Monthly Archives: January 2012

“Pumped Up Kicks” for the Little One

I recently went searching for some good, sturdy toddler shoes to fit the little one’s rapidly growing chubby little feet. Surprisingly (or maybe not), decent kids shoes are hard to find! I hit Stride Rite first. They were having a clearance sale (2 for $30 for anyone in need of some new kids’ shoes!!) but were pretty much sold out of everything in her size. So I went to Baby Gap, Macy’s, Gymboree, Children’s Place, Target, all the usual stops. Nothing. Even Babies R’ Us left me wanting.

When I got home, I jumped online and started scouring all of the shoe sites. Zappos, Piperlime, Pediped, Stride Rite, ShoeBuy. . . And then I stumbled across 6pm.com. I had never bought anything from this site, but they had the Stride Rite shoes I wanted in O’s size for $34—the cheapest of all the sites. And seriously, how cute are these shoes?! Plus, I got a new pair of Nine West flats for myself for the same price! With free shipping, I really couldn’t argue with $73 for two pairs of shoes!

Have any good tips on where else to look for kids’ shoes? I’d love to hear them!

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Adventures in Breastfeeding: Resources for Nursing Mamas

I nursed my daughter for 13 months, and it was both one of the most amazing and one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Breastfeeding was really hard for me in the beginning; so hard that I would cry over the phone to my dad (yes, it was so bad that I cried about breastfeeding to my father). For the first four months, my nursing experience read like a “troubles in breastfeeding” book. I had oversupply issues, near constant plugged ducts, severe pain, thrush, you name it. The lactation consultants at my daughter’s pediatrician were at a complete loss. The positioning was good, her suck reflex was fine, everything should have been textbook. But instead, I was reduced to tears nearly every time I nursed.

I tried everything that was suggested to me (hot compresses, cold compresses, Soothies, special supplements), and I spent what felt like endless hours at the computer searching for some thread of hope and direction. My daughter even ended up having a frenotomy (a procedure where they clip the little bit of connective tissue under the tongue) to correct her mild tongue tie in the hopes that that would alleviate some of our troubles, but it didn’t help. And then around month four, it just started getting better. I can’t even really say what it was that did the trick (I was trying so many things at once), but the point is it got better.

I am so thankful that I hung in there because, when it was no longer making me cringe in pain, nursing was great! I finally got it. I looked forward to those times with my daughter, and I will never forget the feeling of looking down at her and having her smile back up at me. When I finished weaning, it was bittersweet—I was glad to have some freedom back, but I still miss those quiet times with just the two of us. Now, I’m not saying what anyone else should or should not do—I think every mama needs to make the choice that is best for her and her baby—but if you are committed to breastfeeding, here are some resources and tips I’ve gathered along the way:

  • Join a breastfeeding support group if you can (your hospital should have a list of groups for you). I think the encouragement and support I received there were, on some days, the difference between quitting and sticking with it.
  • Find a pediatrician with lactation consultants on staff. Who knows if you will even need to use them but better to have easy access to the help if you need it.
  • If you are experiencing plugged ducts, I feel your pain, quite literally. Try soaking in warm water and massaging in a firm, circular motion. Also, get the NUK Breast Therapy Warm or Cool Relief Packs. You can microwave them for warmth before nursing to help with the plug, and then you can use the cool function for pain relief afterward. Finally, talk to your doctor about taking lecithin supplements. I took lecithin three times a day, and it really, really helped. But again, talk to your doctor first.
  • Try lots of different nursing positions to see what works best for you, and keep trying them. Doing this can also help relieve nipple pain because different positions apply pressure differently. Nursing seemed to get better for me when my daughter was old enough to nurse sitting up rather than in the cross-cradle position on the Boppy.
  • Check out these online resources:  kellymom, Breastfeeding.com, Ask Dr. Sears, La Leche League, and Dr. Jack Newman’s Breastfeeding Inc. I used kellymom ALL the time—there is so much helpful information there.
  • In addition to Breastfeeding Inc., Dr. Newman also created an All Purpose Nipple Ointment that is amazing!! You have to get a prescription from your OB or your lactation consultant, and you have to have it filled at a compounding pharmacy, but it is worth it!

GOOD LUCK!!

Note: I am neither a physician nor a certified lactation consultant, just a mom with 13 months of hard-earned breastfeeding under my belt. These tips and suggestions are based on my own experiences, but you should always consult your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician before starting anything new.


Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza

The title of this post doesn’t even begin to tell the whole delicious story of this pizza, but “Caramelized onion, goat cheese, roasted garlic, spinach and portabella mushroom pizza” seemed a bit long for a post title. I made this for dinner the other night, and it was a huge hit with my husband and (shocker) my 1-year-old! She even scarfed down the leftovers the next day (and we’re in a “not eating anything more than once” phase!).

