Diaper Washing Day – And Pail Liner Review

If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know that we’ve switched to mainly cloth diapering our youngest.  We still use disposables when we’re away from home and, sometimes, overnight, but cloth is the go-to.  I wanted to cloth diaper our oldest as well, but she likes to play with the velcro and, well, we’re working on it.

Today was diaper washing day.  Using and washing cloth isn’t a huge deal, but you should find a routine that works for you  because it *is* another load of laundry, and it does require a bit more attention.  I wanted to take a few minutes and explain my current wash routine, and review two pail liners that I purchased a while back.

My wash routine is subject to change, but it seems to be working for us nicely right now.
One of the most important parts -to save you the trouble later- is making sure you put your dirties in the pail correctly. If the diapers have velcro tabs, there should be a loop you can place them through. This keeps the velcro from attaching to all of the diapers and creating a diaper chain.
When it’s time to wash (if you’re using a washable pail liner) pull bag and all out of the pail and to your washing machine. Empty those smelly contents into the machine, turn the bag inside out and toss it in as well.
I start out with a simple rinse and spin on cold.
First wash – plenty of detergent and a cold wash with two rinses; no vinegar, but I do use baking soda to help with our hard water.
Second wash – less detergent, and a hot wash. I am still debating on whether or not this is necessary; to me, hot means clean. But is it hard on my diapers? I would love to hear feedback!
When the washes are complete, it’s time to dry. But STOP: not everything should go into the dryer!
All absorbent pieces -liners, AIOs, etc.- go into the dryer, and may need dried 2 or more times to make sure they are fully dry.
Covers should be hung, or draped, to air dry. Going through the dryer too often can ruin their ability to stay leak-proof.
If you use cloths instead of wipes, these should only go through the dryer once; they aren’t made to be absorbent, just to clean.

A few additional tips:
Never put dryer sheets in with your diapers. The chemicals and fabric softening qualities are a huge potential problem. Have you ever noticed that bath towels dried with dryer sheets seem to be less absorbent? This is not a quality you want in a diaper!
If you have a clothesline, it is the absolute best way to dry your diapers, covers, and cloths! When the weather permits, I hang the entire load out in the sun for the day. In the evening, covers and cloths get put away, and the inserts go through the dryer – once. This not only saves on the electric bill, but the sun is a natural “bleach”; killing germs and whitening those inserts back to like-new beauty.

Now, on to the pail liners!

I purchased two liners off of Amazon with some of my cloth diapering budget (oh hey, speaking of, I still have some of that left!) I needed two anyway, so that there would always be one in the pail while the other was being washed, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and study for a review.

The first liner I chose was this adorable hedgehog print from Planet Wise – The 1,320 customer reviews were mostly overwhelmingly good (and the fact that I love hedgehogs helped). At a price higher than I would normally pay for a bag (because let’s face it; no matter how cute it is, it just catches dirty dipes), I expected near-perfect quality – and I was, unfortunately, disappointed. I noticed the smell of the dirties more than I did while using disposable trash bags, and when I lifted the bag out of the pail on Wash Day, the inside of the pail was steamy with condensation and the liner was damp. “Um, ew.”

After my disappointment with the $17.95 bag, I looked disapprovingly at the second bag that I had purchased. I knew that if the Planet Wise brand had failed me, the cheaper brand was likely to.

The second liner was this pink one from Some Few, and it was considerably cheaper at $8.75 – and I was more impressed! When it came time to wash diapers again, I lifted the pink liner from the pail expecting to see the cloudy condensation and smelly damp bottom – it was dry and smell-free!

I may possibly have received a “bad” Planet Wise bag, and I have no intention of disrespecting a company base on one item, but overall I was much more impressed with the plainer, cheaper diaper pail liner from Some Few.

Books, Books, Books

I love books. I love reading them. I love collecting them. I love smelling them. (that’s the best part)

Books are something that, I hope, will never disappear. Technology has played a huge part in decreasing the number of books being read; especially by children. Why read a boring book when there’s the latest PS4 game waiting for you? But though modern times seem to be pushing these beloved paper gems away, there are many people who still cherish them.

