Super Simple & Quick Drawer Organiziation

Back in the summer, I was really gung-ho about getting certain places in my home organized before The Bean (now LJ! haha) made her appearance on the scene. I was pretty successful, actually. I had a list on my phone called Things To Do Before Baby, and I completed every task except for two - I never did prepare any freezer meals as I intended (though that turned out okay, as it wasn't too hard at all for me to find time to cook, which is amazing considering I wasn't able to do that with C for a LONG time!), and I didn't get to make LJ a tutu dress or skirt. I have plans of making her a rainbow tutu to match the one I made for C on her 3rd birthday last year, and I thought it would be adorable to have their pictures taken in their matching tutus. But then I ran out of some of the colors of tulle that I used in C's dress, and I decided that a newborn in tulle is not the most practical idea ever, so I put it off. (I now have a new idea for LJ's 6 month photo shoot. The day I went into labor with her, I completed a gorgeous tutu dress for C that has a baby pink bodice and a tulle skirt of pink, mint, and white. I have enough materials to make one for LJ, too, but I want her to wear it when she's able to sit on her own. How precious will that be!) Considering how long my to-do list was, though, I think I did pretty well!

So, a while back I posted about how I redid the closet in the girls' room. I'm happy to say that its been about 4 months now and the closet is still very organized. It pretty much looks exactly like it did when I finished it in June, except now there are more baby clothes in there! And that annoying hanging organizer is still on the back of the door. Its very useful, but so annoying because you have to watch it when you shut the door. Maybe one day I'll do something to replace it...

Not long after the closet was done, I tackled the dresser in the room. I think I've actually "organized" this dresser before, but it didn't stick. See for yourself. Here's the top drawer:
Sigh. I can't even tell you how much random junk was in that drawer. It was a mess, and I had no idea exactly what was in there.

First, I took everything out (and threw away a bunch of mess), and decided what needed to be in there: C's underwear, tights, and socks. I also decided to put the newborn fitted diapers in there, since the diaper section of this dresser was overly full (that has since been organized as well, but its not much to look at, so no pics of it - its just nice that I finally know exactly where all my diapers are and can easily grab what I need quickly). I only had 12 newborn fitteds, and they fit perfectly in the drawer.

Anyway, once I knew what needed to be in the drawer, I played around with fitting it all in neatly.
Then, I cut up a cardboard box and made dividers so everything would stay in its designated place.
 Of course, after that, I had to make the cardboard pretty! So I covered it with some wrapping paper I had on hand.
So simple, but so efficient! Here's a shot of the drawer in the dresser:
Don't mind the random stuff on top; I found a new home for all that!

This drawer is still perfectly organized, I am happy to report. It has had a few changes, though. Mainly, LJ grew out of those fitteds, so now that space holds the diaper covers, wipes, and Best Bottom inserts.

It always amazes me how such a simple change can make such a huge impact!

Stay tuned for for home organizational updates I've completed lately, including the medicine cabinet! ( :


I Have Been Blessed

I have seriously been blessed, ya'll! The past 10 weeks have absolutely FLOWN by! LJ's birth story is up on the blog (under the "Birth Stories" tab - you have to scroll down past C's story). Actually, its been up for quite a while now, but I haven't had a spare moment to write a regular post. Life, of course, is crazy. And beautiful. I wouldn't have it any other way! I've been blessed to be able to stay home with my girls so far; I quit my job! I'm not sure how long this will last, so I'm savoring it as much as I can. I can't say I savor EVERY moment, though. People who tell you to do that don't have a preschooler, haha. Every moment is not awesome, and I'm not gonna lie and say I enjoy every minute here. But just to be able to be here, to witness all the cute things my 3 (almost 4!) year old says and does all day long, to watch my not-so-newborn growing daily and taking in the world around here, its priceless.

It is currently 7:30am. I've been up since 6. This is my new routine, getting up before the sun, and I'm used to it now, but when I think about it, it still makes me laugh. I am NOT a morning person, and I do NOT get up before the sun! Yet here I am. LJ has for the past month been sleeping from 10pm-6am (I know, what a good baby!). So when she wakes up for her 6am feeding, I nurse her, lay her back down (where she'll sleep until 9-9:30), and then I get up and start my day. I've found that if I go ahead and get up, my whole day just feels better. Since she's sleeping so long, I'm having to pump as soon as I get up (ain't nobody got time for clogged ducts or mastitis!), so I do that while I'm eating breakfast and watching the sun come up over the trees. Then I do my daily devotional (I'm still working on The Excellent Wife Day by Day that I started well over a year ago...yeah), get ready for the day, and tackle a few chores around the house. Usually by the time C gets up I'm ready to go, though occasionally she surprises me and wakes up super early. Having an hour or so of "me" time is key, though. Key to my sanity, and key to having a productive day.

Since I'm a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) now, I'm trying hard to prove every day that its beneficial to my family. I, of course, know without a doubt that it is, but men need more tangible proof of things, you know. I'm no longer bringing in money, so I have to make sure he sees the worth in other ways. For the past 2 weeks I have been on a major organizing spree around here, which I intend to blog about. Its been almost a year since I intentionally meal-planned, but starting today I'm getting back into that. I'm doing what I can to save us as much money as possible while I'm not working. I think being more organized in general will help tremendously - if you're organized, you  know where everything is and you won't be spending money on stuff you already have but didn't realize cause it was lost.

I recently organized our 2 freezers in the house (one of a huge stand-up freezer and then we have the tiny one on top of the fridge). I'm so proud of the big freezer! I also took inventory of everything in there and in the pantry. What I learned is we have WAY too much food in this house. Food that we'll never eat before it expires. Food that was purchased with a specific recipe in mind, and then was forgotten about. So I told DH we're (mainly HE) not allowed to purchase any more food items (except things we go through regularly like bread) until I cook through everything we already have. So for now, I'll be planning our meals based on what we have "in stock." Once we've made it through all that, I'll be meal planning based on grocery store sales, and will only purchase what we need. Hopefully, it'll make our freezers and pantry much easier to navigate. And of course it'll save us money. Currently, if you want a can of green beans from the pantry, you have to move about 20 other cans first. Ain't nobody got time for that! I spend more time looking for ingredients that I know we have on hand than I do cooking! That's ridiculous.

Okay, this wasn't intended to be a post about food. That's coming. ( : This is just a general, life-updating type post.

Today, I will start a true preschool regimen with C. I'm so excited! I think it was last year that I bought a preschool book on clearance from Target, and since then we've done a few pages here and there, but nothing scheduled. I took my maternity leave from my job 2 weeks early (I officially quit a few weeks after LJ was born), and I had one full week with C before I went into labor. During that week, we made some real progress. She started writing letters and was learning to write her name. Of course, after LJ was born that all stopped. I think I figured out how to fit LJ into our lives pretty quickly, but its taken me until now to really get everything back into a groove. The other day, I worked up a schedule for me to loosely follow every day. I'm including time for preschool. A friend told me about a website (www.abcjesuslovesme.com), and after looking around on it, I knew that was the curriculum I wanted to follow. Its free, and with it children learn regular preschool stuff PLUS Bible stories. I love that! I can't wait to get started with C later today.

I think being more intentional is my new goal in life. Making sure to get up early, getting things done around the house, making time to do my devotional every morning, making sure to do a devotional with C every day, scheduling time for preschool, scheduling time for our daily walks, etc. (We started 2 weeks ago going on a daily walk, me and the girls, and I absolutely love it. We only walk a mile, but the road that we walk on has a few decent hills, and when you're pushing 50+ pounds in a stroller, a mile is strenuous!) Every day I have a goal in mind, and most days I'm able to accomplish that goal. I've also learned to cut myself some slack, though. If I don't get everything on my list accomplished that day, its okay. Everything will still be here tomorrow.

