Saturday, July 31, 2010

Greencation, all I ever wanted...

We're off, first thing tomorrow morning, on a "greencation." Now, I know a real greencation is a staycation, when you don't leave your local area and you pump up your regional economy... but we're doing a greencation the Green Mountains way.

Vermont, here we come... if we ever pack the car!

I'll post while we are up there so don't run away this week... get ready for maple ice cream, my famous mean lean turkey chili, canoe adventures, and a possible visit to the famous Farmers' Diner.

In the meantime, I took this photo the other day, and I cannot get over how both my eyes and my son's eyes are so similarly shaped. Oh how I love that baby.

And oh how I love a whole week ahead with my husband!! *Sigh* Time for family snuggling.


Don't forget: August 1-8, 2010 is WORLD BREASTFEEDING WEEK!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My heart aches tonight.

I'm a hiker, a backpacker, a camper, and an outdoors-loving, tree-hugging gal. I've written how influential National Park family vacations can be. And I am fascinated, beyond words and explanation, with bears. Mostly the typical North American (east coast) black bear, but I really do think all bears are interesting.

So obviously, with that in consideration, this story broke my heart.

To make a long story short, a bear mauled three people, killing one, in a campground within Yellowstone National Park about two nights ago. The bear reportedly entered the campground and went on a rampage, entering tents and attacking sleeping campers. It's truly tragic, concerning, and sad in so many ways.

The alleged bear has been captured, and she has two cubs. If her DNA confirms she was the offending bear, she will be killed, and her two cubs' lives will then be in jeopardy due to their witnessing and potential learning of her predatory behavior.

My heart goes out to the families of the deceased, the victims, and the Yellowstone community.

And deep in my heart, I keep hearing an echo of, "Why did this bear do this?" Her behavior is simply not within the realm of "bear." Bears do not typically or really ever hunt humans in the night (though it supposedly has happened once before in the same campground in Yellowstone).

So sorry for the downer of a blog post, but I just had to write about this. As an outdoorsy girl, this story really resonated with me.

And DO NOT take this post as your ticket out of the wilderness-- this is as freak of an occurrence as a shark attack or a plane crash. Do not avoid the woods because of one random bear.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Notes: Blackberry Banquet

If you are a regular reader, you are well aware of my obsession with berries and my son's love of blueberries. As a serious berry-lover, I eagerly await the day I can give my son raspberries, strawberries, and the ultimate berry of all... blackberries.

Blackberry Banquet (by Terry Pierce) is a celebration of all things berry and all things woodland. It is rhyming and lyrical, complete with characterizations of forest animals. Each animal even has a dedicated sound.

Gabriel simply loves listening to me Tweet! Yip! Slurp! etc. This book is a good time for parent and baby. AND in the back, there's a small section on the scientifics of it all. Very cool for the curious, young mind.

We bought our copy in Shenandoah National Park, but I encourage you to check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cloth Diapers and Childcare

Currently, Gabe is with me most of the time. I work part-time, three days per week, only five hours or less per shift. One of those days, Gabriel is with my Mom, and she is awesome enough to use his cloth diapers. On the other days, Goober is with our babysitter, and she is cool with him being dropped off in cloth.

Today, I did a little exploring in the world of childcare and cloth diapers... because I'm curious like that.

In fact, I actually stopped into a daycare and asked, among other things, if they allow them. The response?

"I've never even been asked that before. I don't think so-- it is probably against state standards. I'll have to find out. The director is on vacation."

Well, I didn't need the director to let me know about the state regs. I found them. And in New Jersey, it actually is permissible to use cloth diapers. Here are the stipulations, starting with part of 10:122-7.8 of the state's Child Care Center Manual...

"iii. Diapering supply requirements are as follows:

(1) A supply of clean diapers shall always be available.

(2) Diapering supplies, including diapers, shall be stored in an area out of the children's reach but easily accessible to staff members during a diaper change.

(3) Equipment used for cleaning the diapering surface shall be restricted for use in this area only and shall be disposable or laundered in hot soapy water.

