Camping with Baby

yurt camping with babyAfter three summers without s’mores or hot chocolate, we finally burst back onto the camping scene this week! How did we manage camping with a six-week-old baby and an almost-three-year old? We cheated.

Instead of pitching the tent and stringing tarps across tree trunks in case of rain, we simply rented a yurt. What is a yurt, you say? It’s a rustic shelter that makes “roughing it” outdoors a bit less rough.  Ours  housed bunk beds, a small table, and two chairs.

It means you don’t have to pack or pitch a tent—or deal with airing out wet tarps after the trip.  The yurt also provides soundproofing between you and the other campers when your baby screams at 2am. Plus, since yurts come with insulation and heat, renting one can stretch the camping season to year round here in Oregon.

It felt great to give our son a sense of the outdoors without feeling too overwhelmed by the prep or cleanup. And since we wanted to start small, we just went for one night and made it back happy and looking forward to our next mini-trip.

Have you made it outdoors this summer for a camping adventure with baby?  Please share or adventures (or misadventures) with us!  For more information on heading outside with baby, check Outdoors Baby,  a great website full of ideas for people who are far braver than we.

Composting and Preventing Food Waste With Baby

I hope you enjoy this vintage post from our early days at the Green Baby Guide.  Now that our son is nearly three we still find that we produce loads of food waste to feed our compost bin—and, eventually, our garden!

First it was the spaghetti.  Roscoe would pile heaps of noodles on his head at dinner and the make us laugh against our will as he peeked out from the pasta tendrils. Now Roscoe, always the entertainer, has come up with another coy little trick for mealtimes: spitting out food.  He pops it into his mouth, takes a few chews to savor the taste, and then just as happily lets it dribble down his chin while he goes for the next bite.  We can say our son is a comedian or a creative eater, but when dinnertime is over and the belly laughing is done, what are we supposed to do with all that food?

Families with dogs don’t ever have to ask themselves this question and probably also have much cleaner floors than we do.  Since the only thing resembling pets in our home are wilted houseplants, we depend on our compost bin to function as a food waste controller.  Rather than sending scraps to a landfill where they don’t have enough air to decompose properly, composting allows food to biodegrade and be reused as fertilizer.

We keep a plastic container (purchased at a thrift store) on our countertop and dump in all the non-dairy, non-meat waste that ends up on Roscoe’s tray at each meal.  Then, we regularly head out to our Darth Vader-shaped compost bin and dump in the latest batch.

As our years of composting continue, we’ve learned just how many things can be tossed in, including tea bags, manure from vegetarian animals, wood ashes, paper napkins, fall leaves, and grass clippings. It confounds me that the bin never fills up, no matter how many overflowing containers of scraps we load into it. We even tossed our old bank statements and paperwork into the bin this year-good old Darth managed to quickly digest it, leaving plenty of room for Roscoe’s offerings.

For those that haven’t started a compost bin yet, it’s far simpler than you might guess.  You can make your compost bin out of an old trash can and just a few other materials.  Check out this website for a video showing just how to create your bin and start composting. In warmer climates, like here in Oregon, the bin can go year round, but in more seasonal areas it’s best to start composting soon (early spring) and continue through the fall.  Compostguide.com has loads of inexpensive options for setting up your own bin plus tips for advanced composters on using worms or making “compost tea.”

In addition to composting, we’ve also tried some creative methods for cutting down on Roscoe’s food waste.  Instead of loading his tray up with too many choices, we fork over a few items at a time. This seems to cut down on the off-tray food dumping. Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama, recommends taking all those half eaten bananas (which we seem to accumulate on a daily basis) and other partially-nibbled fruits and tossing them into a Ziplock bag. She stores them in the freezer and when her kids long for a smoothie, she whips out the frozen fruit bag and dumps it into the blender.  Voila!  I suppose if I were organized enough and/or had more time, I could do the same thing with veggies and then blend them up for vitamin-packed soups and stews.

