Carrying On

Today is a bitter-sweet day at our house.

Today I am saying goodbye to a faithful friend, one who has really lended me support over the past few years, one on whom Ellie has depended on many occasions.

I am, of course, talking about my Ergo baby carrier.

That’s right, after four solid years of use, Ellie has out-grown her Ergo.  I couldn’t have asked for a better carrier.  My only regret is that I didn’t get it when the girls were first born, because it would have really made those first few months a lot easier.  As it is, the Ergo enabled me to do things that would have been impossible without it, like hiking, going to the fair, and eating with both hands when Ellie was sick and refused to be put down.  I love my Ergo.

All good things must come to an end, however, and it is time to pack up my old friend and send it off to someone else, who I can only hope will appreciate it as much as I did.  While still technically under the weight limit, Ellie is simply too big to fit comfortably in the Ergo now, and it has been getting progressively less comfortable for me to wear her on my back over the past six months.  So farewell, old friend.  You will always be remembered as the single most useful baby item I ever owned.

“But wait,” you say, “You said today was bitter-sweet.  Where is the sweet part?”

Well, my friends, let me introduce you to the newest addition to our household…..

Picture 117The Beco toddler carrier.

Picture 125Holy crap is this thing awesome.

New to the relatively small market of toddler carriers, the Beco is all that I could wish for in a carrier.  Besides the considerable size difference between my baby Ergo, I am loving the way it is constructed.  The waist clip is adjustable from both sides, so it can be clipped right in the middle, which I find a lot more comfortable.  The shoulder straps are SO much cushier than the Ergo, and they are really easy to adjust.  I’m no longer getting strangled by the chest clip, either, which is a very nice change.  I can even wear her on my front, something I haven’t been able to do for a really long time in the Ergo.  There is a little pocket on the waist band, a snap-on zippered pouch, and an adjustable snap-on hood.  It also comes with a super cute little carrying bag, so there will be no more flailing straps in the back of my car.

Ergo Baby on top of Beco Toddler.  Note the size difference!

Ergo Baby on top of Beco Toddler. Note the size difference!

Look how thick the straps are, compared to my old Ergo!

Look how thick the straps are, compared to my old Ergo!

Where can you get this wonder?  Well, I snagged one from Lil Tulips, and it only took three days to get to my house.  You can’t beat that for service!  Now, I know they are pricey at $200, but I really think they are worth the money.  I am notoriously cheap, but I know that I am going to use this carrier for at least two more years, and some things are just worth investing in.

All packed up in the little storage bag.

All packed up in the little storage bag.

Especially when you have a child who has special needs.  Because while a toddler carrier may be a convenience item for most families, it is pretty much a necessity for us.  Ellie simply can’t walk for long on her own, and hiking is pretty much out of the question.  Add in her dislike for holding our hands and complete lack of stranger danger, and a carrier is a must.  I was really worried about what we were going to do when I realized that Ellie was going to outgrow her Ergo before she could walk really well.  Thank goodness for the all of the babywearing mamas out there who have spurred the carrier companies to create carriers for bigger kids!

Ready to hit the trail.  Or the mall.  Whatever comes first.

Ready to hit the trail. Or the mall. Whatever comes first.

So while we are sad to say goodbye to our friend, the Ergo, Ellie and I are very excited to start our Beco journey… one step at a time.

Someone was sad that this post wasnt about her.

Someone was sad that this post wasnt about her.

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Painting Cookies!

They look good enough to eat...all in one sitting!

They look good enough to eat…all in one sitting!

Today Laurel and I made cut-out cookies.  I wanted to make up for making cookie-looking non-cookie ornaments the other day.  Because I’m all about fairness.  And baked goods.

The fates smiled upon our house today, and Laurel was on her best, most adorable behavior.  So after we put Ellie on the school bus we broke out the cookie dough we made yesterday.  Laurel picked out which cookie cutters to use, and helped to cut the dough.  The only fuss she made was when I wouldn’t let her roll the dough out herself.  (That’s a quick way for it to end up on the floor!)  She told me how many of each shape to make, and we had a great time.  Then it was off to the table to decorate them!

