Sunday, June 21, 2015

Channel your inner geek

I'm a geek. I always have been one, I will always be one. Perhaps I'm a nerd. Maybe both? Either way, I'm a gamer. I've always loved gaming, and even though my gaming days have been limited since parenthood, it never leaves my blood! It's part of who I am.

I was poking around a retail website (you could probably guess which one after the rest of this sentence) a while back, and I saw one of those awesome D20 necklaces. I wanted one, but, as usual, it was out of stock. I got curious and poked around on Etsy.

I found them.

I found LOTS of them.


Not all of them were that great, though. I mean, many of them were okay, but I'm rather picky. If a picture is slightly off-center, I must fix it. I was given a ring (previous boyfriend) that had a marquis stone and two accents... and the marquis was crooked. That was the first thing I noticed, and it bugged me daily. So yeah, not all of the things I found were stellar, but one shop stood out.

PROJECT NERD

This shop had beautiful spiral caged D20 necklaces. I mean beautiful. Other shops had some that were crooked, uneven, etc., but Project Nerd had so many necklaces and perfect spiraling.



I got a necklace for myself, but Bobble got jealous. I got him one, too.





The quality was great both times. Bobble even had his shipped in this cute little box with tissue paper around it. He was ecstatic.



The die comes out easily, though I wouldn't recommend it for young children (like Bobble) who like to tug on things. His necklace got stretched a bit too much (the caging). It still holds nicely, but it bothers my quirky, perfectionist self. Of course, mine looks as perfect as the day I got it, and I've taken the die out numerous times. It wasn't taking the die out that caused the issue, it was a 4 year old thinking he should tug a bunch and stretch it out.


As you can see, he did tug a lot on it. I have taken my die out at least a dozen times, and it has maintained proper shape. I assume he just tugged and tugged. (I say "assume" because he took it to school for show and tell one time... and it came home like this.)

I also don't let Bobble wear his necklace without an adult around, because the die is tiny. Four is plenty old enough to know better, but that doesn't stop him from doing things he know he shouldn't any other time. Better safe than sorry!



Not only has this necklace made me friends that I might otherwise never have met (random conversation starter with strangers!), but it has saved me from a screaming child in doctor office waiting rooms. The die makes a great distraction for Squiggle! I had pictures of that, but they all came out blurry because she was playing and moving around so much.



She also loves it as a nursing necklace.

Project Nerd has more than just spiral D20 necklaces, though! Check out these neat die earrings and the MTG pendants!

Ohhhhh, but wait! The best part! Not only is the craftsmanship fabulous on these items, but the prices are awesome, too! The price varies by the die selected, but they are between $7 and $10 (excluding shipping) for the D20 necklaces.

Did I say that was the best part? I guess I was wrong... because this is the best part:
Project Nerd is going to give one of my readers a d20 necklace of their choice! YES! GIVEAWAY!!!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. The items mentioned above were purchased by me. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Thoughts of Fluff is not responsible for prize shipment. Giveaway is open to US only.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wooden Spoons for mugs or baby (Sage Spoonfuls review)

I'm a pretty big fan of tea, but I dislike the lines in the bottom of my mugs that eventually become full-on cracks. I won't drink from a mug that is cracked, as I am a bit leery of what is used in the manufacturing process.




Now, I know it's probably super obvious, but the metal spoons I'd use to stir my drinks were causing the marks that eventually became cracks. Looking back, it's super obvious. I'm honestly surprised it took me this long to realize that.



Still, the realization (which actually occurred months ago, but I've been MIA for a while on the blog!) prompted me to search for alternatives. I used the little take 'n toss spoons that we've had, but I dislike plastic (in general), and rarely even let the kids use them, much less want to use them in a hot drink.



I searched online and found some wooden baby spoons by Sage Spoonfuls. You might recognize the name as a company that creates BPA free containers for storing baby food, or maybe from their hand blender. I remembered hearing the name of the company before as a fairly "safe" company (in terms of "Green"), so when I saw their bamboo spoons I decided to try them out.



This is where I'd like to point out that I was not given these spoons to review. I purchased them with my own money, and without contact with the company.



The spoons are eco-friendly, and supposedly dishwasher safe. I say "supposedly" not because I've had a negative experience, but because I've only handwashed them in hopes of extending their lifespan.

The spoons come in a 3 pack, and are an ideal size for a baby to use. No worries, they are non-splintering! Seeing as how I bought these for my personal use, I was really more concerned with how long the handle was for my mugs.



Thankfully, it is plenty long enough!

