lucy is 16 months... and a giveaway!

recent accomplishments include:

~using the potty chair while we're at home
~going down the big, twisty slide at the park all by herself
~putting away her bath toys (don't try to help--it'll just make her mad)
~taking looooong afternoon naps in her crib, instead of in her carseat (big achievement, people)
~helping to feed the dog
~climbing in and out of her high chair (and atop the kitchen table) unassisted
~rattling off words like watermelon, tortilla, chalk, milk, make, broom, apple, ice, post office, silly, hot, warm, cold, swim, naked, etc--this girl has a vocabulary!
~being "nice" to our dog and cat (does anybody remember elmyra from tiny toons--yeah, lucy's "nice" is kind of like that). 

cheers to lucy... 

and on to the giveaway! i spent the bulk of lucy's naptime today making hair clips for her, seeing as how she's lost (or chewed apart) all of the ones that i made her before. i might have gone a little overboard--maybe?

someone tell me why it is that when i put one or two clips in lucy's hair, she won't leave them in for more than a few moments, yet when i put 30 clips in lucy's hair, she won't let me take a single one out? she must be officially a toddler. anyhow, as a belated blog-a-versary (300 posts!) and as a celebration of lucy's 16th month birthday, simply leave a comment here and you'll be entered to win a set of 4 coordinating hair clippies, handmade with love and zeal by your loyal blogger. winning entry will be chosen by random number generator on the morning of the 4th. good luck! and if you're stuck for words, would you mind telling me if valleybaby #2 is going to be a boy or a girl? i'm getting kind of impatient over here, with all of this waiting it out... 

a study in re-usability...

heat wave, august 2008: 

heat wave, august 2009:

i do realize the last photo is a bit harder to make out (she woke at the first click of the camera), but that's the same diaper as in the photo before. and the same sleepy baby, too, if you can believe that (i can't). anyhow, three cheers for cloth and its long-lasting re-usability!


the egg post...

our little family had a great trek out to the ferry building farmer's market today. we arrived early in an attempt to beat the heat and get breakfast. san francisco was 80 degrees by 9 am--a true rarity in the city. anyhow, we picked up our usual goods: peaches, nectarines, grapes, zucchini, a couple of cheeses, salad greens, whole wheat flour. all that was left on the list was bread and eggs. we opted against bread this week--i'll be baking. that left the eggs. 

here's the thing about eggs. i've been obsessing over the past few weeks. my main goal is to purchase eggs from humanely-raised chickens. i would like these eggs to be organic. in my mind, humanely raised is pretty much what we've got going on in our backyard--the hens run around at their leisure, give themselves dust baths, peck for bugs, have 27/7 access to food & water. they are generally not cooped against their will. but these chickens are not eating 100% organic feed. so technically, their eggs are not organic. and we're only getting 1 egg a day at this point--certainly not enough to keep up with our breakfasts. 

besides getting new chickens who will have a greater output, here are my other options as i see them:

get eggs at the mainstream grocery store. okay, this is not really an option. we call these "guilt eggs" in our house--photos of chickens in battery cages are enough to steer me off of this course for good. 

get eggs at trader joes or other upscale grocery store. every magazine article i've ever read on the subject of humanely raised eggs states that terms like "cage-free," "humanely-raised" and "free-range" are unregulated. therefore, these terms mean very little. read on to see why. 

get the eggs at my local farmer's market (or any farmer's market in the area, most likely). here, egg containers sport all of the jargon i'm looking for--just like at the fancier supermarkets and trader joe's. it sounds so good--i've got visions in my head of happy chickens clucking all around some farm somewhere, out in the open, laying eggs in little nesting boxes filled with fresh straw.... 

