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SOMEWHAT PATIENTLY / Ricotta Stuffed Crêpes with Lemon Zest

Can somebody please explain to me how we are halfway through March already? This month has cruised by in what seems like a whirlwind of cuddles, laundry, sunshine!!!, cleaning, etc. I suppose I’m making up for our rough February. What a difference a few healthy weeks make. In fact, so far March is definitely proving itself to be a significant improvement in every way.

…

I’ve been taking a Wordpress class at the college in the evenings with my Dad and beginning the rather tedious process of rebuilding all three of my websites. I’m starting with the most complicated one in the hope that the other two will be a breeze by comparison. This is resulting in a little less time spent doing actual “blogging” at the moment because I’m so sick of looking at my computer at the end of the day! But it will be wonderful in the end to have them all in one place, and to have complete creative and functional understanding of them.

I had an audition Monday which gave me a little acting fix just in time… every once in a while I get a sort of melancholy wave of missing it, of craving it, and often an audition pops up just in time to give me a little fix. It’s not the same thing as working on a little indie film, or shooting a commercial but it feels good to keep my toes wet. I know it’s time for a fix when I start to reminisce about our time in L.A. I start to think about the way it feels to drive on the ridged streets, the feeling of California grass under bare feet in the early morning, the buzz and excitement of walking onto a studio lot. I have half a mind to pop the girls in the car and head south… don’t ask me how I’d manage to pull of even a single audition with the two munchkins in tow! If we didn’t have a Mexican vacation on the horizon I just might be loading the car right now.

The weather has turned so lovely I’ve been practically singing my way through each day. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the giant pile that’s been growing in the garage all winter long is in the car and headed to the donation center. I can’t stop getting rid of things! It feels like we are shedding one life, and lifetime of stuff, and moving into another. I can’t fully wrap my head around it but I’m just going with my instinct and letting things go.

I’m so pleased to get to tell you that Lila’s family is going to be spending two months in New York at Sloan-Kettering hospital. She’s going to receive a special treatment for her specific type of cancer that boosts her chances from a heartbreaking 10-20% up to a wonderful 75%. You can read more and support her family on their website. https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/mw14/lila-may-schow-s-cancer-fund?utm_source=giveforward&utm_medium=share&utm_campaign=dashboard&shareid=1930191

Kyle’s folks, and his Nana, are coming down to visit for the weekend and I’m so excited. his parents haven’t been down since the fall, and his Nana hasn’t been down since our wedding. We will most certainly spend lots of time outside, and of course, I’ll be doing a little cooking. I’m thinking a nice breakfast on Sunday will be just the thing before they head home. I’m thinking crepes… or to be more specific Ricotta Stuffed Crepes with Lemon Zest. 

I make these on semi-special occasions and I think Kyle’s Nana visiting is a very special occasion. These stuffed crepes have are just sweet enough without being overpowering. The lemon zest mingles with maple syrup and powered sugar and has a perfectly spring-like flavor that seems like it turns up the volume on the birds chirping outside. They’re pretty easy to make once you get the hang of crepe making, which always takes a couple tries. Once the crepe batter is chilling, you can whip up the filling, then it’s just a matter of assembling and waiting somewhat patiently.

These crepes go perfectly with a black cup of coffee… although a mimosa or bellini would be pretty wonderful as well.

ricotta stuffed crepes

RICOTTO STUFFED CRÊPES 
with Lemon Zest
(adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate)

Crepe Ingredients.
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
10 tbsp. melted butter (plus more for the pan)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients.
15 oz. ricotta
zest of 1 lemon (plus more for serving)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar (plus more for serving)
1 egg

pure maple syrup, heated (for serving)

Directions.
Combine the flour, salt, milk eggs and vanilla in a blender and blend until smooth. Add in the melted butter and blend again to combine. Pour through a mesh strainer to remove lumps. Refrigerate for one hour.

Meanwhile, combine the filling ingredients and set aside.

After the crepe batter has rested heat a skillet over medium heat. Brush a bit of melted butter into the heated pan. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan and swirl the pan immediately to spread the batter into a thin layer. Cook for about 30 seconds, gently flip it and cook for 30 seconds before removing it from the pan. Repeat with the remaining batter. Keep the finished crepes covered with a thin towel.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Place a large cookie sheet in the oven to preheat.

Working with one crepe at a time, spoon 1/3 cup of the filling into the center of the crepe. Fold the top and bottom of the crepe to cover the filling, followed by the right and left side. Repeat with the rest of the crepes and filling.

Once the crepes are stuffed, carefully remove the hot cookie sheet from the oven, brush with butter and gently place the crepes on the hot cookie sheet, folded side down, leaving a little space between them. Pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are heated through.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately with a little sprinkle of lemon zest, powdered sugar and plenty of warm maple syrup!

  

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9 MONTHS OLD

nine months old

Every month that goes by, I think this is my favorite month! The nine month mark is no different. Despite spending most of the last month sick, Lulu is so much fun these days. She's sleeping well, eating lots and lots of different foods and transitioning to a mostly whole food diet. She loves to feed herself broccoli, bread with butter, peeled apple slices, bananas, chicken breasts, roasted veggies... she especially loves to eat anything Gigi gives her from her plate, and anything off the floor. She's particularly fond of the papery peels from onions or garlic, strings of any kind, day old cheerios, dirt, paper... we seriously have to stay on top of this kid. She's figured out how to pull herself part way up on things, her favorite thing to do is to pull herself up high enough on Gigi's art table to grab paper (preferably paper that's been painted on) to eat. She loves to crawl over things on floor level, but often gets high centered on things. She learned her first word, "Ma-Ma!", which is sometimes said sweetly when we are snuggling, or in a rather demanding voice when I set her down and walk away. I love it both ways. She's become a real cuddler which is wonderful and I'm soaking it up. She rests her head against my shoulder and nuzzles her way into my neck. It's the best. She is working on her upper two teeth but for now she only has her two teeny, perfect little bottom two teeth. She has a wonderful smile and she is almost always happy. She's a babe that knows what she wants. She loves her big sister. She wiggles and squirms (hence the photo above) and is an absolute joy to be around.

