Saturday, December 06, 2008

Little things that make my life better/happier/easier

Okay, so I never finished part II (or more) of the Mommyhood at Three Months but that's okay. More later, sometime, on that topic.

Being a mom now time is more precious. Domino Magazine lists a section on the last page entitled "10 Things That Make Me Happy". Excluding the wonderful family and friends, etc., more towards material objects. This list is along the same lines.

Here's a few of mine ... in no particular order.

#1 Global Knives

I have an 8" Santoku and a 4" pairing. All I need, no unnecessary chopping gadgets here. My knives are in dire need of sharpening, though.

#2 All-Clad pots and pans

These pots and pans will last me a long time. They conduct heat, oven safe, and just help me make better food - through searing, sauces, sauteing, boiling, frying, whatever. They're beautiful too!

#3 BaByliss Flat Iron

Yeah, it cost four times as much as the other flat irons I've bought before, but it works at least ten times faster and better, and the cheap ones break. It heats up in less than a minute, has multiple temperature settings and my hair stays straight and smooth until I wash it again. Totally worth it.

#4 Breast Pump

I am happy I can work outside the home and still breastfeed my baby. There are nursing mothers' rooms at work that have these pumps in them and we can reserve them like a conference room and make food for our babies. They also make nice pumps that are for personal use. This is one of my happiest things!

I should also give an honorary shout-out to the Lansinoh brand, which has been highly recommended by several friends for their accessories like storage and protection.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mommyhood at Three Months - Part I

When I started this entry it was our little boy's three month birthday. I think this will need to be a multi-part entry.

There are a lot of things we've learned about the logistics of being parents, particularly because I hadn't been around babies much. We're still learning all the time, but here's a start... for us to recall and for our many friends who are preparing for parenthood.

Some of these are more obvious than others, but still things we learned.

-Changing and Diapers:

Changing cover...At the hospital they used a white cloth on the changing area. We now use a plain white cloth (labeled as lap burp cloth but they're just a square of absorbent fabric, maybe 8x8 inches) on top of the changing pad cover. We can easily change this without changing the whole cover, and it keeps our changing cover looking nice!

Quantities...Apparently size 1 diapers are significantly over bought by parents. We had multiple people pass along extra diapers in size 1 - parents of Thomas, Evan, Mia. Combined with a pack from our registry and a pack from my aunt... we will have bought no size 1 diapers. Thanks!

Brands...Since we received diapers from several people, we've been able to try different brands. We've heard you get what you pay for, and I agree. Luvs have good absorbency but stay wet like a pillow, are more plastic than soft feeling, and the tabs stick to baby (compared to most brands which only stick to the special area, like velcro). Huggies seem smaller in the same size and don't absorb as much, and the ruffled part is stuck to the outside and has to be separated before changing each time. It is important to make sure the ruffled part is out around the edge of the diaper. Pampers are soft, very absorbent with a core to lock in moisture, a soft baby powder scent, very good all around. They have a drying film that seems to build on my thumbs sometimes, though. I hear good things about Target brand as well but we haven't tried them yet. Target wipes are fine though.


Starting out... It is wonderful, particularly after you get the hang of it - which took us a month or two. We didn't take a breastfeeding class and I think we should have. It is not immediately perfect but expect that with some hard work it will come. For me, I feel like I have to eat as much as when I was pregnant. Newborns can seriously take an hour to feed, and hour to sleep for a full 24 hours until their little stomach gets big enough to hold more food and mouth becomes stronger. There are also other things like improper latching, cracked nipples, clogged milk ducts to work through. These reasons are why it is good to have a pump. Have confidence that after a month or two you and your baby will feed faster and your body will 'establish' milk supply and figure out consistent production.

Pumps... A friend advised renting a breast pump from the hospital for the first month to make sure breastfeeding is going well before buying a pump yourself. The Medela Symphony is what we rented. Hospital grade pumps are also better at pumping than personal use pumps available for purchase. This is helpful starting out to establish milk supply.

Choose your pediatrician early. Somehow this was still on our to-do list after our son was born, so we were in the hospital calling friends for references. Plus, we would have been able to have our pediatrician visit us in the hospital if we had chosen her in advance. Turns out we may lose insurance coverage on our doctor, so we might be in the search again.

more later.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Medicine Cabinet Tip

Our linen closet, in my parents house, and now, in our house as adults, has a basket or two of miscellaneous medicine products. Usually, its full of smashed cardboard boxes, random pills in blister packs, and a few things covered in red cough syrup, not to mention probably buying excess of something we already had. Today I was looking for something (that I still haven't found) and started cleaning the cabinet. I had several empty or old bottles from prescriptions as well as several smashed cardboard boxes of OTC medicines.