(4) Staff members who use disposable rubber gloves during a diaper change shall dispose of these gloves after each use and shall wash their hands.

iv. Soiled diapers shall be disposed of as follows:

(1) Soiled disposable diapers shall be placed in a closed container that is lined with a leakproof or impervious lining. Such diapers shall be removed from the center daily and placed in a closed garbage receptacle outside the building.

(2) Soiled non-disposable diapers shall be placed in a sealed plastic container that has been labeled with the child's name. Such diapers shall be returned to the child's parent at the end of that day."

As a cloth-diapering Mommy, I figure this is good information to know, that despite what a center may say is legal, cloth diapering my baby in a childcare center is legal. Would I keep Gabriel in cloth if I were working full-time? I cannot be absolutely positive of that answer, but I would do everything I could for it to be a beneficial, sanitary possibility for my little man and the environment.

What about you all? Are you working with a cloth diaper baby? What do you do?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Little Chicken that Couldn't.

This is a vigil for our cage free roasted chicken that never finished roasting because the power went out for four hours yesterday evening, and we had to trash it due to sanitation reasons.

::Pouty face::
(I really am extremely bummed about this.)


Also, I have fun news! We're prepping for our Vermont vacation. Don't worry-- there's internet access up there so I am sure I will not be able to restrain myself from posting. In other words, you all will be on the road with us.

AND within the next month I'll be doing a review of a really cool book for teens on the not so earth-friendly state of things-- Get Real by Mara Rockliff-- and review/giveaway of Yoreganics laundry and lip balm. Yum.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

To Market, To Market.

Today, we went to the Farmers' Market. There is a new(er) one closer to us than the one we attended this morning, but I discovered there is a free range, grass fed dairy/meat farm at this market. And they take preorders online!

So, we got to the market as early as we could manage, got some iced coffee (WHEW! I got a huge pick-me-up from that caffeine. I'm still getting used to drinking coffee occasionally again after going cold turkey from pregnancy). We perused, we bought lots of produce, and we stopped by and grabbed our bag o' preorder. It was a seriously awesome family morning.

Here's the bounty, Jersey/PA (we're less than 20 miles from Philly) Fresh!

A. Small Peaches
B. Tomatoes
C. Red Potatoes
D. Italian Eggplants
E. Blackberries
F. String Beans
G. Yellow Summer Squash
H. Focaccia
I. Tuscan Wheat Rolls
J. Rosemary
K. 3 lb. Ground Beef in 1 lb. packs
L. 4.8 lb. Whole Chicken
M. 1 lb. Pork Chops
N. 1/2 lb. block Butter


Almost as yummy as my little one
sitting in his carseat, turning the pages of his favorite book, with his little feet crossed.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I said I'd never own this.

That's right. I said I would never own a gigantic play yard. I thought it would be a huge monstrosity in the middle of our small condo living room.

But the fact is, we do have a small condo living room. So Gabriel kept trying to crawl out of the room to the litter box while I pumped. He kept attempting to pull up on chairs and topple them over on himself if I simply turned my head. And no matter what (as in, he literally crawls repeatedly out of his nursery, heads down the hall, and goes straight for this), he kept trying to stick his little fingers into the metal of our sliding glass doors.

And so, we now own a play yard.

Luckily, Gabe seems to think it's hilarious . . .

Don't you love that bright orange diaper? I do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Food Edits: Thinking Green to Greener

Oh. Hi, Tower of Eggplant.

Looks delish, right? It was. And it was arguably a greener, healthier dish than I would have made years ago. However, I am in a big revamp stage in our cooking, and it has caused me to really identify how I can do better for our family.

Let's break it down by ingredient and origin.

Eggplant, from farm roadstand
Mozzarella Cheese, from Whole Foods-- in the local section
Pasta, from Trader Joe's
Panko Bread Crumbs, from Trader Joe's
Basil, from our basil plant
Tomato Sauce, from a can (Hi, sodium!)

What's wrong here?
I can make bread crumbs. I can make tomato sauce. And I can find better options for pasta, maybe even from the farm market. I could take the cheese a step farther and get more personal as to who I buy it from.

