Monday, May 27, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 7: What Did I Learn?

Today was the seventh day of the Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats and Handwashing Challenge. The challenge officially ends for the participants when we change our babies into their nighttime diaper. Ava is now down to sleep in her normal non-flats-challenge nighttime diaper and the last load of handwash flats and covers are hanging on the drying rack, so we have officially completed the 2013 Flats Challenge. This post is a recap of sorts, to look at what I learned from the challenge and think about flats as a diapering option.

Last flat of the challenge: a Rebourne Clothing birdseye flat folded in an Ava Fold.

The Flats Challenge seemed to go by really quickly for me. I felt like it made my week very busy, though that was more from blogging every day than from handwashing every day to be honest. I did a total of seven loads of handwashed diapers this past week, not counting wool wraps. By the third day of handwashing I felt like it had become more of a habit and less of a chore. There was something calming about taking that half an hour a day to wash diapers in the camp washer. It gave me a chance to think and zone out a little. I really liked the feeling of connection to my ancestors that I felt while handwashing. Even though it was hard work each and every time, and my hands and back are certainly sore, it is cool to know that if my family needed it I could do this to save us money. 

The last load in the camp washer.
 Learning to handwash flats gave me an opportunity to rethink both my cloth diaper stash and the way I wash them. After finding out how simple flats can be, I am going to be destashing most of my all-in-ones and pockets and using mainly prefolds and flats from now on. I also thought through how my diapers are washed in the wash machine and realized that if I switch completely to flats and prefolds I should be able to cut back quite a bit on the water and time that my washing machine uses to do a load of diapers. 

The last load of the flats challenge hung up to dry.
I do think that using flats and covers is a very viable option for anyone who is struggling to diaper their child. Every baby deserves clean diapers and if cost is the struggle for a family, then cloth diapers just might be the solution. A family without a washing machine and without the finances for disposables could benefit hugely from information about using flats and handwashing them. I know it is work, but for us it really only added about 30-45 minutes of work to my day. If I ever found myself in a situation where handwashing was my only choice, I would do it gladly. Just knowing that my hard work would show up so tangibly as extra money in our budget would be the best motivation for me. 

I think the thing to keep in mind with the different options for diapering is that your life and situation is unique to you. Your hard is hard. Whether you are saving your family money via a cloth stash of all-in-ones, or whether you find yourself needing to handwash a small stash of upcycled flats, we are all doing the best for our children and families. The important thing to take away from this week is that the option of cloth diapers CAN truly work for any family. We just need to advocate and get the information out there to the families who can be helped the most from it. Knowledge truly is power, and families can be freed from the burden of diaper need if they just have the right information and support.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 6: The Ava Fold

Today was Day 6 of the Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats Challenge. I can't believe how fast this challenge has gone by! I told Ben today that I feel like I'm used to the hand washing routine now and if I needed to, I could totally hand wash on a permanent basis. Yes, it is hard work and it takes a half an hour of my day, but once you're used to the routine it is kind of a calming task. Today is an open topic day for the bloggers of the Flats Challenge, so I thought I would present a photo tutorial of a flat fold that I have created this week!

I really like most of the folds I have tried so far with Ava, but I have found that spraying poop off of most flat folds is a little annoying. A lot of the folds end up with fabric edges in the inside middle of the diaper, so when you have to spray off poop it is tricky to figure out where to hold the diaper to get the best spray angle. So when I started trying to design a fold I had two requirements: first, I wanted the section where poop will hit to be one smooth piece of fabric, and second I wanted to have some way of keeping poop inside the diaper so that I don't have to wash the cover every time Ava has a poopy diaper. After a lot of trial and error tonight, I came up with this fold that I think is a total winner! I hope others like it as much as I do. Let me know in the comments if anything is confusing and I will tweak the tutorial as needed.

The Ava Fold

First, start by making sure your flat is a square. Mine here is an Imagine Printed Flat and is slightly longer than it is wide, so I needed to fold down one end to get a square shape.

Next we are going to fold one corner in to the middle of the square. Before I started the Ava Fold, I folded this flat into fourths and pressed down to leave some crease marks as guidelines to help me find the middle.

In this next picture you can see some crease marks on each side of the corner that we just folded up. The sides are going to fold towards the center on these lines.

