October 28, 2012

How much water do you use?

I just finished writing an article on OEIC (our energy independence community) on sustainability of cotton versus man-made materials and it got me thinking about how much water we use daily. Ok, you're saying, I use it for cooking, showering, and watering the lawn... Right, but did you know that it takes over 700 gallons of water to produce 1 T-shirt? Or how about nearly 1800 gallons of water for one pound of beef?

Clean water is a disappearing resource. We are all responsible as stewards of our planet to educate ourselves on the true cost of our choices.

Check out this interactive way to learn about water use courtesy of National Geographic!

May 5, 2012

Decorating our living room

We have moved in this house for more than 2 years now, and we are still trying to make it our "home" by personalize it and finding furniture and other items to decorate rooms. I want to share with you our progress with the living room, which had come a long way from an empty room to where it is now.

We refinished the hardwood floor and then moved in at the beginning of 2010. We came with a mission style coffee table that we got at an antique store somewhere near Ithaca on a road trip some years ago. When we had visitors, we would use our black metal folding chairs from Target as seating. There was nothing for window dressing. The walls were all white, and there was a prominent wall next to the stairs that had an old style wallpaper.

Living room when we moved in; after floor was refinished

The wall on the right of this picture had wallpaper that we removed (this was Dec. 2009)

February 16, 2012

Finding A Great Nanny

Photo by: healingdream
When it was time for me to go back to work, Micah was 4 months old and I wanted him to be safe and well cared for. After all, daycare is comforting since they are usually licensed, and many eyes are watching. But I didn't like the 4-1 baby to caretaker ratio that applies for all babies under 18 months old. Since I was going to work part-time, we decided that hiring a nanny was the best option for us. But how to find someone we trust?

Having someone work in home can be a bit intimidating to say the least. Will she be honest and trustworthy? Will she treat my child like her own? Will she be experienced enough to make the right judgement calls?

Fortunately, we had fantastic experiences with the nannies we've worked with. Here are the steps we took to identify and build relationships with our awesome nannies:
  • Use a site like Sittercity or Care.com to browse nanny profiles. Sign up and contact nannies you are interested in, about 1 month before you need services to begin. It typically costs $15-$30 for a monthly subscription in order to access their contact information. It's free to browse though. I would cancel the subscription when you've found someone you like.  Don't forget to also ask friends for references of great nannies they know or have worked with.
  • Setup phone and in-home interviews, call references. See how they interact with your baby. Ask relevant questions regarding ages of children they have worked with, tasks they are comfortable performing (feeding, changing diapers, laundry, cooking, etc.), hourly/weekly rates. 

November 4, 2011

Save Money by Insulating Your House

Winter is upon us and some nights are dipping below freezing. One task on my mind is to improve the insulation of our house for better energy efficiency and comfort. Currently, I am focused on the garage. Although the garage is usually considered an unheated space and not insulated, this is not completely true in our case. We have a raised ranch house with the bottom floor being the 2 car garage, laundry room, and family room. The 3 bedrooms we have are above the garage, and the rest of the upper floor is the living room, bathroom, and kitchen. The floor of our master bedroom is often cold, and I suspect that the insulation between the floor and the garage below is not very good. Heat also leaks from the family room and laundry room into the garage through a thin wall. To make matter worse, the north side of the garage exterior wall is currently not insulated. It is just 2x4 wood studs with exterior sheathing and wood siding, on top of 9" concrete block foundation. The insulation R-value of this wall construction is about 2, which is pretty low.

We can calculate how much heat is being lost to the outside by measuring the temperatures on the two sides of this wall. I used a hand-held infrared thermometer to measure the temperature at 9PM on November 3rd, 2011. The outside temperature was 39.4°F; the inside of the exterior wall was 53.3°F; the temperature inside the garage was 57.6°F. With these 3 temperature readings, I can calculate the R-value of the concrete foundation to be 2.9, and the wood stud wall above it has a temperature reading of 51°F and a corresponding R-value of 1.9. Based on a rough area estimate, the heat loss is about 1000 BTU/hr in this mildly chilly night. We use a 95% efficient natural gas furnace for heat, so this amounts to about $10 a month in heat that’s lost. If I add the heat lost through the 2 garage overhead doors and the concrete floor, it’s about $30 a month in heat loss!

November 2, 2011

Parenting 101

Ever wish there were training classes on how to be parents? How about take classes, get a degree, and then getting to know everything there is to know on how to be perfect a parent? If only that were true...

While no class can possibly prepare you for every situation, having some basic framework and skills sure help! Our good friends recommended some fantastic parenting material that's a joy to go through. We will share them here with you! Keep in mind, we are still working through these so we will be coming back with updates often. Also, we would be interested to hear about your reactions to the material and any recommendations you'd like to share. So please leave comments!

