Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Valentine's Day Gifts

A few weeks ago one of the moms groups I belong to had a spa party.  One of the activities was a 'make your own bath salt' table.  It was so pretty I decided to put my own twist on it and make Valentine's Day gifts for the babe's teachers. Can you believe Valentine's Day is just over two weeks away!? 

I picked up some supplies: Epsom Salt, Sea Salt, Small Glass Jars, Dried Lavender, Dried Rose Buds, Red Ribbon, A paper bag, Essential Oil, Red Glitter Paint

I cut the side of the paper bag to make gift tags and added a giant glitter heart:

I mixed 2 parts Epson Salt to 1 part Sea Salt:

I mixed in the dried lavender:

I created a 'junk mail funnel' to fill the jars:

I then added the dried rose buds on the very top:

TADAA!! Teacher gifts ready to be delivered:

Budget breakdown:
  • Epsom Salt - $16 at Target 
  • Sea Salt - already had
  • Small Glass Jars - $1 each at Michael's (x10)
  • Dried Lavender - $1.99 at a local market
  • Dried Rose Buds - $1.99 at a local market
  • Red Ribbon - had on hand
  • A paper bag - had from groceries
  • Essential Oil - had on hand
  • Red Glitter Paint - had on hand
Totaling $30 for 10 gifts or $3 each, but I have about 90% of the Epsom Salt/Lavender mix left.  You better believe I'm going to be taking LOOOONNNG baths.  :)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Apples and Pears and Teething Help

My sister-in-law made apple sauce for her toddler, and I thought it sounded super yummy!  So, I gave it a go myself. I semi-peeled two red apples, two green apples, and three pears.  You certainly could fully-peel them, but it is a pain in the neck and it adds some vitamins.  I cored and sliced them and cut them into chunks. 

I put them all into a dish with a lid and put them into the oven for 45 minutes at 350°. The lid is really important, because it keeps the juices in. I did it once without a lid and the top layers were a bit dry.  If you don't have a dish with a lid, you can put a few layers of foil.

It filled our house with the most delicious smell!! When it came out, I put about 3/4 of the mix into a blender to puree it for the babe. It smelled/looked so good, I took the other 1/4 and mashed it with a potato masher (so it remained fairly chunky).  Here's the puree freezing for the babe:

The babe LOVES the natural sweetness of the apple/pears.  It's also great to mix in with veggie-heavy foods for a picky baby.  The best thing about the mix is it has almost a sorbet consistency - so I'm able to whack the frozen cube a few times with a meat hammer and stuff it into one of the most awesome things ever!! It's a mesh sack that babies can suck on bigger solids without fear of chocking.  I like to use it with semi-frozen foods to help with teething pain.  The babe goes nuts for it! We got the set of two shown here.

I like to use the mush version over vanilla ice cream for an adult treat - add a touch of caramel for a decadent dessert.  It's basically amazing... gotta love multi-purpose recipes! 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Baby Clothes

Can you imagine having to rotate out your ENTIRE wardrobe every few months?! I have things in my closet from a decade ago!!!  The shopper in me loves getting to replace the babe's clothes, but the miser in me cringes when we walk into a store.

The good thing, people LOVE to buy baby clothes as shower gifts.  The bad thing? Babies grow... quickly!! I think the babe never wore 0-3 months clothes, and wore 3-6 months clothes until around 4 months.  One thing that was frustrating is that different brands have drastically different sizing.  I would like to start a revolution and relabel all child clothes to weights instead of ages. Nothing will be 100% accurate, but how can you have a 0-3 months size when you have babies born 5lbs and babies born 10lbs?! Crazy.

And who decided to make baby clothes so darn cute?! Jerks. One of the benefits of not knowing the gender of the babe was being able to resist on impulse purchases of clothes.  I don't know that I ever thought, "OH. MY. GOODNESS. Look at that super cute gender-neutral outfit!!" It also helped because we have options to pass down to future babes no matter their gender.

Some tips I've learned for baby shopping:

1) Discount shopping sites:

Zulily is my favorite - they have a great app and have had deals on cloth diapers!
Rue la la has great deals on home/adult clothes and has started featuring more baby stuff.
Totsy isn't much to write home about - they have some cute things, but don't have an app... so it's obnoxious to keep checking their website.