If you look at the bottom of the flat you can see that the crease is about halfway between the left side of the folded corner and the midpoint of the folded corner.

Fold the side over as shown in this next picture. The new fold line will angle out toward the top slightly.

Now fold the other side in towards the middle in the same way. You can see we've created a small triangle shape at the bottom, and the sides angle out toward the top. If you need to adjust the width of the diaper, just fold the sides in slightly more or slightly less.

Now fold the top point of the diaper down to almost meet the triangle space at the bottom. How far down you fold the top point will determine the rise of the diaper so just tweak this to fit your child.

When you first fold down the top point there will be an extra corner sticking out from the side of the diaper.

I just tucked this under to make the whole side a smooth line.

Now fold the sides in again and fan out the sides in the back. I had the sides meet in the middle to create another triangle shape, but you could overlap them if you prefer.

Then you place your baby on the flat and fold up the front of the diaper. You can see in this picture that the folded in sides have created a gusset to contain poop. When I put it on Ava I also folded the back down just a tiny bit to help with poop containment in the back also.

Then just wrap the wings around baby and fasten with a Snappi, Boingo, or pins and voila! You've folded the Ava Fold!

Here is a side shot to show how nice and trim this fold ended up being.

And a blurry back fold. It's hard to get a clear shot when your toddler won't stop dancing!

Here is the Ava Fold underneath a Blueberry Coverall.

And the side view with the Coverall on.

And that's the Ava Fold! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 5: What's Working (And What's Not)

Day Five of the Dirty Diaper Laundry Flats and Handwashing Challenge is wrapping up now. I feel like I have settled in to the routine of handwashing, hang drying, and folding pretty well. I got the hand wash done today in 30 minutes and was excited that I have gotten so much faster at it! The first day I think it took me 50 minutes, but I've gotten more efficient each day, so getting down to a 30 minute time is awesome. Today the blog topic is all about what is working and what isn't. 


To be honest, I love all of the flats I have been using. I was most skeptical about the Flour Sack Towels before the challenge started, but they have actually worked surprisingly well. I have several brands of birdseye cotton flats and they have all been working great too. The bamboo fleece flats from Sweet Bobbins have been great for overnight paired with a Geffen Baby hemp/cotton jersey flat. The bamboo terry squares from Orange Diaper Co have also been really great at night. I used the toddler sized one last night with the ODC bamboo fleece doublers and that combo worked great. 


I'm getting better at the Origami Fold, but I have learned not to use it if poop is imminent. 
I think my favorite fold is the Jo fold: it is easy to fold, goes on baby well, and has absorbency where I need it. The only issue I have had with the Jo fold is that it is trickier to use my diaper sprayer to get the poop off. All the edges of the flat end up in the middle so it takes longer to get it all off. I love using a pad folded flat in a GroVia or Flip cover. Actually the pad folded flat in a Flip cover is seriously making me reconsider my old style Bum Genius Elemental stash. Most of the other folds I have tried have been working really well. The only one that did not work was the Origami Fold for containing poop. This might be just because I didn't have it folded onto Ava snugly enough, but we had an unpleasant poop in crib experience yesterday due to an origami folded flat.

Pad Fold in a Flip - loving this combo!


Smaller loads are the key to successful hand washing in a bucket washer. The first day I washed seven flats and four covers and I really felt like that was too many for my bucket. Maybe if I had tried just washing those in the tub it would have worked better, but since then I have tried to make sure that I do no more than five flats in one bucket load. I have given up on my cracked bucket lid and have just been plunging the bucket without it. It's a little more splashy than I would like but it's been working ok. 


The Flats Challenge has been largely successful for us so far. It does take time each day to hand wash, hand dry, and fold, so some things around the house have slipped through the cracks. Sometimes hand washing your kid's diapers comes at the cost of knowing what dinner will be! I'm looking forward to the last two days of the challenge though and I am so glad I decided to take this on this year!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 4: How's The Handwashing?

