Monthly Archives: February 2014

Geeky children’s books? Yes, please!

Wil’s eight months now, so I know it’s a little early to be buying him birthday presents……but when I found some adorable geeky kids’ books on Etsy, I couldn’t resist!  Charles Thurston, the author/artist, explains:

“As a parent I wanted a way to introduce the great pop culture shows and books that my wife and I love to our toddlers without it being too scary. You cant explain Doctor Who or Star Wars or Lord of the Rings to a toddler and you cant show it to them with out scaring them because of some awesome monster or angel statue. SO I created a series of small kid friendly pop culture parody books that introduces them to these things in a fun way so that when they are older and they can handle the shows Mommy and Daddy love, they will already be familiar with the characters and love the show just as much as us.”

I love other geeky parents.  Thanks to Mr. Thurston, I’ll soon get to read Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, and Firefly stories with my kids. Shiny!

(If you are interested in purchasing any of his books yourself, I recommend that you do so quickly. He seems to sell out fast, and doesn’t list items often.)

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DIY Hanging Hair Clip Holder.

Little girls seem to come with lots of stuff.

First time in her fairy wings.

First time in her fairy wings.

Like tutus, fairy wings, and TONS OF PRETTY HAIR THINGS.

On a good day, our counter looks like this:

Here we have bows, and clips, and bows, and elastics, and bows.....

Here we have bows, and clips, and bows, and elastics, and bows…..

No way am I showing you what it looks like on a bad day.  Anyway, even with everything corraled, I always find myself digging for the right clip while trying to keep a squirmy two-year-old entertained and safe on the countertop.  Not always an easy task.  So I set out to organize the myriad of bows and clips in another way.

DIY Hanging hair clip holder: for clips, headbands, and ponytail elastics.

DIY Hanging hair clip holder: for clips, headbands, and ponytail elastics.

I totally meant to take process pics……but I blame Game of Thrones.  I juuuust found out last week that we can watch the first three seasons through Xfinity’s On Demand, and since I recently finished the first three books, I finally figured out how to work the TV/cable remote so I could watch them during naptimes.  It was around the crowning of Viserys that I realized that I was almost done with the project and hadn’t yet taken a picture…..oops!

So here is a shot of the finished product, before loading it up with all the hair stuff:

Empty hair clip holder.

Empty hair clip holder.

You will need:

  • About 3 1/2 feet of ribbon
  • D-ring (the width of the ribbon–mine was 1″)
  • Shower curtain ring (the kind pictured)
  • Thread

I cut two lengths of ribbon: 30 inches (2 1/2 feet) for the main piece of the hair clip holder, and a 9-inch piece for the loops at the top for headbands.  I used a wood-burning tool to cut and sear the ends so I didn’t have to deal with folding the ends over to hide fraying.

Headband holders.

Headband holders.

Sewing these loops is the hardest part of this relatively easy project, simply because measuring it all out and getting it perfectly even took me a few tries before I even started sewing them on.  I’ll give you my measurements, though, so that should cut out some of the trial-and-error for those of you who would like to make one of your own.

I started with a nine-inch piece of ribbon, flipped it over, and used a disappearing-ink fabric pen to mark the back at 3-inch intervals (so at the 3″ and 6″ marks).  Then I determined how far from the top of the main ribbon I wanted the loops to be (taking into account that I would be sewing the very top through the D-ring), and marked four points at 1 1/4-inch intervals on the back of the main ribbon, starting with where I wanted the top of the top loop.

I sewed the loops on by hand, mostly because my sewing machine chose to be tempermental yesterday (it tends to revolt when it feels I’ve been overworking it….*sigh*).  Start by lining the ribbons up, top (pretty) sides together (and the short length upside down, if it matters), with the short length below where you want the loops.  Line it up so that one end of the short length overlaps the bottom of the four marks just enough to sew it in place.  Once that is sewn on (as securely as you please–I sew the whole width twice), find the next three-inch mark on the short length of ribbon, fold it pretty-sides-together at that mark, and loop it up to the next 1 1/4-inch mark on the main ribbon (in such a way that the loose end of the short length is still hanging below where you are sewing); sew in place, through both layers of folded ribbon as well as the main ribbon (so, going through three layers).  Do the same at the six-inch mark.  Finish by sewing the top end of the short length onto the top and final 1 1/4-inch mark on main ribbon.

Next, sew the D-ring onto the top of the main ribbon–this will be what you hang the whole thing from.

Shower curtain ring for hair elastics.

Shower curtain ring for hair elastics.

