Welcome to my third blogging experience...created in order to keep my other blogs free of my crazy rantings. This space will be dedicated to the day to day trials and tribulations of motherhood and life in general...as well as the experiences that come with trying to rediscover the many basics of life that have been lost to the constant hullabaloo and cookie cutter mentality that has become the 21st century.

I am a proud mama to our first born, Gracie, who waits for us in Heaven, and her very lively little sister, Jenna. I am a semi-crunchy mama who works full time outside of the home. If you come here to read, expect to find posts related to cloth diapering, breast feeding, homemade baby food, organics, cooking and recipes, day care & working outside the home, baby wearing, natural childbirth, general fitness, general nutrition, environmental topics, etc.

Feel free to ask questions, share valuable information that you might have or share your thoughts and/or opinions. Please do not come here to attack the things that I believe or the way I live. I will respect your opinions as long as you respect mine, even if it means agreeing to disagree!! :-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Ending of an Era and the Turning of a Page

It's not my birthday, and I'm well past the 30 mark, but I kept hearing this song over and over in my head as I wrote this post.  So, I decided to include it.  Just because.

People have asked me why I (we) waited so long to have kids.  I have always fallen back on the age old excused - 'We just weren't ready yet' or 'It just wasn't the right time.'   Truth is, I think I've been ready for kids for a long time but I think the some of the expected ancillary life changes held me back a bit.  The dramatic increase in my already large sleep deficit, the loss of the ability to just pick up and go at a moment's notice, rearranging our already stretched budget...again, the fact that it won't be about what we want to do for the next 20-25 years, the changing of my body from once 'hot' to 'hot mess'.  The overall loss of my old identity as Susan to my new identity as Gracie and Jenna's mom.  Childbirth...the prospect of childhood illness, injury and disease...sports...plays and musicals...mini vans...broken hearts...college...  Staring down the childbearing road, all of these things can be pretty daunting. 

Aside from the first curve ball that was thrown at us on July 21, 2009, I think I'm handing all of the rest of it pretty well so far.  With one exception.  As the new year approaches, a very large change looms for me, and it turns out that I'm not dealing nearly as well as I expected to.  By day, I have worn the hat of physical therapist for the last 11.5 years.  By day, night, and every minute in between, I have worn the hat of firefighter for the last 17 years.  During those 17 years I have had the privilege of belonging to a small, but awesome, award-winning and trend-setting fire department.  I have seen, learned and done more than can possibly be put into words.  I have trained hard and put incredible effort into proving the men around me wrong about so many things regarding women in the fire service.  (About 5 years ago I suddenly figured out that the women's lib movement was a bunch of crap... women weren't really 'shut out' of things like public safety for decades...they simply knew enough to stay away because men in any environment are needy and can't do anything for themselves, even at the firehouse!!!)  I have accumulated just over 1500 hours of certificate training and probably more than that in in-house training and drills.  I hold 5 national certifications in firefighting, rescue and haz-mat.  I even won an award at the state level a few years ago.  In short, I have invested immeasurable time, effort, love, blood, sweat and tears into my department and the service and protection that we provide for our community.  

For 13 of the last 17 years I have been part of the leadership of our department.  I have worn the hats of lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, and for the last 5 years I have worn the hat of deputy chief.  Deputy chief.  Second in command.  Over all of the men  :-)    I have spent the last 5 years playing it down and pretending that it's not a big deal.  But you know what?  It is.  It is a damn big deal.  Look all over this country and find the departments, career or volunteer, that have female assistant or deputy chiefs that have achieved their positions without any type of affirmative action.  There aren't many of us...and I am proud of what I've achieved.  I go into burning buildings when others are running out.  I cut cars apart with power tools.  A speech that I delivered during a departmental function in 2004 was published statewide by the Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner.  I have pissed off many men by standing my ground when I'm right, I have run the show at a 2 alarm fire with a 37.5 week belly, I've been called a f&$ing bitch over the air by a dispatcher twice in the same night (very long story, but in the long run it proves to me that I was doing my job the way it should have been done!), and through it all I have actually earned the respect of many.  So, to me, it is a big deal.  Being part of my department's leadership has become as much a part of my identity as my blue eyes, blonde hair and larger than average 'girls'... 

...And as of January 1st, it will officially no longer be part of my identity.  I will still be part of the department and 'able' to respond to any emergency call that I choose to respond to, but I will do so as part of the ranks of the 'enlisted men' instead of deputy chief.  I have decided that it is time to resign my position as deputy chief, effective Sunday, because there is not enough time in my days to be wife, mother, physical therapist and deputy chief.  I can't get up in the middle of the night and run out the door with the hubby to the next big fire, even though Jenna would never miss me/us.  I can't pop Jenna into her swing and tell the dogs to watch her while I'm out cutting someone out of their car.  And it's really hard to turn command of an incident over to someone else for 30 minutes so I can go hide somewhere and pump (when applicable).

This is the change that I knew, deep down, was inevitable.  It's very likely that this is what I was trying to avoid for so many years.  I'm sad about having to make this decision.  It literally makes my heart ache to know that I am just walking away from achievement.  I feel like it's a total fall from grace.  I've been asked several times to reconsider my decision and 'stick it out' for another year or two, but I know in my heart that sticking it for the sake of retaining a title would be nothing but total injustice for the department as a whole.  Truth be known, I haven't done many 'chiefly' things over the last 4-5 months, which frustrates me and makes me a little sad.  But it's just another indicator that it really is time.  It's time to pass the torch for a while so I can finish popping out kiddos (which, by the way, should be happening again in July) without feeling guilty that I don't get up and go every time the pager goes off.  As much as I've said that I'll run as many calls as possible over the next few years, I know that the next few years will pretty much be a repeat of the last year, and I'll be lucky to run 10-15 calls every year.  It's equivalent to putting all my training and skills in a box on the shelf for while.  Sigh.

I suppose it won't really be that long until the kids are old enough that I can start dragging them to the firehouse for family training night.  For now, I will allow myself to wallow just a bit more, then I will turn the page.  I will step willingly into the next chapter and meet the role of mama head on.  I will enjoy the fact that I no longer have to deal with all the unpleasantries that come with a leadership position (the many meetings, the political BS and all of the whiny men who can't solve their own problems), and even more than that I will enjoy the time that I now have to dedicate to all of the other things that mean so very much in my life...without feeling like I am slacking and letting someone else down.  I will dig my heels in, prepare for the next big event and enjoy this ride as much as the last.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Catching Up

I came to this blog this week to reference something that I wrote a while ago, and only then did I realize how long it had been since I last posted here.  I was really excited about this blog when I started, and have simply run out of time to write.  There is lots that I want to post here, so I am hoping to write a little bit every week or two.

I know that there are several girls following here that started cloth diapering after we did.  Several months ago I wrote two posts (found here and here) about our cloth diapering experience until that point.  For those with inquiring minds, here is a little update on our fluff.  :-)

I wrote in March that we had found a wash routine that worked for us.  As it turns out, I was wrong, wrong, wrong about that.  Shortly after I posted in March, we started having significant stink issues with our inserts.  The problem was so persistent that I spent hours stripping inserts every 3-4 weeks for several months.  It became so ridiculous and frustrating that I almost threw the towel in completely on cloth diapering.

After doing a ton of reading on some CD forums and talking to lots of other CD mothers, I decided to ditch the Rockin Green detergent and try something else.  I switched to Thirsties pre-wash and super wash solutions, and had better luck.  Despite the better results, I kept looking for something to replace the Thirsties stuff because it is even more expensive than the Rockin Green, and I desperately wanted to find something a little cheaper.  I finally decided to try Soap Nuts, and I am SO glad that I did.  Before putting the soap nuts into use, I spent a ridiculous amount of time stripping inserts again so I could start with a clean slate.  That was Independence Day weekend...and I haven't had to strip inserts since then!!!  That was almost 4 months ago, which makes life good and really makes me a super happy girl!!!

