Tuesday, August 31, 2010

No Impact Week Day 3: Transportation

**If this is the first post you are reading on No Impact Week,
you might want to read this one to orient yourself.

Sierra Club No Impact Week Day 3 is about Transportation.

Annnnnnnnnd here's where our family gets a bright, big...



Because we live in a suburb of Philadelphia. I work in our town, and our babysitter is five minutes from my work, but my Mom watches Gabe once per week two exits away from us off of the New Jersey Turnpike. Yes, once per week, I drive approximately 40 minutes to my Mom's to drop off Gabe and then head back to my office, turn back around and go back to my Mom's, and then drive back home. It sickens me. But it saves us so much money for my Mom to watch the baby for free, too (yes, even with gas and toll costs included). And student loans don't disappear if you smile at them.

It really is disturbing, though, that despite the days I spend home during the week (I RELISH my baby time!), I still have done so much damage on mileage that I really am not helping the environment on those days I crawl around the house.

And then there's my husband who has to get into the city. We're twenty minutes from the train, which he will drive to, but once he takes the aforementioned train, he still has to switch to an entirely different subway line once he gets into the city to reach his office. So he often has to choose between a car, train, subway commute or a car commute. What do you think wins more often? Yes, you guessed it-- the car.

Transportation is a hard reduction when you live in the suburbs, but there still are things you can do to minimize the damage. And here are some serious actions I do and will continue to take more seriously:

1. If I don't have to go out or drive, I do not go out or drive. There is a lot to do right here in our condo.

2. If I have an errand to run, I try to do it on the way home from work or I do multiple stops at nearby places in one trip.

3. When driving on the highway, I try to stay as close to the speed limit as possible because cars generally achieve best gas efficiency in the 50-65 mile per hour range.

4. We keep our car's tires full. This also helps with gas mileage.

5. If possible, we carpool with family or friends to events or parties.

We also have some goals for the future.

1. When our lease is up, we plan to move to a place with a quicker, closer commute for my husband-- as in, a place where he could walk to a train-- or move to the city where walking and subways abound.

2. If and when we make the move above, we would hope to go back to one car. At this time, having one car would result in utter mayhem, and it would actually make us drive more total miles than we do now.

And that's all I have for now on this topic. I know this post is not very empowering, but it is honest. Hopefully that counts for something.

Monday, August 30, 2010

No Impact Week Day 2: Trash

Once I opened this wrapper, I spent less than ten minutes with it before it was trash.

**If this is the first post you are reading on No Impact Week,
you might want to read this one to orient yourself.

Day 2 of Sierra Club No Impact Week is all about the trash. Collecting it. Looking through it. Reducing it.


Yesterday we were supposed to keep a trash bag of our waste, and today we were supposed to rummage through it. Well, we did things a little differently. We collected and rummaged today's trash because I knew today would be more trashy. As in, we are better at behaving ourselves when we are not working, and I wanted us to look as guilty as we can be.
So what was in our trash today? Let's have a look.

Here's mine and Gabe's, mine from work, his from my Mom's:

There's other stupid stuff in this photo, but my trash is:
-The napkin: It was someone's birthday at work, and I ate a slice of the apple bread on the napkin (instead of a plastic plate).
-Plastic cup: I forgot my Nalgene bottle so I drank from that cup during my entire shift. I almost never purchase bottled water.)
-Luna bar wrapper: My breakfast.

Gabe's trash was:
-The brown bag (for a slice of toast)
-The apple sauce container: I confess I do have prepackaged organic apple sauce in our fridge for Gabe's lunch on the days I work-- he still gets homemade fruits at lunch & dinner. He had other food that was in reusable containers.
-Disposable Wipes (not pictured) were used while he was at my Mom's.

Here's my husband's, from his work:

My husband works in higher education, and on the first few days of classes, his office provides him lunch-- that's the plastic bottle and sandwich container seen.
You can see a Clif Bar (breakfast) wrapper peeking from behind the plastic container.

