Green Guide For New Moms: Going Green With Baby

My friend Melissa Moog of Itsabelly Baby Concierge just co-authored and published a fabulous difinitive guide to living green with your own little sprout. I was immediately impressed at how thorough Going Green With Baby really is.41kuwbjbgul_sl160_1 Melissa and her co-author, Jennifer Lo Prete, delve into every aspect of preparing for and caring for baby while being kind to the planet. They cover diapering (cloth is great but there are other green alternatives – see p. 101), nursery furniture (p. 87 tells you how to turn your changing table into a hip bar when you’re done with diapers), feeding (p. 25 demystifies all the label claims on food and more) and much more plus there’s a great guide in the back to help you create an eco-friendly baby registry.

Babies generate three times more garbage than grown-ups, according to the foreword of the book, so making green choices from birth makes sense to try to minimize your baby’s ecological footprint, even while their physical footprint is so tiny. I appreciate the book’s inclusion of budget-friendly options as well as more lavish products, because so often living green is mistaken for being very, very expensive.

Personally I wish I had spent more time and money in consignment shops and on craiglist.com before my daughter Grace was born. I bought and received lots of beautiful, brand new products that I’ve since seen available second-hand for much cheaper and in perfect condition.  Most of Grace’s clothes now are hand-me-downs (from her older cousin Sophia) or purchased at local consignment shops and you’d never know.  Same with her toys – I love ebay, craigslist and consignment shops for fabulous toys that don’t add more plastic to the supply chain and are cheap. Melissa gives some great second-hand resources on page 202 of the book.

The only downside I can see of Going Green With Baby is the quantity of the content. If you’re new to the concept of living green, you might find this book overwhelming as it’s simply a lot of information, although well-presented and easy to navigate. As the authors emphasize near the beginning of the book, the most important thing is to take baby steps and to make changes first where your baby’s (and your) health will be most strongly impacted (eg. things that will go in the baby’s mouth or affect the cleanliness of the air you are all breathing). So go green with baby and take Melissa’s book along with you!

My Guilty Pleasure: The Newspaper

My morning ritual involves three things: coffee, snuggles with my daughter Grace, and the newspaper. I’d fight pretty hard to keep any one of those addictions, so all this talk lately about newspapers moving online has me worried. You may ask, how can I justify getting a newspaper 7 days a week? That’s a lot of paper which amounts, over years, to a lot of trees. I know, that’s why I call it a guilty pleasure! But living a “just” life is never black and white, so here’s my rationale.

Justification #1: Reading a “paper” newspaper creates a calm morning breakfast atmosphere. A computer does not.

Reading the paper instead of whipping out my laptop at 7am keeps me unplugged in the morning. The minute the laptop comes out I launch into “work” mode. Emails pop up, my mind starts racing and my quiet morning is gone. My attention goes away from my daughter and husband and onto the work of the day. Keeping my focus on our quiet family ritual of breakfast together, even if it does involve reading the news, is important to us.

Justification #2: Can I trade gas for a newspaper please?

When I worked full-time outside the home I got most of my news from NPR on the radio. Now I work from home, therefore drive much less, therefore save on fossil fuels. Surely there’s some kind of trade off between the gas I’m no longer using and the trees I am consuming through my paper? And of course I recycle every single newspaper.

Justification #3: I hate the Oregonian’s website.

Our local paper’s website, to be frank, stinks. It’s hard to navigate, visually unappealing and full of busy, flashing advertisements. One more aspect not conducive to a relaxing morning breakfast time. On the other hand the print version of The Oregonian is easy to find your way around and gives a good balance of local, national and international news (OK, the international could be better, I’ll admit).

Justification #4: I stay up to date.

I am generally well-versed in current events, both local/ national and global, thanks to our newspaper. I’ll continue to resist reading online for the reasons above and I no longer spend enough time in the car to get my news from the radio that way. As theologian Karl Barth advised, Christians should have the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. It’s important to me to stay up to date and the print paper works best for me to meet this goal.

