What we've been up to...

In the last week or two, we've:
  • Attended our church's Easter play. Craig is taking a class at church and the instructor, who is in the play, tried to tell us it was a big event so we got there 45 minutes before it started but the line to enter the sanctuary was still all the way down and back the Sunday school hall. I don't think even at that point we knew what was coming. The market scenes had chickens and a donkey, a golden retriever and her litter of pups as well as a goat and several kids. But when the roman soldier rode through the sanctuary on a horse, I realized they were serious when they had asked all audience members to stay in their seats throughout the performance. Unfortunately it was a 2 hour show and there was no way Ms. Preggo can last that long without a trip to the ladies room so I just waited for a time when it seemed implausible for a horse to appear and made a mad dash down the aisle. It was quite the experience.
  • Attended the symphony. We decided to splurge a bit on entertainment the next month or two and have bigger date nights. I've been to the symphony before but I normally fall asleep partway through the second half. Not this time, there was too much kicking going on for that. We actually felt like we were pulling a fast one on the company since three of us enjoyed the show for the price of two. Baby Nigel really responds to classical music. I've been listening to it on Pandora whenever I'm on the computer. Not because I put a whole lot of stock into the baby genius thing, but I have heard that if a baby hears the same music he heard in the womb, it can have a calming effect. I don't know if that will work out but it can't hurt right? Now I'd like to think that all the moving and kicking in response to the music means Nigel likes it, but I suppose it could just as easily mean he hates it and we are torturing the poor kid. I guess we'll find out in a few months :-)
  • Went to our first Slow Food (city in which we live) event and watched Mad City Chickens. The movie was about 80% documentary, 20% weird trying to be funny bits. I could have lived without the funny parts, mostly because they weren't funny and nothing makes an unfunny scene more annoying that listening to other people gaffawing at it. But still, I enjoyed the movie. Of course, now I really want chickens. I wanted them before but mostly because I wanted fresh eggs. Now I want chickens because I want fresh eggs and chickens seem awesome! Chicken friendly neighborhood had now been added to our buying a house checklist. I pity the person who ends up as our Realtor.
  • Gone on three hikes. We found a park just about 10 minutes from here that has several small hikes. The first one we went on was about a mile which isn't too long but there ended up being a few more hills than I expected. Craig practically had to push me up the last 10 minutes of the walk but I made it. The next time we just went down as far as I wanted to, then went back and it was a little more pleasant. I'm getting really tired of walking the same path through the neighborhood every day so it's nice to switch things up now and then.
  • Went to a ladies tea with our Sunday school class. Okay, only I went to this one, Craig was not invited. I had a great time getting to know the other wives better and it turns out that several others in the group are "hippies" too. One of the other women is planning a home birth and several of us are looking for raw milk and grass feed beef sources. It was so exciting to meet people with the same interests.
And that's about it!


Easy Cuts

In this time of budget trouble in states across the nation, in which massive deficits are common but balanced-budget requirements prevent states from kicking the can down the road like the feds do, it is becoming clear that state government employee salaries and benefits are part of the problem. From the WSJ via Power Line:
In a separate survey, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis compares the compensation of public versus private workers in each of the 50 states. Perhaps not coincidentally, the pay gap is widest in states that have the biggest budget deficits, such as New Jersey, Nevada and Hawaii. Of the 40 states that have a budget deficit so far this year, 28 would have a balanced budget were it not for the windfall to government workers.
There was also this tidbit from the governor of New Jersey:
One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits -- a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment.
The governor of Missouri is trying to make some common-sense moves to remedy this situation. For one, he wants to reduce the number of holidays for state employees from 13 to 10. Seems pretty fair, since this article states that the average private sector worker only gets 8 holidays. But, as can be expected, there's resistance to even this measure, which is projected to save $3 million per year:
Cutting employees' benefits "will worsen already high turnover rates and work against the quality care and services they are expected to provide," said a statement from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 72, which represents employees in the departments of mental health and public safety...

"We understand the financial crisis," [Gary Gross] said "But we also don't think they're looking at all the right options. There are many other things that could be cut rather than trying to take benefits away from state employees."
This is why cutting spending is so hard, when people fight against ideas like this that should cause little controversy. It sounds like most Missouri legislators realize this is a fairly painless cut, though.

I'd like to address this idea that this move will increase state employee turnover. Are state employees going to say, "I refuse to give up those holidays. I'm going to find a different job that gives me my 13 holidays?" Probably not, since we know that nowhere else do employees get all those days off. Second, times are not good right now, so I don't think too many people are going to quit their jobs in the near future, especially over something rather trivial.

If you are going to try to argue against common sense budget cuts, at least you should use reasoning that is not absurd on its face.


MSM: More Wooly Wonders!

Y'all didn't think I was finished with wool, did you? No, I've got two more wool projects to show you.

The first is wool dryer balls. A natural alternative to those spiky plastic balls, they decrease your dryer time and eliminate the need for dryer sheets by fluffing, softening and reducing static manually. I've never use dryer sheets because they cause my sensitive skin to break out in a rash but I don' t think I would want to use them even without that issue. They cost money and are full of icky chemicals. I've heard some positive reviews about how the plastic balls work but they can leave a plastic smell on your clothes and somehow heating up plastic doesn't sound like a good idea if you want to reduce household toxins. In addition to not stinking up your clothes, the wool balls are a bit quieter and there is something about how they absorb the water from your clothes that is supposed to help your dryer not overheat or your clothes not over dry or something. I don't really understand the science behind it but it sounded impressive. Oh, and unlike the sheets, these can be used with cloth diapers and towels.

There are several ways to make them. I'll explain two ways to make wrapped ones but I've also seen them made using sewn pieces of felt or felting stuff that has somehow tufting/needling them. Those ways are cool since you can make designs but I don't know how to do that. This is probably the easiest way.

Let's get started!

Basically, all you will be doing to make them is wrapping a ball of yarn and felting it. But since you want the final ball to be quite firm, you need to do it in two steps, starting with forming a solid core. This is where there are two options:

1) Use acrylic yarn. Acrylic yarn won't felt so all you have to do is wrap a small (golf ball size) ball as tightly as possible. Then using a knitting needle or crochet hook, weave/tuck the end of the yarn inside the ball so it doesn't unroll. That's it! Move on to the next step now.

2) Use wool yarn. Since this will felt, you will have to wrap a small ball as tightly as possible the same as with the acrylic, then felt it as you will the outside (see below). It will shrink a bit now. You want that to happen so that when you wash it again, the outer layer won't cause it to collapse and be soft.

I did both methods and I think if you have extra acrylic and wool yarn around, use the acrylic. It is faster, easier and cheaper. The benefit to using wool is that you can say they are 100% wool if you sell them on etsy but the acrylic is completely contained in the end product so it shouldn't make a difference to your clothes at all.

Now you have a little core. This is my wool core:
This is my acrylic core. Oops. I got so excited that I wrapped the second layer before taking a picture but you can imagine in since it would look just like a little ball of yarn.

Now you need to make the outside and felt it. For this step you have to use wool. Wrapping as tightly as you can over the core, keep wrapping until it is about tennis ball size then use a needle or hook to hide the end inside the ball and prevent it from unwrapping.

