Monday, July 25, 2011

Still Being Crafty: Freezer Paper Stenciled Onesies and Teacher Gifts - July 25, 2011

I don't entirely know how I found the time to do the following projects, but I did. School starts back up next week (yup, early, and yup, HOORAY) so I should have even more time for both crafting and actual money-making ventures (I'm a copyeditor/proofreader/writer and I'm always looking for more clients, plus I have my pinback button/jewelry/accessory business - online and off.) but for now, I squeak it in when I can.

So. First up is my next freezer-paper stencil project. I had so much fun making my daughter her T-shirts (which are too big for her right now, oops) and her new school bag that I kind of invented a reason to continue making things. A friend of mine is due soon with her second baby - her first boy - and I missed her shower, so I decided I'd make her a onesie set.

When I first started out, I figured I'd buy the basic white Gerber onesies - I even had all sorts of coupons and deals so they'd be very cheap. Yeah, they're cheap all right - they're great for when you need to just stick your baby in something before they poop/pee/yak all over it, but they're not so great for actually making into something crafty that will last. I didn't want to put a lot of work into a gift only to have it fall apart in the wash. So I went on a quest, and eventually I bought a four-pack of Carter's onesies at the Carter's store. These are thick and soft and when I combined a coupon, a sale, and a gift certificate (and a bunch of stuff for my own kid in the same purchase, including clearance pajamas for $2 and a clearance tutu for about $1.50, but I digress...), they were very reasonably priced.

And here's the final product (with credit to for these particular designs):

Three freezer-paper-stenciled Carter's onesies. Awwww.
The squirrel onesie came out the best - in fact, I made a mistake with it and it wound up making it look even better:

Click on it to make it bigger and you'll see that the eye and mouth have the tiniest touch of color to them. Mistake! Error! Serendipity! But adorable.

I wish the purple guitar popped a bit better on the green onesie. I am debating adding a bit of highlight in white or gold to it or adding gold flecks all over...but I'm afraid if I mess with it I'll make it look weird. So for now it remains as is. In person it shows up better than in the picture, I promise. I'm super excited to give them to her, and I kind of want to make 100 more. In fact, I went and bought a few more paint colors AND some stuff that you can mix with acrylic paint to make that a washable fabric paint. I'm trying to figure out what to do next - probably I'll wait until I can find some thrift-store shirts/bags to paint.

And my other project was teacher gifts for the three people who went out of their way for my daughter this summer at the co-working/kid-watching space. It's called Bean, thus the bad pun on the label...

I got the basic label from the blog Nothing but Country (by way of Google) and then edited it in Photoshop. If you click through, you'll see that she threaded her ribbon through the label - which I love. I just couldn't quite manage that bit. Anyway, the mug is from Ikea (and it has an adorable firework/flower sort of pattern on it) and it's filled with a Starbucks gift card and lifesavers, har har har, pun pun pun. The cellophane bags were from Michaels (and I had coupons galore there, of course) and the ribbon is from the Target dollar spot (you don't get much at all, but it was enough for this project). I made three of these and I'm, again, super excited to deliver them to the recipients this week, our last week of summer vacation.

Happy crafting!

Link Parties:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breastfeeding My Daughter, Who Just Happens to Have Cerebral Palsy - July 18, 2011

Welcome Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! I am so very proud to be taking part in this carnival, which is about breastfeeding a baby with special needs. Thanks for stopping by!

AND as of 8/11/12, part of the Summer Disability Series Blog Hop sponsored by With a Little Moxie (theme: a favorite post).

In many ways, I’ve been relatively lucky - even as my definition of “lucky” has changed over time. My beautiful daughter was born at 40 weeks, 5 days, naturally, via a midwife-assisted hospital birth. My pregnancy was essentially uneventful - morning sickness, a kidney stone, PUPPP, but nothing on the checklists I’ve since read over and over and over. No red flags, no warning signs. And through it all, I knew that I was going to breastfeed her – no question about it. I educated myself through books, websites, and online support forums, and I went to La Leche League meetings as well.

