Our Vacation in Pictures (Daily December #25-31)

We took off after Christmas dinner to visit family up in Northern California. First stop was Santa Cruz (well, technically Bonny Doon) to visit the boys’ Granny and their aunt and uncle, too. Next up was Discovery Bay to see cousins and kids, their great aunt and great uncle, and “Mimi,” their great-grandmother. A quick stop-over in Sacramento to see Uncle Jackpot, their little buddy Logi, and his fam, and finally back home again in time to celebrate NYE – a special day, as it’s the night I met their father four short years ago. More to come later on road-tripping with twins, but here are some photo highlights.

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“Wrapping” for Toddler Booties! (Daily December #9)

I don’t know about you, but none of my Christmas presents are wrapped. Mostly because they haven’t been purchased. And even once they are wrapped, I guarantee they won’t look blog-worthy. Rather than subject you all to gobs of fancy tape and torn corners, I present you with:
christmas wrapping pic

I’ve tried countless different diapers and combinations over the past nine-ten months since I started cloth diapering. Through trial and error, I was able to discover what the best style of diapers are for each specific situation. Some people like to stay loyal to one type and brand – with a lot of experimenting, I have found out that a combination of all different types and brands works for us. A little of this, a little of that. Without further ado, here is what works for us:

For everyday errands (read: anytime we leave the house) my hands-down favorite diaper is (and always will be) the BumGenius 4.0 pocket diaper with snaps. It was the first diaper I tried on the boys, and it still works great.
bg 4.0nighttime diaper

It’s on the expensive side, but you get what you pay for. The quality is superb. I usually wait for a good sale from Cotton Babies to pick up more. You can also get them at BuyBuyBaby, and the in-store coupons will save you 20%! Unfortunately, while I love the fit and the look of the 4.0, the microfiber inserts that are included are simply not absorbent enough for my heavy wetters. Instead, we stuff them with a single Alva 4-layer insert (available from AlvaBaby, and also on Amazon. You’ll notice the picture has an additional charcoal bamboo insert (CBI) – this is our double-stuff go-to for night-time. It provides an extra component of dryness (in addition to the stay-dry lining of the pocket shell).

For naptime or longer outings, I decided to supplement with some Happy Flute AIO (all-in-one) diapers.
hf AIOnap diaper

These are available in co-ops at a ridiculously low price. I’ve found these to be the highest quality of the “cheapie” diapers. They come in every color and pattern imaginable, as co-ops will create and order custom designs. I love the price and the variety of colors. They have a double-gusset which works well to keep moisture in, and they also have an additional pocket to customize absorbency. Another benefit is that the lining is charcoal bamboo, which again is absorbent but also has a stay-dry quality.

Finally, for around the house (or when we need a trimmer look for a specific outfit) we love Charlie Banana diapers.
cbcb with insert

These have a bra-strap style elastic instead of a multi-rise snap, so it takes a bit of tweaking to get a good fit. They are adorable on – I like the look of them best, and I love the colors they come in. They’re also ridiculously soft. I scored a ton of these when Target was clearancing them. The microfiber inserts don’t hold up well to toddler torrential downpours pee, though, so don’t put these under your favorite outfit.

What are you “wrapping” your little one in this holiday season? Share your favorites with me!

Rainy Day Recipe (Daily December #7)

Today’s assignment was “Outdoor Lights.” I was all set to blog about December Nights – My husband managed to finagle a rare Saturday off, and we were prepared to brave the crowds and bring the boys.

Except then it was pouring.

Before children, rain (especially San Diego rain) was a thing of wonder and joy. It happens so rarely that I love to be outside in it. After children, however… Rain means traffic. And idiot drivers. And wet children. And attempting to locate dry surfaces for diaper changes. And worrying about the kids getting a chill. And… you get the picture. So instead of braving December Nights, we stayed in and made Italian Wedding Soup. It was a MUCH better choice, let me tell you. We followed this recipe from Whole Foods, with just a few changes. We let the boys run around in the kitchen while we prepped and cooked, and everyone had a blast. Every piece of tupperware we owned ended up on the floor but it was delightful.

italian wedding soup

Ingredients:

Meatballs
1 pound organic ground beef
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
pinch of cumin

Soup
2 tablespoons butter
healthy splash of olive oil
3/4 cup chopped yello2 onions
3/4 cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 can whole tomatoes, drained and halved
1/2 can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked orzo
2 cups shredded kale

Method:
Place beef, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, egg, and cumin into a large bowl and mix well using your hands. Use a teaspoon to measure out meat for even sized meatballs. With damp hands, shape them into 1-inch balls and transfer them to a large plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.

