31 August 2008

this weekend's big score

We spent most of the weekend in my home town visiting family and introducing Avery Charlotte to her great grand parents, her great, great aunt Charlotte (who she is named for) and a whole slew of other friends and family. I come from a small town in the more conservative part of the state, with a strong Scandinavian heritage, where sheep, cattle, hay and horses abound. On Sunday we drove down the road to an even smaller dot on the map for their annual Sheep Drive. Started as a joke 20 years ago, it is a community party with food, bands and vendors. At one of the many tables set up along main street, we found this cute little fisher price horse...$12. It should be no time before this little one is scooting around the house on it.

30 August 2008

the homestead

A few years ago, my parent's sold their house in town and settled on 12 acres about 15 miles from town. They built a little cabin, a shop and a barn, rounding it out with the original homestead cabin from my dad's family ranch, which they moved from down the road. It has names and dates and cattle brands carved into the square-hewn logs. Here are a few shots from our visit this weekend...

27 August 2008

release your inner decorator

(image from marthastewart.com)

I am on the Martha Stewart Organizing Tip of the Day list. This one came through yesterday and I for one think it is pure genius. Taking a cue from obsessively organized decorator types, she (I know it isn't really Martha who sends these emails, but I am keeping things simple) suggests creating a Decorator's Pouch. This is a simple collection of all of the particulars of your home or current project, pulled together in a zipper pouch. This includes paint chips, fabric swatches, dimensions of all of the furniture and the rooms. Add to it a list of what you still need to find, some photos of trouble spots or or perhaps some magazine clippings of inspiration. Then, the next time you are out thrifting and you find what could be the perfect coffee table, there is no guess work. I think I would also keep a small measuring tape and a pen and paper pad in my pack. A system like this would have made my life so much easier, so many times. Check out the comments for even more good ideas...

25 August 2008

this weekend's big score

Got around to a little garage sale madness this weekend. Not the best run, but I found a few treasures. Here are the goods:

- two small metal pails, 10 cents each (I am always looking for things like this to organize little things)
- one vintage seltzer bottle with all working parts, 50 cents (I love buying seltzer water, but I hate all of the waste)
- one cute little penguin ice bucket, 50 cents (I have seen this design several times before at yard sales or antique stores, but never at a price this good. I couldn't pass it up)
- one pair of vintage cat eye glasses, 25 cents (with leather case)
- one floral coin purse, 25 cents

So that comes to a grand total of $1.70. Good deals...

23 August 2008

a few changes

So, I have been thinking about making some changes and additions for awhile now and here are a few of the first steps.

1) a new header - I am still not totally set on this one, but I am going to put it up for awhile to see if it grows on me. The background is fabric from a vintage apron. (my new toy is my printer/scanner, wee!)

2) an expansion of The Hip Homemaker, as indicated by the small "^the blog" in the header. I am exploring some new incarnations of the hip homemaker ideal and lifestyle. Keep your eyes glued here for more updates...

3) for all of you Google geeks, the chance to put your Hip Homemaker feed on your personalized google homepage. If you have not found this wonderful feature, I would encourage you to check out igoogle. The initial set up is a little bland, but once you are set up, you can choose from dozens of beautiful artist's themes and add a ton of fun and useful gadgets. You can have your email inbox, your google calendar, feeds from some of your favorite blogs (including hip homemaker, just use the button on the top left of this page) and more all in one place. Then you just make it your home page and everytime you open your web browser, all of your favorites are right there. Here is a screen shot of my current page:

On the home tab, I have my calendar (which can be synced with your outlook calendar) the date and time, my todo list from toodledo.com (one of my new favorite tools) and my gmail inbox. Under the "Fun" tab, I have my blog feeds, recipes, and HGTV tips. I also store all of my bookmarks with google bookmarks so that I can access them from any computer.

Aahhhh, now that I am finished pimping Google, I will continue with my updates...

You can also get ready for some new blogs in my blog roll, more consistent posts, website reviews, and maybe some other fabulousness I haven't even thought of yet.

Now, I am off to enjoy a "girls night" while J is out BBQing, setting up a Fantasy football league and playing poker. Avery, Champ (the girl dog) and I are watching Breakfast at Tiffany's, eating Spicy Chicken & mushroom pizza with garlic white sauce from Pizza Pipeline (J won't eat it, so we get it when he is gone. BTW: if you have a PP close buy, i would highly recommned this option for high brow taste on a kegger budget) and drinking some cool white wine (well, I will be, everyone else is too young).

