our favorite toys: wheely bug

Details: Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug (small) | Amazon | $60

We’ve been blessed with a very busy toddler so I’m always on the lookout for toys that expend a lot of energy. If they can be used inside – over long cold winters – all the better in my book. I bought this bug for Kaylee around her first birthday and while I wouldn’t consider it one of her very favorite toys, it has gotten a lot of use over the past year. There are several different animal varieties to choose from in two sizes (small and large). After reading tons of reviews on the subject, I decided on the smaller size because Kaylee is on the small side for her age and I wanted to be sure her feet would touch the ground from the start. She was able to sit on it and manuever right away, and now that she’s over two, she can really get it going pretty good across the wood floors (not so great on carpet). And, we can easily store it in the house without feeling like we’re tripping over it constantly.

The wheels rotate 360 degrees so it can turn and spin quite well. The seat is actually dense foam which gives it some cushion, and the construction is sturdy with minimal plastic (it shipped pre-assembled!). It is also really low to the ground with a wide wheel base so I have never worried about her falling off. I imagine she will probably outgrow it by her fourth birthday and at some point I may consider picking up the large bug too and pass this one down to the baby. We’ll easily get about five to six years out of it, which is something I wasn’t anticipating when I bought it (and is really amazing for a baby/toddler toy). Overall it is a well made ride-on usable by the pre-trike set that will last through several kids. Highly recommended buy.

Nature Babycare Ambassador Program

We love Nature Babycare diapers. Kaylee has been in them since we switched from Seventh Generation at size 1. We tried Pampers and Huggies for a while but Kaylee has super sensitive skin and ended up with a terrible diaper rash that wouldn’t go away. Once we switched to Nature Babycare it cleared up. The really nice thing about Nature Babycare is that they are corn based, free of chlorine &  perfume, plus they are 100% biodegradable. They cost a little more in the stores, but we get them through Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program which makes them about the same or slightly cheaper than Pampers (~ 23 cents per diaper for size 4). Since they are made of corn they do feel a little different on the outside and they don’t hold up well to water – no swimming in these. They are fairly absorbent though and we rarely have a problem with leaks unless she wakes up sopping wet. Even then, the diapers tend to hold up until we take if off then it starts to fall apart.

Shortly after we started using them I visited the website and signed up for the Ambassador program. Like most other rewards programs, it allows you to trade points that you accumulate from purchasing various products toward free stuff. Points accumulate quickly because we get things by the case so I already cashed in points towards free wipes and shampoo when I received an email letting me know they are getting ready to make some changes to the program and all of the current codes will no longer work after August 15th. So I decided to use all of my points towards 2 sets of the eco friendly wipes, shampoo, bubble bath, and wash kits.

A couple of weeks later a huge box arrived on our doorstep. At first I thought it was the Subscribe and Save subscription from Amazon, but I opened it to find this:

A box full of Nature Babycare items, way more than I should have received from the points program along with a note thanking me for participating in the program and letting me know they threw in a few extra items they thought I might enjoy, including an extra set of wipes, shampoo, bubble bath, and wash, plus diaper rash cream and lotion. I now have several years supply of bath products that I got for free. I love that there are still companies out there that focus on the customer while trying to make the world a better place. I can’t recommend Nature Babycare enough.

things i love: evite

We have a pretty large guest list for Kaylee’s first birthday ~ 50ish people give or take. I toyed with the idea of getting invitations printed up, but decided against it since it seems like a waste of time and money for something that will just end up in the trash. I opted to use evite instead and I think they turned out really cute, plus they’re free! They even had a theme that matches Kaylee’s bedroom colors and, all I had to do was decide on which picture to use, fill in the details, and add my guests’ email addresses. Evite takes care of notifying everyone for you and provides a space for people to leave comments and invite other people too (if you let them). It works out really great as a party planning tool. The only downside is when your less tech-savvy guests (Kaylee’s grandma) make things hard for you by inviting other guests without going through evite and you lose count of who is coming. Not a big deal unless you’re trying to figure out how many favor boxes you need…