For the soup, melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, garlic, a healthy splash of olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and 2 cups water. Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat or until soup comes to a boil.

Add meatballs and orzo to the boiling soup and stir to make sure they are fully submerged. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in kale. Test a meatball and a piece of orzo to ensure that they are fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.
(Modified from recipe originally posted here.)
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Everyone enjoyed the soup, including the boys!

Holiday Reflection + Bonus Crafts (Daily December #6)

Craft pic

Today’s challenge was “Holiday Reflection,” which probably means I should have photographed a reflection of some sort. But my previous blogs have already highlighted my lack of photographic prowess. Instead I thought would offer an actual reflection on the upcoming holiday. Our house has been decorated, our tree is plugged in, the stockings are taped to the wall- And yet, for some reason, it doesn’t really FEEL like Christmas.

I’ve always associated certain things with getting into the holiday spirit – Christmas music on the radio, baking Christmas cookies, going to an overcrowded mall, going ice-skating, decorating the house, wearing Christmas socks and earrings, watching Christmas movies. But life is difficult with twins, and even more so when you are a family with one car and two full-time working parents. Somehow it doesn’t feel quite as Christmassy to watch Love, Actually alone – and it’s really frowned upon to drink spiked hot cocoa alone. Especially on school nights. My knee-high Christmas socks don’t fit my post-partum calves (yes, my calves grew; no, you don’t get to judge me.) I put Christmas music on for my morning commute, but it’s drowned out by the voices in my head: “Crap, why didn’t I set my alarm earlier. If I hit another red light I won’t have time to put on mascara before the first bell. Shit, I think I forgot to turn in my attendance. And what I am doing period 3? Did I make copies?”

I wouldn’t say I feel Grinchy, but I’m definitely feeling apathetic. To counteract this, my husband and I have really been working on trying to pull in some Christmas spirit where we can. I did manage to make two Pinterest crafts, which is an epic feat with toddlers, let me tell you (instructions below). And those little acts brightened up my mood! Which made me realize – the Christmas season, like life, is about faking it until you make it. So I might need bigger Christmas socks, and I might need to play the music louder in the AM. And I’m probably going to drink my spiked cocoa alone; no one call the authorities.
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Simple Christmas Wreaths

Materials:
Super cheap paper plates
Paintbrushes
Construction paper
Washable red and green paint*
Sharpie
Toddlers
High chairs
Patience

Instructions:
1. Put children in high chairs wearing only their diapers (and not your favorite BG artist print; this is going to get messy).
2. Give one child a piece of construction paper with a glob of paint on it.
3. Show him how to swirl the paint around with a brush.
4. Give him the paintbrush.
5. DO NOT become alarmed when he eats the paint and the brush. It’s non-toxic. (*You DID buy non-toxic paint, right?)
6. Paint the hand of the other child green.
7. Stamp his hand repeatedly on a paper plate.
8. Switch kids.
9. Repeat.
10. Paint perfect little holly berries and a ribbon with red paint while your children create masterpieces on their construction paper/high chair tray/face/hair.
11. Bath time!
12. When wreaths are dry, write their name and the year to prove that you had some modicum of sanity in the early years.

Greyson craft

sawyer craft

Voila!

Salt Dough Ornaments

You might have seen this on Pinterest as a way to create salt dough Santas. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you buy clearance paint and it doesn’t come with the color white, and then you can’t paint Santa because his BEARD IS WHITE and so you tell yourself that your ornaments are authentic. Really. Very. Authentic.

Materials:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup water
Straw
Rolling Pin (unless you want yours to look like mine.)

Instructions:
1.Mix flour, salt, and water together to create a dough.
2.Break into balls; flatten with your hands.
3. Roll out with a rolling pin. **Skip this step if you like “authentic” ornaments**
4. Locate your toddlers in the hall closet, where they are making vacuum noises and playing with “no-no” items.
5. Convince them to make a handprint on your freshly rolled dough.
6. Poke a hole with the straw so a ribbon can be threaded through.
7. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for around three hours.
salt dough ornaments