Afternoon Hanging Out

We were hanging out in the family room this afternoon, before M’s second nap, and I grabbed my DSLR to take some photos. We both really like it down there. The light is nice, and it’s comfy, and some of M’s best toys are in the family room. Her little sofa arrived just over a week ago, and she loves it. It usually stays folded out into the ‘sleepover bed’ like this, for maximum lounging space, but it can also be folded into a regular sofa shape. It was in sofa mode earlier today, and M piled all her cushions (from her tent) on top and then climbed on up. Then she clapped for herself.

She’s fifteen months old today!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Kitty Cat Doll Makeover

This is kind of dull, but it might be interesting to other parents whose kids have beloved stuffed animals. Kitty Cat Doll went to the spa today, and I splurged on the deluxe package for her. (Read: I washed her by hand instead of throwing her in the washing machine.) The top photo is from Last January, when Kitty Cat Doll was brand new. One of the features of Moulin Roty’s Les Zazous collection is that you can put them in the washer, but I do think it’s the washer that’s responsible for how matted Kitty Cat had gotten. Although maybe it’s just washing in general that takes the luster out of the fur. She’s not even particularly DIRTY in the ‘before’ photo — that’s just what lots of cuddling and semi-regular washing has done to her.

Anyway, when Kitty Cat came due for another bath this week, I thought I’d try brushing out her fur — if not to restore her to her former glory, at least to release the crumbs and fluff that were trapped in her mats. I hand washed her in soapy water first and then rubbed a lot of conditioner into the fur. I used my own hair brush (with fairly stiff nylon bristles — the only one that ever worked properly to get my hair in a ponytail when it was long) to brush the fur in every direction. I added more conditioner after that, so it could really get into the fur, and I let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it all out. One spin cycle later and some time in the tumble dryer, and she’s looking a lot better.

The ‘after’ photo is what she looked like freshly brushed. Because the sheen is gone from the fur, it doesn’t stand up like that on its own anymore. But at least it’s not matted, and it’s MUCH softer now. I actually bought a second Kitty Cat Doll a little while ago (in case the original one ever goes missing), and it’s interesting to compare the two — and KCD is only a year old! When I showed M the new one, she was offended and didn’t want anything to do with it, but she’s come around and is now quite interested. I had to hide it in my closet yesterday, because I’m sure it would only be a matter of time before M decided she needs to haul around TWO Kitty Cat Dolls wherever she goes!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Two Meals

Just a quick-ish post to share two recipe links. I was sure at least one of them would be a dud (just because of the odds / my recipe luck), but nope — both were AMAZING. Even with my apparent inability to have the correct spices on hand.

For lunch, I made vegetarian farro sloppy joes. There was a lentil sloppy joe recipe that I made a few times (a number of years ago, now), but this one is my new favorite. I never would have thought to use farro (or any grain) as a base for sloppy joes, but it has such a good texture and flavor. I ran out of chili powder when I made chili last week, and since it called for only a tsp, anyway, I substituted a little more than half a tsp of cumin and a little less than half a tsp of chipotle powder. I skipped the cayenne, because I didn’t want it to be too spicy for M (and the Worcestershire sauce, because I didn’t feel like tracking down a bottle of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce for one recipe). It was still mildly spicy, so I rinsed off M’s portion in a mesh strainer, just to be on the safe side. She wasn’t a fan, though — a texture thing, I think. But I LOVED it. I put a little shredded cheese on top and some chipotle mayo on the bun. It was so messy, but so good.

For dinner, I made a vegan lentil loaf. I’m going to blame Evernote for my seasoning mix-up on this one. I ‘clipped’ the recipe so I’d have the ingredients list handy later, but it hid half the list when I viewed it on my phone. I think that wound up being a blessing in disguise, because I really like how it came out with my substitutions. (It’s probably tasty as written, too, although I’m not a fennel fan, anyway.) I omitted the parsley (since I hadn’t bought any) and used 1tsp thyme, 1tsp oregano, and 1/2tsp ground sage. I had my doubts about this one when I put it in the oven — it just didn’t smell like something that was going to be delicious. But I was wrong! Mine doesn’t hold together as a loaf very well, but who cares! This meal was a big winner for both M and me.

Now that we’re nearing the end of the week and the end of the two weeks of meal plans I’ve made, I need to start thinking about what to do starting Monday. I definitely want a third set of meals so we don’t have to have the same stuff we had last week right away again. It’s a little tricky to come up with stuff that M’ll be into / able to eat, too. Any ideas?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bath Toy Alternatives

I’m not getting rid of ALL of M’s plastic toys. She has some really cool/beloved items, so my aim when I weeded through her stuff was to get rid of the really cheap plastic toys and generally tip the balance towards safer ones. But I did decide that all the plastic bath toys had to go. Which meant taking away 95% of them. D’oh! I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of her sitting in warm BPS soup every day.

