A Year in Review (2020)

A Year in Review (2020)

Hello hello hello!

Well, I think we can all agree that 2020 was NOT the year we all thought it would be. With a global pandemic, a contentious election, racial injustice, a crashed economy, and the ‘In The Heights’ movie getting pushed back a full year, its been a doozy (and there are still a few weeks left!). As I think back on all 2020 has given us, it’s depressing… and it didn’t spare the Batirs. In April, we saw the oil futures plunge into the negatives for the first time in history, dashing all hope for Joe to find a job in the oil and gas industry in the near future. With his grant ending in May, we anxiously waited to see what the Lord had in store for us. The SMU Geothermal lab was able to keep Joe on until November at a reduced salary which was a huge blessing and a humbling reminder that we were some of the lucky ones. Many friends lost their jobs, had their salaries reduced, etc as the country tightened its belt. Then in September, Joe hydroplaned on the tollway wrecking his car. We definitely did not have a new car in the budget and though sharing a car was doable, it would prove tricky. But faithful friends rallied around us and offered their extra car at a price that met exactly what we had to spend. It seems that they wouldn’t be needing it anymore now that the pandemic moved his job remote permanently. A blessing in disguise for them and for us. As November approached, we watched as more and more layoffs were announced. Joe applied for the few job openings we could find but truly his options were limited. After praying and looking at the books, we decided that the best option for our family is for Joe to go out on his own as an independent contractor. We filed all the paperwork and Joe officially has his own consulting company, JoeCo Geosciences, LLC, and, by the grace of God, a few clients. With that said, 2021 will prove to be an interesting year for us as a family but we are trusting that the Lord will continue to be in control of it all. Huge shout out to our friends and our amazing family who has supported us through everything. We couldn’t have done it without you.

2020, with all its drama and mayhem, proved to be a year where we stripped everything to the bare bones. No fluff and no distractions. It has forced us to see the mundane as blessings and the blessings as privileges. But most importantly, it has shown us that we can’t take anything for granted. So as we put a bow on this present no one wanted, it’s my hope that amidst the sorrow and disappointments of this year, we can all look around and see the blessings we have in spite of it all. So from our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and good riddance to 2020.

How to Forage in Your Neighborhood

How to Forage in Your Neighborhood

If you’re like us, we have been going on lots of walks around our neighborhood during the Shelter-In-Place order. It’s been really fun to discover new places just blocks away and many quirky aspects of living in the Vickery Place historical district. Not sure if it’s all in my head, but with the drastic decrease in street traffic, I’ve noticed nature exploding everywhere. It’s is all around us! And in the midst of all the trees, plants and wildlife, you can find hidden jewels of edible plants right in your own neighborhood if you know what you’re looking for.

Firstly, I think it goes without saying that YOU SHOULD NOT EAT ANYTHING THAT YOU AREN’T SURE ABOUT. There are tons of poisonous and toxic plants out there so be smart and educate yourself. There are many resources available for free that can help you identify edible plants. My personal favorite is the Google Image search which you can access using your smart phone. We also have a great book called Foraging with Kids that is available on Amazon. Also, don’t trespass onto private property. Anything on the street side of the sidewalk is fair game but if you aren’t sure, just knock on the door and ask permission. Most people don’t mind if you pick a berry or two from front yard shrubbery and most people aren’t even aware of the edible plants in their own yards. Just be kind and use your common sense. Below are a few edible plants found in our neighborhood that could very well be in yours… if you know where to look!

Mulberry Trees

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Mulberries are delicious berries similar to blackberries but less sour. There are surprisingly a lot of mulberry trees in our neighborhood (two on our street alone) and I have to keep Jake from scooping up handfuls off the sidewalk and shoving them into his mouth. You can use mulberries for pies, jams, yogurt toppings, or just eat them by themselves. They are easy to pick and easy to eat!

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Pecan Trees

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In Texas, you can find pecan trees literally everywhere. We have one in our backyard and have a neighborhood who invites Jake to pick them off her lawn (free child labor). They are ready to eat when they fall on the ground. Just don’t wait too long to pick them or they will start to rot. You can roast them, make pecan pies, or add them to homemade trail-mix. As you can see, Jake is annoyed with me because I’m not cracking the pecan open quick enough… calm down child.

