18 April 2009

A little something for everyone

For reasons I don't understand, my midwife insists that I have on hand a stack of ten flannel receiving blankets when baby is born. For Savannah I got by just fine with four or five. I don't like to have extra of most things around unless it's part of an emergency supply (like canned goods, medical supplies and of course, my stash of fabric). But, I finally gave in and made a stack of four new receiving blankets for baby to add to the pile I already had leftover from Savannah.

As well as some double-sided burp cloths with fabric I had leftover from a gift to another mom last year.

Every savvy mom knows that you can't go around making new things for baby unless you make something for the G.O. (genuine original, aka, big) sibling too. So, Miss Savannah got two new fabric belts. One is made from Amy Butler's pink Wallflower fabric. This belt is three fabric layers thick and 3/4" wide and is super cute on her with her new jeans.

The second is an all-scrap belt made with two layers plus batting for strength and is 1" wide. They both do a great job of holding up her pants on her skinny little waist so she doesn't get plumber's butt - a common occurrence when she isn't wearing a belt.

And, I made a little something for Mommy as well. In many countries there is a long tradition of belly binding after birth. The purpose is to restore the body to its original shape as quickly as possible while providing support for the stretched stomach muscles that must realign and tighten again as well as the lower back, which is stressed more with picking up baby at a time when it is weakest (due to those stretched tummy muscles). They also help restore stretched out skin to its original shape and help mothers maintain good posture. Unfortunately, unless you live in LA or NYC, you can't try on a belly binder, you have to special order them and they are non-returnable items, which stinks if you don't get the correct size since the prices range from $60-110. So, I made my own out of a soft washable pima cotton with organic cotton batting for strength (both scraps from other projects). We'll have to see how it goes, I may end up shelling out the dough for one of the expensive ones anyway but I'm eager to try mine out. Belly binders are usually worn for 2 weeks to 2 months post delivery. In Mexico a belly binder is called a "faja" and in Japan a "sarashi". In some regions, women see a special belly binder whose job it is just to bind women or fit them for a binder.

My belly binder has a 2" velcro strip that can attach to a patch of velcro on the other side that is 4" wide. I hope the 4" strip gives me enough flexibility but in case it doesn't, I can add on another 2". It is 9" tall or wide so it will stretch from the top of my hip girdle to just beneath my lower ribs. Usually bellies shrink by 5" after delivery and then very slowly thereafter, although belly binding is supposed to speed up this recovery process and restore the body to its original shape faster.

16 April 2009

Bathroom makeover

The full bathroom downstairs has been through a lot recently. First, there was fungus among us (mold in the drywall from a baseboard heater leak), which I cut out of the wall with an exacto knife and cleaned.

Our mold lab report revealed that we had a variety of non-rent-paying guests living in the wall including: Penicillium sp., Cladosporium sp., Aspergillus sp., Rhizopus/Mucor sp. and Ulocladium sp.

Then a newly tiled floor (with radiant heating underneath!) and drywall repairs.

Notice the "cap" over the toilet's place, which is only a piece of cardboard. Most days this worked out fine, other days it smelled like the sewer that it is. Kevin had to retrofit the old toilet fixings with a new flange and wax ring to bring the pipes up to the new floor level.

Then a new paint color in muted green to complement the muted yellow of the family room and hallway as well as trim with quarter-round to hide the extra board that jutted out from the floor. The purpose of the board was to prevent the gypsum that was poured over the radiant flooring from seeping into the then open walls and not surprisingly, it became cemented in place.

Starting to look like a bathroom again!

Then came a new vanity, cabinet and mirror that Savannah helped to pick out. She really wanted white to match the faucet she had selected. It might sound unusual to match a vanity to a faucet but she loves her faucet, which says very clearly "Hot" and "Cold" on the handles so she always knows which is which. She thinks all of the faucets in our house should be labeled accordingly.

