Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My aStore

It's no secret that I love Amazon. We are Prime members, so we get free 2-day shipping on everything there, and I almost always check Amazon before making any purchases. I also love reading reviews on there–it makes me such a better shopper, and I hardly ever have buyer's remorse when I shop on Amazon. It's like free consumer reports. Now, I know it's good to support small businesses, especially local small businesses, and I swear, I do do that when possible, especially for cloth diapers and unique items (love Etsy!). But if I can get a significantly better price on Amazon, on, say, a vacuum cleaner, I will buy there, especially with free shipping. I also like that Amazon uses green shipping (low waste packaging, recycled cardboard). We did our baby registry on Amazon, and it worked really well for us. We didn't have a local cloth diaper store in VA when we registered, so I was able to register for cloth diapers and other non-conventional baby items that aren't always available at the most popular baby registry stores. And don't even get me started on Amazon Wish Lists. Everyone should have one. Seriously, everyone. It makes gift-giving so easy!

I also love, love, love to talk about and share great products. It is especially so much fun to hear about kid/baby items from other moms, and I've done lots of posts about products I love in the past. Since I recently became an Amazon associate, I have been able to create an "aStore" where I can list all my favorite products in different categories. So now you can see all the things that I love on Amazon in one place. Lots of moms-to-be have emailed me asking for help with baby registries, and my aStore will be a great resource for that purpose. I also have categories for books, fertility, cloth diapering, green products, and misc. Click here to check out my aStore. Do you have an aStore? If so, leave your link b/c I'd love to see what's on your list. If not, what would you buy on Amazon if you had $500 to spend? Please share your favorite products with me! I love talking about this stuff!


The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links and will earn me referrals if you use them to purchase any of these items. All opinions are 100% mine, and I love these products whether they earn me a referral or not!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Professional Diaper Stripping

I just had all of Penny's diapers professionally stripped, and I am really happy with the results, so I wanted to share the experience with you all. Around the first of the year, Penny developed a persistent diaper rash that looked like blisters. I wasn't sure if it was because she started eating more acidic foods when she turned one (citrus, tomatoes) or if it was related to something about her diapers. We tried everything we could think of (zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter, all different creams and ointments), and then finally took her to the doctor, who prescribed a combination of perscription-strength antibiotic cream (i.e. super strong neosporin) and an antifungal. That finally kicked it, but I decided to get her diapers stripped in the meantime just to make sure it wouldn't come back.

When you read online, you can see all different ways to strip diapers at home. I had tried some of these methods in the past, but this time I really just wanted to let someone else take care of it so that I wouldn't have to worry about it. I will admit that I haven't always been the most vigilant diaper-launderer. I didn't really take seriously some of the laundering recommendations out there, and it definitely shows on some of my older diapers. I have gotten much more strict with my routine of late, but more on that later. Our local cloth diaper store/diaper service, Baby Junk (Diaper Du-Dee Service), offers professional diaper stripping, so that's what I used. It costs $1 per diaper. One diaper counts as 1 all-in-one, 1 pocket with 2 inserts, or 3 inserts/prefolds on their own. I did my entire stash of pockets and inserts, and it cost me $33. All I had to do was leave my clean diapers on the porch, and the service picked them up and returned them to my house a week later. If you don't live in Omaha, Baby Junk will actually still offer this service for you, but you have to mail your diapers to them. Return shipping is free. Details are on their website if you're interested. Anyway, I am so glad that I had our diapers stripped professionally. They look super clean, seem more absorbent now and definitely aren't causing any rash issues. The organic cotton ones are actually softer too. It's something I would probably like to do about once every year or two to prolong the life of my diapers and get rid of any build-up.

While my diapers were being stripped, I pulled out the flats that I had used during the Flats & Handwashing Challenge last May. Swaddlebees had sponsored me in the challenge and provided 24 flats so that I could participate. I thought I would use my flats while my modern diapers were being stripped, and could avoid using disposables during that week. Another option would have been to purchase a week of diaper service, especially since the service was picking up and dropping off my diapers anyway. But, I had flats, so I used them, and I have to say that I really, really liked using them. I think last year when I was participating in the challenge, the handwashing sort of over-shadowed my ability to appreciate the flats, but they really are great diapers. Flats are just huge squares of birdseye cotton that you can fold in different ways to fit inside of a cover. They're sort of like prefolds except that prefolds are sewn to have extra layers in the middle, while flats are just left flat. They are uber cheap and dry super fast, so they are extremely economical. They're also not picky about laundering, especially being made of natural fibers. I exclusively used the padfold, where you basically just fold the flat down to a small rectangle and lay it in the cover. We aren't dealing with stage 1 or 2 poo anymore, so the padfold works just fine for us.

