Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cloth menstrual care update

Well, i've spent some time (and a very small amount of money) on getting my 'ducks in a row' and making myself cloth pads. I also threw together some handkerchiefs (mostly for my snot-nosed little darlings. i love cold and flu season) and some cloth 'wipes' for baby butts and other small messes.

i decided to use my serger for as much of the creation process as possible. after looking about online, i decided to use This Pattern for my pads, making them pretty much as described. 
they look like this, in various fabrics.  The middle sections pull out for quicker drying time. there are also optional waterproof pieces that can be put in to reduce leaking.

the layers are:
outer 'envelope: soft flannel top, rough flannel bottom
oval pad and 'winged' pad inserts: 2 layers rough flannel with a layer of terry sandwiched in the middle
(the 'winged' insert is my own idea, because, you know, sometimes a girl needs a little extra protection!)

I also tried This pattern, but only made a couple to try them out. it is designed to be done with a serger and sewing machine, or just a sewing machine. they provide less padding, and no extra protection in the 'wings' however they are all one piece.

 lots of handkerchiefs and wipes..

For my materials, i was able to recycle some flannel recieving blankets, and some heavy  rough flannel sheets i'd recieved to use for making cloth diapers. i purchased 3 packages of snaps, and 3 meters of flannel, as i had limited numbers of recieving blankets. i used an old towel for the terrycloth in the pad liners.

this made me  about 8 envelope-style pads with fillers, 4 folding-style pads,  and about 12 panti-liners, plus handkerchiefs and wipes, with LOTS of left over fabric

total cost to me: less than $20 time spent: about 7 evenings, on and off
estimate cost of all new materials: less than $100.
worth it? oh yeah.

if you decide you want to try it out yourself, but don't have access to a serger, here are a couple links for similar sewn pads:
This one is almost identical to the 'envelope' style i made  however the inner pad pattern is different
This one also has a very similar pad  and includes cutting patterns and layered inner pad inserts

This site is a wealth of information with lots of patterns and other good stuff

one cycle later: opinions and thoughts:

well, i like the pads. they are soft and comfortable, if a little bulky (though they don't hold a candle to the disposables of 30 or 40 years ago. thanks for the horror stories, mom!) I think i'll have to find/adapt a pattern for night-time use (a longer design), but otherwise no complaints in the design department.
In practice, using a cold water bucket is slightly icky, but i think definitely keeps staining to a minimum. i had to toss a  drained bucketful of pads in with my washing pretty much once a day, (i threw them in my regular warm wash with darks.... i find a hot wash roughens the nice soft flannel)

I think that if these last even two years, i'll have gotten so used to them i won't want to change back! i'll just have to make more.
thanks for following along, and if anyone has any questions/comments, or (if you're a local) wants some help sewing their own, just shout!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sausage Rolls from scratch!

Warning: this recipe does NOT contain a pressurized canister of chemical-laden puff pastry.
Instead, you get to learn my moms not-so-secret biscuit recipe, which is very adaptable and chock-full of yumminess!

These sausage Rolls are not as light and flaky as commercial ones, but not little bricks either. the breading tastes just like its origins... a biscuit. The meat is similar to a mild meatloaf.

Basic Biscuits

2 Cups flour (white, whole wheat, or a blend)
4 generous tsp baking powder
2tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp softened or melted margarine/butter
1 C milk

Thoroughly mix margarine into dry ingredients in large bowl. Gradually add in milk *more or less may be needed depending on how the recipe is to be used!  if using for basic biscuits, add milk until mixture is sticky and thick, and all flour is incorporated. Drop by spoons-full  onto a baking sheet.