 

Mexican Plums

img_4810When ripe, the fruit will be a dusty purplish red.

Just across the street is a Mexican plum tree. When the fruit is ready to pick, it’s covered with a dust which is actually yeast that you can use to make all that sourdough bread you all have been making during quarantine. Just don’t eat the pits. They are toxic.

Dandelions

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“But Ali, there are no fruit trees or nut trees in my neighborhood!”

Well, my friends, those dandelions that your kid picks and blows are edible. EVERY PART OF IT, even the flower. So grab some dandelions and throw them into your dinner salad. They taste like arugula so they add a nice punch to your otherwise boring run-of-the-mill salad.

Rosemary

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Everyone uses rosemary. EVERYONE. This herb grows great in Texas climate and is a shrub often used in xeriscaping or native landscaping for homes and businesses (we even have rosemary in our front yard). You can use it to season pasta sauce, meat, in salad dressing, use it to make your bathroom smell nice…. Just one sprig goes a long way and we happily invite anyone to come forage some of ours…. PLEASE. IT’S TAKING OVER.

Cactus (Prickly Pear)

 

Cactus. It’s spiky but apparently delicious! Now, we have never eaten cacti, mainly because we don’t know how to prepare it, but cacti is actually used in many different cultures’ cuisines. You can eat the pads and you can eat the cactus blossoms (purple bulbs), which are commonly called prickly pears. Cacti is another plant that is commonly used in Texas landscaping. There are many in our neighborhood including our front yard. We have seen multiple people drive up and chop off pads. Our neighbor was nice enough to actually ask us for some which we happily gave him. Just a perfect example of why you should ask permission. It can be scary when someone shows up with a machete and is hacking at your cactus. Not so scary when you know them and know what they are doing.

Fig Trees

Figs are underrated fruits. Joe and I never ate them until we took a fig cooking class at Central Market which was a GAME CHANGER. Figs are great and super versatile! You can make jams, fig bars, stuff them in a chicken with goat cheese, dry them for trail mix, eat them raw, and many many other things! I was shocked to find so many fig trees around Dallas and a lot in our neighborhood. There was a large fig tree on the corner of Greenville Avenue and Belmont Avenue that we used to pick fruit off of but sadly it was demolished when they developed that corner into a restaurant… However, there are a few scattered throughout our neighborhood and in other neighborhoods around Dallas, even one on the Katy Trail. We have one in a pot in our backyard that we haven’t quite found the perfect place for.

So how do your forage in your own neighborhood? Honestly, just start exploring. Look up and around. Take in your surroundings. Ask questions… do you know what kind of tree that is? Look it up! See a berry? Google it. I bet you’ll be surprised to see what you can find. In fact, let me know what you find in the comments below! 

 

The Honest Truth About Cloth Diapers

The Honest Truth About Cloth Diapers

img_2414When we put cloth diapers on our baby registry, people thought we were crazy. We were told that we would never be able to keep up with it and were encouraged to throw in the towel before we even started. On the other hand, we met die hard cloth enthusiasts who shunned anyone who would even think of using non recyclable materials on their children’s bodies, not to mention the carbon footprint that disposable diapers leave behind. Joe and I tried to settle on a happy medium and have chosen what we think is a realistic approach to sustainable diapering. Parenting is hard enough as it is without making it more complicated. So I wanted to share with you how we have incorporated cloth diapers into our busy life while still maintaining our sanity.

Are cloth diapers really that complicated?

For most of us, the idea of cloth diapers seems DAUNTING. I know when Joe suggested it when we got pregnant, I was a bit hesitant. “You want me to wrap Jake’s butt in a handkerchief and safety pin it together without stabbing him!?” But here we are over a year later still using cloth diapers and really loving it. Cloth diapers have come a LONG way since safety pins and handkerchiefs. There are a ton of brands who make washable diapers with snaps (no safety pins!) that make changing a wriggling baby a breeze. These diapers come in all kinds of adorable prints and include absorbent inserts to soak up whatever your kiddo decides to expel from his body that day. ALVABABY is a great brand that we really enjoy.

