Friday, May 31, 2013

Food Waste Friday: A Slip, A Recovery and A Save!


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

I didn't blog about my Food Waste last Friday, in no small part because I knew I had some food waste, and just couldn't face writing about it! I felt pretty awful about slipping up after four zero Food Waste weeks in a row.

So last week I lost half a bunch of kale, some watercress, and about a quarter of a tub of cream cheese. I was upset about each of these, because all of these would have been easy saves (kale and watercress could easily have been thrown into a salad, and that small amount of cream cheese could have disappeared in a single lunchtime meal of cream cheese and jam on toast). But I got busy, and a little overwhelmed and the items all went way past their good-to-eat stage.

But, this week, I picked myself back up, dusted myself off and got back in the proverbial saddle, for another zero Food Waste week - yay me!

Also, I had a huge food save, which I was really proud of. We were prepping for a picnic dinner last weekend, and My Good Man helped out by hard-boiling a dozen eggs for some egg salas. He decided to experiment with a new cooking method, which went a little awry, and we were left with a dozen cold, soft boiled eggs. We tried re-boiling them, but they just started to get tough outer whites, but still soggy inner whites and yolks ... not so good for egg salad. I put them aside, and hard boiled a new dozen eggs for the salad, which worked out fine.

But what to do with the dozen soft boiled eggs?! I peeled a couple of them the next morning, mashed them up a little, and just cooked them in a skillet, making a sort of chunky scrambled egg. Served on toast, no one batted an eye! I served the rest of them on subsequent mornings, until they were all gone - total save! Double yay! (I really felt bad at the prospect of wasting a dozen fresh-from-the farm eggs).

So how was your Food Waste this week? Feel free to share, or add a link back to your own Food Waste blog post; I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A New Grocery Shopping Routine

I have a couple of big factors when it comes to grocery shopping.

1. buy healthy food
2. shop within a budget
3. get food that everyone in the family will eat
4. shop in a way that minimizes waste.

This didn't seem so difficult, but honestly our grocery budget was creeping higher, as was our food waste each week. We always seemed to have plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, but I was always met with deep sighs when I suggested meals or snacks.

Something had to change!

A couple of months ago I inadvertently adopted a new way of grocery shopping, that has seemed to meet all of my criteria. Now this new method is not hugely dramatic, more of a subtle shift, but it has really made a big impact on the way we eat, our budget and our food waste. We are not buying LESS, but shopping and eating with a different focus.

In the past, like most families I would have a look at our pantry and take a few requests for evening meals, and make my menu plan for each week accordingly. Then off I would trot to the grocery store to buy whatever I needed for those meals.

What I eventually found was that I was buying items specifically for meals. There was invariably some of the item left over, and it would sit at the back of the fridge until it went bad.

I also found that despite my plans to use up leftovers for subsequent meals, the family would protest ... and so the leftovers would invariably sit until they wound up on the Food Waste Friday list.

All round not good :-(

So my big solution?! Bulk shopping for everything!


I buy all our pantry items in bulk, keeping them either in the freezer or in airtight canisters. This includes items like pasta (regular and gluten free), beans and pulses, flour and grains, and a few canned items like tomatoes and black olives. I replenish these as I need them, but it saves me buying small quantities each week, at a higher cost. I also found that when I use smaller packets, I have a tendency to prepare the entire bag, creating those leftovers that get wasted.

Our week to week shopping is now centered around perishables only, such as fruits and veggies, cheese, tofu, and dairy free milk (we drink rice and soy milk).  And our meals are then focused around these weekly perishables, rather than around recipes.

For example, in the past we would have burritos, with a package of tortilla wraps, a tub of guacamole and a jar of salsa. Now we have rice and beans, on a bed of spinach, with fresh avocado and tomato.

Before it would have been a specific bean chilli recipe, now it is more likely to be beans cooked in seasoned (homemade) pasta sauce, with roasted veggies and quinoa.

For me the difference is in focusing more on elements of a meal, rather than the meal itself. And, with all of those veggies it is healthier to boot. (When you buy spinach and romaine lettuce in 4 lb bags it takes a real commitment to make sure they get finished each week!)

We are now doing almost all of our shopping at Costco and our local health food store (we buy all of our grains, beans, nuts and flour from the bulk bins at our local health food market).

The photo at the top of the post is of our recent Costco shop, which is fairly typical (save the eggs, which we usually have delivered from a local farmer, along with our milk).

