Poblano Corn Quesadillas

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We officially have a crawling baby! Which means, my life is about to get a little more hectic. As of yesterday, Landon is on the move and ever since then he does not want to be confined in any way, not in the bouncer, not in the playpen. Just wants to be able to move freely. No more setting him down on the play mat to run to the restroom, or turning my back to do dishes while he sits in one spot playing. Nope.
How do moms of toddlers get anything done? Serious question. Already today I feel like I haven’t been able to accomplish a single thing until he went down for a nap. I think this is just a phase as he gets used to his new skills but hopefully he will go back to liking the playpen and bouncer, at least for small amounts of time.

Here is a little update to your plain old cheese quesadilla, with sweet corn, onion and Poblano peppers, these take a basic dish and turn things up a notch. I made these for dinner and they were plenty filling, but if you wanted a bit more substance, you can easily add some cooked chicken as well.

Poblano Corn Quesadillas
1 tsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 fresh Poblano peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 lime, halved
salt and black pepper
3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 6-in tortillas

To garnish (your choice):
Salsa, Guacamole, Cilantro, Sour Cream

1. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Poblano and onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add the corn. Stir to combine, remove from heat and squeeze half a lime over the mixture.
2. Transfer to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.
3. Heat 1/2 tsp of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add one tortilla and scatter over it a quarter of the cheese, and a quarter of the Poblano mixture. When the tortilla turns just golden brown in spots, in about 2 minutes, fold it in half, pressing it with a spatula to flatten. Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make three more quesadillas. Serve with garnish of your choice.

* Original recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

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DIY Chalkboard Sign

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Confession…I love chalkboards. Or, I love creating cute little works of art on chalkboards. Weird, I know. I have created some fun chalkboard signs for my mom’s business and thought it was time I have one in my home. I created a new photo gallery wall in our living room and took down the old gallery wall which was hanging in this space. It’s kind of an awkward spot. You enter our home into a foyer with a vaulted ceiling with the living room, dining room and kitchen to the left but you don’t really see those rooms until you round the corner. As you turn the corner, you step up 4 stairs into the living area and this wall is right in front of you.

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Not only is it an awkward spot, but the wall itself is a bit awkward as well. It is essentially a square in the center of our upstairs area. On the left of it is our living room and on the right is our dining room and kitchen. And because of the light switches and thermostat, the placement of anything you put on the wall either has to be really high or really low. Which is the reason I wanted to move the gallery wall, because the photos were up so high, you never really saw them very well. Once I completed this sign, I loved it in this space but still felt like the wall needed something on the lower half too. I think a thin sofa table up against the wall could possibly look good. However, very shortly there will be a DIY baby gate at the top of those stairs…hint hint at a future post…that will visually cover that space as you walk up toward the wall so I will most likely leave it as is until after the gate is up.

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The great thing about this sign is that the size is completely customizable for your space if you use the same project boards that I used from Lowe’s. They come in multiple sizes, thicknesses and made from different types of wood. For my space, I used a stain grade pine panel that is 3/4″ thick x 24″ tall x 36″ wide. Unfortunately, I can’t find these pine panels on their website anymore but they are usually kept in the lumber area, near the wood trim section.

Supplies
stain grade pine panel 3/4″ x 24″ x 36″
1″ x 2″ x 4′ pine board (for trim)
table saw or miter box (for cutting trim)
wood glue
1 1/2″ brad nails and nail gun
wood filler
220-grit sandpaper
chalkboard paint
stain or chalk paint for trim (I used Minwax stain in Dark Walnut)
chalk

Step 1: Cut your trim

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Lay your project board down and cut a piece of trim for each side. Now, you can just do straight edge cuts on your trim instead of angled miter cuts. If you have a table saw and can do miter cuts easily, then I say go for it. If you are trying to do it with a miter box and hand saw, probably not worth all the effort. At least not with the wood that I used for the trim, because it is not soft and would not be easy to cut through with a hand saw. So, if you are doing a straight edge, 90° cut with a jigsaw, simply cut the top and bottom pieces first, attach them with the wood glue and nails, as shown in step 3, and then measure and cut the side pieces. If you are doing a mitered angle cut, I measured one side at a time and as I measured the next side, I held the previous side in place to make sure I had a proper measurement and snug fit at each corner.

Step 2: Paint

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I know it might seem a little backwards to paint first and then assemble, and you don’t have to do it this way, especially because if you use wood filer to seal the corners on the trim, you’ll have to touch that up anyway. However, I didn’t want to deal with having to be super careful to not get the chalkboard paint on the trim once it was assembled so it just seemed easy and must faster to paint the pieces beforehand. Like I mentioned above, I used this chalkboard paint for the main board (2 coats) and Minwax stain in Dark Walnut for the trim (1 coat wiped on with a cloth).

Step 3: Attach trim to chalkboard

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Lay a piece of trim down on it’s thicker edge, add a thin line of wood glue to the edge that will attach to the chalkboard. Make sure the edges of your trim are flush with the chalkboard or the corner on each end and attach the trim using 1 1/2″ brad nails and a nail gun

Step 4: Finish corners with wood filler

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Use a little wood filler at each corner to fill in any gap between the trim boards. Once it is dry, use 220-grit sandpaper to buff the wood filler smooth and touch up with whichever stain or paint you used.

Step 5: Chalk art fun!

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Now you get to change up your wall décor as often as you want, and the great thing about chalk…if you don’t like it, you can wipe it off and do it again! I get a lot of my chalkboard inspo from Pinterest. Just type in chalkboard art and there you go. Some are way more intricate than others so just start with something simple and each time you can get a little more brave 🙂 I also added this little faux fern garland to the top for a little something extra because I felt like the wall was still a little naked.

Tips for creating chalkboard art
1. Use your chalk to divide you board into 4 equal sections, lightly draw a faint line down the middle of the board both vertically and horizontally. Whatever picture you are using as your inspiration, visualize it in 4 sections just like your board. This will help you with placement of each word or picture in relation to everything else.
2. Start from the center and work your way out. I started this board with “hello” and the sun, and then followed with each line and did the arrows last. It was easy to figure out the placement for the most central word and then look at how each word or object is placed in relation to that central word.
3. Sketch it out first. I do a very rough, very light-handed sketch of each word to make sure I like the placement and the size before coloring it in darker or finalizing it. Keep a wet rag on hand to wipe away sketch marks that don’t blend in or are outside the lines of your final word. This works especially well for cursive words because, for reals….my cursive ain’t pretty! Unless I go VERY slowly and sketch it first.
Have fun!!

Red, White & Blue Pretzels

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For those of you who procrastinate…like me…a super quick treat for your 4th of July festivities! These are so adorable, no? And the hands on time is maybe 15 minutes, tops!!

