Sunday, February 25, 2007

One reader says:

"I don't think you've portrayed Milanville in a bad light at all! Reading back in Blighty, you paint a charming picture of upstate living. Makes me v jelous.

I remember when you first moved up there you posted how lucky you were to land in such a great community. We're thinking of a similar "out of the smoke" move ourselves."

More later, perhaps.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Over the past few days I've received some pretty unhappy comments from people who live in my hood. I'm not going to post the comments here because I don't want to further antagonize whoever sent them (anonymously). I'm a bit confused as I intended no harm whatsoever. However, for the record, I would say that somehow the blog has been taken in a spirit in which it was most definitely not intended. I love my neighbours, I love Milanville, I know I'm a bit crap (that's the point) and I know we're lucky to live here. I certainly have no quarrel with you, whoever you are, so I hope we can put this behind us. I'm truly very sorry if I've caused offense.

I tell you what, I'd make a useless celebrity. Two mean comments and I'm all aquiver. No wonder Britney shaved her hair off.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gorgeous, glamorous but not green

God I love island life. Something about stepping out of the plane onto those wobbly metal stairs, blinking in the sunshine as the propellors roar in your ears and blow your hair in your eyes, makes you feel impossibly rich and glamorous. And as you're handed down onto the boat by some friendly local, making sure to look very nonchalant like you hop on and off boats all the time, then speed off across the bay towards your gorgeous destination, you just know you're money.

And Harbour Island has to be one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands you could hope to visit. The sand is, as billed, pale pink and the sea turquoise. If you're going to pick a beach to be your first, it's not a bad one to pick, is it Dot? (I fear we may have spoiled her for life.) As we carried her down the beach at sunset she laughed out loud at the loveliness of it all (no wonder - imagine how delicous the Caribbean breeze would feel against your skin after a winter bundled up against the wilds of Pennsylvania, and imagine it's the first time you've ever felt it) and when we dangled her little feet in the water, she squealed and tap danced. I wish I could post the piccies but the hubby forgot the bloody memory card reader - bugger.

But it was really only once we got here today that it occurred to me what uneasy bedfellows island life and green living make for. Not only could we not have got here without excessive burning of fossil fuels, but neither could all the gorgeous hotel decor or yummy food (fish aside) and drink. This whole green thing does make it harder to waft around exotic locales in a kaftan feeling barefoot, dishevelled and carefree - you know too much.

On the other hand, something that makes it very easy to waft around feeling barefoot and dishevelled, if not entirely carefree, is when the airline leaves your suitcases in Nassau, especially if all your summer footwear is in said suitcases (and yes Mum, I know I should have packed a bikini in my hand luggage but I thought I'd wing it). Ah well, at least I over-budgeted on the Dot clothes and nappies front so the only thing that might become a problem is the breast pads - I decided to revert to the disposable ones for holiday as I wasn't convinced a 50mm thick disc of felted wool was the best way to accessorize a skimpy bikini top, but only brought one spare set. Let's hope the bags are delivered tomorrow as promised.

Anyway, so my point was, I really hope someone invents eco-friendly jet and boat fuel soon because a) this is a heavenly experience, b) Dot loves it and I want only to make her happy and c) after a spartan winter in Milanville, it is amazing to feel even a teeny weeny bit glamorous. We need to find more ways to make being good feel good too.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Ooh it has been a busy couple of days of readying ourselves for our holiday, reading up on all the terrifying things that can befall a little girl in hot places, being lent all manner of fabulous holiday gadgets, lift-sharing down to the city (I'd like to tell you this was an idealogical statement, but really our car just wasn't ready in time; surprise surprise...) and then charging about today picking up all those utterly essential last minute holiday bits, like chemical free sunscreen and organic baby food (two questions here: 1) what was I thinking introducing solids and all the new pumping, sterilizing and packing this entails a few days before embarking for a hotel room in a barefoot island paradise; and 2) how is it possible that I spent more $$ in one day in Manhattan than I had in the previous two months upstate?)

Anyway, I think we're ready now. The cases are packed, the 73 bottles are sterilized, my bikini line is spick and span and Dot is test-driving the rather snazzy Samsonite travel cot we've been lent (so far a big hit; let's see if she repeats the last few nights' performance of waking up every five minutes).

As we raced round the city today, we couldn't help but notice how FILTHY it is - with that melty black snow gunk that is just everywhere (what IS all that?). The traffic was obnoxious, the subway just grizzly and Canal Street REALLY depressed us (if you ever want to be reminded of how much useless plastic crap we produce, head to Canal Street. Wind-up plastic swimming scuba divers and bad fake hello kitty watches, anyone? A salutory lesson). Am sure the hubby found it fairly miserable, dealing with it as he was from behind a veil of serious hangover. That'll teach him.

It was also interesting to see that old habits die hard; I was halfway out of the door of Duane Reade before I noticed I'd accepted a plastic bag (since I had the No More Plastic Bags bag in the other hand I guess you could say I was sending mixed messages), I said yes to a 50ml bottle of water - my most hated water bottle form - at Bliss before going to get me bits blitzed (but I was about to die of thirst), I bought a sandwich in a plastic wrapper for lunch and scoffed loads of yummy asian food from Rice with the girls for dinner, thus generating god knows how much unrecyclable (is that a word?) packaging.

It's going to be really tough to keep on the straight and narrow once we move back here next week. But I suppose it's time for a new challenge.

Time to take littlegreendot to NYC.

