Monday, May 16, 2016

Fun Adventures in Baking

A couple weeks ago, I decided to test my chocolate cake and chocolate frosting recipes with different kinds of cocoa powder, just to make sure I was using the kind I liked best.  I've always used Nestle, mostly because it's the least expensive at our local grocery store, but it also tastes very good to me.  However, I decided to test out my recipe using Hershey's and a Dutch-processed cocoa, instead.

The results?  For the cake, I couldn't really taste much difference, although there was a color difference in the Dutch-processed cocoa cake.  For the frosting, I was surprised to find that Hershey's left a bitter aftertaste.  The Dutch-processed cocoa frosting was still delicious, but I do still prefer Nestle.

While I was experimenting, I decided to try out my new piping tip: the Wilton 1A.  While this is a great tip, and a great technique, I did discover that I should never again use this technique with chocolate frosting, as the results resemble poop a little too closely for my comfort. :)

Cupcakes with Hershey's cocoa

Cupcakes with a Dutch-processed cocoa
Love and Chocolate,
Leah Joy

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Our Garden - Spring 2016

Well, folks, I've finally given up on gardening.

Okay, not entirely, but I have realized that the love of gardening my grandfather had, and that my dad and sister both have, did not get passed on to me.  In fact, I kind of hate it.  And so I rarely weed, and then, surprisingly, my garden yields very little, and I get frustrated and annoyed.  So I've decided gardening is not worth it for me.

However, I do still want to have a pretty yard, so I'll continue to add a bag of tulip bulbs every fall, because I can never have too many tulips.  And I'll probably still add a few perennials every year - stuff that doesn't require too much maintenance.

Here are some pictures of our front garden this year.  It consists almost entirely of tulips. :)

In the backyard, I still have my 4 rhubarb plants, which are doing really well!  One of them is even ready to divide!

Last year, Chloe and I planted three kinds of plants in the far back corner. (Translation: I purchased and Chloe planted.)  I'm very happy to report that they are all still alive this year, and seem to be doing quite well so far!

And that is all!  We do still have our raised beds where I've previously planted vegetables (and harvested only weeds).  I'm considering putting some wildflower seeds in there so it looks more intentional than just a bunch of weeds. :)

Love and Dirt,
Leah Joy

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cloth Diaper Update - May 9, 2016

Ah, nothing like a Monday to talk about pee, poop, and diapers.  Josephine is now almost 5.5 months old, and we've been using cloth diapers (almost) exclusively since she was about 1 month old.  We're quite pleased with them.  Sometimes I do get sick of doing the cloth diaper laundry, but then I remind myself how much money we're saving by not using disposables, and I get over it.

Today, I thought I'd share with you what products we use, links to the product, and maybe a brief review.  If you're not familiar with cloth diaper lingo (because, yes, there's basically a whole language), you might want to look into that before you read on.

It's hard to purchase cloth diapers before your baby is born because different brands fit differently. Some brands are great for skinny babies; others are better for chubby babies.  Therefore, we chose a few different brands and hoped for the best.  Thankfully, the style of which we purchased the most was also the style that fit her the soonest and the best.  Josephine is pretty small and skinny, so if you're looking for reference for your own baby, keep that in mind.  Here's the breakdown of what we have:

DiaperRite AIO and BumGenius AIO

DiaperRite One-Size All-In-One Diapers (15) - These were on clearance when we purchased them, which meant that we got them for $9.31 each (plus tax).  These are the ones that fit her at 1 month, and they're still our favorites. The waterproof fabric on the outside is much softer than on other brands, which isn't necessarily important, but is a nice bonus. I prefer these to the BumGenius diapers because of the angled rows of snaps; it's much easier to find the center snaps with these.  It's a small thing, but with a squirmy infant, every little small thing adds up.

BumGenius Freetime One-Size All-In-One Diapers (2) - These are basically the same idea as the previous diapers, but they're one of the more popular name brands.  We found these on clearance at Buy Buy Baby, so we got them for about $13 each.  These didn't fit Jo until about 2.5 months, but they're still nice.  I don't know that they're any nicer than the off-brand so far, though.

Here you can see the different styles of the absorbent inserts.  So far, I don't prefer one over the other:

DiaperRite AIO and BumGenius AIO
Pocket Diapers: DiaperRite, BumGenius, and Imagine Baby

DiaperRite One-Size Pocket Diapers (2) - These were also on clearance (sensing a theme?), so we paid $9.31 each for them. Unfortunately, these are no longer listed on the Diaper Junction website (as of this posting), so they may not be available for purchase anymore.  These didn't fit Josephine until about 3 months, but they work well for nighttime diapers, since we can add extra inserts. As with the AIOs from this brand, I prefer these to the other brands because of the angled rows of snaps.

