Thursday, October 17, 2013

No Sew Curtains

Curtains are one of the easiest projects to tackle yourself - no sewing required! You'll need fabric, an iron, and hem tape.

First, decide the length of your curtains. You can measure the window, or use an existing curtain/liner as a guide. Since I didn't want the liner peaking out from behind the curtains, I made them 4 inches longer (also, so they would graze the floor).

The fabric had a white edge I could use as a guide to iron an even edge on the sides.

Enter magical hem tape! Even if you're sewing-inclined, sometimes you don't want a line of thread down the side of a project. You slide the tape between two pieces of fabric and iron... they stick together and you're ready to go!

Once the sides were done, I made an inch hem at the top. I angled the corners in, so there would be a clean edge at the top of my curtains. 

I then folded the top over 4 inches to make my rod pocket. I carefully laid hem tape down to stick my first hem to the back of the curtain.

Because the fabric was thick, I turned to iron the back to be sure the hem tape fully melted and stuck the pieces together.

Taadaa! Rod pocket complete. Notice the folded in corner? That way you don't see the fabric peeking out from the front of the curtain if it hadn't lined up perfectly.

Instead of creating matching hems at the bottom, I lined up the tops to make sure both panels were the same length. No surprise, they weren't. 

So, with the tops (already with rod pockets) lined up, I laid out the curtains straight to see how off my cutting was at the bottom.

I folded the ends and did a quick iron to make a crease to use as a guide when making the bottom hem.

Not precise, but closer than if I had just put a 2 inch hem on the bottom of each.

I ironed and hem-taped the bottom of each panel using my crease as a guide. Notice how the hem size changes? I'm not very straight with the scissors... 

I flipped the corners in, so the front has a clean look. If you're curious, you can see the fabric name below. IKEA baby - cut your own fabric! 

Curtains hung! Forgive the bad iPhone picture (nursery #2 post coming soon)!

I got enough fabric to do two panels and extra to do bolster pillows and whatever my brain thinks up.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

At Home CrossFit Gym - Building a Plyometric Box

With baby 2 coming, the hubs cancelled his CrossFit membership and offered to workout in the basement to save time. I decided to make that a bit easier for him - and give him some of the tools he needed. 

I decided to build him a 'jump box' which is one of the basics of CrossFit.

I got wood glue and 5/8" screws:

I also got a 4'x8' 3/4" Plywood sheet and waddled my 8-month pregnant self to the cutting area and gave my best, "Oh, please help little ol' me." I gave them my exact cuts so they didn't have to think about how to fit them on the sheet. He decided he knew how they would 'fit' better, and ended up using 2 sheets - but only charged me for 1!!

I carried them one at a time to the car and then out to the yard where they each got a few coats of spray paint (and a final 2 coats of non-skid clear spray):

I slowly assembled the box with wood glue and a screw every 3-4 inches. The yellow sides fit INSIDE the other sheets:

You can see my screw width isn't precise:

Lots of wood glue! This thing is starting to look like a box:

Taadaa!! Have box - will jump. There is a 30" side, a 24" side and a 20" side.  I also got him a kettlebell, a jump rope and a few medicine balls to throw at the wall.

It will be nice to have him downstairs instead of down the road once the baby is here - it will also allow him to get in some 'quickie' workouts without the guilt of going to the gym.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Nursery #2

It was fun to design a nursery for baby girl. With babe #1 we didn't know we were having a little boy. We decided to make the nursery feminine, but not too girly; here is the result:

As soon as I knew we were having a girl, I wanted to base the nursery on a poster I purchased while living in Spain. The stars hanging above the crib are also goodies I brought home from Spain.

The bright yellow was a starting off point, and I came across the fabric for the curtains at Ikea. It was perfect with pops of soft and bright pink with the bold yellow and blue. Look for an upcoming no-sew curtain tutorial. I also used the same wall color as we did in the first nursery (Dorian Grey).

We never purchased a changing table for babe #1, so his dresser is still being used in his room. We purchased another dresser from Ikea, but this one is a bit higher. It's the perfect height to change baby on. We are using the same cloth diaper system (see this post and this post) as we did with #1.

As with all things Ikea, you need a patient and skilled helper (dad did most of the build):

It is nice that we are able to reuse the rocker, crib, rug, and changing pad from the first room... one of the perks of staying gender-neutral with a first baby! We are also using the same Angel Care monitor that is on my must have list.

I didn't hang as many pictures/shelves as I did in our first nursery. I got tired of dusting all of the time, so we are staying minimal. There are a few family pictures in the room, so baby girl has loving faces watching over her.

I'm sure I won't spend as much time in this nursery as I did in the last. The days of sitting quietly for hours on end are a thing of the past - now I will be running around keeping up with a spunky toddler!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Omega 3 Red Smoothie (because green drinks are SO last year)...