Books make you think, where movies and games do not. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do those things; I love watching movies, and you could definitely call us gamers. But if you want to use your senses of sight, smell, touch, and your imagination, the best thing in the world is a book.

We have a couple hundred books at least, and we’ve only been married for a little over 2 years. Every library sale and thrift store we come across, we pick through every stack to find our favorite genres; Gideon’s being math, woodworking, and gaming, and mine being vintage/antique/unique books, and anything nature-related. Since we plan to homeschool Liddy and Livvy, building up our library now will encourage and enable them to find their own favorite genres, and study whatever they choose the good old-fashioned way.

With all of these books, I wanted a way to keep track of them; see if we have a title without needing to scan all of the bookshelves, search for something specific and have everything with that subject appear, etc. So, I joined LibraryThing. Last night I began the long task of entering books, starting with my nature titles. If you would like, you can view our collections here.

Once a book is entered, I put a special label inside the front cover. For all of the nature-related titles, I use my Ornery Biologist logo, and for the rest of the books we’ll be using our family blog theme; owls!

I’m so excited to be getting all of our books unpacked (we moved in June), sorted, entered, and on the shelves to read!  For now, we just have bookcases from Walmart, but someday I am hoping to have a room dedicated to being our family library.  Perhaps something like this:

With a cozy atmosphere, dark curtains pulled aside letting in the sunlight through large windows, leather furniture, and a huge area rug. (can you tell I’ve been daydreaming?)

If you enjoy reading, what are your favorite authors or titles? 📖

~ The Reynolds Four

New Beginnings – What We Have Planned for 2018

We’re heading into a New Year; with a new baby, new job, and new budgeting strategies, I’m eager to see where 2018 takes us!

Olivia was born October 16, so we are just now finding our “new normal”, so to speak.  Going from newlyweds, to parents of a toddler and infant, in two short years was quite the experience, but one that we wouldn’t miss for the world.  With Olivia came rearranging the nursery, learning how to cloth diaper and what I like to use, and figuring out a daily routine so that Lydia wouldn’t feel as if her entire world got turned inside out.

Gideon was just hired as a tire mechanic at a nearby truck stop, and starts January 4th.  We are both blessed and excited, as this job has more opportunities for him to move up, and pays better than his previous position.  With another little person to feed and clothe, it’s perfect.

As far as budgeting strategies, there are a few things I’m implementing that will hopefully save a decent amount of money over time.  These include using coupons on items we normally purchase, installing apps to help with couponing and rebates, and using cash while doing the envelope method.  Jordan over at FunCheaporFree.com explains the method well in this video.

I plan to do more reviews here on our blog; cloth diapers, Amazon orders, the stroller we’re planning to purchase, etc.  If there is something you would like to see, leave a comment telling me what it is, and what you would like to know!

Starting now, with the better upkeep of this blog, I am offering advertising.  Look off to the right to see Facebook pages and groups, my businesses, and my friends’ businesses coming soon.  Would you like an ad placed here?  Leave a comment, or send me a Facebook message via our page.

We’re planning a trip to Missouri this summer!  It’s been a long time since my husband’s side of the family were all together in the same place, so we’re planning a reunion for late June.  Being a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, I am slightly dreading the heat and humidity of Missouri at that time of year.  Not only that, but we will be taking two kiddos, a pack-n-play, a double stroller, and all of our clothes/etc. in our little Subaru Forester – yikes!  What are your favorite tips for packing light?

Another thing that I am hoping to do in 2018 is bring back The Ornery Biologist.  This time with more posts, more YouTube videos, and of course our two little girls!  I’ve been out of the wilderness for too long now, and am eager to get back to hiking, birding, herping, and the beautiful Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.

I think it’s safe to say that we have quite a bit planned for the new year.  Through this blog and our YouTube channel (which will soon be getting a face lift of its own), we’ll be taking you along on our little family’s life adventures.  Stay tuned!

~ Mara

5 Apps to Earn & Save

With the new year just around the corner, our life quieting down a bit, and new things falling into place, we are trying to shift our focus to saving more.  A little here, a lot there, saying “no” to unnecessary expenses, and so forth.  One way that I am currently trying is with apps on my phone.  I have quite a few that I’m testing out, but here are 5 that I am really enjoying so far.

