Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Wow, it's hard to believe it's 2 days before Christmas!  Where has the time gone?  We have a lovely thick blanket of snow outside, and providing the rain holds off, it looks like we will have a white Christmas.  :)  I think the wind has died down some, which is making our drafty house a little more bearable.  

My Christmas sewing is complete!  Well, as much of it as I am going to get done.  ;)  I finished the kids' pajamas on the week-end, and then spent 2 nights making these boxer shorts for my husband. They look simple enough, don't they? His all-time favourite boxer shorts are from the Gap, but since we can't afford to buy them, I took apart an old pair and took a pattern from them.  The only problem is that I go so long between making them, that every time I try to do it, I can NOT for the life of me figure out how the fly goes together.  It took me several tries, but I think I finally got it.  I should really write the instructions down when I finally figure it out, but I never do.  :)  In any case, what I should have been able to whip up in a couple of hours took me about 6 or 7.  I hope he likes them.  lol.  Sorry I don't have any pictures of the pajamas, I was at a Barra MacNeil's Christmas concert last night, and by the time I got home, Bruce had all of the gifts wrapped!  It was a nice surprise, but now you'll have to wait until after Christmas for pajama pictures.  At least the kids will be able to model them!  Owen's book didn't get finished, but, well, there's always Easter.  :)  

My sewing basket is once again overflowing with "UFOs" (Unfinished Objects), so it will be time to get caught up again after Christmas.  I still have several diapers to repair, a pair of Norah's pants with a hole in the knee (brand new pants, she fell on the sidewalk and skinned her knee while wearing them), a pair of maternity pants that won't stay up, so I'm putting a new band on them, Owen's book, and a quilt I started more than a year ago.  The quilt top is finished, but I still have to add borders, and quilt it.  It's more of a long-term project, and since it was my first quilt, it's been a learning experience.  I'm in no rush to finish it, but it is in my basket, so it qualifies as a "UFO".  :)  

But first, I'm going to take some time to enjoy the holidays, and enjoy having my husband home for a little while.  I hope to spend lots of time drinking egg nog, with my feet up by the fire, and visiting with lots of good friends and family.  Thus, I'll probably take a brief blogging hiatus, and be back in the new year.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!  

Friday, December 12, 2008

No Sewing to Report

Well, I didn't do any sewing last night.  And we didn't watch any t.v. either.  My husband and I had some Christmas details to wrap up, so we decided to sit down together and get it done.  We still had a couple of things to order online, and with only 2 weeks remaining, we thought we'd better get them ordered!  I found a great Canadian website for natural/organic kids' toys, clothing, and art supplies, called Baby Naturopathics.  I was originally going to order from Stubby Pencil, but with the currently lousy exchange rate, plus the cost of shipping (not to mention customs delays), I just couldn't justify it.  So I was ecstatic to find a Canadian company to order from.  We decided that each kid is getting ONE purchased toy.  That's it.  They need no more (and don't even need that, but we can't be total scrooges!).  Not to mention, I'd rather buy them each one quality toy that will last forever (even if it costs more), than a bunch of junk from Wal Fart that will eventually make its way to a landfill.  We also got them each some art supplies...  Owen is getting some beeswax crayon blocks, and Norah is getting some neat eco-friendly watercolour pencils.  We got them a movie to share (Wall-E,  with a great environmental message!), and they're each getting their new, made-by-mommy pajamas.  I think that is plenty, and I look forward to enjoying the magic of Christmas morning, without the children being overwhelmed by a ton of stuff.  

So that took us until 11 pm, but it's so nice that it's all decided and finished.  All that's left to do is finish up the last bit of sewing, which I love that I can do from the comfort of my own home. It was so delightful to not have to step foot in the mall once this season!  No harried rushing around from store to store, trying to find meaningless gifts for people.  My in-laws have requested "gifts of time" this Christmas.  My Father-in-Law wants Bruce to help him with some computer work, and to move some furniture around in their house.  My Mother-in-Law would like some help sewing some roman blinds for their newly renovated bedroom.  Bruce has 10 days off after Christmas, which gives us plenty of time to do this, and I know that these gifts will mean more to them than some random thing we could buy.  

Tonight is Date Night...  and tomorrow we have a Christmas party to attend, so it will likely be a couple of days before I get back to sewing...  but I'm confident that I will get it done, with plenty of time to spare!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Progress Report #2

Last night after we got the kids tucked in bed, I came downstairs and spent a few minutes at the computer, reading my daily blogs.  One of my new favourite blogs is Green and Crunchy.  She makes AMAZING vegan food, and I am constantly in awe of all of it!  While I was browsing last night, I found this recipe for Very Vegan Chocolate Chippie Hippie Spelt Cookies.  Wow, that's a mouthful!  Of course, I had to drop everything I was doing (or about to do!), and try them IMMEDIATELY.  I didn't have all of the ingredients she suggested, so I made do with what I had in my kitchen.  For nuts and seeds, I used pecans, light sesame seeds, dark sesame seeds, and flax seeds.  I didn't have any vegan chocolate chips, so I used regular milk-chocolate ones (rendering the cookies no longer vegan!), and my spelt flour was pre-ground.  :) Otherwise, I was able to follow the recipe exactly, and they were delicious!  Even my oh-so-picky husband approved.  

But fear not, I didn't let it deter me from working on some sewing.  :)  After the cookie mess was all cleaned up (and some eaten with tea), I got to work cutting out the kids' Christmas PJs.  I made my husband some pajama pants last year with "The Incredibles" fabric, and had a ton left over, so decided to use it up for the kids' PJs.  I ironed all of the fabric, cut out the pattern tissue, and pinned and cut out all the pieces.  The only thing I was lacking was banding (I only had black, and I thought it was a bit harsh-looking for kids' PJs), so I'll have to stop in at Fabricville this week to pick up some white.  I'm happy with what I got accomplished.  Tonight is a good TV night, so I think I'll be doing some couch-friendly sewing...  like picking apart some diapers.  Not my favourite task, but it will be much more pleasant while watching ER and Grey's Anatomy, eating some Very (not so) Vegan Chocolate Chippie Hippie Spelt Cookies, drinking tea by the fire, and enjoying the twinkly Christmas tree.  




Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Progress Report!

Okay, I actually SEWED last night, so I thought I'd keep you updated (and keep myself accountable in the process!)  I made:
6 Christmas coasters, made from the tutorial available at Chickpea Sewing Studio.  Originally, I was going to make these for a gift exchange for Bruce's Christmas Party (along with a tin of organic, fair trade hot chocolate), but I deemed them not gift-worthy.  The ric-rac was trickier than I anticipated and I had some trouble getting it even.  So we're going to keep them for ourselves - I've never had Christmas coasters before!  (Or any coasters for that matter).  :)  


And these I finished last week, but thought I'd show them to you anyway.  I wanted some inexpensive gifts to give to Norah's teachers (one for library preschool, and her 2 regular preschool teachers).  Library Preschool finished last week, so I already gave that one away, but here are the two remaining.  I gave them each a bar of fair trade, organic milk chocolate (ask me how hard it was to have these in the house and not eat them!), and a cute apron ornament (tutorial found here).  I decided to skip gift wrapping altogether, so I just tied them up with this pretty ribbon that they can re-use.  I think I might have spent $4.00 on each of these gifts, which I think is pretty reasonable!

