October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

We had trick-or-treaters last night (for some odd reason Kutztown does it the night before...I think they mistakenly think the college students and their crazy Halloween parties will disturb the little ones). We had about half as many as last year, which may be due to the cold weather.

I love Halloween, although the last few years I haven't had a reason to dress up. I'm hoping that as SoJo gets older, that we'll get to have more fun. There were so many cute costumes last night, from the mini UPS driver costume on a 2 year old, to the shark with people legs hanging out of its mouth to the 8 or so Hannah Montanas with fake blonde wigs (kind of creepy).

I hope you all have fun today, and that you find something to do with all of that extra candy. I may make some Candy Bar Cookies from Cooks.com for Chris to take to work, since we have lots of leftover candy from last night.

Candy Bar Cookies
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
10 regular size candy bars cut into 1 inch pieces

In large bowl, beat together butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy; add eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda; add to peanut butter mixture; beating until combined. For each cookie, shape rounded teaspoon of dough around a candy piece, forming a ball. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cook on rack. Drizzle with chocolate glaze. Makes about 60 cookies.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE:
Combine 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder. Add 1 tablespoon milk. Add additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time to make of drizzling consistency

Enjoy your Halloween, and Happy Haunting!

October 30, 2008

Homemade Teething Biscuits

With little SoJo wanting to chew everything in site, I sometimes give him teething biscuits. He loves gumming and chewing them, even though I know he isn't teething right now (he finally got those two bottom teeth--my nemeses from early October).

Since we ran out of them and I didn't feel like trekking out to the health food store for organic ones, I decided to make my own. Unfortunately my camera has quit on me, so I can't show you how boring they looked. Let's just say they looked handmade.

There are plenty of recipes online, for everything from wheat-free to vegan. I modified a recipe and added breastmilk to it.

Maple Vanilla Teething Biscuits
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 Egg
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1/4 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tbsp. Breastmilk or Formula

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cookie pan with oil (I used my Misto sprayer with canola oil). Beat together the egg, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Add the dry ingredients and mix well. Dump mixture out onto a floured surface and roll with a baking pin until it's about an inch thick. Cut dough into whatever shapes you'd like, either with cookie cutters or a knife.

Bake for 8 minutes, flip, and bake another 5 minutes. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container. Not sure how long these will last, but at least a week or two.

For other recipes, this site has teething biscuits covered. There are really simple recipes with just juice and instant baby cereal, and some more elaborate ones with bananas.

Not only are you cooking healthy and cheap for your baby, but you are reducing the packaging that goes into landfills from teething biscuits. The ones I've bought come wrapped in plastic, two in a package, which seems unnecessary. But that's another post.

October 24, 2008

50 Fabulous Blog Designs

I'm always thinking about redesigning my blog, in the same way that I'm always thinking of redecorating or rearranging my home. It's kind of a compulsion for me, and I really wish I had gone to school for interior design rather than art education. Even when I was a kid, my main Barbie play involved setting up their elaborate pad rather than getting gussied up for a date with Ken (but of course I did cut lots of their hair, despite my mom's warnings).

Since I don't have the time to redesign this blog again (and I don't want to confuse my readers by doing it so soon after the July rehab) and I don't have the money to pay someone more creative to do it, I thought I'd just drool over this list of 50 Beautiful Blog Designs from Smashing Magazine.

These are my favorites:
Suddenly I feel pretty embarrassed about my digs here.

Thanks to my hubby for bringing this to my attention: see you DO care about my blogging skills!

What's your favorite blog design?
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October 23, 2008

DIY Baby Bath Tub

I'm always looking for ways to reuse and repurpose items around our home. Since my son recently outgrew the baby bathtub (and it was a recycled one that a relative gave us), I needed to find another solution, and rather than fill up the entire bathtub for each bath, I decided to come up with a way to use less water. Since my son is able to sit up on his own, it was time to move him out of the reclining tub, which Mr. Busy-body often fussed about, and which didn't allow the water to cover much of his body, therefore making him cold.

