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8/10/2012

Well, nursery renovations are thisclose to being done (we had some flooring installation issues last weekend, so we are waiting on new flooring to arrive, then we're down to window trim and closet interior—yay!), which means: A) that I owe some delayed posts of my husband's excellent artistry using lime plaster from Unearthed Paints on the walls and handiwork installing electric radiant floor mats from Nuheat and B) it's time to move on to the very fun part of nursery remodeling: decor! 

Finding adorable and eco-friendly decor is definitely not difficult. The main problem is in narrowing down the many fantastic options and trying to stay on some sort of budget. 

There aren't many non-huge chain baby shopping options in my town, so I've been finding tons of items all over the internet, many of them handmade here in the U.S., that I am considering for the nursery. Now I just need to narrow down my options and make some final decisions. In the meantime, I thought I'd share. I'd love to see some of your favorite nursery decor, too! 

Uncommon Goods is one of my favorite eco-friendly retailers. They never fail to offer up interesting, fun, affordable and eco-friendly items, and my nursery-shopping expedition was no exception to their typical wish list-inducing offerings. I have coveted one of their recycled cardboard mounted deer heads for about a year; now they've added this upcycled moose head, so I have to decide which will work better! 

 Uncommon Moose Resized 

Upcycled sweater moose head (made by a dad in Canada), $50. 

Uncommon Bucky Resized

 

Bucky Jr. Cardboard Deer Head (made of recycled cardboard in Virginia), $28.  

 

The Land of Nod is another site with dozens of adorable kids' items. I love their many storage solutions, their affordable rugs, their collection of wall art and just about all of their other decor. 

 

 Land of Nod Baskets Resized 2 

Load Bearing Storage hamper/bins (made of bamboo and recycled PET fabric), $29 to $49. 

 Land of Nod Rug 

Color Inside the Lines Rug (made from recycled cotton), $99 to $299.  

For organization, I'm also planning on picking up several of these Way Basics cubes, which are made from pressed recycled paper and can be reorganized in a variety of ways. Super Storage Cube, $25


Way Basics Resized

And finally, when it comes to interesting nursery wall art, there are few destinations that can beat Etsy. The prices are great, and I love supporting individual artists. I usually just search "wall art" and "nursery," then plan to spend several hours browsing. Here are some of my top considerations for nursery art... 

I like the retro prints from handz ReStyle shop for $20 

  Handz Dreams Resized                 Handz Typewriter Resized 2 


I adore the prints and wood-blocks by John W. Golden, in particular his woodland creatures and robot series. Prints are $45 for a set of three; wood-blocks are $30 each. 

 John Golden Possum Resized 2                   John Golden Robot Resized 2 

 

And finally, Etsy is also the best place I've found to hunt for interesting mobiles. Here are a couple of my favorites: 

A card-stock mobile by JennaEBee13, $55 

 Jenna Bee RESIZED 2 

 The Constellation mobile by The Wonderland Studio, $72 

  Wonderland Resized 



7/31/2012
I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks to a few companies who offer top-notch skin-care products for pregnancy. All of these products are safe and healthy for you and your baby (unlike many out there, unfortunately--check out our recent guide to personal care products to learn about chemicals in conventional lotions to avoid). They have also (knock on wood!) seemed to prevent me from getting any stretch marks with just one week left of pregnancy. Phew! I have dutifully used these products daily throughout my pregnancy, and my rapidly growing stomach has stayed soft and smooth as a result. (I also had a friend make me a DIY skin oil, for which I am very grateful!) 

 

  NOW almond oil 2 

It doesn't get much more pure than NOW Foods 100 percent pure moisturizing almond oil. You can find NOW products at your local  health food store or online
 
 brigit take 10 
Brigit True Organics Mom's Belly Balm is made up of olive oil, shea butter and a blend of herbs designed to prevent stretch marks. It's easy to apply like a deodorant; your body heat warms it up and it spreads easily. It's available online from the Brigit store

wild carrot 2 
Finally, Wild Carrot Herbals Stretch Salve and Growing Belly Balm is a luxurious blend of cocoa butter and herbs that contains vitamin E and beeswax. You can buy it online here

 

 



7/10/2012

Hello! It's time for a long overdue update on our nursery renovations. In the past few weeks, we've accomplished a lot, but nothing quite as exciting as the work we've got planned in the next few weeks. We're only four short weeks away from baby's birth, so time is of the essence! We had to have the room rewired by an electrician. This room was the only room in our home that hadn't been remodeled by its former owner, which meant the wiring was circa the 1950s and both outdated and unsafe by today's standards. We hired a local electrician to rework the room, making sure everything is safe. He also installed in-ceiling recessed lights. These lights can be inefficient, but he insulated around them to ensure air wouldn't leak in and out. We also put these lights on a dimmer, which will give us greater control of our lighting options in the room. 