Bake at 425 F for 15-20 mins

Tasty options:
-add cinnamon, raisins and an extra Tbsp sugar for sweet biscuits
-add garlic powder, diced chives, and 1/2C shredded cheese for savory biscuits

Sausage Rolls
Breading:  make a double batch biscuit mix. add just enough water to hold the flour. turn it out onto a clean, lightly floured surface, and knead the dough until smooth. Divide into three sections

1 Lb hamburger
1 egg
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/4 C rolled oats, coarsely chopped (i used my coffee grinder for about 3 seconds)
1/2 seasoning salt, or other seasoning
6 tsp Parmesan
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp pepper

1 egg
2tbs milk
my onion is a bit coarse for this recipe, but i didn't realize until it was already mixed in.
make up the meat mixture, mixing thoroughly. Make up biscuit mix (don't forget it's a double batch!) using only enough milk to barely hold together the flour! as instructed above, turn out onto counter, knead, and split into three.
roll out one section into a log about 12-14" long. press it flat until it is about 4" wide and evenly flat.

Apply a line of sausage mix to the bread. it should look similar to the picture above.
next, Wet the CLOSE edge of the bread with a bit of water or milk.  Roll the dough from the FAR side towards you, then the wet edge rolls up to make the bread complete. Overlap the edges and press them together until they adhere at least a bit.
Roll the sausage roll over until the spliced edges are on the bottom, Pressing the dough to even up the 'log' shape if necessary.
 Using a  sharp knife or pizza  cutter, slice the 'log' into 6 even sections. brush a little 'topping on each one (i was too lazy to find a brush, so just slopped a bit on using my fingers). place slices on a baking pan. I pressed down on the ends of each piece to flatten them a little and make them less tube-like. Repeat with other 2/3 of mixture and bread (note that the bread vs meat mix may come out uneven. don't worry... i have a solution at the end!)

to bake: in a preheated oven (425F) bake for 20 mins or until biscuit is browned and meat is no longer pink in the middle.
Serve with mustard or ketchup for dipping, or sauces and sides as desired.

if you end up with extra dough: make up into biscuits  and bake with the rolls.
if you end up with extra meat: shape loosely into a loaf or balls, or press into greased muffin tins. top with a bit of ketchup, and bake at 425 with the rolls (if a large loaf, may take more than 20 mins to cook). serve as 'mini meatloaf'

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy spring!

Hopefully everyone is enjoying their early spring... wether it is under two feet of snow, or amongst early blooms.
Here in the Canadian prairies we've got lots of grey and brown, with banks of lingering dirty white... no green in sight yet!

We celebrated Ostara on the weekend with our littles... which included lots of eggs and treats
i had prepared treat-filled cascarone-styled eggs, as well as plastic eggs for hunting. Both kids got a HUGE kick out of searching out the eggs with small baskets, then dumping them into the big basket! After everyone had breakfast we took turns opening/crushing eggs to find the treasures inside. the fillings i used included small toys, chocolate eggs, fortunes, juice-based candies, and coins for our rewards system.

The last couple days i've spent planting seeds and watching my seedlings grow.

My daughter and i planted small pots of radishes and mesclun to grown on the windowsill...
and i repotted my unidentified mint....i think it's catnip, but it could be a crossbreed
as for works in progress, i'm slowly working on a play mat for the kids.. it will be farm-centric but similar to those 'roads and cities' playmats you can buy commercially.

this is the pattern i'm using... the orange bit is the part i've finished thus far

it's quite a bit larger in real life

so what have you planned or already started for Spring? are there plants growing? plans for fresh paint? or something even more ambitious? let me know!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Basic cooking - Chili even kids will eat

...or at least my kids will. My chili recipe is mild but flavorful, and full of more than just a bunch of beans and chili powder.

Rainbow Chili

1lb hamburger OR for vegetarians use 1 can green lentils, drained 
1 medium onion, diced 
2 Lg cans diced tomatoes ( 28 oz/796 ml)
3  medium cans pork 'n' beans OR for vegetarians use beans in tomato sauce (14 oz / 398 ml)
1 can Kidney beans, drained (19 oz, 540ml)
1 can mixed beans, drained (19 oz)
1 can black beans or pinto beans, drained (19 oz)
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 green pepper, cored and chopped
2 cans sliced mushrooms,  drained
1 can OR 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cut green beans
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup mead (or substitute white wine or beer)
1 can green chilies, chopped

1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp (or more) chili powder
optional - hot sauce
3/4 cup frozen kernel corn


1. if making meat version: brown hamburger and onion in a frying pan.
2. add all ingredients into a LARGE pot, bring to a boil  on medium,stirring occasionally, and cook for at least 20 mins, or more to blend flavors. Longer cooking improves flavor.

to cook in crock pot: follow step one, then add all ingredients into large crock. let cook 2-3 hours on high, or 4-5 on low.

