Homemade Talc-Free Baby Powder

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When Little P was tiny I didn’t like the idea of using talcum powder. I was a bit paranoid that she might choke on the clouds of talc that tend to go everywhere and I was also getting tired of the film of white dust all over the bathroom from my own talc use. Unfortunately liquid talc gave her a sore bottom so I discovered wonderful Burt’s Bees dusting powder (expensive but I used it sparingly!). But when she was a few months old it was discontinued so I needed an alternative (I’ve seen it for sale on Amazon but it’s even more pricey). Most of the ingredients on the Burt’s Bees container were recognisable (cornflour, bentonite clay, essential oils) so I searched online for ‘homemade baby powder’. After some trial and error and variations on different recipes I finally arrived at this one which both myself and Little P have been using successfully for over a year (no sore bottoms or nappy rash here).
Mine is a variation on the recipes I found on these sites:
Ingredients
3 cups of corn flour (find it in any supermarket)
1 cup of bentonite clay (often used in home brewing I got it from
2 drops of lavender oil (or any other essential oil you prefer)
Equipment
Measuring cup (you can use any size cup depending on how much powder you want to make but I always use 3 measures of cornflour to 1 measure of clay)
1 large container for mixing (I use an old clean tea tin)
Pestle & mortar
Spoon
Plastic funnel (you can make one by cutting off the top of a water bottle)
Old clean talc container or a sugar shaker for the finished powder (I’ve been using the same Burt’s Bees powder containers I’ve had since Little P was born!)
Method
Firstly measure out the bentonite clay and grind it thoroughly using the pestle & mortar (you may have to grind small amounts at a time rather than all the clay together). Take the time and make sure it’s ground into a superfine powder or else the finished powder will feel gritty on the skin. Put the clay into the mixing tin and gradually add the cornflour, mixing as you add. Finally add two drops of essential oil and thoroughly mix so everything is well combined. Then place the funnel into the powder shaker and spoon in the finished powder. One standard measuring cup of clay and three standard measuring cups of cornflour makes approx 500g of powder.
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Decant the finished powder into the shaker using a funnel
Some useful information
As with any new baby product always test before using. I tested this on myself first, then tested it on Little P’s leg before using it on her bottom and the rest of her body. Cornflour and bentonite clay are both edible so pretty safe and this doesn’t produce the ‘clouds’ of tiny dust particles like talcum powder (the consistency is like flour). But because it is talc free it doesn’t feel as silky as talcum powder and needs to be rubbed in a little more. I also find that I use a lot less. It absorbs excess moisture, keeps skin dry and the essential oil gives a lovely gentle fragrance.
Some recipes also add dried flowers like camomile or calendula which would be lovely but I could never manage to grind them finely enough so the resulting powder felt very ‘gritty’. If anyone manages this please let me know how!

