Sunday, March 11, 2012

Babyfood Bonanza

I knew I had been needing to make more baby food. I kept going down to the freezer and seeing the bags dwindle - now that she's eating three solid meals a day, they go a lot quicker. Then finally last week we were down to a few cubes and I really needed to get busy. So last Sunday was baby food bonanza day.

Here is what I ended up making:

  • Stew meat with parsnips and carrots. She liked stew meat a lot the first time I did it, so I thought I would try it again since it is so easy in the crockpot and it makes a lot. I put the stew meat in first, then the peeled parsnips and carrots, trying to have a few more carrots than parsnips. I threw some thyme in there, a couple cups of filtered water, and let it cook on low for about 7 hours. She liked this one, but not as well as when I put just potatoes, carrots, and onion in it. I think the parsnips have a pretty strong, distinct flavor. She has eaten it by itself, but sometimes I've had to mix it with other things.

  • I found this recipe for Basic Creamy Veggie Soup and altered it a bit. I wanted to use asparagus, but Marcs didn't have any, so I ended up using zuchini, white potatoes, and spinach. I boiled some potatoes, then threw in the zuchini on top when the potatoes were mostly done. Then I just put the spinach in a skillet with a little water and let it wilt a little. I put all the veggies in the food processor with some of the cooking water, and tossed in a few Laughing Cow cheese triangles. The consistency was great and Addy really seems to like this one.
  • Lovely Lentils from I ended up using onions instead of shallots and sage instead of thyme (since the beef I made already had thyme in it, I wanted to mix things up) and it smelled really good as it cooked. I wasn't super happy with the consistency when I took this one out of the food processor. I think when things have a lot of potato in it, the food processor makes it extra gluey. I'm not sure on this one if it was that or just having all the beans in there. Addy didn't really like it at first when she tried it by itself, but I've since mixed a cube or two with other things and she eats it. Not sure that I'll make this recipe again.

The lentils and veggie soup, after being pureed.

Those lentils look about the same coming out the other end. TMI? LOL

Then I also steamed a squash, some peas, and some green beans. Oh, and some blueberries.

Needless to say, I was in the kitchen for about 5 hours total. We ended up buying two more ice cube trays because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to cycle through it all this week with just two.

It took most of the week, but I got all of it frozen. 
I love seeing the colorful little cubes pop out - I don't know why,
but something about it is so satisfying.

We have another good base of stuff in the freezer, but I still feel like I want to do some more things that are "different," especially when it comes to packing in the veggies.  I'm not sure what that is, so if anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Project Simplify 2012: Week of March 5, Kids’ Stuff

Week 1 of's challenge was kids' stuff.  Addy is only 9 months old, but I have to say, we have already been inundated with quite a few toys.  I am crazy grateful from most perspectives, because it really is nice to have different things to do with her during the day.  Especially during the winter, when you're not going outside as much.  For her first Christmas, Matt and I decided not to really get her much and just fill in things afterwards.  That was the best decision ever, because come January, neither of us could think of anything else to get her.

After Christmas, we went through things and decided that there were a few things that we didn't need, some things that we wanted to pack away for the next potential baby someday, etc.  We felt pretty good about the fact that we were already on top of not letting her toys get out of control.  So when this challenge came up, we both thought oh cool, this won't be that hard - we've already done this once.

Wow, was I crazy wrong!  When I piled all of the toys that we had in the sun room (now functioning as a play room) to sort through them, I was stunned - it took up more than half of the room!  
 This is the loot - includes all of the containers we were using to put toys in as well.