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We bought three sets of 6 diapers and do a load of diaper laundry on Wednesdays and Sundays. Each set can run $30-$50 (depending on the brand) but the investment really pays off. You could easily buy more sets to allow for only one laundry day a week and not have to dig too deep into your pockets money-wise.

Do you use them 100% of the time?

When Jake was first born, we used disposable diapers for the first few months because we were given so many diapers from friends and family. I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about cleaning cloth diapers during this time because newborns go to the bathroom CONSTANTLY.

Would it have been impossible to use 100% cloth? No… but it would have been a challenge. Especially because the cloth diapers feel wetter than disposable diapers if you sit in them long enough. Jake would last longer in a disposable diaper than the few times we used cloth and this was extremely evident during nighttime.

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14 months later, we use both cloth and disposable diapers. Jake sleeps exclusively in disposable diapers (we use Hello Bello diapers which is an affordable sustainable baby brand) and we use cloth during the day. We also don’t expect baby sitters or Sunday school volunteers to change a cloth diaper so we use disposables during those times too. Essentially, we aren’t chained to the idea of cloth diapers. We LOVE them and find them easy to use and a money saver in the long run but we realize that in the modern world, sometimes you just gotta use a disposable diaper.

Are they easy to clean? (HOW GROSS IS IT?!)

This is probably the question I get the most. The best way I can describe it is this: If you think the Nose Frida is gross, then cloth diapers are not for you. Otherwise, with babies, you get covered with poop a lot anyway so you get used to it. We keep all the dirty/wet diapers in a bag by the changing table and wash them twice a week. For poops, we put as much of it as possible in the toilet right after we change Jake and then wash them out before putting them into the washing machine. Otherwise, cloth diapers are easy to clean. We wash them three times before drying. One rinse cycle. One cycle with bleach and detergent. One final rinse cycle to make sure all the bleach residue is gone. BOOM, dryer time!

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When we first started, we were honestly winging it and didn’t realize that cloth diapers require a little bit more TLC. We didn’t use bleach at the beginning and Jake ended up getting a yeast rash, which is really common with cloth diapers. Its harmless and doesn’t hurt but can look terrible. A couple days in disposables and it goes away but thats when we did the research and started bleaching them during every wash. Haven’t had a problem since!

Is it worth it?

Yes. It is.

We go through approximately 40 cloth diapers in a week and do two loads per week. At $0.31 a Hello Bello diaper, we are saving $12/week. We have been using them for roughly 50 weeks, saving us $600 that we would have had to spend on disposable diapers. We haven’t seen a noticeable increase in our water bill but we also have a high efficiency washing machine where you can select load size and we run the diaper loads on the lowest water setting.

BONUS

If you aren’t sold already, I’ve done some research and kids who use cloth diapers tend to have an easier time potty training. So that’s a plus.

They also have extra padding for when your kiddo is learning to walk so they soften the blow a bit and help your toddler get back to toddling.

Lastly, you never run out. Period. There is never a time when Joe and I have had to

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run to the store at 3 AM because we need more diapers. If a snow storm hit Dallas (never going to happen) and all the roads were closed but we needed diapers. We would be covered. If a zombie apocalypse happens (more likely than a snow storm),

people will be hunting us down just to steal the cloth diapers from us. They will be the new form of currency. Mark my words.

At the end of the day, if you are still planning on being a disposable diaper user, that’s fine. Cloth diapers aren’t for everyone and I won’t call you a planet killer for not using them. But I hope I was able to make them seem a little less daunting and a little more possible to fit into your world. The last thing parents need is to be shamed for their choices especially when, in the grand scheme of things, those choices have to do with poop.

DISCLAIMER: All pictures of Jake in a cloth diaper are bad photos because the kid won’t sit still for photos anymore. So enjoy and let me know in the comments if you are a fellow cloth diaper family or if you have any more questions!