And here's our "home" trash:

coffee grinds, pear rind, egg shells, a dried up sliver of cheese

Do we see a theme here, or what? It's almost ALL food packaging!! (Thanks to cloth wipes, cloth diapers, reusable cloth kitchen towels, reusable travel coffee mugs, etc.)
Which maybe is good in the midst of being bad because we can so, so easily reduce this trash output. How?Use only resuable food containers, bringing a reusable napkin with me INSTEAD of using the paper at work, remembering my Nalgene, and my husband bringing his lunch (I have a hard time telling my husband not to eat the free lunch pre-ordered for him; it seems more wasteful not to eat the food and throw it in the trash).

Yes, we have leftover plastic shopping bags in our home collected from the past year. I do not throw them out if we come home with one unless we resuse them. Normally, we have our reusable (and cute) grocery bags with us for food shopping. I need to make an effort to remember them anywhere we shop.

On top of this, we can choose to eat foods with less packaging. Fruits and veggies are obvious choices, but so are foods which come in less. Buying in bulk is always a recommendation because you get more stuff in less packaging. Bulk is hard for smaller families, though, because with less people, there's less consumption and all that.

As for staples which come in packages, such as milk, eggs, berries (they get crushed!), etc., I am going to look into glass bottles, returning the egg container to the farm (we bought our eggs at a local organic farm), and figuring out our own way to get things home.

What was really inspiring about No Impact Man was how very little trash they put out over the course of their No Impact year simply due to composting. If I think about it, if we eliminate our food packaging trash or at least get it down to a minimum, we would primarily have food remnants (rinds, peels, shells), and those are all great in a compost bin. In other words, despite the fact we are in a condo/ unsure of where we could put a compost bin, I am now seriously inspired and investigating the start of our own compost bin.

I also really like the suggestion to keep a special trash bag with you throughout the week (no matter where you go) so that you are truly aware of you trash output. It is amazing how conscious you become of your trash and the packaging on anything once you are really critically looking to reduce your trash. I mean, wow, WHY are things so covered in plastic and cardboard? Really, WHY? I am going to make a true effort to purchase less when it comes to food. What I mean is, I will not only be looking for whole foods, less processed, local, organic, and fair trade. I will also be looking for less stuff on my food. I'll keep you updated.

For the rest of the week, there's no chancing trash.
We HAVE to reduce.

And here's a start:
Rubbermaid containers for bringing lunch,
Using regular old flatware to and from work,
Bringing a napkin wherever we go,
And keeping our beverages in resusable containers only.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No Impact Week Day 1: Consumption

If you are just jumping into Sierra Club No Impact Week posts, please read this one to understand what we are doing.

Today we were supposed to look at our consumption as a family. As in, what do we buy and what do we really need to buy?

For starters, the manual suggests making a list. Well, for us, the only things we really consume, on a weekly and even maybe monthly basis, are food, wipes, cleaning supplies, and disposable diapers (for 8 hours with the babysitter per week). I am serious, too-- we very rarely buy clothes, as in maybe a few things once or less per year if needed to look professional at work. And Christmas (but we are not bonkers in the spending department there either). Our minimal consumption of general consumer goods could be partly due to the fact that we do not have the budget for "things" (hi, student loans), but I think it is simply because we are the type to go hiking or read a favorite book or listen to our favorite music, which are all things we do not need to purchase.

For those of you who do have the spending power, some suggestions for lessening your carbon footprint are using hand-me-downs (We have been so lucky to have been given a lot of hand-me-downs for Gabe, but many community organizations or churches hold clothing and/or toy swaps. Try and find one, bring your old things, and trade for what you need!)

As far as our cleaning products, we still have ample amounts of the eco-friendly cleaners we do use so I will not be making them this week. However, I **will** be making them as an experiment when we do run out, and I will post an addendum to this post at that time.

Another helpful tool from the No Impact Week Manual on finding where to shop for less impactful items? The Green Guide.


But let's come back to today and our family...

This week all we needed was our food and baby wipes. We'll be dealing with food on Wednesday so let's focus on the wipes and whether we really needed to purchase them.

Now, when we switched to cloth diapers when Gabriel was 2.5 months old, it did not take long for me to jump into using cloth wipes. I made batches every few days, and we washed them with the rest of his diapers. Up until Gabriel started solids back in May, things were smooth sailing because Gabe's poop was water soluble, and we literally could just throw everything into the diaper pail without a care in the world. We still had disposable wipes in the diaper bag for when Gabriel was with the babysitter, but that was it.