I also attended a CD laundering webinar, which just so happened to occur the week my dipes were being stripped. It was quite serendipitous actually! I don't know if I've told you all, but I'm trying to start a diaper circle in Omaha through the Real Diaper Association, and the webinar I attended was offered through the RDA training program. It was a fantastic program. I learned a lot about CD laundering, and I really loved that the information was based on professional laundering resources. It wasn't just like, somebody's opinion on what works, like so much of the CD laundering info out there. What I took away from it was that the number one mistake people make is not using enough detergent–I thought this was interesting because I feel like I always read about how you shouldn't use too much, but not using enough is actually worse. I will definitely share more about it with you all once RDA finalizes the program and their handouts. The webinar I attended was a preview of sorts. In the meantime, if you are having buildup or ammonia stink issues, consider having your diapers professionally stripped. Also consider using one detergent for all of your clothes and diapers so that you don't get buildup in your washer. I love Pinstripes & Polkadots for detergent info. There is also a good chart at Diaper Jungle.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Coloring Wallet Artist Case Tutorial

Today I'm sharing a tutorial for this cute coloring wallet. I needed a gift for a little boy, and I thought this taxi fabric would be perfect for a young male artist on the go! He also happens to love cars. Bonus. The blank pages are printed from the internet. There are approximately 1 billion line drawings you can print for coloring. I printed four to a page. You could also just quarter blank paper if your budding artist likes to draw his/her own images or you don't have time to print.


Finished dimensions are 6" x 10" open, or 6" x 5" closed. Fits twelve 3 1/2" colored pencils or 6 standard sized crayons. Paper slot measures 5 1/2" by 4 1/2", which is perfect for standard copy paper quartered.

Materials:
1/4 yard of two complementary fabrics. I used quilters cotton, but you could use a home decor weight or flannel to give more structure. Alternatively, you could use interfacing to make your cotton more sturdy.
small sew-on velcro pieces


Start with two 17" x 7" rectangles of your lining fabric and outer fabric. You can use the same fabric for both if you want, but I like the contrast.

Pin them together, right sides facing. Leave a 2-3" gap along the long edge. It may help you to remember to leave the gap by double-pinning where your gap will be.

Stitch around the rectangle, using 1/4" seams, backstitching both ends, and leaving your gap.

Clip your corners, making sure not to cut into your seam. Turn the whole thing right-side out through the gap you left. It may help to use an awl to get your corners crisp. Press.

You now have a rectangle with your print on one side and your lining on the other. Don't worry about the open edge. It will get closed later. Set aside.


For the closure, you'll need two rectangles 2" x 3.5" from your lining fabric and two 3/4" square velcro pieces (one hook, one loop)

Pin your small rectangles, right sides facing. Don't be deceived by my double-sided fabric. If yours has a print on one side, make sure the right sides face. Stitch around the two long edges and one short edge. Leave one small edge unstitched except for a little bit at the corners. Backstitch both ends.

Clip the corners, making sure you don't cut into the seam, and turn right-side out through your open edge. An awl will definitely help you on this little guy. Press.

Sew one of your velcro pieces to this rectangle along the closed edge. Your stitching will show, so choose your thread color accordingly.

Measure 3 1/4" from the center of the short edge of your large rectangle, and pin the other velcro piece. Stitch in place.

Measure 4 1/2" from the other edge of your large rectangle, and pin your small rectangle/closure. Stitch along the short edge, closing the rectangle simultaneously, and stitch a square to hold the closure securely.

Turn your piece so that the lining side faces you, and fold in each edge 3". Pin.

Sew straight across each long edge with 1/8" seaming. Your thread will show on both sides, so choose colors accordingly. This seam will also close up the space through which you turned this piece. Backstitch all ends.

At this point, the body of the coloring wallet is complete. We just need to sew spaces for the colored pencils or crayons. You can customize this part, depending on what you're using. I found a 12-pack of mini colored pencils at Hobby Lobby and made 6 spaces so that I could have two per slot. These slots will also fit one standard sized crayon per slot (6 crayons). If you space them out differently, you might be able to fit an 8-pack of crayons. Play around with it.

Working from the side without the closure flap, measure 7/8" from the seam, and mark with a pin. Then measure 7/8" from that pin, and mark again, and so on. Place your coloring instruments in the slots to ensure proper fit.





