Using The Diva Menstrual Cup Review – Does it Work?

Originally published 5/27/2012

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves (seriously!)

Note: In this post I am going to talk about my period, and use grown-up anatomical terms. If you are a guy and you know me, just stop reading now to avoid future awkwardness. You too Dad!

Menstruation is one of those facts of life that comes and goes each month without any mention in the public spaces. With today’s large selection of disposable products, your flow can be managed tidily and discreetly, without any extra clean-up on your part. But a green girl starts wondering if there’s a better solution to highly bleached products with chemical absorption that are destined for a landfill. Could a reusable menstrual cup be an easy way to green your period?

The Good

  • Better for the Earth – menstrual cups are reusable and can last up to 10 years
  • Better for you – no more need for chemically treated material which can absorb all moisture from your delicate tissues
  • Saves Money – the price of a reusable menstrual cup is repaid after several months of not buying pads or tampons
  • Large (and safe) capacity – menstrual cups can safely collect even the heaviest flow all day without risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • Super convenient – because it’s already with you, no need to remember to stick a tampon in your purse before you go out
  • Very discreet – you no longer have to worry about sneaking a pad into the bathroom without others noticing
  • Odor Free – because the flow is not exposed to the air, it does not develop an odor
  • Shortens your period – I have one day less of bleeding due to the mild suction of the cup drawing the flow out faster
  • Easy – super quick and easy to use once you get the hang of it

The Bad

  • It takes a few months to really get the hang of proper insertion
  • You must be okay with getting up close and personal with your menstrual flow
  • You must be okay with getting up close and personal with your vagina, with your bare hands
  • Polite society dictates that you can’t really talk to people about how great using a menstrual cup can be

My Experience

I heart my menstrual cup!

I got my first period when I was 12. I was prepared, having seen “the movie”, and already received my “welcome to womanhood” free maxi pad in the mail from the leading feminine protection company. When the time came, I started using sticky-backed disposable maxi pads, and then moved to disposable tampons as I got older. As far as I knew, disposable pads and tampons were the only tools available when Aunt Flo came to visit.

After moving away to college, and getting on the internet for the first time, I ran into The Keeper online. This was the first commercially available menstrual cup. I was fascinated by the concept of collecting my period using a little rubber cup inside my vagina. The testimonials were glowing, and it just made sense to me. Unfortunately, as I was just out on my own for the first time, I didn’t have a credit card or car, and couldn’t figure out how to get my hands on one.

Fast forward ten years and I started following some crunchy mama blogs (and became a crunchy mama myself). I ran into a blogger talking about “greening her period”. She spoke about cloth pads (new concept to me) and also the menstrual cup. It turns out there were even more, better options on the market now than there were ten years ago. Around the same time, a friend randomly mentioned to me that she uses a menstrual cup and LOVES it. I was sold, and ordered one online that night.

My new Diva Cup arrived mid-period and I couldn’t wait to start using it. I was so excited that after a quick review of the directions, I totally went for it: escaping for a second to the bathroom, doing my best try insertion, and getting right back to look after the kids. That was a mistake. I could feel the cup squishing around with every step, and was pretty sure it was falling out of my vagina. The stem on the cup was long, and pokey, and generally making the whole situation worse. And on top of that it leaked all over my panties. (Note: thinking I’m super smart and jumping right into things unprepared is something I tend to do regularly. It usually doesn’t go well at first. Case in point.)

The Diva Cup: Best thing to happen to periods since tampons!

So it turns out there’s a learning curve to using a menstrual cup. Mine was about three months. It takes a good amount of practice to get the fold, insert, and twist just right so you don’t get any leaks. My biggest discomfort was that I found that the cup sits very low in my vagina (maybe I’ve lost a little tone since pushing out two 9lb babies…). I spent the first month on a hardcore pelvic strengthening routine, but didn’t notice a difference the next time I used it. Trimming the stem completely off went a long way in aiding in my comfort. Eventually I got used to the feel of the cup to the point that I didn’t even notice it was there anymore.

Once I was up to speed on how to use it, I FELL IN LOVE with my menstrual cup! I always used to be forgetting to tuck a couple tampons in my purse, or panicking because I’d lost count of the hours since I put one in. Because it’s always with me, and only needs changing once or twice a day, I never have to worry about it any more! More than anything else, I just feel freedom! I don’t have to worry about my period anymore. It comes, I use the cup, it goes until next month. My period is no longer a big deal! I will be a menstrual cup user for life!

