Zero-Waste Menu No 2

I used to love Trader Joe’s, but have (mostly) cut it out because of the copious packaging. Still love their delicious cheese, though …

Zero-Waste Chef

IMG_20150701_095634 Happy plastic-free July!

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that transitioning to my zero-waste shopping and cooking routine took many months of reprogramming and I continue to tweak and hone the drill as new challenges come up. I had always cooked but at some point, started shopping quite a bit at Trader Joe’s, basically a giant convenience store. (I’m sorry. I know many of you love TJ’s and in fact, I used to say I would not move back to Canada until TJ’s opened stores there.)

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Fight Like a Girl Cross Stitch Sampler

Happy Monday! Links to Make Your Day Brighter

Fight Like a Girl Cross Stitch SamplerHappy Monday! How was your Fourth of July? We had a big blowout, with 50+ people over for brunch, followed by a small block party that was interrupted by a tired baby. No fireworks for us, boo!

Cooking

Since I’ve been trying to avoid as much waste as practical for our family, I found a DIY Bisquick recipe that I used to make shortcakes for the brunch (I love Bisquick and much prefer it to “real” biscuits–don’t argue). It was easy and great! Now I just have to find shortening in bulk. Or maybe experiment with butter?

Since it’s been hot (in the upper 90s and climbing), I made sure all of the food for the brunch could either be make ahead of time, or on the grill. One of my favorite make-ahead dishes for almost any occasion is quiche–in a cookie sheet. Now, there isn’t a link here yet, but I promise to type up the recipe and link it up this week. Not only is this an easy, delicious recipe for a crowd, but you can use it to clear out your fridge. This weekend I made quiche with cherry tomatoes, white onions, and blue cheese. Patriotic!

Comics

This week is the big show: San Diego Comic Con! I’m missing it for the second year in a row, which is, I admit, bumming me out, but my friend Merrick put together this awesome Con Survival Guide! NOTE: Time for some real talk for the ladies. Ladies, bring tampons and pads. Even if you don’t usually wear pads. Even if you’re not expecting your period. SDCC is stressful, and the lines can be several hours long. Leaks are not your friends.

One organization I was always proud to work with is the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which supports free speech and offers legal assistance to comic book creators, retailers, fans, and more! One of the highlights of SDCC is the CBLDF’s welcome party and art auction. This year’s auction features original art by such luminaries as Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Bill Sienkiewicz (New Mutants), Fábio Moon (Casanova), Gabriel Bá (Umbrella Academy), and Tyler Crook (Harrow County)!

Interested in the upcoming Supergirl TV show but confused by decades and decades of character history? The Mary Sue has put together an incredible Supergirl, Superwoman & Power Girl Historical Timeline.

Speaking of female superheroes, I spotted this Fight Like a Girl cross stitch sampler at Wee Little Stitches, and I couldn’t resist. Definitely making it for Sarah!

What’s up in your world? Post a comment below!

How to Design a Baby Nursery (Even if You Think You Suck at It)

I was excited about many aspects of having a new baby, but one thing in particular gave me the cold sweats: putting together and decorating a nursery. Now, I am a pretty good cook, and crafty in many respects, but decorating/design? Not my bag, baby.

I am not the girl who moves into an blank, cookie-cutter apartment and makes it bright and charming with my effortless, offbeat style. I am the girl who crams in whatever furniture I’ve been dragging around, covers it with a warm layer of clutter, and then accents it all with . . . impressively blank walls. The only “pops” of color I typically provide are red peppers in the kitchen.

Baby Nursery

Our erstwhile guest room, cleared out and ready for paint!

But! I had a guest room to clear out and repurpose. And while I am not a Pinterest-level decorator (or even a MySpace-level one), I was able to put together a very pretty room that is now my favorite space in the house–without tearing out my hair, and without (in my eyes, anyway) wasting a lot of money. Here’s how to do it:

Figure out your goals and priorities.

As a former boss drilled into my head, you cannot properly measure the success of your project if you did not set goals beforehand. Plus, sitting down and figuring out what you really want to achieve can help set you on a specific path and save time. Here were my objectives:

  • I needed to create a dedicated baby nursery from scratch.
  • I wanted, if at all possible, to choose colors and furniture that Sarah would still like/could still use as she grew up.
  • Since the room is a scant 9 by 12 feet with a small closet, I needed to select compact furniture and utilize the walls, etc., to create enough storage space.
  • I wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for books.

Now, your goals could be different: for example, if you have a room in an apartment, you might want to create a nursery without making any permanent changes to the room. Or, you might be making part of a sibling’s room (or your room) into a nursery, so you want items that go with the existing decor. Or, if you have big-kid furniture waiting in the wings, you may want to find baby furniture that is as inexpensive as possible, since you’ll be getting rid of them.

Think about your space, imagine it five years into the future, and go from there!

Narrow down a color scheme.

I followed the same color philosophy that you’d use when painting a house: you got your main color, your trim color, and your accent color. I knew I wanted light purple as my main color (girly, but not too girly), and I knew I wanted orange in there somewhere.

