Infinity scarves/nursing covers, careseat blankets and a lack of sleep – tutorial included

Yesterday, or more accurately the early morning hours of today, I was able to get 3 different projects done.  While I am extremely tired today, I am so happy with the things I got done.

First on the list was an infinity nursing scarf.

Digging out that darn nursing cover was just a waste of time and energy every time I needed to nurse my little girl.  But, wearing the cover as a scarf?  Well easy, on hand access to a cover whenever the little one needs it … sounds like a no brainer to me.  I found this tutorial for the dimensions on diary of a mad crafter.  The tutorial is really easy to follow and takes about 5 – 10 minutes to complete the scarf.  I used this really fun double sided jersey with stripes on one side and polka dots on the others.  The neutral colors should make it widely useable and the jersey material made it so I didn’t need to finish the edges.  The bonus on this fabric find is I got it on clearance.  I am not sure why, but the fabric stores in my area always seem to have jersey fabrics in their clearance section.

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The next project was left over fabric from my carseat cover.  When we had our little girl, I got a bunch of those ‘free’ product things.  You know, like the sling and carseat cover.  The carseat cover also had a baby lap blanket that we used all the time for our October baby.  Unfortunately the lab we had at the time seemed to have some issues adjusting to life with a new baby and less attention and ate about 1/4 of the blanket. I had a ton of extra material so – I made one of my own to match.

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Like I said, all of my materials were left over but what you’ll need:

20″ x 25″ cotton printed fabric

25″ x 25″ coordinated minky fabric

and of course thread

I started this project by laying the minky ‘right side up’ and laying the cotton fabric print side against the ‘right side’ of the minky.  I lined up one end of the 25″ side of minky with the 25″ side of the printed fabric.  I pinned them together at just that one edge and sewed it together.

Next I pulled the printed fabric to meet the other end of the minky.  This allowed for the ‘trim’ of minky on the one end.  I pinned all sides and sewed them up leaving a small space to flip the blanket right sides out.

Finally, I folded in the little pocket that was left open for flipping, and did a top stitch all the way around the blanket.

Again, a simple project.  I think the thing that took me the longest as cutting the material.  I am also not an expert in working with minky.  I find it can be a little difficult due to the fabrics tendency to stretch.  My advice is to go slow, always pin, and look ahead and made adjustments as needed as you go.

My last project for the night was another really practical and easy project – and it used leftover scraps from a handful of blankets I made. Tomorrow’s post will include a tutorial for that.

Target’s secret weapon – stocking sanity for moms everywhere.

Today I learned the secret to Target’s success.

At 8 pm I found myself climbing into the car and heading to my local Target store.  For the next hour I found myself sitting in the parking lot on the phone with a good friend and crying – trying to pull myself back together.

Sometimes I swear motherhood is designed to see just exactly how resilient you are.  Today was a day for mommy and daughter to hang out.  And I have been looking forward to not having a million things competing for my attention so I could just spend some time with her.  But I am quickly learning that I am not that person.

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I will always have a million things competing for my time and attention.

I like to be busy and I need to feel useful.  I do realize the slightly preposterous implication of that sentence.  Of course raising my daughter is of the most paramount use I can be – but I have a harder time seeing the forest through the trees.

Let me explain.

My daughter loves to color and read books.  Which are both perfectly great activities – but I sometimes fail to see the value of these things in the journey to raise her to be a well rounded and responsible adult.  I know it’s there but sometimes coloring just looks like coloring and reading a book is just reading a book.  While I am sitting there reading with her, I see all the things around me that are needing attention but aren’t getting it.  Yeah, that load of dishes should really be washed but the second I try to get up I have a little demanding mini me pulling at my legs saying ‘mommy, come color with me’.  And it is really hard to explain to her that mommy will be better able to give her the time and attention she craves after I do something to make me feel like I accomplished something … like that load of dishes.

I realize that both things have importance.  A clean home changes my mood dramatically and puts me in a better frame of mind, but my daughter is only going to be 2 and wanting to color with me for so long.  When she is 18 and moving away for the first time, what am I going to be thinking?  ‘Gee, I sure wish I had done those dishes in a more timely manner’, ‘Hmm, I really wish that when she was little I had a nice organized, spotless home’, or ‘Man, what I wouldn’t give to have one more night to cuddle my little baby girl’?

