Low Impact Birthday

 

This past weekend, we celebrated my baby’s first birthday.  His first birthday.  I haven’t any idea where the time went and how it got there without warning me, but it would seem that we are no longer counting his age in detailed weeks and days, but general months and before I know it, he’ll be referred to as a toddler.  Ugh.  Part of me was thrilled to be throwing a party since we haven’t really entertained since Liam was born and if there’s anything I like to do, it’s feed people.  But then, the other side of me was saddened by his growing up and the stunning reality that since I take birthdays very seriously, we are going to be doing this every year for multiple children (hopefully) and this singular event has the very possibility of ruining my comfortable low-impact lifestyle.  What to do?  Here is an outline of each step I made to insure that we had as low an impact party as possible without breaking the bank or putting a damper on the fun.  I’ll be posting recipes this week as well for the food. 
Paper Products:
The planning for this party began way back in the early spring when I started attending other birthday parties and taking notes.  The biggest waste that I saw and wanted to eliminate was the issue of cups, plates and forks.  The options can be overwhelming and for a brief moment, I was lured towards the disposable just because I wasn’t sure what to do.  I don’t know if this happens to everyone, or if the marketing gods smelled my wavering mindset, but about a month ago, I was sent a catalog for paper supplies for birthdays.  They featured just about every character known to man or personalized designs.  At first, I did consider using their products until I realized that for one party, I was going to spend roughly 85 dollars on paper supplies alone for one party!  I passed it along to another mom.  In the end however, I wasn’t able to come up with a cute invite solution that was both memorable and effective, so we wound up doing photo invites to the party since we had invested in a photo shoot and wanted to share. 
I started searching around town and found plates and cups that were themselves recyclable.  They are pretty, and will fulfill a variety of uses.  I bought 3 dozen of each.  Wandering around a party supply store a few weeks ago, I happened upon biodegradable forks
They are supposed to meld into your compost pile in 1 year, so I buried one.  I hope I don’t find it next summer.  I do have beautiful dinner plates that I use when entertaining, but given that we were celebrating a child’s birthday with lots of children, I didn’t want to take a chance that I would have a broken plate in the midst of the celebration.  The plates and cups I bought are dishwasher safe, so they have been cleaned and put away for another time.  I had meant to make more cloth napkins, but didn’t get them done in time, so we used some of these as they were all our grocery had to to offer.  Hardly any were used, so I guess I’ll have them for a long time.  Clean up was a snap, because as I already mentioned, the plates were dishwasher safe and I just put a basket under the table for guest to dump their used dishes, napkins, cups and forks.

Let’s Eat!
Food is another big deal for me.  I wanted to create a menu for my guests that truly reflected our food passions and utilized the resources around us.  We served sloppy joes made with local ground beef, a broccoli cauliflower salad with local produce, bacon and cheese, a fruit salad with seasonal items and I made the cupcakes.  The only “bad” thing in the cupcakes (all 60 of them) were the conventional marshmallows I used to make the fondant.  Not too shabby considering that even the chocolate was fair trade!  I asked my mother-in-law and sister-in-law to help me with the salads and sloppy joes so that I didn’t wind up getting overwhelmed.  In the end, I overestimated how much beef I was going to need and consequently have had sloppy joes for the last 3 lunches.  For drinks, we made lemonade (from concentrate) and had water.  No one went hungry and my in-laws were praised thoroughly for their contributions to the meal!

Decorations:
This was the biggest undertaking of the whole party for me.  When I was growing up, my mother made banners for each of us kids announcing our birthday and hung them on the front door.  After much thought, I decided that I would do the same for my kids.  So I set out to make a banner that I swore I had seen online.  I never found the pattern, but my MIL and SIL were very helpful in the process, brainstorming, cutting fabric and trying different stitches.  I was thrilled to see that we were able to take a pile of fabric and turn it into a beautiful decoration that will last for years to come.  The added bonus was that everything wound up color coordinating between the banner and my tableware.  My aunt came bearing balloons after I had set up for the party, but for future reference, I’m not a fan.  They kept blowing into the pear tree and popping, causing everyone’s heart to stop in panic.  Balloons are not the most practical thing for my backyard. 