then i actually ask the vendor about how the chickens are raised. and it's a whole 'nother story. these chickens don't have access to the outdoors. they don't live in cages, but they do spend their entire lives inside, surrounded by thousands of other birds. because this close proximity is stressful, the chickens are de-beaked in order to keep them from pecking each other to death. the egg guy told me that de-beaking is no big deal--and better than "going out every day to count the dead birds." when i told him that my chickens don't peck at each other (much) he informed me that they probably do, it just happens when i'm not looking. i assured him that my chickens couldn't be bothered with the pecking that arises from frustration and stress--they're too busy rooting through my flowerbeds. they're happy chickens. and they have all their feathers, which is (i think) a sure sign that pecking is kept at a minimum. 

anyway, he continued to inform me that they don't take the WHOLE beak off, just part of it. so that the chicken can still, you know, eat. he equated it to cutting a fingernail--well, a bit of googling proves that train of thought wrong. there'd be no need to chop & cauterize simultaneously if beaks were like fingernails, as fingernails don't bleed. 

the egg guy told me that if i were raising factory chickens, i would de-beak too. that it was better than the alternative. well, maybe that's the case. but i wouldn't raise factory chickens. that's the whole point--why am i still supporting them with my food dollars? 

my other option is to buy eggs from pasture-raised hens. birds treated similarity to my own, differences stemming only from the fact that they are raised in larger flocks. unfortunately, these eggs sell for $7-$8/dozen. which is an expense that i just can't justify on a regular basis (we go through about 2 dozen eggs per week, give or take a few). 

by the way, the egg guy told me that eggs from pasture-raised hens, though beautiful in color and flavor, are more susceptible to salmonella contamination, since the chickens are feeding off of the same land where rats and mice can live. don't know if there's truth to this or not--he actually seemed pretty forthcoming about his own hen-raising practices, so it's not like i can write him off completely. 

jeremy and i have thinking to do. right now we're close to shoving the whole debate aside and adding some new chickens back into our flock. raising hens is fun and all, but it is a definite added responsibility as well. if getting new girls weren't an option, however, i have to say that the egg guy's eggs seem like the most reasonable alternative, even though it doesn't seem the chickens are treated all that humanely--i'd have to ask him more about how the chickens are culled and at what age. i'm sure these questions have answers that i don't want to hear. 

the final alternative is to cut back on our egg consumption. just like everything else--eating less of something that's better and appreciating it more




farm box wednesday...

in this week's box: 

heirloom tomatoes
red peppers
purple grapes
asian pears
2 zucchini
yellow potatoes
2 cucumbers

the nice news is that we had a delicious salad tonight for dinner, using some of the items from our box. the bad news is that the lettuce was from trader joe's because i haven't yet gotten my act together enough to get to the farmer's market this week. trader joe's (though i love them dearly) has become my least favorite place to buy lettuce. something about buying lettuce in a bag just seems so very wrong to me now that i've bought so much farm-fresh lettuce. even whole foods has a bin that customers can scoop their own greens from (along with a big sign that says exactly where the lettuce was grown--whole foods is great for that). 

but our salad (paired with homemade bread right out of the oven) was great and we got very very full. jeremy commented that we should eat only salad for 6 months of the year, and soup for the other 6. now that would be an experiment. 

on a side note, i am considering growing our first fall/winter garden this year--i mean, i won't have my hands full with a baby or a toddler or anything. that way i can pluck my salad greens right from the ground. guides suggest mid-september as the right time to start planting. guess i'd better get on it. 


look what just landed...

in the etsy shop:

i'm sitting here wishing i could just keep all three of these for lucy--but she's been doing surprisingly well with using her potty. it doesn't get more eco-friendly than pottying, my friends. diaper wash has never been easier. i've got an upcoming post on what's working for us as far as training pants go--but basically we're having success using pocket diapers without inserts. it's nice not to have to buy anything new, especially since we've invested so much money in diapers that i thought she'd be in for quite awhile longer!


sad news from the farm...

from our "farm," that is. porter, one of our little chickens, died of unknown causes last night. we noticed her acting strangely late in the week, but strange behavior is honestly somewhat usual for chickens. yesterday afternoon, though, it became clear that she wasn't doing well at all. so we made her as comfortable as we could, tucking her in a nesting box filled with straw and fabric. i stroked her feathers for a bit and thanked her for all of the eggs that she had given us over the last 2 years. we locked her up to make sure that no predators could get to her, and likewise made sure that the other chickens wouldn't peck at her. this morning jeremy buried her in the yard next to plum, one of our other little hen friends who died last year. 