The Dangers of a Backyard Bumblebee

The Dangers of a Backyard Bumblebee

This morning, Jake and I were outside playing in the backyard, taking full advantage of the unseasonably cooler morning temperatures. I was sitting and enjoying my iced coffee while he toddled about the yard. As a new walker, I sit in the balance of letting him explore his new found independence while trying to keep him from smashing his face into the hard concrete. It can be difficult at times to allow him to hurt himself, knowing he won’t fully learn how to walk unless he knows how to fall. So I sat. Half relaxed and half ready to scoop him up at a moments notice. As Jake played, a bumblebee appeared. An intruder of our backyard haven. I jumped up ready to swat him away if he veered to close. Jake, on the other hand, was mesmerized. He was fascinated by this buzzing creature, a new addition to his tiny world. He watched in a trance until the bee got closer and then reached out with his chubby little hand. I immediately snatched him up. Perplexed, he writhed in my arms, trying to touch his new friend. I explained to him that this little bee, though cute, had a stinger and that if provoked, he would sting his little arm and it would hurt. But all Jake could see was something new and exciting… something he wanted to touch. In that moment, I realized that the next seventeen years will be filled with many moments just like that. Those moments will range from simple explanations of the dangers of a backyard bumblebee to life’s more complex subjects. And as I was lost in thought, I got a bit sad. The bee buzzed away in his quest for a flower and Jake went back to exploring the yard. But Jake’s little life had flashed before my eyes and the realization of his autonomy and free will hit me like a load of bricks. He won’t be a toddler forever (I’ve already accepted that). But the many life lessons yet to come seemed daunting. As his parents, we are tasked to train him and equip him. To get him ready for the big wide world beyond the backyard. We can have great conversations. Give him sage wisdom and deep insights learned from our own lives but, ultimately, the choice to apply that wisdom is up to him. We have no control over his life choices and, if I’m honest, that can be a hard pill to swallow at times. At the end of the day, Jake is a sinner just like me. He will be faced with moral quandaries and tough choices. He will be tempted by all the bumblebees of the world and will probably get stung more than once as he grows into the man he wants to be. Just as I can’t catch Jake every time he falls now, I have to allow him to make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons. The next seventeen years will be full of joy and probably some pain but thats how we grow. But for now, I choose to soak up our backyard adventures, watching my little person take his first steps in the wonderful journey we call life.

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How to Get Free Stuff While Pregnant

How to Get Free Stuff While Pregnant

I am no expert at being a mom. By a LONG SHOT. However, I do pride myself on being an expert on frugality and finding free stuff. When I was pregnant with Jake I stumbled upon the crazy awesome world of “pregnancy boxes”: boxes of free items and samples for new and pregnant moms. A ton of companies will give you free swag just for being pregnant (and obviously in hopes that you will buy more stuff). We took advantage of all the freebies we could find and it helped us through the first 3 months of Jake’s life and a few of the items we still use over a year later! So below are my favorite (and FREE) pregnancy freebies!

  1. BabyList
    Babylist is a really cool baby registry website that lets you sync all your registries onto one place AND it lets you put items from websites that don’t have registries like your favorite boutique baby clothing store. All you have to do is create a registry on the Babylist website and post one of two items on it. I didn’t even share the registry with anyone so it took me a total of 5 min. This was one of my favorite freebies. The items are high quality and not always just samples. We ended up getting a free onesie and a sun hat (which Jake still wears!) amongst all the samples.
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  2. Amazon Baby Box

    Amazon’s freebies were honestly the BEST and valued up to $35.  However, its a little bit more complicated to get them… You need to do the following:

    • Create your Amazon Baby Registry.
    • Sign up for Amazon Prime’s free 30-day trial.
    • Add products to your Baby Registry.
    • Purchase $10 worth of eligible products from your registry (or have someone by something off your registry… which will happen the second you have a shower)
    • Claim your Welcome Box!

