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Friday, January 25, 2013

Our Newborn Stash is Done!

Our cloth diaper stash, that is. I'm so incredibly pumped to be doing cloth from the beginning this time and can't wait to bring G home from the hospital in her itty bitty diaper.

When we were getting ready for C, we only bought a set of bumGenius 3.0 diapers thinking they'd fit right away. Yeah, not so much. He was in preemie and newborn diapers for 3 months before fitting into his BGs. I had no idea that he'd be so small or that there were other options out there for newborn babies. After much research, review reading, and chats with other Moms, I started building our newborn stash in November. I am seriously grateful that I got to take advantage of Black Friday deals this time around - it saved us a boat load of money.

Our stash consists of:
  • 24 orange edged GMD prefolds (newborn size)
  • 24 yellow edged GMD prefolds (small size)
  • 4 Thirsties Duo Wrap covers (size 1) in Scottish Rose, Scottish Storm, Rose, & Warm Stripes
  • 1 Thirsties Duo pocket (size 1) in Alice Brights
  • 1 Rump-a-rooz cover (newborn) in Lux
  • 1 Blueberry pocket (one size) in Tweet
  • 5 Snappi Fasteners
  • 18 Thirsties Fab cloth wipes 

Not to mention the Black Friday freebies we got...
  • Diaper Rite pocket diaper (one size) in Lilac
  • Rump-a-rooz pocket diaper (one size) in Tulip
  • Diaper Rite wet bag in Hot Pink

Or the stuff I got for dirt cheap on the cloth diapering Facebook swap page...
  •  2 bumGenius pocket (one size) in Lovelace & Blossom
  •  4 Sunbaby pocket (one size) with various fun prints like argyle and Mickey Mouse
  • 24 bumGenius cloth wipes

And the dipes we borrowed a fellow cloth diapering Mommy...
  • 2 Best Bottoms covers (one size) in Very Cherry & Mint Chocolate Chip
  • 8 snap in liners (small size) 

I'm proud to say that everything was either borrowed or bought on sale, clearance, as a second (visually imperfect), or used. It seems like a lot, but its still cheaper than $25-30/week for preemie/newborn disposable diapers. Once she's big enough (and C is potty trained), she'll just move into his daycare-friendly bumGenius diapers.

Everything is washed, stacked, and ready to go! Most people get excited about their baby's coming home outfit. Is it weird that I'm excited about her coming home diaper??

Monday, January 21, 2013

30 Weeks

Holy moly....30 weeks?! That's only 10 weeks left! It seems like a long time, but really, its not and that's scary. This baby is going to be here before we know it!

Baby is almost 16" and almost 3 lbs!

Weight: Ehhh....getting up there - I'm up about 13lbs. Nothing earth shattering, but as I get closer and closer to the weight I was when I delivered C, its hard not to get self conscious about it.

Sleep/Energy: Oh the heartburn!! I've entered the dreaded stage of pregnancy where I can't sleep on my back because of the baby suffocating me, but I have to sleep somewhat propped up because of the heartburn. Let's just say it involves lots of pillows and tossing and turning.

Cravings/Aversions: I could easily drink a gallon of orange juice a day. Yes, I have horrendous heartburn and I'm craving OJ. I appreciate the irony. I'll have a glass in the morning after I eat and it doesn't bother me, but if I drank it as much as I wanted would be ugly.

General Symptoms: After starting a magnesium supplement, a lot of the annoying symptoms I was having have gone away (the Braxton Hicks, leg cramps, etc.) It has been really nice!

Movement: There's no doubt there is a baby in there! She's been kicking/punching up a storm. I'm not sure how she's sitting in there, but it seems to change all the time.

Appointments: I found out at my 17P appointment last week that I passed my Glucose Tolerance Test with a score of 121. Woo! Anything under 140-ish is apparently normal, so I'm very happy to hear the results. This week starts my every other week prenatal appointments, which is exciting, but since I go every week for a shot anyway, it's not going to really feel any different.

Best Moment of the Week: C has started pointing to my belly and saying, "baby" and while I'm not sure if he totally gets what's going on, I think he's starting to. He is so sweet.

Bump picture to come! :-)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Spring Cleaning Saturday: The Kitchen

First stop on the decluttering and reorganization train was the kitchen. I figured it would be easiest to start in a room with clear storage spots and lots of surface space to work. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a lot of before pictures, so you're just going to have to trust me when I say it was a hot mess in there.