And you know what? It’s really tricky to think of non-plastic bath toys! A lot of the materials that work as plastic alternatives (cloth toys, say, or ceramic dishes or glass sippies) aren’t really safe or practical in a wet, soapy environment. That left metal and wood. When I was shopping for glass flour canisters, I added some little stainless steel funnels and a small colander to my cart, as well. And I made a little pine boat for M, which I sealed with natural beeswax polish (I’m not really convinced that warm bath water won’t just make the beeswax melt and ‘disappear’, but it was the only kid-safe thing I could think of — as long as the boat dries off between baths, it probably doesn’t matter, anyway).

It looked a little desolate when I put her new ‘toys’ in the tub, but she LOVED them. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since everybody knows that little kids prefer non-toys over toys, right? She had such a good time putting the funnels into the strainer and then taking them out again (that’s a fun activity if you’re a toddler). Then we took the sail off her little boat, and she discovered she could thread the funnels onto the mast. She also has a natural rubber shark from BeginAgain, but she wasn’t interested in it. (She’s had it for seven or eight months — I’m reluctant to buy more of those toys because they’re made in China, and I’m not convinced they’re 100% safe, and since M was more into her non-toys, I won’t bother.)

I’d like to get a couple of small (4oz) enamelware cups to add some color and give M something to scoop water with. As far as I can tell, enamel is safe. And I could make a couple more boats. I’d really like to think of a way to make a sail that M can easily take off and put back on, since that seems to be the main attraction. Maybe cotton canvas would be sturdy enough for that. It seems silly to pay so much attention to things M will play with for only 5-10min/day, especially when she’d probably be just fine with a washcloth. But it’s so fun to see her entertaining herself!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Decluttering Progress

First of all, thank you for all the very helpful comments on the last post! I knew you guys would have some good ideas. After looking at the options, I decided to get a second Life Factory bottle for M. They DO leak a bit, but after some experimentation, I realized that they only leak what’s left in the straw when you close it (if that makes sense). Given that some of her plastic sippies can leak a LOT if the lids are just a little out of alignment, this isn’t really so bad. Unfortunately, the Life Factory bottle have a plastic lid/spout, but at least her milk doesn’t have to sit in plastic anymore.

Anyway, I’ve been making progress with the kitchen decluttering. Last week was ‘Kitchen Cabinets and Drawers’, with nice manageable tasks each day, like tackling the tupperware drawer. Until I got to Sunday, which said, ‘Declutter kitchen cabinet shelves.’ And I was like, ‘Uhhh… there are still a LOT of shelves left in this kitchen!’ So I spent a big part of the weekend tidying up most of the remaining cupboards — only to realize that THIS week is all about the pantry and spices and baking pans, etc. Whoops. I still have some leftover tasks to take care of, or I could’ve taken this entire week off (from decluttering, anyway!).

I’ve got some new (glass) containers being delivered for my baking ingredients, so I’m not 100% done with the spices/baking cupboard. I put up two little spice racks from my old house, and they hold the baking spices now. I need to replace a lot of my older seasonings, but I’m doing it little bit by little bit. Here’s a before and after of the greater pantry area:

The food in the pantry was looking a little more organized before I did our big shop for the week, but that’s okay. The top two shelves are all food (our cereal and chips are in the cupboard above this one). The heavy food processor used to be in the base cabinet to the left, but I moved it onto a slightly higher shelf in the pantry and put all the attachments and pieces in a container, so I can easily pull it all out. The plastic drawer unit is baking supplies — things like cookie cutters and icing bags, etc — and that stuff will someday go in the cabinet toppers, once I’ve built the rest. Someday. Some… day…

The base cabinet used to have our recycling, which is now in a couple of nice pedal bins. That freed up a lot of room! The blue tub has various small-ish appliances: the immersion blender, the ice cream maker, the waffle maker, etc. I put some rarely-used whatsits on the shelf in that cupboard, since it’s a pain to get down and grab things from there. And I moved my mixing bowls into the remaining space.

There’s a nice, sturdy lazy-Susan in the corner base cabinet, but it was still sort of overwhelmed when all the bowls AND extra stuff was in there. With the bowls out, it now holds lesser-used cooking pots, strainers, and baking dishes (most of the baking pans are in the cupboard next to this one, though). I included the photo of this cabinet with M swooping in (up above) to give you a taste of what I was up against while I was trying to organize the lower cupboards. As soon as I opened this door, I heard the ‘thud thud thud’ of her running over to investigate.