Next, I sewed a large loop at the bottom for a shower curtain ring.  I happened to have an extra set of these, and they are perfect for holding ponytail elastics!  You can turn the ring and slide the elastics around so that you can always get to the one you want without taking others off.

Looking down.

Looking down.

When I first finished it, and hung it on the wall, I thought it seemed way too long.  I’m really glad I didn’t cut it right then!  Turns out, all of Kaylie’s clip just barely fit onto it as it is!

Lots of bows!

Lots of bows!

Sadly, you can’t really see Belle anymore once it’s loaded up!  I found that ribbon a couple years ago, by the way, and bought it on a whim, hoping my daughter would end up liking my favorite Disney princess.  So far, she prefers Rex the dinosaur from Toy Story….

Headband holders.

Headband holders.

Kaylie only has one headband so far, but I made three loops in anticipation of that number growing.  Each loop could easily fit multiple headbands, as well.

Ponytail elastics--sorted, of course.

Ponytail elastics–sorted, of course.

Before loading them onto the ring, I sorted the ponytail elastics by color, of course.  Or rather, by shade of pink…..I need to find some more colors!

Problematic clips.

Problematic clips.

These flower clips were the only ones that presented a problem–they would probably clip around a narrower ribbon than the one I used, but alas, I had to toss them back into the little box on the counter.  Still, it’s nice not having to dig for them anymore–they’re very easy to find now!

By the way, a quick recommendation for anyone buying clips as gifts or, like me, before your daughter has enough hair to use them:

Buy the bottom kind, not the top ones.

Buy the bottom kind, not the top ones.

See how the clip part is covered by ribbon on the top one?  If you’re using them with loose hair just to clip it back out of the face, that’s fine, but I usually use bow clips with a ponytail, clipping it just above the elastic.  The top ones DO NOT WORK for this–the ribbon catches on all the hair you’re trying to push it through.  But the bottom kind, with the metal clip bare, is perfect!  It glides right through the hair with no catching.

Anyway, hope this inspires your own creative solutions to keep your counter clutter-free!  Or clutter-freeish….

All the pretty hair things!

All the pretty hair things!


That’s my daughter.

So, most of those who know me know that I am a little….quirky.  One of my “quirks” is that I like things in twos.  I don’t like odd numbers of stairs, I like the volume to be set on an even number, and I especially adhere to my two-rule when it comes to eating.  I eat M&Ms in twos, cheese balls in twos (they have to be close to the same size, too), and even when I take bites of things like pizza or sandwiches, my bites are in twos; I can always tell you if I’m on bite number one or two, and I will often give away the last piece of popcorn or whatever if I’m going to end on an odd number otherwise.  But even more than even numbers, I like factors of two: two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two….and even more than that, I like squares of factors of two: four, sixteen, sixty-four, and so forth.  So if I can manage to consume something in four or sixteen bites, it’s perfect.  It makes me feel at peace.  Yes, I know that’s weird.

In addition to most likely having undiagnosed OCD myself, I happened to marry a man with diagnosed OCD.  And we’re about a hundred percent certain we passed it on to Kaylie.  I know every kid likes to have a routine and gets upset when things are out of place, but she takes it to a whole ‘nother level.  Truly.  (We have certain videos to prove it.)

Kaylie takes a closeable straw-sippy cup to bed with her for when she gets thirsty during naptime or nighttime.  Earlier this week, out of the blue, she informed me that, “I always take FOUR drinks, then I CLOSE my cup and go to sleep.”  And sure enough, now that I know to look for it, I watch her on her video monitor every time I lay her down: after I leave, she sits up, reaches for her cup, takes exactly four sips, and lays back down.  Every. Time.

Guys, I do exactly the same thing.  I keep a cup of water by my bed, and before I go to sleep (and every time I get thirsty in the middle of the night), I take exactly four sips.  Sometimes eight, if I’m really thirsty, but usually just four.

So, if I was ever worried that they somehow mistakenly sent us home with the wrong baby at the hospital, I’m pretty sure I could put that fear to rest now.  She’s definitely my daughter!


Monkey Bread.

I’m a pretty lazy cook.  There are a few times a year that I like to have something special for breakfast, however, and though I still use packaged cinnamon rolls (I’m sorry, but Pillsbury’s are just too good for me to bother expending the effort to make homemade ones!), I do like making monkey bread.

Easy Monkey Bread.

Easy Monkey Bread.

It’s surprisingly easy to make and hard to screw up, fortunately, which is why I like it.

Just four ingredients: biscuits, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Just four ingredients: biscuits, butter, cinnamon, and sugar.

