Monday, March 15, 2010

Back again!

Hey all! Sorry for the last absence but this time it was for a good reason! My little girl was born on 2/22 and we in the MbM household have been taking our time getting back up to speed.... we're not at 100% yet (as seen by the state of my floor and the dust accumulating on my desk as I type) but we're getting there.

Now that I'm back into the swing of baby things I thought I'd get back to something I love to do -- write reviews! To give you guys a preview of what's coming up, let me list some of the reviews I have planned:

*Newborn Cloth Diapering -- BumGenius 3.0 vs. Bumgenius Organic vs. MonkeySnuggles vs. GDiapers

*Moby Wrap

*Bravado Nursing Bras -- Body Silk vs. Original

*Nursing Tanks -- Glamourmom vs. Gilligan O'Malley nursing tanks

plus a ton of other stuff from CitizenPip (a child's lunch set), Britax and more :)...

First in the line up will be the cloth diaper comparison... look for it tomorrow!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How running has changed my life...

Some of you may know that I'm an avid runner -- I kept running three-mile runs until I hit 34 weeks into my pregnancy with Kate (when everything... energy, knees, pelvis, back... gave out and up).

What you guys don't know is that, before a few years ago, I hadn't run since... oh... high school (and even then I did it grudgingly).

I read something earlier about a contest on Track Shack's blog (a local running store) about how running changed your life... and I started reflecting on it...

Way back when, in college, I tried to keep myself in decent shape. I ran stadiums and took the occasional tour around campus, but my eating habits were atrocious (as most college students are). I graduated from college, started a high stress job and met my eventual husband. Things started slowly going downhill. I met my husband at 21 and 125 (ish) pounds... married him at 23 and 130 pounds... and became pregnant with my son at 26 and 143 pounds. In five short years I had gained close to 20 pounds -- an average of 4 a year. My heart routinely rested at 95 beats per minute and tacchycardia wasn't abnormal for me. Walking up a flight of stairs was an occasion for a racing heart and heavy breathing. In addition to the weight I was carrying, I gained an *additional* 43 pounds, making my weight a whopping 186 at the time I was admitted to the hospital to give birth to my son. Keep in mind, I am only 5'4'' tall. My blood pressure was routinely in the 150/90 range and it even got to the point where my OB threatened bed rest if I couldn't lower my blood pressure on my own. My labor was complicated and ultimately resulted in a c-section -- a disappointing, but not altogether unexpected (considering my health), turn of events for me and something that has truly bothered me since my son was born. Relatively soon after my son was born I had my first abnormal EKG... at 27 years old.

My father has been on high blood pressure medication since he was 27. He has had multiple heart attacks. Diabetes runs rampant throughout both sides of my family. My grandfather died of a heart attack when he was only 50. I look at my father and wonder if he'll be there to see his first grandchild turn 10... nevermind graduate high school or get married.

I looked at my father and son and realized something -- if I wanted to see my grandchildren graduate from high school, I had to make changes. Not a diet but a significant lifestyle change.

I reduced my red meat consumption and increased the amount of fish that I ate. I switched to more lean cuts of meat (such as extra lean pork loin instead of pork shoulder). I became a dedicated label reader and outlawed anything with the words "partially hydrogenated" and "high fructose corn syrup" from our household. I switched to mostly organic foods -- especially dairy, packaged goods and eggs. I started buying fresh produce instead of canned and reduced the amount of butter in our cooking. I lowered our sodium intake by only purchasing low or no sodium canned goods and soups. I try to bake more instead of buying processed goodies. I make switches like substituting greek yogurt instead of sour cream in many recipes (unless my husband, who doesn't have the health concerns I did, pitches a fit).

But that was only a start.

I began slowly, by pushing my son in his stroller up and down the block. I increased my distance and soon we would walk a mile or more. Then, I began to jog with him in the stroller (taking frequent walking breaks at first). The first time I could jog around the block (which, in my neighborhood means 1.5 - 2 miles) without stopping to walk, I was elated. Eventually, over the course of a few years, I moved to a treadmill and routinely began running 5 - 6 miles on an almost daily basis. When my son started part-time preschool at a local Montessori, I joined a gym and started weight training and diversifying my work out routine. It helped to build muscle and increase my speed -- soon I was able to run a 24 minute 5K on the treadmill.

So, how did running change my life?

