Monthly Archives: November 2011

New Mama Must-Haves

My sister-in-law is due with her first baby in February, and shopping for her baby shower brings back so many memories of when I had little O. That first month after she was born is kind of a happy blur at this point. I was floating around the house on a cloud, or maybe that’s just what it seemed like since I was walking around like a cowboy off a three-day ride and my boobs were so huge I thought I might float away.

Anyway, I don’t know how I would have gotten through those first weeks if it hadn’t been for my friend Dori. She had just had a baby 7 weeks prior and she brought me into the fold, so to speak, with all of her been there, done that mommy info. So I’ve decided to do the same for my sister-in-law by putting together some new mama must-haves for her. . . because mama deserves some love after all her hard work!

1. Happiest Baby on the Block DVD  G-E-N-I-U-S. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical any of this stuff would actually work. But my husband paid very close attention when we watched that DVD before the baby was born, and within hours of her birth, he was a shushing, swinging, swaddling expert—and I could rest.

2. Moby Wrap  The best thing I can say about the Moby Wrap is that you get your hands back. And THAT is priceless. Plus, it’s a lot more comfortable to wear around the house than the Baby Bjorn.

3. Soothies by Lansinoh  Breastfeeding mamas should definitely have a set or two of these little miracles on hand for some soothing relief.

4. Boppy In the beginning, breastfeeding can be tricky, and you’ll probably need more than just your two hands to help you position the baby. My Boppy was a lifesaver and made the entire experience so much easier for me.

5. Kindle Perfect for some late night reading— and the screen isn’t so bright that it will disturb baby.

6. Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray If you haven’t had your baby yet, you probably don’t want to hear all the gory details. Just do yourself a favor and get some of this.

7. Erase Paste  This concealer will help mask even the darkest undereye circles. And yes, you will have them.

8. BellaBand I probably wore this more AFTER I had my baby than I did in the beginning of my pregnancy. Not only did it allow me to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans sooner (which is a HUGE morale boost), but the elastic helped flatten my tummy as well.

9. NUK Warm or Cool Breast Relief Packs  Whether or not you are breastfeeding, these are great to have around that first week or so to help with the discomfort and swelling as your milk comes in. And if you’re “lucky” like me, you’ll be able to use them to relieve plugged ducts and all other manner of fun things.

10. Stila Convertible Color in Petunia  This lipstick/blush all-in-one is super sheer and easy to put on and it can make you look and feel like a human being again in 10 seconds flat.


What are your favorite new mama essentials?

Faux Pho Ga

Somehow I managed to live 30 years without ever having Pho. It’s not that I  had an aversion to it—I had just never tried it. That is, until last week when I met my friend Jessie for lunch. Now I’m hooked. I’ve been craving it for the past couple of days, so I decided to see if it was something I could make at home or if I needed to put the local Vietnamese restaurant on speed dial. After researching several recipes, I found that it takes anywhere from 3-5 hours to make authentic Pho at home. Well, it was 5:45 p.m. and I was hungry—three hours wasn’t going to cut it. So I tried this quick, albeit not authentic, version and was really pleasantly surprised! I’ll definitely be making this again!

Pho Ga (Chicken)

10 cups chicken broth

1 cup chopped onion

1/4 tsp sugar

4 slices fresh ginger

2 tbsp fish sauce

3 cloves garlic

10 whole cloves

1 cooked rotisserie chicken, pulled and shredded

1 cup sliced carrots

1 lime

1 bunch cilantro

4 green onions, chopped

1 bunch fresh basil

8 oz bean sprouts

Sriracha Sauce (optional)

1 package rice noodles


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and add the noodles. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes or until the noodles are tender. Drain the noodles and set aside.

Add the chicken broth, onion, carrots, chicken, fish sauce and sugar to the pot and bring to a simmer. Using a cheesecloth or tea infuser, add the ginger, garlic and cloves to the pot. Simmer over medium low heat for 45-50 minutes. Remove the spices and discard.

Place a spoonful of noodles into a bowl, ladle the broth, chicken and vegetables over the top and garnish with sprouts, green onions, herbs, a lime wedge and Sriracha sauce if desired.

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Caramel Apple Pie

This was my first attempt, ever, at making an apple pie. It hit me halfway through the baking process that perhaps feeding a bunch of hungry people at Thanksgiving wasn’t the best time to try something new (ever since the infamous cannoli cake debacle at my husband’s birthday, I like to test recipes out before going public with them). But my fear turned out to be unfounded— this was one of the best apple pies I’d ever had!

