Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Mama Cloth Test {the full story}

Mama Cloth.

Have you heard this term? Mama cloth = reusable cloth menstrual pads that are eco-friendly alternatives to disposable pads. This may sound gross to some, but to others it will sound intriguing. If you're a tampon-all-the-way type of girl because you can't stand to use pads, this is not for you. But if you use pads already, this is a very awesome option that I highly recommend.

Let me interrupt this story by telling you (in case you didn't know already) that I use cloth diapers for my daughter - I am not easily icked out by poop and pee, plus I consider myself a tree hugger/hippie at heart, so I am always interested in ways that I can contribute to saving our environment.

Tampons make me more crampy than usual and that makes me cranky, so I only use them when completely necessary (like when I'm swimming). Consequently, I'm a pad girl most of the time when I'm on my period.  But disposable pads are SUPER irritating to me - chafing in a very sensitive place makes an unpleasant time of month even more unpleasant.  I knew there had to be a solution...

As I shopped around for cloth diapers, I saw "Mama Cloth" listed on the side bar of a couple of sites.  One day I finally clicked on it and my answer was found!  I was totally intrigued, but wary. I liked the idea of cloth against my skin instead of disposable pads (which is one of the reasons I chose cloth diapers vs. disposables), but I wasn't sure about the "cleanliness" of the whole thing. But since cloth diapers have worked out so well, I figured I'd give it a try.

When I received my pads in the mail, I tossed them in with a load of diapers to pre-wash them. Ultimately, that wasn't enough to properly prepare the pads, so I had issues.  My first test failed - my pad leaked while I was at work, and then when I washed it, it didn't come clean completely (I will spare you the stinky details).

You MUST pre-wash them in HOT water (I'd suggest 2-3 times to be completely honest) or boil them once for about 15-20 minutes.  This process will remove the temporary basting spray (sewing adhesive) that is used in manufacturing and will help to achieve maximum absorbency from the materials.  Boiling worked better for me, so that's my ultimate suggestion.  My single hot wash didn't work... at all.

Round two, after I had boiled the pads to strip them, was a total success. I was SO much more comfortable than disposable pads, and I didn't encounter any leaks! I honestly almost forgot that I was on my period!  This is SERIOUSLY NOT GROSS like I thought it might be, and I'd tell you if it was.  I swear, it's just as easy as dealing with disposable maxi pads, ESPECIALLY if you cloth diaper because you can wash them all together.  After the pad is used, just fold the ends in toward the center and snap the wings around it to keep the mess on the inside.  Then throw it in the hamper or diaper pail.  Washing is a breeze - I throw my pads in with my cloth diapers, but you can wash them with your regular laundry too - trust me, it won't sully your other laundry!

My cloth diaper/mama cloth washing method: cold soak with Bac-Out overnight in the washer, then add about 1/4 of the amount of detergent you'd normally use in a load of laundry and let that cycle run. Then run a second cycle with the same amount of detergent, but using HOT water. Then tumble dry  with wool dryer balls (no dryer sheets please) or line dry. That's it! If any stains linger, set the pads in the sun and the stain will fade out. Down the road, if you have any absorbency or smell issues, detergent build up is likely the culprit. Just boil your pads again for 15-20 minutes to "strip" them of the build up. Problem solved!

The initial investment into mama cloth will set you back at least $100 - I suggest changing pads at least every 4 hours, meaning you need a minimum of 6 per day, with a backup set of 6 for when the first set is in the wash, for a total of 12 pads.  You can also invest in cloth panty liners, or just keep using the regular pads until you're in the clear.  I think the comfort plus the eco-friendly nature of mama cloth makes up for the cost.  I'm sold!

Look for my review of Blossom Pads mama cloth on SIMPLE Reviews on Leap Day ~ February 29, 2012.



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Dutch Oven {is AWESOME} :: How to Use in Cooking and Care Instructions

Today it crossed my mind that I had written something awesome that I never published on my blog! This is an old article that I wrote in April 2011 as my writing sample when I applied to be a writer for SIMPLE Reviews - it got me the job, so I figured I should share it!




There’s a new star in my cupboard: my Dutch Oven.

Everything I have cooked in it has turned out juicy, fork-tender and cooked to perfection. Whether chicken or beef (carnitas is next on the menu!), a knife was not required for meals cooked in my Dutch Oven.

Plus, I *heart* one pot meals! What’s not to love here?

Pot Roast (hubby’s favorite) was first on the menu. I have made pot roast many times (did I mention, it’s hubby’s fave?), both in a roasting pan and in the crock pot… but the dutch oven took the gold by a landslide! With the Dutch Oven, all cooking is done in the pot. With oven or crock pot, you have to use a pan to brown the meat first, then transfer to a roasting pan or the crock pot. Too many dishes! In the crock pot, the meat turns out pretty tender if you let it cook long enough, but then the carrots always come out mushy. In the roasting pan both the meat and carrots are drained of moisture and get rubbery instead of tender. In the Dutch Oven, the meat was soft like butter and fell apart just by looking at it and the carrots were tender and roasted to golden perfection.

When most people think of a Dutch Oven (also called a French Oven or cast iron casserole), they imagine the expensive “leading brand” (you know which one…) and automatically think they can’t afford to own one. Au contraire, mon ami! You can get a quality piece of cookware without breaking the bank!

I purchased a JC Penney in-house Cooks brand 7 quart oval cast iron casserole, which goes on sale for $90, regularly $160. For comparison, the “leading brand” 7 quart round French Oven can be found on sale for around $275, regularly $340!!That’s a difference of $185 when both are on sale!! Whew!

I couldn’t be happier with my Cooks Dutch Oven, and I spent approximately 1/3 of the cost of the “leading brand.”Cooks is good quality, it is aesthetically beautiful (gradient blue – way prettier than the “leading brand” in my opinion), and it has produced remarkably well-cookedfood. I truly believe that a $90 investment is worth this fantastic piece of cookware.

Cast iron distributes heat evenly when used both on the stovetop and in the oven. Many Dutch Oven recipes begin cooking on the stovetop, then finish in the oven. I dig this feature! A huge bonus of Dutch Ovens: you can cook and serve a meal in the same beautiful dish, which means less after-dinner dishes to wash!

Plus, the enameled interior coating is stick-resistant and releases food for easy cleaning. I’m not a fan of doing dishes (let’s be honest, who is a fan, really?), so this is a huge bonus in my book.

Here’s my Dutch Oven in action (making Belgian-Style Pot Roast). Look at how beautifully that roast seared up!

Use and Care
When using and caring for your Dutch Oven, be sure not to use metal utensils or steel wool. You will leave marks on the enamel coating. My mom found out the hard way when she used an SOS pad on my dish (ACK!). I am happy to report that I was able to get most of the marks off using baking soda, a regular dishwashing brush and lots of elbow grease. Yay!

Use mild dishwashing soap and warm water to clean your Dutch Oven. Unlike bare cast iron cookware, enameled cookware doesn’t require “seasoning,” and therefore can be cleaned using soap.

Wash and dry immediately to avoid rust on the exposed cast iron edge. The exposed edge is the only difference I can see between Cooks and the “leading brand.”

The downside of Dutch Ovens is their weight. Alone, they are heavy. Full of yummy food, they are even heavier. But just do a few bicep curls with it and you can consider cooking as part of your workout routine! Score!

Thank you for reading!