My New Favorite Cookies

milk.cookies

Since I am starving all the time these days and truly eating to provide for two of us, I tried to hunt down the perfect lactation cookie recipe.  I found a few that I liked but since every one was missing one or more of the key elements I wanted to include, I ended up making a hybrid recipe.  The result is a cookie that is sweet, chewy, and dense, with an almost umami flavor, filled with chewy raisins and substantial chocolate chips.  So far, I have made several batches of these delectable cookies, and intend to keep on making them long after my breast-feeding days are over.  After they cool, I freeze them in bags so I can reheat them or just eat them cold.  Read on to find out about the ingredients and scroll to the bottom for my hybrid recipe.

flax.seed

Flax seeds ground to a meal and mixed with water is one ingredient in this cookie.  Flax seed adds Omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and lignans (plant-based Estrogen).

flax.gel

When ground flax-seed is mixed with water, it becomes thick and gel-like.  It is a great substitute for eggs if someone is vegan or allergic to eggs.  (Notice my kitchen helper in the background?)

raisins

Two more key ingredients in these cookies were golden raisins and big chocolate chunks.  I discovered took late that the golden raisins I used are preserved with sulfites, so I won’t be using those again, as Eric is sensitive to sulfites.

chocolate.chips

The chocolate chunks I used are made by Good Life.  I keep these around my kitchen for my allergy-free baking I do for numerous friends and family members.  I love the size and shape of these non-traditional chocolate chunks!

kitchen.helper

Greta was a big helper in making these cookies.  Actually, she mashed her own bowl of ingredients together while eating flour covered grapes.  I have begun to get very creative in my methods for keeping her entertained and busy with the addition of baby #2.  More on baby #2 and our current life in a later post.

Milk-Makin’ Mama Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies 

1. In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup water with 2-1/2 tablespoons flax meal.  Allow to sit for about 5 minutes.

2.  In a bowl or mixing stand, cream 1 cup shortening (butter, margarine, or coconut oil) with 1-1/2 cups brown sugar.  Add flax meal mixture and 2 eggs.  Beat until combined.

3.  In a separate bowl combine 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup brewer’s yeast, 3 tablespoons wheat germ, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.

4. Stir the flour mixture into the sugar and shortening mixture.  Stir in 2-1/2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup golden raisins, and 1 cup chocolate chunks.

5. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until cookies are golden.  Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

The First 4 Weeks Update

QandGWelcome to the world Quinton!  He entered the world four weeks ago at a healthy 8 lbs 6 oz.  This picture is our second day at home with our new guy.

Q.GThe past four weeks have been actually very nice – I admit I was worried about quite a few things, as most moms to be tend to do.  However, things are going well for all of us and big sister Greta is adjusting well.

My advice for parents of single children, about to become multiple children: talk about babies, read about babies, watch babies, look for babies, and seek out babies as much as you can before the new sibling comes along.  We hit the library for picture books on babies, watched video clips on babycenter.com, role played with her baby dolls, read magazines about babies, asked family and friends with babies to allow questions and assistance from Greta whenever appropriate.  Let me tell you, it paid off.

dollAside from a few jealousy issues at the beginning, she has been a happy helper and eager to take on the big sister role.  Our biggest meltdowns involved the question, “Why do I have to go to bed if Quinton is still awake?”  I and finding her baby dolls in Quinton’s swing, on his changing table, in his crib, and wrapped in his blankets.  She watches me carefully and mimics everything! Luckily her cousins got her a diaper bag complete with diaper wipes, bottles, cell phone, and changing pad so she can mimic with her own things and take them with us when we are out and about.

skySpeaking of getting out, right around Quinton’s birth we had a spell of rainy weather – to the point of wondering whether Iowa was entering monsoon season as North Carolina did every fall with the onslaught of hurricane season.  Just after he was born, the clouds lifted and the weather has been beautiful for venturing out with a new baby.  So get out we have done!  Baby round two has been different of course, I learned from baby one too late that newborns are portable and there is no reason to sit on one’s bum when they sleep constantly!  Not that my three-year old would allow such a thing to happen anyway.

