Cloth Diaper Addiction

I have no explanation, but in recent months I’ve developed an addiction to cloth diapering.  I had tried cloth diapering our daughter some time ago, but had rash issues and eventually quit.  This time I’ve done more research, I happen to have access to a different washing machine, and I’m more addicted to the idea.  All these factors have helped us find success.  And I love not buying diapers nearly as much (I still use disposables at night)!

So here is my “shortcut” post for any mothers who are interested in cloth diapering but don’t have the time to research it.

There are MANY kinds of cloth diapers and ways of cloth diapering.  Here are three of the ones I’m familiar with or have used:

  1. An old fashioned prefold diaper with a diaper cover over it.  This option has come a long way in the past few decades.  Now there are alternatives to safety pins (one is called a Snappi), lots of quality prefolds to choose from, and very cute and convenient covers.  I use primarily Osocozy prefolds with Thirsties Duo Wraps (snaps or hook & loop).  I found a Blueberry Coverall at a consignment store, and it does have some advantages over the Thirsties, but not enough for me to pay the extra money for it new.
  2. A pocket diaper.  I know the least about this option, but lots of people use them.  The concept has never made sense to me, since every diaper change would require a new diaper and pulling out the wet or soiled insert out of the pocket (to rinse out if soiled).  In short, it’s always sounded messy and not incredibly cost effective, but there are probably aspects I’m missing.
  3. All-In-One (AIO) diapers.  This is a diaper cover that has the insert or actual diaper part sewn right into it.  I never tried these the first time around, but they have made cloth diapering much more feasible when someone besides me needs to be the diaper changer (husband, grandmother, etc.), thus reducing our reversions to disposables.  AIOs are almost as easy to put on as disposables, the only differences being that the inserts must be folded in (if applicable), and there might be snaps to fasten instead of sticky strips (if it’s a hook & loop [Velcro] closure, it’s that much easier).  I’ve bought four of these to have when our daughter is being babysat, and also when we are away from the house.  Putting on a single-piece cloth diaper is easier on a public changing table or in the back of the car than having multiple parts to deal with.  I have Bumgenius Freetime AIO, mostly in hook & loop closures.  There are two “inserts” in these that fold out for washing.  So far they seem to get very clean (no ammonia smell).  They line-dry, so that part does take a little while.  If you do go with the hook & loop closure on these or on basic covers, make SURE they are fastened in on themselves before washing.  I forgot once and they wreaked havoc on the inserts of an AIO.

A few more details: Some people use regular laundry detergent for cloth diapers.  With the rash issues I faced, I ended up with Rockin Green.  Besides being an effective detergent, they have cloth diaper experts on staff who will e-mail with you to troubleshoot any problems you might run into.  I’ve noticed that many people used Charlie’s Soap, so I may try that eventually.

In addition to the actual diapers, there are a few “accessories” you will (or might) need.  1) Diaper liners.  These are helpful in containing and cleaning up soiled diapers.  Some are flushable, although I don’t go there with an old plumbing system.  Liners also provide a thin barrier between baby’s bottom and the diaper, helping prevent rashes.  2) A wet/dry bag for diaper changes when not at home.  There are two pockets – one for clean diapers and one for wet/soiled.  The bag can then be washed right with your diapers.  3) An alternative diaper cream.  Traditional diaper creams will build up on cloth diapers causing them to repel moisture eventually (so I’m told, but this seems to be universal knowledge in the cloth diapering world).  A simple mixture of coconut oil and cornstarch works as an alternative, or there are lots of recipes online for more elaborate creams.  And of course there are plenty for sale.  4) As mentioned before, if you are using prefold and covers, you will need something to secure the prefold before putting the cover on.  Snappis are very easy to use.  I think there is at least one other safety pin alternative, but I’ve never tried it.  5) A different diaper or diapering strategy for nighttime.  I haven’t ventured into this realm yet, but may with our next baby.  For now I use a disposable at night.  6) Cloth wipes.  Another area into which I’ve never gone, but it would be much easier to toss cloth wipes into the cloth diaper bin to be washed along with everything else than to have to throw away disposable wipes.  But what about for soiled diaper changes?  That just seems a little rough to me.

