I well remember climbing into bed between crisp, clean sheets that had dried that day on the clothesline, when I was a kid. If New Hampshire’s summer sunshine could be captured in a sensation and a smell, that was it. Texas gifts us with year-round sun hot and bright enough to dry laundry in, as well, but Austin also happens to be – if not officially then certainly by popular vote – the allergy capital of the world. Ragweed, cedar and molds don’t do a thing to me, but my boys – big and small – both suffer from near-constant congestion, stinging eyes and coughs at the hands of these invisible adversaries. I love the idea of a clothesline but think it’s probably best not to wrap my family in fabric that’s been sprayed with allergens all day. Oh well, le sigh. Some things just aren’t meant to be.
Besides a clothesline’s romanticism, I also, of course, am drawn to its eco-friendly appeal. We do a LOT of laundry around here. High-efficiency or not, our washer and dryer are going strong for much of the week, which uses a lot of water and electricity. I’d love to be able to shave some of that usage down. The bad news is that we’re on the cusp of cloth diapering a newborn; while certainly a greener option than using disposable diapers (even the biodegradable ones), I’m not going to kid myself about the resources involved in keeping my baby’s butt clean and dry. And while I might hang his diapers in the sun now and then to really stay on top of stink-patrol (the sun kills smellies), I think I’ll err on the safe side most of the time and use the dryer for daily diaper care. If baby’s skin is anywhere near as sensitive as Kaspar’s, it doesn’t need to be diapered in a day’s worth of pollens, you know?
The good news is I’ve found a natural, easy way to keep baby’s diapers, and our family’s threads, soft, fluffy and free of static, while also reducing drying time by 40%. (That’s gonna add up fast! You're welcome, Earth.). Enter: Tumblewool
Dryer Balls! Made in Clinton, New York, these chemical and fragrance free little miracle-workers won’t harbor bacteria, and can be used for years. Which makes them wallet-friendly, too; just throw ‘em in the dryer, where they’ll roll around, separating laundry and absorbing moisture, and forget about them. Done and done. I think I’m in love. Tumblewool
has generously offered to gift an Alt-Mama reader with a set of dryer balls, as well as a natural felted soap! Bonus! The soap’s felted woolen fibers help to naturally exfoliate the skin while you get squeaky clean, and the wool shrinks as the soap does, prolonging the soap’s life (thereby saving you cash money). Even cooler? When the soap is gone, you can put a new bar into the felt sleeve and start again. (Wool is naturally anti-fungal, so it won’t harbor bacteria.)
Want some? Leave a tip on cloth diapering in the comments below. (Seriously, I only cloth-diapered Kas
for a short while, and mostly at night before he was totally toilet-trained… I feel like a baby in cloth is gonna be a whole different deal?) Or, if you don’t/didn’t use cloth – no judgments – share your tips (or funny failures) on keeping your family’s laundry scene under control.
I’ll randomly select, and announce, a winner next Friday, May 24th. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments form – it won’t be published, or shared with anyone – so I can get in touch with you for your deets, and you can get your Tumblewool on stat.
Good luck, have fun and stay dry!
Although my New Year's resolutions
included the easily-doable (already done!) item "get messy" -- a healthy and normal part of parenting young kids -- I also set a few organizational goals for our house in the coming year. Now that Kaspar's back in school after his forever-long holiday break, too, I feel like I've had my fill of messy for a while. Maybe it's the pregnancy
talking, but there's a part of me that wants our home front CLEAN. Now. Asap. We do a pretty good job of keeping the house presentable -- we're not living amongst loads of clutter or anything like that -- but I can't ignore the dust-bunnies that are accumulating in the corners any longer... or the fact that our bedroom closet has been largely responsible for our generally-tidy-ish front, and is, as a result, full of the clutter we would otherwise be living amongst. The former problem will be solved next week when professional 'green cleaners' come and whip this place into sparkling-clean shape. The latter, I've decided, must be dealt with in advance of their arrival. Otherwise, it's bound to get worse. (As in, if I don't deal with the closet situation, I'll just throw more stuff in there to make way for the cleaners. Which is exactly what got me into this mess in the first place.)
