lucy is nine months!!!

please disregard lucy's slightly less-than-picture-perfect appearance--she scratched herself near her eye just in time for her photoshoot!

"getting older is just SO hard, mommy!"

recent achievements include: 

~ lightning fast crawling--favorite destination is most definitely maizy's water bowl!
~ pulling up on anything and everything, especially mommy's legs
~ clapping (see photo #03)
~ putting little toys into bigger toys--after pulling out all toys from her toy cupboard
~ shrieking with delight at every animal we meet, including our own
~ giving mommy big, slobbery kisses
~ occasionally waving bye-bye 

we're hauling fast to a first birthday, it seems. slow down little girl, mommy's not ready yet!



a load of crap...

was taken to our city's free e-cycling event over the past weekend. this was our first time getting rid of e-waste via a sponsored drop-off, and it was as simple and as painless as it could have possibly been--we didn't even have to get out of the car. our smallish load consisted of a computer monitor, my busted hairdryer, some kind of waxing machine, and other random small electronics. our garage is looking a bit cleaner, and i'm feeling nice and environmentally responsible. the experience was good all around. 

i live in a pretty smallish suburban town. multiply all the crap you see here by all the towns across the country, and you can see why e-waste is such a problem. a huge downside to technology moving so fast--just take a look at those totally outdated big screens--is that things become obsolete in shorter amounts of time, generating massive amounts of waste. there were several televisions in the pile that were totally comparable to the one i've got sitting in my living room (which we're currently using only to watch movies on, as no-television august carries into yet another successful month). aside from not being all cute and flat, there's nothing wrong with our t.v. in my eyes--but i guess where technology is concerned, functionality is in the eye of the beholder. 

my broken laptop still isn't remedied. i've shoved it aside in a fit of mourning for the time being. thankfully i have a husband who doesn't mind sharing his own computer--which led to our painful discussion regarding "what if it cannot be fixed?" could we (gasp) get by with just one computer? save ourselves $1,000 and, at least for the time being, another computer from landfill?

less is more. less is more. 

even the valleygirl has a hard time with this mantra now and again. 


warning! this is not an eco-related posting...

rather, it is a proud mommy showing off sweet pictures of her adorable baby. our fabulous wedding photographer did a photo shoot with lucy awhile back, and has used some of the pictures in a sample album for future clients. christina hernandez of nightingale photography is simply amazing--but i have to say the baby is pretty cute too. 

you can see the sample album by clicking here.  


need ANOTHER reason...

to avoid high fructose corn syrup in your diet? besides, you know, being a chemically-altered sweetener that actually makes you hungrier in the long run? well, here you go: a recent study found mercury was present in one of every 3 name-brand HFCS-sweetened products. information on the study can be found here

mercury content arises out of the use of caustic soda in creating HFCS. maybe it's just me, but i don't want something called "caustic soda" anywhere near my food. and the people over at sweet surprise can try and twist things around all they want to (have you seen their terribly cheesy commercials yet?) but i'm not buying, both literally or figuratively. 

we've all but cut HFCS out of our diets, so finding that there could be a known toxin in products that contain it is pretty much a non-issue at my house. aside from the very occasional coke, i do not purchase any products that have HFCS on the label. shopping at trader joes makes this a pretty easy task. the same goes for all other artificial sweeteners--to me they just taste bad. i'd rather consume less of the real deal than tons of the fake stuff (though i've been known to consume tons of the real deal, too). 

by the way--the average american consumes 63 pounds of HFCS per year. and only 12 pounds of carrots. 

it's amazing what you can find on the internet. 


less catalogs...

it really happened. over the past 6 months, i've seen a drastic reduction in unwanted catalogs that somehow find their way into my mailbox. we're now averaging 1 per week instead of 1 per 1-2 days. very, very nice on more than one account: not only am i feeling better about saving a few resources, but i'm not so tempted to buy stuff that we don't need (or even know we want, until the catalog gets opened).  

i opted out of around 90 percent of my catalogs by using catalogchoice.org, a free service that works on behalf of the consumer to stop unwanted mailings in their name. for the "bad" companies that wouldn't work with catalogchoice (cough, pottery barn, cough), i called up directly and asked to be removed from their lists. 

