Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cabbage salad with spicy ginger dressing

Keeping in line with my last post in which I shared my unsolicited opinions on children's books, today I'm going to post a recipe that nobody asked for but really you should ask for. I try not to boss y'all around on what you should be eating (oh sure there was that lame poem I wrote urging you to eat oatmeal) but this recipe folks, you really must make. I've already made it twice in two weeks it's just that good! And this recipe comes directly from here but in case you are averse to clinking on links I'll provide the recipe below too.

  • 1 boneless chicken breast, skin removed  I used baked tofu in the sesame peanut flavor in place of chicken
  • 1 medium-sized Napa (or Savoy) cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1 small tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 mango, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 2 tbsp. roasted sesame seeds
  • handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • handful of cilantro, chopped: I skipped the cilantro since I didn't want my salad to taste like soap :)
  • handful of roasted peanuts: I haven't put these one but imagine the crunch would be nice

Spicy Ginger Dressing
  • 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. To poach chicken, place the breast in a small saucepan and add water, about 1 inch above the chicken. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiled, immediately lower heat to a very slow simmer and partly cover for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to cook in hot water for another 15 minutes. Once cooled, shred chicken and set aside. Save a chicken, cut up some tofu instead. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the spicy ginger dressing. If you don't want your salad spicy then just skip the Sriracha. I'm sure it will still be delicious. 
3. Add the cabbage, chicken tofu, carrots, tomato, mint and cilantro to the large bowl and toss gently. Top with mango slices and roasted peanuts. Garnish with scallions and roasted sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

A few notes: Sure it seems like you are doing a lot of chopping and there are a lot of ingredients but the end product is so worth it! And you can add or substitute vegetables as you like. I added broccoli and red bell pepper the second time I made it. Two things you really shouldn't skip or change out are the mango and mint. These two ingredients really add a nice summery, refreshing taste to the salad. And there you have it, the most delicious thing you'll eat all summer. And best of all, you can eat a lot and not feel guilty because this salad is super low in calories. If any of you decide to make it come back and leave a comment about what you thought of it. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our favorite children's books

As promised, here is a list of the children's books we really dig in our house. And I promise you, if the book is on the list then it is a book that I don't mind reading over and over again. Because really, this list is probably more of a list of books that don't drive me crazy. You might even see some of these books peeping out of the book sling in Conner and Nolan's room.

1. Peek a who. Peek a what, peek a who. I totally think of Jay Z's jigga what song when I read this book. And who doesn't want a book that flows like Jay Z? But really, this book is cute and when I read it to the twins I couldn't wait for the day that they could say aloud the animals hiding behind the pages. But the book fell apart (due to so many readings) before the kids were able to say the animals.
2. Goodnight Moon. A classic, and for good reason. And do I really need to justify a classic. I even bought this book in French hoping that the kids and I could begin to speak French. Problem is, I know what the words are supposed to mean in English, I just have no clue how to pronounce them.
3. We Planted a Tree. A great book for kids that love to hug trees and do other hippy-like things. And a sweet little ending to this book.
4. The Peace Book. This book was given to me by a great friend and another hippy mom. I'm so glad she gave it to the kids because it turned me on to the author Todd Parr who has a whole line of great children's books. But The Peace Book remains my favorite.
5. For Just One Day. What animal would you like to be for just one day? This books rhymes and is just the right length. I even like it despite that the kids call the man in a Speedo with big swim goggles on "Mommy".
6. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The pigeon is always trying to do things that he is not supposed to, like eat a hot dog, stay up late, and drive a bus. And the pigeon has some great negotiating tactics such as, "My cousin Herb drives a bus almost every day. True story."
7. Someday. Chances are, if you are one of my friends and you give birth to a baby girl then you will receive this book from me as a gift. I love this book!!! But warning, I cry every time I read this book to Elizabeth. Eve.ry.time.
8. Big Red Barn. By the author of Goodnight Moon. I'm not too much into farm books but this one can keep me interested.
9. Everybody Bonjours. I'm trying my best to get the kids obsessed with Paris, so that they beg their dad to take them there. Score one for mom and family vacations in Paris! And this book seems to be fostering their obsession. They already talk about when they go to Paris they will eat petit fours, see the Eifel Tower, and paint. Love those little macarons.
10. I Love Trucks. If Conner had his choice, I would read this story 15 times a day. And I've had a hard time finding a book about trucks that simply doesn't just show pictures and names of every type of truck on this Earth. This book is a quick read, which makes it more bearable when I read it 15 times.
11. Honda and Fabian. Simple illustrations and a simple story. But something about this has me wanting to read it over and over again. But skip the sequel Fabian Escapes, nowhere near as good.
12. The Princess and the Pea. Again, a classic story but this one has beautiful illustrations to go with it. And your kid will learn how to say hello in a few different African languages from this version.
13. The Princess and the Dragon. Can you tell someone in our house loves Princesses? And I am not about to read another story about a Disney Princess so when I can find a princess book that Elizabeth loves, I will endorse it whole heartedly. This book opens your eyes to that sometimes a dragon can be a better princess than the princess herself.

