Sunday, September 27, 2009

Money Saving Monday: Bumgenius Second Hand

We LOVE our bumgenius diapers! They really help with Jessica's heat rash. Babysitters are willing to use them!!!! They save us tons of money, and they are just so darn cute!!!! What is cuter than a little baby tottering around with an enormous caboose??? (Most especially if the enormous caboose comes in all different sorts of colors!!!)

See what I mean???

I was so excited this weekend to find a place online that sells used bumgenius diapers at half the price! Unfortunately, it looks like they do not have any available currently! However, all of the reviews stated that they were in very good condition and only some of them needed minor repair work done! Perhaps I will find a deal like that again soon from Cotton Babies!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Boycotting NBC

In the past NBC has not been my favorite news station due to the fact that they routinely misinterpret statistics in research studies. However, we still watched cartoons on NBC's qubo. Today that changes. I am officially boycotting NBC.

This morning when I got up with our daughter to watch Saturday morning cartoons, we were instead greeted by The Today Show running a segment on an author who wrote a book about drug addiction and incest. Turns out NBC has changed their schedule so that there are no cartoons until 10 am, and they have stopped carrying quality (and my daughter's favorite) shows like Veggie Tales and 3-2-1 Penguins.

We don't watch a lot of television in our house. Watching Saturday morning cartoons is a treat. We chose to watch qubo for the quality programming in comparison to the other public broadcasting channels. The shows that are left, for the most part, are low quality and do not reinforce education and values. I tried to e-mail their Public Relations Department; however, the e-mails were all returned.

What happened to quality Saturday morning programming for children? What happened to shows like Lamp Chop's Playalong, Mister Roger's, Sesame Street (before Elmo was the star), Shining Time Station, Veggie Tales, 3-2-1 Penguins, etc?

I have been incredibly disappointed as of late with those companies that provide products and services for children. Everyone seems concerned about cutting costs and avoiding lawsuits, but few seem concerned with providing quality and appropriate entertainment, toys, clothing, etc for children. I know I am not the only one who does not want their child turning into a prosti-tot, but unfortunately, I believe I may be in the minority...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Front Porch Friday: Back in the Saddle Again

As you can probably tell from the posts this week, life at our house seems to have returned to what passes for normal around here!! Jessica and I spent time playing with our friends at the gym and the pool (which we had all to ourselves)! We also had fun taking the cat to the vet for his shots. Jessica rode in the stroller, and he rode in the basket under the stroller with his leash on!

A picture from our trip to the vet last year.

The house is nice and tidy again after the onslaught of projects going on, and I am making progress on my list of projects that need to be done! Overall, it has been a pleasant week! David is off Friday so we will have a nice long weekend. Tomorrow I plan to do another Potty Training "Burst." I was trained in graduate school to potty train in a day; however, that just does not work for me and Jessica's attention spans! Therefore, I have created what I am calling "The Burst Method." (Very technical sounding I know!) Basically, we potty train as long as we can stand it for a day (usually just the morning). Then we take a break for a couple months!

The first "burst" taught her how to sit on her potty and that she poops and pees (that was exciting)! The second "burst" taught her that the potty is not a toy and that it is very exciting when there is poop or pee in the potty. She still is not communicating very clearly; however, I am pretty sure she is aware of when she needs to go before it happens because the other day she took her diaper off and then proceeded to pee all over the floor!!!! My hope is that with the third "burst," we might get a clearer understanding of where poop and pee are SUPPOSED to go! I am very hopeful that we will at least have a partially potty trained little girl by next summer so we will not have to fight the heat rash again!!!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Money Saving Monday: Homemade Popcorn

Making popcorn on the stove is a family tradition. (One that my husband highly values!) I learned how to make it watching my dad. When I was little, Friday nights were family night which usually entailed pizza, coke (the only time we ever had it when I was little), Star Trek, and popcorn made on the stove! Popcorn made on the stove is not only cheaper but it also tastes better and can be healthy!

First you will need a little grease. I keep an old jar of grease leftover from making french fries. My dad says it tastes better that way!

That is usually about how much I use. It actually looks like more than there really was.

I use Orville Redenbacher's popcorn kernels, and I keep them in the freezer so they will remain fresh longer!

I use three popcorn kernels to start with so that once they have popped I will know the grease is at the right temperature.

