Friday, October 9, 2009

So, what's new?

Wow, this blog hasn't been updated in a while. That seems to be the general scheme of my life lately.

So what's changed? As far as this blog is concerned:

1. My tiny baby girl is now a monster-sized almost-10-month-old, crawling and almost walking and eating big girl food and giving kisses and jabbering away.

2. I got a new washer and dryer, the fancy front-loading, energy-saving sort, and while it does work a good bit better than my old set (especially considering that my old set died, hence the purchase of the new set), I'll admit that I'm not as entirely thrilled with it as I wanted to be (but I can say that about almost everything in life).

3. I'm no longer that impressed with Crunchy Clean detergent. It still smells wonderful, and I'm using what I have as carpet powder, but I've gone back to liquid detergent for washing my actual laundry.

4. Still searching for the best detergent I can find. No luck yet.

5. I'm addicted to Goodmamas. I have something like 45 of them now. I have a Goodnight on the way to try, and I'm considering trying the One but haven't yet. But still, Goodmamas = NO LEAKS, and that is king.

6. I just enrolled in a Gourmet Cooking and Catering course. I'm not sure if it will go anywhere or not, but at the very least it will be fun while it lasts.

7. I've been working out with a personal trainer, and even though it's not easy on the wallet, I'm seeing some good results. 18.5 lbs of body fat gone in two months. I'm sure that number would have been even higher if I wasn't still eating everything I could fit between my teeth.

8. In trying to redefine myself and my life according to what makes me happy, I'm figuring out a way to spend more time doing the things I love: cooking (see #6), reading, writing, sewing, decorating, yoga. Perhaps you'll be seeing more of me around, and more of me being creative.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Diaper Review: Mommy's Touch One Size All-In-One

4/5 stars

I have to admit, when I ordered these I thought they were pockets instead of AIOs (yes, I really am that unobservant at times), and when I received them I was a little disappointed. But, as I hadn't yet started diapering and I didn't know anything about it, really, I figured I'd give them a shot. And then once I had the baby, the rise looked far too high even if the rest of them would fit. But again, how was I supposed to know, so I tried them. As it turns out, I like them a lot more than I thought I would.

The absolute best thing about them is the most obvious thing--they're all one piece, which means no extra covers, no stuffing pockets, just snap and go. OK, technically there is an extra, smaller snap-in soaker, I just haven't used it--it snaps into the front, which seems to me like it would be more helpful for boys, which my little one is not. Just the same, they work fine without it and we haven't had any problems or leaks because of the absence of the additional soaker. In fact, we haven't had any problems or leaks at all. Also, since the soaker is only sewn at the back, drying time is about the same as the rest of my diapers (which are all pockets).

There are two small problems I've noticed, and they're not exactly problems, per se. First, as I mentioned the additional soaker is small, about half the length as the sewn-in soaker. I personally think it would be more useful if it were full length. Second, the snaps are slightly complicated. If you follow a set of directions (including pictures, that is) it's easy enough, but figuring it out on your own is tough. Remember how I thought the rise was too high? That was because I had them snapped wrong. But snap them the right way, which includes folding the doubled bit back under, and the snaps aren't quite far enough apart, plus the waist becomes a bit thicker and therefore bulkier.

Overall, I really do like them. As I said, no leaks at all, and once I figured out how to fasten them they fit my newborn fairly well. I will probably be ordering more of them, possibly with velcro instead of snaps (mostly because my husband prefers velcro, and because I want to see if they're less confusing), and I'll definitely be ordering more AIOs because of my good experience with the Mommy's Touch.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Diapery Goodness

I know I've been a big proponent of prefold diapers, especially due to the cost factor. However, in the past few months I've branched out a bit and I wanted to share some revelations and give you the run-down of more diapers.

