First Camping Trip

Posted 04-27-2010 at 11:15 AM by gkatieh

Camping with a 4 month old….

Sound intimidating? I wasn’t at all. I felt like I SHOULD have been, but I really wasn’t. To prepare we had my mom’s camper for AC if it got hot, packed clothes for warm AND cold weather  (thank GOD! Saturday was COLD!), his food comes straight from the tap so no water and formula/bottles needed (I Love breastfeeding!), and I made my Flip diapers purchase months ago with this trip in mind. I was READY!
 
It was even easier than I thought! The fresh air did Austin some GOOD because he SLEPT like ol’ Rip Van Winkle. Most pics I have are of him sleeping!
 
I have 3 Flip covers and used disposable inserts. Austin still has exclusively breastmilk poos, so if any got on the cover, all I had to do was rinse and hang! The cover would be dry in no time. I used gDiaper sposie inserts as well, since they’re actually wider. I am so thrilled to have a cloth option for these trips. I couldn’t imagine bringing  my whole stash and keeping up with it all. The Flip sposie inserts are so soft, they feel just as soft, if not softer, than any cloth option. It was a real surprise to me! Plus they don’t contain yucky chemicals. My baby’s butt is spoiled!
Here’s our camping site!
Taking a walk! My dad got this stroller at Once Upon A Child for my parent’s house and camping. It was perfect.
Hanging out with Kea (my mom’s chihuahua) before bed. That dog thinks Austin is HER baby. She’s very protective and very sweet.
Saturday morning was COLDDDD!
Bedtime
Another nap… (I know he doesn’t match…)
Hanging out in the kayak! He’ll be a pro in no time! See Ribbit Flip peaking out? ;)

The whole weekend went great! I was so proud of him! We’re going again Memorial Day weekend. You’re welcome to join us! ;)

Diaper Swapers

Composting: The Very Basic Basics

Posted 04-27-2010 at 10:26 AM by DiaperShops Sarah

Are you ready to give composting a try? It’s a great way to turn kitchen food scraps and organic household disposables like leaves and grass clippings into a nutrient-rich organic material that will enrich your garden soil. Composting used to mean a big pen in the backyard. You can still compost this way, but now there are compost containers that allow you to create your compost anywhere – including right in the kitchen where your food scraps originate.

Composting bins come in all shapes and sizes, with capacities from 5 gallons to several hundred gallons. Crate and Barrel even makes a one gallon stainless steel designer composting pail that would be an attractive addition to any kitchen counter. Food scraps can be collected in the kitchen and then added to a larger compost bin or pile in the yard. A replaceable charcoal filter helps keep odors from decaying food from escaping into the house.

Here are some tips for getting started with composting.

• Aim for a mixture of 2 to 3 parts carbon-rich material to 1 part nitrogen-rich material. Carbon-rich, or “brown” material, includes dried leaves, shredded newspaper, twigs, saw dust and wood chips. Nitrogen-rich, or “green” material, includes pesticide-free grass clippings and leftover fruits and vegetables. Coffee grounds and eggshells can also be included. Note that meat scraps should not be used for composting.

• Start your compost pile with a brown layer, and then alternate layers of green and brown. If you’re not using a compost bin, always place a brown layer over green to avoid attracting insects to decaying food.

• Add enough water to the compost pile to keep it moist. Turning it occasionally with a pitchfork or compost aerator will speed up the decomposition process. With regular turning, in about 3 months you will have rich mixture, ready to add to potted plants or flower beds.

About the Author: Sarah is a Communications Manager for http://www.DiaperShops.com, one of the largest cloth diapering boutiques online. She writes for DiaperSwappers.com about how families can become more green and save money!

Using Your Kitchen Gadgets to Save Money (3 of 4)

Posted 04-27-2010 at 09:03 AM by MyFrugalFunLife

Most of us have a kitchen (or storage space) filled with kitchen gadgets. They accumulate like dust bunnies and most of the time we go out of our way to avoid them. Since I discovered that cooking meals from scratch saves serious money, I’ve dusted these gadgets off and figured out how to actually use them :)

My two favorites are my crock pot and my bread maker. I now use them several times a week and the amount of money I save because of them is amazing!

When you think of the crock pot you might think of your childhood family get togethers, with all the elderly relatives hauling their large crock pots around and everyone making meatballs :) I received one as a gift several years ago (yes from a grandma), and I never took it out of the box till last fall. I had no idea what to do with it so I jumped online and realized that the crock pot is seriously the wonder tool of the kitchen. This thing can make everything from yogurt and applesauce, to bread and ham! And they’re ridiculously easy to use-plug in, dump ingredients in, come back 4-8 hours later and complete meals have been made!