Once the peanut butter poop arrived, so did our return to disposable wipes. At first, we just had a small batch of disposable wipes by the changing table for peanut butter poop only. And then it just became part of our regular rhythm again.

Let me take this moment to say that I had already been planning and meaning to address the disposable wipe issue in our house, but now is a good time to really put them to rest, unless absolutely needed. Why? For one, the peanut butter poop phase really is over at this point. It would be really easy to scuffle into the bathroom and shake off the wipe while I am taking care of emptying his dirty diapers. Secondly, we do not have a diaper genie or anything like that anymore, so it will keep dirty wipes out of our trashcan (And we already know trash is going to be scrutinized tomorrow as part of No Impact Week, so I guess this is a great day to kick wipes out of the picture!).

So let it be known, when considering our weekly consumption, we have kicked disposable wipes to the curb, though we still did purchase them today for the diaper bag to the babysitter.

If you are interested in using cloth wipes, please check out the recipe I posted here on how to make them. I will say that we moved from stacking them in the old wipes container and started just having a pile in a bin with a spray bottle full of the wipe elixir. I am fairly sure that this week I will be keeping a small container of the elixir by the changing table with wipes to dip them in as needed.

Signing off from Day 1 of No Impact Week! Getting eager for tomorrow's focus on TRASH...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Impact Week Eve

'Twas the night before No Impact Week and all through the house...

I could come up with some little rhyme about it being No Impact Week Eve, but instead, let me just fill you in on what we are about to do.

As I mentioned in this post, August 29, 2010, marks Sierra Club No Impact Week, "a one week carbon cleanse" inspired by Colin Beavan's No Impact Man.

After signing up here (You can still sign up and do this with us!), I was sent a link to the week's Manual, an inspiring directive and resource guide to reducing any family's waste (and that is not just waste in the form of packaging).

The week maps out different topics to examine on each day. Here is the basic outline of what you will be reading over the next seven days on A Mom Writing. The topics and quotes are straight from the No Impact Experiment Manual (They are not my ideas!).

"Living a fuller and happier life by buying less stuff."
In other words, we will be examining what our family really needs and where our family gets these items.

Monday: TRASH
"Discover how wasting less improves your life."
We will be getting an eye-opener on our everyday trash heap, and from there, we will take action on limiting our family's consumption on packaging and disposable products.

"Burn calories, not fossil fuels."
This one I already know will be a challenge-- I'm not sure how we can examine public transportation as a viable option while living in the 'burbs of Philly. Just thinking about Tuesday is making me yearn to move back to NYC.

Wednesday: FOOD
"Healthy eating can also lessen your footprint."
Well, we already have tackled this one in the past, and this week, I have already planned locavore (as in eating local and in season) meals. We've got a lot of room for improvement, though. I can't wait for Wednesday's post.

Thursday: ENERGY
"Replace kilowatts with ingenuity-- explore no-energy alternatives to accomplish your daily tasks."
As a cloth diaper-lovin' Mama, I am scared of Thursday (I mean, really, am I really going to not use the washer for Gabriel's diapers?). I've been inspired by some less frightening ideas, too.

Friday: WATER
"Soak up the personal benefits of using less water."
A precious resource, water is definitely something worth conserving. We already only drink tap water in our home, but I'm looking forward to more drastic improvements.

"Pay it forward. Feel the benefits of service."
Love the earth? A big step in eco-friendly living is giving this world a hug in many forms, such as volunteering. I'll be looking at some options for our family, and I will list some resources for you to find opportunities, too.

So, there's the Table of Contents to our little week ahead. I haven't heard of any A Mom Writing readers doing this challenge, and if someone is, please speak up! Comment or just tweet me @amomwriting. I'd love to hear what you are doing with your family.

Cheers! Let the week begin . . .

Friday, August 27, 2010

Vote for YOUR Favorite Farm Market.

Have you headed over to the American Farmland Trust's website and voted for your favorite Farmers Market yet? Do it today here! Support local food.

"At the end of the contest, one small, medium, large, and a new category, boutique, farmers market will win the title of “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” for 2010. The reward for the winning market in each category will be a shipment of No Farms No Food® tote bags, along with other prizes including free printing services from igreenprint and free graphic design services from Virginia based design firm, SQN Communications. The categories are based on the number of vendors the farmers market has. The four categories are Boutique - 15 or fewer vendors, Small 16 - 30 vendors, Medium, 31 - 55 vendors, and Large, more than 56 vendors."

