January 8, 2011

It's not just your imagination...they really do disappear sometimes

I've always kept a trim diaper stash.  About 25 diapers is usually my limit...just what I need for 2 days (maybe 3) plus a couple extra.  And I have just enough inserts to fill my pocket diapers.  So I notice when one goes missing.  Where did that insert go?  Who takes an insert? 

This time I caught the culprit in the act! 
Yep, that's a Just-Hemp insert almost entirely eaten by my washing machine.  I managed to pull it out and revive the poor thing, but I had to photograph the proof. 

And when I was washing breast pads, I had a couple go missing after one of the first washes.  Ran my hand around the inside under the plastic agitator and found them both.  I don't like washing breast pads in a mesh bag because they come out all lumpy, so instead I checked under the agitator every time.  I never completely lost one, but I had to pull several out of the agitator.

Baby socks love to get eaten.  Those I do wash in a mesh laundry bag.  I once heard a mom tell of her pipes getting clogged from lost baby socks. 

So go forth and wash diapers, but check the washing machine monster to see if he's eating anything!

January 7, 2011

Reverse Interview

Blogs often feature interviews, but typically the blogger is the interviewer.  I'd like to turn it around.  YOU be the interviewer and I'LL answer the questions!

Post a comment below with your questions.  I'll post again in a few days with my answers. 

Ask whatever you'd like...cloth diapering, parenting, my family, other natural products, business or entrepreneurship, etc. 

Perhaps you've wondered how I got into the business of cloth diapers.  Or maybe you'd really like to know what diapers I *really* use on my son.  Do you have a business idea of  your own that you'd like some advice on?  I'm not an expert, or a guru, or anything else.  But I've been around a bit, especially business (10 years owning my own business) and diapers (5+ years cloth diapering).  And besides, YOU interviewing ME would just be fun!

So bring it on...comment below and I can't wait to see what you ask!

Trophy Tuesday winner

Announcing the winner from our first Trophy Tuesday on Jan 4, 2011.

Abby!  I will send you an email, congrats!

January 5, 2011

The Adventure of Baby Food

When my daughter was born 5 1/2 years ago, I worked 80 hours a week in our family's bookstore. My only day off was Sunday. I got to take her to work with me, so we had plenty of bonding time, but time for making baby food was hard to find. I tried it once, avocados and sweet potatoes, but both were a miserable failure and I gave up. Little jars filled our lives for a few months.

With my son, I was determined to try again and get it right. I knew making baby food would give me great control over how my son ate (have you seen the choices in stage 1 jars? Not many.) and I knew it could be a money saver. As a work-at-home-mom, I am always looking to save money.

This time, I had more support and I asked the right questions, namely "Where do I go to find out about making baby food?"

Overwhelmingly, the answer I got was WholesomeBabyFood.com. What a fantastic (and FREE!) resource! They have recipes both by Stage and by food group. It's easy to find what you want to make and how to do it. Making Stage 1 foods? Click Stage 1 and you'll find a list of appropriate foods, how to make the plain versions of each, and a few recipes for when your baby is ready for more of a meal (mixed foods).

Next was how to make the food. I already had a simple steam basket that I use inside pots for steaming veggies. Turns out that's pretty much all I need. Water in the pot, then the basket, then veggies or fruits inside the basket. Steam gently for a few minutes until soft, then lift out basket. Cool food and blend smooth. EASY! Why wasn't it this easy 5 years ago?

Enjoying his first meal...mama-made apples.  Yum!

I've been making food for a couple of months now and our son happily enjoys 100% mama-made meals, most of which are organic. I've saved lots of money...I added up the savings from one shopping trip. Fresh produce vs. tiny jars and I saved $23. On ONE trip. That's fabulous!

I use my regular blender most of the time. I already had a 1-cup mini food processor that I find handy for small batches. And I bought a food mill for fixing meals one at a time.

I use regular ice cube trays to freeze freshly made food, then I package it into ziplock freezer bags.  Label them with food and date, then back into the freezer they go!  Right now I'm using up breastmilk storage bags.  They only hold about 6 cubes each, but they work well and the food doesn't get freezer burned the way it can in regular ziplock freezer bags. 

Here's a photo of today's freezer stash.  Included here are Stage 1 beets, green beans, peas, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.  Also Stage 2 sweet potatoes/turkey, peas/turkey, and cauliflower.  And freezing in trays at the moment is a huge batch of apples.  Yum!

Real life example...
I bought 12 golden delicious apples for $4.69 = 0.39 per apple
I peeled and steamed 7 apples = $2.74 (0.39*7)
I made 48 ounces of baby apples.  At 2 oz per jar, this equals 24 jars.
24 jars of Earth's Best organic baby food apples, Stage 1 = $0.69 per jar *24= $16.56
$16.56 - $2.74 = $13.82 savings just yesterday making a single food
Time spent = about 20 minutes, mostly while I was already making dinner

January 4, 2011

Introducing Trophy Tuesdays!

Starting today, the first Tuesday of the new year, we'll be doing Trophy Tuesdays!  Every Tuesday, we'll feature a giveaway or a terrific deal on cloth diapers, natural parenting products, natural toys, etc.

