Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Favourite Accessory

For any new moms who have thought that their days of accessorizing ended when they traded in their handbag for a diaperbag, I know how you feel! Having a baby on your hip isn't always condusive to wearing that gorgeous string of beads or those shimmering, dangling earings that are your "go to" items to complete any outfit. If you have been able to train your child not to touch those pretty things mummy is wearing, I want to know your secret; but if you're like me, you've wondered about and experimented with other solutions. Here's one: buy your jewelry for 50 cents a piece at goodwill. I don't know. A good thrifter might be able to spot some good deals on a few necklaces, or upcycle a few pieces to make a new one, and when they get chewed on and broken, that's only a few dollars down the toilet. Amber jewelry? Gorgeous, but also expensive, and I look terrible in any shade of yellow.
My favourite solution has been the scarf. Easy, fun, colourful, washable, and you can wear them so many different ways! In the last couple weeks, I have recieved many comments on my scarves, most from other ladies wondering how I tie them and where I buy them. My answer to the latter question: anywhere! H&M has a lot of wonderful scarves this season, as does Joe. You can also find scarves at all different price points from discount places like Target, Zellers, and don't forget to check out your local goodwill or salvation army!
My answer to the former question can be summed up in this video I came across recently. After watching it myself, I proudly noted that I have at least three more ways that I tie my scarves. I must be very creative (HA!) My point is that there really is no wrong way to wear a scarf, expecially these days. It's a great way to bring some personality and individuality to an outfit, it's quick, and it doesn't matter if it gets chewed on, spit up on, drooled on... you can even carry an extra one in that snazzy diaperbag just in case!
Hmm... looks like I can't embed this video here, so I'll just add the link. Do check it out, it's worth it!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fun Fall Recipe!

Okay, so it was never really my intention to share "grown up" recipes on this site, but hey, I make the rules, right? Besides, this is a grown up recipe made fun. Your kids will love the novelty, even if they're too young to actually help make it, and if your husband has a sweet tooth like mine, he'll enjoy this twist on a classic fudge as well!

4 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
3 cups sugar
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups milk
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanuts
1 cup candy corn
15-20 soft caramels
dash of heavy cream

Prepare either an 8x8 or a loaf pan by lining with foil and spraying (or buttering)

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over medium heat, then pour into a large (at least 3 quart) saucepan and add the sugar, corn syrup and milk. Stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. STOP STIRRING and allow to continue boiling until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (238F on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and add butter, but do not stir. Allow to cool to 120F degrees (I found this takes about 20 minutes). Add vanilla and beat with a wooden spoon until blended. I say beat, because it takes a little bit of oomph, and you want to incorporate a bit of air. Once the mixture begins to thicken, quickly add peanuts and candy corn and continue to beat until the fudge just begins to lose it's glossy look. Pour into your prepared pan and if you like, you can smooth it out with a buttered spatula. Allow to cool completely, then carefully remove fudge from the pan. In a double boiler over medium heat (or if you don't have a double boiler, a saucepan over LOW heat) melt the caramels with a small amount of cream until smooth. drizzle over fudge and place in fridge to cool and harden. Slice fudge any way you want (with a VERY sharp knife to get through the nuts and candy) and ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Indoor Activities