Red, White & Blue Pretzels
12 pretzel rods
20 ozs white chocolate for melting
blue food coloring
red food coloring
white candy sprinkles

1. Prepare a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and topped with a cooling rack as a place for the pretzels to dry in between each coating of chocolate.
2. Place 10 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (I used a small mason jar for this part because you want to be able to dip the majority of the pretzel in the chocolate) and warm on defrost or low setting, for 15 seconds at a time, stirring the chocolate during each interval, until chocolate is completely melted. Once melted, dip each pretzel in the chocolate until about 2/3 is covered. Remove and place on the cooling rack until chocolate is dry to the touch.
3. Place 5 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and warm the same way as the last. Once melted, add blue food coloring until you reach the shade of blue you want, I added about 20 drops. I also added a few drops of red to get the blue a little darker. When ready, dip the pretzels into the blue chocolate to cover about half of the white chocolate. Before setting the pretzel back on the cooling rack, shake some white sprinkles on the end while the chocolate is still wet.
4. Once the blue chocolate has dried, melt the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate and add red food coloring, I used 25 drops. When ready, spoon the red chocolate into the bottom corner of a plastic sandwich bag, cut a TINY piece of the corner off and slowly drizzle the red chocolate across the white chocolate portion of the pretzels in a back and forth motion to form stripes. Allow the chocolate to dry.

Enjoy!

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells

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Well, today the baby got himself from lying on his tummy up into sitting position for the first time. I love each new skill he develops but this one has mama in a panic! Crawling is just around the corner which means I’ll be spending this week baby proofing!! And…it also means there will be a DIY baby gate post coming your way in the near future. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, stay tuned!

This recipe is tasty! Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our diet here and there. I grew up on a VERY hearty diet, meat, potatoes and a glass of milk at every dinner and I always want flavor, flavor, flavor so sometimes the veggie dishes fall a bit short for me. This one does not! There are tons of veggies, chickpeas for protein and the sauce is full of flavor. In total, it took 40 minutes, which is totally doable for a weeknight meal. If you wanted to make it even quicker, you could easily prep the veggies and sauce ahead of time and then just cook the pasta, fill the shells and pop it in the oven at dinnertime.

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells
16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low sodium marinara sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
cooking spray
4 oz shredded Italian blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper, cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper and salt.
4. Coat a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 Tbsp vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light

Gallery Wall

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You know the best way to wake up early on a Tuesday morning? To the sound of your dog getting sick. I mean, nothing gets you to jump out of bed and on your feet faster. And then try going back to sleep after that. Two things that I thought would be an issue having dogs with a baby or small child. 1) That the dogs would take or chew on the baby’s toys and 2) the dogs are going to get a little “thicker” when the baby starts eating solid food and can therefore feed the dogs 🙂
Until now, neither have been an issue. The other day, Landon was sitting on one of his little chairs that has toys attached to it, eating a teething biscuit. By the way, teething biscuits have to be one of THE messiest foods I’ve ever seen! Anyway, my mother-in-law was cleaning him up after he finished and Ella, sneakily and one by one, grabbed the toys which were now covered in biscuit crumbs. The toys were (<– notice how I said “were” not “are”) those round plastic rings, bright colored that stack on a cylinder and form a pyramid. Super flimsy and took no time at all for Ella to demolish while trying to eat every crumb she could find. I found the leftover plastic under our bed with some of the consumed plastic making it’s appearance this morning.
Welcome to our little slice of crazy town!

We have been so lucky to have some amazing photos taken over the last year and a half since finding out a little babe was on the way. Something I’ve been so bad about, in recent years, is displaying personal photos at home. This, to me, is such a down side to all the technology we use on a daily basis. Our photos are all contained on phones and computers and rarely make their way onto paper and into our homes. Why? One of my favorite things in other people’s homes is seeing all their personal photos, their family & friends, big events, love. I am resolving to have more photos printed and finish my home spaces with this personal décor detail.

I had this large wall space in our living room and went back and forth about what to put there. We did have a gallery wall in the house before, but it was all wedding photos and the location wasn’t a noticeable spot where people would stop to look at it. I asked Jeff if I should replace the current gallery wall or move it to the large wall in our living room. His response, “put it in the living room so we will actually see it everyday and enjoy it”. Yes! Too often, gallery walls are hidden on stairwells and in hallways where people don’t see them as often. Bring those photos to a prominent location!

I went with a grid style gallery wall, very uniform and pretty easy to put together. I have seen some gallery walls that are asymmetrical and I do love them, but I am just too “straight line, symmetrical, matchy-matchy” for that style. Maybe someday I’ll step outside my comfort zone, but until then, here are a few tips to help you create your own grid-style gallery wall…

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1. Determine the space and size of your gallery wall
Figure out where you are going to put your new gallery wall. Chances are, you already have a blank wall in your home that you struggle with filling or decorating. Next, think about how big you want the gallery to be. This will give you a measurement from top to bottom and side to side and help you know what size and how many frames you can fit in your space. For instance, my space was about 42″ x 51″. I had a pretty particular look I wanted, so I had already picked out the frames and therefore knew the exact measurements. I used an 11×14 frame that was matted for an 8×10 photo, plus the width of the actual frame, it left about 2″ between each photo if I did 3 across and 3 down. This part may take a little configuring, just be sure to measure the actual frame because depending on the thickness of the frame, it can add an additional 1-2″ to each photo.
2. Choose your frames
Here’s a tip if you want a uniform look, use a frame with matting. This will help separate the photos from each other as well as “tone down” the photo so that each picture isn’t competing with the one next to it. I was going for a black & white theme and found these frames for an amazing price at Michael’s. This frame is normally $23, but Michael’s regularly has sales on their frames and they usually do it by brand. These were 60% off last week!!! While they are no longer on sale, they do have a few other brands on sale right now. If you find one you like that is full price, it’s worth it to just keep checking back for sales.

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3. Choose your pictures & print
For the uniform grid look, you need to choose all vertical or all horizontal pics. I know I know, duh! But, I started picking out photos and then realized I was choosing both and had to go back and do it again! Another thing I did for uniformity was adjust the color of the photos before printing. The main reason I did this is because I used photos from all different photo shoots and 2 different photographers who have very different editing styles. Some of the photos were bright, vivid color and some were more muted. Plus, with different outfits and backdrops in each shoot, it just made for a lot of different looks going on. By adjusting the color, it helped make all the photos look more like they went together. I don’t have any fancy photo editing program, just the one that came loaded on my computer. All I did was edit the saturation of the photo to pull some of the color out. When I found a color level that I liked (I used -65 but it will probably be different on all computers/programs) I adjusted all the photos to the same level. Note: When you do this, make sure you “save a copy” of the photo, don’t save over the original, just in case you don’t like it, plus, you don’t want to loose the integrity of the original photo. Obviously this step isn’t necessary. I also did this because of the black & white look I was going for. I wanted to use my favorite photos but I didn’t want them completely black & white so this allowed me to get the look I was going for while still keeping a little color. As far as printing, if you are using professional photographs, chances are, your photographer will have a suggestion as to where to print them for the best quality. Our photographer uses Smugmug, but also suggests Shutterfly as a good place to print.
4. Hang your photos
I’ll be honest, I was not super technical with this part. I hung the center photo where I wanted the center of the gallery to be. For the photos directly above, below and beside the center photo, I just measured out the height or width of the frame, plus an additional 2″ for the space between each photo. Because I was just sort of winging it, I did have to make some adjustments. Just step back and check after you hang each photo because it may look even up close but once you step away you’ll be able to tell for sure. If you want to be more technical about it, you can pick up a laser lever at the hardware store. This one from Lowe’s is $20, attaches to the wall and will easily get the job done. If you are using a laser lever, your laser line is going to be where you hammer the nails into the wall so be sure to adjust down a bit from where you want the top of the frame to be.