    This Box contained a lot of cool items but the highlights for me were a muslin swaddle and an Avent 4 oz bottle. You can check out The Gentle Nursery’s blog on what they got in theirs for more proof that going through the extra steps is totally worth it!
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  3. TargetScreen Shot 2019-08-24 at 10.09.06 AM
    This one is SUPER easy to get. All you have to do is make is registry online or in store (which most people do anyways) and go to the Guest Services desk and ask for your free gift. BOOM. They claim it’s $80 worth of stuff, and though I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, some of the items require you to contact the company directly and pay shipping to receive…. is that really free? HOWEVER, I still got a ton of great samples as well as full sized products like a Dr. Brown Natural Flow bottle (which are NOT CHEAP) and it comes in a cute reuseable tote bag. So Target… you did good.
  4. Buy Buy Baby
    Screen Shot 2019-08-24 at 10.35.51 AM.pngJust like Target, all you have to do is make a baby registry (you really just have to add one item, they don’t even check) and then go to Guest Services to collect your goody bag. Honestly… I wasn’t a fan of BuyBuyBaby’s bag and with the nearest location being 25 minutes away, it wasn’t worth my time. BUT it did have some good samples and gives you a coupon.
  5. The Baby Box Co.
    Ok… so I’ve gotten a couple looks for this one but I promise you, it’s awesome. The Baby Box Co. provides FREE literal baby boxes. To sleep in. Having your baby sleep in a box next to your bed is the norm in Finland (the hospital gives you a box when you leave with your baby!)  but in the U.S. people think it’s weird. The website explains the history the best so he is an excerpt:

    A Baby Box is a Finnish tradition dating back to 1938. In the 1930s, Finland was a poor country and infant mortality was high. Enter: the Baby Box program—a state led initiative to give expectant mothers the tools they need to raise a healthy, happy baby. And, it works! The initiative, which enables every expecting woman in the country to get a Baby Box once she receives prenatal care and parenting information from a healthcare professional, is credited with helping to decrease Finland’s infant mortality rate from 65 deaths for each 1,000 children born in 1938 to 3 deaths per 1,000 births in 2013.

    Well, the Batir Family has never been a normal family and we eagerly signed up for our free baby box and mattress and Jake slept in it for the first 4 months of his life until he outgrew it. img_9618.jpg
    This one isn’t the easiest to get (we were DETERMINED). You have to watch a few videos on the BabyBoxCo website that teaches you baby safety and then you have to pick your box up from one of their local partners. It also comes with some free samples so needless to say, we were pumped.

There are more ways to get freebies like diapers and kids books, but these were my favorites and the ones I deemed worthy of my time. No shipping costs, no subscription sign ups. Just all American free stuff! If you find any other cool freebie boxes, let me know! I’ll definitely be signing up again for kid #2 when that happens. ENJOY!

Life Update: “Cha, Cha, Changes.”

Life Update: “Cha, Cha, Changes.”

For the last 2 years, Joe has been ‘in transition’. Which is a fancy way of saying ‘unemployed but looking’… ANXIOUSLY. After graduating with his PhD in May 2017, its been a rough road to a full time job in the oil and gas industry. We navigated the path God set out for us as best as we could which led us to our beautiful son and Joe’s season as a stay at home dad. Though Joe has rocked this role out of the park, we have been working toward employing him and having me stay at home.

As of July 19th, our goal became reality. Joe has taken a ‘Post Doc’ position at the Southern Methodist University geothermal lab and I have resigned from my property management position and will be taking up residence as a stay-at-home mom. With this shift, there will be a lot of changes. We ultimately don’t know where the post doc will lead. In the next year, we could be moving across the country, the world, or the street. We are leaving the life we have known for the past 7 years and embarking on our next adventure. SCARY stuff, people!img_1828

So I’d like to ask the masses to be praying for us as we make this transition. It will be an adjustment for all of us! For Jake not to see his dad all day, for Joe not to see Jake all day and be running the geothermal project, and for me as I adjust to stay-at-home motherhood after coming from a very fast-pace, high-stress career.

Also… any current stay at home moms: give me a call!

 

SPONSORED: The Super Spoon

SPONSORED: The Super Spoon

We recently were given the opportunity to try “The Super Spoon” from The Evolved Parent Company. This awesome company was founded with a simple mission in mind: to make the lives of parents just a little simpler. Jake is still trying to figure out utensils so I was pumped to try this spoon. This self-feeding spoon has a soft handle and good-sized silicone bowl that allows your kiddo to easily feed himself. I was skeptical at first but turns out, this is the only spoon that Jake has been able to properly use!

