Salt Lake City Christkindlmarkt

Posted by Carly Morgan

 

There’s a place in Salt Lake City called This is the Place Heritage Park. It’s dedicated to preserving the history of the people that pioneered out to the Salt Lake valley and settled it, so it’s your basic cabins + butter churning + rock candy type attraction. I brought Kyle to the park for the first time on Pioneer Day (the celebration of Utah’s statehood) and the trauma of waiting two hours in a crowded park for some lukewarm hot dogs hasn’t quite faded. So, I was happy when I found out that the park would be hosting a German Christmas market (Christkindlmarkt) complete with handmade gifts, Father Christmas, and traditional holiday trimmings. All of our bad summer memories have been washed away by the sounds of caroling and the smell of gingerbread.

 

The last day of the market is tomorrow and it’s both free and quite charming, so if you’re in the area you might want to stop by!

 

Santa Strawberry Shortcakes

Posted by Carly Morgan

Eva has been crazy preoccupied with Santa over the last week so I strategically stacked strawberries, whipped cream, and angel food cake to create these little Santa jars. (The face is wipe-off marker.) I’m really coming around to thinking that heavy cream is a household staple. It’s full of calories, but just a little bit can make the difference in a pasta sauce or cup of cocoa. It’s also been a good sub-in now that Eva can’t eat commercial brands of ice cream (nut cross-contamination is rampant!).

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The Day I Poisoned Eva (an update on being nut-free)

Posted by Carly Morgan

So, this allergy thing is super fun.

 

Blah.

 

After the initial shock of finding out about Eva’s allergies, there was a flurry of activity as we rid the house of nut products, adopted out the cats, steamed and vacuumed everything we own, and set about giving Epi trainings to everyone we know. Then, we just got exhausted about the whole thing and then we got lazy and then I poisoned the baby.

 

This all happened because I found this app called Fooducate. Fooducate is an app that lets you scan foods and then tells you if they have allergy warnings (as well as all of the other health warnings you can think of). Although the app is far from comprehensive, I was surprised how many foods came up as having a nut problem despite not having nuts listed in the ingredients. It turns out that the cross-contamination thing is pretty rampant and after our first round of pantry-emptying, we ended up doing a whole second round that wiped out the majority of our processed food. There’s not a ton of things the kid can eat, outside of “whole foods” and dairy (which we are now buying in bulk).

 

 

I’ll admit that it was really frustrating. We started to hate the app because everything we scanned came up with a warning and it was beginning to look like Eva was just going to eat carrots and peas for the rest of her life (hand cut and steamed by me, of course). I’ve been cooking a lot of food at home for a while now, so it isn’t like we were starving without the commercial stuff, but it’s amazing how many condiments and snack foods we had become accustomed to. We also were disappointed to learn that all pizza delivery services in our area are off-limits, as well as every traditional burger or burrito joint. Again – I don’t think we were necessarily making that a huge part of our diet, but as soon as it was off the table we began to miss it something terrible.

 

Fast forward to this weekend. We’ve been making more of an effort to vary Eva’s diet because after a week of eating a lot of fruit and homemade soup, her pants started to get a little bit loose and I realized that she was turning into the Weight Watchers toddler of the year. So, we tried to work in some more starch this weekend, including a loaf of homemade bread, some banana snickerdoodles, and chicken teriyaki over brown rice.

 

I should tell you, by the way, that I’ve been really stressed out with work. To say that I’ve overextended right now is an understatement and I spent most of the weekend glued to my computer while Kyle took care of Eva. So I don’t think I was paying as much attention as I usually would. Which, you know, sucks.

 

Anyway, I did scan the teriyaki sauce before I cooked it and was delighted when it came up with no allergies on the Fooducate app. Luckily, when Eva actually sat down to eat, I was sitting with her to sneak in a little quality time, so I had the opportunity to watch the allergy welts bloom across her cheeks within a few minutes. After some confusion, we determined that the teriyaki sauce was indeed nut free, but that I had forgotten to check the actual label for ingredients. If I had, I would have seen that it was made with sunflower oil, which is another one of Eva’s severe triggers. It was the very last ingredient and Eva only had a couple of bites, but it was enough to flare up a bad reaction.

 

It could have been worse. After a dose of Benadryl her reaction cleared up pretty quickly and even though I watched her breathing for most of the night, she never had a full attack. I, of course, have been marinating in guilt ever since, especially when I went through other recently purchased items that had passed the app test only to find more sunflower oil, as well as some large nut warnings printed right on the labels. Apparently app blindness had gotten the best of me. Oh well…the food bank is really loving us lately.

 

Mama is sorry she poisoned you, baby. My bad.

