Review: Uncommon Goods

On M’s birthday, we received a really fun package in the mail! About a week earlier, I’d been contacted by Uncommon Goods to see if I’d be interested in writing a review. I don’t do many reviews, and sometimes I’m a little hesitant to commit to writing about a company/product if I’m not sure I’ll love it — but that wasn’t a concern in this case! Just reading a little about the store had me really excited: lots of handmade products, lots of items made in the USA, and lots of recycled materials. They’re dedicated to making responsible environmental choices AND donate money to charities. So I was on board from the get-go.

I spent a looong time browsing the gifts for babies section (here), of course. The company offered to send me a few products so I’d have something to review, and all I ever think about (it seems) is what M would like. But I also looked around the section here for gifts for women, as well as the stocking stuffers category. Mainly, though, I wished I had found the site before I’d bought all of M’s birthday gifts! There are just so many fun choices that are really different from what I’ve seen a hundred times a standard store shelves.

I wound up choosing a state dish towel for myself, since I like all (well, most) things Minnesotan. And for M, I chose the Stacrobats and baby tube socks. And honestly, for real-reals, I’m so impressed by the quality of this stuff! Everything is just SO perfect for gift-giving. The tea towel came in a little fabric envelope, which makes it feel really special. I had thought the cross-stitch border was just part of the print, but it’s real stitching. So nice.

M has really enjoyed her gifts, too. I had been looking for nice-quality knee-high socks for her a while back and never found anything — these ones are PERFECT! I suppose four pairs of baby/toddler socks for $30 seems pricey compared to really cheap baby socks, but M isn’t too tough on her clothes (yet), so it’s worth it to pay more for something that can hold up to frequent washing and still feel nice. I actually paid more for her Smartwool socks a while back — I feel like you shouldn’t mess around with keeping toes warm during Minnesota winters. I feel silly going on and on about socks, but these knee highs are just sooo cute, and the primary fiber is bamboo, so they’re super soft, too. I love that I’ll be able to put them on under M’s pants to keep her legs warm when it’s really chilly outside. They came in a tiny tin lunchbox, which, again, is just such clever packaging for a gift.

We both are goofing around with the Stacrobats a ton. M immediately started playing with the jingling balls — I think she’s had more fun with those than anything I gave her for her birthday! The carrying case (which is also the stage that the Stacrobats stick to) is really heavy-duty for a toy, and I think we’ll be toting these guys with us when we travel here and there.

I don’t want to sound too infomercial-y, but if you’re shopping for holiday gifts — for anybody, but especially for young kids — check out Uncommon Goods. Our little presents have been such a delight. I just love finding surprises for people that they’ll want/use but would never have expected, and Uncommon Goods really fits the bill!

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Birthday Times

M has had a nice couple of days! We celebrated her birthday with my parents and Rob on Friday and then had a small party yesterday. M didn’t quite get the concept of unwrapping her presents, but she enjoyed playing with them once all the wrapping was off! And she’s quite a ham, so she enjoyed all the attention. Her latest thing is chuckling for no reason to get other people to laugh.

It was fun to get the house (really, just the dining room / kitchen) decorated for the occasion. I hung up some photos (M’s monthly photos and a bunch of the little Instax snaps), which I think was M’s favorite part of the decor. I made a big carrot cake for the party, along with a little carrot cake for M. She licked a bunch of frosting off her fingers and ate a couple little bits of cake and then conked out when I put her down for a nap about ten minutes later. It’s tiring having so much fun!

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One Year!

Happy birthday to M! What a year it’s been. It really does seem impossible that M’s big personality hasn’t always been out in the world. She’s just a sweet, clever, happy little girl, and I couldn’t have wished for a better daughter to spend all my time with. And I know that this year will get off to a better start than the last!

Size: M is about 21lbs 8oz, and 30” long. She (more than) tripled her birth weight! Sometimes it’s hard to believe how big she is — but other times, it’s hard to imagine she could have ever been as small as she once was. Her hair has also gotten so much longer recently. It’s funny to look back at photos from just a month or two ago and see how much it’s grown.