Having 2 daughters has for sure taught me so much. I feel like superwoman most of the time, since I've learned to do things I never thought I'd be able to do. DH is only here a few hours in the evenings (he leaves for work pretty early, and the girls are still asleep), so I do pretty much everything on my own. When C was born, it took me a really long time to figure out how to be a mom AND a wife and everything else. But this time around, I've taken on my new role (mom to a newborn in additional to a mom to a preschooler) much easier. With C, I pretty much didn't get off the couch until I went back to work, and it was almost a year before I figured out how to cook supper and stay on top of cleaning the house with her around. She was a very different baby than LJ, I'll admit, but I have learned to do things quicker this time. At the same time, though, being a mother of two has really humbled me. There is SO much I have yet to learn, and so many areas that I could improve upon. That's a post for another day, though.

All this to say that I'm back, and hopefully I'll be back to blogging somewhat regularly. I really enjoy going back and reading my old posts, so I'd like to keep it up. So here's to fitting more writing into my crazy, beautiful life! ( :


Girls' Closet Redo

Baby Girl #2 (or The Bean, as I'm calling her, as she doesn't have a name yet) is due to arrive in about 7 weeks, and I've been working hard to prepare for her arrival! Since her and C will be sharing a room, I knew the room needed some major reorganization. So far, I've made great progress, though there are still a few things that need to be addressed. The closet was by far the biggest issue, so I tackled that first.

Here's a "before" shot so you can see what I was working with.
 C insisted on being in the picture, haha. Here's a shot without her cuteness in the way:
 Yikes. Its hard to believe that last August I thought this closet was organized. Of course, it really was, compared to how it started out! I knew this closet needed to hold clothes for 2 kids, though, so it needed some major work. After wracking my brain for a while, I decided on a completely new closet system. I went to Lowe's last Friday and purchased a Homefree system, which had great reviews and seemed super simple to install. I anticipated being able to makeover this closet for around $100.

Well, of course, I spent well over $100 at Lowe's. I used a cool feature on their website to help me figure out which kit to buy, and how much "extra" stuff I'd need. I was pretty shocked at the register when my total was almost $180. But I had a feeling I had purchased too many "extras," and I knew they could easily be returned.

Last Saturday afternoon, me and C completely emptied out the closet. Again. Why am I always amazed at how much STUFF this little space holds?! I should have taken a picture of the room with everything in it, but that was scary.

Luckily, almost half of the clutter in there was immediately able to removed from the house completely. All those Rubbermaid containers and the space bags went out to the shop. Finally!

Once I got everything out of the way, I tackled removing that shelf. Pesky thing! Apparently, everything for mobile homes is way different than things for regular homes. (Our house is a double wide trailer.) I had a time getting that shelf out, and ultimately, my husband had to come inside and do it for me! Most of the problem was with the drill. I just had issues with it. Plus, I  kept having to climb up and down a step ladder to reach everything...not so good when you're heavily pregnant. Anyway, DH got it out in a jiffy, then went back outside to finish mowing the grass.

So I proceeded with the installation of the new closet system. I laid out all the pieces in the box...and immediately felt overwhelmed!
 The instructions were pretty clear, though, so I got right to work. Naturally, it wasn't quite as easy as I thought. Again, I had drill issues. And climbing up and down that dang ladder was killing my hip. I was getting so frustrated. At one point, C ran outside and told her daddy that he HAD to come in and help Mama cause she was struggling! lol

I eventually decided to give up. Maybe if I hadn't been 8 months pregnant this would have been easier for me. But it just wasn't happening.

DH was exhausted that evening from a very busy day, but I was insistent that this closet get installed before C's bedtime. I mean, her clothes were everywhere, and now I had nowhere to put them! He seemed to understand my urgency and frustration, though, and got to work on it. (Its so funny to me how pregnancy makes me get things on my mind and have to get them done RIGHT NOW!!)

The closet system is not quite as simple to install as the instructions make you think. You have to do a ton of measuring and planning in advance. The online tool I had used to help me create the optimal arrangement of shelving was WAY off, even though I used the measurements of the space. I realized after DH had installed the 2 vertical bars that this arrangement that I had come up with online would not be ideal for the space, after all. But at that point, we were both so tired and frustrated that I just let it go. I knew I could make it work.

Here's what we ended up with:
 Technically, I have 3 rods for hanging clothes now. However, the space between the top rod and the middle is not really enough to hang anything, not even newborn clothes. But if we put the middle rod down any further, it would become useless for hanging clothes. As it is now, at least we can use half of the top rod. The bottom shelf and rod are as low as they can possibly go. I wouldn't want them any lower, anyway, or C's clothes will hit the floor. I may eventually go back and make the top shelf and rod a little higher. I'll lose some of the storage space on that shelf, but I think I can live with that.
 I'm sure this space will continue to evolve over time. That is one good thing about this closet system, you can easily move the shelves around to suit your needs.

So here's how it looks now, after everything was put back in:
The top shelf is for stuff that we rarely use or won't use for a while. The middle shelf holds a few bags that we use quite often, and the shopping car cover (which I used a lot with C, so I'm sure it'll get used again soon with The Bean). On that top rod are C's winter/fall clothes that she'll be able to wear again this fall and winter. Most of her cool season clothes are in storage now, but there were a few things I think she'll be able to wear again. (We also have a ton of clothes for those seasons stored in the wardrobe. That is a project to tackle another time, though!)

On the middle rod I've hung newborn stuff. You can see that even though those outfits are tiny, they still take up every bit of that hanging space. Which means it won't be long before that rod won't be useful for the baby's clothes. Which means I'll have to adjust things in here. Looking at these pictures now, I'm thinking maybe get rid of the 2nd shelf altogether, and move the top shelf down a bit. That way, I'd have 2 full rods to use for hanging clothes, and plenty of space up top for storage.

On the right side of the middle shelf I have all C's bottoms: long pants, shorts, and skirts. I originally wanted to have a slide out drawer to hold all that stuff, but we just couldn't make it work in the space. I'd like to have a basket or something, but for now this is working just fine. Its been almost a week, and I haven't had any problems accessing her bottoms every morning when picking out her clothes for the day.

Finally, the bottom rod holds all of C's current clothes. Yes, she definitely has way too many! But this is ALL of her clothes. All of her tops are hung up, except for her PJs.

So far, I'm pretty happy with the system. Its very organized and is easy to use. C loves it, too.

Oh, for right now I've got that hanging shelf hanging on the inside of the closet door:
Its really nice to have that extra storage (its holding all of C's current and next season shoes, her dance clothes, and some baby blankets), but it gets in the way when I open the door. That might be because of my huge belly, though. I will probably eventually replace it with someone more compact that doesn't stick out quite as far, or have DH install it on one of the side walls of the closet.

DH is also going to build a few small shelves for the side walls. He'll have to custom build them, since we only have 8-9" of space to work with depth-wise, but it'll be great to have more storage. I'm really trying hard to make the most of this space!!

Since I moved all C's bottoms to the closet, I freed up one and 1/2 drawers in the dresser. I intend on using one drawer for onesies and bottoms for the baby. This weekend, I plan to tackle the dresser and completely redo it, though. I need more space for diapers once I add the newborn stuff to the mix. So I'll be back soon with an update on that!


Getting Toddlers To Eat Vegetables

I should probably start this post with a disclaimer. My toddler (who I guess won't be considered a toddler much longer, since she's 3 1/2....) doesn't eat most vegetables. She balks at anything new on her plate. And if someone else at the table mentions they don't care for any of the food, she immediately decides she hates it, too.

So why on earth am I writing a blog post about getting toddlers to eat vegetables, when I am not successful at that task myself? Well, I do have some ideas and they do work. Most of the time. Plus, I'd love to hear what others have to say on this subject.

When C was a baby and I started her on solids, I made sure to introduce her to a variety of things. I read a ton of stuff about feeding babies. "They" say its a good idea to offer babies a variety of foods so their palette will be well-rounded. You know, in hopes that once they become independent 3 year olds they will actually want to eat broccoli and green beans and butter beans.

