Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Two Swings, a Hit, and a Miss

I buy most of Margaret's toys online. Better deals, and a wider range of BPA-/phthalate-free options. We usually stick with toys that make the child do the work like puzzles and shape sorters and blocks, because those types of toys keep them quiet longer enrich and stimulate their growing minds. ;)

Yesterday was a rough day, though. She was bored. I was tired. We were both cranky. So we popped over to Target and picked up a couple new toys in hopes of pushing us both into better moods. One did the job just swimmingly. The other will be going back to the store tomorrow.

The first toy we bought was the Playskool Busy Ball Popper. I'd heard good things about its magic baby-engaging powers and looked to buy it many times, but I have this weird hangup about Playskool toys as most contain BPA and phthalates and who knows what else (I know I'm sounding like "one of those moms" right now. I promise I let my kids eat cookies and crawl in the dirt and wear flame retardant-covered jammies. This is just one of my "things."). I figured, though, that we're careful enough on a day-to-day basis to reduce Margaret's contact with those chemicals that one toy probably wouldn't hurt.

And, man, did she love it! She quickly figured out how to start the air and music herself and had a blast for probably 45 minutes straight catching the balls, putting them through the hole, and punching the start button.

Proof - just watch her dancing at the end!

(The balls were having trouble popping out, because we had old batteries in it. I put fresh ones in this morning, and it worked much better.)

It seems to be a pretty solidly-made toy. The balls are kind of thin and flimsy, but I think that's so they'll pop out easier. Overall, I'd give the toy a 10 (if it wasn't for those stupid phthalates).

The other toy we bought was the Fisher Price Lil' Zoomers Chase 'n Race Ramps. This is where I feel embarrassed, because I totally became a marketing pawn. I had seen a commercial earlier that day for the Lil' Zoomers line of toys, and the baby on the commercial was having so much fun. My gushy Mommy heart said, "Aww, Margaret needs one of those so she can have fun too!" I know, I am shamefaced.

Anyway, the toy is garbage. It's made of cheapo plastic, and it's impossible to get the cars to roll down the ramp. They get stuck nearly every time, even for an adult, and they're hard to dislodge.

Toy fail.

I'm actually a bit relieved. I've had this self-righteous boycott on Fisher Price toys going for some time, as they refuse to take accountability and release data on BPA and phthalates in their toys like nearly all their competitors have done. Now I can take this toy back, happily knowing Fisher Price still hasn't gotten any of my money.

Wordless Wednesday: Fall Decor

It may have been 101 degrees today, but that isn't stopping me from beginning to pull out the fall decor!

Michael's was having a sale on these sprigs, and I couldn't resist scattering them around the china hutch.

The only Halloween decoration to make an appearance so far. My mom made this darling decoration. They're just flying from her Etsy shop (link on bottom right margin). I love mine!

Some seasonal crafts, d├ęcor, and activities I'm thinking of giving a shot this fall:
Pumpkin pillows
Felt leaf appliqued pillows
Felt leaf table runner and another
Window screen leaves
Pinecone wreath
Cinnamon dough garland
Kids' Frankenstein crafts/activities (I have a serious Frankenstein love)
Costume tree
Halloween pancakes
Boo-nilla shakes

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Some Margaret Stuff

The other day I left Margaret playing in the basement for a minute while I ran upstairs to get a drink. A millisecond later, I heard clapping and looked over to the top of the stairs to see her sitting there, applauding her speedy scaling skills.

Like most babies, Margaret loves to have bites of whatever I'm eating. The other day I was snacking on some trail mix. The refrain of "More? More? More?" began, so I bit a raisin in half and gave it to her. Next thing I know she's biting her Cheerios in half and shoving them in my mouth. This game is apparently endlessly amusing, as it still hasn't stopped.

Some recent pictures:

She eats like such a lady.

Uh, sometimes.

I think she looks like an anime character with her giant head and spiky pigtails.

This is the first time since she was an infant she's sacked out on the floor of her own will. Looks comfy, no?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Day in the Life of Margaret

I wake up niiiiice and early and yell for Mom until she comes in to free me.  As soon as she walks into the room, I pop my paci out and hand it to her.  I can't wait another second to eat!

After I nurse, Mom changes my diaper...

I'm working on perfecting the crocodile death roll during diaper changes.  Mom loves it.

and we head downstairs for breakfast.

Once Mom and Daddy have eaten, and I've consumed many handfuls of Cheerios, Daddy is off to work, and Mom and I go upstairs to get dressed.

Mom chases me around the room, trying to do my hair.  It's really fun!