As I said, a subtle shift, but one that seems to be the right fit for our family!

How do you grocery shop? Daily, weekly, monthly? Do you focus on bulk, packet, or a combination of both? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Cocoon Day

Our weekends tend to be quite busy, between errands, swim lessons, catching up with friends and what not. I often find that the first day of each week, in contrast to the busy weekends, needs to be slow paced and quiet. We call them Cocoon Days.

Yesterday was just such a day for us; the three day Memorial Day weekend was filled with adventures, fun and busyness, and I could see that all three of the Little Ones were needing some time to just play at their own pace, read books, lay around for spells of time doing nothing. Perfect!

I often find myself getting a little caught up in the 'busyness' mindset; so much to see, so much to do, and the slippery slope of over-scheduling both myself the the kiddos. But, I am reminded time and again, by my own Little Ones, just how much they need the time to to do their own thing.

A few years ago, I had something on the schedule everyday for The Little Guy and I; our days were full, and honestly, both he and I were feeling the stress of it. The constant rushing and the anxiety over being late were big issues for both of us. 

Even though on an intellectual level I realized how stressful all this rushing was for us, I had not quite anticipated just how freeing it would be to move towards more days that are made up of free time, rather than appointments, play dates and places to be.

So for now our weekly schedule hangs on just one or two events, with plenty of time left over for long conversations, building projects, walks and bicycle rides in our neighborhood, cooking and baking, reading, pottering around, craft projects, playing in the yard, getting muddy, having fun, and all the other 1001 things a child will find to do when given the time and space to do it!

What does your weekly schedule look like? How do you balance appointments versus home time? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Twinning Tuesday, Planning a Multiple Birth

When I was pregnant with our first (singleton) child, we had a pretty clear vision of the birth that we wanted to have. We took Bradley classes, read lots of books, and planned to deliver with a midwife at our local Birthing Center. Everything went to plan, and I was able to deliver naturally and uneventfully.

As soon as we learned that I was expecting twins with my second pregnancy, we started to run into road blocks when it came to having the same sort of birth the second time around.

The Little Guy listening to the babies' heart beats.

Between our health insurance company, and our local midwives balking at delivering twins, we found ourselves somewhat reluctantly planning a hospital birth.

Please, don't misunderstand me; I understand that hospitals do wonderful work every day, but I am not always convinced that they are the best places for women to deliver a baby, in the event of a normal, uncomplicated delivery.

Thirty six weeks pregnant!

That being said, we did a couple of things that I think really helped us have the best outcome possible when it came time for us to deliver at our local hospital.

  • We hired a Doula, who worked with me throughout my twin pregnancy, and then came to the hospital with me when it came time to deliver. She really helped keep me in the best health possible, ask the right questions, and question unnecessary recommendations.
  • We took a tour of the hospital when I was about 30 weeks pregnant, and made a point of meeting the head nurse on the Delivery and Post Natal Wards. We asked lots and lots of questions (where am I allowed to labor? when do I have to move to the operating room for delivery? how much freedom of movement will I be allowed to have during labor, and can I choose my own birthing position? can my newborns room in with me? what will happen in the event of an emergency?) Asking these questions ahead of time helped My Good Man and I develop a plan, and it gave us a better sense of what we could do at the hospital, the limits we could push, and those that we could not.
  • Even though we had taken Bradley Birthing classes for our first baby, we took a refresher course for the twin pregnancy. It helped remind us of the work ahead, and get my body ready with the Bradley exercises.
  • We found a Obstetrician who we loved! I had an OB/Gyn doctor who I had seen for many years; but when he began the asking when I was going to schedule an elective cesarean section for the twins, I knew that I was not in the best hands for my personal care. I changed doctors, at 35 weeks pregnant, and was so, so happy I did. I was fortunate to find a new doctor who I trusted without reservation.
  • We made a birth plan. We took some aspects of the plan that we used for our first birth, and then added multiple specific details. It included labor, delivery, postpartum, and what we would like to have happen in the event of an emergency cesarean section. We were very thorough, asking for as few inventions as possible. I made plenty of copies, and gave them out to everyone on our prenatal, delivery, and postpartum team. I think it really helped! I am happy to share my plan with any interested readers; please feel free to either email me here, or leave a note in the comments below.
  • I read. A lot! I reread my Bradley birthing books, I read books by Ina Mae Gaskin, and I read several books specifically on nursing twins (see below for links to a selection of the books I enjoyed!)
  • I am fortunate to live in the suburbs of a large urban area, where there are several multiple/twin groups, (like Moms of Multiples), including a La Leche League group specifically for multiples. Talking to other mamas who had delivered twins helped me as I walked the same path.
 A multiple pregnancy can certainly have higher risks; it can not only be grueling physically, but can be emotionally stressful as well. This is such an important time, the months during a multiple pregnancy, to treat yourself well, to look after yourself and your babies.

