Monday, January 30, 2012

10 uses for Baking Soda

Did you know that baking soda can be used for a lot more than just baking?  A few years ago I read about some of the many other ways to use baking soda around the house.  We now have a HUGE (13.5 pound) bag in the laundry room that we bought at Costco and we use it everyday.  

Here are the top 5 ways we use baking soda at our house:
  1. Face wash - I have used only baking soda to "wash" my face for years now.  I keep a container of it in my shower and bathroom.  I make a paste with the soda and some water and rub it on my face.  It is a light exfoliator and it makes my skin feel amazing and clean.  No soap for me!
  2. Diaper pail deodorizer - If my diaper pail gets a bit stinky in-between wash days I sprinkle a bit in the top.
  3. Laundry booster - From time to time I put a 1/2 a scoop of baking soda in the pre-wash section of my front loader.
  4. Clarify Hair- From time to time I mix some baking soda with my shampoo and rub through my hair.  This removes shampoo buildup and I think it brightens my blond a bit too.
  5. Surface cleaner - It is a great non-toxic scrub.  Just put a bit on a sponge and wipe away.  
Here are 5 more ways to use baking soda:
  1. Clean coffee and tea pots - Remove stains by washing mugs and coffee makers in a solution of 1/4 cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water.  If the stains are stubborn try soaking overnight in the baking soda solution.
  2. Deodorize the garbage disposal - To keep smells at bay pour baking soda down the drain while running warm tap water.  The baking soda will neutralize both acid and basic odors for a fresh drain.
  3. Toothpaste - Put baking soda on a toothbrush and voila, toothpaste!  A natural way to freshen your mouth and clean your teeth.
  4. Deodorant - I haven't tried this one yet but I've read that if you mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 10 drops of your favorite essential oil and apply it to your underarms it works to keep smells away.  
  5. Antacid - Mix one teaspoon into a glass of warm water and drink.  It relieves heartburn, gas and other tummy upsets.  
Just a side note, I use a different baking soda for my face wash and for anything that touches my skin (or that I ingest).  I use Red Mill aluminum free baking soda as I try to limit the amount of aluminum I am exposed to.  I usually buy it in bulk from

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Roasted Okra and other recipes from this week.

As you know this week I made Kale Chips and banana pear teething biscuits.  I also made a lovely oven baked sweet banana oatmeal that I found on the frugal girls.  The oatmeal was easy to make but it took lots of patience to wait for, as the cooking time was an hour all together.

Baked Sweet Banana Oatmeal

I'd say it was worth the wait.

My daughter and husband preferred it with milk on top.  I will admit that I added whip cream to mine.

Roasted Okra
Last night I made my husband almost a pound of roasted okra.  Okra is one of his favorite vegetables but I can count on one hand how many times I've made it for him in the last 8 years.  Why the kibosh on okra you may ask?  Well, I found it to be difficult, messy (slimy) and icky.  That's putting it mildly.  Part of the problem is that the recipes he was accustomed to were breaded.  This of course could be very time consuming and difficult.  

So I just avoided the little slimy bugger.  

But recently after reading about all the nutritional benefits of okra and finding a new recipe I thought I'd give it another try.  This time it was easy and I didn't even mind the taste.  That's saying something!  Now everyone is happy.  Even the four year old ate some.

  • 1 pound of fresh okra, sliced 1/3 inch thick.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (I recommend sea salt) to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Arrange the okra slices in one layer on a foil lined cookie sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until brown and toasty.  We prefer it more on the toasty/crisp side.
Easy Crock pot Pot Roast
Right now my house smells amazing because this morning we put a pot roast in the crock pot.  It has been cooking for the last few hours and I can't wait to eat it.  I found the recipe here.  I'll update with a photo if it looks and tastes as good as it smells.

ETA: It did taste as good as it smelled and here's how it looked.
My husband said it was his favorite pot roast to date so I'll be making this one again soon.  

I still haven't gotten around to making the yummy looking sea salt and nutella sugar cookies, maybe next week. ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Homemade baby teething biscuits

Last night I decided to try my hand at giving my 6-toothed-baby something else to chew on while we're eating dinner.  So I made banana pear teething biscuits.  The recipe was easy and they smelled amazing while baking.  In fact the recipe was easy enough that my four year old was able to help.