So what do you think? Is the newspaper important to you or do you find you can get your news online just as well?  In our home the newspaper is staying put for now, but in the near future we may not have that option if and when everything moves online. I dread that sad, sad day.

New Sale Section At Bambootique

I’ve just added a “Sale” section at Bambootique. There are some great products here that I just have overstocked on and need to move them on to make space for new orders coming this spring. Most things in the section are 25% off, some are up to 50% off. Check it out!

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This alpaca wool scarf from Bolivia is 50% off, marked down from $46 to just $23.

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Gorgeous glitter bags from Afghanistan are marked down 25% from $26 to just $19.50.

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These eye-catching earrings from Honduras are 50% off, down to just $8/ pair.

Fair Trade Federation Comes To PDX

ftflogoThe Fair Trade Federation is the premiere North American membership organization for organizations and companies committed to fair trade, and now they’re coming to town! Each year the Fair Trade Federation holds a conference for members, which this year will be held right here in good ol’ Portland. I can’t think of a better place since sustainability is a central part of the Portland lifestyle.

The conference will be March 27-29, 2009 at the Doubletree Hotel. It’s open to members and non-members and registration is available on the Fair Trade Federation’s site. Bambootique has been a member since its inception three years ago and I’m looking forward to meeting like-minded companies and learning more about current trends within the fair trade movement. Hope to see you there!

Declare The White House A Fair Trade Zone

changeInspired by President-elect Obama’s campaign for “change we can believe in,” Change.org is running a campaign of ideas for Obama to implement once in the White House. As owner of a fair trade company, naturally my vote goes for the idea to “Declare The White House A Fair Trade Zone.” That would mean serving fair trade coffees and teas at official functions, using fair trade chocolate in desserts and generally giving fair trade the highest profile yet. For a president-elect with social issues at the top of his agenda, this idea doesn’t seem far-fetched at all. Register your vote through tomorrow, Jan. 15th at 5pm ET.

I’m A Kale Convert

Yesterday I ventured in the rain to the Hillsdale Farmer’s Market and I am SO glad I did.  My disappointment last week at New Season’s slim local pickings was replaced with my delight at the bounty I found available. The booths were piled high with colorful produce including gorgeous bright orange kabocha, a delicious squash I ate often during a post-college year in Japan, to tiny sweet kiwi fruit plus fresh Hood Valley apples and pears, leafy greens and loads of root vegetables like turnips, parsnips and carrots. I left with a backpack plus several shopping bags piled high with goodies I couldn’t wait to convert into this week’s meals.

One item I purchased with a healthy dose of skepticism was a big bunch of leafy green kale. I’ve been wary of winter greens ever since an attempt several years ago to cook swiss chard. Let’s just say it was not good. I’ve been hearing how healthy kale is though and decided to give winter greens another go. My husband looked less than delighted at the bowl of kale soup I set before him last night. That is until he tried it. He actually loved it and so did I. It’s a spicy Thai-style noodle soup, adapted from a recipe from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything. When cooked, kale becomes chewy yet tender, with a flavor and texture resembling a tasty meat you might find in a soup.  Today Grace even happily ate bite after bite when I heated up the leftovers.

The recipe, below, will definitely be making a return visit to our dinner table soon. If you have your own delicious recipe for kale or other winter greens, please do share by leaving me a comment.

Thai-style Kale Soup
(adapted from Mark Bittman’s Kale Soup with Soy and Lime)

2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup minced onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 cups roughly chopped kale leaves (stripped from stems and washed)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on your preference for heat)
1 tablespoon lime juice or 1 lime cut in quarters
Minced cilantro leaves

Asian noodles (I used Chinese egg noodles but Thai-style rice noodles would work great as well)

  1. In a large pot boil enough water for your noodles, according to package directions. Cook and drain noodles.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, place the oil in another large saucepan and heat on medium-high. Add the onion and cook until soft.
  3. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and add the soy sauce, fish sauce and redpepper flakes. Taste and add more soy sauce and/ or fish sauce according to your preference.
  4. Add the kale to the simmering broth and cook about 10 minutes, until tender.  Add the cooked and drained noodles to the soup and garnish with lime juice and cilantro sprigs.

