It's real love between them.
Red wine, you've got competition.
I have a new toy. It’s a juicer. It’s ousted my food processor as my most favored kitchen appliance, and it only cost me $30 (well, actually, almost $50 if you count the first one I bought from that died on its first run, and I never got around to returning… sometimes inexpensive does actually just mean cheap). I’ve been using it almost every day for a month, sometimes twice, and it’s still going strong converting mounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible ephemera into frothy technicolor deliciousness.

I actually owned a juicer once before. It was my only late-night infomercial purchase ever (okay fine, a mineral makeup commercial once sold me hard, but I didn’t actually buy the brand that was advertised… I shopped around). It was a Jack Lalanne version that cost far more—even in 1997 or whatever it was then—than my recent purchase, and my parents made me return it because it was a pain in the ass to clean. Not so with my new one. Ain’t nobody sending this baby back.

Its purchase was inspired in part by a film that my friend Colette recommended I watch on Netflix streaming, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” As we all know, I am already an organic, local food freak so I generally skip over the food documentary titles (seeing how most Americans eat just gives me bad dreams at night). But Colette said this film made her cry, and embarked on a thirty day juice fast of her own as soon as she finished watching it. As Aaron and I flipped through possible movie selections a few nights later, I suggested that we watch it. He agreed, without enthusiasm. He even pulled the New Yorker off of an end table to thumb through while “watching” with me. But by about mid-way into the movie, he hadn’t so much as opened the mag. It’s not that the film is either expertly made or even at all unpredictable. It’s just that seeing people heal themselves (and return from “nearly dead,” for real… think 400 pound depressed, diabetic trucker alone in a beach house for a week with a juicer) through simple lifestyle and nutrition changes is amazing. Don’t tell him I told you, but Aaron got a little choked up, too.

So then I got this book, Juicing, Fasting and Detoxing for Life, which rubbed me entirely the wrong way in its introduction (the author, Cherie Calbom, refers to all women as “this lady”… switch it up, already!) but had me thoroughly engrossed by Chapter One. Calbom details—and I mean details—each of the body’s major organ systems (totally helpful as I was making my way through an Anatomy and Pathology class at the time) and how to systematically cleanse each one. To be honest, I was a little wary of this whole line of thinking before I read the book; the word ‘cleanse’ just conjures images in my mind of anorexic Hollywood starlets… nothing healthy about that. But it makes sense to me that our organs that spend all of our lives filtering metabolic waste could really use a thorough cleaning themselves, sometimes, just like the various filters in our homes and cars. If our organs function efficiently, metabolic misfires will be less likely. But beyond staving off disease (or, as Cambom testifies to, curing it), efficient function also equates to more energy availability for other things. Like everyday life. And I can use as much of that as I can get.

Click Read More below for the rest of the post!

Long Live Life on Earth
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!

Keep looking at me like that and I'll tell you the story of your day as many times in a row as you want me to. 
Kaspar likes his yogurt with a "hon-eeey" heart.
Sorry for my little leave of absence, readers. This week has been a beast (but I’m still rockin’ it! Have no fear). Our move was successful and is almost complete—a few things remain in our apartment that still need to be brought over—and I’ve lovingly dubbed our new house “Le Swankgasm.” That pretty much sums it up; post-apartment living is all it’s chalked up to be. We’re still in semi-camping mode, but once we’re unpacked and fully furnished, I’ll give you the grand photo tour.  

Meanwhile, which is to say just in time for the move, Kaspar caught some nondescript germs that sent him into a full seven days of 101-and-change fevers (which we kept in check with Tylenol) and copious amounts of snot, followed by coughing. Which meant no school for him, and more juggling for us. Very little sleep for all involved. We were told his ‘cold’ was viral, but when it didn’t improve by one week and counting, we went back to the pediatrician and came home with an antibiotics scrip. Sinus infection. Good times.