Making homemade pizza can be really time-consuming—but it doesn’t have to be. Sure, I’d love to have the time to make my own pizza dough, let it rise, make my own sauce, yada yada yada, but let’s be honest, that’s just not going to happen on a hectic Tuesday night. So here’s my take on a realistic homemade pizza, with a few shortcuts for busy moms.

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese, et al Pizza

Pillsbury Classic Pizza Crust
1-2 cups marinara sauce, depending on your preference
1 head of garlic
1 cup sliced portabella mushrooms
8 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup sliced onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles (or however much you want, really)

Preheat oven to 400°. Remove the white papery skin from the head of garlic and wrap the entire thing in aluminum foil. Roast on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes. (To save time during the week, you can do this step over the weekend and store it in the refrigerator). While the garlic is roasting, sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the onions are soft and translucent, add the sugar, turn the heat down to low and cook for another 15 minutes or so.

When the garlic is done, let it cool for a few minutes before peeling the cloves—you will need 4-5 cloves, depending on how much you like garlic. Put the cloves into a bowl and mash them with the back of a fork. Add the marinara sauce and mix well. Unroll the pizza crust and press out onto a jelly roll pan (i.e. cookie sheet with sides) sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Top with marinara, half of the mozzarella cheese, spinach, mushrooms, onions and goat cheese. Add the remaining mozzarella cheese to the top and bake for 14-17 minutes.

 

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Foolproof Manicure for Hands-on Moms!

I love getting my nails done, but it never fails that, within 24 hours of leaving the salon, at least half of my newly polished nails are chipped. It feels like a complete waste of money. But between lots of hand washing, digging through the diaper bag and playing with Legos, the chips are inevitable. . . until now.

Gel color is the new thing in nails—it bakes on under an LED light and will last for weeks without chipping or dulling. Simply put, it lets me be a put-together professional and a hands-on mom (pun intended) at the same time! The only drawback is that getting a gel manicure at the salon can be a bit pricey—anywhere from $60 to $100 here in the DC metro area. Granted, you don’t have to go back for a while, but it’s still pretty expensive.

Companies like Red Carpet Manicure, however, have come to the rescue with at-home LED gel kits. The Starter Kit from Red Carpet Manicure costs $59.99 and includes one bottle of polish. There are 36 shades of gel polish, and each one is $9.99. If you plan to get more than one gel manicure and you have a steady hand, the at-home kit is definitely the way to go from a cost perspective.

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COOKIE COOKIE COOKIE!!

This post title makes me laugh because these cookies totally made me feel like Cookie Monster. It’s a good thing they’ve been rationed to me because I think I could eat an entire batch in one sitting!

My brother’s girlfriend made these Salted Caramel Chocolate Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod over the weekend, and my brother made the mistake of bringing me one to try at work on Monday. I say “mistake” because I have begged and/or bullied him into bringing me another one each day since. I don’t think “heaven” is a good enough description. Pop one of these babies in the microwave for 10 seconds and you get a warm, gooey, sweet/salty bit of deliciousness. If you liked the Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks, you most definitely want to try these!

I plan to make a very large batch as soon as I can get rid of the cookies I already have at home, and I am required to bring some into work. (My poor coworkers have had to watch me enjoy my yummy cookie everyday because my brother only brings one and I refuse to cut it into four pieces to share!)

Courtesy Two Peas & Their Pod

Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt
Source: Two Peas & Their Pod
Yield: 2 dozen

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Soft caramel, rolled into little balls
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF; line 2 baking sheets with baking paper, lightly coated with cooking spray. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sift together flour, soda, and salt; set aside.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Wrap the chocolate dough around the caramel balls. Place balls on cookie sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

 

 

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Comfortably Sexy Bralettes

I am by no means well-endowed, but during my pregnancy and after my daughter was born, I went from a B cup to (at my largest) a DD! I’m 5’2″ people, I’m surprised I didn’t topple over. During this time when my cup runneth over, I became used to wearing a comfy bra around the house, even to bed.

Now that I’m no longer nursing and I’m back down to my normal size, I need a comfy bra upgrade. I’m looking for something that says “casually sexy” instead of “I have liquid coming out of my boobs—touch them and you die.” Here are some sweet and sexy bralettes I’ve rounded up. I’m sure my husband would agree they are definitely an improvement upon what I have. You’re welcome, honey.

