Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Home Made Birthday Gift of the Year: The Perfect Picnic Blanket

Sorry for the bad picture, it is all rumpled from being rolled up in our closet

Still no baby so I am trying to squeeze in a few last blog posts I have been meaning to do. Unfortunately I have been feeling lousy and very very tired so I didn't take any decent pictures of this project but you'll have to take my word for it that it turned out great!

I try to do home made gifts as much as I can (and supplement with store bought, I love giving gifts!) so for Eric's Birthday this year I made him a gigantic picnic blanket! We did a ton of picnic dates in the early days of our relationship, when I was in grad school and he was out of work and money was tight to say the least. Now that we have a little one (and one on the way) going out to eat can be really difficult for different reasons. Picnics however are a great kid friendly activity, we can get in a date night and bring the little ones along too! I have been eyeing the awesome picnic blankets that have a waterproof side for a while and decided to make one of my own this Summer. You can find the tutorial I used here. I love this version because it is extremely large but still folds up small so you can store it in your car, plus it has pockets for storing your goodies!

Close up of the fabrics
It uses a lot of fabric so it can be expensive to make but I saved up some coupons I had for Joanne's and was able to spend a little less that way. It was very easy to make because it was all straight lines but a little tricky just because there was so much fabric to work with. Anyway, it turned out lovely and I can't wait to get some use out of it when the weather cools down, I see a lot of picnics in our future this Fall!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Plethora of Peaches

Wow we are really getting close to having this baby! I have been so uncomfortable this week that I am just ready to get it over with and meet my little girl. Luckily I have lots of things to do to take my mind off the pregnancy. For example, I have had to find ways of using up the gigantic box of peaches I bought at the farmers market last weekend! We buy peaches from Pearson Farm all Summer long, they are seriously the best peaches ever! Peaches also happen to be one of my very favorite fruits so when our peach lady told me last week she could give me a deal on a big box of scratch and dent peaches I jumped at the chance. This gave me about 50 very ripe peaches that I had to find something to do with right away.

Well it just so happened that my Birthday was last week and I got a bunch of canning supplies and a canning cookbook so the time seemed right to try my first ever (unassisted) foray in to canning. I have a good friend who kindly showed me the basics of canning last winter so between her tutorial and the instructions in my book it wasn't too difficult however it was very hot! It's a shame so much canning needs to be done in the Summer, I think I'll wait until cooler weather and maybe do apple sauce next time :-) This time around I made canned peach slices in vanilla syrup. I haven't tried them yet but they have every appearance of being delicious and I was thrilled that I was successfully able to seal the jars and complete the water bath canning process with no incidents. We also froze some peaches for smoothies, left plenty whole for snaking, and used some for making peach simple syrup.

I won't go in to instructions for the whole canning process at this point (maybe some other time when I have more energy!) but I do encourage anyone who is interested to try it some time. It seems intimidating but it really isn't that bad once you learn the basics, I am definitely excited to try it again! The peach simple syrup was so, well.... simple, to make that I will tell you how to do that though! it's also a great way to use up your leftover peach peels.

To make the peach simple syrup you take all your left over peach peels and put them in a large sauce pan. Put in enough water to cover the peels and bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain peels and any solids by poring the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth and measure the remaining liquid. Return the liquid to the pot and add as much sugar as you have liquid (this uses a LOT of sugar, I actually didn't have enough in the house so I had to short mine a little but it still turned out fine so if you want to reduce it a bit you could). Return mixture to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Store in an air tight jar or bottle in the fridge.

I have been mixing my simple syrup with club soda to make a sort of peach soda and it is delish! We've also used it in peach milk shakes and has worked quite well but I bet it would be really delicious in a cocktail. Maybe I'll have some left for after the baby is born and I can try it in an alcoholic beverage then :-)

Friday, July 11, 2014

"Cooking" with Echo

Seasoning her creation

I've found the best way to get things done in the kitchen lately, it is basically an advanced version of the coffee play I mentioned before. I am so tired and uncomfortable from pregnancy that any little thing that can help me entertain Echo without too much fuss is a life saver! She always wants to help me cook and wants to be involved in everything i do in the kitchen but she is too young to do much since she can't chop and is still not great about understanding that hot things will burn. I usually let her put seasonings in but she always wants to add way too much so that can be a problem too.