We  generally try to skip antibiotics; they take good bacteria out with the bad, and a kid with a food allergy pedigree like Kaspar’s needs the most balanced belly he can get. They’re also rumored to contribute to a major long-term Superbug problem, which is worth noting, but not my focus for today. In the case of Kaspar’s snot and coughing, the drugs performed a minor miracle; Kaspar went back to school yesterday, and slept through the night last night… which should perhaps be attributed to his running around at school above taking the meds, but either way, I was grateful. I’ve been in massage classes every day, plus swinging by my office to take care of things there, and jamming out that freelance project I mentioned a week ago (there’s still time to throw in on that, for those of you I haven’t yet heard from. And many thanks to those of you I have!). I’m loving doing massage, appreciative that my job is so flexible, and enjoying the extra project (maybe not so much at 1 AM, but I’ll enjoy the new couch it will buy, and the editor is a total joy). Sleep plays a significant role in my keeping all of this together, though. Without it, I show up in the wrong place at the wrong time and am extra impatient in traffic. So, thank you, antibiotics, primarily for making Mister Kaspar comfortable again, but also for hooking me up with some shut-eye. I was missing it so.

Now that everyone’s feeling human again (what? You just heard Aaron cough in the next room? Yeah, me too…), I’m being proactive and pumping Kaspar full of probiotics to help his intestines along. I give him probiotic supplements as a matter of course, and, this week, he’s eating yogurt like it’ll soon be internationally banned. He loves the stuff, and while he can’t tolerate straight milk (it gives him hives on his chest), yogurt is A-okay. I think that’s because it’s partially digested by the beneficial yogurt-hosted bacteria or something—the same bacteria that help offset the potentially harmful digestive effects of antibiotic drugs. Doesn’t that work out nicely?

As it happens, I like to make yogurt. It’s easy. In fact, it makes itself while I sleep ("sleep"). And, I told you last week that I’d share my method with you. This is me delivering. Better late than never!

Click Read More below for details on covert raw milk procurement, and my super-slacker yogurt-making method!

Our new house is finished, and we're moving tomorrow! We've reserved a 16-foot U-Haul, which we'll fill with our boxes (and whatever hasn't yet made its way into boxes) and navigate around the weekend's music festival traffic, finally pulling into our very own driveway. Walking through our new front door.

I've been lucky in my apartments over the years. I've managed to evade roommates and vermin, and to secure places that really suited me as 'home' for the times I inhabited them. I hardly spent any time in my first apartment, in Western Massachusetts, which I rented towards the end of my college career (against the school's residential policy, but... 'fuck that noise' was, I believe, my specific sentiment toward policy at the time). But just having a space to retreat to, and to host guests and parties in, felt like a long-awaited relief to me then. I'd spent as long as I could remember vying for privacy and unqualified independence in my living situation. Getting, and paying for, that apartment marked the moment that I really took my life on as my own (thankyouverymuch). Frankly, too, my life was plenty ready for me. And I for it. Things flowed pretty smoothly from there ('policy' and I got along better, too).

I moved to upper Manhattan about a year later, and my apartment featured bay windows that looked out from a high ledge over two overlapping roadways and, beyond those, the Hudson river. When it snowed, I'd soak in hot baths and look out at the lights-- flowing along the highways like molten lava, and sparkling across the water from New Jersey-- and feel like I was floating in some kind of undiscovered urban spring. When it was warm, I'd run across the George Washington bridge to the opposite shore, and look back at New York City, squint, pinpoint my place in its matrix. I worked in Midtown, though, and everything that was really happening seemed to be happening in Brooklyn, so when Aaron and I realized we were WE, as in permanently (and that my lease was coming up for renewal), we found our little Williamsburg railroad and brought all of our things there together in his van.

Our building in W'burg.
Our Brooklyn apartment was 'cozy' and quirky. We painted, we furnished, we lived there. I can still walk the neighborhood in my mind. We decided, during our first holiday season, to eschew family Christmas gatherings and travel, and to stay in our little landing pad instead. We bought a flat-screen TV (we'd been watching DVDs on my laptop until that point) and a Wii, and ordered pizza. It was awesome. That was the apartment in which I fell asleep during the elections, and awoke to Aaron whispering "Barack Obama is the President of the United States" in my ear. It's the apartment we brought Kaspar home to, "The Prince of Powers Street." I know I bitched about the tiny bathroom and our nosy upstairs neighbor, but in some ways when I think of home, that's the home I think of. Still. I know if we went back there, though, it wouldn't be home anymore.