The down side to these sites/apps is that they often have a no returns policy...difficult because of that whole 'some size 3-6 months could fit a toddler and others wouldn't fit a preemie' thing.  You can find great deals on nursery things though (rugs/art/lamps/etc.)

2) Clearance racks:
GAP has some of the cutest baby clothes around - even neutral ones! But GEESH... I'm not willing to pay on average $25/$35 for a single outfit that'll be useful for maybe 2-3 months.  They always have a sale rack in the back of stores, and often have 40% off that sale rack... HOORAY!!!  We hoarded our GAP gift cards and had a party - paying attention to buy larger sizes for the babe to grow into (keeping seasons in mind). 

Carter's also has a great clearance section and always has coupons circulating.  Their store is split in half boys/girls though, so not many gender neutral options.

3) Old Navy:
Their clothes are fairly cheap quality - which works when you don't plan to keep them long anyway. You can find great deals and really quirky outfits.

Some of our scores:
In case you can't read the prices in the picture, the long-sleeve body suits were $3.99 at GAP and $1.99 at Carter's.  The right is a two-piece set at $5.99 at Carter's (That's $3 each!) - they're much too big for the babe now, but come summer, they will fit perfectly! We try to stay under $5 per outfit. 

What are some of your favorite sites/stores to score great deals on baby/kids clothes?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Popeye Baby Food

I was very cautious of introducing foods to fast to the babe because of my own allergies.  For two months we went at a pace of one food per week - to see for food reactions.  Once I got over my fear, I began to mix low-risk allergy foods together.

I present to you *drumroll* Broccoli/Spinach/Pumpkin!  The spinach has loads of iron and the broccoli has A, K, B9, C - vitamin C helps in the iron absorption, and the pumpkin makes it taste less gross (and more vitamin C to boot)! Huzzah! 

Bagged and tagged!

This recipe helped us get more spinach into our meals too!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why We Skipped Rice

It is important for me to keep this site judgement free.  I've read other sites that want to label mothers as good/bad based on parenting decisions they make.  Millions and millions of babies were raised on rice cereal and turned out just fine.  We also postponed solids until after 6 months. The babe's first food was avocado, followed by squash then sweet potato. These are the reasons/logic we used for skipping rice and postponing solids in our house:

1) We try to avoid refined, over-processed foods in our own diet - why would that be the first introduction of food to our baby? Gerber rice cereal ingredients:

2) Why supplement nutrition, instead of getting it through diet/milk? Most of the ingredients above are supplements.  The main one being iron (and the main selling point).  Here's a list of iron-rich foods I use when building meal plans (more baby food recipes to come). Plus, breast milk is a super food - especially when the momma is taking her own vitamins! 

3) It was important for us that being tired was his sleep queue, not a full tummy.  Often rice cereal is used before bedtime as a 'filler' so the baby will go to sleep (not a proven theory). I read Baby Wise, don't agree with the scheduling of the baby, but I do like the concept of not training/ soothing/ queueing babies using food.

4) Rice cereal (or any other food supplement) often takes the place of breast milk - nature's super food. 

5) Allergies & Open Gut - My biggest fear is I'll pass along my allergies to the baby. I'll let someone more able explain the concept of an 'open gut':
From birth until somewhere between four and six months of age, babies possess what is often referred to as an “open gut.” This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream.This is great for your breastfed baby as it allows beneficial antibodies in breastmilk to pass more directly into baby’s bloodstream, but it also means that large proteins fromother foods (which may predispose baby to allergies) and disease-causing pathogens can pass right through, too. During baby’s first 4-6 months, while the gut is still “open,” antibodies (sIgA) from breastmilk coat baby’s digestive tract and provide passive immunity, reducing the likelihood of illness and allergic reactions before gut closure occurs. Baby starts producing these antibodies on his own at around 6 months, and gut closure should have occurred by this time also.  FROM HERE
6) Arsenic levels from rice are much higher than people would expect. This is similar to the issue with Apple juice (which is why we'll go 100% organic when the time for juice comes).  Article from Consumer Reports here. No, it's not 'keel over dead' levels, but prolonged exposure certainly poses health risks.