Looking around the house, I came across a clear plastic bin that was perfect. It would allow me to use less water and also to fill the water a little higher, keeping my son warmer in the bath. Plus I didn't have to go out and buy a special kind of baby tub, and this tote can be used for other things after the boy outgrows it.
To make it safer, I added a large sponge in the bottom of the tub. This one is found at the big box baby store and I didn't need to buy it since it was something that I had been given at my baby shower. It helps cushion the bottom of the "tub" and keep SoJo from slipping.

Another option is this baby seat with suction cups on the bottom, also a hand-me-down.
I've seen these at yard sales and secondhand baby shops too. This is helpful for me because it keeps SoJo from slumping over in the tub and falling face first in the water.

October 22, 2008

Wordful Wednesday: Go Phillies!`

We have been waiting for this moment for years....the Phillies are FINALLY in the World Series!

Even SoJo has Phillie Phever..
His dad has been praying all season and last for this, and I swear whenever I put a Phillies shirt on SoJo, they win! Tonight is the first game of the series against Tampa Bay, so you can be sure we'll be watching this evening. Soren will be sleeping though.
My husband lived in Philly in 1993 when they won the pennant and he said it was crazy...people were rioting and destroying stuff. Leave it to Philly fans to burn down their own neighborhoods. Reminds me of the Dead Kennedy's song Riot ("tomorrow you're homeless, tonight it's a blast").
When we lived in the city, there was a myth that the city was cursed by William Penn because no one was supposed to build a building higher that city hall, which has a statue of Penn on top. No sports teams have won since the 80s when the Phillies won the World Series, since skyscrapers started appearing that were taller than city hall.

So send your winning vibes our way for the Phillies, we really need a win to break the curse! And how can you not want our team to win, since we have the hottest pitcher in major league baseball...
Cole Hamels. 'Nuff said.

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie's blog, 7 Clown Circus.
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October 21, 2008

The Cloth Diaper Whisperer

Check out this new blog on cloth diapering called The Cloth Diaper Whisperer. It was started by Kelly from Kelly's Closet cloth diapering shop, and it has some nice posts on figuring out the difference between all kinds of cloth diapers and which kinds work best in day care settings. Check it out!
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October 19, 2008

Canning Applesauce

Yesterday I posted about my apple picking trip, so today I'm sharing the fruits (pun intended) of my labors from tree to applesauce. Chris took SoJo to his parents' house so I had a few hours to myself to get some canning done. And the good news is that so far, all 12 jars seem to have sealed. I just love hearing that "pop" that tells me one more jar has set. To top it off, the house smells wonderfully of apples, which is much better than any Yankee Candle.

I'll take you through my date with pots, jars and apples...
First I sterilized the jars in my big stock pot,

While that was heating up, I started chopping up the apples.
I didn't bother peeling them, since I honestly didn't have 5 hours to devote to this. Because these apples are organic, I figured that it was pretty safe to eat the skins, and in addition, the skins contain nutrients and added fiber. I intended to strain the sauce through a sieve, but when the time came, the skins were pretty soft. I ended up just using my immersion blender to chop up the skins, making a really smooth sauce that hopefully baby SoJo will like.

And the cores even went into our compost bucket, waiting to be thrown in the compost tumbler.

Once the apples were chopped, I cooked them on the stove with a cup of water and a little bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. I added a pinch of salt too to bring out the flavor of the fruit.
Check out my really cool Lazy Spoon, from Jonathan's Wild Cherry Spoons, that sits on the side of the pot. {Tune in this week for a chance to win one!}. It made tending the apples super-simple. No sticky sauce on the stove and I always knew where my spoon was.

The pot of applesauce, mid-way during the jar filling stage.
And a jar in the process of being filled. The wide mouth funnel was really handy.
Yes, the sauce kind of looks like crushed tomatoes or Thousand Islands salad dressing, but it is just the apple skins, which colored the sauce pink, even before I blended up the skins. And also, as I've said before, my ancient camera SUCKS, so the applesauce looks much more appetizing in real life.

