Replacing Hook & Loop on bumGenius Diapers

I bought Refesher Kits for my bumGenius pocket diapers months ago. At a $1 a piece it seemed a better option than buying more pocket diapers for our next baby. But then the Laundry Tabs, Hook & Loop and elastic just sat in the drawer until I got my new sewing machine for my birthday. Since then I have replaced the Hook & Loop and Laundry Tabs on five out my nine bumGenius that needed repair. It’s been a slow process.

The stitch ripping took much longer than I anticipated. To remove the Hook & Loop from nine diapers took me about two hours.

It was especially hard not to snag the stretchy tabs the Hook & Loop is sewn to. Attaching the laundry tabs actually proved to be the easiest part, though some of mine are crooked. But they work great.

Attaching the new Hook & Loop was harder. First of all, you can’t pin through the Hook & Loop so I had a hard time keeping in straight. My first set was quite crooked. I also succeeded in breaking my first sewing machine needle. Apparently I should have used a larger needle to go through two layers of Hook & Loop. Oops.

I finally discovered a trick which has worked thus far. First I sew the loop side of the Hook & Loop (the soft side) onto the diaper. Then I sew the hook side (the abrasive side) to the loop side. This way the abrasive side doesn’t scatch against the throat plate of the sewing machine and the Hook & Loop is much less crooked. I no longer have to try to sandwich the stretchy tab between two pieces of Hook & Loop while trying to sew straight and prevent sewing my own fingers in the process.

Now if only I could figure out how to replace the loop strip across the front of the diaper. I know that the elastic is far beyond my capabilities, though a replacement set was included with the Hook & Loop. Has anyone else figured out an easy and efficient way to replace the elastic and the “landing strip” without ruining your diapers?

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Reconnecting with Old Friends

I never had a real best girl friend until college. But within two years of college I had developed a close cohort of female friends who became a very important part of my life. Two of the closest were my best friend Lauren and my roommate Jackie. Lauren and I met freshman year when we were both taking dance classes. I will admit that when I first met her I was completely jealous. As a dancer she had the perfect line and body type for ballet and had years more training that I did. But I soon discovered that she easily the most selfless person I had ever known.

Jackie became my roommate almost by default. We both needed roommates and neither had any other options. We had taken a couple classes together and worked on the campus newspaper together. It was a gamble for both of us, but since I had already had two unfortunate roommate experiences in one year, I figured I could afford to take a chance. My risk paid off, as we soon became close friends. We were both section editors for the campus paper; Jackie, sports editor, and me, Arts & Entertainment. We knew it would only be for one year, since I was getting married the following summer, but at the end I think we both wished it could have lasted longer. Jackie was a hard worker, but easy going and entertaining to live with. You could discuss anything with her, from politics to theology.

I was privileged to have both these women stand by my side on my wedding day. It was hard to keep in touch after I got married at the end of my sophomore year. Lauren graduated the following year (having finished in 3 years), Jackie took a semester abroad in Cairo and I graduated a semester early the following December. We kept in touch by email and occasion visits. I was a bridesmaid in Lauren’s wedding and set Jackie up with a blind date with an old friend. It has been almost seven years since I left college and slowly I have lost touch with both of them. Lauren and her husband moved out to Kansas City,MO to be part of International House of Prayer. Jackie married (though not to the blind date I set her up with), and attended law school. I renewed contact after my daughter was born. Jackie and I sent regular emails for a while. Lauren and her husband stopped by on their way through the area while visiting family. But I haven’t heard from either of them in over a year. But I’ve decided that it falls to me to get in touch. I wonder what their lives are like. Do they have children? What directions have their careers taken? Are their husbands and extended families well? Hopefully I’ll soon find out the answers to these questions.

Homemade Yogurt – Is It Worth It?

So this week I finally did something I’ve been planning to do for over a year. I made my own yogurt. I’ve been reading about doing this since my daughter started her love affair with yogurt at 9 months old.  But I was totally intimidated by the prospect until I found You Can Make Yogurt in a Crockpot. Even then, I was still intimidated, but I finally got over it and I’m really glad I did.

Below is the recipe I used, courtesy of A Year of Slow-Cooking

Ingredients

–8 cups (half-gallon) of whole milk–pasteurized and homogenized is fine, but do NOT use ultra-pasteurized.
–1/2 cup store-bought natural, live/active culture plain yogurt (you need to have a starter. Once you have made your own, you can use that as a starter)
–thick bath towel

The Directions.
Plug in your crock pot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug your crock pot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.
When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl.

Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt.

Then dump the bowl contents back into the crock pot.

Stir to combine.

Put the lid back on your crock pot.

Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.