BumGenius 4.0 One-Size Pocket Diapers (2) - Believe it or not, we found these on clearance at Buy Buy Baby, so we paid about $12 each for them.  These fit Josephine at about 3 months, and they're very similar to the DiaperRite Pocket Diapers.

Imagine Baby One-Size Pocket Diapers (3) - These were actually purchased from our registry.  To be honest, we haven't even tried them yet.  They didn't fit her at first, and by the time the other pocket diapers did fit her, we realized that we prefer to use pocket diapers for nighttime use only.  See, when you remove a pocket diaper from your baby, before you can wash it, you have to remove the inserts, which means grasping a wet piece of microfiber and pulling it out of the diaper.  Kind of gross, but worth it when it means your baby can sleep all night without a wet (or leaking) diaper waking her up.  Not as worth it during the day.  Anyway, the DiaperRite ones fit her sooner, so we've been using mostly those, and then the BumGenius ones when needed.

Below you can see the different openings for the inserts. DiaperRite pocket diapers have a slit at the waistband. Both the BumGenius and the Imagine Baby pocket diapers have a slit about an inch down from the waistband, but the BumGenius ones have a little flap to cover the slit, too.

Inside the pocket diapers: DiaperRite, BumGenius, and Imagine Baby

You can pay an awful lot for cloth wipes that were specifically made to be cloth wipes.  Or you can make your own from old t-shirts.  We didn't actually have any t-shirts to recycle for this, so we chose a middle ground and purchased a set of 24 baby washcloths from Amazon.  They work just fine.  Since we used disposables for the first month, we had an empty wipes box, and this is where we keep our wipes.

Wet Bags:
After you remove a diaper from your baby, you need somewhere to put it until laundry time.  There are a lot of different solutions for this, but we went with the wet bag route.  We have two large Planet Wise wet bags.  Every day, I take the current bag, dump the contents and the bag itself into the washer, and then bring up the bag (and diapers and wipes) I hung to dry the day before.  These do a very good job (so far) of keeping the smell in.

Planet Wise wet bag in 'Monkey Fun' (We also have the 'Jewel Woods' print.)

We also have smaller bags for travelling.  I originally thought that we'd just use disposables when out and about, but honestly, cloth is just as easy when you have the right tools. We have two of the Damero Travel Wet Bags.  These don't keep the smell in quite as well as the Planet Wise bags, but they do a decent job.  I like that these bags have two pockets; I put the dirty diapers in the big pocket, and wet or dirty clothes in the small pocket. The large pocket can hold up to 6 AIO diapers (plus wipes) if you really stuff them in.

These are the two travel bags - next to a diaper for size comparison

Most cloth diaper users will tell you to use a special detergent to help keep the diapers nice.  Some people just use their regular detergent, but just in case that would damage them, I chose an all-natural detergent instead.  We use Nellie's All-Natural Laundry Soda, and so far, we've been quite pleased with it.

Diaper Cream:
Diaper rash cream has been called 'cloth diaper's dirty secret', and that has some truth to it.  As great as cloth diapers are, you can't use most diaper rash creams with them.  Most diaper rash creams contain petroleum, which does not wash out of cloth diapers very easily, reducing their absorbency.  Now, cloth diapers can help reduce some kinds of diaper rash, but not all, so you might still need to use a cream.  Here's a good list of safe and unsafe cream ingredients for use with cloth diapers.

We use aloe vera (which we got at our local grocery store) and coconut oil.  (We also have little travel size containers with these two products to keep in the diaper bag.)  When we need a little extra protection, we use Shea Moisture or Cetaphil creams. I found both of these at our local grocery store, also.  The Shea Moisture cream has a really pleasant smell and is completely cloth diaper safe.  The Cetaphil cream is a good barrier cream, but contains zinc oxide.  The cloth diaper jury is still out on whether or not zinc oxide is safe for cloth diapers; therefore, we use it sparingly.

Our travel containers for the diaper bag

On a side note, we also tried Babyganics Non-Petroleum Protective Ointment, but were very unhappy with it.  Not only did it have a very unpleasant feel, but it also gave Josephine a rash!  (She does have sensitive skin, which I'm sure is why it gave her a rash, as most reviews of this product are very positive.)  In addition to this, it also didn't wash out of the diapers very well.  I would not recommend Babyganics ointment for use with cloth diapers or sensitive skin.

Swim Diapers:
We haven't had a chance to use our swim diapers yet, but I picked out two brands that reviewers said fit small babies well.  I'll probably post a review of these later in the year.

AppleCheeks swim diaper and a Bummis Swimmi swim diaper

And that's about it.  Please let me know if you have any questions; I'd love to try to answer them. :)

Love and Snaps,
Leah Joy

Friday, May 6, 2016

Nursery Update

My baby is now 5 months old! Wow!  It's also been 5 months since I first shared pictures of her nursery.  A lot has changed since then, so I thought it was time for an update.