all that said and done, i got a FABULOUS catalog in the mail awhile back, by a company called nova natural toys & crafts:

products made only of wood, wool, silk & other natural fibers? no plastics whatsoever? check. 
family owned & operated? check. 
organic items? check. 
fair trade items? check. 
toys made in the usa, england, australia, etc? check. 
catalog printed of fsc-certified materials? check.
responsible mailing practices? as in, not sending something out every single week (ahem, victoria's secret and crate & barrel, ahem)? double check. 

okay, i can breathe a sigh of relief about my guilt-free acceptance of this catalog. except, of course, for the fact that it makes me want to buy things. 

wooden teethers. cloth dolls. beechwood dinnerware. silk blankets. wooden playfood. merino wool clothing. their website can be found here
i was really excited to find this wooden version of the ever-popular plastic stacking rings. and i think it's a steal at $9.90. i happen to be holding off at the moment, to the best of my ability, anyway--my reserve seems to be wavering as i write this. but then, there's always the "hippified" version to consider. decisions, decisions...


ooh, another contest...

the writer in me loves this one, guys. 

kelly's closet, a major online cloth diaper retailer, is holding a "change to cloth" campaign. details on what they're looking for can are as follows: 250-500 words on the theme "how have cloth diapers changed your lifestyle." entire by submitting a query to the customer service section on the kelly's closet website, with the subject line "change to cloth campaign." deadline is the 27th of january, with winners posted the following day. the grand prize is 6 bumgenius diapers, and the runner up prize is 3 bum genius diapers. 

you cloth diapering mommies out there should be crossing your fingers for me to win--we've got plenty of bg's to go around. if i win, i pledge to put a couple up for giveaway!

here's my entry for inspiration--no copying!

Every time I place a prefold on my daughter, I am steeped in satisfaction. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m enthralled with all things vintage--Lucy has a substantial wardrobe of decades-old gowns, bloomers, caps and delightfully frilly frocks--but my satisfaction stems from more than just the classic appearance of my cloth-clad baby. There’s something to be said for the act of wrapping her snugly in a simple, soft piece of cotton, a diapering system without gel-packed insides, generic cartoon characters or papery edges to irritate her skin. Just as a single hand-written letter is vastly superior to an abundance of abbreviated text messages, cloth diapers have an authenticity about them that cannot be overlooked. 

After all, centuries of women have diapered their babies in nothing but cloth. I have wedged my way firmly into this assemblage, and my life is forever changed because of it. Cloth diapers mark the starting point of my own eco-educational journey--I can no longer ignore the weight of my presence upon this planet. The choices that I make, whether large or seemingly insubstantial, have genuine impact, as I am raising a member of the next generation. When it comes to encouraging her to shuffle in with the masses or traipse along her along own little path, I’ll kindly choose the latter, leading by example. 

In this era of “throw-and-go” and “take-and-toss,” what are we teaching our children? I believe that I’m teaching Lucy the importance of perpetuity, quality over convenience, and personal responsibility. The diapers that Lucy has already outgrown have been carefully packed away for the children we hope to have in coming years. Besides the very few diapers that were used on Lucy in the hospital following her birth and during her first three days at home, she’ll have no contribution to the astounding 18 billion diapers tossed into the landfill each year.  This is more than I can say for myself--now at a ripe 28 years old, my diapers are still sitting fully formed in a landfill not far from my current home. And they will, without a doubt, outlive me--each has an average of 472 years left. 

Have I mentioned how far cloth diapers have come? As it is with all things, technology certainly has its place. From silken bamboo to uber-thirsty microfiber to the glorious invention that is polyurethane laminate (PUL), cloth diapering has made significant strides--some diapers are downright drool-worthy. And while I dabble in all genres of cloth, from pockets to fitteds to all-in-ones, I often return to the simplicity of the plain ol’ prefold, if not just to get my head on straight. In our constantly buzzing world, this “back-to-basics” break can be entirely refreshing.   

