Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chocolate Chip Snack Bar Recipe

Chocolate Chip Snack Bar
So awhile back I posted about my love for Larabars and how I've gotten crafty in creating some of my own versions of my favorite Larabar flavors, like the one in this post with chocolate and coconut.  Unfortunately with some of my recipes, I love them in the beginning, but after eating them all the time, I get bored...or as I say, "I burn out on them." Anyone else do this? So one day I decided to add some chocolate chips to a basic "cashew cookie" Larabar-like recipe and it turned out great. It's simple, easy to make, delicious, and great for you. Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Chip Snack Bars

Ingredients:
Instructions:

1. Add 1/2 cup chopped cashews to a food processor

2. Blend until they are small crumbs.

Add to a mixing bowl.

3. Next grab your 5 dates...use more or less if you would like.




Check in with your assistant chef...Hi Avery! ( :

4. Now remove the pit out of each date,
and then add the dates to the food processor.

5. Mix in the food processor until a ball forms.


6. Add "date ball" to the mixing bowl.

7. Add 1 Tbs. mini chocolate chips to mixing bowl


8. Mix all ingredients together with your hands..get messy!

9. The mixture will look a bit like this when it's done.

Take some wax paper...eek...not very green I know!
Try to re-use it a few times to make it more "green".


10. Lay some waxed paper on top of the mixture.

11. Press to your desired shape and thickness.


12. Now slice into the size bars you would like...
I cut 3 bars from mine.

The finished product!

Store in a GASP... Ziploc bag! At room temperature.
You could also try a glass Tupperware container to avoid Ziploc.

Hope you like these! And don't feel limited to make the "dough" into bars.  You can roll it into balls, use a cookie cutter to make shapes, or just make one big cookie.  I love to eat these before a workout, as an afternoon snack, and sometimes even for dessert.  Enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

2 Months Old

So this week Avery turned 2 months old, and you know what that means...time for our monthly photo shoot! So I broke out the camera, and the sticker for month #2 and I started snapping away.  I always feel a bit like a stage mom trying to pose her in such of a controlled way (or if you're a fan of The Office, kind of like when Andy and Angela take Jan's baby and try to photograph her in the break room with all the fruits and veggies to be "Nature's Bounty"-lol!).

Look who's turning 2...
months that is!
But, our photo sessions only last about 5 minutes and I make sure she's fed, with a clean diaper, and we take lots of breaks. I think it's all worth it because it is so cool to see the growth that has already taken place between this month and last!  I can't even imagine how different she'll look when we compare month one to month twelve!



Close-up shot

Now last month, the funny moment was when I realized she couldn't sit up to be photographed and she just kept falling over in the chair.  See the funny pic here.  This month's funny photo shoot moment was: spit up! About a minute into the shoot she started to spit up, as you can see below. After the first trickle, I picked her up and I was able to get a burp up, but for some reason the spit up continued in tiny trickles a few more times during the shoot.  Normally I wouldn't worry too much because she has a white shirt on, but as I now know, the ink of the sticker can come off if it gets wet...such as with spit up.  So after a few wipes of the sticker the ink was starting to smear, this led me to quickly wrap up the photo shoot!

A little bit of spit up made its way into the photo shoot.

Here's another fun one from the photo shoot:

I love her little segment arms.

Also this week Avery had her first play date with her new friend Karadyn, who is five months old.  Avery was pretty mesmerized by her and mainly just watched her the whole time.  Towards the end though, she started to reach out to her, as you can see in the picture below.  Thanks for the fun time Karadyn!

This is my friend Karadyn.


Another "first" we did this week was to go for a walk in her stroller.  We finally got a break from the sweltering heat here in the Midwest, so I was more than happy to take my workout outside and get Avery involved.  Our first walk started off a bit rough, since it took me 15 minutes to try and get the stroller to open from the collapsed position.  I eventually broke down, got the instruction manual, and realized it was one simple twist of the handle.  After that mishap, I got Avery all loaded up with her sun hat on, and then we were ready to hit the road...or sidewalk I should say.  She really did a great job on our walk, which lasted about an hour.  She was awake for about the first fifteen minutes, but the vibration of the sidewalk must have put her to sleep, since she slept the rest of the time. We went for several more walks that week in the stroller, and now I feel much more comfortable using it.  Now if I could just get better at folding it from open position back into collapsed position, what can I say, I'm still learning-lol!