Waiting for the popcorn kernels to pop.

Once all three (unless you think one is an old maid) popcorn kernels pop add more. That is the point at which the grease is the right temperature.

I usually pour in enough to almost cover the bottom of the pan.

It is very important to keep a circular motion going so that you do not burn the popcorn!

Sometimes it will start to come right out of the pan!

Always make sure you have a bowl handy!

Yummm.....tasty stove top popcorn goodness!!!

I usually add salt to the popcorn right after it is popped and shake it a little to make sure it gets mixed in. I have tried butter before, but I prefer it with just salt. I have also been told that if you grind the salt to a powder that it will stick to the popcorn better. However, I have never had trouble with salt sticking as long as you do it while the popcorn is hot! Now you can enjoy fresh homemade popcorn instead of the stale stuff!

Special thanks goes to my husband for his excellent popcorn photographing skills!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Toys, Recalls, and New Laws...

I already gave my 2 cents on Facebook concerning CPSIA (The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act); however, believe it or not, I still have a few more things to say! If you are unfamiliar with this new law you can read about it including the actual 24 page handbook here. The basic gist of it is that there are now very strict standards requiring toymakers (not just companies but also individuals) to test their materials for lead. Originally, it was interpreted to apply only to new toys, but now it will apply to old toys. This means that now the law does not only affect toymakers (including craft shows and Etsy) but also antique stores, second hand stores, garage sales, craigslist, etc. Toys found to have above the acceptable amount of lead may not be sold.

So....what does this mean to me? Why am I so upset about these laws? There are several reasons.

1. The reason this law was created was due to the recent recall of many Chinese-made toys. Why are we punishing American businesses when the problem seems to be limited to toys made in China? Why not be stricter about how we check imported toys and give greater consequences for importing such toys?

2. How does this help the economy? It means that more American businesses are going to have to spend extra money to prove their adherence to even stricter laws. This will hurt small businesses and individuals the most. Some may even choose not to sell used items or homemade items.

3. Many of the lawsuits, recalls, and now these laws have caused toy companies to change the types of toys they make. Most toys for young children are geared for the child who is interested in lights, sounds, and texture. If your child is more interested in things with lots of pieces, well too bad!

It is important to make sure that the toys produced are a degree. Risk is what makes life exciting and interesting. None of us as adults would want to live in a plastic bubble. I think part of the reason my child does not remain interested in most toys for very long is because they are too safe. Of course you don't want your child to get seriously hurt; however, children do enjoy experiencing things with a watchful adult that they could not do by themselves. They like to take walks, but you would not let them go by themselves (at least not at 1.5 years old). They like to splash in the pool, but you don't leave them unattended. The same holds true for toys. Children need to be monitored when playing with toys because there is always some risk. Perhaps the real problem here is the "Me Generation." These are the kids that never really grew up. They now have children of their own, but they still think life is all about them. They use television and toys as babysitters, and either they don't or they let someone else raise their kids. Nothing is ever their fault, and they do not take responsibility for their own actions. If you want to raise your child this way, that is fine, but don't ruin my child's opportunity to enjoy controlled risk in life!

Our New Couch!

In general, I like to do most things myself; however, I did not want to make my own couch! David and I have pretty different ideas about what we wanted in a couch. He wanted something soft, plushy, and all one color. I wanted something that is durable, doesn't stain easily, doesn't readily show imprints of where someone has sat a lot, and preferably a print to hide stains. After much searching we finally found the right couch for the right price. It is soft and plushy but seems to be made out of pretty durable fabric. It looks like microfiber, but it is not. As a bonus, it is also a sleeper sofa! It is all one color; however, at the price of $89, I really can't get to upset if Jessica stains it!

Our new couch!

I know you are wondering what is wrong with it for us to get it for $89. We got it from a store that sells people's used and new furniture. The people had only wanted $100 for it, and it was on sale this weekend! One of our friends who helped us move it said he detected a very faint smoke smell to it; however, it is faint enough that David didn't smell it. There is one very small cigarette burn in one of the arms. Other than that, it is in great condition!

The small burn in the arm

Perfect for a house with small children! We had considered a sectional; however, a friend reminded me that the kids would not be able to run circles around the living room as easily with a sectional there so we decided to go with a couch instead.

Our old couch.

