March 3, 2015

Our Stage 1 Baby Food Methods & Resources.

Entering Stage 1. 
The past 6-8 weeks have been SO MUCH FUN. My son has started munching on solids, and by solids, I totally mean pureed, smoothie-ish textured foods :) This new part of our routine has led to a much better sleep schedule for us all. Of course, as I type this, I am completely sleep-deprived, because he has been teething this week which just throws everything off again, again. But he has worked so hard for these two little bottom teeth that sprouted up this week (all the moms feel my whole-hearted HOORAY!) In spite of this little teething blip, I must say that overall, things have been really smooth sailing in the baby department lately. Which is saying a lot, because it has been a whirlwind ride since this little boy made his appearance 7 months ago. So, yaay for teeth and fun foods and SLEEP.

"Knowing" He Was Ready.
My pediatrician kept telling me that I would know when my son was ready for solids. I didn't really know what she meant by that. But all the sudden, at 5 months old he started reaching for everything I was eating. He almost drooled into my coffee cup as I poured the happy morning beverage. How does he know to drool over coffee? That's my boy. I guess this was the "I'M FRIGGIN READY, MOM"-indicator. I wasn't ready for him to be ready, but he was! So at 5 and a half months, I tearfully strapped him into his little high chair and slowly armed his clothing with his rubber bib (see a few pics HERE.) I sat down in front of him with my first batch of homemade apple sauce, and after weeping a tiny bit (me, not him), I began spoon feeding him. That little smile. Smeared across his face in mashed-apple joy. He LOVED it. He was in apple Heaven, and started banging on his tray, as if to say, "I want more, cmon woman!" Every day since then, we have given him apple sauce or banana for "breakfast" and fed him different fruits and veggies at dinner time. Of course, this is all in addition to his many nursing sessions each day :)

Resources & Recipes.
I'm not into reinventing the wheel. So when it comes to making my own baby food, I have reached out for lots of help and guidance. I have pulled on the resourceful brains of my big sis Kara and my dear friend Liz, along with the Momtastic Wholesome Baby Food website and book. I started with recipes for making singular pureed baby foods, including Bananas, Sweet Potato, Apple Sauce, Pear Sauce, Mangoes, Avocados, Carrots, Peas and Zucchini. I have started combining some of the foods, creating blends of Apples & Carrots, Pears & Peas, Zucchini & Pears and Banana & Avocado. This isn't proprietary information, since pretty much every blogger under the sun has published the same baby food recipes over and over again. But I really needed step by step instructions spelled out for me, and in case you're a little bit like me, I wanted to share the method I've most enjoyed.

Stage 1 Baby Food Prep:
1) Peel, (when appropriate, core) and chop your fruit/veggie.
2. Place in a steamer basket within a stockpot of water on the stove. Make sure the water is high enough to just barely cover the fruit/veggies.
3) Steam/boil the fruit/veggies until soft enough to easily stick a fork through. The timing will totally depend on the type of fruit/veggie and how much you're steaming. Give yourself anywhere between 7-20ish minutes for this stage.
4) Remove chunks from heat and strain the fruit/veggies out. Reserve that water! It's nutrified.
5) Place chunks into blender (I use a Vitamix), and add a cup or two of the reserved water.
6) Blend mixture until a smooth puree is achieved.

7) Pour mixture into ice cube trays. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. In the morning. place cubes in a large zip-top bag. Label the bag with the food type and date. Keeps in the freezer for 3-6 months.
8) Voila! You've made your baby food! You deserve chocolate.

9) Remove a day's worth of baby food from the freezer at the beginning of the day. This could be 1-2 cubes for "breakfast", and 2-3 cubes for "dinner". I haven't really opted in to start serving him solids around lunchtime, but you could!
10) Place cubes in individual baby food containers. Allow to thaw. If you would like to serve the food warmed, you can place this container or this container in a cup of hot/boiling water to quickly heat. My favorite method to thaw/heat baby food is by water submersion, but there are tons of different options.
11) Make sure to stir the mixture well and taste-test each new serving (just to make sure there aren't heat pockets that could burn a baby's mouth.)

// I had a pretty cute audience for this food prep. //

Our Kitchen Tools:
- Tommee Tippee Easi Roll Bibs (These were a genius baby gift, thank you Jordan!)
- Munchkin Soft-tip Spoons
- Keekaroo High Chair (Another gift, thank you Merritt family! We love our pretty high chair!)
- Vitamix Blender
- OXO Freezer Storage Containers (for storing/heating baby food)
- Ball 4-oz. Jars (for storing/heating baby food)

A Few Last Thoughts:
Making baby food is no joke. It feels like a very domestic, wonderfully mommy-ish thing to do, but it is hard work. There is NO SHAME in serving your child store-bought baby food. On our first road trip I gave Everett some of these and these pouches of Stage 1 baby foods and he loved them. So there you go. Kids really don't know the difference.

