Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A long post about dolls

I got a new job!
Baby X is leaving our home for good at the end of August, but I have a nice little side job to keep our budgeting going after he leaves. 

I am helping (and learning even more) to make Waldorf dolls for a lady that sell them here in Princeton. She just got a big contract from a toy company and needs help making them. I've made a few on my own, but I'm even more excited to help her. Her dolls are beautiful and so sweet, and I can't wait to learn even more from her.

 The 3 dolls I made. We only kept the bottom one.

Waldorf dolls are pretty special and expensive. 

They are made of all natural material and are filled with wool. (The wool makes waldorf dolls feel warmer than most dolls, since the wool gets warmed by your body heat).

 They have neutral facial expressions so that kids can imagine them feeling a range of emotions. Ella (the bottom one) for example is usually sad because she wants a cookie and I won't give her one. (Madeleine yesterday, "Oh no!! Ella sad!" "Why she is sad?" "She crying. No cookie. So sad.")

Usually since they are pretty expensive, a child only will have one or two dolls at a time. The thought behind this is with few dolls then a child will love and appreciate each doll more.

 We found this to be true in our home. Madeleine currently has four dolls, and it seems like the sweet spot for her right now. She plays with all of them frequently and we have enough dolls for when friends come over. If you want to read more about the benefits of having less toys, I recommend the book, Simplicity Parenting. It's a pretty boring book, so I didn't actually finish it, but the part I did read was amazing and has influenced my parenting. It kind of reads like a text book.

Waldorf dolls come in all shape and sizes. I have found that materials for a larger doll cost start around $60, and the smaller ones are closer to $40. But the real cost is the amount of labor that gets put into these dolls. Each of my dolls took me a day or two to make. I think this is pretty typical and dolls tend to start around $100 a doll. (I think the average is probably closer to $150. The toy store I think is selling them for $130 each) Some doll makers' work are incredible and they spend weeks on each doll. Their dolls are auctioned off to doll collectors that can easily end up over $2000 per doll. 

Here are some of my favorites.

This little doll is from Bamboletta, one of the most well known doll makers. She cost $135.50.  You can check out their page here.

You might not be able to tell but this doll is made extremely well!  Her face and body was carefully sculpted with needles. You can check out this doll maker facebook page here. If I remember right, I think her dolls run around $350-$700.

The queen bee of doll making is this maker in my book. She's incredible. Her facebook page is here. If you scroll down on her facebook page she has a video of her making the faces. She said some dolls take 80 hours to make the faces! Seriously so much work and love go into her dolls.

Now you might be like wow. Why would anyone spend that much on a doll? Well, Waldorf people in general appreciate and pay for people's craft. I like them for that a lot. But don't worry if you want a doll, there are also places to buy them used. You can get them as low as $30 and they are still in pretty great condition. We have bought two that way.

Also, there is also the option of making your own. There are so many people who have put their own patterns up on pinterest for free. They have great directions and if you have the time, it pretty simple. I used this tutorial for the first doll I made. She has a link to the pattern and everything.

And last but not least, I think, is introducing your child to a doll. Another amazing doll maker (seriously, I would love to see one of hers) put up this great way about how to introduce a doll to your child.

It might be silly to some people to put this much work and money into a doll, but dolls and kids have strong relationships. Sophie is basically a member of the family in our house. Madeleine's dolls give her comfort when we can't and she role plays frequently with them. They have been potty trained, had their noses blown, and even given pep talks.

Dolls are special, and I really love the fact for these special toys are not something that is quickly bought.  They are generally carefully loved and thought out from when they are being made to when they are being presented to the child.

 One of my favorite things was taking a knitting class here in Princeton and mentioning that I wanted to make clothes for one of Madeleine's dolls. My teacher got excited and told me she had made her daughters some years ago. She brought them to the next class. They were so beat up. The hair was tangled and the skin of the dolls were broken. She told me that despite the fact her daughters were in college that these dolls were still loved and part of the family.

I like the non-disposable nature feeling that it gives these dolls. I like that they are eco friendly. I feel like they line up well with some of our goals, and I'm so excited to make them.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Disclaimer: This isn't a sponsored post. I just like this product. 

At the end of last month, I mentioned to Matt that there was a budgeting program that several of my friends had mentioned and that it was also free for students. I thought he was going to shoot down the idea since he's been pretty stubborn about using his own method with excel. He said yes though and emailed YNAB and the next morning we had our free code in our email.

We spent the whole next morning putting in June's expenses (They were awful since we had moved, but on the upside, we did make more than we spent.) and then hammered out a new budget. 

September is bringing a lot of changes. The biggest one is that Baby X is leaving us after almost 16 months of me watching him. That means we are losing a pretty big source of income. I have a few plans and another small job lined up (it is one of my dream jobs) so I'm not worried about the loss of income in the long run. 