The recipes are also endless for the crock pot. I love the large Crock Pot thread in the Kitchen Forum here on Diaper Swappers. I also love A Year of Slow Cooking and the crock pot section of Recipezaar.  Last night we had Cheesy Chicken, Bacon and Tater Tot Crock Pot Bake -it cost $7 to make and it was enough food for two meals which equals $3.50 per meal, to feed a family of five! I paired it with super easy Red Lobster Cheese Biscuits and fresh fruit-super yummy and cheap!

Bread makers are a gadget that are coming back in style and I love what I can do with mine. I used to spend quite a bit of money each week on pre-made dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, and pizza crusts but now I use my bread maker and make better tasting versions for a fraction of the cost. I’m still exploring all the ways I can use my bread maker but so far my family’s favorite is cinnamon rolls (I skip the frosting and just mix a bit of milk and powder sugar together to make a glaze).  Bread makers are great for making doughs that can be used for a variety of things.

What kitchen gadgets do you have collecting dust in your house? I challenge you to pull them out and learn frugal new ways to use them!

Cooking Up Savings (2 of 4)

Posted 04-19-2010 at 10:15 AM by MyFrugalFunLife

I have always hated cooking and spent as little time in the kitchen as possible. Virtually all our meals were processed concoctions that came in a box or in frozen form that I just had to heat and serve. Not only is this an unhealthy way to eat but it’s also very expensive.

I had to get away from convenience foods and learn how to make homemade meals that were cheap, healthy and filling. I’m still learning but so far cooking from scratch has saved me big money! Here’s a few simple points to remember when you’re starting out:

Simplicity: You don’t need to prepare elaborate meals-simple can be the most filling. I try to stick to recipes that have five or less ingredients; Recipezaar.com has a great search option that narrows down recipes based on simplicity.

Go Meatless: I’ve cut down our meat consumption since it’s one of my biggest grocery expenses. We have one or two meatless meals every week and the savings adds up fast. Meatless sandwiches and soups are filling meals that can be very cheap to prepare.

Take Breakfast out of the Morning: many breakfast foods are cheap and I’ve started incorporating them into our dinners. Pancakes, waffles, and french toast are meals we eat on a regular basis. Quiche and other egg dishes can also be inexpensive. We usually have one breakfast meal for dinner each week.

Spice It Up: I uses spices in almost every meal I make; they are inexpensive and can make a simple, frugal meal into something amazing! You can also use spices to create parts of your meal like homemade taco seasoning, pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce!

Try New Things: this has been the biggest challenge for me. My husband is very picky when it comes to food and for years I let his food habits dictate how I shopped and cooked. Now I try to incorporate one new recipe into my weekly menu. I’m slowly weaning my husband off of his pickiness and am instilling variety into my kids diets. There’s a great $5 meal thread in the Kitchen Forum here on Diaper Swappers that I get a lot of my recipes from. Another great resource is a site called $5 Meals and has a wide variety of cheap and easy recipes.

Here’s a new recipe I tried this week and it was a huge hit!! I did add real bacon bits to the top, after pulling it from the oven to give it some kick :)    Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Bake

Even if you have always avoided your kitchen, give cooking another try and you might be surprised and how fun it can be! You’ll also be amazed at how cooking can save you money!

My Son’s Story

Posted 04-19-2010 at 09:45 AM by whitneywalters

Alexzander’s story starts on April 18th 2006, that is the day that our son came into this world. My husband and I were over the moon being first time parents. Over the next few months we loved watching him grow. He was amazing. It was shortly before his three month check up that we started to noticing that the shape of his head seemed to be longer then it should be. The time rolled around for his check up and we had to take him to a doctor he had not been to before because our usually doctor was out of town for a couple weeks.

Everything seemed to be going well until she started feeling for his soft spot, I could see the look of concern on her face, she tried not to say anything to us about it but she asked us to take him over for an x-ray, I of course voiced my concerns about giving my infant an x-ray without knowing why.  All she would tell us was that is seemed like his soft spot was smaller then it should be. We took him over to x-ray,  I was trying to hold it together because I did not want to upset him but I was scared. The x-ray staff told us they would call us after the doctor looked at them.

When I got home the first thing I did was get onto the computer and started “Googling” all the reasons why they would be concerned about his soft spot and I soon found information on craniosynotosis which is the union of separate cranial bones into a single bone structure. My heart sank because I just knew that this was what he had.

The doctor called us the next morning and asked us to come in. We sat down with her and she confirmed my fears, he had craniosynotsis, we would be referred to a specialist to discuss our next strep in his treatment, which I knew from my reading the previous day would be surgery.