But not till after we've taken her to Harbour Island.

PS I don't know how much we'll post next week because I dont know what the tech set-up is on the island. Will keep you posted if I can

PPS Wanted to tell you about this great book I've been reading - Julie & Julia, written by a blogger who decided to cook the whole of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year then got a six-figure book deal off the back of it. It's brilliant, smart, funny etc. By this stage in the game, she had CBS and The NY Times beating a path to her door. Where are me and Dot going wrong? We want to be famous too. Only in the interests of saving the planet, you understand...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Odds and Ends

The hubby went to the local pub last night for a drink with two of his mates. I say 'pub'; in fact it looks more like a crap youth club, all cavernous faux-wood vinyl walls, brightly-coloured plastic chairs, wobbly fold-up picnic tables and strip lighting, but he seems to like it, so whatever.

He got home to find me in a chipper mood. "You're awfully flirtatious," he said suspiciously. "What's up?" "I've decided not to write the blog tonight!" I replied gleefully - not because I don't love you all but because it was really nice to have Saturday night completely to myself and also because although I'd done lots of little incremental green things throughout the day, none of them seemed sufficiently groundbreaking to merit a post of their own.

As I've hit my green stride, more days seem to be like this. For example, I'd begun the morning with a homemade pampering session. I remembered my best mate Catherine telling me, back when she was a beauty editor, that the best exfoliant she knew of was sugar and olive oil, and since my gams were in serious need of a pre-holiday spruce up (after 9 months of pregnancy and six of motherhood, they aren't looking their spry-est) I retreated to the bathroom with the Filippo Berio Extra Virgin, Domino's granulated and some organic oats (to create a moisturizing soak) clutched to my chest. I ran a very shallow bath (it barely grazed my mid-bum) and hopped in. This was ambitious, and sure enough I'd barely got my hands all covered in gunk before squawks began emanating from the bedroom. I finished up as quick as I could, then propped Dot next to me as I approximated a bad homemade pedicure, which I'm sure saved water and I know saved money. Not sure it's quite Harbour Island material, though.

Later I did the composting, baked a cake and then set about trying to find eco-friendly alternatives to plastic baby spoons and sippy cups now Dot's no longer a boob-only girl. The Bowery Babes network came through for me as usual with tips on trying a wooden or ceramic baby spoon (so far I've found this spoon, which is lovely and which I will probably get) and SIGG sippy cups. This latter was dangerous because it introduced me to a site called Oh dear. I could spend a small fortune on this site. Instead I've restricted myself to a couple of cups for Dot and a larger bottle for me (to make an eco-statement when I get back to work), all made from guaranteed non-leaching materials.

So that was kind of it. I promise to try and find you some drama soon though.

"Now, where's my bottle of wine?" I asked the hubby.

"Oh. I didn't get you one," he said.

Charming. He gets to go to the pub; I stay home to put his first born to bed and what do I get in return? Nada. Not to mention what was the point of having a night off if I couldn't at least get a little bit merry?

"Maybe I'll write the blog after all..." I said. Then, when his face fell, "...or, you could make up for it by cooking the kohlrabi [which by this point had been sitting in the fridge for a week and was in danger of becoming better in the idea than the execution]. I found this Carluccio's recipe."

He agreed and got stuck in.

For the record, the organic kohlrabi from our local River Brook Farm (food miles approx 2, carbon footprint virtually zero) tasted a bit like turnip and "a lot like bamboo shoots", according to the hubby. Unfortunately he managed to serve me the bits that were rather woody, but overall the slightly oily, cuminy, terribly worthy mess was a success (more so than the mangel wurzles we bought from RBF in the autumn). I decided to stick to plan A.

Today, however, the hubby undid all his good work by going snowmobiling with a mate. Way to spew pollutants into the atmosphere for absolutely no material gain.

But his face when he got back was a picture. I suppose a boy's got to get out from under the green thumb every now and then.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Rice as a metaphor for life. Or something.

Something else unexpected happenned today. Dot started eating food - real food. But the unexpected part was that we found organic baby rice (Gerber) to feed her in Pecks of Narrowsburg, of all places (if anyone doesn't know what Pecks is, search the blog using our handy search facility for background).

We'd started for Honesdale, intending to get Dot's first food in the health food store there. But for some reason all the roads between here and there had barely been ploughed, and we were in John's flatbed truck (the one that had to be hauled out of the drive yesterday) which was fishtailing all over the road in a most alarming fashion, so I made us turn back and try Pecks instead (the roads in NY state are much better tended than those in PA which I suppose explains why their taxes are ten times what we pay).

Of course I thought they wouldn't have organic baby rice, and so of course they did. I didn't really trust it because it was Gerber, not some barefoot hippy brand, but you know what? Dot loved it. REALLY loved it. She practically bit my hand off and swallowed the spoon.

So now we're into the exciting new world of solids. This makes me even more happy we'll be round the corner from the Park Slope coop - we'll be able to get her lots of lovely fresh organic vegetables and stuff.

For some reason Dot starting solids has made me terribly excited. It's part of this whole new era in our little family - moving back to the city, starting new work projects, getting greener by the day, eating bland white mush off a spoon...

We'll just all have to hold hands together and jump.