Overall, I have learned quite a bit about the washing process.  The most important thing that I've learned is that it's all about trial, error and patience.  Just as important is the understanding that what works for 200 other moms might not work for the next 50.  I have discovered, specific to our wash routine that more water is not always better, contrary to what I had read over and over.  I wash every 2-3 days, so I don't come close to filling the washer with diapers.  I really think that my loads and water level were so disproportionate that I completely lost all friction between diaper inserts during the agitation phase of the wash; without stuff rubbing together, it doesn't get nearly as clean.  As a result, I have stopped filling my washer tub completely and I only fill it to the 1/2 mark for my normal diaper loads.

I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about how hard and soft water affects the laundry process, especially when it comes to getting detergent and dirt residue out of what you are washing.  Along with this, I have learned that most of the water in the U.S. is on the harder side of the bell curve.  (If you want to know more about this, there is a TON of information to read...just google it!)

I read over and over again that hotter is better when it comes to washing diapers, yet so many people use cold water pre-wash rinse cycles.  After reading about the hard and soft water, and finding that hot water helps to flush 'dirt' and 'residue' from clothing, I decided to do a hot pre-wash rinse cycle instead of cold.  Based on our results, I am willing to pay a little more to use hot and warm water instead of the cold. 

I have learned that more suds doesn't mean cleaner.  Seriously.  And...I have learned that I (the tree hugger) will probably never own a front loading washer.  Ever. 
I cannot guarantee that it will work for anyone else, but our wash routine has been as follows for almost 4 months:
  • Hot pre-wash rinse cycle using about 1/3 cup of home-made soap nuts liquid.
  • Hot wash cycle with warm rinse (I have to manually change the temp dial from hot wash/cold rinse to warm wash/warm rinse once the washer fills) using about 2/3 cup of home-made soap nuts liquid and 1/2 scoop of OxiClean.
  • Extra rinse cycle after the wash cycle - warm water (I can set the extra rinse to run automatically after the wash cycle)
  • A second extra rinse cycle using warm water.  
  • I still dry everything on the very cool drying rack that I got at the beginning of the summer, and I try to get stuff outside to dry as much as possible.  The plan for winter is to dry stuff next to the wood stove, then put it all outside to air out a little bit and catch a little bit of sun light here and there.  

In terms of diapers, we still stand by our pocket diapers.  Although we have multiple brands, our mainstays have turned out to be RumpaRooz, Fuzzibunz and Applecheeks.  Since writing a mini-review of everything we were using a few months ago, I have the following to add...
  • Our Bum Genius has been in use for several months fewer than our Thirsties diapers, but the velcro on the Bum Genius seems to hold up much better than the Thirsties (I ordered the BG in velcro by mistake - I definitely prefer snaps!)   We only use the BG during the day, but I like it.  Next time they run a really good sale, I might get a couple more, but with snaps.  **Spring 2012 update - the velcro on the BG is just as lousy as it is on other brands.  Totally prefer snaps.
  • Thirsties hemp/cotton inserts are still our go-to 'doubler' inserts.  They are definitely slow to dry, but they are really absorbent for such a thin insert.  We have started adding a small Thirsties insert to our RaR at night (3 inserts total), since Jenna started consistently peeing out of them when she started sleeping 12-14 hours. 
  • I would really like to try some Kawaii diapers (other than our overnight diaper), but they are always out of stock on the sites that I shop on. 
  • KangaKare seems to be a decent company to work with if you have a problem.  I recently found that one of my RumpaRooz diapers was delaminating.  After contacting them, I found that the diaper was a second quality diaper that had somehow made it into one of my orders a year ago.  I explained to them that I had never knowingly purchased a second quality diaper, and they replaced it for me.  
  • Sadly, I'm starting to think that KangaKare might use questionable elastic.  Our diapers have all been in use for less than one year, and all are evenly used in our rotation.  The gusset elastic and leg elastic are completely shot in one of our RaR; this caused me to check all of our RaR and come to the conclusion that the elastic in most of our RaR is on its way out.  None of the other brands we use are demonstrating any elastic issues.  So...I haven't decided what I am going to do with this, especially since they replaced the above diaper (after lengthy conversation) even though they didn't have to.  When they replaced that diaper, they wanted to know about my wash routine; they did promptly point out that I have never used one of their 'approved' detergents, and that using other detergents has caused problems with their diapers.  Despite the fact that soap nuts are as natural as it gets, I suspect that they would quickly argue that the elastic has been negatively affected by not using their 'approved' detergents.  

If you are also a relative newbie to CDing, how are you doing so far???

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

In my younger days, I worked for about 5 years as a life guard in a couple different settings.   The bulk of my work was at a community pool that was packed with kids every day.  I can honestly say that I vigilantly watched the pool like a hawk every time I was in the chair; I watched the little kids especially closely, for obvious reasons.  One afternoon late in my 2nd summer, another lifeguard and I had a 'near miss' with a 4 year old.  A couple years later, during a life guard recertification course, we watched a video that presents information very similar to that presented in this article.  If information had been presented in this format during my initial life guarding class (as opposed to the standard cookie cutter book that the ARC hands out), I am certain that our near miss would have never gotten as far as it did.

This article is short, sweet, and potentially life altering.  Please, please, please read it.  (I know that many who follow here are also friends on FB, but I need to post this here for those who are not FB friends or who just plain missed in on FB today.  If you are a parent or care provider for kids, read this article.  Even if you don't think you need to read it, read it anyway.  It might be the best two minutes you ever 'waste.')

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

March for Babies / Wordless Wednesday

I want to thank those who donated toward Team Gracieb.elle's fund raising goal this year.  With your help we were able to raise a total of $5300.31.  As someone brought to my attention a couple months ago, these efforts won't bring Gracie back to us.  But, perhaps, our efforts will help save the life of one baby - which, in turn, will save one family from enduring the heartache that we have endured for the last 21 months.  So, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you to all who donated. 

Obviously my picture isn't so wordless today, but here it is anyway.  :-)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Who Knew?

I read an interesting blog post today and thought that I would pass it along for anyone interested in reading.  It's about proper 'processing' and discarding of disposable diapers.  As it turns out, a majority of U.S. parents are doing it wrong.  I never thought about it before, but it does make sense.  (When we used gDiapers, the instructions said that urine-only inserts could be composted, but they stressed over and over and over that poopy diapers must not be composted.)  Perhaps it wouldn't have really caught my eye or my interest if I didn't live 4 miles from a large landfill...  One of the comments at the bottom of that post linked to another site with similar information.  Food for thought, especially in terms of soil and water contamination wherever your waste ends up...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Artificial Food Dyes

Much like high fructose corn syrup, many of the packaged foods found on U.S. shelves today contain artificial coloring.  Candy, Dor.itos, cheese curls, cheese, juice, cookies, yogurt and much more.  The artificial coloring serves no purpose other than to enhance the the appearance of the food we buy...to make it look the way we think it should look.  For most of the last decade, there has been much public and scientific banter regarding artificial food dyes, primarily red #40, yellow #5 and #6 and blue #1.  There has been much speculation about the connection between artificial dyes and numerous health issues, including cancer, autism spectrum disorders and ADHD.

In 2010 the European Union mandated that foods containing artificial dyes have warning messages on the labels.  Over the last week, the FDA announce that perhaps the concerns regarding these artificial dyes just might be founded after all.  They have released statements indicating that artificial dyes "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children."  Funny...that's the same quote found in the article (above) regarding the European Union's 2010 decision.  Perhaps the folks at the FDA are getting caught up on their reading...  Perhaps, within the next few years, we may see a step toward making the food on our shelves a little safer.  While it would be nice to see a ban on the artificial colors, mandated label warnings would be a nice start. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Extended Rear Facing

I wonder how many parents found themselves turning their carseats around today.  I was so happy this morning to see that the American Academy of Pediatrics has announced that they now recommend children remain rear-facing in their carseats until 2 years of age.  For more information on carseat recommendations, including today's announcement, click here.

My Fluff Experience So Far...Part 2

So, I love my fluff.  No question about it. I am kind of saddened to know that there are so many people out there who are turned off to cloth diapering by myths and misconceptions.  I do not have any real life family or friends who cloth diaper, with the exception of the couples who attended our Brad.ley birthing class and the class instructor.  I show off Jenna's fluff any chance I get to do so without being pushy about it.  Generally, all I have to do is change her diaper in front of someone with half a brain and they want to know more about it.