The first batch turned out far too runny, more like a yogurt smoothie texture. Fortunately my daughter just drank my first batch or I thickened it with baby cereal (which I do anyway). I also sweetened some with Jello and poured it into popsicle molds. Unfortunately they weren’t sweet enough, but my husband still proclaimed them edible. Batch #2, I was more careful about whisking in the yogurt starter properly and added a half cup of non-fat dry milk to the crock pot at the beginning of the process. Wow! This yogurt was amazingly thick. Thicker than store bought, and no gelatin added. I added cherry Jello to a portion of it for my husband and let it solidify in the refrigerator over night.

I mixed ¾ of a package of Jello with half a cup of water and heated in the microwave for 1 minute. I then added it to 24-30 ounces of yogurt, while it was still warm from the crock pot.

Too much Jello. It turned out like milky colored and yogurt flavored Jello; delicious, just not really yogurt. Next time I think I’ll try a ratio of half a pack of Jello per 64 ounces of yogurt.

I decided to do the math to figure out whether it was worth my time and effort. (I didn’t include the cost of running the crock pot in my calculations given that I use it on and off throughout the year and have never seen a significant change in my electric bill because of it.)

1 gallon of whole milk costs almost $4 a gallon in our area. This is for Lehigh Valley Dairy from Valley Farm Market (who usually has the cheapest price on Lehigh Valley Dairy.) I like it better than most store brands and it costs about the same at Valley Farm Market as most store brands anyway). Using organic milk would probably have yielded better yogurt, but it is also much more expensive. Lehigh Valley Dairy is the next best thing. Perhaps I’ll consider organic milk in the future if a cheaper local source becomes available. I bought non-fat dry milk at Aldi’s; $5.99 for 25 ounces. I used my Stonyfield Farm whole milk, plain yogurt as a starter, which costs $3.09 for 32 ounces (though in this case I got it for $2.09 thanks to an online coupon and store doubling).

Whole milk yogurt is almost impossible to come by around here. I have only seen two brands: Stonyfield Farm and Dannon. Dannon is usually cheaper but at least once a month I buy Stonyfield Farm with a coupon I print from their website. Then Wegmans doubles the coupon. But I can only print one coupon a month, so I pay full price at least once a month. But in the end the average cost per month is about the same as Dannon and I think Stonyfield produces a much better product. I would happily buy Wegmans store brand yogurt, especially if it was organic, but they don’t offer a whole milk variety.

Half a gallon of Lehigh Valley Dairy whole milk= $2

½ cup of yogurt starter, Stonyfield Farm Whole Milk Yogurt=$.39

½ cup of non-fat dry milk = $.95

Total=  $3.34

When I first saw the total I was bummed. How could it cost more than I was spending for Stonyfield Farm yogurt? Then I realized my error. This batch actually produced approximately 64 ounces, not 32.

64 ounces of Stonyfield Farm would cost me $6.18

I also compared my Yogurt Jello concoction to the Yopalit cups my husband buys.  I could probably be using 1% or 2% milk for his as well which would provide an additional savings. I’m also still experimenting with how much Jello I need to sweeten it adequately. In some cases, we’ll also add fruit which will be an additional expense but below is an estimate.

Total Cost of Jello Yogurt for my husband = $3.50 for 64 ounces

Cost of Yoplait Original = $6.29 for 64 ounces (this assumes buying Yoplait Original in 6 oz cups, given that our grocery store doesn’t carry the 32 ounce variety)

Was it worth the effort? I think so, but as a SAHM/WAHM, I’m home most of the time so checking on the crock pot periodically is no great burden. I’ve been told I can only expect this yogurt to last 7-10 days, which shouldn’t be a big problem the way my daughter and husband go through it. We were able to eat our mistakes which also saved money. If I am able to use my own yogurt as a starter in the future that will further lower the cost. I’d also like to experiment with using less non-fat dry milk and possibly eliminating it entirely as well as using lower fat milk. But for now, I think I’ll stick to buying Stonyfield Farm once a month for $2.09 and then making my own homemade yogurt for the rest of the month. Now if only I could figure out how to make their Chocolate Underground yogurt.

Wanting to try Mama Cloth? Enter to Win One.

I just found out about a giveaway over at Joy Filled Living. As a fellow cloth menstrual pad user, she is offering a giveaway of an overnight pad from Ladybug Creations, her preferred choice of pad. Please check out the giveaway and Ladybug Creations as well.

To read more about my own experiences with cloth menstrual pads, check out these two posts.

Something I NEVER thought I’d be Blogging About: Reusable Menstrual Products- my reviews

Something I NEVER thought I’d be Blogging About: Reusable Menstrual Products: Part 2 of my reviews

What Children Really Need, Contrary to the Consumer Mentality

I was browsing some sale items on Target.com when an advertising slogan caught my eye: “Babies Need Lots of Stuff, Save Now on Big and Small Things.” It reminded of a post I read on Simple Mom a few weeks ago called “What Do Kids Really Need?” Tsh proposed that all children really NEED in life is their physical needs met (however simply), play and love. She was visiting the Philippines with Compassion International at the time and was struck by how much the children appreciate simple gifts because of how little they have, as well as how far the money provided by Compassion International child sponsors can be stretched to provide these children with the basics of living.