So there you have it, the baker's dozen of our favorite children's books. Truthfully, this is very much an abbreviated list as there are so many more books that we love at this house. But I wanted to include books for both boys and girls, babies and toddlers, so that hopefully you readers out there can find a book to bring home yourself.

Night visitor

Last night it finally happened. The thing I have been dreading the most since becoming a parent. Yep, one of my children figured out how to crawl into bed with us. While we have put the kids in bed with us before when they are sick or scared, those times were always on our own terms. But last night, without invitation, Elizabeth walked herself down the dark hallway, past the whirly twirly lights, through the Lincoln Tunnel, and into our bedroom (bonus points if you can name the movie I am referencing there). She said that she had a "tummy ache". Likely story Elizabeth. And with Elizabeth taking up my whole side of the bed there was only one thing left for me to do. I walked myself through the Lincoln Tunnel, past the whirly twirly lights, and down the dark hallway to the empty bed in Elizabeth's room. A note to future parents- be sure to buy your kids comfy beds because chances are, you'll be sleeping in them too!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

5 months

Hard to believe that Nolan has been with us for 5 months already (well, 5 months out of the womb). He is such a happy baby, always smiling and giggling. This past month was really great. We got onto a schedule and Nolan really became fun. You know, not just a cute face to look at but a fun baby to interact with! And at the last checkup with the doctor he weighed 15 lbs 5 oz (55%) and was 26 1/4 inches long (90%). A tall and thin baby- just like his mama (ha ha ha!). I'm quickly realizing that Nolan doesn't have any of my traits (besides the dimples)- this boy is a mini-Chris.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Everything you ever wanted to know about Nolan's sweet cheeks

It's been about 4 months now since we started our adventures with cloth diapering so I thought it was high time that I give my two cents about the very items I swore I would never use. When I first started to think about cloth diapering Nolan, the one pro that came to the top of the list was MONEY! I thought about how much money we had sunk into buying diapers over the past three years with the twins and though I don't have an exact figure, I don't think guesstimating at least $3000 spent on diapers is an overestimate. In fact, I think that is a low-ball guess, as we probably have spent closer to $5000. That my friends, is a crazy amount of money! Oh the fun I could have had at Anthropologie with all that diaper money. But with having twins and already feeling incredibly overwhelmed at feeding two babies all the time, I really didn't think that I had the time or sanity to cloth diaper.

But with Nolan, things changed. I felt more comfortable being a mom. I knew that having one baby surely would be easier than having two. And even though I was still going to have three kids to take care of, I figured that doing an extra load or two of laundry a week wouldn't really be a big deal. And have I mentioned, I was going to save MONEY!!! My evil mind began to spin, and I made a deal with myself. If I could cut it with the cloth diapers then all the money I was saving each month would be my "fun money", you know to buy cute things like this. So the research on cloth diapers began. I have to wonder if this is the step where people decide that cloth diapering isn't for them. Because there is so many types of diapers out there and so many opinions- it's overwhelming to say the least!!! To help me decide on what type and brand of diapers to use I consulted a few moms who were current cloth diaperers, a few first time expecting moms (who you know are very zealous with their research on what is best for their new baby), and threw up a post on Facebook requesting opinions on pocket vs. hybrid diapers. The one diaper system that received the most accolades were the BumGenius pocket diapers.

A little about BumGenius diapers. These diapers are designed to fit baby throughout most of the time baby will be wearing diapers (score!). There are snaps that adjust the length of the diaper to accommodate baby as baby grows.
One diaper, multiple sizes
And they come in either snaps or velcro to adjust the width of the diaper to fit around baby's midsection. And they're called a pocket diaper because you stuff an insert into the "pocket" of the diaper cover and the insert is what absorbs all the pee. When it comes time to wash your diapers you take the insert out and throw the insert and the diaper into the washer. The advantage of a pocket diaper is that you can buy inserts of different absorbencies to adjust depending on the amount of pee your baby produces, and also they dry much fast than diapers that have the insert sewn into the diaper. As for our preferences in inserts and snaps vs. velcro, here is what is currently working for us. I have a few of the BumGenius diapers that snap around the waist but the majority that I have velcro around the waist. I much prefer the velcro because I can get a better fit around the waist compared to the snaps. And the snaps just take a few extra seconds to fasten. But if you are going to be using these diapers for more than one baby, snaps might be a better bet as they tend to last longer than the velcro. For absorbency, we have been using the one-size insert for most of the time that Nolan has been wearing diapers. We fold over and snap the one-size insert onto itself to make it the correct length for the diaper and put the doubled-over part of the insert into the front part of the diaper as that is where most of Nolan's pee goes. And at night I hate to wake Nolan up for a diaper change but have found that we have leaks if we just use the one-size insert. So at night I add in the Thirsties hemp insert along with the one-size insert and that seems to do the trick. 9 hours without a leak.

