Friday, May 28, 2010

looking for a new design

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I'm looking for a new design for my blog. Well, actually, not new, since I have none. Blank slate and all.

Any takers? I know that back in the day I had the skilz, but I'm feeling underwhelmed at the prospect of devising a "look" for my blog that is more than white.

How about this: If anyone want to submit some designs, we could have a little contests to see what design is the most favored by you, my readers.

So, feel free, feel inspired! Perhaps you'll inspire me to do something interesting with the look of the place, and I can submit a design or two for vote.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

cooking tools

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I got my Chef's Catalog in the mail this week. Le Sigh!

While I'm thinking of it, here's my kitchen tool wishlist:

KitchenAid Immersion blender
. I've been wishing for this for probably 4 years. I have only a few recipes that I would use it on, so it seems a little impractical.

Thinking of impractical: The KitchenAid Ice Cream maker attachment.

Knife set. Honestly, I'm torn between Wusthof Classic and Henckels Twin Pro S, as both have good reviews in Consumer Reports. I'm waiting until I can get to a place that offers all the knives I'm considering so I can test out the feel of the knives in my hand.

Waffle maker. And I thought that an immersion blender was impractical. Still. Waffles!

Cuisinart Food Processor. Awesomeness.

Vitamix. Just because. Surely the fact that I recently overheated the motor on my current (not-near-so-high-powered) blender would suggest I need an upgrade. Right?

And a Toaster. Yes, nothing fancy, but I haven't had a toaster since mine died before I moved (so, like 7 months?) and I don't want a cheap toaster like we had before.

Monday, May 24, 2010

NTDI: episode 4 - the sweet smell of success

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My kids have been in cloth every night for about 2 weeks!

My hiney was saved by some extra-large toddler sized prefolds and larger covers for Elizabeth. She is actually only in diapers for night time and nap-time, and has been doing quite well for the past 2 weeks. It really has eased up my diaper washing to have her wearing just 2 diapers a day! Sometimes there is a very strong ammonia smell, but I think that might have more to do with her intake than it does with the diapers. Just a theory, though.

Nathanael has been in pocket diapers, sometimes stuffed with a prefold, or like last night, with a couple of microfiber inserts. No noxious odors there, so I feel a happy dance coming on.

I'm not sure what has gotten me here, though - I oxycleaned, I sunned, I used calgon (take me away!). Maybe all of it. I've been doing lots and lots of rinses (that ouches in the aquifer). I'm hopeful that since I appear to have gotten the stinkies out, that I can go back to our regularly scheduled washing. Perhaps I can get away with doing a maintenance routine every few weeks that will help keep the smell at bay.

Sunday dinner

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We're not big "Sunday Dinner" kind of people. The noon meal tends to be thrown together, as we get home from church about 1 pm. The evening meal has often been a hurried affair, as Jude is often rushing off to do an evening meeting in at church.

I've tried to do slow cooker meals for Sunday, but have only succeeded in getting that done a few times.

Yesterday was a slow cooker success for me, even though we didn't eat until about 3 pm (we had a late brunch).

I had a beef chuck roast (one of about 12 sitting in my freezer). I was tired of pot roast with carrots, onions and potatoes. What to do? Oh, what to do! My one alternative that I could think of: Barbeque. I took the roast, put it in the pot, added some water and Bar-B-Que sauce and set it to cooking. It was actually fully cooked when we got home about 1:!5, but we weren't hungry just yet, and we decided to watch a movie. I shredded the beef up a bit and added some sauce and let it simmer for a while more to really distribute the flavor.

It was a simple and tasty meal (although not healthy, but kind of healthy):

Organic, local beef in Cookie's BBQ sauce (made in Iowa!) This is the only sauce on my local store shelves that didn't have HFCS or a host of artificial colors. It does have Sodium Benzoate and "Liquid Smoke."

Wheat sandwich buns (also without HFCS).

Store brand refrigerated Kosher dill pickles (surprisingly, the store brand didn't have artificial anything, while the name brand did).