baby snowbaby boon high chairclimbing baby

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LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF

sick day

I had fun things planned for last week; lots of cooking, playing, organizing. I was ready to get ready for Spring. But instead we spent the week engulfed by the plague (commonly referred to as the stomach flu). Gigi was the first to fall, then me and Lulu, and finally Kyle. One by one it took us down. I’d made some broth from scratch and chicken soup the day after G got sick so there was that.

I was thinking back on this month that’s already nearly over, and I feel like all I cooked was broth, Chicken Soup, Chicken and Barley Soup, Lentil Soup… and I bought the “Family-Size” box of Saltine Crackers, and a fair amount of Ginger Ale. I guess the silver lining, if there is one, is that I have been reading about different broth (or stock, or bouillon) making methods and I sure got an opportunity to put some techniques to the test. I even got caught up on a little bit of Vogue reading and in the November issue there was an article on making the perfect broth! In spite of that, I have no recipes of any kind for you today. I have only hopes that you all had a much healthier last week than we did. Here’s hoping that the remainder of this February is kind to us because the first 3/4’s have certainly brought us down a notch or two.

There is one more thing... I couldn't quite bring myself to share it with you last week because I was too sad, and then too sick, to do it. I know a lot of you have followed Lila May's story here and at Thanksgiving I shared with you that she was cancer free. Unfortunatly, Miss Lila's cancer has returned and it's in her brain. She had surgery Friday to remove a tumor in her brain, and it went very well and she is home now. Her family has to make the impossible decision whether or not to keep fighting this cancer, which will come back again. You can follow her story here, and make a donation to help her family here, and please send all your wonderful, miraculous, positive, healing thoughts her way.

Since this post has been a bit on the "downer" side, here is a couple of photos I took of Gigi at her new favorite place she calls "the Lost Boys fort". She certainly has a smile that can light up any grey day, both the figurative and literal ones.

swingswing

And just in case those photos didn't do the trick this video of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers singing Let's Call The Whole Thing Off, and dancing to it on roller skates, should help.

 

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BABY and TODDLER ESSENTIALS

baby-toddler-essentials

I get asked all the time by girlfriends what are the baby/toddler essentials they need to get through the first two years with a new addition. I put together a comprehensive list of the basic baby things you need to get started for putting together a registry or shopping for your baby. I made this list when G was about six months old, and have updated and made changes to it now that Lulu is (almost) 9 months. I hope this list and my opinions on these items help you get prepared for welcoming a baby into your homes!

Bathing and Toiletries...

Tub: We loved the TummyTub. It definitely takes some practice and four adult hands to feel secure in the beginning but it uses very little water, keeps babies warm and in the fetal position so they feel safe. I know lots of moms who use and love the Puj Tub and it looks a bit easier than the TummyTub. Honestly, the second time around we mostly just do sink baths or I dunk Lulu in with G for a quick rinse. We also had this tub from IKEA which was great when Gigi outgrew the TummyTub but wasn't ready for the big bath. It's only $8 and it now makes a great summer outdoor water station.

Towels: We use the Aden+Anais towels and washcloths for post-bath drying. They're thick and well made and last forever!

Baby Wash & Lotion: We use California Baby shampoo and body wash and other products. They're a little expensive but so worth it. I use almond oil, Spectrum Organic coconut oil, or this homemade body oil after baths to keep skin soft and moisturized. A great site for looking at toxin levels in beauty/bath/sunscreen products is the Environmental Working Group.

Sunscreen: I prefer to use Badger Baby Sunscreen. It's expensive but it doesn't have all the bad stuff in it. (Pediatricians only recommend sunscreen after 6 months). Again, the Environmental Working Group is a great site for finding the best/safest sunscreen for your family.

Safety: Once Gigi was in the big bath we got this Skip Hop faucet cover. Inexpensive and cute. Also, the design makes is hard for her to pull up the tab and start the shower (she is a bit mischievous).

Bath Toys: G loves these inexpensive Munchkin Letter and Numbers, this Fisher-Price Boat, and mini kitchen utensils and pots and pans. This Munchkin Scoop and Drain bath toy holder is great for keeping things clean. We also mix things up by sometimes letting her earn bath colors and we put a few drops of food coloring in. These little Skip Hop Stackable Birds have also gotten a lot of play time.

Tiny Colds: When Lulu gets sick we rely on the brilliant NoseFrida. It is totally disgusting but it works to clear congestion in a way those little bulb snot-suckers don't. Kyle (and lots of other Dads I know) won't go anywhere near it but mom's everywhere love it. We have one in our travel bag too. It's a lifesaver. We also rely on this Vick's humidifier.

Tiny Fevers: We invested in the Braun Thermometer and love it. It's fast and easy and accurate and it's great for sneaking in for middle of the night fever reading.

Potty Training: We recently discovered and love this NextStep Toilet Seat. It fits discretely onto your toilet and the kid seat magnetically connects to the larger lid so it's easy for everyone to use without having a bulky or awkward separate seat. We will keep our Baby Bjorn Toilet Trainer Seat in the car for long road trips and visiting friend's houses.

Diapering Needs...

