Best Board Books

The thing is, when Beez likes a book, sometimes we have to read it a lot. A lot a lot. I take it this is normal, but some of them are easier to stomach than others — sometimes I even try and steer towards one of them over another. I tried reading poetry or longer books (whatever I happen to be reading for fun), and it’s ok, but the thing is, she likes the pictures. So, a short list of some board books that we like enough not to mind repetition too much. I think these are books that really could belong in any library. (Board books are sturdy and the pages are easy to turn.) Also, these are my favorites from the ones that she likes. If it was best board books according to the toddler, it would be a somewhat different list.

Moo, Baa, La La La! by Sandra Boynton
Moo, Baa, La La LaFun! We love the dancing pigs. Sandra Boynton’s quirky sense of humor really works. This one is simple and easy to read and understand, I think.

But Not the Hippopotamus also by Sandra Boynton
But Not the HippopotamusAlso fun, with that trademark humor and art.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
Guess How Much I Love YouSweet and cute.

Potty by Leslie Patricelli
PottySo far no luck, but hope springs eternal. To be fair we haven’t really tried to potty train…yet.

My Friends by Taro Gomi
My FriendsThis might be my fave. The art is so good, and the text is too. It’s falling apart from how much we’ve read it. I think I might buy another if it ever really comes apart; it’s that good. I also think I want it in Mandarin. And I hear there’s an English/Spanish version too.

I have to mention one more thing: a custom board book. The day care asked us to put together a little book of photographs for our kid because they said that infants and toddlers like having a book that’s theirs, about themselves. They didn’t care if it was a board book, or if you just printed a regular photo book, or even if you printed some photos and stuck them to a page — they’d laminate and hole punch or whatever to make a book (also probably the sturdiest). But one of the teachers mentioned Pint Size Productions which prints custom board books. Pricey but irresistable. I should imagine that other companies print them too, but anyway, this is the one we used and considering they are printing a thick one off photo board book, I guess it costs what it costs. We have no regrets — she loves her book.

Any suggestions are welcome too!


We bought crayons lately since Beez is one and we thought she might like it. She likes to put everything in her mouth and it’s impossible to be absolutely certain she won’t eat something. She does things so fast that one second you’re saying, “n—” but the next second it’s done, and you never even finished your single syllable. So I thought I’d better buy something relatively non-toxic. Not that Crayola crayons (are there better crayons?) are toxic, and I’m sure they’d be fine, but they’re made with paraffin? wax, and I just thought, eh, why not try something “safer”. There are tons of makers all over the web and on Etsy that are made using soy wax or bees wax or other more edible waxes, so it’s easy enough to buy.

So we bought a couple of them to try out.

Clear Hills Non-Toxic Crayons are made with beeswax and “non-toxic pigments and clays” according to their site. The crayons are the large size kids crayon size. The coloring action isn’t as smooth as I remember my old box of 64 Crayolas were, and of course there’s only 5 crayons. What I mean by smooth is that sometimes when you draw a line, there’s darker parts of the line and lighter parts, and it doesn’t feel completely smooth with no bumps while writing. She tends to play with them like sticks (trying to hold as many as she can, throwing them around), although she does also draw random lines. Not bad!

Wee Can Too Organic Veggie Crayons are made with soy wax and veggie dyes. There are 5 blocks and it’s very smooth, but it tends to be light. Also if you bang the block little pieces will fall off. Because of course she plays with them like blocks — stacking, banging, etc. The ingredients make a lot of sense with the colors though — like the yellow is colored with cumin amongst other things and it is a bright, almost chartreuse yellow, like the edges of curry. These are super smooth.

Anyway, I like them both. I guess if you want the more pencil like shape then go for the Clear Hills one, and if you like the less expensive one then get the Wee Can Too crayons (after shipping and tax I think they’re less expensive). I do think that she doesn’t totally get that pressing harder will create more color yet, which is part of why we didn’t get markers because we thought it’d be good for her to play with pressure. Since the Clear Hills crayons have naturally more intense color, she uses them more, but she plays with both.


I drew the 8 straight lines (one of the blocks and one of the crayons were in another room and I didn’t go get them), the other marks are her. The four on the left are with the Clear Hills crayons, and the ones on the right are with the Wee Can Too crayons.

Recommendables: Baby Edition

Baby stuff we liked and recommend, and would register for or buy again, in no particular order:

Bambo Nature diapers: We like these the best out of the diapers we tried. They’re completely compostable in commercial facilities (not in your home compost bin, and not in our municipal compost bin either because they don’t want human waste in there) and soft. We have tried Pampers (we like the wetness indicator, but felt guilty about the amount of plastic involved; newborns especially go through a lot of diapers), Huggies (I think Pampers were better), Honest (super cute! But the compost service does not compost this brand), Naty (not bad but a little stiffer feeling?), and cloth. We got Tiny Tots diaper service, first with cloth, and it was fine but wetter, so we used disposables at night. (Even then it felt like we were washing diaper covers all the damn time.) They also have compost service, or a combination. We started with cloth, then combination, but after we started day care, cloth diapering just felt like more trouble than it was worth. I highly recommend Tiny Tots in the Bay Area though. And Bambo diapers.

