Parenting pregnancy Uncategorized

The Registry: What I Actually Needed From Birth to 4 Months

Making my baby registry made me feel uncomfortable.  I don’t like to ask for things and we were borrowing almost all the essentials from friends who had young children.  I felt like we didn’t need anything.  Looking back I can see that there were things we needed, and we were surrounded by a network of family and friends who wanted to, and got pleasure from, giving something to our new baby.  The registry helped them pick something out that we actually needed and would use!

Now that our baby is on his way to becoming a toddler, I can look back and identify the things we actually needed and used for the first few months.  Of course, each family and baby are going to have different desires, home environments, and temperaments, which will affect what things are desired when welcoming a new baby into the home.  Here’s what was useful for us (literally everything we used – hope it’s not too overwhelming!):

Leading up to Labor: Gift givers: These are some of the most important gifts!!  Many people like to give things, but encouraging the soon-to-be mama to take care of herself will pay off many times over.  Chiropractic (look for someone who is familiar with the Webster Technique), Acupuncture, and Prenatal Massage appointments will help prepare her body for a smooth labor and transition to motherhood.

Books: I loved overhearing this quote (though I unfortunately don’t know it’s source) when in the throes of third trimester baby and labor research and reading: “Read your child, not a book.”  Though this is an important sentiment to keep in mind, I definitely benefited from the wisdom of several books as I approached my due date:

  • The First Forty Days (A helpful guide, with a focus on food, to a nourishing and healing approach to the very first days after birth).
  • The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (I didn’t read ahead of time, but appreciated having it around to browse and reference in the early days of breastfeeding).
  • Aware Baby (We didn’t find this book until later, but if I could go back in time, I would have read it before baby, and re-read it after).
  • On The Way To Walking, or any other Natural Movement Development information such as this article (There are so many opportunities to hinder babies’ natural movement development in our society.  Being mindful of the main ideas of “Natural Movement Development” will give you the knowledge to allow your baby’s body to develop in a balanced strong way that will benefit them throughout their life).
  • The Baby Book (Has it all… like an encyclopedia for all things baby).
  • The Vaccine Friendly Plan (Ugh, vaccines have become such a loaded topic.  Do not go to the internet for advice!  I thought this book offered a researched and balanced perspective and a logical approach to vaccinating your baby).
  • The Wonder Weeks (a fun guide to the developmental milestones you can expect to see as your baby grows up).

Here’s what we used in the FIRST month: Swaddles, sling carrier, nursing pillow + pillow cases, burp cloths, one pack each newborn and size one disposable diapers, cloth diapers (we used prefolds and covers), trash can for dirty diapers (we used a wire mesh one for our cloth diapers – hanging wet diapers on edge to dry and letting them fall into the bin once dry), diaper sprayer to attach to the toilet, cloth wipes (we cut up old cotton t-shirts), disposable wipes (for when we’re away from home), spray bottle for wipe solution, organic oil (for baby massage, minor diaper rash, and an ingredient in diaper wipe spray), diaper rash cream, baby thermometer, room thermometer, ear plugs, eye mask, bassinet (we used one that worked side-car style, right up against the side of our bed), car seat, a variety of wool and cotton baby blankets, soft firm play/nap surface, dim incandescent or red lights/nightlights/headlamp for night time wake-ups, changing pad, changing pad covers, waterproof changing pad liners, rocking chair/bouncy ball, frozen soups and stews, nourishing snacks, strengthening soothing herbal teas, extra pillows, mama cloth (google it), sitz bath herbs, cotton nursing pads, nursing bras and shirts, help (cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping helpers are awesome), jacket that can fit over baby/carrier/parent, baby clothes (footed pajamas, booties, socks (we used for mittens), cotton and wool hats), white noise machine if you want it, and a diaper bag (we just used a back pack with some disposable wipes, a waterproof changing pad, a plastic bag for dirty diapers, burp cloths, and a change of clothes).

Here’s what we added the SECOND month: Postpartum massage for mom, wooden play gym with a mirror to hang from it, high contrast things to stare at, next bigger swaddle, electric breast pump, bottles with wide shaped nipple and smallest hole size (if breastfeeding), cloth wrap and structured carrier, wool-silk blend long sleeve onesies, footed and unfooted pjs, wide band pants or knit overalls, knee socks, and a pacifier if you want it.

