Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cloth on the Go

I'm taking a quick break from my previous rant discussion to talk about cloth diapers. I love cloth diapers for lots of reasons, they are cute, they are easy, they are cheaper than disposables, don't smell like strange perfumes, A. likes them better and they mean I never have to go to the store with a sick/cranky/tired baby because we are almost out of diapers. Many people will also tell you that they are better for the environment and keep harmful toxins from touching your baby's delicate skin which is also true, but less of a concern for me as those concerns can be mitigated to some extent by buying some of the more eco-friendly disposables. We love cloth for lots more reasons that I'm not remembering, but I did a whole post about it so if you want to hear me go on and on some more click here, otherwise I'll attempt to get to the point.

Before A. was born I knew that I wanted to use cloth diapers. I had some people tell me I'd never manage or that it was too hard, but that just made me want to prove them wrong. The one thing that even supporters of cloth diapering said was that I would probably want to use disposables while we were out and for the first month or two after A. was born that is exactly what I did until one day when I realized it was no longer easier. Those that were suggesting disposables while out and about were all in my parent's generation and did not have access to many of the things that we have now to make cloth on the go so easy. For them it was a lot easier to use disposables, but many of the problems that made it that way have now been solved. Now, if you have the right equipment, it is actually easier to leave your baby in their cloth diaper than to switch them into a disposable before leaving the house. You can use cloth diapers on the go without buying anything extra, but there are a few things that make it a little easier.

Wet bag - When you leave the house with cloth diapers the biggest drawback is that you can't just throw away the dirty diapers. Instead you have to carry them with you. At first this seems like a major issue, but a good wet bag will hold in any smell or dampness. There are a lot of good wet bags on the market and many of them are really pretty. I love having a wet bag in my diaper bag even on those rare occasions when I'm using disposables because they are also good for holding nasty burp clothes, bibs or soiled clothing. Babies can be disgusting sometimes and it is nice to have a clean place to put whatever it is they have soiled. I don't know how many people I know who've thrown away an outfit because they were out and about when their baby had a blowout (normally while using a disposable diaper) and they didn't have a way to get it home to wash it. I've also found that not all public changing tables have a trash can nearby. Since I'm putting everything, including wipes, in my wet bag I don't have to worry about trying to manage a dirty diaper, wipes and a baby while looking for the nearest trashcan or even consider turning around with my squirming baby still on the changing table to throw stuff away in the trashcan behind me.

Cloth Wipes in a Wipe Case - The next thing I love to have are cloth wipes in a wipes case. Plain cases can be found at most baby stores or you can buy fancy ones on Etsy. They will generally hold 5-6 cloth wipes which may not sound like much, but frequently one cloth wipe will do far more than one disposable wipe so you don't need as many. It may seem silly to use cloth wipes, but it is nice to not have to remember to put the diaper in the diaper pail and the wipe in the trashcan or to have to separate the contents of the wet bag into the wash and the trash when you get home. We use cloth wipes almost exclusively because we are lazy and cheap are concerned about our environmental footprint. You can carry dry wipes and a spray bottle with water or bum cleaner, but I generally just grab a few pre-wetted ones from the bin of them on the changing table and put them in my wipes case on my way out the door. I've seen people do both and they both seem to work well. This isn't to say you can't use disposable wipes, I just find it easier to use cloth.

Pocket Diapers
or All-in-Ones - At home I normally use prefolds with a snappi and a cover, but when I'm out I like the diapers that work more like a disposable because they are faster, easier and take up less space in the diaper bag. I have done it both ways and can tell you that it really isn't hard to use prefolds when you are out and about, but I'm lazy and A. doesn't like staying still for a diaper change in the middle of a play date the way she does on her changing table at home. There are a ton of options for these styles of diaper and which ones you use depend on everything from whether or not you are willing to stuff pockets to how much you want to spend to how chunky your baby's legs are and even what colors you like. BumGenius and FuzziBunz are the two most popular brands and both are great. FuzziBunz tend to work better for chunky babies and the BumGenius tend to be better for slender babies, but your mileage may vary.

Disposable liners - One of the big things that people (including myself when I started) worry about with cloth is what to do about the poop. If you are still exclusively breastfeeding (no formula or solids) the answer is easy, just throw it in the wash! (Yes, it really is that easy and no this isn't a trick, everything is water soluble and the hot water and soap will kill the germs.) If you are out and about throw it in the wet bag which will contain the smell. If you are using formula or solids though, the answer is a little more challenging. In a pinch you can still put the dirty diaper in the wet bag, but I prefer to put a slightly cleaner diaper into the wet bag when I can. If I am near home or at a friend's house I use the same washable liners that I use at home and shake any solids off into the toilet. If I'm out shopping or traveling though I prefer disposable liners. These are thin, flushable and biodegradable. You put them inside the diaper and toss them in the trash for a wet diaper or flush them poop and all for a dirty diaper, easy peasey. That said, we only use them if we are going to be out a while as it is one more thing to remember and I'm lazy (plus by the time they are on solids babies generally only get one dirty diaper a day and it normally happens at a regular, predictable time).

Back-up supplies - The one problem with cloth diapers and supplies is that they are bulkier than disposable diapers and wipes. This means you can't carry as many with you and I know I tend to worry about running out. The first thing to remember is that there are stores in the world and even those using disposables will run out sometimes and have to buy a pack of diapers because the shopping trip ran long, they stopped for lunch or their toddler drank more water than they thought. However, in the interest of being prepared I normally carry one or two disposable diapers and a small pack of disposable wipes tucked into the corner of the diaper bag "just in case". (This actually started after A. dirtied her last diaper when we had one more store left on a trip running errands on the far side of town and I had to run in and buy a pack of diapers.) I know that once we put the disposable on her that we need to head for home, but it buys me the time I need sometimes. The only problem we run into is that we use so few disposables that when A. starts getting to the top of a size range we need to make a concerted effort to use the rest before she grows out of them and remember to buy more in the next size up (which reminds me, I think she's probably been in size 3s for a while now and we haven't ever bought any...). Thus far we have used exactly one pack in each size and I'd kinda like to keep it that way.

