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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Farewell diapers

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2014

We’ve been diaper free for about eleven months, and it has been great not having to wash diapers every other day.  The trade off of wanting to explore all of the options for using the potty while in public has been irksome (it is better now that she doesn’t like porta potties), but it still beats rinsing poop diapers by a long shot.  LB expressed interest in using the potty around 18 months, and she pooped and peed in a training potty twice then decided that she’d rather not give up diapers for about seven months, and it took an additional two months for her to completely stop using diapers.

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Family vacation

Posted by eemilla on September 21, 2013

For the past few years I’ve been lobbying my maternal family to forgo the end of the year gift card exchange in favor of a family vacation, and last year everyone finally seemed to agree it was time to do something different.  Then interest dissipated for about four months so my honey and I planned a trip to Manhattan thinking we would not be taking a vacation with the extended family.  An almost collective itch to travel brought the idea back to the fore after our vacation had been booked for months.

My idea was to travel somewhere new or exciting or exotic which was in direct conflict with economic concerns and comfort levels that limited us to the Charleston area or the Savannah area.  As we’d just visited Savannah and Tybee Island last year and only I wanted to visit the Outer Banks, my honey and I were all for Charleston.  After spending hours searching for houses in both locations that met all of the various needs of everyone (pool, close to the beach, large kitchen, bath for every bedroom, enough bedrooms) the group decided the Charleston area had better large house options for the money.

Once we narrowed it down to the Charleston area we had to find a large enough house available and in our price range.  While the task sounds easy enough it required hours of searching between three or four members of our group.  My frustration was that there were multiple folks who were non-commital about if they would be joining us or how many people would be in their party.  Without having one person footing the entire bill another concern was the best way to distribute rooms without having to haggle over different pricing, and fortunately everyone acquitted themselves admirably.

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great room panorama great room panorama from dining area
bar in need of an icemaker 2nd floor alcove laundry room
king sans daybed one of 2 jetted tubs walkin shower
king bed with day bed king with daybed bathrom king with shared bathroom shared bathroom twin room twin room bathroom
view of screened in pool from twin room balcony 2nd floor balcony with view of twin room balcony spiral staircase to rooftop rooftop

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Including the couches in the living room there was enough room to sleep 20 adults based on double occupancy in each of the king beds, and there were enough areas for everyone to mingle or retreat as needed.  The crows nest or rooftop was a favorite place to escape the noise, and the patio chairs were comfortable even though a few were worse for the wear.  The second floor balcony was sparse without any furniture, and the balcony off the twin room was so small it seemed superfluous.  My honey and I didn’t want to have to spend the extra money to rent a house with a pool, but we were certainly sold on the benefit of having the pool to float around in especially after the ocean.  I believe the house came with two separate gaming consoles, and there was a nice flat screen over the fireplace in the great room.

For a house with a 20 person capacity, the refrigerator/freezer/icemaker was the feature that everyone agreed to be insufficient; it was a double door deal so there were narrow shelves which made it difficult to accommodate groceries.  Even after the ice maker was replaced it took about eight hours to make a tray or so of ice which left of us purchasing bags of ice for the sodas, iced tea, and blended adult drinks.  There is a nice wet bar with a wine cooler, and a stand alone ice maker would be perfect there.  The maintenance man said the freezer’s ice maker had repeatedly been an issue.  The large gas range was more eye candy than functional; all five burners had two temperatures: on and off (which for a gas stove is really irritating and unexpected).  We also had to have a towel rod and a door knob replaced on the first day, and although we mentioned the additional three of the five (in addition to the one that was replaced) atrium doors had alarmingly loose handles they were not replaced.

With so many cars it was difficult to juggle them as the two driveways were a car’s width, and the street was much too narrow to park on.  The golf cart created most of the tension as people wanted to pocket the key rather than leave it in the lockbox, but it was an even better feature than the pool as we could cart our gear to the beach rather than lug it the few blocks on foot (especially as any parent knows the kid will want to walk then insist on being carried whilst you juggle the beach bag and/or chairs).  The key to main house also had a lockbox which really came in handy as we had about fourteen adults sharing three keys.

The house was a few blocks from a public beach access point, but we were so far down on the Isle of Palms that the beach was never crowded even though we were there during the high season.

