“Baby It’s Cold Outside” Baby Shower

Our book club (NOT a drink wine and bitch club, but a real, honest, “we all read and love similar books” club) threw a baby shower for one member who is newly married and pregnant. Honestly, I’ve heard horror stories about (and been a part of) book clubs that either create negative environments or hold members to impossible standards, but our book club is none of those things. The handful of women involved are all intelligent, sincere, down-to-earth women who are genuinely interested in and care for each other. I emphasize the word handful because when a member count climbs over, say, eight people, the involvement and engagement of each member tends to decline similarly. At least that has been my experience. Our meetings are not just an excuse to drink – honestly, who needs an excuse to drink!? Are women that desperate to crack open a bottle of wine? Because that’s depressing.

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via BookRiot

We put together a “Baby It’s Cold Outside” baby shower theme and tried to keep everything winter- and baby-themed. Even the game prizes were wintry: poinsettias and snowflake-shaped picture frames. We set up a chalkboard sign with the theme and had food and drinks placed all around the kitchen. For beverages we had a hot chocolate bar which was surprisingly addictive….

"Baby It's Cold Outside" chalkboard sign

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” chalkboard sign

I teamed up with another gal to provide food – I used Christmas-shaped cookie cutters to create shaped cheeses on a meat- and cheese-tray. For a warm dish I made a crock pot spinach and artichoke dip which almost cost me my life when the handle of the crock pot broke and I nearly fell down our stairs(!). So…don’t skimp when it comes to crock pots I guess.

Food - beverage table

Food – beverage table

Even though I wasn’t officially assigned to ‘beverage’ duty, I made the marshmallow straws which were perfect for the hot chocolate bar. This tutorial from Handmade in the Heartland made it super easy – but it was still a considerable time investment. Ross laughed because I grabbed a “smashing tool” from the garage which happened to be his great grandfather’s hatchet. But it suited my purpose. I used kabob skewers to dip the marshmallows and let them cool before taking the skewers out and inserting striped straws in their place. It was a considerable amount of work but everyone loved how they turned out!

My chocolate peppermint marshmallow straws hardening

My chocolate peppermint marshmallow straws hardening

Peppermint-crushing hatchet

Peppermint-crushing hatchet

The (late pregnancy) family vacation to Isla Mujeres – so apropos.

Oddly enough, it was my husband who suggested we take a tropical vacation to Mexico over a year ago (usually I dream up our vacations and he goes along for the ride – like our honeymoon to Fiji ♥). I jumped all over his suggestion like white on rice, and thanks to TripAdvisor’s ever-honest forums came up with the destination of Isla Mujeres, which is called the Island of Women. With historical references to the Maya goddess of childbirth, it is rumored that women would visit the island to honor Goddess Ix Chel in hopes of achieving a successful pregnancy and healthy birth. Oddly enough, we planned this vacation before knowing I was pregnant! Karma or whatever you want to call it…#strange.

So we paid and planned…and planned…and planned. I made a long list of things to do places to eat. We got a passport for Mr. George and renewed my passport. I mapped out every destination on a map I printed – but soon enough said screw that noise and bought a $17 MapChick Guide – which was so much better. We researched traveling abroad with children and discovered the best apps for making plane rides bearable. Not surprisingly, George wasn’t all that interested in apps but mostly enamored with pictures and videos of himself. Early selfies if you will. Then, around Thanksgiving, we got our first huge snowstorm in Minnesota and IT. WAS. TIME:

Time for Isla!

The weather was perfect – only slightly cloudy on the day we arrived and the day we left! The only negative of the whole trip was the fact that I couldn’t drink – but I could eat. So I ate and ate. I really can’t complain about the non-alcoholic piña coladas, either. Something about the fresh pineapple and fresh coconut made me not-so-forlorn. George was an all-star traveler – the only rough patches came when we were leaving the beach for naptime. We travel lightly – carry-ons only, so even travel days went really smoothly. George insisted on pulling my luggage which was so adorable. I love this kid.

The best thing about this destination was (of course!) the beach – so we spent as much time as possible there. The water is amazing – crystal clear, calm and deserted (if you’ve found the right corner of the island). This picture and video really show the clarity and calmness of the ocean:

Seriously deserted, seriously beautiful beach

Seriously deserted, seriously beautiful beach

We could wade almost all the way to the hotel on the opposite side of this inlet. It was the perfect depth for small children. And drunk adults.