What's not wrong here?
The recipe. Thanks, Mario Batali. I didn't follow it exactly, but who ever does?

I encourage you all to take some time to think about the little things you can do in your meals that might make them just a little more local and healthy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Oh Joe and the O No! of Certified Organics.

I mention Trader Joe's often. Our family shops there weekly-- just as we also make a weekly or biweekly stop for a few items at Whole Foods (for Gabe's organic produce I can't find elsewhere, local cheese, and Nature's Rancher Chicken) and local farm stands (for as much of our produce as possible).

But the bulk of our packaged, frozen, dairy, and protein products all come from our weekly stop at Trader Joe's. Because of this, it obviously irked me when I saw a blog post referring to a May article in Sustainable Industries questioning Trader Joe's seemingly eco-friendly practices.

I came across the blog post because I had deliberately googled Trader Joe's organic practices. The more I read, the more I realize that the organic label is not necessarily the best promise on how sustainable a farm is. And since I fed Gabriel his first organic plain whole milk yogurt from Trader Joe's this morning, I thought, hmmm... I really should know where this milk originated.

And this article points out the problem with Trader Joe's. They do not disclose who their feeder farms are-- so they literally will not tell you where my baby's yogurt originated. And because they do not offer disclosure, it leads consumers to wonder if the low prices at Trader Joe's are actually due to their selling mostly Trader Joe's label products (cutting out the middle man and a lot of distributor mileage) or because their products are organic at a cost.

This brings up some issues with the organic "label," which I have not really discussed on my blog prior to now. Organic food is optimum when taking into consideration it is better to consume foods without pesticides, grass-fed meats, etc. But just because a farm is certified organic does not mean its practices are totally sustainable. For instance, and this is per my watching of the film No Impact Man (I'll post more fully on this later) last night, an organic farm might keep to organic standards, but they might not treat their cows as nicely as the non-certified farm down the street. And that non-certified farm may only not be certified because it costs so much money to go through the certification process OR because they do treat their sick cows with antibiotics as needed whereas certified organic dairy farms cannot treat their cows with antibiotics ever.

But let's remember that the certified organic label is helpful and an honorable thing for a farm, and it is a clear indication to a consumer that a product does meet a certain standard. There are lobbyists trying to extinguish or lax the standards for the organic label, and that prospect is much scarier than the current pitfalls in organic certification. Many organic advocates want more stringent standards. You can go here for more information on organic certification.

When Trader Joe's will not disclose the farms used for their organic food, the question is raised: Are the locales a secret for the sake of competition (and that's almost fair-- Trader Joe's sure does have the best prices for the coolest food around. Why jeopardize losing customers by telling other companies where to go get the same product base?) or for the sake of keeping secrets from their eco-minded consumers? "No comment," is never a good answer.

While reading these articles will not deter me from shopping at Trader Joe's, it is going to again ramp up my efforts to purchase more local food. When it's local, you can go step onto that farm and see things for yourself. There is full disclosure because there are no closed doors. As a journalist, I see transparency as required, so why shouldn't I expect that of my food?

In any case, we'll be taking our first trip to a new(er) local farm market this Saturday, and it will be the opening of our more official dedication to local food. And that will be including our protein and dairy and whatever else we eat. It's time to take our food revolution to the next level-- local.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Night Diaper.

For those of you looking for a good overnight cloth solution, this is ours. It does the job very, very well. We have had less than a handful of overnight leaks due to myself or my husband putting on the diaper off kilter. When we put the diaper on correctly, which is easy, everything is held inside. AND Gabe's skin feels dry at 6:50 a.m.

1. Bumgenius One Size 3.0
(compare to the current new and improved 4.0, which we are yet to purchase)
2. The large insert snapped down 1 button
3. The newborn insert between, pulled to the front.
4. The Bumgenius microfiber "Stay Dry" diaper doubler (this is the key to the dry baby)

Behold: Night Fluff.

I know many Mommies love hemp for overnight. If you have a favorite fool-proof overnight option, please comment and tell us!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Swing Low, Sweet Potato Pancake.