This chili is mild but flavorful. Please note that the flavor increases with longer cooking times. I suggest adjusting seasonings right before serving, if necessary.

This chili is great served with a dollop of sour cream  or a handful of shredded cheddar, and either crackers or hearty bread with spread. I douse my chili bowl with hot sauce as well, as I'm the only one in the household that likes spicy food!

i haven't frozen this exact recipe, but chili usually freezes quite well.

Project Pagan Enough

 found this really great project through PaganWitch.  I thought that this is a wonderful idea.  I have limited exposure to other 'real life' Pagans, but have encountered, even within myself, bias and prejudice about other pagans, so I wanted to have this on my blog to remind everyone to be more tolerant  I suggest that if you believe in these same ideals that you should join in the project!
 Project Pagan Enough is a movement, a cause, a Harmonious Riot that includes bloggers, podcasters, pagans, non-pagans, me, you, and the whole pagan community. It is my hope that the Project Pagan Enough logo becomes a beacon of progress and change for those of us living a magical life. By putting the Project Pagan Enough icon on your podcast’s site, blog, or other website, you’re making a set of promises:
1. You are pagan enough, despite how you look, act, smell, dress, believe, or are.
2. You recognize that others are pagan enough despite their appearance, smell, manner of dress, belief, practice, or other aspect.
3. You recognize that you can have an academic debate on the finer points of belief or practice, but that it does not take away from someone else’s level of being pagan.
4. You welcome, befriend, and encourage others in the pagan community despite their appearance, dress, or other physical or superficial characteristic.
5. You promise to treat members of other faiths, despite the faith, with honest-to-goodness fairness, equality, and grace, not judging them or their faith based on the actions of fringe members of their same faith.

Like the points of the pentacle, these 5 tenets of Project Pagan Enough work together and will, I hope, launch our community into a new era of tolerance, love, and all of the qualities we like to think we have.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Basic cooking - Shepherd's Pie

I am a huge fan of basic, simple, tasty foods. i don't like using bizarre ingredients or unreasonably complicated techniques. if you said "down home cooking" that's essentially what i strive for.
As a friend recently said: If your great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it!

This shepherd's pie recipe is an adaptation of the one my mom makes.

Shepherd's Pie
1lb hamburger
2 eggs
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder (or 1/4 C finely diced onion)
1/4 C old fashioned rolled oats (i coarsely chop them using my coffee grinder)
salt and pepper to taste
heat oven to 350F 
mix all above ingredients thoroughly. Grease pie pan (i use a glass pan, and spray it with cooking spray) Press meat mixture into pan evenly.
spread on:
2-3 Tbs catsup or tomato paste (or other sauce of you want to change it up a little!)

Cook in oven for 45-50 mins or until cooked through (will be firm and juices will be clear, not pink) Drain off any oil (if using regular ground beef)

while meat is cooking, prepare potatoes:
4-7 medium potatoes
2tbs diced green onion
2 tbs butter

Peel and coarsely chop potatoes. place in pot. cover with water, bring to boil. cook until potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. drain. (yes, i know this is basic, but i said i'd try to keep this blog beginner friendly!)
mash potatoes with masher, or if lacking one, use a fork. blend in onion bits and butter.

when meat is cooked, spread mashed potato blend on top, sealing it to the pie plate at the edges. sprinkle with paprika if desired.
Return pie to oven for 15 mins OR until potatoes are heated through and begin to brown on top/edges.


