Happy Eid!

To all Cape Breton Muslims, happy Eid!

My new friend Aleena, who is originally from Pakistan, told me about Eid and how it is a festival that her family celebrates. (It’s pronounced “eed,” by the way.)

There are two Eids, actually. One is called Eid al-Fitr and one is called Eid al-Adha. The first one is the lesser Eid and takes place in August. The second one is the greater Eid and takes place now. (Well, it started on Friday.)

Anyway, my point is, to all Cape Breton Muslims, who may have moved here from another land, I’m so very glad you’re here. May you have a happy time celebrating with your families!

Posted in Food + agriculture, Newcomers | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Erin the Librarian: The Frugal Baby

Erin Phillips

Everyone says “Kids are expensive” and “babies require so much stuff!”

My partner Brian and I tried to argue against these statements before our child was born – “Nonsense,” we’d say, “Babies aren’t that expensive.”

But there is a truth to the statements. Most families don’t really plan out all the financial demands of having children. Feeding them, clothing them, entertaining them, educating them: it does add up.

But I’d like to think that Brian and I have lessened the financial burden by being frugal whenever possible.

As a librarian, I turned to books (as well as the Internet) to guide me in some of the purchasing choices a new parent has. The Eco-Nomical Baby Guide : Down-To-Earth Ways For Parents To Save Money And The Planet by Joy Hatch and Rebecca Kelley is a great primer on what to purchase for your baby. 
I read this book before our baby was born and found it had great tips for how to set up the nursery and how to clothe and feed baby.

Here’s how our family employed some of money-saving and good-for-the-environment tips:

1. Cloth Diapers

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide has a great break-down of the “cloth vs disposable” debate. Personally, I never questioned whether to use cloth or disposable diapers. I knew I would be using cloth because I couldn’t bear the thought of all those diapers in the garbage!

I also assumed cloth would be cheaper but I soon found out cloth diapers can be quite expensive depending on the style and brand you choose. Being an innately frugal person I was appalled to see stores selling cloth diapers for $20 a piece, especially when I discovered I would need upwards of 2 dozen diapers for one child.

I was looking for something cheap and simple. I found good old-fashioned flat diapers. Essentially a flat diaper is a square of cloth folded and fastened with pins. This is kind of diaper that most of our grandparents and some of our parents used. This is what I wanted. It was cheap, simple, and best of all it would air-dry very fast so I wouldn’t have to buy a dryer.

You can buy Kushie’s flats at Walmart for $16 per six. I started with these and then moved on to DiaperRite Birdseye cotton flats which I ordered online (with shipping it came to $3.30 per diaper). These diapers can also easily be made out of any flannel or other absorbent natural cloth. DIY-ers can easily make their own flat diapers. Most cloth diapers need a waterproof cover; for mine I bought old sweaters at second hand stores and sewed wool covers.

So how much money am I saving? Babycenter.com and other online sites estimate that disposable diapers cost at least $800 a year. Most people like to have about 36 cloth diapers on hand, which can easily cost $500-800. The 36 diapers and covers I use cost roughly $160 and should last several years! (I did spend a little more at the beginning on some diapers and covers I’m not using anymore, so technically I’ve spent closer to $200 in total.)

There is an added cost in laundry, but if you don’t use a dryer you can cut down on those costs, too.

Diaper before it’s folded, folded and homemade longies or diaper cover pants which are made from a recycled sweater.

Miriel in the diaper, before the longies.

Miriel wearing longies, ready to roll!


If cloth diapers seem like a lot of work there is another solution: No diaper at all! In Diaper-Free Baby, Christine Gross-Loh explains “Elimination Communication,” which is like infant potty training, only it is not so much training, as it is guessing when baby needs to use the potty. We have tried this approach with some success especially outdoors in the summer.

2. Saying no to toy shopping.

I don’t think I have bought any toys for Miriel – well, hardly any. The most expensive being a $10 used FisherPrice piano. 95% of her toys were gifts. Babies do need to play with different objects to learn about the world but these don’t always have to be “toys.” In fact a baby’s favourite objects are usually the ones they see their mom and dad play with, such as car keys and remote controls. Other great versatile and inexpensive toys are balls and building blocks.

3. Buying used furniture and “freecycling”

As long as you make sure the furniture you buy is safe there’s no reason not to buy used, especially for dressers, playpens, bassinets, and bouncy chairs. We were a little overly optimistic at the beginning and didn’t buy a bouncy chair or swing – we ended up getting both as gifts and the swing was such a blessing!