I think these are really cute in a cottage-like style. The light sage green, which reminds me of our dearly departed kitty of the same name, is very calming in a spa sort of way. The one thing we don't like about this bathroom now is the light, but we're not in a hurry to change it. At least it is energy-efficient.

I also get extra storage space above the toilet without having to deal with a medicine cabinet.

Savannah's special faucet.

And finally, a new toilet that Kevin had to use some measure of ingenuity to install now that the floor was raised 2 inches higher over the old plumbing fixtures. He doesn't like cheap toilets and splurged on a Toto SanaGloss model that met all of his criteria. It is low flow (energy efficient) and powerful (less work for the plunger). If he ever replaces the toilet in our master bathroom, it will be an even more luxurious one-piece model (if you can consider a toilet a luxury item) but it won't be the kind that keeps records of our individual health and vitals, which sounds like a nifty feature to me.

As for the bathroom makeover, I think I like it.

12 April 2009

Woolly bear metaphorphosis - an easy project to do at home

One of Savannah's recent "science projects" is to observe the woolly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) turn into an Isabella Tiger Moth. Woolly bear caterpillars are especially common in New England during the fall and spring months and there old tales about how long winter will be based on the length of their brown and black stripes (although this really correlates to their age and growth before winter hibernation). Even though they hibernate all winter, come spring, they are hungry little buggers requiring a fresh supply of grass or leafy greens to eat everyday before spinning their cocoons. One nice thing about woolly bears is that they are rarely a nuisance to gardeners, preferring wild plants to cultivated ones. This is an easy project to do at home or school to enrich children's lives and understanding of the life cycles of animals.

We "captured" a woolly bear on one of our recent nature walks and brought it home. It resided in a clean applesauce jar with a foil lid that had many holes poked into it for circulation. We added a single strong twig, which is important for it to be able to climb and attach its cocoon to, and fed it either fresh grass clippings every day or fresh lettuce leaves every other day (the lettuce leaves usually last longer than the grass). I also put 1-2 drops of water in every two days but it's important to not have a wet jar and the lettuce and grass should provide enough moisture anyway. Every day for a week we cleaned out the old greens and put in the new greens for the woolly bear.

Today, the woolly bear climbed the twig and we watched it spin its cocoon throughout the day.

Here the woolly bear is beginning to spin its cocoon. You can still see through the threads to make out the whole caterpillar at the top of the twig.

I tried to get a close-up of this but my widest angle lens is only an 18-55. Now I know what to ask for for my next birthday...

Here the woolly bear has almost completed its cocoon and looks as though it is covered in fur. Now all we have to do is wait for 2-3 weeks for signs of the Isabella Tiger Moth to emerge. We'll release it outdoors as soon as it hatches but very gently, after its wings are unfurling and dry enough.

Additional tips:
  • Do not touch or move the jar when the caterpillar is spinning its cocoon - any vibration disrupts the process.
  • After the caterpillar has spun its cocoon, wait 1-2 days, then remove any leftover leaves or grasses so they don't rot.
  • Keep the jar in the coolest part of the house - a window sill of a cold room maybe, or on a covered porch where it won't get wet, so the caterpillar gets used to the regular outdoor temperature. If it emerges too soon due to perceived warmth, it may not have a food source in bloom yet.
  • If your caterpillar isn't thriving, release it outdoors.

Here are two more resources on woolly bears: general woolly bear info and raising woolly bears, with scientific info.

Some recommend capturing woolly bears in the fall as opposed to the spring. I find that woolly bears are just as easy to find in the spring so we take this shortcut instead of feeding and caring for them all through the fall and spring. I hope you have fun with your woolly bear project!

Easter at the Eastlers

I don't know what sort of Easter bunny visits your house, but at our house, it is the rascaliest rabbit of them all. The Easter bunny is not content to simply leave Savannah a nice basket full of goodies so every year she must solve a series of riddles that takes her all over the house and yard to find her hidden basket. As if that weren't enough, once she finds her basket of goodies, there is usually another hunt for the hidden eggs.