A Toy Story

As I’m not working at the moment we don’t have a lot of spare cash to spend on extras so, apart from birthdays and Christmas, we don’t buy toys for ‘Little P’. For her last birthday I was really excited to buy her a new toy. Full of enthusiasm, I went into one of the giant toy superstores. A cavernous warehouse stretched ahead with endless aisles of themed and heavily branded choice. I was feeling dreamily nostalgic about golden haired dolls, soft furry teddy bears, giant red play buses and brightly painted wooden animals. I soon realised the toy warehouse experience was quite different.
They are just too vast to have any of the charm of a smaller, selective oldie style toy shop. The smell of plastic alone made me a bit lightheaded after a while! I couldn’t find anything that I felt she’d enjoy. Most of the toys were TV or movie merchandise that mean nothing to her. The ‘toddler’ toys were giant plastic things with buttons that flash or make noise. She has a few of these type already and the trouble is, that once she has pressed the button sequences a few times, there isn’t really anything else about the toy that captures her imagination. There were odd looking stuffed animals with giant eyes and strangely coloured dolls with distorted faces that frightened me, so I can imagine the effect they would have had on her! In the end I bought a small play tent which she loves and it provides loads of fun. But as we all know, a couple of sheets draped over a chair would probably have made her just as happy.
The truth is that I was the one who was really interested in finding the toys. Little P is still too young to care. I can still remember my grandparents at Christmas coming out with that famous line, ‘They’ll get more fun out of playing with the box’. Now I can wholeheartedly agree. Little P’s current favourite toys are those few simple little wooden animals and figures that were passed down to her by the now much older children in the family. But most of the other things that she plays with are bits of packaging! Empty cinnamon tins, toilet roll tubes, cardboard boxes, magazines, and cleaned-up yoghurt cartons. Under her playtable we’ve re-created her playground swings, made from reused cardboard cups for her little toy figures to sit in, and it is by far her favourite thing to play with at the moment.
Of course there are many great classic toys available, mostly from small independent businesses and local retailers. But many of the more popular brands are really all about shareholder bottom lines and global corporates, some of whom may have little care for child development. I can see that Little P gets the most stimulation from very simple things that allow her to use her imagination. Blocks, little wooden animals and objects like boxes, tins and drums.
Many years ago education pioneers like Frederich Froebel and Maria Montessori recognised how young children add imagination to the simplest of playthings. The toys they provided for their ground-breaking schools were simple wooden shapes, blocks and beads. Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous American architect who deigned New York’s landmark Guggenheim Museum – a wonderful spiral art gallery much loved by millions of visitors – often spoke about the basic wooden blocks he played with as a child that helped to develop his sense of spatial awareness and creativity.
So I will save our much needed cash and ignore the confusing multi-themed expanses of Disney, and the ‘Paw Patrol’ and ‘Peppa Pig’ variations similar to many. Little P doesn’t need them, especially while she is so young. It may be a different story when she is older, watching TV and looking for the toys that her friends are talking about in the school yard! But for now I’ll continue to let her raid the recycling bin and, no matter what we manage to cobble together from bits and bobs, I know she’ll be impressed.

Every child comes pre-fitted with the greatest playthings of all, their limitless imagination and curiosity. These need no batteries, no instruction books, and no pre-planned tie-in merchandising structures to stimulate further interest.

An empty box, tin or carton is a new toy every day. Just add a toddler.

Why dressing my little girl is not what I expected.

I recently read two newspaper articles that got me thinking about how my attitude to children’s clothes changed dramatically once I became a Mum. The first was about the retailer John Lewis deciding to abandon girls and boys labelling on their clothing:
The second was by Hadley Freeman in The Guardian writing about how designer children’s clothes are basically a waste of time:
Before I became a Mum I was all about fancy (and expensive!) baby clothes. I loved buying clothes for my nieces and nephews. Clothes that I thought were cute or trendy or pretty. If my friends had baby girls I’d especially enjoying picking out the pinkest frilliest baby outfit I could find. When I think back now on some of the more ridiculous items of clothing that I gifted to people I cringe!
During my pregnancy I was very cautious about buying baby things so I only had six white vests, six white babygros and one white cardigan for my hospital bag. Knowing me pre baby my family obviously bought loads of dresses and pink cutesy things for Little P when she was born. But suddenly dressing my own baby felt very different. I didn’t really care about cute outfits, to me she was the most gorgeous baby I had ever seen and dressing her in fancy outfits just seemed unnecessary.  Also the cuter the outfit the more uncomfortable it seemed to be! My only real concerns were soft fabric, comfort and warmth (but not too warm!). What the clothing looked like was bottom of my list. When I dressed her in fancy dresses or mini adult style outfits it just seemed like we were putting her in costume or treating her like a little doll.
Now that she’s an active toddler comfort and warmth are still priorities. But now I also love to buy clothes that SHE loves. So, last winter she was fascinated with pirates and bears. Now it is virtually impossible to find either of those things on girls clothing so I bought a number of boy’s tops and t-shirts for her. She loved putting them on and showing them to people. Now, she loves cats and Micky Mouse! These are more ubiquitous so I can nearly always find them in the girls section. But often vests and tops in nice strong primary colours can only be found in boys sections (or expensive unisex ranges which I love but just can’t afford). So, when shopping I always look at everything on offer in her age range and ignore the gender labels. By now she has a good mix of both boys and girls clothing in her wardrobe!
Recently she has started to show an interest in selecting clothes in the morning and wanting to dress herself (Minnie Mouse shorts and her red wellies are the look dejour!). I’d like her to see that clothes can be fun, creative and an interesting way to express herself, if she so chooses. They are not necessarily about looking pretty or ‘nice’ for others but more about feeling good in herself. They don’t need to be expensive, fashionable or new. They can be homemade, secondhand or borrowed. One of Little P’s favourite pieces of clothing at the moment is a cardigan knitted by my Auntie who Phoebe just adores! A piece of clothing made by hand and with love – isn’t that the best label that anything could boast?

