Sunday, March 11, 2018

The ONLY Way to Hard Cook an Egg

I apologize for the click bait-y title. I've been on a quest to find the best way to hard cook my eggs for years. I make deviled eggs for nearly every potluck. They're easy, nut free and mine are pretty badass. Plus, I make salads every day for work and a lot of times, I rely on hard cooked eggs for my protein source. Of course, the worst part about hard cooked eggs is peeling them without peeling off half the egg. I have finally completed my quest! A fast and easy way to hard cook an egg with shells that peel off amazingly easily!

I was an early adopter of pressure cooking/ multicooking technology. We have a Fagor Multicooker- but it's just like the super popular Instant Pot that you probably got for Christmas. We have been using it in conjunction with our freezer cooking lifestyle for about two and half years now. I also love to make yogurt in it! Until three weeks ago, however; I had never used it to hard cook an egg. It's so simple, it takes maybe 15 minutes from raw to peeled and ready to use. Here's how it works:


1. Put raw eggs in the inner pot of your multicooker. Add 1/2 cup of water.



2. Put the lid on the cooker and seal the steam nozzle.

3. Set the cooker for 5 minutes on "pressure cook: high". It will take about 5 minutes to build pressure and then 5 minutes at pressure. 

4. When the cook time is done, quick release the pressure. 

5. Open the pot and take out the inner pot. Place in the sink and run cool water in to the pot.

6. When cool enough to handle, enjoy the easy peeling!

7. Make salad, or deviled eggs, or whatever else you do with hard cooked eggs!

Now you know the secret! Go forth and cook some eggs!

This method is also perfect for making eggs to dye for Easter. Just stop after cooling them and dye them!

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Twelve Cookies of Christmas 2017

Merry Christmas! By Christmas, of course, I mean all twelve days of it! For the last three years I've been marking each day of Christmas with a different cookie or treat. It's a tradition that my family has really enjoyed and it gives me the opportunity to try out 12 new recipes! For 2017, I decided to up my game with this round-up post and a review of each recipe. I'm including links to all of the recipes I used and any modifications I made.

December 25th
On the first day of Christmas, I made Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies!


These were easy and fast to make on Christmas morning after the presents were open and before we headed over to my parents to spend the day with them. They are delicious, fudgy and festive. Everyone loved them and I think we only came home with two left.

December 26th
On the second day of Christmas, I made Peppermint Shortbread Cookies


If you've never made shortbread cookies, you'll probably be confused about how this dough comes together. Shortbread has almost no liquid in it. You cut the butter in to the flour, add flavors and additions and squeeze it all into a log shape and chill it. Then take it out, cut it in to slices and bake. I have made shortbread before, and I still had trouble with this recipe. It was quite crumbly and took a long time to get in to log form (not log like you think I mean log, you understand). I didn't use the andes mint chips specified, I substituted white chocolate chips (chopped) and crushed candy canes. I also used a few drops of red food color. As you can see, they just didn't come out very pretty. They look like raw chicken patties! They still tasted good, but I like the Cranberry Orange Shortbread cookies I made last year way better. 


December 27th
On the third day of Christmas, I made Gingerbread Cookie Dough Truffles!


Do you like gingerbread? You'll love them. They are great, I just had a hard time coating them evenly. I used melted white chocolate chips to coat them instead of the specified candy melts (which are whiter). I'm accustomed to coating buckeyes, where I get to leave a hole at the top, so trying to coat them all over without leaving marks was a challenge for me.

December 28th
On the fourth day of Christmas, I made Cream Cheese Mints!


This recipe was a disaster from start to finish. First, the blogger who wrote this recipe did one of my pet peeves when they posted it. They didn't include a printable recipe. It's so annoying to go to print and have the printer say "32 pages" then have to go and hunt out the pages you want out of 17 full page photos. Ugh! Second, the recipe said it made ~250 mints! No thanks! I cut that down to a quarter of the recipe, wrote it into a word doc (eliminating cutesy extraneous details) and printed it like that. Now to the making. I mixed everything up and then found out I had used my last piping bag. No problem! I'll just cut the corner off a Ziploc like I always do! Well that was a disaster. The recipe is MUCH thicker than the egg yolk I usually pipe (in deviled eggs) so trying to get it through the star tip in a Ziploc made the bags blow out the seams. After trying with a normal bag and a freezer bag and having it explode on my hands twice, I ditched the star tip and started just piping little dots. After they were piped, they set up in the freezer and then were to be stored in the fridge. They didn't really "set up" in the way that I was expecting, they just froze and then when thawed reverted back to soft, not set form. And they don't taste like the little after dinner mints I was expecting. They taste like toothpaste. I hate giving bad feedback but really, don't waste your time on this recipe. It's not good.