When we moved in, we unpacked our boxes in a hurry to get the house set up. One of the cabinets in the kitchen is one of those awkward in the corner cabinets that is way larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. What did we put in there? Cups, mugs, and glasses. The cabinet next to it is a standard double door with a few shelves. We put plates, bowls, and Pyrex containers in there. Anyone see the problem here?

The cup cabinet is deeper than either of us can reach, so everything got lost in there constantly. The plate cabinet is shallow and the doors don't close 100% because the plates are too big. Yes, it took us over a year to realize the problem with this. After sorting through things we don't use (which was a lot) we did a quick swap, and wouldn't you know it -- everything fits perfectly now!

There is so much room in the dish cabinet now and I can't believe we fit all of our plates and bowls in the other one! The one unfortunate part of where the cups are is that the bottom shelf is as short as it goes meaning our taller mugs and sports bottles needed to fit there. We do use them a lot, but not as much as regular glasses. Oh well.

Another cabinet that got an overhaul was C's cup/plate/bowl cabinet. What a mess that was! We'd collected so many sippy cups and bowls that we weren't happy with and kept them in there for some reason. Out they came and right into the yard sale box they went. What's left are the things he actually uses. As a bonus, it made enough space in the rest of the cabinet for the baby bottles and accessories we need to get ready soon.

I really love this white shelf divider and will be getting another one for the other side of the cabinet. It keeps the shelf tall, while making room for shorter items.

We also cleaned out the spice cabinet, which I fortunately (unfortunately) did get a before picture of. It was an embarrassing mess of spice jars, clothes pinned bags, and expired ingredients. After throwing in some Tupperware, mason jars, and labels, it was much more manageable. I seriously save every jar we empty to store something else in later.

We also seriously pared down our plastic storage container stash, organized our baking sheets and pans, got rid of some small appliances, and of course cleaned as we went. So, no earth shattering or Pinterest worthy organizing tips just yet. Finding the motivation to actually go through stuff was pretty impressive if you ask me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Planning for Disney: Part One

As we plan for our trip later this year, I hope to share our processes of planning, saving, and traveling. I am by no means a Disney expert, but I am a Type A, frugal Mom who doesn't take full price for an answer. Hopefully, my research can help someone out there who's in the same boat!

Should we go to Disney?
This is the first step in planning. What should we do? Should we even go? We've all seen the tear jerking commercials where parents reveal to their kids that they're going to Disney and the kids freak out in a fit of joy. Of course we want that for our kids. The truth is that Disney is EXPENSIVE. Its magical, amazing, and a one of a kind experience, but can be extremely costly if you don't do your homework. I found this post on Couponing to Disney that really put things in perspective. Disney is a treat and a privilege and should be treated as such.

When should we go?
Fortunately, there are so many Disney-a-holics out there that the park's crowd levels have been carefully documented for years and years. Websites like The Undercover Tourist, Dad's Guide to WDW, and Your First Visit all have crowd calendars that give you a peek into what you can expect during various weeks. Unless you are bound by a specific event, a time share, expiring flyer miles, etc. pick your week wisely.

Our honeymoon was the first week in November (typically shown as a moderate week) and the crowd was extremely manageable. This time, we're going a week earlier (projected as a very mild week), so we just may have the parks to ourselves! I can only imagine that going during a red week, especially with kids, will completely change your experience.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Being in the northeast, we have three viable options for traveling to Florida; driving, flying, or driving to Virginia, then taking the auto train. Each option has pros, cons, and a very distinct cost. With two kids (one of which won't be free when flying or taking the train), cost is a huge focus for us. There is also the concern of car seats, time/patience it takes to travel, how much stuff we can  bring with us, transportation when we arrive in Orlando, and wear on the car.

At first, we saw driving as a logical way to save money. With the estimated cost of gas and knowing our MPG, it would cost us about $500 + a hotel stop both ways. This would also mean, however, 20-22 hours in the car -- each way. No big, right? Lots of families do it. Then, we made a mere 9 hour road trip to Raleigh for a wedding and the driving idea went out the window. I genuinely think we forgot how much of a toll driving can take! The auto train's 17 hour travel time and $1,000 price tag was scratched off the list as well.