Are fairytales too scary?

I have rewritten quite a few stories and nursery rhymes for Little P at this stage. She got a collection of classic fairy tales as a present (not necessarily my choice!) and she was very taken with the pictures. So, in my version Little Red Riding Hood gives the wolf some berries she collected in the wood so he won’t be hungry anymore. In the Three Little Pigs they have a party with the wolf in the house of bricks. And in the Billy Goats Gruff the troll guides all the goats to the field with the sweetest grass!

It’s not just classics I feel the need to censor. In my version of The Gruffalo the mouse is delighted to finally see him and brings the Gruffalo through the forest to make friends with fox etc. (sorry Julia Donaldson). My family think I’m crazy. ‘But it’s just a story’ they say. ‘It’s only make believe’ they object. But I think that young children learn about the world through their play and make believe. So if they are constantly fed stories filled with conflict, aggression, fear and violence won’t they start to believe that this is the norm? Back in the 1800s when Grimm and their contemporaries were writing children’s stories the world was a very dangerous place for small children. If they wandered outside their village they literally could have been eaten. Stories like these were written as warnings to try and prevent children from straying too far from home. Of course the world is still a very dangerous place full of conflict, aggression and violence. But I for one don’t want my daughter to believe that this is the norm. She will learn in time that people do bad things but this is the exception rather than the rule. And surely we have better ways of protecting children now rather than scaring the living daylights  out of them!


I want Little P to see a world of opportunity, adventure, excitement, humanity and fun. But funny stories about big bad wolves and owl ice cream are fun for children I hear you cry! Or maybe they’re are just the things that WE think children will find fun because they are the kind of stories that may have been read to us as children. The truth is that children find fun and laughter where they see us finding fun and laughter. So a story about funny words, a topsy turvy world or messy stuff is fun. Violence is just not needed. It’s a hangover from the ancient childrens ‘classics’ and time to leave it behind now.  Much better to read our children tales of endeavour, co-operation, adventure and kindness. These are the stories that will develop them into an inspiring generation.

Blogger’s Freeze

I started thinking about blogging about six months ago. I wanted to practise my writing skills and reading so many great blogs meant I wanted to join in the conversation! I was aware that it would take a lot of work and commitment but had loads of ideas for content so no worries there. But what I didn’t anticipate was something I like to call ‘Blogger’s Freeze’.

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Writer’s and Blogger’s block are obviously well known concepts as both writers and bloggers are simply often unable to write. But for me the problem isn’t writing it’s publishing. Blogging is unlike any other form of writing as there’s no other stage between writing the content and publishing that content. Most other articles, stories, books, essays etc will go through an editing stage where their work is critically appraised and changed. Maybe a little or maybe a lot. But with a blogpost the whole process usually begins and ends with the blogger. I do occasionally ask my other half for a second opinion but he has enough of his own work to do and is often not here when I’m writing. So, I find myself writing posts, reading, rewriting and when the post is finished and ready to publish I freeze! What if it’s too personal? What if it’s not personal enough? Maybe it’s badly written or nobody will ‘get’ what I’m trying to say. Maybe it’s just dull? So, I hover over the publish button with my mouse and agonise and procrastinate. I’ve probably only published half of what I have actually written.

