Saturday, December 29, 2012

New and Improved Laundry Closet

The laundry closet was one of the things I was most excited for when we bought our house, and now that we've lived here a while, it's become one of my greatest frustrations.

 Initially I was excited because the house I grew up in and most of the homes near our house have laundry in the basement.  Our laundry area is one step outside of my bedroom door! Though now I do wish I had a full room dedicated to laundry.  The grass is always greener right...

The first problem occurred when we bought our washer and dryer. The installers had to remove the doors to get the machines in.  We had to reinstall them a couple inches out to allow us to get to the detergent/bleach drawer.  We try to combine being thrift and eco-friendly, so of course we have a HE frontloader. 

For the last 2.5 years, if I wanted to use bleach or any other additive I had to open the bifold doors about 2/3 of the way in order to have enough space open the drawer.  Then I had to snake my arm in to pour in the additive.  It wasn't a big deal at first, but the longer we lived here the more annoyed I became, and so I searched for a solution. 

Pinterest had a few great ideas like putting inexpensive normal doors there but there's just the teeny problem that the laundry closet is in a standard hallway and they'd be a roadblock (and probably a fire hazard) when open.  My searching led me to Johnson's Full Access BiFold Door Hardware Kit.  We installed these in September and I could not be happier!  We kept the same bifold doors, now they just open all the way, which gives us easier access and more storage space :)

Unfortunately I was not terribly organized in this space either.  Our guest bath has no storage, so the extra towels get stored here.  Add to that that we're a family that likes to stock up when things go on sale and I refuse to store my cleaning supplies in the basement (it's scary down there).  It led to a big mess.  Finally while on a Home Depot run with my husband, I persuaded him to buy me another shelf to take advantage of the 4 feet of storage space we have above the only shelf in the laundry closet. 

I didn't realized I was going to blog about this or I would have taken a true before picture, but here is what it looked like shortly after we installed the new shelf.  That entire shelf that's half empty is usually cluttered with cleaning products, linens, an iron, a steamer, and miscellaneous other household items.

The added shelf space allowed me to get more organized.

Now there is a place for everything and everything is in its place!  I even have a bin for singleton socks!  .  We're in the process of becoming a green family, slowing replacing chemical ridden product with more natural ones, so you'll see that here.  My everyday use basket includes All Free and Clear Detergent, Bounce Unscented (for work clothes-- as much as I want to get rid of these I can't stand the static cling, Bac Out in a small spray bottle, Rock-n-Green detergent for cloth diapers and undershirts- we may completely switch over to this for everything once we use up the All, and vinegar.  I picked up that blue wire basket at Target today; it's perfect for holding my wool dryer balls which reduce drying time by up to 75%

I'm sort of ashamed all those hangers are still there but they aren't recyclable, so I feel awfully bad throwing them out when they're still useful. 

For an update click here.


Ideas for the future:

Top Pinterest Picks 


And maybe

Source: via Cheryl on Pinterest

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Result of the Sibling Collaboration Experiment

Well this is going to be difficult.  I want to share SOOOOOOOO many images.  I seriously think blogger would crash! 

For a first time event, we're calling it a successs. John snapped gorgeous photos of all my new hats.  I had 2 friends who participated (there were supposed to be 3 but one of the babies got sick). Plus my son who hates modeling but seemed to enjoy having some company. 

I'm hoping to do it again someday.  I'll have to make even more new designs though!

Without further ado, here are our outstanding photos.

Out Takes

Do I hafta smile Uncle John???

"No, I didn't try to pull that off, my head is just odd shaped"

Well, ya know this isn't the easiest place to sit ladylike, but I'll make it work. 

Mommies make us SMILE!


At this point blogger can't handle all the pictures and I've lost the ability to add captions :( A picture's worth a thousand words anyway!




What a little beauty!

Kids being kids :)

 Time to slide!!


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sibling Collaboration Experiment!

My brother is a budding photographer.  He's been building his portfolio for about a year since he inherited a quality camera from my uncle. 

A big part of success on Etsy is having great pictures.  He's been helping me out a lot with my shots.  However we have a very uncooperative model. 
It seems like the only way we can really get him too cooperate is to put him in the swing.  (Yes-- he was in motion in the shot below). 

I had an idea.  I've been pestering my brother to take his photography up a level for a while.  He is just so talented.  Here is some evidence of that (which I borrowed from his facebook account) . 