Most people ask me why we decided to cloth diaper, and most of the ask me how in the world we ever found these diapers.  My answers are quite simple.  * We decided to do cloth diapering because we feel that it is better for baby; it eliminates the 24/7 contact with chemicals that are found in disposable diapers.  * We decided to do cloth diapering because it is better for the environment.  We use disposable diapers during the first couple of months with Jenna; we had to empty the trash can in her room at least twice a week.  Since switching to cloth diapers, we empty the same can not more than once a month.  This is a huge deal for me since we live about 4 miles from the landfill where all of our trash ends up.  I have watched this landfill grow and grow and grow...and grow since I was a little girl.  I think about the amount of non-biodegradable trash we sent out in just the first two months of Jenna's life, and then start picturing the amount of trash we would be responsible for during the entire time that she would be in disposables, and it makes my stomach turn a little bit.  There is a part of me that is absolutely proud to say that I am doing my part to slow the growth of the landfill.  * We decided to do cloth diapering because of the long term cost benefit.  Granted, the savings is different for every family based on location, preferred brand of disposable diaper, use of disposable diaper coupons, number of diapers used daily/weekly/monthly, the preferred method/brand of cloth diapering, whether cloth diapers are purchased at full retail price or on sale/with a discount...but all things considered, the savings can be tremendous, especially if cloth diapering more than one child. 

I have heard so many arguments against cloth diapering.  * Moisture breeds diaper rash.  Fast.     * How much do/did these diapers cost?  Wow.  That's expensive.    * That's too much effort for me.  I'd never have the time to do that.    * I couldn't deal with those dirty diapers.  I'd rather toss the really messy diapers in the trash and be done with it.    * I wouldn't be able to send those to day care.    *It's not really any cheaper when you consider the cost of washing and drying.  And remember, time is money. 

The only one of these arguments that might possibly hold water is the day care argument; but I am told that if you approach day care providers in a calm, rational method and show them how easy pockets/AIOs can be, that they are more than happy to put them on, take them off and throw them in a wet bag for you to deal with later.  As far as the time requirements, I have been so pleasantly surprised by how little time and effort is really wrapped up in cloth diapering, at least for us.  When the diapers come off, we pull the inserts out and just lay them inside the diaper;  if the diaper is poopy, we shake/spray the poop into the toilet after the inserts are pulled.  The diaper and inserts go into a wet bag in the bathroom; the whole process takes 1-3 minutes at most.  We wash every 3-4 days, whenever we fill 2 Rum.paR.ooz wet bags.  Some people do a cold water pre-wash soak; we do a hot water pre-wash without detergent.  I have found, through trial and error, that this works better for us.  After the 'pre-wash', we wash again on hot water with Rock.in Gr.een detergent; we rinse with cold water and do the extra rinse with cold water.  I don't put diaper stuff in the dryer; I use a drying rack that holds 4 days worth of diapers and let the stuff air dry.  Generally most stuff dries overnight, especially if I put it in front of the wood stove.  Hanging stuff on the rack and then stuffing inserts back into diapers take a total of about 45 minutes at most (usually about 20 minutes to hang stuff up and 20-25 to stuff 3-4 days worth of pocket diapers).  It's not bad at all. 

So, I know that there are a couple ladies out there that have been waiting for me to finish this post, so I will get to the good stuff.  Here is how the love for my diapers breaks down...

Unbleached Indian cotton prefolds
What I like...ease of use when used as an insert, pretty quick drying, soft.

What I don't like... They hold moisture against Jenna's skin.  A fleece liner certainly solves that problem, but that is an extra step...and something else to explain and justify to the grandparents.

I don't use these as prefolds, but instead we use them as inserts in g-pants.    Because of  the moisture issue, we use the prefold/G-pants method sparingly...primarily just when the grandparents are babysitting. 

Hemp prefolds
What I like... Very absorbent, easy to use as an insert, quick drying for hemp

What I don't like... rougher than cotton prefolds, especially when air dried.  Hold moisture against skin.

We don't use these as prefolds, either, and because they are not at all soft, even when dried in the dryer, I don't use them in the g-pants.  Right now, we use them only as inserts or doublers.

Thirsties Duo Diaper

What I like about it....  It has an inner gusset system, of sorts, which is wonderful for containment of all things not pee.  The velcro makes it easy for the grandparents to put the diaper on without feeling overwhelmed by snaps.  The inserts can be removed from the front or the back of the diaper, and there is room to add additional inserts.  With the exception of when baby first moves from size 1 to size 2, it's a relatively trim fit...especially compared to some other diapers. 

What I don't like about it...  It's a two-size system, rather than a one-size system, so it's more of an expenditure if you plan to use it for the duration of CDing your child.  I'm not such a huge fan of the velcro, but so far we haven't had any issues with the velcro on these diapers.  The microfiber insert is a little wimpy, but the hemp insert more than makes up for it. 

The first time I used this diaper on Jenna, it leaked pee all over.  Not a good way to start our relationship.  But I was bound and determined to try each of my new diapers several times before I made a concrete decision about whether or I liked them.  So we tried the Duo a few more times, and I am glad that I did.  At this point, this is a daytime diaper for us.  That's not to say that it would not hold up overnight; we simply haven't used it overnight.  We reserve it for daytime because of the trimmer fit, and because the grandparents can handle it without major issues when they are here babysitting.  Aside from the leaking during our first use, there have been no containment issues with the Duo.  I would definitely recommend this diaper!

Fuzzi Bunz One-Size pocket diaper

What I like about it...  I like that it is adjustable in size and will grow with my babes.  It comes with replacement elastic, which I am sure we will need to use at some point.  We have had no problems with leaks.  The fit is pretty good around Jenna's chubby legs, as well as her waist.  Snaps.  :-)

What I don't like about it...  The elastic can be difficult to adjust - I should note that it is far more difficult to adjust on my original diaper than it is on the second one.  It's a little lacking in insert space compared to the FB perfect size diapers...it just feels like a crowded diaper to me sometimes.  

I bought this diaper because of the overwhelmingly good reviews that I read.  I received a second one as a freebie with a later diaper order.   I replaced one of the microfiber inserts with a hemp insert about a month after we started using cloth (I did this with several diapers).  This boosted the absorbency a bit.  Overall, it's not my favorite, but this is a good diaper.  We use it only during the day.  I wouldn't tell anyone to not buy it.

Fuzzi Bunz Perfect Size pocket diaper
What I like...  Snaps.  The inserts are bigger than the FB one size diaper - substantially bigger.  Good fit around the waist and Jenna's chubby little legs.

What I don't like...  Nothing, really, except that the mediums I have will not fit Jenna's younger sibling(s) in the early days, and I'm not sure I want to spend the money on the smalls.

I have two of these - size medium.  I bought them on super sale for less than $10 each, otherwise I probably wouldn't have purchased them.  I am so glad that I did.  I really like this diaper.  I like it better than the one size.  The medium has plenty of room for expansion, and I don't think that Jenna will outgrow it anytime soon.  I read somewhere that the medium will cover the middle 2/3 of cloth diapering for most kiddos (in terms of size/fit), so I am hoping that that holds true.  I use the large FB microfiber insert and a large Thirsties hemp insert with these diapers and they are quite absorbent this way.  This is our backup for overnight.  I would definitely recommend the perfect fit diaper for those who can afford them (as opposed to the one-size)!

**Spring 2012 update... we are 18 months into cloth diapering with Jenna and the Medium perfect size are still going strong on her little booty with no signs of outgrowing them any time soon.  Love, love, love these diapers.  

Rump-a-Rooz one size pocket diaper
What I like...  I cannot say enough about the inner gussets on this diaper.  Seriously.  Cannot say enough.  No leaks of any kind so far.  Sadly enough, right now, we use this diaper as our overnight...and Jenna does not usually poop at night.  Since we just recently started solids, we are still figuring out her poop, but I think we will probably end up using these during the day, as well as at night.  This diaper is super absorbent, even more so with the hemp inserts.  We have snaps on all of our RaR, and I like them.  Inner fleece is super soft. 