grays.lakeWe have been enjoying sunny walks around Gray’s Lake as a family.  I am determined to start the physical activity earlier this time around, in hopes of maintaining a better sense of well-being and to avoid feeling the stresses of starting a new school year and unpacking my classroom from a summer of remodeling with a new baby.  Plus, I am eager to get back to riding my bicycle.  It’s been far too long and watching RAGBRAI and Tour de France coverage has me chomping at the bit this year.

fairSpeaking of bits, we enjoyed the county fair as some free and very engaging entertainment.  I cannot ever remember it ever being this nice of weather when I was in 4H and showing at the fair!  The Polk County Fair takes place at the State Fair grounds every year and showcases all the hard work and dedication of 4H and FFA youth over the past year in Polk County.  Greta enjoyed watching the horses compete and the jumping event was her favorite – especially when one horse while practicing, stopped and walked around instead of jumping.  She laughed and laughed at that.

balloonsThis week the pleasantly cool weather continues.  We enjoyed a morning at the National Balloon Classic in Indianola, IA watching hot air balloons.  Flights are at 6:30 AM and 6:30 PM daily for the entire festival and the morning session is free entrance.

sushiI got out for sushi and even tried a new place!  I kept hearing about how Wasabi Chi was the best sushi in town – I finally decided to check it out when my delivery nurse said this is the only place she goes anymore for sushi.  I am pleased to report that Wasabi Chi on Douglas Avenue in Beaverdale did not disappoint.  Their lunch specials are to die for and hard to choose between – the crispy calamari mango roll, on the left, was my favorite.  I had two rolls, miso soup, and salad for $8.95!

smoreI have also been experimenting with my own simple and satisfying recipes at home.  Read: no time for elaborate cooking right now.  This heavenly dessert is simply two graham crackers, with a smear of peanut butter, topped with two marshmallows, and then microwaved for 10 seconds.  Behold: the fluffer nutter s’more.  You are welcome.

 

Happy almost August everyone.  Where did this summer go?

Baby Room Tour

before.baby.roomThis is what the now baby room looked like when we fist moved in to our house a year ago.  It became a dumping ground until we moved in completely, hence the odd assortment of items in the room.  This room was so blah and dark when we moved in, due to the wooden shutters that covered up the windows and a paint color that needed refreshing.

The room started off as Greta’s room and actually was about the same color as her old room in Greensboro.  I never did love the color in either room – Greensboro’s was just so close to army green and this house, though more of a sage green, was not what I really wanted in a bedroom.  I knew the color had to go eventually, but we lived with it for the better part of a year.

cribThe room is much brighter now – we went with white on 3/4 of the room and a bluish gray on the other 1/4 of the room.  I have other paint ideas that I would like to do at some point, but getting it done was the name of the game with this nursery.

We reused Greta’s old crib, got a new rocking chair, and used black out roller shades for the windows instead of the shutters.  The crib doesn’t go with my other color palette quite as much – though one could argue the green is in the complementary color scheme with the reds.  I was not about to paint an Ikea crib – just not something I was in the mood to do.

dresserThe dresser has already been shown off in a previous post.  I just love the way it turned out.  It has more than enough room for all the baby essentials and keeps all the cloth diapers easily sorted and organized!  The two large prints above the dresser are ones that I completed in an Illustrator class I took earlier this year.  I knew what colors I was leaning toward at that point and created 2 images in the general gray/black/white/red palette.

wallHis toys and books (what hasn’t been pilfered by his sister) are organized on a hand-me-down bookcase we’ve had for years that will no doubt see many more years of work.  He even got his first bike themed artwork at the Des Moines Pedal art show earlier this spring.

We kept the room sparse, just like Greta’s room.  I find it easier to navigate a sparse kids’ room in the middle of the night.  Two walls are still bare of artwork – I like to give my kids a chance to choose some of their own decor to make their room their personal space.

