Blog Archive

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Which Egg is Which?

Last week I segregated our full sized hens so I could figure out who was laying which eggs (two blue and two brown, but each slightly different). I put Noodle and Tommy K together in the tractor between the garden beds.I still don't know which gal is laying those mini, yolk-less eggs (Noodle or Vindaloo). She lays these on occasion, but still lays normal eggs, too. They range in size from as small as a marble to as big as 1/5th of a normal egg. Weird.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter 2011

We had a great Easter weekend this year. On Saturday morning Cassie hosted a HUGE egg hunt at the park next door to our house. She invited all her friends, daycare families, etc. It was complete with a giant potluck (someone brought a griddle and made fresh blueberry pancakes!), egg dying, paper bunny ear hat making, kiddo tattoos, and of course hundreds of candy-filled plastic eggs.I think Eddie ate his weight in jelly beans on Saturday.

I got to the park at about 8:20am that morning and sat on the picnic table to reserve it for the party. Normally I guess you can reserve the picnic areas, but Cassie wasn't able to do that this time. The egg hunt started at 10 but she asked me to get there before 9 to make sure we could have that spot. I happily left Dave in charge of Eddie at home, took my blanket, hot coffee, and yarn and practiced crocheting for 40 minutes. Leila went home with me once they arrived so Cassie could have some alone time to set up. Eddie was SO EXCITED to see Leila come inside our house. He was seriously screaming and clapping his hands out of pure joy! Those two tromped around the house, read books, watched the chickens, and Dave bounced them on the yoga ball. At one point Dave came into the kitchen and said to me, "wow, I can see why Eddie comes home from Cassie's so tired every day--when he's with other big kids he just go-go-GOES!"

We got to see lots of Eddie's friends and their parents at the egg hunt. Most of the kids weren't really interested in collecting eggs, especially once they realized there was candy inside them. Jonah opened one of his eggs and was so confused to see jelly beans falling out onto the ground. He had one half of the plastic shell in each hand and still tried to pick up the beans. But his toddler-sized hands out barely hold the egg shells, let alone anything else. He was getting frustrated and then MY child swooped in, snatched up those beans, and ate them! Poor Jonah. It was sad, but so, so funny. Eddie know candy is a treat so he was stuffing it in his mouth as fast as possible, probably fearing someone would make him stop.

Our cousin Chip is a dentist and he said it is better for kids to have a TON of sugar once in a while, rather than a little bit of sugar all the time (in terms of tooth decay from sugar). This is clearly the doctrine we've established in our household, and Eddie knows it.

Eddie took a good, solid nap that afternoon while I ran downtown to Ace to buy our summer veggies. I brought a $100 bill with me as my budget and easily stuck to it (and even bought 100 pounds of chicken food). I bought starts of tomatoes, peppers, stevia, lemon verbena, and fern cilantro, plus a ton of seeds (cilantro, borage, calendula, Asian greens, chard, tomatillos, okra, dill, basil, an heirloom zucchini I can't name right now).

I spent the rest of the day finalizing the garden beds. Dave had tilled them on Friday so I had to shovel the loosened soil up from the paths and onto the tops of the beds. I also laid out the irrigation lines, tested everything for leaks, and then Dave and I hammered and wired T-posts to hold up the tomato cages. This year our 'mater cages will actually be used as bean trellises since Dave wants to try growing the tomatoes on the ground (it'll be a mess with all those vines on the ground, but that's okay once in a while).

Everything is in bloom here, our yard is looking so nice! (And yes, this is a picture of Eddie with one boot on, playing with an empty distilled water squirt bottle by filling it up with gravel. Isn't this how all 20-month-olds entertain themselves in the suburbs?)

On Sunday I got up and started cooking our Easter meal. We had ham, bunny buns, hot crossed buns, greens, black-eyed peas, fruit and green salads, and deviled eggs. Everything except the ham was vegetarian so Jessica could eat it. Normally we cook the greens and beans with a ham hock, but this time I just used seasonings that are "meaty." For the greens I sauteed some green onions and then reduced a bottle of pilsner beer with the onions until it was all caramelized and delicious. I added two drops of liquid smoke, too. For the beans I used Spike seasoning and more sauteed green onion. No one missed the meat in either dish.

