Thursday, April 3, 2014

How To Hit The Road With Toddlers


As fantastic as Philly summer happens to be, it’s also a good time to hit the road and check out a new place or visit friends and family. We did just that this past week when we packed the kids up into our little hatchback and drove across the great state of Pennsylvania to stay with my family for a week. We make the trek to my parents’ house fairly regularly – about every-other-month. The drive from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh (where my parents live) can be done in under six hours – of course when you have a three year-old and a one year-old along for the ride, that figure looks more like seven plus hours. One time it took us ten hours. Yes, ten! I think we saw every rest stop along the way on that trip. Over the years we’ve learned a few things to keep our road trips running smoothly.
Here my 5 tips for family road trips with toddlers

Pack Snacks – We pack a small cooler with drinks and a mix of healthy snacks and treats. It not only saves money, but cuts down on stops. Our favorite snacks? Apple slices and peanut butter, hummus and veggies, and animal crackers.

Have things to Do – This can be as simple as a few books for the kids to look through or some songs to sing together. There are a million road games from the License Plate Game to Road Trip Bingo. My kids are still too young for most games, but they do love pointing out every single cow we see.

Make a Soundtrack - My partner and I each have our favorite jams on our phones for the rare occasions we get to choose the music. Usually, though, we listen to mixes that my father made for the kids that include all kinds of fun sing along songs. I do get a little fed up with kids music sometimes, but it keeps them happy – and it’s a vast improvement over the static we listened to for the first six months of each of the kids’ lives. (But seriously, if you have a baby that hates the car, blasting static is like magic!)

Plan Your Stops – This we have down to a science. One parent changes a diaper while the other parent does the preschooler potty run. Then we take turns bringing the kids to do errands (Must get coffee!) and taking care of our own potty needs. Nurse the baby and feed the kid. Maybe a couple calisthenics or a two-minute dance party before getting back into the car and we are back on the road. We try to plan around our gas needs and bathroom breaks. Don’t forget to hit the ATM if you need cash for tolls.

Make Some Memories – Some of our best conversations with our three year old have happened in the car and when he’s an adult I will remember fondly that we had to listen to “The Lion King” soundtrack on repeat for an entire year. Road trips can be challenging with little ones – but approaching it as an adventure can make it quality time.

What are your favorite road trip tips?


[Last year I wrote this piece for the now defunct Philly Kids Thing website. I thought it deserved a permanent spot on the web, so I've posted it here.]

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Penn's Bio Pond: University City's Hidden Gem

The Kaskey Memorial Garden, more commonly known as Penn’s BioPond, is a little oasis in West Philly’s bustling University City.  Tucked away on Penn’s campus, it is home to turtles, ducks, koi fish, and other small animals.  With spring just around the corner, this is the perfect time to acquaint yourself and your kids with this less known West Philly attraction.

The pond is off of Hamilton Walk (between 36th and 38th Streets, just south of Spruce Street)among several University of Pennsylvania science buildings. I love it because it is an outdoor destination that is a bit more low-key than the playground.  We’ve been going for a few years now and my preschooler has loved watching the plants and wildlife there change with the seasons.

There are often one or two people enjoying their lunch on the benches around the pond, but other than that we usually have the place to ourselves. Two year olds are not known for their long attention spans, but my son spent over an hour watching the fish swim, a mother duck lead her seven ducklings around and the turtles sunning themselves on a log.  These trips led to conversations about the life cycle of a frog and the role plants play in an ecosystem.

I didn’t know about this spot until almost a year after we had moved into the neighborhood  and I wish someone had told me about it sooner. You can also find a waterfall, a walking path that covers the park, old stone benches, a relaxing table where you can play chess and loads of uncommon plants. So, just in case you hadn’t heard: The Penn Bio Pond is worth a look-see.

  [Last year I wrote this piece for the now defunct Philly Kids Thing website.  I thought it deserved a permanent spot on the web, so I've posted it here.] 