Or leave the ball on the floor for a minute while you go off in search of a crochet hook, come back and find that your cat has enjoyed herself, untangle the yarn and repeat the wrapping process. You can also skip these steps, it's your choice :-)

Now you need to felt the ball. But even with the hidden end, if you try and felt it as is, it would probably come undone in the washer. Or clog up your machine with fuzz and pills. So first put it in an old sock or piece of hosiery. Tie the end real close with a piece of acrylic yarn. You can actually felt two or three balls together in one sock/hose as long as you tie each separately so they don't felt themselves to each other. I stole a sock from Craig so mine looked like this:
Throw it into your washer with 1/4 of the normal amount of detergent and a couple towels or pairs of jeans to increase the agitation. Use hot water and at least a 12 minute cycle. Unlike other projects where you only want to felt so far, the more these are felted the better. No worries about overfelting make this a great first felting experiment!

After one wash, they should hold up okay but they might not look completely felted. You can put them back in the sock for another round or you can just throw them in the washer and then dryer with your next load of laundry like I did. And as you keep using them with wet clothes in a hot dryer, they will continue to get more firm and smooth although after a few weeks, you might notice pilling. It won't impact it's function but you can take them off if you want. (If you are felting the core, one cycle should be enough to get it firm but let it dry before you wrap and felt the second layer)

Here are my final ones.
They look pretty much identical to the core except larger. They started out the size of the tennis ball but shrunk slightly. I did two acryclic core and two wool core (the cat has stolen one which is why you are only seeing three). I made them separately but I honestly can't even tell the difference now between the two types.

How do they work? Well, my main goal was to reduce dryer time. The week I started using them, my drying time was reduced by quite a bit BUT we also had our dryer repaired so most of that reduction is probably due to that. I could do some sort of scientific test where I compare the drying speed with balls and without I suppose but I do think they help soften the clothes so I'm not going to bother. That's not a very definitive answer but it's all I've got.

And if you want some dryer balls but don't want to make them yourself, there are lots available on etsy. Or just check it out to see all the different styles and designs you can try. Happy Felting!


Dirty Baby Business

I am so excited about cloth diapering it is ridiculous. Sometimes Craig has to remind me that I'm getting all giddy about something that will soon be covered in poop. But I can't help it.

We pretty much knew from the beginning that cloth diapering was something we wanted to at least give a try. For one, it's better for the environment. Most studies, as well as common sense, say that washing and reusing a diaper is more environmentally friendly than making a new one and having to dispose of it. Otherwise we would all be wearing disposable underwear, right? But as nice as I think our planet is, environmental reasons weren't really that big of a factor for us.

For me, it was the health factor. Neither of us have a good track record when it comes to skin issues so genetically, this kid has no chance and the idea of putting a chemical filled plastic sack on his/her skin just doesn't sound appealing. One argument I've heard several times as a negative to cloth diapering is that they need to be changed more often. Now, a baby in cloth diapers shouldn't be peeing more than any other baby so for me that is a plus. It will force me to make sure my baby isn't sitting in a dirty diaper just because I don't have to worry about leaks.

For Craig, it was definitely the money factor. Cloth diapering is so much cheaper. Even factoring in additional water usage (3-4 additional loads a week) and accounting for coupons and sales for disposables, we are going to save quite a bit. And the more kids we have, the more we save!

Yes, it will be more work but there is so much additional household work that comes with a baby that, I figure what's a few more loads of laundry? And since I won't have daily access to a car, at least I won't have to worry about running out of disposables and being stuck. The dealing with poop issue isn't a big concern to me either since the changing of the diaper is the worst part and that is the same no matter what type of diaper you use. All I have to do is take the whole wet bag, empty it into the washer, toss in the bag itself and run the load. I don't even have to touch anything until it's all clean again.

I think the biggest thing about using cloth diapers is that you have to want to. If you don't, no amount of saving money or health issue will make it worth it. Right now, as about to be evident by my excessive number of pictures, I'm really excited about them and most cloth diapering mamas I know are just as excited as me. But there may come a day when other things have to take priority or it really weighs me down and I have to be willing to adjust.

My biggest dilemma when it came to cloth diapering was what type I wanted to use. There are soooo many options out there. There are a 4 main types and withing each type there are different options such as sized or one-size, material options, and different brands to choose from. It's a lot to take in.

In the end, we decided to do a mix to start out with. The least expensive option is pre-folds and covers and that is what I am planning on doing for the bulk of my diapering. This is the old-school style but better (no pins and way more options than just gerber plastic pants). I've heard the pre-folds from green mountain diapers are some of the best quality. They come in more sizes than traditional pre-folds which means a bit more expense but the fit is better. I hope to get 1-2 dozen of the infant size to start out with. Pre-folds need covers to be waterproof but don't need that many covers since they are just the outside protective layer and can be reused a couple times unless you have a big blowout.

Here are my two flip covers which are one size. They will work from itty baby to toddler but I plan on also getting one of each of the most popular types of sized covers in small to see what works best with our baby. (Some work better on chunky thighs, others with long torsos, etc). I've also made a few wool covers to use too. (More on those in an upcoming post!)

Then I got a few fitteds. Fitteds are shaped like a diaper but still need a cover. They are one of the more expensive options so I wasn't planning on getting any but my mom and I were able to find some great bumgenius bamboo fitteds for 50% off since they were seconds. And the only reason they were seconds was because there is an extra tag!

They are supposed to be the best for the younger stage at holding everything in when it is more, uhm, flowy. Plus, the bamboo is really soft. They will use the same covers as the pre-folds.

Then I wanted a few one-sized pocket diapers. These are normally $17-20 a diaper but they can be used from ~8lbs up to toddler and work basically like a disposable except you wash them so they are handy for when you have a babysitter or grandparent who is confused by things that need to be folded or pinned/snappi-ed. I'm planning on using these for overnight since the pocket can be filled with extra absorbency pads (called doublers) and seem like they would be the quickest thing to try to use in the middle of the night when I'm barely coherent.
I'm now got two BumGenius ones and hope to get at least one from each of the other two brands I've heard great things about: Happy Heinies and Fuzzibunz.

I've also got this one as a gift.It's really neat but I'm not sure what to call it, it's not quite a pocket but it does have a snap-in liner and doubler so it's a complete diaper or I can use just the yellow wool part as an additional cover over pre-folds/fitted.

So that's my little but growing stash. As you can see, when I said before that I had finally decided what I wanted to use, I meant I didn't decide, I'm just going to go with them all! Once baby grows out of the smaller size pre-folds and covers, we will see what has worked best and go with that for the next size. I think the key to making cloth diapering work is being flexible and willing to try things to see what works best for us. (Well, that, and not going crazy and buying a lot more than we need.)


Black Beans Bonanza

To be honest, black beans are not my favorite bean. In fact, I used to get annoyed when Craig would use black beans instead of kidney beans in recipes. But I have come around with a few recipes.

Now canned black beans aren't that expensive but I normally like to use dry. Soak overnight in a big bowl with water and a tablespoon of lemon juice. In the morning, drain and rinse. I like to do mine in a crockpot all day, just add enough water to cover by about an inch and set to low. In about 6 hours, they should be done. Even if I only need a small amount, I make the whole bag and freeze the extra in 2 cup increments. 2 cups is about the same as a 15oz can which makes it easy to substitute in recipes. Now onto the recipes:

Beany-Cheesy Burritos - This is an adaption of a Sweet Potato Bean Burrito recipe from allrecipes. I've made some substitutions as well as altering the steps so that you can make the filling with only one pan. Sweet Potatoes sound like an odd thing to put in burritos but it works. This is one of Craig's favorites because it is tasty and really hearty for a veggie meal. It's one of my favorites because while there is a bit of prep work, it only takes about 45 minutes to make and it makes several meals worth (they freeze well)!