After pricing out a few airlines, we've decided to fly. It will be $700-$800 for the four of us, we can gate check a stroller, and after 2 hours we'll be at our destination. Disney picks you up at the airport and brings you to your hotel with all of your bags. With a 3 year old and a 7 month old, it is too convenient to pass up. We won't be renting a car (and therefore won't need car seats) and can use the Disney travel system. Yes, we know it takes a bit longer than driving your own car, but its a sacrifice we are willing to make.

How much should we save?
Ah, the big budget question. There are a LOT of resorts and hotels in the Orlando area to choose from. When we went a few years ago, we found that staying in a Disney resort provided a ton of perks (cheaper park tickets, access to the meal plan, free parking, coupons, free stuff, and excellent transportation) and we'll do the same this time. Since we plan on spending the majority of our time in the parks, a more budget friendly option like Pop Century or All Star Music is just fine for us.

As we continue to plan, check out my Disney board on Pinterest where I'm collecting park tips, packing ideas, baby/toddler travel tips, and budget ideas. If you have any Disney tips or tricks, please share!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Matching Outfits!

Normally, I'm not big on the matchy matchy sibling outfits, but these shirts from Carter's were just too cute to pass up! I can't wait to see them on!

Monday, January 14, 2013

52 Recipe Challenge: Week #2

This week's recipe is absolutely perfect for the icky, wet weather we've been having. It's warm, hearty, and everything that is right with the world: Loaded Baked Potato Soup from Tide and Thyme. Another winner from Pinterest, this soup starts by making bacon, then using the drippings as your soup base. Yes, that kind of amazing exists.

Bacon onion garlic fabulousness
The recipe calls for the use of a crock pot, but when we made it, we didn't plan ahead for that so we adapted it a little. We boiled the potatoes as we chopped the onions and garlic and then let it all simmer for a bit before the potato mashing step. It came out perfectly! I appreciate having the flexibility of it being a quick meal or a crock pot meal.

The recipe made dinner for the three of us, then four 1 1/2 cup portions for lunches throughout the week. With a little milk mixed in to loosen it up, it reheated just fine. This will definitely be sticking around our recipe book!

My little bacon thief.
Want to join the recipe challenge? Link up below and share a new recipe you tried this week!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Apparently, Tedious Projects are My Thing

First came 500+ piece quilts, then that crazy rose petal lantern. What's next on the tedious craft project list? Crocheting a rug, you say? Bring it on!

I was perusing Pinterest yesterday afternoon and this beautiful doily rug caught my eye. Normally, doilies say "old lady" to me, but this was so dainty and too perfect for Ginny's nursery. I've been looking (in vain) for a simple circle rug to go in her room, but the prices have been no bueno for the budget. The picture linked me to Ravelry (not sure how I hadn't been there before) and after some math, figured out I could make it for a grand total of $11.

The pattern calls for 2,235 yards of worsted weight yarn crocheted with a triple strand and an N hook - which is freaking huge. With the huge yarn sale at JoAnn Fabric, I got 7 skeins of Red Hart (nice sturdy acrylic yarn) for $10.50 and the hook for another buck or so. Now to get the actual pattern...

The pattern is out of a random crochet book from 2009. It is $11 on Amazon, but I put in a request to have it shipped to our local library through inter-library loan. I'm crossing my fingers that they can actually get it and save me $11. I doubt I'll use any other patterns in it, so why buy the whole darn book?

Now to wait. Keeping my fingers crossed that the book becomes available and I can get this thing started. It will either be a super quick project or take for freaking ever. Only time will tell how much I regret taking it on!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Riding the Nesting Wave

It's happening. That urge to completely down size, declutter, and throw out half the crap you own. Its here. The nesting phase.


J is very excited, to say the least. I think he's been secretly waiting for it, actually. I'd say we do a decent job of keeping things relatively organized, but we haven't done a good thorough stuff purging since this time last year. With another kid on the way, its definitely time. No need for our house to look like it did when C was first born. Granted, it was a much smaller space, but oy. Talk about drowning in baby stuff.

We've already gone through all of C's baby stuff and given a lot of it away. No use saving totes and boxes of boy clothes that we may or may not use at some point in the future. I don't have enough house for that kind of thing. I've found time to to through some of my clothes, make up/beauty stuff, and purses, but there's a lot more work to do.

There are several spots in our house that really need to be addressed, but haven't for one reason or another. The kitchen, utility closet (essentially the stuff you'd store in your garage), my craft room, our clothing, our movie collection, the front hall closet...just to name a few. We end up losing things or buying extra of things and it annoys me to no end.