However, after the baking time finished they still seemed a bit gooey in the back so I ended up baking them for a bit longer.  Today the baby tried them out and judging by her intense expression of focus I think she likes them!

  • one ripe banana
  • one ripe pear
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup brown rice flour 
  • 1/2 cup baby brown rice cereal
  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Peal, core and slice up pear.  Peal and slice up banana.  Toss fruit into blender and add water.  Blend until it's in a liquid form.
  3. Pour the fruit mixture into a medium mixing bowl.  Add the brown rice flour and brown rice cereal.  Stir until well mixed.  It will resemble cookie dough (but trust me, it's not the same if you dare to taste, ha!).  Add a little more flour if you need to.
  4. Scoop the dough onto a cookie sheet and make the shape of a biscuit.  I used a knife to help me shape and flatten the dough.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until dough is golden and the back isn't gooey.  Cool and store uncovered for a week.

I like that this recipe uses baby food cereal, since we had HAPPYBABY HappyBellies organic brown rice at home.  I'd like to try a few different recipes, perhaps one with vegetables instead of or in addition to fruit.  I'll let you know what I find.

Friday, January 27, 2012

4 Reasons that Johnny Rockets may not want us back.

This afternoon my friend Anne and I (yes we have the same name, I'm not talking in the 3rd person or anything weird) decided we'd take our kids out to lunch.  Sounds simple right?

Not so much.  We each have 6 month old babies and she has a 2 year old and I have a 4 year old.  We can clear a room. :)  We chose Johnny Rockets, a family-friendly restaurant but it still was an adventure.

Here's why they may not want us to come back anytime soon.
  1. The entire pepper shaker may have been emptied out onto the table.
  2. We might have accidentally walked in on a senior citizen using the restroom.
  3. Our children perhaps thought the bench was a jungle gym. 
  4. They might have started dancing in the middle of the restaurant before one of them made a break for the exit.

However we'll keep going for the following reasons.
  1. Free balloons, hats, coloring books and crayons.
  2. Kids eat free with an adult meal purchase.
  3. They make little smiley faces out of ketchup (which is great since that's the only vegetable the kids get here, ha!).
  4. It's noisy so our kids fit right in.
  5. The waitstaff break into dancing every 20min or so.

By the way, these two were just lovely.  They enjoyed looking at the balloons as well as all the antics the big-kids were up to.

Oh, and don't worry.  We tipped well and said thank-you and we're sorry a lot.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kale chips are not as good as potato chips.

Is this news to you?

In our quest to make more healthy food choices we have added new items to our lives such as kale, cauliflower, quinoa, flax-seed and heavy cream.  Well, the last one was for new recipes and perhaps doesn't fall under the same category.  ;)

I've made sauteed kale with olive oil and garlic and Katie's Kale Salad.  Those were pretty good, but still kale if you know-what-I-mean.  So last night I decided to try making kale chips.  I was inspired by my friend Ariana who posted a recipe of some chips this week.  Now, she never said they were as good as potato chips, just that they were good.  However, some people on Pinterest posted recipes saying they were as good as potato chips.

Not true.  They are good, and a great healthy alternative but NOT the same as potato chips.  There I said it.  If you want to try it here's what we did:

Ariana's kale recipe (with a couple changes)
  • 1 head kale (the curly type is advised), washed and dried
  • 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • LOTS of sea salt for sprinkling (if you use enough it only tastes like salt instead of kale, ha)
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Remove the ribs from the kale and cut into small pieces (1.5 inches).  Lay on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt.  Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through.  At 20 minutes pull out the dry/crispy pieces and put the wet ones (not cooked all the way yet) for 10'ish more minutes.  Ours baked about 30 minutes total.

Health wise they are a 1000 on the Andi Scale.  Have you heard of the scale?  I hadn't either until my friend Katie (yes, the same Katie from Katie's kale salad) told me about it.  1000 is the top of the scale which looks at the nutrient density in foods.  For example, french fries = 7, salmon = 39 and spinach = 739.  You can't eat all nutrient dense foods at the top of the scale (all leafy greens by the way) because you still need fats to balance out your diet.  So basically I eat some kale chips now and a few of my friend Anne's peanut butter cookies later.  See, it's basic nutrition math. :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things my baby likes to chew

Does anyone else have a teething baby?  My six month old daughter is an overachiever teeth-wise.  She cut her first 2 teeth at three months and added 4 more before six months.  So she's been shoving things in her mouth for almost her entire life already.

