Sarah's Bridal Shower

My sister is getting married in 6 WEEKS!!!! Wow... I think I'm still adjusting to the simple fact that she is engaged. :-p Here are some pics from her shower. (Sarah is in the big comfy chair with the tan pants and teal shirt.)

Devotional to open the shower.

The main food table.

The amazing chocolate fountain...

Sarah with the moms and 5 of the 6 bridesmaids (including me).

Sarah - me - Mom.

Sarah was immensely blessed with loads of gifts. :)

Opening gifts.


Patrick's First Coffee...

I had some decaf coffee punch left over from Sarah's bridal shower. On Saturday (the day after the shower), I gave some to Sarah when she and Mom were over for a visit. Patrick became very interested in the chocolate colored liquid in Sarah's glass.

So, after a while of Patrick mooching from Aunty Sarah, I decided to get Patrick his first cup of coffee...
Of course, Bear had to be a part of this momentous event. While Patrick enjoyed his own coffee, it seems coffee from Aunty Sarah's cup is better.


Gardening Part 2

While it has been rainy the last two days, the beginning of the week was nice and sunny... chilly, but sunny. So, I took advantage of the sun and worked more on my garden. Last week, I extended the width of the garden to make sure we had enough room for everything I'm hoping to plant.

Before I made the garden larger... (about 4ft by 12ft)

After - now about 6x12.

This week, I added in a minuscule amount of compost, and 3 bags of manure.
Once the manure and compost were mixed in, the plot was still rather lumpy...
As I intended to plant some spinach and lettuce, I figured I needed to level it out a bit, so I walked back and forth on it, trying to even the soil out a bit. Though a very basic system, it worked rather well.
I used an old paint stick to make two rows for my greens. Spinach is on the front (right) row. Mesclun salad mix and Simpson lettuce are in the 2nd.
With all the rain we've been getting, I expect I'll see early growth as early as next week. Harvest time is supposed to be 45-60 days from planting. :)

My "greenhouses" are coming along beautifully, too.

Some of the lettuces started poking through on Tuesday evening - only 3 days after I planted them. Here they are, 5 days since planting.
In particular, I'm very happy about the tomatoes that seem to be growing. I've never started tomatoes from seed before, but they seem to be doing what they're supposed to. If you look carefully, the little white specks in the photo are the beginnings of tomato plants.

Finally, just a pic of the entire tray. Left to right - rosemary/dill, cilantro, sweet basil, large leaf basil, big boy tomatoes, roma tomatoes, sweet tomatoes, green onions, spinach, mesclun, black seeded simpson and simpson.


Bum Genius One Size ~ 3.0

They don't call them Bum Genius for nothing. These things are truly brilliant! My diapers order arrived today and I couldn't be more excited. :)
I ordered 7 *mostly* gender neutral diapers and think they're adorable.

The diaper really is one size - using snaps, they are adjustable. The pink is L, orange is M, and blue is S. Pretty amazing that one diaper can grow so much.

The next photo isn't very good - the flash was too bright - but you can (sort of) see the pocket for the inserts. If I know the diaper is going to be on for longer than average because we're out somewhere or something, I might use 1 regular insert and one newborn insert.

The pocket with a newborn insert...
The diapers came with two inserts each - newborn and adjustable. The adjustable in the next photo are shown in their full length. If you look carefully at the adjustable inserts, you can see the snaps in the middle on the right half... this is how you adjust the length.

Stuffed diapers.
My stash...
For those of you who already CD, obviously this is nothing new. For those of you new to the CD idea, this may prove to be insightful - these aren't the cloth diapers your grandmother used! :)



I ordered my first batch of cloth diapers on Saturday and they shipped yesterday! Looking forward to them arriving later this week. :)



It seems the time has come to prepare my yard for a garden. If you remember, back in the fall, Daniel and I saved the majority of leaves from our two large trees for compost. While there is still a mid-size pile of leaves in our back yard near the back fence, the bottom layer is fabulous compost. In October or November, around the same time we were battling leaves in our yard, I planted a small garlic bed. About three weeks ago, I saw the tips of garlic poking their way through the leaves I had intentionally placed on top. I believe I planted 14-16 cloves and it looks like 13 are growing. Not bad, in my opinion.

In the fall, I had intentions of planting some tomatoes and peppers this spring. As time has passed, I realized that other garden items really aren't hard to grow, so my list of plants has grown. This past Saturday, I went to Home Depot to get seed starter greenhouses and seeds. I came home with the following...

Rosemary, Dill, Cilantro, Sweet Basil, Large Leaf Basil, Big Boy Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Sweet Tomatoes, Green Onions, Spinach, Mesclun Salad Mix, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, and Simpson Lettuce. I did, however, forget to buy pepper seeds. I'll try and get some later this week.

