Get Free Stuff on Craigslist

I had been combing craigslist for a 2007 or newer used Burley Bike Trailer for children for quite some time.  I frequently searched the Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing areas for Burley postings.  Often people listed Burleys for sale, but did not indicate the year or model.  I would follow up by email to inquire.

I was searching for a 2007 or newer Burley because I want to purchase the We Ski kit that turns the Burley into a cross country ski chariot for the baby that you attach by harness to your waist for cross country ski outings, something we often do during the winter months.  Last winter C had been too small for something like a Burley and instead we resorted to my husband carrying him in the Bjorn while we skied.  This year C would be ready for the Burley and probably even enjoy it.

I still haven’t tracked down that used 2007 or newer Burley to purchase after many, many fruitless inquiries into Burleys on craigslist.  Most respondents said they were selling Burleys made before 2007 which would not work with the We Ski attachment.

What I did end up getting was a FREE Burley Bike Trailer.  I had inquired after a Burley posting on craigslist and the woman replied that she was sorry but hers was purchased before 2007.  The communication ended there.  A few weeks later she sent me another note and said if I wanted the Burley, it was mine for free.  I considered that it wasn’t the correct model or year for the ski kit however this one could still attach to our bikes.  If I did end up purchasing a 2007 or newer Burley, this one could be kept at my parents’ home in northern Michigan where we could use it on the rails to trails bike path all summer long.  A newly purchased Burley could be kept at our home.

My dad picked up the Burley for us the next day.  It was ours for free, no strings attached.  So inquire after those craigslist items—you just might get them for free if someone is looking to unload older items that are only taking up room.

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November 17, 2009 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

Baby Food: Make It Yourself

This blog entry was a bit daunting to write (which explains why it is Thursday and I have yet to post this) because feeding your baby solid food is one of those tasks that every parent approaches in the way that simply works well for them.  So I will not try to persuade but will just share how much we have enjoyed making C’s baby food since he started to eat solids.  He has on occasion eaten jarred baby food, but on the whole we make his baby food and have decided that it doesn’t take much time out of our day or preclude us from going out and about around meal time.

Before I had even thought about having children, I remember a conversation years ago when a friend mentioned how she was going to be one of those parents who made all of her children’s baby food.  At the time I remember thinking, “now that is going overboard!”  Years later, I am doing just that and realizing that it is easy to do and certainly less expensive then spending a dollar on each jar of baby food or more, if you choose to buy organic.

Top 100 pureesI received a baby puree book for a baby shower gift, Top 100 Baby Purees, and was intrigued by the number of combinations recommended for baby food purees and by how simple the process seemed.  Early on, when the baby only eats one type of solid food a day like green peas, bananas, carrots or sweet potato, all you had to do was puree the food to the consistency of a jar of baby food.  This took a bit of practice.  I realized that often you needed to puree the baby food first and then slowly add a few tablespoons of water until it was smooth enough for the baby to tolerate.  Often potato and later cheese became consistent additions to smooth out the texture of the baby food.  I discovered sweet potato went well with apple and banana and avocado was a good pairing, much to my mother’s disbelief, but the baby gobbled it down.  Applesauce out of the jar was also a simple puree addition in order to add a bit of smoothness and tartness to otherwise bland vegetables.

For my pureeing device, I ordered a Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus for $40.  I was enticed by the much more expensive Williams and Sonoma, Beaba Babycook which defrosts, steams and purees all in one device.  But I quickly realized that I was rarely defrosting after a few months of making baby food.  Instead I would cook two days worth and keep it thawed in the refrigerator or plan ahead and take the frozen food out of the freezer in advance.  The Cuisinart proved powerful yet tiny enough to fit on my small kitchen counter and the microwave was efficient for quickly steaming foods.cusinart mini prep

It was a surprise to me that it is unnecessary to boil vegetables on the road to pureeing them.  My friend Kim clued me in early on that steaming vegetables in the microwave rather than boiling them the long and traditional way worked just as well and was much, much quicker.  All I had to do was cook the vegetables in the microwave on high for 7+ minutes covered with water in a pyrex container.  It was a miracle.  The veggies came out cooked and ready to puree.  Even a raw egg, I learned from Kim much later, could be cooked in the microwave on high for about two minutes.  Then add cheese, tomato or any other item that compliments it well and you have scrambled egg for the baby!  I even started eating a protein breakfast of microwaved scrambled egg more regularly because it only takes a minute or two and tastes pretty similar to the real thing.

For baby food storage we use some remarkable containers called, Babycubes, that let us efficiently store or travel with the baby food.  I recently gave my friend Jessica, who is due in January, a set of these cubes.  They are about double the size of an ice cube and have an attached lid.  This way you can freeze the food with the lid on or simply store in the refrigerator.  More recently the cubes have come in handy for holding snack food like raisins or cubes of cheese.