Newborns: I swear by the Pamper's Newborn Swaddlers. They fit tiny babes and have a yellow line that turns green when they are wet so you know when you need to change them. They are great in the first few weeks. I'm also hoping to try out the BumGenius newborn cloth diapers this next time.

Cloth Diapers: We tried a few but stuck with the BumGenius 4.0 Diapers. We love them. I did a big post here on cloth diapering.

Disposable Diapers: I always have current size disposable diapers on hand. I use Pampers or Huggies. I also really like the Seventh Generation diapers but they're a little expensive for us. We gave up trying to use the cloth diapers while on trips out of town, and even sometimes in town it's easier to not have to lug around a wet/dirty cloth diaper.

Wipes: We use the Kirkland Premium Baby Wipes (the Costco Brand) and love them. They're soft, inexpensive and unscented. We never used a baby wipe warmer but a lot of moms love them. This Munchkin wipe warmer with a little light on it looks great.

Diaper Cream: We use Bourdreaux's Butt Paste for diaper rash. Be sure to use it with disposable diapers only. It will create a water barrier on your cloth diapers and make them less absorbent.

Changing Table: We didn't have a changing table! I found over the ten years that I nannied diaper aged babes I very rarely used one. Most of the time kids were changed on a mat or blanket on the floor. You never have to worry about the baby falling... although changing on the floor does allow for a faster escape once they're mobile! We did get this simple contoured changing pad (and these covers or these ones) for floor and bed changes. You may also consider picking up some of these hilarious but functional Pee-Pee Teepees if you have a baby boy.

Sleeping...

Swaddles: We love the Aden+Anais brand for swaddles. They are easy to use and hold tight. Plus, these beautiful swaddles can be used for just about anything and everything. They're on the top of my baby essentials list. We also used and loved the ErgoBaby Swaddler (it was really easy)! The Aden+Anais Sleep Sacks are fabulous too, for when you stop swaddling.

Swing: We didn't ever use a swing with Gigi, but Lulu spent a fair amount of time in hers and we loved it. We have the Fisher-Price Cradle Swing. I highly recommend getting one that comes with an AC adapter so you can plug it in and don't have to worry about batteries!

Blankies: Gigi fell in love with the Aden+Anais Issie Security Blankets. She sleeps with them every nap and every night... we have 12! We've gotten a few of the Aden+Anais Bamboo Securtiy Blankets for Lulu too.

Co-Sleeper: For the first 6 months, Gigi slept with us in our room. We had her in the Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper on my side of the bed and that worked really well. We don't have the co-sleeper anymore since it was loaned to us. The co-sleeper we used was pretty big and bulky so a Pack'n'Play with the bed part elevated at the higher setting might be a better fit for some smaller rooms. Since they are light and easy to move and great for travel I think it will be a better option for us than the large, fixed co-sleeper. We also have a Pack'n'Play mattress, mattress pad, and sheets since the pad that comes with it isn't very comfortable... not that I've tried it, but it looks uncomfortable. I also have this Baby Bjorn Travel Crib on my wish list, it folds up so small and so easily!

Crib: Lulu's crib is the IKEA Gulliver crib. We got it in white but they have it in natural wood too. It's inexpensive and simple. It transitions into a toddler bed as well so it works for a really long time.

Crib Mattress, etc: We got this Sealy Foam-Core mattress because it's lightweight which makes it easy to change the bedding. We couldn't afford the nice organic mattresses but this one has great reviews and we've loved it. We have this Organic Waterproof mattress pad cover and love it. It's soft and cozy and easy to wash and dry. I originally bought cheap sheets from Target and we're still using them but I don't like them. I will be replacing them with these inexpensive Carter's Jersey Cotton soft sheets.

Noise Machine: I can't say enough about the Sleep Sheep. We loved it. Gigi loved it. It bought us lots of sleep! It works in two settings 23 minutes and 45 minutes. It takes babes 20 minutes to fall truly asleep so the 23 min setting was great for soothing her into sleep, it's designed to shut off just after they've fallen asleep so it doesn't disturb them or shock them out of slumber by shutting off too early or too late. Babies sleep in 45 minute cycles so the 45 minute setting worked great for buying us extra sleep cycles early in the morning. We listened to a lot of waves and rain those first six months (not so much the heartbeat or the whales)! We never really used the sheep itself but took the sound box out of the back and took it everywhere we went! This time I will be purchasing the On the Go Sleep Sheep which is smaller and straps onto the car seat or stroller.

Baby Monitor: I did a lot of research before Lulu was born and we got the Phillips Advent Basic Monitor. It works great and it has great range. It does have a funny sound delay and sensitivity settings that took us a while to get used to but I'm really happy with it. I know a lot of people who have the more basic and less expensive Sony BabyCall Monitor too and they love it.

Movement Monitor: We did not have a movement monitor when G was a newborn but we got one this time because I had pretty severe postpartum anxiety last time. I was pretty nervous and anxious and checked on Gigi about 5,000 times a night/a nap in those first months (I wish I was exaggerating). The Snuza Hero Baby Movement Monitor snaps onto the diaper and is designed to vibrate if the baby hasn't moved (a.k.a taken a breath) in 15 seconds, a audible alarm sounds after 20 seconds. It's $120 but I loved it. It gave me such peace of mind and I was able to relax and get more sleep. We used it until Lulu was rolling around (up until she turned 6 months). I am so glad we got it this time.

On the Go...

Infant Car Seat: When Gigi was little we had the Peg Perego Primo Viaggo SIP 30/30. This car seat is designed for babies to use it up to 30lb/30in. Since we are both tall we figured (correctly) that we might have a tall baby. This car seat was also one of the top rated for safety on consumer reports. I felt that is was safe and secure therefore I have no complaints! Some people don't like that it's really heavy, but that's part of what makes it so safe.