Tonight's project is either going to entail working on Owen's book, or starting the kids' pajamas.  I'm leaning toward doing the pajamas first (because I know they don't take long), where the book is going to take several nights, and may or may not get finished in time.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A little sewing motivation, please. :)

Okay, I had the BEST intentions with this hand-made Christmas thing.  Really!  I was totally pumped to sew up a storm.  Yet here we are, with just over 2 weeks left, and my Christmas sewing is basically untouched!  The only time I have to sew is after the kids are in bed at night, and by then, well, I'm pooped.  The living room, with its warm fire and twinkly Christmas tree beckons to me, and I just want to sit and drink tea and enjoy it.  My get up and go got up and went.  Help!! Somebody light a fire under me!  Here is what I have left to sew:



*boxer shorts for DH (He LOVES the ones I make him, and I haven't made him any in ages!)
*Cloth book for Owen (nope, didn't finish it for his birthday, so bumped it to Christmas)
*Pajamas for both kids
*Christmas coasters for a gift exchange

And, not Christmas-related, but the elastic in all of Owen's Fuzzi Bunz is completely dead, so I have to rip those apart and replace the elastic.  I think I have about 8 left to repair, and they each take a full evening to do.  In the mean time, I'm washing diapers daily because I only have enough diapers in rotation to get through one day until I get these ones fixed.  

I know that a couple hours a night is all I need to plough through this list, but, well, DOING it seems to be a whole 'nother story.  Any and all "GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR" comments would be much appreciated.  :)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Babysteps are finally starting to pay off.

Do you ever find yourself so focussed on where you're going, that you forget to look back and see how far you've come?  For many years, my life has been somewhat chaotic, disorganized, and haphazard.  We planned for nothing, and it seemed we were always in catch-up mode.  I always felt stressed and anxious, and wondered if and when I would ever feel at peace.  I started university about 6 years later than my peers, at age 23.  We got pregnant while I was in my last year of university, unplanned, unmarried, living in an apartment, with a mountain of debt.  My husband had barely begun his career (also a late bloomer...  he took several years off before completing his university degree to play with a celtic rock band).  We had no idea how we were going to make it.  We decided to get married, which we were planning on doing *some day* anyway, but had never made any concrete plans to do so.  I also wanted to buy a house, because I didn't want to raise my baby in an apartment.  So in a space of 3 months, I graduated from university (complete with thesis), we bought a house, got married, and had a baby.  It was a whirlwind, and sadly, I don't think I enjoyed any of it.  These events all added to our mountain of debt, and I didn't get to enjoy a single one of them, because they happened so quickly, and with little or no planning.  The house we could afford to buy was 85 years old, and needed a TON of work.  Of course, we couldn't afford to pay someone to do it, so since buying this house, my husband has spent every spare moment working on it.  Both of our babies came home to a construction site.  When we brought Norah home, her nursery was a mess of plaster and paint cans.  What was supposed to be a quick makeover turned into a job bigger than either of us anticipated, and her nursery wasn't complete until she was about 4 months old.  She was an extremely colicky, difficult baby, so getting things done during the day was impossible.  I spent many nights working on the nursery until 2 or 3 in the morning, because that was the only way it was ever going to get done.  I never got to indulge my nesting urge; I barely got to do a single thing to prepare for the arrival of either of our babies, because we were living in a pile of plaster dust.  I certainly didn't get to organize or clean much of anything.  Instead of getting to enjoy my precious newborn, I was stressed because of the state of our home and our lives.  For the first several weeks after bringing home our son, we lived in our bedroom because it was pretty much the only habitable room in our house.  We were living at my in-laws up until 3 days before my due date.  What was supposed to be a 1-week arrangement turned into 2 months, and 3 days before I was due I put my foot down and said I was going home, I didn't care what state it was in.  I wanted to go into labour in my OWN house.   You couldn't get the door to the nursery open because it was piled high with furniture, boxes, clothes, you name it. So we worked tirelessly for those 3 days, so that we could clean out the nursery, and finish our bedroom so that I would have at least two rooms in the house that were livable.  At midnight that night, we fell into bed, exhausted, and woke up at 6:30 am in labour.  I was praying that the baby would hold off, but he arrived, quickly, and right on his due date.  Babies apparently don't care if you're not ready for them.  Our living room furniture was piled in a dusty heap in the corner because we had torn a wall down to install our woodburning insert, which was supposed to be complete LONG before our due date. In our kitchen lived a pile of saws and tools. The other bedrooms upstairs served as storage rooms. You couldn't walk in the house without shoes because it was so filthy. Combine that with a toddler and a newborn, and a husband who works 60-80 hours a week, and you have yourself a pile of stress.  Every time the kids would nap and I had a moment's peace, all I could think about was trying to get some work done.  We've slowly, bit by bit, room by room, been piecing our lives back together.  A good chunk of the work that we needed to do to the house has been finished (although there is still plenty to do!).  I've been working on decluttering, organizing, and reducing the overall stress in our lives.  I slowly began to implement my weekly schedule, in an attempt to maintain a generally clean home.  Part of my weekly zone cleaning entails doing one "extra" thing in each zone, whether it's to clean out a drawer, a cupboard, or simply rearrange things so that they are more functional.  What once seemed impossible to imagine, that I would have a clean, organized, orderly, stress-free home now seems within reach.  Those little "extra" things I've done each week have now reached the point where I can barely find an "extra" thing to do.  Nearly every corner of our living space is purged, organized, and accessible.  Our finances are in order.  Our debt is slowly coming down (and most importantly, we are no longer adding to it!).  Because our physical space is less stressful, and my mind is no longer cluttered with stress, I've had time to ponder what is truly important in our lives and make significant changes to how we live.  

With the impending arrival of our next bundle of joy, I am finding myself feeling slightly less anxious than I was with the other two.  We still have some work to do on the house.  We never did complete the upstairs, because we really just needed to return it to a state that we could live in.  I couldn't handle any more construction, I just wanted to get back to life.  There is still some sanding to do, some trim to finish, and we have to get the fourth bedroom ready for Owen so that the new baby can have the nursery (the bedrooms are too tiny to share).  Chances are, the kids and I will have to move in with the in-laws once again so that my husband can complete that work, but hopefully it really WILL only be a week this time.  And I will be insistent that it happens LONG before my due date.  I still have a to-do list that's about 3 pages long that I've been chipping away at.  I want to finish organizing our photos, and finish our CURRENT kids' baby books, before the new baby arrives.  I want to get our food binder complete so that life with 3 children will be as SIMPLE as possible, so that I can actually enjoy it.  I want to make and freeze meals ahead of time.  Our basement and attic became the dumping grounds when we were trying to get our house back in order, and we still have to clean those out.  My husband has been saying forever that he's going to get to it, but given his work schedule I don't see how...  so tackling those areas is also on my to-do list.  I still have diapers to sew.  It seems like a lot left to do, but when I look back and see how far we've come, it actually seems manageable.  With regular, day-to-day life functioning fairly efficiently now, I can actually find bits of time to work on these extra tasks.  With our environment less chaotic, I am enjoying our children more, as I have more time to just *be* with them, and not constantly thinking about what else needs to be done.  

So there you have it.  Babysteps.  Sometimes they're so small that they seem insignificant, but looking back, you can see that those miles you've walked have happened one tiny step at a time.  With children, we only have time for babysteps.  Unlike the days before children, you can't plunge head-first into a task and work on it until it's complete.  You have to find 2 minutes here and 2 minutes there.  Every seemingly insurmountable task can be broken down into parts.  This logic can be applied to so many areas of our lives.  We are climbing out of debt not by waiting around for some miraculous windfall, but by slowly, steadily, paying it down a few dollars each month.  Our emergency fund is growing not by leaps and bounds, but by tiny little amounts each month.  Our home and lives are becoming more and more organized, simply by spending 5 or 10 minutes at a time working at it.  By doing these things consistently, they add up, and eventually begin to merge together into an overall state of peacefulness and well-being.  I can finally see a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and each day it shines just a little brighter.  I think that we sometimes need to stop and look back at what we've accomplished, and congratulate ourselves on a job well-done.  What's left to do won't seem so bad then.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I'm Joining a Vegetarian Support Group!

