Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Natural Toy Obsessions

MamaKopp makes the coolest wooden toys and puzzles.  Isla loves to play with her "Troll-in-a-Rainbow" puzzle, and my new obsessions are the Serendipity, Pregnant Mama, and Lovebirds (pictured).  More puzzles and toys including Centaurs, Moomintrolls, and Beasties are available here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Birthday Crowns

I am all for birthdays. Mine lasts all week. I plan on making crowns for Isla and myself for birthdays and just playtime. Etsy is a great resource if you're in the market to buy one, or looking for a pattern. Try njsisson, cozyblue and SusannaW.

SB Natural Mama Goes to SD

While I've called Santa Barbara my home for over 22 years, I'm originally from La Jolla and feel very connected to my birthplace. Also, Isla's PopPop (my dad!) still lives in Del Mar, so we're down South quite a bit. On our most recent visit, I took some mental notes, since it is actually the perfect road trip for an SB mama and her family to take.

We usually take the train down since Isla is not too keen on the car seat for extended periods of time. It is an easy and beautiful commute, and takes less than 5 hours to our stop at Solana Beach (and just a bit more if you're headed all the way to downtown San Diego.) The most recent trip we took was for Isla's birthday, and we took her to Sea World for the first time. While I'm generally very conflicted about zoos and animal parks, I feel pretty good about Sea World. The animals seem well cared-for and happy, and most importantly I feel it instills a love of the ocean and it's creatures in all who visit. The connection children and adults make when they see the whales and other sea life up close ostensibly contributes to the percentage of visitors who go on to help protect and preserve these animals and their environments. That said, Isla's favorite exhibit was the beluga whales, although she was ridiculously entertained the entire 4 hours of our visit. We barely covered 1/3 of the park, and are planning our next trip for September.

Click here for an amazing story of a hero-beluga whale.

Even if the main focus of your trip is to visit Sea World (or the San Diego Wild Animal Park, or Zoo), I highly recommend a pit stop in North County. Just ever so slightly North of Solana Beach is Encinitas, home of The Magical Child - one of the best natural baby and kids stores I've seen. Expect to find Waldorf dolls, amazing CDs and books, fairie dress-up, safe and natural toys, organic clothing, cloth diapers, organic toiletries, etc., and a great play area for your little one. I make a trip here every time I'm in the area. As for restaurants, the Pannikin is a daily must for my family. It's the best coffee house I've ever tried. The ambiance is so cool, and different at each of the three locations (La Jolla, Encinitas, Solana Beach), and the food and coffee is amazing.

The beaches in San Diego are incredible, and the water is so warm. There are plenty of great spots, but my favorite is Windansea in La Jolla. If you're planning on taking your little one in the water, though, I'd skip this one - while an older child would have a blast, the shore break is not suitable for young kids.

**I want to add that my feelings about Sea World - and other sea parks - are extremely ambivalent. The Shamu show was one part cool, to three parts sad. The giant, intelligent, amazing wild animals were in such a tiny, artificial environment. While I do feel sea parks are important in keeping people connected with whales and dolphins enough that they would fight for their welfare (i.e. trying to stop the mass-slaughtering of both in Japan!), I feel just as strongly that something needs to be done to protect the animals in these parks. Better, larger tanks that better simulate their natural environment, and breeding animals specifically for the parks rather than poaching them from their home in the ocean would be a start.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Magical Portraits

I am absolutely in love with these magical portraits by Dream Touch. You just send them a photo of your child and choose from all of the different backgrounds. This fairyland scene is my favorite.

Sample Baby Registry for the Natural Mama

Knowing now what I didn't know then, this would be my registry for our first baby:

I. Gear:
1. Graco Snugride infant carseat
2. Britax Marathon convertible carseat
3. 2 strollers - one lightweight umbrella stroller (we have a Maclaren, which is on sale now,) and one sturdier stroller that can accommodate an infant (we have the Bumbleride Indie, which you can clip your carseat right in to.)
4. Don't get a swing right away - your baby might not like it. Instead, wait until Baby is born and a few weeks old, and test it out at a friend's or a store. Same goes for the exersaucers.
5. The moby wrap.
6. The Ergo Baby.

II. Sleeping:
1. Co-sleepers ended up not getting used. The babies in our mamatoto group for the most part all ended up sharing the bed with their parents. If you decide to go that route, though, you can find a used one on Craigslist. Cribs were also seldom used. Instead, a toddler bed on the ground ended up being our best and safest option for naps.
2. Organic crib mattress and organic crib mattress pad for the toddler bed.
3. Bed rail for the family bed if Baby will be sharing the bed with you.
4. Organic crib sheets - two fitted (and two sets for your own bed).

III. Layette:
1. 8 organic cotton or secondhand 100% cotton receiving blankets.
2. 2 muslin gauze blankets (I love Aden & Anais) for swaddling, shade over the stroller, lightweight warmth, clean place to sit at the park, etc.
3. At least a dozen organic cotton burp cloths. I like the Gerber cloth diapers for this purpose - extremely soft, inexpensive, organic...
4. 6 organic cotton or secondhand 100% cotton onesies, 2 longsleeve tees, 2 pairs of cotton jersey pants, 4-6 pj suits, 6 pairs of organic cotton socks, 1 or 2 cozy cotton sweaters, 2 pairs of BabyLegs. (The rest I'd wait on, since you'll receive tons of outfits as gifts.)

