Thursday, May 29, 2014

Buying baby's wardrobe: What you need (and what you don't).

[Originally posted here on February 4, 2014.]

My sister-in-law recently announced that she and her fiance are pregnant! It's their first--a boy, due in June. We are sooo excited for them! And, since he'll be pretty much exactly a year behind Wil, that works out great for passing on baby clothes.....

So, since I've been digging through baby clothes in anticipation of preparing a box to send, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share what I think is (and is not) necessary for baby's wardrobe. I had so many more articles of clothing for Kaylie than for Wil! I found I really pared down my expectations for kid #2....So this is the bare-bones, what-do-I-really-need sort of list. Of course, every baby is different, and every mom is different, so these are just tips from my personal experience and preference.

Buying baby's wardrobe: What you need (and what you don't).

Here's the quick list of what I think you ought to stock in each size for the first year:

  • 6-8 complete outfits (long-sleeved and/or short-sleeved, depending on season)
  • 3 cotton pajamas
  • 2 sleep sacks (cotton and/or fleece, depending on season)
  • 1 cotton jacket
  • In cold weather: 1 fleece jacket/pants set
  • 6 bibs
  • 3 pairs socks

Always shop for complete outfits. It can be tempting to buy those adorable onesies in three-packs or that one that's just so darn cute, but if you don't have pants to go with them, they might never see any use (except, perhaps, in the heat of summer). I have found a good ratio to be three onesies for every two pairs of pants. For spring and fall wardrobes, Carter's (my favorite brand for baby clothes) sells great three-piece sets comprising a long-sleeved onesie, short-sleeved onesie, and pants. And if you find one or more onesies that you just can't resist, or receive any as gifts, you can usually track down a pair of jeans to go with anything. I shoot for 6-8 complete outfits in each size; I find I do laundry a little more frequently than once a week. You may need more outfits if your little one is a big spitter-upper, or if you don't do laundry as often. Bibs can be a great outfit-saver, too, and they are a must for drooling, teething babies, or you will end up changing spit-drenched onesies (you wouldn't believe how fast a teething baby can soak a onesie to the waist!). And, of course, socks--but not too many, because they never stay on anyway, so at some point you'll probably give up on using them except when necessary.

I love these three-piece sets for spring and fall!

Putting babies to bed with blankets is a suffocation hazard, so the alternative is wearable blankets. I prefer Halo SleepSacks. Always get two season-appropriate sleep sacks, because the last thing you want to deal with during a middle-of-the-night spit-up fest is laundry and nothing to put baby in in the meantime. For spring and fall, I always get two cotton and two fleece sleep sacks, and three pairs of cotton pajamas to go under them (for winter, I've also always had a fleece pair of pajamas on hand, but I rarely ever actually use them). Sleep sacks are sized differently than clothing, so they will overlap different pajamas sizes, so I've ended up with both cotton and fleece sleep sacks in every size but one.

It's always a good idea to have a cotton jacket on hand for chillier days, even in summer. In colder weather, I recommend having at least one fleece set--pants/jacket or pants/vest. Go for hooded rather than non-hooded, so you only have to deal with hats in particularly cold weather or on longer outdoor treks. (If you expect to spend a lot of time outdoors during cold weather, you may consider getting a winter coat. I didn't buy a winter coat during Kaylie's first year, even though we lived in Indiana at the time, because, well, I hate going outside....we did just fine in fleece sets covered with fleece bear suit and/or fleece blankets over the car seat.)

Now that I've given you my recommendations on how much to buy, I'm going to share my own preferences on which ones....

Onesies versus shirts:

Get onesies, not shirts.  Shirts ride up every time you pick baby up!

Shirts drove me nuts with Kaylie before she could walk. Every time I picked her up, the shirt would ride way up. I therefore had several adorable outfits that she ended up never wearing because I opted for onesies, which are so much easier. My advice is to stick with onesies until your little one is walking more than being carried; once they're walking well on their own, shirts are much easier for diaper checks and changes.

If you find you have too many short-sleeved onesies in a size your baby is only going to fit into in the dead of winter, here's the solution: long-sleeved white onesies. Get a pack, put 'em under the short-sleeved onesies, and use those season-inappropriate outfits!


