lucy is 5 months old!

new talents include:

~sitting up unassisted for long periods of time
~grabbing at everything within reach (including mommy's hair)
~taking sips of water from her klean kanteen
~nibbling her own toes
~lifting up her dresses (presumably to show off all of her pretty diapers) &
~not-so-eloquently expressing her distaste for napping.
this little girl is simply amazing.



ooh, new feature...

i love this! click on the "free rice" logo on the sidebar of this blog. it'll take you to freerice.com, where you get to donate grains of rice by answering questions correctly. choose from subjects like 'famous paintings,' 'basic chemical symbols,' 'english vocabulary,' and multiple different languages. each correct answer = 20 grains of rice donated to hungry people in countries around the world. the rice is paid for by sponsors who advertise at the bottom of the page. i donated 300 grains tonight in just a few minutes playing (i totally rock at vocabulary) and i had fun doing it. there's lots of info about the program posted in the f.a.q. section of the site, so be sure to poke around.

nonstick... ick?

we've been cooking with cast iron recently. i have to say i rather like it. we've got a large 12-inch skillet that was given to me by my grandpa when he was cleaning out his garage, and also a tiny 5-inch skillet that i got from a restaurant after (a very long time ago) begging the waiter to let me have it. for the most part we can get by on just these two pans. we've got a couple of stainless steel ones on hand in case we're cooking up a bunch of food, but that's pretty rare.

anyway, cast iron is easy to clean, provided that it's well seasoned and that you don't use soap--my good friend kelli is super grossed out by this, but using soap would strip the oils from the pans, taking away every last bit of their non-sticky functionality. you also can't put them into the dishwasher--something i learned about 8 months back. the result, if you don't know, is a highly rusted mess that needs to be scrubbed, sanded and seasoned multiple times to get it back to good.

what's the deal with nonstick pans? here's what i've found:

1. nonstick cookware is coated with a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene (ptfe). when ptfe gets very hot, it released hazardous fumes.

2. the synthetic chemical (perfluorooctanoic acid) used to make ptfe is linked to cancer & birth defects in animals and "may" pose a risk to humans. the "society of the plastics industry" found perfluorooctanoic acid in the blood of 95% of the u.s. population.

3. dupont teflon, the best-known brand of nonstick cookware, recommends that users not heat pans over 500 degrees--which one can only assume is to prevent the release of chemical fumes. they also recommend cooking with their products in a well-ventilated area.

4. according to the environmental working group (a non-profit environmental research organization), "a preheated pan on high heat can exceed 600 degrees in 2-5 minutes."

5. birds cannot tolerate the toxic chemicals released by overheated nonstick cookware. the same fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms in humans can easily kill a pet bird.

all of our nonstick cookware (except our pancake griddle) has found a brand-new home in the garage for now. when excellent alternatives are right at hand, i don't feel there's any reason to use something that "might" be harmful, or that i have to "watch carefully to avoid overheating" and "use in a ventilated area." don't you think?

i've been changing out my nonstick bakeware over the last few years with enamelware and glass, just because they look nicer in my kitchen. now i'll have my eyes out for a loaf pan or two, and probably a cake pan, along with a used cast iron pancake griddle. maybe i'll find something at the next antique fair.

and then i will worry no more about the ick of nonstick!


um, failure alert...

i have to be honest and report that the whole 'not eating out' thing is not going well. you may recall my saying that "for some reason it feels like it's going to be difficult to get through the rest of the month without eating out. i mean, i know i'll be successful b/c that's what i said i was going to do, and i'm totally stubborn when it comes to this kind of thing..."

well, as it turns out, hunger (and a general love for food) overrides stubbornness. big time. a salad at at the solano stroll street fair (2 weeks ago), garlic fries at the counting crows concert(a week and a half ago), a half a pizza (and cookies) at the giants game last thursday, and today, a full-blown, sit-down mexican lunch while out at the martinez street painting festival. dang.

i wouldn't be worth anything as your loyal blogger if i didn't admit to my shortcomings, right? it seems like our weekends this month have been jam-packed with festival-type things--the weather has been wonderful and we've been spending lots of time out of the house, enjoying each other's company. and nibbling here and there. well, it started as nibbles. then nibbles turned into today's shrimp tacos with beans, rice and chips. sigh.

funny how i could carry through with my other commitments so easily. we're still line drying unless i need to machine dry new fabric, and we've not turned on the t.v. (except to watch 2 movies that we rented) since the end of july. swear! and those changes just weren't that hard to make. this food thing puts the concept of "lifestyle changes" on a whole new level. september has felt like a very long month. i won't get into an entire recap since the month's not quite over... but after today's lunch i felt i had to confess!

anyway, unrelated but cute: here's a quick picture of lucy at today's festival. the street had just been repainted, and they sectioned off little squares for people to play around with chalk. lucy napped in jeremy's arms while i fancied up a piece of main street in her name--literally. and woke just in time to enjoy it for a moment before we headed home. i think she digs my artwork.