Gifts:
People know us well.  Most of the gifts Liam received were wooden or puzzles.  He did, however get a few trucks that were made of recycled plastics and are super cool!  They were mostly presented in gift bags that had been recycled from other events.  I saved them all and smoothed out the tissue paper.  Waste not, want not.  In the future, once Liam is old enough to choose, we may wind up doing a benefit party where we ask people to not bring gifts but to make a donation to a charity.  I’d love for Liam to learn to give back at a young age.  I made all of Liam’s thank yous from card stock and a printed dump truck.   They are not fancy, but they also didn’t require tons of fossil fuels to produce them en masse.  I have a stash of card stock that I plan to let Liam decorate as he gets older to make his own thank yous.  

I felt like the party was a huge success, not only for Liam’s sake, but also in the sense that we didn’t betray who we are just for the sake of a theme or being trendy or doing what’s easy.  I’m glad that I was able to find solutions that will last for years and that in the end, it really wasn’t that much extra trouble.  My parents spent a great deal of time when we were younger planning birthdays and holidays.  I know we never used paper products because I was always doing dishes after each party.  But that experience stuck with me.  Here I am, 20 years later wondering how I can make an investment that will last for as long as I want so that we can spend the time focusing on the birthday boy (or girl) and not filling our landfills with more junk. 

Animal crackers in my soup…

Once upon a time, a new mother thought that it would be simple to provide for her child the best food on the planet.  She ate organic, sustainable, local foods throughout her pregnancy.  Her worst craving was for fresh kale salads.  Once that child was born, she nursed him faithfully even when her body stopped producing, caving to feed him organic formula only because he was hungry.  When the little baby was ready for solid foods, his mama steamed and pureed and mashed everything in sight.  She even tried making her own version of biter biscuits (an epic fail).  Little by little, the baby realized that the food on his parents’ plates was what he wanted and suddenly abandoned all purees in favor of whole solids that he could nosh on with his stunning 6 teeth.  As he was weaned onto whole milk, the mama realized that it was now time to give him an afternoon snack to tide him over until supper.  But what to feed him?  The mama didn’t want to hand her son preservatives at every snack, but she also didn’t want to spend the bulk of her food budget on organic snacks!

I was really surprised how many recipes there are out there in cyberspace pertaining to snacks.  Healthy snacks, guilty snacks, weird snacks.  Most of the healthy ones called for honey, though.  Almost every medical resource I have agreed that children under 12 months shouldn’t have honey because they can contract botulism.  This posed a slight problem given that the honey is used to hold the rest of the dough together.  I don’t like molasses, so that was out and I didn’t want to add another liquid for fear that would make the dough tough.  So I abandoned the idea of homemade teddy graham crackers.  Then one day, I came across a jar of malt barley syrup.  The light came on and I am thrilled to present to you the product of a well-used afternoon naptime for Liam!  These crackers have a graham-like flavor, but are crisper like an animal cracker.  I love them and Liam always points to the jar whenever he sees it now!

Zoo munchers

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat germ
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  •  3/4 tsp. salt
  •  7 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. malt barley syrup (or honey if not using this recipe for a child under 12 months)
  • 5 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into 1 inch pieces and place them in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until fluffy and then gradually  add in the milk, vanilla and syrup.  Mix in the dry ingredients until dough forms a ball around the paddle.  Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in saran wrap.  Chill for a minimum of 2 hours.  (I made the dough during a nap and then shaped them when I had time the next day.  The dough was still fine to work with and didn’t get tough.)  Roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut out shapes.  Freeze the dough for 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool before storing; they keep well for 2 weeks in an air tight container… if your kids don’t know where you hide them!

** I tagged this as a frugal recipe since when I worked out the math, I am saving myself $7.35 a month in graham crackers for Liam.  This includes the price of the barley malt syrup in my calculations.  It honestly takes very little time out of my day and will eventually be something Liam and I can do together!
** Since barley is non-allergenic to most babies, I plan to play around with the end form of the crackers and use this as biter biscuits for my future children. 

Baby food 301

With the introduction of teeth, Liam was super anxious to start chewing on things besides his toys.  It then became an issue of trying to find the perfect balance between food soft enough that he wouldn’t choke, but bulky enough to satisfy his need to bite. Up until he was 8 months old, I was still giving him the finely pureed food and then a rice rusk to play with.  This became a huge disaster because purees and rusks are vile once mixed together.  So I had to get creative with his food.  It began small, but for months 8 and 9, I put fork mashed potatoes or cauliflower or even pastas into the purees. I also spent a lot more time with finger foods like puffs and tiny pieces of steamed broccoli.  

