Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cleaning 101 - Windows!

Ian and I bought our house just over a year ago, and not counting a little spot cleaning here and there, we hadn't washed our windows.   This sounds like a super demanding task but it's actually not that bad.   The trickiest part is getting to some of the exterior windows - especially when you have a 2 story house.  Be sure to exercise caution if any ladder climbing is involved in getting to all your windows.

Washing windows with a spray cleaner and a paper towel can help - but you're likely to see the streaks and spots as soon as the sun shines through.  That's because the dirt isn't really being removed - a lot of it is just being pushed around.

Photo Credit:
The secret to super clean, super shiny and streak free windows is having the correct tools. A squeegee and squeegee style  microfiber washer are key. I found a set on for $21 bucks.  It has a sturdy squeegee and a removable microfiber pad for easy clean up.

You don't need any sort of fancy cleaning product - you can whip up a batch of super effective cleaner with stuff from around your house.  I have a lot of windows in my house, so I made up a gallon of cleaning solution.  You won't use this much, but it's nice to be able to have a nice full bucket.  Here's the recipe:

The BEST Window Washing Cleaning Solution
  • 1 Gallon hot water
  • 3 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons dishwashing soap.

Mix this all together in a bucket that your squeegee washer will fit in.  The solution won't be sudsy - you don't want it to be!  Soap suds = soap film and that's not good.  You need just enough to get some of the crud off the windows.  

Now it's time to get cleaning.  First, collect all of your tools.  You'll need:

  • Bucket full of window cleaning solution
  • Squeegee style washer
  • Squeegee
  • Garden Hose
  • Several dry rags
  • Bucket of sudsy water for screens
  • Ladder (if necessary)

The next step is to go around your house and remove all of the screens.  These will need to be cleaned too.  Take them outside, lean them up against a wall, and usinh a soft bristled brush dipped into some warm, soapy water (think about what you would use to wash dishes), gently scrub down the screens and spray them off with water.  Let them air dry.

For the windows - I like to start outside. Take your garden hose and spray down the window.  This removes the extra dust, pollen, dead bugs, etc from the window and frame.  Then take your washer and using a circular motion, wash the entire surface of the window.  Some extra scrubbing might be needed on any caked on gunk.  Once washed, spray the window with the hose to remove the soap, and then take a dry rag to wipe down the window frame so it doesn't drip onto your clean window. Immediately squeegee off the excess water, wiping the squeegee with a dry rag between strokes.  The way you do this is up to you.  I tend to do top to bottom pattern, but you could also go side to side.  Whatever works for you.

For your interior windows, there obviously won't be any spraying going on.  Just squeeze out your washer and use it when it's not dripping wet.  The inside of the windows won't be as dirty so you don't need all the spraying. Follow the same steps and keep a dry rag handy so that the water that you squeegee off the window doesn't run over your sill and make a mess.

After you're done with the windows, replace the screens and you're done!  You'll be amazed at how much brighter your house seems.  This chore definitely takes a few hours (depending on the size of your house) but it is so worth it.  When friends came over after I did the windows, they were all trying to figure out what was new in the house - nothing new, just super shiny, streak-free windows letting the gorgeous sunlight in.

Happy cleaning!

Friday, June 7, 2013

365 Days Ago....

Exactly 40 weeks pregnant on my due date
365 days ago (well 366 since I meant to write this yesterday) two really awesome things happened:

1. It was my Sister's due date - she didn't have baby Maddie that day, but it was super exciting nonetheless.

2. Ian and I found out that I was pregnant!  I can't believe that it's been a whole year, and today we are celebrating our son's 4 month birthday.  How time flies!

We had been trying to get pregnant for awhile, and had become really frustrated with the whole process.  So, we decided to take a break from all the worry and just not think about getting pregnant.  Well, we sort of lost track of time, and when I started to feel SUPER tired and things were a little late, we decided to take a pregnancy test.

Ian was super sweet and went to the store to buy one.  I had taken so many tests in the past 1.5 years, and the digital ones would blink and blink for the requisite amount of time, and then show "not pregnant."  Well, this time, it blinked a few times, and up popped "pregnant."  I was shocked! I immediately went out to tell Ian who was waiting in our bedroom. I tried to play it all cool and make another "wellllp, not this time" face, but I couldn't hide the truth!  We looked at each other and said "holy S4!&!"

I think I always imagined this moment to be more "hollywood" like - with tears of joy and happy embraces, but we were both SO shocked!  Totally happy, but in total disbelief!  It was so hard not to tell the whole world right away, but we wanted to play it safe and wait awhile.  We also waited to tell our immediate family for awhile since my Sister's baby was due any day and it was her time to shine!

We told my Mom and sisters (they were both in Georgia after the birth of my niece) over FaceTime by taping a sign on my belly that said "Maddie's cousin, Coming February 2013!"  We told Ian's mom over the phone, and my Dad who was back home in Seattle over the phone.

And, to tell our extended family and close friends, I made this silly little movie.

My pregnancy was really rough for the first 18 weeks or so.  I was SUPER nauseous and really exhausted. It was really hard to act normal and keep up with work, especially since my job involved quite a bit of travel over the summer.  We also had a little scare and a trip to the ER at 16 weeks due to Placenta Previa - luckily that resolved itself.

Once I hit the half way mark, we were in the clear.  I just LOVED being pregnant.  Feeling that little wiggly baby kick around was just the best and most amazing feeling. I also loved looking pregnant - and totally embraced the whole process. Never in my life have I loved horizontal stripes as much as I did while preggers.