I hope this answers any questions for those of you who are considering cloth for your next kid, currently using cloth at home but switching to disposables while out or even using disposables and considering switching to cloth now. (Toddlers tend to potty train faster in cloth, just saying.) If you have any questions on how to get started or if you currently use cloth out and about and have a great suggestion for how to make it easier please leave a comment. Now days, for me at least, it really is easier to use cloth out than it is to bother changing a clean diaper simply because you are leaving the house and want a disposable.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Attachment Parenting

As I was reading through my blogs this morning I came across a post on a friends blog talking about the failings and shortcomings that all parents inevitably experience and that those of us who practice "attachment parenting" beat ourselves up all the more for. I think that people tend to forget that "attachment parenting" isn't supposed to be a strict, prescriptive method. The idea is to have a strong bond with your children, to pay attention and respond to their needs as quickly as possible. AP is not meant to be an all or nothing prospect, the idea is to do what works best for you, your child and your family.

A great example is cosleeping, or bringing the baby (or child) into bed with the parents. The idea is that if the baby wakes up for some reason during the night you are right there to comfort and sooth them back to sleep instead of leaving them to cry alone in a room. Cosleeping can make life easier and happier for some families and worse for others. I never sleep well when A. is in bed with us. She moves around and I'm always half awake because I know that I toss and turn a lot and wouldn't want to hurt her. Also, she is a light sleeper and wakes up every time I roll over or DH coughs or the dog barks in his sleep. When she was tiny and nursing a lot at night she slept in a bassinet in our room so that we didn't have to walk across the house several times a night. For the first 6 months this worked beautifully with her occasionally coming into bed with us if she was having a hard night or a growth spurt. At some point between 6 and 7 months she suddenly went from waking up once or twice a night to waking up every 1-2 hours. No one was sleeping and we were all miserable and cranky. DH decided to put her to bed in her crib one night and promised to bring her too me and take her back every time she needed to nurse. We turned on the baby monitor and turned it up so high that we could hear her breathing and the clock in her room ticking. She only woke up once! Thinking it was a fluke we tried it again the next night, but the same thing happened. Turns out we were waking her up and as soon as she had her own space we all started sleeping better. Part of me wants to beat myself up for not cosleeping like many of my AP friends say is best, but I know better. We are all getting enough sleep because I listened to my daughters need to be in her own bed, in her own room down the hall. We still respond immediately when she cries, but unless she's sick that doesn't happen much. We may not cosleep, but we follow the spirit in finding what works best for our family and helps us all feel the most safe, secure and rested.

Another big component of AP is babywearing. Now, those of you who know me know that I am a big fan of wearing A. I have a ton of carriers or all shapes, sizes and colors and will happily help anyone who is interested in "wearing" their baby or toddler figure out what works best for them. When A. was tiny I didn't even own a stroller and we took our walks the way she liked best, with her snuggled against my chest asleep. Not only was this A.'s favorite way to be held, but it left my hands free so I could take the dogs on a walk too. Once she was old enough to go into a jogging stroller this changed. I love the chance to go jogging, an activity that isn't safe when you are wearing a baby, and she likes being able to look around and have some quiet alone time watching the birds and plants pass by. Every morning she goes into the stroller and we go for a walk (or jog) that ends up at the park where she gets to run around and play herself. However, just because I am now using a stroller doesn't mean that I am no longer wearing her. When we go grocery shopping she prefers being on my back to being in the cart. Honestly, I haven't pushed the matter because it is also a lot easier for me because she can't stand up and try to climb out (did I mention that she's figuring out how buckles work?) or grab stuff off the shelves as we are walking. By wearing her shopping is a pleasant activity to do together instead of the constant fight I get half the time when I try putting her in the cart. I also love it when we are traveling or out and about. I can fit a wrap, sling or my Ergo in my diaper bag and carry A. or let her walk depending on her desire and how much of a hurry I'm in. I've yet to find a stroller that will fit in a diaper bag or let you zip through crowds the way I can with a wrap or the Ergo. Babywearing is also great for hiking, we can take any trail a backpacker could and share the remote mountain beauty with our daughter, try doing that with a stroller. However, doing one does not mean that I can't do the other. I use push A. in a stroller for some activities and wear her on my back for others. While I may feel a bit smug as I dodge between the strollers stuck in the crowd at ZooLights with my baby on my back, that doesn't mean that strollers don't have a place in my life or that I feel bad when I put A. in our stroller and go jogging along the paved nature trail near my house.

There are many more of these types of things where the conflict between someone else's (or my own) definition of what "should" be conflicts with the reality. However, this blog post is getting crazy long so I'll stop here. Hopefully I'll post more tomorrow.