google has another big idea...

there's been a recent call to action from the people over at google. they've put together a contest of sorts--asking for big ideas on ways to "help as many people as possible." guidelines are pretty vague (intentionally, i think) but the video below is cute and gives good examples of what types of ideas they're looking for. additionally, ideas must fall into the following categories:

~community: how can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
~opportunity: how can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
~energy: how can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
~environment: how can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
~health: how can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
~education: how can we help more people get more access to better education?
~shelter: how can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
~everything else: sometimes the best ideas don't fit into any category at all.

google is committing $10 million to bringing the winner's ideas to life. they'll select 100 candidates, which the voting public will whittle down to 20. (i'm getting my reality show fix without a t.v.here!). then google will select up to 5 winners, based on the expense of their ideas.

i don't have an idea, but i'm looking forward to following this contest. entries must be submitted by october 20, voting begins on january 27, 2009. you can sign up for reminders to vote and read more about the contest by clicking here.


tried it: bee-hair-now hair repair conditioner...

here's a new product that i am absolutely loving... by a company called BeeCuticals Organics. in my recent search for a good hair conditioner, i wanted 5 things:
~no parabens
~no synthetic fragrances (but naturally-occurring good scent = major bonus)
~no crazy-sounding chemicals that i can't pronounce, without at least an explanation of what they're derived from & why they're in the mix
~relatively affordable (i'm willing to fork over some $$ for a good product, but i do believe that nice hair shouldn't break the bank)
~recyclable bottle

i found all of those things (and then some) in bee-hair-now. i went with the organic holistic honey blend. as you can (partially) see, the bottle has a lot of info--here's the lowdown:

~no parabens
~no sls
~no synthetic fragrances
~87% certified organic ingredients
~fair trade certified
~#1 pete recyclable plastic bottle
~not tested on animals
~portion of profits donated to save the bees
~ingredients like green tea, white grapefruit essential oil, bee pollen, molasses, royal jelly extract, chamomile & calendula extracts. plus parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme (serious)!

a few questionable-sounding ingredients are explained on the bottle--such as cetearyl alcohol (coconut oil emulsifier) and glyceryl stearate (vegetable derived).

this left phenoxyethanol and stearalkonium chloride as the only eyebrow-raising additives. i used the skin deep cosmetic safety database to check out both of these ingredients/chemicals. skin deeps rates on a scale of 0-10, with 0-2 being "low hazard," 3-6 being "moderate hazard," and 7-10 being "high hazard." phenoxyethanol (used as a preservative in place of parabens, and often found in vaccines) scored a 4, while stearalkonium chloride (used as a detangler) scored a 1. sounds good to me.

the best part? this conditioner works. it gets the tangles out of my very thick hair and leaves it soft, shiny & subtly fragrant. i'm sticking with this one for sure... and hope to try the shampoo when i run out of the stuff i'm currently using.

my 12 o.z. bottle was (i think) $8 or $9 at elephant pharmacy. it can also be purchased online.


kaiser salutes the locavore...

i've been meaning for awhile to post about this cute radio commercial i've been hearing. it's an advertisement by kaiser permanente, which is a large hmo here in california (as well as in a few other states). they've got a few really well-written radio spots, but this one in particular honors people dedicated to local eating (hey, that's me!). i get all happy whenever it comes on while i'm driving... i guess because i figure she's talking about me! ah, the simple things it takes to make me happy these days. anyway, you can listen to the spot here, along with a few others (click on radio ads, then locavore). but as your loyal blogger, i've gone through the pains of typing it out for your immediate enjoyment:

"kaiser permanente would like to take a moment to honor the locavore. what, you may ask, is a locavore? simply, a locavore is someone who only eats food that's grown locally. because it's fresher, it supports local growers, and requires less energy to transport. and while some people may call this a radical culinary agenda, we believe one's person's fanaticism is another person's lunch. so we say, 'stand tall, indigenous epicures and gastro-regionalists. all hail the noble locavore for vision, environmental awareness and nutritional good sense. because of you more people are eating fresh, delicious, healthy fruits and vegetables from local growers at the farmer's markets in their communities.' so to all local eaters everywhere, we offer you this 21-grain salute for your good taste and extra effort. because healthy food is what communities need to live healthy. and living healthy is what we stand for. we are kaiser permanente, and we want you to be well and thrive."