December 29th
On the fifth day of Christmas, I made "Rudolph" Cookies with the kids!


Obviously, our cookies don't exactly look like reindeer. I followed the recipe to the letter for the cookies, making dough balls "just smaller than a golf ball" and they turned out very large. To compound this error, I bought "Itty Bitty Mini" pretzels from Synder's of Hanover because generally, every time I've made reindeer type cookies, the mini pretzels are too big! We also used pre-made eyes in a package instead of making them from mint M&M's. The kids had a BLAST decorating these and they were completely delicious. Definitely a win, and no one cared that they looked like bears instead of reindeer.

December 30th
On the sixth day of Christmas, I made Pumpkin Gingerbread Biscotti!


This was my first time making biscotti and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be! They turned out great, the flavor is delicious. They were a little hard by themselves but that's kind of how biscotti is! Great when dunked in coffee!

December 31st
On the seventh day of Christmas, I made White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios!


This was a very simple and delicious fudge recipe. The flavor of the white chocolate tended to dominate over the pistachios and cranberries so if I made it again, I'd probably increase the amount of mix ins to give it more intense flavor.

January 1st
On the eighth day of Christmas, I made Grinch Cookies!


I have to be honest, I only put these on the list because Liam heard the story of the Grinch for the first time this year and he was really in to it. This was such an easy recipe and everyone LOVED them. For me, I thought they were just too plain and I had a really hard time finding a good sized heart sprinkle/ candy. I also would have baked them for at least 3 more minutes if I made them again.

January 2nd
On the ninth day of Christmas, I made Chocolate Sprinkle Cookies!


I have had this recipe pinned FOREVER but I've never made it until now. They are delicious! It's just a really good chocolate cake cookie rolled in chocolate sprinkles before baking. Pure, simple, perfect!

 January 3rd
On the tenth day of Christmas, I made Salted Caramel Turtle Thumbprint Cookies!


 It's easy to look at this recipe and all it's fancy pictures and be intimidated. They were surprisingly easy to make and obviously, stunning. Using store bought caramels instead of making your own really simplifies things and makes it accessible for the masses. I made caramel once and said "NEVER AGAIN!" Other recipe notes: I'm not convinced the egg white wash is necessary to make the pecans stick, the dough is pretty sticky on it's own. I'd probably eliminate this step next time and see what happens. These taste AMAZING! Try them, you won't regret it.

January 4th
On the eleventh day of Christmas, I made Chocolate Kiss Powder Puff Cookies! I combined two recipes: Chocolate Kiss Powder Puff Cookies (using a premade pie crust, something I can't stand) and Snowball Christmas Cookies


I think the combination of the two recipes REALLY made a great cookie. Supposedly Russian Tea Cakes are "just like Pillsbury pie crusts in a can" but I'm not buying it. My Mom would never abide me buying a pie crust and pie crust cookies just aren't that good. Basically, I used the second recipe and stuffed the balls with a Hershey Kiss. They are really, really good. Light and buttery, with a chocolate surprise inside!

January 5th
On the twelfth day of Christmas I made Nutmeg Log Cookies!


These were not what I was expecting. I thought they'd be like soft batch sugar cookies with nutmeg but they're actually more like shortbread cookies with nutmeg (but a little softer). They're really good but if I made them again, I'd make the frosting a looser consistency, it was too firm!

There you have it! The Twelve Cookies of Christmas 2017!

Family Rankings:
Me: Red Velvet Chocolate Chip
Jeff: Grinch
Liam: Rudolph Cookies
Makayla: Salted Caramel Thumbprint


Friday, September 8, 2017

Freeze Along with Me: What’s All This?