I suggest serving this with ample steamed veggies, and perhaps this gravy (the one that's part of this recipe)  I recently found it when i was trying the attached recipe, and hubby LOVES it. plus, it's pretty easy, AND naturally low fat! (as a note, i thicken the gravy with a couple of teaspoons corn starch)

this is a wonderful fall/winter/spring dish for when you've been outside burning lots of energy!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Frugal eating: 1chicken + 1 crockpot = 2 meals

Frugal eating is not something I'd say i excel in, however it is definitely something I STRIVE towards. My husband and i (and our kids, of course) don't often eat out, except when traveling. i TRY to make as many meals as possible, though i do fall back on a frozen pizza on occasion. I do like to think i probably cook more than the 'national average'... though that is in part just because i'm actually at home all the time, so have no good excuse ;)

i recently tried something a bit new. i roasted a chicken in my  crockpot. I know, this is NOT a new 'trick'. It is, however, new to me.

Crockpot Roast Chicken
1 smallish roasting chicken
oil/cooking spray
broth or water
spices, as desired

i used a medium crock pot (about 5L, or 1 1/4 gal, approximately)
Defrost chicken at least halfway, if necessary. Stuff cavity with pieces of celery (adds to flavor)
oil inside of crock. place 2-3 pieces of celery on bottom to prevent chicken from sticking. stuff chicken into the crock. add 2-3tbs broth or water. sprinkle spices onto chicken skin (i used garlic powder and pepper)
Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Chicken will be very tender and tasty, though the skin will not be particularly crispy.

serve with potatoes or rice along with at least one vegetable choice.

 later that day, or the next morning:

Chicken stock
Cut all remaining meat from the bones, dicing it, then reserving it in the fridge for later. Dump all remaining bones, skin, celery bits, etc in a stock pot (or any large pot). add water to cover (use at least 1.5L) throw in:
1 bay leaf
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped,
1 tsp rosemary
1/2 tsp thyme
salt and pepper to taste

bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour to extract all the chicken-y goodness!
strain to remove all the bits, keeping only the broth.
adjust seasoning as desired

Chicken crock soup
make up any chicken soup using the broth and stock you've reserved. i usually wing it. i would write down a recipe, but frankly, i don't remember exactly what i used. A decent  looking soup recipe is found here. Cook everything but the noodles and chicken for at least 3 hours on high, or 6 on low, before adding the chicken (which just has to reheat) and noodles (which will cook nearly as fast as the package directions!)
just remember: any noodles or other quick cooking items should be added shortly before serving, rather than at the beginning of the cooking time, and if using your broth for a recipe, DO NOT add water as well! Just substitute your broth for the whole fluid of the soup.

and when you're busy pulling apart that chicken, why not save the wishbone and get yourself a little extra luck?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sleep, and the lack thereof

i love sleep.
No, really. i LOVE sleep. love it. not in the 'oh yeah, i like to get enough sleep when i can' kind of way. in the 'i would sleep ten hours a day plus naps if i got the chance' kind of way.
No, i don't have a sleeping disorder (unless you consider children a disorder!). i just love sleep, that's all... i love napping, i love dreaming, i love the feeling of waking up completely refreshed. i even like it when i feel like i've overslept.

Unfortunately, my sleep schedule has been consisting of less sleep, more wakefulness for quite some time. Say, 5 years or so. Now, don't get me wrong. i LOVE my kids. but MAN, do they ever frak up a parent's sleeping!

caution: ranting ahead!

When i was pregnant, i of course had trouble sleeping comfortably. that was fine. i just slept extra to compensate. When my daughter (now a precocious 4 year old) was born, we (read 'I' ) decided to *gasp* co-sleep with her (you can insert the 'tisk tisk, what a bad mother' here if you desire), a la European tradition. It was GREAT (except having even less room in bed) but i could sleep. lots. and did! baby fusses, you wake up enough to stick boob in mouth, baby nurses, and you fall back asleep. worked beautifully.