 

 

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Paper Airplane Mobile

airplane.mobileThis nifty and very easy to make mobile is now hanging in a corner of the our completed nursery.  Hooray for a finished and lovely space for baby!  I will give you a tour of the rest of his room in due time.

red.stickTo make this mobile I simply found an interesting stick from our yard and cleaned it up a little.  I trimmed the ends to shape it, and then wiped it off in preparation for painting.  I used a high gloss red spray paint to cover the entire stick – this color is a theme throughout his room.  There are some interesting areas of black that poke through from underneath the red due to the texture of the bark.

airplanes

Then, with the help of Eric and this fun (er, challenging) book, Awesome Paper Planes, we made a few paper airplanes.  By we, I mean Eric.  I have always struggled with origami and anything that involves precision folding and following step-by-step directions.  My cranes always turn out mangled and sloppy.  I always feel bad about this lack of skill, because every year I have a student who is dying to try origami and I have yet to master the most basic projects.

mobile.closeupTo assemble the mobile, we hung the branch from a small hook installed in the ceiling.  Then, I hand sewed three lengths of thread through each airplane.  These three pieces of thread create a triangular shape – think like the stability of three legs of a stool.  The three strands help each airplane hang like it is flying.  Each airplane was then tied on to the branch.  It is soothing to watch the mobile spin slowly in a breeze and look forward to rocking my son under it.

Violet Butterfly Watercolor

Phew, I hammered this artwork out in a single day.  It has been a long time since that has happened to work out well for me.  Last Saturday, since we didn’t make it to Minneapolis, I was at my in-laws’ house while Greta napped.  Loud hammering and nailing sounds were ringing through my house as the windows continued to be installed.  27 windows is no small feat!

I started with my taped off paper and a pencil sketch.

Next, I laid in the India ink on all the black parts.  India ink is perfect for areas that cannot bleed with the watercolor paint.

I closed my eyes for a few minutes while the ink dried and then began with the color.  I had a little more fun with this painting than the first.  So, it actually worked out well that Greta claimed the first butterfly painting.

Layers of watercolor interspersed with a few water, snack, and Olympic watching breaks and I was nearly finished by the time Greta awoke from her two hour nap.  During her post nap snack, I added the last few finishing touches.  My last task is to get this in the mail before next week, as my cousin’s little girl is due in March.

As always, prints and artwork are always for sale, please inquire by e-mail or through my Etsy shop, which is currently empty.  If you are interested in purchasing something you have seen on this blog, I will create a custom listing for you.  I also do custom commission pieces as well. 