    After our second child was born and I went back to work, I had a very hard time adapting to the exponentially greater demands placed on my time. I was working full time, running a 5 year old to and from after school extracurricular activities, caring for a newborn, and trying to keep the house from falling down. Jeff was in school full time with mostly evening classes. I’d get home from work and he’d be leaving for school shortly after. We’ve always placed a priority on eating dinner together as a family every night but there just wasn’t time to cook and eat in between. Jeff is a decent cook and he certainly tries, but he’s not what I’d call “creative” in the kitchen. Every day, he’d ask me “What should I make for dinner?” while I was at work. Then I’d have to try to think about what I had in the pantry and fridge from memory and make suggestions (while trying to do my actual job at the same time). We found ourselves eating a lot of meat with some kind of brown sauce and a starch or a “hamburger helper” type meal almost every night of the week. On top of that, his cooking always resulted in using half of the kitchen pans and cutlery every night. Life was stressful, messy and out of control. We needed to make a change. Enter freezer cooking.

What is freezer cooking?

Freezer cooking is the process of preparing meals in advance to a certain point of the cooking and then stopping and freezing the meal to be thawed, finished and eaten at later date. It is also sometimes called once a month cooking (OAMC), bulk cooking or batch cooking.

Why freezer cooking?

There are so many reasons that people choose freezer cooking!

Save Time!

When you combine all of your cooking in to one weekend a month, you save a vast amount of time planning, preparing and cleaning up every single day. If you spend 30 minutes a day cooking dinner and another 20-30 minutes cleaning up, that’s about 30 hours a month. Cooking once a month takes one full day (~10-12 hours) plus an additional 2-6 hours of prep on the day before cooking day.

Save Money!

When you can buy in bulk, you save money. We have a membership at BJ’s Wholesale Club and get most of our bulk items there. We can also do things like buy a 40lb box of chicken breast at deep discount ($0.99- 1.49/lb) and freeze it for use over several months. It doesn’t eliminate the need to shop in between cooking day shopping trips, but it does reduce the weekly bill a lot! Some people like to freezer cook for all meals. I do an entirely dinner menu every month (16 recipes/ 32 meals), so we eat each meal twice. I also do a mini menu of 5 recipes of lunch main dishes for the kids every 4-5 months. On a cooking day shopping trip for our family of four, I usually spend between 300-400 dollars. Weekly fill in trips are usually less than 100 dollars for food expenses.

Save Sanity!

Removing the stress of “what’s for dinner?” is AMAZING! All you have to do is take a meal out to thaw the night before (or even the morning of) and cook it when it’s time. It’s so easy! Preparation makes my life possible. I would absolutely not be able to do the things that I do if I had to plan, cook and clean up dinner every night.

Eat Healthier!

Planning ahead makes it easy to eat as healthfully as you want. When you get home after a long day, it’s hard to muster up the energy to get a healthy dish together. It’s fast and easy to pop a convenience meal in the microwave or order fast food. And while I live by the motto “Everything is fine in moderation”- most convenience meals and fast foods are too calorically dense to be considered “moderate”. Having prepared freezer meals eliminates the extra work and makes them just as convenient as the alternative. You can also create your menu to suit your dietary needs. The website I use www.onceamonthmeals.com has monthly menus for every kind of diet: traditional, diet, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free/ dairy free, whole30, etc. You can completely customize your menu to whatever diet you’re trying to follow.

Wait a minute…

I know what you’re thinking- this sounds amazing! Too good to be true! What’s the catch?

There are a couple of cons:
  1. Cooking day is tiring. It does take an entire day to do a full month of freezer dinners. Over time, you’ll get better and faster and learn tricks that make it easier, but it’s still a lot of work condensed in to one day.
  2. If the number of people you cook for varies frequently, it can be difficult to plan, although not impossible.
  3. You need freezer space. For most people, this means having a separate chest freezer. It’s not impossible to do with just a standard refrigerator/freezer combo, but it is very tight.
That’s really about it! If you’re looking for a change, a way to give yourself more time, a way to save money or eat healthier- freezer cooking just may be your answer. Stay tuned for more how to’s and tips and tricks to come in future posts!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Shit and The Asshole

  I was recently listening to a podcast, Science Vs. (which is great, BTW) about organic food. In the evaluation of the evidence for organic food they brought up the point that manure is “organic” as fertilizer but the animal that made the manure may not be. The narrator said “That is drawing the line between the shit and the asshole”. Meaning that, the line being drawn is completely arbitrary.

