Monday, November 28, 2011

Adorable DIY Cloth Diapers

I recently decided to try my hand at making my own cloth diapers.  It was so much easier than I expected, and I love how they turned out! 

Stuff I used:  PUL fabric, cotton outer fabric, suedecloth fabric, bamboo cotton fabric, hemp fabric, hook and loop tape, and elastic.  (Amounts of each will vary depending on how many diapers you plan to make.)  Sewing machine, good scissors, and a rotary cutter and mat.

Free, detailed instructions and pattern:

Pictures below!

The inside:  Pretty brown suedecloth

The outside:  Sweet little hedgehogs!

Making these was definitely time consuming but the end result was so worth it!  They're not perfect sewing-wise, as I'm still learning, but I still think they rock!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Easy-Peasy Craft Dough

With the weather turning cooler here in the northeast, we've been turning more and more toward indoor activities to keep from getting cabin fever (and to keep the kids from bouncing off the walls.)

Today we revisited one of my faves, homemade "clay"!

It's cheap, cooks up quickly, and it's a lot of fun to make.  Plus, odds are good that you already have the stuff on hand necessary to make it!


Food coloring
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups water
1 cup cheap table salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Combine everything except for the food coloring in a medium-sized pot on the stove.  Cook it over medium low heat, stirring frequently to keep the dough from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When the dough pulls away from the pan as you're stirring it, it's finished.  If your dough seems too sticky, keep cooking it until it reaches a smoother consistency.

Carefully (because the dough will be HOT!) divide your dough up into as many portions as you would like to make into separate colors.  Using a separate bowl for each portion, work your chosen food coloring into each wad of dough with a wooden spoon.  Once the dough has cooled enough to be handled, turn it onto a cutting board and knead it until the color has evenly distributed.

Use cookie cutters, rolling pins... whatever you can think of to work the dough into fun shapes and cut-outs.  

It goes without saying, but please supervise kids carefully around the stove, and keep the finished product away from any pets (particularly dogs, who tend to be rather goat-like in their eating habits!)  This dough is all-natural and non-toxic, but it's loaded with salt, which isn't really good for anybody.  Plus it's safe to assume that it probably tastes like a rubber tire.

Trick or Treat!

Another Halloween bites the dust!

My older two were Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein, with our beloved shepherd filling in as a very embarrassed Igor.  My youngest was a cat, and in true kitty fashion she stayed rather aloof and was less than impressed with the evening's shenanigans.

I love Halloween.  Wearing a goofy costume and trolling the neighborhood for candy?  Yes please!  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Favorite Sugar Cookies

One of the things I love most about the fall and winter holidays are the treats the kids and I bake.  We do a lot of cupcakes and cookies, and one of our favorite goodies to bake are sugar cookies!  Personally, I love a thick, soft sugar cookie with a lightly sweet icing.

The kiddos' tasty handiwork from the other night

Here is my go-to recipe, which I adapted with just a few very slight tweaks from this one here a few years back.  I love it so much, I've never used another since!

Stuff you need:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter or vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance is my fave!)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla  
  • 2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little more for dusting your roller, countertop, and cookie cutters
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (fine crystals, not coarse!)

How to make 'em:

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cream together butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
2.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until combined.
3.  In a separate mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and sea salt.
4.  Slowly add dry ingredient mixture to butter-sugar mixture and mix at medium speed until thoroughly combined.
5.  Add eggs and vanilla, and mix for another 30 seconds or until all ingredients are well combined.
6.  On a thoroughly sanitized counter top (this is important- food-borne illness causes many, many deaths each year.  Don't let yourself or someone you love become a statistic!) dusted with flour, roll out your cookie dough using a lightly floured rolling pin, to about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut out with your favorite cookie cutters (you can dip them in flour if your cookies are sticking.)
7.  Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes (depending on your oven.)
8.  Decorate with your favorite frosting (this one is my favorite- I swap the corn syrup for additional water; it makes a great icing that dries nicely so that you can stack and store your cookies) and sprinkles!  (If you want to use sprinkles without frosting the cookies you will need to put the sprinkles on before you bake them.)


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Falling for Fall

Fall is more or less my favorite season.  The scents, the weather, the food, the fun little events... I love it!  It always seems to put me in a crafty mood, so yesterday the girls and I headed to the local fabric and craft store to pick out some projects.

First up, a DIY autumn wreath!  Inspired by this post I found via Google, we picked up some leaf garland and a twig wreath.  For these two things we spent about $13 with a coupon... score!  Way cheaper than the ready-made versions sold in stores.


Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Leaf garland
Twig wreath

I snipped all of the leaves and berries off of the garland, then with the assistance of my little helpers glued them all over the wreath, sticking the stems of the leaves in between the twigs with glue dabbed on the ends.

Here is the finished product!  In this photo there's a bare spot(upper right), which I filled in afterward, but you get the idea!

I'm so happy with our handiwork, and best of all we really enjoyed making it.  Today we'll be baking some autumn sugar cookies... I'll post about those soon.  Happy crafting!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amazing Fudge Marble Pound Cake

I made this lovely beauty last night and it is worth every single naughty, calorie-laden crumb!

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • confectioner's sugar, for dusting
    Preheat oven to 350°.

    Grease and flour standard bundt pan.

    Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

    Using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the softened butter with the granulated sugar and mix until smooth.  Next add eggs one at a time, mixing after each.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.

    Add the dry ingredients and mix at medium speed just until combined.  Add milk and mix just until combined.  Set aside 1 cup of this batter.

    In a separate bowl, combine cocoa powder and melted butter.  Add the 1 cup of batter from the previous step and stir until combined.

    Carefully and evenly distribute half of the plain batter into your prepared bundt pan.  On top of this batter, distribute the chocolate batter evenly.   Pour your remaining plain batter on top of the chocolate, distributing it evenly in the pan.  Using a butter knife inserted into the batter, gently swirl the batter around (be careful not to over-blend- you will lose your pretty chocolate

    Bake for 30 minutes at 350°.  Reduce oven temperature to 325° and bake for an additional 25 minutes.  Finally, cover bundt loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes longer.  Remove pound cake from oven and insert a toothpick into a few different spots to check that the cake is fully baked.  The cake is finished when the toothpick comes out without any batter attached.  Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes.  Invert pan onto a glass cake stand or other serving dish and allow to cool fully before serving.  Dust liberally with confectioner's sugar, slice it up, and enjoy!

(Also- I used vegan butter in place of regular for the softened butter portion of this recipe to save some fat and calories.  The cake is fantastic, so if you're looking to cut the fat content, give that a try!)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Happy Birthday Sunshine!

One year ago today this amazing little person burst into the world!

Little L is growing by leaps and bounds!  Still nursing like a fiend but she also loves to eat.  Her favorite foods are pizza and blueberries (surprise, surprise- we're a bunch of fruit bats around here.)  She still hasn't a tooth in sight but she does just fine without them, and I can't say I'm disappointed because girlfriend loves to bite.  She's cruising and so close to walking but no first steps yet!

We're so blessed to have this sweet little pumpkin in our lives.  I'm a bit wistful that she's a year old given that she's our last baby (sniffle) but I'm also excited to watch her grow and change each day.

Happy birthday baby, we love you!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

you had me at cinnamon

I realize this is not the best photo in the world, but these cinnamon rolls are fan-tas-tic!  They are a copycat of the cinnamon rolls produced by a certain giant mall chain.  Recipe here

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Cloth Diaper Experience

I never did get to post about my cloth diapering experience thus far... I guess that's what happens when a new baby arrives!  Brace yourself, this is a long one!  (Also- I am not affiliated with any of the companies/products named here, nor was I asked by anyone to review these products.)

I had wanted to try cloth for a while but until I became a stay-at-home mom, the circumstances weren't favorable for anything but disposables.  I've now been at home since mid 2008, so when baby L came along, I decided to take the plunge and give cloth diapering a whirl.  I was hesitant at first, worrying about how I would keep up with the extra laundry, grossed out at the thought of putting dirty diapers into my washing machine, and whether or not cloth would hold up to the almighty power of the newborn superpoop.  Well, I've been using cloth diapers since L was born late last summer, and I can 100% say that I love it!

There are a multitude of different types of diapers- prefolds and covers, all-in-ones, all-in-twos, pockets, and fitteds.  If you'd like to read more about each type, this chart is a great starting point!

I decided to start out with prefolds and covers, as this was the cheapest option.  I didn't want to invest much money into my cloth diaper stash until I was confident that we would like using cloth.

Above is a photo of my prefolds and covers.  I chose unbleached Indian cotton infant prefolds (you can get bleached or unbleached, and there are Indian cotton and Chinese cotton- it is ultimately about personal preference) and Thirsties DuoWrap covers.  I purchased 36 prefolds and six covers.  In hindsight, I'd probably have ordered 8 to 10 covers, as I found myself running out of clean covers on wash days.  When the prefolds arrived, I had to "prep" them by washing them several times to get them nice and fluffy and absorbent.  I washed them about three or four times before I felt like they were ready to be used.