Remove pencils, and sew a straight line from the edge of the pocket to the end of the wallet where you've marked each pin. When you sew the center line, only sew halfway so that you don't sew over your velcro. If you'd rather, you can do this for all of your slots, just sewing the outer half.


Note how the center line stops before the velcro above.

Now you're all done! Go print out some pictures and cut your paper in quarters. Then get ready for some super fun coloring on the go. This would be perfect for drawing in the car, keeping kids busy in waiting rooms or airplane entertainment.







If you make one, leave me a comment and/or link to your blog. I'd love to see yours!

For personal use only please.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Complete Body Cleanse

My husband has decided to do a 2-week cleanse, and he agreed to let me blog about it as long as I don't say anything too embarrassing. He's been counting calories and running for the last 3 months, and he's lost 16 pounds. He's about 10 pounds from his goal weight, and he wanted to try a cleanse to see if it would make him feel any better, get closer to his goal, or improve his health. I saw this one at Whole Foods, so I picked it up for him.



I feel like you can usually trust Whole Foods for stuff like that, and it sure sounds a lot better than some of the cleanses you can read about online. This one comes with 3 different types of pills: Herbal Regularity Laxative Formula, Cleansing Fiber Blend, and Milk Thistle Liver Cleanse, all of which are the 365 Everyday Value brand made by WF. Two of the three say not to use if nursing, so I won't be joining in the cleansing fun. It comes with instructions as to how many of each type of pill to take each morning and night, and the second week is a bit different from the first. I think the whole thing cost $16.99. While you're doing the cleanse, you just eat normally and try to avoid vigorous exercise.

So far, partway through Day 1, he says there's nothing to report, but stay tuned, and I will update you periodically over the next two weeks!

Have any of you ever done a cleanse? Which one? What did you think?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Romeo and Juliet Baby Book

Oh my goodness, people. A good friend gave Penny this book for her birthday, and it is the cutest little thing ever!

If you know me, you may know that I was a wee bit obsessed with Romeo & Juliet in middle school...and high school. Ok, and college too. I actually got the chance to perform Shakespeare on the Globe stage in London when I was in college. Cool. Very cool. OK, not cool. Whatever. Anyway, apparently it is never too young to pass on a love of Shakespeare to the next generation. This little book is not only adorable and highly cultured, but it is made from recycled paper. It was so meant to be. Fateful. Star-crossed. We love it. Ok, I love it. I won't let Penny play with it because she still eats books, and I want this one to last. But she loves it under supervision.

Just in case you're considering buying this book to prep for your high school English test, I'll warn you that it is a very simplified version of Romeo & Juliet. As in "1 balcony", "2 loves", "9 streets and bridges". There is no death, poison, suicide, poetry, or dueling here, so you may still want to consult the original. Or, ya know, at least the Cliff Notes version.

They also make baby board books of Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre. Love these BabyLit books. Thanks, Adria, for such an awesome little gift!


The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links and will earn me referrals if you use them to purchase any of these items. All opinions are 100% mine, and I love these products whether they earn me a referral or not!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Holy pukefest!

Everyone in my family was ravaged by the stomach flu this week, and it was not pretty. Penny started at 2am on Monday morning. She vomited about every hour from 2am until 9am. It was just breastmilk at first, and then dry-heaving. She slept in between, and then bounced back to her chipper, curious, loquacious self by late-morning. But, man, there is nothing like seeing your kid suffer. After her last vomit spell, she was laying on her blanket on her tummy with her head to the side, clutching Sophie in one hand with the sleep sheep playing whale sounds next to her, and I was rubbing her back. She never lays still like that, so it just broke my heart. But, I have to say, watching her hold Sophie was really cute–she's not really into lovies and isn't attached to many things, but she definitely loves her Sophie. All day, she kept asking for milk, water, and pretzels (using signs). That was all she would consume. I was so glad to still be breastfeeding, both to provide the nourishment and immune benefits, but also for the comfort and soothing qualities. I can think of at least 3 moms I know who've had sick babies just over a year and were thankful that they were still breastfeeding. Just something to think about for mamas thinking of weaning at a year.

The nurse at Penny's doctor's office said we could resume activities after 24 hours of no vomiting or fever, but I'm glad we decided to go the more conservative 48 hours because at 3pm on Tuesday, she vomited again. I think it was sort of a fluke–maybe the result of me trying to get her to eat more before she was ready because she seemed fine after that.

