The Best Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese is one of my family’s favorite foods!  We all love it.  And it makes a great dish to take to parties and potlucks.  Here is a great recipe and some ideas for some delicious twists to mix it up!

Ingredients
1 lb good Italian pasta (I use corkscrews or shells)
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 pound cheddar cheese (grated)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 stick butter
2 cups panko bread crumbs (regular bread crumbs work fine too)
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large pot bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to instructions (reserve 1 cup of cooking water to thin out sauce if needed).  In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in flour, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes.  Slowly add the milk to the butter and flour while continuously whisking. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until the liquid has thickened enough and coats the back of a spoon.  Stir in cheese (cheddar and parmesan).  Season with salt and pepper and add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water (more if needed).  Spray/grease a 9x 13 pan.  Add the pasta and pour the cheese mixture over.  Melt the 1/2 stick of butter and mix in the bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture of the noodles and cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.

For a fun twist, add 2-4 tablespoons chipotle in adobe to the cheese sauce.  Some sauteed scallions and bacon make a fun twist as well.

 

Enjoy!

 

Buying and selling used (part 1)

I love buying used things and  I love when I can score some $$$ selling used things I no longer want!  I’ll be doing a short series of posts of different avenues for buying and selling used items.  Up today ThredUp!

ThredUp
This site is pretty much like a consignment store online.  They buy and sell clothes and accessories for women, children and babies.  They accept name brand, good quality clothes. Oh, how I wish they sold men’s clothes for my husband too!
Buying-you can search by brand, size and type of clothing.  Their website search is easy to navigate.  You can search by brand, size and style.  The photos are decent, but there is also a written description.  The prices are a bit higher than goodwill or salvation army, but to me, the tradeoff from being able to stay at home and shop online is worth it.  Not too mention not having to sift through racks and racks of clothes.  Prices: Pair of Gap Jeans -$14.49

Prices:
Pair of Gap Jeans -$14.49
Ann Taylor Sweater- $12-20
Nine West Shoes – $18-25

One thing I did notice was that the discounts aren’t proportional.  For example, the Ann Taylor Jeans retails are MUCH more expensive than a new pair of Target Brand dress pants, yet they were only a dollar or two off in price at ThredUp.  Moral of this story: spend a few (literally) $$ to get a quality brand!
I received my first package this week from there.  I ordered a gap jacket, Ann Taylor dress pants, Ann Taylor Jeans and a Merona (target brand) pair of dress pants and a pair of Naturalizer black flats.  The box arrived, everything was folded nicely, with a nice tag on it, and wrapped in tissue!  Much nicer than when I order online from other places.!  So–the question-did things fit, and were they nice?  Yes and sorta!  I know my size well in Ann Taylor–and all the items fit, the Gap Jacket was a littler shorter than I was expecting, and the Merona pants were a bit snug.  So I think I am going to be sending those back.

Their return policy is pretty good–if you return for a refund they subtract an $8.99 restocking/shipping fee.  If you return for store credit, you get a full refund.  I will post an update with how the return process goes.

Head on over and use this link-and we’ll both get $20 to spend!  http://www.thredup.com/r/NB7KV9

Selling- Seems pretty simple–they send you a bag, you fill it up and they will sort through it.  You can choose to have the clothes they don’t take sent back to you ($12.99 fee) or they will responsibly donate.  I sent a bag in this week, so I am waiting to see how that goes and will update here.

My Cloth Diaper Update

ClothDiaperPostIMG_2137We have been using cloth diapers for over a year now!  Here is an update on our stash and how things have been going. A good bit of my stash I was able to get used on ebay (lots of people try cloth diapering for a few weeks, so there are lots of like new stashes for sale).  I also love ordering from GreenMountainDiapers–their shipping costs are reasonable (under $5) and shipping is fast 2-3 days!

All in One’s
-Bumgenius Freetimes (5)
-Bumgenius Elementals (8)

**My favorites–the elementals.  These are slim, easy put on, durable and have no microfiber to fuss with.  We scored a few gently used elementals and our local cloth diaper shop for $5 each!

Covers
-Flip Covers (5)
-Thirsties Duo Wrap (5) **we now use size 2

**I love them both for different reasons.  The Flips are great because the inserts “tuck” inside, which makes it easy to prep them for daycare.  But we love the double gussets and durability of the Thirsties.  I do think the Flip’s seem a bit trimmer than the thirsties.  However, it is clear that the elastic and the PUL of the thirsties is much more durable.

Inserts
-2 dozen Flip Microfiber One Size inserts (we use in both the Flip and Thirstie covers)
-5 Flip Organic Cotton Flat inserts (these are the old, single layered ones)

**Ok, so the obvious question is why don’t I have thirsties inserts?  I had a few for the size ones–but I hated that I needed separate inserts for each size-the flips are nice because you just fold down to the right size.  The thirsties inserts have hemp in them-which is great for absorbency, but also bulky.  We did just get some hemp boosters to help with absorbency

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Extras
-4 dozen cloth wipes (DIY’ed)
-Huggies wipe container
homemade wipe solution
2 planet wise wetbags (zippered) size Large –we send these to daycare

Laundry!

I was once a week-yep only once a week.  We use this garbage pail, with planetwise pail liners. We don’t use a sprayer, or dunk/rinse and diapers before washing.  When the little bird has a BM, we just scoop it out with a disposable wipe and throw it away.  I have an old washing machine with an agitator.  I throw all the diapers, wipes and bags into the washer and do one wash cycle on cool/cool.  I then do a second wash cycle with detergent.  I have had best results with Tide Free and Clear–but depending on your water and/or machine another detergent might work best.  I throw ALL the diapers into the dryer and dry with wool dryer balls for about 45 minutes on medium heat.  The hemp inserts and elementals typically need a little extra dry time, or I hang them out for a few hours.

We only had a stink issue once from the microfiber-I stripped with blue dawn dish detergent and then increased my detergent use, and haven’t had any issues since!

Daycare and Cloth
Not all daycares are cloth friendly–but ours is!  We go to a medium(ish) sized center, and they have been more than agreeable in using the cloth diapers!  We send 5-6 in each morning, and put them in his diaper cubby and they put them in the wet bag for us to take home!  They don’t take care of any BMs-so I just have to do a quick check before dumping them all into the hamper.  We use disposable wipes at daycare–I am sure they would be willing to use cloth wipes if we wanted, but that would be a much bigger hassle than the diapers.

Overall
We use the flip covers and inserts, freetimes and elementals at daycare.  I am typically able to rinse off the flip covers and reuse them a few times before washing.  The thirsties covers we use at home.  We use disposables at night–little bird is a belly sleeper and a heavy wetter, so those two combined make it difficult to stay dry overnight!  We like always having disposables on hand for outings or when we get an occasional babysitter.

My 2 pennies
If you are going to do cloth diapers, do cloth wipes too!  Wipes add up quickly, and you are already doing laundry

Get a variety of diapers in your stash! As your tiny grows different options are going to fit and work better.  I have been pleasantly surprised by this!

If it doesn’t skeeve you out, try to buy used-I am a huge proponent of buying used for many reasons, but buying used will only make it more economical to do cloth vs disposables.