it's funny how sad we felt last night and this morning about porter. much of it, i'm sure, has to do with how much joy the chickens bring into lucy's life. she loves feeding them and clucking at them, and every morning one of the first things she wants to do after having her milk is for daddy to open the chicken coop. she'll stand on the bed, peer out the window and giggle at the "duk-duks" while they get their first drink of water and start pecking around for bugs.  

left to right: cee-cee, porter & plum

the rest of the sadness we feel simply stems from seeing an animal pass away. a backyard chicken is perhaps not the equivalent as a beloved dog or cat, but we do appreciate our hens for what they are--part entertainment and part provider, with a bit of frustration mixed in. we've learned much about chickens by raising our own: facts about egg production, the quirky manner in which chickens conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis. but one of the greatest lessons that i have personally learned is that chickens are (sometimes) smart animals with distinct personalities. porter was the chicken who played chase with the dog, came running ahead of the flock at the mere possibility of food, and, on very seldom occasion, crowed so loudly in the morning that jeremy and i wondered how a rooster had made it into our backyard. she also gave eggs more steadily than any other bird we've owned. 

she'll be missed! 

too many tomatoes...

it's that time of year when the tomatoes kick into high gear. our own garden, plus our farm box, plus tomatoes from the gardens of people we know has left us with more than we can eat. in years past, i would simply eaten what we could, and let the rest go. this year i'm trying to be more proactive--after all, store-bought tomatoes in the middle of winter are pretty much not worth buying. i'm not a canner--and i don't happen to know any canners, either. but i do know that it's possible to freeze tomatoes, provided that you prepare them first. so that's what i set out to do. i started with a small batch of heirloom tomatoes from last week's farm box that didn't get eaten--after all, if i messed up royally, i didn't want a whole lot of tomatoes going down the drain.

a quick google search, and i was ready. this whole freezing tomatoes thing is a lot easier than i thought it would be. you simply boil water, add the tomatoes a few at a time, and wait for the skin to break (about a minute). then transfer them to an ice water bath, peel, core and de-seed. so simple--really, the whole process for my small batch of tomatoes only took about 10 minutes, start to finish. and i have 2 little jars of diced tomatoes now sitting happily in my freezer (i used old sauce jars to freeze them in).

i've often read that tomatoes are the # 1 canned item that you shouldn't buy if you are concerned about the BPA leaching into your food. tomatoes are very acidic, and speed the breakdown of the lining of metal cans. with a little more work on my part, i think it's hopeful that we can store enough tomatoes from this summer's bounty that we won't have to buy canned tomatoes over the winter. we'll see!


another FLFB stocking!

four little fluff bugs is stocking more upcycled fitted diapers on wednesday evening (around 8 pm). here's a sneak peek at a few of the diapers--there will be about 10 overall. thanks for looking!

been busy...

i've been hard at work sewing up some fall & winter pants for my ever-growing girl. these pairs come from a quick and fairly simple pattern i had made for my own use by a pattern-making mom on etsy. i asked for a wide-legged pants pattern that would look good short or long, with a rise roomy enough to fit the bulkiest of cloth diapers. she came through for me and i am quite pleased. here's what i've been working on: 

knicker-length pants in a thick sweatshirt knit:

full-length pants in a heavy linen (lucy is in LOVE with the little french kitties!)

another full-length pair sewn from a vintage-tea towel. i originally bought the towel to use the applique on a diaper, but there was enough fabric to make an entire pair of pants--and i didn't have to add the trim on the bottom, it was the trim on the bottom of the towel and just happened to work perfectly with the way i cut the fabric. babies can wear white after labor day, right?

i have to say, i'm kind of addicted to making pants for the time being. it's such a quick and satisfying project. newborn pants (lined in super-warm hemp fleece) are on my agenda!

