Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Uses for Muslin

If you are like I was a month ago, you've never heard of muslin. Now I can't live my life without it. Let me introduce you to this humble do-everything material.

1. Burp cloth
This is probably the most obvious use, and the one I employ the most. The material is soft and lightweight. It feels nice on baby's skin. I use it to wipe her face and hands during and after feeds.
2. Blanket
Because the material is so lightweight, it makes for the perfect blanket when it's too warm for a long-sleeved onsie and too cool for a short-sleeved one.

3. Car seat/stroller cover
I use muslin to cover Zoey when I'm in the grocery store  and don't want people touching her. I also use it in the car and stroller if it's too sunny and I don't want her to burn.
4. Swaddle
It's hard but not impossible to swaddle baby with the smaller muslin squares, but the big ones I have from Aden and Anais are perfect for this. Plus they're pretty.

5. Napkin
I'm learning to eat all sorts of things one-handed since I am pretty much feeding her all the time. Some meals are more successful, and less messy than others. Thank goodness I always have a muslin square handy.
6. Nursing cover
We're trying to get out and about with Zoey as much as possible, and we're doing a pretty good job at it. Since she's still so little we don't have any kind of eating routine. I find myself nursing in very public places--restaurants, parks, my car, scenic overlooks in Scotland, etc. Draping a square over me works pretty well to keep things PG.

There's a baby under there!

7. Handkerchief
Parenting a newborn is hard work. Sometimes the lack of sleep and constant feedings get to you. Muslin mops up tears pretty effectively.
8. Cheese cloth substitute
I haven't tried this one yet, but Dan says he thinks the muslin would be perfect to make cheese or strain chicken soup. It is the right texture. Just make sure you use a clean one and not one you used as item one.

So there you have it. Eight uses for muslin. Do you love muslin as much as I do? Do you have any other uses for it? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Off to Scotland

Call us crazy, but Dan and I are taking Zahara for a week-long road trip to Scotland. Yes, she's only 3 weeks old, but no time like the present--right? We figure, if all she's doing is eating, sleeping and pooping, she can do that anywhere. We might as well make the most of Dan's leave.

Scottish Flag [source]

We have a pretty relaxed schedule with a ton of flexibility built in. We're well aware that our little dictator bundle of joy sets the pace. As long as we make it to a hotel each night, we'll consider the trip a success.

Day 1: Harrogate to Loch Lomond
Day 2: Fort William
Day 3: Isle of Skye
Day 4: Isle of Skye
Day 5: Loch Ness and Inverness
Day 6: Glasgow
Day 7: Home

The longest days of driving are the first at last; each should take around 5 hours. Every other day is only a couple hours drive. The Scottish Highlands are supposed to be absolutely breathtaking, so the majority of what we're doing is just admiring nature. I think it's definitely do-able. Wish us luck!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Out and About with Zoey

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to tell you we're doing great here in baby land! We're exhausted, but loving every minute. Zoey is growing like a weed and is becoming more aware and awake every day. We've actually managed to get out of the house a lot. Thankfully England is having an incredibly rare heat wave, which has been amazing. All the sunshine is definitely keeping us from going insane. 

What have you been up to this summer? I'd love to hear from you!

Valley Gardens with the in-laws

Nursing in Valley Gardens

Downtown Harrogate

First sit-down meal--sushi!

First post-pregnancy sushi!

S'mores on the Stray

Friday, July 19, 2013

You Are My Sunshine

Last weekend my good friend Karen threw a Meet-the-Baby party to welcome Zoey to the world. Karen is a hostess extraordinaire (see here and here), so when she offered to throw me a baby shower I was thrilled! Part of the Jewish tradition is not celebrating the baby until after she has arrived; that's why we decided to do a meet-the-baby party instead.

As usual, Karen went all out to make the day special. The theme of the party was "You Are My Sunshine." She decorated the house with bright yellow lanterns, flowers, and a customized paint chip banner. Though the party was at 3:00 pm, Karen spared no effort on the menu. Her idea of light snacks is my full-course meal. She made spicy quinoa salad; tortellini with broccoli; chicken salad; and a tomato salad. For dessert there were beautiful lemon chiffon cupcakes and her famous maple cookies. And, of course, no party is complete without a signature cocktail (and mocktail). This party had "white Zoey-fandel spritzers." So clever!

Photo courtesy of Rachel

We had a great turnout, and our friends were incredibly generous. Zoey got a ton of great books, toys and clothes.

Photo courtesy of Rachel

When it was time to leave, each guest got a potted marigold with an adorable hand-written card: "Like Zoey, this blossom is a piece of sunshine. As they grow, so too does our joy!"

Photo courtesy of Rachel

Photo courtesy of Rachel

What a special party for a special girl. I can't thank Karen enough!

Photo courtesy of Rachel

Karen (center) with my SOS crew

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Great Yorkshire Show

This weekend we went on a fun family outing to the Great Yorkshire Show. This 155-year-old event is just around the corner from my house and is absolutely massive. It is similar to a state fair, with agricultural exhibits; best of breed competitions; a giant food hall; and tons more.

Huge crowds at the show

We watched judges declare best-in-show of terriers; some kids play around with heavy farm equipment; and a sheep shearing demonstration.

We saw huge pigs; beautiful horses; bulls and cows; and a ton of varieties of sheep and rams.

The food hall was a lot of fun. There were tons of vendors selling everything from sweets to meats. and everyone offered samples. Yum! Cheesemongers competed for best-in-show. The blocks of cheese were literally bigger than Zoey!

