Sunday, April 29, 2012

You Know You Are a Treehugger When...

...bring home dirty plates you collected at a wedding reception in order to save them from the garbage dump.  Yep, some may have been completely repulsed by this vulgar act at such an elegant affair.

My brother-in-law got married this past weekend and it was a fantastic one.  The bride clearly spent a lot of effort into making it her dream event as everything was coordinated and much trendier than I could ever pull off!   During the reception, we were served hors d'oeuvres and the plates we were given were made from bamboo.  (You may have heard of the brand "bambou".)  Anyhow, these were offered as a "green" alternative to paper or plastic plates, so they were seen as a single use item. When I realized this, I confirmed my suspicions with one of the servers.  She said, "it's better than paper or plastic being thrown in the trash." Yes, this is very true.  But inside, I was flinching that these precious plates were all being discarded.  They were beautiful!  Well, I just couldn't let all of them be thrown away.  :)

I kept every plate my family used and stashed it away in my purse and fantasized about all the occasions I was going to get to use these cute little plates.  I was so excited to unpack them and get them all ready for our next picnic lunch with the kids. I laughed at myself over this behavior that didn't seem so atypical for me and realized I was having a treehugger moment.  In fact, I even feel a little guilty that I didn't stash more.

When was your last treehugger moment?


Jen Starks, Owner 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our 21 Day Challenge: Join us!

"When mom is happy, everyone is happy."  

This is particularly true in our house.  What about yours?  I love our family dynamic on days when I feel peaceful and happy...present.  I've come to realize that there are choices I make that contribute to my own unhappiness even when I think it is good at the moment....a bad habit.

Staying up too late.  If it is one thing I think that will improve my overall happiness, it would be getting to bed earlier.  Sure I want my free time at night and it feels good to finally have some peace and quiet after a crazy, loud day with the kids at home.  But going to bed at 11:30pm isn't gaining me peace when my kids wake me up every morning around 6:30am and I'm groaning as they ask me to help them start their day (getting dressed, breakfast, etc).  I want to wake up like Cinderella did every morning-singing and looking forward to the day.  (My daughter would be thrilled to hear me comparing myself to Cinderella, btw.)  Perhaps the day won't feel as much of a drag in the afternoon.  Hey, a girl can hope, right? :)

21 Days.  Apparently, it only takes 21 days of doing a new habit or breaking an old one to make it automatic.  I can't find the evidence that proves this is actually true but I am going to give it a try anyhow.  Starting May 1st, I am going to go to bed at 10:00pm.  Notice that I didn't say 9:30pm.  I want this to be a realistic goal for me.  If I went to sleep by 10:30pm, then I would still get 8 hours of sleep.  Of course, we are sometimes woken up by either of our 2 children at night, so this is not a flawless victory every night.  But it's a start.

After this 21 day challenge, I might start a new challenge in June to wake up at 6am to see if I can wake up before the kids.  Perhaps I will build on this and see more and more results.


Do you have a bad habit you need to break or want to start a new challenge?

Perhaps you want to start meal planning for the week, try to incorporate more fitness into your life, pick up a hobby you used to love to do (knitting, sewing, scrapbooking, art, photography, etc), read more books to your kids, schedule regular mom's night out, anything.  Perhaps you want to stop eating processed food, yelling at your kids, overspending, eating out so much, watching too much tv.

Join me.  Join me these short 21 days and see whether you can get on track toward more intentional living, living on your terms.  What's needing a new direction? Do you need more steady days?

For those participating, we will journey together and check in on my blog from time to time.  Some call it accountability.  I say it's community building.  It's fun to know what others are doing and how it's going.  It also helps keep us thinking about our intention.

Write it down.  Think about it and put down in the comment section.  What's your goal for the 21 Day Challenge starting May 1st?  What's your reason for wanting this change?  Try to make it as specific as possible. For example, instead of saying "I want to get fit," try saying I will spend 30 minutes each morning around 9am and ride my bike.  21 days!

It's a commitment and a challenge.  Are you up for it?  We'll even have some fun goodies and giveaways for participants along the way!  Sign up below and join the fun.  Invite your friends & family too!

Peace & joy,

Jen Starks, Owner 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Diapers- How Many?