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Now go get those photos printed and start enjoying them! 🙂

Kale Summer Salad

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I have a confession…I love having friends and family over, hosting dinner parties & BBQs and cooking for lots of people. Problem…I’m not actually very good at it! I mean, the food is great and I’d like to think we create a fun environment but every single time, I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen preparing food and not mingling and hanging with our loved ones. It actually makes me really anxious too, something about people watching me cook, having a messy kitchen and not being able to just enjoy myself. The worst part is that I KNOW the steps to having a successful dinner party and I DON’T FOLLOW them!! Typically I go to the grocery store the day of and do no prep ahead of time. I also don’t pay too much attention to the steps that go into making a dish (i.e. cook time and or something with a lot of hands on time).

So, I’m turning over a new leaf 🙂 I really want to enjoy our dinner parties more so I am determined to plan ahead. Here you go, steps to a successful dinner party that the cook can enjoy as well…
1. Make recipes you are familiar with. Your best bet is to stick to recipes you have made before. This way you are familiar with the ingredients and the steps, plus, you know how it is going to taste. No wondering if your guests are secretly spitting their food into their napkins 😉
2.Choose recipes with as little hands-on time as possible or can be mostly prepped ahead of time. Whether it is meat you can marinate the day before and can just throw on the grill, a dish that can be prepped and tossed in the oven to cook or fruits and veggies cut up the day before. Anything you can do to lessen your time in the kitchen, the better. Ideally, during the party, you should shoot to only be tossing something in the oven, on the grill or on a dish.
3. Stick to your timeline. Grocery shopping 2 days before, recipe prep 1 day before, on the morning of pull together any cold dishes, dishes that will go in the oven later. Get your serving table ready and decide what dishes and utensils you will be using for each dish.
4. Accept offers of help! I am terrible at this. People ALWAYS ask, can I do anything to help? And I ALWAYS tell them NO! Why do I do this?!?! Probably because I want to seem all cool, calm and collected 🙂 Haha! Let them help! Not only will they feel good about helping you, if you are stuck in the kitchen for a bit it will give you a chance to still chat while getting things ready.

This salad is my attempt at better dinner parties. We are planning to have people over for 4th of July so I am trying out some new recipes ahead of time so I can plan the menu. This salad is ABSOLUTELY making the cut! Seriously delicious, a bunch of kale, gorgeous summer fruits, nuts and a tangy dressing to top it off.

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Kale Summer Salad
1 bunch of Kale
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blackberries
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup diced mango
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes. (Don’t do this too far ahead of time or the kale will get soggy, no more than 30 minutes before serving)
3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

*Original recipe from The Balanced Berry

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Deck Restoration, Part 2

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When I got to the point of being ready and able to start getting projects done again, with the urging of my husband, I knew I needed to finish up some things I had started before I got pregnant. A few examples…
1. The set of stairs from our foyer into our living room. I changed the stairs over from carpet to hardwood, stained/painted them but still need to add finish trim.
2. The kitchen cabinets. I started painting them white and am only about halfway, which by the way, they have stayed for about 1 1/2 years. Ugh! I realized when I got pregnant that the paint/varnish stripper I was using was very toxic so I had to stop using it. I bought a non-toxic version but of course it just didn’t work as well and took SO much longer.
3. My dining room table, we have a beautiful farm table with no seating 😦
4. And finally, our backyard deck. Since it is the start of summer (which really doesn’t get in full swing until July 4th around here) I thought this would be the best place to start so we could enjoy it once the weather gets consistently warm. It’s been about halfway done for a year…or so I thought. I was telling myself that I started this project last summer and only stopped because the weather changed. Except…I was very very pregnant last summer and didn’t work on the deck at all. So, it’s actually been sitting halfway done for 2 years now! UGH!!! Real life.

Hubby asked over and over if I just wanted to hire someone to finish the deck. I, because I am way too independent and stubborn, continued to say no no no, I will finish it. Time to put my money where my mouth is.

So, for the last 2 weeks, I’ve been working on it here and there, when the weather permits and during naptimes. The progress is slow but I’m determined! And because I’m trying to do this without starting any other projects in the process, I wanted to give you a little update of what I’ve been working on.

One of the first projects I did was the restoration of our front porch deck, you can see that post here. I’m using the same products on the back deck which I will link to throughout this post. The back deck was a bit worse off that the front. On the front porch, I didn’t have to replace any boards, just clean and stain. Here is a little insight into what I’m working with in the back…

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At first glance, it doesn’t look so bad. But…

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 Lots of small areas of rotted wood, and as I began to remove boards, found quite a bit more underneath. Row by row, I removed the boards, starting furthest from the house. Some boards were still fully painted and in tact so I did reuse some of them, however, I would suggest NOT doing this. Even though I used the same board size as what was already in place, the new boards are slightly wider and thicker than the old boards. Not by a huge amount, but just enough to make it noticeable. So, going forward, I’m going to replace all boards.

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I’ve got about half of the boards replaced at this point, right now I’m trying to get all the railings painted before continuing to replace the remaining boards, including all the stairs. I’ve got a big task ahead of me and I’m trying to get it all done by 4th of July!! Oh boy!

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I’m using the same deck stain as the front porch, Behr Deck Over solid stain in padre brown for the floor boards and anchor posts and solid stain in white for the railings. I am adding these solar power post caps to the railings for some night lighting. Keep in mind, these do not give off a ton of light so these are more just for aesthetics than lighting your outdoor space at night.

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I ordered this outdoor furniture from Target.com and LOVE it!! It is a simple black iron frame complete with white cushions. I purchased the loveseat and 2 chairs from the Fernhill patio collection. The black and white pillows are also from Target but are indoor pillows which I coated with Scotchguard to waterproof them for the outdoors. We will see how they hold up 🙂 I couldn’t find these exact pillows online to link them but they do have a TON of new indoor styles to choose from plus a sale on most outdoor accessories.

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So here’s too a few weeks of hard work so we can enjoy this area for the couple of months that we have sun and warm weather 🙂

 

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce

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Well, another year older. Not sure about wiser 🙂 One thing is for sure, this birthday felt different. In the past, I haven’t really wanted to celebrate my birthday, do anything special or draw any sort of attention to it. I wouldn’t say that I dislike birthdays, just haven’t wanted to make much out of it for the last 5-10 years or so. Maybe after 21, birthdays just aren’t a big deal anymore.