Here are some pics I took after our walk, on my back porch:
"That walk sure was fun!"
Her stroller that I know now how to open...yeah for me!

As for other areas of Avery's development, she is sleeping like a champ! Here's an average schedule of her sleep one night:
9:00-9:30 PM: swaddle her in her Miracle Blanket (read more here), feed her one more time and then she'll sleep until about...
3:30 AM: she wakes up and eats, then back to sleep, 
5:30 AM: she wakes up and eats, then back to sleep,
7:30 AM she wakes up and eats, then I un-Swaddle her, and we get up to start our morning!
That may seem like a lot of waking up and eating from 3-7 AM, but to get that first initial chunk of 6-7 hours of sleep sure is awesome for all of us! Besides, she only nurses for about 10 minutes during these early feeds, so it really isn't too bad...let's just say I have no problem falling back asleep after a quick feed!

Another cool thing she's been doing lately is really focusing her eyes/attention on people and things.  She loves to look at faces, as you can see in the pic below where's she's got her eyes locked on Grandma Karen.  She will also follow me with her eyes and head if I move away from her or walk past her, which is great for her development, but bad if I'm trying to get her to go to sleep for a nap!   



We're still rocking lots of Tummy Time here as she continues to hold her head up for longer periods of time.  We've even used some props like pillows and a Bumbo seat to have her begin practicing sitting up, and even standing up with lots of support (mainly just to give her a chance to push with her legs). Aside from this, she's started chewing on her hands some...as well as other things that happen to be near her mouth, like a blanket or someones shoulder if she's being held.  This tends to usually be a sign that's she's hungry, and that I better feed her soon or she will start to get upset.  Sometimes though it just seems like she's just exploring.

Well that's about for our 2 month update. Until next week, we'll just be here...relaxing!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Going Green...One Diaper Change at a Time!

So it probably doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess where I stand on the "diaper debate" between cloth and disposables, since my blog is titled "Ashley's GREEN Life!" But honestly, it wasn't always that way.  Before and during my pregnancy, I was pretty set on using a "greener" style of disposable diapers called gDiapers, which have a reusable cover and bio-degradable inserts (which you can flush down the toilet or compost).  

My cloth-diapering baby girl!

But during one of my prenatal appointments with my midwife, she gave me a quick demo of the cloth diapers she uses and she told me about a local cloth diapering service...from that point on I was sold!  I contacted the local diapering service, Metro Cloth Diapering, and the owner came and did a quick and informative demo for Brandon and I, and we both agreed that it would be great fit for us. Then a few weeks before Avery's birth, I received all the supplies I needed to start cloth diapering once she was born, from the company.  The "inner nerd" in me wanted to start practicing right away with the cloth diapers, (I even considered bringing a pretend baby home from my preschool class, but I couldn't find one that was the right size-lol!). But it wasn't long before Avery was born and I got all the practice I needed.  We started using the cloth diapers with Avery from day one and they have been amazing.  Brandon and I both picked right up on how it is done and I can't imagine using any other kind of diaper.

In the past, I had stayed away from cloth diapers for the following reasons (maybe you can relate to these):
1- I did not want to have to clean them
2- I had no idea where to get started in shopping for cloth diapers. There were so many decisions to make: pre-folds or pocket diapers, bumGenius or FuzziBunz, Velcro or snaps? Yikes!
3-I worried that if I used a diaper cleaning service that they would use harsh detergents or chemicals to clean the diapers that would not be good for my baby's skin or the environment.
4- On top of that, if I used a cleaning service, I worried it would be really expensive.
But the one thing that changed my mind about cloth diapers is the use of a diaper cleaning service.  As I mentioned above, I use Metro Cloth Diapering that serves the Kansas City Metro area.

"Like my cloth diapers?"