The butterfly is my favorite!  I have a large print in my dining room.
 This hawk (I think) was way high up in a tree.  I'm in awe of his ability here. 

He's been branching out and working on his sports shots lately

 And just because they're so darn cute!
So this is what I pitched to him-- a photo shoot!  I'd have a bunch of hats ready.  Parents could bring their child(ren).  For $20 participants will get a custom handmade hat and a 5x7 portrait of their little one.  I'll get some great photos for Etsy.  John will get more experience for his portfolio.  Everyone wins! 
As long as the weather cooperates, we'll be doing this at Red Bank Battlefield Park on Sunday, November 18 from 1PM to Sunset (it's safe to say the last shoot will probably be at 4:30).  Message me to reserve your time slot and hat.  We have to cap the event at 10 "sessions."
P.S.  John said he'd also be happy to take family shots (great for holiday cards) while you're there.  He'll sell you the image file for $5 and his prices for prints are pretty cost effective as well.  He does not just point and shoot, he uses editing software he was trained on in college.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Cloth Diapering

If you're like most people you may think I'm crazy for using cloth diapers on my son, and I understand where that comes from, but cloth diapers are not all pins and plastic pants anymore.

The most common objections I've heard are:

  • Isn't it more work?--to which I say, a load or two of laundry per week is better than running to the store for diapers, and really that one or two loads is nothing
  • EWW, you'll get poop in your washer.  Hate to break it to you, but having a baby means that at some point there's gonna be poo in your washer.  Take a moment and think of what's in dirt.  Also a good washer will not leave and poo.  Furthermore, as long as the baby is exclusively breast-fed (I believe its true for formula as well, but I don't have any experience) their poop actually completely dissolves in water. 
  • Isn't it hard to pin it?  I would assume so--my diapers don't have pins, they have velcro or snaps and they're not any harder to use that a disposable. 


Here are my simplest answers.  For more info, see the websites linked below. 
  1. It saves money. Even if you buy the cheapest diapers out there, you're still going to spend about $1000 a year on diapers alone.  It costs around $300 for a decent cloth system.  Now I'll be honest, I've spent about $200 more than that because I wanted some extra diapers.  I've still saved $500 at least this year.  When the next child comes around, it will be even more savings!!
  2. It's good for J's sensitive skin.  There's a lot of chemical and potential irritants in disposables.  Children have even had chemical burns from diapers.  We decided to cloth diaper before my son was born.  I am so glad we did because he ended up with eczema. 
  3. It's environmentally friendly.  Yeah, I hugs trees.  We need to be good stewards of our beautiful planet.


Diapers we LOVE

BumGenius 4.0 pocket diaper
Based on the experience of a friend of mine, we bought all BumGenius Diapers before J was even born.  We bought most of them from cottonbabies because they run a buy five get one free sale and always have fast free shipping.  We chose the 4.0 pocket diaper as our go to diaper. 

The BG newborn All in One diaper was great for those early days and fit J for 4 months. 

Just in the last two months, Josh has been sleeping longer and we experienced a little irritation from wetness.  Luckily Kelly's Closet sent us a free Kawaii Goodnight Heavy Wetter as a gift with one of our orders.  They have super amazing soft fleece inside and work wonders for our boy's skin.  We promptly ordered 4 more (so we always have one clean for his last diaper). 


Diapers we LIKE

Although they weren't our go to diaper, Fuzzibuns work great.  I loved their newborn size because they were SO SOFT, however, their velcro was not the best and tended to stick to other diapers in the laundry.  We also used the size small pocket diapers.  They were good but not as trim as the BumGenius.  My husband would never use them because they only had snaps and he will only use velcro.  We had one of the Fuzzibuns Elite.  The adjustable legs and waist are nice, but not necessary (BGs don't have that).  It was also a lot fluffier than a BG so we tended to use them at night if we used it at all. 

Kawaii One Size diapers were good.  The fit is very similar to BGs and the price is significantly less.  Of course the quality is not quite as high, but I do believe they will last.  It was one of our freebies with another order.