Based on what I can already see my guess is I will be wishing for one more day, not a cleaner home.  And all the warnings from well meaning parents of older children that ‘those days go by so fast’ or ‘before you know it they are all grown up’ only reenforces my hunch.

But now and then the pressure to get my house in order and to keep everything clean and the absolute insane guilt I feel for not being able to make sure my home is spotless when my husband walks in the door after work get the better of me.  Today was one of those days and it was fueled by the copious amounts of things left to get done before our little boy arrives and accelerated by a minor plumbing leak I discovered in the basement.

I figured if we could just make it to nap time and I could lay down and rest with her for a little while, the afternoon would seem all better.  Most days are fixed with a nap and a snack.  And after being awoken from an hour and a half of slumber by a sweet little voice saying ‘mommy, wake up’, I was in a pretty good mood.  Until I went down to the basement to find a fan I never located (I hear they are great for fort building) and got distracted by the state of the basement and that pesky leak.

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Of course my excited girl was calling for me, she was impatient for the promised fort and movie on this gloomy, rainy day.  It took me two hours to pull myself together enough to get the fort up, the tv on, the popcorn made and crawl my pregnant body into the fort with her.

I want to be clear – my daughter wasn’t particularly ‘naughty’ today, maybe a little extra whiny and needy but not ‘bad’.  It didn’t matter though.  By the time daddy walked in the door I was done.  Over the day.  Ready to move on to something new, to feel useful and productive or at least part of society.  Staying home this past week has been doing a number on me.

So he let me leave.

And where do I go?  Just that big red bullseye across the highway.  After my second vent/breakdown today, I finally made it into the store.  And it hit me.  Target is successful because they put there stores in the middle of the suburbs where all the crazy stressed out moms who feel disconnected from the world live.  I don’t know if they knew that gold mine was sitting there for the taking when they built their first suburban store – but it is working for them now.  Of course there are other stores in that area, but Target has this amazing assortment that still allows me to be mom while I am on my ‘vacation’.  What I mean is, I could have gone somewhere else for the few items I needed, but at Target I was still able to browse items for my family.

That’s right, I left my home to get some me time, which was spent thinking about my family.  I actually even called to check in and make sure my little girl was okay … while she was at home, with her daddy.

I have heard a million times that you don’t know love until you are a parent.  I don’t know if that’s completely true – but I can tell you I never knew guilt until I was a mommy.  And no one warned me.  Not that I would have believed it if they had, but I really had no idea. And not in the I-knew-my-life-would-change-but-I-didn’t-realize-to-what-extent kind of way.  I mean I DIDN’T KNOW there would be guilt – pretty much all day everyday.  And I thought I would have less of it as she got older, as I eased into parenthood … but there is more, especially as she becomes more and more vocal and articulate.

And the worst part is, I am not doing anything ‘wrong’.  My daughter is well cared for and loved.  She is smart and funny.  She is sassy and strong willed.  She is sweet and loving.  And we make the best decisions we can for her knowing everything has a trade off – but no matter the choice we make, I feel the guilt of the ‘what if’.

So today, after loaning a parking space from Target for an hour, I went inside and parted with a little bit of money.  Seriously, in Target terms, I spent pennies.  Brought home a future project for me and the little one to complete, and thanked Target for the little sliver of sanity I was able to get back my little Target vacation.

Nesting – why we do it and what it looks like with 11 weeks and a to-do list a mile long

We are about eleven weeks away from welcoming our little boy into our family.  Apparently I am a late bloomer to the nesting instinct, but it is in full swing now.

According to parentingweekly.com, nesting is an instinct all mothers in the animal kingdom are equipped with.  The article claims nesting typically starts in the 5th month and can range in ‘symptoms’ all the way to the extremes of throwing away perfectly good linens in order to replace them with fresh ones or taking apart everything including the knobs/handles in the kitchen to be able to disinfect the screws and inside of the knobs.