One of her early favorites was Sophie the Giraffe.  The somewhat funny looking, terribly overpriced, french baby teething toy.  It closely resembles a dog-chew toy especially since it squeaks.  In fact in our house we often refer to her teething toys as chew-toys.  Our little Italian Greyhound has been understandably confused at times about this item.

She doesn't use her paci much in the regular way, but she does enjoy playing with it and chewing on it and sticking her thumb inside it.  Ha!  She especially likes to chew on the outside of the paci as well as on the ribbon from the paci holder.  I am mostly relieved that she has decided on her own that she doesn't need the paci anymore.  We keep it around for teething though.

For Christmas I requested nursing necklaces or in our case teething necklaces.  These are great child-safe jewelry that can be worn while nursing.  The child can use their wandering hands to play with the necklace while eating.  They can also play with or chew on the necklaces while being carried or held.  I have three, all found on etsy.  This first one has wooden and knitted beads, it is by far her favorite.

This one is my favorite because it is so pretty.  It was found at the etsy shop Aiko Art. She likes the shapes of the beads for chomping on.

This last one came from the UK and is made of a safe resin.  It was found at this etsy shop called Monkey Mama Necklaces.  It looks the most like a "regular" aka non-child-chewing necklace.  It is also adjustable so can be a choker or a pendant.

Here is the baby showing how it's done just this morning.

The largest item that our baby likes to chew is in fact an exersaucer.  It is a glorified ginormous teething toy in my opinion and I am very thankful for it (and so is she!).

Naturally we also have traditional teethers like the kinds you put in the refrigerator.  But really, when you're a baby any object you are allowed to get your hands on (including your hands, ha!) is a chew toy.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Saving stock, one box at a time.

I've been cooking a lot more lately, and a frequent ingredient needed for recipes is stock.  Chicken, beef or vegetable, I've got them all.  I buy the 1 quart boxes of organic stock to have on hand.  What I've noticed however is that I rarely need the entire box so I end up with extra stock in my refrigerator.  This week I had both beef and chicken taking up space and stressing me out about how to use it before I need to toss them.

I am not a fan of tossing food.  Well, unless it is growing mold or something equally yucky.

While making baby-food last week I had a light-bulb moment.  What if I froze the extra stock and could just pull it out later when needed?  Ah-ha!  So I took the container for freezing baby food and figured out what measurement was inside (1/4 cup).  Then I filled it up, froze them, and popped them in a bag to use later.  It's perfect because if I need a cup of stock I'll just pull out 4 cubes.  Voila!

I was feeling pretty proud of my genius moment.  I will acquiesce that I am most likely not the very first person to think of this but I am still proud none-the-less.

You could use other containers to freeze your stock if you don't have baby food ones.  Perhaps an ice-cube tray, freezable ramekin or a small plastic container.  Just make sure you measure ahead so you know how much you are freezing.

Now go and save some stock!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cloth diapering 103

For more information on cloth diapering including what brands I use and where to get them look here and here. Today I'd like to tell you about how I keep those tiny and cute diapers clean.  It's really not a big deal.  It's one of the most frequent reasons people give me for not doing cloth, the laundry.  Here is what I do.

Washing Routine
I should first tell you that I have a HE Front loading w/d.  However, I used to have a top loading (regular non-HE) w/d before and my routine has changed very little.

  1. Short Wash - warm/cold - nothing added
  2. Regular Wash - hot/cold with an extra rise added - soap only
  3. Dry on hot - run thru twice
That's it!  I don't recommend doing cold water washes, I think the hot is necessary to keep the diapers clean and stink-free.  Speaking of stink-free, let's move on to detergents, soaps and extras.

With my first daughter I carefully researched soaps and selected a cloth friendly detergent.  This is important because many detergents are bad for cloth diapers, they cause build up which = stink!  Or, they wear out the diapers sooner, destroying the water repellent properties, etc.  I found great information on what detergents are good on the site Pinstripes and Polkadots.  They have charts that assign scores for most brands out there.  I used Mountain Green baby with my first.  

