Monday, December 29, 2008

Bag Lady

I’m a bag lady. I love bags. I have a bunch of bags I take when I go shopping. I place them on the conveyor belt first so the checker knows I don’t want plastic. When I have a few extra things to take on visits to my parents’ house, I put them in my bags. When we go on a picnic I fill my bags with non-perishable items, reusable plastic plates and silverware, and cloth napkins. For my birthday, my mother-in-law “wrapped” one of my presents in a cloth bag. I was as excited about the bag as I was by what was in it!

I recently discovered reusable produce bags. I hate bringing my produce home in plastic bags (I do recycle them) but I need some way to corral a dozen apples or a few pounds of sweet potatoes. I could have ordered some online but, being a little crafty, I thought I could make some myself. So the other night I bought some tulle and gave it a try (I had some extra ribbon at home). I made them a little larger than necessary and I didn’t get the drawstring right until my second attempt. Otherwise I’m fairly happy with them. I haven’t been shopping since, but tonight I’ll be at the grocery store and try them out. I'll let you know how they work.

Edited to add: Tutorial now posted!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

If you're pregnant, here’s something fun to try. Tell people you’re planning a home birth. See how many people you tell before you hear “Are you crazy?!" It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

I've had a hospital birth and a home birth. I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. I didn’t find a midwife until I was seven or eight months pregnant with my daughter. I was reluctant to change horses midstream, especially when I was almost on the other bank, so I stuck with my doctor. We checked into the hospital after my water broke. I told the nurse I didn’t want ANY drugs and I’m happy to report they didn’t pester me about it. I was “given” 24 hours to have my baby (since my water broke). I endured more than one pelvic exam during a contraction, I wasn’t allowed to take a shower, I was made to abandon the most comfortable position I found, my doctor stripped my membranes, and she told me when, how, and where to push while I was flat on my back. I felt like an actress in a movie, following the director’s orders. After nine hours of labor, Olivia weighed in at 7 lb, 12.5 oz, and was 19.5 inches long. I had to be stitched in two places and I was sore, literally, from head to toe for a week. It hurt to breathe. On the way home I told my husband that our next baby would be born at home.

I found my wonderful midwife, Charlotte, early in my second pregnancy. She lives two hours away but came to my house for prenatal visits, the birth, and two postpartum visits. She and her assistant were the epitome of “unobtrusive.” I was queen. They were my loyal subjects. Charlotte examined me once, right after a contraction. She checked Baby’s heartbeat several times, right after contractions. I wandered around my home, sat on the couch, leaned on my husband, propped myself against the stove – whatever brought relief. My husband sliced apples, peeled oranges, and made tea. Charlotte kept a stash of wet washrags in the freezer (this was in May). I spent several hours in the tub – it helped so much. I pushed when my body told me to and in positions I chose. After 17 hours of labor, Jesse weighed in at 8 lb, 12 oz, and was 22.25 inches long. He was almost a pound heavier and three inches longer than his sister and I didn’t need a single stitch. A few hours later I was sitting at my computer sending e-mails. I’m so very thankful I was blessed to have my baby at home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis the season for giving

Making gifts for family members and friends is great fun, but what about the kids in your life? Here are a few ideas of little things that you can make for your kids that would make fun, inexpensive gifts.

Jingle bell instruments:

We made jingle bell wreaths for our friends, but both of my older kids enjoyed them so much that they would probably love these as stocking stuffers. Use bigger bells and heavier wire and you could make great instruments for the holidays. Sort of like a tambourine. You could trail some ribbon in your childs favorite color and personalize it!

Cardboard tube candy surprise:

supplies: empty toilet paper roll, candy, and wrapping paper. Embellishments if you prefer.

Fill the tube with candy or crayons or whatever small items your child likes. Wrap the tube with the wrapping paper and secure the ends. We twisted them and knotted ribbon around the ends. We re-used candy from Halloween for these. That way, whatever holiday candy didn't get used got tossed and our kids get a last candy hurrah. We're putting these tubes in their stockings.

