Thursday, December 29, 2011

Diaper Bag Checklist

Who packs the diaper bag in your family?

I'm willing to bet this wasn't covered in any premarital counseling sessions on assumed division of labor in the household.  We long ago decided that I would happily do all the laundry if Jeff took out the garbage, but we never discussed who would make sure we never left the house without a binky.  Hint:  it's me.  It seemed a natural decision, maybe because a diaper bag is somewhat an extension of a purse.  A big, heavy, crumb-filled purse.  Now I'm not complaining about the task; I'm just pleading my case for why I'm often the last one out the door on our way to church.

The arsenal of goods needed to leave the house with a baby and toddler in tow is daunting.  Is it just our kids, or do all newborns have a way of pooping so explosively that you need a ballistics expert to explain how poop could simultaneously blast its way up to the shoulders and down to the knees at the same time?  Also, both of our kids were big time droolers and spewers, going through a dozen or more bibs and burp cloths a day.  Now that she is a toddler, AJ requires a battery of snack options, each getting more and more enticing to be saved for more and more dire situations.  So between the diapers, clothes, bibs, burp clothes, binkies, raisins, bananas, cheese, sunscreen, hand wipes, etc., something is bound to be left behind.

After leaving the house one too many times with insufficient supplies of burp cloths, I wrote out a quick diaper bag inventory list.  This little 3x5” notecard allows me to quickly scan and restock the bag rather than relying on my often foggy mommy-brain memory.  As a fringe benefit, it also allows other people to pack the bag for me.  Last week, Jeff asked, “What else do I need to pack?” and rather than me listing off twenty different items, I just referred him to the list.

Friday, December 16, 2011

the Mouse Frother

Our milk frother, for making lattes/cappuccinos/etc., gave up after years of use. A replacement usually runs $20. That didn't seem right to pay that much for what is essentially a battery holder, switch, and electric motor. So I created the mouse frother using a wireless mouse from the Goodwill for $2.99. Click the mouse button for frothy goodness!


  • old wireless mouse, $2.99 from Goodwill

  • frothing wand, salvaged from defunct frother

  • electric motor, in parts bin (from Arduino starter kit)

  • two AA batteries

My first step was trying to salvage the old frother. I used a Dremel cutting wheel to open up the stainless steel casing, only to discover a dead electric motor within. At least the shaft of the frothing wand pulled off easily from the motor, and happened to fit exactly onto a spare motor I had from an Arduino starter kit.

With the shaft from the old frother, plus the electric motor, the Logitech wireless mouse had everything needed for a frother: a hand-holdable casing, battery holder, and push button switch. My $2.99 mouse even came with a bonus rechargeable battery.

I removed the left mouse button switch and mouse wheel to make room for the new motor. The actual button cover that your finger presses will flex upward to make room for the new motor. The fun part was removing various components from the mouse PCB. Capacitors, resistors, optical encoder, "laser", and the like. With the left mouse button removed, a right-click will activate the frother. The idea here is to disconnect all components from the switch while leaving the switch intact. A multimeter testing resistance to ground will tell you when you've electrically detached enough, should have infinite resistance with the push button open or closed. Then you can solder the motor wires so the right-click delivers positive voltage.

One side benefit of the mouse frother is that the batteries seem to last much longer powering this new motor. Another nice mod would be making it rechargeable with a charging stand.