A few notes on logistics: When the time comes, I dump the contents into the toilet, and rinse it out with hot water. If in a public place, you can just wipe the cup out with toilet tissue. Once a day or so, I wash the cup with a mild fragrance free soap (my kid’s all natural baby shampoo). At the end of my cycle, I sterilize the cup in boiling water for 5 min, and keep it tucked in a clean tissue in the corner of my lingerie drawer.

This is the Diva Cup I use (Amazon affiliate link). Other popular brands are the Moon Cup and The Keeper.

Still have questions? Here’s tons more information about when, where, why, and how to use a menstrual cup.

So, would you, could you ever try a menstrual cup? Or do you already use one? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Shared at Homestead Barnhop, Monday Mania, Better Mom Mondays, Teach Me Tuesday, Titus 2sday, TALU Tuesday, Living Green, Women Living Well, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Rural Thursday, Your Green Resource, Frugal Friday, DIY Friday
Posted in Health and Wellness, Personal Care | 4 Comments

No-Poo Review: Washing Hair with Baking Soda and Vinegar – Does it Work?

No-Poo didn't work pin

 

1 out of 5 leaves

1 out of 5 leaves

“No Poo” is a method of hair washing that ditches traditional shampoos and conditioners, and replaces them with baking soda and vinegar, or even no products at all.  No-poo recently hit the national consciousness when Jacquelyn from Little Owl Crunchy Mama appeared on the Today Show to share why she hasn’t needed to wash her hair in five years!  The public reaction was a mixture of support, curiosity and snark.  Many wondered if no-poo would work for them.  Can you stop using shampoo and still have nice hair?

The Good

  • Better for you – Most commercial shampoos and conditioners have a number of chemicals which are not so natural, and have limited safety data (check out your brand here)
  • Better for the earth – less shampoo and conditioner on your head = less shampoo and conditioners in the waste stream, and no big plastic bottles to dispose of either!
  • Saves Time – save time by not needing to wash and dry your hair every day
  • Saves Money – baking soda and vinegar are cheap alternatives to pricey shampoos.  No Poo is even cheaper if you skip products all together.
  • All natural – replace chemically based products with natural, or eliminate products all together

The Bad

  • Adjustment period – the first 4-6 weeks can be quite a rough patch, especially if you’re used to shampooing every day
  • There is a base level of greasiness that you will have to get used to
  • Itchiness and flakes could come your way.
  • After your hair gets used to not being shampooed, it can be very hard to manage for a couple of days if you decide to do a quick wash
  • This method may not work for everyone especially for the work-out-hard-every-day exercise enthusiasts

My Experience

For much of my life (at least starting with the part where I started caring about my appearance) I shampooed, conditioned, and blow dried my hair every. single. day.  Then one day at work a crunchy friend told me that daily shampooing wasn’t necessary.  I vehemently disagreed: my hair was so greasy I HAD to wash it every day.  She gently told me that if I slowed down on the shampooing, my scalp would slow down on the grease production.

Over the next few years I slowed down a bit on the shampooing due to increasing kids, work, and life responsibilities, as well as the development of the “I don’t care as much” attitude that seems to come as the years pass.  I realized I had settled into a routine of washing my hair only 2-3 times a week.  I was happy with my hair.  It was healthy, manageable, and only turned into a limp grease ball on the fourth day after shampooing.

I was taking some time off work after my 3rd babe was born, and decided it was a perfect time to try out the no-poo method.  After doing a quick Google survey of no-poo recipes, I settled on the baking soda wash with a vinegar rinse method.  The baking soda is supposed to absorb the oils in your hair, while the vinegar rinse makes it shine!

It took a few tries to get the hang of it.  I recommend getting your hair really wet, stirring up the baking soda in a cup of water right before pouring it slowly around the crown of your head.  (Hint: the baking soda doesn’t really dissolve into the water, so after the first pour, you’ll have some in the bottom of the cup to do a second fill-stir-pour).  The baking soda felt really slippery on my skin and was salty in my mouth.  And it made my hair literally squeak with clean.

I diluted apple cider vinegar with water in a squirt bottle, and did a full rinse of my hair just before stepping out of the shower.  (Hint: leave the bottle in the flow of water during your shower so it’s not COLD when you squirt it all over your head).  The vinegar smell faded quickly, leaving a very fresh mild scent behind – mostly from the baking soda.