Yeah, right.

C ate every vegetable that came from our garden, plus what I bought at the grocery store. She ate lots of fruits. The only thing I could never get her on board with was grains, but I was okay with that for a while. Once she was able to actually chew stuff up, we discovered that girl loves bread and crackers. (She's definitely my child. She'll eat my homemade bread like its goin out of style, and if I offer her a bagel for breakfast, she's all over it.) From the time she was 9 months to probably 13 months old, sweet potatoes and yellow squash were her absolute favorite vegetables. She didn't care much for anything green, but I could get her to eat some.

Fast forward to now. If this girl had her way, she'd survive solely on meat and bread. Getting her to eat vegetables is a challenge. Thankfully, there are some things she absolutely loves, like raw carrots and broccoli - as long as they're smothered with Ranch dressing (which I'm okay with). I've tried being sneaky and hiding veggies in dishes, but you can't fool C. She inspects every bite and if anything looks even the slightest bit off, she won't eat it. (She gets that from her daddy.) So being creative doesn't really work at our house.

Several months ago, she watched an episode of "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" that focused heavily on trying new foods. There was a cute song about how you should try new things cause they might be good. That Daniel has a lot of influence over my child. (Once, after a teeth-brushing episode, C insisted for several days on brushing her teeth multiple times a day.) So I used that episode to my advantage. For a while, it worked. I'd put a vegetable on her plate, she'd say "I don't like that," and I'd sing that little song and remind her what Daniel said. 9 times out of 10, once she tries something she likes it.

Naturally, that approach quit working after a while. I still try it, but she's too smart for that now, I guess. I don't often cook things that are truly new for us, but when C tries something new to her I make sure to praise her. And if she doesn't like it, I don't force her to eat it. Well, maybe I should take that back....haha, back to that in a minute.

Last week, I roasted some cauliflower. We've never had that before, and we were skeptical, but it was delicious. I mean, even my husband said it was really good. I asked C to try it and she refused at first, but eventually did give in and taste a tiny piece. She hated it. I didn't force her to try anymore, but I made sure to tell her how proud I was that she tried it. I'm trying to get in her mind how important it is to try new foods. I really want her to grow up and be able to eat a variety of things. Super picky people are SO annoying to cook for. (I mean, unless you have food allergies. That can't be helped.) And I refuse to get into the rut of being a short order cook. Meaning I cook a meal and then have to fix something special for her, like chicken nuggets or mac n' cheese.

Growing up, I had to eat whatever Mama fixed, whether I liked it or not. Unless we were sick, we didn't get anything extra or special prepared just for us (again, we had no food allergies). Of course, I hated that, and I have so many memories of sitting at the kitchen table for hours because I didn't want to eat my green beans. I hated green beans. And you know what? Mama made me eat them so many times, now they're one of my favorite vegetables. I keep telling C that story, though I know she doesn't understand fully yet. Taste buds change over time, and you really can learn to like things. Take water, for instance. My whole life, I absolutely hated the taste of plain water. I only drank soda or juice or milk. It wasn't until probably 10 years ago or so that I decided I really should drink more water. It wasn't easy, but eventually I trained myself to like it. Now its pretty much all I drink. (Speaking of water, that's one thing that worked out really well with C. Her main drink is water. She has apple juice or orange juice occasionally, and sometimes I'll let her have a Sprite at McDonald's or wherever, but for the most part she drinks water.)

Every night at supper, I fix C's little plate with everything that we've cooked. If its something I know she thinks she doesn't like, I'll only put one bite up there. She always eats the meat first, then any bread I offer. Then she tries to tell me she's full - "look how big my tummy is, Mama, its full!" Yeah, right. Cause 5 minutes later she'll be asking for a snack. After she's done eating, she likes to take a few swallows of her daddy's Dr. Pepper. The deal is, she has to at least try everything on her plate or she doesn't get any Dr. Pepper. Or if Daddy gets dessert afterwards, C can't have any unless she tries everything on her plate first. Maybe its wrong to bribe her like that, but it works. And there have been some nights when she left the table without eating what was on her plate, and with no Dr. Pepper, dessert, or anything else that night. (Not like she went to bed hungry. It was her choice, anyway.) My husband and I are in agreement over this, and we are both very firm about her eating. (Though, we're not like that ALL the time. On vacation or special occasions, we're much more lax about it.) I personally feel better if she eats at least a few bites of something healthy (a vegetable).

Last night, I cooked freshly dug potatoes and fresh corn on the cob. C ate the chicken, and part of the corn, but refused to touch the potatoes. I told her I wanted her to try one bite of potato before she could get down. She's got it in her head that she hates potatoes for some reason. I've offered them to her with different sauces, but she still refuses. And I've tried them cooked a variety of ways. The only way she'll readily eat a potato is when its a chip! Well, last night, I was cleaning up the dishes, P had gone to help a customer, and C was still sitting there pouting over her plate. She was being ugly about it, so I decided to be firm and told her she could NOT leave the table without taking one bite. One bite was all I asked. Well, after about 10 minutes of pouting and mumbling under her breath (God help us in her teenage years), she finally grudgingly put a tiny bite of potato into her mouth. She immediately said "mmm!" and proceeded to scoop up the rest of the potatoes on her plate into her mouth. She said they were delicious. I made sure to praise her and remind her that this is why we have to TRY things.

I keep hoping that if we are persistent, eventually we won't have to fight with her to eat good stuff. Hopefully. Please let that happen!

Other people think we're too hard on C about this eating thing. They say we should just give in and let her eat whatever she wants. But we disagree. We think its important to get her used to the idea NOW, while she's so young and impressionable, that eating a variety of foods is a good thing, and natural. My husband is super picky, and its so tough to please him in the kitchen. I don't want my kids to be like that. This may sound extreme, but seriously, life is so much easier if you're not such a picky eater!!

Now, I say I don't force C to eat things she doesn't like. Most of the time, that's true. There have been a few times, though, when I have made her eat things she clearly didn't like. Several weeks ago, one of us cooked a stir fry or something. It had chicken and a variety of veggies in it. C, of course, picked out all the chicken and said she was done, but I wanted her to eat some of the other stuff. She threw a fit about it, and I insisted she take 2 good bites before she could get down. Now, in the stir fry there were butter beans and garden peas, 2 vegetables that I hate. But I will eat them if they are cooked with other things. Its just too annoying to pick them out, and I know they're good for me. Well, C used to love both of those greens. I know taste buds change, but honestly, I'm not sure hers have had time to change yet, she's just being stubborn! Well, she ate her 2 bites of veggies, and she gagged the whole time. My husband was concerned but I just laughed it off. It was obvious she was being dramatic.

The next weekend, we were having lunch at my in-laws. My MIL had fixed corn and butter beans. C normally loves corn, but sometimes she refuses to eat it. That day she was just being disobedient in general, so I expected her to fight about the food. Now, normally, my in-laws don't force her to eat anything she doesn't want to. My MIL will even fix her something special if she doesn't like the meal. DH and I have told her time and again that we do NOT do that at home, and she shouldn't either. But you can't easily change other people. (My mother is the exact same way with C, so I'm not just harping on my in-laws here. My husband and I are the ONLY ones who expect her to eat well. Which, I'm sure, is why we have so many issues with it.) That day, I was determined she WAS going to eat a few bites of each veggie on her plate. She was the last one to finish eating, and I could tell that everyone was upset with me for forcing this issue, but I didn't back down. (And really, once you make a declaration with a toddler, you CANNOT back down.) She gagged and it was all she could do to swallow the beans, and everyone felt so sorry for her. It was a frustrating situation, but I don't regret making her eat the 2 bites I required. And afterwards, she was allowed to eat cake, so really, she came out the winner!