Cloth Diapers 101

This post is mostly in response the numerous comments and questions we receive about cloth diapering.  The inquiries seem to have ramped up here lately due to the large number of friends and family members having recently had or expecting babies.  I also always find myself answering questions to curious onlookers in public restrooms while changing Greta’s diaper.  So, here is the down and dirty on diapering in our household.
Greta is a cloth diaper baby and has been since the very beginning.  We made this choice based on the items below.
Cloth diapers cost less. Infants may use up to 10 diapers a day, and somewhere between 6, 000 to 9, 000 diapers from birth through potty-training.  Not to mention the wipes that seem to disappear into thin air – they are disposable, why not use 10??  The dollars spent on these diapers will start around $1, 380, depending on diaper brand.  Check out this great graphic on diapers costs, courtesy of FuzziBunz.   If you plan on having more than one child, the cost is even less with subsequent users as you are completely set up with diapers.
Reduce reuse and recycle.  The disposable diapers a child wears today will still be in the landfill when he or she is an adult.  Cloth diapers can be used by multiple children or even reused for other household cleaning such as dusting or washing cars.  If you have a newer washing machine, the amount of water used to wash diapers is minimal.
Comfort.  I know I would prefer soft fabric to scratchy plastic on my behind.
Convenience.  This was Eric’s number one reason behind the cost savings.  His argument was, I don’t want to be driving to the store in the middle of the night or on a holiday trying to find diapers.  As long as we plan for one diaper and 2:17 minutes to wash, plus some drying time, we always have diapers.  We have never actually ran out of clean diapers.
How did you choose your diapers?  What’s with all the styles, sizes, and types?
When Greta was itty bitty, she wore Thirsties brand diapers.  We chose these diapers because of reviews we had read, the sizing options, the ease of washing, and the fact they are made in the USA.
This is an example of the Thirsties diaper.  The covers we opted for had snap closures and other than one snap coming off, we had no problems with these diapers.  The snaps can also be easily replaced.  The inserts are on the right side, they consist of two layers which snap together.  They are simply laid inside the diaper cover (the inside of the this cover is facing down on the table).  This style diaper allows you to flip out the liner and reuse the cover again, or to dump the entire diaper into the diaper pail.  To me, this is what makes it a great infant diaper – its options.  When you are changing 10 plus diapers a day, options are handy.
The left diaper is the larger size – 18 – 40 pounds.  The smaller one, on the right, is for 6 – 18 pounds.  We also used the Thirsties hemp inserts to add extra protection at night without a lot of extra bulk.
Once Greta outgrew her smaller Thirsties diapers, we started shopping around for diapers to fit her through potty training.  We ultimately decided we really liked Thirsties, but wanted pocket diapers for one more layer of dryness.  We tried the larger Thirsties diaper (blue one on the left), but she seemed to be bothered by how quickly she felt wet.
Next, we tried FuzziBunz pocket diapers.  These are great diapers, but they felt small, like they would not grow with Greta.  The liners are super soft and absorbent though.
We finally settled on bum Genius diapers – specifically bumGenius One Size Pocket Diaper 4.0 (Snap).  We have with Velcro closure tabs, but it is worn out enough that Greta can pull it off.  The snaps are steadfast and we have had yet to have a single one break or wear out.
The multiple snaps allow for custom fit that grows with your child.  The image above this one shows the current setting that Greta wears her diapers on.  The diaper on the left, directly above, is shown with the pocket open.  This is where the inserts are placed.  I promise, it is easier than one would think to pull out the inserts and to keep your hands clean.
Here is the diaper with the insert placed inside the diaper.  The opening is covered by the top flap, and then the opening faces the back of your child.
How do you do cloth diapers with daycare?
We searched for daycares that allowed cloth diapers and found one that we are extremely happy with.  We send Greta to daycare with 5 stuffed cloth diapers and a Planet Wise Wet/Dry Bag,
.
The floral design one on the right, is the one that goes to school with Greta.  This bag is made by Planet Wise, and would also work for wet swimsuits, workout clothing, shoes, etc.
The yellow bag on the left, rolls up nice and small.  This is the bag that goes with us, when we are out and about.  It fits perfectly in the diaper bag, is waterproof, rolls and snaps for a tight closure.  It also happens to be a dry bag, the kind normally used by outdoor enthusiasts.  We got ours at REI.
When she comes home from daycare, the wet diapers are in the zippered pouch and the b.m. diapers are bagged neatly like so.  All we do is separate the inserts from the cover, dump them into her diaper pail, and start over for the next day.  We have enough diapers that we only have to wash diapers every other day.
How do you wipe?
At home, we use rags for wiping.  Honestly, the cheap washcloths work the best.  We have one pack of the round hemp washcloths, left.  These are much thinner and end up being used for her face and nose more often than her rear.  From experience, give me a rag over a diaper wipe any day – there is more to keep your hands clean.
Do they smell? 
Of course they smell – some worse than others.
 