Lucy has yet to babble out any real words, but I’m placing my bet on "Look, I'm fluffy!” to get that elusive spot in the baby book. Any takers?

if you happen to be counting, that is EXACTLY 500 words, thankyouverymuch! 


what a difference a year makes...

my wonderful former co-workers did me the very nice favor of cleaning out my desk at work and bringing the items my way. lots of papers, random office supplies and other junk filled the large bag that i was given. other items amongst the wreckage include the following: a 50-pack of single use floss packets (each individually packaged), non-biodegradable doggie poo bags, scented in "powder fresh," (i was able to take maizy to work with me for awhile), alcohol-based hand sanitizer (with triclosan--read about the negative side-effects of this chemical here), and random lotions & potions containing parabens, synthetic colors & fragrances, and dozens of other unpronounceable chemicals. needless to say i was a little grossed out as i dug though the bag--especially since i was using most of that crap while i was pregnant with lucy. 

the changes that i've made in the past year--little by little--have me feeling really good when i see stuff like this. tiny changes really do count in the big picture!

now, here's my question: once a person has learned all of these things, and made positive changes, is it for good? some say that this whole "green" thing is simply a trend--much like a low-carb diet or bellbottoms, and those of us who are into all things eco are simply riding the wave, doing the popular thing. i honestly don't know. will i ever go back to using paper towels? plastic bags? not caring about what's in my personal products? 

i have to say i don't think so--as long as education acts as a foundation behind the changes. in my case, i feel i've got a good base of knowledge about eco-relates issues. the decisions i make are made more for my health and the health of my family than anything else. helping the earth runs a close second here, but the primary focus is on our immediate well-being. 

my mom teaches first grade, and was telling me tonight over dinner that she routinely talks to her students about basic ecological issues, from pollution to recycling. if every teacher took this approach, we'd be priming an entire generation to tread carefully on the earth, and make educated decisions about what they're putting in and on their bodies. wouldn't that be something?

of course, i'll be doing my part with lucy. since she's the one who inspired me to get this all going in the first place, it's really the least i can do. :)


can it be christmas again???

because these would have made amazing stocking stuffers. from the wonderful blog house on hill road. 

i'm going to try my hand at one of these soon, but alter it slightly to fit my klean kanteen. i'll post photos of the finished project if it turns out!

here's a story...

over the weekend i decided to clean the toilet. i grabbed a rag and my go-to cleaning supplies: dr. bronner's peppermint castile soap, baking soda and an old washcloth that is now designated as a bathroom rag. i mixed 1/4 of a cup of baking soda with a few squirts of dr. b's, along with a drizzle of water from the tap, and got down to business cleaning the potty. when i was done, i tossed the rag on the bathroom rug (intending to wash both of them later). i hopped into the shower. 

not long after, (and unbeknownst to me) this little girl i know crawled down the hallway. she stopped by the bathroom and took a peek in the door. she spotted the dirty toilet rag--no doubt looking like the perfect play toy. jeremy was hot on her trail, but not quite quick enough. she picked it up and, well, you get the idea. yum, right? 

my mother's intuition kicked in as soon as i heard a little, contented giggle from the bathroom floor. i hollered from the shower "don't let her play with that toilet rag!" and jeremy quickly pried it from her little hands. i returned to my ever-so-relaxing shower, (while jeremy went the kitchen sink to scrub down our daughter), no-doubt grossed out by the entire thing. but i was also struck with real relief and satisfaction, as it hit me that there were no harmful chemicals on that rag to make my baby sick or irritate her skin. 

switching to homemade cleaners has not only saved us money, but i find them just as effective as the old stuff we were using: ajax, soft scrub, pine sol and liquid bleach. (can i just tell you how many sweatpants i've had that have been ruined while cleaning with bleach-laden cleansers?) for the most part, i use dr. bronner's, water and baking soda. it makes a great "soft scrub" cleanser and you really can't mess this recipe up--just add the castile soap to the baking soda until you get a good consistency. a little bit of water helps to thin it down. the rest of the time, i just use straight vinegar. it gets glass gleaming and streak-free, gets cemented bananas off of lucy's high chair, and gets rid of mildew (good scrubbing needed for total success) in the bathroom. 