The last cupboard I took care of over the weekend was the upper corner cabinet. It’s got our more-regularly-used pots and pans. I also moved the measuring cups and spoons into this cupboard when I sorted out the utensil drawer. There were trays and colanders on the top shelf — I moved the trays into a tub in the pantry and then moved the biggest pan up there. I use it probably less than once a week, so it doesn’t need to be conveniently placed. There’s still room up there for the two wire colanders I always use. The shorter middle shelf is a good spot for the measuring cups, which frees up the entire bottom shelf for the pots and pans I use daily. Would you believe I nearly got rid of this set when I moved up here? I had let them get pretty grimy, and I thought they were past saving. My mom convinced me to take some steel wool to them, and they shined up as good as new (eventually). The dishwasher does a good job of keeping them clean now (unless I cook eggs in them), and I think they’ll be around for many more years.

The kitchen is starting to shape up!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Not-Fantastic Plastic

One of the recent decluttering tasks was to organize the ‘tupperware’ (here is the before and after). Given the news that recently came out about plastic, I was tempted to just throw it all out, but I figured Rob might want to still use some of it (either for food or non-food items), so I held onto the matching containers. That left one basket empty, and I moved M’s sippy cups into it, which means I don’t have to cram them in with the regular glasses or leave them on the drying rack.

Of course, I’m looking to get rid of those plastic sippies ASAP. I’d like to just transition her to juice glasses and cups, but after some experimentation, I just don’t think M is ready. So I want to find a couple of glass sippies (with straws) to tide us over for a while. I bought a Life Factory straw bottle a while back, but I don’t love it for M — it leaks when it tips over. I found a few options once I started looking, though, so I guess I’ll just pick a couple to try.

I’m curious to hear what others think about the plastics news. On one hand, I’m not surprised — I’ve long been suspicious of the ‘safe’ plastics, trying to make sure M’s food isn’t very warm when I put it on a plastic plate. (Those plates have been cleared out of the cupboards now.) But it’s still disturbing. I can’t afford to just up and replace EVERYthing — I don’t think many people could. And when you’re trying to avoid it, plastic seems to be everywhere. I’ve tried to weed out most of M’s plastic toys, which luckily are mostly ones that she’s outgrown, anyway. I feel like you have to take a ‘something is better than nothing’ stance in this effort. I mean, I don’t want to get rid of all the plastic toys. But there’s never been a better reason for putting a ban on noisy, brightly-colored junk.

Trying to avoid plastic is just another example of how the greater status-quo makes it so difficult to change one’s own behaviors/choices. It feels almost impossible to escape the mountain of plastic packaging that accompanies any purchase, for example. I’d love to buy more food from bulk bins, so I don’t wind up needing to recycle so many cardboard containers, but the nearest store that sells in bulk is an hour away. I feel like that should just be a default option for grocers, even in small towns like mine.

Anyway, I’m sure some of you guys have some great tips for alternatives to typically-plastic products. Please share! I love this on-line store, Life Without Plastic. I haven’t bought anything from them yet, but there are a LOT of products I would ‘add to cart’ if I ever decided to go on a shopping spree! I highly recommend Juniperseed Mercantile for their lip balm, which comes in cardboard tubes. It’s my favorite! Also, I recently switched to J.R. Liggett bar shampoo (this one is coconut and argon oil, but there are a few varieties). I’ve been using it for about three months, and I love it. Granted, my hair is short, but I use this shampoo without any conditioner, and if I don’t add any styling ‘product’, my hair feels SO soft. What are your favorites?

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

My Two-Week Meal Plan

In addition to trying to declutter the house in 2015, I’m also really trying to get out of my meal rut. For real. I know I’m tired of hearing myself say, ‘But NOW I’m REALLY going to cook more!’, so you probably are too. In the past few years, the only way I’ve been able to keep myself from falling back into the pattern of eating the same junk day after day has been to make meal plans. And now that I’ve got less time and focus for creating meals on the fly (THANKS A LOT, beautiful and perfect baby M), it just helps to have it written down, especially for the shopping side of things.