#1 is Coupons.com – You can choose whether to use their site, or install the app on your phone.  For me, apps are just easier, and I’m not tied to one spot in my [very large] house.  With the option to choose your favorite stores, clip and print coupons, and submit receipts for cash back, it’s probably my favorite so far.  If I can save $0.50 on a box of cereal and $1.00 on toilet tissue, that’s $1.50 I can spend elsewhere!

#2 is ibotta – Browse through the available offers and save the items you would purchase (remember; you aren’t actually saving if you’re using coupons and rebates on items you don’t use).  Do your shopping, then redeem your offers and get your cash back!  I have yet to actually use this app, as I just installed it, but I look forward to trying it out this coming Saturday.
UPDATE: I used it, and earned $1.80 from two of the items I purchased. It says I also won a $10 welcome bonus, but I don’t see that showing up on my account yet.

#3 is Receipt Hog – This is one I have been using for about a month now.  You need 1000 coins in order to redeem a $5 gift card; I’ve submitted 27 receipts and earned 419 coins.  I know, 27 receipts sounds like a lot!  But they are receipts from every store we shop at, every time we fill up with gas, every receipt from the 4 adults living in the same house, within a month.  It’s a super easy app to use, and one I enjoy.

#4 is Google Opinion Rewards – Short, easy to answer surveys that get you anywhere from $0.10 to $1.00 toward your Google Play Store.  I’ve been doing surveys since 7/29/16 and have earned a total of $28.97; not a ton, but that’s $28.97 that I didn’t have to pay out of my pocket.  I answered a question or two and it was instantly in my account.  If you frequently purchase apps, or upgrades within an app, definitely install this!

#5 is a bit different; one I haven’t tested yet.  Dosh is a “cash back without the hassle” kind of app.  All you have to do is link your card(s), make your regular purchases, and you earn cash back within the app.  This app is still being tested, so it hasn’t reached it’s full potential, and I’m hoping to see many more stores and options added.  In the meantime, I’ve linked my least-used card, just to get a feel for the app.  Later on, I may add all of them.

So there are my top 5 favorite apps for saving, earning, and getting cash back.  What are your favorite ways to save?

Favorite First Impressions Tested – Cloth Diapers

After using and laundering the diapers several times since my last post, I think I can safely give my final impressions.  Keep in mind that different diaper styles work for different people, so what I like you may not prefer.

The Imse Vimse disposables liners are a lifesaver.  They catch most of the dirty and can be tossed into the garbage, saving you time and water.  Not as big of a deal with an exclusively breastfed baby, but a definite luxury item with a toddler.

The Grovia O.N.E. was, as I assumed, an improvement.  It can be a tad bulkier, especially on my 2 month old, but the reasons behind the extra bulk make it tolerable.  Great absorbency, great customization, and easy to use.  I still love my Hybrids, but I consider them more of a daytime diaper, whereas I would have no problem using the O.N.E.s overnight.

The Bumkins Snap-in-One is still winning at keeping my babies cozy and protected.  They’re easy to use, absorbent, and fully adjustable.  I can use them on my 2 month old one time, and after the next wash, switch to using them on my [almost] 18 month old.  This is a diaper I would feel comfortable using when we’re away from home, they’re that easy.

The Alva All-in-One I had my doubts about; the sewn-in layer made me wonder if it would ever get dry on the line.  After laundering, I found that this was accurate, at least at this time of year in Wisconsin; it just froze on the line.  Running it through the dryer twice did get it dry, but I hesitate to heat up the cover material that often.  Performance-wise, it is amazing!  A simple one-piece system with fully adjustable snaps, and it is incredibly absorbent so I would have no problem trying it overnight.  The only setbacks are the extra drying time, and the fact that it’s a one-use-and-wash diaper.  I prefer using multiple inserts in two aired pockets or covers, that I swap back and forth each changing.

The Elf Diaper Cover is another favorite, even if it was an accidental purchase.  Fully adjustable, fits my infant and toddler, and is super easy to wash and dry.

So there you have it; my final impressions of the diapers I have used thus far.  If you are interested in knowing more about any of them, or think you might enjoy cloth diapering for your little one(s), let me know!  I’m hoping to blog about cloth diapers frequently, and already have another post in the works right now.

