Off to Colorado…

We leave early, early tomorrow morning for Harper’s first flight (I’m nervous already!) to Denver. We’re excited to see family, who haven’t seen Harper since she was a teeny babe. And you know I love me some mountains. Back in a few days.

Cloth diapers

Now that we’ve been using our cloth diapers for 5 1/2 months, I wanted to write about how it’s been working for us. We are actually really happy with our decision to switch from disposables to cloth once Harper was big enough to fit into her diapers (about 6 weeks, I think), and here’s why:

Cost

We calculated that we were spending about $80 a month on diapers and wipes before we switched to cloth. That’s also what we would pay if we would have done the Honest Company bundle, which is a great alternative. That comes out to $960 a year. So let’s just call it $1,000. We got 21 bumGenius 4.0 cloth diapers, some of which were gifted to us from our baby registry. So we spent around $200 for the rest, plus one set of flannel wipes. We also received the diaper sprayer and an extra set of inserts as gifts.

If we’re lucky and Harper wears the diapers even two years, we are looking at saving close to $2,000. We have to buy the occasional pack of disposables and wipes for traveling (love Honest. Co. travel packs of wipes), but that’s maybe $100 a year. If she wears them longer or we are able to use them for a second child, we can save even more.

Looking at our utility bills, I have not noticed much of an increase for the extra loads of washing and drying. Perhaps $10 a month more, but it’s hard to determine that exactly. In this climate they were not super high to begin with.

One other thing you need with cloth diapers is a wet bag to store them in before you do laundry. We have a large Planet Wise wet bag, which is just big enough to hold 2 days worth of dirty diapers. Then we got a small one for our diaper bag. I think we also got both of those as gifts. They work great at keeping out smells. If I had to do it over I would have gone with a medium-size for the diaper bag. The small is tiny!

Waste

Without question we are producing much less waste now. Mike used to empty the Diaper Dekor multiple times a week, but I can’t remember the last time I even used it. Living in the bay area, we are very aware of environmental issues, so it feels good to be able to say that we are not producing all that trash. (Fun fact: even though the trash cans are about 1/3 the size of the recycling cans, you can actually request an even smaller trash bin.)


Diapers stuffed and ready to go. 

Time

This was our main concern, because it sounded like washing those diapers all the time would be a lot of work. And the one thing you can’t spare when you have a newborn is time. But it turns out that we actually spend very little of our time on diapers. I am home all week, so that helps, and Mike is home on Fridays. But I think even if we were working more it would not be so bad.

We usually wash diapers every two days. It takes about 10 minutes to pull out the inserts and load everything into the washer. (I don’t wash off the poop. When she starts solids I probably will, but that is done after each diaper change). When they’re done it takes another 5-10 minutes to put the inserts in the dryer and hang the diapers on a drying rack. I usually put the rack outside and let the diapers dry in the sun, but the material will also dry if they have to be inside. When everything is dry, it takes about 10 minutes to stuff the diapers. If we split these jobs between me and Mike, you can see that we’re only devoting 15 minutes or so to each load.

The more important consideration is timing. You have to make sure that your diapers will be dry by the time you run out completely. We’ve gotten pretty good at that.

I have been using a $15 bottle of Babyganics detergent since we started with the cloth diapers and it’s still going. You do have to buy special detergent that is free of dyes and fragrances, but that’s pretty easy to find these days. Once a month you can wash the diapers with bleach to get a deep cleaning, but we find that putting them out in the sun keeps them from getting mildewy and it bleaches out the stains.

Here are some stained inserts before,

and after a few hours in the sun. Amazing!

Effectiveness

Our diapers have worked really well with very few blowouts. Every time I use disposables we have more blowouts. She almost never has a poop blowout with the cloth diapers. Sometimes she gets a pee leak around the leg holes, but that is less of a big deal. We’ll see if they remain that effective over time.

Other things to consider

• We got mostly diapers that adjust in size with snaps, but I like the Velcro ones too. The problem with the Velcro ones is that they fall apart sooner and the Velcro sometimes sticks to other diapers in the wash.

