Thursday, September 17, 2009

right now...

i read this chain over at luvinthemommyhood. i love this type of chain, so here goes mine. if you do one, post your link in the comments, so we can visit and read about you!

Making : plans for the kids' birthday party
Cooking :
oatmeal muffins (recipe to come in another post), granola, and homemade dish/laundry powder
Drinking :
tassajara cook book
my "to do" list to be empty
at photos of my kids
on the computer
embellishments on lala's birthday crown
there were more than 24 hours in a day
the weather, my kids, and a break from them at the moment
Waiting: for the washing machine to finish, so i can hang laundry
our daughter's music charter
what to make everyone for christmas
: my family
Hoping: for so many things
Marvelling: at how quickly time is passing
a new vacuum and a replacement pyrex for my mother in law (ever exploded one of those in the oven?)
hot, baked granola
jeans and a top from the clothing swap a couple of weeks ago. and flip flops, of course.
doctor's orders
of mike
Bookmarking: moments in my mind, as so much is changing so quickly
Opening: lala's school work folder (so much progress, already!)
Giggling: at finnian's version of the dancing santa boogy
Feeling: content

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

corner view: september

corner view returns today! did you miss it? i did! this week's theme: september.

EDITED to add (at bottom)...corner view explanation and pie recipe!

what is corner view? corner view, started by jane, of spain daily, is a community of bloggers from all over the world who, on wednesdays, post their photographic "take" of a shared theme. if you are interested in joining corner view, visit jane's blog, post a comment and tell her you would like to participate!

and, yes, those are home grown, organic apples. yum. oh, i do love apples. and yes, applesauce (much made and frozen already) and apple pie (many made and eaten already). applesauce is simple to make. simple cut and peel apples, throw in a pot with 1/4 C water, and simmer. simmer them until they turn to sauce.
here is a huge secret. my mom's apple pie recipe, which is, hands down, the best apple pie recipe in existance. (trust me, even pie connosieurs agree!)

barbara's apple pie
1/2 C sugar (add more to taste)
1 T cinnamon
2 T flour
1/8 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
10-12 C apples, cored, peeled, and sliced thinly and then halved (you want LOTS of apples packed down in the shell)
2 T butter
pie crust (see below), pierced with a fork and pre-baked for ~5-10 minutes

combine dry ingredients and mix in sliced apples. pack sliced apples into the pie shell. cut the butter and sprinkle on top.

instead of a top crust, sprinkle the apples with the following crumble mixture as a topping:
1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C butter, cut into small chunks

bottom pie crust
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
2/3 C cold butter
4 to 5 T cold water

combine flour and salt. cut in butter until crumbly. stir in water to moisten. divide in half, flatten, wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate. roll flat and press into pie pan. makes 2 shells.

(C = cup, T = tablespoon, t = teaspoon)

bake pie at 425F for 50- 60 minutes

for septembers around the world:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

goodbye summer. hello autumn.

my latest examiner article is up and is about clothing swapping. relevant to all. additionally, are any of you interested in writing for the examiner? if so, please let me know in the comments!

this might possibly be my favorite time of year. in fact, yes, i think it is, although, when spring pokes its head into view next year, i will welcome it happily, too.

although not technically fall yet, autumn, for me, is the start of september. this was my first mamma year, ringing in autumn with the start of the school year, but it has arrived in familiar ways, too. the changing colors, the warmth, the changing light, the apples.

and i do love apples. apple sauce. apple pie.

even lala was in apple spirits.

and to send summer on its way, i might as well call last week the week of root beer floats. at last week's antiques market, mike (after listening to me moan longingly for a root beer float, for at least 2 months now) picked up a full sized A&W root beer mug. it is an identical match to a baby one we have that was his as a child. then he snuck out and bought root beer and ice cream. oh, joy. does this man love me or what?