I have been using these spoons for a few months now, and my mugs have no signs of wear, the spoons show minimal signs of wear (only slight discolouration), and everyone is happy!

Spoon pictured after use for a few months
Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. Product(s) mentioned above were purchased by me, and all opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Missing

Well, I've successfully gone missing from here. I had mentioned I would be stepping back a bit before writing again, and writing more about myself in future posts... so this will be ALL about me. Not much, but a brief explanation!

My new class started, and I have to admit that it's really difficult doing school with children. Like, REALLY difficult. Perhaps it's just the ages of them children, but taking a class is challenging. Even more challenging, and the reason I've been missing so much, is taking a law class with two young children.

Yes. Law.

On the bright side, I'm only a couple weeks away from the end of that class, and I'm hoping that the next class will be a bit easier on me. Not that I dislike the challenge, but man! Law and wee ones do not mix!

We've also had a tough time with our eldest fur baby. She is at the end of her life, and we are forced to decide between putting her down or letting her try to go naturally. It's not an easy choice at any time, and certainly made more difficult by children that are old enough to ask about her. Bobble has been asking about death more and more the last few months, so I'm not sure if I should let him be there if we put her down, or if we should do it while he is elsewhere.

We've never gone through this with children. In fact, I haven't had to put down an animal I was attached to. Never. I had animals run off. I had rescues I had just gotten need to be put down. I've never had an animal for this long, and I've never had an animal this close.

Anyone with input on this situation, I'd love to hear from you. What did you tell your children? We've been trying to explain that she's an old, grandma kitty, and we've mentioned her body is old and isn't healing itself anymore.

Again, I promise to write more, soon. Really!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Me, Myself, and I

Since becoming a mother, a lot of things have been part of my identity. I am a babywearer. I am a diaperer. I am a storybook reader. I am a cuddler. I adopted so many new labels and titles... but what about who I am at my core?

Wait... you are your own person!?

I have been struggling with my identity as of late. What happened to that person that I used to be? Am I still in there!?

I am, and I need to be me more often. I can be all of these new things while still being me. You, my readers, know I love cloth diapers, babywearing, green products... but what about things I love (and loved) before?

This is me. All me. I'm not your typical mom blogger, probably, but that's not a bad thing. I just have a different perspective to offer. To save time, I figured I would make a small list of things I enjoyed before children/things I enjoy that don't involve children.

I am:
A music lover (playing/listening)
A cook and a baker
A video gamer (I love N64 and before, but that doesn't mean I could ever pass up some DDR!)
A gamer (RPGs, MUDs, board games...)
A nature lover (Can't love green items without loving nature! Well, you could... but still.)
A grammar-nazi (Sorry!)
An anime lover
A tea lover
A student (again)

...and much more. But that's a brief look into who I am that doesn't focus on children. I love Doctor Who and Pokemon, but no... that has nothing to do with my kids. Thankfully, my children now love Doctor Who and Pokemon, as well. I am going to incorporate more of my personal interests into the blog in the future, so you've been warned!

Also, adding to our "green" lifestyle, we will have 6 new family members joining us shortly. More on that to come.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff is responsible for all content of this post.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Stepping back

I've stepped back from my blog to ponder what it is, lately. My blog started as a blog for all things cloth. I loved cloth diapers. I still love cloth diapers... but my children are nearing the end of using cloth diapers.


Thoughts of Fluff grew to incorporate more than just diapers. Baby products, "green" products, toddler products, baby carriers (they sort of cover both baby and toddler!), and then recipes. Recipes count, because the kids have to eat, and I have find things they like and that are healthy (especially since Bobble was in Children's Hospital with Nephrotic Syndrome).

So then it became more of a recipe and toddler-geared blog.

The truth is, my children are growing, and soon the diapers will soon be gone. I will hold on to a few, but they will be gone. My children are developing their personalities, showing obvious preferences for anything and everything they do. I love seeing this, but that means this blog will have to shift a little bit more.



I'm going to take a week or two to finish up my current class (it's very demanding, time-wise), although I may post a little post between now and then, and then I am going to reintroduce you to my family. Squiggle, Bobble, Husband, and Me. I feel there should be more of me in this blog. More of my actual likes, not just my likes for my baby. More of what I enjoy, not just what I enjoy as a mom. It doesn't mean they are things I enjoy with my children, but I think it's time that I include me, too.

No worries, I adore baby wearing and that will remain a part of this blog for quite some time, as I still wear Bobble (and he's 4) and Squiggle isn't even 2 yet.

Please bear with me during this transition. I hope you enjoy what you read and continue to follow along, and I'd love to hear about what you want to see posts on, reviews on, or simply chat about.