Snot funny

It's funny, doing this blog. Just when you start to get a bit despondent and think you're running out of steam and subject matter, a friend phones you and says, "I've got an awful cold and I've been really good using the Seventh Generation tissues but it's like blowing your nose with a cheese grater." And you remember a conversation with another friend last week who said she'd invested in some old-school cotton hankies and had been using them, so you tell this other friend about it, and she says, "That's a good idea. I could even cut up an old sheet and use that for my nose," and you say, "Brilliant! That's what we should all do."

And then you go off into a bit of a reverie about how everything cloth or tissue-ish these days is disposable but how it definitely wasn't when you were a kid - you know, those wipes for cleaning the loo or the shower or your face which are just ridiculous and completely unneccessary (oh, and while I'm at it I saw an ad for a Swiffer Sweeper Vac last night - how completely extraneous and what a total waste of plastic...the link being they have disposable cloths on too. This is not the way the world should be going (and I don't think it will be for long. This is why I'm going back to work - to convince junior brand managers they can no longer magic up fabulous innovations like the Swiffer Vacuum, but more of that anon)).

Anyway, so I'm for vetoing all kinds of disposable cloth or tissue-ish items.

Actually the hanky could become a bit of an eco style statement, like the 'say no to plastic bags' bags we featured before. You could find some really cool-looking ones and pull them out of your cuff or pocket with a flourish at the opportune moment (as long as they're not too snotty, that is). They're super-soft on the nose, too.

Let's make the hanky this year's indispensable cold and flu accessory - man's size for optimum absorbency. Are you in?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The day in pictures

Firstly, the MIL alerted us to the best milk carton ever, which her friend found at Daylesford, a terribly chi chi organic supermarket in the Cotswolds. Check it out:

It decomposes into water, CO2 and chalk. Beats a tetra-pak any day.

Secondly, some more weather:

And finally, there are very few foods I don't like. On the shortlist are liver, custard and celery.
Dot must take after her father, then.

Musings on a snowy night

So we survived the snowstorm. We ended up with probably a foot or so, less than predicted but enough to mean the truck we'd been lent for the week came close to sliding off the edge of the driveway when the hubby tried to reverse it (rear wheel drive; it leapt sideways); he had to be rescued this morning by a friendly local with a 4x4 and a chain. I watched and winced as the huge beast teetered on the brink of the slope but our neighbour (who must have been in his 80s) was not so ginger. He hit the gas, burned some rubber and hauled that baby back onto the road.

In fact over the last 24 hours I've been forced to admit the utility, if not quite the neccessity, of the 4x4 truck out here in the hills. Not only can they actually be driven out of steep driveways during even a fairly major winter storm, but most of them can be fitted with a snowplough so not only they, but the rest of us too, can leave the house. But don't think I've gone soft - still no excuse for Range Rovers in SW3 or Hummers in Manhattan.

We went down to the river this afternoon to check out the snowscape. It was bloody freezing. I asked the hubby to email me the pics we took so I could post them on the blog. Here's one:

"It's going to be funny for her looking back on these pictures in 20 years time," he said as he uploaded them. "You know, she'll be living in whatever city and it'll be 89 degrees in winter and we'll say, 'That was a river and it was frozen right the way across!'"

This made me feel incredibly depressed.

Clearly, I couldn't let the moment pass. "...which is why I keep asking you to turn your bloody computer off before you go to bed every night!" I barked.

"Yes, yes, alright," he huffed. "I'm going out to take pictures of the stars."

We're both getting a bit nostalgic for our winter sojourn upcountry because all of a sudden, what with the week in the Bahamas, it's almost over. At first I missed the city desperately but I've really settled into the rythmn of country life - so much so that most days, I only leave the house to take Dot for a long walk in the woods (this is very good for the environment, and surprisingly undetrimental to my mental health - we have lots of visitors and - thank god - the internet). As I type this, I'm snuggled on the sofa in front of the log fire and outside it's completely silent. But two days after we get back from holiday we'll be moving down to the city and I just know things'll take on a life of their own and before we know it I'll be the archetypal harried working Mom, Dot'll be 5, the hubby'll be completely bald (oh wait, he already is) and all this will seem like someone else's life.

Thank god for yoga, the Park Slope co-op and a 4-day work week. Oh, and the little green project I'm hatching. Of which more later.

And lest you think we've been slacking on the greening, the hubby finally found that brick (well, actually, it's more of a rock) and put it in the cistern today. So our loo is now officially quite green.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Snow Day

We had been hoping to make it to NYC today for a yoga class but there's no chance we're getting out of here any time soon. It's raining ice - hallelujah!

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Wise after the event

You know that interview question, 'what is your biggest weakness?' Well here's mine: finding something out or getting to the right answer just a little bit too late for it to be of any use to anyone. It happens all the time (one example that springs to mind is finding out about the St Luke's natural birthing center in NYC just too late to have my baby there so I had to have here in the utterly horrendle, natural-birth-unfriendly Beth Israel hospital instead, another finding out about green renovations about a week after we finished doing this place up, but trust me this stuff happens all the time).

The latest (and admittedly fairly egregious) example begins with a confession: yesterday, we booked a holiday. Involving flying. To the Bahamas.

I have an excuse for going: Dot just LOVES being naked (let's not let this worry us till she's 15, people), and since a frigid Pennsylvania winter is not terribly conducive to sitting round in your birthday suit, I've been dying to take her somewhere where she can wriggle round starkers to her little heart's content. Our tax rebate is due next week so we thought, what the hell, we'll only have our first baby once, let's just bugger off somewhere sunny.