Personalized pillow cases and pajama pants:

supplies: sewing machine, fabric, a sample pillow case and pajama pants. Elastic for the pants.

If you have a sewing machine then this is the perfect present for your children! Get fabric in their favorite character and whip up a pair of pillowcases or jammy pants! You can use a pillowcase you already have for a measurement sample. Or turn a pair of pants inside out and use this as a template for cutting out a "pants pattern". You know you'll have the right measurements since you're using pants that already fit him/her, but remember to cut them long so you have room to hem them. Sew the front and back together and hem the bottom. For the top, you hem it like normal but leave about two inches of opening and make sure it's wide enough for the elastic. Put a safety pin on one end of the elastic and run it through your hem. Make sure you don't lose the other end of the elastic! Once you've ran it all the way through then sew the ends together. Close the opening and ta-da! Quick and easy pants!

Recycled crayons:

Supplies: broken crayons, candy molds, heavy paper cups, microwave

We always have a ton of broken crayons laying around and this is a great way to get more use out of them. It makes them pretty and usable again and will be great as stocking stuffers.

Remove all paper from the crayons and sort by color. Put them in the cups and microwave until melted. Then pour them into the candy molds. You can freeze them to make them set faster or let them hang out on the counter.

You could also use cookie cutters as molds. Just don't remove the cookie cutters until the crayons are set.


Supplies: glycerin soaps, soap dyes, soap or candy molds, microwave safe bowl/cup, stirrer.

Cut the soaps in manageable pieces and melt in the microwave. Once they're all melted, add the dyes of choice. You can add more or less of the dye for desired effect. Try using your childs favorite colors or sports team colors. Pour the liquid into the molds and let harden. This can take 45 minutes to an hour. If they don't pop out of the molds easily then toss them in the freezer for a couple of minutes and try again.

Coloring books:

Most TV networks have places online where you can print off coloring pages. Print several from your most watched programs and staple together to make a quick and easy coloring book.

Food items:

My kids love cookies, but I only make them occasionally. Try making a little gift package of your childrens favorite cookies or compromise and make a healthy cookie that you don't mind them gorging on. Or you could make them their favorite breads. Like zucchini or banana breads. We made a honest-to-goodness fruit bread this year that is overloaded with every kind of dried fruit you can think of and my kids went ga-ga over it. I feel great about all of us eating it because it literally has about 4 cups of fruit in the recipe. Special treats like that are always great gifts for my kids...maybe yours will love them too!

Last but not least are personalized Christmas ornaments:

Supplies: Clear ornaments (you can get these from craft stores like Michaels or Joanns), double sided tape, glitter, embellishments.

Use the double sided tape to make stripes or designs on the ornaments and roll them in a plate full of glitter. Use a glitter pen to write your childs name and the year on it. You could use stickers or other types of embellishments to personalize them even more. Add a bit of ribbon or thread for hanging. You could even hand paint the ornaments if you're adventurous enough. How fun for your children to come out Christmas morning and see that "Santa" had left special ornaments just for them!

You could also do little gift baskets by going to the dollar store and stocking up on crayons, photo frames, etc and putting everything together in a basket. If your child likes to cook then put everything in a mixing bowl and add a spatula or mixing spoon. You could even put in a cookie mix and make a date to make them. If you guys like to garden then give them a trowel and some gardening gloves.

Personalized touches are what make even the smallest gifts so special. My children get so excited when something is made just for them. They feel special and making them feel special makes my day. These are all just little gifts, but I'm sure you will get big hugs from them.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Cup Runneth Over

If you’ve ever breastfed, you know what I mean. More likely than not, you've experienced an increase in cup size (going up one, two, or even three sizes is not unusual). I’m also talking about milk production, though. While most of us have enough milk for our babies, I could feed twins. Both of my babies have gotten choked by my letdown on more than one occasion. Nursing pads are not an option for me; they’re a fact of life. I go through at least two pairs a day. Quick math lesson: two pairs a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year…that’s over 700 nursing pads! And I don’t plan on weaning on Baby’s first birthday. I was so glad when I discovered reusable nursing pads. I can save money while I save the planet. I love cloth nursing pads. Except on the rare occasion when they migrate. Or when my little nursling decides they’d make a fabulous toy.