Well Day 4 of the Flats Challenge is done, and overall it went pretty well. One of my biggest worries before the Flats Challenge was how our overnight diapering would go with Ava being such a heavy wetter. The first three nights of the challenge I had used my Sweet Bobbins flats with another flat pad folded as an insert. This worked amazing, BUT... when I went this evening to get my Sweet Bobbins flats off the indoor drying rack I discovered something sad. They weren't dry! Even the one that I washed yesterday morning was still dampish on the line. So we are trying out a new combo for tonight and I am really nervous. I really dislike changing my overnight diapering routine because I really love waking up to dry sheets! I'll let you know tomorrow how it went! It is really interesting to me how my gut reaction to a damp diaper on a line is "oh, I'll just throw it in the dryer for a second." The Flats Challenge is really forcing me to see just how long things take to dry on a line when it is humid and rainy out!

The topic for Day 4 is "How is the Handwashing?" and I am happy to be able to tell you all about my hand washing routine that I am learning and how it is going. I'll start off by telling you that where I live we have really hard water and I have learned to add an extra wash cycle and rinse to my regular washing machine diaper loads, so when I read Kim's washing routine for her bucket washer I knew I might have to add a couple extra steps to mine.

This is my camp washer set up. I bought a plunger, 5 gallon bucket, and lid from a hardware store for about $9. Ben helped me drill a one inch hole in the center of the lid, and then he drilled 3/8" holes all around the plunger to allow water to pass through easier.

I decided to forego using my wet bags for the challenge. It would just be one extra thing to wash and wring out every day and it is easy for me to walk from Ava's bedroom, where I change her, to the bathroom, where my bucket is, and just dump the diapers in the bucket.

This picture was my first load in the camp washer. I washed seven flats and four covers the first time, and I definitely recommend smaller loads! The easiest load I have washed so far had only four flats in it and one cover. When I am ready to wash the diapers I cover them with cold water and use the plunger to agitate for a little bit. Then I dump the cold rinse water out in the tub, add my soap to the bucket, and fill it with hot water.

Once the hot water covers the diapers enough I put the lid on snugly and begin agitating the plunger. I have been setting a timer for five minutes for this step because let me tell you, five minutes feels like forever when you are hand washing. Once my time is up I drain the water again, do a quick cold rinse with agitation, drain, and do another hot wash. Lastly I do two cold rinses and make sure the water is running clear from the bucket. Once the diapers are clean and drained I take each one and twist it up and wring it out as good as I possibly can. The more water you can get out in this step the quicker they will dry. As I said above, if your water is less hard you can probably do a wash routine like Kim and do a cold rinse, hot wash, cold rinse.

The first day that I washed and wrung out the diapers I really regretted not wearing the rubber gloves I had. My poor hand was red and raw from wringing out so many diapers! The second wash day I wore the gloves and it helped quite a bit with pain from wringing the diapers, although I was disappointed to find that the gloves almost immediately got water splashed in them.

Once the diapers are wrung out thoroughly, you just hang them either outside on a clothesline or inside on a drying rack. I found that my flats were completely dry from several hours outside on the clothesline on a hot day, but like I said above the flats that were drying indoors still have a ways to go.

Overall, I feel like hand washing has gone well. My camp bucket did suffer a casualty, though. During my second load in the camp washer the lid decided it had had enough of the plunging and it cracked. I think I can fix it with a shim and a couple small bolts, but there are two cracks in the lid starting at the center hole. I was pretty bummed that it didn't last as well as I had assumed it would. It still functions, but it does splash more. I have just left the lid off a few times as well, but I find that I don't agitate the diapers as well with the lid off because I am too worried about getting splashed in the face with dirty wash water! The diapers are getting nice and clean though, with no stinks at all! (Something I can't say for my washing machine in recent weeks, but that's another story.)

I won't lie to you: hand washing is not all fun and games, and it is not as easy as tossing your diapers in the washing machine and pressing start. I do have a couple small blisters on my hands from hand washing that I'm sure would turn to callouses if I continued to hand wash. I did get dirty-ish water splashed in my face this morning while agitating the diapers. It is hard to occupy my 16 month old for 35 minutes while I wash her diapers. This morning there were three diarrhea diapers in the wash so it took even longer.