Cape Cod Kettle Chips (no preservatives or artificial ingredients).

The healthy part is the lack of things on my "bad ingredients" list. The not healthy? Well, clearly shredded BBQ beef on buns with chips and pickles isn't the highlight of any healthy menu. But, Yum!

Any ideas on what to do with my remaining roasts?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NTDI: episode 3 - like a bed full of troubled water

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Another night time diaper failure. It's a set up I used successfully in the past few weeks, so I'm hoping it was a fluke. N was in a BG OS diaper stuffed with a regular microfiber insert and 2 newborn inserts. Stink wasn't so much the problem (although there was some stink, just not a lot), but the diaper leaked. Or maybe wicked. I Don't know. But his night shirt was wet at the waist, and the bed was wet. The diaper was damp, but by no means soaked. I think it might be more repelling, which really just means that repelling is more insidious than I had first understood. Boo. Again, these diapers are just fine during the day.

Theory: the diapers do repel some, but when worn during the day, they aren't stuffed as much, and they are a snug(ger) fit, so there is no gap at the leg for urine to leak out. That means the urine has time to soak in.

An update on some recent stink-free nights: One thing I did when I did the oxyclean soak was to sun the diapers, for a very long time. I took them straight out of the oxyclean soak, and laid them flat out on the rails of the deck so they could have full sun for a number of hours. I flipped them occasionally to ensure both sides had the benefit of the sun. Some people think that the sun does a better job at getting the smell out (because of the way it can kill bacteria - side note: check out this - you can purify water in a clear plastic water bottle by setting it in the sun on reflective metal for 6 hours!) It could be combo of sun and oxyclean, or just one of them that really got the smell out. I should have managed my investigation a little better.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

organic produce helps us stay helathy

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There is more confirmation on why we should eat organic and local: to help our kids avoid ADHD.

This study about the relation between pesticides and ADHD
suggested that the kids who had higher levels of pesticide metaoblites in their urine were up to two times as likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder.

I have been making an effort in my life to buy my produce organically. Even in my rural area, I can find some of the Dirty Dozen (the 12 items of produce with the most pesticides) in organic form. I've taken to keeping the wallet guide in the front cover of my coupon binder, right next to my grocery list. It keeps it easily visible and serves as a reminder that sometimes, even though the cash cost might be cheap for some produce, the health cost of consuming excessive pesticides might be more that I want to pay with my health, or my kids' health.

The pesticide load in our fruits and vegetables, and the lack of availability of some of those items in organic form is a great reason to start an organic garden. My container garden is organic. I used organic potting soil and I have organic plant food. I wonder if using plastic containers that probably are off-gassing VOC's is doing me much good, but it's a place to start.

Monday, May 17, 2010

NTDI: episode 2

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Success! And Failure. All in the same episode.

Failure first, though. I thought I'd give a try at using a different pocket diaper at night, just to test it out. I've historically used BumGenius One Size pocket diapers, and I've had 3 OneSize FuzziBuns (With Snaps! And elastic adustment that is guaranteed, and easily replaceable!) I bought the FuzziBunz at the same time as the BumGenius, about a year ago, but since I hadn't been cloth diapering at night, had never given them a try. I was curious how well they would fit with extra overnight stuffing.

I was disappointed to discover, oh so very disappointed at 2 in the morning, that they repel. I was surprised. And wet. The absorbent inserts (a simple prefold with a hemp doubler) was practically dry. The next day, I used a nose aspirator to verify the repelling issue. Indeed, the water beaded up, and ran off the edge of the diaper, with barely any being absorbed into the inserts. I've used these diaper during the day with no problem so I'm really not clear on why the repelling would show up at night. No problem with the BumGenius diapers, which are washed the same way as the Fuzzbunz diapers. The FuzziBunz are fleece lined diapers, and the BumGenius are suedecloth lined, so maybe that make a difference. We'll be pursuing this line of investigation soon.

Back to the original issue of concern: the stinkies.