Then we go downstairs to play with my toys for a bit.

Mom tries to write a grocery list, and I harass her.

Soon enough, it's time for nap.  I'm a weird kid who likes to go down for a nap just a couple hours after waking up in the morning.

After I sleep for two (quiet) hours, Mom and I have lunch.

I pretend to use my fork until Mom looks away, then I dig in with my hands!

Sometimes Daddy comes home on his lunch hour, and he and Mom watch Jeopardy and shout out the answers while they eat.

Mom and Daddy won't share their enchiladas.

Later in the day, we sometimes go out to run errands or play at the park or library.

When we get home, I pretend I want a nap.

But after playing for a half hour, I bellow for Mom to come back and let me up.

I follow Mom around the kitchen while she makes dinner.  Then I get to eat again!

I play in the bath for a long time after dinner.

I snuggle up in my towel and put jammies on.

Then I play with my stacking cups or make a picture while Mom gets dinner cleaned up and my bed stuff ready.

Tonight I got to finger paint for the first time!

We read some books and sing some songs.

The Going to Bed Book

Then it's off to sleep.  Good night!

Wordless Wednesday: What's in My (Diaper) Bag?

Inspired by the Flickr "What's in My Bag" group.

My diaper bag is a Kalencom Eleanor bag in Chocolate Pheasant.  I got it from Mamabargains for a screaming deal.  It comes with a matching changing pad (opens out very large), cosmetic bag, and insulated bottle holder.  It's beautifully made, very roomy, and not too bulky to carry around.  All flaps have magnetic closures, which is much nicer than noisy Velcro.  It has two closing outer side pockets and three open interior pockets.  I would recommend this bag a million times over.

cosmetic pouch

three interior pockets

packed with clothes, napkins, tissues, and diapers

snacks, toys, wallet, and coupon organizer added

Roughly from left to right:
cosmetic bag
wipes, diapers, wet bag, changing pad
hand sanitizer, iPod, phone
cloth wipes, burp cloth, nursing cover, lightweight blanket
tissues, napkins, Desitin, Mylicon, Tylenol, Aquaphor
nasal saline drops, baby wash, bulb syringe
baby sunglasses, hat, swimsuit, change of clothes
snacks, toy
nursing pads, lotion sample, Shout wipe, makeup remover cloth sample, moist towlettes, antibiotic cream
wallet, checkbook, coupon organizer, notebook
sunglasses, keys
mini Scotch tape, gum, bobby pins, hair tie
nail file, comb,  lipgloss, pen, Tide To Go pen, mirror, lipstick

I could still easily fit a sweater, more toys/books/snacks, camera, and heavier blanket inside as well.  If you're in the market for a diaper bag, really, try this one out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bedtime Books

Do you have any special bedtime books?  We read quite a few different "quiet books" at night, but the two that tend to get the most action in our rotation are Sandra Boynton's The Going to Bed Book and Nancy Tillman's On the Night You Were Born.

The Going to Bed Book is a story that tells how a group of animals on an ark get ready to... wait for it... go to bed.  They bathe and put on jammies and exercise all before heading off to bed.  It's a short book and not overly wordy, but the pacing is absolutely brilliant.  Without even noticing it, you tend to read the beginning with energy and vigor as the animals are splashing in the tub and jostling for a place at the sink to brush teeth, and by the final lines, "The moon is high. The sea is deep. We rock and rock and rock to sleep." your voice has unconsciously slowed and softened.  It's so soothing, even I feel drowsy by the end.

On the Night You Were Born is a beautiful little book of love.  The opening lines, "On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, 'Life will never be the same.' Because there had never been anyone like you... ever in the world." set the tone of whimsical adoration that fills every page.  You read of polar bears dancing in the zoo and the rain whispering the child's name.  And the painted illustrations, oh!  Just beautiful.  It's the most perfect little book I've ever read.

Some other books I've been looking to add to our bedtime book library:
Someday by Alison McGhee
Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
Sleepy Boy by Polly Kanevsky
There by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

We're always looking to add to our collection.  What are your favorite bedtime books?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Food Waste Friday 9/17

For previous food waste Fridays, click here.

One lonely chicken wing (my husband's leftovers) and two cobs of corn I completely forgot about.  Very depressing, as they were probably the last good corn cobs of the summer.  Sad. Life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Unintentionally Awesome Meals

Let me preface, as I always do on food posts, that I really hate cooking.  Really.  Sometimes I'll skip a meal just so I don't have to think about cooking.  If we were rich, I'd hire a personal chef and never enter my kitchen again.