Once Eddie went down for his nap, Dave and I got busy sweeping/vacuuming/moping the floors, dusting, and setting up the patio for our guests.

Around 2pm my mom and Gayla arrived and by 4pm John and Jessica came with a "dirty pudding" and Lucas bought too many delicious desserts from Nugget. It was a fun, yummy meal! After we'd all eaten, my mom and I brought out the Easter treats: Palmer's hallow chocolate bunnies, sacks of little candies made by my mom, and a bucket of goodies for Eddie. The Easter bunny brought Eddie some candies, chalk, and fizzy dinosaur eggs for the bath (he thought they were giant candies...sorry to disappoint you, kid...). Gayla brought him a cool Diego safari truck toy, which he has really enjoyed playing with.

I think Eddie ate his weight in chocolate that evening.

John and Jessica are scheduled to have their babies in about a week. I can't believe their much-anticipated darlings will be here so soon! And that in two years they'll be dealing with two times the chaos that I have to deal with right now. But I'm sure they'll handle it with more grace than I ever could. (I need to plan the Schwind twins birth celebratory meal! It'll be a feast of epic proportions considering there are TWO babies! John is Italian and Jessica is a Georgia Peach. I should do a Yankee/Rebel themed dinner!)

That night as I was putting laundry away in our room, I found two little insulated cups I had bought for Eddie's Easter bucket. I was SO bummed that I'd forgotten to include them because I know he'll absolutely love them (he loves anything with a straw that remotely resembles something adults use). I was really looking forward to seeing his face when he opened them up. They are in the dishwasher now so once I know they are clean I'll give them to him.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Food Budget

My friend Mariah wanted to know what other families' food budgets looked like because she's having issues paring hers down. So I got to thinking about how much we actually spend on food, where we buy it, and how much our resulting meals tend to cost. I am a little surprised it is so high! (These numbers are my estimate based on what I am used to forking over at the cash register...and includes non-food household items like cleaners, toiletries, etc.)
From these numbers I can make "per meal" calculations based on my eating at home roughly 19 times per week (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), Dave eating there 8 times per week, and Eddie 16 times per week. This food budget does NOT include: coffees, cookies, and lunches I buy at school a few times a week or any weekend eating out we do.

These tallies seem like a lot. In fact, from all the home economics reading I've done over the last several years, $3/home cooked meal IS a lot. Most people aim for under $2. But since I make all our own food from scratch, we're heavy on produce, AND our meals are super flavorful/inventive I'm actually okay with it. I could probably cut this expenditure by at least half if we ate really boring meals ( touts this practice as a money-saving tactic...but her family doesn't mind "plain" food. I just can't handle that, since cooking is a passion/hobby of mine.)

So here's what we actually spent last year, according to our online records (with our estimated non-food costs deducted from the Costco category and what is hopefully an over-estimate for the cash category).Not too surprisingly, we spent about $31 a week at cafes and restaurants. I bet the 2011 amount for this category will be a lot less than this since we really don't go out much anymore because it is just too hard to do with Eddie. Honestly, we avoid eating out with Eddie at all costs these days. He doesn't sit still so one of us ends up entertaining him outside while the other one eats alone. So when we do eat out together, it is usually Costco pizza once a week. Who knew a toddler could curb your dining habits so much?
One caveat to all this is that we live in Northern California where everything is relatively expensive.
  • A gallon of non-rBST milk is $2.89 at the regular store or as low as $2.30 at Costco in a two pack.
  • "Good" apples range from $0.99-1.20/pound on sale.
  • A pound of sharp cheddar is about $8.
  • Our favorite (cheap) cut of beef steak is Chateaubriand and runs about $3/pound at the regular grocery store.)
I could also squeeze in junk food like crackers, chips, sodas, etc. for almost nothing if I used coupons and haunted stores for sales...but we don't like those foods AND I don't have time to clip coupons at this point in my life. Actually, if I didn't force Eddie to eat so much fruit and cheese for his snacks and instead gave him crackers all the time, our budget would probably drop noticeably!

