Thursday, April 29, 2010

I've always made my cinnamon toast wrong

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That? Is yummy.

I shared several pieces with my children. To protect the innocent, we will not divulge the exact distribution of toast. It was a treat to eat with our hot cereal and orange juice.

I found out recently that I've been doing my cinnamon toast wrong my whole life. I used to toast my bread in a toaster, apply butter, and then spring cinnamon. While it is indeed a toast with cinnamon and sugar, I was not maximizing the potential of my treat. I'm not saying that I won't do that in the future, but if I have the time, I now know the way to go. I have a tub of prepared spread for whenever the mood strikes us. It may strike often.

Here's where I learned the right way to make cinnamon toast: PW's Cinnamon Toast

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

a lovely spring day

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Today, outside my house:

Blue skies, puffy clouds, green grass.

Diapers drying.

Plants growing.

Kids playing.


water, water everywhere...

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I've been thinking a lot about water recently. Oh, so many thoughts about water floating in my head. Enough that I couldn't really put them into one post without going into long-winded chapter format. Is there a limit on how long I can make a post? Is there a limit as to how long readers will tolerate ramblings about water?


I watched a documentary called "Blue Gold." Jude brought home a National Geographic Magazine about the world's water supply (They say that we only have about 1% of total water available for use. Wow!) Both strongly emphasized a global water crisis. I know. Hard to believe here in the Midwest, where I have a perpetual unwanted pond in my front yard, the fields are flooded, and it's a soggy march to the car.

It's hard to imagine not having clean drinking water. It's hard to imagine that water is scarce enough that you don't wash clothes. And walking miles to get to a water source, only to have very little water to bring home, because you didn't get up early enough?

I can collect water in a rain barrel, if I want. I can pay outrageous prices for bottled water, although, lest I become passe, I need to go buy myself some stainless steel reusable water bottles, and more Pur filters. I can take long showers, wash my hands, dishes, lots, and lots, and lots of clothes and diapers. I can water my plants and wash my car, if I want. I could water my lawn day and night (if it needed it) and let my kids play in the sprinklers. I can fill a little plastic swimming pool for my kids to lounge around in. So many things I can do with the water that flows unrestricted from my tap.

I know where my water comes from, and where it goes. Yes, we tracked down our waste water treatment facility. It ends up in a lagoon, but there is a creek not far, and I suspect that a lot the water ends up in the creek, then in the river(s), then out to the ocean (or the Gulf of Mexico, a watersheds would have it).

I was thinking about diapers (shocking, right?): using cloth diapers, there is an immediate and present impact on water, each time the diaper is washed. So it would seem that if you're in a place with water restrictions, that disposables would be the way to go, right? Only if you're looking for a short-term benefit. Disposables take water to manufacture, and once they finally get to the landfill, they continue to soak up water, and hold the water, in a supposedly impermeable landfill. At least washing the diapers uses and returns the water right where you are. Of course, we could just all be really conservative with water, use not diapers, and teach our kids/ourselves Elimination Communication. (I've actually concluded that I would go with flats and wool covers if water were an issue. I hear the diapers wash and rinse faster, and the covers don't need to be washed very often.)

Part of what gets to me when I contemplate water issues is that there really isn't a right solution, or good answer. I just sat for several minutes trying to come up with a sentence to adequately express the problem, and I keep coming up short. The water problem is so huge, that there would need to be a global overhaul to keep a domino effect from ruining lives. Consider: whatever you do upstream impacts the people downstream. The problem seems so far away that those of us with water think nothing of using it, but we can't reasonably ship water to those who are water-poor, because our local aquifers need that water returned in order for our ecological environment to survive.

Maybe I'll just quit trying to wrap my brain around it for now. It's late.

To make up for my lack of coherent thought on the issue, I'll offer up a post I made a few years ago about water conservation. Some of the tips aren't right anymore (apparently dishwashers are generally more efficient with water than hand washing), but the general principles apply. Even if you don't have water restrictions in your area, it doesn't hurt to be a good steward of your resources.

Water Conservation: October 29, 2007

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

splash, splash

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I heard an ominous sound.

Splash, splash!

I jumped up and ran to the bathroom, where I discovered Nathanael happily splashing his hands in the toilet water. Thankfully, it was a recently cleaned toilet. Thankfully, I rescued the pink glove from the water before he decided to see if it would flush.

Elizabeth wasn't like this. She hardly wants anything to do with toilets, including peeing in them.

I can't blame him for liking water. It's fun to play in. When I run the bath water, he charges up to the tub, and tries to climb in, still fully clothed.

At least getting him clean isn't a challenge.