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Toddler Hooded Bath Towel without the cutesy animal themes

Posted by eemilla on March 23, 2013

My sewing skills leave much to be desired mostly because I’m not detail oriented or patient, and sewing seems to stress my patience.  However, I wanted some more larger hooded towels for my LB, and those at the store were a bit pricey in addition to not leaving much grow room (although I do confess that I love the cutesy animal themes).  I first got the idea to make my own here, but I need more help so I dug around on Pinterest and used this and this to create my own.  My supplies were about $10 for the bath towel, hand towel, and the thread from my stash.

I found the center of both towels on their lengthwise edges then I pinned the hand towel to the bath towel.  From there I stitched them together, and to close the hood I stitched the hand towel’s top unattached lengthwise edges together.  I didn’t cut off any of the already finished edges, but I did get rid of the tags as they seemed scratchy.

The hood is super deep and huge which LB loves to play peekaboo with, and the homemade version is much more plush than the cute duck towel she received as a gift.

hooded bath towel

 

another view of hooded towel

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Gingerbread sculptures 2012

Posted by eemilla on February 16, 2013

We’ve decided that visiting the Grove Park Inn’s Gingerbread Sculptures will be a nice tradition, so we sucked it up and paid the $10 parking fee so we could park really far away from the inn.  Admittedly we’re part of the reason the fee was instituted: we will not spend any money there unless forced to.  The last time we spent money there it was for a gin drink and a beer, and it set us back about $20 including a normal tip (plus that was at least five years ago).  To make it even more difficult for locals to view the pieces, they’ve restricted visitors to Monday through Thursday.  We took these changes in stride as my honey works every weekend so it was six of one and half dozen of another for one of us to take some time off work.  It seemed that many more of the pieces were missing as they were on display in New York, whereas last year I only recall the grand prize being off site.  Below are my favorites.

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Apple Butter Recipe Fail

Posted by eemilla on February 10, 2013

Back in the fall, LB and I went to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to get some apples and some sausage for my honey and to explore.  LB was too small to enjoy the play areas as she had just begun walking a few weeks before so the admission I paid felt steep considering it is a dollar less than the WNC Nature Center.  Plus your admission doesn’t get a discount at the store.  However, they don’t charge admission for spring or winter visits or if you just want to shop, and next fall LB will be more able to enjoy the hay bail jump and tricycle track as well as the animals.  Her favorite part was reaching into the huge apple bins and putting them in the bag.

The apples were thankfully much cheaper than at that store, but most of them were too ugly to get sold in the store so maybe they were seconds.  We purchased some pink ladies, granny smith, and winesaps.  The winesaps were terribly mushy, and I won’t be purchasing those again.  While we ate a few sliced apples, most of them went to the apple butter.

I’ve been afraid of canning, but this experience was easy; plus, how awesome is it to open your refrigerator to find homemade apple butter.  I decided to base my recipe on Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy mostly because I liked the Shakespeare reference in the recipe title.  I understand that sugar is  important in helping the ingredients gel, but I loathe oversweet apple butter so I had to reduce the sugar which meant the cooking time was mind numbingly long before I reached the desired consistency.  Next time I think I’ll also reduce the cider, and while I liked the taste there is some wiggle room on increasing the sugar.

Ooops!  I can longer find the notes for my recipe adjustments except that I started with 5lb and 5 7/8oz of whole apples which became 3lbs and 10 1/8oz after peeling and coring.  I guess I’ll do better this fall; below are pictures of the process.

whole apples

peeled apples

cooked aples

yay immersion blender

finished apple butter

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Tybee Island

Posted by eemilla on December 18, 2012

In order to mix it up, we had planned on taking our second day in Savannah to hit the beach at Tybee Island.  We were blessed with warm and clear weather for late September, and LB got to build sand castles and play in the ocean.  The ocean wasn’t a hit, but building sand castles rocked.  Parking is fairly pricey, and the beach infrastructure is spartan (we didn’t even see the rinse station on our first day).  Compared to Sullivans’s Island, the beach had a large amount of candy bar wrappers and bottle caps and dead fish.

I also wanted to check out the Tybee Island Marine and Science Center; the $4 admission is pretty steep considering the space is so small; however, everyone enjoyed their time.  When LB is older, it might be nice to come and do a beach trek as well as take a visit to the lighthouse.

turtles turtle gator starfish unknown footprint Tybee Island beach

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Savannah

Posted by eemilla on December 16, 2012

In order to introduce LB to some family members we haven’t seen since the baby shower, we drove down the road and decided to continue south to Savannah to enjoy their food scene and parks.  The squares and walking were lovely, and we enjoyed Tybee Island enough to return for a second day.  My husband and I would like to return for another visit to check out a few of the sites we missed, and I’m sure LB would like to return to the beach for more sand castle construction.