And the outcome of my own multiple pregnancy? Well, I started labor two days shy of my forty week mark, then my Baby B flipped from head down to full transverse. After talking to my doula, my doctor, and My Good Man, and weighing all out options, we had both of our twins via non-emergency c-section. It was not how we had envisioned having our babies, but we were able to make the best out of the situation. I nursed them both while in recovery, My Good Man was able to stay with them both during the immediate postpartum phase, and they roomed in with us for our entire hospital stay. They were both happy and healthy, and both came home with us after a three day stay. Truly, we were very blessed.

And those books? Here they are!

How was your twin or multiple pregnancy? What advice would you give to a friend expecting twins, or more? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!
And don't forget to leave a comment if you are interested in receiving a copy of my Twin Birth Plan - I am happy to share!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Menu Planning

I had a difficult time with my menu plan last week; I planned my meals for the week, blogged about it ... and then pretty much ignored it. Which led to some food waste (which is very annoying) ... but! - the cause of the menu plan ignoring, the food waste and the unplanned non-blogging (I haven't posted anything in nearly a week)?! I was suddenly compelled to do some major spring cleaning around the Simply Burbs home. I am not a cleaner by nature, so I know better than to interfere when the mood strikes me! I got lots of sorting, cleaning and organizing done around here, which was well worth falling off the meal plan for the week!

But - back to this weeks plan!

 Little Boy, very proud of 'helping' mama with the menu plan.

We are still eating down the cupboards and freezer, which is certainly making for some interesting meals. I am also experimenting more with some gluten free baking, thanks in no small part to the encouragement of my GF friends, and my intense cravings for anything sweet and baked!

      Spinach and Mushroom Pizza (with an almond flour crust, from The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook, by Elena Amsterdam)

     Veggie and Brown Rice Stir Fry

     Pasta and Homemade Pasta Sauce, with Roasted Beets

     Rice and Pinto Beans, with Avocado and Tomatoes

     Pasta Salad, with Sauteed Squash

     Homemade Black Bean Burgers, with Quinoa and Roasted Corn

     Quiche and Salad (quiche made with almond flour crust, from Elena Amsterdam's cookbook!)

How is your menu plan looking this week? Feel free to share or add a link back to your own menu plan blog post; or join us over at Organizing Junkie, for her Menu Plan Monday blog link-up. I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twinning Tuesday: Mama Guilt

I don't think there is a parent who doesn't have feelings of guilt over something ...

- not enough time
- work
- the food they are serving to their family
- what they want to do versus what should be doing

Guilt  certainly isn't a special experience for parents of twins, but I think there is a special kind of guilt for parents of multiples. The guilt of trying to meet the needs of both twins, particularly when they are infants.

I think any parent who has more than one child gets a taste of this as well; both children have wants and needs, and you cannot always meet those of both children at the same time.

Little Guy helping  Baby Girl with her pacifier

I remember when my own twins, Baby Girl and Little Boy, were infants, I went through much the same thing. Baby Girl was the needier of the two; she cried more easily, wanted to be held more, was more sensitive to her environment, and to physical needs. Little Boy on the other hand, was always more placid, more easy going.

Baby Girl would cry, so I would pick her up to comfort her. If she had her own way, she would have been held. All. The. Time!

And although Little Boy would have the same needs as Baby Girl, he didn't vocalize them as readily.

Despite wanting to treat them the same, to give them the same newborn experience, they didn't. It was easier to theorize all of this while I was pregnant with them, but once they were born, and the reality of having two babies set in, it was near impossible to treat them the same.

I've read about similar situations on plenty of forums for multiples; one twin nursed longer than the other, one twin co-slept while the other didn't, one twin was worn more, carried more, cradled more etc etc.

Thus the Twin Guilt.

I would love to say that over time I found a magic formula, a way to be able to fulfill the needs of each child. The truth is a little trickier though.

I gave what I could to both of them, and worked on the guilt. (I won't say "I did my best"; I have always had a difficult time with that phrase. No one is capable of 'doing their best' all the time. We do what we can, and that has to be okay).