3-4 Sweet potatoes
1T oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups black beans (that is about a whole small bag cooked or 3 15 oz cans)
1 cup water
3 T chili powder
2 t cumin
4 T prepared mustard (the kind you put on hotdogs, not the spice)
Pinch cayenne
3 T soy sauce (naturally fermented is best)
12-16 Large Tortillas
8 oz cheddar cheese

Microwave the sweet potatoes until soft (or bake in the oven but I always forget to do this ahead of time and don't want to wait that long). Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet. If you don't have a fairly large skillet, you might want to use a pot since this makes a lot. Saute the onion and garlic until soft then add the beans and mash. It's easiest with a potato masher but I've used a wooden spoon before. Add the cup of water and stir in the spices, mustard and soy sauce.

By now the sweet potatos should be done. Peel and mash them. Then add to the bean mixture and stir to combine. If the bean mixture seems to be getting too dry, you can add more water. You want the mixture to be thick but you don't want it to burn :-) Continue heating until warm.

At this point, your sweet potato/bean mixture will look incredible gross and you will be worried.Don't panic, it doesn't look appetizing but it taste good. Now you just have to fill the burritos, top with cheese, roll up and bake/freeze. I can normally fill 14-16 9" burritos which is about 5 meals (They are pretty filling, I can normally only eat one but Craig can handle two).

To bake now, put them in a casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

I freeze them in ziploc bags then to bake after freezing, let them thaw overnight (or a few hours if I forget to take them out which I often do :-) then bake at 350 for about 15 minutes. You can also microwave them straight from the freezer but I think they taste better baked.

I serve topped with lots of lettuce, tomatos, salsa and sour cream. See how much better that looks.

Black Bean Salad/Dip - One of my standard potluck dishes mostly because it makes a lot more than the two of us can eat but unfortunately doesn't keep very long.

15oz/2cups black beans (if using canned, drain and rinse)
1.5 cups frozen corn
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
3 plum tomatos, chopped
1/2 c cilantro
2 T Lime juice (about 1 lime's worth)
1 T Olive oil
1/2 t sugar
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle cumin (optional)

Combine all ingredients and chill for several hours. Serve as side salad or with tortillas chips as a dip.

What about you, how do you fix black beans?


In the House

Now would be a pretty good time to buy a house, it would seem. Interest rates are low (probably not for long), the market is soft because of all those unemployed people, and there's that $8,000 tax credit. However, for me there's the small issue of a down payment. I'm old fashioned in that I think you should make one (of course, we were supposedly going to move away from the "zero money down" way of doing things after the mortgage mess occurred). So in some ways I feel like I'm missing out.

But then I saw this graph. Remember the Cash for Clunkers program, and how all it really did was encourage everyone who was thinking of buying a new car to do it a few months earlier, to get the bonus? This graph demonstrates that that's how it really worked out. Notice the spike in car sales, followed by the crash. The crash occurred after the C4C program ended.

There should be a similar effect for housing prices. The first graph I linked to shows you that home sales spiked right before the tax credit was supposed to expire (in November), then plummeted. The tax credit was extended to April 30. So what will likely happen is another spike in April, followed by another steep drop. If home sales stay down for awhile after the post-April drop, I should be able to hit the market without much competition and name my price. You too can profit from the perverse incentives created by government!

Besides, it's too soon for me to buy a house. I need to figure out where all the sketchy neighborhoods are in this town before I lock myself into an address.


Half way there!

As a Christian, I know spending time daily in God's word should be one of my top priorities but truthfully, I can't always say that it is. I go in cycles. I get immersed in a study or book of the bible and just as soon as I really start to see the fruit of allowing the Spirit to work in my life, I get distracted or break the habit. Then all of a sudden I realize it has been way to long since I spent time reading His word. It's a sad but true story.

This fall was particularly bad. I just let me daily devotional time slip away for months. So when I saw the 90 day challenge on other blogs, I was super excited. I really enjoyed the twice monthly bible memory challenge Beth Moore did last year, I think I do well with challenges. Maybe I have a more competitive spirit than I thought :-)

The 90 day challenge is a group of bloggers who are reading through the bible in 90 days, they started January 1st. Unfortunately, January was a bad month for me to start with the moving and what not, so I just started in February. I was a bit nervous I would start and then give up because, can you believe it... I've never read the whole bible! There, my secret is out. I know that is ridiculous because it's the book I base my entire life on, but while I've read the Genesis and the Gospels more times than I can count, I never seem to make it all the way through the book of Revelation, or really anywhere near Habakkuk or Nahum. I was really hoping that having the goal of completing it before Nigel arrives would inspire me to keep going.

There is an official bible you can buy, but I'm just using a bible I have along with their assignment chart. Mine is New Living Translation which is not normally my study bible but for this purpose I really like it. You start in Genesis and just keep reading until you finish. It seems like quite a bit of reading each day but it really only takes me 30-45 minutes and I'm getting so much out of it. Reading so quickly means you really get a feel for the whole story - and it's a good one! You don't have time to stop and ponder things but I'm keeping note of passages I want to go back to. I got behind when my mom was here but I've getting caught up again and a few days ago I passed the half way mark!

So about 40 days from now, you should be reading a post about how I finished! And if not, ask me about it. I need the accountability. And if you are looking for an intense but fulfilling bible reading task for the next few months, check it out.


List of Wishes

I've talked in generalities about the types of things I want and don't want to buy for our baby but when I mentioned cloth diapers last week, I realized I never have gotten into specifics. Mostly because I have been very indecisive. There are so many types of diapers and baby wraps and fun stuff that while I knew I didn't want a whole lot of stuff, I couldn't pick what I did want! I'd decide and then the next week change my mind. But I've pretty much settled on everything and I can't change it too much since I'm about to make the registry public.

Which brings us to the baby registry. I think it's a fairly new concept, but one that has become pretty popular. I'm not sure how Miss Manners feels about them but overall, I think I like the idea.

They do have their negatives. For one, it's a bit awkward to make one because it seems like you're saying "Hey, you, buy me stuff. And not just any stuff, buy this exact stuff that I've already picked out!." Nobody owes us a present and while as a new mom, I've done a lot of research on what I think I want and don't want, if a experienced mom wants to enlighten me with a gift that I wouldn't have thought of, I'm all for that too. Some of my favorite wedding gifts, like my Willow Tree Nativity set, were non-registry items that I wouldn't ever have thought to list.

But they can be nice too. When someone else has a baby or gets married, I like to use their registry. It makes it easy on me. And a lot of the things we want to use are odd and it would be hard for someone not familiar with them to try and figure them out (diapers!). So after wavering, we decided to make one. You can check it out on the sidebar. This way our parents can easily send people to it without having to remember anything.

We decided to go with the website Wishlist.com. I had never heard of it before but it's pretty neat. You can add all sorts of items from different websites and stores unlike the most popular registries like Babies R Us and Target, but it should still be easy for our out-of-state family to track them down, which wouldn't be the case if we went with a smaller boutique. Another plus is that you don't have to rely on the store to scan something and update the website. The gift giver just puts it on reserve and after they buy it, changes the reserved status to bought status. This means if they find the same item on another site or want to go buy it at store and mail it themselves, they can. Another cool perk of this registry is that you can rank items, meaning you can put that cute but not totally necessary wooden mouse toy or the Rush Baby on Board sign (yes, that was a Craig pick :-) on the registry without feeling bad because you ranked it below the more necessary items like diaper covers and receiving blankets.