10 Reasons Philly is Awesome for LGBT Families



Philadelphia is a great city to raise kids. It’s also a city with a vibrant LGBT community. So what does that mean for LGBT people raising kids? There are plenty of reasons Philadelphia is a great fit for queer families – here are a few:


Citywide protections

Philadelphia has many legal protections in place for LGBT people, including recognition of life partnerships and non-discrimination laws. And, there’s new legislation in the works that will strengthen and increase safeguards like these, especially for transgender people. Measures that formalize relationships and protect people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity go a long way to keep queer families safe.

Fertility Specialists

Many LGBT people turn to assisted reproductive technology when looking to start a family. There are lots of fertility specialists in the Philadelphia area – many of whom are particularly in touch with the needs of the LGBT community. RMA of Philadelphia, for example, is highly regarded amongst the community.

Knowledgeable Lawyers

Every LGBT family needs to have a good lawyer on their side – whether it’s to navigate an adoption, set up a living will, or figuring out custody should a relationship dissolve. This is another field where it really helps to have professionals who understand the intricacies of queer families. Jerner and Palmer come highly recommended.

Camp Highlight

This summer camp for children of LGBT parents is based in the Philadelphia area. While my kids aren’t yet old enough to participate, I’ve heard a number of glowing recommendations from happy campers.

Second Parent Adoption

Since same-sex marriage is not legal in PA, the law does not automatically recognize both partners as parents. Second parent adoption allows for the non-biological and/or other parent to be formally granted parental rights.

LGBT Organizations and Events

Philadelphia is home to a wide range of active LGBT organizations and nationally renowned queer events. There’s the William Way LGBT Community Center, the Mazzoni LGBT Health Care and Wellness Center, the Equality Forum, the Trans-Health Conference,Liberty City LGBT Democrats, just to name a few – all of whom are working to make this city better for LGBT people and their families.

Gayborhood

Seriously, how cool is it that the actual street signs in Washington Square have rainbows on them? Even though this isn’t the part of town with the most queer families, it’s definitely good to have this kind of community hub.

Diversity

The City Of Brotherly Love is a large cosmopolitan city filled with people (and families) of all stripes. I appreciate that when I am out and about with my family we not only see other queer families, but families with single parents, families speaking different languages, and a range of races and ethnicities.

Family-Friendly

All the reasons you love raising a family here? Hey! I love those things, too! Most of our time is spent being a family, not necessarily a *queer* family. We love the zoo, the Please Touch museum, the Philadelphia Free Library. This a great town for families – ALL families.

Philadelphia Family Pride

PFP is hands down the #1 best thing going for LGBT families in Philly. (Full disclosure: I'm on the PFP board.)  They do so much for LGBT families that they deserve their own list:
  • Events - There are plenty of opportunities to get together with other queer famliles and socialize. They host regular playdates, seasonal hikes, a yearly camping trip, a summer picnic, and many more fun filled events. 
  • Family Matters Conference – Each year PFP hosts a full day of workshops for LGBT parents and prospective parents. 
  • Pride Trolley - Each year the PFP contingent in the Philadelphia Pride Parade rides on a trolley. This is the ONLY way to do the pride parade with kids – there are seats, there is shade, and parents and kids alike have a great time. 
  • Partnering and Education – PFP partners with the local LGBT organizations and events to make sure parents and families are represented. They host workshops, provide speakers and make sure LGBT families are visible in our community. 

I'm proud to call Philadelphia home - and to be a part of the community that is fighting for it to be even better.  What do you love about raising your family in this city?


[Last year I wrote this piece for the now defunct Philly Kids Thing website. I thought it deserved a permanent spot on the web, so I've posted it here.]

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Feeding My Father

The time we spent in Pittsburgh earlier this month was everything I was hoping it would be.  I wanted to spend quality time with my father.  I wanted the kids to get plenty of Pittsburgh family time.  And I wanted my mom, who works as a flight attendant and has to tend to our home in Mexico, to feel like she could leave for a few days at a time without worrying about my dad and siblings.

During this visit, my dad was in the best spirits I've seen him in since the diagnosis.  My mom was able to leave town for a few days, knowing I'd be there to pick up any slack her absence might create.  I'm sure it also put her mind at ease to see my dad doing so well.  He was energetic enough to be downstairs amidst the chaos of kids most of the day (in recent visits he spent many days in bed coming down only occasionally) and even accompanied us on a few outings (including the kids' fist movie theater movie).  He was stubborn and cracked cheesy jokes - it was as though he wasn't sick.  Best of all, for me anyway, was that he had a hearty appetite.  It gave me something simple, concrete, and loving that I could do for him.  Everyday.  

