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Sunday, January 28, 2007

AeroGarden

I saw an informercial for the AeroGarden the other day and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it ever since. It seems like such a cool product: an aeroponics pot that allows you to grow a variety of plants without dirt and with very minimal care. Although my paternal grandfather had an incredible green thumb, my attempts over the years at growing cherry tomatoes, basil and parsley have been abject failures, so the AeroGarden is extremely tempting. (The only plant that's survived is a pot of aloe, and only because it seems to thrive on benign neglect.)

I was so excited when I saw the infomercial that I immediately called Marc to ask for an AeroGarden as a Valentine's Day gift. But after I calmed down, I did a little research. I looked over the official site, read Amazon reviews and a Cooking Light bulletin board thread, and held numerous debates with myself over whether this device would be worth it. Not only is the price pretty steep (I'd have to buy a lot of herbs or salad to recoup the cost), I'd probably have to move a lot of stuff around to find it a home since apparently it throws off bright light for 16 hours a day. So right now, I'm leaning towards not getting it. But for some reason, I just can't stop thinking about it. There's just something alluring about the prospect of picking herbs and lettuces fresh right before dinner.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Breastfeeding Tyler - Update #2

Breastfeeding really has been easier this time around, but like last time, I'm not absolutely sure it's going to be that much cheaper than formula feeding. Here's the tally so far:

$100 - consultation with Ellen Steinberg
$60 - new nursing tops
$25 - new nursing bras
$175 - More Milk Special Blend to boost my supply
$40 - My Brest Friend nursing pillow

Total: $400

Within the next couple of weeks, I expect to add to the total by buying some lanolin and nursing pads, which I'm running low on.

For the record, I'm excluding things like bottles from the total tab, since I would have to buy those even if I were formula feeding. Also, I realize that new tops and even the bras weren't absolutely necessary, but I want to make this as comfortable for myself as I can since it's hard enough already. But now that I seem to have most of what I need, I'll try to keep the total under $600 (I would shoot for $500, but the Special Blend is pretty expensive - it's worth it, though!).

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Microwave Your Kitchen Sponges

A few years ago, I read that microwaving kitchen sponges on high for one minute is a good way to kill bacteria, but a new study recommends nuking the sponges for two minutes to kill 99% of germs. Microwaving for four to ten minutes will kill just about everything. As an added bonus, I've found that microwaving prolongs the life of my sponges, too. So microwave those sponges, especially if you have young kids!

Note: Microwaving your sponge for 10 minutes can cause it to burn. (Yes, I learned the hard way.)

Note #2: At least I didn't come close to burning my house down.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Product Samples Pay Off

The new body wash I opened earlier this week came with samples for three other body washes from the same manufacturer, which got me thinking about product samples. They can save you money in a couple of different ways: first, they extend the life of products you already use; and second, they allow you to try a new product without wasting money on the full-size version. In the case of the body wash samples, I decided to use them because they would extend the life of the bottle I had just opened by three washes. But it turned out that I really liked one of the samples and will probably buy it when I see it on sale and/or with a coupon.

Buying products that come with samples isn't the only way to obtain samples, however. One of my favorite methods is to sign up on the websites of manufacturers whose products I use regularly. This works especially well with baby products, such as diapers and formula. It does require giving up a bit of privacy, however, in the form of some personal information.

Another way to obtain product samples is to sign up with a site like Start Sampling, which offers a wide variety of samples. I have also found samples through the "Bargain of the Week" section in the weekly newsletter from Consumer World.

Some product samples are available for the asking. Most department store cosmetic counters have at least some samples available. Unfortunately for me, they never seem to have a sample for the product I want to try. However, depending on the product, some counters will put a small amount from their tester into a sample-size container so that you can try the product out at home (make sure the salesperson practices good hygiene when transferring the product).

Finally, keep an eye on those manufacturer coupons that you clip from the Sunday newspaper. I've discovered that the manufacturer of Shout stain remover produces coupons for $1 off any Shout product, and that Target sells packs of four Shout wipes for $0.99 - with the coupon, I always get my Shout wipes for free. Now that's a pay off!

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Breastfeeding Tyler - Update #1

Well, being a mother of two is one way to ensure that I have very little time to post. But I'm happy to report that Tyler is thriving and that breastfeeding is going well. We did get off to a bit of a rough start, however.

When Tyler was four days old, I felt like breastfeeding was going pretty well but I decided to have my lactation consultant, Ellen Steinberg, come to my house to reassure me that was really the case. It turned out I was wrong. Ellen brought a digital baby scale, which is sensitive enough to measure the amount a baby has consumed, down to the tenth (or is it a hundredth?) of an ounce. In the two hours she spent with us, Tyler ate only one ounce, indicating I might have another supply problem on my hands. At least we established that Tyler and I both had our mechanics down.

I immediately started taking More Milk Special Blend again, the herbal supplement which boosted my supply when I was breastfeeding Alex. I also nursed Tyler constantly. By the time we went to the pediatrician for Tyler's one-week check-up, he had gained five ounces since Ellen's visit. Crisis averted!

I've posted previously that breastfeeding Alex didn't save me any money over formula at all. So far the financial tally for breastfeeding Tyler is $100 for Ellen's visit, plus $60 for some nursing tops.

Hopefully things will continue to go well . . . stay tuned.

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