To be continued....(if I remember...)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pan-fried Fish

I love fish, but I've always been rather intimidated by the thought of cooking it myself. This is probably because I didn't grow up seeing it cooked combined with a few spectacular failures early on. Even the times that I considered my efforts a success DH didn't like it so I had pretty much given up and left fish to the professionals. Then yesterday I was at Trader Joe's and noticed some frozen tilapia fillets that seemed to be calling to me. I was really in a fish mood so I picked them up and decided to experiment. I "followed" (meaning I only changed half of it) one of the recipes on the package and did the same for a tarter sauce recipe I found online and wound up with an amazingly fast and tasty meal. DH was so impressed by the end product that I'm not entirely sure he hasn't been replaced by aliens, but I'll take my victories where I can find them and have decided to write it down before I forget what I did. Here goes:

You need:
White Fish Fillets (I used tilapia)
Flour
Lemon-Pepper
Garlic Powder
Salt
Vegetable Oil

Put 1/2c-1c flour in a pie plate and add a bunch of lemon-pepper along with a dash of garlic powder and a pinch of salt. Mix it all together with a fork. How much lemon-pepper you add depends on how much flour you add, you are trying to get to where the flour is nicely speckled with the pepper once it has all been mixed up. Rinse the fish off and if you have giant pieces like I did you might consider cutting them into more manageable pieces. (I did this on accident, it was frozen and I broke the fillets trying to get them apart. One of the fillets remained intact and I cooked it that way, but we liked the smaller pieces better.) Put enough oil in a frying pan to just cover the bottom and start heating it up over medium-high heat while you dredge the wet fish in the flour mixture. Be sure to cover the fish well and then shake off the excess flour. Once the oil is hot put the fish pieces in the oil and cook for 3 minutes, flip and cook for 3-4 more minutes until the middle is firm and white and it flakes easily with a fork. You will have to poke it with a fork to tell though, because the breading holds it together. At this point the outside should be a nice golden brown, if it isn't turn up the heat a touch next time. If you are working in batches because your pan is too small then line a plate or platter with a paper towel and put them in a warm oven. The paper towel will help keep them from getting soggy while they wait and will also let you see how little oil was absorbed by the thin breading so you feel better about eating fried fish.

For the Tarter Sauce:
Mayo
Lemon Juice
Dill

Take 2-3 tablespoons of the mayo and add a splash of lemon juice and mix it up until it has the consistency that you want. If it is too thin add more mayo, too thick add more lemon juice. Sprinkle in the dill until you have an attractively flecked sauce. Double check that it tastes the way you want and adjust the seasoning to suit.

Serve the fish with some tarter sauce on the side. If you add couscous and some frozen veggies cooked in the microwave you can have a tasty, healthy dinner in less than 15 minutes and all of the ingredients can be stored in either the freezer or the pantry so you have them on hand for those busy evenings.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Easy Beef Stroganoff

Today is a cold day, just perfect for a hearty dinner. As I stared at the contents of the refrigerator I saw sour cream and realized that beef stroganoff would be perfect. Unfortunately, I could not make my mother's recipe, the packet that I normally use was not in my cabinet...

After consulting various cookbooks, the internet and what I had on hand I came up with this version which is super tasty, easy and worth remembering.

You need:
1lb beef
16oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 tbs. butter, divided
1/4 c. Marsala wine
1 c. beef broth
1 pkg. egg noodles
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
12-16 oz sour cream (we'd used part of the 16oz container for fajitas a couple days ago so I just used what was left)

Cut beef into strips, pound it thin and then cut the strips into bite-sized pieces if you are using a cheap cut of meat. If you are using a tender cut then you can skip that step. Melt 1 tbs. butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until it is translucent. Add beef and brown. Pour out onion, beef and juices into a bowl and set aside. Melt the remaining 3 tbs of butter in the skillet and saute the mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are cooked add the Marsala and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add some beef broth if you need to at this point. Pour the beef mixture back into the pan along with the remaining broth, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let the mixture simmer, uncovered, until it cooks down a bit and concentrates the flavors. Once the liquid is down below the top of the meat cook your egg noddles. When those are done and drained dish them up and pull the beef off of the stove. Stir in the sour cream and serve over the noodles. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Food Ahead!

With only a week and a half before Thanksgiving I am already starting to prepare. This isn't because the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is that hard to prepare, we keep it pretty simple and don't eat until evening which saves me from having to get up at dawn to stick my hand up the rear of a partially thawed turkey. My early prep is not the result of anxiety (this is not my first Thanksgiving dinner by any means), but instead is caused by a mix of excitement and great grocery specials. After all, it's hard not to be excited when the evaporated milk needed to make the pumpkin pie is only $0.19/can and the flour for the rolls is $0.99 for a 5lb bag. Add to that the fact that my sister is coming from "The Frozen North" and that as soon as Thanksgiving is over I get to make Christmas cookies and fudge while gorging on leftovers and it is hard not to be excited. The only thing that I worry about is that my menu might not be up to par. Therefore, I ask all of you in the blog-o-sphere to let me know what you think. Am I missing anything?

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu:
Turkey
Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Cornbread Stuffing
Wild Rice Stuffing
Rolls
Green Salad
Steamed Veggie (specifics depend on what's in my Bountiful Basket or in season)
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie with whipped cream

Thoughts?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Socktoberfest!

In previous years I have celebrated Socktoberfest in various ways. Last year I was trying to make as many baby bootees as I could (this plan was foiled when A. arrived a week early instead of a week late like I assumed she would). In other years I have tried to make as many as 3 or 4 pairs of adult socks and in some cases I have succeeded. This year, however, my knitting time is more limited so I tried to do the same for my goals. My goal for Socktoberfest this year was simple, I wanted to finish a pair of socks. Since I have several pairs that I have started and not finished I figured it would be easy. Unfortunately, I have been distracted by a bunch of other projects (someday I'll show pictures of the sweater I finished last week or the longies that are about 2/3rds done). I realized yesterday that in order to make my goal I would really have to buckle down...and I did. As of 10:35pm on October 31st I finished the first pair of socks since A. was born (not counting baby bootees). They are a simple 2x2 rib pattern with a reinforced heel. They don't match because the yarn has a really long color repeat and I didn't feel like wasting all of the yarn needed to begin the second sock at the same point as the first, but there is nothing wrong with socks that are fraternal twins. Therefore, without further ado, here they are:


They are comfy and cozy and my feet are nice and warm. I am happily sitting next to an open window (we cool down the house at night so that we don't have to use the A/C as much during the day, and yes, I know this is not the norm in most places) with socks on my feet and a sweater on my back feeling like a true Knitter.