Likes and Dislikes: At one year, some of M’s favorites are…
Books: Silly Sausage, I Kissed the Baby, Kitty Cat Doll’s Day (which I made for her).
Toys: Kitty Cat Doll, the lion walker, the piggy bank. Anything that she should NOT be playing with.
Foods: Pasta (with any type of sauce), string cheese, bananas, tomatoes, tempeh.
People: Mama, Grandma, Grandpa, Rob.
Other favorites: Animals of any kind, pictures on the wall (her current obsession!), baths.

Eating: She switched to drinking mostly cow’s milk during the second half of this month. At first she pushed it away, so I mixed it with pumped milk, and after only a few days of that, she had decided that cow’s milk was okay, after all. Now she drinks milk from her straw sippy with each meal, and she still has a bottle of pumped milk before bed in the evening. I would call her a ‘light eater’ these days, as opposed to a ‘hardly eats anything’-er a month and a half ago. She usually eats a light breakfast and lunch and a bigger dinner.

A typical breakfast is a veggie sausage, some banana, and a couple of mini waffles. Sometimes she’ll eat almost all of that — sometimes she wants only the sausage and some fruit and just nibbles a little on the waffles. Lunch is usually something like a cheese sandwich with tomato on the side. Her favorite dinner would be pasta (she’s not picky about the sauce, but she likes marinara a lot) with cheese or tempeh. Sometimes she eats a cracker for a snack, but not every day.

Sleeping: Sleep is the same as last month. I thought for a while that she was going to give up one of her naps, but we stuck to the usual schedule, and after a week, she was back to normal. Whew! The only real change to the sleep routine has been that she goes down for naps without a bottle now. That was no problem — she was usually still awake when I put her in her crib, anyway.

Working On / Accomplishments: Walking! Only a few steps in a row, but it still counts. I’ve been sure she COULD walk if she just tried, but she never dared to take a step without holding onto anything. She’s realized what she can do now, so she’s been experimenting with it. I think about seven steps in a row is her highest so far, but she keeps improving a little each day.

M is such a little scientist — so curious about how things work. She loves to put objects inside of baskets/bags/buckets, and she understands what you mean if you ask her to put X into Y. In fact, her language comprehension seems really good to me. She’ll point to people and different objects in photos and around the room if you ask her where something/one is. She’s not into mimicking sounds (she doesn’t have any words yet and won’t repeat anything I say), but she is very good at copying actions if I show her how to do something. She’s been trying really hard to use a fork when she eats, but the food never wants to cooperate!

Most of all, it’s just amazing how much she’s changed over the last year. She’s gone from being a tiny lump in the hospital to a healthy little girl. She’s grown so much, but my love for her has grown even more!

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Our Weekend

We had the best weekend! My friend Julie came to stay (I hope she won’t mind my showing you that second photo — she and M look so cute, playing with the iPad (which Bear was sitting on)), and we enjoyed the sunshine while hardly moving from the sofas. She hadn’t seen M since July, and after spending a longer period of time with her, she came to the conclusion that M is an improbably happy baby. Well, toddler, practically. M took her first… step-and-a-half while Julie was here. She’s done it a few more times, but she refuses to take more than three steps.

Yesterday morning, Bear was on my lap, and I guess M must have been jealous, because first she tried to grab Bear (who remained unfazed and unmoved from her spot), and then M bit my toe! The nerve. She thought it was quite funny. I picked her up, and we had a cuddle, and Beany decided to join us. Just a big cuddle pile. That’s what every weekend needs.

p.s. — Oh yeah, I have really short hair again. I think I forgot to tell you.

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Life with Baby

(Yes, those two images are different! Different days, different outfits, different cats — same curiosity of the cat tree (M) and what’s going on beyond the screen door (cats), though.)

If M had arrived on her due date, she’d be a year old today. Instead, she’s only a measly .978 years old. Fifty-one weeks old. I’ll be doing her usual ‘monthly’ update on/near her birthday, of course, but I thought I’d also write a bit about how I’ve changed since she came into the world.