Okay, it's not really a support group, but I thought that was catchier than "I'm Joining a Vegetarian Society".  I recently discovered that our town has a vegetarian society, and I thought it would be fun to join!  They have monthly potluck meetings, and children are welcome to attend.  (Not that I'm bringing mine...  I don't have many opportunities to go places without the children, so I'm definitely taking advantage of this one!).  They have guest speakers each month on various topics relating to vegetarianism.  I'm hoping to be able to glean some new knowledge, score some new recipes, and meet some new friends!  It's always nice to meet other like-minded people.  It's not like I can walk down the street and ask people if they're vegetarian.  :)  My first meeting is this Friday, and a friend of mine (who is semi-veg) is coming with me.  Now I just have to think of something yummy to bring to the potluck.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eco-Friendly Craft Supplies

I have craft supplies on the kids' Christmas list this year, and I wanted to find some eco-friendly ones. Sheri over at Green and Crunchy tipped me off to this great site:  Stubby Pencil Studio.  Not only do they have great craft supplies, but they have eco-friendly toys and other gifts too.  I think I'll be ordering some soy crayons, some watercolours, and some washable markers made with recycled plastic. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

I made ketchup!

I'm trying to focus on buying whole foods, and eliminating those convenient, pre-processed foods.  Even though the few that I do buy are organic, I would still prefer to make my own from scratch.  Both to save money, and because I'm sure it's healthier.  Strangely, it also simplifies our lives.  You might think, but it's more work to make condiments than to just buy them!  But the fewer ingredients I have to buy and store on our monthly grocery shopping trip, the better!  And by sticking to whole (ie - single-ingredient) foods, it really simplifies that process.  Then, throughout the month, if I run out of something, I can simply make it myself.  When we ran out of ketchup, I almost ran to the store to get more.  But then I realized I had everything I needed to make my own.  I used this great recipe from Passionate Homemaking.  Bruce and I really liked it, but I don't think the kids were crazy about it.  You could definitely taste the molasses in it.  Which isn't a bad thing, but might be an acquired taste for the kids.  (They are used to the bottled stuff, after all!).  I might keep experimenting until I come up with a recipe that everyone likes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hallowe'en costumes, as promised...

I know I promised you a picture of the kids' Hallowe'en costumes, so here it is.  I guess I should mention that Norah changed her mind...she wanted to be a flower for Hallowe'en! And so Owen was a bumble bee.  They were a bit more of a challenge than I expected!  The bumble bee turned out great - I was really happy with that.  It's hard to tell in the picture, but there are black wings that snapped onto the back of the costume.  It was adorable - he was running around making buzzing noises.  :) The flower was a little trickier.  I used craft foam for the pedals, and had a really hard time getting them to stand up.  Then Hallowe'en morning I tried the hood on her (it was supposedly a size large!), and the chin strap didn't even come close to meeting.So I had to devise a new chin strap.  And then the weight of the flower pedals kept making the hood fall down in her face, so I had to add a strap at the back that snapped onto the jumper to keep that from happening.  Needless to say I was so DONE sewing that thing by the time Hallowe'en came!  And then on Hallowe'en night the camera batteries were dead (it's a rechargeable battery pack, so there was no popping new batteries in)...  so we had to wait for my in-laws to arrive with their camera.  By then the kids weren't in the mood for pictures, so this is the best we got.  :)  Anyway, the kids had fun, and Norah loved her costume anyway, so that's what counts!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Like a box of candy...

Thanks to this post over at Jenn of All Trades, I was inspired to pick up one of these bead organizers from Michael's to use for my snaps.  Mine was a little pricier than hers for some reason ($4.99 instead of $1.99!), but the end result was sooooo worth it!  Don't they look good enough to eat?  :)  And I love how it had the exact number of compartments I needed...  that makes my inner organizational freak happy.  So thanks, Jenn!  Now I don't have to worry about spilling snaps out of snipped-open plastic baggies any more.  :)

Monday, November 10, 2008

I took the handmade pledge.

I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.orgI just signed up on www.buyhandmade.org and took the handmade pledge.  I plan to make as many of my gifts as possible this Holiday season, and what I don't make myself, I plan to buy from local crafters.  Will you take the handmade pledge?  

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Owen's Birthday

It's my goal to give as many hand-made gifts as possible this year, and my son's 2nd birthday is no exception!  I also want those gifts to be as eco-friendly as possible.  After searching around on the internet for patterns for soft toys, I realized that I had a pattern for this soft book in my stash.  I thought, what a great way to use up all of those itty bitty fabric scraps!  I keep a bag of small scraps that are too small to be useful, but too big to be thrown out.  I had fun rooting through it last night finding pieces that would work.  :)  I will still have to buy a few things to complete the book, but most of it will come from my scrap bag.  It's a very interactive book, each page has something for him to do.  There are bells in the cat's bow.  The butterfly wings crinkle.  The shoe laces tie up.  The flowers button and unbutton.  The dog is on a leash, and you can pull him out of the dog house.  The corn has a working zipper.  And the bird's nest pulls down to reveal little eggs inside.  :)  I hope he enjoys it!  I'd better get cracking!





Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Another power rate hike

We just received word that Nova Scotia Power has been approved for another 10% rate hike. This is just as we finished making budget adjustments from the last 10% rate hike. I'm not sure we can squeeze our budget any tighter, so the only alternative is to reduce our power consumption to the tune of 10%. I plan on making a few changes:

  • Putting power bars on our electronic equipment, and shutting them down when things are not in use. This includes our computer (and associated equipment), our entertainment unit, and a small entertainment unit we have upstairs. From what I understand, all of these things draw "phantom power" even when turned off, so the only way to stop them from drawing power is to disconnect the power supply. We attended an eco expo a couple of week-ends ago, and a representative from Nova Scotia Power was there. He said that most people pay more for their electronics when they're turned off than they do when they're actually using them. Food for thought!
  • Indoor drying racks. I'm on the hunt for a quality, sturdy, indoor drying rack. I bought one last year at Wal Mart (the only one I could find!), and I'm not sure what it was designed for, but it wasn't wet clothes! The rack buckled and sagged under the weight of the clothes, and finally collapsed. I returned that thing pronto. But now I need a replacement! Since we use a woodburning insert to heat our home, I could hang our clothes on racks in front of the insert in the evenings (after the kids go to bed and there's no danger of it being knocked over).
  • Using the toaster oven for more than just toast. Tonight I was about to bake a Lima Loaf (it tastes much better than it sounds!) in the big oven. I looked at the size of the little loaf pan, and the huge oven, and decided it was a waste of energy. My toaster oven doubles as a mini-oven, so I just set the temperature, the timer, and popped it in there. No wasted heat.
  • Switching our Christmas lights to LEDs. Home Depot had a promotion on last week-end where if you brought in your old incandescent Christmas lights, they would give you a coupon for 50% off a new set of LED Christmas lights. We gathered up all of our old Christmas lights and did the exchange. Since LEDs last much, much longer than incandescents, I think we made a wise investment. Not only will we save on energy consumption this Christmas, but hopefully the lights themselves will last us a lifetime.
  • Less things on. This seems obvious, but is one I sometimes overlook. During the day we watch too much t.v. If the t.v. isn't on, we're listening to music. The computer often runs for the entire day. Powering down will be good for us. It will help us to reconnect, and hopefully we'll find some more productive things to do during the day!
I'm sure there is more that I can do, but this list is a start. Are any of you noticing energy rate hikes in your area? What are you doing to offset the hikes? Powering down, or budgeting up? Or some combination?