There is a downside though, because you aren't ordering it directly from the registry's site, there is no way for it to automatically put in our mailing address. In theory everyone who will be getting you a gift should know where you live but I was still a tad annoyed at first since we just moved and I felt like it would annoy people to have to ask our address. But the birth announcement will have our new address and I guess you can't have everything.

So to summarize: Wishlist.com is neat. Check out Nigel's Wishlist here. And stay tuned for an update on baby things we think are cool.


What a week!

I've been busy this week. My mom arrived Monday afternoon so Tuesday we headed into the big city for some fun.

We started off at the Art Museum. At first we couldn't find parking which seemed very odd for 10am on a Tuesday morning but we quickly realized that it was spring break week and both the Art Museum and the zoo, which was right next door, were free. That's the problem with free activities - lots of people go to them. Luckily, most of the people parking at the museum seemed to be heading to the zoo so the museum wasn't that crowded at all. The good thing about free activities, besides the no cost part, is that you don't ever feel like you have to see everything. I think the "conquering the museum/zoo/disney world" phenomenon is more common in men than women but even I feel compelled to get my money's worth at the expense of enjoyment sometimes. But since it was free, we didn't have a problem just going in and seeing the highlights - for us that was the older European art and the period rooms. After seeing a few Madonna and child's, a Monet and a Renoir and we were happy to be on our way again.

Next stop was a little London style tea room and cafe that I had heard good things about. I think it lived up to it's reputation - the panini was good, the tea was good, the cake was delicious! I am now in search of the perfect lemon/blueberry cake recipe! Let me know if you have one.

After our diabetes inducing cake, we headed to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. My mom had never been there and wanted to check it out plus Trader Joe's is my favorite source of peanut butter and I need to stock up. Theirs is so tasty and creamy plus it is just peanuts and salt, I hate it when a brand says natural but has added sugar! I do realize that the cake probably contained the same amount of sugar as 6 jars of non-natural peanut butter but let's just ignore the hypocrisy of that okay?

By then, we were both getting a bit tired and I thought about skipping our last stop but knew we would regret it so on the way home I dragged us to my favorite baby boutique to look at all the clothes and wraps, slings and diapers. My mom had been supportive of cloth diapering but I think she secretly harbored some doubts until she saw them in person. You just can't help but be sucked into their cuteness. I dare you to try! She got my stash off to a nice start with a couple one-size pockets, some fitteds and a couple covers. Thanks Mom!

Wednesday we were going to try making orange marmalade but we had trouble tracking down the right oranges so instead we shopped a bit more, checking out Target, Kohls and a shoe store. I didn't find any decent maternity t-shirts like I was hoping to but we both decided that maternity or not, this year's styles are not good. What is with the return to the 6os? The tags can say it's a young and modern line if you want to but they can't fool me, I know where orange, pink and brown paisley originated and even I am not hippy enough to want to wear that! The trip wasn't a total waste though since I did get a pair of slip-on shoes which I had needed desperately. Tying my shoes is becoming a workout.

The rest of our time was spent talking, drinking tea/coffee and talking some more. We come from a very talkative family! Thursday she headed home and I had to get back to my normal routine :-( But the next time she comes she should be a grandma!


I'm not sure that is any better

They say your hair and skin are supposed to be wonderful during your pregnancy.

Well, they lie.

My hair has been awful. One day it is dry and frizzy, the next it looks like I poured a bucket of oil on my head. I had been growing it out. I didn't really like it but was afraid to cut it since I was so unsure of how it would act. At least I was able stick it in a ponytail.

But I finally made a decision and got it cut. I actually cut almost 5 inches off. It wasn't a total gamble since I went back to the style I had in college. Craig and I joke that is is my "thanks" haircut since I got it over Christmas break one year when we were friends. When he came to pick me up and drive me back to school after the break, we had the following conversation:

Craig: You got your hair cut.
MacKenzie: Thanks for noticing.
Craig: I didn't say I liked it.
MacKenzie: Oh.

It should now be obvious to you all why I fell in love with him and his smooth talking :-) To be fair, he insists that I didn't say the "for noticing" part while I insist that I did. For arguments (or should that be non-arguments sake), let's say I didn't say that part/he didn't hear that part. I still think that he was implying he didn't like my hair and he might have been able to come up with something nicer to say.

Anyway, we still joke about that conversation so of course when he first sees me, knowing I was getting this cut again, he says "Oh, you got your hair cut" but this time I actually ask him if he likes it. His reply "It looks like mom hair."

I give him a look and he quickly clarifies by saying "it's not a bad thing... not like mom jeans mom hair...like a cute mom, cause you are a cute mom"... and I stop him there since I do know what he means. I've always looked young for my age and when my hair is long, I look even younger. I've even been asked if I was married and if I was old enough to have a baby. What is the proper reply to that question? With shorter hair, I finally look like I could be a non-teenage mom. So Craig's statement was supposed to be a compliment and I choose to take it that way.

But just in case we end up having a girl, I think we need to start working on the proper things to say to a female about her hair before we have to go through any hysterical episodes brought on by a father's lack of hair compassion. The only proper thing to say a women who has just gotten a hair cut: "Your hair looks great!"


Who Are You (who who, who who)?

My hobbies are activities that the average person probably doesn't find exciting (this fact goes hand in hand with my trend avoidance). Two examples of this are curling, which I discussed during the recent Olympics, and genealogy. Since they're not that popular, one wouldn't expect to see them on TV much. Curling, for instance, got relegated to CNBC during the Games.

For this reason, I was kind of surprised to see a genealogy show come to NBC. It's called Who Do You Think You Are? Of course, it airs at 7 Central on Friday night, a time slot that popular shows generally avoid, since it is said that people go partying that night (people that are not me). On each episode, a celebrity is assisted in researching his/her family history, including travels to locations relevant to the family tree. It's kind of a commercial for ancestry.com, too, as some of the research that takes place on the show happens on that website (of course, if you want to get serious about genealogy, you need to utilize that resource, whether they pay you to or not).

Two episodes have aired so far, and I have enjoyed them, even though they could hardly have found celebrities I like less to feature. Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon, and Spike Lee are the three egregious ones. Only if there were episodes featuring Alec Baldwin, Charlie Sheen, or any rapper would I be less enthused. But the reason this doesn't bother me is because it's not really about them; it's about their ancestors and their stories. Lisa Kudrow, the show's producer, could have done this show featuring random people off the street, and it still would have been interesting to me, although it surely would have drawn fewer viewers.

The stories so far have intersected well with US history. Parker had a relative involved in the Salem witch hysteria, and Emmitt Smith (late of the Dallas Cowboys) had slave ancestors. If you dig enough into any family tree, you are going to find such stories. You just have to head down each branch until you find them. I'm sure the upcoming episodes will also contain great historical happenings.

Not only is this show interesting, but it has a great online contest accompanying it. The grand prize is as follows:
Prizes: ONE (1) GRAND PRIZE: $20,000 USD and six (6) World Deluxe annual subscriptions for Ancestry.com (for winner and five (5) family members), an eight (8) hour consultation with an expert genealogist, and a consultation with five (5) local experts (one (1) hour with each expert). Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”): $23,094 USD.
They describe the cash prize as travel money for a trip to your family's homeland, although what you see above doesn't specify what it's for. That's what I would spend it on, though: a trip to Norway. I want to win this contest, so please don't enter it (in fact, I should probably remove the link to it).

If you're home on Friday night, I would recommend this show. Maybe it will even spark an interest in researching your own family history.


A week in review

I feel like I just put the blog on automatic pilot last week, I was so busy.

