sam's club launches e-cycling program...

a cool attempt at green-ness from sam's club. they've put together an easy way to get rid of all of that e-waste that junks up homes and garages around the country (including my own). my understanding of the program is that they've partnered with (or created) a company called econew. this company accepts things like old computers, mp3 players, lcd screens, video game systems, camcorders, phones, etc. the nice thing is that you don't have to go anywhere to do it--they give you a printable prepaid mailing label and you just box up your unwanted items and send them away. depending on the technological relevancy of the item, they might even send you a giftcard to sam's club for your donation.

from there, the items are either resold intact or taken apart for usable parts. unusable bits & pieces are safely recycled--they have a "zero tolerance" for sending anything to a landfill. i checked online & my lovely laptop (3 years old) would net me a $56 giftcard to sam's. not that i want to get rid of it. what i do want to get rid of, however, is our old desktop computer out in the garage. it's not worth anything, but this is a great way send it away (and free up some space). the same can be said for my parent's 20 year-old video camera--which is about as big as a suitcase and i swear it cost them thousands of dollars back in the 1980's. my mom has been wondering what on earth to do with it. think they'll get any money? hey, you never know. that thing is a certified antique!

i have to hand it to sam's club. this program, along with a very "green" mini magazine that they put out a month back (a post on this publication has been on my agenda for awhile), they're really showing an eco-friendly interest. putting walmart's sketchy business practices aside, you can't fault sam's club for their efforts. hopefully their "splash" will ripple outward with other companies following suit.

to learn more about this program, and to get rid of some junk of your own, click here.


a summery dessert...

we've been indulging (oh so often) in a simple summertime treat--homemade strawberry shortcake. jeremy found the recipe for the cakes on the back of a bisquick box and made a few tweaks. they are super yummy, a cross between cake and a biscuit, and without all the artificial ick & preservatives in store-bought shortcake. such an easy recipe, too. it's a great way to put all of our locally-grown strawberries to good use.

here's the ingredients & instructions:

2 1/3 cups bisquick baking powder
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon milk
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon applesauce (we use trader joe's chunky cinnamon apples)

combine all ingredients and plop batter onto a cookie sheet. (recipe makes 6 large or 8 small cakes). bake at 425 degrees until bottoms are golden brown, about 12 minutes.

in the meantime, wash & slice a basket of strawberries. (peaches are really good with this, too).

to make fresh whipped cream, pour 1 cup heavy cream into a bowl. add 1/8 cup sugar. using a hand mixer, beat until cream becomes thick & fluffy, with soft peaks.

slice the cakes in half & layer with fruit & cream. enjoy!


an interesting approach...

formula companies are no joke. before lucy had even made her arrival into the world, i was "gifted" 4 large cans of powdered formula from enfamil & similac, 2 well-known formula brands. a little presumptuous, no? and how'd they get my address & due date? one actually came with a packet that "promoted" breastfeeding, but stated that it was best to have formula on hand for backup when bringing baby home. why? with all the "breast is best" info out there, i guess formula companies need to get their foot in the door as best they can.

i remember one night when lucy was very teensy, maybe 7 days old or so. she was trying to feed and majorly fussing--i ended up realizing that, at that particular moment, there wasn't much for her to drink. i ran to the freezer in search of breastmilk that i'd previously pumped. there were 2 half-ounce cubes there. plenty for her, at that age. she was screaming away in the back bedroom and i was defrosting the milk as fast as i could. so fast, in fact, that when i pulled the cup from the microwave, it tipped in my hands. breastmilk spilled all over the stovetop and onto the floor. i was devastated. found myself sucking up the milk with the eyedropper i'd planned to feed her with and squirting it into a dish. wondering when i'd last cleaned the stove and what was worse, letting her go hungry or possibly feeding her contaminated milk. and in the back of my mind through all of that, telling myself, "well, i could always use that formula..."

in the end, i didn't use it or the milk i was worried was contaminated. there was a teensy bit of milk left in the bottom of the cup and it was enough to curb lucy's wails. but in that moment of panic-stricken , baby-screaming-in-the-background weakness, i came really really close to pulling out the formula. would it have been the end of the world if i had used it? of course not. but neither did i need it there, sitting in the pantry, taunting me with its implied ease. no one really tells new moms about the physical pain attached to breastfeeding. sore is not really an adequate adjective--at least it wasn't in my case. every time lucy latched, it felt like someone had taken a torch to my chest. how simple it would have been to mix up a bottle, instead of going through that pain. but i guess that's what the formula companies bank on when they send out those samples.

lucy says "breast might be best, but who doesn't love a beer on a hot summer day?"