My nesting instinct with my daughter really didn’t start until the very end and it was seemingly mild case and really focused on practicals.  For example, I wanted to wipe down everything in the kitchen and organize the insides of the cupboards.  I figured who knew when my kitchen would get a throughly cleaning again and who wants to hunt through the cupboards for whatever baby thing we needed when the baby was crying or at 2 am.

I think it had something to do with my daughter being a first born.  I didn’t feel as much pressure because my attention wasn’t being divided between a toddler and a newborn … and we were in our house for just over a year when she was born so it was pretty well set.

Fast forward to baby #2 and we have a torn apart basement, a soon-to-be nursery overflowing with all sorts of stuff from office furniture to baby supplies like a mountain of diapers and a crib still in the box waiting to have a freshly painted room in order to be able to be put together.  But the painting needs to wait until the room is cleared out, which needs to wait until the basement has baseboards, which waits until it has carpet again, which waits until … well, you get the point.  There is a lot of work to get done.  A lot of it that I am ‘banned’ from doing.  Either because my husband is not really comfortable allowing me to help, or because I tire so easily, or because it is medically in advisable.

Don’t misinterpret that to mean that I don’t have my own to-do list.  I have been systematically going through all of the rooms in our house and either throwing, shredding, recycling, or garage sale-ing everything we don’t need/use all that often.  Even my daughter’s toys/stuffed animals are not exempt … or some of the clothes we got for her but never used or don’t ever foresee using are out.  I have even started getting rid of my maternity wear that I am less than thrilled to wear.  I freed by closet of all my corporate wear since I have left my job using ThreadUp.  They are basically a second hand online site.  They buy like new designer clothes from you and sell them online at ridiculous prices.  I really liked this option because they will take all sorts of things and you get to choose what they do with the ‘rejected’ items you send in – either have them sent back to you for a S&H fee or choose to recycle them.  Most of the things I sent just were too much to be messing with on my own (new with tags Banana Republic pants and suits).

In addition to my ‘clean up and get rid of crap’ list, I have a handful of small home improvement projects to add to the basement redo list.  (If you aren’t sure about this basement redo business, here is a little bit about the flood we had last year leading us on this long journey).  We have a door knob to the side door – our most commonly used door – that could just use an old fashioned up grade.  The knob we have often results in a slammed door when the husband leaves for work, I’d like one that shuts a little easier – because when baby and toddler sleeps, mommy sleeps and we don’t want to wake a sleeping anyone if not necessary.  I’d also LOVE to replace the impractical banister style railing in our living room at the top of our basement stairs with a custom built half wall book shelf because … STORAGE.

If that list isn’t long enough, I have a handful of ‘craft’ projects to complete for baby as well as half started projects I’d like to finish and post to etsy or in preparation for some fall/winter craft sales with a longtime friend.  My list of ‘to-dos’ for baby include 2 window panels, a few nursing scarves that look like infinity scarves, burp rags, and a handful of blankets.  A few days ago I was able to cross off the diaper changing pad followed by a blanket for my daughter that was supposed to be done as a christmas gift this last year and the carseat cover for baby.  Both used some minky fabric which I find a little challenging to work with.

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With only 11 weeks to go, I am feeling a little pressured to get this ever growing list done.  This mom could use some serious tips on getting ready for baby #2 – what are your best tips for getting things done and in order with a two year old running around?

Another day, another project – Coffee Sleeve

Today I spent just over 3 hours at the lab to be sure I didn’t have gestational diabetes.  If you haven’t ever been through the process, they start by taking a fasting blood glucose and then asking you to drink a very sugary beverage in about 5 minutes.  The drink on an empty stomach can cause nausea and/or vomiting.  They then ask you to hang out for 3 hours and take a blood glucose reading every hour.  As long as you pass at least 2 of the 3 hourly readings, your free and clear.  I passed all of the readings without a problem.  If you are lucky, you pass the 1 hr non-fasting test and get to skip the 3 hr test.  I wasn’t that lucky with my first pregnancy and I wasn’t that lucky with this one.