21-grain salute. how cute is that?

totally related: i haven't purchased a piece of non-local produce for over 2 months now. we've had all kinds of yummy summer fruits and veggies: pluots, green beans, cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, spring mix, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, potatoes, peppers, zucchini... the list goes on and on. not one piece of it shipped from out of state, and the vast bulk of it within reasonable driving distance (under 100 miles) from our home. it's been a delicious summer. and now, with autumn finally here, i'm sure we'll begin to notice the changes at our local farmers markets (apples, anyone?) very soon. just today i spotted the first of the butternut squash, a sure sign that the seasons are changing. can we go on like this through fall & winter? will i ever buy another banana? what about pineapple? and what on earth will we do when lucy starts solids in november? stay tuned to find out!


the good sheet...

i found myself in starbucks today (how's that happen?) and caught my eye on a stack of papers on the drink bar. picked one up and checked it out. i guess i found installment #01 of "the good sheet," a free publication distributed exclusively by starbucks, who have partnered with an organization called GOOD.

what is GOOD? (here's some info taken directly from the sheet):

"a collaboration of individuals, businesses and nonprofits pushing the world forward. we make a magazine, produce videos, curate a website, and host events around the country. you are holding the first GOOD sheet, part of a series of graphical explorations of some of the major issues facing us this election season and beyond. we hope that the GOOD sheets will help inform you and stimulate conversations as you head to the polls on november 04. for us, this is not about red states or blue states, democrats or republicans. this is about every american making them most informed choice possible, no matter what that choice may be."

issue #01 of "the good sheet" is dedicated to carbon emissions, and calls itself "a field guide to america's favorite greenhouse gas." it's basically a sheet of newspaper, folded compactly into a little brochure-type thing. when unfolded, it's an at-a-glance fact sheet about all things carbon: charts, graphs & quick facts. totally user-friendly. pretty much dumbed down for the general population--and i mean that in a very good way. it's accessible information for your average coffee drinker. i'll be the first to say that i learned from "the good sheet." so i LOVE this.

here are a few quickie pieces from the sheet:

"c02 world... carbon dioxide (c02) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas. it is emitted when fossil fuels--such as gasoline, oil and coal--are burned, and it traps heat in the atmosphere. we produce more c02 than the environment can process, raising the temperature of the planet. it's getting hot in here."

"for every gallon of gas (~6 pounds) that a car burns, it releases 20 pounds of c02."

"in 2006 alone, the u.s. produced 13,083,000,000,000 pounds of c02."

"after fossil fuel consumption, the largest source of u.s. c02 emissions is cement manufacturing."

"the wind in north dakota alone could produce enough energy to provide 1/3 of the u.s's power."

and here's the one that got me best:

"the safe level of atmospheric c02 is no more than 350 parts per million. we're currently at 385 parts per million."

there's much more information provided, but i won't post it all. you can pick one up if you happen by a starbucks, but it also seems that you can subscribe to the year-long series by visiting www.good.is/join and making a donation of any amount to the non-profit organization of your choice. i personally couldn't visit the website because i'm running an older version of internet explorer. you might have better luck. if so, let me know!!!

installment #02 of "the good sheet" will be dedicated to the topic of healthcare.

starbucks gets a cheery one-thumb up from me for their part in making this publication happen. (both thumbs up will come on the day they serve customers their drinks in biodegradable cups). it's my sincere hope that the information provided on the sheet will serve to convince someone who "doesn't believe in global warming" to begin to think differently. facts are facts, after all. and when presented so, well, matter-of-factly, facts are hard to ignore.


a handmade holiday???

as i was blog-hopping today, i came across a site that urges visitors to take the "handmade pledge" for the holiday season. you can check it our yourself by clicking here. basically, the concept is simple: "i pledge to buy handmade this holiday season, and request that others do the same for me."

i like the idea. i'm not sure i can jump in 100%, but i'm already planning on making the bulk of my gifts this year. i'd list them out for those that might be interested, but i don't want to spoil any surprises for the recipients that might be reading. lets just say there's a lot of work involved and i need to get going on everything soon!

as for what i'm not making, would it be possible to buy only handmade stuff for gifts? i don't know. i've fallen in love with etsy, a website that sells only handmade & vintage items. but i don't want to push this love affair on to those that might better appreciate something more... easily returnable, just in case it's not the perfect little gift.

as for "requesting" that others buy only handmade for me, well, i haven't given much thought at all to what i'd even want for the holidays. i mean, it's still summer until monday, right? (what the heck am i doing talking about christmas???) anyway, putting myself aside, i think it's more important to ask for something along these lines for lucy. we've got a small, small house, with lots and lots of "stuff" already. i'd much rather have one or two carefully picked things for her than a gazillion plastic toys. but that's just me. and if i'm bossy about what's "okay" and "not okay" to give her, doesn't that kind of take the gift-iness out of the whole process?

anyway, i didn't take the pledge yet. i'm still thinking about it.


down again...

another energy bill arrived in the mailbox today, and i'm happy to report that we are down again this month. $33.86--$9.96 for gas, 23.58 for electric. last month's total was $35.69--$12.77 for gas, 22.54 for electric. i'm not sure what caused our gas usage to dip, as i didn't use the dryer at all either month. we didn't use any heat, so all that's left as far as gas is concerned is the water heater. i guess, for whatever reason, we used less hot water. or the weather was warmer, so the water heather didn't have to work as hard to keep the water at the right temperature.