crafts: Kaylee’s birthday banner

With only 2 months left until Kaylee’s first birthday bash, planning and crafting is in high-gear. We already booked a spot at the same forest preserve where we got married, which lends itself well to a woodland theme. It will also allow us to use several of the crafts we made for the wedding. Needless to day, I have lots of projects going on at the  moment. The first one is Kaylee’s name banner that will go on the food table. I have been meaning to make this for a while now to replace the paper name sign above her crib which will be its permanant home.

 

There are a ton of tutorials online you can use if you’d like to make one of your own (like this one, or this one). The concept is simple enough, triangles and bias tape, so I ended up just winging it. Mine is made from the same fabric as her quilt and bedding, plus a linen backing and bias tape. I drew a few different sized triangles on plain printer paper until I found the one I liked best. I used Word to find a font and printed up her name on paper then used the pieces as a template to cut out the felt letters. I then attached the letters to the fabric with various colors of floss using a blanket stitch. Then it’s mostly simple sewing, turning, and ta da – a finished banner in one weekend. The rose was hand-made by a friend.

My hope is that this will be something we can use for her parties for years to come. And, it will give her a nice keepsake to take with her someday.

Home Made Organic Baby Food

I borrowed several books on the subject of home made baby food from the library. I finally settled on Baby Love: Healthy, Easy, Delicious Meals for your Baby and Toddler. I have made 4 recipes so far and they have all been easy, cheap (even for organic ingredients), and yummy. The nice thing about  Baby Love is that it has a ton of pictures, anecdotes, and includes meals for toddlers, older children, and adults. It will have more longevity that some of its counterparts that focus on the first year.   

The method the book uses for the baby recipes is to cook, blend, and freeze in ice cube trays. It works out beautifully, although as you can see, my cubes are suffering from mild ice crystals – it doesn’t seem to change the flavor though. I have been using zip lock brand freezer bags, but I’m looking into getting one of those foodsaver contraptions used on ebay to see if that helps. Each recipe so far has filled two ice cube trays, and about 2 quart sized bags. I keep one bag in the main freezer and the other in our chest freezer.

As you can see here, I also have some frozen organic peaches, mangos, and a banana all waiting to be processed into food. Being winter, we don’t have access to organic fruit that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, so I have been stocking up on frozen fruit and veggies from Peapod. The farmer’s market opens again in our area soon. I’m really looking forward to incorporating fresh local produce into Kaylee’s diet. And, speaking of frozen bananas, here’s a quick tip, if they are going bad before you get a chance to use them you can put them in the freezer. The whole skin will turn brown but the fruit itself stays yellow. You wouldn’t want to eat them straight up, but they are great in any recipe that calls for bananas, like my signature shake.  

For the past month I have made one recipe a week, typically on Sunday mornings. It usually doesn’t take any longer than cooking breakfast, and once the batch is made, it is just a matter of microwaving individual servings on demand. I started out with apple, banana, pear, which I modified to leave out the pears because we didn’t have any, and instead of regular flax I added blueberry flax from Trader Joes. Kaylee absolutely loves it.

Next we tried Blueberry, Pineapple, banana – which is very messy and does stain. Because of this she hasn’t had much of it. The following week I made the edamame & pea puree, which was listed as an 8 month recipe and came out rather chunky. After a few bites I decided she really wasn’t ready for it and we will wait a few weeks before giving her more. Yesterday I made creamy cauliflower, which turns out very much like super smooth mashed potatoes. Kaylee really liked this one too. I have also been able to use up the rest of my breast milk stash by adding one cube of BM along with one cube of food.