So when it was time to diaper again I started researching and found that lo and behold people were talking on and on about using Tide.  Yes, Tide!  A very non-save-the-planet type of detergent.  On the pinstripes site it is only given 3 stars and is not highly recommended for use.  However, after hearing so many people rave about it I decided to try it.  So far it's worked great, no build up or other issues.  I use regular non-ultra Tide and also used the free and clear one.  The trick with detergent is the amount that you use.  You need FAR less detergent for diapers than with regular loads.  May seem counterintuitive but it's true!  Use 1/2 or even a 1/4 as much as you would with a regular load.  Otherwise the detergent builds up and creates stink.  However, I will add that not using enough detergent can cause it's own problems, naturally you need enough soap to get the job done.

What about Fabric Softener?
Fabric softener is not recommended for cloth as it can cause build-up on the diapers and/or irritation for the baby's skin.  However, if you diapers are a natural fabric like bamboo then there are a couple cloth safe options like Mrs Meyers or Ecover.  I use Ecover for my goodmama fitteds, but not on my covers or bum genius (microfiber).  The fabric softener makes them soft, squishy and silky.  I also used them on my newborn kissaluv fitteds.

Troubleshooting Stink
If your diapers don't look or smell clean there are options.  If they have stains (very common with baby poo) the best way to get them white again is to put them in the sun.  Really, the sun is a miracle bleach and disinfectant and oh-so-free.  Here in AZ we can do this pretty much every day.  Just so you know, even cloudy days work for sunning, but probably not rainy ones.  Ha!

If they smell stinky then here are some options:
  1. Strip them using a squirt of blue Dawn in the first cycle (directly onto the diapers, not in the soap dispenser).  You may need an extra rinse cycle if soap/bubbles still appears in the wash after the regular routine.
  2. Add baking soda to the main wash.  This is especially helpful in areas with hard water.
  3. Add vinegar to the main wash.  This is especially helpful in areas with soft water.
  4. Add tea-tree oil to the first or main wash.  This is what I do if my microfiber diapers have a stink to them.  Just a few drops in the first cycle make a HUGE difference.  
  5. When desperate try bleach.  Some cloth diapering companies like Bum Genius actually recommend a once a month bleaching.  But go easy on this one b/c they can wear out your diapers (especially the elastics) if you do it too much.  
Storing dirty diapers
Back in the day our parents used wet pails to keep the dirty diapers until wash day.  I do not use a wet pail as I'm not interested in pee/poo diaper soup.  Yuck!  I use a dry pail which is basically a regular kitchen step can with a wet-bag liner inside.  These are great because on wash day I just pull out the whole bag and throw it all in the washer, no need to touch any dirty diapers!  I have two that I rotate.  The big pink bag on the left of the following photo is the liner.

When out and about I use a small zippered wet-bag.  They come in lots of pretty colors and prints and are a non-gross way to get your used diapers back to the house.  After you are done with cloth diapers you can use them for wet swimsuits or dirty laundry while traveling.  Wet bags come in a variety of sizes.  I used the medium sized one at home when my daughter was a newborn.  I had that one in my bedroom so I could keep her dirty diapers there without having to walk across the house to the regular changing table.  Mediums can also be helpful if you have a long day planned out of your house, or for trips.

What about poop?
Ah, the poop question.  So commonly asked.  When babies are only breast-fed their poo is really no big deal.  You just throw the diapers in, no fuss needed.  I do add a spray of Bac-Out before putting it in the can, but I do not rinse or spray them off with water.  Many people swear by their diaper sprayers that they hook up to the toilet but I am not interested in touching poopy diapers and carrying them around the house to spray off.  Yuck!

Now, once solid foods are introduced their poo gets ahem, more solid and a lot more stinky.  Sigh.  One of the main reasons I was trying to hold off giving my baby solid food.  However, there is hope.  It comes in the form of disposable diaper liners.  They are made out of rice-paper and sit neatly in the bottom of the diaper.  If your baby has a bowel movement then you simply pick up the liner and toss that in the toilet.  If they only peed then you wash the liner with your diapers and re-use it again.  They can be washed about 2x before they fall apart (since they're biodegradable).  Popular brands of flush able liners are Imse Vimse, Bummis, Osocozy and Grovia.  I get mine at Mom's Milk Boutique.