I can't believe that it's been a whole year!  And now I'm sitting home while my adorable little Graham takes a morning snooze.  I feel so incredibly thankful and blessed to be given the gift of a baby.  I know that many people struggle with infertility, and for us, the wait and the difficulty getting pregnant made us appreciate the miracle of life even more.  Being a mommy is the BEST job i could ever imagine.  It's exhausting and hard sometimes, but being there for every new discovery that Graham makes and each new milestone that he achieves makes it all more than worth the tough stuff.  I love this little guy more than I ever thought possible, and know that his Daddy does too.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Super Easy Vegan Chocolate Cake

Bite of chocolaty goodness
Post baby me is a bit of a Chocoholic.  I'm sure there's some sort of science there - but for the time being, let's suffice it to say that I love the stuff.  I felt like baking up some sort of yummy treat today, and then realized I had no eggs, and the baby was sleeping..... so the search for eggless chocolate cake began.

This is what I came up with - and whaaaaat? It's VEGAN.  I am not vegan - I'm not even vegetarian, but this is just how things ended up! Since the cake is relatively light, I added a glaze to go on top while hot to make it a bit moister and ooey-gooey-yummier. I made the glaze with oh-so-yummy animal derived dairy products, but you could easily sub these out and keep the entire recipe vegan.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a mixing bowl, combine:

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk dry ingredients together and then add:

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (a little better for you, and the earthiness of the oil goes great with chocolate!)
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Whisk ingredients just till combined. Butter and flour an 8x8" glass baking dish, and pour the batter in.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

While baking, prep the glaze. Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and then add all the other ingredients.

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half and half (substitute soy milk for Vegan version)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (substitute margarine for Vegan version)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Stir well to get the lumps out. Bring the mixture JUST to a boil, then remove it from the heat.  Set aside while cake finishes.

When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and poke all over the surface of the cake with a toothpick to make some holes for the glaze to ooze into.  Pour the glaze over the top, and let rest.  Serve once it's cooled to room temperature (if you can wait that long!).


Product Review: FlyeBaby

I recently returned from a trip to Seattle for my little sister's baby shower.  It was my first trip cross country with Graham, and visions of a screaming infant torturing fellow passengers for 5 hours plagued my mind!  I planned to travel with "baby in arms" to save money on an additional seat.

I'm a sucker for baby gear, and a sucker for (love my Prime membership!) so after a little searching I found a really interesting product called the FlyeBaby.  Basically, it's a sling seat for little buddies that attaches to the tray table (while in an upright position) and around your waist by way of a clipped strap.  I thought I'd give it a try.

I really liked this product and did feel that it made my trip easier. Here's the lowdown:

Ease of use: A+

  • All the straps are color coded and easy to tighten and fasten (clips and velcro).  It fits snuggly on the tray table and was easy to fasten around my waist.  When not in use, it rolls up easily into a nice little draw string bag.
Handiness: A

  • The FlyeBaby was a great way to give my arms a break and a nice way to have on plane face-to-face play time with baby man.  
  • Graham enjoyed sitting and playing in it, and even when I held him or nursed him, I liked the fact that the sling created a "catch all" to keep toys, pacifiers, burp cloths, etc. from falling onto the ground.
  • He slept pretty well in the sling, the only negative was that in the cramped seats of coach, the sling wasn't stretched out as much as it could have been so he ended up pretty slouchy in it. 

Quality: A

  • The material around baby's head is very nice and soft, and the stitching and attention to detail are all great.  The straps feel very secure and everything latches and aligns smoothly.  The little seatbelt harness for baby is also enclosed in nice soft fabric so no hard buckles to poke into baby. 
Potential Negatives:
  • Graham was 3.5 months old during our trip so he fit just fine into the seat, but I can imagine that if he were much bigger, than this product might not work out as well on the plane.
  • I was lucky to have someone in front of me who did not recline their seat - that could have made things too smooshed for use, or worst case scenario - dangerous for the top of baby's head. 
Other Info:
  • I should also mention that when not in use on the plane, the FlyeBaby can  convert into a highchair by securing it to a chair. Very cool for reducing the bulky gear that you travel with!  I'll have to wait until the little man is a littler better at sitting up before trying that application out. 
  • If you want to do a trial run with the product before you get on the plane, it's easy to do a practice run with a cutting board acting as a tray table. 
  • Also - as with most things these days - there was a great tutorial on YouTube - just in case you have any questions about the set up! Access that video here. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Houdini Act is Over

Graham is generally a VERY good sleeper, and I am truly thankful for that.  For the past week or so though, he has been wriggling his way out of his swaddle and waking himself up.  I know there are some babies that hate to be swaddled, but it works really well for the little man.

While perusing some Mommy blogs a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a video where a woman had a unique way to pre-wrap baby's arms down to his sides before swaddling.  I blame my sleep deprived brain, but I totally forgot about that technique until last night.  We tried it out, and SUCCESS.  Little dude slept for 8 hrs in a row.  He woke up SUPER hungry, but happy. And I can't complain about a nice long stretch of sleep either.  I can't find the video that I learned the technique from, so I made my own.  So, whoever you are - smart arm wrapping mom - thank you!

Some people seem to be really down on the whole swaddling thing, but it is actually recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Here's a helpful link with more info about swaddling, issued by the AAP.  It's based on "The Happiest Baby on the Block" - which I'm also a major fan of! 

Hope this helps others with little Houdini babies.