We also had new windows installed. The old windows were in horrible shape, and they wouldn't fully close or lock, meaning energy was pouring in and out of them. We matched the rest of our home by installing energy-efficient Pella ProLine casement windows, which look wonderful. Pella windows are one of the best options on the market. Replacing windows is expensive, but fortunately, we only had two windows in the room. 

The other major time input has been my husband's huge task of insulating and re-drywalling all the walls. We chose Owens Corning EcoTouch insulation. Greenguard-certified to be formaldehyde-free, made up of 99 percent natural materials and including nearly 60 percent recycled content, this insulation was a good choice in terms of health and price. It's available at Home Depot. 

Then the drywalling fun began. My husband has invested many hours mudding and sanding and I'm happy to report is finally done with that task. In the meantime, we've been very excited to be working with Unearthed Paints on choosing a wall covering for the room. Unearthed Paints offers clay paints, milk paints, lime and clay plasters and other fabulous, all-natural and healthy wall covering options. Owner Jessica Pfohl has been exceedingly helpful as we've looked through the company's extensive offerings, giving us so much help and advice. We finally settled (after much indecision due to the many fabulous choices) to use the company's smooth lime plaster, which we received in the mail yesterday. So we will be trying our hand at that this coming week. I'm very very excited to share the results with you!! In my next post, I'll include a series of in-progress photos so you can see our progress. 

 



5/30/2012


As we pregnant women keep in mind what is entering our babies' bodies through our mouths and avoiding alcohol, processed foods, mercury in fish and food additives, we should also keep in mind what could be entering our babies' bodies through our skin. When we slather creams, lotions, moisturizers and sunscreens onto our bodies, they are absorbed into our bodies via our largest organ, where they are able to impact developing babies. In our upcoming July/August issue of Natural Home & Garden, we offer a hefty, 8-page feature on healthy skin care products. Not regulated well by the federal government, laws restricting what skin-care companies can put into their products are virtually nonexistent, so it is truly up to us to become educated consumers when it comes to what we put on our bodies. 

This is more crucial than ever if we're pregnant, as levels of chemicals that can be somewhat hazardous to adults can wreak greater havoc on developing systems.  As doctor Debra Jaliman says on her blog on WebMD, "I can't understand why warnings for pregnant women are not on more skin care products." While I would recommend looking at the labels on your skin care products and avoiding anything potentially hazardous (using our upcoming article, which will be on newsstands in two weeks, or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database as a starting point), one of the most important ingredients to avoid is retinol. A vitamin A derivative that encourages skin to regenerate, retinol is in a wide array of skin-care products, particularly those touted as "anti-aging." Because retinol encourages cell regeneration, it can encourage skin to "renew" itself, helping it appear younger. However, that new skin is more sensitive to sun damage, and can actually increase risk of sun damage and skin cancer when used in daytime products. Nonetheless, the desire to slap "anti-aging" on the packaging has led more and more skin-care products to contain retinol. Some studies have found that retinoids (the class of vitamin A derivatives retinol is part of) in high doses can be harmful to unborn children. Oral retinoids such as isotretinoin (in the acne treatment Accutane) are known to cause birth defects.

 Found in foundations, lipsticks, sunscreens and cleansers, retinol in daytime products will "actually make skin age faster because it is more susceptible to the sun, no matter the amount of SPF protection promised on the foundation or sunscreen," Jaliman writes. Retinol is particularly not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, which includes ALL products, even those intended for use at night. Check your sunscreen! Many sunscreens contain retinol, which is a particularly hazardous use of the additive because exposure to the sun helps the product break down more quickly.  

If you are pregnant and you have been using skin-care products with retinol, don't panic. No studies have definitively linked topical use of retinol to birth defects or harm to unborn infants. To be on the safe side, though, avoid skin-care products with this ingredient. Retinoids can be listed as a variety of names on labels. Watch out for these: Differin (adapelene), retin-A, renova, tretinoin, retinoic acid, retinol, retinyl linoleate, retinyl palmitate, tazorac and avage, tazarotene. You can read more on this subject on the BabyCenter website. 

 



5/24/2012

Well, our nursery is officially demolished, and we've purchased efficient windows from Pella, which are to be installed in a few weeks. We had to buy new windows because the old ones were low-quality, rotting and not able to close fully or be locked. We ran an article in the current issue that talked about repairing historic windows (which can often be done for a similar price as replacement and be nearly as efficient), and I often recommend people choose high-efficiency storm windows as a lower-cost alternative to buying replacement windows. But these were neither historic nor in good enough shape to salvage with storms, so replacement was the only real option. We chose Pella because of the company's reputation for excellence, the high efficiency, and because it matches the rest of the windows installed by the previous owner. Fortunately, we only had to replace two windows, because as you probably know, windows are a major investment! 