Thanks to the dietary changes, breastfeeding my son and the walking/jogging regimen, I was back down to 140 pounds in around a year and I lost even more weight after that. Before getting pregnant with Kate, I weighed between 120 and 123 pounds and my body fat percentage was excellent. I actually had close to a six-pack (which I'd *never* had before, even in high school). My blood pressure was routinely in the 105/65 range and my resting heart rate was in the upper 60s. My cholesterol was actually low the last time because the "bad" cholesterol levels were lower than normal -- a very, very good sign. My heart has no arhythmeia anymore and RUNNING up flights of stairs is no longer enough to wind me (well until lately).

But the best thing of all -- I FEEL amazing.

My last pregnancy was horrid. Every little awful thing bothered me -- I was miserable. The difference between my last pregnancy and this one is literally night and day. I actually competed in my first 10K at 20 weeks and finished at 71 minutes. I didn't even take a walk break until after I passed the three-mile-marker. I ran a 5K at 25 weeks and finished with a 29 minute time. My last 'official' 5K was at 30 weeks and my time was around 32 minutes. I kept running three miles around my neighborhood until I just got too uncomfortable running to keep going. I've been more active in this pregnancy than I was in the entire five years between graduating college and having my first child and it's solely the result of how great I feel. I was lucky to GET OFF THE COUCH during my first pregnancy nevermind actually take a walk around the block.. I was tired, miserable, hefty and uncomfortable. Do I believe that the difference in the way I feel is directly tied to my health? Absolutely. I have gained around 30 pounds this pregnancy (well within the healthy range for someone at normal weight), my resting heart rate is normal and my blood pressure is still in a terrific range. My blood work is all looking wonderful.

While changing my diet was an integral part of fixing my health before massive problems arose, I don't believe I could be in this great shape today unless I changed my exercise habits as well. Running provided me with a calming (and competitive) outlet. It helped to relax me on the days when my stress levels would rise while helping me fill some of the competitive fire I lost when I became a stay-at-home mom. Running has fulfilled me physically *and* mentally. It improved my self-confidence because I can look in the mirror and not feel ashamed of what I see. Running has also allowed my son to see that normal, healthy people make fulfilling exercise a part of their daily lives -- something I hope he will carry with him his whole life. He *loves* to come to races with me and thinks the children's runs that Track Shack puts on are ridiculously fun.

Running is cheap, easy therapy. Sun, rain, hot, cold, conditions don't matter. Bad day? Run it off. Indulged a bit too much? Run another mile or two and don't feel guilty.

Before, the idea of running made me want to cry. I'd probably put chinese water torture on my list of THINGS TO DO TODAY before I'd put running... now I can't wait to have my baby so I can get back to the treadmill and the open road. I'm planning on running my first half-marathon in early October (Disney's Wine and Run) and am looking forward to training for my first triathlon.

Honestly -- running has truly made my life better. I'm happier, more fulfilled, more energetic, more active and more satisfied. You never really realize how much poor health impacts your mental state until you totally change your lifestyle. My outlook on life wasn't good -- I wasn't really figuring I'd make it to my 70s, so I seemed to do everything I could to make sure I didn't. I suffered from bouts of insecurity and depression because I wasn't happy with the way I felt or the way I looked. I feel like I can be a better mother to my son and wife to my husband because I feel so much better around myself and my life in general.

The best part is that I'm not an anomaly. Anyone and everyone can do this, it just takes determination.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Recipe Time!

If there's one thing you should know about me it's that I *love* to bake. It must be the scientist-geek in me coming out. A lot of times I'll find recipes that I'm just not in love with, tinker with them and try them out on unsuspecting people. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't... and one of my favorite things to do is take a ridiculously unhealthy recipe and make it just a little healthier.

This is one of those times.

It all started when I couldn't decide which I'd rather eat -- oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies... so I decided to combine them. I think the results were pretty darned good -- what do you all think?

Please note: as I had to explain this to the hubby... this is much more on the side of an oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips in it than a chocolate chip cookie.

Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Cookies

*1/2 c unbleached, all purpose flour
*1 c whole wheat flour
*1/2 t baking soda
*1/2 t salt (can even cut down to 1/4 or even omit if on a sodium restricted diet)
*1/2 c butter, softened
*1 c dark brown sugar
*1/2 c sugar
*1/2 c unsweetened, all-natural applesauce (bonus points if it's enriched with Vit. C)
*2 t vanilla extract
*2 eggs
*3 c rolled oats
*1 c chopped pecans (can omit this)
*1/2 c dark chocolate chips
*1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (you can play with the ratio here)

#1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees
#2 Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
#3 Cream the butter and both sugars in a mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add in the applesauce and vanilla and mix to combine. Beat in eggs one at a time until just incorporated. Lower the speed to low on your stand mixer and slowly add in the dry ingredient mixture. Mix until just blended. With a wooden spoon or spatula, mix in the oats, pecans and chocolate chips by hand.
#4 Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls (or small tablespoonfuls) on to ungreased cookie sheets.
#5 Bake for 12 minutes or until the tops are slightly golden. Let cookies sit for five minutes on cookie sheets, then cool on wire racks.