I am so happy that I have learned this skill. I feel like the ability to hand wash Ava's diapers has given me freedom from feeling tied to a washer and dryer. If we want to go on a road trip, this is a fabulous skill. If we lose power, I can still diaper Ava with this skill. If my washer breaks, if I have washing issues with the washing machine, if we ever live somewhere with no washer. It is just a very good and satisfying feeling to know that I can do cloth diapers with little to no technology. I feel like I've tapped in to a heritage of diaper washing mamas that goes back thousands of years, and I love that I now have this skill that I can pass on to mamas in need who can truly benefit from it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 3: Flats 101

Today is Day 3 of the Flats and Handwashing Challenge! So far it has been going really well for us over here. I washed my second load of flats in the camp washer today and felt like it went better and quicker than yesterday. Due to a rainy day today I hung the flats on my indoor drying rack and placed it near a window to get at least some indirect "sun" to help with stains. 

Today is an open topic day for the Flats Challenge bloggers, and I decided to write a Flats 101 post! Before I started researching for the challenge I didn't know much about flats, and a post like this with all the information in one place would have been so helpful!

What is a flat?

A flat is simply a large square of fabric. The edges can be turned and hemmed or can be simply serged, and the size can vary from 27"x27" to 30"x30" or even larger! Most flats are only one layer of fabric, though sometimes you can find some that are two layers in order to have a decorative side. Flats can be made from really any type of absorbent material. Most are cotton, bamboo, hemp, or some combination of those. If you are looking for flats on a budget you can use cotton flour sack towels that can be found at most stores near the kitchen towels for around $1 each, or you can use receiving blankets as flats! You can even upcycle old t-shirts as flats: just take an XL-XXXL 100% cotton t-shirt and cut off the bottom, side, and top seams so that you end up with two large squares that you can use as flats! If you are on a very small budget a great option is to go to a thrift store and look for receiving blankets and t-shirts on a day when the thrift store offers $0.50 items. You could feasibly get a whole stash of 24 flats for as little as $6 - $12 if you found twelve t-shirts for $0.50 - $1 each and cut them to get two flats out of each shirt.

How do you fold a flat?

Since a flat is just a large square of fabric, it must be folded into a diaper to place on your baby. The amount of folds you can do is only limited by your imagination! There are many flat folding tutorials available online in both pictorial and video form. I have step by step pictures of four folding options and each one that I list has a link to a video tutorial from Dirty Diaper Laundry.
  • First up is the Kite Fold: to do this fold, you first make sure your flat is square. Once it is square, the corners get folded in to make a kite shape. The bottom of the kite folds up to determine the rise height, and the widest part of the kite becomes the diaper's wings. Check out the tutorial to see this in action!

  • Next is the Diaper Bag Fold: each side of your flat folds toward the middle, and then the bottom folds up to determine the rise height. Then trifold it like a prefold and fan out the top for wings. Fold the back down slightly to help contain poop, and then put the diaper on baby. Check out the tutorial to see this flat fold.

  •  This is the Jo Fold: you fold all corners of the flat in toward the middle to make a smaller square and then trifold and fan out the wings. I have found this to be one of the quickest folds and it fastens really nicely onto baby. Check out the video tutorial here.

  •  Lastly, this is the Origami fold: after you fold the flat in half to make a rectangle, you take one corner and pull it across so that you have a triangle facing you. Then you flip the whole thing over so the triangle is on the backside, and you fold the oblong side in toward the middle to make a thicker pad for the wet zone. This fold is tricky to explain, so definitely watch the video. Once you try it, it is really doable though!

  • The other fold that I use often is the Pad Fold. I don't have pictures of this one, as it is pretty basic. Take your flat and fold it in half to make a rectangle. Then, fold it in half again so that you get a square. Then just trifold your square like a prefold and lay it in a cover. This is a great way to pre-load covers to keep in your diaper bag or to send along to Grandma's house. This is also a great way to continue using flats that might be too small to fit on your baby using a "fancier" fold. 
  • There are a lot of other folds out there and in fact I just found this Master List of Flat Folds the other day. I can't wait to experiment with some new folds! Whenever I am trying a new fold I just remind myself that it really doesn't matter what it looks like as long as it stays on baby and contains messes. Once you get the hang of a fold it is easier to make it look pretty.

How do you fasten a flat?

