What’s Your Favorite Baby Food Book?

We wrote about making your own organic baby food in the Eco-nomical Baby Guide. Most DIY baby food enthusiasts know about Super Baby Food, which Joy reviewed once upon a time. Do you have a favorite baby food book—or do you rely on the Internet for recipes? Or do you just wing it? (After all, pureeing yams is not exactly a complicated culinary skill to master.)

Speaking of baby food recipe books—we’re giving away Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler. Go to our giveaway post, comment on it, and you’re entered to win!

Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler Review and Giveaway

Homemade baby food became somewhat of a hobby for me. I don’t think my daughter had more than three or four jars of store-bought food, and I smiled smugly when she rejected it in favor of my delectable concoctions of ground oats, flax seeds, and kale. (That smugness has since faded: See the Any Brilliant Ideas for Picky Eaters? post!)

As obsessed as I was with making my own homemade baby food, I could have used this incredible book: Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby & Toddler by Jeannette L. Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner of Real Food Moms. Their guide goes way beyond my boring purees, with more than 150 recipes and snack ideas for babies and kids under three. Many of the recipes sound delicious for adults, too—zucchini cupcakes with mascarpone frosting, veggie pancakes, pasta with pesto and garbanzo beans, creamy choco-banana smoothie. And don’t worry—there are still plenty of recipes for “traditional” baby fare such as teething biscuits, grain cereals, and apple sauce.

The book also includes tips for establishing good eating routines, information on organic foods and vegetarian diets, and a comprehensive list of whole foods companies and products.

Would you like a copy of Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby and Toddler? I have one to giveaway to a lucky winner!

You can enter up to three times! Just post a comment for each entry by Monday, November 1st.

Three Ways to Enter the Giveaway:

1. Simply post a comment

2. Like us on Facebook (then tell us you did it in the comments)

3. Spread the news about the giveaway! Email someone, post it on Facebook, tweet it, blog it, or send someone a message about it via carrier pigeon. (And again, don’t forget to tell us all about it in the comments!)

Good luck!

Congratulations to Mary, winner of the BornFree straw cup giveaway!

Last Minute Green Halloween Tips

If you’re like most of us, you’re scrambling to handle those last minute Halloween decorating and costume creation challenges.  We’ve put together a quick list of some great green Halloween tips for your festivities that are easy and cheap!

If you’re hosting a Halloween party this year, Rebecca has a lineup of simple and elegant Halloween crafts.  You may want to cut out a DIY Halloween spiderweb, or if you’re feeling less ambitious, you can make a DIY Paper Jack-O-Lantern with your little one in a matter of minutes.  There’s nothing quite as simple and spooky as the vintage DIY simple paper spider in its web from last year’s post.

Still haven’t picked up that Halloween candy?  There are several Organic and Eco-Friendly Halloween treats to choose from, or you could fill a bowl with coins, marbles, crayons, stickers and decorative band-aids and let the kids pick their own loot.

Simple DIY Halloween costumes can be the best part of the whole celebration!  They’re especially fun when you’re choosing family themed Halloween costumes or creating last minute baby Halloween costumes. If you want to get some laughs out of your pregnancy check out our list of DIY Maternity Halloween costumes.

How is your Halloween planning going this year?  Are your spiderwebs in the windows?  Are your costumes all set?  Please share!

Selling Back your Baby Gear: When Best Intentions Go Awry

I had it all planned out: I’d buy high quality baby gear, treat everything like a museum piece, then sell it back for top dollar a few years later. In our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide, we advocate this approach. “An heirloom toy will be used by generations of babies because of the quality of its construction and workmanship,” we say. Then we remind you of the resale value of all your top-notch baby doodads.

The Maclaren strollergood for resale?

Now that my daughter is four and a half, I am sure you are all wondering just how this little plan paid off. Well, the theory was sound. But years out of babyhood, and I’ve still neglected to make so much as a dime on my so-called “quality baby gear.” What happened to those good intentions?

  • I locked my beloved stash of cloth diapers in a fireproof vault—these things are like GOLD in the current economy. Why, a Chinese prefold costs as little as $1.25 new and has the amazing resale value of $1. We’re talking about used diapers, mind you! Mere rags! I could fund Audrey’s college education if I put these things in a high-earning money market account today. What happened? I lent them out to friends. I’m looking into a tax deduction for 2010.
  • After searching all over Craigslist without any luck, we coughed up $170 for a dresser/changing table at IKEA. What happened? It literally fell apart (as in, several pieces) within years. I guess that’s what I get for not following my own advice. Of course, back in 2006, I hadn’t advised myself that yet.
  • The Maclaren Triumph stroller did feel like a splurge. At the time it cost $119. A cheap umbrella stroller can be found for $10, but I just knew I’d get a lot of use out of the Triumph. What happened? Four years later, I’m still pushing my daughter around in the stroller. At this rate, I’m really not sure I’d be able to sell it for much, even if I did want to get rid of it. It works just as well as it ever did, but it really looks as though it’s had a tough life. At least I got my money’s worth out of that “heirloom purchase!”