Diapers that DIDN'T WORK FOR US

KangaCare Lil'Joeys and GroVia newborns both leaked like crazy.  Josh had very skinny legs, I had it on the tightest setting but they still just didn't work for him.  The Lil Joeys were the worst, so I actually sold them (another advantage of cloth diapering is they have a good resale value).  I save the GroVias in case our next child is chunkier.  These were my faves before Josh was born because of the adorable prints :(

GroVia One Size All in One Cloth Diaper.  I know some people who love these, but they just don't work for our J.  Leaking is not the issues, so on that note they do their job.  However, we've found we really need that barrier between J's skin and the moisture or he rashs out.  Everytime we'd try them he'd end up with a red hiney.  Also they only come in snaps so they are not husband friendly.  I don't really care for the location of the straps either. 


I can't believe it took me this long to discover Coconut Oil.  Besides smelling delicious, it's super moisturizing for the skin.  I put it on Josh whenever he's a little red and always with his last diaper.  Before this discover, we were aquaphor addicts.
In the last few months since Josh has been sleeping between 10 and 12 hours at night, his very sensitive skin had some issues with the moisture levels, so we purchased a few different types of hemp lines for our pocket diapers.  Hemps holds something like 8 times its weight in liquid.  We stuff his diaper with a micro-terry liner (this is what comes with BGs) closest to the skin to quickly pull away the moisture, then a hemp liner underneath to keep the wetness far away from his skin.  The ones we like best are BabyKicks Hemparoo Joey Bunz. 
You'll also need a diaper pail, a cheap trashcan with a lid will suffice.  You want one that will let air in to reduce any smells.  We use a Planet Wise pail liner inside the diaper pail and we also have a small wet bag to take with us if we're out and need to change him. 
In addition, a good detergent is key.  We use Rockin Green Barenaked Babies in our HE-Machine.  One bag is 90 loads.  In 15 months we've gone through 1.5 bags, but I started using it on other laundry as well this summer.  It softens the water which helps it clean more efficiently and the laundry comes out softer. 
BioKleen Bac out is also a great product.  It can be sprayed on soiled diapers to treat them before they are washed.  Be conservative in using this, a little goes a long way and if not completely rinsed out of laundry, it can be irritating to the skin (if you're hypersensitive like our little guy). 
When baby gets older and begins eating solids, it's helpful to have a diaper sprayer.  We had a really tough time finding something that worked for us.  We tried to build our own using internet directions--turns out the directions were no good and it leaked like crazy.  We tried ordering a hose that attaches to the plumbing specificly designed and marketed as a cloth diaper sprayer.  Again we had leaking problems.  In the mean time I purchased a dirt cheap utility sprayer from Walmart that simply attacher to a sink (this works for us because we have a sink that is one foot away from the toilet).  It worked until the parts broke.  Finally we tried this and it's great for us, Sink Rinser


Monday, October 29, 2012

First Two Etsy Sales!

To my great pleasure and suprise The Sutton has become quite the hit. After creating it at the request of Sutton's mama, two orders were placed for it in color variations.

Here is my very first order!  The Sutton in Purple and Yellow for the Vikings now belongs to Joey in Minnesota.  She got a bonus headband with flower! 

And here's Carter rocking the Orange and Navy in the pumpkin patch!  I think I need to add this photo to Etsy! 

 It look's like we're in business!! 

Works In Progress: Hurricane Edition

Just wanted to let you all in on what's in the works. 
  • A giveaway using rafflecopter! Hoping this will be up in the next week.  I need to get a good picture of the giveaway hat. 
  • I just finished posting a listing for my Rutgers Inspired Little Fans Earflap Hat, but I should really list the girls version as well, but I don't yet have a picture of the beautful little owner wearing it, but here it is. Black, red, and white are such an awesome combo!

  • Here's another variation of that hat which I have yet to list because I am hoping for some pictures from the owner. Introducing, the Lulu!
  • Oh and another. Here's The Kaylynn!
  • And this cute little headband

  • I'll be doing a Yarn Review post focusing on best uses for different brands
  • Since I had some extra time off this week I created (that means I used no patterns) these two hats for Erma's Inspirations holiday collection.  They aren't listed yet because I don't have GREAT pictures.  I am going to make a traditional rednosed reindeer as well and a girlier penguin--think eyelases and maybe some purple or pink bows.  There will also be a gingerbread man.  Any other suggestions?