I'm also contemplating a name change. I'd love thoughts and suggestions on that one, too!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Meatloaf with Lentils (original recipe)

I've been in search of a good meatloaf recipe for a while, and I finally gave up and made my own. It took a few times (trial and error!) to get the right ratios, but it's finally done and with pleasing results! It held together and tasted good to everyone (including the kids).



I am having trouble getting a decent photograph of it in a pan, though. Grease from the meat and having to use my old phone for these pictures certainly didn't help!



I served it with mashed potatoes and green beans, though the pictures seem to have disappeared from my camera. The last time I made it we served it with homemade potato wedges.

Meatloaf
1/3c milk
2 eggs
2t sage
2t thyme
1t pepper
1/2c dry lentils (cook before using)
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1# ground beef

Sauce
3T acv
2T brown sugar
1/2c tomato sauce/paste mixture (in lieu of ketchup)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix spices, milk and egg in large bowl.
Cook lentils, add to egg mixture.
Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil and then add to egg mixture.
Brown beef and add to bowl with mixture.
Mix well and place in greased loaf dish and add topping (mix all ingredients for topping together, then spread across top of meat mixture).
Bake for 1 hour.
Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. This recipe is an original recipe.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday Tips: Canned foods

Today's tip is one of those that might be one you already know, but it is worth mentioning in case someone didn't.

Canned foods, especially those that are not able to be just poured out of the can, can sometimes stick. Some people pound on the bottom of the can to get the item to fall out, others will take a knife or spatula and help it out.

There is another way, and it's ridiculously easy.

Since I was going to use up some tomato paste, I figured I'd give an example!



Open up your can, then turn upside down and puncture two little holes in the bottom side of the can (using the can opener). This allows the pressure seal to release the contents, and voila! Can is empty!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Pumpkin Chili

I'm going to come straight out and say it: I was scared to try this recipe. I dislike all squash except zucchini and yellow summer squash. The only exception is pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie. While I will eat some squash I dislike (like spaghetti squash), I certainly try to avoid it. Still, I was super intrigued by this recipe from MOMables. Also, my whole family loves squash. I made this recipe already assuming I would dislike it.

With cheese sprinkled on top
The recipe was super simple to make, especially since we had a can of organic pumpkin on hand. Normally I avoid canned items, but we do keep a few things in the pantry just in case. Normally we end up using the foods as they near the end of their shelf life because we simply don't use canned foods frequently. That's okay, though. I'd rather have them around in case we do need them then be caught unawares!

Without cheese
The recipe is really simple.


We added 1 small onion and a can of pinto beans since that's what was on hand.

To my surprise, you couldn't taste the pumpkin. I was prepared to not like the meal. I have a super sensitive palate, and can taste pretty much anything... but not the pumpkin. It actually bothered me that I knew there was pumpkin in it and yet I couldn't taste it! Another thing that bothered me is the fact I couldn't taste the ground turkey as turkey. I wasn't upset by that since I actually have a strong dislike of ground turkey. I love ground beef, but I just can't get past the flavour of ground turkey. This dish tasted like regular (as in no pumpkin, and with beef) chili. Not too shabby! I added some greek yogurt atop my chili and then topped that with some cheese. Delicious!



This meal would have been delicious with some cornbread. Next time we are definitely doing this with cornbread!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thursday Tips: Dry and Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are absolutely delicious, far tastier than dried. Some are even nearly impossible to over use when fresh, like basil. Basil, dried, can easily ruin a dish if too much is added. On the contrary, you could add an entire basil plant worth of fresh basil leaves to a dish and it won't be ruined (yes, I've tested this theory).
Freshly chopped dill
Dried dill
Sadly, fresh herbs aren't always an option, so dried herbs get used a lot, too. They cannot be used in the same proportion (as mentioned above with my basil example), so how much DO you use? Easy! Just add dry herbs in 1/3 of the amount called for in fresh.

1T of fresh = 1t of dried

Of course, opt for fresh if possible. When it's not an option, don't forget it's not a 1:1!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shepherd's Pie

I have been looking for a good Shepherd's Pie recipe for a while, and finally saw one that grabbed my attention. I actually was hoping to make the recipe soon when I found the recipe in my inbox! (I am signed up for Serious Eats' newsletter, and it just happened to be Shepherd's Pie that day.)



I attempted to make the recipe as it was, but I lacked russet potatoes and fresh herbs, so I had to make a few adjustments. I mostly followed the recipe, though. Oh, I also used ground lamb instead of chunks of lamb. 