This is also where the mesh feeder became a god-send.  Because Liam had to do everything himself, I was worried about him choking.  Thankfully, I could all the fruits and veggies he desired into this little gadget and he would go to town, mashing and slurping his way to bliss.  

Vegetable Stew:

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 medium potato, baked

Steam the carrots and peas until tender.  Whirl them in your food processor or blender until smooth.  Fork mash the potato until it is mashed but still slightly lumpy.  Mix all 3 ingredients together and freeze.

Freezing the baby food was a challenge for me.  I had purchased an exorbitant amount of ice cube trays several years ago because our fridge doesn’t have an ice maker and we were always running out.  As time passed though, I no longer had 8 trays of cube sitting in the freezer and they were instead piling up in my cupboards.  Initially, I made a large batch of butternut squash and froze it in the ice cube trays.  Then, I popped each cube out and saved them in a freezer bag.  It seemed like a good idea in the beginning, but then I had several different flavors and combinations and it became easier to just leave them in the trays.  Which was great, but then I had to pry them out of each tray with a knife.  So then I saw someone on a blog saving their food in the plastic gerber containers.  Over time, I will confess that I have amassed far more of these containers than I had planned to.  However, they are wonderful for freezing things.  I have erasable markers and write the contents of the container on the lid; the marker stays on the container until I wash it off.  When I want something out of the container, I run it under some hot water to loosen it up and then pop Liam’s dinner out into a bowl to warm up.  (I microwaved a container once and it melted… it totally freaked me out and I never did it again.)  However fantastic this idea is, I’m putting these trays on my wish list.  Mainly because once I froze some plums in the only silicone trays I had and they were a cinch to get out.  And they were in the shape of hearts.  So it was cute.

Baby food 202

Looking for some fun food combinations for your budding foodie?  Here are a few ideas that I tried that were winners with Liam!

  • Broccoli, peas and pears
  • Carrots and apples
  • Carrots, apples, pears
  • Apples, Oatmeal and a dash of cinnamon
  • Carrots, peas and potato 
  • Butternut squash and cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes and apples
  • Peaches and cereal
  • Banana and avocado
  • Homemade yogurt and mango
  • Spinach, peas and apples
  • Avocado, apple and pear
  • Peaches, banana and oatmeal
  • Homemade yogurt, raspberry puree and pear
  • Peaches, apricots, and raspberry

Baby food 201

I could also title this “Introduction to the Early Foods”.  So you call this what you’d like.  As I said yesterday, I started Liam on baby foods at 4 months.  We did applesauce and butternut squash for about a month and a half.  After the Christmas holidays, I started to introduce more and more vegetables and fruits each week.  By Liam’s 7 month birthday, I had introduced all of the following:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Avocado
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Green beans
  • Plums
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes

This is where the fun really began.  Up until this point, I hadn’t mixed any flavors together.  Mainly because I wasn’t sure of what would work.  I got this book out of the library, and this one, and this one.  I also went to the store.  I started to take note of the food combinations that were on the shelves and started to play.  I’m not one to use measurements much when I cook for my husband and I, but when it came to looking for a baby… I wanted everything perfect.  I the end, I wound up using equal measurements of each ingredient and mixing it together.  This recipe was the absolute favorite of Liam’s in the puree eating days (he has since sprouted 7 teeth and no longer deigns to be fed purees), I had to make a full batch every month.

Sweet potato carnival:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled.
  • 1 1/2 cups corn

Scrub the sweet potatoes until all dirt is removed.  Poke holes in them with a fork and then bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a fork can be easily inserted in to the flesh.  Allow the potatoes to cool enough to handle.  (*Note: if you desire, you can bake and puree the sweet potatoes in advance.  They will keep for a few days in the fridge, unpureed or can be frozen as a puree until you are ready to use them.)  In the meantime, boil or steam the carrots and corn.   Remove the sweet potato flesh from the skins and set aside.  Place the carrots and the corn in a food processor or blender with about half a cup of the cooking water.  Puree until smooth.  Add in the sweet potato and any additional cooking water until you are at the consistency you desire.  When I first made this recipe, it was fairly soupy.  After a month, I didn’t have to add as much water and I didn’t puree the sweet potato, I mashed it with a fork.  This  was so that I had some texture for Liam to work with in this mouth since he became obsessed with chewing.  