Here’s what you need:

  • 3 cans biscuits (any kind; I buy four-packs of buttermilk or homestyle biscuits and save the extra one)
  • 2/3 cup sugar AND 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon AND 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter

Preheat the oven to 350.

Mix cinnamon and sugar in a large Ziploc bag.

Mix cinnamon and sugar in a large Ziploc bag.

Dump 2/3 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in a large Ziploc bag.  Shake to mix well.

Cut biscuits into quarters.

Cut biscuits into quarters.

Cut each biscuit into quarters.

Add biscuits to bag.

Add biscuits to bag.

Add the cut biscuits to the bag as you go.  I like to shake the bag every so often coat the pieces enough that they don’t stick together as I continue adding pieces.

Fill 'er up.

Fill ‘er up.

Once all the biscuit pieces are in, seal the bag and shake well to coat the pieces in the cinnamon and sugar.

Separate any that stick together.

Separate any that stick together.

There will inevitably be a few stubborn ones that like to stick together.  Use your fingers to pinch the little rascals through the bag and shake to separate them.

Coated biscuits.

Coated biscuits.

Some will be coated more thickly than others; that’s fine.  You just want to make sure each piece has some degree of coating on each side.

Into the Bundt pan.

Into the Bundt pan.

Dump the pieces into a Bundt pan.  Make several jokes about fixing the “boondt” pan, My Big Fat Greek Wedding-style.

Melt butter.

Melt butter.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Add cinnamon and sugar.

Add cinnamon and sugar.

Once the butter’s melted, add 1 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Stir well.

Boil butter mixture.

Boil butter mixture.

Bring it to a boil, stirring regularly.

Pouring with one hand and taking a picture with the other is a little scary.  One of these days, it's going to end badly.

Pouring with one hand and taking a picture with the other is a little scary. One of these days, it’s going to end badly.

Pour the boiled butter mixture evenly over the biscuits.

I kind of just want to eat the boiled butter stuff right now.  Is that bad?

I kind of just want to eat the boiled butter stuff right now. Is that bad?

Ready to bake!

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the biscuits are longer doughy.

Done!

Done!

Or so I’m told….I’ve never actually checked how doughy it is; I just take it out when it looks like this.  The top layer will always cook more thoroughly than the rest, so I take it out just when I’m beginning to worry it’s going to burn.

So THAT'S where all the gooey stuff went!

So THAT’S where all the gooey stuff went!

The gooey stuff sinks to the bottom, so make sure as you dish it out that you dig all the way down!  It’s the best part.

Mmmmmmm.

Mmmmmmm.

Definitely worth the work.

Soooo goooood.

Soooo goooood.

 

Here’s the recipe, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Monkey Bread

  • 3 cans biscuits (any kind), cut into quarters
  • ⅔ cup sugar & 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon & 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ sticks butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix ⅔ cup sugar and ½ tsp cinnamon in large Ziploc bag.  Shake biscuit pieces in bag to coat.
  3. Place coated biscuit pieces in Bundt pan.
  4. Boil butter and rest of sugar and cinnamon in small saucepan.  Pour boiled mixture over biscuits.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes or until no longer doughy.

Also, I would like to note that it does not work well to make it the night before and bake it in the morning.  I tried that last Thanksgiving, and it just didn’t taste right; I think the biscuits are not supposed to be exposed that long between opening and baking.  But leftovers do keep relatively well in the fridge; it’s a little bit chewier after microwaving, but that sure doesn’t stop me from finishing every last bite!


Buying baby’s wardrobe: What you need (and what you don’t).

My sister-in-law recently announced that she and her fiance are pregnant!  It’s their first–a boy, due in June.  We are sooo excited for them!  And, since he’ll be pretty much exactly a year behind Wil, that works out great for passing on baby clothes…..

So, since I’ve been digging through baby clothes in anticipation of preparing a box to send, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share what I think is (and is not) necessary for baby’s wardrobe.  I had so many more articles of clothing for Kaylie than for Wil!  I found I really pared down my expectations for kid #2….So this is the bare-bones, what-do-I-really-need sort of list.  Of course, every baby is different, and every mom is different, so these are just tips from my personal experience and preference.

Buying Baby's Wardrobe: What You Need (and what you don't).

Buying Baby’s Wardrobe: What You Need (and what you don’t).