But don't get me wrong - just because your baby doesn't get a milk bath at every feeding doesn't mean you're not producing enough milk. If you're concerned, call your local La Leche League or check out the following sites. You'll find signs your baby is getting enough breast milk and lists of lactogenic foods and herbs.

La Leche League
MOBI Motherhood International
Breastfeeding Basics
Lactogenic Foods

So whether it's feast or famine at Mom’s Breastaurant, keep on nursing!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Making presents for the holidays

With the holidays coming up we have been feeling the economic crunch. My preschooler and I decided that we would make presents for our family. At first I was a little skeptical. I figured we would make a few and then buy a little something as well. Turns out that the extra "real" present is unnecessary since we made so many homemade ones! Yay!

Here are some ideas that you can make with your children that your family members will love:

Jingle Bell Wreaths-
supplies needed: a pipe cleaner (those fuzzy stick things), some bells (we used 20 mm ones), and ribbon.

Take the pipe cleaner and put a bend in the end. Have your preschooler thread the bells on it until you can make a circle. Elijah would make the call as to whether the wreath was big enough or not. Twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together and tuck them under to hide. Tie a ribbon on the wreath for hanging on the tree or door handle.

Cake or cookie mixes in jars-
supplies: 1 qt jars, fabric, ribbon, and the ingredients to a cake or cookie mix.

Fill the mason jar with the cookie mix. Put the nuts, chocolate chips, and spices in the bottom and the sugars, flour, etc on top so they come out easily. Cut out 9 inch circles of fabric to cover the lids. Add ribbon and a recipe card for your mix and voila! A beautiful gift for a loved one. I let my son pick the mix he wanted to give and I put each ingredient in a plastic cup and let him pour them into the jars. A little messy, but a lot of fun. An added bonus is that he now has a project he can do at his grandparents house when he spends the night next.

Loaves of bread-
Make little loaves of banana bread or something along those lines. Lots of people give cookies for the holidays so shake things up a bit by giving a bread. Fruit breads freeze well or easily keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Michaels or Joanns have already built birdhouses for very inexpensive. Usually around $5. Let your children paint them and they will be so proud to give them as presents. Or help them build a birdhouse to give.

And last but not least (in fact this was my favorite craft)...
supplies: small craft jar with a lid, various little figurines, rubbing alcohol, water, and glitter

Glue the figurines onto the lid of the jar. Fill the jar with water, but be sure that there is enough room for the figures. Add a teaspoon or two of rubbing alcohol and add the glitter. Screw on the lid and seal it with a hot glue gun. We used white and clear glass "rocks" and dinos for an ice age snow globe. Try making a Santa snow globe or don't use any figurines and fill it with confetti instead!

We had so much fun making these presents for everyone. Elijah cannot wait for Christmas so he can give them out. I feel good that I spent less than $30 total on all my gifts and I'm proud of him that he was able to take an active role. We taught him that the holidays aren't about materialism, but about showing our friends and family that we love them and are willing to make the effort to make personalized gifts for each of them. How cool is that?


Now that the blog is officially up and running, it's probably about time to introduce our bloggers!

Without further ado, here we go:

Rachel Payne
My name is Rachel. I’ve been married since May 2003. Before my children were born I taught math, but now I’m a full-time wife and mother. Olivia is 4 years old and Jesse is 6 months. I’ve had an unsatisfactory hospital birth and a wonderful home birth. Since I have more interests and hobbies than time to pursue them, I’m a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. In addition, taking care of my children has somewhat curtailed my involvement. I like to cook, garden (organically, of course), read, play mandolin and guitar (at least try!), sew, hunt, and play 42.

I'm hoping she'll share with us what 42 is ~ I've never even heard of it! A card game??