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It could be because I have read so many great blogs and I’m subconsciously comparing my work or maybe it’s just that I have never worked alone before and learnt to trust my own instincts. Either way I have to learn to embrace my creative autonomy rather than allowing it to paralyse me. I have to get over my ‘Blogger’s Freeze’ because if I don’t publish then I’m not exactly a blogger. Just a crazy woman with loads of random word documents saved on her laptop!

I’d love to hear if any more experienced bloggers have had this problem and if so how did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments.

Summer’s End

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Excitement is building here for the Rose of Tralee festival which is almost upon us and for me that always signals the end of the summer. The holiday houses will soon close up and families will return home to their regular routines of work, school and college. This time of the year is bittersweet for me now. I will enjoy the quiet beaches and playgrounds once the crowds have gone. I like September it always feels full of possibility and fills me with the thrill of expectation. As a child I loved school and always looked forward to returning after the summer holidays. I used to get so excited about my new school books and uniform! It was an exciting and busy time when I worked in television but I do feel a sense of relief that I’m not there anymore. How I mourn the passing of summer though…

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The summer here is wild and chaotic. The weather swings between Atlantic summer storms and glorious hazy sunshine. The beaches are dotted with happy screeching children, crazy dogs, dedicated swimmers and sun worshippers. Any coastal town or village all across the world buzzes with activity as soon as summer comes around. And I suppose they all enjoy the benefits and suffer the disadvantages in equal measure. Holiday makers can bring noise and litter, they can be careless in places that are not home. There were some frustrating stories in the news recently about dumping in beauty spots in Sneem and on the Conor Pass. But tourists can also bring money, activity, vibrancy and a lifeline to many small seaside places. There are businesses here that will shut up shop once August ends. It is only the steady stream of tourists that the summer months supply that keep them open.

‘Little P’ will miss all the extra children, the boats, the fishermen and the festivals. But September will bring a whole new set of adventures. There’ll be blackberry picking, jam making, collecting conkers and jumping into piles of crunchy brown leaves. I want to squeeze all the enjoyment out of these Autumns with her because I know how quickly time is passing and soon Septembers will mean school.

I’m learning how the seasons change life here. I’m also finding out what each season has to offer and I find myself anticipating each one with delight. For the seasons are about nature and weather and there is no better place to experience both. The Wild Atlantic Way has something to offer all year round and I can see that others appreciate that too. If we all do our bit to preserve our landscape and our government invest wisely in it then maybe those small business won’t have to close their doors in Autumn after all.

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Quickie Soda Bread

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This is a staple in our house and takes just minutes to make. It’s my wholemeal version of the Ballymaloe soda bread recipe and can be made after breakfast and enjoyed nice and fresh for lunch. It freezes well (just make sure it has fully cooled before freezing) and lasts up to three days. If it goes a little dry or hard putting the slices into a toaster usually brings the softness back to the bread. It costs roughly 80cent a loaf (not including the electricity cost of baking) so it’s cheaper than shop bought soda bread. ‘Little P’ loves it as well and it’s good to know exactly what ingredients are going into her food. I usually make two at a time and freeze one of the loaves so we don’t run out.
Ingredients
225g wholemeal flour (I use the ‘Howard’s’ coarse wholemeal)
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
400mls buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 180degs fan. Lay some baking parchment on an oven tray. Mix the flours and bicarbonate of soda together. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk.
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Using your hand like a claw gather the flour and milk together until it forms a ball (you may need to clean any excess dough off your hands using a little extra flour). The less you handle the dough the lighter and more spongy the bread, so no kneading.
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Shape into a ball and place it on the oven tray. Flatten it slightly with your palm and mark a cross in the centre with a knife. Bake for 35mins. Place on a wire rack to cool (and save your baking parchment for next time!).