Monday, April 26, 2010

love. in a box

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Another gratuitous dairy post.

Here is how I know I am loved:

Ice Cream.

While Jude was out Sunday evening, he brought home the milk, and a special frozen treat for me. I've been begging to go get some ice cream since he got home. Well, maybe not begging, but certainly dropping some not-so-subtle hints, like "Let's go to Dairy Queen!" (Yes, I know I've written about the evils of fast food, and even about the DQ in particular. Let's just say ice cream is my Achilles' heel.) We never quite got to any ice cream related stores, despite my efforts.

It's just as well that we didn't go out for ice cream. This way, it's cheaper, since we bought a small carton of ice cream for the same price it we would have paid for just one treat. I'd like to pretend it's healthier, since my preferred brand doesn't contain artificial junk, or high fructose corn syrup.

On the down side, it is a whole carton of ice cream. Which means I must exercise, and exercise restraint. Or invite some friends over.

I mentioned to Jude that every year I see the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment in my Chefs catalog. How I stare at the pictures longingly, thinking about how it would be awesome to have yet ANOTHER excellent use for our KA mixer. Alas, no luck for me. He said, "I don't think you need an ice cream maker." He's probably right. Even when I pointed out the difference between need and want, and batted my eyelashes at him, he didn't flinch. Well, maybe he flinched, but for all together different reasons.

Instead, I'll simply appreciate that he's doing his best to help keep me from gorging myself on a new flavor of homemade ice cream each day, while still showing how much he loves me by enjoying a bowl of ice cream with me once in a while.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

cheese, the glue that binds our pizza together

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(I beg forgiveness from those who don't eat diary products. Just ignore this post if it is too painful to read.)

I made a pizza using the pizza dough recipe from The Pioneer Woman (except with half whole wheat flour). I'm not too fancy about our toppings: canned pizza sauce, pepperoni, cheese, black olives and mushrooms (I could pass on the mushrooms, but I'm an adult, so I'll swallow them and put on a smile).

As I was preparing the layers of my pizza, I was thinking about where the cheese belongs in the scheme of pizza. On top of the sauce, but under the other toppings? The final layer of cheesy gooey happiness, atop all the rest of the toppings? Or perhaps a combination of both - cheese on the bottom, and on the top?

I opted for both. I started out thinking I would just put the cheese on the bottom, but once I had the rest of the toppings on, I wondered: what would keep those toppings in place? Nothing. There was no glue. I added an additional sprinkling of cheese for good measure. And now, like the force, like duct tape, it binds the universe together.

Where do you think the cheese belongs in a pizza?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

cloth diapers: comparing absorbency

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A few days ago, I decided to do an absorbency comparison between some of my cloth diaper fabrics. For some reason, I've assumed that a cotton prefold stuffed into a pocket diaper just won't absorb as much as a microfiber insert. (I don't have a source that tells me this, just what I had come to believe.)

So, I took my digital postal scale, some water and my fabrics and started measuring. The point at which I decided the fabric could not hold more is when there was no water standing in the tray, but the fabric would drip just a little bit. I measured by weight instead of fluid ounces, but for water, it's pretty much the same either way.

Here are the results of my absorbency test:

BumGenius one-size microfiber insert: 11.2 ounces
Green Mountain Diapers organic cotton prefold (red-edge): 14.2 ounces
BumGenius newborn microfiber insert: 5.5 ounces
Hemp Babies little weeds: 6.6 ounces

An interesting note about the bumBenius one size insert - the website says it holds 15 ounces. Perhaps this is true when they are brand new. However, my experiment suggests that after nearly a year's usage, the absorbency is less.

The advantage of microfiber is that it is less bulky than a cotton prefold. However, if I can get similar (or better!) absorbency, and if this doesn't leak as a night time diaper, I may have a working alternative to stinky microfiber for night time.

Friday, April 23, 2010

seeking: nighttime cloth diaper solution

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Here they are in all their dirty, messy haired, were just outside playing, glory. Wearing their bumGenius diapers.

I've been cloth diapering for more than 3 years. I have two in diapers now (although Elizabeth is finally seeing the benefits of potty learning. Yay!)

I wish I were able to say that my kids have always been in cloth, but really, I can't. They wear disposable diapers at night, and when we take overnight trips, and often times when we go out for errands.

I'm not the cloth diapering mama I wish I could be.

I've been especially plagued by the fact that I don't use cloth at night. I've read through diaper forums looking for solutions, but haven't been satisfied.