Car Seat: Once your baby reaches the height/weight limit you'll need a bigger car seat. Again I went with the top rated on consumer reports for safety. We have the Britax Boulevard 70-G3 Convertible Car Seat. It's designed for rear-facing up to 40lbs and forward facing from 40-70. Gigi is now 2 weighs 25lb and is 35in tall and seems to be way too tall for the seat. Another great car seat is the Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat . It's only $125 so it's really reasonably priced. It also rates high on consumer reports.

I have been researching my options for Extended Rear Facing, we plan to keep Gigi refacing as long as possible (hopefully up to the four year mark). We just got her the Diono Radian RXT and so far we love it! Lulu just moved into the Britax mentioned above. When Lulu is ready to move into the Radian RXT, we will get G a Diono Radian R120 (which is the same as the RXT but it doesn't have the head rests so it will be more comfortable for a bigger kid. The Radian carseats by Diono are fantastic! They can be used from 5-120lbs! They run around $250 but I think they're totally worth it whether or not you plan to do extended Rear Facing. One thing that you might consider if you buy a Diono car seat is also purchasing this inexpensive Diono Radian Angle Adjuster. We have a wagon-type car and found that we needed it to give the passenger more room. You probably only need it in a sedan or wagon style car, not a van or SUV.

*If buying or registering online through Amazon I highly recommend choosing a car seat that's "shipped and sold" by Amazon. Our infant car seat was sold from a smaller company via Amazon and when we had an issue with it, it was impossible to deal with! Had it been purchased directly from Amazon they would have been able to replace it/work with us directly. All three car seats i linked to above are shipped and sold by Amazon.

Seat Protector: We got this inexpensive Munchkin Auto Seat Protector that goes between the seat and the car seat.

Bundle Me: The Bundle Me was recommended and purchased for us. I thought it was kind of silly until I used it. It kept Gigi so cozy and warm and helped her fit perfectly in her car seat. We've even purchased the toddler size one which fits in the stroller.

Stroller: We have and love the Bugaboo Frog stroller. It's lightweight, easy to use, relatively compact. But... it's not longer sold! You could most likely find a used one on your local Craigslist. I would love to get a Bugaboo Donkey which is designed to be a double or single stroller but it's insanely expensive so that probably won't be happening. Instead we will most likely be using the Bugaboo Wheel Board for Gigi and the stroller part for the baby. I know a lot of people (most of whom are runners) who love the Bob Revolution stroller too. I would love to get a lightweight umberella stroller for keeping in the car for smaller outings. The Mia Moda Facile Umberella Stroller is top-rated as a "best buy" on consumer reports.

Baby Carriers: We have the Ergo Baby Carrier and love it. It's comfortable and can be used for a long time. I wore Gigi in this all over Europe this summer and it was perfect even for long days with an 18 month old. The only other baby carrier we have is our Solly Baby wraps. They are lightweight, beautifully made by wonderful mama named Elle, and I can't say enough about these wraps and the Ergo. They're must haves! We use the Ergo for more active outtings and the Solly for lighter use.

Diaper Bag: I mostly use my great Tano purse that has lots of pockets as a diaper bag but for bigger outings and when Gigi was really tiny we also used the Skip Hop Duo Diaper Bag. It was inexpensive and it wasn't ugly. That's saying something when it comes to diaper bags!

Emergency Kit: After 10 years as a nanny and 2 as a mom, I'm a big believer in the "emergency kit". It's amazing how many times I've been saved by having a bin in the car with extra diapers/wipes, a change of clothes, a few squeezy packs of food, a small container of formula, an extra bottle, a blankie, pajamas, a binki, a board book...  The trick is to remember to replenish it when you deplete it.

Nursing/Breastfeeding and Eating...

Breast Pads: Lansinoh Nursing Pads are the way to go, they are the best disposable breast pads. I know some moms who have used used and loved the reusable silicone Lily Padz.

Lanolin: I loved the Medela Tender Care Lanolin but it's hard to find. They gave it to me at the hospital and I preferred it to the Lansinoh brand lanolin because it was thinner and easier to apply. I know a lot of moms who prefer the latter. With Lulu this time I also got thie Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter and I loved it so much I hardly used the Medela Lanolin. I also had a few of these Lansinoh Soothies. If you put them in the fridge for a few minutes before putting them on sore or cracked nipples it will help you get through the first few weeks of breastfeeding! Another thing that works great is taking cold green cabbage leaves, rolling over them with a rolling pin and then tucking the cold leaves into your bra... green cabbage has antibiotic and anti-irritant qualities and reduces swelling and engorgement. Also, you look really glamorous with cabbage in your bra.

Breastfeeding Pillows: I loved my Boppy Breastfeeding Pillow. In the early weeks I propped it up with an extra pillow to get Gigi up to the right height. I know some moms prefer the My Brest Friend Pillow but it looks a little cumbersome to me.

Cover: I used and love the Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover... at least at long as Gigi left it in place. By the time she was 5 months old I was flashing everybody. This time around with Lulu I hardly ever used a cover... sometimes I used an Aden and Anais Swaddle, but mostly people just saw my boobs.

Pump: The Madela Breast Pump In Style is the best breast pump around. It's expensive but if you are having more than one baby it's worth it! I had a hand-me-down one last time but this time my sister and I have co-invested in a new style pump. The rhythm pump system is fantastic. This time I will be ordering this ridiculous looking Simple Wishes Hands-Free breast-pumping bra so I can read or work while I pump. The ultimate tool for multitasking. I also have a  Madela Harmony Manual Hand Pump and I'm so glad I do. It's great for short trips or for when I am away from the baby a little too long!
*Breast pumps are now considered preventative and are now covered 100% by all insurance (mandatory), and are not subject to deductable. Thank you to the new healthcare reform! Check with your insurance company!