Get snaps, not zippers!  Midnight diaper changes are enough hassle already.

Go for snaps instead of zippers! We had so many pairs of pajamas that I hated using, and even ended up setting aside and replacing with ones I found easier to use. Think about it: Pajamas are for night-time use, so you want to be able get through those midnight diaper changes as quickly and easily as possible.  You can unsnap pajamas from the bottom to the waist, but zippers must be pulled all the way down from the neck to the heel to get to the diaper.


Or skip the gown altogether, and go for footie pajamas.

My two cents is to avoid infant gowns; they're a great idea in theory, but the reality is that (with both my kids, anyway) babies tend to kick so much that gowns ride up to their hips. If you must try gowns, I'd opt for convertible gowns that can alternatively be snapped to form legs as well, though--as with all footless pajamas--the legs tend to ride up to the knees. At this point, the only pajamas that I ever use are cotton, snap-up, footed pajamas.


Get snaps, not Velcro!  Both your baby and your laundry will thank you.

Get Carter's snap bib three-packs. You can find them at Target. I had tons of different kinds of bibs with Kaylie, and until I stumbled upon the snap bibs, every single one of them had some kind of Velcro closure. I started finding these awful scratches all over the back of Kaylie's neck from the Velcro, so I started using bibs with less-bristly closures, but those ones stopped sticking together after only a few uses. I was so excited when my mother-in-law gifted us with a set of snap bibs! I hadn't even known that was an option. They're all I use now for Wil! (They also have a water-resistant layer between the fabric, which is very important! And, snaps won't stick to the rest of your laundry; I have ruined a couple things by stupidly throwing them in a load that I forgot had a Velcro bib!)


Longer socks mean they won't ride down off baby's feet as quickly.

Socks are a royal pain. Baby socks do not like to stay on baby feet. I like the Faded Glory gripper socks at Walmart. They go up the calf a ways (ankle socks come right off), and the tread on the bottom serves a second purpose in that it also indicates what size the socks are (have you ever tried sorting through tiny socks to try and figure out which ones are tinier?).

And now for more general advice:

Stick with a favorite brand or two. Different brands fit differently, and I had several outfits gifted for Kaylie that we weren't able to use because I stored, say, an 18-24M outfit with other 18-24M clothing only to find later that that brand's "18-24M" size fits more like a Carter's "12-18M". Avoid the hassle of having to eyeball--or worse, try on--every outfit to determine if it fits yet. For babies, I love Carter's--the clothes are super cute, the sets are convenient, and you can usually find them on sale--while for toddlers, I love Carter's and Jumping Beans (at Kohl's). Find what fits your kid best, and stick with that.

Don't skip NB! I had a lot of people tell me, "Oh, babies are never in newborn clothes (or newborn diapers) for long enough to bother! Just put them in 0-3 months!" Ha! Kaylie (born six pounds, five ounces) was swimming in NB when we brought her home, and she wore it for a month and a half. But Wil (born nine pounds) was out of NB by two weeks. There's no way to know, really, how big your baby is going to be or how fast they'll grow. If you can, save your money for the cute stuff in bigger sizes and stock NB with thrift-store finds, hand-me-downs, and borrowed clothes, cute or not, until your little one is out in the world and you have an idea of whether or not they'll need to be in NB for a while.

Shop a size or two ahead. You don't want to be buying the bulk of baby's wardrobe the weekend before you bump him up a size--you may not be able to find the items you need, or, if you do, you may not be able to find it all at a good price. I've done that a couple times, and it never goes well (would you believe the Kohl's around the corner quit selling long-sleeved shirts and only had summer clothes by the end of December? It was thirty degrees out!) I like to start shopping for the next size as soon as I bump Wil up to new size.

....But don't shop too far ahead! Kaylie has always been small, so we go by weight to determine what size clothing to put her in, rather than months. To give you an idea of how "off" we are with her, we bumped her up to 18-24M clothes when she was 31 months, after spending a week shy of a year in 12-18M. So, that first year, it could be a little hard to determine what size we needed for an item to be "weather-appropriate"! We had a number of great winter outfits that she didn't actually fit into until the following summer.