Next, we will have to have an electrician come and rewire the room, then my husband plans to start installing drywall. Before starting that, we will be on the hunt for eco-friendly insulation, but that will be another blog! Our next immediate decision regards a heating system. We are planning to put slate tile in for the flooring. Our house has concrete floors everywhere else, but there are slate tiles in a few locations, so it should blend with other parts of the house. We like stone tile for its durability and its thermal mass, which helps moderate temperatures. Tile is also easy to clean and doesn't hold in particulate matter like carpet, helping to improve indoor air quality. 

In parts of our home, we are fortunate to have in-floor radiant heat, and we are considering purchasing electric radiant heat mats to install under the tiles. It is an excellent and efficient way to heat a space, and makes a hard flooring surface feel more cozy. Although we've featured homes with radiant heat many times in the past, I've never looked into electric radiant heat for a project of my own. I've started researching brands. We list some in the very handy Resource Guide on the Natural Home & Garden website, including Easy Heat by Emerson and Warmly Yours. The others we feature hook up to a water system (that's what the rest of our house uses, but would be too expensive to add on for this single room). So far, I've found Laticrete, NuHeat, PexHeat, WarmWireSunTouch and WarmUp. I haven't started digging into these products' reliability and safety ratings. I'll keep you up to date as I do. In the meantime, I'd love to hear anyone's experiences or recommendations when it comes to electric in-floor radiant heat companies or products. Email me at jkellner@naturalhomeandgarden.com if you have tips! 


 



5/14/2012

The house I live in is pretty amazing, if I do say so myself. (You can see photos of it here.) This is in no great part because of me and my husband, James. We were incredibly lucky to fall upon the place, which was remodeled with much love and intention by its former owner. It boasts a huge array of smart, efficient attributes: in-floor heat under concrete floors, a passive solar sunroom, 13 skylights (11 of which are operable), an indoor garden, an on-demand water-heater, a wood-burning stove, several well-placed entrances, excellent ventilation and more. We feel so lucky to have moved in somewhere that was designed by someone who cared about creating a home perfect for comfortable living, rather than one designed cheaply for resale value.

The one room in the house that has never been remodeled since its 1950s origins is what will soon become the nursery. The house only has one real bedroom--it's a loft-style room above the living room. Another loft--accessible by ladder--makes for a great guest room or office, but not so much a nursery. So, we're remodeling what has up until now been called "the shop." In this case, remodeling means essentially stripping it down to its bare bones. We will of course reuse the beams that are in decent condition, but with years of weather and termite damage, those beams are few. We are excited to be adding something new to our living space, and we're determined to make this room honor the integrity as the rest of the house.

The first thing was to start demolition, which James began last weekend, pulling out years-old drywall and insulation (wearing a breathing mask, of course) and the ancient single-pane rotted windows. We've been working on choosing materials for what will go into the space. We have an efficient window consultant heading out this week. We're hoping to install radiant in-floor heat in this space as we have it in other parts of the home and love it. And we're discussing the insulation options. I'm also eagerly anticipating lime paint samples (recommended by doctors in Germany for children's rooms because of its antibacterial qualities) from Unearthed Paints so I can choose colors (we're far from painting, but I'm still excited). I'll keep you posted as we move forward, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear your stories or even see photos of your own healthy nursery renovations!

Unearthed Paints 
Here is a shot of Unearthed Paint lime paint in a baby's room.

 

 



5/11/2012

A few weeks ago, I was struggling with what has been one of the only "problems" I've had during my pregnancy (I'm about six months along, so hopefully this luck continues!): back pain. My back pain seems to come and go. It will appear for a couple of weeks--either fairly sharp, severe pain in my tailbone, which is apparently common, or a more aching feeling through my center back. It's there in pretty much any position: seated, standing, lying down. Then, thankfully, it goes away almost entirely for a while. I am a huge yoga proponent, and doing a few back-relieving poses does help during practice, but it doesn't relieve the pain in the long term.

Holy Lamb Body Pillow

During the last bad period (when I was convinced it would be staying through the remainder of my pregnancy), I started doing some research. One thing many women said had helped them out immensely was a full-body pillow for sleeping. There are a lot on the market! But I reached out to a company I knew I could trust because we've featured them several times throughout the years: Holy Lamb Organics. Handmade in Washington out of organic cotton and wool. You can read much more about them on their website, but to give an overview, Holy Lamb is a small company that makes its fine bedding in a zero-waste, chemical- and scent-free facility. I'm dedicated to keeping as many harmful chemicals away from myself and my baby as possible, and that's especially important for something I'm going to be face-to-face with for eight hours every night. So I knew I didn't want to go with a pillow made of synthetic materials. And while I know I will likely have to make compromises on a zero-chemical life after baby is born, bedding is one thing I plan to be a stickler on. It's simply in too close of contact for too long of a time with our loved ones to choose something doused in chemicals. Lucky for me, Holy Lamb makes healthy baby mattresses, mattress toppers, bedding and nursing pillows. As for the body pillow and back pain? Well, the pain has been much improved since I started sleeping with the body pillow, which gives support between your legs, under your stomach and everywhere else you might be feeling aches and pains.





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