Thursday, March 29, 2012

Living up to my new name!

I was so excited to learn that I'd been dubbed "Crunchy Mom" by one of my favorite blog authors, Awkward Mom!  But now I'm a little worried that I can't live up to that title.  After all, there are so many things about me that would make a REAL crunchy granola mom pass out right into her Kombucha.  (Which, incidentally, is totally vile-tasting...and that alone would probably get me drummed out of the Crunchy Corps.)

I do have many fine Crunchy qualities.  Majoring in Conservation at UC Berkeley practically guaranteed me lifetime membership in the aforementioned Corps.  Heck, just GOING to Berkeley put me on some kind of granola list (written in soy-based ink, of course.)  I'm on a relentless crusade against plastic grocery bags (well, I bring reusable ones to the store. That's as bloodthirsty as my crusade gets.)  I compost.  I recycle. I drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. I use cloth diapers/practice EC. I chose natural childbirth. I use nontoxic, biodegradable cleaning products.  (Actually, I am even more eco-friendly than that - I simply avoid cleaning at all!)

But...the list of non-crunchy things in my life is LONG.  I don't buy many things organic. I don't eat sprouts, EVER. I don't own any polar fleece or even a pair of hiking boots. The first time I set foot in REI was last month, and I bought nothing.  I buy JARRED BABY FOOD!  (yeah, it's organic. But a real Crunchy would be making her own from vegetables she grew in her own organic garden.)  I don't own an aluminum water bottle. I don't believe in gluten-free unless you truly have a digestive disorder that requires it. I don't believe in taking vitamin supplements (except during pregnancy.)

I do own a pair of fuchsia suede pumps with gold buckles.  Recently I unabashedly bought a pair of designer sunglasses.  I eat meat.  I shave my legs AND armpits.  (well, most of the time.)  I wear deodorant - the kind hippies insist gives you cancer.  (IT DOESN'T.)  I brush my teeth with fluoride toothpaste because I don't love the dentist. I believe in evidence-based medicine. I VACCINATE MY KID!  (oh, don't get me started on that!)

So maybe Crunchy Mom has an alter ego.  Frivolous Mom? Conventional Mom? Hygienic Mom? What's the opposite of granola?  Refined sugar?  That's me all over! Confectionery Mom!!

and...that's all the time we have for today.  Gotta get Crunchy Toddler up from her nap!  ;)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hooray for how-to books!

(Lookee me, two posts in a day!)

I owe Ashley English, author of the Homemade Living series, a HUGE debt of gratitude! She has single-handedly dissuaded me from keeping bees AND chickens!!  My husband is thrilled.

I've been threatening to try beekeeping for about five years now.  I almost went to a free beekeeping seminar at the local beekeepers' club.  I think I was trying to quit my job and make a living selling honey and beeswax candles.  Sounds like me.  Anyway - the book was great, super easy to read and very detailed about what's involved in keeping bees.  A LOT!  A lot of time, a lot of money (well, some anyway) and...did I mention a lot of time?  In addition to bi-weekly inspections of your hives, you also have to devote an ENTIRE weekend to honey harvesting!  I get one hour a day, maybe an hour and a half if I'm lucky, while Katie naps.  That's it!  Rain, shine, weekday, weekend, doesn't matter. One hour a day.  So beekeeping is out.

Likewise chickens.  I thought it would be cute to have a pair of hens softly clucking away in the backyard, producing lovely eggs (we hardly ever eat eggs, so they wouldn't have to do much work.)  But the first chapter filled me in on how much work it is to take care of chickens!  They need to be fed, cleaned up after (well duh, I knew that, but every day??) let out in the morning and locked up at night.  And the eggs need to be gathered multiple times daily.  Zomg!  So we're done with that.  Sometimes I wonder about my sanity.  I can't even keep my sink clear of dishes, let alone clean out a chicken coop?  Even once a month would be a stretch!  Ohhhhhh denial...

Now if only she'd write a book on keeping sheep for wool...  ;)  JUST KIDDING!  (half kidding.)

Two (and a half) successes

OK folks!  Time for a couple of updates.

First off: I have now successfully made yogurt not once, but TWICE!  Woohooooo!  Awkward Mom was right; the first time was for learning what NOT to do.  Now, I stand in front of the oven and don't wander off if I need to make temperature adjustments.