just realized...

that august first marked the one-year anniversary of us giving up the television in our home. i have to say, it feels like much longer. i mean this is in a good way. it's been a year since we've been eating dinner together at the table--and lucy has just begun to join us with her high chair tray removed and her seat pulled up to the table--like a real person. with standing in her seat, putting her feet on the table and slipping maizy bits of food aside, it really is an enjoyable time. i cannot believe that we used to sit in front of the television, balancing plates on our laps, while we ate our meal together. our couch is certainly cleaner for it, anyway. and i estimate we've saved around $720 over the course of one year in digital cable charges.

we still have a television (though we're down to 1 now, instead of 2) and we watch movies occasionally when lucy has gone to bed. i've also been known to put snaps on a diaper or two while watching grey's anatomy on dvd. but for the most part around here, the television is off. when it's too quiet at home, we turn on music or talk radio. we read more (6 books this summer for me!). i sew a lot. jeremy scours the internet for all things truck-related. we get our cooking recipes online, instead of from the food network cooking shows. i'm no longer addicted to any sort of reality programming. it's an advertisement-free zone (minus radio commercials, junk mail, magazine and internet ads... well, i guess you really can't escape advertising, even in your own home).

good stuff, all of it. an experiment turned way-of-life. one that i highly recommend!


check out this find...

our new bread pan--a 1940's bakery pan we picked up at the alameda antique fair a couple weeks back (never mind the grime--it still needs a good cleaning). i thought it was a great price at $20. it will perfectly fit my favorite bread recipe, when doubled, giving us four yummy loaves at once. the only MINOR issue is that it's about half an inch wider than our oven, something we didn't realize until we got home. oops. now jeremy has a new project. 

i did make bread again last night (in my regular loaf pans) and it turned out fabulously. we are taking most of it on our upcoming vacation, instead of having to buy bread at the store once we arrive. this time around, i was able to use local wheat flour that i purchased at the san francisco farmer's market. the wheat was grown in dixon, ca, which is about 45 minutes from my home. pretty neat. the cost = 3 pounds for $5. not cheap by any means, but also not ridiculously priced for organic flour. an exciting find! 

have a great weekend, everyone!


farm box wednesday...

in this weeks box: 

~ tomatoes
~ yellow figs
~ carrots
~ black seedless grapes
~ watermelon

seems like a light week, though we did get a ton of tomatoes (probably 3 pounds or so). the figs were delicious--only a couple left. we'll be traveling this weekend, otherwise i would for sure have to hit up the farmer's market to supplement--veggies needed! 

it looks like we'll be switching farms very soon. while we're certainly not unhappy with the farm we're currently with, we did find another farm that does home delivery. their regular box costs twice as much ($30 instead of $15) but they offer a greater quantity of produce in their "regular" box. here's what they sent to their subscribers this week (all organic):

~ 3 pounds heirloom tomatoes
~ 1.5 ponds bartlett pears
~ 1 pound yellow peaches
~ a pint of cherry tomatoes
~ a galia melon
~ a globe eggplant
~ 1 pound mixed summer squash
~ a bunch of italian basil

~1 pound mixed peppers

i say that $30 is still a fair price for the bounty amount of produce listed above. especially when delivered to my doorstep, don't you think? or have i been shopping high-priced produce our at the ferry building farmer's market for too long, where organic stone fruit is regularly $3.50/pound and a dozen pasture-raised hen eggs go for $8/dozen? (i can't bring myself to buy those pastured eggs, but that's another blog post coming soon--the difference between cage-free, free-range, pastured and backyard-raised--and the expense behind it all). 

this new farm has a "deny & substitute" option for produce that you've tried and don't like, and also offers a full credit when the subscriber is on vacation (our current farm only offers a partial credit). all in all, it just seems like a better fit. we have some sadness about leaving our current farm, though. they're a small operation while the new farm seems to operate on a much larger scale--offering a multitude of different boxes (some box options even have produce in them from nearby states--making them decidedly less "local" than they might appear at first glance). we'd be sticking with an 100% local box--all produce grown within 1.5 hours of our home. even if it means giving up blueberries at the peak of summer. 