If you have ever made cut-out cookies with a young child, you have seen the way they apply sprinkles.  Usually it involves 1/2 an inch of colored sugar on top of each cookie, non of which actually melts, and it just gets everywhere.  So I wanted some kind of (less messy) alternative to sprinkles.  Enter…..Cookie Paint!

Picture 027

Paint + Cookies = One happy Lil’ Bear!

I remembered seeing a post somewhere at some point about making cookie paint out of egg yolk and food coloring, so I decided we’d give that a shot.  And it worked great!  Laurel loves to paint more than anything in the world, so it was a natural fit.  I decided on a limited pallet of colors, and only made red, green, and blue.  The blue didn’t really want to come out blue because our egg yolks were very yellow.  So it was sort of greenish, but I didn’t really care that much.  If you want a truer blue, I’d try using the egg whites.  I’m not sure how that will turn out, though. It might make them extra crispy.  You’ll need to add a bit of water to the yolk/food color mixture as well, to thin it out a bit.  And you don’t need much of it.  I probably could have split the yolks up and used only half a yolk per color, instead of a whole one.  In any case, I love how they turned out.  The paint got really shiny and pretty.  We will definitely do this again!

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour (I used King Arthur’s Multipurpose Flour)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

– Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Mix in the dry ingredients.
– Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.
– Preheat the oven to 350 F.
– Roll a chunk of the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Remember to flour your rolling pin (or wine bottle or other rolling implement).
– Break out your favorite cookie cutters and have at it.  Remember to dip the cutters in flour if they start to stick.
– Put the cookies on a cookie sheet.  Use parchment paper if your heart desires it.  I don’t bother.
– Take the left over dough and squish it up with another chunk of the unused dough.  Repeat the rolling/cutting steps until your cookie sheets are full.
– PUT THE REST OF THE DOUGH BACK IN THE FRIDGE.  Otherwise, while you decorate the first batch, your dough will get too soft and sticky and you’ll never get it rolled out.  Trust me.
– Decorate your first batch of cookies however you want.
– Pop those cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
– Cool on wire racks.
– Once you have a free cookies sheet, get the rest of the dough out of the fridge and start rolling/cutting.  You get the point.
– Devour.

 

Cookie Paint

1 egg yolk per color
1/4 teaspoon water per color
a few drops of food coloring

In small bowls, containers, or ramekins mix up a yolk, the water, and some food coloring.
Make sure you use CLEAN paintbrushes.  Not the ones your kids were using the other day that you just sort of half-assed rinsed out.  Either use new brushes or give the ones you have a proper cleaning with dish soap and hot water.  Use a different brush for each color; don’t try to rinse between colors. It will water down the paint too much.Again, if you use yolks that are a dark yellow, you may have problems with some of the colors.  I had to add a lot of red to make the paint red, not orange.  You can try the egg whites, but I haven’t tested that theory yet.
Paint the cookies!

Its Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

Black Friday.

The day that millions of people go into battle mode so they can bag the best deals on everything from big screen TVs to fondu pots to whatever the crazy super popular toy is this year that their kids will break ten minutes after getting.  People have strategies, back up plans, coupons.  They have memorized the sales fliers and recruited their friends and families to join them in their crusade for cheap stuff.  It is consumerism in all its insane glory.

Oh, how I hate it.

Katniss has nothing on your great aunt Betty

Katniss has nothing on your great aunt Betty

The only time I have ever gone shopping on Black Friday was three years ago and it was completely by accident.  The girls were about four months old, and Ellie had had heart surgery a few weeks before, to fix a heart defect that she was born with.  Then she caught pneumonia.  So she was in the cardiac intensive care unit of the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital for five weeks.  We spent the girls’ first Thanksgiving at the Ronald McDonald House.  A (very rich) family down there pays to have a caterer come in for the major holidays.  It was really nice….except that Ellie was still in the hospital.  Laurel tasted her first solid food in the form of a lick of mashed potatoes, which she did not like.  After dinner, we went back to the hospital to sit by Ellie’s bedside, like we had been for three weeks straight at that point.  Not the most festive first Thanksgiving, but we were just happy to all be together.