What I don't like...  The rise on this diaper seems to fall a little short.  I kind of expect that Jenna will outgrow these diapers before I want her to.  They are a little pricey.  The hemp stinks in the morning when I take the diapers off of Jenna.  I am not sure if it's because she has them on all night...we haven't tried them during the day, and we haven't really used any other hemp with any regularity at night, so this might not have anything to do with RaR brand. 

I have 7 of these.  I love them.  I bought 2 sets of hemp inserts and pair them with the microfiber (so I have 4 diapers with half hemp/half microfiber insert).  The gussets are amazing.  The fleece on the inside of the diaper is super soft.  Great diaper that I would totally recommend unless your little one starts life on the right-hand size of the bell curve with respect to length/height. 

** Spring 2012 update...  We have discovered that KangaKare might use an inferior quality elastic in their diapers.  I have had to replace elastic in four diapers over the last 5 months, and have a few more lined up for replacement.  As anticipated, Jenna will likely grow out of these sooner than other brands.  She is 20 months and still relatively tiny - only about 23 pounds and 30-31 inches, and the RaR are fully open and starting to look just a week bit short on the rise.  Otherwise, we still use these heavily overnight.

AppleCheeks envelope/pocket diaper
What I like... The name - I think it's just cute.  It's a trim fitting diaper, due in part to the fact that it's a two-size system (as opposed to one-size).  The AppleCheeks inserts are absorbent; I love hemp and bamboo inserts.  Snaps; I love snaps!  Good fit around Jenna's legs.

What I don't like...  I don't like that I have to buy two sizes, but truthfully, I see on a daily basis with most brands in our stash, the sized diapers and two-size systems fit a little better than the one-size diapers.  The size-one diaper did not get Jenna even close to the end of the advertised size range; I had to buy a set of waist extenders.  If you buy the 'cover', the insert and a booster insert, it's an expensive system...about $27 if you don't get it on sale.  (If you have prefold diapers lying around, you can easily use a prefold folded around a random insert.  We have done this with a hemp prefold and a Thirsties hemp insert and it works just as well as the Applecheeks insert system. 

I have two of the size-one covers and one size-two cover, as well as two inserts and three booster inserts.  I use a hemp prefold with a booster insert in the size-two cover, and it works just as well as their 2 and 3 layer inserts.  The waist extenders work really well, but I'm just a little peeved that I had to spend $7 to get a set of extenders to get her through to the of the size range of a $27 diaper.  Otherwise, we have had no fit issues.  No leaks.  I would recommend this diaper if cost is not an issue for you.

Doopsy SD one-size pocket diaper
What I like...  Snaps.  The hemp/bamboo inserts are quite absorbent.  Good rise for tall babies. 

What I don't like...  This diaper did not fit Jenna well at all.  It came with a microfiber insert in addition to the hemp/bamboo, but I cannot use the microfiber because the bulk that it adds kills the fit of the diaper around Jenna's legs. 

There is a new fit of Doopsy that recently hit the market.  I believe that what I have is now being marketed as the 'trim fit', which could be our problem.  Jenna is not a trim fit kind of girl.  Overall, this diaper just doesn't work the greatest for us.  We still use it, but without the microfiber; using it without the microfiber makes it a daytime only diaper.  I would be interested in trying the newer size/cut/fit if I didn't have to pay for it, or if I could trade in the 3 that I have now, but based on my own experiences so far, I would not recommend this diaper for a kiddo shaped like Jenna.  

** Spring 2012 update - Sold two of our Doopsies.  The one that we kept fits much better now, but we don't have much room left for expansion around her waist.  (I think only one set of snaps to go to expand the girth).  Planning to size this diaper back down and try it (again) as a newborn diaper when her little sister arrives. 

Katydid one-size pocket diaper
What I like...  Snaps, adjustable inserts

What I don't like... The large insert is size-adjustable, but the two inserts don't fit together that well; the overlap just seems like it would be a little uncomfortable for baby to lay on.  When Jenna was about 3 months, this diaper didn't fit her very well, no matter how we adjusted it.  After another month or so passed, the fit was a lot better; not really sure what the problem was. 

The large insert with this diaper is adjustable like the RaR large insert is, but I just don't like how it fits together with the little insert.  Overall, this diaper is okay.  I can't really find anything specific that I don't like about it at this point, but there's not a lot that I love about it.  We haven't had any leaks or blowouts when wearing this diaper, and we use it only during the day.  I wouldn't recommend against it, but it's not my favorite, so I won't buy any more.  Katydid is now marketed as Oh Katy after some changes.  I wouldn't mind trying one of the Oh Katy diapers if I could win one in a giveaway or get one thrown in on a trade.

** Spring 2012 update - This diaper has been great for us over the last six months, and I don't dislike it anymore.  I guess it was just not compatible with her chunky little body when she was younger.  We use this as a daytime diaper and have no complaints at this point. 

Kawaii Overnight one-size pocket diaper
What I like... Nice big, thick, super absorbent inserts.  Snaps.  Good fit around Jenna's chunky legs, as well as her waist.  Room for a hemp insert, if needed, even with the two microfiber inserts.   No leaks yet!  Super soft fleece inner.  Room for growth.  Affordable pricing, especially when compared to some of the other diapers on my list. 

What I don't like... Not much.  I wish this diaper had inner gussets.  Bulky, but it's intended to be an overnight diaper, so bulk is okay.

I really like this diaper.  It is our only non-RaR overnight diaper, and at some point, I will probably buy more.  The two microfiber inserts that come with it are generally enough for us to get through the overnight hours; this is one of the only diapers that comes with two microfiber inserts that I have have left alone - I usually replace one of them with hemp, but I have not done that with this diaper.  There is plenty of room to add a third insert without changing the fit, so if we ever need extra absorbency, I can throw in a thin hemp insert.  If we have to start using our RaR during the day to take advantage of the inner gusset system, we may end up buying more of these to take the place of the RaR during the over night hours.  They do make it with velcro, but I just like snaps better.  I would like to try some of the regular Kawaii diapers, too.  I would definitely recommend this diaper to anyone looking for a good overnight pocket diaper. 

** Spring 2012 update - still really like this diaper for overnights.  Have started using both microfiber inserts and boosting with a third insert (you guessed it - the Thirsties hemp) over the last few months to prevent wet pajamas.

Go Green Pocket Diapers - The Champ
What I like...  Snaps; they are different colors, so no counting snaps when putting the diaper on (as long as you can remember what color snap you are on!),  room for growth, inserts can be removed from front or back of the diaper.  Good fit around Jenna's legs and waist. Cheaper than other 'national' brands. 

What I don't like... Inner surface is micro suede instead of fleece; I just like fleece better.  When the rise is sized down, the inserts don't fit terribly neatly under the micro suede, they just kind of stick out the end. 

I have two of these.  They are marketed to have an inner gusset system, but I find that it's not a beefy enough system to compete with RaR, nor does it seem to work as well as the Thirsties brand's little gusset system.  Each Champ diaper comes with two microfiber inserts that are deceivingly absorbent.  Each insert has a snap on one end to attach it to the inside of the diaper.  I think that this is supposed to help with positioning of the insert, but the two inserts don't attach to each other; I personally think it's a little odd to anchor one and not the other, but that's just me.  Overall, this diaper is pretty good, but I honestly wouldn't miss it if it disappeared from my stash and was replaced with a FB Perfect Size.  For the price, I can't complain.   

Thirsties hemp inserts
What I like... good absorbency, thin - minimal bulk

What I don't like... they are the slowest drying items in my stash. BUT...they are made to be absorbent and hold moisture, so it should be expected that they will take a little longer to dry. 

I have two sets of size small and two sets of size large.  I use them frequently.  I use them in some diapers that come with two microfiber inserts; I take out one of the microfiber and replace with the hemp.  They are thin enough to use as a third insert in most pocket diapers.  I use them inside of the prefolds that we use with the g-pants for some extra absorbency and to help keep the prefold from squishing up between Jenna's legs.  Despite the long drying time, I love these inserts, and I would definitely recommend them!!