Monday, November 3, 2008

A new budgeting method and a new shopping method

I've talked before about our envelope budgeting method, where we divide our paycheque up into various spending categories, (or "envelopes"), and then spend exclusively from those. The method itself has been working remarkably well, and I've decided to take it one step further. My husband gets paid twice a month. What we have been doing is budgeting each paycheque as it arrives, and funding different things out of each cheque. One would go to fund our spending envelopes, and the other went to debt repayment and savings. We also get the Universal Child Care benefit from the government, which would randomly get assigned to whichever envelope needed it (usually groceries). While I really liked our overall budgeting method, I was a little dissatisfied with the haphazardness of it. After reading up on a program called You Need a Budget (YNAB), I was intrigued by one of their rules, which indicates you should always live on last month's income. So, basically, you allow your income to accumulate in your chequing account for the month, and ignore it. Then, at the end of the month, you total it up, and make a budget for the following month based on the amount you already have in your chequing account. I was attracted to the idea for two reasons: One, it means I only have to handle our budget once a month! And you know I'm all about simplifying. :) And two, it really streamlines the process. Instead of budgeting based on each bit of income, I get a full picture and can budget more accurately for the entire month. While I don't plan on purchasing the YNAB program (my Quicken pseudo-envelope-budgeting is working just fine, and as they say, if it ain't broke...)... but I do like the rules imposed by YNAB, particularly the living-on-last-month's-income one. So we have implemented it starting this month, and so far it's going great! On the last day of October (the day my husband's 2nd paycheque of the month hits our account), I totalled everything up and made our budget for November. I then left just enough in our chequing account to cover our automatic payments for November, and transfered the rest over to savings, which is where our "envelopes" live. The process will begin all over again this month.

To go with our new budgeting strategy, I thought I would also try a new shopping strategy! I've mentioned here about my usual grocery shopping strategy. Using Handyshopper on my Palm Pilot, I simply add items to our "need" list as we run out of them. Then, on Friday nights, my husband and I sit down and and make a meal plan for the upcoming week. I then added any fresh items that we would need for the meal plan, and Saturday morning I would go off and do my shopping. Although this has been working well, I've really felt that I could improve on it. It seemed rather pointless to pick up one or two cans of diced tomatoes each week as I used them up, when I could instead pick up 6 or 8 to last the whole month. Same goes for things like rice and pasta... why pick them up in dribs and drabs throughout the month, when I could buy enough for the whole month? I've toyed with the idea of once-a-month shopping before, but for various reasons (mostly because I couldn't wrap my head around the planning of it), dismissed it. But now, with the weather getting colder, and a new baby on the way, the idea is sounding more and more appealing. I normally make several stops each week (the bank, the hardware store, the health food store, the grocery store, the drug store, the farmer's market, etc...). Only having to do all of that once a month makes me feel warm and fuzzy, especially with temperatures hovering near freezing, and having our first snowfall yesterday! So instead of just marking on my list what I would need for the coming week, I went through my entire house, and made my best estimate of what I would need for the whole month. I took inventory of everything from toothpaste to light bulbs. Then on Saturday, I did a marathon, exhausting shopping trip. But it feels SO good knowing that I won't have to do that for another month! I plan on doing it the first Saturday of every month. I don't expect it to be perfect the first time around. I'm sure we'll run out of things before the month runs out, but I expect that to be part of the process, and we'll improve each month, adjusting quantities as necessary. I'll then only have to do a quick weekly trip for fresh dairy and produce. I'm even thinking of revising my meal-planning strategy. Instead of planning meals first, and then buying fresh produce, I'm going to do it the other way around. See what's available at the farmer's market, and then try to be creative and plan meals around that, in combination with what I have purchased for my pantry. Obviously this will only work while there is still produce available at the farmer's market, but I'm really working on eating as locally and as in-season as possible. Over time, I plan to replace my farmer's market purchases with things I grow myself, and preserve for the winter. That will ultimately eliminate my need for the weekly farmer's market run. Our ultimate goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, and I feel that once-a-month shopping is moving us closer to that goal.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm still alive!

Just didn't want any of you to think I had fallen off the world of blogging... I'm still here! I've been trying to get Hallowe'en costumes finished up - yikes! I thought I had given myself plenty of time, yet here I am, cramming in the last week (somewhat reminiscent of my university days!). I've been picking at them for an hour or two each evening, but now it's time to pick up the pace. My husband has also been away on a business trip this week, so things have been a little busier than usual for me. I'll be back to blogging soon. I will be posting pictures of the kids all costumed up... they WILL be wearing costumes come Friday!

See you soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Creating a Food Binder

In my efforts to get more organized before baby #3 arrives, I've decided to start a Food Binder. I had a food section in my Household Notebook, but it was pitiful. Just a few hand-scrawled recipes and some take-out menus. And I hardly ever looked at it, unless I needed to refer to one of those hand-scrawled recipes, or order take-out (which we do almost never!). My idea was to start collecting all of the recipes that we use on a regular basis, type them up nicely, and keep them all together in a binder. That way I'm not thumbing through recipe books, trying to remember which book had such-and-such recipe. I found this great program called Mac Gourmet, that lets you type up your recipe, put in a picture, and then you can print it out in a nice, recipe-like format. I guess it would be just as easy to use Microsoft Word or something like that. So each night, as I make dinner, I've been taking a picture of it, and typing up the recipe. I plan to do the same with baking, etc. Before long I should have most of my recipes typed up (I really don't have that many of them!), and my Food Binder shall be complete. :) Well, I guess it will never be complete, because as we try new recipes, if we decide they qualify as "favourites" I'll be adding them to the binder as well. And since the ingredients will all be listed with each recipe (obviously), it should make my weekly meal-planning session go a little quicker, too! So, theoretically, I should only have to browse my cook books in order to find new recipes. I promise to take a picture once it's complete!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back entry? Greenhouse? Woodpile?

This is what our back entry currently looks like. We had some tomato plants outside that, for various reasons (late starting, too much rain, not enough sun...) didn't do very well. And with the weather getting colder, we thought we might as well bring them inside and see if the tomatoes will ripen. They're cherry tomatoes, so I guess we'll be eating an awful lot of them if they actually do ripen!





And our little wood pile - as the weather gets colder, we usually bring in about a week's worth of wood at a time and stack it by the back door for easy access. Sure beats going out on a frigid morning to get wood!

So I guess we won't be using our back entry for awhile. But it's for a good cause. :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What can I accomplish in 1/2 an hour?

I'm trying to establish a new habit of sewing for one hour each evening. Any of you who are moms know that time is a scarce commodity, and we have to grab snippets of time when we can, or nothing will ever get accomplished. I find that having set times each day to do certain things is the best way to make progress. So even though by the time the kids are finally tucked in bed in the evenings, I'm exhausted and just want to plop on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and some good T.V., I've been forcing myself to the sewing machine. "Forcing myself" sounds like such a strange thing to say, since I love to sew! It's just that I never feel like I have the energy.

Last night I didn't go straight to the sewing machine, but plopped on the couch instead. And then I didn't want to get back up again. House (our favourite show!) was starting in 1/2 an hour, so I thought, what's the point? What can I possibly accomplish in 1/2 an hour? But then guilt got the best of me, and I got off my butt and went into my sewing room. In 1/2 an hour, I:

  • Replaced the blade on my rotary cutter (actually, my husband did it for me, but I instigated it!)
  • Serged a badly fraying dishcloth that looked like it was headed for the garbage - but now it should have a good year of life left in it
  • Repaired the hem on a curtain (it had come undone in the wash)
  • Cut out (with my new rotary cutter blade!) the external soaker for the last diaper I made
So, what can I possibly accomplish in 1/2 an hour? Apparently a lot! So if I stick to my goal of one hour per evening, each night of the week, just imagine what I could get done! All of those little bits of time add up. I have a long list of Christmas gifts to get cracking on, not to mention Hallowe'en costumes. If I stick to my goal, I should easily be able to get it all done.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another diaper.


