Monday, August 29, 2011

Super Undies cloth overnight training pants review

Cloth overnight pull-ups: Were they our answer for our bedwetting boy? Absolutely.

Fed up with traditional pull-ups that leaked through each night (even with buying the overnight varieties), three months ago I decided to check out whether cloth alternatives were out there. We'd had success with cloth diapers, and even in a working home, found it was a manageable and more financially friendly option for us.

The challenge was finding a pull-up alternative. After some research, I checked out Super Undies, which was a little more expensive than some other varieties but sold definite "overnight" varieties. I ended up purchasing three cloth overnight pull-ups and what they call "soaker pods"through the company.

Three months into it, I've more than made my money back, and I have a more confident boy. He happily wears his "super boy undies" and "potty pads" (when I know he's had a lot to drink at night) each evening, without complaint. I really believe that having the cloth on has made him more aware at night - and we're having more and more incidents of "dry" mornings!

I love the fact that I don't have to do a bedding change each morning, that the Super Undies washable and dryable (though I've more than broken the rule on no fabric softener!), that my kid is comfortable using them and putting them on without mom having to help.

Yes, the cost gave me pause at first; but if you do some research, you may be able to find "seconds" (often returns, which they can't resell at full price). And if you factor in the cost of disposables - and of washing and rewashing laundry - it was well worth the investment. While I'm hoping to be through the bedwetting phase before he outgrows these, I'd comfortably reorder the next size if needed!

Disclaimer: I received no discount, payment or any other renumeration for my Super Undies, though I did my cloth seconds.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dear home association

Dear home association,

Today I received a letter from you stating that we were once again in violation of our shrub count on our property.

My 3 year old knows that 10 bushes and four trees on our little lot far exceed the minimum eight bushes and two trees required by our agreement. All of my bushes are indeed alive, though they've taken a toll by our harsh summer. (I for one, would have loved to have had my blueberry bushes produce, but the hailstorms followed by the heat meant we got fewer berries than could fit in my hand.) Others are currently obscured by the fact that my black eyed Susans shot up to unforseen heights.

Before you waste my HOA fees again to mail me a letter, please visit my property when I'm here and actually pay attention. Or take kindergarten math. Your choice.

Sincerely,
Homeowners at lot 425

Farmers market report

Today, I'm posting the final farmers market report of the summer at the Green Phone Booth. We had a chance to explore beyond our usual haunts today and came up with a few finds.

I'll be the first to admit that this season has been disappointing at best. My personal garden - and many farmers I've spoken with - have suffered this season due to the extreme weather. But I stay optimistic - especially as we embark on fall planting!



Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chinese Red Noodle Beans: A Great Find!

Purple beans, yellow beans, grean beans. Now we're happily adding red to our mix.

After last year's happy discovery of asparagus beans (which strangely enough the wasps happily hung out at all season), we opted for another variety of long beans this summer: the Chinese Red Noodle Bean. An heirloom variety, the red long beans easily grew more than 18 inches long, and the vines taller than myself.

The red noodle beans took little more than bamboo poles to climb and water to grow - no extra care or skill required - are still producing in this heat when other plants - my purple bush beans included - aren't.

I found this interesting tip from rareseeds.com: Harvest by thickness not by length, but take caution not to wait so long that the seeds bulge, which means the beans are too fibrous.

If you're looking for ideas to try these with, most recommend a stirfry, often with garlic or chilis, or try this recipe for glazed long beans from the Food Network.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lunchbox Love: Chocolate-covered banana chips

Chocolate-covered banana chips were one of those happy accidents, and an easy treat for my daughter's lunchbox. Not the fanciest, nor possibly the prettiest dish, but a great addition for her to munch on!

We had purchased some banana chips from a natural food vendor, which didn't fare so well for my children. These weren't the usual fried and salted variety, so they were a bit bland for their liking.

Instead, we shook things up by melting some chocolate chips in the microwave and letting them dip the banana chips into it. (An easy enough task that even my 3 year old could happily help.) We let them cool overnight before packing. It's the fastest those banana chips have ever been eaten!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sew what? Stuffy and the Sandwich Bags

Last weekend I was excited to have scored both a "grown-up" and a kids book on sewing at our local library's Friends sale. To which my very own mother retorted, "Will your daughter learn to sew first or will you?"

First off, I can sew. And my sewing machine? It's been lovingly packed in its box since I got it...11 Christmases ago. (Of course, I was in graduate school and working full-time, then in the middle of a move, then became a parent...blah blah blah.)