"dang. if only i could lift it..."

what to do with all my formula now? lucy & i've got the hang of the whole breastfeeding thing and we certainly won't be needing it. tossing the stuff would be an ultimate waste. so today i spent some time looking online, trying to find places to donate it. i'm having a very hard time finding one, for some reason. i googled things like "where donate unused formula" and "women & children's shelter, bay area" but didn't come up with much. disconnected numbers, or numbers that ring and ring with no answering machine. i'm thinking of calling a local church or two and seeing if they'll take it. all in all there didn't seem to be too many services in my area.

as for the weekly $5-off coupons that i receive in the mail from both enfamil & similac, i've got no problems finding takers. they're going to a few good homes and getting used, which at least means the paper they're printed on wasn't a total waste.


tried it: trader joe's toothpaste...

specifically, trader joe's all natural anticavity peppermint toothpaste with baking soda & fluoride. (that's a mouthful).

after trying a couple of different flavors of tom's of maine toothpaste (peppermint and cinnamon clove) without success, i decided to give the trader joe's brand a go. i like it! the flavor is good, without being too fake-minty. it's kind of heavy on the baking soda, but my mouth really does feel clean after i'm done brushing, which is a nice change from the tom's of maine cinnamon clove.

this toothpaste foams without the use of sodium laureth sulfate (sls), a suspected carcinogen. the sls-free paste from tom's of maine that i tried was not nearly as foamy, and made brushing very... strange to say the least. anyway, it's also free of propylene glycol (a form of mineral oil also used in brake fluid & antifreeze) and artificial sweeteners. not tested on animals, either.

recommend this product? yep. my teeth are thanking me! yours will too!


good news...

our latest energy bill arrived last week while i was on vacation. i am happy to report that it went down $6.80 from last month. which, okay, doesn't really seem like all that much. but it puts us at only $35.69 ($12.77 for gas, 22.54 for electric). i think that's pretty good. the goal, of course, will be to get it even lower next month. not sure how to go about that, as we have already stopped use of the dryer and television (except for the occasional movie). we don't have an air conditioner and we've gotten pretty good about turning lights off when not in use. the only area i think we could improve upon would be to take shorter showers (less hot water to heat), insulate our hot water heater (i've been meaning to see if jeremy will do this), and unplug things that aren't in use. it's said that appliances and chargers suck electricity as long as they're plugged in. but will unplugging really be reflected on our energy bill? hmmm. who knows. anyway, if i have time tomorrow i'll go around and see what can be unplugged. it seems like kind of a hassle to keep plugging & unplugging though. i guess that's what power strips are for? stay tuned for next month's bill! septemeber is often our hottest month here in california, so we won't be needing any heat!

side note: today was jeremy's birthday. he had the day off so the three of us day-tripped our way to tomales bay in inverness. we found this teeny little beach called "chicken ranch." the weather was perfect, no fog at all, just a few high clouds and a gentle breeze. we didn't swim but lucy got to stomp her little feet in the (surprisingly warm) water. on our way back we stopped in point reyes for an early dinner and birthday desserts from a cute little cafe. it was lots of fun to find new places not far from home, places that he had no idea about, despite growing up relatively nearby. here are a few pics...


thinking about september...

no-dryer july. no-tv august. it's time to start thinking about the month of september, i guess.

i was doing a bit of reading today, hoping to come up with something. i started wondering if i could do an entire month of no shopping. kind of like the san francisco compact , a project in which a group of people resolved to stay off of the "consumer grid" for one year. they made exceptions for things like food, medicine and other necessities, but for the most part bought nothing new for the entire duration of the project.

what would something like that mean for me? an obvious start would be no clothes shopping for lucy or myself. no trips to starbucks or peets. no new-product shopping over at the elephant pharmacy, which is quickly becoming one of the places i LOVE to spend money. but beyond those few places, i can't really see how much "not shopping" would affect me. i almost don't think that it'd be that much of a struggle. which is probably, as jeremy pointed out, why i should do it. i might not realize just how much i really do shop... a diaper here, new toy there. something on the clearance rack at one of my favorite stores. i know it adds up. it has to.

another idea i had was to buy only "whole" foods... meat, cheese, milk, fruits, veggies, flour, etc. we really do pretty much do this anyway, and have for weeks now been buying only local produce. but i'm sure that i could push the envelope further. no matter how healthy i think we eat, i can still certainly be found with stuff like chips, salsa, fishsticks, canned beans, premade pizza dough, etc in my cart. the major benefit to this would be eating through all of the food in our freezer and pantry, plus learning how to cook a few new things from scratch. i really enjoy making bread and have been wanting to make my own butter. this would be a perfect opportunity to improve my (kinda lackluster) cooking skills.

i thought about combining the two of these ideas into one, but to do so seems more that a little daunting. slow & steady wins the race right? of course it's not a race, but a lifestyle change. still, too much to fast and next thing you know i'll be kicked back on the couch, watching shop-at-home network while the dryer runs nonstop, hollering at lucy to bring me another individually wrapped snack pack. yikes.