Photo Courtesy of Traditions Photography

How many cloth diapers will I need to get started?  This common question is a tricky one to answer without know more information from you.  There are a few factors involved when deciding how many diapers you will need.

1.  Age of Baby. If you start using cloth diapers when your baby is a newborn, then you will need 10-12 diapers a day.  (Whether in disposables or in cloth, your baby will need to be changed about every 1.5-2 hours.).  If your baby is closer to 1 year old, then about 8-10 diapers a day is recommended.   If they are closer to 2 years old, then 6-8 diapers a day is recommended.  If they are getting closer to 3 years old, then 4-6 diapers/trainers a day.

2.  Budget. Every day that you add to your supply will double your investment.

Some families can only afford to buy a day's worth of diapers.  In translation, these families are washing their diapers everyday. This is obviously not ideal. If this is all your budget can handle, I recommend trying to buy a couple more than a day's worth so that you can wash the diapers the next morning, instead of at night because it buys you a little more time.  There is nothing worse than running out of diapers.  It also sets you up to want to purchase disposables because it can be strenuous to keep up.  That means that you will end up spending more money on disposables than what you would have spent on a few extra cloth diapers.

Ideally, I recommend a three day supply.  Instead of laundering everyday or every other day (2-day supply), you are washing them about 2 times a week.  This makes the commitment of washing your diapers seem minimal.

You will meet other cloth diaper enthusiasts who have an entire week's supply of cloth diapers.  And I must admit that there are a lot of adorable cloth diapers out there that can make it challenging to resist.  That's a personal choice.  But a three day supply will maximize your savings in your investments.

3.  Sanitation.  If you end up with more than a 3 day supply of cloth diapers, I want you to know that I strongly recommend washing your diapers every 3 days (or less.)  Letting dirty diapers sit in the diaper pail longer than that can set you up for bacteria issues, ammonia build up, and diapers that smell like dead fish.  I know that is gross but it's the reality.  Our pail liners fit in a 30 gallon pail.  This is a 3 day supply of cloth diapers for a newborn.  It helps remind me that it is time for laundry when it fills up.

Most of my families purchase around 30 diapers to get started with their newborn baby.  Some come back wanting some more and some start with a smaller supply.  It's a personal choice, that you can hopefully figure out with the above recommendations.


Jen Starks, Owner 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

DIY: Make Your Own Baby Food

How to Make Your Own Baby Food

By: Angela Meredith

Today, a wide range of baby food products from basic jarred Gerber to organic pouches in unique flavor combinations are available at your local market. No matter how creative the packaging or interesting the flavor combinations, commercially prepared baby food cannot overcome this one important fact: homemade baby food is better for baby than commercially prepared products.

Homemade baby food:

·         Taste better and is more nutritious than commercial products because it’s made with fresh, unprocessed ingredients.
·         Is less expensive than commercial products. Compare the price of produce and commercial baby food by ounce and you’ll find that making your own baby food is 3–4 times less expensive than buying prepared items.
·         Is environmentally friendly because there is no packaging to dispose of. And if you use locally grown organic produce, you further reduce your carbon footprint.
·         Is more aligned with the foods and flavors that are eaten in your home.
·         Can be made to suit your baby’s taste and texture preferences.

Use organic produce from your local co-op, growers market, or farm.

Perhaps you don’t need convincing when it comes to the why of making your own baby food, and you’re more interested in the what, when, and how of the process. Here’s a condensed guide:

When is baby ready?

Every baby and family is different, so naturally readiness for solids will vary greatly. It’s commonly recommended to start solids at 6 months. However, some babies are ready as early as 4 months and others not until after their first birthdays. Ultimately, it’s up to baby, and he will let you know with one or more of these common signs:

  • Baby can hold her head up and sit up well on her own.
  • Baby shows interest in what you’re eating by watching you eat, responding to the sights and smells of the kitchen, or by fussing at mealtime as though he’s hungry.
  • Baby will accept being fed solids either using mom or dad’s finger, a spoon, or by self-feeding.

Solids and breastfeeding

The national breastfeeding symbol.
Sometimes moms are concerned that beginning solids will precipitate weaning, and so delay feeding baby his or her first food. Truth is, most babies will continue to breast feed in addition to eating solids for as long as needed or allowed. Even after solids, breast milk or formula is the most complete nutrition for your baby and should be continued throughout the first year or, for breast milk, even longer.