And don't buy holiday outfits. Yes, they're cute, but they're almost never really worth the money (at least not new). You get very little use out of them. If you're lucky, you'll have awesome grandparents who gift things like that. (Exception: Buy what you need for holiday family pictures, if that's something you do. You'll be looking at that photo on the wall for the rest of your life.)

This might seem like overkill, but......I like to keep an Excel spreadsheet of what I've already bought. I can list, by size, what items I have, and I can note what goes together and what outfits are incomplete (e.g., a onesie that has no matching pants). I update it whenever I go shopping and bring home clothes, and print a copy of it off to keep in my diaper bag or purse to refer to whenever I'm out and I see a good deal. (I did this very faithfully with Kaylie; I'm slacking a bit with Wil. But when I keep up with it, it is super helpful--especially when thrift-store shopping, where clothes are often sold as individual items instead of sets.)

My OCD at work.  It can come in handy sometimes.

As you shop, always picture yourself using an item. Will it be too difficult to get on and off? Do you need anything to go with it? Will it be season-appropriate? Can you picture yourself using it often?

Keep in mind, you can usually supplement beyond these basics once your little one is wearing the size in question. Even if that means you won't get the best deal on what you need additionally, you'll save more in the long run by not buying a lot of items you end up not needing. For me, this essentials-only list is usually enough to get me by. I hope it helps you as you consider what you and your little one will need!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet Hobie......and Evi.

[Originally posted here on January 31, 2014.]

I've been itching to dig out my sewing machine (we moved a few months ago, and are still unpacking) for a while now. I had an excuse the other day--to make a baby gift--and once it was out, well, I didn't want to give it up. It's still in the corner of our living room, and it's gotten continued use the past few nights once the kids were in bed.

So, meet Hobie.

Meet Hobie.

Made of knit on one side, flannel on the other, with ribbons for his tail spike and dermal plates.

Hobie's less-photogenic side, which is soft flannel.

My favorite element is the patterned knit......

"Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"

The background is a quote from "Firefly," from Hoban "Wash" Washburne's introductory scene (for whom "Hobie" is named).

Hobie poses with a "Firefly"-themed blanket I made for Wil.

(Hobie was made from this fabric, using a pattern from this tutorial.)

I was very excited to give little Hobie to my seven-month-old, Wil.

Um....okay, Mom.

He was fairly indifferent. After all, our living room floor was covered in Duplo pieces at the time, which were apparently much more interesting.

My two-and-a-half-year-old, however, was intrigued. Every time I handed Hobie to Wil, Kaylie would sit down less than a foot from him and wait restlessly for him to put the dinosaur down, at which point she would snatch the toy up and proclaim, "Baby Wil's all done with Hobie! Kaylie can play with him now!"

Not just a baby toy, apparently.

I really meant for it to be a baby toy. I mean, look at it. It has no face, it's made from two different fabrics, it has ribbon tags.....the seven-month-old should like it more than the two-and-a-half-year-old. But Kaylie seemed so excited about it and so eager to play with it that I asked her if she would like her own dinosaur, too. Oh, the look on her face....I love that look of unadulterated excitement that kids can get. So Evi became naptime's (and some of the rest of the afternoon's) project.

Meet Evi.

Evi ("inEVItable betrayal") is satin on one side and minky on the other, made from scraps left over from the aforementioned baby-gift project. Her ribbons are a bit more crooked, because I really wanted to finish before Kaylie got up from her nap (I didn't quite make it, but Kaylie enjoyed watching the last few steps of the process before she got to play with her).

Kaylie with both dinosaurs.

Well, at least they were a hit with one kid. And I think they're pretty cute, too. :-)

The snow.

[Originally posted here on January 29, 2014.]

I live in Atlanta.

Yes, we got "the snow."

This is our second Atlanta winter. Prior to that, my last fifteen winters were spent in Colorado, Alaska, and northern Indiana. Generally, I walk by all the bundled-up Georgians in Walmart and mentally shake my head and scoff, "This isn't real cold--this is Georgia!" while I brave the barely-below-freezing temperatures in long-sleeves and a fleece jacket. These Georgians can be cute.