we're back!

lucy & i, along with the rest of the wonderful women in my family, had a fabulous time at the russian river. we rented a house right on the shore, and spent the week just hanging around and relaxing. the weather was a touch on the cool side early in the week, but it warmed up after awhile and we were able to soak up some sunshine and enjoy the water. lucy seemed to really enjoy everything, though she was certainly happy to see jeremy when we returned home. here are a few of my favorite pics from the trip...

thrilled to be on vacation with the girls!

wondering what we should do next...

toes in the ocean for the first time!

with cousin savannah... worn out from our trip to the bodega bay!

feeding the ducks down at the river...

taking a dip in the russian river... this girl has nothing but love for the water!

too much fun in the sun for one day!

lucy's yet to be 4 months old, but she's already got an undeniable sense of wonder about the world. i can't really put into words how much i enjoy watching her experience nature--taking in the crash of ocean waves, kicking her feet in chilly river water, grabbing at handfuls of grass. our little getaway over the past week helped to reinforce my belief that she's ready to experience the world and many of the things in it, despite her age.

kind of related: i remember not to long ago reading about how an alarming number of inner-city schoolchildren (i can't recall the exact number) have never seen a cow. they know what a cow looks like, and they know that cows produce milk, but they've never seen, touched, heard or smelled one in real life. how can we expect children to respect nature, if they've never even experienced the beauty of it?


and we're off...

lucy and i are going on an all girls 5-night getaway! the blog will resume when we get back, hopefully with lots of great pictures & stories to tell! see ya!


saving the earth...

one catalog at a time.

i've found a website that helps consumers refuse unwanted catalogs. i happen to get at least a dozen in the mail each month. some are good (land of nod, anthropologie, container store), some are bad (oriental trading company, l.l. bean). some are totally random (ballard designs? yankee candle?). anyway, i'm attempting to stop mailings of them all. the "bad" and the "random" for obvious reasons, and the "good" because they tempt me to spend my life savings on stuff i don't really need.

here's how it works. visit the website catalogchoice.org by clicking here. set up a simple profile. search their database for catalogs that you are currently receiving. decline them by entering your customer number & key code (both are found on the mailing label of the catalog). your work is done. catalogchoice will sent a request to the merchant asking to remove you from their mailing list. the process can take up to 60 days, but chances are good that your request will be honored by the merchant. i've already opted out of 15 catalogs. i keep a mini-stack of new ones as they come in, and when i've got about 3 or 4 in the pile, i visit the website and register them.

what's kind of funny is that (when i'm not on maternity leave) i write catalog copy for a national retailer. so really, by declining catalogs, i'm kind of kicking myself a bit. but i happen to think that catalogs, at least the way that they function now, are often pretty useless. not many people actually call up a customer service representative to place an order directly through a catalog. retailers use catalogs to showcase their products, driving people into the stores and onto their websites. but catalogs are heavy and expensive to produce. as the price of postage continues to rise, hopefully retailers will create some sort of a "new" catalog that combines effective marketing techniques with compact size, and less resources used overall. SO MANY catalogs get tossed without ever being looked at. some are recycled, some aren't. such a waste.

catalogchoice features a "bravo merchants" category on their website. these are retailers that have respected the wishes of consumers and halted mailings when asked. the distinction is nice... i'll support eco-friendly merchants over non-compliant merchants when i can.


my baby...

is super shiny. that's because she gets a nightly massage with extra virgin olive oil. straight up, no additives or fragrances. the same stuff that we cook with. the massage instructor at elephant pharmacy recommended either olive oil or coconut oil. since we buy olive oil in bulk at costco, that's what i'm currently using... but i'm keeping my eye out for a place (besides online) where i can buy organic coconut oil. a trip to whole foods may be in order. the instructor stressed steering clear of the use of all nut oils on children under 1 year of age, since nut allergies can be life-threatening. coconut is not a nut though. tricky!

the amount of chemicals in a simple bottle of baby lotion is pretty surprising. besides artificial fragrances, parabens and random unpronounceables, the main ingredient is often mineral oil. mineral oil, also known as baby oil, is a by-product that comes from the distillation of petroleum during the production of gasoline. not something i want to be rubbing on my baby every night. you know?

lucy seems to much enjoy her nightly massages. she gets all greased up, rubbed down, and when we're done i tell her that she smells like fresh pasta. it's a bit of a departure from that familiar (and delicious) "baby" scent that we all know and love, but it seems a safer choice and it happens to be working out well. besides, fresh pasta is smells delicious too... just in a different way!


home depot...