22 August 2008

covering the bean's bum (or cloth diapering 101)

I have been planning to use cloth diapers since long before we got pregnant. To me, it just makes sense; for the baby's bum, the environment and my bank account. The thing is, cloth diapers, while they are making a come back, they are not exactly mainstream. When you say "cloth diapers" most people have visions of those giant plastic pants of 30 years ago. Luckily I have a few friends who ventured down this path ahead of me and we live in a nice progressive community where you can find diapers locally and attend workshops on the cloth diapering options. The web is also a great resource to find more info then you could ever need.

Despite my good intentions and all of my planning, we did get off to a shaky start. Our little bean was, well, little... and those first few weeks were pretty hectic. I just couldn't get the diaper covers tight enough around her skinny little thighs to prevent leaks and the prefold diapers, while cheap, were really bulky and unwieldy. So, for 3 weeks, we used disposables and took out more trash then I ever imagined. We used the disposables for about 2 more weeks for nighttime diapering, because that took a little longer to figure out. The amount of trash helped to solidify my commitment to cloth. It just took a little tweaking to get everything to work best for us.

I wanted to give you my formula for cloth diapering. It continues to evolve, especially the nighttime system, but I am pretty happy with our current arrangement. So here you go...

First, I took the prefolds and cut them down to a more "fitted" shape. Actually, our wonderful friend Shelley offered to use her serger to make this transition more finished and smooth. This helped to eliminate the bulk. I saved all of the pieces that we cut off to use for doublers when needed.

For now, I don't need extra absorption during the day, so I haven't made too many doublers yet, but I have made a few for nighttime diapering. This allows me to leave them on for a longer period of time. I made them by sewing two of the scraps together with a little bit of overlap in the middle. Then to help keep the moisture away from her sensitive bum and to provide a little bit more absorbency, I sewed a piece of fleece over the top by stitching around the edge about a half inch in. For those of you who don't know, fleece is moisture resistant, which is why it helps keep the bum dry. After using them at night for a few weeks, I think I am going to find an old towel to cut up and sew to the back of the doublers to add a little bit more absorbency. Most of the time, these have been sufficient, but a couple times, I had to change her in the middle of the night because she had soaked it through.

The other thing that I did to help with nighttime diapering was to find/make some different covers. Modern diaper covers are light years ahead of the plastic pants of yore, but there are a few different varieties. The most common covers are made from a waterproof fabric called PUL (polyurethane laminate) . The fabric is water proof, but still allows for some breathability, but not as much as I wanted for nighttime. I didn't want to have to change her diaper all night long, but I also wanted to avoid any sort of horrible diaper rash. So, I needed to find something even more breathable. The options included wool and fleece, which are both water resistant but breathe very well. These covers are referred to as "soakers". The problem was that wool covers can be as much as $35 each and fleece were not much cheaper. After doing a bit of research, I found a fabulous pattern from Wired Up Designs that could be used to sew your own fleece or even wool covers. It includes 4 different sizes and even the option to make a "skirty", a diaper cover with a built in skirt. She also gives you some good tips and hints for using different qualities of fleece and wool. Oh, and she is really wonderful and helpful, emailing me to thank me for my purchase and later sharing her diaper rash woes in response to my comments. So, I have made 4 of these and they work really well at night.

So, here is my complete set up: (from top right) PUL covers for day, fleece covers for night, snappis to secure my new "fitted" prefolds, fleece lined doublers for night and a fitted prefold.

I realized that I forgot to get a picture of the diaper on the baby, which may be helpful for non-cloth users. I will add that tomorrow.

19 August 2008

jeepers, creepers, what's an EPer?

I had this post ready to go all day, but I have been unsure about posting it. It is much "heavier" then the usual hiphomemaker content. But then I decided that because it has become a defining aspect of my life as a homemaker, I would go ahead and hit publish...

One of the many new and unexpected things about motherhood is how completely challenging and sometimes impossible, breastfeeding can be. Avery was just too small when she was born to get a good latch and as she has grown, she has never quite figured out how to work the whole breastfeeding gig. That, with the fact that I started back to work yesterday, has changed our entire plan for good newborn nutrition.

At first, I was devastated that I couldn't breastfeed. Every attempt to get her to latch ended in frustration and typically tears from at least one of us. The pumping regimen was brutal, every 2 hours, even at night and I wasn't sure how long I could keep it up. I had planned for so many things for motherhood, but I had never anticipated this as a challenge. On top of that, I thought that everyone else could figure it out and we were just a little slow, but then I started doing a little research. The internet is a beautiful tool, connecting people, providing information. I found whole communities of women who for one reason or another couldn't breastfeed in the traditional sense but had chosen instead to become an Exclusive Pumper (EPer). These women understand the value of breastmilk and choose to sacrifice time and sometimes comfort to continue to supply their babies with this natural nutrition. Some of them had been able to pump and bottle feed for a year. Besides the realization that we weren't alone and it was hard for A LOT of women and babies, I found some inspiration and information to keep going and make the pumping thing work.