This recipe makes a large batch of food.  Liam enjoys eating at the table with the rest of us, so we went through a lot of baby food.  I started out freezing the foods I made in ice cube trays, but I must admit that was a huge hassle when I needed to get it back out again.  I have a friend who saves all her formula cans for me so I can recycle them and I asked her to save her plastic baby food containers as well.  Since I used the store-bought baby food when we weren’t going to be home, I just made a point to purchase the containers and not the jars.  More on how that worked for me tomorrow! 

Baby food 101

I think one of the big reasons for my excitement with having a baby was that I would be able to encourage someone’s (healthy) love for food right from the start.  I had visions of me and my baby outside in the garden, taking trips to the farmer’s market, baking bread together.  We’ve done all of these things, but Liam isn’t quite as into it as I had hoped.  He’s loving the garden because it involves dirt and I let him play to his heart’s content… although he has sampled a bit more than I had originally allowed mentally.  He hangs out with me in the kitchen and I’m pleased to say that he seems to be interested in what I’m doing… until he spies the dogs’ water dish and is off to make as a big a mess possible.  So far, grocery shopping has been so fun with him.  I let him pick which cabbage we buy or let him feel the kiwis and he sits in the shopping cart, kicking his legs and pointing at the lights above us.  The only time we’ve ever seen a sour face on any of the trips was when he and I were in Whole Foods and the sprinklers came on over the greens and it scared him.  We purchased an absurdly priced bunch of asparagus just because it calmed him down.  Oh well, it could be worse, right?

Around 4 months, I started chomping at the bit to feed him solids.  Not so much because I thought he would sleep better, but because I was tired of feeling guilty when I ate in front of him.  Liam would lean in and smack his lips like he was starving.  I had some rice cereal on hand, so we tried it.  It was not a hit.  Given the taste, I can’t say that I blame him.  Liam had horrible acid reflux and I wondered if applesauce would help.  I don’t know if he just happened to be growing out of it or it was my awesome, organic, locally grown applesauce that did it, but after a week of trying the apple sauce, we never had another reflux issue.  From moth 4-6, Liam ate from the stash of pureed applesauce and butternut squash in my freezer.  Every now and then, I would think that I would someday be introducing other flavors, but for the time being, I was content.  

After the holidays, we started trying new foods.  When introducing foods to a baby, there is a 4-day wait rule.  I was terrified for the first 3 new things we tried, but have since calmed down and no longer have a migraine the day of a food introduction.  Since I work part time, I tried the new food on Friday morning and then had all day, plus the weekend and Monday to make sure nothing happened.  Nothing ever happened.  For this, I am eternally grateful.  I followed this chart for the 4-6 month food ideas.  At that time, all I had to do was put a fruit or a veg in some water and boil/cook it until tender.  I ran it through my food processor with some of the cooking water until I was pleased with the consistency.  I froze the food in ice cube trays and Liam would usually eat one per “meal”.  Please keep in mind though, that solid food is not meant to take the place of milk during the first year, so if your little foodie doesn’t eat “enough” it’s not worth getting your apron in a knot over it.

By the time Liam reached the end of 6 months, he was a pro with the food.  Only occasionally did he try to grab the spoon from me, he was far more interested in getting that food in his mouth.  My little guy ate anything I put in front of him, except avocados.  He absolutely refused them.  I tried mixing them with bananas, cereal, milk; nothing worked.  Then one day I realized that the pears I was going to make for him had gotten really too ripe and there wasn’t enough to make it worth my while.  Since I hate to waste things, I was trying to figure out a recipe to use them up in when it occurred to me that my mother had a fruit dish that paired apples, pears and avocado together.  At that point, the only thing I was going to lose was the money I had put into the avocados I had purchased, so why not try it?  (For the record, I also dislike loathe avocados.)  Liam ate the whole batch without complaint.  

For the next few days, I have posts coming about baby food from the very beginning to what he’s eating now at 10 months.  Since I felt like an idiot because there was no way it could be so simple, I’d like to assure you, it is.  Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the simplicity of my ideas and I will also begin tagging meals on this blog as to their age friendliness!  Good food habits start now, so let’s feed our children well!