But yesterday, it snowed. I mean, I think we might've gotten two whole inches! While life carries on like normal in two feet of Alaskan snow, two inches here was enough to shut the city down. My husband left work early at 12:30 yesterday, and what should have been a half-hour commute (at most) took him three and a half hours. Today, there are thousands upon thousands of abandoned vehicles on the roads, left behind by people who ran out of gas from idling so long or preferred to walk to shelter; stranded commuters booked every hotel in the area last night and even camped out at retail stores and strangers' houses. I even read there was a baby born in traffic yesterday.

It's ridiculous, I know. But in my city's defense, Atlanta is not used to snow, and therefore is not equipped for it. They don't keep the resources and personnel on hand to clear snow and salt or gravel the roads (and they shouldn't--there are better ways to spend tax dollars than preparing for weather we almost never get). And while it may be easy for us northerners to shake our heads in disbelief at how little these Atlantans know about driving in a dusting of snow, I will point out that there is a huge difference between driving on salted/gravelled roads and driving on nothing but snow and ice. I learned how to drive in Alaska, where studded tires are a must in winter; I used to think Indiana drivers were complete and utter wusses in winter, until my first non-studded experience nearly skidding through an icy intersection at a red light. Driving on unsalted, icy roads is much the same; it's far more treacherous than those of us who are used to salt and gravel would expect.

But, on the up-side......

One of my very few regrets about moving to the South is that the thought of my kids growing up without snow in the winter. No sledding? Snowball fights? Snowboarding, or snowmen? So I was very excited that we could take Kaylie outside to play in our little dusting yesterday!

Snow! ...What do I do?

She was very excited at the prospect of playing in the snow she saw from her window, but once we bundled her up and got her outside, I don't think she knew what to do with it.....

There's snow on our new van!

So, in typical Kaylie fashion, she wiped the snow off of our van! Because it shouldn't be there.  I've been corrected by my husband: She put snow on the tires, because apparently our tires need snow on them in order to drive.  (Yesterday and today, every time she looks out the window, the first thing she says is, "There's snow on our new van!")

Kaylie's version of a snowball.

Casey encouraged her to try to throw snowballs. And she tried to make a snow angel. She came in covered in melting snow, but she had a blast.

And, the cold weather was a great opportunity for me to try out my new heat-transforming TARDIS mug!

It disappears!

The hot chocolate made the TARDIS disappear from the streets of London! I could almost hear it while I watched it fade....

...and reappears!

The TARDIS reappears on the other side of the mug, amidst stars and galaxies. I think I'm going to get back into drinking coffee again.....

Cheesy Chicken Packets.

[Originally posted here on January 24, 2014.]

This is one of my all-time favorite go-to recipes.  We typically eat it at least once a week.  It's quick and easy, and I always have all the ingredients stocked except for the crescent rolls.

Cheesy Chicken Packets.

You've probably seen similar versions on Pinterest and elsewhere.  This one is my own combination of primarily this version and a friend's cheesy chicken casserole recipe.  I haven't tried any other versions, but this idea is very customizable, so play around with it!

Here's what you'll need:


  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 5-6 oz cooked chicken (you can buy a 5 oz can, or split a 12.5 oz can into two servings like I do)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste

Preheat your oven to 350.

Drain the can of cooked chicken (and divide into two portions, if using a large can).  Dump the chicken into a medium-sized bowl.

I usually shred the chicken with my fingers, but you can leave it in larger chunks if you prefer.  I don't really like the taste of meat, so my goal is to help that chicken hide in all the cheese.

Add the cheddar and the milk to the bowl of chicken.  (That's a 1/2 tablespoon pictured, because all my tablespoons seem to have disappeared from my kitchen.  Drat.  But use a whole tablespoon.)

Mix well.

Open the package of crescent rolls and unroll them into four rectangles; lay them flat on a greased cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together to prevent gaps.

(If you are doubling the recipe or using a smaller cookie sheet, you could alternatively form each packet one by one on a plate and arrange them on the cookie sheet once they're filled and sealed.)

Spoon gobs of cheesy chicken goodness onto one half of each rectangle.

Leave room around the edges of each pile.

Fold each rectangle over the filling and press the edges together to seal it.  Use your fingers to flatten each packet a little bit as you go.

