Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baby Prep Update: 4 Weeks Out

Welp, we're just a mere 4 weeks away from our due date as of today. I figured it would be a good time to give an update on our preparations.

The first of our new tiny girl's laundry = done! :)

Here's the original to-do list with a few new items added and completed items marked off:

By 8 Weeks out
-Carsens room 
painted, still working on textiles

By 6 Weeks out
-Set up baby book (printing done, assembly in progress)
-Create hospital playlist

By 4 Weeks out
-Hair cut (scheduled)
-Install infant car seat base
-Finalize "the plan" for day-of (primarily childcare arrangements)
-Print & post babysitting info
Pack hospital bag
-Make "last minute" packing list

By 3 Weeks out
-Baby laundry (all clothes done; blankets, bibs, etc in progress)
-Fill dresser & closet (in progress as laundry gets done)
-Set up/clean baby equipment
-Clean nursery
-Stock changing table

By 2 Weeks out
-Set up bassinet
-Clean house for minimal maintenance
-Stock the kitchen

-Prep & freeze dinners for babysitter

There we are! I'm happily on schedule, save for the baby book, but luckily that's not totally essential before she's born. People say this all the time, but I truly can't believe how quickly the weeks have gone by since I first posted this list 6 weeks ago. It almost felt premature at the time, like I was way ahead of myself. All the sudden, we have our 36 week check up tomorrow, and I'll be a busy little bee for the next 4(ish) weeks waiting for this little lady's arrival! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Carsen's Quilt: Inspiration

Up next in the big girl room is to make a quilt, bedskirt, and window valence. I've decided to make, rather than buy, a bedspread because Carsen has a daybed (as you can see here). One side of the bed is against the wall and the other side has a railing so she doesn't roll out. That leaves no room for a regular twin-sized bedspread to hang over the sides so it would be all bunched up on the bed. Instead, I thought making a blanket that fit the surface of the bed would work better... and be cheaper! Here's a preview of my inspiration, fabrics, and plan!

I am not a quilter, first of all. Rather than following an intricate pattern, I am much more likely to eyeball something, or see a picture of something and make up my own way of achieving that final product. I also have pretty simple taste when it comes to decor. Especially for a child's room, I don't want anything fussy. I'm not entering it in a quilting bee at the state fair, I just want something cute and functional. So when I set out on a Pinterest search to find inspiration for a DIY quilt, I was really happy to find a rag quilt that seemed to be exactly what I had in mind.

This is my inspiration photo... 
{Tutorial found here}

I like how the mixture of fabric patterns makes it casual, yet sweet. The rag seams also give it a casual and handmade look. I am making a couple of adjustments to this pattern. I've decided to use one single fabric on the back side of the quilt while using the different fabric patterns on the front, I only selected 4 different fabrics to use instead of 7, and my dimensions will be a little different from the tutorial since I'm making it to fit the surface of a twin-sized bed. The great thing about this tutorial is that it's easily adaptable. You can take the basic idea and then customize it however you'd like. 

So here are the fabrics I chose held up to the wall in her room. It's a really gray day, so you'll have to trust me {or check back here} that her walls are not that dull of a color.

Since my mom is more serious about her sewing and has some quilting tools, I'll be measuring and cutting my fabric strips at her house this weekend and then assembling my quilt next week. I am so so so excited about completing this piece of the room. Not only do I really feel like it will help tie things together and give the room a more finished look, but I love that she'll have a blanket handmade by me. Hopefully my craftsmanship will endure for many years to come so she can take it to college with her and later force her future husband to respect her desire to feature it on a rocking chair in their bedroom or something... hahaha :) A mom can dream, right?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Easy DIY Baby Food / Pouches

We are currently past (or in between, I guess) the baby food stage since Carsen is now 2.5, but she is a huge fan of the organic fruit & vegetable pouches. We love to use them when we're on-the-go as an easy, but still nutritious, snack. Sometimes if we're going somewhere fun and I know she's unlikely to to stop and eat a meal, I'll bring one of those pouches so that I know she at least got some kind of nutrition. If you've ever bought these pouches though, you know that they aren't cheap as every variety I've ever found is around $1.50 per pouch. If I buy 10 or so at a time to have on hand, I'm spending roughly $15 on pouches.

Since whole fruits and vegetables are much cheaper by quantity than the pouches, why not just buy the fruits and vegetables and skip the pouches? There are a couple of reasons. First, pouches are much more portable. They take up significantly less space in your bag than individual servings of different fruits and vegetables. They don't need to be cooked or refrigerated. They aren't at risk for squashing or bruising since they're already pureed - though if you tried really hard, they could potentially burst. AND they are suitable for eating in the car (if your child is able to handle a squeeze pouch with minimal supervision) whereas you might not hand your toddler a carrot or spinach leaf to munch on while in a moving vehicle.

