Wednesday

sunny day, sweeping the clouds away


dylan and i were watching sesame street, and who did we see, but neil patrick harris, performing a sweet-awesome song and dance as the shoe fairy.

legen-waitforitandihopeyou'renotlactoseintolerant-dary!

in the eighties, did actors and musicians do cameos, or is that a newer innovation?

apparently, not much else is new on sesame street: check out gordon, luis, and maria in the background, all still hanging out:)

Tuesday

one person's trash...

last fall we stopped using paper towels as part of the Ditch the Disposables challenge. before that, i'd taken for granted that paper towels were just what you used and never considered doing without, but it turned out it wasn't a big deal at all. we just use kitchen towels, wash cloths, and rags for cleaning up and wiping hands. making the switch to cloth napkins was similarly easy. it seemed silly to save them for some kind of special occasion. honestly, wiping baby faces is so much easier with cloth that i often travel with a cloth napkin in my diaper bag. they also tie on easily as a bib.

what's funny, is that dylan LOVES having a cloth napkin to wipe her face and hands on. hopefully, we're not raising a little OCD baby;)

we still have a paper towel roll in the pantry from last september that we'll pull out for bacon grease or pet messes, but otherwise, we use cloth. i don't miss spending money on paper, i like throwing less away, and it hasn't really generated much more laundry. overall, it's been an easy switch.

i wanted to try something else this year. we don't really have a lot of "disposable-ness" in our lives, (although buying food on-the-go can be a weakness...) what i realized, though, is that we still generate a lot of waste from buying packaged snacks. we recycle the cardboard boxes, but that still consumes a great deal of energy, and wrappers mostly go in the trash. reducing consumption/waste and reusing/repurposing stuff is certainly better from an energy standpoint than recycling, (which is also why we've been saving and reusing glass containers.)

this year, for the challenge (sept-oct), i decided to not buy snacks like crackers and granola bars. my goal is to to try baking my own, but honestly, that hasn't happened yet. we had a bunch in the pantry when september started, and life has been busy, but in the next few weeks i plan to bake granola bars, crackers, and graham crackers. if you have a tried and true recipe for any of those items, i'd love to hear it. i figure this is a good way not only to cut down on our household waste but also to save money and eat more healthfully.

in the spirit of paring down (and i suppose "nesting"), we tagged along with camp's garage sale this past weeked. it was exhausting since we had it open friday and saturday, but it was worth it. we got rid of lots of lots of stuff and made a decent amount of money. one of the best parts was that we had a free table where i put out weird stuff i didn't want: toiletries, cleaning supplies, little happy meal-type toys, half-burned candles, and all sorts of randomness i wanted out of my house but didn't want to throw away or even give to the thrift store. people LOVED the free table, and stuff moved. it was awesome.

Wednesday

anarchists, hippies & dissenting grandmas: pittsburgh activists at a glance

 
after much fanfare and fear mongering, the g20 economic summit arrives in pittsburgh this week. though it was billed as a fantastic opportunity to showcase how the city is shedding its rust belt past and reinventing itself, who knows what the world will see of the steel city. the local media whipped the public into a frenzy about the perils of protesters, and the city government didn't do much to assuage anyone's fear of life, commerce, work or education happening alongside the exercise of free speech and assembly, so most downtown businesses, offices, streets and schools are completely shutting down. it's a shame.

i can't predict what will happen in demonstrations this week, and i don't know anything about groups that are coming in from out of town, but i do know a little bit about the activist community in pittsburgh. they are not the wild, destructive caricature the media would love for you to fear. pittsburgh protesters are a peaceful lot: students, members of the clergy, working people and families and a lot of retired people, like your grandma. and the anarchists? they're not so scary or violent, either. the ones i know are vegan.

some demonstrators might be willing to get arrested for peaceful acts of civil disobedience in order to draw attention to their political concerns, but that is a far cry from criminal vandalism or violence. i've never experienced a demonstration in pittsburgh that was anything but peaceful. of course, it only takes one idiot to escalate an action--whether a bonehead with a paint can and an ax to grind or a tough guy with a badge and an itch to test out his riot gear. my hope is that calm heads will prevail and all idiots, on both sides of the line, stay home.

