Some More Green Updates: Spring is Really, Really Here

It feels like we have had some of the craziest weather I’ve ever seen in the past few months in central Virginia.  For New Years Day, our family went for a walk in the 65 degree weather, then February brought in some mild, but cool weather.  In March we saw 80 and almost 90 degree days, but April was chilly and rainy.  Now that May is nearly over it finally feels like spring has arrived.  I was afraid it never would.  I was also afraid my garden wouldn’t know how to handle all the changes in temperature and sun exposure.

But it did, thankfully.

I had planted some cool weather crops in late February including carrots, spinach, kale, and rhubarb.  I also have lettuce that I have personally never planted, but it continues to grow beautifully every year.  I start harvesting that in mid to late April.  I’ve harvested some spinach, but no matter how many spinach plants I plant, I never seem to get a great yield.  I wonder what it is I’m doing wrong.  I pluck a few leaves off each plant every few days, but never enough to really through into a green monster smoothie or make a salad.  My kale failed horribly, and I have no clue why.  I was a little bummed because I love through kale into stews and soups.  I may try a late crop to see what happens with that.  I haven’t yet harvested carrots because I’m honestly not sure when to do that.  I have to do a little research into how big and fluffy the top of a carrot has to be before the tuber is orange and delicious.

I think by far the biggest gardening success we’ve had this year is our strawberries.  Last year my in-laws gave us a medium-sized strawberry plant in a hanging basket.  It survived and did pretty well through the summer and most of the fall.  We did not, though, harvest very many strawberries; I think we ate four of our own berries.  Just four.  Barely enough to slice and put on your morning cereal.   By the time early fall rolled around, I thought the strawberries could use a little more room to grow, so I put our fairly small plant in the middle of one of our 5’x5′ raised beds.  Through the fall, winter, and early spring, that one strawberry plant nearly filled the entire bed, and starting in early April we’ve been harvesting about half a pint of strawberries a week!  I’m finding that for their yield, strawberries are super easy to grow in our area.  I would venture to say they’d do well all over the mid-Atlantic region and similar climates.  The only thing to watch out for is containing the plant’s growth and spreading by clipping the extending tendrils before they take root.

Other things I’ve got planted that are about ready to bloom and fruit include string beans, zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and fennel.  So far my string beans seem to be extending their tendrils out, so I expect they’ll be climbing the trelisse very soon.  I’ve also seen some tomato flowers already.  That makes me more excited than anyone can imagine.  As an Italian woman, I probably cook my body weight in tomato products 7 times over in the course of one year.  In order to be more frugal and proficient about this fact, we’re growing and preserving our own tomatoes and tomato sauce.  I seriously cannot wait!

Anyone else have anything coming up already and soon to come up from the ground?  I’m curious to know what’s growing where. 🙂

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Finding Normal

My last day as a federal employee was March 30, 2012, and everyday since then I’ve been trying to find normal.  I went from working 40 hours a week and commuting 5 hours a week to being a stay at home mom.  Bitsy Girl was born in July, and I had to return to work when she was 8 weeks old.  I said that it wasn’t so hard to leave her because she didn’t look at pathetic and helpless as some other 8 week old babies I have seen.  Regardless, it was still difficult to leave my daughter, even though she was staying home with my husband.  There really is not way to describe having to take care of every single need for a very needy little human being for 8 weeks, then have to jump back into inspecting government widgets.  It was not only heartbreaking but confusing, as well.

Months later I find myself in the same situation, only reversed.  I have left my job inspecting government widgets to care for my daughter, and yet, I don’t find my switch to being home as natural as I had hoped.  Yes, I feel better about my choice to be home, and yes, I know the basics of caring for my daughter.  It is my time management that could use some work.  I had always thought of myself as a very ambitious go-getter, and yet, I find myself barely getting laundry done some weeks.  Bitsy Girl is 10 months old now, and not only naps 3-4 hours a day, but can play by herself for almost 20 minutes at a time.  I, of course, devote time in my day to play with, cuddle, and care for her, but I find myself easily frustrated with my lack of productivity on home tasks.  My dishes get neglected, I make super easy meals to avoid having to cook for too long.  I forget to wipe down my bathroom sink some weeks.  It seems ridiculous.  I had thought being at home would give me so much time to do what it was I wanted to get down.  I thought I would have time to paint and declutter and bake and cook and garden.  But sometimes I don’t.

I’m continuing to work on these skills, but I wouldn’t mind any suggestions.  Anyone else have suggestions for a poor time manager?