There are three main options that I know of for fastening flats. The first one that most cloth diaper mamas are familiar with is a Snappi. You just clip it to each wing and to the front of the diaper and you're all set to go. I have found that some flats are very hard to snappi due to the type of material they are, though. Another option you can try is the Boingo. I haven't had a chance to try this yet, but it is the same type of concept as a Snappi but it has only two ends so you use one Boingo on each side of your diaper to hold the wings. The last option that you can use is a diaper pin. When I first started using my flats there were quite a few times where I found myself wishing I had a diaper pin, something I never thought I would have wished! Since my Snappis don't work on every fabric, I ended up going out and getting a few diaper pins to try and honestly I really like them. I have read that if you keep them stuck in a bar of soap between uses, it helps the pin glide through the fabric better. I need to try this because I have had a little trouble getting some of my pins through the flats. Overall though I like the pins because they give me the ability to fasten some of the fabrics that my Snappi struggles with. The great thing about diapers pins is that you can pick them up at most stores in the diaper section for about $1 for 4 pins. Much cheaper than the other alternatives and great for diapering on a budget!

What do you use to cover a flat?

Almost any cover will work over flats, depending on what fold you are using. If I have done some of the bulkier flat folds then I reach for my Blueberry Coveralls or my Bummis covers. If I am pad folding a flat, I reach for a GroVia or Flip cover. At night and naptime I always reach for my wool covers! If you are starting out on a budget, check out Imagine and Sweet Pea one size covers. I know that both of those are around $10 for a one size cover. You could even try a Gerber cover from your local grocery store. At around $5 that would be a great cheap way to start cloth diapering with flats, and with the money you save on disposables you could invest in a couple better quality covers. If you have a heavy wetting baby I highly recommend wool, even if you are on a tight budget. Check out my review of Gordy's Girl for a very affordable wool option!

I hope that this Flats 101 post will be a great source of information for someone looking at flats for the first time, or even someone looking into flats again! I will have another post later in the week comparing the different types of flats I am trying. I hope the Flats Challenge is going great for everyone participating!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Flats Challenge Day 2: Supplies and Preparation

It is Day 2 of the Flats Challenge! Today we are talking about the supplies needed and the preparation we made for the challenge. I began preparing for the Flats Challenge a few months ago, actually. I tried to get a little bit of everything so that I could compare and review the different types I am trying. Once I started trying flats, I really fell in love and have actually started to switch the bulk of my stash over to a flats and prefolds stash. This is why I have a relatively large flats stash right now! For covers I am using a mix of wool wraps, one size covers, and sized covers.

My flats:

  • 5 flour sack towels - $4 for the set, purchased from Meijer on clearance. The regular price for these is $5 for five flour sack towels.
  • 4 receiving blankets - I pulled these out of of my newborn baby clothes box. I had quite a few that were given to me when Ava was a newborn, so I chose 4 cute prints to become diapers.
  • Sweet Bobbins bamboo fleece - I paid $10 for these on a diaper swap page in EUC. I bought these especially as a nighttime solution. If you bought them new they run $9 each.
  • Geffen Baby hemp jersey - I bought these new from a website where I found a flash sale price of $13 total, though usually you would find three of these for $21.
  • Rebourne Cavewomen flats - I bought these new from Rebourne Clothing for $11 for three.
  • 3 Diaper Rite large - I bought these used off of a swap page for $6.
  • 2 Diaper Rite unbleached smalls - I bought these used off of a swap page for $5.
  • 6 Imagine printed flats - I bought these used off of a swap page for $13.
  • 2 Imagine Bamboo flats - I bought these used off of a swap page for $4.
  • 2 Flip flats - I bought these used off of a swap page for $4.
  • Baby Monkeys Bamboo Terry Flat - I received this diaper at no cost to review (reviews will be posted once the Flats Challenge is over).
  • Orange Diaper Company Bamboo Terry Squares with doublers - I received these diapers at no cost to review (reviews will be posted once the Flats Challenge is over).
  • BumbleBeeBum Daddy Flat - I received this diaper at no cost to review (reviews will be posted once the Flats Challenge is over).
  • Urbun Sprout Fitted Flat - I received this diaper at no cost to review (reviews will be posted once the Flats Challenge is over). 
  • Brown Cow Cotton flat and cover - I received this diaper at no cost to review (reviews will be posted once the Flats Challenge is over).
My covers:
  • Four Rebourne Woolie Wraps - I received one to review, three purchased by me later for about $30 each.
  • 1 Gordy's Girl wool soaker - I received this to review
  • 1 Flip cover - I purchased this used for $5.
  • 3 Blueberry Coveralls - I purchased these new (seconds) a long time ago for $10 each.
  • 3 GroVia covers - I purchased these used for $10 each.
  • 3 Bummis Super Whisper Wraps - I purchased these new a long time ago for $14 each.
My first load of hand washed flats, covers and wipes!
My other supplies:
  • 5 gallon bucket with lid - $5
  • plunger - $5 (you can get this cheaper, but I wanted the blue one to match my bucket.)
  • I use Soft Bottoms detergent which is around $10 for a 32 oz bottle. A bottle this size typically lasts me about two months for normal washing, and I think if I was to exclusively handwash flats I could make a bottle last four months. So the cost for this week should be about $1.
  • I am not using a wet bag this week to see if I could in fact get by without one!
So my total flats stash cost is: $70 for flats, $102 for covers, $90 for wool, and $1 for detergent. Now, if I was just setting up a stash and not thinking about reviews I could definitely do with fewer covers and fewer flats. In fact, if I was on a tight budget I could easily have gotten my whole stash for $100 or less! Even so, with this larger stash that includes wool, the grand total is only $263. Compared to the $1500 - $2500 that most families spend on disposables during the diapering years for ONE child, this is still a huge savings!