~ The Reynolds Four

Cloth Diapers ~ First Impressions

I have not used all of the following diapers yet; having just received several and not put them through a washing cycle.  I do have a few first impressions that I will list now, and then write a second post later after I’ve used them for a while.

First, here is how I set up my changing station.  As I said in my last post, we use cloth during the day for Olivia, and disposables for Lydia and overnights for both.  So we have the cloth station, and a smaller ‘sposies station.

The upper shelf is for the cloth diapers; AIOs (all-in-ones), inserts, covers, etc.  Cloth wipes (we just use white wash cloths) go here as well.  When a changing is due, I simply wet a cloth in warm water and, when we’re finished, it goes into the pail with the dirty diapers.  The pram that is parked next to the changing table has a metal handle that has proved convenient for airing covers to use later.  A small hanging organizer is on the other end full of the disposables; diapers in both brands and sizes, disposable inserts, and paper liners (to catch the poo you don’t want in your pail).

Now for the first impressions.  Some of the very first diapers we got were GroVia Hybrids, and I was (and am) very impressed.  I started looking them up on Google and YouTube to see what other people thought, and came across the O.N.E.s which looked amazing.  So, when a lady in an online cloth diapering buy/sell/trade group listed two brand new O.N.E.s for $25 shipped, I jumped at it, and they came a few days ago!

The Hybrid (left) has one snap-in insert, snaps on the front to adjust the size of the diaper, and velcro to close.  I love them; they adjusted to fit Olivia when she was only 8lb, but also work perfectly for my 20lb+ Lydia. The velcro is amazing in that it will stick to everything else in the pail/wash, and I end up with a diaper chain if I don’t properly slip the velcro through the loop to fix it in place for washing and storing.
The O.N.E is, at first impression, a definite improvement.  I have not yet used this diaper, but there are a few features that I am looking forward to.  It comes with two liners; you can use the smaller for your newborn, larger for your infant, and both for your toddler, or switch it up however best fits your needs.  Both of my girls are heavy wetters (especially overnight, which is why we’re still buying some ‘sposies), so I am hoping these diapers can become our overnighters.  There is also a hook-and-loop closure feature, which I haven’t seen before, but I can go into more detail once I’ve actually used them.  Or, you can click through to the GroVia website to look at the diapers for yourself!

The next diapers are two completely different brands; the alligator print is a Bumkins Snap-in-One, and the seahorse print is an Alva

My mom found the Bumkins on sale at ShopKo and purchases three of them for us to try.  I used them on both of my girls and they fit perfectly!  Snug in the legs, no leaking, and it even held in a breastfed-baby-blow-out, so I have to say I am loving them so far.  It’s an easy system; they are a pocket diaper with a single snap-in insert and snap closures.  Literally as quick and easy to change as a disposable diaper.
The Alva I have not yet used, and definitely need to before I can make any decision as to whether or not I like it. It is also a pocket, but has a sewn-in insert. This could be nice, or it could prove to be difficult to both get clean enough in the wash, and dry enough on the line since I don’t like putting my covers through a hot dryer setting.  But, as far as good first impressions; it’s a quick and easy system with snap closures and cute prints!  (because, let’s admit it; we moms buy cloth diapers for ourselves as much as for the babies. ;))

Lastly, a “mistake” (koala print) and a random (purple).

I say “mistake” because I had meant to order an AIO from Elf Diapers, but accidentally order a cover instead.  Which is fine, as I’m sure I’ll use covers once I find a few diapering systems I like, but I’ll admit I was disappointed when I learned of my mistake.  Tip: always triple-check before checking out.  I’ll most likely use this cover soon and add decide how I really like it, but one concern I do see is what I’ve heard called the “poo-catcher”; that flap of fabric where the snaps are attached inside.  We shall see!
The purple is from Bonnibuns; I’m not sure exactly which category it’s in, but I love using it as a cover.  The snap closures are great, the sizing adjustment is perfect, and I just really like how it goes on, stays on, and keeps in.

And there you have it; that’s our list of diapers we like, and ones we’re trying based on what we like.  Black Friday-Cyber Monday allowed us to get some great deals, and BST groups are incredible; cloth diapering is so much more effective than using disposables!  If you ever want more information on whether or not you think cloth diapering will work for you, leave a comment and I would be happy to help all I can.