i doubt we'll get our bill any lower than this. though we typically have nice weather well into october, mornings can be chilly and with lucy and myself at home, we'll might need to run the heater a bit some days. also, i've been sewing a lot (diapers, & i'm finally getting started on a few christmas gifts). all that new fabric has to be washed and machine dried, so i've been using the dryer here and there as needed. a few sprinkles today had me rushing to bring the diapers in, and reminded me that line-drying is not a year-round sport, unless you like laundry strung all across your house (i'm not so into that, i don't think). we'll see. i might be able to rig something in the garage. i'm also making my way to bb&b this weekend to buy a proper drying rack. my old one from college finally took a sad turn for the worse, and even jeremy's fixing didn't stick.

as far as our electricity usage being up... well, what's up with that? it's something to work harder on, i guess. but "whole-food september" has us cooking at home a LOT more. especially baking. which, of course, requires electricity. i guess you just can't win!!!

kind of related: check out the new "patch" on the sidebar of my blog. posting the patch links me to the 350 challenge, which has been put together by betterplanet.com and 350.org. posting the patch also offsets 350 pounds of carbon in the name of valley girl has baby, goes crunchy. that's the equivelant of not driving around in my car for 2 weeks. just by posting the patch. if you have a blog of your own, please consider doing the same... it doesn't have to be eco-related. any kind of blog will do. i like my little patch. it kind of reminds me of my days as a brownie, before i quit. (i totally didn't dig that uniform).


kiss me, i'm carbon neutral...

was the slogan of the night last night. there was no actual kissing, of course, but the slogan was printed on bumper stickers that volunteers like myself passed out to fans. the goal was to get concert-goers to fork over $3... a small donation that offsets roughly 300 miles worth of driving. reverb forks the money over to natural energy companies such as NativeEnergy, who work to find better ways to power up america. here's a snippet from the reverb/counting crows website:
"you can actually help a new Native American-owned wind farm get built. compensate for your global warming pollution and help NativeEnergy build new renewable energy projects that generate more than just electricity, they also help Native American tribes develop sustainable economies based on the gift of wind."
a $3 donation also got fans entered to win 1 of 10 autographed guitar and an organic lip balm courtesy of stoneyfield farm. of people who participated, i'd say most were super interested in winning the guitar, but there were some (like me) who were more in love with idea of cheaply offsetting their carbon emissions. i'd guess that together, 9 volunteers (including me) raised around $500. rough estimate. not a ton of money, but better than nothing at all.

i got a cute (organic!) shirt for volunteering. and as a really nice bonus, the reverb coordinator (who, in my opinion has the coolest job EVER... they travel on the tour buses & everything) slipped me an extra ticket she had, upgrading me from a random spot on the lawn. i got to sit in row "l", which was as close as i've ever been to the stage at a counting crows concert, or any concert for that matter, i think. she might have felt sorry for me because i was the only volunteer there by myself. anyway, it was an excellent surprise!

i missed my little lucy, but i still managed to have quite a good time. strange to be on my own out in the world after so many months with her attached to my hip! the three of us are hitting up the concord show tonight. after another late night like last night, i'm sure we'll all be thoroughly exhausted.

oh, and i won't forget to hit up reverb's both and give another $3!!!


i could not resist...

when i saw this heat-transfer decal at joann's, i quite simply couldn't not buy it. i have no idea if it'll hold up through all the washings that cloth diapers go through, but i'm giving it a try.

i made the diaper itself from super soft organic bamboo velour and bamboo fleece, with a flannel outer and of course, the iron-on decal. totally cute or totally cheesy? or both? what do you think? i can't decide... but you know i love it anyway.

the answer to the question of course is "no, darling. you're just super-fluffy today..."

i got picked!

you might recall a certain post awhile back asking for you to cross your fingers for me. i wanted to get the chance to volunteer with reverb, a non-profit organization that partners with bands on tour, helping to educate concert-goers on how to lower their carbon footprints. specifically, i wanted to work the eco-village at an upcoming counting crows concert in my neck of the woods. and it's official... i'm doing it tomorrow night!

i'd kinda given up on the idea because i didn't hear anything back from reverb for so long after submitting my request. but i guess that things like this are very last minute. at any rate, i have no idea what i'll be doing but i look forward to finding out! my only issue is leaving lucy--she'll be in wonderful hands with jeremy but i will miss her terribly, i'm sure. i haven't been away from her for more than 2 hours at a time. she's like my fifth limb. but cuter.

check back to see how it goes!


new bread!

this is another great recipe. i tried it out today because i read good things about it, and happened to have all of the ingredients on hand from making granola. doubling the recipe gave enough dough for three large loaves.
aren't they pretty? kinda? okay, they look a little less than perfect (i had a baby on my hip for the entire duration of the bread-making process... this is one-handed bread, people). but the taste is YUM! here's how to make it yourself:

flax & sunflower seed bread
(taken from allrecipes.com)


1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups whole wheat bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds


place all ingredients (except sunflower seeds) in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. select basic white cycle; press start. add the sunflower seeds when the alert sounds during the knead cycle.