Sigma diaper sprayer
We just started using the sprayer a couple weeks ago, so I don't really have much to say about it, other than it's doing a good job spraying off the poo that needs to be sprayed off at this point.  Hopefully it holds up.  Time will tell.  

    When I was investigating what type of diapers to buy, I read lots of reviews on bum.Gen.ius, but then decided on a bunch of others instead.  BG is currently running a good sale, so I bought one to try it out.  It came in today's mail, so I'll let you all know in a few weeks what I think of it.    **Update on the BG 4.0 - April 20, 2011**  I meant to order it in snap closure, but accidentally ordered it in aplix.  I prefer the snaps simply because every experience I have had with velcro and aplix generally ends with tons of my hair, cat hair, dog hair and fuzz all entangled in the hook side of the aplix.  This time, the aplix kind of worked out, though.  We just added it to the rotation with the Thirsties and gPants that the grandparents are using when they babysit.  Overall, I am pleased with this diaper.  After seeing how relatively thin the inserts were (especially compared to some others), I was skeptical about how absorbent they would really be...but no problems so far.  I'm not entirely sure how many more I will buy...they frequently run 'buy 5 get 1 free' sales, but other than that, they restrict sales and use of retailer coupons.  That's kind of a turn off for me...it just smells like greed.

    ** Spring 2012 update - we now own 7 bumGenius diapers.  Turns out that the inserts are deceptively deceiving and this makes a great nap time diaper (or great for trips to the store, etc).  Despite my initial resistance to them, I would totally recommend them.   Sadly, I don't think that they will size down small enough to fit Jenna's little sister until she's 2 or 3 months old.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Homemade Ice Cream

    My in-laws gave us an ice cream maker a couple years ago for Christmas, and for the last year or so we have been making ice cream a few times a month.  We usually make plain vanilla and then dress it up when we eat it.

    • 2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
    • 5 cups milk
    • 2 cups heavy cream
    • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    I usually use 2% milk and half-and-half instead of the heavy cream.  If desired, you can add 3 cups of fruit pieces. 

    Monday, March 7, 2011


    I have always considered lasagna to be a basic dish...noodles, spaghetti sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, meat (if desired) and a little fennel seed (if desired).  Mix and layer....no recipe needed.  I stumbled upon this recipe when I was pregnant with Jenna, and it had such rave reviews that I figured that I would perhaps make lasagna using a recipe and see how it was.  I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee.  I am so glad that I decided to make this...it was the best lasagna that I have ever eaten!!  I like a lot of sauce in my lasagna, so I double the recipe for the sauce, used a bit more than called for when assembling everything, and then froze the rest. 

    Here's a list of what you will need...

    1 pound sweet Italian sausage
    3/4 pound lean ground beef
    1/2 cup minced onion
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
    2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
    1/2 cup water
    2 tablespoons white sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
    1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
    1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    1 tablespoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    12 lasagna noodles
    16 ounces ricotta cheese
    1 egg
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
    3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
    To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
    Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    Sunday, February 27, 2011

    A Few More Giveaways

    I came across these giveaways today as I was perusing a my blog roll....

    Kissaluvs Pail Liner and Diaper Potion Lotion on The Cloth Diaper Whisperer

    AMP Diaper giveaway on Diary of a Devil Dog Wife

    Knickernappies diaper giveaway on Diary of a Devil Dog Wife

    Bummas wipes on Feelin' Kinda Crunchy

    Oh Katy pocket diaper on Susan Heim on Parenting

    Wool Dryer Balls on Life as a Global Mom (from the Willow Store)

    Tiny Tush one-size pocket diaper on Life as a Global Mom

    Change-Diapers.com is giving away a $120 cloth diaper package giveaway to celebrate 1000 followers. 

    And if you haven't checked out Cloth Diaper Addiction's 2000-1000 giveaway on FB, head over and do so!!!


     6 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
    1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
    3 cloves minced garlic
    1/4 cup olive oil
    2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 French baguette
    2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    Preheat the oven on broiler setting.   In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, basil, salt and pepper.  Allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes.  Cut the baguette into 3/4" slices and arrange the slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Broil for 1-2 minutes until slightly browned. Divide tomato mixture evenly over the baguette slices; top tomato mixture with mozzarella cheese.     Broil for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.  

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    My Fluff Experience So Far...

    We have been using cloth diapers for just over 3 months now, making the change when Jenna was about 2 months old.  Although 3 months is certainly not a terribly long period of time, I am definitely getting into a groove with our diapering...and loving it!  I know that there are some expectant mamas reading here that are considering cloth, so I wanted to post a synopsis of our experience so far. 

    When I was pregnant with Gracie, DH and I had several conversations about cloth diapers, and had decided that we would start with disposables until we got settled in, then switch to cloth after a few months.  We didn't purchase any diapering supplies before she was born.  When we were pregnant with Jenna, we had the same conversations and came to the same conclusion about when we would start.  But I never really figured out what it was that I needed or wanted to buy.  In fact, it was all kind of confusing to me and I had no idea which direction to go.  No one that I come into face to face contact with on a daily basis uses cloth diapers, so I couldn't sit down and just chat with anyone about it.  I emailed a few friends and got a few suggestions, and I also just looked around at some of the online diaper shops and picked a direction.  There are lots of tutorials out there, but I really wish I had come across this three part tutorial on cloth diapering before Jenna was born...  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

    I had eyed up gDiapers when I was pregnant with Gracie, and had actually gotten the size small started kit as a shower gift.  We figured that we would start with those as a segway between disposables and cloth, and while we were using the gDiapers we (well, I) would work on getting the cloth stuff ordered.  The gDiapers were okay.  It took a few days to get the hang of opening the inserts to get them cleanly into the toilet, and I didn't like that the inserts basically have the a similar chemical composition as the guts of a regular disposable.  The liners frequently got messy with poo, because the insert didn't hold its shape well in the liner - it tended to bunch up between Jenna's legs.  No big thing - the liners are washable, so we just tossed them into the laundry when they were really messy.  When we switched to the medium gPants, I ordered a case of the med/large flushable inserts, and I think we have used just a handful of them.  I expect that most of them will be left over for the next baby, or perhaps to sell at some point.  Someone had mentioned to me that they used the gPants with prefold diapers stuffed into the liner in place of the flushable insert.  I was intrigued by that, and did a little more 'research' into this.  I decided to buy a dozen prefolds and try this out.  It works okay.

    The pros to using prefolds in the g-diapers:
    • easy for the grandparents (this is actually their preferred method, since it's less confusing to them than the diapers with snaps).
    • washing the entire system is not necessary unless the poo escapes from the prefold
    • pretty cost effective - prefolds are cheap in comparison to pockets or AIOs
    The cons to using prefolds in the g-diapers:
    • poo escapes from the prefold and makes it to the liner relatively frequently.  No big thing, just toss the liner (and the pants, if necessary) into the washer with the rest of the dipes.
    • the prefolds tend to bunch up between Jenna's leg the same way the flushable inserts did, which aids in the escape of the poo as noted above.  I have found that putting a small hemp or microfiber insert inside the prefold helps to maintain its shape, and obviously, it also helps with absorbency. 
    • unless we use a fleece liner, the prefold holds moisture against the skin. 
    • I don't care for velcro, but so far it's holding up with no issues.  

