Shoulda biked . . . and then we did

A couple weeks ago, with Gabriel at his Baba’s for an overnight, we headed to the Botanical Garden for an impromptu date night.

We debated biking, but it was hot, and our new place is significantly farther from the gardens.  Not unbikeable by any means, but enough to make the car somewhat attractive, especially when time is at a premium.

We failed to factor the crowd and parking into our transportation decision.  We had to park in one of the overflow lots and walk.  I didn’t mind the walk, but it did add to the trip time, probably making the bike a more competitive option, as we would have had premium, up-front parking.

We enjoyed the show by night and looked forward to bringing Gabriel back to see the brightly colored art work by day.  With the show winding down (it ends this weekend), and some cooler weather, we managed a quick visit this week, biking not optional.

Over the weekend, we worked up to some fairly long rides, and I’m still loving the front seat.

For our trip to the Botanical Garden, I used bungee cords to secure the umbrella stroller to the milk crate on the back of my bike.  Wheels for getting to the garden and wheels for getting around in the garden — it worked quite well.

Windows open wide

One of the not-so-green compromises we’ve made this summer involves air conditioning use and thermostat setting.  While we’ve always used some A/C in summers past, it’s been pretty moderate, and, if the overnight lows seemed somewhat reasonable, we would try to open up and use fans at night, even if it meant slightly warmer than ideal temperatures and not-so-great sleep.

How has a baby changed the A/C use picture?  1) Gabriel (like most babies, I think) likes to sleep cuddled up in a blanket.  We have a very light gauzy blanket so he can have that secure, cozy feeling without adding too much warmth, but it is still a consideration when we’re setting the thermostat.  2) Windows open at night mean outside noise coming in at night and increased chance of night wakings that we have to deal with.  Enough said.  3) Tired parents need a good night’s sleep, not the restless, tossing and turning nights from a slightly-too-warm room.

Anyway, we’ve finally had a real break from the intense heat that’s been hanging around since, oh, forever.  The cooler temps provided the first opportunity to open the windows in our new place.  I’m typing this with a nice cool breeze blowing through the window, and it’s a fabulous feeling.

We enjoyed two nights where it cooled off early enough to have windows open overnight.  To address the outside noise dilemma, we opened all of the windows EXCEPT those in Gabriel’s room and ran the fan on the HVAC system to circulate the air into his room.

Another solution, though we don’t have it set up yet, is a window A/C unit in Gabriel’s room.  That would allow us to keep just his room slightly cooler (and quieter).  We have the window unit, courtesy of my mother-in-law, but we haven’t figured out a way to seal up the space between the unit and the window frame that we’re happy with, so that option remains untested.

Realistically, I know there will be more A/C days than not before summer finally releases its grip on Saint Louis, but for now, I’m thoroughly enjoying our reprieve.

Do you like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain?

And you probably like chocolate, if you have half a brain . . .

How about beaches, wine, peanut butter, beer, cute baby polar bears?

No, this is not a personal ad, but my half-hearted attempt to inject a bit of humor into a sobering topic.

Source: Huffington Post slide show

I just finished watching this slide show about what we (or future generations) may lose due to climate change.

Worth a look and then some action, taking steps to make our own lives more sustainable, but also speaking up: vote for elected officials with proven records of taking serious steps for sustainability; contact those politicians when important bills are on the table; contact businesses (big and small) who are not working toward a sustainable future and boycott their products.

Source: Huffington Post slide show

True, that in order to live more sustainably and save some of these things, we may need to consume less of them and buy varieties that are produced more responsibly, but that’s a fair trade when the alternative may be living in a world without [insert whatever motivates you here].

The end of the car commute

I’ve planned some version of this post in my head for quite awhile, though I was beginning to think it would never happen.

Over two-and-a-half (!) years ago, I accepted a position promoting active transportation (with a focus on biking).  It was a great opportunity, with one big downside: my four-and-a-half years of biking to work came to a screeching halt.

I explored options for bike commuting, including combining biking with transit, but the location, sixteen miles away, with a river crossing that is only spanned by an interstate (if I didn’t want to travel significantly out of the way, and still be on high-speed highways), and no transit service made that an unrealistic option for me.  I know some people bike to work at that distance and longer, but spending over two hours getting to and from work, and my route options (or lack there-of), made it a nonstarter for me.

Going into it, I knew the switch from a bike commute to a car commute (about 30 minutes each way) would be hard to swallow, and it was.  Everyday, I drove past an overpass reconstruction that was set to be complete exactly a year from when I started the position, and I set an arbitrary deadline of finding something else by the time they completed the project.

A year came and went.  Then two.  I enjoyed my job and working with my coworkers, but the drive bothered me.  And I didn’t want it to NOT bother me, but it didn’t bother me enough to bite the bullet and leave without another job lined up, not in this economy.

I’ve known for several months now that continued funding for my position was uncertain, but I found out just HOW uncertain two weeks ago, when the higher-ups informed me that due to recent budget cuts, my job would be ending effective July 31.  Alrighty, then.

I’m exploring a few possibilities, and, at least for now, not even letting myself look at positions that I could not readily access without a car.  At this point, I don’t know what things will look like come August 1, but I won’t be spending an hour in the car that day, and that can only be a good thing.

Plastic wrapped plastic crap

I went into the store the other day intending to by one plastic item (ice cube trays) and somehow left with two additional items.

The ice cube trays were a necessary evil.  I freeze my pumped breast milk in the trays before transferring to freezer bags (yes, I know, MORE plastic).  I don’t like Sir’s milk coming in contact with plastic (we use glass bottles and I store refrigerated milk in glass jars), but I just don’t know of a better way to store the milk.

My previous trays, which I’d had for years, but rarely used, finally gave out.  Age and repeated freezing broke down the plastic — I waited as long as I could, but their condition forced me to face the inevitable.  I found this stainless steel ice cube tray, but I just couldn’t swallow $33 for one tray (I needed two).

As for the other plastic crap, I’d been looking for some kind of tray that we could attach to the table — something with a lip to help Sir pick up food, but that he wouldn’t be able to pick up and launch across the room.  (We don’t have a high chair, just a baby seat that attaches to the edge of the table.)

Online searching had not yielded much, so, since I was already at the store I headed to the baby section to peruse options, not expecting to find anything.  I spotted the Tommee Tippee silicone mat (orange item in picture) that adheres to the table top and features a suction cup in the middle, which holds a variety of plastic dishes made by the same company.  I doubted their utility, but I’d been searching for a solution for quite awhile, so I purchased a mat and a 2-pack of plates.

The verdict?  Yes, it’s plastic, and it came in plastic packaging, but the mat is quite useful.  I’m not sure about the plate.  The mat’s suction cup actually works fairly well on our glass plates, so the main advantage of the plastic plates is the low (but not too low) and straight lip/edge to aid picking up food.

If you already had a plate or bowl (be it plastic, glass, or metal) with that feature and a smooth bottom for attaching to the suction cup, you could avoid purchasing their special dishes.  As it is, I use the plastic plates when serving food that I think he’ll have trouble grabbing and glass at other times.

Could we have avoided the plastic here?  Yes, but I’m learning that raising a baby (and not going completely insane and/or broke searching for the “perfect” green and healthy solution for every little thing) involves some compromises.  On the upside, I have not generated the waste involved with formula feeding or buying prepared baby food, which would make these purchases look inconsequential.

Coming soon: The “Green Baby Strategies” post