I'm going to be setting up "Toss/Donate/Sell" boxes in the living room and going at it. A bunch less stuff and a few organizing solutions later and we'll hopefully be much better off. Normally, I'm a pack rat so I might as well ride this wave of hormones and throw some crap out.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Balancing Safety & Independence

I recently came across this blog post from Love, Light, Laughter, and Chocolate - One Mom's Journey. On the anniversary of her daughter's passing, Kim wrote this post about how her daughter, 3 year old Meggie, was the victim of something many of us don't worry about in our homes. Her bedroom dresser was not anchored to the wall and was pulled down on top of her.

It took several tries to get through her heartbreaking post, but one thing was for certain - it was not something I was going to read and easily forget. Kim's message, her plea to all parents, was not an unreasonable one; anchor your heavy furniture to the wall and potentially save your child's life.

Now, we're not huge baby proofers. We have outlet covers to protect curious fingers, knob covers on our exterior doors, and cabinet locks to keep cleaners hidden away, but that's about it. We didn't go nuts with drawer locks or door jam stoppers - we took that part upon ourselves to teach C not to touch certain things. We thought it was important to find a good balance between safety, learning, and independence. After all, the outside world isn't baby proofed and when we say, "please, don't touch that" he needs to know we mean it. But furniture? C wasn't a chronic climber, so that wasn't a problem. Well, neither was Meggie. It only takes one attempt to get a book off a high shelf, one try to grab their cup off the dresser.

As I read the story, there were three items in our house that immediately came to mind - C's dresser, the 6' tall bookcase in the living room, and the 42" flat screen TV. None of them properly secured. After reading Kim's post, I quickly hopped onto Amazon and ordered anchor kits for these pieces (and a few extra). For a total of $30, we can secure these items and have piece of mind.

For the furniture, we ordered Quakehold! 7" Steel Furniture Cables and for the TV we ordered Kidco Anti-Tip TV Straps. Its as simple as drilling a few holes and could make all of the difference.

Installing the Quakehold! kits was simple. We had some assistance from the maintenance crew in our building since our walls are backed with concrete, but in a regular house with studded walls, it would be just as easy. We put one cable kit on C's dresser right in the middle. The bookcase got two cable kits in the upper corners as well as some wood shims under the front legs to prevent the squishy carpet from matting too much and creating a gap.

Holy moly - both of these pieces are now ROCK solid and not going anywhere. A bonus is that the cable kits are made to unscrew quickly to retrieve fallen items or clean behind the furniture (ya know, if you do that kind of thing).

Don't think just because your little one isn't "a climber" that they will never be. We use car seats even when we haven't been in a crash and we cut up their food in tiny pieces even if they've never choked. It only takes once to regret.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Toddle Along Tuesday: Rockin' Out!

It is no secret that C loves music - especially the guitar. One of his favorite bits on Disney Jr. is the Jake and the Neverland Pirate band music videos - he jumps up to dance/rock every time one comes on. At first, we weren't sure what he was doing since he'd "strum" on a long plastic sand shovel. It became pretty evident that this kid needed some kind of toy guitar.

He makes his own music videos in the reflection of the stove.

For Christmas this year, C finally got one! I wrote about the LeapFrog Touch Magic Rockin' Guitar here in my Christmas toy review. Well, a few weeks after Christmas and its still definitely a favorite. Whenever the Pirate Band comes on TV (or any other music, for that matter) he runs to get his "tar" and follow along. He also has a Little Tikes drum and will hand it to J or me to accompany him. We absolutely love LeapFrog toys and there's no question why!

Want to share your kid(s) favorite gift from this season? Link up over at Growing Up Geeky this week's Toddle Along Tuesday topic - Favorite Gift!

52 Recipe Challenge: Week #1

This first week of the challenge, we turned to Pinterest (as we often will) for a quick new recipe for dinner. You can easily see based on my pins what my favorite foods are - macaroni and cheese and pizza. So, when J suggested pizza muffins I was all about it!
The recipe, from the awesomely named blog, "All My Great Ideas Are Really From Pinterest," was super simple and delicious. Even C could help make them without much of a mess or hassle. He has taken a lot of interest in helping us in the kitchen, so any recipe he can help with is great in our book.

