Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Strides in pottying

A big moment in our house yesterday, Gabe used his little potty!! I saw him scrunching up his face a little and heard him grunting faintly so I asked if he had to go potty and made the sign. He started nodding a little, so I picked him up to change him. I had caught him in time so I set him down on the little potty in the bathroom, just to see (we'd never had luck with this before.) Twice more I asked if he had to go potty, and made the sign 3 times. And... he went! And seemed pleased with himself! Heh. Hooray, Gabey!
That night after Steve came home Addie walked right up to him and made the sign for diaper, indicating she needed a change, and she was right! Another first!

To me, signing and infant pottying go hand in hand. I was unsure how it would work with 2 little ones, so I was pleased when it turned out to be fairly easy. Well, with Gabe at least (Addie's a little more covert when she's going potty. heh.) But every time I saw Gabe's face puff up or heard him grunting quietly I would ask if he had to go potty, and make the sign as I said the word. He would give some indication that he did, so I would hold him over the toilet and he would go. He was doing that at 6 months, I believe. But eventually, he got tired of being held and would struggle every time I tried, so I stopped pushing. I got the little potty out and would sit him on it, but with no luck. Yesterday was special for some reason, maybe he was finally comfortable and familiar with the potty. Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Small Changes, Part 2

Ditch the Disposables Challenge: Paper towels and household cleaners

So far things have been going well with the re-useable cloths instead of paper towels. I get out 2 each morning, one for cleaning the babies and one for spills and general cleaning. I use new ones each day for 4-5 days then wash all of them with a larger load, no need for a special load, which saves energy.

In addition, I have stopped buying many household cleaners. I have found that the cleaners made at home with simple ingredients that are cheap and readily available work just as well as, if not better than, store brands. My all-purpose cleaner of choice is a 50/50 split of white vinegar and water. For clogged drains I pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar, allow that to sit for a few minutes then flush down with a gallon of boiling water. I use Borax and washing soda when I wash the kids cloth diapers and I'm planning on making laundry detergent with them as well. Check out Earth Easy for tons of great non-toxic home care tips.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bucket baby

err, drawer baby might be more accurate. I heard him whining and came around the corner to see this:

He crawled in after flinging all the diapers out. He did the same thing with the tupperware drawer in the kitchen, but I didn't have my camera handy. Silly baby. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ditching the Disposables, Part 1

Over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess there's a challenge a-foot; "choosing disposable product(s) to leave behind for two months in favor of an environmentally-friendly reusable product." My ultimate goal is to make my husbands paycheck stretch as far as it can, and help provide a healthy, happy home for my family, so this idea fits right in.

One of the first changes I made was to mopping the floors. I had been using a popular brand of pre-packaged wet cloths to scrub the floors, and they worked well. There was a scrubby strip for hard to remove "things" and the sheets were pre-soaked; no need for a bucket of yucky water. However, to get the floor as clean as I like I had to put in some serious elbow grease, and it would take 2 sheets to thoroughly clean my downstairs. That works out to be 112 sheets, per year, full of chemicals I'd rather not use around my kids and will ultimately end up in the landfill.

This is where the H2O Steam Mop comes in. This mop converts plain water to steam to clean without the use of chemicals and comes with with a washable mopping pad. I have seen a few negative reviews of this product for things like its cord being too short and leaving the floors too wet afterwards. They are minor annoyances but to me the pros far outweigh the cons. (It's easy enough to replug for each room and after mopping I do some cleaning or other work upstairs for a few minutes while it's drying.) I do love that I don't have to do any more scrubbing or scratching, just hold the mop over a stain for a few seconds and it comes right up. It comes with accessories too, one of them a attachment to steam your carpets and another smaller hand held steamer. Best of all there are no chemicals, a big plus for me with two babies running, rolling, and playing on the floors all day.

Part 2 coming soon... the paper towel challenge.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Toddlers and laundry

Whenever I have a load to move from the washer to the dryer, I try and enlist the help of either child that happens to be nearby. Or both, more frequently. Usually I end up handing some of the smaller items to child A, who will fling them in the dryer and turn back for more with a big smile while child B shows up to help unload the dryer. Although a simple task can end up taking much longer, it's nice to include them in the ordinary things I have to do each day.

Today is my day for washing sheets and blankets so there was a nice soft pile in the middle of the kitchen when the kids got up from their naps. Drawn to it like flies to honey they flung themselves into the pile and rolled around giggling. Unable to resist the opportunity for some indoor sledding, I picked up the corners and drug them all around the floors. After a slow pass or two they seemed to be ready for more so I pushed the rug back and began running between the kitchen and living room slinging them around in circles. (A toddlers belly laugh has got to be the most infectious outpouring of joy, ever. :) Of course, after 10 minutes or so my back was aching and I was ready to get the load started.