My daughter was born without major issues and with high APGAR scores, she latched on within a half hour, and we went home early from the hospital. She continued to latch and nurse well once we got home, and she met other early milestones with ease. I had no idea that she had been born with cerebral palsy that likely developed in her first few weeks as a fetus in utero. (To this day nobody has been able to give us a direct answer as to why she has CP.)

Early Nursing Habits – A Sign?

Looking back, though, I wonder if my daughter’s nursing habits were related to the disability we eventually discovered. She was a fast nurser - five minutes on the boob and she was done. I’d watch the clock and beg her to go six minutes. She wouldn’t. Meanwhile my friends online and off described far longer nursing sessions. I had a bit of overactive letdown and oversupply, so I chalked her speed up to that and to her being efficient and worked on troubleshooting. She had green poops, but I didn’t change my diet - I figured they were related to the pumped milk she reluctantly took when I was at work, though she never got the hang of any bottle. She was a slow gainer, never on the chart in fact, and yet for the most part no doctor suggested supplementation (she did gain on a tiny weight curve and a better height curve).

Did she in fact nurse quickly, gain weight slowly, and have trouble taking a bottle because of her low muscle tone, some underlying but undiagnosed latch troubles, or in relation to medical/metabolism issues that some kids with cerebral palsy have? I will never be fully sure; I had no idea I was looking for any larger relationships. I was just nursing my baby. Considering her difficulties in these areas, I cannot imagine how she might have fared if I hadn’t been able to breastfeed her.

She was exclusively breastfed for six months, at which time we slowly introduced solids. She didn’t take well to them at all. She wasn’t very interested or very good at eating - but again, no huge red flags. Plus, since she was still nursing many times a day, I wasn’t worried about her getting enough fat, calories, or nutrients.

Meeting Milestones – Or Not

Meanwhile, at six months, she couldn’t sit unassisted. And at nine months, she still couldn’t sit. At that point, we were referred to the state’s Early Intervention program, and then it all kind of blurs: a change of pediatrician, a referral to a neurologist, an MRI, and then the formal diagnosis. I nursed her through it all - through the nurse at the MRI recommending that I give Pedialyte before breast milk when the sedation wore off (I didn’t, and I asked several times for the parent paperwork to be updated to contain more information for breastfeeding mothers), through the heartache of the diagnosis, through the dental problems that developed as a result of the CP, through biting phases and long sleepless nights full of unexplainable screaming, and beyond.

We’re Still Going…and Going…

At almost four, she still nurses for naptime - infrequently - and nighttime. Four. Well beyond any goal I’d ever set and possibly into the “I’m kind of done now, dear” territory. Ahem. And yet I know she still needs it – for comfort in a world that she cannot easily navigate and for nutrition on days when she still eats like a bird. She developed her own sign language for nursing – pointing to her own chest – and now she also says “Ba-yee?” when she wants to nurse. It’s clearly a priority for her, and so it’s still a priority for me.

[Note: After I wrote this, she did start cutting back even further, going days between nursing sessions, and we are definitely on the road to weaning. In case you were wondering.]

The Unusual Challenges I Face

I know many mothers who have children with disabilities who were unable to form a breastfeeding relationship for various reasons. The child’s health. The mother’s health. The child’s inability to physically nurse. The child’s serious weight concerns. The child’s severe allergies. Misinformation given by medical professionals or family members. The stress that goes with a child’s diagnosis causing priorities to shift. The list goes on. But like I said, we were lucky. I never had breastfeeding issues related to her disability, just the usual minor bumps in the road. It was the one thing that wound up going well for us. The fact that I didn’t know she was disabled until she was a bit older, rather than finding out at birth, probably helped us too – nobody ever said “You can’t do this just because.” It was just the default that I could and that I would.

The biggest challenge for me has actually been finding peers for my journey. I have many, many friends with neurotypical children who nursed for one, two, or more years. I have online support for breastfeeding, and I provide support in turn. But I have no friends with a child like mine. The online support groups I tried to join tended to be full of discussions of bottles and formula and feeding tubes and pumps and IV lines - understandably so, but not a place where I could find answers, commiseration, or help.