What about Rash Creams?
It is important to be careful when using diaper creams and cloth diapers.  Many of the most common brands can cause staining.  However, there are diaper safe options.  My favorites are Angel Baby Bottom Balm and plain old Coconut Oil.  Yes, the same oil you buy for use in the kitchen can also be used as a diaper cream.  It is all natural and doesn't smell or stain.  I just put some in a small container to keep at the changing table.  You know, because you don't want to mix diaper changes with cooking dinner. ;)

Well I think I about covered it.  Do you still have questions?  Please feel free to leave me a comment if there is something else you'd like to know!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Katie's Kale Salad (and a few other recipes from this week)

Katie's Kale Salad
I made a few more pinterest recipes this week but this one was offline from my good friend Katie.  Katie is an excellent resource for all things vegetable or healthy eating, and is known to be a big fan of kale.  So much so that she's joked at times that it is her very favorite food.  So naturally she was the first person I asked about how to make kale so that my family would eat it (rather than choke it down like they did last time). She recommended her favorite kale salad that has walnuts, cranberries and mandarin oranges.

2 bunches thinly chopped kale (take the middle vein out first)
1 bunch cilantro leaves
mandarin oranges
green onions

2 parts orange juice
1 part olive oil
crushed garlic (I use about 3 cloves)
a dash of honey (to taste)
a dash of sea salt and pepper
*shake WELL before tossing salad.
Toss and serve! 

Did you know that kale needed the middle vein taken out?  That was new to me.  I thought the salad was pretty good, and the dressing light and not-too-sweet.  The garlic was a bit spicy so I might do only 1 clove next time, but all in all it was great!  Thanks Katie. :)

Provencal Beef Stew
Today I made Provencal Beef Stew a recipe I found on pinterest.  It is a fabulous crock pot stew that has zucchini instead of potatoes.  It smelled amazing all day and was a big hit with both the 4 year old and the husband.  A little warm french bread smothered in butter (from Costco, they are small loves that go in the freezer) made it a perfect meal for our cold (well it's in the upper 50's) day.

Ranch Dressing
Another recipe that I tried out was a buttermilk ranch dressing.  I love ranch but not the store bought/bottle kind.  I prefer a fresh house ranch and rarely eat it at home since I can't stand any that we've purchased.  I found this recipe to be pretty good and the only change I made was to use just chives and not parsley (I ran out).  This ranch can be used as a dip or dressing.  We used it to dip peppers, carrots and snap peas.

Penne a la Betsy
The final pinterest recipe that I tried this week was the Pioneer Woman's Penne a la Betsy.  It is basically creamy tomato sauce with shrimp. This dish was VERY good but I had a few mishaps along the way.  I tried to use rice-noodles for the penne and something went very very wrong.  They were mushy and tasted like paste.  So I quickly started a new batch of pasta (whole wheat this time) and stopped the rest of the recipe while that cooked.  Of course as this was happening my baby started getting fussy and my 4 year old had a million questions.  Sigh.  After pasta #2 was ready I continued with the recipe and was pleasantly surprised to find that the sauce was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.  So good.  I could have just eaten the sauce as a soup.  Perhaps it was the heavy cream? Ha!  I will definitely make this one again.  This was my first Pioneer Woman dish and I'm sure it won't be my last. 

What did you make this week that was fabulous?  Any kale recipes to send my direction?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A little peek at our little people

I spent over five hours at two different parks today.  In mid January.  Ah, how I love living in Arizona.  I believe it was in the low 70's and oh-so-sunny.  

Before I get back into talking about cloth diapers I thought I'd throw a couple photos up of one of my favorite toys.  Yes, I'll admit that I like them, perhaps as much as my daughter does. ;)

We have quite a few vintage Fisher Price Little People play sets from the 70's and 80's.  This one is the school house.  If they are "vintage" does that make me old too?  

Does anyone else love these little faces?  They are a big hit around here and I must admit that I may, just may have gone a bit overboard in collecting the different sets for my daughter. ;)

What vintage Little People sets were your favorites to play with as a kid?  Do you still have any of them?  More about our little people toys on another day.  All of that sun this morning and afternoon has worn me out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Diapering 102

Now the ins and outs of my cloth diapering routine.  If you want more info you can find cloth 101 here.