All in Ones
I've tried a few All-in-Ones (AIO) and two have emerged as my absolute favorites.
  • Blueberry Stuffable AIO (I think Blueberry discontinued their line, but Swaddlebees are from the same company and, based on my experience, I would say performance is equal). I've actually seen a few less than stellar reviews so I was a little concerned after I found a great deal and bought five, but now I'm wishing I had doubled my order! This is the only diaper that my husband actually put on and said, "Holy crap, Honey, buy more of these! I don't care what you paid for them, we need more." Only once have we had leakage and it was a situation where ANYTHING would have leaked. This has also contained all of my son's pooh-splosions. When stuffed with a hemp insert, this has proven to be a bulletproof night time diaper!
  • The downsides? Microfiber isn't as forgiving as cotton and I have found myself doing extra rinses to make sure any detergent residue is stripped. Also, drying takes a long time. I end up running my dryer for two full timed sessions and sometimes the very inner portion is still a bit damp and I have to put the diaper on an impromptu rack for drying. (I'm going to get a real drying rack soon and eliminate about 7 hours of useage a week on diapers alone!)

  • Dream Eze AIO How could someone NOT love this diaper. The Certified Organic Inner is super absorbent. The fit is so trim I can put Jamison in "regular" pants without sizing up on his already chunky frame. This has become my favorite diaper for out-of-town shopping trips! We've used it for night-time, but it would probably benefit from an added doubler for just a bit more absorbency for that 10 hour stretch (no leaks, only a tiny bit of wicking after 10 hours). Since it's cotton, it's more breathable than microfiber and it also generally has less issues with buildup. Due to the way the soaker is attached, drying time is about the same as with cotton pre-folds! (One full-time dryer session usually has the diaper mostly dry).
  • Downsides? I'm going to have a hard time coming up with negatives for this one. I guess I could mention that (especially with a boy) you may want to take an extra few moments to make sure the attached soaker is comfortably covering what it needs to cover, especially if your little boy like to squirm and try to crawl away during his diaper changes. I have gotten into the habit of laying Jamison on the diaper, pulling the soaker into place, then snapping the diaper and finally, reaching down with a couple of fingers and giving the soaker a little tug to make sure it wasn't dislodged in his escape attempts.

WAHM Goodness

I just splurged a bit and found the ultimate in squishy awesomeness- Peanutbutter & Ellie Baby 's PreFlats (I chose the Grae, so I could use a Snappi since I'm still a little leery of pins). I never imagined such a simple diaper could be so luxurious and so amazing. First of all, the diaper is incredibly stretchy, so even though it may look like it won't fit around a chunk; it will. And even more; it will fit the contours without gapping as your baby wriggles and giggles and contorts like a circus performer. I just received the order yesterday. I took the diapers out of the bag and I immediately got upset; why can I not have underwear so soft? Even my husband declared that his next pair of boxer-briefs needed to be made of bamboo velour! Seriously, the material is even softer than it looks on the screen. I threw the diapers (and included doublers) in the wash. The next sign I was going to love the diapers was the fact that they dried super-fast. Like, if you splurged on a stash of these, you may just save money on your drying time alone (just sayin', in case you needed to justify to a spouse or somethin'). Right out of the drier, I diapered the monkey and he scooted away before I could put a cover on him. Eventually, I did put a cover on, but it was a shame to hide his little bamboo-clad bottom!

I changed him into his night-time diaper and examined the PreFlat. The doubler was moist, but the diaper itself wasn't even damp (after a good 2.5 hours wear). Bamboo really is way more absorbent than cotton! The price may seem a bit high, but I did some comparisons and it ended up being pretty fair once I took into account the price included shipping and a doubler. Find another bamboo (or even hemp) diaper, include a doubler and add shipping and the price is going to be in the same ballpark. Maybe I shouldn't have said anything about this diaper. I may want to keep this information all to myself so I don't have so much competition when she restocks again....