The first jars fresh out of the canning pot.
And finally, the results. Lots of apple-goodness for the rest of the year, and hopefully beyond.
There were even some leftover apples and 2 cups of applesauce left over that I didn't can. We'll eat the sauce and apples over the next week or so. I just hope my baby likes it, otherwise Chris and I will be eating lots of applesauce. Or they will be given as gifts this Christmas.

I'm exhausted, so forgive me if I'm lax at answering emails or responding to comments this evening. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!
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October 18, 2008

Apple Picking at the Rodale Institute

Today was a perfect fall day for apple picking--clear sky, chill in the air, warm sun. I wanted to make some applesauce for SoJo rather than buy jars of baby food (being cheap here, not picky) so I thought apple picking and canning would be an old-world way to spend a Saturday.

We have a wonderful resource for certified organic apples nearby, The Rodale Institute. You've probably heard the name Rodale before, as in Rodale Press, especially if you subscribe to Prevention, Organic Gardening, and Women's Health. The Rodale Institute, an experimental farm which focuses on organic gardening, is supported by Rodale Press.

The Rodale Institute hosts lots of different events and workshops dedicated to sharing their research in organic gardening. They offer tours, talks, and even a shop (pictured in the old school house building in the photo) that sells books and organic produce.
In the fall, they open their apple orchards to the public for picking, which is what I did this afternoon. For $13, you can pick a half bushel of apples ($22 per bushel), which is a great bargain for 100% organic apples. When I was a little girl, my dad had a big vegetable garden and 4 apple trees (which were there when we moved in). Although my brothers and I hated those trees, because it was hard to play under them with all of those fallen apples and gross gypsy moth worms falling on us, I really miss them now. We didn't know what "organic" was back then, but those apples were organic as far as I know, since we never sprayed or used synthetic fertilizers.

My dad used to take the apples to be pressed for cider in the fall at Krum's Orchards, and sometimes I'd get to watch the big machine in the back barn pressing the apples. There would be flies in the barn, slurping any stray juices, and the whole place smelled like sweet apples and fermenting alcohol (not that I knew what that was back then). We'd keep the cider jugs in our chest freezer in the basement, which was also our playroom, and whenever I would get thirsty, I'd sneak some icy cider from the freezer. My dad would always wonder why the jugs weren't full, but I think he must have known one of us was tapping his supply.

Enough of my reverie, and back to the Rodale Institute....
The Orchard

So I set off for a nice afternoon out by myself while Chris was with SoJo, and headed up to the orchard with my half-bushel basket, borrowed from the Rodale Institute.
Here's a close up of one of the trees. This late in the season, I was surprised to get some good apples. Most of the trees had been picked through already, but since I was just planning to make applesauce, I didn't mind the blemishes or holes. I felt bad for those unwanted apples anyway! Kind of like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
Here's my basket, half-full in the midst of picking.

And here it is filled up. I munched an apple on the way home, although I wasn't certain of the variety, since I got a lot of different kinds to make the sauce. The one I did taste was so sweet and really had an apple-y taste, unlike some of the mealy ones you get in the supermarket. I like to think the cool nights help to sweeten up the apples.

These are photos of some of the gardens that you can tour, which I didn't do.
The photos don't show how beautiful the plants and flowers looked, even this late in the season. I am amazed at how lush things were. That's what organic compost can do, I suppose.

Back at home, I got to work on canning preparation. I washed all of the apples, since I believe they spray them with watery white clay as a natural pesticide. I didn't ask the nice woman at the desk about this, but I recall from last year that someone had told me that.

I also washed all of my canning jars and will boil them tomorrow as I'm cooking the apples. I'll take some more photos then and show you the results. Could someone please volunteer to babysit for me?
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October 15, 2008

Wordful Wednesday

SoJo loves his dad's hair and whiskers. They have this game they play where Chris rubs SoJo's palms down his stubbly cheeks and over his hair and he just laughs and smiles. It's too cute.
And then it turns into a nose bite. SoJo has this thing about grabbing and gumming our faces lately. Hope he outgrows it.