Gabriel has been quite the Goober over finger food... or any food thicker than the thinnest puree (other than cereal, which he loves any way you serve it to him).

And then there were pancakes. Sweet Potato Pancakes.

I made the recipe listed here with the two egg yolks option rather than one egg and just a pinch of cinnamon.

I was originally trying to do all sorts of weird alterations of the recipe because it called for milk. And, um, my Mad Scientist Mom concoctions were scary. The thing I learned when I researched further is that milk is a no-no before one, unless it is in a baked good. If baked, it's fair game at eight months. Thus, the Wholesome Baby Food sweet potato pancake recipe is safe for Gabriel. Of course, a cup of whole milk, is not. (Cheese and yogurt are just around the river bend, though. Yippee!)

The pancakes tasted awesome, Gabe ate them like a pro (and I do mean pro- pincer grasp, chewing, and all). And they froze/defrosted fabulously, too! Welcome, new staple carb/veggie option.


In other news, Gabriel finally rejoiced in the bath with ultimate splashing tonight. It was awesome.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Investigating Mama Cloth.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about my personal care this morning. It's not really a random thought-- I literally just started my second "real" period postpartum. I know this sort of talk can be classfied "too much information," but it is just such a relief to see my body start to regulate itself again, even if it was with a 50-day cycle. I know that irregular cycles and hormonal rollercoasters are par for the course with breastfeeding (especially when you still nurse two or more times through the night-- my husband and I are exhausted.).
I also am pretty glad I did start a period this morning because I pumped less than an ounce this morning, and I was pretty freaked out about it (as in, I think my eyeballs popped out). I thought, "Well, maybe just maybe, my period is coming," and I was right! Now I just have to pray my supply jacks back up after my cycle is over and done. (It did after my first "real" period so, hopefully all will be well.)

Anyway, I digress from where I was going. This post is not meant to be about milk, though even as my son approaches nine months (?!!) I do feel like my life and thoughts revolve solely around that lovely liquid.

This post is supposed to be about Mama Cloth.

What's "Mama Cloth?" If you use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers, you probably know that women can ditch their disposable pads for cloth. Many retailers lovingly refer to these feminine hygeine products as Mama Cloth.

And I want to make a hardcore switch.

I did get my hands on a Happy Heiny's (as in, the cloth diaper brand) pad so it was ready for me to sample when I got my period last time. And I have to say I really liked it. It was ultra soft, fashionable (there are ones much cuter than the HH pads pictured available all over the internet, including on Etsy), and absorbent. It did the job, kept me comfy, and cleaned up beautifully.

But here's the thing-- I bought an overnight-sized pad to do the job during the day because the day-sized pads available look like a joke to me. It turns out I didn't need a huge amount of padding for my first period because it was so light, but if and when my period goes back to what I am used to it being, there is just no way I could use anything other than a heavy-duty option.

So that is what I have been searching for, and I have not had much luck. I have found one option-- you use an original pad, and on heavier days, you can snap in extra layers of fabric. But doesn't that just sound like it will get thick, lumpy, and possibly even visible through my pants? I am willing to make lots of sacrifices for being green, but I am not ready to let the world know exactly when I having my period via lumpy butt pants.

But I am still searching and considering, and within a month, I will be making some decisions on investing on a real stash of Mama cloth. Wish me luck, and if you have any recommendations, please let me know!

P.S. My friend Sarah did tell me about the Diva Cup, which I am also considering, but I am not sure if it's for me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Notes: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

It's summertime, and for me, the heat has always inspired me to read (even when it was required for school).

This summer I've been digging into some sweet green reads. Here is my first suggestion from a line-up of good books. I am about 120 pages into this one, and it is simply beautiful.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle takes you on Barbara Kingsolver's (as in The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, Prodigal Summer, etc.) first year journey of serious local eating. No, not just the farm down the street, but a move across the country from urban Arizona to rural Virginia and a life of eating only from farm markets and her family's true, free-range farmland. Beyond Kingsolver's lyrical writing on asparagus and morel mushrooms from a family-living perspective, the book shares fact-based information on the destructive and unhealthy modern food processes of America. It also shares lovely recipes.