Overall Favorite Website

As far as my good, old, trustworthy cotton prefolds; I know there are many wonderful retailers out there, but I have to mention that my favorite is probably Green Mountain Diapers. The owner compares the sizes so you really know what you need. When I was getting started, I bought my first dozen from another site and they ended up being way too big. Once I found Green Mountain Diapers I was able to locate exactly the size I needed and since I was able to see examples of different sizes on various babies, I knew how to expect the diapers to fit. The level of information is the same with everything carried in the store; you don't feel like you are clicking on some unknown product; you feel like you are in the store with the owner at your side demonstrating everything and helping you find the items that will best suit your needs and meet your expectations. Added bonuses: the service was top-notch and the order fulfillment and shipping were extremely fast. I heartily recommend this site to anyone looking to get started with cloth diapering.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Detergent Update

It's hard to believe it's been almost a month since I first posted about CrunchyClean detergent. What have I been doing in all that time? My laundry! chose scents for both detergents and I am so happy with both. Since I went with holiday scents, I've been washing everything in sight to keep me in a festive mood!

One thing I noticed was that the scent wasn't terribly strong out of the dryer. It was there, in a "bury your nose in the sheets and inhale and have happy dreams" way, but not an "in your face, smell me from a block away" manner. I consider that to be a positive considering the chemicals and manufacturing that go into heavily perfumed artifical product containing detergents. After all, that's the very thing I'm trying to get away frm!

I love the detergent. The Diaper Detergent really does get my son's diapers clean and I've been able to cut down on my rinses, too. The Regular Detergent has powered out everything my husband and kids have thrown at it, too. Not too shabby considering that includes dressing out a deer and stripping lathe and plaster from an old house; factor in a bloody nose and an upset stomach and I would say this detergent is a winner. As with any detergent, stains will need to be pretreated.

I also love the idea of ordering something hand made from a person; not a factory. I'm not even halfway through my stash and I'm already planning my next order!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Visions of Sugarplums?

I just managed to learn what my mom is getting me for Christmas and I'm far too excited about it to not share with everyone else because, 1. it's exactly what I asked for and, 2. it's not something I would have splurged on myself until after my Holiday bills were paid. No, it's not a vacation and it's not jewelery, it's laundry detergent.

Here's a quote from the website,
"Hi! I'm CrunchyClean Gal - aka
Ashley! I am a wife and new
mom of a baby girl. I started making our
cleaning products over a year ago
in an effort to cut down on our exposure to
chemicals and be friendlier to
the earth. As my zeal for living a green life has
increased with new
motherhood, I have worked on my recipes and made them
Go check it out!

My mom is getting me both a Regular Detergent and a Diaper Detergent. I should mention that I absolutely adore clean, fresh sheets and clothes; fragranced detergents are a passion of mine, but my husband and two kiddos have sensitive skin and various allergies, so I have had to be very careful in my detergent choices. Add cloth diapers to that, and I sometimes feel limited by my options. I have started filling the fabric softener dispenser with plain water and adding 2 drops of essential oil to "spice up" the unscented detergent that has become my staple.

However, in less than 2 weeks time, I will just add a scoop and walk away. I'm extra appreciative because, by all accounts, the Diaper Detergent rinses so clean I will be able to eliminate the extra rinse cycle and save on my water bill! It simply can't get any more awesome than that! I will certainly keep you posted on the performance once I receive it.

For the record, I know it was alluded to above, but I feel it bears repeating: this is not a paid advertisement. I am receiving no compensation for this post. Although, CrunchyClean Gal, if you read this and feel inspired to send a free bag of detergent as a gift of goodwill, I would certainly welcome it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Easy-Peasy Curtain/Shade

Long time no see! I've been off remodeling (almost finished now!) and not doing much of anything useful.

I did, however, make a curtain for my guest bathroom. It was just about the easiest curtain ever to be made, and yet look how cute:

How did I accomplish this feat?

Instructions for the Easiest Curtain Ever:
  1. Measure window.
  2. Add a few inches to the top and bottom for pockets, and about an inch to each side for seams. Cut fabric accordingly.
  3. Hem all four edges.
  4. Fold over a couple of inches on the top, plus a wider amount on the bottom, and hem again, creating a pocket for the curtain rods.
  5. Place curtain rods into pockets. (I used dow rods: cut one slightly wider than the width of the curtain for the top, or slightly shorter than the curtain width for the bottom. I also used a larger rod at the bottom to give it more weight.)
  6. Hang curtain.
  7. Cut two lengths of ribbon approximately 3 times the height of the curtain.
  8. Tie ribbons around the curtain vertically, tying however you like (I did simple knots, but bows would be pretty).
Bonus: You can roll up the bottom rod to expose part of the window. Simply tie the ribbon shorter, and voila!