Now we are just about at the tail end of having to make C’s baby food and thankfully he has expanded the tastes and textures he tolerates to eat a portion of what we cook for ourselves for lunch or dinner.  But I will certainly be getting my money’s worth out of the mini prep.  Now I use it to dice my garlic or onions instead of dragging out the enormous full size Cuisinart!

Babyfood cubes

Mini Prep:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000645YM/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00007IT2M&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0CNAXHMH2XYCKA1ETXTF

Babycubes:

http://www.amazon.com/Baby-Cubes-Contains-Phthalates-Bisphenol/dp/B0027DYWS4/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=baby-products&qid=1257821033&sr=8-4

November 12, 2009 at 9:17 pm 4 comments

Cut It

We have been cutting C’s hair since he was three months old.  We knew when I was eight months pregnant that he had more than an inch of hair on his head according to the ultrasound technician.  We couldn’t see the hair ourselves on that gray screen but when he was born, there was the proof —a big head of thick dark hair.  We debated somewhat possessively whether the hair was a trait he inherited from my husband who undoubtedly has the thick black hair between the two us or from me.  I have fine brown hair but according to my parents and my baby pictures, I was born with thick black hair.

We debated whether it was wrong to cut a baby’s hair at three months, but when it kept growing and threatened to cover his eyes, we decided to cut it.  The first time we cut C’s hair we snipped a little off his bangs and over his ears as he lay sleeping in my arms.  My husband is the Minister of Hygiene when it comes to the baby, so he has been C’s barber since the beginning.

Haircut1

Dad cutting C's hair

Originally we knew C was too young to take to the barber, yet it was a necessity to cut his hair.  By one year, we might have taken him to a barber, but I worried about him whipping his head around and encountering a sharp pair of scissors.  I thought maybe he would be calmer at home.  And then once I realized that we needed to cut his hair about once every two months, I thought so long as I liked the product of a hair cut done at home, we would save money by doing it ourselves.

As C grew older, it became a bit harder to cut his hair.  We quickly realized it was best to immobilize C in his highchair for haircuts.  Three people involved in the process were better than two.  One person would hold his hands down during haircuts, one would distract him with treats or toys and the third would cut his hair.

Around seven months when I ran into a mom on the bike trail while out with C, she commented to her friend, “that’s the little boy who has already had four hair cuts,” according to the caregivers at C’s daycare.  I didn’t realize that they had taken note of my answer when they inquired about the abnormal amount of hair on his head.

Now when we cut C’s hair, the process is easier.  We still use a highchair in the middle of the kitchen floor or on our front porch, but my role is greatly reduced.  I still participate only to caution against taking off too much of the bangs or over the ears.    By a year C sits and lets his Dad circle his head with a pair of scissors, snipping when he isn’t looking.  A few toys on the tray or some pieces of cheese are plenty to keep C occupied for the duration of the cut.

Haircut2

November 1, 2009 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

A Good Egg

I have been lax this week in writing a new post for thelessnest.  My excuse is only partially valid—my husband and I took our first trip away without the baby last weekend to New York City.  I typically write posts on Sunday night and instead was traveling for half the day last Sunday.  This week the days and evenings somehow also got busy as well.

So just a quick post this week on another birthday item that I found to satisfy my son’s interest in putting things in a container and taking them out of a container and repeating the process many, many times without losing interest!  I know I should resist the urge to buy C any toys at all because he will receive plenty from friends and family, but somehow I can’t resist a good bargain when it comes to a beautifully designed toy.  We already have a plastic Fisher Price crate with a removable lid with cut out spaces for shapes to be placed through the lid and into the container.  It isn’t the most beautifully designed item but it has seemed to do the trick for the last few months.

I wanted to find something along those lines that was designed with some care.  Possibly something made from wood which would hold up over time and might be more pleasing, both visually and to the touch, for the user.  I found the item on Amazon called, “Good Eggs, natural wood eggs in a recyclable carton.”  It consists of six eggs crafted from a medium shade wood, nestled in a recycled cardboard egg carton.  The wooden eggs are left unpolished and sanded smooth to highlight the wood grain of concentric lines radiating outward from the center of the sphere.  The eggs are also satisfying to cup in the palm of a little hand.

Eggs

I bought three sets of them, one for C and two more for nephews.  At only $7.97 a set, I thought this was a good deal for the type of toy that is nice enough to be displayed after the toy has lost its appeal to the baby.  I wrapped up the gift last night, the day before C’s birthday, and have yet to give it to him (he was asleep when I left for work this morning and we have a wedding this evening to attend.)  But I’m looking forward to sharing with C a new opportunity to practice placing items in their container and taking them out again and putting them back again and maybe placing them on a bookshelf, table or stair and watching them roll down.