Last year, I decided my first dive into actually using it as a sewing machine instead of a potential first step for my son in his closet would be making reusable sandwich bags for school lunches. I had the chance to review a few last fall, and realized that they are fairly simple contraptions...if you have the time to make them!

So with the best of intentions, I picked up nylon scraps and velcro at a fabric store...last fall. Summer passed, and I realized that I really could use a few more sandwich or snack bags, but was hesitant to pay for more cloth wraps (or for their plastic counterparts).

So this weekend, armed with $4 worth of materials, the fabric from my beloved pink wrinkle-free Coldwater Creek shirt that ripped after four years, and a hovering six year old, I went to work. Without a pattern. Or reading the instructions for the sewing machine!

My daughter, to her credit, made felt finger puppets patterned (loosely) after those in her kids sewing projects book. And that's when I learned a few things:

1. My daughter doesn't like directions any more than I do.
2. Imperfect is OK too.

For a few hours' of work, four dollars and minimal swearing, we wound up with two sandwich bags, two snack-size bags (great for crackers or the dried mango she loves), and Stuffy and Floofy (her names) finger puppets.



For two girls who don't listen, I don't think we did bad work! And, thankfully, I have up to another year to convert my other ripped wrinkle-free shirt into blue baggies for full-day pre-K. (Oh, and mom, I guess you could say it's a tie. And I could use a few more Coldwater Creek wrinkle-free shirts for my birthday.)


Monday, August 22, 2011

Putting plastic out of schools

"Plastic is good," my daughter announced to me one afternoon on the way home. I think my eyes bugged out of my head.

What I didn't realize until we talked further is that that my recycled toothbrush-toting child had interpreted a plastic recycling message into "It's a good thing" after her Earth Day lessons.

But what if our kids were really taught that plastic is a good thing? That's what may be happening in San Francisco, and it's a scary thought. There, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the plastic lobby has influenced children's textbooks, adding statements like plastic bags are convenient to use and use less energy than paper bags. (Yes, and they hold one to two items, have to be doubled up because they constantly rip out before even one use, and will still be here for generations to come!) You can read other edits the American Chemical Society proposed and were incoporated into school textbooks on the Chronicle's website.

If you live in California, stand up about this interjection into your children's education by signing this petition.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hot dog! The holidays are coming!

Christmas lists in my household are remarkably short. I've always been impressed that my children have yet to come up with long wish lists of gift ideas.

Recently my sister, ever the planner, asked for our Christmas lists for the kids. My daughter struggled and then said nail polish. (Maybe there's an eco-friendly version?)

My son? Well, that's a different story. He requested:


  • a hot dog pan

  • a "quacker" to turn the hot dogs

  • a hot dog grill

  • and, as if it needed to be said, hot dogs.

The lesson? Feed that boy first!


Aunt B? I'll send a list of needs soon!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Local produce that's not

South Carolina peaches at an Indiana farm stand? It just seems out of place - and that it breaches that unsaid promise of locally produced (or at least grown in the state) produce.

Today at the Green Phone Booth, I'm writing about my confusion of local farmers who sell really non-local produce at their markets.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bringing out the blessings

The next phase in my story of stuff....

The summer months are an awkward time when it comes to the accumulation of "stuff." It's a time of compiling - birthday presents, school supplies, new shoes and socks, the right size of uniforms. Not to mention produce to be "processed" for the freezer for the winter, the smattering of seeds drying all over my kitchen and other tell-tale signs of summer.

But this summer, our story of stuff took a somewhat different turn. It was regifting our blessings that have gotten us through the last few years.

I've been reading FlyLady off an d on for a few years, and I admit very little has actually stuck into process (as evidenced by my office.) But the one concept that stuck with me was that our unused items can truly be a blessing for others. Maybe it's the idea of Christian stewardship. Maybe it's because so many helped us in small ways in those three years of immense need. Maybe it's simply time to pass things on.

But doing so means breaking free of worries - and in a sense, letting God take control. What if I get pregnant and need those boxes of baby items stashed in my closet (and surprisingly not yet being climbed on by my precarious three year old)? Then hopefully the right garage sale or hand-me-down will materialize.

What if I don't see that toy again? It's SPECIAL (though unplayed with), my children will cry. That too is mitigated, by sharing with a younger neighbor friend, our daycare, or baby cousin.