A helpful note about how much to serve your baby.

A good reminder to always nurse or bottle feed your baby before serving solids. 

After preparing all this food, I was ready to go on a baby food diet myself. Seems so healthy.

I hope this helps! Do you have any tips for feeding your baby solids or recipes/methods that have been super successful in your own family? Do share!

February 26, 2015

Starting Solid Baby Food.

Starting Solid Baby Food.
I have to take a deep breath as I type this. Because anytime I think of my little boy growing up I just want to sob my face off onto a pillow like a middle school girl. I don't know why. I really just don't. But the truth is that yesterday my little boy turned 7 months old. WHAAAAAAT. How can this be. Hang on, I've gotta go take a break and cry a monsoon  a little.

Stevie made me suck it up. So I'm still here.

Over the past six weeks or so, we have taken the dive into solid baby foods. Everett LOVES to eat and I can honestly say that his growing appetite and fondness for new food has been good for our entire family. What do I mean? Well, he's eating real food. Which has led to some real sleep. Which means we are all (finally!) getting some real, consecutive hours of sleep each night. It has been a longgggg 7 months of very little rest, but I think we are really, truly, finally getting somewhere! (Of course every time I say that, something wicked happens. Like he starts teething. Or has another "growth spurt". Or an obvious "sleep regression". These terms just mean that mommy was momentarily teased with the hopeful possibility that a light was at the end of the tunnel, only to have it snuffed out by the might of his gnawing, toothless grip. He's lucky he's so darn cute. SO DARN CUTE I COULD CRY.)

I digress.

I do that a lot.

Our little solid food journey has formed over the past 6 weeks or so and has landed into a happy rhythm so far. Of course, I assume we will continue to modify this "plan" as he continues to grow and expand his palate. That's kind of the point of solid food right now - to develop his taste buds for different temperatures, textures and flavors. His main source of calories is still from milk. (I have to state the obvious or else some milkmaid mother will beat me down in the comments section about how I'm overfeeding and under-nourishing my baby. Don't worry, dear milkmaids anonymous. I am still a member of your semi-inconvenient, though obviously valuable lactating club. Calm thyself.)

// Everett getting a little pre-meal talking to from my Dad. These sweet moments are the reason I am thrilled that we are able to be around so much family this year :) //
// He's like, actually listening. He hasn't learned that wonderful skill of fake-listening to parents yet. UNLESS HE'S JUST THAT GOOD. //
// He doesn't mind wearing his bib, but he kind of hates the moment that we put it on him. Just for the moment. Then I wave a spoon at him and, voila, we are suddenly verrrrrrrrrry popular with him. //
// Breather. //

So Much to Learn!
I have been making Everett's solid foods at home. I gathered recipes from my dear doula/friend/guru/role-model Liz, and my big beautiful sister Kara (she's actually a very tiny person, but big in inspiration and in whom I would truly be a LOST parent without), this wonderful website and its corresponding book. I have researched a ton about HOW MUCH to feed, HOW OFTEN to feed, WHEN to feed, etc. There is so much information out there and so many different ways to foray into the solid baby food world. Anyone have any awesome tips/advice to share? I am still learning and trying to figure it out, but I thought I would go ahead and share this fun milestone with you. Oh baby food. Oh growing. Oh my. I'll share some of my baby food methods and a few of our favorite recipes next week!

In the mean time, keep us in your prayers as we cruise out of town for the weekend. It's our first road trip with Everett! We are heading down to Florida to visit my sister and her sweet family and celebrate my nephew's birthday :) Although the forecast is calling for freezing cold rain. Of course. I hope your weekend is clear of all this sleet, snow and icy rain we've been pelted with on the East Coast! Stay warm, friends!

February 23, 2015

DIY Coconut Lime Ginger Sugar Scrub.

DIY Coconut Lime Ginger Sugar Scrub.
My sister Rachel has been getting crafty lately. I have practically no capacity in my own life for craftiness - no time AND no energy for such things. But Rachel has been baking, DIY-ing, fancifying her gift wrap, hand-lettering, the works. I am a bit jealous of all the creative energy she is able to exert. I would just like to have enough oomph in me to whip up a happy cocktail. But alas. Too much work. Haha this coming from a bit of a burned out new mom. But! Rachel is a senior in college, and I am really happy that she has found such a healthy way to blow off a bit of steam from school. Being creative is one of the best ways to cope with all that school pressure. And watching her be creative? That's been my way of coping with my exhaustion. I literally poured a cup of coffee and watched her make this DIY sugar scrub. No wait. I zested some lime, too.