Tuesday was my first MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting. I had emailed to find out information about when and where they meet but wasn't expecting them to be so prepared for me - I already had a name tag and table assignment when I got there. I felt very welcomed and had a great time meeting my fellow table mates, learning some cake decorating skills, and working on a crafty service project for military families.

Thursday was a fun Bradley class where we were able to meet the previous class and their new babies. They told us their birth stories and we were delighted to meet someone who had delivered with our midwife. They had a great experience with her which was good to hear.

Friday was Craig's day off but it didn't really feel like it. He had a bunch of errands and then we toured our backup hospital. It wasn't strictly necessary but we wanted to know where to go in case we need to. If that happens we will be stressed out enough as it is and we don't want to make it harder on ourselves.

When we got to the hospital, we asked the information desk man where labor and delivery was and he freaked out for a second then cautiously asked if we were wanting to visit someone. I think he might have thought I was in labor but after we reassured him that we were just there to take a tour, he calmed right down.

After the hospital tour I was craving a milkshake so we stopped by Steak & Shake for happy hour. I really enjoyed my mint cookies and cream shake and when I was looking up the protein information online for my nutrition journal, I was delighted to find out it contained 22 grams of protein (I'm supposed to have 100 g/day) but was a little less delighted to see it also contained 1000 calories. Yikes, I don't think I'll be having to many more of those!

Saturday was La Leche League. It was my second time going although this time most of the questions were about working and pumping so I didn't find it as informative. I have to say hats off to you moms who pump; just hearing all the things you have to deal with wore me out. I think it is so awesome you are willing to do that for your babies. Even though I didn't get as much practical information as last time, I still enjoy the experience of hearing stories and growing more familiar with how everything works plus if/when I need help, it will be nice to know who I can turn to. And it is held at a fabulous cloth diaper store and I can always use a good excuse to spend some time looking around there.

That was last week, this week should be fairly busy as well since my mom is coming to visit for a few days while the boys (my younger brother and dad) are off traveling for spring break. I'm not sure what we will be doing but it will probably involve lots of eating, tea drinking and shopping.


Taking Stock of the Census

I have torn feelings about the Census, which will be conducted in the upcoming weeks. As a genealogist, I view the Census as a great resource that allows me to track my ancestors through the years, identify family members, and learn some basic information about their lives. Here's an example from Wisconsin in 1870 (click to expand):

Families #426 and #428 are related to me. The fact that these families are on the same Census page means they lived near each other. Eleven years after this census was taken, the man in line #14 married the woman in line #24; they later had a child who was my great-grandfather. I've seen this several times in my family: kids grow up near each other and eventually get married. This isn't too surprising, because many people back then didn't venture too far from where they were born. They were likely to find marriage partners in their hometown. It's still interesting to see them on the same Census page, though. It's neat to think that someday my descendants will be able to look me up in the Census.

As one who will be enumerated by the Census this year, I am not so enthused. For one, every commercial I see for the Census seems to be based on the theme of "make sure you get your fair share of government largess." The purpose of the Census was to levy taxes and determine the proper number of Congressional representatives, not to hand out money. Plus, is there really that big of a correlation between the Census and appropriation? It seems like powerful Congressmen and Senators, whether they be from Alaska, West Virginia, or New York, are able to get much more than their states' "fair" share of federal dollars.

Second is the evidence of the government's excessive interest in race that is given on the Census. It takes not one, but two questions on the 2010 form to satisfy government curiosity about your race and ethnicity. Here's their justification for this:
Race is key to implementing many federal laws and is needed to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State governments use the data to determine congressional, state and local voting districts. Race data are also used to assess fairness of employment practices, to monitor racial disparities in characteristics such as health and education and to plan and obtain funds for public services.
When I think about the Voting Rights Act, I think of banning literacy tests and other blatant discrimination in voting. However, today this law is used to control Southern elections via preclearance long after the Jim Crow era ended, gerrymander to create majority-minority districts (because only blacks can represent blacks, only Hispanics can represent Hispanics, etc.), and require multilingual ballots.

The above paragraph also mentions "racial disparities in...education." On that note, consider this Wall Street Journal story:
The Obama administration plans to crack down on civil-rights infractions in school districts and university systems, including alleged disparities in the disciplining of white and black students.
Like what?
"African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers," Mr. Duncan plans to point out in his speech.
Is this because schools are racist? I am skeptical. Where might this policy lead? NRO explains:
The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.
Not good. In response to this kind of thinking in the US, there are some on the conservative side suggesting a write-in answer for the race questions on the Census:
We should answer Question 9 by checking the last option — "Some other race" — and writing in "American." It's a truthful answer but at the same time is a way for ordinary citizens to express their rejection of unconstitutional racial classification schemes. In fact, "American" was the plurality ancestry selection for respondents to the 2000 census in four states and several hundred counties.

So remember: Question 9 — "Some other race" — "American". Pass it on.

I'm not sure if I'll do that or not. I don't know what kind of follow-up harassment I would receive for such a move. I could also try to leave that part blank. I'll have to think about it.

Do you have any strong feelings about the Census?


Third Trimester!

Ah, the third and final trimester has arrived! When I think about the time left until little Nigel's arrival in weeks (9-13) it seems really soon. Then I think about the time left in months (~3) and it seems like forever! How can I possibly be expected to remain pregnant for three more months?

Physically, all is going well. Another belly shot has been requested so here it is:
I actually don't think I look that big considering I've gained about 22 lbs and am measuring three weeks ahead, fundal wise. Maybe it is because I have a long torso so the baby is spread out...or maybe I'm just delusional and am really the size of whale but don't realize it.

But just because I don't think I look that big, that doesn't mean I don't think baby is big, oh no, I did not need the midwife's measuring tape to tell me that Nigel has definitely had a growth spurt recently. And his/her head is down already! Of course, if Nigel really wants to be born breech, there is still time and space for more flippage to occur but in general, it's a good sign. But that good sign also means that feet and ribs/lungs tend to occupy the same space sometimes, leaving me with the feeling that I can't breathe. When I calmly relate this to Craig he doesn't really know what to say seeing as how I am normally sitting next to him breathing and not turning blue at the time but he tries to hide his skepticism and appear sympathetic.

I'm definitely feeling the aches and pains of the third trimester already too. Mostly hip pains. The best way for me to sleep without excruciating hip pains is sitting upright with my legs straight in front of me. Unfortunately this often leads to neck pains from being slumped over or a general inability to sleep since I have grown accustomed to sleeping while lying down these last 25 years. So I try to sleep on my side but will inevitable wake up on my back, which is expressly forbidden, then panic that I am depriving my baby of oxygen. Worrying is also not good for sleeping so basically, I'm not sleeping. But my 2-3 hours of napping during the day helps make up for that.

Craig is a fan of my napping too. He often calls me on his way home from work to see if I had a good day and got a good nap. He does this under the guise of letting me know he is on his way but I think he has noticed a correlation between napping and grumpiness and is really trying to gauge my emotions - will I greet him with a kiss and a smile or a evil death glare when he arrives home and asks how I'm feeling? 4 out of 5 afternoons I can give him the thumbs up so I'd say I'm doing good.

I've had an increase in pregnancy brain incidents. I left my keys in the ignition, locked the car and went grocery shopping. It wasn't until I was back at the car with a cart full of groceries that I realized what I had done. It's lucky that we have AAA, and that I didn't buy that ice cream that was on sale.