The weather is changing and changing fast! Here in Southern Ontario, it seems almost as if we have gone straight from summer to winter without much of an in between. Nonetheless, who can help but feel giddy at the smells of apple cider, pumpkins and fallish spices, the sight of falling leaves, indian corn and all manner of beautiful squashes and gourds.
For me, the only downside to the season is the increased time we spend inside rather than out at the park or in the garden. Finding activities to keep the little one busy can be a challenge, especially when my own list of responsibilities seems endless and overwhelming, but here is something I'm learning to do: let Elysia take part in those responsibilities. Am I folding laundry? Give her the washcloths. Sure, they won't really be folded WELL, but you should see the look on her face when I tell her she did a good job... and who needs perfectly folded washcloths, anyway? (okay, so maybe I fix them as I put them in the linen closet. Call me OCD.) Am I making baked goods for friends or the freezer? Let her pour in the ingredients, or "stir" them together. Letting your little one get involved in your normal, every day activities may make those said activities take a bit longer, it might make them a little messier, but I have found that it also gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment. It also has seemed to give a little bit of understanding when I'm doing something like sorting laundry or preparing a meal... she either wants to help, or goes and does her own thing rather than trying to get my attention away from the task at hand.
Our favourite "fun" thing to do together lately is colour. Hmm... she's only 19 months. Some parents have told me that's too young to give a child crayons, that the coordination isn't there yet, that the risk of her eating them is too high, that she'll start colouring on EVERYTHING! Okay, so maybe that is true to some extent. I mean, she certainly isn't Picasso, but as I sit with her and watch her "draw", I notice that she uses a mixture of straight lines, "circles", dots, and when she gets really excited, incredibly dark scribbles. She talks to herself and to me as she colours, she makes sure she gets both sides of the paper and uses each of the colour I have given her. When she is tempted to colour on something else, I tell her "crayons are for the paper", and it hasn't taken long for her to loose interest in colouring on things like the fridge and my laundry baskets. She loves to show her papers to her daddy when he gets home and hear him ooh and aah over her creativity.
Stickers! Yup, even at 19 months, as long as I lift a corner, she can get a sticker off the sheet and place it on her paper. I notice she is quite specific about where she places them, not wanting them to overlap or hang off the edge. She then makes sure she colours on each one of them.
Strings! I bought her a skein of yarn when I was at the factory last week. Oh, the fun she has wrapping it around the coffee table, making "webs" and stringing her pegs on it. String at 19 months, you might ask.... c'mon, the principle here is supervision. Of course I don't just give her a ball of yarn and go down to load the washing machine for 15 minutes.
You never know what you little one is capable of until you allow them the chance to try. Do things together. Teach them the rules. encourage them to try new things. Praise them for a job well done. You'll enjoy seeing the ways your little one might surprise you!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Appologies and Appothecaries

My word, it has been a long time since I have posted. Although my intentions have been sincere, the sickness of my daughter, then myself, then a week long (and much needed) working vacation has kept me from faithful communication. And now, as I am preparing for a big event next week, today's post is going to be short and sweet.
Because of my growing belly (25 weeks tomorrow!) and all the other wonderful symptoms that come along with pregnancy, I have been searching out and experimenting with ways to relax. Let's face it, I don't have the time or the money to visit a spa once a month, so I typically must come up with my own treatments. There are many, many ways to pamper yourself on the cheap at home, so today I am sharing just one of my current favourites.
I'm sure that if there was a poll of mothers to find out what the most common pregnancy complaints are, a general discomfort in the torso region and lack of energy would be in the top five. In my attempts to alleviate the former, I have taken to enjoying a nice warm bath at least once a week after the little one is in bed. Time to relax, read a book or a magazine, or yes, I admit, paint my toe nails... that is, if I can still reach them. The warm water feels wonderful on my expanding waistline, and the weightless quality of it relieves the pressure in my back. When I started wondering about making my weekly ritual into more of a treatment, I started using "extras" such as bubble bath, a candle, cucumber slices... but the best thing I have come up with thus far is a wonderful mix of relaxing and energizing:
Lively Lavender Bath.... Gook. Don't let that last part frighten you, it's only a strange, pasty, gritty gook until you melt it into your bath water. Then it turns into a delightful little miracle. This is how you do it.
Combine 1/8 cup Epsom salts with 1 Teaspoon honey (raw is best), 1 Teaspoon avocado or olive oil and a few drops each of Lavender oil and peppermint or eucalyptus oil. Stir into your bath and enjoy! The salts are soothing, the honey helps to draw toxins out of your skin, the avocado oil contains omega fatty acids and moisturizes wonderfully, and the heavenly scents of lavender and eucalyptus invite you to relax and revive.
Any other favourites out there?

Friday, September 16, 2011

How To Get Crayola Off Your Kitchen Appliances

My 18 month old blessed me with this dilemma today, therefore this afternoon I offer to you the solution. Or should I say A solution, for there are, in fact, more than one. As I stood looking at my suddenly very colourful refrigerator door this morning and tried not to laugh in front of my daughter (who was incredibly proud of her masterpiece), I had to wonder. Wax. You don't dissolve it, you don't bleach it... how do you get rid of it? I tried a few different things.
1. A dry cloth and some elbow grease. Oh, it was working, but it took a LOT of elbow grease. More than this pregnant momma was willing to muster up.
2. All purpose cleaner. Yes, this was working as well, but it still required an awful lot of elbow grease and my arms were already tired from solution #1.
3. Nylon scraper. You know, the one you're supposed to use for ceramic and glass topped cook stoves. Fail.
4. Good old baking soda and a damp rag. This worked wonders. minimal effort, excellent results and no worries if my daughter tries to do something else to the refrigerator... like lick it. She does like to lick things.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's That Time of Year