Bottles: I'm a fan of the Born Free Bottles. We have both the glass and the BPA Free plastic ones in both the 5 and 9oz sizes . They are easy to use and Gigi never seemed to have any issues with air bubbles from bottles. They are wide-necked so the nipple is wider which Gigi also preferred. Lulu hated, hated, hated bottles. I was very persistant and eventually she took to these Comotomo Baby Bottles. Once she accepted them I slowly transitioned back to the Born Free Bottles since we were already invested in them.

Highchair: In place of a highchair for Gigi we opted for the more discrete Stokke Handysitt which also allowed Gigi to sit at the table with us rather than separately. I have to admit there were times I wished we had a highchair but in retrospect I'm really glad we stuck with the Handysitt. We have the Handysitt in her closet now (it folds up flat) for when tiny friends visit. If you're looking for a proper high chair, I'm a big fan of the Boon Flair Pedestal high chair. It has a sleek design, the height can be adjusted to fit at the table, and it's easy to clean! We have the Boon for Lulu and I love it. Another amazing (but more expensive) highchair is the Stokke Tripp Trapp highchair. It's beautiful but a bit out of our price range.

Baby Food: You can read my big baby food post here. I bought about 50% of Gigi's baby food and made about 50% of it. I made it in large batches using our Cuisinart which worked perfectly. However, Gigi was a slightly picky little eater and flat out rejected many of the combos I made which left me feeling exhausted and frustrated with a lot of wasted food/time. I love the idea of using a small system like the Beaba Babycook Baby Food Maker because you can make smaller batches, defrost frozen food and you only have one small thing to clean instead of several large things but I have opted to use a 4 Cup Cuisanart Food Processor instead. After reading French Kids Eat Everything I'm determined to introduce Baby #2 to a variety of foods early on and this will make that easy and doable without all the waste and all the dishes. Lulu has been loving her purées and I've made them all at home. I use a small pot with a lid and a simple basket steamer and then I use a Hamilton blender to purée the food really fine, as she grows we are using the Cuisanart Foor Processor more (it leaves a bit more texture than a blender). I use these OXO Tot storage containers, this set has both 2oz and 4oz containers. These Munchkin Spoons are inexpensive and work great. We love both these Baby Bjorn "pelican" Bibs, and these Aden+Anais Bibs.

Miscellaneous Things I LOVE...

These DRONA boxes from IKEA are tucked in corners and under tables all over our house. They store toys, puzzles, diapers... everything. They keep all the clutter under control. They are really inexpensive and come in a few fun colors. We have 12 total!

Sophie the Giraffe Teether toy. Gigi loved it. Lulu loves it. It's cute. It's French. It worked on her little gums.

Gigi wore, and still wears, her BabyLeg Legwarmers all the time! They kept her little legs warm and cozy when she was little and now they work great while we're potty training because they allow easy access to her big girl panties and they're easy to wash and change when they get wet. We have a million pairs and I love them!

We loved our Baby Bjorn Bouncer! I am not a fan of the big bouncers with lots of bells and whistles. This one was simple and compact. It held Gigi comfortably for a long time. It was given as a gift and it was one of the things we used the most. We also had extra covers for it and they were great for keeping it clean and dry and using it when we first started feeding Gigi solids but she couldn't sit up on her own.

We had a salt rock lamp in our room when Gigi was sleeping with us. The light was soft and peaceful and made it easy to see her, change diapers, feed her, etc. but it didn't interrupt her sleep or ours. I normally need it to be really dark for sleep but this soft light never bothered me. We never used a nightlight and Gigi doesn't have on in her room now. It would be wonderful to have a dimmer switch in her room/in the nursery for late night visits/diaper changes/etc.

We made these simple tag blankies which Gigi loved. Making them was a fun, simple project.

Gigi loves her Melissa and Doug shopping cart, her Fisher Price Medical Kit, and her Ikea Kitchen.

Books...

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child which was very informative regarding how much sleep kids need.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems which have great methods, ideas, routines and advice. The Baby Whisperer books were my favorite and I still use the Solves All Your Problems book now.

French Kids Eat Everything. This book completely changed the way I am going to approach baby food introduction and has completely changed the way we feed Gigi now. I've just done a big blog post on it here.

Brining Up Bébé was a fun book to read and gave me some perspective on the French parenting style which I am really drawn to. French parenting seems to be a bit more in sync with my instincts than some of the more American based options like Free Range or Attachment Parenting. I didn't always love the author's attitude but I appreciated the main points about parenting.

I've just ordered Baby Led Weaning and Real Food for Mother and Baby.

Well, there you have it! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions in the comments below! This list is bookmarked along the left hand side of the blog so you can easily refer back to it.

*Finally, I should note that I registered via Amazon when I was pregnant with Gigi and am so happy I did. It was easy and I loved their universal registration option which allowed me to add items from outside sites. Again, I recommend registering/purchasing the big items that are shipped and sold directly from Amazon as it's much easier to deal with them directly if you have an issue. I found when big items (like car seats) were sold by Amazon from outside companies it was really difficult to deal with warranties and issues.

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SHARED BETWEEN FRIENDS / Judgement

shared between friends

Thank you all so much for your feedback on this series. I’m so excited that this could potentially provide some ideas and support for you.

I’m really thrilled to introduce my girlfriends to you. They are a truly marvelous group of women. Originally I had thought about simply sharing my opinions/experiences/thoughts with you, but I think the power in this series really lies in the voices and ideas that these smart, funny, honest women have. I have grown to love the different ways we parent and the more I’ve let my own ideas fall to the wayside, at least long enough to truly listen to what one of my friends has to say, the more I’ve learned and grown as a parent… and as a friend for that matter.