This year felt a bit different. I didn’t want to throw a big party or anything but I did want to acknowledge it, to celebrate with my husband, to let him dote on me and treat me to a special day. Not sure why? Because I’m a mom now and I cherish any time that I can take advantage of a “special day off”? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that I’m happier this year than I’ve ever been before?

My friend, Janine, took some 6 month photos of Landon a couple weeks ago. I was showing the pictures to my little sister and she was saying how great they were and what a pretty mama I am. I, in my self-deprecating fashion, said “aw thanks. I just look so tired and like I need to get rid of the rest of the baby weight”. She quickly shut me down, saying the only thing she can see that has changed is that my boobs are bigger 🙂 and that I look happier than she has ever seen me look. Hahaha! Yes, the boobs are definitely bigger. But she was right. I am happier than I have ever been. This little munchkin has brought so much joy to our lives, more than I ever thought possible. Especially because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have a baby in the first place. (Not sure if I’ve mentioned that or not.) I knew we would be great parents and I knew that I did like children but we also liked our lifestyle. Being able to spend money on whatever we wanted, take a trip whenever we felt like it. You hear “having a baby will change your life” but I don’t think it’s possible to realize the extent of that until it happens. Yes, I don’t get to sleep in anymore, and no, we can’t just jump on a plane and go away without LOTS of planning. But, I can not imagine our lives without Landon in it and now that he is here, I CAN’T BELIEVE there was ever a time that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby. Having a baby does change your life, but my life is better now than I ever could have imagined it.

So, happy birthday to me 🙂 and happy 7 months old to our little guy!!

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce
2 – 2.5 lb side of salmon
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
For the parmesan crumb
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
cooking spray
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
For the lemon cream sauce
2 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
For serving (if you want presentation platter)
watercress (I used extra dill sprigs instead)
fresh dill
lemon wedges

1. Remove salmon from fridge and bring to room temperature (if salmon is fridge cold when putting in the oven, add 3 minutes to cook time). Preheat oven to 390°F.
2. Spread panko breadcrumbs on a baking sheet, spray generously with cooking spray then bake 3-5 minutes until light golden brown. Scrap into a medium bowl immediately, add butter and stir, then add remaining Parmesan crumb ingredients.
3. Line the same pan with foil, place salmon on foil-lined pan. Spread Dijon on salmon using a butter knife, just thin coating – like buttering toast. Sprinkle parmesan crumb all over.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until just cooked and flaky (may need to adjust based on oven and size of salmon filet).
5. While salmon cooks, make lemon cream sauce (see below).
5. Remove salmon from oven, loosen from skin, which should be stuck to foil, using a spatula or butter knife.
6. Spread watercress onto serving platter. Use foil to lift salmon onto serving platter, then slide out the foil from under it by slightly lifting salmon with a spatula one section at a time and pulling foil away, tearing the foil if necessary. Serve with lemon cream sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Lemon cream sauce
1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Leave to boil rapidly for 5 minutes or until reduced by 3/4 or so.
2. Turn heat down to medium. Add cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir, then add lemon juice and mustard. Stir again. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste. Be generous with the salt, remember the salmon is not marinated, the only salt is in the topping.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, it will thicken as it cools. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Newborn Essentials Registry List

When I got pregnant, I had this vision of super chic baby gear, all matching and all coordinating with my home décor. Hang on one second….

Ok…sorry….just had to laugh at my pre-baby self for a minute 🙂

Here’s the reality, babies need stuff. Lots of stuff. And in the moment, you will buy just about anything to give them what they need to make them happy and keep them entertained.

Since Landon is my first (mom, don’t think because I said “first” that it means there’s another one coming anytime soon!), we were lucky to get a lot of baby gifts from the multiple baby showers that were thrown for me. I really didn’t have to buy much of anything, but this also meant that I had a lot of extra things that I didn’t need or get a chance to use because babies grow and move onto a new stage so quickly.

So this list contains my MUST HAVES, the nitty gritty, the things that we used day in and day out in the first few months of baby’s life, and still use most of it today. I’ve also included a few things that I didn’t necessarily use but other moms swear by, and I’ll let you know why I didn’t use or why they didn’t work for me.

Wardrobe

Sleepers w/feet: For the first month, Landon LIVED in his sleepers. I didn’t dress him in cute little outfits much, unless we were taking photos or going somewhere special. So we had tons of footed pajamas, like 15 to be exact. This may seem excessive but he was wearing them everyday, and, sometimes he would wear two or three in a day thanks to blow outs. Some of my favorite sleepers were these from Cat & Jack at Target, the zipper is inverted so it zips from the top down, so when you are changing a diaper in the middle of the night, you don’t have to expose their whole tiny little body to the cold air.
Onesies: Don’t go overboard with this one. I think I had 3 plain white onesies. I mostly used them for layering under his outfits because it was winter. Some people may use them under pajamas, depends on the temperature of babies sleeping situation. (If you’re unsure how to dress baby for bed, I used this chart and it was really helpful for me to feel more at ease.) Again, he was always in sleepers for the first month and after that, most baby outfits come in sets that include onesies so you will have plenty of those once you start getting or buying full outfits.
Daytime outfits: I wouldn’t buy an entire 0-3 month baby wardrobe. Besides, people LOVE to buy baby clothes so that is the #1 thing you will get as gifts, whether you register for them or not. I had so many 0-3 month cute little outfits that I ended up giving some away because I felt bad he wasn’t going to wear them all. Just get a handful of outfits for newborn photos, meeting family members or holidays, etc.
Hats: This may depend on what time of year your little one is born. Mine was born in November, so for the first 5 months of his life, we didn’t leave the house with a hat or hoodie on his head. Even if your little one is born in summer though, you may still want some lightweight beanies to shield from the sun or to keep their head warm if say the air conditioning is on full blast somewhere. Food for thought.
Socks: Just a few pair, to go with those few cute little outfits 🙂
Gentle laundry detergent: Babies have sensitive skin so you may not want to use a detergent with any fragrance in it right off the bat. There are plenty of fragrance free, gentle laundry detergents or those formulated gentle just for babies.
Wardrobe items commonly recommended that I didn’t use…
Scratch mittens: I put a pair on him on the way home from the hospital and that was the only time I ever used them. Their fingernails do grow quickly but I just clip Landon’s nails often. Plus, many sleepers and even newborn outfits have little built in mittens on the sleeves that you can easily pull down over their hands if you prefer.
Sleeping gowns: I had a few of these but never used them. I get the idea, easy to get in and out for nighttime diaper changes without dealing with snaps and buttons. I guess the snaps on sleepers never bothered me and I felt better about his feet staying warm in the footed pajamas than in a sleeping gown with socks that may or may not stay on. If you want sleepers but don’t like the snap situation, there are Magnificent Me sleepers with magnetic closures that basically close up on their own, pretty amazing, but they are a bit spendier. Just depends on what’s most important to you at 3AM 🙂