Trick or Treat?

Growing up I loved going around on Halloween and trick or treating. What can I say, it's an excuse to dress up and eat candy...Most of the houses in our neighborhood either had kids our age who celebrated Halloween or they had retirees who seemed to love seeing all the kids dressed up. As far as I could tell Halloween was fun for everyone. The first clue I had that this wasn't the case was the year that (after much deliberation) we knocked on a door that didn't have any decorations, but did have the porch light on. It turned out that the occupants didn't celebrate Halloween, but had left the light on because they were expecting company for their prayer meeting (I think they were Jehovah's Witnesses, but I could be wrong). We never knocked if the light wasn't on as my mom told us that if it was off they probably didn't have candy or didn't want trick or treaters. This was something that was understood amongst not just our family, but everyone I knew. Therefore, I have to wonder what has changed. Tonight we didn't have decorations, but I dutifully bought candy based on the number of kids we had last year (less than a dozen, but every one polite and well behaved). I bought extra just in case, but I didn't want to buy too much because I didn't want to be stuck with a bunch of candy tomorrow. We turned on our light about the time it started getting dark and within a few minutes the door bell rang. That's when I realized that this year was going to be different. There were 7 kids, none of them said "thank you". A minute later the door bell rang again, this time is was a couple of moms with young children. I was rather annoyed to see that one of them was carrying a child that was obviously under a year old, but politely put a piece of candy in the pro offered bag...then the mom turned and offered HER bag! As soon as they were gone I frantically restocked the now empty bowl before the bell rang again only to find some kids that I am pretty sure were in the first bunch. At that point I was done, I turned off our light because our candy supplies were dwindling and I'd only heard ONE kid actually stop to say thanks. I didn't even make it back to the kitchen when the bell rang again...and again...and again...We are almost out of candy and I'm not playing anymore. Those rude and greedy kids, and more importantly their parents, have ruined it for the rest. All I can figure is that they don't know the rules or that the rules have somehow changed. Either way here are the rules I grew up with, please tell me if I'm off...

1. If the house isn't decorated they may not be participating. It might be worth a try, but don't get your hopes up too high.

2. If the porch light is OFF and it is after dark then move on. Either the people aren't home or they don't want to be bothered. If they aren't home you are wasting your time and if they are home you are being rude and intrusive.

3. If the child is too young to walk up to the door and say "trick or treat" they are too young to be asking for candy (or eating it for that matter). If you don't have child care or you want them to participate then they can stay on the sidewalk or back behind with the parents, but they don't need a bag.

4. Parents and kids in high school, YOU DO NOT GET A BAG! Buy your own candy, don't go begging from others. You are taking away the fun from younger kids because you are being greedy. If you want to dress up that's fine, but leave the bags at home.

5. Only go to each house ONCE! Don't be greedy.

ETA: 6. Say "thank you" after you receive your candy and if people aren't answering don't ring the bell two or three times.

Maybe I sound like a curmudgeon, but after 15 minutes of kids we decided to turn off our light and hide in the back of the house. Please consider these and remember that this is supposed to be a fun holiday for everyone.

Friday, October 22, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sock Storage

I don't know about you, but I hate matching baby socks. Well, to be honest, I hate matching socks period. The hardest part with baby socks, though, is how to store them. If I put them in a basket or a drawer I forget about them. If I leave them out somewhere obvious A. loves to grab them and strew them about the house. Last winter I had a small basket of socks that were all the same and I just grabbed two socks and hoped they matched. I haven't worried about it for months though because it has been far too warm to even think about socks. However, as our weather is finally cooling down a bit my thoughts turned back to socks and how to organize them. My MIL was kind enough to send us some adorable socks, but no two pairs are the same so my grab and go method wasn't gonna cut it. I needed something though because A. was getting awful tired of cold feet and a mom that kept forgetting she had socks. Then I had an idea...I rummaged around my sewing room and within 5 minutes all the socks were sorted, matched and put "away" where I wouldn't be able to forget about them!I had some tiny clothespins that had been part of the diaper cake I'd been given at my baby shower and I strung them on some white dishcloth cotton. I tied the string to two pushpins and voila! I now have a place where the pairs of socks can go. They hang over the changing table so I can easily grab a matching pair when I am dressing A. in the morning. I can also always see what I have to work with and if I am starting to run low. The best part is that it solves the problem of a lack of decoration on A.'s walls (as well as the question of what to do with those tiny clothespins).

What do you think? Do you have any other great ways to organize socks or other baby things? I'd love to hear them, the rest of her room could use some work...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Playing at the Park

It wasn't long ago that I felt like A. was too young for the park. After all, she is only just learning to walk, what if she fell? But we both enjoyed being outside in the mornings so we would go for a walk or a jog with her in the stroller. Frequently we would end by circling the neighborhood park before heading home so that I could finish out my distance. One day I ran into another mom with a baby about the same age as A. and we were talking and walking and then she did something I had never considered...She stopped at the playground and pulled her baby from the stroller. She checked that the playground equipment wasn't too hot and then let her baby start crawling on the toddler part of the park. I looked closer and realized that it was well thought out and as long as I stayed nearby A. really couldn't fall far so I pulled her out too.

Now this is a morning tradition. Sometimes we meet friends, sometimes it is just us, but no morning is quite as nice if we don't spend at least a few minutes playing at the park.

Day by day A. has gotten better and better at walking and climbing (she tried running, but fell flat on her face...) and she is learning what she can and cannot do safely. As we are both learning her limits I find that I can step back a tiny bit and let her explore. I know where she might need a hand and where a fall won't really hurt anything but her pride.