We didn't have mini pepperoni, but regular size ones worked just fine. With some tater tots and salad, C quickly downed his whole meal.

There were a few left over and they reheated well. We'll definitely make these fun little pizza treats again!

Want to join the recipe challenge? Link up below and share a new recipe you tried this week!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

52 Recipe Challenge: Ready, Set, Cook!

As you know, one of my 2013 goals is to try at least 52 new recipes (one per week) to spice up our routine. We find ourselves, as many families do, in a food rut - making the same things over and over again. No more!

If you're in a rut like us, join the 52 Recipe Challenge! I'll be posting every Monday about the previous week's recipe. Link up and share your recipe and review - together we can make our meals more interesting.

Recipes don't necessarily need to be a whole meal or even dinner specific. It could be a dessert, a drink, a side, a new lunch idea, etc. As long as its something new that you haven't made before. The source doesn't matter either - another blog, Pinterest, a cook book, or your own creative mind. Remember to give credit to any sources you've borrowed from, to give your review, and take a picture of your masterpiece!

Tomorrow starts week #1. If you didn't happen to try a new recipe, no worries! Link up an old favorite or something you want to try to get things started. I'm excited to see what nifty recipes turn up!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

I'm Addicted to Cloth Diaper....Detergent?

It's true...well, sort of. At any given time, we have 3-5 different kinds of cloth diaper related cleaning products in our laundry room. What can I say, I'm on a constant quest to find the perfect wash routine! Now, if the conditions in which we were diapering and washing would stop changing...

Throughout our time cloth diapering C, we have used several brands of soap and various additives to pass the post-wash sniff test. The answer has always been different, but we've been fortunate enough to figure out the stink issues as they arise. Here is our timeline of cloth diaper cleaning and what has worked for us.

When we first started cloth diapering, C was exclusively breast fed. Looking back, I can honestly say I miss these diapers. Toddler poop is the WORST. Babies who are breast fed have water soluble poop that can go right in your washing machine. Really, I promise.

Since we had bumGenius diapers at the time, we bought bumGenius Detergent. At 71 HE loads for $14 w/ free shipping comes to about $.20 a load. Doing diaper laundry every other day means the bag lasts over 2 months. Not too shabby. Its a pretty standard detergent and it did a great job on newborn/infant diapers. As time went on however, we found it not being able to keep up with what C was dishing out. We kept the remaining detergent to use on baby clothes, but needed something new for the diapers.

Around 6 months, we switched to Charlie's Soap, another CD safe detergent. Charlie's Soap is more widely available than the bumGenius powder and we actually found it in Whole Foods. Its also available online at several retailers. The tub is good for about 80 HE washes and at around $13 makes for $.16 a load. We liked the Charlie's Soap and found it to be more powerful than bumGenius and rinsed very cleanly. Unfortunately, around the time we started using it, we moved to new area and it suddenly stopped working. *Dun dun duuuuuun*

After our Charlie Soap was gone, we tried plain, original scent, blue Tide, but that didn't work. Its not technically a cloth approved detergent, but I'd read about some people having success with it.

After that, we moved onto Rockin Green - a detergent I'd heard rave reviews about. It would surely fix whatever diaper problem we were having. Rockin Green comes in three formulas to suit your every water need - Soft Rock, Classic Rock, and Hard Rock. We bought Classic Rock not realizing that hard water could be our problem. It worked really well for almost a year and at 90 HE loads for $15 ($.17 a load), it was comparable to the other detergents we'd used.

Rockin Green also makes an ammonia treatment called Funk Rock that helped keep nasty pee smell at bay for quite a while. It is good for stripping diapers and the occasional cleaning boost without harmful chemicals. All around good stuff.

Then the stinkies came. Ever use a clean towel to dry off only to find it smells like mildew the second water hits it? That's the result of mineral build up. The same thing happens with diapers except instead of mildew smell, its acrid urine smell. Its as awesome as it sounds. Using a water test kit from Rockin' Green, we discovered that we had hard water. Very hard water. I ended up on a microfiber stripping spree one weekend that included boiling inserts on the stove before moving onto another detergent.

Hard water makes cloth diapering a little, well, harder. Its not impossible, but our simple wash routines with simple laundry soap wouldn't do anymore.When you wash cloth diapers (or anything, really) in hard water, minerals can build up on the material, trapping detergent and other stuff in the fibers. For regular clothes, this can make them look dingy or feel rough. For towels and other absorbent materials (like diapers) this can seriously decrease their absorbancy and cause stink issues.

