Sunday, 29 January 2012

Free pattern - Slip over vest and optional beanie

I created this pattern primarily to be used for charity knitting, although I have made slipovers for gifts as well. Slipovers were designed to simply 'slipover' as a soft, stretchy vest which can be worn directly next to the skin if needed. They need to be stretchy so they will fit a child for a long time and very soft.

Slipover – Easy to medium knitting. Requires knit, purl, simple increasing and decreasing.

To make slip over - start at the bottom front of the garment.

Use 7.5mm needles. Use very soft yarn, from 4ply to 8ply. Consider using two strands of baby wool. 

Front section
Cast on 34 stitches.
Garter stitch (knit every row) for 5 rows (approx 1 inch or 2cm)
Stocking stitch (kint and purl alternate rows) for 9 inches or 23 cm (approx 40 rows)
Garter stitch for 4 rows. Front of vest should now measure approx 27cm or 10.5 inches.
Decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of each row for the next 6 rows of garter stitch.

Knit 6 stitches (leave these on the needle to come back to later - this will be the LEFT STRAP) On the same row, cast off 15 stitches to leave you with 6 stitches. Knit these last 6 stitches - (this will be the RIGHT strap.)
Work 24 rows of garter stitch on the 6 stitches which are on the working end of the needle to form the RIGHT strap. Cut yarn.
Return to the 6 stitches which will form the LEFT strap. (Move RIGHT strap stitches to another needle if required). Work 24 rows of garter stitch on these 6 stitches.

Back section
Knit 6 stitches of strap, cast on 15 to form the back of the neckline, knit 6 stitches of other strap. Work in garter stitch for 10 rows (approx 2 inches or 5 cm)
Increase 1 stitch at the beginning of every row for the next 6 rows of garter stitch.
Work 4 rows of garter stitch. From back of neckline to here should measure approx 4 inches or 10cm.
Knit stocking stitch for 9.5 inches or 25cm (approx 40 rows). Ensure that distance between shaping of armholes and bottom garter stitch band are the same.
Work garter stitch for 6 rows, cast off.

Sewing up
Fold vest in half, right sides together. Ensure that front and back of armholes and bottom of vest line up. Sew up side seams, weave in ends from straps.

* To make a larger or a smaller slipover, increase or decrease the number of stitches and rows.
* If in doubt, a longer vest is preferable to one which is too short.

Beanie/ hat (Optional)
To make beanie - start at bottom of beanie

Use 7.5mm needles and same yarn as for slipover.

Cast on 42 stitches.
Row 1 - knit 2, purl 2 - repeat to end
Row 2 - purl 2, knit 2
Row 3 - knit 2, purl 2
Row 4 - purl 2, knit 2
(2 by 2 ribbing should measure approx 3 cm or 1 inch)
Row 5 to row 26 - stocking stitch (beanie will be approx 6 inches or 15cm long)
For rows 27 - 32, continue to work stocking stitch. Decrease each row by 5 stitches evenly spread.
Cut yarn leaving a 30cm tail. Thread yarn onto yarn needle. Slip stitches left on the needle onto the yarn needle. Pull tight (this should close the hole at the crown of the beanie) and tie off.
Turn beanie inside out. Align the bottom of the beanie and sew up side seam. Tie off and weave in ends.

Enjoy your slipover and beanie, give it away as a gift or donate it to a charity such as KAS to help AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. Knitting not your thing? You can donate funds instead.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Car seat adventures

My grandfather was a facial surgeon, and for a long time the only one in our capital city. Whenever there was a vehicle accident, he was called to operate. This happened weekdays, weeknight and most weekends. He would often go weeks at a time without seeing his children (my mother and her siblings) since he was the only one who could operate.

This wasn't because he was a workaholic, or so focused on his career that he neglected his family (far from it). It was because if he didn't care for these people, then they wouldn't ever go home to their families, since there was no one else to operate.

Along with the neurosurgeon with whom he frequently operated, my grandfather was critical in getting the Queensland state government to legislate that seatbelts were compulsary to wear. Queesland was only the third place in the world to do so, after New Zealand and Victoria. When these laws came into effect, my grandfather immediately noticed a decrease in the number of operations he was required to perform after accidents, and in the severity of the injuries which were sustained.

Perhaps because of this, car safety is of critical importance to me. For those who aren't aware, in Australia children are required to be in a rearward facing seat or capsule until six months (or eight kilograms). Until four years they need to be in a five point harness seat, and from four year to seven years in a booster seat. I wholeheartedly support anything which makes car travel safer, especially for little ones.

Our plan for car seats was for Chubs to have a capsule until she was six months. After this, we planned to purchase a convertable seat which would have a five point harness from six months to four years, and then converts to a booster seat until seven years.

Well, this was a great plan, except for the fact that Chubs was too chubby for her capsule at four months. Legally she would have been ok to go into a forward facing convertible seat, but she couldn't yet sit up by herself with good head control. The danger with that is that in an accident she would have less support.