And so it is back to school for children all over North America. For those of you mothers with kids heading back, or starting school for the first time, the season may bring a host of challenges: getting kids up on time, making breakfasts in a hurry, helping your little one(s) catch the bus, or perhaps driving them to school... is their hair done, are their faces clean, do they have their books, do they have their lunch and what IS for lunch?
Even though my little one isn't school age yet, I have been getting excited about lunches. Well, not lunches in general, but a certain "type" of lunch for moms and kids on the go.... and perhaps even dads? So, whether your kids are in school or not, if you're a mom on the go and want to pack healthy, fun lunches for you and your kiddo(s), I just thought I'd share a link that I have been enjoying lately.
Okay, so maybe we don't all have time to be THAT creative, but even if I could be HALF that creative with a lunch I'm sure eating in the car between grocery runs, doctor's visits, playgroup and errands would be not only that much more fun, but SO much more healthy.
You can find tons of Bento merchandise on Amazon, and if you're lucky enough to have a Japanese grocery store in your area, most carry Bento boxes and accessories as well.
Happy packing, and bon appetite!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Newbie All Over Again

I never truly realized before having a child just how amazing my own mother was and is. I think about all the degrees she had and how she gave up the potential to have a wonderful career to be a stay at home mom and invest all her time in her children. I think of how she baked and cooked almost everything from scratch and kept a garden in the summer, providing us with a bounty of fresh produce. I think of how she read to us at night, investing in our imaginations and expanding out literary horizons. I think of all the hours she spent in the car driving us to music lessons, dance classes, museums, the library and a host of  fabulous field trips. Lastly, but certainly not least, I think of all the long, patient minutes she spent washing, combing, braiding, curling and twisting my hair into so many fun creations.
I never realized what a huge challenge this last task must have been for her. You see, my mother has very thin and very fine hair that she has always kept rather short. I have very thick hair that I have always kept rather long. I am sure my mother never braided crowns into her own hair, or had to use 45 bobby pins to keep her own bun in place... so what motivated her to invest so much creativity into her daughter's unruly mane?
That is the question I am learning the answer to thanks to my own daughter with hair incredibly different from my own. My daughter's hair is still baby hair, for sure, but I can already tell that it is going to be fairly thick.... and it is full of curls! Although my mother gave me the desire and ability to take care of and have fun with my own hair, I have never had to work with anything too opposite of my thick and somewhat wavy mess. Now with my little one, I feel like I have never brushed or styled hair in my life! If I brush it, it turns to frizz; when I wash it, I struggle to get to her scalp; when I dry it, it matts into a horrible tangle; when I put it in pigtails, the little curls pull themselves out..... and how do I make her sit still?
This week, I decided to take some time to read, research, and find out some tricks to taking care of my daughter's unique hair. I learned only to comb it when it is wet, never to dry it with a towel, to give it as much moisture as I can, to use little elastics instead of little cloth scrunchies and most importantly, to sit her down in front of Pink Panther cartoons on youtube until the 'do is complete.
A little time invested goes a very long way. My toddler is less squirmy when it's time to do her hair, she fusses less at bath time as I'm washing (and no longer drying) it, and she has rocked some pretty stunning little styles with not too much effort on my part. I hope that by learning about her hair and it's particulars, I can give her the same excitement and appreciation for her hair and it's uniqueness that I have for my own. I want her to grow up happy and thankful for how she was created, and this is just one way that I am trying to do that!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Challenge Update

It has now been one week since I started cloth diapering my 17 month old in an effort to be more health and eco conscious, and to prove to myself simply that I can do it. Here is an update of the happinesses and headaches of a fluffy-bummed child.

Happiness: 1. I am indeed pleased with the decrease in the ammount of garbage coming from the nursery. 2. There is a small joy in knowing that there are no chemicals or toxins coming in contact with my toddler's delicate (and often sensetive) skin. 3. I am already saving money by nixing disposables (except when we have been out for the day). 4. The extra work I am encountering with cloth is not quite so much work as I expected.

Headache: 1. I already know this particular system is not the system for us. Let me reitterate that because I am entering this challenge with no up front cost (ie: the diapers and cover were loaned to me), I didn't get to choose what type of cloth diapers to use. 2. This actually goes along with number 1: the Kushies system we are using at the moment is not very travel friendly. 3. If I do end up cloth diapering for good, I will DEFINITELY invest in a diaper sprayer.