Nutri-grain do over

I had this recipe and the two cookie recipes all typed out and ready to go earlier in the week.  Then my 10 month old decided that my SD card adapter for the computer was his next task for destruction and I didn’t have any photos to go with my posts.  Matt brought me a new adapter the other night, but things have been super hectic this week in our house so I am just now sitting down to publish my work from the week… 11 pm on a Saturday night.  Now, I told you that story but have no photos to show for my efforts on this recipe.  I have made these bars 7 times in the last month, tweaking the recipe a little more each time.  One would think that as much as I’ve made it, I’d have something to show from at least one of the tries, right?  Nope.  It gets eaten far too quickly!

Breakfast is a real challenge for me.  I don’t like it.  It takes up entirely too much of my valuable productive time in the morning and I totally resent it.  However, Liam is a huge fan.  In fact, it’s his biggest meal of the day followed by dinner.  Now that he is eating essentially 100% table foods, sitting down to eat with him makes breakfast a little less burdensome.  I just can’t get into pureed avocado in the morning, although I am in the process of a post on all the things I’ve learned with the pureeing and feeding of homemade baby food.

Anyway, I found this recipe on another blog and posted about it on my old blog.  I’ve since adapted it further so that it’s healthier and has less sugar… I’m not about to set something with lots of sugar in front of a already very busy little guy!  Liam loves this.  I can’t break the bars up fast enough for him!  I started out cutting it into little bit size pieces, but he is now adept enough with feeding himself, that I cut it into slices and he mashes it into his mouth.  I’m a huge fan as well, but I’m far neater when I eat.

Breakfast Crumb Bars

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. wheat germ
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. oats
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp.baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into pieces

These ingredients form your crust and crumb for the bars.  I have no sophisticated method for mixing them together, I simply dump all the ingredients into the bowl of my mixer and turn it on.  The machine works everything until there’s a nice crumb about the size of a pea and then, I stop mixing.  I remove 2 1/2 c. of the mixture and press it into the bottom of a buttered 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish.  This is then baked for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.  In the meantime, I make the filling.

  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 pound of fruit
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

(It should be noted that I have had more fun playing with the fillings for these bars than I did when I was learning to make cheesecakes!  I have made strawberry-rhubarb, blackberry, red raspberry and apple/cream cheese fillings.  Oh!  I just looooove trying variations!)  This batch of ingredients is dumped into a sauce pan and cooked together.  On my recipe card, the note I made was to achieve a “compote-y” consistency.  I like to have a smoothish filling, but still some of the structure of the fruit is there for contrast.  Once you are pleased with the consistency of the filling, pour it over the crust and top it with the remaining crumb mixture.  Finish by baking it for an additional 40 minutes.  The longest this recipe has kept has been a week, sealed in a container in the fridge.  The shortest was 20 minutes at a brunch.  It’s a winner!

Pizza crust I actually want to eat

I’m not too much of a crust eater.  I generally tear mine up and give it to the dogs.  Sometimes, I dunk it in ranch dressing.  I don’t really care how thick and beautiful a pizza parlor claims to make their crust or if you can read newspaper through it.  I’m really here for the cheese.  And green peppers.  Matt had been a bachelor for some time when we met.  I never ate so much pizza as when we started dating.  Once we got married, it was his joke that when he “cooked” it came to the door in a box.  We always order Besta Fasta pizza.  I like that they make theirs fresh daily, so much so that sometimes, their sauce is super mild and other times, it’s so spicy that we are both sent searching for an antiacid!  

As much as I like the option to order pizza out, I still like to have the confidence to be able to whip up a batch at home whenever I like.  I keep pepperoni in the freezer, pizza sauce in the canning cellar and provolone in my fridge.  I like having provolone on my pizza.  If you ask, you’re going to find that many pizza places use a mixture of provolone and mozzerella on their pizzas.  I don’t know how I got started asking, but I did and was thrilled when I realized that that is why their cheese is so mouth-wateringly good!  I make this dough in my bread machine (on the dough setting) because it’s contained in there and I don’t have to worry about getting distracted by a diaper my increasingly dare-devilish child.  If you want to make this by hand, you only need to mix all the ingredients together gently, knead it well and let it rise for about 30-45 minutes in a warm place.  Nothing else needs to change.  Top it with your favorite sauce, toppings and cheese before baking it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  You can get 2 12-inch pizzas with a medium/thin crust out of this recipe or one giant, fluffy crusted one.