Sometimes I think I'm being too hard on my child when it comes to her eating habits. But then I think about all the times I've been insistent and she ended up discovering a food she loved. For example, last year I took her to Arby's for lunch. She always wants to get chicken nuggets in restaurants, but we try really hard to avoid that. I got her a roast beef sandwhich (she had tried mine before and liked it, but had never had her own). She immediately said she didn't like it and wanted chicken nuggets, but I insisted, and she took a bite and loved it. When we go out to eat, we'll order for her off the kids menu, but we almost never let her get chicken nuggets/strips. And sometimes we just let her eat off our plates. She really likes salads, and you never see salads on the kids menu!

I'm gonna keep on fighting the good fight here. Maybe one day I'll learn a method that will magically make my kid start eating more vegetables. Or maybe one day all my efforts will be rewarded and she'll just do it with no complaints!!



So I finally jumped on the wool train with cloth diapering. And I'm in love! Seriously, I can't believe I've been using cloth diapers for 3 years and I haven't tried wool before now. Its a whole new world, and its awesome.

I said in my last post that I purchased a Sustainablebabyish Knit Wool Cover from Sweetbottoms. It is absolutely adorable, for starters.

I love the color, and how soft it is. I've always had in my head that wool is stratchy and rough. But not these diaper covers. And the wool covers that I was given last month are not stratchy, either. Wool is also not hot like I thought. It allows a lot of air flow, so its perfect for diapering.

It does have to be taken care of specially, though. That's the only downfall to using wool. It has to be washed by hand using special wash and lanolin. The good news is you should typically only have to wash a wool cover every 2-3 weeks, depending on how soiled it gets. Wool is self-cleaning, which is awesome. I washed and lanolized C's and she wore it every night for about 2.5 weeks before I felt the need to wash it again. And honestly, I probably could have been fine letting it go another several days. It didn't stink at ALL after all that time.

Washing and lanolizing is a super easy process, and its not really all that time consuming. The drying time is the worst. This cover took over 4 days to dry! I just washed it again this weekend, so we'll see how long it takes this time to dry. I squeezed more water out this time, so hopefully that will make a difference. I'm just scared to be too rough with my wool. I'm sure its more durable than I think, though!

I purchased Eucalan No Rinse Wool Wash in unscented, and Sheepish Grins Solid Lanolin.
So far, I've been pleased with both products, though I might try liquid lanolin next time just to cut down on the mess. I only took one picture of my washing/lanolizing process, because its really not that interesting to see. I just got a big bowl, filled it with lukewarm water and a splash of the wool wash, then swirled the wool covers around in there (the first time, I washed my new cover and one for my friend to try).
The wool wash made a few suds, but nothing crazy. It sat just like this for about 15 minutes, then I dumped that water out. You don't have to rinse, but I didn't feel right not rinsing, so I did run some clean water in there and gently swish the covers around before dumping that out, but that's it.

Next, I added about a teaspoon of the lanolin, a tiny amount of the wool wash, and some water to a mug and microwaved it. I just put it on the "beverage" selection, which is about a minute and 30 seconds, I think. That just gets the lanolin dissolved, and the wash gives it something to bind to. I filled my red bowl back up with lukewarm water and then added the mug full of lanolin. Then I let that sit overnight.

The next day, I gently squeezed the water out of the covers and then rolled them in a towel to get out more water. Then I just placed them on a towel on top of my drying rack (so they'd lay flat) and let them dry. I did rotate them every half day or so, just so they'd dry faster.

I think I used way too much lanolin the first time, since when the covers were dry they were still tacky and had obvious spots of lanolin still on them. After research, I discovered that this is not a big deal at all, so I left it alone. This weekend, I washed my green cover again and used less lanolin with better effects, though time will tell how long it takes to dry this time!

After one night of using the wool cover on C, I was hooked. When I put her on the changing table to take it off her, the smell did not make me hold my breath. There was NO smell at all, in fact! (Obviously, the diaper underneath still smelled pretty bad, but at least I didn't get a wiff until the wool was off, haha!) Like I said, C slept with this wool cover every night for over 2 weeks, and I never once smelled her diaper, and she never had any leaks at all. She loves the cover and it seems to be comfortable enough for her. Its too bulky to put pajama bottoms on top of the cover, but so far she hasn't minded. On cool nights, I just put on a pair of knee-high socks and she's been totally fine. I think if she's still in diapers this winter I'll invest in a pair of longies, just so her legs are covered, too. The Bean will most likely end up with longies, too. ( ;

And look how cute C is in her wool cover!
Can't beat that with a stick. Its adorable AND it really WORKS. I love it!

Obviously, more than one wool cover is a necessity, unless I want to go back to stinky diapers (and occasional leaks) in the morning. I wanted to try a different type, preferably something cheaper than the Sustainablebabyish one, though I was hesitant since just like with everything else, you get what you pay for with wool. I found an Etsy shop that sells wool covers made from sweaters, which I thought was pretty cool. I think I paid $19 after shipping for it. I have yet to take a picture of it, but its a slightly different style than the green one. This one is a large, as well, but its very snug on C. I'm not sure if it'll stretch any, but right now it'll only fit over a prefold and cover, not one of her bulkier pocket diapers. Though, she's worn this new cover for the past 2 nights and its been great so far. Still no smell, and no leaks, even though she's just in a prefold.

Next, I want to raid the local Goodwill and see if I can find any cute wool sweaters, cause I want to try to make my own covers! For some reason, being pregnant has made me very pro-DIY this time around. I have insane urges to sew things, and I don't even have a sewing machine or know how to operate one! lol. I really want to try a wool cover, though, and if I can find a cheap sweater in good condition, you better believe I'll be cuttin that baby up to try it! ( :

Newborn Fitteds

Apparently, these days I can only post once a month. And apparently, the only thing I can talk about is cloth diapers. Oh well. ( :

I just realized I never did an update on the Sweetbottoms event last month. It was so fun! I mean, if you're obsessed with cloth diapers, that is...haha. Actually, my friend that went with me doesn't even use cloth diapers and she had a great time, too. Sweetbottoms seriously has something for everyone. Well, if you like more of a "natural" take on baby things, anyway...

The store was actually not crowded at all, which surprised us. The weather wasn't that great, though, so maybe that had something to do with it. My friend and I stayed a couple of hours, I think. We had so many questions! I brought one of the fitteds I was given to figure out what size it is. Bummer, its definitely not newborn size. I'm thinking more 3-6 month range on those fitteds, but I guess time will tell. (Once I realized they weren't newborn size, I forgot to look at other fitteds to see what they matched up with!)

I spoke with one of the sales ladies there about the newborn rental program, and she led me to the sale rack, where they had bags of newborn fitteds on an awesome sale. 6 for $25, I think it was! And that night, everything was an additional 10-15% off (its been so long now that I can't remember exact figures). I couldn't pass that deal up. Buying them like that was cheaper than the rental program, and they are mine to keep now. I only bought 12. After much deliberation, I decided that if nothing else I'd have at least enough for one day with this baby. But hopefully, the prefolds that I have will work fine with her. Depending on how big she is at birth, my prefolds may be pretty bulky in the beginning, but I really think I can make it work. I may end up purchasing more newborn fitteds, though, who knows!

My newborn fitteds. They are so tiny!
I mean, seriously?! I don't remember C ever being that tiny, but I guess she was. Its hard to believe in just a few weeks I'll have another baby small enough to fit in these....
These are used, of course - since they were on such a great sale. But they look brand new. And I think they run around $14-15 each new, so 6 for $25 is a steal (that's just over $4 each, not counting the discount I got).
They all look like this on the inside. No staining at all. All the snaps are in perfect condition. Whoever used these before me didn't use them much! Each one came with an insert, but the insert doesn't snap in or anything. I asked about that, and the sales lady said I probably wouldn't even use the insert, except for maybe at night if I was able to go longer between diaper changes. Sounds good to me.
On the left is one of the fitteds I was given. Clearly, it is not a newborn size! I was shocked at the size difference.