As for the meal preparations, originally we were using ramekins to heat up Kaylee’s food. Then we saw these Dutig bowls  in the toy section at Ikea. They are the perfect size, made of stoneware, and are food safe. In case you are wondering, I have already dropped one on the floor and it didn’t break. After doing some research, I read that some plastics have been found to leech chemicals into food when heated. Most plastics listed as microwave safe are (you really shouldn’t heat up saran wrap or take out containers), but I don’t want to take any chances, and besides, these bowls are adorable and when she grows out of them she can use them for her dolls.  

Mommy’s little helper wearing her new jammies from Old Navy. Wooden spoons make the best toys!

Diaper Recap

I was obsessed with diapers while I was pregnant with Kaylee. First there was the decision between cloth and disposable. It actually turns out that disposables are the lesser of two evils where the environment in concerned (after factoring in laundering and caring for cloth). At the time I started researching, Seventh Generation was the top “green” brand, but the only thing really green about it is that they chlorine free. They still take just as long to degrade as a typical diaper.

When I signed up to create our registry at Toys R Us, I discovered that if you sign up for their rewards card you are automatically enrolled in  a program where if you buy 9 cases of the same brand of diaper you get a 10th case free. I also found out that Pampers has their own rewards program called Gifts that Grow. Plus, Toys R Us will let you exchange unused cases for a different size. On top of that, Toys R Us often offers opportunities to get giftcards for buying cases of diapers. The whole thing seemed like a no-brainer. I happily went about stocking up on cases of Pampers every time there was a gift card incentive. I ended up spending between 13 and 17 cents per diaper for their premium swaddlers brand. Life was good.

Then, about 4 cases in to my plan,  I discovered Gdiapers which are a hybrid system that allows you to use both cloth and biodegradable disposable inserts. I bought the new baby starter kit that contained 12 tiny gpants for 6-10lbs and 6 small gpants for 10-14lbs. I also bought two cases of disposable reflil packs and never got around to getting the cloth inserts because they were always out of stock at Babies R Us. Gdiapers were great in concept, but they turned out to be cumbersome and time consuming, particularly for Scott who was new to diapering all together. We used them off and on for her first couple of weeks but I eventually broke down and bought a case of Seventh Generation newborn sized diapers, which made the millions of changes in those early days so much simpler. I ended up selling the 12 tiny gpants on eBay, and actually made back more than I paid for them. After discussing it with Scott, we kept the small sized gpants and will give it another go with baby #2, once the newborn phase passes.

Another hitch in my diaper stocking plans came once Kaylee was born. She was such a little peanut that even newborn sized diapers were huge on her. Everything we had on hand at the time leaked, including the Huggies that the hospital sent us home with, the tiny gpants, and the pack of pampers we got at our shower. I had a sample new born sized Seventh Generation diaper that fit her perfectly. So I ordered a case from Amazon…

Oh, Amazon, how I adore you! First there is the fact that I can order a case of diapers and it shows up on our doorstep the next day. Second there is the Subscribe & Save program which is totally and completely awesome! I buy everything I can with subscribe and save (diapers, cat food, toilet paper, horizon individual serving milk, etc) for one reason, an extra %15 percent off with no obligation for further subscriptions. Plus, right after Kaylee was born Amazon came out with their “Amazon Mom” program which offers an additional %15 off diapers & wipes. That’s 30% off and they deliver! I can’t imagine there is a better program out there. I buy all of Kaylee’s diapers through Amazon now. And, by the time baby number 2 comes around I am not even going to bother stocking up – there’s no reason  to with Amazon’s super fast delivery and ongoing discounted prices through Amazon Mom and Subscribe and Save.

By the time Kaylee was in Size 1 diapers I had found a new brand, Nature’s Babycare. They were perfect for us. They are made from corn and are biodegradable, fit her great without any leaks, are better for her skin than the leading brands, and are cheap through Amazon’s programs. The only downside we have found so far is that they run slightly small. So, while we are still working our way through my size 2 Pamper’s stash (with pleanty of room), she is already in Nature’s Babycare size 3s.