What I've been doing lately has been working really well though and I thought those of you with toddlers might want to try it. I set up a little station for her at the kitchen counter and put out a number of small bowls and plates. I pull up our Ikea stool so she can stand at counter height and then I fill the little bowls with dried lentils, flour, dried beans, loose tea and seasonings. Then I give her a spoon and let her go to town mixing and combining ingredients. I probably only use about a tablespoon of each so there really isn't that much wasted and while it does require some clean up after (lots of spilled materials end up on the floor) it is totally worth it!

She loves working alongside me and she takes it so seriously, it's pretty adorable! It will keep her occupied for as long as 45 minutes which is a life saver when I am trying to make dinner. She gets to feel included in the cooking process and has fun and I get to have her close by and entertained. It's a win win and so easy to set up. I'll be adding this to my file of easy, cheap and effective toddler activities!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Prepping for Baby Number 2

This is where Clover will sleep for the first month or so, Note the cuter than cute new sheets I sewed for the moses basket!

I'm finally finishing up some of my baby related projects and really getting down to business preparing for our new addition. I felt like everything was on hold until after our trip to Asheville last month but now that all my travel is behind me I can settle down and finish up some last minute things before baby Clover arrives.

It's so weird the difference between a first and second pregnancy, for me at least. Last time I quit work about a month ahead of time so I could have plenty of time to relax and prepare for the new baby. This time around I my job is taking care of a toddler so there is no "taking time off". Life goes on just as it always has and I try to squeeze in some of the things I want to get done before we have this baby in between naps, play dates, snacks, laundry, making dinner and cleaning.  In a way I feel much less prepared this time around but I also know that there really isn't that much that has to get done before we bring a new baby home. Babies really don't need anything except breast milk and cuddle time with mommy and daddy so there really isn't much that has to be prepped. Still there are things that I know will make my life easier, so here is my list of stuff that we've done to prepare for our new baby and a list of things that still need to be done. Hopefully this will help me be organized and get through some of the items that are still hanging over my head!


Assemble crib and set up nursery.
We had to move out our guest mattress, straighten things up and put the crib back together. I also pulled out a bunch of younger baby toys that echo had outgrown so that Clover can use them when the time comes.

Bake and freeze breads to have on hand for after we come home from the hospital.
I love having fresh baked English muffins and bagels around for snacks and breakfast but I know I won't be up for baking for a while. Thanks to our new freezer space I now have a decent stash of baked goods to see me through the first few weeks or months.

Sew new bedding for our moses basket.
Echo slept in the moses basket for about the first month of her life and we loved it! It has so many advantages, it's small enough to be cozy, it's easy to pick up and carry around so we can move her from room to room with us and not wake her up, plus it's adorable! I bought the basket at a consignment store but was never crazy about the bedding that came with it, it was a floral blue pattern with lace trim that felt really dated and overly girly to me. Last time I didn't know how to sew well enough to make some new sheets for the thing but this time I realized just how easy it would be to give it an update. I sewed three new sheets for the basket in bright and modern prints that are so much cuter than the set of sheets that came with the thing. Now I can rest easy knowing that Clover will have a place to sleep when she comes home with us.

Unpack newborn and 0-3 month clothes.
I did this first thing after I found out we were having another girl. It's fun to see some of my favorite outfits that Echo wore again and I like to show Echo the tiny clothes and tell her that Clover will wear them some day. Echo will then hold the clothes up to my belly in an attempt to give them to Clover, it's adorable. We have all the teeny tiny baby clothes put away in the dresser in Clover's room now, awaiting her arrival.