Our daily routine always started with walking (or driving the golf cart) to breakfast  – Mango Cafe was our favorite and I wish we’d eaten there more often. The food and coffee couldn’t be beat. We also wish we’d asked about purchasing their coffee instead of the mundane variety we bought at the Chedraui. It was the best coffee we’ve ever had, and we’ve tried coffee from all over the world (we buy bulk and roast our own beans via Sweet Maria’s).

I didn't teach George cheese-face, but it does come out on occasion.

I didn’t teach George cheese-face, but it does come out on occasion.

After breakfast we’d head to the beach. For the first few days we visited the beach right outside our hotel, Hotel Ixchel, but after massages at Spa Onali the owner advised us to try the beach by Mia Reef Club, which was calmer. His advice was golden – we drove our golf cart to that beach from that day on. The last day we decided to try the hotel pool which was a lot more thrilling than we ever imagined – George practically swam by himself with his puddle-jumper life vest. We had the pool to ourselves, and we used the floaties we brought to laze around, taking turns swimming with George.

When George was ready for a nap, we would go back to the hotel and shower, nap and get ready for dinner. Lola Valentina was one of my favorites – we both really enjoyed our meals and had a delicious dessert which was some kind of traditional Mexican chocolate-filled tortilla.

Lola Valentina

Lola Valentina

Mamma Rosa was one of my favorites – I had an amazing pasta with white sauce, but Ross was not happy with his sausage pasta. We also shared a tiramisu which was exceptional. This restaurant had a great location right in the middle of town and it was fun and lively. Dad bought George a toy monkey from a street vendor which at first interested him then terrified him. That monkey didn’t make the trip home.

Mamma Rosa

Mamma Rosa

Abuelos was a wonderful locally-owned restaurant that had delicious food prepared in the nearby kitchen. You could smell, hear and watch your food being prepared and you could tell ingredients were fresh. We ordered the featured fish entrees which were perfect.

Abuelos

Abuelos

It was a perfect, low-key vacation for a budget-conscience family with a small child and pregnant mommy. We were very happy with our decision to visit this small island and with our minimal investment in a week of relaxed beachfront fun!

Mom at Bally-Hoo beachfront restaurant

Mom at Bally-Hoo beachfront restaurant

“Ewww – nasty!” Or – How we cloth diaper our child.

Cloth diapering isn’t that gross – I think we’ve just become used to separating ourselves from basic human bodily processes. We no longer deal with outhouses or bedpans. Which is awesome. But when you have a child, you get a little more comfortable with..uhem….that. Among other things.

George and his econobum-swathed bum.

George and his econobum-swathed bum.

Cloth diapering came up as one way we could cut costs. #apennysaved Whenever I’m deciding whether or not to purchase something, one of the questions I always ask myself is: “What did they do in the old days?” This is especially helpful as a parent. For example, when I feel guilty for not registering my child for swim lessons each season, I remind myself that when my parents were children, they could either wrestle in the farmyard or climb trees, but they certainly were not carted off to swim lessons every spring, summer and fall. They learned to swim in the lake a few months out of each year.

Cloth diapers add a bit of bulk

Cloth diapers add a bit of bulk

I’ve been told we were cloth diapered as children. Retro – like sharp pins and big folds of cloth – not the easy velcro versions we have now. My parents are nothing if not frugal. I took a step back and added up the cost of disposable diapers. Doing the math on my [large] child, almost seven months into his life, diapers were costing me nearly $0.25 apiece. Then I died a little inside. See, I religiously use gas coupons combined with American Express Blue cash back to save about $3.00 each time I visit the gas pump. That means, with, let’s say, an average of six diapers used per day, I would completely cancel out my entire gas money-saving routine within just two days. #obsessmuch

For someone who analyzes the long-term, I realized my son would be in diapers a fairly long time. In addition, cloth diapers can be re-used with subsequent children – and even resold! #boom