I took the labels off the prescription bottles. Next, I tore off any non-critical info from the smashed cardboard boxes, making sure to keep the expiration date, dosing info, product name and ingredients. Then, I put the folded cardboard pieces and remaining pills/tablets/gel capsules in the prescription bottle. Put the label facing out for easy identification, and use larger bottles when you have many pills left, and smaller for just a few doses.

The medicine is kept clean and organized, with no more messy boxes!

I'm maybe a little over excited about this one, but I'm using things I already have in a new way!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finding My (Your) Passion

I am two months in to my sabbatical from work - more commonly known as 'maternity leave'. Lots of time at home prompts many things - an excess of daytime TV, more reading books, and a good amount of thinking and reflection.

A few influential things of varying importance:
-The birth of my own son (of course!). Bringing a human into the world! Incredible!
-The birth of many children from other friends, and the serious illness and/or death of friends or friends' family.
-Other people who are working on their passion.
>I was at the dentist this week and asked my dentist about his recent travels, since he is regularly travelling to other countries to complete dental work. He talked about how it is his real passion.
>My boss of two years at work recently left the company to go back to school to study atmospheric science and work on the environment/artic water cycle.
>I just finished reading Tony Dungy's book. He refers often to his goal in life which is to honor and serve God. Football is a means for him to do this, whether through the public eye providing the means to volunteer and speak for charities he believes in, or how his family is financially able to adopt children.

I don't think I'm dramatically askew from my passions with my current tasks but I am looking into how I can do more towards them.

What inspires you? What are your passions? What do you want to do for the world?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cooking Tips: Cutting an Onion, Crying, and Odor

I've seen advice on how to cut an onion many times on TV. Somehow, I haven't seen my method, which I think is MUCH easier for those of us who aren't yet professional chefs and faster to prevent those tears.

First, cut off the sprout side of the onion to create a flat surface. It is safer and easier to cut an object with a flat side. (mmm..look at my pretty Global knives)

Place the cut side down on the cutting board. Next, cut the onion in half through the root end.

Peel the onion and rinse off as desired and/or if it is dirty. Place cut middle side down. Leave on the root end - this is the main part of this tip. This holds the onion together, which helps for uniformity in chopping.

For half-circle slices, simply slice across from the cut edge towards the root end. Leaving the root end attached holds the layers of onion together during slicing. The peel, root, and sprout remnants can now be composted.

This half-circle shape is a good shape to toss with zucchini to saute, or with bell peppers to make fajitas.

For a diced shape, cut the onion multiple times from sprout end to root, without cutting through the root end. The closer these are to each other, the smaller the dice will be.

Slice across similar to the half-circle technique.

Refer to Basic Knife Cuts for examples and definitions of cuts and shapes.

Ad lib:
Crying and Onions - So as I got older I realized my eyes became less sensitive to watering when cooking with onions. I eventually figured out that it was because I had contacts which block the absorption of the onion vapors into my eyes! For those of you with better vision, try chilling your onion in the refrigerator or freezer to block some of those enzymes from escaping.

Onion Smell - To get onion smell off skin, rub with stainless steel. It has a reaction with the onion to remove the odor. Try the faucet or a spoon. I may be a chemical engineer but can't fully explain how it works.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Tips: Salt and Pepper

I talked about using sea salt and fresh ground pepper in a previous blog. Yesterday I started talking to a friend about what kind of pepper to buy, so I wanted to blog in more detail about it.


I am super excited to have this 2 pound bag of sea salt from my favorite Asian grocery which happens to be in Fort Wayne where I grew up. (Oriental Grocery & Mart 504 Noble Dr Fort Wayne, IN 46825 (260) 471-0245‎). It is excellent sea salt and only was $1.79. I also love to get my Asian pantry staples here without the American megamarket mega-markup. (Pantry staples is a future post, but I love rice vinegar and sambal oelek (a chili paste)) I can splurge and buy random things to try and it seems to always come out to only $20.

More about sea salt... Sea salt is in flakes so it provides texture to take a pinch and use it to sprinkle across your food as you cook. But, as much as I love using sea salt, its larger size makes it harder to season your individual serving. For sprinkling on your own food, try a salt grinder (yeah, like a pepper grinder) to get that good salt taste without big chunks. They make sea salt rocks that are bigger so they don't fall through the grinder. When baking with sea salt, I've learned to start putting the salt in with the liquid mixture so it dissolves evenly throughout the food rather than mixing it with the dry. (Why are these biscuits so unevenly salty??)

I haven't gotten much into the varieties of salt (a la Michael Chiarello's obsession with gray salt) but I do have this red Hawaiian Alaea sea salt. Its interesting but haven't used it much. It is described as 'almost fruity with a slight peppery note'. If you want to get on the salt varietal bandwagon, check the above link for more types of salt.


