Wednesday, February 21, 2018

From the Kitchen: Homemade Elderberry Syrup and Elderberry Gummy Bears

Is it just me, or is the flu worse this year than normal?!  With 2 family members with asthma and an infant in the house, I am super paranoid this year!  Any of the 3 of them are likely to end up hospitalized if they catch the flu due to their health conditions.  We are being extra careful this flu season, which has meant making a few changes (in addition to getting our flu shots): we remove our shoes at the door to avoid tracking germs across the floor; we all wash our hands immediately when returning home from being outside or in public, and we are staying home as much as physically possible to minimize our exposure.  This means no playgrounds or indoor play areas; switching off which of us goes to church to keep the kids out of childcare; and eating at home as much as possible to avoid public places.  

I recently learned about elderberry syrup and its natural immunity-boosting properties.  I am not normally one for "natural" remedies but, like I said, I am desperate to keep my family flu-free, so I figured it can't hurt anything.  You can buy elderberry syrup pre-made (Nature's Way and Gaia Herbs are two popular brands), but it is easy and less expensive to make at home - and you can control the quality of the ingredients by using all organic.

I'm not taking the elderberry syrup since I'm breastfeeding (there isn't any known contraindication, but there also aren't studies proving it's safe, so I'm abstaining), and baby M can't have any since she's under 1 and it contains honey...but hubs and C are going to take a daily dose for the remainder of flu season.  

Lots of people take it in syrup form, but that seemed potentially messy with a 3-year-old (it's dark purple); when I found out how easy it was to make gummy bears out of it, that seemed like the obvious method for us - I knew C would jump at the chance to have a piece of "candy" daily!

You probably won't be able to find some of the ingredients (especially dried elderberries) locally, but luckily they are sold online!

Elderberry Syrup

Yield: 2 cups (approximately 32 1-tablespoon adult doses or 96 1-teaspoon children's doses; makes a one-month supply for one adult; you may wish to double or triple this recipe if making for a family)

1/2 cup dried organic elderberries (Frontier is a well-known brand)
2 cups water

Put the dried elderberries, spices, and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan (uncovered) and bring to a boil.  Cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer for 30-40 minutes, or until the liquid reduces by half.  Remove from heat and allow to cool until warm.  Use a strainer to remove the berries and cinnamon stick while pouring the liquid into a glass jar.  Stir in 1 cup of honey.  

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container (it should last 6-8 weeks).

For maintenance/preventative: adults - 1 tablespoon daily; children: 1 teaspoon daily
During illness: increase frequency to every 2-3 hours (using same doses as above)

Note: should not be given to children under 1 year, as it contains honey.  No studies exist on the effects on breastfeeding or pregnant women, so they should refrain from use as well.

If your kids don't like taking it straight (from a spoon or medicine cup), try mixing it into applesauce!  Or if you want to take the foolproof approach like me, make it into gummy bears :)

Elderberry Gummy Bears

Yield: 105 approx 1" gummy bears

2 cups elderberry syrup (see recipe above)
3 tablespoons grass-fed gelatin
Oil spray (coconut, vegetable, etc.) - for greasing molds
Silicone gummy bear molds (these are slightly larger than other gummy bear molds)

Warm 2 cups of elderberry syrup (the whole recipe prepared per above) in a small saucepan, being careful not to boil.  Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the syrup, allowing it to fully soak (will no longer appear white).  Use a whisk to stir in the gelatin until smooth.  

Spray the gummy bear molds lightly with an oil spray to prevent sticking (I did not do this the first time and mine stuck to the molds!) and place on a cookie sheet or other hard surface to allow for easy transport after molds are filled.  Use a dropper to fill each gummy bear mold with the gelatin syrup mixture, placing in the refrigerator for 2 hours to set.  

Gently remove each gummy bear from the molds and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For maintenance/preventative: adults - 3 gummy bears daily; children: 1 gummy bear daily
During illness: increase frequency to every 2-3 hours (using same doses as above)

Monday, February 19, 2018

DIY: Two Fixes for a Motorola Video Baby Monitor that Stops Working

Video baby monitors have a remarkable tendency to break on you, which is a shame considering how expensive they are and how much parents rely on them!   We have a Motorola video baby monitor that we purchased in 2014, so it's well out of warranty.  It has worked great for the last 3.5 years and we added a second camera for baby M in 2017.  Our monitor is Motorola model MBP36BU (the model number is on the bottom of the camera), but the two fixes below should work for most Motorola video baby monitors (and maybe other brands as well. 

Fix #1 - Parent Console Stops Holding a Charge

About a year ago, the baby monitor stopped holding a charge.  It worked fine as long as it was plugged into the wall, but wouldn't hard a charge when running on battery power.  I'd charge it fully, unplug it to carry around with me while baby napped, and the battery would die way too fast - sometimes only 20-30 minutes from fully charged to completely dead.  Luckily, that is an easy and cheap (~$10) fix - you just need to replace the battery, which you can order inexpensively on Amazon.  This is the exact battery I ordered, which has held up well for over a year now.  Unscrew the battery cover on the back of the parent console, remove the old battery, and insert the new battery.  Problem solved!

Fix #2 - Parent Console Doesn't Recognize Charging Cable

I was NOT pleased when, this week, the parent console started not recognizing the charging cord being plugged in!  (The charge cord was plugged in, but the battery symbol in the top right corner didn't show that it was charging.)  This meant that, once the existing battery power was drained, the monitor couldn't be used either plugged in or running on battery power!  After talking to friends and reading online, I found that this is a common failure point - sometimes you can wiggle or prop the charging cord just right to get the monitor to recognize it, but it loses contact repeatedly, resulting in the baby monitor dying after the battery runs out.  