Pasta Carbonara (a la Pioneer Woman)

I started out by asking him if he had any requests.  He didn't, so I chose a few meals that I thought he might enjoy and my mom and I did a big grocery trip before she left town.  While she was away I prepared family dinners each night.  I even tried to make breakfast and lunch a little extra special.  Shepard's pie, pasta carbonara, ravioli and pesto cream sauce, apples and cinnamon oatmeal, grilled cheese with pickles, or fresh squeezed lemonade.  Leo and Zoe ate well.  I noticed my siblings made it home for most family dinners, even pitching in with prep and clean up.  My dad?  He had seconds of nearly every meal.  He had three helpings of the shepard's pie.  Three.  

Exactly the reaction I was going for

Toward the end of my visit my dad did start to make some requests - some more subtle than others.  One morning I came downstairs to find four boxes of brownie mix on the kitchen counter.  

"You know I'm pretty good at making stuff like that from scratch, dad?  If you want brownies I'm happy to make them without the mix."
"Those were on sale.  I got them for a dollar each."

Of course he did.  That's my dad.  So I made dark chocolate fudge brownies with walnuts. 

I use Alton Brown's recipe for my shepard's pie

I'm not unfamiliar with the drawbacks of using food to show love - but I am ok overlooking them from time to time.  Food is powerful.  And sometimes its the best tool for the job.  I have been on both sides of the equation.  I know I have poured all the affection, sorrow and empathy I had no words for into a meal I've prepared after someone close to me lost a loved one.  I have felt looked after and supported when eating fresh meals delivered to our door when our babies were new.  I have tasted just how very happy my grandmother was to have us visit by way of her cooking.  I hope my dad, siblings and children could tell how much love went into the meals I prepared for them.  

A meal out with the gang
At my dad's last appointment we learned that he will be starting chemo again next month.  It's good news in that there's still something worth fighting for...but difficult because we know his quality of life will take a nose dive.  I'll be back to visit next month, but I imagine it will be different.  It makes me especially grateful for the time we had this past trip.  


My father feeding my daughter

We will make the most of our time together no matter how rough going things are.  Hey, we had a great trip that time Leo was so sleep deprived he threw a tantrum complete with flying spaghetti.  So, dad, if you still have an appetite after starting this next round of chemo, start thinking of some requests.  I'd be happy to make anything that sounds appetizing.




Monday, March 24, 2014

Get Covered: The Affordable Care Act

I've been blessed with good health, healthy children and a healthy partner. Should an unexpected health issue come up we are fortunate enough to live with the peace of mind that jb's job offers great health insurance that covers our children and me (her domestic partner in the eyes of the law). I take the kids for check-ups, and dental cleanings, and other preventative care without worry. It's not a privilege I take for granted.  

I remember when I was working as an intern and a waitress - it was long before kids and I was young enough to feel invincible - I wasn't too concerned about not having health coverage. Of course that only lasted until that first time that a nasty flu knocked me off my feet for over a week. I could barely get the time off work to recover, much less see a doctor. It scared me enough to look into individual coverage...and what I found was impossible to afford on my tiny income.

Many individuals and families have found themselves in the same situation - without coverage or a reasonable way secure coverage. People who are uninsured may have spent years avoiding doctors, letting illnesses get out of hand, or going into crushing debt from medical bills. What could have been an easy remedy to a simple problem becomes a debilitating condition because it was not assessed by a doctor.

This is the "why" behind the Affordable Care Act. Now, healthcare is affordable for everyone. This is especially crucial for communities of color, the LGBT community, women and people earning less than a living wage. Are you covered? If not, now is the time to get covered.

We are one week out from the March 31st deadline. Visit GetCoveredAmerica.org to learn more about coverage options.



Under the new healthcare plans, people with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied coverage or charged more for having an illness or pre-existing condition, such as asthma, depression, even cancer. Many basics are covered under the new plans, including free preventive care, prescription coverage, mental health services, emergency services and hospitalizations, maternity care, as well as infant and children’s care.