• I really like the pocket-style diapers because we have been able to adjust the inserts for day versus night, and with her growth. The larger inserts even snap to different sizes.

• One thing I wish I would have done differently is to get more white or cream colored diapers. We got a mix of colors. And while they are adorable, they sometimes clash with her outfits. Since you go through 7 or 8 diapers a day, you will end up with a rainbow of diaper colors unless most of them are the same.

• I tried making my own cloth wipes, but I ended up liking the bumGenius ones better. Some of them are starting to fray, but they still work fine. If I have to buy another pack once a year, I think that’s still a big savings over disposable.

I blogged at Goodsmiths about how you can make your own disposable wipes. I use the same formula for diaper spray to wet the cloth wipes. It costs almost nothing to make.

• Cloth diapers are much bigger than disposables on your baby. Harper rarely wears pants, so this isn’t usually an issue. But sometimes she has to go up a size for the clothes to fit over her diapers.

That’s all the considerations I can think of. Like I said, we are really happy we went the cloth route, but I know this won’t work for everyone. I got a lot of encouragement from this post when we were thinking about what to do. I know diaper services are also a huge help if you can find one you like in your area.

Buttermilk biscuits + sausage gravy

If you’re a new parent with barely any time to cook, but you’re craving a home-baked goodie, biscuits are perfect. They are ridiculously easy to make, especially if you take a couple of shortcuts like I do. If you have a little more time, sausage gravy is not a bad way to turn your biscuits into a meal. We like them as a breakfast for dinner.

My recipe makes a lot of gravy, perhaps too much for this amount of biscuits. But since Sadie jumped up on the counter and ate some off the tray, I’m not really sure. I guess she is back to her old self again.

One other note about milk. It really pays to use whole milk in recipes like this. You get a nice creamy sauce that thickens quickly. I used to think whole milk was so gross. Now it’s skim that seems totally wrong to me. Plus I can always say I need the extra fat for breastfeeding. 😉

Aaaand, one last thing. I did make the biscuits one time with half whole-wheat flour. They were still good, but a little drier. If you go that route, maybe add in a little more buttermilk.

Buttermilk biscuits
adapted from Joy the Baker
makes 12 medium or 8 large biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk
Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)

Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. (I prefer that over a food processor because it works really well and doesn’t require nearly as many dishes to be washed.) You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.

Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.

Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Here’s shortcut #2: just press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.

Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. I got 12 with the standard size. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter.

When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.

Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.

When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.

Sausage gravy

1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.

Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. I didn’t get many, so I added 3 tablespoons of butter.

While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.

Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. I don’t specify an amount because your sausage will be seasoned differently.

Serve over those fluffy biscuits.

Buttermilk biscuits
Yields 12
Flaky biscuits that pair perfectly with sausage gravy.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (can substitute half whole-wheat flour)
  2. 1 tablespoon baking powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  5. 1 teaspoon sugar
  6. 6 ounces unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
  7. 3/4 cup buttermilk
  8. Melted butter or buttermilk to brush on top (optional)
Instructions
  1. Whisk your dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Then add in the butter cubes and start mashing them with a pastry cutter. You can also just use a fork or your fingers. You want to work until you have about pea-sized butter pieces.
  2. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the buttermilk.
  3. Work the dough together with your fingers. At first it looks kind of like shreds. But eventually it will come together into a ball.
  4. Spread out some flour on a flat surface and dump out the dough. Press it out with your fingers until it’s about 3/4-inch thick. No need for a rolling pin.
  5. Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter. You could also use a glass if you don’t have a biscuit cutter. When you get down to the last one, you can press the dough inside the cutter so it becomes the right shape.
  6. Lay out the biscuits and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown on top.
  7. When the biscuits come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter or buttermilk.
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
Sausage gravy
This creamy gravy is the perfect companion for buttermilk breakfasts.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound mild Italian sausage (you could also substitute veggie sausage)
  2. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 4 cups whole milk
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it browns. I like to use a potato masher to separate the pieces.
  2. Remove the cooked sausage to a bowl, leaving any pan drippings behind. If you don't have any fat left, add 3 tablespoons of butter.
  3. While your pan’s still hot, melt the butter. Then whisk in the flour and keep whisking until it starts to turn light brown.
  4. Whisk in your milk and stir occasionally until the gravy starts to thicken and bubble, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the sausage back in. At this point, season with salt and pepper. The amount depends on how salty your sausage is to begin with.
  6. Serve over buttermilk biscuits.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Dogs, meet baby