who knows how it will all play out. stay tuned. 


makes me wanna shop...

it seems that amazon.com is on board when it comes to accepting accountability for sustainable shipping practices. i don't happen to shop on amazon too often, but apparently, for those who do, the site offers a new feature: rate that packaging. 

after receiving an order, customers can log on to amazon and dish about whether or not the right-sized box and packing materials were used for shipment. there's a bit more about the program on amazon's website. i personally like the part about customers uploading photos to support their feedback--reminds me of the time my large outdoor garbage can was over flowing with styrofoam peanuts from a pottery barn shipment. pottery barn is, to date, still my biggest offender of all the shipments i have ever received. a set of 5x7 photo frames in a box the size of an ottoman. small boxes within the large box. packing peanuts. those plastic things filled with air. and lots and lots of tape. no kidding. 


what we're into...

i have about 10 blog posts in my head but i keep getting sidetracked. before they're lost for good (pregnancy seems to be taking a huge toll on my brain) i thought i'd stick them all into 1 post--here goes. 

here's what we're into these days: 

1. consignment shops--i'm slowly building lucy a fall/winter wardrobe based pretty much on just what i can find used at local consignment shops. we happen to have some great ones around here that carry mostly high end, like-new-condition things. i've even found some great items in the newborn section at our local thrift store--a real dive establishment but good for a great deal once in awhile. 

the obvious benefit to buying used is that it keeps items going--a lot of children's clothing (especially baby items) have tons of life left in them. plus, non-organic pieces have been washed multiple times, which pretty much gets rid of residual pesticides and chemicals in the cotton. 

i don't claim to be anything less of a clothes snob when it comes to what i put on my kid--generally, not just anything will do, as bad as that sounds. but i'm truly surprised at the great finds (and prices) that i've come across in recent weeks. one of these finds was actually not for lucy, but for the new baby--

on the left, a bummis fleece diaper cover, on the right, a nicki's wool wrap. in the middle--i don't know. but it is one of the nicest newborn diapers that i have ever seen, and i am in love with it. if anyone has any ideas what this diaper is, please let me know, as i would like to get a couple more. 

2. food as decor--we've been overrun with basil lately from both our farm box and our own plants. i keep meaning to get around to making pesto to freeze, but it never seems to happen. until then, i'm using our farm box basil as a centerpiece on our kitchen table. it's cute, smells nice, and lasts a really long time--much longer than cut flowers and it doesn't drop pollen. 

3. born free 9 ounce glass bottles--we've always done glass bottles for lucy (on the rare occasion that she bottlefed over breastfeeding) but used the 4 ounce evenflo glass bottles. now that she's older, mostly weaned and taking a 5-8 ounces of milk before bed, she needed a bigger bottle. instead of using the bigger evenflo bottles, i opted for the born free. why? because the wide-neck option works with the sippy nipple. lucy has never been attached to the bottle nipple and i didn't see any reason to get her started on one. i love that these bottles can be put directly into the microwave (minus the nipple, of course) instead of having to heat the milk in a separate container. we've yet to break any of our glass bottles, which was my only concern with glass. 

4. snapea crisps--i get them at trader joe's or in the natural foods section at the grocery store. and yes, i am well aware that these aren't exactly health food. but they have a short ingredient list and are very good--lucy and i love them. the only problem i have is eating most of the bag in one sitting. it could be worse. 