I am loving this little tradition and can't wait until she's sure enough of herself that I can sit back with my knitting and watch her go. It is amazing to watch her growing up right before my eyes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Friday, October 8, 2010

One Year Ago...

An amazing journey began.You were born and my life changed more than I could ever have imagined.
I've watched you discover new friends.
We've had our hard times,
And celebrated the good ones.
We've gone on adventures,
Both far and near.

And we've found fun at home.

But more than anything, I can't believe how much you've grown.

Happy birthday little girl, it has been a wonderful year. I love you more than you can ever imagine and am so glad to have you. I can't wait to watch what the next year will bring us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Busy

Life has been crazy busy for the last while here, hence the sparse posts. Please forgive the radio silence and ...OH LOOK, A TODDLER!!!


Also, A. has learned a new game.


Hope you enjoy, and I hope that life will be slowing down a bit soon so I can post here more. I promise I haven't forgotten.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Babies are like fruit. They only spoil when you ignore them"

My sister called me a few minutes ago and told me I had to read the most recent post by the YarnHarlot. She was right and I think everyone who has kids or plans on having kids should read it too...

Therefore, please drop what you are doing and click here!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sandwich Cookies of Awesome

I made these cookies for a bridal shower I hosted yesterday and they were a huge hit. This is based on the Raspberry Sandwich Cookie recipe from The Ultimate Cookie Book, which I found in the bargain books section of Barnes and Noble many years ago. I don't have a picture of these because they were such a hit that they were all gone before I got one. Many of the guests took a couple home with them and I am hoping one of them will send me a picture to share. A kind guest sent me a picture of the last remaining cookies taken immediately before eating them, aren't they pretty? If you want to make your own here you go.

You need:
1 cup raw almonds (or roasted, unsalted should work too)
1 1/2c flour
3/4 c butter
1/2 sugar
lemon zest from one lemon (a good use for that microplane)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
raw sugar
strawberry lemonade jam (the original recipe calls for raspberry jam you mix with a little lemon juice if you don't have the strawberry lemonade jam)

Finely chop the almonds and 3 tablespoons of flour in a food processor. The finer you do this the smoother your dough will be and the easier it will be to cut out the cookies later. Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer and then add the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the almond mixture and the flour to make a dough. Wrap the dough in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill it for at least an hour (I refrigerated the dough for more like 10 hours because I was busy and it was still fine). Preheat the oven to 325F and line two cookie sheets with waxed paper or baking mats. Roll your dough out on a floured surface (I had to knead it a bit to before it would hold together well enough to roll) until it is 1/8" - 1/4" thick. (I did this with 1/4 of the dough at a time which I found made it easier to manage.) Cut out an even number of circles (or other basic shape) and use a smaller cookie cutter or a thimble/funnel/piping nozzle to cut the middles out of half of those. Sprinkle the tops of the "o" shaped cookies with raw sugar and bake 12-15 minutes until they are lightly browned. Let them stay on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes after you pull them out to firm up before moving them to a cooling rack. Once the cookies are totally cool pair up the tops and bottoms and lay them down on the rack open ready for jam, you'll want the side of the cookies that was down during baking to be the insides off the cookies. Put some jam (I think I used about 4oz) into a custard cup or a small heat-proof bowl and microwave it on high for about 30 seconds or until it is melted (watch it and if it starts bubbling stop it immediately). Spread a heaping teaspoon of jam onto the bottom of each sandwich, place the top half and give it a good wiggle to settle everything in. Once the jam cools again and sets you will have pretty cookies that are ready to serve. The only thing to remember is that the firmer the jam the less messy the cookies will be. I want to say this recipe made around 2 dozen cookies. I made them a day ahead and they stored well in an air-tight container overnight. However, once I put them out for people to try they didn't last very long. These are a tasty, fancy looking cookie that is great for parties or a special treat for your loved ones.

Strawberry Lemonade Jam (No Pectin)

This recipe was inspired by some strawberry lemonade concentrate I made last summer. After the first batch (or was it the second batch?) my husband was licking the pot and commented that the lemonade down at the bottom had gelled and wouldn't this make great jam? Since strawberries were still crazy cheap and plentiful at the time I bought more and we made another batch of lemonade, but this time after pulling out a quart of concentrate for our own enjoyment we kept boiling it down until it reached the jelly point (215-220F with the higher number getting you a firmer jam/jelly). We then poured the jam into jelly jars and processed them for 15 minutes (if you are near sea level process for 10 minutes, mine is adjusted for my altitude). The resulting jam was very firm, but quite tasty. I meant to post this recipe last summer when strawberries were crazy cheap, but I never got around to it. Honestly, I'd mostly forgotten about it until I used some of the jam for cookies yesterday (for a friend's bridal shower, more on that later) and they were such a hit that I was woken up this morning by a phone call asking for the recipe. I will post the cookie recipe separately, but since I feel that this jam is what made the cookies I wanted to post this recipe too. This description should be enough to get you started, but if you want a proper recipe here goes:

You need:
6c chopped strawberries (you don't need to get them finely chopped or anything, just like you would for eating on ice cream)
4 c lemon juice (every recipe I've seen says that you MUST use fresh squeezed, but I used bottled lemon juice and it turned out just fine)
6 c sugar
a candy thermometer
jam-making set-up (click here for basic jam making instructions)

Puree the strawberries in a food processor and then put them in a giant, non-reactive pot. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot so that bottom is definitely in the liquid, but nowhere near touching the bottom (touching the bottom has caused more than one broken thermometer in this household). Heat it over medium-high while stirring constantly. If you want strawberry lemonade concentrate turn off the heat and ladle some if the liquid into jars when you reach 190. (I highly recommend this because it is tasty lemonade.) Keep boiling until you reach the jelly point, 215F for a soft jelly or 220F for a firm jelly (for cookies the firmer jelly is good because it means that the jam stays on the cookies without falling off onto someone's pretty dress, but if you are mostly planning to eat it on toast go for the lower temperature.) Once you reach your desired temperature, take it off the heat, give it a good stir for a minute or so and then ladle it into your jars and process it (10 minutes at or near sea-level, adjust accordingly for elevation). Enjoy your jam in a PB&J or in cookies!