Alex Smith
My name is Alexandra Smith, but feel free to call me Alex. I'm a lucky mom to 3 monkeys disguised as children and wife to a lucky man! My children are currently 4 years, 2 years, and 5 months. I love to read any book and recently got sucked into the vortex of the Twilight series that all of the teenage girls are going gaga over. I'm passionate about unmedicated births, breastfeeding, and a holistic approach to life. The best advice that I ever heard? Take a deep breath and laugh because it's just not worth the energy to get mad. That has become my daily philosophy though somedays I have to remind myself of it more often than others!

I'm right there with you some days, Alex! I think it's no coincidence that family refers to my children as monkeys as well ;) *love*

Katherine Clay (That's me! =D)
I'm a single work-at-home mom to four wonderful unschooled children: Rickey - 9, Callie - 7, Isabelle - 2 and Sebastian - 9 months. (All ages current to today's date, of course ~ you know how fast they grow!!) I am the owner of Crunchy Bunch, and an independent rep for EclipseSpa. (If anyone's interested in becoming an indie rep for the best ever organic bath and body products, let me know!) [/shameless plugs ;)]
I love all things yarn (spinning, crocheting, knitting, it's all fantastic!), camping, hiking, walking, waterfalls, road trips, horseback riding, playgrounds, swimming, games, puzzles, singing songs, arts and crafts, being silly, learning, creativity, asking questions, connecting, making (and eating!) raw foods and much much more! I also have a huge soft spot for babywearing :) You'll find throughout my posts, that I am also quite fond of exclamation points!! and smiles =D
Most especially and above all, I love being and sharing with my children <3

Hope that gives you a good idea of who we are and what we're all about. Have a question for us? Ask! A comment? Post! We love to chat, and you just might give us a great idea for a new post, featuring You!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Devastation in a loss

There's a woman I know who is more than an acquaintance but not quite a friend and she has just lost her 4 year old son. Not only that, but her oldest son is going through extensive surgery to repair his shin bone which is poking it's way out of his leg. This woman who I rarely hang out with is going through such a devastating loss that I can't help but feel close to her and devastated with her. I'm sitting at my computer after being in a daze for the last 3 hours and I can barely keep from crying as I try to imagine her pain. I'm just sickened by the absolute uselessness of it.

Her family was in a car accident yesterday and their lives have changed forever. I can't think of what to write except that I wanted to share her pain. I want other mothers to mourn with us and maybe that will help comfort this poor woman a tiny bit. No mother should ever lose her child. We are the ones that should go first.

This makes me afraid to drive my car. How safe is safe enough? How careful is careful enough? And it's not just me. I have to trust everyone else to be careful as well. I don't know the details of the accident; I just know that a few miles from his home, a child's life was taken. How does someone live with that? When you're driving drunk or texting, you are putting every one's life around you in danger. How do I make people understand that it's not just yourself that you are affecting? All it takes is a second. One second and you alter so many peoples existence. I know that I could never live with taking another persons life. Accidental or not. I know I could not live with any of my children being taken from me. I would continue to be strong of course for the sake of my other kids, but I would not be the same person. My smile would not be the heart would not be the same.

I hope that we all remember to be safe as we drive this holiday season and every day after that. Make sure that carseats are properly installed. Always use a designated driver even if you're only having a glass of heart healthy wine. Or at lease give it a good 2 hours (per drink) to work through your system before driving. Keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you by using the 3 second rule. It may not be only your life that you save.

Please kiss your children today. Treasure every moment with them. And please keep this woman in your hearts and send her good thoughts as she tries to heal her family.


No, I’m not talking about the movie. I’m talking about something even scarier. The First Tooth. My little one cut his first tooth the other day. This is a milestone that ends some nursing relationships. Imagine putting your little finger in the mouth of a piranha. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? Neither does nursing a teething baby with a voracious appetite. Actually, a baby doesn’t even have to have teeth to “bite.” And it still hurts! Many a mother has found that pulling Baby into the breast causes him to unhinge his deathgrip because Baby has difficulty breathing with a nose full of flesh. Most infants learn fairly quickly that chomping on Mama isn’t a great idea. (Screaming “Owww!” is no less effective, but is probably not a recommended method of deterrence.)