All those growing tired of cloth diapering posts, say "I". :)
I made this one last night - another free Darling Diaper Newborn. This one was turned and topstitched (now that my serger is dead), and I actually prefer the look of a turned-and-topstitched diaper! Go figure. :) There were still a few mistakes in this one - I don't think I stretched the leg elastic tight enough for T&T, as the leg holes seem a little big. And I forgot to move out a little when I was topstitching around the elastic, which would have reduced the stretchiness as well. Also, I left my opening for turning at the back, and didn't like how it looked when I slip stitched it closed, because of the elastic there. I might leave my opening elsewhere next time. And I'm still unsure if I'm supposed to add seam allowance to this pattern or not - there were no directions with it! I only used 1/4 inch seam allowance, but it seemed like my stitching was awfully close to the snaps, and then when I was top stitching I had to carefully turn the hand wheel to get around the snaps, as they were so close to the edge. So I might add seam allowance next time and see if that makes it any better. From cutting out to finishing this diaper took me just under 2 hours. I'm still getting used to applying the snaps, so I'm sure once I do a few more I'll get a little speedier. Here are a few more pics:




























Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bliss...

What could be better than this on a crisp fall morning? :) Makes me want to go bake some muffins and have some hot apple cider.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting Ready for Hallowe'en!

Hallowe'en always creeps up on me, so this year I'm not letting it catch me by surprise. :) I've already been planning the kids' costumes, I have the yardage all calculated, and now I just have to wait for fleece to come on sale at the end of the month!

This is the pattern I'm using - I've actually gotten some use out of it already. When Norah was just over a year old I made her the ladybug costume. And this year she's insisting on being a duck. And she would like Owen to be a pumpkin. So duck and pumpkin it is. I would have preferred coordinating costumes. Last year I made her a bunny, and Owen was a carrot. He wasn't walking yet so I just plunked him in the stroller - it was hilarious! We got lots of great comments. But I couldn't think of anything that went with a duck. A loaf of bread? Nah. Besides, I think he'd make a cute pumpkin.

What are your Hallowe'en plans this year?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Homesteading















My husband and I watched a great documentary on CBC Newsworld last night, entitled "Oil: Apocolypse Now?". It was, of course, about Peak Oil. Here is a link with a brief synopsis: http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/passionateeyemonday/2008/oilnow/

While there are mixed opinions about WHEN Peak Oil is going to take place, there is no doubt that it IS going to happen. It was mostly the big oil corporations that were hyper-optimistic that new technology was going to allow them to dig deeper and further into the oceans to get at oil stores that are currently out of our reach. But even they acknowledge that this will merely temporarily delay Peak Oil, but will most certainly not stop it. The fact is, our abundant, easily accessible supply of oil has been depleted. The best estimate of when Peak is likely to occur is 2010. Once we reach Peak, it is difficult to predict the series of events that will occur. I'm certainly no expert on economics, but it seems our entire economic system depends on having a cheap, abundant supply of oil. Surely economic demise is the only certain outcome. Some predict a depression as bad as the 1930s. Our governments do not seem to be acknowledging this fact, and certainly do not appear to be doing anything about it. Watching this documentary was a good reminder that it's time to start building my homesteading skills, and preparing for a worst-case scenario. Even if we pretend that Peak Oil isn't happening, homesteading skills are still an important means of defending ourselves against economic uncertainty, including basic things like job loss or under-employment.

There are so many homesteading skills that I would like to/need to learn, that it's difficult to know where to even begin! I've been slowly collecting books on different homesteading skills I would like to learn, such as knitting, crochet, quilting, etc. I bought a book about living off-grid, and how to convert your home to alternate energy sources. I know next to nothing about growing and preserving food, so I need to find some books about that, and get started putting it into practice. I would like to learn more about herbal/natural health remedies, not only in case we no longer have a medical system to access, but because it's something that interests me anyway. I know all of this information is readily available on the internet, but there is something about holding a book in my hands that I really like. Plus, in a worst-case Peak Oil scenario, internet access will be a joke, so I think I'd rather have the books! We're working at paying down our debts as aggressively as possible, because at the rate that costs are rising, we will need to have our full income available to cover current living expenses, not servicing debts. Ideally we would like to own our home outright as soon as possible. I believe owning your own home is the best source of security. If you don't have a roof over your head, you have nothing. We are also trying to build a savings cushion of 6 months to 1 year's worth of income. We are already using wood to heat our home, which I LOVE. :) There is nothing cozier than the heat and light of fire. Our woodburning insert has a cook-top on it, so if we have a power outage, not only does our home stay warm, but we can cook as well! And it's comforting to know we have enough wood in our yard to heat our home for an entire winter, and all for about $600.00. If we were heating with oil, that $600.00 wouldn't even last a month! This winter we're planning to complete insulating our 85-year old home, and put in new, energy-efficient windows. Even though we're heating with wood, energy efficiency is still important. I'm trying to get better at using the clothesline, and just being less dependent on energy in general.

I'm not a doom-and-gloom person. I much prefer optimism. But I am a realist. I believe we should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. If we prepare for the worst, and nothing happens - well, we'll be debt-free, have some money in the bank, and be self-sufficient enough that my husband will be able to take early retirement, and we won't miss the income because we'll be able to take care of ourselves. If the worst happens, we'll be prepared. If it falls somewhere in the middle, hopefully we'll barely feel the pinch. The nice part about it is that I'm interested in learning all of these skills anyway! They're fun to learn, they will save us money, and they're almost-lost-skills that hopefully I will be able to pass down to my children. What could be better than that?

So, what's on your homesteading to-do list?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, my Sweet Girl. :)

Yesterday was my daughter's fourth birthday. I can't believe how quickly four years has flown by! It seems like only yesterday I gave birth to her and fell madly in love. I'm so blessed and thankful to be with her each and every day, to see her grow and flourish into a sweet young lady.

I'm not really into big birthday parties for kids - I think it's too overwhelming for them, not to mention completely unnecessary. We usually keep it small, and just family. After all, the purpose is to celebrate their birth and life, and those are the people who truly care. I also try to avoid consumerism to the greatest extent possible, and whenever I take my kids to a big birthday party, I can't help but think it feels like a big gift grab. I look at the huge table full of gifts, and wonder, does that kid really NEED all that stuff? When my kids get a little older and head off to school and start making good friends, I would be more than happy to let them invite a couple of close friends to their birthday celebration, but not the dozens that I see invited to most birthday parties!

So here are some pictures of our quaint little celebration yesterday.

Here's Owen excitedly helping Norah open her gift from her grandparents:














And we decided to get her her first real bike. She sure was excited! And Owen was equally excited for her. :)















And a close-up of the cake I baked, and my husband decorated. Isn't he amazing??














Our little family:














And the kids with their grandparents:














What an enjoyable day. :) Happy fourth birthday, my sweet little girl.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sewing Night with the Girls. :)

Tonight is my sewing night with a couple of ladies that my husband works with. We try for a weekly sewing night, but it usually ends up being every 2 or 3 weeks. They're both just learning to sew, so I spend much of my time helping rather than sewing, but I don't mind - it's still fun! We're each working on an apron. At the rate we're going, it's going to take a year before we finish the darned things - but I promise to post pictures when we finish! I already made a little version for my daughter, so I'm making myself a matching one. She's quite excited for us to have matching aprons, and asks pretty regularly if I've finished it yet!

I think sewing (or doing any kind of project!) with others is a great way to stay motivated. Even if it takes us all year, it's fun to know we will come out of it with a finished project - and had fun in the meantime!

Monday, September 8, 2008

My First Etsy Listing!

Well I bit the bullet and listed something on Etsy today! I think I'll just get over the fact that I don't really think my stuff is good enough to sell. I'm just going to go ahead and do it and see how it goes. I have a few more things ready to list, but my husband accidentally took the camera to work with him! I already had pictures of this pad, so I went ahead and listed it, and I'll have to add the others later.