But those kind of mindsets take time to change. So slowly, box by box, bag by bag, items have disappeared from my house. Outgrown clothes are boxed by size and put on "sale" - dirt cheap - on our employee classifieds, helping everyone from grandmas now raising their grandkids to foster parents-to-be.

Sets of snowsuits and boots went to a garage sale this weekend, blessing my neighbor with a less expensive winter expense and me with funds to do more damage at the farmers market.

The last of the girl clothes were divided into a box for my sister (wrapped, so she can't return a holiday gift!) Those few items in unneeded sizes went next door to our expectant neighbor.

The cloth baby burp rags and blankets? Being boxed this week for our crisis pregnancy and adoption center.

My well-worn work clothes that I struggle with parting with? Getting picked off, one by one, for Goodwill.

In the end, those things that got us through the tough times might help another through their's. And it's a good feeling.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fresh tomato soup

This fresh tomato soup recipe is my happy accident. I had full intentions of testing this tomato sauce recipe from an Eating Well cookbook, except I had to change one ingredient...then another. (In retrospect, it hardly resembles the original recipe much anymore!)

My daughter tried the sauce and said "It tastes just like soup. It's making me dance." She was right. Now I'll have great soup for the winter!!

Fresh Tomato Soup
8 c. fresh paste tomatoes, chopped
2-3 T. olive oil (a few splashes around the pan)
2-3 heads garlic, chopped, depending on preference
3 c. chopped onions
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. dried basil
1/4 c. burgundy wine
1 T. balsamic vinegar
pepper to taste

Heat oil over mediu m heat. Add garlic, cook, stirring constantly about 2 minutes. Add onions and salt, stirring, cook 10-15 min. or until golden.

Add spices, burgundy wine and vinegar, simmer 2 minutes. Add tomatoes and turn heat down to keep it simmering; cook 1 hour or until tomatoes are thick and color is a deep red-brown.

Remove from heat; cool; blend with hand blender or in blender until smooth.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

At the Green Phone Booth...

Now that I've wrapped up nearly four hours of chopping and sauce-making, thought I'd pass along my market finds at the market report at the Green Phone Booth. No surprise: Ten boxes of tomatoes topped the list...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Really?

Saw this posted on on a relative's Facebook page today:


Just saw a commercial at a gas pump that said to live greener -- buy heavy
duty plastic silverware so you can wash it again and again.

Is this the dumbest green push you've ever seen, or have you read worse?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Talking school lunches

Coupons littered my living room floor this weekend, spurred on by my husband's insistence that we actually do something with them rather than just collect them from the Sunday paper.

Trying to enlist my soon-to-be first-grader to help me sort just brought on new challenges as she created her own shopping list.

Sponge Bob yogurt.
Dora yogurt.
Granola bars.
Disney princess fruit chews (though the fruit part is questionable.)

I could have simply said no. Instead, we spent a good part of the afternoon having a conversation about what makes a healthy lunch for school. We talked about the need to add fruit or vegetable. To drink milk (hopefully the white variety). To enjoy things like chocolate pudding cups in moderation. That there are healthy foods and sometimes foods.

After last year's concern with not eating enough, I've been hesitant to put on too much pressure when it comes to what she eats - quantity, that is. But she certainly can be enlisted to make healthy choices along the way.

I'm thrilled that she wants to take on packing her own lunch each day, though I wonder how long that will in fact last. She'll be happy to make peanut butter sandwiches...but for how long? Just to prepare, I'm expanding her options by buying a stainless steel thermos (hot pink trim, of course) for her to pack hot lunches on cold winter days and stocking up on a few more reusable containers for her to pack berries in.

Needless to say, I'm still on the lookout for some fun, easy-to-assemble ideas for making lunches. Have a great idea? Share them below!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Daisy Girl Scouts and Our Farmers Market Find

Year two of Daisy Girl Scouts is almost upon us, and I've found myself in the somewhat unplanned role of co-leader with four other moms. This year, the leaders with experience suggested we take on an animal badge, which includes of all things, talking with a farmer, veterinarian or person who otherwise works with animals.

And so crossed an unlikely resource: One of our farmers market discoveries. A local high school senior had begun selling beef at the local market this spring as part of her 4-H project. She's young and a woman - both of which will appeal to our city-slicker girls. Can't wait to here what she has to share this fall!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Not my cooking disaster

I snuck outside this evening to drop in a few quick pea seeds before the next batch of rain. What I didn't realize was my garden helpers had once again abandoned me.