We switched to Rockin' Green Hard Rock, but found ourselves using so much of it (almost double), our $.17/load washes became $.34/load washes and that's not okay. The other issue was that the diapers still stunk! I'd read that Hard Rock, while awesome, can cause stink issues when used in really hard water. Apparently, that meant us, and after 18 months of detergent switches and a few half assed attempts to strip the diapers it was time to bring in the big guns.

I ordered some RLR Laundry Treatment from Jillian's Drawers and went to work. Ya know what? It freaking worked. After months of fighting with build up on our diapers, they were back to square one.

Now what? We didn't want to let the diapers get mineral build up again, but the Rockin' Green was getting expensive. In comes Calgon. How did I not stumble upon this before?! Calgon is a water softening laundry additive, found right in the laundry aisle, that you can put in with the detergent on any load of wash. It suspends minerals and other "stuff" in the water until they are rinsed away, not allowing it redeposit in the fabric. It lets the soap sud up and actually do its job. Genius! It comes in liquid or powder form and its recommended that you buy whatever matches your detergent. We use powder, so we bought powder. At $5 a box, its cheap and easy to use.

Here's where the addiction comes in. Technically, the Rockin' Green + Calgon mixture is working. BUT I wanted to see what else was out there. Its not you, Rockin' Green....its me. Yesterday, I received a box of Tiny Bubbles, by Grovia, and can't wait to give it a shot. Its said to be very effective in hard water and comes to about $.21 a load. Not ideal, but if it works, I'll deal with it.

So what is on our laundry shelf at the moment? Rockin' Green Hard Rock, Classic Rock, and Funk Rock, Calgon, a few packets of RLR, residual bumGenius detergent (for clothes), Tiny Bubbles, and Bac-Out Oxygen Bleach. Okay, so my estimate of 3-5 types should have really been closer to 8...

Everyone's wash routine is going to be different and the trick is to find out what works for you and your diapering situation. If we had soft or normal water, who knows - we could have stayed with Charlie's Soap. Its all about troubleshooting whatever issues pop up. Is it all as cheap as making my own laundry soap, Duggar style? Of course not, but its cheaper and safer than Tide and being able to successfully cloth diaper is a heckofalot cheaper than buying disposables. I'll surely spend $7-$9/month on detergent if it means not buying disposable diapers!

UPDATE: We ended up really liking Tiny Bubbles, but it was on the more expensive side. We ended up buying and loving Nellie's All Natural Laundry soda. Its simple, easy, and priced well. A 100 load tin of it is around $16 on Amazon with free shipping (the price fluxes). That makes it about $.16 a load. If you're doing one load of diapers every other day, this can will last you over 6 months.

Detergent Tips: 
  • Cotton Babies, in all of their awesomeness, ships for free with no spending minimum - even heavy boxes of powder detergent!
  • Use the minimum amount of detergent as you need to still things clean. Too much can cause build up and repelling even in normal water.
  •  Not all "earthy" detergents are made the same. Free and clear detergents have chemicals such as enzymes and brighteners that can damage cloth diapers. Here is a super helpful chart on safe detergents from The Diaper Jungle.
Washing Tips:
  • Different stink issues have different solutions. Here is an awesome stink chart from Padded Tush Stats that breaks down the various stinks and their likely causes.
  • Vinegar, though awesome in breaking down mineral build up in towels, can actually weaken the elastic on cloth diapers, shortening their lifespan.
  • A cold rinse before the wash cycle will help prevent set in stains.
  • If you have a front loading (HE) washer and need to do a serious clean, add more water. Some washers have an "add water" button, but not all do. You can also add water with a pitcher to the detergent drawer as the washer fills.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hello, 2013!

Happy 2013! This year for our goals, J and I put our heads together to figure out what we wanted to do. Here's our list of goals for the year...

Family goals for this year:
  • Bring a healthy, happy, (and hopefully full term) baby girl into this world!
  • Spend more quality time outside the apartment.
  • Adopt a rescue dog.
  • Get Charlie potty trained.
  • Take our first family vacation in October.
  • Have at least one "date night" per month, even if its at home.
  • Visit family more often.