since i'm eight months pregnant and no longer live in the city, i'm not participating in any protests this week, but i thought i'd post a few pictures of some of the less-than-ominous protesters who call pittsburgh home. they might be pissed about war, poverty, or lack of health care, aggressive military recruitment of low-income minorities or the deleterious effects of globalization on the two-thirds world and environment, but they call pittsburgh home and aren't looking to wreck havoc in a backyard they love. they're seeking to exercise their first amendment right to dissent and peacefully proclaim what they believe to be just, which is about as american as apple pie.

aging hippies, kids, tiny dog


see the tuba, keyboard and drum? i suspect that a sizable contingent of youthful protesters were in high school marching bands. not so scary, folks.

do beware the mama protester, babe in tow;)

I love my country
By which I mean I am indebted joyfully
To all the people throughout its history
Who have fought the government to make right
Where so many cunning sons and daughters
Our foremothers and forefathers
Came singing through slaughter
Came through hell and high water
So that we could stand here
And behold breathlessly the sight
How a raging river of tears Cut a grand canyon of light 
--ani difranco

Monday

anticipating two under two in diapers

i got a fantastic deal on ten little cloth diapers and eleven covers in all sizes on ebay, which more than doubles our collection of covers. we are set for two babes in cloth.

(dylan's interest in potty training has definitely waned. she asks to use the toilet maybe twice a day, but i don't foresee her being diaper-free for a while, and that's fine. she's still a munchkin!)

these new diapers seem tiny but supposedly fit 8-20 lbs. they're a brand that we already use but a different style. we already have two dozen little prefolds, two dozen bigger prefolds that fit dylan, and about a dozen "one-size-fits-all" diapers that will definitely fit dylan better than james for a good long while. we didn't start dylan in cloth until she was three months, but we ought to be able to put james in cloth much sooner.

after being away from home and having dylan in disposables for a week, i'm glad to have her back in cloth, and i'm thankful to have enough little diapers and covers to get james into them when he's big enough. we created a staggering amount of household waste when dylan was an infant, and i'm looking forward to less of that this time around.

plus, super-padded cloth-diapered baby bottoms are just adorable;)

Sunday

on the road

we are back from a whirlwind of a week away with family and friends. we stayed with my parents and sister tiffany in the philadelphia area and my sister bethany and dylan's godparents in brooklyn, and we also squeezed in visits with my brother and grandma, as well as a day trip to the jersey shore. it was a busy week with A LOT of driving, but it was great spending time with people we love and don't see nearly enough. it was also wonderful to be together as a family and away from camp. when you live where you work, you have to physically get away sometimes in order to really feel "off."

as dylan is an extraordinarily reluctant model (and we are lazy photographers), we don't have a lot of pictures, but here are a few:
hanging with pappahugs and kisses with great grandma (or "bamma" as dylan calls her.)

we were sitting down to dinner when dylan looked at my mom and then my grandma, and announced, "bammas!" indeed.dylan LOVED the beach--the ocean, the sand, the waves, the sun--she loved it all. i only wish we could have spent more time, but only one day was forecasted to be sunny and warm, so we just made a day trip to bell mar. when we left ligonier, the temperature was in the forties and rainy (making packing a tricksy puzzle), but God blessed us with one perfect beach day, and it was the best.

i said i wouldn't post a belly shot, and yet, there you are;)

the top photo is from a winery we visited. to dylan's delight, everywhere we went we saw animals--lots of cats and dogs, tiny ponies, and some of the dirtiest sheep ever. she was thrilled.

we got in late last night and have had all day at home to rest and recover. it's good to be home.

Friday

great green product review

this summer, ecostore USA contacted me about sending some of their products for review. since we are in the process of replacing our chemical cleaners with natural alternatives, i was definitely interested. their website revealed their motto, which i appreciated:

NO NASTY* CHEMICALS
*NO toxic petrochemicals, NO phosphates, NO nitrates, NO ammonia, NO enzymes, NO chlorine, NO EDTA, NO optical whiteners, NO synthetic dyes or perfumes.

i realize a lot of people think, "who cares? if those ingredients (and others) really weren't safe, we'd know, right?"

not necessarily. companies can put almost anything they want into cleaners, personal care products, toys, fabrics, electronics and anything else. new chemicals are created every day and go right into products. there's virtually no regulation, and it's hardly in the fiscal interest of any company to run the research to prove that their ingredients are safe for long term use and exposure.

