trash talk: thursday...

a week of trash tallying has come to a close. i, for one, could not be happier. though i must admit, writing down every single piece of waste used by our family gave me a much-heightened awareness regarding what we're using and what we're wasting. i've got lots more to say on the subject, but it'll have to wait--lucy turns 2 tomorrow and i'm off to put finishing touches (read: start from scratch) her birthday gifts. nothing like waiting till the last minute?

here's the breakdown for today:


coffee filter & grounds
1 eggshell
bruised apple (i'm now thinking i could have made a bit of applesauce for hudson with it)
moldy strawberries
beet greens (didn't feel like using them)
6 cherry tomatoes
half a lime
2 banana peels
salami skin
3 strawberry tops
dinner scraps: asparagus bottoms & broccoli stalks


sour cream container
lunch container (we got takeout pasta salad from the market before hitting the park)


oatmeal wrapper
juice container
7 glass jars (cleaned out the fridge door)
strawberry container
yogurt top
beer bottle
various receipts (from the pocket of my ergo)
pasta sauce jar
junk mail
bill envelope


jelly beans
old feta cheese in plastic wrapper
old razor cartridge & package from new cartridge
2 fruit leather packages
broken hair clip
pasta bag
cheese wrapper (farmer's market ricotta)
plastic bag not suitable for reuse

that's it! i'm off to get crafty...


better butter...

we had a little bit of fun this morning making our own butter. it didn't take long--we had bread baking in the oven so it was a fitting way to pass the time. and worth it, too, in the end. this stuff was good!

i thought there'd be some involved, labor-intensive process to it all, but as it turns out, butter is made quite easily. here's how:

start with a bit of ripened cream (we left ours sitting out for about 15 hours--don't go longer than 24) and a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. our jar had a handle, which made shaking super simple.

ready, set, shake! it took just under 3 minutes for our cream to go from liquid...
to solid. there will be some liquid left around the great big glob of butter. that's the buttermilk. pour it off and save it for making pancakes, biscuits, etc. i had some in my morning coffee, it was quite good.

now, line a strainer with a thin piece of cloth, and rinse the blob of butter. you want to get any remaining buttermilk off, as it will sour the butter. pat your butter dry, transfer to a bowl, and mash it with a wooden spoon until it loses its graininess and comes together in a smooth ball. this is the time to add salt if you desire. a couple pinches should to the trick. salt helps to guard against spoiling.

transfer to a mold of some sort. alternatively, you could leave the butter in a ball. i thought little pats of butter would be cute, so we used this vintage madeline pan. learn from my mistake--even when chilled, the butter was a bit difficult to remove from such a stiff pan.
still, we got a few that were photoshoot material.

and what's more important, it tasted divine on our morning bread with frog hollow apricot conserve. yum. is it morning again, yet?

trash talk: wednesday...

let me tell you--writing down every piece of waste that leaves the valleygirl home is totally starting to get old. anyway.


banana peel
broom dirt
vacuum dirt
a bunch of wilted cilantro
coffee filter & grounds
lunch waste--we ate at a play cafe. they compost all paper, even coffee cups. our waste included one cup (i forgot my reusable), 3 sheets of waxed paper and 2 napkins


paper (list for trash talk friday, saturday, sunday, monday, tuesday)
cream container (not 100% sure that this was actually recyclable)
clothing tag (lucy got some like-new pink converse!)
tons of junk mail (wednesday is our grocery store mailing day--we get at least 6 big ads from local grocery chains. anyone know how to get off of this list?)
2 catalogs (we hardly ever get catalogs anymore after using catalogchoice.org)
plastic from lucy's lunch fruit cup
a paper lunch bag not suitable for reuse




fabric scraps
twist tie
produce sticker
yogurt cup (stonyfield yogurt is a number 6 and not recyclable here. we no longer buy them, but this one was given to us).
fruit leather packaging
misc. plastic wrapping from some craft items i needed (making lucy's birthday present)

well, you know the drill. i'll be back tomorrow with more.

have you heard?

there's (finally) some stuff in the etsy shop. more to be added soon!

hey look...

it's me! (scroll a little ways down the page to see me & a few mother's day gift ideas).


trash talk: monday & tuesday...

i know you're all on the edge of your seats wondering what i threw away yesterday, right? well, i headed to bed early last night, so today's post is a double dose:


4 eggshells
coffee filter & grounds x 2
3 artichokes (minus the parts that we ate)
moldy strawberries (grrr...)
3 banana peels
carrot peels
burned chard (oops)
7 apple cores (jeremy made the crisp)
orange rind
lemon rind
a dustpan full of house dirt
a vacuum-canister full of house dirt
4 teabags