The first thing we had to do was get him a cat scan. I was very worried about exposing him to that much radiation, it was less then a week between the cat scan and his x-ray. It took a couple times for them to be able to do the cat scan because he had to hold completely still, which is hard to get a three month old to do. He has very upset by the whole situation and so was I.

After the cat scan we had to wait to get an appointment with the specialist up in Iowa city, this took about two weeks. The appointment was a nightmare. The person we were suppose to see was not even there, the lady that met with us was very rude. They were having issues getting their machine to read the cat scan results so they were trying to push me into giving him another one with there machine and I said no. After about an hour they were finally able to read the results but said they would not be able to get him into surgery for about two months, she also started talking about the chances of permanent  damage and other issues that my son may have, I tried to explain that we had been told he had a mild version, that he was not suppose to have any damage or need a helmet. She basically brushed me off, I left that appointment in tears and that is when we decided to seek another opinion. After doing some reading online I called Blank Children’s Hospital.

I was able to get an appointment a few days later, the doctor was amazing, he put all my fears to rest, Alexzander had a very mild form, like we had been told in the beginning, it would require one surgery and we would be done. To my shock they asked if we could come into the hospital for the surgery the following week.

We showed up to the hospital at 7 a.m. the morning of his surgery. They did some blood work which was very unpleasant, Alexzander was only a couple weeks short of five months at this time, since he would be going into surgery I was not able to nurse him and he was very upset. My husband walked him around and patted his back, I had to leave the room because every time he would look at me he would cry harder. It took nearly half an hour for him to calm down, when he finally did calm down we moved down to the surgery waiting area, where we sat and sat and sat. He was supposed to go into surgery by nine-o’clock but we soon found out that they had taken someone else in first and we would have to wait until closer to eleven. I was getting really upset because he was wanting to nurse and was not able to do so.

They finally came for him around a quarter after eleven. My husband and I watched the nurse carry him a way, the last thing we saw was him smile at us as the door closed behind him and the nurse. This is when we both just lost it, we sat and sobbed in each others arms. When we finally were able to regain our composure we joined the rest of our family and friends in the waiting area.

The surgery was only supposed to take around two hours but it ended up taking a little longer. He was out of surgery and in recovery around 4:00 but they would not let us in to see him for almost another hour. Seeing him for the first time after his surgery was really hard, they  had to take a strip of skull bone out to allow room for his head to expand correctly, he was hooked up to a couple machines and his head was bandaged. I sat with him for a while but he was still sleeping so I went down stairs and grabbed something to eat, the nurse called me up while I was eating because he was waking up and I had asked to call me if he woke up. I got back into his room and he was awake and looking around. I wanted to pick him up but they told me I had to wait until the doctor gave the okay to take the IV out. I told them they had fifteen minuetes to do so or I was picking him up anyway. By this time he had not eaten in over fifteen hours and I knew when we started to get more alert he was going to want to eat. Luckily they heard from the doctor within a couple minutes and soon I had my baby boy in my arms again and he was ready to eat.

My mom and I stayed in the hospital with him over night, I had my husband go home so he could go to work the next day, we were not sure when he was going to get out but we had been told if things went well we may be able to go home the next day. I was still asleep when my son woke up the next morning but my mom was awake.  She walked over to him and he gave her the biggest smile, it was like nothing ever happened to him.  A couple of hours later we were going home.

Now, Alexzander is almost four years old, he is an amazing little boy who we love so much. Besides a scar on the top of his head there is no long term effects from his surgery. It was a scary time but we got through thanks to the love and support we had from our family and friends.

Cash for Trash? Earning Money for Recycling

Posted 04-19-2010 at 08:36 AM by DiaperShops Sarah

We all know that recycling is the right thing to do for the environment, but sometimes life gets in the way. We don’t always see the direct result of our efforts and it’s easy to forget how important recycling is.  I’ve found that getting some cash back for recycling is a great incentive.  Here are a few strategies I’ve found for turning trash into cash. 

  • Redeem bottles and cans. Many communities have recycling centers that will buy plastic bottles and aluminum cans for up to a nickel per item.  At our house, we crush soft drink cans and save them until we’ve filled a large trash container, then redeem them for enough cash for a family night at the movies.
  • Cash for discards. Yard sales are a great way to make some cash and recycle your discarded household items and clothing, but have you ever felt disappointed when a nearly new item sells for pennies on the dollar at a yard sale?  Consignment stores are another alternative for reselling furniture, jewelry and clothing.  The store will keep a portion of the price of the item, but you will still net considerably more than you might at a yard sale.
  • Recycle cell phones. Disposing of old cell phones is a problem since they contain toxic substances and shouldn’t be put in the trash.  The Cells for Cash website will accept your cell phone for recycling and if it’s a newer model, they may even pay you for it.  The company will send you a mailer and postage is free.  Best of all, your phone will be refurbished and sent to a developing country.