Of course, it would be dreadful of me to leave you with no light at the end of this tunnel, aside from the acknowledgement that you are not alone in your mama-guilt. So, I offer you a couple of things that I found did help:

~ take any help you can! When friends and family come over to visit, and offer to hold a baby, ask that they hold the more demanding twin, giving you some one on one time with your less needy baby. Or, ask them to take both babies, and take ten minutes by yourself. Alone. A little alone time will help with just about everything!

~ wear your babies. I wore Baby Girl on my back a lot, once she could hold her head up (at about 3 - 4 months). This kept her close and happy, so I could focus more on Little Boy's needs.

~ remember that different children WILL have different experiences. My eldest child Little Guy was an only child for his first three and a half years; his infant and toddler years were shaped by our undivided attention. Comparing his experience with that of his younger siblings, is really different. Different is not necessarily bad, it is just that - different!

~ remembering that I am not advocating neglecting one of your babies, but that if you are giving them both what you can, while still leaving a little left over for yourself, then you are doing fine.

~ find a balance that works for you and your family. That might mean using tools that you may not have considered as an Attachment Parenting family, such as baby swings, bouncy chairs, sleeping alone, pacifiers, or supplementing with formula. You can still be an AP parent and use one of these! Work to release your expectations, or even the expectations of others, either real or perceived.

~ I first heard this advise from Melisa Nielsen, writer of the Waldorf Essentials curriculum, and I love it so much, I have it written out and tacked above my desk ... save guilt for sin. Parenting is a tough gig, and parenting multiples can be an extra challenge. Do what you can. Love them as much as you can. Hold them as often as you can. Take some deep breathes ... you're a great parent!

Have you found good ways to move past parenting guilt? What advice would you give to a friend in the throes of mama guilt? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Menu Planning

Evening meals here at the Simply Burbs home are simple affairs. Between busy working schedules, three children and a weekly grocery budget, we don't tend to go in for fancy cooking.

I am a huge fan of bulk cooking, whether it be cooking double or triple servings of a meal, with the goal of freezing the extras, or cooking large amounts of single ingredients, such as beans or rice, so that they can be used in a variety of ways throughout the coming week.

This week's menu is a typical one for us; we are having a 'cupboard' week this week - using up some of the things that are hidden in the back of the pantry, or at the bottom of the freezer.

      Brown Rice and Pinto Bean open-face Burritos, with Avocado (both the rice and the beans will come from the freezer)

     Raw veggies with Hummus, Chickpea Salad

      Pesto Potato Soup, with black olive bread (potatoes and pesto from the freezer; we have a can of olives in the pantry, and bread flour stored in the freezer to make the bread with)
     White Bean Chilli (beans are from the freezer; they were bulk cooked from dried in the crock pot, and then frozen)

     Egg Salad

     Picnic Dinner (we are going to an outdoor concert, and will take a simple dinner of bread and cheese, olives and fruit)

      Gluten free pasta, and home made sauce (from the freezer stash!)

How about you? what is on your menu for the upcoming week? Feel free to share, or add a link back to your blog post; or join us over at Organizing Junkie, for her Menu Plan Monday blog link-up. I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Food Waste Friday: Adventures in Avocados


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

After my usual Thursday afternoon rummage through the fridge, cleaning everything up, and trolling for food waste, I found an avocado for the bin. Which made me really sad.

Avocados are fairly expensive, and one of our favorite foods to boot. It is rare for an avocado to get wasted.

So I duely take a photo of my avocado to post here ...

 But taking a photo of my avocado like that doesn't do it justice; so I cut it open to show the yucky-ness of the gone off avocado ...

And it's perfect! Save! Needless to say, I am really glad I cut the avocado open!

I also had a really great Food Waste save. I had a couple of portions of oatmeal that had been forgotten, and several jars of fruit butter (homemade pumpkin, apple and peach) plus some homemade apple sauce. All of the jars had been languishing in the fridge for an extra week or two, and I really wanted to use them up before they went bad. I used this recipe, which I have found to be incredibly forgiving to changes. I substituted all of the butter for my apple sauce/fruit butter concoction, forgo-ed the vanilla, and added chocolate chips rather than raisins. Delish!

So, all this means that I am four for four! Four zero Food Waste weeks in a row! Woo hoo!!