    After reading a ton of information about various types of diapers, I narrowed it down to pocket diapers or all-in-ones.  I narrowed it down to these options primarily because I wanted a diaper that was lined with microfleece or microsuede to pull moisture away from baby's skin without having to add liners on top of prefolds or other diapers.  After narrowing it down to pocket diapers and all-in-one diapers, I debated and debated and finally decided on pocket diapers.  I picked pockets because I felt that there were far more options in pocket diapers (more brands and designs to choose from), I liked having the option to adjust the absorbency level by adding or removing inserts, and I liked that the inserts were removed for washing and drying (in my mind, it just seems like the inserts would come cleaner if they could be removed from the diaper structure for washing).  Before purchasing any of our cloth stash, one friend suggested that I investigate some of the cloth diaper 'trial' programs that are out there before ordering.  I did not, but really wish I had.  Here is a list of some of the more popular trial programs; Fluff Envy also has a Love 'Em or Leave 'Em program.   When I finally placed my first order, here is what I got:
    • One dozen unbleached Indian cotton prefolds
    • One size-1 Thirsties Duo diaper (as opposed to the cover/wrap) 
    • One one-size Fuzzi Bunz pocket diaper
    • One one-size Doopsy SD pocket diaper (I believe what I have is now marketed as the 'trim fit')
    • One size-1 AppleCheeks envelope/pocket diaper
    • One one-size RumpaRooz pocket diaper
    Since then, I have added to my stash...
    • one one-size Katydid pocket diaper
    • two perfect size Fuzzi Bunz pocket diapers
    • one one-size Kawaii overnight pocket diaper
    • two one-size Go Green Pocket Diapers
    • 4 hemp prefolds
    • two more AppleCheeks - 1 size-1 and 1 size-2
    • one set of AppleCheeks waist extenders
    • six more RumpaRooz
    • one more one-size Fuzzi Bunz
    • two more Doopsy SD pocket diapers
    • two more Thirsties Duos diapers - both size-2
    • two sets each small and large Thirsties hemp inserts
    • 2 sets of RumpaRooz hemp inserts
    • two RumpaRooz wetbags
    • Sigma diaper sprayer

    The first store I ordered from (Bellalojo Baby) closed a few weeks after my second order.  Since then, I have done most of my ordering from Abby's Lane, Fluff Envy and Kelly's Closet

    Check back later to find out what I think about all of this stuff!!

    Loving my Fluff

    "When she gets a raging diaper rash, you'll know exactly what it's from.  And I'm telling you, it will be raging.  You might as well save yourself the trouble, and her the discomfort, and just go back to disposables now."  That is the comment I got a couple days ago from someone (a man, no less) that saw me changing Jenna's diaper at the fire house and felt the need to sound off on our decision to use cloth.  This man has no problem speaking his mind......to anyone...about anything...at any point in time...ever.  He is never without an opinion about my 'crunchiness'.  He is intelligent and very educated, and 99% of the time doesn't go into a conversation without the ammunition to back his opinions up, but this time I knew he was shooting from the hip and I jumped on it!  :-)   I asked him why he thought this, and he said "Moisture breeds diaper rash.  Fast."  So I schooled him. 

    I pulled out the pee soaked diaper and a spare clean pocket diaper.  I told him to feel the inside of the pocket diaper - the fleece was dry.  I showed him how it worked and told him that we had to use butt paste on Jenna with each disposable change during the first 2 months, but that we haven't had any problems with rash since we started using cloth.  I told him that her skin is almost always dry when I open up a wet pocket diaper, as opposed to being damp with a disposable diaper.  All he could say was "Huh.  That's kind of neat.  But it seems like a lot of work."  I told him that over the course of a week it takes up about 60-75 minutes of my time, depending on whether I do it myself or have DH help (Somehow, it always takes longer when I have DH help, because he messes up my system.  Some day I'll learn).  After that, he didn't have anything else to say.  He couldn't come up with a single point to argue. 

    We have been using cloth for 3 - 3.5 months now, and I love it.  I have had the opportunity to talk with a few expectant moms over the last month, and offer up some of the things I have learned along the way.  I have started a post about that; hopefully I can get it posted this weekend!

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Balsamic Filet Mignon and Cider Cheese Fondue

    Balsalmic Filet Mignon

    2 (4 ounce) filet mignon steaks
    freshly ground black pepper to taste
    sea salt to taste

    1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
    1/4 cup dry red wine
    1-2 cloves crushed garlic
    1 tsp brown sugar

    Allow steaks to rest for an hour at room temperature before salting & peppering. Broil until done to your liking, then remove them from the oven and allow to rest again. While the steaks rest, combine the ingredients for the balsalmic glaze in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low to low-med and allow the glaze to reduce until thickened (about 10 minutes).  Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the steaks and serve. 

    Cider Cheese Fondue

    1 cup apple cider or apple juice **
    2 cups shredded or cubed Cheddar cheese
    1 cup shredded or cubed Swiss cheese
    1-2 cloves crushed or chopped garlic
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cubed
    In a large saucepan, bring cider to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add garlic. Toss the cheeses with cornstarch and pepper; stir into cider. Cook and stir for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Transfer to a small ceramic fondue pot or slow cooker; keep warm. Serve with bread cubes, sliced apples and/or the Balsamic Filet Mignon.

    **  I prefer to substitute this wine for the cider/juice. 

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Upside Down Banana Pecan French Toast

    This recipe is used as a demo recipe during Taste of Greeley cooking school (put on by Taste of Home).  There is nothing healthy about it, other than the bananas and pecans, but it is out of this world delicious.   I have a very sweet tooth, and this was sweet enough that I didn't need to use maple syrup. 

    Upside Down Banana Pecan French Toast
    Yield: 10 servings | Prep Time: 15 minutes + chilling | Bake: 45 minutes

    2 packages wheat pull-apart dinner rolls (I used homemade rolls - recipe below)
    1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
    1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
    1/4 cup corn syrup (I used homemade simple syrup)
    4 medium, ripe bananas
    1/2 cup pecans, chopped
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    6 large eggs
    1 1/2 cups half-and-half  (I read reviews that said whole milk could be used here.  I used the half-and-half.)
    1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
    Maple syrup
    Fresh sliced strawberries

    1. Butter (or spray) bottom and sides of a 13-in. by 9-in. baking dish. Slice rolls in half and set aside.
    2. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup and mix until smooth. Spread mixture into an even layer in bottome of prepared baking dish. Slice bananas thinly and place over brown sugar mixture. Scatter pecans over bananas. Place sliced rolls on top, cut part down. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, and vanilla. Pour mixture over rolls. Cover lightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake 45-50 minutes or until golden.
    4. Cool slightly. Run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen sides and carefully invert pan onto a large platter, or slice and serve as is. serve with warm maple syrup and sliced strawberries.

    Sweet Dinner Rolls
    1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45degrees C)
    1/2 cup warm milk
    1 egg
    1/3 cup butter, softened
    1/3 cup white sugar
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast

    Place water, milk, egg, butter, sugar, salt, flour and yeast in the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select Dough/Knead and First Rise Cycle; press Start.  When cycle finishes, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in 16 evenly sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Cover with clean kitchen towel and put in a warm place, let rise 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).  Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    Genetically Altered Products - What's in Your Cupboards?

    This article surfaced on FB today.  Even if you are not really into organic eating, it's worth the few minutes that it will take to read.  It's an eye-opener. 

    Sticky Buns

    I've posted one recipe each of the last two Sundays, so I figure that I might as well make it a weekly thing for now and see how long I can stick to it.  Below is a recipe for the fantastic sticky buns that my grandmother used to make.   (Yeah...a sticky bun recipe after I typed my fingers to the bone earlier about organic and natural...)

    The story with this recipe is that my grandmother somehow got it like 60 years ago from a then-famous pastry chef from NYC who spent summers in the town where my grandmother lived.  No one really knows how or why she was given the recipe, but she kept it under lock and key for years and years.  About 10 years ago I was going through some boxes belonging to my father, and I found a large envelope of my grandmother's things.  Among them was an index card with a very faded recipe for sticky buns.  My father claims that he didn't know it was there, and as far as we know, the recipe remained a secret until that point.  Looking at the recipe, it looks so basic that it's hard to believe that it was ever a secret...



    2 packs of dry yeast
    ¼ cup warm water
    1 cup milk
    1/3 cup oleo

    1/3 cup sugar
    1 tsp. salt
    2 eggs
    5 to 5 ½ cups of flour

    Add yeast to warm water plus 1 tsp. of the sugar.  Set aside and let bubble.
    Scald the milk, shortening and remaining sugar.  Cool to lukewarm.  To the cooled milk mixture, add 2 c. flour.  Beat at least 100 strokes by hand or 2-3 minutes with electric mixer.  Beat in eggs and stir in yeast mixture.
    Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

    Knead dough 8-10 minutes on lightly floured surface.  Don’t skimp on kneading time.  Place dough in a greased bowl.  Turn once and grease the top. Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.  Punch down; let rest 10 minutes.