Toddler Room Redesign: Making it Montessori

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’ve mentioned on here a few times that Eva’s large number of toys has been a problem in our house. Over the last twenty months, the kid has accumulated enough toys to fill a few daycare centers and we’ve battled the chaos by buying shelving, tubs, baskets, wagons, etc. However, no matter how hard we worked at containing the chaos, her room always looked a lot like this:

 

 

 

There just isn’t enough space in her room to hold all of her items. Eventually, the floor would be covered and her toys would be creeping out into the living room. We also found that she was developing a habit of only playing with any given thing for a few minutes before dropping it wherever she happened to be standing. Not cute.

 

After I posted my most recent S.O.S. about Eva’s toy situation, a friend recommended a book called How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way. Despite having one of the most obnoxious parenting titles I’ve ever heard, the book turned out to be wonderful – easy to follow and full of advice that made sense. It stressed that toddlers need order, calm, and limited choices so they don’t become overwhelmed and frustrated. It also highlights the importance of having a set place for everything within reach of the child so they can learn to take things out and put them back themselves. Finally, it had pretty clear guidelines about choosing toys – you want to keep a few toys out that are at the right skill level for your toddler and then rotate them so there’s always something interesting to play with but not enough to clutter up her room.

 

Quite smart.

 

 

As you can see, we dramatically cut back on the number of toys in her room. When we sat down to sort through them, we found that a ton of them were either below her skill range (leftover teething toys) or above her skill range (Megablock and Barbies). We boxed most of her toys up and put them in storage, giving a couple of healthy-sized bags to charity, and weeded out about half of the stuffed animals in her room so that most of the ones she has left are really hers (versus hand-me-downs from Kyle and me).

 

 

We went from having five toy baskets in her room to having one basket for toys and one basket for blankets. The toy basket is a catch-all for random toys that either only do one thing or do something electronic. Most of Eva’s toys fit into this category and they all just blended together for her, so we’ll be rotating these often from now on to keep her interested. Since we pared it down, it’s amazing how much more she’s been playing with these things!

 

 

Her library continues to be her favorite part of the room and it doubles as a nap space for her cousin when she comes over. Eva still wakes up from nap, goes over to the closet, and pulls 50 books down at once every now and then, but she’s learning that she needs to pick them up and put them back on the shelves herself. Next step – getting her to take them out one at a time.

 

 

Most of the puzzles in Eva’s room were beyond her range, so we cut the stack down to the ones that just have pegs and simple shapes (rather than requiring her to match the pieces to make a picture). We also left out her cube puzzle because she loves to dump it out and play with the pieces. The drum set next to the puzzles holds all of her musical instruments, including a few leftover rattles and some hand bells we found at the thrift store. She loves making music and I love that the instruments are contained so I don’t have to hear them when she’s supposed to be napping.

 

 

The tin Curious George toys from last Christmas were a surprise hit, considering they were an impulse buy from Totsy. We randomly stored them on top of her Christmas piano after she opened them and now she knows that she always needs to put them back in that same spot. I’m clinging to this as proof that she will one day be able to clean her own room without putting blocks in her t-shirt drawer.

 

 

Eva had a ton of toys that require sorting, stacking, and identifying shapes (all of the things that she loves to do right now). We’re keeping one of each out and rotating them so she stays interested. Major bonus: now that most of these toys are in storage, we don’t have to sit around and ask each other which play set the blue triangle belongs to.

 

 

The fabric bins in the shelves hold specific kinds of toys and I tried to keep them different enough that it would be obvious to Eva which bin those toys belong to. Right now they’re holding cars, play food, ABC blocks, and ABC foam letters but I have other collections waiting to be rotated in and out. The play food probably has too much stuff in it even now but she’s been really into it lately and I have a hard time narrowing it down. It’s too damn adorable when she pops out of her room with a plate of bacon, peas, and sushi just for me.

 

 

 

 

Eva has four Little People sets and loves them. They’re also a fun thing that Kyle and I can play with her because she’s just starting to “get” the concept of moving little plastic objects around and pretending they’re alive. We decided that four was too many, though, so right now she just has the zoo and the princess carriage in her room. We’re planning on switching them out whenever she loses interest or gets a new one. She’s still pretty focused on taking them out of the bin and then putting them right back, so it could be a while…

 

 

Eva’s toy box used to hold her play food because it was the only space big enough in her room, but once I cut that collection down to one bin, I was able to use the toy box for dress up and other pretend play. One of the skills we’re working on is Eva learning to dress herself, so I glued a mirror to the inside of the lid and she likes to stand in front of it and try on hats and glasses. The chance that we’re headed toward extreme narcissism is pretty high, I have to admit.

 

 

One of the biggest changes in her room is that I dragged my old college papasan out of my parents’ basement and cleared a space for it by Eva’s dresser. It takes up a bunch of room, but Eva’s been having a hard time going down for a nap unless I’m sitting with her and I got tired of being stuck on the floor waiting for her to go to sleep. It’s actually quite pleasant now to sit in there with a magazine or my laptop (although it’s really hard not to fall asleep myself with the coziness and the sleep sounds going). It also has the advantage of being a good place to snuggle in for story time.

