Simple living: What would you keep?

This morning there was a feature on the Today Show about a couple in Portland (with a very fun and interesting blog) who gave up all but 100 possessions, downsized to a 400 square foot apartment, and got rid of their car. See below:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Of course it got me thinking. We live in such a materialistic society… would we really be happier with less?

My husband has always said that he wants to live simply. And I love the idea, but to be honest, I also love stuff. How shallow am I? Ha! But for a while I have been wanting to clean house. So here's my top ten list of things that I absolutely would not give up if I were forced to get rid of everything else besides the bare essentials (which includes at least one car- we live in the most sprawling city in the country- not to mention the hottest!- so a car is a must- even more so with a baby!):

1. My iMac. I make my living by this thing- not to mention it houses all of our music and photographs!

2. My camera.

3. My sewing machine.

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4. My Amma's china set. She bought it one piece at a time while she was working hard and living in Iceland. Priceless!

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5. These two Bibles (yes, I'm cheating): the first I carried down the aisle on our wedding day. The second belonged to Mum Mum.

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6. The artwork that our friend Trish painted that was displayed at our wedding.

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7. My Hummell music box… it's beaten up and cracked and worth nothing to anyone but me, but I used to fall asleep to its music every night when I was a kid. It's now in LJ's room.

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8. This photo of Mum Mum and me.

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9. Henry. 

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10. This silhouette of Linnea:

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I'll tell you what, this exercise sure does make you realize how much crap is sitting around in your house that is completely ignored and also makes you realize that perhaps you don't need all this stuff after all. But then again, even though we could get rid of so many things and never miss them, it's hard to imagine a virtually empty house… my head might explode. Is that wrong? Maybe we need a smaller house so it will feel more full with only the things we need… hmmm… I don't know. Either way, I prefer to live in a home that has character because of its decor. Do I need the decor? Nope. But because it's something I personally love- to be surrounded by beauty- it's meaningful enough to me to warrant staying in my home. Cody and I also love entertaining- so that requires a fair amount of kitchen ware and enough place settings for everyone. It's all a matter of what your priorities are- and that's different for everyone.

It's the things sitting in my closet that I haven't seen in ages that I question. And lots of other things.

Stuff isn't what makes me happy ultimately… it isn't what makes anyone happy. My family and friends and the experiences we share together are what bring me joy, and I'm sure you would say the same of your own. I think it's about time to start cleaning out our closets, organizing, and passing along the things we don't really need to others who would appreciate and have a need for them.

So what are your thoughts on this? What are some of the things you would never give up?

p.s. I think I would die without a car in Portland. Have you BEEN there? SO MUCH TO DO AND EXPLORE.

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Cloth diapering FTW!

That's "for the win," in case you weren't ITK ("in the know") with the Twitter lingo.

As you know (what the heck is this, a poetry contest? With all the rhyming?), we made the jump into full-time cloth diapering and… wait for it… it's been fantastic! I seriously can't say enough good things about it. When I was out of town, I decided not to bring the cloth diapers because I was sure my BFF wouldn't want to deal with poopy diapers in her washing machine, and boy did I miss them! I especially missed them when I was burping Linnea and she pooped, and then peed, and IT CAME OUT THE FRONT AND GOT ALL OVER MY SHIRT. Yep, I've never missed anything more in my life. The sad thing is that the expensive disposables are the only ones she didn't leak out of on a regular basis, and they still didn't do the job.

That being said, there is no comparison between any disposable I've tried and the Fuzzibunz one-size diapers we invested in. We got a screaming deal from Go Go Natural when they were clearancing out the old color collection to make room for the new Fuzzibunz colors. Typically, when you buy larger quantities of Fuzzibunz at most retailers  – in our case, 12 or more – you get a $1.00 off per diaper. So we ordered 28. And then we got 15% off on top of that! SCORE! The $700+ investment we were preparing for ended up being less than $450, and she is set for the rest of her diapering days! And so are any future kids we may have. And they work better than any disposable we tried – and we tried many. Ahh, it's a beautiful thing.

Not to mention… her li'l fluffy bum could not possibly be any cuter in these cloth diapers if she tried. We got a slew of colors so she'll always be coordinated. Check her out:

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The laundry process is for a whole other blog. So stay tuned, and I'll keep you ITK.

By the way, the bow she is wearing is a very special bow. It's called the Taylor Bow, and it was made in honor of a tiny baby girl who died of SIDS in mid-April at five months of age. All proceeds were donated to Taylor's family. You can read their story and find additional links here, and I purchased the bow here (I didn't realize it sold out- otherwise I would have posted the info so much sooner!).