These diapers and covers held up great and I rarely had issues with leaks as long as I changed her at reasonable intervals.  My only distaste for prefolds and covers was that the diapers didn't wick the moisture away from her skin- this meant that if she peed while we were out or she was sleeping, she was sitting in moisture until I changed her.  That in mind, I decided to upgrade to something nicer when L outgrew her prefolds.

I chose to use BumGenius 4.0 pocket diapers next.  I ordered 18 of these in an assortment of happy colors.  They're pretty pricey at roughly 18.00 per diaper, but I was able to get them for slightly cheaper during a big sale.  These diapers consist of a waterproof shell with a pocket for stuffing, and microfiber inserts in two sizes- a small one for newborn use, and a larger, adjustable(with snaps) insert for use with an older/larger baby.  You can also double up the absorbency by using both inserts at once, though this does significantly increase the bulk of the diaper, so something like this would be best for nighttime use only.

These diapers are fantastic.  I lovelovelove them!  I have no leak problems and the microfiber wicks the moisture into the pocket so that L isn't sitting in a wet diaper.  They wash up well, and I have not had any trouble with stinkiness.  Now that L is nearly 11 months old and eating more solid food, I use flushable liners so that I can dump (heh) the poop into the toilet before tossing the diapers into the wetbag.

So now you're asking, "What the hell is a wetbag", right?  Well, it's pretty much what it sounds like- it's a bag that is used to contain wet items.  A wetbag is made from waterproof fabric, and they typically close with a zipper or a drawstring.  Personally, I like the zippered type as they are better at containing odors.  You can find wetbags all over the web from a number of merchants, and they come in a variety of adorable prints.  I purchased two large and one small- I use a large bag around the house, and carry the small in my diaper bag.  The extra of the large bags is so that I always have a clean wetbag available on wash days.  Now- most pocket diapers have to be unstuffed before washing so that they can be fully cleaned.  I choose to unstuff mine BEFORE I put them into the wetbag so that I am not touching stagnant dirty diapers on wash day.  I simply open the flap of the pocket, pinch the very edge of the insert(s) and remove, and put all diaper parts into the wetbag and zipper it.

Which brings me to the final chapter of this novelesque post- the wash routine!  Cloth diaper laundry requires a bit of special care.  Rule number one- no fabric softener or dryer sheets, ever!  These will cause your cloth diapers to repel moisture, and thus render them more or less useless.

The second crucial factor is choosing a cloth-friendly detergent.  This chart is chock-full of great detergent information.  Many people worry about using high-efficiency machines to launder cloth diapers, as these use less water than the traditional top-loading, non-HE machine.  I have HE machines and have had virtually no troubles getting my diapers clean.  I personally have had great success using Arm & Hammer's HE formula to wash my diapers- the detergent washes out well and I have not had any problems with stinky diapers.

I wash my diapers every two days.  Here is the low-down on how I launder my dipes:

- I unzipper the wetbag and stick the open end into the machine.  I use my hand to push the bottom of the wetbag up until it turns inside out, thus ensuring that I don't have to touch any funky diapers.
- After the wetbag has turned inside out and all of the contents have landed in the washer, I toss the bag in with them to be washed.
- I run a "quick cycle" with a tiny amount of detergent and use cold water.
- Next, I run a "heavy soil" cycle with hot water, the normal amount of detergent, and I put about 1/4 cup of bleach into the bleach dispenser cup.  I also utilize the "extra water" feature my washer offers, which adds more water to the wash cycle than normally would be used.
- When the cycle has finished, I run a rinse and spin cycle to ensure no suds are left behind.  Residue = odor, so this is important!
- I dry my clean diapers on medium heat.

To summarize this epic post, at eleven months in, I am very happy with cloth diapering!  I love that I never have to run out to the store for diapers, and I love knowing that we're keeping all those dirty diapers out of the landfill.  An added plus?  Cloth diapers are super cute!

PS:  I almost forgot- believe it or not, there is a huge market for used diapers.  I was able to sell my used prefolds and covers and get back about half of what we originally paid for them- awesome!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

peanut butter swirl brownies!

I made these tonight and then had to restrain myself so I wouldn't eat the entire batch!