lucy is fine after the toilet rag incident, by the way. but this whole crawling thing is certainly keeping jeremy & i on our toes!


lighten up...

here's a quick, printable guide to the very best CFL's on the market, published by the environmental working group. apparently all CFL's are not created equal--some contain higher amounts of mercury that others, and don't last for as many hours.  

i'm not exactly sure what type of bulbs we're using. all i know is that, since switching all of our standard bulbs out for CFL's over the past 2 years, i haven't had to change a single burned-out bulb. it's great. and they seem to be coming out with more attractive and functional options--jeremy picked up some that look just like a regular lightbulbs and work with our dimmer switch.  of course, i don't know what these fancy bulbs rate on the ewg's list!

on a not-so-related note, it seems i may be e-cycling soon. my 4-year old laptop made some very odd clacking noises, shuddered, froze, and is currently refusing to do anything that i ask of it. including, you know, turn on. posting may become sporadic in the near future as i try to sort this all out. 

ho-hum. sad laptops are a true bummer for this valley girl. 


we've got...

two adorable pearly whites.

and i want to keep them pearly white. for lucy's little chompers, i am using weleda children's tooth gel. made in germany, it's free of fluoride, detergents, synthetic flavors, colors & preservatives, and none of the ingredients are derived from mineral oils. it does not taste (or smell) like mega bubble berry, it does not sparkle, and it does not promote cartoon characters, but i think we're okay. lucy seems to like the subtle spearmint flavor--in fact, the only reason that i am using toothpaste at all with her is that she basically refused to have her teeth brushed otherwise. she'd clamp those gums, and shake her head back and forth, and i'd hand over the brush (which she'd then calmly gnaw on the end of). i had to bring in the big guns--something with a little flavor. i'm happy to report that so far, it's working. we got 2 full brushings in today.

for a toothbrush, we are using some piece of plastic crest baby brush that the dentist gave me last time i was in for my own dental cleaning. i did pick up a preserve jr. brush for lucy when the one she is currently using gets all worn out. preserve is a great company that crafts toothbrushes from recycled yogurt containers. if you've read my blog for awhile you'll recall that, while i think this is a fantastic idea, the adult preserve brush (which i got at trader joe's), was a bit too soft for my liking. i am hopeful that the baby brush will work out fine, as baby brushes are supposed to be super soft on those tender gums anyway. spent brushes can be returned to the company using a free postage-paid mailer, where they are turned into plastic lumber. click here to read more about this great program!

i've also found a great toothbrush for me! it's the radius source toothbrush. this thing looks pretty funky, people, but i am loving it anyway. the handle is made from 100% recycled wood fiber, and the head--which comes in soft & medium--is the only part that needs to be replaced. the toothbrush is made in pennsylvania and 50% of the packaging used is made from recycled soda bottles.
i was lucky enough to find everything listed here at my local elephant pharmacy (gotta love that place). i'm pretty sure, however, that everything i've listed can be purchased online at either drugstore.com or iherb.com, 2 very reputable websites that i have used often.
now i'm off to go brush...


really, really, really...

good soup:

1 box organic, free-range chicken broth (trader joe's)
2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed (trader joes)
lots of fresh, organic spinach (approx. the amount of 2 big bags, or whatever will fit in your pot)
1 head of chopped garlic (less if you're not a garlic lover)
1/2 c. olive oil
cracked pepper to taste
parmesean cheese

brown the chopped garlic in the bottom of a soup/stock pot. toss in the freshly washed spinach, drizzle with the olive oil, and cover. uncover and stir often, until spinach is good & wilted. add the 2 cans of rinsed beans and broth. let simmer for about 1/2 hour so the beans get nice and soft.

serve with lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese and cracked pepper. and bread. lots of nice, toasty bread.

we've been eating lots of this soup lately, even though the weather here in california has been unseasonably warm. it's simple, cheap, can easily be made with all organic ingredients (i have substituted the cannelinni beans for organic kidney beans with success), and our littlest eater chows down on it like nobody's business. yum!