Luckily, the up-side of facing the closet, which I have already bravely embarked on, has meant that another 2013 goal of mine is under way: to sort items out from my wardrobe that, for whatever reason, I never wear, and replace them with clothing I love. I know better than to buy a bunch of maternity clothes -- I lived in maxi dresses last time I was pregnant, and plan to take that approach again -- but I know how much I'll be looking forward to wearing 'real' clothing again post-baby, and I think it'll be fun to create a stylin', mix-and-match selection that suits my tastes as they stand now. Before I do, however, I need to get rid of a handful of clothes that I just never wear anymore, or never wore much in the first place, and I'd like to pass them on to others who'll love and wear them well. There's a great resale shop in town
where I've bought some favorite items, but I know myself well enough at present (I'm exhausted) than to think I'll haul a bag of my own stuff up there any time soon. Instead, I'm hitting the internets with what promises to be an eclectic virtual yard sale of sorts, beginning with my barely-worn threads, and ending with a random assortment of lost-in-the-closet items like a hot stone massage kit (an aspirational purchase made before I enrolled in massage school) and Torchwood
(whatever that is) Blu Rays (sent to me by a PR person back in New York... Never opened, never watched.)
. Your virtual yard sale (some junk, occasional treasure) slash Burning Man (barter system, baby) slash eBay (let the bidding begin) slash Amazon (easily searchable)! Listing items is easy -- simply upload a photo, write a description, choose a shipping method and BAM, the people start bidding. Every item starts at a 'zero' value, but as other users bid on it -- by way of the number of 'credits' they're willing to 'pay', its value goes up. When the auction is over, the bidding ends, and the highest bidder's credits get transferred to the seller, who can then bid on other items on the site in the same way. You can either charge for shipping or not; items with free shipping generally sell for more credits, but, of course, then the seller must swallow the shipping cost. (I listed two items with a flat rate, which may in fact earn me a small profit for my time, and one with exact rate shipping, which I guess I'll determine at the point of sale.)
I'm excited to have discovered Listia.com; I recently disabled my Amazon account, as I felt the many boxes of goods that were arriving at my door could be purchased locally, not only fueling the local Austin economy, but also reducing the transportation-related pollution, and packaging waste, inherent in my Amazon habit. It was a good change; I've found a local, independent camera store for my SD cards, hit up local books shops for our books, and patronized the indy toy stores nearby; all three types of businesses desperately need in-person customers these days, and the service you get in local establishments like that just can't be beat, even via live chat help online. I've also purchased less
, in general, because it takes more effort to buy stuff if I'm not doing it from my computer. And buying less, of course, has saved us some cash. Finally, I've been enjoying the wonders of eBay for certain items that I can find there for far less than retail cost, and often already-used but in 'like new' condition, meaning I'm a part of a large-scale re-use phenomenon, which is pretty awesome. But eBay charges users to list items, as I understand it, and I'm just not that committed to the process. Plus, I'm not sure anyone will actually buy my junk. Listia allows me to list and sell -- actually, trade -- risk-free, and thus saves my stuff from getting thrown away. This last point is actually really important to me; we're lucky, in America, that our trash is hidden -- if barely, beneath the ground -- from view, but trash and waste is a huge problem the world over. It's everywhere, and it's gross. We, as a species, need to find creative new ways to drastically reduce the amount of waste we produce. Listia.com gives us one of those ways.
Wanna see my auctions? Click here
, and here
, and here
! I'll be added more stuff as I get the hang of it. And I'll be on the lookout for select, useful baby items (we've long since given most of Kaspar's baby stuff away) to spend my credits on... so if you have some baby stuff kicking around that you're no longer using, list it up there and give me a shout!
Listia.com has generously offered to gift 10,000 free credits (translation: free money!) upon an Alt-Mama giveaway
winner, too! Simply register on Listia.com, and comment below with your Listia username, and one organizational tip or goal. I'll select a random winner on Wednesday, February 6. Have fun, and good luck!