Here’s what we added the THIRD month: Baby bathtub (he grew out of the sink), very simple toys with different textures including hard and soft, next bigger swaddle, next size bigger clothes, blackout curtains, and bibs/neck bandannas to catch drool and spit up.

Here’s what we added the FOURTH month: Parent-child class/activity, plan for growing out of bassinet, slightly more complicated toys (including rattles), slightly more complicated objects to hang from play gym, and teething toys.

Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

Preparing for the Holidays, Naturally

The holidays can be a time of crazy consumption, extra trash, and lots of spending. OR, they can be an opportunity to celebrate nature’s wintery beauty and pour positive energy into homemade gifts made for loved ones.


Yesterday’s new snowfall set the scene for the start to my holiday preparations.  Without the garden to tend, I’ve had time to rest from major projects at home and recharge.  I cheerily began to gather ingredients for gift making.  A walk outside yielded foraged materials for decorating the house and a handful of greens (and edible flowers!) pulled from the snow-covered garden.  Back inside, with a fire crackling in the wood stove, I got to work.


Click here to read about my natural holiday decoration suggestions.

herbal-teaClick here for a great list of ideas for homemade gifts you can make in the kitchen.  Additional delicious gift ideas I’ve written about include homemade crackers, dukkah, herbal tea mixes, homemade vanilla extract, all-in-one soup mix, and homemade apple sauce.

Recipes Uncategorized

The Miracle of Playdough

No, the title to this post isn’t a joke.  Playdough is actually miraculous.  I’d been meaning to make autumn colored playdough with my after school students for several weeks.  I love the idea of using spices to color and scent the dough naturally.  Fall colors (oranges, yellows, and browns) happen to be pretty easy to achieve using common spices.  We finally got around to it on a cold day last week.  Freshly mixed with basic ingredients from the pantry, our cinnamon and turmeric doughs were warm, smooth, soft, smooshy, and smelled delicious.


Having just come in from outdoor play, my fingers were cold and stiff.  Sitting down to work alongside my students, I couldn’t believe how nice it felt to squeeze and squish the warm dough.  In fact, playdough helps build the small muscles of our hands that children will need to use scissors and hold pencils in the classroom.  Playing with playdough is also calming and soothing – easing tension, releasing pent up energy, and focusing the mind.  Furthermore, playdough certainly encourages creativity and imagination.


We had collected leaves from the playground and pressed them into the dough, admiring the beautiful prints that resulted.  Pretty soon we’d collected cups, spoons, and wooden butter knives from the kitchen to shape, cut, and mold the dough.  Such a perfect simple, soothing, and creativity-boosting activity for the end of a long day!

Playdough recipe

  1. Mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar in a large bowl
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of your spice of choice.  Add more if needed to achieve the color and smell you like.  We did two colors/smells: cinnamon and turmeric.  I’d love to try paprika, nutmeg, and cloves as well!
  3. Pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water into your mixture. In the future, I’d like to try adding beets or elderberries to my boiling water to increase the natural food coloring options.
  4. Mix the ingredients together to form a dough
  5. Store in a sealed container or tightly wrapped plastic bag

Fun with Eggs and Natural Dyes

One welcome sign of spring at our house: the chickens have boosted their egg production.  After reading about different natural dyes to use when decorating easter eggs, I decided to try making colorful deviled eggs.  Success!  The results were both colorful and delicious.


I boiled the following ingredients in 1 cup water, and then added cider vinegar and salt, to make a soaking brine for my peeled hard boiled eggs.  From left to right: 1) Three slices of beet  2) 1/4 cup elderberries and 1 teaspoon baking soda  3) 1 tablespoon turmeric  4) 1/4 cup elderberries.  Next time I may experiment with mixing these primary colors to create green and orange eggs!

After letting them sit in the brine for the afternoon, I removed the eggs and used my simple and flexible deviled egg recipe to prepare our yummy and colorful snacks.  They really looked great, and tasted great, served on a bed of arugula.



Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Pickle Mania

In the midst of my August pickling fervor, I took a moment to fondly look back at my first post about naturally fermenting veggies.  It’s hard to believe it was only a year and a half ago.  Now, pickle jars line our counters and the doors and shelves of the fridge (yes – the photos below accurately illustrate our current fridge situation.  It’s gotten a little bit out of hand.  Luckily for those who want to chill food that is not pickled, we have two fridges).  Though each member of our household has varying degrees of enthusiasm for fermentation, each person can tell you their favorite kind of pickle and how to make it.  The best thing about making pickles?  It’s easy!

Kimchi, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Dill Pickles, and Pickled Hot Peppers.
Half gallons of Kimchi, Kombucha, Red Cabbage Sauerkraut, Dill Pickles, and Pickled Hot Peppers.
Fermented Salsa, Kimchi, Pickled Carrots, Pickled Kohlrabi, and Cucumber Pickles.
Fermented Salsa, Kimchi, Pickled Carrots, Pickled Kohlrabi, and Cucumber Pickles.
Naturally Soured Zucchini Relish, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Old Brine, Pickled Fiddleheads, and Spicy Turnip Pickles.
Naturally Soured Zucchini Relish, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Old Brine, Pickled Fiddleheads, and Spicy Turnip Pickles.

If you’re new to fermentation, make sure to take a moment to read my original “Fermenting Foods” post – I wrote it as a newbie to the process and include some more detail and background information.   Below, find quick steps for getting started – you’ll notice everything is quite flexible and open to experimentation!

Natural Fermentation Pickles:  Good for your digestion, delicious, and fun to make!

  1. Pack a wide mouth canning jar with sliced veggies.  I love using carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, or green beans.
  2. For each quart of packed veggies, add either 1 tablespoon salt or 1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 cup brine or whey.  Brine is the liquid you get from a previous batch of naturally fermented pickles.  Whey is the liquid you get from straining plain yogurt.  Adding these liquids guarantees the introduction of lactobacillus – the kind of bacteria you want growing in your jar.  It also means you need less salt to ensure correct preservation.
  3. Pack everything down even more.  After a few hours, the salt will bring water out of your veggies.  Some have enough water to cover themselves in liquid.  If not, fill your jar the rest of the way up with water.
  4. Leave jar in a bowl in case liquid over flows.  Make sure it’s in a place where you can keep an eye on it!
  5. Push everything down each day, allowing air to be released and ensuring that all ingredients are in an anaerobic (covered in liquid) environment.
  6. Taste daily.  When your pickles have soured to the flavor you’d like, put them in the fridge.  Depending on the temperature in your house, this can take 3-10 days.  Putting your pickles in the fridge or cold storage slows the souring process waaaaay down – they can last for a long time.  We’ve eaten some that are over a year old!
  7. If you get some white filmy mold on top, don’t worry.  You can scrape it off – it won’t hurt you.  This only happens to me when I make pickles during the really hot and humid months of the summer.
Steps along the way: fermenting kohlrabi and cucumber pickles.
Steps along the way: fermenting kohlrabi and cucumber pickles.  They’re now in our fridge, ready to enjoy.

Quick Vinegar Refrigerator Pickles:  If you’re hesitant to eat “alive” foods, but want to enjoy pickles from your garden harvest, try this quick easy method.

  1. Heat 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and whichever of the following ingredients you’d like:  sugar (try 2 teaspoons), mustard seed (1 teaspoon), pickling spices (1 teaspoon) and/or garlic (1 clove cracked).  Simmer until salt and/or sugar dissolves.
  2. Pack a canning jar (or any glass jar with a tightly fitting lid) with sliced cucumbers, green beans, or other veggies.  Include some fronds of dill or a bay leaf if you’d like.
  3. Pour your hot brine over your packed veggies.  Make sure it covers them up completely.
  4. Cool and allow to sit for at least a day in the fridge.  They’ll get more flavor the longer they sit.  Because they’re in the fridge, you don’t need to worry about all of the steps and precautions of traditional canning.

Fermenting hot sauces and salsas: Read more here – we’re still enjoying some of last year’s spicy concoctions!

Happy Pickling!