and the winner is...

lucky #11... becky!

she wins a set of dryer balls that have been sitting on my kitchen table for the past week just dying to get shipped off to their new home. i promise they don't have any food on them, becky! look for an email from me today!

thank you all for your lovely comments--it was so fun to get them in my inbox and learn what other people are doing to live a little more eco-friendly. growing your own salad mix, trying to get by with only one car, discovering new laundry detergents (or making your own), eating less meat, joining an organic farm share--all of these and more are fabulous, inspiring ideas! thanks for sharing.

this was so fun! let's do it again next month--what should i make to give away?


kinda-sorta-veggie-vegan eating...

i took a long drive up to sacramento over the weekend, and had the pleasure of listening to a radio interview with mark bittman, new york times columnist and author of "food matters." he had alot to say on the issue of eating responsibly as far as the environment is concerned, and since i found them so interesting, i thought that i'd share.

bittman stated in his interview that 18% of greenhouse gasses arise from raising livestock--a sizeable amount, i actually thought it was much higher but i guess that doesn't matter. anyway, he also stated that the average non-vegetarian/vegan american eats 1/2 pounds of meat per day, along with 1 1/2 pounds of animal products (milk, cheese, eggs, etc.). that equates to 2 pounds of food daily, which doesn't leave much room for fruits, veggies, grains and beans.

bittman advocates changing this "over-consumption" of animal products, but not by cutting them out altogether. rather, he advises breaking the day into segments, stating that he often eats a vegan breakfast and lunch, and then a normal (carnivorous) dinner.

all of this really struck home for me, as i have had food on my mind a lot lately. if you read yesterday's post, then you are aware that i have challenged myself to get by on $100/week for groceries and gas--not an easy accomplishment for someone who is also trying to eat as organically as possible. in addition to all of this, i have also been thinking a lot about how to raise a new little eating machine. part of me really wants to try raising lucy as a vegetarian, while part of me believes that humans (especially those of us who are rapidly developing) are intended to eat meat. i really felt that my dilemma was an all-or-nothing issue, and wasn't quite sure how to proceed.

bittman's argument falls perfectly in place on the how-to-eat spectrum, without being extreme at either endpoint. i understand that our little family (lucy included) can change how we approach our consumption habits. we've never been meat-every-night people, but milk, eggs and cheese certainly pass through our fridge door quite freely. and, for the record, i'm not saying that i want to cut these things out altogether, or even cut back on them drastically. what i want is to start really taking note of the animal products that we consume, and figure if that amount really seems right in the bigger picture.

my budget has me taking more care about what i buy--each dollar that i spend seems like a small message to the food industry, as well as a marker for who i am and what i believe in--cage free eggs, hormone-free meats, beer from local breweries instead of stuff trucked in from other countries.

bittman recommends "whittling down" the consumption of animal products by eating vegan once per day. this is not unlike the pb&j pledge that i posted about a while back. for me, i think it's time to revisit that idea, and make a commitment to giving it a go. at this point, i think lunch would be the easiest meal to implement a change.

i'll try it for a week and get back to ya.


2 points for the french...

french government has banned the marketing of cell phones to children under the age of 12--a bold move in the wake of research suggesting that cell phone usage poses a risk of brain damage in children and teens. this article, though short, has more information on the ban.

the cell phone crackdown is, in my opinion, another great move by french government. it was only a few months ago that they banned all television programming aimed at children under 3, citing extensive research that television exposure actually negatively impacts the rapidly developing brains of babies and toddlers, instead of boosting IQ's as intended.

any chance that bans such these as could happen here? or am i destined to have to explain to my pre-schooler that just because her classmates have a firefly, doesn't mean that she can have one too?

what we're eating...

a bit time has passed since i last posted anything food-related, so i thought i'd give a little update, as well as pass on some ideas that i find interesting. 