  This point is applicable in so many arguments. Think about another popular debate- “processed” food vs “real” food. Where are we drawing the line? And why are we drawing that line? If I pick a tomato from my garden and process it by dicing it, packing it in a mason jar and canning it at home- how is that any different than buying a can at the store? For that matter, how is it any different than dicing it and put it directly in to my recipe and cooking it? It’s not. It’s a completely arbitrary line that makes no meaningful distinction in the end result. It’s a line between the shit and the asshole.

  How about using “natural” sugars over cane sugar? The difference between cane sugar and beet sugar is nonexistent. They are chemically the same thing. Yet people demonize cane sugar far more. Similarly, the chemical differences between cane sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar and HFCS are small and don’t have any impact on why you’re fat. Sugar is sugar and too much will make you gain weight, regardless of the source. Stop making a distinction between the shit and the asshole.

  It’s also applicable in skin care products. When I was working in cosmetics, people loved to put an emphasis on products that were derived from something “natural”. Like a plant. For example, some companies used willow bark extract in place of salicylic acid because willow bark contains salicylic acid and they claimed that willow bark extract was better because it was derived from nature. By that logic, I could claim that petrolatum is derived from nature because it comes from oil, which is drilled out of the ground and is composed of decomposed organic matter. This is absolutely drawing a line between the shit and the asshole. 


  The next time you’re looking to make a choice in anything- think about it critically. Is there really a difference? Ask some experts! Don’t get caught between the shit and the asshole. It’s pretty unappealing in there. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Survey Says... Taking Surveys Pays

I've been taking surveys for money for about 3 years now. I could lie and say I started because I wanted to have an impact on manufacturers, marketers, etc but I've always just been in it for the rewards. I regularly take surveys with three different programs and I thought I'd give a quick run down of the pros and cons of each.


VIP Voice


VIP Voice is the company that asks me to take the most surveys. It also nets me the most rewards. One of the unique features of this program is that you are rewarded for EVERY survey that you are sent- even if you end up being screened out. Points are awarded for each survey and the points can be saved and used to bid on a good assortment of prizes (gift cards, board games, electronics and more) or they can be used to buy entries into sweepstakes for larger prizes like trips. The number of points that you earn for each survey depends on your "level", which increases the more surveys you take. I'm a level 5 (top) and I earn 200 points for a survey that I am screened out of and 550 points for a completed survey. The surveys that VIP Voice offers are always the same and if you stick around, you will know as soon as you start it whether you will qualify or whether you will screen out each week. They survey about things like: clothing purchases, electronics purchases, dining out, video game/ tv usage and other household and car purchases. They also have a "Food Diary" survey that they tend to offer me about once a month. It's a special survey that lasts a week and asks you to record everything you or one of your kids ate for the whole week. You earn points for every day that you complete the diary and after 7 days you earn a 25.00 gift card to a selection of places (I always choose Amazon, but there are other options). Over the past 18 months I have taken this particular survey 15 times and earned $375.00 from Amazon. Also over the last 18 months, I've won two mobile battery packs (to play Pokémon GO, of course), 3 Xbox One games, 2 board games, a popcorn popper and a restaurant.com gift card for $50.00. Click here to join.


Springboard America

Springboard America offers me about 3-4 surveys a week. They are always different. They award a dollar amount for each survey- ranging from $0.75 to $2.50. If you are screened out you will receive an entry in to a monthly drawing for a cash prize. I have never won this prize :). What I HAVE earned though- is $200.00 in the past 18 months. Springboard America has a "cash out" minimum of $50.00. When you reach $50.00 in survey dollars, you click redeem and you are given the choice between an Amazon gift card and a Paylution account that is like a virtual Visa card to spend anywhere you like online. If you are interested you can click here to sign up OR you can let me know you want to sign up and send me your email and I'll send you a link to earn myself $2.00. Either way :)

American Consumer Opinion

American Consumer Opinion is the first survey company that I signed up with. I receive the least amount of survey opportunities from them. I unfortunately screen out of most of the opportunities I am sent. A screener is worth 10 points and a completed survey is worth 200-500 points. The points translate to a penny each. You need a minimum of 1000 points (or $10.00) to cash out. When you cash out, the payment is made to Paypal and then redeemed to your bank account for cash. I have earned $68.00 from ACOP in the last 18 months. Click here to join.