Success! At least for now. After doing an Oxyclean soak and lots and lots and lots (and lots) of rinses, I think that, just maybe, I may have gotten rid of the stink. I had Nathanel in a BG diaper stuffed with 2 microfiber inserts and one of the newborn sized inserts/doublers, and when he awoke in the morning, there was no more than the expected urine smell. No ammonia burning my nose hairs. Yay! Since I didn't do ALL of the diaper in the OxyClean, I expect that I may encounter more stink in the next couple of weeks. If the OxyCleaned microfiber inserts (which I have set aside in a pile so I can keep track for experimental purposes) consistently are stink free, then I intend to repeat the OxyClean soak on all the diapers in the future.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


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Elizabeth has outgrown her red tricycle. Nathanael really want to ride the tricycle. It's time to get something new for the girl.

So, we were in at the Wal-Mart, and I thought I'd see if there was a bike that fit her. Low and behold, it became clear she REALLY was too big for the trike. The 12" bike was just right!

But as we were looking, we saw that there weren't any gender-neutral bikes. There were "girl" bikes, and "boy" bikes.

If I had to pick, I'd probably pick a boy bike, as those tend to be in reds, blues and yellows. They also have black tires. The girl bikes, they have white tires. Dead giveaway that it is a girl bike.

Whatever happened to just a bike, without licensed characters, or obviously gendered colors? Do we just have to wait until we are adults to find a generic green or maroon bike?

Jude was unwilling to purchase a new girl bike, and then be in the the situation of handing it down to Nathanael in just a few years, before the bike even gets worn out. Cheap or free, and a pink bike with white tires becomes a more acceptable choice.

After considering it for a while, we thought it would be more reasonable to look around and find a good quality, used bike. Kids bikes are outgrown so quickly, I would imagine they are easy to find at sales. Considering that we don't go riding very frequently, it's a hard thing to consider buying something new that will likely be used a few time, then outgrown. I know I didn't have a new bike until Jude bought me one after we were married. If I can survive the world without having a new bike, I should think my kids would be just fine, too.

I hold on to a hope that one day we will get a bike trailer, and then when we go out on camping trips (I hope to go camping at least 2 times this summer), we can take short rides around the camping area.

Friday, May 14, 2010

about the water...

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Yesterday, there was a lake of water all around my house. There was enough water standing in the driveway, that it was gently lapping at the concrete sidewalk, threatening to leave me without a dry path of escape.

Paranoid person that I am, as I was out investigating why my green onions and spinach is turning yellow, I was holding on to Nathanael and thinking about how kids die in water shallower than what is standing in my yard. Gave me a strong desire to go out and put a slidebolt to lock the doors, since Elizabeth has an inconvenient habit of unlocking the doors and running outside, leaving them wide open for Nathanael to chase after her.

The waters are receding, and thankfully, I haven't had to use my Moses power to part them.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


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I posted a few days ago about having used several detergents in my cloth diapering time. I thought I'd offer what I can to the collective of cloth diapering detergent knowledge.

A little background on me and detergents:

I have sensitive skin. I break out in random rashes. My mom once switched detergents while I was in high school, and washed all our clothes with it. I put on my clean clothes, and got a horrible, itchy all over rash. The only thing I could wear that hadn't been washed? Some holey purple sweat pants and a funky T-shirt. And that's it. Commando for the day while we re-washed all my clothes, sheets and towels. It was an unpleasant event for me. So I'm careful about my detergents. I don't like most detergent fragrances, as they are too strong.

Since I lived in an Old House for 6 years that had an archaic septic system, I have been especially sensitive to the household chemicals, detergents and personal care items that are washed down the drain. Let's just say that I know exactly where the water left the house, and exactly where it returned to the ground. No problems with the water being washed out to sea there. So, no phosphates is important, and biodegradable, since it was degrading (or not) pretty much on the front lawn.