We don't eat much processed or pre-packaged food around here, save -- until recently -- for those genius little organic pureed fruit and veg pouches that can be purchased at pretty much any grocery store nationwide. In fact, every time Kaspar and I go to the grocery store -- until recently, that is -- we make a deal that he keeps his cool while I shop, and, as a reward, he receives a "fruit squeezie" once we hit the baby stuff aisle. I like that these pouches pack a little nutritional punch (fruits, veg and chia seeds? Cool!), so my kid sucks down a dose of nutrients while under the impression he's receiving a treat. I also like that I can easily throw a pouch (or five) into my purse for days out on the town, or even for more far-flung weekend travel
. I like that the packages are BPA-free. But I don't like how much they cost, given how little food is actually in them, and I don't like throwing all those packages (by the handful, once emptied -- post-outing -- from my purse) in the trash. As much as we've relied upon 'fruit squeezies' for bribes and mobile snacking, I've also felt that they're economically and environmentally, well, wasteful. And while I get that convenience sometimes leads to compromise, these downsides have kept me from loving the 'squeezies' as much as Kaspar does -- until now.
Enter: the Little Green Pouch
, a fillable, pourable, re-usable, freezable, dishwasher-safe, BPA-free, totally awesome make-your-own 'fruit squeezie' solution to our family's little wastefulness problem! This pouch has a leak-proof zipper-type opening at the top into which I can pour all manner of fruit/veg/chia seed creations, and a little capped spout -- just like the throwaway pouches -- through which Kaspar can enjoy his nourishing, now-affordable treats. I've been filling these pouches with fresh, homemade juices
, as well as kefir smoothies, and even (lightly cooked, then pureed and cooled) fruit and veg combos like the one pictured below -- that's an apple, spinach and blueberry "squeezie" in the making. The photo at top is Kaspar downing it whilst in the midst of a full-on sinus infection last week... There's no way I'd get a pan-full of spinach anything
into sick Kaspar without cloaking it in treat-dom, but he ingested this mix happily, thanks to the pouch, and, needless to say, benefited immensely from the anti-oxident boost.
I have three or four prepared pouches in the fridge at all times, ready to grab and go, and I keep one in the freezer for longer days. As for weekend or week-long travel, we'll probably still rely upon the store-bought stuff when we run out of homemade, but not wasting packaging and cash when we're kicking around home, and Austin, means I don't mind forking it over (and throwing stuff out) quite so much when convenience really does call our names.
Wanna get in on the 'fruit squeezie' fun? Little Green Pouch has generously offered to gift a four-pack of pouches to a lucky Alt-Mama giveaway winner! It could be you! Leave a comment below and tell me what your favorite juice or smoothie ingredients are. Don't forget to include your email in the required field so I can reach you if you win. (I will never give, sell or lend your email address to anyone.) I'll select -- and announce -- a random winner next Wednesday, January 9. Have fun, and good luck!
Kaspar happily piled a bowl-full of veggies onto the pizza... and then ate them ALL.
While I always dreamed Kaspar would one day eat chocolate chip cookies (Alt-Mama style, of course, i.e. super healthy and super delicious), Aaron's big food goal for our very-food-allergic little man has been a slice of pizza. I think it's a guy thing. It seemed appropriate enough, though; Kas hails from Brooklyn, after all. Guy thing and Brooklyn roots aside, however, Pizza seemed a long way off, for a while, given that Kaspar was severely allergic to dairy, tomatoes, and
wheat. But as his allergies have slowly improved
-- thanks to a certain alchemy of TCM, Ayurveda and time -- the pizza thing seemed increasingly possible, especially over this past year.
Kaspar can now eat tomatoes and cheese, but wheat is still out of the picture, as far as we know. He was still highly allergic to it last time we tested; this was confirmed last Thanksgiving, too, when a wayward stuffing crumb gave him a swollen face, and gave me a good scare. We avoid wheat and gluten along with all nuts, and Kaspar's various other off-limits foods, and we're planning to run tests again this February, when he turns three, to find out if things have continued to change for him. If wheat were suddenly okay (it happens), that would obviously make daily life a lot easier for our family. In the meantime, we're all about rocking our "something"
in style. And I found a way to feed my kiddo chocolate chip cookies
, thanks (heartfelt) to Namaste Foods' Perfect Flour Blend
. Thanks to the brand's pizza crust mix
, which is free of wheat, gluten, and anything else that might aggravate Kaspar's system, Aaron has found a way to feed him pizza. Boom! There's no stoppin' us now.