Laurel's idea of how to eat turkey

Laurel’s idea of how to eat turkey

Ellie couldn't wear her bib, but she liked the colors

Ellie couldn’t wear her bib, but she liked the colors

If you’ve ever spent a long time with someone in the hospital, you will know that time stops having any meaning.  Every day is like the one before.  So, the day after Thanksgiving was just that; another day in the endless march of days until we could take our little girl home.  It was also the day I ripped the only pair of jeans that fit my post-partum body.  So I decided to drive back home to Allentown and pick some stuff up, pet the dog (who has still never forgiven us for abandoning her for over a month), buy a couple new pairs of jeans from Lane Bryant, and hit Target up for some more diapers.

Everything was going really well; there was practically no traffic on the turnpike, Piper was SO happy to see me, even the cats were excited enough to glare at me reproachfully from the cat tree.  Then I drove to Target.  My first thought was, “Wow.  They must be having a sale or something,” when I saw the packed parking lot.  Then it hit me…..yesterday was Thanksgiving….which makes today…..BLACK FRIDAY!  Oh My God.  I need to shop on Black Friday.  Shit.

I won’t lie.  It was terrible.  I was tripping over people left and right in the baby section, just trying to grab a box of diapers.  Then I had to wait in line forever; the only person with one item among throngs of people with one, two, or even three shopping carts full of stuff.  A nice lady took pity on me and let me go ahead of her.  I almost cried in gratitude.

Then I drove to the mall, because remember I needed to buy jeans.  I didn’t have a choice.  I literally had no pants that fit me.  Dear Lord.  Never again.  If I ever find myself in a similar situation I will just wear pajama pants.  I don’t care how fat and/or sloppy I look.  I will never go shopping on Black Friday again.  Ever.

So what do we do the day after Thanksgiving?  (Other than sleep off our turkey comas.)

We decorate for Christmas, of course!  Down come the paper turkeys and painted pumpkins, down come the pilgrim hats and native American head dresses, down come the Halloween decorations we thought we put away but apparently we didn’t.  And from the attic, down comes the Christmas tree, the ornaments, the stockings, the three thousand creepy-ass nutcrackers that Chev collects, and the nativity.  On goes the Christmas music, and the decorating party commences.

Picture 076

Please ignore the fact that my dog is biting her ass.

The past few years our tree was kind of lame, but the girls are older now, so we have brought out some of our nicer ornaments.  All in all decorating went really well.  Laurel was sticking things on the tree like a pro.  Ellie, as predicted, couldn’t figure out how to do it and got really frustrated and pissed off and soothed herself by kicking the plastic Christmas balls around.  But that was bound to happen anyway.  At least there were no tantrums or injuries involved.

Giving Ellie a lift

Giving Ellie a lift

Giving Laurel a lift

Giving Laurel a lift

So that’s what we do on the day after Thanksgiving….we gather around as a family and ring in the holiday season with songs, lights, and the occasional impromptu dance break.  While other people are fighting over the last video game system, we fight over who gets to hang the last ornament on the tree.  While stores are making money, we are making memories.

And I love it.

Our little elves

Our little elves

I’m a Crafty Lady

So there is something you may not know about me.  I’m crafty.  And I don’t just mean that I’m clever and sneaky (which I am); I like to make crafty things.  Mostly I make clothing for the girls, but I recently got a sewing machine and I’ve been branching out to other things as well.  This is why I’ve been seriously slacking on my blog.  So as an apology for neglecting all of you, here are some pictures of the things I’ve been making along with the links to the tutorials I used.

Floor cushions for kids to sit on!

Floor cushions for kids to sit on!

I made a couple of floor cushions for my niece and nephew for Christmas.  And for the record, I made these before I had the sewing machine.  That’s right…I sewed these bad boys by hand.  Which is insane.  But I like doing it.  Especially while I watch Dr. Who.  Want to try your hand at these?  Check out the tutorial over on Living With Punks.   http://www.livingwithpunks.com/2010/05/tutorial-land-of-nod-inspired-floor.html

Whooo doesn't love owls?

This blanket is dino-mite!
This blanket is dino-mite!