How about you? How was your food waste this week? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Miracles and Gardening

Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.
Robert Brault

What are doing in your garden this season? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Twinning Tuesday, Wearing your Newborn Twins

There is something, for me at least, quite magical, quite wonderful, about the prolonged closeness that wearing your baby, or babies, brings. It is the ultimate win win! As a parent, you keep your babes close, but you can finally (finally!) get up off the couch and do things again, and your babes will love staying close to you; fewer tears, more bonding, better sleep, more comforting.

After wearing my first born, The Little Guy, for three plus years, I knew that I wanted to wear my twins, and as soon as possible. A little research and I found a couple of methods I thought would work best for me.

I started out with a Moby Wrap, which is a single piece of long stretching fabric, which you can wrap around your self and your Little Ones. These are extremely forgiving with beginners to wrapping, nice and comfortable for newborns, and not too expensive. Click here to see Moby Wraps from Amazon. Chances are, if you are wearing both of your twins at the same time, your Moby Wrap will have a relatively short life, maybe only until they are four months old, but it is still a great way to start out.

There are a slew of articles and tutorials out there on wearing twins, but I found this one in particular really helpful; the lady demonstrating took lots of time to show what she was doing, and talk everything through!

This carry technique is great for newborns, up until they are a collective weight of approximately 20 lbs. At that stage you will probably find that they have a little more head control and are ready for some different wrapping or carrying techniques.

I also spent a lot of time looking for a great video on YouTube (and elsewhere) of someone demonstrating how to do a Cross Cradle Carry for newborn twins, and couldn't find one that I just loved ... so I made one myself! Check it out!

p.s. The Little Guy makes a cameo performance; he was very excited at the whole video adventure.

One thing I would add, which I meant to mention in the video; a Moby wrap is infinitely more forgiving than a woven wrap, and is really a great place to start if your wrap technique is still developing.

If you are a little unsure of your wrapping, I really recommend doing your initially wraps while sitting on your bed or on your couch, and to have your spouse or a friend there to help. I still like to wrap in front of a mirror; it just helps me feel a little more secure, allowing me to see what I'm doing.

And, of course, make sure that there is plenty of room for your baby to breathe, and that their head is not slumping forward into their chest.

I spent a fair amount of time looking through photos of my own newborn twins, and I could not find a single photo of me wearing both of them - how did that happen?! But here is one of me with Baby Girl; I think this was the first time I wore her, at about 5 days old.

We will be talking more about wearing older twins in a future post, and spending some time talking about what baby wearing methods work better for wearing two.

What is your favorite babywearing method for newborns? If you have twins, do you wear them? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Menu Planning

Menu Planning is one of those household chores that I don't really look forward to doing ... but I loathe not having done it (rather like unloading the dishwasher!)

I am always surprised at both how easy having a menu plan in place makes meal prep for the week, and conversely, how difficult meals are without one.

So, it is Sunday afternoon as I am writing this, my usual time to sit down with pencil and paper, and my schedule for the week, and plan my meals for the coming seven days.

A couple of quick asides; I follow a gluten- and dairy-free diet, and we are a vegetarian family, although we do eat eggs and fish. The rest of my family does eat gluten and dairy, but I tend not to base meals on either of those things, making it easier for me to avoid them.

     White Bean and Sweet Potato Stew, with Kale (cooked in the crock pot)

     Egg salad with salad (romaine lettuce and watercress, and cucumbers)

     Quinoa, baked fish, carrot salad

     Corn pasta and home made pasta sauce

     Pot luck supper with friends (I will probably take a salad)

     Open face burritos, with pinto beans and brown rice, avocado, salsa and lettuce

     Baked tofu, with mushroom amaranth and green salad

I have had a couple of really successful, zero Food Waste weeks, which I think in part is due to me writing out a realistic menu plan each week, and partly because I have recently adopted a totally different grocery shopping method. I'll write more about that later this week!

What is on your menu plan this week? Are you doing anything in particular to help prevent Food Waste? Feel free to share, or post a link back to your own blog post; or join us over at Organizing Junkie, for her Menu Plan Monday blog link-up.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Food Waste Friday: Three for Three?!


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

I did a clean of my fridge. Reorganized my cupboards a bit. Had a rummage through my pantry. And what did I find?

Nothing that constituted waste!

Nothing got thrown out this week at all, and I didn't find anything lurking that was ready for the trash bin. So this marks my third zero Food Waste week in a row (save for a couple of bad pieces of fruit; they were bad when I bought them, so I don't count this as a fault on my part!)