7) Feeding is much easier when the baby wants it.  The babe was super curious every time we would put something into our mouths.  He wanted everything on our plate.  He had good head control and was able to sit himself - all sure signs he wanted the food to go into his mouth!

8) Gas/Constipation - it takes time for a baby's insides to develop.  There aren't the proper enzymes to digest food for a few months. 

I will say that all of these are taking into consideration that I was breastfeeding.  Certainly some of the conversation would be different if that weren't the case. 

I know this is a long post, but I wanted to give everyone something to think about. As I said before, millions of babies started with rice cereal and turned out just fine.  On the other side of the coin, millions of babies have been born in countries that don't hop on rice cereal immediately (or in the years before rice cereal) and have also turned out fine.  There is no right/wrong - as long as you make an informed decision. Doing something 'because that's what everyone does' is the wrong decision.

If you've read this far you're probably a parent or soon-to-be parent, so, YEAH!!! If not... wow, you need a hobby, but glad you're reading ;) 

Good on you if you're a rice cereal warrior - you won't be getting a side eye from me. Every baby is a different adventure.

What non-mainstream decisions have you made? What was your baby's first food?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Inspiration

I saw this cartoon and I couldn't help but cringe giggle!  Today my hair is in a pony tail for the umpteenth day in a row (can't even tell you where my straightener is...). I may or may not have driven through Wendy's for a junior Frosty for breakfast, and I'm in the same pair of sweatpants I've slept in all week...

And you know what? I'm fine with it!  It's not my constant state, but it happens occasionally, and that is fine.  We're all allowed to feel like this some days:

Motherhood isn't a competition; you're probably your own worst critic.  You are the best mother your child will have - give yourself a break sometimes! 


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Homemade Rattles

Our house has been taken over by baby stuff!  Stuff that the babe plays with for a minute and then abandons.  It seems he is most interested in what mommy and daddy are holding.  So, I thought it might make sense to make some homemade toys - saving money and giving him items he has seen us using.

For a whopping ZERO dollars I made the following two toys:

I liked using food containers because the materials used in the package are food-grade (unlike a container for, say, dishwasher soap).  The soup container was clear, so I colored the noodles with markers to give a bit more visual interest. I liked the stripes on the Pringles can below (it was a special edition can), but you could cover the tube in paper with pictures.  The nice thing about the Pringles can is it has metal on the bottom - resulting in more noise when the noodles hit that end.

  • stable food container
  • pasta (colored or plain)
    • or any other safe 'noise maker'
  • glue to seal (I used non-toxic glue that was 0.01 on sale at Staples)
    • IMPORTANT to seal or the toy can become a choking hazard

I think he likes it!!  I'm happy to not spend another $5+ on a baby toy, happy to 'up-cycle' items from our kitchen, and happy that the babe is entertained!

Have you made any homemade toys? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Wow. So many pictures!! From 'belly' pictures during pregnancy, to the cute things the babe does daily, the pictures have began to stack up.

And by stack up, I mean literally fill my computer. The first baby related pictures were my 15 week belly pictures.  Notice the green arrow on the right.  To date I've taken almost as many pictures since the pregnancy was showing as I have in the entire time I've had iPhoto -- 2003!!! 

So, every 1 month of pregnancy/baby has had as many pictures as 1 year pre-baby... If you use the day the babe was born over 1/3 of my photos are from that point forward... geesh!

And yes, I have almost 17,000 pictures!  For whatever reason, I can't force myself to delete 'outtakes' or pictures from a set where I've already chosen my favorite.  If you look at the 15 week belly screen the first row, second to last picture has a red dot - that's a red apple with '15 weeks' because that's the estimated size of the babe inside (I did the comparison each month of pregnancy).  Why can't I get rid of the other ones? I think it's because I worry one day I'll look and realize I hate the one I've chosen and won't have any other options.

One day I got a warning my computer was full:

YIKES!!  I took a few hours one day and got rid of duplicates or random pictures I had taken on my phone that weren't relevant (things like price sticker pictures for comparison shopping).  I was able to clear up some space, but it was a losing battle.  My computer ended up breaking and the replacement had much more space - hooray!