Caramel Apple Pie

1 refrigerated or frozen pie crust (or you can be ambitious and make your own- I used Pillsbury refrigerated crust)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

6 cups of peeled and sliced apples (Granny Smith or another tart variety work best)

Dash of salt


1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup quick oats

1/2 cup butter, softened but still chilled

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Caramel sauce for drizzling (like Smucker’s ice cream topping)

Vanilla ice cream (because apple pie isn’t complete without it!)


Prepare your pie crust according to the directions. If using the rolled, refrigerated pie crust, you do not need to pre-bake the crust. Just unroll it in a pie plate and trim and press the edges.

Stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat. Pour the apples into the pie crust.

In a separate bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour, oats, butter and pecans for the topping. It should have a coarse, crumbly texture. Sprinkle the topping over the apples and press it down lightly, making sure to cover to the edges.

Cover the edges of the pie in aluminum foil, and bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Remove the foil edging and continue baking for another 30 minutes. Drizzle with the caramel sauce and allow to cool for several minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream.

Today, I am thankful


My beautiful, healthy, and happy family; having friends that love, support and don’t judge me—no matter how crazy and neurotic I can be; having this creative outlet that allows me to write, edit and learn every single day (thanks for reading and following—I appreciate the support more than you know!); the fact that my office closed early yesterday :o) (it’s the little things); that there are Targets even out in the country—it was a lifesaver last night when I realized that, despite my copious lists and organization, I somehow managed to forget to pack any underwear or socks; and, finally, for Crunchy Caramel Apple Pie and the best Green Bean Casserole this side of the Mississippi (my mom’s recipe, of course)! Since it’s probably too late for anyone to make these for today’s festivities, I’ll post the recipes in the coming days. . . there are always holiday parties!

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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You Are My Sunshine. . .

LOVE LOVE LOVE this print from The Wheatfield by Katie Daisy shop on Etsy. And the best part? It’s only $22!! I sing this song to my little one all the time, and this would look too cute in her room. The shop also features adorable state prints, but alas, there’s no VA one yet. So I shall wait and stalk until it’s added. In the meantime. . . time to shop!

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Vintage Nursery Rhyme Nursery

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I knew one thing for certain—I didn’t want insects in her nursery. So much of the crib bedding and decor for baby girls is butterflies and ladybugs, and I wanted something a little different and unique. I spent ages looking for just the right bedding to serve as the starting point for the rest of the design. The search might not have taken as long as it did, but I flat out refused to pay $500 for baby bedding. I finally decided on the “Over the Moon Toile” from Carousel Designs. Hands down, they had the cutest bedding for the best prices. The fabric set the tone for a vintage nursery rhyme-themed room that turned out even better than I could have imagined.














I accented the room with personal touches: my baby shoes hanging from a hook, a children’s literature book that has been passed down through 5 generations of daughters in my family, my silver initialed baby cup, a framed poem that my dad wrote for Olivia (just like my grandfather did for me) and plenty of pictures.

























The ruffled curtains came from Land of Nod, and the swivel recliner is from the Storytime Series by Best Chairs and is probably the most comfortable chair I have ever sat in. That’s a good thing because, between the heartburn at the end of my pregnancy and dealing with a newborn who was more comfortable sleeping at an angle, I spent more than a few nights sleeping in that chair.










The artwork on the wall are actually pages from a book of vintage National Book Week posters that my dad matted and framed for me. I found the sweet, glazed ceramic bookends at The lamp was a steal from HomeGoods (and had a great, vintage-looking quality to it), as was the piggy bank on which I painted my daughter’s name.


















Taco Pie. . . Yuuuuummmmm

My old roommate, Katie, introduced me to taco pie about 5 years ago, and it quickly became one of my favorite comfort meals. It’s super easy to make, pretty quick, and is exactly what you need after a crap day at work when you crave delicious calories to wash down with your bottle of wine. It’s not the most photogenic meal—but what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in yumminess!

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey

1/4 cup diced onion

1 packet taco seasoning

1 box refrigerated pie crusts (at room temperature)

1 can corn, drained

1/2 cup salsa

1 cup shredded cheese

sour cream

Preheat your oven to 400°. Brown the meat along with the diced onion, and add the taco seasoning according to the directions on the package. Unroll one of the pie crusts in an ungreased, shallow pie plate. Add a layer of taco meat, and then spread half of the corn, half of the salsa and half of the cheese on top. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, and then top with the other pie crust. Be sure to pinch and fold the edges and pierce the top crust with a fork several times. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden. Top each slice with a dollop of sour cream and DIG IN!