I like multicolored peppercorns for a distinctly noticeable complexity to the pepper. The picture is of my current kind with gorgeous pink, white, green and black peppercorns all mixed together.


This is what happens when you have your own small college set, buy your own large grinder, then get your out-of-town-boyfriend-now-husband hooked on fresh ground pepper. A little grinder family! As I've mentioned, the iodized salt in the larger two is about worthless but the smallest one is a salt grinder, hooray! Having multiple grinders also means I can have different kinds of pepper at hand; the smallest has Szechuan peppercorns.

When buying a grinder look for one with metal grinding plates for durability and an adjustable plate depth for changing pepper particle size (using the nut at the top of the grinder). The ability to have varied particle size is good for making a fine pepper to season a soup and larger chunks when pepper-encrusting.

Oh, and when the husband gets his new fancy camera I'm sure he'll want to become my official photographer. And he will take much better pictures than I.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Eco Tips: Compost Bowl

We have a compost bin in the backyard in which we put food scraps and grass clippings. We keep a pretty glass bowl out on the counter that we put our scraps into, including apple cores, egg shells, and vegetable trimmings. Then, once every day or two (before it gets moldy!) we take it out to the compost. It is a similar idea to the Garbage Bowl but even better, because we can eventually use the compost in our garden!

If you have dogs you may need to get a bowl with a lid or a canister type container. If you live in an apartment, you may need to get creative with your compost container and try something smaller indoors, like a crock or something for a balcony, patio, or porch.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Household Tips: Bed Sheets Part II

Bed sheets, like t-shirts, can be rough at first and get softer over time. My brother's co-worker Joe recently posted a tip on how to soften those brand new sheets.

Sheet Happens

About eight months ago I purchased two sets of bamboo (viscose) / cotton sheets from West Elm. They are no longer available, but I find them quite soft, and durable. Plus, bamboo readily regrows and is more environmentally friendly.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food Tips: Flavored Water

I like to drink water, but I tend to drink it more at work than at home with the convenience of the chilled water cooler. Lately, I've started to make my own flavored water. During pregnancy, and now breastfeeding, I need to keep my liquids up but don't need all the calories, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and added flavors and colors in juices and sports drinks that I'd typically drink (not counting carbonated beverages or artificially sweetened things I rarely drink). Bonus points for now using my fridge water filter, reducing the cost to me of buying at the store, and the environmental impact of bottles, manufacturing, transportation, and recycling.

A few of the varieties of water I've tried: lemon, lime, raspberries, mint (from the herb garden) and some combinations of the above. I hear cucumbers are refreshing too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Household Tips: Bed Sheets

We've been grateful to have several visitors to see our baby. This also means we've washed our extra sets of sheets a few times, and I've been able to utilize one of my favorite tips from Domino Magazine.

Fold your flat and fitted sheets as normal. Fold any pillowcases except for one. Place all the folded sheets inside the pillowcase. This will keep your sheets all together, nicely folded, and protected from dust while awaiting the next visitors!

Friday, July 25, 2008

A little guy

Two weeks ago we welcomed our first child into the world. It is a wonderful experience to have him in our lives.

More posts to come.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Food Tips: The Best Basics Make the Best Food

The most important thing to improving your food life is eating the best quality foods. Start with having the best basics in your kitchen.

Specific tips:

Salt: Stick to sea or kosher salt. Find something else to use that can of iodized salt for, like a cleaning abrasive.
Pepper: Invest in a quality grater, with an adjustable particle size, and a good supply of multicolor peppercorns. Upgrading to the multicolor peppercorns is huge compared to the black peppercorns, and the scary black 'powder' probably shouldn't be called pepper.
Good olive oil: I'm spoiled by the nearly empty bottle we bought in Italy, but find a quality flavorful oil and store it in a dark cabinet/bottle at a good temperature.
Other cooking fats: I really like safflower (yes, safflower not sunflower) oil for a neutral, high-temperature cooking medium. Use a touch of butter (regular, full-fat, unsalted butter) if you're looking for that taste. Consider mixing the safflower with a pat of butter to get the high-temperature benefits of the oil with the taste of butter. For large quantities of frying, try a standard canola or vegetable oil blend (cheap!) or a peanut oil for a strong taste. People do, but personally I prefer not to cook with olive oil other than tossing at the end of cooking. It destroys some of the flavor, and olive oil is expensive to use in large quantities. I also like to use a touch of sesame or peanut oil in a dish to add a lot of flavor. Try mixing it with another oil because they are usually quite pungent.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A few little things

So the idea for starting the blog is I (or with people in my life) have done many simple things that make life better.