I sat down on the curb and waited for the AAA man. I was starting to get really hungry and couldn't imagine having to wait 20 more minutes before he arrived home and I could go get lunch when I realized that I had food with me! I felt better after I ate a granola bar :-)

That same grocery trip, I forgot to take the tomatoes out of front of my cart ( I had put them up by my purse so they didn't get smooshed) so even after the AAA guy came and unlocked the car, I had to go back into the grocery store to pay for them. After paying for them at the self-checkout, I almost walked away without the change from my twenty dollar bill - it was a long day.

I took a shower and mid-scrub remembered that my hands contained shampoo and not body wash. This wasn't a big deal but less than 30 seconds later, I proceeded to put a big glob of body wash in my hair. Shampoo washes off skin pretty easily, body wash with exfoliating beads does not come out of hair easily.

I have also had a few panicky moments. Like when I insisted late one night that we needed to order a car seat immediately (Craig talked me out of that) or when I completely freaked out because I couldn't remember the words to any lullabies and how was I supposed to take care of a baby if I didn't know any lullabies? (Craig tried to talk me down from that too by suggesting other less-than-appropriate songs I could sing to the baby instead but I did not find it amusing at the time). These have been few and far between but seem to be increasing in frequency so who knows what's next.


Oh the people you'll see

Thursday is my errand day. It used to be Tuesday until I learned about No Coupon Thursday. At first I thought that meant you couldn't use coupons on Thursday which would be one of the worst grocery store advertising ideas every but no, it actually means that you don't need to use coupons. If you spend $50 you automatically get $10 off your order, although you are still welcome to use coupons if you wish. So now I run errands and go grocery shopping on Thursdays.

My other weekly errands include a stop at the library and local rec center. They are in the same building so it makes it easy to drop off my books, go walk around the track, then pick up more books on the way out.

I have to walk daily for the Bradley class and most days I just walk around the neighborhood thinking about how it is cold and I wish I was inside but on errand day I am nice and comfortable so I can push myself to go longer and faster. I can actually see an improvement as I can now go for quite a while without collapsing. Although to be fair, the people I am comparing myself to might be skewing my perspective.

You see, between the library and rec parts of the building is the "senior center" which is really a couple of rooms that seniors can hang out in and play poker, bingo and put together puzzles. It also means the library probably had pretty good attendance at their Wii for Seniors event yesterday. Oh, and they get snacks. Last week was chocolate pudding day and I'm not ashamed to admit it, I was jealous. But I'm getting off "track" (oh I just crack myself up!).

The point is that the track's proximity to the senior rooms means that the average age of the track users is probably a good 30-40 years above mine. Now there are three lanes: slow walk, fast walk, and the running lane. The signage seems to indicate that they are pretty strict with lane usage so I stick with the middle lane although I feel bad because I end up passing the "runners" quite frequently. But hey, I can only hope that I am up to running around a track when I'm in my 60s, no matter how slow that run may be.

Since I've been going for a few weeks now, I've kinda gotten to "know" a few of the regulars. And by "know" of course I mean I have made up nicknames and personas for them while not having actually spoken to any of them. In no particular order we have:

The General: I don't like to use military stereotypes that often because I know a lot of officers, my father included, that don't really fit that idea, but this guy has got to be a retired Marine. He wears khaki pants, dark turtlenecks and a emblem cap that he obviously would never consider curving the bill of. Quite tall and with short white hair, he marches (yes, it is definitely more of a march than a walk) around the track very deliberately and to be honest, he scares me a little.

The Music-loving Church Lady: She wears long skirts, hose, and white Reeboks. Her hair is up in a bun but she wears gigantic headphones and carries a CD player. I really want to know what she is listening to, but if I had to guess I would say hymns.

The Gossips: A pair of older ladies who walk side by side and talk about all the latest "news." I'm pretty sure they are there for the company more than the exercise. They walk very slowly so I pass by them quickly which is unfortunate as last week I was very interested to know exactly what was going on with Carl and his secretary.

Uncle Phil - His hair is crazy. He wears short shorts and long athletic socks, I'm talking up to his knees. He also wears one of those little fabric drawstring backpacks which must contain something important in it as the track has hooks on the side for bags and jackets which everyone else uses but not him. He's very talkative and last time managed to spend a good 15 minutes talking to another walker about Argentina. The fact that I could tell he was talking about Argentina even when I was on the other side of track should illustrate how energetic his conversing is.

Mr. Harley - One of the few others in the under-60 crowd, he is probably in his mid-40s. He wears leather fingerless gloves and a skull or Harley-Davidson bandana on his head while sporting a pink goatee. He also keeps his keys hooked to his pants so he jingles a lot while he walks. It annoying but I'm not gonna say anything. He obviously has an image to uphold although I'm not quite sure who he is trying to impress.

I kinda wonder what all of them are thinking about me: The pregnant one, the waddler, the one who can't seem to figure out her iPod and spends the first 15 minutes of her work-out trying to adjust the volume on it? I doubt I'll ever know for sure.


Trend Avoidance

We don't think of ourselves as trendy people. We don't watch American Idol, see Avatar, or buy iPhones. In fact, the more something becomes trendy, the less interested in it we often are. Of course, we're generally just not very interested in these type of things to begin with. Rush Limbaugh often states, wisely, I think, that when you see a media consensus forming, you should run the other way. That pertains to subjects as varied as "the Colts will easily win the Super Bowl" or "eggs are bad for you." We can be like that with trends.

For this reason, MacKenzie let out a cry of agony (maybe literally, maybe figuratively) when she saw this story in the paper over the weekend. It states that "owls are everywhere this season." Most aggravating is this example:
One of the stars from Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City," Kelly Killoren Bensimon, tinkered with the owl craze last year. She designed owl pendants decorated with Swarovski crystals.
(As you might guess, we don't watch that show.) Owls, of course, are MacKenzie's nursery theme. Of course, it could be that owls caught her eye because they're popular now. But we don't want to do what everyone else is doing. If she had seen this article before seeing owls everywhere, she might have gone with something else.

Another baby-related area where we fear trends is in baby names. We keep an eye on lists like this when weighing post-fetal names for Nigel. This is a more practical example of trend avoidance, though. We don't want several other kids to have the same name as our child. That creates difficulties in places where kids congregate. "Hey Bill! Oh no, not you, the other Bill."

We are not willing, however, to go to extremes to avoid this. We will not be selecting a "unique" name like Lemonjello or Bracken. Our avoidance of trends only goes so far, unless you consider odd kid names to be a trend of its own.


MSM: Wooly Wonders

I am totally enamored with wool right now. I've actually been into wool for a while but haven't been able to do much with felting without a washer. Now that I've got one and I'm up and going, I'm having a blast.

My first felting project was a wool puddle pad. Wool puddle pads are supposed to be great as mattress covers because wool is water resistant, especially once lanolized, but unlike most waterproof mattress covers they don't smell like plastic and aren't hot, sticky, and crunchy. I'd found some awesome ones online but they are pricey. The cheapest I’ve found online was ~$45 and I knew I needed more than one so I thought I would try and make my own.

I got a extra large wool sweater from a thrift store and felted it. Then I cut out the biggest pieces I could.

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I was a little worried about piecing it since I didn't want a bumpy seam that would be irritating to lay on but I butted the pieces together and used the widest zig-zag stitch my machine has, then flipped it over and sewed on the other side as well. It worked pretty well and you can't really feel the seams at all under the sheet. It took a bit of piecing to get the right size but I tried to keep most of the seams towards the edges since those will be the most likely leak places. I also used a polyester thread since cotton would allow more wicking.