Here's the link! http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=15029386

All feedback is welcome. :) I honestly have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, so I'd especially love to hear from anybody who has done Etsy before.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Serger Update

So I decided to take my serger in to my local sewing maching repair shop and have them take a look at it. I actually had it in for an overhaul at the end of June, and told him about the issues I was having, and he had supposedly fixed them. But since we were away for all of July, I didn't really get to put it to the test until August, and found that the issues hadn't been resolved at all! The machine was still skipping stitches like crazy. So I took it back to him on Thursday and asked him to look at it again. He serged a couple of pieces of woven cotton, and they came out beautifully - not a skipped stitch to be found! But then I handed him a piece of knit. And lo and behold, the serger hated it. It was not only skipping stitches, but the loopers were a mess! (Look here if you need a visual!) After close to an hour of adjusting various things, he seemed to have corrected it. Ecstatic, I took it back home, and plugged it in to show my husband. Look, honey - no more skipped stitches!! Wrong. It was right back to doing what it was doing before. I almost cried. I think I just need to accept the fact that my machine is past its prime. I've had it for about 13 years, and put it through its fair share of abuse. I think, for the time being, it will still work adequately for finishing seams on woven fabrics. But the real reason I bought a serger was for sewing knits! For those of you who have never used one, a serger can both sew and finish seams on knits at the same time - and give a beautiful, stretchy seam. Sewing knits on a sewing machine is just not nearly as nice. But I guess it will have to do for now until I can raise enough money for a new one. So I am officially saving up for a new serger! I have a few cloth menstrual pads that I have sewn up and ready to list on Etsy, so I think I'll start there. Any fundraising ideas would be welcome! :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Newborn Fluff. :)

As you can probably guess, my snap press arrived today. :) Wazoodle rocks! I just ordered the thing on Monday, and when I got out of the shower this morning (at 7:30!), my husband told me it had been delivered. So I spent nap time today doing some sewing.

*Edited: Those pictures I took yesterday were horrible, so I took new ones today.






Here is the beginning of the newborn stash. :) Note how perfectly those snaps match! That was a total fluke. They send a few snap colours of their choosing, and I already had this diaper cut out and partly assembled when the snaps arrived. I couldn't believe the pink was identical!















...I couldn't resist a side-view. Look how little those leg holes are!















I put my hand beside it to give you an idea of the teeny-tiny-ness of it. :)















And the squishy inside...















My next major purchase will be a new serger. I've just about had it with mine. It eats things and spits them out. It skips stitches. And no matter how I adjusted the tension, my looper stitches AND my needle stitches were wonky. (Go ahead, look up close - I dare you!). I love how easy and quick serged diapers are, but I'm tempted to turn and topstitch, because the serging is so sloppy.

I used the free Darling Diaper newborn pattern (with the snap-down for the umbilical cord). The outer is just a lightweight cotton knit. The inner is microfleece. And the hidden soaker is two layers of warm and natural batting. I think I might make an extra lay-in soaker for some added absorbancy. I can't remember how much a newborn pees. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

I did it!

I ordered the snap press. :) I'm totally pumped. I can't wait to make teeny tiny newborn diapers! I almost ordered some fabric too (Wazoodle has some wonderful cloth diapering fabric), but I've decided instead to try to make use of the fabric I already have. I have a few metres of flannel I bought years ago to make myself some pajamas, but I never ended up making them. It's not really babyish, but they're just diapers...no one will really see them except me! The only thing I might splurge on is some microfleece for the inners - it helps keep baby feeling dry, so it might be worth the bit of extra expense.

Now I'm off to clear out my sewing basket - I'm trying to force myself to finish old projects before moving onto new ones. So I have some mending to take care of, and an apron to finish. And then I can engage in guilt-free diaper sewing. :) Bliss.....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Kite Flying and Raspberry Jam

My daughter has been asking to go kite flying for quite awhile now. We thought going and buying a kite was for wimps...that we should make our own kite! So we diligently spent all of last week-end looking up instructions online, gathering the needed materials, and building the kite. It was actually a fun family project! I did the sewing parts, my husband did the wood and string parts, and my daughter did the painting parts. :) Sunday evening it was time for a test-flight. We all went to a park, and we tried, and we tried....but the kite would not fly. the tail kept getting badly tangled, until we finally got fed up and ripped it off.




The kids seemed to be enjoying themselves nonetheless! Who needs a kite when you have a wide open space to run around?


But my daughter was so disappointed that we couldn't get that kite up in the air. So we ran to Zellers and bought one. It cost $7.49 (less than we spent on materials for our homemade kite!), and it flew like a dream.


On closer inspection of our purchased kite, we realized the problem with our home-made kite... we had made it upside-down! We put the cross bars on the bottom of the kite, rather than the top...no wonder we couldn't get the thing off the ground! So it's back to the drawing board. I ordered a kite-making book at our library. If at first you don't succeed...try, try again!


And last but not least... the yummy result of my husband and daughter's raspberry-picking session 2 week-ends ago. I actually had nothing to do with this! They picked all the berries, and my husband made the jam. Yum! We were able to get 9 jars of jam - but at the rate it's disappearing around here I don't imagine it's going to last very long!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tempted.... ohhhh so tempted....

I've been dreaming of a snap press forever. Okay, maybe not forever... but for a good few months now. :) I think of how easy it would be to whip up some cloth pads or cloth diapers if I had one of these babies. Those snaps that you put on with a hammer...while they do work... are a pain in my butt. And I end up breaking at least 3 snaps before getting one that sets right. And I've only been doing a single snap on pads, I can't imagine having to put multiple snaps on a diaper. And I DO have to make some new diapers now that there is a new babe on the way. But I still don't feel quite justified in the purchase. I would be buying it out of my allowance (my husband and I each get a bit of blow money each month -that we can spend however we wish!), but I still wonder if it's a worth-while purchase.

It costs $100.00 (Canadian!), plus taxes and shipping, so I'm probably looking at $150, all told. It includes the snap press, size 20 dies, and 500 sets of snaps. See for yourself if you'd like. I'd need to save up my allowance for a couple of months to cover the cost, or else find a way to bring in a little extra money (like from selling pads and diapers, maybe??). There are 5 more available (just a week ago there were 8!).

I think I'll have to give this some more thought. Sometimes a pregnant brain can be irrational. Does it seem excessive to spend $150.00 on something just so you can put snaps on things??

Monday, August 11, 2008

Menu-Plan Monday

Well, for lack of anything better to post about, I thought I would post my menu-plan for the week. I've been winging it for the past couple of weeks, mostly due to the fact that I couldn't stand to think about food long enough to put a menu plan together, and also because I don't really know what I'm going to feel like eating until it's actually time to eat. But it was creating more work for me to have to go through the what-the-heck-am-I-making-for-dinner-tonight exercise each night, so I decided to create a tentative meal plan, and then I at least have the option of switching things around if I don't feel like eating what is scheduled for that day. I'm keeping things as simple as possible until I start to feel better, and am even incorporating some convenience foods (like pre-packaged, frozen garlic bread!) to make things even simpler.

So here you have it:

Saturday: Chick 'n Burgers, Swiss Chard (stir-fried with balsamic vinegar), Corn

Sunday: Potato Soup & Garlic Bread

Monday: Stir-Fry on Brown Rice

Tuesday: Fajitas

Wednesday: Goulash

Thursday: Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Friday: Pizza

For more menu-plan ideas, visit www.orgjunkie.com!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feelin' Icky...

(Singing that to the tune of "Feelin' groovy"...lol).