Here is how they calmed my "fears" of cloth diapering that I mentioned above:
1-Cleaning the diapers? They clean them (score!).
2-What cloth diapers to buy?  They provide the diapers, covers, and wipes meaning I don't have to do any shopping or make any large investment into buying my own supply of cloth diapers. 
3- Harsh detergents?  Nope, they use bio-degradable soaps and high efficiency laundry machines
4- Cost? It's about $22.50 a week for the service which includes a weekly pick up of dirty diapers and drop off of clean diapers.  Not bad if you figure the you'll probably be spending something close to that on disposables and wipes per week. 

Here's a few more details about what I get with my diaper cleaning service.  Included in your weekly cost you receive the following supplies: a set of pre-fold, cotton, cloth diapers (this means it's like a flat piece of fabric with a thicker layer in the middle).  As well as: a set of flannel wipes that are handmade and in fun patterns, 5 water-proof diaper covers (these keep the cloth diaper portion from getting the baby's clothes wet or dirty), and a Snappi (a little rubber/plastic piece that holds the cloth diaper together...basically takes the place of safety pins that were used back in the day to hold together cloth diapers.).  You can read more about these products on their website here.  Aside from this, Metro Cloth Diapering, obviously cleans the cloth diapers too. Once a week I put out the bag of dirty diapers/wipes, it is picked up, and clean ones are dropped off.  You can read a more in-depth description of their services here.

They make it pretty simple don't they? Now why turn to cloth diapers in the first place? Clearly cloth diapers are great for the environment in how they decrease landfill waste, but one might argue that you have to use an awful lot of water to wash and reuse them.  That's true, but a key word in that statement is reuse!  You can get many uses over many years out of a single cloth diaper, whereas with a disposable it's just that...you use it once and then you dispose of it.  And on top of this, disposable diapers take years and years to breakdown (if ever!).  I read once that if the children who came over with Christopher Columbus wore disposable diapers, those diapers would still be around today...since they plastic would never break down!!

Check out this video about the breakdown of a disposable diaper (or lack there of).  This video also highlights the gDiapers I mentioned above, which are still a great option if cloth is not something you want to attempt.  


Aside from the environmental affect, disposable diapers also contain a number of harmful chemicals and dyes that may be making diaper changes easier on parents (because they are super absorbent), but they sure aren't helping babies.  One chemical called, sodium polyacrylate, is added to disposable diapers to make them "super absorbent" but it can also cause skin irritations and rashes, and it was banned from tampons back in the 80's because of it's link to Toxic Shock Syndrome.  Another little chemical in diapers is dioxin, a by-product of them being bleached.  Dioxin is a cancer-causing chemical and is banned in most countries (obviously not the US).  Last is chlorine, which gets them nice and bright...and at the same time is "particularly threatening to infants."  Feel free to read more of these chemicals here.  Although some may say the effect of these chemicals is small, it's not something I'm willing to take a chance on with Avery, which is why I chose to use cloth diapers.

Okay, okay, time for me to get off my "soap box" or "diaper box" I should say.  Let's get past the facts and the debate and onto the real deal.  Let me show you just how easy cloth diapers can be and how we make them work for us.  Here are the steps of a typical "green" cloth diaper change...
1. Gather your supplies.
Fabric wipe, cloth diaper, diaper cover, and Snappi.
2.  Place a clean cloth diaper down on the changing surface.  Sometimes this is needed, other times it isn't, but it's better to have something down in case she decides to go again...which happens quite often when she talks to her buddy Panda!

3.  Speaking of Panda...I usually put something next to her to occupy her while she is being changed. Here she is having to make the toughest decision of who to look at: Daddy or Panda, who will it be?! Well, since Daddy was the camera man, Panda won this battle. 


4.  Next I take off the diaper cover, and then the dirty diaper.


5.  The dirty diaper now goes in the medium-size wet bag.



6.  Next, I grab a cloth wipe.  I use this Prince Lionheart Wipes Warmer...it's pretty awesome!  I don't necessarily care for the fact that the wipes are warm (although I bet Avery does), I just like that I have a stash of already WET wipes.  All I do with these fabric wipes is run a stack of them under some water, wring them out a bit, then stick them in the wipe warmer...then they are already to go!  Again, all I use on these cloth wipes is WATER! No chemicals, lotions, perfumes, anything!!!