Sleeping


Crib/cradle/bassinet/co-sleeper: Obviously you will need to decide what the sleeping arrangements for baby will be. We had a crib in the nursery, but Landon slept in a cradle in our bedroom for the first 6 months. It is totally personal preference and you may have one thing planned and then change your mind once baby is here. Whatever works best for you and your little one is what is right. I can’t give too much opinion here of which items are best, I used a 25-year-old antique cradle that my little sisters slept in. I have heard really great things about the Halo Bassinet/Co-Sleeper, listed as one of the top sleepers on Babylist’s Best of 2017.
Crib/bassinet sheets: Get a couple for back-up.
DockATot: By far, one of the BEST purchases I made for baby. (Click here to check it out and get $10 off if you purchase!) Because I was using the cradle that would only fit a flimsy foam mattress pad, I knew I needed something else to put in the cradle for baby to sleep on. A friend had the DockATot and said it was the best purchase she made, so I went for it, in hopes that it would work with the cradle. Boy did it! The dock sits right in the cradle and it gives baby a safe, comfy feeling while sleeping. Because it is so portable, it allows you to take baby’s bed wherever you go. We brought it out into the living room for naps and on trips, and Landon slept amazingly every time because it’s like he never left his bed. On top of that, when we transitioned him into his crib, the DockATot went right along with him and the transition was pretty darn seamless. PLUS! They are now making activity gyms that hang above the DockATot, eliminating a need for another item to clutter your home in those first few months. This wasn’t available when I purchased but I know it would’ve been a great add-on as we used our activity gym daily.
Halo Sleepsack Swaddle: You may have read that to reduce the chances of SIDS, you shouldn’t have any loose blankets that could cover baby’s face in their bed for the first year. This Halo Sleepsack Swaddle is INCREDIBLE, it solves the loose blanket problem AND it is super easy to secure without having to worry if it’s too tight or too loose and baby won’t break out of it very easily (at least not until they get a bit older). Landon slept so well from night one and I swear, this blanket is a big part of the reason why. Be sure to pay attention to the TOG factor, a rating scale that rates how warm each Halo blanket is. For most sleeping situations, a TOG 1.0 is going to be plenty warm, again, check out this chart on dressing baby for bed for guidance.
White noise machine: On night one home from the hospital, I remember not sleeping AT ALL! Babies make so many noises when they sleep! Noises that don’t sound normal or healthy but totally are. I’m pretty sure I jumped out of bed at least 10 times to make sure he wasn’t choking. Enter this white noise machine. Not only does it help the baby sleep by drowning out background noises, it’s gonna help you sleep too, new mama.
Video Monitor: This is one item that we had from the start but I didn’t take it out of the box until we moved Landon down to the nursery and for the life of me, I don’t know why!! Granted, he was upstairs with me, just in our room, instead of downstairs where he is now, but still. I was so paranoid that he would wake up and I wouldn’t hear him that I would leave the bedroom door open and just be SO quite during his naps. What was I thinking?!?! I could’ve gotten so much more stuff done and moved so much more freely through the house! Its a bit silly some of the things we do as new moms, no? Anyway, we have this Motorola Video Monitor and it works great. It uses Wi-Fi, and you can play music in the baby’s room or speak through the monitor to the baby…although I’m not sure why you would? My only negative about this one is that the battery life is not great, but I just leave it plugged in for the most part.
Pacifiers: My little guy didn’t take a pacifier until about 3 months old, but once he did, it was ideal for helping him self-soothe to get himself to sleep, especially while we were sleep training. I recommend getting a variety of brands because you never know which type your little one will end up liking. I kept trying to give Landon the Natursutten pacifier because that’s the one I had purchased and wanted him to use, not really thinking he wouldn’t like it. It’s just a piece of rubber, right? I probably tried 5 different brands before finding one he would consistently keep in his mouth, the Ulubulu Nip pacifier.
Sleeping items commonly recommended that I didn’t use…
Muslin swaddles & receiving blankets: I can’t even tell you how many of these I had. An entire drawer full of beautiful muslin swaddles and I think I used them less than 5 times. Maybe it was just my baby, or maybe it was my poor swaddling ability, but he just didn’t sleep well in those swaddles. The Halo Sleepsack Swaddle, mentioned above, worked so much better for us. As for receiving blankets, also had a ton that we got as gifts and never used a single one. This could be again, the time of year. Because it was winter, I got a couple of shearling lined blankets that baby loved and we just rotated between a couple of those as stroller/car seat/lounging blankets. So, again, if your baby is born during a warmer time of year, the lighter weight receiving blankets would probably be perfect for this.
Night light: This is probably just because of my middle of the night feeding practices but I never used a night light. You don’t want to turn on a main light because you want to keep baby as asleep as possible during nighttime feedings. However, because hubby was snoozing in bed and had to work in the morning, I would always take baby into the living room to feed. As I walked to the living room, there was a light switch for the kitchen that I could flick on and it provided the perfect amount of dim light for feeding and changing his diaper without waking him up. Not that a night light is a big investment, but figure out where you might be doing nighttime feedings and test the lighting options beforehand if possible.