So yes, that describes how I'm feeling right now. Exhausted, unambitious (why does that look funny? Is that the right word? Why do our brains fall out when we're pregnant?), queasy, and feeling sorry for my poor husband who has to go out and get whatever it is I think I can eat that day. My normally fully-filled-in menu-plan board on my fridge now stares blankly back at me, because I can barely stomach the thought of cooking food, let alone planning what we're going to eat for the next week. And because we were away for those precious three weeks between when we found out we were pregnant and when my morning sickness kicked in, I didn't get a chance to do any pre-planning, or making and freezing meals for my family (if I can't eat, doesn't mean they shouldn't. :) And the only thing that got me through cleaning my toilet this morning was thinking that if I actually had to use it... in a non-customary way... that I would prefer it to be clean.

Anyway, that should give you some indication as to why I haven't really been posting... I barely have the energy to sit at the computer, and if I did, you would all get tired of hearing me whine and complain and would go find some other blog to read. :) I promise to be feeling better in just 5 short weeks. In the meantime, I promise I'm trying really, really hard to think of something upbeat to post about! I will even take requests! lol.

My cousin was just given a new-to-her sewing machine, and her enthusiasm has re-ignited my sewing itch (I go in phases), so maybe I'll start a new project that I can share with you all.
Anyway, I will think of something, and will be back soon!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Using a Midwife

I'm hoping to be able to use a midwife for this pregnancy. I had a regular doctor for my first two children, but I didn't really care for it. It was a very impersonal experience. I DESPISED spending all that time in a waiting room at the doctor's office (particularly with my second child, because I had to drag a toddler with me to every appointment). I also had an epidural for my first two pregnancies. They were both horrible experiences. For my first baby I was about 36 hours in labour, so the epidural was my saviour - it allowed me to get some much-needed rest, which I never would have gotten with all that contracting. However, they turned it off when I reached 9 cm, so I went from feeling absolutely nothing to being in excruciating pain all at once. I'm pretty sure my body was in a state of shock; my husband said he was actually scared because I seemed delerious with the pain. I was completely dysfunctional. For my second child, my labour (including delivery!) was only 4 hours. I received the epidural but he was born before it even kicked in. Given how quickly my last delivery happened, I suspect this one will go even faster, so I know I can do it without any drugs.

In my province, midwifery has just been legalized this year, so there are very few midwives here. I actually had a lot of trouble tracking one down. It's also not yet covered by our provincial health plan (although it should be very, very soon!), so I'm not sure how much it will cost us to use a midwife at this point. That will definitely be a deciding factor. And the one midwife in this area is apparently very choosy about who she will work with, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she will take me on as a patient!

We're on the fence about doing a home birth. Well, I'm on the fence. My husband is not. He says he absolutely wants a hospital birth. I love the idea of doing a home birth, but there's a tiny part of me that likes the idea of having a medical back-up system just in case things don't go as planned.

I would love to hear from any of you who have used a midwife and/or had a home birth. What was your experience? Have you done it both ways? Which did you prefer?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm baaaack. :)

We're back from a wonderful, but exhausting trip. :) We had a great time visiting family. We were there for two full weeks, which seems like a lot of time, but it flies by so quickly - there never seems to be enough time to spend with everyone. The car ride was fairly uneventful - thank goodness for portable DVD players! I'm so glad I had kids after these were invented. :) So now we're just settling back into routines and getting things back into order. It's nice getting away, but sometimes it's even nicer to be back home, in your own surroundings. I don't realize how attached I am to my routine until I break away from it for awhile!

We came home to a house with no food (I managed to empty the entire refrigerator during the week before we left - we had some pretty wacky meals that week! lol), and a house full of cat hair - apparently the darned cats didn't vacuum while we were away. It's amazing how much cat hair accumulates over 3 weeks! Yikes. I had barely dropped my bags at the front door and I already had the vacuum out. I was too exhausted to grocery shop, so we ordered pizza for supper, and then I got up bright and early the next morning to go get groceries. We're pretty much back on track now. And it's a good thing... because my energy is a bit low these days. As it turns out, we are pregnant. :) 6 weeks and 2 days, to be exact. Just in time to feel icky, queasy, and exhausted... but very excited. Our little bundle is due sometime in March. :)

Thanks to those of you who hung in there during my 3 week hiatus!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

On vacation! :)

Hi everyone,

Just wanted to let you all (okay, you two...lol) know that I'm heading out on vacation on Monday, so I'm going to be taking a blogging break while I'm away. We're going to visit family in another province, and we'll be back in about 3 weeks. If anyone has any tips to share on how to maintain your sanity while driving for 3 days in a small car with 2 small children, I'd love to hear them. :) We're loading up on movies for our portable DVD player and will be making lots of stops along the way. So I'll be checking in for comments periodically but likely will not be posting... so have a lovely July, and I'll see you sometime around the end of the month!!

Alissa

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Water Bottles

Okay guys, I need some input. :)

We're going on a long trip, by car pretty soon (yes, we are insane). I was hoping to get some stainless steel water bottles for us all to take with us. I had ordered some Safe Sippies through our local baby store, but they've been back-ordered for months, and looks like they won't be in for at least another few weeks.

Our local sports store carries Sigg water bottles. I know it's a well-known brand, but I'm leary of the fact that they're aluminum, and that the company has been a little sketchy with the details of what the heck they are lined with. They are darned cute, though.

Does anyone have an opinion on this? Have you tried anything that you've liked? Do we even NEED water bottles? I thought they would be handy for the trip, and then we would continue to use them once we got home - if we each had our own, it would eliminate the seemingly millions of glasses and cups we seem to go through in a day around here. We would just keep refilling our own bottles. They're also handy for taking with us when we're out on the town, and I would like to get rid of the plastic sippy cups we still have (although they claim to be BPA-free, I'm leary of plastic in general, now).

So any thoughts or opinions would be welcomed!

Thanks. :)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Learning to Crochet, and the Mom & Baby Sale

I've been wanting to learn how to crochet for some time now. I've dabbled in it here and there, but never really completed a project. (Half-finished dishcloths, anyone?). But last week while we were at the library, I found a beginner crochet book that had some really cute patterns in it. It had an iPod case, which I thought I could modify and make into a case for my Palm Pilot (which I desperately needed!). So I used some scrap yarn that I had, and made this:



















It's not perfect, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. :) It fits my Palm Pilot nice and snug!

In other news, the Mom & Baby sale went wonderfully this week-end! I paid $15.00 for a table (the proceeds went to support the Mom & Baby clinic at the hospital). I didn't realize it was such a popular event! There was HUGE line up outside, and when the doors opened everyone came charging in. I sold pretty much everything in the first half hour. I also decided at the last minute to sew some cloth pads and nursing pads to bring with me. I sold all 4 sets of nursing pads, and one cloth pad - which was more than I expected. I think I got a few odd looks about the cloth pads, but one person was genuinely interested, and was asking lots of questions. The lady who ended up buying one was buying it for her incontinent 90-year old mother - but still. :) When all was said and done, we made about $230.00, which wasn't bad for a couple hours work.

Apparently they hold these about every 3 months, which I think is fantastic. It's a great way to connect moms-to-be who are in need of baby items with moms who are looking to part with baby stuff. The lady who runs the event asked me if I'd be interested in coming to the next one and doing craft items. :) So of course I said yes! I'll make up a lot more nursing pads, some menstrual pads, some cloth diapers, and maybe some bibs and things like that. I have 3 months to sew some stuff up. I'm quite excited!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Global Warming News

One of my favourite new websites to visit is called Path to Freedom. I love this website, because it really exemplifies my ultimate dream - to be entirely self-sufficient. There was a blog post on there this morning that was rather alarming. You can read it here:

http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2008/06/24/not-so-good-news/

It links to this article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080624/ap_on_sc/sci_warming_scientist

Basically the gist of it is that NASA is calling for drastic action in order to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The earth can only sustain this level of destruction for a couple more decades before we face mass extinction. A couple of DECADES. That's twenty years, folks. And this is coming from NASA. This is not some quack making wacky predictions.