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Here it is on the co-sleeper. It’s a few inches smaller but that is for two reasons. The first is that I ran out of sweater. The second is that I’ve heard once you wash the sheets they are very tight and it is hard to get them over a pad. I thought a few less inches would help me ease it on and shouldn’t be a problem unless the baby scoots over to the edge and pees directly in the corner.

Some of the reviews for the co-sleeper complained that the mattress wasn’t very soft but it is supposed to be hard for safety reasons. This pad is comfortable and thick but not too soft that I would be worried. And while it isn’t the prettiest thing, it’s covered by the sheet and cost about $42 less.

I still want one of these nice ones for our bed for the inevitable leaks that both baby and I will have their since it will be bigger and thinner. I plan to keep it on top of our sheets at night, covered with a receiving blanket. I can also use it during the day for on the floor use so I think it will be worth the extra money but I’m glad I only need one now.

Another felting project was a wrap up of one of the first things I ever knitted - a baby ball. The knitting was pretty simply, even for me. Fallon has even typed up the pattern here. Then I felted it. I was worried about over felting and the pattern said to felt just until you could no longer see through the stitches when you held it up to the light which is what I did but I wish I had felted it a bit more. There is still quite a bit of stitch integrity. I stuffed it using the leftover bits of the wool sweater from above

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and a bell cage type cat toy

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before stitching the last end closed. Ironically, Zeeba does not like that type of cat toy, but she really loves this ball. I hope Nigel does too.

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Be sure to visit the original Make Something Monday at Putting Down Roots. She has an another recycling project and it looks like a lot of fun. I've been thinking we need a new remote basket, this might be just the thing!

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Notes from the kitchen

After spending months avoiding it like the plague, I'm finally able to venture back into one my favorite rooms - the kitchen. Mostly I'm getting back into the routine of menu planning, cooking and culturing but I have also learned a few things:

1) Equipment does make a difference.

I have always been frustrated with my chopping skills. I seem to do it just like they do on tv but mine end us a mashy mess. I kept thinking I would improve over time but didn't really seem to. But then this Christmas we were given a few nice knives. Wow does that make a difference. I'm a chopping fool now. And my self esteem is through the roof!

Also, my bread has improved since the move. I couldn't really figure it out until I made granola. When I first posted my recipe, it used to take about 2 hours to be done, then at my last place I noticed it was down to an hour and a half. This time I stirred it at about 40 minutes and noticed it was pretty close to being done. I then promptly forgot about it and by an hour it was burnt! Apparently this oven is a lot stronger than my last ones. (Or more accurately, my old oven was weak and on it's last leg). I'm excited about my more functional oven as it means more consistent cook times and a nicer crust on my bread, as long as I remember to adjust my recipes accordingly.

2) Pregnancy is not good for cultures.

Both my yogurt and water kefir cultures did not survive the first trimester. I had half of my dried yogurt culture saved so I didn't think it would be a problem to start that up again but it must have been too old. When I try to culture it, all I got was a yogurt smelling milk. It's not totally dead but I don't think it is strong enough to work.

I was worried about my kefir grains. Once they were going well, I had tried drying some of my set just in case I ever killed them accidentally but wasn't really sure of my technique. Last week I tried to revive them. I thought they were working as they seemed to plump up. But after 48 hrs the water was still just sugar water with a layer of kefir on the bottom.

Overall it isn't a big deal. I still have all the supplies and I am comfortable with the routine so I'll think I'll buy new starters and make sure I show Craig how to do it before the baby comes. I've also learned a few tricks about keeping some frozen in case you ever have accidents and need to start over. Obviously that wouldn't have worked with moving but it will be a nice backup when the baby arrives. I could wait to restart them until this summer after we find a new routine but I miss them. I knew the theoretically benefits and liked the taste of both the yogurt and kefir so I kept it up but I didn't really think I noticed a change myself. But now after not being on them for a while, Craig and I both agree that we do feel better with more probiotics in us. And since Nigel will be getting his initial flora from me, I want to make sure I'm in good shape before the arrival.

3) Trying new recipes is fun, except when it's not.

I've been having a lot of fun trying new recipes. I've found some keepers like Owlhaven's Panda style orange chicken (totally delicious and while not completely healthy, I'm sure it is way better than the original) , Pioneer Women's Comfort Meatballs (If you don't have her cookbook, I feel sorry for you but luckily this one is also on her website), and Cheeseslave's Healthy Banana Bread (I though my banana bread recipe was good but these are even better, I think it's the maple syrup. I made a batch as muffins as a treat "for Craig" but then ate 5 before he got home.)

I've also had some misses, a pinto bean casserole with a crust that was more like a layer of asphalt than cornbread and a potato corn chowder that unfortunately made several meals worth. The worst thing about the misses is that they came during Craig's crazy work schedule time when I couldn't go to the store so we kept having to eat the leftovers. We didn't even have enough bread or I would have resorted to pb&js. Only the thought of starving children in Asia enabled me to get through it.


Books of February

One of the great joys of moving is access to a new library system with all of it's new books, especially now that I have time to enjoy them. I'm lucky here, the library itself is pretty good and is connected to two other good libraries. I'm a happy camper in the book department.

I still don't have as much time to read as I would like because we have three required reading books from Bradley classes in addition to the articles and student workbook homework but I think I did pretty good considering.

Last Child in the Woods. Richard Louv.

I had heard great things about this book but was disappointed. I agree with his initial premise of the problems that occur when children are isolated from nature but found myself wanting to disagree with him out of spite just because I disliked the second half of the book so much. It was disorganized and repetitive and I really couldn't figure out exactly what he thought the solution was. It was a little bit depressing actually since he didn't seem to think parents, schools or communities could do anything to fix the problem despite the fact that his main evidence in the books seems to be anecdotal evidence showing that they can.

Montessori from the Start. Paula Lillard and Lynn Jesson.

I didn't know much about Montessori until I ran across Sew Liberated a few weeks ago. Meg is a Montessori teacher and new mom and I loved so many of her ideas on how to incorporate Montessori ideas into a baby's environment. This was the one of the only books our library had on Montessori so I snatched it up. It was interesting. Before reading this book I thought about 1/3 of Montessori ideas were awesome , 1/3 were interesting but I didn't have any desire to do them myself and 1/3 were just bad. Those numbers still stand after reading it but what falls into each category is different. It was lacking in practical ideas, I strongly disliked the sections on sleep and the breastfeeding chapter was very outdated but having read some more from other sources, it seems like a lot of other Montessori followers feel the same way about this book and isn't necessarily a reflection on the method, just the book. Even with those negatives though, I did really like a lot of the principles in it, you will just need to be a good shifter to get to the good stuff. I am still very interested in learning more about Montessori and I'm sure I will be talking more about Montessori in the future but I don't think this was the best book to read to learn more about it.

Sane Women's Guide to Raising a Large Family. Mary Ostyn.

I love reading Mary's writing over at Owlhaven and after trying a recipe of hers that we loved, went looking for her cookbook. Alas, our library doesn't have it but it did have this so despite my not having a large family to raise right now, I gave it a try. I'm glad I did because it had a lot of really practical advice even for a new mom like me. I realized that while we may only have one of the way, I want to organize my life in a way that makes adding future children easier. Why set yourself up with a lifestyle that will work with one or two kids but not four or more if you know you want to end up with a lot of kids? I was very convicted about several things. She covers a lot of ground from deciding to expand your family (and what to do if you don't agree) to money, chores and even organized sports and explains how they manage things and why they do so while never sounding judgemental or like her way is the only way.