Food safety

Food allergies, botulism, and food sensitivities are some concerns when introducing solids. The most common food allergies are: milk, egg, wheat, nuts, shellfish, fish, and soy. Use the following “new food process” to easily identify the cause of a reaction should there be one: feed baby only one new food at a time, and feed it to her for 2–3 days without introducing another new food. Also, avoid honey during baby’s first year, as it carries a risk of botulism.

First foods
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, taste sweet, and are filling for little tummies.

Many pediatricians and parent resources suggest that boxed rice cereal is the best first food. It’s a low-allergen food and processed for easy digestion. The flip side is that because rice cereal is so heavily processed it does not resemble actual rice. Organic and fortified brands are available, which may be the best choice if you want to include rice cereal in your baby’s diet.

Though rice cereal is not bad for baby, there are more nutritious and much tastier options:
  •          Sweet potato
  •          Apple
  •          Pear
  •          Squash
  •          Carrots
  •          Avocado
  •          Banana

Tools of the trade

Once baby is ready and you’ve decided on the first food, it’s time to assemble your tool kit, which can be done with items you already have in your kitchen:

·         For preparing fresh produce you’ll need a sharp knife, cutting board, and a vegetable peeler.
·         For cooking the peeled and chopped produce you’ll need a few pots and pans.
·         For turning the cooked fruits and veggies into baby food you’ll need a small food processor or blender and a strainer.
·         For storing your now cooked baby food, you’ll need a set of ice cube trays (or Little Bites Freezer Trays) for freezing, and some gallon-size freezer bags in which to store the frozen cubes.
·         For storing fresh food directly in the fridge, you’ll need an assortment of small snack-size containers.

I prefer a small food processor because it works well with small to medium portions and takes up less space.
How to cook it

You have four options when it comes to preparing baby food: steam, stew, broil, or bake. I choose my cooking method depending on how much time is available, what the weather is like, and what else I’m cooking. Stovetop preparations take less time than in the oven and don’t heat up the house, which is critical during the hot summer months here in Florida. During the winter, I enjoy a nice cozy kitchen and often use the oven to cook other meals, so it’s easy to pop in an extra dish.

Some nutrients are lost during the cooking process and can be recaptured by adding the cooking water back into your puree. Once you’ve cooked the fruit or veggie until it is soft and easily pierced with a fork, puree with your food processor; add liquid as necessary and, if needed, strain to achieve the best consistency for your baby.

This combination of hand-held strainer, large measuring cup, and small bowl works great.  I use the small bowl to push the blended food down through the strainer.

How to store and serve

Serve baby food fresh or freeze it using the ice cube tray method to create a stash of quick healthy meals. Refrigerated food is good for up to three days, while frozen food is good for up to three months. When it’s time to feed baby, heat the baby food until steaming and then cool to room temperature before serving. Do not reuse partially eaten portions in which you’ve introduced a utensil that’s been in baby’s mouth. When we put a spoon into baby’s mouth and then back into the food we transfer bacteria from one to the other. To avoid wasting portions, spoon a small amount of food from the storage container into a dish and feed baby from the dish.

Small bowls made of durable plastic or glass are perfect for feeding baby.

How to make the time?

Making your own baby food can seem like a daunting, time-consuming chore, but the truth is it’s as simple as steaming a pot of veggies. It’s easy to cook foods for everyday meals that can be adapted for baby. This cuts down on additional cooking and meets the ultimate goal of feeding baby what you’re eating as much as possible. When you have time, prepare batches of your baby’s favorites to freeze and store for quick and healthy meals.

Another way to work it into a busy schedule is to take batch-making one-step at a time: wash and chop in the morning after breakfast, cook at lunch and then puree and store at dinner. Also, “mashable” foods like bananas and avocados are good to keep around for quick, no-cook meals. 
Commercially prepared baby food is meant to be a convenience item, so use it as such when traveling or out and about, and then re-used the jars for storing homemade foods in the refrigerator.