Only two of these women are bloggers, and they are bloggers with whom I have formed really valuable friendships. The rest of the women are great friends; some of them I’ve known since childhood, others I’ve just met in the last year or two. When I got pregnant with Gigi I only had one girlfriend who was already a mother. Now, I am so blessed to have this rich, varied community of women who I rely on for support, hugs, advice, and all of whom know how to pour a perfectly excessive glass of red wine.

In the future there will be one topic/question but to kick off the series I answered, and then asked my friends the following questions…

01. What aspect of motherhood makes you want to hide in your pantry with cookie dough?

02. What’s your beverage of choice when relaxing with a girlfriend?

03. Do you feel the pressure of comparison and judgment online or within your community? How does it make you feel? What do you do about it?

KACIE. Mother of two girls (9 months & 3)
01. Whining and procrastinating. I have very little tolerance for whining, it's like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. Also, that last half hour before naps and bed and the, "Mooooom? Mooom? MOOOM?" calls from the bedroom after I've walked out drive me crazy.
02. I almost always go for red wine. I love red wine... although I do love a good Hot Toddy too.
03. When Gigi was little, and up until recently, I spent a lot of time feeling like I wasn't doing a good job, that I was flailing, and sometimes failing, and I beat myself up for it. But recently I just flat out decided that I wasn't going to do that anymore. I am a really good mother and I know that, it also helps that I have a wonderful husband who tells me that every single night. In regards to the judgement of others, I am really good at tuning out judgement directed at me. I had ten years as a full time nanny to work on my parenting skills, I'm so grateful for that experience. I am confidant in my abilities as a parent and I am always trying to do what is best for my kids so I don't care what someone else thinks about my parenting. I know that I am not a perfect parent, but I do know that I am mindful and capable so I don't let my parenting approach get bogged down with what other people think (unless it is given as thoughtful input from someone who's parenting I admire). In regards to the online aspect... I've really only experienced praise online for my parenting, including words like "perfect" being thrown around, which for the record is completely not true. I haven't really discussed a huge variety of parenting topics here so I'm a little nervous about opening up about birth, sleep training, discipline, etc. but also excited to be really honest and authentic and therefore provide more of a sense of community for/with other women.

LIZ. Mother of two boys (8 & 6), and one girl (3).
01. We have recently entered into the bickering stage, and it makes me want to run with full force and hide with cookie dough (or even wine, kidding). One minute all three children are getting along so well and the next it’s a constant battle filled with tears, whining and the occasional hitting. I have always prided myself on the level of patience I can maintain, but the bickering and fighting puts my patience to a test.
02. Wine, either a good Chardonnay or a nice Cab, usually Californian, but not always. If I’m in the mood a martini and a girlfriend are always a good mix.
03. Since I am both online and in my community, I could say yes I certainly feel and see it online. Within my community I do not notice it as much. I am surrounded by good people who all seem to parent with similar values and morals. While some of us moms stay home, which in my opinion is a full time job, other moms are out working different full time jobs. The point being that we all work hard and seem to understand that common ground. I don’t feel comparisons or judgments, which shows that I have am fortunate to have found such a great group of women.

However, I feel that online is a completely different world. There are many people that judge and compare and I see it every single day. In fact, this is part of why I have been shying away from my involvement in the online community. I see too much negativity, harsh judgments, cruel comments and questionable intentions. While I am still a part of the online world, I choose my friends carefully. I take negative comments and judgments personally and tend to dwell on them. The good thing about online connections is you can always hit delete or unfollow. If I feel or sense negativity, I unfollow or block if necessary, the negative source. Life is too short to let others bring you down.

ERIN. Mother of one girl (9 months).

01. For me, bedtime protests and night waking are tied for the most frustrating part of motherhood. After a full day of baby time, all I want is for her to go to sleep at bedtime and sleep all night (isn't that what all of us want?). But alas, most days this is not the case. My vice is dark chocolate-- sometimes I snack on it off and on all day after a particularly hard night (I deserve it!).

02. My drink of choice was always a cocktail-- mojito, dark 'n' stormy, Moscow Mule... even a vodka tonic. But seeing as both my tolerance and desire for alcohol have greatly decreased since becoming a mom (tending to a crying baby while hungover? being too drunk to breastfeed*? no, thank you), my go-to adult beverage is, more often than not, a glass of wine. Red, white, sparkling-- it depends on my mood. But a glass of wine is comforting and relaxing in a way that a pina colada, no matter how delicious, just isn't.
*Only on very rare and special occasions
03. I try to limit my interactions with people or groups who I think would be judgmental about my parenting decisions. I think there are bound to be differences in opinion as to the "best" way to raise a child, but I have a great group of mom friends who feel comfortable asking questions and sharing our experiences-- and these interactions have helped shape my parenting style and have helped me to feel confident that I am doing the best that I can to raise my baby.