Rachel cleverly concocted this recipe after some trial and error of her own. And gifted to her friends (don't you wish you were her roommate? I wish she were still my roommate.) But if you're looking for a cute, handmade addition to a baby shower/wedding shower gift? Or looking for something to slip into that Easter basket? This little project is super easy and smells sublime. The aroma will put a bounce in your step and make you believe that Spring is just around the corner! (Please God. Pretty please.)

- 2 cups Coconut Oil
- 3 cups Sugar
- 2 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup shredded Coconut
- Zest from 6 Limes
- Juice from 4 Limes
- 20 drops Edens Garden Ginger essential oil

Combine all the ingredients, mix well. Distribute into jars and then gift away!

Yields approximately 8 3-oz. jars.

// That's Rachel's hand. It's also the extent to which she would let me photograph her on this day. But if you want to know how breathtaking she is, see here, here and here. You're welcome. //
Scrub with Love.
Slipping down into a bathtub and getting your scrub on with this recipe is the JAM. Let me know if you decide to make this! Happy Monday to you!

February 19, 2015

"What Are You Proud Of?"

"What Are You Proud Of?"
It was a very good question she posed.

"What are you proud of?"

I glanced around the warmly-lit table, littered with appetizer plates and cocktail napkins, earnestly seeking the eyes of my friends as they processed this question for themselves. These women. Each one present at this table, each one here to celebrate the wonderful year we had. A post-Christmas, post-New Years get together, a celebration of all kinds of sorts. These dear old friends whom I trusted and loved and yet, I didn't know their answer to this question. Which means they probably didn't know mine.

What am I proud of. What am I proud of?

"Babies aside, of course," she qualified.

Well, of course. We all had given birth to our first babies within the past 18 months, so that trump card had to be set aside. Which, in all ways, made the question even more challenging. And surprisingly intimate. Having a baby is such an obvious answer to this question, which meant I would have to dig a little deeper to pinpoint exactly what else I am proud of. What made me proud over the course of the past year? What did I accomplish? What did I surprise myself by doing? Other than birthing a human?

Suddenly my answer was very very clear. As I began speaking, my body was pulsed with a kind of euphoria that comes from an incredible sense of clarity. It's what we external processors experience when we realize we are finally coming to terms with something as we discuss it. And I want to share this bit of revelation with you today, because my "ah-ha!" is not an obvious one. It's not a duh, I-won-the-Nobel, nailed it!- kind of answer.

I am proud because about 18 months ago, I moved to New York City and attempted my life-long dream of becoming an actress. And I am proud because I kind of fell flat on my face in doing so.

This might seem like the wrong approach. Like, hello Kristen, did you hear the question correctly? But this is precisely why I am proud of what I did. I set my sights on something incredibly scary. And you know what? A lot of things that I was scared of, well, they came true. But I'm here. I lived through it. I didn't crumble.

I want you to imagine the biggest dream in your heart, ever. The thing you're scared to think, let alone actually voice to anyone. The thing that you're so embarrassed that you would ever even dare to dream. The thing that makes you sweat and tremble. That thing, for me, has always been acting. It might always be acting. It's been a life-long hobby, the earliest desire I can remember, a kind of dream vocation, and last year, it was my number one priority. Until I saw this strip turn pink. Suddenly my life just changed. It was no longer my own. But that's another story. Not the story I'm here to tell you today.

But when I moved to New York (three months prior to the whole strip-changing-pink-thing), I did so without any real connections in the business. I decided to dig my heels into the swirling world of auditioning for television and commercial roles in hopes of landing some awesome gig and then, you know, figured I'd be hitting the Oscars parties later in the year. Just kidding (I mean, only a little.) But I was committed to this dream. I built myself a business plan. Fresh head shots, brand new website, new reel, new business cards, the works. And I put myself out there in a big way. I auditioned for an artist development program (and got it!), landed two agents and a talent manager, and auditioned for all kinds of roles that made me uncomfortable and challenged and sweaty. So sweaty. I carried deodorant and applied it in the elevators on my way up to each audition room. I got lost on the subway, attempting to find my way to different studios around town. Clutching my headshot and resume, and later, pregnancy books and healthy snacks (to keep me busy in the waiting rooms), I did some strange auditions. Once I was asked to portray complete "frailty" and vulnerability by using only my facial features. "No words?" I asked, trembling and clenching the script close to my heart. The script they had given me, the one I had memorized. "Forget the words," the director answered. "Feel the moment. Use your expression." Ummmmm k. Then they ran the camera for 5 minutes of silence. That was awkward. Needless to say, I was pretty frail and vulnerable when I left that audition. And no, I did not get the part.