I use a changing table I found off of craigslist to organize her diapers.  I have a basket for each type of diaper and one for accessories and extras.  I am a fan of being organized and find satisfaction in things being sorted by type and color.  Try not to judge me. ;)  The step can on the left is where the dirty diapers go until wash day.

This is my fitted stash, primarily Goodmama diapers.  They are one size fitteds, so they snap out to get bigger and can be worn from about 10 lbs to potty training.  They are made mostly out of bamboo velour.
Here is the baby wearing a goodmama (aka gm) fitted at her 4 month well-baby appointment.  Each of the diapers have fun names, and there are hundreds of different designs!  This one is called citrus fizz.  I have bought all of my goodmama diapers used.  Yes, used!  In fact I've bought at least half of my diapers used.  Goodmama diapers cost $28-$60 new (for just ONE!) but I can get them used for $10-$18.  For some reason purchasing used diapers has never made me squeamish, I just wash them well before my kids use them.  I also re-sell my diapers which is part of the reason they're so economical.  Some of my diapers I've been able to sell for the same price or even more than I paid for them.  There is a big market out there for reselling diapers.

Where to buy used:
diaperswappers In the for sale or trade section of their forums.  You'll need to register for the site and post a bit before buying or selling, but it's not too hard as there is a ton of information on there!  I've never sold through them but have bought quite a bit for both of my kids stashes.

spots corner on hyenacart Spots Corner is great b/c you just need an account and paypal to purchase here, no record of good feedback is necessary.  It is easy to sell as well (although I haven't).  They have a search function so if you know what kind of diaper you want it is easy to find.

I've also found diapers thru the cloth diapering forum on the, through a cloth diapering group on livejournal, on a local mom's meet-up group, and through a local yahoo diapering group here in Arizona.  

Don't discount craigslist either, they can be a great resource!  Also friends who are done with their diapers.  I've bought and sold from friends.

Where to buy new:

There are hundreds of different online options for buying cloth diapers.  I have bought from cottonbabies and Mom's Milk Boutique.  I prefer to find places that don't charge shipping!

Now back to my stash.  Here is a photo of my bum genius AIO size smalls.  My baby is just about ready to move up to the next size so then I'll be selling all of these and putting her in mediums. :)

This is what the Bum Genius AIO look like.  On the right you can see the inside, this diaper has an opening where you can add inserts to increase absorbency if you wish.  I prefer the trim look so haven't bothered except if used as an overnight diaper.

My Best Bottom and other covers stash.  The snap-in inserts with the green stitching are the size smalls, and I've just added mediums (like the white one at the end) to the rotation.  She fits the medium much better now, but I'm able to use the same shells since they just snap out to get bigger.  I've also just laid the inserts in other covers and they've worked just fine (very trim too).  In fact I found that the Best Bottom shells didn't fit very well on my baby's skinny legs until she was a few months old, other smaller sized covers fit better.
This is the inside of the best bottom shell and a few of the size small inserts.  I love this diaper b/c it is so trim and there is less to carry in the diaper bag for changes.  They have shells with snaps or velcro and they come in colors and designs (I have a brown one and a cute owl print).

At home I use cloth wipes.  I use baby washcloths and squirt water from a peri bottle onto them before using. Then I just throw the dirty wipe in with the dirty diapers.  Easy peasy!  When out and about I use disposable wipes and keep them with the dirty diapers.  They can be washed with the diapers and then thrown away, so no mess.

Diapering 102 has been a bit longer than I anticipated.  There is so much to say about diapers!  I'll write about my wash routine, detergents, diaper creams and have more tips up next in diapering 103. 

But first, a couple more photos. This tiny little newborn Star Baby Designs fitted was worn by my little baby when she was just a few weeks old.  Now only the little bear can fit it. :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cloth diapering 101

We do cloth diapers.  I started cloth with my first and am doing it again with my second.  I do it for a few reasons, in no particular order: the planet, the cuteness factor, my child not being exposed to chemicals and saving money.  With my first I did a combination of sized and one size pockets.  Does that sound like gibberish to you?  I'll explain.

pocket: Diaper that is stuffed with either microfiber, hemp or cotton inserts.  The pros are that they have adjustable absorbency.  The huge con for me was having to stuff them each time!

sized: diapers that come in extra small, small, medium, etc.  The pros are that they tend to be much trimmer, the cons that you have to keep buying the next size up.  Any type of diaper (fitted, pocket, AIO) can be sized.

one-size (OS): A diaper that works from newborn to potty training.  No really, it's true!  They have snaps that snap out/or in depending on the size you want to make them.  They can be closed with either velcro or snaps.  The major pro is one diaper for the whole diapering time!  The cons are they wear out more (especially velcro, also the elastics) and they don't always fit the little newborn/small stage despite the claim.  Also, they can be bulky as the inserts are designed to use for most ages.  This can be adjusted if it's a pocket.  Many brands make OS these days.  I had bum genius with my first child.  