Before I had kids, I had been using Seventh Generation detergent for household laundry. I was satisfied with the performance, but I had read that it wasn't considered a good option for cloth diapers. So, after I birthed my first baby, I started using Allen's Naturally liquid detergent for the diapers. I used it for more than a year (till the bottle ran out.) I was using a top loader, and I found that it was taking For.Ev.Er. for the bubbles to rinse out. I tried using less and less, but you know, microscopic amounts of detergent don't get the diapers clean. In general I thought this was okay on diapers. It just took a long time to rinse, and over the course of the first year, the diapers began to stink more.

I used those two detergents during the first year, until I read that using different detergents in the the same washer can still cause problems with the diapers, even if using the diaper detergent properly.

I eventually switched over to Planet Ultra liquid detergent, because I'd read that it was great for hard water, and diapers, both of which I had. It worked well for diapers and household laundry, so I didn't have to worry about cross contamination. I don't know that I had any particular issues with the Planet detergent, but I still wasn't satisfied with the amount of rinsing I had to do.

Once I got the Front Loader, I decided to switch to an HE certified brand, and I wanted to try out Country Save powder, the brand that so many cloth diapering families rave about (I think CottonBabies even uses this brand for their in house brand. So I thought I heard). I have also been generally pleased with this for family laundry, and for diapers. Since I'm using a different set up than I had with the previous detergents, I don't feel I have a good comparison. I do think it might rinse better, but it's a low sudsing kind of detergent to start with. I bought 4 boxes of this back in November, and I'm halfway through box #2. I have a way to go before I run out!

So, in summary, I don't have any strong complaints about the three brands of cloth diaper friendly detergents I have tried. I keep seeking something better, but I believe that for many people, any of these three detergents would be good choices for cloth diapering and household laundry.

I'm sure I'll try some other detergents in the future. I've got my eye on Rockin Green Detergent. Since they sell sample sizes, I'm inclined to give it a try on the cloth, and see what happens.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

pine nuts

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I love the taste of pine nuts. I hate the after taste of pine nuts. I'm one of the unfortunates who gets a long lasting, distinctly bitter after tastes that shows up days after I eat pine nuts, and then lasts for days, even weeks.

I first discovered this last fall. I had heard about the wonderful flavor of pine nuts. And they were right. Yum! Then, and unleasant, unidentifiable taste in my mouth. I thought I was going crazy, or that I had some strange mouth problem. After some diligent research, I discovered the culprit. There's even a name for it - "pine mouth." And woe unto me.

So why did I choose to eat pine nuts again? To test a theory. Yes, me the human guinea pig. And my theory has been proven, yet again. At least I only ate a few, so the bitter taste isn't very strong.

I've read that if I can find pine nuts that come from somewhere other than China (something to do with the triglicerides being ever so slightly different in Chinese pine nuts), that I might be able to enjoy the flavor of pine nuts once again. Alas, none of my local stores carries such a thing.

Any suggestions of brands that don't come from China (or Russia, or Korea, as those are neighbors)?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

for dinner:

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Tonight's dinner was not one of my shining moments of motherly culinary ability.

On the menu: Mac and Cheese with cut up Hot Dog Bits.

Now, I assuage my guilt by using organic mac and cheese, with organic butter and milk, and using some of those all beef, no nitrites/nitrates, preservative free franks.

But still. Hot dogs? With mac and cheese?

At least they are fed. And I sincerely thank my friend Sarah for introducing me to one of the few meals that I know both kids will eat.

Night Time Diaper Investigation (NTDI): episode 1

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I think I'll start my own series, and instead of investigating crime scenes, I'll investigate diaper scenes. Surely it's criminal for my kids to wake up in stinky diapers and with rashes.

Here are the facts ma'am, only the facts. (Please forgive my mixed TV metaphors.)

The diapers don't stink or leave rashes when used during they day, the diapers are changed at least every 3 hours, but often times more frequently. We have hard water (leaves lime scale and rust). For night time, the microfiber I have stinks, and leaves ammonia burn. They don't have repelling issues. The microbfiber is about 10 months old. I have a front loader. I use country save HE detergent.

If you really are interested, you can read more about this in a post I wrote about a month ago. I had several ideas listed there on potential solutions, and I've given some of them a try.