Here's my night-time cloth diaper story:

Elizabeth wore cloth diapers at night up until about 1 year old. I usually had her in a bumGenius onesize pocket diaper, stuffed with two regular microfiber inserts. I've never really struggled with having enough absorbency in the diapers over night. The problem I encountered was ammonia build up. The Stinkies. When E would wear her diaper for an extended period of time, when I took off the diaper, the ammonia would burn my nose and eyes from a few feet away. You can imagine that her skin in close proximity for extended periods of time would be red and hurting. She started sleeping poorly at night, waking several times fussing. I tried different washing solutions, but never came up with something that eliminated the ammonia from the microfiber inserts.

So, I just put her in disposables at night. Eventually, I ended up throwing away that entire collection of pocket diapers and inserts after more than 2 years of daily use. When I got my new diapers, that solved the problems of the stinkies (I've encountered several moms who said they felt that a microfiber insert was only good for about a year, because the smell couldn't be cleaned out after that point, and they absorbed less liquid than when new.)

Over the past 2 years, I've made a couple of attempts to get the kids back into cloth for night time. Generally, I found that whenever I tried putting Elizabeth back into cloth at night, she would fuss, and not sleep as well. Nathanael has almost always been in disposables at night, and was actually in disposables for about the first 8 weeks of life, because I was trying to resolve diaper issues that I thought were related to the elderly bumgenius diapers I was using at the time. Even when I got the new diapers, I didn't put him in cloth at night, which I think was mostly habit.

One interesting observation from an experiment about 6 months ago: Sometimes the stink might have more to do with the age of the child than the fabric. When I put both kids in the new bumGenius pockets and inserts one night, E still woke up with awful ammonia smell. N woke up with just a hint of ammonia. Same diapers, same wash procedure. Different body chemistry for each child. Toddler pee can be a yucky thing.

So, here I am, when my daughter is starting to potty learn and my son is a year old, trying cloth diapers at night. I think I'll only try to put N back in cloth at night, however, as E is almost too big for the onesize diapers, and when they are stuff for nighttime, they become uncomfortably snug in the crotch.

Here are some of the things I'm considering trying, based on some reading around the internet:

Stuff the BumGenius pocket diaper with a cotton prefold, instead of microfiber.

Wash the covers separate from the absorbent part. The theory here is that the waterproof covers aren't allowing the diapers to wash and rinse as thoroughly.

Wash natural fibers separate from the synthetic fibers. Some people feel that the natural fibers can leave some of their natural oils in the microfiber, which can impact performance.

Try something strong, like oxyclean, bleach, or other additive to the microfiber only. I'm cautious about this, as if things aren't rinsed thoroughly, additives could get into my other diaper fabrics, which could cause problems. Additives can void the manufacturer's warranty. Although, I'm just a few months shy of the warranty limit, anyway.

I have considered using only natural fibers for night time - cotton and hemp for absorbency, and a wool cover. I know many parents wouldn't night time diaper without them. I'm concerned that my children might fuss about having a wet diaper next to their skin all night. They fuss as it is. I would guess they might fuss more, which is not the direction I want to go.

Any suggestions for things to try?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

we have green

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I planted some of my garden around April 7.  I didn't really keep track of when exactly I planted, but it doesn't really matter, because I now have green things sprouting from the potting soil! 

I planted green onions from sets, a lettuce mix, spinach, snow peas, pole beans, chives and parsley from seed, and strawberries from crowns.

Everything has popped out of the dirt, except for the strawberries.  I understand that crowns are notoriously hard to get growing without rotting, but they were inexpensive, so if I need to buy other plants in a week or two, no big deal.

I'm just enthused that I have green showing in my planters!

Now that we are past the frost date, our next round of planting will be to start dwarf sunflower, zucchini, peppers, and cucumber from seed.

I need to get a tomato seedling, and I'm contemplating some mint.

After that, I should probably stop, since I have a limited amount of container space.

Elizabeth and Nathanael are both good helpers.  Elizabeth has a little watering can, and she is learning how to water the plants safely.  Nathanael has a misting water bottle.  He doesn't get much water on the plants, but he enjoys carrying it around while we are all outside, and working the sprayer with both hands.

Elizabeth is really hoping to plant some watermelon.  She picked out a packet of watermelon seeds.  We've talked to our former neighbors (with whom we have shared some garden space) about putting in a hill or two of watermelon.  They are willing to host our seeds, so perhaps we can get up there in the next week to get them planted.

Thinking of our former neighbors and garden space: last year, I had a small corner of their garden where I had some lettuce, onions and garlic.  I harvested the garlic last year, and I thought I got it all, but apparently not.  This year, in that corner, there are 4 or 5 bunches of garlic shoots.  I need to dig them out so the neighbors can till that part of the garden for other uses.  So, perhaps I'll give a go at trying to transplant the shoots to a new container.  If they don't make it, no big loss.