Truth be told, I spent close to $500 on cloth diapers, which is a hefty investment up front. I first bought previously-owned bumGenius diapers on DiaperSwappers, then decided to buy brand new bumGenius, then realized I could buy a heck-ofa-lotta EconoBum diapers with Snappis for a quarter of the bumGenius investment. I even bought some homemade cloth diapers from Craigslist. Luckily, I ended up using all of the varieties for a period of time, because they all fit differently and he grew quite fast. When my son turned twelve months old and was in 18 month clothes, I discovered the wonderful world of extra large cloth diapers and ordered a bunch of those to round out his collection. I actually second-guessed the extra large cloth diapers but as it turns out, he’s been wearing those the longest! I love that they don’t dig into his fatty thighs… #pudge

Plus, cloth diapers have the added cute factor

Plus, cloth diapers have the added cute factor

We still buy regular disposable diapers for daycare and babysitters (Aldi diapers for size 3-5 and Walmart diapers for NB-2 and size 6 – Aldi wipes are awesome too). My husband was avoiding using cloth diapers #liketheplague until I had a mild-freak out and gently reminded him it was his money too. #ahhmarriage But after George turned one year, Ross did a complete 180 and has been hugely supportive of cloth diapering. Meaning he even rinses the poop in the toilet. #grossiknow We never purchased the toilet-diaper-sprayer and honestly, we do just fine without it. We just hold the diaper by the end (the dry portion), dip the dirty portion in the toilet and flush. We have a big plastic waterproof laundry basket that is washed out with each laundry load. #thatsdone

Before George was born, I cut up a bunch of old t-shirts to use as wipes. Even if we stopped cloth diapering someday, I would still use cloth wipes. Instead of wiping the nasty shtuff around with a dry-ish wipe only slightly larger than my hand, a wet cloth wipe is more akin to bathing, is roughly the size of a washcloth and cleans the skin thoroughly. In fact, one time George had diaper rash and our pediatrician advised us to simply use a wet washcloth to wipe the butt, because wipes contain alcohol which is hard on tender skin. So if George ever has diaper rash, we just wet one of our cloth wipes and use plain ol’ water.

The hospital gave us this wipe case and we refill it with cloth wipes.

The hospital gave us this wipe case and we refill it with cloth wipes.

If we are using our wipe solution, we just mix roughly equal amounts of the following ingredients then pour it over cloth squares in an old plastic container (we just use an empty container leftover from disposable wipes). We don’t measure or anything – we just mix equal parts:

  • Witch hazel
  • Aloe vera gel or juice (avoid any gel with added ingredients like alcohol)
  • Water (if you use aloe vera juice it will already be watery, so you might not need to add water)

Our usual routine during the work week is disposable diapers at daycare, a cloth diaper in the evening and a cloth diaper overnight. On the weekends we are all cloth diapers all of the time. They are so much more absorbent than disposable diapers – so overnights are awesome. Unlike disposable diapers – our cloth diapers have never leaked overnight. We have a wet/dry bag, but we actually prefer using that for the disposable diapers, because it is hanging off of the side of the dresser, off of the floor and out of the way. It is nice to zip up the bag and not worry about any smells, and we throw it in the washer to wash it out regularly.

Because we wash the cloth diapers nightly or every other night, we simply throw them into the plastic laundry bin, occasionally throwing in dirty clothes too. They do not start to smell within that time period, and if they do we simply throw a load in the washer immediately. We wash each load at least twice (usually three times), so there is absolutely no nastiness left behind.

 

When I started using cloth diapers I purchased Rockin’ Green to wash the diapers, as well as trying a bag of soap nuts together with tea tree oil for adding scent. I found Rockin’ Green to be a bit expensive (with shipping) and the soap nuts were a pain because I would always forget them in the washer during the rinse cycle. My husband did take a liking to the tea tree oil though, and began pouring it into every load of laundry. It was kind of cute because he walked around with his heavy-duty Carhartt work pants smelling like tea tree. Our washing routine today consists of the following steps:

  • Dump solids into the toilet (immediately when the diaper comes off)
  • Throw the diapers, covers and other laundry in the washer on the shortest setting on hot, to rinse.
  • Next, start the washer on the longest, hottest setting with a half cup of washing soda (I get a ton delivered with free shipping from Walmart.com), a half cup of baking soda (same stocking method I use with washing soda) and a half cup of Borax (purchased at the grocery store because it comes in a fairly large container). I usually dump a teaspoon to a tablespoon of Dawn in, to help strip the diapers if they are particularly stinky.
  • For the third wash, I pour a half cup of vinegar into the washer on the longest, hottest setting. This load sanitizes and clears away any lingering grime.
  • I avoid bleach because it is very hard on the material and absorbency. Most of the stains wash away and if there is a little discoloration it is hardly noticeable. As far as germs, vinegar is a natural disinfectant, and after three washes – these diapers are cleaner than any other item in our house.
  • I hang all of our laundry to dry – usually in the laundry room because we need the humidity in the long dry Minnesota winters – or hanging off of the deck in the summer because I hate the look of clotheslines in the yard. #junky Ross built an amazing shelving system in the laundry room and I can hang up to five loads of laundry at a time! I avoid using a clothes dryer because the high heat and tumbling action of the washer is a little rough on clothing, running the dryer is a waste of energy, and I don’t have to worry about shrinkage when I hang everything. We don’t have a humidifier and in the winter months I would actually have bloody noses due to dry air, but I haven’t had one since hanging all of our laundry. The wet laundry dries in about eight hours – which tells you how dry the air is!

I’ve read that you should periodically boil cloth diapers on the stove to eliminate any stink. Boiling diapers is also supposed to get rid of lingering soap residue which can impede absorbency. I’ve boiled them twice – and it’s probably high time to do it again, but it’s such a long painful process. I’ll do it this summer.

Diaper drawer

We dedicate a drawer to cloth diaper storage – it’s usually empty unless by some miracle we’ve caught up on laundry

#btw I also have an amazing diaper cream ointment compound that my pediatrician recommended. I’m kind of sad that this recipe isn’t common knowledge among mothers – no baby should have to cry over a diaper rash ever again. #soooosad It is easy to make this prescription diaper cream and it heals George’s skin within hours! Just mix equal parts:

  • Desitin
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Clomitrazole
  • Bacitracin

All of these ingredients are available at your local CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc. We’ve put the cream in an old Desitin container, an old pill bottle, and in a small salad-dressing-sized Tupperware. All work equally well. I honestly don’t think this shizz expires as we prepare loads at a time and it seems to be just as effective later on in life.

The biggest realization I’ve had about cloth diapering is that it comes down to convenience. The only way we can cloth diaper is if we simplify it so it becomes routine and does not add a lot of extra steps in our already-busy day. Do you cloth diaper? What was your experience?

Want to see 103 years of history in your pipes? Me neither.

We found some nast in our bathroom pipes. Ack!

Eww

Eww

Ross is working on the upstairs bathroom today, which may require moving the sink and bathtub. We had to get rid of the previous bathtub due to it being super small – basically just big enough to soak your feet. Big enough for The Little Couple, but they wouldn’t be caught dead in this bathroom because they have a mansion and a whole lot of fancy. #littlecouplelove Here’s the mini tub we are going to offload on Craigslist:

Too-small upstairs tub.

Too-small upstairs tub.

I have been dreaming of a claw foot tub since…forever….and thanks to Craig and his list we found one for $100! It needs some elbow grease – which isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but I found a few great resources  – HGTV, DIY Network and This Old House for cleaning, and refinishing if necessary. I love how each instructional is a little bit different – I guess it depends on the condition of the tub and how crazy you want to get. I’d like to get really crazy but she’s going to have to wait until the temperature is above zero and my blood starts flowing again. For now she looks like this:

Our new clawfoot tub.

Our new clawfoot tub.

We think we can work with the existing footprint but move the sink and tub to give the claw foot tub its due glory. Oh, and to allow for a shower head which is kind of a must in our playbook.

Without further ado, here is the new layout (totally legit and to-scale drawing). Oh and don’t be offended by the use of the word ‘shitter’ – we’re from the Midwest. ;P This is no RoomSketcher floor plan. Maybe next time.

New upstairs bathroom layout.

New upstairs bathroom layout.

 

 

New kitchen layout via RoomSketcher and IKEA

Our original kitchen was extremely closed off on almost all four sides. We opened up one wall leading to the entryway hallway. This gives us a more open kitchen but limits our usable wall space to only two walls – galley kitchen style.

Front of the kitchen before we opened up the refrigerator nook  and built-ins.

Kitchen from the rear of the house.

Kitchen from the rear of the house.