I must add: It was delicious! I don't think that there was enough potato for the top, and I also found the stew to be too liquidy, so I would probably add more flour (or less broth) next time depending on how it looked.

Stew:
  • 1 1/2# ground lamb
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 2T canola oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2T flour
  • 4c lamb or beef stock/broth
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (roughly 2 cups)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1t dried thyme
  • 1t dried rosemary
  • 1t dried oregano
Mashed Potatoes:
  • 3# potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1t salt
  • 4 lg. egg yolks
  • 1/2c unsalted butter
  • 1/2c heavy cream
*Preheat oven to 450 near the end of step 5

1) Brown the lamb meat and set aside.
*If you are using cubes of meat, dry with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper if desired, and saute in some oil over medium high heat. Let the meat brown to the pan for several minutes before stirring (stirring too soon will cause them to release water and boil instead of brown).Turn over after about 4 minutes and let brown again, then remove from heat.

Meat browned and set aside (in dish I later baked in)
2) Put the veggies in the pan the lamb was browned in, and stir. The veggies will release water while they cook and help remove the browned lamb from the pan. Scrape up any brown pieces from the pan with a spoon or spatula (leave in for flavour, though!). Continue to sweat the veggies for about 5 minutes.


3) Add in flour and let brown for around 2 minutes. Add in stock, then potatoes and spices. Return meat to pan and bring to a boil. As soon as it starts boiling, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 90 minutes, covered, until the meat is tender (if cubed) or until all veggies are done. Complete step 4 while this is simmering. When done, remove bay leaves and transfer stew into baking dish.


4) Boil potatoes until fully cooked, drain, then place back in pot. Stir for a few minutes over the heat to ensure they are dry. Add egg yolks, butter, and cream, mashing/whisking until smooth.
*Do this quickly, as the potatoes will become gummy and starchy if they cool too much.



5) Smooth mashed potatoes over the stew in the baking dish. (Or use a pastry bag and a large star tip to pipe the mixture over the top. I tried. I failed miserably at this.) Make sure to create a full seal across the top with the potatoes.



6) Place pie on top of a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake for 30-35 minutes (or until potatoes are browned and the filling is bubbly.) Let sit for 15 minutes, then serve hot.



I found this to be a bit more soup-y than stew-y when I made it, so I would cut back by 1/2c or 1c of stock next time, or just add more flour in step 3. It wasn't a big deal, I just drained a bit of the juice off and served. Absolutely delicious!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own. Recipe based off of Serious Eats' shepherd's pie recipe found here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hoppediz Jacquard Wrap

I have heard a lot of lovely things about Hoppediz wraps, and recently have been lucky enough to try one out for myself. I got to try out the Jacquard sling, which is a cotton and linen blend, in Florenz. This wrap is a 3.7m (size 4), while my other reviews have been of larger wraps (size 6).

Hanging to dry

I took some before and after washing photos, too. Look how much fluffier it gets!

Before washing
after washing
While the lighting wasn't the best for the first picture (before washing), you can see it was much flatter. This wrap is very soft, and feels nice and sturdy, too.

As per usual, I was met with some resistance by Squiggle when I tried to wear her. She is very much a fan of being worn... if you can catch her! I borrowed a baby (and obtained permission to post) for a few pictures. He's a lovely little model, though! I have the "wrong" side out on this FWCC picture, but I prefer the darker side of this wrap.



You can see plenty of carriers in the background, too. This is from a local babywearing meeting. I don't hog my carriers all to myself, I let others use them, too!

I finally wrangled up Squiggle to get a few shots of a ruck with the "right" side out on the carrier.

Ruck - side shot
Ruck - front shot
Back shot - Ruck
 I really love this sling, and I love the simplicity of the black and white while it still boasts a full-coverage floral design. I really like that the design still manages to be simple while covering the entire wrap. The quality of the material is fantastic, and I don't have any doubts that this is a durable wrap. It was also extremely comfortable!

Taken from the Hoppediz page: "Our idea and our aim is to offer a high-quality sling at a fair price to performance ratio, and at the same time to dispense with the prejudice that "carrying is too complicated" using our extensive and easy to understand carrying instructions."

They certainly nailed the quality on the sling, and the instruction booklet that arrived with the sling is definitely easy to read and has numerous carries in it complete with step-by-step instructions!


For more information on Hoppediz, check out their web page. Don't forget to check out all the other neat items they have (jackets, doll carriers, fleece covers to go over baby carriers, etc.)! Honestly, I'm wishing I had one of those fleece carriers right now... this winter is a chilly one!