I’ve said before that I don’t find the whole ‘can’t remember what life was like before baby’ thing to be true for me. Maybe it’s just something people say, and nobody really feels that way — I don’t know. But I do remember what I did with my time, etc, etc. And, actually, I mostly feel like ‘myself’ these days. I realized that because when I thought back to the early months, I didn’t feel like myself. Which I think is because I felt quite… helpless? Not necessarily where M was concerned, but all around the edges. For a good stretch there, all I could do was take care of M. Even something as basic as repotting a plant seemed a fanciful dream. But somewhere around six months, we hit a magical mix of sleeping better and more independence on M’s part, and I’ve felt like I’ve been returning to ‘me’ ever since then.

Having hobbies is huge in that. Luckily, most of the non-baby stuff I enjoy doing is easily done with a baby amusing herself off to the side — sewing, baking, organizing. (Although M is a master disorganizer. The world is hers to pick up and then discard behind her.) I’ve heard a lot of guilt expressed over not amusing / interacting with (happy) babies all day long, and I’m not immune to it. But A) I have work to do during the day and B) it’s AWESOME that M plays so well on her own, and I don’t want to get in the way of that. I’m not in the ‘parents shouldn’t be playmates’ camp, but I do think it’s healthy and good for M to see that I have my interests and she has hers.

I think the biggest change for me (outside the obvious ways that having a baby changes your life) has been in my level of contentment. I think a lot of yearning for something only begets more yearning once you have it — it’s more a sign of wanting something intangible than wanting whatever object/experience you’re after. That’s what I’ve found to be true, anyway. But I really, really wanted a child — before I’d decided to become a single mother by choice, once I had but was figuring out how to make it work, once I’d done that but was having trouble getting pregnant, once there was a baby on the way but not actually here yet. It’s a dream that’s come true. She is perfect — our life together is perfect. I still have my daydreams about the future, but for the most part, I’m incredibly happy with where we are right now.

It’s allowed me to become a less jealous, more genuinely happy-for-others type of person. Some people manage that on their own, because they’re just really good people. I had to wait for M to come along. Just by being, she’s filled some important, previously-missing space in my life. I can be thrilled for other people when I hear of new pregnancies or exciting trips or new adventures. I don’t have to waste my time wishing for what other people have — I’ve got the best ‘thing’ I could have wished for.

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Minneapolis House

Hey, what ever happened to my little house in Minneapolis? Well, the short story is that somebody else owns it now. The slightly longer story is that I stopped paying my mortgage in the spring of 2013, it went into foreclosure, and the bank managed to sell it fairly quickly once they put it on the market.

When Rob and I first started looking at properties ‘up north’ (we’re actually in east-central Minnesota, but because it’s over an hour from the Twin Cities, people still refer to it as ‘up north’), the intention was to get a weekend cabin type place. Obviously, that’s not what wound up happening! Because THIS house was in foreclosure, it was a good deal, but it meant that we wound up with a big house. And when I realized I enjoyed my time up here MUCH more than my time spent in the cities, I couldn’t justify paying so much each month for a house I hardly even visited.

Add to that that the property in Minneapolis was mega underwater (figuratively — my mortgage was about twice what the house was actually worth, since I had bought it in 2006, right before the crash). I’d made several phone calls to the mortgage holder about loan modification, and even though I could find programs that should have applied to my situation, I was given the run-around, whilst the mortgage holder denied such programs existed. I’m not usually one to cut and run, and I felt pretty crappy about going into foreclosure, but it seemed to make the most sense.

I felt worst about leaving my neighbors with an abandoned house next door. Our little street was always quite nice, and they’d mentioned many times that they were happy to have a quiet, clean neighbor instead of one of the nearby noisy rental units. The house behind mine had sat empty for at least a year and a half because it had been left in such an awful state. I felt like at least my house had been cared for — I left it in a good condition, so I hoped that meant a buyer would snap it up when it came back on the market.