Sounds like a great reason to vote! If you shop local, support local.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Someone Pinch Me.

My little nectarine-puree-over-toast-eating baby is 10 months old today. How has he gotten so big, so mobile, so independent?

Seriously, 10 months?!! I'm realizing I really need to start planning Gabriel's first birthday party. Everyone says,"They grow up so fast," and really, they do.

I really cannot believe these things are entering my mind...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Winner Winner...(Chicken Dinner)

F.Y.I. I didn't post it on here until now, but after using Random Number Generator, Jennifer from It's Not Easy To Be Green won the Yoreganics Giveaway. Enjoy!

I also won on Sunday...

I got to roast my first free range bird. (Okay, it was my first ever roasted bird in general, too.) This time the power did NOT go out, thank goodness, even though it did start flickering while we ate.

I was so nervous about roasting my first pastured bird that I actually e-mailed Hillacres Pride, the farm from which it came, and asked for directions. Well, how cool are they that they sent me some!

And here are the summarized directions... straight from Hillacres Pride Farm.


• If frozen, defrost the bird slowly. Yes, two full days in the refrigerator.
• Wash the bird, and clean up any last minute issues with the bird's cavity and neck.
• Dry the bird inside and out AND preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
• Place the bird into a roasting pan and rack.
• Season the bird with fresh herbs, salt, pepper, garlic, and/or paprika, etc. Stuff the cavity to your liking with lemon slices, garlic, onion, carrots, etc.
• "Tuck the legs under the fat flap or tie them up, and then dress the outside of the bird with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. You can also dust with other ground spices, from a South Asian mix to humble paprika."
• "Put the bird in the preheated oven and forget about it for 2 hours."
• Basting optional.
• The bird is finished when the leg bones are flexible and the thigh juices run
clear after puncture with a sharp knife.

Option 1: For crispier skin, turn the heat to 400 degrees for the last 20 minutes of cooking time. Remove the bird from the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Option 2: Place potatoes and other root vegetables in the roasting pan with the bird.

Feeding Roasted Chicken to Baby

The chicken was really juicy, and it gave us two very full meals (one roasted chicken, one chicken salad with apples, grapes, and onions). Gabriel tried his first chicken, too-- I actually chewed it a tiny bit before giving it to him (Is that creepy and bird-like? Oh well.). He loved it!

He also loves NOT napping. It has been a rough struggle trying to get him to nap even twenty minutes per day. I would be okay with his wakefulness, but he gets so cranky and sleepy that it is imperative he get on the nap train. He really fights me on it-- temper tantrums and all.

Would you ever guess this little angel face gets so angry?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

No Impact Week

After watching the film No Impact Man last month, I researched into Colin Beavan and family's one-year experience in drastically lowering their impact on the environment journeying into the "deep green."

No Impact Man has expanded to an 'organization' with a blog titled The No Impact Project, and teaming up with the Sierra Club, it has created an event called No Impact Week. This "one week carbon cleanse" is mapped out for you step-by-step in an online manual complete with other resources and savvy green suggestions.

Our little family is going to do No Impact Week, along with many other people and families who have pledged to do it, starting on August 29th. I'll blog about our whole journey, but what I want to know from you is....

Who wants to do this with us? If enough people want to do this, I'll host a daily blog hop for everyone interested, and maybe we will even have a twitter party at the end of the week. I would love to make a big deal out of this, but I need to know from you all if you want to join with me.

So comment or e-mail me if you want to do this with us, and visit the No Impact Week site to sign up for your manual!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Whip 'Em Out!: A Post on my Lactivism

I love this video. Women should be this open, honest, and excited about breastfeeding. The more support out there for breastfeeding Mommies and babies, the better.

I will reiterate a few little things in this video that are so true:

1. Yes, breastfeeding is hard at first.
(Really. You need awesome nurses and you need to see a lactation consultant. Be open and seriously let the professionals grab your boobs and your baby and teach you both how to latch. And maybe breastfeeding will not work out for you, but try it out because, if you read on, there are a lot of benefits.)

BUT it is so worth it, just as they say, because...