If you pick up any book this summer, let it be this one. It leaves me feeling calm, inspired, and even a little hungry. I cannot wait to read the rest of her yearlong account.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Considering Green Cleaning Supplies

I was talking about green cleaning supplies today when it was mentioned that 'the earth-friendly stuff' takes extra elbow grease and "never looks clean." Well, no, they don't leave things eerily white. And yes, they do take a little extra scrubbing. They do the job, though, and I much prefer my home to smell of nothing rather than chlorajawhateverscent is in most cleaning supplies.

And my baby (and your pets!) can lick the floor (gross), and I don't wonder if his eyes will turn into two mini x spots within two seconds of doing so.

No, your kids should not guzzle down your dish soap. But when you are using eco-friendly cleaners without toxic ingredients, you don't have to panic if they lick the floor after a scrubbing. Poison control does not need to be notified if they drink a little cleanser. Sure, per the directions, see a physician and drink water. But it isn't life and death.

And eco-friendly is about the earth, but it is also about a comfy, safe, family-friendly home.

What's better than that?

Hot off the presses.

Have you heard? Yours truly has an article in the July/August issue of Pregnancy magazine. (No, I'm not pregnant.)

My piece is an article on hiking while pregnant, complete with some gear recommendations for staying comfy and safe in the woods with the bump.

Turn to page 41, and check it out!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Incredible Edible Eggs

In our house, it seems the egg comes before the chicken, for Gabriel anyway.

As in, Gabriel had his first scrambled eggs this morning. As an eight-month-old, he is generally considered to be ready for egg yolks. Not egg whites-- that's best reserved for the one-year-old-- so skip the whole egg and separate the yolks out for your younger babies.

I mixed two egg yolks with about .5 oz. of breastmilk, and then I poured it into the skillet to cook. It was a weird consistency, though they looked like your average more-yellow-than-white eggs. Gabriel didn't eat too much, but he was interested so we shall see if he starts to eat them as a breakfast/dinner protein option.

For more information on the health benefits of eggs for babies and some egg babyfood recipes, head to Wholesome Baby Food's egg section here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Keep Nursing.

You have already read about my dealing with biting and breastfeeding. Well, things have gotten so, so much better. The phase seems to be over.

And another phase, one in which my baby now has eight gigantic chompers of death teeth, has begun.

Nom. Nom. Nom. My teeth are huge!

Because of the teeth, breastfeeding generally hurts. And I'm sore already because I think my body is trying to figure out how to regulate itself into ovulating, but it has not started having regular cycles (I had one 'real' period in late May.) So even though Gabe isn't biting, his little set of pearly whites is always rubbing me the wrong way.

It's become painful enough that I read a chapter on weaning in a breastfeeding book. I am not going to lie-- I did consider weaning because of this discomfort. But there are a few reasons I am not going to wean at this point: emotional attachment (mostly on MY part-- I am really not ready), economics, nutritional value, and the sheer fact we have made it 8.5 months on just my milk and some solids (only 3.5 to go until my ultimate goal of one year of breastfeeding!). We have to keep going.

Just keep nursing, just keep nursing, just keep nursing, nursing, nursing. (Yes, that was a reference to Finding Nemo.)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Naturally Vanilla Patriot Cake.

Happy Belated Fourth of July!

And with that in mind, here's my recipe for the absolutely delicious flag cake above. Yes, a cake with berries. I know with my berry obsession you are all very surprised.



2 boxes baked Trader Joe's All Natural Vanilla Cake in a 13 x 9 pan, cooled

1 10-16 oz. bag Trader Joe's Very Cherry Berry Mix, defrosted
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. sugar
2-3 tbsp. flour

Whipped Cream
2.5 c. Heavy Cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla

Whole Lotta Strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
Plenty o' blueberries, preferably organic


1. Once the cake is baked, start working on the filling. Pour the thawed berries into a large sauce pan, add sugar, add water, and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, let the berries cook for about ten minutes. I was inspired to make my own filling after reading this raspberry filling recipe.