Novice cloth diapering.

When we found out I was pregnant, Cody and I immediately began stocking up on diapers at the recommendation of… well… every parent we knew. We stocked up on size ones because we didn't know what to expect as far as what her weight would be, and most people had big babies, and we might too, and even if we had a small baby she would eventually grow into the size ones so let's just go with that. And before we knew it, we had a closet full of size one diapers, mostly the value brand from Fry's. Dirt cheap and we heard they work just as well as the more expensive brands!

Not so for us. Apparently we have a little diaper snob on our hands. Sad, sad day.

As soon as Linnea grew into the size ones (three months after she was born!), we ripped into the packages, stoked to try out the cheap diapers because, what can I say, it doesn't take much to excite us these days. Cheap diapers that work is pretty rad to a new set of parents. But her first night into it, she woke up in a puddle of her own pee. Poor baby. Poor Mom and Dad. Poor Mom and Dad's bank account.

So we had two options: spend big bucks on the diapers that work… or start a gradual investment in cloth diapers. At the rate our child goes through diapers, the thought of bankruptcy via Pampers started to sink in, and I started to revisit the cloth diapering idea. If you remember, it was an idea we tossed around for a while but never fully embraced. We had visited Wildflower Diapers up in Scottsdale but weren't married to the cloth diapering trend… yet. They were very helpful and answered all of our questions, and we were able to narrow it down to the type of diaper we wanted to invest in if we decided to make the leap and commitment it required to cloth diaper Linnea. 

Last week, we made our first purchase: a pair of Fuzzibunz One-size Pocket Diapers in pink. In order to diaper full-time, we need to purchase at least 24 (and maybe even 36, because apparently THE UNIVERSE IS IMPLODING any time Linnea has even the slightest wet diaper), so we decided that we will use my income for that purpose until we have everything we need. The colors we get from here on out will be gender-neutral, which- I'm not gonna lie- kind of breaks my heart a little bit, but I know it's better to go that route instead of buying all the girly colors like I want to. I'm already itching to have another baby (but we're not any time soon… just saying. We'll be diaper-ready when the time comes), and the thought of never having to drop another dime on diapers for our kids is definitely an appealing one!

The poop, on the other hand… not so much. I know that people cloth-diaper all the time and there was a time when that was the only option anyone had, so it's not like it's this impossible thing. But my two biggest reservations about this whole ordeal is the poop and cloth-diapering on-the-go. But have no fear, dear readers. Cody and I will be brave and face the Poop Demon head on. Because you know it's coming.

YOU KNOW IT'S COMING.

***

Are you a cloth-diapering mama? I want to hear from you! Share your experience with my readers and me and tell us what you love (and maybe even what you hate) about cloth-diapering your little one.

Silhouette.

Once of my favorite Etsy shops, Le Papier Studio, specializes in "Elegant Silhouette Creations" ranging from wall art to pillows and even necklaces. I'm still working on redecorating my office on a very slim budget, and have a bunch of frames from Goodwill that I plan to paint white and fill with family photos for a wall gallery. Then I came up with the idea to make my own silhouette of Linnea to add to the collection. I painted the frame and mat white, traced a photo of her that I took while she was sleeping, cut it out of black paper using an Xacto knife, and put it on a beautiful piece of pink damask scrapbook paper. It was a fun project that turned out beautifully, although if you want an expert to do it, head on over to the Le Papier Studio and request a custom order. I personally want a necklace! Mother's day gift, perhaps? (HINT, HINT.)

So I turned this (Awwww…):

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Into this!

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The office is still a work-in-progress, but I'm wrapping it up and will be posting pictures in the near future!

Easter dresses.

Having a baby girl is license to start wearing cute matching outfits again- something I used to love doing when I was little, and would probably still do if it wasn't completely ridiculous to do as an adult (as in two adults wearing matching outfits- and not because they're on the same sports team). A while back, I set out to make this shirt into a cute dress for Linnea:

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And it suddenly dawned on me that it must become her first Easter dress! And not only that, but it is imperative that we have matching dresses! 

Because I can. So what.

I dug through my fabric stash for the perfect springtime floral print, and happened upon a cute woven micro-floral in soft cotton with tiny blue, lavender and PINK (yay) flowers on it, one of many fabric cuts given to me by my dear Amma. I cut a pattern using a little dress Linnea already had, grabbed some black binding to match the tank top that would serve as the top of my dress, and voila! Matching mommy/baby Easter dresses!

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Please forgive the quality of the picture- it was a cell phone camera shot.