Yes, this is the most crafty thing I've done recently, and it's so simple anyone with a sewing machine (or the patience for hand sewing) can do it. To make it even simpler, you could use some Stitch Witchery or similar product and heat bond it together, eliminating the need for sewing altogether.

(Hey, I'm about to have a baby. I need to keep things simple. But on the other hand, look forward to diaper bag projects and cloth diaper reviews in the coming weeks.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm an official seller!

I just haven't made any sales yet...

Check out some of my wares! Seriously, I would love some input. Do you think I need some different pictures using a more scenic background, or posed with a model (especially in the case of my bags, which are NOT crooked as the pictures may suggest)?

So check it out, all you readers, and tell me what you think. What should I do differently to get people to look more closely?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Hello Again!

I have had quite an exhausting two weeks. I had plenty of material to share with you all, but my time was limited. I think Jeff and/or I have had meetings or other obligations at least 5 nights out of each week recently. It's not easy being married to a politician... (that's kind of a joke, he is on the city council and it does take up a fair amount of time, but he's not a politician in any sense of the word.)

I have recently had not one, but two sick children. Jamison was actually sick twice. The ear infection fron two weeks ago just didn't get knocked out with the first round of antibiotics and we had to go back to the doctor on Monday only to find out both ears were infected and he has tonsillitis. Poor baby. I had truly hoped that exclusive breastfeeding would help prevent ear infections but I concede he has the same genetic predisposition towards ear infections/allergies and sinus infections as his brother. Josephine was also sick with a flu-type virus. I knew it was serious, she willingly skipped a birthday party.

I have been trying to complete various craft items for donations. The first was an item made for a benefit for a local family. A local business owner and all-around nice guy had been suffering from a brain tumor for almost a year and the local community really got behind he and his wife to help the family through a tough financial spot. He passed away a few weeks ago, and I made a purse for this weekend's silent auction affair in his honor. I wish I had taken a picture, it turned out awesome; black denim with a flame orange and red front pocket, black motorcycle lining with red swirl interior pockets. It was not my typical "pretty" bag, but it sure was eyecatching! I also completed a bag for my church's annual bazaar. I'n not as thrilled with it, I may have to add some details, like a crocheted flower, to draw the eye away from some less than perfect details.

Jefferson is requesting a new fleece hat. I made him one two years ago, which I have started putting on Jamison. Jefferson looked at it and solemnly stated, "That's my hat". When I agreed and pointed out it no longer fit him he then sadly said, "I don't have a hat now". Looks like I need to make some hats.

Meatballs have been made and frozen. Halloween projects are in the formative thinking stage. My front door wreath has been redone in fall colors. Sweaters and corduroy have been located (yes, I am wearing my corduroy maternity pants, shut up, they are comfortable). I'm officially ready for fall!

What are some of your upcoming projects? Are there any seasonal preparations you do to herald the changing weather?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Meatballs!

I have a full week's worth of ideas for fast and frugal dinners using my meatballs.

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Empty frozen pack of meatballs into heating spaghetti sauce. (I don't tend to heat (canned) spaghetti sauce very long or at very high temperatures, so I usually microwave the meatballs in the opened bag for 2 minutes before placing the meatballs into the sauce.)

Meatball Minestrone
This truly doesn't even need a recipe, consider it a suggestion.
Combine like amounts of water and beef broth in stockpot. Bring to boil, add favorite pasta (I frequently use spaghetti that has been broken into short pieces but it would be fun to use shaped pasta, as well) when about 5 minuted remains on pasta cook-time, add favorite frozen vegetables, when water returns to a boil, add a pack of meatballs. Feel free to add additional seasonings to taste.

BBQ Meatball Sandwiches
I love to use my crock pot for cooking. Usually, I'm running late for work and need something super fast to throw together. This is a family favorite!
Prep crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Dump in a couple packages of frozen meatballs, mix your favorite BBQ sauce with a small amount of water, pour over meatballs.
Cook on low for 4 hours.
Place on favorite bun and top with favorite cheese.