But what I don't have an excuse for is not booking an ethical holiday - except that in the excitement of the whole thing (and of actually having enough money to do anything at all, let alone go on a holiday, for the first time in a while), I got swept up in the moment and only came down to earth with a bump once the credit card details had been exchanged and I was reading some article or another which mentioned ethical holidays.

At which point I thought, dammit.

Out walking with Dot today I pondered how it was possible that I'd managed to forget this and yet I can remember to rifle through a bin of dirty nappies (wearing a rubber glove, of course) to pick out the wipes and to buy two lbs of worms for my wormery without any problem. Especially since flying is the eco crime sine qua non.

And the conclusion I came to? I'm just a bit simple. I know it looks like I'm an inconsistent hypocrite but really, that isn't it. I'm just a bit dumb. And I'm kicking myself. Hard.

Here are the issues with our holiday: our hotels are neither locally owned nor run (to my knowledge, at least); although one is in a nineteenth century house, the other renovated rather than a new build, neither appears to be an eco-resort (no renewable energy, no sustainable materials, although both claim to use only local food); and we are flying there.

On the plus side: I will offset our flights; the Bahamas is a much shorter flight than more eco-friendly places we could have gone, like Central and/or South America; we won;t buy any new stuff to take with us; and he Bahamas is mentioned in websites like this one as a reasonably eco-friendly place to go because the local community benefits from the tourism.

But who am I kidding? This is pure, hedonistic, planet-trashing naughtiness.

Please don't hate me. We will find a way to limit the damage once we get there, promise.

PS no post tomorrow. The hubby's valentine's pressie is actually getting to talk to me after dinner. That, and Dot. She's his catch-all pressie for the next 20 years.

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Monday, February 12, 2007


Stolen from eco worrier: I love this - a page devoted to refashioning clothes. Am going to send a pic of me and Dot and the sari, and maybe some of our other tweakings.


I'm definitely warming to the idea of worming. Today I tore up lots more scrap paper and cardboard to make the bin nice for the little fellows, even though I won't be getting them for a month or two. Well, beats sorting through Dot's nappy bin to separate the wipes from the nappies, though I will have to do this tomorrow because I've just realized the wipes I've been using (7th Generation) aren't biodegradable. Yuck. Apparently Tushies are so I'll get them next time.

Otherwise, today has been a funpacked day of tying me and Dot up in knots. Ever since she was born I've been meaning to get into the idea of babywearing, and indeed got off to a good start with a pouch-sling, but apart from the odd foray I'd kind of stalled there, even after a friend Mia made me a lovely ring sling, because it was all a bit complicated and I kept feeling as though Dot would fall out at any moment.

Well, I don't know what came over me but I decided today would be the day I got with the sling program.

Now what, I hear you ask, besides being kind of earth mother-y, does this have to do with the environment? Well, for the past few weeks, the Baby Bjorn has been getting more and more uncomfortable and every walk had begin to feel like some kind of back and shoulder torture (not that Dot's that heavy, but I do walk quite a lot). So I knew I needed to get something else or I'd be looking like quasimodo in a few weeks' time, but as you know I'm trying to avoid buying anything new unless absolutely neccessary to minimize my impact on the environment. So what to do?

I started researching different carrier types, and decided bidding for a second hand carrier on eBay was the way forward (I lost the auction). But last night I was looking at when I suddenly realized I didn't need to buy a new sling, or even create the need for packaging a second-hand one for delivery - I could simply make my own. I'd had a length of cotton sari fabric lying about the place for a good eight years (I bought it in Whitechapel when my parents used to live there) for just such an occasion as this, so this morning I dug it out (amazingly it was exactly where I thought it would be) and set to with the assistance of the videos on

Poor Dot soon found herself being flung about on my back, over my shoulder, and finally on my front. I carried her around the house in the ring sling all day (she loved this; gave her a fabulous vantage point from which to try and grab everything I ate), then took her for a walk in the sari. As you can see she rather warmed to it and ended up having a lovely snooze while I walked (it was a bit like having a baby monkey clinging to my front and was a whole lot easier on the back than the Bjorn).

The Tibetan, a back carry I'm extremely keen to master simply because it looks so cute (check it out here), she was less sure of and frankly I'm not surprised seeing as it invovled dangling her from her hands down my back, but with the help of her Dad we got to an approximation of it sorted (note Dot's decidedly sceptical look):

Apparently I can also make baby carriers from pashminas and sarongs, both of which I have a plentiful supply of. So watch this space for pictures of poor old Dot being trussed up like a prize chicken in all manner of bits of fabric very soon. In my wildest dreams I'll be able to avoid buying a stroller this way. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet...


Dottie daydreams

No you can't have her. She's mine.

Coop in the news

The MIL heard our soon-to-be local co-op in Park Slope featured on You and Yours on BBC Radio Four today. Listen on

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Almost sitting up...

Fun with worms

So Dot and I are halfway through building a wormery. I say 'Dot and I' because on Friday evening, the poor little love found herself bobbling around in the Baby Bjorn in the 15 degree gloaming of a Pennsylvania winter dusk while I feverishly prodded and poked a shovel at our frozen solid compost heap, first in the pursuit of worms, and then, when unsurprisingly none revealed theselves, in a bid to transfer the rock-hard broccoli stalks and lemon skins into the new compost bin and soon-to-be wormery.

Because apparently, wormeries are the way to go for composting biodegradable nappies.

In retrospect, this was relatively apparent from the reading I did earlier in the week but I think I was choosing to ignore it because a) it all sounded terribly complicated and b) I don't know about you but I don't voluntarily get myself involved with anything that looks like this:
unless I really have to.