We don't make a big deal about Kaspar's dinners usually being different from ours, because that's just the way things are for him. When we first found out about his allergies, I thought I'd try to prepare food we could all eat, all the time, so he'd feel included. But aside from quickly realizing this would be impossible, it also struck me that it might be unwise. His sense of normalcy is created in our home; in the interest of his developing an ability to self-advocate, and self-regulate for his own safety, I've chosen instead to prepare separate meals. We all eat together, and mealtime is a pleasurable experience in our home, but Aaron and I often eat things Kaspar can't. Like, every day. As Kaspar's fruit and vegetable options have expanded, I'm able to prepare sides we can all share, and this has been a good opportunity to talk about foods, where they come from, what they taste like (sweet, sour, etc.), and whether we each respectively enjoy those tastes. Allergies are sometimes part of the conversation (Kas might ask what we're eating and if it's okay for him -- which is exactly the mechanism I intended to put in place, so he wouldn't make dangerous assumptions around that question), but mostly we all just chow down on, and enjoy, our respective dinners and mutual company. When Kaspar's at school, or when we're traveling or visiting friends, he knows that he can't just eat what everyone else is eating... but he also knows I'm on top of it, thinking two steps ahead, and will reliably produce something he can eat, and will enjoy.
That being said, the opportunity to cook an entire meal together, and eat it together, is rare for us, and it was a gift we all savored during a recent family pizza night. We talked it up with Kaspar first, explaining all of the steps involved in making pizza: mixing and pre-bakign the dough, layering our toppings on the crust, baking it again, and then eating it -- all of us! He asked, "It's okay for me?" and we said "Yep! It sure is. This pizza is safe for you. We checked."
Kaspar was, of course, as excited for the journey as he was for the destination. As with making juice
-- or even pancakes
-- together, I noticed his (methodical) involvement led directly to his enthusiastic consumption of the food we'd prepared. (FWIW, I've noticed this trick works well with adults, too...) I'd filled a bowl with vegetables for him to put on top of the crust, including chopped tomatoes, kale and broccoli, and he munched on them intermittently (raw!) as he placed them on the pizza, and then of course devoured his slices, veggies and all, once the finished product came out of the oven. Score!
SO good. Even for regular wheat-eaters.
Aaron and I devoured our slices, too; the flavorful crust, which contained Italian herbs, was the perfect chewy (but not gluey -- a common gluten-free fail) consistency. Topped with all of those vegetables and melted raw cow's milk
mozarella and cheddar cheeses, we all felt like we were eating something decadent. We'd prepared the entire bag of crust mix, but even with a cookie-sheet sized pizza, Aaron and I had to deliberately hold ourselves back from eating the remaining few slices after dinner. (Or for breakfast the next morning.) We sent them to school with Kaspar, in his lunch box, instead. When I picked him up, his teacher said he'd "had his own little pizza party at lunch", (boy was psyched!) and that he'd told her all about making the meal with us the night before, getting right down to the details. *Broccoli, baby.*
I love Namaste Foods
. I really do. Not only do they make foods that taste delicious (seriously, friends LOVE our chocolate chip cookies), but they really go the distance on the allergen-free front. Their products are all gluten-free, and, unlike most other brands that produce gluten-free products, they're also free of the top eight allergens, produced in a 100% dedicated allergen-free facility, and they produce mixes that are made of the kind of stuff I actually want to feed my kid. I usually advise parents with food-allergic or celiac kids to avoid the overpriced, highly-processed products marketed to those folks, and instead make their own food at home, as we do... It's simpler, less expensive, and WAY healthier. No contest. But Namaste Foods? They're different. They're all about the whole grain, whole foods love. And, when I inquired with them about whether they have any knowledge of where the rice in their rice flours is sourced from, due to recent, alarming reports on high arsenic levels in rice
products, they got right back to me; not only do they know where their rice comes from, they test ALL of the rice flours used in their products to ensure they contain no arsenic at all. That's what I call going the extra mile; the arsenic thing was just one more threat in a world of threats for people with food allergies (who tend to eat a lot of rice, as other grain options can be limited... they certainly are for Kaspar). Namaste Foods caters to this population, and I appreciate that they pay attention to what matters, on the large and small scale, so food-allergic people can worry less, and eat more. Because, of course, we love our food-allergic family and friends, do we not? It's nice to know when a brand has their backs. And it's extra nice when that brand makes food we can all share together, and enjoy, in good health. (FWIW, it's also extra-extra nice, as a mom of a food-allergic kid, to have a few 'convenience' foods in my back pocket -- or, you know, my pantry -- so that I don't have to cook two meals, from scratch, every time our family eats... Namaste Foods gives me a free pass on those nights I feel like slacking.)