    Cut dough in half.  Roll each half out to about 16” x 18”.  Cover top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar (don’t get butter or sugar on edge that you’ll want to seal).  Roll lengthwise as for jelly roll.  Seal edges.  Cut in 1” slices.  Place cut side down in sticky mixture in 8” x 8” x 2” pan pr 9” pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

    Sticky Mixture: 
    ½ c up butter  -  1 cup brown sugar  -  ¼ cup milk  -  chopped nuts optional
    Combine ingredients in small saucepan, boil 2 minutes.  Add nuts at end.   

    Saturday, January 29, 2011

    New Giveaway List

    Jennifer over at Makobi Scribe's Product Reviews has a bunch of giveaways going on right now.  Head over and check them out!  Some of her current giveaway items include:
    • A Valentine's Day pillow pet
    • Bummas wipes
    • A toddler cable hat
    • TrueW.omb Saddler

    Organic Decisions

    During my first trimester with Jenna I joined the September 2010 birthboard on BCC.  Although I did find some of the banter there helpful, I found that for the most part, many of the women there were petty, caddy and sometimes just downright mean to each other.  It was worse than living in an all-girls dorm, and honestly, I found it exhausting...so I just quit going to the board.  Before I quit going to that particular board, I read (and I believe commented on) a thread that has stuck in my brain.  I looked for it today for a few minutes, because I wanted to post a link here, but I couldn't find it.

    The post more or less asked us to post what healthy changes we were making (or things that we already did as part of our normal life style) during pregnancy.  There were all types of responses from far left to far right, and everything in between.  Some women said that they were switching to organic foods during pregnancy, some women revealed that they would not change anything during pregnancy (including cigarettes, alcohol and/or drugs).  Some vegans said that they would re-introduce dairy and eggs - just for pregnancy - and then return to veganism after the baby was born.

    As might be expected, there were all kinds of attacks on the women who intended to continue smoking, drinking and partaking in recreational drugs.  But there were also several very nasty responses to the women who had included healthy eating and exercise in their plans.  One response in particular was very nasty.  It called those who tried to eat natural/organic 'self righteous', and claimed that lots of people couldn't stomach or process organic foods, and that some people 'just don't exercise.'  These responses were kind of surprising.

    If you have been reading any of my blogs for any length of time, you have probably picked up on the fact that I am a little 'crunchy'.  DH is what I like to call 'crunchy by association'...but he's getting better!  I have lots to say about our experiences on the crunchy side, but I'll do it one step at a time!  :-P   

    Today I'm writing about organic and natural food, which has become part of our everyday life.  As recently as a few years ago, we ate quite a bit of fast food and our cupboards were filled with various processed and packaged foods that are found in most kitchens across the country.  Today, we eat faaarrrrr less fast food (when 'unsupervised', DH is not completely on board with this...I think it's just a man thing.), and our cupboards look a lot different.  I make 90% of our bread, and we use homemade 'ha.mburger helper mix' and baking mix (Bisqu.ick).  We use organic milk and yogurt (and cheese when we can get it at decent prices), and we buy mostly raw milk cheese or growth-hormone free cheese.  Once a year we get a mixed quarter of locally raised organic beef (steaks, roasts, ground, etc...last year it came out to less than $2.30/pound), and we also get half of a locally raised almost-organic pig once a year.  We eat venison (gasp - yes, my husband has been a deer hunter for the last 30 years), which costs us nothing more than my hubby's hunting license, ammo and time.  We buy organic eggs from a friend that has organically raised chickens ($1.50/doz for brown, $2/doz for green) or from a local organic poultry farm for $2/doz; we get organic chicken and turkey from that same farm.  The chicken and turkey are the most expensive 'meat' purchases, usually coming in at $3-$4/pound for chicken and about $2.50/pound for turkey (but there is nothing like eating never-frozen organic turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas - nothing compares to it!!).  Other than the occasional frozen pizza and local potato chips that we are addicted to, we don't buy much in the way of prepared/boxed foods that require preparation (mac & cheese, hot poc.kets, frozen dinners, Hamb.urger helper...generally to try to avoid the sodium.  If we do purchased packaged/prepared foods, they are usually of the organic variety.  We consume far less fluffy white death (white sugar and white flour) than we used to, and instead go for more natural sweeteners and whole wheat flour when possible.  (For medical reasons, I was on a gluten free diet for about 2-3 years a little while back, so I got really used to baking and cooking without bleached wheat flour)  We try to do as much cooking from scratch as we can, which can be really inconvenient when we don't want to cook!!

    Making this 'switch' is not something we did overnight.  We did not simply clean out our cupboards and throw stuff away.  We just started making better decisions when replacing things as we used/consumed them.  It is a decision that is not widely supported by many of our close friends and family; for various reasons.  It is a decision that we spend a fair amount of time defending.  My husband's family is not really health conscious at all.  My MIL brings us food all the time - usually something with beef.  We never turn her food down, but we are trying to figure out how to get her to use our beef if she is going to cook for us.  We've mentioned it before, but she just laughs at us and says 'You'll be fine.  Just eat it.'  My sister is far crunchier than I am, and I had anticipated that my family would have been tired of poking fun and debating her lifestyle.  I was wrong.  Perhaps they just expect her to be more 'eccentric' and have accepted that she will always do things her own way, whereas they have seen me as perhaps more conventional and have a tough time accepting that I, too, have a crunchy streak...I don't know.  I can tell you that it's gotten old, though. Here are some of the common comments that we get from family and close friends:
    • We've eaten this stuff for years, and there's nothing wrong with us.
    • You know, the government and FDA keep publishing all kinds of studies showing that organic stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be.  In fact, it's not any better than the stuff you avoid.
    • You're going a little overboard.  You keep telling us that you're strapped for cash, but you're spending all kinds of money on expensive organic food.
    • All that foo-foo stuff tastes like cardboard.  Just take extra vitamins.  You'll be fine.
    • Vegetables and fruit are vegetables and fruit.  Healthy is healthy.  Organic vegetables and fruit are just over the top.
    • Oh.  You're one of those.
    • It's not cool to judge so many people for not eating the way you do.  