Well, it seems I really have to.

I started by researching the materials I'd be needing: a bin, some bedding - shredded newspaper, leaves, etc., 'food' - the compost, and about two lbs of your best redworms for the amount of waste we produce.

Warming to my subject, I was keen to get going immediately - I wanted to watch the nappies disappearing - and headed off to the local fishing (and gun) shop to enquire about the availability of redworms. The nice man behind the counter (who had a gun stuffed into his waistband) grabbed a polystyrene tray from the fridge, delved into it and withdrew his hand to reveal a fistful of squirmy red wrigglers which he proceeded to thrust under my nose.

"Er, they look just the job," I said, trying to look like someone who buys worms all the time, "I'll take two pounds."

"Ooh, you'll have to order that many," he said. "What do you want them for, anyway?"

I told him about my plans for a wormery. He suggested I wait a bit to avoid the worms freezing to death. And when I was ready, they'd set me back about $40. $40 for a few worms? Crikee.

I wasn't too sad to leave empty-handed, and headed home to check my facts. According to this website, your worms do indeed need temperatures ranging between 40 - 80 F. In cold climes such as ours, it suggested setting up in your basement, but the hubby vetoed stashing Dot's dirty nappies in the basement because he says they smell like a Dog's fart, and since I want the worms as far away from my person as possible, I didn't push the point. (What? If the chipmunks can climb stairs, who's to say the worms couldn't?) . (Oh, and $40 seems to be the going rate for 2lbs. You could find your own by digging around an exisiting compost heap (or local farmer's dung pile if you're game - which I'm not), hence my frantic prodding with Dot on board, but our sensible worms were wintering elsewhere.)

So we'll have to wait to really get going, but I decided to prepare the wormery for its future residents anyway, mainly because where else am I going to stash two months' worth of nappies?

I shredded a whole lot of newspaper I found in the log box (I'd like to point out this was old; I haven't bought a paper in months) while Dot looked on in interest. Then we bundled up, headed out, dropped the paper in the box, added some leaves and soil and finally all the compost we could and a bag of nappies. We kept it to one side; the plan is to bed the worms in on the other, then gradually move their food over so as not to overwhelm them all at once.

On the webcam today the MIL expressed skepticism about the wormery scheme.

"How will you keep the flies away?" she said.

Hm, valid point. The websites say to bury the waste and cover the bin so I will, but we'll see how it goes.

"Heh heh, good luck with clearing all that up when it doesn't work," said the hubby smugly.

You see what I'm up against here? I will learn to love my worms, and we'll show him...

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nappy nightmares

Ever tried to get a straight answer about how to compost so-called biodegradable nappies? Thought not.

Well I have, and let me tell you that after several hours of research (and not for the first time) I'm still far from clear.

It ought to be easy. You buy biodegradable nappies thinking you can either chuck 'em in the rubbish, or even better chuck 'em in the compost, and all will be well.

But by the time I came to buy biodegradable nappies, I'd already read that the conditions in landfill are wrong for decomposition to happen (not enough light or air) so buying them and putting them in your regular household rubbish is a complete and utter red herring (I'm talking strictly about reducing output here. Of course there are significant benefits to the planet, as many are produced without the use of chlorine bleach, and to the baby, because they avoid coming into contact with many of the nasty chemicals in conventional nappies, but still...).

So I figured I'd compost them, seeing as my buying them coincided with my moving up here where I've got a garden and a compost heap.

I emailed the manufacturers, Nature Baby, to check whether I needed any kind of fancy composting system. I've lost the reply now, I'm afraid, but basically it said that due to some of the nasty bacteria in human fecal matter (eeeugh), although the nappies are technically compostable, you can't compost them. Well that makes sense. Not.

So I sort of wimped out for a bit and used them, trying to forget the 'wrong conditions for decomposing' thing. But it;s been quietly eating away at me ever since, so this week I decided anough was enough and as soon as we had a car at our disposal - today - sent the hubby to get our subsidized PA compost bin (it's huge and looks like a tardis) to put them in. I figured that as long as we composted them separately and didn't use the compost on our future vegetable patch, all would be well. We'd just have the nappy corner of the garden where nobody goes but me and my bag of dirties.

While the hubby was getting the tardis set up, I thought I'd look into it one more time. Well, several hours later, I'm none the wiser. Some sites say a wormery is the answer; others that the nappies kill the worms. Some say you can compost them and they'll decompose in 6 months or less under the right conditions, but fail to explain what those conditions are. Other sites say you have to pull the nappies apart before composting but don't tell you whether you then chuck everything in, or only chuck certain bits and not others.

Frankly it's making my head spin and I promised the hubby I'd play Scrabble with him tonight instead of sitting in front of the computer till way past bedtime so I can't spend a lot onger looking into it.

I'm tempted to just start sticking the dirty nappies in the tardis and see what happens (though to be fair, I doubt much will until the temperature breaks freezing which it hasn't done for several weeks now). But on the other hand I do NOT want to find myself getting rid of non-decomposed, six-month-old dirty nappies a few months down the line. The hubby already made it clear this was strictly my preserve.


I am going to try and get this sorted because for god's sake somebody needs to. Right now there are parents everywhere doing exactly what I was doing: buying eco-friendly nappies to assuage their consciences, then conveniently sweeping under the carpet the nagging doubt that they were really making no more difference than their fellow Pampers and Huggies users, which, in fact, they weren't.