well, i don't have a bread machine, so i combined the water, honey, yeast and bread flour in a large bowl. set it aside for about 40 minutes till it got bubbly & big. then added the rest of the ingredients, and kneaded with my kitchenaid stand mixer for about 3-4 minutes. covered & let it rise till it doubled in size, punched it down & divided into 3 greased loaf pans. covered them & let them rise till they doubled in size. baked @ 350 degrees for 20 minutes. brushed the tops with melted butter when they came out. i am looking forward to breakfast tomorrow--farmer's market eggs on homemade toast!!!


it's time for some crunchy granola...

here's the recipe that i'm using for granola-type cereal. it's good! so good that i made more of it for our breakfasts this week. the corn tortillas, on the other hand, did not go so well. i followed the instructions on the package of the masa harina perfectly, but the resulting tortillas were super crumbly with a grainy texture. maybe i didn't flatten them thin enough, but that's because the dough itself was really crumbly too. i tried adding more water but that just made everything worse! anyway, they're sitting in the fridge now, hoping to get eaten. we'll see. the taste is okay but the texture is just ick. maybe i should have tried flour instead!

here's the granola:

1 cup safflower oil
1 cup honey
8 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (jeremy thinks we could go less on this)
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup oat groats (i had never heard of this before, but they taste pretty much like oatmeal)
1/3 cup wheat meal
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup raisins (i used more like a cup)
1/3 cup slivered almonds

combine everything into a large mixing bowl. taste it, and add more of whatever strikes your fancy. divide in half and spread onto 2 greased cookie sheets (don't forget this step or you will be scraping your pans like me!). bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or so, then check. stir it up and put back to bake for another 3-5 minutes, or till oats are just starting to get a touch of golden color. cool & store in an airtight container.

and just for fun, here's a few pictures of miss lucy trying to get at the granola..."bring on the milk, mom!"


and that's that...

we had our second "dining out" meal for the month. jeremy, lucy and i went for a very yummy dinner tonight. fried zucchini, asian pear salad, chicken & biscuits, red-skinned mashed potatoes, beer. it was good. it was also $50. yikes.

for some reason it feels like it's going to be difficult to get through the rest of the month without eating out. i mean, i know i'll be successful b/c that's what i said i was going to do, and i'm totally stubborn when it comes to this kind of thing. but the idea of making it to october without going out for lunch or dinner seems... sad. the whole point of doing this (although it's not necessarily "eco-friendly") is to make eating out more of a "special" thing. so in that sense, i guess it's working. we did have a very good time tonight, since we knew we wouldn't be doing it again for awhile.

on the list of things to do tomorrow: i'm making tortillas! corn or flour? i can't decide. i'll also post the granola recipe i hodge-podged together based on what was available at the market i shopped at. we had granola cereal all this week for breakfast! it was pretty darn good. so i'll be making more of that too.


i've been busy...

making diapers for little lucy. i've moved on from making fleece covers to making the actual diapers themselves. it's hard work, since i'm mostly self-taught when it comes to sewing. but i'm learning a lot! the diapers themselves are totally functional, though each a little wonky in some way or another--uneven elastic, crooked soaker, imperfectly placed velcro. but they're cute from about 18 inches away. and i'm getting better and better as i go along. the last one i made (shown in the final photo below) turned out really, really well!

directly above is my absolute favorite--both the picture & the diaper that's in it. the diaper is made from organic bamboo velour and bamboo fleece, both of which are incredibly soft & absorbent fabrics. the outer is flannel, topped by upcycled piggie embroidery that i cut out from a vintage baby blanket i picked up at the alemeda antique fair. the picture itself... well, lucy's not got the rolling thing perfected yet. sometimes she gets a lil' stuck! or maybe she was just showing off her fancy diaper???

lucy & maizy (well, her nose anyway). total cuteness...

all of these diapers are "fitteds," meaning that they require a cover to be waterproof. but they're really absorbent... if we're just hanging around home i let her go without a cover, and make sure to change her when the diaper starts to feel damp. the upside of this is that fitteds are made of all natural, breathable materials. good for the little tush.

that being said, i did order some PUL (polyurethane laminate) to try my hand at making a waterproof diaper. we'll see how that turns out. wish me luck, i'm sure i'll need it. along with a good seam ripper or two.


vinegar... the magic solution?

could it be that, as we've struggled for weeks and weeks with an ant infestation, that the answer was in a simple bit of vinegar?

lucy's room is kinda stinky tonight (she's sleeping peacefully though--doesn't seem to mind!). we noticed ants going after the plain water that we use to wet down her cloth baby wipes... the water's in a plastic bottle with a sports-type lid that one of us left open after changing her. i'd read last night about using vinegar to get rid of ants--but didn't think all too much of it, figuring that we'd finally gotten rid of most of them. i mean, we've had ants EVERYWHERE. they were, most constantly, after the dirty diapers, the kitchen counter, the dog and cat food, the dog & cat water bowl, and the bathroom sink. i had them in my closet for awhile too. it got to the point where we couldn't leave ANYTHING out without dealing with a major trail. we kept meaning to go and get the borax ant baits, but neither one of us seemed to make it to the store to pick them up. cinnamon proved both messy and pretty much ineffective, as did the dr. bronner's peppermint soap... both good on a small scale, just not great for a major infestation. but this vinegar seems to have done the trick. it's hard to say, as it wasn't a thick trail in lucy's room or anything, but i haven't seen a single one coming out where jeremy sprayed. 