Cadeau! Cadeau!

ribbon-heartthBambootique is participating in a brand-new Valentine’s Day shopping event, Cadeau! Cadeau!   The event will be a melange of local vendors showcasing products from Portland and around the world. Held at Paddy’s Bar and Grill downtown, it will be a great time to share a drink with friends while picking out something special for your sweetie.

Other vendors include our fair trade friends at Global Sistergoods plus Wingnut Confections, Liv and Lotus, Experienced Materials and Lucina Jewelry.

Wednesday January 21 5:30-8pm
Paddy’s Bar and Grill
55 SW Yamhill, Portland

This event is co-sponsored by Mindshare and Ladies Who Launch.

Meet Aurora, The Creativity Behind The Craft

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Honduran potters who make eye-catching ceramic beads for Bambootique’s jewelry. Today I’d like to introduce Aurora, whose hands touch every piece by turning the beads into wearable worksaurora_for_web of art.

I don’t know a lot about Aurora. She is quiet, small and probably in her late 40s. She sits daily at a large table in a cramped room at ACTA de Honduras’ headquarters in Tegucigalpa.  The room is full of natural light, even on the cloudy day I visited. No space is wasted in this room full of product samples and drawers and shelves dripping in beads.

She shyly told me a little about herself when we met last month. She told me about her four children, the oldest trying to figure out how to pay for university. She told me how she moved to Tegus from her village a few hours away so her children could go to school and she’d have work. She told me about how she likes to go back to her village, as Tegus will never be home. And she told me how she enjoys making each piece of jewelry by hand, expressing both her artistic abilities and those of her colleagues who handmake each bead.

I love this jewelry from Honduras because of the contrast between the rough beauty of beads made from earth with fashion forward designs.  Aurora is a humble woman whose life revolves around family, work and traditions. She wasn’t wearing any of the jewelry she makes the day we met, and I doubt she ever does. But she smiled while she worked and seemed to truly enjoy what she was doing. Into each necklace or earring she shares a little of her people’s traditions with us. For that gift I am grateful.

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Aurora showing me how she chooses beads for a necklace.

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Cascada Tres Hilos Necklace

Buying Local Is Hard In Winter

I’m currently engrossed in Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year In Food Life.  In it 51seqiztr0l_sl160_Kingsolver dramatically recounts her family’s year of eating only locally grown foods. I was so inspired I decided to do a little test this weekend and only buy Oregon grown produce for our family, despite it being the heart of winter.

My little experiment would have been a lot easier had I chosen a weekend when a winter’s farmers’ market was open, but alas I did not. Instead I headed to New Seasons, thinking they’d have a similar selection to the farmers’ market, right? The produce looked amazing when I walked in but I was disappointed to come away with only the following Oregon-grown produce: shallots, russet potatoes and turnips. The kale was marked “Oregon-grown” but on closer inspection of the label it was from California.  I threw in some California baby carrots because we can’t live without those in our house and called it good.

The produce I did find will make a great stew from the free-range beef I picked up this past week from Abundant Life Farm. Next weekend the experiment continues but at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market. I have a feeling I’ll have better luck but I’ll let you know.

My Favorites of 2008

Happy first day of 2009! Here’s a look back at my top five reads and flicks of ’08.

Fave Books I Read in 2008

  1. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  2. World Without End by Ken Follett
  3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  4. Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris
  5. The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Fave Movies I Saw in 2008

  1. Slumdog Millionaire (possibly my favorite movie ever?)
  2. Juno
  3. Once
  4. The Business of Being Born
  5. Cautiva

What are your favorites from the last year? I need ideas to read/ watch in ’09!