Despite the now accessible and affordable healthcare, 81% of people  do not realize that the open enrollment period ends this month, on March 31. After this period closes, people can incur fees for being uninsured. With 1 in 6 Americans not having health insurance, it’s time to spread the word and help people get covered!

A great resource is the Get Covered America website. Here, people can find local help to get enrolled, calculators to estimate what coverage may cost, as well as answers to any questions one might have about the process.

New healthcare open enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. Find more information at GetCoveredAmerica.org


Concerned about getting covered because you are LGBT?  Health insurance plans now include clear protections for the LGBT community, here are four facts I learned reading a recent newsletter from The Task Force about the Affordable Care Act:
  • Insurance companies in Obamacare are no longer allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • People can no longer be discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions like being a survivor of domestic violence, living with HIV/AIDS or being transgender.
  • Obamacare also provides free preventive care, including free STI and HIV screening, help to stop smoking, domestic violence counseling, and screening for things like depression, drug and alcohol misuse and diabetes.
  • You can't be charged a higher premium based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Affordable Care Act can have a huge impact  — expanding access to affordable health insurance for millions of people. But only if people sign up!  


Make sure you are covered and spread the word so that those who aren't covered can get covered.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

WW: Friends


After our visit to Pittsburgh we spent a few days in Chicago visiting these cuties. It was awesome and made the "I wish we lived closer" feeling I have about this family a gazillion times stronger. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

State Of The Youngins: March 2014

Leo is fast approaching 4 years old - only two months until his May birthday.  The very next month Zoe will be turning two.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's going by so quickly.  Except the hours of 4-6 on weekdays...that lasts an eternity.

Morning Daze
Leo and Zoe are closer than ever - and yet, clearly setting boundaries with each other.  Zoe is really protesting unwanted hugs and screaming whenever Leo grabs something out of her hand.  If he asks nicely, she will almost always hand whatever it is over.  Leo really wants work on "big kid" projects (like building blocks) without Zoe touching - or even looking at - what he's working on.  Still, overall, they get along great and have so much fun together.  I love watching them play.  It's everything I hoped having a sibling would be for them.

Swinging Beauties

Peekaboo


Watching Doc McStuffins

Monkey See Monkey Do









Leo:
  • Haircut - Leo asked to cut his hair short ("like dad") after a while of having what can only be described as a bowl cut.  I think I prefer it short - but my mom prefers it long.  Luckily, he's adorable both ways.
  • Soccer - Leo finished up his soccer season with Soccer Shots (Zoe was at every practice cheering him on) and has picked up some new skills that he can't wait to show off this summer.  
  • Tantrums - The tantrums have become fewer and further in between - but they still rear their ugly head.  Now that we are in Pittsburgh there has been an uptick in frequency, but are easier to come back from compared to past visits.
  • Calendar/Chart/Map - In addition to his teamwork chart we've put up a calendar and map which has been really helpful in navigating context for time vs. space.  We've also added a couple new categories to his chart.  The first is keeping in touch with family (as in writing letter/card or talking on the phone/skype) and meeting new people (as in making eye contact and saying hello).
  • Independent - Mornings are a dream.  He wakes up, goes to the potty on his own, and will sit to flip through a book until Zoe and I are ready to head into the kitchen for breakfast.  LOVE THIS.  He can and will go to the bathroom on his own during the day.  Serve himself water.  I think we may need to assign a low cabinet to hold kid cups, bowls, and snacks so he can keep up this self-sufficiency. 
  • Super Heroes - He is obsessed with super heroes.  I don't love it because of all he fighting - even with villains, but I'm trying to give him the latitude to explore this new interest.  We've gotten several books from the library, watched the Incredibles, and play super hero mission games.  A lot.  
    Walking alongside the stroller
    Kid cappuccino mustache


    Blocks.  So many blocks.