Now, with that out of the way, I do have to eat occasionally.  My husband and daughter have grown accustomed to regular sustenance too.  Nights my husband works are my time off from cooking.  I usually raid leftovers in the fridge or toss together some random pieces found in the freezer.  Most times, those thrown-together meals are just to get me through until I'm forced to cook another real meal for the family.

Other times, though, magic happens.

Last night I pulled a Tupperware of leftover spaghetti noodles from the fridge.  It was kind of brick-like and chewy, because I never bother to stir noodles while they're cooking.  I decided they might loosen up some if I tossed them in a skillet with olive oil for a bit.  (Getting the skillet out on a non-cooking night is a big deal, but I'd had a nap that day, so I figured I could handle it.)  While pulling the pasta from the fridge, I spied half a can of kidney beans stored nearby.  Protein!  Awesome.  No need to even bother with meat.

I went to fill up my water glass with some ice from the freezer (all that grown-up type cooking makes a girl thirsty) and spotted some frozen produce.  Eh, might as well throw some bell peppers and onions in for flavor, and, hey, broccoli!  Fiber and iron!  Awesome again.

Once all these ingredients were cooked up and turned out on a plate, I realized that this meal didn't have nearly the calories I've been shooting for lately.  I'm on a medication right now that's made me lose an unhealthy amount of weight, and I've really got to up my calories to continue, you know, existing.

Back to the fridge, and, what's this?  Cheese!  Fat!  Calcium!  Flavor!  Once again, quite awesome.

If leftovers always treated me so well, I'd write a song in their honor.

The leftovers of my leftovers were pretty good too, with some balsamic vinaigrette drizzled on top.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Twice in my life...

... my leg has fallen asleep while I'm sleeping, and I've been awoken by a knock on the door, jumped out of bed without noticing the dead leg, and fallen flat on my face.

These are two of my favorite memories of all time.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kitchen Counter Revamp - On a Budget

old counter tops
The kitchen counters in this house were pretty "well-loved" by the time we bought it.  They were an almond laminate original to the 13 year old house.  They had grey and brown heat stains from the previous owners not using a trivet under hot pots and pans (I tried to remove them with a Magic Eraser and ended up just bleaching them white), there was ground-in dirt next to the garage door from greasy hands touching them, and they were chipped in many places.

That said, they were functional, and we had higher renovation priorities.  When we do replace them, I'd like to get a cherry butcher block and white Carrera marble.  That's not so much in the budget yet, but after a year of staring at these awful things, I had to do something.  I didn't want to invest too much just to rip it out when we get our dream counters, so I decided to go with contact paper.  For $12 of paper and $2 of caulk, I have a brand new, shiny counter top.

Sure, it still looks like laminate, but now it looks like clean, fresh laminate, rather than something you're squicked out to set your plate down on.

Um, kindly ignore the sink full of dishes.

Contact paper isn't the most hardy of surface coatings, but the beauty of it is, if it gets ripped or stained I can just peel that piece up and replace it for almost nothing.

It was pretty easy to install.  I wanted as few seams as possible, and wrapping the contact paper up onto the backsplash was a bit of a pain, but I got it smoothed out in the end.  Margaret played on the floor with the paper backing I discarded.

I'm really happy with the results.  It's not fancy, but it's just what we needed for the time being.

February, 2012
I've recently been getting a lot of hits on this post, so I wanted to update with how the contact paper held up. We left it on the counters for about a year without having to pull it up or replace it. Nothing peeled up prematurely (thanks in large part to the caulk at the seams, I think). We always used a trivet under hot pots and pans and wiped up stain-likely spills in a timely manner. It really stayed pretty pristine-looking while I was in charge of the kitchen.

When I was sick with my last pregnancy, about a year after laying the contact paper, I had a lot of people in and out of my kitchen helping out, and they obviously weren't as careful as I naturally am. The contact paper developed a number of rips and tears and stains. Rather than replace the ruined sections, I decided to try another technique on the counters for kicks (a post on this will follow eventually). The contact paper peeled up easily, though there was a sticky residue left behind. I used a product I found at Target called Krud Kutter to remove it. I sprayed it on, left it for 5-10 minutes, then used a scrub brush to loosen the residue. I finished with a wet rag. It took a bit of effort, but everything came up in the end. Use gloves and good ventilation with this product.

All told, using the contact paper was definitely worth the work. I got a lot of compliments on it, it was very inexpensive, and it didn't involve a great deal of work. I'd recommend it for anyone who wants a temporary counter top facelift on a budget.