Secondly: wool diaper covers!  This one I'm only counting as half successful.  I put Katie in the wool cover overnight, and surprisingly, it did work pretty much as advertised.  When I went to get her in the morning, the smell of pee/ammonia didn't melt my face off the way it used to with a regular diaper cover. With wool, I didn't really smell anything until I started peeling off her layers.  Underneath the wool cover, there was definitely some stink.  But whatever, I tossed the diaper in the pail and all was well.  Then I let the wool cover air dry.

The cover didn't air out in one day, so I'd have to buy - and lanolize! - at least one, maybe two more covers to keep this little scheme going.  That's why I'm only calling it a half success. But it did air out by the following night.  I was quite shocked.  It smelled quite unmistakably of pee when I took it off her, but after a day and a half, I couldn't smell a thing!  And I was really brave and put my nose right up to it!

So I guess I'll use the wool cover every other day.  Half a win.  If anyone has an overnight cloth diaper system that they love, give me a shout!  ;)

Friday, March 23, 2012

a dark secret...

So you probably know I'm a big crunchy hippie when it comes to diapers.  I love cloth*, and I also practice EC with my daughter (aka Infant Potty Training.)

But I have a dark secret.

For many months now, I've been using - cue dramatic music - a disposable diaper on Katie overnight.  I didn't want anything to interfere with her sleep, since we were trying to get her to sleep through the night.  I wasn't sure if that wet-diaper feeling was waking her up.

Now that sleep is going pretty well, I'm inching closer to going back to cloth at night. Know why? Coz those damned disposables LEAK! I'm so tired of changing all of her layers of clothing in the morning, and sometimes her sheet too!

In preparation for the eagerly-awaited jump back to cloth, I bought my first wool diaper cover.  If my research is correct, wool is supposed to be the absolute best thing for night.  It sounds insane, not to mention itchy.  How can wool keep Katie dry with no plastic or laminated fabric?

The answer, I'm told, is in the lanolin.  When you buy a wool diaper cover, you have to "lanolize" it before using it.  The lanolin is antibacterial, neutralizes odors, and helps the wool absorb the pee.

But lanolizing is a pain in the butt and I *totally* screwed it up by using about 10 times more lanolin than I should have.  I've had to strip the darned thing repeatedly, and it still feels sticky.  Fail!

So we shall see.  I think tonight may be the night!  I'm going to put her in an Under the Nile fitted cotton diaper, with the sticky wool cover over it, and hopefully the whole thing will fit under her pajamas.  I'll post a picture if she looks like a stuffed sausage.

Fingers crossed!!!!

*Yes, the jury is out about whether cloth is really THAT much more eco-friendly than disposables.  I intend to post about this someday; for now, I think it's safe to say that cloth is at least a little better for the baby, if not for the planet.  ;)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So happy!

Finally, a home improvement project that won't suck!  (Hope I didn't jinx it there.)

Ever since we moved into our lovely new home 3 years ago, we've had a little intermittent problem.  Once in a while, our smoke detectors decide it's time to go off for no good reason.  Now, these are not your average, old-school, battery-operated smoke detectors.  Nooo, these babies are hard-wired into the ceiling, and as such, their "beep" is loud and shrill enough to wake the dead.  This morning at 6:10, they woke us all out of a dead sleep.  They scared the bejeesus out of Katie, whose screaming, by the way, was ALMOST as loud as the beeping.  Almost.  And then it stopped, because there was NO SMOKE and NO FIRE.  Gah.  We all tried to go back to sleep but it was no use.  Poor Anthony, he wasn't supposed to be up until 8:30.

Anyway, the happiness part is this:  after some deliberation over whether to call an electrician, I called the customer service line for BRK alarms.  The agent told me I didn't need an electrician, that the problem is in the units themselves, not the wiring.  They are only good for 10 years and it's been 13.  And the best news?  The units are available from Amazon, on sale!  With Amazon Prime!  So in two days (and some fun on a ladder), we will be in the clear and (hopefully) this will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!!!!!!!!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Epic yogurt fail!

Recently, prompted by the sky-high price of Fage at our local market, I decided to try making my own greek-style yogurt.  I read a couple of good blog posts, here and here.