Austin is starting to feel like home now, more and more every day. It's less a matter of living quarters than of an expanding circle of people with whom we are connected and care about, by way of just living our lives. This apartment we're leaving tomorrow has been our base for just over a year, and I've appreciated it for its location (food carts, five minutes away, in all four directions? Check.), for its closets, for its pool, for its neighbors ('World Traveler Tom' brings us green chile from New Mexico, and European souvenirs, in exchange for our checking his mail). I won't miss its popcorn ceilings, its thin walls, or some of our other neighbors (most notably the meth-head couple who leave trash all over the shared walkways, and recently drove their car into six others in the parking lot... true story), but that's mostly because I'm ready-- we're ready-- for a house. We knew we weren't going to stay in the apartment. And we've come really far since we arrived. We moved in feeling rather uprooted; our baby was sick, our friends were far away. Everything kept moving, though, and here we are today. Our lives are good, and full, and we know our surrounding streets and customs in a way that visitors don't. We know we'll live in the new house for at least a few years, too. Once again, or finally, we are arriving home.

In the Bk apartment with Kaspar (5 months). Home is wherever this guy happens to be.
I'm working on a batch of features (freelance style) for a big-deal parenting website this week and next, and I need some good mom input and quotes to make these pieces purr. Wanna play?? If you have a blog, I can totally include a link to it-- huge traffic boost, guaranteed. And if you don't have a blog, you can still feel all nice n' fancy seeing your name in the big lights (or the small laptop screen...) when the content goes live. We can conduct our little exercise over a low-maintenance email exchange; this won't be time consuming, but will be kinda fun. So if you're up for being 'interviewed', go ahead and drop me a line through the contact page here on Alt-Mama. I'm on a tight deadline, so I'll get back to you pronto, and get the ball rolling. Can't wait to work your perspectives into my, well, work. Thanks y'all!

You’ve surely discerned by now that we’re a vegetable-friendly family. I love exploring and experimenting with what’s in season, and am forever impressed by veggies' versatility. You can do amazing things with pumpkins, potatoes and peas. Vegetables kind of taught me to cook, actually; I was a vegan for about five years, back in the day, and developed my familiarity with cooking tools and techniques by devouring one cookbook after the next in the interest of feeding myself (and my peeps... vegans tend to travel in packs, as you may have noticed). Now, food politics can be touchy, so I'll just put it out there up front-- in case the title of this post wasn't clear enough—that I am no longer a vegan. Not even a little (we can still be friends if you are, though). My own ethics of eating have evolved since college to include the consumption of fish and meat, combined in moderate balance with other local fresh things.

In fact, the ‘local’ element is, for me— as my information base around all of this has grown— now the most important factor in deciding what lands on my plate. I became a vegan because I love animals, and didn’t want to participate in the suffering or environmental (not to mention social) destruction that factory farming and large-scale food production create. When it comes right down to it, though, I don’t have a problem with eating animals, specifically, and eating animals doesn’t necessarily contribute to those destructive trends.  The provenance of meat (and vegetables) makes all the difference on that score. So while I’m not ruled by ideology—my passions around food still revolve around cooking for a crowd, and food culture (an inclusive approach)—I do what I can to seek out and eat what I like to call “happy meat.” Hormones, antibiotics and stress do not nourish animals, and those animals therefore can’t nourish us optimally. Fresh air, sunshine, and a wild and satisfying life make for the happiest, healthiest animals, food and people.

Buying vegetables locally is easy. Farmers markets are everywhere, and seasonal produce is generally less expensive (and, um, WAY more delicious) than what you’ll find in the grocery store. Most farmer’s markets offer meats, cheeses and other specialty foods, too, but these items break the bank if you’re shopping on a budget. One simple solution is to eat meat sparingly, making meals heavy on whole grains and vegetables, with samplings of meat here and there (this is common in most Asian cultures… And as a side note, my acupuncturist encourages me to eat meat, noting that TCM favors balance above all), or to eat meat-based main courses only a few times a week. Buying a twenty dollar chicken is more doable this way. Thing is, Kaspar’s allergic to all but a few vegetables and fruits at this point, so we rotate those regularly (he eats veggies at every meal), and otherwise feed him meat. Meat he can do.

Read about my amazing local meat-source discoveries, and how I almost skinned a buffalo, by clicking on "read more" below.

Yesterday's Facebook status update:

"Picked Kaspar up from his first day without me at daycare. Turned onto William Cannon and saw a deer running on the median strip. Tried to get into the next lane as it jumped into the road, straight into my car. Shattered my driver's window and blew the passenger doors open (impact, I guess). Window stayed in the frame, making Rice Krispies noises, and I pulled over and called 911. K and I are both fine. Car is not so fine. Deer died in the road. Kas keeps talking about it ("Derrrrr?"). ...So that was our morning."