People ask us a lot about how the dogs are doing with the baby and my answer is: surprisingly well. I thought maybe we would have problems with the dogs being too rough, as in jumping up on us while we were holding Harper or trying to climb over her or things like that. Maybe trying to lick her or paw at her, Sadie especially. But other than the first day or two that we had her home, the dogs have been very gentle around her. I don’t think we will have any issues until Harper starts crawling and walking. Once they are on the same level, moving around in each other’s spaces, I think we will probably have to work on the idea of being gentle. But that goes both ways. For every time a dog brushes past Harper while she’s in her jumper (including their tails), she is grabbing at them with her hands in a not-so-gentle fashion. Once she is dropping crumbs everywhere and running around with sticky hands, I’m sure they will become a team.

I am actually more concerned about the dogs’ well-being at this point. Mainly Reggie, because she has such a nervous disposition. When the baby cries a lot, Reggie usually wants to go outside. Sometimes she will stay out there for hours, which she never used to do. I think it’s partly that she likes having a space to call her own — I usually find her contentedly sunbathing — and partly because she is scared that someone crying means someone is upset with her. When Harper gets screamy, I have even found Reggie hiding underneath the stroller, and I have to coax her out.

Now that we have a little more time to devote attention to the dogs, I’m trying to give Reggie more pets and cuddles. I’m not sure she’ll ever get over the crying, but hopefully there will be less of that as Harper gets older. Thankfully, both dogs are pretty patient with kids petting or grabbing at them, so I’m not worried about them becoming agressive. I just hope they can behave when we have a teetering toddler.

5 months

Harper’s fifth month has been a rather sleepless one. The four-month sleep regression is no joke — hers basically lasted the entire month. I heard the same from enough other moms to think this is some kind of developmental thing.

The good news is that she is getting closer to sleeping through the night again (which she did for two whole months!). And thank goodness, because I am no fun on no sleep. I think the combination of constantly interrupted sleep, being sick, slow sales, and fewer moms meetups since everyone went back to work started to make me feel really emotional, missing family and friends. I think Mike and I could really use a date night, too. Thankfully we found a babysitter who’s going to make that happen.

We’re finding parenthood to be such a roller coaster. Some days are so easy and fun, full of giant grins and lazy strolls with a peacefully sleeping babe. Other days we find ourselves nodding off at 9:30, not sure how we made it through the cacophany of bawling and dogs barking that sometimes is our life. Some days the weight of caring for this tiny person is so intense I don’t know how I will manage. But then I see that I have already managed so much, and there is no human on this earth who ever did parenting perfectly.

At 5 months, Harper has developed some quirks that we can’t help but laugh at. Sometimes when we bring her to bed in the mornings, hoping she’ll drift back to sleep for another hour, she lays there babbling and slapping poor Mike in the face as she tries to figure out how her hands work. Other times she’ll examine her fingers like a blissed-out stoner. It’s kind of hilarious.

One quirk I could have lived without was the week she decided to scream instead of babble all day. She wasn’t crying, just playing with her voice at full volume. It sounded like a wounded cat. Thank goodness that phase ended.

Also, girlfriend drools constantly. I’ve started calling her Droolia or Droolia Goolia. She gnaws on our fingers and our clothes, leaving little wet patches everywhere. We don’t even notice it anymore.

The biggest change this month is that she really seems to be able to grasp things with her hands. She grabs at everything — my hair, my watch, the tablecloth, etc. But she can finally hold her toys and shove them into her mouth. It must feel good on her gums, which don’t have any teeth yet, but seem to cause her a fair amount of discomfort.

I love that her personality is starting to develop. Whether it’s happy or sad, she is really expressive. We’ve figured out ways to make her giggle, so we’ve turned into those people who are constantly making fart noises and silly faces. The jumper swing remains one of her most smile-inducing devices. We got her a Go Pod where she can sit and play with toys, but at this point she prefers to bounce.