I found them at our kitchen table, eagerly working on their "dinner." Having talked their babysitter into ponying up a tomato before they left, they had sliced it in half and squeezed it like an orange to juice it - as a dressing for her fruit salad of apples and ground cherries. Apparently it was an epic fail.

"I washed it out," my six year old confessed. "It got badder and badder; it was disgusting."

Instead, they opted to make a second dressing of orange juice and water, "and then we stopped. By our 15th bite, it got badder and badder with every bite."

I suppose I could have talked her out of her fruit salad idea in the first place. But to succceed at anything, sometimes you need a few stumbling blocks, too!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Backpack Blues

No new backpack this year. You'd think this small thing wouldn't have caused a big stink.

Other than her name scrawled in pen across the front - the result of boredom one day in after-school care - my daughter's backpack is in reasonably fine shape and can stand another year's abuse. First grade is not particularly challenging in terms of bookload or backpack weight, one would think, so I think we'd be fine for another year with our $5 used kid store find.

But no. When I picked up my daughter for daycare this week, I announced she needed to bring her back home to wash it, so I could see what shape it was in for school.

"But I NEED a new backpack!" she said. "Mine has my name on it! It's a mess!"

We talked about choices - it certainly wasn't mom's writing on the front - and that we didn't need to replace something that wasn't broken. I don't know that she's convinced. But truthfully, the thrill on Aug. 17 will be on seeing friendly faces she's not seen all summer, not whether the Tinkerbell backpack is back for round 2.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saving bok choy seeds

Bok choy (or pak choi) is a great discovery for our Chinese food-loving family. The challenge is finding it just right. The stores offer huge, foot-long bok choys; the farmers markets on rare occasion offer small ones with more flavor, but they also aren't bred to sit on your refrigerator shelf.

So this year, we decided to try our hand at growing baby bok choy from seed from one of our heirloom catalogs. The problem? With our rainy spring, we started too late, and they bolted quickly.

It took a lot of research to find out anything about harvesting these seeds. If you're interested in saving seed, you have to wait until these little pods that form turn brown, then you can harvest them.

You'll want to split the pods in half - which you can easily do by hand - and both sides will likely have tiny balls of seeds covered with a small film. Reminds me of "ants on a log." Just peel the film back and dump into a container.

The seeds I've found are very prolific and easy to harvest, though it does take time. It's great if you love bok choy! In fact, once this heat wave passes, I'm excited about a fall planting.

Interested in trying bok choy? I have so many seeds that I'd love to share. Leave a comment if you are interested in some seeds!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Funky sheep and burping monkeys: And how was your weekend?

This weekend, we took the rare road trip to Evansville, Indiana, to see my parents. It's a rare treat for my children, as my remote-loving father has his gadgets far too close to the ground and my mother's scrapbook room is packed with tempting toys for the children to attempt art with. (In other words, it's far easier on them to keep the kids on our turf and for them to come visit.)


What to do when it's too warm to get outside much and you have excited children? Sometimes, you bite the bullet and run them off.

Saturday, after reading my lament at the Green Phone Booth that the kids wouldn't go marketing that weekend, my mother had stumbled onto a few "market" ideas. We found a Saturday morning market in Newburgh (by reading the paper), hit a farm stand (air-conditioned building, horray!) and a fourth-generation orchard that tempted me with rows of boxes of peaches, the last of the season.


But the greatest memories for my kids weren't food-related at all. No, it was jumping on grandpa's spare bed, not to mention the funky sheep and burping monkeys.


Be careful what you tell your kids.


We hit the Mesker Park Zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the country, early Sunday morning. As all kids are at that age, it's see the animal, and what's next? Until we saw a sign for the burping monkeys.




Yes, apparently as part of their socialization, belching means friendship. I started laughing about it, and of course, that is what they remember. Not the cheetahs they wanted to see for two hours. The burping monkeys.


The same goes for our stop home. We stopped at Lincoln's boyhood home, which the kids had grabbed a sheet about at the visitors station. (Incidentally, they have kids' days every other weekend in the summer.) My 3 year old was ticked that Lincoln was nowhere to be seen, but finally settled into going to see his house and the living farm. Not impressed by that. My 6 year old loved the attempts to carve wood pegs (which I'm sure impressed her woodworking grandfather!). But then, I heard these words: "Let's go see the funky sheep."


Funky? I have no idea what prompted that particular adjective.



Yep, you can try to teach your kids history, try to teach them about animals, try to teach them about eating local, and they'll just remember about burping monkeys and funky sheep!