And speaking of which: my "per meal" is artificially high here since I didn't deduct the cost of the snacks we eat (fruit, cheese, occasional crackers, etc.).

How much do YOU spend on food each month?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blog Organization

I finally got around to organizing my blog a little bit more. In case anyone cares, the post labels, archives, "about" blurb, and additional pictures can now be found on their own separate pages. While I haven't been able to label all 400+ posts yet, I'm getting close.
I know that this blog is mostly read by my close friends and select family members, but I do hope that other folks who stumble upon it will find some of my posts useful or at least entertaining. According to Blogger's stats, my Best Beef Stroganoff Ever recipe is the most common path to my blog via Google searches. (I probably get like 12 hits a day from that recipe alone. It is super if you haven't made it yet, you should! Of course, I should update the recipe using some of the nice comments people have left. But then what would I call the new recipe, if it is, in fact, better than the original? Absolute Best Beef Stroganoff Ever?)

Some day I'll get around to buying a domain name and hosting our family blog somewhere other than Blogger...but that probably means needing to know html so I can create a nice-looking blog. So for now, I'm happy with Blogger since I'm better with GUI than html. =)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Picnic Day 2011

On Saturday, the Edwards and I went to campus for Picnic Day. There was talk last year of canceling this year's festivities because of the violence and high number of arrests due to alcohol abuse, but it was decided to amp up sobriety enforcement and emphasize the "family event" idea instead. From what I could tell, it was a success. The school paper reported that over 75,000 people were in Davis for Picnic Day this year. Unfortunately, one person died that night--a 2010 graduate of UCD fell and hit his head while at a party. No one knows, yet, whether alcohol caused the fall.

At about 10am, we loaded the umbrella stroller, snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, and Eddie into the bike trailer and headed downtown. First, we stopped at a bike shop to buy an extra bike lock. You just never know what crazy people might do to your bike if they are drunk enough...and I didn't want to get stuck walking home if some idiot stole the bike trailer if I didn't have it separately locked up (normally I only lock my bike). Then we went to the bank and picked up some bacon breakfast burritos at a coffeeshop.To avoid navigating our bikes through campus, we parked the bikes at the north end of the quad and popped Eddie into the stroller. But we decided to have our breakfast picnic on the quad since it wasn't too crowded yet.

Then we walked over to the street to see the tail end of the Picnic Day parade. We were so happy to run into Pa (Dyani's sister-in-law)! After that we headed over to the Hoagland lawn to register Eddie at the "lost kids" booth, just in case we got separated. No one there knew anything about a parent-child meet up, so we moved on to see the medical helicopter and trucks at the firestation. Eddie was mildly impressed. While the knobs, dials, and levers on the trucks were fun for a minute, he was mostly interested in running around the grass, climbing steps, and checking out every single downspout and stormdrain we passed. This kid is DEFINTELY a Bower.Edward and finally dragged him to Hutchison field to see all the dog exhibits. We got to kiss a pit bull, pet lots of random breeds, and see the amazing border collies herding sheep. At some point we met up with Cassie and Leila to go to the petting zoo. Of course, my child wasn't too keen on petting the animals. Nooooooooooooo..........he wanted to inspect their poop and containers of water and food.
"Oh...water! Mama! Water!"
As soon as I strapped him into the stroller after the petting zoo, he fell asleep. Edward wanted a fruity treat so we went to the air conditioned and relative calm of the coffeehouse in the Memorial Union for mango smoothies and cookies while Eddie snoozed. Then Edward went to the women's tennis match while Eddie ate some pizza and ran around on the bleachers. Did you know that Keens on a toddler boy are VERY LOUD on an aluminum set of bleachers? It is especially noticeable during a quiet tennis game when the toddler constantly yells "Uggle!" and points to his embarrassed uncle sitting up at the top of the bleachers.