Monday, September 14, 2009


we are settling into elementary school around here, already thinking the charter school lala is in was the perfect choice. in the first two weeks of school, lala's class saw a performance of hansel and gretel and viewed president obama's address to the students in the auditorium with the rest of her school. her class is scheduled to see the local symphony next month.

and the music. after getting over the bumps that change brings, lala is so happy to have music everyday. she's enjoying reading about music in the evenings, talking about rhythm and beat. i love it.

and she is already learning. never previously interested in writing much, she now happily writes in upper and lower case, as long as i am able to spell words out for her.

once home again, art is the one of the things that lala always wants to do. art falls right in line with music as one of her favorite things to do, and while they do it in school, i am not sure it could ever be enough for her. so, with regular school days, our new schedule, and sudden rainy weather, i see an increase in the congregation at the table for coloring time. and it's nice.

and one artist found a satisfying new medium. himself.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

birthday with family

two posts in one day?! why not?!

we celebrated lala's birthday (yesterday) and her uncle brien's birthday (it was friday) last night at granny annie's house.

the birthday girl
the birthday boy
the family

enjoying leftover cupcakes today!

before and after: house exterior

thank you for the birthday well wishes for lala yesterday. we had a lovely day with friends, then family. unfortunately, my camera has been acting up and none of the photos i took turned out very well. i am hoping i can make it limp along awhile longer before replacing it!

i do have some semi-visible photos of house painting, though!


white with teal trim and red walkway/driveway.

cafe latte with cream colored trim and green walkway/driveway/front and garage doors.

better, don't ya think? (and those are my cute ones doing a rain dance. first rain of the season, following a couple very hot, sunny days!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009


i added new photos at the bottom...

my sweet lala bug,

i am not sure how we have found ourselves at the very birthday i could never find my way to imagining beyond. when you were born, five was the limit on where my mind wandered to as you grew. i knew, even then, what a big step kindergarten would be and you were my little baby.

in so many ways, you still are, but here you are, five today(!!), and so very much you. at five, you get your own library card, which you have been wanting and waiting for! you know who you are, what scares you, what you like to be called, what your favorite colors are, that you love music and art. you are opinionated. you are one of the most loving and nurturing people i know. you are an amazing big sister. you are curious, yet cautious. you are shy until you are comfortable, and then you are goofy, giggly, excited, and friendly.

you have changed my world. you are one of the most loving, happy, amazing, exasperating, thoughtful people to have come into my life.

i am so proud of you and so very, very lucky to be your mamma. thank you for helping me grow as i help you grow.

happy birthday, sweet isabella sofia.

love, mamma

ps. i am blowing you kitty cat, front loader-back hoe, chocolate cake, and all my usual hugs and kisses today!

back to add some morning birthday photos (forgive the lighting. our weather went from sunny and hot yesterday, to rainy overnight. finn and i woke at 5:30 to thunder and lightning. unusual in our area)...

below is the gift i made for her. we had received a doll sized pack n' play on freecycle. finn uses one in our bedroom for naps, and she really, really wanted "a case and a mattress like the one finn has."

Friday, September 11, 2009

friday link love

a new examiner article is up. this one is definitely relevant to the masses, not just local folk. thanks for the continued support. click here to link through or visit my link in the right hand column.

happy birthday to my brother in law, brien!
as for me, i am scrambling to finish lala's birthday present! happy friday!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

cloth diapers - i've come full circle (review #3)

now, while i know this topic is only relevant to some of you, i felt a personal need to bring my cloth diapering posts full circle to a semi-conclusion.

if you look at my labels list over on the right, you will find a category on diapers. if you are planning to cloth diaper, it is worth a skim of all of the posts, truly. my journey through cloth diapering has been an interesting one. i have traveled through the research stage, pre-baby, through cloth diapering a boy and a girl, 2 different body shapes, through free diapers and covers of all kinds (seriously, i think i have tried most of the basic velcro wraps and a handful of the pockets.), and through persistent rashes.

here was my last review, #2, when babe #2 was 4 months old. he is now 21 months old.

on to review #3. this is text from the previous reviews, updated once again:

we generally use a combination of Chinese diaper service quality (DSQ) prefolds (those flat diapers that are called prefolds because they are layered with more thickness in the middle) during the day. i twist and snappi these in place. we also have a handful of Motherease one size fits all snap-on cloth diapers, and i use these mostly when i am letting finn roam around the house with no cover. i love the prefolds. even with pocket diapers i use our prefolds, not the inserts that come with them. prefolds are incredibly versatile.

at night, we have battled with leak and rash problems with both kids, but with finn especially. it had forced us into paper diapers (to prevent rash) covered in cloth and a cover (because the paper wasn't enough to stop the leaking). we have now jumped for joy at the following night time set-up for him: a punkin doodle dual stage diaper with night time doubler, fleece liner, and a wool or fleece cover. we also tried a raw silk liner, which didn't work for us. we discovered through trial and error that the fleece liners we were previously using simply needed to be replaced. i just couldn't strip them well enough. i sometimes alternate with a paper diaper for him at night. i comment briefly on paper diapers, below.

our 5 year old is ~44 lb girl still wears cloth at night. she comfortably still fits the extra-large fuzzi bunz stuffed with a toddler prefold and an infant prefold. she has few leaks and no rash problems. this same set-up did not work for finn.