Two weeks ago we had some lovely warm weather, so I took advantage of it and started our garden plot. I manually tilled up about a 3 ft by 10 ft section where our main garden will be.

Though it isn't super warm today, I think it should be warm enough this afternoon for me to go back out and till more. Because I ended up purchasing way more seeds than I had planned, I decided our garden plot needs to be at least double the size it is now. I also hope to plant wildflowers where the leaves are between the garden plot and the back fence (white). We can't seem to get grass to grow there, so I figure it can't hurt to try.

Spinach is in-season for planting, so I need to try and plant the remainder of my seeds (I put some in my greenhouse starter already) outside sometime in the next week. Once I've doubled the size of the garden, I need to get bags of cow poo to mix in with the existing soil before I plant anything beyond spinach.

In the way of pests, I intend to surround the garden with green plastic fencing. We do have a known rodent of some type that has made holes in our yard the last two years (the holes got substantially larger last summer!), so we'll need to figure out what to do with that. Otherwise, I hope to harvest tomatoes and peppers as they're ripening rather than waiting until they're ripe before any birds can get to them. As far as squirrels and other animals are concerned, I'll have to figure that out as we go.


The Great Cloth Adventure

I've been using cloth diapers on Erin for about 2 days now and basically love it. We have used a few sposies on her because I don't have a ton of diapers - yet! - but I think we're well on our way to mostly CDing her. :)

I just took the plunge and ordered my first batch of cloth diapers and can't wait for them to arrive. Because I was able to try several different kinds of CDs, thanks to the friend that loaned them to me, I opted to order only bumGenius 3.0 one size for now. I ordered 7 of them plus poo liners. :) I expect that these should hold us over pretty well for a month or two and then I'll probably order 3 more, but I might go with FuzziBunz then as I'm getting the hang of the snaps.

A bit more of my experience thus far...

Erin had two poos yesterday and I had two very different experiences with them. The first happened later than usual - mid-morning - and I totally wasn't expecting it. Not only that, but it was messy and mostly missed the liner. Yes, the liner got some of it, but I think I had it positioned too far back in the diaper, so a lot went forward and was totally on the diaper. Bear in mind, I have a stomach of steel, but cleaning this diaper out was challenging. :-p I had to swish it in the toilet and thought I might lose my breakfast. So, out of desperation to get the thing somewhat clean before throwing it in the diaper bin, I turned on the bathtub faucet and rinsed as much off as possible. (I gave the tub a thorough cleaning after, don't worry! Amazingly, this was better than the alternative.) My first experience with poo and cloth was not plesant. We'll leave it at that.

The 2nd poo, was notably better. I decided that when it happened again, I was not doing the toilet deal again. When it happened, I didn't have a liner in the diaper as I didn't think she needed it again. Once I got Erin situated, I took the soiled diaper and the others that needed to be washed down to my laundry area. We have a utility sink down there with a spray nozzle. I used the spray to clean most of the poo out and promptly tossed the diaper in the wash. I also went over the first poo diaper with the spray, too, just to make sure it came clean. The sprayer made all the difference. When I was done, I sprayed everything down the drain, scrubbed the sink and used lysol on it. This was far superior to my first attempt and I plan to use that method again. I'm most likely going to keep a diaper bin in the washroom for the poo diapers so I can do this every time without throwing things in the wash immediately.

I also used a prefold w/ insert and liner on Erin yesterday and as far as I can tell, it worked great. Daniel did the diaper change with that, because I wasn't home, but he said she didn't leak and that it seemed fine. I think she had it on about 2.5 hours. I'll probably do the same thing again this afternoon between her nap and bedtime.


And so it begins

Thanks to a friend who loaned me several different types of cloth diapers and supplies, I have begun the great cloth diapering adventure. :) I am very thankful for her willingness to let me try out all these things as I will be more educated about what I'm looking for before I make the commitment to cloth diapering.

I have...
2 BumGenious One Size
2 medium Fuzzi Bunz
2 medium? Happy Heinies
several prefolds w/ covers
biodegradable liners for poo
flannel wipes
wet bag

My experience so far has been...

I've used one diaper on Patrick and am questioning if it is worth doing it again. I put a HH stuffed with 2 inserts on him around 1:45 this afternoon - around his regular nap time. I ran about 30 minutes worth of in-car errands before we got home and then I put him down for nap. He didn't go to sleep for about 30 minutes or so. He finally fell asleep around 3:30. I woke him up at 5:10 to find that his whole front was soaked. Patrick does not wake up easily, and we usually wait at least 20 minutes to change his diaper after he has woken up because of this. Needless to say, this diaper/clothing change was a bit of a struggle because he was not happy - can you blame him?! I definitely used a regular old pampers on him after that.