ANNA. Mother of one girl (6 months).
01. I would hide in the pantry with cookie dough thinking about the lifetime of choices I will be making for my little girl to shape her future.
02. I have to choose a beverage of choice?! See, not good at choices :) I feel like the best conversations happen for me over a lovely glass of red wine.
03. In a conversation with a dear friend of mine, before I was even pregnant, she confessed that having children seems to put you back into middle school. What she meant was the whispering and judgment coming from our parental peers seems to match that of a middle school kid. Scary! I have just begun my parental journey so my experiences are just starting to take shape. So far I haven't felt too much of the direct judgement from my peers. The pressure I have received has come from older family members and parents with grown children. Even worse though I feel the unnecessary pressure I put on myself. The times that it was others judging and pushing unwanted opinions I have felt angry but haven't had the nerve or words to speak up and say they were out of place. I feel like my own unfair judgement of myself has been much worse. I believe this pressure is a manifestation of the negativity and the lack of support in parts of our culture. I get this thought in my head that says there is only one right way to solve my sleeping, feeding, parenting issues and that if I don't do it the exact right way my child will grow up to be less of a person. I get so frustrated with myself, belittling myself for not knowing the 'right answer' or taking the 'right action' when it comes to parenting issues. I call myself a 'bad mom' way too often. I am doing my best to only surround myself with the people who will support my choices and give kind, loving, and thoughtful advice. With this I will hopefully be able to gracefully point out when someone is making me uncomfortable as well as catch myself before I put myself down for the choices I am making.

LAUREN. Mother one girl (2) and a baby boy due in June.
01. Meal time. I loathe cooking and trying to convince a toddler to eat. Home girl won't eat anything that isn't made of bread, fruit or cheese. It's a serious struggle.
02. Coffee. Currently decaf...womp womp.
03. Yes, yes and YES. Being in the online "spotlight" can be tough as a parent. Typically the further removed people are from knowing you as an actual person and parent, the more judgmental they can be. When I write at my own blog or share stories and images on my personal social media pages people typically receive them well, because they "know" me. But when I write for larger platforms like Babble, Disney Baby, The Huffington Post or the like the reception is definitely not the same. It's completely baffling to me sometimes the kind of things that people (parents) will write when they feel like they can hide behind the anonymity of the comment section on a blog post. I used to put a lot of stock in the opinions of others and it really used to hurt me, but over time I've realized that negativity from other parents is more about them than it is about me. If someone wants to criticize me for choosing to have a home birth, I've often found that it stems from something deeper - perhaps a disappointment or guilt over their own birth experience. I do it myself sometimes too. I'll totally have snarky thoughts about that obnoxious mom who makes all these organic snacks for her kids every time she leaves the house while my kid is eating a packaged snack. My thoughts aren't really about that other mom...they're about me and my own guilt...wishing I had more time to make things like that for my child...even if I can't always admit that to myself. It's human nature to experience feelings of judgement and guilt from time to time when it comes to parenting. What's not OK is airing all those thoughts and making other parents feel crappy in order to make yourself feel better. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Embrace them and move on!

MARION. Mother of one girl (6), one boy (2), and stepmother to a girl (13).

01. Sibling bickering.

02. Der… Wine!
03. Generally I am the completely oblivious parent to others' opinions, snide comments and judgmental stares. And happily so. I know it's out there, all that negative analysis, I just am truly blessed enough to not see, feel and hear it. This is by no means to allude to some ridiculous notion that I don't deserve a bit of "dear mother of god, what was she thinking?!?!?", because trust me; I have my days. I just am in my own mothering zone and don't feel that coming down on me.

Now, to clarify: 1) I live out in the 'boons. I do not come across quite as many critical mothers per day as my city sisters simply because there are not as many people here. 2) When I deal with my kids I admittedly get a bit of tunnel vision. They are 2 & 6, full of piss and vinegar sometimes, and over the top handfuls. I'm focused on making them tolerable enough for me: I don't really care how the rest of the world views that. And 3) Blame, shame and resentment never really did work well on me. Junior high taught me a lot, but truly being able to look past that shit was by far the best lesson I got. So, are the mean girls still out there, just all grown up into agro-critical moms? Sure. Some days I can feel my own little demon me-mother swelling up inside of me, just spewing  nasty thoughts about how crappy a job someone else may be doing. But before it all goes too far, I take a step back and remember that we are all parenting to our own level of sanity. And their kids are not my kids. And if that's what works for them, then, hell, who am I to judge? I guess I just assume that the rest of the world is extending me the same courtesy. It may be naïve, but it sure makes my trip to the grocery store a lot easier.

ANNIE. Mother of one boy (4), one girl (2), and a baby girl due in April.

01. Whining, especially when echoed in chorus.  And on a deeper level, grappling with the ever present questions of am I living and parenting to the best of my abilities with authenticity, mindfulness and love.  
02. Currently hot chocolate or a cup of earl grey tea
.
03. Entering into the world of Motherhood was an eye opening, beautiful, challenging, joyful and at times, an emotionally and physically trying experience. One aspect of motherhood that I felt entirely unprepared for was the pressure I felt as a new mom to get it right... all of it, from the birth of my child, to cultivating good sleep habits, to providing the right kind of nutritional foundation, and socialization/educational experiences. I often felt overwhelmed by the myriad of choices and decisions to make (nursing, diapering, sleep training, introducing solid foods, immunizations, play groups, working outside of the home, etc.)... feeling the weight of these choices from other moms within my community as well as online. It seemed as if everyone had a rather distinct opinion on EVERYTHING and as a new parent, I had no experience and thus attempted to wade through the opinions of everyone else to formulate my own understandings on such topics. This only added to my exhaustion and the second guessing I was plagued with as a new mom. Of course I made it through the first year in my new role, and now I feel grateful for the wisdom afforded by my experience.

With two toddlers and one more baby on the way, I am far more confident in my abilities as a mother, and have learned a way in which to manage the inevitable pressures we face within this role. For me, this has come in the form of a shift in perspective. I became aware that much of this pressure or judgement I felt externally came from my own insecurities where I took the unsolicited parenting advice or the "perfect" mommy blogger as an affront to my own journey through motherhood. Relaxing into my role, in addition to taking better care of myself physically and mentally (regular exercise, focusing on eating whole foods, practicing yoga, sleeping more and connecting with other women face to face) has allowed me to see that instead of pitted against one another, we are all in this together.... we all use our unique gifts, challenges and interests to parent to the best of our abilities.  There are moments when we all feel utterly frustrated or inadequate, and moments when we feel like rockstar moms.

When I find the pressure and judgement creeping into my being, as it inevitably does from time to time, I recognize this as a time to pause, breathe and meet myself where I'm at in that moment. By granting myself the permission to recognize and meet my own needs, I find it so much easier to choose to see each other as fellows in this journey through motherhood which in turn leaves less room for judgement and more room for joy.  

ELIE. Mother of two girls (8 & 6), and one boy (4).
01. It used to be a regular occurrence that I’d want to run and hide from my kids. These days, it still happens, but instead of on a daily basis, it happens on a weekly basis. It’s usually when we are over-scheduled and running around like nuts, and someone is not cooperating. Because, as lovely a concept as not telling a child to “hurry” (there was a blog that floated around social media which begrudged parents for telling their child to hurry/come on), the reality is that life is full of appointments and schedules. My kids need to get with the family program and hustle. Just put your damn shoes on!
02. It’s generally wine, Pinot Noir or Sangiovese, when relaxing. When laughing dancing, moving with my girlfriend(s), my drink of choice is sparkling wine or vodka. I know hot two vodka sodas will feel in the morning, I can’t ever tell how two glasses of wine will; sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I wake up in the morning and feel like I was hit with a bag of bricks. So, vodka is easy.

03. I definitely compare and judge. I think that comparing and judging is something we do in our daily life to figure out where we fit, where are kids fit, who we fit in with, who our kids fit in with. It’s something to do to process our actions, and to gain understanding. It can be snap, or thought-out. To judge and compare isn't a bad thing. When I have a friend tell me that her school aged child did something to warrant a visit to the principal, I ponder, and say, "Wow. That sucks." Yes, that's a judgment. BUT, I’m not being catty or arrogant with that judgment. There are times that I do find myself getting catty or inappropriately upset that a child did something to one of my kids, but I eventually remember that kids brains don't function like adults. Kids brains aren’t developed. Childhood is the one time in their life they're allowed to be pompous, and disillusioned. Annoying yes, dealing with other people's children is part of the motherhood process. Judgment and child/parent comparison has evolved with me as my kids have aged. Over the past (almost) 9 years of parenting, I’ve watched my "perfect" kids be jerks, throw a toy across a room, be antsy at a restaurant. I’ve witnessed my kids do things I never thought they'd do.

I would cringe while watching other more active, gregarious children, kids that would never stop talking. And I would stare at those parents (some of these parents were my friends) and think, "That kid is crazy. Those parents must not be doing something right." Fast-forward a few years, and I've watched all three of my kids be jerks, not use their brains, be inconsiderate. At times, even incredible kids can be not-so-incredible. And when one of my kids is not being perfect (or just acting her/his age), I will sense parents judging. And it’s generally the parents with the one easy, quiet, toddler kiddo. It’s obvious when someone is judging you or your child. And now I feel like an A-1 ass because I judged moms/their kids that were supposed to be my friends. Women, that should have been able to gather support from me, while they were having a rough "mom moment."  And while I was judging, they knew I was judging. They knew what my thoughts were, and where my heart was. So, now I try to keep the perspective that if I pass judgment, these keen mamas are going to know I'm passing judgment. So, save the judgment for your mortal nemesis, and love your friends and show them support with their kiddos. Laugh when they tell you a story of their kid being a monster, and tell them, "that sucks." We need compassion and understanding from our peers/friends. Being a parent is hard. Don't make it harder with arrogance and cattiness.

KATIE. Mother of one boy (almost 3).
01. The mood swings of 2 year olds, poop on my floor, puke in my car and the phrase, "Go away mommy!"

02. Wine, of course.

03. I feel like other moms have been very compassionate and understanding. I feel like society and myself have been the biggest critics. Here are two examples:

Breast feeding - My son and I were not a very successful breast feeding team. I decided that for my own sanity and my son's health to supplement with formula very early on.  By the age of four months we had completely given up on breast feeding and transitioned to formula exclusively. I was pleasantly surprised at how supportive and empathetic other new moms were about my decision, they know first hand how difficult breast feeding and seem to take up the theory of "Hey, whatever works!" What was frustrating to me is how our society as a whole does not support women in my situation. There is so much pressure to breast feed and so many feelings of guilt if you can't. I was lucky to have a very supportive sister who did hours of her own research showing me that the difference between breast fed babies and formula fed babies is very slight. I am confident in my decision and wish that there was more support in our society for women who were in my shoes. Perhaps a formula feeding sit in?

Being a working mom- One phrase that always makes me cringe slightly is "It's a time you'll never get back." How is a working mom suppose to feel when someone says that? Don't get me wrong no one has ever said that directed at me, instead it seems to be a common phrase  uttered by stay at home moms. The reason it makes me cringe is because it's true and also because I enjoy working away from the home and wonder if I should feel more guilty about it. I know it's a time I can never get back, however I feel that the time I do spend with my son is quality time and I believe that our time apart makes me a better mother as well. Also, having financial stability is big for our family and its a relief that we don't have to stress about money. So for me working was the right decision.

We would love to hear your thoughts, feelings, opinions and experiences on these topics. Make yourself a cup of tea, fill your favorite mug to the brim with coffee, whip up a hot toddy, or pour yourself a big glass of wine and let’s talk...

*This is a space for inclusive, open, supportive, collaborative discussions... unsupportive, unkind, or judgemental comments will be deleted. Please be thoughtful and respectful. Thank you.

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