The Best (and Worst) Products for Making Baby Food

I’ve always wanted to be one of those minimalist cooks who owns nothing more than a good knife and one skillet.  After years of acquiring every kitchen gadget and appliance under the sun (including, but not limited to, a crepe maker, stand mixer, hand mixer, waffle iron, and panini press), I finally had to admit that I’m actually a kitchen maximalist.  The upside of this is that I didn’t have to run out and buy anything for my baby-food making needs. 

Below you’ll find my review of every conceivable food-masher known to home cooks.  Needless to say, it makes the most sense to start with what you already own and purchase something only if what you have doesn’t work.  I’d also recommend buying something that you’ll use in the kitchen for years, even after baby’s palate has matured.
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Downsizing Domestic Dreams: How Much House Does Baby Need?

When winter hit this year, the walls of our small house seemed to close in with the darkness and cold.  Listening to updates about lowering interest rates and the drop in housing prices, I was suddenly hit by a wave of cramped angst.  Should we consider searching for a larger house before our family grows beyond our square footage?  The thought of going to open houses with a precocious toddler in tow was enough to make me nauseous. (And no, I’m not pregnant.) Below, Roscoe contemplates a new home and the concept of snow.

baby-and-snow.jpgSo I started to evaluate why we were thinking about purchasing another home.  My first reaction was that our son needed more room.  Together my husband and I wrote a list of all the things we would love in a future house.  We imagined a living room and a family room for Roscoe to play in with an ultra-efficient gas fireplace.  I envisioned a kitchen full of windows and long countertops to undertake summer canning events and large homemade meals. A huge row of solar panels and a solar hot water heater would be the icing on our dream-house cake. 

Then it dawned on us–-only one of the items on our list really involved our son-and to be honest, he has no idea that we’re missing a family room.  All the other details on the list were our housing fantasies.  Was it possible that we were inadvertently giving into social pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” by moving up into another house?  After all, Roscoe seems to be perfectly content with our home.  He especially enjoys the bathtub. 

bath-baby.jpgCoral Serene Anderson’s article “Towards the Ecology of the Home,” posted here on our site, helped put things into perspective. Her family of three happily contemplated moving into a home with just 400-some square feet. Hmm… All of a sudden our living space of around 1,000 square feet became rather luxurious. Then I looked into how house sizes have changed over the last fifty years, and was astonished (and validated) by the data.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 1950 the average new single-family home was just 953 square feet.  AND family sizes were larger than they are today!  By 1970 it had jumped to 1500 square feet and by 1990 it had made it just over 2,000 square feet. The NPR article on the exploding increase in home sizes has some excellent information.   Although we didn’t intentionally think about our carbon footprint when purchasing our small and affordable home, the limited square footage has also shrunken our annual emissions and kept our utility bills low.  We need less than half the energy to heat and light our home than the average 2349 square foot American house.  In the summer we’re shaded by a giant maple tree that provides all our air conditioning.   A small, enclosed entryway provides solar heat in the spring and fall and keeps the warm air inside during the winter. 

Because we opted for a small house, we can afford to live in an area that is within walking distance to shopping and parks–and my husband can bike to work for more than half of the year.  The cost savings in taxes, commuting, energy consumption, and house payments has provided us with the freedom to cut back on our work hours to spend valuable time with our baby. 

dad-and-baby-read1.jpgOur cozy home has kept our family quite comfortable-even with all the gear that a new baby brings to the picture.  In fact, our limited space is a great consideration when it comes to accumulating baby paraphernalia.  We don’t buy it unless we’re willing to trip over it. There’s no need for gates simply because Roscoe isn’t ever far enough away to get into too much trouble. (Well, most of the time!)

 So, have I become proud of my tiny house?  A little.  Also, I’ve learned that with some bundling we can easily get beyond these walls and spend time outside, with friends, or touring the supermarket on toddling legs. And while we’re here, I appreciate the fact that I’m never more than a few feet away from my favorite people. 

Last-minute Eco-friendly Valentine’s Day Creations

My daughter is attending her very first Valentine’s Day party today.  Ah–what is more romantic than a room full of toddlers exchanging cards and eating heart-shaped cookies?  The party hostess, Audrey’s daycare provider, gave us a list a couple weeks ago with the names of the children in attendance on Valentine’s Day.  Of course I immediately went to work making chocolate-covered cherries, composing personal poems for each child, and cutting out doilies and foil hearts.

All right, I didn’t really make candy or pen sonnets–how could I, when I left everything to the last possible moment?  I did manage to create my own last-minute Valentines rather than buying a box at the store.  A few days ago I saw a woman on television demonstrating how to make some easy eleventh-hour Valentines.  She threaded a tissue through a hole in a cut-out heart and wrote “Ah-cho-choose you” on the top.  I don’t know . . . unless I used 100% post-consumer recycled tissue, I just wouldn’t feel right about giving Audrey’s daycare friends this Valentine.  (Although, on second thought, who needs a tissue more than a little tyke in the dead of winter?)
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The Homemade Nursery: Eco-friendly Decorations for Baby’s Room

According to Denise and Alan Field’s Baby Bargains, the average American spends $1800 outfitting a nursery—that includes a crib, mattress, dresser, rocker, bedding, and décor.  I managed to spend just $245.  How did I do it?  Well, I did get a lot of stuff for free, thanks to the generosity of friends and family.  I also simply avoided buying all of the nursery “must-haves” on the market, such as a rocker.  My daughter’s room may not look like something you’d find in the pages of Architectural Digest, but it has a certain cozy appeal to it.

Homemade Nursery

Much of the eclectic charm comes from homemade creations.  My daughter received beautiful quilts and blankets from her grandmothers and great-grandmother.  They make great nursery decorations—I hung the quilt my cousin Lindsay made on the wall for all to admire.  My daughter will treasure all of these hand-sewn blankets as she grows up.  After all these years, I still have the baby blanket my grandma made for me when I was born.  Homemade items become keepsakes, making them greener than store-bought goods.
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Green Maternity Fashion

One of the downsides—or upsides, depending on your perspective—of pregnancy is that it requires a brand new wardrobe. The average woman spends $1200 on maternity and nursing clothes. This seems like a lot for clothing you’ll wear just a month or two before you have to go up another size. If you hunt around for tips on saving money on maternity clothes, the two big ones you’ll see again and again are 1. Borrow maternity clothes from friends, and 2. Wear your husband’s clothes. The great thing about these tips is that they not only save you a bundle of cash—they’re also eco-friendly alternatives to shelling out over a grand on barely-worn garments.
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The Gift Wrap that Keeps on Wrapping

What would Christmas morning be without festive wrapping paper and fancy bows? (“It’s about peace and love and the birth of our Savior!” you answer.) Okay, but stick with me here. I’m talking about every kid’s much-awaited vision of Christmas morning. Will my daughter grow up deprived if I deny her the tearing-up-the-gift-wrap experience that is every American child’s birthright? Oh, she’ll have Christmas gifts aplenty—but this year, I’ve devised some eco-friendly alternatives to disposable gift wrap. If I start this practice before she’s speaking in full sentences, it should be easy, and she’ll never know what she’s missing.
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