So with only living on one income and our new rent price, we set a new budget.

It works out so that we have $786 a month for all expenses that are not bills.

Here is what next month looks like...

(Click it to make it larger)

I know it looks pretty empty right now, but that's because we haven't filled in what's going in for the bills yet. We'll do that on August 1st. 

YNAB is basically a more user friendly version of excel. I hear it's a lot like mint but most people seem to like YNAB a bit better. We didn't look into mint since YNAB is free for us.

Monthly bills are covered by half of Matt's income. Whatever is left over is what we save for the month. The other half goes towards everyday expenses.

Other then food and gas, everything else we consider flex money. The categories under flex money are really subsets under it. We found it was easier for us to track it this way though. I picked what I was actually interested in tracking for our subsections. For example, I'm trying to eliminate shopping at Target and Walmart completely. (I don't have a problem with either company). Matt and I plan what we are expecting this month and budget that way. Like this month, we had a $150 medical bill to pay, which is usually not the case, but we also knew we were not traveling.

At any point, I can see how we are doing by clicking on reports. There are various charts that show different things. My favorite is the pie chart. This is what July looks like so far.

(Click to make it bigger)

I like it a lot so far, since it's easier for me to read than Matt's excel sheets and it automatically updates on my computer when Matt updates it.

We also tried a new way to manage day to day expenses but I'll blog about that another time.

This might seem kind of weird to blog about, but I'm really excited about it. Matt and I have some big goals that we are trying to reach and we need money for a few of them. Also, it's really nice having finances in order. It's a lot less stressful in general.

Anyway, let me know if you have any questions about YNAB. I probably won't be able to answer them, but I can point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sick babies

Because everyone needs to sit around in diapers and their dolls...including Doll.

We have the strangest sickness going around. It's a very mild cold that makes you very, very sleepy. Madeleine caught it from Baby X, who a week later is still trying to shake it off. They both cough maybe once an hour and then need their noses blown a few times day. Other than that, they just sleep and sleep. 

Madeleine has been saying some very cute things though.

She woke up and pointed to cupboard.
"Cupcake and Daddy chips Mommy."
(Daddy chips are what she calls chips since Matt eats them. She loves them almost as much as him.)

"Mooommy, water in my nose!!! Water in my nose!"
(She was trying to tell me about snot. She doesn't know that word.)

"Madeleine do you want dinner?"
"Do you want chicken?"
"Do you want carrots?" (Her favorite food recently)
"Do you want a cookie?"
"Okay, cookie."
"How about a milkshake?"
"A cupcake?"
"No, cupcake. Cookie Mommy, okay?"

I hope she gets better soon. We have some things she was excited about coming up and I don't want her to miss them! But in the meanwhile, I'm getting my fill of toddler cuddles.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

First Paper Explained

Matt got his first paper published!!!!

While this may not be the most ground-breaking thing for Chemistry, it is for our family. Matt publishing this paper means 1) He got one project to work so now that shows that he is at least kind of competent and 2) he has a decent shot at getting a job. I'm going to let him explain what his paper is and hopefully you'll kind of understand what he has been working on for the last year.

Matt's explanation in laymen's terms:  Fluorine is a special member of the periodic table because it is the element that is most electronegative; in other words, it has a very strong attachment to its electrons. This is very important when designing pharmaceutical drugs. Usually, the human body degrades drugs by oxidizing them, a fancy term for "stealing all of their electrons" which causes the drug to fall apart and stop working. If you add fluorine to a drug, it makes it more resistant to having its electrons stolen, and this allows it to last longer and be more effective at treating disease.

Here are a few examples of fluorinated drugs (the fluorine is represented with the letter 'F'). The one on the left is an antibiotic where the fluorine increases its ability to kill bacteria, and the one on the right is used to treat high cholesterol. In both cases, the addition of the fluorine causes the drug to be much more effective at a lower dose.

So what's the problem? Well it turns out its not easy to put fluorine in molecules. One popular way of doing this is to take an oxygen (an 'O' atom) and convert directly into a fluorine. However, so far, the methods for doing this are either really expensive or they can result in big explosions. In short, the paper I just published describes a new way to add fluorine without the explosions or high cost. Hopefully, this will allow pharmaceutical companies to make cheaper drugs safely.

While this all may sound important, discoveries like this are made daily in the scientific community, and it is difficult to judge at the onset how important a discovery may prove to be.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Plastic free July

This month my zero-waste facebook group wanted to take the Plastic free July challenge. (If you click here, you'll find all of the rules and details.) Since I run the group, I figured I definitely should take the challenge. For the most part, I feel like Matt and I have reached a pretty good point between producing less trash and living in our budget. But for this month only, I decided to take it a bit farther and try out the things that we choose not to do.

So here are some of our weak spots for plastic.

- Candy bars
- meat and cheese
- diapers
- condiments
- yogurt and hummus
- bread
- straws 
- berries
- junk food in general 

Candy bars 
We LOVE milka bars, so much so that Madeleine will walk past the whole isle of  American candy bars to the International section. Then she stands on her tiptoes and grabs to milka bars and sticks them in the cart. We have been able to avoid these so far by making more sweets at home and loading up on berries.

Meat and Cheese
I found out that our whole foods will wrap meat and cheese in paper.  (Well kind of. The cheese guy wrapped it in plastic and then paper.) The only thing is it's expensive. Not really worth it. But the cheese we got was amazing! I also found a local butcher who will put meat aside on slaughter day, but again out of our budget. But it's nice to know those are options. Whole Foods does do meat specials regularly so maybe I'll start looking at those more often.

Date night at the Butcher's market

We've been a lot better about cloth diapers this month! They are super super easy with our new washer and dryer.

I've been better at making them and buying them in bulk this month. 

Yogurt and hummus
I still haven't found a good yogurt starter or a good hummus recipe. Working on these.

Whole foods and the bakery across from the library will give it to me plastic free. I'm going to try yet another recipe though this week. At this point I can make it, just Matt want one that taste better like Trader Joe's.

I really don't pay attention to this one. Going to work on it, since it's so easy.

It's berry season so we've been able to pick our own! And I froze some for later this year.

Junk food
I feel like we've been doing a lot better with this one. I broke down and got some from book club but other than that we've been doing great.

So far we have had 3 bags of small trash in the kitchen and 2 large ones in the bathroom. The bathroom has Baby X diapers too though, so I don't have complete control over it, and I feel like this is pretty good considering that we've had three parties/get togethers at our home. The next thing I'm going to try to work on is getting a compost going since this apartment does have one. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


We've gone blueberry picking twice this year already and I'm sure we'll go again before the season is over. I love berry season here. We missed the strawberries thanks to moving but we did get to pick cherries, which I had not done before. The sweet cherries are only around for two days since they get picked so quickly, but we made it for the blueberries.

I have a soft spot for blueberry picking. It was one of my first adventures here in Princeton and my first introduction to Terhune Orchard's. Since then, we go all the time, and even when we don't quite make it over there, we get their food from the farmer's market.

We are doing  trying to do"Plastic free July" so I really wanted to get more blueberries. We can get berries plastic free at the farmer's market, but I really think it's good for Madeleine and Baby X to see where food comes from and to be outside. 

I make her wear black. She makes sure she still gets a tutu.

Madeleine was having a bit of a hard time not eating all of the berries, so we had to leave after a bit. They gave me a free apple cider donut for bring a bag. I love those things! Anyway, part of the reason we went today was to get some more blueberries to freeze. I don't really cook with berries when they are not in season, but I do make blueberry muffins time to time. I figured that two jars of berries would be enough for four batches, which I think is enough for winter.

Here is how I do it if anyone is curious.

After washing them, I stick them on a cookie sheet and pick out all the leaves, stems, and bad berries.

Then I spread them out as much as possible and put the cookie sheet in the freezer over night. In the morning they are rock hard and I can stick them in a jar. Since I frozen them on a cookie sheet, I can pull out one berry at a time, or just pour out as many as I need.

Jar from last week's berries

I put some extras in the fridge for us to eat and make blueberry banana muffins with later.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Art for our room

Matt and I needed some art over our bed and as much as I'd like to buy art from an artist, we simply cannot afford it right now.

So I looked at some of the art I have been pining over for sometime to see if I could figure out away to create something similar myself.

There is this art shop on facebook and etsy called Leroy's Place. It's one of my favorites. She buys old thrift store paintings and adds a bit to them.

Matt and I both thought they look fun and quirky, and thankfully not to hard to take some inspiration from. So first we got our ugly painting from Goodwill. It was so funny watching people come up to my cart and look to see what great find I had. Several ladies even shot me strange looks when they saw it, but that's alright. I marched my $3.50 painting right up to the register with a grin.

This is what the painting looked like but this is after I spray painting the frame black.

The first thing Matt and I had to choose was what we wanting to put on.
Then he drew them out and I painted them. Two hours later we had our painting done. I think it cost us $7.50 total. 

When we finished

 And here's it hung!

I like the grown up look of the landscape with the fun of the childish things mixed in with it. Totorros are little calm creatures in my mind too so they seemed to be the perfect little guys to go into our picture. 

With that our home is done. We spent the 4th going through all the closets and bathroom. My next goal is trying to get us up early. Today didn't go as well as I hoped. While I did get both Matt and I up, he's currently at the lab. In his sleepy state, he stormed out of the house this morning to sleep at the Chemistry building. When I called him, he was a little annoyed that he was too awake to sleep. I'm hoping this isn't how every morning starts, but hey at least I got a blog post out of it. :)