Right now, I have two full week plans, which I intend to alternate between, although I think I’ll make a third, just to space out how often meals get repeated. It’s just lunch and dinner that tend to stump me (as long as there’s SOMEthing I like for breakfast, I don’t really care what it is). M also winds up eating a lot of repetitive meals, and they’re not usually the same thing that I’m having, since I make healthier choices for her than for myself. But the meals I’ve come up with are mostly things she can eat, too. I keep waiting for the spell to break, but at the moment, she’s still pretty open to eating whatever I give her. (She’s a light eater, but not picky.)

There’s not much point in my posting the meal plan (it’s not interesting, and I don’t have actual recipes for any of it), but here are some of the meals from this week: tofu scramble, pasta bake, tomato soup with tortellini, veggie chili, salad with black beans and sweet potatoes, and then easy weekend stuff (grilled cheese, pizza, eggs and hashbrowns, tacos). Today, we had tofu scramble for lunch (with leftovers for tomorrow) and pasta for dinner (with leftovers to freeze). M’s pasta bake has sauteed bell pepper and grated carrot and cottage cheese mixed in with the sauce. Mine is just grated cheese and sauce.

I posted about tofu scramble on Facebook last week (I hadn’t thought about it in ages, and it turned out M loved it), and I got a couple of friends interested in how I make mine. I don’t usually measure stuff, but I kept track this time around. I pressed the tofu (one pack extra firm) in a cloth, in the fridge, overnight, although doing it earlier the same day is fine, too. About an hour before cooking, I mashed the tofu with a potato masher (so much easier than with a fork) and added:

– 2 Tbsp soy sauce
– 1.5 Tbsp nutritional yeast
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp chili powder
– 1/2 tsp onion powder
– 1/4 tsp turmeric

The turmeric makes the tofu yellow when it cooks. Tofu scramble is often meant to be a substitute for eggs (hence the ‘scramble’), and even though I don’t think of it that way at all, I still like adding the turmeric. I always cook my vegetables first. This time I used bell pepper, yellow zucchini, grated carrot, frozen corn, and black olives. I season and salt them as they cook. Cooking them first gets rid of extra water in the veggies, so your scramble won’t be soggy. Once the vegetables are done, I add the tofu and stir it all together in the pan. Then I let it sit for a bit without stirring, so it can brown a little bit on the bottom. I stir and repeat a few times, until the tofu is nicely cooked. This veggie combo made the scramble a little sweet in addition to being savory, but it was pretty good! I usually eat tofu scramble as-is, but it’s also really good in a tortilla with BBQ sauce (or probably any other condiment).

p.s. — M usually has a fruit/veggie pouch as an appetizer before lunch and dinner. For lunch, she ate all of the pouch, half her scramble, almost all the mandarin oranges, and three crackers. For dinner, she had another pouch and pretty much all the pasta I had put on her plate.

p.p.s. — Here is a before and after of our oven mitt / foil / etc. drawer. I didn’t have to take much out — just straightened it all a bit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Decluttering in 2015

A little while back, one of my friends posted a link to this decluttering calendar. (I can’t quite remember who, but my money is on Katie.) I’ve decided to tackle the year-long mission to declutter the house because, oh boy, does this house need some decluttering. I got rid of a lot of stuff when I packed up my house in Minneapolis, of course. But this house, even though it’s a lot bigger, has MUCH less storage space, since almost the entire downstairs is finished and livable (and being used). Regardless of space, I just don’t need as many bits and pieces as I have.

I spent Sunday catching up (mostly) with some of the days’ projects I missed while we were gone / I was lazy. I tackled clearing off the counters and dining room table, which always makes such a big difference to how the house looks. I’m pretty good at tidying, but I’m terrible at keeping rooms tidy. I’m trying really hard to change my ways, to set a good example for M as she gets older. Here are before and after photos for the kitchen and dining room Both the ‘before’ photos are fairly typical scenes when nobody else is around (although I was in the middle of unloading/loading the dishwasher when I snapped these… but I could say that most of the time, so…).

The dining room table is a particular bane of mine. I often go through the mail in the kitchen, so I wind up making stacks of it on the table, and then I daren’t move them, lest I forget to take care of / pay / call about something. I did come up with two solutions yesterday: I switched the sides the M and I sit on, so I’m next to the sideboard. That way, I can keep my journal in there (I write down the previous day’s events during breakfast) instead of on the table. And I bought an over-the-door, triple-hook thingy to put on the back of M’s chair, to hold all her bibs. There’s no drawer space for them in the kitchen, and they look messy just lying around.