Her crib has a bit more going on now. We had to add a breathable mesh bumper, because she kept getting her legs stuck between the slats and it freaked her out.  Most of her stuffed animal collection lives beneath her crib, waiting until she's old enough to do more than slobber on them.

Also, in case you couldn't tell, I did not clean up before I took these pictures.  I wanted to keep it real for you. (And I didn't want to clean.)  Next to her crib, on the floor, I keep her towels and a basket of bath toys and washcloths.  This maybe isn't the most logical place for them, but they don't really fit in the bathroom, and they're easier to grab from the floor than from in her closet.

Moving to the left, there's my rocking chair, along with another chair which actually just functions as a surface for burp cloths and a glass of water.  There's also her Rock 'n' Play, which has basically been a life/sleep saver.  In the far corner, I still have some craft stuff, too.

You may or may not have noticed, but the sewing machine and desk are gone! They have been moved into Caleb's office so that I can actually use them.  Boy, does her room feel a lot emptier without them!

The 12-cube organizer is still in place, and is a little more functional for her diaper changes now.  I still have the bags of next-size clothes all ready to go, too.

And then we're back to the changing table/dresser.

So of course, we'll peek inside.  This is how it is currently organized, but it has changed a few times since the last update.

The top drawer holds spare changing table pad covers, most of which are just blankets.  We also keep travel-size wet bags (for in the diaper bag), cloth diapers, and burp cloths.

The middle drawer holds onesies (separated into short- and long-sleeve), pants (in the bigger basket), hats, socks/shoes, and sleepers (separated into fleece and cotton).  This drawer changed the most.  In the beginning, I had it packed way too full.  I wasn't sure what size she was going to be, so I filled the dresser with all her clothes size Newborn through 3 months.  This meant at least half of the clothes in the dresser didn't even fit her - and I could hardly find the ones that did.  My mom came and helped me sort through the dresser and we narrowed it down so that we could actually find things - and get the drawers to open and shut.

The bottom drawer holds extra sheets and blankets, jackets/sweaters, overalls, and then a pile of outfit thingies for which I have no name other than 'jumpsuits'. (I really don't know what they're called.)

Having extra room in the drawers is really nice and helps keep it from getting overwhelming.  It's very easy to see what she has, since everything in there fits her.

Finally, the closet:

The hanging things haven't changed too much, but the stuff on the floor has. While it was nice to keep the bathtub in there before she could use it, now that she's using it frequently, it's pretty silly to cart the bathtub back and forth every time, so we keep it in the bathroom.  In its place on the floor of the closet, I now have bags of clothing Josephine has outgrown - plus my maternity clothes.  I do plan to eventually sort this all, fold it nicely, and put it into better storage, but for now this is functional.

And that's all, folks.  I'm sure it will continue to change, but for now, this is what works well for us.

Love and Crayons,
Leah Joy

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Changing Table Pad Covers

We purchased a changing table pad from Amazon for about $18, and were draping a blanket over it to act as a cover. However, Josephine is getting much more wiggly and we needed something a little more stable.  So, naturally, I turned to Pinterest and found a tutorial! :)

For the first one, I used a piece of fabric I had purchased from the remnant bin (one of the only pieces I've ever let myself purchase without having a project in mind).  The tutorial calls for a piece 48" x 32" which is pretty large, and this is the only piece of cute fabric I had on hand that met the size requirements.

It's very soft, slippery, and cool to the touch. Caleb says it reminds him of a pillowcase.  That being said, it was very difficult to measure and cut. It wouldn't lay flat - it just wanted to ripple.  Still, the tutorial is pretty simple and the final product is functional, even with my fabric choice.

Babies make every picture cuter. :)

After making the one, I was happy with the result, but wanted to make more, so we'd have a spare for laundry day (or in case of pee - which happens).  I didn't have any other pieces of cute fabric that were large enough, and I didn't want to buy anything new, so instead I pieced it together.

Anyone surprised I made a rainbow?

About 30 seconds after I put this cover on the changing table pad, Josephine christened it with a little spit-up.

This one was much easier to measure and cut to the right size, so naturally, it goes on a whole lot more easily.  

I love all the bright colors and fun patterns on this one.  Since this will get washed a lot, I chose to top-stitch all the seam allowances so that they wouldn't bunch up too much.  This was a good choice.

The only thing I'd change if I did this again was measure a little better.  I forgot to take the sides into account, so even though I made a pink-through-purple rainbow, it looks like I made a red-through-blue rainbow.

Seriously, everything looks better with a baby.

After using both of these for a couple weeks, I can officially say that the striped one is way better. It's easier to put on and take off, and it's holding up really well.  The pink one has already torn a bit.

Now to make a few more. :)

Love and Seams,
Leah Joy