While I don’t relish having razor-sharp teeth sinking into a sensitive part of my anatomy, I think the worst thing about the first tooth is the end of that adorable toothless smile. Never again will I see that precious gummy grin. Now there’s a little incisor playing peek-a-boo. Go ahead. Try to take a picture of it and you’ll see what I mean. Shortly after the first tooth comes the second tooth. The next thing you know Baby has a whole mouth full of pearly whites. And he’s still just as cute as he always was.

It's to Live For!

It's a great snack that kids love, women desire and men search to find the best of. It's been known to help with depression, is good for your heart, brain, skin, and has even been used as an aphrodisiac. It contains antioxidants that lower your blood pressure, improve circulation and your digestion. It's simply irresistible. What is it? You guessed it: Chocolate, of course!

So what could make this yummy treat even, ..well, yummier? And not only that, but healthier as well? By making it *raw* chocolate! That's right, raw chocolate. Perhaps you've heard of the raw food movement, or superfoods, or maybe you're even a raw foodie yourself! If the latter, then I'm sure you're smiling by now, because you know the amazing power of this delicacy! If not, then be sure to read up on those links and find out ~ I'll probably be covering a lot of road on raw foods here ;)

So what's raw chocolate got that Hershey's ain't got? Well, in a nutshell: It's good for you! I know, I know... "But didn't you just say that chocolate was already good for you?" Well, yes... and Hershey's doesn't contain just the raw chocolate (AKA 'cacao', pronounced 'ka-kow'), either. They (and most other chocolate brands) contain many added ingredients and cook their chocolate, making it other than best ever.

So if Godiva can help bring you out of the blues, one must ask: What can the REAL, raw, unprocessed and natural thing do?? For this I can only answer: WOW. You *must* try and see for yourself! =D I've seen and heard so many people in such ecstatic states of bliss, simply from raw chocolate, you'd *have* to experience it for yourself to believe it! (I have!!)

Not only that, but this is seriously so good for you, you can eat it all day, every day and be in far better health than you ever had been! How awesome is that?? And better yet, you get to tell your kids, "YES!" Yes, you can have chocolate, yes you can eat it for breakfast, yes, yes yes!

"But chocolate is candy! It doesn't have any vitamins or minerals!" I hear what you're saying and my answer is "It might!" If you're eating a [Insert Your Favorite Brand Here] bar, then no, it probably doesn't have many; and yes, it is a candy. Please eat these in very limited quantities, if at all. However, raw cacao is certainly not candy, which is a concept it even took me a while to get past. Raw cacao is a food. Not a snack, a candy, junk food, dessert, etc. It's an actual food. Like a vegetable. (Except it's not, it's actually a nut.)

In fact, it contains lots of vitamins and minerals: magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorus, calcium, anandamide, phenylethylamine, arginine, polyphenols, epicatechins, potassium, procyanidins, flavanols, vitamins A, B, C, D, and E.

It has: alanine, alkaloids, alpha-sitosterol, alpha-theosterol, amylase, ascorbic-acid, ascorbic-acid-oxidase, aspariginase, beta-carotene, dopamine, fructose, glucose, glutamic-acid, leucine, linoleic-acid, lipase, lysine, niacin, peroxidase, phenylacetic-acid, phenylalanine, phosphorus, riboflavin, rutin, tannins, theobromine, thiamin.

And if you can even pronounce all (or any!) of those, then you win 10 Crunchy Bonus Points ;) In fact, research has shown that there are over 300 chemically identifiable compounds in cacao beans, making it one of the most complex superfoods on planet Earth!