Filling the washer with the sheets and clothes it was obvious the blanket wouldn't fit as well so now it lays in a heap in the playroom, babies sprawled across it reading books. I believe they've staked their claim. Maybe I'll be able to wash it during their second nap....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Gabe's first trim

We weren't able to get any "during" shots since it was just me and Jen; her snipping quickly here and there while I tried to keep his attention and Addie out of trouble.
It wasn't the walking or signing that made me realize my baby is now a toddler, no, it was the haircut.



But he did remarkably well, and we were able to trim the back, the wings over the ears and the wisps in his eyes. One lone ringlet saved for mommy. :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meal Planning, or something close....

Dad, Jen and I took the kids to the Farmers Market this morning to pick out some fresh produce. It was a lovely morning, in the mid 70s with a slight breeze. We had gotten there early enough to sit and have a breakfast of egg biscuits and hash browns at a picnic table while the last farms put out their products. I ended up going home with some beautiful peaches, yellow squash and zucchini. Dad opted for some lesser known varieties to experiment with. I plan to use some of our peaches fresh for the kids and will probably make a crisp with the rest. The squash and zucchini will be divided between a chunky sauce (made with tomatoes from our garden) for pasta one night and sauteed with some leftover onion as a side dish another.
It's a start to a meal plan, anyway. I've got to go through and inventory our pantry and freezer to see what we have to work with, but I'd imagine we can create quite a variety of dishes with the staples we normally keep around. Today I used 7 frozen (black) bananas to make 2 loaves of banana bread for the kids. I'll freeze one loaf and the other will take us through breakfast and snacks for a week. (Did you know you can freeze bananas? In their peels, no less! No more will you have to toss black, mushy, wasted bananas! Defrost them in the microwave and they'll make super moist banana bread.)
To get a jump start on tonights dinner, I decided to go the crock pot route. I had some boneless, skinless chicken breast in the freezer so I looked around the kitchen to see what I could create. A simple chicken stroganoff seemed to be in order. I threw in the remains of a tub of sour cream (about 1 cup), a packet of mushroom gravy mix, a little flour and about a cup of water. Once those were mixed well, I tossed in the chopped chicken breast, and used up the last of our yukon gold potatoes, some baby carrots and half an onion. Its slowly simmering away now and in about 4 hours I'll add some peas and mix up a savory biscuit topping to cook for another hour. Dinner should be ready and waiting after the kids go down for the night.
We try to keep food items on hand that are often used to make many simple dishes. Besides pasta (spaghetti, rotini, and orzo), rice, potatoes, carrots, onions, and tomatoes are serious multi-taskers in this house. I just need to start getting in the habit of planning these dinners out ahead of time so at the end of the day I don't throw my hands up in the air and say, "Oh, forget it. I'm having a sandwich."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Adventures in soap making

My sister, Jen, and I have recently been discussing ways to simplify, scale back, and budget more wisely. She mentioned an interest in making her own soap as a way to save money but also to have fun being creative. Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the everyday and feel overwhelmed by deadlines, never-ending chores, and the monatany that can come with throwing yourself into your work, whatever that may be. Having some kind of creative outlet is a wonderful way to stay balanced and refocus. I frequently find that after spending some time in my garden, or completing a fun project I'm more motivated to tackle the less glamorous tasks around my house.

So we gathered our ingredients and set about this process as detailed over at Rhonda Jean's blog.
We chose to use Olive, Grapeseed, and Coconut oils and were rewarded greatly when the smells started permeating the kitchen. We cooked the oils together on the stove, just to melt the coconut oil (it was in solid form) and bring all the mixed oils to 140 degrees. We also mixed our water and lye outside and left it to cool to the same temperature; when they're both at 140 degrees, you combine them and start mixing.
We had a little bit of difficulty timing this though and had to use ice packs to cool the oils because the lye mixture had been hovering at 140 for a while. heh.

Fortunately we had an immersion blender so mixing only took about 5 minutes or so. We poured the mixture into our molds (8x8 tupperware containers greased with cooking spray) and left them to dry till the next morning. I had some difficulty removing the soap from the tupperware. I really think silicone is the way to go next time, there's much less chance of damaging it. The soap was firm but still slightly maleable so I cut the blocks into bars and tried out some stamps.

I was able to exert more focused pressure on and get a clearer impression with the smaller stamps, the large ones were faint and generally unimpressive. But the bars look lovely and have a subtle clean scent to them. Jen and I each got 11 bars of soap that we'll be able to use once it's cured, about 6 weeks.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Steve had the evening off and we all met at mom and dad's for dinner. Dad cooked up a great meal of chicken, onions, mushrooms and potatoes seasoned and fired on the grill with a side of brown sugar glazed carrots to sweeten the deal. Everyone had a great time laughing and visiting; it was wonderful to be able to have all of us there to celebrate.

I had a lot of fun making this cake to celebrate mom's birthday today. This is a butter cake with lemon curd and raspberry layers and frosted in buttercream. The recipe for the cake is from The Bakers Dozen, a wonderful book full of detailed recipes and insights into the subtleties of baking.