My experience with Erin, thankfully, has been much different! :) I've used 3 diapers on Erin thus far and am duely impressed. No poos yet, but the wet diapers really don't seem a big deal at all. I have put 2 BGOS on her and 1 medium FB. My first impression of these diapers is that the BG are easier to use because of the velcro tabs. It took me about 3 minutes to decide for sure which snaps I wanted to use with the FB because I couldn't seem to get a good fit. This diaper was only on her for about 2-3 hours, though, because I changed her again at bedtime. Erin is not a heavy wetter, so I'm not 100% sure this bedtime change was necessary, but I decided I'd rather be safe than sorry. I just put her to bed and used a BG with 2 inserts and the poo-liner as she is prone to early-morning poos at present.

Having used 3 diapers already, I opted to go ahead and do a small wash. I'm kind of hoping to use all (or at least mostly) cloth on Erin tomorrow, but in order to do so, I needed all the available diapers to be clean. The only "con" to washing so soon is that I have not gotten to fully experience the inevitable smell that comes with a diaper that has been sitting in a bin for 48 hours. This will come, I'm sure. But, so far, I really like what I've seen. :)


A few pics

A moment's silence

It's 3:58 pm and it appears that BOTH my children have fallen asleep - finally. There are no distractions - no music, no babbling voices, no noisy toys in the background. Just the hum of the computer and the sound of nearby traffic. Ahhh...

As a homemaker, I love these moments. We've had a fabulous day as I love the developments I see taking place each day in both of my children. Patrick's vocabulary is expanding rapidly and Erin's interest in her brother grows by the day. I love watching them interact. Of course, sometimes their interactions can be rather noisy - just today I was cleaning the kitchen and I heard them "talking" to or with each other, all the while banging legos together.

Curious, I peeked in at them and found that Patrick was sitting in the large legos box trying somewhat successfully to put a few pieces together while Erin was sitting about 10 inches away from the box seeing how loudly she could bang two legos together while she narrated the results of her experiment to Patrick. Noisy, but adorable. :)

Of course, these cute, noisy moments make me much more thankful for the quiet ones that follow - no, not the ones that make you ask "What is he in to?" - but the ones where you know your children are asleep safely in their cribs and that you can have 5 minutes of peace and quiet.

During these moments of peace and quiet, I often realize how blessed I am. I have a husband who loves me and who works very diligently to provide for our family. We have two precious children. We have a roof over our heads, and food on our table. Most importantly, I have been chosen as a child of the one, true God who is always faithful. Glory be to Him!


In the vein of Cloth Diapers

You could win a free Bum Genius 3.0 here at Hot Belly Mama.


Cloth Diapers - Help Please!

So, after some consideration and a conversation with a cloth-diapering friend today (thanks, Brooke!), I'm seriously considering cloth diapers. Since Patrick is nearly 2, I'm not likely to try much with him, but since Erin has at least another a year of diapering ahead, I thought now might be a good time to begin dabbling with CDs.

At present, Patrick's diapers cost 29 cents each and Erin's cost 25 cents. While this may not sound like much, we spend an average of $2.75-3.25/day on diapers. This comes out to nearly $1100/year just on baby waste.

As I mentioned in my last post, the cost of diapers has gone up - and I imagine it will do so again before we're done diapering. This having been said, I'm considering using both cloth and disposables.

Here is my thought... if we were to use 3 cloth diapers/day - one on Patrick during nap time and two on Erin - one for nap time and one for night - we can save just over the cost of 1 box of diapers per month - possibly more. If I buy 6 one-size cloth diapers at $115, give or take a little, they should pay themselves off in 5 months, possibly a little less.

So, for those of you who CD, what do you think? I'm looking into the Fuzzi Bunz One Size diapers, so we won't have to get different sizes as Erin grows and so we can buy one size and use them both for Patrick and Erin if we want. Then, if we have more children, we can still use them. Why did you decide to CD, whch diapers do you like and is CD worth it? Thanks!


Sneaky Highway Robbery

So, having two under two means that I could single-handedly support Pampers (maybe I should have chosen to cloth diaper instead!!!). You'd think I'd get a small "thanks" or something, but no.....

Today, I went to purchase diapers for each of my two kiddos only to discover that the quantity in each jumbo box for both their sizes has gone down by 6. This is about 1 day worth of diapers each... Needless to say, the price remained the same.

Same price, smaller quantity = one unhappy mama!