I’ve also started making weighted blankets.  What is a weighted blanket, you ask?  It is a blanket that has a grid of pockets filled with little plastic bead things (Poly pellets).  Some kids have a hard time settling down to sleep, and the extra weight can help sooth them.  Like a big hug you can sleep in.  These were made for a couple of my friends after one of them was talking about the cost of weighted blankets online.  There is a joke that if you want to charge more for something, slap the words “baby” or “wedding” on it.  Unfortunately, that hold true for anything made for special needs kids, too.  Companies that make things for special needs people know that there is little competition, so they can charge a lot more for their product than what it is really worth, and people will pay for it because they have to.  It is a terrible truth that special needs families are wrung dry on a regular basis, paying for the specialized items they need.  So I made these for a reasonable amount of money, not the 200-400% mark-ups I found when I searched for them online.  I used the tutorial at Compound LIving.  http://www.compoundliving.com/2013/01/diy-weighted-blanket.html

Ta-Da!  I'm a cutie!

Ta-Da! I’m a cutie!

Not nearly as thrilled with her shirt.

Not nearly as thrilled with her shirt.

Thanksgiving tunics for the girls.  They are going to be gobbling turkey in style thanks to some very pretty fabric scraps and this tutorial from Once Upon a Sewing Machine.  http://onceuponasewingmachine.com/diy-toddler-peasant-dress/

Ready for Santa!

Ready for Santa!

Like a little angel

Like a little angel

Prettiest present ever!

Prettiest present ever!

And of course, what follows Thanksgiving?  Christmas of course!  Here are the girls in the dresses I made them.  The first two are based partially on the peasant dress pattern, but I changed the bottoms so they were more fitted.  I don’t have tutorials for the rest of the dresses because I just made them up.  I saw pictures of dresses I liked and just did my own thing.  That’s the cool thing about sewing.  You can just MAKE stuff!  Right out of you head!  Like magic.  Sewing magic.

Aurora

Aurora

Rapunzel

Rapunzel

These dresses were made for a gift exchange.  I wanted something she could play in, but that looked like her favorite princesses.  Laurel very much enjoyed modeling these.  Again, no tutorials because I just made them up.  Maybe I should make tutorials.  In my spare time.  ha ha ha

Picture 040

Laurel and Ellie have been turned into dolls!

Picture 043

Yarn hair sucks

Ok, I have to admit that I am ridiculously proud of these dolls.  I never thought I’d be able to make something like this.  But thanks to the super easy tutorial at Make It & Love It, I have made three so far and am planning on two more (a Princess Peach from Mario Bros. for my niece and a Batman for my nephew).  I love love love these.  http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2013/02/girl-boy-fabric-dolls-pattern-pieces-included.html

What does the fox say?

What does the fox say?

A fox scarf.  Because it’s freaking awesome.  I want to make a million more of these.  Different animals, different colors.  And I will.  Oh yes, I will….. after Christmas.  The tutorial calls for minky fabric for the bottom of the scarf, but I didn’t use that.  I just used more flannel.  Why?  Because minky is the devil.  Ask anyone who sews.  The. Devil.  Should you wish to make a little friend to wrap around your neck, check out the tutorial at Prudent Baby.  http://prudentbaby.com/2012/12/baby-kid/diy-fox-scarf-with-free-pattern/

Cutting takes a LOT of concentration

Cutting takes a LOT of concentration

Gobble gobble

Gobble gobble

This caption is so corny

This caption is so corny

And, of course, I’ve been crafting with the kidos.  Mostly with Laurel, since Ellie does crafts at preschool in the morning, but Ellie got in on the action with the bead corn.  Laurel really liked making the turkeys, even if she does think they are chickens.  We also made native American head dresses out of construction paper feathers, but they were destroyed during our impromptu drum circle/pow wow.  Our pilgrim hats were an epic fail, cut we all enjoyed getting glue everywhere.  Ok, they enjoyed it.  I enjoyed sticking paper to their arms and listening to them shriek with glee.

What kind of crafts do you like to do?  Do you craft with the kids?  Do you have a favorite pattern or tutorial you’d like to share with the class?  Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been up to!

Sister love in the flesh and in the fluff

Sister love in the flesh and in the fluff