However, choosing the right pail makes a difference.  Our diaper pail came from the hardware store – it is one of those locking lid cans used to store dog food, bird seed, or grass seed.  It is meant to keep rodents out, however, it also keeps little hands out and odors in.  They are cheap and can be moved to the garage after diapering is finished.  I do recommend rinsing this bucket out frequently and it may even be worth spraying the bottom with a rust-proof coating to prevent rusting from damp diapers.
How do you wash cloth diapers?
When it is diaper washing time, we just take the entire pail back to the washing machine and dump it into the machine.  This bucket fits inside the opening of our machine – no touching required.
We use Charlie’s Soap Laundry Powder.  Just one tablespoon per load – actually we use ½ of a tablespoon for diaper loads – this small amount helps to avoid residue which can cause diapers to be less absorbent.  This laundry powder cleans well, is odor-free, and does not add any residue to cloth diapers, as some other brands tend to do.  I also love that it is made in North Carolina.
We use mostly vinegar as a rinsing agent when laundering cloth diapers.  I pour it into the fabric softener slot.  Sometimes we use bleach – especially if Greta has been sick.  However, as a reminder, these two should never be mixed together, as they produce a toxic gas, chlorine.
Once everything is loaded, the machine is set to sanitize wash cycle, extra rinse and heavy soil level.  This entire wash takes 2 hours and 17 minutes.
Our laundry room is in the play/art room at our house.  Sometimes Greta likes to come over and watch the diapers spin around – though she has to be kept away when the water is heating during a sanitize load, as the sides of the washer can be very hot.
How do you dry cloth diapers?
Hanging up diaper covers and inserts is the most environmentally sound way to dry diapers.  If you get a sunny day, the inserts dry in a fraction of the time.  Otherwise, if the dryer is used, we still recommend hang drying the covers.
Do you ever have to strip your cloth diapers?  
This is something that I hear people talk about in the cloth diaper world, but have never ever had to do. Supposedly this happens when diapers get smelly and less absorbent.  However, this has never happened to any of Greta’s diapers.  We do not use diaper cream with the cloth diapers and do not use detergents that will cause a build up of residue.  So choosing the right detergent and not using too much detergent are two really important factors to increasing the life of your cloth diapers.
 
 
 
Other FAQS
Do you use a service to clean them? 
 
We thought about it initially, but decided to try it ourselves first and see how it went.  It was always an option with us, but we found our washing machine was just fine.   
 
Did you have any kick back from your husband, friends, or family members?
 
Eric and I talked about this as soon as having children came up.  I always knew I would cloth diaper and was lucky that Eric saw the benefits.  In fact, he is into gear and figuring out how things work, so for him this was another interesting challenge to figure out.  It was at least a week (maybe 2) before I even changed a diaper and he had to teach me how to use the cloth diapers.  
 
Do you feel like it’s saved you money? 
 
We know it has saved us money.  Cloth diapers cost a lot up front – each diaper running anywhere from $8 to $14, depending on the brand.  We figured that they paid for themselves in about 4 months, and the smallest ones we used lasted about 9 months until they would no longer hold enough liquid to last through the night.  We purchased the bigger sizes that we have used for the last year and these have long been paid for as well.  
 
Where do you buy your diapers? 
 
We bought our diapers from Amazon, Target, and a local baby shop in Greensboro, called All About Baby.  We bought Thirsties Snaps, they worked well for infants.  We bought more liners than shells as you could sometimes change out a liner and keep using the shell.  This was really nice with the amount of diapering you do with a newborn.  We bought a small assortment of other brands to try, FuzziBunz, KawaiiBabby, bum Genius velcro and snaps, and size two in the Thirsties.  We ended up going with the Bum Genius snaps (toddlers can undo the velcro), the size and adjustment was just right.  The pockets aren’t bad, you just have to tug out the liner before you wash them, this is another reason we decided not to get them for an infant.  
How many diapers do you need to keep yourself stocked?  
 
We had more than 20 liners of the infant ones and did a load every day for a while.  We also had hemp inserts to make the Thirsties last through the night a little better.  We have 17 of the Bum Genius and they come with extra inserts.  We usually double up and do a three layer for night, now that she is older and drinks more liquid.   

Do you ever use disposables?
 