is not the place to go for clothespins. after nearly 2 months of exclusive line drying, i think that i can speak with authority on this issue. and i am saying that home depot clothespins suck. i'll be right in the midst of pinning something to the line and the two wooden pieces that make up the pin break apart from each other. one usually goes flying across the lawn while the other lands at my feet. i guess the metal that keeps the pieces together isn't doing a proper job. out of 50 pins, about 20 have already broken. i'm tempted to scoop up all of the pieces, take them back to home depot and fling them on the customer service desk. i didn't keep the receipt though. if i can't return them, i guess i can always remove the metal and toss them into the compost pile.

if you watched "the story of stuff" link that i posted a few weeks back, you might agree when i say that these these breakage-prone pins remind me of the whole concept of "planned obsolescence." meaning that our "things" are manufactured with the intent that they will (sooner than later) need to be replaced. from an electronic gadget--that will immediately be surpassed by something with better, faster capabilities--to a poorly-crafted clothespin, there's no doubt in my mind that the "stuff" we buy is often cleverly designed to be in our lives for only a short period of time. if money makes the world go 'round, than consumers need to keep spending. poorly-crafted items ensure that we'll be reaching for our wallets again in no time flat.

now, i haven't been around all that long or anything, but obviously things weren't always this way. for instance, the laundry cart in the picture at the top of my blog page was purchased at the alameda antique fair. jeremy estimates that it's from the 1950's or 1960's. works great. is solidly built. the canvas cover is just now (in 2008) beginning to need to be repaired or replaced (it's ripping a bit on the sides where it snaps around the top bars). i've also seen real clothespins (the kind that are all one piece, without any metal at all) for sale out at the same antique fair. they've got to be just as old as the cart, and are still around and functional today.

i don't want to buy more crappy clothespins. it ticks me off that i bought them once, and i surely won't do it again. next month out at the antique fair, i'll be keeping my eye out for the real deal.

as a side note: i did buy some "contemporary" clothespins awhile ago from walgreens before i needed more and made my purchase from home depot. i am happy to say that the walgreens clothespins (made from a slightly darker wood) are holding up just fine. as they should. right?


crossing fingers, crossing toes...

that i get picked to volunteer at a counting crows concert next month! counting crows (my all-time favorite band, by the way) has partnered with reverb, a non-profit organization that is "deeply rooted within the music and environmental communities, to educate and engage musicians and their fans to promote environmental sustainability."

reverb will be setting up an eco-village at each tour location. volunteers interact with concert-goers to provide information on lowering carbon footprints, green technologies, and to pass out eco-friendly samples. this is so, so right up my alley right now. i cannot tell you how exciting the idea is to me.

as a thank you for helping out, volunteers get to stay and watch the show for free. i already have tickets to one of the local shows (birthday gift from lucy & jeremy) but to watch back-to-back shows (2 nights in a row!) would be a dream. um, can you tell how much i love the counting crows?

me, 2 years ago at a counting crows concert. you can SEE adam duritz (lead singer) right behind me. actually, to the left of my left eye. green shirt, dreadlocks sticking up all over the place. yeah, he signed my pants. and he gave me a hug after he was done, even though he didn't really want to. it went like this:

me: ohmygodcanigiveyouahug?

him: uh, i don't really do that.

me: pleasepleaseplease.

him (looking around): okay, just be quick.

me: eeeeeeeeeeee!

in all seriousness, i love the idea of this organization and i would be thrilled to be a part of it. they hook up with bands, in hopes for carbon-neutral concerts. vehicles & generators run on biodiesel, catering products are biodegradable, they recycle as much as possible, use eco-friendly cleaners, sell eco-friendly merchandise, etc. if you want to read more about all the good things that reverb does, and the amount of carbon that they offset, click here.

okay. if you (my 16 loyal readers) are at all the hoping & wishing type, please hope & wish for me. i submitted a little form touting all of my eco-friendly ways. i did not forget to mention that i have loved counting crows since i was 13. all that's left to do is wait & see.

bad directions...

we had an eco-friendly disaster of sorts this afternoon. but i'm calling it a lesson learned, instead.

started this morning. we seem to be out of fresh stuff... no lettuce, and only a pluot and a white peach in the way of fruit. i don't know what happened--i felt like i bought a lot out at the farmer's market over the weekend, but somehow we ate our way through it too quickly. either that or i didn't buy as much as i thought i did. anyway, our fridge was looking bare and since i'm not buying any produce unless it's local, a trip to the grocery store wasn't going to do me much good. lucy and i had nothing going today so i decided maybe we could make a trip to another farmer's market in the county (there are 18 of them!). can you believe that out of 18 markets, none run on a wednesday? none run on a monday either, for that matter. i searched for markets in the neighboring county and was excited to find one that ran from 4-8 pm, in downtown san leandro. not quite nearby our house at 27 miles away, but the webpage promoting the market promised a good time, with lots of local fruits & veggies, gourmet foods, fresh cut flowers, live music, family entertainment, etc.