All sealed shut!  I like to rearrange mine to line up all pretty, but that's just me.

Microwave the butter in a small bowl to melt it.

Like so.

Brush each packet thoroughly with the melted butter.

Sprinkle each packet liberally with bread crumbs.  I recommend using lots.

Ready to bake!

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the packets are golden-brown.

Like so.

Mmmm!  Ready to eat!

Enjoy!  I'd love to hear your variations on the packet idea!

Here's the recipe, for your cut-and-paste convenience:

Cheesy Chicken Packets

  • 1 package crescent rolls
  • 1 can (5 oz) cooked chicken (or half of a 12.5 oz can)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • Italian bread crumbs, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Unroll crescent rolls and divide into four rectangles on cookie sheet.  Press diagonal seams together.
  3. In bowl, mix chicken (pulled into smaller pieces, if desired), cheddar, and milk.
  4. Spoon chicken mixture onto one half of each rectangle.  Fold rectangle in half to cover chicken mixture and press edges to seal shut.
  5. Brush packets with butter and coat liberally with bread crumbs.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes (or until golden brown).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The trouble with Amazon.

[Originally posted here on January 23, 2014.]

We needed to place an order on Amazon this week, so I started browsing for things to bump us up to free shipping.  One "Dr. Horrible" DVD, a "Buffy" CD, a "Firefly" decal for our van, and a heat-transforming TARDIS mug later, and the thing we needed was no longer in stock.

I placed the order anyway.

Well played, Amazon.  Well played.

(We also needed sleep sacks for Wil.  I got those, too.  I'm not totally irresponsible....)

DIY Menu Board: A Tutorial.

[Originally posted here on January 19, 2014.]

Time for my first tutorial!

DIY Menu Board.

I have my hands full with a two-and-a-half-year-old and a six-month-old, so menu planning is a necessity if we're going to eat anything that isn't microwaveable.  Otherwise, I forget to make dinner until it's time to eat dinner....

I've seen a number of creative menu boards on Pinterest (who hasn't?), so I decided to try my hand at making one myself.  I wanted to be able to plan a full week at a time, I wanted to be able to plan multiple dishes for a single meal, and I wanted nothing hand-written (I'm a perfectionist, and my handwriting isn't perfect enough for me).  So here is the board that I made to work for me.

Here's what you need:


  • A large frame (mine was a float frame from Target)
  • Scrapbook paper (from Joann Fabric & Crafts)
  • Clips (seven--one for each day) (two four-packs from Walmart)
  • Letter stickers (to spell the days and "menu") (from Joann's)
  • Organizer bin (for entree/dish cards) (from Target)
  • Not pictured: entree/dish cards (made from index cards and scrapbook paper)
  • Not pictured: washers (if your clips are magnetic like mine, you will need washers if the magnets are set back into the bottom of the clip...I'll explain when I get there) (from Walmart)


  • Mod Podge glue
  • Foam brush
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Super glue (suitable for glass)
  • Uber helpful: paper cutter thingy, for straighter lines!
Let's get started!

Step One: Measuring

Step one: Measuring.
Lay out everything in your frame approximately where you will want it to go on the final product.  (If you only divide up your frame into seven sections for days--no bin at the bottom--you will need to be very precise in your measurements and in cutting so that your final strip is not fatter or skinnier than the rest!  Adding one unique element--like my bin, or a header or space for a quote or grocery list--is helpful in giving you a little wiggle room.)

Step Two: Cutting

Step two: Cutting.
Once you know how wide each section needs to be, begin cutting strips of scrapbook paper to go between the glass.  I chose two different patterns of scrapbook paper that complemented each other; you could use as many colors and patterns as you like.  But it is always a good idea to buy more paper than you expect you will need!  I managed to mutilate almost an entire sheet before I realized I was using the wrong blade to cut it; fortunately, I waaay overbought since JoAnn's was having a sale on scrapbook paper the day I went shopping.

Since I had a little wiggle room, I cut my strips slightly wider than I needed them, so that I could overlap them just a hair.  That prevented gaps between the strips from imperfect cutting.  I would especially recommend overlapping like this if you are cutting by hand with scissors.