The Village Church Parenting Class - The series is divided up to 6 one hour sections, and taught by Jeff and Jennifer Wilkin of The Village Church in Texas. The class is based on the Christian faith, but you don't have to be Christian to appreciate the learning points. Applicable to children ages 9 months to ~15 years old.

Care Group - Various lecturers from the Xenos Christian Fellowship.  The goal is to provide relevant teachings on parenting using biblical principles from experienced, mature Christian parents.  Topics include: "Boys and Girls: Developing and Nurturing Each One" and "Understanding your Child's Personality"

September 30, 2011

Free Blurb Book Contest

Micah's First Month Book
During Micah's first month, we took lots of pictures of him, sleeping, yawning, on his tummy... you name it. Soon we had more pictures than we knew what to do with. Then came the idea of making a book using these pictures that's similar to a story book! We thought it would be fun for us to keep and to show it to him when he gets older; it turned out that it's a hit with the grandparents too! Click here to preview the book!

We had a good experience with using Blurb for our wedding guest book (filled with our engagement pictures), we also made a book of pictures from our wedding day. Now I need to disclose upfront that we are an Blurb affiliate, and that we did receive a free book as part of a promotion. But honestly, even there wasn't a free book offer, we would have used Blurb to create our book anyway. Keep reading to find out how you can win a FREE Blurb book ($75 value)!

August 13, 2011

Our Favorite Disposable Diaper

We are all for using cloth diapers, economically and sustainability wise, it just works out. But there are times when disposables come in real handy. For long trips and overnight, we use disposable because it's easy and absorbent. I know some folks use cloth exclusively, but I just didn't feel like lugging around dirty cloth diapers! Cloth works really well for us at home, but when we are out for 3-4 hours at a time, it can be hard to find a place to change the baby. Since disposables are more absorbent, baby is ok not being changed for a bit longer than if he had cloth.

Now we've tried lots of brands of disposable diapers including Pampers, Huggies, Seventh Generation, the best one we found and settled on is Nature Babycare by Naty. Micah has never had diaper rash in these diapers and rarely has blow-outs. Since Micah reached 4 months old, we started not changing him in the middle of the night. He now lasts from 11pm to 7am in one diaper without any problems. Yay for sleep! Here are some key benefits:

Biodegradable: These diapers are made of 60% biodegradable materials in contrast to conventional brands which are often composed of up to 80% oil-based products which do not decompose easily. Conventional diapers can take hundreds of years to decompose, these decompose in a fraction of that time.

August 8, 2011

Our Birth Plan

Today Micah and I went on a spontaneous trip to visit a friend from church at St. Mary's hospital. We also stopped by the Childbirth Center there to say hi to the nurses and deliver a birth announcement card. I guess the announcement part was totally unnecessary since they were the first ones to find out, but I think they appreciate getting the card anyway. The nurses who helped us give birth were not there when we visited, but the other folks were delighted to see the now grown up (5 months!) Micah and will pass the card on. The visit led me to remember our birth experience and how lucky we were to have found such supportive hospital staff who were sensitive to our needs. 

Everyday, there are thousands of babies and moms who are not treated with evidence based care in this country. (Check out the movie section of this blog for a trailer of The Business of Being Born.) One way to make your wishes known is by writing a birth plan such as the one below. It's not so much a "plan" of how you want the birth to progress, but a list of preferences to help the hospital staff understand your needs. Feel free to use the following as a template for your own birth plan or you can also make one for free on the Earth Mama Angel Baby website.

August 2, 2011

Interview with Debra Goodman, Physical Therapist

Debra is a fantastic physical therapist specializing in pregnancy and postpartum fitness in the Capital Region. I had the pleasure of taking her prenatal exercise class when I was pregnant with Micah. Besides learning great exercises and feeling relaxed after each class, I also made great connections with other women in the class. I started to get sciatica in one hip starting at about 20 weeks pregnant, and after one private session with Debra, the pain nearly disappeared instantly. I've been recommending her class to all my pregnant friends ever since. In this interview Debra shares a bit about her own motherhood experience and offers practical tips for all expecting and postpartum moms. Enjoy!

How did you get interested in physical therapy and decide to pursue it as a career?
Growing up I was a dancer, so I was always interested in exercise and how the body worked.  Originally, when I went to PT school, my goal was to work with professional dancers.  After graduation, I moved to NYC and worked at a clinic in Manhattan.  We were the therapists for New York City Ballet, School of American Ballet, and Julliard.  We also saw tons of modern and Broadway dancers.  It was a lot of fun, and I was fortunate to work with great manual therapists.  Eventually though, I became interested in women's health and started changing my focus.  After taking courses on treatment of the pelvic floor, I saw how effective manual treatment of the pelvic floor was in helping many different lumbo/pelvic/hip problems.  I also became interested in prenatal exercise and began training to learn how to each that kind of prgram.  After four years of dance medicine, I opened my own practice with a new focus in women's health with an emphasis in prenatal/postpartum physical therapy.
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