First up: a Rumparooz One Size cloth diaper

With internal gussets to catch poo and wetness, these diapers offer fabulous leak protection.  We used them on our son from birth when he weighed 7 lbs 8 oz.  Rumparooz fit great and quickly became a favorite in our stash.  Choose from either snaps or velcro in a variety of great colors! 

CLOSED for new entries - DRAWING at 1pm PST Friday, Jan 7

January 3, 2011

Affiliate programs...are they worth it?

If you shop online a lot, then you've probably noticed links for affiliate programs.  Most of the big websites (Amazon, Vista Print, etc) have them now.  Even some of our favorite stores, like Cloth Diaper Outlet and Nature's Nappies, have affiliate programs.  What are they, how do they work, and is it worth it?

Simply put, it's a commission program that pays you to advertise for the store. 

Usually you have to register or apply, then have your account approved.  Once approved, you get your own unique "affiliate link". Then you use the link...put it on your Facebook page, add it to the signature in emails or forum posts, put it in your blog.  Anytime anyone clicks through to the website using your link, and places an order, then you get credit for that order.  Sometimes it's store credit, sometimes it's cash. 

How much each store pays varies.  Usually it's between 2 and 8% depending on the store and what is purchased.  Most are around 5%. 

At Cloth Diaper Outlet, first-time purchases will earn the affiliate a 5% cash commission.  Repeat-purchases earn 2%.  It's great that you get credit on repeat purchases; most of the "big" stores don't honor repeat purchases.  Plus, at Cloth Diaper Outlet, the payout is cash in the form of Paypal, paid quarterly. 

Graphics are provided to help you advertise your link.
Is it worth it?  Since the programs are free and easy to sign up for, yes, it's worth taking a few minutes to sign up.  Will you earn a regular paycheck?  Most likely you'll earn enough for a free latte or two a few times a year.  But free money is free money and I usually sign up!

January 2, 2011

Fast and easy instructions for making a stroller blanket

I've been wanting a stroller blanket for our little guy for a while now, but I just can't bring myself to pay full price.  The other day I headed over to the fabric store and found two fabrics right off that I loved.  I sewed the blanket today and posted pictures on my personal Facebook page.  Soon a family member asked for the pattern so she could make one.  I decided to take pictures and make it into a blog post so you can try it, too!

I think most strollers are about the same width, but you might measure yours and tweak your measurements to match.  Here's what I did...

1/2 yard of minkee fabric (orange)  = $5.85 on sale at Joann's and a 10% off coupon
1/2 yard of coordinating snuggle fleece  = $4.95 on sale & with a coupon

I already had thread to match. 

Half a yard was perfect for my stroller, I didn't trim the width at all.

1. I cut three strips from the bottom edge of the minkee...each about 2" wide.  I folded them lengthwise into thirds and sewed down the center of each.  This made three long strips (18" long) that I used for the ties and the toy loops.  You could use ribbon and skip this step.  I cut two of the long strips in half (9" long) so I would have two ties for each side of the blanket.  The third long piece I cut into three pieces (6" long) for the toy loops (I only used two, so I have a strip left over that's about 6" long)

2. I matched up the fabrics right-side in.  I held it up to our stroller and found where I wanted the ties to be.  I pinned the ties in place so that when I turned the blanket right-side-out, the long ends would hang out of the seam.  Next I stitched up the sides of the blanket, reinforcing over the ties.  I used a zig-zag stitch.  You could also use a serger, but I didn't bother.

3. I held it up to the stroller again and found where I wanted the toy loops.  I wanted my stroller blanket to fold over where the ties are...

Click on images to see a bigger version.
Showing the fold...ties at each side, toy loops in the middle.

Close up of toy loop (with plastic link) and side ties.

4.  I put the toy loops on the fold.  When the folded part is up around his shoulders, he can't really play with his toys, but that's okay...I'd rather his hands stay tucked inside where it's warm!  But for walking the mall, for instance, this puts his toys right at the perfect level.

5. From the backside of the fleece (brown fabric) I cut tiny slits and poked the loop through the hole to the right side.  From the back, I zigzagged over the loop ends and the cut fleece, tacking the loops down and closing the hole.  I reinforced this pretty good. 

6. From the backside, I sewed across the top of the blanket, sewing it shut.  Then I turned it all right-side out to make sure everything looked good before I closed the last side.

7. If it looks good, then go to the bottom of the blanket.  Tuck about 1" of the raw edge inside.  Hold the two fabrics together and top-stitch to close the blanket.  You can be done at this point if you want.

8. I went one more step and made a pocket for his feet to keep them cozy warm.  I made my blanket about 14" longer than necessary and folded this layer up and under...
Showing the foot pocket on the finished blanket.
9. I sewed up the edges of the foot pocket and reinforced the corners where all the layers meet so that kicky baby feet won't tear the blanket. 

10.  I used some fleece scraps to embellish the edges of my ties, but this totally was just for fun and not needed.

Finished blanket:
37" long, 17" wide, foot pocket 13" deep
Total cost = $10.80
Total time to make = about 1 hour, making it up as I went along

Finished blanket...this side goes against baby.
Finished blanket...this is the side everyone sees when it's in use

Finished blanket in use.  I can pull the flap up and tuck it in around his neck for extra warmth.
And that carpet...it's at the roller rink, not our house!  LOL

Post and photos are the sole copyright of Heather Hicks, CDO LLC, 2011.