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Harajuku Mini for Target

Gwen Stefani debuted her Harajuku Mini for Target line on November 13, which includes dressy and casual looks for baby and toddler boys and girls and tween girls. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest fan of the Harajuku style. But after seeing the collection in person the other day, I’m sold! There were so many cute things I wanted to buy for the little one, I didn’t know where to start! I’ve managed to (somehow) narrow down my favorite looks below. If you’re also on the Harajuku Mini bandwagon, get thee to your nearest Target STAT—this line is only available in stores!

Mini Biker Hoodie, $20.00

Two-Piece Lion Set, $20.00

Girls' Plaid Ruffle Dress, $24.00


Plaid Jumper and Leggings, $19.00

Best (Free!) Apps for Moms

Smartphones and tablets were made for busy moms. There are apps to help you streamline, organize, entertain and inform nearly every aspect of your life. Here are some of my favorite free apps for the iPhone and iPad (most are available for the BlackBerry and Android as well):

Mom Maps via iTunes

Shop Savvy—You want to get a good deal, but you don’t have all the time in the world to comparison shop and hunt down the best bargain. Use this app to scan bar codes while you’re out shopping to see where you can find the best deal. (iPhone)

Coupon Sherpa Mobile—Download coupons instantly to many of your favorite stores, including Target, Gap and Babies R Us, no printing necessary! (iPhone/iPad)

Pageonce Money & Bills— Track all of your bank accounts, pay your bills and set up payment notifications and alerts, all in one place. This app will help you keep up with your family’s finances and avoid unnecessary late fees. (iPhone/iPad)

SitorSquat Bathroom Finder— Whether you’re in the midst of potty training your little one or just had one too many cups of coffee, when you gotta go, you gotta go. This app will not only locate the nearest bathrooms but will also rate them on cleanliness. (iPhone)

Mom Maps— If you live in or near a major metro area, you can use this app to find indoor play areas, parks, playgrounds and other kid-friendly spots near you. There’s even a mapping feature to help you get there. (iPhone/iPad)

My Baby Today— Keep track of your baby’s development with this app created by BabyCenter (if you’ve ever received their weekly “My Baby This Week” e-mails, it’s pretty much that on steroids). You’ll get suggested activities for your baby each week, health and safety information, advice, a personalized calendar for your baby and more. (iPhone)

ICE iEmergency LITE— ICE stands for In Case of Emergency, and this app will help you keep all of your emergency contact information in one place. (iPhone)

Allrecipes-Your Kitchen Inspiration— Coming up with new dinner ideas is a snap with this app. Search by ingredient, occasion, dish type, etc. You can sort the recipes based on popularity and rating, prop your iPad up on the kitchen counter, and get cooking! (iPad)

Evernote— Record voice memos, type notes and take snapshots to help you remember everything you (and your kids!) have going on, and then synch up with your desktop to keep everything up-to-date and in one place. (iPhone/iPad)

Sleep Pillow Ambiance— This white noise app will help you, or more likely your little one, get to sleep in minutes, no matter where you are. Just choose your sound, set the timer and let the snoring commence! (iPhone/iPad)

Kids’ Meal Deals— Search restaurants in your area that offer meal deals for kids or have “kids eat free” specials. You’ll see a list of restaurants running specials that day, and you can also use the meal planner option to see specials for upcoming days. (iPhone)


To Infinity (Scarves) and Beyond!

Infinity scarves are everywhere this fall, and it’s no wonder why: they’re cozy and a no-brainer to tie. Just loop it around like a necklace for an instant, celeb-worthy look, which is especially great for me since I can never get my regular scarves to look like Jessica Alba’s (because, let’s face it, she’s the scarf-wearing queen). And with some of these prices below, you can even afford to get a few different styles!

La Fiorentina Hooded Scarf at Nordstrom, $28.00

Silence & Noise Abstract Paint scarf at Urban Outfitters, $32.00

Old Navy popcorn-knit scarf, $14.94

Mustard Cluster Floral Snood at Top Shop, $32.00

American Eagle stitched stripe scarf, $24.50

Old Navy sequined scarf, $16.94

Urban Outfitters printed scarf, $32.00