I decided to get a new stash for baby #2 as I didn't want to stuff another pocket diaper ever again!  This time I went with sized AIO, fitted w/covers and a hybrid diaper.

AIO (all-in-one): A diaper that doesn't have to be stuffed, the insert is already sewn in.  Some AIO also have a pocket available if you want to put more absorbency in.  AIO can be sized or OS.  The major pro is the ease of use.  They are the closest to putting on a disposable.  The con I hear the most is that they take longer to dry.  I haven't found that to be a problem however.

fitted: A fabric fitted diaper (elastic around the legs and waist). Can be sized or OS.  They need a cover to be leak proof.  They are often made out of adorable fabrics which is part of the appeal.  At home you may skip a cover.

cover: A waterproof cover that goes around a fitted (or a flat, prefold, etc).  They can be sized or OS.  They can be made of wool or synthetic fabrics (pul for example).  They can be made out of cute fabrics or just plain colors.

hybrid: Also known as all-in-two (AI2).  These are new since I had my first baby and are very cool.  The ones I use have a cover with snap in-inserts.  The cover is OS but the inserts come in sizes, that helps the diaper stay trim.  They can also be used with disposable inserts for those that want them out and about, when traveling, etc.  Popular brands are: Flip, Best Bottom and G-Diaper.

Is your head spinning?  Here are some photos of the cuteness.

My baby in a newborn size (xs) bum genius AIO.  How cute is that?

My firstborn wearing a bum genius one-size pocket diaper.  It is the color blossom.  Her t-shirt so appropriately says "Does this diaper make my butt look big?"

Another newborn shot, this time in a xs bum genius contour.  No old-fashioned pins needed, it's fastened with a "snappi" which is a plastic thingamajig that has teeth to hold the diaper closed.

Next up I'll show photos of my stash, talk more about where I get the diapers, how I take care of them and perhaps a few hints and tips.  If you have any questions make a comment and I'll add that too.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are you down with Downton Abbey?

It's Sunday which means another episode of Downton Abbey season 2 is on tonight.  Have you seen this PBS (from the BBC) series?  If not run, don't walk to to see the videos online.

The PBS website also has some great extra features like behind the scenes photos, cast interviews, history of the real abbey and other goodies.  On YouTube I came across a hilarious parody of the show from BBC Comic Relief found here and here.

The 2nd season just started last week, but I spent a few days before that catching up and re-watching Season 1.  I've noticed that I've been drinking a lot more tea since this all started.  I am so easily influenced I'm afraid. ;)  I like my tea the English way, with cream and sugar.  Perhaps because I'm part British?  I've also been adding cookies and was thrilled to find some shortbread to have with my tea one night.  The cookies were rejected by my husband but I think they're delicious.  We found them at Sprouts and they are gluten free.  I've also been adding one of my new favorites this winter, Trader Joe's Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder.  It is the perfect touch to the top of my tea (or coffee).  Especially if I'm drinking gingerbread tea.  Yum yum.

As I type this the show countdown clock on the PBS page says there are 3 hrs and 20 minutes left until show time.  We don't have regular tv here so it may be a bit longer for me.  Last week I saw that they had the show available online that night so I'm hoping it's the case tonight too.  Otherwise I'll have my tea-for-one tomorrow night instead.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mystery ingredient soup and other recipes from this week

I enjoy eating food.  Preparing it, not so much.  However, I do appreciate the accomplishment of a cooked meal.  Especially if it hasn't burned, spilled, smoked or basically sucked.  Recently in my household we dramatically increased the amounts and types of vegetables and other healthy foods being consumed.  As a result there are many more recipes available to me that my entire family will happily, or at least willingly eat.  Case in point are this week's recipes.