I had some leftover fabric from the tank top, which was perfect for a little headband to match her dress. I sewed on some fabric yoyos and satin-covered buttons for anthropologie-style detail. It was super easy, and although Linnea is growing so fast that she probably won't even wear the dress again, I can still rock mine and she can keep rocking the headband 🙂 Another great thing about making our own dresses? It didn't cost a penny!

Happy Easter, everyone! He is risen, indeed!

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p.s. I was laying on my parents' couch in a food-induced coma today when the ground started rockin' and rollin' beneath me. Trippy. Swinging chandeliers and everything. Never experienced an earthquake before so I thought it was kind of a big deal!

Two lasagnas.

I've been known to get the randomest cravings- just ask my husband. He doesn't even try to make decisions about what we eat anymore because he knows that I'll only want what I want when I want it. So one day, he asked me what I wanted… and I was having a craving for vegetable lasagna. Not just any vegetable lasagna, mind you- but something similar to a kind I had once that I distinctly remember tasting sweet. (My cravings are obnoxiously specific.) I scoured the interwebs for the perfect vegetable lasagna and found this first recipe I'm sharing with you. And it was SO GOOD! I added some brown sugar and cinnamon to the sauce and it tasted exactly like what I had been craving. It was super easy to make and fed us for three days straight! You can find the recipe here.

Luscious Vegetarian Lasagna

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients:

8 ounces lasagna noodles

1 can (14-1/2 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped

1 can (12 ounces) tomato sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1 teaspoon dried basil

Dash black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 small zucchini, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 cups 1% milk-fat cottage cheese

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Parsley sprigs for garnish

Preparation:
1. Cook lasagna according to package directions; drain.

2. Place
tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, oregano, basil and black pepper in
medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low.
Simmer, uncovered, 6 to 10 minutes.

3. Heat
oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir onion and
garlic until onion is golden. Add zucchini, carrot, bell pepper and
mushrooms. Cook and stir 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are
tender. Stir vegetables into tomato mixture; bring to a boil. (This is where I added the brown sugar and cinnamon. I just eyeballed it, but I would say about 2 tsps of brown sugar and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon.) Reduce
heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine cottage, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses in large bowl; blend well.

5. Spoon
about 1 cup sauce in bottom of 12X8-inch baking pan. Place a layer of
noodles over sauce, then half the cheese mixture and half the remaining
sauce. Repeat layers of noodles, cheese mixture and sauce.

6. Bake lasagna 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley.

(Other vegetables can be added or substituted for the ones listed above)

Tex Mex Lasagna

The other lasagna recipe that's been a hit around the house is one I make often for guests and every time they have requested the recipe. Plus, it's vegetarian-friendly and VERY budget-friendly! I love me some green onions, so I pile those on the top for garnish- enough to have some in every bite. I found this in The Best of Cooking Light: Superfast Weeknight Dinners.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup bottled salsa (any kind and any temperature you prefer)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (14.5 oz.) can no salt-added diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz.) can no salt-added tomato sauce
Cooking spray
6 pre-cooked lasagna noodles (I cut them to fit the pan and use the leftover to fill in the extra spaces)
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups (8 oz.) pre-shredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients; spread 2/3 cup sauce in bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; top with 1/2 cup corn and half of the beans. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheese; top with 2/3 cup sauce. Repeat layers once; top with remaining 2 noodles. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese. Cover and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes or until noodles are tender and sauce is bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes. Sprinkle with onions.

Makes 4 servings.

Let me know if you try these and how they turn out! We like them so much around here I usually buy the fixings to make them each time I go to the grocery store. Enjoy!

Advice on cloth diapering, please…

To cloth or not to cloth…that is the question.

I've been looking more into cloth diapering recently and have to admit that I am still a bit intimidated by the whole thing, mainly because- not gonna lie- I don't deal well with what is contained in the diaper itself. I've heard awesome things about cloth diapers, and have done some research on sites like Wildflower Diapers in Scottsdale- which I can't wait to visit in person- but I need some advice from moms out there who have actually done it or are currently.Things I wanna know:

Do you love it or hate it?
What's the biggest challenge?
Is it more of a hassle than it's worth?
Do you ever mix it up with disposables- for example, is it an inconvenience to deal with cloth diapers when you're out and about?
Any inkling on what your child prefers?
Did you find it more or less expensive than disposable diapers?

Because at the rate our 6-lb. child is going through disposables, she is going to bankrupt us before she's potty trained! Ha! She is completely worth it but COME ON. I figure there has to be a better way to do this thing. 

So shoot me a comment with your thoughts! I'd love to hear what you have to say- and you'll really help me make the right decision moving forward.

Wildflower Diapers