Changing Station


Changing table/Dresser/Pack n’ play: Another decision you’ll want to make before baby comes is your diaper changing plans for the first few months. I know this may seem silly but hear me out. You will be changing diapers a lot. I mean A LOT, A LOT. Like 10-12 times a day in the first few weeks. So, you want a set up that is easily accessible and well stocked. A lot of this will depend on your nursery set up and whether or not baby will be in the nursery from the get go as well as if the nursery is close by. Example, Landon’s nursery is downstairs and our bedroom, living room, kitchen, etc. is all upstairs. I knew he would be sleeping in our room at first so it seemed silly to be going up and down the stairs every time I needed to change his diaper. I do have a changing pad on top of his dresser in the nursery that is our changing station now but up until recently, our changing station was the Pack n’ Play set up in the living room. We have the Graco Pack n’ Play Playard and it has been a life saver! It has a little changing area on top, as well as a vibrating chair, both of which are removable in order to use the play pen.
Changing pad: For those that are using a changing table or dresser, you’ll want a soft changing pad. There’s a lot of different brands out there and almost all have raised edges and a strap to buckle baby in for safety, so you can’t really go wrong.
Changing pad covers: You’ll want at least 2 covers, to have a back-up when there’s an accident.
Diapers: Diapers, diapers and more diapers! It will probably take some trial and error to figure out which diapers you like best. I, of course, started out with the super cute printed diapers and quickly realized that I needed function over aesthetic. We then moved to Pampers Swaddlers, which is what they used in the hospital, and I liked these but baby was having a lot of blow outs and he seemed to be soaking the diapers pretty quickly. Then we moved to Pampers Baby Dry. That was the jackpot for us. They are technically “overnight” diapers and are more absorbent so they worked out well for our little guy, hardly ever has blow outs and stays dry all night which helps him sleep better. As far as size, it will depend on how big your baby is at birth but they probably won’t be in Newborn size for very long and some babies can go straight to size 1. Landon was 7lb 14oz at birth and I think we were on to size 1 diapers within 2-3 weeks. I would say start with 2-3 packs of newborn and 4-5 packs of size 1 and then purchase as needed.
Wipes: Again, quite a few different brands so it’ll just be personal preference. I use Honest Wipes and love the thickness of them. I’ve also heard good things about Waterwipes. You will go through a lot of wipes at first because newborns poo A LOT! I think I stockpiled 12 packages and then purchased as needed. Amazon has been my best friend since becoming a mom, BTW.
Diaper pail & refill bags: Some people say this is an “extra” that you don’t really need. I’m not one of those people 🙂 If you don’t have a diaper pail, then you’ll be putting the dirty diapers, where? In you garbage? Let me say again, newborns poo A LOT! I guess if you take your garbage out daily then it might work out for you but we don’t, so the thought of leaving dirty diapers in the garbage can for too long makes me gag a little. We have the Arm & Hammer Diaper Pail by Munchkin, which dispenses baking soda into the trash bag each time you close the lid. For the last 6 months, it’s been sitting in my living room next to the changing station and not one issue with smelly diapers here. Unless I just don’t smell it and my friends don’t tell me that my house smells like dirty diapers?!?! 🙂 Kidding.
Diaper cream: Baby is going to get diaper rash, it’s inevitable. I’ve tried a few different kinds because I had a few after all the baby showers. I know a lot of people love Bordeaux’s Butt Paste. I have used Honest diaper rash cream from the start and then tested the others from time to time but I always went back to Honest. I thought it cleared up the rashes almost instantly. Bordeaux’s works well but I hate the smell. If it worked immensely better than Honest then I would just deal with the smell but I don’t think that’s the case.
Ointment: Hands down…Aquaphor! I used this before I had the baby, it is amazing for cracked skin and chapped lips. I actually put it on my lips every night. And now, I use it on the baby whenever necessary. Any sort of rash, even diaper rash. He got a REALLY bad diaper rash after I gave him a little apple juice and not even the diaper rash cream would get rid of it. So, I mixed a little diaper rash cream with the Aquaphor and viola! Gone by morning. It’s also great if they scratch their face with those pesky little finger nails that grow so quickly. Put a little on the scratch from time to time to keep it from scarring. I used it after his circumcision to help the healing. Magic in a tube!
Baby nail clippers: Speaking of baby’s nails growing quickly…you will need baby nail clippers. Let me just say, I was TERRIFIED of clipping his nails the first time. I was sure that I was somehow going to injure his cute little fingers. I read about how safe and easy to use the Baby Frida nail clippers are, so I ordered them and when he was sleeping in his car seat after some errands one day (after putting it off for at least a week) I decided that was my shot. Success! I do suggest doing it when baby is sleeping the first time or two, just to get comfortable. Now, I know its basically impossible to cut him with these clippers so I clip his nails with him moving and shaking all over the place.
Nasal aspirator: Also from Baby Frida, I use their NoseFrida. There are different types of nasal aspirators and moms who don’t like this one, typically say it’s because you “suck the boogers out of their nose” 🙂 Yes, technically, that is true. However, anything that comes out of baby’s nose stays in the contained little area on one end of the tube and does not come near your mouth. I guess it does sound pretty gross but this puppy works!
Thermometer: So, I bought the fancy digital forehead scan thermometer. Don’t do it. They are not accurate, AT ALL! I can literally take the baby’s temperature 5 times within a 2 minute period and get 5 different readings. The best way to go is a rectal thermometer, especially for newborns. “We love taking rectal temperatures” said no one, ever. The Safety First Gentle Read Rectal Thermometer makes it as easy and painless (for both of you) as possible, takes only 8 seconds to get a reading and because of the shape, there’s no chance of inserting it too far. Also, while I haven’t tried it, I’ve heard the “pacifier thermometers” don’t work well either so I would steer clear.

Bathing


Baby bathtub: Ok, so could you get away with not having the things in this category, yes. But I will say, they made bath time much easier and much more enjoyable for the munchkin. A baby bathtub is going to be an insert for either your kitchen sink or your regular bathtub, or can sometimes be used on its own and filled with water, it just depends on which on you get. They are small and help cradle the babies body so that they stay put better than you trying to hold their slippery little bodies in a normal size bathtub. We have the Aquascale 3-in-1 bathtub. It has a built in thermometer and scale, which makes paying attention to babies weight gain in those first few months so easy. I, by the way, was obsessed with the baby’s weight, constantly worried that he wasn’t eating enough or wasn’t gaining enough weight. The scale on this bathtub helped eliminate that worry. The thermometer I didn’t really use because I used the one below, silly, I know. I just liked it better and it seemed more accurate.
Bath spout cover: You don’t really need a spout cover until later. Typically, they are squishy rubber animals used to protect kids from injuring themselves on the bath spout. We have the 4 Moms Spout Cover, which is also a temperature gauge, and takes the guess work out of too hot or too cold bath water.
Baby soap & baby lotion: No brainer I guess 🙂 Just choose something gentle and formulated for baby’s skin. We love Aveeno Baby wash and lotion. It is pediatrician recommended, tear-free, paraben-free, phthalate-free and made with natural oat extract which helps calm skin from rashes and irritants.
Hooded towels & washcloths: Not a necessity, but, come on! They are a bit too cute to pass up, don’t you think?!?! Both are usually softer for babies skin. I especially love these washcloths from Pottery Barn Kids because they are really thick. Many baby washcloths are super thin material and after a wash or two, the edges start to curl up and they start to fray.

 