Chris' hair is not normally so long (I know, in this photo it's probably shorter than most of your hubby's) and in that shot he is quite overdue for his usual head-shave.
He tends to keep it shaved to the skin, which I'm always begging him to change. He used to have long, long hair when I first met him but I think the monk-look is what he's going for now. It's funny that he's not even going bald, which is why some guys shave their heads. It is much easier to care for but I miss his longer hair.

If you like, I invite you to leave a comment for Mr. Clean telling him why he should grow his hair longer for his baby's mama.
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October 12, 2008

Overtaken by Knitting

This is the reason I haven't been posting much or commenting much on my dear blogging friends' blogs
I was frantically trying to finish my goddaughter's gift, a knitted matinee jacket and bonnet, for her 1st Birthday party yesterday. I really should have started this a month ago rather than 2 weeks ago, but normally it would have only taken a few days to knit. However being sick and dealing with a cold-stricken teether set me back a bit. This little outfit was just too charming not to post! {Dreaming of having a little girl here--sigh}

But here's my little sweetie dressed to the 9's for the pumpkin party. We love the Robeez pumpkin shoes that my goddaughter's mama gave us.
Happy Birthday little Nadira! All our love, k+c+s

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October 9, 2008

Green Living: Homemade Dryer Sheets

By now you know I'm a little obsessed with laundry, particularly with making my own frugal, natural options for cleaning and drying. I've been using those rubbery, nubby balls for the dryer, which work great, but I thought, why not make my own dryer sheets?

Simple enough. Just take some leftover fabric and cut out two, roughly 6 inch squares. Flannel works great, and those extra receiving blankets that worked so well for my homemade baby wipes can be used for dryer sheets too.

Sew the fabric together around the edges (leaving a small opening for stuffing) and then turn it inside out. Fill the bag with lavender buds, flax and/or other fragrant herbs like rosemary or thyme. Sew the opening shut, and voila, a dryer sheet. I made up about 6 while I had the machine out and since a small piece of fabric goes a long way. For more power, put a few drops of essential oil on the cloth as well. You'll need to reapply this every few washes.

For an even easier dryer sheet, just sprinkle 4-5 drops of essential oil on a piece of fabric and toss it in the dryer with your clothes. Don't use too much oil or you may stain your clothing. My camera battery is dead at the moment, or I'd take a photo for you. But you can guess how they look.

October 7, 2008

Tackle it Tuesday: The Nursery

It's sad watching the nursery that I worked so hard on decorating become different, little by little. It's bittersweet, knowing my little darlin' is growing up and changing. Since he's now crawling and pulling himself up on everything and everyone, I needed to do a little rearranging. Specifically, I had to remove the wonderfully-useful shelving unit that served as storage in our closet-less nursery.
SoJo's been pulling himself up on the metal corner pieces and I obviously don't want blood from a cracked skull as part of the room's design theme. We'll leave the blood and crossbones for the teenage years.

I took the baskets that were underneath the unit and put them on the floor next to the chair.
I don't mind SoJO playing with the books and it's much easier to pull one out when reading him a bedtime story.
Then I packed up the other two baskets that just had miscellaneous baby stuff like crib hardware and manuals for baby items and moved it to the attic or in the storage area above the rocking chair. The person who last renovated our house did some weird things like building a long storage area along the ceiling rather than putting in a closet.
We dread what that storage compartment is hiding, other than the baby stuff! Probably crumbling plaster.
Once the shelves were moved out of the room, I moved the dresser to where they were,
and also sorted the clothes to get rid of some outgrown stuff. This is a weekly "tackle it," it seems. I put away the changing pad that was on the dresser because I rarely change SoJo on it anymore. He rolls around too much, and I end up just doing it on the floor anyway.

This is the old set-up of the dresser and the chair.
After I got the dresser out of that area, I moved a little black table that was next to the crib to the chair.
Much more convenient having the lamp nearby and a place to put odds and ends while nursing (nursing pads come to mind, rather than having them get wedged in the chair cushions).

All that's left to do is vacuum! And do something about those curtains that hang too low and are so tempting for little hands.

For more Tackle it Tuesday, visit 5 Minutes for Mom.
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