Both posts made it look SO easy, I decided to give it a shot.  I decided that using the "preheated oven" approach would be the easiest, but I worried that my oven might not be warm enough because it's electric instead of gas and doesn't have a pilot light.  But I figured that if it wasn't warm enough, oh well, the milk just wouldn't turn into yogurt.

Boy was I wrong!

Now, neither of these posts that I'd read mentioned anything about making yogurt with a 16-month-old underfoot.  I need to remember in future to always factor in 1) major distractions and 2) sleep-deprivation-related "mommy brain."

Somehow I managed to get through the process of heating and cooling the milk.  I even managed to mix in my yogurt starter.  I poured it carefully into an upcycled spaghetti sauce jar, saved and meticulously cleaned for this purpose.  I placed it into my preheated oven, turned off.

When I checked on my project, the oven seemed too cool, so I turned it back on just for a few seconds to warm back up.

And that is where the whole thing went horribly wrong.  An hour later, I walked past the oven and wondered, "what's that weird hissing sound?  And why is the oven at 300 degrees?"

Can you see it boiling?  GROSS!

That's right, the hissing was a HORRIFYING MILK BOMB, ready to explode after being in a 300-degree oven for an entire hour!!!!!!!!!!!!  I was too scared to touch it - I really thought it might explode and send shards of glass and molten milk everywhere.  So I let it cool.  It continued to boil for HOURS.  Finally I was brave enough to bring it outside, where it still sits, a reminder of my failure.

Let's hope next time is a big Yogurt Win!  :)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Books vs. Movies

This morning I started thinking about a couple of movies I'd like to see, and I caught myself wondering whether there is a book version of any of them.  Old habits die hard.  As an avid reader, I used to be a stickler for reading the book first, before seeing a movie adaptation.  But now I've changed my mind. For me, reading the book first nearly always results in a disappointing moviegoing experience.  Allow me to cite some examples.

The Prince of Tides - I think this was the first book/movie combo I really disliked.  The book was fantastic - absorbing, well-written, with interesting characters that you really wanted to know more about. I just couldn't get into Nick Nolte & Barbra Streisand - even though I think Nick Nolte did a really good job.  The chemistry just wasn't there for me - at least not like it was in the book!  But I think I might have enjoyed this film without the book to compare it to.

Harry Potter - I loved these books so much, there's really no way a movie could have done them justice. They're pretty good movies, too - an all-star cast, cute kids, good screenwriter, incredible sets, etc.  But I couldn't help noticing all the things they had to leave out, and the liberties they had to take with the plot, in order to fit an entire book into 1 movie.  (Or in some cases, 2 movies.)  Plus, even the most spectacular sequences paled in comparison to how I'd imagined them.

In short, I think these movies were "ruined" for me by the books.  But I wouldn't trade the experience of reading them for the experience of watching a movie.

I also have two instances of movies that I watched first, and then loved so much that I read the books.

A Room with a View - Arguably my favorite movie, ever.  I was about 15 when I saw it.  I'd never heard of it, or the book. My mom and I were channel-surfing one evening when we came across this movie on PBS.  Wouldn't you know it, we came into it during the bath-in-the-pond scene.  Complete with partial nudity - George Emerson and Mr. Beebe cavorting, splashing and frolicking - and getting caught by Cecil, Lucy and Mrs. Honeychurch!!!  Needless to say, we were HOOKED.  We rented the movie so we could watch the rest, and ended up buying a copy because we loved it so much.  Fast forward another 15 years, when I found a battered old copy of the book at the library in Naples, Maine.  I devoured it in a matter of hours, and delighted in new scenes, new details, and a deeper understanding of the characters.  Truly a pleasant and satisfying experience.