2 ripped book jackets (thank you lucy)
olive oil bottle
a broken drinking glass (thank you lucy)
beer box
cracker box
various papers & receipts (cleaning out my car)
butter box
medicine packaging (poor hudson has thrush)


ricotta cheese container


wrapper from farmer's market sausages
broken dog bowl & accompanying food (thank you lucy--seriously, she was on a roll yesterday)
plastic package from frozen blueberries (we made muffins)
plastic wrapper from new olive oil bottle
chip bag
inner packaging from cracker box
plastic bag
2 clif kids z bar wrappers (from car)
fruit leather wrapper
dryer lint

a note about the dryer lint--a couple of you mentioned that dryer lint is compostable. we used to compost it, then stopped after i read that dryer lint contains chemicals from the fibers of clothing, as well as chemicals from the detergents. we do use biodegradable detergents, so i'm not worried about that, but since our clothing is not organic cotton (and cotton is one of the top genetically modified crops) i stopped viewing dryer lint as a compostable item.




a long, busy weekend with temperatures reaching the 80's! we stayed out and about, enjoying the weather as much as we could--rain is predicted to return this week. hopefully it won't spoil a special someone's birthday plans. we'll see.

here are the photos:

garage sale scores (otherwise known as birthday presents)...

a new piggy bank (complete with backup) to replace one recently broken by a much-devastated lucy...
a set of classics--10 cents each!
a few little somethings for me...

some snuggle time...
a morning at the market...
which gave us a very yummy haul...

an afternoon antiquing...

i was charmed by these pincushions--made from vintage jello molds and quilt patches... too cute! (contact viveca-m at comcast dot net to get your own!)
a (very belated) 5-month milestone shoot....

a little care and keeping of the seedlings...

plus some good, old-fashioned silliness...

and a to-die for dinner of farmer's market veggies, italian sausages from locally-raised pork, and homemade buns.

not to mention a few other yummy weekend foods, too.

yep. it was a good weekend. it certainly was. now bring on that birthday!

trash talk: sunday...

a light day today. probably because we were out of the house from breakfast until dinnertime! here's the breakdown...


4 eggshells
tangerine peel
paper bag
farmer's market snack scraps (strawberry and carrot tops, toothpicks, orange rinds)
dinner scraps (peeling of carrot, asparagus bottoms)
4 leaves of wilted lettuce
apple core
asian pear core


aluminum yogurt lid
cardboard box (butter)
3 beer bottles


yogurt container
2 strawberry baskets (i've got to get better at not accepting these, or bringing them back to the vendors for reuse. they also make great protection for just-started seedlings, but i've got a stockpile in my gardening shed and don't need any more).


plastic packaging from farmer's market soap
bubble mailer
2 broken rubber bands
2 strands of floss
potato chip bag
2 squares of waxed paper (food sample at the market)

jeremy thought i was nuts for tallying up every bit of waste at the farmer's market, but he still played along. good guy. on a side note--i couldn't believe how many people were using plastic bags provided by vendors at the market. i thought the word was out that plastic bags are totally uncool? sigh.


trash talk: saturday...


unbleached coffee filter and grounds (this is on my mother's day wish list)
2 eggshells
leftover pasta
a dustpan full of "house dirt" (where does this stuff come from???)
old lettuce
potato pieces (the cast-off bits from the potatoes we cut up to plant)
dinner scraps--peelings and ends of zuchinni, sweet potatos and onions

curbside recycling:

bill envelope & inserts (we pay some of our bills online, but could certainly do more)
instant oatmeal wrapper
gallon milk jug
cardboard box
2 paper price tags from thrifted pillowcases
salsa container
conditioner bottle
1 piece of mail
3 beer bottles
a bit of foil from a wine bottle
paper bags (from roofing materials--jeremy is building a shed in our backyard)
what do you call that strand of plastic that attaches the price tag to the clothes? two of those.


ricotta cheese container


fruit leather wrapper
ice cream container
cheese wrapper
plastic packaging from a garage sale find (2 pairs of new baby booties)
2 twist ties
three small pieces of plastic
an earplug
bubble wrap (from 6 vintage glasses that were being stored in our garage)
kid's organic clif bar wrapper
2 packages of polaroid film (that had been sitting in our garage for 6 years, and didn't work when we tried it in my new-to-me polariod camera. such a waste!)
2 adhesive-backed labels soaked off of glass jars
2 strands of floss

that's it for today. food packaging is proving itself a significant part of our waste. ideally i'd love to get to the point where we are making all of our own yogurt, snack bars, fruit leather, ice cream etc. i'm just not sure i have the time. we do make a large portion of our food from scratch--so much so that i feel as though i'm always cooking something. the mixer is about to take up permanent residence on our counter, because i'm tired of lugging it back and forth from its place on the shelf.