    Morning "Sundae"

    Independent reading 

    Enjoying breakfast

    Snow Day


    Zoe:


    • Words! -  Zoe is beginning to amass some vocabulary.  Many words are still unintelligible to most people, but they are becoming more consistent and varied.  My favorites: Lelo (Leo, and I hear this word a zillion times a day exclaimed in a wide variety of emotions), Dodo (Zoe - maybe Zozo), Switcheroo (I can't type the way she says it, but this is what she says when she wants to switch sides while nursing), Peeeeeeeeessssss (please)
    • Communicative - Even with limited language, Zoe is so so so communicative.  She has signs, expressions, sounds, and movements that convey anything she wants to say.  Her memory is incredible - I am consistently shocked how I will mention something that happened months ago and she will make it clear she recalls what I'm talking about.  One of my favorite faces she makes is her "afraid" face.  She doesn't usually make it when she's actually afraid, just when she wants you to know that she WAS afraid or that something is scary.
    • No Longer Agreeable - The days of "yeah, yeah, yeah" are over.  Now it's all no all the time - even if you ask something with a clear yes answer - like "Do you want a cookie?"  She will respond, "no, no, no....no....yeah...yeah...yeah."
    • Sensitive - She can be completely unfazed by a raised voice sometimes, and will break out in tears over a stern-ish "no" other times.  She will also cry if I refuse a request to put on the "Let It Go" video.
    • Singing - Speaking of Let It Go, the kid loves to sing.  Rivers and Roads is her second favorite song.
    • She calls clementimes "WooHoo."  I think this is because she cheered woohoo when got them for Christmas, so now that's how she refers to them.
    • Fear - She doesn't like hearing noises approaching.  She is terrified of people entering house, or even a family member walking down the hall sometimes.  She will run over to me making her scared noises and practically climb up my leg until I pick her up.  
    • Thank yous - She is giving lots of spontaneous thank yous.  For snacks, help with shoes, just about anything.  The ones that really melt me are the ones she offers for nursing and diaper changes.  
    • Night Owl - She has made a habit of waking up about an hour after bedtime to join jb and I on the couch to watch our show and eat snack.  Actually, She hasn't done it at all this week - perhaps it was a growth spurt or something?  It was equal parts adorable and frustrating.
    • Smile - her (on command) smile is starting to look more and more like an actual smile.  Now it's more of a look of surprise with closed eyes.  



    Her best Albert Einstein impersonation

    Lunch

    Carousel At Please Touch

    Walking the dog

    Staying up late


    New smile

    There's more...and I was hoping to make a video with all of Zoe's best words and tricks...but if I don't schedule this post now, I know it won't see the light of day until all these updates are obsolete.  Like I said, it goes by quick.

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    First Movie

    The kids and I are visiting my family in Pittsburgh.  The kids have been keeping busy making forts with the pillows from my parents' couch, running from one side of the house to the other and generally wreaking havoc.  We also marked a major milestone by taking the kids to see their first movie in a movie theater. 



    While jb was still in town we took the kids (and my siblings and my dad) to see Frozen - which was a great first movie.  It's been out since November, so I was worried we would miss our opportunity to see it on the big screen if we didn't go soon, but also didn't want to rush in to this experience. I wanted to make sure it was a great memory. 

    I was a little concerned that Leo would be a bit overwhelmed - between loud and encompassing sound, the huge screen and the inevitable conflict scene I wasn't sure how he'd do. Zoe, of course is a bit on the young side for movies. At home when we have a movie night she ends up wandering and losing interest. I planned on taking her into the hall if she got too fidgety. 

    In preparation we watched a lot of videos from the movie. They already knew all the songs, watched all the trailers and had seen clips of the scary scenes. So when we finally got to the theater, they were really able to relax and enjoy it.  


    Leo is at the perfect age, he was riveted from beginning to end and was able to (mostly) follow the storyline.  Zoe, well, she was thrilled to see "Let It Go" on the big screen and she did make it to the end with minimal squirming. 

    We sat in the front row of the stadium seating so we had the railing in front of us and a little extra room to stretch our legs. Leo mostly sat in laps, but during Let It Go both kids stood at the railing holding the bars and sang along. It was awesome. 
    My favorite moment (even better than the kids singing along to the songs) was after jb took Leo for a bathroom break and as they were walking back to our seats.  Zoe spotted them crossing the theater and very excitedly called out, "Hi!  Hi!  Dad! Hi!  Lelo!  Hi!"  