I remember when all anyone would talk about was kale. Yuck! I made a few kale smoothies, but was never a big fan. Sure, it's REALLY healthy, but meh.

Well, it seems red is the new green! WebMD has a great article about the benefits of red foods. I will point out that I think it's important to get a color-balanced diet, but it's fun to experiment sometimes!

Since I'm in my third-trimester, I'm trying to focus on getting Omega-3s for baby brain development. For non-pregnant people, they can offer anti-inflamatory benefits, help with arthritis, asthma, etc. Being a non-fish eater I only use flax to get my omegas.

I was at Target the other day and came across a 'red power' smoothie drink. It was quite expensive, but I wasn't going to be home anytime soon and was craving something sweet. I turned it around, and they were nice enough to give me the recipe!

Wahoo! Guess who's making smoothies?!? A quick trip to the grocery store rounded out my supplies (I had the flax, grapes and bananas on hand).

Since I wanted to make a giant batch of juice, I tweaked the recipe. I ended up using:

  • 20 red seedless grapes
  • 2 bananas
  • 3 red delicious apples
  • 2 naval oranges
  • 1/2 small bottle POM juice
  • 1/2 small bag frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 small bag frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup 100% apple/cranberry juice
  • 5 tbsp ground flaxseed meal

I put as much fruit in the blender that would fit! Then, after it reduced, I added the remaining ingredients (except the flax seed).

I wasn't sure how 'gritty' the smoothie would be, so I thought I may strain it before adding the flax. Since there weren't any seeds, the mix was very 'smoothie-esque' so I went ahead and added the ground flax. It's very finely ground, so it's not like you have seeds in your drink. If you had a really watery juice you may notice it, but in a smoothie it practically disappears.

I ended up with a full pitcher of the juice. It's slightly tart, but not cranberry juice tart. I had some fresh watermelon on hand I thought about adding, but it's so delicious raw that I didn't want to waste it! It would definitely be a good addition if you like a more sweet juice. 

I wasn't brave enough to add any red veggies (beets, rhubarb, etc.)... maybe next time!

What red juices have you tried? What are your favorite fruits/veggies to spruce up a smoothie?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Food Allergy Insights

I think one of the most stressful things for a parent is to have a child with food allergies. Even more so if the parent doesn't have food allergies. 

I've spent my whole life dealing with food allergies. It becomes part of your life and you go on auto-pilot reading labels, researching restaurant menus, asking for special cooking requests, etc. When the babe was diagnosed with a food allergy, I was sad for him, but was confident that I would be able to cope fairly easily.

Unfortunately, until he reaches a certain age, he doesn't realize that some things he puts in his mouth can kill him. On a playdate his friend may want to share their snack, or a substitute church nursery volunteer may offer him some of the wrong crackers, or someone may leave an empty cereal bowl on the coffee table and he gets his hands on the spoon (true story - I felt TERRIBLE): 

I think there are so many misconceptions, misinformation, and basic ignorance about food allergies in general. The babe most likely has allergies because I did, but not necessarily the same allergies. Having a food allergy doesn't mean you "don't like" a food, it means your body's immune system is reacting to the food. It can be a mild reaction (itchy nose) or a severe reaction (death). 

The most common way to test for allergies is a skin test. Blood tests are becoming more common and more accurate, but skin testing is still the most prevalent and widely accepted testing method. The process (in laymen's terms) involves dipping a needle in a solution that includes the allergen protein and pricking the skin (so the allergen gets into the body). They have 'pads' of needles, so you can do 10 pricks at a time. They mark each prick spot so they don't get lost on the skin. Adults often have this done on their forearms, but children get it on the back for the surface area.

Then you wait, and see what happens. Any hive/welt that appears indicates an allergy to that substance. You can see the babe has 3 allergic reactions:

Unfortunately, not much is known about food allergies. They can't pinpoint what causes the condition, they're not sure why so many more kids have allergies these days, and you don't know what your reaction may be. One day you may be exposed to the allergy and just get itchy skin, but the next time, you may go into anaphylactic shock: 
  • Skin—itching, hives, redness, swelling
  • Nose—sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose
  • Mouth—itching, swelling of lips or tongue
  • Throat—itching, tightness, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness
  • Chest—shortness of breath, cough, wheeze, chest pain, tightness
  • Heart—weak pulse, passing out, shock
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) tract—vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • Nervous system—dizziness or fainting
Most people with severe food allergies carry epinephrine injections with them that will help if their throat begins closing: 

It can be frustrating when people don't understand food allergies. It's not that people don't 'like' milk, eggs, peanuts, thee nuts, fish, shellfish, soy or wheat (the most common food allergies - so common they are required to be identified on food labels). It's not that someone on an airplane hates you, and doesn't want you to eat peanuts for your flight. I guarantee you'll be much more angry if your plane gets diverted for a medical emergency than you will be waiting an hour to have a salty snack... 