Still not sold? (And as an interesting side note here, Cacao beans were even used as currency in some civilizations!) That's ok, it took me a while to get it as well, and I had to do my research first. I encourage you to do the same, and here are some references I found to start you on your way:

Natural News
Archives of Internal Medicine (Note: this article doesn't specify, so I'm pretty sure they're using cooked cocoa, not raw cacao. However, I still thought it was interesting, and helps you understand the power of cacao, even in it's cooked form!)

And here's a recipe I know you and your family will enjoy!

Raw Chocolate


1 cup Raw Cacao Powder
3/4 cup Raw Cacao Butter
1/2 cup Raw Agave Nectar
2 Tablespoons Tocotrienols


Mix all ingredients together. If you can keep everyone from digging in right away (good luck!), pour the mixture into molds, or (as in the picture) paper cupcake cups, and place in the fridge or freezer for an hour or so.


You can add in whatever you like! In the picture, we added on top some raw cashews, goji berries, and dusted some with Tocotrienols. You can choose to add in maca, pecans, walnuts, etc., vanilla, peppermint, you name it!

Enjoy!! <3

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cloth diapering

This weekend my husband was trying to be helpful. He did the dishes and vacuumed. He put away the clean laundry and asked if I wanted him to help with our diapers. "Sure!" I said. Well, I should have gone over the steps to washing and drying our cloth diapers with him. We currently use all prefolds and covers. We have some woolies but that's another post.

The way we wash our diapers is very simple. We use a dirty duds bag; no wet pails for us. Then dump them in the washer and do 3 cycles which are rinse, wash, rinse cycles. Hubby did a full wash with no soap, then a wash with soap, but then I caught him and did a last rinse with just the rinse cycle.

I prefer to do the first and last rinses with just a rinse cycle. This saves a lot of water and money. When washing your cloth diapers, remember to:

  • Turn your machine to the hot/cold rinsing temperature.

  • Use very little soap. We use a fragrance, softener, and dye free soap. All of those additives can irritate the skin and some can react with the urine in the diapers and cause rashes. You only need about a quarter of whatever the usual soap amount is.

  • Fill your washer to the highest water level so the diapers have lots of room to move and groove and get clean. Even if you don't have a full load of dipes. It's actually better to wash around 2 dozen at a time so they can really move in the wash. I have 2 kids in dipes so we usually do around 2 or 3 dozen prefolds at a time and the various covers and doublers.

  • Do a last rinse cycle to be sure that all of the soap has been rinsed out and add vinegar to that last rinse. Vinegar neutralizes the urine and restores the Ph balance in the diapers. It also makes them soft and smell good. We use whatever vinegar we have on hand. At the moment we're using apple cider vinegar. Take out the dipes and smell them! So clean and fresh smelling right?!

  • Throw them in the dryer and hold off on the dryer sheet! The dryer sheets can leave a film on the diapers that repels water. That's not helpful at all since you want to absorb not repel water. (Plus, they're not that great for your dryer, either.) You can dry the covers in the dryer, but the elastic will last longer if you hang them to dry. Plus, it doesn't take long to hang dry them. You may throw a towel or tennis ball in with the diapers to help them dry faster, but it's up to you.

  • Line drying in the sun is also an excellent way to dry the diapers. The sun is a natural bleacher and will fade all those unsightly poop stains. I think it's also super cute to have all those wonderful diapers swaying in the breeze. I really feel like I'm doing something good for my children and the environment.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Mother is Born

I took an amazing trip four years ago. I took a journey into motherhood. The year after we were married, I announced to my husband I was pregnant. I was excited and scared. I devoured information about pregnancy and natural childbirth, scrutinized my changing body, reveled in those first kicks, and traced the little baby parts in my belly, trying to guess whether I was feeling an arm or a leg. After nine months of waiting the work began. There’s a reason they call it “labor.” Giving birth is the hardest (and most rewarding) thing I’ve ever done. Time ceased to exist when the contractions became difficult. I took them one at a time. After nine hours of labor we had a healthy baby girl. I finally got to meet the miracle that had been growing inside me, touch the little feet that had been jabbing me, and kiss the cheek of the child who made me a mother.