A New Definition of Success

What I do know is that I succeeded. My daughter still cannot walk unassisted - though she’s close, and everyone says she’ll do it soon - and she still cannot speak properly - though she has more words and signs every day. She’s smart as a whip too. She has a cast of thousands, as I joke - physical, occupational, and speech therapists; parapros; teachers; doctors; and more. But she doesn’t have any major medical concerns, thankfully, and she’s pretty much at the same level as her peers intellectually. Above all, she continues to grow, thrive, and make progress. And I credit being able to give her breast milk - the biological baseline - as a huge contributor to her success.

I welcome your polite, thoughtful comments, but I reserve the right to refuse to publish any that I don't want to publish. This is a touchy subject, I am aware, so please comment respectfully!

Don't miss these other great posts from contributing blogs:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Can't Stop Stenciling! - July 16, 2011

OK, freezer paper stenciling is kind of addictive...

The color is truer in this picture.

The wing detail is better in this picture, but the wings really are a pink/purple swirl.
I want to say "Oh, this one took forever," but honestly the freezer paper stencil part took about 30-40 minutes (while watching House Hunters International, if you must know) and the painting took mere minutes. I swirled together purple and pink and it does sort of have a shaded/marbled effect if you look closely in person.

I haven't decided what, if anything, to put on the front of the shirt - any suggestions?

Next project is a baby gift for a friend. I read someone calling freezer paper stencils "the poor man's silkscreening" and I totally agree - I have always wanted to silkscreen (or buy a Yudu) and this scratches that itch (although I haven't been able to reuse a stencil yet - this one shredded as I peeled it off).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Great Deal on K-cups - July 15, 2011

I always forget about Amazon's "Friday sale" but today I remembered to check, and I'm glad I did. Island Coconut K-cups are on sale - $12.50 for a box of 24. This is pretty much the best price you can get on K-cups these days (my buy-now price used to be 50 cents/cup, but I rarely see that anymore) and these are YUMMY. I've only had them hot, but I bet they'd also be great iced/blended into an iced beverage of some kid.

(That's my Amazon referral link up there, by the way. Just so you know.)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

America's Got Talent Season (Season 6) Musings - July 14, 2011

Aw, you didn't think I'd forgotten to blog about America's Got Talent this time around, did you? It's my favorite variety/reality show and I've been watching religiously! I had a chance to go to a taping and heartbreakingly I wasn't able to go - sigh - but I'm glued to the show.

I have my favorites (and so far I also don't think there have been any surprises) but what I want to talk about is the missing acts, as far as I can tell. I can think of four acts that "got through" to Vegas that haven't been seen or heard from since:

  • Narcissister (did the adults-only themes of most of her acts scare off the producers?)
  • The cheesy couple where the guy sang rock and the woman sang opera and they sang the song from Titanic (they got through, right?)
  • The stripper woman who got through when Piers was stuck and only Sharon and Howie were voting
  • And my secret, inside knowledge - the veteran who sang his heart out at a certain city's audition who impressed the audience and the judges, but who wasn't ever even on TV
So I wonder what happened behind the scenes.
ETA: Ah, Wikipedia to the rescue - there's actually a long list of missing acts that dropped out for "personal" reasons over there - and reading it, I'm EXTRA sad about a few of them. Ah well.

I also don't understand why they haven't mentioned that a Russian board-jumping group (or whatever it's called - it's amazing) has been on before but was cut because the woman got hurt. (OK, I do understand, I just wanted continuity!) There's definitely a consistent theme on this show - cute kids doing things, animals, dance crews, a solo dancer (Snap Boogie - who I adore - is this year's HasPop), at least one female singer (LOVE HER this season by the way), and a few guys with guitars and possibly pianos. So yeah, formulaic. But I'm hooked. 

My favorites don't have names yet because I haven't paid enough attention. I love the Justin-Bieber-hair girl, the Sinatra-singing dude, the boy who told everyone to "kiss my fat ass" a la Tyra, the magicians (always love them), the opera-singing woman, and....a few others. Last night the show was great but my favorites weren't on. (I was rooting for the Fiddleheads though, and I feel bad for them.)