I decided to start with a crib sheet and go from there, which led to my one real splurge* (other than the Pottery Barn shelves my parents bought): after looking online at Target and Babies R Us, I found the perfect fabric at Serena & Lily. Not only was their Starburst Crib Sheet super cute, but the colors were perfect: purple, pink, and orange. And they had swatches available: I used them to help select everything else for the room.

Serena & Lily Starburst Crib Sheet

The crib sheet that kicked everything off!

*I also have to say that Serena & Lily’s sheets (I bought another in a coordinating fabric that is now discontinued) have been very high quality and a good buy. Plus, since you’re not supposed to use bumpers, pillows, or blankets in cribs due to the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the sheets were the only bedding I had to buy! Guilty justification over!

Of course, you don’t have to use a sheet. You could have a painting you love, or a lamp, or anything else that speaks to you.

Choose your wood (heh heh).

White, maple (lighter brown), or walnut (darker brown)? Choose your furniture color now! My choice was quite easy, as we had friends who passed their white crib on to us. Bingo! Plus, I knew it would be easier to find a bunch of used furniture and paint it all white to match (which I did).

Baby Nursery

Our awesome crib, handed down from friends.

NOTE: Be aware that safety guidelines for cribs are ever evolving. Protect the health and safety of your baby–before you accept or purchase a used crib, please read Before You Buy a Used Baby Crib.

Determine your essentials.

These were my four essentials: a place for the baby to sleep (duh), and area to change her, a place to feed her (I fell down on the job here), and storage for books, clothes, and toys.

Map out a budget.

My budget was moderate. I was fortunate to receive a crib from friends, and I had a lot of help from my handy, crafty parents. And Craigslist.

The thing about baby furniture and gear is, babies don’t use it for very long. And parents are always looking to get rid of it when they don’t need it anymore! There’s no need to buy everything new, especially if you’re trying to save money.

Measure your tolerance for crafting.

Oh Pinterest, you ignorant slut! Sorry. Listen, you could be uber-crafty and paint an incredible mural in your nursery. I knew I wanted to sew something, and I wanted to cross stitch something. I ended up making the beautiful Daisy Kingdom flowered wall hanging from Simplicity 1604 (using my swatches to select material), and stitching the Disney-inspired Pretty Little City from Satsuma Street (which just happened to include purple and orange).

Pretty Little City

Pretty Little City, from Satsuma Street on Etsy.

However: think your projects through before you start, and be realistic about the amount of time and money you want to invest. I’m very happy with the flowered wall hanging, but it was a lot more expensive to make than I thought, as I did not take the time to estimate how much all the fusible webbing and covered buttons would cost. Plus, it ate up time: I had to trace 60 flowers! You’ve got stuff to do–don’t go down the rabbit hole of putting super-personalized touches on everything. The baby won’t notice.

Take everything out of the room. Paint.

I knew I wanted a soft purple for the walls, and my Mom (who has a much better eye than me, thank god), went to Houzz and found an entryway that looked promising. What I liked most about the picture is it showed the color, Benjamin Moore Organdy, paired with darker gray furniture, which made it look more neutral. While Sarah’s walls look pretty and girly with her current white furniture and pink accents, I’m hoping it will mature with her. Plus, it spurred me to choose another neutral besides white for the room–gray–which I used for the rug (another piece that would work just as well in a teenager’s room as a baby’s).

Painted!

Painted!

I don’t want you to think I just picked a wall color off the Internet–that would be crazy. We got several samples, put them up on the walls, checked them at different times of the day (to see how the light changed), compared them to my swatches, and . . . chose the one off the Internet. It was the best one!

My parents came in gangbusters and prepped the room for painting, and did the bulk of it, too (with Sid and my help–I stayed near the open windows). They were awesome!

Shop/beg/thrift your furniture.

Before you buy anything, make sure to put it out there via the grapevine (i.e., Facebook) that you’re looking for baby furniture and accessories. You may be surprised by how many people offer you theirs!

BabyNursery12

My baby changing table/bureau before . . .

I already had a crib, and I knew that I wanted a changing table that was also a bureau (and that Sarah could also use indefinitely). I found exactly what I wanted on Craigslist for a great price, but: it was bright yellow. Fortunately, my parents came to the rescue (again) and painted it white for me. I then went online and found inexpensive violet glass knobs to tie it back to my color scheme.

Baby Changing Table

. . . and after!

My next purchases were a white wooden rocking chair (again, off Craigslist) and a $40 white cube organizer from Target, to which I added three pink canvas storage bins.

Now: I had no experience feeding a baby when I bought this furniture, and the wooden rocking chair I bought was a big mistake. Huge. I had money I should have spent there. Yes, it was the right size for Sarah’s tiny room, but oh no, it turned out to be too small for me to breastfeed her. You’re going to spend a lot of time sitting in that chair. Late at night. Spend the money, get it right. Don’t be like me, schlepping my baby down two flights of stairs in the middle of the night to get to the comfy leather chair. Get a good rocking chair.