eventually, we graduated her to a co-sleeper (essentially, a bassinet that attaches to the parents bed, with one side down to allow the parent to easily access the child while in bed). this was also good. after a little coaxing, we were able to separate the co-sleeper and convert it into a mini-crib, still in our room. fabulous. unfortunately, this meant i had to start getting up to nurse, usually 4-8 times a night. this cut into my sleep allotment a fair bit, but i coped. little girl napped a lot during the day, and tended to get pretty drugged up from the oxytocin in breast milk. so she slept well, when she was sleeping.
over time, we moved her to her own room, and then graduated her into a  full size crib. at this point, she was slightly under a year old. then we made our first big mistake. we decided to try sleep training. specifically, the cry-it-out methods i had read about.
You might have the idea it didn't work. that'd be an understatement. after weeks of trying the techniques for a few days, then stopping because it wasn't working at all, we ended up with a child that would have panic attacks, scream and eventually vomit every time she was placed in or woke up in her crib. it was great. Really great. We ended up chucking the idea of using the crib at all, and putting it in storage. we took her mattress, and laid it on the floor (so she couldn't fall and hurt herself) and started trying to get her to sleep on her own using no-cry methods (ie i would nurse her until she was lightly asleep, then put her down, and hum while touching her back until she was fully asleep... then i would eventually creep out of the room. it took forever, but was still less stressful than the screaming). Middle of the night feedings were okay, it was just getting her to sleep that was the problem.

skipping forward a bit,  by the time she's two or so, she's in her own big-girl twin bed, she can put herself to sleep, and she sleeps fairly well, only getting up for potty stops and the occasional glass of water. easy peasy. okay, that's a bit of a fib. it was a lot of patience and hard work extra patience getting her to learn to sleep comfortably on her own.
As parents, we patted ourselves on the back, and finally got some fairly good nights sleep.

then i got pregnant again.
see previous cycle, only different.
pregnancy: fine.
co-sleeping: fine. my joints don't love me as much as last time, contorting to allow for monkey-boy to sleep with us, but i'll survive.
little man into co-sleeper: fine. later than with little girl, but it works okay. still wake up every 90-120 mins for feedings, most nights.
we finally get him into his own room when he's around a year. in a crib. it's 'okay'. getting him to sleep is a task of patience (nursing, rocking, humming, and tiptoeing... then some days repeat X 3 or 4 if he's teething or unsettled) and he's still nursing every couple hours (which i think of as 'normal'... or at least 'normal' for my kids)
Unfortunately, he's not as easy a sleeper as his sister was. he only sleeps maybe 10 hours a night, including wake ups..  and often doesn't nap more than an hour a day. he also doesn't get nearly as sleepy when nursing, so getting him to sleep at all is more of a challenge.

i've actually thought about starting him with some sort of self-soothing techniques/sleep training, but i'm holding off. why? Gods know i'd appreciate a little extra sleep (i really don't function that well on less than 8 hours!) Primarily, i know that if i start anything that is going to involve extra crying, instead of having ONE whiny kid up in the middle of the night, i'll have TWO.... plus hubby getting even less sleep because he'll have to deal with one of them while i deal with the other. it's a no-win situation.

it's times like these i almost wish my kids used soothers or sucked their thumbs.... but they never needed the habit, b/c i had the original 'soother' available to them all night... *sigh*

okay, i'm done venting.
i am looking for... well, not advice exactly, but maybe just... support?
most (NOT ALL) of the other parents i know in person give the impression they either have 'perfect' children, or little hellions, so i don't feel i can necessarily rely on any of them for decent advice on my essentially 'decent' kids.

yeah. okay. i'm done now.
g'night all. i gotta go try and catch a few hours sleep. i'm sure going to need it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crocheting while already busy

it's just one of those things i do... i like keeping my hands busy while watching tv, while a passenger in a car... while waiting for a doctor/etc..  i am listening, honest! i DO hear ya while i'm going 'okay, only two more rows...' in my head... i may just not hear every word, that's all...

he's listening too, you just can't tell!

I've actually finished a few projects in the last couple weeks; and of course started a few more!
the bowl turned out... lopsided, but considering it was patternless and really just a trial of skill, not bad. the kids have been using it to put crayons and things in...  or as a hat (little man loves wearing weird things on his head... like plastic buckets... or underwear... yeah. he's a special boy!) I like the feel of the material it makes though, quite sturdy. think i'll try this technique with a pattern for other container shapes... they should hold up well during use.