2. Your baby stays healthy.
(Gabe has had one very minor cold & one three-day low grade fever. He was in the 76% for height and weight at 9 mo., 22 lb. and 29 in. A big, bright, crawling, cruising boy. )

3. You do burn major calories. You will shed pounds.
(Um, hello? I have lost just about 60 pounds since Gabriel was born -- almost effortlessly. That's all the baby weight plus over 10 pounds. And I eat healthier than ever, but I also was eating more than ever until Gabe added some solids into his diet).

4. Breastfeeding is convenient.
(You will get good at breastfeeding, and breastfeeding in public with or without a cover will not be a huge challenge. Gabe and I are so used to our routine that I just pull up my shirt a wee bit, snuggle him close, unhook the bra, and he sucks until he is done. Sweet meal.)

5. Breastfeeding does create a beautiful bond.
(At this point, I know that weaning is not just a term for baby, but a term for Mommy, too. It is a nutitional shift and an emotional shift that will happen. Breastfeeding is a physical closeness and relationship that instills a connection between mother and baby. It is a wonderful phase of life. If you can breastfeed, this is possibly the best reason.)

6. Breastfeeding saves money.
(Like crazy amounts of money. As in, no cost for baby's nourishment until he or she starts solids. Even now that Gabe gets two bottles per week, we have not needed to buy formula because of the samples we received prior to his birth, and at the rate he takes formula (literally 12 oz. per week), we will never have to buy it. Cheers to almost $2,000 unspent (minus $breast pump)!)

7. No Periods.
(At least for a little while. I didn't have one until May 2010, and Gabe was born in October 2009. Counting pregnancy and factoring in, ya know, birth and postpartum bleeding, that's really not a bad deal. And some girls are without periods the entire time they breastfeed, which could be over 14 months.)

So there's my pro-breastfeeding experience and opinion. I love breastfeeding. I currently consider it the nearest and dearest success of my life, and I consider it one of the best decisions I have ever made. I'm not a crazy, crazy lactivist (though I am somewhat of a lactivist), and I absolutely have no issue with Moms who choose formula. I am just so happy that breastfeeding has worked out for me and Gabe, and with all of the benefits we have been lucky to absorb from breastfeeding, it is easy for me to recommend it to others and support breastfeeding Mommies everywhere.


Because Green Moms Support Each Other.

Head on over to Eco Friendly and Frugal and link up your green Mommy blog. I am really looking forward to finding some new, fun reads!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Tuna Calculator

Every so often, I visit the Environmental Working Group's website because it always has something fabulous like the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides or a list of Kid-Friendly Sunscreens. Today, I noticed for the first time, the Tuna Calculator.

I have always loved tuna, and when I was pregnant, I almost fell on the ground and threw a tantrum when my doctor told me I really shouldn't have any tuna, definitely no albacore.

Well, the tuna calculator still tells me not to eat albacore, but it also helped me know my limits based on my weight, etc., and gave me a nice little synopsis on the issues of tuna.

Check it out-- especially if you are a tuna eater!

P.S. You should enter the Yoreganics giveaway below.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yoreganics Review and Giveaway: Ends 8/22

is a natural cleaning company with a spirit for the simple. This wonderful little company is run by a Kim, an interior design-go green momtrepeneur. And their products?

Soap Nuts
Soap Nuts are dried up fruit berries, as in from a tree. They suds naturally when agitated, and a pack of six little nuts can wash your laundry about four to six times before they become too thin to use. They are supposedly great for laundry of those with sensitive skin, specifically for those with eczema. Soap nuts are also anti-fungal and anti-microbial, and they are low-sudsing so they do well in HE (front loader) washing machines.

If you think it's crazy that "soap nuts" can clean your laundry, I'll push the limit-- these little dudes took on Gabriel's cloth diapers, and they looked and smelled beautiful when done. It was really satisfying to take out our little eco-effort diapers and know they were cleaned with something as natural as a nut.

There are a few things I question about soap nuts--- one: their origin. They come from India and Nepal. So I wonder, who collects these nuts? How are they treated? What are they paid? How are they shipped? Who are the distributors? Once wonderful companies like Yoreganics get these little nuts, is the carbon footprint already larger than your typical modern detergent? I know none of these answers. But I do know they are created naturally and used as is. That's impressive.