We also resisted getting a playpen because we weren’t sure how much it would be used. In hindsight we could have used one earlier, but I think waiting to make purchases is a good practice. When we wait we have more time to reflect on what products best suit our needs. Capebreton.kijiji.ca is a great source for used items. To save time you can set-up e-mail alerts for save searches. That way you don’t have to remember to visit the website everyday.

4. DIY Baby-Carriers

Moby wraps and ring slings can be made very easily at a tenth of the cost of buying. I made a “Moby” wrap by buying 5 yards of slightly stretchy fabric and cutting it in half down the length. It cost me $12 for two wraps instead of $65 for one! Great instructions for making all kinds of wraps and carriers can be found for free online.

5. Baby-Led Weaning and Homemade baby food.

The library has lots of books on making your own baby food such as Better Baby Food: Your Essential Guide to Nutrition, Feeding and Cooking for All Babies and Toddlers by Daina Kalnins and Joanne Saab and Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook by Gill Rapely. I followed the Baby-led weaning method with our daughter. It was very easy and pretty much free.

Baby-Led Weaning is about letting your baby explore food at their will by giving them manageable finger foods starting at 6 months. Instead of baby cereal and tiny jars of baby food give baby a banana or cooked sweet potatoes and enjoy watching them discover the food. Lots of veggies and fruit can be prepared as easy finger foods and for the more difficult ones such as spinach you can make your own purees with a blender.

6. Hand-me downs and used clothes

Before buying any clothes new, ask other families if they have anything to give away or try freecycle, a website where you can give and get stuff for free. We actually were blessed with having too many baby clothes given to us! Thrift stores and Kijiji can also be great for find used clothes.

Overall I think we’ve saved a lot of money and with fewer shopping trips and less clutter we are all more at peace. Which is a blessing when you have a newborn!

About Erin the Librarian: Erin Phillips has been interviewed on Dream Big Cape Breton, along with her partner Brian Dean, a luthier. She is a Whitney Pier resident and is the Victoria County Libraries Supervisor for the Cape Breton Regional Library. (Note: her views and opinions as expressed in the blog do not represent the views of CBRL.)

More Erin the Librarian columns on this blog:

And more Frugal Friday columns, by a variety of authors, on this blog:

Posted in Guest posts, Women + kids | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Adding handwriting to photos

Inspired by Elsie of A Beautiful Mess, last spring I got myself a Bamboo tablet.

I didn’t practice with it much until now, though, because I didn’t have a Mac nor did I have Photoshop. Excuses, excuses, I know. Anyway, I’ve started practicing with it. These are from today’s first try. What do you think? Do you like the way handwriting on photos looks?

(In case you are curious, the photos are:

Top: View from one of the mountains in the Mabou Highlands, from a hike back in 2009.

Middle: Fogo Island, from a trip there last year.

Bottom: Olenka and the Autumn Lovers performing at St. Patrick’s Museum, in Sydney, just a week or so ago.)

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learning my lessons

Using Illustrator to trace over top of a scanned-in image (hand-drawn art), in the process of logo design.

The images are actually much larger, so if you want to see what my screen looks like when I’m working in these programs (Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign), click on the image and it will open in a separate tab. Then you can zoom in on it, simply by clicking on it again.

Using InDesign to set text and learn typography.

Using InDesign to design a newsletter. (InDesign is a program that can be used to design whole books, too.)

Using Illustrator to mess around with letterforms.

If you’re wondering why I’m not posting as often as I did in the spring and summer, the answer is: school!

School school school school school school school school.

I love it! Typography, drawing, design of posters and newsletters, the history of art and of design, and learning so much about these computer programs and how they work.

But, after sitting at the computer for hours working on school stuff, I’m pretty sick of the computer. Of screen-based reality. Of clicking and moving a mouse. Of sitting in one place.

But, most of the work that goes into blogging (photo editing, emailing, editing text) is on the computer too.

So, the old blog is taking a back seat right now. It’s not getting out of the car completely – I love blogging, and I definitely want to keep it up – but school is the big priority right now, for sure.

Mental health is a big priority, too, since it was partly school that led to my depression five years ago, so I’m making sure that I get in a brisk walk every two days, that I get enough sleep, and that I get enough downtime to relax and connect with my honey. Cooking together and eating our meal together in the evenings is a good one for this. (Even if we’re eating in front of the TV.) No matter how busy school gets, I know myself well enough now to know that it’s not worth getting myself in a funk for.

