a loyal and solid pet as he matures.



Sophia is a little clone of her mom, a petite shorthair tortoiseshell. Under her brindled markings, she has an undercoat  with slight orange tabby markings! She has a personality to match her mother’s too, and as I said earlier, her mom is one of the coolest cats! I have never personally owned a tortie before, but from visiting the Buckley’s, I can detect the famous “tortitude” people talk about with this breed. She will most likely be a feisty, strong-willed, protective cat, and very possessive of her human family.

Both of these little cuties are free to a good home. They are unfixed and still in need of their first shots. If you are interested, or know someone that is, drop me a line at gingifreeman@gmail.com