jeremy offered to come home a bit early from work so we all could go together. a family outing. fun, right? on our way out the door, we quickly googled the market and copied down the directions. half an hour later we were driving around where the market should have been but... nothing. thinking we were just in the wrong area of the very large shopping center, we asked a few locals about the whereabouts of the farmer's market--and were told with certainty that it was only held on saturdays.


it was a quiet ride back home to say the least. i fumed over the fact that, though our intentions were good, our actions actually ended up being the exact opposite of eco-friendly... in addition to wasting $10 worth of gas and finding ourselves stuck in rush hour traffic. we did stop at a park to offset our feelings of defeat, and so the trip wasn't entirely wasted. lucy got to put her little toes in the sand, so all was not lost in the end.

got home and checked out the market website again, convinced that i'd read something that was out of date, or misunderstood the information. nope. the wednesday market is held at a different location than the saturday market. just a little ways down the same road. 2.5 miles, to be exact.

double sigh.

notes to self:

when printing directions, take a bit of extra time to ensure that said directions will lead you to where you wish to go.

do not rely on the knowledge of perfect strangers. or, if you must rely on the knowledge of perfect strangers, get more than 1 opinion. lots of people don't know what they're talking about.


we've been bamboozled...

another diaper to fall in love with. i bought a gently used bamboozle fitted for our cloth diaper stash. we tried it today for the first time and it worked perfectly. bamboo happens to be a super absorbent fiber--60% more absorbent than regular cotton, in fact. lucy wore this diaper through an hour or so of playtime and then a short nap. when it was time to change her, the front of the diaper was partially damp, and the back still felt dry to the touch. that same amount of time in a kissaluv and she would have been soaked for sure.

bamboo, as a fiber, has other benefits as well. with antimicrobial properties, a moisture-wicking nature and a silky feel to the touch, it's an absolutely perfect material for making diapers. a renewable resource, bamboo can be grown quickly and without pesticides or fertilizers, making it an eco-friendly replacement for labor-intensive cotton. a few quick facts about bamboo:

*bamboo isn't wood, but a hollow grass that renews itself every 7 years or less.

*certain species can grow up to 3 feet per day. plants can reach up to 100 feet in height.

*bamboo is used as a replacement for steel in some tropical countries, as certain species are extraordinarily resistant to stretching. houses, bridges and scaffolding can be built from bamboo!

* bamboo wicks moisture away from the skin, making it great for sheets, clothing & of course, diapers.

someone got a big ol' booty!!! the bamboozle diaper topped w/ fleece 'sock monkey' cover i made. um, girlfriend is going to need some bigger pants...

so my only complaint about this diaper is that it's (obviously) pretty bulky. my thought on this, though, is that lucy is still small. the dipe only comes in 2 sizes, newborn & toddler. she'd be barely fitting into the newborn size, so i went with the larger. perhaps as she grows, the diaper will become a bit more trim.

our bamboozle will quickly become a favorite, i'm sure. and i'll be keeping my eye out to see if i can get another deal on a used one (i think i paid $11 or so). at $18.50 a pop for new, i can't justify buying a bunch unless i sell off some non-favorites from our current stash.


lucy swings...

for the second time. well, for the first time on camera. we spent a lovely no-tv evening watching jeremy play baseball, then took her for bit of a swing ride before heading home. as you can see, she digs it.

oh yum...

tonight for dinner jeremy fried up the zucchini flowers that i bought at the san francisco farmers market over the weekend. they were delicious. i know, i know. pretty much everything is good when fried. but these are a real treat. the flower petals are very light in flavor and almost airy in texture, but the sweet, juicy base of the flower tastes very much like zucchini (no big surprise there). they fry up to be perfectly crisp on the outside, with a bit of give in the middle. nice and salty. eating them felt a bit extravagant, like we were indulging in a special summer treat. the recipe is below. jeremy did add a bit of extra flour to help thicken the batter to the proper consistency, but other that that i wouldn't change a thing.

fried zucchini flowers

vegetable oil, for frying

2 large egg yolks

1 cup ice water

1 cup all-purpose flour

12 zucchini flowers with stems

kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

pour 3 inches of oil in a deep fryer or large, heavy pot (we used a cast iron pan) and heat to 375 degrees f. in a deep mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and pour in the ice water; mix to combine. add the flour and continue to mix until the batter is the consistency of heavy cream. dip 2 zucchini flowers at a time in the batter to coat completely, letting the excess drip off. fry the flowers in the hot oil for 2 minutes until crisp and golden brown. drain the fried flowers on a platter lined with paper towels, season with salt and pepper while they are still hot. repeat with the remaining zucchini flowers.

bummer that zucchini flowers are so hard to come by. i mean, you keep picking the flowers and you'll never get any zucchini to enjoy! i was thinking of putting in a few plants next year... maybe we'll buy a few extras to harvest just the blossoms!