Now Food Waste and I have had some really awful times in the past, so I'm curious as to what is so different now. We are not really eating different foods, but I have started to shop really differently, and this may just be the key for us.

We are now doing just about all our shopping in bulk. All of our pantry items are bought in bulk so they are almost always on hand. Then each week I am just buying produce for the week, and that is about it.

I started to write out a more detailed list of my grocery shopping list, but it started to get really long. I'll save it for another day!

How was your food waste this week? Feel free to share, or add a link back to your own blog; I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Radiant Flowers of Spring

We are having a wonderful Spring season in the mid Atlantic region this year; mild, not too hot, not too cold, a few days of rain thrown in for good measure. Perfect!

I took this month's blessing from A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme, collected by Heather Thomas, a lovely book and a great addition for any home with young ones!

What do you have on your blessing board this month? Feel free to share or add a link back to your own blog post; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Happens When You Let a Child Clean?

Well ... they might just clean for you!

Yesterday The Little Guy was desperate to mop the kitchen floor; so off he went to get out the mop, until he realized that there were a couple of toys on the kitchen floor. So he picked up all the toys and went to put them away. Then he mopped the entire floor, on his own (we currently use one of those Swiffer Wet Jets, which I picked up on Freecycle, mop, pads and solution - everything! Score!!)

Of course, when TLG had finished mopping the floor it was still wet, so he made a caution sign to alert everyone to the still wet floor.

The Little Guy's caution sign; note the freshly mopped floor in the background!

This has been a topic of conversation with friends and on various yahoo loops quite a lot just reccently - how do you get kids involved with house chores.

And on of my first answers is that they have to be allowed to do it! And it should be fun.

And here is the thing - letting them do it, and allowing them the space to do it imperfectly is better than not letting them do it all.

Because chances are they will make a mess, or leave the chore unfinished, or it won't be as good as when you do it. But all of those things are okay! Your child will be learning to clean, have respect for their environment, and it might just wear them out a bit!

And did The Little Guy mop the floor perfectly? Well - no! But it's alright; he is four years old, and he thinks that mopping the floor is "the cat's pajamas" (his quote on mopping!) One day, with years of practice he will be expertly mopping his own floor!

What is your kiddo's favorite way to help around the house? What do you do to allow that to happen? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Twinning Tuesday; A Disclaimer, ... and Attachment Parenting?!

Last week I announced the beginning of a new occasional series here on Simply, in the 'Burbs, about raising twins or multiples with an Attachment Parenting approach.

I really want to thank those readers who contacted me with their support and questions; it really means so much to me. Really! This was a big blogging step for me, and to know that there are interested readers makes this all worth while - thank you!!

And with that out of the way, I have to give a disclaimer: I'm not a parenting expert.

I haven't written parenting books, done independent research, spent years studying, or written a thesis on parenting. I haven't read every parenting book at Barnes and Noble, or read every parenting blog.

But! - I am a mama of three, including, 18 month old twins,so I have a couple of years of parenting experience under my belt. And back before I had my own Little Ones, I was a Montessori teacher, and I have a Masters in Early Childhood Development.

Really, though it is the past five years as a mama that give me the most resources to draw on in writing this series. Hands on experience trumps all!

I may not be brushed up on the latest research, but when it comes to an AP approach with young children, I've got 'been there, done that' kudos.

Little Boy (L) and Baby Girl (R), first post partum co-sleeping experience, aged 6 hours

And so, on to Attachment Parenting and Twins!

One thing I will not be doing in these posts is debating the benefits of an AP approach; rather I will be giving hands-on tips, resources and how-to's on bringing Attachment Parenting to twins/multiples.

In case you are not familiar with AP, are still reading and are still interested, let's spend a minute talking about what it is.

Attachment Parenting is a style of raising children, one where you are connected to your child's needs. For me, this always felt like I spent more time listening to my child's needs, and less time trying to inflict my will on the child.

Dr. Bill Sears originally coined the term Attachment Parenting, and remains one of it's biggest champions.

The seven basic principles of AP, as Dr. Sears wrote them, are:

1. Birth Bonding
2. Breastfeeding
3. Babywearing
4. Bedding Close to Baby
5. Beware of Baby Trainers
6. Belief in your Baby's Cry Language
7. Balance
(Taken from Dr. Sear's site; for the full article, and much more information on each of the principles click here)

The Attachment Parenting Book by Dr. Sears
When The Little Guy was born nearly 5 years ago, an AP approach seemed totally natural; I don't think we even realized that what we were doing was AP!
Nursing, listening to his needs, keeping him close through cradling him in my arms and later by wearing him, all of this just seemed obvious for My Good Man and I.