So yeah. I'll be watching and possibly blogging about this season again. Love!

PS Guess what Wikipedia taught me? "Untelevised producers' auditions were also held in Denver and Chicago." Oh I see... (Who came from those though?)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Impressions of the Ekobrew - Another reusable K-cup alternative - July 9, 2011

eKobrew Cup, Refillable K-Cup For Keurig K-Cup Brewers

I received my Ekobrew, which is another reusable K-cup alternative for the Keurig single-serve coffee system (much like the Solofill) about a week ago and have had the chance to use it twice. My verdict? It's great. It is possibly better than the Solofill, actually, and at minimum it works just as well.

Since the Solofill doesn't stand on its own, it is hard to see, but the Ekobrew is very similar in size/shape. 
What stands out to me about the Ekobrew:
  • Flat bottom! This makes it much easier to fill.
  • A different flow system for the water. For lack of more scientific language, it uses little holes around a cone rather than little slits around a flatter-bottomed bit. This seems to give me a richer cup of coffee than the Solofill does, although I have told you before and I'll tell you again that I'm no coffee snob. But it does seem to produce a darker cup, and the stream coming out of the Keurig looks darker to me toward the end of the brew.
  • Nicer packaging. I know, I know, but I'm a sucker for pretty. This comes in a lovely cardboard cylinder that is likely recyclable - nicer than the plastic that seals the Solofill, although the plastic does let you see the product more immediately, which has its pros as well. It looks nice on my counter and gives me a place in which I could store the Ekobrew if I wanted. And it also comes with DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS. Love that. Especially the part about how to clean it. I knew that already, but it was nice to have that in print.
  • A tiny bit easier to clean. The Solofill has a little indentation at the bottom that always gets clogged with grounds - I have to use my fingernails to pry that bit out. Not a huge deal, but since the Ekobrew is flat, that isn't an issue.
On the con side (and there aren't many), I am always worried that I'm going to somehow misalign the Ekobrew's flat bottom and mess up the puncturing spears inside my Keurig. There are openings at the bottom of the Ekobrew that I'm assuming make this impossible, but the Solofill's shape is more reassuring. It's a tradeoff for sure. Also it's not red. Go ahead and laugh. The brown says "THIS IS EARTH FRIENDLY," sure, but fun colors say "THIS IS FUN TIMES IN THE MORNING HOORAY!" Right? Right? No? OK, maybe not.

As with the Solofill, the Ekobrew takes seconds to use. Dump in the coffee, put in the brewer, dump out the grounds when done. As with my Solofill/Keurig combo, the Ekobrew finished the brewing cycle with water on the top and a bit dripping out. A minor annoyance.

I chose the Keurig system in huge part because I liked that I'd be able to use some sort of reusable K-cup, whether it be the My K-Cup, a rinsed-and-covered-with-foil K-cup, or some other system. I like that now I have TWO options from which to choose, and I love that neither the Solofill nor Ekobrew requires me to do anything to my Keurig machine that I wouldn't already do with a regular old K-cup.

So in a nutshell? I like the Ekobrew too. If you want immediate satisfaction, I've seen the Solofill at Bed, Bath and Beyond and you can use one of your handy-dandy coupons on it to bring the price down. If you can wait a bit (particularly if you have Prime and can get free shipping without having to buy extra stuff), or if you don't have a BB&B coupon/a store nearby, the Ekobrew is a few bucks cheaper on Amazon.

ETA: I've now seen the Ekobrew for sale at Cost Plus World Market and Whole Foods, plus it is available through, so it's pretty accessible now.

Now if I could just get my prize that I won from the Barista Prima Facebook page, I'd be able to review my new milk frother for you too...ahem.

NOTE/DISCLOSURE: I asked for and received an Ekobrew from the company for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed are mine - if I didn't like it, I would absolutely tell you.