Now, 8 weeks into motherhood, I too am an EPer. I am down to pumping every 5-6 hours and way out producing our now pleasantly plump bean. I also have accepted that I can only do what I can do and if it becomes overwhelming and we end up switching to formula at some point, we will still have a healthy baby who has a great family.

So, despite the challenges, we are all growing and thriving here at our house...

17 August 2008

a room for the bean

I have been meaning for quite some time now to post pictures of the finished baby's room, but for a while it was filled with gifts that hadn't been put away and the crib was in our room, so it just ended up having to wait.

The walls are a sweet robin's egg blue peppered with fabric flowers and bird silhouettes. Everything is in order at long last and so, here are some pics of my new favorite room in the house:

(The crib, including the beautiful quilt my grandma made, hanging over the end, the matching bumper I made and the whoozit, who Avery loves to chat with. The two shadow box frames above the crib are waiting to be filled with old family photos and keepsakes, one for mom's family and one for dad's.)

(The crib also acts as our changing area, so I have arranged supplies at one end. The green basket includes diaper covers, lotion, diaper rash treatments, and vintage juice glasses filled with cotton balls, q-tips and snappis. Next to that,I have recycled an old wipes box to hold my flannel wipes and a spray bottle filled with water. Above that end of the crib hangs the mobile that hung over my crib, which just happens to match the colors of the bird lamp I bought perfectly.)

(In the corner, we have a great old wicker rocker that had belonged to my great-aunt Vera. We used to visit her often when was a child and her house was filled with porcelain knick knacks and afghan-covered furniture. When she died, my dad got this chair and my grandma sent me one of her porcelain tea cups. over the back of the chair is a quilt that the women in my office secretly knit over the winter. It came with a knitted pillow filled with lavender and a map that outlines who made which squares and what type of stitches it entailed.)

(In the closet, because her clothes are so tiny and storage is limited, I took down the clothes rod on the left side and put up the shelves. I put a basket on each shelf (these baskets come from Walmart (I know, BAD), but they are only $3 each and they look very nice and not too "country" like the one on the floor) and filled them with clothes, diapers, and blankets, sheets and towels. The closet doesn't have a door yet, so I arranged some of her toys in on the shelves, along with some containers to hold shoes, pacifiers and random things and two toys that were my mom's that are super fragile. The chrome step can is the diaper pail and the basket on the floor is for her tiny laundry.)

(Finally, here is her bookshelf, painted pale yellow. Along with a variety of new and vintage children's books, it holds a basket of extra lotions, first aid kit and fish food on the bottom. The middle shelf is the home of our very resiliant goldfish and a few guppies. On the top is the bird lamp I bought from the lovely Sylvie (which I love), a picture that hung above my dad's crib and our Mr. Potatohead, sporting a Chicago Cubs uniform (Avery's dad's favorite team).)

16 August 2008

custom onesies

Because our little been was pretty small for the first month or so, we didn't have a ton of "outfits" that fit. She spent most of her time in various onesies, many of them hand me downs from our friend Margot.

I am all for simplicity, but onesies aren't the most exciting apparel. So, taking a cue from Margot's mom, Nici, we did some easy embellishment with fabric appliqu├ęs. Nici has created some really wonderful elaborate designs including our favorite chicken shirt, but I kept it simple with basic squares and geometric cutouts. Using Heat-n-bond, a fabulous product I discovered through my sewing class, I would iron the pieces too the onesie. Then I secured them with stitching, either a simple border or a coordinating zigzag over the whole piece.

(the inspiration)

The result are some not-so-basic basics.

13 August 2008

green & clean

Since the birth of the bean, I have become even more interested in all things green, especially cleaning products. I am trying to banish all of those nasty chemicals from our house. It is just safer for the baby and the planet.

My favorite natural cleaners include baking soda and vinegar. There is not too much you can't do with those two and some elbow grease. However, I have been looking for some more ideas and tips for healthier cleaning and I found a couple of resources I wanted to share.

First, I checked out a great book, organic housekeeping, from the library. The author, Ellen Sandbeck not only covers the basics of healthy cleaners and household products, she tackles basic organization, how to design your house so it is easy to clean and dealing with clutter. She deals with things that I never expected to find in this book, including choosing and maintaining a healthy mattress, air quality issues and fire safety. The book is extremely thorough and even if you aren't quite ready to overhaul all of these areas of your life, you get some great information and ideas for the future.

