Thursday, May 31, 2012

{Homemade Cleaner}

As Spring cleaning is in full swing around here, I wanted to share our super-thrifty homemade cleaning solution! My husband started making this about a year ago and it is hands-down the BEST surface cleaner I've used! From counter tops to mirrors and even to sticky residues that only come off with rubbing alcohol, this stuff is tough. For just pennies per bottle, it also saves us a bundle on cleaning supplies! And an added bonus to making your own cleaner, you can scent it according to your personal preference.

Happy cleaning!

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner

1/2 tsp liquid laundry detergent or soap
3Tbsp vinegar
2 cups water
2-3 drops essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus (optional)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

She Wore an Itsy Bitys Teeny Weeny...

Sweet little ruffled bikini! Of course I'm talking about my favorite little girl and she completely rocked it this Memorial Day weekend! 

{Seriously though, aren't her little rolls the best?!}

Our long weekend was one of the best and most relaxing our little family has had in a long time. It was complete with garage sales, bike rides, relaxing by the pool, great food and lots of family time! We're feeling refreshed and excited for the summer festivities we have planned!!

She's got it made in the shade!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cloth Diaper Review: Part Two

I decided that it might be time to do a follow-up post about cloth diapering since we're now six months in and there seems to be a lot of curiosity from friends about the ins and outs. You could really just call this a continuation review since I wanted to cover some things that I've either discovered since my first post or questions I've been asked and wanted to cover. I have to tell you, it makes me so happy to share our experience with friends and hopefully, encourage others to consider cloth as well!  Bottom line, we are still loving this system and wouldn't change a thing about our choice to cloth diaper!

For some background, here is my original post covering the main reasons we choose to go cloth and here is the first review of cloth diapering I did when Claire was 2 months old.

Before we get started, there are some things to note: We use bumGenius 4.0 One-Size Snaps and our diaper stash contains 30, which we love though you could definitely get away with 24. After doing significant research on different brands, we decided to go with the bumGenius one-size option, as it was the best route for our family. These are my personal opinions based on my own experience.

Stains: It's true that over time the diapers and inserts are going to get a bit dingy. And I guess it doesn't really matter since the stained part is going on their bottom, but it still irked me that after a few months they no longer looked bright and new. After looking extensively into stain-removing remedies that would be safe for cloth diapers, I was skeptical with the overwhelming number of people who swore by good old sunshine. Could hanging them out in the sun really do the trick? Sure enough, after their first sun bath our diapers were back to looking like new! I am now a complete believer in mother nature's stain remover. And if you are someone who doesn't love the "crunchy" feel that line drying them leaves, they can always be thrown in the dryer for a quick touch-up before stuffing them.

Heavy Wetting: As Claire began sleeping through the night, she definitely needed more protection from leaks. For the first few months we were able to get away with just one of the thick/overnight inserts with no leakage. But as she is getting older, we found it necessary to start adding a regular insert in addition to the overnight one. So far, it's done the trick.

Swimming: As the swimming season was upon us, I began looking into cloth swim diapers. Based on various reviews, I ended up purchasing an iswim cloth swim diaper from Amazon for $10. Unfortunately, their sizing chart is less than accurate and I ordered the wrong size, making it necessary for me to send it back to exchange it for a different size. While in the midst of my search, BumGenius posted on their Facebook page that their diapers could actually be used as swim diapers if the cloth insert was taken out! What great news as we have a few to spare for that purpose!

We have since used both the iSwim and our BG diapers for swimming and here are my thoughts: While the iSwim serves it's purpose, we will still need to upgrade to a bigger size as Claire grows, making the fact that it's a cheaper option a non-factor. And because of the nature of our BumGenius diapers, she can wear the same swim diaper(s) until she is 35 lbs., definitely a perk, especially since we already have them!

Laundry soap: It's important to know that for the warranty to be valid, you need to use "cloth diaper safe" detergent on your diapers. For the approved list of those detergents click here. We use and love Nellie's Laundry Soda. After buying a small bag to make sure it as right for us, I purchased the bulk size from Amazon for a really great price! And it goes a long way-six months in and I've barely made a dent in the box and I typically do a load of diapers every 2-3 days. By my calculation of the average load I do and how many loads the detergent guarantees, it should last me about 8.5 months.

Diaper rash: While diaper rash occurs much less frequent with cloth diapers, the reality is that it can still happen for various reasons. We've actually dealt with a few small bouts of it ourselves. Much like with the laundry soap, it is important to use caution when using certain products (such as Desitin) on diaper rash because the active ingredients can actually ruin the absorbancy of your cloth diapers. Our personal favorite product, created especially for cloth diapers, is Angel Baby Bottom Balm! But here is a list of other safe creams as well as some great home remedies.