i'm proud of our resolve not to use raid to deal with this problem. and to be completely honest, we did use it a couple times. once in the kitchen, a teensy bit under the stove, as we were leaving the house one morning. another time in the garage. i think jeremy also used a bit while lucy and i were out of town visiting a friend. 

and you know what? 

they came back anyway. 



i like getting coffee. i used to be a starbucks gal who recently switched to peets, and am trying even harder to hit up my local mom & pop cafe/bakery as much as i can. my (pretty much daily) coffee. it's something i think very hard about giving up, only to reconsider a moment later. i'm stuck here wondering why that is, and why i can't just do without. i'd save money--a lot of money. $3 per day = nearly $1100 over the course of a year. i'd save calories--a lot of calories. 147,450, to be exact. but this isn't a budgeting blog, and it's not a dieting blog either. so i suppose i should focus on the cups. here's what i found on the subject:

“In 2005, Americans used and discarded 14.4 billion disposable paper cups for hot beverages. If put end-to-end, those cups would circle the earth 55 times. Based on anticipated growth of specialty coffees, that number will grow to 23 billion by 2010—enough to circle the globe 88 times. Based on hot cup usage in 2005, the petrochemicals used in the manufacture of those cups could have heated 8,300 homes for one year.”

"but," says i, "i forgo the little plastic lid, and i take my cup and i throw it into my compost bin at home, where it turns into lovely dirt for my garden. doesn't that kind of help offset the fact that i am indulging in serious disposability?"

the answer is not in my favor:

"Today, there is no way to compost or recycle the billions of disposable coffee cups used in the U.S. each year. It’s all due to a simple fact: the cups are lined with a petroleum-based plastic (polyethylene) to prevent leaking."

are you serious?



anyway, further research led me to cups lined with corn, instead of plastic. not widely used, and certainly not used at any of the big chains. plus, once a little light has been shed on just how much energy is needed to produce a mass amount of coffee cups, corn-lined or otherwise, it's hard not to feel more than a bit guilty. (starbucks cups are made of 10% post-consumer recycled cardboard. the other 90%, i guess, is brand-spanking new). let's not even get started on fair trade issues. i just really want my coffee, and i don't want to make it at home because it's never the same. i guess i could start bringing my own container but i'm not even sure how this works if you're going through the drive through... though trips through the drive through are rare these days, as both places i frequent the most often don't have them. so maybe i should give it a try.

sigh. can anyone recommend a travel mug?


tried it: crunchy clean laundry detergent...

i am loving laundry these days. my clothes smell yummy again, and all because of a new , eco-friendly detergent i am using. crunchy clean is made by a work-at-home mom, and is phosphate & chlorine free, and safe for use as greywater when we (hopefully) get a system running sometime in the not-so-near future. the detergent comes in a plethora of different scents--i chose a sampler trio of apple orchard, milk n' honey, and monkey farts. my favorite? by far the monkey farts. the name, though whimsical, doesn't do the scent justice. it's described as a blend of bananas, grapefruit, kiwi, bubblegum, strawberries, and a touch of vanilla. delicious. the powder itself smells very, very strong going into the machine, but freshly-washed clothes retain only a small bit of the scent on them once line-dried.

the clothes seem just as clean as they are with my regular detergent (planet, which is also eco-friendly). and i love the idea of supporting a work-at-home mom. crunchy clean is available on etsy.com. clicking here will take you directly to the crunchy clean store. she also makes a detergent that's safe for cloth diapers, but since i'm having tremendous success with seventh generation delicate care, i'm not in the market to switch.

all detergents offered by crunchy clean are scented with either fragrance oils or essential oils (there's also an unscented offering too). fragrance oils are synthetic, while essential oils are 100% natural. that's my understanding of it, anyway. the monkey farts blend is scented with fragrance oils... which must be why it smells so delicious!

in the future i'll probably try to fall in love with a scent that uses essential oils, since my constant goal is to cut back on unnecessary chemicals within our home. but there's no doubt that even with the fragrance oils, crunchy clean is a greener, safer, alternative to most store-bought detergents. at .12 per load, it's a totally affordable indulgence. i totally recommend it.


a well-timed find...

off a tip from my brother, i asked my mom about her recipe for homemade granola. she came back with the crunchiest cookbook i've seen in, well, probably my whole life. not that i go around keeping tabs on things like that, but i wasn't expecting her to produce something so tied in with my "whole-foods septemeber" agenda. published in 1971, the book is called "the wonderful world of natural-food cookery." along with a seemingly simple granola recipe, there's also a section of baby food recipes, which will surely come in handy in a couple of months when lucy starts on cereals & purees. i hope make some granola tomorrow! i'm also trying ellie krieger's food network recipe, as suggested by one of my fabulous readers. perhaps i'll have jeremy do a taste test to see which one is better. (both of them call for lots of nuts though, of which jeremy is not a fan). anyway, it should be fun! i am missing my cereal like crazy!