vinegar, by the gallon...

you would not believe how many things can be done with a bit of white vinegar. from killing weeds to deterring fruit flies to cleaning an icky toilet, this stuff is powerful. stinky, yes. but effective. so good that on a trip to costco a few months back, i bought 2 gallons of the stuff. it set me back about $4. not to bad of an investment, right? to read a full list of household uses for vinegar, check out this link from the folks at the vinegar institute. (yes, there really is such a thing).

anyway, the here's one of the uses that i'm absolutely loving: vinegar as fabric softener. i read about this and thought that it was totally crazy. but, muttering to myself about how crazy it was, i decided to give it a try. i filled up the liquid fabric softener dispenser on my washing machine (you can also use a downy ball) with the vinegar and let the machine run through the cycle.

can you believe i found this image? the internet is amazing.

upon my return to fetch the laundry, the entire garage smelled like someone had been dying easter eggs. the clothes had to stink, too. bracing myself for a rewash, i opened the lid and pulled out a pair of jeans. took a big whiff and... no stink. amazing.

i was once a 3 dryer sheet, snuggle & bounce girl. i used so many dryer sheets, in fact, that my clothes had kind of a super-soft, slick, filmy feel to them. i associated it with cleanliness, softness, comfort. but here's what that film actually is: a thin coating of artificial chemical fragrances, many of which are known carcinogens. banned for human consumption, but apparently fitting for use against our skin. i'm steering clear, and not only because i'm forgoing dryer use for another month: besides the sketchy chemical aspect, let's not forget that dryer sheets are yet another single-use, throwaway item. they take energy to produce, need to be packaged and shipped, and are not recyclable or compostable due to questionable ingredients.

were my vinegar-rinsed clothes any softer that the non-treated ones before them? well, line drying makes things crunchy. there's not too much you can do about that. but i did notice a difference, mainly in that the vinegar-rinsed clothes were easier to fold. it's not like they were fresh out of the dryer or anything, but that's to be expected. i have no doubt that with machine-drying, even just a fluff-cycle, they would have been much softer. as soft as with a dryer sheet? probably not. but pretty darn close.


I WANT PRETTY-SMELLING LAUNDRY!!! i'm bored of nature's 'sun-dried special.' and since we use biodegradable laundry detergents without any scents or dyes, i'm looking for something natural to scent my wash with. i've read about (but have not tried) adding a few drops of essential oil to the vinegar to help scent the clothes a bit. right now though, i'm banking on "crunchy clean." it's an all-natural, biodegradable detergent handmade by a very nice work-at-home mamma who sells on etsy. my order is due to arrive any day. i chose 3 scents to sample... 'apple orchard,' 'oatmeal, milk n' honey,' and 'monkey farts' (a blend of bananas, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberries & more). i've heard nothing but absolute rave reviews about her stuff and i cannot wait to try it.

could it be? soft and yummy smelling laundry, naturally? stay tuned. you know i'll keep ya posted.


a day at the market...

lucy and i, along with my wonderful friend kelli, spent the day out at the ferry building farmer's market. i hadn't been since last summer, and it was fun to take a trip out to san francisco to go. the market it absolutely amazing--fresh fruits, heirloom veggies, local meats & cheeses, breads, eggs, handmade foods and so much more.

blue sky breaking though the fog! always a good sign...

beautiful heirloom tomatoes...

bag your own salad mix...

the merchant had both biodegradable plastic bags (25 cents) & reusable produce bags ($1.75). i went with the reusable bag, as i'd been wanting to get one anyway...

a plethora of colorful summer stone fruits...

stacks of sweet corn...

a source for local chicken & beef! i didn't buy any because we weren't heading home after, but this is a great find!

auntie kelli and her squash...

zucchini flowers... they're delicious when breaded & fried... i've never tried making them but it's worth a shot!

i bought a few purple potatoes...

hugs were free! i got one!

view from the back of the market...

food vendors line the side of the market... yum!

lucy konks out on the way back to the car... much too much excitement for one day!

a sad note about the seagull in the picture above... it's hard to see on camera but he had fishing line hanging from his mouth, almost all the way down to his feet. it's something that we've all seen before in pictures and things, but witnessing it firsthand is really shocking. disheartening, to say the very least. just another reason to make as many changes as we can, especially when it comes to the amount of plastics that we use and dispose of.


baking bread!

lucy and i made bread today. or shall i say, lucy got a full, one-on-one tutorial on breadmaking from the comfort of her swing while i did all the hard work. but it really wasn't hard. i'd made it before a few weeks back and tried it again today with similar results. so simple and so delicious. here's the recipe if anyone is interested!

simple honey & whole wheat bread (originally found at allrecipes.com)