The Best Kitchen Cleaner I’ve Ever Used

Do you ever find yourself wondering whether or not your refrigerator handles used to be white?  That happened to me this morning.  They appeared to be a lovely cream shade, and I thought to myself, “Self, weren’t these a different color a few weeks ago?”.  That, my friends, is how I know it’s time to bring out my secret weapon.  

Let’s just admit it:  no matter how much of a neat freak you are and no matter how clean you think you are in your kitchen, your counters, large appliances, and cabinets get just plain gross in a short period of time.  I think it’s all the cooking and eating that goes on in there.  

Anyway, a few months back when my mom was visiting, she showed me a great, cheap cleaner to use on my whole kitchen.  It doesn’t require any fancy-pants blending or measuring or anything, just a big ol’ bucket or your very own kitchen sink.

Kitchen Cleaner

About 1/4 – 1/2 cup Borax

About 1/4 – 1/2 cup distilled vinegar

About 1 -2 quarts of warm water

Mix the three ingredients in your bucket or sink.  

 

Yes, that is it.  I use a washcloth, but you could also use a sponge with this cleaner. You can literally wipe everything in your kitchen down with this cleaner; it isn’t too abrasive for kitchen surfaces.  I even use it to clean Bitsy Girl’s wooden high chair.

This cleaner makes sense to me when I break it down:  vinegar disinfects and dissolves most food goo, and Borax, well that’s just plain awesome.  It even says on the box that it has 20 mule team power.  Who can beat that?

Grandparents and Their Tendencies

Maybe it’s because I am a young mother, or maybe it’s because I was always an independent thinker.  Either way, I find myself getting frustrated with some of the things both of my parents do with or to my daughter.

While up in New Jersey, Bitsy Girl and I are visiting both of my parents, and I really am so glad she can spend some time with them.  They are both wonderful people and make wonderful grandparents.  But that is what they are through and through:  grandparents.  Think back and remember your grandparents.  They’d give you an extra cookie before dinner and let you stay up past 10pm.  Grandparents let you watch Disney movies whenever you asked to, and indulged you in a longer game of kickball outside while they delayed your bath or bedtime.  I had grandparents like this.  My dad’s diabetic mother would keep M&M’s in her purse for her grandkids, and my mom’s mother would treat me to a Shirley Temple anytime we went out to eat.  So yes, I get it.

But as a (new) parent, I think I have a hard time relinquishing a little bit of control to my parents.  Ironic, I know.  They raised me, and I like to think they did an okay job.  I think I want the freedom and room to do this parenting thing on my own.  Which I do, of course, since I live 400 miles from my parents, but seeing them do things differently than me just makes me feel like I’ve lost my freedom.

My mother is a very caring, nurturing mother, and she never wants to see her granddaughter get hurt.  I, on the other hand, don’t catch my daughter every time she missteps.  I believe she will only learn her limits if I let her discover them, but my mother would rather prevent her from ever bumping her head.  It is a totally different perspective on parenting.  Hearing my mother’s reasoning for it makes me realize that maybe sometimes what my daughter needs is a mother who catches her when she falls.  I can’t be there every time, but when I can be I want to catch her.  I don’t want to be the kind of mom that sits back and watches her little girl make decisions that will hurt her.

My father is very laid back as far as parenting style.  He lets Bitsy Girl crawl wherever she wants, and eat all sorts of different things that I usually don’t.  As a new mom, it is tempting sometime to maintain a lot of control over what my daughter does, sees, eats, etc.  But my dad helped me to realize that a taste of cake icing, or crawling up the stairs (with me behind of course) isn’t really so bad.  In fact, it could help her being a little more adventurous and willing to take some risks.

It was a long week visiting my family, but it was a good one.  Just by spending a little bit of time with my parents I was able to see different perspectives on different issues.  I’m glad for their differing opinions from each other and from my husband and I.  It helps, I think, to balance me out as a mom.

A Change of Scenery

I write today from my childhood home.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and since I haven’t seen my mother on Mother’s Day for four years, I decided it was time to make the trek up here.  Bitsy Girl and I left Beard at home with a freezer stocked with chili, pasta primavera, and homemade tortillas and set off for the great north.  It is usually a seven hour drive from our home in central VA to the town I grew up in, but I knew that driving with a 10 month old would lengthen my drive.  Luckily, not by all that much.  We left early in the morning and made it here before rush hour traffic.

I’ll still be blogging this week, as I love to write and keep track of life, but I doubt anything will be very scientific.  It will probably be hilarious because I’ll be keeping you up to date with Bitsy Girl adventures, as well as things my family says, which is always fun.  Why?, you ask.  Because, well, I’ve avoided saying thus far where I am because I think it is the most significant piece of information of all.  I am

a Jersey girl.  