Home goals for this year:
  • Anchor our large furniture to the walls and get more toddler safety proofed.
  • Organize all of our clothes into seasons to help with clutter and storage.
  • Donate/sell 2013 things over the course of the year.
  • Try out at least 52 new recipes (one per week).
  • Grow another garden this summer.
  • Freeze and can whatever we can from the garden.

My personal goals for this year:
  • Lose all of the baby weight and get back to my "happy" weight.
  • Go through my clothes, donate old stuff, and update my wardrobe.
  • Take and edit our own newborn pictures.
  • Make quilts for Charlie and Ginny.
  • Make it to 150 blog followers.
  • Read at least 3 books.
  • Keep our pictures organized and back them up once a month.

J's personal goals for this year:
  • Go to the gym at least 3 times a week and get back to his "happy" weight.
  • Read at least 20 books.
  • See at least 3 movies (before they leave the theater)
  • Get a full time teaching job.
  • Be less of a "thinker" and more of a "feeler."
  • Keep up with the journals for Charlie and Ginny.

Financial goals for this year:
  • Stay ahead on our car payments and pay at least 25% of the car's balance (about $4,500).
  • Save up enough money to go to Disney in October.
  • Save at least $2,000 on groceries by couponing and shopping sales. 
  • Open a bank account for Ginny when she's born. 
  • End the year with no consumer debt (besides the car).

DIY: Mapped Social Media Buttons

There are a lot of tutorials out there on how to design your own blog social media buttons, but I found that tutorials on how to actually link and map them were seriously lacking. If you make them as individually linked images side by side, than its as easy as a short HTML code telling each picture where to send the person clicking.

If you want to create a picture with various embedded links, like I have on my side bar, its not as easy. Well, its still pretty easy, but done in a different way. Here's a quick tutorial on image mapping to create hyperlinks for your social media buttons!

During my blog design redo, I stumbled upon a fantastic website, called, that made my social media buttons a breeze. Its literally draw a shape, assign a link, and save.

First, upload the image you want to use for your social media buttons. Again, there are lots of tutorials on how to get to this point so I won't be redundant. I used Photoshop to make mine, but you can use a number of other programs. Be creative! Find components of your blog that coordinate.

Once you have an image, upload it to to start mapping it. For this tutorial, I'm going to use a sample image I found while looking for social media icons.

When you upload your image, this is the screen you will see at first. There are several options on the right side bar - be sure to unclick "Show Text Links." All this does is put ugly text at the bottom of your pretty picture.

From here, you have two options for creating links - using a rectangle shape or creating a custom shape. For the triangle shaped pennants on my original picture, I used a custom shape, but for these buttons a simple rectangle is fine. Make sure the shape is over the particular area you want to use as a link.

In the picture above, the square is over the second box - Twitter. Once highlighted with a link box, input the URL for your Twitter account. You can test the link before saving to make sure it directs to the correct place. Once you're happy with it, hit save on the right side bar. Continue linking all of the areas within your picture until you're happy with everything.

Once done, click "Get Your Code" on the right side bar to see the HTML code for your linked image.

Next, you'll go to a page with lots of information on it and if you're like me, you'll say, "wait....where is my code?!" There are tabs at the very top of the screen - click HTML code. Ta da! This next part is very important. will NOT host your original picture for you. Within the code is the link to the temporary hosting spot for the image. You need to replace this with the link to the hosting site or it will be deleted in two days screwing up your image and links. 

This is the code for the image I just mapped (click on it to enlarge)...

I highlighted the image hosting information in red so you can find it easily. The code will be put between the quotation marks and start with http:// and end with either .jpeg or .png. 

I hosted my image within my Google account since its linked to my blog anyway, but you can use Photobucket, TinyPic, Image Shack, Flikr - wherever you host your pictures. Wherever you end up hosting, be sure to open up permissions on the photo - if its private or not shared, it will not show up when linked in a public place.

Once you replace the highlighted code, copy and paste the entire code into your blog design where you want it. In Blogger, create a new HTML/Java widget on the side bar and insert the code in there. Here is the mapped image I created through this tutorial. While not all of the images are linked, you get the idea.  

It can cost quite a bit of money to have someone design and make a social media set like this for your blog. The folks at do this as a FREE service, which for small time bloggers like me is amazing. If you do use their image mapper, consider donating through their PayPal link on the code page. :-)

Have a question that I didn't answer? Let me know! I don't know everything about HTML and blog design, but there is enough internet out there to fill in the blanks!