first off, after an entire summer of eating local produce only, i am sad to say that we have fallen way off track. i blame lucy entirely. she started on solids and felt that she wouldn't be a real baby unless she got a taste of her first banana. so down to trader joe's we went, and picked one up along with the rest of the weeks groceries. that single banana turned out to be my downfall, as lucy rather liked it, and the next time i happened by the grocery store, i not only bought a couple more bananas, but a bag of spinach (which i needed to make soup) that i couldn't have gotten until our next farmer's market, which was still several days away.  well, the next time i hit the grocery store it was for more bananas, and suddenly all hell broke loose and wouldn't you know it, your loyal blogger was walking around with a shopping cart full of organic, yet very non-local produce.  my most embarrassing purchase? garlic imported from mexico. i happen to live less than 2 hours away from gilroy, which is the garlic capital of the world. and here i am mincing mexican garlic for pizza. 

shame on me. 

well, tonight i did go grocery shopping. i got those darn bananas and some organic salad mix for dinner tonight, but held off on all other produce purchases. i am dragging myself down to the farmer's market tomorrow, rain or shine. (let's hope for more sunshine though... it was a balmy 74 degrees here today!). 

so there's that. 

and here's the other topic on my mind: organics. 

it should be noted that i have put myself on a "loose" weekly budget of $100 for food and gas. i say "loose" because, well, it's loose. if i need to go over, i do. but having $100 cash in my wallet at the beginning of the week has really served to show me just how much i am spending. which has me thinking a lot about the cost of buying organic. 

i think that trader joe's (where i do the vast bulk of my everyday shopping) does a great job of offering a wide range of organic products at fairly reasonable prices. still, there are common areas where organic costs are significantly higher--dairy and meat, most notably. at this point, i'm pretty willing to take the extra expense and buy organic whenever it is offered as an option, even if it means that i have to cut back in other areas. but i can't say our diet is 100%, or even 80% organic. right now i think we're hovering somewhere in the 70% range. 

you're probably already familiar with the "dirty dozen," a list of the 12 major offending fruits & vegetables when it comes to pesticide contamination. i'll post them anyway as a reference--this list has been compiled by the environmental working group. 

grapes imported from chile
bell peppers 

in additon, here's a list of f&v that contain little to no pesticide residue:


easy enough. soft stuff acts like a sponge, stuff with a tough exterior or inedible peel is not an issue. but when it comes to other grocery items, (olive oil, beans, beer, butter, crackers, nuts, chocolate, eggs) the method for selecting  isn't so clear. here's my take, thought it's probably not unique: as consumers, we "vote" with our dollars. buying organic as much as possible will raise demand, which will lower prices and increase buying options overall(that's my 9th grade economics at work for you). it shouldn't be forgotten that organic farming is typically far gentler on the earth than traditional "mono-cropping." this is not to say that all organic is created equal--in efforts to supply consumers with organic items at lower prices, stores (such as, but not limited to, walmart) will transport items from overseas, where regulations  can be a bit shifty. transport also results in unnecessary greenhouse gasses. which means oftentimes it is best to buy local, even if a farm is not certifiably organic. 

what's a girl to do? 

debate and ponder and label-read in the middle of the aisle. search out new options. get back to the local market. try to stick to the $100 limit without going crazy. feed the little one only top-notch stuff, even if it means taking a hit somewhere else. hope for the best. 

i'm saving another food-related topic for tomorrow's post... check back!


tea tree oil...

saves my foot. 

i know it may be a great surprise for some of you to hear that your loyal blogger is an everyday human and, in fact, prone to nasty stuff like the rest of the population. well, consider yourselves surprised. i came down with an alarmingly gross case of athlete's foot-type fungus between two of my toes. it was all bumpy and bubbly and... what? you don't want to hear the nitty gritty details of my likely-contagious disease? okay. i'll spare you. for this time, at least. 

i read online that tea tree oil can treat foot fungus naturally, and since i happened to have a bottle from trader joe's lying around, i decided to give it a try. who knows that kind of stuff is in that over-the-counter athlete's foot treatment, right? i didn't even want to look into it as a possibility! so i went ahead with the tto. i did an "emergency-level" treatment when i first saw it (a piece of paper towel drenched in tea tree oil, wrapped around the afflicted toes, covered with a sock for a couple of hours) and then moved on to just dabbing the area with a bit of oil after i took a shower in the morning and before going to bed. 