5. fair trade, organic coffee--yes, i have started making my own coffee. it's not anything fancy, but i do feel good about spending my money on a fair trade product (which we all know starbucks is not). and i'm not making trash with the paper cup. and i'm saving money. and i don't have to drive anywhere to get it. and the milk i put in it is organic (again, not at starbucks). really it's a better choice for me all the way around--and not as hard as i thought it would be, either. i was surprised to find quite a few organic, fair trade options at trader joes for only slightly more than their non-organic beans. 

wow, that's big

6. repurposing--is that a big ol' vintage carpenter's box hanging on my wall? why yes, it is. and it's holding a ton of stuff that used to be scattered around the kitchen--important papers, cloth napkins, washcloths for lucy, notepads, bills, keys, reusable bags, my wallet and more. now everything's in one place. and i'm starting to get used to the look of a huge box mounted on the wall in my kitchen! the box was found out at the alameda antique fair last weekend for $20. 

7. waffles & pancakes made from scratch--i can't claim to be the breakfast cook in this house, but ever since i stopped buying mix from trader joes, jeremy has been cooking up some good stuff, all on his own. you might be surprised to know how few ingredients in takes to make your own organic dry mix--i was, anyway. we've even been making the waffles on our vintage waffle maker--super fancy!

8. our new (double) stroller--specifically, the phil & teds vibe. i wouldn't even come close to mentioning it on this blog, except for the fact that we got it USED on craigslist. and, i was able to sell my single stroller on craigslist. so it's like i broke even in the world of stuff. except for the fact that i ended up roughly $500 poorer when all was said and done. babies are expensive, no?

anyway, this is proving to be a great stroller. we've had it for a couple of months and lucy really digs it--she never stayed long in the chicco that we had. maybe she's just maturing, or maybe this stroller really is a comfier ride. it's surely a smoother push for me, anyway. 

9. eating outside--lucy and i have been trying to eat lunch outside as much as possible--no high chairs required. it's not a huge adaptation from our regular course-of-day--we spend lots of time outside. but bringing the food out and sitting on the deck has just become a really nice way to spend time with my girl--likely because she's sitting instead of in a constant state of motion!

10. handmade body products--i picked up a jar of handmade "mama's belly balm" while at a farmer's market/street fair in grass valley a month or so ago. a total out-of-the-blue purchase. it's made with fair trade, organic and garden-grown ingredients, no synthetics, and i ended liking it so much (especially when it cured a case of super-dry-camping-skin on lucy's back) that on our trip last week i found the same vendor and bought her calendula baby cream. i am always pretty skeptical of handmade body ingredients (having made some crappy ones of my own), but i got a truly great vibe from the woman who makes the stuff, and i am very pleased with the quality of her products. and i love the idea of supporting an independent merchant over a large company. 

i think that's it for now, people. my brain is empty. it feels nice. 


four little fluff bugs is restocking!

it's about time, right? here's a sneak peek of what can be found in our shop over the next few days--listings will begin posting on tuesday evening. has it been so long you've forgotten how to get to the flfb etsy shop? no worries, just click here

new this time around: diaper inners made from ultra-soft organic bamboo velour, diaper outers made from upcycled from cotton t-shirts, and loads of boyish prints. we'll also have a "seconds" section featuring a few diapers with minor cosmetic issues--each will include a set of coordinating wipes at no additional cost. 

here's the peek--expect around 2 dozen diapers overall!

lucy is 15 months!

we're just back from a delightful mini-vacation, celebrating jeremy & my 5-year wedding anniversary, along with lucy's 15 month birthday. we had tons of fun soaking up the sunshine and playing in the river in california's gold country. just the three of us--well, four if you count the little one kicking me in my ribs all day long--and it was truly a wonderful little escape. more photos to come as i get them organized. 

so what's lucy up to these days? new talents include: 

~"trotting." she's not quite at a galloping run yet, but this girl is picking up some real speed. 
~ stringing words together--'more please mama,' 'where dolly?' 'bad doggie,' etc. you can practically see the wheels turning in her head as she makes these connections--it's amazing. 
~ drawing with chalk on her chalkboard--so far we've convinced her not to draw on the walls!
~helping mommy feed the dog, wipe the floor, pick up toys, etc
~pointing out our car from a lineup in a parking lot--and actually getting it right most of the time
~new signs include "help," "night-night" (even though she already says these words) and "music."
~near mastery of the fork--the spoon remains another story