In fact, that brings me to what I wanted to share with you next. I didn't get the part. I didn't get hardly any parts. I was in New York for just shy of a year, and I don't really have any substantial *wins* to my acting resume from that experience. I just auditioned a lot. I auditioned several times each week. I took a ton of classes, usually along with 2-3 seminars per week. I had private coaching sessions. I met with agents and casting directors and other actors. I made actor friends. I made a fool of myself so often. Each time I stepped out my apartment door, I took a deep breath and knew that I was walking into the unknown. Knew that I could get asked all kinds of strange questions in the audition room. Knew that I had to prepare for literally anything. "Get down on the floor and bark like a dog", could be the direction once I got in that audition room, and I had to prepare myself for that. I pushed all kinds of personal limits and challenged myself every day. I was really, truly, squeamishly uncomfortable for the good part of a year.

And I have very little to show for it. At least on paper.

And you know what? I feel really, really proud of this. I do! I am proud of being a risk taker and going for my dream. So often, people only share their harrowing stories once they accomplish their big dream. I'm here today to tell you that you don't just have to be proud of yourself once a big, monumental, Frodo-esque journey is behind you. I am proud of myself for the strange, semi-awkward, mid-journey swagger of which I am currently toeing the line.

I am a work in progress.

I am not finished becoming me.

I am not finished taking risks.

I didn't become a famous, accomplished actress last year. I did everything in my power, everything I knew to do, even after I became pregnant, and you know what? My dream did not come true. It just didn't. But that's not the end of my dream or the end of my story. I didn't shrivel up and just die.

Instead of the year being all about me and my dreams, it became all about this crazy wonderful unexpected little person named Everett. So even though I invested all this time and energy into my own self, it became entirely about someone else. Him. I became his mom. That was an enormous surprise to me. And you know what's funny? Becoming a mom, well, that's someone else's big dream. And somewhere out there, someone who always dreamed of becoming a mom is probably having the big break of their lives in Hollywood because they just nailed an audition for a killer part. That. Is life. *Cue this Alanis Morissette jam*

Do I question the timing of everything? Sure, who wouldn't. But I want to encourage you, especially if you're mulling over the dreams in your own heart, the personal risks that you have taken, and the supposed "failures" that you've had. If you feel like you fit into one of those categories, I congratulate you. You are awesome for taking a risk and for enduring all the voices who said you couldn't/shouldn't do it. Because that incredible risk you took, well, did it kill you? If you're still breathing while you read this, it didn't. Which means your likely to take another risk in your long, delicately lovely life. And for those of you who are pre-risk? You are toying around with the idea of doing something "insane" to go after your dream? I encourage you to do it. There might be all kinds of "failure" at the end of the rainbow. There might really be. Or there might be an entirely new opportunity that ironically appears like a diamond in the rough. You might realize your dream has morphed. You might realize the dream isn't really the dream. You might realize you embody the person you've always wanted to be, and the dream was just a driver to get you to that personal place of bliss and success.

Welcome to the club. This isn't the club of snazzy do-ers. This is the haven for risk-takers and situation-celebrators. The lemonade-makers, the challenge-attractors and the laugh-instead-of-cry-at-my-circumstance-ers. I am proud of you, and I am proud of me.

February 17, 2015

TASTE: Lemon & Olive Chicken.

TASTE: Lemon & Olive Chicken.
Happy Tuesday to you! I hope your Valentine weekend was full of love and hugs and kisses and tasty treats. Ours was hilarious and wonderful. With all this incredible cold weather up in our business, I've got a warm yummy dinner recipe for you today!

This meal has quickly become a staple in our household. When I got this amaaaaaazing dutch oven for Christmas last year, I started experimenting with all the delicious ways I could cook easy meals and make them taste like Heaven. This dutch oven has made my success rate increase tenfold. Seriously. This particular recipe is a favorite because it's super duper easy to make (no, seriously) and it's mega healthy. There's nothing crazy bad in it, which makes it the perfect midweek pick-me-up that tastes like comfort food without hindering my waistline. (I've got other temptations to hinder my waistline) :)

I got this recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow's book, It's All Good, a publication that garners a lot of hate but I confidently stand by. Just because Gwyneth gets misquoted (okay, a lot) saying sometimes outland-ish, borderline pretentious things, her food life is the center of my envy. Everything I've cooked from that book has been GOLD. I've made a few changes (for the lazy crowd, you're welcome), so this recipe is officially easier than ever. Add a side of quinoa and a side of something green and this meal is going to become your new go-to. What's for dinner at our house tonight? I'll give you one, deeeeeelicious guess :)

- 6 boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 1 Lemon, sliced
- 3 Shallots, sliced thinly into rings
- 1.5 cups Chicken Stock
- 1/2 jar Green Olives
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tbsp. Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1 sprig Thyme

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle olive oil in a cast iron dutch on the stove and heat on medium.

2. Generously salt and pepper chicken on both sides and place in dutch oven. Cook until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side. Cook for another 4-5 minutes (chicken should still be pink inside), then remove chicken from heat and transfer to a plate. DON'T WORRY. We aren't done cooking the chicken.

3. Add shallots and garlic to the dutch oven, cooking until softened, about 2-3 minutes.

4. Place chicken back into the dutch oven, along with any juices that collected on the plate. That's flavor town, by the way.

5. Add the chicken stock, olives, thyme and scatter on top of the chicken. Squeeze individual slices of lemon over the chicken and discard the skins. Note: I like to keep the lemons in the mixture so they cook together, but you don't have to since you won't eat them. Totally up to you.

6. Bring the mixture to a boil on the stove top, then cover and place in the oven. Cook for 30-40 minutes on 400 degrees.

Woop, there it is.
Tada! I personally like to serve this dish with an herbed quinoa situation (quinoa on the stove, cooked in chicken stock, and fancied up with any fresh herbs you've got on hand - THE BEST.) This meal tastes gourmet and looks like something Ina Garten whipped up, but the hands-on time is minimal. Enjoy! And let me know how it goes!

February 14, 2015

A Freshly Picked Valentine Story.

A Freshly Picked Valentine Story.
Guys, my baby boy has a Valentine.

I want to say, "I don't know how this happened!" - but I really can't do that. Because I know exactly how it happened. I dressed up my son, took him over to my friends' house, and we proceeded to play babydolls with our real-life babies.

Sometimes moms need to have a little fun, too. Because there aren't adult jumperoos for us to lounge in all day long. SOMEONE INVENT THAT.

// He's probably just hiding his feelings, Finley. Boys are good at acting aloof. //
// These two. I can't even handle it. //
// Some couples wear their matchy-matchy Chuck Taylors. Some couples simultaneously rock the Nikes. I once wore matching Vans with my skater boyfriend (yes I was in 7th grade, and yes, I still regret not keeping those rad sneaks.) But these two? Well, they're little moccasin wearers. And by little I mean that they are 6 weeks a part in age and my son is wearing shoes two sizes bigger than her. No big deal. Mom loves him. //
// Here, let me help you open the present I brought you. Here, let me help myself to a snack of the present I brought you. //
// He's all, "This snack is a different flavor than last time. " And she's all, "A book?!" (Feigned surprise, really thinking, "Where's the chocolate and flowers, man??" )
// Mom, he bought me a book. How am I supposed to read into this?? //
// Some boys get nervous to hold a girl's hand. Everett just wanted the chance to hold her foot. //
// Nailed it. //
Everett's Advice for Other Bros:

1. Never Show Up Empty-Handed.
Needless to say, his gift was well-received. This little lady, sweet Finley, politely accepted his on-trend choice and even pretended to look away when Everett lost his cool and was overwhelmed with the urge to NAP. What a classy broad.

2. Look Fresh.
In his case, Everett was looking extremely fresh - hence the footwear. Bathing really helps a brother out, too.

3. Give Her a Compliment.
A nice, "Hey Finley, cool head bow," would do just fine. But in his case he patted her soft rose moccasin and everything that needed to be said in that moment, was said.

4. Suck Up to Her Parents.
This isn't hard one when you're 6 months old and so cute that it physically hurts. Things get more challenging when you can actually open your mouth and say something awkward.

5. It's Okay to Cry.
He's a sensitive, communicative soul. We are lucky that she is so laid-back and optimistic about his opinions.

Match made it Heaven? Only time will tell.

Remember, sweet son, Mommy will always be your first love. And probably your first reason for needing some therapy.
Happy Valentines Day to you all!

Disclosure: this post is completely UNSPONSORED by Freshly Picked. Seriously. It's just that my friend Lena and I have a serious Freshly Picked moccasin addiction. And our kids are just cuuuuuuute in their little Valentine-y mocc selves.