Ironically, she also mentioned some Montessori ideas but set up in a much more family friendly way. Montessori from the start would want you to teach your child to clean potatoes at a potato cleaning station complete with an expensive child sized table and chair, clear glass bowls and a child sized cleaning device to be used only for potato cleaning while Mary says to get those kids involved by putting them on a chair in front of the sink with a bunch of potatoes and a scrubber while you are cooking dinner. I like her idea better.

Thinking Women's Guide to a Better Birth.

Our Bradley instructor has a great library of books so I've been taking out another Birth/Baby book every week. This was one she recommend to start your birth plan research with and it's is good if you want more extensive information about specific procedures. It is organized into chapters by procedure so you can skip to what is relevant to your situation. It strongly leans towards natural birth though and is very "biased" in the sense that while she gives the pros and cons to each procedure, she also doesn't feel the need to validate options that she feels aren't worthwhile. She tells you where she is coming from at the beginning though and gives you the studies to back her point of view in each section and the quite large appendix though so I didn't have a problem with that.

The Birth Book. Dr. Sears.

A great overall birth book. I wish I had started with this but by the time I read it, I had already read so many others that a lot of it was old news. I think it would be a good gift for a newly pregnant women. Too many of the others books I read were a little intense and picture heavy for me, now I'm used to it and it doesn't' phase me but this would be a good way to ease yourself into the idea of giving birth.

The Vaccine Dilemma. Christine Murphy.

Another bradley teacher loan book. This one wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It's not a book about the pros and cons of vaccines or even a guide to avoiding or delaying vaccines but more of a compilation of essays talking about the immune system overall and how vaccines might impact it's development. The second half then focuses on how to handle childhood illnesses if you go the non-vaccine route. It was a bit weird at times but did offer an unique perspective. I also found the explanation of viruses and the immune system a bit simplified but then again, I've worked with viruses for a while so I have a bit more knowledge of them than the book's intended audience. It was interesting for what it was but I really want to read a book with more comprehensive information about individual vaccines and diseases before we make any decisions. I think I'll try to track down The Vaccine Book. I've heard its one of the few middle of the road books that just presents information without saying either all vaccines are bad or all vaccines are good.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

Yes, I did read some fiction this month. It took me a little while to get into the story but once I did, I quite enjoyed myself. This is a murder mystery book for non-murder mystery type readers as it is really more about eleven year old chemistry-loving super sleuth Flavia de Luce living in 1950s England than the murder. Cleverly funny and delightful. I can't wait to get the sequel.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
. Mary Ann Shafer.

I was a bit annoyed when I noticed it was an epistolary novel since I tend to dislike them but within a few pages I had forgotten all about that. I felt like I could just go back to the 1940s and live on Guernsey Island and be right at home just like Julia did. I'm still amazed that it managed to be both light and fun while not diminishing the hardships of WWII but somehow it did.

Murder in Chinatown and Murder on Bank Street. Victoria Thompson.

I was finally able to continue with the gaslight series! Having read all the ones our old library had (and not in anything close to the correct order :-) I was quite excited to see there were more here although it took me a while to find them. Apparently our new library keeps it's mystery stories in a separate section but does not tell you that on the card catalog so I was very confused as to why it kept telling me that books were checked in but I could not find them anywhere. Now I know. I still have a few more to go before I've exhausted them but that makes me happy. One of my favorite easy reading series.


The Show Before "The Today Show"

That's what I was on on Friday morning. Throughout the Olympics, the local station did cute little segments in which they had people come on to demonstrate the sports of the Winter Games. Through my association with a group trying to form a curling club here, I got to participate in the curling demonstration. This required me to get up at 3:20 am and spend the pre-dawn hours on an outdoor ice rink. The things I do for the love of the game. But I got to meet some other curling enthusiasts and club participants. Here's a clip from our segment. You can see me at the end.


Post-Olympic Observations

  1. Even though I was ready for them to be done, I always miss the Olympics for a day or two after they end. It's like at Christmas when I was young, and family members would come over, then they'd all leave. The competitions, the stories, and even the "Canadiana" (as Bob Costas called it) were a constant companion, and then they disappear. You'd think that at least the Today Show would hang around one more morning, to help ease us into the non-Olympic season, but no, they were back in New York (at least during the 3 minutes I saw of the show yesterday).
  2. As far as I can tell, every sport got some prime-time attention from NBC - except curling. Now, I realize most people don't consider curling to be a barnburner, and I realize it was on the cable stations every day, but I still think the wider national audience should have been given a taste of the sport. It's no less boring than the bobsled, and that was all over prime time. On Friday, the last end of the mens' gold medal match started just as NBC's prime time coverage began. They could have cut in for the last few shots. If you didn't get to see any curling, here are some highlights from the womens' gold medal match.
  3. NBC really rode Lindsey Vonn, even after she "only" won medals in two of her five events. I figured they would tone down the coverage of her a bit since she didn't medal in three events, but they did not. During the closing ceremonies, they cut a shot of her every five minutes. It was excessive, and it seemed like they wanted to prove that their pre-Games anointment of her as a star was correct.
  4. I kind of like hockey, but I'm not a huge follower. I watched the mens' gold medal game, and I can see how it could help the sport among the general population. It made me want to go see an NHL game. I probably won't, but I at least considered it, and I'm sure many others will actually take that step.
  5. Three of the last four Olympics (Vancouver, Beijing, and Athens) too place at or near a time when I moved to a new place. The Games are kind of associated in my mind with relocation. That being the case, though, I hope I'm still here when the London Games roll around.


MSM: A tree for Nigel

Once I saw this Fabric on the Walls Tutorial over at Infarrantly Creative, I knew I wanted to do that instead of buying a mural. That way I could get the perfect mix of whimsy and realism that we wanted.

She has pretty good directions but I documented our process anyway because, well, I'm a blogger and that's what we do.

I started by cutting out a tree shape with newspaper. I thought it was going to take me a long time to get something good but it wasn’t that hard at all. I taped it to the wall to see if I liked the size and I did.

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Then I went fabric shopping and found this awesome mottled brown. I used 1.75 yards of the brown which may seem like a random amount but that was all Hobby Lobby had left. Luckily it turned out to be enough but I did have to divide the tree into three parts to get it all on there. The seams didn’t show later so it wasn’t a big deal.

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I used the newspaper as the pattern but I did make a few changes. I noticed that the thinner branches looked a little less scary than some of my bigger branches. I wanted this to be a friendly tree not a creepy shadowy tree like you have nightmares over.

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Then I used a little roller to wet the wall with liquid starch and stick my fabric up there. It doesn’t take much liquid starch at all to get a good stick. You might notice that I had to make some more changes here since the third branch ran into the vent. At this point I wasn’t sure if I liked it with the changes and was frustrated but Craig wisely suggested we take a break.

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After a nap and a snack, my hormones had settled and I went back to finish it up. I freehanded some leaves from two different greens and put them in place while Craig wiped down the starch that had dried on the wall. It looked a lot happier with the leaves. After a few hours it was dry enough to move the changing table back into place and put a nail over one of the branches. I speared Hoot the beanie baby owl with a large safety pin and hung him on the nail. Ta-da! A tree for Nigel!

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The total cost was about $11 which includes the three fabrics, liquid starch and roller. Not bad. This project was a lot easier than I was anticipating and I’m now in love with fabric “wallpapering.” When we move I can simply wet down the fabric with water and it will peel right off, ready to be reused if we want. This would be a super easy way to decorate a kids room with flowers, bugs, or even simple car or truck shapes.

Be sure to head over and visit Amanda at Putting Down Roots, home of the Make Something Monday!