Due to this, we purchased a 0 - 4 years convertible seat. In this seat, she could stay rearward facing until 12 kilograms (more than the nine kilogram maximum in the capsule). Of course, if we had know this originally, then we could have purchased the convertable seat from the beginning and skipped the capsule hire altogether. (We will now need to buy her a booster seat at four years, but they are much cheaper than the car seats for younger bubs.)


I'm not sure, had I known this, if we still would have used the capsule. It was useful having the 'bucket' part because if Chubs was asleep we could carry her in. However, more often than not she would wake when we got the bucket part out of the car, so I found I would often leave her in the car anyway and hang out the washing (our line is right next to the carport), sit in the car on the laptop or otherwise leave her and wait close by for her to wake up.

On occasion if we went out at dinner time I would put her to sleep in the bucket part, but again she would often wake when it was time to go home and I could have used the stroller anyway. It was very compact though, and useful as a little seat when visiting. It was probably the same amount of effort to remove the tether strap and take the bucket part out as it was to just unclip the harness and take her out.

Some expensive strollers have a part where the capsule can be clicked into the stroller, although we didn't have one of these. If we did have one of those I'm thinking it would be very convenient, particuarly if you have more than one child?

The convertible seat which we purchased does take up heaps of room, and apparantly it's one of the smallest on the market. When it's rear facing, the front passenger seat needs to be all the way forward, and the backrest totally verticle (and not very comfortable). The capsule didn't take up nearly as much space as that. We have a small 4WD estate car. If we had a small hatchback, I don't even know if a convertable car seat would have fit at all.

What has been your experience with car seats? Do you like capsules or not? How does having more than one child affect your choices?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The prize for...

... favourite book this week goes to The Biggest Bed in the World by Lindsay Camp and illustrated by Jonathan Langley.

This delightful picture book tells the story of how Ben likes to sleep in his Mum and Dad's bed. All is fine until his baby brother Billy arrives, then things get a bit cramped. When the twins, Beth and Bart, arrive they are followed soon after by the triplets Brittany, Bella and Boris, which leads Ben's dad to make a creative, althought not really structurally sound solution.

The book is so much fun to read with the delightful alliteration and Langley's illustrations capture perfectly what life with cosleeping little ones can look like. (Think of a jumbo bed in a too small room, with a smattering of toys around.) Ben's mum is featured frequently in the pictures but is never mentioned; however, this in no way detracts from the story. (I am however a bit worried about her apparantly hyperstimulated ovaries and super-fertility.)

I really feel that this book captures the feeling and atmosphere of a loving young family who enjoys each other's closeness. It has positive images of young children, cosleeping, breastfeeding, baby bottles and family life.

I asked my husband what he thought of the book when I read it to Chubs and him. I said 'what do you think about Ben's dad?' and he replied 'Poor bastard' with a look of understanding. This book is a must for any parents who have a child in the bed regularly or occasionally, and the kids will probably enjoy the story too!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Recycling bin improvisation FTW

I have recently returned to work after my Maternity Leave. Whilst on leave I packed up all my things and put them into storage. Despite a massive purge, I still had many things which I felt it was best to keep. I sweet-talked my mum and sister into collecting them for me, and then I carted them back to work. (They were going to the storage shed anyway to get things of their own, I'm not that bad...) It's a fair distance from the carpark to my desk, and boxes of books are really heavy. (Although, at least they don't squirm or pinch my arm or pull my hair. Then again, the book boxes don't giggle and gurgle either. I digress.)

I was very conscious that I had a mountain of work to do, and a baby girl at home who would want a feed in a few hours. I didn't want to spend all my time farting about carrying boxes. I emptied out the aforementioned recycling bin, filled it with my books and then used it as a makeshift trolley. Two trips instead of ten or more, recycling back in the bin and three glorious hours of uninterrupted work. Works for me!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Baden- Powell would be proud of me...

As a true blue Girl Guide, I'm a big fan of Being Prepared. I'm the one who packs the spare sunscreen, the snow shoes and the parachute just in case. I've said before that I'm a big planner, and there's a few reasons.

Firstly, being prepared allows us to be spontaneous. If we go to someone's house for lunch, we have a great time and then they invite us to stay for dinner, then we can say yes. I've got a spare blanket and more nappies in the car, so we don't have to rush home.

Secondly, it means that we don't inconvenience others as much. Travelling with people with a baby who have to stop at a shop to buy some more wipes, or who need to visit three chemists to find the one which stocks the right sized nappies affects everyone in the group, and I don't want that person to be me.

Thirdly, it's generally cheaper to take what you need than to buy a top up at a corner store. Also, sometimes what you need just isn't available. I'm used to travelling in remote areas and you take what you need, and then spares, becuase you can't be sure that someone else will have it for you.

Fourthly, it's also about being self reliant. Not having to sponge off others all the time, or expect others to do for you what you can easily do for yourself, is a good thing.

However, it's also important that you strike a balance. There's no point carting around a huge bag of stuff you are unlikely to need, especially if space is an issue.

For Chubs we have a spare bag in the car, some things in the stroller, her normal nappy bag and her daycare bag.

Nappy bag
Change mat, three disposable nappies, two cloth nappies, half a pack of wipes, small bottle of powder, onesie, long sleeved romper, jumper, sun hat, spit bib, wet bag, plastic bags. If we're out at a meal time, then food, spoon and food bib as well.

Car bag
(This bag isn't often used, just as a spare)
Three disposable nappies, half a pack of wipes, onesie, singlet, long sleeved romper, soces, bunny rug, warm blanket.

(Another spare in case the nappy bag all gets used up/ forgotten/ abducted by aliens)
Change mat, two nappies, mini wipes pack, spare $20, pegs for attaching the bunny rug to the stroller, pen
In stroller basket - bunny rug, assorted toys and books, my sun hat, rain cover.

ETA: this is what we do for Chubs' daycare bag
Are you a super prepared person, or a fly- by- the- seat- of- your- pants person?

Being organised and prepared works for me!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

How charity knitting changed MY life

Previously I blogged about charity knitting and how it can improve your skills. I neglected to mention in that post about how charity knitting can change more than just your knitting ability.

I've mentioned Knit-a-square and their work with orphans and other vulnerable children in Africa who face the dual perils of HIV and poverty many times before. About 18 months ago I posted this on the KAS forum, which really captured my gratitude at the time.

Thank you KAS - from the bottom of my heart
I started writing this comment in the 'Anyone feel like a chat?' thread, but then I thought it needed a thread of it's own.

I've been very busy the past month or two, and I've had a HUGE week this week, I've worked about 65 hours at work, and I'm still nowhere near being on top of things. I've been staying up til 2am, or getting up at 4am to get work done. There is something strange about replying to emails in your pajamas!

It's Friday night and I'm trying to stay up until at least 8:30 pm (!) before I go to bed. I've got nothing on tomorrow morning (wooo hoo - sleep in!), and then we're off to see our nephew's school musical in the afternoon (and give my niece her requested slip over!) School work Saturday night, and then a lazy Sunday morning at home is in order I think! I'll have to go into work Sunday afternoon to get ready for the week, and I'm sure by Sunday night the cleaning and the laundry will be screaming for attention!

Hopefully after next week things will calm down a bit (hopefully!) KAS has been a real blessing to me in the past little while. As I've said before, the monotony of plain knitting is really important to help me unwind. Seeing one of my squares in the lates ezine was a really big boost - encouragement for me to go on making the effort of organising kids, squares and postage! I really enjoy checking in the forum, too. Kind responses and cheerful comments really mean a lot to me. If I need a boost during the day I will try to squeeze in a few minutes to see if someone has replied or left a comment on a photo - it warms my heart to see that.

So thank you KAS, for all you give to me.
Thank you for the sense of community across the oceans.
Thank you for providing me with opportunity to learn new knitting skills, which I can use for me, for my friends and family, and for many who I will never meet. .
Thank you for the kind words, the messages of encouragment and the thoughtful touches.
Thank you for the support I get for knowing that across the miles we are linked, stitch by stitch.
Thank you for reminding me that I can make a difference, and thank you for the photos which prove it. 

Thank you for providing me with such a wonderful platform to build a culture of service amongst my students. Students can DO SOMETHING - make squares. Others can fundraise, donate wool and sell ice cream. Others can count squares, wrap in brown paper and cover in entire rolls of packing tape. Others still drop off squares from their grandmas, and share in the excitement of seeing them in photos. Having the opportunity to develop the culture of service in my school through KAS is invaluable to me.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to help the children face the double perils of AIDS and extreme poverty.
Thank you for helping me to help them.
Thank you for showing me the photos that are proof that my work does count, that my work does make a difference.

Thank you for helping me show these beautiful, precious children that yes, someone does care.

Thank you KAS, and everyone who is a part of it, for helping me to change the world.
And thank you KAS, for changing me.

To donate knitting or funds to KAS, click here

Friday, 13 January 2012

How to make playdough (recipe)

Playdough is just wonderful stuff. It's great for smooshing and mooshing (which means that it helps develop fine motor skills). Little people (and big people) can create entire towns of trees and buildings and dinosaurs which makes for great role play.

Here's a microwave recipe for making playdough which is very easy. You can add a few drops of vanilla essence as a perservative, but it's got so much salt that it will last for a while. It will probably dry out before it goes mouldy. There's no nasties in it so it's ok if some ends up in little mouths as well.

2 cups flour (plain)
1 tbspn oil
2 cups water
1 cup salt
1 tspn creat of tartar
Few drops food colouring

Mix all ingredients well. (You can leave the food colouring out if you want to add it later to make swirls. You can also split the mixture and make different colours if you wish.) Microwave on medium/ high for 2 - 3 minutes. Stir. Return to microwave for 2 more minutes.

Store in an airtight container and enjoy!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

What to do with all this crafted stuff?

Years ago I found this article called "How charity knitting changed my (knitting) life". When I read it, I had one of those amazing feelings where someone articulates exactly what you already knew, but didn't realise that you knew it. When someone explains to you why what you already know works, it is affirming, gives clarity and can be a 'coming home' moment. That article certainly did that for me. (You'd really better go and click on that link and read the article for the rest of this post to make sense...)

It reminded me that you can plan something down to Plan H (because only have one Plan B is a recipe for disaster in my opinion) but that no matter how much planning you do, it isn't a substitute for getting out there and doing it. I too remember hearing that story about the pottery class, and I have seen no end of examples of the truth of that.

When learning a new skill - be it knitting or anything else - it is good to read books, get lessons, watch video clips and seek advice, but there comes a point were further planning is not useful (eeeep!) and you just have to get out there and do it.

When you are knitting for charity, quantity is important. Quality is too, don't get me wrong, but it doesn't need to be perfect. Sometime 'good enough' is just that - good enough. Getting something as close to perfect as possible can actually be counter productive, if it means that you are forever undoing and restarting and backtracking and reundoing....

If you are making squares to stitch into a warm colourful patchwork blanket like these, then it doesn't matter if the red stripe on your square is three rows longer than the green one. Patchwork knitted blankets are fairly forgiving when stitched together, so it doesn't matter if some squares are a little bit wonky. A muddled stitch on a square is ok as long as it's secure. You're better to spend time knitting a few more rows of your next square than to be undoing and refixing over and over again.

The more things you make, the better you get. If you let yourself just slide over you small mistakes, if you let yourself make things which are 90% perfect, then you will stop making mistakes in time. You will do more stitches correctly if you just work through the small mistakes, than if you unpick them and redo them. Ten good squares are more useful that two perfect ones.

Sizing can also be less of an issue for charity knitting. It doesn't matter if the jumper you were knitting for a 10 year old gets away from you and ends up fitting a 12 year old. There will usually be someone for the item to fit - just check with the charity in case they have a need for a particular size.

Charity knitting can be a great way to make items which knit up quickly. A simple baby cardigan can be done in a weekend because of its small size. Vests knit up quickly as the don't have long sleeves to knit - it's more rewarding to make one vest than half a jumper.

Knitting lots of small items for others can also be a good way to keep from getting bored with one big project of your own. I always seem to have about five or six things on the go at any one time; it can help with the monotony of a big task.

All that aside, improving your skills doesn't mean that you should give charities crap. If you wouldn't be happy to use it yourself or give it to someone you love, then don't pass it off to a charity. Most charities are staffed by volunteers, so don't waste their precious time having to sort through and fix or dispose of items which can't be used. It still has to be 'good enough'.

So if you are thinking of learning a new craft, why not consider giving your practise items away? Charity knitting (or sewing or cooking or crocheting or whatever skill you want to learn) is a great way to practise, help others and avoid having your house taken over with crafty products.

So, what to make and who to give it to? You can approach this by working out who you want to help, or you can find who needs what you want to make. If you have an organisation in mind who you would like to help, then ask them what they want and what would be the most useful. You can work the other way if you want - try to think of who might need your item and seek them out. Some ideas for knitting are below:

Baby beanies, baby blankets, toys, beanies for older children and adults

Homeless/ disadvantaged assistance groups
Very warm beanies, scarfs, gloves/ mittens, blankets

Overseas or local aid groups
Beanies/ warm hats of all sizes, squares for making blankets or scarfs, vests, jumpers/ sweaters

Children's charities
Beanies, jumpers/ sweaters, toys. Matching sets are great as gifts.

Contact the organisation to find out specifically what they need. Is there a preference for sizing or the type of stitch or yarn? How are items to be packaged? Are there any special postage instructions? Are their any colours or patterns to be avoided?

Here are some charities which might be a starting point:
Knit-a-square (about whom I wrote) needs 20cm squares, adult sized beanies and monetary donations to help AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa.
QuIHN works with people in South East Queensland with issues such as homelessness, drug dependence, violent backgrounds and mental health issues. They need warm beanies, scarfs and blankets.
Help-a-bub provided baby good for several charities and orphanages around the world
The Givit List publishes the needs of charities Australia wide which often includes things which crafters can help with.

Wherever you are there will be someone who you can help with your new skill. So enjoy helping others, stitch by stitch.

How to knit a simple roll brim beanie

This free pattern is for beginning to intermediate knitters. It can be knitted on circular needles or straight. If you knit on circular needles, then you only need knit stitch and to decrease. For straight needles, both knit and purl stitches are needed (as well as decreasing).

Use 6mm needles and 8 ply wool/ yarn
Cast on required number of stitches
Large adult = 64 stitches, small adult/ child = 60 stitches, baby = 56 stitches

For circular needles:Knit stitch one row, then join the loop being careful not to twist the knitting. Continue to knit each row.
For straight needles: Knit stitch one row, then purl stitch the next row. Continue in stockinette stitch.

Continue until beanie/ warm hat reaches required length.
12cm large adult, 10cm small adult/ child, 8cm baby

Decrease every 8th(large adult)/ 7th(small adult/ child)/ 6th stitch (baby) stitch. Continue to decrease in line for the next 5 rows.

For circular needles: Cut yarn leaving a long tail and thread onto the yarn needle. Thread each stitch off the circular needle and onto the yarn needle. Pull tight so that the hole closes, tie off securely and thread yarn end inside of beanie, trim end of required.
For straight needles: Cut yarn leaving a long tail and thread onto the yarn needle. Thread each stitch off the knitting needle and onto the yarn needle. Pull tight and turn the beanie inside out. Stitch the backseam from top to bottom.

Tidy up the yarn ends at the brim and roll the brim up. (The picture below shows the brim with an exaggerated roll.)

Enjoy your beanie or give it to a friend as a gift or to a charity who can pass it on to someone in need.

What's in a name?

I stumbles across this article today which talks about the most common names for babies in Queensland this year. I always find these lists interesting. As a high school teacher I often seen waves of popular names come through on the class rolls 12 years after they were popular. It's also interesting which names stick around, and which ones vanish for years or decades on end.

I also saw this New Zealand article which talks about which names were rejected (although none in Queensland last year). Some of those just boggle my mind...

What do you think about common or more rare names?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Awesome geeky crafts

This post is to celebrate what happens when nerds get crafty.
First up is my sister's droid fridge - ok a fridge with droids on it.

Yes, that is blackboard paint on a fridge, and yes, that's the actual fridge in her kitchen. And the best thing about about having a blackboard as a fridge is that you can swap R2D2 and C3PO for Buzz whenever you feel like it.

What else would you put in a nerdy fridge, than a watermelon storm trooper?

Speaking of R2, what's not to love about this beanie?

In honour of upcoming Pi day, I plan to craft-up a Pi shirt. I'll post photos when I'm done. I'd also love this gold necklace for Science Week. UPDATED: I bought it! Here's the pic, hopefully it will arrive soon.

I remember reading about someone who was knitting a Mario Scarf. She planned to knit the whole of Super Mario Brothers world 1:1 as a scarf. However, I don't know what happened to her. Her original blog hasn't been updated in years and her new blog doesn't work. I'd love to know what happened with the project if anyone knows?

What crafty geekiness have you been up to or are you wishing for? Please share in the comments, I'd love to hear about it.

How to knit a simple 20cm square

This free knitting pattern is for a very basic 20cm or 8 inch square. This is a great starter project for a beginner knitter as they knit up very quickly. Even experience knitters will love churning out the squares and you can make so many things with them. They can also be a great way to use up scraps of wool/ yarn and create such a rainbow of colours.

Materials: 8 ply yarn and 5mm needles

Cast on 35 stitches.
Knit stitch every row (garter stitch) for 60 rows (30 ridges) or until work reaches 20cm long (depending on your tension)
If desired, change colours at the start of a ridge to form stripes.
Cast off neatly. Leave a tail of 1m if you want to join to other squares, weave in all other ends.

Watch out for future posts for ideas about what you can do with your squares.
- UPDATE 1: give your squares to charity

How MCNs work for us

I'm a big fan of modern cloth nappies - here's the howwhatwhenwherewhywho of what we do.

What do you use?
We use pocket MCNs with microfibre inserts. We also use disposables at night and on occasion during the day.

Why do you use cloth nappies/ diapers?
The two main reasons that we use cloth nappies are financial and environmental.

The last box of disposable nappies which I bought (with 81 nappies in it) took Chubs five and a half weeks to work through. If she was using them full time it would last 10 - 14 days. The initial cost of cloth nappies isn't significant, especially when compared to the ongoing cost of disposables. I also only purchased 12 to begin with, and then another 12 later when we were sure we would keep using them to spread the cost.

The environmental cost of disposables is huge - every single disposable which has ever been used is still in landfill somewhere. Disposables are made of chemicals and use energy and water to manufacture. Of course cloth nappies are made of chemicals too, however each is only produced once and used many times. Based on our current usage rate and assuming that Chubs toilet trains at two and a half, then each of our 24 nappies will have been used roughly 100 times each. There is obviously a water and energy cost when it comes to washing the cloth nappies. To be honest I'm not really sure about what the actual cost is for disposables since it's very hard to find data. What is in my control, however, is to minimise the environmental cost of washing the cloth nappies. I wash in cold water, line dry and don't iron the nappies. (Seriously, I once read a study where people ironed their nappies, and they used that to work out the energy and time cost?!?!?)

As well as the production and washing cost of nappies, there is the breakdown of nappies and the transport. A disposable nappy/ diaper needs to be delievered in trucks from the factory to the shop, transported home from the shops, and then taken away to the dump by a garbage truck for every single nappy change. Cloth nappies only need to be transported once. Using our rate of usage as I said above, that means that we have 1% of the transport impact that Chubs' nappies otherwise would if she was in sposies full time. Assuming we throw out her nappies when she toilet trains (and that they last as long as that) then there will also be a lot less nappies sitting somewhere in landfill.

How do you use them?
The cloth nappies we have are very simple to use. The microfibre insert goes inside, a disposable paper liner on top and then it snaps on the same as a sposie. When it's time to take it off the paper liner (and any interesting 'presents') go into the bin, the insert gets pulled out and the cover and insert go into a regular rubbish bin. If we are out, then I still pull the insert out and put the cover and insert into a wet bag or a plastic bag. When we get home I empty the bag straight into the washing bin. No pins, no plastic pants, no folding, no soaking - woo hoo!

Where do you use them?
We use cloth nappies almost always when we are home and when we are out. As I said above, the nappies go into a bag (a cloth wetbag or just a plastic grocery bag) if we are out. We use disposables sometimes when we are at home and overnight as they are more absorbent than our MCNs (although there are dedicated night cloth nappies available). Chubs also uses her cloth nappies at day care. In our spare/ emergency packs in the car, at Nanny's etc we have disposables.

Each time whe have travelled, either for a business trip or to visit rellies, we have used disposables, mostly to save space on the plane trip and also because we don't always have access to a line to dry (only tumble dryer). Next Christmas we are spending at World Heritage listed Fraser Island and I will probably take the cloth nappies then so that Chubs' nappies don't stay not-rotting there forever. Fresh water is also abundant/ unlimited on Fraser because it's a sand island (which provides a natural desalination filter) so washing won't be a problem. Not sure what we will do if it rains though, I will have to think about that more.

When do you wash?
I wash twice a week overnight. On Saturday and Wednesday nights I empty the bin bag of nappies into the washing machine, fill it with water, normal detergent and nappy soaker. Some places recommend not using nappy soaker, but I find it makes them brighter and I haven't noticed any damage. I pause the machine and delay it several hours so the nappies can soak overnight. The machine comes on at about 5am and I hang them out in the morning.

If it's rainy or we have a crazy week, then I just take the bin bag, tie a knot in it to contain the smell and chuck it in the corner of the laundry. If I run out of cloth nappies then we just use sposies for a few days. I do like having the 'wiggle room' of using the disposables - it relieves much of the pressure to get the nappies washed and dried.

Who has the time to use MCNs?
Well, I do. It's important for me to spend lots of time with Chubs, and I can do that with cloth nappies. From a financial point of view, keeping out costs down means that I can work less hours. Washing nappies isn't time away from Chubs, either. She 'helps' me hang out the nappies, we got for stroller rides around the washing line and hang up one nappy each time and we play peekaboo when getting them off the line. Last week it took me over an hour to bring the nappies in. It would have taken me less than five minutes if I'd just gone and taken them off, but with all the giggling, hiding in washing baskets, making nappy towers and singing silly songs it was a lovely hour well spent :)

This post is part of Works For Me Wednesday. Pop over to Kristen's blog to see what others' tips are.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Ideas for cool babies on hot days

It's a stinking hot day here in the middle of a very hot summer, so we're all feeling a little bit wilted here. Here's some ways to keep baby cool in the summer.

Seek the cool

If it's wet, shady or has air conditioning, then go there! Visits to air conditioned libraries, shops, a friend's house with air con or anywhere else you can find the cool, especially in the hottest part of the day, can make a big difference. A swim at the beach, a pool or in the bath tub can also be great, especially in the late afternoon while waiting for the cool change to come through.

 Avoid the hot

Super hot days generally aren't the days for a bush walking adventure, playing sport, gardening or sunbaking (eep!). If you don't have air conditioning in your car, then it's crucial that you try to avoid all but the shortest trips if you have a little one. Cars get so hot in the sun, even with the windows down and the parents in the car. If you can't delay a drive across town or on the highway, then see if you can leave bubba with someone else, borrow a car with air conditioning, or leave very early in the morning or in the evening to avoid the sweltering hours. If you find youself with no option but to do a long drive in the middle of a hot day (as we did once) then you'll need to be almost in crisis mode. Do whatever you can to keep bub from being overheated - perhaps someone can sit in the back seat and fan baby, use a window shade (or tea towel) to keep the sun off bubba, wipe baby with a cool washer and keep the baby well hydrated.

Keep hydrated

It's so easy to become dehydrated when the weather's hot. Exclusively breastfed babies don't need to drink water as long as they are frequently offered the breast. More frequent nursing will cause the mother's supply to increase to respond to her baby's increased thirst. Short, frequent feeds also means that bubba will get more thirst quenching, watery foremilk (as opposed to the richer hindmilk) which is perfect for a hot day. Babies should have at least 5 - 6 heavy wet disposable nappies/ diaper, or 6 - 8 cloth nappies in a 24 hour period and urine should be very pale yellow or clear and not have a stong odour. If your bubba dehydrated, then try offering more feeds. Older children and adults should be passing urine every four hours and again it should be pale yellow and not have a strong odour - otherwise increase the fluids and cool down. Of course, if you or your child is very dehydrated and doesn't improve, then seek medical advice.

When it's hot the idea of being snuggled in close to someone to feed seems like a terrible idea, so often babies (and mothers) don't want to nurse when it's hot. Try feeding lying down, so that only you baby's mouth and your breast need to be touching. A tea towel or other cloth between you might also help avoid sticky, sweaty skin. As mention above, short and frequent feeds are generally best in hot weather and may be more bearable.

If you baby has formula and/ or is taking solids, then you may also offer some cooled, boiled water in a bottle or sippy cup. Don't ever water down formula or expressed breast milk - stick to the manufacturer's instructions, but you can offer water separately. Watery solids like runny stewed apple, watermelon, grapes and slushy purees can also help keep your baby hydrated. Water play with a few cups and face washers can also provide opportunities for bubs to stuck on some water.

Don't forget to keep yourself hydrated too. Thirst is a late dehydration sign, so keep drinking before you get thirsty. Lots of water or other cool drinks, watery fruit and seeking the shade are important for the big people as well as the little ones.

Try not to wear the cranky pants

Hot, sticky days usually mean whining, moaning, fidgeting and general crankiness. Your kiddies will probably feel this way too. Try to be sensitive to the decreased tolerance level in your family. Avoid stressful discussions if you can, get some space if you need to and don't try to do anything but the essentials.

Fun (and useful) hot day activities

Water play with a tub, some plastic cups and a few toys might keep bubs and you occupied and cool for a while.
Get a bucket of water and fill up lots of cups with water in the sandpit. Tipping them out will cool bub down and make the sand wet for better sand castles.
Grab a pile of books or pop on a DVD, get some cool drinks and set yourselves up for a lazy day in front of the fan or air conditioner.
A baby in the high chair with some ice cubes on the tray (or a wet washer in the freezer) can be fun to play with for a while.
A swim in a pool or a beach is great - just avoid the sun in the hottest time of the day.
If you've got air con in your car, a hot day is a great day to visit someone on the other side of town (or maybe the next town over...)
Turn the fan up to 11 and sit in front of it. See how it makes your hair go, send small pieces of paper flying across the room, and see what funny noises you can make by talking into the fan. (The kiddies might want to play this game too :) )
Anything air conditioned - movies, the library, ten pin bowling, shopping or a play centre.

For more advice about babies and hot weather look here , and stay cool!

Helping AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children.

Several years ago I chanced upon a knitting charity that has ever since been close to my heart. Knit-a-square is a charity started by a family with connections in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia. The dual perils of AIDS and extreme poverty mean that they were saddened to find endless children wandering the streets at night in the bitter cold. Sandy and Zanny came up with an idea that they weren't even sure that would work - what if all the knitters around the world knitted one square, these were stitched into blankets and these blankets could warm these precious, tiny children? Read more of their story here.

It took time, hard work and many, many challenges, but eventually the program snowballed. The current goal is to 'knit-a-squillion' - to warm 36 000 beautiful vulnerable children like Patience here.

There are many, many more children who need your help. The babies below attend a makeshift creche which are very, very common. These beautiful babies are asleep on an old piece of lino on bare soil, and winter in South Africa is bitterly cold.

These young men belong to a group home for teenage boys who are orphaned and/ or have had violent or traumatic backgrounds. This photo shows them with some of the 'go over' sweaters that KAS was able to give them - very important as their dining room is merely an open awning with tarps as walls, and they walk long distances every day.

Especially for immune compromised children, the warmth of a blanket is crucial. Having something that they own, made especially for them which is bright and colourful is also a wonderful feeling for these children who have so little.

If you would like to help, KAS needs 20cm (8 inch) squares knitted or crocheted, as well as adult sized beanies/ hats and other items. Postage information (including important customs instructions and the address to send to) can be found here.

As well as knitted goods, KAS is also desperate for funds. Whilst the huge bulk of the labour comes from volunteers, there are many unavoidable costs. These include significant transport costs, paying duty and other fees at the post office, providing refreshments to volunteers on work days and other costs. To make a one off or recurrent donation, you can click on the PayPal button here (to the right of the page). A recurrent donation for $US5 a month would mean so much to KAS.

So, for the same of this precious girl and the millions like her, please help KAS.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese

Today was a big day for Chubs - and for me as well. It was her first taste of Spaghetti Bolognese - both the meal, and the song. As an Australian child of the 80s (who's mother was a kindy teacher no less) I've long had a soft spot for Peter Combe. When he started playing shows for adults, all my dreams had come true! Well, not all of them - now I get to listen to them with my very own Miss Clicketty Cane.