I’ll spare you the daily journal entries, but can sum up my experience this way:

  • Week 1: While my hair was soft and shiny, my scalp was itchy and greasy all week.
  • Week 2: A little less itchy and greasy.  Feeling comfortable with a twice/week wash.
  • Week 4: I have gotten used to a bit more oil around my roots, and feel like everything had evened out.
  • Week 6: Twice a week is working fine but I can’t stretch it longer than that without feeling really gross. I look forward to the fresh smell of the baking soda wash.  My hair can be styled as usual.  At this point I am at a scalp-oil equilibrium.
  • Week 8:  I’m a little annoyed by the constant low level grease around the crown of my head.  My scalp is starting to get flaky.  I really look forward to hair washing day.  I go back to work and mention to couple people that I haven’t used shampoo in two months.  The most common reaction is a startled “WHY NOT?!”
  • Week 10: I “cheat” and wash my hair with shampoo one day.  It is GLORIOUS!  My scalp feels cleaner than it has for a couple months.  But the fragrance of the shampoo and conditioner is overwhelming, and not in a good way.  My hair is very difficult to style for two days until the low level of root oils returns.
  • Week 12: I continue to feel annoyed by the constant mild oiliness of my roots.  The flakes persist.  I consider setting up a regular “cheat” day.
  • Sometime during Month 3: I mention to my husband that I’m tired of my hair always feeling a little less than fresh around the roots.  ”Then why don’t you WASH IT?!?” he responds.  ”Hmmm… good point!” I think.

So after three months, I gave up No Poo.

I think for me the main issue was the root oiliness.  My hair was always in pretty good shape.  It looked nice and styled well as long as I did the baking soda and vinegar rinse twice a week.  But my scalp just never felt clean.  The only solution to cleaning my scalp was to wash it with shampoo.

So that shampoo with the scary chemicals with limited hazard data?  I’m still using it.  I’ve switched to a much milder scent, but I’m using (and enjoying!) it 2-3 times a week.  See the thing is, I’m not concerned about the little amount that gets on my skin and is then rinsed right off.  I’m going to enjoy my feeling of clean that only shampoo can give me, and focus on removing chemicals from my home that have a much greater skin contact potential.  Things like deodorant, body lotion, and fabric softener.

Perhaps my hair really is too oily to give up shampoo.  We all have different body chemistry, and some things work better for some than others.  (As a side note, homemade deodorant didn’t work for me either).  Whatever the reason, I find I’m happier when I shampoo my hair.  Hats off (hee, hee) to Jacquelyn for her dedication and willingness to put herself out there!

Have you ever tried washing with baking soda, or any other variation of No Poo?  How did it work for you?  I’d love to hear about your experience too!

Victoria

PS – a little historical note…  I spoke with my grandmother, who grew up in the 1930′s and 1940′s.  She said she had always washed her hair once a week, and brushed it 100 strokes a day to keep it shiny.  She was shocked when I suggested that some people wash their hair every single day.  And like me, she noted that her hair always behaved better the day after it was washed.

For more info, check out this cool read on the history of personal hygiene, and innovations in hair care over the centuries.

Posted in Baking Soda to the Rescue, The Power of Vinegar | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Eating Marshmallows To Soothe a Sore Throat Review – Does it Work?

Marshmallows Soothe a Sore Throat!

Originally published Sept 12, 2013

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

 Marshmallows are confectionery treats that trace their roots back to ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians, and other Africans used the root of the marshmallow plant as a sore throat remedy, and to treat other maladies.  Today’s modern marshmallows no longer contain any marshmallow root (not even the homemade, all natural ones like these), and are made mainly of sugar, gelatin and water.  Even so, some still claim that marshmallows can soothe a sore throat.  Can marshmallows really soothe a raw and painful throat, even though they have no medicinal qualities left to them?

The Good

  • Better for you – better than drugs and syrups of dubious ingredients, anyway
  • No known side effects – marshmallows are just sugar, water and gelatin – no real nutritional value, but nothing there to hurt you
  • Easy – if going with store-bought, the only thing between you and relief is opening the bag
  • Saves money – basic marshmallows are super cheap
  • All natural – if you make your own at home

The Bad

  • It’s hard to convince the kids that “this is mama’s medicine”, and they don’t need any

My Experience

Yummy Marshmallows (hint: you don’t HAVE to have a sore throat to enjoy!)