I didn't buy any covers that night. It took me so long to decide on the fitteds and some other things that I just didn't have time to think about covers. Plus, I was spending too much money...haha. So covers are definitely something I need to be purchasing in the next 11 weeks....yikes, do I really only have 11 weeks of this pregnancy left?!?!

While we were at Sweetbottoms, I asked about wool covers. I've mentioned a few times that I've been wanting to try them for C, since her diapers are so stinky in the mornings. (And it doesn't look like she'll be ready to wear panties to bed any time soon - which is fine.) Well, I had done lots of research beforehand, and knew I wanted to look at the Sustainablebabyish Knit Wool Covers. They were so soft! After seeing the large in person, I knew it would fit C just fine, so I ended up bringing one home. Of course, that decision lead to a long discussion on wool care and some more purchases, but that's for another post! My friend jumped on the wool train, too, even though she uses disposables on her baby. She said sometimes her son's diaper leaks at night. She's not interested in going the cloth route, but she was interested in trying a wool cover. I think she ended up with a pair of wool longies (which I would love to have!). I also gave her one of my wool covers (that was given to me, but are not newborn size) to try, though I haven't heard if she's tried any of them yet. But apparently, lots of people use wool covers over disposables at night to help with any leak issues. Pretty cool.

Another purchase I made that night was a roll of 6 fleece liners. I've been wanting to try them, as they're supposed to help with the stay-dry feeling. Some of my homemade wipes are made from a fleece-like blanket, and I've used those before as a barrier if I had to use non-cloth-safe diaper cream on C. It worked really well, and her hiney was dry when I took the diaper off, which I loved. But I wanted to have some liners just to try them out.
They are super soft and nice quality. But, honestly, I can't tell any difference when I use them on C. I still throw them on top of her diapers sometimes just because I figure it feels nice on her skin but I can't tell they're keeping her any drier. I'll try them on The Bean before I make a final judgement. They were pretty cheap, though ($6 for 6), so I didn't exactly break the bank to try them. Supposedly, poop slides right off fleece liners, so that might be nice with The Bean!

I have yet to wash the newborn fitteds I bought, but that will be happening soon as I am slowly preparing for this baby. So far, I have one newborn diaper cover, and obviously I need at least 4-5 more. I have a small stash of Best Bottom diapers, and people say they get down to newborn size, but it sure doesn't look like it to me! Though I'm wondering if once I put on a bulky prefold if one of those BB covers would work just fine...there's so much experimentation I need to do for newborn cloth diapering! Too bad I don't know anyone with a newborn for me to practice on. ( ; I'll just have to wait and do some trail and error when The Bean makes her arrival!


Diapers, Diapers, and More Diapers!

Recently, a new friend of mine gave me a super nice gift - a huge bag of cloth diapers! Used, of course, but still. So nice of her! I know this woman because her dad married my aunt earlier this year (I was the photographer for the wedding, too), and she doesn't live around here, so we're not close by any means. I just say that to emphasize how nice it was of her to give me these diapers. I got to meet her baby girl on Easter at a family gathering, and I noticed a cloth diaper peeking out under her dress. Naturally, I had to know what type of diapers she uses and of course we got to talking! Cloth diapers can bring anyone together. ( :

Anyway, one of her friends had given her all these diapers, but she didn't need them. At her baby showers, she received a ton of new cloth diapers, so she didn't feel the need for a bigger stash. (Obviously, she's not addicted like some of us! Lol) She said most of these diapers needed repairs like replacement elastic, but I told her I'm not afraid of a challenge!

I got the stash last week, and WOW. I was floored when I saw what it consisted of.
Okay, so it doesn't look all that impressive from this picture, but trust me, it is. There are 12 (TWELVE) BumGenius pockets (I think most of them are 3.0s, but some are 4.0s for sure), 9 assorted fitteds, and a variety of wool products. Wool! The very thing I have been wanting to try for the past 3 years (but have been too scared to spend the money).

I had to get some help on some of this wool stuff. There are 3 items that I just wasn't sure about, but I have been told that they are newborn sleep sacks.
They are open on both ends, so its strange to me, but I'm gonna try them and see how it goes. Wool is supposed to be great about containing smells and leaks. And apparently, you only have to wash wool stuff every 2 weeks or so. That's pretty cool.
Next are 4 pairs of wool covers. I knew what these were! The cream colored one has a tag so I know what size and brand it is (though I can't remember now, haha), but the others I have no clue. Once I learn how to wash them (I know it has to be done by hand, but I'm not sure what type of detergent to use), I'm gonna see if they fit C and we'll try that overnight. If they don't fit her I'll just save them for the Bean. And I'll end up buying a wool cover for C, I'm sure.

There were 3 prefolds from BabyKicks in the stash. I'm not familiar with this brand, and they don't look anything like my prefolds, but that's gotta be what they are. They're very soft, and I'm sure they'll work great as stuffers for pocket diapers.

Now for the fitteds!Ain't they cute?! I have no experience with fitteds, and didn't realize they came in cute colors and designs. Not that it matters, since fitteds require a cover (they're not waterproof at all). Which is exactly why I've never been interested in trying them. Why have to deal with putting a diaper on the baby, just to have to put another diaper on top of that (basically)? But everyone says fitteds on newborns are the way to go. So we'll see! I'm not positive these are newborn size, but they seem to be.
That's the inside of one of the fitteds. They all (well, almost all of them) have 2 snap-in inserts with them. I imagine they're pretty absorbent! The cute green and white clover one doesn't have snaps on the outside. So I'm not sure if I'm supposed to use a Snappi with it or just let it be under the cover...but I'll find out!

And now for the BG pockets. I have one BumGenius that I got for free with an order. Its been in the nightly rotation (since C has always only worn pockets at night, not during the day), but its never been my favorite. I don't have any real complaints about it, I just found I liked the Kawaii pockets better (which is funny, since the Kawaiis run $11-13 and the BGs are more like $17-18. On my BG, I had to have the velcro closures removed and replaced with snaps, since the velcro quit working after about a year of use, which was disappointing. I had a girl I know do the repair, and some of the snaps she used messed up after a few uses. Now, there's only a few settings I can use on that diaper. I need to replace the snaps! Anyway, these BGs are in pretty good condition, considering they are obviously used. Well-loved, I guess! The ones that have velcro are all in good condition, and all the snaps work (I tested them all, lol). All of them will eventually need the elastic replaced, but only 4 were in dire need.
You can see here that the elastic is not quite as tight as it could be. The diaper should be more puckered in the middle. Some of them laid completely flat. (Though, after inspecting all these, I realized that all of my current pocket diapers look the same. We don't have leak issues, but I'm wondering if I need to replace the elastic on them, too?)

I did some research and decided that replacing the elastic was super easy and I could totally do it myself. I'll do a separate post on that. So far, I've only worked on 2 of the diapers. It was easy! Since I'm a very beginner sewer, and don't have a sewing machine, it took me a while to do those. Oddly, I really enjoyed making the repair and am looking forward to tackling the rest of the diapers.

Cloth diapers hold their value pretty well if they're in good condition. These could probably sell for a decent amount of money. So I feel very blessed that they were just given to me! I didn't take the time to research what these diapers would sell for used, but I did quickly figure what this stash would cost if I purchased it new. WELL over $500! Wow.

On Friday evening, Sweet Bottoms in Raleigh is having a "wine and dine" event. A friend of mine and I are going, and I can't wait! Obviously, I won't be partaking in the "wine" portion of the evening, but I'm excited to be able to go to the store again. I have a ton of questions and there are a few things I'd like to pick up. And my friend graciously gave me a gift card for the new baby! ( :


Newborn Cloth Diapers

There are a lot of things I'm excited about with Baby #2 on the way, but I have to admit, getting the chance to use cloth diapers on a newborn is up there near the top of the list! Man, I am such a nerd, lol.