      Non-crochet Related Up-Coming Posts
  • Homemade Organic Lip Scrub Recipe
  • Rave over Lush Products with Pics of the difference it made in my skin
  • Cloth Diapering

Friday, October 19, 2012

Healthy Husband Approved Recipe: Chocolate Pumpkin Banana Chip Muffins

At our house, we're always looking for ways to
A.  Save money
B. Eat Healthy
C. Eat Chocolate for breakfast
D. Save time
E.  All of the Above
If you are a decent test taker, you went straight for option E.  All of the Above, and you are correct!  In this house we are always rushing out the door--which can lead to some pretty poor choices in food, most often at breakfast.  So when this school year began, I set a goal to stop buying breakfast at Dunkin Donuts  eat healthier breakfasts.  With a one year old, everything needs to be simple, fast, portable, and delicious. 
I was inspired by  this pin from Pinterest. Every morning in September I enjoyed these muffins and my cup of coffee in the car on the way to work (because you know there is no way I'd be able to squeeze in breakfast before I left--and really what else is there to do during a 30 minute commute?).   Adding about a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 of a teaspoon of nutmeg made these muffins  absolutely delicious.  My baby would actually ask for them!  I also tried them with chocolate cake mix which was pretty good, but not quite rich enough to satisfy my chocoholic tendencies. 
Although this was a good start, my tastebuds were demanding some variety.  This Sunday night I had a stroke of genius when I spied the mini chocolate chips in my pantry.  The only complaint I really had about the recipe above is that when you make 24 muffins from them, they don't really fill up the tins.  Right as the overripe banana was on it way to the trash, I realized I could give it one more chance so I threw it in the mixer with the other three ingredients to bulk up my muffins. 
  • One Box Devil's food cake mix (I used Pillsbury because it was on sale for $1.00)
  • 15-16 ounces of Libby's Pure Pumpkin.  It's very important to buy Libby's.  I know the store brands are cheaper, but take a look at the nutrion info and you will see why immediately!  Libby's has far more fiber and less water than any other brand.  Also, a money saving tip is to buy the 30 ounce can, split it in half and freeze the rest to use in the future. 
  • One banana
  • One Cup (about 1/2 a package) of Mini Chocolate Chips
Put the pumpkin, banana, and cake mix in your mixer and mix on medium for 3 minutes or until well blended.  Then add the chocolate chips and mix for another minute.  Spoon the mix into greased or lined cupcake tins.  Bake at 350'F for 20-22 minutes.  Voila! 
Here is some nutritional information--not bad for a chocolate treat in the morning! 
Column1 Calories Calories From Fat Grams of Fat Grams of Fiber Grams of Sugar Grams of Carbohydrates Grams of Protein
Cake Mix 55.00 10.00 2.50 1.00 7.00 14.00 1.00
Banana 4.38 0.13 0.02 0.13 0.60 1.12 0.05
Pumpkin 5.83 1.00 0.08 0.75 0.58 1.33 0.29
Chocolate Chips 46.90 23.45 2.68 0.00 5.36 6.03 0.00
Total 112.11 34.58 5.28 1.88 13.54 22.49 1.35
And here is a terrible picture of the last surviving muffin.  I thought a few more would survive the day so I could make a nice little picture for my blog.  This is my proof of their deliciousness! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Sutton

Sutton's mommy is an internet pal of mine.  We met on a support forum for women who've suffered miscarriage. We were both blessed with take home babies in summer of 2011. 

She loved this hat from another etsy shop but we both agreed it was a bit pricy so we worked out a deal.  After all that's what friends are for! 

The keen eye will notice that this NOT a croched hat, it's knit.  It's a simple stockinette stitch with relatively big needles.  I can knit, heck I could even write the pattern for this hat from the little knitting experience I have. Alas, I'd rather not.  I can achieve the same look with crochet, so of course that's what I chose to do.  I have a ton of pom pom makers.  My grandma (yes, Erma) tried to tell me how to make them by manipulating cardboard, but I found these plastic tools to be totally worth the investment.

Sutton wanted a gray and white hat, I chose Impeccable Yarn because the texture reminded me of the texture of the yarn in the  picture.  Soft enough for a baby, yet sturdy enough to achieve the standing pom poms look. 
Gray and white is adorable and coordinates with so much for the autumn and winter months!  We decided on one additional alteration, and that was to add earflaps!  Who can resist them, and honestly at this point I am such pro at making them not why not?
Here is J-man modeling the prototype. This one had 12 rows before the earflaps which gave a bit too much room at the top for my taste--especially because Sutton's head is a tad bit smaller than my boy's.    Yes, I could have torn some rows out, but instead, I just made another hat for Sutton and let Josh keep this one. 