Have you had better luck reselling your baby gear? Tell us all about it!

Breastfeeding Support for New Moms: Our Top Lactation Posts

After hours of labor, I always assumed that I would nestle my new baby to my breast where he would quickly suckle and then fall into an eight hour slumber.  Instead, breastfeeding a newborn was a tricky business for the first few months.  I only wish I would have had the resources we’ve compiled over the years at Greenbabyguide.com.

Low breastmilk supply can be a major issue, especially when rest and fluid intake are so hard to keep up in the early days.  Why not have someone whip you up a batch of homemade lactation cookies, or “milk making cookies” to boost your breastmilk supply?

If you’re new to breastfeeding and are wondering how you can possibly nurse baby on the go , we have a post on the most bizarre breastfeeding locations our readers have come up with.  Plus we have an interview with a new mom who breastfed despite a  lack of family support.

What are the best breastfeeding snacks to try when you’re hungry at all hours of the day and night?  There are, of course, a few foods that you’ll want to avoid if exhaustion is making breastfeeding difficult. And of course, there are the hidden costs of breast feeding (mostly in the form of pastries and lattes!).

Going back to work can packed with challenges.  The transition from breast to a bottle can be wrenchingly difficult for your baby, while pumping breast milk at work can be hard at first for you. If you’re worried about breast milk leaking on your clothes, check out our review of wool nursing pads.

If you’ve considered extended breastfeeding and wanted to hear other opinions on breastfeeding toddlers or are wondering how to publicly breastfeed distractible tots, we’ve got that covered too!

Most important of all for new moms who are in the first and hardest stage of breastfeeding, is our Saturday question post from long ago that asked, “Was breastfeeding worth it?”  Thirty three women responded with thoughtful, inspiring comments.

Where are you in your breastfeeding journey?  We’d love to hear your stories!

What are your favorite cloth diaper shops?

Cloth diaper shops abound on the Internet–but what about in real life? Does your town have a brick and mortar shop that sells cloth diapers? If so, give them a little shout out here! (Stay tuned–we may work at creating a cloth diaper shop directory some time in the future!)

Mother Nature’s in Portland carries cloth diapers. They also hosted our first book signing for The Eco-nomical Baby Guide!

Our Favorite DIY Halloween Costumes of 2010

We asked our readers what their favorite DIY Halloween costume ideas were, and they delivered!  How will they outfit those trick-or-treaters this year?

Pair of dice. Cut head and arm holes in boxes. Paint them or wrap them in white paper, add some black dots. (Thanks, Brittany!)

The world. Use old boxes to make a sandwich board that fits over the shoulders. Paint it. Attach planets, the sun, and the moon made from cardboard scraps onto a headband. (Thank you, Lauren!)

Fairy. Scavenge around the house for materials! Lauren’s daughter will wear a tutu over a onesie and sweatpants. Felt will cover her shoes, transforming them into fairy shoes. Make a wand out of a stick, ribbons, and paint. Fashion wings out of hangers and old tights. The final touch? A crown made from fake flowers.

Baseball player. If your child refuses to wear a store-bought get-up, just use one of his outfits that can approximate a costume! Ali transformed her son into a baseball player by dressing him in a baseball jersey and sweat suit he already had in his closet.

These last three are from Eileen:

The Wind. Use strong hair gel to make your child look like he’s caught in a wind tunnel. Add silver and blue streaks and a cloud. Attach some fabric to wire to stream behind him.

Classic ghost. It doesn’t get simpler than this! Cut eye holes in a white sheet for a retro Halloween look. (Check out the detailed instructions over on Kaboose.)

Spider. Here are Eileen’s instructions: Black turtleneck, black sweatpants, 4 lengths of pipe insulation (very cheap at hardware store) either painted black or, in our case, wrapped in black velour. Make the pipe insulation the length of his arms and attach it (sewing will be the most secure but hot glue will work too) to the side seams of the shirt. string them together and to his wrists and elbows so that when he lifts his arms, 6 of the spider legs go up (number 7 and 8 are his legs). I attached some big eyes to a black ski cap. Finally, we looked at spider markings in a book we found in the library and we used bright green duct tape (reflective tape, even better) to make spider markings on the back and legs for visibility.