Recycle Electronics. Gazelle is a website that is similar to Cells for Cash, allowing you to recycle and possibly be paid for your discarded electronic gadgets, including gaming consoles, laptops, desktop computers, monitors, MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders, GPS devices and more.  Like Cells for Cash, you can determine on the website the resale value of your gadget value and receive a postage-paid carton for shipping.  Gazelle will remove all personal data (though you may decide to do this yourself before shipping it), refurbish your gadget and then resell it.  Part of the proceeds will be donated to charity.

About the Author: Sarah is a Communications Manager for http://www.DiaperShops.com, one of the largest cloth diapering boutiques online. She writes for DiaperSwappers.com about how families can become more green.

Reducing Your Grocery Budget: Menu Planning (1 of 4)

Posted 04-12-2010 at 12:00 PM by MyFrugalFunLife

Last fall when we redid our finances my grocery budget got cut to $50 a week for our family of five, which also had to include toiletries, paper goods etc. At the time I was spending at least $10 a week just on my soda addiction-eek! I had to rethink how I fed my family and since then, I’ve learned several techniques to make my kitchen more thrifty. My next four articles will talk about some of the ways you can save money in your own kitchen; let’s start by looking at ways to reduce your grocery budget!

Menu planning gives you control over what goes into your grocery cart. It makes your grocery list accurate and eliminates the need to make multiple trips to the store each week. It also takes the uncertainty of meal time away and allows you to provide balanced meals at the lowest cost possible. Here’s what I do when I make my menu plan:

What do I have already? I first look through my fridge and cupboards and see what items I have that I can build off of. If I have one or two ingredients already for a meal I just need to buy the things to finish it, instead of starting from scratch.

Go through the weekly store ads. I shop at Aldi and Meijer. Aldi has very inexpensive groceries but their selection is limited. I get 95% of my groceries there and then finish up my shopping at Meijer. They are higher priced but they run weekly sales and accept coupons.

I go through my recipe binder. I get most of my recipes from recipezaar.com and it only takes a minute to print recipes and add them to my collection. Having a binder of recipes makes it easy to come up with dinners ideas.

Use one ingredient for multiple meals. Many times a recipe only uses a small amount of an ingredient, like 1/4 cup of sour cream or half of a garlic clove. By including two meals in one week that use the same ingredient, the left over amount does not get shoved into the back of the fridge and forgotten about.

Utilize Leftovers. We used to never eat leftovers. Now I incorporate them into my menu plan and it helps cut out food waste, which in turns saves money. Leftovers make great lunches and even snacks!

Menu planning is a must for a frugal grocery budget. There is a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, it really can help get your grocery budget under control!

Some other easy tips for cutting back your grocery budget:
Bring CASH! If you walk in the store with cash you cannot go over your budget. Each week I go to Aldi and Meijer with $50 cash and I do not bring a check book or debit card with me. This way I have no way to go over my budget.

Cut out the small trips-if you’re at the store you’re more likely to spend money you didn’t budget. Cut out those small stops in between your regular grocery shopping trips and you’ll be surprised at how much money you save!

Have a list: I make my grocery shopping list the same time I make my menu plan. A good, accurate list will keep you on track at the store and keep you from throwing unneeded items in your cart.

Inside a Toddler’s Head

Posted 04-12-2010 at 09:22 AM by Harmony96

Lydia has not yet entered the “age of constant questions,” but she is definitely growing in knowledge as she learns through first-hand experience about the world around her and how grammar works. Here are a few of her observations.

“I think Jacob has a bottom.” (I replied that yes, Jacob does have a bottom.) “I think Jacob has a bottom like Benjamin.” (This exchange happened a few weeks after Thanksgiving, when she happened to be in the bathroom when one of her cousins came in to use it.)

“Mama! My pear has juice in it!” (She noticed this when she took a few bites out of a whole pear that I’d given her for lunch one day.)

I was asking her who all loves her. She said that Daddy and Mommy did, of course. Then she said, “My sisters love me.” Tim and I asked her where her sisters were. She thought about it for a minute and then declared, “I have a sister in my tummy. Her name is Caleb.” I started to smile and laugh at this, and then she admonished me, “Don’t be funny, Mommy!”

“There’s butter inside it!” (I had just given her a lemon-cream-filled cookie.)