The down side is that the sugar provides for a very active baby.  On the other hand you have 3 hours to just sit.  I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing.  The time I had I used to complete another project.  Not one that I really had on my ‘to-do-before-baby-list’, but one item to cross off my endless list of started projects nonetheless.

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This is the second coffee sleeve I have knit but the first completed one using the double pointed needle technique.  I can’t decide which I like better from a finished product perspective but from the perspective of working on the item, I think I much prefer to use the magic loop method.  I found that it was easier to see what I was doing and I didn’t have to use a stitch marker which saves a little time and doesn’t interrupt the process so much.

I am hoping that tonight I will have a little bit of time/energy for one more project.  Again, not on the to-do list I mentioned yesterday but a project I have had in the works since Black Friday 2014 and intended to complete by Christmas.  So well overdue.  I have so many projects in the works that were really just for fun – so as I complete them, I’ll start to post them in my Etsy shop.

Project of the day

I have this small problem.

I seem to buy into the idea that I can have, do, and be it all.  You know the idea that you can basically be Wonder Woman.  Of course this is absolute crazy talk, it just isn’t possible to be everything to everyone.  I kept telling myself that after getting through the semester I would be able to FINALLY get some things done and spend some time with my little girl.  Unfortunately I forgot that tiredness seems to come back in the third trimester of pregnancy and I seem to be clueless about what it’s like to be home all day with a toddler.

Two days into a ‘new routine’ and I have yet to be able to spend the time with my little girl that I had planned.  We fight for about an hour or hour and a half for nap and then she sleeps for about three hours.  So that trip to the library?  Yeah that didn’t happen.  That walk to the park?  Didn’t make it in our day.  We managed to make pudding and play catch.  But that is a long way from the laundry list I have for things to do before baby #2 is born.

You’d think with the long naps my daughter has been taking, I would be able to get stuff done.  But enter the tiredness I mentioned earlier – yesterday we both had hours of naps.  Today, however, she napped for three and a half hours and I got the benefit of a little nap and some time to myself to get some things done.

Check off that list this adorable and functional diaper changing pad for my new little one.  I followed the tutorial on See Kate Sew – but with my own modifications.

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First, I only put vinyl on the inside and the pocket.  I also made it larger because after looking at the dimensions in the tutorial, I thought I would like more space for changing baby.

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I love the way this product finished up and the pocket is plenty large enough to to hold a few diapers and some wipes and I can’t wait to use it when baby gets here – although changing diapers is not something I am totally excited about.  So check one – only about 20 more things to accomplish.  If you are looking for a diaper changing pad but aren’t so inclined to dust off your sewing machine, check out my shop to buy your own.  New styles will be added regularly and if you don’t see something that is ‘just right’, send me a message!  I am happy to accommodate your special order.

Pinching pennies grocery shopping

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It might just be me but I look at my weekly grocery shopping as a task that is a necessary evil.  I mean food is needed of course but I hate anything that I pretty much HAVE to have that requires I spend money.

I used to do really well spending about $40 a week on groceries (proof is in the pudding).  And I did that for a while, until I started to feel like it took too much out of my day since I would stop at 2 sometimes 3 different places just to get my groceries. Time became more important but I still love a good deal.

Even though my focus has shifted to saving time, I still love me some money saving.

So I have started the following routine:

I make a monthly menu with a weekly grocery list.  If there are things I can buy in bulk (like meats, canned goods, dry pastas, spices, – you know anything non-perishable) it goes on my buy ahead list.  A trip to Costco ensues.  Then every week I go through the cupboards to see what we already have in the house from the list and make a list of just what I need including breakfast and lunch items as well as fresh fruits and veggies.

I tracked where I spent the least money on different grocery trips for 2 months.  I found that I spent the least at Target between Target, Cub, and Wal-mart.  Each store has some sort of program geared at loyalty that helps cut your costs.  Cub does a discount on gas and Wal-mart does a savings catcher app which basically scans the ads in your area and gives you back any money on items they found for less.