Hanky Panky, $37

Gap, $34.95

Honeydew, $30

Kimchi for Urban Outfitters, $24

b.tempt'd by Wacoal, $18

Cosabella, $53.50


Personalized Luggage For Your Little Traveler

For being so little, babies sure do travel with a lot of stuff! Between diapers, wipes, toys, extra clothes, the sound machine, etc., I end up giving up half my suitcase to my daughter when we go out of town. So when it came time to think of a Christmas gift for my brother- and sister-in-law (who are expecting their first baby at the end of February), I knew just what to get. Baby luggage is a gift to the parents as much as it is a gift to the little one. I’ve wanted to blog about this adorable suitcase ever since I bought it, but since I personalized it with the baby’s name, which wasn’t public knowledge until last week, I’ve had to wait. . . until now!

I searched everywhere for cute children’s luggage that I could personalize. Pottery Barn Kids has adorable luggage, but it’s pretty expensive (regular price $79.50-$124.50, depending on the piece and the size). I was also looking for something small and fun, something they could use for baby clothes now and he could use for toys later. I pictured their little man wheeling this behind him through the airport on the way to Disney World, filled with fun stuff for the flight. I finally found exactly what I was looking for on Etsy (not a big surprise—LOVE Etsy for this type of thing!).

Vickie Toalson with Deerpath Designs specializes in customized gifts, including this Stephen Joseph rolling luggage. I blogged about the Stephen Joseph backpacks a while back, and the luggage is just as adorable! There are designs for boys and girls, and Vickie can personalize them in a variety of colors and fonts. The embroidery turned out great, and the whole thing ended up costing about $53, including personalization and shipping. Now their little guy is all set for his first trip, and mom and dad won’t have to share their suitcase. . . at least not as much of it!


Crazy Good Prices at Crazy 8!

The little one got some super cute (and much needed!) clothes for Christmas, and I discovered a great new store! Crazy 8 is owned by the same people as Gymboree and Janie and Jack but is a lot less expensive—think of it as the Old Navy in the Old Navy/GAP/Banana Republic family.

Everything in the store and on their web site is $11.99 and under! Everything. The clothes are really adorable and look nearly identical to what you would find at Gymboree, only for a fraction of the price. I had never heard of the store because we don’t have one at either of the two malls we frequent. There are, however, 220 stores nationwide, so chances are there’s one near you (I counted 8 stores in a 50 mile radius of Washington, D.C.). But never fear—if you spend over $50 online, shipping is free!

Happy shopping!!


Baby It’s Cold Outside!

About four years ago, my husband and I received a set of Berkshire fleece sheets for Christmas and have since bought a set for pretty much every member of our family. It’s a running joke that my family should have bought stock in these sheets.

If you are thinking that I’m crazy for loving a set of sheets this much, try them—I dare you not to love them. They are, hands down, the warmest, coziest sheets you will ever snuggle into on a cold winter’s night. We got a second set last year just so that we could always have one clean to put on our bed during the winter months.

They run about $60 for a queen set from Bed, Bath & Beyond, but you can nearly always find them at Marshalls, TJ Maxx or HomeGoods for about $40 for the same size. The low tonight in the DC area is 27°—do yourself a favor and take a trip to Marshalls tomorrow.

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Packed Mac and Cheese

My daughter loves mac and cheese, but I try not to give her just that alone—it’s great comfort food but not exactly a balanced meal for a toddler. The problem is, I try to give her veggies first, but as soon as she sees the mac and cheese, the jig is up. She has eyes only for the orange stuff. So today I decided to make my own mac and cheese where I could hide all the healthy stuff right in with the yummy stuff. The cheese sauce has pureed butternut squash in it, I used whole wheat pasta, and I added finely shredded chicken for protein. And the little one was none the wiser! You could even add in peas or broccoli before baking—I just didn’t have any on hand.

Packed Macaroni and Cheese

1 box whole wheat pasta

4 tbsp butter

4 tbsp flour

1 tsp pepper

pinch of salt

1 tsp garlic

1 cup roasted and pureed butternut squash

1 cup milk

1 cup cream (you can eliminate this and add extra milk if you like)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 cups shredded cheese (I used colby jack and cheddar that I shredded myself)

10 oz shredded chicken (canned chicken even works great and is easy to keep on hand)

1 tbsp butter, melted

1/2 cup bread crumbs

 

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, drain and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400°. In a large saucepan, melt the 4 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat and then wisk in the flour, garlic, salt, and pepper. Slowly stir in the milk, cream and Worcestershire sauce. Stir constantly until the sauce is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and continue cooking for another 8 minutes. Stir in the squash puree and wisk until blended. Gradually add the cheese one handful at a time, allowing the cheese in the pan to melt before adding more (stirring constantly). Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the chicken and pasta, and mix well to coat.

Transfer the pasta to a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish sprayed with nonstick spray. Mix the tbsp of melted butter with the bread crumbs and sprinkle them over the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.