Sometimes we do when we travel, especially if we are not going to be with family who do not mind us washing diapers.  If we are going on trips less than 2 days we take a large paddling dry bag to store the dirties.  We usually keep a few disposables on hand, just in case we forget to wash diapers – hasn’t happened yet, or if she has really bad diaper rash – has only happened twice.  Diaper cream should not be used on cloth diapers as it can hurt the absorbency.  But like I said, she’s only had that problem twice – that is an upside to cloth diapers – no diaper rash. 

How often do you wash diapers?
 
Every other day, or when the diapers are getting low, or if the pail is stinky.  
 
How do you rinse out poop? Right in to the toilet? Do they stink?

We dump poop into the toilet.  When she was younger, and breastfed, it was different.  It looks and acts more like mustard, so you honestly can just wash as they are.  Or, if that freaks you out, flip it into the water of the toilet, shake lightly and most will go into the toilet.  You can get hoses that attach to the toilet to help with rinsing, but we have never found any sort of need for that.  Daycare allows us to use cloth diapers, but they will bag the poop diapers and then we clean them when we get home.  In between washes, the dirty diapers are stored in a metal pail we got from Lowe’s.  It supposed to be for bird seed to keep out rodents, but it locks nice and tight to prevent odors from escaping.  
 
Do you use disposable wipes or cloth wipes? 
 
It doesn’t make much sense to use disposable wipes if you are already doing all that laundry for cloth diapers.  Just throw them in the with the diapers.  Otherwise, you have a trash can and a diaper pail to trip over in the middle of the night, or you end up washing disposable wipes on accident.  Their skin is sensitive  – you don’t need to wipe for pee, just poop.  

Upcycled Tee Shirt Bib

What to do with all those old concert tee shirts that crowd my closet?  Make my baby a rock star at meal time!
I started with one tee shirt.  The smaller, the better the neck hole will fit without alteration. 
I traced around an existing bib with a chalk pencil for the correct length. 
I cut out the rectangle, cutting through both sides of the shirt, making the front side longer.  I then doubled the longer side back under, folding right sides facing each other and pinned.  I sewed around the bottom three edges, and stopped on both sides where the two pins are located above on the left and right side. I used 3/8″ seam. 
I then folded and pinned the remaining edges for a smoother edge.  The nice thing about tee shirt fabric is that you don’t have to worry about fraying, so hemming is not required.  I wanted the edges to lay flat, so I opted for a hem.  
I used a decorative stitch to create a little more interest.  
The finished bib.  It fits well over her head, has ample length to catch food, and washes so easily.  If the neck hole is too large, the easy fix is to attach a snap so that the opening can be snapped smaller. 

DIY diaper bib

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and felt the urge to make something.  Lucky for me Miss Greta was still soundly sleeping and so I had plenty of time to whip up this easy diaper turned bib.

I started with a clean, ironed, cotton diaper.  I trimmed it shorter, taking off about 5 inches.  The more you cut off, the shorter the bib will be.  Then, I cut a half circle neck hole in the middle of the diaper.

I used a zig-zag stitch to sew along the entire cut edge.
Next, I chose some cute coordinating ribbon to trim the bib.  I chose a wider polka dot pattern for the sides, bottom, and neck hole and a thinner green and white polka dot for the ties.  I pinned the wide ribbon on the edges, lining up with the edges of the diaper.  Along the neck hole, I folded the wider ribbon in half, pinning as I went.  The ties were pinned along the shorter lengths on either side of the neck hole, make sure to overlap the edges of the wider polka dot ribbon.  
Double check to be sure your ribbon edges are folded under (see above) before sewing.  This will make a neater edge and prevent fraying of the ribbon. 
The last step was to sew all edges, leaving the green ties for last.  The neck hole can be tricky due to the slippery satin ribbon.  A stretchy, ribbed knit will be in order for the next bib I make.  From start to finished this project took about 20 minutes.  The size works like a poncho for messy eaters.