Cloth diapers were a foreign concept to me until C was 3 months old, so I have no experience with using cloth on a newborn. In fact, we didn't switch to cloth until she was 4 months old because it took me forever to research and decide which type of cloth diapers to use. Since we made the switch to cloth, I knew my next child would be cloth-diapered as well. I can't say that I'm gonna be crazy about it and say that she will never feel a disposable diaper, though. I remember how tough the first few days are with a newborn, and I feel sure we won't want to add in the stress of figuring out a cloth diaper solution for her. So my plan is to have her in disposable diapers for the first week or so, then do a gradual switch to cloth. If things go well, maybe we'll switch sooner, who knows. The point is, I'm not going to stress myself out by saying I have to use cloth on her immediately.

I am looking forward to it, though! Newborn cloth diapers are SO CUTE. (Well, I say that about them all, but newborn ones are so tiny!!) After much research, I've almost decided to rent newborn diapers instead of purchasing them. Why? Because newborn diapers are not cheap, and they only fit babies for a short period of time (around 3 months, maybe less). I just can't justify spending hundreds of dollars when I know we won't use them for very long. Even if I bought all prefolds and covers, I'd spend well over $100. (Fortunately, all C's diapers are still in excellent shape, so there's no reason we won't be able to reuse them once this next kid is big enough to fit into them. And yes, all of C's diapers are "one-size," but they don't truly fit newborns, so newborn diapers will be a must.)

My favorite diaper store, Sweet Bottoms Baby in Raleigh, has a newborn diaper rental program. Its $215, and you get 24 new and gently used (and sanitized) fitteds. After 3 months, you return the diapers for a $100 store credit. So actually, you're only spending $115. My research indicates that fitteds are the most reliable diapers for newborns, even better than prefolds (and easier). Fitteds run anywhere from $14-25 each. Plus, you have to have a cover for them. (That's why I never considered fitteds for C. Too much expense.) With the diaper rental, I'll still have to buy covers, but its possible that some of my one-size covers will fit just fine, since fitteds do add some bulk. Even if I do have to buy covers, I'll only need 5-6 (depending on how often I want to do diaper laundry). So it won't be a major expense. I love that after 3 months, I just return the diapers to Sweet Bottoms and I don't have to worry about reselling them or storing them myself. And I already know what I want to do with that $100 store credit! (Hello, structured carrier!)

My mind is not completely made up on this diaper rental, but I am heavily leaning that way. The plan is to ride to the store and look at the diapers in person and talk to people about them. When I was researching cloth diapers for C, I didn't spend much time at all with fitteds since I knew I wasn't interested in them. Newborns are a totally different game, though! I'm excited for the challenge of finding what works for us and our new baby.

Meanwhile, I'm looking into wool covers for C. She's completely potty trained during the day, but I don't foresee her getting out of nighttime diapers for a while. Every morning she wakes up with a completely saturated diaper. I'm okay with that, and I'm not rushing her to get out of diapers. Its really not a big deal at all. The only problem is now that she's older her pee STINKS. Some mornings the smell is almost unbearable, and if of course gets into her PJs, so she has to wear a new set every night, which is annoying for me. And her diaper pail will almost knock you out with the smell when the lid is opened! Its truly awful. Even when she was wearing diapers full-time and pooping in them, they never smelled this bad. I can't decide if I need to change my washing routine or give wool a try (I've read that wool is great for odors). I'll probably pick up some cloth diaper-specific laundry detergent when I go to Raleigh and see if that helps before I spend the money on wool. For the past 3 years, I've used All Free & Clear on all our laundry and haven't had any problems, but I know things can change over time, so that could be the culprit here. We'll see!

Thoughts on the Birth Experience

I think I mentioned on the blog recently that I am currently expecting Baby #2. We found out a few weeks ago that it's another healthy girl! Everyone was shocked; this pregnancy is SO different from my last that we all just knew it was a boy. I can't say we're disappointed, though! She's healthy and that's really all that matters to us. Plus, now we don't have to stress about our living situation; C and the new baby can share a room easily. We don't even have to buy much at all for this kid!

Since C's birth was so intervention-ridden, I've really been focusing this time on having a completely natural labor and delivery. When I was pregnant with C, I was completely caught up in her progress every week, and spent hours each week reading about her development, and marveling at the changes my body was going though. Which is all well and good, but I didn't spend much time at all preparing for her birth. Huge mistake (for me, anyway). I know so many people who say, "oh, just go with it, get the drugs the doctors offer you, as long as you have a healthy baby nothing else matters." But you know what? Having a good birth experience matters to me, too. Having been down this road before, I know more of what to expect this time around. And I know that my body does not react well to the pain medication typically given during labor. I am at peace with C's birth, but I will always regret not becoming more educated beforehand.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not ignoring the miracle that is this child growing inside me! I worried for a while that I was focusing too much on the upcoming labor and that I wasn't taking time to just enjoy being pregnant. Thankfully, that's not the case anymore. Since I've done this once already, I don't feel the need to read all the pregnancy books or websites again. This time, I don't need to know which week her ears start working or when she's first able to smile in the womb. My belly is growing much faster than it did with C, and I marvel at that. And I absolutely love feeling this little one move around in there. I've been feeling her since week 15 very regularly. (I felt C move at 15 weeks, too, but not consistently.) She's very active! I truly do love being pregnant.

Well, I do NOT love this terrible hip pain associated with this pregnancy.  Its debilitating at times, which is concerning since I'm only at week 21. I had bad hip pain with C, too, but it didn't start until around week 30 and it was never debilitating at all. This time, my hip pain started (right side only) in week 10 and has progressively gotten worse. I see a chiropractor every 2 weeks, and I truly believe that is helping me, but its not alleviating the pain. I acquired some crutches this weekend, and once my friend Jessica finishes my super-cool crutch pads, I'll start walking with them at night when the pain is the worst. Hopefully, crutches will not become a full-time thing for me, but I've read it happens. I'm in pain literally all the time now, and I'm trying to stay upbeat, but sometimes its hard. But I digress.

When I first discovered I was pregnant, I immediately started doing research on natural birth. I read a LOT of stuff, and debated actually taking a class. Ultimately, I decided not to take a class at the hospital, as it will likely focus on the available drugs and hospital policies. Unless it is absolutely necessary, there will be no drugs in my system this time. I already know how they make me feel, and I don't like it.

For a while, I went back and forth between wanting to learn Lamaze or the Bradley Method. I've heard great things about both methods for natural childbirth. A friend of mine studied the Hypnobabies course while she was pregnant, and she said it was the only thing that got her through labor until she needed the spinal for her needed c-section. Hearing her talk about the program, I knew I wanted to at least look into it.

My friend lent me her course materials, and I dived right in. From the beginning of the book, I had a feeling this was the right method for me. Its still pretty weird for me to talk about (or even think about!), because its just SO different than what everyone else does. But I've never been one to just do what everyone else does. ( ;  Since I'm starting the course so early in my pregnancy, I'm focusing 2 weeks on each lesson. There are 5 lessons total, so this plan will get me through week 30. After that, I'll do the maintenance stuff, which I haven't read about in the book yet. My friend says the key is to practice often. So far, that's proven difficult, so I'm glad I'm giving 2 weeks to each lesson.

I started the course a week ago, and since then I've only been able to do 3 hypnosis sessions. They were amazing, though. I was hooked after the first one! I felt wonderful the entire session. I could hear what was going on around me, and knew that if need be, I could quickly "snap out of it," so to speak. (In fact, one time I had to do just that as DH interrupted me.) During the sessions, my body feels extremely heavy, but in a good way. Its almost like I have pain medication in my system, but I can stop it at any time. I think it'll really help during labor. Right now, I'm using it to help me manage my hip pain. If I could practice daily, I think it would be really beneficial. Hopefully, I will get into a routine with it so I can do it daily or at least every other day.