Three years later, when we had our twins, we were still able to implement the same principles, but they took a little more creative thinking, tenacity, determination and yes, more releasing, more letting o of what we could not do. We were not able to be quite the same AP parents with twins as we were with a singleton. We tried really hard, but we just weren't.

But for us at least, we recognized that it was alright. We were still able to implement each of the seven principles outlined by Dr. Sears with our twins, but maybe not as fully as we had with our singleton.

Baby Girl (left) and Little Boy (right), aged 16 months

If I could go back in time and give the post-twin-partum me one piece of advice, it would be to remember the 7th AP principle; BALANCE! That these are wonderful principles, but that they need to work for your family, for YOU! For example, if co-sleeping with twins is so difficult that neither parent is getting enough sleep, then it might not be working. Being rested, and able to properly care for your babies, AND yourselves is just as important. Keep things in balance.

Do what you can, and remember - no one will you be testing you on being the perfect Attachment Parenting Parent! Love your Little Ones, keep them close, and loved. Listen to them. Slow down. Love them some more! And know that you are doing a great job; this is hard work, but you are doing fine!

Where are you on your parenting journey? Are you using Attachment Parenting? Are there aspects that feel hard for you? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Nature Shelf

The irony of my life really amuses me sometimes! I strive to live a simple, uncluttered life, and yet I set myself up to do things that help create an inherently un-simple life!

Like my Nature Shelf.

This was a lovely feature of our home, and one that my three Little Ones really enjoy. But, truth be know, it was becoming a source of much stress for me. I was rushing to switch out the shelf, or staying up late to make something for it, and generally spending too much time on it.

So I stopped!

I should not have been so surprised, but all three Little Ones still enjoyed looking at it, and The Little Guy still stopped by to talk to the Fairies there on a daily basis, even though it didn't change at all for nearly three months. The earth kept spinning, despite the fact that I was not changing the shelf on a weekly basis ;-)

It is okay.

My plan going forward is to make changes on a much slower basis, maybe changing it out completely with the change of each season, which feels much more reasonable. I rather like the acknowledgement of the seasonal changes, as opposed to the monthly calendar.

So here is our Spring Shelf; the silk reminds me of the lovely cherry blossom petals so famous in the mid-Atlantic area. The toadstool was found at the bottom of a storage box, a forgotten trinket. The Little Guy immediately presented it to the Gnomes and Fairies, who apparently love it!

And like a lot of things that we release, letting go of the need to do this so frequently, as just felt like a HUGE weight rolling off my shoulders.

A deep breathe ... and the world is still spinning!

Are you doing anything in your home to reflect the outdoor season? Feel free to share in the comments, or leave a link back to your own blog; I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Food Waste Friday: A Pretty Good, and Boring, Week!


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

I let you know yesterday that my camera had died, which means I have no photos to show of my food waste this week, resulting in perhaps the most boring of all Food Waste Friday posts - sorry!

But, I really had to share!

Last week, I had a zero waste week, which was fab, but made me a little nervous. After such a good week, it seemed inevitable that I would have a bad week.

But no!

Two bananas (that went so black and mushy, they would taste awful even added to something in a recipe) and one moldy kiwi out of a newly bought package.

Not too bad!! Yay!

How was your Food Waste this week? Feel free to add a comment, or a link back to your own blog if you wrote about Food Waste Friday too; I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Crockpot Greek Yogurt

**I should let you know that the photos accompanying this post are not great. I was having a really hard time with my camera focusing and taking the pictures at all, which all made more sense when it died completely two days later. Sigh. Suffice it to say, I do have a back up camera, but it is also working very sporadically, so future posts may be rather light on pictures while I get my camera situation sorted out. Wish me luck!**

I am always looking for ways to shave my food budget down, while keeping our diets healthy and nutrient dense. Although we don't eat huge amounts of yogurt, it can be an expensive item when bought by the carton. I am also particularly fond of Greek yogurt, which is thicker, creamier, higher in protein ... and more expensive! 

Although I've been making yogurt for a long time, I switched over to this method a few months ago, and love both the simplicity of making it, and the end product - super duper yummy!

One of the biggest selling points in this recipe, for me at least, is that all of the times given are pretty flexible.

Ready? Here we go!