Now we need to rethink where the appliances will live. Ross ran a few different scenarios using RoomSketcher and IKEA‘s kitchen planning tools. He found the IKEA kitchen planner a bit easier to use – maybe because it is built for kitchens versus the more general floor planner RoomSketcher. He said the only downfall is you can’t customize your cabinet size. You must use the standard IKEA cabinet sizes with filler pieces. We are planning to re-use what we can of the current cabinet frames and maybe even the doors. I think we can DIY some shaker style cabinets…oh and DIY some butcher block counters – but that is another post for another time.

Our first scenario had all appliances against the window wall – which would be ideal but may not be possible. However, with the fridge and oven on the right, there is no counter space except the space to the left of the sink, which is just silly.

Scenario A

Scenario A

Our next floor plan had the stove against the chimney, which was ruled out simply because it covered up the chimney and we want the chimney to be exposed.

Scenario B

Scenario B

The third scenario had the fridge covering up the chimney. See disqualification reasons above. ^^^

Scenario C

Scenario C

The next floor plan had the dishwasher up next to the refrigerator which would actually require moving the sink over. Because the sink is now centered with the window, we decided not to move it.

Scenario D

Scenario D

Next we tried moving the fridge onto the wall opposite the chimney, but I fear this narrows the kitchen too much. Ideally, I’d love a nice butler-pantry style furniture piece or built-in pantry cabinets on this wall. They would definitely be narrower than a refrigerator, thus leaving the kitchen more open and saving the square footage.

Scenario E

Scenario E

We finally agreed to keep all appliances on the window wall. The fridge will be on the far left with a little counter space between the fridge and the sink. To the right of the sink will be the dishwasher. To the right of the dishwasher will be the stove and microwave above it. This was the best placement we could come up with while still keeping the open spaciousness of the kitchen and showcasing the chimney. If you have a better idea – let us know!

The winning floor plan

The winning floor plan

A nice visual of our future kitchen.

A nice visual of our future kitchen.

 

 

 

Chimney + chaseway plans

We exposed the beautiful yellow brick chimney and in the process, discovered a metal heating chaseway that sits next to the chimney. It had been drywalled over and had [fugly] cabinetry installed over it. Here is the before where you can see the odd box-out where the chimney and chaseway were covered with a built in pantry-type of unit.

The tiny pantry cabinets were obviously hiding something.

The tiny pantry cabinets were obviously hiding something.

When we started uncovering the chimney we also uncovered the metal chaseway. We are deciding what exactly to do with the chaseway. My first inclination is to cover it with the same cool yellow brick as we have on the chimney, since they sit right next to each other and they are both highly visible from both the hallway and kitchen.

The chimney brick uncovered.

The chimney brick uncovered.

But the more I search, the less confident I am in my ability to find said brick. Craiglist doesn’t have any in Minnesota or even in neighboring states – and the salvage shops I emailed don’t have any inventory either. The one place with current stock I found online would have to ship it from Chicago – eek. At least two salvage shops referred me to Historic Stone Company in Minneapolis. I’ll be calling on them, for sure, but first we need to decide if we are going to cover up the chaseway with yellow brick or not…thoughts?

Chaseway and chimney revealed.

Chaseway and chimney revealed.

Maternity leave food hoard (frozen blueberry waffles)

When we were expecting baby George, I made just about everything imaginable for the chest freezer. I pre-made and carefully cling-wrapped ham and cheese subs, gourmet pizzas from scratch, lasagnas, Belgian waffles and homemade chili. With this pregnancy, I am lucky to even plan a real dinner, much less get to the grocery store to stock up on ingredients. I find myself googling “substitute for [fill-in-the-blank]” way too often.

I did muster up enough energy to prepare a load of blueberry waffles to freeze. Coincidentally, I have the best husband in the world, who made both crock-pot chili AND roasted a ham for ham and cheese sandwiches. Either he feels bad for me or he is also nesting. I probably won’t make this waffle recipe again – upon closer review the sauce is the best part, and obviously I left the sauce off my version. Somehow I don’t see that freezing well or warming up as easily. The waffles are “meh” – I added a few spoonfuls of lemon juice and sugar but they still aren’t delish. Of course, when you find your baby is the only one eating, you will scarf down just about anything.

Blueberry waffles sans sauce.

Blueberry waffles sans sauce.