Traveling: We have now taken two extended trips with Claire, both of which we decided to use disposables. I wrote my first CD review shortly after the first trip and noted that we had decided to spare ourselves any inconvenience of finding a place to launder them and had no issues. After the second trip however, I feel a lot differently. After what can only be described as a world record of blowouts, I don't think I will ever use disposables long-term again! When we started the trip we had size 2 diapers that were leftover from our first trip back in January. Since Claire was right on the cusp of size 2 and size 3, we concluded that the diapers were just too small. And then the first size 3 diaper we put on her ended in another blow out (something, by the way, that just doesn't happen for us with cloth). Needless to say, several stained outfits and emergency airplane changes later, I think the minor inconvenience of doing some laundry while we traveled would have been worth it. Our one saving grace on the trip was that I had decided to bring enough overnight cloth diapers for the trip because we ended up putting those on her for the flight home. This is definitely an area I will be looking into more before we travel with our girl again!

We had a lot of people tease us about cloth diapering when we started solids as babies poop tends to get really, shall we say, foul. While we are certainly noticing the interesting effects solids have had on Claire's poops, it really isn't that horrible. Again, I highly recommend using the diaper sprayer, as it makes even the most gruesome diapers manageable.

That's all I've got for now, but as always, I'm here if you ever have any questions!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

An Ice Cold Treat!

I recently found this delicious (and healthy!) version of a frappuccino that is guaranteed to satisfy your craving for a cold treat this summer! I tried it out yesterday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised at how long it stayed with me (gotta love that addition of protein powder!). And served up in my Starbucks re-useable cup, I actually fooled my senses into thinking it really was a sweet splurge!

A Healthier Frappuccino
Recipe from Oxygen magazine
serves 1

8 oz. Almond milk (I used unsweetened vanilla)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 packet instant decaf coffee (like Starbucks Via)
Stevia, to taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth. Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just My Size

There are things in life you just can't pass up, like the perfectly sized Adirondack chair we bought Claire this weekend. For just five beans our Wee One will be stylin' in a seat of her own this summer:) And a sweet bonus, it matches the two I just got for my birthday! 

Why is everything cuter when it's miniature?!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Adventures in Baby Food Making: Just Getting Started

Well friends, at Claire's 6-month check-up this week we got the clear from our pediatrician to begin solids! More than any milestones thus far, starting solids is the one I've been looking forward to most. Is that strange?  I'm chalking it up to my passion to give Claire the best, healthiest start possible that's been driving my giddy excitement over making her first foods!

Homemade baby food has been something I've thought about since pre-baby planning! I had always assumed I would just use my trusty Vita-Mix for this, but then I was generously given the awesome Beaba Babycook at my baby shower! It's a steamer, blender, warmer and defroster in one, making the process so simple! While it's certainly not necessary to have something like the Beaba, I am really glad I decided to keep it, as having an appliance designated specifically for this purpose is wonderful!

Since Claire is now well-versed on rice cereal, we decided to start her off with carrots, a vegetable I've been told that babies really love because of their natural sweetness. With the expectation that we would start them this week, I purchased a bunch of organic baby carrots from the farmers market last week. After getting home from our appointment and putting Claire down for her nap, I was so excited that I immediately got to work on pureeing the carrots.

The Beaba made it very simple! Once they were washed thoroughly and diced, I placed all the carrots in the steamer basket. Once steamed, I used the handy little spatula to pull out the steamer basket and pour them into the processor. Pulse until desired consistency and scoop into individual jars. Voila, easy as pie!
 Once my carrots were portioned and stored away, I went and got my happy, rested baby girl. Since we've made this a routine, she knew (or at least she thought she knew) what was coming when I strapped her in her high chair and snapped on her bib. She gave me a big smile and I just couldn't wait to give her the first bite of this new food!
 Unfortunately, she was not such a willing recipient. She excitedly took the first bite, mulled it around in her mouth and then looked at me as if I had offended her! Uh, break my heart, I remember feeling the exact same way when my mom first made me try canned green beans (bleh!). But I pressed on, hoping she just needed to get used to a new flavor. Sadly, after several bites (and several sour faces), we called it a day. 

Now I've been told that babies can take a few tries to like certain things, so I'm hoping she changes her mind since we are currently on day four of carrots and she's now learned that I can't get the spoon in her mouth if she purses her lips real tight. That sweet child has got a mind of her own! And I am quickly learning that this journey is going to take a lot of patience as Claire is learning about this whole new world of food.

This weekend I plan to give sweet potatoes a try! Fingers crossed she has a better taste for those. Stay tuned as we make our way through this exciting, messy new adventure!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My First Mother's Day!

My first Mother's Day with our daughter was as lovely as they come! I am so thankful to have our family close and to have started traditions that will hopefully continue on for a long time!

The weekend began with The Race for the Cure with my Mom, and this year, Claire! Mom and I have been doing this 5k for about 5 years, which we run in celebration of my Grandma who is a breast cancer survivor. I think it's only appropriate that it falls on Mother's Day weekend and I hope that as the years go on, Claire will find it to be as special of an event as I have.

Sunday morning Chris was up early making breakfast and coffee and tending to Claire so that I could sleep in a bit. He was quite giddy for 7am and asked if I wanted to enjoy breakfast outside (something I would do every morning if he let me!), which is when he surprised me with new lounge chairs for our pool! They are the perfect additions to our backyard and a lovely place to kickback and enjoy our morning coffee together! A big thank you to our parents for going in on them, too!!