COVERS: i have tried A LOT of them. we have a handful of fuzzi bunz (pockets) that we used exclusively for lala in child care and now use for out-and-about times with finn. (all the other pockets we have tried, leaked, including bumGenius and blueberry minkys.) my hands down favorite covers, consistent through all the sizes, are Proraps. they don't wear out, they don't leak, they fit a variety of sizes and shapes, and they are cheap.

in our quest to get finn out of paper at night, i have made a handful of fleece and wool covers. i resisted dealing with wool for a lonnnnngggg time, but i admit, the wool in combination with the absorbant night time diaper have made a huge difference for finn. i read the articles on washing and lanolizing wool at and it is so easy! i use our kids' gentle shampoo to wash the wool, rather than eucalan. we use expensive J/A/S/O/N/ shampoo, so it isn't that much cheaper than eucalan, but it is a little bit cheaper, eco friendly, and safe on finn's rash-sensitive butt.

BARRIERS: i have learned the olive oil is the best healing "grease" for my son and cornstarch powder is fabulous at keeping dry. both are diaper safe and will not increase the need for stripping. (google 'diaper stripping' for information on removing build-up on your diapers and increasing their functionality.)

QUANTITY: we try to change hourly when in cloth during the day when in regular diapers. we generally don't change babes at night after they consistently stop pooping in the night (around 3 months for our kids). i think having a stash of 30 or more prefolds and 8 or more covers is ideal.

SOILED: we use Bummi’s coated nylon sacks for transporting dirty diapers, covers, and wipes and for lining the dirty diaper pail (a Diaper Champ).

WASH: we wash every day or every other day. cold rinse. hot wash (with second cold rinse selected) with Country Save laundry soap. (i tried a huge number of detergents in my quest to get finn free of rashes.) i often put vinegar in the rinse cycle. i dryer dry the diapers. i hang dry the covers and Bummi bags. any stained diapers or covers are hung in the sun. i use the dryer for the diapers, because otherwise, they become very stiff.

TIP: imse vimse liners are great for dealing with poop and reducing the need to dunk. Tushies disintegrate, often while still on the baby, and gerber EZ liners, my first favorite, are no longer made. both the imse vimse and gerber liners can be washed and reused if not soiled.

OTHER RESOURCES: is awesome for reviews. you can buy and sell used diapering supplies there too. you can buy/sell at, too. you are no longer allowed to sell used diapering items on eBay. (lame!) i have bought most of our new diapering items at great service! (if you buy there, use my name. you get a discount, i get credit.)

additionally, you can make your own. most of my wool and fleece covers are homemade. the wool covers are made from old sweaters. simply follow the link i gave in the first paragraph to see all my posts on diapers.

PAPER DIAPERS: i have tried a huge number of paper diapers while dealing with finn's rashes (one bad rash lead to a staph infection) and when traveling with both kids. my goal has been to find something economical and preferably eco-friendly, that also absorbs. i have tried most of the major store and name brands. my current favorites are target store brand for economy and whole foods store brand for ecology.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

moving forward - the next installment - (almost) natural style

as with last week when i did some heavy thinking on paper (or blog, rather) followed by a better post, i suppose i have to do the same this week.

nothing like a long weekend of garden, family, sewing, nature, and thrifting to squelch those inner demons.

my take home from the yard sale of a former antiques dealer and au naturale mama and teacher. those are hand knit baby doll clothes. for bella for her birthday or christmas, don't ya think?

what also helped is that, following my post and reading all of your comments (thank you! thank you!), i realized what is bothering me, specifically, is how many of our kids' items i feel most compelled to replace. i feel this pressure to be 100% natural with them. (waldorf tendencies, i suppose?)

this just isn't realistic for us. we can't just up and yank every toy, cup, and clothing item, and replace it with all natural, organic materials. it is too expensive and honestly, in my opinion, too hard on the environment to have everyone tossing all this stuff in favor of newly (albeit perhaps more sustainably) manufactured stuff.