Stain Remover
An organic pocket-sized stain remover with a citrus scent. With my little stain-maker on the move, I need to throw this in my diaper bag.

Brightens & Whitens
An all-natural brightener and whitener without bleach or phosphates. It is supposed to remove pretty much any stain you can imagine.... sounds good to me!

Lip Balm
USDA certified organic, in flavor Simplemint
This is hands down my favorite lip balm, and that is saying a lot because I was a loyal lover of one particular lip balm before I tried this. It is tingly, smooth, minty, and simple. It has a really nice, subtle taste, too. You will love it.

Win your own Yoreganics Package!

Mandatory Entry:
Tell me, which Yoreganics product do you most want to try?

Extra Entries:
1. Follow the blog (see the right sidebar) and comment.

2. Follow @amomwriting and/or @yoreganics on twitter.com and comment.

3. Tweet:

Enter to win a @yoreganics laundry package on @amomwriting by 8/22 & return to simple, natural cleaning! http://amomwriting.blogspot.com

(You can tweet twice daily, and you can comment for every tweet.)

4. Head over to http://www.yoreganics.com and then comment on another product you would like to try or comment on something you learned.

A Mom Writing did not receive monetary compensation for this entry. These opinions are mine only.

Contest ends on 8/22/10 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Leave your e-mail for contact in case you win.
Winner will have 24 hours to respond before a second is chosen.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Come Hike With Us. Green Mountain National Forest: Killington, VT

No, the greencation posts are not over just yet. I've got a nice little tale on our little hike in the green mountains for ya...

Actually, is not much of a tale because the hike was not very long. Basically, we strolled on 900 feet of board walk and then skipped up two mini switch backs to beautiful Thundering Falls. It would have been a joke for my husband and I to do on our own, but with baby in his stroller, it was a sweet little touch of nature.

What was particularly nice was that finding this baby-friendly stroll was easy because the Green Mountains National Forest website has a great directory of accessible trails complete with corresponding downloadable pdf sheets on each trail (they include directions, descriptions, options, etc.).

Gabe enjoyed our stroll.

We posed by the waterfall.

And I got some time to spend with some personal favorites...




Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Beautiful Day.

The weather was amazing today. I hope you got out into the green and enjoyed what nature has to offer. Gabriel had a fun time just sitting in the grass.

P.S. Get ready for a Yoreganics review and giveaway starting Monday!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beating Myself Up.

Gabriel had his first ever bottle of formula today while I worked.

I know I should be proud, I know I should feel successful, I know I should feel accomplished and privileged for what I have done for my baby. It is a feat that I made it from March to August as a working, pumping Mommy without supplementing. Heck, I should still be reveling in my 210 oz. milk donation.

But just that 6 oz. bottle of formula made me feel other things: defeated, guilty, and angry.

It will amount to at max 18 oz. formula per week. Three feedings away from Mommy per week. That's three feedings he does not actually nurse from me. And those three feedings I just cannot replace by pumping.

And I'm probably, as they say, a "tool" for sitting here upset about this when my baby is headed to the 10-month-old category. In other words, I should be grateful that for almost 10 months, Gabriel only nursed or had Mommy's milk.

Nevertheless, I am feeling defeated that my body could not respond to the pump, guilty that my baby is consuming something other than liquid gold, and angry that I am not with him to prevent this from happening.

Yes, I'm angry. I'm angry that even though I planned and worked so hard for my baby to only have breast milk the entire first year, he is not only having breast milk. I'm angry because I went sleepless, I fought my baby's initial weight loss and jaundice with tenacity, I've been bitten, I've gotten milk on my clothes at work before meetings, and so on. I'm mad that despite all of these efforts and sacrifices, I did not make it to my ultimate goal.

I hate being negative, and I am truly a very thankful person, but this is where I am tonight. It's a crappy thing to post about, but it is part of my breastfeeding journey, and it warrants a voice on the blog just the same...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More from the baby news desk...

Every time I start to think facebook is pointless, someone shares something extremely interesting, and I am hooked on updates again.

Today, I was captivated by this Huffington Post article by John Robbins regarding Chinese babies growing breasts due to mistakenly high levels of estrogen in formula.