I'll be sure to post updates on the Hypnobabies course throughout the remainder of my pregnancy. It'll be interesting to see how other people react to my decision to use this method, since it is so different. I'm also curious to see if my feelings towards it change over the weeks. Right now, I feel awkward with it and like I should keep it a secret, but who knows, maybe soon I'll be an advocate. Ultimately, if it helps me have the natural birth I so desperately want, I don't care what anyone else thinks. After all, I'm the one who has to go through labor!!


Spam and Potato Casserole

I'm back with another Spam recipe! This stuff is good to me, ya'll. I know its not for everyone. But if you've never tried it, you should give it a try!

Monday night after work I realized that I had forgotten to take any meat out to cook for supper. Since I'm still struggling to actually come up with and follow a meal plan, this happens a lot. Maybe one of these days I'll get my act together and make meal planning work. Hopefully that'll happen before Baby #2 arrives...cause I'm pretty sure once she's here I'm gonna be overwhelmed for a while.

Anyway, back to Monday night. Not having anything ready to cook, I decided to grab a can of Spam and see what I could do with it. No, I didn't come up with this recipe on my own; I'm not creative enough with cooking to be able to successfully do that! I honestly can't say what website I found this recipe on; I just did a Google search for "spam and potato casserole" because we had a full bag of potatoes I could use. After a few minutes of searching, I found a good-sounding recipe and (of course) tweaked it according to my tastes and what we had in the cabinet.

Oh, and since I'm a terrible blogger, I didn't take any pictures. Sorry. But it really doesn't look very appetizing, honestly. Spam is not the most attractive food item, and casseroles usually don't look wonderful anyway. That being said, it IS a delicious casserole! Even my super-picky husband liked it (though he said I used too much onion), and my daughter gobbled it up. Put it this way: between the 3 of us, we devoured a 9x13 dish full of this stuff (well, I took one bowl to work for leftovers). That NEVER happens.

Spam & Potato Casserole

potatoes (I used 5 - ours were small)
1 can Spam
cheese (I used about 1.5 cups of shredded Cheddar)
onion (I used a small one, but DH said it was too much, so next time I'll go with 1/2 an onion)
1 can cheese and broccoli soup (you could also use cheddar cheese or cream of celery soup)
10 3/4 ounces milk (just fill up the empty soup can)
salt, pepper, and paprika to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice potatoes thinly (I scalloped mine and made them super thin). Layer into a 9x13 dish.
Slice onion and lay on top of potatoes.
Sprinkle salt, pepper, and paprika over potatoes and onion.
Sprinkle cheese over everything.
In a separate bowl, combine soup and milk. Pour over casserole.
Cover lightly with aluminum foil and make 1 - 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender (mine took 1 hour, though it might have been ready sooner, I didn't check).

It'll be pretty runny at first, but it sets up and thickens.

The great thing about casseroles is they're hard to screw up, you know? You can change things up according to what you like and/or have on hand and they're almost always delicious. I've never professed to be a great cook (last night we had some chicken legs cooked in BBQ sauce...yeah, not my best work, but that's a story for another day!), but even I can't mess up a casserole. And no, I will not be taking that as a challenge...haha!


I Love Vinegar

For real, ya'll. White vinegar is where it's at. We've all seen those posts online about "1000 Uses For White Vinegar," right? Well, they're all totally true. Okay, so I haven't tried out that many uses for it. But seriously, every single thing I've tried vinegar for totally works.

I think I started cleaning with white vinegar maybe 2 years ago. Though maybe its been closer to 3, since my child is now 3, and all this "crunchy" stuff started shortly after her birth. Anyway, I started with vinegar pretty slowly, just using up my regular cleaning stuff before replacing it with vinegar-based cleaners. And by that I mean homemade cleaners. Probably the first time I used vinegar for cleaning was when I ran out of Windex. I rinsed out the Windex bottle really well and filled it back up with 1/2 water and 1/2 white vinegar. I started using that to clean up tough messes in the kitchen. After that, I started cleaning the glass in the house with the solution. Not long after, my bathroom cleaners ran out, so I started using the same solution in the bathrooms. (Eventually, I discovered tea tree oil and its awesome powers, so my bathroom solution also got a few drops of TTO essential oil squirted in.) From there, my love of vinegar for cleaning has just spiraled.

When I switched to cloth diapers, I discovered that I am allergic to fabric softeners. (I had to quit using fabric softener since it builds up on cloth diapers, making them worthless, and it wasn't long before I realized I wasn't itching any more!) After some research, I realized that white vinegar is a great natural alternative for fabric softener. I've been using it ever since and I love it. Our clothes do NOT come out smelling like vinegar at all - trust me, if they did DH would complain! One thing I have found is that vinegar does NOT help much with static. Maybe I'm just not using enough in the washing machine, but when I dry clothes (I line dry almost everything, but then I "fluff up" the clothes so they're not wrinkly), there is always a TON of static. I use 2 dryer balls, but I'm thinking I need to invest in a few more, and possibly some wool ones. Either way, a little static doesn't bother me too much.

Basically, if I have something to clean in the house, I'm gonna grab the vinegar first. 9 times out of 10, that does the trick. My husband doesn't care for the smell, but he's usually not around when I'm cleaning, and by the time he gets home the smell is completely gone. It doesn't bother me at all, and I'd much rather smell vinegar than some of the cleaners that you can buy in the store!

One use for vinegar I've never tried is the ol' clean out the microwave trick. Why? Basically cause I don't clean the microwave very often. Ew, I know. I don't put anything in the microwave without a cover on it, to avoid splatters. DH forgets, but normally I'm right there with him to remind him if he microwaves something. I honestly don't use the microwave at home all that much, and when I do I'm in a hurry (which is why I'm using it in the first place...!) and don't even notice how gross it is in there.

Well, Jen at I Heart Organizing has started a daily cleaning task challenge on her blog. Its been very motivational for me. I get the basics done weekly or every other week, but things like wiping down cabinet fronts and cleaning the microwave usually get overlooked in my busy schedule. Jen has inspired me to get these little (yet annoying) tasks completed a little over time, instead of all at once (like on a "Spring Cleaning" day - ugh, I hate those!). One day last week, she cleaned her microwave and I was amazed at how easy it was. So on Saturday, I gave it a whirl.

I was already on a roll with my vinegar/water spray bottle that day. I wiped down the bathroom, the kitchen, and the washing machine. At lunch I had heated up some leftovers and noticed how yucky the microwave was, so after lunch I tried Jen's trick: I filled a bowl with about 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar, and a few drops of lemon essential oil (for the smell). I set the microwave for 10 minutes and continued my cleaning around the house. After 10 minutes, the microwave interior was nice and steamy (and the house smelled great from the lemon!). I just took a rag and wiped it down and voila! Clean! Admittedly, I did have to spray a little extra vinegar in there and go over a few tough spots (man, did we have a lot of butter build up in there!), but it really didn't take much elbow grease at all. And hopefully now it'll be easier for me to keep clean.