So, taking surveys isn't going to pay the bills, but it does get you some nice spending money on a pretty regular basis as well as some fun prizes. It takes a pretty minimal time investment, maybe a couple hours a week, spread out.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Baby and Toddler Products I LOVE




Every (expectant) parent knows that the internet is FULL of lists of things you must register for. A lot of these things are junk, one time fads or things that may be useful if you happen to have a baby who likes it. Well since this is my blog and I do what I want here- here is my list of products that I LOVE(D) for my babies. When I say "loved" it means that I liked everything about them and I thought there was nothing they could have done better. This list is by no means exhaustive of "things you need" but if you're going to register for/ buy something in one of these categories, I think these are the best choices.

CAR/ TRAVEL PRODUCTS
1. Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant car seat
  The Chicco Keyfit 30 is my #1 go to when I recommend an infant seat in my capacity as a CPST. It's narrow (side to side) and compact (front to back) so it will almost always fit the car. The base is incredibly easy to install with either the lower anchors or with a seatbelt thanks to the built in seatbelt lockoffs. If you buy extra bases for each of your cars, it's super convenient to alternate pickup and drop off at day care with different caregivers. It fits premies well (not that my giant babies had that issue) and it lasts until 30lbs or 30 inches tall (infant seats are almost always outgrown by height before weight). It lasted my 99th percentile baby until 8 months. It's easy to tighten and simple to rethread the straps as baby grows. The cover is machine washable (on delicate cycle). If I had one quibble about it- the sunshade is a little skimpy, it was never an issue for me though. When I clicked it in to the stroller, I just pulled the stroller sunshade over the gap. It's right about middle of the road when it comes to price. You can get less expensive seats but you can certainly pay a lot more for a more difficult to use seats too.


    Sunshades are a necessity in a car without window tinting. I love these cling film style shades because they can be cut to any size (which I needed in my VW Beetle) and they can't become projectiles in a crash like the roller shade style ones. They're cheap too! Just spritz your windows with water and use a credit card to smooth out the bubbles.



   This is a shower cap style cover for an infant seat. It is NOT a BundleMe. Nothing comes between baby and the harness. This sits on top of the car seat and zips open to get baby out. It keeps the cold air out and baby safe. Very important for a winter baby (or for any season baby in Ohio, because you never know)


    I wouldn't put this in the essential column but having soft toys with fun things to do like the buckles on this turtle can be the difference between peace and quiet on the road and ripping your hair out. We all love him.


BREASTFEEDING/ PUMPING PRODUCTS
    I was somewhat skeptical of this product at first. You put it in your bra on the side you're not nursing from first and it catches the let down instead of it being absorbed by a pad and thrown away. Then you pour the milk into a bag and put it in the freezer. It worked the best in the early days- before my supply became well regulated, so about a month or so. Still, it saved about 2 ounces (for me) per feeding that would have been otherwise wasted. As any mother who works outside of the home knows- that stuff is liquid gold.


2. LilyPadz
   In the early days of breastfeeding, I definitely recommend Lansinoh Ultra Thin disposable nursing pads. Before your supply is regulated, there's just too much leakage to be contained with LilyPadz. After your supply is regulated though- LilyPadz are the perfect pad. They are not absorbent- instead they just seal everything up so there's nowhere for it to go. They are silicone pads that have a renewable adhesive. So you just smooth them on over your nipples and go. Then, at the end of the day, peel them off and rinse with water and let dry to renew the adhesive. Seriously, they work great. No muss, no fuss and you don't even have to wear a bra to keep them in place.



3. Hands Free Pumping Bra


    Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (#thanksObama), every woman is entitled to get a breast pump through their medical insurance. My insurance provided the Medela Pump In Style Advanced. It has a "hands free kit" that is a series of straps and clips to fasten it to your nursing bra. It's a pain in the ass. This stretchy band goes over top of your bra when it's time to pump. You just wrap it around yourself, fasten it in the front and stick the cones in the slits in front. It takes about a minute to do and is far more comfortable than any other hands free option I tried. If you're pumping because you're going back to work- you need to be able to double pump. Don't try to sit there and hold the cones- ain't nobody got time fo dat.



4. Comotomo Baby Bottles
    We all loved these bottles. With my first- I used The First Years BreastFlow bottles. I hated them because they had two nipple parts, a ring and a bottle to wash every night. The Comotomo Bottles were great because they are wide and flat, encouraging a latch similar to a breast. They have minimal parts to wash (nipple, ring and bottle) and they have various nipples (slow, medium and fast) and two sizes of bottles that are all interchangeable to fit your baby's needs. The bottles themselves are silicone and soft. I found them to be very durable and easily lasted the year that we needed them, and are in great shape still.



5. Boon Grass Drying Rack
    I love this drying rack. It's cute and so functional! The grass design makes it so you don't have to carefully place things on pegs, anywhere you set it, it's going to stay and have good airflow for drying. The added accessories (twig, flower, etc) are nice to put small pieces and straws on. Even though we are long out of the bottle phase, this drying rack is still on our counter because it's just so useful.



DIAPERING PRODUCTS


1. Keekaroo Diaper Changing Pad
    I have been through 4 changing pads throughout my two kids. Three with my first and then I found this. It's the perfect changing pad. The first pad I bought was the Kuster Jelly Baby Pad- it was cute and functional until the foam started picking out and breaking down. Then I tried two different "standard" mats. First- don't buy covers. Changing mats get poop on them. ALL. THE. TIME. They need to be wipeable- not launderable. Ain't nobody got time fo dat. So, when using the standard pads, without a cover, they are wipeable, but the vinyl is not durable. Both of the pads began to rip and break down after a short time using them. The Keekaroo mat is a soft, wipeable, durable mat. 2.5 years of diaper changes later, it looks as good as the day I bought it. I love it. There is no substitute IMO.



2. OXO Tot Perfect Pull Wipes Dispenser
    It's perfect! Most people register for a wipe warmer. I found that the wipe warmers tend to dry out the wipes too much. This is just a wipe dispenser (so you can buy bulk wipes instead of tubs) with a weighted piece that sits on top of the wipes so you don't end up pulling out 10 when you wanted one. The seal is great and the wipes stay moist forever. If you want a warm wipe, hold the wipe in your hands for a few seconds before you wipe.



3. Huggies Little Movers
    I've tried all of the disposables. Huggies are my favorite- by far. They have an elastic strip at the back to contain blowouts, fit great and don't sag (unless it's been way too long). Every time I try another brand we all quickly realize why we like Huggies best. Because they are the best.



FEEDING PRODUCTS


1. Infantino Squeeze Station
    I make my own baby food. It's quick, easy and cheap. There are many ways to freeze homemade baby food. With my first, I used the little containers at first then switched to freezing it in ice cube trays. Ice cube trays are definitely the most economical and simplest option. With my second; though, I decided to try pouches. I LOVE it. You'll also need a funnel and the bag refills. Even though we are done with baby food, I still use the squeeze station to make homemade yogurt pouches for both kids.



2. Ninja Blender/ Food Processor
   If you're making baby food (and I highly recommend it!) don't bother with those cutsie "baby food processors". They're a waste of money. Buy a good quality food processor/ blender and never look back. It'll be useful long after baby food is done and it'll actually puree the food. We love our Ninja!



3. Bumkins Bibs
   I went through a lot of bibs with my first. Most of them were too small. The towel style ones were large enough but then you have to pull the mess over their hair to take it off. Finally I found Bumkins SuperBibs. They're great- large, washable, flexible, waterproof and attach around the neck with Velcro.



4. Keekaroo Café Booster


    From the same maker as my favorite changing pad, the booster seat is made of the same durable, easily wipeable material. It attaches easily and securely with straps to any chair and fits under the table when pushed in. We love it.



MISCELLANEOUS


1. HALO Sleepsacks with Swaddle
    Safe sleep guidelines are for babies to sleep in a crib, on their backs, by themselves with no added blankets, sleep positioners, bumpers or stuffed animals. Sleep sacks and other wearable blankets became the way to keep your baby warm. I tried a couple other swaddlers with my first but I quickly found that these were the easiest and least escapable way to keep my babies swaddled. I did finally get the hang of swaddling with a blanket with my second but I still prefer the sleep sacks with swaddle for their ease of use. They make many different types for all kinds of weather.



2. AngelCare Bath Support
   This thing was amazing. I tried two different baby tubs and a different bath support with my first that I hated. It's so hard to hang on to a slippery, floppy newborn and wash them. This allows you to have a secure place to set baby while washing and you control how much water they sit in. It's great. I wouldn't do without it.



3. Safety First Magnetic Cabinet Locks
    These are just a massive upgrade from the push in catch style of cabinet locks. They unlock with a strong magnet. You don't have to stick your fingers inside the door and find the catch. They don't break. The worst that can happen is losing the magnetic key and then you'll have to find another strong magnet to get your cabinet open.



4. Sleep and Play outfits with ZIPPERS!
    I hate snaps. One piece, one zipper. Speed and efficiency!



There. I've now saved you all the trouble of trying a thousand things that suck. You're welcome. :)

Monday, February 29, 2016

At Home Laser Hair Removal

Today's post is a little bit embarrassing of a topic for me. Body hair.

Confession: I am a hairy beast monster. This is not new. I've been overly hairy most of my life. I am a dark haired woman of German decent. Thankfully, over the course of my relationship with my husband, I've gradually desensitized him to his hate of body hair. Don't get me wrong, he's not happy about it if I haven't shaved in a week, but he stopped saying anything about it years ago. On top of my genetic predisposition, I also have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Sydrome). My body produces too much testosterone for a woman and as a result, I also grow hair where women shouldn't. For awhile, I used bleach and depilatory creams. I quickly developed skin sensitivities to every cream on the market. Then I switched to tweezing and waxing. SO TIME CONSUMING! Finally, I gave up and started shaving my face. EVERY. DAY. I know about my hair issues, but most other people don't (or at least are too polite to say anything). Well, now you do too. My hairy little secret.

This Christmas my mom asked me what I wanted. I mentioned a few things and then started kvetching about how all I really wanted was laser hair removal. Well on Christmas morning, much to my surprise, my parents got me a Silk'n Flash and Go. I was skeptical. I had tried the No-No in the past and was supremely disappointed when all it did was burn off my hair. My dad said he had watched a video from a man who was transitioning and decided that if it worked for her it would work for me. I decided there was nothing to lose by giving it a try.

I read the manual and watched some videos on how to use. The Silk'n is designed for people with light skin and dark hair. This is similar to "in office" laser hair removal. The manual recommends flashing the areas to be de-haired every two weeks. It also cautions several times to not flash anywhere that you want to have hair "RESULTS ARE PERMANENT!" Lol, we'll see about that.

Using the Silk'n is pretty straight forward:
1) Plug in and turn on the unit.




















2) Press the plus button to turn up the intensity of the laser. They recommend starting on the lowest intensity and working your way up to level 5. You should stop when you feel discomfort. For me, level 5 is appropriate for all areas except my bikini line. It's really not painful.

3) Press the head of the unit against your skin and squeeze the trigger. Avoid looking at the flash- it's bright!

4) Repeat ad infinitum until you've flashed all the areas you want to be hairless.
So I did this. My whole upper body takes less than 15 minutes. Both legs take about 2 hours. It is super tedious. Because I am a very skeptical individual (or possibly because I got bored) I decided to leave one leg unflashed as a control. Here are my results after two treatments:


Control leg is on top, treated leg is on the bottom. I took the pictures after two treatments, and not shaving for a week to see the regrowth. The treated leg is far patchier in regrowth than the untreated leg. There are large areas that are completely hair free. I have to say- I was shocked. It really worked. I really can't bear to show my untreated face so you'll just have to trust me when I say, it has been working on all the areas I've treated. I am SO EXCITED to FINALLY have a permanent solution to my gross hair issues. Plus it's a FRACTION of the cost of professional hair removal. I've now done three treatments, in the privacy of my own bedroom for what it cost to do one and a half treatments at the dermatologist a few years ago. The heads have a certain number of flashes before they have to be replaced. After three full body treatments, I still have life left in my original cartridge. 

So this is the reason I felt compelled to lay out all of my dirty laundry on the internet. The Silk'n Flash and Go really works. It provides safe, effective, permanent hair removal at a reasonable cost in the privacy of your own home. If you have light skin, dark hair and a hatred for shaving- you need this in your life!