Inexpensive Dinner Menus

I mentioned in my last post that I make 3-4 dinners per 10 day period. I know several people who are in the battle with me in tweaking their grocery budgets, so I figured I would post a few dishes that last at least 2 meals for two adults and that really aren't very pricey.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Italian-style Ground Turkey - about $7.50* and serves 8

1 box whole wheat pasta - $1.30-$1.50
1 jar pasta sauce - $1.00-$2.00
1 1.3lb package Italian seasoned lean ground turkey - $3.00
1 can petite diced tomatoes - $0.75

In medium-large saucepan, cook whole wheat pasta. Drain and place in 9x13 casserole dish. Add pasta sauce and tomatoes, making sure to drain tomatoes very, very well. Cook turkey, making sure to break it into little chunks as it cooks. This is easier to do while it cooks rather than once it is mostly done. Drain well, but do not rinse as this will wash off the seasoning. Add to casserole dish. Mix well. Cover with foil and refrigerate. You could bake this dish, but it isn't necessary. I just cut out the appropriate servings and microwave before eating.

I usually try to serve this with a side salad or fruit. This time of year, fresh greens can be expensive, so it might be more cost-efficient to cut up an apple or two to serve with it instead.

*This can be less expensive if you shop for the sale items. I have found that the pasta I buy - Kroger brand whole wheat - is rarely on sale, but it generally isn't too pricey. Don't waste your money on Barilla or Heartland - it's the same stuff. I usually buy large can of Hunts pasta sauce unless the Kroger brand is on sale. Ground turkey can get pricey, but if it is on sale, go for it. If it isn't, you could use chicken or add a diced onion or another can of tomatoes. As listed, the servings cost less than $1 each, but you could get that even lower if you follow these guidelines.

Veggie Chili - about $10.00 if items aren't on sale - serves 8-10

1 can chicken or beef stock - $1.00
2 cans chili hot beans - $1.60
2 cans black beans - $1.60
1 can petite diced tomatoes - $0.75
1 1lb bag frozen, chopped broccoli - $1.00-$2.00
1 1lb bag frozen mixed peppers - $1.00-$2.00
1T lemon juice - $0.50
garlic salt, to taste*
1T chili powder or to taste*
hot pepper sauce (optional)*

In large saucepan, add chicken stock, chili hot beans (do not drain!), black beans (mostly drained), tomatoes (mostly drained), broccoli, peppers, 1T lemon juice, 1T chili powder and garlic salt. Cook until evenly heated, stirring frequently. Serve with hot pepper sauce on top. If desired, add sour cream and cheese, but this will increase the price/serving (obviously!).

This chili freezes well. I sometimes put two servings into gladware containers and put them in the freezer and I'll pull them out as necessary through the week.

*This recipe assumes you have some of these ingredients on hand. The above spices are things I almost always have on hand.


Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping is sort of a constant work-in-progress for me. Just when I think I've found a method that works for us, or I've found a set list of items that keeps us well within our food budget, something changes. Either prices go up, or our needs have changed or whatever. But, regardless of the reason, I am continually changing how I shop for groceries.

One thing that seems to be a good constant is using cash only. On the day of the shopping trip, I go to the ATM and get out my max allowance for that shopping trip. This keeps me from over spending. If there is any money left over, I either get a "treat" or just hold on to the cash to use for something fun later - Starbucks, ice cream, whatever.

I used to shop once per week for groceries. But, we always seemed to need something in the middle of the week when I did this. Making subsequent trips to the store for a forgotten or needed item often caused me to overspend - this was before the cash system. I've also tried having one "big" shopping trip per month and then once weekly small trips after that. This worked well initially, but it began to give us the illusion that we had more food to consume early in the month than we actually did. Or, I would forget about something I had purchased and it would be in my freezer for months. So, after several months of trying this, we stopped.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I started following our "new" shopping method. Daniel came up with this and I think he's brilliant. ;) Rather than shopping for groceries weekly or even every other week, I go once every 10 days - give or take a day or two. I divide my monthly food budget by 3 and stick to the cash available when I go to the store.

I like this method because I plan 3-4 dinners and make sure I purchase everything I need for them. I also regularly purchase things like a canister of oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, bread, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, etc. to have on hand for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes, toward the end of the month, things may look a bit bare, but we've always had enough and this method prevents us from holding on to unused food in the cupboards for too long.

I mentioned that I plan 3-4 dinners for my 10 day shopping trip. I always make enough to have at least 2, sometimes 3, dinners out of it, plus at least one lunch for Daniel. We often alternate every other night with dishes until they are nearly complete and then I'll bring another dinner menu into the mix and if necessary, I'll add a 4th dinner menu. Usually this gets us through the 10 day stretch. Sometimes we have excess, sometimes we don't.

Anyway, budgeting is an ongoing process and, as a result, so is grocery shopping. At present, the system mentioned above works for us, but it is certain to change eventually. :)