and you know, what? i am okay with some unnatural, yet just plain fun, plastic toys. i acquire them very inexpensively second hand, which, (beyond the previously listed reasons) i prefer, because they have already off-gassed, so won't be doing that in our house.

and that question about where to start? beyond organic, local, seasonal food, when possible, we started with BPA and phthalate free (not necessarily non-plastic) materials for those items going into the kids' mouths. offering what we are replacing on freecycle (noting that said items are not BPA and phthalate free). and we are going forward from there.

and, as mike says, "nicola, you have to stop reading the materials that leave you feeling bad!" and so i will. (and no, none of the blogs are by any of you who visit and comment here!) i also liked what melinda has to say about sustainability on the simple frugal green co-op.

organic, homegrown abundance. what gets picked when the garden has been neglected for a few days because of exterior work being done on the house.

and so, forward we go...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

botanical garden

it wasn't just one article! i have my own byline. my second examiner article can be found here. i promise there will be articles along the way that frugally relate to everyone around the world, whether you share my corner of it or not!

yesterday, our little family needed a break from home and lala was asking for an outing to see flowers. so we took ourselves off to a nearby botanical garden. there weren't many flowers in bloom, but the setting was beautiful, the kids ran along the paths, we had a snack on a shady bench, and it was simply perfect.

and above, that worn stump that mike and the kids are sitting on? that sits in the middle of the redwood grove that mike and i really wanted to be married in, so much reminiscing was done as we watched our kids explore and enjoy.

(no, we didn't end up marrying there. it was perfect for the small ceremony we wanted, but our wedding grew, as they often do, to accommodate all those friends and family our parents wanted included!)

Monday, September 7, 2009

to the market

after posting my first examiner article about the antiques market, we had to go, of course! this time, we invited all the grandparents as well. and yes, we had to buy a few things!

a gorgeous view beyond the market

wooden dollhouse furniture dining room set (plus extras), a score by granny annie, which she bought and knocked off lala's birthday wish list!

small stack of linens of various sorts

a jar full of buttons

perhaps the best purchase, but one considered the entire outing before it was purchased...a gorgeous wicker doll buggy. in beautiful condition and a reasonable price, my mom and i both wanted this to come home with one of us, but neither of us could make up our minds to buy it. i would have snapped it up, had lala not been gifted a doll carriage by my parents for christmas last year. we decided we would loop back by this vendor on our way out and if she still had it, one of us would buy it. she had it, so my mom bought it to live at their house.

hope your weekend was full of thrifty fun!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

her first week

lala's first week was a bumpy one in unexpected ways and smooth in unexpected ways. we learned that we know our quirky little one well, but i think we learned some new things about ourselves and each other.

she had a tough time with drop-off, which is extremely coordinated due to the small lot the school has. what a different routine for all of us. finn and i used to walk her to preschool, which began later in the morning. dada had already gone to work. now, dada drives her and drops her. finn and i have to walk her to the car and wave goodbye. a teacher removes her from the car and sends her to the auditorium to sit with her class until her teacher comes to walk them to class. it wasn't the separation from dada that was a problem. it was having to walk by herself to the auditorium. by the end of the week, we knew who she was most comfortable with pulling her from the car and that dada has to ask them to send her with a group of kids.

she had a tough time with music class! this was unexpected for us. music class brought daily tears and stress dreams. music has always been a love for her and we assumed would be the highlight of her day. having a different teacher and new routine was hard for her. having chairs, instead of sitting on a rug was an issue! and having to sing when pointed to, rather than along with the group...she didn't like that either. but again, by the end of the week, she was making progress.

she worked her name/nickname confusion out for herself. who was i to think i might just suggest to her teacher what she be called? (note to self: almost 5 year olds have strong opinions.) she practiced writing her given name a lot and enjoyed her homework! (which i promptly lost. terrible, i know.)

and us? mike loves being involved in a way he hasn't been able to be, previously. i am having to learn to step back. and the three of us are having to talk through issues in a way we didn't before, because in kindergarten, i can't just talk with the teacher daily like i could in preschool.

the school in general? we are pleased. already, the kindergartners have seen a play (hansel and gretel, which of course, scared lala) and are scheduled to go to the symphony next month.

so, a little bumpy. a lot emotional, but i think this is going to be okay. as lala said friday afternoon..."is tomorrow a kindergarten day? i had fun, but i am ready for a family day." you got it, kiddo.