essentially the onus is on the consumer to prove that something is harmful and has no place in our homes or on our skin, to get absorbed into our bodies. supposedly, the average woman slathers herself in about 200 different chemicals before she even leave the bathroom in the morning. that's astounding, and the fact that i can be passing chemicals to my baby makes me even more wary. as incidents of cancer, allergies, and other health problem rise exponentially, i'd rather err on the side of nature and caution when it comes to chemical exposure for my family.

while it's generally been my experience that "green" cleaners (whether store-bought or simply using baking soda for household chores) perform just as well or even better than their chemical counterparts, i've not had much luck in the dishwasher. seventh generation's liquid and powder detergents both left me unimpressed, and i was back using traditional detergents.

i'd heard that opening your dishwasher while it's running exposes you to more harmful toxins than anything else around the house. i also don't like the idea of what kind of residues might be lingering on our dishes that we may be ingesting, so i picked to try ecostore's plant-derived auto dishwash powder, even though i was a little skeptical of its potential.

as it turns out, it worked great. it left no powdery residue or funky lingering smell--just shiny, clean dishes. the bottle said i could use vinegar as a rinse aid, but it performed equally well without it. i consider it a great find. at $12 for 35.5 ounces, it's pricey, but a little goes a long way: it only requires 1 Tbsp per load. i've been using it for much of the summer, and i still have half a bottle. i still want to try making homemade detergent, but it is nice to know a good, green commercial alternative is out there.

i also tried ecostore's laundry powder, which also is super-concentrated and requires a tiny scoop per load. (detergents that utilize a large scoop or cup are typically loaded with additives.) it worked really well--even on dylan's diapers, but at $11 a box, it costs a whopping $.44 per load, which is significantly more than the charlie's soap we currently use, at under $.14 a load. so although it performed well, i wouldn't buy ecostore's powder myself. we will probably continue to use charlie's for diapers, and i'm still planning to try making laundry soap.

(i just had a funny/horrifying recollection of brad pitt and ed norton "rendering the fat" in their soap making ventures in fight club. that is not what i have in mind! making laundry soap basically requires grating a bar of soap and adding washing soda and borax--no stolen fat required;)

ecostore USA carries a number of safe, quality products. in addition to a variety of household cleaners, they also sell natural bath and body items. shipping for orders of at least $25 is always free, and they are currently running this promotion: if you spend $50 and type in "2for1" discount code at checkout, they will send you double of everything you ordered--for free. it's a great time to try out their line of natural products.

-----
(the company sent me these items for review. the opinions are mine, and i was not otherwise compensated for writing this post.)

Thursday

labor day rest

jim's parents came up from nashville for a lovely weekend in which jim was off the entire time! magical:) dylan's poppy made her her very own big girl bed (photos forthcoming) which is absolutely beautiful, and they drove it all the way up here from nashville. dylan loves playing and reading there, but she's refusing to sleep in her bed except in pretend play. we still have a few more weeks until someone else needs her crib...

on monday, we enjoyed an afternoon at Idlewild, a children's amusement park right in our own town. we were especially blessed to be able to use free tickets that were leftover from summer camp. the park is geared toward younger kids, and dylan was actually able to ride little rides. (our computer and/or internet is barely working, so these photos are not edited to reveal actual facial expressions, but if i waited for that, another week may go by!)




the park is situated in the woods, and it was a really nice place to walk, (even for those of us who are eight months pregnant!) there weren't a lot of people there, the weather was mild, and we really enjoyed ourselves. dylan continues to talk about the trolley ride we took through mr. roger's neighborhood:)

Tuesday

may be innappropriate for children under 2

im and dylan love to watch animal programs on tv together. ok, and hunting programs. she doesn't really seem to notice the difference, yet.

the other day, they were watching something about deer, when a warning came onto the screen:

ATTENTION: The following program may contain images that are disturbing to some viewers.

jim continued to watch, dylan on his lap. i shot him a look that clearly said, "really?? you're gonna watch this with our toddler??"

deftly interpreting my telepathic message, he responded, "it's just hunting. no big deal."

then the show's announcer enticingly proclaimed:

"a 600 lb marlin spears a teenager IN THE FACE!!! and we have it ALL ON FILM!!!"


disturbing? what, this?

wide-eyed and laughing, jim quickly got the tv off in time to spare young (and not-so-young) eyes from unspeakable horrors. crisis averted.
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