It took quite a while for the house to revert back to the bank and then a few months for them to list it again, but it sold relatively quickly, which makes me happy! I hope it’s been bought by another young person or family who saw that they could get a nicely-kept house for hardly anything.

For the most part, I don’t miss that house, although I did love it while I lived there. I wish I could transfer some of its character to where I am now — the wood floors and white trim and that sort of stuff. It was a nice little place. And now you know what happened to it.

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Cat Stuff

Cats, cats, cats. Birdy is now sporting a calming pheromone collar because she’s had a hard time adjusting to the kitten. She was fine until Bear started going downstairs, and now I think she feels like her rung on the cat ladder is in jeopardy. Beany is always relaxed about new additions because she’s so secure in her position as top cat, but I can see why a lumpy, neurotic cat who can barely jump (Birdy) might feel threatened. I tried the pheromone diffuser and spray, and neither seemed to have any effect, but the collar seems to be working a bit. At least she doesn’t mind wearing it. Bear went up and tapped her tail earlier (a pretty stupid move, if you ask me, but kittens can’t resist a good, flicking tail), and Birdy just scolded her instead of trying to chase her down.

Bear is really well behaved, for a kitten. She’s already calmed down quite a bit, and she’s very good at cuddling. And the dogs do a good job of wearing her out! It will be interesting to see how her relationship with the dogs develops as she gets bigger — whether they’ll all still want to play together and whether they’ll be willing to sleep near each other, too. Birdy grew up with Beany as her ‘big sister’, but Bear just has a couple of dogs to fill that role. At the moment, all five pets are in my bedroom — Nova is under the covers, Beany and Henny are at the end of the bed, Bear is sleeping draped over my leg, and Birdy is having a snooze on the floor (she likes when the in-floor heating comes on). It’s nice when everybody is getting along!

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Sunday Walk

We had a fun weekend down in the cities, hanging out with my mom and seeing some of the dibling families. But it was nice to get home again, especially on such a sunny day. After M’s nap, we headed out for a walk — it was really windy! The BOB has been great for walking on our dirt roads, but it does catch the wind like a big sail. As we got back to the drive, I saw our neighbors coming over with their tractor. They had done a second cutting of the hayfield last week, and they baled it up today. Some of their springer spaniels came over, which M was really excited about. I let our dogs out, and they had a fun time running around together.

I gave M a cracker, since she usually has one (or some cheese) between waking up from her nap and eating dinner. She was too busy watching things go by on our walk, but she made sure to hold onto it the entire way. I took a photo of her by the line of little evergreens along the edge of the lawn/field. They’ve grown a lot in the 2.5 years we’ve had the house, and by the time M is all grown up, who knows how big they’ll be!

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Recent Sewing

Here are a couple recent sewing projects. Above is the little chair I refinished for M. I bought it for a few bucks at a garage sale — it used to have a pink frame, and the seat was torn, dirty, and featured Disney princesses. The woman selling it seemed offended when I mentioned I was going to make a new cover. I guess I should have just let M fall straight through the giant hole in the seam. Anyway, I ignored the chair for a long while before I finally cut the fabric seat apart and traced the pieces onto new material. I had planned on leaving the frame pink, but it was just too sickly, and I had a can of white spray paint going spare. M can’t get into and out of the chair on her own yet, but she does enjoy sitting there every now and then. Both the cats and the dogs LOVE it, of course.

I also made this baby doll for M — using the Baby Mine pattern. I could have done a better job with the eye placement (they’re too low, but I couldn’t tell until they were perma-put and I’d started shaping the mouth/cheeks), but I still like how the face came out. It’s a cute little pattern, and I love the belly button, but the doll sits kind of oddly unless it’s lying flat. Looking at the photos, I think I might need to open it up again and add more stuffing into the torso. Right now it seems too long-bodied, but perhaps if I make it plumper, it’ll seem more in proportion. I also think preemie clothes would fit better than newborn. I thought it would be fun to use some of M’s tiniest clothes, but they’re all a little too big. I do think it’s a cute doll, though, and I have enough fleece leftover to make another, so I can have a second go with making the face.

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