Need more ideas? Check out these vintage posts:

Family Halloween Costumes

DIY Halloween Costumes for Kids and Babies

Last Minute DIY Halloween Costumes for Babies and Kids

More Fabulous DIY Maternity Halloween Costumes

My $1 Maternity Halloween Costume

The $2 Baby Pumpkin Halloween Costume

Happy costuming!

Worn Cloth Diapers: Embarrassment or Achievement?

Are your cloth diapers disintegrating before your eyes?  Do you pull a larger lump of lint out of the dryer with every cycle?  Are you a bit ashamed to send those raggedly cloth diapers off to daycare?  You’re not alone!

My small batch of cloth diapers has seen some serious wear and probably kept thousands of disposable diapers from the landfills.  I bought them secondhand from a cloth diaper service, used them with Roscoe, lent them to a friend for her two children, used them with Jovi, and then passed them onto another baby.  Wow!  I have to confess they were looking a little tired by the end, but I also knew that concerns about their appearance were a little silly considering that their only purpose was to soak up her waste.  All that wear had softened them up quite nicely and while I was a bit embarrassed at times, I knew that she’d only be using that size for a matter of months.

How could I have kept the diapers in better shape?  By avoiding bleach.  When I first started cloth diapering I didn’t realize that you could use things like Bac Out or hydrogen peroxide to clean diapers and eliminate odors.  I also didn’t know that smelly diapers could need to be stripped by washing them in a few loads of hot water without soap.  (By the way, our book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet is PACKED with dozens of cloth diaper care tips we wish we would have known about years ago!)

Jovi is now in the next size of diapers, which are in much better shape, and the most worn diapers have made it into our rag pile.  Those that were mostly intact are now diapering another baby.  I have to say that it thrills me that cloth diapers really don’t hit the trash until they are in shreds, while disposables head there after just one use.

Are you using diapers that are a bit worn?  Have you suffered from diaper embarrassment?  Did you buy your diapers secondhand?  Please share with other parents who may be in the same boat!

A Creepy, Crawly DIY Halloween Craft: Another Paper Spider in Its Web

Last year I dazzled you with my Paper Spider. (Not to brag or anything, but this easy Halloween craft was showcased on the French website Bulbinblue earlier this month!) What crafty goodness do I have in store for you this year? Another, different paper spider. A creepier, crawlier paper spider:

Here’s how you do it:

1. Fold a white, square piece of paper in half, making a triangle

2. Fold it in half again

3. Fold that in thirds

4. Cut the top off at an angle

5. Draw a web pattern as shown

6. Cut out the web

7. Fold a piece of black paper in half and cut out a spider

8. Unfold the web, hang it on the window, stick the spider on it, and shiver in fright!

Green Halloween Harvest Traditions: The Family Pumpkin Patch Visit

When the autumn air reaches the perfect crispness and the light through the yellowing leaves is angled just right, I know it’s time for our yearly Halloween family tradition, a trip to the local pumpkin patch. We have visited a large local farm every year in mid-October to pick our fall pumpkins straight from the field, ride the horse cart, and munch on sugar coated appleasauce doughnuts while the chickens peck at our feet.

Since this fall tradition started before we even had kids, we have great memories of tromping through the mud all the way out to the pumpkin field because we couldn’t afford the hay rides while my husband was in graduate school.  Years later, we remember bundling Roscoe up in his thrift shop pumpkin suit and clumsily adapting to a family outing with a one-month-old baby. Isn’t he the grumpiest pumpkin baby you’ve ever seen?

Notice the bags under our eyes as we try to squint into the blinding sun on just a few hours of sleep.  Ahh… good times!

Roscoe came to appreciate the patch a bit more when he turned two and started hiking out across the field.

Last year Jovi was with us for the first time and we suited her up in Roscoe’s old Halloween costume for the occasion.

This year’s visit was by far my favorite as Jovi happily toddled over pumpkin vines and Roscoe identified the make and model of all the tractors on the farm.  Plus, we’re not nearly as tired as in years past!  I’m laughing hysterically here because my husband has balanced the camera on a nearby pumpkin and then hurdled over squash to be by our side by the time the flash goes off.

So beyond the good memories, why is this a beneficial activity when you could just plunk a pumpkin in the grocery cart and call it good? For one, autumn harvest visits are a huge source of income for local farms. Even though you may be splurging a bit on the hayrides and apple cider, that money goes straight back into the farm to grow produce in your local area. (Our favorite is Thistledown Farm which is less than twenty minutes from our house.) We also pick up fresh sweet corn, onions, squash and other farm fresh produce while we’re there.

Of course, it must be impossible to have this experience in some locations. (I’m thinking Florida, Alaska, Hawaii…. but I could be wrong!) Do you visit a local farm in your area to pick a pumpkin? What makes it worthwhile for you? Any other autumn family traditions you’d like to share?