I’m learning, too, that I work best if I work at something in short bursts, instead of longer periods. So if I start a project early, way before it’s due, but only work on it for 35 minutes every couple of days, I stay interested in it, I don’t stress (too much) about it being due, and it spreads all the various assignments out. (The trick is, remembering all the various assignments and when they are due… I am a big fan of my dayplanner!)

If you’re interested in my return to school (community college) at age 28, here are a couple of posts from earlier this Fall on the subject:

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“Food is not a product but a process.”


From one of my very favourite books (and authors):

“Who can decide? A sucker for seed-catalog prose, I ordered six varieties and planted about a dozen cloves of each. Buried under the soil with a blanket of straw mulch on top, each clove would spend the winter putting out small, fibrous roots. The plant begins working on top growth in early spring, as soon as air temperatures rise above freezing. By midsummer it will have from eight to a dozen long leaves, with one clove at the base of each leaf nestled into the tight knot of a new head. I pull them in late June, and tend to think of that moment as the end of some sort of garden fiscal year. It never really stops, this business of growing things — garlic goes into the ground again in October, just as other frost-killed crops are getting piled onto the compost heap. Food is not a product but a process, and it never sleeps. It just goes underground for a while.”

-Page 270, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver.

(Note: Kingsolver lives in Virginia. My mother here in Cape Breton pulls her garlic in late August. Also, the photo is of peas, not garlic, I know.)

I spent a happy weekend at my mother’s in Baddeck. I saw friends, went to see a play that my brother was in, and attended a board meeting for the Bras d’Or Stewardship Society. And then I got two orders of spicy noodles from Wong’s and headed back over the mountain, Kelly’s, to home. New home.

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a leaf and some needles

I’m in Baddeck for the weekend, back at my mother’s for a bit. It’s a nice mix of – things to do and people to see. And also going through old things. That takes so long! Oh my goodness. You’d think moving would be one quick sort of “whoops, there we go!” But, there are boxes left behind like wreckage in a wake. It’s amazing how much stuff you collect over a decade or two. Books, earrings, makeup, pictures, cards, frayed skipping rope, and photos, so many photos!

Random things, too, that still have sentimental value. They’re harder to let go of. “Oh, but that packet of taco sauce from Taco Bell has meaning…”

Anyway, it’s nice to be at my mother’s house for a couple of days. Pet the cats. See some different scenery. And realize, that somewhere in the blur of the last few months, I really did move out. This isn’t my home anymore. Its smell is no longer so familiar to me that I don’t even notice it. I do notice it.


Anyway, there are pictures from fun I had last weekend (a Celtic Colours show, an Olenka and the Autumn Lovers show) that I’m hoping to edit sometime soon and put up. As well as more shots of school, including some screen shots of the work I’m doing, which is so ridiculously simple at this point. (Literally drawing circles and stars and learning how to flip them and colour them in and stuff.) But, you gotta start somewhere, right?

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Eat Local, Buy Local, Build Local: Dinner and Auction supporting Habitat for Humanity

Habitat Building Team with the Governor General, David Johnston.

You can buy tickets on this shed at the dinner.

Canadian Governor General David Johnston helping out.

A local non-profit organization that does amazing work is having a fundraising event next week, and I’d like to help spread the word.

When: Thursday, October 25th, Cocktails from 6:30 to 7pm. Dinner at 7 pm.

Where: Flavor 19 at the Lingan Golf Club on Grand Lake Road.

What: Four course dinner with wine pairings. Farm to Table menu prepared with seasonal local selections. Sommelier Jonathon Wilson. Auction to follow dinner. Music by Carl Getto. Cocktail wear recommended.

How much: Tickets: $75/per person, or $125 per couple .(Drinks and gratuities not included.)

More info: Tickets available at Flavor downtown and Flavor 19. Email cbmanager@habitatns.ca or call (902) 537-0133.

All proceeds go to: Habitat for Humanity Cape Breton Project.

Neat fact: The house they are currently working on is actually a heritage-listed building, and one of the interesting things they are doing is adapting new technology to maintain the historical integrity outside while making it highly energy-efficient on the inside.

Cape Breton Habitat for Humanity Manager Joyce Rankin says, “We hope this house will be an example and inspiration to many. The house is one half of a company house that had been abandoned, and was posing a risk to the family in the other half. All funds raised will be used to make a safe and warm home for a hard-working local family, and preserve the threatened home of another family. We are working hard to make this happen before Christmas.”

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