Finished this dish towel as well.  It turned out quite nicely, and didn't use nearly as much yarn as i expected. (you can find the pattern here)

I'm also making progress on my latest sewing project... have made a few pads and pantiliners. don't think i'll make 'enough' until i've tried these out though (pics and pattern links to follow)

i started one new crochet project, and boy, is it an ambitious one for me! i've designed and started making a play mat for the kids. You know those mats you can buy with the roads and cityscapes on them? Well, i wanted to make a farm and country version, so mine is going to have fields, forest/swampland and gravel roads! i'm about 15% done, and when complete i'll post a picture of that one too!

Now most of what's on my plate, craft-wise, is actually sewing. hand sewing. whee. (i'm sure you can sense my enthusiasm!) i need to finish some Viking kit (clothing) for myself, and help hubby get some of his cut and pieced so he can work on finishing it too....  we both want to have more complete outfits for our big event in August. i'll be lucky to get one item done for myself though, as i'm sure i'll have a ton of new clothes to make for the kids (baby vikings are cute, but require frequent costume changes!)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

That time of the month again...

BOYS BEWARE! this post gets personal!

It's that time again... that once-a-month crampy bitchy yes-i-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom-AGAIN-dear time.

No, this isn't going to be a bitchy rant about hating being female or anything silly like that! i LOVE being a girl! i love all the blessings we as women are given, and i can endure the minor discomforts that are part of the whole!

I actually want to talk about feminine products, because i've been contemplating a change for the greener.

(now, for any gentlemen who have read this far: while it might not apply to you personally, what about your daughter? your wife? a little information on options isn't a bad thing! and just think... if they switch to a greener product, that means no picking up pads or tampons on your bread and milk grocery runs!)

i have, thus far, been a plain ole pad and tampon girl. Post kids, i pretty much ceased tampon use, though not for any particular reason.  A few recent articles and blogs have brought the issue back into the forefront of my mind, including this one at one green generation.

So, with the idea of change in mind, i started to research my options.
I decided early on that i don't just want to use an organic (and expensive!) disposable option, because, lets face it, other than a few less chemicals, there is NO real difference!

this left me with: cloth pads, alternative tampons, or cups.
My findings and analysis thus far:

lets start with the oddball one: alternative tampons. the one interesting option i've found is Sea sponge reusable tampons (here is one product available) they are supposed to last at least 6 months, and have lower risk of TSS than conventional tampons.
my thoughts? may be a viable option, but i don't think it would be my primary choice!

How about Cups? the three products i've looked at are The Keeper, the Moon cup, and the DivaCup.
The Keeper and Moon Cup are made by the same company, and are identical, except for materials. they are supposed to last TEN YEARS!!!
my thoughts: i want one, but they don't ship to Canada, b/c of federal regulations. poo.

the DivaCup is similar to the moon cup and keeper, but i have seen a LOT more negative comments about leaking and discomfort. they are also only recommended for ONE year use, and are not to be used with IUD's  (my current choice in no-more-babies-thankyouverymuch )
Also, cost-wise, the DivaCup costs MORE than the other two. Yes, i know this is kind-of penny pinching, but if I'm going to be frugal, i want to be capital-F Frugal.
my thoughts: not unless hubby gets the snip. and i'd still rather try the keeper first.

Now, on to a broader playing field. cloth pads.
Two commercial varieties i looked at were Glad Rags and Lunapads.
These are both nice products, but Hoo-boy are they pricey!

So, i think to myself; I've got a serger, and a sewing machine, and a nice stash of fabric. why don't i just make my own?
Enter: more research.

the results: lots of nice free patterns available, some with good pictures. a good hub page with lots of links is found here
my thoughts: i'm cheap. i'm-a gonna make mah own!

final results: since this is still just in the planning stages, i'm not sure how things'll turn out, but i'll be sure and keep y'all posted. i definitely will be pulling out my fleece and terry fabrics and deciding on what pattern/patterns to try soon though!

heck, i might even get real crazy and try number 7 on this list of ways to use more cloth and less paper/plastic products!  hey, i'm already doing 3 loads (or more) of cloth diapers every week. This would be different how?

take care, everyone, and as the weather starts to warm, like the earth: think green!