I also bought two pedal bins, which I put in the corner of the dining area. There used to be a stool there, with the dogs’ food container on top. We’ve been trying to come up with a better place to throw the recycling, and I think this will be great. At the moment, there are two smaller plastic bins/buckets (one for card, one for plastic/glass/tin, which I sort when it’s ready to go to the recycling sheds) in one of the base cabinets. They don’t hold much, and they take up a lot of cupboard room that could be used for kitchen-y stuff. I’m excited about the new bins (= something people don’t usually say) — maybe someday I’ll build a shelf to go above them, to use the space better.

I’m finding the daily-ness of the daily missions a little challenging, as I tend to do big tidy-ups and reorganizations instead of thinking about it every day. But that’s probably exactly why it’s a good idea. What do you think? Another couple of weeks before I give up entirely? If anybody is interested in this stuff (and maybe even if you aren’t), I’ll post more before and after photos as I make progress through the house.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Downtown Weekend

M and I spent the weekend (Friday and Saturday, actually) with my mom. My Christmas gift to her was this girls’ weekend, with a stay in a fancy hotel in Minneapolis, so we could walk the skyways, shop, eat, and just hang out.

We stayed in the Grand Hotel Minneapolis, and M loved the room. She was so good-natured and flexible while we were away. She was too excited to take her afternoon nap on Friday (we had just checked into the hotel, so she was high on investigating everything and sitting on the fluffy bed), but she didn’t utter a peep of complaint the rest of the day. We brought sushi back to the room for dinner, with a rice bowl for M, and I wondered how on Earth she was going to eat without even a chair to sit in. But we put a blanket on the floor, and she happily walked around the living room, coming back to grab a piece of avocado or tofu and then toddling merrily away again. She actually ate a decent amount! She had a harder time sleeping in the Pack ‘n’ Play — it’s been about 4-5mos since she’s had to sleep in one, and I think she’s old enough now to be weirded out by how different the situation was. I could tell she was happy to be back in her own crib last night — we both slept right until 6:00am this morning. (We’re morning people — that’s practically sleeping in.)

After we checked out of the hotel yesterday, we went to Como Park Conservatory, so we could stroll around in the nice, humid air. M had a short nap on the drive over and was a little tired still while we were looking at the plants, but as soon she saw the toy section of the gift shop, she wiggled out of my arms to investigate. She grabbed the plastic okapi above, who wound up coming home with us. I have no idea why she gravitated towards this particular toy, but last night we were watching the video of her in the gift shop, and she would giggle every time she saw herself grab the okapi off the shelf. Maybe her spirit animal is a funny, stripy giraffe-thing.

I’ve got more pictures from our Minneapolis weekend on my Instagram, including a couple of short little videos. M has been a sponge for picking up new gestures/behaviors lately. She’ll rock a doll if you sing Rock-a-bye Baby, although a lot of her rocking seems a bit too vigorous to be used on a real baby. And she’s big into shaking her head ‘no’ if you suggest something she doesn’t want. Which is… sort of helpful, in a way. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this already, but she’s started wagging her finger when I scold the pets or tell her not to open a cabinet, etc. I think she originally learned that from singing Five Little Monkeys. When she does it after I remind her not to open a cupboard, I’m never sure if she’s finger-wagging to remind herself that it’s a ‘no-no’ or to tell me off for getting in her way!

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

M’s Spaces

I got a couple of new pieces of furniture for M’s room (the nightstand and the dresser), so I organized all her stuff and thought I’d take a picture during the three minutes it stayed tidy. You might remember (or not) that I was using a few plastic baskets to hold her clothes, which worked well when she was smaller. But as she gets bigger, so do her clothes, and they weren’t fitting in the baskets as nicely anymore. There was a cheap dresser in her closet, but it wasn’t a very nice piece of furniture to have out in her room.

I initially wanted to buy an antique dresser (and I’m still wondering if that would have been a better choice), but I decided to get a pine one from IKEA, to match the twin bed and cabinets that were already in the room. I’m not 100% happy with it — the quality is much lower than those two older IKEA pieces. But it might look better once I’ve waxed the wood, and of course it won’t looked quite so cramped when she someday moves to the twin bed and doesn’t need the crib in there anymore. I was trying to decide what to do about drawer pulls, since I don’t like the pine ones that came with the dresser. Rob saw them lying on the floor and asked if they were mushrooms, so now I’m thinking I might paint them to look like little red-capped mushrooms — that would be cute and free.

M’s corner of the family room seems to get a little bigger every day. She also has toys up in the living room, but more of her big stuff is downstairs. She loves her tent and the cushions inside it. I’ve been tempted to put up my actual camping tent to play in for a couple of days, but I’ve decided I have to finish tidying up the family room before I start making a new mess. M’s corner is looking pretty good, but my (sewing) corner is still a disaster!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments