Sunday, March 4, 2018

Everyday Carry Mom Mini-Backpack

As a frequent traveler and a mother who’s constantly asked if I have a toy/snack/diaper I have come to think of packing as an art form that must be practiced and refined. Here’s what I’ve found to be my most used essentials and emergency items in my “mom bag”.
              Since I am often pushing a stroller I’ve discovered the ergonomic gains of having a little backpack instead of a purse. I’ve had this bag for almost a year and I am really impressed with the design and how well it is holding up. It is made of ribbed nylon with leather trimmings and while it’s obtained a broken-in feeling over time, the materials show no wear. I did modify it slightly to add ponytail holders to secure the excess straps from flapping. At 4 liters, or designed to hold just a 10” ipad, the size feels just right for my 5’1” frame. It also has a unique ID number to theoretically return it to the owner if found. I’d be curious to know how often that’s actually happened. Here’s my essentials I cram into it like Tetris game:
Pouch with emergency items:
a)      Tampon
b)      Bug spray wipe
c)       Panty liners
d)      Hearos soft earplugs
e)      Dog poop bag
f)        Bandaids
g)       Sunscreen (love that I found a small container to refill)
h)      Suture (really hope this never gets used but it takes no space and it feels responsible to have it living in a developing country at civil war)
i)        Sewing Kit
j)        Screen cleaning wipe
k)       Antiseptic wipe
l)        Alcohol gel
m)    Orange Tic Tacs (AKA Sad Candies…Potent medicine able to treat most problems a 3 year old will have)
n)      Medicines: Chewable kid’s Benedryl, Dramamine, Muscle Relaxer, Ibuprofen, Pepto Bismol
o)      Charging cords and Battery
p)      Hair tie
q)      Vaseline (for lips, lotion, and foot blister prevention)
For my Daughter
r)       Tiny toy
s)       Baby Wipes
t)        Diaper (even though she is potty trained it becomes an emergency potty and is used for nighttime).
u)      Spare Clothes
v)       Windbreaker (she almost never uses this but I feel obligated to carry it as I get wagging tongues from people about my daughter’s lack of weather appropriate dress all the time)
For me
w)     Foldable Hat
x)       Mini Umbrella
y)       Matador Hip Pack (most of the time I wear it with wallet, keys, and phone when I’m by myself and don’t require the whole kit and caboodle).
z)       Rab Windveil Windbreaker
aa)   Pen
bb)  Keys with Swiss army knife
cc)    Boker Money clip knife (not that great at actually holding money)
dd)  Wallet made out of the baggie for a nylon grocery bag which holds chapstick, change, and a few “sad candies” too).
ee)   Same bag with a real grocery bag in it (EquinoxTortrix bag)
ff)     Matador mini pocket blanket, I often carry the full sized version as well but the yoga mat would have to stay home.
gg)   Lemfo wireless headphones (these are the first comfortable earbuds for my small ears because they are smaller for the Asian market)
ii)       Snacks
jj)       Notebook
ll)       Travel yoga mat I cut into two pieces, carrying the smaller one which just fits me in tabletop pose on my hands and knees.
mmSewing clip no shown (often used as money clip)
nn)  Phone not shown

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Your last post about newborn Freyja is now obsolete.   She sleeps fine.   

Friday, August 29, 2014

Observations on Sleep Training

I am still a novice parent of just 10 weeks. I’m winging it. Everyone looks at us sympathetically and says something like, “I remember those days, you get NO sleep!” Actually my baby has been sleeping through the night most nights since 6 weeks (normal developmental leaps can also take the credit).  At 10 weeks her length of time is now up to 9 hours. I’m sure 90% of that is just dumb luck but I do have a couple routines I feel have improved her sleep. Again, I really don’t know what I’m doing and I realize some of this is contrary to safety advice…but babies train you to their preferences pretty darn quickly.