Happy Birthday C!

http://www.amazon.com/Good-Eggs-natural-recyclable-carton/dp/B000VM4SAU/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1256306971&sr=8-2

October 25, 2009 at 9:23 pm 1 comment

A thrifty winter coat (or two) for C

I never realized it would be so difficult to track down an affordable winter jacket for a toddler.  I started the search for a winter coat this summer by trolling the online sales.  I just missed buying a great puffball jacket on Land’s End online because I didn’t snap it up in August when it was half price and $19.99.  When I checked back in September, the price had jumped to $59.00.

A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

C already had a full snowsuit bunting, two of them in fact, but for trips in the car in cold weather he would need a proper winter coat.  It surprised me that a brand new coat would range from $50-$100 at stores like Sears, Macy’s and GAP for an 11 month old.  And for a coat that C would only wear one season, I just couldn’t bring myself to make the purchase.  I did check out stores like Marshall’s and Target where the coats were slightly less expensive but they were mostly all navy and I was convinced I could find that colorful jacket that I thought a 1 year old boy could still get away with wearing since he wouldn’t be walking enough to really get it too dirty.

I had never been to a resale clothing store for children until my friend Grace introduced me to one in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Grow With Me.  www.growwithme123.com. Grow with me imageIt was incredible.  The buyers for the shop must have been extremely selective because their merchandise consisted of top of the line brands like Tea, a San Francisco based company that makes expensive yet beautiful and nicely made children’s clothes, and clothes by exotic French brands such as “du pareil au meme.”  At the store I found a brown houndstooth duffle coat with horn toggle fastenings and rope loops in 9 months (too small) and a French brand light grey wool sweater for $5.99 with the original tags on that I couldn’t pass up.  In fact many of the clothes in the store had never been worn, had the original tags attached and were still for sale for $4.99-$8.99.  I stocked up on Lands End winter boots, Tea linen shorts for next summer in mango, multi-color and forest green all for $4.99 each with the tags on.  I admired a gap puffy navy blue jacket lined in red fleece in 2T but was not enamored by the dull color.

A few weeks later I checked out Baby Baby in Northville Michigan, a children’s consignment store.  I had asked our waitress if there was a children’s store located downtown and when she said there was but it was a consignment store, I replied, “even better.”  I hadn’t done much thrift store shopping since middle school but I reasoned that as children typically only wear things one season or two at most, the wear on the clothing is minimal and generally leave the clothing in good condition.  At this store I was presented with a full rack of winter coats in the right size.  There were less brand new items than at Grow With Me, but here there were more items to choose from.  I found a brand new Children’s Place orange and brown jacket with the tags on for $12.00 but it was a size 12 months and it looked like C would outgrow it next week.  I left with a London Fog down coat for C in Navy, Red and Hunter Green with a hood lined in red fleece for $14.50.  It was perfect… until the next day my mom called and said she had found a beautiful red coat for C for $19.99 at TJ Maxx and that she had bought it!  Baby Baby said my coat was nonreturnable due to the consignment trade at the store.  Currently, I am still deciding whether I should allow my used $14.50 purchase to jump to a $34.50 purchase to include the second coat from TJ Maxx and eat the loss, or if I’ll keep the used coat and have my mom return the new one.  Either way, a bargain is a bargain and I will be returning once again to these great kids resale stores.

October 12, 2009 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

How to go stroller-less at the airport

We were headed to Milwaukee for the baptism of C’s cousin in a few weeks.  Navigating the airport with C, his carseat, his stroller, our luggage and possibly a pack n play would be challenging.  We were just taking a short trip and would not need much more luggage than a wheeled suitcase carry-on that we could share between the three of us.

I wanted to take C’s own carseat.  That much was nonnegotiable.  The last time we had rented a car seat it was a supreme hassle to get the thing installed into an unfamiliar car after dark, when the rental car employees would not help with the installation because of liability concerns.  I did not want to deal with that situation again.

Setting up the Traveling Toddler

Setting up the Traveling Toddler

Therefore I began to look for a car seat attachment that would turn the carseat itself into a stroller to be used at the airport.  First I found a “travelmate” attachment that retailed for $77.95 on Amazon.  Too pricey for something we would use infrequently.  I kept searching.  Using keywords like “airport,”  “stroller,” “attachment” and “travel” I identified the “Traveling Toddler Car Seat Accessory” for $14.99 also on Amazon.  The Traveling Toddler advertised that it was compatible with any LATCH and top tether equipped car seat.  I always like to read parent volunteered reviews on baby gear websites and almost all seemed satisfied with this purchase.     