First things first: the packaging. Anyone else out there hate when companies require you to have ninja skills to open up the plastic packaging? I have spent hours wrestling with plastic and scissors trying to get things open. Thankfully this product was SUPER easy to open which was very much appreciated by this mamma. The spoons themselves are SUPER soft. The handle is firm but easy to hold and the silicone bowls are flexible and easily to move around a tiny mouth.

The bowl is a decently large sized bowl so this spoon is perfect for yogurt, oatmeal, and eventually soup (when we get brave enough to try!). We used it for steamed veggies, which worked, but since the bowl is so deep, Jake decided to use his hands to get the remnants out of the scoop.  Despite the user error on our part, Jake loved using this spoon. Not only is it a great starter spoon but it also acts as a teether! Which God knows we need right now. After he was finished with his dinner, Jake was happily chomping his gums on the bowl as we cleaned everything up.

You can find The Super Spoon on amazon at www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07RV62PKQ. OR you can buy it straight off The Evolved Parent website and use Promo Code “SUPERLAUNCH” for 50% !

Jake’s First Plane Ride

Jake’s First Plane Ride

One of Joe’s groomsmen got married over the weekend and so we took that as an opportunity to take a quick family trip to Springfield, Illinois. This was Jake’s first trip on an airplane and let me tell ya, I was so nervous. You always hear horror stories about babies screaming for the full flight so when Jake decided to skip his afternoon nap, my hopes seemed dashed. So we headed to the airport hoping for the best.

 

TSA was a breeze, even with a car seat, but Joe got flagged and had to get everything he touched swabbed and then taken to a back room to be privately patted down. In the meantime, Jake befriended the Chief TSA officer and earned his Junior TSA badge sticker. With a 6:50 PM take off time, we had a few hours to kill in the terminal so we grabbed dinner and showed Jake around the DFW Airport (did you know that they have a private nursing room!!!???). The kid was super social and made tons of friends. Then with 2 minutes before boarding I decided to change his diaper. He promptly peed all over himself and then puked all over me. (Thanks, kid. Thanks.) Jake had stayed up for about 6 hours since his last nap at this point, so I cut him some slack. We boarded the tiny plane and settled in. I had planned on feeding him during take off (this apparently helps babies’ ears pop) and it worked like a charm. The sweet babe was asleep in my arms. PRAISE GOD. With a 2 hour flight time, Joe and I got comfy and got our cokes and peanuts. Jake had other plans. He woke up after a 30 minute nap and was ready to play. Thankfully, our fellow passengers were more than willing and everyone had a grand time.

 

We landed at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, hopped in our rental car, and checked into the Quality Inn. Finally. Sleep….. NOT. Jake, again, had other ideas. With no crib or pack n play, Jake slept with us and decided that this hotel bed needed to be bounced on and proceeded to bounce and play until almost midnight with no relief for his exhausted parents. But finally he tuckered out.

Saturday: With a wedding at 1:00 PM and the reception at 5:00 PM, we had plenty of time for naps and adventure. We spent our morning visiting the home of none of than Abraham Friggin Lincoln! Y’all. I honestly didn’t realize that Springfield was Lincoln’s hometown until we flew into the airport and saw his face everywhere. So I was a very happy history buff.

 

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Joe and I had fun exploring the National Historic Monument but Jake was not impressed by Ranger John’s tour. His favorite part was eating the grass in Honest Abe’s backyard. My highlight was the kid who got his knee stuck in the railing only to be freed by a tub of lanolin. The Rangers told us it was a first and so we considered ourselves honored to have witnessed his escape.

After a quick nap, we headed to the church for the wedding. It was a sweet service with a ton of kids so Jake was in good company. Joe got to catch up with one of his college friends and other groomsmen, Nate, and Jake ate some more grass.