The Environment
  •  She sleeps in her crib every night. I don’t want a painful transition to sleeping in it later on.
  • The prevailing guidelines for crib safety describe a soviet orphanage crib. I threw them to the wind. I would put her in her crib asleep and as soon as I laid her down her eyes would fly open. Her mattress came with a rock hard infant firmness side and a softer toddler side.  I flipped it to the softer side at about 6 weeks and found she was much more likely to stay asleep when laid down and slept all night. She has a blanket and a padded bumper. Bumpers are out of favor and I didn’t have one at first but the first time you see your baby’s legs poking through the slats you realize their value.
  • We use a crib “soother”. This is a noise and light show on a timer. I’m hoping she’ll become like Pavlov’s dogs and hearing that music (which sounds like a movie soundtrack) will cue her it’s bedtime. The lights also entertain her until she falls asleep.
  • Unrelated to sleep quality, but zippered sheets are an innovation if you do end up having to change them at night. You just buy one full set then one or two extra top sheets.
The Routine
  • Babies want to sleep all day and party all night like they did in utero. The first few weeks it was impossible to rouse her during the day. We kept at it, never letting her take more than a few hour nap so she’d get her big stretch at night. Unfortunately the tradeoff for sleeping at night seems to be she just takes little cat naps whenever and often doesn’t do a good nap stretch.
  • Babies wake up because they are hungry. I feed her as much as she wants during the day and really push nursing on her leading up to bedtime.
  • She’ll usually fall asleep nursing. This last time before bed I won’t burp her. I’ll slowly pick her up in the position she was nursing in, turn on her noise machine, and lay her in her crib. Usually she stirs a little but I offer her a wubbanub and hold her hand for a few minutes until she’s solidly sleeping. I quickly realized it was a waste of time to rock her to sleep after burping. The act of burping made her more awake and even when I got her to sleep she’d wake up as soon as I put her down. Now I always lay her down on either side (like she nurses) with the blanket on and wedged behind her for stability. I think back sleeping causes her reflux and she spits up a lot. She usually eventually rolls to her back once she is asleep. I never swaddle because she struggles against it and gets frustrated.
  • If she is awake in her crib after all this it usually means I haven’t gotten her tummy full enough. I repeat the nursing and do it all over.

We'll see if this is still working out when we get to the dreaded 4 month sleep regression.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Concrete Bench

A couple of years ago I bought a "park bench" that seemed rather sturdy. Imagine my chagrin when it started to get wobbly and wear out after only a couple of years. I thought I could either throw it out or make it last forever. Since a park bench is not that easy to throw out I decided to concrete it. What I did is get the metal lath sheets that they sell at Lowes for about $7 a sheet and form the sheets around the bench holding them in place with wire. I added some extra re-bar in the legs area and along the seat (top and bottom). Then I troweled on mortar mix, repositioning the bench so I was always just covering a horizontal surface. The last step was the seat and the tops of the arms. Some decorative yard sale glass was pressed into the wet mortar for decorative effect. One thing to remember about concrete is that the less water you use to make it the stronger it is. Drying out slowly also improves the strength. So it is now finished. This is a good companion piece to the concrete chair (over wicker) that I did a while back. Come have a seat!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

In honor of floccinaucinihilipilfication

There being a discussion of nihil on facebook {who would be surprised ?}, I found this old frenzied essay, product of a midnight fantasy on my hard drive:

     Nature Abhors a Vacuum
      by Gordon Powell 3/18/92

     Nil comprises Nil.  In Nil is Nil and nothing but Nil.  Nil,
as a physical universe, comprises neither space nor time nor
energy nor matter.  Is Nil logically consistent? In other words,
is Nil stable?

     If Nil comprises Nil, Nil is non-empty.  Therefore Nil would
appear to be logically inconsistent with itself.  A condition of
Nil is unstable.  Therefore something exists.

     All is the Universal.  Anything is a member of the
difference between All and Nil.  Both energy and matter are
something, that is they are a definitely specified anything.
Given our conceptions of energy and matter it is difficult to see
how they could exist independently of space and time.   Therefore
space and time are a precondition of energy and matter. 
Therefore given not nil, first we first have at least space and
time, and perhaps other members of Anything but not including
energy and matter.  Thus out of nothingness arises dimension and
place and subsequently time and sequence.   Thus out of Nil,
arises Null. This was the beginning of the Universe.