Certain moments with my children, like watching them sleep peacefully or eat a healthy home cooked meal, bring me serenity. I breathe easier during these moments, and am grateful. When I prepared and fed them their first baby foods, I felt that it was in investment in their health, and one of the best gifts I could give. I wish the same for you and yours.




Angela Meredith is a writer, editor, mother, and wife living and working in Tallahassee, Florida. You can read more of her writing here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Photo Contest for the Great Cloth Diaper Change - Tallahassee

I am SO EXCITED to announce we are doing a really fun photo contest in conjunction with the Tallahassee Great Cloth Diaper Change!

We are partnering with Casey Yu of Casey Yu Photography to gather photos for our new website, which we will be rolling out soon. Casey will be on hand at the Great Cloth Diaper Change on Saturday, April 21, taking tons of photos to document the event and gather evidence to submit to the Guiness Book of World Records.

What better way to gather photos of precious babies in their cloth diapers than with a contest?! And who doesn't love a good prize? And we do indeed have a good one! The winner of the contest will receive a GroVia starter pack! That's right - you get two shells (in snap or hook-n-loop) in the color/print of your choice AND two sets of soaker pads! That's a half-days worth of diapers!

What must you do to enter such a fabulous contest? It's easy! Just be sure the cloth diaper you bring to change your baby into at the Great Cloth Diaper Change is one we currently sell. You can see all of our inventory on our site. Thirsties, Bummis, Tots Bots, Knickernappies, GroVia, BumGenius - take your pick! Then we'll take your pic! :)

Change your baby into one of our diapers, then stick around after the change. From 1-2pm, Casey will have her mobile studio set up in one of the small rooms at ARTS Afterschool. Stop in and let her snap a great shot of your baby (or toddler!) modeling one of our diapers, and sign a waiver that you understand the picture may be used on our website for promotional purposes. Looking for a great shot to frame and hang on the wall? You're in luck! Discounted photo packages will be available. Contact Casey for more details.

After she takes all of the pictures, Casey will post them all in a special album on her Facebook page. Go ahead and LIKE her so you're ahead of the game! Once they are all up, the contest is ON! Tell your friends and family to go find your picture, and to LIKE it. After a week, the picture with the most LIKES, wins the prize! As well as big time bragging rights. :)

A chance to have your sweet baby featured on our website...

A chance to win a fabulous prize package...

A chance to have a beautiful portrait taken by one of Tallahassee's top photographers...

What's not to love?! Round up one of our diapers, and let's take some pictures!

See you on Saturday, April 21!

Claire Williamson, Representative for Ecological Babies

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Confession Time

Alright, it's time for a confession......

Deep breath.....

I'm probably going to lose major points on my Crunchy Mama card for admitting this.....

Hang on, let me procrastinate a little bit....

You know those kids picture books called "What's Wrong Here?" Well, this was my dinner prep set-up tonight. See anything amiss?

Yes, sigh. I use non-stick spray. Me, the Tallahassee Cloth Diaper Lady (I've really been called that. Multiple times, actually.) The mom with the washable tissues, the one without any paper towels, the one bag of trash a week lady, stainless steel water bottle carrier, organic buying club member, farmers market enthusiast - yes, that's me. And I...dramatic pause and head hanging in shame...use non-stick spray. As in, highly processed and possibly toxic canola oil, and container that is extremely NOT biodegradable or even remotely recyclable.

But hang on! That's our dinner set up in the picture above. We had blueberry waffles, and I tell you - nothing lifts those waffles off the iron as easily as Pam. Nothing. See how nice?


I've tried to use other things. In fact, I have a really nice silicone pastry brush from Pampered Chef that I use to brush olive, coconut, and other oils onto pans, muffin tins, etc. But for the waffle iron, nothing else seems to work as well.

I tried to go two months without buying any non-stick spray. I really did! But we are big waffle fans over here, and I've been known to make them twice a week. I've also been known to stir in finely grated zucchini, but I'll save that for another confession post. Each time, even with copious oil brushing, I still had little bits of waffle left on the iron, and ended up having to wash the whole thing. And if you've ever tried to wash an electronic kitchen appliance (by the way, you're not supposed to), you know it's somewhat of a challenge.