At this point in our busy lives, the compost bin remains our standby for dealing with Roscoe’s food waste.  In the spring when we pull rich dirt out of the bin for use in our garden beds, we are glad that we trooped out into the rain all winter long to dump our potato peels and carrot tops.  The top quality soil from our compost is produced at no expense AND saves us money on our garbage bill by cutting down on our monthly pickups.  That dirt manages to help us grow organic tomatoes, basil and peppers for lovely summer meals that Roscoe will likely be putting on his head instead of into his mouth.  Those scraps will again end up in the mouth of dear old Darth, our family’s favorite compost bin.

Meal Ideas for Expectant Parents

Being the parent of a newborn is a wonderful, harrowing, magical, and exhausting experience. After a sleepless night, a showerless day and several hours of baby screams, the thought of preparing dinner can be enough to make a new parent weep. That’s why anyone who has been through it knows that the best possible gift to receive is a hot meal.

I wrote a post on the importance of prepared food for new parents before my second baby arrived, but now that I’ve lived through those first few draining weeks, I have to express again just how incredible those gifts were. Plus, our friends and family came up with some great “food support strategies” that I have to share.

 

  • The freezer pack. Our friends made up several yummy meals and conveniently froze them so that we had a range of options in the freezer at all times. The pack included frozen waffles, burrito filling with tortillas, and homemade macaroni and cheese. They also brought some educational videos for us to borrow which we have been hugely helpful when we’re too exhausted to keep our two year old entertained after a sleeplenss night with our infant.
  • The dry mix pack. While my mom was here she measured out the dry ingredients for several muffins, breads and cookies. Then she put them in individual zip lock bags and listed the recipe and what still needed to be added in permanent marker. It has been so very helpful! I wrote a post long ago about this very topic here.

What are your ideas for home made meals for new parents? Have you cooked a few for new families or been lucky enough to receive some? Feel free to share your stories!

A Fan of Fans

When a new baby enters the household, parents use twenty-five percent more energy than before. They keep houses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer–“for the baby.” But it’s possible to keep you and your little one cool without turning your house into a refrigerator. First, read Joy’s article on passive cooling here. Then become a fan of fans.

Regular old box fans and ceiling fans can keep you cool by creating a nice breeze. According to PGE’s website, you can use fans along with your air conditioner and turn your thermostat up ten degrees without feeling too hot. You can also use a window fan in a north-facing windows to draw cool air in and another fan in a south-facing window to push the hot air out.

Attic fans can push that super-heated air out of your attic, making the living space feel much cooler. Find a solar-powered one and you won’t even waste energy while using it. If you have air conditioning, however, you do not need an attic fan.

Whole-house fans are installed in the ceiling and operate with the windows open. My brother and sister-in-law installed one themselves–and it really works. I watched the thermostat go down several degrees in just a few minutes after they turned it on. It works best when it’s cooler than 82 degrees outside. Use it in the mornings and evenings to keep your house cool.

Read Portland General Electric’s guidelines for cooling for even more detailed information on fans.

Recycled Posts Coming Soon!

I’m tired.   Not in the yawning way.  In the wanting-to-collapse-on-the-floor/slightly-hallucinogenic way.  I had forgotten how the combination of colic and sleepless nights felt–but now I remember!  All my fantasies about an ideal life involve being unconscious for a four hour stretch.

So instead of coming up with brilliant posts for the next few months, I shall be depending every now and then on some of our classic GBG material.  It’s from the days when only our friends and relatives were reading so it should be new to most of our readers and hopefully will remain helpful.

Thanks for understanding and for your encouragement.  I know that one day I shall sleep again.  (I also know that the day will be far, far in the future…)

No Nursery for Baby

We haven’t picked out colors, or bedding, or painted a fairy mural on the wall.  In fact, our second child has no claim to any wall–or even a room for that matter.

Why have we allowed this to happen?  After all, with our first we decorated with homemade curtains, a rocking chair and a new dresser.  What we quickly found, however, is that our son was rarely in his room.  He co-slept for the first five months and during the day spent most of his time lounging in the living room with us.  He wouldn’t nap in his crib so we wore him in a sling for snoozing or plopped him down on his baby blanket.