And then at 3:45 I started in. Oh, and did I mention that my husband was out of town for work? It was horrible, and let's just say it will be a long time before I eat chili again. Leaving it at that. Penny and I were camped out in my room. I was lethargic and puking into a bucket, and she was running around my room. She kept trying to open the dresser drawers. I was afraid they were going to fall on top of her, so I pulled the drawers out and laid them on the floor. She looked at me like "Seriously? I get to tear through all this?!" She is always trying to explore the drawers, and I never let her, so she felt like she hit the jackpot. I also opened the blinds, and she had fun looking outside and pounding on the window. We have a really pretty view, and the window is at a great height for her. She also found it intriguing to watch me upchuck, so, needless to say, she found ways to stay busy. Still, I was seriously wishing I had family nearby. My father-in-law was 5 hours away in Missouri, and he left around 5:30 to come help. At 5:45, I talked to my dad, and he told me to call my doctor. Apparently, there is a medication that can be prescribed for this. Who knew? I'm not normally all gung-ho to take meds, but when you're alone with a 1-year old puking your guts out, it's time to call in the big guns. My neighbor picked up the prescription for me, and I finally called the spouse of Josh's coworker to come by around 6:30 because I felt terribly dehydrated and was afraid I might pass out. I could just picture Penny running wild with mom passed out on the floor. I tried to sip water, but it made me puke every time. She and the meds showed up at about the same time, and the worst was over. I probably should have called for help sooner, but it's so hard to ask for help, ya know? Anyway, I got Penny to bed, and I got to bed. I sipped water all night, and when Penny woke up at 4:30, I brought her to bed with me. She nursed, then vomited again, then slept until 6:30. It's so weird how she can vomit and then act totally normal.

Mommy & Me puke buckets

My FIL arrived around 11pm, and he took the morning shift with Penny so that I could rest. Penny is often kind of difficult with visitors, especially male ones, but she warmed up to Papa right away, and they are having a blast together. I could hear them playing and laughing downstairs while I was resting, and it's so heart-warming. I think it's a combo of being more easygoing since she turned one, getting better at remembering people, and probably that mom has been so not fun the last day that she's happy to have someone with energy to play and interact with her.

When I talked to Josh this morning, I found out that he vomited all night in his hotel room in Chicago. Now he's in meetings all day, so he's probably infecting everyone he works with. I called his hotel and told them to bleach the crap out of his room and warn the housekeeper to wear a mask. Guys don't think of this stuff, but we definitely don't need that kind of karma hanging over us. I don't wish this illness on anyone.

I think (and hope) that we are all on the upswing. I am so grateful to Papa for dropping everything to come take care of us, to Vicki for coming by yesterday, for my dad for telling me to get meds, for my neighbor for picking them up for me, for my IBCLC Susan who looked to make sure that the meds are BFing safe. Where would any of us be without loving support of friends and family? Be well, all!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fabric Covered Button Tutorial

I don't know about you guys, but I love love love a covered button, especially on cute kiddie clothes. Hence this dress and this dress and these magnets. I love how positively fabulous they look and how easy they are. I like projects with a high splendid to simplistic ratio, and covered buttons definitely fit the bill. They look incredibly professional and look like they would be hard to do, but in reality, they are one of the easiest things ever. I also love that all you need is a tiny scrap of fabric. I hate to throw fabric away, even little bits, so I am always looking for ways to use scraps. The button cover kits can be a little intimidating, so I'm walking you through it today. The instructions are on the back of the package, but sometimes pictures help. Also, you might not even have considered making covered buttons, but once you see this tutorial, I'm sure you will have confidence in being able to tackle this no-sew project!


First, you need to find a Button Cover Kit like this one. You can buy online or find them in craft stores. They come in different sizes, so choose the size you want. The size measurement represents the diameter of the button. They also come with shanks or without shanks. The shank is the little loop in the back that will allow you to sew it to a garment. If you want to make magnets or barrettes or anything that won't be sewn onto a garment, you can get the shankless ones or cut the shanks off. The first time, make sure you get the kit, not the refill. You need a different kit for each size if you're using different sizes. Once you have the kits, you can buy the refill packs to make more buttons. The kit contains a white button mold, a blue pusher, and a few each of buttons and button backs. The refill kits just contain buttons and button backs.



The back of the package has a shaded semicircle that can be used as a pattern. Cut it out.

Fold your fabric scrap in half and line it up against your pattern. Cut out your semicircle with the folded fabric edge against the straight edge of your pattern so that you end up with a full circle. It doesn't have to be perfect–the edges won't show.