Check to make sure everything fits before gluing!
Before you begin gluing, double-check how everything fits together.  Re-cutting paper is far less work than removing glued paper from the glass if your measurements are incorrect!

Step Three: Gluing

Step three: Gluing.
Remove the backing from the frame.  If you are using a float frame like I did, you will glue your scrapbook paper to the back piece of glass; if you are using a standard frame, you will glue your paper to the backing or a piece of cardboard cut to fit, or you could glue the front of the paper to the back of the glass.  I suppose you could even glue it on top of the front piece of glass, but I like the multi-dimensional depth of having a layer of glass between the paper and the stickers and clips.

(I'm not a Mod Podge expert.  I had some leftover glue from a project a few years ago, but I am not the person to ask about which type of glue is best for a project like this.)

View from the underside.
I cut my scrapbook paper the appropriate height top-to-bottom, but I didn't trim the sides until after gluing.  I found it worked well to line up one side of the paper with the edge of the glass, and then I went back and cut the extra paper from the other side with scissors after the glue had dried a bit.

Glue, glue, glue.
Next, I coated the entire thing with a layer of Mod Podge.  I did not take great care to be sure that every edge and corner laid perfectly flat, since the front piece of glass would go over the glued paper.

Step Four: Framing

Step four: Framing.
Once the scrapbook paper is completely dry, reassemble the frame.

Step Five: Stickering

Step five: Stickering.
I used letter stickers on top of the glass to label each day.  Other options would be to sticker the scrapbook paper before reassembling the frame, hand-writing the days onto the paper or the glass, or using dry-erase markers to label days (a good idea if you often meal-plan mid-week or your schedule fluctuates).

I laid out the clips, with cut index cards, on the board before stickering, so I knew how much room I had to work with.  Originally I had planned to spell out entire days, but "Wednesday" was just not going to fit!

Step Six: Adding clips

Step six: Adding clips.
First, I measured how far from the left side I wanted my clips; then, I lined up my metal 18-inch ruler along this proposed line and held it absolutely still while I worked.  I very precisely measured the height of each section and marked the exact middle with a permanent maker, right up against the ruler.

Plotting dots.
Dots in a straight line!

Gluing clips.
I used super glue to adhere the clips to the glass, centering each circle on my dots.  Since the clips were magnetic, and rather cheaply made, the magnet part was set back into the metal circle, leaving a gap between the magnet and the glass while the circle's metal edge is against the glass.  The clips began pulling off with some use, so I went back and glued metal washers, slightly smaller than the circle, between the magnets and the glass.

Step Seven: Adding the bin

Step seven: Adding bin.
This was the one thing I didn't measure to death.  I centered it by sight and super-glued that puppy on.

Step Eight: Finishing touches

Step eight: Finishing touches.
I bought raised metallic stickers at JoAnn's for the "Menu" at the top.

Dry faster, dang it!
I let everything dry much longer than I probably needed to.  Being by nature both extra careful and extra impatient can be frustrating sometimes....

Finished menu board!
My menu board is done!

Now for the final step:

Step Nine: Entree/dish cards

Step nine: Entree/dish cards.
This is obviously a very customizable step.  I wanted to be able to display up to three different dishes--one entree and two sides--for each meal.  I also wanted to color-code dishes to easily plan out having an entree, a carb side, and a veggie side, so I could tell at a glance if a week was two carb-heavy or too low on veggies.

Finished entree/dish cards!
I used blank unlined 3x5 index cards.  I cut them in half lengthwise.  For veggie dishes, I used the full length; for carb dishes, I cut off a quarter of the strip and used three-quarters; for meat entrees, I used half of the half.  I measured how much space was viewable on each piece when they were overlapped, taking into account that I would need some room to color-code, and typed up the names of my favorite and most-used dishes in a Word document, using columns and setting the column width to what I needed.  I printed them off, cut them out, cut color strips (of scrapbook paper), and taped it all together with clear packing tape.  Laminating them would have been preferable, but, alas, I don't have the tools for that.

My menu board!
Here it is!  My finished menu board, with a week's worth of meals planned.  I hope you are inspired to plan your own menu board--I'd love to hear about it!