Friday, September 10, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

And a runner-up...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Maple, Date, Walnut Granola

DH and I love granola. We'll eat it with yogurt and fruit, with milk or even plain as a snack. It may not be low in fat, but it is healthy and filling and a little bit of fat is really important. The only problem with granola is that it tends to be really expensive. I've been hearing for years about how you can make your own granola, but all the recipes I have seen included a ton of ingredients I didn't have and seemed to involve a lot of steps and mess. It just never seemed worth it. Then I came across this. It described a simple, basic granola that you made in a skillet. I was hungry and really wanted a snack, but didn't know what to make when I found the recipe. I did a more basic version using flax seeds (which was what we had on hand) and honey that was somewhere between that recipe and the original. (I used 2T. butter, 2T local honey, 1c. rolled oats, 1/4c. flax seed and a dash of cinnamon if you are interested.) It was amazing, and what's more it only took 5-10 minutes. It was so good I started to experiment with what I had in the pantry and came up with a new recipe. It only took a few minutes and was super tasty. If you want to try it, here is the recipe. It is easy, tasty, cheap and healthy. What's not to love?

Maple, Date, Walnut Granola
1 c old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c chopped walnuts
1 tbs. butter (though walnut or canola oil would work too)
2 tbs. maple syrup
1/4 c finely chopped dates
dash cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and mix in the maple syrup. As soon as those are well mixed add the walnuts and saute them briefly (1-2 minutes). Add the rolled oats and stir to mix well. Sprinkle on the spices and stir so they are mixed evenly. Remove from heat, mix in the dates and then spread it on a cookie sheet to cool.

I like to give it 10 minutes to cool, but if you are in a real hurry you could pour cold milk on it and eat it sooner. The big thing is to make sure you don't burn your mouth on the hot sugar. This is one of my favorite treats, I hope you will try it too. You can also use honey, agave syrup, molasses or a mix of water and brown sugar as the sweetener and use any combination of seeds, nuts, spices and dried fruit that appeals to you. Enjoy!

ETA: This is now linked to Pennywise Platter. Check out the link for other tasty, frugal, healthy recipes and ideas.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Vacationing, Part 2

In the last post I said I would tell you more about the wedding. Unfortunately, all I can say is that it was really nice, quite pretty and a load of fun. We were didn't get any pictures of the ceremony and only a few at any other point. Other people have a ton of great pictures, but DH was so busy trying to photograph the double rainbow that appeared over the happy couple after the ceremony that we didn't really get any ourselves. Here are the rainbows (sans happy couple), pretty neat, huh?
The only other high point we got on film was when A. got to dance with the bride. Too bad we missed the rest, guess that means we were having too good a time.

The next day we took it pretty easy and hung out relaxing all morning. A. practiced her walking with some help from her grandma.


Then they sat down to play. We had brought toys, but A. preferred wooden spoons and mixing bowls.
She also liked the dog toys. Shiloh wasn't sure exactly what to think of that...

But he decided that she was pretty cool and hung out with her anyway.
A. also decided to show us useful a mixing bowl can be. Not only can it be used to hold things...
It also makes a great helmet!
The next day it was time to go. Everyone helped with the packing, we wouldn't want to forget anything. :)
After a lot of fun and some great times with family it was time to go home. My MIL dropped us off at the airport and we hurried to the gate only to find that it was super crowded and our plane was delayed a bit. (We flew Southwest so "delayed" meant 15 minutes behind schedule.) Luckily, the SLC airport has a great play space for kids after the security checkpoint. We were able to backtrack and let A. play until half an hour before our flight and then go get in line to get on the plane.
After what seemed like a long flight (but actually wasn't) due to a hyper baby and a full plane we landed and my dad picked us up from the airport. We then collected our pets from my parent's house, ate a quick dinner and headed home. Late that night we fell into our own beds happy to have gone and happy to be home again. The next morning it was time for the week to start again...

I don't know which I like better about vacations, getting away and doing neat things or coming back home. What about you? Which do you prefer?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vacationing, Part 1

It has been over a week and a half since I last blogged. Sorry guys, I have no excuse except that I was on vacation and have been playing catch-up ever since I got back. We went up for a family wedding, but fit in a few adventures as well. We had a great time so I thought I'd share some of our travel pictures.

On the first full day of our trip we took the train from downtown Salt Lake City to Ogden. This is a commuter train so the fares were really reasonable and my MIL knew of a great ice cream shop near the train station. We took the bus from the train station and were rewarded with delicious burgers and ice cream for lunch. The neatest part was sitting around after lunch chatting with the owner and watching her make ice cream with an old John Deere tractor.
After lunch we decided to walk back to the train station and discovered that Ogden has some really neat statues. The had painted horses and a few of these cute little bronze statues. DH took this picture of one of our favorites.
As we were walking down the street we then came across a yarn shop. They had a great selection (which made me happy) and A/C which made everyone else happy. DH, my MIL and A. were kind enough to put up with me browsing for half an hour and I came away with some lovely lace weight yarn and the book Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. We then walked to the train station and A. fell asleep on the way.
I managed to shift her so that she got a good nap on the train and then she woke up an hour or so later to enjoy the rest of the ride home.
That afternoon we took a (very) little hike near my MIL's condo.
The next day we went to the aquarium. A. loved seeing all the animals. here she is looking at the jelly fish exhibit.
DH also managed to get some good pictures of the sharks.
And one of us sitting in their little "photo op" display of a canoe going down the Amazon...
We continued wandering around and saw everything from penguins to turtles. Here is a picture of us looking at the caimen.
Later that day we went to the wedding, but that is a topic for the next post...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rain

I love it when it rains in the desert. The monsoon rain storms tend to come on suddenly with a lot of wind, water, thunder and lightening.
An hour ago the sky was partly cloudy, but the sun was shining and there was still a lot of blue. Now, it is pouring! This is a beautiful storm to watch from inside. It is the kind of storm that makes you glad you have an inside to go to.