Update on February 11, 2012: My husband LOST my precious Ekobrew and I am going to be buying another to replace it. (Yup, I got my first for free for review purposes and I'll gladly pay to replace it.) I use it almost every single day - it has surpassed my usage of the Solofill and FAR surpassed my usage of K-cups, which are now almost too expensive to bother with. If you have a Keurig, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND you buy yourself an Ekobrew or two to go along with it. [We bought our second Ekobrew at Whole Foods.]

Update on January 9, 2013: This post remains my most popular by far. It's old now, but yes, I still use my Ekobrews (I now have two) all the time, still love them, and still recommend them. The links in this post are my referral links to Amazon, so if you buy your Ekobrew through one of them, I make about 2 cents. Thank you!

As of March 2013 this post is no longer accepting new comments.

May 2013 update: I've upgraded to the Keurig Vue! Check out my new post for more details and a code for 40% off this fabulous new brewer!

(This is my referral link. I get a small kickback if you click through and sign up for Amazon Prime.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finished Hand-Stenciled Tote Bag - July 6, 2011

I did it! I started AND finished a new craft project! And I am allowing myself to recognize that I may not make any more of these ever again but that I did complete this one thing and it's cute and I love it.

So. First I designed the stencils I wanted on my computer. Then I printed them out and taped them on top of freezer paper and traced both layers with a craft knife. Voila. Stencils.

Then I ironed them onto a blank tote bag like so:

Next, I carefully (ha) smushed fabric paint all over the stencils using a sponge brush:

And finally, I peeled off the stencils (realizing as I crumpled them up that I could've been more careful and saved them to reuse them, oops):

Voila! Adorable tote bag for my kid to carry her things (spare clothes, pull-ups, water bottle, snack, notes to and from her teacher) when she starts back up in preschool next month. Hooray!

This was so much fun. Next I want to get her some blank T-shirts and make some funky designs - guitars! skulls! skulls playing guitar! owls! HIPSTER THINGS and then some. Awesome.

(Happily, "Made By You Mondays" was on Wednesday this week, so I could catch it!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Feeling the Need for Creativity - July 4, 2011

As I type this, rain is pouring down complete with thunder and lightning - so the manmade fireworks apparently are going to be postponed.

Things have been uneven lately. And when the going gets tough, I get crafty/creative/antsy. Here's what I've been working on and/or have planned:

  • New obsession - cold-brewed coffee. I found out about it here first, and then I found this recipe and this article and this blog post with a lively discussion in the comments. It's so crazy easy that I wonder what took me so long to try it! I've already gone through the first batch and have a second in the fridge. I tried it hot, and it was fine (I'm still devoted to my Keurig), but iced coffee is AMAZING with it. 
  • I've made the iced coffee with agave and with Torani syrup, but it also inspired me to make my own simple syrup. I only had Sucanat in the house, so the syrup came out brown rather than clear, and I probably should've used more of the Sucanat than I did, but it was an easy and fun experiment, now chilling in the fridge. 
  • I acquired a bunch of fabric scraps - some a few months ago, some more recently - and am going to use them to make pinback buttons and pocket mirrors and bottle openers and so on. (I have one in my Etsy store right now.) But cutting circles by hand is a pain - so today I bought a fabric circle cutter (not the super-expensive one that I totally covet, but a less-expensive yet not-the-cheapest one that should work well with only one minor concern I have that I'll have to test first). 
  • Because I wanted to do something to make the fabric easier to cut in this way, I also grabbed some freezer paper. I'll iron it to the back of the fabric to stabilize it. But that means I also looked up other craft ideas and now have plans to use it to create a stencil to decorate a blank tote bag for my kid to take to school. PLANS I tell you - I bought fabric paint and brushes and a new craft knife and a self-healing mat and I designed the lettering already and....big plans. I'll post pictures when it's done. 
  • While buying craft supplies online may be cheaper, there's still nothing like going into a store, coupons in hand (of course) and walking out with new projects. 
  • I still want to make Scrabble-tile necklaces (which I know everyone makes, and I already make necklaces, but...) but maybe I'll save that project for a few months from now. I have the tiles. I have the bails. I have the chains. I even have some art. I just don't have the glues and glazes.
Here's to a crafty July!