Here is some of what I've learned in the past month:

Stuffing a pocket diaper with a prefold and a hemp insert seems to work okay for N. I don't like the bulkiness, and I think it might make sleep uncomfortable for him. Last night, I had E in two cotton prefolds, covered by a large Thirsties cover (finally got some larger covers! I was holding out, hoping she would potty learn, but no such luck.) Honestly, I don't know how much she might have woken up, since she usually bothers Jude when she wakes. I don't think the diaper was irritating to her. Jude changed her diaper when she got up in the morning. He said he could smell it when she came into the room, but he couldn't tell me if it smelled like ammonia. She didn't appear to have any rash when I checked her later. N, on the other hand...

He was in a pocket diaper stuffed with microfiber and a hemp insert for added absorbency. He didn't appear to be bothered by the diaper at night, and the diaper didn't have a strong odor, but he had noticeable diaper rash that has been slowly improving over the day. These microfiber inserts had been stripped with dawn (Added a squirt of dawn to the wash, then rinsing until there are no bubbles.)

I'm actually trying two different stripping techniques. I used the Dawn, and I don't know that I can tell a difference. I'm working on an OxyClean soak, and still in the process of rinsing. I laid them out flat in the sun to see if that would help any, too. Getting the OxyClean out is a trial. I have had to take the inserts out of the washer simply so I can wash some other things, and then when that's done, I put them back into the washer for more rinsing. Perhaps I used too much oxy...

And, just to be clear, I'm only stripping the microfiber inserts. Not the cotton, not the hemp, not the covers or pockets. I'm too concerned about ruining the elastic to do too many things to them. Besides, I haven't noticed that there are any problems with the aforementioned items.

So far I haven't gotten into washing the synthetic fibers separate from the natural fibers.

I have been incorporating an idea I read over on the cottonbabies blog: I've been rinsing each and every diaper with a diaper sprayer before it goes into the diaper pail. It's a little more work, but if it can help get the stink out, then it's totally worth it. I know some have been missed when others are taking care of diapers, but I already have noticed a difference when I take diapers to the washer after 2-3 days in the pail. Much less stink. It helps keep the room from smelling, too (not that it really smelled that bad to start with.)

So, where from here? I'm going to use cotton and hemp as overnight diapers, and keep working on methods for getting the stink out of the microfiber. Hopefully the kids won't be too bothered by the bulk or the wetness.

Also, I've been reading about Rock'n Green detergent. I've used several different detergents over the past 3 years, all in the "approved for cloth" category, and have been okay with them. I'm hoping for more than okay (as in, no more stink!) I love that they offer samples, and I think I'll be ordering some in the near future.

Monday, May 10, 2010


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Today Nathanael is being super-cute.

He's doing all kinds of normal, baby stuff, but still. Cute.

We say, "Dance, Nathanael!" and he grins and stomps his feet up and down as fast as he can.

He's mimicking sounds, but he's not saying the words he's repeating at other times. Whenever he sees or hears a dog, cat, or anything that looks like an animal, he makes a high-pitched barking kind of sound, "Oah! Oah! Oah!"

If I'm sitting in my computer chair (like now) and he wants my attention, he grabs the arm of the chair and pulls it so I swing around to face him. He quite strong. And insistent.

Everything still goes in the mouth first. We were at my cousin's house over the weekend, and Nathanael kept putting legos in his mouth. Remove them, and he'd go get more from the toy box.

WE love the sweet, cheesy grins. And it cracks us up when someone says how much he looks like one side of the family, only to have another person claim that for the other side just a few moments later. He looks like... Nathanael!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

brainkill for kids

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Now there is more bad news about kids and TV. Well, maybe not really more, but certainly it reinforces what we already know.

Now I'm really feeling like a bad mom. Nathanael watches way more TV than Elizabeth did at a similar age. Why? Because Elizabeth watches more TV now than she did as toddler. When I read these articles, I feel like I'm knowingly contributing to the decline of my children. Maybe I am.