Ubbi steel diaper pail: You can use any trash bag (we use our big compostable trash bags) and it really does keep the smell in. Well except for when you open it to put the diaper in; there’s nothing that can contain that.

Chux: Those blue hospital underpads have saved our bed so many times, plus it’s nice for when we’re out of the house. We’ve changed her on a picnic bench, Target bathroom, front seat of a car, etc. I think a washable underpad would work too, but definitely something waterproof. (We didn’t buy a changing table because it seemed so unnecessary, but we have friends that really liked theirs because they felt like it made the changing easier on their backs.) We got the smallest 17″ x 23″ size. Oh if you are going to be changing your baby on your bed, buy a waterproof mattress protector. Actually, everyone should have a couple of these. Even with sheets, you sweat and shed skin and hair and stuff, and maybe your rabbit revenge peed on your bed, and maybe your baby sat up and peed before you got the new diaper on and with a waterproof protector (like a fitted sheet but waterproof) you throw everything in the wash and it’s all good.

Diaper cream: We use Grandma El’s every diaper change and she’s never had a rash. But I think any diaper cream would be fine.

Graco Pack ‘n’ Play playard: The mattress isn’t as nice as a regular crib mattress but it works great as a travel crib, and as a place to put the baby when you need to do something quickly. I think it would be fine as a full time crib too.

Boon Lawn drying rack: We actually have the smaller Grass with Stem and Twig, but I think a bit of extra space especially if you’re pumping is probably a good idea if you have space.

Fisher-Price Health Care Deluxe Booster Seat: We got this instead of a high chair and it’s worked out really well. Easy to travel with too.

Bumkins Sleeved Bib: Food is messy. I wish we had gotten this sooner. Plastic with long sleeves with elastic wrists, ties in the back instead of velcro.

Baby Bjorn Carrier One: We used this even more when she was younger, but it’s still super awesome when we do use it. When she was very little, sometimes she just wanted to be carried for very long periods of time which is super tiring without a carrier. And then once her neck was a bit steadier, she loved being in it and looking outwards at everything. Plus it’s nice to be able to hold her and do stuff.

Combi Coccoro car seat: We decided to buy a convertible car seat instead of an infant car seat because the infant car seats aren’t really useful past six months or so (I don’t think anyone wants to carry the car seat and the baby after a certain weight) and I just didn’t see the point of buying a one to two hundred dollar infant car seat when there are convertible car seats that can work for longer than a year max, especially since we don’t own a car. (You still need a car seat to take the baby home from the hospital and other car trips.) We picked the Coccoro because it was one of the smallest and lightest but still well rated for protection one I found. I don’t think installation is super easy, but overall we like it.

Safety 1st Sleepy Baby Nail Clippers: There’s an LED light in the front so that you can cut nails in poor lighting with less fear about drawing blood. Yut’s even cut her nails in the dark. Actually he prefers to do it when she’s getting her last feeding at night because she’s moving less.

Exergen temporal thermometer: I know rectal thermometers are the gold standard, but dude, this is just easier to use and keep clean. Actually, I’ll say this: even if you don’t have kids, this is a good thermometer to have. Takes a few tries to learn how to use it, but easy once you figure it out. I think any temporal thermometer would be fine, this was available at Costco.

First Years Sure Comfort Deluxe tub: I should think any of them in this style are fine. The sling is super useful with newborns. Easy to use. We tried the Puj and I guess if your sink is the perfect size it might be fine but for us it didn’t work at all.

SwaddleDesigns Sleeping Sacks wearable blanket: Babies move around a lot, so it’s nice to have a blanket that moves with them. They have different weights so you can pick what you like. Actually any sleep sack/wearable blanket thing is fine. We like this one because the two way zipper can be opened from the top or bottom which is nice when you want to take the baby out vs change her.

Flap Happy Spandex Flap Hat: Good sun protection, easy to put on (because it’s like swimsuit-like material). Also Nozone Beach Coverup as a nice light jacket.

JJ Cole urban bundleme stroller blanket: It’s a sleeping bag for the stroller, super cozy. We basically dress her for indoor comfort, then put her in her bundleme with a hat and zip lower when it’s warmer, or higher when it’s colder. We got the urban version which is water resistant (not proof) — enough so we’ve used it in drizzle and so the outside is easy to wipe. Buy the toddler size, even if your kid is younger since it’s just longer as far as I know.