    Towards the end Zoe was stretched out using jb like an arm chair, showing her belly, and still going strong on the popcorn. Both kids loved the popcorn. Obviously.   In fact, if you ask Zoe which movie we went to see she will answer either "go" (as in "let it __") or "popcorn."  So that sums up her takeaways. When you ask Leo if he would like to go to the Theater again some day he says, "As long as we can see Frozen."  Operation movie theater can be filed under "success."


    Monday, February 24, 2014

    West Philly Spotlight: CSA Options

    With Spring starting to peek through after such a furiously cold winter, my mind is on warmer weather. There's so much to look forward to with the coming months - More time outdoors, green leaves sprouting, open windows, and lots of fresh local produce on the table.  Between the farmers' market at Clark Park, Milk and Honey Market, and Mariposa Co-op it's not hard for West Philly residents to purchase local fruits and veggies. 

    Still, perhaps the best way to support local farmers and get the freshest produce is by participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).  These programs are a way for consumers to buy directly from the farmers through a weekly subscription program.  Farms create shares - a segment of the season's crops that usually works out to a box of veggies and/or fruit per week throughout the season - and customers purchase a season's worth of produce up front to enjoy all summer (and sometimes spring, fall and even winter) long.  There is shared investment and shared risk with benefits for both farmers and consumers.  My favorite perk of CSAs is that occasionally we end up with some produce we haven't tried before and that we might not have picked on our own, but we give it a try because it turns up in our weekly box.  That's how swiss chard became a favorite in our home!

    West Philadelphia neighbors are no strangers to CSAs as is evidenced by several options and drop off locations around the neighborhood.  So which one to choose?  You can start by comparing price, pick up location, and what each farm is able to offer.  Luckily there is something for everyone here in West Philly - perhaps one of these options is right for your family:

    Kneehigh Farm

    Cost: $575-$700 sliding scale (23 weeks)
    Pickup Location: Mariposa Co-op
    Included: 7-12 varieties of seasonal produce

    Kneehigh Farm is owned and operated by Emma Cunniff who has West Philly roots. This farm located in the Lehigh Valley doesn't use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. The CSA runs from early June through early November and is designed to feed a small family or a couple.

    Teens 4 Good

    Cost: $400/$300 work share (26 weeks)
    Pickup Location: 50th and Baltimore
    Included: typical share consists of 6- 7 vegetables, 1 fruit, and 1 bunch of herbs, bouquet of flowers or specialty item.


    The farm located at 8th and Poplar streets is a project of Teens4Good, an organization that partners teens with farmers to teach young people about social entrepreneurship, stewardship of their environment, and where their food comes from.  The CSA runs from early May to late October and the work-share option requires that you work a total of 8 hours on the farm throughout the season which can entail helping out with weeding, planting or harvesting. I consider this a perk since part of why we have a CSA is to teach our kids where our food comes from.  A trip to the farm - or better yet, participating - only enriches that lesson.  

    Wilmer Organics

    Cost: $558 (18 weeks)
    Pickup Location: 47th and Baltimore Ave.
    Included: Seasonal vegetables

    Wilmer offers both full or bi-weekly shares and the occasional fruit offering and the possibility of adding on eggs or yogurt. The produce is certified organic and comes from two farms in Lancaster county.  Every other week share available.


    Lancaster Farm Fresh

    Cost: $750 (25 weeks)
    Pickup Location: 50th and Osage (Powelton Village and HUP locations, too)
    Included: 7-12 varieties seasonal veggies

    This CSA is a cooperative of 75 organic farms in Lancaster County which means there's always variety of produce. The pick up location has a swap box - allowing you to trade out if there's something your family doesn't prefer. Add on options include meat, chicken, herbs, cheese, fruit, eggs, flowers and community supported medicine.  Half share available.

    Landisdale Farm

    Cost: $430 (21 weeks)
    Pickup Location: 49th and Larchwood or Clark Park Farmer's Market
    Included: 6-8 varieties of seasonal produce

    Landisdale Farm is a family owned and operated certified organic farm located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. They also raise grassfed beef and sell year round at the Clark Park Farmers' Market.  Delivery  every other week available.