IV. Diapering:
1. Some disposables to start out - either Seventh Generation or Tushies: 1 pack newborn and 2 or 3 packs of size 1.
2. Cloth diapering system, including pail and sprayer. I'd suggest pocket diapers, and either FuzziBunz, Happy Heinys, Bum Genius 3.0, or something similar. One dozen to start with, and you can always buy more. Alternately, you can try the G Diapers with cloth inserts and the flushable inserts for travel, but remember not to use the flushable inserts until Baby has started on solid foods or you'll have a mess on your hands.
3. Hemp Inserts. These are so trim and absorbent, and it's nice to have a few extra inserts on hand.
4. Cloth wipes and diaper area spray. In addition to being better for the environment, you'll save a ridiculous amount of money using cloth wipes. We use California Baby Non-Burning and Calming Diaper Area Wash. We dilute it and one bottle lasted us almost the entire first year. Or, you could do what my friend Heather does and fill up a thermos with warm water in the morning to use throughout the day.
5. A couple of wet bags to toss wet diapers in when you're out and about.

V. Feeding Baby:
1. Breast Pump. I started with the medela swing, but ended up passing it on to a friend. I ended up much happier with my hand pump: the Avent manual pump. It comes with two bottles, is easy to assemble and operate, and totally BPA free.
2. One or two bottles. Born Free makes a good one, and so does Green to Grow.
3. Boppy. You can find one pre-owned at the Traveling Pants and put a new organic cover on it.
4. Nursing bra. Getting the right size is tricky. I needed one size bigger around the ribs and two cup sizes bigger than my pre-pregnancy size.
5. Organic cotton breast pads.
These others you could register for, or wait until Babyis closer to 6 months old before buying:
6. Snacktrap (2)
7. Mesh feeder (1 with extra bags)
8. Sippy cups (3-4)
9. Baby Spoons and bowls (We like the wooden sets from
10. Bamboo or organic cotton bibs - my favorite option is at Summer for Kids (6)
11. Baby food mill
12. High chair. Ours is a pre-owned wooden one that cost us $30 and works fabulously. No need to splurge on a Svan unless you really want to.

VI. Bath and Potty:
2. Washcloths (4) and hooded towels (2). Bumkins is great.
3. Baby shampoo/bodywash, lotion, diaper ointment, and sunscreen. Try California Baby.
4. Comb. (You will need this if your baby gets cradle cap. Just massage her scalp with olive oil and let it sit for a few minutes. Exfoliate with the comb and wash Baby's head as usual. Do not use Head and Shoulders or a similar product - it will burn Baby's head!)
5. Baby nail clippers. (These will be in a first aid kit if you get one.)
6. Thermometer.
7. Humidifier.
8. Baby Tylenol (the kind without the dye).
9. Hyland's homeopathic teething drops.

VII. Safety:
1. Outlet covers.
2. Monitor

VIII. Furniture:
1. Glider chair. (Ours is from Craigslist.)
2. Changing table. (Also from Craigslist.)
3. Changing table pad and organic changing table pad covers.

Lastly, where to register?
I got nearly all of our diapering essentials, plus a few other things from, and gear from For the rest, I registered at a site like, where you can choose from lots of different sites and the registry is all in one spot. has a lot of great gear at the best price, and is good as a checklist for the natural mama. and have the best natural toy selection (besides etsy), and don't forget to register at a physical store. Summer for Kids has a huge selection of organic toys, clothing and bedding, as well as all of the feeding essentials, and is totally organic and natural. Chicken Little is also a good source. While definitely not entirely organic, it does have the best range of products from strollers to clothing, breast pumps, highchairs, etc.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Apple Cheeks

I recently heard about Apple Cheeks cloth diapers, and was romanced by promises of the trim fit.  We've been testing them out for a couple of weeks now, and the results are in:
1. They are made in Canada, come in cute colors, and have snaps - a plus as far as I'm concerned.
2. They are not that trim.  At least not if you use their inserts.  Compared to the other diapers we've tried, they are comparable to the Happy Heinys, bulkier than the Bum Genious, 3.0, and much bulkier than the G Diapers.  If you use a Fuzzi Bunz hemp insert, they are pretty trim.
3. It is a little harder for me to tell when my daughter's diapers are wet.  With the other pocket diapers, I just stick my hand in the pocket (which is in the very back) to see if the insert is wet.  The Apple Cheeks opens in the middle of the diaper, so it makes it more difficult to do a quick-check.  Per my friend Amrita's advise, I do the smell test to see if there's pee.
4. The fit is great.  I attribute this to the two-size system they have.  One size pocket diapers are extremely bulky on the little ones, and the elastic at the leg holes isn't ideal once the babies are bigger.
5. They are a bit more expensive, and also do not come with free inserts.
Overall rating B+/A-

What's a Natural Mama to Do?