One concern I had before starting this challenge was the stink. Honestly, it's not that bad. I keep our diaper pail in the bathroom next to the toilet for convenience and so that the curious little one doesn't get into it. I decided to use the dry pail method, so I just rinse any matter out of the diaper in the toilet, give it a little wring and stick it in the pail. Every once in a while I sprinkle a little baking soda into the pail just in case. I have been washing the diapers every other day (that gives me a half load in our large capacity washing machine) and hanging them to dry. My method for washing: put diapers in the washer with 1/4 cup of baking soda and let the tub fill with cold water. I then stop the cycle and let the diapers soak for a few hours (I started out letting them soak over night, then moved to about five hours and the last load I only had time to let them soak for two hours, which still worked just fine). After soaking, I continue the cycle. Once the first cycle is done, I then switch to a hot/cold cycle, put detergent in (a bit less than what is recommended on the detergent label), and add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to the fabric softener cup. I read on a cloth diapering forum that adding vinegar restores the ph of the diapers after soaking in baking soda. My results? The diapers are very clean coming out of the washer, they dry relatively fast on the line, then I throw them in the dryer for five minutes just to soften them up. There is NO STINK! The baking soda and vinegar works very well and I have not had to use any amonia or bleach to remove odors or stains. The only thing I could complain about is that there is a slight lingering vinegar smell in my washer now, but it doesn't seem to effect other loads of laundry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rainy Day Reading

It is a wet and raining, dreary and chilly Wednesday morning, the kind of day that is perfect for curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a good book. My life has changed a little in the last 17 months: instead of reading the latest by Jodi Picoult,  a beautiful old classic from my growing collection or an enlightening biography, I'm reading a smattering of children's rhymes and simple stories printed on pages full of colourful and creative artwork. There is a little angel curled up next to me holding her frog in one hand and her milk in the other. My coffee is on the side table. Cold again.
17 months ago, cold coffee would have vexed me, but today I can only think of how blessed I am to have the life I've been given. As I thought about what to write this morning, I thought of how appropriate it would be to make a small list of rainy day reading. These are our three favourite books right now.

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt.
This book is a very old classic children's book full of simple sentances and fun activities. Elysia now says "peek-a-boo" at the appropriate page, and "oh, wow" when she looks in the mirror. This book was first published in 1940, and is still well loved by children everywhere.

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
An adorable, mushy little story about parent and child rabbits describing how much they love each other. Sweet illustrations by Anita Jeram are fun and imaginative. This is Elysia's favourite bedtime story.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr.
This book is illustrated by none other than the very talented Eric Carle. Need I say more? Each page is a different animal of a different colour. A great tool for teaching colours, animals and the sounds they make. Elysia's favourite thing about this book though, is the fly leaf with it's rainbow of colours. She points to each one and waits for me to name it. Over and over. I could recite this book by heart.

 Now that I have listed said three favourite books and breakfast break is clearly over, I think I'll snuggle back into the living room and read some more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Fluffy Challenge