Last year, I found myself with a summer cold.  I started fighting it with my Neti Pot as soon as I felt the first sinus tickle and managed to avoid most of the congestion.  Unfortunately, I still got the post nasal drip which made my throat raw and angry and very painful.  One evening my throat was so sore that I could barely talk or swallow.  I had been saving an all natural hot beverage sore throat remedy for just such an occasion, but it was a hot summer night.  In the sweaty stuffiness of our un-air conditioned house, I couldn’t stand the thought of a hot beverage, even to soothe my fiery throat.  I started searching Pinterest to see if there was anything else that might help.

I was shocked to find that several pinners suggested eating marshmallows to soothe a sore throat!  I had never heard of such a thing!  Honestly, it didn’t make any sense to me, and I really didn’t think it would work.  But it was way too warm for a hot beverage that night, and I figured I had nothing to lose.  So I sent my wonderful husband off to the store for a late night marshmallow run (note: late night food requests from a sick and also pregnant woman should always be honored!).  I also had him pick up the ingredients to make the hot throat soothing beverage.  I planned to make it in the morning, as I didn’t believe the marshmallows would have any real effect.

I took a small bowl of big marshmallows into bed with me and tucked in for a little sick time.  I noticed that the first marshmallow was easy to swallow – for once something didn’t hurt my throat on the way down.  ”This might work”, I said to my husband.  ”You’re crazy”, was his reply.  After eating the second marshmallow I noticed that it didn’t hurt to swallow even my saliva.  Also talking no longer hurt.  My voice was still super hoarse, but it didn’t hurt any more!  I popped a third, and then even coughing was painless again.  OMG!!  The marshmallows WORKED!!

So, friends, it turns out that marshmallows are a great natural sore throat remedy!  I’m not sure what it is in them that does the trick, (the gelatin, perhaps?) but they soothed my throat almost instantly!  The pain was gone and my throat did not bother me at all even through the night.  This will definitely be my go-to trick the next time the kids have a scratchy throat.  So simple, and easy – this one gets five leaves for sure!

Have you ever tried marshmallows for a sore throat?  What’s your favorite remedy for a scratchy, raw throat?

PS – You know I’m not a doctor, right? This information is based on my experience only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Your experience may vary. Please remember to speak with your healthcare professional about any medical concerns you have, and follow their recommended course of treatment. You can read additional fine print details here.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Homemade Baking Soda Clay Ornaments Review – Does it Work?

Originally posted on 12/05/2012

2 out of 5 leaves

2 out of 5 leaves

Baking Soda Clay.  Have you seen this one pop up on Pinterest?  (Examples here, here, and here.)  With a simple combination of baking soda, corn starch and water, you can mix up a beautifully white, smooth, and soft batch of modeling clay.  You mold it or roll it, and then bake in the oven to completely dry it out.  It makes gorgeous clay bowls or Christmas decorations, or fun little critters in the hands of your kiddos.  Or does it?  Does homemade baking soda clay really work?

The Good:

  • Better for you – no weird chemicals here – just three ingredients you already have in your kitchen
  • Better for the earth – homemade means no packaging waste, no shipping trucks, etc
  • Saves money – the ingredients are super cheap – you can whip up a batch of this for less than a dollar
  • Easy – super duper easy to mix up and easy to work with too
  • Pretty – there’s something just gorgeous about snow white dough

The Bad:

  • Tends to crack and warp while drying
  • Very fragile, breaks, chips and crumbles easily
  • Dissolves when it contacts water

My Experience

Baking Soda + Corn Starch + Water = homemade modeling clay?

When I saw this recipe for homemade baking soda clay on Pinterest, I knew immediately that I wanted to try it.  The ingredient list was short and easy, and the mixing directions straightforward.  It was something I could do with the kiddos too, which is always a bonus for me.  I thought it would make great Christmas ornaments (and gifts) if we rolled it out and used cookie cutters to make Christmas-y shapes.

The recipe went together easily, just like the other bloggers promised it would (kind of like instant mashed potatoes).  We waited until it cooled and then rolled it out and cut it just like sugar cookie dough.  I dried the ornaments out in the oven, as instructed, and left them on a plate for about a week before we got around to painting them.  (Because as pretty as snow white ornaments are, when you’re a kid, painting them up is even better).