2. Pour hot berry mixture into food processor and pulse until it turns into a puree.

3. Push puree through sieve to rid the berries of seeds.

4. Pour the puree back into the sauce pan and begin heating again. Add flour to thicken. Once heated and thicker (filling should not slip through fork), pour into bowl and set aside.

5. While the filli
ng cools, slowly release cake from 13 x 9 pan in order to slice it. Cut it in half. Then, turn knife sideways and slice cake in half so that filling can be placed between layers.

6. Return the bottom layer of the sliced cake to the pan, and spread the filling. Once the filling is spread, place the top layer of the cake back into the pan.

7. Place cake in refrigerator and covered until a few hours before serving. When it is within a few hours to serve, it is time to make the
homemade whipped cream and decorating.

8. Make the homemade whipped cream. In order for cream to whip as nicely as possible, chill the bowl and mixing utensils for about twenty minutes before making the whipped cream.

9. While my sugar to cream ratio is less different from Paula's, I used Ms. Deen's directions here. Pour 2.5 c. heavy cream into chilled bowl. Start mixing on low speed with hand mixer. Slowly add 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tbsp. vanilla. As cream thickens, raise the speed of the m
ixer. Keep mixing until the cream is fairly thick, but be careful not to go too far or you will get butter.

10. Spread whipped cream over cake. You will have extra whipped cream to put on th
e side with fresh berries.
11. Decorate the cake with the berries.

12. Chill, slice, and serve. It's light and rich at the same time, so be ready for a serious treat.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Not So Green Thumb

When my husband and I got married in May of 2008, my bouquet was simply gorgeous. I had a small bridezilla moment (f.y.i. my only bridezilla moment-- I am proud I was a flexible bride) when I was told lilacs were not available at the end of May because they bloomed early in the 2008 year. As you can see, the bouquet was gorgeous despite the lack of my favorite flower (and I know I definitely need to write a post about our wedding sooner or later.)

What was particularly special about my bouquet? It had ivy in it. My Mom was super sweet, and she rooted the ivy after the wedding, nestling it happily in a planter. My husband and I joked the ivy was our "love fern" (alla How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days). Well, the ivy lasted just over ten days. I seriously killed it despite my earnest attempts at reviving our little ailing ivy.

And I'm at it again. My parents gave me a gorgeous planter full of luscious plants and flowers for Mother's Day, and it is slowly dying. In the case of these plants, I at least am aware it is a case of over-watering-- some of the leaves turned yellow and browned after a cycle of watering every three days.

I'm also attempting to raise an organic bell pepper plant; I purchased it at our local organic farm. I sort of feel awful about losing it, as if I adopted a puppy and then had no idea how to care for it. It seems to be doing all right, but I definitely need to get reading on how to turn it into a thriving plant.

I know that in the modern world, I do not need to be a gardener or farmer, but I would sort of like to be one. It'd be nice to know that I could, you know, keep the green things I love alive.

My birthday was on June 13, and all I asked for from my husband was a set of herbs to grow and tend. We are yet to go select them because I have been reluctant to kill more plants.

Any suggestions on plant care? My father-in-law told me I need to be especially careful of how wet the dirt feels before watering them, but other than that I have no idea where I am going with this. I have a pretty singing voice; maybe I should sing to them... (Gabe has quickly gotten tired of my Twinkle Twinkle Little Star routine-- he now prefers Daddy putting him to bed. I found out his Dad sings him Ben Folds "Narcolepsy" as a lullaby. Well, I guess we know which parent is cooler now, don't we?).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Letter to High School Erin

I was just over at Baby Rabies and read Jill's letter to her 25-year-old self as part of the blog hop started by Joanna at Raising Madison. Well, I am 25 so my letter to my letter to former self is aimed at myself at a bit of a younger age. But here goes nothing.

Dear High School Erin,

Hi. It's me, your 25-year-old self. Yeah, maybe that's creepy, but it's not creepier than the fact you wrote yourself an anonymous note to yourself in your yearbook last year to laugh about at age 50. So enjoy this simple letter from a wiser, much more mature (sorry, Er, but you have a lot to learn) you.

First of all, stop wearing glitter on your eyelids, do not wear those khaki overalls ever again, and throw out the purple eyeliner.