Baby Nursery

Rocking chair of doom.

Arrange your furniture. Determine what, if anything, you still need.

The day I brought Sarah home and started using the room, I realized I needed two more things: a small table next to the rocking chair (for a glass of water, book, phone, etc.) and some sort of table for the monitor, or just to put things down on. My Dad (do you see a theme here?) built me a great side table for the rocking chair, and I dragged in an old end table from my bedroom and covered it with a cute baby blanket (which my Mom made). I swear I’ll paint that table white some day.

Add the finishing touches.

I planned to get picture rails from IKEA to shelve books–cheap, cute, and low-profile for that little room, but my Dad surprised me with cute wall shelves from Pottery Barn. I found the aforementioned gray-and-white rug at Target, and my Mom found a cute grey elephant lamp. I hung up my craft projects, and voila! Done!

Wall-mounted shelves hold tons of books without taking up floor space.

Wall-mounted shelves hold tons of books without taking up floor space.

Just kidding. Welcome to the evolution.

Okay, nine months after bringing Sarah home, I’ve made several little tweaks. I had to find space for the bassinet, once Sarah moved out of our room, and then I had to rearrange a couple of things when she moved to her crib. We hung up a few more pieces of art (mostly gifts from friends). I found some curtain rods (again on Craigslist) that I will put up–as soon as I pick out some fabric for curtains. Sid donated his KidKraft Sling Bookshelf, which fit neatly under Sarah’s wall-mounted shelves. A friend gave me a wire cube closet organizer, which was perfect for Sarah’s (teeny, weird) closet.

Baby Nursery

This KidKraft sling bookcase fit the room perfectly!

But! I am extremely pleased with the end result, and very surprised that I was able to pull it off. Again, it truly is my favorite room in the house.

So, let’s review my goals:

  • I needed to create a dedicated baby nursery from scratch. Done!
  • I wanted, if at all possible, to choose colors and furniture that Sarah would still like/could still use as she grew up. Everything except the crib can be used indefinitely. As Sarah grows up, if she’s not super girly, we can amp up the orange and gray–or repaint.
  • Since the room is a scant 9 by 12 feet with a small closet, I needed to select compact furniture and utilize the walls, etc., to create enough storage space. So far, so good–although I hope the small space inspires us to collect less junk. The room holds a lot and functions well without feeling packed to the gills.
  • I wanted to make sure there was plenty of room for books. Goal achieved. She might need some grownup bookcases later (most of the ones she has holds books that face out), but we could fill her cube organizer.

So there you have it: how to design a baby nursery, even if, like me, you typically suck at that kind of thing. I hope this is helpful to someone! Heck, if I can prevent one mother-to-be from buying an uncomfortable rocking chair, I think my job is done.

Baby Nursery

Here you can see the cube organizer–and the antique doll I quickly removed once Sarah could grab things!

So what do you think? What did you do? Post suggestions and links below!

Baby Nursery

One last picture. Yes, I am very proud of myself.

The Baby Diaries: Nine Months

Sarah at nine months. Shown actual size.

Sarah at nine months. Shown actual size.

I’ve been meaning to write down Sarah’s milestones as she grows, but . . . well, better late than never. She had her nine-month checkup today, and all looks great!

Vital Stats:

Weight: 21 pounds, 10 ounces (this is why my wrists hurt all the time)
Height: 29.5 inches

So . . . Sarah is a big baby! 98th percentile for height, 90th percentile for weight. I’ve been, um, blessed with a more-than-plentiful supply of milk, so I guess it was inevitable. We went to Book Babies at the library this week and she was bigger than the 11-month-olds. I have her in 18-month clothing–and it’s only a little big on her!

Sarah at nine months:

  • No teeth, but still eating more and more solid foods. Sweet potatoes are her favorite, but she loves bananas, nectarines, and blueberries, and she likes peas and zucchini as well. Broccoli was shut. down. I will try again soon.
  • She just had her first meat the other day at the grocery store. The man at the deli counter gave us a sample of the ham he was cutting for us, and she was eyeing it. She definitely understands when we’re eating, and she wants to try everything!
  • Sarah is (drumroll please) sleeping through the night on a regular basis: usually 6:30 pm-6:00 am. She rarely ever got up more than once per night, but this has still been heavenly. If I go to bed at 10:00 pm, I can get eight hours of sleep!
  • We are down to two naps per day.
  • She is almost crawling. She’s doing the army crawl, dragging one leg behind and spraddling across the floor.
  • She’s always been into standing, but now she wants to do it again . . . and again . . . and again! With my help, of course.
  • Sarah is still the sweetest, easiest baby I’ve ever known. Full of smiles, especially for her brother. She even cuddles a little now. People are always drawn to her–at restaurants, the grocery store, etc. She’s very used to being told she’s cute.

So . . . is this all normal, other mamas? What’s next? And . . . when will there be teeth?