And just when I thought I had been spoiled enough, Chris and Claire had some other wonderful surprises peppered throughout the morning which included the insulated picnic cooler and zip-up picnic blanket I had been eying at Vera Bradley! I cannot wait to use them both on our next family picnic and park play dates (both activities we've been enjoying quite a bit lately)! I never cease to be amazed at my husband's thoughtfulness when it comes to gift-giving. 

We then joined our families for a beautiful brunch hosted by Chris' mom. All the moms in the extended family were invited along with their spouses and kids, which made for a good-sized get together! From sparkling mimosas to homemade cherry turnovers, everything was perfectly fit for a queen (or a very grateful mommy!). And best of all, I was able to celebrate with all of the lovely women in my life, including my mom and daughter, the two reasons that make the day so very special! 

After a wonderful afternoon nap and delicious dinner at my parents' house, we headed home. I couldn't have asked for better way to spend my first Mother's Day! It was simple and lovely and spent with my favorite people!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Family Photos {by Isabel Ollinger}

Early last month we had a family photo session with Isabel Ollinger. She is the lovely and talented photographer who took pictures at both my baby shower and Claire's birth.  Since we were so pleased with her work both times, we decided to hire her for a family session. She put us instantly at ease with her warm, easy-going personality, which is always a great quality in a photographer!

 We couldn't be happier with the photos she captured of our family! I guess I didn't realize how much more time and effort these could take with a little one, but Isabel was so patient and wonderful and even managed to snap some great shots of the whole family smiling at once, not an easy feat when Chris and I were at our goofiest trying to get a sleepy baby to smile! But even more I love the amazing candid shots she caught of us being silly and natural. They are just priceless!

Thank you, Isabel for once again capturing sweet memories that we will cherish for a lifetime!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Claire Elizabeth {6 months}

Happy half-birthday, Darling girl! You are 6-months old today! This past month has been full of so many exciting firsts and milestones that it seems you are learning and experiencing something new every day!

We started your 5-month birthday off with your first overnight away from Mommy and Daddy. You stayed with Grandma and Grandpa and you did fabulous! A few days later you surprised me during play time and sat up unassisted for several minutes! You are now a sitting pro and you seem delighted with your new skill, as activity time has so many more possibilities!

While we planned on holding off on solids until you were 6 months old, you became highly interested in food a few weeks ago so, we started feeding you rice cereal on April 19th. You loved it, but weren't quite sure what do to with solids yet. Over the last few weeks we have started introducing mashed bananas and you are loving them! In fact, something clicked last week and you now understand this whole new feeding process. You will now grab your spoon as it comes close to your mouth and are beginning to chew! I cannot wait to begin the adventure of making your food this week! First up: carrots!!

A few other exciting firsts included your first swim and transitioning to the bath tub. Both were successful, not that we expected anything different! So far, you love water and are happy to splash to your heart's content. We love this about you and hope you continue to be comfortable in water!

At the end of April you took a trip to Texas and Arkansas to visit family with Mommy and Grandma. You got to experience your second plane ride and man are you a trooper!! We put you through a 6AM flight with two layovers (each way!). Don't ask us what we were thinking, but you pulled it off better than any 5 month old around! You were content to sit on our laps and babble the entire time. And we were not the only ones impressed with you because fellow passengers were complimenting you left and right. Now long road trips are another story! We learned that you do not like to sit in your car seat for 5+ hours! And silly Mommy forgot to pack the car mirror, so you weren't able to see us most of the drive. Lesson learned for next time!

You still love to babble and talk all the time and just last week you surprised us with a reigning chorus of 'dadadas'! While I'm not sure we can technically coin that as your first official words, your daddy was pretty stoked! Your sweet voice is such a precious sound to our ears!

You have found a new favorite toy/activity in your Exersaucer!  We were initially against buying one for various reasons, but after trying one in the store and seeing how much you loved it, we were sold. Yours came last week and you cannot get enough of it! It allows you to stand unassisted, twist around and play with/chew on a variety of toys. Definitely a great purchase in our book! You are also loving the Jenny Jump Up more than ever since that also allows you to stand unassisted. Standing is kind of your thing-or at least you're trying to make it your thing:) Just don't get ahead of yourself, little girl, we aren't quite ready for you to be so independent yet!

And maybe more than any toy we could buy you, you are in love with cups and drinking, something that we now have to pay very close attention to! If there is a cup within reach, it's almost to your mouth before we have a chance to take it from you. And not that I should be surprised, but your favorites seem to be the clear ones with a green straw...ahem, I promise I'm not addicted to Starbucks! But I do always have my re-useable SB cup on hand and I think you've grown to love it!

And maybe the most precious of all things this month was having the honor of celebrating my first Mothers Day with you! Sweet Girl, it is such a joy and a privilege to be your Mama and I don't for a moment take that for granted! You and your daddy (and your grand parents) made it such a special day for me and one I won't ever forget!

Thank you for being exactly who you are! We love you more than you will ever wrap your mind around!

All my love,

Official Stats

Height: 27 inches (95th percentile)
Weight: 25 lbs. (99th percentile) 
Head Circumference: 17 inches (75th percentile)

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