Savannah originally had 24 squares, and we set out to see those remaining.  New Orleans Square was my favorite with the its pretty green and white fountain although Washington Square’s green and burgundy plantings were quite pretty as well.  The Columbia Square fountain is pretty too, and Troup Square has my favorite sculpture followed closely by Wright Square.  Ellis and Crawford Squares have been paved with one being a market and the latter being a basketball court, and Elbert Square was erased from the map long ago.  Reynolds’ bricks reminded me of NC State.  Lafayette Square has a taller fountain than Columbia, but The Cathedral of St John the Baptist steals the spotlight.

The Telfair Academy has a steep admission of $12 per person for its small collection (especially considering the third floor space was closed), and they don’t allow any photography in the building (we had a guard follow us throughout our visit); we upgraded to the $20 per person pass so we could also see the Owen-Thomas house and gardens and the Jepson Museum as well.  Unfortunately between running out of time (the Owen-Thomas house closes at 4:30), being too tired after the sun and sand at the beach, and forgetting the passes at the condo we never got around to the other museums.

We rented a condo a few blocks south of the historic district and a few blocks west of Forsyth Park, and it was a great location with a full kitchen and a washer and dryer.  Although there was a patio, after walking around all day I had no desire to leave the sanctuary of the air conditioning.  We were skeptical about the on street parking, but as we only moved the car for our Tybee Island visits and the street cleaning, parking wasn’t an issue.

Forsyth Park trees

Forsyth Park trees

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park FountainOrleans Square fountain

Washington Square
Washington Square

Columbia Square fountain

Columbia Square

Troupe Square

Troupe Square

Wright Square

Wright Square

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Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest visit

Posted by eemilla on August 5, 2012

On a rare day when both my honey and I were off of work by happy happenstance, we planned on hopping in the car and traveling the two hours west to visit the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest.  After seeing the Giant Poplar just outside of Highlands, we’ve been thinking of taking this tour.  We were shocked by the number of dead hemlocks we encountered.

dead hemlocks in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

dead hemlock

The stumps of fallen trees were awesome, though.

When we came across the dedication plaque on a boulder in front of a large tree that appeared to have been struck by lightning, I admit that I was disappointed at the size of the tree.  Fortunately, we had only gotten to the center of the figure eight loop with the giants at the far loop.

Joyce Kilmer dedication plaque

Although my husband had downloaded an app that advised us on which direction to proceed we managed to bypass the back loop at the intersection, so on our first pass we missed the giants. We then backtracked to the memorial plaque and continued on the right side portion of Poplar Cove Loop.

Joyce Kilmer map

Poplar Cove Loop sign

I think our navigation error resulted in a more private experience of the large tree grove as when we first left the parking area a couple of other groups were just ahead of us.  The sky was darkening with the possibility of an afternoon thundershower which lent a more solemn air to our tour.  It is difficult to not feel awe in sight of these trees (of course the photos fail miserably to convey their grandeur).

These next few photos are some of the other cool sights we ran into along the trail.

We didn’t expect that Little Santeetlah Creek would be a nice spot to cool down, but our daughter thought it was the highlight of the trip so pack some towels too.

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One Year

Posted by eemilla on June 16, 2012

A few weeks back our little one turned one year old.  She tasted her first chocolate, and she expressed a strong preference for frosting over cake (unfortunately, the first recipe I’ve made to suffer from whole wheat flour).  She’s got teeth, and we’re still happily nursing for most of her nutrition.  She cruises and crawls and cuddles even with our cats and dog.  The cats quickly learned that wherever LB was there was bound to be affection and games, and the dog is warming to her bit by bit.

I’ve discovered vast stores of energy and patience in myself, and cliched though it is, she blows my heart wide open with both her smile and strong will.  My love for my husband has grown too; I get teary thinking about our sweet little family.  Every time it feels like we’ve hit a groove, she throws us for a loop; she reminds us that each day is a blessing because who knows when you’ll get a good night of sleep.  I don’t really have anything to add to the parenting conversation, but I can’t stop blathering on and on about her.

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Baby gear

Posted by eemilla on January 15, 2012

I guess I was too busy reading about birth and the first few weeks to bother doing too much research on baby gear.  I read some stuff here and there, but mostly I was on retailer’s websites.  From our experience thus far, here are my thoughts on baby gear we have used.