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was sent the above product to facilitate the review. This did not sway my opinion in any way, and all opinions in this review are my 100% honest opinion. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday Tips: Baking Sheets

I've always just cleaned my table really well (or counter top) when I needed to have space for baking, but when I saw this silicone baking sheet at Aldi one day, I knew I had to buy it. Not for cooking or baking, but for my kids.



My kids love to play with playdoh, but it can get into the cracks on my table where the leaves are inserted. This mat, however, stops that.



It's also good for painting, or even just using as a place mat. All the placemats I've looked at in the stores are slippery. That's easy to wipe off, but the whole thing will just slide off the table without much prompting. These mats aren't going anywhere. They are also easy to store. A big, thin piece of silicone that can be stored flat without taking up space, or rolled up. They are great for meal time, great for craft time, and who knows? Maybe, one day, I'll even try using one for baking.

Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own an may differ from those of your own.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Broccoli Cheese Soup (from scratch)

One soup I've loved since a child is Broccoli Cheese Soup. It's always been a favourite of mine, and I was fortunate enough to discover, thanks to this recipe, that it is also one both of my children love. I stumbled across this Panera Bread copy cat recipe at Yammie's Noshery, but while I was making it discovered that I needed to tweak it to get a soup that I would like.



My biggest issue with most soup is the incredibly skimpy amount of vegetables in it. I fixed that. Below is my recipe, made multiple times and devoured by all!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Based on this recipe from Yammie's Noshery


  • 1/2 stick of butter (1/4c)
  • 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1c of milk
  • 1c of heavy cream
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/4c corn starch
  • 1/4t nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2c chopped carrots (roughly 4 carrots)
  • 4-6c broccoli florets (an entire bunch + some more if you desire)
  • 3c shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pepper to taste

  • 1) Sautee onions and garlic in butter over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until tender.

    2) Add the milk, cream, and stock.

    3) Combine corn starch with a bit of water (or a bit extra broth) and stir until fully dissolved. Add to the pot.

    4) Turn heat to medium low and add in nutmeg and bay leaves, stirring until thickened.



    5) Add in the vegetables and allow to simmer until tender (roughly 30 minutes).



    6) Remove bay leaves and stir in cheese until fully incorporated.

    7) Serve.

    This will have an excellent flavour, especially if you use homemade chicken stock. There will be no need to add any salt while cooking (or after it is served), as there is plenty of sodium in the cheese, and, as I mentioned already, there is no lack of flavour.

    This recipe is easy to make, and a crowd pleaser. Definitely a win in our household! I really need to remember to make bread bowls next time, though! I don't have images of the children eating the food because I was too busy stuffing my face. The leftovers go quickly, too!

    This recipe claims to serve 4, and I could see it feeding 6 adults good sized servings. If you are serving with bread bowls, I'd think it could feed 8. You will easily have leftovers to get at least one more meal out of it for 4 adults, though.

    Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from your own. This recipe is an adaptation of one found at Yammie's Noshery.

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Thursday Tip: Reusing Tubes

    Many of us strive to be greener. Well, I at least assume that to be the case for most of my readers! Reusing tubes from paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, wrapping paper rolls, etc. is one way you to have fun with your kids and give a second life to an item otherwise discarded after the primary purpose.


    For wrapping paper tubes, you've easily got the equipment for a fun "sword fight" (or whatever you prefer to call it). The smaller tubes, and also cut up wrapping paper rolls, are great for bird feeders. I was using pine cones to do this activity with my kids, but then I saw a post by a fellow blogger about using tubes instead. Sadly, I cannot remember what blog this was, but have been looking for it and will link to it when I do find it. Using tubes worked better because they didn't break as readily as the pine cones, and since my little one was 3 the last time we tried this, he wasn't the gentlest. (Pine cones work great for older kids, maybe 6 or 7, and you don't need to bother retrieving them after they've served their purpose as a feeder.)

    It's really simple to do, but I would recommend setting aside a jar of peanut butter and writing on the lid that it's for birds. We did that and we store the peanut butter with our birdseed ... just in case.

    You just need the following items:

    • String
    • Tubes of some sort
    • Scissors
    • Peanut butter
    • Bird seed

    Poke a hole in the tubes maybe 1/2" - 1" from one end (and on both sides) so you can feed a string through.

    Feed string through and knot, but leave long ends so you can tie around a tree or whatever you will be hanging the feeders from.

    Spread peanut butter all around the tube.


    Roll the tube in birdseed.


    Hang outside and watch the birds eat!

    We got a lot of squirrel visitors before we got birds, but the kids enjoyed watching the squirrels eat, too.

    Disclaimer: Thoughts of Fluff was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own and may differ from those of your own.