The only downside is that I can't get the sewing done that I'd like to...
Sometimes I wish the dog weren't so afraid of thunder. Though to be fair, the lightening is pretty close. I guess I'll just have to be glad that my laptop has a battery, the bread just came out of the oven and that A. is happy to play while I knit because I get the feeling swimming is out of the question...

Friday, August 20, 2010

{this moment}


{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade Baby Food

Before A. was born I was pretty sure that I would make my own baby food. A friend had told me how easy it was and one look at the price of those tiny jars was enough to convince me that it made economic sense. My only worry was finding the time, but I had visions of being crazy productive during the long naps I was sure my baby would take. After A. was born I realized that finding time might be harder than I thought and was starting to waffle on the idea of making my own baby food when she developed food allergies. She was allergic to dairy, soy and corn which meant that many of those jars and boxes of baby food were off limits to her. There is only one brand of rice cereal that she can have and only one brand of puffs. While many of the "stage 1" foods were okay, the later stages were more questionable. Even the standard toddler fair of Cheerios is off limits for the time being (she seems to have outgrown the allergies, but we aren't going to reintroduce the food to her until after her first birthday). Luckily I like cooking and DH was more than willing to play with A. in the evenings while I cooked. I scoured the internet to find recipes convinced that with the popularity of prepackaged baby food it had to be hard to make your own. I came across a website with a ton of information on what to fix and how to fix it. I also had a baby food cookbook and a couple of different sized ice cube trays for freezing so I set myself a time and went for it.

It really was easy once I got into the swing of things. I did have some problems like the time the prunes wouldn't come out of the ice cube trays (turns out the puree was too thick so they never fully froze) or the time that I wound up giving up on the blender and the food processor for my sweet potatoes and running the whole thing through the food mill. Then there was the time that I was trying to mash a banana with a fork, only to have bits go flying out of the bowl onto the floor...But other than that it was really easy. I learned that it makes more sense to combine making the baby food with making my food which saved me a ton of time. If I was roasting a chicken for dinner I would wrap a few sweet potatoes in foil and throw them in the oven too. Pull them out with the chicken and set them aside to cool. By the time we were done with dinner they were cool enough I didn't burn myself and the skins would peel off with the foil. Then I'd run them through the food mill (neither my food processor nor my blender liked how thick the roasted sweet potatoes were) and throw everything into ice cube trays. If I needed to make carrots I would make enough that DH and I could have carrots with dinner and then throw the rest in the food processor for A. Between this and a few batches of steamed fruit we were able to get through the puree stage. Now we are to the stage that I would have preferred to start with had A. not been so demanding about starting solids before she could feed them to herself. (I'd really wanted to try "baby led weaning", but starting at 4.5 months A. would scream if she saw us eating and not sharing. The first time we gave her applesauce she scarfed down as much as we would give her.)

Now that we are out of the puree stage and into the finger food stage things have gotten both easier and harder. Life is easier because I don't have to worry about pureeing or mashing foods specifically for A. Her favorite thing is to eat whatever we are eating. However, this means that whatever we are eating has to have something that she can eat too. She also prefers to feed herself so whatever we do has to be something that she can pick up with her fingers as she hasn't mastered a spoon yet. This means that if we have something like soup I have to figure out a way to feed her too. In some cases it is easy enough to just pull some meat and/or veggies out of the soup and give her those. In others she may get something completely different from what we are having. However, this post is getting really long so I will talk about the specifics of finger foods another day. I mostly want to say that if you don't mind some failures you can make your own baby food. In our case it was very much needed both from an financial standpoint and an allergy standpoint, but next time I think I will do it even if those aren't concerns just because it is fun to be able to play with stuff and it is nice to know exactly where the food is coming from. That is, unless I can convince the next kid to hold off on solids until they can feed themselves...

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Think I Need An Intervention

As I mentioned before, A. decided a few days ago that she really does like hair bows. The problem is that all of the really cute bows are too big and/or too expensive (or require waiting for them to be shipped and I'm impatient). Of course my solution was to try making one myself. Well, one has turned into five and I'm really wanting to make more. These bows really can be addicting, especially with all the pretty ribbon available. So far I have managed to resist the siren song of the ribbon, but it sure is taking a lot of will power...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Solar Power

In many ways solar power for our homes is a nice idea, but out of most people's price range. There is one case, however, where this isn't as true. What would you say if I told you that you could buy a solar powered clothes dryer for less than $15 (or a high-end, top of the line model for under $50)? What if I told you that it would make your whites whiter and could dry your clothes in less than half the time of a normal dryer? Not only that, but it is easier on your clothes so that they will last longer. This amazing dryer doesn't heat up the house the way a conventional dryer does and can even leave your children with fond memories of it's use. Yet, despite all of it's wonderful attributes, this solar powered clothes dryer is anathema to most HOAs. Can you guess what I'm talking about? Yup, it's a clothesline...
They are generally frowned upon because they are considered "low class" or "trashy". (Which is really funny since Martha Stewart is one of the biggest proponents of line drying clothes.) The bottom line is that there are some times when a clothesline is much better than an electric dryer. In Arizona small things are frequently dry by the time you finish hanging up the rest of the load and your sheets don't get as wrinkled. Plus, there is nothing nicer than standing between two wet sheets hanging up laundry on a hot day. (Really, I'm not a masochist, we don't have that type of humidity so it is lovely and cool.) Having grown up with both I've been missing having access to a clothesline and finally decided that I don't care about the HOA and installed one that I can pull down when it's not in use. I spent less than $15 for everything I needed (including clothes pins) and only took a few minutes to install. If this one works half as well as I foresee we will be installing more eye bolts and making some extra removable lines with clips on each end so that we can hang even more of our laundry out. I am really looking forward to saving electricity and money. (Especially since the A/C won't have to work as hard to keep the house cool on laundry day.)