Tonight, to make myself feel better about the Pam, I thought about the organic blueberries I was using, and patted myself on the back for making the waffles from scratch rather than popping open a box of frozen Eggos. Heck, I even used organic, free range, vegetarian fed farm fresh eggs! Surely that offsets the CFCs! But then, I open up Facebook and there being shared among my friends is this graphic, which you can find here.

Now, I'm not sure where this came from, or how accurate these numbers are. But all the same the message is clear. Burying something in the earth does not make it go away, it just removes it from our sight. And besides, can something truly biodegrade if it's been disposed of in a plastic trash bag and buried in a landfill devoid of sunlight and oxygen? I'm thinking no. The graphic had the intended effect on me, and instantly made me feel guilty for my non-stick spray habit. I only use it for the waffle iron (no really, I promise!), but still, all those bottles add up.

I need to do better at finding a solution. I've seen oil misting bottles in stores, but have no idea if they work or not. I feel like I live a pretty "sustainable" lifestyle, but I'm sure if I thought harder there are more bad habit products I could find that I need to learn to do without. Like the mesh bath sponge I know and love. I'm going to venture to guess that's not so green, either.

What bad habit items do you have lurking in your house? What can you just not do without? Come on, let's all confess, but let's also help each other out. Is there a product you have learned to easily live without? Share your swap outs for living a more re-usable and less disposable lifestyle.

And if you've got one of those nifty oil sprayers, do tell. Because I'm pretty sure I'm making waffles again this weekend.

Claire Williamson, Representative
Ecological Babies

Benefits of Babywearing

I love how concise this description is for all the wonderful benefits of wearing your baby.  I consider it an essential item to have when your baby is born, ESPECIALLY if this is baby  number 2, 3, 4, or more.  We are happy to help you learn about how to use your sling- contact us if you are interested.

"Babywearing has become a 'growing' trend and we at Maya Wrap are thrilled to see more Moms and Dads keeping their little ones close and growing together! Well before it was a trend, we recognized the benefits of keeping your baby close during those first impressionable years! Wearing your baby in a baby sling or baby carrier has several benefits:

Less Crying - Babies who are carried cry less on average than those that are not. Research has shown that babies who are carried cry (on average) 43% less overall and 54% less during the evening hours (1).

Smarter Babies - Babies spend more time in a "quiet, alert state" when carried - the ideal state for learning. When carried, your baby sees the world from where you do, instead of the ceiling above his crib or people's knees from a stroller.This extra stimulation benefits brain development.

Emotional Development - Babies are able to develop a sense of security and trust when they are carried. They are more likely to be securely attached to their care-giver/s (2) and often become independent at an earlier age (3).

Physical Development - By being close to your body's rhythms, baby "gets in rhythm" much more quickly. Research has shown how this helps newborns (especially premature babies) to adapt to life outside the womb (4).

Helps with Post Partum Depression - Babies who are not held need more verbal interaction and eye contact, just to be reassured that you're there. Moms who may suffer from Post Partum depression will find that carrying their baby is a great way to connect with her (and provide stimulation too) without the "burden" of having to interact (5). Of course your baby is "right there" to enjoy whenever you feel like snuggling, kissing or talking. This is by no means a cure or solution for Post Partum Depression, always seek counsel from your physician first.

Eases the strain - Carrying your baby in a sling eases the strain on babies spine and your back!

  1. Hunziker, U. A. and Barr, R, G. (1986). Increased carrying reduces infant crying: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatrics, 77, 641-8.
  2. Anisfeld, E., Casper, V., Nozyce, M. and Cunningham, N. (1990). Does infant carrying promote attachment? An experimental study of the effects of increased physical contact on the development of attachment. Child Development, 61, 1617-1627.
  3. Whiting, J. W. M. (1981). Environmental constraints on infant care practices. In R. H. Munroe, R. L. Munroe & B. B. Whiting (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural human development, New York: Garland STPM Press.
  4. Ludington-Hoe SM, Swinth JY. (1996). Developmental aspects of kangaroo care. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 25, 691-703.
  5. Pelaez-Nogueras M, Field TM, Hossain Z, Pickens J. (1996). Depressed mothers' touching increases infants' positive affect and attention in still-face interactions. Child Development, 67, 1780-92.
(Credit: The Babywearer)"

Jen Starks, Owner