I am nothing if not stubborn, so I refused to resort straight to buying a new baby monitor!  Cue more research....apparently Motorola baby monitors in particular tend to have poor solder joints on the charge port; over time, repeatedly plugging and unplugging the charge cord over the years puts strain on and loosens these solder joints, eventually causing them to fail.  How long this takes varies depending on the quality of the original solder and the use of the baby monitor (how often the cord is plugged and unplugged from the parent console, etc.)  Apparently, at 3.5 years of daily use, ours lasted longer than many!  

Based on the symptoms, it sounded like this is what had happened to my monitor - the charge port had come un-soldered.  Before taking apart the monitor to confirm, I reached out to a local computer repair shop to see if they had someone who could re-solder the charge port if that was, indeed, the issue (emphasizing that it was a tiny part).  When he confirmed he could help, I then got brave enough to open up the baby monitor to take a look!  

Using a tiny Phillips head screwdriver, I first removed the plastic battery cover on the back of the parent console, removed the battery pack, and then removed the second screw located underneath the battery.  I then used a tiny flat head screwdriver to gently pry open the baby monitor along the seam around the outside edge.  This took a bit of finagling to locate exactly where the fasteners were located, but I was eventually able to gently pry the front and back of the baby monitor apart, revealing the circuit board.  As soon as I did this, a small part fell right out of the inside of the monitor - sure enough, it was the charge port!  The solder joints had come completely undone, resulting in the port being totally loose inside there - no wonder it wasn't working!  

I took the loose charge port and the disassembled parent console to the computer repair shop, where they re-soldered the charge port onto the circuit board.  I put everything back together again - snapped the 2 sides of the baby monitor back in place, and replaced the 2 screws and battery pack, and presto - the baby monitor now recognizes the charge cord!  This repair cost around $50 for the solder job; considering a new baby monitor system with 2 cameras would have run around $200, going the repair route was a significant cost savings, kept a baby monitor and 2 cameras out of the landfill, and saved me the hassle of programming and re-wiring new cameras!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Toddler 101: Traveling with a Preschooler (Airplane / Road Trip Bag Ideas!)

We have several upcoming trips that will involve flying with our preschooler and infant, so I am stocking up on kid supplies for the flight!  C got a Pottery Barn Kids backpack for Christmas, so I'm planning to fill it with snacks and entertainment to keep him busy (and hopefully quiet) on the plane!  

While we own all of the items below, I didn't buy them all just for this flight!  We've acquired some of these over the years for other flights, road trips, Christmas gifts, etc; I keep them stored away in a closet so they maintain their novelty factor on airplanes or long road trips :)

My Little World Sticker Books - these sticker books are great - the price point (~$3) is great for the quality and the number of pages/stickers in these books.  Most cheap sticker books only have 1-2 pages of sticker activities and are tiny; these are a normal children's book size, provide several pages of activities, and the pages are coated so that you can move the stickers around.  

Make-an-Animal Sticker Sheets - these come in a 96-pack and are the cheap 1-page, smaller sticker sheets; however, these are great for "quantity over quality" - C can complete one and then move onto an entirely different animal.

Color Wonder Travel Kit - I love Color Wonder - mess-free markers that only work on the special Color Wonder paper!  No stressing over marker getting on the airplane seat!  This one is great because it comes in a hard plastic travel kit; you can store the Color Wonder markers and paper inside, and there are clips on the outside to secure the paper.  These are also great for road trips when there's no tray table to use - perfect for coloring in their lap!  There are blank Color Wonder pages for free drawing, as well as character-themed Color Wonder pages for coloring.  

Melissa & Doug Water WOW Books - these are great for travel - the fun of paint without the mess!  The little water paintbrushes are easy to refill at a water fountain or from an airline cup of water, and the pages dry quickly so they can be painted and re-painted!

Contigo Kids Water Bottle - I pack this in C's backpack so we can fill it at a water fountain after going through security, instead of buying overpriced airport bottled water.  I also like that it is spill-proof, so I don't have to worry about him knocking over an entire bottle of water on himself, me, or our bags!

Wipe-clean ABC book - this is great for practicing letter tracing, and the marker easily wipes off with a baby wipe!  This book is a compact size with sturdy pages and several opportunities to trace each letter (both lower and uppercase) on each page.

I Spy 4-in-1 Book - C loves doing these I Spy books, and they provide a great opportunity for independent play.  I like this one because it has 4 books in 1, which is both less expensive than buying the 4 books separately but also occupies him for longer since there are 4 times as many pages.

LilGadgets Volume Limited Headphones - these headphones are great because the volume is limited to a safe level, so I don't have to worry that he's damaging his hearing.  There is also an extra jack for another set of headphones to plug into the child's headphones (a parent or a sibling), so two people can listen to the same audio simultaneously.  Although we REALLY try to limit iPad use, we usually bring it on long road trips or flights for times of desperation - we load it with episodes of Daniel Tiger, a movie or two from Netflix, and a few children's audiobooks.

Wet Ones Resealable Antibacterial Wipes - I never go anywhere without these!  I like these slim, flat, resealable packages - I keep them in my car, purse, diaper bag, and there will most definitely be several packs coming on the plane with us! These are great for wiping hands before and after snacks or meals, as well as wiping down the germy airplane armrests and tray table.

And all the snacks!  I usually bring small bags of goldfish, small boxes of raisins, and Dum-Dums for a treat (and to help with little ears popping!)

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