Prince Lionheart Wipes Warmer with cloth wipes

7.  Now I give her a nice clean wipe, and then place the dirty wipe in the medium wet bag with the dirty diaper.  I usually takes about one wipe per diaper change, sometimes two if she has a BM.  When she was first born, we actually used to use 3 for each diaper change! Why? I have no idea? Guess we just thought we had to get her really clean-lol.  Now we're more experienced with it and one sure seems to do the job!  During this time I also I give her a minute or two to air out  (if I'm not in a hurry), I find it helps keep her rash-free.  On top of this, I make sure to give her at least 30 minutes a day of "diaper-free time" where I put a cloth diaper or two under her and just let her chill out without her diaper.  This usually takes place during tummy time.

8.  Now it's time to put on the clean diaper.  This is where the one she's been laying on comes in handy.  I simply fold the sides in a bit and pull it up towards her belly button. 


 8.  Pull the back corners of the diaper to the front and hold them there.



This is the part she doesn't like sometimes.  If she had it her way, she'd be naked all day-lol!

"Oh Mom! Not another diaper!"

Would you look at that frown! Nothing like a little
drama for the diaper change.


9.  Next, I use the Snappi to connect the two sides of the diaper together.



You can see the Snappi connects the left and right sides of the diaper.
 11.  Time to put on the diaper cover.  Some diaper covers that we have use Velcro, others use snaps, and they come in a variety of colors.  Just a note, we are in charge of washing these covers (they are not included in our pick up and drop off...the same goes for the medium-size wet bag).  But if that's all I have to clean, I don't mind one bit!

Here's a tip: make sure none of the cloth part is sticking out of the sides of the cover because when the cloth part gets wet it will leak out to the sides, which you obviously do not want!
Bad Idea! The diaper is sticking out and will probably leak.


Good idea! No diaper is sticking out=less likely to leak.
12.  Now we're all done! Way to go green with your cloth diaper change Avery!  Glad you're happy again too.  ( :
All done!
13.  What to do from here? Usually once the medium-size wet bag gets full (about once a day), I empty it into my large wet bag (which I keep in a laundry hamper).  Amazingly, I find that this bag doesn't really smell too bad.  Of course when you open it, it smells, but when it's all zipped up, I don't smell it.  As of now, I think her dirty diapers smell a bit like buttered popcorn or butterscotch, (Brandon doesn't quite agree), so perhaps that helps.  Granted Avery is not eating solid foods yet (which I've heard can add to the stink factor), so if the large wet bag does start to get an odor, I'll probably start keeping it out in our garage.


 14.  When "Diaper Day" rolls around (once a week), I haul the dirty diaper bag from the hamper down to my front porch.
So long dirty diapers!
 15.   Now the dirty diapers are ready to be picked up.
I'm smiling because I don't have to
clean these diapers!
 16.  Later that day, the clean diapers and fabric wipes arrive.  I then unpack them and put them in  drawers by our diaper changing area (aka...our bedroom).  And we're all set for the week! ( :



By the way, cloth diapers also work great as make-shift blankets...as you can see in this pic below.  Thanks to my mom who captured this happy smile as Avery was waking up from a nap one day.
Cloth diapers sure make me happy!
So that's how we go green...one cloth diaper change at a time.  I hope this helped you learn the benefits of cloth diapers, how easy they are to use, and what it's like to use a diaper cleaning service.  Again, if you live in the Kansas City metro area, I highly suggest Metro Cloth Diapering, the company I use.  They make my life so much easier and I am so thankful to have found them!

Has anyone else ever used cloth diapers or a diapering service before? What was your experience like? Do you have any favorite types of cloth diapers, tips or tricks? Feel free to post below!

Last, here's a cool cloth diaper awareness campaign if you're already into cloth diapers or looking to ease in called: Change 3 Things, which is looking to get 100,000 parents to pledge to change at least 3 cloth diapers a day for a year.  The end result, being..."30-50 million pounds of prevented landfill waste, 100 million disposable diapers not being purchased, and $24 million of combined savings for cloth diaper families."  Pretty amazing right? I know I'm signed up for the challenge, how about you?
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