Meatball Grinders
Same as above, but use spaghetti sauce instead.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
Place meatballs in microwave-safe container. Heat (covered) for a minute ot two, then turn meatballs and heat another minute or two if necessary (you know the power of your microwave best, it aslo depends how many meatballs you are preparing at once). Add sweet and sour sauce, heat additional 45 seconds.
Arrange creatively on a plate, then spear meatballs with a toothpick and serve as appetizers, or
to prepare as a meal, cook oriental-mix vegetables seperately, combine with meatballs, add sweet and sour sauce, microwave for additional minute, then serve with rice.

Swedish Meatballs
It might be kind of a cheat, but I'm going to mention my Swedish Meatball recipe again.

No drippings? Heat meatballs for 2 minutes in microwave (they don't have to be heated all the way through). To skillet, add about 2 TBSP. of vegetable oil, mash a (thawed) meatball or two into hot oil then follow the recipe as I have listed, I generally make this with two to three frozen packs of meatballs.

Meatball Stroganoff
Heat meatballs. In oiled or sprayed skillet, mix 1 can cream of mushroom soup with 1/2 cup sour cream, add small can (or freshly sliced, if preferred) mushrooms. Add meatballs and stir frequently until mixture is heated through. Serve over cooked noodles, rice, or baked potatoes.
(If you don't care for mushrooms, they can be omitted and you can substitute cream of celery soup).

Cheesy Broccoli Meatballs
Heat meatballs. Cook broccoli until fork-tender. Combine in soup pan or microwave-safe container. Pour can of cream of cheese soup over mixture, stir. Heat evenly. Serve over cooked noodles, rice, or baked potatoes.

There you have it, eight easy meals. Lots more possibilities exist. Clearly, you wouldn't want to make all eight meals in a row, as there are similarities (spaghetti and meatballs, marinara meatball grinders, etc.) But I hope I gave you some ideas. Some I've never tried (cheesy broccoli meatballs and meatballs stroganoff), so you may need to adjust thickness by adding milk, but you have a basic starting point. So go on, eat some meatballs!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Favorite Meatball Recipe!

I'm going to share my secret meatball recipe. It's versatile and delicious and it's the cornerstone of many different meals.

Theola's Meatballs
(units per 1 lb of hamburger)
1 c. bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. minced onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 clove garlic
1/8 tsp. italian seasoning
few shakes Lawry's seasoning

Mix ingredients and shape into balls. Brown in approx. 2 TBSP. of oil until cooked through.

Which brings us to another recipe. I always make this on "meatball day".

Theola's Swedish Meatballs
Remove meatballs from skillet, reduce heat.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prepare baking dish for cooking.
To skillet drippings add:
2 TBSP. flour and stir to form a bubbly "paste" (roux)
Slowly stir in:
1 1/2 c. beef broth
1/2 c. milk or light cream

Stir frequently. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg to taste. Bring to a gentle boil and stir constantly, gravy will thicken within 1-2 minutes. Consider it done when the gravy clings to the back of a spoon without dripping.

Place meatballs in baking dish, cover with gravy then bake for 30-40 minutes.

Excellent served over rice, potatoes or egg noodles!

My favorite recipe! However, when I make meatball, I make them in bulk. I don't make 1 pound, I make 5-6 pounds at a time. With that in mind, I have discovered a time saving alternative:
turn heat up on skillet, brown outsides then place into prepped baking dish. Once all meatballs are browned, place baking dish into 350 degree oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes and check for doneness. (Cut in half, is it pink or brown?)
(I know it still doesn't save tons of time, but I've found I can generally clean the kitchen in the time I would have been standing over the meatballs while they cooked in the skillet, just DON'T wash the skillet until after making the gravy!)

Saving out just enough for supper, I count the meatballs out into plastic bags and freeze. I have found that about 14-16 walnut-sized meatballs works well for my family's spaghetti dinners; if a recipe needs more meatballs, I grab two bags instead of one.