Feeding


4 ounce & 8 ounce bottles: I’ve gotta be up front, I only got the basic bottles that came with my Medela breast pump and luckily the baby had no issues taking them right off the bat. I haven’t given him bottles too much so I also haven’t had to deal with any of the bottle feeding issues. If you are going to be bottle feeding, I have heard really great things about Dr. Brown’s bottles. They have a special vent system that keeps air bubbles from getting into babies tummy to avoid gassiness that comes from bottle feeding. We only used 4 ounce bottles for the first few months so you would be ok just stocking up on that size and then getting 8 ounce bottles later, usually around 3-4 months.
Nipple cream: If you are breast feeding, this is a MUST! I don’t think many breastfeeding moms get away with not needing any sort of cream or balm. The pain from nursing in the first few weeks is one of the toughest parts of breastfeeding but if you can power through it, it does get better! I used Honest nipple balm and it worked really well. I was healed and past the pain in about 3 weeks just applying this balm after each nursing session.
Nursing pads: Yet another downside to breastfeeding, you’re going to need to wear nursing pads because you will leak. TMI? You’ll get over it 🙂 Once you start breastfeeding, I swear, what you consider taboo or inappropriate conversation completely changes, especially with other moms.
Breast pump: Initially, I was going to be going back to work after I had the baby so I got the Medela pump in style advanced pump. It is perfect for the working mom because the pump is housed in a convenient tote and holds a mini cooler for the bottles you pump while at work, plus room for additional parts. I ended up not going back to work after my maternity leave, however, if I had to do it again, I would still get this model. It’s been great from when we do travel because I could easily take everything with me and the pump itself is great quality.
Milk storage bags: Most breast pumps will come with or have milk storage bags you can purchase that are compatible to that pump so that you can just pump into the bag if needed. My pump/bags have this option, however, pumping into them is a bit tricky and messy. For me, it was much easier to pump into a bottle and just pour the milk into the bags. But, if you are planning to return to work, these will be necessary to get your freezer stash started before you head back.
Burp cloths: Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, burp cloths are A MUST. Spit up, drool, boogers, just to name a few bodily functions you’ll need them for. But seriously, you want super absorbent, so skip the cutesy and go for function. I went with these basic white flannel cloths, they are super soft and soak up whatever you need.
Formula: If you are formula feeding, obviously you need formula. I researched a bit because while I wanted to breastfeed, you never know if it will be right for you and your baby, and I wanted to be prepared. While I can’t give personal experience advice, I read great things about Enfamil Infant Formula being the closest to breast milk as you can get, and it is recommended by many pediatricians. Now, I’m going to give you a #realtalk moment here. While I should have had some formula on hand, just in case we needed it, I didn’t purchase any before baby came. I figured, if there were some physical reason why baby couldn’t breastfeed, we would figure that out in the hospital and hospitals have formula on hand for newborns and we could deal with it then and send hubby to the store before we brought baby home. Maybe that was a rose-colored glasses approach but it made sense to me. In hindsight, I am SO happy I didn’t have formula in the house because breastfeeding is FRICKEN HARD! Like, really hard!!!! Up all night, exhausted, feeding round-the-clock, sore nipples, “I can’t do this anymore” hard! There were multiple times in those first couple weeks that I wanted to give up breastfeeding and if I had had formula in the house, in a mentally weak moment, I might have done it. But, because giving the baby formula meant having to go to the store to get it, thus making me actually think about and not make a rash, sleep deprived, hormonally charged decision, I talked myself down and just kept feeding. At the end of the day, do what feels right for you and know that, whether breast feeding or bottle feeding, each one has its upsides and downsides, and whatever is right for you and your baby is the best. Period.
Formula dispenser: Had I been formula feeding, HANDS DOWN, I would have purchased the Baby Brezza Formula Pro. With as often as babies eat, why not make bottle prep easier on yourself, especially at 3AM! It’s like a Keurig for baby bottles! 🙂
Feeding items commonly recommended that I didn’t use:
Breastfeeding covers: I’ll be honest, I don’t breastfeed in public. If you do, more power to you! I wish I wasn’t so hesitant about it. But, even with a breastfeeding cover, it’s just not my thing. My baby was also on a very predictable schedule from the start that made it easy to know when he was going to need to be fed and I could always plan accordingly (i.e. feed at home and then run errands, feed before leaving a friends house, feed in the mother’s nursing room at Nordstrom – I love that place! or just bring a bottle along). You get the picture. I had a few of those cute breastfeeding covers that doubled as scarves, they were just more trouble than they were worth. The are thin, flimsy fabric that hangs around your neck and certainly does cover you and the baby, but it’s nearly impossible to actually see what you are doing. And if your baby is like mine, they pop on and off multiple times, he didn’t just latch and stay put the entire time. Plus, I felt like the baby got so hot under there! I know there are a few covers out there that have a “propped up” effect at the top that allows you to see what baby is doing (Bebe au Lait and Balboa Baby both make them). If I did it again, I’d probably try one of those out. Just don’t spend the money on the cute scarf covers.
Breastfeeding pillow: Another item that I wouldn’t spend the money on. I got both the boppy and My Breast Friend and I didn’t use either one. Maybe it was just me but I felt like they were more work than they were worth. I know they are supposed to hold baby up higher so you aren’t hunched over, straining your neck and back…now that I type this, maybe this is why I threw my back out a few months ago…hmm. Anyway, it just never seemed comfortable for us. Most of the time I just wound up with a couch throw pillow under my arm to support the weight of the babies head.

 

Traveling


Car seat: One of the top things on your list will be a car seat, and I recommend getting this and installing it ahead of time, like weeks ahead of time. The last thing you want is to go into labor early and not have you car seat installed and have to think about and deal with during the chaos. The hospital actually won’t let you leave until they have seen and inspected your car seat. At least ours wouldn’t. I think I installed mine about a month before my due date. It actually got me a bit excited too, every time I got in the car and saw the empty seat, it made me that much more excited for when there would be a little nugget in there 🙂 In terms of safety, all car seats on the market are rated for crash safety. This is one item that you should buy brand new, no buying used or at a consignment store because you won’t know if it’s been in an accident (they can’t be used after that) or if it is expired (I think 5 years is the maximum before safety features are considered out-of-date). So, you can’t really go wrong in this category. Biggest things to consider are if you want an infant seat that is removable and is compatible with and can be popped onto your stroller or do you want to go straight for the convertible car seat that stays put in the car and grows with your baby. I went with an infant seat that snaps onto the stroller. With an infant, they sleep ALL the time and taking them in and out of the car seat when they are tiny is almost more hassle than it’s worth because they wake up as opposed to just sleeping through you pulling the entire seat out and snapping it on the stroller. Of course, this means we will be purchasing a convertible car seat when he outgrows the infant seat, usually around 1 year old. You have to just weigh the pros and cons here. Infant seat pro: convenience and easy portability from car to stroller to inside home without waking baby. Infant seat con: Cost of having to purchase another seat around the 1 year mark. Convertible seat pro: Most come with infant inserts and grow with your child, making it the only seat you’ll need until your child is ready to be in the car with no safety seat at all. Convertible seat con: May make the early infant days a bit tougher, transferring baby to and from car seat to stroller to inside home and disrupt naps. If I had to do it again, I would still, most definitely go with an infant seat and switch to a convertible down the road.
Child safety mirror: The first time I had to leave the house by myself with the baby, I was terrified. I know it sounds crazy. With your first baby, everything is so new and you really don’t know what to expect and once you are both strapped into the car, there’s not a lot you can do if the baby starts crying. Add to that, the fact that the baby seat is rear facing so you can’t see what is going on or why he might be crying, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm for an anxiety stricken mama. A safety  mirror positioned on the head rest in front of the baby will do wonders to calm your fears. Something about being able to see that little face makes it SO much easier to handle.
Diaper bag: Now that you’ve read through this list, I don’t think I need to tell you that babies need A LOT of stuff. And when you leave the house, for whatever reason, there are certain things you won’t want to be without. A good quality diaper bag with functionality and lots of compartments will make being out and about so much easier. Look for one with lots of interior and exterior pockets as well as an option to wear it hands free (i.e. cross-body strap or backpack). Also helpful is one that comes with a removable changing pad, a case for holding some wipes and that the bag is made from an easy to clean fabric (think something you can wipe down with a washcloth or easily throw in the washing machine). And I gotta give a little shoutout to my friends who have designed some super chic, super functional diaper bags that even dads want to carry 🙂 Go check out Product of the North and show this cute little family owned, small business some love!
Stroller: You’ll probably want to shop for your stroller and car seat at the same time if you are getting an infant car seat, just to make sure that the two are compatible. They don’t necessarily have to be the same brand. Mine are different brands and for most, you can buy a little adapter piece so that the two can work together. But, many companies today do a stroller/infant seat bundle that you can purchase together for a slight discount compared to if you purchased them separately. Again, tons of options here, I would personally look for lightweight (for lugging in and out of the car) and some strong and sturdy wheels, especially if you like to go for walks outdoors. If you’re having trouble deciding between the many, many options out there, consult Babylist. Not only can you create a baby registry with products from multiple companies through this website, they also put out their “best of…” list on nearly every category and do a great job comparing different products, listing the pros and cons of each.
Baby carrier: Some moms swear by baby wearing from the start, that you can put baby on you in a carrier and move around and get all kinds of things done while they sleep. My baby was not that way, he hated the carrier until he was about 5 months old and now he only likes it when we are out running errands, he never sleeps in it, just loves to be able to look around at everything. I do think its worth a shot because I am definitely the minority here. There are a few different styles, Baby Bjorn, Ergobaby or Moby or K’tan wrap. Once Landon got to the point of liking the carrier, we have used the Ergobaby 360, super easy to throw on. We did try the Moby wrap, it is super comfortable but for me it was a bit of a pain to actually get on but that could also be because I hadn’t perfected how to use it or do it quickly.