  • 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 4 1/4 cups plus 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

**This dough is wonderful baked in the oven on a pizza stone or baking sheet.  It’s also sturdy enough to be prepared and grilled.  I also like this recipe because you don’t need to prebake it.  Just form it, top it and throw it in the oven.  The oven that is heated to 450 degrees.  This is my warning: a pizza stone coming from that oven is going to be hotBe careful.  I barely tapped my arm with fresh-from-the-oven stone 2 months ago and still have a nasty looking burn mark on my arm.  It’s embarrassing to have to explain that you were trying to go from the kitchen to the dining room and ducking around a Johnny Jump-up in the doorway when you burnt your arm.  Just so you know.

To spin a yarn

I know that today is one of our favorite holidays.  Saint Patrick’s day is the one day a year that I make Irish Soda bread and Matt drinks Guinness.  As usual, we had a dinner over at our friend’s house; it was an early evening for us as Liam made it clear when his bedtime hit.  It was a nice holiday.  Today was also laundry day.  In light of that, I have this lovely little post about my green and frugal laundry methods.

I’ve tried everything for our laundry.  I’ve done the all natural laundry detergents, the homemade soap and a very brief attempt at hand washing.  In the end, a friend of mine suggested Soap Nuts.  At first, I thought it was silly.  I couldn’t even say the name without giggling.  I tried a sample and was hooked.  My clothes actually smell clean and I must say that the diapers are in wonderful shape still!  I recently placed a full order and it’s super exciting to just toss the little bag of nuts in my washer and know that I’m not wasting anything.  

Then, we had the issue of the dryer sheets.  With cloth diapers, you can’t use anything extra, so I would get them out of the dryer and they would be in one giant blob from the static.  Even with dryer sheets, our clothes were coming out a disaster laced with electric static.  I overheard a friend talking about her dryer balls and how great they were, so I set out to find out about this wonder.  2 weeks later I was the proud owner of 10 wool dryer balls.  Making them is the easiest thing in the world, so easy that I had to keep checking the directions and even wound up calling my friend to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  I hadn’t, it’s just that easy.

One evening while watching Bones, I sat with my skeen of yarn and started winding it up into a ball roughly golf ball size.  I had a large skeen of yarn (you can only use 100% wool yarn and mine specifically said it was for felting… which is the ultimate end to the yarn) and from it, I made 10 balls.  Then, the next day, I put all the balls into a knee sock and tied the top closed with a small piece of yarn.  I tossed them into the wash with the rest of my laundry.  When the load was done, I took the whole sock and threw it in the dryer, also with the laundry.  For each load of laundry that I did that day, I just kept taking the sock back and forth with the laundry between the washer and the dryer.  At the end of the day, I had stacks of clean laundry and 10 tightly felted balls.  

As the day progressed and I kept washing and drying the balls, I realized that the static cling in my clothes was getting less and less with each load.  Today, I did 4 loads of laundry, one of which was diapers with no static.  I love these things!  You can add a fragrance to the yarn as you are winding it, but I chose not to.  You  can use any color yarn you’d like as well.  I’m boring so I have heather gray dryer balls, but still work as well as a pretty one!  Bonus: they serve as great entertainment for Liam while I’m working!

Homemade Ghee

Another thing to check off my list!  I must tell you that the price difference alone was enough to make me want to try homemade ghee.  A year or so ago, I bought the jar on the right for 12 dollars.  I made the jar on the left for $2.17.  Organic butter doesn’t often go on sale, but when it does, I snap it up!   I cut the butter into small pieces and melted it over a low temperature in a small saucepan.  Once the butter was a liquid, it started to spatter.  I stirred it from time to time to keep it from actually burning, but it spit butter fat all over my stove for about 10 minutes.  Then, the bubbling slowed down until it was nothing and I could see the solids begin to form.  (Alas, I have no photos of this because I was also cooking dinner and making baby food at the same time.)  At this point, I believe that the butter became what you would call “browned”, and it had a wonderful aroma.  I let the butter simmer for another 10 minutes before removing it from the heat.  Once it was relatively cool, I covered my jar with a cheesecloth folded over many times and then slowly poured the butter in.  The solids were thereby strained out and I had a jar of golden, clarified butter.  I left it on the counter to cool completely.  Once it was room temperature, I transferred it to the fridge where it will keep for the next 6 months.  One pound of butter will give you about 1 1/2 cups ghee.  I made Indian food fairly regularly and honestly feel that it tastes better when cooked with ghee.  I’m saving a lot of money making my own, so perhaps I should put that money into a fund for another trip to India!

Resources: Fat by Jennifer McLagan