I'm really enjoying myself this year.  Having the garden on my porch is really working out for me!

Happy Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

first word?

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Jude and I have been debating about whether or not we've been hearing Nathanael's first word.

It started right around his first birthday. We got him a balloon, and he was super excited about it. He would look up at it, and say "Bauh!" in a gravelly baby voice. Several weeks ago, we were walking through our grocery store, and Nathanael fixated on the balloons in the floral department, again making a similar sound. Seems pretty straight forward, yes?

But no. He makes the same sound for lights on the ceiling (usually round fixtures here), balls, and other moving round objects.

My mother says that it should count, as he is clearly indicating a particular type of object, even if we recognize them as distinct objects.

Jude says no, as he considers Elizabeth's first words "Bah-Bsh"(bottle brush) and "cub" (Jacob), which were very specific and only used in reference to singular things.

Eventually he'll say something much more specific, and maybe that will count as a first word. Or perhaps we'll just record the great word debate of 2010, and let it stand as an unresolved question.

What do you think?

Here's a video of us at World Conference, where, each time we walked near the reception desk in the Temple, he would excitedly exclaim, "Bauh! Bauh!"

unconvinced about coupons

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I've been "couponing" for about a year and a half.  I remain unconvinced that it can actually save me money in the long haul.

I started out doing a photo binder system like Trent mentioned over at the Simple Dollar.  I did it much like he did - just clipped the coupons I thought I would use.  As I read more about couponing, I came across some websites, like the Coupon Mom.  I signed up, and I've found the coupon database and the sales flyer match up to be useful in creating my grocery list.  For a few months before my son was born, I cut out all the coupons and sent the ones I didn't use to overseas military personnel.  I like the idea, but really, it simply became too time-consuming.  Eventually, I settled back into a system of cutting out the coupons I know I'll use, and then saving each coupon insert, with the date written on the front so I can file and find the insert if I discovered there was a coupon that I missed, or that I could pass along to someone else.

Several months ago, I decided to try out The Grocery Game.  Unlike the other website I use, this one required a fee to use.  I figured it's worth a shot.  So, I've been using it for about 3 months, the time period they said it would take to get a real good stockpile of goods going. I don't know that I really have a stockpile of stuff but I've been able to match up sales pretty well, and the "list" that you pay for indicates if the sale plus coupon price is at the lowest price that specific item reaches. This site has been good at pointing out the real "low" to me, when I might have otherwise bought at a sale price, but not at the lowest price. The cost comes out to $10 for 8 weeks for one store's list, and an additional $5 per 8 weeks for each additional store list.

About the same time I started the Grocery Game, I decided to convert to a different binder system, where I have some baseball card holders to hold the coupons, and sheet protectors in the back to hold the weekly coupon inserts.  Much less bulky than the photo binder, and since the binder has a clear cover, I can slip my grocery list in it, and I'm less likely to loose the list.

After all this trial and error, I'm still not sure that I'm saving money.  I really should spend some time and go through my receipts to compare my grocery expenses.

Here's why I'm not convinced I'm saving money:

I tend to buy non-processed, organic, and natural goods, from food to personal care and household products.  That means that there aren't too many coupons available for those items.  Living in a rural area, I have fewer product options, so even if I have a coupon for something, I often can't find it to buy it.

I spend about $3.75 each week on 2 different newspapers (they usually have different coupons). Sometimes I'll spend a little bit more if I want to get more than one copy of several coupons.  I miss some weeks, but even if I got 2 newspapers 48 times in a year, that is $180.  Am I really saving $180?

Most of the coupon sites that claim saving hundreds of dollars each month are relying on access to a grocery store that will double or triple the face value of the coupon.  I have no grocery stores that will do this, so automatically my "potential savings" will never be what the websites and articles on the internet claim.

Sometimes I feel like I've compromised my nutritional and environmental preferences in favor of a product that is not up to my standards, but that is cheaper.  Usually, it's a brand that I would buy if I didn't have an organic/natural alternative available.

I've spent some money I might not have otherwise.  Sometimes when a coupon/sale combo is really great, I might spend on something that typically isn't even on my grocery list.

Throw in the membership fee for "the grocery game" website and I think I'm teetering on the brink of going in the hole in regards to coupon savings.

I'm not going to give up on couponing, but clearly it's past time to analyze if this is actually helping us out. I really need to take a look at those receipts.  Most of them have a total at the bottom telling me how much I "saved."  Since I made some purchases that I might not have made if I didn't have a coupon, this total will be a little off. But still.

I would be thrilled to discover that I'm saving substantial dollars over a year.  But I've yet to be convinced.
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