Some days, we watch no TV. More days, it's just a half hour program. Then, there are the days where the TV is on for 3 or more hours.

I reassure my self with the knowledge that they are generally watching "educational" shows, such as Caillou, Blues Clues, SuperWhy, Word World, or Sesame Street. She goes through phases. Currently it's Blues Clues. Since we don't have cable, satellite, or over the air reception, we watch all the shows on Netflix, so at least there is minimal exposure to commercials. The days when we have the TV on longer usually include a Disney movie, or a kind of kid friendly movie that Jude and I would like to see. (We don't get much movie watching done with little kids around).

But it sure says a lot when Elizabeth asks to watch a movie or a show pretty much every day, several times a day.

Sometimes I wish I could just sell the TV, and not have to worry about it. Might be nice to gain the space back! Oh, I know that a simple, wishful solution like that is simply an abdication of my parental responsibility. I look forward to the day when we haven't watched TV all week. I just need to get a grip on my life, and "Just Say No!"

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

impending summer

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I feel like my whole summer is spread out before me!

Oh, what a feeling!

Unlike the past 7 years of my life, we are going to attend just one reunion/family camp, direct just one youth camp (although, it's really a camp for college age people), and help the whole week at no other camps. So different from years where we were directing a camp or two, helping at other camps, reunion, and made appearances at most of the other youth camps our church sponsors.

I'm really looking forward to the prospect of a "real" vacation. We hope to carve out a week to go camping somewhere. Last fall, we took several days and went to a beautiful campground with some family, and it really got into my system to be OUT. THERE. Vacationing. Now I need to start plotting out some cool places to go. Our state has some excellent state parks. The Army Corp also has several great camping areas.

Elizabeth has been asking about swimming for the past several weeks, so I'm sure we'll be getting into the water as soon as possible. I'd like to visit a zoo. I'd like to go to some local festivals.

Oh, So much fun!

Monday, May 03, 2010

the lawn. mowed.

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I just mowed my lawn. I think the last time I mowed anyone's lawn was about 5 years ago.

I actually kind of had fun! It helps that the mower is new and works well. And that it has a self-propel feature. Although, I didn't remember to use it until Jude showed me when I was half way done with the lawn.

Bonus to mowing lawn? Getting more exercise.

Does that mean that I get to eat one more piece of cake before I pitch the remainder in the trash? (For the sake of my health, you know. Man. I really like the frosting I made!)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sleeping Beauty: The Cake

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Elizabeth wanted a doll cake. A Sleeping Beauty cake. Why? Just because.

She said we needed to sing happy birthday. I told her that I didn't know any one who had a birthday today. She said to sing for her birthday. I suggested that we should sing for May birthdays. She thought that was acceptable.

So, to all you who have birthdays this May, Happy Birthday! From Sleeping Beauty!

Elizabeth insisted on pink. I insisted on at least one other color, and she thought white was okay. She helped put the swirly white stuff on. They rest is all my mess. The frosting was a nice Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I tried a different recipe for Nathanael's birthday, but it was way too buttery. I felt like I was eating a stick of sweet butter with food coloring. Not this one. This one was much fluffier, less buttery, and mildly sweet. Much better than the canned stuff, or the powdered sugar American buttercream. Jude approved.

Honestly, I'm not much of a cake decorator. Not like some people who make fabulous cakes the first time they try one. Definitely not me. But, at least my cakes don't fall into the category of Cake Wrecks. At least, I hope not.

Now perhaps the more important question: What am I going to do with all that cake?

may day

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Happy May day!
Only 4 days to Cinco de Mayo!

Not that I celebrate either day. It's rainy today. Not a good day to run around putting baskets of flowers on doorsteps. It's kind of a lazy day, really. I'll admit, I'm still in my pajamas. E is watching sleeping beauty. N is trying to fall asleep in my lap.

I'm in the process of making a cake. E saw some doll cakes at a grocery store, so I'm humoring ourselves and we're attempting to make one. No special occassion; it's just because we want to!

And that makes for a good day.
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