Stroller wise, I definitely think it’s a buy! We love taking walks with her, and she loves the change of scenery. We’ve used an Uppababy Vista and a Bugaboo Bee, and we like both a lot, you can’t go wrong with either, but I can’t say either are the best strollers — we like both for different reasons and didn’t try a lot of them since friends lent/gave us theirs (for which we are super grateful!). They’re both high end and expensive, I think. I would say that the Uppababy Vista is a more full size stroller, seems really cushy (suspension?! Do strollers have suspension?), great sun shade, rolls over pot holes with ease, etc. But the Bugaboo Bee is smaller and lighter. They both have the reversible seat (so you can have the baby face you), which we think is really nice. She’s facing forward now because she likes to look at everything, but when she was younger, she liked being able to see us and we liked being able to see. Also, cup holder.

Also bottles, you need the bigs and the littles, maybe the little ones more since we use the big ones for milk storage mostly. We like our Lifefactory bottles, but I can’t say they’re the best having not tried other brands. They are tempered glass or borosilicate (like Pyrex style) with a colorful silicone sleeve. And the nipple is silicone too. Pretty too. :)

Irish Green Ink

Leaf and I got another bottle of ink! She says I have a problem, but I don’t think I’m completely alone — we’re enablers for each other. Maybe me more than Leaf but still! :)

Montblanc Irish Green

This is Montblanc Irish Green. The lightings a little yellow because I took the photo at night. But it’s basically a beautiful green. Writes well, reasonably flowy, some shading, well behaved; I really don’t have anything bad to say about it. I suppose if you want sheen on your ink, or permanence, it’s not the one for that, but otherwise, nice ink. Nice bottle too!

We got it at Fahrney’s Pens. If you’re ever in DC, and you want some Montblanc ink, Fahrney’s is the place to go. They have every color for a reasonable price. Also, just going into the store is nice. Lots of pens, lots of inks! They were having a small pen show at their store the day after we went, but we weren’t in DC so we didn’t go. Just as well, we would’ve probably picked up more stuff. :)

Speaking of Pencils

As promised, here are my pencil comparisons:


These are samples for three different Dixon Ticonderogas, a 3 (Hard), 2 5/10 (medium), and #2 (soft, HB) in my Field Notes notebook. I tried to write my regular style with each pencil, but of course I am not an automaton and this is imperfect. But you can see how much darker the soft is versus the hard. The thing is though, I kind of think the hard is too light and sort of scratchy. I’ve had to sharpen the #2 more though, and it breaks more easily. I started them both about the same time, but the 2 pencil is definitely shorter already. 2.5 seems like the Goldilocks choice — just right. Not that I would turn down a nice HB/2 pencil, and they are the easiest to find, usually.

AND! The Well-Appointed Desk just did a whole post about this, with way more information! I didn’t even know F was #2.5, even though I just got done saying that it was my fave. Pencil noob.

Also, this is like a crazy theme this week, where I post a few words about something, but then someone more knowledgeable and internet-famous posts way more in depth words about the topic.

I Like Pencils, Too

I don’t just use fountain pens! Actually, I try not to use fountain pens on my everyday carry notebook — the Field Notes — because of the aforementioned show through. Sometimes, I don’t use a pen at all.
Smells of nostalgia
So much nostalgia. I like the color! I like the sharpening! Aren’t the shavings pretty? And I love the smell. Actually, sometimes, I catch myself sniffing at my pencil at work. I’m embarrassing. I don’t know if it’s particular to these Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, or if lots of pencils have a nice wood smell, but I do know I don’t want a pencil that doesn’t have some kind of wood smell.

The shavings are from a Medium 2.5 pencil — just slightly harder than the standard #2 pencils we used to use in school for tests. Harder is nicer for notes because it stays sharper for longer, and 2.5 is still soft enough to show up nicely, usually. Although I do like the softness and darkness of a standard #2 HB pencil. It’s a tough decision. I should probably do a side by side comparison of the #2 and #2.5 pencils.

I kind of want to try another pencil, but I haven’t decided what. Definitely not mechanical. Taking recommendations for nice wooden pencils! Or I might just stick with these, ’cause they’re pretty much alright.

New Flickr App

Flickr 3.0 just got released today. So far I like it! Seems faster and better! The interface looks nicer, too. But you know one thing they didn’t fix? It doesn’t do upside down orientation. I know, I know, who cares, right? But I do. Sometimes I use my iPad or iPhone upside down. Like when I’m charging it but the cord is just a little too short, for example. And then if I try to look at photos on Flickr, it’s annoying. But that’s still not a downgrade from the previous app, because version 2 also didn’t do upside down at all. So at worst you get a better app that just still doesn’t turn.

Edited to add: Shawn Blanc just posted his review of Flickr 3.0 and it’s way complete and full of information where mine isn’t! In case you’re interested in an actual review with information. And pictures. :)

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