Next, I found a few great blogs:

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent - She has some great reviews of eco-cleaning products along with a ton of other great ideas and information.

Solarkat's Eco blog - She has great information on DIY cleaning products as well as make-up, skin care and more.

The Green Leaflet - This blog was started by a friend of mine just a little while ago. All things eco for the beginner, including a few great eco-cleaning product reviews like chemical free dryer balls.

Lastly, I received an email from a locally-based national non-profit about their new program, Green Cleaning Parties. It's like a hip, eco-friendly tupperwear party and you leave with some healthy safe cleaning products that you made yourself. You can download the free kit from their website or just find more information. I think some friends, good wine, and these green cleaners makes for a fun, interesting evening.

So, its out with the chemicals and in with the healthy, happy cleaners at my house...

11 August 2008

My vegi garden...the baby version

Last year my vegetable garden consisted of tomatoes and herbs in pots. While successful and fun, I had big plans to expand that into a few raised beds around the shed this year. However, that was long before I found out I was pregnant and we decided we were going to try and sell our house.

This year, I almost didn't do anything, but I was able to score some incredible deals on starts from a few gardening friends, so at 8 1/2 months huge, I put together my little garden of pots. So again, I stuck with pots of herbs and tomatoes, but I did add an eggplant because it was such a good deal and I had never grown eggplant. It was worth a try. So, here are a few pics of the pots in progress...

(my most prolific tomato plant)

(sage and rosemary)

(tomatoes, basil, eggplant and rosemary)

(my first ripe tomatoes)

(a close-up of the eggplantling)

10 August 2008


This year, my flower garden has been running on minimal attention and upkeep with the pregnancy and the new babe. Despite the borderline neglect, I actually got some of the day lilies that were here when we moved in to bloom this year for the first time, but of course forgot to take pictures. I did however get few shots of some of the other pretties this year. Here you go...

09 August 2008

Orange Blueberry Yogurt Cake

I don't blog a lot about cooking and food, but I should do more, because it is something I love to enjoy when I have the time. One of my favorite cooking celebrities is Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I love her cookbooks, her laid back style and her great recipes. I am completely addicted to the fabulous foodie blog, Smitten Kitchen. I love Deb's writing, her sense of humor and the tantalizing recipes that she shares with all of her devotees. So, this week when I found my self with a few too many oranges, I was delighted to find this posting about this Contessa recipe, modified superbly in the Smitten Kitchen.

I really enjoy citrus desserts, but they absolutely cannot be overly sweet. Nothing is more frustrating then biting into a soft lemon bar, expecting that tart bite and getting only overly sweetened yellow goo. Blech! So, I was immensely pleased with this recipe. The perfect balance of flavors, most on the inside but almost crispy on the outside. Yum, yum, yummy!

I went ahead a made a few modifications of my own, using a bundt pan instead of a loaf and using my wilting oranges in place of the lemons. The final product was wonderful and look at and quite tasty as well. I think in the future, I will try to add some sliced almonds.

Here's the recipe for those of you too lazy to follow the link...

Orange-Blueberry Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's adaption of Ina Garten...

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (if you’re skipping the fruit, you can also skip the last tablespoon of flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated orange zest (approximately 1 1/2 oranges)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (miniature wild blueberries are great for this, and pose the least risk of sinking)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, orange zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup orange juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the orange-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in (a pastry brush works great for this, as does using a toothpick to make tiny holes that draw the syrup in better). Cool.


05 August 2008

sew fun - This weekend's big score (kind of)

So I didn't thrift this score this weekend, but I did find it packed away in my basement this weekend, so I'm counting it.

When my great grandpa died, my mom received several boxes of things that had belonged to him and my great grandma who had passed away when I was a baby. Among the bathtub shaped soap dishes and old linens, was grandma Sylva's sewing machine. One of those built-in-the-table numbers, an old singer I think. When my parent sold their house and downsized, mom had asked if I wanted it. Having my own trusty thrifted Kenmore machine I declined. But on my next visit, mom handed me a small box filled with accessories and sewing tools from Sylva's stash. Because my sewing skills and projects were all pretty basic, the box had been packed away, unopened for the last 5 years or so. My post-sewing class projects have become a little more advanced, so last week, I dug the little box out of the basement hoping to find a zipper foot. Not only did I find the zipper foot, I found a plethora of other wonderful gadgets, hemming feet, a ruffler, a buttonholer, and a fancy zigzagger, among other things. They all seem to attach and work with my machine, so I am going play around with everything and see what fun there is to be had. Here are a few pictures of everything...

(A fancy zigzagger)

(The giant buttonholer)

( all of the other feet and attachments, which came with their own instruction manual)