This is such juxtaposition to the Target slogan, and the mindset of most Americans. I can’t count the number of people who complain how expensive it is to have children. Yes, it can be. But it doesn’t always have to be. Now I could spend the rest of this post to innumerate the various ways to save money when you are having children, from cloth diapering to breastfeeding to bargain shopping. But you’ve probably heard them all before. I don’t think this is an issue of frugality but an issue of personal philosophy. What do my children need most and how can I provide it? For some people providing a child’s physical needs is as simple as pulling out a credit card or debit card and there is nothing wrong with that. For others it is about saving, slaving and bartering. The real question is, have we bought into the idea that every item that a child wants constitutes a need? (Or worse yet, any item that is advertised as a “must have.”) As a parent, a part of me wants to give my daughter anything and everything. I see adorable outfits and fascinating toys and part of me wants her to have them all. But I know that even if I had the resources to buy her all these things I probably still wouldn’t.

What’s especially poignant about that Target ad slogan is that it admits that most of the stuff we buy for our kids is simply that: stuff. In my own life, I’ve always defined stuff as items which take up space but provide little if any value. Examples: clothing that is never worn, functionless or rarely used single use items, broken or worn out items that are beyond repurposing. Having children seems to be an invitation to fill our lives with even more stuff. I think being a new parent has a way of making many of us feel unprepared and the consumer mentality of our culture preys on that fear. We are offered every possible item for every conceivable “need.” For fear of lacking the perfect item at the crucial time we fill our homes with various baby products in different colors, patterns and styles. But the truth is no matter how much stuff we buy, we will still be unprepared for the awesome responsibility of parenting. Having more stuff won’t make our children feel more loved, and having more toys won’t make their play any better. My daughter will happily play with a pair of rocks and a pine cone, in spite of the fact that our living room offers a selection of fascinating toys of various kinds.

I realize that our world has changed significantly in the last hundred years, so I don’t advocate trying to return to the way life was then, but perhaps we can glean some wisdom from bygone lifestyles. Children had fewer things and were taught to be grateful for what they had. Work was something to take pride in, not something to be avoided. A worthwhile life consisted of faith, family and hard work rather than the acquisition of things. As Tsh defines needs, most of us can provide our children with these things. Love can be given by anyone, play can be produced with simple interactions like games of peek-a-boo and tag. Physical needs are simpler than we realize: clothing appropriate to the weather, healthy food to eat in appropriate quantities, a safe place to live. I know that in many areas of the world, this is a struggle. But for most Americans providing our children’s basic physical needs is much easier than for most of the world. But for those where it isn’t, it has been my experience that an outpouring of love and attention from parents helps make up for fewer physical possessions. The reverse rarely works. No amount of new toys or clothes or trips to McDonald’s will make up for neglect or abuse. Whether they tell you so or not, children would rather be loved than have things.

So as I find myself perusing sale racks looking for good deals, it suddenly doesn’t seem to matter so much. At the end of my day my daughter may not have the most stylish clothes or the most expensive toys, but she has parents who love her, enough food to keep her healthy and a safe place to sleep and I’m very grateful to be able to provide those things to her. Stuff is optional.

Square Foot Garden 2011: Alas, no apple trees

A few weeks ago, I received the sad news that Jung Seeds cannot fill my order for two columnar apple trees. They refunded my money, but I’m still bummed. My garden phlox seem to be doing OK, though I’m a little concerned about my blueberry bushes. I’ve already had to have one replacement bush shipped because one died almost immediately. Hopefully I can order my apple trees next year. I don’t suppose any of my local readers know where I could purchase the trees nearby? However, having an extra year to think about this has me wondering about a space in my yard I hadn’t considered. There is a long strip of grass on the alley side of my house, particularly next to the fence that could be a potential place for a few Dwarf Fruit trees. I’m sure my husband won’t be happy to hear this, but I’m considered getting a peach tree or two next year. By planting them along the edge of the alley I’ll be providing more privacy for our yard, plus the added benefit of growing delicious fruit. I’ll have to get out there and measure, but I’m hopeful about the prospect.

On another sad note, Dan Schantz Greenhouse is closing their Bethlehem location. This is a huge disappointment to me, given that it is walking distance from my house. I prefer to buy local rather than from a large chain store. They do have an Allentown location but it is much less convenient. On a good note though, Dan Schantz is having a huge clearance sale. I picked up two blueberry plants for $5 each and a grape vine for $10. Both these plants were enormous compared to what I would get ordering online. I encourage any local readers to check out the sale.