And don't point fingers at the formula-producers just yet. Supposedly, the most likely point for the hormones to have entered the picture was with the cows... as in excess estrogen via the bovine growth hormone.

I encourage you to read the article and read about other occurrences of hormones in milk and the issues involved. It left me unsettled.

But let's be proactive. Here's a relevant excerpt from the H.P. article regarding what to do about all of this:

What's a consumer to do?

If at all possible, breast-feed your babies, and support breast-feeding friendly workplaces and other environments. It's hard to overstate the health advantages of breast-feeding for both mother and baby. They are enormous, and particularly so today, when the possibility exists that commercially available infant formula could be contaminated with excess hormones.

If you are going to buy dairy products, try to get them from organic sources. Organic milk products by law can't be produced with bovine growth hormone (BGH). Or look for dairy products that specifically say they are produced without BGH (also called recombinant bovine somatotropin, or rBST). Starbucks only uses dairy products that have not been produced with the hormone. Ben & Jerry's ice cream likewise uses only milk and cream from dairy farms that have pledged not to use BGH.

If you're going to eat cheese, remember that American-made cheeses are likely to be contaminated with BGH and excess levels of IGF-1 unless they're organic or labeled BGH-free. Most cheeses that are imported from Europe are safe, though, since much of Europe has banned the hormone. (John Robbins, 2010)

Hmm... after my cheese-loving post yesterday, I'm left wondering if our VT cheese is organic and bgh-free. Time for more research!

Monday, August 9, 2010

You should go cheese tasting.

I am not a cheese person, but because I am so into the local food thing, I thought it would be a good experience to visit a cheese and maple syrup farm while in Vermont. I read that Sugarbush Farm of Woodstock, VT did free tastings and educational tours, and more than anything, I just wanted to understand the difference between each grade of Maple Syrup...

I got much more than I bargained for-- as in, I tasted fourteen cheeses (I skipped the 15th-- a blue), plus all four grades of syrup. The tasting was free and amazingly informative. I am discovering more and more that I am a food nerd, fascinated by the details of cheese preservation and the science of creating maple syrup (seriously gallons of tree sap go into just the drizzle on your pancakes!).

Here is the deal on the grades of Maple Syrup:

Fancy -- very sweet, thin, with delicate maple flavor
Medium Amber -- smooth, maple flavor, acclaimed as "most popular"
Dark Amber -- like the medium, but more serious, a little heavier
Grade B -- intensely flavored of maple, most commonly used in cooking

If I can help it, I will never purchase anything other than pure maple syrup ever again. The taste and the authenticity of the real stuff is absolutely worth it.

And so, we tasted, we purchased, Gabe met some farm animals, and I am pleased to say I have a pint of Medium Amber pure maple syrup in our pantry for our pancakes and some Mountain Jack, Sage, Maple & Hickory Smoked, and Aged Cheddar cheeses in the fridge. Gabriel even tasted his first cheese today, a little sampling of Mountain Jack-- (the VT version of Monterey Jack) he gobbled it like wild.

I find myself reminded that even your most 'unfavorite' foods are delicious when they are fresh and locally prepared. I highly encourage you to look around your area and find local food treasures to explore. And if you go to VT, please stop in at Sugarbush and try their cheeses and syrup. As for me, I'll be looking for some NJ cheese that stands up to the batch we brought home from the Green Mountains.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Three Little Details

1. Wine tasting with a baby is not only plausible, but sort of fun.

2. I have never tasted blueberries so flavorful or delicious as the bunch we bought at a roadside stand this week. Blueberry pancakes with fresh blueberries, real maple syrup, and fresh farm butter are out of this world.

3. Gabriel HATES his pool.

We head home tomorrow. Big posts on VT, including how to wash cloth diapers in a front loader in hard water, are coming next week.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This is NOT the highlight of our vacation.

But it's funny, no?

We have been having an amazing time-- complete with kayaks, maple creamees, wine/cheese/maple syrup tastings, town exploring, local eating, family time, beautiful surroundings, and right now, a game of Apples to Apples.

Believe me, there will be huge posts to come. I hope you are all having a great week. I know we definitely need a family photo in Vermont, but for now, it's me and le bebe.

And yes, I know I look as cheesily enchanted in the mountains as Maria from the Sound of Music. I love me some Vermont.