I pledge to make some enquiries tomorrow and see what gives.

In the meantime, if you know the answer, please do tell.

Apparently the average disposable takes about 500 years to break down and is the third most common item found in landfill followed by paper products and food containers. This can't go on.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Now some actual green stuff

As I wandered down to the village store today to get some onions for my chickpea soup, I bumped into Alice of our local organic River Brook farm and told her how much we were missing her delicious food since she closed for the winter.

Fabuous news: she's open on the quiet for the loyal few on Saturdays selling all the usual local organic meat, dairy and soup as well as her own root vegetables - carrots, spuds, kohlrabi, etc. (I said that like I buy kohlrabi all the time but in fact I've never bought or cooked with it before in my life. So I googled 'kohlrabi recipes' and found some very appetizing options including this one for stuffed Kohlrabi, this one for Greek-style Kohlrabi and this for roasted Kohlrabi and butternut squash, if I can find squash in January, we'll see.)

So we'll go on Saturday and stock up.

What a relief - not only will there be no more despondent rifling through the meat and produce sections of Wal Mart and unappetizing meals full of hidden pesticides, but I'll actually get to live my 'shop and eat local' dream again.

It does seem completely ridiculous that when we live in the middle of loads of farms and round the corner from what is surely one of the best small-scale organic farms in the country, we've been ferrying in food parcels from New York. I suppose this is where we should take action and plant our own, but have you been in our back garden lately? I refer you to fig 1: the picture of the river from earlier. Trust me, you wouldn't be gardening in those conditions either.

Neil, Alice's husband, offered to help me learn to grow my own if I wanted. "We find that once we've shown people how to do it, they never complain about our prices again," he said. Especially not when it's 0 degrees F out there. That's F for frostbitten fingers.

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More Dotpix

See, happy as Larry, showing off the lovely moccasins Auntie Nina got her and her TSE cashmere cardi from Tara (this child is so much better dressed than me).

I also thought you might like to see the river. This is the river we swim in in the summer. What you don't really get from the picture is the contours; the water has frozen in huge ice-flo-like chunks half a foot thick. This has happenned in just the last few days. If only those poor threatened polar bears could find their way to Milanville PA. Actually, come to think of it, the prospect of confronting a brown bear is quite scary enough for me and Dot. Forget that last bit.
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Sleeping beauty

I've been finding it quite hard to keep my eye on the ball with the greening lately because of trying to get Dot to learn to sleep without the boob. I don't know if you've been through this but suffice it to say I got a glimpse yesterday of what postnatal depression might be like. At certain points during the course of the day, banging my head against the wall or similar seemed like an entirely rational thing to do, so wracked was I with guilt about letting my beautiful happy charming little girlywig cry. In the end, instead of the banging, I called a sleep consultant for reassurance. I knew what I was doing - I was basically paying someone to assuage my guilt by telling me I was doing the right thing (I also thought it was a good idea to involve a third party so I didn't end up blaming the hubby for this too). A bit like a management consultant or a psychic, all she really did was tell me what I already knew but made it sound good and hey, I felt better afterwards so it had to be worth it.

Today something like peace and harmony was restored to our little house. Dot was on dazzling form, we had an excellent baby yoga
session and as you can see, she got some zs.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The bubba

Sorry there's been no Dot lately. She's back, sporting an organic hat at a janty angle, organic dungarees and grandma-knitted scarf and socks in one pic, and the Patagonia smurf suit in the second. Not bad really, is she?

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Everybody needs good neighbours

It isn't always a good idea hanging all your dirty washing out to dry on a blog. For example, I could have kept my mouth shut about the diesel thing but of course I didn't. The mother in law called earlier.

"So what are you going to do about that diesel thing?" she said.

"I don't know," replied the hubby, looking at me accusingly again (this argument had sort of been dropped until then). "Ask the wife."

I suggested we cross that bridge if we ever get the car back.

In the meantime, speaking of dirty laundry, Sarah - who we'll be living upstairs from very soon - emailed today to say that as she knows I'm keen to try cloth nappies again but put off because I don't have my own washing machine, she'd be prepared to throw our dipes in with Peg's at the end of every day. Now that's what you call a friend.

She's also going to let us add our scraps to her compost tumbler in the back garden once we're installed.

I know this might read like a one-way street with us getting rid of all our crap - quite literally - and Sarah getting nothing in return, but she does get rid of the guilt for running a washing machine half-full, she gets some extra lovely compost to put on her putative future tomatoes and she gets to polish her eco halo into the bargain. Which, er, almost makes up for dealing with our nappies.

I love this not only because I want to compost and do cloth nappies and she's making it possible, but also because it plays into the joint ownership ideal we discussed yesterday, pooling resources for lower environmental impact. Well, not quite, because Sarah still owns the washing machine and the garden, but still. It's all terribly exciting. What with the compost, the nappies and the Park Slope co-op, we'll soon be turning # 108 7th street into a veritable hippy commune.

Perhaps we Delaney Lethbridges will pay no rent and squat for maximum effect.

Hm, that might not go down so well with Sarah...

And on a final neighbours note I do have to mention how lovely our neighbours up here have been taking us shopping, stopping by and even taking us to buy a bottle of wine this evening (god bless you Kel). Gives you back some faith in human nature. Kelly, Cathy, John, thank you.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Rock and a hard place

This no car thing had been going really quite well thanks to a couple of sets of friends nearby who've been kind enough to let us use their cars when they weren't. In fact, there was something about the model of shared car ownership it implied that rather appealed to my idealistic green side - I could envisage a future in which this is the way we all do things to save on resources. Sort of peace, love and communal vehicles.