Friday, September 4, 2009

book love

thank you for your support and excitement at my online examiner writing announcement. i have published my first article! to shamelessly self-promote, i get rated and paid by page hits, so i would so appreciate a click through, whether you are interested in the topic or not.

i haven't posted a book love list in awhile. here are some that we have been enjoying.

bella has a growing collection of "big kid" books that appeal to her now. here are a few of those that are less widely known. in addition to those pictured below, she has been enjoying ah, music, by aliki. a perfect accompaniment to her first week at her music-based charter school.

as for me, my creative interest is wavering back towards cooking and baking. i say wavering, because my mind seems to be headed that way, but the weather is so hot, i cannot veer towards fresh bread quite yet.

i have read about the tassajara bread book on several blogs. when i saw it on soule mama recently, i thought "i must get that book from the library!" well, it turns out my parents have an older version in their personal library. i borrowed it, as well as tassajara cooking, sunset's cookbook of breads, and baking illustrated. my hips aren't going to like it when i put these books to work, are they?!

what's in your book loving library right now (child or adult!)?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

the natural "norm"

does your brain ever have one of those chain reactions? the kind that takes a couple of seconds for you to process and domino through a series of thoughts, but takes several minutes to describe or several paragraphs to explain on paper?

yeah? well, bear with me through one of those from me, today.

when i posted about our garden happenings on tuesday, i realized that i had spent half of my original post (which i edited before clicking "publish") defending several things i was sharing.*

my defensiveness was a self-inflicted response to all i have read recently and ties directly back to the "comparing myself to others" tendency that i mentioned previously.

i am drawn towards writings that are about natural parenting, sustainable food, simple living, and frugality. during this past week, i have read several articles, blogs, and books that have left me feeling inadequate. i read of other families living and speaking to an environmental, natural standard that i cannot seem to reach, despite living in an area of this country that supports this style of living fully. sometimes, i feel as though writers aren't just sharing personal experiences. they are pointing a finger through the page and saying this is how i should be living, and i am left feeling lacking, despite otherwise feeling comfortable with my place in this environmental/natural parent/frugal triangle.

i am aware that condescension is rarely the intent of the writer, but if so many people write in this way, is this the norm? how does one achieve a life that idyllic? and where does one get the money to live this way so fully, because truly, it does take some funding.

in addition to 1) the cost of being earthy, the challenges are that 2) there are some things that are just so very difficult to give up, even if i know them to be unhealthy (either for us or the planet), and 3) there is so much contradictory information about earth friendly practices.

i am still on the same do we do we become more earth friendly without going broke? how do we do it without sacrificing every guilty pleasure? how do we convince our children they don't need the cheap plastic toys their friends have, when they are sold for a quarter at yard sales? where do we start?
the questions are rhetorical, really, because the answers are the same as the first time i asked them.

this life, no matter how i/we choose to live it, is a work in progress.
everything in moderation. one step at a time.

as we each need to, we've made our own decisions about how we can live as simply and safely as we are able right now, using the best information we can find on which to base our choices. i believe natural materials are wonderful choices, but you won't see me giving up fleece anytime soon, nor will i say no to plastics and bleach for medical reasons. i will happily stick with so many of things i have always done, such as hanging laundry, using cloth for everything, buying used, recycling, planting mostly drought tolerant plants, growing a garden when i can, and more.

letting go is such a huge step in living more simply, something many of us need in this age of information overload. we are very lucky to have all that we have in this country. now we just need to be wise about how and when we use all that is available to us.

*curious, aren't you, about what i deleted? here is a list:
1) our outdoor toys are plastic. (outside. not being put in mouth. free.)
2) the fire pit. (yes, recycled concrete block, but yes, burns carbon emitting wood.)
3) size and shabbiness of our yard, which contains grass. (grass is a water hog to the eco-experts. dead, to those of us who don't water during drought.)
4) additionally, i am hyper aware of (and am still comfortable with) using plastic containers for cold, non-microwave use. the mass movement seems to be to glass (cheap, but not a great option with toddlers), BPA and phthalate-free plastic, and stainless steel (pricey).

the truth kids like (non-local) bananas, they sometimes do prefer the plastic toy with bells and whistles over the (preferred by us) simple, dada-made wooden toys, and campfire smores have not gone out of style.


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