I'm sure I'll fill this one up eventually, but I'm working on removing 'bad' pictures - maybe I take 30 pictures of the babe during his weekly picture; instead of keeping them all, I now get rid of the ones that are blurry or with eyes closed.  That helps... a bit.

It seems every day the babe does a dozen things that I want to remember forever.  It's hard, but I force myself to put down the camera and experience the moment.  With technology it's so easy to forget to be present - even if you're participating through a lens/screen.  

I read somewhere that when your baby is born you think they are the cutest thing so you take tons of pictures - the problem is, they keep getting cuter and cuter (yes, it's possible) and doing more you want to capture!!  

On another note, it's important you backup your memories.  I don't know how terrible I would feel if all of my pictures vanished.  So, my favorites get synched to my phone and I backup my whole computer on an external hard drive monthly.  Best Buy has an assortment of 1TB hard drives for under $100. It's probably a good idea to have some offsite storage too - think if your house gets flooded or burned down - your backup goes too! 

How do you keep your photos organized? What type of backup do you use?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sweet Potatoooo

...said just like Oprah does, here. 

I wanted to be sure the babe would eat veggies before we began with fruits.  Sweet potato is a nice bridge between the two. It's nice to make a big batch and server yourself some with dinner!!

Peeled and chopped:

Into the steam bath:

Leveled into the ice tray:

Ready for storage!!

For more information about how I create my own baby food, see my original post here.

To feed the adults, I set the oven to 350° and julienne the sweet potato.  
Two flavor options:
1) Sweet: toss in a few tablespoons each of butter, honey, and brown sugar
2) Savory: toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil, pinch of salt, and italian seasoning

Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes.  YUMMY!!!

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Woman of the Cloth

... cloth diapers that is!  Your reaction is probably one of the following: 

  • WHAT?!?! isn't that something they did in the 'old days' 
  • EWWW!! Gross! 
  • **Eye roll** 
  • Cool/Awesome!

We made the decision to cloth diaper for a variety of reasons:

  • 1) Chemical avoidance - There are so many chemicals in modern disposable diapers. With my sensitive skin, I wanted to be cautious. Yes they're convenient, but I don't know that I want my baby to be wearing something that can absorb POUNDS of liquid.
  • 2) Cost savings - Because of #1, we were going to buy sensitive/hypoallergenic diapers that average around .30 per diaper.  When you do the math, a $17 cloth diaper is roughly the equivalent of 56 diapers. The rough average for babies in the first few months is 8-10 diapers a day... so you see how that quickly adds up.  
  • 3) Environmental Stewardship - Did you know it takes 500 years for a plastic diaper to dispose? Every year diapers account for just over 2% of the trash sent to landfills.  Certainly laundering does take energy, but it feels good to not throw out a big bag of plastic/chemical diapers all the time. They now offer more 'eco-friendly' disposables, which is a nice option.
  • 4) Convenience - I know, it seems counterintuitive.  I like the fact that I don't have to run to the store if I run out of diapers!

There are so many options out there for cloth diapers.  You aren't restricted to the old fashioned single sheet of cloth origami that has to be pinned.  I had heard good things about FuzziBunz diapers, but wanted to get a few others to see if a particular brand fit the babe best. We had a local store that allowed full refunds after 60 days, so I got 12 FuzziBunz, a GroVia, Rumbarooz, BumGenius & Go Green.  I also picked up some unscented RockingGreen detergent (normal detergent can leave residue that snells when it mixes with the ammonia in the urine). The BumGenius is the most prevalent brand - they're sold in major chains.  The others are usually found online or through local retailers.  We also got 8 lil joey's (OMG...just saw their new madras print... OBsessed... wish they had these when I got mine... may buy them just because... I digress) - they're a line of Rumparooz (get the kangaroo reference?) but for newborns.  They specifically snap down at the umbilical chord and only fit babies up to 12 pounds.  Here's our stash:

the babe rocking his lil Joey's:

and another one (I can't believe he was ever this small!):

 The first time you wash the diapers you have to go through multiple soak rounds to make sure any production chemicals are gone.  We don't have an outdoor space, so we hung them from pant hangars in the door way:

Into the FuzziBunz at 2 months old (he was over 12 pounds at a month old).  He was 8lbs at birth, so other babies may be able to use the Joey's for longer. *forgive the iPhone photo!