We’d happily move everything out to make space for our newborn if we thought she would actually use it. Our spare room is currently our office. Since we’re not sure what kind of sleeper she’ll be and how her crying will affect our two-year-old, we’ve decided to just keep her in our room for a few months and then decide what to do once we get to know her.  We’ve set up a changing table on the dresser and she’ll rest in a co-sleeper that some friends have generously lent us. 

I’m sure our decision would seem strange to some, but luckily my sister, the mother of five children, has pioneered creative accommodations in my family.  It’s impossible for most families that size to afford a six bedroom home, so she’s had babies sleep in walk-in closets, in the bathroom, and in several other creative nooks and crannies over the years.  Now that they’re older, they are all using bunk beds and sharing rooms. 

The great benefit of being more flexible with space, is that it’s possible to live in a smaller house, have less of a carbon footprint and more financial freedom.  I explored this topic quite awhile ago here.  So, if you’re expecting a little one, think outside the box about your baby’s nursery, or lack thereof.  The honest truth is that your baby won’t be aware enough to give the slightest care to where he or she sleeps.  Why not keep it simple at this stage and save up so that you’ll be able to have fun with décor later on?

How did you set up your nursery on a budget?  Or did you opt out of the nursery altogether?  I’ll keep you posted on whether I’m thrilled with our decision or think it was a horrible mistake. 

The Dish Soap Opera Continues (+ Shaklee Dish Soap Giveaway!)

You may recall my dish soap saga of last fall: First I wondered if eco-friendly dish soaps were any better than conventional ones, then I tested several greener dishwashing liquids, then I perfected my hand-washing method to use as little dish soap as possible. Finally, I offered a few alternatives to liquid dish soap.

During this quest, Green and Clean Mom contacted me, telling me I had to try the Shaklee dish soap she sells at her online store. She insisted that this dishwashing liquid would last a very long time. I was skeptical, considering some 32-ounce bottles of other brands lasted just six weeks. The Shaklee soap was in a 16-ounce bottle, which is smaller than average.

Last November, I started using the Shaklee soap. Over half a year later, I squeezed out the last drop. It lasted a whopping THIRTY-ONE weeks–almost three times longer than Planet , which I had deemed the top performer. It costs $8.10 (or $6.90 for members). This may seem like a lot, but if you look at the chart in this post, you’ll see it wouldn’t cost much more per year than Planet or Trader Joe’s dish soaps, considering how long it lasts. The best part is, you’d have to recycle just two small bottles of Shaklee soap each year–you’d go through nine bigger bottles of some other eco-brands in the same amount of time!

In addition, here are the “clean credentials” of this product:

  • Nontoxic
  • Natural
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Biodegradable
  • No phosphates

In short, I would recommend the Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash. It’s eco-friendly and super-concentrated. It also smells good and leaves dishes squeaky clean.

Do you want to try this wonder-product for free? Green and Clean Mom is giving away a bottle of the Shaklee Get Clean Dish Wash Concentrate along with a microfiber sponge. Just post a comment by Monday the 22nd and you’ll be entered to win!

This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday. For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, head on over to We Are THAT Family.

Food as Gifts for Expectant Parents

My baby’s impending birth has me thinking of those early days with our oldest child.  Even though everyone told me about the exhaustion I would experience, my husband and I were truly humbled by the fatigue we faced in those first few weeks.

The only thing that kept us going was food, provided by friends and family who knew more than we did about having a newborn baby.  I was amazed how much I needed to eat to keep up with nursing demands and also astonished by the immense challenge of showering, getting dressed or leaving the house, let alone shopping for groceries.  Cooking seemed entirely impossible. 

Luckily my mom loaded us up with fresh fruit, ready-made meals, and hand-held snacks that I could grab while nursing at 2 a.m.  Now, whenever a friend or family member is having a baby, I prepare food for them with or without being asked. 

So, if you’re expecting a baby, go ahead and ask for meals before your little one arrives.  Also, you might want to freeze some casseroles for future use.  If you know someone who will have a newborn, don’t hesitate to volunteer a meal or even set up a meal delivery schedule for them by contacting their family and friends. 