Buy the basic new things we needed for a second baby.
We didn't need much this time around because we are having another girl and pretty much everything can be reused. There were a few items I picked up new for this baby just because I am hoping they will make my life easier. The biggest item was the double stroller ( a gift from my parents) which has already been amazing and awesome. It's a sit and stand so Echo can either stand or sit on the back and there will be room for another baby in the front. I also picked up a new baby carrier for wearing Clover which I'm hoping will be more comfortable than carriers I've tried in the past and (thanks to a an amazon gift card for my aunt) an extra wet bag, a white noise machine (to help baby sleep), gel nipple pads (for that potentially painful first week of breast feeding) and new nursing tanks and bras.

Buy a big sister present for Echo.
I knew I wanted to get Echo a little something to make her feel special for after the new baby arrives. I know it might be hard for her since she is the apple of our eye and not used to sharing the spotlight. I couldn't think of any one big thing she would want or need so I opted for a little goody bag of activities and books that she can have with her at the hospital to play with. I got her a farm play set with nice all wooden pieces, a book about dogs, a book about cats, and a paint with water activity book. Hopefully it will help keep her entertained and let her know how special she is to us ( I suspect she will be even more excited about having a new baby around but just in case).

Get a bigger car with more room for 2.
This wasn't originally on my list but when more and more problems kept coming up with my old car we decided to go ahead and get me the station wagon I'd been wanting for a long time. It's definitely not as peppy as my old car but it's nice and roomy and good for a family of 4. We still to get the tags and insurance squared away so I get to enjoy my sweet little car a while longer but should hopefully have all that taken care of before we bring Clover home.

Still To Do

Install the car seats in the new car.
We can't do this until the new car is legal to drive, honestly it doesn't take that long anyway so I'm not too worried.

Pack the hospital bag.
I've started this but haven't finished. I have a list on the fridge of all the things that still need to go in the bag but many of the items are still being used like my camera and cell phone charger. If my labor goes the way it did last time I will have plenty of time to pack last minute items before we head to the hospital ( I want to labor at home as long as possible).

Sew more cloth baby wipes.
Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend we have a huge and gorgeous stash of cloth diapers for newborns, I'm so excited to use them! We also have the diapers we used last time with Echo so we should be covered for diapers for a while. One of my goals this time around is to use more cloth wipes and less disposable but my cloth wipe stash is a little low. This is easy to fix since it's incredibly easy to sew cloth wipes though, I just have to find the time and energy to do it. There are a million other sewing projects I'd love to get done before having a second baby but realistically this is probably the only one that will happen.

Clean and organize as much as possible before going in to labor.
Last time I had lots of time to clean all the often neglected areas like the fridge and shower. This time I have so much less energy and time for cleaning. I would love to get some thorough cleaning done before bringing  anew baby home but I won't stress out about anything that doesn't happen. I know from experience that the baby won't care ;-)

Only 4 weeks to go! Can't wait to meet this little lady!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

June Photos

I have been really lazy about taking my camera with me lately, honestly I have enough extra weight to carry without worrying about my camera ;-) Still, here are some shots from last month. We had an awesome long weekend in Asheville for our last trip as a family of 3 ( a babymoon if you will) and most of the photos are from that trip.

But first a few shots of the cuties from our play group

And above is a shot of me chowing down on a pint of locally made ice cream at the first Friday art walk in Marietta. We have an awesome store on the square now that sells all locally produced goods. Also I should note that I didn't really eat the whole pint by myself, it was shared between 5 people.

The rest are all pictures from Asheville. We had such a great time and it is such an awesome place to go with kids. I can't wait to take both girls back at some point.

Walking around the UNC Asheville campus

Checking out the down town area before it got hot

Otters at the wildlife center

The fox was Echo's favorite

the wildlife center had great activities for little ones, including an awesome set of natural blocks

Reading at the hotel with daddy
 There was a lot well still didn't get to do in Asheville and it is such a short drive I'm sure we'll be back. June was a little hot for us though so next time we will try to make it a fall or winter trip :-)