You can tell her motor skills are improving because she’s also figured out how to wrap her chubby feet around the bars of her play gym like a little monkey. She still doesn’t seem to care about rolling over, but she is wiggly enough to cause my heart to skip beats when she nearly slips out of the spot I put her in.

She’s grown into some of her more girly outfits and I must admit I’ve enjoyed dressing her up a little more. People still call refer to her as “him” all the time. But she gets lots of compliments on her eyes, which are almost white-blue at the center with a dark blue rim. Her skin is so fair that her cheeks turn bright pink when she gets too warm. With her hair sticking out she looks like a Kewpie doll. My sweet, chubby, drooly, smiley Kewpie.

One other note: We might think parenting is rough, but our Des Moines friends Tim and Gretchen just had triplets! Tim has been writing an excellent blog about the process leading up to the birth, which you should definitely check out here.

Getting rid of cable

We finally decided to bite the bullet and get rid of our cable TV. We had DirecTV, then AT&T with DVR, but after years of talking about it we agreed it was time to make a change. Even with adding a couple new services we are still saving around $80 a month. (yeesh!)

Our main TV is hooked up to a Mac Mini, so we can watch shows via Internet streaming. We bought a Roku, which I really like, to connect to the other services. We also have an antenna that gets pretty good reception on the main networks and 3 local PBS stations. We have subscriptions to Netflix and HuluPlus. We might get another Roku for our bedroom TV, but lately we are so tired when we go to bed that we don’t even use that one.

There are a few shows I might miss, but I think generally I was mostly just watching crap to fill the time. I think Netflix’s instant offerings are still pretty pathetic, so we’ll keep getting the DVDs for a while. The only thing we’ll really miss is sports. Mike watched a lot of soccer and me a lot of college basketball. But those offerings are getting better online all the time. Or we can always go to a sports bar to watch big games.

There’s some good advice on how to make this leap at disablemycable.com. So far I haven’t missed our old TV at all. I’ve barely even thought about it, so I think we made the right choice.

Loving: July edition

The grandmas have been sending lots of baby clothes, so Harper has a new look pretty much every day. I love these legwarmers my mom sent. They inspired me to try making mine a little longer, and now I’ve come up with a new design to sell.

I also adore the Organic Farm Buddies teething toys. When your baby puts absolutely everything in her mouth you like to think her toys are not full of harsh chemicals.

I’ve been working on making my own super thick wool yarn for years and I think I’ve finally perfected it! I have so many big ideas to go along with this. Right now all I’ve got is a swatch but I love it.

Snacking on: Hope Hummus. I bought it at the Berkeley Bowl because it was on sale and it turned out to be delicious. I turned over the package to see where it was made. Boulder, of course.

In the department of useful things, I found one of these Medela breastmilk labeling lids in a box of pump parts. It is so handy for remembering what day you pumped the milk that’s in the fridge.

I’ve been playing around with the macro lens on our new camera. This drink will be coming soon to the Goodsmiths blog. (Bonus points to Erin Shaw if you recognize it!)

Random picture of my baby looking like the Berkeley child she is. (Also, post-nap spacey.)

And since I had to make the switch over to Feedly I’ve been catching up on a backlog of blog posts I haven’t had time to read. Found some links to share:

• The cutest idea for a DIY teepee

• Whitney Deal is selling her little line of baby clothes. Wishlisted!

Art summer camps look like so much fun.

• Did you know you can rent vintage Airstreams for your summer vacation? I was not aware this was a thing, but apparently there are lots of places to do this in Southern California. This place sells them too.

• Or how about a trailer bed for your dog?

• What to do when you’re jealous of other biz ladies. Sage advice.

Now that Harper is almost 5 months old I’m starting to clear the cobwebs a little and trying to get my business back in shape and my life generally in some kind of order. I feel like I have an appointment every week just trying to catch up on everything I’ve been putting on hold. But I have a lot of ideas I want to pursue this year (better photography, a Mary Marie Knits web site, new products, more travel…) so it’s time to get focused!