We like one size diapers.  They are resized from the inside to adjust the diaper to fit from baby to potty-trained toddler.  You can buy 'sized' diapers, but you would have to buy new sets of diapers as the baby grows (cutting into the cost savings).  The FuzziBunz have 4 places to size: 1 for each leg and 1 on each side of the waist.  There are buttons that are moved along elastic that has helpful numbers to make sure you've got both leg holes even (and get your whole collection to the same size).  A side note, the diaper below has been in our rotation for over 7 months now - still white as can be!!

 We prefer this type of sizing to the external snaps of other diaper brands.  Plus, it keeps the front of the diaper looking sleek. Some disposable diapers have velcro waists, but I didn't like them because velcro doesn't always wash clean, it sticks to everything in the wash, and it's not as strong of a hold as snaps.

A rainbow of drying diapers:

It's easy to get dressed when all you need is a shirt!

We not only plan to use the diapers until the babe is potty trained, but to also use our set for future babies - cha ching$$$$.  The two brands we would recommend are FuzziBunz and Charlie Banana - they both have the internal sizing (as opposed to the rows of external buttons).  The CB use a 'bra-strap' sizing instead of a button/hole.  Think of how you adjust your bra to make the strap shorter/longer - that's how you adjust the legs/waist of the diaper (again, hidden inside like the FB ones).  They're both now available at Target - yeah!!! 

Unfortunately, our daycare doesn't allow cloth (many don't, but some do) so we still buy a box of Pampers Sensitive Swaddlers every other month. We are still enjoying the cost savings of using cloth at home.

Some people do cloth wipes as well, we use unscented/hypoallergenic ones from Sam's Club (bulk, baby!). We also use flushable liners to get rid of the solids so we're only washing minimal 'gross stuff' and mostly urine.

So far we've really enjoyed it, but realize it's not for everyone! Are you using cloth? Do you have a favorite brand/associated product?

SAVINGS DEAL: Use code 10OFFBUNZ on the FuzziBunz site for 10% off!!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Inspiration

I came across this image online and found it to be profoundly true.  The babe has already grown up so quickly.  

It is a nice reminder to ignore the superficial things and really enjoy the short time we have with the little ones!!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Custom City Canvas

I've always liked the art that has city names on it.  It's very modern and graphic - just our style.  I didn't want to pay $300 and up for things like this or this - plus, every one I found would have a random I hadn't been to (or didn't care for).

So, I did what any 8-months-pregnant lady does - I made one!

I got a large canvas at Michaels with a 40% off coupon (their canvas always seems to be on sale) and a large tube of quality acrylic paint.  I also used freezer paper I keep on hand (for other craft projects).  I decided what cities I wanted on the canvas.  It ended up being a list of cities the hubs and I visited or lived together.  

I printed out the letters on paper in a bold font I liked and laid them out for spacing purposes:

I held freezer paper behind the letters (waxy side facing down/away) and cut out each letter.  I laid them back out on the canvas.  I added some painter's tape guides so I would stay straight:

Removing the top layer of copy paper (the blue letters), I was left with freezer paper letters only.  I removed the tape guides, and with an iron on low settings, I ran the iron over the paper slowly so the waxy side stuck to the canvas.  Be sure the iron is clean!

I first tried using a roller to paint over the letters, but the texture made the coverage uneven.  I switched to a 2" brush to finish the canvas.  Once I painted two coats I peeled off the letters (I got excited with the U and the L below):

Taa daa!!! The letters didn't turn out perfect - some letters didn't stick all the way down, but I like the imperfection.  Most of the expensive store options are a bit imperfect too. I decided not to continue the black paint around to the canvas edge - it felt like a frame by leaving it white.

The canvas found a home in our grey/black/white nursery, but it certainly can move to other rooms of our house in the future.  It's nice to have a personal touch to remind us of our travels!

Budget Breakdown:
Canvas - $28
Acrylic Paint - $7
Brush - already owned
Freezer paper - already owned

Can't beat a $35 art project that can be enjoyed for years to come!  
What personalized art have you created?