- 1 cup unbleached flour
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir in oil, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla. Spread into greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Drizzle melted peanut butter over batter and swirl with a knife. Bake for about 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

and baby makes five

Wow! It has been quite a while since I've posted here. The past seven-ish months have been a crazy ride, including the birth of my third child, baby L. I had an unmedicated hospital VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) on August 5th, and it was kind of terrifying and yet really awesome at the same time!

Here's my birth story... sorry, it's a bit long!

I had been planning a VBAC with this pregnancy (baby #3, after an emergency c-section with my second child due to malpositioning and having a moron for a doctor) and was doing everything in my power to make it happen. I chose an OB/midwife practice known in my area for being very supportive of natural birth, and most importantly, of VBAC. My doctor and midwife were fantastic throughout the course of my pregnancy, and it was mostly smooth sailing the entire time, save for baby being transverse for a while and some other minor things.

In the weeks preceding, I had tons of contractions, sometimes just minutes apart, but I knew baby hadn't engaged because I could literally feel her hanging out on top of my pelvis. At my 38 week appointment the midwife gently warned me that if I didn't go into labor by my due date I'd have to have a scheduled c-section. Needless to say, I was devastated that after all my planning and effort toward a natural birth I might be risked out of a VBAC just because I'd run out of time. At my 39 week appointment, just out of curiosity I had my OB check for any progress. I was dilated to 3 cm but baby still wasn't engaged, and instead was sitting diagonally, her head stuck on the left side of my pelvis. I realized at this point that while there was still hope for something to happen in the next few days, maybe a VBAC just wasn't going to happen for me. I signed consent forms for surgery, left the doctor's office, and cried all the way home. Later that night, I bounced on my exercise ball like it owed me money, figuring it was still worth trying to get baby to turn. I was having contractions but didn't feel like she had engaged at all. I went to bed later that night feeling gloomy but also sort of at peace with things, because at least now I knew that if I had to go through with the c-section, it was for a valid reason (because I'm pretty sure birthing a baby sideways is impossible!)

The following morning at around 5:15 a.m. I woke up to fierce contractions that left me doubled over in pain. I realized maybe something was happening but since they weren't close together yet, I decided to get up and try to knock out my transcription work for the morning just in case. Around 6:30 a.m. the contractions had gotten so intense I could hardly function. I told my husband to call his mother to come and watch our kids, and hobbled into the kitchen to get something to drink and unload the dishwasher. As I went to open the refrigerator, my water broke!  I was completely shocked because I'd always read that if you are standing up, it just trickles out slowly. Not for me!  It exploded something fierce and splashed down my legs. I looked at my husband in horror and burst into tears because I was terrified that the cord might come down if the baby was still sitting in the same position.

At this point the contractions were coming so close together it was all I could do just to brush my teeth and pull on a sundress. The husband woke the kids and we piled into the truck to drive to the hospital. The contractions were coming fast and hard, and I could now feel the baby bearing down. Fluid was gushing out with every contraction, and between that and my husband's erratic driving I was completely freaked out! I actually called 911 at one point to let them know we were on the road in hopes of avoiding being pulled over.  The dispatcher radioed the hospital for us and let them know we were coming.  We made it there in about half the time it should have taken, and a nurse and an EMT zoomed me up to labor and delivery. They did an ultrasound to see if the baby had moved. She was face up, but head down and fully engaged. They checked my cervix and I was 9 cm dilated! Thankfully, shortly after this point my brother in law arrived at the hospital to take the kids so that my husband could be with me in the delivery room. My OB finally got there and looked at me and laughed and said "This baby is crazy!"

I got the urge to push at this point. We hoped the baby would turn face down but she never did.  I pushed and pushed and pushed, but while she came down I still couldn't quite get her out. The pain was so blinding I literally felt like I sort of mentally disconnected from what was happening. They wound up doing an episiotomy and using vacuum extraction to get L out because I just could not get her out on my own quickly enough.

At 8:49 a.m. my sweet baby girl arrived! Her face was pretty swollen for the first few days because she came out face up, but she healed up nicely within a week or so.

I was amazed at how easy my recovery was this time. Aside from the cramps and the pain from my stitches, I literally felt like I could get up and walk out of the hospital. I'm so happy with my birth experience. My doctor and the hospital staff were amazing and encouraged me and supported me through every second of the delivery.

I am just over the moon with my birth experience this time. My daughter is named after my beloved late Nana, and I can't help but think that maybe she was watching over us and had a hand in how things went.

So in short, welcome baby!  We love you!