So guess what. It's giveaway time. Namaste Foods has generously offered to send one of you a reusable tote bag containing 3 Namaste Foods products, a copy of their Simple Pleasures
cookbook, a copy of Living Without
magazine, and assorted recipe cards. Here, have a look:
Want to win? Simply leave a comment below (don't forget to include your email address -- it won't be displayed online, and I won't sell or give it to anyone else) and tell me one way you and your family enjoy mealtime together. And feel free to participate even if no one in your family is food-allergic. Trust me-- these products really are yummy and wholesome for everyone! I'll randomly choose a winner next Wednesday, December 12, so let's get this party started. Good luck!
I am ALL about the toddler-wearing right now! So is Kaspar, which is pretty much perfect when it comes to busy airports or long days out and about, when Kaspar can run around to his heart's content and then find a cozy spot on one of our backs as we continue
doing our out-and-about thing. (Win to the win, people.) I've written about our recent adventures in toddler-wearing here
. Read up! Get your toddler on! It's a happy family revolution!
We have -- and love -- an organic Boba carrier
. This thing goes the distance, from birth to 'big boy' (or girl), is super easy to get on and off, and is made to last. We absolutely plan to pass ours down to baby #2, whenever that happens, and probably to friends and family from there, if I can stand to let it go. And, I want to pass one along (brand new, obvs) to one of you. Yeah, you!
Want to win it? Lurkers aren't getting nothin' tonight, so leave a comment below and say hi! I'll be happy to virtually meet you (or meet you again -- love to the regulars!). I'll then choose a random winner on Wednesday, October 10; I'll announce the lucky mama here and also contact you via email, so don't forget to leave your address in the appropriate field when commenting. (It won't appear online, and I'll never give it to anyone else.)
Thank you, Boba, for hosting the giveaway! And good luck, y'all!
10/10/12 Update (Drum Roll, Please): Let's all give a big round of applause to Liz, our lovely Boba giveaway winner!
Liz, I'll email you for your deets (color preference! Woot!) and address, and you'll have your new Boba in no time. Everyone else: thanks so much for entering! Come back and say hi often, and keep an eye out around these here parts for more awesome Alt-Mama giveaways. ...Because winning's not just for Charlie Sheen anymore.
It’s that time again—you know, when I hook you up with all the coolest potty-centric goods in honor of Kaspar’s toilet-training (which we actually still haven’t exactly started… but we’re talking about it a lot. We’re doing this soon,
now that we’re all settling in to our new living-space. One change at a time, so to speak). And this time around, two
of you will go home with a potty-training essential: the potty! If you already have a potty, go ahead, win another. From what I hear, you can never have too many potties in this process. The BecoPotty from BecoThings
is super fab in several ways. It’s made from waste plant material, so while it’ll last as many years as you want it to in your home… not that potty training will take years— good god, I hope not—but if you have other kiddos in line, this potty can handle the load (haha. Load). Once you’re finished with the potty once and for all, you can bury it in your garden
, compost heap, etc., and it’ll return to the earth from whence it came, toxin-free. It’s also ergonomically designed, so it’s comfy for little bums. Kaspar likes to sit on his, fully clothed, just for shits and giggles. … I'm on a roll here, people!
Anyway: want one? Leave a comment and tell me how many potties you own. And where are they? The car, the closet, the bathroom? There’s no right answer here; I’m just curious about the national average. Same deal as last time, too; be sure to include your email address in the comment form (it won’t appear online) so I can contact the two of you who win this thing. I’ll have Kaspar draw two names from a hat next Friday, September 30, and announce, and email, the winners that evening.
So get on in there and play a round. You just might win. Good luck!
In honor of Kaspar’s impending toilet training, I’m initiating a ‘Pee is for Potties’ morale campaign here on Alt-Mama.com. Cuz let’s face it: our kids get all the rah-rah-rah’s they need to make this transition, but parents are people, too. (Have you gotten your positive reinforcement today?) I’m thinking a series of subject-specific giveaways should keep the potty party hopping along. So let’s kick this thing off with an organic Mattress Protector Pad from Naturepedic!