Secondly, STOP worrying about whether you will get a lead in the spring show. In the long run, it really does not matter (though you will get a great part and get your spring musical solo, by the way...). Seriously though, what people think of you as a high school performer really will not determine anything that matters to you when you are my age. Stop raising your eyebrows at me. I'm telling the truth.

Now, let's deal with your love life.

Stop crying over that on again off again relationship with you-know-who. He is not worth it, and in the end, he will screw you over. It's going to be fine-- you are going to meet a tall, handsome, intelligent boy who IS worth all that and much more in college (just like Mom says), and you'll fall madly in love. He'll love you for the right reasons, and you'll actually have yourself a real man. No, he won't be a real man because he bangs on drums, loves legos, drinks chocolate milk, and knows every Philadelphia Phillies statistic (though he will do all of those things). He'll be a real man because he speaks the truth, makes you feel beautiful, holds you to your promises, dreams and lives out those dreams with you, treats you with true respect, and 'puts a ring on it,' (you'll get that reference later). It will not be a fairytale, but it will be a love story that your future (hopefully we'll have some) great great grandchildren will love to hear. I will leave most of that story for you to discover, but I will hint that you pay attention to your male neighbors on the dorm floor freshman year. One of them is "the one." Oh, and you'll keep your last name. You are "one of those girls."

All right, here's to your health.

I know your current biggest health problem is that you just fell down the D hall stairs last week and about 50 high school peers watched you plummet superman-style to a broken elbow. Sorry about the cast (and embarrassment), but you will laugh really hard about this injury later.

Let's get to it, though. You've never felt secure about your weight. But I have to warn you, the worst is yet to come. You are going to get depressed. You are going to gain weight. You are going to almost drop out of college. But you'll beat it. And let's just be honest-- you're never going to have an easy time getting below certain weight numbers, but the greener and healthier you eat and the more you hike and move, you'll get closer to the weight you dream of being.

You are going to be told you might never have children because of polycystic ovary syndrome. But never say never. Expect someone great. And I can't speak to what is beyond my time, but expect and hope for even more. (In other words, at 25, you'll be on the road toward trying for number two.)

Now, onto friends and family.

I'm going to be frank here. Things will get worse before they get better. You are a ball of emotions right now, and you are so confused that even I, your older self, have a hard time deciphering just why you have such a hard time keeping your feelings in check when talking to Mom. But here's the light at the end of the tunnel: things will get better eventually. So much better. Mom is your best friend. She will do anything for you, and she will be there when you are at your darkest and when you are at your brightest. And so will your Dad and sisters.

In time, you will see how lucky you are to have THIS family because the cold hard fact is that lots of people do not have parents or siblings on which to rely. And you have both.

Hug Grandmom and Uncle Tadd a little tighter than you did the last time you saw them. I know you can't know what it feels like to lose your second mother and second father figures, but you will. And it will hurt. It will never stop hurting, but you will always carry them with you. They will inspire you to do challenging things, change your mind even when it is hardest, and cherish the most special moments of life in a way you didn't know you could.

And as for your future career...

Ha! Well, this is still a work in progress. You are a talented singer, but 'opera singer' is not a valid career for you. Neither is teaching. You are a writer, but that's a hard act in the 2000s. Keep writing, though-- it will lead you places.

We'll see where we go from here. Remember how your 6th grade Language Arts teacher said the most interesting people in the world do not know what they want to be even at the age of 40? Well, at this rate, that might be you. So enjoy the ride, girl.


And lastly, please, Erin. Know you are so beautiful. Your body is possibly the best it will ever be RIGHT now so be confident. And yes, your eyes are as pretty and green as you think they are. You're also as smart as you think you are, so don't do anything I wouldn't do!

Erin Cecilia
Your 25-year-old self.

P.S. Start paying attention to the fact you work at a Whole Foods! Going green, eating organic, using cloth diapers, and all that comes with that is going to be very familiar to you sooner or later.

P.P.S. Yes, you will live in NYC. Just for a year. But you will do it. So relax, you'll get there.