Her Easter began this year with her first clue:

Good morning, good morning! Today is Easter Day. I brought you some goodies, but I hid them all away. To find them you must follow the clues: look for your bunny ears inside of something blue. Put them on and find your next clue.

And so on until at last she discovered her treasure...

which contained another riddle for her to solve to find her hidden Easter eggs.

Green tip: Every year Savannah sets out her Easter basket, a hand-me-down, on the night before Easter so we reuse the same basket every year instead of having to buy new ones that get tossed. Her basket is nicely made of real wood and is hand-painted and has lasted us through four years without injury. During the year she uses it for other things - practicing "find the hidden object games" and to collect things in. This year we also discovered a German-made edible Easter grass. Don't want to eat it? Add some warm water to it and watch it disappear or let it decompose naturally.

Plus, that rascally Easter rabbit took a nibble out of our bunny cake leaving a trail of crumbs across my kitchen counter top. This year's cake isn't as pretty as last year's but it tastes so much better!

This year's bunny cake - a moist yellow cake made from the All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook Golden Butter Cake recipe with a silky orange butter frosting that is fresh and delightful.

Last year's bunny cake - a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Looked great, smelled great, tasted not so great.

We've all been joking about whether an Eastler might be born on Easter but there are no signs of meeting baby yet, so we wait...

05 April 2009

Renovations continue...

Thursday Savannah decided the one thing she really wanted in her new and improved bedroom was more pink. I've already made her pink and white toile curtains, a pink quilt, and her down comforter and rug are also pink, but she wanted more. Since the playroom paint clashed with her old bedroom paint, I was sold on the pink, inspired by a paint ad in This Old House where a similar muted yellow was paired up with a muted green and muted pink in adjacent rooms and looked great. In one afternoon we re-painted her bedroom and she now says it's the most beautiful bedroom she's ever had. Fortunately, it was a hot sunny day so we kept all the downstairs windows open while painting with a low-VOC paint.

Here is a view of the new color with the completed tiled floor, grouted, sealed and caulked, with the trim I painted, cut and installed today.

We also spent the afternoon pretending to be Cinderella, mopping the hazing off the tiles to prepare for sealing the grout. (If you've never done this job before, don't, it took us two vacuumings, and three moppings on hands and knees per room to get the tiles in grout sealing-worthy shape. The haze really sticks.) Savannah loves to be Cinderella, helping with sweeping, laundry, and mopping. Sometimes we have Pirate Wednesdays where we take turns being the Captain and crew and "swab the decks" while listening to and singing sea chanteys.

A view of the playroom floor that is now grouted and sealed. Kevin cut and re-installed all of the doors today (all six of them) because the floor was raised nearly two inches for the radiant flooring and tiling. I still have to install the trim, but it's become a lower priority since the furniture for the playroom doesn't arrive until the end of the month and two other precious packages (baby and chicks) arrive before then.

01 April 2009

April showers bring...

...more time to complete our inside projects.

The floor pillows I made for Savannah's playroom, plus the sofa pillows below. The floor cushions are big and soft - 24" x 24" and have removable cotton covers that can be washed in the machine.

And I finished my first Boppy or nursing pillow cover. I used a soft Minky fabric from my stash that Savannah had picked out a while ago in case baby is a girl. This was my first invisible zipper and it turned out well enough for my first try. I must have pulled on the fabric (Minky fabric is maddeningly stretchy) a bit because there is a small pucker around it. I'm so glad I make a 22" zipper instead of the 14" zipper called for. It takes just the right amount of pushing and pulling to remove this pillow cover.

See the puckered edge at the top where my invisible zipper is? All the rest of the wrinkles smoothed out after a day of "use" by a practicing future Big Sister.

Savannah snuggles with her Lovey, Bunny, while learning how to hold baby sister or brother. She also helped me pick out a Lovey for baby on Friday.