 

 

Eva’s dresser used to be our changing table, but she’s too squirmy and heavy to haul up and down every day, so we cleared the top off and now it’s just a normal dresser. Eva got frustrated because she’s too short to see herself in the mirror, so I glued a mirror to the side of the dresser and added some hooks for accessories. She spends a lot of time over there in the morning. Like I said, narcissist.

 

 

The diaper stuff and clean sheets all moved under the bed, so we’re doing diaper changes over there now. Theoretically we’ll be entering the world of potty training soon and then she’ll be able to get to pull ups or underwear more easily. I also snuck some oversized toys like her pop-up tunnel under the bed because I can hide them with the bed skirt.

 

 

BTW – the bed skirt and quilt are part of a crib set I bought at a thrift store for $5 and the blanket is a little too small for her to sleep with, but it’s just the right size for teaching her how to make the bed. We just move it aside and put her comforter on at night since it’s gotten colder.

 

So that’s the updates for Eva’s room. It’s going to be a bit of a pain to rotate her toys out, but not as much of a pain as it’s been to be moving toys out of the way every time we turn around. The Montessori book had some other ideas about making areas for her in the rest of the house, so I’ll probably be sharing a few more updates. I admit that I’m really drawn to how orderly these ideas are. Quite pleasing to my OCD.

DIY Homemade Tags for Your Kid’s Clothing

Posted by Carly Morgan

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When we put Eva in preschool, we entered a new world of chaos. School comes with new germs, new schedules, new faces, and a black hole that sucks up loose gloves and hats. It’s a requirement that any clothing Eva takes to school be labeled with her name…a fact I discovered in the middle of the night before Eva’s first day of school (when I finally got around to reading the packet they had sent home). The result was a few scribbles of permanent marker on the inside of her clothes, which ultimately became either illegible or messy.

The Sharpie thing wasn’t working for us because you could barely read the writing and it was ruining Eva’s clothes for anyone else. A ton of Eva’s stuff has come from hand-me-downs and I’m quite aware of the fact that her clothes will someday end up in someone else’s closet, so I hate to start inking them up by scribbling her name all over them. So, I decided to make some tags that could be easily stitched in and then cut back out when the time came. You don’t have to know anything about sewing to stitch on a tag and it only takes about five minutes, so I’ve been able to do a ton of her clothing at once while we sit down to watch New Girl.

The idea behind DIY fabric tags is simple: iron-on transfer paper + small name/logo that will fit onto fabric ribbon + fabric ribbon + heat = ribbon with iron-on names/logo ready to be cut into tags and sewn onto clothing.

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I started this project by completely screwing up. The tags were made using iron-on transfer paper and the first time I made a sheet of tags I forgot to reverse the text. When you use transfer paper, the side that you see is actually the side that will be sticking to the fabric, so you need to reverse the text to make it readable:

I also changed the design so that the tags would be easier to read for Eva and so that they went onto the ribbon sideways. Originally, I was thinking it would be better if the tags were long and thin, but then I realized that the ribbon I had bought was fraying a little so I needed the top (stitching) edge to be one of the finished edges of the ribbon.

Once I got my names printed correctly and cut them down into squares that would fit on the ribbon, I was ready to iron. I put a cutting board on my ironing board so that I could use a harder surface (better for iron-ons) and covered it with a dishtowel. Then I let my iron heat to the “cotton” setting and pressed each iron-square to the fabric ribbon for 20 seconds.

The result was ribbon that looked like it was printed with Eva’s name (with that finished edge up top so I can sew it to her clothes without having it fray). I peeled a couple of the protective backing squares off so you could see what the name looks like, but I left most of them on since I wasn’t ready to sew on all 100 tags right at that very moment.

When I was finished, I rolled the ribbon back up for storage. The whole project took me about half of the movie The African Queen to give you some idea. If you’ve never seen The African Queen (1) it took me about 45 minutes and (2) you need to stop reading this blog and go find The African Queen so you can watch it immediately. It’s on demand on Netflix right at this very moment! Absolutely one of the best movies ever made.

To make the tags, I just cut the right amount of ribbon out and did a quick stitch to attach it to either the seam or the existing tags already in her clothing. This ribbon is pretty soft and shouldn’t bug her, but I think I’ll try a different one next time because this one does fray quite a bit. Of course, with 100 tags made, I won’t be making any new tags in the near future!

Bonus: Eva recognizes enough letters to know her name when she sees it and she’s been really excited about pointing out that this is Eva’s coat, Eva’s hat, Eva’s pants, etc. I even tagged a few stuffed animal friends just for fun!

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