Makes around 48 medium-sized cookies.

These aren't necessarily "healthy" cookies, but they're not too bad on the cookie/snack scale. A good indulgence once-in-a-while that has a nice balance of nutrition (in iron and fiber) and sweetness. As approximations (going off of the nutritional labels on the back of my ingredients), you're looking at the following nutritional info for TWO cookies, assuming you made 48 total:

216 cal, 11 g fat (5 g sat. fat), 71 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 3.5 g protein, and 7 mg potassium...

Obviously this is going to adjust more/less based off the number of cookies you actually make. Remember, though, that a lot of baking is variable... You can cut out the salt and cut the sodium down to 32 mg per serving (or cut it down to 1/4 and you'll have 51 mg sodium)... You can cut the number of chocolate chips in half and save yourself 23 cal, 1.5 g fat (1 g sat), 3 g carbs (2.7 g sugar)... though I like the sweetness the chips add... or you can eliminate the pecans (something the husband would vote for, since he's not fond of nuts and they're not integral to the recipe) and save yourself 36 cal, 3.5 g fat (.333 sat), .67 g carb per serving.

Personally, I think these are delicious cookies... not overwhelmingly sweet (especially with half dark chocolate)... moist and chewy... plus, using whole wheat flour and rolled oats gives you a nice helping of whole grains to go with the healthy unsaturated fats that the pecans give you.

So, what do ya think?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Etsy Seller Review of the Month (or whenever)

I've decided that I'd like to help my fellow Etsy sellers out a bit and do an "Etsy Seller Review of the Month" on my blog... I do a decent amount of shopping on there (especially for Christmas) so I have ample people that I want to recommend to my friends and readers.

Now, whether it'll really be *every* month is up in the air... ;)

Anyway, February's seller is TheFigLeaf.

So... How did you find her?

Honestly, I've been eyeing her stuff for a long time (she's been on my favorite seller list since June or July, at least). I love her iPod Nano holders but I never worked up the willpower to order something pretty/non-necessary for myself. This Christmas she was brought back to my attention when she was a Featured Seller at the exact time I was shopping for presents for friends and family. I found a really cute four pocket wallet for a teenage cousin of mine and decided to make a custom order request for a cream/red iPod holder as a Christmas present to myself.

I was so impressed with her that I decided to make another order with both a single pocket wallet for my preschooler (who will start receiving an allowance very soon) and my Valentine's Day gift (thanks, honey!). I requested one of her larger, clutch-style wallets to match the iPod holder. When I'm impressed with a seller enough to go back and order *again*, you know they're quality.


Customer Service: I contacted her about the custom order and purchased the wallet... even with the crush of orders she received from the Featured Seller bump, she still answered my convos in a timely manner (which matters a lot to me). She is wonderfully friendly and completely willing to customize designs to suit your needs. Once the custom order was done, I purchased it on Etsy and she sent it quickly. Her items come wrapped in a sturdy, tan paper and tied with a thin rope. They're well-wrapped and shipping isn't unreasonable for the items (one of my *biggest* pet peeves).

In the two orders I've placed with TheFigLeaf, I've never been disappointed in any aspect of customer service... which is so refreshing in today's gift-purchasing market.

Quality: Wow... that's all I really have to say. When I saw the wallet and the iPod holder, I was blown away. The craftsmanship is top-notch and the leathers she uses are butter-soft -- I was really surprised at the quality of the leather. Her assembly/stitching is perfect and her creations are definitely built to last. In this age of faux-everything, it's refreshing to see someone taking the effort to create stuff out of natural materials... especially considering she's doing it in a eco-friendly manner by strictly using remnants.

Both items I received (my son's wallet and my own) are wonderful. My son's wallet is a single pocket (since he'll only be getting a few bucks a week, he doesn't need that much space) and came with an elastic band to prevent the money from falling out. It's a great size -- perfect for a driver's license and a few credit cards along with cash -- for the price. I had her make a boat on it (he's huge in to pirates right now and thought a 'pirate ship' would really excite him) and it came out perfectly! My wallet is even more impressive. I ordered it because I'm going to be switching to a large diaper bag and my tiny wallet simply won't be found in its depths... ever... but I've already started using it (and getting TONS of compliments on it wherever I go) because of how beautiful it truly is. It comes with four pockets to hold credit cards, two larger pockets to hold cash or receipts, one large zippered pocket for change, and a pen/checkbook. It closes with a sturdy snap and even comes with a small ring so you can clip it to the inside of your purse (if you have a clip) or diaper bag.