Here’s the quick list of what I think you ought to stock in each size for the first year:

  • 6-8 complete outfits (long-sleeved and/or short-sleeved, depending on season)
  • 3 cotton pajamas
  • 2 sleep sacks (cotton and/or fleece, depending on season)
  • 1 cotton jacket
  • In cold weather: 1 fleece jacket/pants set
  • 6 bibs
  • 3 pairs socks

Always shop for complete outfits.  It can be tempting to buy those adorable onesies in three-packs or that one that’s just so darn cute, but if you don’t have pants to go with them, they might never see any use (except, perhaps, in the heat of summer).  I have found a good ratio to be three onesies for every two pairs of pants.  For spring and fall wardrobes, Carter’s (my favorite brand for baby clothes) sells great three-piece sets comprising a long-sleeved onesie, short-sleeved onesie, and pants.  And if you find one or more onesies that you just can’t resist, or receive any as gifts, you can usually track down a pair of jeans to go with anything.  I shoot for 6-8 complete outfits in each size; I find I do laundry a little more frequently than once a week.  You may need more outfits if your little one is a big spitter-upper, or if you don’t do laundry as often.  Bibs can be a great outfit-saver, too, and they are a must for drooling, teething babies, or you will end up changing spit-drenched onesies (you wouldn’t believe how fast a teething baby can soak a onesie to the waist!).  And, of course, socks–but not too many, because they never stay on anyway, so at some point you’ll probably give up on using them except when necessary.

I love these three-piece sets for spring and fall!

I love these three-piece sets for spring and fall!

Putting babies to bed with blankets is a suffocation hazard, so the alternative is wearable blankets. I prefer Halo SleepSacksAlways get two season-appropriate sleep sacks, because the last thing you want to deal with during a middle-of-the-night spit-up fest is laundry and nothing to put baby in in the meantime.  For spring and fall, I always get two cotton and two fleece sleep sacks, and three pairs of cotton pajamas to go under them (for winter, I’ve also always had a fleece pair of pajamas on hand, but I rarely ever actually use them).  Sleep sacks are sized differently than clothing, so they will overlap different pajamas sizes, so I’ve ended up with both cotton and fleece sleep sacks in every size but one.

It’s always a good idea to have a cotton jacket on hand for chillier days, even in summer.  In colder weather, I recommend having at least one fleece set–pants/jacket or pants/vest.  Go for hooded rather than non-hooded, so you only have to deal with hats in particularly cold weather or on longer outdoor treks.  (If you expect to spend a lot of time outdoors during cold weather, you may consider getting a winter coat.  I didn’t buy a winter coat during Kaylie’s first year, even though we lived in Indiana at the time, because, well, I hate going outside….we did just fine in fleece sets covered with fleece bear suit and/or fleece blankets over the car seat.)

Now that I’ve given you my recommendations on how much to buy, I’m going to share my own preferences on which ones….

Onesies versus shirts: Shirts drove me nuts with Kaylie before she could walk.  Every time I picked her up, the shirt would ride way up.  I therefore had several adorable outfits that she ended up never wearing because I opted for onesies, which are so much easier.  My advice is to stick with onesies until your little one is walking more than being carried; once they’re walking well on their own, shirts are much easier for diaper checks and changes.

Get onesies, not shirts.  Shirts ride up every time you pick baby up!

Get onesies, not shirts. Shirts ride up every time you pick baby up!

If you find you have too many short-sleeved onesies in a size your baby is only going to fit into in the dead of winter, here’s the solution: long-sleeved white onesies.  Get a pack, put ’em under the short-sleeved onesies, and use those season-inappropriate outfits!

Pajamas: Go for snaps instead of zippers!  We had so many pairs of pajamas that I hated using, and even ended up setting aside and replacing with ones I found easier to use.  Think about it: Pajamas are for night-time use, so you want to be able get through those midnight diaper changes as quickly and easily as possible.  You can unsnap pajamas from the bottom to the waist, but zippers must be pulled all the way down from the neck to the heel to get to the diaper.

Get snaps, not zippers!  Midnight diaper changes are enough hassle already.

Get snaps, not zippers! Midnight diaper changes are enough hassle already.

Gowns: My two cents is to avoid infant gowns; they’re a great idea in theory, but the reality is that (with both my kids, anyway) babies tend to kick so much that gowns ride up to their hips.  If you must try gowns, I’d opt for convertible gowns that can alternatively be snapped to form legs as well, though–as with all footless pajamas–the legs tend to ride up to the knees.  At this point, the only pajamas that I ever use are cotton, snap-up, footed pajamas.

Or skip the gown altogether, and go for footie pajamas.

Or skip the gown altogether, and go for footie pajamas.