To all who are looking into this new and addictive mode of diapering, best wishes!

There used to be angels.

In my hometown there is a Byzantine Catholic Church.  It has a sprawling front lawn through which a path and Stations of the Cross wind.  When my husband and I lived in this town, we would sometimes walk there and walk the stations with our son (who was 2-3 at the time).  He loved the little bridges that cross over a tiny stream.

Last week we were driving through this town early one morning, as we do twice per week when my children go to be with my mom while I work for the morning.  I sometimes point out the life-size Crucifix as we pass by, saying something really spiritually inspiring like, “Look, there’s the Crucifix…with the Blessed Mother and John standing by the Cross.”  Last week I said that as we passed by.

My son responded simply, “There used to be angels.”

Immediately I thought that, when he was younger, he had thought the statues of the Blessed Mother and John standing by the Cross were angels.  Now that he is 5 he sees that they are not but still thinks he remembers angels.

“Where were the angels?” I asked.

“Above Jesus.”

My “rational” explanation melted away.  This is a boy who recalls details of events when he was two without prodding.

So there used to be angels.  Or maybe there just are angels, but only the little ones have eyes to see them.  If our 2 year-old daughter could understand the conversation and respond, we just might hear, “What do you mean ‘used to be’?  They’re right there.”

Simple Hummus

Talk about cheap and easy!

Drain and rinse 3 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and dump them in your food processor. Add 2 cloves pealed garlic,  the juice of one lemon, a few shakes of Tabasco sauce, 1-2 teaspoons dried basil, salt & pepper and olive oil. Process until smooth, drizzling in olive oil as needed until the hummus is smooth. Adjust ingredients to taste.

I’m serving this tonight (with a big bowl of sliced carrots) for dinner alongside sausage sandwiches.

The best & easiest bread ever

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It really is!  This recipe has transformed making homemade bread from a once-in-a-blue-moon event (that I really wanted to do more often) into a multiple-times-per-week-without-blinking-an-eye phenomenon. 🙂

You can find the original recipe and helpful video here, but below is a simplified version:

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups warm water

Method:

Mix together the flour, yeast and salt with a fork in a medium bowl.  Pour in the warm water and mix together until combined.  The dough will be sticky or sometimes even soggy.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, set your oven to 450 degrees and place a high-sided, oven-proof dish or dutch oven (preferably that has a lid) into the oven to heat up.  I use this.  Dump out the dough onto a well-floured surface and fold in the edges until your dough has something of a shape…but don’t worry if it doesn’t.  Most of the time mine is so soft it’s hard to handle, but it doesn’t matter!  Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes while your dish and oven heat.

After the rest time, remove your dish from the oven and spray it with cooking spray or butter it (I use butter, but be careful as the dish is extremely hot).  Place your dough in the greased dish, cover the dish and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid and continue baking for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes.  This will depend on your particular oven.  The recipe says 10-15 minutes but I have to leave mine in for 20.  It will be crackly on top and browned.  Move the bread to a cooling rack and let it sit for 15 minutes or more before slicing.

 

Chocolate Cream Pie

Again from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.  I made this for Easter and it was absolutely delicious.  I used my regular butter pie crust but the recipe uses a chocolate cookie crust.

Filling

2 1/2 cups half-and-half

1/3 cup sugar

pinch salt

6 large egg yolks

2 tablespoons cornstarch

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine (I omitted this and simply used chocolate chips for all the chocolate)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:

Bring half-and-half, 3 tablespoons sugar, and salt to simmer in medium saucepan, stirring occasionally.

As half-and-half mixture begins to simmer, whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar in medium bowl until smooth.  Slowly whisk 1 cup of simmering half-and-half mixture into yolk mixture to temper, then slowly whisk tempered yolk mixture back into remaining half-and-half mixture.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until mixture is thickened and few bubbles burst on surface, about 30 seconds.  Off heat, whisk in butter, semisweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate until completely smooth and melted, then stir in vanilla.

Pour warm filling into baked and cooled pie crust.  Lay sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is chilled and set, about 4 hours.