You may be wondering what possessed us to get a new couch. Well, the seams on the other are slowly coming apart. I have stitched them back together once and there isn't any fabric left to do it again.

A close of of one of the seams.

A close up of one of the corners.

My neighbor bought the couch in about 1995 (back when it was a blue leather couch). My mother had it recovered before we got married in 2003 with some denim fabric we bought on sale. It has definitely had a good, long life!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Finally SOMETHING that Keeps Her Attention!!!!

Within the last month, we have had the hardest time trying to find something that will keep Jessica's attention for longer than 5 seconds (besides TV). She is completely tired of all the baby toys. She is too little for the big kid toys, and the toys at the store for kids her age, she is done with in about 5 minutes!! Last weekend I was on a mission to find something to occupy her so that I did not have to be her constant playmate! (I enjoy playing with her, but I do need to be able to at least get dinner cooked!!)

Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head with Fireman and Doctor accessory sets.

We started at Toysrus and found some Mr. Potato Head accessory sets. She has liked Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head since she was about 18 months old. Actually she likes anything with lots of little parts! We bought the Doctor set and the Fireman set, and they seem to be a hit!

My old Fisher Price Little People Doll House

Then I started looking around trying to find something else that would give me another option for keeping her attention. I pulled out my old Fisher Price Little People dollhouse, and she LOVED it!!! I was so excited that she liked it that I immediately started shopping online for more!!! (Seriously, she has been impossible to keep entertained for almost 2 months!!!!!) I looked at the new ones they had at Wal-mart and Toysrus, but they come with very few pieces so I knew Jessica would be bored with them very quickly.

It still has a lot of the little pieces inside!

Then I entered the wonderful world of e-bay and found a bunch of different vintage Fisher Price Little People sets!!! I ended up bidding on and get the Children's Hospital as well as a few accessories! My sisters and I had concluded that was our favorite set and kept us busy the longest!

This is pretty much what we will have except for two of the people.

I am monumentally pleased with finding some toys that will occupy Jessica's attention for the next several months until she is ready for pretend play. However, I am also very pleased because I know that she will still find these toys interesting for years to come! I know I played with Mr. Potato Head and Fisher Price Little People all throughout my elementary school years! We have successfully overcome the latest challenge she has thrown our way, without breaking the bank I might add!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Holiday Traditions: Stockings

Yes, I know it is September; however, when you have as many brothers and sisters as I do, make some or all gifts yourself, try not to break the bank for Christmas presents, or all three.....then you learn to start thinking about Christmas early!!!! However, let me say right now that this in no way affects my ability to savor and enjoy Thanksgiving!!!!! It is my absolute favorite holiday, but more on that later! Today we are talking about Christmas stockings!!

The stocking my great-grandmother made for me.

Each family has their own holiday traditions. As far as stockings are concerned, I have been told that what David's family does is what is traditional: everyone has a stocking hung on the fireplace filled with candy and money. This was a bit of a foreign concept to me at first (though I do like it). We used to travel a lot on holidays, and one year my mother forgot the stockings. Ever since we have been decorating grocery sacks with markers and crayons every Christmas eve! It is a neat tradition. It also worked out very well for my mother because she traditionally stuffs stockings with a couple pieces of candy and a bunch of little things she knows you need: nail clippers, pencils, notepads, socks, aftershave, thank you cards, and one year even underwear (that never happened again by the way!!!).

Jessica's First Christmas

Our families of origin have many different ways of doing things, and we have made a habit over the years of trying to blend the two into something new. We are just beginning to develop some Christmas traditions of our own since prior to we just went back "home." We decided that our family would use real homemade stockings, but that we would stuff them with some edibles and some small things that we know the person will need. Last year, Jessica's stocking was stuffed with apples and socks. This year she will probably get a piece or two of candy, some fruit, and maybe more socks!

The finished product!

We only have one stocking that my great-grandmother made for me when I was a baby out of granny squares, so I decided to make us some more! I kept trying to make the granny squares look like hers, but they never looked quite right. I asked several people, and my sister finally said that it looked like it had just gotten squished over the years! I made 13 granny squares and crocheted them together. It looks obviously newer, but I am quite pleased with it! Now I just need to make some more! (I think I have enough yarn to make enough stockings for an army!!)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Money Saving Monday: Making Soap!