So I have had pretty strong opinions about diapers since I was three months pregnant with my daughter. My mother used cloth diapers on me when I was a baby and I always thought I would be a cloth diapering mummy, too, just for that reason. Then I went online. Oh, the wonder of the World Wide Web! Oh, the wonder of mondern cloth diapers! Have you seen the colours? Have you seen the prints? Have you seen the soft, cuddly bamboo fleece, the silky minky, the superb organic cotton? I was thrilled. No, I was enraptured with the endless variety and customizability of what cloth diapers had become in 27 years.
Sadly, our particular living situation was not cloth diaper friendly, so my husband and I decided that we would use disposables for the time being. Enter frustration. The "eco-friendly" disposables that we used in the beginning were a big pain in my behind... and my daughter's. I found them scratchy, stiff, and very square. We switched to Pampers, mainly because I had about a hundred coupons from the hospital care packages we received. Those worked okay, until Pampers changed their diapers to the "drymax" ultra thin style. Diaper rash. Sagging. Leaking. We switched to Huggies. One size was too short, the next size was too big in the waist. Wing droop. Sagging. Frustration. We tried Fisher Price. Have you ever seen a baby with a diaper wedgie? Terrible.
Our daughter is 17 months now, and with another one on the way and our living situation changed, I have been as determined as ever to switch to that wonderful fluffiness I drool over in my mind. Is it really the answer, or is the grass always greener? My husband was worried that it would be too much work, especially when baby 2.0 comes along. He was hesitant to spend that big chunk of change all at once. I began to wonder if he was right.
Enter a wonderful friend and dear sister in law. She used cloth diapers on most of her children, but no longer needed them. She gave her stash to me last night to try out for a while. Herein lies the challenge: prove to myslef and my husband that I truly am a cloth diapering mummy. I like versatility. I like simplicity. I like AIOs and hybrids and one size diapers... I am trying out prefolds and Bummis Super Brite covers. If I can handle this, I can handle any cloth diaper, right?
Day one: Elysia seems happy in the cloth diapers. She certainly looks cute in the pretty pink Super Brite cover. I like that I actually feel better somehow, even though it has been less than a day, just knowing that she is in cloth. I like that it's fairly easy: put on cloth diaper, secure cover over diaper, let child play... change cloth diaper, wipe cover clean, resecure over new cloth diaper, toss used diaper in pail.
Okay, so I'll be honest. Already I have noticed a couple things that need work. First, since my daughter does have a very narrow waist, the prefolds are a bit big and I have to overlap them in the front. My daughter also has small thighs, so it's a bit hard to get the cover to fit snugly enough at the legs without creating a little wing droop. I am sure we will find a solution to those problems.
My goal: if I can cloth diaper with this system for the next five months, but still set aside the 60 or so dollars I normally spend on disposables each month, I'll have enough money saved to purchase whatever fluffy system I choose! Cheer me on. Ask me questions. Give me tips. I will continue with updates. And in case you all were wondering, yes, I am back!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Morning Musings

How many times have I warmed up this cup of coffee? I'm sitting here on a very cold Ontario morning, trying to finish my dark roast before I have to throw it in the microwave once again. My daughter just finished her breakfast and is now playfully eating some puffs while talking to herself in her little sing-song voice. I love listening to her babbles. I imagine what she might be saying.
There is a stack of fabric on top of one of my sewing bins sitting on the floor in front of me still waiting to be made into a fabulous dress for my daughter's upcoming birthday. I look at it with longing. And loathing. Mostly longing. Longing to be superwoman, supermom, superhousewife, super...something. Longing to feel productive. It's not that I'm laz; it's not that I don't do anything during the day, it's just that the things I do don't stay done. Let me elaborate: I did dishes yesterday. Times three. What do you think my kitchen looks like this morning after breakfast? I cleaned up all the random toys littering the living room last night. Guess what? You got it, they're all out again. I'll have to sweep the floor twice today, even though I swept yesterday, and I'll have to sweep it again tomorrow. Yet even amidst the endless, repetative string of mommy chores which leave me feeling slightly annoyed, moderately unproductive and very tired, my little girl looks at me with big blue eyes full of wonder and throws her arms around my neck. Suddenly I am reminded that it is all worth it. More than worth it. My husband brings me coffee at the end of his shift. Even though I'll have to warm it up five more times, I remember why it is I do what I do: the same things I learned to appreciate when I was child myself. Love. Family. Hans Christian Andersen was right. Life is the most wonderful fairytale of all.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Diaper Dillema

How many of you have woken up in the morning to the happy cooing of your little baby and tiptoed into the nursery to peer over the edge of their crib... and as you scoop up that little bundle of joy and hold it tight, you discover that it is soaking wet?! That Diaper leaked AGAIN!
How many of you have bought size 3 diapers because size 2 is too short, only to go back to the store for more size 2 diapers the next day because size 3 is too wide?
How many of you find that one brand of diaper leaks out the sides, while another brand leaks out the top, and the last brand pops open and leaks EVERYWHERE?!
Am I the only mom singing the diaper blues? Is my baby so different that no diaper company has addressed these issues? Am I putting the crazy thing on wrong? And here's my last question.... do cloth diapers have these problems?
I had planned on using cloth diapers on my darling from the beginning, but for certain reasons we had to go the disposable route. Now, of course, when my daughter is too long for one size, and too skinny for another size, and every other time I have a diaper frustration, that voice in the back of my head says "betcha Bummis are better" or something to that effect. Is the grass simply greener on the other side of the fence, or is there something to this?
I'd love to hear from you all, whether you use cloth or disposable.... what are your experiences? What are your opinions? What are your suggestions?