~ The Reynolds Four

A Cloth Diapering Adventure

My mother started using cloth diapers when she found that one of my younger sisters was allergic to disposables, and at first it was through a cloth diapering service. I thought it was cool to have the “diaper lady” come by with fresh, clean diapers, and take away the bag full of dirties. It was almost a novelty, like having a milkman.

Eventually though, the cloth diapering service was proving to be too much for the family pocketbook and, through crunching numbers, my mom found it would be considerably cheaper to just purchase her own diapers. With the rest of my sister’s diapering days to go, and what came to be three more children in the future, it was a LOT smarter to just DIY the whole way. And so began my mother’s stash of dipes.

Fast forward 16 years.

With Lydia, we’ve used disposable diapers since birth. We lived in an apartment where we had to pay to wash and dry our laundry, and the machines just weren’t up for the job of dirty diaper duty. Besides, she never showed any signs of them causing irritation. I had said multiple times since we moved to our new home in June, that I wanted to switch to cloth diapers. They’re better for the baby, for the environment, and [in the long run] for the budget. It just made sense. Yet I procrastinated, mentioned it once or twice, and kept doing what I was used to. One day my sister-in-law messaged me and asked if I would like some cloth diapers that she had tried and not liked – yes, please!

But still, I failed to use them, until Olivia was born and we found that she broke out in a rash when we consistently used disposables. I began using what I been gifted by my SIL, and then another friend sent some of her stash that she didn’t prefer, so I had a lot to start out with. After a month of using them, I’ve discovered a few things.

When my mother used cloth diapers, they were the prefolds, pins, and covers; that’s what she preferred. However, I find the All-In-One types so much easier! Once you’ve found where and how they should sit, it’s as fast as changing a disposable, and there are no pins to worry about. (An important thing, too, for someone as prone to pokes and cuts as I)

So far, my absolute favorites are from GroVia. I have the Hybrids and loved them so much that I just purchased my first two O.N.Es; I’ll be writing a review on 4 or 5 different brands soon!

And so, that’s our adventure. We’re using cloth on Olivia unless we’re out of town, and using them with Lydia about half of the time until I have a bigger stash to work from. It’s amazing how many diapers you notice yourself going through when you’re washing them instead of tossing them out. 😉

Watch for the review post, coming soon!

A Toddler’s Menorah

Naturally, everyone wants a part of the Hanukkah fun; and the best part is lighting the candles each night!  With a very curious 17-month-old who likes to be a part of everything, I wanted a way for her to participate, without wanting to touch the actual menorah.  How it will work, I’m not sure; she may not notice the similarities and still want to reach the real thing, but here’s what I’m trying!

I first saw a picture of this idea on Pinterest and didn’t click on that particular tutorial, but tried it myself.

You will need:

Yarn, in “flaming” colors
8 clothespins, painted blue or silver
Hot glue gun
Some sort of stand; I chose a small gift box because I can store the pieces in it for next year.

I started by cutting the yarn into strips the length of the comb, and in groups of 3; red, orange, and yellow.  I then folded the strips in thirds, cut the loop at one end, and combed until the yarn was fluffed.

Once all eight were finished, I twirled the end and stuffed it into the top part of each clothespin, then secured it with glue (and got quite a bit on my fingers in the process).  Once they were all glued, it was time to complete the assembly!

The end result is a cute, toddler-friendly menorah that will fit into it’s giftbox stand and come out for years to come.  The best part; if a “candle” breaks or the box gets crushed, it is simple and cheap to replace!

Watch for more Hanukkah posts to come as the holiday approaches.  Shalom!

Non-Grocery Shopping

Up until this last paycheck, we had been lumping grocery and non-grocery shopping together, and it just wasn’t working; we were spending too much on the lesser-needed non-grocery items, than we were on actual food. We decided to keep separate amounts for the two categories, and I went a step further by comparing prices to get the best deal.