This weekend I finally took the beef fat (tallow) out of the freezer and made soap the old fashioned way (using fat, lye, and water)! This was my first time making soap. I might have over done it on the safety gear! It really wasn't as dangerous or as messy as people make it look as long as you know what you are doing (which I did since I had read Soap by Ann Bramson).

Me all decked out in my safety gear!

I chose to make castile soap. It called for 32 oz of water, 11 oz lye, 60 oz tallow, and 26 oz of olive oil. The ounces are measured using a scale NOT fluid ounces. This is very important!!!

The lye mixture

First I measured out the lye and water into a glass bowl that I had placed in the sink. Lye mixed with water gets very hot, very quickly so I didn't want to have to move the container after mixing it! It was also important to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to make sure it got mixed well. Next I combined the tallow and olive oil by heating it in a large pot.

Combining the tallow and olive oil.

It is also very important what types of containers and spoons you use, because the lye mixture can "melt" aluminum pans due to its caustic nature. I chose to use an enamel pot (although I think you can also use stainless steel), a glass bowl (due to the intense heat), and a wooden spoon. Once the lye mixture and the oil mixture were both between 95 and 98 degrees, I combined them by slowly pouring the lye mixture into the oil mixture while stirring constantly. I stirred the mixture until it traced (meaning you could draw pictures with the droplets falling off the spoon), which took about an hour.

To protect my counter tops, I put down a towel covered with wax paper. It really wasn't that messy. Next time I might just lay down a towel.

Finally I used a stainless steel measuring cup to scoop the soap out into a bunch of old 8 oz sour cream containers (and a few butter containers when I ran out!) I covered them with the lids and placed towels on top of the containers to trap in the heat.

The final product!

The next day I uncovered them and found this beautiful soap!! It needs to cure for at least 2-4 weeks before it will be ready to use. Currently it is laying out uncovered on top of my kitchen cabinets with a light towel over them to keep out dirt. In about a month, I will take the soap out of the molds. There may be a light, white dust covering the soap. This is called washing soda, basically a more intense form of baking soda. I can either use it as is or try to dust some of it off to use in the laundry. I personally wouldn't use it for cooking. I suppose there isn't anything wrong with it, but I am just not comfortable with it!

And there you have it! My first attempt at making soap! It was much easier than I had anticipated! It was also fun, educational, AND economical! What more can you ask for?!?!?! I already had pretty much all of the supplies in my kitchen, and the ingredients cost me very little in comparison to purchasing soap! The expense of making soap really comes down to how much you are willing to spend. The next recipe I would like to try would only cost me the price of the lye, unless I choose to make my own lye. there's a thought! Oh and if you were wondering what my husband's reaction was to all of this, he said, "Wow, it actually feels like soap!"

Friday, September 11, 2009

It was an Etsy bitsy teenie weenie....

No, not a yellow polka dot bikini! Announcing the grand opening of my shop on Etsy, a website that gives vendors of homemade items a place to hock their wares! My shop is dedicated to producing safe, fun, homemade gifts for children. Currently I am only offering a couple items, but there are plans to expand in the very near future! Check out my shop at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Moment with Jessica

I just wanted to say that I bet no one else's 1.5 year old tries to tell them what they are doing wrong when trying to put the car seat back together after washing it! I was trying to put the car seat back together so we could go to the grocery store, and Jessica kept coming over trying to fix it for me and screeching at me! (This was after she had collapsed in tears when we had to go back inside because I forgot the car seat wasn't in the car!) I do declare! The child LOVES to go places!!! She also helped me carry in one of the groceries after we got back. Well, sort of... She carried the item to the door, but did not want to put it down to go get something else! Oh well, it is a start! Sigh....she is so much fun!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Just Around the Riverbend