Baby Spaghetti Bolognese
Makes 10 small baby portions, suitable for freezing

200g crushed tinned tomatoes
250g ground beef/ beef mince
1 cup uncooked soup pasta (or other small pasta)
One cup steamed brocolli
Three carrots, cut and steamed

Brown the mince and add the tomatoes. Cook for 5 - 10 mins until all cooked though. Boil the pasta for 8 mins or until soft - a little bit overcooked is ok. Blend the steamed veggies. Divide the bolognese, pasta and veggies evenly into 10 containers and freeze.

My five most useful non-baby items for a baby

As many people know, if you make something a product for a baby, then the price automatically skyrockets. Say it's for a wedding, and the same thing happens too. The more non-baby stuff that you can find, then probably the cheaper it will be.

Nappy bin(s)

We were able to get two swing top rubbish bins for Chubs' change table (more on that later). One is for disposable nappies (diapers), wipes and rubbish. The other is for cloth nappies to be washed. We picked up three of these 40L swing top bins (two for Chubs' room and one as a new kitchen bin) for $10 each at the cheap shop. Specalised nappy wrappers cost $50 - $60. Sure, they wrap the nappies up into giant long sausages, which do contain the smell a bit - but so does throwing out the nappies. I'm a bit of a cheapskate frugal, so just emptying the bin every two days is much more my style. Refills for the nappy wrappers are $20ish dollars each, too. In our non-baby bins we just put regular large plastic shopping bags or regular bin liners. Also, from an environmental point of view, I think that the less plastic wrapping the going-to-take-forever-to-break-down-anyway nappies and poo, the better.

Regular table for nappy changes

I bought two of the above dining room tables when I was in a share house at university. That was eight and a half years before Chubs was born, and I jokingly thought then that one could be my first born's change table - which is exactly what happened. One of the great things about these two tables was that the legs screwed off, which meant that one of the tables had been our dining table, and the other lived legless behind the couch. (The couch that I often lay on when I was legless, a long, long time ago :) .) The second table now lives in Chubs' room. A foam change mat in the middle, nappies and wipes on one side and space for a change of clothes, yesterday's jumper, a toy to play with/ throw at Mummy's head etc live on the other side.

The best part, however, about this table is that underneath it is storage. Since Chubs' room used to be the study/ guest room/ Room For The Storage Of Crap, that space is significantly reduced now. Although we tried to get rid of much of our stuff (and somewhat did this) I'm still desparate for storage space. Underneath the change table is an empty nappy box which is the 'pantry storage' for unopened wipes/ baby shampoo/ swim nappies etc and the bulk sposie nappy box. Also is our suitcase when not in use, my sewing machine and overlocker, a file box of important documents and our printer. I love having all this under the table, hidden away with a pretty tablecloth I already had. (Actually I think I bought that tablecloth the day I bought the table.) We were actually given a small baby-specific change table, but I love having this big one instead, and the dining table cost less that the specalist change table whould have if we had purchased it new.

Washing basket 'seat'

The poor man's Bumbo. From when Chubs could just sit up we worked out that we could put her in an empty oval washing basket. Not only could she lean against the back, but the sides stopped her falling to the side. We could also pop a few toys in on her lap and they wouldn't roll away. It got to the stage where visitors came over and we would put her in there without a second thought - only our visitors thought that it was a bit strange, and then they realised how well it worked for us!


From when she first started solids, Chubs has LOVED chewing on a crispbread biscuit. I gave her one one day when we had run out of rusks, and the next think it was half gone. I looked for where the broken bits had gone (since most of her food was ending up on the floor at this stage) but I couldn't find it. I watched her more closely, and I realised our precious girl was sucking on the crispbread until it got soft, and then was smooshing and swallowing the mush - clever girl! My husband and I now call them magic biscuits. A crispbread when she's strapped in the stroller, the high chair or the bouncer usually buys us ten minutes to do what we have to do. So don't feel that you're limited to the baby food aisle to feed your baby.

Ziplock bags and ice cube trays

Although I was/ am a frequent expresser, I've managed to avoid special breastmilk storage bags and containers. Breastmilk is fine to be frozen in normal ziplock sandwich bags - these are food grade and much cheaper. Just turn upside down, snip off one of the bottom corners when the milk is defrosted and pour into the bottle/ sippy cup. I also never found the need for special freezing containers - regular ice cube trays with a lid (or with cling wrap/ alfoil over the top) work just as well. You can then pop the 'milk cubes' straight into the bottle or defrose to add into solids.

So feel free to think outside the baby box when using things for your bubba, it might just be more useful and probably much cheaper. What are your best non-baby baby items?

Welcome to my blog

Hello to all,

Welcome to my blog - an adventure in family life, community mindedness, geekiness, craftiness, domestic not-quite-bliss and everything else which is wonderful in the world. Glad to have you along for the ride!
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