Pretty right? Just wait until the kids touch them…

When I pulled the unpainted ornaments out of their hiding place, I noticed immediately that a number of them had cracked or broken into pieces.  It seems that many had warped or curled as they dried, and just the weight of another ornament on top was enough to break the bottom layer.  So we lost about a quarter of the ornaments right off the bat.

As the kids were painting them, I realized how fragile these things really were.  We lost another quarter just by the kids handling them.  My little guys are 4 and 2, so they’re still working on perfecting gentle, but by no means were they crazy rough with them either.  I also noticed that any paintbrush water that got onto the ornaments started dissolving the clay after a few minutes.  I guess that oven drying time was only to dry, and not to cure, as I had hoped.

We got about half of them painted intact, optimistically set a few aside for gifts and hung the rest on the fresh Christmas tree.  A week later there are only two left on the tree (out of probably 25 that were originally rolled out).  It turns out that any drop onto the hardwood floor = broken ornament.  Even from a height of just a foot or two.  Also, a certain big brother jealous of his little sister’s gingerbread man ornament that inadvertently ended up looking like Spider Man may have found it a bit too easy to snap off said man’s arms and legs.  (Nothing like this ever happens at your house, right? ;) )

Overall, this homemade baking soda clay was a Green Idea Fail.  It was easy to make and fun to work with, but did not dry well, or handle well when dry.  I would recommend it as a cheap easy recipe for children’s play clay, but not for any serious arts and crafts work.  I’m not sure if I mixed it up incorrectly, or rolled it too thick, or dried it too much, but this did not work for me.

Have you ever tried out homemade baking soda clay?  Did it work for you?  Or do you have a better recommendation for Christmas ornament clay?

Posted in Baking Soda to the Rescue, Green Holiday Ideas | Tagged | 3 Comments

Removing Pine Tree Sap from Clothing with Rubbing Alcohol Review – Does it Work?

Originally posted 11/11/2012.

All Natural Pine Sap Remover

5 out of 5 leaves

5 out of 5 leaves

Tree sap or resin is a sticky substance that oozes from trees, particularly coniferous (or evergreen) trees. Once it gets on your clothing it can be very difficult to remove, as water seems to have no effect on it’s removal.  There are chemical based bottles of goop on the market that can help you remove it, but they can be expensive, and the safety is questionable.  Can rubbing alcohol, something cheap that you already have at home do the job?

The Good

  • Better for you – rubbing alcohol is safe on your skin in small quantities – just don’t drink it or inhale too deeply (but you knew that, right?)
  • Saves money – rubbing alcohol is super cheap!
  • Saves time – there’s a pretty big chance that you already have this in your bathroom cabinet, saving you a special trip to the store
  • Easy – rub the sap away, and it’s gone!
  • Dries quickly – you can spot treat your clothing and put it right back on without sending it through the wash and dry cycle

The Bad

  • Doesn’t work on all fabrics
  • May cause discoloration on some fabrics, so do a spot test first

My Experience

Icky, Sticky tree sap, just waiting to gum you up for the holidays.  Photo Credit.

Honesty time:  I can’t take credit for this review.  Today as we were getting ready to go out my husband says to me, “I’m doing a Green Idea Review!”  It turns out that he had gotten some pine tree sap on the seat of his favorite jeans, which did not come out in the wash.  He decided to try a different  to remove it.  What a perfect thing to test out during the winter (tree cutting and wood chopping season)!  I was so proud!

He poured a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol on the sappy spots, and rubbed it in with his fingers.  The sap immediately started to dissolve and disappear.  Immediately!  There was a bigger spot that needed a second dose of alcohol, but when wet again, the remainder of the sport came right out.  Then he draped the pants over a fan, and the spot was dry within a couple minutes.

So there you have it.  Quick, and simple, easy sap removal.  I’m sure this tip will come in handy during the holidays as many of us will find ourselves inviting whole trees full of sticky sap into our homes!

Have you ever tried this nifty trick?  Do you have any other strategies for getting sticky pine tar out of your clothing?

P.S. – please remember to do a test spot in an inconspicuous place to ensure that you aren’t about to discolor or otherwise ruin your fabric!

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Posted in Green Holiday Ideas | 1 Comment