Did you have a similar experience in your first few weeks with baby?  How did you manage to stay fed?  Some of you may be far more resourceful and organized than we were!  

Budget-Friendly Solutions for Family Leave With Baby

Skip this post if you live in Canada, Denmark, Australia, France, or any one of 163 countries worldwide with paid maternity leave.  We’ll try not to think about the fact that in those nations mothers and fathers get months and sometimes even years of paid time to raise their children.  Here in the U.S., it’s tricky to be able to maneuver our maternity leave, but there are always ways to creatively find more time to spend with your baby.

Why try to take as much time as possible?  It’s not only critical to your sanity, but it often ends up being far more eco-friendly as well. My husband and I found that when we were both working we ended up using more jarred baby food, eating take-out more often, and generally spending more money on convenience items just to survive. Staying home means you’ll have the time to experiment with washing and drying cloth diapers.  Plus you’ll end up buying less and just enjoying this phase of baby’s life.

Of course the type of leave you’ll be able to take depends on what type of benefits your job offers, but here are some ideas for making the most of the system:

  • Use vacation or sick leave: One of easiest and most convenient ways to extend leave is to use up your stash of accrued time off.  If you’re pregnant or planning on being pregnant soon, try to save up as much time as is humanly possible so that you can get an extra month or two in addition to your maternity leave. 
  • Have your spouse take family leave: Although it’s is usually unpaid, you can get as much as possible if you involve your partner’s leave time as well.  If your spouse is eligible for leave or has a bit of extra vacation saved up, you can arrange your months with baby back to back so that you get the first three home and while your spouse stays home the next three.  Then you don’t have to consider daycare for at least six months and you both get some individual bonding time with baby.
  • Spread out your time over baby’s first year: Depending on your job, you can get creative with part time work.  With my first son, I had saved up almost six months of sick leave time after working for over ten years.  I took six weeks off right when he was born and then went back half time after that for a few months.  When he was six months old, I worked three half time and two full time days for the rest of the year.  I blew through all of my sick leave, but never had to take any unpaid days.  Although it was tough going back at six weeks, it was worth it to get to have that much time with him over the course of the year.  

If you’re looking for more advice, read last week’s post for tips on how to negotiate with your workplace, present a plan to your supervisor, and hold onto your family time.  Some of you ended up never going back to work. We’d love to hear what you’ve found to be the best part of staying home or negotiating a work solution that’s ideal for your family.

Thanks for joining us week for Thrifty Green Thursday!  If you have an idea about how to save money and the planet, please read this page to see how to add your link below.  

Getting Enough Protein on a Vegetarian Diet

According to Meatless Mondays, Americans eat 100-200% of the recommended daily allowance of  protein.  Too much protein can cause liver disease and osteoporosis. 

Here are some easy ways to get the protein you need:

  • Enjoy animal products other than meat (in moderation).  One egg has 6 grams of protein, an ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams, and a cup of 2% milk contains 8 grams.  Watch out, though–many dairy products are high in fat, and some cheeses cost more than meat.
  • Use whole-grain products.  Barilla Plus pasta contains 17 grams of protein per serving–10 more grams than regular pasta.  A cup of whole wheat flour has four more grams of protein than white flour.
  • Think beans.  Add chickpeas (21 grams of protein per cup) to salads or blend them into hummus.  Throw some black beans in salsa or into a burrito.  Edamame–soybeans still in their pods–make a high-protein snack at sushi bars, and they’re available frozen in many supermarkets.
  • Go nuts.  Add to salads and stir-fries or eat a handful.  One cup of almonds boasts 27 grams of protein!
  • Don’t discount tofu, seitan, and other vegetarian staples.  A pound of firm tofu has 72 grams of protein and costs just a dollar or two.

Yes, it is possible to get enough protein without biting into a cow or pig.  Do you have any other ideas for beefing up (heh heh) the protein in your meat-free diet?  Let us know!