What's a mom to do? Lucky for me our local eco-friendly, baby/mama-centered consignment boutique (that's what they call themselves) has started selling re-useable pouches that can be filled with your own food. Wait, let me clarify that. The store also sells NEW items, these are not re-usable as in "consigned" food pouches. {Ick.} They offer the best of both worlds - I get to buy my own organic produce for a fraction of the cost per quantity than pre-pouched food, and I can still serve it easily on-the-go in the convenient pouch form.

Originally I thought it seemed too time-consuming to make my own pureed fruits and vegetables, but I'm here to tell you that it's easy. Really. I already had everything in my kitchen that was needed, and in one 2-hour nap time I was able to make a variety of purees for weeks worth of pouches.

Here's my how-to...

What you need:
-Vegetable peeler (a knife will also do, but may be trickier)
-Mixing bowl
-Blender/food processor/hand blender/potato masher
-Ice cube trays
-Freezer bags
-Reusable pouches

1) Peel the fruit or vegetable if needed. I'll use apples as my example.

2) Chop into chunks

3) Place in a sauce pan or pot (depending on quantity) with 1/4-1/2" water

4) Cover and steam until soft

5) Place chunks and some of the steam water if desired into a mixing bowl. If you're using a food processor or blender you don't need the mixing bowl.

6) Use your implement of choice (I used a hand-blender which I really love) to puree the food.

7) Spoon small amounts of puree into ice cube trays and freeze until solid

8) Place frozen cubes into freezer bags, label, and return to freezer until needed. The individual cubes make it easy to pull a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make your own mixtures.

Some foods don't require peeling, like broccoli or spinach, and some foods don't require cooking like pears or blueberries. Other foods require nothing but scooping & freezing like Greek yogurt or canned pumpkin. You can also use frozen options which often eliminate the peeling and chopping steps - just thaw, steam and puree! If you have a baby who needs pureed food you can take small portions of your family dinners and puree them for later. So it's a slightly different process depending on what you're making, but the bottom line is that once the food is soft enough to be pureed then you just use your preferred method and you're all but done. It would be easy to do a big batch on a Sunday while your babes nap, or you could do smaller batches one night each week. 

For $5.99 a 3 lb. bag of organic apples made enough apple sauce to create 10+ pouches depending on how I mix them with other fruits and vegetables. The same number of store-bought pouches would cost me 2-3x that amount. As a one-income household, we'll be even happier about the savings once Reagan is ready for baby food in another 7-8 months and we're going through even more of it. 

For anyone who's interested, here are a few DIY baby food resources that I've found helpful:
- Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel Karmel A great book that not only offers basic information and instructions for making baby food, but breaks down food recommendations by age and offers creative, baby-friendly mixtures and recipes. 
- Wholesome Homemade Baby Food A website that also gives great tips and advice for making baby food broken down by age.
- The Peaceful Mom blog A DIY baby food plan and free printable menu planner. Also an overall great blog for parenting and saving money and keeping an organized household.
- Pinterest as always :)

Leave me a comment if you have any questions or DIY baby food making advice!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Food" for Thought

Here's something to consider next time you feel bad about not buying that oh-so-popular organic meat: People who take birth control pills consume 7,000x the amount of hormones every single day that they would get from each 8 oz portion of "hormone-laden" steak. And I'm guessing most people don't eat 8 oz of steak daily.

Dr. Jude Capper (@Bovidiva) shares her knowledge and puts the hormones found in beef into context.

I found that information to be startling as well as fascinating. To clarify- I'm not saying that hormones in meat are fine and acceptable. I think most people would prefer their meat as natural as possible. I'm also not saying anything about people who take hormonal birth control pills. That's their business. What I think is amazing about the connection between those two items, though, is the fact that everywhere you turn you hear about how terrible it is to eat meats from animals that are treated with hormones. There's an entire movement towards pasture-raised organic beef and chicken raised without the use of hormones. While I think that's great and people should opt for hormone-free meats whenever possible (not always an option in restaurants, and of course it's pricey in the grocery store or at the farm), It just baffles me that you hear no one raising such a fuss over the "hormone-laden" birth control pills that millions of people take every single day which contain SO much more of the same hormones that everyone considers "toxic" if it's in their beef. 

Confusing to say the least.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The {Mostly} Finished Big Girl Room

Well here it is! The "Big Girl" room is finally done, save for a few small minor decorative details. OK, so yes that basically means it's only painted. But if you recall, that was my main goal for now. It may have taken a little longer than originally planned, but if you consider a handful of unforeseen snags in addition to working around a toddler who uses that room, I don't think I did half bad.

Just as a quick refresher, we started with plain walls. I added a board & batten wall treatment that I assembled myself, and then painted. I'll give basic tutorial info with each photo.