Flats Challenge Day 1: Why Take The Challenge?

I am so excited to start the week of posts about the Flats Challenge! I am blogging along with Kim Rosas of DirtyDiaperLaundry this week while we and over 430 others use exclusively flat cloth diapers and hand wash them. I first heard about the challenge last spring when Ava was about 3 months old, but I was really new to cloth diapers at that time and flats were very intimidating to me. The thought of hand washing as well? It just didn't seem like something I could do. Now as I have cloth diapered for 15 months, I have started to realize just how manageable flats are. The hand washing part? I think it will be just fine.

My primary reason for taking the Flats Challenge is to show that flats are not as hard to use as people think. Learning the folding technique is what makes most people nervous about flats, and I am hoping to show that anyone can learn it! As many as 1 in 3 families struggle to afford to diaper their babies, and I hope that this challenge and series of blog posts can be a useful resource to help families be able to learn about how they can save money by using flat diapers. 

A messy Origami fold - Ava didn't want to hold still today.

An additional benefit to learning to hand wash diapers is the ability to take cloth on the road very easily. I love that I can take my camp washer and flats camping now or on a road trip and not have to spend money on disposables! Learning to hand wash diapers (or clothes!) in a camp washer is also great in case of power outages, weather emergencies, or instances where a washer breaks down. Many families don't have their own washer or dryer and can't get to a laundromat, so I hope that this series will also show that hand washing diapers is doable for anyone and can be a great cost saver!

My camp washer! I've never been so excited about a plunger before.

I started using my flats occasionally a few weeks ago to practice the folds, and I have fallen in love with the simplicity of them! They are so easy to get clean since most are only one layer of fabric and they dry lightning fast on the line. For anyone who has struggled to find a washing routine that will actually get their cloth diapers clean, flats are a great option to try. It is hard to mess up a flat diaper!

First flat of the challenge: Geffen Baby flat pad folded in a GroVia cover.

I hope you all will follow along this week as I learn and explore flats and hand washing! Follow along on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #flatschallenge. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Being Brave in the Kitchen: how I learned to cook outside the box

The other day I made a huge vat of venison potato soup with random things in my pantry and fridge that were in desperate need of being used up. I didn't follow any recipe really; I just used the basic building blocks of soup making that I've learned over the years.

I haven't always been able to do this. In high school I worked every afternoon at our local library, which meant that I didn't have any opportunities to cook along with my mom like my sister did. I don't begrudge this, but it did delay my abilities somewhat. In college I began cooking for myself a lot during  my junior year when I was in a college apartment and realized how much money I could save by not using a meal plan. (Plus my introverted self just couldn't stand that cafeteria any longer.) Most of my meals were cooked by obediently following a recipe and I used a lot of convenience food shortcuts due to my crazy busy schedule.