i digress. we could do better. and we will. at some point. soon, i hope. perhaps we'll start with ice cream?


this moment...

inspired by soulemama...

how does that saying go?

something about how the days are long but the years are short? if you've been around for awhile, you might remember this. one year + one day, exactly. i think it's fair to say she's grown a bit, don't you?

psst. never mind the cloudy water. it's just the dr. bronner's soap.

a little project--trash inventory...

a year or so ago on this blog, jeremy and i did a "trash watch," where we kept all of our trash for one month to see just how much we made. it was a good learning experience, though not surprisingly we make a lot less trash than the average american family. i'm sometimes shocked at how trash bins in my neighborhood are routinely overflowing with garbage. we have an insert in our can, which cuts down the amount it will hold by over half (check to see if your garbage company will do this--it saves a bit of money). even with the reduced capacity of our can, more often than not it's closer to empty than full at the weekly pickup. small changes certainly add up over time.

still, i believe that in the world of reducing, reusing and recycling, there's always room for improvement. so jeremy and i have committed to logging our trash for a week--each and every bit of it. the hope is that overall we'll see where the bulk of our trash is coming from, and from there learn how to further reduce our waste.

i'll log each day's output here on the blog, breaking it down into the following sections: compost, curbside recycling (#1 & #2 plastics only, plus all mixed paper and aluminum), #5 plastics (which i collect and take to whole foods to be turned into toothbrushes) and actual landfill trash. feel free to play along if you're so inclined!

here's how today shaped up:

compost: unbleached coffee filter & coffee grounds
a burned hash brown (oops)
4 eggshells
5 tangerine peels
an old apple
2 old oranges (can you tell i was cleaning out the fruit bowl?)
broccoli stalks
3 dried up artichokes
3 moldy strawberries (and then the fridge?)
dinner scraps: trimmings and peelings of zucchini, onion and sweet potato

curbside recycling:

1 aluminum yogurt top
farm notes letter from our csa box
2 pieces of junk mail
a glass jam jar
a plastic bottle top
2 beer bottles
cardboard box


strawberry carton
yogurt carton
salad container

headed to the landfill:

butter wrapper
bag inside of a box of annie's organic snack crackers
7 stickers peeled off of lucy's carseat
dryer lint
plastic wrapper from a stick of applegate salami
a dustpan's worth of dirt (normally i compost this, but there were non-compostables that i didn't feel like picking out--a couple of twist ties, a rubber band and a few produce stickers)
plastic from a package of bacon
plastic from a brick of cheese
3 bite-size candy wrappers (jeremy's after-lunch snack)
a strand of floss

there you have it, people. a day's worth of waste from the valleygirl home. see you again tomorrow.


seed starting...

we're pretty late in the game, just getting around to starting the seeds for our summer garden. but, we here at the valley girl home subscribe to the belief "better late than never." and as it turns out, all should be well. the seeds we planted last week are popping up all over the place this week. nature never ceases to amaze.

we used an old wagon to start the seeds in, and will transfer the seedlings to raised beds as soon as they're big enough. having never done a garden from seed before, i'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. we got our seeds from high mowing, an independent retailer of all-organic seeds. big selection, good prices. shipping a little high, but i suppose they want to minimize the amount of time that the seeds are exposed to heat and moisture in transit.


lucy rushes out to see the seeds popping through the soil and her excitement is contagious. we've also purchased the strawberry plants for this year--24 of them, to be exact. i told lucy we'd have a big berry patch, and i wasn't lying!

happy growing!

another great earth day giveaway...

the awesome folks at reuseit.com are offering a free reusable tote bag to celebrate earth day. the eco-circle ultra-compact tote is made of 100% post-consumer waste, setting it apart from other (crappy and non-eco friendly) free reusables you might see being given away for other earth day promotions. i have a couple of bags similar to the eco-circle tote and they are of extremely high quality.

no order minimum, limit one per customer. offer ends at midnight. enter code EDAYFREE at checkout.

are you still "cloth curious?"

awhile back i blogged about party in my pants (pimp) reusable menstrual pads. along with the pads i made myself, i used pimp pads for postpartum bleeding with hudson and had great success. in celebration of earth day, the generous ladies over at pimp are offering free shipping on all orders, plus 10% off.

the free shipping offer applies to their already free "cloth curious" pantyliners--limit one per customer. i think the offer runs through april 30. if you've been thinking about switching to cloth, this is the perfect time to try! enter code EARTHDAY10 at checkout.

happy shopping!


for all that haven't seen it...

food, inc. is airing on PBS tonight at 9 pm. to read more about this great documentary, click here.