     Is Null, the empty Universe, logically consistent?  In other
words, is an empty Universe stable?  To have place, reference
points are necessary.   A single reference point is not
sufficient, because a single reference point does not establish
scale or direction.  Therefore the Universe is non-empty.  This
is the beginning of matter. 

     All that exists, exists because of the impossibility of Nil
and Null.  The Creator is Logic, and everthing created is a
theorem, including we ourselves.  There are an infinite number of
theorems and because of the incompleteness theorem, a definite
number of the secondary laws of physics will never suffice to
explain everthing.   It is in this sense that we are eternal and
that there will always be mystery.

Friday, November 9, 2012

An overcoat sleeping bag

Some people, particularly hunters and military people, are sometimes caught outside without complete equipment for camping overnight. Here is an idea for adding to an overcoat a means to turn it into a sleeping bag. The idea is the the lower part of the coat would have an annular addition attached along the bottom edge with the upper edge ordinarily folded upward inside the coat.

When required to create a sleeping bag, the idea would be to fold down the internal annulus "lining" that would be constructed long enough to extend beyond the feet. Some sort of fastening system would then seal the former internal annular "top" , now the "bottom". For the top of the overcoat, some sort of hood arrangement might be useful. If L. L. Bean or other manufacturer would make something like this, I think it would sell.

This would also be good for children.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Rabbit rabbit!  I don't know how it is November already.

I began my November with baking some bread, which is a skill I've wanted to acquire over the past few years.  I'm not against kneading and have made some lovely challah in the past, but challah requires lots of eggs.  Sandwich breads never seem to come out as nice as I'd like them to--denser, not as tall. When I've wanted fresh bread in a hurry I've tried this but never been completely happy with it. Slow-rise no-knead breads have always seemed intriguing but lacking a dutch oven I had not attempted one until I came across Deb form Smitten Kitchen's Bread without a Timetable.

This is a baguette, not a boule or a sandwich loaf, but it is fresh homemade bread that doesn't involve too much work.  I wanted some bread by lunchtime today but needed the morning to do other things, so I decided to try it out.  Here is what I did, and also a link to the original recipe.  I'd be curious to see how other people's loaves turn out (if anyone is up for making some bread).  It's vegan until you top it with butter or cheese.

Overnight Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 ½ c. white flour + more for kneading
2 c. whole wheat flour
¼ c. cornmeal + more for sprinkling
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
¼ t. yeast
1 ½ c. warm water

Mix yeast and warm water in a large measuring cup.  Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour wet over dry, mix to combine.  Knead 5 minutes.  Roll in flour, place in large bowl, cover with plastic wrap or towel.  Let rise slowly at room temperature (I did overnight, 9 hours).

Punch down, knead 5 minutes.  Roll in flour, return to bowl, cover.  Let rise (I did almost 2 hours).  Punch down, knead briefly, shape into a baguette.  Place on a cookie sheet lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Slash top four times, diagonally.  Let rise about 30 minutes, covered.

Bake for 30 minutes at 450 with a pan of hot water in the lower portion of the oven.  Lower the temperature to 425, bake another 5-20 minutes (I did 20).

The resulting baguette was very crusty with a dense interior.  The outside didn't brown as much as I expected.  It tasted like...whole wheat bread.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Homemade Raincoats

With Frankenstorm approaching, the kids and I decided to make raincoats with plastic bags and duct tape. The result is very stylish!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Concrete Chair

 This is the sturdiest chair ever! When my daughter was throwing out her wicker chairs that were falling apart I grabbed one for this project. The chair was covered with rat wire and chicken wire. Then I got morter mix and trowled it on, doing a section at a time. Some things to know about concrete are that the less water you use to make it, the stronger it is at the end, and that the slower it dries, the more strength it has at the end. When the sections were drying, I kept them moist to slow the drying. The rounded glass pieces were pressed into the concrete when it was wet. Below is a picture from the start of the project. Now I'm just waiting for someone who wants to come over and 'set' for a while!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Free Magazines

For the last year I've been swamped with free magazine subscriptions that I give away.  I am on the email list for and every few weeks they email me saying I can claim a free subscription to a legitimate magazine.  The catch is the magazine they invite you to get not always suited to your interests, but maybe you'll cultivate new interests! They're usually for pretty specific hobbies like "Tennis", "Budget Travel", "Four Wheeler", "Horse and Rider", "Hot Rods" ect...