I ordered the Traveling Toddler and it arrived two days before our trip.  The week was busy and we did not have a chance to test it with our suitcase and the carseat at home.  The moment of truth came after navigating through airport security.  Fumbling to put my shoes back on, pocket my identification and boarding pass while removing the luggage from the belt, all while holding the baby was not easy.  I looked to my husband to get the Traveling Toddler set up asap.  A few pictures on the back of the tiny box the Traveling Toddler came in showed how to attach the nylon y-strap to the car seat’s latch system, which is all the car seat accessory consisted of.  Tightening the straps and attaching the system took all of 3-4 minutes.  I eagerly put C in the car seat which was now securely attached to the suitcase and strapped him in just as I do in the car.  He smiled and crossed his feet just like he does when his car seat is in the car.  We tilted him back and took him for a spin in his new makeshift stroller.  It worked!  No hitches.

 Traveling toddler 1travelling toddler 3

We rode down in the elevator and strolled over to the fountain to let C take a look from his new ride.  Curious parents stared at this different yet simple stroller system.  A mother of twins inquired about the device and said it was exactly what she had been looking for.  We navigated moving walkways and miles of concourse with the Traveling Toddler transporting our little boy.  It could not have been simpler or easier to use.  C seemed to like the novelty of being strolled in a new position and at a different level.  For the trip we were able to travel lightly, successfully ditching the pack n play, opting to reserve one at the hotel in advance and leaving the stroller at home for the instant stroller and carseat combo, brilliantly rigged together by the Traveling Toddler.

October 5, 2009 at 9:25 am 7 comments

Get to the gym for less

I recently decided to find a babysitter who wouldn’t charge an arm and leg when I wanted to run to the gym for an hour or when my husband and I wanted to go out to dinner after C was already asleep.  For short trips to the gym, I reasoned, I only needed someone to handle playtime and not the more difficult tasks of feeding or naptime.  For dinners out after C had already been put to bed, the babysitting job would most likely only consist of listening to static on the baby monitor.  C rarely wakes up these days after he has been put to sleep for the night.  In the cases when he does wake from a nighttime sleep, he would only need a reassuring pat on the back and maybe a pacifier to fall back to sleep.

photolibrary_photo_of_woman_joggingWhat I needed was a younger sitter, possibly someone who was in middle school or had just begun high school, who wouldn’t charge an exorbitant hourly rate because she didn’t yet have much babysitting experience and because the job wouldn’t involve much more than watching the baby monitor. 

I began by asking neighbors if they knew someone who fit my description and would be interested.  I solicited the advice of parents of twin girls who were C’s age at the Sunday farmers market.  They shared the name of a 9th grader who had just begun to babysit.  I had begun to create my list of potential sitters!  Then I ran into a former colleague who recommended her niece, who was just beginning high school and lived in the neighborhood. 

dinner-704340Two weeks later our new 9th grade sitter arrived to babysit after Connor had already been put to bed, around 7:45 pm.  We showed her the baby monitor, my laptop in case she wanted to get online and the tv, but had to admit that we didn’t have cable.  I think she resorted to reading the book she had brought instead.  I asked her how much she charged and she said $5 an hour.  I was thrilled and I think she was too, that we had recruited her for one of her first jobs.  We went out for sushi, saw the movie Julia and Julia and returned after four hours.  The sitter reported that C had not made a sound the entire time we were gone. 

My next plan was to get to the gym for an hour or even just 45 minutes in the afternoon one day during the week.  This time I decided to see if my 10 year old neighbors would be interested in playing with C with the supervision of their mom, if needed, while I ran to the gym.  In this case all I needed was someone who could lift C out of his crib when he woke from his afternoon nap, (if he didn’t nap for the entire time that I was at the gym), give him a bottle and play with him for the remaining minutes before I came home.  The girls were thrilled that I considered them and their mom wanted to facilitate them getting their first real “job.”  We agreed on $5 an hour and I ran to the gym. 

woman-gym-treadmillThis time when I returned, I learned C had only slept for half an hour.  The girls did have to take him for a walk to calm him down, but they worked through the situation with their mom when they needed her and when I came home, they were on their own playing with my smiling little boy. 

Young people often want the satisfaction of obtaining a job and earning some money.  You might not get the experience and confidence of an older sitter, but in some cases, like when the baby is dependably down for the night or for just a short trip to the gym, you really don’t need to pay for someone who will charge more and only end up watching tv while the baby sleeps.

September 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm 2 comments

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thelessnest: a blog for frugally minded parents

Hello, my name is Emily Fleury. I am the mom of a boy who is nearly one year old and an entrepreneur who likes a good bargain. For those of us who cannot help making that tempting baby gear purchase, I write about ways to save when the spending is inevitable.

This blog will be updated every Monday. To subscribe to thelessnest blog, click on the "subscribe" link below and add it to your favorites bar by checking the "add to favorites" box for regular update feeds.

Please send ideas to ejfleury@gmail.com.

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