We headed home after the game was over. Dave had stayed home to work to set up his new drill press and work on the window trim. I took a much-needed nap and then us Bowers biked to Nugget to buy supplies for a BBQ steak dinner. It was a great--but exhausting--Saturday! Next year should be more fun since I think Eddie will partake in the activities rather than the infrastructure.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rumparooz: You Had Me At Gussets!

As you all know, we're a cloth diaper family. We launder them ourselves and use cloth wipes, too.

We started out using second-hand and gifted prefold diapers with Bummis velcro covers and Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers that we simply used as covers (meaning we didn't stuff anything into the "pocket" of the diaper, we just set the folded prefold into the cover). We had 14 size small and about 60 size small prefolds that got us from newborn through 4 months (Eddie spit up constantly and many of the size small prefolds doubled as burping cloths). Then we moved on to using 12 size medium covers and 40 medium/regular prefolds until he was about a year old.

Prefolds are simply flat cotton cloth rectangles, with a thicker center part down the middle that is sewn together. The term "prefold" refers to the sewn together portion in the center; this is in contrast to regular flat cloth diapers that are not sewn together, requiring you to fold the center part yourself. These are less common and are much bigger.

The reason we used the pocket diapers as covers was because we wanted to use the covers a few times before having to wash them. In my opinion, pocket diapers are not worthwhile for the first six months of a baby's life. Until they start eating solids, their poop is unoffensive liquid. But, because they go all the time you will go through lots and lots of diapers.

Pocket diapers are designed to be put on the baby very much like a disposable. No pins, no Snappi. But because the absorbent part is placed inside the pocket, it means that the whole diaper (cover AND absorbent insert) gets dirty every time the baby pees or poops. So we simply placed the prefold on top of the pocket, just like you'd use a normal cover. Most of the time we could reuse the covers 3 times before they got too stinky from pee. If they got wet, we'd just hang it on the towel rod in the bathroom to dry out (baby pee is pretty unoffensive, too). Poopy ones were tossed into the pail immediately.

When he was a wee little baby we didn't use pins or a Snappi because the diaper covers did a good job of holding the prefold diaper in place. At about 3 months when he was skilled at wriggling and rolling around, we started using Snappi's to hold the cloth diaper in place under the cover.

The prefolds with a Snappi worked really well for us until Eddie could walk. This child moves SO much and SO fast that his diapers would literally fall out of the covers and down his legs! It was pretty amusing when they were only wet...but as you can imagine, having a poopy cloth diaper trailing behind him was gross. Plus it was getting REALLY difficult to get him diapered in the first place because he just wanted to get up and go!

We went online and looked for a "onesize" pocket diaper that could be adjusted to fit a child from newborn to potty training age. Snaps were important instead of velcro because we found that the velcro wore out too fast for us (especially since we wanted to use them for our future children AND we had plans to loan them out to friends to borrow).

Dave is a big fan of gussets because they greatly reduce blowouts. At this point, the only cloth pocket diaper with inner gussets are Rumparooz diapers. So we bought a pack of 12 in a variety of bold colors. (This was quite an investment--$300--and I saved all my extra money from a side job in order to buy them. But man-oh-man was it worth it!)

After 10 months of using them, the verdict is: WE LOVE THEM.