Plus, it was fine when the weather was only rather chilly - I could bundle Dot up, take her for walks and get lost in reveries of simpler times before we had cars while basking in the glow of our dramatically reduced carbon footprint.

But then it got properly, bitingly cold. Taking Dot for a walk today wasn't an option. But babies, like adults, get cabin fever too and by about four o'clock I'd gone through my complete dog and pony repertoire twice, and she knew it and she was wasn't being fobbed off any longer. This is the point in the day where I usually strap her into the Bjorn and strike forth, but today all I could do was stick Madonna on the iPod and jig around the kitchen like a loony. It did the trick, but I think tomorrow I'll need to find a way to get us out of the house, car or no car - for both our sakes.

Then something happened to give me mixed feelings about getting our own car back. Someone posted a comment letting me know that diesel fumes are supposed to be particularly bad for infants' lungs; to be precise, the comment read:

"so recent studies show that desiel fumes possibly damage infants developing lungs- so what's it to be childrens lungs or the planet?"

I googled it and found any number of links to articles about school buses giving kids asthma, diesel being a carcinogen, etc. Oh no! Oh god! Why didn't these posts come up when I was looking into the relative eco merits of different vehicle options? Probably because my google criteria were too narrow, but what have I DONE?! Poor little Dot!

The hubby wasn't amused either.

"I thought you'd researched diesel cars. Did you know about this?" he said in a slightly accusing tone.

"I thought I had done my research but of course I didn't know about this," I said plaintively.

"So now you don't want the diesel car after all?" he said.

"Oh god, I don't know, we'll just have to keep her out of the way of any possible fumes," I said, wishing google would yield some contrary evidence. It didn't.

And here in a nutshell is one of the biggest problems of this being green business. I mean, talk about ignorance is bliss. Either you find out about all these problems you had no idea existed, or every time you think you've got it sorted, you realize all you've done is open a can of worms: I also received two comments today about lavender oil causing young boys to grow breasts; then there's the 'organic food has often been flown from Mexico' issue, the 'Wal Mart getting in on organic will just dilute what organic means' debate and the 'it uses so much energy to transport the recycling waste that any benefits of recycling are cancelled out' argument. It makes me wonder if I'm doing any good at all.

"Well that'll teach you to be so dogmatic," said the hubby, or words to that effect anyway.

I'm pretty sure he wanted to say 'I hate to say I told you so', but since I was clearly sufficiently depressed already, instead he said 'I think you should have an early night dear.'

For once I'm going to take his advice.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

What a wuss (and no, it's not the hubby this time)

I'm a bit annoyed with myself this evening because I didn't stop the hubby using the not-neccessarily-high-but-not-exactly-low-either-VOC paint. Now that toxic stuff is up on the walls it isn't coming off again any time soon, except in the form of household dust.

While I didn't wield a paintbrush myself, barring some initial ranting and subsequent passive-aggressive asides, I didn't actively intervene either, and that makes me an accessory to an eco crime.

It does look lovely, but Dottie will now be surrounded by chemicals, the effects of which are unknown, forever. That's bad.

But it isn't just Dot. Truth be told, because I'm completely sad, I get really excited about the opportunity to do something green, like use low-VOC paint. In fact I've been dying to use some ever since I found out about it early on in this blog (go on, say it, I need to get out more) and this is the first decorating we've done since. So I'm gutted I missed my big chance to do the right thing, (not to mention the pleasure I could have got every time I showed off our lovely cottage; "yes, and the walls are all painted with low-VOC paint, you know").

But that isn't all. What's really bugging me is I caved in too easily. This quote seems to keep cropping up of late (I hate it when people use quotes, but whatever):

"Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the
world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

Letting the hubby slap toxins all over our walls is not the act of a committed individual. It's the non-act of a bit of a half-hearted wuss.

This kind of thing will only keep happenning unless I take an even harder line. And when I go back to work (it's gonna happen, readers) this kind of rolling over just won't cut it.

Nope, it's time to get tough.

Expect to see some changes around here.


P.S. the big chill has hit and the river's almost frozen. It's 'real feel' -20F out there now (that's -29C to those of you in the UK). From where I'm sitting in front of the toasty stove I can hear the wind howling. That should toughen me up pretty quick. Grrrr and brrrrrr.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Hopeless Hubbys

The really annoying thing about husbands (alright, one of the really annoying things) is that they don't do what they're told. I mean asked.

We're having the house reappraised on Monday so the hubby decided to do a few paint touch ups in the kitchen and landing to make the place look as expensive as possible. As he headed out to Home Depot I reminded him to get low VOC paint - for the good of both the environment and Dottie's little lungs. "Yes, yes alright," he said and set off.

When he got back I couldn't help but notice that for the landing, he had the exact same paint we'd used last time, before I got all into this stuff (Behr) - apparently the woman in Home Depot had told him it was 'the lowest VOC we have' which didn't sound terribly promising to me.

Then, as he started painting the kitchen, I caught sight of a tin saying 'America's finest'. Well, after all this week's news, excuse me for suspecting anything called that is far from eco-friendly.

Sure enough a familiar smell reached my nostrils.

"Of course it smells, it's paint, you wierdo," he said.