end result? my fungus is totally on the mend, after only 4 days. naturally. 

keep it in mind if you ever find yourself unfortunately afflicted!


good news for handmade...

a serious first step has been taken in the fight to save handmade toys. today, members of the consumer product safety commission have "tentatively agreed" to some amendments proposed of the consumer product safety improvement act (cpsia). the proposed amendments allow sale of the following:

"items with lead parts that a child cannot access, clothing, toys and other goods made of natural materials such as cotton and wood; and electronics that are impossible to make without lead."

the rest of this very short article can be read here.

what do you think? can we celebrate yet? i've got my eye here and here.

by the way, all of my well-intentioned phone calls (to senators and cpsc chairperson nancy nord) dead-ended at full voicemailboxes and endless busy signals. my take = serious frustration, but also serious optimism that there are other people out there such as myself taking this issue very seriously. they just happened to leave messages before i did, i suppose.


laundry fix. and giveaway!

there's always lots of laundry around here. and since line drying seems to be a no-go until spring, i've been looking for ways to save energy while using the dryer. i tried throwing a beach towel in with the clothes (which seemed the easiest fix), but i didn't find it to be all that helpful. jeremy even thought it might be making things worse, since our dryer is usually jam-packed with clothes (we're still on mandatory water restrictions due to drought conditions, so i try to only wash very full loads). he thought that there wasn't enough airflow with the addition of the towel, and he was probably right. at any rate, some loads were taking nearly 2 hours to dry. not energy efficient at all!

i've read about using dryer balls--they apparently not only help cut down on static and work as a softener, but also help speed up drying time by promoting airflow between fabrics. they can be bought in stores, though of course handmade is always better, and come in different materials, including plastic (yuck). from all my research, though, wool dryer balls are best. and by far the most eco-friendly.

i found a wonderful do-it-yourself tutorial here and made a set of my own in no time flat. i tried them out for the first time a couple of days ago, and was thrilled when the dryer shut off in just under 60 minutes--half the time that it had typically been running. i look forward to using them with the cloth diapers next to see if there's improvement there as well. this lovely set, handmade by your loyal blogger, is up for my january giveaway! to enter, leave your name and email address in the comment section, along with a quick statement on something "green" you've done recently. hopefully your comments will inspire me, along with other readers!

i'll be using a random number generator to decide the winner on wednesday morning (the 14th). good luck to all who enter!


if you're lazy...

if you're lazy like me, and are just now getting around to putting your christmas decorations away, here's a great idea for "upcycling" that stack of holiday cards: donate them to st. jude's ranch for children, a non-profit organization that provides abused & neglected children with a place to live outside of the foster care system. 

the kids at st. jude's ranch take the backs off of old cards, keeping the pretty front pictures, and attach a new back made of recycled paper, forming a "new" card. the program has been successful for over 30 years--way before going green was the "in" thing! upcycled cards are resold to the public in packages of 10 for $8. i assume that profits are put back into the program, but the website doesn't specifically state how the funds are used. 

the organization is accepting all kinds of greeting cards now through february 28th.  cards can be mailed to the following address: 

st. jude's ranch for children 
card recycling program
100 st. jude street
boulder city, nevada

i've always used my holiday greeting cards as the next year's gift tags--but i'm going the donation route this year, as i've enough tags for 10 years of gift-giving in my wrapping stash. plus, i just love the idea. it warms up my lil' heart.  


tomorrow's to-do list...

(in no particular order...)