The only problem, as I am sure you can tell from my pictures, my son does not keep ANYTHING on his head.  Go figure.....

And here is the gorgeous Miss Sutton in her very own hat.  I am considering selling the pattern on Etsy since I created it all myself (no ravelry searches involved).  The Sutton available at Erma's Inspiration

And here is what we got in exchange.  So cute!!  How talented is Sutton's mommy!!!  I can't wait till she opens and Etsy shop too!!. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The First Six Weeks

I wish I had an Erma-ism to use for a title here, however, the best I can do right now is that she always encourages us to make positive changes in our lives. 

The Back Story

If I were a superhero, cookies would be my kryptonite. 

I did an awesome job of not gaining too much weight while pregnant.  When I came home from the hospital I was already 18 lbs down.  By 3 weeks post partum, I had 4 more pounds to go and I'd be back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  And then I started grocery shopping. 

I did a horrible job of feeding myself during the 6 months I stayed home with my son.  It was survival.  Meals consisted of anything I could prepare and eat with one hand.

I ate a lot of cookies.  When exhaustion set in I'd drink a soda to keep going. 

The weight just crept back on.  I was ashamed and embarassed.  I've always had body image issues, heck what American woman doesn't (stupid anorexic models and photshop).  Then there was a picture of me with my son in a bathsuit.  Tears were shed.

I fear the scale.  It's been over 9 months since I've weighed myself because I just don't want to know.  I'm a size bigger than I was before J was born.  Some of the size bigger clothes were getting tight. 

My Problem

Dieting--I suck at it.  I hate the thought of never having another (fill in the blank) again,  I don't stick to diets.  I love baking and consuming baked goods. 

My Solution

I had an epiphany.  Though I'm not very good with long term goal diets, I definitely could manage short term diets (I guess I have commitment issues).  Six week spans were definitley doable.  A bonus is that it takes about 3 weeks to make or break a habit. 

This was the strategy, give up two bad eating habits, and pick up one good new eating habit. Soda and store bought cookies were given up (I only had one or two of grandma's homemade cookies, because it's just insulting not to eat what she makes).  A green and a bright colored veggie or fruit were added to my lunch each day. 

The Results

Let's be honest I wouldn't be writing this post if I hadn't succeeded.  I've gone 6 weeks without OD'ing on refined sugary goodness.   I don't miss it.  I feel healthier.  I won't go into details but my body has been much more predictable cooperative. 

Soon I will have to choose another mission for the next 6 weeks. 

Although I feel heathier, the scale still strikes fear in my heart like a Friday the 13th movie.  Soon I will overcome it though. 

For six weeks I have not eaten a cookie or drank a soda. Little by little, I will get back to healthy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Penny's Hat

This beautiful little girl's mommy commissioned a hat for her and left me a lot leeway for artistic discretion.  The mission: create a hat with a deep red flower with an off white/creamy tan for the main body.  I am quite happy with how this turned out!  In additon, my little man was excited that he didn't have to model this one (don't let the gorgeous blue eyes fool you, it's not my son in the picture).
First things first--go get some wool.  Michael's is great because they have a teacher discount you can use (well if you're a teacher) along with their rewards.  15% off makes a difference.  This hat is made of my favorite yarn, which just happened to be on sale, Vanna's Choice.  It is soft but sturdy. 
Previously all the hats I'd made like this had three colors.  Threes just seem to look more complete.  I love purple, so first I tried adding a purple in there.  Though I liked it, I suddenly panicked, wondering, "What if she hates purple?"  I adore purple by I have a friend who absolutely hates it.  Hoping that Becky liked purple would not suffice, I had to make another hat just in case purple was the bane of her existence! 

Pic the hubby took of the hat with purple. We've got a bet going, he thinks he can sell it faster than I can!


This time only the colors specifically mentioned would be used. I modified the pattern a bit so there would only be two rows of color. The thinner band of color achieved a more feminine look.
Then lightning stuck!  A little light bulb went off when I had the idea to add green leaves. I created a simple leaf pattern (which will be shared on this blog for free very soon). Isn't it perfect!  If I ever am blessed with a baby girl, you can bet this will be the first hat I make her.
Penny presented a special challenge because her head is a little bigger than average (although no one would ever notice, her mommy told me she has a tough time getting some shirts over her head).  A simple sizing adjustment was made by adding one stitch to the very first round and as you can see, it fits perfectly!