I normally don't like to blog about doomsday-type topics, because I don't want to scare people away. I prefer to approach things in the most positive light possible, mostly because I think people are more likely to change for positive benefits, rather than to avoid negative ones. But we have all had our heads stuck in the sand for too long. The reality is that if we don't start making DRASTIC changes, we are going to self-destruct. And soon. Between global warming, and the Oil Crash, life as we know it is going to change. So we can go on pretending that everything will be fine, and that the Government will be there to protect us, but the reality is that we need to take mass action on a grass-roots level. We all need to take personal resposibility in order to avert this crisis. For the crisis IS looming. It is not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

Self-sufficient living was once a pipe dream of mine. I would fantasize about living in a home where we would be off the grid; producing our own heat and energy, growing and preserving our own food, spinning our own yarn... well, you get the idea. :) But I'm beginning to think that this should be less of a fantasy, and more of a reality. Getting back to basics, living off the land, and otherwise living sustainably. What once was a pipe dream, I'm now beginning to think may be necessary for survival in the very near future. And oddly, in spite of being aware of all of this, rather than being afraid, I find myself excited. :) I think the world will be a much better place if we were forced to return to this type of life. To stomp out the rat race. To collaborate and share resources with friends and family. To work for ourselves, on our own homesteads, rather than working for others, to earn money, to buy stuff. By being self-sufficient, you cut out the middleman. You are not dependent on an employer. You are dependent on only yourself. Money would be almost entirely unnecessary. If you needed something that you didn't have, or couldn't produce yourself, you could barter. It will bring us closer to our neighbours. It will humble us. It will force us to return to a life of simplicity.

So I don't know about you, but I find myself wanting to prepare. I'm reading everything I can that pertains to self-sufficiency. Path to Freedom is a great place to start. I'm also re-reading a lot of my Harrowsmith Country magazines, and am on the lookout for books about sustainable living. Like everything else, it's about babysteps. I feel like we've already been taking small steps towards self-sufficiency, so it's just a matter of continuing along this path.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on self-sufficiency, and what kinds of things you are doing to prepare.

Edited to add: Here is an inspirational video by Path to Freedom, called Homegrown Revolution.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Toys

Okay, so the more I'm learning about Attachment Parenting, the more I have to hold myself back from going through my entire house and getting rid of all of the kids' toys. (Don't worry, my husband won't let me). I'm realizing that most of what we have is screaming consumerism at my children. And it's all plastic. Ick.

For those of you who have made a conscious choice about what toys you allow in your home, can you offer me any pointers? Right now I'm leaning towards natural, wooden, non-toxic, organic, t.v. character-free toys. So what do we do with all the ones we already have? My husband refuses to let me get rid of them until we replace them. I'd love to start making our own toys. :) Maybe we could start making some, and then gradually get rid of the old stuff?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Attachment Parenting

It amazes me that when you choose to live an on-purpose life, all of the wonderful things you will learn on your journey.

I've heard of the term "Attachment Parenting" here and there, but never really bothered to look into it and see what it was. I thought it was some extreme, child-led type parenting, and didn't think I was really interested. But the term kept coming up over and over again, particularly whenever I would be reading things on natural family living. So I decided to do a little investigating.

I found a website called Attachment Parenting International, which seems to be a wonderful resource about all things related to Attachment Parenting (AP).

According to this website, the 8 Principles of Attachment Parenting are as follows:

1. Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting

2. Feed with Love and Respect

3. Respond with Sensitivity

4. Use Nurturing Touch

5. Engage in Nighttime Parenting

6. Provide Consistent and Loving Care

7. Practice Positive Discipline

8. Strive for Balance in Personal and Family Life

If you actually go on the website, it gives much more detail on these 8 principals. Also, from what I've read, parents who practice AP are generally (although not exclusively) pro-breastfeeding, pro-co-sleeping, pro-baby wearing, and often cloth diaper. From what I understand, this style of parenting is about promoting attachment to people (preferably the mother and/or father) over things. This means not giving mother substitutes, like pacifiers, sookie blankets, etc., but rather giving yourself to your child. They are also very much anti-cry-it-out. And most importantly, they encourage you to listen to your instincts, and do what you feel is right.

Reading about this parenting style has been a mixed blessing for me. Although I'm drawn to it because I feel I already practice much of it, it also makes me sad. I've realized that, in some ways, I've given in to what society expects, and not listened to my instincts.

We did co-sleep with both of our kids for about the first 4 months. With my first baby, I was reluctant to tell anyone, for fear of what they might think. Then our pediatrician told us it was time to let her "cry it out" so that she would sleep on her own. And so that's what we did. After one long, painful week of letting her cry (scream) in her crib, she eventually learned to sleep on her own. We followed suit with the second baby, knowing it worked so well with the first. It took the same amount of time, about a week, and worked like a charm. Our little man has been sleeping on his own ever since. I now realize how much this totally went against my instincts - it was gut-wrenching, to say the least. My oldest child had pretty extreme colic for the first 6 months (which we found out by about 4 months was due to GER - Gastro Esophogeal Reflux), so she basically didn't sleep for the first 6 months of her life - we were desperate, exhausted, and willing to try anything. I am grateful that now my children sleep through the night on their own, but I wonder now if perhaps there was a better way to go about it.

I wish I had done more research, and had a more natural childbirth. I did the hospital birth with an epidural. If I had it to do again, I would LOVE to have a midwife and a home birth.

I wish I had not bought all of the baby gear. My kids had pretty much every gadget - a swing, a jumperoo, a playpen (which we only used for sleeping while we were traveling - but co-sleeping would have eliminated this need), a couple of different seats. I wish I had gotten nothing but a sling. I got sucked into the Wal Mart baby department and thought I needed it all. In reality, I needed none of it.

Both of my kids have sookie blankets. They sleep with them. It breaks my heart now to realize that the reason they are so attached to those blankets is because they use them as a substitute for me.

We don't really engage in nighttime parenting. If our oldest stumbles into our room in the middle of the night, we usually just take her back to bed. Now I just want to bring her into bed with us and snuggle her in between us. If the baby wakes up crying we just wait it out to see if he goes back to sleep. Now I want to go and get him and bring him into our bed.

I wish our children were never exposed to toys and marketing. We have way more toys than any child needs. What they really want to play with is us. Now they think they need all this stuff that they already have, and I would like to get rid of all of it. And turn off the tv while I'm at it.

On the positive side, there are many things that we do that do follow this approach. We decided that it was of utmost importance that I stay at home to raise our children. Having someone else raise them was not an option - I was willing to do whatever it would take in order to do that. We practice extended breastfeeding. Not intentionally - I just decided I would nurse him as long as he wanted to nurse. He's now 19 months old, and not showing any signs that he wants to quit. :) I don't broadcast it (because most people think it's weird), but if someone asks, I will proudly tell them. I believe we do use gentle discipline. At first I found myself giving into society's pressures to give our kids time-outs, and criticize their behaviour. But it never felt right to me, so I found myself hugging my kids when they were having a meltdown, because I was sure that they were feeling sad about something and just wanted me to love them. I plan to do much more of this now. I also try to prevent meltdowns instead of having to discipline them, by trying to avoid the situation that might lead to the meltdown. Signing has played a huge role in this. Whenever possible I try to forsee problems before they occur, and intervene before it becomes a problem.

Anyway, I am really just beginning to learn about this wonderful parenting style. I bought The Baby Book, by Dr. Sears, who is, apparently, the Godfather of Attachment Parenting. It was the ONLY book I could find in our area that even touched on AP. Not even our library had anything. So I plan to read through this book and learn all that I can. Although my kids are 19 months and 3 1/2 years, I don't think it's ever too late to start listening to your instincts.

Do any of you practice Attachment Parenting? I would love for you to share what you know, or point me in the direction of some good resources.