Bibs: Get Carter’s snap bib three-packs.  You can find them at Target.  I had tons of different kinds of bibs with Kaylie, and until I stumbled upon the snap bibs, every single one of them had some kind of Velcro closure.  I started finding these awful scratches all over the back of Kaylie’s neck from the Velcro, so I started using bibs with less-bristly closures, but those ones stopped sticking together after only a few uses.  I was so excited when my mother-in-law gifted us with a set of snap bibs!  I hadn’t even known that was an option.  They’re all I use now for Wil!  (They also have a water-resistant layer between the fabric, which is very important!  And, snaps won’t stick to the rest of your laundry; I have ruined a couple things by stupidly throwing them in a load that I forgot had a Velcro bib!)

Get snaps, not Velcro!  Both your baby and your laundry will thank you.

Get snaps, not Velcro! Both your baby and your laundry will thank you.

Socks: Sock are a royal pain.  Baby socks do not like to stay on baby feet.  I like theFaded Glory gripper socks at Walmart.  They go up the calf a ways (ankle socks come right off), and the tread on the bottom serves a second purpose in that it also indicates what size the socks are (have you ever tried sorting through tiny socks to try and figure out which ones are tinier?).

Longer socks mean they won't ride down off baby's feet as quickly.

Longer socks mean they won’t ride down off baby’s feet as quickly.

And now for more general advice:

Stick with a favorite brand or two.  Different brands fit differently, and I had several outfits gifted for Kaylie that we weren’t able to use because I stored, say, an 18-24M outfit with other 18-24M clothing only to find later that that brand’s “18-24M” size fits more like a Carter’s “12-18M”.  Avoid the hassle of having to eyeball–or worse, try on–every outfit to determine if it fits yet.  For babies, I love Carter’s–the clothes are super cute, the sets are convenient, and you can usually find them on sale–while for toddlers, I love Carter’s and Jumping Beans (at Kohl’s).  Find what fits your kid best, and stick with that.

Don’t skip NB!  I had a lot of people tell me, “Oh, babies are never in newborn clothes (or newborn diapers) for long enough to bother!  Just put them in 0-3 months!”  Ha!  Kaylie (born six pounds, five ounces) was swimming in NB when we brought her home, and she wore it for a month and a half.  But Wil (born nine pounds) was out of NB by two weeks.  There’s no way to know, really, how big your baby is going to be or how fast they’ll grow.  If you can, save your money for the cute stuff in bigger sizes and stock NB with thrift-store finds, hand-me-downs, and borrowed clothes, cute or not, until your little one is out in the world and you have an idea of whether or not they’ll need to be in NB for a while.

Shop a size or two ahead.  You don’t want to be buying the bulk of baby’s wardrobe the weekend before you bump him up a size–you may not be able to find the items you need, or, if you do, you may not be able to find it all at a good price.  I’ve done that a couple times, and it never goes well (would you believe the Kohl’s around the corner quit selling long-sleeved shirts and only had summer clothes by the end of December?  It was thirty degrees out!)  I like to start shopping for the next size as soon as I bump Wil up to new size.

….But don’t shop too far ahead!  Kaylie has always been small, so we go by weight to determine what size clothing to put her in, rather than months.  To give you an idea of how “off” we are with her, we bumped her up to 18-24M clothes when she was 31 months, after spending a week shy of a year in 12-18M.  So, that first year, it could be a little hard to determine what size we needed for an item to be “weather-appropriate”!  We had a number of great winter outfits that she didn’t actually fit into until the following summer.

And don’t buy holiday outfits.  Yes, they’re cute, but they’re almost never really worth the money (at least not new).  You get very little use out of them.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have awesome grandparents who gift things like that.  (Exception: Buy what you need for holiday family pictures, if that’s something you do.  You’ll be looking at that photo on the wall for the rest of your life.)

This might seem like overkill, but……I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet of what I’ve already bought.  I can list, by size, what items I have, and I can note what goes together and what outfits are incomplete (e.g., a onesie that has no matching pants).  I update it whenever I go shopping and bring home clothes, and print a copy of it off to keep in my diaper bag or purse to refer to whenever I’m out and I see a good deal.  (I did this very faithfully with Kaylie; I’m slacking a bit with Wil.  But when I keep up with it, it is super helpful–especially when thrift-store shopping, where clothes are often sold as individual items instead of sets.)

My OCD at work.  It can come in handy sometimes.

My OCD at work. It can come in handy sometimes.

As you shop, always picture yourself using an item.  Will it be too difficult to get on and off?  Do you need anything to go with it?  Will it be season-appropriate?  Can you picture yourself using it often?

Keep in mind, you can usually supplement beyond these basics once your little one is wearing the size in question.  Even if that means you won’t get the best deal on what you need additionally, you’ll save more in the long run by not buying a lot of items you end up not needing.  For me, this essentials-only list is usually enough to get me by.  I hope it helps you as you consider what you and your little one will need!