    Red Earth Farm

    Cost:  $615 (22 weeks)
    Pickup Location: 44th and Baltimore (Near Clark Park)
    Included: 10+ varieties of seasonal veggies

    One unique perk for this CSA that operates from June to November, is that you are able to choose (to an extent) what comes in your box.  A list of options goes up early in the week and you have several days to make choices from what is available.  Other available shares to order include: Cheese, egg, flower, fruit and yogurt/kefir.  Partial share available.


    West Philly Foods
    Cost: $610 
    Pickup Location: Walnut Hill Community Farm (46th and Market), CHOP Hospital (Abramson Research Center), Renewal Church (47th and Cedar Ave.), or Heritage Farms (Belmont and Monument Rd)
    Included: 10-12 lbs. of seasonal produce

    The Enterprise Center CDC is supporting this unique CSA model that incorporates their kitchen incubator. Fruit and Veggie shares paired with optional add-on products such as jams, bread, bacon, nut butter, cheese, coffee and local beer. You can support our community by donating shares to families in West Philadelphia.  Half share available.

    Philly Cow Share

    Cost: $350 and up

    You can order a 1/8 share up to a whole cow share.  Organize a group to divide a whole share and save even more.  You'll need freezer space to store the meat, but you will have plenty of grassfed, hormone and antibiotic free meat that is frozen in individual vacuum packed packages on hand for six months.

    ___

    Not ready to invest in a seasonal share of a farm but want to teach your kids about how a farm works?  Or want something to expand on your Community Supported Agriculture participation?  If you want an experience that goes beyond the "pick your own" farm visit you should check out:


    Flint Hill Farm Stay

    Cost: $95-$180/night

    Stay overnight in one of the cozy rooms in the family farmhouse or one of the on site campers.  During your stay you are invited to pitch in with the farm chores.  You might have a chance to feed the horses, collect eggs for breakfast or milk cows/goats. This 6 acre property is run by Kathy Fields along with a group of volunteers. The "farm stay" program helps sustain this wonderful old farm dating back to the 1850s. Enjoy a breakfast of eggs, cheese and milk directly from the farm and try your hand at being a farmer for a day.
    ___

    So what are you waiting for?  Go!  Support our community's agriculture!  And nourish yourself and your family in the process.

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

    William Jess

    Leo, like so many young kids his age, has a special toy - a stuffed orangutan named William Jess - that is very dear to him. It was given to him when he was a newborn and was one of the first toys that he gave an official name to.  William Jess may not be a common name, but he was very clear in his motivation, even then, over a year ago, when he was still a newer talker.  The "Jess" is after jb and "William" is after his favorite singer - "William Darlings" aka Dar Williams.

    William Jess' home is on Leo's bed, but he's often out and about in our home following Leo on whatever adventure he's on that day.  I'm loathe to let him leave the house because I've scoped the options for replacing him and they are few and expensive.  Not to mention that I'm sure it just wouldn't be the same.

    The fur wouldn't be properly matted, the several different shades of brown/tan thread where it's been mended several times would be missed, the body wouldn't be appropriately floppy from missing 1/4 of those tiny plastic beads he was once stuffed full of, and the fragrance of a well-loved toy...well, that takes a while to cultivate.  Still, Leo does want him to come with us on longer trips, so William Jess has seen beyond the walls of our home.


    He's gone missing a few times - but we were sure he was somewhere in the house.  Leo took it in stride, but was quite sad to be tucked in without his dear friend by his side.  Thankfully William Jess always seems to turn back up.

    A few months back, Zoe took a shining to William Jess and Leo was NOT happy about it.  My sister found a similar looking monkey and gave it to Zoe.  She couldn't tell the difference and was happy enough with arrangement.  Leo decided that this new monkey was William Jess' cousin and named him Gumbar.  I have NO idea where that name came from.


    Recently Leo has begun to tell us a bit of William Jess' back story.  Apparently he is an orphan.  Both his parents died of cancer, but he has a grandma that loves him very much.  He comes to our house because he likes what we cook for dinner, he enjoys hanging out with us and he misses being part of a big family.

    I hope William Jess sticks around for a long time.  I share Leo's sentiment when he so often declares, "He's so special to me."