 

Extras


Swing: A swing was a lifesaver for me, especially one that is a little bit portable. We had the 4 Moms Mamaroo chair and it became the only way I could get a shower in those first few weeks. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him in his cradle where I couldn’t hear if he started crying so I would bring the Mamaroo in the bathroom and strap him in while I jumped in the shower. He loved it too, most times he would just fall asleep in it.
Play gym: Not that baby is going to be playing with the hanging toys right away, but they love to just look up at them. It’s a great activity from the get go for those moments when baby is awake, just lay them under the toys, sit next to them and move the toys yourself to help them learn to track things with their eyes. Our little guy LOVES (yep, still uses it daily) this Fischer Price Kick & Play Piano Gym because once he started moving his legs, he kicked the piano to make noise endlessly. Now that he can sit up, the piano can flip up and he sits between the piano and toy arch and goes back and forth between both.
Books: I read about starting to read to babies right away but it seemed silly to me, how is a 1 month old really going to enjoy reading? Turns out, a lot! And it’s proven to help develop their speech abilities at an early age. At first, though, it’s more about the bright colors on the pages and the sound of your voice but Landon LOVED it from the start and it became part of our bedtime routine. Before long, he would “read” right along with us, making noise as we read the words to him.
Hand & foot rattles: In those first few months, it’s all about baby learning how to move his body parts and hand and foot rattles are a great activity to help them discover that movement. We had little rattles that would velcro around his wrists and little booties with rattles on the toes to wear on his feet. Once he figured out that he was making the rattling sound by moving, he had so much fun with it.

There are obviously so many other toys out there, these are just the ones we used in the first few months. Don’t worry, your home will be filled with tons of toys in no time 🙂

DIY Herb Garden

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I’ve wanted to have a vegetable garden for quite some time now. Lack of time is what stopped me before. Now that I have some (little) time on my hands, I thought this might be a good time to give it a shot. I waited a bit it to long though to work out all the plans for a full vegetable garden (building beds, planning what to plant and when, etc.) plus, I’m terrible at keeping plants alive (they need water, I’m not so good at remembering to give it to them) so, I thought an herb garden would be a safe place to start. So far so good, granted, it’s only been about a week, but we’re off to a good start.

I have a feeling the fact that I’m getting something out of keeping these plants alive, i.e. herbs for my cooking, is going to help me stay on track because so far I’m super excited about this little gem on my back deck. I’ve already used some of the herbs a couple of times and there is something very satisfying about walking out the back door and snipping off a few sprigs or leaves of whatever I need. Not to mention, so much less waste! I can’t tell you how often I buy a full bunch of parsley or cilantro and only need a couple tablespoons. The rest always ends up going to waste. Now I can just take what I need.

When I started making plans for the herb garden, I was on Pinterest looking for different planter ideas. There are tons of great ideas, for both indoor and outdoor, however many of them required building the planters. Not that I’m against building something…obviously…but the thought of building a planter then having to plant all the plants somehow seemed like a bit too much, especially for something that may or may not be dead by the end of summer. I wanted to keep this as simple as possible in case the inevitable happens. So, I started looking for planters that held multiple pots and remembered I had seen this one a few weeks prior.

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This is the Socker Plant Stand from Ikea, it holds 13 4″ pots and stands just over 5′ tall. The stand can pivot to be positioned at an angle or opened up completely and be straight from end to end. It comes in white or grey (which to me looks more like black in person). Unfortunately, this piece is not available online (sorry guys!) but can be picked up in store if you have an Ikea nearby. I chose these galvanized pots to complete the simple look I was going for.

The first thing I learned about container gardening while doing my research, is that your containers need to have good drainage. The galvanized pots I chose did not have any drainage holes, of course. Now, you could get around this by putting rocks in the bottom of the pot but these are small pots and I knew it would be pretty easy to just drill some holes in bottom. I used a 5/8″ drill bit and drilled 4 holes in each pot. You want the holes to be big enough that bark or larger chunks in the potting soil aren’t going to plug up the holes but small enough that soil isn’t going to easily flow out when watered I made sure to pot one plant and water to see that it worked well before drilling holes into the other 12 pots.

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The herb plants that I picked up were from Home Depot and they really make it super easy to plant. They are grown by Bonnie Plants, in biodegradable “pots” that can literally just be dropped into your container. Simply cut off the plastic liner around the top of the pot…

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The second thing I learned when researching container gardens is that you want to use a Potting Mix and NOT a Potting Soil. The reason being that potting mix is lighter weight, has fertilizer mixed in, promotes better drainage and absorbs moisture in the best way. Fill the bottom of your container with about an inch of soil…

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Peel the bottom of the biodegradable pot off the plant to allow the roots out. Place the plant in your container and fill remaining space with soil.

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I used a mixture of different herbs, just based on what I use more when cooking. Here is my assortment:
3 Cilantro
2 Parsley
2 Mint
2 Thyme
1 Sage
1 Rosemary
1 Oregano
1 Basil
I cook a lot with Cilantro so I wanted a few of those. Looking at it now, I should have done an additional Parsley because I’ve already used those plants a lot, but I only had 13 spots. I’ll have to see what happens throughout the season and adjust for next year. But, if this goes well, maybe my herb garden will be MUCH bigger next year 🙂

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To finish off, I made little “signs” for each pot to label which herb it held. I used new popsicle sticks (which you can get at a craft store year round or most grocery stores during summer months), dipped about 3/4 in black chalkboard paint, laid them on wax paper to dry and then used a white paint marker to write the name of the herb.

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I’m seriously so excited about this little addition to my yard. I’m already saving money at the grocery store and wasting less! I’ll keep you all updated on whether or not I can develop some green thumbs 🙂

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