It's also stressful that people unfamiliar with food allergies aren't as vigilant when preparing food. Did you know some dinner rolls have milk in them? Or that Worcestershire sauce has anchovies? Or that Trader Joe's Carrot Orange juice has tilapia fish gelatin and anchovy & sardine oil ?!? 

Oils are a tricky issue. People allergic to a food may not be allergic to that food's oil - depending on how it is processed (highly refined versus cold-pressed/expelled) and wether or not natural flavor has been added back in. Some processes take out all of the food proteins (no allergens left) and others don't. So if you know someone with a peanut allergy who has eaten at Chic-Fil-A (who exclusively uses Peanut Oil to fry), it doesn't mean they really don't have a peanut allergy - the company committed to using the most highly refined/processed oils to be a peanut-safe product.

As someone with severe food allergies, and now as a mom of a kiddo with allergies, I have to follow some rules to stay sane. I have a mental list of restaurants, brands, and foods that I don't have to worry about. Being adventurous with food isn't an option - If I don't recognize it or see the label, the risk isn't worth it. Trust me, I would LOVE to try everything at least once.

If you're a server, know that I'm not asking for special treatment because I'm picky...
If we're meeting up for dinner, know that I'm not trying to deny you of a meal at your favorite restaurant...
If you're hosting a dinner, don't be offended if I bring a 'safe' dish to the party...

They are making strides in allergy research. There have long been allergy shots for environmental allergies, but food allergies haven't had many options. Recently, oral immunotherapy (gradually exposing allergic people to their trigger over time in a controlled environment) has proven successful, and is becoming a common treatment for severely allergic patients (I'll be looking into this soon). 

Please be patient and understanding with people suffering from food allergies - if you want to learn more about food allergies, visit

Thursday, July 11, 2013

20 Minute Car Seat Cover

On a recent family vacation we made the decision to get a car seat from the rental company instead of lugging our giant car seat with us. Most companies will charge you $10-$15 per day to use the car seat, and they usually have infant or toddler (rear or forward facing) available.

I don't consider myself a germaphobe, but there are lots of unsavory things that children do in carseats. I'm 100% positive they don't do a great job cleaning carseats - I've been in too many rental cars to know the level of attention to detail the cleaning crews have (or don't have, as is most often the case). Thinking of the babe eating a dropped snack from the carseat, passing out and smushing his cute cheeks into the seat, his sensitive chunky thighs rubbing against the seat... just gave me the heebie jeebies! 

So... I came up with a solution - a seat cover! I'm sure they sell them, but it took 20 minutes to make and cost less than $15!

STEP 1: Find a fabric you like that will be comfortable and breathable for the babe. I found an athletic blend that was airy and soft in a teal color.  

I purchased 2.5 yards and laid it over the seat to see where to cut.  Be sure to tuck the fabric down into the seat - don't just lay it over. Also, take into account that you'll use about 10 inches on either side for the hem.

STEP 2: While the fabric was draped, I used chalk to mark where the hooks in my carseat were. The rental may be slightly different, but these settings fit the babe, and a 5-point harness is standard.

When I laid my fabric out I realized my chalk lines weren't centered, so I made the black marks to use instead.

STEP 3: I sewed a basic hem in a giant circle around the parameter being careful to not close the corners. This is going to be used for a drawstring to fit the cover better.  Give yourself a few inches or threading the drawstring will be torture!

STEP 4: I selected a beefy zig-zag stitch and went around the buckle hole (I stitched first, and then used scissors to cut a slit for the buckle to fit)

STEP 5: I then sewed a giant 'I' around the upper belt and lower belt connections. If the shape doesn't make sense to you yet, just wait... 

The 'I' pattern after a quick pass with scissors:

STEP 6: I purchased some chord and a toggle at the store and threaded it through the hem:

Voila! A test fit on my own carseat looked great. Notice how the middle of the "I" is so the belts will come through? If you made 4 individual holes you couldn't access the chest buckle. The two sides will just lay on the seat behind the babe.

Here is the carseat cover in action on our rental seat. Notice it is MUCH smaller than our own car seat, but the drawstring keeps it tight around the edges and hides the extra fabric.

As much as I love the cover, I like to stick to my carseat manufacturer recommendation to not use ANY after-market products with our daily seat. They can reduce effectiveness and may void warranties. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shopping Smarter

I like to consider myself a smart shopper.  I tend to know when something is a 'good deal' or when it's not worth the price.  However, I do love coupons.  I get flack sometimes from the hubs for buying things just because I have a coupon.  This clipping basically speaks to me:

Well, I had a 20% off coupon burning a hole in my coupon wallet (I organize by expiration month - no crazy binders for this gal).  So, I snatched these up at our local BabiesRus.  I mean, $8 for TWO, and 20% off - that's around $6.40! 