Now a little bit about what happens after we put the diaper on Nolan. First, to wipe those sweet cheeks we use soft and reusable cloth wipes (more saving money- yeah!). I also make a homemade wipes solution that I have in a spray bottle and each time I change a diaper I just wet the cloth wipe with this solution. The solution has soap, olive oil, and tea tree oil in it so it glides over Nolan's sweet cheeks and the tea tree oil acts as a natural antiseptic.
Cloth wipes and homemade wipe solution
 I found that once I started using cloth diapers it was a real pain to use a disposable wipe because I would have to carry a dirty wipe to the trash can each time I changed a diaper. With cloth wipes I just throw the wipes into a wet bag with the dirty diapers. And you may be wondering what the heck is a wet bag? Wet bags are simply bags that can handle wet diapers being thrown in them and they will contain all the moisture (and they do a pretty good job of holding in the odor too). When it's time to wash diapers you simply throw the bag into the washing machine with the diapers. The bags I use are made by a woman on Etsy and I love them because 1) they are cute, and 2) they have a handle on them so I can hang them over the doorknob.
Wet bag hanging from doorknob
I wash my cloth diapers on the heavy duty setting on my HE washing machine and usually have an extra rinse in the cycle. I use the Planet detergent which is recommended for use with cloth diapers. Every once in a while I will choose the power wash setting on my washer (btw- my washer is the Maytag Maxima) and this really gets the diapers sparkling clean (it should, it takes 2 hours and 36 minutes!). It may sound like all this washing would use a ton of water, negating some of the positive environmental benefits of cloth diapers. I can't quite yet answer this question. In our old house in North Carolina we didn't have an HE washer and after Nolan was born our water bill almost doubled. But, not only was I washing diaper 2-3x/week but my other laundry loads increased. As most moms know, newborn baby = tons of laundry. And I was running the dishwasher more since we didn't find time to hand wash as many dishes. I haven't gotten a water bill yet since we moved to Colorado and began using an HE washer but this post gives us some idea of how much water we actually will use with cloth diapers. I have 21 diapers in my stash and I usually wash diapers every third day.
The cloth diaper stash
Since I do use the one-size insert for Nolan I probably don't change his diaper during the day as much as others might. We don't have issues with diaper rash so he can go longer in a wet diaper which just means that I go through less diapers each day. And when it comes time to dry the diapers, I try to always let them dry outside in the sun. The sun not only bleaches away any stains left on the liners (well, breast milk poo stains- blueberry stains, not so much) but it also reduces any energy we would have used if we put them into the dryer.
Cloth diapers drying in the sun
Now that Nolan is starting to eat some solid food, the stools have changed from the easy to clean up breast milk poos to the more solid and stinky poos. We have installed the BumGenius sprayer on our toilet and when there is a dirty diaper we just spray the poo into the toilet. And while yes, the sprayer is a bit pricey ($45) it also advertises its potential use for feminine hygiene (sorry, can't comment on that )!

Okay, so this post has turned into exactly what I hated to read when I was contemplating cloth diapers. The post is crazy long and makes cloth diapering seem like a daunting task. Believe me, it is quite the opposite. Cloth diapering is just slightly more work than using a disposable diaper but once you get into the groove you'll be diapering like a pro. I was really worried when we started this that my husband was not going to be on board. You see, he is a creature of habit and when he figures out how to do something he is very resistant to changing that. And after having twins, he was really good at changing diapers. So I worried that throwing these new diapers with snaps and velcro and different types of liners at him would throw him into a tailspin. But he has embraced the diapers and even said that they are easier than he thought they would be. Another thing that worried me when considering the cloth route was the upfront expense. The BumGenius diapers run about $18 a piece new and when you need at least 18 diapers to make it through two days, you're looking at $324 for diapers. But remember, these are probably the only diapers you will buy until potty training! And you will spend considerably more on disposable diapers. And for first-time mom's, these are great to put on your registry. Since Nolan wasn't my first (and probably will be my last) I hated to buy all new diapers. I got a few of mine off of Craig's list, a few from ebay, a few from my coworkers :), and I bought 6 myself. All together I have probably spent $300 on diapers, wipes, and wet bags- a drop in the bucket compared to the amount I spent on the twins' sweet cheeks. Add in breast feeding, making my own baby food, and staying home with Nolan- we are seriously saving MONEY!!! Looks like mama needs a new wardrobe!