For the topping:

Once pie is chilled, use stand mixer fitted with whisk to whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute.  Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.  Spread whipped cream attractively over pie and serve immediately.

 

 

 

Children At the Table

I’ve found a new book that threatens to be one of those books that changes the course of things. I wasn’t looking for a book about how to get my children to eat more and better foods, but it came at just the right time – in regards to food and also parenting. The book is French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon.

For the past seven months I’ve been enrolled in a kind of parenting boot camp.  I began this boot camp of my own will, but only out of desperation.  Our daughter (2) has proved to have a temperament and personality absolutely different than her older brother.  When she was only 15 months I realized that my discipline modus operandi was not going to work with her.  Thankfully I came across the book Parenting With Grace by Greg and Lisa Popcak.  This book was immeasurably helpful and very transformative for me and my husband.  It helped us realize the ways we were trying to control our children and how we had a punitive discipline mentality across the board, even when that approach was completely unnecessary and avoidable.  It helped us value each child’s will as something good that needs to be cultivated, rather than something corrupt that needs to be broken.  So much good came (and is still coming) from this book, and I will continue to consult it in the future.  All that being said, because I was so shaken in my approach to parenting and had to make drastic changes, I developed a sort of mothering insecurity.  Afraid of damaging my children by being authoritarian, I wavered in my ability to be properly authoritative.

And that’s where the book about French children’s eating habits came in.  After moving to France with her husband (who is French) and two daughters, Karen Le Billon discovered 10 food rules that helped her children become better eaters.  A big part of this food revolution was the author’s realization that she was in charge of her children’s eating habits, and that those habits had to be formed.  Enter a more authoritative mother.  Snacking is out, eating what is served is in, everything is simpler, and wonderful family dinners that taste really good are the highlight of the day.  Oh, and there are no power struggles to try to get children to eat.  Yes, yes, yes please.  I ate up most of the book (haha) in a week and immediately starting implementing some of the ideas.

While making food accommodations is still absolutely necessary for our son (the subject of another post, perhaps), we’ve begun small changes that are promising.  One idea that was very helpful to me is that children need to try a new food many times before necessarily acquiring a taste for it.  (This idea, my husband reminds me, was one he brought up long ago but that apparently didn’t stick with me!)  For our toddler this means that I keep feeding her foods that she has previously refused.  She may refuse or only accept one bite of a particular food 10 or 20 times, but eventually she may realize that she likes it.  Most foods should become tolerable or liked with enough tries and only a few flatly refused as outside the realm of edible things (much the same as most adults).  This is the process of forming her tastes to include all kinds of foods.  The French don’t shy away from strong tastes, either (think blue cheese).

Another idea that was only implicitly stated in the book is that of feeding toddlers their meals instead of letting them feed themselves.  One of the author’s daughters was in daycare in France and she happened to go in to pick her up one day while lunch was being served.  There were 16 children in the class but only four were fed at a time, with an adult in front of each child, carefully feeding them their entire lunch before four more children were placed in the highchairs.  Quite an inefficient method, but it demonstrates the great importance placed on good eating habits by French culture.  Something clicked with me when I read this, and I started feeding our daughter her meals again.  It seemed that this would make meals quite laborious for me, having to feed her every bite.  Instead I’m finding that feeding her curtails some bad and messy behaviors resulting in more peaceful meals and less cleanup.

Eliminating snacking is the last idea I want to touch on.  I think snacking is an obligatory American mothering practice.  We all carry around crackers or pretzels or SOMETHING so that our little ones will not experience the dreaded hunger pangs (and to avoid the crankiness that can follow).  This book says it’s just not necessary.  I haven’t been as good at sticking to this strategy, but to the extent that I have it has been freeing.  Imagine no more cheerio-infested car seats and cracker crumbs ground into the backseat flooring of your car.  I am imagining this because our car has looked like a mobile garbage can for way too long.  With a n0-snacking mentality comes the fact that meals must be more substantial.  Again, to the extent that I’ve done this it has simplified life and made meals more balanced and filling.  I have a long way to go.