Place your button with rounded side against the wrong side of your fabric. My fabric was double-sided, so it didn't matter, but if you have a printed fabric, make sure the right side faces down and the wrong side is next to your button.

Press the whole thing into the white button mold.

Fold the excess fabric edges over around the back of the button Place the button back on top, making sure that all the fabric edges are underneath the button back.

Use your blue pusher to secure the back on. It has a space so that you won't crush the shank. The button back will click into place. It helps to push against a hard surface. If you have trouble, place the button kit onto a table and press with a board or something hard on top.

Remove the button from the mold and sew it where you want it!



Make some cool magnets:

Embellish a cute dress:

 I think a covered button would look super cute on a Kindle cover too:

What have you added covered buttons to? Have I inspired you to try making some?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A few random Sunday night thoughts

1. I have been drinking lots and lots of herbal tea lately. I can't get enough. At least 2 cups a day. Green tea in the morning, chamomile at night, and Tazo passion in between. Passion is the best tasting tea I have ever had. It is super dark fuschia when brewed and super strong flavor-wise. Yum. I also always put a spoonful of raw local honey in my tea. I freakin' love this stuff. It is hard, and you scrape it out of the jar, and it has all these little flecks in it. Raw local honey is supposed to help with seasonal allergies. I am hoping because mine are terrible. The idea is that the bee pollen in the honey is supposed to desensitize you. I'll let you know come spring.

2. Josh almost burned the house down yesterday (I am totally exaggerating) by using a dishtowel as a potholder in the oven. The towel caught fire, but we put it out quickly. It was sort of Penny's fault (maybe) because our oven mitt has gone missing, and we're pretty sure she hid it somewhere. We went out to Marshalls later in the day, and I found super soft bamboo oven mitts. I bought two, and also two new dish towels. I didn't really need them, but I couldn't resist. They were super cute and fun for spring. Sorry, no picture, as they are in the wash right now.

3. Penny is learning animal sounds left and right (tiger, sheep, goat, monkey, dog, owl, snake, cow), and doing adorable pretend play like hugging her baby doll and "talking" on the phone. It is the cutest thing ever. I love this age!

4. We are in the final stage of renovations for our home. It involves a new sewing room for me (twice the size), which is so exciting. Should be move-in ready in a few weeks. It also involves getting rid of horrible wood paneling. Woo hoo!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Heart Pocket Tutorial

Today I am posting my first ever tutorial! I am so excited to share it even though it is just an itty bitty project. I have so much fun reading (and pinning) others' tutorials. It is one of my favorite things about reading blogs and being on Pinterest. I featured a sweet purple dress a couple days ago, and today I am going to show you how I made the heart-shaped pocket. The dress pattern/tutorial is from this blog.

First, cut out two identical heart shapes in your choice of fabric. I recommend folding your fabric in half and then cutting a half-heart (a la elementary school paper valentines!) for symmetry, then tracing the second from the first.

Put your two hearts right-sides together. My fabric was double-sided, so it didn't matter, but if you have a pattern on one side, make sure the pattern sides are facing. Stitch around the heart, leaving at least an inch unstitched along the straight edge. That space is where you will turn the pocket right-side out. It will be easier to line up and stitch it closed it if is along the straight edge of the heart rather than a curved edge. Backstitch at both ends. Try to keep your seam allowance stable–my heart turned out a little lopsided b/c my seam allowance wasn't quite consistent.


Clip your curves and corners and trim the edge to 1/8", or use pinking shears. Do not trim where your seam is open, and make sure you do not cut into your seam.

Turn the heart right-side out. You might use an awl to get your corner crisp. Make sure your unsewn edge is folded in evenly. Press.


Topstitch all the way around the heart, closing up the hole as you go. If you want this to be a patch instead of a pocket, you can skip this step.


Pin the heart where you want it go.


Stitch along the bottom half of the heart directly over the topstitching, backstitching both ends. All done!
This would be a great embellishment for little girl clothes or even big girl clothes. Sew some heart pockets on your little girl's jeans, maybe an arm pocket for mom, and maybe even a shirt pocket for dad if he really wants to get in the spirit (ha! my hubs would not be happy if I did this to his shirt!). You could also make it into a patch just by skipping the topstitching step and sewing all the way around when attaching to your garment. I am thinking these would make super cute knee or elbow patches on girl clothes. You can also experiment with any shape you want. Leave me a comment or email if you use this tutorial. I'd love to see what you make!