How about you? Have you ever used a clothesline? How did you like it? Would you consider trying it again (or even for the first time)? If you don't like a clothesline or agree with the HOA that they should be outlawed, why? I'd love to hear everyone's opinion on the subject so please share.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Imperfectly Adorable...

I was reading a blog post today about imperfection and how none of us really talk about the bad or hard parts of our lives or the ways in which we fail. That made me think of this video of A. playing with the dog. It is horribly cute, but you can see what a mess the house is and she was only wearing a diaper (my only excuse is that it was right after dinner). I worried that people might judge me because (in addition to everything else) I am letting the dog play with my baby and shouldn't I be protecting her better? That said, it is a cute video (or at least I think so) and in my heart I know that the clutter has since been picked up, A. is now dressed in her PJ's happily sleeping, and the dog in question is incredibly tolerant and would never try to hurt her (plus DH and I were both right there). Therefore, please enjoy it (and if you want to judge my house or my parenting, please don't tell me).

video

{this moment}


{this moment} - Inspired by Soulemama. In her words: A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you want to participate head over to her blog and enjoy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pasta Salad

A's sleep schedule has been really weird lately. She used to consistently take 2 naps ranging from 1.5-2 hours each. This meant that DH would come home for lunch right after she woke up and we could have a nice family lunch and some play time before he headed back to work and we got on with our afternoon. Unfortunately, she is now switching to one longer nap right smack in the middle of the day. Gone is the family lunch unless we can managed to eat really late or really early. A late lunch works okay, unless we have plans for the afternoon in which case we can't get anywhere before 3 or 4. Then I had an idea, we'll have a family picnic. There is a nice, shady park close to DH's work and if I have lunch ready before A. wakes up from her nap we can go eat lunch together, drop him back at work and make it to our activities. Unfortunately, I came up with this idea after she was down for her nap and we didn't have sandwich makings in the house so I needed something else that would make good picnic food and be baby friendly (she eats what we do). I thought of pasta salad, but none of the recipes I found fit what we had so I had to get creative. Here is what I came up with, it has the added advantage of letting me use up some of the veggies from our CSA share, feel free to add whatever veggies you have on hand. You could also cook dried kidney beans for the salad which is much cheaper (and healthier) than canned, but it takes thinking ahead. This makes a giant batch so we will have plenty of left-overs for quick snacks and lunches later in the week. Enjoy!

1/2c olive oil
1/2c red wine vinegar
1/4c canola oil (or more Olive Oil)
1tsp. oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1tbs. sugar
1/2tsp. salt
8oz uncooked pasta (bowties or spirals work well)
1 red onion
1 bell pepper
1 can kidney beans
2 medium zucchini
other veggies (optional)
1oz. crumbled feta
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. 2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, sugar and salt. 3. Chop the onion and dice the bell pepper and add them to the dressing. 4. Add the cooked pasta to the dressing and stir. 5. Chop the zucchini and any other veggies and add them along with the beans and the feta. 6. Give everything a good stir and refrigerate it at least an hour, though preferably overnight. 7. Add salt and pepper as needed to correct the seasoning right before serving.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Of Bows and Begging Dogs

A. has never liked bows. Even when she was only a couple of days old she would grab at the headband and try to pull it off. I never really forced the issue, but each time we were given a bow or she was wearing an outfit where one of the bows we had would be cute I'd try it again. Unfortunately, the bow rarely lasted more than 10 minutes before it was being pulled off and thrown. Eventually I decided that it was a battle not worth fighting and gave up on the bows. That lasted until she turned 10 months old (it happened a few days ago and I am a bad mommy and didn't say anything). At this point her bangs are long enough that they are brushing her eyebrows and I was seriously considering cutting them. I didn't want to cut her hair and I'd really rather sweep them over to the side, but what's a mom to do when her daughter hates bows? I decided to try again. On a whim I bought some little barrettes and tried them. She loves them. I swept her bangs to the side and put the pink one in to hold them in place. She was so cute and I told her so. This made her grin. :) We were still out running errands (I'd tried the bow as soon as we got out of the store) so we tried the acid test of the car seat. I sat in back while K. drove so I could see what she was doing because I didn't want her pulling it out and trying to eat it. She just kept grinning! She kept it on for all of our errands and up until it was bedtime. I'm so happy that she has finally learned to like bows. Unfortunately, the other thing she learned this week doesn't make me quite so happy. She has learned to feed the dog from the table. It started when the dogs (especially Bueford) noticed she wasn't always the best at getting the food in her mouth and would sometimes drop it on the ground on accident. Under the high chair became a favorite spot during meals and we didn't stop it because it did make clean-up easier. (Don't worry, I still mop frequently, the dogs just get the big chunks before A. can get down and try to put them in her mouth before I can grab them.) At some point A. noticed the dogs going for the food she dropped and that it made them happy so she started dropping food on purpose. Bueford immediately picked up on the new game during snack time and by lunch we had this...


Now for the fun part of breaking the dogs of begging while teaching A. not to feed them. For some reason though, I think that DH and I may be the only ones bothered by the new arrangement...