Oh, and I didn't take any before/after pics, cause who needs to see a gross microwave? And we all know what a clean one looks like. ( ;

Moral of the story: vinegar saves the day again! Do YOU have a favorite use for white vinegar around the home?? ( :


Natural Deodorant

Yep, I realize I haven't posted in well over a month. But I'm just gonna ignore that little fact and go on as if I just posted yesterday. ( ;

I've said many times that since I had my daughter I've been on kind of a quest to be "greener." My main motivation is to save money, which is why I'm not super crunchy like some people you read about. There are some things that are just more cost-effective to buy premade or even with (gasp!) manufacturer's chemicals in them. I don't have a problem with some chemicals. Of course, my opinions are constantly evolving. I read a lot. ( :

Anyway, my latest adventure in the world of crunchy living is natural deodorant. I NEVER thought I'd be one to try it. After all, who wants to take a chance of having smelly pits? Yuck. But I just kept reading over and over how much people love natural deodorants. There are a million different recipes to make your own. I contemplated trying one out. Then I thought, why go through all the trouble when I can just buy some that's already been tested? One of my favorite bloggers, Stacy over at Stacy Makes Cents recently talked about why she makes some things herself and why she buys other things. Deodorant is one of the things she buys, and she has raved a few times about one particular company: Lexie Naturals.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to take the plunge and order my own container of Lexie's all natural deodorant. I had to do something. I'd been using Dove for years, but for the past 6 months or so it had been making my arm pits break out in rashes. Ew, I know. Rather than try different drug store brands, I decided to try the all natural route and see how that worked for me.
I ordered this stuff on a Thursday or Friday and had it Monday. Pretty fast turnaround! This company only has one scent for deodorant, tea tree and lavender. Luckily, I love both those fragrances. The smell is pretty intense, but it doesn't stick with you, so don't worry about that. A few minutes after applying, I don't smell like essential oils. Which is good, cause I don't like having any scent.

The deodorant goes on just like a regular solid deodorant. It does seem to be a little bit rougher in texture than the Dove I'm used to, but I don't have any issues applying it.

Here's a shot of the backside of the container. Very simple ingredients. I like that I'm not using unnecessary crap on such a sensitive area. (I realize not everyone has sensitive arm pits, but mine are super sensitive, just like the rest of me.) The ingredients are sodium bicarbonate, non-GMO cornstarch, coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, and essential oil blend (that would be the tea tree and lavender oils that you can smell). Note: GMO vs. non-GMO stuff, I don't care about that. None of that bothers me in the least, though I know its important to some people. 
I had my doubts about this product, I'll admit. And granted, I am not a big sweater anyway. And it is wintertime right now, so there's not even much opportunity to sweat. (And I sure don't exercise, lol!) But I've been using this product for about 2 weeks now and I am pleased with it. I can't tell a difference between it and the Dove I was using.

Except!! My arm pits have completely cleared up. In fact, the rash was gone after just 2 days of using this natural deodorant. That right there made it worth it to me. I feel sure it was the tea tree oil, since that stuff is excellent for skin issues. And who knows, maybe if I had just treated my pits with the oil alone and continued using my Dove deodorant I would have seen the same results. But why take the time to apply TWO products when I can just use ONE? I'm a lazy gal, I tell ya.

It won't be long before things heat up around here in NC, so I'll have plenty opportunities to really test this stuff out. Plus, I am expecting baby #2 in August, so I am SURE I will be sweating more than normal this summer! I'll be sure to post an update if my feelings for this product change. For now, though, I'll be an advocate for Lexie:Deo. ( :
Oh yeah, one more thing about Lexie Naturals. When I ordered the deodorant, I also ordered a sample of her lotion bar. I got the lemongrass scented one and it is HEAVENLY. Lemongrass is one of my favorite scents. The lotion bar looks like a bar of soap. If you order the full size one, it comes with a tin to store it in. You just rub it between your hands or pinch off a bit and work it into your skin. It moisturizes great, but you do have to work a bit to spread it around. Remember, I'm a lazy gal, so its a little too much work for me. I am probably going to purchase a tea tree bar in the future, though. I think it'll be great to have on hand in case C's eczema ever flares back up again. Plus, when I was pregnant with her I had horrible PUPPS. Tea tree oil soap helped a tiny bit, so maybe if I get it again (God forbid), the soap and a tea tree oil moisturizer will make a difference. Hopefully I won't have to test that out!!


Fotography Friday

I say that title like this will be a regular thing, blogging about photography on Fridays. Don't get too excited, haha. I have been playing with my camera a bit today, though, and wanted to document my findings. (Like this is some sort of scientific experiment, ha!)

For Christmas, I got a bunch of Amazon gift cards, as requested (yay family!). I used them all to get some cool new camera stuff - a speedlight (external flash), new battery, backpack for all my gear, and a frame to set up backgrounds. The battery was absolutely necessary, as my 2.5 year old battery bit the dust over Christmas. It won't hold a charge anymore. Of course, my brand new battery wouldn't charge either, which lead me to realize that my battery charger was also dead. Bummer. Luckily, the local Batteries Plus! had a charger I could use, and last night I got my new battery completely charged - whew. I'm shooting my aunt's wedding this weekend so this was essential.

So far, I'm really liking the backpack I got. Its just an Amazon Basics thing, not fancy at all. But its big and has lots of padded, removable compartments inside that perfectly hold my camera body, lenses, new speedlight, and other random things like the battery charger. And there are tons of zippered pockets for storing papers. I think I'll like having a backpack as opposed to a traditional shoulder bag for my camera gear.

I haven't had a chance to use my backdrop stand yet, though I did set it up to see how big it gets. It is huge. I was worried that with it I'd only be able to shoot kids or adults sitting down, but it goes way over my head, so there will be no problems with adults standing. Now I just need some backdrops! For the time being I'm just gonna use sheets or other fabrics I have at home, but eventually I want to get some real muslin stuff.

What I experimented with today was my new speedlight. Its a Newer TT560. Not expensive at all. It was less than $50 on Amazon. That being the case, I really wasn't expecting it to be all that great. Nikon speedlights are several hundred dollars, but who can afford that? Not this chick. I think this Newer speedlight will do just fine for me (unless I go pro in the future, haha). The reviews for this one were great for the most part. I've been wanting an external flash for a while now, because I HATE the one that is built into the camera. Like I wish I didn't have one on my camera body. It sucks. I rarely use it, and never if I'm doing "professional" shots for other people.

When my aunt got engaged a few months ago and asked me to shoot her wedding, I knew I HAD to get a speedlight ASAP. Ideally, shooting an indoor wedding I'd have a much more professional setup with light boxes and umbrellas...but that ain't happenin, either. The church she's getting married in has high ceilings (like most churches do), so I'm anxious to see how I'll bounce the light of the flash in there. I had planned on making everyone tough out the weather (its really not that cold here in NC right now, though it was frigid earlier this week), but now the weatherpeople are saying its supposed to be strong storms with lots of rain tomorrow evening, so we'll most likely be completely inside for photos. Challenging! Luckily, I love a challenge.

Tonight is the rehearsal and dinner, so I'll have an opportunity to practice in the church with my new setup. I'm sure my first few shots will be interesting. ( ;

So I brought my gear to work today so I could play around with the speedlight. I wasn't even sure how to attach it, but it turns out its super easy. And self-explanatory. So I just went to the patient room in the back and took some photos of our little stuffed giraffe.
This was with the speedlight pointed directly at the giraffe. Very stark and bright. Oh, and with a 55-200mm 1.4 lens. (ONE DAY I will have nicer lenses!!) I had the settings on 1/20 and f1.4 with ISO 640. I used the same setting on all the shots; the only thing changed was the angle of the flash.

This was with the flash pointed to the right side of the frame. Much softer, but not ideal.

Flash pointed to the left. I just wanted to see if the shadows moved much. They did a bit.

This turned out to be the ideal setting. Flash pointed behind me, with the diffuser on. It got rid of the shadows and its not too bright. The most natural looking light, I think. (Oh, I had the overhead light off in the room I was in, with the blinds on the window open.)

And since I didn't have any human models around today, I set the timer and took a few shots of myself for comparison. This first shot is with the same camera settings but using the built in flash on the camera:
Very harsh, flat, and unflattering.

Now compare that to this shot, taken with the speedlight pointed behind the camera and with the diffuser on:
Better, huh? Still well lit, but much softer and pleasing to the eye. With richer colors, too. Score!

Needless to say, I am beyond tickled with my new purchases. And I can't wait to keep playing with my new speedlight! ( :