We are finally home from our tour of the South, and life is slowly returning to what passes for normal around here! I have been rather reflective today as I have thought about my family back in Tennessee attending the funeral and burial of my great-grandmother. I have also been working on writing our Will and getting an ultrasound for a breast lump (Turns out it was just dense tissue because of hormone fluctuations after our miscarriage). It has been a good day but a kind of heavy day. Tomorrow we will be in more of a rhythm both in our house and on this blog; however, I don't think we will be back in our usual routine until next week. I have been thinking all day about the song Just Around The Riverbend from Pocahontas. I grew up on the Mississippi River. Now I live on the coast. The thing about rivers (and the ocean) is that you can never step in the same place twice. It's always changing and flowing. Life is like that. Each moment exists only in that moment. Then it is gone forever except in our memories. That is why it is so important to learn to hold each moment because you don't know how long it will last. Also like rivers, you can't always see what is "just around the riverbend." I think that is one of the special gifts of this life: You always have the exciting anticipation of a new adventure just around the corner! Sometimes they are fun and joyful adventures, and sometimes they are difficult. However, having the opportunity to take my raft down the river of life is not something I would want to give up no matter how rough and rocky the river gets. It makes those peaceful moments that much sweeter.

"What I love most about rivers is:
You can't step in the same river twice
The water's always changing, always flowing"

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Ending of an Era...

After leaving Memphis, we stopped by to see my great-grandmother (Jessica's great-great-grandmother) on our way to Nashville. The next morning she died peacefully as her heart slowly wound down.

Grandmother (as everyone called her) was 95 years old. Although we did not get to visit with her long, I had a wonderful time talking with her and sharing stories about what Jessica had been up to. She told me quite a few stories of things her children had done when they were small (like jumping off pianos and counter tops) that reminded me of Jessica! Every time I go back to visit that side of the family, I always feel like I am going home. At best we never saw this side of the family more than once or twice a year, but I think I get a lot of what makes me who I am from this side of the family and apparently so does Jessica!

This side of the family was all about having a good time! No matter where they were or what was going on, they were going to have a good time doing it! This side of the family was also the first settlers to that area of Tennessee, so they all seem to have a lot of spunk and determination....and a bit of inbreeding!! (I think that is where the sleep walking and wild dreams comes from!) Christmas with the family was always great fun! Everyone would come in on Christmas day for lunch. When it was time to open gifts, inevitably a Christmas paper ball fight would ensue, and the matriarchs of the family would do their best to get everyone back in order! Often times after we had left to go home and were several miles down the road, my second cousin would pop up and say "Are we there yet Dad?" Then my dad would act all aggravated and have to turn around to return "the stowaway."

It was definitely shocking that Grandmother died when she did as she seemed perfectly fine when we went to see her. However, the feeling I am noting the most is "the ending of an era, the turning of a page." She was my last great-grandparent, and the true matriarch of the family. Things will change. They always do when someone leaves this life. However, I am thankful to have known all of my great-grandparents except one, and Grandmother for 27 years. I think by looking at the people we come from, we are better able to understand ourselves. I think it is a shame that the way society has developed, we often spend very little time with older generations. There is so much to be learned by sharing life with those older and younger than you.

Walking in Memphis

Traveling can be very difficult for children. Oftentimes they are subjected to long car trips where they are not able to move around a lot, their schedules are completely messed up, they are in completely new environments, and they are meeting all kinds of people. One of the things we tried to do this trip to make things easier for Jessica was to plan activities that gave her a chance to do kid things without having to constantly hear, "No, no, no!" Here are a few photos from our activities!

At the zoo with Grandpa Jeff feeding the birds!

Getting a close up view of the giraffes!

Oh! Look at that!

Jessica's first carousel ride with Mommy!

"Bye Bye!"

Watching the Friday night football game with Grandpa Jeff.

Having fun with Mommy at the football game!

Dancing with Aunt Kim to Uncle John's high school pep band!

More fun with Aunt Kim!

Crawling down the super steep hill at the football game!

Rolling down the super steep hill at the football game (with assistance)!

Going back up with super steep hill at the football game! (We did this many times! Some of the other kids slid down in cardboard boxes. Maybe we'll try that next time!)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On the road again....

We are doing a tour of the South this week to see friends and family! Jessica did great on the car trip today! It took about 9 hours in the car, and we made only one stop! (If we stop more than once, she thinks the trip is over and doesn't want to get back in the car!) Of course it is 10:00 pm, and she still seems wide awake!! On the trip she read books, played with Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and listened to cds. I think the longer I can keep her from realizing that you can watch movies in the car the better! Once she realizes that, I know she'll never do anything else. You definitely don't see this kind of creativity (featured in the picture below) when she is watching videos!

Notice the Mrs. Potato Head ear she put in her ear! (Don't worry. She didn't get it in very far, and I took the ear away after that!)