Pride and Prejudice (BBC miniseries) - I confess I'd never read Pride and Prejudice before seeing this adaptation.  I saw it while visiting my friend Emily in Seattle.  We made a marathon of it, drank tea and DROOLED over Mr. Darcy.  When I read the book a while later, it actually really helped me wade through some of Jane Austen's more subtle passages.  I already had a basic understanding of the plot and the characters, so I was able to follow along much more easily.  I must say, the BBC adaptation was so good and so true to the book, I'm not sure this one would have been ruined if I'd read the book first - but we'll never know.  :)

Which do you prefer - book first or movie first?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why I Wear Mens' Socks

Last Christmas, I went shopping with my BFF at Target.  While there, she went to look for some mens' socks for her husband as a stocking stuffer.  (Ain't it great getting older? Our husbands used to get candy, now they get socks.)  Anyway, she started picking out an assortment of masculine colors: blue, gray, black, etc.  And it suddenly hit me.  Not everybody wears white socks.

Anyone who knows me really well knows two things: 1) I am ALWAYS wearing socks, because my feet are always cold, and 2) my socks are ALWAYS white.  (I don't mean that they're blindingly-clean white, I mean they are *meant* to be white.  Sometimes white socks can be a little tired-looking.)

Anyway, on that Target shopping day, I revealed a little-known secret about me and my husband.  One day, more than 10 years ago, we both decided that matching socks out of the dryer was a real drag.  Laundry is enough of a chore, but finding the match to every single sock in a load - UGH!  And there are *always* mismatched socks. Always!  I used to have a whole drawer dedicated to "lone" socks.

So we decided to ditch all of our socks, and buy several packs of the same sock at Costco.  In short: there is only ONE kind of sock in our house.  White athletic Costco socks.  We both wear 'em.  You could fold our laundry in the dark.

So that, folks, is why I wear mens' socks.  And yes, it may have been the first step on a slippery slope to the fashion doldrums in which I have resided for quite a while now.  But that's a story for another post. :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Diapering is SO overrated!

My husband and I gave a lot of thought to cloth vs. disposable diapering before our daughter was born. I convinced him to give cloth a try, with the stipulation that after she started eating solids, we could switch to a diaper service if things got too icky.  Or just give up cloth entirely!  We remembered Bill Cosby's standup routine about baby poo - how it's just sooo cute in the beginning and then BAM!!  Not so cute anymore!  Lol.

Lucky for us, I came across an article about the top 10 things you don't need to buy for a baby.  On the list were things like a baby bathtub, baby lotions/shampoos, a stroller, baby food, and a couple other items I can't remember...and diapers.  I did a double-take. I was expecting them to say disposable diapers, but no!  The list item was "Diapers." Period.  The article went on to explain that in many parts of the world, especially poorer countries where access to laundry services is limited, parents don't put their babies in diapers.  This blew my mind!  What do they do about the near-constant pee and poo, I wondered?  They potty train their babies from birth, that's what!  At first glance, I thought this was absolutely insane.  But I kept reading.  The more I read, the more sense it made.

Elimination Communication, or Infant Potty Training, is actually a gentle, no-pressure way to communicate with your baby about his/her potty needs.  In other words, you can teach your baby to let you know when it's time to potty.  It's not even difficult!  The theory is that babies naturally prefer NOT to sit in their own waste (um, who would?) and have a great deal of awareness of their potty needs, even at birth.  The trick is to figure out a way for baby and parent to communicate, so they can work together to get pottying done on the potty instead of in a diaper!

Anyway, I can't do this premise justice the way this book can: The Diaper-Free Baby by Christine Gross-Loh.  Suffice it to say that I tried it with Katie and it WORKED!!!  We do what's called "part-time" EC, and we use cloth diapers as a backup.  So for us, Katie wears diapers all the time, but whenever it's time to change her, I offer her a "potty-tunity."  I sit her on the potty and make a "cue" sound that she recognizes.  If she pees, great!  If not, no problem.  Then we change her diaper and that's it.  Often her diaper is dry when I put her on the potty, so we just put it back on.  Couldn't be easier!  Oh, and now that she knows some sign language and words, she tells me "Poo!" and makes the "poo" sign, and I whisk her off to the potty and she poops!  NO MORE CHANGING POOPY DIAPERS!

I wish I could tell every person in the world about this.  It's the greatest thing ever!!!!  And, if all goes according to plan, it should make potty training (REAL potty training, I mean) much easier.  She already knows that pee and poo are supposed to go in the potty.  She's not afraid of the potty.  She doesn't even mind me flushing it.  If she had the dexterity to take her pants off and climb onto the toilet, she could do it herself!  Woohoo!