In case anyone is interested in how we use our pocket diapers, here's a play-by-play:

These are Rumparooz:This is the outside part. It is lying on top of a size small prefold diaper (we keep a clean one under Eddie's tush during changes to keep the changing pad cover clean):This is the fleece inside part that touches the baby's skin. It is much thicker than the fleece lining in Fuzzi Bunz and Bum Genius pocket diapers (the latter isn't even fleece so it is less absorbent):
Here's a disposable diapers so you can see the inner and outer gussets (I'm holding the inner one):And here's a play-by-play of how we diaper Eddie (my stuffed frog, Fiber, is filling in because Eddie was too busy to cooperate):

Hi Fiber!First, lay the kiddo down on the changing table:Next, grab a diaper (mine has a diaper liner already inside):Put it under the kiddo's rump:
Pull the liner up over the baby's crotch so if he poops it'll be "caught" by the liner:
The pull it up and snap it into place:Since this is a "onesize" diaper there are oodles of snaps so you can snap it to fit any size kiddo:And here you have a happy kiddo, ready to conquer the world!These diapers come with a variety of absorbent "insert" options. There are two sizes:The small contoured one is designed for newborns, to reduce the bulk between their little legs. As the baby grows, you can change to the larger, rectangular one. It has snaps on it so you can make it smaller. This is how we use it right now, because the doubled-over fabric is extra absorbent:You also have the option of using them both together for extra absorbency. This is a good idea if your baby is a heavy wetter, or you use cloth at night. We don't use cloth at night anymore (and have to use special nighttime disposables that are SUPER absorbent) because Eddie was blowing out every night.These diapers are great for a super active toddler like Eddie. I tried to take an "action" shot of him running around the house in a Rumparooz diaper but he was too fast for my camera. So this is the best picture I could get. He's currently 29 pounds, 34" tall, and 19 months old. This brand seems to run a little small, so I don't think he'd be able to wear them for another full year...but hopefully we'll be potty trained by then!And just in case that wasn't enough to convince YOU to try Rumparooz onesize diapers, maybe these matching doll diapers will. I had $5 in Kanga Care credit to use up so I bought the bubbles print one for Eddie's premie Cabbage Patch doll. With taxes, shipping, and the diaper it came out to less than $5! (See them here.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How to Use Disposable Diaper Liners

I could never find a good online tutorial on using disposable/flushable diaper liners. So I figured I'd make one myself!

We have been using size large Bummis brand diaper liners for Eddie's cloth diapering since he began eating solid food. Once he got some real food into him, his poops got nasty and I was tired of scraping them into the toilet.
A roll of liners costs $9 here in Davis, but I'm sure they are cheaper online. It works out to $0.09 each, assuming you only use them once. However, you can use them more than once if:
That can bring the cost down by more than half!

But then I realized that you can also use washed disposable wipes as liners, too. Wipes are a good, inexpensive alternative to disposable liners. However, they are NOT flushable! So make sure you throw them away.

Flushable/disposable diaper liners are a thin, papery material that are designed to "catch" poop in a diaper. The idea is that the solid poop will collect on the liner so the parent simply gathers up the liner and tosses it into the garbage or the toilet. We don't flush them because we don't trust our house's old plumbing. Washed and dried disposable wipes are good liners, too, and are used exactly the same way. They are often a bit smaller so I have to stretch them out a bit to fit across the entire diaper. It isn't uncommon for them to have some holes throughout, but generally the "webbing" is enough to work.

Here is a picture of a washed diaper liner that was washed and dried (and stretched back out). You can see that there are some holes, but it will still work just fine!It might seem like one extra step in the already labor-intensive routine of using cloth diapers, but we've found that it is quick (and 100% worthwhile!) to simply fold them into the diapers before we put them away.

First, we stuff the inserts in to the pocket diapers. Then stack the flat/open diapers. Next we lay down a clean/dry diaper liner, fold the diaper in half, and stack it with the others.

Having all the diapers folded with a liner inside makes diapering super easy. I just grab one of the diapers and open it, making sure to unfold the liner at the same time. (My stuffed frog, Fiber, is filling in for a human baby here...)Put the whole thing under the kiddo's rump:
Pull the liner up over the baby's crotch so if he poops it'll be "caught" by the liner:
The pull the actual diaper up:Then snap it closed:Most of us know our baby's poop schedule, and would be inclined to only use a liner when you are sure he's going to poop. I've been duped too many times so I always include a liner. Since we wash and reuse them, it makes cloth diapering cheap AND easy.