sheep and cows and goats, oh my!

we spent our sunday afternoon exploring a few farms located in the petaluma area of the sonoma farm trail. i had been looking forward to this event for a couple of weeks, and am so glad that we decided to go. much fun was had checking out how these small, family-run farms operate. we learned a few things too, which is always nice.

petaluma is about 45 minutes from my home, and i had no idea that it was even a farming region, let alone a thriving dairy community where most of california's milk comes from. i've never seen so many cows all in one place, that's for sure! lucy had a blast singing out "i see cows!" from the backseat as we drove through gorgeous country roads on our way to each participating farm tour location. too cute. anyhow, here's a quick summing-up of our fantastic day:

our first stop was canvas ranch. the owners bought the farm 10 years ago, and attest to the fact that there was not much to the land--it was, in essence, a blank canvas. they've done lots of work, and this 28-acre piece of land is thriving.

seed starters--they'll provide lots of organic veggies for the canvas ranch csa.
a playful bunch of cashmere goats... hudson wasn't quite sure what to make of these new creatures...
the chicken coop housed about 30 chickens--much to lucy's dismay, none of them wanted to be held!
friendly cows grazing at the entrance to the farm. canvas ranch offers a meat/egg/butter/cheese csa with product coming from neighboring farms.

did i mention the cows were quite friendly?

our next stop was olympia's orchard. they produce milk for straus creamery, a local company that sells organic, non-homogenized milk in glass bottles at better grocery stores in the bay area. we love their milk, except for the fact that it is roughly $8 a gallon, plus $1.50 bottle deposit. but the cows looked amazingly happy (i did not, in fact, see a sad cow in all of petaluma) and stood about munching on grass, lying in the sun and doing other cow-like things (some of which are not so pretty).

i got to speak with a straus representative and she fielded all of my questions about the 3 farms providing milk to the creamery, the treatment of the cows, etc. then she let us sample the ice cream--delicious. i've not yet decided if we'll switch exclusively to straus, as it is $2 more per gallon than other organic milks at the market. but olympia's orchard was as pastoral and beautiful as you'd expect from a non-industrial dairy farm--complete with red-topped barns. it's something i definitely would like to support.

lucy got a chance to hang out with a 1-week old baby calf. by "hang out" i mean to say she tried to bury the calf with hay (feeding it?), and then got upset when the calf latched on to my arm in search of milk. all was well in the end, though. the two found their happy place, and it looked a little something like this:

we also met a very large horse...

and from lucy's perspective, this very large horse was actually enormous...
it nibbled at her ponytail, which she thought was both delightful and terrifying, i'm sure...
some amazing freshly-baked apple crisp with straus ice cream hit the spot after a leisurely picnic...
and i got to snap a few pictures of the kids...

jeremy checked out all of the old trucks on the property (i may sell him on the farm life yet, if only for acreage on which to keep old trucks)...

we said goodbye to the cows and headed over to our last stop--the barlas boer goat ranch. here, lucy got to play with a bunch of newborn goats while i peppered the owner with loads of questions about raising backyard goats.

lucy was very interested in the nursing goats--especially after watching the newborn calf take a bottle. she seemed relieved that the baby goats were "getting the milkies from they mamas." all i can say is i'm glad i'm not a goat mommy.

after hearing a bit about their goat meat program and sampling a bite of goat sausage, we popped back into the car to head home. it was a long day with perfect weather, and a great opportunity to tune in to the local farms in our area. even getting lost on our way out proved informative, as i recognized many farm names from products i have seen in a few local grocery stores.

tuckered out doesn't begin to describe us at the end of out farm tour adventure! listed below is the recipe for the apple crisp we sampled at olympia's orchard. it was absolutely divine and i cannot wait to make it--as soon as i get my hands on some apples!

Here is a recipe from Kathy Tresch, who suggests using Gravenstein, Cinnamon Spice or Rome Beauty apples for the crisp and serving it warm with Straus Family Creamery organic ice cream.

Olympia's Orchard Apple Crisp

Makes 8 to 10 servings

For pie:

5 pounds organic apples

Grated zest of 1 orange

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of juice from the orange

2 tablespoons of juice from the lemon

¼ cup sugar (optional)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

For topping:

1½ cups all-purpose organic flour

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup organic oatmeal

½ pound Straus Family Creamery cold, unsalted organic butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9x14 baking dish.

Peel, core and cut the apples into wedges. Add the citrus zests, juices, sugar, if desired, and spices. Stir and pour into the baking dish.

For the topping: Combine the flour, sugar, salt, oatmeal and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment. Mix on low until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Spread topping over the apples.

Place the crisp on a baking sheet and bake for one hour until the top is brown and the apples are bubbly.