"Yes but the whole point of low VOC paint is that it doesn't smell," I replied.

I stormed into the sitting room with Dot and fell into a funk. I felt like yet again Dot's Dad was trying to ambush our efforts. It wasn't all his fault; he got me at a particularly bad moment: I'd just read the news of the IPCC report - that global warming is an unequivocal fact which it’s more 90% certain is the result of human activities, and that we're now too late to avert the cataclysmic repercussions of our rising temperatures and sea levels which will take place over the next century - i.e. in little Dot's lifetime.

In the face of this news, the thought that ANYONE, least of all the father of my precious baby, would not be doing everything in their power to ameliorate the situation, was a bit more than I could handle.

I decided to take us out for a walk to let off steam. As we set off, the first flakes of snow started to fall. By the halfway point it was coming down thick and fast, and by the time we reached the river, our neighbourhood was a winter wonderland. We stood on the bridge watching the snow fall, listening to the silence. As I pondered that, though the river was beginning to freeze, it was nowhere near as frozen as last year, I sudennly noticed, in a tree to my right, the unmistakable outline of two bald eagles. As we stood there, a third joined them and they had a chat.

Something about the snow finally coming and the three members of an endangered species popping up like that cheered me up a bit. I got home in a slightly better mood.

Anyway, I think this is the paint the hubby bought. Doesn't look very low VOC to me, but what can you do? At least he got some organic milk and broccoli in Wal Mart while he was at it.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's the Dot Spot
Yeah, thanks for letting that lady stick all those needles in my leg Mum. I feel really great after that. I hope you feel guilty. (I do, Dottie, I do)

I know my Nike's aren't eco-friendly, but my babygrow is. (Note also bags hanging on the door handle ready for the next shopping spree. That'll be once we get a car back, then).

Pretty Ugly

You'll be pleased to know that in the course of the day's greening I've found yet more stuff to worry about.

Today's topic is beauty products.

I have nightmare skin. My face is sensitive but quite greasy and prone to zits (at 33. I ask you...); meanwhile my body is very dry, flaky and rashy, especially at this time of year. I've spent much of my life using prescription skincare of one sort or another - spot creams that make your face red, itchy and very sensitive to sunlight, and thick, goopy body lotions that ex-boyfriends have told me make me smell like wee (do you fancy me yet? I thought so).

Anyway, I never really gave all of this much thought until I got pregnant and my dermatologist told me to stop using the salicylic acid and Tri-luma, and my hippie yoga guru books (Gurmukh and Gowri Motha) told me to ditch the products containing petroleum derivatives (I'd never really notice they were in there) and parabens. I did all of the above, switching to health food store products, not really knowing why, other than I didn't really like the idea of putting petroleum products on my skin, someone recently told me lotions were only made out of petroleum derivatives for the convenience of the oil industry (which we all know is a Bad Thing) and because I always do everything it says to do in those hippy guru books because I'm a sheep.

Anyway, so this morning as I was applying my completely delicious new Avalon Organics Lavender Ultimate Moisture Cream to my face and my Nature's Gate Skin Therapy Colloidal Oatmeal Lotion to the rest of me I was thinking to myself I must tell you that after several rounds of experimenting with really crap natural products, I'd finally found some that, as well as using organic ingredients, being packaged in recyclable materials and not helping Mr. Bush and his oil buddies out, were lovely to use and really effective. No more scaly wee-scented skin for me - just refreshing, light, whippy face cream and rich, soothing body lotion. Yum.

And I thought that while I was at it, I might as well Google 'reasons to use organic skincare products' for your edification and mine.

Well, talk about a Pandora's Box. This goes a bit beyond just being eco-friendly because it turns out there's thought to be a massive link between skincare products and breast cancer. Apparently breast cancer rates have gone up 80% in the last 30 years or so, about 60% of skincare products are absorbed into the bloodstream through the skin (the body's largest organ) and are found in large concentrations in the bloodstream (parabens found in high concentrations in cancerous breast tissue, for example) and the vast majority of ingredients in skincare products aren't approved by the FDA or indeed anyone else. And apparently there are ingredients which, while entirely legal in the US, are banned in Europe because they're thought to be so dangerous. Not only this but because Parabens have a link to oestrogen (I think I wrote about this in the deo entry) they are also thought to be responsible for the early onset of puberty in some, possiby most, young girls these days (see this site, and this one).


Then I found this website where you can enter your beauty product and brand, and it'll spit out a safety rating based on the known danger of ingredients in a product, where one is safest, five is most concerning.

So you can guess what I've been doing for the last three hours.

I just discovered their 'highest concern brands' list. This was designed expressly for hysterical women like me. Up there near right the top with scores of 4.7: Marvis toothpaste, which I used throughout my pregnancy and Jo Malone products, which I use and have bought for most of my female relatives and friends at one time or another (though to be fair it's the red roses fragrance they flag, which is not really my thing), plus the Kerastase shampoo I'm still working through gets a 3.something ('moderate concern'). Oh dear.

Luckily the Nature's gate lotion is only a 2 and the face cream is just 1.3. Oh, and all Tom's of Maine stuff is 1 or less.

I'm warning you, once you start trying this out, it's pretty addictive. But I guess I'd rather know. Or would I?

Ahem, anyway, that's a bit off the green topic. I'm sure tomorrow I'll have another comment from Anonymous telling me I need to 'BREATH' (sic). For now I'm off to get my now much less polluted beauty sleep. If I can sleep, that is, for worrying.

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