But they're a genuinely free article after you answer some quick questions online. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fat Wallet

I have been using this site to get cash back on almost everything. I always thought stores like Land's End were for yuppies but they are probably about on par with an upscale Salvation Army once you take advatage of all the discounts. Fat Wallet will credit you a percentage back of your purchase if you click through from their site. They aggregate all the coupons and promotions in one place so I always start there to see if where I want to shop has a promotion or gives cash back. In a day or two the merchant reports the sale to Fat Wallet and after 90 days you can cash it out. I just got 30% off plus 3.5% cash back on the already clearance section of Land's End. I got a full ski wardrobe for two and a bunch of summer clothes for under $200 but I might lose my snooty credibility while I mill around the Swiss Chalet if I keep bragging about my bargains.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scales, teeth, feathers, hair, rhino horn.

Lynnis' post on the keratin in rhino horn brings to mind a little known but recently established fact that a sequence of evolutionary steps evolved fish scales into teeth (calcified scales that moved into the mouth), scales into feathers (dinos/birds), and feathers into hair (mammals). Of course the keratin in rhino horn is just consolidated hair. The roughly same gene system is known to behind all those evolutionary variants.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Unicorns Declared Extinct

The western black rhinoceros has been declared extinct due to poaching. The javanese, white and black rhinos could follow soon. There is a tremendous demand for the horns in traditional Chinese medicine. I propose a measure to save these real life unicorns by altering the supply and demand for the horns. The horns are just keratin, and I think it could be pretty straight forward to grow rhino horns in labs if we can grow human ears on the back of mice. We could make rhino horn as plentiful as any other "pharmaceutical".

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Most of you are on Facebook and can see my pictures there (some are up already, some will be up soon) but I thought I'd put up some here, too...

Berliner Dom (main Lutheran church in Berlin) at night.

Alte Nationalgalerie (19th century art), which houses lots of German Romantics and other 19th century German artists as well as some French Impressionists.

Studying the map of Tiergarten, which is kind of like Central Park, only more woods-y. And slightly confusing. (photo courtesy of Erika)

The Tiergarten. Very pretty, and also about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city because of all of the trees.

I'm staying with a host family here who lives in southern Berlin kind of near nothing...I'm still getting used to the buses and such because there are so many different lines that all have different start and stop times. Luckily the BVG website is very useful and easy to use. living with another family is very weird. The other housing option is studio apartments, which would also be strange because this is the first time in 16 years I have had my own room and I kind of am not sure what it would be like having a whole apartment (even if it was just a studio) to myself when I've barely had a room to myself.

We have a break from Oct 7-16 and a couple free weekends so my friends and I are trying to make some travel plans. We are also doing some cultural activities courtesy of our program (but not with the program) such as seeing a soccer game, a concert, and Swan Lake. and half of our program is going to Poland (the other half to Austria) at the beginning of November!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Does anyone use Pinterest? I just discovered it today and it is going to revolutionize the way I bookmark things I love.

Pinterest is a combination of social and a cloud based bulletin board for stuff you like. You can follow taste makers, and you can be a taste maker. You install the "pin it" button to your bookmarks toolbar then when you find something you love, whether it's for sale or a recipe you love you pin it to your "board". It saves the picture, a description and price if you want, and makes a hotlink to the URL of the site then displays all the things you love together by category.

So no more "my pictures" folders full of random eyecandy or littered bookmarks.

The social element is appealing too. Say you know your buddy has amazing taste, so you "follow" her to see what pretty things she is posting on her board. You can make boards for different categories like "Home", "Fashion", "Baking"...ect..

I think it's neat.