1/ 2 gallon of Milk (preferably Whole Fat/Full Fat)
1/2 cup of Plain Yogurt (either store bought, or saved from the last time you made yogurt)

Pour milk into your crock pot; turn onto High, and allow to heat up to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the milk proteins to denature, and to get the good bacteria in the milk ready for action. In my crock pot this takes about 2 and a half hours, so I just set a timer, and go about my day.

 Check the temperature of the milk with a thermometer if you have one. If not, it should be just under boiling.

When it has reached 180 degrees, remove the crock from the base and allow to cool. I do this with the lid off, and the entire crock on a cooling rack.

Leave for approximately 1 hour, until the temperature of the milk is around 110 degrees (warm, but not hot).

Remove about a cup of milk from the crock pot, and mix it with the plain yogurt. Once it is thoroughly blended, pour this mixture back into the crock with the rest of the cooled milk, and gentle stir in. Do not beat or whisk it in.

Turn on your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, for one minute, just to heat it up a little. Then turn off the oven, but leave the oven light on.

Put the lid back on your crock and wrap the entire crock in a blanket or towel (this part always makes me giggle!!)

Put the entire blanket wrapped package in the oven, and leave it for at least 6 hours, or up to 18 hours.

Take a quick peak - you should have a whole crock full of fabulous home made yogurt!

It is fine as is, but if you want to make it into Greek Yogurt - read on!

Line a fine mesh sieve with a thin piece of fabric. I use a piece of muslin, but I've also heard of people using an old t-shirt or a piece of cheese cloth.

Put a bowl under the muslin lined sieve, and pour the entire crock full of yogurt into the sieve. The whey will drain off into the bowl below, leaving you with thick and creamy Greek style yogurt.

The whey draining off from the yogurt (an action shot!)
The draining will be slower if you refrigerate it at this stage, faster if you leave it out on the counter. I typically gauge where in my day I am; if it's evening, I pop it in the fridge, knowing I'll wake up to drained Greek yogurt, but if the Little Ones are hungry and impatient for their Greek yogurt, I'll leave it on the counter. In the fridge it usually takes about 4 hours, while on the counter it takes about an hour or so.

The drained yogurt
The drained off whey
Drain until it reaches the desired consistency for your taste. If it drains too much, leaving a very thick yogurt, no worry - just add back in a little of the drained off whey.

Don't forget to put aside 1/2 cup of your yogurt to use as the starter in your next batch.

And finally, enjoy your fabulous, delicious and frugal Greek Yogurt!

We often have Greek Yogurt for breakfast, snack or lunch. It is rich and creamy enough to eat as is, but we will often add fruit, granola (I love this recipe from The Frugal Girl), maple syrup or jam. We use it in smoothies, veggie dips, tzatziki (yogurt dip with cucumber) and quiche fillings.

Rather than using the muslin and sieve to strain off the whey, there are also some nice yogurt strainers, which I must admit I am tempted with. Using the muslin is certainly frugal, but can be messy! Here is one that I've had my eye on ...

Do you have a fave recipe that uses yogurt? Or, so you have an easy-peasy recipe for making yogurt? Feel free to leave a comment, or a link back to your own blog; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Twinning Tuesday, An Introduction

Two years ago, when I first found out that I was expecting twins, I did what a lot of expectant parents do; I started reading and researching!

My learning curve was a steep one; my older child was two and half, so I felt that pregnancy and caring for a newborn was still fairly recent in my memory, but twins? I knew next to nothing.

Not only did I find that my basic knowledge of twins was minimal (fraternal? half identical? what?!) but that I struggled to find the information that fit our soon to be twin family. Although there were books, blogs, groups and web sites about twins, not many of them talked about baby wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering and breast feeding (let alone tandem nursing!)

The Two Little Ones, about 6 hours old, Baby Girl on the left and Little Boy on the right

 ... and again at 18 months old, Baby Girl on the left, Little Boy on the right.

Now I am eighteen months into my journey as mama to my twins, Baby Girl and Little Boy. Over the past year and a half, we figured out a lot. The best way to parent our babes, while maintaining an Attachment Parenting approach. We have successfully navigated breast feeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing, gentle parenting and cloth diapering.

 I'll be starting an occasional series on twins: Twinning Tuesday. In it I'll be covering all sorts of topics, the sorts of things I wish that I had been able to read about both when I was expecting and when my two Littles were growing.

I hope you'll be joining me in the coming weeks; please feel free to email me here, or leave a comment, if there is a particular topic you are interested in my covering. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!