First things first, I went to Lowes and had them cut a 4'x8' sheet of MDF into strips. I asked for 8 strips 4" wide, and about 20 strips 2" wide x 39" tall. Lots of tutorials for this project that I've seen online were very reassuring that Lowes will do all of your cuts for you making your project a breeze. Ok, well as I was standing there after showing the kind gentlemen my diagram of how I wanted the 4'x8' sheet cut up, I noticed a sign that stated, "The first 2 cuts are free, for bigger jobs we sell saws in the Tool Department." Eeek! I felt horrible. The guys were super nice though and didn't even charge me. My advice though: don't go into Lowes assuming that they're happy to make 692 cuts for you because they're really not supposed to even if they will :-/  

I began by mitering the bottoms of my 2" vertical strips so that they weren't a blunt square edge where they met the baseboards. Then I went around the room and measured out where each one would go. This is when I did my leveling and just made a simple pencil mark on the wall so that when it was time to do the application it was pretty quick and easy (I did double check and re-level at that time though). Once that was done, I applied the strips to the walls with some adhesive (like Liquid Nails) and 3 brad nails each. Then I placed the 4" strips horizontally across the tops of the vertical strips to make a chair rail-like border around the room. After all the wood was applied I used wood putty and a molding caulk to fill in any gaps.

I used Lowes zero-VOC paint + primer in a semi-gloss white for the woodwork and below. I gave all the woodwork a first coat of paint since it was completely unfinished to start with. Then I did a second coat over everything with a roller.

Then of course, all that was left was to paint the top half of the walls in our mixed paint color. I also used the zero-VOC paint + primer for that and had Lowes color-match it to Sherwin Williams' Open Air. It looks plain blue in this photo, but it's actually quite turquoise.

Here are some photos once the room was reassembled. You'll notice the lack of 'finished' details. Try to keep in mind that I'll be adding a bedskirt to hide the trundle, a coordinating quilt, and valence over the window. Since her absolute favorite color everything is PINK, I'll be doing all of those accents in varying shades of pink.

We're also still using an Ikea end table to pile some of her favorite bed time books on, for now. We'll be replacing that this week with the Ikea spice-rack book holders of Pinterest fame for a nice thin profile (as you can see, its a small space so maximizing is important). We'll also add a bean bag chair or other type of cozy seat to make that a perfect little reading corner for her.

Our girls' rooms, side-by-side!

So there we are! 
And the baby-prep to-do list continues :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

One More Sleep Til Game Day

Five weeks ago as the Ravens entered the playoffs I painted my nails what I called "playoff purple" (trust me, it's dark purple even though it looks more maroon/brown in the photo). As the Ravens continued to progress through the playoff season knocking out first Houston, then Denver, then [gasp!] New England, I realized that whatever we were doing in Ravens spirit we had to keep doing. It was right before the New England game that I decided this nail polish was staying on as long as the Ravens won. Five weeks later and with the state of Idaho impressively chipped on my left thumbnail, here we are on the night before the Super Bowl. Whatever is left of this nail polish is in it for the long haul. 

We've spent the past 2 weeks since our win over New England planning our party for tomorrow. We're having a small group of close friends over to eat, drink, scream, cry, cheer, whatever the game brings. It's practically like Christmas Eve around here tonight.
We're cleaning, decorating, and food-prepping like crazy. I wish I could say I have the most creative Super Bowl party planned with all kinds of homemade details and decorations, but as you know I've been doing double-duty between getting the house ready for this party and trying to finish up Carsen's bedroom (I'm thisclose!), so we went with what we had for decorations and kept our menu festive but simple. I'll post those photos early next week. Happily, as a light snow falls outside, the house is very clean and smells of lavender, the fridge and pantry are full of yummy game-day foods, and all of our favorite Ravens toys, banners, and decor are turning our everyday living space into a fan cave of Super Bowl proportions. 

Football season is just a few short weeks of every year. If you're lucky your team gives you an extra week or two in the playoffs. But only two teams make it to the Super Bowl, and with so many variables in play there's just no way of knowing if or when your team will go again. It's a big deal. If the extension of the season wasn't fun enough, everyone and everything becomes focused on your team. Stores are decorated, team merchandise is on sale everywhere you look, and perhaps most fun of all, your team gets national recognition. All eyes are on our boys, and for the first time (in what feels like ever) we're finally getting the attention and recognition we deserve for the hard work and impressive numbers we've put up. When most people outside of Baltimore think of the Ravens, they think of Ray Lewis "the murderer." When most people outside of Baltimore think of elite quarterbacks, Joe Flacco is no where on the list. The truth is, not just these two incredible players, but our entire team have overcome a whole lot this season and have been playing their hearts out. We deserve to be in the Super Bowl. We deserve to be nationally recognized as a force to be reckoned with in the NFL. We deserve some long overdue credit for being an incredible team. We've proven everyone wrong. We've been underdogs the whole way. Now it's time to shut some people up and let them hear us roar. This is our game. This is our day.