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We then headed to the Walmart across the street from our hotel to buy some swimsuits to take advantage of the hotel pool. We let Jake pick out his own and he decided upon Baby Shark swim trunks. I picked a suit that I didn’t hate and Joe grabbed a classic blue number all for under $10/piece. Way to go Walmart.  Jake and I took a nap while Dad and Nate caught up some more and we all went to the pool… which Jake thoroughly HATED. We slowly waded through the water as daddy splashed around to show Jake how fun swimming can be. But after about 10 minutes, we decided to call it and get ready for the reception.

 

The reception was fun and Jake enjoyed eating green beans and roast beef but his favorite part was crawling under all the tables and, you guessed it, eating more grass. We said goodbye to the bride and groom and headed back to the hotel.

Sunday: We woke up at 4:00 AM to make a 5:45 AM flight and this time, Jake promptly passed out and slept the entire time. Overall, taking a baby on a plane was nothing to stress about and we had fun on our super short adventure to the Midwest. Word on the street is we will be going to Iceland next year for the World Geothermal Conference so Jake will hopefully be a seasoned traveler by then!

Behind The Ring

Behind The Ring

For those of you who know Joe, you know he is a very resourceful person. So it should come as no surprise to learn that he dug the gems for my engagement ring out of the ground. He had always wanted to make the ring his proposed with from scratch. Yes, SCRATCH. He wanted to forage for all the materials down to the silver but after realizing this was a lofty goal, he settled for the gemstones. So how did he do it?

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Photography by Cottonwood Road Photography

First, let’s go over the basics. Did you know gemstones are actually minerals but not all minerals are gemstones? Minerals have to be super pretty to be considered gems and those gems are then polished and cut into jewelry-quality stones (Example: Quartz is pretty much worthless but under the right conditions, it’s also amethyst). The minerals lucky enough to call themselves ‘gems’ are classified into two categories based on their rarity:

Precious: diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire.

Semi-precious: Amber, calcite, jade, amethyst, topaz, etc.

This designation can change at a moment’s notice. Amethyst used to be considered one of the cool kids but got demoted as more and more deposits were found. Overall, the value of a gemstone is rated using the “Four C’s”: cut, clarity, color, and carat. The reddest, largest, clearest ruby is considered the best. Pretty simple.  There are a lot of minerals in the United States and there are actually a lot of places that will you allow you to hunt for your own. So Joe had a few options. Luckily for him, Texas is known for its blue topaz and for good reason. Blue topaz occurs naturally in only two places on earth: Brazil and Mason County, Texas, making it pretty rare.

FUN FACT: Did you know that diamonds are not actually rare? The only reason why you see them in the precious gem category is because of a diamond monopoly and really good advertising.

 

Joe took two trips over a 6 month period to pan for topaz in the creeks of Mason County. On the first trip, he didn’t find anything. But on trip #2, he found the three stones used in my ring. In their natural state, gems are considered “raw” and need to be cut (the Four C’s!) and polished. So just because you find a decent sized gem doesn’t mean that’s the size it’s going to be in the ring. Thankfully the stones he found did the trick and he walked away with a 3 carat white topaz and two 1 carat blue topaz.

 

He took the gems to his friend’s jewelry studio, Gevandov, and he was able to match Joe up with someone who would cut the topaz for him. Joe chose the arrangement and viola. All he had to do was pop the question. Now, I was fully aware that Joe wanted to make the ring himself. So needless to say, I was a bit nervous as to what the ring was going to look like. Joe knew the types of settings I liked and had asked me general questions on colors and styles. The rest was blind trust that Joe knew what he was doing. On September 18, 2014, he dropped the knee and popped the question. I grabbed the ring out of his hand before he could finish the proposal.

was absolutely floored by how good he did. It’s an absolutely gorgeous ring and so

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Photo by Ron Accord Photography

much work and thought went into it. One of my favorite things about it is the fact its not perfect. If you look closely, there is an “impurity” in the main stone. Looks like a splinter. What a perfect reminder that marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.

If you are interested in hunting for topaz (or any rocks or minerals), Joe and I would love to be your guides. Let us know!

 

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Batir we go to EarthX!

Batir we go to EarthX!