“I can’t. I’m too busy right now.” (She and Tim (my husband) were playing, and Tim had asked her to cover up with a blanket.)

“It’s not hot sauce. It’s cold sauce.” (She had grabbed a packet of hot sauce out of the fridge and suggested that we use it for dinner. I had told her what it was and that we didn’t need it.)

“It’s just mouth water.” (She had been sucking on her fingers, and noticed that they were a little wet, and she told me that when I asked her what was on her hands.)

She was in another room and I did something that made a loud noise. Concerned, she ran to me and said, “Why did you do?” She paused for half a second and then corrected herself to “What did you do?”

Lydia looking up at camera

“Mmm. Can I have another crazy one?” (I had just given her a Craisin out of my snack mix.)

When her jacket is open, she wants me to unzip it. When it’s closed, she wants me to zip it. She has similar requests for button-up shirts and for the snaps on her pants.

She also still gets “you” and “I” mixed up because she will say, “Can you do such-and-such?” When I start to do it for her, she gets upset because in her mind, SHE wanted to be the one to do it.

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face when I’m listening to her learn. But life with a 3-year-old is never boring. That’s for sure.

Crunchy ABCs: A is for…

Posted 04-12-2010 at 08:55 AM by supergirljennie

The first edition of the crunchy ABCs!  In this article, A is for amber, is about the benefits of Baltic amber and how incorporating it into your life can help you live a little more eco-friendly.

Amber

When your baby hits that magical age when teething begins (usually around 6-7 months, but sometimes earlier or later), the pain sets in and subsequently turns your formerly delightful child into a drooly, screaming, hurting mess.  Before I became my current crunchy self, I used to do what mainstream society told me to: use medications such as Tylenol and Orajel and freeze teethers for the baby to chew on.

Now I know about Baltic amber and all its wonderful properties, and since using an amber teething necklace with my third child I have noticed an amazing difference in our teething experience.  Baltic amber contains oil with high concentrations of succinic acid which release once warmed from skin.  A necklace worn directly against the skin releases these healing oils onto your child, allowing him to feel better from this natural pain killer.  There are higher concentrations of healing oils in the lighter colored amber, but you receive benefits from the amber no matter the shade.

I have seen such a difference compared to my other children.  No longer do I have a drooly, screaming, hurting mess of a child.  I now have a mildly drooly, occasionally whimpering, slightly uncomfortable baby cutting teeth.  It’s definitely changed the teething experience for both of us, and I love that I’m not putting foreign, man-made chemicals into his body.

And amber’s health benefits aren’t just for babies!  Besides aiding with teething pain, amber worn on various parts of the body can help with arthritis, carpal tunnel, back pain, menstrual pain, and migraines!  I can personally attest to the help with carpal tunnel; since wearing an amber bracelet, the pain in my hand and wrist is significantly improved.

There are many great retailers of amber jewelry, but the two I can speak about are Inspired By Finn and Baltic Creations.  Both have wonderful customer service and sell beautiful pieces of amber jewelry that are both functional and attractive!

Holidays

Posted 04-6-2010 at 05:34 PM by gkatieh

Holidays have such a new meaning for me now. I get to celebrate for Austin! He wasn’t even a month old on Christmas but we, I mean Santa, still got him a couple things. He got a little basketball goal thingy (he’ll be ready for it soon!) And a matchbox car, some books, and wrist rattles.

On New Years Eve at midnight Christopher was asleep. We don’t have cable so I counted down to 2010 with my Twitter friends. I was nursing Austin & once he finally finished (those were the days of the hour long nursing sessions…) I gave him a big big kiss.

For Valentine’s Day I got him a “Mommy’s Valentine” onesie and asked him to Be Mine!

On St. Patrick’s Day I made SURE he was wearing green so no one would get punched out. Punched out you ask? Yeah, pinch my baby and see what happens… ;)

For Easter I, I mean the Easter bunny, has gotten him a HUGE basket for the years to come. I, I mean he, got Austin some eggs to hide. I am 25 years old and hiding and finding easter eggs is PROBABLY my absolute favorite thing in the entire world. My mom said I used to make her hide them over and over and over. I make Christopher do it too! And NOW I have Austin!!! I hope he loves it as much as I do! We can hide and hunt all day! He even has an “Easter Egg Hunting Champion” shirt. I wish I had one… Anyways.

The Easter bunny also got Austin a book on the meaning of Easter. As his first Easter, I wanted to make sure he understood what was really happening. He may not understand, but I want to start off on the right foot that this holiday (and Christmas) isn’t all about eggs and bunnies. It’s about Jesus dying for our sins so we can go to Heaven. That’s a way better present than candy, eggs, and basketball goals.