One of the biggest wastes of money so far has been the crib and changing table combination along with the mattress and sheets (the bumper was handed down).  We waited until about a month before the due date to purchase this as neither of us really wanted to shop for it especially since I was leaning so strongly for having LB sleep in our bed.  While I do like the changing table, LB wiggles and twists so much that I think we’re going to have to start changing on her on the floor.  We did purchase the convertible option so hopefully we’ll get some good use out of it as a bed.

The convertible car seat we purchased failed the hospital’s test as it was too large.  Somehow it was rated for a five pound baby, but LB was about 8.5 lbs and over twenty inches tall when it was deemed too large for her.  Seven months in, we are still using the free baby bucket that a friend generously gave us.  Both car seats are too large to fit in the middle of our car without forcing my tall husband to sit way too close to the wheel, which explains why so many families drive massive vehicles.

We avoided a baby tub, opting for the sink until LB was too big and could push against the side (when she was about two months old).  My cousin allowed us to borrow his bathtub.  We removed the spa piece immediately as we weren’t going to purchase batteries for it, and it has allowed her to use the bathtub longer.  We are now using the tub without the sling/seat as she can sit up without assistance, and it will extend her use of the tub as well as keep our water consumption in check without sacrificing her splashing opportunities.  While the sling/seat helped hold her while we bathed her, it is difficult to keep clean.

Some of the most indispensable baby gear has been our wraps, but this is also something I regret not reading about more thoroughly before purchasing.  I registered and received a Sleepy Wrap, and I purchased a second one in black, which I call my dressy wrap (I wore it to my brother’s wedding).  The great thing about this wrap is that it is soft and comfortable for both adult and baby, plus the give can help reposition the baby if when it is time to nurse if you’ve put baby too high on your body. It does require some knowledge and practice to use; I read and reread the instructions and watched videos on youtube and practiced and practiced at home.  My biggest regret is not knowing that it isn’t safe to wear your baby on your back with a stretchy wrap as it is too easy for your baby to lean out.  By the time LB could support her head and safely be worn on my back, I was ready to move her there since the front carries give one the same body shape as a late pregnancy.

By the time I discovered that my two wraps weren’t going to work for back carries, we weren’t really that willing to spend another $50-$130 on a woven wrap, but babywearing is an invaluable tool for calming a fussy baby while still being able to cook dinner.  I found this tutorial, and I sunk about $20 into some cheap muslin (not organic like my Sleepy Wrap) which is enough fabric for two wide wraps (the tutorial makes three narrower wraps).  Then I watched and re-watched some more videos and practiced and practiced for the back carry, hip sling, and hip carry.  The sling carry is fast and can be tied without the baby which makes it good for runs to the store, but I don’t feel that is very secure for long walks and  lots of moving around; I also like to have a longer tail to wrap around my body to meet the shorter tail under the baby’s bum.  While I feel the back carry is the most secure, I prefer to use the hip carry when we go for a walk as the jacket I wore over my pregnant belly will cover both of us up, and I can make adjustments to her hat if she’s on my hip.

We received a handed down structured carrier that does front and back holds, but the few times that I used it around the house to get used to it I ended up with a sore back as I couldn’t seem to adjust the carrier high enough to hold LB’s weight on my upper and middle back rather than my low back.  My husband is saving it for our first festival as a family in the spring.

Two items that we never would have purchased due to their cost and short life are the vibrating chair and a free standing jumper.  LB has enjoyed the use of both, although once she could sit up the vibrating chair had to be moved into the attic for storage.  The jumper is still in use for those times when wrapping her up isn’t a good option, but again if it hadn’t come to us for free we wouldn’t have it.

We may have used the pack and play that was handed down to us more if it hadn’t been for the bouncy chair and the jumper, but it is both too large and too small.  It is too large to leave set up, and I find it difficult to set up and take down quickly.  On the otherhand, it also seems too small for her to play in for much time to be worth the hassle and floor space.

For clothes, we’ve mostly used onesies and sleep and plays rather than bother with too many dresses and outfits.  While the dresses and pants are super cute, the cost just doesn’t work for us given their lifespan.  Even though LB is in her clothes less than three months, many of the outfits have not worn well between tears and pilling.  We’ve been given and have purchased lots of Carters, Gerber, Just One You, and Babies R Us brand clothing, and none of them have worn well beyond a couple of times.  Aside from the wear issues, the sizing is another problem.  We have had more than a few Carter sleep and plays labeled the same size but with a rather different fit.

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