Most people consider us a ‘granola’ family. We compost, recycle, make our own baby food, use cloth diapers, wear natural deodorant, have a urban garden, backyard chickens, etc. So obviously, us going to Fair Park to spend a day at EarthX 2019 is a no brainer. I tried to no avail to get friends and coworkers excited about this annual event, but not a lot people know what to expect. So let us show you! Welcome to a day at EarthX 2019!

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EarthX is the LARGEST ‘environmental experience’ in the WORLD! Right here in Dallas, Texas and it’s free! Usually aligning with Earth Day (this year it’s April 27th & 28th), Fair Park is taken over by planet-friendly vendors and environmental enthusiasts dedicated to helping the average earthling better understand how they can make a positive impact on the planet. PLUS, they give out a ton of free goodies to help you do so.

We started our day at Big Tex’s house. He isn’t there when the Fair isn’t going on but

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it made a great meeting place to rendezvous with my mom who decided to join us. Then we headed to the main exhibition hall which is full of over 200 vendors!

Though overwhelming, this is where you get your goodies. Joe likes to talk to every vendor and sign up for giveaways, raffles, you name it… which can take quite a while but when he comes back with free stuff, I can’t blame him! Check out the slideshow below to see just a taste of the stuff you can get throughout the park:

 

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Next, we checked out the tiny house exhibit. There are a group of tiny houses on display that people actually live in full time. As you tour their home, you can ask them anything you like from how much the house cost to how they are able to fit everything they need in such a small space. There was a family of 7 that converted a school bus into a home for $20,000! That’s crazy!

 

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Next, it was lunchtime, so we headed toward the food trucks. On the way, we passed by some goat yoga. Still don’t understand what the hype is but the yogis seemed to be enjoying it.

 

There are a ton of food options for you to choose from and they usually have a lot of vegan and veggie friendly trucks there if you are interested in trying something different. We grabbed chicken and waffles because, why not? We set up Jake’s portable highchair and let him snack on some blueberries while we munched away.

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Painted rocks from Grandma!

With our bellies full, we did a final walk around, got some free Tehuacan carbonated water (the new Topo Chico) and headed home. Since Jake is so young, we weren’t able to fully appreciate all the kids activities they have at EarthX. The entire Food & Fiber pavilion is full of arts and crafts, hands-on science experiments, and there are even animals to interact with. Another thing we love about EarthX is hearing from different vendors on new technology, cool new products, and updates on what’s new in DFW. Here are a few highlights:

 

There was this portable/instant/biodegradable grill that was really cool. For only $15/piece (2 for $20 at EarthX), this grill heats to 600 degrees in only 5 minutes and burns for almost 6 hours, allowing you to cook a full meal and have heat left over for smores. We thought this was such a neat idea for camping because it doesn’t require any clean-up. You can either throw it away or use it as kindling in your bonfire.

Coca-Cola has had a tent for the past two years showcasing what the company is doing to to be more sustainable. That’s cool and all but the thing we love about their tent is that they give away free rain barrels used from old corn syrup containers! A standard rain barrel can run anywhere from $60-$100 dollars so this freebie is definitely the best one at the convention.

We also stopped by Texas Outdoor Family’s table. Texas Outdoor Family teaches families the basic outdoor skills needed for a great camping trip. TOF is run by Texas Parks and Wildlife and after surveying the park visitors, they realized that the typical park campers are middle aged white men, which isn’t the best representation of the demographics of Texas. But camping can be intimating to families. Either they don’t know where to go or they can’t afford all the gear. So the TOF program encourages families to get outside explore all the awesome parks we have in Texas by providing all the gear you need and all the park fees for only $65 per family for the weekend. They even have a bunch of cooking supples you can pick through to make your camping trip a success. You just return everything when you are done. As avid campers ourselves, we thought this was a really neat idea.

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Overall, it was another successful year at EarthX. Tomorrow is the last day so be sure to check it out! Register online for free at their website (Earthx.org) or pay $5 at the door. And remember, it doesn’t take much to be more planet-friendly. Reducing your carbon footprint just a little bit makes a world of a difference. Happy Earth Day, earthlings!