If you win, you can take your pick of size (twin, full or queen) and opt in or out on the waterproof front. We’ve got the waterproof one on Kaspar’s bed (his bed is in our room, and I sleep in it with him, but… it’s still ‘his’ bed. That’s the idea, anyway). It gives him a nice, non-sweaty night’s sleep that vinyl and rubber pads won’t, and provides extra layers of organic materials between his skin/airways (he sleeps face-down, butt-up… love that) and his mattress. It also blocks dust mites and other allergens. And pee. Which is the focus of this fine giveaway series. By the way, I have not been paid to pimp this product.
Naturepedic sent me a pad so I could give it a dry (make that wet) run; I wouldn’t want to give you something lame and be a morale party pooper (you caught that, right? Pooper?). And I am, officially, a fan. The pad you get will be new, though. Not the one Kaspar's peed on. Just want to be sure we're clear. I want to mention, too, that this is a really-actually green product, and not just greenwashed for marketing.
Gotta watch out for that. The pad is free of Pthalates, Vinyl, PVC, and Latex, and is Greenguard certified
. Let’s hear it for companies caring about our kids, with an extra encore for Naturepedic for hooking you up with one of these puppies. If you win the giveaway, that is. You want to win? Here’s how it’s done:
leave a comment below with a potty training tip, anecdote, worst fear, best success… whatever goes pee in the night. Anything on-topic will do. I’ll have Aaron pick one of your names from a hat on Friday, September 9, and announce the lucky winner in the comments section, too. Don’t forget to put your email address in the comments form (it won’t be published) so that I can get in touch with you behind-the-scenes on all of the specifics (size request, etc.).
This Alt-Mama Giveaway Game is called: Who Are You People, Anyway?
I’ve been checking my traffic (kind of obsessively) since launching Alt-Mama, and I’m delighted to report that the numbers are great. I’m so glad you’re all stopping by! Thing is, we must still just be pouring the drinks at this party… Cuz for the number of you that there are hanging out here, the room is pretttty quiet. And something tells me I’m not
the only loud person here. I figure y’all must just need an ice-breaker, a proper opportunity to introduce yourselves. I, for one, would love to know who I’m talking to. I’d also love to get you talking back.
So, I’m busting out a bribe.
If it’s your first time here, welcome! If not, welcome back! Wanna play my Giveaway Game for a chance to win some sweet schwag?
Here’s how it’s done: comment on this post, and tell me something about yourself. Don’t be shy. Share with the class. Are you a mom? A blogger? An enthusiast of some kind? Whatever you feel like saying, have at it. Can be a sentence or a paragraph-- it's all good. Confessions are cool, too, if they leave you feeling lighter. No judgments in the Alt-Mama zone! I know you’re funny, smart, engaging, cool bunch, and I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
Don’t forget to put your email address in the appropriate field while commenting. No one will see it but me, and that’s how I’ll let you know if you’re one of our two lucky winners.
Wait, what? I haven’t told you what the prizes are yet? Where are my manners? Check this out: Maple Shade Kids
serves up adorable décor designs and accessories for kids’ rooms, and is run by—yeah crafty ladies!— Wanda Hirsch, mom to a ten-year-old daughter and seven-year-old identical twin boys. She discovered her talents by making items for her children’s rooms, working in her New Hampshire farmhouse… and simply kept going. She creates her beautiful wares from a combination of FSC-certified wood and rescued wood (FSC certified wood is sustainably harvested wood coming from well managed forests and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council).
I commissioned Wanda to create a shelf and a hook rack for Kaspar’s room
, and LOVE love love what she made. Everyone comments on these sweet, unique pieces. They’re instant-heirlooms. I love them (did I mention that)?
Wanda’s now generously offering two items up for you Alt-Mama readers! The first is a set of Owl Art Clips
(or the birds
, if you prefer), and the second is an 8-inch Raccoon Wall Art Collage
. Click on the highlighted words to get measurement details and multiple views.
So get to it! Drop a line in the comments and say hello! I’ll put your names into a hat and choose two winners next Tuesday, July 5th (I’ll announce the winners here and then email you directly). Good luck!