We got so lucky with amazing weather. It was lovely getting out of the house and experiencing more British culture. What did you do this weekend?

Friday, July 12, 2013

You Know You're A Nursing Mom When...

Your Diet Rivals that of Michael Phelps
With as hungry and thirsty as you are now, eating 12,000 calories a day doesn't seem unreasonable. You can't even consider leaving the house without a bagful of snacks and a Nalgene full of water.

You Measure Sleep in Minutes, Not Hours
You are thrilled when you get a triple-digit nap.

This is the Most Daylight Your Breasts Have Seen Since Spring Break 2004
You try and cover up when feeding your little one in public, but things happen. You are surprised by how little you care.

When Shopping for New Shirts, Priorities Include Stretchy Neck and Dark Pattern
If you can't gain access in less than a few seconds, that shirt is out. Dark patterns hide unsightly stains.

Moms, what else do you have to add to this list?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cushion Nightmare: Worst DIY Project Ever

As a DIY-lover, I know that most projects will have some unexpected twist; the project will take twice as long, will cost twice as much, or will be twice as difficult as I planned. And it is generally fine because the joy that I get out doing the project makes it worthwhile. Every now and then there is a project that you wish you never started. Have a seat and let me tell you about the tale of my outdoor furniture.

Last year I saw a classified ad for really cheap outdoor furniture. Someone was leaving town and couldn't take them with her. She was selling two oversized chairs and one large metal bench for only $20! Can you believe it? So cheap! The only catch was that they didn't come with any cushions. The ones she had previously were so moldy that she didn't want to include them in the sale. No problem though. How hard can making cushions be, right? WRONG!

To be fair, these chairs were an excellent deal. They're in great condition; after a light sanding and a couple of coats of rust-blockimg primer and shiny black spray paint they looked good as new. And there they sat, naked, for the next year.

At some point I realized that I actually need to get on the cushion-making process if I ever planned to use these chairs. I thought about buying cushions, but honestly I couldn't find anything reasonably priced that I liked. I had no idea cushions were so expensive! Especially since these chairs are huge. So, I started looking for tutorials and materials to make my own.

Harrogate is not the best place for crafting. It's really hard to get materials, so I do most of my shopping online. I searched high and low for the best prices, but even so I was shocked by how expensive the raw materials were. No wonder finished cushions are pricey. The foam alone cost me almost $100!!

It took me forever to amass all of my supplies. Then it took me even longer to work up the courage to actually start making the cushions. Everything was just so expensive and the tutorial was so complicated. I had my S.O.S. friend Nick try out a different tutorial for me when making a cushion for another friend. Though his final product was great, the effort nearly killed him. After watching him struggle for months over this stupid cushion, I decided to try a different tutorial. I landed on this one from Pretty Handy Girl. Though it got me there in the end, I would not recommend using it yourself. The directions were hard to follow and missed key steps. Perhaps if you are a more advanced seamstress you can fill in the blanks yourself, but for a novice this was way too hard.

I enlisted Dan's help on this when I realized that I was in over my head. Between the two of us we managed to cobble the cushions together, and they actually look pretty good. Not professional, but not too "home-made" either.

Even Zuzu helped

Making the sides

Adding piping

In retrospect, I really needed to make double as many cushions so that I'd have both a seat and a back for each chair and bench. I realized my mistake too late though and there was no way I was starting again with ordering more supplies and making more cushions. Luckily IKEA had some navy cushions that worked well for the chairs (where were they when I did my initial cushion search?!), so we snagged two of those, I still don't have anything for the back of the bench though.

Needless to say, I am thrilled that the project is (mostly) complete. I have a feeling these will become family heirlooms--if only to justify the effort!

Friday, July 5, 2013

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Hello, friends! I'm still knee-deep in my baby haze but I wanted to stop by and say hi. Things here are crazy, but great. There are a lot of cuddles, kisses and diapers and not a lot of sleep. I can't even be mad about it when she looks like this.

People told us in advance that these first few days/weeks would be tough, but I didn't fully realize how much help we'd need. Simple things like cooking and eating are now monumental tasks. We're so fortunate to have such great friends and family to help though. Our friend Deanna organized a website where people can sign up to bring us food. We have a full calendar for the next two weeks! It's fantastic to get to see our friends while at the same time getting food delivered to us. Such a blessing!

Alisha brought Mac & Cheese!

My in-laws arrived yesterday, which has also been amazing. They got right to work taking the baby while Dan and I napped. My mother-in-law Rose set up shop in the kitchen and made blini (Russian pancakes) and drafted a shopping list to make more delicious Russian food. I'm already drooling at the thought of fresh salad olivjevinegret, borscht and lamb shashlyk!* Yum!

Dan's dad, Yakov, has not been slacking off either. The second he came through the door he literally grabbed the baby and has been hesitant to let go ever since. He's clearly smitten. He also set up our crib for us without any prompting! Though Zoey is a few months away from sleeping in there, and it is not set up in is permanent location, it's great that it's ready so I don't have to think about it in the future.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I'm so grateful to have one of my own. Parenting is an incredible experience--one best shared with friends and family.

*Russian Foods (from Wikipedia):
Olivje from French surname Olivier) salad: a mayonnaise-based potato salad distinguished by its diced texture and the contrasting flavors of pickles, hard-boiled eggs, and peas.
Vinegret (from French vinaigrette): a salad made of boiled beets, potatoes, carrots, pickles, onions, sauerkraut, and sometimes peas or white beans.
Shashlyk is a form of Shish kebab (marinated meat grilled on a skewer) popular in former Soviet Union countries, notably in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan. It often features alternating slices of meat and onions.