Then I went to Target, and saw these:


To add insult to injury, we have a Target DEBIT Red Card, which gives us 5% cash back.  So these would have been around $4.27.  That's $2.40 less.  **SIGH**

What 'deals' have you regretted springing for?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spica Cast - Making it work

Hopefully none of you will have to experience the joy of a spica cast first hand. If you do, here are a few tips I picked up from my own experience.

Spica casts (pronounced spike-uh) are used for a variety of reasons, but are most commonly used to immobilize the hips and thighs. The babe got a hairline compression fracture in his femur, and this is what he looked like after getting his cast:

His is considered a 1/2 spica cast, because only one leg goes to the ankle.  I would argue there is nothing HALF about it. For hip issues that involve legs needing to be turned, sometimes a bar is placed between the legs to encourage twisting.

I've never been in a cast myself, but I always hear about people itching. It doesn't help when you begin with bad eczema. Within a few days, the babe was looking like this:

Overusing steroid skin cream can thin the skin and make things worse. Every 3-4 days we would mix lotion and cortozine in a 3-1 ratio and spread it as far down as we could reach. After each sponge bath he would get a light coating of lotion and a cool blow dryer to make sure all the moisture was out of the cast.

There are certain 'rules' for caring for a spica cast: don't get it wet, don't stick anything down it (powder, things to scratch with, etc.), try your best to catch all of their 'mess' out the bottom end, and love your child when they become stinky!!

Well, that wasn't enough for me.  We had weeks left in this thing and my poor baby's skin was literally going to rub off!

So, as they say, necessity was the mother of invention! First thing I did was get duct tape and wrap it as far in the cast as the inside diaper would cover (blue duct tape to blend in). I didn't want his skin rubbing against duct tape, but the smaller inside diaper went up his chest about 5 inches and about 1/2 an inch down his legs. This made a waterproof barrier at the bottom that could be wiped clean during changing.

Then, I took a newly washed dri-fit athletic shirt (one that is made to wick away moisture) and cut it into four large trapezoid shapes (think triangle with the top cut off). I fed the shirt through the cast, pulled it tight, and taped the edges together with duct tape (black/white checker). I was careful to be sure the inside of the shirt was facing his skin so the wicking would work properly.  This did two things: 1) keep the itchy gauze off of his skin 2) give a protective layer I could remove and wash if we had any accidents.

I did the same on the front and back and changed the 'inserts' weekly (or in the event of a mess). The shirt made two sets of inserts, so there was a backup on hand at all times. They went into the laundry with our normal load, except for the set that went through a blow-out... those went straight to the trash.

You can see in the pictures above, the spica requires a double-diaper.  The inner diaper is 1 or 2 sizes smaller than the normal diaper size the baby would wear. We were only 1 size smaller, because our cast had quite a bit of room between his tummy and the cast. Some casts focused on immobilizing the hips may be tighter and won't allow for a diaper to be tucked in so far.

On the outside, you have a 'catcher' diaper that misses anything the inside doesn't catch. It also loosely holds the inside diaper in, so it doesn't fall out. Ours was 2 sizes larger than regular.

The silver lining is that bowels are less active with less motion, so keeping a good diet is key. The last thing we wanted is a constipated baby!!

One of the other things people don't think about is the fact that you cannot bend in half with a torso cast. That means no high chair, no stroller, no car seat... so, the hospital provided a 'car bed' for us to use. With all of the marketing car seats do to inform you of their safety features, I was honestly scared strapping him in this tiny bucket.  It is literally a plastic tub with a liner and two loops to go through the seat belt. He hates not being able to see out the windows, but that's better than not being properly harnessed in his normal seat.

Another life saver was a wagon. It was easy to slip the babe in and wedge a pillow behind him. We went for walks around the neighborhood and even used it inside when I didn't have the energy to tote him around the house while I did chores. 

I also created a desk/command center for the babe when he was on the couch. Since he can't bend, he can't reach things in his lap. So, he was restricted to holding one item at a time. I took a medium sized mailing box and cut out holes for his legs. I also cut off one of the corners. Then, I wrapped it in wrapping paper and coated it in packing tape (essentially waterproofing it).

It allows him to keep food and toys within reach, and has given him the independence to choose what he wants to play with whenever he is ready.

Luckily, babies and children are resilient. Within a week the babe was crab-walking around the coffee table, and within 2 weeks he was pushing his toys around the house. I think spica casts are a test in patience, but once you get it figured out you can develop a routine. 

If you ever have to deal with a spica cast, know that it is only temporary. It is protecting and healing your baby, and that makes any headache/backache/mess worth it!!!

It is important to note that I am not a medical professional, just a mom who made it work for her baby! If you are unsure about anything, please check with your doctor first.