In the end, I didn’t have enough Newborn sized diapers to start. She was horribly allergic to Huggies and ended up with a diaper rash any time we used them (almost all of the diapers we received as gifts were Huggies). We have two cases of Pampers size 1 diapers left over. We have a tub full of size newborn and 1’s that she outgrew before we finished the packs. I’m pretty sure I ended up buying enough diapers for two kids – we may be able to rely solely on Kaylee’s left-over stockpile for baby #2.

My advice is to sign up for Amazon mom, buy all your diapers and wipes there, and don’t stock up too much. And, if you do stock up, you need to be prepared that your baby may be too big, too small, or have a sensitively to a particular brand – and it may change from month to month.  As I mentioned above, the only diapers that fit Kaylee well as a newborn were Seventh Generation – however SG size one were too long for her short torso and leaked. Huggies fit great but gave her a rash. Nature’s Babycare size 1 fit her very well, but she was only able to wear size 2’s in that brand for 2 weeks before growing out of them. She has been in Pamper’s size 2 the longest and even then, she outgrew the regular version but the swaddlers are still roomy. We have since moved on to Nature’s Babycare size 3, which fit great at 6 months old and 17 lbs.

Kaylee’s Room

I finally got around to posting some of the details of Kaylee’s nursery. I was hoping to get some nicer pictures, but lighting has always been an issue in her room. And, while  it has quite a happy hue in person, it doesn’t translate well despite my bag of Photoshop tricks. Take a peek here or click on the tab labeled “Kaylee’s Room” in the menu above.

Crafts: doll bed set for Kaylee

I finished up the doll bed set I have been working on for Kaylee.  The bed is from Ikea which I sealed with beeswax and plan on covering the screw heads as soon as I get a counter-sink bit. The bunny is a Miyim organic toy we received as a gift (which I highly recommend. very cute, well made, great company, and organic).

The quilt matches the one I made for her for Christmas (which disappointintly, is not holding up very well and already needs a few repairs)

I made a mattress (which is really just a pillow), a mattress cover, two pillows and cases out of matching fabric – more of the stash from Paris.

Here you can see what everything looks like apart

Kaylee looks so tiny next to it. She seems so big lately, it is nice to see her in perspective once in a while so we remember that she really is still just an itty bitty thing.

tucking bunny in

before taking everything off to chew on a little

My new obsession: Bento

Bento seems to be all over the place these days as part of the debate around the state of the school lunch program in America. I’ve been thinking about getting a bento box for a while now in the hopes of finally breaking my addition to zip-lock bags. I finally settled on this bento inspired stainless steel lunch pail that I found on Amazon.  

It is called the Tiffin and was created in India. It has 3 compartments and a small tin for dressings. The only downsides I can see about it so far are that you can’t microwave it and it’s not water-tight.

This was my first lunch…

Strawberries and grapes, a turkey sandwich on Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats 100 Calorie Thin Rolls (which are totally awesome by the way), babybel gouda cheese, fresh caramel corn from the farmer’s market and cottage cheese. The pail is the perfect size. I had more than enough food for breakfast, lunch, and a snack.  I was pleasantly surprised by fast shipping and anxious to get started when the pails arrived ahead of schedule. This was all I had on hand, but I’m looking forward to creating more traditional bento style lunches in the future and creating a stash to make it easier. The Just Bento website is filled with lots of great ideas – and info about using bento as a weightloss method. The nice thing is that bento lunches can be as simple or elaborate as you’d like. The first one I packed was really simple. In order to save myself some time in my morning routine, I just made double the portions and packed one for Scott at the same time the night before. Then I just tossed both of them in the fridge so they would be ready to go the next day. 

 I’m already looking for another bento type box to use for hot meals that can also hold soups. I’m sure I’ll start a small collection of them soon. I’ve got my eye on this set and of course, I have to get a My Neighbor Totoro box as well. I can pass it along to Kaylee when she’s old enough along with my love for the movie.