3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 .25 ounce packages active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
5 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted, for brushing finishes loaves


in a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. let set for 30 minutes, or until mixture becomes big and bubbly.
add in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. stir in 2 cups of whole wheat flour. flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. this may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. cover with a dishtowel. let rise in a warm place until doubled.
punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. cool completely.

instead of kneading the dough by hand, i used my kitchenaid mixer w/ the dough hook attachment. i let it go on low speed for about 2 minutes. i did not have to add any additional flour with this method.

jeremy and i ate a few slices hot out of the oven, then used a few more for our dinner of b-l-t sandwiches (with garden-fresh tomatoes & spring mix from the farmer's market). yummy. later we had more bread for dessert. the result? one loaf down, 2 to go. maybe it's not such a good idea after all... i have pants that i am longing to fit into!

tomorrow i am trekking with friends out to the farmer's market in at the ferry building in san francisco. i won't be buying any bread, that's for sure, but i do look forward to seeing things that aren't available at my local market. i'll take photos, as it's an amazing gathering of merchants & people!


the baby and the bathwater...

lucy gets a bath every night. it's part of her bedtime routine and she happens to LOVE it... it's seemingly one of the most contented spots in her day. we bathe her on the kitchen counter, in a little baby tub that holds about 5 gallons or so. we dump the used water into a small rain barrel in the backyard that sits on our deck. i have a little pot with a handle that i fill up with the bathwater to water the container plants with. and they're doing really well! normally any kind of potted plant would be looking pretty sad this late in the season, but i keep watering them in order to make room in the barrel for the next tubful of water. that's 35 gallons per week of repurposed water that would otherwise be headed down the drain.

before lucy arrived, i was filling that barrel up every few days with the hose. not too effective, since it's not tightly lidded and water can, i suppose, evaporate. but it's nice to have water right on hand to water quickly, rather than dragging the hose all around the deck every time. using lucy's bathwater is the perfect solution on both ends. we use only a very teeny bit of biodegradable soap (california baby calming shampoo & bodywash) and the plants don't seem to mind a bit. on the contrary, many of them are flourishing.

my goal before the year's end (with a ton of help from my talented husband) is to get this system working on a larger scale. i'd love to be able to make use of the greywater from the washing machine. not the diaper loads, but the regular clothing loads. as a test not too long ago, we disconnected the drainage hose on the washer during a rinse cycle and let the water drain into a 5-gallon bucket. i think we collected 20 gallons for a medium-sized load. since a load of laundry drains twice (once for the soapy water, and again for the rinse water) we could be repurposing 40 gallons of greywater for every load of laundry... currently about 3-4 loads per week... so around 120+ gallons of water. we use biodegradable laundry soap as well, so i am assuming that the plants & lawn wouldn't be harmed.

until then, i'll keep recycling water as best i can by hand. i've found myself dumping pots of h20 into the front yard when i'm rinsing dishes or waiting for the water to warm. instead of just letting it pour down the drain, i place a bowl underneath the tap. easy enough. and since here in the bay area we're experiencing mandatory water rationing due to a severe water shortage, i figure that every little bit helps. especially when it comes to our bill!

just realized...

that no-tv august means that we won't be watching any of the olympics at our house. kind of a bummer. but i'm sticking to my plan.


babies who love mamma earth...

just added to my "someday i'm totally going to buy these for lucy " wishlist is this set of "respecting the earth" flashcards. by the eeboo company, who make really awesome, thoughtful games and art supplies for kids.

"to better understand the planet... spend time in nature and see what it can teach you." seriously. how cute is that?

and here's another cute idea for kids that i stumbled across the other day. it's a book called "my bag and me," and it followes a little boy on a shopping adventure with his reusable bag. the book includes a matching bag for the little enviromentalist in your life. it's never too early to go green...

i've got mom on my side...

lucy and i went shopping with my mom today. i'm so proud of her. ever since i bought her a set of envirosax for mother's day, she's been refusing plastic bags wherever she goes... the grocery store, target, clothes shopping, etc. often times i'll have forgotten my own and am preparing to shlep my purchases out of the store in my arms. my mom is always at the ready, whipping a bag from out of her purse and offering it up to me. "you need one?"

it's great to see how one person making a positive change can inspire someone else to do the same. and it shows that even though our singular efforts might not seem like enough, they're still quite capable of having exponential impact. maybe my mom will inspire one of her friends to do as she's done. and the friend to a friend. and so on, and so on. like pondwater rippling outward, or whatever.

my mom said the other day she forgot to tell the cashier that she didn't need a bag, and when she looked down her stuff was already in the plastic. she told the cashier (politely of course) that she had her own bag. the cashier took the items out of the plastic bag and... threw the bag in the garbage. hmmm. not so effective. now, when that happens, my mom says "oh, i have my own bag. you can give this one to somebody else." ah, my mom. clever lady, right?