I found these mini omelet bakes on Pinterest.  I made ours with spinach, bell peppers, cheese (cheddar and parmesan) and ham.  I cooked them in ramekins (I think that's what they're called) because I didn't have big muffin tins.  They were a big hit by the way.

Remember the cilantro bouquet from earlier this week?  I used it in a couple recipes.  One day I put it on white fish with butter and salt.  We had kale for the first time for the same meal.  I sauteed the kale with olive oil and garlic then put some vinegar in at the end.  The fish was a hit, the kale was eaten but I think my 4 year old and perhaps my husband held their noses while swallowing it fast.  Ha!

One of my favorite dishes this week was a Mediterranean quinoa salad.  We've been eating quite a bit of quinoa around here the last couple of weeks.  I've made it plain (in the rice cooker), Spanish style (with beans, onions, tomatoes and chili pepper) and now Mediterranean.   This recipe wasn't a favorite for my family but I loved it!  

Now for the Pièce de résistance and the reason I bought the cilantro in the first place.
I made a black bean vegetable chili/soup with chocolate.  Yes that's right, bittersweet chocolate was the secret ingredient!  I found the recipe in the USA weekend and made a few adjustments.  Here's what I did.

1 quart chicken broth (it calls for vegetable but I only had chicken)
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes
1 Tb. vegetable oil
1 medium-large onion, cut into medium dice
1 bell pepper, color choice is yours (I used yellow) cut into medium dice
3 Tbs. chili powder (I used about 2 1/2)
1 tsp. each ground cumin and oregano
2 cans (15.5 oz each) drained black beans
1/2 cup of barley (I cooked it first though)
3 large garlic cloves, minced (we are big fans of garlic around here, it may have been more like 5-6)
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate (I did 1/8th of a cup)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat broth and tomatoes in a small pan until steamy hot, about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a  soup kettle over medium-high heat.  Add onions and peppers; saute until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add chili powder, cumin and oregano: saute until fragrant, a minute or so.  Add beans and barley along with hot broth mixture.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, until vegetables are tender and flavors have blended, about 20 minutes.  Stir in garlic, chocolate and cilantro and simmer a couple of minutes to blend flavors.  Turn off heat and let stand a few minutes if there's time (and is there ever?).  Adjust seasonings (we added salt) and serve.  

Makes 4-6 servings

It was pretty good and everyone (well maybe not the 4 year old) liked it and had seconds.  We added parmesan on top, but then again we add parmesan to almost everything around here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Park Shoes

My 4 year old has been growing like a weed.  All of a sudden she has only a few pairs of shoes left that still fit.  We've been on the search for "park" shoes, you know, the kinds that keep the sand out.  Are there even such a thing?  Well we've been looking.  Crocs, mary janes and even converse were out as sand kept getting in.  I found these cute little Saucony shoes at the StrideRite outlet.  And when I say cute I mean that I wish they were in my size!  Adorable.

The only downsides to these cute and affordable shoes are the ties.  My 4 year old can't tie her own shoes yet and I must admit I'm getting tired of the task.  However, I decided these shoes were cute enough to forego velcro this time.
The true test will be whether or not they keep enough sand out, here's hoping!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Shake it up

Did you know that spices expire?  You probably did but do you have any expired spices in your cupboard?  I recently read an article about the shelf life of spices and realized that we had many that were 8+ years old (a wedding gift, yikes!).  So in an effort to weed out old spices I ended up with a few empty containers.  Seemed a waste to throw them away so I thought of a craft.  Yes, very un-crafty me thought of something to do all by myself. ;)

I took the empty containers (I may or may not have bothered to wash them out first) and some extra stickers we had lying around.  Added beans, rice and some leftover jingle bells and we got started.

My daughter filled the containers part way (so they can still shake) with the beans, rice or bells.  You could use many things around the house such as marbles, popcorn kernels, buttons or beads.  Hmm, we had some beads I should have done one of those.  Anyway, then I glued the top to the container so that I (hopefully) won't find rice and beans all over my house!  I used elmers glue but if you have superglue that would probably be better.

She then decorated them with stickers and tried them out.  

The baby likes them too, especially the sound the rice one makes.  Although we of course don't let her play with them by herself just yet. ;)

Ta-da! Four more ways to make noise around the house.  Now I need to throw away more spices so I can have her make one with pretty beads. ;)