1. take books back to library
2. take lucy and doggie somewhere to "get the wiggles out"
3. write and mail thank-you notes
4. go grocery shopping
5. drop off/mail belated christmas gifts
6. get political

you might remember about a month ago i posted about the threat facing the world of handmade toys. well, that threat, due to what many are calling "overlegistation," still exists. in just over a month, laws will go into effect that will require extensive testing on products intended for babies and children, including (but certainly not limited to) toys. the problem here is that independent toymakers, work-at-home crafters, and small toy manufacturers of reputably "safe" products (in america, europe, australia, etc.) will quite literally be forced out of business due to lack of funds for expensive required testing. larger companies--many of whom earned the public's distrust in the first place by farming out production to china, a country with an obvious less-than-perfect track record when it comes to "safe" production--will have less of a problem financially in meeting these new legislation. the end result will supposedly be safer products overall. the actual cost of this newfound safety? a slew of lost jobs, along with drastically lowered alternatives for the conscious consumer when it comes to children's playthings. a sea of delightful, creative, imaginative toys now have the all-to-real possibility of becoming extinct--and replaced with hunks of brightly colored, battery operated hunks of cheap (lead free!) plastic.

the whole idea is enough to make me want to vomit. swear.

from coolmompicks.com:

"With this act going into effect February 10 2009 so many people we love will be affected: Moms who sew beautiful handmade waldorf dolls out of home, artists who have spent decades hand-carving trucks and cars out of natural woods, that guy at the craft show who sold you the cute handmade puzzle--even larger US companies who employ local workers and have not once had any sort of safety issue will no longer be able to sell their goods. Not without investing tens of thousands of dollars into third-party testing and labeling, just to prove that toys that never had a single toxic chemical in them still don't have a single toxic chemical in them."

all of the aforementioned is why, at some point tomorrow, i'll be making some phone calls. i'm using this list from zrecommends.com--there are about 5 calls to make. hopefully i'll get through to somebody. hopefully other people will take the time to make calls of their own. hopefully there's a way to amend this law to exempt toymakers who don't produce their products in mass quantities.

clicking on the "save handmade" button on the sidebar of this page will take you to a wealth of information about current legislation, proposed amendments, and ways to (hopefully) make a difference. february 10th is on its way--let's try to make a difference!


good karma...

at least, it seems like good karma anyway.

one of my five-thousand-and-eight new year's resolutions is to stop using a throwaway cup when i happen to purchase some coffee while out and about. despite my musings about this awhile back, i never actually... well... made good on my musings. instead of getting myself a to-go container for coffee, i just stopped getting coffee. this was in part a way to fund mom & me yoga classes for i. and, as with most things, once i cut out my daily starbucks/peets run, i found myself less addicted to my daily starbucks/peets runs. funny how that works.

still, i've been known to show my face in a coffeehouse around once per week. and while i stopped getting the plastic lid for the cup (picture me promising to the drive-though barista that i'm not the type to sue if i happen to get burned from a lidless latte...), i was still getting the cup. there. i admit it. your loyal valley girl was taking and tossing. sigh.

until today--day three of my resolution. my mom offered to treat me to coffee, and i started to mumble, explaining that i hadn't brought a cup with me. mom kindly offered up her coffee tumbler (filled with some sort of beverage from her house). good enough. off to starbucks we went. when i got out of the car, i noticed my klean kanteen sitting in the cupholder, and figured it would work just as well as my mom's tumbler--then we could both sidestep using a disposable cup.

would you believe that the barista filled my 27 ounce klean kanteen full to the brim? i ordered a grande--16 ounces. did i just get lucky, or can i expect this gift on a regular basis? only repeated visits will tell, i guess. but it sure felt like a treat. in addition to my bonus coffee, two baristas fell out over the cuteness of my canteen, along with another coffeehouse-goer, who even poked at it, if you can believe that!

now, the klean kanteen isn't insulated with a double wall--meaning that it heats up quickly to the touch! i was able to work around this by holding my canteen by the neck with three fingers (pinky out! it must have appeared quite dainty!) but something needs to be done for functionality's sake. i searched etsy and love love LOVE this upcycled cozy but for the moment i am saving my pennies. (or at least pretending to). i may get around to making one of my own, but jeremy gave me the wise idea of using a sweatband/wristband to make due until then. it's a pink one--with a mini skull--that i had stashed in my sock drawer. my kanteen now looks delightfully retro. 1980 all the way, baby.

there you have it, folks. just another eco-friendly day gone right. and as i will never again accept a plastic bag at the supermarket or mall, i will never again drink my coffeehouse coffee from a paper cup. not as far as i can see, anyway. you have my word.