one man's trash...

you know how the saying goes. so true, too. i had the great pleasure of spending sunday afternoon out at the alameda antique fair with friends. for those of you not in the know, this is a HUGE event that occurs the first sunday of every month. nearly 1,000 vendors from around california come together to sell off a dizzying array of antiques & collectibles. more on this awesome event can be found by clicking here.

so how does this fit with the eco-friendly theme? because buying used benefits the environment in 2 ways: first by keeping stuff out of landfills, and additionally by conserving resources and limiting the toxic emissions that come from producing new products. if you've never watched "the story of stuff," i highly recommend it. this short, 20-minute video can be watched online for free, and it teaches the viewer about the actual, environmental cost of manufacturing (and tossing) products in our disposable society. i learned a great deal from watching it, both about myself as a consumer and the throwaway mindset that has somehow become so acceptable in our culture despite detrimental impact on the planet. it was enough to make me question (and begin to change) my shopaholic ways... no small feat, i guarantee you.

jeremy and i have filled our home with used items. this is partly due to being on a budget, but also because we happen to love a distressed "shabby chic" look when it comes to our decorating aesthetic. the antique fair has always been a great place for us to find furniture and decor. craigslist has also been a wonderful resource. in looking around our home, jeremy and i can easily say that at least 90% of our furniture is secondhand of some sort.

lucy's arrival pulls us into a whole new world of consumerism. there's literally no end to the "things" you can buy for a baby. savvy marketing makes new parents think they need tons of products and gadgets... from bottle sterilizers to wipes warmers to shoes for newborn babies. i admit falling for some of these myself... just today i spent $50 on toys designed to engage infants in active, brain-stimulating play (i had a giftcard burning a hole in my pocket, what can i say?). but really, from day to day lucy gets by perfectly on diapers, a blanket, a pair of jammies, some form of comfortable clothing, a glass bottle, the most compact swing we could find, a carseat, and me. that's it.

buying used makes sense, especially when it comes to babies. tomorrow i'm picking up a used bumbo seat that i found on craigslist. babies r' us wanted $40 + tax for it. the woman i'm buying it from wants $15. plus, no resources used to make the bumbo. no packaging. when lucy is done with it (in 2 or 3 months) i hope to resell.

so what did i get at the antique fair? i happened to go kind of crazy this month... the big purchase was a charming 1930's refrigerator that jeremy plans to convert into clothing storage. i also got a large cabinet to hold lucy's toys in her future playroom, plus a vintage baby jacket, vintage baby sweater, vintage baby blanket (for a future sewing project), and a darling miniature folding stool for future time-outs!

watch the video if you can!

i just can't not post this...

" hey lucy, what do you think of people who don't recycle?"

lucy gets the first tomato...

our garden finally produced something edible!!! i didn't taste it (we've got loads of tomatoes from family members) but jeremy ate it and said it was okay. a little dry. which shows where our problem could be coming from... not enough h20.


no-television august...

maybe i'll just start giving something up every month?

we had dinner outside tonight. it was warm and not windy, so the three of us headed out to the deck and ate alfresco. lucy laid on her back and stared up at the sky, kicking and smiling and cooing. it was wonderful.

jeremy and i have been eating in front of the t.v. for as long as i can recall. here and there we'll sit at the table, but the vast majority of the time we're plugged in. we've talked about changing this bad habit since lucy is here. the question was when to do it. and i suppose now is as good as ever.

we don't watch a ton of t.v., so i don't expect this to be too hard. but we'll see. i do love to watch the food network. i stopped watching channels like mtv & vh1 as soon as i brought lucy home. i don't want her to be exposed to all of that crap (that i really used to be addicted to... the hills... i love new york... rock of love...). we also took the television out of our bedroom, which felt kind of like a big deal and now i don't even miss it.

anyway. that's where we're at.

oh, and a disclaimer: movies don't count. as long as we don't watch them during dinnertime, that is. we don't watch very many movies but sometimes it is nice to kick back and veg out.


no-dryer july officially ends...

yay. i did it.

i will say this, though. hanging laundry is a lot of work. not hard work, but work. worth it? probably. we saw a lower energy bill and i think i'm looking blonder from all the sunshine. jeremy installed a really great clothesline that replaced the teeny one on our deck, making everything much easier that it was at the beginning of the month.

as stated a few posts back, i'm going to keep it up through the month of august. i'm interested to see what a full month's energy bill will look like. the cloth diapers are due for a tumble dry on high heat though, to reseal the waterproof layer. i'll save that for a trip i'm going on mid-month. there's a washer/dryer where we're staying, i think, so we'll be doing cloth diapers even though it's a 5-night trip.

ALSO! my brother's no-drive august has started. can't wait to hear how (and if) it's going.