    Here are the reasons that we have gone natural/organic...most (but not all) of this list has been used as rebuttal to the above list.
    • One of what?  One of those people that actually gives a crap about healthy living.  Yep.  I am.  One of those people that likes to be educated about the things I can to to possibly protect myself and my family from preventable diseases, including some forms of cancer?  Yep, you caught me.  I am.  One of those people that doesn't assume that the government and large corporations should be taken at face value?  Sure am.  One of those people that likes to know where some of her food comes from - just for poops and smirks?  Absolutely.  And NO - we don't judge anyone based on their food choices.  We have made this decision because it is right for us; we don't expect that it is right for everyone around us.  With a couple specific exceptions, we have not tried to influence the food selections of anyone around us by saying 'our choice is better than yours.'  In fact, there are an awful lot of people around us that judge us and tell us we're nuts and that we're wasting our time with these decisions. 
    • Well, as a matter of fact, there are lots of things wrong with 'us' as a population.  Let's start with the sharp increase in high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, just to name a few.  I have an adult family member and a teenage family member that are morbidly obese.  The adult has not always been this way.  He was in the military for 4 years after high school, and when he was finished his service 25 years ago, he was an average-size guy.  He was big when Jeff and I started dating 16 years ago, but the obesity has become a real issue over the last 10 years or so.  The teenager was a big baby, from day one (he was over 10#), and it has never gotten any better.  He is now almost 350#; he hasn't been able to run in years and he has serious signs of depression at this point.  He quit football two years ago because he couldn't run, and it recently took several months for a foot fracture to heal.  When he went for an athletic physical two years ago, the doctor wanted to send him the next week for a gastric bypass consultation (After a couple days of processing this, everyone involved - including the doc - realized that this was a terrible idea.).  The entire family has tried various weight loss tactics over the years - Atkins, some cranberry and protein diet, an off the cuff version of Weight Wat.chers.  None of them have been successful, primarily because nothing is ever taken seriously...yet this obese adult is one of the biggest bashers of the way we eat.  Nutrition, in general, is a huge issue here.  Obviously organic vs. non-organic is not going to make a difference in this case, but natural vs. chemically laden certainly might.  Eliminating some of the crap and adding some physical activity wouldn't be a bad place to start.   
    • Since making this wide spread change, I cannot say enough about how good I feel.  My gluten free diet was the result of a smattering of mysterious ailment and symptoms.  It was a last-ditch effort to feel better.  Much to my (initial) dismay, it worked.  Random symptomology gone.  I have gone back to consuming gluten, but I don't think gluten was the real issue.  Lots of gluten free foods (at least when I was on the diet) are simply healthier because they don't have all of the chemical additives.  I seriously suspect that one or more of the chemicals in my daily diet were the underlying issue the whole time.  
    • Yes.  We've all eaten Ore.os and eaten McDo.nalds forever.  But the problem is that it's really not the same as it used to be.  Years bring progress.  Progress brings technology.  Technology brings synthetic additives.  Synthetic additives are cheaper.  Cheaper is better for business.  The bottom line is that over the years, most food production companies have changed the composition of their products.  They might taste the same as they did 20 years ago, but they are not chemically the same.  (But really...if it's a gradual change over 20 years, how many people really notice?  It's not like anyone is pulling out the Oreo cookie from 20 years ago and going bite for bite against one purchased today.  I say that today's taste is probably quite different than the taste from 20 years ago...)  So much of the food on the shelves today is laden with unnatural compounds - including high fructose corn syrup.  Sure, the FDA has approved those compounds for use in our food, but how many times have we seen them repeal those decisions or mandate warning labels for certain items after they've been on the shelves for years.  I have come to believe that if our bodies were made to process and digest most of those chemicals and compounds, they would be naturally occurring. 
    • I've seen the studies that say 'No one can say for sure that synthetic bovine growth hormone is worse than natural bovine growth hormone', but no one has shown me the rest of these FDA studies.  I keep asking where to find them, and no one can tell me.  
    • Organic doesn't mean laden with vitamins and minerals. It means lacking chemical crap.  And yes, as recently as a few years ago, lots of packaged organic food left quite a bit to be desired in the taste department.  But it's improving on a daily basis.  Over the last year or two I have put organic stuff in front of my hubby and had him tell me that it tastes the same or better than the 'regular' stuff.  This includes cookies, pop tarts, granola bars, pretzels, etc.   
    • Nope, not all organic food is health food.  There is such a thing as organic junk food.  It just lacks many of the chemical additives found in 'regular' junk food.  
    • Sure, veggies are veggies and fruits are fruits.  It's not necessarily the underlying flesh that I'm worried about.  It's the chemicals adhered to the outside, with the possibility that they have perhaps permeated through to that underlying flesh.  Again...the chemicals.  And for those who like to remind me that farmers have been using pesticides for years, I have two points to raise.  How long have we been chasing the cause of most cancers?  Are today's pesticides reeeeally the same as the pesticides used 10, 20 or 30 years ago? 
    • Let's talk about Autism.  I actually don't buy into the vaccination theory as much as others do.  I think that many of the vaccinations we got as kids are pretty harmless; it's the new stuff, like the chicken pox vaccine, that I question.  Let's talk about the plastic vials that the vaccines have been package in for the last 10-15  years (yes, I know...some of them are in glass, but not all of them).  How long do some of those vaccinations lay around soaking up the chemicals out of the plastic before they're injected into some poor, unsuspecting babe?  I also believe (be it right, wrong or indifferent) that the chemicals in the foods eaten during pregnancy, as well as the foods given during infancy and toddlerhood play a large role in the rise in Autism.  Again, for me, it goes back to chemicals.
    • I wonder quite a bit about all of the antibiotics and steroids in the meat we eat.  Seriously, when I was 13, none of the girls in my class had racks like 13 year old girls have today.  None of them.  Commercial farming is at an all time high in this country.  It's one of the most hideous industries ever, and I am a firm believer that it is ultimately playing a large role in many health issues emerging or increasing today.  It's all about the bottom dollar, and to get more of those dollars, beef is being pumped full of natural and artificial steroids and antibiotics; poultry and pork are being pumped full of antibiotics.  Living conditions for these animals are horrid.  Go to You.Tube and search for Weg.man's egg farms, just as an example.  If you start there, you'll find your way through the rest.  There are lots of videos about all the things we want to pretend don't happen.  Back to the products that make it to our supermarkets...I fully understand that even organic milk has 'hormones', simply because cows have to have some flow of natural hormones to produce mild.  Okay...that's been going on forever; additives have not.  I have consciously made the choice to know where my beef, poultry and pork come from, and I have made the conscious choice to buy 'cleaner' dairy products. 
    • Yes, organic foods can cost a little more at the register their non-organic counterparts.  (I also maintain that you get what you pay for...if you spend a little more at the register, it might go a long way toward better health, which will cost you less money in medical expenses down the road.)  But it doesn't have to be a bank-breaking choice.  Prices are starting to come down on lots of organic selections in the grocery stores, and 'natural' is cheaper than organic and still lacks chemical crap.  Organic produce purchased at farmers' markets is often very close in price to what is purchased in the grocery store. 

      But there is also another factor that makes it so incredibly affordable for me.  Granted this option is not available to everyone, but it is becoming more and more widespread.  My magic solution?  Surplus/salvage grocery stores.  We have one very close to where we live, and I shop there quite a bit.  In fact, if we didn't have to go there for milk, I might not go into the 'regular' grocery store more than once a month!  It is not nearly as glamorous as shopping at the big name markets, but I really don't care.  As long as you carefully inspect what you buy, you can practically steal your groceries.  The only bad thing is that lots of things are hit or miss, so you have to buy it when you find it.  It might not be there tomorrow.  Depending on the item, and how often I see it, I might buy 10-12 of something I would ordinarily buy 1 or 2 of at any given time. 

      Our surplus store is a natural/organic hot bed.  Cereal, pop tarts, granola bars, pasta, shampoo, conditioner, pasta sauce, oatmeal, cough drops, bottled juice and juice boxes, Lu.na and Cli.f bars (some for 17 cents each, some for 33 cents each!), potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers, baking products, soup, broth, frozen/canned veggies, applesauce, cookies, nuts, baby food, the occasional organic frozen meat (usually pork loins), katsup, mustard, salsa, peanut butter, jams, oils.  You get the point...you name it, you might find it.  At dirt cheap pricing.  There have been times that we have filled our cart with natural and organic goodness and paid far less than we would have paid at the grocery store for the 'regular' food, even with coupons and club card discount.  The only thing they don't have is organic milk and cheese, and meat is a rarity. 

      So where do you find these stores?  They are popping up all over the place.  Do a go.ogle search for surplus or salvage grocery stores.  Check this website...it has a list of some, but it's not comprehensive (the list is 3 years old and the two closest to me are not listed).  Ask around at work or at your mommy groups - someone is bound to know of one or two.  Even if it's an hour drive to get there, many times it would be worth making the trip once a month. 
    So there it is...my very long rant for the week, and boy, do I feel better!!!   Take it at face value and don't read anything into it!!  I would love to get up on a podium and read this to an audience of closed-minded folks or post it where people who criticize us the most could read it, and perhaps I will eventually make a FB post of out of it.  More so, I would love to just tell some people to take a flying leap and mind their own business.  For now, I will just rant here.  :-)

    If you are on the same wagon I'm on, it's nice to know that there are others here.  If you are not on the same wagon, but have been thinking about it, do more reading.  I suggest Orga.nic Ma.nifesto or Fo.od Inc for starters.  If you are not on the same wagon, just for the record, I respect the fact that we disagree about food - in general, we can agree to disagree.  :-)    If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  Wishing you all a fabulous week ahead...