In addition, I love her designs. She does everything from stamped leaves to stitched designs (I'm partial to the birds, can you tell?). Look through her past sales to really see the range of styles and designs she has done and don't be afraid to ask for a *new* design if you don't see what you want!

Price: I'll be honest -- sometimes I see items online and am shocked at the price (yes, even on Etsy). Mass-manufactured "boutique" items go for insane amounts -- $20 for a bib? Even using organic fabrics, that's ridiculous (and I should know since I buy organic fabrics). I'm sure many items are worth the cost (not the bibs, though) but it's still way outside of my comfort zone. I'm a stay-at-home mom, pregnant with my second, and throwing money away on items just doesn't appeal to me.

That being said, TheFigLeaf is priced wonderfully, insanely well (ie: affordable luxury for everyone, with any kind of budget). Her wallets range from $10.95 for the single-pocket/no elastic design up through $55 for the larger, clutch-style wallets. Her regular, five-pocket wallets (that look more like traditional wallets) cost a very reasonable $24.95 (check out her new design here for a neat four-pocket design with an additional money slot). I do want to note this right now, though, prices are accurate as of the time/date of this blog posting. Prices may increase and may not be accurate when you look at her shop.

Value: You know the saying "you get what you pay for" ? Well, in this instance you get so much more than you pay for. You don't have to worry about shoddy customer service or sub-par craftsmanship with TheFigLeaf -- her stuff will last for years to come. Her leathers will only get more luxurious and beautiful with use (though it does pain me slightly to abuse something so pretty).

Who is this shop for? Really... anyone. Looking for a gift for a teenager? She has iPod holders in tons of different styles and designs, great for boys and girls. Looking for a hard-to-shop-for husband? Her four and five-pocket wallets are a great, functional gift. Environmentally-conscious friend? Her leathers are new remnants (leftovers) and she makes everything by hand at home -- no mass-manufactured items here! Need something for mom? Her larger wallets or beautiful brooches are great for mom, aunt, sister or grandma! Or, just buy for yourself! It's one of the few things I've actually splurged on for myself in years and it was totally worth it.


I've made two purchases from TheFigLeaf and I *will* be back, that's a guarantee. If not for a gift, then probably for a business card holder later in the year. She is one seller I wouldn't hesitate to purchase from again and again. I really can't say enough about her. She's an A+ seller with A+ products at an A+ price. So many times I'll shop on the internet (including Etsy), pay a fair price for something and just be disappointed with the item when it arrives... though it does pain me more when it happens on Etsy itself. It's so hard, when you're dealing with handmade items, to judge the quality based on a few photos and prior feedback (especially since many people leave feedback before they bother to use the items and you cannot go back and change it later... it's happened to me). I hope this review has put those fears to rest about TheFigLeaf. There is a reason she has tons of positive feedback, she's been an Etsy Featured Seller and I've purchased from her twice (and plan on purchasing again) -- she truly combines the best of everything into the quintessential perfect seller. Higher praise is simply impossible to give. :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So, my computer totally ate it.


Gotta love computers... first, my NTFS partition gets corrupted... I fix it and now my RAM has gone completely bad. I want to evaluate some Etsy sellers soon... Hopefully I can :)

Take care!


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seriously need to get caught up here!

Well I'm done with 99.9% of my sewing and let me tell you... the items came out really great -- especially the nursing covers. I'm going to take pictures of them tomorrow and post, along with pics of all my other completions!

Come back and check them out... who knows, maybe you'll find a hot deal ! :)


Monday, January 11, 2010

Projects, Projects, Projects...

Ok, I'll admit it... I'm being totally selfish right now. I'm sewing a bunch of new projects for the baby and I'll be posting how they turn out soon... What's coming up?

A bunch of new burp cloths, bibs and blankets for Kate (and a friend of mine who is having a girl a few weeks after me)... bamboo cloth wipes... and a nursing cover! I can't wait to post pictures :). Oh! And I'm going to try my hand at felting old wool sweaters and turning them into skirts for both the kiddies and adults, along with blankets, pillows and whatnot. Currently I'm ransacking the thrift stores for cheapie wool sweaters (where is the wool tackiness when I need it?!), so those will be up eventually as well !!

Also, I'll be redesigning my blog... I need something funkier!