There are so many things to do in Santa Barbara with babies, but a few of my favorites are yoga, bike rides, and the "Butterflies Alive!" exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.  

We take yoga classes with Emma, at SBYC, and also with Dani at Yoga Soup.  See earlier posts for more info on these.

For bike rides, we have a sturdy baby/toddler seat that attaches to the back of my husband's bike, and a tiny helmet we found at the thrift store.  Isla LOVES bike rides, and it's the best way to get her to take a nap.  We park at the estuary by Stella Mare's and take the bikes down the trail and all over downtown.  Today we parked at the pier at Goleta Beach and took the bike trail through UCSB and around IV.  We love bike rides for the outdoor time and the workout, but the best part about it is that we get fun family time all together.                                                                 **Isla's adorable kimono sweater is available at Craft Junkie Creations, and is easily my favorite piece of clothing she owns.

The "Butterflies Alive!" exhibit is so much fun for kids and babies, and is best when it's sunny outside.  I really would like to live in this place - butterflies were literally everywhere.  Isla was fascinated and entertained the entire time, and surprisingly not frustrated at not being able to hold one.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Thrifty Natural Mama

Some would love to be natural mamas, but are short on cash.  It's a popular mis-conception that it costs more to be natural.  Yes, organic food and clothing do cost more... sometimes.  Not if you're buying some of the clothing secondhand and sticking with what you really need, and not if you're growing some of the food, and cutting back on the portions of meat.  And, with the extra $4000 you save using cloth diapers over disposables (way more than that if you use cloth wipes like we do!), you'll probably come out ahead.

I like buying clothes for myself and Isla from secondhand stores.  It's much greener than buying new, (less waste, less pollution from production), and you can get really nice labels and fabrics for less than the brand new, cheaply-made polyester type at Target or Old Navy.  For myself I like swap meets, thrift stores and yard sales, as well as Twice as Nice and The Closet; for Isla The Traveling Pants and Polar Bear.  And saving money buying secondhand makes me feel a lot less guilty when I have to splurge on a nice organic mattress or really want to buy a cool but pricey outfit for Isla.

I love buying antiques, for the same reasons I buy secondhand clothes.  Santa Barbara County is full of antiques stores, especially in Summerland and Carpinteria.

We're getting rid of our water-guzzling front lawn in favor of fruit trees, and the vegetable garden in the back keeps getting bigger.  I used to buy our organic produce at farmer's market and Lazy Acres, which was delicious but pricey.  Our garden saves us so much money, and Isla has fun crawling in it to find and eat the strawberries.  The excess water from the washer waters the backyard.  (I'm planning a future post on greywater, and setting up a system at your home will save tons of money and water.)

If you're a meat-eater, buying grass-fed, free-range meat is really important for your health and the planet.  It's also more expensive.  But if we can change our ideas about what a portion of meat looks like, (or serve it as a side dish, rather than the main) and not necessarily eat it every day, than you will be spending much less money in the end, and have a healthier diet.

Natural cleaning products are really important.  The toxins in conventional cleaning products are really scary, and harmful to you, your baby, and the environment.  There are great natural options available at the supermarket and online, but if you buy vinegar and baking soda (in bulk, even, to save more money and packaging) and a few lemons, you can make your own natural cleaning products, which are really effective and practically free.  

Natural toys also seem to be more expensive, but again I've found that not to be the case.  Isla plays with her natural wood and woolen toys a lot longer than the noisy plastic versions, and we don't need to buy as many toys as we think.  At the top of Isla's list right now: playsilks - for playing peek-a-boo, wearing like a scarf, and taking in and out of her purse.  See earlier posts for more good deals on beautiful, naturally-made toys that will grow with your child.

Peaceful Clothing

I'm into this clothing company called Be Love. 10% of all their sales go to help teach peace, nonviolence, and conflict resolution. Their clothes are organic and sweatshop-free, and feature images of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. They come in sizes 3-6 mos - adult and are available online, or you can purchase locally at Rincon Designs in Carpinteria.

What Up with G Diapers

I've been test driving G Diapers for a while now, and here's my final opinion:
1. They're so cute.  And really "trim" compared to my other cloth diapers, comparable to a disposeable.
2. They are virtually leak proof - yay!
3. Do NOT use them during baby's first few weeks.  I've heard from every friend who did - the messy poops go everywhere.  Wait until they're on solid foods before trying these diapers out, unless you use the cloth inserts.
4. 3 Covers, 5 liners, and one package of inserts lasted my entire 4 day (50 hours of which was on the train!) trip.  Just as convenient as disposables, but less leaks.
5. Velcro starting to get less "sticky" at the edges.  (I saw one baby in our yoga class pull hers off...)
6. As with any diaper cover, make sure you use natural fiber inserts or pre-folds.  I like the hemp the best, since it holds the most liquid and is also the trimmest.  If you use a microfiber insert (which came free with our pocket dipes), use it with a hemp doubler or a cloth wipe over it so that the natural hemp is against Baby's skin rather than the microfiber.
7. To sum it all up: these diapers are perfect to use when traveling, and when your little one needs to squeeze into her bootcut jeans, but like the bum genius 3.0,  the velcro may be shot after a while if you use them 24/7.