One aspect of French child-rearing that I do not agree with, and which doesn’t get much attention in the book anyway, is that of scheduling the feeding of infants.  The author tells a story of speaking with a mother of a newborn.  The baby was crying in the background and the mother stated that yes, he was crying but would have to wait another two hours until his scheduled feeding.  I am a big proponent of breastfeeding, and breastfeeding serves a purpose far bigger than simply supplying nutritious food to a baby or toddler.  Emotional and psychological needs are being met, and these needs do not operate on a schedule.  I could go on and on, but I’ll end with that.

I would most definitely recommend this book!  It’s an easy and entertaining read, and was just exactly what I needed at this point in our family life.

 

Quick Cinnamon Buns

For Sunday mornings, from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book.  They really are easy.

Quick Cinnamon Buns

Filling

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Dough

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I made this by adding slightly more than a tablespoon of white vinegar to milk.)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Icing

2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons buttermilk

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

(Instead of this icing I mixed together confectioners’ sugar and almond milk.)

My own simplified directions:

Mix together all ingredients for filling and set aside.

Mix together dry dough ingredients in a medium bowl and buttermilk and melted butter in a separate bowl.  Mix together just until a rough dough forms (I had to add flour for the right consistency).  Knead the dough briefly.

Pat out dough into a 9 by 12 inch rectangle.  Spread melted butter all over the rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border dry.  Pour filling mixture onto the dough and spread evenly, patting it down gently into dough.  Roll dough from the long side tightly into a cylinder.  Pinch the edge closed.  Cut the cylinder into 8 pieces and place these pieces, cut side down, into a buttered non-stick cake pan (or an 8, 9 or 10 inch pie plate or casserole dish would work, too).  Brush or drizzle melted butter on top.  Bake at 425 degrees in the middle of the oven until cinnamon buns begin to turn golden brown.  Transfer to wire wrack and let cool slightly before drizzling icing over the top.

 

Pancakes & Mr. Rogers

Often on Monday mornings we have pancakes while watching an old episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on YouTube.  This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker’s classic pancake recipe.

Pancakes

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup whole wheat flour

3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar

3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup milk or 1/2 & 1/2 (use as much as needed to make the batter as thin or thick as you like)

Directions:

Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt.  Make a whole in the middle and add the eggs, butter, and vanilla.  Whisk, then add the milk to desired consistency and whisk again.

I use an electric griddle for pancakes (I found it at a yard sale for $5!), which makes the whole process a lot faster.  I make medium sized pancakes using a small ladle or large spoon and add chocolate chips to most of them (by request).  Cooking a couple of minutes on each side is all it takes.

Graces of the Holy Rosary

The “Meditation of the Day” from the Magnificat for Wednesday, October 7, 2015. By Father Raymond P. Lawrence

Graces of the Holy Rosary

Monsignor Hugh Benson, in one of his early novels, gave us a beautiful explanation of the rosary.  An old nun is trying to make the devotion clear to a young Protestant girl.  The enquirer asks:

“How can prayers said over and over again like that be any good?”

Mistress Margaret was silent for a moment.

“I saw young Mrs. Martin last week,” she said, “with her little girl in her lap.  She had her arms around her mother’s neck, and was being rocked to and fro; and every time she rocked she said ‘Oh, mother.’”

“But, then,” said Isabel, after a moment’s silence, “she was only a child.”  “’Except ye become as little children –‘” quoted Mistress Margaret softly –“you see, my Isabel, we are nothing more than children with God and his Blessed Mother.  To say, ‘Hail Mary, Hail Mary,’ is the best way of telling her how much we love her.  And, then, this string of beads is like our Lady’s girdle, and her children love to finger it, and whisper to her.  And then we say our Our Fathers too; and all the while we are talking, she is showing us pictures of her dear Child, and we look at all the great things he did for us, one by one; and then we turn the page and begin again.”

Those who have profited most from the rosary are the ones who have thus understood it.  With hearts full of love they have rested close by the side of our heavenly Mother; and, whispering words of endearment to her, they have gazed the while at those wonderful pictures which the changing mysteries recall, seeing always something new and beautiful.  And when they have come to the end of the picture-book, with the insatiable interest of a child, they have gone back to the beginning and turned every page over again.