one down...

and one to go.

part of "whole-food september" is limiting eating out to only twice during the month. not very far in and i'm already down to one more occasion. lucy and i went to visit my lovely friend kelli on friday night. we went to a very yummy barbecue joint and i had a VERY yummy salad that could not be, in any way, shape or form, actually considered healthy eating. but it was good!

things have been shaking out pretty well here at home though. i baked bread and found a tortilla recipe (now i just have to make them!). i've also got homemade pizza dough in the freezer that i haven't yet tried. running out of cereal on day #03 was a bit depressing. in general my morning revolves around trader joe's organic raisin bran clusters... not to be confused with trader joes raisin bran which i find pretty tasteless and horrible. anyway, i can kind of put away 1/2 a box of the clusters in one sitting. but there's a natural foods store a few miles down the freeway that i've never been to, and i'm thinking that they sell fresh grains, the kind where you scoop your own. i'm hoping to make my own granola.

it doesn't get much more crunchy than that, does it?


slow food nation, part two...

after spending over an hour before finding out that we were at the wrong place (fort mason, where the slow food rocks concert was being held--tickets were $70) jeremy, lucy and i found ourselves at the civic center in san francisco. a large marketplace was held at this location, where vendors sold everything from fresh olive oil and stoneground bread to goat cheese and yogurt, along with a wealth of california-grown produce. it was crowded. as my dad always says, "i felt like i was in new york city." at rush hour. on the subway. most of the vendors were offering free tastings, but the crowded booths were a bit too much for me with lucy sunggled right across my chest in her wrap. we walked through the marketplace pretty quickly. jeremy bought a miniature sweet potato & peach pie for breakfast, which he promptly dropped into the dirt while juggling with the camera. bummer! i had a bite--it was super yummy.

at the center of things was the victory garden, a beautiful display of all sorts of vegetable plants and flowers growing right smack in the middle of the city. not something you see everyday, that's for sure. at the head of the garden was a stage where speakers, performers and demonstrators dished info on all things sustainable as related to agriculture--i even overheard one speaker touting the benefits of human urine as garden fertilizer! we took lots of time just passing through, and took lucy out of the wrap so that she could get to see everything up close.

what i loved most about the victory garden was the actual way they went about planting a garden on concrete: big tubes crafted from burlap and stuffed with dirt, and formed into a circle, with plants and a dirt/compost blend in the middle of the circle. it was cute, eco-friendly, and totally functional. i'd like to do something similar in my own garden next year, since our dirt seems to be pretty poor. the picture below is not the greatest, but it does kind of show how the garden beds were created (lucy is sitting on one).

there was also a compost station. leave it to me to get excited about dirt, but this was a great way for people to see and learn about the process of composting. gloves were out for the daring--event-goers were urged to "dig in" to the soil and feel the heat that helps to speed decomposition. there was also a vermicomposting (worm composting) station. i poked a bit at the wiggly worms, curious as to just how many it takes to break down scraps (a LOT!). i have to say, though, that slow food compost looks much nicer than my compost at home. i guess the experts know exactly what they're doing!

along with having offering only compostable plates and utensils, plastic water bottles were not sold at the event. people were encouraged to "take back the tap" by bringing their own reusable water bottle. there were canteens for sale for those that didn't have a bottle. the "fill station" provided good, old-fashioned san fransico tap water for free. we hit up a few of the gourmet "slow food on-the-go" vendors for an early lunch (ham & biscuts with sweet jam, and an amazing sausage sandwitch with grilled peppers & onions) before heading back to the car.

in short, a really lovely and educational event. it's a good sign that it was crowded, don't you think?


slow food nation...

jeremy, lucy and i spent last saturday at the slow food nation celebration in san francisco. while there were many ticketed events at fort mason (such as food tastings and an all-day concert), we spent our time at the free marketplace & victory garden, both of which were located near city hall. in short, we had a lot of fun. slow food's website says that over 60,000 people attended over 4 days (and i swear each of them was in line with me as i tried to sample cheeses).

what is slow food nation, exactly? part of a larger non-profit organization, slow food nation was created to "organize the first-ever american collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement, and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair." which is a fancy way of saying that slow food nation hopes to teach everyday folks about where their food actually comes from--farm to plate.--and to appreciate the work that goes into creating healthy and delicious food. slow food is not convenience food--100 calorie packs, t.v. dinners, or individually-wrapped packages of mini carrots complete with a tiny tub of ranch dressing.
how often do we walk through the supermarket, under the harsh glare of super-fluorescent lighting, mindlessly grabbing at boxes and bags without considering it? where does our produce come from? where is our meat raised? how many of our favorite foods are processed from whole ingredients into a finished product that is hardly recognizable from it's simple beginnings? who grows our food? who (or what) picks & packs it? who drives it to the store & unloads it in the early morning hours? how on earth does it all happen that our homes get filled with food?