I find that Target’s Cartwheel app is the best value for my family.  On the plus side – there are always TONS of discounts and you can use a cartwheel, a Target coupon, and a manufacturer coupon on the same item.  On the down side, you really have to watch to be sure all the discounts finish coming of before your cashier totals you order.  I missed that one the other day and had to either leave the savings on the table or go back and get it corrected.  It felt silly to ask them to adjust the 5% here 10% there but I saved $3.50 by doing so.

I also love the Ibotta app.  I am currently a little obsessed with it because I just made a huge rebate earlier this month.  Between buying diapers for the new baby due in August and grocery shopping, I managed to get a rebate of about $20.  The app gives you rebates for doing ‘fun tasks’ like watching a short video, answering a survey question, or ‘learning’ a fact or recipe and it is so easy.  Basically you just buy what you normally would then check the app for rebates, perform the task to unlock and submit the rebate.  You get a response in 24 hours – in my experience usually sooner.  You also can build a team and work on bonus rebates as a group.  This month I have already earned an additional $4 and am close to earning an additional $3.  Down side is that you need to shop at the select stores in the app.

Finally, my newest app is very similar to Ibotta, but is run by Groupon.  The benefit to this app over the Ibotta app is that you can redeem the rebate from any store.   The app is called Snap and usually has higher value rebates.  I have found that the rebates (like actual Groupons) are usually ‘sold out’ when they are ones I want to use and the available rebates are usually pretty limited.  The plus side is that most rebates seem to be at least $1 and sometimes more, they just aren’t always so relevant to my purchases.

And of course there is Shopkick.  This app gives you points for walking into selected stores and even more if you choose to scan the selected items.  These points can be redeemed starting at 500 points for gift cards.  I usually like to get the Starbucks or Target gift cards.  A cup of coffee just because I open an app each time I walk into Target?  Yes, please.  I don’t mind if I do.

And of course there is the little discount of 5% available at Target for having a Target debit card … that certainly helps the matter.

What are your tips and tricks for slashing that inevitable grocery bill?

Out of touch or out of wack? – food costs.

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After our weekly grocery trip this past weekend, I started wondering about the new method we had been using to get our groceries.  Basically I have started making a monthly menu along with a monthly grocery shopping list.  Those items that we can buy in bulk and will not go bad before we use them (think meats, canned goods, etc) get purchased in one trip and then we go weekly for the perishables needed for that week as well as needs for snacks and packing lunches.

We implemented this idea 2 months ago to save on time spent every week and to hopefully cut down on cost by reducing eating out as well as trips to the store and being able to use our local club store to purchase in bulk where appropriate.

At any rate, the only way to know if this plan actually served the above purposes was to do a little math.  So I averaged out what we spent per week (about $95) which led to further curiosity, what does the average family of 3 spend on groceries?  I was slightly shocked to see that the USDA puts cost of food for a family of 4 (two adults and two school age children with all meals and snacks prepared at home) on a thrifty plan is $146.  They did caveat that by saying the diet was ‘healthy’ according to choosemyplate.gov, but I would argue that my family gets a good amount of fruits, veggies, and more whole and organic products than a typical american diet (and more than what we had been using in the past) and we are seeing a spend of approximately $51 per week less.

In addition to feeding my family 3 meals a day on that budget and having snacks available, we have also been stocking our freezer full of ready made meals for our new baby’s arrival.  We have been getting an average of 2 freezer meals per week on top of our meals.  And the majority of the time both the freezer meal and the cooked meal give a total of 1 family meal plus leftovers for lunch the next day.  In the past we had been focused on a tighter budget – and I would expect to see us trend lower over the summer as our garden starts to grow and farmer’s markets are widely available again.

So, here is the question – Am I completely out of touch or is the USDA’s estimate out of wack?

I realize these number are based on a national average and that the general populations overall expanding waistline increases individual food demands.  I am also aware that we are a family of 3, not 4, and our little one is still a little one who doesn’t eat as much as an older child or teenager would – but I think that is well balanced by purchasing extra items that my picky eater will eat that wouldn’t otherwise come into our home.  Clearly the area in which you live greatly dictates the amount you spend per week but I had always assumed I lived in an ‘average priced’ food market.

And when you consider a liberal food plan sits at $289 per week … well I don’t even want to think about that.