Walmart: 528 baby wipes for $14.64 – 3.0¢/each
Amazon: 576 baby wipes for $13.91 – .02¢/each

We’re transitioning over to cloth diapers (that post coming soon!), but we still use disposables for when we’re out and about, and overnight due to having heavy wetters. Olivia can only wear Pampers without getting a rash.
So I looked up diapers, too:
Walmart: 35 diapers for $8.97 – 26¢/each
Amazon: 35 diapers for $7.59 – 22¢/each

And so the list goes on. The usual necessities like toilet tissue and toothpaste, and the more occasional items like new cuppies, extra washcloths, etc. There are a few reasons why I prefer Amazon shopping to say, Walmart: 1), the prices are cheaper. 2), I can read reviews and compare brands much better than in-store. 3), I get the entire non-grocery budget out of the way at home the night before we go shopping, so there is no temptation to buy things we don’t actually need.

If you want to see more things that you can get on Amazon, check out my My 10 Pre-Baby Must-haves post!

Groceries on a Budget

Let me be real for a few minutes. I like for our life to look perfect on the internet, or if not perfect at least interesting, but I tend to shy away from the “real life” us. We are a very happy, healthy family of four, with an income that gets us by. But that’s it; it gets us by every month, with little to spare. So, I have made grocery shopping into more of a sport than anything, though I’m just starting out and am certain there’s much more for me to learn on the way. I wanted to set aside a post and explain how we did our most recent grocery shopping trip.

The budget changes a bit depending on the time of month, or the time of year, whether or not Gideon gets a bonus, or if I have any to contribute from my businesses. This time, we had $125 to spend on groceries for 2 weeks.

$125 / 14 (two weeks) / 3 (meals a day) = $2.97 (per meal) / 3 (Gideon, Lydia, and myself) = $0.99

Add coupons – roughly $9 saved (on things we would normally buy)

Add that we shopped at 3 different stores (Festival, Aldi, and Walmart) – we found the best or cheapest deals on different items.

The trick I’ve found when using coupons is, only use the coupons that are actually for something that you would normally purchase. If you don’t have a cat, don’t buy cat food simply because it saves $0.75. But that $1 off when you buy two boxes of cereal; USE it! It’s amazing how much snack cereal a toddler can go through. I use the coupons.com app to clip and print, and find the coupons and deals for the stores in local newspaper fliers.

The different stores add a sense of scavenger hunting. Festival isn’t the most budget-friendly, but if you have coupons it’s worth a trip. Aldi is my personal favorite with a good selection and great prices. Walmart is the last on the list, simply because I want to give my money to the other stores first. You can get the apps for the stores, and keep track of deals that way, along with ads and coupons.

I keep our grocery list (and all of my lists, really) in Evernote, and use the calculator in my phone to keep track of what we’re spending.
For instance, we went to Festival first, and spent $38. Next was Aldi at $45, and lastly Walmart at $31. This left us with enough left over for Kwik Trip (bread and bananas), and a few dollars for emergency.

So what did I get with $125? Well, we already had the staples; rice, beans, potatoes, flour, etc. I had to get whatever was needed to make the staples and odd pantry items into meals. And, as always, we picked up odds and ends. If you’re curious as to what all we got, read on, but it might be a tad boring. 😉

Festival: $38
4 Old Orchard frozen juices
BP Smokehouse BBQ Sauce
5/$10 16.9 Pepsi 6-packs (we usually never buy soda in abundance, but we gifted most of it)
8 cans of Libby’s canned vegetables
A 4lb beef roast
Dole salad mix
Total Saved with coupons – $19.09 (I didn’t count the Pepsi earlier in the post)

Aldi: $45
2 40oz Peanut Butter
Grape jelly
2 Apple juice (half gal. each)
Apple butter
Ramen soup (I know, I know… not the healthiest)
Fresh mini cucumbers
Almond milk
4 boxes oatmeal
4 cans corned beef hash
2 bags egg noodles
And of course, the paper bags.
Socks (it was supposed to be all grocery, but 6 pairs of toddler socks for $3.99? I couldn’t say no)
No added savings via coupons this time.

Walmart: $31
2 tubs Earth Balance margarine
3 cartons rice milk
2 packages bagels
6 large cans tomatoes
No added savings via coupons this time.

Kwik Trip bread and bananas was $5, and we still had $6 left of our $125! I would say we had a very successful trip.