the slow food movement is about adjusting our lives as consumers to be able to answer as many of those questions as we can. to be able to track our food from farm to plate. to shake hands with farmers as we purchase our groceries. to support people who care for the planet while they're hard at work raising our food. (this event was perfectly timed for whole-food septemeber). i'm excited by all of these ideas, personally. and living in california, i've got a lot of good opportunities to make it work... massive amounts of diverse produce raised around the state. farmer's markets nearly every day of the week. a handful of grocery stores within driving distance that carry some locally grown fruits & veggies. and even a few sources for locally raised meats & dairy.

slow food part 2 to come tomorrow. less soapbox, more summary of what we actually did at the event... and complete with pictures of lucy at the victory garden. she saw lots and lots of wonderful things!


"whole" food september...

jeremy & i decided to do whole-food september, saving the "no-shop" idea for a different month. this is in part because we each want to lose a few pounds (i'm sooo close to fitting perfectly into my pre-pregnancy jeans). also because repeated visits by armies of ants have reminded us how full our pantry is... we've had to empty it out on more than several occasions. over the course of the month we'd like to chow through most of it (along with the stuff in the freezer, too) and be left with a simpler, more manageable stash of food.

here's what it means for us:

buying only local produce (we're already doing this)
buying only 1-ingredient foods, or foods that cannot reasonably be made by us at home (like chocolate, cheese, etc).
preparing all meals at home, unless we are invited to eat with family. i'm also allowing myself 2 "restaurant" meal for the month.

went shopping today to start us off. here's the list:

from the farmer's market:
green beans
mixed salad greens
bell peppers

from trader joe's:
organic chicken breasts
tri tip
heavy cream
mozzarella cheese
feta cheese
organic milk

i must have looked like i was on a no-carb diet, don't you think? anyway, that doesn't look like very many groceries to get us through the week. but jeremy and i are pretty simple eaters. tonight for dinner we had ravioli (from the fridge) with pesto (from the fridge) and a mixed green salad with olive oil & balsamic vinegar.

tomorrow i'll be baking bread, and will try to find a good flour tortilla recipe. i'm also hoping to stop by my parents house for enough tomatoes to make salsa... though i forgot cilantro at the market.

i look forward to trying out new recipes, learning to make things i didn't know i could make, cutting down on packaging, cutting out preservatives from our diet, and hopefully even losing a couple of pounds. we'll see.


lucy is 4 months old...

new talents include "slightly sitting," (jeremy lovingly refers to this as the "quad-pod"... see photo #03), squealing with delight, and playing with mommy at 4 am.


waste-free weekend...

every now and then i'm totally excited by a heightening "green" awareness within my community. this long weekend was a perfect example. we traveled all around the bay area for multiple events--slow food 2008 in san francisco (more on this awesome event in a separate post), the oakland art & soul festival, and today a fabulous backyard chile roast at the home of my brother's girlfriend's wonderful parents (does that make sense?). three long days of being outdoors, soaking up sunshine, meeting new people, and seeing the sights. plus a LOT of food. i swear we ate our way through the bay area over the last few days. and what i found so exciting about this (beyond the tastiness of it all) was that i did not have to throw a single plate, cup, napkin or utensil into the garbage. both of the festivals, along with the private backyard cookout, provided 100% biodegradable dishes, cups and cutlery--made from cornstarch & potato. compostable disposables! (has anyone coined that term yet? if not, it's mine!)

each festival had waste bins set up throughout, which were monitored by volunteers. these kind people played the part of educating fest-goers on just where to put their garbage: recycle, compost or trash. it's not often, even as awareness of the detriment of single-use products rises, that one can feel mostly guilt-free about using something for a few moments & tossing it. i mean, yes, energy & other resources are required to manufacture all products (that's where the *ick* of single-use comes in). but knowing that my garbage will turn to nice, rich dirt with the passing of a few months (under the right conditions) feels really, really good. in a perfect world, we'd all bring our own resusable dishes out with us for dining, toting them along in one of our reusable bags. but i think the likelihood of something like that happening is zilch. compostable disposables really are the next best thing.

and something i noticed after using all of this stuff for the last few days? it's good! the "tater"ware feels sturdy, the cups are nearly identical to plastic, and the plates are much thicker than those flimsy paper ones. side note: while those "flimsy paper ones" are technically compostable, they're also treated with chemical binders, bleaches & fillers... not something you want turning up in your soil... or your food. the colorful, patterned plates that look so pretty on a backyard table contain nasty inks and dyes, the manufacturing of which is harmful to our environment on many counts. in general, food-soiled plates are not considered recyclable.

so major, MAJOR kudos to slow food nation, oakland art & soul, and dennis & renee (who will be sending away a heap plates, cups, napkins & cutlery in their green bin). you guys all have my seal of approval! and lucy says thank you too!