When Ben and I got married I really started to branch out with my cooking. The more I learned about avoiding processed foods, the more I was pushed to stretch my skills and try new things. Ben's cooking style also has encouraged me to add my own spin to recipes instead of just following the recipe to the letter. He loves cooking without recipes, and just kind of knows what will work together.

We started watching Jamie at Home on BBCA a couple years ago. In this series Jamie Oliver cooks from his kitchen garden and each episode is centered around one star ingredient. Watching him cook has changed the way I cook. I have learned so much from his cooking shows about how to mix flavors and what ingredients go together well. Recently his series 30 Minute Meals was also on BBCA and I felt like that series gave me a whole new set of quick cooking skills. One of the best things I've learned from Jamie is to not be fussy about measuring, especially spices. If I have a recipe that I'm using I just eyeball the spice measurements and then adjust everything to taste as I go.

The other huge influence on my cooking has been Aimée of SimpleBites. I have been a faithful reader since the inception of her blog and I realized recently that reading her blog is what has taught me how to be brave in the kitchen and try new things like making soup without a recipe. What I realized was that even though I might not make all of the recipes that come through my inbox, reading all of them has given me a working knowledge of flavor and ingredient combinations. So now on a random weekday when I look in my cupboard to find 8 pounds of potatoes in need of using, I can easily throw together a delicious soup using nothing but things in my pantry and the wisdom I've learned from my cooking mentors over the years.

Being brave in the kitchen doesn't always have to mean cooking without a recipe. It is having the know-how to tweak a recipe on the fly when you've run out of an ingredient. It's being able to google kneading and teach yourself bread making. It's the ability to add your own delicious twist to a recipe to make it truly your own. And sometimes, it's making a huge pot of venison potato soup from scratch with no recipe whatsoever.

Monday, May 13, 2013

On living wholly, with no regrets

I dreamt last night that we bumped into each other somewhere and decided to grab a cup of coffee and catch up. The dream skipped a bit, as dreams do, and he was offering me a choice. A chance at something he wished we would've had. The dream became rather out-of-body then: I could see my dream self sitting there, but I was somehow separate, able to analyze the events unfolding. He took her hand and insisted he would leave it all for her this time. My dream self shook her head, swelling with pity for him as he tried to reclaim memories and make them reality. As I watched, I thought about all that would crumble if my dream self accepted the offer, all the sadness and hurt it would cause. I thought about the beautiful life I've been given and how I wouldn't go back in time to change any of it. My dream self gave his hand a squeeze as he sat there with drooping shoulders, and then the dream got foggy and began to dissipate like a mist.

I rolled over in bed and was greeted with "mama!" and a toothy grin. Ava scooted over to me and with a loud "mmmaahh!" planted one of her sloppy open mouth kisses on my cheek. I pulled her in close for a hug and a tickle and sighed with happiness. I love the family God has blessed me with. Yesterday was Mother's Day and though we certainly had our share of toddler tantrums to deal with, Ava seemed to have an extra dose of cute and kisses and hugs for mama throughout the day. And after I put her down to sleep for the night I came downstairs to find that Ben had made me chocolate chip cookies and had a plate of cookies and milk waiting for me.

As I lay in bed this morning cuddling with my girl, I had such a peace on my heart. I feel like my goal to live wholly this year has already brought fruit. I am so thankful for the man I am married to and for the ways that God has aligned us. From parenting to politics to homesteading to religion, we have grown up and learned so much together and are strong in our united beliefs.

I don't always feel Grown Up. It's such a strange elusive milestone. I felt sure years ago that when I got married I would be a Grown Up, but then I did and I was still just me. Then I felt sure that when I had my first child I would be a Grown Up, but then I did and I was still just me. But something this morning made me feel Grown Up. That knowing deep inside that I am exactly where I should be and have exactly the family I should have. That is giving me the strength to know today that I am a strong, confident woman who is exactly where God wants her to be. I am wholeheartedly living my life with no regrets.

I'm linking up with the One Word 365 community via Only a Breath this month!
I'm also linking up with Ashleigh Baker and her Simple Story link up. I love that she has started a movement back toward just telling stories on our blogs with less worry about pinnable content.