Here's what we found:
  • She had outgrown a lot of things already that were taking up valuable play space.
  • We had more duplicate things than I realized.
  • She definitely had more things than she could play with.
  • A lot of baby stuff is large and takes up a lot of space, but you would be crazy to get rid of it until you are done having kids.
  • Some toys just don't do much.  It looks cool at first, but when your baby tries to play with it, you see that it is too narrowly focused (i.e., all you can do is push this one button and it says this one phrase over and over and over).  Some toys really don't let the kid do anything fun with it.
So we ended up sorting out the toys into these categories:
  • Things that Addy has outgrown that we want to keep for potential future kids.  We tried not to keep too much fluff here.  We stored smaller things in a tub in the basement and decided to try to use some vertical space for those large, awkward things (like the changing pad, play mat, swing, pack and play accessories like the changing table, napper, etc.).  We have a bar hanging from the rafters that was largely unused, so we bought some cheap garment bags (2 for $5 at Target), and stuffed them as full as we could.  Now things are off the floor and covered to protect them dust.  I'm in love with this idea.

 Stuff hanging in the basement - my dress clothes are now surrounded.
We even hung up the stroller that went with her infant carrier.

  • Things that Addy loves to play with that are non-electronic.  These got separated into one small basket for her room, a few things to put in a kitchen drawer, and one larger bin for the sun room.
  • Things that are electronic that we like.  We split this batch in half, keeping half upstairs in her toy box, and the other half in a bin in the basement.  I will swap these out every couple weeks so we can use them but not have too many out at once.
  • Duplicates and un-fun electronic toys that we wanted to get rid of.  I'm going to see what Once Upon a Child will take first, and then give away the rest.
We also decided to move the cedar chest back to our bedroom that we had been using as a toy chest; it isn't very kid friendly with it's heavy, slamming lid, and now we have a lot less to store anyway.  We moved her actual toy box from her room down to the sun room where it will be used more.

The result?  More room to play and less clutter to navigate in the sun room.  Toys in all the places we need them, but not so many that we will never play with them all.  And hopefully a few extra bucks from selling things we don't need.

The after pic of the sun room.

Man, all of this, and she hasn't even had her first birthday yet!  Craziness. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Natural Face Cleanser... and Project Simplify is On!

Since I read about it in project 30 of "One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler," I had been considering switching my skin care to something more natural.  I figured, the expensive Proactive stuff I was using wasn't winning me any complexion awards, so really, what was the risk?  The basics of it make sense to me, which are (1), that "like dissolves like," so the best thing to use to remove oil is another oil, and (2) that it was possible that I was stripping too much of the natural oil off my face, so it was actually producing more oil to replace what I was taking off, creating more breakouts.

So I did it.  I bought some tea tree oil and a bottle of castor oil at Whole Foods.  I'm thinking that you could probably get castor oil cheaper at a drug store, but I was there, they had it, so I just got it.  It wasn't too much, I'm thinking like $20 or $25 both; I bought the Whole Foods brand of tea tree oil, since the bottle was so much bigger.  I already had extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) at home.  The mixture I used was one part EVOO to three parts castor oil, with a few drops of tea tree oil.  

At night before bed I've been rubbing about a nickel sized amount all over my face, laying a hot, wet washcloth on my face until it gets cool, and then using that washcloth to wipe it off.  In the morning I either splash my face with water or I take a shower and just don't wash my face with any soap.  I was surprised that my face didn't feel oily at all afterwards, but really looked clean and felt soft.  I've still felt like I needed moisturizer after a shower, but I think that's mostly because I take showers way too hot, and it is just dry out right now.  

And I am happy to report that my breakouts seem to be less (knock on wood) so far.  That could totally just be a coincindence, so I'm not ready yet to totally say that this new cleansing routine is the cause.  But either way, it's not worse, and this is way cheaper than Proactive (for that $25, I probably have enough oil to make this for at least a year).

On another note, it's Project Simplify month!  As you may recall, this first week is is kids' stuff, but I say if you don't have kids, you can do your own "toys" (you know you have them - all the extra hobby junk that you aren't using, or your closet).  Check out Tsh's post to get started at Simple Mom; she is giving away a set of "Lay-n-Gos", which look pretty cool, if you want to post your before and after pics on her site.  I will post some pics of us doing this later this week here too.  Happy purging!