Not Your Grandmother’s Cloth Diapers, Put ‘Em in the Wash

Yesterday we talked a little about the different kinds of cloth diapers that are available, but today, I think, is the most important part of this series:  how to wash your cloth diapers.  I honestly think that this is what turns a lot of parents off to the idea of cloth diapers.  They think washing these things will be disgusting and horrendous.  I’ve had mothers ask if I have to hold my cloth diapers in the toilet while flushing.  I’ve had other mothers ask if we keep the cloth diapers in a bucket of water and bleach.

Thankfully, we do neither.  I would not appreciate a bucket of waste mess sitting anywhere in my house for any reason.  Which is why I was so glad to discover that washing cloth diapers is extremely simple if you have a washing machine.

First, you put the diapers, covers, and diaper bag (the one that holds your dirty diapers until you wash them) in the washing machine.  Set your machine on cold wash/cold rinse then select the option for an extra rinse.  If you do not have an option for an extra rinse, you will just have to run two cold cycles.  Use detergent only in this cycle.

In the second cycle, set your machine to hot wash/cold rinse.  Use detergent and softener (if desired) in this cycle.

After your diapers are clean, you may either hang them to dry or you may put them in the dryer.  If you have waterproof covers, do not put these in the dryer as it will put stress on the fabric and wear them out quickly.

Some extra tidbits:

Before baby gets any solid foods their solid waste is anything but solid; those diapers may be put through the wash without being dumped.  Once baby starts producing actual solid waste, just dump the solids into the toilet to dispose of it, then wash the diaper as normal.

If you find yourself with stained diaper inserts, simply leave them in the sun.  The sun will bleach the stain right out.

Use any detergent that you would use on your baby’s clothing.  Dreft is a popular one, as well as All, Free and Clear.  (For the record, I make my own detergent using Ivory soap, Borax, and washing soda, and I use that for everybody.  Saves me on confusing detergents.)

It really is just as simple as that.  If cloth diapers were rocket science, people wouldn’t have continued to use them for so long, and they sure as heck wouldn’t have returned to using them years later.  I found that using them was much easier than I had expected; I even had Beard convinced!

Not Your Grandmother’s Cloth Diapers, the Kinds Out There

When I first started researching cloth diapers, I was a little overwhelmed at the different kinds of cloth diapers you could buy, and I really had very few resources to ask about these things.  As I found out, most women in my parents’ generation (those born in the 50’s) did not use cloth diapers because of the convenience of disposables.  So clearly, I wasn’t able to ask my mother about  selecting cloth diapers.  Luckily, in this day and age the fabulous internet  helped me to learn quite a bit about the different kinds of cloth diapers out there.  I would love to share with you what I’ve learned.

Pre-fold diapers are simple pieces of fabric, usually made of cotton or hemp, which are folded and require a waterproof cover and maybe pins.  These literally are your grandmother’s cloth diapers.  These tend to be the least expensive kind of diaper, but also the least favorite among cloth diaper users.  They just aren’t as simple and neat as the newer types out there.  (For the record, we use pre-folds and covers, but we love them.  We chose them for their low cost, but have not been disappointed by their performance.)

Econobum diapers are this style.  This is what we use, and they were about half the price of other cloth diapers.  They were definitely not the most convenient of diapers, but they always got the job done.

All-in-One diapers work basically like a disposable diapers except instead of throwing them away you wash them.  The outside portion is a waterproof fabric, the inside is something soft, like cotton, and there is usually padding in between that is absorbent.  Some all-in-ones are called all-in-twos because there is an additional insert you can put in the diaper for nighttime for extra absorbancy.

Grovia diapers are this style.

Pocket diapers are basically a waterproof cover with a pocket for absorbent inserts.  These are similar to the prefolds, except that the absorbent fabric can’t slip around or bunch inside the outer lining.

Fuzzibunz, Happy Heinys, and bumGenius diapers are all this style.

Fitted diapers snap or velcro on baby and are fitted to their bum.  The outer layer is not waterproof, so it requires a cover.  The nice thing about fitted diapers is that you often only have to wash the fitted diaper insert and not the outer layer..

Kissaluv diapers are this style

One-size diapers may be any of the above types, but they are adjustable to fit almost any size baby.  These are useful for the family on a budget since you only have to buy one set as opposed to 3 or 4 sets of diapers.  Sometimes, though, the one-size diapers don’t hold everything in as well in all sizes, so there is some risk involved.

I hope this was helpful for anyone considering cloth diapering.  Please do a little research on your own, but I think this is a good general starting point.